“Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged with murder in the shooting deaths of two people during the violent protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, had a run-in with the police earlier in the night — an extremely friendly one.
In footage from about 15 minutes before the shootings pieced together by the New York Times’s Visual Investigations team, you can see Rittenhouse walk up to an armored police vehicle and chat with officers. A police officer pops out of one vehicle’s hatch and tosses bottles to Rittenhouse’s associates, members of an armed militia. “We appreciate you guys, we really do,” the officer says before driving off.
The young-looking Rittenhouse is under the legal age for firearm ownership and was carrying an assault rifle, which appears to be a misdemeanor under Wisconsin law. Instead of stopping him and asking for proof of age, the police give him water and an attaboy. And when he tried to surrender after the shootings, the police went right by him, even as bystanders were telling them that Rittenhouse had shot people.”
“Black women are disproportionately impacted, dying in childbirth at three to four times the rate of white women.”
“Many factors contribute to overall maternal mortality in the US, from underlying conditions like diabetes to a lack of adequate health insurance. All of these disproportionately impact Black women — Black Americans, for example, are 60 percent more likely than whites to be diagnosed with diabetes. And 11.5 percent of Black Americans were uninsured as of 2018, compared with just 7.5 percent of whites.”
“For Black women, “even when we get prenatal care,” Crear-Perry explained, “even when we are normal weight and not obese, even when we have no underlying medical conditions, we are still more likely to die in childbirth than our white counterparts.” In New York City, for example, a 2016 study found that Black patients with a college education were more likely to have pregnancy or childbirth complications than white patients who hadn’t graduated from high school.”
“Part of the issue is that providers treat Black patients differently from white ones. Black women and other women of color often aren’t listened to when they express pain or discomfort, Jamila Taylor, director of health care reform at the Century Foundation, told Vox.
Racist beliefs about people’s bodies and their ability to experience pain are shockingly widespread: Half of the white medical students and residents surveyed in one 2016 study, for example, believed at least one myth about racial differences in pain perception, such as the idea that Black people’s nerve endings are less sensitive than white people’s. The more myths someone believed, the more likely that person was to underestimate a Black patient’s pain.”
“Advocates have long been calling for greater access to non-hospital births, whether at a birthing center or at home, as a way to combat the discrimination Black patients and other patients of color can face in hospital settings. “Other countries that have better outcomes than we do create a system and a network of birth centers and home births that allow for people to make choices based upon their needs,” Crear-Perry said.”
“Polarization can create the conditions for overdue reckonings, for broader coalitions. When the parties were mixed, and racially conservative whites were seen as the key swing vote, racial issues were suppressed in American politics. The passage of the Civil Rights Act is the exception that proves the rule: Civil rights laws had been blocked in Congress for decades, and the rupture required to unblock them broke the party system of that era. The polarization of the parties around race and ideology — a story I tell in detail in my book Why We’re Polarized — created an incentive for one party, at least, to prioritize issues of racial justice.
As the parties became more polarized around racial issues, it became much safer for Democratic politicians to embrace racial issues,” says Christopher Stout, a political scientist at Oregon State University and the author of Bringing Race Back In: Black Politicians, Deracialization, and Voting Behavior in the Age of Obama. “Even in 2008, there was a lot of hesitancy to talk about race. Think back to Obama and Jeremiah Wright. But as white working-class voters who were racially conservative left the Democratic Party, it created space for Democrats to talk about race and be rewarded for it rather than punished for it.
Joe Biden’s career reflects the arc of this change. As he has gotten in trouble for saying, when he entered Congress, in the 1970s, he worked often with conservative, segregationist Democrats. These weren’t just coalitions of expedience: He took positions on issues like crime and busing meant to mollify racially conservative white voters. But Biden changed alongside his party. By 2008, those Democrats were gone, and Biden was Obama’s vice president, in an administration that cemented the Democratic Party’s identity as the party of a multiethnic America.”
“Identity politics is often tossed around as a slur, an epithet. A politics of identity is said to be exclusionary, pitting Americans against each other, denying them the common ground of shared experience. This is oft-made criticism of “Black Lives Matter” as a slogan, by those who prefer “all lives matter.” But we are seeing the rebuttal to that argument in the political reality of this moment, where 91 percent of Democrats — and 92 percent of white Democrats — express support for Black Lives Matter (as do 40 percent of Republicans). A politics of identity can be inclusionary, building bridges across experiences that would otherwise remain siloed.”
“Identity is never singular. We have many identities, some of them linked together, some of them sitting in tension. The story of modern political polarization is identities fusing together: Black, Jewish, liberal, atheist, urbanite — Democrat. White, evangelical, rural, conservative, hunter — Republican. Identity fusion creates stronger bonds of solidarity between those who share identities, and can create more conflict with those who become the out-group. It is both inclusionary and exclusionary. But for groups who’ve long been marginalized, who haven’t had the power to force their concerns and their experiences to the forefront of national politics, it can be transformative.
There is no action without reaction, of course. The promise of change that thrills some Americans unnerves others. Trump is president because Obama was president. We will not suddenly find agreement on America’s oldest divides, easy redemption for our oldest sins. And our political system is designed to reflect consensus, not resolve conflict. This is why, in part, polarization is so feared: It breeds government paralysis, wanton obstruction, dangerous brinksmanship.
Even so, we should prefer the difficulties of political conflict to the injustice of suppression. Police brutality is as old as America, but it has been rare for either of our major political parties to take it seriously, much less make it — and racial inequality more broadly — central to their agendas. Change at the level America needs may not be likely, but it would be impossible if neither party was willing to fight for it. That one is beginning to do so now is the product of relentless organizing, activism, and courage among Black Americans, but it is also the product of polarization, sorting, and identity politics.”
“police killings are not the whole story. The protests, and all the policy recommendations that have come with them, are pushing back against other systemic problems too.
Some of those injustices are specific and quantifiable: shootings, unfair traffic stops, arbitrary arrests. Others are vague but no less concerning: feeling you have no recourse for complaints about police, the calculus that can go into the decision to call 911, the sense that an investigation into a reported crime won’t be prioritized, the nervousness and fear that must be tamped down as one works to stay calm and keep an officer calm — all while wondering if you are living your final moments.
Not all of these problems can be measured. The number of police killings per year is a statistic that can be tabulated and broken down into easily digested parts: killings per region, per department, per time of day, per ethnicity. But how police make people feel is not quite as easily captured in data. There are ways to try — surveys asking whether officers make one tense or whether one trusts law enforcement — but such questions offer limited insight into what is causing those results or what effect they have.
Meanwhile, the issues behind the answers to those surveys do have a clear effect: They leave many black Americans frustrated with and fearful of police.”
“During a national crisis, so many people feel moved to give, and that’s great. But it’s best if we don’t all heap money on the same charity. After a certain point, a nonprofit runs out of “room for more funding,” meaning it has enough money to fund all of the work it’s good at doing, so more donations may not be used effectively.”
“It’s also worthwhile to think hard about which causes are being neglected. If bail funds suddenly become hot, do more research into adjacent or underlying issues. Donating to a group that advocates for ending the cash bail system altogether (as MFF does) might actually become a more appealing option. That’s a broader, more systemic change than bailing out a few dozen protesters right now, but it may well do more good in the long term.”
“MFF plans to apply this long-game thinking to its work going forward. It’ll use its $30 million to push for systemic change, including abolishing money bail and overhauling immigration detention. That was always its mission, stated on its website for all to see. The complaint among some donors that this mission isn’t what they signed up for highlights, more than anything, the importance of doing due diligence before donating and adopting a rigorous approach to giving.”
“As the Court’s lead opinion pointed out, non-unanimous juries are a practice rooted in white supremacy.
One justice took umbrage with that invocation of racism: Justice Samuel Alito. His dissent was the latest in a string of opinions bristling at the idea that racism still shapes many policymakers’ decisions today, and that the legacy of past racism still affects people of color. In the most noteworthy of those opinions, 2018’s Abbott v. Perez, Alito convinced a majority of his colleagues to write such a strong presumption of white racial innocence into the law governing racial voter discrimination that it is now virtually impossible for voting rights plaintiffs to prove that state lawmakers acted with racist intent.
Alito does not appear driven by broad skepticism of racial issues. While he has repeatedly lashed out at the mere suggestion that white policymakers may have been motivated by racism, he took a drastically different tone in Ricci v. DeStefano (2009). In that case, Alito wrote a lengthy concurring opinion suggesting that a cohort of mostly white firefighters were denied promotions due to a conspiracy between New Haven Mayor John DeStefano and a local black preacher.
In other words, when black or brown people have been on the receiving end of allegedly racist treatment, Alito preaches that we shouldn’t jump to such conclusions; yet in a case where white people were allegedly harmed, he wasn’t so cautious.
With his Ramos opinion, Alito continues to build a distinctive profile as a jurist: He has emerged as the Court’s foremost defender of white racial innocence.”
“Gorsuch offered a brief history of how the practice of allowing non-unanimous juries to decide a defendant’s fate is rooted in white supremacy. The delegates who drafted Louisiana’s 1898 constitution, Gorsuch argues, “sought to undermine African-American participation on juries” by allowing juries to resolve cases in a 10 to 2 verdict (the idea was that only a small number of black jurors were likely to serve on the jury in the first place).
Gorsuch also argues that Oregon’s use of non-unanimous juries “can be similarly traced to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and efforts to dilute ‘the influence of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities on Oregon juries.’
Gorsuch’s decision to invoke this dark history produced a livid response from Alito. “To add insult to injury, the Court tars Louisiana and Oregon with the charge of racism for permitting nonunanimous verdicts,” Alito writes in the introduction to his dissent. He adds that “too much public discourse today is sullied by ad hominem rhetoric, that is, attempts to discredit an argument not by proving that it is unsound but by attacking the character or motives of the argument’s proponents,” and accuses the majority of his colleagues of engaging in such rhetoric.
Alito goes on to make a fair point. Though Louisiana and Oregon may have originally permitted non-unanimous jury verdicts to advance white supremacy, “both States readopted their rules under different circumstances in later years.” Louisiana, for example, originally provided for non-unanimous juries at an 1898 constitutional convention dominated by white supremacists. But the state “adopted a new, narrower rule” at a new constitutional convention in 1974.”
“Alito’s Ramos dissent also fits into a broader pattern. In multiple cases, including cases where there is clear evidence that modern-day lawmakers acted with invidious racial intentions, Alito treats the mere suggestion that anti-black or anti-brown racism may still play a role in policymaking with contempt.”
“Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts’s race opinions are animated by his belief that any legal acknowledgment of race is odious, regardless of whether the purpose of a race-conscious law is to foster white supremacy or to tear it down. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” Roberts famously wrote in an opinion arguing that two race-conscious plans to desegregate public schools were unconstitutional.
Roberts’s form of color-blindness is often actively hostile to civil rights laws. Hence his decision in that school segregation case, and his later decision in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), which struck down much of the Voting Rights Act.”
“yet, there is daylight between Roberts and Alito. Though Roberts joined Alito’s opinion in Ramos, he did not join Alito’s Ricci concurrence.
nd Roberts broke rather sharply with Alito in a recent dispute about whether the Trump administration could add a question to the 2020 census form that would have discouraged many immigrants from participating in the census. Department of Commerce v. New York (2019) involved the Trump administration’s attempt to add a question to the 2020 census form asking whether each respondent is a US citizen.
The idea of adding a citizenship question to the main census form is opposed by prominent census experts in both parties. As top Census officials from the Reagan and Bush I administration warned, adding such a question “could seriously jeopardize the accuracy of the census,” because “people who are undocumented immigrants may either avoid the census altogether or deliberately misreport themselves as legal residents.”
The Trump administration made the implausible claim that it added this question to help enforce the Voting Rights Act — a statute this administration has shown little interest in enforcing. But, while the New York case was pending before the Supreme Court, leaked documents revealed that the administration may have had a very different motive. A late Republican strategist, Thomas Hofeller, who urged the Trump administration to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census form, had determined that such a question would ”clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”
In any event, a 5-4 Supreme Court struck down the citizenship question, with Roberts coming very close to accusing the Trump administration of lying. The claim that a citizenship question was needed to enforce the Voting Right Act, Roberts concluded, “rested on a pretextual basis.”
Alito began his dissent with characteristic anger at the idea that anyone would dare accuse the Trump administration of racism. In a preview of the sort of rhetoric he later deployed in his Ramos dissent, Alito wrote that “it is a sign of our time that the inclusion of a question about citizenship on the census has become a subject of bitter public controversy and has led to today’s regrettable decision” in the opening paragraph of his New York dissent. For Alito, it was fundamentally wrong to attack “the decision to place such a question on the 2020 census questionnaire … as racist.”
No other justice joined Alito’s dissent.”
“The greatest triumph of Alito’s efforts to write white innocence into the law came in Abbott v. Perez, where Alito wrote the majority opinion.”
” In 2011, Texas’s Republican-controlled legislature drew congressional maps that, as a federal court eventually determined, included some districts that were illegally racially gerrymandered. These maps never took effect, in large part because a different federal court determined that they violated the Voting Rights Act.
That left Texas in a bind. In early 2012, the state still had no lawful maps that it could use in its upcoming congressional elections, and the state’s primaries for these congressional races were just a few months away.
As a stopgap measure, a federal court in Texas drew interim maps that the state could use in its 2012 elections. Many of the districts in these hastily drawn interim maps closely resembled the racially gerrymandered districts drawn by the Texas legislature in 2011. The court, moreover, emphasized that “this interim map is not a final ruling on the merits of any claims” that some parts of the map were illegal racial gerrymanders.
The court, in other words, would allow Texas to use imperfect maps for one election only, given the risk that Texas would not be able to hold an election otherwise. But the court was also equally clear that it might strike down some of the state’s racially gerrymandered districts at a later date.
Nevertheless, in 2013, the Texas legislature passed a new law ratifying these interim maps as its own — including the districts that were still being challenged as racial gerrymanders. And Alito’s Perez opinion held that this new law reenacting the racial gerrymanders should be upheld.
“The primary question” in Perez, according to Alito, “is whether the Texas court erred when it required the State to show that the 2013 Legislature somehow purged the ‘taint’ that the court attributed to the defunct and never-used plans enacted by a prior legislature in 2011.”
According to Alito, courts must apply a strong presumption that lawmakers did not act with racist intent — even under the unusual facts that existed in the Perez case. “Whenever a challenger claims that a state law was enacted with discriminatory intent,” Alito wrote, “the burden of proof lies with the challenger, not the State.”
Having laid out this standard, Alito then swiftly absolved the Texas legislature of any racial guilt. “The only direct evidence brought to our attention suggests that the 2013 Legislature’s intent was legitimate,” Alito wrote in Perez. “It wanted to bring the litigation about the State’s districting plans to an end as expeditiously as possible.”
Alito’s argument, in other words, is that the 2013 maps weren’t enacted to preserve a racial gerrymander; they were enacted to shut down litigation challenging a racial gerrymander. And this distinction is sufficient to cleanse the state legislature of any allegation of racism.
It’s as if the school districts on the losing end of Brown v Board of Education (1954) had passed a new law recreating the same racially segregated schools that were challenged in the Brown litigation, but claimed that these segregated schools should be upheld because the new law had a legitimate purpose — to bring the litigation challenging public school segregation to an end as expeditiously as possible.”
“The common thread animating Alito’s opinions in Ramos, New York, and Perez is that he views allegations of racial animus with extreme skepticism.”
“Alito’s opinion in Ricci v. DeStefano.
Ricci was a difficult case involving the exam that New Haven, Connecticut used to determine which firefighters would be eligible for promotion to lieutenant or captain. The 2003 exam produced significant racial disparities. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg laid out in her Ricci dissent, “the pass rate for African-American candidates was about one-half the rate for Caucasian candidates” on the lieutenant exam, and the “pass rate for Hispanic candidates was even lower.” On the captain exam, “both African-American and Hispanic candidates passed at about half the rate of their Caucasian counterparts.”
These results led to allegations that the test itself was racially biased, and the city eventually decided to disregard the examinations. After a cohort of firefighters who performed well on the exam sued, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to reinstate the tests.
Alito joined the majority, but he also wrote a separate concurring opinion suggesting that the city decided to discard the exams, not because of a good-faith concern that the tests’ disparate impact on racial minorities arose from a flaw in the test, but because of a conspiracy involving the mayor and a prominent local black activist. Alito’s concurring opinion describes, at length, the relationship between then-Mayor John DeStefano and the Reverend Boise Kimber, whom Alito described as “a politically powerful New Haven pastor and a self-professed ‘kingmaker.’”
Alito quotes DeStefano’s former campaign manager, who described Kimber as “very good at organizing people and putting together field operations, as a result of his ties to labor, his prominence in the religious community and his long-standing commitment to roots,” and Alito also claims that “Rev. Kimber adamantly opposed certification of the test results—a fact that he or someone in the Mayor’s office eventually conveyed to the Mayor.”
The implication of Alito’s opinion, in other words, is that the tests were scuttled due to a corrupt bargain between the city mayor and a local black activist that DeStefano needed to turn out votes.
Alito’s concurrence hedges a bit. His ultimate conclusion is that “a reasonable jury” could conclude that the city tossed out the exams due to pressure from Kimber. But Alito’s Ricci opinion shows none of the caution — and certainly none of the anger — that Alito musters when someone suggests that a white policymaker might have been motivated by racism against people of color.
Alito raises his allegations of a racially motivated conspiracy, moreover, despite the fact that there is considerable reason to reject this theory of why the city tossed out the tests. Among other things, as Ginsburg points out in her dissent, “the decision against certification of the exams was made neither by Kimber nor by the mayor and his staff.” Rather, “the relevant decision was made by the [New Haven Civil Service Board], an unelected, politically insulated body.””
“if there were plausible reasons to suspect that invidious racial motives played a role in Ricci, there was far more reason to suspect such motives in Abbott v. Perez. Both cases required judges who were, at the very least, open to the possibility that racial animus tainted the government’s decisions.
Alito is not that judge.”