File This Under Racism

Restitution For Modern-Day Slavery, Cinco de Mayo’s Antislavery Roots, and Joy Reid Ethers Tucker Carlson

That and more this week in race and racism

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In our latest roundup of race-related news, there are stories that evoke sadness and righteous anger. But there’s also hope. In each of this week’s stories we find groups and individuals fighting for and achieving some measure of justice. And I end the segment with a real treat: MSNBC’s Joy Reid reading Fox host Tucker Carlson to filth. Here’s this week in racism.

Acid in the wound — Can you imagine having a law enforcement officer kill your loved one, then having that same officer’s colleagues mount a campaign of harassment against you and your family? A report by the ACLU, National Lawyers Guild and anti-police violence activists in Los Angeles found that the L.A. Sheriff’s Department routinely harasses the families of people killed by their officers. Families reported being recorded, followed, surveilled and pulled over when they spoke out about injustice or participated in protests. The report also revealed that police officers showed up at family gatherings or vigils to mock the victims or threaten relatives with arrest. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has unanimously passed a resolution calling for an investigation as well as written policies forbidding the harassment.

Cinco de Mayo’s links to anti-slavery — Many Americans see the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo as a day to eat burritos and drink margaritas, or to more broadly celebrate elements of Mexican culture. But according to Russell Contreras of Axios, there’s a connection to 19th century anti-slavery movements that has been forgotten. Cinco de Mayo is a commemoration of an indigenous army’s 1862 victory over the French army of Napoleon III, which was trying to invade what is today the state of Puebla in East Central Mexico. But what you probably didn’t learn in history class is that Napoleon III had a plan to sell guns to the Confederacy in exchange for cotton during the U.S. Civil War. The Axios report notes that Latinos in California began celebrating the Puebla victory not only as a win for Mexico’s sovereignty, but also as a victory against slavery, which most of them opposed.

Five years a slave — In June 2018, a White man in South Carolina pleaded guilty to using violence and coercion to force a Black man with intellectual disabilities to work in his restaurant for five years without pay. John Christopher Smith was subjected to racial slurs and beatings with pots and pans, and lived in a cockroach-infested apartment owned by his employer. The employer, Bobby Paul Edwards, was initially sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay Smith $272,952. But according to a report by, the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit found that federal labor laws entitled Smith to double that amount, a total of $546,000. But does this amount fully repair the cruelty, exploitation and mental anguish Smith suffered at the hands of Edwards for half a decade? Probably not. But here’s hoping that the financial resources will help Smith lead a more comfortable life from now on.

Shots fired?– On March 29, two Chicago police officers were responding to reports of gunfire when they chased and shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo in an alley. Chicago is one of many large cities that employ “ShotSpotter” systems, devices often mounted in high-crime neighborhoods to detect the sound of gunfire and report it to police. The Washington Post notes that it was a ShotSpotter alert that triggered the chain of events that ended with the fatal shooting of Toledo. The Post reports that Chicago community groups now want a Cook County judge to determine if the system is accurate enough to be accepted as evidence in criminal cases. Their filing argues that most of the incidents detected by ShotSpotter are false alarms, and its placement in neighborhoods that are predominantly Black or Latino puts residents in danger. “Residents who happen to be in the vicinity of a false alert will be regarded as presumptive threats, likely to be targeted by police for investigatory stops, foot pursuits, or worse,” the filing states.

Southern injustice — According to the national bail reform organization The Bail Project, nearly half of all Black Americans jailed in the United States are held in southern jails and many of them are stuck in pretrial detention because they can’t afford to pay bail. People can lose jobs, cars, and even custody of their children before they’ve been convicted of a crime. The Bail Project just announced that it is expanding efforts to end cash bail in the Deep South. “Southern states impose a total of 625 different fines and fees on their residents — more than any other region — and these are in addition to the fines and fees levied by counties, parishes, and municipalities,” the project points out.

Gather him together in our name — Fox News host/propagandist Tucker Carlson frequently derides MSNBC host Joy Reid as “the race lady from Harvard.” Reid, who is both Black and a Harvard graduate, has the audacity to discuss the structural and institutional racism that is too often a part of the Black experience. But the award-winning television host apparently had enough. Recently she devoted a segment of her show, “The ReidOut,” to addressing Carlson’s condescending preoccupation with her. Reid delivered a detailed litany of Carlson’s professional and educational failures including not getting into Harvard and being rejected by the CIA. It was quite brutal. Tucker might need some ointment for that burn. This recap of the episode at The Grio is pretty thorough. But I highly encourage you to watch Reid’s entire takedown of Carlson here.

Stephanie Siek is a writer and editor who loves cats, cookie dough and aborted alliteration.

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