103 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

Corinne Shutack

Corinne Shutack, Aug 13, 2017

art: A Small Matter of Engineering, Part II by Kara Springer

Note 1: This article was last updated on September 21, 2020.
Note 2: Our work to fix what we broke and left broken. The work isn’t done until Black folks tell us it’s done.

  1. There are varied approaches to ending police violence. The best thing to do is to follow your local Black Lives Matter chapter or other local Black-led organization to find out the proposed policy and funding changes in your city or town. Donate to your local BLM chapter, sign up for updates, volunteer, and take action when asked.
  2. Campaign Zero has ten evidence-based solutions to address police violence. Contact your city or town government representative(s) and police chief to advocate for these policies.
  3. Within the evidence-based solutions in #2, Campaign Zero has a project called 8Can’tWait, with eight specific policies to be prioritized to end police violence. The website has a fantastic tool wherein you can see which of the policies your city or town have been enacted. Contact your city or town government representative(s) and police chief to advocate for the policies that have not yet been enacted.
  4. Find out your city or town’s policy on no-knock warrants (the policy that led to Breonna Taylor’s murder). Contact your city or town government representative(s) and police chief to ban no-knock warrants.
  5. Write to your state representative and senator to end qualified immunity like Colorado recently didQualified immunity permits government officials performing discretionary functions to be immune from civil suits unless the official violated “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” In recent years, qualified immunity has been successfully used to defend the use of excessive or deadly force by police, like in this case. Thank you to Claudia S. Murray for the suggestion.
  6. Support a project facilitated by Leap, the Law Enforcement Accountability Project, a fund that empowers activists to change the narrative around the police abuse of Black People. Leap is founded by Ava DuVernay.
  7. Understand and share what “defund the police” really means. It’s about a new, smarter approach to public safety, wherein we demilitarize the police and allocate resources into education, social services, and other root causes of crimes. What we’re doing now isn’t working — There are so many innocent people who have been harassed or killed by the police unjustly, and nearly every Black American has experienced some form of harassment by the police. Some good resources for this are this video by BLM , this Washington Post article and this Facebook post.
  8. More and more stories of Black folks encountering racism are being documented and shared through social media — whether it’s at a hotel, with the police, in a coffee shop, at a school, etc. When you see such a post, call the organization, company, or institution involved to tell them how upset you are. Then share the post along with the institution’s contact information, spreading the word about what happened and encouraging others to contact the institution as well. Whether the company initiated the event or failed to protect a POC during an onslaught by a third party, they need to hear from us.
  9. If you or a friend is an educator, buy said friend books that feature POC as protagonists and heroes, no matter the racial make-up of the class. A few good lists are hereherehereherehereherehere, and here. bell hooks, one of the heroes of our time, has authored five children’s books. You can purchase educational toys that feature POC, such as finger puppetsBlack History Flashcards, etc for their classroom. Use these items year-round, not just in February. The racial make-up of students doesn’t matter — kids of every race need to know American history and be exposed to people from different races, religions, and countries. If the friend is interested, buy them for your pal’s classroom. Don’t be shy to ask Facebook friends that you haven’t actually talked to in ten years.
  10. If you or a friend or family member is an educator, watch or share this video of Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking about his experience as a Black student telling people he wanted to be a scientist and astrophysicist. Tyson’s experience reminds me of a Black friend whose high school teachers tried to dissuade her from taking AP classes, because, with the best of intentions, they thought the AP classes would be “too much” for her. Be an educator who supports and encourages, not one who dissuades. Talk to educators you know about being educators who support and encourage, not educators who dissuade.
  11. Work on ensuring that Black educators are hired where Black children are being taught. If you want to know more about why and how this makes a difference for Black children, check out this episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast. There are some really good nuggets in there about how schools can support the achievement of Black students — from ensuring Black students aren’t closed out of gifted programs by using test results instead of white teachers’ recommendations to the influence that having a Black teacher has on a Black student’s education to the importance to fostering a school ethos wherein Black students think, “This school is here for me.”
  12. Many companies have recruiting channels that are predominantly white. Work with your HR department to recruit Americans who are descendants of enslaved Africans. Recruiting from HBCUs is a good start. Work to put descendants of enslaved Africans already hired under supportive managers.
  13. Donate to anti-white supremacy work such as your local Black Lives Matter Chapter, the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, the NAACPSouthern Poverty Law CenterUnited Negro College FundBlack Youth Project 100Color of ChangeThe Sentencing ProjectFamilies against Mandatory MinimumsA New Way of LifeEqual Justice Initiative, and Dream Defenders. Join some of these list-serves and take action as their emails dictate.
  14. Support Black businesses, as advocated by Killer Mike among countless others. Find them on WeBuyBlackThe Black WalletOfficial Black Wall Street, and Post 21. Another good list is here. Find Black-owned bookstoresflorists, and restaurants. Yelp now has a feature to search for Black-owned businesses, and Etsy features Black-owned businesses here. Thank you Corinna Tricaricofor the info on Etsy.
  15. Bank Black, as advocated by Killer Mike. It doesn’t have to be all of your checking or savings. Opening up an account with some money is better than no account at all. You can use the link from #14 (type “banking” in the Category field) or Blackout to find a bank. At the very least, move some or all of your checking, savings, mortgage, etc out of Wells Fargo as a part of the divestment movement to protect Standing Rock.
  16. Get your company, place of worship, condo building, gym, etc to move some or all of its money to Black-owned banks, like Netflix is doing.
  17. Don’t buy from companies that use prison labor. Find a good list here. While Whole Foods is on that list, but pledged to stop using prison labor in 2016, they haven’t made amends for that abuse. You can’t pour gas on a burning building, decide to stop pouring the gas, then walk away like everything is fine. Until Whole Foods pays reparations, they stay on the boycott list.
  18. Stand outside of the stores from #17 with a sign that reads “[Company] uses prison labor” even if for 30 mins a few times a month.
  19. Read up about mandatory minimum sentences and watch videos about this on Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM’s) website. FAMM’s website includes work being done at the federal level and state level. Call or write to your state legislators and governor about reducing mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes.
  20. To reduce mandatory minimum sentences on a federal level, call or write to your federal legislators in support of the bipartisan (sponsored by Sen Lee (R-UT)) Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 2850) which reduces the length of federal mandatory minimum drug sentences by half, makes the Fair Sentencing Act’s crack sentencing reforms retroactive, and expands the “safety valve” exception to mandatory drug sentences.
  21. To reduce mandatory minimum sentences on a federal level, call or write to your federal legislators in support of the bipartisan (sponsored by Sen Paul (R-KY)) Justice Safety Valve Act (S. 399, H.R. 1097), which would allow judges to give sentences other than the mandatory minimum sentence for any federal crime.
  22. To reduce mandatory minimum sentences on a federal level, call or write your federal legislators in support of another great criminal justice reform bill, the Second Look Act, which would make reduced sentences for crack convictions from the previously passed Fair Sentencing Act retroactive, reduce mandatory minimums for people convicted more than three times for drug crimes from life without parole after the third offense to 25 years, reduce mandatory sentences for drug crimes from 15 to 10 years, limit the use of solitary confinement on juvenile prisoners, etc.
  23. Call or write to your state legislators and governor to support state-wide criminal justice reform including reducing mandatory minimum sentences, reducing sentences for non-violent drug crimes, passing “safety valve” law to allow judges to depart below a mandatory minimum sentence under certain conditions, passing alternatives to incarceration, etc. Study after study shows that racism fuels racial disparities in imprisonment, and about 90% of the US prison population are at the state and local level.
  24. Call or write to state legislators, federal legislators, and your governor to decriminalize weed. No, not because Black folks use weed more frequently than white folks. Because Black Americans are arrested for marijuana possession far more frequently than whites.
  25. Call or write to state legislators to require racial impact statements be required for all criminal justice bills. Most states already require fiscal and environmental impact statements for certain legislation. Racial impact statements evaluate if a bill may create or exacerbate racial disparities should the bill become law. Check out the status of your state’s legislation surrounding these statements here.
  26. Find and join a local “white space” to learn more about and talk out the conscious and unconscious biases us white folks have. If there’s not a group in your area, start one.
  27. Join or start a Daughters of Abraham book club in your Church, mosque, or synagogue.
  28. Join your local Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) group. There is a lot of awesome work going on locally — Get involved in the projects that speak to you.
  29. Do deep canvassing about race and racial justice. Many SURJ groups are organizing them, so many people can do it through your local SURJ group. If they’re not already doing it, start it.
  30. Research your local prosecutors. Prosecutors have a lot of power to give fair sentences or Draconian ones, influence a judge’s decision to set bail or not, etc. In the past election, a slew of fair-minded prosecutors were elected. We need more.
  31. Call or write to state legislators, federal legislators, and your governor to end solitary confinement in excess of 15 days. It is considered torture by the UN, and it is used more frequently on Black and Hispanic prisoners. For more information on solitary, two good overviews can be found here and here.
  32. Watch 13th. Better yet, get a group of friends together and watch 13th.
  33. Watch The House I Live In. Or get a group of friends together and watch it.
  34. Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article The Case for Reparations and From Here to Equality by William A. Darity Jr. andA. Kirsten Mullen. The US has already participated in reparations four times. Thank you to Clyanna Blyannafor suggesting this addition.
  35. Participate in reparations. One way is through this Facebook group. Remember reparations isn’t just monetary — share your time, skills, knowledge, connections, etc. Thank you to Clyanna Blyannafor suggesting this addition.
  36. Read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Better yet, get a group of friends together to read it like a book club would — read, then discuss. Buy it from one of these Black-owned bookstores.
  37. Read Caught by Marie Gottschalk. Better yet, get a group of friends together to read it like a book club would — read, then discuss. Buy it from one of these Black-owned bookstores.
  38. Read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Yep, get a group of friends together to read it like a book club would — read, then discuss. Buy it from one of these Black-owned bookstores.
  39. Read A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Thank you to Steve Senatorifor this suggestion. Buy the book from one of these Black-owned bookstores.
  40. Read Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. The information the author shares about the ease with which one can be charged with “conspiracy” to sell drugs, the damage done from long sentences that don’t fit the crime due to mandatory minimum sentencing, the ever-present threat of solitary confinement at a Correction Officer’s whim, and other specific harmful practices in the prison system are well done. Get a group of friends together to read it like a book club would — read, then discuss. Buy the book from one of these Black-owned bookstores.
  41. Read The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. Get your friends on board reading it, too. Buy it from one of these Black-owned bookstores.
  42. Especially if you or a friend is an educator, read or share bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress. Buy it from one of these Black-owned bookstores.
  43. Read Nikole Hannah-Jones’ The 1619 Project.
  44. Buy books, choose TV shows and movies, and opt for toys for your kids, nieces, nephews, etc that show people from different races, religions, countries and that teach real American history. A few ideas: the books, toys, and flashcards from #9.
  45. Decolonize your bookshelf.
  46. Listen without ego and defensiveness to people of color. Truly listen. Don’t scroll past articles written by people of color — Read them.
  47. Don’t be silent about that racist joke. Silence is support.
  48. Follow Patrisse CullorsOpal TometiAlicia Garziabell hooksLuvvie AjayiMelissa Harris-PerryVan JonesAva DuVernaythenewjimcrowLaverne CoxDeRay MckessonRev. Dr. William J. Barber IIIbram X. Kendi, and Killer Mike. Follow them with the intention of listening and learning only.
  49. Read Awesomely LuvvieBlavityMadame NoirThe RootThe Grio, and Jamelle Bouie’s opinion pieces with a desire to learn and understand better the lives of Black Americans.
  50. Find out how the near-eradication of indigenous people, slavery, the Civil War, and Jim Crow are taught in your local school. Advocate that history is taught correctly and certain parts are not skipped over or barely mentioned. Ensure the “discovery” of America by Christopher Columbus is taught correctly by using the booklet Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow & Bob Peterson. Use this toolkit to ensure Thanksgiving is taught correctly. Advocate that many voices be used in the study of history. Is the school teaching about post-Civil War convict leasing, the parent to our current mass incarceration system? Talking about slavery alone, is your high school showing images such as Gordon’s scourged backa slave ship hold, and an enslaved nurse holding her young master? Does the school teach about scientists, inventors, politicians, etc who are POC? Do reading lists include male and female authors who are POC? In my mostly white high school, reading books like Having Our Say, To Be a Slave, The Bluest Eye, and Their Eyes Were Watching God was very important. A great starting list of such books is here. Are Japanese internment camps being discussed? Is history explained correctly in history books? As an example of a severe failure to teach the reality of slavery and its ramifications, check out image 1 and image 2 . There are a lot of great resources out there with a little googling, like PBS’s resources for teaching slaverythis POC Online Classroom blogTeaching for ChangeThe Zinn Project’s This Day in HistoryTeaching Tolerance at the Southern Poverty Law Center (thank you Adajhand), and The National Association for Multicultural Education.
  51. Arrange for cultural exchanges and cultural ambassadors in your local school’s classrooms. The International Classroom program at UPenn and People to People International are options. The Dept of Education has a good list. Cultural exchanges via the interwebs are very valuable. Actual human interaction between people from different races, religions, and countries (ie: cultural ambassadors) and students in the physical classroom is ideal.
  52. Seek out a diverse group of friends for your kids.
  53. Seek out a diverse group of friends for you. Practice real friendship and intimacy by listening when POC talk about their experiences and their perspectives. They’re speaking about their pain.
  54. Watch these videos to hear first hand accounts of what our Black brothers and sisters live. Then read everyday people’s experiences through the hashtag #realizediwasblack. Watch the rules Tik Tok user @skoodupcam’s mother makes him follow just so he comes home each night. Read You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism by Lacey Lamar and Amber Ruffin. Share with others.
  55. If there are Black and/or indigenous children/teens in your life, contribute to their college savings plans. You can also contribute to an HBCU, the United Negro College Fund, the American Indian College Fund, or individual college savings plans. Thank you to Rev Dr Pollard for this contribution. Consider making HBCUs and the American Indian College Fund beneficiaries through your will or living trusts. Thank youJanice Crawfordfor this contribution.
  56. Call or write to your national legislators, state legislators, and governor in favor of affirmative action. Encourage friends to do the same.
  57. Write to your college/university about implementing all or some of these diversity strategies that effectively promote racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity on campus. Write to the public universities your tax payer dollars support about implementing these diversity strategies.
  58. Recognize that in the same way saying “slavery is a necessary evil” (Thomas Jefferson’s words) was acceptable by many in 1820, the same way saying “separate but equal” was acceptable by many in 1940, choosing to not condemn white nationalism, the fact that Black people are 2.7 times as likely to be killed by police than white people, the fact that unarmed Black Americans are roughly five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer, that the fact the Black imprisonment rate for drug offenses is about 5.8 times higher than it is for whites, etc are acts of overt racism in 2020.
  59. Write to the US Sentencing Commission (PubAffairs@ussc.gov) and ask them to:
    — reform the career offender guideline to lessen the length of
    sentences
    — change the guidelines so that more people get probation
    — change the criminal history guidelines so that a person’s
    criminal record counts against them less
    — change guidelines to reduce mandatory minimum
    sentences for non-violent crimes
    — conduct a study to review the impact of parental incarceration on minor children. With more data, the Commission could modify the Sentencing Guidelines and allow judges to take this factor into account when sentencing individuals for non-violent crimes.
    — conduct a study to review whether the Bureau of Prisons is following the Commission’s encouragement to file a motion for compassionate release whenever “extraordinary and compelling reasons” exist. 
    — consider amending the guidelines to reduce sentences for first offenders.
  60. Read Van Jones’ short and to-the-point article about the racial biases of reporters. More examples are here and here. Check out this article discussing how media coverage of the opioid epidemic — which largely affects suburban and rural whites — portrays it as an outside threat and focuses on treatment and recovery, while stories of heroin in the 1970s, crack-cocaine in the 1980s, and other drug problems that impact urban people of color today have focused on the drug user’s morality. Keep an eye out for such biases, and use social media and direct communication to the media outlet to call them out when they occur.
  61. Donate to groups that are working to put women of color into elected office, to get out the vote, and to restore voting rights to disenfranchised voters.
  62. Know our American history. Watch Roots, 12 Years a Slave, and Selma, to name a few.
  63. Check out Black movies, TV, and other media that show POC as lead characters and in their full humanity. Queen Sugar, Insecure, Dear White People, The Carmichael Show, Blackish, Grownish, Atlanta, 2 Dope Queens, Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time, Get Out, Girls Trip, Sorry to Bother You, United Shades of America, Mudbound, How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal, The Cloverfield Paradox, Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, BlacKkKlansman, Little, If Beale Street Could Talk, Queen and Slim, A Black Lady Sketch Show, PBS’ Great Performance of Much Ado about NothingThe Amber Ruffin Show, Pose, and any movies released by Array are a few. Share them with friends. In addition, if you can’t watch the whole video, watch 13:12 to 15:17 of this discussion about working in Hollywood when you’re not white.
  64. Know what indigenous land you’re living on by looking that this map and research the groups that occupied that land before you did. Find out what local activism those groups are doing and give your money and time to those efforts.
  65. When people say that Black Lives Matter is a violent/terrorist group, explain to them that there are fringe groups that are being misrepresented as part of BLM. If conservatives don’t want to be lumped in with the KKK, they can’t lump violent protesters in with BLM.
  66. When people ask, “Why aren’t you talking about ‘black-on-black crime’?” and other myths about BLM, let Francesca Ramsey help you with those talking points.
  67. Stop shopping at Amazon and Whole Foods. They advertise on -that’s to say fund- white supremacist media. An easy alternative to Amazon is buying from Black-owned businesses through webuyblack.com, featured in #14. Also check out this “How to Stop Using Amazon” Facebook post.
  68. Be honest about our history. One genocide, another genocide, then apartheid. It sucks, but it’s true. We’ll never be free from our history unless we’re honest about it. Denial is our pathology, but the truth will set us free.
  69. If you have a close relationship with a young person of color, make sure he/she knows how much you love them. Love and affirm that child. Thank you to Rev Dr Pollard for this contribution.
  70. Write to your city or town government representative to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day like these cities did.
  71. Donate to Standing Rock through the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
  72. Write to your city or town government representative to divest from banks that are financing the Dakota Access Pipeline, private prisons, and detention centers. Seattle, Davis, CA, and Los Angeles divested from banks that are funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, and there are campaigns going on in many cities to divest. Cities like New York and Cincinnati have divested from private prisons. Start here: http://howtodivest.org/
  73. Personally divest your investments in private prisons and detention centers. Start here. Many people are divesting from Wells Fargo for their substantial role in Standing Rock and from private prison companies Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, CoreCivic, and G4S.
  74. Get your company, place of worship, etc to divest from private prisons and detention centers. Since the start of a national prison divestment campaignhigher ed institutionschurches, and corporations have divested.
  75. Write to your state legislators to end cash bail. It means that a someone who is legally innocent is put in jail because they can’t afford bail. It means that a defendant can be released pre-trial because of their wealth, not how much of a flight risk they are. It puts more people in detention (which tax payers pay for) and affects a defendants’ ability to maintain employment, access mental and physical healthcare, and be in communication with their family and friends, etc. Housing the approximately 500,000 people in jail in the US awaiting trial who cannot afford bail costs US taxpayers $9 billion a year. Thank you to Elizabeth B.and Cynthia Astlefor suggesting this addition.
  76. Support organized efforts to end of cash bail by donating to The Bail Project. Bail out a Black mother through The National Bail Out. Thank you to Elizabeth B.and Cynthia Astlefor suggesting this addition.
  77. Attend town halls, candidate meet-and-greets, etc for political candidates and ask about ending mass incarceration, reducing mandatory minimum sentences, reducing or ending solitary confinement, decriminalizing weed, ending cash bail, divesting from private prisons, divesting from banks, divesting from banks that finance the Dakota Access Pipeline, etc.
  78. Read this article about an overt white supremacist’s son’s journey to relinquish white supremacy and watch this video about Daryl Davis, a Black man who gets KKK members to disavow by befriending them. For those you know who are overtly racist (see #58), think about ways you can create exposure for them to people who don’t look like them, share their religion, etc. Jane Elliott says, “People who are racist aren’t stupid, they’re ignorant. And the answer to ignorance is education.” Frederick Douglass notes, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” It may be best to focus on children, adolescents, and young adults currently being raised by overtly racist parents. Maybe it’s tutoring them so they could get on a college track, encouraging them to study abroad, or turning them on to colleges where not everyone looks like them and shares their religion, etc. Maybe it’s spending time with them on some regularity and showing them the achievements and beauty of non-white cultures. Be creative.
  79. Talk to the white people you know who aren’t clearly upset by white supremacy. Use “I” statements, “I care” messages (“I feel [feeling] when you [behavior]”), and non-violent communication. They need to know you see a problem. Call them out, and call them in. As a start, ask them to watch the videos in #54. For people you know who’ve been radicalized by FOX News and other nationalist (not conservative) media, who’ve been so pummeled with fear and hatred of “the other” that they’ve become ISIS-like towards others, how can you and other family and friends guide them through conversation to show them that their actions are now in direct contrast with the values they feign to purport?
  80. A wise former teacher once said, “The question isn’t: Was the act racist or not? The question is: How much racism was in play?” So maybe racism was 3% of the motivation or 30% or 95%. Interrogate the question “How much racism was in play?” as you think about an incident. Share this idea with the people in your life when they ask, “Was that racist?”
  81. Credit Black men and women. Kara Springer, a Black woman artist, created the image/public art that begins this piece. It’s called A Small Matter of Engineering, Part IIChristian Campbelltweeted to ensure the art was attributed appropriately and correctly.
  82. Watch Jane Elliot’s blue eyes/brown eyes racism experiment here. Watch Jane Elliot’s a follow-up on the blue eyes/brown eyes racism experiment on Oprah here, and watch Jane Elliot and Roland Martin’s conversation at the University of Michigan’s Women of Color Task Force here. Thank you to Jourdain Blair for this suggestion.
  83. Anti-racism is a global fight. Don’t buy electronics or jewelry made from conflict minerals. Find an overview and rankings of electronics and jewelry companies’ efforts to source conflict-free minerals here. At your place of work, establish a policy that your company or organization will only purchase electronics from companies that are top-rated. Write to companies on the list and ask them to improve their rank.
  84. Read this article by educator and activity Bettina L. Love about the harm done by schools to their Black students. Ensure your local school/School Board has a clear and strong policy of zero tolerance for racial slurs, physically touching a child to discipline them, invasions of privacy like strip searches, hair discrimination, etc. “Zero tolerance” means loss of a job, loss of a pension, and mandatory reporting to state Department of Education. If and when school officials don’t comply with their own policies, or when a school refuses to create these policies altogether, use resources at your disposal like social media, local news media, connections to the School Board, etc to hold them accountable.
  85. Visit sites of American concentration camps, memorials, and museums dedicated to teaching about the genocide and apartheid, past and present. Old Slave Mart Museum in Charleston; The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery; the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC; the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, NC; the Whitney Plantationnear New Orleans, the quarters of enslaved people at Monticello in Charlottesville, VA; a tour discussing the lives of enslaved people at Mount Vernon, VA, Underground Railroad locations, etc. Google sites, museums, etc where you can learn about Black history and current life near you or at your next travel destination. Thank you to Charles Chukwuemeka Ekeke for this addition.
  86. We need to raise children who understand race and are comfortable talking about it. A few resources for that: the book Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey, the NPR podcast Talking Race With Young Childrenthese children’s books, and these resources compiled by the Children’s Community School in Philadelphia.
  87. Write to your state representative and senator to ban voter ID laws, ease the voter registration process, implement early voting, and implement voting-by-mail. The unfortunate reality of efforts to “fight against voter fraud” is that voter fraud isn’t statistically a problem in this country. Even The Heritage Foundation counts only 1,285 cases of voter fraud… since 1998. Just like poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses were “race-neutral” policies that inhibited Black Americans from voting until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed, voter ID laws, cuts to voting registration processes, and cuts to early voting are efforts to inhibit Black Americans from voting today. A well-off white person in my life lamented that their children could easily get their ID, so why couldn’t anyone else? This person neglected to recognize that her children had cars to get them to the DMV, lived relatively close to the DMV, had the time to go, etc. This excerpt from the previous link is quite striking: “In the 1930s one Georgia man described the situation this way: ‘Do you know I’ve never voted in my life, never been able to exercise my right as a citizen because of the poll tax? … I can’t pay a poll tax, can’t have a voice in my own government.’ ” Saying, “Just get your ID!” today is the equivalent of saying “Just pay the poll tax!” in 1964. Remember that the restrictive voting laws passed since 2013 have been considered legal only because the Supreme Court gutted the most powerful protections of the Voting Rights Act. Thank you Alice Smithand Sarah Weissfor this suggestion.
  88. Ibram X Kendi says we need to move beyond saying “racist” and “not racist.” Instead, some white people are practicing anti-racism by (1) divesting themselves of white fragility and defensiveness and choosing to continue to learn and listen to Black folks and (2) dismantling white supremacy in the institutions around them. White supremacy is not just targeted murder of Black men by police. White supremacy pervades every institution — places of work, education, criminal justice, healthcare, government, banks, places of worship, etc. It is our work to dismantle white supremacy in all of these institutions, not just the police. Those who are not practicing anti-racism are perpetuating white supremacy. And we cannot do the external work without doing the internal work.
  89. Contact your high school and college/university to create a class that teaches white privilege, the subconscious nature of racism in every US institution (schools, offices, etc), use of racial stereotypes by individuals and the media, etc. This class should be mandatory for all students. One such class is CFE 444 — Schooling & Diversity at Syracuse University.
  90. When people lament that the policing problem is just “a few bad apples,” share the following evidence that it is not: comedian Amber Ruffin discussing her police encounters, the Buffalo cop who intervened on a chokehold and lost her job and pension, the Minneapolis police union chief who used his powerful position to try to justify George Floyd’s torture and death, and the Philadelphia Police Union President who, in his position of authority, called Black Lives Matter protestors ‘rabid animals.’ Remember that the fourth stage of genocide is “dehumanization, wherein members of a particular group “are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases.”
  91. Check out this Anti-Racist/Anti-Fascist Education playlist.
  92. Don’t gentrify neighborhoods.
  93. Support that new apartment building proposed to be built in your neighborhood. Don’t participate in “snob zoning,” which is opposing new builds of apartments because wealthy white folks are afraid the apartment building will “change the character of a community.” For more infromation on this, see #41.
  94. If you or a friend or family member is an educator, ensure anti-racism is in your teaching practice. Some resources for this are the books We Want to do More than Survive by Bettina L. Love, Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, and Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen. Other resources are the Abolitionist Teaching NetworkAmerican University’s Summer Institute on Education, Equity, and JusticeTeaching ToleranceThe National Seed ProjectThe NAIS People of Color ConferenceThe Race Institute for K-12 Educators, the book The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black BoysTeaching While White, the White Privilege Conference, and specifically for white teachers of middle school students, the website The Collaborative. Another resource: Each link on this page is a montage of video clips related videos of teachers and students talking about teaching Black boys.
  95. Array is an independent film distribution and resource collective founded by Ava DuVernay. For students of all ages, Array is creating learning companions for the works they produce and distribute, starting with When They See Us. Check out the learning companion for it here.
  96. Work on this excellent document of scaffolding anti-racism resources.
  97. Check out the White Ally Toolkit, which helps white folks become more persuasive in conversations with racism skeptics by empowering and equipping us with best practice communications skills based on listening, storytelling, and compassion.
  98. Check out the White People Confronting Racism workshop.
  99. Have an idea to fight white supremacy or sexism or homophobia, etc? Do the research to see if someone who’s Black is already doing it. A Black friend was contacted by a white woman who wanted to organize a BLM protest in her town — my Black friend’s first response was, “Do you know if any Black leaders are already doing it?” The white woman wasn’t sure. Similarly, if Alyssa Milano had checked for #metoo on Twitter before her tweet, she may have found Tarana Burke’s original #metoo tweet from 2006 — and could have rightly attributed the idea from the start and amplified a Black woman’s voice.
  100. When you see someone who is Black stopped by the police, stop and watch the encounter. Listen to Twitter user @kingkeraun discuss his experience seeing a white woman record an encounter he had with the police.
  101. Write to your federal legislators in support of The Breathe Act, which Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza calls “our generation’s version of the Civil Rights Act.” An overview of The Breathe Act can be found here, and a more in-depth summary can be found here. You can become a community co-sponsor of the bill here.
  102. Write to your federal legislators in support of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2019, which will invest $100 billion over 10 years in fixing America’s public schools. Investing less in incarceration and more in education will go a long way. Because of limited education funding, schools desperately in need of renovations need to compete against each other to be next on the list for the reno. The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), a part of the Department of Education, reports that in 2012–2013, “21 percent of schools were in fair condition, and 3 percent were in poor condition.” 3 percent of schools is millions of American children. Millions. The NCES also reports that “the building systems/features were rated as being in fair or poor condition in their permanent buildings in 14 to 32 percent of the schools.” This article gives examples of school facilities in poor condition across the country. Our kids deserve so much better.
  103. Remember the wise words of Twitter user @itsjacksonbbz: You will continue to mess up racism. So continue to be teachable, open to correction from POC, and vigilantly monitor yourself for defensiveness and white fragility. You never “arrive” as an ally, you must continually *practice* allyship.

Disney asks employees to complete ‘white privilege checklist,’ insists America was founded on ‘systemic racism,’ according to leaked documents

News Paul Sacca May 08, 2021

The Walt Disney Company is the latest mega-corporation to push critical race theory. The Disney empire, which has a reported net worth of $122 billion, is asking employees to complete a “white privilege checklist,” and insists America was founded on “systemic racism,” according to newly leaked documents. 

The Walt Disney Company recently introduced a “diversity and inclusion” program titled “Reimagine Tomorrow,” which is described as an “anti-racism discussion guide” and an “allyship for race consciousness,” according to materials published by journalist Christopher F. Rufo. The corporate training module for the anti-racism guide asks: “What can I do about racism?”

Rufo says there are Disney training modules on “systemic racism,” “white privilege,” “white fragility,” “white saviors,” “microaggressions,” and “anti-racism.”

Disney says America has a “long history of systemic racism and transphobia.” The training manual tells employees to “recognize your colleagues are also processing the ways in which the pandemic is disproportionately affecting the Black community.” The guide instructs employees to “take ownership of educating [themselves] about structural anti-Black racism” by seeking out “Black authors, journalists, and organizations.” However, employees should “not rely on [their] Black colleagues to educate [them],” because it is “emotionally taxing.”

Disney claims that America has a “long history of systemic racism and transphobia” and tells employees they must “t… https://t.co/RuMzNOaYGm

— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️)1620434538.0

The company that rose to fame from a cartoon mouse demands employees to “work through feelings of guilt, shame, and defensiveness to understand what is beneath them and what needs to be healed.” The guide commands non-black employees not to “question of debate Black colleagues’ lived experience.”

“Avoid conflating the Black experience with other communities of color,” the training module reportedly states. “While other people of color are subject to racism, there is a unique history that has led to anti-Black racism and the ways in which that shows up.”

Disney, one of the largest media conglomerates on the planet that owns ABC, ESPN, Touchstone Pictures, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar, prescribes that employees should reject “equality” and “equal treatment,” but instead strive for “equity,” “where we focus on the equality of the outcome, not the equality of the experience by taking individual needs and skills into account.” 

Disney tells employees they should reject “equality,” or “equal treatment,” and instead strive for “equity,” or “th… https://t.co/ajDx5nNrET

— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️)1620434598.0

Disney sponsored a “21-Day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge” in partnership with the YWCA, which is a women’s organization “on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen communities.” The YWCA states, “The challenge is designed to create dedicated time and space to build more effective social justice habits, particularly those dealing with issues of race, power, privilege, and leadership.”

According to Rufo, Disney provides a collection of “anti-racist” resources, including “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice,” “Your Kids Are Not Too Young to Talk About Race,” and the Black Lives Matter website. 

The first article recommends that white employees “defund the police,” “participate in reparations,” “decolonize your bookshelf,” “don’t gentrify neighborhoods,” “find and join a local ‘white space,'” and “donate to anti-white supremacy work such as your local Black Lives Matter Chapter.” The second article encourages parents to commit to “raising race-consciousness in children” and argues that “even babies discriminate” against members of other races. The resource includes a graphic that claims that babies show the first signs of racism at 3 months old and white children become “strongly biased in favor whiteness” by age 4.

White Disney employees are asked to complete a “white privilege checklist,” where people can select “privileges” such as: “I am white,” “I am heterosexual,” “I am a man,” “I still identity as the gender I was born in,” “I have never been raped,” “I don’t rely on public transportation,” and “I have never been called a terrorist.”

Disney says employees must “pivot” from “norm of white dominate culture” to “something different,” such as “building a bigger pie” and “collectivism.”

Next, participants are asked to complete a “white privilege checklist”: “I am white,” I am heterosexual,” “I am a m… https://t.co/VsVqmNw30J

Disney asks employees to complete ‘white privilege checklist,’ insists America was founded on ‘systemic racism,’ according to leaked documents

— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️)1620434711.0Disney recommends that employees read a how-to guide called “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice.” The… https://t.co/sYYndWvfEe

— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️)1620434849.0

As part of its “anti-racism” campaign, the Mickey Mouse corporation created racially segregated “affinity groups” for minority employees, with the goal of achieving “culturally-authentic insights.” The Latino group is named “Hola,” the Asian group is named “Compass,” and the black group is named “Wakanda,” according to documents provided by whistleblowers.Here’s the full story in City Journal. https://t.co/bIu0RthVII

— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️)1620435144.0

The training guides didn’t seem to mention Disney’s close ties with the Chinese Communist Party, which has a history of human rights violations, or how it might be seen as “problematic” that Disney filmed the movie “Mulan” in the Xinjiang province of China, where approximately 1 million Uighur Muslims are believed to be held in concentration camps by the CCP government.

I Was a Facebook Content Moderator. I Quit in Disgust.

Facebook is driving content moderators toward despair through mismanagement, vague policies, and overwork. I’d had enough. 

But also I just kind of wanted to be like, Fuck you FB!

A Facebook employee holds a laptop with a "like" sticker on it.

A lot of people in Austin do this job. I knew that it was moderation. I knew that I would be looking at gross content. There’s a lot of turnover at first. For most people, they’re coming from retail or food service. It’s a very entry-level position. You’re not programming. You’re just implementing these really specific rules about the platform.

At the beginning I was making $16.50 an hour, and at the end I was making $18 an hour, and that was better than I could have done at a lot of other places. Still, I think that we should have been paid more.

So the job is moderation. Every space—IRL spaces and online spaces—has some set of speech norms. You have this largely fragmented early internet where people can say whatever they want because people can find these different spaces. But then Facebook comes into the picture, and all of a sudden the internet isn’t anonymous anymore. Facebook is dictating the speech of all these different people. Suddenly these things that you wouldn’t really care about because you could just opt to go somewhere else become a big deal. The policies that they make—it’s partly this STEM guy quasi-liberalism stuff and partly just, they get a bunch of pushback so they do this, they do that. Basically you get this lowest common denominator thing, which doesn’t make anybody happy.

We had this introductory training period where we had to go through the different policies. It’s really hard to make a policy that actually captures what you want it to. You have to get into this really technical, specific, and often arbitrary detail. You spend a lot of time talking about nipples.

They were always changing up the guidance and never really gave us a specific quota. Things were tremendously mismanaged. When I first started working there and wasn’t totally burnt out, I’d be doing 500 to 700 content moderation decisions per day.

Edge cases—various usages of the n-word, which depend on context and whether the word ends in “er” or “a”—can take a long time. I need to make this decision, and if this decision gets audited and I got it wrong, what am I going to say to justify this decision? You need to cite policy, and you need to cite the policies to how you apply the policy. (Those policies are based on internal documents that aren’t accessible to the public.) There are weekly audits where they question us about certain moderation decisions.

In other coverage of this job, there’s a lot of misery porn stuff: the content moderator as the receptacle of all this bullshit, rather than actual thoughts about their job, beyond that they hate it. I wish it was content moderators talking about this. In terms of improving the work, there need to be more demands made about mental health. One thing that would be important to organize around would be to give content moderators more of an active role in crafting policy. They’re not going to ever have an effective policy unless you have the people implementing the policy shaping it in some way. 

For most of the time, I was in a group called IG Proactive. It was stuff that was picked up by the AI or whatever. It was sort of everything on Instagram. Then I was on a team called Ground Truth, which is also a catch-all queue, and it’s a mixture of stuff that gets picked up by the AI and stuff that is user-reported. That queue isn’t actually live; your choices aren’t directly affecting the website. It’s a research queue. A bunch of people are supposed to get the same job, and they will try to refine the policy based on how you classify the job and possibly train the AI. 

There are child porn groups on Facebook. They’re taken down, but the people posting seem to keep one step ahead of all this stuff. I did not specialize in that. There was one Instagram page that I saw that wasn’t straight-up porn, but it was for looking at young girls. It was geared around that. It was fucking disgusting. And also, What are they thinking?It’s so confusing. How do you think you’re not going to get caught?

I was super frustrated. I’d wanted to quit for a long time, but I felt trapped. I’d heard stories of people who’d quit and hadn’t been able to find anything for a while. I was afraid of being unemployed. I managed to save up a little bit of money. I interviewed at this coffee shop, and I got the job, and that’s what I’m doing now.

I sent in my resignation at night. The next morning … I wrote the letter about how Facebook’s content moderation is failing and posted it. I wanted to prove that as a moderator, I had certain insights. I wanted to prove the stuff that I said in the letter, that it would actually be effective, which is that if you take into account what the people who are actually doing this job think, you’re going to have a better time of all of this. Here are the problems as I see them, and here are what I think could be solutions to these problems.

But also I just kind of wanted to be like, Fuck you.

I saw one thing where someone tweeted: “This seems like a bad job but if I really hated Facebook I would simply not be a tech weenie who works for Facebook.” I am not a tech weenie. I just know this policy. I’m not doing programming. I’m not trying to do programming. I am at the bottom of this industrial totem pole.

I just don’t think content moderation should be anybody’s sole job responsibility. Because it’s gross, and people are better than that.

I wouldn’t want to make a law against Facebook, but it’s a force for bad in the world. I’m no longer on Facebook. Jacob Silverman  @SilvermanJacob

Jacob Silverman is a staff writer at The New Republic and the author of Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection.

What Critical Race Theory Is — and Isn’t

By Faith Karimi, CNN

(CNN)Critical race theory. You may be hearing those three words a lot these days. Lawmakers in Tennessee and Idaho have banned its teaching from their public schools’ curriculum, while parents in Texas are opposing a school district‘s efforts to combat racism with lessons in “cultural awareness” — seen by some as critical race theory.It’s a concept that’s been around for decades and that seeks to understand and address inequality and racism in the US. The term also has become politicized and been attacked by its critics as a Marxist ideology that’s a threat to the American way of life. To get a deeper understanding of what critical race theory is — and isn’t — we talked to one of the scholars behind it.

What’s critical race theory?

Critical race theory recognizes that systemic racism is part of American society and challenges the beliefs that allow it to flourish. 

“Critical race theory is a practice. It’s an approach to grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it,” said Kimberlé Crenshaw, a founding critical race theorist and a law professor who teaches at UCLA and Columbia University.A young boy drinks from the "colored" water fountain on the county courthouse lawn in Halifax, North Carolina, in 1938. A young boy drinks from the “colored” water fountain on the county courthouse lawn in Halifax, North Carolina, in 1938. Critical race theorists believe that racism is an everyday experience for most people of color, and that a large part of society has no interest in doing away with it because it benefits White elites. Many also believe that American institutions are racist and that people are privileged or oppressed because of their race. While the theory was started as a way to examine how laws and systems promote inequality, it has since expanded. “Critical race theory attends not only to law’s transformative role which is often celebrated, but also to its role in establishing the very rights and privileges that legal reform was set to dismantle,” Crenshaw told CNN. “Like American history itself, a proper understanding of the ground upon which we stand requires a balanced assessment, not a simplistic commitment to jingoistic accounts of our nation’s past and current dynamics.”

Who came up with the idea?

Crenshaw is one of its founding scholars and hosted a workshop on the critical race theory movement in 1989. But the idea behind it goes back much further, to the work of civil rights activists such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Fannie Lou Hamer and Pauli Murray. “Everything builds on what came before,” Crenshaw said, adding that “the so-called American dilemma was not simply a matter of prejudice but a matter of structured disadvantages that stretched across American society.”Crenshaw said she and others “took up the task of exploring the role that law played in establishing the very practices of exclusion and disadvantage.”

“Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, And The First Amendment,” a book by several legal scholars.

Some of the theory’s earliest origins can be traced back to the 1970s, when lawyers, activists and legal scholars realized the advances of the civil rights era of the 1960s had stalled, according to the book, “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction.” Crenshaw was among a group of intellectuals, along with Derrick Bell, Alan Freeman and Richard Delgado, who attended a 1989 conference in Wisconsin that focused on new strategies to combat racism. In 1993, Delgado, Crenshaw, Mari Matsuda and Charles R. Lawrence wrote the book, “Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment.”Some critical race theorists also believe notions of race are products of social thought and relations, not biology. “They correspond to no biological or genetic reality; rather, races are categories that society invents, manipulates, or retires when convenient,” Delgado and Jean Stefancic wrote in “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction.”

How has it evolved over the years?

The theory has a passionate group of followers who are mostly academics. It has inspired at least a dozen books, more than 250 law review articles and several conferences. “At this point, it is wider than any specific discipline or school of thought. It isn’t even exclusively American,” Crenshaw said.The concept has taken on new urgency since the killings last year of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other African Americans by police officers led to a national reckoning on race. Demonstrators hold signs honoring George Floyd and other victims of police violence during a protest on March 28, 2021, in Minneapolis. Demonstrators hold signs honoring George Floyd and other victims of police violence during a protest on March 28, 2021, in Minneapolis. Over the past year many Americans have called for for an examination of systemic racism — in part through education such as the teaching of The New York Times’ 1619 Project in schools. That Pulitzer Prize-winning project reframes American history around the date of August 1619, when the first slave ship arrived on America’s shores. 

Where is it taught?

Cornell and Harvard universities have conducted research on it. So have the National Institutes of Health. The theory has also led to similar groups focused on Asian American, Latino and Indian racial experiences.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had scheduled training on critical race theory last fall before the program was canceled by President Trump’s White House. So far, President Biden has been more receptive to critical race theory. His administration is promoting education programs — opposed by many conservatives — that address systemic racism in the US and the country’s legacy of slavery.

Why is there so much resistance to it? 

Critics have slammed the theory, with conservatives accusing it of poisoning discussions on racism. President Trump opposed the teaching of the 1619 Project in schools and banned federal agencies from conducting racial sensitivity training related to critical race theory. His administration called it “divisive, anti-American propaganda.”Former President Trump: "Critical race theory is being forced into our children's schools."Former President Trump: “Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools.””Students in our universities are inundated with critical race theory. This is a Marxist doctrine holding that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed,” Trump said. “Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools, it’s being imposed into workplace trainings, and it’s being deployed to rip apart friends, neighbors and families.”Tennessee state Sen. Brian Kelsey, a Republican, argued last week on Twitter that critical race theory is harmful to students because it “teaches that American democracy is a lie. It teaches that the rule of law does not exist & is instead a series of power struggles among racial groups.”But Crenshaw notes that merely acknowledging the nation’s history of racism has long been vilified as unpatriotic and anti-American. “It bears acknowledging that we’ve been here before: For his non-violent agitation for civil rights, MLK was targeted by the FBI as the most dangerous man in America,” she said. “The civil rights and Black freedom movements were targeted, surveilled and disrupted by the FBI. Black Lives Matter has been framed by some in law enforcement as a terrorist organization. So racial justice work … has always had an uneasy relationship with the federal government.”

How California Politicians who owe $2 million in Campaign Fines don’t get Punished

Many politicians failing to pay back fines are raising questions about whether California is effectively enforcing its campaign finance law.

California’s secretary of state’s office has failed to collect $2 million in fines owed by politicians, lobbyists and campaign donors who the office says filed disclosure reports late, a CalMatters analysis shows. It’s allowed some of the largest fines to languish for many years with no consequences to those who are supposed to pay up.

The debts are owed by a range of political players, according to a list published on the secretary of state’s website that details outstanding fines as of April 1. It shows fines owed by 26 state lawmakers and 21 superior court judges, as well as former legislators, losing candidates, ballot measure campaigns, Democratic and Republican clubs and corporate and labor-backed political action committees.

Some of the fines are very small. About 300 of them are less than $100, reflecting paperwork filed a few days late — a routine violation of campaign finance law that’s the political equivalent of a parking ticket. 

But 45 of the fines are more than $10,000, and some are for violations more than a decade ago — raising questions about whether California is effectively enforcing its campaign finance lawthat is meant to promote transparency and prevent corruption.

“Enforcement in California is horribly lax up and down the scale, whether it’s regulatory compliance or criminal compliance,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “The rules ought to be clear, they ought to be fair, they ought to be enforceable and they ought to be enforced.”

The secretary of state’s office sends three letters to people who owe the fines, but doesn’t take steps beyond that to collect the money, spokesperson Joe Kocurek said. In the past, he said, staff members called people who were behind on paying their fines, but that became too time-consuming. 

The problem has persisted long before Shirley Weber, the current secretary of state, took office in January. Still, she said she’ll look into the issue to see if any changes should be made. Though $2 million is a tiny portion of California’s more than $200 billion annual budget, it’s roughly as much as the state spends to educate about 190 students for a year.

“It’s a large amount of money, and so the question is: What can we legitimately do?” Weber said in an interview this week. “They’ve done things in the past, (but) what good is a fining system, if you can’t enforce it?” 

Sam Mahood, a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla — who was secretary of state for six years before Weber — said the office “has limited resources and enforcement mechanisms to collect late fines.” Even so, it collected more than $3.6 million in fines during Padilla’s tenure, he said. 

The lax enforcement is a far cry from the experience ordinary Californians face if they, for example, neglect to pay a traffic ticket. Those fines increase when people don’t pay. Eventually, people can be charged with a misdemeanor for not paying, or have their tax refunds seized through a debt collection process. 

“Once you get a fine in the criminal justice system, it compounds and increases and it easily takes over your life if you are low-income,” said Natasha Minsker, a lobbyist who has pushed for more leniency in traffic fines.

“The fact that these fines (on politicians and judges) can go unpaid without any consequence, it’s definitely an illustration of privilege.”

A bureaucratic maze

Legislators write laws and judges enforce laws, so they have an especially high duty to obey them. CalMatters analyzed the list posted on the secretary of state’s website and contacted lawmakers and judges who, according to the list, owed more than $1,000 as of April 1. CalMatters also contacted campaigns that owe more than $30,000 and politicians who owe relatively small amounts but hold prominent positions.

The process revealed a byzantine system of accountability. Until CalMatters contacted them, many officials on the list said they had never been notified about an outstanding fine. Others said they were aware of it, but were negotiating to have it reduced or waived. Some were confused that the secretary of state was lodging campaign finance violations because they had already resolved an issue with the Fair Political Practices Commission. While the FPPC is responsible for enforcing broader provisions of the campaign finance law, both agencies can levy fines for late disclosure reports. The Commission on Judicial Performance also can discipline judges for violating campaign finance law.

The largest outstanding fine for a public official is nearly $38,000 owed by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jennifer Madden stemming from her 2016 campaign. She did not return multiple messages seeking comment. In 2019, she paid a $4,000 fine to the FPPC for failing to file required campaign disclosures in 2016. 

CalMatters found several instances where officials said they are working to resolve the fines, either by paying them off or asking to have them waived:

  • Assemblymember Eloise Reyes, a San Bernardino Democrat, owes nearly $15,000 from her 2016 campaign. She said in a statement that her attorneys are working to resolve the issue “and once that occurs any outstanding fines will be paid as soon as possible.”
  • State Sen. Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican, owes a total of $3,940 from campaigns in 2012, 2014 and 2018. The fines “should have been paid in full when we were first notified,” Grove said in an email. “I regret the payment was not made on time, as promised to me. I have been assured by my Treasurer that the fines will be paid in full by (mid-April).”
  • Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Annette Rees owes $2,410 from her 2020 campaign. She said the secretary of state notified her of the fine last month — a year after she had resolved the same issue with the FPPC, which resulted in a warning letter. “I filed an appeal of the (Secretary of State) fines,” Rees wrote in an email. “I am currently awaiting a decision in my appeal.”
  • Sen. Steven Bradford owes $1,490 and Assemblymember Chris Holden owes $1,160, both from their 2020 campaigns. The Los Angeles Democrats have asked to have the fees waived, according to their lawyer Stephen Kaufman. “Once they receive a determination from the Secretary of State, the committees will pay any remaining fees that have not been waived or reduced,” Kaufman said by email.
  • Marin County Superior Court Judge Sheila Shah Lichtblau owes $1,090 from her 2016 campaign. Her treasurer, David Lichtblau, said he filed required disclosures on time with the county elections office, but that the secretary of state didn’t accept the forms through the county’s electronic filing system. He said that he resubmitted them directly to the state, and that he and the county registrar requested that the state waive any penalties. The secretary of state “recently admitted the waiver was never processed,” David Lichtblau wrote in an email, adding that he has re-submitted the request and expects the fine to be waived in the next two weeks. 
  • Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon owes $90, from his 2016 and 2020 campaigns. He believes the fines should be waived, said his campaign spokesperson Bill Wong: “Sometimes there is a mistake in billing. While it’s in dispute, we are not going to pay it.”  

Judges and lawmakers owe outstanding fines

More than two dozen state legislators and 21 judges owe outstanding fines for filing campaign disclosure forms late, according to the California Secretary of State. Some of them said they were never notified of the fines or that they were issued by mistake. Here’s a look at those who owed more than $1,000 as of April 1, 2021. 

Judges and lawmakers owe outstanding fines

In other cases, officials said they were unaware that the secretary of state’s list shows they owe outstanding fines until CalMatters raised questions:

  • Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua, a Stockton Democrat, owes more than $10,000 from his 2018 run. A campaign spokesman said Villapudua was not notified of the fine. Last year, Villapudua paid a $483 fine to the FPPC for filing 2018 campaign disclosures late. He “never got anything from the secretary of state saying, ‘You owe $10,000,’” said Lee Neves. 
  • Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge JoAnne McCracken owes $4,097 from a 2010 campaign. She said it must be an error because she never received notice of a fine. “To my knowledge, I do not have an outstanding fine nor did I fail to comply with any reporting requirements during my 2010 campaign for judge. In fact, your email is the first time I have heard of this,” McCracken wrote to CalMatters. 
  • Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Efrain Matthew Aceves owes $1,450 from his 2016 campaign. He also said he had no knowledge of the fine until contacted by CalMatters. “I want to follow the law to the letter of the law,” Aceves said in a phone interview. “What’s odd to me is that there weren’t any notifications at all, and now it’s five years later.”
  • Sen. Richard Roth, a Riverside Democrat, owed $1,120 from his 2016 campaign. He was unaware of the fine until questioned by CalMatters, attorney James C. Harrison said, but promptly paid up after learning of it. Days later, Roth’s campaign heard from the secretary of state’s office “that the fine was assessed in error and that they would be returning Senator Roth’s check,” Harrison said in an email.
  • GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox, who says he will challenge Gov. Gavin Newsom if there’s a recall election, owes $650. “California residents face a maze of burdensome regulations covering nearly every part of their lives,” he said in a statement. “This is a perfect… example.”
  • State schools superintendent Tony Thurmond owes $550 from a 2014 campaign for Assembly. His spokesperson David Beltran called it a clerical error and said “it’ll be paid immediately.” 

Weber did not address any specific fine but said that her office may have difficulty collecting some debts if campaign committees disband after an election.

“Some of these folks on this list haven’t been in existence in forever. And so as a result… who do you contact?” she said. 

Confusing enforcement

The FPPC has its own log of outstanding fines — which stands at $414,112 for cases from 2014 to 2020, according to spokesperson Jay Wierenga. It includes fines for various violations of California’s political ethics law, not just for filing disclosure reports late. But its procedure can include more repercussions than the secretary of state’s: It refers outstanding debts to the Franchise Tax Board, which can garnish tax refunds and state lottery winnings.

Bob Stern, who helped write California’s campaign finance law in the 1970s, said it was intentionally designed with multiple channels of enforcement, even though that comes with some inefficiencies. 

“We were concerned that if you put it all in one agency there could be a problem,” Stern said. “It was a conscious decision we made to have different agencies enforce the law because we wanted to ensure there was somebody out there who would enforce the law.”

But that divided responsibility and an apparent lack of coordination has also led to some confusion. 

A 2014 campaign committee that hoped to overturn a law allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice (but never qualified for the ballot) owes more than $42,000 in fines, according to the secretary of state. Treasurer John Fugatt said the committee had paid off its fine to the FPPC: “My understanding is that the secretary of state fees are then waived once an FPPC agreement is reached. Not sure why these are still showing as due.”

Similarly, the secretary of state’s list shows that unsuccessful Assembly candidate Robert Bernosky, a Hollister Republican, owes more than $34,000 from a campaign in 2012. But his attorney Harmeet Dhillon said Bernosky paid a $2,500 fine to the FPPC and was never notified that his name sat on a list of outstanding fines: “If the secretary of state is defaming people with nonsense like this, that just underscores the incompetence of the office.”

VP Kamala Harris and Sen. Tim Scott both say “America is not a Racist Country” but why are their Responses Taken Different?

How to address American Racism while Scott is called an “Uncle Tom” and Harris gets a “pass”

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were forced to run the media’s “racist country” gauntlet. Don’t answer dumb questions!

By CHAUNCEY DEVEGA

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VP Kamala Harris and Sen. Tim Scott

Tim Scott is the only black Republican in the U.S. Senate. In that role, like other Black conservatives, Scott is a professional “best black friend” and human shield against accusations of racism. In so many ways, Scott and other Black conservatives fulfill many white racists’ American Dream of compliant, sycophantic, loyal and submissive Black people.

Following President Biden’s speech to Congress last Wednesday, Scott was selected to give the Republican response. 

In a wide-ranging rebuttal to Biden’s discussion of race and racism, Scott offered a series of personal anecdotes: 

Nowhere do we need common ground more desperately than in our discussions of race. I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason. To be followed around a store while I’m shopping. I remember, every morning, at the kitchen table, my grandfather would have the newspaper in his hands. Later, I realized he had never learned to read it. He just wanted to set the right example. I’ve also experienced a different kind of intolerance.

I get called “Uncle Tom” and the N-word — by ‘progressives’! By liberals! Just last week, a national newspaper suggested my family’s poverty was actually privilege because a relative owned land generations before my time. Believe me, I know our healing is not finished.

The climax of Scott’s rebuttal to Biden’s speech to Congress came with this proclamation: “Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different discrimination. And it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”

Scott’s claims are internally incoherent. In his rebuttal as well as in others comments, Scott has repeatedly offered clear evidence that America is a “racist country.”

Scott’s real goal in his rebuttal to Biden’s speech was not to tell the truth about racism and white supremacy, but instead to repeat Republican talking points about how Democrats and liberals are the “real racists” in America. Scott says such a thing with deep commitment and a straight face, even as today’s Republican Party is trying to impose a new version of Jim Crow American apartheid on Black and brown people across the country. 

Writing at Mother Jones, Nathalie Baptiste aptly describes Scott’s response:

Scott’s speech may have been chock full of GOP talking points, but there was an old favorite that wasn’t explicitly deployed but was obviously implied. In the aftermath of the Trump presidency, the coronavirus pandemic, and the racial justice protests that exploded across the country after the murder of George Floyd, America embarked on a fragile but badly needed racial reckoning. White conservatives needed someone to tell them that they weren’t racists resisting a changing world, but rather the progress on racial equality was something that was being inflicted on them. The GOP needed a Black friend. By laundering and displaying the party’s tired talking points, Sen. Scott served as just that. His speech gave white conservatives cover. After all, we all know that it’s impossible to be racist if you happen to have a Black friend.

Scott and his allies are wily. He set an obvious trap for the Democrats, one that America’s mainstream news media was eager to help facilitate. As they so often do, the Democrats blundered into it.

Answering the ludicrous question “Is America a racist country?” is now a gauntlet that the American news media is forcing prominent Democrats to run through.

In an interview that aired last Friday on NBC’s “Today” show, President Biden responded this way: 

No. I don’t think the American people are racist, but I think after 400 years, African Americans have been left in a position where they are so far behind the eight ball in terms of education and health, in terms of opportunity. I don’t think America is racist, but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow and before that, slavery, have had a cost and we have to deal with it.

In an appearance last Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Vice President Kamala Harris offered this answer to the same question: “No. I don’t think America is a racist country, but we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today. I applaud the president for always having the ability and the courage, frankly, to speak the truth about it.”

During the segment, GMA host George Stephanopoulos asked Harris about the GOP’s rebuttal to Biden’s speech, made by Sen. Tim Scott — in which the South Carolina senator said, “America is not a racist country.” 

Stephanopoulos used the opportunity to ask the vice president about the statement:

“Senator Tim Scott said last night that America is not a racist country. Do you agree with that, and what do you make of his warning against fighting discrimination with more discrimination?” he asked.

“Well, first of all, no, I don’t think America is a racist country,” the vice president declared. “But we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today.” 

Harris continued by thanking Biden for “always having the ability and the courage, frankly, to speak the truth about [racism in America]. He spoke what we know from the intelligence community, one of the greatest threats to our national security is domestic terrorism manifested by white supremacists.

Both the political left and right expressed frustration over Harris’ remarks, though for seemingly very different reasons.

Filmmaker and activist Bree Newsome responded to Harris, writing on Twitter, “The establishment keeps framing racism as something in America’s past but can’t pinpoint exactly when it supposedly ended… because it never did. All this language about ‘America isn’t racist’ is to mollify white people who are offended by the topic.

“The Black republican and the Black cop agree: America not racist!” another Twitter userwrote — referring to Harris, the former San Francisco district attorney, as a “cop.” In that position, she “oversaw 1,900 convictions for pot offenses” alone, The Mercury Newspreviously reported. 

The political right also fumed over Harris’ appearance, taking umbrage at the “but” after her statement. “Kamala Harris sort of agreed with Tim Scott, and then she used the word ‘but…'” right-wing radio host Wayne Dupree tweeted.

The conservative media sphere also called out the perceived hypocrisy in how both messages were received.

Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire also weighed in with a similar statement:

“Leftists On Twitter Rip Tim Scott For Saying ‘America Is Not A Racist Country.’ Kamala Harris Now Says Same Thing, To Silence.”

On Twitter, Princeton University professor and activist Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor highlighted the tensions and contradictions of Biden and Harris’ comments:

Democrats want it both ways … they want to curry favor with the mov’t by decrying “systemic racism” while Biden claims no one is racist and Harris says the US is not a racist country … someone smarter than me please explain how all of this can be true???

On the most basic level, “Is America a racist country?” is a dunderheaded question, one that suggests there must be a simple answer to describe a complex reality. The question is also tainted at its origins: Republicans and other members of the white right who ask such a thing are not actually committed to creating a true multiracial democracy and to defending Black and brown people’s equal human and civil rights. 

“Is America a racist country?” is also an updated version of the empty patriotism embodied by such right-wing slogans and threats as “America! Love it or Leave it!” and, for that matter, “Make America Great Again.” It is also stained by a long history in which the civil rights movement and the Black Freedom Struggle (along with other pro-democracy and progressive struggles) were attacked by white conservatives as “socialist” or “communist.”

“Is America a racist country?” is just another example of the way right-wing authoritarians reject critical thinking as being somehow disloyal or unpatriotic.

For Democrats and others on the left, there is another aspect to the “racist country” trap as well. There is no answer that will satisfy those people who have already decided that you are guilty. 

In that way, “Is America a racist country?” is the political equivalent of being asked in court when you stopped beating your wife.

The most important problem with “Is America a racist country?” is that the question itself is based on a malicious and grossly incorrect set of assumptions. Racism is not an opinion. It is a fact. Moreover, the fact that America is a racist society, and that racism and white supremacy negatively impact the life chances of Black and brown people, is one of the most overdetermined and repeated findings of social scientists and other experts.

One can reasonably discuss the dimensions and varieties of racism in America, and how it contours and structures American society to the benefit of white people and the disadvantage of black and brown people. One can also reasonably discuss questions of data and discover new insights from history. One can have a productive discussion about whether and how America can be redeemed from its racist origins.

But the fact and reality of racism and other systems of privilege is that such systems of power give unearned advantages to those individuals and groups defined as being “white,” as compared to nonwhites. That is a settled question. 

Who is the audience for the public ritual of asking and answering this question?

Today’s Republican Party is a white supremacist organization. When Tim Scott, Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham, Ron DeSantis and other prominent Jim Crow Republicans and Trumpists offer their thoughts about racism in America, they are speaking almost exclusively to racially resentful or outright racist white people — because those people are the foundation of the contemporary Republican Party and the Trump movement. 

As public opinion polls and other research shows, a high percentage of white Americans, especially white Republican voters, actually believe that “racism” against white people is as big a problem, if not bigger, than racism against Black and brown people. This same public is also being radicalized into accepting and in some cases participating in acts of white supremacist terrorism and other forms of violent extremism by Fox News and the right-wing echo chamber.

Many white Americans are also motivated by white grievance and white victimology, and by “culture war” issues more generally. “Is America a racist country?” is part of the same white right-wing fantasy world where “political correctness,” “cancel culture,” “critical race theory” and “wokeness” are all part of some Stalinist or Maoist re-education program to oppress or destroy white people. 

What matters most for the creators and directors of the “racist country” political theater is to validate white racial anxiety and the fear of being “replaced” by nonwhite people. 

When Biden, Harris and other leading Democrats and voices are asked “Is America a racist country?” their intended audience is the public at large. Democrats also face a particular challenge in answering that kind of question because the Republican Party and the right-wing media have spent decades branding them as “un-American,” “anti-white” and unpatriotic.

Democrats on the Left attacked Senator Tim Scott with racist epithets after he called them out for the very same racism.

Quote: “The Left’s demeaning of any African American who strays from leftist orthodoxy is one of the ugliest acceptable smears in our political discourse.”

Scott said Democrats are only interested in “virtue-signaling”.

“Race is not a political weapon to settle every issue the way one side wants. It’s far too important,” Scott said.

The racist response from liberals was very, very rich. There is a certain irony to the fact that Leftists have determined to be as racist as possible to Tim Scott in order to prove him wrong when he says America isn’t racist.

Late night hack Jimmy Kimmel mocks Sen. Tim Scott for being the only black GOP Senator. Guess how many Democrat senators are black? TWO. Dems didn’t elect a black senator until 1994, while back in 1870 Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the first African American senator….he was Republican. If you’re gonna talk race, at least get facts straight.

The Democratic Party is a multiracial coalition: White Democrats are much more likely to acknowledge that racism and white supremacy are deadly realities in America than are white Republicans. As for the Democrats’ most loyal base, African-American voters, they have centuries of experience in navigating and trying to survive American racism. As a group, Black and brown people understand intimately that America is a racist country.

Nonetheless, Biden, Harris and other leading Democrats must still be careful in addressing the “racist country” attack.

Writing at the Washington Post, Karen Attiah warns that “Republican denial is a familiar story,” and goes on to address Harris’ comments:

Let’s stipulate that as a Black and South Asian woman, Harris has to perform a delicate dance as vice president. And the past few years have certainly seen the proliferation of weird word salads to avoid the word “racist” in media and politics. (Yes, “racially tinged,” “racially charged” and “implicitly biased,” I’m looking at y’all.) Harris didn’t get where she is by not knowing where our traps and tripwires lie.

Still, did she have to take a cue from Scott’s tap-dancing on race? Let me venture out on an extremely sturdy limb here: Harris absolutely knows that America remains a racist country. More than that, her denial of it is harmful.

When a Democrat is asked by a compliant member of the news media whether America is a racist country, how should they respond?

Primarily, they should avoid yes or no answers to such a silly question. A longer, better answer might be something like this: “Real patriotism means dealing with the truth and not lying to yourself or other Americans about it. I want America to be a better country. Solving the problem of racism is part of that commitment. Fighting back against racism and white supremacy is a patriotic act.”

Of course, there’s also a much shorter answer: “America elected Donald Trump.”

The Truth about Uncle Tom and Tim Scott is No Uncle Tom

by Vivian “Vicki” Jackson

Who was Uncle Tom in Stowe’s novel? A Maryland slave, Josiah Henson, was abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe’s choice to depict in her anti-slavery novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which was influential in starting the Civil War.Josiah Henson used the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom, he protected fugitives, and he made several trips to bring other slaves to freedom. He settled in Canada where he established a school for fugitive slaves and he worked to organize the Afro-Canadian community that emphasized independence from any white patronage.The climax of the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is a tearjerker. Uncle Tom is asked to reveal where two runaway slave women were hiding. He knew that concealing their whereabouts would bring about his own death. He protected them anyway and Tom was beaten to death Unfortunately, Uncle Tom’s true character is only contained within the pages of the novel. The stage productions omitted Tom’s protective abolitionist attitude because it was not financially profitable regarding ticket sales. Therefore, stage producers “changed” Uncle Tom’s image into a man whose English is poor, and who will sell out black people for any white person’s favor. It is that “distorted” image of him as being a sell out that made “Uncle Tom” a negative connotative term. Josiah Henson, the real Uncle Tom, was an author, abolitionist, and minister. His settlement in Canada was the last station of the Underground Railroad. He died in Canada at the age of 93.We do a disservice to Josiah Henson/Uncle Tom by comparing him to such black people as Tim Scott and Clarence Thomas. They are no Uncle Toms. I shared this with my students throughout my career. Share with your friends, children, and grandchildren. Let’s not distort the images of our Black Abolitionists.

The REAL UNCLE TOM: Josiah Henson

Conflicting narratives were fed to us for generations, negative indoctrination was at the forefront of those self hate teachings from white Americans!!! Josiah Henson was definitely not a SAMBO the likes of white man’s Senator and other so-called Black Republicans!!! There are SAMBOS!!! BUT, HE IS NO UNCLE TOM!!!

‘She Embarrassed Everyone Who Supported Her’: Amanda Seales Hits Back at VP Kamala Harris for Saying America Isn’t a Racist Country

Posted byBy Atahabih Germain | May 4, 2021 CommentsComments (0)

Those familiar with actress and social justice activist Amanda Seales, know she presents herself as having a zero-tolerance policy for minimizing topics on the well-being of Black and brown bodies in America. When it comes to the subject of racism, Seales’ tell-it-how-she-thinks-it-is approach applies to anyone regardless of status

So it came as no surprise that when Vice President Kamala Harris agreed with the only Black Republican in the Senate, Sen. Tim Scott‘s controversial viewpoint following President Joe Biden’s “first address to congress,” Seales had much to say. Following Biden’s speech on Wednesday, April 28, Scott claimed that “America was not a racist country,” setting some quarters of social media ablaze. 

(L-R) Amanda Seales and Kamala Harris. Photo by Leon Bennett/WireImage. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

“Ok! So, everybody on some bullsh-t. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool,” Seales began her fiery post she uploaded to her Instagram page on Saturday, May 1. “That was dumb and embarrassing and she embarrassed everyone who supported her.”

In the caption of the nearly 30-second clip, the “Insecure” star wrote, “Damn, Kamala. The paradoxical political pandering is TIRED and insulting to the constituency that supported you along with affirming the doubts of those that didn’t,” and added, “Please fix this ASAPtuously.”

During Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign run, Seales had often advocated for the candidate, using her social media platforms to encourage all her supporters to go out and vote despite the hesitancy many reserved for the now-vice president. Harris’ record as the top prosecutor in San Francisco and then California before being elected to the U.S. Senate from that state was one of the issues the Black community had with her as a presidential candidate. 

Still, Seales promoted Harris. The 39-year-old even once wrote on Twitter, “STOP SAYING KAMALA HARRIS IS JUST AS BAD DONAL TRUMP” in response to those who did not favor Harris. She added, “JUST STOP. SH-T IS NOT ACCURATE OR HELPFUL AND ANNOYING AF.”

Still, Seales’ remarks garnered mixed reactions from many. While some agreed with the actress and were equally stunned at Harris’ statement, many either condemned Seales’ critique of Harris or reiterated their anti-Harris beliefs. 

“What’s dumb and embarrassing, is a BW who claims to advocate for blackness, demeaning this BW based on a spliced 12 second clip.” They added, “If you knew a damn thing about our VP, you’d know she’s been among the loudest to speak on America’s “Achilles Heel”, it’s racism.” The user concluded her post by telling the former “The Real” host to “think next time.”

Sen. Tim Scott offered his thoughts last Wednesday as part of the Republican rebuttal to President Biden’s congressional address, with Scott stating: “Hear me clearly. America is not a racist country. It’s backward to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination and it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”

The following day Harris was interviewed on “Good Morning America,” where she was asked whether she agreed with Scott’s statement. She replied, “No, I don’t think America is a racist country, but we also do have to speak truth to the history of racism in our country and its existence today.” The vice president faced harsh criticism following her statement.

When asked by Craig Melvin whether he too thought America was racist, the President Biden responded, “No, I don’t think the American people are racist. But I think after 400 years, African-Americans have been left in a position where they are so far behind the eight ball in terms of education, health in terms of opportunity.” He added, “I don’t think America is racist but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow — and before that, slavery — have had a cost.”

6-Year-Old Boy Sent to Court for Picking Tulip

“Should children who believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy be making these significant life choices?”

A 6-year-old boy who was brought to court after picking a tulip is the latest example used by advocacy groups attempting to raise the minimum age for entering the juvenile justice system in North Carolina.

Attorney Julie Boyer’s child client was on trial for injury to real property after he stopped to pluck the flower from a yard near his bus stop, according to The Herald-Sun. Boyer said she gave him crayons and a coloring book during the proceedings, as he didn’t have the mental capacity to understand what was happening to him.

Boyer and others argue against the state’s juvenile justice law which holds the lowest minimum age in the world to enter the juvenile courts at 6. The maximum age was changed a few years ago from 16 to 18. Parents are still part of the process, but a child defendant is “expected to assist in his or her defense,” per the outlet.

“Should children who believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy be making these significant life choices? I think the answer is no,” Chief District Court Judge J. Corpening told WECTNews.

The National Juvenile Justice Network and the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee recommend raising the minimum age to at least 10. State Rep. Marcia Morey introduced a bill to make it that age in March, after her first attempt in 2019 failed.

Lyana Hunter, a New Hanover County public defender’s office employee, said bringing young children to court can be quite detrimental.

“A 6-year-old — we’re talking about someone that’s in kindergarten, first grade. They don’t understand the process, they don’t understand what’s going on,” she told WECTNews. “The earlier that you introduce a child to the criminal justice system, the higher the chances are that they will remain in the criminal justice system.”

As for the tulip-picking defendant, the judge dismissed the case after the boy’s mother “couldn’t make the intake meeting,” according to The Herald-Sun.

“He gets served with papers. His mom gets served with papers,” Boyer explained. “It was just appalling.”

Acting as his own attorney, Philly man is acquitted of murder after nearly 13 years in prison

Hassan Bennett, right, pictured with his father in Philadelphia after being acquitted of second-degree murder. (Courtesy of Hassan Bennett)
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By  Meagan FlynnReporterMay 9, 2019 at 4:13 a.m. PDT

Wearing a suit felt like a sham.

Hassan Bennett had been locked up for nearly 13 years — 4,614 days, he said — and so when he recently stood before the jury in a Philadelphia courtroom, he didn’t want to pretend he had been anywhere else. He dressed for court each day in his powder-blue prison uniform, with “DOC” written on the back in big bold letters, and throughout the 11-day trial, explained to jurors why they could not find him guilty of second-degree murder.

“They told me not to wear a prison uniform. I’m here in front of you in a prison uniform,” the 36-year-old told jurors during his closing argument, as he recounted to The Washington Post. “They told me not to let you see my prison arm band. I show you my prison armband. They told me not to stand in front of you representing myself.”ADVERTISING

And yet there he was — representing himself without the help of any attorneys, with a mandatory life sentence on the line. It was his fourth time on trial for the ambush shooting death of Devon English in 2006, and Bennett’s second time acting as his own lawyer. But on Monday, he made sure it would be the last.

Achieving an exceedingly rare feat, the pro se defendant with no law degree was acquitted of murder.

The jury deliberated for 81 minutes. For Bennett, it was 76 minutes too long.

“I was sitting in the holding cell thinking, after five minutes, what’s taking so long?” he said. “When the jury came in and they called me up, I already knew it was a not-guilty verdict.”

The brash confidence is a product of more than 12 years of preparation from a Pennsylvania prison, studying case law in the library by day and meticulously drafting legal briefs in his cell by night, using a flickering TV as a light source.

He told the story to The Post by phone on Wednesday evening while strolling with his goddaughter through a neighborhood park, periodically hanging up by accident because, he said, he is only just learning how to use a touch screen cellphone. “Sorry,” he said. “It’s my first time. I had to ask the kid what to do.”

His story starts on a September night in 2006, when police accused Bennett of masterminding a plot to kill 19-year-old English after losing $20 to him in a dice game; a second teenager, 18-year-old Corey Ford, was shot in the legs and the buttocks. Lamont Dade, 16, was also arrested in the shooting, to which he pleaded guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.

In their original statements to police, both Dade and Ford identified Bennett as the shooter — but later, at Bennett’s trial, they recanted, saying a homicide detective coerced them into making the statements.

Bennett maintained his innocence from the start. He told police he was on the phone with a friend at home when he heard the shots ring out, then ran to the scene to see what happened. But he said his original lawyer failed to introduce the phone records or call the witnesses that he believes would have supported his alibi, saving him years in prison.

His first trial in 2008 resulted in a mistrial, his second in conviction months later. As he petitioned for a third trial, his post-conviction appellate attorney lost appeal after appeal — until finally, in 2014, against the advice of every sane person in the legal system, Bennett told a judge he wanted to do it himself. He said he was tired of losing.

“They told me, if you mess up here, your tail is done,” he said. “Well, I’m not gonna mess up then. There is no room for error. This is the time you rely on yourself. They call it crunchtime in basketball, when the best player in the game gets the ball with five seconds left and it’s his last shot. He wins or loses on this shot. That’s how I felt.”

From then on, Bennett’s casual study of the legal system turned rigorous. To teach himself to write in legalese, he sought the help of his cellmate, nicknamed “Brother Mook” — a legal-savvy mentor who would rip up Bennett’s handwritten draft petitions into tiny shreds if he failed to write them in the proper format. “He was like my Yoda,” Bennett said.

Eventually, after reviewing every trial transcript and police record in his own case, he turned his attention to former Philadelphia homicide detective James Pitts, who interviewed Ford and Dade to obtain their witness statements against Bennett.

In recent years, Pitts has been accused of coercing witness statements in at least 10 cases, and in some murder cases, judges have vacated convictions because of Pitts’s misconduct, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. (Mired in scandal, he is on desk duty while the police department investigates, the Inquirer reported.) Bennett petitioned a court for a new trial on the basis that Pitts had used the same coercive tactics to obtain statements from Ford and Dade identifying him as the shooter.

A judge did not grant that request, but in 2017, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina vacated Bennett’s conviction and granted a new trial on the grounds of ineffective counsel. Bennett’s third trial last September, when he first represented himself, resulted in a hung jury — with all but one juror finding Bennett not guilty. ““If the defendant knew how close he was [to acquittal], he would have been crushed,” juror David Scott, a college professor, told the Inquirer afterward.

But Bennett said he was not crushed. By the time trial No. 4 rolled around, he was feeling more at ease than ever, as though a guilty verdict weren’t a possibility.

In his opening statement last month, he told the jury it was a case about using common sense — and asked jurors to remember a song from “Sesame Street.” He described himself as a suspect who didn’t fit the description, like Oscar the Grouch in a photo array of fruits. “One of these things just doesn’t belong here,” he sang.

“The Commonwealth will try to tell you that Oscar the Grouch belongs because Oscar the Grouch is always seen on the corner. He has a smart mouth. He’s nobody’s favorite on Sesame Street,” Bennett said. “But that doesn’t make him guilty when the evidence shows he’s not guilty.”

His case was that simple, he said. He submitted the phone records. He called the three witnesses he said corroborated his alibi. He cross-examined Ford and Dade, who again maintained Bennett was not at the scene.

And then he called Pitts.

He accused the former homicide detective of coercing statements from Ford and Dade — and questioned why, if Pitts were credible, prosecutors elected not to call him as a witness. Pitts denied the accusations. But the jury, Bennett told The Post, ultimately “saw through his hogwash.”

“Why didn’t the prosecutor call Detective Pitts?” he asked the jury, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported from the courtroom. “He’s the lead detective. He’s the head honcho. Pitts worked the witnesses for hours on end. We can’t tolerate this misconduct. We can’t tolerate these actions.”

Spokespeople for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office didn’t respond to a request for comment late Wednesday, but told the Inquirer the office disagreed with the jury’s verdict. The victim’s family has long believed Bennett was guilty, saying that every new trial is “bringing back the pain of Devon’s death,” the Inquirer reported.

“I’m still trying to cope with it. I think it is wrong. I think the whole process is unfair,” Arturo Alleyne, English’s father, told the Inquirer of Monday’s acquittal. “All of this will be cleared up by God.”

Leaving the courthouse on Monday, Bennett said the first thing he did was go home and have a home-cooked meal with his family. He’s spent his time this week re-acclimating to life on the outside, asking his 10-year-old goddaughter to teach him how to use an Android, remembering to look for cars when crossing the street.

But by Friday, he said, he plans to get back to work. He said the court-appointed attorney who was required to be on “standby” throughout his trial — in case he decided he no longer wanted to represent himself — invited him to his office to discuss how Bennett could assist with briefs or investigations. He plans to study for the bar exam, he said, and to one day have clients of his own.

He said he already knew where he thought he might open his office.

“People from our neighborhood, from low-income neighborhoods, they don’t really know the law,” he said. “But see, there are people from the legal community that don’t know about the low-income neighborhoods. They don’t know about ‘the hood,’ as they call it.

“I am that bridge.”