Tag: racial inequality

Tom Perriello is a fighter for Virginia. Period.

Today, Virginians will go to the polls to vote on major-party nominees for Governor of Virginia and other state offices. The most intriguing race on the Virginia ballot today is the Democratic primary for governor, in which Lieutenant Governor Ralph Shearer Northam is seeking a promotion against Thomas Stuart Price “Tom” Perriello, a former U.S. Representative and U.S. State Department official.

At first glance, the Virginia Democrats’ gubernatorial primary might seem to an internet observer of Virginia politics, such as me, like a rerun of the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries/caucuses, where Hillary Clinton easily won the Virginia primary against Bernie Sanders. However, Ralph Northam is no Hillary Clinton, and Tom Perriello is no Bernie Sanders.

Jamelle Bouie, the chief political correspondent for Slate magazine, wrote this primer piece about the Virginia Democrats’ gubernatorial primary, and here is how he described the candidates:

Likewise, the contest isn’t a race between a liberal or a moderate, or between heterodoxy and orthodoxy. Both (Ralph) Northam and (Tom) Perriello have blemishes on their records that render them imperfect avatars of the progressive movement. Northam backed George W. Bush for president in 2004, and Perriello voted for an anti-abortion amendment to the Affordable Care Act. Both have apologized for their respective apostasy. Both, if elected, would be among the most liberal governors in the state’s history, having campaigned on free community college, a $15 minimum wage, and extensive job training.

Where they differ is in their larger view of where the state’s problems lie. Northam roots Virginia’s ills in gridlock and bills himself as the candidate best able to break that gridlock. “The politics of getting things done in Richmond can be very complicated, and it takes someone who has spent the time to know the issues and develop the relationships with key members of both parties to make progress,” said the lieutenant governor in a Washington Post interview.

Perriello, however, takes a broader view, seeking to change a political culture that is beholden to corporate interests and monopolistic power. “We have a crazy system in Virginia, where we allow unlimited corporate contributions,” said Perriello in a March interview with the American Prospect magazine (full disclosure: (Bouie) worked there from 2010 to 2013). “In an era of deep partisanship in Richmond, the only truly bipartisan consensus is taking money from Dominion Power.” Perriello has positioned himself against entrenched interests and for the small towns, rural enclaves, and inner cities that encompass the state’s landscape. It’s a variation on the populism of Bernie’s campaign, one that captures the spirit of Sanders’ appeal even if it doesn’t match the particulars.

(added context mine)

Again, you do see common themes of the 2016 presidential primaries/caucuses at play, but one thing that Perriello has done that Sanders completely failed at was actually trying to win over a diverse coalition of Democratic voters, which is necessary in Virginia, since a significant majority of Virginia Democratic primary voters are female and people of color are typically around one-third of the Virginia Democratic primary electorate and could be as much as 40% of the Virginia Democratic primary electorate this year. Very early on in his campaign, and unusually for a candidate who has also tried to win over white rural voters, Perriello wrote a Medium post about the strong correlation between income inequality and racial inequality in Virginia. Even if you are, like me, not from Virginia, I strongly recommend reading Perriello’s post, because it’s an important lesson for progressive outreach to people of color.

I encourage Virginia voters who have not already cast an absentee ballot to vote in the Democratic primary for Tom Perriello today!

My thoughts about no charges being filed against the police officer who killed Tony Robinson

Earlier today, Dane County, Wisconsin District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced that he would not file any criminal charges against Matt Kenny, a member of the Madison, Wisconsin Police Department, despite the fact that he shot and killed 19-year-old Tony Robinson, who was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

Here’s my thoughts about this:

Right Decision, Bad Law

Given the description that Ozanne of what led to Kenny’s decision to shoot and kill Robinson, I believe that Ozanne made the right decision, given the current Wisconsin state law regarding law enforcement officers using deadly force. However, I believe that the law gives police officers in Wisconsin too broad of authority to use lethal force, and that many other states have similar laws on the books. Because Wisconsin state law allows law enforcement officers to use deadly force if, for whatever reason, the officer reasonably believes that someone is threatening to either kill or cause great bodily harm to the officer, the police shooting of Robinson was justified in the eyes of the law, but not justified in the eyes of my personal opinion. I believe that deadly force should never be used against an unarmed person like Robinson was at the time he was shot and killed by Kenny, and that deadly force should only be used if the suspect(s) is/are armed, the suspect(s) show(s) intent to use the weapon(s) against law enforcement officer(s) and/or others, and the officer(s) have no other option but to use deadly force.

Madison’s Police Taser Policy is Absurd

If you’re wondering why Kenny did not use a taser in order to stop Robinson without killing him, that’s because of an absurd policy in Madison that prohibits law enforcement officers from using a taser except when another officer is present at the scene. Madison’s taser policy should be amended to allow for officers to use tasers to stop suspects without another officer being present, and similar policies in other jurisdictions should be amended as well.

Racial Disparities are Systemic in Madison

Despite being America’s most progressive city, there’s systemic racial disparities between white people and black people in Madison. If you’re a black person in Madison, you’re anywhere from 8 to 11 times more likely to be arrested than a white person in Madison:

The Race to Equity report also found that black adults in Dane County were more than eight times as likely to be arrested as white adults in 2012, which was higher than the black-white arrest disparity in Wisconsin (4-to-1) and the entire nation (2.5-to-1) in 2010. While black men made up only 4.8 percent of the county’s total adult male population in 2012, they comprised more than 43 percent of all new adult prison placements that year.

Updated numbers for only Madison may be even worse: Erica Nelson, who authored the Race to Equity report, told PolitiFact Wisconsin that black adults are 10.9 times as likely as white adults to be arrested in the city, based on a preliminary analysis of the Madison Police Department’s 2013 annual report.

I Strongly Support a Peaceful, Constructive Movement Against Police Brutality and Systemic Racism

So as long as the protests are peaceful and constructive in nature, I strongly support protests against brutality by law enforcement officers and systemic racism in our society. A lot needs to be done to make America a truly equal place. Protests should be non-violent, raise awareness of the problems of police brutality and systemic racism, and raise awareness of various solutions to hold police officers who engage in brutality accountable and end the systemic racism in this country.

The problems of police brutality and systemic racism in this country go beyond Madison, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Baltimore, New York City, and Ferguson. They are nationwide problems that need to be addressed by the people, the media, and public officials. Most importantly, there needs to be a concerted effort in this country to, through non-violent protests, supporting progressive-minded candidates for public office, and implementing new laws and policies, to end police brutality and systemic racism in this country once and for all.

43 Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin elected officials call for the end of “shameful racial disparities” in letter to the community

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post includes a letter signed by local elected officials in the City of Madison, the Madison Metropolitan School District, and Dane County in Wisconsin, republished in its entirety with the permission of Dane County Board First Vice-Chair Carousel Bayrd.

A total of 43 members of the Dane County (WI) Board of Supervisors, the Madison (WI) Metropolitan School District Board, and the Madison (WI) Common Council signed a letter calling for the end of “shameful racial disparities” in Madison and Dane County in Wisconsin after 19-year-old Tony Robinson, who was biracial, was shot and killed by Matt Kenny, a white Madison Police Department officer.

You can view the full letter and list of signatories below:

To the residents of our community:

The death of Tony Robinson is a horrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Tony Robinson’s family and friends. We are sorry that we have lost the life of an African American teenager in our community.

Black lives matter. Our history, both nationally and locally, with respect to our African American community is unacceptable. Many of the incidents, shootings, and deaths that we see reported on the news find their root cause in the intolerable disparity present in our community. That disparity and its attendant injustice may have arisen from our history, but we allow it to continue.

This past weekend in Selma, President Barack Obama said “[Our national creed is] the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo. That’s America.” We thank those community leaders and citizens who enacted those words before they were spoken. It is time we all joined them.

We must do better. We are here to ask each of our constituents to accept along with us the challenge of ending the shameful racial disparities in our community. Every one of us must be a part of the solution. Black lives have to matter to each and every one of us. We must be the City and County where a Black youth, a Latino youth, an Asian youth, a Native American youth, a White youth, where any young man or woman feels that this is a community they belong to, a community full of opportunities. A community where their dreams can happen, not end.

Jointly signed by the following City of Madison Alders, Dane County Supervisors, and Madison Municipal School District Board Members:

Sup. Carousel Bayrd
Ald. Shiva Bidar‐Sielaff
Sup. Jerome Bollig
Ald. Maurice Cheeks
Ald. Joe Clausius
Ald. Mark Clear
Ald. Lauren Cnare
Sup. Sharon Corrigan
Ald. Lucas Dailey
Sup. Patrick Downing
Sup. Jenni Dye
Ald. Denise DeMarb
Sup. Chuck Erickson
Sup. George Gillis
Sup. John Hendrick
Board Member Ed Hughes
Sup. Tim Kiefer
Ald. Steve King
Sup. Mary Kolar
Sup. Dorothy Krause
Board Member Dean Loumos
Sup. Patrick Miles
Ald. Larry Palm
Sup. Leland Pan
Sup. Jeff Pertl
Ald. Matt Phair
Ald. Scott Resnick
Sup. Kyle Richmond
Sup. Michele Ritt
Ald. Marsha Rummel
Sup. Paul Rusk
Sup. Andrew Schauer
Ald. Chris Schmidt
Sup. Robin Schmidt
Board Member Arlene Silveira
Ald. John Strasser
Ald. Lisa Subeck
Ald. Mike Verveer
Sup. Heidi Wegleitner
Ald. Anita Weier
Sup. Abigail Wuest
Ald. Ledell Zellers
Sup. Nick Zweifel

Please note that Lisa Subeck is both a member of the Madison Common Council and a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly; Subeck signed the letter in her capacity as a common council member.

I admire the fact that those elected officials in the Madison/Dane County area of Wisconsin who signed the letter recognize that, despite being one of the most progressive places in the entire country, racial disparities are a systematic problem in Madison and Dane County. If there’s one place in the entire country that can become a model for a more racially equal society, it would be the Madison/Dane County area of Wisconsin, but it will take a large community effort to achieve a more racially equal society there. In fact, it will take a large effort by every person in this country to achieve a more racially equal society all across America.