The Washington Post, the inner cities, and the reality of systemic racism when Democrats are in charge

The idea of systemic racism is all the rage in progressive circles, but the system in question is rarely identified with any precision and in many cases it’s run by progressives themselves.  In other words, they are in charge and can manage the system anyway they like.  Why then do they do it in a racist manner according to their own accusations?

Last week, The Washington Post fired reporter Felicia Sonmez after she engaged in seven days of non-stop attacks on her own employer.  She was initially set off by an off-color joke about women which was retweeted by a colleague, Dave Weigel.  Though Mr. Weigel was subsequently suspended without pay for a month and his actions described as reprehensible, no single punishment can ever be enough when the world is viewed exclusively through the lens of privilege and oppression.  Thus, the conversation quickly turned from misogyny to racism after several of her colleagues posted tweets in support of the Post, telling their followers they are proud to work for one of the most prestigious news organizations in the known universe.  The content of these tweets wasn’t exactly inflammatory.  It was the sort of thing you would expect from anyone honored to work at the very top of their field.  For example, Ashley Parker wrote “The Post is not perfect.  No institution is.  But I’m proud to work here.  I love coming to work (almost) every single day, and knowing that my colleagues are collegial, collaborative and fun humans – not to mention talented journalists – who are always striving to do better.”  Her colleague, Rosalind Helderman concurred, “The Post is a place that is always striving to be better than it was yesterday.  But it’s a collaborative institution with good people who work hard to do important journalism together.  And I’m proud to work here.”

In a normal world, such statements from journalists at a world renowned newspaper wouldn’t be controversial, akin to software engineers expressing their pride working for Google or Apple, but that didn’t prevent Ms. Sonmez from taking immediate offense.  She vented her concerns over a 10-plus post Twitter rant, leading to the claim, “But I do know that the reporters who issued synchronized tweets this week downplaying the Post’s workplace issues have a few things in common with each other.”  These things included “They are all white,” “They are among the highest paid employees in the newsroom, making double and even triple what some other National desk reporters are making, particularly journalists of color,” and “They are among the ‘stars’ who ‘get away with murder’ on social media.”  From there, she concluded, “Of course the Washington Post is a great workplace.  It is a great workplace *for them.*  The system is working *for them.*  What about everyone else?”  Her criticism took the now familiar form of the anti-racists:  If you disagree with me and my conclusion, you are a racist yourself.  In her mind, the “system” at the Post is the problem, and anyone who thinks otherwise or tacitly supports the system, is a supporter of white supremacy.  She made this point clear when she continued onto tweets 14 and 15.  “Are racist and sexist tweets ‘normal’ emergencies?  Is the denigration of a class of people a ‘normal’ emergency?  Or are those things a sign of deeper problems within a newsroom rife with unequal treatment.”  She added, “To those bizarrely attacking me for speaking out, or snidely saying things like ‘Day 7’ – of course I’m still speaking out.  This is about systemic issues that run far deeper than a single tweet by any employee.  Pushing for change takes far longer than 7 days.”

These concerns prompt an obvious question:  Who is running the “system” Ms. Sonmez believes is inherently misogynistic and racist, former members of the Ku Klux Klan?  The Washington Post is owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, a longtime Democrat supporter who has given money to progressive candidates including both liberal Senators from Washington state, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.  He’s also donated to Representative John Conyers and Senator Patrick Leahy.  He praised the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and is not known to be a supporter of any conservative causes.  The paper itself is known for a liberal political bent.  In a study published in 2007, people who received a subscription were 7.9% to 11.4% more likely to vote for a Democrat.  The editorial board has never endorsed a Republican for President.  They overwhelmingly endorse Democrats at the state and local level as well, and only occasionally endorse Republicans.  They have never endorsed a Republican for governor of Virginia.  They have not endorsed a Republican for governor of Maryland since the 1980s.  They are, in short, a center left institution at the least, if not outright progressive, and yet Ms. Sonmez still seems to believe the organization is riddled with white supremacy.  One has to ask, how is that possible?  If an organization owned by a liberal and run by liberals cannot free itself from the shackles of latent white nationalism and patriarchal oppression, what organization possibly can?

The comparison to the dire situation in our inner cities might not seem obvious at first glance, but here too we are talking about localities that have been managed almost entirely by Democrats for decades and, in recent years especially, minority mayors and other officials.  The “system,” such as it is, is almost entirely a Democrat construct, operated on a daily basis with almost no input from Republicans at any level.  Therefore, any conclusions drawn about systemic issues should take into account how this can possibly be the case.   Baltimore serves as an excellent example.   Charm City hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1967.  It is such a Democrat bastion that no Republican has gotten more than 25% of the vote since the same year.  Democrats control every aspect of local government with absolute authority.  They craft the annual budget based on their priorities and appoint key positions like the Chief of Police, and yet corruption, mismanagement, and outright illegal abuse are rampant.  The producers of the critically acclaimed The Wire recently covered the city again in HBO, We Own This City to tell the story in detail, covering events surrounding the death of Freddie Gray in police custody and a Department of Justice investigation into police practices.  Prior to issuing a Consent Decree on April 7, 2017, the Department of Justice found that “the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) had engaged in a pattern and practice of conduct that violates the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and certain provisions of federal statutory law.”

The report issued on August 10, 2016 highlighted disturbing patterns of behavior including 44% of all traffic stops “in two, small predominantly African American districts that contain only 11% of the City’s population.”  They found hundreds of people that were stopped at least 10 times between 2010-2015.  Seven were stopped more than 30.  Further, these stops frequently lacked reasonable suspicion, “Our review of incident reports and interviews with officers and community members found that officers regularly approach individuals standing or walking on City sidewalks to detain and question them and check for outstanding warrants, despite lacking reasonable suspicion to do so. Only 3.7 percent of pedestrian stops resulted in officers issuing a citation or making an arrest.”  Many stops lead to illegal searches without the necessary grounds, including “degrading strip searches in public, prior to making an arrest, and without grounds to believe that the searched individuals were concealing contraband on their bodies.”  Over the same period, officers made over 11,000 arrests that were rejected by Central Booking and local prosecutors because they lacked probable cause.  “BPD officers arrest individuals standing lawfully on public sidewalks for ‘loitering,’ ‘trespassing,’ or other misdemeanor offenses without providing adequate notice that the individuals were engaged in unlawful activity. Indeed, officers frequently invert the constitutional notice requirement.”

Needless to say, the brunt of these abuses falls on black people.  As they put it, “Racially disparate impact is present at every stage of BPD’s enforcement actions, from the initial decision to stop individuals on Baltimore streets to searches, arrests, and uses of force. These racial disparities, along with evidence suggesting intentional discrimination, erode the community trust that is critical to effective policing.”  The Department of Justice found that black people were stopped three times as frequently as whites, and rather incredibly, in “each of BPD’s nine police districts, African Americans accounted for a greater share of BPD’s stops than the population living in the district.”  Blacks accounted for a whopping 82% of all vehicle stops, and the “BPD searched African Americans more frequently during pedestrian and vehicle stops, even though searches of African Americans were less likely to discover contraband. Indeed, BPD officers found contraband twice as often when searching white individuals compared to African Americans during vehicle stops and 50 percent more often during pedestrian stops.”  Blacks also accounted for 86% of all criminal offenses charged, though they make up only 63% of the population.  They also suffered from far more petty charges, some 91% of people charged with “failure to obey” or “trespassing.”  In many cases, the arresting officers used excessive force.  “Specifically, BPD uses excessive force against (1) individuals who are already restrained and under officers’ control and (2) individuals who are fleeing from officers and are not suspected of serious criminal offenses.”  Use of excessive force was rarely investigated internally as well, of “the 2,818 force incidents that BPD recorded in the nearly six-year period we reviewed, BPD investigated only ten incidents based on concerns identified through its internal review. Of these ten cases, BPD found only one use of force to be excessive.”

The Department of Justice attributed these massive issues to a combination of factors including “systemic deficiencies in BPD’s policies, training, supervision, and accountability structures that fail to equip officers with the tools they need to police effectively and within the bounds of the federal law.”  “The pattern or practice occurs as a result of systemic deficiencies at BPD. The agency fails to provide officers with sufficient policy guidance and training; fails to collect and analyze data regarding officers’ activities; and fails to hold officers accountable for misconduct. BPD also fails to equip officers with the necessary equipment and resources they need to police safely, constitutionally, and effectively. Each of these systemic deficiencies contributes to the constitutional and statutory violations we observed.”  There was not a single Republican in a position of power throughout the entire period they studied, or for more than four decades before.  Putting this another way, any “systemic issues” uncovered by the Department of Justice and every single one of the racial disparities they observed were entirely the fault of Democrats.   To paraphrase HBO’s title, they owned the city. One has to ask:  How is that possible?  The social justice warriors pushing theories of systemic racism are almost entirely Democrats, and yet when Democrats themselves, even some members of disadvantaged groups, are in charge, we get some of the most egregious examples imaginable, complete with no accountability or supervision.  In my opinion, this is the underlying mystery concerning the root cause of systemic racism in America.  Why are left-leaning, progressive Democrats running racist institutions, whether it be The Washington Post or the Baltimore Police Department, and if Democrats can’t run their own organizations in a manner that comports with their beliefs, why should we listen to them in the first place?

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