The real meaning of plantation tours: American Downton Abbey vs American Horror Story

There's a viral review of a southern plantation tour making the rounds in which a white person complains that the tour was "extremely disappointing" because of the "lecture on how the white people treated slaves" from a tour guide who was "radical about slave treatment." Read the rest

Heirs' property: how southern states allow white land developers to steal reconstruction-era land from Black families

Back in 2017, The Nation ran a superb, in-depth story on "heirs' property," a legalized form of property theft that allows primarily rich white developers to expropriate land owned by the descendants of Black slaves. Read the rest

Bernie Sanders' "Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education" will desegregate schools, defund charters, pay teachers, end the school-to-prison pipeline

Bernie Sanders has released A Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education, a detailed and bold suite of public education reforms reminiscent of the kinds of policy planks being laid down regularly by rival candidate Elizabeth Warren (I'm a donor to both Sanders' and Warren's campaigns). Read the rest

Police lobbyist: cops will not be motivated to stop crime unless they are allowed to steal people's stuff

South Carolina cops love the state's civil asset forfeiture laws, which allow the police to seize any property they believe represents the proceeds of a crime and keep it, unless the property's former owner hires a lawyer to prove the innocence of their goods: more than $17m was seized last year, and in a fifth of these cases, no one was convicted of a crime (71% of the people whose stuff gets stolen by South Carolina cops are Black). Read the rest

American towns survive by fining poor people, and use debtors' prisons to make them pay

The Ferguson uprising was triggered by the police assassination of Michael Brown, but even before that killing, the city was a powder-keg, thanks to the practice of financing the city government by levying fines on the poor and putting those who couldn't pay in debtors' prison to encourage the rest to cough up. Read the rest

More Americans get the vote today than on any day since sufferage

The 2018 election included a Florida ballot initiative to restore felons' voting rights (with the exception of convicted murderers and sexual offenders): the 1.4 million Americans who will get their votes restored today as a consequence are the largest cohort of Americans to get access to the ballot since women's sufferage in 1920. Read the rest

LA's teachers are ready to strike on Tuesday, rejecting privatization of public education

Last year saw a wave of teachers' strikes across America, but mostly in red states where public education has been starved of funds, putting teachers on starvation wages, subjecting kids to dangerous conditions, and stripping schools of resources and even putting schools on four-day weeks. Read the rest

Statistical proof that voter ID laws are racially discriminatory

In ADGN: An Algorithm for Record Linkage Using Address, Date of Birth, Gender, and Name, newly published in Statistics and Public Policy, a pair of researchers from Harvard and Tufts build a statistical model to analyze the impact of the voter ID laws passed in Republican-controlled states as part of a wider voter suppression project that was explicitly aimed at suppressing the votes of racialised people, historically likely to vote Democrat. Read the rest

Jeff Sessions encourages courts to continue practice of fining poor people for being too poor to pay their fines

In 2016, the Obama DoJ issued guidance to US courts telling them to cease the practice of levying fines on poor people that exceeded their means to pay, especially fines for failure to pay earlier fines. This week, Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed that order. Read the rest

Louisiana's public defender's office is largely nonexistent so poor people just plead guilty

Louisiana has always been a backward place for criminal justice, the only state in the union that funds its public defenders' office with conviction fees, leaving a public defender's office that averages $238 spent on each accused. Read the rest

Multigenerational wealth makes white Americans richer than black Americans

Black American wage disparity can be offset by education; but even though black American families -- one parent, two parent, educated, uneducated, employed, unemployed -- save more and spend less than their white counterparts, white families have substantially more wealth than black families -- college-educated white adults have 7.2 times the wealth of their black counterparts. Read the rest

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Obama's blackness, America's white supremacy, and Trump's victory

Ta-Nehisi Coates's 17,000-word history of the Obama presidency in the Atlantic is called "My President Was Black," but it's about the very special kind of blackness that Obama embodied -- not because whites saw the biracial politician differently, but because Obama's extraordinarily supportive white family and unique boyhood in Hawai'i spared him the racial trauma visited on other young black people in America. Read the rest

"Massive scale" shut-down of polling places in districts known for suppressing black voters

When the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, it meant that the 2016 presidential race would be the first one in 50 years without the fundamental protections the act promised, as a check against racist voter suppression. Read the rest

What it's like to register to vote in states with voter suppression law

Leroy Switlick, a 67-year-old visually impaired man who has voted in every election for the last 40 years may not get to vote this year, because he lives in Wisconsin, where Republican governor Scott Walker passed a voter-suppression law that requires people like Switkick, who've never traveled and never held a driver's license, to show photo ID (like a passport or driver's license) to vote, and the DMV has failed in its duty to issue him a non-driver ID. Read the rest

Tomorrow: largest prison strike in US history

America imprisons more people than any other country in history, in both absolute and relative terms. American prisoners -- disproportionately racialized and poor people -- are held in inhumane conditions that include long periods of solitary confinement, in violation of international protocols against torture. Read the rest

North Carolina's voter suppression law struck down as "racist"

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has invalidated parts of North Carolina's voter suppression laws, ruling that the requirement to show photo ID was enacted "with racially discriminatory intent." Read the rest

Mississippi's prison town are in danger of collapse, thanks to tiny reforms in the War on Drugs

Towns in Mississippi and other Tea Party-ruled states with large (often private) prison industries are totally reliant on state/fed funding transfers to local prisons for cash and jobs, forced prison labor to provide local services for free, and War on Drugs arrests and minimum sentencing to fill those jails. The first tiny steps toward criminal justice reform have eroded the underpinnings of the whole system, leaving the towns facing collapse. Read the rest

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