Feeling the moment after Floyd killing

Where do we go with the outrage and window for a reckoning on matters of race in the country that’s been opened by the police killing of George Floyd?

Two themes emerged from a conversation on that question led yesterday by former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. It’s important, Patrick said, for people first to feel genuinely the emotions being stirred in order to begin shaping the policy prescriptions that should follow. It’s also clear that this is a movement for social change, like so many others before it, being led by young people, and those in power, including leaders of color, will be pressed to do more.

Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, a physician and president of DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement and Catalyst Institute, said we’re facing a “crippling trifecta” of racial and social health inequities from a global pandemic and the high black unemployment it is causing on top of the horror of the Floyd killing.

She joined Patrick for the online conversation sponsored by CommonWealth along with Juana Matias, the COO of MassINC, the public policy think tank that publishes CommonWealth, and Lee Pelton, the president of Emerson College.

Matias, a former state representative, said change will only come with greater diversity in the seats of power. “I was a member of the Legislature. I was in those rooms where I would look to my left and I’d look to my right and I’d be surrounded by white males,” said Matias, who was one of the few Latinos in the Legislature. “And a lot of the needs of the most underserved communities were not being brought up or being amplified.” Of the current House and Senate leadership, she said, “not one person of color sits in any of the rooms where decisions are being made and agendas are being prioritized.”

There was also talk of the need for training police in de-escalation techniques and the need for more diversity in the law enforcement pipeline. Minter-Jordan said health care models that empower community health workers, not just physicians and nurses, to deliver care may point toward ways we can rethink approaches to how to deal with the complex issues currently addressed only by police.

But the conversation didn’t dig deep on lots of policy specifics, and Patrick said that was intentional. “We didn’t talk on purpose about specific policy or we didn’t dwell on that,” he said toward the end, “in large part because I think this may be one of those times where we just need, all of us together in our community, black and white and everyone else, to feel this deeply and genuinely so we can understand from that feeling what it is we need to do.”

He gave voice to those raw feelings himself in a recent television interview with NBCBoston reporter Alison King where he revealed that he was once stopped, while serving as governor, by State Police as he was being driven by a black State Police driver. Patrick also said he long ago stopped going to football or baseball games because “I’m just tired of hearing some drunken fan yell n—– ape at a player.”

Pelton issued a powerful letter to the Emerson community following Floyd’s killing, a missive that has gone viral, he said, with 8 million views. In it, he said he “didn’t want to write the kind of platitudinous letters that ordinarily appear after these kinds of killings.”

Instead, Pelton spoke of his own experience and of his gut-wrenching feeling that, like Floyd, “Black Americans are invisible to most of white America. We live in the shadows – even those of us, who like me, sit at the table of bounty.”

“In my lifetime, I have been called the n-word by white people in every state and every city that I have ever lived in,” he wrote, “I have been pulled over driving while black more times than I can remember. I have been spit on by a white parking lot attendant.”

Patrick said that as he’s watched the current protests unfold, he’s worried that the effort might come unraveled. “We have for a lot of years now been treating justice as if it was in limited supply. So if somebody got a little bit over here, you had to take away from somebody over there,” he said. The fact that the protests have continued and have drawn very diverse crowds, he said, makes him hopeful.

Minter-Jordan said it’s crucial that blacks in positions of power “get comfortable with being uncomfortable” and ask tough questions, rather than just feeling they must “play nice” out a sense of being “lucky to be in the room.”

Pelton agreed, but said it’s important to recognize that young people are largely leading the current protests. “Those of us on this call — we’re part of the power structure, so we’re going to be uncomfortable too,” he said. “As a college president, I’m going to be uncomfortable because I know that a lot of these issues will come to my campus and it’s a new world.”

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Black and Latino legislative leaders and officials from key police unions reached an agreement on some basic principles for police reform legislation, including the banning of chokeholds and a move to license all officers in the state. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer declares racism a public health crisis and implements the “8 Can’t Wait” police reforms. (MetroWest Daily News)

The Springfield City Council is fighting with the mayor over whether to resurrect a citizen police commission to oversee officer policies and discipline. (MassLive)

US Rep. Seth Moulton and Andre Bennett of Lynn’s Zion Baptist Church hold a virtual town hall on racial injustice and police reform. (Daily Item)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A recent Department of Public Health inspection of MCI Framingham raises some questions about COVID precautions there. (WBUR)

The pandemic has been a double-edged sword for many mental health patients, simultaneously causing them more pain and also providing resources like telehealth for care. (Standard-Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump is downplaying the ongoing risks from coronavirus as he prepares for a massive indoor rally later this week in Oklahoma, but Dr. Anthony Fauci says the country is actually still in the midst of the initial wave. (Boston Globe)

The Trump administration has gone to court to try to block publication of the widely anticipated memoir from former national security advisor John Bolton about his time in the Trump White House. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe’s effort to promote former colleague Elizabeth Warren for VP may have backfired and hurt her chances of being tapped by Joe Biden. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Neiman Marcus declares bankruptcy. (NPR) Retail spending rose sharply in May, but still remains below pre-COVID levels. (NPR)

Some new marijuana businesses are opening in the middle of a pandemic. (MassLive) Some pot workers want to unionize. (Boston Globe)

A judge orders an Oxford gym closed after it defied Gov. Charlie Baker’s orders to shut. (Telegram & Gazette)

EDUCATION

City councilors question the financial stability of Quincy College. (Patriot Ledger)

Some are calling for the removal of school police officers from Boston public schools. (Boston Globe)

Rep. Katherine Clark unveiled a bill that would allocate $10 billion nationally to the day care sector, which has been hit hard by the pandemic shutdowns and restrictions on reopening. (Boston Globe)

ARTS/CULTURE

The CEO of Phantom Gourmet resigns after posting Facebook posts that mocked Black Lives Matter protests. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Federal authorities charged 31 Boston-area gang members with a slew of violent offenses in a major bust. (Boston Globe) The Enterprise has more details on their ties to violent crimes in Brockton.

Essex Probate and Family Court is among the courts in three counties that are experimenting with using Zoom to help people fill out forms, answer questions, and speak to a “lawyer of the day.” (Gloucester Daily Times)

Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby says police unions are a big part of the problem and should be abolished.

Devin Brosnan, one of two white Atlanta police officers involved in a fatal confrontation with a black man, grew up in Southboro. (Telegram & Gazette)

MEDIA

Philadelphia Magazine editor Tom McGrath is stepping down at the end of the summer following a newsroom discussion about race. He is urging the company to hire someone who isn’t a middle-aged white guy. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

A standoff between owners and reporters is eviscerating Pittsburgh’s biggest newspaper. (Washington Post)