Friday Reading List: Where is the Accountability?

Between non-blog writing deadlines and following the DNC, I didn't have time to put together a Reading List yesterday, but I'm back this morning! Sorry for the blip in the programming.

In the meantime, Marilyn Mosby, the Baltimore prosecutor handling the cases of the police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray, dropped the remaining charges on the officers. As the Baltimore Sun reports:

The case pitted Mosby against police, and their verbal sparring Wednesday raised questions about their ability to cooperate going forward. The Fraternal Order of Police accused Mosby of pursuing a malicious and wrong-headed prosecution, while she accused police investigators of sabotage. The case proved costly for the city. The state's attorney's office and Police Department, which bought riot gear and paid officers overtime in anticipation of protests, spent an estimated $7.4 million on the trials, city officials said Wednesday. In addition, the city reached a $6.4 million settlement last year with Gray's family.

Erika Blunt Danois at The Root looks at the challenges of prosecuting police officers:

Mosby spoke sharply about individual Baltimore police officers she felt failed to cooperate: “We realized very early on that police investigating police, whether they were friends or colleagues, was problematic.” She went on to cite officers who she alleged acted as hostile witnesses and police investigators who were “uncooperative and started a counterinvestigation to disprove the state’s case" ... Mosby also issued broader indictments of a corrupt and crumbling system that’s in desperate need of reform ... During the press conference, Mosby complained of police who were hostile witnesses and had to be compelled to testify. The van driver, Police Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., never testified or gave a statement to police investigators. Despite the public trial, much of the public still doesn’t know exactly what happened to Gray other than that he went into a police van alive and came out with a crushed voice box and a severed spine.

Prosecutors work closely with law enforcement officers to achieve indictments and convictions in normal criminal cases, but when law enforcement are the perpetrators of violence, an already fragile system unravels. The failure to hold anyone accountable for the murder of Freddie Gray reveals the extent to which officers sworn to protect the public will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid accountability for violence against that same public. That's why Campaign Zero to reduce police violence includes these three reform issues in its agenda:

In particular, "Independently Investigate & Prosecute" takes prosecutorial discretion away from a system that is purposefully designed to protect the very people who must be investigated and prosecuted in incidences of police misconduct.

In other "the system must change" news, Chris Stewart wants folks to recognize that getting more Black teachers in classrooms is not just a matter of pipeline management:

Even as children of color become the majority population of public schools, the percentage of black male teachers is dwindling. That’s not a problem begging for a cosmetic diversification of the teaching force, it’s a problem that impacts student achievement and school outcomes. According to the Albert Shanker Institute, teachers of color are more likely to commit to teaching in “high-poverty, racially and ethnically segregated schools. Their commitment creates higher academic expectations for students and provides role models as Mr. Morris did for my son. That reduces stereotypes for black students and increases intra-racial understanding for white students. So what are efforts to fix the problem missing? According to [Beau Lancaster writing at Chalkbeat], efforts to increase the black male “pipeline” do too little to understand the experience of black male teachers working in a white woman-dominated occupation.

Lancaster explains:

For one, it’s isolating. The profession is majority white and female, and nationally, only about 2 percent of teachers are black men. Working in these spaces, you can feel rarer than a unicorn. You’re alone in your experiences, and then feel the pressure to represent all of black America at once. Often, that means you’re expected to be “the street whisperer”: someone who can translate the students’ experiences to others. When you don’t fulfill those expectations, it can lead to an environment where microaggressions are the norm. A former colleague once told me they were surprised I was from the South Bronx because I didn’t “act like it.” The conversation left me angry and disillusioned with a colleague who could have been a source of support.

I used to run an education nonprofit, and I encountered all of the typical challenges of being a White guy trying to create a multicultural, inclusive work environment. I made tons of mistakes, and while achieving inclusivity was not a linear march, we made some modest progress. The only way to get better at this stuff is to listen carefully to the people of color in a work place, because stories like Lancaster's are the absolute norm, not the exception.

Speaking of listening to people, Quibila Divine wants the #DemsinPhilly - the hashtag for the Democratic National Convention - to meet some actual "Philly Dems":

Philadelphia is the poorest big city in America and is comprised of neighborhoods where nearly 60,000 children are in deep poverty.  Deep poverty is having a household cash income equal to less than 50% of the federal poverty level. You will not see any effects of poverty by watching the Convention on television.  You also will not see the hopelessness and despair on faces of the many loyal Democrats who voted along party lines in almost every election.  Most of these loyal Democrats are Black and live in the north and west sections of the city.  For their loyalty, many voters will not see their Philadelphia politicians coming into their low-income, high crime, drug infested neighborhoods to make a plea for adequate funding needed to educate children properly so that our city can effectively work to eliminate generational poverty.

Divine goes on to ponder whether Black voters in cities like Philadelphia will continue to be loyal Democrats, if the party does not pay attention to their interests. As long as the Republican party has a White supremacist at the top of the ticket, it might be hard to move folks.

Ebony's Jamilah Lemieux looks at the representational issues from a national perspective, as a DNC attendee:

It was hard not to wince at the juxtaposition of “Mothers of the Movement,” a group joined by the tragic loss of their children (whose deaths are believed to have been caused by racism), the consistent pro-law enforcement messaging that often skirted over police violence. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, arguably the face of 'Stop and Frisk' policing was given space to speak on behalf of Secretary Clinton. Where does this invite my people into the American process? Consider that the announcement that all remaining charges against the officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray would be dropped came in the middle of this deep-fried spectacle of American nationalism and liberal self-congratulatory rhetoric. It’s hard to feel present when the ‘greatness’ of America is simply inaccessible to so many of my people, people who look like the sitting president.

I can't add to that, except to say that Marilyn Rhames has some words for teachers of those children who "look like the sitting president":

Class rosters don’t tell teachers how to pronounce our students’ names, let alone point out which kids will succeed in life. When students arrive on the first day of school, we can’t look into their eyes or read their palms to predict who will grow up to become a famous writer, doctor or lawyer and who will spend the rest of their lives bouncing from unemployment to low-paying job ... Teachers are much like wedding photographers—although our snapshots last a year rather than a day. Amid the sea of hundreds, even thousands, of young people we have taught, there are most assuredly little Michelles and little Baracks who are destined for greatness, and they need every second of the now we have to offer.

Have a peaceful weekend!