By Michael Mottern
An ultimate check on racism and police brutality in Erie County New York is long overdue. This is the county that once jailed Jack London and just recently pummeled Western New York peace activist Martin Gugino with no mercy and will be remembered for the actions of Buffalo police officer Cariol Horne, who was fired by the department after saving the life of a man being beaten by a fellow police officer.. All this has happened in the 9th most liberal city, the 8th most racially segregated city and the 4th poorest city in the country.
Without a doubt, African Americans have dealt with systemic racism since the Inception of our country. The issues of race and class are such contentious topics that one Civil War was fought over them. America had its own apartheid called the Jim Crow Era, precipitating the civil rights movement of the Sixties. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, the nation – black and white, brown and red – arose in protest. In fact, when it comes to race and class, the health problems of the country are so bad that police brutality is a public health crisis for all black and brown people.
Can we remedy this with social democracy and a check on racism and police brutality in the County of Erie in New York State, an arguably liberal state? New York State in particular is very blue in the cities. Buffalo is the 8th most racially segregated city in America with ethnic neighborhoods that are only mixed in a few sections. Redlining didn’t begin in Moscow; it began in Portland, Oregon and in Western New York.
Should we trust the police that live in the deep red areas of New York State and commute to the blue city for a great job in the police department, yet know nothing about these working-class neighborhoods? The police departments all over the country have been infiltrated by the alt right and fringe groups that want another civil war, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Groups like the Proud Boys, the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazi skinheads are very active here yet usually stay underground. Kenmore, New York (a suburb of Buffalo where I live) has a reputation for traffic stops of African-Americans drivers who go over 40 miles per hour in white neighborhoods
It’s time for a change, both in the county of Erie and in the police department of the City of Buffalo. That is why Social Democrats USA, who helped pioneer social justice and anti-racism work in the late 1950s and early 60s, is hearkening back to those roots. And we are not going to stop anytime soon as long as there is police brutality and racism both here and elsewhere in America.
In the Erie County Sheriff’s race, candidate Myles Carter was brought to national attention by his arrest during the George Floyd protests in Buffalo He is a jail pastor who lives in a working-class area that is predominantly African-American and where the medium income is $30,000 a year. He wants to close the Erie County Holding Center and any Erie County jail that houses minor offenders. His goal is to create a new facility focused on mental health services for poor people who fall between the cracks in our capitalist system, and who are the victims of racial profiling by the questionable people Erie County Sheriff’s Office and the Buffalo Police Department hire as deputies and police officers. In Erie County Legislative District 1, in the County Legislature in Buffalo, running for County Representative as a Democrat and a progressive is Dominique Calhoun. She stresses providing better services for poor people in low-income areas and will work on building a progressive caucus in the County Legislature. Both Calhoun and Carter represent an insurgent voice for County Government.
For too long now, the County Representatives have been very chummy with the local Democratic committee and the big money politics that come with it. It costs $4,000 just to run and get endorsed by the Erie County Democrats. Neither candidate is backed by the Erie County Democratic committee nor even by the supposedly progressive Working Families Party of Western New York. As the ‘teaching hospital’ of the Democratic Left. Social Democrats USA makes these targeted endorsements to educate the local body politic on the benefits of electing a group of committed reformers with fire in their belly!
Michael Mottern is Vice-Chair of Social Democrats USA.