Ousted High-Ranking Official: Border Patrol has Become a ‘Paramilitary Force’

Ousted High-Ranking Official: Border Patrol has Become a 'Paramilitary Force'

Twenty eighy unarmed migrants have died at the hands of U.S. Customs and Border Protection since 2010—and not one agent has faced criminal charges in the killings. Two months ago, the Border Patrol’s head of internal affairs, James F. Tomsheck, was fired for not doing enough to investigate the shootings. But since that time, Tomsheck’s gone on the record to refute that claim, and to tell the public just corrupt the agency has become.

Tomsheck spoke with NPR in a report that aired this morning. He explains that agents routinely lie or distort the truth to protect themselves. But the problem isn’t individual agents—it’s the leadership, too. And, according to Tomsheck, the agency itself tends to think of itself as a “paramilitary border security force” that’s operating outside of the “constitutional restraints regarding use of force.”

The Border Patrol is largest federal law enforcement agency in the United States. It says it is launching a new training program, as well as an improved internal affairs unit headed by the F.B.I. 

New Report Tracks Discrimination Against California’s Muslims

New Report Tracks Discrimination Against California's Muslims

California’s Muslims reported 933 discrimination complaints during 2013, according to a new annual report from the state offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Chief among them were employment discrimination (15 percent) with immigration and FBI and law enforcement complaints coming in at a close second.

Though they comprise the vast majority, not all complaints to CAIR came from Muslims. They also include complaints from individuals thought to “look Muslim,” too. 

“While most people who know of CAIR know us through our grassroots work within the American Muslim community and therefore tend to be Muslim, we would never turn away someone who was discriminated against because they were perceived to be Muslim,” says Brice Hamack, CAIR’s civil rights coordinator in the San Francisco office.

Read the full report here, which shows a slight increase in reporting from 854 complaints received in 2012.

Hip-Hop’s Biggest Names Release Song After Ferguson: ‘Don’t Shoot’

Hip-Hop's Biggest Names Release Song After Ferguson: 'Don't Shoot'

Some of hip-hop’s biggest stars got together to record a new track dedicated to Michael Brown called “Don’t Shoot.” The song features the Game, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Diddy, Fabolous, Wale, DJ Khaled, Swizz Beatz, Yo Gotti, Currensy, Problem and King Pharaoh & TGT. It also names other victims of police and vigilante violence, including Ezell Ford and Trayvon Martin. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ New Book Club To Tackle Mass Incarceration

Ta-Nehisi Coates' New Book Club To Tackle Mass Incarceration

The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, writer of The Case for Reparations, is reviving his book club. But instead of the Civil War, this time it’ll focus on mass incarceration. First up is Michelle Alexander’s, “The New Jim Crow.” The reading schedule for September is posted. Take a look and join the discussion. 

Black Oakland City Workers Find Noose on Truck

Black Oakland City Workers Find Noose on Truck

A group of black Oakland Public Works employees noticed a noose was placed on one of their trucks Tuesday—in a department in Northern California where many say racial tensions have been brewing. 

According to San Francisco’s local CBS News, KPIX, the workers’ union says the hangman’s noose is representative of racism in the department. Mayor Jean Quan reluctantly told KPIX that she thought there weren’t racial tensions there, only concerns over promotions.

The case is being investigated by Oakland Police Department. 

Black Ex-Police Chief May Become Missouri’s Top Cop

Black Ex-Police Chief May Become Missouri's Top Cop

Governor Jay Nixon has nominated an African-American ex-police chief to direct the Department of Public Safety (DPS), the top law enforcement post in the state. Daniel Isom’s nomination comes amidst heavy criticism of Nixon’s response to Ferguson protests, and it’s been interpreted by some as the governor’s attempt to appease blacks in his state. If confirmed, Isom would be the only African-American in Nixon’s cabinet and the second high profile African-American law enforcement officer tapped by Nixon in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s killing by a white police officer.

Isom spent 24 years with the St. Louis police, four as chief. He retired two years ago to become a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The head of DPS oversees the Highway Patrol, the National Guard, the Office of Homeland Security and other statewide law enforcement agencies.

(h/t The New York Times)

Ukraine Fears Russian Invasion, Hello Schrödinger’s Kitty, Josh Shaw’s Suspension

Ukraine Fears Russian Invasion, Hello Schrödinger's Kitty, Josh Shaw's Suspension

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:

  • Some headlines this morning are actually wondering whether 9-year-olds should be learning how to use submachine guns.
  • The Samsung and LG smartwatches are here
  • USC’s Josh Shaw is suspended after he admits he lied about a heroic story. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Navajo Kindergartener Told to Cut his Hair, Sent Home on First Day of School

Navajo Kindergartener Told to Cut his Hair, Sent Home on First Day of School

Five-year-old Malachi Wilson was all set to start kindergarten at F.J. Young Elementary in Seminole, Texas, but on Monday he was told to cut his hair and was sent home. His mother, April Wilson, contacted the Navajo Nation; the American Indian Movement also put pressure on the district to reverse its decision against the child. Only after she provided documentation of her son’s Native-ness through Malachi’s Certificate of Indian Blood did the Seminole Independent School District change its mind.

The district’s rather lengthy student dress code stipulates more than a dozen rules when it comes to hair. Among them, Mohawks are prohibited. (Mohawks are called that for the way that some actual Mohawk people wear their hair.) Dreadlocks are also prohibited. The handbook says exceptions are made on “certain recognized religious or spiritual beliefs,” but students “must receive prior approval by the campus administrator.” The district changed its mind about Wilson’s hair—but he nevertheless missed his first day of school.

The school district is ostensibly named for the Seminole people. The district’s schools use various Native mascots, and refer to their students as “Indians and Maidens.” 

Former Giuliani Speechwriter Says We Don’t Need Another Dialogue on Race

Former Giuliani Speechwriter Says We Don't Need Another Dialogue on Race

After Michael Brown’s killing, Damon Linker doesn’t want another national dialogue on race. Instead the former speechwriter for Mayor Rudy Giuliani wants white Americans to see their country through the eyes of African-Americans. Here’s why:

Blacks overwhelmingly believe that the police use deadly force against black suspects…while whites tend to presume that cops do their jobs fairly. This is a big deal, and one that should trouble white America far more than it does — because it means that whites view armed agents of the government as their allies, while African Americans see those same agents…like the occupying army of a hostile power.

Linker doesn’t get at the hard stuff: “how” to get more white Americans to see life from the other side of the color line. But the full essay over at The Week is worth the read. 


Comic Relief: Jon Stewart Takes Down Fox News’ Take on Ferguson

Comic Relief: Jon Stewart Takes Down Fox News' Take on Ferguson

Watch Jon Stewart take down a number of Fox News talking points that are popular among people of color on the left and right, too. Stay tuned until the end when Stewart, who’s just returned from vacation asks, “Do you not understand that life in this country is inherently different for white people and black people?” The question gets at the difference, well-noted these past few weeks, in how white and black Americans react to Ferguson. Stewart answers with a tale of two of his employees sent out on an assignment. One is black, the other white. Not much to say: many people know how this story goes.

Parents Announce Boycott of Newark Schools Over School Reform Plan

Parents Announce Boycott of Newark Schools Over School Reform Plan

A group of Newark parents announced today that their children will boycott Newark public schools beginning next week, at the start of the new school year. “NPS Boycott 4 Freedom” is a response to “One Newark,” a school reform plan set to take effect next month that will restructure or shut down a third of schools in the city’s state-run public school district.

“The NPS Boycott 4 Freedom is an act of resistance and a statement against the One Newark Plan — Gov. Christie and Superintendent Cami Anderson’s destructive and shortsighted plan,” Newark parent Deborah Cornavaca said in a statement. “We have decided to escalate our actions to a boycott because we cannot continue to let the state and the superintendent disregard our lived experience and endanger the lives of our children.”

In May, Newark parents, together with groups from Chicago and New Orleans and the Advancement Project, filed federal complaints with the Department of Education, charging that school reform and closure plans disproportionately affected African-American and Latino children in those cities. Last month, the Department of Education confirmed that it opened an investigation into Newark’s One Newark plan off of the complaints it received.

According to the federal complaint civil rights groups filed, African-American students comprised 53 percent of the district enrollment but nearly three quarters of those impacted by school closures in the 2011-2012 school year. One Newark will have similarly racially disparate impacts on Newark students, parents warn.

Parents are calling for an end to the One Newark Plan, and an end to decades-long state control of Newark Public Schools, as well as implementation of “community-driven sustainable schools,” according to parents’ demands.

Learning From Ferguson: The Real Cost of Criminal Debt

Learning From Ferguson: The Real Cost of Criminal Debt

In a city with 14 percent unemployment and where more than 20 percent of residents live below poverty, criminal fines and court fees levied on the poor are Ferguson’s second largest source of revenue. That’s according to a new white paper from St. Louis-based indigent defense group, ArchCity Defenders. “I’ll be real honest, I didn’t believe them,” at first, executive director Thomas Harvey tells the Daily Beast about incessant client complaints of being targeted because they were black and poor. But findings from a yearlong court-watching program changed Harvey’s mind—and they’re drawing attention to an ongoing national problem of municipalities using local courts to generate revenue from the poor instead of dispensing justice.

The debt-to-prison pipeline—through traffic violations, misdemeanors and arcane courthouse rules and financial penalties—is a major cause of antagonism between Ferguson residents and local police. Criminal debt cripples families and communities after all, and not only the individual receiving the warrant.

(h/t Daily Beast/The New York Times)

Hours After Brown’s Killing, Police in Ferguson Let K-9 Urinate on Memorial Site

Hours After Brown's Killing, Police in Ferguson Let K-9 Urinate on Memorial Site

It was bad enough that Ferguson police left Michael Brown’s dead body in plain sight on a residential street for more than four hours after Darren Wilson shot and killed the unarmed 18-year-old. But what police did the evening of August 9 gives us a better understanding of why Ferguson’s black community was even further enraged.

In an article over at Mother Jones, Mark Follman explains how police officers disrespected the still bloodstained spot where Brown was gunned down. It’s unclear which police department was responsible, but according to witnesses, one unit allowed their K-9 dog to urinate directly on the memorial site.

And, as if that’s not sufficiently horrific, Follman describes what happened to the flowers and candles that Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden had brought to the site where her son was killed:

The day brought other indignities for Brown’s family, and the community. Missouri state Rep. Sharon Pace, whose district includes the neighborhood where the shooting occurred, told me she went to the scene that afternoon to comfort the parents, who were blocked by police from approaching their son’s body. Pace purchased some tea lights for the family, and around 7 p.m. she joined Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, and others as they placed the candles and sprinkled flowers on the ground where Brown had died. “They spelled out his initials with rose petals over the bloodstains,” Pace recalled.

By then, police had prohibited all vehicles from entering Canfield Drive except for their own. Soon the candles and flowers had been smashed, after police drove over them.

Things got so bad that local residents began using their own bodies to block police cars from entering the street where Brown was killed.

You can read Follman’s article in its entirety on Mother Jones

How News Media Fuels the Myth of Black Crime

How News Media Fuels the Myth of Black Crime

You’re not just imagining things. The local news media’s intense focus on violent crime is also deeply racialized, at least if New York City’s media market is indicative of national trends.

Media Matters reviewed the 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. broadcasts of four New York-area stations over the course of this summer and compared their crime stories to arrest data from the New York Police Department. In a report released Aug. 26, the watchdog group found black suspects in crime stories far outweigh their actual representation in arrests—which is saying something, since we also know arrests themselves are racially skewed, with black people representing far more arrests for, say, marijuana possession than drug-use rates suggest is appropriate.

The disparity in crime coverage was most striking for stories about theft. In local news-land, 80 percent of suspects in New York-area thefts are black, Media Matters found. In real life, blacks represent 55 percent of NYPD’s arrests for theft. For assaults, TV-land sees 72 percent of suspects as black. Real life: 49 percent. 

This reality skewing coverage is part of how black bodies become synonymous with crime and danger—and helps justify the violence and danger the state then reigns down upon peolpe like Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But the news media’s skewed racial reality doesn’t end with crime.

Earlier this year, Colorlines’ publisher, Race Forward, analyzed national news media coverage of stories about race. Our research team found that two-thirds of race-focused stories ignored the systemic factors involved, and focused instead on personal prejudices and individual level efforts to name the racist in the room. Race Forward’s Jay Smooth explains the findings in the video below.

Gaza Ceasefire, IMF’s Lagarde Under Investigation, Kincaid’s New Award

Gaza Ceasefire, IMF's Lagarde Under Investigation, Kincaid's New Award

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • IMF chief Christine Lagarde is under investigation by a French court for negligence in a political fraud case. 
  • Cardinals quarterback Antonio Cromartie pays homage to Michael Brown:
TAGS: Morning Rush

Following Ferguson: Teaching the Crisis in the Classroom

Following Ferguson: Teaching the Crisis in the Classroom

Ferguson is fresh on people’s minds, and that also goes for students returning to school. But Edwardsville, Illinois, schools Superintendent Ed Hightower responded to the crisis by directing teachers not to discuss the events that have unfolded in the last two weeks, and to “change the subject” should Ferguson comes up in class, KMOX reported.

Other educators are taking a different tack. Washington, D.C., schools issued a five-page teacher’s resource guide for how to discuss Ferguson in the classroom. It’s full of practical tips, and geared for students in the public district. 

Teachers who discuss police brutality and Michael Brown’s death will need to “remember that you will almost certainly have students who have been victims of racial profiling in your classroom,” the guide cautions, urging that teachers proceed with care, sensitivity and openness. The Chronicle of Higher Ed, meanwhile, spoke with St. Louis-area college professors about their classroom plans. 

Georgetown professor Marcia Chatelain used Twitter to put together a #FergusonSyllabus for teachers looking for resources for their classrooms. The list Chatelain compiled at, which includes history, fiction, children’s books and academic works, is a great resource for more than just students and their teachers. Chatelain’s ask was that her fellow educators commit to discussing Ferguson in their first days of class, and share resources with students and each other to help sort through the last few weeks of trauma, confusion and race dialogue. “Some of us will talk about Ferguson forcefully, others gingerly, but from preschool classrooms to postdoctoral seminars, Ferguson is on the syllabus,” Chatelain wrote. Conversation sparked by #FergusonSyllabus inspired this resource guide for educators, too.

The long-read of the day is Adam Serwer’s historical look at decades of so-called “race riots” in “Eight Years of Fergusons” for Buzzfeed. Serwer writes:

The recipe for urban riots since 1935 is remarkably consistent and the ingredients are almost always the same: An impoverished and politically disempowered black population refused full American citizenship, a heavy-handed and overwhelmingly white police force, a generous amount of neglect, and frequently, the loss of black life at the hands of the police. Yet we’re always surprised at what they cook up.

We have had 80 years of Fergusons. We may have more. Violence — as harmful and self-destructive as it is — sometimes works.

Moreover, it was not just sit-ins and marches that finally moved President John F. Kennedy to conclude that federal civil rights legislation was necessary, but a riot — specifically, the 1963 conflagration in Birmingham.

It’s worth a read, and adding onto the #FergusonSyllabus. Please share what you’re reading, and thanks for joining this Tuesday edition of Following Ferguson.

Assault Rifles, Humvees and More Go Missing in 184 Police Departments

Assault Rifles, Humvees and More Go Missing in 184 Police Departments

Following a massive, militarized show of force in Ferguson over the last few weeks, President Obama has ordered a review of federal programs that supply military equipment to local and state police departments. But we now know that at least one of those, the Pentagon’s 1033 program, is already in deep trouble.

Fusion’s Daniel Rivero and Jorge Rivas uncovered that 184 police departments have been suspended from the weapons program because equipment either went missing, or the departments were otherwise unable to comply with program rules. Among the weapons that went missing are M14 and M16 assault rifles, .45 caliber pistols, shotguns and even two Humvees.

Fusion explains part of the obstacle the program faces in keeping track of weapons:

The decentralized structure of the program makes it difficult — even for the Pentagon — to keep tabs on the standing of participating police departments, or the weapons they’ve been issued. Officials at the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which runs the equipment-transfer program, were unable to provide specifics about why various police departments were suspended. And many state coordinators refused to speak to Fusion, or claimed they didn’t have the information requested.

Perhaps more troubling? The departments that are kicked out of the Pentagon’s weapon program are ineligible for new equipment—but it’s not unusual for them to get to keep the military equipment they already got.

Read Rivero’s and Rivas’s full investigation over at Fusion

Low-Income Student Enrollment Stagnates at Elite Colleges

Low-Income Student Enrollment Stagnates at Elite Colleges

In the elite higher education economy, low-income students are an investment many colleges aren’t willlling to put money on. And it’s showing in enrollment.

Federal data show that low-income student enrollment at selective colleges hasn’t grown from the 1990s through 2012. In some places it hovers beneath 15 percent, while the higher education sector overall saw large increases in low-income students attending college, The New York Times reports.

Richard Pérez-Peña reports:

Colleges generally spend 4 percent to 5 percent of their endowments per year on financial aid, prompting some administrators to cite this rough math: Sustaining one poor student who needs $45,000 a year in aid requires $1 million in endowment devoted to that purpose; 100 of them require $100 million. Only the wealthiest schools can do that, and build new laboratories, renovate dining halls, provide small classes and bid for top professors.

As Pérez-Peña points out, legal attacks on race-conscious admissions policies mean universities have been turning to other means, namely a socioeconomic-based approach, to boost diversity. It’s not clear that a class-based approach, while more palatable to some, will be all the more alluring to universities. “Higher education has become a powerful force for reinforcing advantage and passing it on through generations,” Georgetown University professor Anthony Carnevale told The New York Times. “College presidents are under constant pressure to meet budgets, improve graduation rates and move up in the rankings. The easiest way to do it is to climb upstream economically — get students whose parents can pay more.”

Leaders Petition Obama on Racial Biases in Policing

Leaders Petition Obama on Racial Biases in Policing

In a petition to the president that appeared in the Washington Post on Monday, more than 125 writers, artists, educators, lawmakers, and union and political group leaders are asking the Obama administration to take a hard look at racial biases in policing in light of the killing of Michael Brown:

In cities across America, local law enforcement units too often treat low-income neighborhoods populated by African Americans and Latinos as if they are military combat zones instead of communities where people strive to live, learn, work, play and pray in peace and harmony. Youth of color, black boys and men especially, who should be growing up in supportive, affirming environments are instead presumed to be criminals and relentlessly subjected to aggressive police tactics that result in unnecessary fear, arrests, injuries, and deaths.

The letter outlines steps to train law enforcement and to diversify, demilitarize and hold police departments accountable. It also calls for the establishment of a national commission to review current policies and provide solutions—as well as for the appointment of a federal czar to oversee the “implementation of equitable policing.”

You can read the petition in full over at the Washington Post

Israel Levels Gazan High-Rises, More Bedbugs in NYC’s MTA, ‘Diversity’ at the Emmys

Israel Levels Gazan High-Rises, More Bedbugs in NYC's MTA, 'Diversity' at the Emmys

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:

TAGS: Morning Rush
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