I thought with the election of Joe Biden and the conviction of Derrick Chauvin I could take a hiatus from writing about racism in America. Not the case. It remains on full display in both the Republican Party and police departments across the country.
The 2020 election saw record voter turnout. In a democracy that is supposed to be a good thing. Not so with the Republicans. As I’m writing they, in Arizona, are carrying out the most bizarre “audit” of the 2020 ballots by some kind of closed process in the state’s county with the most minority voters. Last week, the Republican dominated Florida state legislature, joined Georgia (and 40 other Republican controlled sates) at writing and passing laws which restrict: voting by mail, curtail the use of drop boxes, and prohibit people from helping those waiting in line to vote, by providing food and water; while imposing penalties on those who do not follow the new laws.
While these laws, and the “audit,” may yet be held unconstitutional in the courts, and even backfire with Republican voters, they are a clear sign that Republicans recognize that minority voters turned: Georgia and Arizona blue, gave Biden the White House, and the Senate to the Democrats by electing Senators Warnock, and Ossoff. If anyone thinks these antics are not racist, and an attempt at voter suppression, please raise your hand.
SB1 would supersede these state laws providing a democratic antidote to the attempted voter suppression by: facilitating registering to vote; rolling back voter ID requirements, requiring states to provide online and same-day voter registration, allow for conveniently placed drop boxes; and increase transparency in our finance laws by requiring “dark money” groups to disclose political donations (“We Have to Prove Democracy Works”). SB 1 cannot pass the senate without filibuster reform, which at the moment seems held hostage by Democratic senators Manchin of West Virginia and Sinema of Arizona.
According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS): the highest risk of being killed by police officers falls on Black men, who are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police (Black women are about 1.4 times more likely than are white women, Latino men 1.3 and 1.4 times more likely, Latina women 12 percent to 23 percent less likely than white women).
Obviously, not all police officers or departments are racist. However, one day after Derrick Chauvin’s guilty verdicts, another Black man, 40-year-old Andrew Brown Jr., was shot five times as he was attempting to drive away from the police. Mr. Brown was unarmed. According to his family, who viewed the redacted video, the police fired multiple shots at him: hitting him four times in the arm and once, fatally, in the back of the head.
According to the County Chief Deputy: “the warrant involved felony drug charges… and because of that there [was] a high risk of danger.” Regardless, Mr. Brown did not have to lose his life over an attempt to serve a warrant. The police knew who he was. He wasn’t going to escape.
So, here we are with another unnecessary police killing of an African American, and more talk of the Senate passing police reform-the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 (aka the George Floyd in Policing Act), which passed the House 220-212.
The bill: lowers the criminal standard to convict law enforcement officers for misconduct; limits no-knock warrants and choke holds; requires body and dashboard cameras; and most importantly limits qualified immunity as a defense to liability in private civil action lawsuits against police officers.
Qualified immunity is a doctrine created by the Supreme Court in 1967. It bans federal suits for damages against individual officers. It should be viewed in the context of industries, like tobacco and pharmaceutical, wanting to limit or abolish individual tort suits. They are afraid of the power and impact of individual citizens suing them for behaviors that injure and kill people. There is no reason to protect police officers in this way. If a jury of their peers can, as they did with Derrick Chauvin, find them guilty of murder, they can certainly find them liable for negligent behavior which inflicted personal injuries or death, without infringing on police rights.
The Justice in Policing Act, like SB 1, cannot get by the roadblock of the filibuster in the senate. Granted, neither bill will cure racism in America. Their passage, however, would be one giant step in the right direction.