Spectrum features conversations with an eclectic group of fascinating people, some are famous and some are not, but they all have captivating stories.
Spectrum features conversations with an eclectic group of fascinating people, some are famous and some are not, but they all have captivating stories.
“The Talk”-- Parents of Black Children Explain Special Parenting Issues They Face
An African-American father and a black mother explain how they need to warn children about possible violence against them by police or others. This starts at a very young age and continues through young adulthood in a repetitive manner.
It’s called “The Talk” and it happens in every black family with children, says Isaiah Simmons, a father, a minister, and a court bailiff. Simmons has a son and a daughter and also has mentored his teenage nephew and niece.
“The Talk” gives practical tips to young blacks about how to behave if confronted by a police officer or another person in authority, where to put their hands and what to say or not say.
These are not just parental lectures but instead are survival tips delivered by parents so that their children stay alive.
I tell my son that when he goes out …I just want him to come home alive, says Gayle Williams-Byers judge of the South Euclid Municipal Court. Do whatever it takes to comply to protect your life, she says to him. We can work out the other details later, she adds.
However, both Judge Byers and Simmons question whether “The Talk” is even relevant anymore because the level of police violence against blacks does not seem to match any form of aberrant behavior. Blacks can do everything correctly and still be subject to police abuse.
Special instruction for black children starts way before teenage years.
Judge Byers says she started very young with her son and other young relatives to tell them that they unfortunately need to work twice as hard to reach half of the success levels of white culture.
Our culture, still in 2020, is stacked against a black child succeeding at the same level as his/her white counterparts.
The violence and other societal factors place an extra burden on black parents to rear their children safely.
Systemic Racism in Criminal Justice System Explained by Black Female Judge
Too often we, as a country, focus only on the incidents of violence perpetrated on African Americans by police officers instead of looking at the total picture of racism that perpetuates the criminal justice system from the streets to the courtrooms, says Judge Gayle Williams Byers, of the South Euclid Ohio Municipal Court.
Racism goes well beyond what happens in the streets, she says. It truly is systemic.
Judge Byers complains of over-policing in minority neighborhoods.
“Overall, the issues related to police brutality and its intersection with black folk is “ground zero.” While the media has largely focused on the overreaching and many times illegal police tactics employed while interacting with the black community, they have overlooked the role that City Councils and Courts often play in setting these confrontations in motion,” says Judge Byers.
She also claims that City’s use courts and over-policing as revenue streams.
“Often, local governments use police forces and courts as revenue generating ATMs or piggy banks. They pressure police chiefs, officers (with required ticket quotas) and court officials to increase traffic and low-level criminal enforcement fines and fees without regard to public safety or tangible outcomes. The vast majority of the people who are targeted with these often heavy-handed enforcement measures to meet these monetary targets are Black, brown and poor people,” she adds.
Under these processes, blacks are often stopped and searched with little reasonable suspicion and arrested with only the barest probable cause. They then are expected to post bonds that many times, Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t afford and the scheme, in many cases, is to make it hard for them to keep their court date, she notes.
If they are working, then often they are forced to choose between keeping their job or maintaining their court obligation. If they don’t come to court, their bond is forfeited to the city/county government and a warrant can be issued for their arrest. Reasonable or tangible access to justice is not even considered, according to Judge Byers.
While in court, blacks are confronted by an often-times confusing system that is dominated by whites and stacked against the defendants.
Judge Byers says that to effectuate true reform that the whole criminal justice system must be scrutinized and not just the activities of the police in the streets.
“The problem is that the system itself is inherently broken,” Judge Byers says “and we haven’t even tipped the iceberg about the Racism that masquerades as disrespect but is far more insidious.
Judge Byers has initiated a “night court’ in her jurisdiction to make it easier for people to come to court, because true access to justice should be more than a mere modern day slogan.
A Black Judge is Subjected to Continual Acts of Racism Despite Her Position
In 2012, Gayle Williams Byers was elected to become the first black judge for the South Euclid Municipal Court in Northeastern Ohio. She came to the job with a wealth of experience after being a Congressional staffer on Capitol Hill and after spending nearly a decade as an Assistant Prosecutor in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland-area).
However, despite her election win, her experience and the honor of being the first female black judge in her court, she confronted forms of overt and covert racism from the start.
Over the past eight years, it has been one racial insult or slight after another being generated by the white power establishment in her community. Repeated efforts have been made to intimidate her, question her character, and to minimize her powerful position.
“If I, as judge, get treated in a racist manner, I can only imagine what happens to the average black person in the streets,” Judge Byers says. “We need to have a real and meaningful conversation about race as it permeates all aspects of society.”
South Euclid is a racially diverse community with about 50 percent of the population being African American and other people of color. However, the Mayor, police chief, city law director and five of the seven council positions are filled by whites.
The first racial incident happened to Judge Byers about six months after taking office when the police chief, law director and some members of council met with the judge to discuss one of her rulings with which the police chief disagreed.
The chief started his presentation by saying to the white group: I’m not here to “lynch” the judge, according to Judge Byers.
Judge Byers took great umbrage at the lynching reference. She said she had an immediate and intense reaction that the white chief of police would utter those words to a black female judge to minimize her and her elected position as head of the local judicial system.
She remembers digging her fingers in the arms of her chair.
This was only the beginning of one incident after another. Despite being chosen by the electorate for a second term, she has been falsely accused of not knowing her place, dishonesty, laziness and other racial tropes by white office holders.
They even installed ceiling cameras in her jury room without any consultation with her about the sanctity of jury privacy.
Even though she receives national honors and accolades for excellence, she still must fight racial battles with her own city administration. For example, Judge Byers has been selected as the only Judicial Fellow to the National Judicial College, a prestigious judicial position. Yet, that honor has been besmirched and marginalized by whites in power.
Judge Byers calls on white allies to become anti-racists. She says it is not enough to say you are not racist. Instead, you have to fight racism by being ANTI-RACIST.
Hear Judge Byers tell her story on this week’s Spectrum Podcast. This will start a series of serious conversations about racism in American.
Some Police Attack Journalists During Demonstrations: Why are They Targets?
Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police, demonstrations against police violence have traversed the nation.
Yet, during these demonstrations, there have been 383 press freedom incidents including some 173 assaults on journalists 78 physical attacks (50 by police) —49 tear gassings —27 pepper sprayings —89 rubber bullet / projectiles injuries and 48 equipment/newsroom damage cases, according to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
There also have been 56 arrests of credentialed reporters by police. One CNN reporter was arrested on live television to be released shortly thereafter as the Governor of Minnesota apologized for the police action.
Dr. Michael Bugeja, Distinguished Professor of Journalism at Iowa State University, says that this much targeting of journalists is “unprecedented.”
He tells WOUB’s Spectrum Podcast that he feels some police are reacting to a new level of accountability brought on by the use of cellphones and technology. Cellphone videos captured by reporters and citizen journalists have documented police abuses against African-Americans and other people of color.
Since everyone can be a broadcaster through social media, police are subject to a new, higher level of accountability, Dr. Bugeja says. As a result, journalists have been targeted during disturbances for just exercising their First Amendment rights.
The police abuses against reporters have been so bad that the ACLU in Minnesota has filed a federal class action lawsuit under the federal Civil Rights Act claiming that the police were depriving journalists of their First Amendment freedoms, that journalists and their property were being seized without warrants in violation of the Fourth Amendment and that journalists were being denied their constitutional rights and freedoms without due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Dr. Bugeja believes that reporters covering any large demonstration should hand a copy of the federal Civil Rights Act to police at the scene as a “paper trail” of notice not to abridge constitutional freedoms.
He is extremely concerned about the safety of journalists and the escalating denial of their rights. He notes that journalists are trained to report and report accurately where too often the general public relies on news from social media which often is not accurate and can easily be manipulated to distort reality.
Therefore, he says, mainstream journalists need protection, especially against the police.
Dr. Bugeja has a specialty in media ethics and technology. He is author of 24 books across genres. His latest is Media Ethics: Across Platforms, published by Routhledge, Taylor and Francis in 2019.
Local Health Official Describes Fighting COVID-19 from the Grassroots
Dr. James R. Gaskell has been a physician for over 50 years specializing in pediatrics. He also is the Health Commission of Athens City and County in Southeastern Ohio.
When he took that job 20 years ago, he certainly didn’t expect to be fighting a major pandemic from the bottom up—from the grassroots front lines.
He normally does his job in a small Appalachian community and rural county. His major fights concern populations who are impoverished, unemployed, and often opiate addicted.
At the other end of the economic spectrum, his area also is the home of a major residential university…Ohio University, with nearly 19,000 undergraduates, graduate students and medical students from all over the world on the main campus. This adds to the disparate nature of the populations he serves.
As the Coronavirus entered our country early in 2020, his job changed.
His days now consist of making sure testing is available for his people (although it was slow trickling down to the rural areas), preparing local hospitals for potential surges, assuring that nursing homes are as safe as possible, and informing his various populations about the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also acts as a major liaison with Ohio University to help determine whether students will be back on campus this fall and if so, under what conditions. He consults with the university’s medical team attempting to find the safest way possible to have students congregate again.
In addition, Dr. Gaskell heads the local enforcement team to assure everyone that State Department of Health rules and regulations are being followed in re-opening his state’s economy.
He is part of a law enforcement and licensing team to assure the public that restaurants and bars are functioning with appropriate safeguards and social distancing.
He also spends a great deal of time in teleconferences with state health officials who are working daily with the Governor to keep Ohio as safe as possible while re-opening.
Dr. Gaskell tells us the unvarnished story of what it’s like to be on the front lines battling this virus from the trenches instead of the mountaintop.
Many Americans have Mixed Views on Re-opening or Still Isolating
Some Memorial Day crowds seemed large and people were not self-distancing. They were jammed in swimming pools, on crowded boardwalks and watching auto racing. Most without masks.
It seems that many want to reopen the economy and break out of isolation regardless of the risks. They are tired of lockdowns and restrictions.
However, recent polling still shows the large majority of Americans are fearful of re-entering into normal daily activities such as work, shopping, hair care, and being around large groups of people. These people also get angry when they see others flaunting rules and regulations promulgated by Health Departments.
Dr. Kenneth Johnson, executive dean of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio University and a frequent guest of the Spectrum Podcast, reminds us that the dangers of the virus are still present and probably will be until we find therapeutic drugs or a vaccine.
It has not gone away, says Johnson, the chief medical affairs officer at Ohio University and chair of the Ohio Council of Medical School Deans. As we re-open the country, the Coronavirus remains a very real threat.
Opening the economy, in fact, allows more people asymptomatically carrying the virus to mingle with others thereby increasing the possibility of spread.
Many citizens and experts alike are fearing a resurgence of the virus and increased hospitalizations and deaths as more stay-at-home orders are lifted.
Dr. Johnson is a strong proponent of mask wearing to not only protect the wearer but those around him or her. He also advocates for continued social distancing, even as we move to open greater parts of our society.
On this edition of Spectrum, Dr. Johnson talks about the COVID-19 virus and the dangers we still face – especially in the Midwest and in rural areas where numbers of cases are rapidly increasing.
He also warns us that children are not immune from the virus and that this virus appears to be mutating as it spreads. This causes even great alarm among medical experts.
Dr. Johnson gives us some tips on how we can re-emerge into some sense of normalcy while we still maintain some degree of protection.
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