14 hours ago by
Around 50 activists protested across the street from the Hudson County jail this evening, calling for the county government to cancel their controversial 287g agreement with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) after the death of Rolando Meza Espinoza. “No excuses for human rights abuses!” and “What do we want: justice! And when do we want it: Now!,” were just a few of the chants heard across the street from the Hudson County jail in Kearny tonight, recently renamed the Hudson County Corrections & Rehabilitation Center. Signs ranging from “Justice for Rolando” to “America’s Got Room Immigrants Welcome” set the tone before a roughly 30-minute program. On Tuesday, March 28th, Meza, 35, a Honduran native, got into a carpool with his construction colleagues to head to a job site in Redwood, Long Island in what seemed like just another routine day, according to his attorney Manuel Portela. “When he arrived to his construction job site at about 8:30 in the morning, Immigration Customs Enforcement agents were waiting, in a van, in a parking lot, nearby,” continued Portela, a founding partner of the New York City-based Portela Law Firm, P.C. He continued on by stating that ICE agents were looking for a Rolando Meza that received a 2005 order of deportation and was taller, with a darker complexion than Portela’s client, the attorney alleged. After being processed and finger printed in Manhattan, Meza was then transported to the Kearny jail the following day: March 29th. Despite trying to get Meza released from custody, ICE did not comply and Meza was eventually taken to the Jersey City Medical Center ICU on June 8th. On June 12th, seeking an update on his bond hearing, Portela was allegedly informed that Meza died from medical complications two days earlier, specifically due to internal bleeding and hemorrhagic shock. Given the recent incident, the 10th ICE detainee to die while in custody this year, Dina Mansour, the outreach coordinator for the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, called for specific actions from the county in reactions to Meza’s death. “We’re here today to demand justice for Rolando, but in addition to that, we’re hear to call on Hudson County to end their relationship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” Mansour stated. “We’re also hear today to ask for an independent oversight committee to oversee conditions and the things that are going on in the jail today. And we also demand a review of the contract of the medical service provider. An ICE spokesman told the New York Post that Meza was in the country illegally and was arrested as “as part of everyday, targeted enforcement operations.” Other activist groups with representatives in attendance included the American Friends Service Committee, the Bronx Defenders, Faith in NJ, the First Friends of NY/NJ, the Legal Aid Society and Make the Road NJ. A county spokesman could not be reached late Monday evening.   source

June 20, 2017 by
Before we can even process the acquittal of the murders of Philado Castile, we hear about another murder of a black person by the police occupation forces.  This time the victim, Charleena Lyles, is a black woman who was also five months pregnant. Again, there is anger, confusion and calls for justice from the black community of Seattle, where the latest killing took place. Many might remember that it was in Seattle where two members of the local black community attempted to call out the racist and hypocritical liberal white community during a visit by Bernie Sanders. The black activists were subsequently shouted down by a majority of Bernie’s supporters.  One of the issues that the activists wanted to raise was the repressive, heavy-handed tactics of the Seattle Police Department. Some have argued that this rash of killings of black people caught on video or reported by dozens of witnesses is nothing new, that the images of police chocking, shooting and beating poor black and working-class people is now more visible because of technological innovations that make it easier to capture these images. They are partially right. As an internal colony in what some refer to as a prison house of nations that characterizes the U.S. nation state, black communities are separated into enclaves of economic exploitation and social degradation by visible and often invisible social and economic processes. The police have played the role not of protectors of the unrealized human rights of black people but as occupation forces. In those occupied zones of repression, everyone knows that the police operate from a different script than the ones presented in the cop shows that permeate popular entertainment culture in the U.S. In those shows, the police are presented as heroic forces battling the forces of evil, which sometimes causes them to see the law and the rights of individuals as impediments. For many viewers, brutality and other practices is forgiven and even supported because the police are supposedly dealing with the evil irrational forces that lurk in the bowels of the barrios and ghettos in the imagination of the public. It was perfectly plausible for far too many white people in the U.S. that a wounded Mike Brown, already shot and running away from Darren Wilson, the cop who eventually murdered Michael, would then turn around and run back at Wilson, who claimed he had no other choice but to engulf Michael in a hail of bullets killing this “demon” as Wilson described him. And unfortunately, many whites will find a way to understand how Charleena, who called the police herself to report a burglary, would then find herself dead at the hands of the police she called. But the psychopathology of white supremacy is not the focus here. We have commented on that issue on numerous occasions. The concern is with some black people who have not grasped the new conditions that we find ourselves in—that black people don’t understand that there will never be justice as defined by the cessation of these kinds of killings.  Why? Because incarceration, police killings, beatings, charging our children as adults and locking them away for decades, all of these are inherent in the logic of repression that has always characterized the relationship between the U.S. racist settler-state and black people. In other words, if Black people really want this to stop we have to come to the difficult conclusion, for some, that the settler-colonial, capitalist, white supremacist state and society is the enemy of black people and most oppressed people in the world. Difficult for many because it means that Black people can no longer deny the fact that we are not equal members of this society, that we are seen as the enemy and that our lives, concerns, perspectives, history and desires for the future are of no concern to the rulers of this state and for vast numbers of ordinary whites. That is why Charleena Lyles joins Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, John Crawford and Philando Castile, just a few of the names of our people victimized in the prime of their lives by the protectors of white power wearing police uniforms. She will not be the last. The logic of neoliberal capitalism has transformed our communities and peoples into a sector of the U.S. population that is no longer needed. This new reality buttressed by white supremacist ideology that is unable to see the equal value of non-European (white) life has created a precarious situation for black people, more precarious, than any other period in U.S. history. African (Black) people are a peaceful people and believe in justice.  But there can be no peace without justice. For as long as our people are under attack, as long as our fundamental collective human rights are not recognized, as long as we don’t have the ability to determine our own collective fate, we will resist, we will fight, and we will create the conditions to make sure that the war being waged against us will not continue to be a one- sided conflict. The essence of the People(s)-Centered Human Rights framework is that the oppressed have a right to right to resist, the right to self-determination, and the right to use whatever means necessary to protect and realize their fundamental rights. Charleena, we will say your name and the names of all who have fallen as we deliver the final death-blow against this organized barbarism known as the U.S. source

June 20, 2017 by
President Donald Trump has asked Cuba to return American fugitive Assata Shakur to the United States, but a top Cuban official has said that the country's government has no plans to. "I can say it is off the table," Gustavo Machin, deputy director for American affairs at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reportedly told Yahoo News. Assata Shakur was a member of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and 1970s, and was convicted in 1977 of murdering a police officer. Many believe Shakur was targeted and framed by COINTELPRO, an FBI-sanctioned program that was used to neutralize people and organizations involved in the Civil Rights Movement (among others). Shakur served six and a half years in prison before escaping in 1979 and fleeing to Cuba, where she received political asylum from Fidel Castro. She has lived in Cuba ever since, and remains on the FBI's most wanted fugitives list, with a $2 million bounty. Artists like The Roots, Jay Z, and Common, who has a song titled "A Song For Assata," have all mentioned or paid homage to her legacy in their music. Last week, President Donald Trump revealed plans to cancel policy from the Obama Adminstration that eased longstanding tensions between America and Cuba. He then called for Cuba to "return the fugitives from American justice, including the return of the cop killer Joanne Chesimard," referring to Shakur by her former name. Machin said Cuba has no plans to return her to the U.S., because its government believes that she was unjustly imprisoned in the first place. “There are very serious doubts about that case," Machin said. "We consider that a politically motivated case against that lady." source  

June 19, 2017 by
Even over 150 years after slavery, black families still lag centuries behind whites in household wealth. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas. They carried some historic news: Slavery had finally and completely ended, they declared. All of America’s enslaved people were now free, some two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. That day in June would soon become “Juneteenth,” a holiday still celebrated in communities across the United States. African Americans have now been free from slavery for over 150 years. Over the course of those years, the United States has made some appreciable and even impressive progress. In 1964, passage of the Civil Rights Act toppled Jim Crow. A year later, the Voting Rights Act challenged discriminatory voting laws. We’ve even seen the election — and re-election — of the nation’s first black president. So why, amid all this progress, does the Juneteenth holiday still resonate so powerfully for so many Americans? Because Juneteenth reminds us how far we have yet to go. Racial inequality remains one of the top issues of our time. Black households, research shows, continue to lag economically behind their white counterparts, in both income and wealth. Last summer, the Institute for Policy Studies and the Corporation for Enterprise Development explored that inequality in a report called the The Ever-Growing Gap, which focused on the essential role wealth plays in achieving financial security and opportunity. Over the past 30 years, the report found, the average wealth of white families grew at three times the rate of growth for black families. If those trends continue, black families would have to work another 228 years to amass the amount of wealth white families already hold today. That’s almost as long as the 245 years that legal slavery stained colonial America. Over the course of those years, slave labor built the backbone of America’s economy — and gave white families a 245-year head start on building household wealth and overcoming economic insecurity. Juneteenth helps us remember this history — and we need to remember. The conventional narrative around wealth building in America simply ignores slavery and its aftermath. Those with more than ample wealth, the narrative goes, fully merit what they have. And others merit less. “Most people look at the story of inequality through the lens of deservedness: People get what they deserve,” writes my colleague Chuck Collins in his book Born on Third Base. The standard narrative, he says, implies “that people are poor because they don’t try as hard, have made mistakes, or lack wit and wisdom.” And the rich, the same story goes, have worked “harder, smarter, or more creatively.” This “deservedness” narrative never acknowledges the discrimination and other barriers that have blocked black economic progress, or the public policies that have kept these barriers intact — things like housing and employment discrimination, mass incarceration, and tax policies that favor the wealthy over poor people of all colors. It’s time to take a close look at federal policies and the role they play in keeping the growth of black wealth stagnant. This Juneteenth, let’s rededicate ourselves to closing the racial wealth divide. source

June 16, 2017 by
On a gray day last October, teachers across Seattle wore a shirt that read BLACK LIVES MATTER. They knew there might be criticism. John Muir Elementary in south Seattle had done this in September and received a bomb threat and hate mail from across the U.S. But they did, and the day was, by most accounts, uneventful. Some kids got it – most didn’t. Just another school day. And then, a backlash, but this time not from outsiders. White parents from the city’s tonier neighborhoods wrote to their principals to say they were displeased. A Black Lives Matter day was too militant, too political and too confusing for their young kids, they said. Students run into school at Laurelhurst Elementary. After a Black Lives Matter event last fall, the principal there received several frustrated emails from parents. Some danced around their discomfort, others snarked in ALL CAPS. These parents would not talk to us, so we made a public records request for their emails. Their names were blacked out, which is why they are not named here. Wrote a parent at Laurelhurst Elementary: “Can you please address … why skin color is so important? I remember a guy that had a dream. Do you remember that too? I doubt it. Please show me the content of your character if you do.” From Eckstein Middle School in Wedgwood: “What about red and black or yellow and white and black? How does supporting Black Lives Matter help that gap?” And from Bryant Elementary in Ravenna: “I’m writing to share what my 9-year-old daughter told me about what she learned in class regarding the Black Lives Matter discussion. She said she ‘felt bad about being white.’ And that ‘police lie and do bad things.’” These three schools are in northeast Seattle, one of the whitest, most affluent corners of the city. They are also in staunchly liberal neighborhoods dotted with rainbow yard signs that say “All are welcome.” “This is what I’ve come to call Seattle’s passive progressiveness,” said Stephan Blanford, a Seattle school board member whose doctoral research focused on race and public education. “We vote the right way on issues. We believe the right way. But the second you challenge their privilege, you see the response.” Blanford is black and represents the Central District, the historic African-American heart of the city. He wasn’t surprised by the emails from parents after the Black Lives Matter day. Middle-class white parents have asked him for help getting their kids out of Madrona Elementary, which is 44 percent black.  “No one will say to me, ‘We don’t want our kids to go to a black school,’ but I believe that’s frequently the underlying reason,” Blanford said. Black Lives Matter emerged from a Twitter hashtag in 2012, after the death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teenager whose killer was acquitted. The movement gained momentum as videos emerged of police officers killing black men, and from there became a rallying cry against racism. Those three words say that black lives haven’t mattered enough in this country, and they should. Reaction to the Black Lives Matter day might have been more muted had Sarah Talbot, the principal at Laurelhurst, not sent an email afterward to parents. “I heard from a few parents concerned about what teachers weren’t saying,” Talbot wrote. “They weren’t saying anything about lives — the lives of students, parents and families — who are not black. I worried about that too. Would our Native students feel left out, since they face the same (or worse) effects of systemic racism in schools and outside of schools that black students face? What about the majority of the students in our school who are white? They also live with the effects of a society that unfairly prioritizes their lives. “But then I remembered that at Laurelhurst Elementary, we have a 20 percent difference in the growth of black students’ reading skills when compared to the average growth of all students at our school." After school, a mom learned that her 5-year-old was asked to stand up in front of his class and talk about Black Lives Matter and his shirt. By the end of the day, he had taken it off and shoved it in his cubby. The Laurelhurst Blog, which doesn't name its writer, wrote to media a week later: “Many parents contacted the Laurelhurst Blog and found the email disturbing, divisive and offensive, and one called it ‘racially biased.’" The blogger continued, “Talbot says there is ‘injustice’ and there are ‘gaps’ – but where are her examples? Since she didn’t provide any, is it her own invented bias that she is bringing to the community, creating divisiveness?” Director Blanford urged me to interview Jill Geary, the school board director representing northeast Seattle. Geary, is a white mom of five with a daughter at Laurelhurst Elementary; maybe she could explain parent thinking, he said. Geary doesn’t see herself as a total insider, however. She was once an administrative law judge who focused on special education; years ago she refused to join other parents in trying to oust a program for highly traumatized kids at Laurelhurst. She sighed a little as she explained: “They would prefer to be ‘all lives matter,’ because then their child is included in the conversation about mattering,” she said. “What they don’t think is, would a black mother feel like her child matters, based upon the way that history, the nation, the city, the institutional structures, have treated her child? That’s not the process they’re using.” Geary shared a story from earlier in the year: A sticker that read “HCC = APPartheid” was placed outside Thurgood Marshall Elementary. HCC stands for Highly Capable Cohort; APPartheid is a play on what the program was called before – APP, or Advanced Placement Program. The sticker's message: The gifted program is overwhelmingly white. Last year, 1 percent of the program was black, even though the district was 16 percent black.  “We got very angry emails about that, as though we had sponsored it,” Geary said. “They were upset their kid was being shamed for being in HCC. I think that’s the same instinct.” When Geary spoke with a parent upset about the Black Lives Matter day last fall, she said, “I know your child matters. You know your child matters. But I’m not sure that we as a society have made it clear that we believe black children matter in the way that white children matter.’” But Geary said caring a lot is part of the culture at affluent schools like Laurelhurst, where parents have time and money to get involved.  “There’s a portable on the playground, and we are arming ourselves to get rid of it,” Geary said. “I hate to say it, but that is privilege amplified.” Director Jill Geary tells Principal Sarah Talbot she supports the Black Lives Matter effort.   I asked Jennifer Harvey, a religion professor in Des Moines, Iowa, to read these emails and share her thoughts. Harvey recently had an opinion piece in The New York Times titled, “Are we raising racists?” “As a white person myself, I hear and I know how white people think about race, and I wasn't surprised to see just a basic lack of understanding of how racism functions,” Harvey said. “This would not be unique to Seattle liberal whites, nor among liberals who didn't vote for Trump. These kind of sentiments are very deep seated.” She continued: “What I see when I read these emails is this utter failure to value black life. Because if you value black life you go, ‘Oh my god, even if I don't understand this, why is it that African-Americans need to have this movement for black lives, and what is it like to be a 10-year-old child who's black? “It's like there's this total white vortex that just screams out from these emails, whether they are being nasty intentionally or just saying, 'I don't get it.' They make me really sad.” Many parents were also supportive of the Black Lives Matter day.   Not that all parents bristled at the Black Lives Matter day. Several cheered on the school in their emails. And when I contacted members of the Laurelhurst PTA members, two moms replied that they supported it. But there was also a mom heartbroken by how the day had played out for her son. “I was feeling scared to drop them off at school, [my son] in particular, being at Laurelhurst as a brown student in a sea of white peers and white staff,” she wrote to Principal Talbot. That morning, the mom and her son talked about what his Black Lives Matter shirt meant. “He told me he felt scared,” the mom wrote. “As we parked, he said, ‘Mom! I just got a good idea. If I get white paint and put it all over my body to cover the brown so they can’t see it, then people will stop killing us black and brown people.’ “I cried so many tears of sadness, fear, anger and feelings of lost hope yesterday morning,” she said. After school, she learned that her 5-year-old was asked to stand up in front of his class and talk about Black Lives Matter and his shirt. By the end of the day, he had taken it off and shoved it in his cubby. “I asked him why, and he said because he was tired of people asking him about it and wanting to take his picture,” the mom wrote. “I was so angry all I could do was pick him up, hug him so tightly and said, ‘I can see why you chose not to wear it. That sounds uncomfortable and unfair.’” When I told Director Blanford this story, he said it made sense the boy was overwhelmed. “In his day-to-day experience as a student, he's probably pretty invisible, and then all of a sudden, he’s the celebrity in the classroom." Referring back to the critical parents, he said, “The intersection of class and race always has the potential to be explosive. This was a nice powder keg, and it just needed the match."   source

June 16, 2017 by
On Violence and Forgiveness: Mimetic Theory 101 Violence begets violence. Victims of violence, when they have and use the power to retaliate, perpetuate cycles of violence that eventually blur the distinctions between the original attacker and the one attacked. Sometimes, victims of violence without the power to retaliate against their attackers begin new cycles of violence against those whom they have the power to harm. Forgiveness is the best hope we have for stopping violence in its tracks. Forgiveness makes repentance possible because it is through being forgiven that we are able to see our own wrong without the blinders of fear that keep us in our violent ways lest we make ourselves more vulnerable to counterattack. In the shelter of forgiveness, we can lay down our arms and take up the hard work of repairing the damage we have caused in order to reconcile ourselves to those we have hurt and make at-one-ment/atonement. I believe and teach all of this as an aspiring peacemaker, guided by my Christian faith, my commitment to social justice, and René Girard’s mimetic theory. Mimetic theory’s great insight about conflict and forgiveness is that humans are imitative creatures who learn what to desire from one-another, and conflicts can arise from shared desire. Once violent conflicts arise, both parties to the conflict become mimetic doubles – or mirror images of each other as they lose their individuality in the fog of violence. At that point, there are two ways out. One is for both parties to unite against an outside party, a scapegoat, onto whom they can cast their anger. The other is for one party to lay down arms and begin a cycle of forgiveness. Scapegoating displaces the violence; forgiveness dissolves it. Major Pitfalls in Mimetic Theory and Race Relations That said, there are at least two major potential pitfalls to avoid within this understanding of the nature of violence and forgiveness. I want to speak of these pitfalls in the context of systemic racism. The first pitfall is the assumption that, because of the reciprocal nature of violence, today’s victims of systemic racism can become tomorrow’s enforcers of it. The second pitfall is the assumption that, because forgiveness breaks the cycle of violence, the onus is on racial minorities to begin the dismantling of racism, since they are the people in a position to forgive. Both pitfalls are dangerous, faulty conclusions that may arise from misapplying mimetic theory to peacemaking and racial reconciliation. Pitfall 1: Believing in the Danger of “Reverse Racism” White people in the United States (my home country and thus the one I am most prepared to critique) are in no danger of reverse racism. None. The roots of systemic racism penetrate so deeply into the foundation of this country and the branches reach so far and wide that racism cannot be uprooted and then replanted to ensnare a separate group of victims. Any confusion on this issue is a misunderstanding of what systemic racism is. Although violence is self-perpetuating and offended parties often become offenders, deep, sustained and systemic violence by a dominant group over and against another group is harder to reciprocate than individual or small-group violence. In the case of systemic racism in the United States, there is no way for racial minorities to wield the powers of violence and oppression against white people that have been wielded against them. The pervasiveness of racism and the power structures keeping it in place are such that the victims and perpetrators cannot simply be swapped out. It is possible for individual African Americans, for example, to hold a degree of power over individual white people, but they cannot inflict the burdens of generations of slavery, physical violence, economic oppression, housing and employment restriction, squashing of progress, stereotypes about intelligence and beauty, and all-around dehumanization that white supremacy has inflicted. Those who study Girard are acutely aware of how easily victims can become victimizers. But the system of white supremacy cannot easily be reversed, nor are those on the underside of it trying to reverse it, but rather dismantle it. There are better ways to apply Girardian thought to race relations than worrying about reverse racism. In fact, the Girardian understanding of scapegoating helps shed light on the origins of racism in this country. Indentured servitude, for black and white people, preceded slavery. In the earliest days of colonialism, most Europeans who sailed to the not-yet-United-States were indentured servants. Poor and indentured blacks and whites found common cause to unite against wealthy white rulers, most famously in Bacon’s Rebellion. After the uprising of hundreds of blacks and whites together, the ruling class sought to protect its rule by broadening the divide between blacks and poor or indentured whites. Dividing those who would unite against them, the white ruling class forged a faux solidarity with poor whites by institutionalizing black slavery as a scapegoat, creating myths and lies to “justify” even greater levels of cruelty against slaves in order to make poor whites feel superior. They used divisions of race to break bonds of class. And the lies of institutional racism have become the structural myths on which our culture is built. They have penetrated every aspect of personal, social, cultural and economic life and created physical and psychological barriers that imprison minds and hearts. Lies told white Americans that bearers of dark skin were inhuman, dangerous, violent, hypersexual, inherently lazy, condemned. When black skin was demonized, cruelty became righteous. The institutions of racism have changed form but not content. From slavery through Jim Crow through legal segregation and now with de facto segregation manifesting itself in a disproportionately dark prison-industrial complex, environmental racism and concentrated poverty, institutional racism is a fact that has shaped black lives shrouded in a myth of whitewash and denial. Myths that shape lives also poison minds. Racism is a mimetic contagion from which no white person is immune, because white privilege and all the myths that “normalize” it cloud our understanding of racial oppression. We must continually struggle to open our eyes. So how do we dismantle racism? Pitfall 2: Demanding Forgiveness As Conditional to Repentance We are often blind to our violence in the midst of committing it, recognizing our faults only through the light of forgiveness. When it is clear that our “enemy” means us no harm, we begin to look inward, wonder why we called them “enemy” in the first place, and hopefully recognize our errors. In Jesus’s nonviolent death, hearts are broken open as the innocence of the victim is recognized.  In his revenge-less resurrection, we are given the opportunity to turn from our worst selves to our best. But the logic that forgiveness precedes repentance may be seen as an extra burden placed upon those already grievously injured. The truth is, forgiveness before repentance is a burden, but it is one that Christ has already borne.  It is not something that can be demanded by an offender, because that compounds the offense. The offended may choose to offer it freely, but an offender need not “wait” for it. If we can recognize that we are in the wrong, then we see through the lens of forgiveness that Christ has made available to all humanity, regardless of faith. To my fellow white people, then, I want to say that, as we open our eyes to the systemic injustice all around us, we need not be paralyzed by fear of vengeance or despair upon seeing the worst within ourselves. We are forgiven already, by Jesus who suffers with all victims, and, largely, by the racial minorities who have suffered at our expense. We must recognize the forgiveness we have already received and start acting upon it. Even as systemic violence continues, those oppressed on racial grounds overwhelmingly do for us what far too many white people failed and continue to fail to do for them: treat us as if we are human. That should be enough to awaken us and call us to action. Consequences of Pitfalls: Perpetuating Racism If we fall into the dangerous and interconnected pitfalls of fearing reverse racism and demanding forgiveness, we deepen and perpetuate systemic racism. The fear that reverse racism can happen belies the systemic nature of racism and denies the reality of white privilege (and when white privilege is denied, it cannot be dismantled or transformed). For example, it is through the misunderstanding of systemic racism that some people can look at things like this list of “10 Ways You Can Actively Reject Your White Privilege” and consider it racist. Asking white people to take up minimal space in anti-racism activities is not a racist request; it is a necessary step for allowing perspectives too long been silenced to be heard. Likewise, recognizing that white people will always have a degree of racism is an acknowledgment of how deeply generations of racism have infected our minds in ways we might not consciously acknowledge; a diagnosis, not an insult. But fear of reverse racism can be even more harmful in that it perpetuates the lie sewn into our social fabric and drilled into our conscience: dark is dangerous. That is a fabrication and a projection. Throughout the history of this country, white people have been overwhelmingly dangerous to racial minorities. Racial minorities live with the injustice of being feared, an injustice that endangers them every day. That injustice is compounded by the fact that they forgive white ignorance, denial and micro-aggression every day, yet systemic racism remains intact. Conclusion: Mimetic theory can shed light on systemic racism as the foundational violence of our country and help us understand how racial fears and prejudices are perpetuated through the mimetic networks of human relations. And positive mimesis, in turn, can disseminate antidotes to racial prejudice: respect, understanding, compassion. Let us avoid the pitfalls of misapplied mimetic theory and instead dismantle the American myth of racism. We have a lot of work to do. source

June 16, 2017 by
Stanford’s Center on Poverty and Inequality’s annual “State of the Union” report found profound and persisting inequalities in the United States in areas like employment, health and housing. Despite improvements in education, social mobility and many critical areas, large racial and ethnic disparities still exist – and are sometimes even increasing – for other important outcomes, according to a recently published Stanford report that examined racial and ethnic disparities in the United States. The Center on Poverty and Inequality’s “State of the Union,” an annual report examining key trends in poverty and inequality outcomes, detailed the “profound racial and ethnic inequalities that persist in many domains,” notably in housing, employment and health. The Center on Poverty and Inequality’s annual report finds profound racial and ethnic disparities in employment, health and housing in the United States. (Image credit: Lawrence Sawyer / Getty Images) The American Dream? The continuing disparities in home ownership in the United States may best illustrate some of the inequities faced by black and Hispanic families. Less than half of black families (41 percent) and Hispanic families (45 percent) live in owner-occupied housing, as of 2014. For white families, that figure is 71 percent. Home ownership helps families accumulate wealth and take advantage of sizable tax savings. By contrast, being forced into the rental market can set off a domino effect of events that then make it more difficult to exit from poverty, the report said. Roughly 1 in 6 black and Hispanic households spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing, leaving them with fewer resources to devote to their children’s education, health care and other basic needs. This fundamental disparity, the report said, can be traced back to the home-mortgage expansion that accompanied President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” which was enacted some 80 years ago. Families of color were, in effect, excluded from receiving these mortgages. While white families took advantage of them and prospered, other families were left behind and are still trying to catch up. “We typically look to policy as a vehicle for equalizing,” said David Grusky, a professor of sociology and director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality. “But here our policy has fallen short by that standard. The very policies designed to be equalizing, like the commitment to making mortgages widely available, in fact worked to introduce inequalities.” The persisting earnings gap has made it even more difficult for African Americans and Hispanics to catch up. In 2010, median earnings for black males were 32 percent lower than median earnings for their white counterparts. The earnings gap between white and Hispanic men grew from 29 to 42 percent between 1970 and 2010. The earnings gap between black and white males has narrowed by only 7 percentage points in four decades. ‘Two Americas’ Since 1980, racial and ethnic disparities in poverty in the U.S. have remained largely unchanged, resulting in what the researchers characterize as “two Americas.” Whereas blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans are more likely to experience the high-poverty America, Asians and whites are more likely to experience the low-poverty America. One in four blacks, one in four Native Americans and one in five Hispanics are classified as poor. By contrast, only 1 in 10 whites and 1 in 10 Asians are poor. The authors note that whites make up most of the nation’s poor, but that is because there are more whites in the total population. This disparity arises in part because of racial and ethnic gaps in employment, health and wealth: Employment: The employment rate for African American men has been 11 to 15 percentage points lower than that for whites in every month since January 2000. During the Great Recession, African American men’s employment rates fell further and recovered more slowly than did white men’s employment. Health: There are also profound racial disparities in illness and death. For example, blacks are two to three times more likely than whites to suffer from hypertension and diabetes, leading in turn to higher rates of cardiovascular disease. Wealth: In 2013, a white family’s median wealth was $141,900. The study states that, “for every dollar of wealth held by the median white family, the median African American family had less than 8 cents in wealth, and the median Hispanic family had less than 10 cents.” Addressing inequality early The report argues that many fewer disparities would develop later in life by “equalizing starting conditions.” The deck is stacked against blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans because they are dealt, as the report states, an immediate “one-two punch” at the very moment of birth. They are not just more likely to be born into families with less wealth, education and income, but they are also more likely to live in poor neighborhoods where high-quality schools are more difficult to find, crime is high and other amenities are unavailable. The report states that simply equalizing starting conditions wouldn’t eliminate racial and ethnic inequalities, but would at least help reduce them. It is not enough to equalize starting conditions because blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans are exposed later in their life to “educational, labor market and criminal justice institutions riddled with discriminatory practices.” “It is nonetheless especially attractive to cut off at the source those processes of cumulative advantage and disadvantage that convert smaller differences early in life to larger ones in adulthood,” the report states. “A distinctly American commitment,” said Grusky, “is that, when the race begins, everyone should be lined up at the same starting place. This commitment is not being honored. We don’t even come close to living up to what we claim matters to us.” Encouraging signs For all these problems, the report also stressed that there are some encouraging signs. Academic performance for all students improved between 1990 and 2015, and black and Hispanic students experienced the fastest improvement. The researchers attributed this result to early-education initiatives that equalized opportunities in early childhood, but they also cautioned that such success is still only partial, noting that “Hispanic students lag almost two grade levels, and black students lag roughly two to two-and-a-half grade levels behind whites.” The report also found a declining gap in social mobility. Although “the persistence of affluence is stronger for whites, while the persistence of poverty is stronger for blacks,” the black-white gap in the persistence of poverty has “closed significantly.” For white children born into the 20th percentile of household income, the probability of moving upward is about 75 percent – a figure that hasn’t changed much since 1945. Black children in that same 20th percentile now have about a 70 percent probability of moving up. In 1945, this probability was less than 50 percent. The study attributes policies such as Head Start, school desegregation and school finance reform as contributors to this change. Stanford scholars contributing to the report were Marybeth Mattingly, research consultant at the Center on Poverty and Inequality; Juan Pedroza, doctoral student in sociology; Mark Duggan, professor of economics; Valerie Scimeca, research assistant at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research; Sean Reardon, professor of education; Erin Fahle, doctoral student in education; Colin Peterson, doctoral student in sociology; C. Matthew Snipp, professor of sociology; Florencia Torche, professor of sociology; and Charles Varner, associate director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality. The report also included research from scholars at Brandeis University, Cardiff University (Wales), Duke University, Harvard University, New York University, University of Texas, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine.   Media Contacts David Grusky, Center on Poverty and Inequality: (650) 724-6912, grusky@stanford.edu Milenko Martinovich, Stanford News Service: (650) 725-9281, mmartino@stanford.edu source

May 29, 2017 by
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is considering the removal of her city's Confederate monuments, as New Orleans did just days ago. "The city does want to remove these," Pugh told the Baltimore Sun. "We will take a closer look at how we go about following in the footsteps of New Orleans." Earlier this month, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered a speech that drew widespread attention, explaining why he had ordered the removal of that city's confederate monuments. Mayor Catherine Pugh speaks at a news conference at City Hall in Baltimore on April 4. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivers a speech on May 19, 2017, explaining why he ordered the removal of four Confederate monuments, Among Baltimore's monuments to the Confederacy is a statue of Roger Taney, the Supreme Court chief justice who wrote the infamous Dred Scott decision that said, among other things, that African-Americans could not be citizens. The city also has statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Pugh suggested one way to get rid of the statues, telling the Sun, "It costs about $200,000 a statute to tear them down. ... Maybe we can auction them?" The previous mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, ordered the placement of interpretive plaques at the monuments. One such plaque, placed at a statue of Lee and Jackson, states: "These two men became subjects of the Lost Cause movement which portrayed them as Christian soldiers and even as men who opposed slavery. Today current scholarship refutes these claims. These larger-than-life representations of Lee and Jackson helped perpetuate the Lost Cause ideology, which advocated for white supremacy, portrayed slavery as benign and justified secession." Carolyn Billups, former president of the Maryland chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, told the Sun, "I find it interesting that Baltimore city has that kind of money to move statues when there are problems with crime and schools. I would think that would be more of a priority." source

May 29, 2017 by
A man whose interaction with Metro Transit Police went viral after an officer asked him about his immigration status is being deported, reports CBS Minneapolis. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say Ariel Vences-Lopez was detained for immigration violations on May 15. The day before, Vences-Lopez was captured on cellphone video being questioned by a transit officer aboard a light rail train. The officer asks Vences-Lopez if he is in the country illegally. The man who shot the video, Minneapolis artist Ricardo Levins Morales, interrupts the officer and questions his authority in terms of immigration matters. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers took Vences-Lopez into custody on May 16. Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington said in a statement posted on the department's Facebook page that the officer who questioned Vences-Lopez had been terminated. Ariel Vences-Lopez, left, with back to camera, being questioned about his immigration status by unidentified Metro Transit officer in video captured by Ricardo Levins Morales Ricardo Levins Morales/Facebook "We … are working to reestablish the trust that was broken by this isolated incident," Harrington said. The statement said Metro Transit Police aren't "trained or empowered authorized to act as federal immigration authorities." The chief says in the statement that Vences-Lopez was booked at Hennepin County Jail after the incident in question for not paying the fare to ride the light rail. "There was no reference to his immigration status in the police reports, nor did MTPD notify ICE or any other agency of any immigration-related concerns," Harrington said. A federal immigration judge ordered Vences-Lopez to be deported to Mexico on May 23. source

May 29, 2017 by
Stanley Greene was a war photographer, but his photographs were like poetry. He died this month, at the age of 68, after being treated for cancer. Greene, who was one of the few African-American photojournalists who worked internationally covering conflicts in Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwanda, and Serbia, often stayed longer, and got closer, than any other journalists dared to. His photographs stood out, in part because of their daring, but also because of their sensibility. Before becoming a war photographer, Greene was a fashion photographer. And he didn’t leave those days completely behind him. His fingers were always heavy with rings. He loved bandanas, and he often wore a pair of John Lennon sunglasses. Stanley Greene, an American photojournalist was known for his brutal yet lyrical photographs. “He was a gorgeous man, and I think he also really appreciated people who had some style,” says Nina Berman, who worked with Greene at the photo agency he helped found, NOOR Images. “So, you'd walk on the street with Stanley, and he would notice how other people dress. Which is very unusual in the photojournalism community, as people tend to dress all the same.” Greene brought that appreciation for beauty and found it even in the darkest places. For example, in Chechnya during the war in the 2000s.  “His most famous picture may be …. this woman in the window, with kind of misty rain and fog on the window, looking out, and she had you know, lost her child,” says Berman. Zelina, after the death of her child. Grozny, April 2001. This photo is heartbreaking, but also gorgeous, reminiscent almost of work by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. “He made remarkable pictures of women, which is another thing that’s really different about Stanley,” says Berman. “Most war photographers only photograph men; Stanley didn’t just do that, he wanted to see everybody.” Asya with an AK-47 assault rifle in a car in Chechnya, 2006. But going to conflict zones, and looking at people — really seeing them — came at a cost. In his book "Black Passport," Greene wrote about how covering war changed him, and in some ways broke him. “I think you can only keep positive for eight years,” Greene wrote. “If you stay at it longer than that, you turn. … I see it in myself, and I see it in all my friends and colleagues. We are all victims of post-traumatic stress and deal with it in different ways. And we’re not beautiful butterflies anymore. We’ve become moths. And what a moth does, it flies into the flame.” But Berman says that Greene would rarely talk about how his experiences covering war impacted him. She says one time, she and other photographers from the NOOR photo agency were meeting on a boat in Amsterdam, and Greene came too, shortly after arriving from Aleppo.  “He comes walking in, and his hands were literally like cut, and bloody, and infected,” says Berman. “And he was just was matter of fact about it. He was an extremely stoic person." Iyad in Aleppo, Syria. 2013.  Greene was born in Brooklyn, New York, and died in Paris, France. He moved abroad, in part, because he felt more appreciated outside of the United States. “There are only a handful of [American photo editors] that would give Stanley assignments,” says Berman. “Maybe his style was just too unique and innovative. Maybe because he spoke his mind.” As a teenager, Greene was a member of the Black Panthers and an activist who spoke out against the war in Vietnam.  It’s hard not to compare Greene to another African-American expat, James Baldwin, who moved to France to escape prejudice in 1948. “And you know James Baldwin has this amazing quote, ‘Artists are here to disturb the peace,’ and I think that’s true for Stanley as well,” says Berman. “He would just exchange the word artist for journalist — ‘journalists are here to disturb the peace’ and upset your morning, to show you things you don't want to see, so you won't be so complacent and compliant. And that was Stanley. He was a really good journalist." source