Tag Archives: race

Mugshots and Corporate Crime

gates mugshot Let me start by saying, I’m not sure whether I am for or against the prominent use of mugshots in the media. On one hand I think public shame and humility for your crime seems like it could be an acceptable deterrent for a community. On the other hand, see the world through our predetermined perceptions and we might only reinforce our stereotypes. So, long story short, the verdict is still out as to how I feel about mugshots in general. That said, let me move on to my topic.

I read the Star Tribune in my reader every morning. Mostly I browse headlines and scan pages, but I’ll read whole articles when I think it’s relevant. I’ve been doing this for the past year, so I feel this insight is at least partially backed by a decent research sampling of the Star Tribune’s online articles. Here’s my observation: The Strib tends to print mug shots of street crime criminals that fit the archetypal “Black Male”, at least that seems to be what I have seen. And then there is the mug shots that the Strib doesn’t print (In fact, it seems rare any news outlet does). The rather anonymous ones are the corporate criminals. The white collar men and women who’ve stolen and spent millions of dollars in tax fraud and real estate scams. The ones whose crimes have affected hundreds and caused the sort of instability in our economy we are currently facing. For Example, Jon Helgason and Tom Balko of TJ Waconia, who plead guilty almost a year ago to a $35 million dollar housing fraud scheme in my neighborhood. What’s crazy is that they haven’t even been sentenced yet, they are still walking the streets as free men, and the Star Tribune has yet to post a picture of either of the two men. In fact, a Google search brings up any photos of either of these men on any news site. Why is that?

I’ll cut to the chase, whether intentional or not, the Star Tribunes use of photos of criminals seems to clearly be unequal. In Strib articles, Street criminals (often African American Males) tend to have photos posted with the article, while white collar crime (often White Males) tends not to. It goes without saying that we are a visual people, and while facts and stories slip in and out of our memories, those images will stick in our minds. It’s a great disservice to us as a community and an injustice to us as a people that we continue to reinforce incorrect stereotypes and ideas of what crime is and what we should be afraid of.

I’ve pointed out before that it is corporate crime, not street crime that really wrecks havoc on our lives and nation, but when we continue to publish media the way we do that fact won’t really sink in.

Here’s a brief overview of stories from the past year that were covered in the Star Tribune, without photos.

  • TJ Waconia trial– As I mentioned it’s been over a year since they plead guilty (the case has been around even longer), which is plenty of time to get at least a photo. The Star Tribune has published multiple stories on this case and has never included a picture. My own councilman, Don Samuels, whose 5th ward was particularly affected by the crime, has never seen a picture of what these guys look like (and he’s asked).
  • Tom Petters– This was the biggest corporate crime story of the year in Minnesota. Tons of articles published on Petters, and since even his arrest was a public news story there were photos of him (including of his lavish, money spending lifestyle). There were many others involved in the scheme, but only one other photo that I saw.
  • Robert Beale– A millionaire who was involved in church planting and running a successful medical device company, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax fraud. No picture that I could find on the Star Tribune (though a google search turns some up from other sites).

There are multiple others, in fact the Strib wrote a summary article about all the corporate crime in 2008, of course without photos. Oddly, the only other corporate crime article I ran across that had a photo displayed, besides Petters, was of Carolyn Louper-Morris who defrauded the state out of $2 million through a fledgling tutoring company. What’s odd about it? Of all the corporate criminals they could choose from to publish a picture of they pick Louper, an African American women. How do you interpret that.

And just as a final quick contrast (sorry this has gotten quite long), here are a couple articles that address the very downfalls of what I’m talking about.

  • Valleyfair Beating– the Star Tribune and others posted photos of eight black male suspects in this crime. Outrage ensued with blogs, news sites (including the Tribune) and local talk radio lighting up with claims of this being a hate crime. It wasn’t till later that it was made clear the victims were also black.
  • Ali Abdilahi – was a suspect in an abduction case and his mugshot was plastered on TV and elsewhere. Though the charges were dropped Abdilahi lost jobs, his vehicle, thousands of dollars raised by friends and family for bail, and a difficult and frustrating few months afterward.
  • Publicizing mugshots of ‘Johns’ – I think prostitution and the men who perpetuate it is wrong. So, reading about this effort by the city to use a billboard to encourage people to view the photos of those charged for soliciting prostitutes seems like a strategic deterrent to the crime. But where are the public dollars to make corporate criminals publicly shamed as well?*

In conclusion, my point is simply this: if we are going to use public photos of criminals, do it consistently. Don’t simply reinforce the stereotypes that have been so ingrained. And if your reading or watching your local news, keep a critical eye on bias in the media. It’s there.

*aside: a brief look at the website they’ve posted shows 22 arrests made in the last six months, but they all occurred on only three different days. If the city really wants to crack down on crime I suggest they keep their eyes out for ‘Johns’ all 182 days of the next six months, not just three of them.

Thinking Thursday: Race, Lies, Charcoal, and Ice

AllyWork » White Lies: a cartoon

If only it were this easy:

Truth - Lies via

A staggering 40% of Filipinos live in abject poverty. That’s more than 30 million people; almost half the population of the UK. Many of them live in shanty towns in the cities, hoping for a better life, so work in places like the charcoal fields to earn some money. They often get to keep little of what they make as the local mafia demand a cut of the profits. The Charcoal Children of Manila

A staggering 40% of Filipinos live in abject poverty. That’s more than 30 million people; almost half the population of the UK. Many of them live in shanty towns in the cities, hoping for a better life, so work in places like the charcoal fields to earn some money. They often get to keep little of what they make as the local mafia demand a cut of the profits.

The Charcoal Children of Manila

Green and Purple People via

ABC News has learned that on Monday officials of the Obama administration called Citigroup about the company’s new $50 million corporate jet and told execs to “fix it.
Citigroup Grounds Plans for $50M Jet

I just LOVE that line: “fix it.”

You go Obama! When I heard about AIG’s expensive resort retreat after their bailout I just shook my head. I didn’t even have the thought “our president should do something about it”, that’s how little I’d come to expect of our executive office.  Guess the President can be more “for the people” like I’ve always hoped.

Education is the Most Powerful Weapon (via missdreass:neverknew) (via wasteofpaint)

On Tuesday, January 27th, 2009, former AIG executive got sentenced to 4 years in prison for $500 million fraud.

The same day, a judge sentenced a homeless man to 15 years in prison. The homeless man had robbed a Louisiana bank and took a $100 bill; after feeling remorseful, he surrendered to police.
What’s Wrong with our Justice System

And I leave you with this last thought provoking image. Vanilla Ice.

Vanilla Ice! via   

Flash Back: Sharing Our Feelings On Race

When I first started it, IFeelWhenYou, was going to be this great, thought-provoking website that opened up the conversation on race nation-wide and was a useful tool in our dialog in classes and churches all over. Well, it didn’t really happen. But it is fun to browse through once in a while, and moderate the new statements that had been posted. Here’s what I wrote about it when I first started:

Something that troubles me in dicussing race and racism is that we are often (like in many other areas) poor listeners. We tend to have a lot to say regardless of how important it really is or how much it affects us. Like you learn in any basic communication class sharing your feelings is perfectly okay and important. It’s also important to listen to one another. The typical statement you’ll here suggested is the famous, “I Feel…When You…” It allows you to share what your feeling based on the others action and focuses on your feeling rather then just yelling or pointing out their action (the “You ALWAYS do this…” types of statements). Martin Luther King day is just around the corner and I thought it would be neat to have a site dedicated to sharing our feelings about Race and Racism in a constructive way.

Browse around and see if it’s informative or interesting to you.


Race Report Card 2006: D- (Maybe)

Well it’s officially the end of Black History Month, a contrived attempt at helping white folk realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them. I doubt we were any more successful at it this past year than when they got rid of slavery.
I’m a fan of Black History Month, because I’m a fan of being intentional. I say this a lot in the community we live in, that we need to intentionally carve out time and space for things to occur, until they become a natural part of what we do. Until the integration and celebration of Black History is as much a part of the education of every student as any sort of euro-centric history, until that is true, there will be a need for Black History Month.
It was suggested on a podcast I was listening to recently that Black History Month should serve as an assessment time, as a chance to give our society a report card on how we’ve done in the past year as it relates to racial integration and race relations, in our current and historical context.
So, on this years annual report card (for the year 2006), I’m giving our society a big fat D-. If you want more of the details, the best place to get them would be Racalicious’ great posts on Race and Pop Culture Trends of 2006: (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Let’s see if we can do better next year people.

Already Forgotten?

note: originally posted in January 2005 in the student newspaper at Wheaton College

Already Forgotten

It’s Friday now, five days after the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, and like many of us, besides rejoicing that it’s only a four day week, you have not given his legacy a second thought. If upon reflecting on King and his legacy, you only naively rejoiced that his “dream” has been accomplished, but did not weep at the complacency of, We, the Church in carrying out the work that Dr. King, in Christ, called us to; to bring Justice for the poor and oppressed, you are deceived.
The more I have learned about Dr. King the more I am shocked and disappointed at the lack of attention we give to this great hero of the Christian faith. Wheaton College, a school founded by abolitionists should know well the importance of standing up against injustice and for freedom. Dr. King stood bold as a Christian against the injustice of his day and we need to be challenged by this modern prophet of Christ to do the same.
It’s a wonderful thing to see that every year hundreds of students at Wheaton participate in ministries through CSC and their churches. Many of the ministries involve working with youth anywhere from near by Carol Stream to the city of Chicago. These sorts of ministries are tangible ways many students find to share the love of Christ with others. But this alone is inefficient and insufficient. We must not forget King’s example and stand against the systems that are persisting
You might have heard this story before. There was a community that built a school on the edge of a cliff. Upon discovering that a number of students where injured seriously from falling off the cliff, the community decided to build a emergency room at the bottom of the cliff. Though this did help care for the situation, it was reactive toward the outcome of the problem and did not deal with the root. Why did they not build a fence?!

Dr. King stood against the injustice of the Jim Crow laws and the segregated education system because he was compelled by the love of Christ. We too must stand against those structural sins in our society. I challenge every student involved in ministries to youth to become aware of the structural evils that we are a part of in our society. When a child receives an unequal education simply due to their location in an impoverished neighborhood, this is a structural evil. When your attempt to explain to that child the victories of Brown vs. Board in desegregation are in vain because every child in his classroom is of similar complexion, this is a structural evil. King once said, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” Please deepen your understanding and act.
We are called to love our neighbor as ourself. This command requires far more then the few hours or minutes we tend to give it each day, indeed, in the words of King, “The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.”

Black Coaches Make History

Update: Congrats to Tony Dungy. Considering you spent the last four hours being entertained by his team, you should consider giving five minutes to hear his story. Specifically the video at Beyond the Ultimate.

I’m not a huge football fan anymore, but considering it’s Super Bowl Sunday I figure this is at least worth taking a moment to mention.

From the NFL Website:

It wasn’t all that long ago that the NFL’s best jobs were off-limits to blacks. Never mind that three-quarters of the league’s rosters were filled with black players. Or that there were qualified black assistants. When the time came to hire a new coach, they were passed over, time and again.

Meanwhile, white coaches who had done little to distinguish themselves in their previous jobs got additional chances. It was the old boys’ network at its worst.

It’s a moment to celebrate, and as any of these firsts, that come so much later then they should, it’s a moment to grieve. It’s acknowledgment again that for years we’ve kept potential unreached do to oppressive prejudice and discrimination. From Nancy Pelosi to Keith Ellison, and Smith and Dungy we apologize for forcing you to wait so long.

Have a Great game.

Erace Racism Carnival #8 – 2007 Edition

Welcome to the January 20, 2007 edition of the erase racism carnival. I’m extremely excited to have the honor of hosting the Carnival here at Trying to Follow.
We have a great line up this month. As the carnival continues to grow and as the audience expands esremember to reflect and acknowledge the fact that we really are taking steps to Erase Racism.

Rachel get’s us started with a great post showing strong evidence of Pervasive Racial Bias in Employer Callbacks as diagrammed below:

(The solid black bar represents those with felony convictions, and the grey bar represents those without felony convictions.)

Read more of the study and Rachel’s thoughts at Rachel’s Tavern.

J.C. Wilmore has a quick response to Delegate Hargrove who said “Our black citizens should get over it” referring to Slavery.

Hakim Abdullah
presents An Occidental-Muslim’s Criticism of Empires and Orthodoxies posted at Hakim Abdullah, saying, “This article compares the criticisms of orthodoxies to that of empires and as a result we discover that they are not dissimilar.” And if that description was too confusing for you, check out this brief quote:

That fact is that, the United States of America is by every stretch of the word, an empire. It has within its control a number of territories by which it influences either economically, socio-politically or by way of aesthetics.

Hakim also wrote a blurb about “Hard-Times” & the Human Soul.
Kai Chang brings us the “The Unapologetic Mexican” in a series of excerpts entitled: The Colored Lens. It’s a great history lesson as well, so bring your thinking caps.

Karen Lynch reflects on the famous blue eyes/brown eyes experiment in Allowing Others and Practicing Non-judgement (the video of the experiment is below and here):

And the CARNIVAL Continues! Don’t lose interest yet, we’ve got a great series of posts to follow that your really going to enjoy. For your brief intermission here is a carnival joke: Why won’t cannibals eat clowns? Because they taste funny. (Stay tuned for one more at the end!)


Amy Lin presents The greatest story ever sold is a fantasy covered in blood. posted at Wisebread. Watch out De Beers your about to be ousted:

Asking for conflict-free certificates is not enough. In April 2006 after a scathing report by Partnership Africa Canada about activities in Brazil, an internal review showed that 49 of 147 Kimberley Process certificates were fraudulent. Besides these fraudulent certificates, real certificates could still be issued if conflict diamonds were smuggled and mixed with legally traded ones before being certified.

Children in India are cutting and polishing the diamonds. Children in India can become “bonded” – forced to work to pay off the debts of their family. These children end up working in the diamond factories.

Children in conflict zones are being used as soldiers. The images in Blood Diamond with child soldiers are very real. They are drugged and brainwashed to handle the manslaughter they are forced to do.

Jennifer Connelly says in the movie Blood Diamond, “People back home would not buy a diamond if they knew it cost someone their hand.” Now you know.

Be sure to read more of Amy’s telling post at nd just in case you need more convincing at Wisebread. And just in case you needed more convincing and proof.

It’s just marketing. The whole “A Diamond is Forever” and the idea of a diamond engagement ring is not an ancient tradition to be revered and followed. It is Sprite’s “Obey Your Thirst.” It is Nike’s “Just Do It.” It is Gary Dahl’s “Pet Rock.”

Natalie wonders if we are ready for Barack Obama to be Our Next President?

Therefore, how often does the southern Black vote truly count (obviously this goes for other minority groups as well and while race doesn’t always equal voting preference it obviously matters some)? It’s institutionalized racism at its best. I kind of digress; the real question is do I think America is open enough to elect a Black man to our highest office? Sadly, I kind of doubt it…

Barack’s Call To Renewal Speech:

Michael Adams continues with further thoughts on Barack’s success and what that means in, What will 2007 present for Blacks seeking Leadership? posted at The Chess-Board-Room:

It is now the time for Black Men to become Fathers and role models for their children, the educated to become more selfless and greater mentors for those new to the game and our spiritual leaders (pastors, elders) to show more of an interest in their surrounding community than how much is in the collection plate.

And now, For White Folks: How To Be An Ally (Part 3), Changeseeker continues here popular series at Why Am I Not Surprised (If you missed the beginning here is part 1, 1b, and 2). This post is fairly long, but it has lot’s of practical examples and application. Well worth your time if your one of the White Folk wondering what to do:

Then, you can validate the truth you hear by accepting its legitimacy, no matter now difficult it is to face, no matter how sad it is to look at, no matter how formidable the wall it seems to illumine, no matter how deep the chasm it seems to produce. You can say, “Yes. I hear you. Yes. It must be painful. Yes. It is immoral. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.”
And finally, you can sit beside the wounded.
I saw a quote years ago by a woman back in the sixties, a SNCC-member, I think, who said something about, “What it all comes down to in the end is one person saying ‘I will sit next to you.'” A commitment so simple it can be made by anyone. Without training. Without education. Without planning. Without agenda. “I will sit next to you.” When the tempers blaze and the tears come. “I will sit next to you.” In the rain. In the sun. In the darkness of night. “I will sit next to you.” We can share a sandwich. We can pass the dipper down the row. We can breathe the air of a planet that has waited five hundred years for these words: “I will sit next to you.”

Origins of Prejudice posted by Sage, has an excellent personal story to discuss “why we develop prejudices and how to override this tendency”:

I passed him then, and he continued on his merry way right behind me.
After a block, I began to feel wary of his intentions, so I spun around and asked, “Do you have the time?” As he politely answered, I memorized his face, his clothes, his watch, everything about him. I was preparing for the inevitable on this dark, deserted street. He gave me the time, then we continued walking, quickly, with him so close behind me I could feel his breath on my neck.

Katie summariz and asks questions about Dr. John McWhorter’s theory about what ATTITUDE about racial disadvantages will produce the most positive change the fastest. She hit’s on McWhoter’s great point in response to the question: “What can we do to help poor black people not be so poor?”

A disproportionate number of poor black people indeed don’t want to work, but their reasons for feeling that way aren’t unreasonable. Whatever the reasons were that older generations of young black people stopped wanting to work (Greatest Generation social policy, jobs moving away from the city, discrimination by employers, etc.), young black people today don’t think about their predecessors’ motivators & demotivators consciously. They just grow up observing
it and imitating it, like all humans do. Dr. McWhorter’s example of
this was a child born to Chinese parents in Brooklyn. That kid’s going to grow up speaking English because he/she observed it and that’s what humans do.

Lynching2Kai Chang presents White Supremacy By Any Other Name:

Yes, the n-word is “just a word”: a word that has historically led to scenes such as these. If you’re cool with such scenes, by all means continue supporting this word’s use by “edgy” white folks (you say “edgy”, I say “coward hiding in a mob”). You know why black folks “are allowed” to use the n-word (though it remains deeply controversial in the black community)? Here’s a hint: look at the pictures and see if you spot any black folks among the living. Okay I’ll fill you in: they’re the ones being murdered; white folks are the ones doing the murdering. Get it? In the context of the n-word’s countless unpunished crimes, black folks are not the accused.
“Just a word”: what a moronic defense. I suppose “war” is “just a word” as well — unless you happen to be among those getting bombed and shot. “I intend to kill you and your family” are just words too, but if someone were to say those words to me, my response would be very unwordy.

Kai really lays it out in this post, spurred on by the disgusting display by Michael Richards, a hint of just the tip of the iceberg of underlying racism in our country.

https://tryingtofollow.com/wp-content/linkedimages/upload/odeo.com/img151/4527/virgil3lw.jpgFinally, Eric Stoller presents Goode isn’t good featuring the OPPRESSIONATOR 3000:

The primary theme surrounding Virgil Goode is that everyone who is on his oppression-list is a person of color. Latino’s, Muslim’s of Color, and “anchor babies” (apparently brown babies are also a threat to Goode “the Oppressionator 3000″.

Goode informed Fox news that he wants to limit legal immigration and put a stop to “diversity visas,” which he said let in people “not from European countries” and “some terrorist states.”

Note: I found several online newspapers that were
covering this story. None of them had anything in their story titles about racism or islamophobia. Goode’s comments were labeled as “criticism.” Newspapers dilute racism by labeling it as something less oppressive. It helps to maintain the dominant paradigm and marginalizes those who are oppressed.

Check out the rest of more of Stoller’s review of the Oppressionator 3000 at Stoller’s Blog.

UPDATE: I can’t believe I almost missed including Vegankid’s Great post about the NRA’s graphic Novel, Whitey Arm Yourself, you absolutely have to check this out:

it is unarguable that fear and race have been involved in a very happy marriage for quite some time. just look at some of the stereotypes to get a good idea of racialized fear: men of color are rapists, young Black and Latino men are gang members, Arabs are terrorists, etc. you can also look at how the media frames things: Affirmative Action is taking jobs from better qualified White workers, Latino immigrants are stealing jobs, Black people trying to get food after Hurricane Katrina were looters, and so forth.

The rest of the post reviews the character’s in the NRA’s Graphic Novel, you’ll find it absolutely shocking.

And as you so patiently waited here is your final Carnival joke:
What is the gooey red stuff between an elephant’s toes?

Slow clowns.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of erase racism carnival using our carnival submission form.
Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Thought’s on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

UPDATE: This is from 2006, but I figure it would be worth reposting.

It’s a few weeks after MLK Day, but Zach and I took a little time last weekend to respond to some of the things we heard from others in response to MLK Day.
We’d love to hear your reaction to our thoughts and the things we’ve heard from others. Be sure to email us.

Thoughts on MLK