‘On this side of town they harass you’: the Baton Rouge where Alton Sterling died

By Jesse Hardman

While most people are finishing up their work week, 47-year-old Terrell Griffin and his 19-year-old nephew Xavier Coleman are still working hard on the north side of Florida Boulevard in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

They are selling CDs, DVDs, popcorn balls, candy apples, peanuts, and some southern specialties, such as cracklin’ (fried pork fat), pecan candy and teacakes. They set up their wares on a collapsible table and metal hanger, out in front of a strip mall church, next to a Family Dollar store.

As a woman looks over their movie selection, Xavier, who is wearing a black dress shirt and gray slacks, dress shoes, and a gold chain over a tie, goes into salesman mode. “We create relationships with our customers,” he says. “It’s all about being positive and connecting with people – it’s what we do.”

There is one additional item on display: a framed, up-to-date license for the business, Just a Taste of the Fair, registered to his name. He wants everybody to know: “We’re legit.”

Griffin, a married father of 11 who also leads a successful gospel group, lives around the corner. Sometimes he works past midnight, bringing his wares to nearby gas stations and restaurants. Griffin says he’s been selling for 23 years. “I raised my kids off of selling this stuff,” he says.

Griffin and Coleman deal mostly in cash, which raises a question about safety. Griffin says he’s protected in two ways: “I’m covered by the blood of Jesus,” he says, and “I have a gun that’s legal, I have a permit.”

Read More: ‘On this side of town they harass you’: the Baton Rouge where Alton Sterling died | US news | The Guardian

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Do police treat Black Lives Matter and ‘White Lives Matter’ differently?

by Sam Levin

When Justice Medina left a Black Lives Matter protest in California last Wednesday, police followed him. At around 8pm, roughly a mile away from the protest in downtown Fresno, officers stopped the 20-year-old, who was in a car with his mother.

“They had trailed behind me, and they pulled me out of the car and handcuffed me,” recalled Medina, who is black and Mexican and grew up in the Central Valley city, 200 miles south-east of San Francisco.

“I was shaking,” recalled his mother, Mysti Medina, 38, who also participated in the rally against police brutality. “I’ve been pulled over and harassed by cops before, but this was very scary.”

The police – who confirmed the Medinas’ version of events – eventually took the handcuffs off Justice and gave him a citation for two misdemeanor charges stemming from his protests: “Obstructing the sidewalk” and holding a “special event” without a permit. If convicted, he could face a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Activists were stunned; two weeks earlier, the same police department had made no arrests and issued no citations when a group of anti-police protesters took over the streets without a permit, blocking traffic in a similar manner.

The main difference? The first rally was a “White Lives Matter” protest.

Read More: Do police treat Black Lives Matter and ‘White Lives Matter’ differently? | US news | The Guardian

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Why Some Diversity Thinkers Aren’t Buying Tech Industry’s ‘Pipeline’ Excuses 

by Alina Selyukh

The thing about the tech industry and employee diversity reports is they can feel like Groundhog Day:

  • Google, 2014: “Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity.”
  • Google, 2016: “We saw encouraging signs of progress in 2015, but we’re still far from where we need to be.”
  • Facebook, 2014: “We have more work to do – a lot more. But the good news is that we’ve begun to make progress.”
  • Facebook, 2015: “While we have achieved positive movement over the last year, it’s clear to all of us that we still aren’t where we want to be. There’s more work to do.”
  • Facebook, 2016: “We still have a long way to go, but as we continue to strive for greater change, we are encouraged by positive hiring trends.”

It’s certainly commendable that tech giants have gotten in the habit of airing their diversity efforts and commit to doing better. But the numbers show that actual progress in hiring more underrepresented minorities — for tech, that’s black, Latino and female — seems to be stuck in neutral.

This month, Google said its total U.S. workforce in 2015 was 2 percent black and 3 percent Hispanic — unchanged from the year before. Women comprised 31 percent of all Google employees globally, up from 30 percent in 2014.

Read More: Why Some Diversity Thinkers Aren’t Buying Tech Industry’s ‘Pipeline’ Excuses : All Tech Considered : NPR

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The Return of American Hunger

by Ned Resnikoff

By a handful of indicators—unemployment rates, overall economic growth, even average hourly earnings—the U.S. economy isn’t doing so badly right now.

And yet, when it comes to the number of Americans who go hungry, it’s almost like the recovery never happened. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food security as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life,” and in 2006, the year before the housing market stumbled, the USDA estimated that fewer than 10.9 percent of American households were food insecure. By 2009, that figure had spiked to 14.7 percent. And now? As of 2014, the most recent year on record, 14 percent of all American households are not food secure. That’s approximately 17.4 million homes across the United States, populated with more than 48 million hungry people. By the time the USDA reports its 2016 figures in September 2017, new food-stamp restrictions could make that number higher.

Hunger remains persistent because millions of Americans are still struggling financially as a result of the crash. Post-recession wage growth, though real, has been wildly unequal. A recent analysis from the Economic Policy Institute found that “between 2000 and 2015, wages for the bottom 60 percent of male workers were flat or declined” and that wage gains have been largely concentrated among high earners.

Read More: The Return of American Hunger – The Atlantic

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A Letter From Black America

By Nikole Hannah-Jones

Last July 4, my family and I went to Long Island to celebrate the holiday with a friend and her family. After eating some barbecue, a group of us decided to take a walk along the ocean. The mood on the beach that day was festive. Music from a nearby party pulsed through the haze of sizzling meat. Lovers strolled hand in hand. Giggling children chased each other along the boardwalk.

Most of the foot traffic was heading in one direction, but then two teenage girls came toward us, moving stiffly against the flow, both of them looking nervously to their right. “He’s got a gun,” one of them said in a low voice.

I turned my gaze to follow theirs, and was clasping my 4-year-old daughter’s hand when a young man extended his arm and fired off multiple shots along the busy street running parallel to the boardwalk. Snatching my daughter up into my arms, I joined the throng of screaming revelers running away from the gunfire and toward the water.

The shots stopped as quickly as they had started. The man disappeared between some buildings. Chest heaving, hands shaking, I tried to calm my crying daughter, while my husband, friends and I all looked at one another in breathless disbelief. I turned to check on Hunter, a high school intern from Oregon who was staying with my family for a few weeks, but she was on the phone.

“Someone was just shooting on the beach,” she said, between gulps of air, to the person on the line.

Unable to imagine whom she would be calling at that moment, I asked her, somewhat indignantly, if she couldn’t have waited until we got to safety before calling her mom.

“No,” she said. “I am talking to the police.

”My friends and I locked eyes in stunned silence. Between the four adults, we hold six degrees. Three of us are journalists. And not one of us had thought to call the police. We had not even considered it.We also are all black. And without realizing it, in that moment, each of us had made a set of calculations, an instantaneous weighing of the pros and cons.

Read More: A Letter From Black America – POLITICO Magazine

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How Racial Bias Affects The Quality Of Black Students’ Education 

By Casey Quinlan

The Department of Education recently released some startling numbers about how much our country spends on prisons versus schools that added fuel to the fire of national conversation about criminal justice reform.

One way to think about our national priorities is to look at where we spend our money. For example, according to the department’s report, every single state spends less all on pre-k-12 education than they do on corrections. And over the past 20 years, state and local spending on public colleges and universities has remained stagnant while spending on the prison system rose by almost 90 percent.

Amid the conversation about systemic racism sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement, especially in the wake of the police killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and the subsequent protests across the country, it is important to look at how racism manifests itself in our education system.

In addition to inadequate levels of education funding, there are other factors that affect quality of education, such as racial bias that reveals itself through school discipline and our curricula choices. Decades of racial bias against black Americans and the legacy of slavery are evident in our classrooms.

Ongoing school segregation that reduces opportunities for black students

Although it has been more than 60 years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision establishing that separate schools for white students and black students are not equal, schools in the U.S. remain very economically and racially segregated.

School segregation is often assumed to be a problem specific to the South. But northern cities and midwestern cities — like Chicago, New York City, Detroit, and Boston, where people arguably fought hardest against court-ordered busing — also have many racially isolated schools. On the west coast, California had 31 open desegregation cases as of 2014.

Read More: How Racial Bias Affects The Quality Of Black Students’ Education | ThinkProgress

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White fragility is real: 4 questions white people should ask themselves during discussions about race

by Sarah Watts

Since the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of law enforcement officers earlier this month, millions have taken to the streets as well as social media to express their outrage. Tags like #BlackLivesMatter and #EndWhiteSilence have been trending consistently on Twitter and Facebook, and CBS News footage of Alton Sterling’s death on YouTube has garnered over 1.7 million views.

Earlier today, a fourth Baltimore police officer indicted in the 2015 death and arrest of Freddie Gray, an event that sparked a series of protests known as the Baltimore Uprising, was acquitted of all charges, including manslaughter and reckless endangerment. The conversation — and the outrage — is now louder than ever.

On Facebook, I’m fortunate to be friends with scores of people, white and black, who are outraged at these deaths and others like them, and who are willing to shout down overt racism when they see it. But when difficult conversations about race arise, there also emerges a coping mechanism that all white people are privy to, one that is equally damaging as blatant racism and one that not all of us realize we’re employing: white fragility.

White fragility is a phrase coined by author Dr. Robin DiAngelo, and is defined as “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.” According to DiAngelo, most white people “live in a social environment that insulates them from race-based stress,” due to their privilege as part of the cultural majority. In turn, says DiAngelo, whites are infrequently challenged and have less of a tolerance to race-based stress, causing them to be hostile, guilty, defensive, or fearful when confronted. This phenomenon is white fragility. In the end, white fragility ensures that conversations about race are derailed, and the status quo of white supremacy is upheld.

I consider myself an ally, but I frequently need to check myself against white fragility, in order to make sure I help center the conversation where it’s appropriate – black deaths at the hands of law enforcement – and not on feelings of white guilt, anger or denial (mine or anyone else’s).Here are a few ways I check myself against white fragility.

Here are a few ways I check myself against white fragility.

1. Am I trying to change the subject?

Read More: White fragility is real: 4 questions white people should ask themselves during discussions about race – Salon.com

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America can’t heal until Jim Crow finally dies

by Antonio Moore

The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, while tragic, were markers of larger problems in America. Their murders were signals of a contorted reality shedding light to the economic pillars that so much of white privilege has grounded itself upon. America’s dirty little secret is that across this nation, millions of black families are forced into a social and economic underclass to root so much of white privilege. A socioeconomic web largely created by a legal system criminalizing so many daily actions in black life.

Through the recent police shootings and resulting deaths, we have seen how traffic warrants find their start in the most common of acts in places like Ferguson and can ultimately lead to incarceration. Literally anything from driving to the store to parking in your own driveway too long can lead one into a cycle of contacts with the police and courts. When we stop and digest the reality that Philando Castile, a relatively young man, was pulled over by the police nearly 52 times in his driving history in and around Minneapolis for a multitude of minor issues, we start to grasp that these traffic stops serve a similar function to colored only signs in the 1960’s. They are often performed by the police at the request of the local community, serving the function of letting blacks know indirectly that this part of town is not for your kind. Even the President recognized this sad truth. Just yesterday, President Obama during his memorial remarks in Dallas for the slain officers said, “And then we tell the police ‘you’re a social worker, you’re the parent, you’re the teacher, you’re the drug counselor.’ We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs, and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience. Don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind. And then we feign surprise when, periodically, the tensions boil over.”

This all is connected to a larger problem of mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on black America. To understand our nation’s problem, we must get honest and grasp the fact that young black males are incarcerated at a rate of nearly 10,000 per 100,000, and largely sent to for profit private prisons to serve those sentences. According to the New York Times in the piece “1.5 million missing black men:” “For every 100 black women not in jail, there are only 83 black men. The remaining men – 1.5 million of them – are, in a sense, missing… They are missing, largely because of early deaths or because they are behind bars.” This all occurring while white men are only incarcerated at a rate of about 1,000 per 100,000, and white women are incarcerated at the unbelievably low rate of around 130 per 100,000. All of this difference exist despite the fact that the actual rates of criminality between these different groups are not nearly that large.

Read More: America can’t heal until Jim Crow finally dies | theGrio

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White House responds to petition to label Black Lives Matter a “terror” group

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After days of violence and heightened racial tensions in the U.S., the White House responded this week to an online petition asking the federal government to formally label the Black Lives Matter movement as a “terror group.”

“Terrorism is defined as ‘the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims,'” read the “We The People” petition, created July 6 on the White House website. “This definition is the same definition used to declare ISIS and other groups, as terrorist organizations.”

Black Lives Matter, the petition said, “earned this title due to its actions in Ferguson, Baltimore, and even at a Bernie Sanders rally, as well as all over the United States and Canada.” It asked the Pentagon to recognize the group as such “on the grounds of principle, integrity, morality, and safety.”

Because the online document received at least 100,000 signatures — at the time of this reporting, it had garnered over 141,000 names — the White House was automatically prompted to respond.

The “We the People” team noted that “The White House plays no role in designating domestic terror organizations,” nor does the U.S. government “generate a list of domestic terror organizations.”

“[T]herefore,” the response read, “we are not able to address the formal request of your petition.”

The White House then went further: Acknowledging that it was a “difficult time” for the country — and that the debate remains a “charged” one — the statement additionally prompted petition signers to consider President Obama’s words calling for compassion towards the movement.

Read More: White House responds to petition to label Black Lives Matter a “terror” group – CBS News

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Sandra Bland Died One Year Ago – And Since Then, At Least 810 People Have Lost Their Lives In Jail

By Dana Liebelson & Ryan J. Reilly

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Over the past year, there have been so many stories of violence and injustice in America, and even the most well-known deserve to be revisited. This is one: Last July, Sandra Bland was pulled over by a Texas state trooper for, he said, failing to signal when she changed lanes. After the 28-year-old questioned his instruction to put out her cigarette and refused to get out of the car, the trooper arrested her for assault of an officer. Bland didn’t have enough money for the $500 bail bondsman’s fee, and so she was held in jail. Within 65 hours of her arrest, she was dead. The coroner determined that she had hanged herself with a noose fashioned from a garbage bag.

What made Bland’s death so shocking—the reason that millions of people watched the dash-cam footage of her arrest or closely examined her mugshot—was the mystery at its heart. What had really happened inside the Waller County jail? If Bland had taken her own life, how could she have reached a state of irreversible despair so suddenly?

Deaths inside American jails frequently go unnoticed, sometimes even unrecorded. Unlike prisons, jails hold people for only short periods—about 21 days on average—and many of their inmates have not been convicted of a crime. Additionally, jails typically aren’t required to release public information about people who die within their walls. The federal government publishes only generalized data years after deaths occur, making it nearly impossible to identify the most dangerous facilities. So we attempted to fill the gap.

Huffington Post reporters collected the names of people who have died in jail since the day of Bland’s death: July 13, 2015. We scoured news reports and press releases, gathered official records, searched court dockets, filed public records requests, and contacted more than 100 agencies. When news stories omitted details such as the date of arrest or official cause of death, our reporters tried to obtain that information, either directly from the jail or from the office of the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy. Not every agency that we contacted responded, and our database remains incomplete. It will be updated as we receive outstanding record requests and information from the public.

Read More: Sandra Bland Died One Year Ago – The Huffington Post

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