American political dysfunction: a guide for Europeans

Happy to announce I’m going to be covering the US election and other social and political issues for De Correspondent, a Dutch news outlet that broke a record in crowdfunding when it launched as an initiative to support independent journalism. Prior to returning to journalism, I was an anthropologist studying political dictatorships in Central Asia and explaining them to American audiences. Now, thanks to Donald Trump, I am explaining American authoritarianism to Europeans.

My introductory piece covers the economic and political crises that led us into our current chaos, with a focus on what the last eight years have done to the American heartland. My second piece is on the long history of police brutality against black Americans, touching on Ferguson and the recent state-sanctioned murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. An excerpt:

In the aftermath of the police shootings of black citizens, prominent Americans call for a “conversation on race”, but that call is often made with euphemisms. Politicians speak of the killings as “officer-related incidents”, a term so vague it could refer to any encounter with the law. Police departments issue statements saying “shots were fired”, as if shots materialized in thin air, and were not fired by an officer into the body of a black man who died. To state the truth plainly – “American police officers can shoot black men to death for no reason and face no punishment” – is to provoke empathy for the victims, and to recognize the officer who did the fatal shooting for what he is: a state-sanctioned executioner.

No American wants to feel that those who are supposed to serve and protect us are legally sanctioned to kill us. The difference is that for non-black Americans, noting the possible brutality of law enforcement is a matter of choice, whereas for black Americans, it is a matter of survival. Non-black Americans have the option of avoiding the topic, while black Americans must have “the talk” with their children: lessons passed down through generations on how to survive encounters with police. The disjuncture between black and non-black America that Douglass noted in his speech continues to this day. It persists because of the refusal of non-black Americans to see targeted brutality toward black Americans as a shared problem, one which they are complicit in through their refusal to listen or to believe firsthand accounts of abuse.

Read them here

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