America’s summer of white supremacy: A postmortem


From Salon.com, by Bridgett Davis

The summer of 2014 was a summer of protest: African-Americans took to the streets with a simple but ambitious demand: “Treat us like human beings.”

In Ferguson, Missouri, marchers held placards that reprised the 1960s slogan, “I AM a MAN” (now with the addition of “I AM a WOMAN”). In this town where police fired 10 shots at unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown and struck him six times, apparently while his hands were up, a homemade sign said, “Don’t shoot! Black men are people, too!” Others carried signs insisting that “Black life matters.”

On Staten Island, those protesting the chokehold-killing of Eric Garner by a white cop voiced the same theme. “The reason I’m marching is because it’s time for people of color to be recognized as human beings,” 63-year-old Shirley Evans told the Daily News. “For years and years, we’ve been fighting for our rights. It’s time we’re seen as equals.”

A human being has the right to not be gunned down by the police for “blocking traffic,” and then be left rotting in the sun for four hours. A human being has the right to not be choked to death for “resisting arrest” for allegedly selling loose cigarettes – despite repeated pleas that he can’t breathe.

But other basic rights are also required to sustain human life – like access to water. When Detroit’s Dept. of Water and Sewage systematically shut off the water of more than 125,000 of its poorest residents – some of whom owed as little as $150 on their bills – the UN found that the shutoffs were a basic violation of human rights.

“These are my fellow human beings,” Detroiter Renla Session told the Detroit News. “If they threatened to cut off water to an animal shelter, you would see thousands of people out here. It’s senseless…. They just treat people like their lives mean nothing here in Detroit, and I’m tired of it.”

The denial of black humanity takes many forms. A police officer in a nearby town declared that the Ferguson protesters “should be put down like a rabid dog.” Anothersuburban cop, on duty in Ferguson during the protests, pointed his rifle in protesters’ faces and yelled, “I will fucking kill you.” After both incidents received news coverage, the two men were obliged to leave their jobs — but these and similar incidents raise questions about the institutional culture they reflect.

Certainly in Ferguson, those protesting Brown’s killing were treated by the police as an inhuman entity, en masse. The use of armored vehicles, tear gas, plastic bullets, threatening tactics and unconstitutional arrests sent a clear message: If you express your anger and your grief, you put your freedom – and maybe your life – at risk. The freedom of speech that the Supreme Court has guaranteed to corporations and the wealthy was not extended to the protesters in Ferguson.

Ferguson’s black residents live in fear of the police in part because the police force has 50 white officers and three black ones, patrolling a community where 67 percent of the residents are black. Not surprisingly, blacks make up 86 percent of police stops, according to a racial profiling report from Missouri’s attorney general.

These inequalities highlight the fact that the Mike Brown or Eric Garner killings aren’t just caused by the individual bigotry or hot temper of one “bad apple” cop. They reflect structural inequities that run deep throughout U.S. society and history.

Four miles south of Ferguson is the burial place of Dred Scott, the slave who in 1857 sued for his freedom and lost. He lies in Calvary Cemetery on West Florissant Avenue – the same street that, up in Ferguson, has been the center of protests since Mike Brown was killed. In rejecting Scott’s claim to freedom, the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice wrote, “A free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves, is not a ‘citizen’ within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States.” Lest we forget, African-Americans’ slave ancestors were described in the U.S. Constitution as “three-fifths” of a person.

One hundred fifty-seven years after Dred Scott lost his case, and 156 years after his death, the bruising effects of the country’s racist history are evident throughout the structures of American society. That history has shaped institutions that deprive black Americans of the political power to shape their future, or the resources they need to do so.

Ferguson and Detroit are both places where a largely black community is run by a white power structure. In Detroit, Republican Governor Rick Snyder appointed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to replace elected officials; a new white mayor, Mike Duggan, now runs the city with an emphasis on what sociologist Thomas Sugrue calls “trickle-down urbanism,” a focus on selective gentrification that excludes jobs for working-class residents.

In Ferguson, the police chief is white, the mayor is white, and five of the six city council members are white. Moreover, the district where Michael Brown attended high school, in which almost all students are black, is controlled by a white, out-of-state Republican.

Unequal political power perpetuates unequal access to resources. The largely poor and black residents of Ferguson and Detroit both contend with shrinking city services that impede daily life, abysmal job prospects, punitive social-welfare policies, and underfunded school systems. An acute example of this phenomenon is seen in the high school from which Michael Brown graduated, which had only two cap-and-gown sets for its graduates, who had to take turns wearing them to pose for graduation pictures.

Detroit has been subject to public disinvestment for decades. The water shutoff this summer was the culmination of years of statewide cuts in public spending, a consequence of anti-tax politics that were significantly fueled by racial animus. From Reagan’s fables about “welfare queens” and Cadillacs to Lee Atwater’s infamous “Willie Horton” ad, white resentments and fear have been used for decades to consolidate a policy of shrinking the public budget. As was dramatically clear when Katrina hit New Orleans, it’s a policy that hurts African-Americans the most, even as it injures the public as a whole.

As Missouri’s public budget shrinks, the black majority in Ferguson has been obliged to pay for its own oppression. Newsweek has reported that despite Ferguson’s relative poverty, the town’s second-largest revenue source is fines and court fees. Its court issued 24,532 warrants last year, or about three warrants per household. Essentially, the town has been bankrolling itself vis-à-vis racial profiling and harassing black residents with costly tickets, warrants and court fees for such crimes as “driving while black,” so-called jaywalking (what Michael Brown was stopped for) and other trumped-up violations.

The reason communities like Ferguson or Detroit lack the funds to pay for basic needs is not because there is no money. Millions of dollars in federal resources have been allocated to equip local police forces across the country with military combat gear, often to police largely black communities. That reality was on ugly display during Ferguson’s street protests. Yet Detroit’s 688,000 residents have received no federal aid to avert or recover from its historic bankruptcy filing. As one man on Twitter, who identifies as@YoungMelanin95, tweeted: “They have the money to bring military-grade weapons to a civilian protest, but not enough money to give Detroit access to clean water.”

The attacks on unions in Detroit, public and private, have attacked the ability of black workers to maintain a middle-class income. When I grew up in Detroit in the 1960s and ’70s, the UAW was still a vigorous union whose strength insured robust wages and benefits for its members. As a result, my father and cousins and uncles made salaries that enabled them to live well – to own homes, support their families, send their children to college, retire without worry. Concessions demanded of the autoworkers’ union disproportionately hurt Detroit’s black residents, and more recent attacks on the wages and pensions of public workers have their own racial edge.

Nationally, black workers are 30 percent more likely to hold public-sector jobs. In majority-black Detroit, the figure is much higher. This year Detroit teachers faced a 10 percent pay cut until public outcry prompted its emergency manager to reverse course days before the start of the school year.

And so the basic rights of more than 10 million underprivileged African-Americans are undermined by the limited resources allocated to them: those deemed worthy by a racist society receive the most, those deemed unworthy receive the least – and have the most exacted from them.

That is the backdrop against which, just this summer, water was withheld in one place, and lives gunned down in many others. No wonder that out of frustration and necessity, people in both Detroit and Ferguson – and in solidarity protests across the country – have taken to the streets to demand that their humanity be recognized.

Denial of common humanity has always been fundamental to white supremacy throughout history. We can draw a direct line from the 19th-century anti-slavery slogan — “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” —  to this summer’s protests: “I AM a Man.” The pattern is clear as day.

A life can be taken by the fast, brutal violence of a police bullet or a chokehold. But there is also the slower violence that can kill you just as dead, more gradually and in pieces – through poor health care, unemployment and bad housing, through denying you the resources you need to live.

From Ferguson to Detroit to Staten Island — and now to Beavercreek – this summer’s protests have been a source of hope. But protesters know that if we are to ultimately succeed, we must attack the systemic racism that has been the feeding ground for dehumanizing black life, or we will be here again. And so, local residents in each city are fighting to challenge structural racist practices, and are inviting those who live elsewhere to act in solidarity with them.

In Ferguson, activists are building sustained campaigns on many fronts. Hundreds have packed city and county council meetings and “town hall” sessions, demanding the immediate arrest of Michael Brown’s killer, Officer Darren Wilson, and replacement of the biased county attorney with a special prosecutor. Street protests have continued, in the face of continuing police arrests. (A local activist’s Twitter profile notes: “I spent more time in jail than Darren Wilson.”) With a voter registration drive working to empower Ferguson’s black majority, elected officials in St. Louis County have formed the Fannie Lou Hamer Democratic Coalition, a new political group putting politicians on notice: If you don’t support the African-American community, we won’t support you. Broadening the struggle further, activist groups are hosting a weekend of resistance Oct. 10-13, aiming to build momentum for a national movement against police violence.

In Detroit, mass protests and direct action this summer were followed by intervention in court; over objections from the emergency financial manager, activists told the judge in Detroit’s bankruptcy case why he should consider blocking the water shutoffs. As testimony got underway, members of the Detroit Water Brigade rallied Sept. 22 on the steps of the Federal Courthouse, demanding that the court intercede. Organizers alsoannounced the start of “a citywide, escalating direct action campaign,” pledging to “defend our neighbors and our families from water shutoff trucks and water tax lien foreclosures.” A minister who spoke at the rally found water to his church shut off the next day – but grassroots pressure quickly forced the city to turn it back on.

These efforts and others are part of a new wave of activism to end inhumane treatment of the nation’s black citizens. Here’s how you can make an impact, from anywhere in the world: Join the efforts @detroitwaterbrigade.org and fergusonoctober.com.

How Israel Silences Dissent


From the New York Times op ed section.

On July 12, four days after the latest war in Gaza began, hundreds of Israelis gathered in central Tel Aviv to protest the killing of civilians on both sides and call for an end to the siege of Gaza and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. They chanted, “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

Hamas had warned that it would fire a barrage of rockets at central Israel after 9 p.m., and it did.

But the injuries suffered in Tel Aviv that night stemmed not from rocket fire but from a premeditated assault by a group of extremist Israeli Jews. Chanting “Death to Arabs” and “Death to leftists,” they attacked protesters with clubs. Although several demonstrators were beaten and required medical attention, the police made no arrests.

The same thing happened at another antiwar protest in Haifa a week later; this time, the victims included the city’s deputy mayor, Suhail Assad, and his son. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no statement condemning the violence, even though he had previously stated his primary concern was the safety of Israeli citizens.

The vilification of the few Israelis who don’t subscribe to right-wing doctrine is not new. Similar acts of incitement occurred before the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. But now they have multiplied, escalated and spread.

In July, the veteran Israeli actress Gila Almagor performed at Tel Aviv’s Habima Theater even though she had received threats that she would be murdered on stage. In an interview in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot a few days earlier, she had expressed feeling ashamed after a 16-year old Palestinian, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped and burned alive by Jewish extremists.

In an interview during the Gaza war, the popular comedian Orna Banai said she felt terrible that Palestinian women and children were being killed — she was subsequently fired from her position as spokeswoman for an Israeli cruise ship operator. And Haaretz hired bodyguards for its columnist Gideon Levy after he wrote an article criticizing Israeli Air Force pilots.

The aggressive silencing of anyone who voices disapproval of Israeli policies or expresses empathy with Palestinians is the latest manifestation of an us-versus-them mentality that has been simmering for decades. It is based on the narrative that Palestinians are enemies who threaten Jewish sovereignty and are solely to blame for the failure to achieve peace. The Israeli peace camp — which remains obsessively focused on stopping settlement expansion and pursuing the ever-elusive two-state solution while ignoring Israel’s failure to separate religion and state and guarantee equal rights for Arab citizens — has been incapable of challenging this mentality.

Israeli society has been unable and unwilling to overcome an exclusivist ethno-religious nationalism that privileges Jewish citizens and is represented politically by the religious settler movement and the increasingly conservative secular right. Israel’s liberal, progressive forces remain weak in the face of a robust economy that profits from occupation while international inaction reinforces the status quo. In their attempt to juggle being both Jewish and democratic, most Israelis are choosing the former at the expense of the latter.

Israel has never, for example, genuinely addressed the fact that non-Jewish Arabs who generally identify as Palestinian account for about 20 percent of the population (this excludes the approximately three million Palestinians living under Israel’s control in East Jerusalem and the West Bank). Israel has also never clearly defined its borders, preferring to keep them vague and porous. Nor has it defined what it means to be “Israeli,” as distinct from being “Jewish,” leaving a vacuum that has been filled by nationalist and religious ideologues.

This has allowed the us-versus-them mentality to bleed into Israeli Jewish society. “Us” no longer refers to any Jewish citizen, and “them” to any Palestinian. Now, “us” means all those who defend the status quo of occupation and settlement expansion, including many Christian evangelicals and Republicans in America. And “them” means anyone who tries to challenge that status quo, whether a rabbi, a dissenting Israeli soldier or the president of the United States.

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a shock. For most of Israel’s existence, the majority of Israelis have allowed the state, in the name of Jewish sovereignty and security, to violate Palestinians’ basic human rights — including access to water and the freedom of movement and assembly. The state has killed unarmed protesters and then failed to carry out investigations; it has allowed settlers and soldiers to act with impunity; and it has systematically discriminated against non-Jewish citizens. After so many years of repressing those who stand in the way, the transition to targeting “one of your own” isn’t so difficult. Now it is the few Jewish Israelis who speak the language of human rights who are branded as enemies.

Zeev Sternhell, a political scientist and an expert on fascism, believes that “radical nationalism” and the “erosion of Enlightenment values” have reached new heights in Israel. “To grieve for the loss of life on both sides is already a subversive act, treason,” he told Haaretz. Mr. Sternhell has experienced Jewish extremist violence firsthand; in 2008, a settler planted a bomb in his home that wounded him.

Israelis increasingly seem unwilling to listen to criticism, even when it comes from within their own family. Not only are they not willing to listen, they are trying to silence it before it can even be voiced. With a family like that, I would rather be considered one of “them.”

You probably should see this if you haven’t already


Even people with supposed intelligence are not able to get around their prejudices despite the attempt of a prominent academic to lead them out of it.

Pretty…… damned dumb!


TantarosOnly at FoxNews can someone look like this yet be so ugly, hateful and racist enough that people she wasn’t even talking about take offense at what she says. In a rant typical of people at FoxNews Andrea Tantaros said, referring to the latest ISIS video which features the beheading of an American:

They’ve been doing this for hundreds and hundreds of years if you study the history of Islam…You can’t solve it with a dialogue. You can’t solve it with a summit…You solve it with a bullet to the head. It’s the only thing these people understand.

Of course the only thing people at FoxNews understands is the language of racism.  It doesn’t matter that Muslims universally have condemned what this latest atrocity from ISIS depicts, in fact FoxNews will insist there are no voices of contempt from Muslims….something that’s been disproven time and time again. But in case FoxNews doesn’t get it, such blatant incitement is not acceptable for Americans on American airwaves…or at least not acceptable to some and especially Asian American Journalists who condemned in the strongest terms Tantaros’ diatribe and I salute them.  Racism is unacceptable even if one is not the intended target, something the likes of Tantaros probably doesn’t get.

Another one of those driving while black posts that has a surprising ending


Police misconduct against ANY citizen of America usually gets swept under the rug…….and even when its recorded for all the world to see it gets ignored, given the proverbial blind eye.  In the case of  Marcus Jeter who thought all was well after he left from his first encounter with police…..left with their permission, he’s lucky to be alive while the police have been charged with official misconduct and related charges.  The police abuse was captured by the police’s own dashboard cameras yet the same police in preparation for their court case want to dismiss their own evidence!!

Jeter is lucky to be alive….and his case is one of those rare examples where police are being held accountable for their egregious behavior.

Israel’s war on Islam


destroyed masjidIsrael, that racist bastion of religious zionist zealotry and Islamophobia (two deadly combination for everyone)  is hell bent on killing Muslims and destroying their religious symbols.  This article makes that painfully obvious.

The Israeli onslaught on Gaza demolished 73 mosques in 51 days, while 205 others were partially destroyed, a government report said.

According to a committee formed by the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Construction, the damages caused by Israeli aggression on houses of worship, tombs, and charity offices amount to $40.4 million.

The only two churches in Gaza were also hit and partially damaged, while the gates of 10 tombs were destroyed.

The affected mosques represent one-third of Gaza’s mosques, the committee said.

Among the destroyed mosques were historical ones, particularly Al-Omari Mosque in Jabalya which dates back to 649 AD.

The mosque was built 1,365 years ago during the rule of the Muslim leader Amr Ibn Al-‘As and was named after him. It is also called Manarat Al-Zaher.

It consisted of three floors and its area was greater than 3,000 square metres. It could accommodate more than 2,000 worshippers.

Al-Omari Mosque was previously hit by Israeli strikes in 2008 and 2009 and later renovated, but it was completely destroyed in the most recent assault.

The report added that most of Gaza’s mosques were built thanks to donations by citizens since donor countries exclude houses of worship from reconstruction aid.

The targeting of mosques by Israeli warplanes in the latest offensive was three times higher than in 2008 and 2009, the report said.

It’s very difficult to imagine why and how any country that calls itself a democratic country could support an entity that so recklessly and blatantly targets a religion and its adherents as Israel does with Palestinians and Islam.

Walking while black


There’s a lot to say about being a minority in today’s America and from where Miscellany101 sits none of it is good.  We haven’t talked about the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri although at some point we will, nor have we really dealt with Eric Gardner’s brutal publicly recorded execution by New York City police although we should.

If one really wants to know the depths of American racism, however, and with out ambiguity attached….you only need to look here, where Raymond Wilford was pepper sprayed because he was walking down the street minding his own business and ran across a security guard who thought it was his time to dispense some street justice to the first black person he saw.

Twenty-five-year-old Raymond Wilford, who is black, was walking by on his way to meet a friend at the Westlake Center mall. The shirtless man spit at him, Wilford said, and the two squared off but didn’t throw any punches at each other. Then a Westlake security guard appeared.

“The security guard was like, ‘Stop,'” Wilford said in an interview. “The white guy was still yelling and walking towards the security guard. I was like, ‘Why are you pointing your Mace at me? He’s the one being aggressive.’ And then he [the mall cop] pepper-sprayed me.” According to witnesses and a police report, the spray blew into other people’s faces and left them with red eyes.

ron-johnson-fraternityEven shaking hands and greeting one another on the street can get black men in trouble with the law even when they ARE the law in today’s America.

Today in Ferguson, Mo., news, The Washington Post takes on the assertion that Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson has been photographed flashing gang signs with members of the community.

He has not.

To reiterate: Capt. Johnson is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, a black fraternity that was formed in 1911 at Indiana University in Bloomington, and the hand sign you see in the pictures below is a Kappa greeting.

 

 

 

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