Category Archives: Non-violence

Just what it says… pacifism

Remembering a 1939 sit-down strike

On this date in 1939, Samuel Wilbert Tucker and six collaborators staged what has got to be one of the cleverest civil rights sit-ins of all time. One by one, William Evans, Otto L. Tucker, Edward Gaddis, Morris Murray, and Clarence Strange went to the circulation desk at the Alexandria (VA, US) Public Library and requested library cards. As each was refused a card to use the library his taxes supported, he quietly went to the stacks, selected a book, sat at a table, and began to read it. Then the next followed with the same request, result, and action.

S. J. Ackerman’s 2000 account, published as “Samuel Wilbert Tucker: The Unsung Hero of the School Desegregation Movement” in Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, begins with the priceless description of these events shown at the right. Eventually, of course, library managers and city officials summoned the police. Meanwhile, according to story, Robert Strange (the sixth collaborator) raced to Mr. Tucker’s nearby law office and alterted him about how the events were occuring.

Inside the library, the police arrested the miscreant readers and led them outside. When they emerged from the library, the officers and five collaborators found 300 spectators, according to Mr. Ackerman. Mr. Tucker’s ploy had worked spectactularly on the ground, though it didn’t generate as much press as one might have hoped. According to Mr. Ackerman’s account, “The media paid scant attention to the episode. Preoccupied with the Hitler-Stalin pact, disclosed that same day, the Washington Star missed the story. The Post reported that ‘five colored youths’ had staged a ‘sit-down strike.’ The Times Herald and the African-American Washington Tribune used similar terminology.”

Even if it didn’t make a big splash, the 1939 sit-down strike in a public library sounds like an early incident in something pretty important. Civil rights. Non-violence. Rule of law. Access to public services. The list could go on and on….

There are sequels to this story: Mr. Tucker was later offered a library card for a “colored library,” and he refused it. He later co-founded an eminent law firm in Richmond (VA, US) and argued important civil rights cases, many before the US Supreme Court (including Green v. County School Board of New Kent County). He served for many years as the representative of Virginia’s NAACP. And very much more.

You can read more about Mr. Tucker including Mr. Ackerman’s account and the Wikimedia biographical entry about him.

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Would this have happened if it had been a white woman?

Charnesia Corley was stopped in the Houston (TX, US) area for running a stop sign. Presuming these facts are accurate, fair enough. Let’s dig. There’s more to this story.

The officer alleges that he smelled marijuanna so he called back-up support. Ms. Corley is 21-year-old African-American. Female officers came and, despite Ms. Corley’s protests, they held her down and searched her vagina for drugs. According to multiple different reports it is way worse than I am describing.

So, I’m trying to imagine allowing gang a of cops holding me down and probing my privates. I’m an older white guy (note: WHITE.) They’re not likely to expect they’ll find a bag a drugs the size of a sandwich up any of my orifices. Would I—oryou—tolerate this?

To be sure, I don’t know what transpired between the officer and Ms. Coreley that night. Maybe one or the other of them said some nasty things that ignited a personal confrontation. (I hope police officers are prepared to defuse such situations, not to take things personally.) Would this have happened if Ms. Corley had done something differently? I don’t know.

Would something different have happened if the Police Office had behaved differently. I bet so. It smacks of confrontation. It’s his job not to escalate situations.

Let’s get over that! Hello. We are neighbors. We live in the same blocks, areas, precincts, city. Let’s work together.

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Black encounters with the justice system

So what happens if you’re Black and you have a police encounter and, lucky you, you don’t get killed? You just get stopped, detained, arrested….

Writing for Slate, Andrew Kahn and Chris Kirk explain “What It’s Like to Be Black in the Criminal Justice System.” They provide graphics illustrating statistical differences in how Black, White, and other non-Black AMERICANS (yes, I’m shouting) are treated in our American criminal justice system. It’ll only take a couple of minutes to read.

As Mr. Kahn and Mr. Kirk show, these days we don’t need John Griffin to expose how that old racism is lurking about in our society. We simply have to look at the data. Of course, some people will likely try to argue away the data and Mr. Griffin’s Black Like Me case study, but their arguments won’t actually hide contemporary racism, let alone mitigate it.

At the end of Mr. Kahn’s and Mr. Kirk’s article, if you have the strength, you can watch a video interview that Slate has been running during the last week of July and the first week of August 2015 (as I recall). It features a drive around Baltimore featuring an interview with Michael Wood, Jr., a former Baltimore (MD, US) police officer who has spoken out about problems with police training in urban environments. It’s about 12 minutes long, but it’s pretty informative. Mr. Wood explains why, he thinks, urban police officers are essentially trained to respond improperly to Black citizens.

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Racism, how healthy thou art

In Racism is Real, Brave New Films illustrates just a few areas where bias lurks for people of different ethnic backgrounds. In what, to many white people, are everyday life events, actors illustrate different experiences documented in research studies. Go ahead a watch it now. It’s brief—only about as long as a TV break.

Perhaps you saw it in the spring of 2015 when it was first airing. At that time, the film got some coverage from the press. For example, Ana Swanson of the Washington (DC, US) Post suggested

[I]f you have any doubts about whether racism still exists in America, this 3-minute video from Brave New Films, a California-based company that makes films to spur political activism, might clear them up. The video counts down eight reasons that racism is still very real in America, using research from Yale University, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New England Journal of Medicine, among others.

Ave. Number Killed per US state per 100,000 White Black
10.4
(3.9)
18.3
(6.5)

Now, please add one more statistic. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reported the number of deaths due to firearms per 100,000 population by race or ethnicity for the year 2013. Guessing that these numbers haven’t changed much in the last couple of years, I took a look at them. Some states did not report numbers because there were not sufficient data or because reporting the data would identify specific individuals. To get an idea of the difference by white and black groups, I eliminated the states where there were not per 100,000 rates for one or the other group. Then I simply tool the mean (and standard deviation) for the remaining 34 states. Those are the data you see in the table.

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Can’t keep up?

Do you ever get the sense that you just can’t keep up with all the news. For example, just how many people have died so far this year in mass shootings? As of the time I’m writing this post, that number is 256, according to my arithmetic and the data available from Shooting Tracker. In addition, 744 more people were injured in the 203 incidents when those 256 people were killed. That’s right! One thousand people killed or wounded so far in 2015 in the events spread across the 207 days of the year—almost one incident a day and an average of greater than one death and three injuries per day.

Shooting Tracker defines a mass shooting as one in which “four or more people are shot in a spree or setting, likely without a cooling off period.” That does not mean four or more people are killed. Shooting Tracker is a crowd-sourced site that was developed by some Redditors. People submit documentation for incidents, essentially news reports of shootings.

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Prescient or Same-old-same-old?

The passing of Mario M. Cuomo, former Governor of the US state of New York, makes me wonder whether he was so savvy that he saw the future or he was just describing conditions that keep recurring. In his speech to the 1984 Democratic National Party Convention, he pitched what I consider one of the most cogent and moving counters to Mr. Ronald Reagan’s economic polices.

Mr. Reagan’s policies were implemented and we have suffered the consequences ever since. Mr. Cuomo anticipated it. He called it. He suggested compassionate, humane alternatives, as in this source for the full speech and these briefer excerpts.

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On teens, bullying, and gay bashing in Iowa

Are teen bullying and gay bashing events in Iowa typical or an aberration? I haven’t had the time to research it closely and compare data in a state-by-state fashion; that’ll have to wait. But, consider the following list.

  • Jan 2014: News sources in Des Moines (WHO-TV 1 and WHO-TV 2; KCCI; Des Moines Register) reported that 16-year-old Nathan Rogers suffered multiple facial injuries from a beating he suffered around New Years Eve at the hands (literally) of several other teens, who have been charged with felonious assault. Continue reading

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