"Avatar": What Went Wrong and Racism Roundup
How Politics Can Kill You, Hertz Ran Over Own Customers, Golden Globes' Women Problem, More Women’s Soccer League Abuse, and More
In the last newsletter, I lamented that “If [conservative censors] have their way, all we’ll be left with is Hallmark movies and reruns of Blue Blood.” One of our subscribers, Terrence, commented: “Hallmark movies aren't so bad.” That is exactly why I appreciate the comments section so much and the subscribers who share their opinions.
I agree with Terrence (as I replied in Comments). My original statement was a reference to the sameness of their stories, creating a world that is mostly predictable in promoting a conservative worldview and fairly narrow values. Here’s the thing: nothing wrong with that. They do it well. If you look at some of the older Hallmark movies you’ll see an overwhelmingly White cast, but that has changed in recent years. Today, they offer a lot of ethnic diversity.
A Hallmark Christmas movie will usually give us romance, a celebration of traditional small-town values over corrupt city values, and a happy ending. But what I especially appreciate is how they are still able to elicit true emotions from their audience. You are likely to choke up a bit, even if you don’t want to, two or three times. Here’s why: they always include acts of kindness in which someone in great need is given a hand and judgement-free support. Sometimes, it’s one person, sometimes it’s the whole town. To me, that is the spirit of Christmas I’d like to see every day—an act of kindness toward someone in need.
Thank you, Terrence.
Politics: This Week in Racism (Not Sexy, But Important)
If I mention any one of these stories, it just looks like random acts of racism, easily rationalized as outliers. But when you put them all together—and these are just a few from the past week—you might see a clearer mosaic of what daily life is like if you’re Black in America. This does not discount the wonderful things about the country and all those fighting daily to improve it. But it does point out that there is a higher threat level to your safety and life if you are LWB (Living While Black).
U.S. attorney general moves to end sentencing disparities on crack, powder cocaine (The Washington Post)
SUMMARY: “Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday instructed federal prosecutors to end charging and sentencing disparities in cases involving the distribution of crack and powder cocaine, after decades of law enforcement policy disproportionately treating crack offenders more punitively.
“Garland’s move effectively seeks to eliminate the significant difference in the amount of powder cocaine relative to crack cocaine that is required to be in a suspect’s possession to trigger mandatory minimum federal sentences upon conviction.
“Critics of the longtime policy have said it is a relic of Washington’s misguided War on Drugs era that targeted Black and Brown communities, resulted in overpopulated prisons and strained federal and local resources at the expense of more-effective strategies.”
MY TAKE: The poor and People of Color have been unfairly targeted for 50 years, ever since the War on Drugs decided the enemy wasn’t White people snorting coke at Wall Street parties, but Black people doing crack in poor neighborhoods. No one is excusing either group, just asking that they be treated equally under the law. Despite civil rights leaders and other advocates fighting this racism for five decades, there was little movement. Until now.
According to the article: “Though studies have shown that historically most crack cocaine users have been White or Hispanic, a report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year found that 77 percent of those convicted of crack trafficking offenses in 2020 were Black.” That is the very definition of of systemic racism.
The Equal Act would eliminate this racial disparity. However, even though the bill was passed in the House last year with bipartisan support, some Republican senators are keeping it from being approved in the Senate. So, even though Garland’s actions will help going forward, it requires a legislative change to federal policy in order to apply retroactively, which is necessary to bring justice to those previously unfairly sentenced.
Study: Federal magistrates, prosecutors misunderstand bail law, jailing people who should go free (USA Today)
SUMMARY: A Reagan-era law, passed by Congress nearly four decades ago to change the federal bail system in order to address concerns over rising crime committed by arrestees released pending trial, has been wildly misunderstood and misapplied by the federal court system's magistrate judges, prosecutors, public defenders and probation officers, a new two-year national study finds.
The unprecedented look at federal pretrial detention conducted by the University of Chicago Law School's Federal Criminal Justice Clinic paints a portrait of a judicial system that has neglected the rights of especially poor arrestees and people of color. Such systemic problems are largely the result of what judges and advocates told USA TODAY is a poorly-written, war-on-drugs-era statute known as the Bail Reform Act of 1984, an over reliance on prosecutorial discretion, and risk-averse magistrate judges and federal defenders.
According to the report, in 1983, less than 24% of arrestees were jailed pretrial. By 2019, nearly 75% of them were.”
MY TAKE: Just as with the crack/coke issue above, this judicial disparity has been going on for decades. Many important people have written about the inequities that fall harder on the shoulders of the poor and People of Color, but not enough has been done to end this injustice.
Because of this poorly written but enthusiastically implemented law, more people are in jail much longer without ever having had a trial. The article continues: “Prior research cited in the report also has shown that jailing has a cascading effect on an arrestee's life from even just a few days behind bars, which may cost them their job, custody of their child, and even impact their housing, as well as make it more likely an arrestee is convicted, sentenced to a longer term and faces mandatory minimums.”
When facing losing their job, their children, their homes, their freedom, many choose to plead guilty rather than risk all that and not knowing the outcome of the trial. As a result, they now have a criminal record, making life even harder. As Richard Pryor so famously said, “You go down [to the courthouse] looking for justice and that is what you will find, just us.”