Letter to the Editor
Written in Response to Charlie’s Angle: Black lives don’t need movement, published in The Saratogian, and the Troy Record, Jan 31, 2016
We were shocked and offended by the Opinion piece written by Charlie Kraebel denying the need for the Black Lives Matter movement. As managing editor of The Saratogian and the Troy Record, he has a leadership platform in the Capital District and with it, commensurate ethical responsibility to present an opinion based on unbiased facts.
A newspaper’s most vital assets are accuracy, integrity and truth. It behooves Mr. Kraebel to base his pronouncements on real knowledge rather than stereotypes. Black Lives Matter is not an external group who moved in, it is an authentic outgrowth of community outrage and frustration, a grass roots movement to save the lives of our children. There are members of the Black Lives Matter movement of all races who live in every part of the Capital District. Mr. Kraebel disenfranchises all of us and the black communities we are trying to save. Surely this is not good for the newspaper’s bottom line in the context of declining readership and questions about the viability of print journalism in the future.
Did he interview one person from the Black Lives movement before he passed judgement? Did he research the context and the history of police violence towards the black community in Albany, including the killing of an unarmed 14 year old boy with disabilities, playing with matchbox cars on his living room floor in the 1990’s?
Has he read the Jan. 30 report by the United Nations which found, “The persistent gap in almost all the human development indicators, such as life expectancy, income and wealth, level of education, housing, employment and labour, and even food security, among African Americans and the rest of the US population, reflects the level of structural discrimination that creates de facto barriers for people of African descent to fully exercise their human rights.” Among the numerous problems noted in the findings is “the alarming levels of police brutality and excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement officials committed with impunity…” In fact, 1,134 young black men were killed by US police in 2015, five times higher rate of death for them than for white men of the same age (January 2, 2016 Alternet.org Civil Liberties).
When he criticized the education of black children, did he remember that the Pataki administration was SUED by the federal government because of its failure to fund urban schools compared to suburban schools? Pataki’s failure to comply delayed the State budget for months and because of his refusal, thousands of businesses, not for profits, and their employees were at dire risk. Did he know that by its own report, the Federal government found the Saratoga Springs City School District was disproportionately sending kids of color to limited special education classrooms, not only slashing the child’s lifetime opportunities, but generating additional funds they receive per child?
Did he read, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander which documents the criminalization and entrapment of young men of color, and the new plantation where jails were the economic development plan for the North Country?
It is not Black Lives Matter that is ignoring the “millions of black Americans who live in poverty” by ignoring the unequal funding for schools, discrimination by employers, the city’s neglect of poor neighborhoods, banks redlining; inner city Albany declared a food desert. It is people like Mr. Kraebel who exert the ultimate white privilege by refusing to see documented facts and deciding to say it is the fault of the victim. This neatly absolves him from any complicity in systemic racism and denies the ways in which he both benefits from, and is himself harmed by racism. The problem is that kind of “blindness” perpetuates the legacy of racism. We hope The Saratogian and Troy Record hold investigative journalists to higher standards.
In fact, Black Lives Matter exists IN RESPONSE to these conditions because the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 and the schools are now MORE segregated than they were then. There is a LARGER economic gap than there was before. Black Lives Matter became necessary because people of “European descent” have failed to act in the face of blatant discrimination, violence and state sanctioned murder. Black Lives Matter exactly because Mr. Kraebel and his peers have turned away. His denial of the structural discrimination denies his own accountability and ability to change. It is necessary to name racism in order to undo it; in the face of white denial, naming it is a radical act.
Describing the murdered men as thugs and criminals reveals Mr. Kraebel’s inherent prejudice. Violence rests on a foundation of prejudice which become beliefs and behaviors, when acted upon become stereotyping and dehumanizing, leading to discrimination, harassment, violence and genocide. Mr. Kraebel’s use of pejorative labels and his blame the victim attitude construct an ideology that allows owners of a white pick-up truck to cruise around Saratoga, flying a big Southern Cross Flag down Broadway, acting on their beliefs without reprimand. It is the foundation of the white privilege/power exerted by white college students who decide to beat up black students, committing criminal acts. What do our children learn when they read Mr. Kraebel’s editorial? It is frightening to think of the lens he uses as Managing Editor when deciding what news to print and how to present it.
In his Opinion piece, Kraebel complains that Black Lives Matter “hijacked” the State of the City speech. In the face of 500 years of oppression, was 15 minutes of peaceful demonstration too much to ask?
We have a right to expect better than this.
Nancy Weber, Saratoga
Jean Fei, Board Member, Social Justice Center, Albany
Letter to the Editor