Allen West is certainly no stranger to pushing ridiculous conservative myths about pretty much everything, and apparently those who manage, and write content for, his website, are the same way. His editor-in-chief, Michele Hickford, wrote a post entitled, “This perfectly demonstrates the idiocy of ‘police retraining’ that folks will DEFINITELY find racist,” and yes, we find it racist.
Here’s why: The whole post is a series of photographs of black families, black children, black teens and police. The first photo is of a large group of black children, presumably all from the same family. It says:
There’s no guidance or discipline in the home. The family situation is so unstable, ‘Junior’ doesn’t even know where to send a Father’s Day card.
Let’s stop right there, and focus on the fact that this quote assumes that the reason black children are raised in this environment is because there’s something inherently wrong with black men. It also assumes that black families are solely responsible for this, and that there isn’t a culture of systemic racism out there that stacks the deck against them.
We wish it stopped there, but it doesn’t. The next one is of a young black teen, leaning despondently against a fence, and says:
Junior gets dumped into the education system where he is socially promoted because the overwhelmed school district can’t deal with the undisciplined hooligans.
Ah, yes, let’s blame broken families for this problem, and tell them to clean up their own messes and stop making the poor, overworked schools (that we’ve made poor and overworked) do it for them.
The problem here is that this assumes all school districts are equal, with equal funding, equal quality of education, equally well-trained staff, and has students of equal socio-economic status. It ignores the profound impact socio-economic status has on children. In fact, poverty has a direct effect on both academic performance and discipline, and it’s something in which teachers and administrators in these schools need training.
But hey, since poor people just need to stop being poor, all of this is moot, right?
We also need to stop cutting funding to the public school system, and we need to stop pulling support from schools that primarily serve impoverished children. Pulling funding becomes a vicious cycle, and we can’t hope to help these schools with these children by turning our backs on them.
The third one on the blog post gets even worse, saying:
Junior’s major formative influences are ‘gangsta’ rap and a corresponding peer group of gangsta wannabes.
There are some studies suggesting a link between gangsta rap and bad behavior in teens. However, this particular quote assumes that the major factor in “Junior’s” gravitation towards gangs, violence and crime is rap music. It also builds on the previous photos, including the lack of a father figure, and doesn’t look deeper into why these problems exist.
One of the problems of systemic racism is that the father figures in poorer, primarily black areas tend to be behind bars for crimes for which white people only get a slap on the wrist and a fine. And yet, conservatives like to blame these black men for not being in their children’s lives and for perpetuating poverty by forcing the women they get pregnant to raise their children alone.
People in poverty are more likely to commit crimes, and kids are more likely to join gangs, because the benefits (including financial) outweigh the potential consequences. This is a deep, sociological problem that we can’t solve simply by looking at impoverished black families and saying, “Stop being poor, stop being black, and stop having kids.”
Hickford’s post then throws out this little nugget:
At age 18, Junior is turned loose on society, carrying a bad attitude, a broken compass and little respect for authority.
Well, yeah, he’s been raised in a world that tells him he doesn’t matter. It’s not just the lack of a father figure, it’s that society has turned its back on him and everyone like him. Society blames him and his family for their problems and refuses to even try to understand what he’s gone through. Teachers and administrators gave up on him as stupid and incapable of learning and never told him he could achieve anything of value. He’s probably been heavily targeted by police, even when he wasn’t doing anything wrong.
Is it any wonder he has a bad attitude and little respect for authority? Why should he care about a society that doesn’t care about him? This is what really happens when you have no help, which is something that the nobody-ever-helped-me, I-pulled-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps crowd fails to understand. They had help, they just don’t understand the help that they had. Children growing up in poverty, especially black children, may literally have no help.
The next to last photograph is of two black men on the ground, surrounded by police officers, and looking defiant. It says:
Junior gets himself in big trouble with the law and meets dire consequences.
Would a white man who gets himself into similar trouble meet similar consequences? The problem is not that “Junior” has met with trouble and gotten caught, and we’re trying to give him a pass. The problem is that a white man in that same situation likely would not meet those same consequences. It’s truly sad that conservatives don’t see this.
The final image says:
And the situation diagnosis is that POLICE need more training and understanding?
And she said, “Really?” underneath. Well, yes, really, because there’s an assumption that is part of the institutional racism in law enforcement, which tells police that a black man is automatically suspicious because he’s black.
That problem ties into this problem: Police increasingly substitute “suspicion” for “probable cause.” Legally, these two things are not the same. However, in practice, police departments increasingly make them the same thing. So yes, police need retraining. They need to relearn the difference between suspicion and probable cause. They need to learn how to shed their institutional biases that say black people are automatically looking for trouble because they’re black. They need to learn not to have a hair trigger that causes them to shoot the instant a suspect so much as looks like he might make a bad move. They need a lot of retraining.
And we as a society need to stop blaming minorities for their problems, and start looking at how we, as a society, have contributed to and created those problems. Mr. West and his editor-in-chief add nothing to this conversation with blog posts like this.