If You're Not Part Of The Solution...

Having lived through the 1968 riots,  sparked in part by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.; the 1967 riots in Newark, following the arrest of John Smith, a black cab driver charged with improperly passing a police car; the 1992 riots that followed the acquittal of police officers who beat the hell out of Rodney King; and the riots that followed the 2014 killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old teenager in Ferguson, Missouri -- this past week had an eerily familiar feel to it.  

But the magnitude of the demonstrations (the vast majority of which were peaceful) could mean that this time, the pledges to retrain the police, raise their sensitivity and restrict their more dangerous tactics, just might survive dawn’s early light.

Like you, I have listened to and read scores of differing opinions, examinations and commentaries each trying to make sense of it all. Some of them are powerful self-examinations, such as this blog post by Michael Hubbard, a media-buying business owner in downtown Raleigh whose office was trashed by rioters. Rather than place blame, he acknowledges systemic racism and looks within for how he (and others) can achieve lasting change. 



If you feel guilty for having sat on the sidelines and watched everything on TV, here is a handy list from Medium of “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice.” But as my generation proved time and again after the other protests, we are long on talk but can be short on concrete action.

When I was born, my grandmother in South Carolina had a houseful of black cooks, cleaners and nannies who lived in destitution away from her house. There were restaurants that refused to serve them, and they couldn’t use most “public” restrooms.  They couldn’t afford taxis, which would not have picked them up anyway. Schools were segregated.  

By the time I was in college, the civil rights movement was headline news. If we were not marching against the Vietnam war, we marched against racial inequality. It was the first time that millions of kids my age realized the power in protest.

Some of it resulted in positive changes like affirmative action and voter rights, vocational training and low-income housing. Eventually, we elected the first black President in U.S. history. But the police all over the country kept using tactics that killed innocent black people.

It is not my place to analyze why this past week unfolded the way it did, other than to join the national repulsion at the murder of George Floyd.  Personally, I think that two months of self-quarantine and the collapse of the economy probably helped accelerate the destruction. 

The reaction from That Idiot in the White House was predictably childish and unhelpful. And I would be stunned if even one evangelical voter bought that pathetically transparent photo op with the Bible (which he has never read) in front of a church (he has never attended). Nor has he any inclination to follow the advice that emanates from either.

There has been the usual analysis of media coverage and complaints that the protests didn’t do enough to help mitigate the situation. False rumors (such as “bused-in looters”) were repeated over and over, and many news outlets used language in headlines that generated fear while downplaying the largely peaceful nature of most demonstrators. And yes, you can be mad as hell and still be peaceful.  

If Americans continue to stay in their media echo chambers, there is a very real chance they won't learn anything about the black experience, which forces parents to teach their kids how to interact so that they too are not killed when stopped by the police: “Make sure they can see your hands at all times..." Not a lecture that white kids ever hear.

But, if you can move beyond self-selection of information, you have an opportunity to challenge your upbringing, your bubble. You can say that you’ve only had positive encounters with police officers as a white man in Oklahoma, but all it takes is a few minutes of thoughtful scrolling on social media to understand that your experience is not representative of many millions of your black and brown peers. 

If you are looking for someone to educate you, or complaining that you don’t know better, you’re just being lazy. Do the work to challenge and educate yourself.

The entire arena of political activation has been shifted digitally. While the discourse is messy and sometimes too abstract for some to make sense of, it is giving birth to a more optimistic, activated generation that could use it to implement real change in our society.

I would be thrilled not to relive this week in another five or 10 years.

21 comments about "If You're Not Part Of The Solution...".
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  1. Ken Kurtz from creative license, June 5, 2020 at 11:53 a.m.

    Hey George. looks like I missed you at Newsweek by a bit. I left Hearst Magazines, and hired on at Newsweek to sell advertising in '86 and put in a decade there.

    I, too, would be thrilled to not have to re-live a week like this, or a season like this. Not only in "another five or 10 years"... but EVER AGAIN. But my cup of optimism does not runneth over right now.

    We have a police problem in America. I've been saying it since I was a kid growing up in NY... starting salary for entry level police officers should be $100,000 per year.

    Law enforcement has always been too low-paying, too dangerous, and too thankless. As such, it has never attracted America's "best, and brightest." Rather, the work has always tended to draw from a universe of Americans that are less intelligent, more power hungry and, unfortunately, more "Napoleonic" in complex. The more intelligent, and college educated Americans set their sights on positions far less dangerous, and with far greater remuneration levels.

    Check the link below to a USA Today article about an African-American police officer in Minneapolis that shot and killed a white woman that called for help stemming from an alleged sexual assault back in 2017...

    Ironically, this black cop on white civilian "murder" didn't set off any rioting, looting, mayhem, or additional murder... but it did result in the Minneapolis police chief departing, and making way for the current African-American Chief of Police in Minneapolis that has presided over the George Floyd fiasco up there.

    We clearly do have a police problem, but there is scant evidence that white police officers are killing, or "murdering" black suspects, and criminals to a greater degree than others.

    In fact, a study conducted by a heralded Harvard University African-American economist back in 2016 draws the opposite conclusion based upon all available data (the study avoided inflammatory viral videos, as all studies from Harvard should)...

    Roland Fryer's finding that, all data considered, African-Americans were less likely to be killed by cops than other races in America was backed up by studies on the same topic done at Michigan State University, and University of Maryland. Roland Fryer has recently added to his 2016 study with truly disturbing data about the number of innocent African-American "collateral" murders that occur in the midst of "revolts" like the one this country is embroiled in now.

  2. Ken Kurtz from creative license, June 5, 2020 at 11:56 a.m.

    We have a police problem. As a white man that was beaten to a bloody, and disfigured "pulp" by police in Los Angeles in 1985 while "drunk, and disorderly"... I vaguely saw that up close, and first hand 35 years ago. I'll tell you this... I haven't been drunk, or disorderly since.

    We have a police problem, which has been exacerbated by an even larger criminality problem that nobody wants to look at, or address, even though the data has been clear as a bell for some time now.

    US Census Bureau data pegs the African-American population in America at 13%. US Justice Department data pegs the percentage of violent crime in America commited by that 13% at 80% of the total. African-Americans are committing 50% of the murder in this country, and when data points from other violent crimes like rape, assault, armed robberies, armed home invasions, armed burglaries, manslaughter, carjackings, etc. are added in, the percentage jumps to 80%. Should not any reality-based "solution" to what's going on right now take into account the unequivocal truth that 13% of America's population is committing 80% of America's violent crime? Wouldn't it make sense for discussions on equity, and justice to touch on these things?

    Do we really want to ignore these facts, and wind up with more of the same?

  3. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, June 5, 2020 at 1:34 p.m.

    So by your reasoning, since Floyd had a criminal record and stats say police don't kill blacks at a higher rate than other was ok to 
    murder him?  You might want to spent some time reading up on systemic, historical economic racism to understand the crime rate stats a little better.

  4. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, June 5, 2020 at 2:30 p.m.

    You've entirely misconstrued my reasoning, George.

    Read a great book once by Michael Shermer. The Believing Brain. It dives into the biological reasoning behind the average human being developing a belief system early, and explains the science behind the biological proclivity of the average human brain to "reward" when something that supports that firmly established belief is introduced, and dispel contrary information, and evidence that "threatens" what has been long held, and believed.

    Your article was a 30,000 foot view piece on effecting change that appropriately, contextually, started with the horrific assassination of MLK. The facts that I shared were provided because I thought you were serious about long term change being effected, and I don't think that is possible unless these very real, on the ground realities are dealt with in a sober, and realistic way.

    That you immediately went to me thinking that Floyd's death "was OK" kind of proves out the science in "The Believing Brain," and also speaks to why the rioting, looting, and killing is going on right now across this land. That you automatically went to that dark, and ugly place is part, and parcel to why very little change actually occurs, and why nobody will honestly listen to others.

    The idea that Floyd's death is "OK" is about as far from what I believe as you could possibly go, but there you went. As I said, WE CLEARLY HAVE A POLICE PROBLEM.

    But not necessarily a racial one (or at least not as bad a racial one as is being depicted in the mass rioting, looting, mayhem, and murder that have resulted from that video, and the inflamed, potentially overblown narrative attached to it).

    Cooler heads should prevail, and the data that displays the actual truth should rule the day. Better chance for real, honest change to occur that way. Not what's resulted over the past five decades since MLK with the data being pushed to back-burner, and only that which is inflammatory, and deadly pushed to the front.

    Did you look at the USA Today article? Justice was served. It will be served here too. Nobody thinks that what that cop did to Floyd is "OK." It's just that many more are dying now as a result of you, and people like you falsely declaring that that's what I think. Your kneejerk reaction is destructive, in and of itself.

    Your "believing brain" appears to be in need of some more serotonin.

  5. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, June 5, 2020 at 2:41 p.m.

    you wrote:

    WE CLEARLY HAVE A POLICE PROBLEM....But not necessarily a racial one...

    I rest my case.

  6. Kenneth Fadner from MediaPost, June 5, 2020 at 4:55 p.m.

    Ken Kurtz: Once again you spend a lot of words on your point-of-view assuming that serve as a substitute for understanding the issue at hand:

    "In other words, Fryer and company found that there weren’t big racial disparities in how often black and white suspects who’d already been stopped by police were killed. But they deliberately avoided the question of whether black citizens are more likely to be stopped to begin with (they are) and whether they’re more likely to be stopped without cause (yup)."

    PS: Check the charts in the article from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report which have the correct pertinent data.

  7. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, June 5, 2020 at 8:30 p.m.

    Good Ken. You're making progress. Based upon true data points, and valid studies by esteemed scientists, and universities, you are conceding that African-Americans are not more likely to be killed by police. Yet here we are, with mobs rallying around that false narrative, and people rioting, looting, committing murder and mayhem based upon that very false narrative. I've heard it 43,000 times this week. Cops have to stop killing blacks, and blacks are in grave danger of being killed by cops, far more grave danger than whites when it simply isn't true. People wonder why there is so little change... perhaps it's because the same false narratives serve as flashpoints over, and over, and over again.

    So now you want to pull the old bait and switch. Set up a strawman?

    I've never suggested that blacks aren't more likely to be pulled over. But then, there's that terribly inconvenient data point that 13% of America's population (African-American) is committing 80% of all of America's violent crime (including 50% of all of America's murders). Did you fail math, Ken? This is a simple math. There is not a single, solitary reason that African-Americans wouldn't be pulled over more often as crimes are being investigated. To an almost unbelievable degree, they are the suspects. They are doing the crimes.

    I hear it now, the crackle of a police car radio, with dispatch reporting that an armed robbery has just gone down in a jewelry store in Chicago, with witnesses reporting a black male fleeing the scene in a red sedan heading west on Mockingbird Lane. And the officer radioing back "10-4 Dispatch. Just two blocks away. We will pull over a couple of white males first just to try to even out the numbers of stops before we pursue the real suspect."

    The insanity of the "false change" that these false narratives stir up leave us with no change, unfortunately. Over, and over again. From decade to decade. Yet there are people discussing cops making bogus stops like that to "make things look better." Theater of the absurd, produced by leftism. Tickets sold by leftism.

    Do the math, Ken. The vast majority of violent crime ibn America is being committed by blacks, and pulling over more whites, or Asians, or Hispanics would only exist in a terribly ignorant alternative universe. 

    And the hypocrisy of Black Lives Matter may be the worst of it, when a grand total of ten African-Americans had their lives ended by cops in 2019, and over six thousand African Americans were gunned down, and killed by other African-Americans in that same 365 day period. If African-Americans refuse to abide by "Black Lives Matter," then who should? If African-Americans show by their violent, and deadly actions that black lives don't matter to them, then why should that hypocritical flag fly at all?

  8. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, June 5, 2020 at 8:48 p.m.

    Ken: your position on this is pretty clear. Now imagine George Floyd was your son or father.  Stats still rule?

  9. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, June 5, 2020 at 9:16 p.m.

    I'm very confident that justice will be served there, George H. Also, very pleased that the charges were ratcheted up, and that the other officers that stood idly by were brought up on charges as well.

    Stats must rule, for real change to occur. That cop needs to be put away for what he did. But look at the rioting, looting, murder, and mayhem that have resulted from the "police problem" that was that cop keeping his knee against George's neck. Remember, I am a white guy that has been beaten senseless twice by overzealous cops in my lifetime. Once in Long Island, and once in Los Angeles (both times, decades ago, when I was drunk, disorderly, and not obeying the orders of the officers). The statistics that show that blacks MOST CERTAINLY ARE NOT more likely to be beaten, or killed by cops than whites are important, and should always rule. That truth, was it widely understood and embraced could have stopped the rioting, looting, murder, and mayhem that's going on right now. THE OPPOSITE OF THAT TRUTH, the false narrative that blacks are disproportionatey falling prey to cops IS WHAT LIT THE FIRE of the riots, and mayhem.

    If George had been my son, or dad, I would have done my best to counsel him to stay away from crime. He moved to Minneapolis for "a fresh start" after being released from prison in Houston, TX. That most recent sentence for a home invasion where he pointed a gun at the woman that lived in that apartment, and relieved her of her drugs, and money.

    If George had been my son, or dad, I would have done my level best to let him know that getting drunk, and passing off counterfeit bills to secure cigarettes in broad daylight was perhaps a "less than good" plan for that fresh start. Lastly, I would have told my son George, or dad George to NOT RESIST once the cops are engaged. I'm a white guy that has been there, done that, and suffered horribly as a result.

    It's pretty clear that if "my son George" hadn't gotten out of the other side of that cop car after they got him into that back seat, well, George would have made it down to the station alive. He wouldn't have wound up on the street with those pissed off cops laying on him had he just stayed in the back seat of that car.

  10. Ken Kurtz from creative license, June 5, 2020 at 9:22 p.m.

    Where are the black dads to whisper good counsel like I offered up above into their black sons' ears? 75% of all black children in America are born into households with no father. There are problems here. Unsustainable ones. But if we focus on fake problems, like the one that instigated this mess, well, we will never get to the roots, or effect change for the better.

  11. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited replied, June 5, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

    Your father didn't do you any favors.

  12. Kenneth Fadner from MediaPost, June 6, 2020 at 12:16 a.m.

    Ken Kurtz:
    Quoting you --
    "... a grand total of ten African-Americans had their lives ended by cops in 2019 ..."
    Actually, it was more like 260:

    Also, black on black killings are more like 2,500 per year, not the 6,000 you stated. White on white killings are about the same #.

    You said that African-American's commit "80% of all of America's violent crime ..." The actual percentage is closer to 50:

  13. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, June 6, 2020 at 9:54 a.m.

    Sorry, Ken. I thought you would track because we were discussing cops killing unarmed citizens, like George Floyd. After all, it is the senseless death of unarmed George Floyd that has resulted in all this rioting, looting, murder of more African-Americans, and destruction of African-American livelihoods by people. You have a habit of shifting context, you seem to like to set up the strawmen.

    In 2019, a grand total of nine unarmed African-Americans were fatally shot by cops. The ten I originally offered up was off by one (according to a Washinton Post database). That number, contextually, when one considers that there are close to 400,000,000 annual contacts between police, and American citizens annually does not seem worthy of all the rioting, looting, destruction of African-American owned businesses, and lives, and additional murders of African-Americans since the rioting started (well more than nine, including African-American police officers). Surely you see that what you are so diligently making excuses for, no, promoting, is way worse than what instigated the irrational destructive mayhem in the first place.

    In contrast, police shot and killed nineteen unarmed whites in 2019. In order to justify the murder, and mayhem by people embracing false narratives, one would at least think that those numbers would be reversed. But no. More than twice as many unarmed whites were shot and killed by police last year than unarmed blacks. There were more than twice as many white "George Floyd" mishaps in America last year than actual black "George Floyd" mishaps. In 2018, the most recent year that US Justice Department numbers are available, the African-American population (13%) was responsible for 53% of all the murders in America.   

    Guess what. Right now, that 53% of all murders in America by 13% of our population is increasing significantly, as so many that are operating delusionally, and that supposedly believe that black lives "matter" but prove otherwise by their senseless and vicious TAKING of African-American lives, and livelihoods continues.

    The hypocrisy is unimaginable. The "same ol' same ol'" results that such hypocritical actions guarantee as people chase "solutions" to the wrong problem, not even the "wrong" problem, but a fictitious problem that doesn't even exist... diabolical, and paradoxical.

  14. Kenneth Fadner from MediaPost, June 6, 2020 at 10:45 a.m.

    Ken Kurtz:
    You said -- "You have a habit of shifting context, you seem to like to set up the strawmen."

    Back at ya. You have a habit of carefully selecting your data to buttress the argument you wish to make and of ignoring data that doesn't fit in. (Plus, you almost never cite any authoritative source.)

    That said, I will agree with a point I think you've been making. The reason for the disparity in crime by blacks vs. crime by whites is the poor, underclass conditions in which blacks are raised and continue to live. I assume you would be ready for our society to address that.

    PS: Please do write at such length. You can make your points in a few simple sentences.

  15. Kenneth Fadner from MediaPost, June 6, 2020 at 11:29 a.m.

    Ken Kurtz:
    Some enlightening reading for you ...

    "White people can compartmentalize police brutality. Black people don’t have the luxury"

    "Dear white people, please read ‘White Fragility’"

  16. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, June 6, 2020 at 1:05 p.m.

    That said, I will agree with a point I think you've been making. The reason for the disparity in crime by blacks vs. crime by whites is the poor, underclass conditions in which blacks are raised and continue to live. I assume you would be ready for our society to address that.

    Yes, Ken. To me, that's a good starting point to be addressed. With a caveat.

    First, there's not much that society, or government can do about the the "poor, underclass" conditions that many African-Americans find themselves in. Decades of attempts at government intervention to alleviate that, and nothing but negative traction. Even Obama failed to float the boat higher for African-Americans in his eight years. He promised to make things better for African-Americans financially, and crime-wise, yet both became worse under his watch. Well intentioned efforts oftentimes have paradoxical, and negative results. To me, a governmental war on poverty is akin to the governmental war on drugs that Tricky Dick Nixon started in 1970. Complete and utter failure. Even worse, because the wars on both don't just fail, they grow the original problem larger. To win a war, the enemy must wave a white flag. Neither drugs, nor poverty will EVER wave white flags. Efforts to eradicate them actually make them more prevalent.

    I use the term "find themselves in" loosely, by the way, as clear data exists that many African-Americans behave themselves into poverty, and make choices that have been shown to regularly result in the "underclass" status you allude to. Personally, I think there could be something systemic in the African-American psyche that leads to the belief that they're not deserving of better. A vicious cycle, yes, but then, there is plenty of instruction available from African-Americans that have behved themselves INTO wealth, and upperclass status. 

    I have two theories on that. First, that today in America, only 25% of black children are born into households with fathers present. Second, that corporal punishment remains so prevalent in African-American upbringing. 

    You want me to be brief, so I'll only say that there is a tremendous amoung of data out there, a preponderance of studies that speak to the ill effects of paternal abandonment, and parents that use violence to "discipline" their children. Indices that go through the roof revolving around predilection to lower IQ's, early sexual engagement, early engagement with drugs (including our nation's most deadly-alcohol) lack of interest in learning, depression, violence, addiction, and more violence.

  17. Ken Kurtz from creative license, June 6, 2020 at 1:08 p.m.

    You may hate that I'm putting the egg before the chicken here (or chicken before the egg depending on your own "believing brain") but the greatest indicators of future poverty, and underclass conditions are in the list in my previous post. Above all, stay in school and learn. Second, stay away from drugs. Third, do not make babies. The data on people that are mindful of those three things alone, and as a result, are able to create non-impoverished, and upperclass environments for themselves and their loved ones is plentiful, and instructive.

    African-Americans would do well to sit at the knees of their brothers and sisters that have accomplished those things, and learn from them. The hatefulness, and violence agaionst each other won't cut it. Never has, and never will.

  18. Kenneth Fadner from MediaPost, June 8, 2020 at 8:35 a.m.

    Ken Kurtz:
    There's definitely a vicious cycle. Personally, I think it's all about poverty, and therefore disadvantage, from birth. And, I believe the prvileged are responsible for fixing this because the have-nots are not and will never be in a positon to do so. From all you've said, I imagine you think the problem cannot be solved at all and any attempt at solution will make matters worse -- an argument you've made a number of times on this and other issues. But I do not agree. Time will tell.

  19. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, June 8, 2020 at 10:45 a.m.

    Oh no, Ken. I'm hopeful that change for the better can occur. I just think that the "usual methods" that have never worked in the past must be relegated to trash heap status, and the actual problem that exists be concentrated on with laser beam focus.

    War on Drugs is a good example. For fifty years, our government has thrown trillions of taxpayer dollars at the "problem" that is Americans seeking self-medication through recreational drugs. To me, a problem much smaller than the problems that the prohibition on drugs creates (among them increased supply of drugs, lower prices, greater availability, "dealers" in every school in our land, and way more deaths). We've spent trillions of dollars to "eradicate drugs" and all we've done is made them more available, cheaper, and more deadly (the unintended consequence of the Chinese bogging us down with the far more deadly synthetic heroin "fentanyl" is probably the most notable example of how throwing money at the wrong problem makes matters far worse).

    Jesus was clear as a bell that poverty would be with mankind forever, and He implored you, and me to give generously, and cheerfully to the less fortunate for all of our days. He was skeptical about government's ability (comprised of fallen men and women, as it is) to float the boats of the less fortunate, and focused on "cheerful giving" and embrace from the fortunate to the less fortunate.

    History is pretty clear that the government garnering of resources via taxation decreases cheerful charitable giving, and that it is through increased cheerful charitable giving that the less fortunate actually RECEIVE the benefits, and goodwill that Jesus intended. The government SUCKS at getting assistance into the hands of the needy, historically. I do see some irony in the high marks that this administration has received in getting pandemic assistance out quickly, but even that has had negative consequences (people not wanting to go back to work as things re-open beecause the government tit is providing more milk right now for so many).

    Bottom line, what is required is desire, and participation. So many that have been born into "disadvantage" take advantage of what this great country of ours has to offer (more than any other country)... there are so many great stories to follow. There's even a long list of American Presidents that were born into poverty, and "disadvantage," including two that I voted for (Clinton, and Obama).

  20. Ken Kurtz from creative license, June 8, 2020 at 10:47 a.m.

    How they pulled themselves up, and out, and reached the pinnacle is worthy of "study" for all. Do what they did, would be my advice to any, and all "disadvantaged." The true reason that poverty persists for so many, and the reason that Jesus said it would be with mankind forever must be addressed, before any change will occur. I believe that Jesus is God, and omniscient. And it is on that note that I will say "Cheers." Cheerfully embrace your fellow human beings, and remember, Jesus also made it clear as a bell that a drink of water to the thirsty, a meal for the hungry, a cloak for the shivering will be remembered, for the last truly will be first. This is my final post on this forum. It is high time to UNSUBSCRIBE.

  21. PJ Lehrer from NYU, June 10, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.

    Umm.  Sorry.  Teachers are the ones that need the six figure salary.  You can't fight ignorance without them...

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