George Floyd’s Autopsy and the Structural Gaslighting of America

I wondered how George Floyd’s privately contracted autopsy finding could differ so completely from the initial public autopsy result. Turns out, it didn’t. We’d been gaslighted by the Minneapolis Police Department:

On May 29, the country was told that the autopsy of George Floyd “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxiation,” and that “potential intoxicants” and preexisting cardiovascular disease “likely contributed to his death.” This requires clarification. Importantly, these commonly quoted phrases did not come from a physician, but were taken from a charging document that utilized politicized interpretations of medical information. As doctors, we wish to highlight for the public that this framing of the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death was at best, a misinterpretation, and at worst, a deliberate obfuscation.

(Ann Crawford-Roberts, Sonya Shadravan, Jennifer Tsai, Nicolás E. Barceló, Allie Gips, Michael Mensah, Nichole Roxas, Alina Kung, Anna Darby, Naya Misa, Isabella Morton, Alice Shen writing in Scientific American.)

The truth, as usual, followed later:

By Monday, June 1, in the context of widespread political pressure, the public received two reports: the preliminary autopsy report commissioned by Floyd’s family by private doctors, and—shortly thereafter—a summary of the preliminary autopsy from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office. Both reports stated that the cause of Floyd’s death was homicide: death at the hands of another.

As the authors further explain, such dishonesty is often used to cover for the crimes and misdeeds of racist police officers. This is the sort of officially sanctioned practice that must be eradicated.

Racism under color of public safety is systemic racism.

#GeorgeFloyd #autopsy

Lowrey: Defund the Police. Um…

Annie Lowrey, writing for The Atlantic:

America badly needs to rethink its priorities for the whole criminal-justice system, with Floyd’s death drawing urgent, national attention to the necessity for police reform. Activists, civil-rights organizations, academics, policy analysts, and politicians have drawn up a sprawling slate of policies that might help end police brutality, eliminate racist policing, improve trust between cops and the communities they work in, and lower crime levels.

A more radical option, one scrawled on cardboard signs and tagged on buildings and flooding social media, is to defund the cops.

Lowrey’s discussion of defunding police forces isn’t a call for dissolving them, but rather divesting them of the activities that lead to over-policing, over-incarceration, and the deaths of innocents. Defunding is not the way to go; the other options already on the table, also mentioned, are. We should do all of those things.

The rest of the article embodies an unflattering comparison of America’s priorities to those in our similarly-situated allies. Our culture, as exemplified by where we spend our money, is out of whack. The good news is that we can repair it.

#policing #criminalJustice #incarceration

Egger: Does it matter if Trump is a ‘real’ racist?

Andrew Egger, writing for The Bulwark:

You see how ludicrous the proposition is by how it requires racism to be defined down to an impossibly narrow set of attitudes and behaviors: If he’s such a racist, why isn’t he calling for genocide or burning crosses on the White House lawn? As if anything short of marching in a tiki torch parade doesn’t count as real racism. 

But let’s posit that Trump is not, in this sense, a “real” racist; that his use of racist tropes and racially inflammatory rhetoric are only political maneuvering that he thinks will give his poll numbers a jolt. The question is: What difference does it make?

Whether racism is overt or inferred by its result: What’s the difference?

#Bulwark #AndrewEgger #trump

Kaepernick, Nike, and Betsy Ross’s flag

Kaitlyn Tiffany, Vox:

The sneaker was supposed to go on sale this week for $140, and Nike had already shipped it to retailers when it made the decision. Kaepernick took issue with the sneaker’s design, which featured 13 white stars in a circle, referencing a Revolutionary War-era version of the American flag (commonly known as the Betsy Ross flag). This early version of the flag, he argued, is pulled from the era of slavery and doesn’t warrant celebration.

Kaepernick’s sincere, years-long public rejection of overt and systemic American racism is rightly applauded, but this is an example of taking a good idea too far. That an unrelated symbol of early America emerged from the long era of white oppression of blacks is no reason to reject it. We’re not talking statues of Civil War heroes or Lee’s battle flag, here. The Ross flag is in no way connected to white supremacy.

The first symbol of American independence and unity, the Ross flag was also the first to recognizably survive into the modern era. It should be part of any celebration of the nation’s founding.

Kaepernick’s rejection of the flag from a product he endorses is his business. Nike’s rejection at his urging is not only ridiculous, but it’s also bad business, to boot. The shoes were already in retailers’ hands.

#Kaepernick #racism

Serwer: The illiberal right throws a tantrum

Adam Serwer–The Atlantic:

Undetectable in the dispute on the right is any acknowledgment of the criticisms of liberal democracy by those who have been fighting for their fundamental rights in battles that are measured in decades and even centuries; that the social contract implicitly excluded them from the very rights white Christian men have been able to assert from the beginning. Perhaps to do so would be to acknowledge the fundamental immaturity underlying the American Orbánists’ critique: that what they describe as a crisis of liberal democracy is really just them not getting exactly what they want when they want it.

Smart analysis of the religious Right’s shit-fit over the evaporation of white men’s long-running prerogatives.

America’s social order is changing, both by inclusion and attrition. No wonder the far Right rails against immigration, justice and equality for marginalized people, and even learned scientific knowledge. They attempt nothing short of the triumph of ignorance; that’s the only means available for preserving something whose time has passed.


Legacies of shame

Joshua Zeitz–Politico:

In Germany, you won’t see neo-Nazis converging on a monument to Reinhard Heydrich or Adolf Hitler, because no such statues exist. The country long ago came to grips with the full weight of its history. But you’ll find Nazis and Klansmen in Virginia, circling a statue of Robert E. Lee, a traitor who raised arms against his own country in the defense of white supremacy.  

How do we explain to the descendants of his victims—fallen Union soldiers and widows, and so many million slaves—that Robert E. Lee doesn’t deserve the same eternal infamy as Eichmann or Heydrich?

America has yet to honestly face the heinous practice and legacy of its white supremacy.

#whiteSupremacy #confederacy #treason #lee


Kyle Korver, The Players’ Tribune:

What I’m realizing is, no matter how passionately I commit to being an ally, and no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color….. I’m still in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting in to it. Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it. Every day, I’m given that choice — I’m granted that privilege — based on the color of my skin.

Pitch-perfect, Korver’s essay is perhaps the most lucid explanation of white privilege by a white guy I’ve encountered. Every paragraph conveys self-aware, first-hand understanding of the culture of whiteness in America.

If you’ve any doubt about the systemic nature of bigotry or the long-term effects of four-hundred years of ethnic-based mistreatment, you owe yourself the education of reading this. Everyone else should read it, too.

I, like Korver, believe that.

#NBA #privilege #bigotry #race

Abrams: Identity politics strengthens democracy

Stacey Abrams, writing in Foreign Affairs magazine:

The marginalized did not create identity politics: their identities have been forced on them by dominant groups, and politics is the most effective method of revolt.

Abrams’ cogent essay goes to the heart of contemporary progressive politics. People long relegated to lesser-class status in American culture, employment, and economics have, at last, reached critical political mass. Witness their diverse representation among 2019’s incoming Democratic House majority and in statehouses across the country.

The hypocrisy, now, of criticizing these community’s embrace of the identities long held against them represents a last gasp as the wave of minority status laps over the old guard’s heads. We are witnessing their fearful recognition of the rising brown wave in American politics, a movement backed by inexorable demographic shift.

Abrams’ essay counters popular conservative contentions point by point. It’s worth a read.

#identityPolitics #StaceyAbrams #progressive

∴ Sympathy

A t-shirt slogan popular in the 1980s has been on my mind lately. It read, “It’s a black thing. You wouldn’t understand.” For white America this has always been true; it could not be otherwise.

Understanding the plight of others requires an authentic sense of ‘been there, done that,’ which is empathy. White America has never had to live the black American experience—historically through slavery, Jim Crow laws, the legislated systemic racism of the New Deal, redlining, and discriminatory employment, or contemporarily amid gentrification and over-policing—and therefore can never truly understand the experience or its long-term effects. We cannot understand what we have not been.

Empathy with people of color, then, is a path that does not exist for white America. Fortunately, empathy has a sibling: sympathy.

Sympathy is not the same as pity. While the former is a non-judgmental awareness of another’s plight, the latter begins from a judgement of failure or loss. Sympathy is neither political nor spiritual; it is humanitarian and secular.

Sympathy is an understanding-in-common, arrived at indirectly. Unlike empathy’s path of direct learning, sympathy comes by intellectual effort and an emotional leap of faith. It begins with thoughtfully putting oneself in another’s shoes and considering their experience. There’s no shortage of written or spoken accounts helpful for this. It’s an easily surmountable hurdle—one has only to read or listen.

Emotionally, sympathy is a willingness to honestly weigh what’s been learned and an unwillingness to be swayed by prejudice or cruelty. That’s the point of departure between affording, say, poor white Americans sympathy for supporting a self-acknowledged sexual predator on the one hand while responding with disbelief regarding racist policing systems on the other. In the second instance, deep-seated prejudice curtails the possibility of developing sympathy.

It’s this historical unwillingness to give black America the benefit of the doubt, a refusal to make the leap of faith required to arrive at sympathy, preventing the white majority from making a faithful effort at leveling the opportunity landscape guaranteed at our nation’s founding. We will never approach a fully just culture if we do not make this last connection to sympathy.

Adam Serwer, writing in The Atlantic, put his finger on the problem. Consistently denying those outside the majority for differences of darker skin or foreign birth is an act of cruelty. And cruelty, as he writes, is exactly the point. It is a binding practice, one that brings fearful, angry, ignorant people together in common cause, even as many of them spend their Sunday mornings professing love for their fellow man. Cruelty takes the place of sympathy among those unwilling to accept people of color as eligible for their affections.

To understand the truth of life as a black American, ask a black American. We’re fortunate to have prolific authors, podcasters, and public intellectuals among people of color. White America needs to read, listen, and respond with the sort of sympathy that builds affection despite difference, and to elect leaders who will work to unite through virtue rather than vice.

It has famously been stated that America is great because America is good, and when America is no longer good, it will no longer be great. How great is a nation or a culture that systematically represses and ignores its citizens while denying that repression exists throughout its entire history?

The Nationalist’s Delusion

Adam Serwer—The Atlantic:

These supporters will not change their minds, because this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.

Yeah, economic suffering drove a lot of votes, but the core of Mr. Trump’s support was white folks of all incomes and ages. It can be encapsulated as fear of the rise of a non-white population.

The US census tells us that at some time in the 2040s white Americans will become just another minority. That staggers and enrages a surprisingly large segment of America.

Mr. Trump is a symptom of this fear. In him is reflected the truest expression of white America’s intent. Turns out we haven’t come all that far since the civil rights days of the 1960s. As Serwer writes:

had racism been toxic to the American electorate, Trump’s candidacy would not have been viable.

One hundred thirty-nine years since Reconstruction, and half a century since the tail end of the civil-rights movement, a majority of white voters backed a candidate who explicitly pledged to use the power of the state against people of color and religious minorities, and stood by him as that pledge has been among the few to survive the first year of his presidency.

When you look at Trump’s strength among white Americans of all income categories, but his weakness among Americans struggling with poverty, the story of Trump looks less like a story of working-class revolt than a story of white backlash. And the stories of struggling white Trump supporters look less like the whole truth than a convenient narrative—one that obscures the racist nature of that backlash, instead casting it as a rebellion against an unfeeling establishment that somehow includes working-class and poor people who happen not to be white.

#racism #America #Trump whiteVoters