St. Louis Post-Dispatch. March 21, 2021.
Editorial: Missouri lawmaker’s police-dog bill deserves to go nowhere
For the second time in three years, a Republican Missouri lawmaker has attempted to make assault on police dogs a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. There’s a good chance this bill will go nowhere, but its mere existence speaks volumes about some lawmakers’ tone-deafness to the symbolism attached to police dogs in confrontational situations, especially with Blacks.
At a time when police departments should be actively working to deescalate tensions and repair relationship with the minority communities they patrol, state Rep. Nick Schroer’s withdrawn legislation, Amendment 2 to House Bill 59, would have done the opposite.
There is a long, tragic history of dogs being used as instruments of violence against minorities in this country. A recent investigation entitled “Mauled: When police dogs bite,” produced in a partnership with The Marshall Project, detailed how little accountability occurs when these animals inflict injuries. Those on the receiving end, Schroer seems to think, should just take it.
An examination of records from police departments including Ferguson and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department found that dogs bit nonwhite people almost exclusively. And these bites, according to the report’s findings, can be “more like shark attacks than nips from a family pet.” In one of the more gruesome accounts, in Indiana, a police dog chewed on a man’s neck for 30 seconds, puncturing his trachea and slicing his carotid artery. In Arizona, a police dog ripped off a man’s face. In California, a police dog took off a man’s testicle.
In July 2018, Joseph Lee Pettaway, a 51-year-old Black man in Montgomery, Alabama, bled to death after a police dog bit into his groin and wouldn’t let go for nearly two minutes. Police had suspected Pettaway of burglary, but it turned out he was in his family’s home with permission.
Contrary to their portrayal and public image, these dogs are no substitute for well-trained human police officers. Although training experts say the animals should release a person after an officer’s verbal command, investigators found dozens of cases where handlers had to “yank dogs off, hit them on the head, choke them or use shock collars” in order to stop their attacks on suspects.
It is unconscionable to require under state law that any suspect refrain from basic self-defense under such circumstances, punishable by 10 years in jail. And given the gross racial disparity in the violent use of these animals, passage of Schroer’s bill would be exactly as Rep. Shamed Dogan, the only Black Republican in the Legislature, said: “A huge step backwards.”
Schroer is likely using the bill to get attention from Trumpian extremists. But serious legislators are right to continue to reject his proposal, which does nothing to make Missourians safer and only serves to make policing more difficult by worsening divisions and raising the stakes of police encounters.
Jefferson City News Tribune. March 19, 2021.
Editorial: Even the playing field
Hopefully, this will be the year the Missouri Legislature evens the sales tax playing field.
Before adjourning for spring break, the House and Senate advanced competing bills to require out-of-state online businesses to collect sales taxes on purchases by Missourians. The requirement would only apply to businesses that make at least $100,000 a year in online sales to Missouri residents, the Associated Press reported.
For years, we’ve said the current sales tax structure is uneven and unfair because Missouri hasn’t adjusted it for the advent of the internet a quarter-century ago.
As a result, Missouri collects sales and use taxes on e-commerce transactions only from businesses that have a physical location in the state, as well as a few out-of-state businesses that take it upon themselves to collect and pay the taxes.
That creates a couple of problems. First, it makes for an uneven playing field between brick-and-mortar businesses and online businesses.
Meanwhile, customers technically are responsible for paying their own sales tax. But without an enforcement mechanism, that’s likely a rare occurrence.
The other problem is that Missouri isn’t getting all of the revenue for an existing tax. The AP reported Department of Revenue officials estimated the change would bring in as much as $190 million in state revenue by 2027 and another $70,000 in local tax revenue.
Both versions of the bill would partly offset the revenue increase with slight income tax cuts.
The measure has been proposed for years, but Republicans have been hesitant to “add” a tax, even one that’s already on the books.
We applaud Gov. Mike Parson for backing the issue. The AP reported he recently said: “I simply want to start making the playing field fair for our Missouri businesses that have to compete with out-of-state businesses.”
Passing this measure just makes sense, and it would show Missourians that bipartisanship does still exist.
Kansas City Star. March 21, 2021.
Editorial: Only Asian American in Kansas House feels the wave of hatred in a Russell sports bar
As soon as state Rep. Rui Xu, the only Asian American serving in the Kansas House, stepped into the sports bar in Russell, Kansas, on Friday night, one of the other patrons “starts jawing at us” - menacing him, Xu said in an interview on Saturday night.
We’re printing exactly what the man said, because to do otherwise would be to sanitize the ugliness of the threat.
Xu, who is from Westwood, was in the area to do a Smoky Hills PBS show in Bunker Hill, Kansas. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, he tweeted this account: “Y’all, genuinely I’m pretty shook up right now. We got done with the PBS show at 8:00, it was a good time. I decided to grab a bite to eat and a drink at a sports bar that’s near the motel just to see what the area’s like.”
“I mean, as soon as we walked in” - he and the PBS host - “it was pretty obvious I didn’t fit in for a variety of reasons. I’m in a suit, I’m Asian, I’m the only one even pretending to wear a mask. Maybe that part’s on me.”
(Nope, it isn’t. Sure, he could have changed out of his suit, but why, when he was hungry? He was wearing a mask, though fully vaccinated, to show care for others. And he was clearly targeted for being of Asian descent, since his dinner companion, who was also wearing a mask, did not set the man off.)
“As I’m looking for a table, this dude’s just like, ‘What the FUCK are you wearing? Why the FUCK are you wearing it,’ in a very angry way. I’m pretty nonconfrontational and am just like, ‘Hey man, just a mask, just grabbing some dinner’ and walk by him and find a booth in the back.”
As he walked away, the man said, “He’s probably carrying the virus.”
Once seated, “We can kind hear him yelling behind us but just ignore it. A minute later, he comes in screaming just like, ‘Where the fuck is he? I’m gonna kick his ass.’ He’s pretty drunk I think, which is why he didn’t see me sorta hidden behind a booth. He loses interest and leaves the bar I guess, but for a few minutes there, I was really getting ready to fight or flight outta there. Especially with the Georgia story in the news, I didn’t know how this was going to go down.”
Later, the waitress apologized, another patron bought them a round of drinks, someone said the guy wasn’t even from Russell, and “good people win out in the end.”
But as Xu tweeted later that night, “I’m back in my room now and I guess all I’d ask is check in on your Asian American friends right now and see how they’re doing. I didn’t think I had internalized the Georgia murders, but this incident tonight made it clear that I had. … It’s a scary time out there for Asian Americans right now; it’s not just imaginary slights. Be safe, y’all.”
OLATHE SAW ANTI-ASIAN HATE CRIME IN 2018 SPORTS BAR MURDER
It should not have taken this incident for us to write about the fear that Asian Americans across the country are feeling right now, especially after the recent murders in Atlanta, where six of the eight people killed in massage businesses were of Asian descent and seven were women.
Anti-Asian violence has spiked in the last year, and we should have, as Xu asked all of us to do, checked in on our Asian American friends before now, to say we stand with you and against not just the violence and the overt threats, but the kind of casual racism that Xu says he’s known all his life.
“There are lots of microaggressions - getting called Bruce Lee, or hearing ‘ching chong’ ’’ and other “fake Chinese noises.” Moronic, yes, but far from harmless.
When those Dr. Seuss books were pulled by the author’s estate for their racist images, more of the conversation was about “cancel culture” than about why these images needed canceling.
“I grew up in rural Missouri, and you learn to deal with it,” Xu said, usually by laughing it off.
That’s heartbreaking, and it’s on all of us to change that.
One of the things Xu tweeted on Friday, in response to the man’s remark that he probably had the coronavirus, was, “So yeah, thanks to President Trump for all the China Virus discourse over the last year.”
And unfortunately, it wasn’t only the former president who seemed to love to say “China” like it’s a curse word, with an accent apparently thrown in for grins. An official in Manhattan, Kansas, remarked a year ago that there wasn’t a lot of COVID-19 in the state because there aren’t that many Chinese people.
When he was Trump’s secretary of state, Kansan Mike Pompeo called COVID-19 the “Wuhan virus” and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley has repeatedly tried to blame China for the pandemic, which makes no more sense than blaming Kansas for the influenza epidemic that happened to start there in 1918. The state of Missouri actually sued China in federal court last year.
What Xu just experienced in a bar in Russell is the result of all of the above.
On Twitter, some people suggested that others in the bar should have stood up to the loudmouth. Xu said he’s glad that didn’t happen: “In Russell, Kansas, there’s a pretty high chance the guy was carrying,” and that might have escalated the situation.
But all of us who are bystanders to what’s aimed at Asian Americans on a regular basis do have a duty to intervene.
As the incident was playing out, what Xu was thinking about was not even so much the race-based murders in Atlanta as the race-based murder in a sports bar in Olathe in 2018. That, too, was a hate crime against Asians.
What happened in Atlanta not only could happen here, but already has.
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