Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Category: Race Discrimination Page 1 of 3

Op-Ed: Oakland Coliseum Sale

Public Land should not be handed over to a billionaire family without full transparency – especially when selling at a discounted price

Oakland Coliseum Credit: Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group

Municipalities everywhere are grappling with the economic fallout of COVID-19. Oakland is no exception. The city is understandably looking everywhere for ways to fill the budget hole.

But it is gravely concerning that the City Council met behind closed doors last week to hammer out a plan to sell the city’s half of the Oakland Coliseum property to the A’s at the below-market rate of $85 million.

The Coliseum is some of the most valuable land in the entire Bay Area. This public land should not be handed over without full, public deliberation – especially when the sale would be at a discounted price. At a minimum, the city must require that, if the A’s buy the land, they must actually build their stadium at the Coliseum site.

Anything less would be a slap in the face to Oakland residents who do not want their community simply used as a developer’s piggy bank so the team can finance a ballpark and luxury condos on the waterfront or elsewhere. A recent poll found that 62% of us want the A’s to stay and build a new stadium at the Coliseum.

Oakland Always Gets the Short End of the Deal

Among American cities with multiple major-league sports franchises, Oakland has ended up on the short end of the stick more than any other – at least financially speaking. The Raiders were touch-and-go with the city for many years before finally departing for Las Vegas and leaving behind a $65 million tab for Oakland taxpayers. When the Warriors left for San Francisco, they left us on the hook for $40 million in arena improvements.

The A’s have brought home multiple championships to Oakland during their decades in town and have a dedicated fan base here. The City Council should absolutely work to keep the team in Oakland – but not by recklessly giving away millions of taxpayer dollars.

The amount the A’s are offering is far below market value; some are estimating Oakland’s half-interest in the Coliseum site is actually worth as much as $150 million. Having the team buy it to alleviate the city’s financial woes could be a positive move for the city, but only if done right.

In order for this sale to make sense for Oakland, it must include a requirement that the team meet community-driven, minimum-development standards, including a new ballpark at the site to help make up the lost income to the city.

East Oakland Is the Best Option

Unlike the team’s proposed waterfront complex, the Coliseum site requires no additional review, has minimal red tape, offers plentiful public transportation options and sits in a part of Oakland that is long overdue for economic stimulus.

Keeping the A’s in East Oakland and using a new ballpark as a magnet for a fully realized housing, retail and sports complex that benefits the community and those who have stood by the team for so many years is the only thing that makes sense.

As a resident of East Oakland for decades, I have witnessed the glory of sports championships fail to translate to economic growth. After a long history of broken promises to this long-forgotten part of the city, how can residents benefit from more empty words about proposed plans that do not include a new ballpark to anchor revitalization of this community?

It is also critical to recognize that too many jobs at the Port of Oakland, which are primarily held by African American residents and union members, would be lost if the A’s pursue a stadium at the Port of Oakland. It makes no sense to move an economic driver from one neighborhood to a different part of the city – and ruin another economic engine there.

It would be a mistake for the City Council to use the pandemic as an impetus for a rushed backroom deal with no guarantees to this community. We need transparency and equity as well as meaningful contractual requirements to keep the A’s in East Oakland. 

Postscript: If you want to voice your opposition to the backroom sale of public land to billionaire John Fisher, e-mail the Oakland City Council at council@oaklandca.gov.

Warning: A Dark Piece

Body Bag demonstration outside Trump International Hotel in Northwest D.C
Body Bag demonstration outside Trump International Hotel in Northwest D.C
Credit: Yilmaz Akin / Provided by Subminimal

Warning: this is a dark piece in a dark time.

As I think about what to write this morning, I recognize the need to express the shame, horror and fear of this moment. Almost 100,000 people dead from COVID-19. Millions of people have no way to pay for food or rent. Millions of elders are at risk of death or homelessness. Yet, we cling to the shreds of a dying democracy and a fantasy called “getting back to normal.”

The shame is that we as a nation seem oblivious to the tragedy of so many unnecessary deaths in our midst. Part of struggling to stay sane in this season means trying to maintain some sense of normal life for ourselves and our loved ones. I quote my sister often these days: “You have one job – get through the pandemic!”

Our efforts to maintain stability in the midst of obvious chaos make it appear that we are unaffected by the massive death toll. Yet, we are all affected in some way. Truly, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. observed, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

It may be a relative or friend that you know has COVID-19. You may have a loved one who died from COVID-19 or a loved one you fear may die from COVID-19. We are all affected. But to the outside world, it looks like we are insistent on “getting back to normal.” It seems like we are willing to die for “business as usual.” It is only a facade created to make us all feel better while making us all look worse than we are.

Our National Hypocrisy

The New Jersey Veterans Home in Paramus on Wednesday, April 8, 2020
New Jersey Veterans Home, 4/8/20
Credit: Michael Karas / NorthJersey.com / USA Today Networks

The Memorial Day holiday highlights the hypocrisy of the moment. This is a holiday to commemorate those who died while serving in the military. Politicians preen themselves to acknowledge military service on this day. We are all taught to say “thank you” in the presence of veterans. Yet, last week, we learned that a COVID-19 experiment killed at least 26 veterans receiving care at VA medical centers. Others required ventilators to survive at higher rates than veterans who were not administered the death drug. These veterans died too, at the hands of the military.

Ironically, the experimental treatment imposed on these veterans by our government reminds us of the tragedy of the Tuskegee experiment. From 1940 to 1972, a government study left 399 Black men with untreated syphilis. The government did not tell the men they were being used as guinea pigs. Even when doctors recognized penicillin was an effective treatment in 1945, the “study” continued for another 27 years.

We Are All Expendable

What COVID-19 exposes in America is that we are all expendable. That includes veterans in hospitals, in prisons and without homes. At least 8-10% of those imprisoned in this country are military veterans. One 2012 study found the mortality risk for veterans released from prison is 12 times higher than the general population. No doubt the mortality rates for all returning citizens in the post-COVID-19 season will skyrocket. There is no protection from COVID-19 in prison. As clergy woman Melissa Cedillo notes, “The American prison system today is a new iteration of this long-standing white supremacist goal —  to control and dehumanize people of color, the impoverished, the marginalized.

Outside of prison, COVID-19 is killing Black people at three times the rate of white people. And as Dr. Fauci notes, this is not “news” and there is nothing we can do about it in this moment.

In fact, we are all expendable: veterans, nurses, health care workers, domestic workers, gig workers, low-wage workers, small business owners, homeless people, incarcerated people, Black people, Latinos and Native Americans, all of us. Indeed, in January 2019, according to Forbes magazine, 78% of all American workers were living “paycheck-to-paycheck.” That was last year, before the pandemic hit us. Now, for at least 40 million people, there is no paycheck. No health insurance. No savings, only student loans, enormous medical bills or credit card debt.

A Dark Piece

I warned you – this is a dark piece. This is bearing witness to the collapse of an economic system coming apart at the seams. A democracy that has succumbed to celebrity fascism. A failing education system erected on inequity based on race and social status. Suddenly, the rest of the world considers America “a shithole country.” As writer Marley K. points out:

“America is the rich nation where people can starve to death, children can sleep in cars and no one is bothered by it, where citizens get sick and can’t afford to get well, and where people who work all their lives can’t afford to grow old and die in peace.”

 U.S. Postal Service worker in Los Angeles, California
 U.S. Postal Service worker in Los Angeles, California
Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

We face the closure of the Post office, a national institution since 1775 and a place of employment for Black people since the end of slavery. According to writer umair haque, we have actually become “too poor” to save ourselves. And we are still only at the beginning of the pandemic. With states rushing to “re-open” the economy, the death toll will only rise. We are simply not seeing the body bags that were widely displayed on television during the Vietnam War. But people are in fact dying: 100,000 people so far to be precise.

Who Will Make The Change?

We already have the answers. We already know what must be done. It starts with Medicare for All. We must have a guaranteed basic income for all. We must have a Green New Deal. It is up to us to destroy the “inherently unequal” school system that Thurgood Marshall challenged and start over. We must end mass incarceration and dismantle our criminal injustice system. This pandemic must result in a fundamental re-ordering of our priorities and how we pay for them. The question is who among us will be alive to make it happen.

Like I said: “You have one job – get through the pandemic!”

I Feel Like Going On

“Though trials may come on every hand, I feel like going on.” Marvin Winans

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. with compatriots at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. with compatriots at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. August 28, 1963. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

This was a rough week. It started on Saturday, April 4th as I remember the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. That awful night in Memphis traumatized the entire country. It was such a game-changer for me personally. Yet, here we are, some 52 years later and barely a mention of the event that shook America to its core. It seems that the pandemic “trumps” everything.

Fast forward to April 8, 2020 – a day that will live in infamy for me and so many others. The day that Bernie Sanders “suspended” his campaign for the U.S. Presidency.

The end of Bernie Sanders’ campaign marks a sobering reality. The American economy is in shambles. The federal government is under the control of the tangerine reincarnation of Hitler and the federal bench is infested with far-right-wing fanatics appointed for life. For me, the inescapable reality is that the “beloved community” that Dr. King preached about will not come to pass in my lifetime.

It is a sobering thought. Not in my lifetime.

Dr. King’s words from his final sermon on April 3, 1968 rang in my ears all day on April 8, 2020:

“I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”

Not in my lifetime.

Biden Is Not Bernie

Even if Joe Biden can hold it together until the election (not a certainty), he seems almost certain to wither under Heir Trump’s blistering attacks. Biden has already promised to veto Medicare for All. He makes this pledge at a time when Black people are dying at three times the rate from COVID-19 than other races. The racial disparities that have always been a matter of life or death for Black folks will continue to flourish in a Biden presidency.

For me, the urgency of a Bernie Sanders presidency was exactly the urgency to address the health gap, the wealth gap, and the justice gap that is the reality for far too many Americans and particularly Black people. These are not issues that Joe Biden has pledged to address. Nor does he even appear capable of addressing.

It is well known that Black women in America are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women. That well-known fact is perfectly ok in Trump’s America and it will continue to be so in Biden’s America.

On the day I heard the bad Bernie news, I was already enraged by reports that Black Americans are dying from COVID-19 at catastrophic rates compared to our percentage of the population and other races. In March 1966, at the convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) in Chicago, Dr. King noted that “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.”

Dr. King would be devastated by what is going on in Chicago today, and reflected across this country. Death is the most “brutal consequence” of racialized injustice.

Painful Brutal Consequence

Racial differences in health care, particularly the treatment of cancer, is very personal to me.

In 2012, my Dad died at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati Ohio from small cell lung cancer. The treatment and care he received at Jewish Hospital was painfully substandard.

We got the lung cancer diagnosis on a Friday and he died four (4) days later on Tuesday. He was never transferred or treated in the oncology unit. They said they did not have enough beds. The IV medication was applied sparingly during the last four days of his life. We were not given proper instructions on how to use the respirator and hence, we did not use it while he desperately struggled to breathe the entire last weekend of his life. In the minutes before his heart stopped, they couldn’t get the dialysis machine to work. In the meantime, the deadly toxins stimulated by the chemotherapy treatment they gave him exploded in his blood.

As his kidneys failed and the cancer took his life away, I watched helplessly as the nurse struggled (unsuccessfully) to make the dialysis machine work. My father was not a priority that day and he died.

“I Feel Like Going On”

I admit, after fighting for civil rights for more than 50 years, I’m tired. I’m frustrated by the America that writes a bad stimulus check to Black folks over and over again. I’m angered by politicians that make false promises to get our votes and then runnnn back to the comfortable lily white world where they live. I am outraged by those who turn a blind eye to poverty, homelessness and injustice.

Still, I feel like going on. I know that this pandemic will end. I don’t know when it will end. Don’t know how. We know that when America gets a cold, Black folks get pneumonia. But this too shall pass. I know that. And today, I feel like going on.

You see, the history of Black people in America has given us tenacity, resilience, courage in the darkest hour, faith in God and hope for tomorrow. We are the survivors of the Middle Passage. My people were “built for slavery and killt for bravery.” And we’re still here.

Even knowing that the beloved community will not likely come to pass in my lifetime. I won’t get there with you. But I feel like going on.

Bishop Marvin Winans Sings “I Feel Like Going On”

A Luta Continua.

COVID-19 Alert: ILWU Protects Us

ILWU Local 10 President Trent Willis and his members fighting COVID-19
ILWU Local 10 President Trent Willis and his members

Oakland is in a crisis. This is a COVID-19 Alert! The ILWU (International Longshoreman & Workers Union) Local 10 has sounded the alarm again!

Last week, ILWU Locals 10 and 34 stopped the owners of the Grand Princess cruise ship from off-loading COVID-19 contaminated waste into Oakland. The ILWU is also insisting that the companies profiting off of their labor and our land at the Port of Oakland take necessary steps to protect the workers at the Port and our community. 

The longshoreman and port workers are on the front lines of our national transportation network. At the same time, they are our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. Most of them live in this community. If they are exposed to the coronavirus, they will carry the virus into the community. 

What Do They Want?

What the ILWU is asking is really simple:   

Disinfect their worksite: the equipment, work areas, terminal bathrooms, mechanic shops, tools, machines, turnstiles, gates and every place they work on the Port. 

Some of the companies that use our Port are refusing to properly disinfect the worksite. We know in the face of this highly contagious virus, employers as well employees have to take extra steps to stop the spread. But the workers are simply not equipped to disinfect the entire worksite. And it’s not their responsibility. The responsibility is on the employer. 

By taking a strident and firm stand against working in a contaminated environment and sounding the alarm on management, the ILWU protects us – the entire Bay Area – from a higher risk of infection with COVID-19.

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) represents the companies operating at the Port of Oakland. We need to contact PMA, Port officials and Assemblymember Rob Bonta to demand that the companies do their part to protect our community. 

Who You Going to Call?

Dan Kaney is the Northern California Area Managing Director for PMA. Call him at 510-891-4628 or e-mail: dkaney@pmanet.org.

Danny Wan is the Executive Director for the Port of Oakland. Call him at 510-627-1100 or e-mail: https://www.portofoakland.com/people/danny-wan.

John Driscoll is the Maritime Director for the Port of Oakland. Call him at 510-627-1243 or e-mail: https://www.portofoakland.com/people/john-c-driscoll-maritime-director. 

Amy Tharpe is the Director of Social Responsibility for the Port of Oakland. Call her at 510-627-1302 or e-mail: https://www.portofoakland.com/people/amy-tharpe-director-social-responsibility.

The Port is located in Hon. Rob Bonta‘s Assembly District (AD18). His District Director is Tonya Love. Call her at 510-286-1670 or e-mail: Tonya.love@asm.ca.gov.

COVID-19 Alert: the ILWU Protects Us!

It is still true that we know so little about the disease. What we do know is more people will get infected and too many will not survive if we force people to work in areas infected by the coronavirus without protection. 

This is a preventable public health crisis happening in our community right now. We may not be able to get out the house but we can still call or e-mail. Make the call asap. Send an e-mail. Let’s support the people who are working hard to protect us. 

Mayor Pete Is Not the One

Alfred E. Neumann for President, Mad Magazine (December 1956) bears uncanny resemblance to South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete.
Alfred E. Neuman for President, Mad Magazine, December 1956

In 2019, the number of people running for President was overwhelming. The running joke of any politician was “I’m not running for President.” Of all the candidates who survived 2019, Mayor Pete is not The One.

First, let me disclose. I am an ardent supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders. I committed early to support Sen. Sanders because I believe that he is the person in the presidential race whose agenda is most closely aligned with the values of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Now let me speak my truth.

A Double Standard

Mayor Pete is the Mayor of South Bend Indiana. South Bend is an American city with a population of roughly 100,000 people. He was elected as Mayor for a second term in November 2015. Voter turnout was a low 14%. Mayor Pete was elected with a whopping total of 8,515 votes.

Compare Mayor Pete’s victory with the recent wins of Black women Mayors. In 2019, there were only 5 Black women Mayors in cities with a population of over 500,000.00. Topping the list is Lori Lightfoot, who was elected Chicago Mayor with 364,965 votes. The remaining four big City Black women Mayors include London Breed in San Francisco, Vi Lyles in Charlotte, NC, Muriel Bowser in DC, and Catherine Pugh in Baltimore. Breed won in the hotly contested 2018 special election with 89,580 votes. She won in the 2019 general election with 125,200 votes. Vi Lyles won her first race for Mayor in 2017 with 72,073 votes. Murial Bowser was elected to her first term as DC Mayor in 2014 with 96,666 votes. Catherine Pugh won her election in 2016 with 134,848 votes.

The next 4 Black women Mayors of major cities with populations of way more than 100,000 people include Atlanta (Keisha Lance Bottoms), New Orleans (Latoya Cantrell), Baton Rouge (Sharon Weston Broome) and Rochester (Lovely Warren). My point is, had any one of these accomplished Black women jumped up and announced she was running for President, she would not have made it past the first round of the Democratic Party chopping block. And we would still be laughing.

When placed in the context of women Mayors of color, Mayor Pete’s candidacy is an outright insult to Black women. But wait, there’s more.

Buttigieg: “I’m Not Asking For Your Vote”

Mayor Pete’s tenure as Mayor of South Bend since 2011 has been a disaster for Black folks there. According to a 2017 city study, two in five African Americans in South Bend live below the poverty line, which is almost double the national poverty rate for African American households. In a city that’s 27% black and 15% Latino, 90% of South Bend’s police officers are white.

Tiana Batiste Waddell speaks during a meeting with police and Mayor Pete.
Photograph: Robert Franklin/AP

In June 2019, on Father’s Day, a white policeman shot and killed 56-year-old Eric Logan. The officer claims that Mr. Logan attacked him with a knife but the officer did not turn on his bodycam. The family says Mr. Logan had no history of violence or thievery and he did not match the description of the suspect. A lawsuit is pending.

In August 2016, in a case of mistaken identity, South Bend officers burst into the home of a Black family, beat 17-year-old DeShawn Franklin out of his bed and tased him with a stun gun. Police went to the wrong house and mistook DeShawn for a domestic battery suspect. A federal jury found the police had violated DeShawn’s constitutional rights, but only awarded DeShawn and his parents $18.00 in damages. The lawyer who represented the family was expected to pay the City’s legal fees.

An exchange with Mayor Pete and Black activists in South Bend protesting Eric Logan’s murder says it all. In a video that went viral on Twitter last summer, Mayor Pete makes the arrogant statement “I’m not asking for your vote.” The quick response from a Black woman is “You ain’t gonna get it either.” Please check out the video.

Buttigieg Cannot Win Without Black Voters

In a January 2020 poll of Black voters, Mayor Pete holds steady at 3%. That same poll shows him with a strongly favorable rating of only 6% among all the Democratic candidates. Only Amy Klobuchar scored lower on that measure with 4%.

Nonetheless, if Mayor Pete thinks he can win the nomination or the Presidency without significant support from Black voters, then he is really stupid. Or racist. Or both?

Mayor Pete’s donor base of affluent white gay men laid the foundation for him to run his race. His wealthy LGBT backers come from Hollywood, Wall Street, Silicon Valley and other industries, as well as the political elites, many of them billionaires. His campaign stayed alive in 2020 when more seasoned political players like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker could not.

Still, the most reliable voters in the Democratic Party are Black women. And quite frankly, some of us think it’s absolutely ridiculous that Mayor Pete thinks he can actually be our President. In the words of one wise girlfriend, “honey, this is no time for new booty.”

Will somebody please tell Mayor Pete that he is not “The One.”

Kamala Is Not “The One”

Sen. Kamala Harris Illustration
Illustration by Tyler Comrie; Source Photograph by Al Drago / Getty

This is a love letter to Black women: Kamala is Not “The One.”

Many Black women across the US are quite disturbed in the days since Kamala Harris dropped out of the Presidential race. Some Black women are even devastated by her decision. Others are crying “foul” and shame on the Democratic Party. I’m writing to you because your anguished despair about Kamala troubles me.

I am a Black woman who has been on the front lines of the fight for civil and human rights for more than 50 years. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a strident advocate for the leadership of Black women. I know how transformative our leadership can be. My favorite hashtag is #BlackWomenLead.

Full Disclosure

First, let me disclose. I am an ardent supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders. I committed early to support Sen. Sanders because I believe that he is the person in the presidential race whose agenda is most closely aligned with the values of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

Second, once upon a time, a long time ago, I supported Kamala Harris. I “maxed out” financially in the primary for her first Senate race. We were all so excited about electing a Black woman to the US Senate. And, when she ran for California Attorney General, some of my closest friends told me they felt that Kamala was “The One.”

As the Political Director for a local chapter of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and a member of the statewide BWOPA Board, I helped raise tens of thousands of dollars to elect Kamala to the Senate. Our statewide President, Dezie Woods-Jones, declared early that we would support Kamala and raise money for her. And if you know Dezie who is a force of nature herself, you do not tell Dezie “No.”

I did, however, share with Dezie and my BWOPA sisters, that I had serious misgivings about Kamala. And I had to defend my decision to support Kamala with those who knew that she had even then, betrayed us as Attorney General.

The Betrayal of Black Women

In California politics, with very few exceptions, Kamala has not supported progressive Black women running for office. In 2017 and again, in 2019, we fought to elect Kimberly Ellis as the Chairwoman of the California Democratic Party. Kamala did not support Kimberly Ellis in 2017 or 2019.

In 2018, 2 Black women ran for Oakland Mayor. Kamala did not support either one of us. In the 2018 race for Assembly District 15 to represent Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and West Contra Costa County, there were 3 Black women running for State Assembly. Kamala did not support any of them. As a result, today, there are no Black representatives from the Bay Area in the California Legislature.

In three local races in 2018, Oakland Mayor, Assembly District 15 and Alameda County District Attorney, Kamala provided major support for all of the white women who won.

Kamala Supported Racist Prosecutions

Kamala’s prominent support for the incumbent Alameda County DA in 2018 is the most shocking. The incumbent DA’s record on racially-biased prosecutions is abysmal. I ran for DA in response to the complete lack of police accountability and the glaring racial injustices that have devastated Alameda County for decades. The racial disparities in arrests and prosecutions for both adults and juveniles, in Oakland, in particular, are well documented.

The white woman who was re-elected has never been held to account for her old-school “good ole boy” brand of justice. She supports money bail, rejects gun violence reduction strategies, endorses Republicans and refuses to investigate or prosecute corrupt cops. Kamala did not ever respond to our requests for a meeting. According to BWOPA President Dezie, Kamala did not even return her calls.

Kamala’s Silence Is Complicity

Former California Senator Holly Mitchell is the most powerful compassionate inspiring Black woman to grace the California Legislature in decades. For more than a decade, Sen. Mitchell worked tirelessly with civil and human rights advocates to heal and restore our communities from the devastation caused by our racist and broken criminal justice system. Kamala Harris was silent on most of the groundbreaking criminal justice legislation sponsored by Sen. Mitchell. While Senator Holly Mitchell fought like a champion to repeal California’s unjust criminal penalty laws, Kamala stood silently on the sidelines.

In 2015, when Assemblymember Kevin McCarthy introduced AB86, a bill to make California the first state in the nation to have its top law enforcement officer independently investigate deaths in police custody, Kamala actually opposed the legislation. Under the plan, the state attorney general would appoint a special prosecutor to direct an investigation whenever the police kill a civilian. Several other states, including New York, have since adopted this policy.

Gwen Woods, Mother of Mario Woods
Gwen Woods, mother of Mario Woods. Credit: ABC News

In 2016, the Black community in San Francisco was incensed about a series of police killings of unarmed Black and Brown residents, including Mario Woods. In a series of community meetings, Kamala’s most loyal supporters called upon her to do exactly what AB86 called for – convene an independent investigation of the Woods shooting. Kamala rejected their appeals and stood by silently on the sidelines of the controversy. I shall never forget my complete shock when I learned that Kamala refused to meet with Gwen Woods, Mario Woods‘ mother.

Kamala Did Not Support Sexual Assault Survivors

From 2003 to 2016, I represented dozens of women employees in the California Department of Corrections sexually harassed at work. In one case with 10 women, two of my co-counsel were staunch Kamala supporters. When Kamala became Attorney General (with our help), my co-counsel thought Kamala would stand up for our clients. She did not. We had our clients write to her directly describing their pain and injuries. Kamala turned their letters over to the lawyers in her office defending the case. Those lawyers used the letters to ridicule our clients.

By 2015, three of those cases had been dismissed and one of our clients had committed suicide. We settled most of the remaining cases in 2015 for almost $2.8 million. The estate of Judy Longo – the woman who committed suicide – received a mere $250,000, largely because Judy was not alive to say what happened to her. The lead plaintiff Martha Berndt lost her case at trial. The case was weakened by the passage of time (13 years) and our assignment to an incredibly sexist trial judge. Kamala stood by silently as these brave women suffered years of unnecessary and cruel litigation.

In August 2016, a coalition of community organizations that I worked with called upon Kamala to convene an independent investigation of the Bay Area police sex trafficking ring. Seven (7) law enforcement agencies were implicated in sex trafficking of a minor. When the young woman at the center of the police misconduct was spirited away in the dead of night by the Richmond Police to Florida and incarcerated on felony charges there, Kamala rejected our appeals to get involved. Later, as criminal cases against the police sexual predators were either never brought or quickly dismissed, Kamala stood by silently.

Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton
Sen. Kamala Harris Dubbed “Hillary 2.0” Credit: Washington Examiner

Her Campaign Was Not Well-Conceived

When Kamala Harris entered the presidential race, she certainly assumed that all Black women would support her. She thought we would forget the many times she betrayed us. When Kamala hired Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff to work in her Senate office in 2017, she likely believed that Hillary’s supporters would flock to her. She did not anticipate that many of the white women who supported Hillary would abandon her to support Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Kamala’s calculation that voters and donors would choose her, a first term junior senator, over her more seasoned and senior Senate colleagues, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (12 years), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (12 years), Sen. Cory Booker (6 years) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (6 years) was obviously a huge miscalculation.

Kamala Is Not “The One”

This is a love letter to Black women. Kamala Harris Is Not “The One.” Especially for my sisters and brothers who are in despair because Kamala withdrew from the presidential race, please know that Kamala Harris was not with us nor for us. It is critical that we learn to “watch what they do, not what they say.”

I hope I live to see the first Black woman President. I know that she will be a woman with the courage of her convictions and the compassion of a queen. #BlackWomenLead

What About the POA?

San Francisco District Attorney Elect Chesa Boudin
San Francisco District Attorney Elect Chesa Boudin (Credit: Chesa4DA Campaign)

In the wake of the much-celebrated victory of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, the question arose “what about the POA?”

San Francisco Police Officers Association (POA) Logo
The SF POA spent $700,000 in the SF DA race

Most people, unfortunately, don’t even know what “the POA” is. POA stands for Police Officers Association. Every American city, county and state has one, whether it be city police, county sheriff or state correctional officers.

It’s a union. Technically, as a union, it is formed to advocate for better working conditions and pay for its members. In the real world, however, POAs have taken a more sinister role to control the politicians elected to govern our cities, counties and states. POAs are really political action committees that spend millions of dollars every year to influence elections.

The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) is a coalition of police unions and associations from across the United States organized for the purpose of advancing the interests of America’s law enforcement officers through legislative advocacy, political action and education.” NAPO supports its member organizations across the country.

Holding the Line Against Reform

Predictably, these police associations lead the resistance to criminal justice reform, bail reform, decriminalizing marijuana and anything else. So, when the SF POA spent $700,000 in a local election, no one should be surprised. Phil Matier reports that “much of the $700,000 spent by the San Francisco Police Officers Association against progressive district attorney candidate Chesa Boudin came from out of town, even out of state.”

Elections are when the POAs take off the gloves and step out from the cover of secrecy. They have no problem being in the light to attack a politician they don’t like. What we have to remember, however, is that after the election, they are still there. Some slink back into the darkness to watch and wait for the next attack. They sometimes politely (and quietly) threaten elected officials with whom they disagree. And even without the express threat, most politicians are wary of offending the POA.

SF POA is different – they’re special. They stay on the attack. Even when the previous District Attorney George Gascon was not running for office or did not have an opponent, the SF POA bought radio ads to attack him. We should presume that it will attack Chesa as he gets into the business of reforming the DA’s office. Openly and viciously. Even though their election strategy backfired, the smear tactic of fear and lies usually works, so it’s still in their playbook.

The Benefit of the Battle

In SF, the POA lost the battle for SF DA. One benefit of the battle, however, is that the POA was exposed in the light of day – for all to see. This represents an opportunity for progressives everywhere to highlight the role that the POA plays in every community. In every city, county and state, the POAs band together to reinforce repressive and racist policies that undermine the fabric of the community. In every progressive challenge to the status quo, not just a District Attorney race, look for the POA to have a hand in fighting back and holding the line.

For example, the National Police Association states it has “a mission of combating the influence of anti-police activists and helping to hold them accountable.” It “use[s] the law as a method to highlight abuses by antipolice elected officials, change behavior, and seek corrective action.” One example of its work in 2018 was to request an investigation of San Jose’s independent police auditor. NPA directly challenged the auditor’s “fitness” to serve in his appointed role.

We all know that knowledge is power. So, we need to make sure that everyone knows how the POA uses its power in the shadows. They defend corrupt cops and threaten elected officials. They are both well organized and extremely well-funded. Their goal is to maintain the infrastructure of mass incarceration at all costs. The POA is clear in its mission. Progressives need to be just as clear about the POA.

The Record Player Answer

Joe Biden at the Democratic Debate delivers the record player answer
Joe Biden at the Democratic Debate, September 12, 2019. Credit: ABC News/Screenshot

There are so many things wrong with Joe Biden’s record player answer, I hardly know where to begin. But I am a trial lawyer. So when I hear a strange answer, my first response is check what was the question. So, here’s the actual question:

“But as you stand here tonight, what responsibility do you think Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?”

Again, I’m a trial lawyer. So, there are 4 correct answers to any question:
“Yes,”
“No,”
“I don’t know,”
“I don’t remember.”

Biden did not pick one of those 4 answers. He could easily have said, “Yes, I think Americans need to take responsibility to repair the legacy of slavery and here’s what I think we need to do.” Or “No, I don’t think Americans need to take responsibility to repair the legacy of slavery. And let me tell you why not.” Instead, he started rambling.

This Is What He Said

Well, they have to deal with the — look, there’s institutional segregation in this country. From the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Redlining banks, making sure we are in a position where — look, you talk about education. I propose that what we take is those very poor schools, the Title I schools, triple the amount of money we spend from 15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise, the equal raise to getting out – the $60,000 level.

Number two, make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need – we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy.

The teachers are – I’m married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. We have – make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not day care. School.

We bring social workers into homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help. They don’t – they don’t know quite what to do.

Play the radio, make sure the television – excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the – the – make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school – a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.

How Did He Ever Get There?

So, he started with institutional segregation and ended with shaming Black families for not knowing “quite what to do” when it comes to raising children.

Now, I’m the first to acknowledge raising kids is hard, for some of us the hardest thing we’ve ever done. Every gray hair on my head has nothing to do with trying cases for 30 years – I owe them all to raising my own daughter Malika.

I’m also clear, however, that the challenge to raise independent productive and kind children has little to do with your race, class or education. Indeed, suicide rates for young people in America are soaring in recent years. And, how many mass shootings in the last 30 years in America have been carried out by Black teens? To my knowledge, the mass school shooters are almost uniformly white male teenagers. Most of them came from so-called “good homes” which is code for straight white married parents.

But I digress. The point is that Biden’s answer is not even remotely responsive to the question. It sounds like “Black lives are still undermined by the legacy of slavery because they don’t know quite how to raise their kids.” That’s both stupid and insulting.

The question, again, is what responsibility do Americans bear, not Black people. While most commentators focused on “the record player answer,” woke Black folks heard the implicit bias and victim-blaming.

The Legacy of Slavery

News alert Mr. Biden: Black people are not responsible for America’s racism.

Black people are responsible for the incredible wealth that America enjoys today. 250 years of free slave labor, another 100+ years of extreme exploitation of labor, and the last 50 years of second-class citizenship (being locked out of equal access to education, affordable housing, health care, high-paying jobs) has all helped white Americans tremendously. Everything Black people have achieved in America came at a premium. In the last 100 years, we paid more for loans, housing, transportation, food, health insurance, health care, education, you name it.

On the flip side of that same coin, in the past 400 years, whites have enjoyed what we refer to today as “white privilege.” Starting with the Land Act of 1820 which made it possible for settlers to move west and south through the 1950s, whites received massive government subsidies for housing, transportation, health care and education.

Whites enjoy preferential treatment in the enforcement of the law and the administration of justice. This fundamental principle is embedded in the pillars of the justice system. White privilege is reflected in the arrests, charging, prosecution and incarceration of Black people everyday in every state, county and community in America.

Joe Biden either doesn’t know our history or he doesn’t really care to address it. Maybe he really does not understand what is now commonly referred to as “the wealth gap.” The fact that an average white family has 41 times more wealth than the average Black family, that 72% of while familes own their homes compared to just 44% of Black families, and the average white worker earns 30% more than the average Black worker – did not just happen overnight or by happenstance.

The Record Player Answer?

Biden could have at least tried to be consistent. He could have repeated his statement from 1975 (which was the preface to the question):

“I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather, I feel responsible for what the situation is today for sins of my own generation and I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.”

But it’s no longer “politically correct” to shield oneself with the mantle of white privilege. To be fair, a recurring theme in Barack Obama’s major speeches on race as President was the “moral shortcomings” of the Black family. In his work “The Black Presidency,” author Michael Eric Dyson calls out this message in the few times that Obama talked to the nation on race in America. (See Chapter 6, “Dying to Speak of Race”.)

Perhaps Joe Biden “helped” Obama write those speeches. I don’t know. What I do know is that just like Black people should not tolerate “victim blaming” by Obama or before him, Bill Cosby, we damn sure should not tolerate it from Joe Biden.

It’s also simply not acceptable to equate poverty with Black people. Even Black people who have been financially or professionally successful still experience the demeaning face of racism daily. Black people are disproportionately poor due to America’s racism. But poverty is endemic to capitalism in America. Income inequality between the wealthiest 1% of the country and the rest of us (the 99%) has increased dramatically in recent years. This national crisis was highlighted in the Occupy Movement in 2011 while Joe Biden was Vice President.

Biden’s assumption that the only poor people in this country are Black people is an antiquated view of our current situation, consistent with someone who thinks we still have record players.

The question is “what responsibility do you think Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?” The record player answer does not even come close to looking like an analysis of the problem. Joe Biden needs to study the history of racism in America and the continuing inequities (including those he fostered), then try to answer the question. Until he does that, Black folks in particular would be wise to consider the alternatives.

As Maya Angelou taught us, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Who’s Killing Us?

Who's Killing Us? Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Protest, Parkland, Florida 2018
Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Who’s Killing Us? No this is not a song. It’s a serious question that we need to answer in America. More importantly, we need to admit that too many people are being killed in America by guns.

The news this week is the same news we heard last week. The same insane incessant scourge of gun violence overwhelms us. The same “thoughts and prayers” that were issued by legislators around the country last week are re-issued this week. To a different family. To a different grieving community. To the same shocked nation.

Too Many Guns

Across this country, legal and illegal guns are everywhere. Despite efforts to regulate access to guns, the situation has gotten completely out of hand. Increased criminal penalties and harsh sentences have had no impact whatsoever on the access to guns or the number of people killed by guns.

According to one 2012 study, Americans own at least 270 million guns. The second gun-ranking country, India, a country over three times our population, only has 46 million guns. And, the vast majority of the world’s countries have fewer than 10 million privately-owned guns. This disparity is based on the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The devastation to our country because of this law should compel us to take bold action to address our national crisis.

Too many lives are lost, in schools, in our homes and on the street. There are so many preventable deaths that only happen because there is a gun available. In fact, there are always way more gun suicides than gun homicides in America. In 2012, 64% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides. 22,938 people committed suicide with a gun in 2016, while 14,415 people died in gun homicides. We broke a record in the number of deaths by gun in 2017, and two-thirds of those who died were by suicide.

A March 2016 study in the American Journal of Medicine found that 90% of all women, 91% of children under 14, 92% of young people from 15 to 24 years, and 82% of all people killed by firearms in the world were in the United States.

Who’s Killing Us?

We wake up every day to another mass shooting. The face of death by gun knows no boundaries of age, race, sex or religion. Our senses have been shocked over and over again since the Columbine High School shootings in April 1999. Over the last 20 years, we have watched this type of random mass shooting increase in frequency. The number of lives lost in each incident is completely unpredictable.

In December 2012, a gunman murders 27 people – including 20 six and seven year olds – at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A gunman kills 49 people at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in June 2016. Another gunman kills 58 people at a concert on the Las Vegas strip in October 2017.

Who's Killing Us? Nine victims killed at Emanuel AME Church
Nine victims shot & killed inside Emanuel AME Church, June 2015

Racially motivated attacks have become commonplace as well. In June 2015, a white man wanting to start “a race war” kills 9 Black people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In October 2018, a man expressing hatred for Jews kills 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The shocking attack in El Paso, Texas this month was the latest one.

#EnoughIsEnough

Who's Killing Us? Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School parents
Parents wait for news after shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

On Valentine’s Day 2018, a gunman kills 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This one woke up young people across the country. #EnoughIsEnough. They took on the National Rifle Association (NRA) with fierce energy. Their attack on the influence of the NRA in the political and media world left that organization reeling.

Watching the young activists who survived the Parkland massacre step up and demand an end to gun violence in America was inspiring. They courageously rejected the stupidest idea that we should arm teachers as a solution to the problem. They have been uncompromising in their insistence that we stop the violence now.

For more than 20 years, Congress prohibited the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from conducting any research on gun violence in America. It was NRA pressure that led to the restriction on research. The CDC interpreted the ban to include all research on gun violence prevention, and so has not funded any research on this subject since 1996. In April, however, a Congressional committee allocated $50 million dollars to study ways to prevent gun violence, giving $25 million to the CDC.

Every 16 Hours

A recent study found that “intimate partner homicides ― when a person murders their spouse or romantic partner ― increased each year between 2014 and 2017.” The reason: guns. The study found that since 2010, intimate partner homicides by gun increased 26% while the murder of women by other means has decreased. According to one estimate, a woman is fatally shot by her boyfriend, husband or ex every 16 hours.

Who's Killing Us? 6-year-old Millie Drew Kelly killed by her 4-year old brother
6-year-old Millie Drew Kelly killed by her 4-year old brother

Our children are also suffering from both legal and illegal guns. On April 11, 2019, 6-year old Millie Drew Kelly died after her 4-year-old brother accidentally shot her in the head. This kind of tragedy is a regularly re-ocurring event in America. In December 2018, a 6-year-old girl in Missouri dies after her 12-year-old brother accidentally shot her in the head. October 2018, in Virginia, a 7-year-old boy finds his grandfather’s gun and accidentally shoots his 5-year-old sister. March 2018 – an 8-year-old in Ohio loads a .22-caliber rifle and opens fire on his 4-year old sister. She miraculously survives.

Who's Killing Us? 4-year old Na'Vaun Jackson accidentally shot in head
4-year old Na’Vaun Jackson. Credit: Ramon Price

In Oakland, 4-year-old Na’Vaun Jackson accidentally shoots himself in the head when he finds a gun in the house. Although Na’Vaun survived, his family and the entire neighborhood are traumatized.

Repeal the Second Amendment

In this moment, we are having a national conversation about gun violence and gun control. Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called for “the simple but dramatic action” of repealing the Second Amendment. He argues that will move us closer to stopping gun violence than any other possible reform.

It is long past time to repeal the Second Amendment. Repeal will remove the legal justifications that have thwarted every gun control measure ever proposed.

The Second Amendment is part of the Constitution as a compromise to protect the slave patrols in the South. The Founders knew the militias were necessary to keep slaves under control. Just like we abolished slavery, we need to abolish the Second Amendment. It is a vestige of our history, just like Jim Crow and mass incarceration, that is still killing us.

So, who’s killing us? It seems that we are all playing “russian roulette” with guns in America. Today, it’s Walmart. Tomorrow, it could be Safeway. Until we collectively decide that #EnoughIsEnough, our racist past will undermine our future. Once again, I say it is past time to Repeal No. 2.

Celebrity Fascism in America

I am so not impressed with news people and pundits coming forward lately to condemn Donald Trump. I’m trying to figure out where have they been? Were they in America in 1989 when Trump insisted that the innocent Central Park 5 should be put to death?

Trump’s 1989 Ad in the New York Daily News
Credit: Photograph: NY Daily News Archive

Were they in America in 2008 when Trump insisted that President Barack Obama was not an American-born citizen? Where were they in 2016 when he attacked Sen. John McCain? Where were they when he signed an Executive Order banning Muslims from entering the country?

The Media Embraced Trump

Yes, they were here. In fact, it was the media that gave Donald Trump his celebrity status as a Presidential contender. They turned Donald Trump into “just another candidate.” Trump was someone they knew – a television celebrity. The media respects Trump, much like Roger Ailes (his good friend) or Harvey Weinstein. According to writer Will Bunch, one study found that in 2015, Trump’s total airtime on network TV was 234 minutes. Compare that to just 10 minutes for Bernie Sanders. All the while, mainstream media maintained that Trump is not a fascist, and fascism could never happen here.

Yet, here we are. Not without warning. There were numerous writers who called the Donald out as an American-made celebrity fascist. For example, in July 2016, in the New Yorker Magazine, Adam Goplik pointed out that:

““Trump is unstable, a liar, narcissistic, contemptuous of the basic norms of political life, and deeply embedded among the most paranoid and irrational of conspiracy theorists. . . . he came to politics as a racist, a proponent of birtherism.”

We All Knew He Was A Celebrity Fascist

I can hardly believe that anyone else really, genuinely did not know that Trump has “a scheming mind, attuned very well to the ways in which hatred and intolerance can be manipulated.” His advocacy against the Central Park 5, his shrill birtherism slurs against Barack Obama were mere precursors to his recent attacks on the Squad and Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Indeed, people in New York were not under any illusions about who and what Trump is. In the past week, government officials around the world have acknowledged that they are not under any illusions about Trump’s threat to the world as a proponent of fascist ideas. The horrific chants in North Carolina on July 17, 2019 forced world leaders to come clean with their real views about Trump’s racist regime. They recognize celebrity fascism in America.

Credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum

In 2016, in the wake of the presidential election, I wrote a piece entitled “Will He Keep His Promises?” Unfortunately, the answer 35 months later is “yes, he will, and yes, he is.

Celebrity Fascism Steals the Show

Donald Trump is a veteran entertainer. He likes nothing more than stealing the show. Donald Trump is very good at stealing the show, having been mentored by media moguls like Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon. So, every time he is threatened by bad news, he takes to Twitter and steals the show with outrageous tweets. Our attention is thus, not on the funding of inhumane concentration camps by the federal government, but rather on his ridiculous tweets.

SO what exactly did Rep. Elijah Cummings do to trigger Trump? Elijah Cummings is the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. According to one investigator, Elijah Cummings “is probably the single most dangerous person to Trump” in this post-Mueller era.

The Oversight Committee has successfully won the right in court to subpoena Trump’s financial records from his accountant. The Committee plans to issue subpoenas for emails and texts that high-level White House officials sent on personal accounts discussing official business – subpoenas that apply to Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. So Trump attacks Elijah Cummings (and an entire city) to deflect attention from an investigation that threatens to unmask his administration, his fraud and his family.

As we struggle against celebrity fascism in America, we must remember 3 very important lessons:’

  1. this period that writer Andrew Wood describes as catastrophic poverty, wealth inequality, and environmental degradation that has engulfed Ameria started long before Donald Trump decided to run for President;
  2. Trump is a master manipulator and his attacks on other elected officials for standing up to his immoral actions – such as incarcerating immigrants and using the government to enrich himself and his family – are designed to distract attention from the underlying atrocities and illegal actions that he is engaged in;
  3. last but not least, “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.

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