form and content, protest and repression

Warning: this essay is partly a personal religious reflection although it also contains significant sociological content. In it I reflect on a sermon calling protest a spiritual exercise and a meeting about training Black young people to avoid challenging or talking to police and the significance of the juxtaposition of these two events.

The Madison protests reconvened this weekend without me. A friend estimates 20,000 at Saturday’s rally featuring Michael Moore – a large crowd by any normal standard, although a decline from last weekend’s high of somewhere between 70,000 and 120,000 (depending on whose estimate you believe). Today the pro-Walker and anti-Walker protests were said to be a few hundred each. The real action is out state, with recall efforts and other attempts to “flip” Republican Senators, as well as the escalating pressures on the Democrats in Illinois – their pay is frozen and they are being fined $100 a day, among other attempts to force their return without any concessions. Walker’s refusal to negotiate on any point is both alienating the state’s moderates and raising his cachet in national right-wing circles.

There was a guest sermon at church today – the pastor’s brother, a Mennonite activist from Pennsylvania who spoke on engagement as a spiritual practice, the idea that instead of separating the spiritual from the world, you should be spiritual in the world. The scripture was Isaiah 58:3-7 :

“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” “Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.  Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.  Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?  Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”

You find God when you are working for justice and helping the poor and oppressed. His own current political agenda is the movement against gun violence, which is trying to target merchants whose businesses are major sources of the guns that end up being used in urban crimes. The sermon was full of positive comments about the Wisconsin protest and how God is on our side as we challenge authority and work for the poor and oppressed. He wore a “We are Wisconsin . . . And we are winning” t-shirt. During joys and concerns, one congregant stood up to give thanks for her son, who’d been one of the protesters sleeping inside the capitol and then outside in the snow and rain – everyone clapped. If you think Walker’s budget cuts are good or that public employee unions are bad, you’d feel very uncomfortable in that congregation right now. We have a taken for granted assumption that we are all on the same side in this. I couldn’t help but remind myself that activists whose foundation is religious are often on the “other” side, supporting issues I really oppose, and the ways in which their communities surround them with people who don’t challenge their assumptions.

Don’t get me wrong. I think I’m right and the people around me are right. I truly and sincerely believe what I believe. And I truly do believe that we are doing the work of God when we work for justice. But so do the people on the “other side” of issues I care about think that God is on their side. I can’t help but note that God mostly tells people to do the things that a whole system of socialization and experience has taught us are the right things to do. It really isn’t enough just to engage, it matters what you are engaged about, what “side” you are on, and how you go about your engagement. Content matters, not just form. I’m struck every Sunday about how the hymns we sing, the messages we hear, the content of our joys and concerns all reinforce one set of understandings about what Christianity is “really about,” while other people’s churches emphasize other messages from the same core texts.

Or, backing away from religion to the broader context of protest and rebellion – it isn’t enough just that people protest. It matters what they are protesting about, what their goals are. The same vessel of protest carries both the tea party protests and this current mobilization. If you oppose the mobilization, you’d stress that the energy of the effort is union members organizing to defend unions – and you’d be right. It is primarily a mobilization of people through their well-organized channels for the purpose of maintaining the right to have those channels. It’s a defensive mobilization. Can we, should we bring the same concepts to bear on protests we like and those we don’t like?

The way protest and activism are being lifted up, and the comfort we all have with protest, brought me back into reflection about my other weekend activity. I spent Saturday morning at a training session for religious people to work on issues of racial disparity in criminal justice, part of an effort to found a local Gamaliel Foundation group. (I’m an attendee, not an organizer.) There were two choices. One group went off to learn about how to observe court sessions, to be a witness holding the system accountable.

I stayed for the presentation on how young people are being taught to avoid escalating encounters with police. The speaker is the former gang member and drug dealer I mentioned in a previous post. One component of the plan is small cards (the size of business cards) advising young people how to behave when stopped by police. The card contains a (small) color graphic of a tall white person in a police uniform facing a shorter black person. It says (in rather small print, obviously):

“Along the continuum of decision points in the juvenile justice system from initial law enforcement contact through disposition and beyond, the decision to arrest is the first and arguably the most powerful indicator of future impact on minority youth, their families and affected communities. Upon initial contact with law enforcement respectfully provide your name, name and phone number of your parent/guardian and clearly state that you wish to remain silent until your parent/guardian is present.”

The young people are urged to give their true name (to give a false name is obstruction of justice, a felony) and then to shut up. In trying to explain or defend themselves, young people often provide police with the basis for criminal charges. The idea is for the young people to carry the cards on them so they can hand them to the police if they are stopped – the hope is that the police will recognize that the young people have been told to do this and thus, hopefully defuse police anger at the young people for refusing to talk. I’m wondering if youth are also taught breathing exercises or other techniques to calm their anger and frustration when stopped unfairly. Survival here means NOT protesting, not rebelling, not standing up to power. The “protest” is to resist becoming a crime statistic. The adult trainer is very clear that sometimes the young people have done something wrong, but they will make the situation worse if they talk to the police and confess. It is also important for young people to understand who police are and that talking back to police is very different from talking back to other adults. Another card tells them that Educational Resource Officers in schools are real police officers and they must not talk to them without their parents present.

So young Black people need to be taught not to challenge authority as a survival strategy, just as they were taught in the South before 1960. It is a necessary lesson if these kids are going to make it out of adolescence with their hopes intact, but I reflect again (as I have so often before at these kinds of meetings) just how much self-control African Americans need to be able to get through the day in a racially-stratified society. How bad White kids are allowed to be and to get away with it, and how little tolerance Black kids are offered for misbehavior. And I cannot help but reflect that all this energy devoted to avoiding confrontation with police and avoiding arrest limits the capacity for Black protest mobilization.

And it is not just children. As I mentioned before and confirmed in further conversations, one of the Black parolees who was supposed to be speaking at these events has been picked up on a parole hold each time he asks his agent for permission to go to an event addressing issues of racial disparity in criminal justice And “driving while Black” stops – endemic in this community, as elsewhere, constantly force Black adults to endure disruptions to their plans and the self-control to remain calm in the face of unwarranted surveillance: Where are you going? Where are you coming from?  Why are you here on this street at this time? Account for yourself. Do you have any drugs or weapons?

I need not to over-do this, I need to put it in context. Black people are agents, and there are lots of Black folks challenging political structures as well as trying to protect young people and provide help to those damaged by our system. As I have mentioned before, there is constant attempt by Black adults to create a sense of personal and political efficacy among young Black people. In fact, the speaker in our group came with his wife (who is also his business manager) and his small children. He said he makes a point of bringing his small children to meetings because he wants them to see him doing his work. Another Black attendee also brought a small child. People are working hard to train up their children for active, engaged citizenship.

But still, the contrast is looming. Tea partier or unionist – the carriers of protest in the past few years in this country have been overwhelmingly White. Look around at who feels entitled to protest. Look at who feels safe enough to turn out into the streets in large numbers. And then look around to see whose voices are missing from the public assembly. Look around for who teaches their children they are entitled to speak up, and who has to teach their children how to survive repression by keeping quiet when confronted with police.

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? “

clothes

Screen Shots from What Would You Do?

After presenting lots of statistics about racial disparities in criminal justice, I showed my class the videos from ABC News What Would You Do? in which first White and than Black youths vandalize a car in a public parking lot. There is only one 911 call on the White boys, but ten on the Black boys. Plus, while the White boys are vandalizing, someone calls 911 to report people who are suspected of planning a robbery — Black kids asleep in a nearby car! Well, most of the class, as expected, saw this the way I did, as evidence of a racial problem. I was trying to emphasize that not arresting Whites when they commit crimes is just as important in racial disparities as arresting Blacks. Some students pointed out (correctly) that it was a demonstration, not a controlled experiment and wondered (fairly) whether the producers selected cases for their strong differences. But a few very vocally insisted that the difference was not about race at all, but that the Black kids were wearing “gang clothing.” They got somewhat offended when I said, “yeah, Black styles” and then cut off that line of argument, saying “OK we disagree on that, but I don’t want to spend the rest of the class arguing about clothing.”

Today I went back to the video and took screen shots of the kids. They are all wearing hooded sweatshirts and jeans, as I said. (One student had insisted that the White kids wore tucked in shirts! Not so.)  There are subtle differences in how they wear the clothes, though. The Black kids’ clothes are bigger on them (and the kids themselves appear to me to be smaller). The White kids’ shirts have words on them which I assume are school names (the resolution isn’t good enough for me to read them) while one Black kid has some sort of design on it that you could construe as edgy — it is definitely not preppy. One Black kid is wearing a cap which (as can be seen elsewhere in the video) is a gold weave thing that I cannot imagine a White kid wearing, but he’s wearing it in the same way as lots of White kids wear baseball caps. In my view the only difference between the clothing was subtle differences in style sensibilities between Blacks and Whites, and that calling the Black kids’ clothing “gang attire” is ridiculous. These few students think that if the Black kids had been in “non-gang” (i.e. “White”) clothing, the result would have been different. (They did not even suggest dressing the White kids in “gang” styles.) I think they are just exhibiting extreme resistance to the obvious. (The same students criticized me for failing to show examples of Black crime.) Opinions?

Edit: I decided to add shots of the kid with the most distinctively Black hat. In these shots you can see that he’s also wearing a do-rag.  Just to be fair. I can find no evidence that this is “gang attire.” But it is certainly distinctively Black. Do you think it’s the do-rag and not the skin color that matters here?

My jaw dropped: racial interactions

I study racial disparities in criminal justice, but this still completely blew me away. I started clicking around and have ended up collecting links to a large number of quite amazing videos of racial interactions that would be great discussion-starters in class. The two segments that just make my jaw drop were broadcast last February on ABC 20-20’s “What Would You Do?” series last February. They are a little over six minutes each after a 15 second commercial*. The setup is a parking lot in a public park in a White suburb. In part 1, for several hours three White boys overtly vandalize a car. Dozens of White people walk by, looking but doing nothing. Only one ever calls the police; a few say something to the boys. In part 2, three Black boys do the same thing: lots of people call the police, many more people intervene.  In both cases, there is overt criminality going on, although possibly so overt that people might have defined it as some kind of stunt. On balance, a clear demonstration that failure to sanction overt White crime is part of a racial disparity pattern, not just response to Black crime. But the real shocker: while the White kids are vandalizing the car, the police DO get TWO 911 calls from the same parking lot. What they call about is Black people SLEEPING in a nearby car: they phone it in as “possible robbery!”

Vandals 1 (white)
Vandals 2 (black)
(*I found these originally on Youtube but link to ABC despite the commercial opening in the interest of supporting copyright holders where possible.)

Edit: here’s a more recent episode, this time involving kids trying to cut the chain on a bike lock.

There are also some really chilling Driving While Black segments available.

This 10-minute segment was produced by a New York news station about Nassau County. It is really quite incredible, the tester ends up handcuffed and held for thirty minutes after making a U-turn on a residential street and refusing to explain what he is doing in the area. No response to White testers who duplicate the action, although the Blacks in the trailing news car are stopped and hassled.

This ABC Primetime episode on Driving While Black is also very good, but the YouTube versions are all scratched and vertically stretched. I cannot find an on-line version of the original. The first segment is 10 minutes, the second is about 2 minutes of wrap-up
10 minute main segment
2 minute wrap up

A Fox news video shows a black customer being surrounded and beaten by whites but the black man is the only one arrested

The ABC Primetime What Would You Do? series also has a number of great segments (generally 8-10 minutes long) about bystander intervention into overt cases of racial/ethnic discrimination. Actors play the part of store clerks or real estate sales people who overtly insult and harass Black or Muslim or Spanish-speaking lower class (day laborer) shoppers (also actors). Bystander responses are videotaped. Each segment shows lots of people either standing by without intervening or in some cases approving the discrimination, but also highlights people who do intervene. John Dovidio (a psychologist known for work on bystander intervention) provides commentary that praises those who do intervene. Again, these seem like great discussion-starters. I linked to YouTube when I could not find the segment on the ABC site.

Real estate agent insulting Black and Muslim couples looking at a home.

Black shopper in a upscale clothing boutique gets insulted and even frisked

Muslim woman trying to buy an apple Danish (quite a few shoppers join in on the discrimination, while a White man who says is son is fighting in Iraq challenges it)

Spanish-speaking guys in work clothes trying to buy coffee (quite a few shoppers again join in on the discrimination, few seem to speak against it)

H/T to http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/ which pointed me to the Muslim shopper video on YouTube, from which I found the rest through YouTube searches, ABC News searches, and Google.

negotiations

We are trying to get the task force report done. This is a ton of work. Lots of writing. But the most time-consuming part is the endless pre-meeting meetings and conference calls to discuss what to write, how to hold the meetings. Calls and meetings that seem to resolve nothing. There are some real substantive disagreements about certain key issues. But the biggest problem is language. Statements that seem reasonable and neutral to some of us strike others as strident and offensive. Quotations from public hearing statements by offenders, accused offenders, or the family and friends of offenders about unfair or unreasonable aspects of the criminal justice system are viewed by the system people as unsubstantiated hearsay that should not be included in the report. But the consequence would be to banish entirely the voices of those at the bottom of the system. (I’m going to try to see if we can negotiate language that includes them as perceptions.) Even the claim that a lot of people think the CJ system is unfair or biased is subject to critique — how do we know it is a lot of people? Well, if “people” means “Black people,” you have to be living in a hole not to think a “lot of” people think the CJ system is unfair. But of course the people launching that critique don’t think “people” means “Black people.”

Then we are hassling about whether there are “too many” citations for low level offenses. Citations are better than arrests, we mostly agree. But citations come with fines, large fines on the order of several hundred dollars a ticket. This is no biggie if you have a full professor’s income or a lawyer’s income. But if you have no job or a McJob, the fines are huge relative to your resources. So one proposed recommendation is to give fewer tickets. But the system people are upset at any implication that they are giving “too many” tickets or even a lot of tickets. Should I go back and crunch the older data that shows that this area has an extraordinarily high level of “disorderly conduct” arrests? Would actual data even seem relevant to the people having this argument?

And the planning committee is hassling about voting rules, which were never agreed upon at the beginning of the process. Some people were hoping for consensus, although without a clear idea of how you achieve consensus, not to mention the problem that consensus is the same thing as allowing one person to veto. Some of us are pushing for voting, but even then you have to argue about voting rules. Do you have a vote if you are not at the meeting? How will the opinions of people who can’t get to the meeting be assessed? And I won’t even go into the confusion and disputes about the process we went through in collecting and consolidating recommendations. Or the lack of trust that is making every single part of this process difficult. It is exhausting.

police report

One of the many disputes that have arisen in task force debates is the complaint of some “community” people that police sometimes lie on their reports and that the prosecutor just assumes the police are telling the truth. Law enforcement folks and prosecutors react with offense: “It is a felony to lie on a police report.” I roll my eyes. Um, it is a felony to deal drugs, too, but that doesn’t mean people don’t do it. And there have been at least some cases in which movement activists have video taped protest policing and caught police lying on reports. To point out that some people break the law, by the way, is not to assert that all or even most police lie. Most often there is no need to lie. But there is the time-honored and safer tactic of putting the most persuasive possible construction on ambiguous events. Not to mention the ubiquitous problem that different people simply see events in different ways and that well-intentioned honest police may still lack a complete view of the situation. So I was very interested to read the police report for the arrest of Henry “Skip” Gates in Cambridge the other day. Here’s a copy of the police report on the arrest of Gates for disorderly conduct which was posted by BigSole whom I got to from Field Negro. Today a Facebook link pointed me to this careful analysis of the report at SameFacts.com. The officer is clearly trying to justify the disorderly conduct arrest, which has to involve other people and a public place and cannot be made inside a person’s own house. Even the officer’s own version of events involve him persuading Gates to walk outside so that he could have an excuse to arrest him. Gates had already provided his identification and the officer makes it clear in his report that while he was still inside Gates’s house he knew he was no longer investigating any kind of crime. Gates’s “crime” in the officer’s own report consists solely of loudly accusing the officer of being a racist and asking for his name and badge number. The report makes it clear that the arrest was meant as a retaliation for being yelled at and called a racist, and he really didn’t care that the charge wasn’t going to stick. Out on the streets, this kind of interaction happens all the time: objecting to police mistreatment when you have, in fact, done nothing wrong gets to you arrested for disorderly conduct or resisting an officer. To me the most frightening thing about this incident are the large number of commenters on some sites who are sure the police have the right to retaliate if you object to their mistreatment.

enforcing immigration law

As I mentioned in a previous post, there is a concern in my area about ICE (immigration) raids and about the sheriff’s policy of telling ICE about possible illegal immigrants. Stated policy is to send ICE the name and birth date of any non-citizen who has been arrested and is processed into the jail, regardless of reason, even for unpaid parking tickets. People are also being grabbed by ICE when they come to court as witnesses or to collect child support. Our task force had a pretty intense discussion of this the other day. The task force combines “system” people (sheriff, police, district attorney, judges) with community activists and social service providers. Several system people have objected to a draft recommendation to change the policy and to some of the assertions the draft makes about what is happening based on one task force member’s conversations with some bailiffs. We know we don’t agree about what should be done – there are deep social conflicts about the immigration issue itself, and about the proper role of law enforcement. So we have to figure out what the report will say.

At first we were going to defer the discussion to the next meeting, as we knew it would be  controversial. But as a member of the writing subcommittee, I said I really needed to know what the policy actually is, so that it could be correctly characterized. I offered to talk to the head of the jail privately later, but the group decision was to take “five minutes” to get this clarified. The five turned into thirty, but it was a very instructive thirty minutes. I asked, “so what is the policy, exactly?” Answer: Information about all immigrants is sent to ICE. “So how do you know whether someone is an immigrant? What about Canadians?” Answer: They tell us. We ask if they are a citizen. ” So if someone with a Spanish accent tells you they are a citizen, you believe them, and that’s that?” Answer: Yes . . . [voice trails off, the rest is quieter and the sentence is incomplete] . .  unless there’s other information . . .  The sheriff says: Look, the policy has been the same for thirty years, we ask everyone place and date of birth, citizenship status. “So if someone with a Spanish accent says they were born in El Paso, that’s it? They are OK?”  [No clear answer . . .]   Later in the discussion, people ask why if the policy has been the same for thirty years, it is only in recent years that people are getting arrested when they come into the court house as witnesses or to report to drug court. The sheriff’s answer is that the change is the creation of ICE and ICE policies, not his policies. The DA says it is part of the post-9/11 anti-terrorism policies. But this implies there are two policies: what you ask people, and what you do with the information. ICE was created in 2003, so the sheriff couldn’t have been sending information to ICE for the last thirty years. The sheriff implies that there is no choice about sending information to ICE, other people think there is.

Then other people ask questions. So how is it that people who come in as witnesses or to collect their child support get arrested? One task force member has talked to bailiffs and says they told her that they go over the names of people coming in and routinely send immigrants’ names to ICE. But the head of the jail says that people are not doing that, he has talked to his supervisors and that just isn’t happening, she is just relying on hearsay. I point out that she talked to some people and he talked to some people: it’s the same thing. More tension. Then he says, well of course in some cases you have to run people through the computer, you have to make sure there are no restraining orders or outstanding warrants. That is part of the job of keeping the court safe. You don’t want people fighting at court. Sometimes an ICE warrant shows up in the national computer, they did not know it would be there, but when it is there, you have to execute the warrant. I say “There are lots of warrants. You can have a warrant out for unpaid parking tickets.” The DA sort of starts to object and the sheriff says that our area is sending parking tickets to collection, not to court orders. I insist: “I know a white guy who was, in fact, arrested and taken downtown for unpaid parking tickets.”  The rest of the story – which I don’t go through – is that he got out quickly when arrangements were made to pay the tickets, but if he had not had a friend who put up the money for the tickets, he would have been sitting in jail for unpaid parking tickets. That is a fact. And the DA knows it is a fact, as he acknowledges when we chat later: the vast majority of warrants are for “failure to appear” in court, which can be for anything. It turns out that legal procedures require running criminal background checks on anyone who will appear as a witness, so it does happen that people come in to be interviewed as potential witnesses and get arrested for outstanding warrants. Although ICE arrests are the current concern, this also happens for other kinds of warrants.

But law enforcement officers vehemently say they do not get to choose which warrants to execute, a warrant is a warrant, that is their job. If they know there is a warrant out for the arrest of a person, they are duty-bound to arrest that person. There is no choice. And so we are back again to the question: when do you run someone’s name through the computer to look for warrants? Do you run the name of every single person who enters the court house through the computer? Well, no, that is impossible. There are too many people going and coming every day, and there is no central list of everyone who is scheduled to come in as a witness or to make an appearance for some reason. So how is it that some people get arrested by ICE when they come to court? Why is ICE waiting for them? Well, we may get a tip or information about someone . .  . [voice trails off . . .]  Hmmm. I think to myself, this ties in with complaints we heard at the public hearing about ICE sending spies into the Latino community. SOMEBODY could well be running the name of every single local Latino through ICE computers and then looking for opportunities to nab the folks who are identified as illegal.

I find it very instructive to hear the law enforcement people and the district attorney insisting that if there is a warrant you have to arrest, this is non-discretionary, this is central to who they are as part of the legal system. This is just non-negotiable. There is a lot of emotion when they say this. It is a very deeply held value at the core of a worldview about what it means to be an officer of the court.

Next people ask whether there is a way for people to find out whether there is a out warrant on them. The DA says that it is not considered good police policy to tell people in advance that they are going to be arrested. Folks pretty much go along with this (although I’m thinking to myself that there are circumstances in which people are allowed to turn themselves in rather than be arrested). But people repeat the question: not necessarily warning people they will be arrested that day, but telling people that they should find out whether there is a warrant out for them, and some way of being able to find this out. After all, the vast majority of warrants are for missing a court date, and the most likely reason for missing the court date is that you forgot it or you never read or understood the summons in the first place  or you didn’t go because you didn’t have the money to pay your fine anyway. I remind people that there are faulty warrants out there – the warrant for the kid who was tasered at the high school when he tried to run away from the police was actually a mistake that shouldn’t have been in the system in the first place. (We all know about that case because both the tasering and the fact that police were arresting a kid at school were big controversies that got a lot of news play.) Law enforcement and the district attorney are looking pretty dubious about the idea of giving ordinary people access to the national law enforcement databases.

The community activists say: OK, we get it that arresting someone if you know there is a warrant out on them is non-negotiable from the point of view of law enforcement. So the community needs to know this and needs to know exactly what the policies are. Can you give us written policies? The sheriff and the DA say the policies are straightforward and clear-cut. But it will take them a while to write them down.

This was a very good discussion, even as it was very intense. I learned a lot. I’m thinking later again about the radically different ways you can look at the same thing. I respect the rule of law and the police view that you don’t choose which warrants to execute, and I can respect the people who feel that violation of immigration law is a violation of law and as long as the law is on the books, they are obligated to uphold it. The real problem is the immigration policy and the disconnect between the formal immigration policy and the reality that Mexican people have always worked in the US. But then I am reminded that the police who helped arrest the Jews in Europe under Hitler were also following orders, and that the US was party to trials that said that following orders is not an excuse, that citizens have a positive obligation to refuse to follow immoral orders. Such discussions were very common in the 1960s regarding citizen obligations about the Vietnam war.  Ivan Ermakoff is working now on a project showing that police in different places actually varied in the zealousness with which they carried out the orders to arrest all Jews. I know that many people would take deep offense at my even bringing this up. Killing and torturing people isn’t the same as deporting them. But I do think the people who want the police to be less aggressive about running people’s names through the computers think that the immigration policy is immoral and that it is the duty of moral people to work around the policy.

Turf

These are excerpts from two longer statements written by Ida Thomas, an older Black woman who only completed the ninth grade and considers herself uneducated. She and I are members of the same racial disparities task force. She has a son who has been in prison. She wrote up her ideas because she wanted me to speak for her at a meeting she could not attend. Most of her writing focused on concrete recommendations relevant to the task force agenda. But I was blown away by some of what she said and wanted to share it. She specifically asked me to edit what she wrote so it would sound good, and I have complied by doing minimal editing for spelling and grammar. All the ideas and word choices are hers. I am posting this to my blog with her permission after reading it to her and receiving her approval. She wants her name used.

What we Blacks fail to realize is that we have invaded their town. We are on their turf now. It’s do like we say or go to prison, for sometimes petty stuff. And we did wrong by coming here, trying to change their ways. They only know how to protect their own color. They are not used to us. Especially the way we think or act. Every race has its own culture. I don’t think this will ever change here if you ask me, Ida. They really want us to go away like the wind, rain, winter and summer.  It’s a nice place to live if you can stay out of their system. But can you be sure to do that here? No. It’s like in the slave days here. Yes Madam, yes sir, you are right. Every Black person here is living on borrowed time for freedom. You have to walk a straight and narrow line. Please let’s change this.

. . .

Many White people do not know how to deal with Blacks here in Wisconsin — they look at us like we are from another planet. Their culture is much different than ours. We think differently, look at life differently. We need people in our culture that will defend us, that understand our way of thinking.  Where are those people for us to communicate with?  .  .  . * Your best bet is to stay out of trouble if you can here, or you will end up with your back up side the wall like so many have done before. It is said, come down here on vacation, go back on paper.**  But that’s not true about going back on paper, because sometimes they want you to stay down here and finish your paper here. That’s unfair because if you sneeze the wrong way you will be going to prison to finish up some of your time. You are never free here.  .  .  .  It’s is a beautiful place to live but there is a price that you have to pay to live here. Myself, I love it here.  But Madison keeps you walking a straight line on a narrow path. Let’s live and let live.

* The omitted material talks at length about the lack of Black judges, district attorneys, public defenders, and police.

** To be “on paper” is to be on probation or parole, i.e. living in the community but under correctional supervision.