“The United States of America, of course, was founded with slavery at the core of its socioeconomic system. Conversation about slavery’s foundational role in the US has been reinvigorated by the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, which, as J. Brian Charles wrote for Vox, “marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of African slaves to Virginia” by seeking “to reframe the country’s thinking about slavery and how intertwined the practice of slavery has been in shaping the nation.” (Trump’s “1776 Commission” is meant to allude to the 1619 Project, which Trump has railed against.)
Even after slavery was abolished, Jim Crow laws made Black people second-class citizens in much of the country. Today, Black Americans have to deal with voter suppression efforts aimed at making it difficult to them to vote in areas where their votes threaten Republican control.
This legacy of racism has tangible consequences. Black Americans have lower life expectancies and make less than whites, even adjusted for education. (And adjusting for education is important, because in this area as well Blacks fare worse than whites.)
Black Americans are also far more likely, per capita, to be victims of police violence than White Americans. This disparity in particular became a major topic of public attention this summer as protests erupted following the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and more recently the shooting of Jacob Blake.
But instead of even paying lip service to structural racism, Trump has consistently denied that such a thing exists. In a July interview with CBS, for instance, Trump responded to a straightforward question about why he thinks Black people continue to be killed by police by lashing out — at the questioner.
“And so are white people. So are white people,” Trump said. “What a terrible question to ask.””
“The Senate and Electoral College systematically underweight the votes of people of color — and the judiciary operates directly downstream of those biases. Washington, DC, home to the largest plurality of Black Americans in the country, is excluded entirely from federal representation. The filibuster has historically been used to block or delay anti-lynching laws and civil rights legislation”
“Since 2000, 40 percent of presidential elections have been won by the loser of the popular vote. A 2019 study found that Republicans should be expected to win 65 percent of presidential contests in which they narrowly lose the popular vote, and could potentially win while losing the popular vote by as much as 6 percentage points. And this November, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver calculates that Democratic nominee Joe Biden only has a 6 percent chance of winning the Electoral College if he wins the popular vote by 0 to 1 points, a 22 percent chance if he wins by 1 to 2 points, and less than a 50 percent chance if he wins by 2-3 points.”
“The Senate is even more extreme. In a 2019 Data for Progress analysis, Colin McAuliffe found that the Senate has a 3 percentage point tilt toward Republicans (double the 1.5 percent skew in the Electoral College). And that is probably an understatement — Silver recently calculated that the Senate is “effectively 6 to 7 percentage points redder than the country as a whole.” As my colleague Matt Yglesias points out, in 2014, Republican candidates won 52 percent of the popular Senate vote and gained nine Senate seats; in 2016, Democrats won 54 percent of the vote and gained only two seats; and in 2018, Democrats won 54 percent of the vote and lost two seats.
“Because the president appoints federal judges and the Senate confirms them, these biases are also reflected in the judiciary, where the Trump administration has already filled federal court benches with an unprecedented number of young, highly ideological conservative judges, including two Supreme Court justices.
It’s important to underscore the mechanism that generates and sustains this partisan bias: US political institutions systematically underweight the interests of nonwhite Americans.”
“Analyzing the results of the 2016 presidential election, statisticians Andrew Gelman and Pierre-Antoine Kremp found that “per voter, whites have 16 percent more power than blacks once the Electoral College is taken into consideration, 28 percent more power than Latinos, and 57 percent more power than those who fall into the other category.”
Behind the Senate’s partisan tilt is that it overrepresents people living in small states who tend to be whiter, on average, than people living in larger states. California, which has large Black and brown populations, and Wyoming, a predominantly white state, have equal representation in the Senate, despite the former having over 60 times more people than the latter.”
“this racial skew distorts policy preferences on issues ranging from gun control to the minimum wage to environmental policy. For instance, 48 percent of Americans believe controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting gun rights; however, when you weigh voter preferences as the Senate does — giving equal representation to each state — support for gun control drops a whopping 5 points, to 43 percent.
Why? Because the Senate overweights the preferences of white Americans, who tend to favor gun rights, and underweights the preferences of Black and brown Americans, who tend to favor gun control. By that same mechanism, McAuliffe finds that support for a $15 minimum wage also drops 5 points (from 58 to 53 percent), and a $100 billion yearly investment in green social housing drops 3 points (63 to 60 percent).”
“This is the status quo that Just Democracy’s coalition members aim to change — and they have a few proposals to do so.”
“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.”
“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.”