photo: Good Morning America
Here we go again.
Only this time, for white America, Daunte Wright is their son, too. This week, his bereaved parents, he Black, she white, sat for the “Good Morning America” interview. Katie Wright cried as she said: “I know my son was scared. He's afraid of the police, and I had just seen and heard the fear in his voice. But I don't know why and it should have never escalated the way it did. … We had our hearts pulled out of our chests.”
History and statistics show that Daunte had good reason to be scared. What we know in America is that regardless of your DNA, the color of your skin can be the difference between life and death. According to the Washington Post’s database, Fatal Force, which chronicles all known fatal shootings by police since 2015, Black people account for 40 percent of unarmed Americans killed by the police—even though they are only 13 percent of the U.S. population. That means that Black Americans are killed by police at more than twice the rate of whites.
Yesterday came more searing images as Chicago police released footage from the killing of Adam Toledo, who was 13 years old. Despite earlier claims that he was armed and resisting arrest, the video shows that Toledo, the youngest child in a Mexican-American family, held his hands up before being shot. I asked URL’s co-founder Sara Lomax-Reese, also the president of WURD, a Black talk radio station in Philadelphia, to characterize the mood of callers and she simply said: “Enraged.”
Rightfully so. The pervasiveness of police violence is such that the names, the ones we say, intersect and collide.
George Floyd's girlfriend was once Daunte Wright's teacher. Eric Garner and Caron Nazario share a cousin. In December, Nazario, a 27-year-old Army second lieutenant, was wearing his uniform when he was pulled over, pepper sprayed and hand-cuffed by a pair of officers in Virginia. Thankfully he lived.
Photo: AJ Colores
Defunding the police suddenly seems a gentle idea. Of course, it has its detractors, including within our communities fearing rising violence in cities and their own neighborhoods. Last week, a story written for a URL Media partnership on NYC elections (thank you, Center for Cooperative Media) asked new U.S. citizens voting in the June primary for their thoughts. One immigrant said his top issues are affordable housing, zoning… and criminal justice.
In Philadelphia, law and order is also taking center stage in the May 18 primary for district attorney. Larry Krasner’s win four years ago was seen as a victory for liberal criminal justice reform. His opponent, Carlos Vega, pledges to get tougher on crime and make the city safer. This week WURD’s Charles Ellison interviewed Krasner and challenged him on lower conviction rates for gun possession. Take a listen; it gets real good at the halfway point where Krasner talks about “deafening silence” from the police union and how “people have this strange notion that I don’t want to collaborate.”
Scalawag’s recent profile of a police officer who left the force is another must-read, especially now. It delves into one man’s reckoning with the " ‘passive racism’ of being a cop—patrolling Black neighborhoods much more often and with more vigor than white ones, filling the jails and prisons with Black and Brown bodies, and justifying his own actions with the prevailing thought that it must be their fault for committing the crimes.” One night on a date with a beautician, he realized her job required more training than policing.
Photo: Mariah Solomon
Onto the other public-health crisis: We have a pandemic for all Americans and a custom-made disaster for Black and Brown people. Ray Suarez wrote this must-read piece in Palabra: “The Latino workers were keeping an industry going and helping America eat, but that didn’t qualify them to be among ‘regular folks’ in the county where they live and work ...many Latinos found themselves in an ‘essential worker trap.’ Their labor was so necessary, their businesses were kept open. And, since their businesses were still open, they couldn’t collect unemployment if they withdrew from work to protect themselves.”
It goes on to capture Covid’s wrath in California: “As of March, Latinos in prime working years constituted 70% of the dead among 18- to 34-year-olds, and 73% of Californians 35 to 49 years old who died of the disease. Add in low rates of vaccination, rampant misinformation regarding the pandemic circulating in Spanish, and it becomes clear that for too many in this country, their blues ain’t like ours.”
It’s a similar story in the Haitian community, writes Haitian Times publisher Garry Pierre-Pierre, and reluctance to get the vaccine is not helping. “Covid-19 is not over. Just a few weeks ago, the wife of a prominent member of the Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad died from complications from the disease,” he says. “We bore the brunt of the disease because we are overrepresented in the medical field and the other essential workplaces. I’m still feeling the emotional impact of having to write and publish stories about so much death and destruction. It was macabre, but essential.”
Photo: Jon Tyson
Indeed, our partners are busy spreading facts about Covid and taking care of our own. TBN 24's wellness show features doctors and experts on how the vaccines work. At the 12:38 mark, it delves into the timing and reasons why certain vaccines have been approved overseas but not yet in America.
So much of the pandemic is this disconnect between what the government says and what it does. Documented NY captures the hypocrisy in a piece about the growth of encampments in Elmhurst, Queens, and homelessness across New York City. This immigrant neighborhood is one of the hardest-hit by Covid in the country and “many people lost their jobs, which has led to an increase in people losing their homes. … the city has responded through increased cleanups or sweeps, aimed to displace homeless individuals from areas where they have set up shelter, which advocates say only increases their suffering.” Another problem: Belongings, such as wallets and IDs, are getting lost in these sweeps, or stolen on the streets. “Eduardo and Alfredo should benefit from the fund as undocumented immigrants who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, but they were both robbed of their forms of identification when sleeping on the subway. Replacing lost IDs has become a herculean task with appointments at consular offices and the DMV unavailable until far into the future and IDNYC applications closed.”
Documentation, an issue for immigrants navigating work and life for decades now, is getting renewed attention in the global vaccine rollout. Epicenter-NYC chronicles some of these obstacles to vaccine access and has helped more than 5,000 people book appointments, many of whom don’t speak English, lack internet access and work in the taxi and restaurant industries. “Increasing numbers of homeless are calling us; they might be crashing among friends or family and wondering how to prove address,” I recently wrote. “Our documentation folder is growing with examples. Some volunteers have sent mail to the individuals to prove they exist.”
Let that sink in. We are out here, in 2021, still fighting to simply exist. It’s enraging.
S. Mitra Kalita
CEO of URL Media
Publisher of Epicenter-NYC
The URLs on URL
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (yes, that’s Prince Harry and Meghan, via the Archewell Foundation) made a gift to URL Media last month. Check out coverage in USA Today, Entertainment Tonight, Yahoo News, Hollywood Reporter and The Grio. And of course, our partners, with whom we intend to share the grant.
The Raben Group, a D.C.-based law firm, spotlighted URL Media last month in “Shaking up the Color of News,” an event moderated by lawyer and CNN contributor Elliot Williams. Watch here.
On April 30 at 2 p.m. EST, a handful of us in the URL Media Network will present at the International Symposium on Online Journalism. Join us; details here.