Short Thoughts on Racism


April 22, 2021

Ma’Khia Bryant would be alive today if police didn’t go straight for the handgun when de-escalation isn’t possible (as it sometimes won’t be). We have nonlethal tools and tech.

“No opportunity” to de-escalate isn’t an excuse. “Obeying training” isn’t an excuse when your training is shit, incorporating nothing between de-escalation and shoot to kill. I know this really sidesteps or ignores what allegedly happened to Daunte Wright, people harmed or even killed by nonlethal weaponry, who should respond to violent calls, and the whole debate on whether police are needed in a modern (or radically changed) society — but assuming they are, they should stop pretending nonlethals don’t exist and can end many violent situations without loss of life.

December 23, 2020

On The Star’s apology series (

Has The Kansas City Star also devoted itself to pushing for new policies and funding organizations doing the same?

June 3, 2020

During the George Floyd protests: 

The only marching cops should be doing is to HQ to draft radical policy changes.

May 28, 2020

Four cops had George Floyd handcuffed, pinned on the pavement. It was over. It could have stopped there, a lift of the knee. Instead the police chose to continue. Instead they killed him.

But maybe it couldn’t have stopped there. To lift the knee would have been to acknowledge wrongdoing, to listen to the screams and begging of victim and bystanders. To offer a nod of legitimacy to grievances against absolute power. But police don’t obey people. People obey the police. The police don’t take orders from civilians, much less black people (yes, I believe this tragedy is rooted in racism, conscious or subconscious) or victims. As the knee rises, so the authority falls. That’s inherent to policing and to power dynamics in general — the pressure to continue what you’re doing even if it’s wrong, to avoid undermining your own authority. They kept the knee there because they were told not to. “Power trip” as a phrase hardly captures the merciless brutality here, but I believe it is so.

May 6, 2020

On the Ahmaud Arbery killing:

White people, just leave black people the fuck alone. It is not your responsibility to get your guns and confront someone you think (likely due only to his skin color) is a thief. Black people have enough to worry about with the police racially profiling and confronting them. These white men deserve prison, nothing less.

September 10, 2018

On unnecessary police force in Westport:

You can punch someone in a place other than their face. You can punch someone’s arm. And you can do it to break up a fight. For some reason other than “because you can” or for fun. It can be proper police protocol. And it can STILL be unnecessary force. It can still be unnecessary violence against a black woman. These things aren’t mutually exclusive.

July 26, 2018

It’s funny how you often hear “The Democratic Party was the party of slavery and the KKK” but rarely hear “The Democratic Party founded the Confederacy and the Confederate flag was a flag of the Democrats.” Both are true statements.

I think you don’t really hear the latter because it raises uncomfortable questions (not least of all: “Does this imply a connection between extreme racism and the Confederacy? Shouldn’t we burn all these flags?”). Questions like: “Why, if the Confederacy was a Democratic institution, do only conservatives and Republicans care about it and fly its flag today?” Or: “How is it that Democrats ruled the South during that era, but today Republicans rule the South? Was it a liberal bastion back then?”

These questions might lead to a serious study of history that reveals the obvious but not commonly discussed truth: the Democratic Party was the more conservative party in that era, the Republican Party the more liberal party.

May 31, 2018

On the police shooting of Nell Lewis:

The Lawrence Police Department and Johnson County, KS Sheriff’s Office have some explaining to do.

1) Was ordering the driver out of his car absolutely necessary? Was it not in the realm of the possible for the officer to simply issue a ticket and head out, even if the driver wasn’t cooperative? Is it a natural law of the universe that the police MUST exert power over an uncooperative person? Could an officer not be the bigger person–swallow the pride, skip the power trip–and just tell an uncooperative person to have a good night and get that ticket paid on time? Instead of ordering him or her out? Is de-escalation just too difficult? Is escalation–“step out the car”–the only way?

2) Was a second officer absolutely necessary? When first responders learn to handle things in a better manner there will be no need for backup. This was another pointless escalation.

3) Was use of the handgun absolutely necessary when other, less lethal weapons are available? The use of any kind of weapon could have been easily avoided of course, if the first responder had better training, but why was the first weapon used the most lethal? Do stun guns not exist? Do rubber rounds only exist for crowds and protests? Will we not try anything else before simply resorting to the bullet?

December 8, 2017

Many whites who lynched and segregated black people are still alive. #ItAin’tOver

October 30, 2017

This article is good because it educates residents on excessive force deployed by the KCPD ($6 million in settlements for brutality over just 5 years), but a bit odd because it feels as if 41 Action News framed it to imply the big payments to victims of brutality, criminals or not, is the major problem here. The headline, the first two sentences, the section headers (name, $$$), including Washington’s rap sheet to emphasize he’s a criminal, including his grinning mug shot, and so forth make it seem like police brutality is primarily bad because it ends up giving money to criminals (one victim, by the way, was not charged with a crime for the incident in which he was brutalized). Well, no, police brutality is the problem. Police brutality is wrong in and of itself. Big settlements wouldn’t happen if police brutality didn’t happen. Whether you see payouts as proper compensation for police crimes or hate seeing criminals get a dime, that’s the simple truth. Perhaps I’m making mountains out of mole hills or reading too much into the article, but local news is so pro-cop one can’t help but wonder if this framing is a way to make a story on police brutality go down easier.

September 26, 2017

On the Fraternal Order of Police letter to Marcus Peters:

Hopefully Chiefs player Marcus Peters can gently explain to the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police that it is the responsibility of the police in this country, and theirs alone, to not kill unarmed people. It is the responsibility of the courts to imprison officers who use unnecessary force. Improving community-police relations is a positive thing and should be done, but won’t end the atrocities Peters and others are protesting. Police need to radically change their policies, training, and weaponry. They need to explore implicit and overt racial biases and how they influence police behavior in documented experiments. They need to learn to de-escalate. They need to learn to handle wounded pride and not ask people to step out of the car because they don’t like their tone or won’t cooperate. They need to stop investigating what four black men on the corner chatting are up to if there’s not a shred of probable cause for anything. They need to use non-lethal bullets. They must stop planting evidence and lying. They must never again investigate themselves. They need to submit to stricter civilian oversight and control. And yes, they need to have the real threat of rotting in prison to keep them in line. Again, connect with communities and build relationships. If Peters and others will join you, great. But it’s on YOU to end racial profiling, to stop beating and killing people for minor slights, over your unreasonable fears and implicit or conscious racial biases, or for nothing at all. Until that happens, the protests will continue, and hopefully Peters will remain involved. It’s not about personal “fulfillment.” It’s about voicing opposition to what YOU, and the Kansas City Missouri Police Department and departments across the US, are doing and have the power to end.

September 26, 2017

White people, let’s talk. Let’s talk about why many of us suddenly give far fewer shits about rights when black people need or use them.

Protest rights, speech rights, gun rights, due process rights, the right to life, privacy rights, equal treatment rights, voting rights, and on and on. When black people boldly use or demand these things, they are the enemy. They are “uppity,” “ungrateful,” “disrespectful,” “dangerous,” “un-American.” “No-good n—–s.” They have crossed the line. They have pushed against the walls of the box white people require them to remain in. They broke the rules.

I get it, you don’t think black people are treated any differently than white people. You think police brutality isn’t disproportionately against black folk due to unreasonable fear, you think racial profiling is fiction, you think verdicts and sentencing in the courts are the same for people of all colors according to their crimes, you think a black man can walk around with a gun on his hip as freely as them good ol’ white boys, you think you’d be just as pissed if a white person knelt for the anthem to protest God not being in schools anymore, you think loud protests and blocked streets and civil disobedience and property damage and riots were only acceptable for white people in 1773, and you couldn’t care less if stricter voter ID laws decrease the black vote. I get it because white ignorance is real; whites in the era of burning black people hanging from ropes and taking home their genitals as trophies thought black people had it pretty good too, and should just shut up and stop complaining. The U.S. was, after all, the greatest nation on earth in 1950 as well, was it not?

The thing is, whether you stupidly think black people are simply making stuff up or in it for attention, that DOES NOT MATTER one iota. Citizens have rights regardless. They have them no matter what. Rights aren’t offered conditionally; on the condition, say, that what a black person is saying about his or her own lived experience has been fact-checked by fucking white people. Black people can exercise their rights however they please. Anywhere, any time.

So fuck the white line, the white box, the white rules. Let’s do what we can, fellow white people, to utterly purge these things from our own minds and those of others.

September 24, 2017

On Colin Kaepernick and those who knelt with him:

Progress comes on the backs of troublemakers, not they who worship the State.

August 12, 2017

A word to my fellow white people:

Have you spoken up yet? It is sometimes said that in times of injustice remaining neutral aids the oppressor. You cannot be neutral on a moving train. When racism rears its ugly head will you speak against it? Will you show up when it rallies in your city? Will you go tell it on the mountain that bigotry is unacceptable in our country? Look upon what your fellow whites are doing in Charlottesville:

Whites organizing a “Unite the Right” rally using imagery reminiscent of the Nazi Imperial eagle in response to the removal of statues of “heroes” who fought for a new nation founded explicitly to preserve black slavery, a “pro-white” rally to “advocate for white people.”

Whites hosting a KKK-reminiscent night march with torches, raising the Nazi salute with free hands, surrounding counter-protesters and assaulting them. They chanted “White Lives Matter” and “You will not replace us” and “Proud to be white.”

Whites attending the main event with their shirts bearing Hitler quotes, their Confederate flags, their red Klan robes, their “Jews are Satan’s children” signs, free hands again raising the Nazi salute. A sea of white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and Alt-Right symbols, such as the Klan cross and Nazi flag. A chant rises into the air: “Fuck you faggots.” That was alongside “White Lives Matter” and “Blood and Soil,” an old Nazi slogan.

Whites from “militias” with rifles walking freely through the streets. It is difficult to imagine the police allowing black people to do the same, as with surrounding other groups.

A car running over counter-protesters after violence breaks out between rally-goers and counter-protesters. One person has died. A black man named Deandre Harris was assaulted. A State of Emergency declared, the “Unite the Right” rally disbanded by police. The white rightwing extremists are regrouping at another park.

Sitting in history class, we whites often imagined what we would do if we had lived in that generation where people proudly raised their arms in the Nazi salute or condemned diversity as a threat to white power and glory. Well, here we are. This is our generation. And as in prior eras, white silence is violence. Speak up. Show up. Make racists afraid again.

June 21, 2017

On Quincy Blakely’s arrest:

Look at this cop. There is no reason here to ask Blakely where his gun is or to get out of the car. He’s done nothing wrong. Think on this, this is Texas! You don’t even need a license, a CHL, to carry loaded guns in your car. So what if he’s got a gun? Are all people with guns in Texas dangerous? Or just black ones? Do the cops in Texas ask everyone they pull over for a burned out bulb if they have a weapon in the car? Do they make everyone who is armed step out of their vehicle? I somehow doubt it, think of the absurd waste of time.

Why ask questions about the weapon at all? If he does have one with him then he’s probably just a good ol’ boy like all the white Texans packing heat. He even has a CHL…again, which you don’t need…which was presented honestly and voluntarily. His wife and child are in the fucking car. Why not just take the driver’s license and see to the task at hand? Instead the cop gets on the typical power trip. Wants to get the man out of the car because he can. Because you have to demonstrate your power and authority. Why did he do this? What activated the power trip?

He’s scared. Look, he can barely form words when he learns he’s facing a black man with a weapon lurking somewhere. Is he that scared with the good ol’ white boys? No, he’s scared of Blakely because Blakely is black. And as a black man, Blakely knows what’s happening. He hates it, it’s hurtful, he’s scared for his life. Frustrated with the cop’s stupidity and racial profiling, and knowing he is likely safer in his car, Blakely refuses to obey. Refusal of course can’t be tolerated, so force must be used. An incredible relief that no one is dead. But of course the woman is also ordered out of the car, part two of the power trip. She did nothing wrong either.

This video is a good example of how this all works: a cop mistreats a black person, the black person reacts in way that doesn’t please the powerful, and the powerful must nip that in the bud no matter how dangerous escalation becomes or who dies. This was the fault of the injustices and pride of the powerful, not the very human reaction to that injustice and pride. This is why we say #BlackLivesMatter.

Blakely is being held on a ludicrous $500,000 bond.

May 25, 2017

It’s funny how some white people think “My wife is black” or “I have lots of black friends” somehow makes them incapable of racism. It may help, but doesn’t make us invincible. You could be in love with a black woman and still stereotype blacks as on average lazier than whites, whether she is included or excluded.

Time to turn away from white hubris.

January 7, 2017

It seems to me that some conservative whites, and others, struggle to understand that racial hate crimes can be equally vicious, but not equally punished.

In late 2015, 3 white students in Idaho held down a mentally disabled black student and inserted and repeatedly kicked a coat hanger into his rectum, requiring hospitalization. The leader of the assault was offered a sweet deal by prosecutors, and will not go to prison. He gets probation and community service.

Recently, 4 black students in Chicago bound and gagged a mentally ill white student, beat him, made him drink from a toilet, and cut his hair and clothing with a knife. These black students are not likely to get a pleasant deal. They will almost certainly go to prison for years, if not much or the rest of their lives. I — and YOU, probably — would be quite shocked if this was not the case.

I’m not saying these cases are precisely the same. For instance, the black students’ records are longer and uglier than the white students’. The incidents are in different states and cities. But each case can be called twisted, sick, evil, and a hate crime (it is also remarkable some liberals insist the Chicago case was not a hate crime, despite what the students are saying in the video they made). Most Americans have an expectation that a decent society would punish such horrific acts roughly equally — not let the white kids go.

Nor am I saying convenient anecdotes like this should be or are our only indication that this nation has a major problem when it comes to sentencing blacks and whites. Research into the matter overwhelmingly confirms blacks are punished much more harshly than whites of the same background for the same crimes in the same cities and states. Such studies are not hard to find — but they do take a long time to read, considering the volume. This isn’t just a made-up social ill. Anecdotes hint at a pattern, which can be confirmed or disproved using scientific methods.

We’re living in a time that’s very divisive. You’d think we could at least all agree (black and white, right and left, etc.) that comparable crimes should be punished comparably. If you’re white and think so too, when an incident like the Chicago one occurs don’t just say, “Well, well, well, looks like blacks can commit hate crimes too!” and leave it at that. Yes, condemn it. Condemn all hate crimes, no matter who commits them, and then speak out against inequality in sentencing. Because while hate crimes can be equally horrific, our justice system’s response to them is not equally just.

January 2, 2017

A major problem in the U.S. today is that many whites have adopted the strange idea that Jim Crow oppression was eons ago. That because anyone can make it to whatever career or income they want in America and because it’s been “so long” since blacks were paid less than whites, confined to menial work, refused entry to colleges, denied home loans, etc., the only thing that explains disproportionate black poverty today is some special flaw in black people (that’s what we call racism, and it’s quite common).

Well, putting aside the fact that widespread oppression and mistreatment did not completely end after the 1960s and even continues today, 45-odd years is NOT THAT LONG. Many black people who experienced the worst of Jim Crow are still alive. Many white folk who oppressed them are still alive. The whites foaming at the mouth in rage at black kids joining their kids’ schools? Some are still around. They are our parents, our grandparents. If you’re older, perhaps it was you. Yet racism is supposed to be over? The 1960s were so long ago that all black folk should have caught up to white folk economically? Yet so recent people remember it? When you study how intergenerational poverty actually works, you see that overcoming it is a slow process indeed.

The truth is finally eradicating the last remnants of Jim Crow is going to take a bit longer than 45 years. That speaks to how effective it was at keeping black folk down — not how blacks are somehow lazier than whites and therefore haven’t caught up financially yet.

They say time heals all wounds. Instead of bathing in racist fantasies, why not consider this wound is still healing?

October 2, 2016

It is fitting that Black Lives Matter should have the same initials as the Black Liberation Movement.

September 23, 2016

Truly, it’s easy to feel that when you’re calling out for social justice you’re just shouting into the wind. It’s easy to take that one meme seriously: “Wow, your political posts on Facebook totally changed my entire worldview, said no one ever.”

Don’t believe it. Don’t ever believe it. I’m living proof that people can change. I spent 18 years a hardcore conservative, 2 years middle-left, 4 years a liberal, and 4 years a Marxist. From devout to atheist, too. I’ve watched others change, too. People I’ve debated for years have changed their minds on issues, even if reluctant to admit it. Someone told me my writings changed him in a huge way. Someone bought me a beer to apologize for old ways of thinking. People I haven’t spoken to in years message me asking for my opinion because they want a take different than their own.

Never give up, folks. Don’t be discouraged. Take heart. When you speak, people listen. And while it doesn’t come fast, people do change.

Peace and solidarity.

September 22, 2016

Dear conservative white people: How can I say this? If the ONLY time you bring up the welfare of black people is when you’re trying to get folks to shut up about Black Lives Matter and focus on black on black crime, or trying to score cheap points in a debate over abortion or gun control by pointing out racist influences or racist supporters of yesteryear…we notice that. If that’s the ONLY time, just serving a momentary, special function for you, we see that. And we see through it.

September 21, 2016

Dear fellow white people: You know how when you’re speeding you keep a sharp eye out for cops and suddenly every other car you mistake for a cop? How you start to see what you’re wary of?

Now think about the police and unarmed black men.

September 13, 2016

The most important question to ask white Americans is this:

“In American society today, blacks are disproportionately poor. Do you believe that if the roles of blacks and whites were perfectly reversed in U.S. history, if WHITES faced Jim Crow oppression, would whites still be disproportionately poor? In this alternate reality, would they still not be at economic equality with blacks?”

If the answer is Yes, the white person has accepted that an ugly racial history — not personal flaws like the racist myth of “black laziness” — created our massive racial wealth gap. The effects of past oppression can still be felt and seen.

If the answer is No, whites would not still be disproportionately poor, that white person is a racist. He or she believes in the fundamental superiority of the white race to overcome things like poverty. Racism, pure and simple.

July 28, 2016

I did not know #RyanStokes. But I do know he did not deserve to be gunned down from behind by the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. #3YearsTooLong

July 27, 2016

As white people, one of the most naive and ignorant things we say about race is this: “If racism has been such a problem, why are black people only raising hell about it now?”

First, whether or not you hear complaints about discrimination kind of depends on your skin color, doesn’t it? This is a sign of our white privilege. As a white person, you don’t ever have to think about race if you don’t want to. It’s certainly not something you worry about. It’s not something you had to talk about at the dinner table. But according to our black brothers and sisters, it’s a different story for them. Black kids get “the talk” about racism, racial profiling, how to handle themselves around the police, and so on. White mothers generally don’t have to worry, when their kid hops in the car, if the police will harass or harm them. For white mothers, the police are out there to protect their kids (even though sometimes this view is incorrect). Polls show minorities today view racism as a much greater problem than whites — no shit, as they are the ones experiencing it (the polls are nearly identical, by the way, to those taken in the 1960s; whites have a bad habit of being oblivious). Do you actually think that if you were black, you wouldn’t experience much more discussion on race and modern racism with family and friends?

Second, there is ALWAYS someone raising hell. It doesn’t always make the national or even local news, but activists ARE working against discrimination and segregation in your community — no matter where you live. But if you don’t care about social and racial justice, you’re not going to hear much about them and their activities. If you don’t have activist friends, if you don’t follow groups’ pages on social media, you won’t hear much of it. But there are always protests, rallies, marches, vigils, meetings, forums, even civil disobedience. Personally, I was ignorant of the groups in my own community until I started focusing on social justice issues. Then, all of a sudden, they were everywhere — and many existed long before Black Lives Matter, long before Mike Brown. One Struggle KC. Ida B Wells Coalition Against Racism and Police Brutality in Kansas City. Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO). Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity – MORE2. Una Lucha KC. Urban League of Greater Kansas City. Freedom Incorporated. SURJ KC – Showing Up for Racial Justice, Kansas City. The NAACP, CORE, the Panthers, and SNCC didn’t pack up and disappear after the 1960s, either. They are still at work today. Just because you’re sleepwalking, doesn’t mean others are.

July 6, 2016

“If he was holding a weapon and was trying to kill a bystander or a cop.”

That is the only time I would think a policeman justified if he killed my son, father, brother, or friend. How about you? If your brother got disrespectful with the cops? If your son ran? If your daddy resisted arrest? If your friend was illegally selling something? Would it be ethical then? Bullshit.

Hold others to the same standards you use for yourself and your family. #AltonSterling

June 7, 2016

Too many whites seem confused as to what racism actually is. It isn’t just dropping racial slurs or some vague dislike or irrational hatred of black people. It’s finding out that the average black person is more likely to be poor than the average white person, and (instead of acknowledging how our racial history created large pockets of minority poverty that still exist today) conclude that black people are simply more likely to be lazy than white people, under the guidelines of conservative ideology where people are poor due to laziness. In other words, ascribing a special flaw to a racial group.

That’s racism by definition.

March 29, 2016

In 1963, 60% of whites thought blacks were treated equally in America. In 1962, 85% of whites thought black kids had the same educational opportunities as white kids.

If we whites could be that delusional while blacks were being beaten and lynched for seeking their basic human rights, do we really think whites couldn’t possibly be delusional NOW, when racism is much more SUBTLE?

September 12, 2015

An interesting public forum on race relations last night put on by Second Presbyterian and Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO). I admire Kansas City Missouri Police Department Deputy Chief Robert Kuehl for being a panelist and being willing to take the “hot seat.” He seems like a good man concerned about racial equality and justice, but obviously should have foreseen how his phrase “All Lives Matter” would be taken by most black members of the audience, and many liberal whites there as well. Anyone who has paid any attention to the news or social media knows that “All Lives Matter” is largely a white conservative backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement. “All Lives Matter” could have easily been a phrase created by progressives, antiracists, civil rights activists, but it wasn’t. It was a direct reaction to Black Lives Matter birthed by conservative whites who confuse the pursuit of justice (an end to the disproportionate police killings of unarmed black men and women) with some sort of juvenile demand for special privileges. As Airick Leonard West pointed out, to huge applause from the crowd, All Lives Matter masks the different needs of different communities. All Lives Matter, created by conservative whites who refuse to believe that discrimination could possibly be an issue in 2015, is at its core an accusation of reverse racism: “How dare you elevate black lives over all others!” This only distracts from the real issues that birthed the Black Lives Matter movement.

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