TIME Race

Race Concerns Americans More Than It Has in 2 Decades

San Francisco Public Attorneys Hold "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" Demonstration
A protestor holds a black lives matter t-shirt during a "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" demonstration in front of the San Francisco Hall of Justice on December 18, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Amid national protests over police use-of-force against African-Americans

The percentage of Americans who consider “race relations” or “racism” to be the biggest problem facing the country is at its highest level since 1992, according to a new Gallup poll.

At 13%, the current rate is only two points behind its peak two decades ago, in the aftermath of the riots that followed the Rodney King verdict. Just last month, only 1% of Americans viewed race as the top concern, proving what an enormous impact the Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice cases have had on the public.

Among nonwhites, 22% named race relations or racism as the country’s biggest problem; among whites, it was only 9%.

“The economy” ties with race among those polled, and the highest-ranked concern is “government” at 15%.

[Gallup]

TIME White House

Obama Recalls Trouble Getting a Cab Before He Was President

Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

The First Couple opens up about racism

Before they lived behind the White House gates, Barack and Michelle Obama dealt with the day-to-day racism experienced by black families across America, the First Couple told People in an exclusive new interview.

“I think people forget that we’ve lived in the White House for six years,” Michelle Obama said. “Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs.”

“The small irritations or indignities that we experience are nothing compared to what a previous generation experienced,” President Obama said. “It’s one thing for me to be mistaken for a waiter at a gala. It’s another thing for my son to be mistaken for a robber and to be handcuffed, or worse, if he happens to be walking down the street and is dressed the way teenagers dress.”

Read more at People

TIME White House

Obama: ‘No Black Male My Age’ Hasn’t Been Mistaken for a Valet

Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

The President and First Lady opened up in a recent interview about racial prejudices they've experienced

The Obamas opened up about their experiences with racial prejudice in an interview with People magazine.

“There’s no black male my age who’s a professional who hasn’t come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn’t hand them their car keys,” President Barack Obama said in an excerpt released Wednesday.

He said that it had happened to him, too. First lady Michelle Obama said that another time her husband “was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee.”

The president said that the indignities that the first couple…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Race

Corporations Are People But People of Color Are Not

Protest in Oakland After Grand Jury Decision
Protestors gather to protest after two grand juries decided not to indict the police officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. and Eric Garner in New York, NY, on December 04, 2014 in Oakland, CA. Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

The collusion of police and capitalist structures has prevented meaningful criminal justice reform

If it wasn’t clear before, it is abundantly clear now. We are in the midst of a deeply sinful and systemically broken system, and the collusion of police and capitalist structures has prevented meaningful criminal justice reform from happening.

When the announcement came down in Ferguson that there would be no trial for Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown, the police set up camp in a strip mall. Target, ironically, was safe. Thursday night in New York, hundreds of police lined the streets with barricades and batons not to protect the people protesting the non-indictment of the white police officer whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death, but to protect the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center–a phalanx standing guard over one of the high holy symbols of capitalism.

Christ is not with the tree. Christ is with the least and the lost. He is with the oppressed. He is with those walking down the street to visit their grandmothers and with those struggling to feed their families by selling cigarettes.

“I can’t breathe” could very well have been uttered by Jesus on the cross—Jesus Christ, an oppressed minority under the most powerful government on the planet who was legally put to death by the state.

But at least Jesus had a trial.

The impunity with which police officers can continue to kill some of the most vulnerable members of society, the latest being Garner, is terrifying. May this be our moment of repentance for a sin that has plagued our nation for over 400 years.

At its best, religion teaches us to recognize the humanity in each and every one of us. At its worst, we learn to see people as less than human—as objects or property.

In 1857, in a case first brought to court just a few miles from present-day Ferguson, United States Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney found that Dred Scott, as a black man, wasn’t a man at all. Blacks, he wrote, are legally “beings of an inferior order…and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

In his grand jury testimony, Wilson called Brown a “demon,” referring to him not as a “he” but as an “it.”

This can be a moment for the scales to fall from the eyes to expose the white idolatry, white privilege, and white brutality that holds our country captive, where white people—myself included—begin to see what people of color see all the time: a criminal justice system that views them not as people, but as objects to be beaten and bullied. And killed without consequence.

The highest ideals of our faith insist we never demonize anybody, much less kill that demonized other. We worship a God who made all people in God’s likeness and bestowed each human with the mark of the divine.

How far away are we from the steps of the courthouse that declared to Dred Scott and America that people of color are property and objects, not people?

We are startlingly close to that dreadful past. Michael Brown and Eric Garner are treated like objects while Christmas trees and Target stores are treated like human beings that need protections and rights. In today’s society it seems that corporations are people but people of color are not.

So now we march. Now is the time to build a sturdy and empowering infrastructure for a social movement.

The degradation and demeaning of black and brown life must stop.

Rev. Dr. Serene Jones is President of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, where she also holds the Johnston Family Chair in Religion and Democracy. She is Vice President of the American Academy of Religion, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and author of Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

See Protesters Take to the Streets After the Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision

Demonstrators took to the streets in cities across the country Wednesday night after a grand jury decision not to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner in New York in July. In New York City, protesters blocked the West Side highway, Sixth Avenue, and other main arteries. And protests continued nationwide into the weekend

MORE: Behind the video of Eric Garner’s deadly encounter with New York City police

TIME Opinion

What History Books Should Say About Ferguson

Michael Brown's mother Lesley McSpadden cries outside the police station in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 24, 2014 after hearing the grand jury decision on her son's fatal shooting.
Michael Brown's mother Lesley McSpadden cries outside the police station in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 24, 2014 after hearing the grand jury decision on her son's fatal shooting. Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

How we tell the story of what happened in Missouri matters

When the grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Mike Brown was announced late Monday evening in Ferguson, Mo., the world was watching. After hours of delay, misleading “Breaking News” banners, and a preemptive build-up of riot management forces on Ferguson streets, we were more than ready to hear the verdict. But the lengthy remarks delivered by St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch were far less welcome.

McCulloch padded his announcement with nearly 30 minutes of narrative, detailing his own particular version of events in Ferguson since August 9, 2014, when Brown, an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot in the street. He complimented local authorities, conveniently choosing not to mention their internationally panned militarized assault on citizens in the days following Brown’s death. He praised his own management of the process, conveniently ignoring the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder had to step in for oversight and ultimately, to launch a federal investigation because of a lack of trust in the local “process”. And while no indictment came for Darren Wilson, in McCulloch’s tale, the media, twitter, eyewitnesses and even Mike Brown himself were tried and found guilty.

Why would McCulloch feel compelled to use his time on the national stage to recount the previous three months and tell his story? Because as a public official and an attorney, he understands the importance of the record: what account is written, what story is told, and, most of all what remains in our collective memory. What matters most as the chaos of cultural moments and social movements unfold is the history – or, more accurately, the telling of the history for generations to come.

As the late Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe tells us: Until lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. This history, an account of these past months, matters because as much as we want to believe that the problem upon which these events were built – violent, systemic racism – will be a distant memory by the time our children are themselves adults, the arc of the moral universe is long…very long. It is quite possible (read: highly likely) that the struggle to make a more perfect union will continue and that our grandchildren will turn to the history books for context for their own fight. There they will read about our turning point moments – and about us: the activists, the officials, the media, the mothers and fathers, the sons and daughters, the heroes and villains of these perilous times.

VOTE: Should the Ferguson protestors be TIME’s Person of the Year?

So, for future generations, let us write some history:

Let the record show that after Mike Brown’s death, Ferguson became ground zero for a movement that had been building in cities all across America. It was not the isolated reaction of a group of disgruntled residents. Thanks to the fearlessness and raw emotion of the Ferguson community, it was the strike of the match that finally lit the flame for people nationwide who felt as if those sworn to protect them, were hunting them instead.

Let the record show that a generation of young people rose up in this moment to lead. Tell the story of Ashley Yates, Tef Poe, and Tory Russell, brilliant young people ushering in a new era of activism, media, politics and community engagement. Tell the story of the organizations and networks that they are building in the face of a narrative that claims that young black people will loot and tweet but not strategize and work.

Let the record show that despite widespread celebrity disengagement from issues of racism, Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams has tirelessly forgone the glamour of his Hollywood career to be a bold, unapologetic presence in Ferguson and beyond, making him poised to be this generation’s Harry Belafonte.

Let the record show that national organizations like the nearly one million member ColorofChange.org worked in solidarity with Ferguson residents to support their leadership and also connect the events on the ground to a larger movement against injustice and police brutality.

Let the record show that members of rival St. Louis gangs stood together, united, protecting the elderly, women, children and physical property during the protests as a show of solidarity for their community.

Let the record show that it was not the Ferguson police department who made history but the hundreds of people who stood peacefully night after night for 15 weeks, chanting, talking and holding one another at youth organized meetings and healing stations organized by poet Elizabeth Vega.

Let the record show social media’s role in raising the name and story of an unarmed black citizen being killed – just as it has for Ezell Ford, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and countless others.

Let the record show that those very same social media platforms and voices were responsible for shining light on a city using tanks and tear gas on its citizens when mainstream media was being arrested and shut out.

Yes, let the record show the rage. Do not be afraid to talk about the disproportionately small number of people who would rather break things - windows, shelves, fences – than stand for the breaking of more people.

And most importantly, let the record show that the George Zimmerman verdict and the Darren Wilson decision are not evidence of black people’s delusions of racism but instead of how deeply entrenched bias and hatred is in a system that was built on, you guessed it, state-sanctioned racism.

Long after the facts of the case have been parsed and forgotten, long after Mike Brown t-shirts are faded and Darren Wilson rides off into a sunset that still hides George Zimmerman, there will be a record.

And if written correctly, it will tell the story of a people who refused to let America run from her promise of justice and equal protection under the law; citizens who used every awful tragedy, every imperfect victim, every messy media firestorm, every conflicting account, every questionable death, every chance it got to scream a truth that it knows deep in its bones: the police state is dangerous and unequal.

So, dear lions. Those of you black, brown, female, gay, poor, and oppressed; those feared and hunted by a system that won’t recognize its flaws, commit now to being historians. Tell and claim the parts of the Ferguson story that didn’t make it into the President’s remarks or McCulloch’s recap or the 24 hour news coverage.

If we do this, history will undoubtedly show what the state never has: that black lives – and all lives – matter.

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 25

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. “White people who are sick and tired of racism should work hard to become white allies.” Here’s how.

By Janee Woods in Quartz

2. We can’t afford to ignore the innovative history of developing countries as we face the impact of climate change.

By Calestous Juma at CNN

3. Aeroponics – growing plants in mist without any soil – may be the future of food.

By Bloomberg Businessweek

4. The Obama White House is still struggling to separate policy from politics, and Defense Secretary Hagel is the latest victim.

By David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy

5. Fewer, better standardized tests can boost student achievement.

By Marc Tucker, Linda Darling-Hammond and John Jackson in Education Week

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

Ferguson Erupts: Stirring Images from a Night of Protest

Ferguson was filled with demonstrations, tear gas, smoke and fire Monday night after a grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown

Should Ferguson Protestors be Person of the Year? Vote below for #TIMEPOY

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: From the Pope’s Planned U.S. Visit to the Chocolate Shortage

Watch today's Know Right Now to catch up on the latest trending stories

In today’s trending stories, the Pope confirmed plans for his first U.S. visit as pontiff in 2015. He will hold mass on the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, where an estimated 2 million people are expected to show up.

The nation is preparing for the grand jury’s decision over whether to indict Ferguson cop Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

The DEA conducted spot-checks on the medical staffs of several NFL teams for allegedly administering possible illegal drug prescriptions.

And lastly, chocolatiers say dry weather, fungal disease and farmer migration are slowing down the production of cocoa, leading to a worldwide shortage of chocolate.

TIME Research

Racism Could Negatively Impact Your Health, Study Finds

blood pressure
Getty Images

High blood pressure and kidney decline may be linked to feelings of discrimination

Feeling judged because of your race could have a negative impact on your physical health, a new study finds.

A team of researchers studied 1,574 residents of Baltimore as part of the Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span study and found that 20% of the subjects reported feeling that they had been racially discriminated against “a lot.”

Even after the researchers adjusted the results for race, this group had higher systolic blood pressure than those who perceived only a little discrimination.

Over a five-year followup, the group who felt more racial discrimination also tended to have greater decline in kidney function. When the researchers, co-led by Deidra C. Crews, MD, assistant professor of medicine and chair of the diversity council at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, adjusted for age and lifestyle factors, the effect stayed constant for African-American women.

“Psychosocial stressors could potentially have an effect on kidney function decline through a number of hormonal pathways,” Dr. Crews said. The release of stress hormones can lead to an increase in blood pressure, and high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney disease.

This isn’t the first time that perceived racial discrimination has been linked to chronic diseases: a 2011 study found that lifetime discrimination was linked to higher rates of hypertension.

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