Splashing Down on a Mountain of Racism

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S1: The following program may contain explicit language.

S2: It’s Friday, June 2016, 2020 from Slate, it’s the gist. I’m Mike Pesca.

S3: Disney rethinking rather than retrenching and therefore we can all say zip a dee doo die. Indeed, Disney has announced its refeeding Splash Mountain away from Song of the South, the 1946 Disney film of stories of Uncle Remus, Brer Rabbit. Brayer Bear was actually boycotted by the NAACP back in 1946. But still, Disney thought it would be the perfect fit for its flume rides when they introduced them in their theme parks in 1989. Yeah, by the way, 1946. Here’s what the NAACP said. President Walter White broke bad with the myth of Disney family friendliness and wrote that song of the South, quote, helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery and, quote, gives the impression of an idyllic master slave relationship, which is a distortion of the facts. The film was protested by black people at the time. They held signs that said, I fought for Uncle Sam, not Uncle Tom.

S1: We want films on democracy, not slavery, and don’t prejudice children’s minds with films like this. But they did in Story, Song, Film and Flume. A year ago, I took my kids to Disney and we went to Splash Mountain. It was like a trip into a yester year that they never contemplated the existence of. What is this they were saying? Why have those alligators formed the jug band? What is the story of a trickster yokel rabbit?

S2: And how do I possibly relate? In fact, how do I situate this at all? It was so fundamentally remote from any period or any theme that they could even access even. It can any connection to in their brains. It was if there were a major attraction in Disney World about the gay 90s or let’s base a flume ride on the antics of jazz era collegians over there or the raccoon coats. And look, look, kids, sis, boom, a bunch of animatronic beagles trying to stuff themselves in a telephone booth. But Dad, Dad, if it’s 1925, there must be. Yes, there is. It’s a flag pole sitter.

S1: Song of the South Critter Country Splash Mountain. It was more odd than anything else. It was just strange to be surrounded by Brer Rabbit as a narrative device for a featured Disney attraction. This was not a back water submarine ride. You know, at the time that they build Splash Mountain to Splash Mountains and Disney World and Disneyland. The price tag for those rides were as much as for the original parks. Even when adjusted for inflation. Now, I learned these facts from a YouTube video channel named Second Star, which tells you the history of the rides at Disney. The video was made over two years ago. It was presumably to be as unpolitical as can be. Just a Disney enthusiast who wanted to tell you about the rides. Still, he had to acknowledge that Song of the South was horribly retrograde.

S4: And the video ended with this question to viewers like community question for this video is, if Splash Mountain was to be received, which Disney movie should take over? Now, don’t just say Princess and the Frog, because that’s too easy cut, too.

S2: Finally, it’s official. Disney is set to overhaul Splash Mountain at its parks and rebrand it for the princess and the frog.

S3: So you could say that’s not using too much of the Imagineer, they’re Disney. Ah, yeah. But the better point is, I think it’s not that difficult, folks. Some of it is, but some of this really not that hard on the show today. It’s an ad 10 Twigg, which is a period of rest, reflection and sometimes recrimination.

S1: But first, part two of our interview with Matthew Baj Barge is the police and civil rights expert who served as the federal court appointed monitor enforcing a consent decree involving the police department in Cleveland. He’s also monitored Chicago, Riverside, and he worked extensively on stop and frisk policy. He is back today to discuss how we reform the police if we don’t even know what the police really are doing. Matthew Baj is a senior consultant with the policing project at the NYU School of Law, and he’s been a federal monitor overseeing departments under review today. I wanted to talk to him about statistics, scandalously statistics, accurate statistics are not being kept in this vital area policing. Now, you do have news organizations like The Guardian and The Washington Post or mapping police violence, assembling their own stats. But they have to do that because our police departments just won’t. So I started by asking, Baj, what kind of change might happen if there were accurate stats being kept. Let’s talk stats, because it’s a sub scandal of this roiling challenge is just the unconscionable truth that there are no stats being accurately kept in this area. It’s it’s just voluntary reporting. And so you had to have organizations like The Guardian and The Washington Post are mapping police violence, assemble these stats because are actually extremely well-funded. Police departments won’t. How important, what kind of change, what might happen if there were accurate stats being kept?

S5: Yeah, I really appreciate the question because I think this is one of the most underreported and underappreciated elements of police reform. I know when it when it comes to data about what police do, there is very little. Right. I mean, the Obama administration launched a police state initiative, you know, with the premise of providing open data to increase transparency and build community trust. They got 21 cities to participate at first. And I think the number has risen. Then, you know, there’s a spin off with a foundation support that’s continued.

S6: The work going after the Obama administration, because it’s just about 130 of the 18000 law enforcement agencies in the country. And they kind of get to decide what data they’re going to make public. And it’s stuff like, you know, use of force and complaints and this and that. But it’s it’s an entirely different formats. Police data is self reported. So if police don’t log what happened, like providing data to somebody else isn’t going to matter. Right. I mean, this a lot of this is fundamentally self reported data. And anytime that you have self reported data, it’s the people who you’re wanting to know, you know, what they do that are giving you the information about what they do. And there’s a problem there. It’s messy, like they’re often logged in very disparate home grown government database systems that don’t talk to each other, you know, in Seattle before reform. I think there were more than 100 and some disparate computer systems that tells you really important things about what police officers were doing, what laws they were enforcing, who they were interacting with. None of them talked to each other. So you clinch stitched anything together? There’s not. Even accurate data. Most police departments about what officers do all day. And many police departments, they continue to use physical log books where they record by hand. You know, how they’ve spent their time on their shifts, that they’ve gone to kick ass and patrol car walking around the neighborhood or use force on someone. This is a logged in a database somewhere. So if you want to understand what an officer does all day, you really can’t. You really just can’t. Right.

S7: And the use of force conversation, you know, even amongst those places are few that report their data on force. There is no one. Right. Like a lack of uniform definition about what constitutes a use of force. Some jurisdictions, you know, define force. And what is reportable in one way, which loops in many more cases, others. You know, it’s much more it’s much more that the definition is much more restrictive. For example, there are relatively few jurisdictions in which pointing a firearm at an individual is reportable force, where an officer has to log that, even though the courts have generally said that, yeah, this is a Fourth Amendment seizure because someone pointed a gun at you. You would believe that you are, under those circumstances, not free to leave. So even if they do nothing else, the fact that they pointed a gun at an individual is reportable. That makes sense to me. It makes us the courts, very few jurisdictions out of the box that ah ah ah ah ah. Requiring that officers log on that. But there are few jurisdictions often have gone through federal consent decrees where that is going to be a log. So you have a problem just on that one very narrow issue where something that really is force should be reported. It’s not by most jurisdictions then if you’re trying to compare jurisdictions, you know, with one another, you’re going to get differences depending on whether they define that many other things actually as force, you know, and related to that. There was an op ed by Think Mara Gay in The New York Times last week that was recounting how the New York City health commissioner did kind of an independent look into how many people were killed by police. I think in the earlier part of the 2010s and she found that the NYPD, you know, had reported I think it was like forty six folks who who had been killed at the hands of police. But the New York City health commissioner found more than double that. And the reason was NYPD was not counting bystanders who were hit by bullets. Pedestrians were killed by police vehicles.

S6: It simply weren’t included in the tally. And so and notably, when you look at statistics in that way, the incidence of death was five times higher for blacks and whites. When you looked at this expanded definition, the disparity and the racial effects that you found within what the NYPD doing was even more profound in your own experience.

S1: You go inside the departments and you get access to some version of the real numbers. Do they match up with what these media produce databases report?

S6: That’s a good question. I. I think that especially in large cities, the numbers probably align. Large cities get a lot more scrutiny in this area.

S7: More people live there. There’s more institutional support organizations like the NAACP, ACLU, et cetera.

S1: And so let’s talk and also talk about local media, because most of these databases just go by what’s reported. And if a local newspaper has been gutted and there’s maybe one TV station, things are not going to get reported.

S5: Well, no. Exactly. And so you have you have a greater chance and sort of major urban metropolitan areas of of having, you know, reports kind of filter into something like the Washington Post database. But I mean, just to take you a step back, and this is implicit in, I think, a lot of discussions about this, but how ludicrous is it that we have to rely on an independent project by The Washington Post to understand how many people are killed by American law enforcement officers? I mean, like, really, how ludicrous is that? A killing someone is obviously, you know, the preservation of one’s life at the hands of a government official is a core constitutional protection. So why is it that to understand how many times government officials have taken lives as those lives have been otherwise about their day to day business, that that the only way we can have some estimate of that is through a newspaper, through a set of reporters. That’s just completely ludicrous. And I think it’s also ludicrous because, you know, as you point out, the the the the smaller jurisdictions and really by smaller I mean outside of major metropolitan areas, nobody’d heard of Ferguson, Missouri. I think outside of Missouri. Maybe that’s a gross overstatement. I certainly had at least before before what happened in 2014 and 2015. Right. And a lot of people live there, but they’re a slightly smaller jurisdiction. Eighty thousand one hundred thousand fifty thousand people. Those are places that have larger police departments. They get a lot less scrutiny. And they tend to have, to your point, a lot less in the way of local media that’s going to report on these things in a prominent way that people can know about.

S6: And I, I fear that, you know, that that that what police departments do there go significantly under scrutinize? I think one other thing just to bring to the mix here is that there’s a lot of appropriate focus right now on police use of force and the use of deadly force. And that’s, I think, incredibly overdue and incredibly important and incredibly necessary that we address as a country. But it isn’t just deadly force. It isn’t just use of force. It does violence to communities. It’s the accumulated aggregated scope of police, presence of police, intrusion of violence over time that compounds the violence, that compounds systemic racism in law enforcement, even to the extent that there are organizations that are trying to understand and gather data about deadly force. There are countless interactions on a day to day basis where police are stopping or searching and arresting people. That is even more of the Wild West in terms of of of reporting mean in Baltimore where I’m doing work, the DOJ investigation found that in I think in 2014, officers recorded one hundred and twenty four thousand stops. But the department’s own internal audit showed that officers were only recording stops and 30 percent of cases. So you do the math. That meant that in the year 2014 alone, there were four hundred twelve thousand stops in a city of six hundred twenty thousand people. By the way. But but. But but the police department was underreporting by its own audit. If 70 percent of the stops that it was making, there were there should have been more detailed records. There should have been data that people could look at for many more stops than were being reported. And, you know, those are the types of interactions that are substantially impactful, I think, and in my experience, to people on their in their everyday lives into into black neighborhoods across the country. And so I think, you know, sorry for the long answer, but I just you know, for as much as we are devoting appropriately attention and resources to understanding the extent of use of force, police use of force, police violence and who it impacts, we can’t lose sight of the fact that there are many other law enforcement interactions where folks maybe aren’t getting injured and unfortunately not getting killed, but they are just as detrimental. They’re just as harmful. They do just as much violence to communities in the aggregate as as a use of force.

S1: So, Matthew, here’s my last question. You’ve been doing this for quite a while. Do you? Feel at present that we’re closer to a solution or closer to a breaking point.

S6: It’s a great question. I. I have fundamentally been involved for my career in trying to implement kind of pragmatic reforms that, as I said you could implement today to try to make the world better tomorrow. Again, just to do things today to change the system that we have to try to ensure that fewer people die at the hands of police tomorrow, that the community is able to trust law enforcement more tomorrow. I’ve had a lot of. And to be completely honest, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching over the past three or four weeks because, you know, we haven’t in those processes, I think probably moved the needle as quickly or as comprehensively as we have to as as as the moment demands that we do. And so I have been telling people that I think we can work on two tracks. And I think we have to we can try to implement immediately the things that we should have implemented. You know that the President Obama’s task force on policing told us five years ago, we need to implement what we can do those things today. But I, I we have to have a more comprehensive conversation about. How to transform.

S5: The system, how we can try to transform our system of public safety and community wellbeing into something that does not assume that every last problem that that a person has demands or requires an armed police officer to respond. I mean, I, Dairyland, are a bunch of complicated reasons why our system has I think has has perpetuated even in places where people have wanted to have dramatic reform. And I think we need to talk about that. But I think it’s all things that we can address. I mean, it’s just really banal. But it’s important to think about part of why the police are asked to do a lot of things that are maybe outside of traditional, quote unquote, law enforcement like, you know, responding to a noise complaint or responding to an individual who isn’t a threat, was experiencing signs that they’re in a behavioral health or mental health crisis. Part of the reason the police respond, because they’re literally there. They work 24/7. We call nine one one. You can get a hold of them. And because we’ve under invested in other social services in most parts of our country, there isn’t necessarily a mental health practitioner that can be dispatched to three, 30 in the morning on a Tuesday in every city. But we can transform that. I think we can change that. So I think, you know, drilling down to the level of what we can do differently to reimagine public safety is an important part of this conversation. So I think we can change public safety. I don’t think that we can change public safety if we simply go on without thinking, trying to nibble around the edges, you know, of policing, without trying to have a conversation about how we can fundamentally transform it. I just I think the time to play small ball or to think that, you know, incremental changes is going to solve dramatically the situation, just it’s not the case. If you go back to what you know, the blue ribbon commissions were saying in the 1960s after, you know, urban uprisings that, you know, in the context of police violence. Then if you go back to the blue ribbon commissions in Los Angeles, where I live, you know, after the Rodney King incident, they were all kind of seeing the same things that people are saying today. And if we haven’t been able to implement those reforms in 60 years, maybe we need to change the system in a more comprehensive and dramatic way.

S1: Matthew Baj is a police practices and civil rights expert. He’s with 21 S.P., which is 21st century policing. And he’s also a senior consultant with the Policing Project at NYU School of Law. Thanks so much for your time.

S6: Thanks so much for having me.

S1: And now the spiel. It is an antenna twig, our name for a recurring segment wherein we answer male issue corrections. Right wrongs and topple statues to the old inaccurate shibboleths of the past. The first statue I’d like to topple is the number point one away. I was discussing the blood alcohol level recorded by the police who stopped Rashad Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot in Atlanta. The legal limit is point 08. Mr. Brooks did not blow a one point oh eight. As I said on the show, he blew a point one oh eight. It’s impossible to have one percent of your blood be alcohol. I misstated that fact. I apologize. Now to another example of tongue brain mismatch. The famed lingual cerebral disconnect. But in this case, it wasn’t just me misstating a number. Once I actually convinced myself of the wrong number. There are over 120000 people in the United States who have died of coronavirus. There are not yet. Two hundred thousand. I said it incorrectly. And not just once. And I didn’t just cited incorrectly, once or twice. I put that number in my own brain and it used it to compare to death tolls in various wars. And it was all just an accurate. I was saying two hundred thousand. Maybe the two 00 and 120 anchored me. No excuses. Maybe I perform. Sixty six percent inflation and I have that malady. I just got it wrong. I don’t know, maybe I round up in a way no one else does. A way not recognized by the authorities. I don’t know. I do know I was groggy. I was befuddled in my befuddled state. Who knows. I might have even said there are one hundred ninety nine thousand nine hundred ninety seven more Korona deaths than there are Days of the Condor. I could have said that. I don’t know. It could have gone that bad, right? I could have said that the number who have tragically died of Corona virus was 40 times as many people as the number of miles referenced in a famous song by The Proclaimers. You’d have done the math and you said, Mike, you’re wrong because you’re saying it’s two hundred thousand. That’s what I’m saying now. It’s 120000, actually. It’s closer to one hundred thirty thousand as I speak to you today than it is one hundred twenty thousand, but not closer to two hundred thousand. OK, I admit that mistake was a bad one. I’m embarrassed. Allow me then, if you will, if you’re still with me. I understand not wanting to listen again, but allow me to revel in a stance that I thought I got right. But it was it was more right than I even knew. But let’s revisit. About two months ago, some of the chatter among those who chatter about Media Matters was that the networks should not be airing Trump’s corona virus task force briefings. But its news said one side of the argument. No, it’s propaganda, said another. It’s lies. And we don’t air lies. We do air lies. OK, but maybe we shouldn’t air lies. We shouldn’t knowingly air lies if the lies are scheduled at a specific time every night. Let’s do what we can. Not to air them. So CNN, MSNBC, they vowed to monitor these corona virus press conference and dump out if they got irrelevant. And many times they did. Me personally, I could take it. I watch on Fox or CNN, but MSNBC, CNN performing some exercise and sanitation. It was before we realized the virus couldn’t live that long on surfaces. Chief among the well, I never brigade was radio station KUOW in Seattle. They said we shan’t be airing these sordid exercises. And chief among the critics was NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, who wrote up a manifesto in which he imagined some ethical version of the press adhering to standards. Let me read you part of that manifesto. We will not cover live any speech, rally or press conference involving the president. The risk of passing along bad information is too great. And we won’t be attending briefings. We can watch them on TV. So I argued at the time that the press conferences were useful. Did they have lies in them? Yes, because President Trump was there. But you know what? They allowed for some degree of accountability. And if anything, they expose Trump as overmatched and flailing. Well, I have to say, I did think I was right. I don’t see much to show I was wrong.

S2: But seeing how it all played out. I couldn’t have realized how right I was, how wrong Rosen and that side of the argument was because the public was paying a lot of attention to those press conferences. And the public, in paying attention, was concluding correctly that Trump was leading them poorly. Amazing. The public came to a rational conclusion without us trying to put our thumb on the scale. The public also concluded and luckily they stuck by this conclusion. But they concluded that the corona virus really was a real threat. And then Trump canceled the briefings because they weren’t helping them in the ratings. And in a way, Rosens wish came true. No one would have to cover these briefings anymore because there weren’t any. And after that. Things got horribly worse, and it was all because Trump couldn’t star in a TV show, so he stopped caring.

S1: He didn’t meet with Dr. Foushee for weeks. He issued poor guidance and he didn’t. If you noticed, ratchet down the inaccuracies. But he did scrap the mechanism wherein we in the media could apply some version of accountability to those inaccuracies.

S8: Those stupid press conferences, had they continued. Probably would have saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives just because they would have focused Trump, maybe focused the nation, maybe hemm Trump in from being his worst Trump. But Trump decided that the only way Trump was going to give attention to the problem was to do it on TV because he thinks if we’re not paying attention to him, then, dammit, he’s not going to pay attention to it today. Mike Pence reconvened a version of the old task force. It did not go well.

S4: We stand here today. All 50 states and territories across this country are are opening up safely and responsibly. We slow the spread. We flatten the curve. We saved lives.

S8: Untrue. But I’m glad there is some semblance of a structure in place to address these issues. And for the public to evaluate the job being done. So, please. More task force, more televised task force, more Trump heading the televised task force and less professorial, supercilious ness on issues of life and death. And now the lob star of the antenna Twigg. Sometimes you hear something or you say something your whole life and you never realize that’s not the way to say it. Dower door. That’s always been one. And recently we collectively as a country realized Kiev. Nope, it’s QIf who knew I guess all the people in Kiev. So a few episodes back, I talked about a terrible case in New York City history of police violence, and the victim was Amadou Diallo. Do you remember the name Amadou Diallo?

S9: Shockwaves still being felt in New York City, that following the acquittal in the controversial new controversial Amadou Diallo, Amadou Diallo, Amadou Diallo, Amadou Diallo.

S8: Well, a listener named Adam Horowitz wrote to me and said I wanted to let you know that Amadou Diallo name should be pronounced Jallow with an emphasis on the first syllable. You mentioned the street named after him on Tuesday’s episode. I’m pretty sure of this, having met many people by that name while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Gambia and Senegal, the latter of which is where I’ve been riding out the pandemic with my wife and 21 month old son. At my in-laws. Well, Ahmadu Jallow, when he was killed and when we said his name, correcting issues of mispronunciation weren’t so prominent. So I guess no one ever thought or cared to get the correct pronunciation. And to me, this isn’t a small thing in this specific case, because the only reason that we even know his name is because he’s not alive, to have simply said, actually, it’s Jallow. He only became famous horribly, posthumously. And we put up in New York their streets named after him and murals painted for him. But we haven’t even correctly said his name. We owe him that these days. With all these protests, one of the most common things to chant is say his name. And we do. We say George Floyd or Eric Garner. And if we say Amadou Diallo, I think it should be noted that we should be saying Amadou Diallo. The word that kept coming up to me when I thought about this is poignant, that of everything that was robbed of this poor guy. We’ve also even the well-intentioned among us, we’ve still been robbing him of his actual name. So thank you, Adam Horowitz. You, sir, are the lost star of the antenna Twigg.

S1: And that’s it for Today Show, Margaret Kelly is the just associate producer, she called on Disneyland to next reconsider their country. Bear Jamboree Pavilion was a jamboree with country bands. How about country bear reggaeton or country bear yacht roar? Daniel Shrader, just producer, notes that working conditions prevalent in the 18th century at making industry included long term exposure to Mercury’s nitrate, which would lead to arrest CISM or Mad Hatter’s disease. This could all be used to inform a retooled Mad Hatter’s tea cup ride. Make it feel to the park visitor what it actually felt like to someone experiencing Mad Hatter. Sure, keep the thrilling spins, but add a period of irritability, low confidence and memory loss. To best reflect medical reality. The gist. I always put the story first. The news greats are great.

S10: Ernest goes to Splash Mountain. There’s a special television report. And now reporting from Splash Mountain News Central. There’s veteran news anchor Ralph Story.

S1: And now you know the rest of the story. Oprah Deford’s, Peru. And thanks for listening.