Tag Archives: justice

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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Almost enough bacon?

bacon church robot

I have not knowingly eaten bacon in over 25 years, but I might be convinced to worship at the United Church of Bacon. Why? Well, the sensibility of the church’s teachings brought smiles to me at the same time as making sense. According to the church’s about page,

The United Church of Bacon holds to a list of 9 Bacon Commandments. We tried to make it 10, but ran out of space on the tablets and didn’t want to start over.

Our mission is:

  • We oppose supernatural claims. We are skeptics and atheists. In our religion, we doubt religion.
  • We fight discrimination. Atheists are not inferior and should not be hated and marginalized.
  • We raise money for charity
  • We perform legal weddings, always for free. How joyful!
  • We expose religious privileges as silly by claiming the same rights for Bacon.
  • We praise Bacon! If you don’t like pigs, praise Vegetarian Bacon or Turkey Bacon.

In the accompanying YouTube video, the church provides suggestions about the nearly miraculous powers of bacon. Prepare to be…well…be chuckling.

I’m adding UCB to the sidebar.

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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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If you’re an unarmed citizen and you have a police encounter, your chances of being killed by police depend on your ethnic group

As of 8 August 2015, police officers in the US have shot and killed 585 people during 2015, according to reporters Sandhya Somashekhar, Wesley Lowery, Keith L. Alexander, Kimberly Kindy of the Washington Post. In just over 90% of those cases, the police killed armed citizens, but in 24 of the 60 cases where they killed unarmed citizens, those citizens were black.

So far this year, 24 unarmed black men have been shot and killed by police – one every nine days, according to a Washington Post database of fatal police shootings. During a single two-week period in April, three unarmed black men were shot and killed. All three shootings were either captured on video or, in one case, broadcast live on local TV.

Those 24 cases constitute a surprisingly small fraction of the 585 people shot and killed by police through Friday evening, according to The Post database. Most of those killed were white or Hispanic, and the vast majority of victims of all races were armed.

However, black men accounted for 40 percent of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population. The Post’s analysis shows that black men were seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.

Writing under various headlines— “Black and unarmed: One year after Michael Brown’s shooting death” or “Police gunfire: Unarmed black men: 7 times more likely to die than whites ”—that point to the same story, Ms. Somashekhar and colleagues present a thorough examination of the data they have assembled (and made public). There are compelling personal accounts and thoughtful analyses.

I used their data to create the graph shown here. (Please note that my quick extraction has slightly different counts than those they report, likely because a combination of different counting rules and weaknesses in my technical skills.) The data set is available on GitHub, so others can analyze them; the data set will also change as more incidents are added to it.

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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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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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Throw out which DC officials?

Are you aghast about, alarmed by, or just plain ticked off with the elected officials in Washington? Do you find yourself wondering what they must be thinking? Do you wonder why we elected some of them?

Whom would you dismiss from the US government?

I’ve got a little poll running for the next couple of days here. You may select multiple individuals. So, take a couple of seconds, scan the list of contenders. Note that you can only vote one time, but you can (as I indicated) vote for more than one individual when you vote—in fact, you can recommend they all go!

This is a time-limited poll. It’ll close on Saturday. Sorry you can’t vote often, but you may vote early! You can tell your your Republican’t or Spendocrat pals to vote, too; just send ’em this link: http://bit.ly/1hXtKDW (sorry, a previously posted link was wrong).

Your votes are anonymous, but you are welcome to—ahem—expose yourself (or not) in the comments section. For example, you could wonder why I omitted certain dead people from the options.

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