Racial Conflict

January 8, 2016 – Volume 26, Issue 2
Are U.S. policies discriminatory? By Peter Katel


Demonstrators on Christmas Eve protest an alleged cover-up of a video showing a white Chicago police officer shooting 17-year-old African-American Laquan McDonald 16 times (AP Photo/Rex Features)  
Demonstrators on Christmas Eve protest an alleged cover-up of a video showing a white Chicago police officer shooting 17-year-old African-American Laquan McDonald 16 times. The shooting — and others in which white police officers killed black suspects, often unarmed — has added fuel to a nationwide debate about systemic racism. (AP Photo/Rex Features)

Race-centered conflicts in several U.S. cities have led to the strongest calls for policy reforms since the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960s. Propelled largely by videos of violent police confrontations with African-Americans, protesters have taken to the streets in Chicago, New York and other cities demanding changes in police tactics. Meanwhile, students — black and white — at several major universities have pressured school presidents to deal aggressively with racist incidents on campus. And activists in the emerging Black Lives Matter movement are charging that “institutional racism” persists in public institutions and laws a half century after legally sanctioned discrimination was banned. Critics of that view argue that moral failings in the black community — and not institutional racism — explain why many African-Americans lack parity with whites in such areas as wealth, employment, housing and educational attainment. But those who cite institutional racism say enormous socioeconomic gaps and entrenched housing and school segregation patterns stem from societal decisions that far outweigh individuals' life choices.

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Chicago's Magnificent Mile, a 13-block stretch of upscale shops, sleek office towers and tony hotels, usually buzzes with post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping. But late last year it became a focal point of perhaps the most urgent social issue wracking the nation: relations between whites and minorities, particularly African-Americans.

“Sixteen shots! Thirteen months!” demonstrators shouted as they virtually shut down “Black Friday” commerce in Chicago's main shopping zone. The catalyst was a just-released video showing a Chicago police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on a city street, killing him. City officials had kept the video under wraps for 13 months until a reporter forced its release through a freedom-of-information request.1

Then, one day after Christmas, Chicago police accidentally shot and killed an unarmed grandmother while also fatally shooting an allegedly mentally troubled 19-year-old college student who was reportedly threatening family members with a baseball bat. The Chicago events followed other deadly incidents — in Ferguson, Mo., New York City, North Charleston, S.C., and elsewhere — in which white police officers used deadly force against black suspects, many of them unarmed. Tensions over these deaths ratcheted up again at year's end when a Cleveland grand jury declined to indict a policeman who shot to death 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had been holding a toy replica of a pistol. What's more, those incidents have followed decades of frustration over large gaps between African-Americans and whites in household wealth, housing, education and employment.2

Baltimore police officer William G. Porter, right, here with his lawyer, will be retried on charges stemming from the death of Freddie Gray (Getty Images/Rob Carr)  
Following a hung jury in December, Baltimore police officer William G. Porter, right, here with his lawyer, will be retried on charges stemming from the death of Freddie Gray, 25, last April. Gray died from spinal cord injuries allegedly sustained while he was being transported in a police van after his arrest for carrying a pocket knife. Porter is one of six officers charged in Gray's death. (Getty Images/Rob Carr)

More than 50 years after the official end of segregation and efforts by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders to protect minorities' civil rights, many activists and some scholars charge that nothing less than institutional racism still grip the nation.

“We still have segregation across America geospatially, with housing practices and banking practices that actually retarded if not prevented integration opportunities,” says Maya Rockeymoore, president and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, an advocacy think tank on racial and economic inequality. “And students who have been systematically impoverished are attending impoverished schools in inner-city neighborhoods [and] are never prepared to even qualify to get into higher education. They are victims of structural barriers to opportunity.”

Others deny that racism is institutionalized, saying such characterizations are designed to mask the black community's failure to meet the challenges that came after legal discrimination ended in the 1960s. They note that as the nation's first African-American president winds up his second term, a record 48 black lawmakers are serving in Congress and countless more African-Americans preside as big-city mayors, police chiefs and even the U.S. attorney general.3

“There is no de jure [legal] segregation in the United States anymore,” says Walter E. Williams, an African-American economics professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. “At one time, black Americans did not have the guarantees that everyone else did, but the civil rights struggle is over and won. That does not mean there are not major problems in the black community. When blacks were no more than a generation or more out of slavery, there was greater family stability and there weren't all these problems we see among black folks today.”

As the debate continues, a new generation of activists is challenging racial inequities that have lingered long after pundits declared a “post-racial America” following Barack Obama's 2008 election. Police encounters with black citizen are only one impetus for renewed activism. Also key, advocates say, are the socioeconomic differences between black and white Americans:

  • The $11,000 median net worth of black households is about 13 times less than the median white household net worth of $141,900.

  • African-Americans die 3.6 years earlier, on average, than whites.

  • Only 22 percent of African-Americans earn college degrees, compared with 34 percent of whites.

  • About one in 12 black men ages 25-54 are in jail or prison, versus one in 60 white men; and

  • Black Americans are almost eight times more likely than white Americans to die by homicide.4

Wealth Gap Divides Whites, Minorities  

For the activists, these outcomes show that America has not shaken off a legacy of race-based oppression. “The [1965] Voting Rights Act and desegregation gave [blacks] more access to a still-racist system,” says DeRay Mckesson, a Baltimore-based organizer with the Black Lives Matter movement, which emerged in response to widely publicized cellphone videos of police shootings or violent arrests of African-Americans in the past year.

In a year-long investigation of nearly 1,000 fatal shootings by police in the United States in 2015 (as of late December) The Washington Post showed stark racial disproportion in the use of deadly force. Although African-American males account for only 6 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 40 percent — or 37 — of the 90 unarmed men shot to death by police, The Post reported. Overall, however, fatal shootings of unarmed black men by white officers accounted for less than 4 percent of such events. (The Guardian, a London newspaper, reported its own figure of 1,134 deaths at police hands — including deaths from Taser stun guns and deaths in custody — with African-American 15-to-34-year-old males accounting for 15 percent of the deaths.)5

Cellphone, dashboard and other videos, however, do not convey the complexities of America's racial history, many scholars say. They point to what they see as a systematic preference for whites encoded in America's institutional DNA.

Joe R. Feagin, a sociology professor at Texas A&M University, traces the socioeconomic racial divide to centuries of government policies that implicitly or explicitly provided preferential treatment for whites, especially when it came to land grants, government-guaranteed mortgages and college tuition aid — government largesse that has been the foundation of upward mobility for millions of families.

“We white families have had 20 generations to unjustly enrich ourselves,” Feagin says. “Even whites who came from working-class backgrounds like mine had access to the marvelous aspects of this country — programs and services.”6

Many black conservatives, however, reject the notion of present-day institutional racism. “Many times, people use the term when they can't find a racist,” Williams says. “A lot of times they can't show you a live, breathing individual or company, so now they call it institutionalized racism.” Williams continues, “Next year, I'll be 80 years old. I saw racial discrimination.”

Williams blames “the welfare state” for many problems in the black community, saying that government assistance to single mothers “has done what slavery and Jim Crow could not have done: destroy the black family and create a high rate of illegitimacy and family breakdown.”

He and other African-American conservatives say that with racial discrimination outlawed for a half-century, ongoing law enforcement issues and poverty in black communities stem from a breakdown of values. “One of the reasons that relations between police and poor blacks are so bad,” says Derryck Green, a doctoral candidate at Azusa Pacific University, near Los Angeles, and a member of the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives, an online think tank for the African-American political right, “is the number of children who grow up in families without a male authority figure.”

Jack Hunter, a white libertarian conservative and the political editor of the online news site Rare, says many conservatives “cannot wrap their heads around” discriminatory police practices. “Part of that is a lack of recognition that black Americans do have it worse — something that many conservative Republicans are not willing to accept.”

For example, “young white men and black men use marijuana at the same rate,” he says. “But young black men are jailed at four times the rate for whites” for marijuana violations.7

Some scholars cite historical and economic forces for concentrated black poverty, including deficient schools and a loss of manufacturing jobs that once provided a decent living to people with limited education — leaving criminal activities as a major alternative. “Youth unemployment is not some magical problem that dropped from the sky,” Feagin says. “When you suffer discrimination on a large scale, where do you go for a job? The crime economy.”

In the view of some liberal academics, think tanks and Democratic presidential candidates, government programs to boost employment, educational opportunities and homeownership for all low-income Americans are among the antidotes to racial inequality. And generations of activists and writers — most recently best-selling African-American author Ta-Nehisi Coates — have proposed preferential programs (or reparations) for victims of past institutional discrimination in the distribution of land, home mortgage guarantees and college tuition grants.8

But providing racial preferences in anti-poverty programs is widely seen as politically impossible — and unfair, given that many poor people are white. The standard white American's response to racially based criteria would be, “‘My tax dollars shouldn't be used to fix something I'm not responsible for,’” says Leslie Hinkson, a sociology professor at Georgetown University in Washington. Hinkson says most people do not know that “structural racism … limits the life chances of people because of their race.”

That idea had wide acceptance in the mid-1960s. The landmark civil rights laws enacted then “helped a lot of black middle-class folks, but didn't do much for the urban black poor,” says Michael Javen Fortner, urban studies director at the City University of New York's School of Professional Studies. “Middle-class people could use … laws and policies to leave neighborhoods, to get into schools that in the past they couldn't get into.”

Paradoxically, the renewed attention to black-white racial tensions comes as the non-Hispanic white majority is becoming a minority.9 Hispanics have long endured discrimination (reflected in a history of 547 documented lynchings of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans between 1848–1928 in the West and Midwest), and American Indians have been the targets of military campaigns, mass removals and massacres that modern tribal leaders call genocide.10

But the African-American experience occupies a unique place in U.S. life because of slavery's legacy and the fact that the nation's culture is partly a black creation. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, due to open this fall on the National Mall in Washington, is designed to introduce a mass audience to that often-hidden side of the American story.11

As activists, scholars and others debate race relations, here are some of the questions being asked:

Would improving police interactions with African-Americans significantly advance race relations in America?

Today's conflicts between police and African-Americans have stirred debate about the larger issue of race in America, just as urban riots in the 1960s — often triggered by confrontations between police and black citizens — led to similar soul-searching.12

Blacks Highest in Police Stops  

With cellphone video now ubiquitous, the public is seeing what happens in police-citizen interactions that turn ugly. In the past year alone, videos have shown, among other incidents:

  • A white police officer at a Columbia, S.C., school overturning an allegedly disobedient black student's chair with her in it before handcuffing her;

  • A white officer in McKinney, Texas, slamming a black, bikini-clad girl to the ground at a pool party, then drawing his gun on her companions; and

  • A white, Charlotte, N.C., officer shooting and killing an unarmed black man after a one-car accident.13

Videos, or “the C-Span of the streets,” according to Paul Butler, a professor at Georgetown University Law School and a former prosecutor, corroborate “what African-Americans have been saying for years.”14

Some police chiefs have accepted video as evidence of misconduct. In South Carolina, the North Charleston chief — saying he was “sickened” by the video of a cop shooting an unarmed black to death — fired the officer, who was later charged with murder.15

Brandon Risher is comforted at the casket of his grandmother (Getty Images/Joe Raedle)  
Brandon Risher is comforted at the casket of his grandmother, Ethel Lance, 70, who was one of nine victims killed in a mass shooting at historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17, 2015. Dylann Roof, 21, a white supremacist, is accused in the shootings, which occurred during a prayer meeting. (Getty Images/Joe Raedle)

But videos also can be used unfairly against officers, said Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations. “Even if we do everything right, if we do it by the law and the investigation shows that we did, we can still just be so dragged through the mud unfairly and inaccurately by community activists, by the media,” he said.16

Johnson said the omnipresence of videos today makes police reluctant to be “as aggressive as we used to be,” something FBI Director James Comey has said might be causing an uptick in crime. But Comey conceded that police can fall into a habit of linking criminal behavior to race. “The two young black men on one side of the street look like so many others the officer has locked up,” Comey said in a speech last February. “Two white men on the other side of the street — even in the same clothes — do not.”17

Despite the outrage generated by videos, some in the Black Lives Matter movement — which emerged after the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, 18, in Ferguson, Mo. — say discriminatory law enforcement is not the worst problem facing African-Americans.18 Schools, health care and other structures and institutions affect people “along the lines of race and class,” says Black Lives activist Mckesson, who has co-authored a plan to limit police use of deadly force.19

Nevertheless, Mckesson says, the potentially deadly consequences of confrontations with police make changing relations with cops a priority. “The impact of the criminal justice system, because it means jail for people, means the police are violently interacting with your body. That is a loss of freedom and safety right now.”

Some black conservatives argue that confrontations between police and African-Americans typically reflect high crime rates and moral decay in black communities. Williams of George Mason cites statistics showing that most homicide victims are black people killed by other African-Americans.20 From 1980 to 2008, according to FBI data, 93 percent of black homicide victims were killed by other African-Americans. Overall, 28 percent of the FBI's “known offenders” are black, significantly above the black population share, the data show.21

“This is not a civil rights problem,” Williams says. “It's not the Klan murdering blacks.”

But for others, the high crime rates in poor black neighborhoods do not justify discriminatory police action. Rockeymoore of Global Policy Solutions says police and others in the criminal justice system often automatically link race with criminality. “You have situations where innocents are being slaughtered or wrongly arrested,” she says.

Last October, The New York Times — using data from police traffic stops and arrests in Greensboro, N.C. — concluded that African-Americans accounted for 54 percent of drivers pulled over even though they made up only 39 percent of the city's driving-age population. Cars driven by blacks were searched more than twice as often as cars driven by whites, and force was used more frequently with blacks than with whites. Statistics from six other states showed similar results.22

Nevertheless, Rockeymoore, who lives in Baltimore — a black-majority city plagued by violence — acknowledges that the high crime rates in poor, African-American neighborhoods mean those neighborhoods need more police. “It's not a function of race, but of class,” she says. “When you combine poor people with primary needs and no way to meet those immediate needs outside of what they perceive as criminality, … that increases the rate of people wanting and needing police officers.”

Lisa L. Miller, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., who specializes in crime and race, goes further, arguing that the Black Lives Matter movement's intense focus on policing reinforces fundamental distrust of government, a vision that doesn't match the concerns of people in impoverished minority communities. “My worry about the fixation on state violence is that it reinforces the anti-statist narrative,” Miller says. “But we don't need the state to do less; we need it to do more.”

Would new laws and government programs reduce institutional racism?

Experts representing all political persuasions agree that the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education outlawing school segregation, along with three major civil rights laws of the 1960s, were essential to correcting injustices that persisted 100 years after slavery ended.Footnote *

But experts are divided over how the government can narrow today's racial gaps in education and employment.

Hillary Clinton, the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, debated the issue in New Hampshire last summer during a meeting with Black Lives Matter activists.

Clinton acknowledged that a 1994 crime law — endorsed by her husband, President Bill Clinton — brought unintended negative consequences, including a vast increase in imprisonment, especially for African-Americans convicted of drug use.

After candidate Clinton's comments, activist Julius Jones of Worcester, Mass., referring to racism's historical roots, said: “America's first drug [was] free black labor…. Until someone … speaks that truth to white people in this country so that we can finally take on anti-blackness as a founding problem in this country, I don't believe there's going to be a solution.”23

Clinton said that approach would accomplish little because too many whites would say, “We get it, we get it, we're going to be nicer.” But she added, “That's not enough in my book, that's not how I see politics.”

To address racial inequality, Clinton has called for measures intended to fight poverty and reduce income inequality — measures, she says, that would begin to curb disparities in the criminal justice system. Mass incarceration condemns ex-prisoners and their families to poverty, Clinton said.24

But citing persistent housing segregation despite the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which banned racial discrimination in housing, Hinkson of Georgetown says, “Hillary Clinton believes too much in the power of the law to effect substantial change. With laws, you have a possibility of change, but you can't have actual change without having mechanisms in place to ensure that the law is upheld.”

Furthermore, she continued, “you also need to effect cultural shifts so that people don't feel, ‘You're forcing me to do something. I'm going to find ways around it.’”25

Without white acknowledgment of racism, Hinkson argues, the majority white view will continue to be: “Sure we understand that racism exists, but we're not willing to have our government do anything to alleviate it because we have this understanding that if I do not overtly discriminate against someone because of their race, then I do not contribute to racism.”

Even during slavery times, official, systematic discrimination has led some to argue that the government owes compensation to black victims of government policies. In more recent decades, some activists and politicians have called for “reparations.” But even author Coates, among the latest to take up the cause, acknowledges that getting today's lawmakers to agree on a compensation system might be impossible — though, he writes, the debate would be worth it.26

Global Policy Solutions, Rockeymoore's organization, proposes a series of government programs aimed at closing the racial wealth gap, including financing infrastructure projects that would provide jobs and subcontracts in the African-American community. But the programs, despite their racial-justice impulse, would be open to all, regardless of color. “I don't think that there has been much political will or public will for racially specific solutions,” Rockeymoore says.

Nevertheless, another of the center's proposals calls for reviving the “10-20-30 plan” — a provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.27 The so-called “economic stimulus” poured federal money into food stamps and other aid, as well as infrastructure projects that designated 10 percent of stimulus money toward communities with at least 20 percent of the population living below the poverty line for at least 30 years.

But Green of the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives, organized by the conservative advocacy group the National Center for Public Policy Research, which supports environmental deregulation, opposes expanding government-funded health care and works to get black conservatives elected, doubts that programs and laws will do much good. “Racism and racial discrimination are a manifestation of sin,” he says. “We have to deal with it from a moral perspective.”

Green dismisses a major liberal policy proposal — raising the minimum wage nationally to $15 an hour — because, he says, doing so would kill jobs. “Increasing the minimum wage increases the unemployment of black people, whether teens or adults,” he says. “If you increased to $15 for entry-level workers, business owners are not going to hire those who need employment the most…. [So] how are they going to develop work skills and overcome the socioeconomic differences between black and white?”

Those who favor government activism acknowledge that government programs can hurt some intended beneficiaries. “The ghetto has become a slum,” says William Sampson, chair of the public policy studies department at DePaul University in Chicago. “When it was a ghetto, everybody black lived in it; it didn't matter if you were a lawyer or a dentist or on welfare, the folkways and mores were determined by the middle-income folks. Integration allowed them to leave, and they did, which took away the role models and compass of those communities.”

Sampson stresses that he doesn't mean ending legal segregation was bad. “But there was a downside,” he says. Some of that negative effect could be counteracted by a massive government program to train families in effective child-rearing techniques, he says.

“Kids who do well in school have quiet, orderly, structured home environments,” Sampson says, “and are disciplined, with high self-esteem, internally controlled and responsible.”

Does government need to recommit to school desegregation?

Desegregation of public schools, a major victory of the 20th-century civil rights movement, essentially ended after 1991, when the Supreme Court allowed the termination of plans based on busing students to schools outside their neighborhoods to achieve racial balance.28

School integration levels began dropping after the decision, in part because blacks and whites remained residentially segregated. But by 1997, even black families who moved to suburbs found public schools there increasingly divided by race.29

As a result, according to the Civil Rights Project, a research organization at the University of California, Los Angeles, a statistically typical white student's class of 30 in 2011–12 had 22 whites, two blacks and four Latinos, while the class of a typical black or Latino student had at least 20 blacks or Latinos and eight whites.30

“Black and Latino students tend to be in schools with a substantial majority of poor children,” a research report concluded, “but white and Asian students are typically in middle-class schools.”31

Black Students Lag in Math, Reading  

Standardized test results also reflect sharp racial divisions. The most recent report of the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that in 2013, only 7 percent of black 12th-graders — compared with 33 percent of their white counterparts — were at or above proficiency in math. In reading, 16 percent of black students were proficient, compared with 47 percent of whites.32

Some education experts link blacks' poor academic performance to the resegregation of public schools. Sampson of DePaul says schools serving black and Latino students don't get the same level of resources that go to predominantly white schools. “White parents can move” if they are dissatisfied with their children's schools, he says. “Black and Latino parents can't.”

George Theoharis, chair of the teaching department at Syracuse University's School of Education and a former Wisconsin school principal, advocates integration. “Certainly, there are other things that matter,” he says. “Teaching matters, curriculum matters, leadership matters. But we have disregarded the fact that desegregation really matters. We have enough history in this country of being unable to achieve separate but equal schools.”

But rather than pushing for reintegrating public schools, some education experts call for more publicly financed charter schools or more school vouchers, which currently provide subsidies for private-school tuition for low-income and special-needs students in 13 states and Washington, D.C.

Charter schools typically focus on trying to raise academic performance rather than on integration. “Charter schools make no bones” about their focus on academics over race, says Theoharis, who sees charter schools as “part of the whole reform agenda of the past 30 years that has really moved away from desegregation.”

Proponents of charter schools, in fact, call those institutions the best way to eliminate academic-performance gaps. Charter schools provide “exciting and viable education in an inclusive, individual manner,” said the Center for Education Reform, a leading charter-advocacy organization, citing statistics that show charter students in New York City outperform their public school counterparts.33

“In theory, charter schools make some sense,” Sampson says. “In practice, they're horrible. They take only the best students. But charter schools on the whole don't outperform public schools.” Lotteries that some school districts hold for charter school admissions don't avoid that selection bias, he says, because parents who enter lotteries are by definition more involved in looking for the best schools for their children.

Sampson says having black and white students mix is socially positive for all the students. Georgetown's Hinkson also supports reintegration, pointing out that in her doctoral research at Princeton she found that in the armed forces — often called the most integrated part of America — racial test score gaps at schools for children of military personnel “were smaller there than in any other state in this country.”34

But Williams of George Mason says, “There is no evidence that in order for black kids to get a high-quality education, we have to capture white kids to sit beside them.”

Theoharis says resuming desegregation would be difficult, although “magnet” schools — public schools devoted to one field — could help accomplish more integration, he says, if they were available to all students.

Williams says the need for alternatives is far more urgent than changing schools' racial makeup. He favors school vouchers or tuition tax credits so black parents could have “some kind of alternative to these rotten public schools in many of these neighborhoods.”

Green of the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives argues that public schools should get the kind of scrutiny that Sampson applied to charters. “Some charter schools are going to be terrible and should fail,” he says, “and [bad] public schools should fail, too.”

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*The three laws were the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.


Slavery and Jim Crow

Today's racial tensions were born in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which forcibly brought as many as 388,000 Africans to colonial America and the United States between 1619 and 1865, when Congress abolished slavery nationwide by passing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.35

Seventy-eight years earlier, when delegates gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to write the Constitution, they compromised on slavery in order to keep the South in the Union. Delegates from the North, where several states had banned slavery within their borders years before the constitutional convention convened, wanted to end the trans-Atlantic slave trade. But Southerners refused to accept an immediate ban. The compromise allowed the trade to continue until 1808 and slavery to survive in states where it already existed.36

Historians still debate whether the United States was founded as a “slave” nation. Sean Wilentz of Princeton University argued that toleration of regional slavery “did not sanction slavery in national law, as a national institution.”37 But Patrick Rael, of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, wrote: “If slavery was not legal in every state, it was nonetheless ‘national law,’ protected and upheld by the Constitution.”38

The Constitution did contain sections favorable to slave owners, particularly Article 4, Section 2, which held that slaves who escaped to states that had abolished slavery remained slaves and had to be returned to their owners.39 In 1850 Congress passed a law strengthening slave owners' rights to seize their fugitive “property.”40 Then, in 1857, the Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott decision that Scott, a slave born in Virginia, did not become free when his master took him temporarily to the free states of Illinois and Wisconsin because he was not a U.S. citizen — nor was any other person of African ancestry.41

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, freeing the slaves in Confederate states. In 1865 the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery was ratified, followed three years later by the 14th Amendment, defining anyone born in the United States as a citizen entitled to “equal protection of the laws.”42

Lincoln's successor, President Andrew Johnson, embarked on Reconstruction, the attempt to establish social and political racial equality in the South. But white resistance won out, with the acquiescence or support of some Northern politicians and judges. The post-Civil War system of white domination became known in the 1890s as Jim Crow. Southern state governments also adopted laws that decreed the arrest of all jobless black people. The penalty was forced labor — essentially, slavery.43

In response to white resistance, President Ulysses S. Grant stationed federal troops in nine South Carolina counties.44 And in 1870 Congress adopted the 15th Amendment, prohibiting states from denying or limiting the right to vote because of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Congress followed up with the Enforcement Act, which defined racist violence as a federal crime.45

But anti-black violence continued, and in the 1870s, the national political tide shifted against Reconstruction, as Southern white resistance solidified and many Northern politicians proved unwilling to crush the opposition.46 In 1877, disputed presidential election results led to a Democratic-Republican deal: The Democrats would recognize Republican Rutherford B. Hayes as the winner, and Hayes would pull federal troops out of Louisiana and South Carolina. As a result, white-supremacist politicians' power was cemented throughout the South.47

The end of Reconstruction took a deadly toll: Nearly 4,000 blacks were lynched in 12 Southern states between 1887 and 1950, according to the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala.48

In several Deep South states — notably Alabama, Florida and Georgia — a forced-labor system was developed in which thousands of black men were worked, often to death, in mines, steel mills and lumber camps. Slavery by Another Name, a Pulitzer Prize-winning 2008 book by reporter Douglas A. Blackmon, chronicled how black men were trapped in the labor system by arrests for crimes such as “vagrancy,” then “leased” to companies by county sheriffs.49

‘White Affirmative Action’

After Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in 1933, his administration's “New Deal” sought to revive the Depression-crippled economy and protect workers' rights through such laws and regulations as the Social Security Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Works Project Administration and dozens of other efforts.50

But whites were the primary beneficiaries, according to historians such as Ira Katznelson of Columbia University, author of the 2005 book, When Affirmative Action Was White. Maids and farmworkers — the two kinds of jobs disproportionately held by black people –– were excluded from laws protecting unionization and establishing minimum wages and work hours as well as coverage under the new Social Security system. Social Security did not cover those two job categories until the 1950s.51

Although Roosevelt and many Northern Democrats didn't share Southerners' racial prejudices, the administration accommodated their racial attitudes because FDR needed support from Southern Democrats to pass New Deal measures.52 The black press argued that African-Americans were paying the price for the New Deal. Nonetheless, some black commentators did credit FDR and his allies — particularly his wife, Eleanor — with trying to advance racial equality.53

After World War II, the GI Bill of Rights — which financed college educations, home mortgages and business ventures — vastly expanded the American middle class.54 But the bill ensured that Southern black veterans received only minimal benefits — if any. Moreover, blacks were significantly under-represented in the armed forces during World War II, with only half of military-age African-Americans serving. The military, which remained segregated until 1948, cited poor performance on health, literacy and aptitude tests for many of the rejections, although the all-black 477th Bombardment Group of airmen performed with distinction.55

Three years after the GI Bill was enacted, a report on how black vets were faring said it was “as though the GI Bill had been earmarked ‘For White Veterans Only.’”56

While the South remained the African-American heartland, about 6 million blacks fled Jim Crow to cities in other regions during the “Great Migration” of 1915 to 1970. The politics and culture of Chicago, New York, Detroit, Los Angeles and many other cities soon reflected the effects of this massive population shift.57

In some places, the GI Bill was more equitably administered than in the South. But well into the 1960s, federal housing policy effectively blocked black homeownership — even outside the South — by preventing homes in those areas from qualifying for government-backed mortgages.

“Neighborhoods where black people lived … were usually considered ineligible for FHA [Federal Housing Administration] backing,” journalist Coates wrote last year, centering his reporting on Chicago. In effect, black people were denied access to mortgages or sometimes forced to rely on extortionate “contract” home purchases, which allowed the sellers to evict families for missing a single payment, leaving the buyers with no equity in the property, Coates reported.58

Civil Rights

In the 1950s, the civil rights movement gained fresh momentum, spurred in part by the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which called segregated schools inherently unequal.59

Then African-Americans and their white allies began a campaign of nonviolent disobedience against state segregation laws, with marches, boycotts and sit-ins that sought to register black voters and end discriminatory practices that, among other things, forced blacks to sit in backs of buses and prevented them from getting served at lunch counters.60 By the mid-1960s, the movement was challenging racist housing, school and job policies and laws throughout the country.

Within five years of the epic 1963 March on Washington, when 250,000 white and black Americans gathered on the National Mall to demand an end to segregation and job discrimination, Congress had passed the three landmark civil rights laws. They prohibited discrimination in employment, housing, schools and all other public facilities, and mandated that states provide equal access to the polls, with Justice Department prior review — or preclearance — required of any laws that might impede voting in four Deep South states.Footnote * 61

School desegregation efforts begun after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling prompted major resistance, including in the North. In Boston, years of sometimes violent protests followed a federal court order in 1974 that both white and black students be bused to schools outside their neighborhoods in order to achieve racial integration.62

The busing order was based on a 1970 Supreme Court decision. But four years after the 1974 court order, the high court blocked lower courts from combining city and suburban school districts as part of desegregation plans.63 Because housing patterns were often racially defined, neighborhood schools remained largely segregated by race.64

While residential patterns changed little, national politics were transformed because of the civil rights movement. Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Texan proud of his Southern roots, championed civil rights and pushed the landmark legislation through a Democratic-controlled Congress; as a result, his party became identified with the movement, and Republicans successfully appealed to Southern white Democrats to switch political allegiances.65

“The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans,” a strategist for Republican President Richard M. Nixon, elected in 1968, later told The New York Times. “That's where the votes are.”66 By the 1980s, Republican presidential candidates were winning an average of 67 percent of the white Southern vote.67

A major factor in the anti-civil rights backlash was riots in largely black and poor inner-city districts that erupted in Los Angeles, Newark, Detroit and about 160 other cities in 1967. A report by a commission appointed to investigate the cause of the riots concluded: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal.”68

Just after the report was issued, more riots broke out, following the April assassination of the Rev. King, the unquestioned leader of the civil rights movement. Within a week, at Johnson's urging, Congress had passed the Fair Housing Act, outlawing housing discrimination based on race, religion, sex or national origin.

But Nixon — elected months later on a “law and order” platform — blocked efforts by Housing and Urban Development Secretary George Romney to use the new law to “affirmatively further” housing integration. Romney considered the nation's segregated housing patterns a “high-income white noose” around black inner cities and saw poverty in black ghettos as a major cause of the 1967 urban riots.69

“Equal opportunity for all Americans in education and housing is essential if we are going to keep our nation from being torn apart,” Romney wrote at the time, according to a 2014 investigation by the public interest journalism organization Pro Publica. Romney ordered HUD to reject applications for federal water, sewer and highway projects in places that fostered segregated housing.70 Nixon promptly shut down Romney's program, explaining in a memo: “I am convinced that while legal segregation is totally wrong, … forced integration of housing or education is just as wrong.” He acknowledged that his decision would leave blacks and whites living apart and attending separate schools.71

Economic Shifts

Major economic shifts followed the civil rights victories of the 1960s. Labor-intensive manufacturing, including textile mills in the South, began moving to Asia and Mexico, putting many unskilled blacks out of work. Many well-paying, blue-collar jobs migrated to predominantly white suburbs.72

Drugs, already a presence in some black urban areas, provided steady — albeit illegal — work for some individuals in urban neighborhoods. As addiction spread, so did robberies and burglaries committed by addicts, prompting demands for tougher penalties for users and dealers. In 1973, with strong support from some in the black community, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican, pushed through tough, new anti-drug laws, the first major attempt to deal with the drug scourge by ratcheting up prison sentences.73

Urban crime skyrocketed during a crack cocaine boom in the late 1980s: In Washington, D.C., alone, the rate of homicide deaths of black men jumped eightfold between 1985 and 1991.74 Congress reacted in 1994 by passing the largest anti-crime bill in U.S. history, mandating life imprisonment without parole after three violent or drug-trafficking convictions and providing nearly $10 billion for prisons.75

States adopted similar measures, spurring a major increase in the prison population. From 1990 to 2000, the number of inmates in prisons and jails more than quadrupled, from 474,000 to nearly 2 million. As the prison population rose, so did racial disparity. In 1993, the imprisonment rate among blacks was seven times that of whites. By 2000, nearly 10 percent of all black males ages 25-29 were in prison, compared with 1.1 percent of whites in the same age range.76

The skyrocketing prison population led Michelle Alexander, an Ohio State University law professor, to dub the U.S. criminal justice system “the new Jim Crow.”77 She was referring to, among other things, police racial profiling and over-focusing on drug enforcement in African-American communities.78

In a forerunner of today's police-violence cellphone videos, a civilian in 1991 recorded four Los Angeles police officers repeatedly kicking and striking an unarmed black motorist, Rodney King, after a high-speed car chase. The video, showing King being struck 56 times with metal batons, aroused nationwide outrage, and the officers were charged with assault and use of excessive force. In 1992, however, an all-white jury acquitted three of them and deadlocked on the fourth, setting off five days of riots in predominantly black South Los Angeles. More than 60 people died in the mayhem. A federal grand jury later indicted the officers on charges of violating King's civil rights; two were convicted and went to prison, and two were acquitted.79

Fifteen years later, Obama's election aroused hopes the country had moved into a post-racial era, but reality proved otherwise. A long-running effort on the right to challenge Obama's U.S. citizenship — joined by current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump — was seen by commentator Fareed Zakaria as “shame[ful] coded racism,” a view shared by many others.80

Then a series of deaths of black people, mostly at police hands (and one, Trayvon Martin, 17, killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla.), propelled racial issues back to the top of the national agenda.

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*This “preclearance” requirement was later extended to Alaska and Arizona and selected counties and townships in California, New York and Michigan.

Current Situation

Police on Trial

Police officers face criminal charges in the deaths of two young black men in separate incidents in Baltimore and Chicago. The deaths sparked shock across the nation, riots in Baltimore, dismissal of the Chicago police chief and demands that Chicago's mayor resign.

In Baltimore, six police officers face charges in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, 25, arrested for carrying a knife after running from patrol officers on April 12, 2015. A video showed Gray being dragged, groaning, to a police van, where his hands and legs were shackled but he was not secured with a seatbelt. Hospitalized after losing consciousness, he died from spinal cord injuries allegedly sustained in the van.81

In December, William G. Porter was the first officer to go on trial on charges of manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment — all stemming from his failure to secure Gray with a seatbelt. In mid-December, a mistrial was declared after a jury of seven blacks and five whites deadlocked. Prosecutors said they will retry the officer. The van's driver faces second-degree murder charges, while two other officers are accused of manslaughter and two others with second-degree assault.82

Porter's defense focused on his testimony that he had asked Gray if he needed a medic and helped him onto a van bench.83

The McDonald shooting in Chicago presents an even starker picture of what can happen in interactions between police and residents of poor, tough neighborhoods. The 17-year-old was shot in Chicago's predominantly black South Side on Oct. 20, 2014, by police responding to a call that a man had punctured a car tire with a knife. Police reports at the time depicted McDonald advancing on officer Jason Van Dyke and threatening violence by attempting to get up from the ground after being shot.84

Acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates, right, discusses racial issues with sociology professor Bruce Western (Getty Images/Paul Marotta)  
Acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates, right, discusses racial issues with sociology professor Bruce Western at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government on Nov. 11, 2015. A MacArthur fellow and national correspondent for The Atlantic, Coates won the 2015 National Book Award for Between the World and Me, about the centuries-old legacy of violence inflicted upon African-Americans. (Getty Images/Paul Marotta)

But a police car dashcam video, released more than a year later, showed McDonald walking away from police and then spinning around and collapsing as he is hit by the first of Van Dyke's 16 bullets.85 The video became public after a journalist sued to get it released and only hours after Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in the death. He was freed on bail, and in late December pleaded not guilty.86

A week later, as protests of police practices grew, Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy, saying he “had become an issue rather than dealing with the issue.” Emanuel later apologized for the killing and took responsibility for it. But protesters demanded that he resign.87

Pressure on Emanuel increased again after the post-Christmas police killings of a grandmother and college student. The mayor announced “a major overhaul” of use-of-force policies. Every officer assigned to respond to incidents will be required, by June 1, to carry a non-lethal electric stun gun (Taser).

Meanwhile, new revelations have emerged about the department's treatment of African-Americans. The Cook County prosecutor released another long-held video, of a police shooting of Ronald Johnson III, 25, fatally shot in the back a week before the McDonald incident. Another video, from 2012, showed officers using a stun gun against a jail inmate, then dragging him down a hallway by his handcuffed wrists. The prisoner, Philip Coleman, a University of Chicago graduate with a master's degree from the University of Illinois, was suffering from a mental health crisis when he died in custody, according to his family.88

Chicago police shot and killed 70 people, most of them black, in a five-year period ending in 2014 — more than any other of the nation's 10 largest cities, The New York Times reported. The city's police oversight panel upheld misconduct claims in only two cases out of more than 400 police shootings since 2007. But the city has paid out more than $500 million since 2004 to settle lawsuits or complaints involving police.89

In late December, Dean Angelo Sr., president of the Chicago chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, pointed to the level of violence in some parts of the city, noting that officers seize thousands of guns a year. The department took 6,714 illegal guns off the street as of mid-December, 2015. “That is good policing,” he said. “But nobody looks at it that way.” Politicians are “throwing us under the bus,” he added.90

Homicides in Chicago and Baltimore have spiked in recent years. By the end of 2015, Baltimore had suffered 344 homicides, the highest number since 1993, when the city had a population of 100,000 more people. Chicago's homicide number rose by 12.6 percent to 468.91

Later, at a meeting of mayors and police chiefs in Washington, Emanuel blamed the rising homicide rate on police second-guessing themselves due to fear of being accused of misconduct. Angelo denied Emanuel's accusation, saying police were “out there working their buns off.” But his Baltimore counterpart had said following the Freddie Gray incident that officers were “more afraid of going to jail than getting shot and killed right now.”92

Campus Revolts

Protests against racism are surging at public and private universities.

At the University of Missouri in Columbia, the entire football team, blacks and whites, refused to play unless university President Tim Wolfe quit or was fired. The players were backing black protesters outraged at what they called Wolfe's failure to respond to their concerns over threats and insults against black students. Wolfe resigned in early November, acknowledging his “inaction” in the face of growing unrest. Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, who supervised the Columbia campus, stepped down as well (but took another job at the university).93

Similar protests spread beyond “Mizzou.” At Yale, more than 1,000 students marched in early November after several racially tinged incidents, including the alleged exclusion of students of color from a “White Girls Only” fraternity party — denied by Sigma Alpha Epsilon — and a controversy over a student panel's request that students not don racially or ethnically offensive Halloween costumes, such as blackface or feathered headdresses.94

Buildings named for former college presidents whose racism is no longer considered acceptable have become a rallying point for many students. At Georgetown, students held a sit-in over plans to rename two buildings after former Georgetown presidents who had organized slave sales in the 19th century. The university canceled the renamings.95

At the University of Maryland in College Park, the state Board of Regents acceded to student demands to remove from the football stadium the name of a former university president, Harry C. Byrd, who had opposed admitting black students.96

At Princeton, black students objected to the use of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's name on several university facilities. Wilson, a former Princeton president, purged many African-Americans from the federal civil service during his years in the White House. In November Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber agreed to consider renaming the facilities, among them the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs.97

Some see name removal as retroactive judgment. “I don't like Woodrow Wilson any more than they do, but we can't impose modern values on historical figures,” said Josh Zuckerman, a Princeton senior and the editor-in-chief of the conservative college magazine, the Princeton Tory.98

But lawyer Gordon J. Davis of the Venable law firm in New York argued in a New York Times op-ed that Wilson's race policies had real and lasting consequences, including for his grandfather, who lost his civil service job. Wilson “ruined the lives of countless talented African-Americans and their families,” Davis wrote.99

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Hope and Fear

Those who study race view the near-term future with a mix of hope and fear. For many, the country's demographic shift — already underway — is the key change on the horizon.

By 2060 non-Hispanic whites are expected to decrease from 62 percent of the population to less than 44 percent, as Hispanics come to represent more than one-quarter of the country. African-Americans are expected to be only slightly above their current 13 percent level.100

For Texas A&M's Feagin, the demographic transformation and what he sees as stepped-up white hostility toward African-Americans and other nonwhites are “like two trains on the same track headed toward each other,” illustrated by what he calls “this dramatic increase in white protectionism to protect our privileges that you see so dramatically in Republican candidates.”

Trump's incendiary language about Mexican immigrants is a danger sign for all people of color, Feagin says. “We've had coded language, but to call Mexican immigrants rapists — ordinary working people accused of being rapists — forget all the subtle stuff,” he says. “This reflects the levels of white fear of losing privilege and income and wealth.”

Yet one view from abroad is that Americans are facing up to their racial issues, in sharp contrast to Western Europe, which has failed to integrate Arab and African immigrants, many of them Muslims who have lived in Europe for three generations. Continuing tensions in Parisian suburbs with big immigrant populations since riots in 2005, and recent anti-immigrant violence in Germany, are only the most obvious signs of the strained relations, aggravated by recent terrorist attacks in France and Belgium.101

Damaso Reyes, a black Dominican-American photojournalist from New York now based in Barcelona, says the United States is far more willing than Europe to confront race in its social, political and cultural dimensions. “Black people, white people, brown people are all having conversations about race all the time, in social media, schools and history books,” he says. “When a Texas history book says that ‘workers’ were brought to America from Africa, there is a huge outcry: ‘Call slavery, slavery.’ To me, that is a positive thing.”102

For Rockeymoore of Global Policy Solutions, solving institutional racism is the most urgent task facing today's activists. “If we don't address structural racism in this country, within 40 to 50 years we'll look like apartheid South Africa or pre-1950 America in terms of opportunity or lack thereof,” she says.

Georgetown's Hinkson doesn't think much is going to change in the next 20 years with regard to deep-seated patterns of racial separation. “The very fact that we haven't been able to say that integrating schools by race and class is the best way to eliminate gaps” in academic performance “tells you that as far as our schools being less segregated 20 years from now, that is not going to happen.”

Fortner, of City University of New York, is somewhat more hopeful. “I'm a perpetual optimist when it comes to the American project,” he says. However, he adds, he doesn't think improvement will come rapidly, given the polarization and gridlock in the political system.

“Washington is broken. If we find a way out of the current political morass, we could race to a much better future,” Fortner says. “But if the system remains so gridlocked, it's going to be a slow walk to progress.”

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Is Black Lives Matter a valid slogan?


Jack Hunter
Editor, Rare Politics . Written for CQ Researcher, January 2016

If I told my fellow allies in the fight against abortion that “unborn lives matter,” few would think I was saying that other lives didn't matter. It's hard to imagine abortion opponents even being offended at such an assertion.

They would implicitly understand that I was saying certain lives seem to matter less under our legal system and in our society. If some anti-abortion activists showed poor judgment or even committed violent acts in the name of their cause, few of the like-minded would suggest that this kind of behavior discredited the cause itself.

“Black Lives Matter” makes the same important point.

Overall, it doesn't matter if Black Lives Matter leaders sometimes do questionable things. It doesn't matter if some who champion this slogan sometimes take things to unnecessary and even deplorable extremes.

Those exceptions do not discount certain realities.

Black Lives Matter is an answer to a long-standing societal question: Why are African-Americans targeted and incarcerated at disproportionate rates compared with any other racial group? Why are they more often the victims of police brutality?

And why do more Americans not realize this is happening?

From Ferguson, Mo., and the killing of Michael Brown, to Baltimore, Md., and the death of Freddie Gray, to Charleston, S.C., and the deadly police shooting of Walter Scott, to a Staten Island, N.Y., sidewalk where Eric Garner was choked to death by the police for selling “loose” cigarettes, Americans continue to see incidents, time and again, where black lives do seem to be valued less than others.

Not all of these high-profile incidents are the same. Some are murkier than others, such as in Ferguson. Some are quite clear, such as in Charleston, where a police officer now sits in jail, charged with murder.

But there is a pattern, one that is repeated too often. Many of these incidents that have captured the national imagination and begun important conversations about race have been caught on smartphone cameras.

Smartphone cameras are relatively new, but black Americans are trying to tell us that this type of brutality is not new. These problems did not begin with the advent of smartphones.

What critics like to portray as a movement needlessly stoking racial division is really just an abused minority finally giving voice to the violence they have long faced.

Black Lives Matter is an integral part of the ongoing fight to right unpardonable wrongs.


Derryck Green
Member of Project 21, the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives. Written for CQ Researcher, January 2016

Black Lives Matter is neither a valid slogan nor a legitimate protest movement. The slogan's implication and the movement's emphasis are incongruent; it's an intentional mischaracterization. When one hears the slogan Black Lives Matter, one is led to think of an all-inclusive phrase and social movement that's focused on several pressing issues that have a direct and immediate impact on improving the quality of black lives.

But that's not the intention of the motto. Black Lives Matter isn't all-inclusive. It's very selective, because the only black lives that matter to this protest movement are blacks who were shot and killed by white police officers. Members and supporters continue to propagate the belief, with little evidence, that cops are systematically targeting and unjustly killing black people.

This perspective is thoroughly problematic. First, police shoot more white suspects than black suspects. Second, most of the black suspects who were shot and killed by police in the past year — many of whom were defended by Black Lives Matter — were criminals resisting arrest. Defending black criminals legitimizes and glorifies black criminality. Sanctifying black criminals killed by cops largely comes at the expense of black victims — and the movement's credibility — especially when more serious issues desperately need addressing.

Furthermore, the desire to be singularly identified as people who are targeted only because they're black is to embrace victimization. Black Lives Matter doesn't want any other group intruding on or minimizing its claims of victimhood, which explains the petulant indignation to the phrase “all lives matter.” If “all lives matter,” blacks' special status as victims is negated and the transparent and dishonest rationale for the existence of this movement is destroyed. The movement uses victimization as leverage for its dishonesty.

The disproportionate focus on the rare, alleged cases of police brutality and shootings intentionally diverts attention from the significant difficulties blacks face. Black women accounted for 37 percent of all abortions in 2012. Black illegitimacy is at 72 percent. Black children are disproportionately trapped in substandard and underperforming schools, preserving the educational gap between black and white students. Black unemployment is twice the national rate. Blacks kill 90 percent of black homicide victims. Don't black lives suffering from these problems matter?

The selective moral outrage that favors black criminals over black lives in general invalidates the social and moral credibility of Black Lives Matter.

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1789–1863Founders compromise on slavery; issue eventually tears country apart.
1789Constitution allows slavery and return of fugitive slaves as “property.”
1857Supreme Court rules in Dred Scott case that slaves are not citizens.
1863In midst of Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in 10 Confederate states.
1865–1940Civil War ends; racist Jim Crow regime in South survives New Deal labor and welfare laws.
186513th Amendment frees all slaves. As Reconstruction attempts to establish racial equality in the South, ex-Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest founds Ku Klux Klan to terrorize black population.
1877Rutherford B. Hayes is recognized as the winner of presidential election in return for pulling federal troops from the South; Jim Crow system follows.
1915African-Americans begin their “Great Migration” out of the South; the number eventually reaches 6 million.
1933Compromises with segregationist Southern Democrats restrict black access to New Deal labor benefits.
1940The number of African-Americans lynched in the South since 1887 approaches 4,000.
1944–1980Anger over obstacles to black access to veterans' benefits helps fuel civil rights movement, which wins landmark legislation.
1944Local administrators restrict black access to veterans' education grants and business and mortgage loans.
1954Supreme Court unanimously rules school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education.
1964Civil Rights Act outlaws job, school and public facilities discrimination.
1965Voting Rights Act prohibits discriminatory obstructions to voting.
1967Civil disorders erupt in 160 cities.
1968National commission studying causes of urban riots concludes the nation is moving toward two “separate and unequal” societies…. Civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated, sparking urban riots…. Congress passes Fair Housing Act, banning racial discrimination in housing…. Richard M. Nixon is elected president on promise to restore law and order to cities.
1974Supreme Court rules against combining urban and suburban school districts to desegregate, dealing a blow to desegregation plans.
1994–PresentCrack epidemic prompts harsher sentencing laws for drug-related crimes, later viewed as impetus to mass incarceration of African-Americans.
1994Congress and states pass tough anti-crime bills.
2000Incarcerated population reaches nearly 2 million, up from 474,000 in 1980, with disproportionally high black imprisonment rate.
2008Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is elected president, leading to hopes that America had overcome its racist past.
2012A neighborhood watch volunteer kills black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida, focusing new attention on dangers to black males.
2014Death of Michael Brown at the hands of police in Missouri sparks Black Lives Matter protests and “All Lives Matter” backlash.
2015President Obama defends Black Lives Matter slogan and movement…. Black Lives activists disrupt Democratic candidates' primary speeches, force changes in their campaigns…. Demonstrations at the University of Missouri, Yale and elsewhere raise issues of racial discrimination on campus…. Chicago police officer is charged with murder in shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald…. Justice Department opens investigation of Chicago police…. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fires police chief; protesters call for Emanuel's resignation.

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Short Features

Backers point to police brutality, but critics say the slogan is anti-cop.

Three words — Black Lives Matter — have sparked a new argument over race in America. Demonstrators chanting and tweeting that slogan have protested the deaths of African-Americans, many of them unarmed, at the hands of police officers — most of them white — in cities across the country in the past two years. As Black Lives Matter activist Melina Abdullah, Pan-African studies chair at California State University in Los Angeles, said on CNN, the slogan first showed up in media reports of demonstrations after the Aug. 9, 2014, shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown by then-Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson.1

A series of ensuing demonstrations evolved into the Black Lives Matter movement after unarmed black men or boys were killed by police in New York City; Beavercreek, Ohio; North Charleston, S.C.; and Baltimore. Then, a young white supremacist was charged in the shooting deaths of nine parishioners at a historic African-American church in Charleston, S.C., last July.2

The slogan reflects reality, says Leslie L. Hinkson, a sociology professor at Georgetown University in Washington. “We're told in so many ways that ‘no, your lives don't matter,’” she says, “You don't have good services, your schools are horrible. There are constant reminders.”

A demonstrator holds a sign that answers critics who see racism in the Black Lives Matter slogan (AFP/Getty Images/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)  
A demonstrator on the National Mall on Oct.10, 2015, holds a sign that answers critics who see racism in the Black Lives Matter slogan. The Justice or Else! rally was held to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. (AFP/Getty Images/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

Some police officials and political conservatives argue, however, that the slogan and movement behind it are anti-cop. Even some sympathizers say the movement is ignoring the fact that most black homicides are perpetrated by African-Americans (as most homicides of whites are white-on-white).3

President Obama has defended the slogan, saying the organizers used the phrase “not because … they were suggesting nobody else's lives matter. Rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that is happening in the African-American community that's not happening in other communities. And that is a legitimate issue that we've got to address.”4

Criticism of the movement, however, grew more heated after a handful of African-Americans were accused of attacking police. Those incidents included the December 2014 killing of two New York City officers and the September 2015 shooting death of Houston Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth. “Police Lives Matter” was the rallying cry for a memorial march in his honor.5

“Black Lives Matter has blood on their hands … blue blood on their hands,” Fox News host Eric Bolling said in November, accusing the movement of stoking violence against police.6

On the political front, the slogan has given Democratic presidential primary candidates some trouble. In June, at a speech to a black church audience in Missouri, Hillary Clinton said, paraphrasing her mother, “All lives matter.” After push-back from activists, she was embracing the slogan by July. “This is not just a slogan, this should be a guiding principle,” Clinton said in South Carolina. “We have some serious problems with race and justice and systemic racism.”7

Among Republican primary candidates, the strongest reaction to Black Lives Matter has come from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who accused members of calling for the killing of police officers, apparently a reference to a chant during a Minneapolis demonstration that one activist said was a joke.8

But some conservatives back the slogan. Jack Hunter, a libertarian former aide to Republican presidential primary candidate Rand Paul, says Obama had it right. “It's not that all lives don't matter,” Hunter says. “Black Lives Matter is saying that there is something specifically wrong with our society, our criminal justice system, and that is a fact. That is what that phrase means.”

Still, the movement could trigger a backlash if critics persuade enough non-African-Americans that the slogan means that only black lives matter, and only when black people are killed or injured by police.

Citing the high death-by-homicide rate for African-Americans at the hands of African-Americans, Hinkson of Georgetown asks, “Don't people within the [black] community also need to be reminded that black lives matter?”

John McWhorter, a linguistics professor at Columbia University in New York, agreed. Calling himself sympathetic to the movement, he said the movement should also direct its “fierceness” at preventing the “minority of black men from killing one another all the time.”9

Filmmaker Spike Lee spoke in even tougher terms. “We as a people can't talk only about Black Lives Matter,” he told Chicago magazine, “and then not talk about this self-inflicted genocide…. Only by talking about both and addressing both can we bring change.”10

About two weeks after Lee's interview, a 9-year-old Chicago boy, TyShawn Lee, was shot to death in an alley in the city's largely black South Side. Police said the boy was executed because of his father's alleged gang ties; they later charged 27-year-old African-American gang member Corey Morgan with first-degree murder.11

Then attention shifted back to police killings after the release of a video showing a Chicago police officer fatally shooting a black 17-year-old, Laquan McDonald, 16 times; protests led to the early December firing of the police chief.12

Black Lives activist DeRay Mckesson, organizer of “Campaign Zero,” which advocates new restrictions on police use of force and related measures, says Lee and McWhorter are missing the point. “To see people with such exposure and intellect not be able to grasp the fundamental difference between community violence and police violence is nothing short of stunning,” he says. “Police are powerful not only because they have guns but because they are allowed to use guns and have protection when they use them. That makes them different from anyone else.”13

— Peter Katel

[1] “CNN Newsroom,” Oct. 2, 2015, Nexis.

[2] Matt Apuzzo, “Dylann Roof, Charleston Shooting Suspect, Is Indicted on Federal Hate Crime Charges,” The New York Times, July 22, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/qcwlj8b; Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Trial Set for First of 6 Baltimore Officers Charged in Freddie Gray Case,” The New York Times, Sept. 29, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/pnfc22m; Al Baker, J. David Goodman and Benjamin Mueller, “Beyond the Chokehold: The Path to Eric Garner's Death,” The New York Times, June 13, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nflggzh. For background, see Barbara Mantel, “Far-right Extremism,” CQ Researcher, Sept. 18, 2015, pp. 769–792.

[3] Amy Sherman, “An updated look at statistics on black-on-black murders,” Politifact Florida, May 21, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nmvpj4l.

[4] “Remarks by the President in Arm Chair Discussion on Criminal Justice with Law Enforcement Leaders,” the White House, Oct. 22, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/qguv37k.

[5] Radley Balko, “Once again: There is no ‘war on cops,’” The Washington Post, Sept. 10, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/ohbeune; “Community holds ‘Police Lives Matter’ march in memory of slain deputy,” KHOU-TV, USA Today, Sept. 12, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/q5lz2ho; Larry Celona et al., “Gunman executes 2 NYPD cops in Garner ‘revenge,’” New York Post, Dec. 20, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/lgubufb.

[6] “Quentin Tarantino defends anti-cop comments,” Fox News, Nov. 5, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/pzrd7te.

[7] Cameron Joseph, “‘Black Lives Matter’: Hillary Clinton addresses nation's racial inequality in meeting with South Carolina Democrats,” New York Daily News, July 23, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/otyrq4m; Tamara Keith, “Hillary Clinton's 3-Word Misstep: ‘All Lives Matter,’” NPR, June 24, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nc4ndro.

[8] Quoted in Caitlin Dickson, “Chris Christie doubles down on Black Lives Matter claims,” Yahoo News, Oct. 31, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/h4pa59v; “Black Lives Matter Activist: ‘Pigs in a Blanket’ Chant was ‘More Playful Than Anything,’” Breitbart, Sept. 1, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/phsasgl; Rich Zeoli, “Executive Director of the FOP: Comey Wrong About Ferguson Effect,” CBS News, Oct. 28, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hp7r9d3.

[9] “CNN Tonight,” CNN, Sept. 29, 2015; John McWhorter, “Black Lives Matter should also take on ‘black-on-black crime,’” The Washington Post, Oct. 22, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jjfqpys.

[10] Bryan Smith, “Spike Lee Sounds Off on Chi-Raq, Gun Violence, and Rahm,” Chicago magazine, Oct. 22, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zsmlhsv.

[11] Sarah Kaplan, “Chicago police: Slain 9-year-old was targeted, lured into alley,” The Washington Post, Nov. 6, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hts7spv. See also Jason Keyser, “Charges Filed In Murder Of 9-Year-Old Chicago Boy Tyshawn Lee,” The Associated Press, The Huffington Post, Nov. 29, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/qfm62o6.

[12] “Chicago mayor fires police chief in wake of video release,” The Associated Press, Yahoo! News, Dec. 1, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/j7z7zxx.

[13] “Campaign Zero,” undated, http://tinyurl.com/p6vknog.

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Activists demand more action from Democrats.

Race is becoming — again — a headline issue in U.S. life just as the two main political parties are preparing to nominate presidential candidates.

Democratic candidates' speeches have been interrupted by demonstrators demanding more responsiveness on race questions, prompting some changes in how the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns deal with the issue.

Most members of the larger Republican field have devoted little time to the causes associated with Black Lives Matter — above all, the issue of law enforcement in minority communities.

Nevertheless, the only black candidate from either party is Republican Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon. He had written earlier in his career that blacks and whites received different treatment from the law enforcement system. Now, he is calling the focus on criminal justice a mistake. “I just don't agree that that's where the emphasis needs to be,” he said.14

The Democratic Party's relations with the black community, forged in the civil rights battles of a half century ago, have not guaranteed an easy ride with the new generation of activists.

Since Democratic front-runner Clinton argued politely with Black Lives Matter activists last summer, she has stepped up her attacks on racial inequities. “Race still plays a significant role in determining who gets ahead in America and who gets left behind,” Clinton said in a speech in Atlanta in October. “Racial profiling is wrong.” Her campaign website does not single out racial inequality as an issue. But, in her criminal justice proposals she calls for legislation to end racial profiling by federal, state and local law enforcement officials.15

Clinton's leading primary opponent, Sen. Sanders of Vermont, a “democratic socialist,” had his own tussles with Black Lives Matter activists. He started his campaign by stating that more jobs are the answer to racial injustice. But after activists disrupted some of his speeches, Sanders unveiled a criminal justice policy to address “violence waged against black and brown Americans: physical, political, legal and economic.” He advocates “community policing,” which promotes closer ties between officers and neighborhood residents; more racial and ethnic diversity on police forces; and aggressive prosecution of lawbreaking police.16

Clinton and Sanders' decisions to embrace the activists' cause was good politics, some analysts say. “For Democrats to win the White House in 2016, African-Americans must give 90 to 95 percent of our votes to that party's nominee,” wrote Van Jones, the president of two social justice advocacy groups, Dream Corps and Rebuild the Dream, which promote innovative solutions for America's economy. “Given that fact, younger African-Americans rightfully expect each and every Democratic candidate to explicitly, loudly and enthusiastically address the pain and needs of black lives — to their satisfaction.”17

Donald Trump, the New York real estate developer who has polled highest among the GOP candidates, has a troubled history on racial matters. In July, he reprised his past support of the conspiracy theory — embraced by white supremacists — that President Obama was not U.S.-born.18

When Trump opened his presidential campaign in June, he said of Mexican immigrants: “They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists.”19

Then in November, Trump defended the punching of a Black Lives Matter protester who disrupted a speech by the candidate in Birmingham, Ala. “Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing,” Trump said after the incident.20

Soon after, Trump announced that 100 black ministers and religious leaders would endorse him at a public event. But the event instead became a private meeting with a smaller group, where the beating of the protester was discussed. After the session, Trump got one endorsement, from the Rev. Darrell Scott, a Cleveland-area pastor who had helped organize the event.21

Before the meeting, the Rev. Al Sharpton, a prominent black civil rights activist, cited the candidate's recent comments about undocumented Mexican immigrants as a reason not to attend. “I don't know how you preach Jesus, a refugee, on Sunday and then deal with a refugee-basher on Monday,” Sharpton said.22

Two Republican candidates stand apart from their competitors on racial issues. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida spoke sympathetically of protests against discriminatory policing. “This is a legitimate issue,” he said on Fox News in August. “It is a fact that in the African-American community around this country there has been, for a number of years now, a growing resentment toward the way law enforcement and the criminal justice system interacts with the community.”23

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, spoke along similar lines. “There's no justification for violence, but there is anger,” he said, also on Fox. “I am starting to understand where the anger comes from, and that we need to fix things … in our system, because [justice] isn't being meted out fairly.”24

But one other Republican candidate's statements on racial matters have been characterized by some as insulting or hostile. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, asked during a South Carolina appearance how he would attract black voters, said: “Our message is one of hope and aspiration. It isn't one of division and ‘get in line and we'll take care of you with free stuff.’”25 Bush immediately came under fire for seemingly echoing a conservative view that government aid has sapped African-Americans' initiative.

Statistics on race and party affiliation give Republicans little political incentive to reach out to black voters in primary races. Only 11 percent of the black population “lean” Republican, according to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center. By contrast, 80 percent of African-Americans lean Democratic.26

Nevertheless, candidates from both parties have been invited to two February town hall meetings on race-related issues. DeRay Mckesson, an African-American activist who is helping to organize the sessions, says, “Whoever the next president is will need to engage on a range of issues, including those that don't necessarily align with their viewpoint.”

— Peter Katel

[14] Quoted in Kelefa Sanneh, “A Wing and a Prayer,” The New Yorker, Nov. 30, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/pu9vdsh.

[15] Sabrina Siddiqui, “Black Lives Matter protest interrupts Clinton speech on criminal justice,” The Guardian, Oct. 30, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/p8dvba3; “Our criminal justice system is out of balance,” hillaryclinton.com, undated, http://tinyurl.com/pfneqjb.

[16] “Racial Justice,” Bernie 2016, http://tinyurl.com/pp8bfja; Brandon Ellington Patterson, “Black Lives Matter Just Officially Became Part of the Democratic Primary,” Mother Jones, Oct. 21, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/onc9sjm.

[17] Van Jones, “Disrupting Bernie Sanders and the Democrats: 5 lessons,” CNN, Aug. 13, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/ouubgf7.

[18] Meghan Keneally, “Donald Trump's History of Raising Birther Questions About President Obama,” ABC News, Sept. 18, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/qdtdlu5; Evan Osnos, “The Fearful and the Frustrated,” The New Yorker, Aug. 31, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/q4dhgs9.

[19] Adam B. Lerner, “The 10 best lines from Donald Trump's announcement speech,” Politico, June 16, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/or9bsht.

[20] Jeremy Diamond, “Trump on protester: ‘Maybe he should have been roughed up,’” CNN Politics, Nov. 23, 2015.

[21] Michael Barbaro and John Corrales, “‘Love’ and Disbelief Follow Donald Trump Meeting With Black Leaders,” The New York Times, Nov. 30, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/osd7opc.

[22] Ibid.

[23] German Lopez, “Marco Rubio shows other Republicans how to respond to Black Lives Matter,” Vox, Sept. 30, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/otdbvzb.

[24] Katherine Krueger, “Rand Paul: ‘Not A Big Fan’ Of Black Lives Matter, But I Get ‘The Anger,’” TPM Livewire, Oct. 23, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/og9j74m.

[25] Sean Sullivan, “Jeb Bush: Win black voters with aspiration, not ‘free stuff,’” The Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nbpnpz8.

[26] “A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation,” Pew Research Center, April 7, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/lbed829.

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Alexander, Michelle , The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness , The New Press, 2010. An Ohio State University law professor's book helped spur efforts to change the nation's criminal justice system.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi , Between the World and Me , Spiegel & Grau, 2015. A journalist's brief but searing memoir-essay explores life as a black man in today's America.

Feagin, Joe R. , Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations , Routledge, 2014. A Texas A&M sociologist specializing in race, describes government policies that implicitly or explicitly provided preferential treatment for whites.

Fortner, Michael Javen , Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment , Harvard University Press, 2015. Examining the impact of the country's first drug-crackdown laws, a City University of New York professor of urban studies analyzes anti-crime sentiment in the African-American community.

Oliver, Melvin L., and Thomas M. Shapiro , Black Wealth/ White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality , Routledge Taylor & Francis, 2006. Sociologists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Brandeis University, respectively, updated a 1995 book that drew attention to how profoundly discriminatory practices have affected black asset-building.

Riley, Jason L. , Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed , Encounter Books, 2014. A senior fellow at the center-right Manhattan Institute sums up the black conservative vision: Personal choices and a culture of “victimhood” — rather than historical and economic forces — explain conditions in poor African-American neighborhoods.


Domenech, Ben , “Are Republicans For Freedom Or White Identity Politics?” The Federalist, Aug. 21, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nny5h66. The publisher of a conservative magazine worries that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's focus on white grievances could push his party into European-style semi-fascist populism.

Mckesson, DeRay , “Reflections on Meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton, and the #DemDebate,” Medium, Oct. 15, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/o5tumj4. A leading activist reports on how top Democratic candidates greeted proposals from members of the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

Rutenberg, Jim , “A Dream Undone,” The New York Times Magazine, July 29, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/p8hmfdt. A veteran correspondent chronicles a long campaign to weaken the 1965 Voting Rights Act based on the argument that discriminatory conditions have changed in the South.

Smith, Jamil , “BlackLivesMatter Protesters Are Not the Problem,” The New Republic, Aug. 10, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/p5b473e. An editor at a liberal magazine argues that activists are justified in confronting friendly presidential candidates on racial justice issues.

Walk-Morris, Tatiana , “Blacks Are Challenged to Buy From Black-Owned Businesses to Close Gap,” The New York Times, Nov. 15, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/pmasdk3. A Chicago lawyer bought only from black-owned businesses for one year, prompting an examination of the effectiveness of grassroots efforts to close the black-white wealth gap.

Williams, Vanessa , “For Clinton, a challenge to keep black voters energized about her campaign,” The Washington Post, Nov. 1, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/oxaxqbu. A political reporter chronicles the Democratic front-runner's efforts to maintain support of a vital part of the party's constituency.

Reports and Studies

Azerrad, David, and Rea S. Hederman Jr. , “Defending the Dream: Why Income Inequality Doesn't Threaten Opportunity,” Heritage Foundation, Sept. 13, 2012, http://tinyurl.com/d28ppb7. Two staff members of a conservative think tank conclude that the high rate of single-parent households among African-Americans explains the black-white wealth gap.

Orfield, Gary, et al., “Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future,” The Civil Rights Project, University of California, Los Angeles, May 15, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/q8v3t6b. Four education scholars conclude that public schools increasingly are segregated by race and class, even though legally mandated segregation has disappeared.

Traub, Amy, and Catherine Ruetschlin , “The Racial Wealth Gap: Why Policy Matters,” Demos, March 10, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/mxltzn5. A liberal think tank analyzes government policies that contribute to the wealth gap and others that could narrow the divide.

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The Next Step

Economic Programs

Evanoff, Ted , “Black jobless rate falling by 10%,” The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.), Dec. 9, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/ja6feu7. Economic development programs in Memphis generated more than 6,000 jobs in 2015 and will pare the city's 14 percent black unemployment rate — more than double the metro area's overall rate — by a projected 10 percent, according to the chief executive of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce.

Henderson, Nia-Malika , “1,000 women of color want women and girls included in ‘My Brother's Keeper,’” The Washington Post, June 18, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/noft8t5. More than 1,000 women of color signed an open letter calling on the White House to include women and girls in the scope of a 2014 federal initiative to support at-risk young men of color.

2016 Presidential Election

Clement, Scott , “How black voters could determine the 2016 election,” The Washington Post, June 11, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hckz23t. The turnout of black voters, who historically have supported Democratic presidential candidates, will greatly influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, says a public opinion analyst.

Johnson, Akilah , “Diverse GOP candidates struggle to attract minority voters,” The Boston Globe, Dec. 9, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/j5js96f. A racially and ethnically diverse field of Republican presidential candidates has failed to attract minority voters' support because of several candidates' remarks about blacks, Hispanics or Muslims, according to political scientists and consultants.

Trujillo, Mario , “Black Lives Matter will not endorse in 2016,” The Hill, Sept. 19, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zuh99rn. The Black Lives Matter activist movement will not endorse political candidates or parties during the 2016 presidential election but may become more politically engaged as it evolves, a cofounder said.

Police Conduct

Chiquillo, Julieta , “McKinney officer in pool party video had disciplinary record,” The Dallas Morning News, Sept. 26, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/pkp23ff. A former McKinney, Texas, police officer who resigned after he was videotaped pushing a black teenage girl to the ground at a pool party previously was disciplined three times by his department but had no prior record of excessive force.

McLaughlin, Eliott C., “We're not seeing more police shootings, just more news coverage,” CNN, April 21, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zlwqdh6. The viral nature of the Internet has led to more national media coverage of police shootings of unarmed black people, but black newspapers have consistently covered such incidents for decades, according to African-American newspaper publishers.

School Desegregation

Brown, Emma , “Will the Obama administration now focus on desegregating schools?” The Washington Post, Oct. 11, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/h5cx3jd. Incoming U.S. Secretary of Education John King is likely to make racial integration in schools a top priority, according to school diversity advocates and education experts.

Childress, Sarah , “Report: School Segregation Is Back, 60 Years After ‘Brown,’” PBS “Frontline,” May 15, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/z45nbkk. U.S. schools gradually have become more segregated since the early 1990s, reversing several decades of desegregation that followed the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling that segregation was unconstitutional, according to the UCLA Project on Civil Rights.

Taylor, Kate , “Education Dept. Drops Proposal to Rezone Upper West Side Schools,” The New York Times, Nov. 18, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/ht2wgfm. The New York City Department of Education dropped a rezoning proposal aimed at reducing economic and racial segregation in Manhattan elementary schools after parents protested that their children would have to attend schools labeled “persistently dangerous” by state authorities.

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125 Broad St., New York, NY 10004
Litigates on a variety of race-related issues, including discrimination in school discipline and racial profiling by police.

Campaign Zero
An outgrowth of the Black Lives Matter movement; has proposed ways to help curb police use of force.

Global Policy Solutions
1300 L St., N.W., Washington, DC 20005
A research and advocacy organization that focuses on equality of economic opportunity, including racial equity.

Project 21, National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives
Provides an outlet for commentary by African-Americans of the political right on topics such as affirmative action and immigration.

Scholars Network on Black Masculinity
University of Michigan, Department of Sociology, 500 South State St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Studies how to improve life possibilities for black men.

The Sentencing Project
1705 DeSales St., N.W., Washington, DC 20036
A criminal justice reform advocacy think tank.

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[1] Quoted in Monica Davey and Mitch Smith, “Anger Over Killing by Police Halts Shopping in Chicago,” The New York Times, Nov. 27, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/pppahla.

[2] “Chicago Mayor Cutting Short Cuba Vacation After Police Shooting,” Reuters, The New York Times, Dec. 28, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nhdf5cg; “Prosecutors Defend Urging No Charges in Tamir Rice Shooting,” The Associated Press, The New York Times, Dec. 30, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/ns9eghq.

[3] Maya Rhodan, “Congress Now Has More Black Lawmakers Than Ever Before,” Time, Jan. 6, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jqawbw3.

[4] Nate Silver, “Black Americans Are Killed At 12 Times The Rate of People In Other Developed Countries,” FiveThirtyEight:Politics, June 18, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/q6o4n38; Justin Wolfers, David Leonhardt, Kevin Quealy, “1.5 Million Missing Black Men,” The Upshot blog, The New York Times, April 20, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/z7f954b; “Digest of Education Statistics,” National Center for Education Statistics, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/qerhs5c; Kenneth D. Kochanek, Elizabeth Arias and Robert N. Anderson, “Leading Causes of Death Contributing to Decrease in Life Expectancy Gap Between Black and White Populations: United States, 1999–2013,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “NCHS Data Brief No 218,” November 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jcntjbk; and Rakesh Kochhar and Richard Fry, “Wealth inequality has widened along racial, ethnic lines since end of Great Recession,” Pew Research Center, Dec. 12, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/kww2vpo.

[5] Kimberly Kindy et al., “A Year of Reckoning: Police fatally Shoot Nearly 1,000,” The Washington Post, Dec. 26, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zx95ptf; (with updated statistics) http://tinyurl.com/nrsl3xr; Jon Swaine et al., “Young black men killed by US police at highest rate in year of 1,134 deaths,” The Guardian, Dec. 31, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zc39qv2.

[6] Kochhar and Fry, ibid.

[7] “The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” American Civil Liberties Union, June, 2013, p. 49, http://tinyurl.com/jycxybp; David Weigel, “The Avenger Without a Mask,” Slate, Aug. 5, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/jvc9jkn.

[8] Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic, June 2014, http://tinyurl.com/nopprgt.

[9] Sandra L. Colby and Jennifer M. Ortman, “Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060,” U.S. Census Bureau, March 2015, p. 9, http://tinyurl.com/zvobj4q.

[10] “National American Indian Holocaust Museum,” National Congress of American Indians, Resolution #TUL-13-005, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/j2g4hay; Guenter Lewy, “Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide?” History News Network, September 2004, http://tinyurl.com/nhuz248. William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, “When Americans Lynched Mexicans,” The New York Times, Feb. 20, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/n2yruap.

[11] “National Museum of African American History and Culture,” Smithsonian, updated Oct. 2, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/mrxe8b.

[12] “Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, Summary, Chapter 2,” Homeland Security Digital Library, 1968, http://tinyurl.com/jzsccqz.

[13] Eliott C. McLaughlin, John Murgatroyd and Kevin Conlon, “Charlotte jury hears vastly different accounts of Jonathan Ferrell's death,” CNN, Aug. 6, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/gv54r2g; Peter Holley, “New video shows Texas police officer pulling gun on teenagers at pool party,” The Washington Post, June 8, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/okvksap; Emma Brown, T. Rees Shapiro and Elahe Izadi, “S.C. sheriff fires officer who threw student across a classroom,” The Washington Post, Oct. 28, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hch2ajo.

[14] Quoted in Richard Pérez-Peña and Timothy Williams, “Glare of Video is Shifting Public's View of Police,” The New York Times, July 30, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nf57czh.

[15] Quoted in Alan Blinder and Marc Santora, “Officer Who Killed Walter Scott Is Fired, and Police Chief Denounces Shooting,” The New York Times, April 8, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/pow99ay.

[16] Quoted in Melanie Eversley and Jessica Estepa, “Across the USA, videos of police killings spark protests, drive conversation,” USA Today, Dec. 8, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/grt92oq.

[17] James B. Comey, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/mckgtf4.

[18] For background, see Peter Katel, “Race Relations,” CQ Researcher, “Hot Topic” report, May 20, 2015.

[19] “We The Protesters, Campaign Zero,” Campaign Zero, http://tinyurl.com/p6vknog.

[20] According to the most recent statistics, 51 percent of 12,253 homicide victims in 2013 were African-American: “Crime in the United States, 2013,” FBI, undated, http://tinyurl.com/oxo5mhu.

[21] “FBI Releases 2013 Crime Statistics from the National Incident-Based Reporting System,” FBI press release, Dec. 22, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/optoe5d; Amy Sherman, “An updated look at statistics on black-on-black murders,” Politifact Florida, May 21, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nmvpj4l.

[22] Sharon LaFraniere and Andrew W. Lehren, “The Disproportionate Risks of Driving While Black,” The New York Times, Oct. 24, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/pj9ukke.

[23] “Full Video: Hillary Clinton meets Black Lives Matter,” “The Rachel Maddow Show,” Aug. 20, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/pn9s2ex.

[24] David McCabe, “Clinton focuses on race, inequality,” The Hill, April 29, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/pfkw3rb.

[25] For background, see Kenneth Jost, “Housing Discrimination,” CQ Researcher, Nov. 6, 2015, pp. 937–960.

[26] Coates, op. cit.; Joe R. Feagin, Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations (2014 3rd. ed.), pp. 306–308.

[27] “A Policy Agenda for Closing the Racial Wealth Gap,” Center for Global Policy Solutions, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/ov256s5.

[28] Board of Education of Oklahoma City Public Schools v. Dowell, 498 U.S. 239 (1991), http://tinyurl.com/qc73rxq; Linda Greenhouse, “Justices Rule Mandatory Busing May Go, Even if Races Stay Apart,” The New York Times, Jan. 16, 1991, http://tinyurl.com/nbrlw6d.

[29] Peter Applebome, “Schools See Re-emergence Of ‘Separate but Equal,’” The New York Times, April 8, 1997, http://tinyurl.com/om4gtqc.

[30] Gary Orfield et al., “Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future,” The Civil Rights Project, UCLA, May 15, 2014, p. 12, http://tinyurl.com/n9cok4e; for background, see Reed Karaim, “Race and Education,” CQ Researcher, Sept. 5, 2014, pp. 721–744.

[31] Ibid., p. 2.

[32] “The Nation's Report Card: 2013 Mathematics and Reading: Grade 12 Assessment,” Nation's Assessment of Educational Progress, undated, http://tinyurl.com/mn6snpf.

[33] “Why Charter Schools Work,” Center for Education Reform, undated, http://tinyurl.com/qdmokdf.

[34] Leslie Hinkson, “Racial Issues in Urban Schools,” TEDx Talks, Nov. 24, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/oxjklhx.

[35] Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440–1870 (1997), pp. 804–805; “The Abolition of the Slave Trade,” undated, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, http://tinyurl.com/osj9pn9.

[36] Ibid., Thomas, pp. 501–502.

[37] Sean Wilentz, “Constitutionally, Slavery Is No National Institution,” The New York Times, Sept. 16, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nb99yrp.

[38] Patrick Rael, “Sean Wilentz is wrong about the Founders, Slavery, and the Constitution,” African American Intellectual History Society, Sept. 29, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/q4oe3jb.

[39] James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988), p. 73.

[40] Ibid., pp. 78–79.

[41] Elizabeth R. Varon, Disunion! The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789–1859 (2008), pp. 298–304.

[42] F. Michael Higginbotham, Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America (2013), pp. 64–66.

[43] Ibid., p. 64.

[44] Ibid., pp. 68–69.

[45] Charles Lane, The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction (2008), Kindle edition, no page numbers.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, Report Summary,” Equal Justice Initiative, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/pu8gqwd.

[49] Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (2008), pp. 395–396.

[50] Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White (2005), pp. 24–52.

[51] Ibid., pp. 24–25.

[52] Ibid., p. 26.

[53] Ibid., p. 29.

[54] “History and Timeline,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, undated, http://tinyurl.com/mgx7vzu.

[55] Katznelson, op. cit., pp. 126, 129. Also see J. Todd Moye, Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II (2012).

[56] Ibid., Katznelson, p. 115.

[57] Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (2010), pp. 8–11.

[58] Coates, op. cit.

[59] Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 237 US 483 (1954), http://tinyurl.com/o2cl9o9.

[60] Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954–1963 (1988).

[61] For background, see Kenneth Jost, “Voting Controversies,” CQ Researcher, Feb. 21, 2014, pp. 169–192.

[62] Bridget Murphy, “Effects of Desegregation Busing Battles Linger in Boston,” The Associated Press, in The Huffington Post, April 7, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/p6pwxqj.

[63] For background, see Kenneth Jost, “Supreme Court Controversies,” CQ Researcher, Sept. 28, 2012, pp. 813–840.

[64] Reed Jordan, “America's public schools remain highly segregated,” Urban Institute, Aug. 27, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/pp79kye.

[65] “President Johnson's Special Message to Congress: The American Promise,” LBJ Presidential Library, March 15, 1965, http://tinyurl.com/qaq4l6p.

[66] Quoted in James Boyd, “Nixon's southern strategy: ‘It's All in the Charts,’” The New York Times Magazine, May 17, 1970, http://tinyurl.com/nuusnn8.

[67] Earl Black and Merle Black, The Rise of Southern Republicans (2003), p. 220.

[68] “Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders,” op. cit., “Summary, Introduction.”

[69] See Nikole Hannah-Jones, “Living Apart: How the Government Betrayed a Landmark Civil Rights Law,” ProPublica, June 25, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/8jzwt3w.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Ibid.

[72] Orlando Patterson, with Ethan Fosse, eds., The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth (2015), p. 127.

[73] Michael Javen Fortner, Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment (2015), Kindle edition, no page numbers.

[74] For background, see Peter Katel, “Fighting Crime,” CQ Researcher, Feb. 8, 2008, pp. 121–144.

[75] JoAnne O'Bryant, “Crime Control: The Federal Response,” Congressional Research Service, updated March 5, 2003, pp. 3–4, http://tinyurl.com/7x9hhdr.

[76] “The Punishing Decade: Prison and Jail Estimates at the Millennium,” Justice Policy Institute, May 2000, http://tinyurl.com/cp2xa84; Allen J. Beck and Paige M. Harrison, “Prisoners in 2000,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, August 2001, p. 11, http://tinyurl.com/hpucn5l; Allen J. Beck and Darrell K. Gilliard, “Prisoners in 1994,” Bureau of Justice Statistics, August 1995, p. 1, http://tinyurl.com/z9s6a4q.

[77] Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010).

[78] Ibid., pp. 58–88.

[79] Lou Cannon, “National Guard Called to Stem Violence After L.A. Officers' Acquittal in Beating,” The Washington Post, April 30, 1992, http://tinyurl.com/zocva6x; “A timeline of events in Rodney King's life,” CNN, June 17, 2012, http://tinyurl.com/zle595t.

[80] Ben Smith and Byron Tau, “Birtherism: Where it all began,” Politico, April 24, 2011, http://tinyurl.com/qcm7uuq; Ari Melber, “The Nation: Confronting Trump's Coded Racism,” The Nation (NPR), April 27, 2011, http://tinyurl.com/3qfp93p.

[81] “The Latest: Medical Examiner: Gray's spine was ‘kinked,’” The Associated Press, Dec. 4, 2015, tinyurl.com/1o428x7o; Justin Jouvenal, Lynh Bui and DeNeen L. Brown, “First trial in death of Freddie Gray begins in a city still on edge,” The Washington Post, Nov. 30, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/j38wwhm.

[82] Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Police Officers Charged in Freddie Gray's Death to Be Tried in Baltimore,” The New York Times, Sept. 10, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nanbfwv; Justin Jouvenal and Lynh Bui, “New trial date isn't set for Baltimore officer accused in Freddie Gray's death,” The Washington Post, Dec. 17, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hyz9wss.

[83] Peter Hermann, “Friends and neighbors remember Freddie Gray,” The Washington Post, April 24, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/mmbvo7p.

[84] “Laquan McDonald police reports differ dramatically from video,” Chicago Tribune, Dec. 5, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nmo4my5; “Crime Trends in Archer Heights,” Chicago Tribune, Nov. 19-Dec. 19, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/gwnlerx.

[85] Jason Meisner, Jeremy Gorner and Steve Schmadeke, “Chicago releases dash-cam video of fatal shooting after cop charged with murder,” Chicago Tribune, Nov. 24, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nfhhx98. “Changes to Be Announced in Chicago Police Training, Tasers,” The Associated Press, The New York Times, Dec. 30, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/oqgh2d3.

[86] Ashley Southall, “Reporter Who Forced Release of Laquan McDonald Video Is Barred From News Event,” The New York Times, Nov. 25, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/q6gl2g2.

[87] Rick Pearson, Bill Ruthhart and John Byrne, “Emanuel recall bill, council hearing, show political flank-covering in McDonald case,” Chicago Tribune, Dec. 16, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/joe2523; Amber Phillips, “Rahm Emanuel is in deep, deep trouble,” The Washington Post, Dec. 10, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nhg5kos.

[88] Don Babwin, “1 After Another, Chicago Police Videos Made Public,” The Associated Press, Dec. 10, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nlhs8em.

[89] Monica Davey and Timothy Williams, “Chicago Pays Millions but Punishes Few in Killings by Police,” The New York Times, Dec. 17, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/ot78klo.

[90] Quoted in ibid., “Changes to Be Announced in Chicago Police Training, Tasers.”

[91] “Josh Sanburn, “Chicago Shootings and Murders Surged in 2015,” Time, Jan. 2, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/os3q9ay; Kevin Rector, “Deadliest year in Baltimore history ends with 344 homicides,” The Baltimore Sun, Jan. 1, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/z9dxs5s.

[92] Quoted in John Byrne, “Emanuel blames Chicago crime uptick on officers second-guessing themselves,” Chicago Tribune, Oct. 13, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/ofxw9wp; Josh Sanburn, “What's Behind Baltimore's Record-Setting Rise in Homicides,” Time, June 2, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/ngdg4pw.

[93] Susan Svrluga, “U. Missouri president, chancellor resign over handling of racial incidents,” The Washington Post, Nov. 9, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jv6p7kp.

[94] Avianne Tan, “The Allegations of Racism at Yale That Culminated in Over 1,000 Marching for Justice on Campus,” ABC News, Nov. 10, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/pkcn35y. Liam Stack, “Yale's Halloween Advice Stokes a Racially Charged Debate,” The New York Times, Nov. 8, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/oxu7y3o.

[95] Katherine Shaver, “Georgetown University to rename two buildings that reflect school's ties to slavery,” The Washington Post, Nov 15, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jsj3pdq.

[96] Yvonne Wenger, “Byrd Stadium to become Maryland Stadium after regents vote,” The Baltimore Sun, Dec. 11, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zapmvgb.

[97] Mary Hui, “After protests, Princeton debates Woodrow Wilson's legacy,” The Washington Post, Nov. 23, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hplwgqs; William Keylor, “The long-forgotten racial attitudes and policies of Woodrow Wilson,” Professor Voices, Boston University, March 4, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/nas8ok9.

[98] Quoted in Hui, op. cit.

[99] Gordon J. Davis, “What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather,” The New York Times, Nov. 24, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/p36bvol.

[100] Colby and Ortman, op. cit.

[101] Angelique Chrisafis, “‘Nothing's changed’: 10 years after French riots, banlieues remain in crisis,” The Guardian, Oct. 22, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/ngd7rerj; Alison Smale, “Anti-Immigrant Violence in Germany Spurs New Debate on Hate Speech,” The New York Times, Oct. 21, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/oxu7y3o.

[102] Manny Fernandez and Christine Hauser, “Texas Mother Teaches Textbook Company a Lesson on Accuracy,” The New York Times, Oct. 5, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/pwpe3oe.

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About the Author

Peter Katel, author of this week's edition of CQ Researcher  

Peter Katel is a CQ Researcher contributing writer who previously reported on Haiti and Latin America for Time and Newsweek and covered the Southwest for newspapers in New Mexico. He has received several journalism awards, including the Bartolomé Mitre Award for coverage of drug trafficking from the Inter-American Press Association. He holds an A.B. in university studies from the University of New Mexico. His recent reports include “Police Tactics” and “Central American Gangs.”

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Document APA Citation
Katel, P. (2016, January 8). Racial conflict. CQ Researcher, 26, 25-48. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/
Document ID: cqresrre2016010800
Document URL: http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2016010800
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Racism and Hate
May 12, 2017  Anti-Semitism
Mar. 17, 2017  ‘Alt-Right’ Movement
Jan. 08, 2016  Racial Conflict
Sep. 18, 2015  Far-Right Extremism
Nov. 22, 2013  Racial Profiling
May 08, 2009  Hate Groups
Jun. 01, 2007  Shock Jocks Updated
Jan. 07, 1994  Racial Tensions in Schools
Jan. 08, 1993  Hate Crimes
May 12, 1989  The Growing Danger of Hate Groups
Nov. 05, 1969  American History: Reappraisal and Revision
Mar. 31, 1965  Extremist Movements in Race and Politics
May 13, 1964  Racism in America
Dec. 03, 1958  Spread of Terrorism and Hatemongering
Jul. 10, 1946  Ku Klux Klan
Jan. 09, 1945  Race Equality
Dec. 19, 1933  Lynching and Kidnapping
Affirmative Action
Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Issues
Civil Rights Movement
Crime and Law Enforcement
Diversity Issues
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Low Income and Public Housing
Race and Hate Crimes
Science and Mathematics Education
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