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Letter to the editor

Nov, 14 2016

Dear Palomar College Community:

This letter is a response to Kennedy Trinkaus’s article on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. In short, we find her article disturbing because it suggests, among other things, that Black criminals are somehow more dangerous than White criminals.

Trinkaus claims that “[w]e have already overcome the period of prejudice against African Americans in our history and continue to make progress, so the movement of Black Lives Matter seems unnecessary. It’s a movement that is moving two steps backward and not progressing forward.” Since Trinkaus does not provide any evidence that “we” have overcome anti-Black racism, we are to assume that her claim must be true. However, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court shows that Trinkaus’s assumption is false. Ariane de Vogue, CNN’s Supreme Court Reporter, noted in September of this year that the Court “held unanimously” that a black suspect fleeing the police “does not necessarily signify guilt” precisely because he or she “‘might just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity.’” According to Matthew Segal, the legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, the ruling confirmed that Black people and communities in Boston were not being treated the same by the police as White people in White communities and that Black people have a reason to flee the police due to this inequality. The ruling also confirmed, according to Segal, that the BLM movement is necessary and that it represents a step forward in eliminating racial bias in the criminal justice system. Moreover, while Trinkaus contends that the over-targeting of African Americans by the police is due to high poverty rates, she does not account for the fact that, as Michelle Alexander notes in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010), “[t]housands of black men [in America] have disappeared into prisons and jails, locked away for drug crimes that are largely ignored when committed by whites.” M. Marit Rehavi and Sonja B Starr argue in “Racial Disparity in Federal Criminal Charging and Its Sentencing Consequences” (2012) that Blacks, on average, receive nearly ten percent longer sentences than comparable Whites arrested for the same crimes and that prosecutors, with all other things being the same, are almost twice as likely to file charges carrying mandatory minimum sentences against Blacks. These practices of racial inequality in the criminal justice system explain, in large part, why Black males have a higher rate of imprisonment than White males. Citing the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, the editors of Rereading America (2013) note the following: “In 2010, white males were incarcerated at a rate of 678 inmates per 100,000 general population, Hispanic males at a rate of 1,755 per 100,000, and black males at a rate of 4,347 per 100.000.”

By highlighting a few of the problems in Trinkaus’s claim that “we” have overcome anti-Black racism; therefore, “[b]laming an officer for shooting a man or targeting a specific race is ignorant,” we are not claiming that all police officers practice anti-Black racism. Indeed, some of us have friends and family members who are police officers and deputies, and many of us have had good encounters with the police. However, we are stating that Trinkaus’s claim supports racist police practices because it presumes that crimes committed by Blacks are always more dangerous than the same crimes committed by Whites.




Dr. Jerry Rafiki Jenkins and The United Minds of African American Studies

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