Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current, June 18, 2020, Page 9, Image 9

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It’s Time to Listen continued from page 6
“white supremacy” is an ugly designa-
tion, reserved for people who hate mi-
norities and want to harm them – who
are terrorists. No one wants to be seen
through that lens. Instead, white su-
premacy is really an ideology that is
embedded in our system of structural
power and is both implied and taken
for granted, and rarely examined or ac-
knowledged. It is an ideology that is
internalized, unconscious, and
fundamental to America – that
we live in a system that benefits
whites and that our dominance is
While these ideas of
white privilege and supremacy
make many white Americans un-
comfortable, being willing to con-
sider them provides an opening –
an opportunity to investigate our
assumptions about race and our
culture, and particularly the in-
equalities in our justice system.
For some people the riots
and ongoing demonstrations fol-
lowing the deaths earlier this year
of Ahmaud Arbery, the unarmed
jogger in Georgia; Manuel El-
lis in Tacoma, Washington; Bre-
onna Taylor, the EMT in Louisville; and
George Floyd have appeared to be an
overreaction. While for others the inten-
sity of the response is justified. People
might point to America as the land of
opportunity, where everyone has a fair
chance to better themselves, but the real-
ity is that Black Americans continue to
face discrimination and barriers to equal-
ity across almost every sector of our so-
ciety in a system stacked against them.
Underfunded schools, disproportionate
unemployment, voter suppression, barri-
ers to home ownership, and inequitable
sentencing, are just some of the ways
Black Americans have been made eco-
nomically vulnerable. According to the
Pew Research Center, in 2016 the aver-
age black household had a net worth of
$17,000 while the average white house-
hold was worth ten times that amount.
Unequal access to quality
health care is another issue for minority
communities: black women are three to
four times more likely to die during child
birth than white women. The COVID-19
pandemic has emphasized the health
care disparity: minority’s lack of access
to quality foods and health care make
them more predisposed to underlying
conditions, and people of color often
work in jobs considered essential or are
unable to work from home. According
to the Oregon Health Authority Black
Oregonians are three times more likely
than white Oregonians to be positive
for the disease; Native Americans are
nearly four times more likely; Hispanic
Oregonians are 4.5 times more likely;
and Pacific Islanders are nearly 10 times
more likely.
Unfair and violent interactions
with the justice system and a lack of
police accountability have led to frus-
tration and have historically been the
boiling point for black communities, as
they were this time. Police officers ac-
cused of crimes in this country are of-
ten protected by their departments, their
unions, and the justice system. The
court’s failure to convict four police of-
ficers in the beating of Rodney King in
1992 led to violent riots in Los Angles.
On my way home from the march in St.
Helens, I listened to an interview with
Wes Moore, author of the book Five
Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an Ameri-
can City. The book is an account of ri-
ots that took place in Baltimore in 2015
after the death of Freddie Grey while in
police custody, which helped launch the
Black Live Matter movement. Grey was
arrested for possessing an illegal knife
19% of the population but just 9% of the
police force, and black residents are the
subject of 58% police use of force inci-
• The United States has the largest prison
population in the world, as well as the
highest incarceration rate per capita,
and the gap is especially sharp when
compared to other G7 nations: U.S. –
655/10,000 residents, UK – 140/10,000,
after making eye contact with police
and running away. He was put into the
back of a police van and one hour later
was taken to the hospital in a coma, with
injuries to his spinal cord. He died one
week later. Six officers involved were
arrested, but prior to the case going to
court charges were dropped against two
of them, one trial ended in a mistrial, and
the other three were acquitted.
A Black American resident of
Vernonia recently addressed racial injus-
tice and the outcry from black commu-
nities in a Facebook post, “...when you
have a culture that has been given a 300
year late start into the game to succeed
after sacrificing without choice, their
freedom for the comfort and liberties of
another race, while our masters, whom
are also our grandfather’s grandfathers,
and their children are allowed to suc-
ceed, and have your nose rubbed in it at
every turn, what do you expect?”
Another friend, a white, middle-
aged male, offered this: “We have lost
the right to expect black America to pro-
test in a manner acceptable to us. They
have used many different ways to try to
talk to us, and have been reviled or ig-
nored. This is the last way to communi-
cate. It’s born of desperation, as it should
be, as we watch black men and women
being murdered by the police over and
over. It is our turn to listen now...”
Looking at systemic violence in law
Most people understand not all
police are bad, but many can see there
are some serious systemic issues within
our police departments and our society
that need to be examined and changed.
Here are a few facts:
• About 10 million people are arrested in
the United States each year, one arrest
per every 32 citizen in the country.
• When confronted or arrested, police
are four times more likely to use force
on Black Americans than white citizens,
and black men are almost three times
more likely than white men to be killed
during a police encounter. In Minneapo-
lis, where George Floyd was murdered
by police, Black Americans make up
Canada – 114, France – 100, Italy – 98,
Germany – 75, Japan – 41.
• Black people in the U.S. are jailed at
a disproportionate rate; while they make
up 12% of the total population, they are
33% of the prison population.
• U.S. police fatally shoot about 1,000
people each year – or 31 people for every
10 million, compared to 1 per 10 million
people in Germany, 8 in Australia, 6 in
Sweden, and 1 in the UK.
Those statistics are alarming
and there appears to be a number of rea-
sons why police violence might be so
prevalent, and why accountability is of-
ten lacking:
• In his book Police Wife: The Secret
Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence,
author Alex Rosin examines the little
studied issue of violence in the homes of
police officers. Referencing one of the
only studies from the 1990s which were
based on anonymous surveys that offi-
cers and their families participated in,
Rosin concluded that 40% of police fam-
ilies experience domestic abuse; studies
have shown that domestic abuse occurs
in about 10% of families across the U.S.
Both those numbers are startling. “The
more honest officers will tell you that
policing is a job about control – control-
ling people and controlling chaotic en-
Marie Krahn
Massage Therapy
vironments,” said Rosin in an interview.
“It attracts people with that mentality
and that desire. Not all police officers
are the same, but the more authoritarian
police officers are, the more likely they
are to be violent at home. These men
aren’t losing control. They are main-
taining control. That’s different. The in-
equalities of society force us to empower
police. And that empowerment results in
the hiring of abusers.”
• Powerful police unions across
the country have a history of
standing up for and protecting fel-
low officers accused of crimes. An
article published by the Portland
Mercury on February 27, 2020
by journalist Alex Zielinski notes
that, “In Portland, every time a
police chief or mayor has decided
to discipline or fire an officer for
inappropriate use of deadly force,
the PPA (Portland Police Associa-
tion) has challenged the decision,
thus sending the matter to arbitra-
tion. And every time, the arbitra-
tor has overturned the police chief
or mayor’s decision.”
• Author Wes Moore, who wrote
about the Baltimore riots after
Freddie Grey’s death, says he doesn’t
believe the problem is “bad apples” in
departments, but instead it’s bad systems
that are in place that allow inequitable
policing and don’t promote account-
ability. Moore sees the mandatory use
of body cameras by all officers as one
reform that has made a difference. He
says police are not treated the same as
other citizens when they are charged
with crimes, and regularly receive more
time to prepare their statements. He sug-
gests another way to hold police officers
accountable for each other’s conduct
might be the use of Felony Murder when
charging police officers, a law that ex-
pands the crime of murder to include the
offender’s accomplices, so everyone in-
volved may be found guilty of murder
and receive a similar sentence. Moore
says if this were applied to police it
could encourage officers to step in and
hold themselves accountable to each
other. The three civilian men accused of
killing Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia have
all been charged with Felony Murder.
The code of silence among law
enforcement officers, protection by po-
lice unions, and a lack of accountability
from the justice system have created an
environment that helps shield law en-
continued on page 10
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