race


In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.

Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was written exactly 50 years ago, on this day. Do read it again if you can. A paragraph:

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

MLK Jr’s tone is conversational — he tries to reason with his readers — as well as indignant and righteous. And he takes great aim at the ‘white moderate’. His description of the white moderate feels… timeless.

First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Tracy Clayton wrote about the historic relevance of the numerous nicknames that 9 year-old Oscar nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis unwillingly received at The Oscars, Quvenzhané.  Check out the piece, it’s an important read.  Warsan Shire is quoted — one of my favorite quotes ever:

“Give your daughters difficult names. Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. My name makes you want to tell me the truth. My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right … Give your children difficult names, so the world may learn how to unfurl its tongue in the direction of our stolen languages.”  – Warsan Shire

A good read, short piece on one kind of 21st century Jim Crow, focusing on the millions of former felons who are disenfranchised from voting:

“We have seen these shenanigans before: grandfather clauses; poll taxes, literacy tests. Yet African-Americans — heck, Americans in general — seem remarkably quiescent about seeing it all come around again, same old garbage in a different can.

“If you want to vote, show it,” trilled a TV commercial in support of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law before a judge blocked its implementation. The tenor of the ad was telling, though, implicitly suggesting that voting is a privilege for which one should be happy to jump through arbitrary hoops.

But voting is emphatically not a privilege. It is a right. By definition, then, it must be broadly accessible. These laws ensure that it is not.”

Cross-posted at CureThis:

“This law will make me feel like a Nazi out there.  I have a great deal of contempt for it; I’m very emotional about it… This law is – pure and simple – a racist law.”

In the lead-up to the implementation of SB1070, the Arizona law known commonly as “papers please”, it is heartening to see a police officer in AZ speak up against it:

He very clearly states why this law is a huge health/human rights violation:

“So under SB1070 I know that people will not call officers in the case of a real emergency. I could see this type of scenario: a woman is being beaten by her husband or her significant other.  And, if I show up, and I develop reasonable suspicion, or LESS, even, that the person that is a perpetrator in this case, is in this country extralegally, i’m going to start heading in the direction of asking the victim of the case, are you here illegally?  I will have to arrest both of them — I’ll be required to — and both will be deported.  It violates our calling to serve and protect. It violates, under our Constitution, the requirement to serve and protect.”

Thanks to the savvy folks at Cuentame for collecting video testimonials. And check out Alto Arizona for actions in Arizona this week, and solidarity actions you can join in your own towns and states.

Check out this powerful and moving plea for healthy development and environmental justice, from Majora Carter — an inspiring and courageous activist and organizer in the South Bronx. This talk, entitled “Greening the Ghetto” was given at the TED conference in 2006.

“Environmental justice goes something like this: no community should be saddled with more environmental burdens, and less environmental benefits, than any other.”

Carter links unjust urban development to health problems, talks race, and discusses the potential and the imperative for Americans to move towards REAL and just sustainable development.

She ends with a bang, stating that communities affected by environmental injustices must be at the decision-making table regarding local and national strategies. Check it out in the video, here’s here ending paragraph, it is SO absolutely true, whether the issue is environmental justice, health care reform, city planning, or schools:

“I spoke to Mr [Al] Gore, the other day after breakfast. I asked him how environmental justice activists were going to be included in this new strategy. His response was a grant program. I don’t think he understood that I wasn’t asking for funding; I was making HIM an offer. What troubled me was that this top down approach is still around. Don’t get me wrong, we need money. But grassroots groups are needed at the table DURING the decision-making process. Of the 90 percent of the energy that Mr Gore reminded us that we waste everyday, don’t add wasting OUR energy, intelligence, and hard earned experience to that count.”

Damn. I’m moved by Rodney King’s forgiveness of the LAPD cops who beat him and who sparked the 1992 LA riots (killing 56 people and seriously wounding a city). Though I don’t forgive the cops for their brutality that continues through today (re: badly named “Safer Cities Initiative” and other forms of police brutality in Los Angeles).

Thanks to LAist for the video.


I lived in NYC for two years and nearby in Newark NJ for another few years, and the NY Post is not a reasonable publication by any means, and has never been. And this week it published a very controversial cartoon. Sam Stein and Baratunde Thurston are articulate and to the point with the connotations inherent in this cartoon. Check out the video above.

Baratunde Thurston also published an essay in the Huffington Post, where he expands on Dr Phillip Goff’s research on the very real brutality/racism effects of psychologically likening blacks to monkeys.

And Dr Goff’s full essay, “Little Things are Still a Big Deal” can be found here. It’s VERY interesting. Here’s a snippet:

For the better part of the past seven years, my colleagues and I have conducted research on the psychological phenomenon of dehumanization. Specifically, we have examined cognitive associations between African Americans and non-human apes. And the association leads to bad things. When we began the research, we were skeptical of whether or not participants even knew that people of African descent were caricatured as ape-like — as less than human — throughout the better part of the past 400 years. And, in fact, many were not. However, even those who were unaware of this historical association demonstrated a cognitive association between blacks and apes. That is, when they thought of apes, they thought of blacks and vice versa — when they thought of blacks, they thought of apes.

But the fact of this cognitive association was not the most disturbing part of the research. Rather, it was the fact that the association between blacks and apes could lead to violence.

In one study, participants who were made to think about apes were more likely to support police violence against black (but not white) criminal suspects. The association actually caused them to endorse anti-black violence. Most disturbing of all, however, was a study of media coverage and the death penalty. Looking at a sample of death-eligible cases in Philadelphia from 1979 to 1999, the more that media coverage used ape-like metaphors to describe a murder trial (i.e. “urban jungle,” “aping the suspects behavior,” etc.) the more likely black suspects, but not white suspects were to be put to death.

Something to mull over…

Check out this poster, starting with “389 Years ago the first slave ship lands in the American colonies.” And ending with “And on November 4th 2008, the people of the United States elect their first African-American President and his name is Barack Obama”.

Thanks, folks at Wallstats, for putting it together and for celebrating progress.

Yolanda Pierce of The Kitchen Table, on the selection of Elizabeth Alexander as the inaugural poet laureate:

I am celebrating this news because it honors a black woman we both know and deeply respect, a woman who has dedicated her life and work to not only writing, but training the next generation of writers. Alexander’s volume The Venus Hottentot, remains one of the most influential volumes of poetry I’ve read and I use it for my own teaching.

I am celebrating this news because Obama seems to fully grasp the idea that words and language truly matter. By restoring poetry as a central feature of his inauguration, Obama gives hope to those of us who believe that art is always important and necessary, especially during hard times. Artistic expression is as necessary and as vital as bread and water.

I am celebrating this news because our African American ancestors articulated their struggle for freedom and dignity in verse: poetry, song, and prose. And so, through poets like Alexander, we can pay homage to Phillis Wheatley, and Jupiter Hammon, and Lucy Terry Prince – 18th century black poets who dared to sing a free song, while their bodies were still enslaved.

I’m enjoying exploring some of Elizabeth Alexander’s poetry. Fitting for this site, here’s a beautiful poem she wrote about Los Angeles:

Stravinsky in L.A.

In white pleated trousers, peering through green
sunshades, looking for the way the sun is red
noise, how locusts hiss to replicate the sun.
What is the visual equivalent
of syncopation? Rows of seared palms wrinkle
in the heat waves through green glass. Sprinklers
tick, tick, tick. The Watts Towers aim to split
the sky into chroma, spires tiled with rubble
nothing less than aspiration. I’ve left
minarets for sun and syncopation,
sixty-seven shades of green which I have
counted, beginning: palm leaves, front and back,
luncheon pickle, bottle glass, etcetera.
One day I will comprehend the different
grades of red. On that day I will comprehend
these people, rhythms, jazz, Simon Rodia,
Watts, Los Angeles, aspiration.

And a wonderful poem on poetry itself:

Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves,
(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”)
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

She also wrote a beautiful piece on the legacy of poet and activist June Jordan. All these and more poetry, audio, and essays can be found at Elizabeth Alexander’s website.

I write for LAist.com, a rad website about all things Los Angeles.  The site gets tons of hits and spans a wide array of topics.  I profiled Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act, which is being voted on by Californians this November 4th. I learned quite a bit about the California prison system through some pieces I read in the process of writing this post. Here’s the start of it:

Several of California’s ballot propositions this year could have wide-ranging national ramifications. Among them is the less talked about Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act (NORA). This proposition aims to fundamentally reform California’s drug-control policy by providing resources for rehabilitation and treatment of drug users a priority of the prison and parole systems. Up to eighty percent of California’s prisoners have a substance use problem and most receive no treatment. The rationale behind Prop 5 is simple — treating addiction and providing rehabilitation for nonviolent drug offenders is more humane and more cost-effective than simply imprisoning them, which currently costs over $10 billion a year. And the timing of Prop 5 is relevant — California’s prisons are severely overcrowded (with more than 170,000 inmates in prisons that were built for 100,000) and the state’s prison health care system is so broken that a federal receiver has demanded billions from the state’s budget to overhaul the prison medical system.

California did not always carry this reputation. In the 1950’s through 1970’s, the state led the nation in rehabilitation, psychotherapy, research, and innovative education programs for inmates. Judges had greater power over lengths of sentences for inmates and parole boards were set up to decide if an offender had reformed and could be released. Over the years, California’s governors and legislature did away with this power of judges and parole boards, took rehabilitation out of the penal code, and passed more than 1,000 laws increasing mandatory prison sentences.

So what does Prop 5 intend to do? Prop 5 would provide system-wide reforms in regards to drug policy…

Check out the rest at this link on LAist. As always, feel free to login to comment or to recommend the post!

If you’re a minority and you’re selected for a job over more qualified candidates you’re a “token hire.”
If you’re a conservative and you’re selected for a job over more qualified candidates you’re a “game changer.”

If you live in an urban area and you get a girl pregnant you’re a “baby daddy.”
If you’re the same in Alaska you’re a “teen father.” (Actually, according to your own MySpace page you’re an F’n redneck that don’t want any kids, but that’s too long a phrase for the evil liberal media to take out of context and flog morning, noon and night.)

Black teen pregnancies? A “crisis” in black America.
White teen pregnancies? A “blessed event.”

If you grow up in Hawaii you’re “exotic.”
Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, you’re the quintessential “American story.”

Similarly, if you name your kid Barack, you’re “unpatriotic.”
Name your kid Track, you’re “colorful.”

If you’re a Democrat and you make a VP pick without fully vetting the individual, you’re “reckless.”
A Republican who doesn’t fully vet is a “maverick.”

From John Ridley’s Pocket Guide to speaking Palinguage.

PLEASE donate. I just donated some money to INCITE! Women of Color against Violence — an organization that has done amazing work in health and healing in New Orleans (they collaborated with health practitioners to create the Womens Health and Justice Initiative and the New Orleans Womens’ Health Clinic). Please donate if you can, and PLEASE pass this on, forward this widely.

Dear INCITE! friends and supporters,

CLICK HERE to DONATE

On the eve of the 3 year anniversary of the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and subsequent government criminal negligence and assaults on the low income people of color on the Gulf Coast, our sisters from INCITE! projects in New Orleans (including the local chapter, the Women’s Health and Justice Initiative, and the New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic) are bracing for the potential landfall of Hurricane Gustav, which is currently projected to hit the Louisiana coast on Monday or Tuesday at a category 4 or 5. Voluntary evacuation of New Orleans has already begun, and mandatory evacuation could be declared as early as today. INCITE! organizers in New Orleans have made over 700 phone calls to women of color and their families that make up the constituency of the New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic, working to prepare and implement evacuation and safety plans.

Your assistance is urgently needed to help low-income women of color and their families evacuate safely if need be, stay safe for the duration of the evacuation, and return to the city as soon as possible so as not to fall prey to the pushout that has kept so many folks from being able to return to New Orleans since Katrina. Local organizers are using whatever resources and funds at their disposal to help women and their families evacuate, bond people being held in Orleans Parish Prison out, and support those who make the choice to stay in whatever way they can.

(more…)

Stephen Colbert and Nas bring it.

Lyrics to “Sly Fox” by Nas below…
(more…)

Video by Jay Smooth, a serious fightin’-with-love-brother whose hiphop shows I’ve listened to since way back in 2002 when I lived in NJ and tuned into WBAI pacifica radio late at night.

As performed by Saul Williams.

(original words from Not in Our Name’s Pledge of Resistance)

We believe that as people living in the United States it is our
responsibility to resist the injustices done by our government,
in our names

Not in our name
will you wage endless war
there can be no more deaths
no more transfusions of blood for oil

Not in our name
will you invade countries bomb civilians, kill more children
letting history take its course over the graves of the nameless

Not in our name
will you erode the very freedoms you have claimed to fight for

Not by our hands
will we supply weapons and funding
for the annihilation of families on foreign soil

Not by our mouths
will we let fear silence us

Not by our hearts
will we allow whole peoples or countries to be deemed evil

Not by our will
and Not in our name

We pledge resistance

We pledge alliance with those who have come under attack
for voicing opposition to the war or for their religion or ethnicity

We pledge to make common cause with the people of the world
to bring about justice, freedom and peace

Another world is possible
and we pledge to make it real.

Dear fellow Americans who think that black people mindlessly vote for black people:

This was on top of Democratic strategist and Clinton supporter Paul Begala saying this week on CNN, “We cannot win with eggheads and African-Americans. OK. That’s the Dukakis coalition, which carried 10 states and gave us four years of the first George Bush. President Clinton, you know, reached across and got a whole lot of Republicans and independents to come.”

…The truth is that Clinton is in denial about one of the key reasons for her slide from inevitability. She choked on the black vote. Conveniently forgotten in her reinvention in Pennsylvania as Rocky Balboa (who conveniently was a white working-class boxer trying to beat down a black champion), is that this white woman led Obama in an October 2007 CNN poll, 68 percent to 25 percent among black women and was nearly dead even with Obama among black men.

It was not just that Obama stunned the conventional political world. It was also, as this column has pointed out, because of steady dollops of racial and religious innuendo from surrogates, most notably husband Bill Clinton and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro. All the love built up between the Clintons and black folks became love and war when a black man stood between them and their castle.

The problem for Clinton is that this is another case in which her math does not add up. Yes, every voter the Democrats can get their hands on is critical. But all this talk about Obama not connecting with salt of the earth white folks cynically forgets that white leaders in the Democratic Party have not solved this problem since Jimmy Carter’s 48 percent of the white vote in 1976, yet want to make Obama the poster child for it despite his multi-racial crowds and record turnouts of voters. In the late throes of her insurgency, to borrow from Dick Cheney, Clinton is playing “divide and doubt” about Obama getting “only” 37 percent of the white vote in North Carolina and Pennsylvania and 40 percent in Indiana.

But in a year in which Republican enthusiasm is in doubt with a bad war and a bummer economy, it must be remembered that Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992 in three-way races with a grand total of 39 percent of the white vote and 83 percent of the black vote and 61 percent of the Hispanic vote and besting the first President Bush and Ross Perot among all age groups.

Ironically, Obama got to where he is by not being the “black” candidate. It is Clinton who is now the race candidate, diminishing black voters and eggheads, her final hopes resting on the thinnest of eggshells.

Thank you Derrick Jackson (columnist at the Boston Globe).

NOW can we stop talking about how Black people just vote for Black candidates because they’re black? Or how Obama would have the black vote in his pocket because people like to vote for people who look like them? Clinton has time and time again created a racial divide during the primaries. Black voters were overwhelmingly in support of her earlier on, before she started race-baiting.

Let’s ALSO give black voters a certain BASIC amount of respect, a BASIC assumption that — in addition to not supporting a candidate who offends them on multiple occasions — they would vote at least some of the time on the issues and on the potential of a candidate to move America in the right direction.

Many sincere thanks,
Anjali Taneja

(Photo: Sean Bell, fiance Nicole Paultre-Bell, and their daughter)

It was A cold cold day in February 2000. A few of us medical students, joined by a handful of members of the Newark, New Jersey community, stood on the main street outside the university hospital we worked at. We chanted, and we passed out information on Amadou Diallo’s wrongful death by cops in the NYPD, caused by 41 shots fired by plain clothed police officers who thought Diallo’s face matched that of a photo of a serial rapist they were after. He reached for his wallet as he ran up his apartment’s stairs, and they fired on him, killed him. 41 shots.

At several points we shouted on a megaphone: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…” until we reached 41. In that light, 41 bullets seemed like SO. DAMN. MANY. The police officers were tried away from NYC, in Albany, without a jury, because of the negative press and therefore “biased” chance they would have. They were all acquitted.

8 years later, I’m equally livid and deeply saddened at the verdict of a trial of 3 plain clothed cops who shot 50 rounds of bullets (17 months ago) at unarmed men — killing Sean Bell on the night before his wedding, critically wounding Guzman, a passenger in his car, in a completely reckless and incompetent act. One of the officers even stopped to RELOAD his gun.

The NYTimes has a telling graphic
, attached to an article on the Sean Bell case, profiling the cases of several victims of excessive force by the NYPD over the years. Most of the police officers got off completely scot-free, after committing heinous crimes. Also included is a list of all the charges against each officer — again, all 3 officers were acquitted of ALL charges against them.

The cops negotiated to have the case heard solely in front of a judge (no jury), stating that there was too much negative press around their case and therefore they wouldn’t have a fair trial if a jury was involved. Most others don’t get this “privilege”, especially folks from communities of color.

The judge, in his verdict acquitting the 3 police officers of ANY crime against Sean Bell and Joseph Guzman noted, “Carelessness is not a crime.” He also cited prior incarcerations of the victims, and noted that he didn’t like the demeanor of some of the witnesses on the stand. Wow.

Holly at Feministe has a great post about how this is a feminist issue:

somewhere out there, there certainly are some feminists who would not describe this as a feminist issue, despite the bereavement of Nicole Paultre Bell (who changed her name after her fiance’s death) and their daughter. Some writers might point to the fact that Sean Bell lay dead outside of a strip club in Queens where he was having his bachelor party, to his arrest record, or to his blood alcohol level. They could bring up the ugly, misogynist fact that one of Bell’s two friends previously pled guilty to hitting the mother of his child. Or the reports that Bell’s other friend got into an argument when pressured one of the club’s dancers to have paid sex with their entire group, which she didn’t want to do. Or they could just describe it as men killing men.

I feel kind of sick even mentioning all of these details surrounding an unarmed man who was gunned down with his friends on his wedding day. But I’m bringing them up precisely because I want to point out that these details do not matter and never have. All feminists should be familiar with victim-blaming and shifting the spotlight away from the executioners, the rapists, the impersonal forces that do their best to eliminate and kill women, the brown folks of the world, the poor, the different.

The problem here, as Delores Jones-Brown points out, is that there is a systemic pattern of police officers shooting unarmed suspects. The problem is that this disproportionately affects communities of color. The black men who are most often slaughtered by such violence, and all the women and children in their lives too, their loved ones, friends and relatives. A system that is all too eager to exonerate “the thin blue line” and continue business as usual. All of these are feminist issues. Racism must be a feminist issue, for any kind of feminism that counts. Police brutality must be; the biases of the criminal justice system must be.


Kai Chang shared an insightful comment
on Holly’s blog post:

By complete coincidence, two nights ago I found myself sitting at a bar in Westchester next to one of the lead lawyers in the trial; indeed he was defending the cop who reloaded his weapon and emptied a second clip into the car. This lawyer was already celebrating; he was drinking martinis and boasting that it was over and the defense had won. I sat quietly and stared at my food as my stomach churned. The lawyer bragged to the bartender that the defense had successfully discredited the prosecution’s witnesses as drug dealers and drunks. He said the defense had made the case that when you’re firing at a car, the explosive impacts of bullets on the car give you the visual impression that there is return fire coming back at you, which explains why they kept on firing at unarmed men. He said that the cop who had fired 31 times was so flooded with adrenaline that he did not remember reloading and erroneously thought his gun had jammed which is why he kept pulling the trigger. It was big laughs and toasts all around.

This is what happens when the humanity of some is valued over the humanity of others, in ways large and small. This is why I talk incessantly about the cognitive indoctrination and perceptual prisms which are so central to racist socialization. We are bombarded all our lives with cultural propaganda which dehumanizes people of color in general and injects a fear of black men in particular into our society’s very brain stem. That’s how it works. One day, you’re a young child watching Saturday morning cartoons in which racial stereotypes are exploited for humor; the next thing you know, you’re a scared cop pumping bullets into a black man, or a judge giving leniency to that cop, or a society with a prison system which looks like ours.

One of the cops, Detective Michael Oliver, stopped to RELOAD his gun and then continued firing at the unarmed men in the car. Alexander Jason, a forensics expert, shared this video of what 31 shots (with reloading) using the firearm that Michael Oliver would look like. 12.3 seconds. Wow. (thanks to Kameelah for the link). Reminds me of what 41 bullets aimed at Amadou Diallo must have been like, back in 1999.

Now, while NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly was out putting cops in the streets to prevent violent responses to the verdict of the cops charged with the killing of Sean Bell, people were peacefully protesting around the city and around the nation. Below are photos from Indymedia NYC And a powerful 1 minute video of New Yorkers protesting at Jamaica station:

(Thanks to Rosa for the links to the video and the photos)

Where do we go from here? There will hopefully be another trial regarding Sean Bell. But how do we prevent this kind of event from occurring again and again in our communities, disproportionately in communities of color? Kevin Powell notes that we are all Sean Bell, and until we realize this we won’t overcome this kind of pathologic behavior:

Plain and simple, racism creates abusive relationships. It does not matter if the perpetrator is a White sister or brother, or a person of color, because the most vulnerable in our society feel the heat of it. Real talk: this tragedy would have never gone down on the Upper Eastside of Manhattan or in Brooklyn Heights. I am not just speaking about the judge’s decision, but the police officer’s actions. Those shots would have never been fired at unarmed White people sitting in a car. Until we understand that racism is not just about who pulled the trigger in a police misconduct case, but is also about the geography of racism, and the psychology of racism, we are forever stuck having the same endless dialogue with no solution in sight.

And until America recognizes the civil and human rights of all its citizens, systemic racism and police misconduct, joined at the hip, will never end. That is, until White sisters and brothers realize they, too, are Sean Bell, this will never end. Save for a few committed souls, most White folks sit on the sidelines (as many did when we marched down Fifth Avenue in protest of Sean Bell’s murder in December 2006), feel empathy, but fail to grasp that our struggle for justice is their struggle for justice. They, alas, are Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo, and all those anonymous Black and Brown heads and bodies who’ve been victimized, whether they want to accept that reality or not. And the reality is that until police officers are forced to live in the communities they police, forced to learn the language, the culture, the mores of the communities they police, forced to change how they handle undercover assignments, this systemic racism, this police misconduct, will never end. And until Black and Latino people, the two communities most likely to suffer at the hands of police brutality and misconduct, refuse to accept the half-baked leadership we’ve been given for nearly forty years now, and start to question what is really going on behind the scenes with the handshakes, the eyewinks, the head nods, and the backroom deals at the expense of our lives, this systemic racism, this police misconduct, these kinds of miscarriages of justice, will never end.

We are all Sean Bell.

How is it that a white “feminist” blogger who has been called out in the recent past for appropriating the work of women of color bloggers, publishes a book with retro-racist cover art, changes the cover art in response to calls of racism, and several months later comes out with the first printing of said book, with numerous other racist retro-art images STILL contained in the book, even though they do not relate to the book’s content, finds herself again amongst criticism of racist imagery, then apologizes and states that the second printing of the book will omit those images?

I mean, there’s a point where the supposed “ignorance” about imagery in your OWN damn book TWO different times reaches blatant INDIFFERENCE to the issue. A perceptive 10 year old could tell that the images were racist. Don’t tell me that a prominent white “feminist” blogger couldn’t. And that many of her fans think the images are being taken too seriously by many women, and that they’re just there for irony’s sake. This, after ALL the recent controversy about this said author appropriating. Fascinating. Just fascinating. And absolutely despicable.

More on the issue here (and much more articulately stated than my post):

Feministe (Holly) — It’s a Jungle in Here

Dear White Feminists (tagline: “Quite Goddamn Fucking Up”): Update

I understand that Amanda Marcotte has apologized for the racist imagery in her book, and that Seal Press (the publishing house) has apologized for the same, and that’s wonderful and all, but you know it’s just NOT ENOUGH. Especially after Marcotte’s repeated snarky comments about not appropriating women of color bloggers’ work and her refusal to accept her mistake in not at least linking to some prior work by WOC feminists on her alternet piece on immigration/violence/gender. This is a typical comment from her:

I dislike, strongly, people who treat feminism like a cool kids club and guard the borders to make sure that we don’t grow. There’s a lot effort spent trying to bash people who popularize ideas, and then everyone sits around wondering why young women don’t call themselves feminists. Gosh, maybe we should have reached out more, no?

And Seal Press, who I can’t see as respectful, after comments like this in response to a a comment from a woman of color blogger (best summarized here):

I get that you all engage best through negative discourse, but I find that too bad. It’s not servitude when we pay our authors advances. And book publishing is not an industry of outreach as much as it is editors being presented with an idea and engaging would-be authors in creative co-creation. I just find it curious more than anything that you all are wasting your time hating (yes, purposeful reuse of the word) rather than actively engaging in changing something you find problematic. I totally respect the creative space.

I recall seeing that comment and being SO very incensed at the comment aimed at women of color bloggers as a group: “I get that you all engage best through negative discourse.” Seal Press later apologized about their reactions on their blog, but failed to apologize for this very statement. Classic.

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This is just salt in the wounds of ANOTHER recent controversy involving Amanda Marcotte and white feminist’s appropriation of women of colors’ writings. Others have written about this said controversy in very thoughtful ways, so instead of trying to restate what’s been so beuatifully said, I’ll link to some of the pieces that give it context and reflect on it (with the caveat that tens of bloggers have written amazing posts on this issue, i’m just linking a few):

Feministe: “This has not been a good week for women of color blogging”

Problem Chylde/Sylvia: “Don’t Hate, Reappropriate”

Dear Whilte Feminists: “An Open Letter to the White Feminist Community” (where about 30 other bloggers’ responses to the controversy are also linked)

PhysioProf: “Intellectual Appropriation, Attribution of Credit, and Privilege”

One of the most amazing writers I’ve ever known, Brownfemipower, who I had the wonderful grace of hanging out with during the United States Social Forum last year, has shut down her blog as a result of this controversy. On a daily basis her writings have previously helped me unlearn and re-learn the truth about marginalized communities, violence, and dreaming about a better world. I learned more from her writings in the last two years than I did through most of college and beyond.

Brownfemipower has written a response to all the controversy: “Some Context”. An excerpt:

No, actually, I know I’m brownfemipower and I want to end violence against women. And I wanted to do that with all the women who keep insisting to me that we are all in this together and we have common problems that we have to work against and we’re all sisters, and there is such thing as a commonality of experience between us all—as I said in my original post—I thought feminism was important because it brought women together (I had thought at one time that feminism was about justice for women. I had thought it was about centering the needs of women, and creating action in the name of, by and for women. I had thought that feminism has its problems but it’s worth fighting for, worth sacrificing and sweating and crying and breaking down for.)

But how can it have “brought us together” when my implicit goal in feminist centered media justice is to write erased communities into existence—and the result of the work of the ’sister’ down the street is the erasure of the same communities I’m working to write into existence? (And no, I do NOT accept that I or any other fucking Latina out there should just be “grateful” that our work is being talked about while we remain hidden in the shadows. Even now, as a person who explicitly rejects feminism, I KNOW that Latinas have the right to demand that the work we do not be hidden in some dark silent space that nobody talks about and everybody avoids even as everybody else eats all the fruit that we pick. Yes, even Latina writers have the right to fucking unionize and come into the light.)

There is no “feminist movement” because the work being done is not just conflicting with the work of other “sisters”—it’s directly negating it.

Something to think very seriously about.

It’s comforting to know that a lot of serious reflection has occurred in the “blogosphere” after these controversies, but still, there’s major work to be done and wounds to be healed.

As BFP often says, La lucha continua…

Dick Gregory, one of my greatest heroes, was droppin’ KNOWLEDGE at the State of the Black Union. This here is 4 minutes WORTH watching.

Dick Gregory is the comedian and civil rights activist who wrote one of my all time favorite books — “Nigger” — READ it if you haven’t, it’s a powerful but quick read, his attitude is nothing but contagious. He has inspired me to become a stronger person, and to use humor to bring people together.

As an example of Gregory’s daring humor, this is from the book “Nigger” (from a routine he shared in black and white comedy clubs in the early 1960′s):

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night.

Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, “We don’t serve colored people here.” I said, “That’s all right. I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.”

Then these three white boys came up to me and said, “Boy, we’re givin’ you fair warnin’. Anything you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you.” So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, “Line up, boys!”

Above — an amazing video. What a fine community showing. Powerful beautiful words. Kudos to the residents for fighting back so strongly.

Today, December 10th is International Human Rights Day.

And this month, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is tearing down 4,600 units of affordable public housing in four areas of New Orleans, Louisiana and putting up private mixed-income developments, of which only 744 units will be public housing. This is after rents in the city have doubled since the hurricane, thousands of people evicted from their apartments are homeless and being denied the right to return, and most of the public housing units have only endured mild damage from the hurricane.

What is at stake with the demolition of public housing in New Orleans is more than just the loss of housing units: it destroys any possibility for affordable housing in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. Without access to affordable housing, thousands of working class New Orleanians will be denied their human right to return.

Although this situation is unique and urgent in the city of New Orleans, it does not occur in isolation. The plans for redevelopment here are part of a national assault on public housing, in which tens of thousands of homes have been demolished in the past decade.

- Kali Akuno, director of the Stop the Demolition Coalition

People are being illegally denied their right to return. Racism is rampant. Classism is rearing its ugly head. At the most vulnerable time for thousands of displaced renters.

There’s a call to action this week to save NOLA’s public housing units, please check out Peoples’ Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition and Justice for New Orleans. There’s much to be done, and the people of New Orleans, heck people around the world whose right to the city is being threatened on a daily basis, need as much solidarity as possible.

Housing is a civil right, and health and dignity have everything to do with housing.

…where I’m surrounded by 30 amazing progressive and passionate doctors, at the National Physicians Alliance board and committees meeting!We’re having some serious discussions and strategizing together on health care issues, advocating for our patients and the public’s health, and building a more robust organization in the process.

The NPA does not accept ANY money from pharmaceutical companies, AND advocates strongly against physicians and physicians’ organizations having an unhealthy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.

In addition, we’re discussing our access to health initiatives, building our global health workforce initiative, responding to the SCHIP insurance cuts crisis, and developing our race/medicine and institutional racism (undoing racism) analyses.

It’s nothing less than a party. With ideas. And energy. Of a positive future of integrity in medicine. And the coffee is being drunk like the wine it is at meetings like this.

Matt Compton says so very much, in his post “Jena and the Internet”:

When the Jena 6 does make an appearance on progressive blogs today, it’s little more than a passing nod. Huffington Post has a blog post buried below the fold; ThinkProgress gives it a two-sentence news brief.Now, in the wake of the protests, the bloggers are a bit more talkative about Jena, and Ezra Klein is one of those who commented on the late-developing coverage, saying: “[The silence] is telling as to the tenuous relationship between the online left and what’s more traditionally been the left.”

But outside the major blogs, the Internet hasn’t been silent on this issue. On Facebook, there are more than 500 groups, with thousands of members, which reference Jena. On YouTube, there are more than 1,600 videos that mention the town, including this one — which has been seen more than 1 million times. A Google Blog Search today yielded nearly 40,000 results. The Wikipedia entry is 2 months old, 3,000 words long, and contains 39 footnotes. In the progressive Christian community, the blogs are all over this. Obviously, Jena has been a lead topic on the African-American blogosphere (on sites that cover everything from politics to hip-hop) for months.

So why did the big progressive sites take so long to focus on Jena? Ezra’s take that this was an “issue of the traditional left” is off-target. The big-name civil rights figures had to scramble to catch up with Jena. There wasn’t a central planning committee directing yesterday’s protests — the organization came together from the bottom up. The protests in Jena were the result of conversation and debate on the social networks, in blogs, over message boards, through email, and on African-American radio shows. It looked like a true, decentralized, “people-powered” movement.

The big progressive blogs missed the story initially for a variety of reasons, including their and their readership’s demographics, but also because of their focus on developments in Washington and in electoral politics. As the Jena story reached a critical point last week, most blogs were overwhelmingly focused on the Kabuki theater of the Senate debate on Iraq and MoveOn.

Ten thousand people marching on Jena is pretty substantive proof that the online left is bigger and more diverse than readers of Daily Kos. In fact, it extends beyond blogs altogether, as illustrated by the role of social networks in creating and channeling energy towards the Jena protests. The Rev. Al Sharpton said that the protests marked the start of a 21st century civil rights movement. Jena might also mark the start of a new phase in online progressive politics as well.

VERY interesting that 1) most of the nationwide organizing around the Jena 6 was done online and was done through bottom-up organizing (instead of top-down). And 2) most of the major (shall i say mainstream?) progressive blogs did not cover the issue like the mass mobilization movement it was.

There’s a similar post about this issue on DailyKos, and the comments to that post are VERY telling. Seems like people of color and whites see issues quite differently.

On another but similar note, BFP wrote a post entitled “The ‘Nobody’ posting about the Jersey political prisoners” and goes on to share a number of blogs that have written about the queer women of color in Newark, NJ who were targeted for hate crimes when they were actually ATTACKED as part of a hate crime (similarities to the Jena 6). Looks like it’s mostly people of color who have blogged about it, mobilized around it. Apparently it must have been stated somewhere that nobody was writing about this issue. BFP responds with:

The erasure of work through the creation of “nobody” discourse = the continued marginalization of the worker.
Or: It’s funny how “nobody” is always so damn colored.

Reminds me also of the question that arises every few months, predictably, in the progressive blogosphere — “Where are the women of color bloggers?” and “Where are the people of color bloggers?”

(cross-posted from Cure This)

From “Racism’s Cognitive Toll: Subtle Discrimination is more Taxing on the Brain”:

The problem is that we have limited cognitive resources, so when we are solving one problem, we have difficulty focusing on another at the same time. Some psychologists reason from this that subtle racism might actually be more, not less, damaging than the plain antipathy of yesterday, sapping more mental energy. Old-fashioned racism-a “No Negroes Allowed” sign, for example-is hateful and hurtful, but it’s not vague or confusing. It doesn’t require much cognitive work to get it. But if you’re the most qualified candidate for a job, and know it, and still don’t get the job for some undisclosed reason-that demands some processing.

We no longer have separate “Colored” and “white” bathrooms or nooses hanging from trees (well, except maybe in Jena, Louisiana they still do), but we bond together to rail against overt racism. However, the subtle racist themes are ever present, whether in the workplace, schools, or neighborhoods.

Princeton psychologists Jessica Salvatore and J. Nicole Shelton decided to explore this idea in the laboratory. They ran an experiment in which volunteers witnessed a company’s hiring decisions from the inside. They saw the competing resumes of the candidates and the interviewer’s comments and recommendations. This wasn’t a real company, and there were no real people involved, but the volunteers believed it was all real.

The experiment left no doubt about which candidate was best qualified, and sometimes that candidate was chosen, sometimes not. Sometimes the company passed over the best candidate for blatantly racist reasons; the reviewer might comment that the candidate belonged to “too many minority organizations,” for example. Other times the best candidate was simply passed over for no good reason. The psychologists ran the experiment many times, in every combination, so that both black and white volunteers saw black candidates reviewed by whites and by blacks and the same for white candidates.

After witnessing these fair and unfair hiring decisions, the study volunteers took the so-called Stroop test. During this test, the names of colors flash on the screen for an instant, but in the “wrong” colors (the word “red” in green letters, for example), and the idea is to quickly identify the color of the letters. It tests capacity for mental effort, and the idea in this study was to see if experiencing subtle racism interfered with that mental capacity.

(Ok, just as an aside, what a FASCINATING method they used to study cognitive responses).

It did, at least for blacks, and more than the overt racism did. As reported in the September issue of Psychological Science, black volunteers who had witnessed unfair but ambiguous hiring decisions did much less well on the Stroop test, suggesting that they were using all their mental resources to make sense of the unfairness. Interestingly, white volunteers were more impaired by overt racism than by the more ambiguous discrimination. Salvatore and Shelton figure this is because whites rarely experience any racism; they do not even notice the subtle forms of racism, and are thrown off balance when they are hit over the head by overt acts. Many blacks, by contrast, have developed coping strategies for the most hateful kinds of racism; it’s the constant, vague, just-below-the-surface acts of racism that impair performance, day in and day out.

This fortifies an already growing body of evidence around the health effects of subtle racism. Thoughts?

First, check out an amazing Democracy Now! interview with the founders of the Common Ground Collective.

Now, I share with you, a reflection by G Bitch, who’s been living in and blogging about New Orleans for a long time (thanks to BFP for introducing me to GB’s blog):

I was fine yesterday, really I was. Today, I’m pissed, shaking, ready to spit fire and nails full blast, all day, at anything. What is it? Oh, yeah, the minority of voices like the Usual Fuckateer Commenters on national sites (I avoid reading comments for many good reasons and managed to forget them yesterday long enough to read a handful and on The Day of The Floods) and the sometimes willful, usually well-intentioned shifting of the conversation and the focus to the individual, to volunteers and church groups and bright young college-educated 20- and 30-somethings and earnest nonprofits. I love all that and all those people and we need the insight they take away with them to the rest of the country but no amount of volunteer action can fix levees badly designed or maintain them if they are ever fixed, assess taxes and evaluate tax rates, or create an actual workable, understandable, desegregated and at least somewhat fair school system (without quotation marks). Volunteers and individuals can only do so much. And in thanking and congratulating and singing the praise songs of them we cannot, should not forget the larger picture, the larger problems–urban somewhat-malign neglect, testing instead of educating, writing off the poor and brown, blaming victims, sidestepping malice-laced ignorance behind public policy and grants, the twisting of a region’s arm with their children held at gunpoint, a bureaucracy built to fail and thwart instead of serve, the delusion that folks who aren’t home yet aren’t needed, the bullshit idea that we are the blank slate/experiment/testing ground for whoever flies in and says s/he’s got ideas, people’s lives toyed with like shit-stained old domino pieces in the street somewhere.

It’s nice y’all are coming but we need our people back, the people who worked full-time and paid their taxes and shopped at whatever grocery store it was that week while it was still the fuck there, teachers (they weren’t all incompetent or evil), nurses, social workers, x-ray technicians, psychiatric aides, maids, cooks, lawnmower repairmen, college graduates, high school dropouts, the people who were here before and at least made it look like this broken fucking city worked half the time. We held it together. Now we’re unimportant?

The following is applicable to almost any urban neighborhood in the US. But it’s about Newark, New Jersey, after the recent shootings there. [I lived in Newark, NJ for 5 years before moving out to Los Angeles, and blog about Newark often on this site]. There’s been a lot written about the city especially after the shootings, but this piece by Bob Braun is a rare commentary that I believe really addresses the issues.

Newark. It’s a city neglected by the state for as long as I’ve worked there, and that comes close to 50 years.

Since I’ve started working, we’ve built highways around Newark to avoid seeing it and its people. We allow its property taxes to become confiscatory and then complain about the city’s shabbiness.

We allow its schools to become useless warehouses of children until the state takes over–and then the state fails to find a solution, so now talks of giving up. School failure is not simply a “report card” with eye-blurring, meaningless statistics–it’s hopelessness and self-destructive behavior among young.

What grotesque, grim poetry that the latest murders happened in a schoolyard to kids who believed in education.

We smugly congratulate ourselves on small anecdotal measures of success–more black faces on television, Barack Obama–but don’t think much of the folks left behind in even deeper pits of poverty and despair.

Think you got it bad? Try growing up in Newark poor and black, male and young. Tokenism is still the opiate of the white masses, and it’s a dangerous drug.

We tolerate racial isolation that is worse now than when it was politically fashionable to talk about integrating society–and that is no longer fashionable. Face it folks, New Jersey is a state of black and brown cities and white suburbs.

We think an arts center and a stadium and a Starbucks or two represent a Renaissance, when what is really needed are jobs, health care, and housing.

That’s right. I’ve argued extensively with friends in New Jersey that building another stadium (like they do in SO many cities — oh hai, there’s one being built in downtown LA too, as part of urban renewal) or building market-rate (aka expensive) new condos near the newark metro station is NOT the “renaissance” we need.

And oh, how nice would it be to start a medical clinic there, with a legal clinic, microfinancing center, and temporary housing, and classes, and promotora health outreach! (maybe part of the 10 year plan, we’ll see). Ok enough dreaming, back to the last two lines of the piece:

Huffing and puffing and lots of talk now about how this particular set of murders–so cold-blooded, happening to good kids–will change things.

Want to bet?

Bob Braun takes us to task. Check out the full article (ok i posted most of it because it was THAT good) and add your reaction to it on the same link (to counter the racist comments that currently exist there). Thank you, thank you so much, Mr. Braun, for the clarity.

Also, Ameer Washington wrote a nice post on The Daily Newarker about the same, here’s a piece:

The New Jersey Devils, a hot latte, and a dance troupe will not ease the suffering of Newark’s poor minority population. Those Saturday night events and sports are simply entertainment to sidetrack the fact that no one really cares. As long as it looks like someone is doing something to make progress, then that’s all that counts. Baltimore has the Orioles and the Ravens; Detroit has the Tigers, Red Wings, Lions, and Pistons, yet these two cities like Newark are still among the most dangerous in the country. Renaissance is French for “rebirth” and is defined as the revival of learning and culture. What has Newark learned over the past forty years since the 67 riots? Where is the rich culture that was once Newark? Where is the Newark that Council President Mildred Crump spoke about on My 9 News’ show “Real Talk”?

Right on. Interestingly, many of the comments on Ameer’s post and on bob Braun’s post are outwardly racist. To the tune of, that’s ok, the residents will be pushed out of the city as others from Hoboken and NYC move in, it’s really prime real estate. Or, the same old same old — personal responsibility argument. THIS is why the right to the city movement and national alliance is so pressing in our country.

-anjali

native-cartoonimmigration.gif

Does this irk you? It irks me. I saw it at the Women of Color blog (check out the rest of the post here), where Brownfemipower (BFP) breaks it down. Other than portraying native americans as passive wusses, well-intentioned cartoons like this deny the history of native american resistance and as BFP says so well:

They imply that the colonization of indigenous land is parallel to or equivalent to the migration of brown people over falsely created borders.

Exactly.

german kids in blackface
below, an explanation and reaction from the blog black women in europe:

This is an actual ad-campaign by UNICEF Germany!

This campaign is “blackfacing“ white children with mud to pose as “uneducated africans“.

The headline translates “This Ad-campaign developped pro bono by the agency Jung von Matt/Alster shows four german kids who appeal for solidarity with their contemporaries in Afrika”

The first kid says:

“I’m waiting for my last day in school, the children in africa still for their first one.”

second kid:

“in africa, many kids would be glad to worry about school”

third kid:

“in africa, kids don’t come to school late, but not at all” (!)

fourth kid:

“some teachers suck. no teachers sucks even more.”

Besides claiming that every single person in “Africa” isn’t educated, and doing so in an extremely patronising way, it is also disturbing that this organisation thinks blackfacing kids with mud (!) equals “relating to african children”. Also, the kids’ statements ignore the existance of millions of african academics and regular people and one again reduces a whole continent to a village of muddy uneducated uncivilized people who need to be educated (probably by any random westerner). This a really sad regression.

Bottom lines of this campaign are: Black = mud = African = uneducated. White = educated. We feel this campaign might do just as much harm as it does any good. You don’t collect money for helping people by humiliating and trivilaizing them first.

Umm… UNICEF? i’m speechless.

Thanks to brownfemipower for the link to the black women in europe blog piece on the unicef campaign.

I truly wonder how the idea for this ad campaign developed, without the organizers even THINKING it could be racist and patronizing?  I can only imagine what the UNICEF staff or consultants discussed as they came up with this idea.  Any thoughts as to what they discussed?  hit me in the comments below…

…or I’ll kick your ass.  I love Newark, New Jersey. I’ve said it here before. My heart is there, I lived there for 5 years just before moving out to Los Angeles 2 years ago, and I felt connected to the city. So I feel especially passionate when people mess with it. Especially on the 40th anniversary of the race riots there. Ex-mayor Sharpe James, who was a corrupt mayor for 20 years, working as both mayor of Newark and State Senator for NJ, buying votes at each election, and leading the city into poverty, was recently indicted:

Mr. James, who built a patronage machine largely through cult of personality, is accused of illegally charging more than $58,000 on two city credit cards for Jacuzzi dips, alcohol, movies, meals and weekend getaways for tennis tournaments with friends…

Mr. James also faces a charge of conspiring with one of his frequent travel partners, Tamika Riley, to defraud the city by selling her nine parcels of city land for $46,000 that she quickly resold for $665,000…

But it is one thing to indict such a popular politician in this town, another to convict him. Mr. James’s immediate predecessor, Kenneth A. Gibson, was indicted in 2000, years after he stepped down from the mayoralty, on bribery, fraud and tax evasion charges involving his dealings with a suburban school board. Mr. Gibson’s trial ended in a hung jury, but he later pleaded guilty to one minor count.

(From Ex-Mayor of Newark Indicted in Corruption Case, NY Times, July 12, 2007)

I just can’t believe this. But hey, this is the SAME Sharpe James who gave Home Depot the green light to build a warehouse and store on an exact parcel of residential housing land that some of the riots 40 years ago were started on! And — he gave it to Home Depot TAX FREE.

What’s more despicable is the very high chance that Sharpe James will be let off without more than a bit of bail. Mainly because he has money power and the respect of some of the public behind him. Does the name scooter libby ring any similar bells?

Why is it that a man caught with some heroin in his pocket in skid row (downtown LA) can be jailed without bail for possession or intent to sell drugs (and if accused of “intent to sell” he would NEVER EVER EVER again quality for ANY federal assistance or federal housing opportunities and would ALWAYS have to say YES I was convicted of a felony on all job applications, putting him further into a spiral of poverty and homelessness. but a man can rape his whole damn city of newark and get away with it?

enraged,

anjali.

I realize that I mentioned Cure This on this site recently but made no mention of what it was and why. Here’s a quick description:

For two and a half years, “Cure This” was a pipe dream shared by just a handful of us. We envisioned a grand goal: to create an online space to discuss health in its broadest sense, share personal stories, creatively make positive change, and build an online community along the way — connecting us locally, nationally, and perhaps internationally. We envisioned a humble beginning: here and now.

Cure This has now transformed into a reality, and we’re excited beyond words. We welcome it into this world with a loving, gentle nudge and an encouraging whisper in its ear. Let the beautiful journey begin.

Yes! We have 25 users so far and quite a few posts. Lively discussion has begun on the site. We hope it may be a “home” of sorts for important discussion of broad health issues, and a place where stories can be shared and strategy discussed. We hope to feed people to organizations that are doing amazing work, and possibly connect smaller groups who thought that nobody else in the world was doing similar work :>

New features are being implemented daily, thanks to my wonderful, wonderful brother Nalin, who’s doing all the programming and creative design for the site. We’re rolling out a “recommended diaries” section where the most highly voted posts will hang out. We’re rolling out profiles for users (so others can understand some of the context of where they’re coming from, and which will serve as a mechanism for folks to network with each other). A few “how-to’s” will also be posted, for those wondering how to write posts, how to navigate around the site, etc. We’re also down with any suggestions you may have.

I shared the website and the idea with quite a few people at the United States Social Forum last weekend, and the response was total excitement. sweet…

Please check out Cure This and feel free to create a free user account and comment or post as you’d like, on issues of health, activism, SICKO, well-being, neighborhoods, etc. it’s free reign for now! Organic evolution!

Catherine Jones is a friend and an inspirational medical student in New Orleans who took a year off after Hurricane Katrina to assist with the healing efforts there. I recently found out she’s been blogging for a while, and I absolutely must share her site with ya’ll. It’s called Floodlines, and it’s one of the most beautifully written blogs I’ve read, and so grounded in the energy and people of New Orleans. She’s currently the chair of the Community and Public Health commttee of the American Medical Student Association — very fitting. We’ll be working together on some health disparities and anti-racism work in the near future, and I’ll be seeing her soon at the United States Social Forum too :> Here’s an excerpt from one of her posts, check out the rest of her blog too, each post is a treasure:

Yesterday was my first day taking care of adult patients after three long and heartbreaking and sometimes ridiculously joyous months of pediatrics. The whole time I was on Peds, people would ask me why I was going to spend even part of my career taking care of adults and I’d always say, “ ‘Cause you know who my favorite patient is? The 80-year-old lady who comes into the clinic with all her medications in a crumpled up brown paper bag, and dumps them all out on the desk, and says, ‘Whoo, baby, lemme tell you about my pressure!’ “

I could talk to ladies like that all day.

These days, we don’t only talk about blood pressure, and diabetes, and cholesterol and walking and smoking and eating less fried chicken (“I’ll stop smoking tomorrow if you want,” one of my patients told me yesterday, “but if you tell me I can’t have beer and seafood on a Friday after a long crazy week of work, I’m telling you right now, I’m never coming back here!”).

Yesterday, in addition to all those things, my patients and I talked a lot about driving. People are still so separated, especially in the African-American community. Covering hundreds of miles to keep up relationships with loved ones has become part of the fabric of so many people’s everyday lives. I’m amazed how rooted New Orleanians are, how one man who didn’t cross Canal Street for fourteen years (a true story) is now driving three hundred miles almost every week just for a night of holding his daughter.

And our rootedness is complicated: it’s not only about this place, and it’s not only about each other. There’s something else, something that’s maybe even about the whole nature of how we’ve learned to love here. I think about how it’s only that deeper-than-the-deepest-part-of-your-belly kind of love that can justify such repeated, epic, most likely irrational hundred-mile journeys; and then I think about the almost amputated feeling people describe who’ve had to move away for jobs or schools ‘cause there’s so much less of those here these days. What does it mean to have to choose between doing the best for the people you love, and living in the only place in the world where you feel whole? What does it mean that so many among us are (still! almost two years later!) forced to make that choice? Can we legitimately say, under these conditions, that we’re succeeding in rebuilding our home?

Update:  My other buddies Tanyaporn Wansom and Elizabeth Eaman also both have blogs!  Tanya’s a 4th year med student who spent last year doing HIV/AIDS research in Thailand, and runs the Global Health Action Committee at AMSA, and Liz was a past leader of the AMSA Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, People in Medicine committee in AMSA and just road-tripped out to her new home in Tacoma, Washington, where she started work at a wonderful family medicine residency program. Tanya and Liz are both from U.Michigan’s medical school, and i’ve known both of them for a while now.  Ah, I love to surround myself with inspiring women :>

From “In Los Angeles, Where the Police Were Unable to Contain Themselves” (NYTimes editorial, May 12, 2007)

Helped along by its own words and actions, and a way of dealing with the public that can feel more remote than professional, the force has a poor reputation with minorities that predates the Watts riots of 1965, set off by white officers arresting a black man for drunken driving. In 1982, Daryl Gates, then police chief, set a tone the city has yet to live down when he explained — after a black motorist was rendered unconscious by a police chokehold — that blacks might be more likely to die by chokehold than “normal people.” The mayor, Tom Bradley, was African-American, as were the next two police chiefs. That hardly mattered. The South Central unrest in 1992 that followed the acquittal of officers who beat Rodney King, a black man, was the worst in the nation’s history.

In these days of heated national debate over immigration, the police’s edginess seems heightened when immigrants congregate, and in California, that is frequently. Some 600 officers were assigned to the demonstration in MacArthur Park on May 1. They included dozens of officers equipped with face shields and enough body armor to resemble a small army of Robocops.

Immigrant advocates said the riot unit cast a pall over the crowd, which posed no threat and included undocumented workers who prefer to avoid law enforcement altogether. Before long a group of about 30 people at the fringe of some 25,000 demonstrators threw plastic bottles and cans at the police. The police failed to isolate the troublemakers, instead managing to push them into the larger crowd.

Officers seemed clueless or unconcerned about procedures for crowd control and even about allowing journalists to do their jobs. They ineptly ordered the crowd to disperse, in English, from a helicopter that may have been too far away for anyone on the ground to hear.

Several people were wounded by so-called rubber bullets, batons or general manhandling, including working journalists, some of whom are themselves immigrants. An officer caused a hairline fracture to the wrist of a local news camerawoman. Her camera was flung to the ground, but images from other cameras, including from cellphones, showed the police out of control. One video showed an officer using his baton more than once to strike a boy who appeared no older than 12.

It began in Jena’s high school last August when Kenneth Purvis asked the headteacher if black students could break with a long-held tradition and join the whites who sit under the tree in the school courtyard during breaks. The boy was told that he and his friends could sit where they liked.

The following morning white students had hung three nooses there. ‘Bad taste, silly, but just a prank,’ was the response of most of Jena’s whites.

From “Racism goes on trial again in America’s Deep South“, The Observer (UK), May 20, 2007

Black people and the diverse peoples of Latin America share a bond of blood and the struggle for freedom. Whether we are children of Bolivar or the children of la negra Hipolita , we are one.

from former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney’s speech at the immigration rally in Los Angeles, May 1st, 2007.

Two wonderful friends were in town this weekend — my friend Nicole from San Francisco (who is one of my best friends from our medical school days in NJ) and my friend Deepika from New York City (who I go waaaaaay back with) — and we explored LA together. It’s always great to share this city with others, and to hear friends’ opinions of this city that I love.

Worlds were mixing left and right (which I love) — we had dinner and checked out some live jazz with local LA friends of mine, and then we rolled LA style to a friend’s houseparty birthday party late last night. The birthday boy is not in our field — he’s in the film industry (has a production company) — and we’re all in the medical field. But still — we roll in, and immediately I saw friends of friends there! Small world in a big city. Nothing better than that.

There was an interesting discussion at the house party — one of the guys we were talking with is an actor, and he was reflecting on the business of acting while identifying as a Lebanese-American male. He and a few of his lebanese-american actor friends have repeatedly been asked to play terrorists in ads and shows. The conversation reminded me of Danny Hoch’s recent video (now no longer available on YouTube) but that’s described below (from the NYTimes):

This is the scene, by the way, in which Mr. Hoch describes his unfortunate experience as a would-be guest star on ”Seinfeld.” Asked to play a swimming pool attendant who becomes obsessed with the sitcom’s title character, he balks when he is told to do the part with a Spanish accent. ”They didn’t want the real thing,” says Mr. Hoch, with deadpan wonder. ”They wanted somebody who could do the real thing and still be one of them.”

Mr. Hoch was dismissed — to his great relief, he says. Michael Richards, the actor who plays Kramer, had reasoned with him, ”Just pretend you’re a guy who’s doing a Spanish accent.” This may the most dizzying moment of all in a show that, in both its levels of performance and of social implication, keeps the mind reeling.

Just pretend you’re a terrorist…

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