"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Race’

Overcriminalization Begets Stop & Frisk-Gate: New York’s Police Union Worked With the NYPD To Illegally Set Arrest And Summons Quotas

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm

https://electedface.com/images/Artical_Images/6%20stop%20and%20frisk.jpgOldspeak: “Behold! The fruits of Prison Industrial Complex Overcriminalization! Specific targeting of communities of color for “Law Enforcement”, like suspicion-less stop and frisks, bogus arrests and baseless summonses to meet “performance goals”.  All while the police union denies it’s even happening. At a time when crime in NYC is at record lows, police are still being pressured to make more arrests and issue more summonses, mostly to people who’ve done nothing wrong.   Not meeting “activity goals” = bad cop. This opens them up to various forms of retaliation and punishment. Why?  The Prison Industrial Complex needs fuel to keep stay in business, grow larger and larger with profits. That fuel must be extracted at all costs.  Poor people of color are its fuel.  It is why more black men are in prison now, than were slaves in 1865. It’s why black and brown people are overrepresented in the U.S. prison system.  It’s why brown people are being stopped, seized, detained and deported at historic rates. It is why America accounts for 5% of world population, but close to 25% of the worlds prison population and imprisons more people than any nation on earth. Law enforcement and mass incarceration is big business in America. And rank and file officers sadly are stuck in the middle.  Being encouraged by superiors to make bogus stops, arrests and summons at the end of their shifts to collect overtime, thus engaging in fraud to meet “activity goals” and make more money. Being forced to act unlawfully and untruthfully to keep ‘the numbers game’ going.  You can bet that this practice is not particular to New York. This revelation should provide powerful grounds for stopping NYPD’s racist and illegal Stop and Frisk policy.”

Related Stories:

AUDIO: New York’s Police Union Worked With the NYPD to Set Arrest and Summons Quotas.

Stopped-and-Frisked: ‘For Being a Fucking Mutt’ [VIDEO]

The Hunted and the Hated: An Inside Look at the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy

By Ross Tuttle @ The Nation:

Audio obtained by The Nation confirms an instance of New York City’s police union cooperating with the NYPD in setting arrest quotas for the department’s officers. According to some officers and critics of quotas, the practice has played a direct role in increasing the number of stop-and-frisk encounters since Mayor Michael Bloomberg came to office. Patrolmen who spoke to The Nation explained that the pressure from superiors to meet quota goals has caused some officers to seek out or even manufacture arrests to avoid department retaliation.

The audio could be included as evidence in the landmark federal class action lawsuit Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al., which opened yesterday in US District Court for New York’s Southern District and which was brought forward by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The audio, recorded in 2009 by officer Adhyl Polanco, is part of a series of recordings originally released to the media that year, and a selection first aired on WABC-TV in 2010. But WABC-TV used only a small portion of the recordings, and did not air the union representative’s explosive admission.

“I spoke to the CO [commanding officer] for about an hour-and-a-half,” the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association delegate says in the audio recording, captured at a Bronx precinct roll call meeting. “twenty-and-one. Twenty-and-one is what the union is backing up…. They spoke to the [Union] trustees. And that’s what they want, they want 20-and-1.”

“Twenty-and-one means twenty summonses and one arrest a month,” says a veteran NYPD officer who listened to the recording, and who spoke to The Nation on the condition of anonymity. Summonses can range from parking violations, to moving violations, to criminal court summonses for infractions such as open container or public urination.

“It’s a quota, and they [the Union] agreed to it,” says the officer. “It’s crazy.”

“Many officers feel pressure to meet their numbers to get the rewards that their commanding officer is giving out,” says John Eterno, a former police captain and co-author of The Crime Numbers Game: Management by Manipulation. But if an officer’s union delegate is also pushing the numbers, “this puts inordinate pressure on officers, getting it from the top down and getting it from the union.”

The plaintiffs in the Floyd case allege that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy results in unconstitutional stops based on racial-profiling. The department’s emphasis on bringing in arrest and summons numbers has caused officers to carry out suspicion-less stops in communities of color.

As Polanco explained in court today, his superiors would often push him to carry out this specific number of summons and arrest stops per month:  “20-and-1, they were very clear, it’s non-negotiable, you’re gonna do it, or you’re gonna become a Pizza Hut delivery man.”

“There’s always been some pressure to get arrests and summonses,” says Eterno. “But now it’s become the overwhelming management style of the department. It has become a numbers game. They have lost the ability to see that communities are dissatisfied with this type of policing, especially minority communities. They are the ones being overly burdened for doing the same sorts of things that kids in middle-class neighborhoods are doing—only they’re getting records because officers have to make these arrests.”

When asked for comment, Al O’Leary, a spokesperson for the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, said: “The PBA has been consistently and firmly opposed to quotas for police activities including arrests, summonses and stop-and-frisks. These are all effective tools for maintaining order when they are left to the discretion of individual police officers but become problematic when officers are forced to meet quotas. This union has sought and obtained changes to state law making quotas for all police activities illegal. We have sued and forced an individual commanding officer to stop the use of illegal quotas and will continue to be vigilant and vocal in our opposition to police activity quotas.”

* * *

Physical evidence has periodically surfaced of the existence of numerical arrest targets for NYPD officers, though arrest and summons quotas for police have been illegal in New York State since 2010. Precinct commanders defend their right to set productivity goals for their staff—but what the department defines as productivity goals can have the force of quotas when officers are subject to retaliation for not meeting them.

Cops who have spoken to The Nation say that retaliation can take many forms, including denied overtime; change of squads and days off that can disrupt family obligations like taking children to school or daycare; transfers to boroughs far from home in order to increase their commute and the amount they’ll have to pay in tolls; and low evaluation scores.

Officers even reported being forced to carry out unwarranted stops to fulfill the summons and arrest numbers. In a second recording obtained by The Nation, a captain addressing a roll call in the same Bronx precinct illustrated how such retaliation plays out.

“When the chief came in…[he] said: ‘you know what, you really can’t reduce crime much more, the guys are doing a great job,’” the captain can be heard saying in the rough audio. “[He] said that we can…get some of our people who aren’t chipping in to go to some locations [where we are] having problems, and give them [the area’s residents] the business…”

The recording continues: “That’s all we’re asking you to do, that’s all, that’s all. And if we do that, everyone chips in, it’s fine. It’s really nonnegotiable. ’Cause if you don’t do it now, I’m gonna have you work with the boss to make sure it happens.”

“If you don’t meet the quota, they will find [activity] for you,” another veteran officer explained to The Nation. “The sergeant will put you in his car and drive you around until whatever he sees he will stop and tell you to make an arrest or write a summons, even if you didn’t observe what he said it was.”

Sometimes these are legitimate stops, but other times, they’re bogus: “The sergeant told me to write two minorities for blocking pedestrian traffic,” the anonymous officer said, “but they were not blocking pedestrian traffic.”

The pressure for numbers, say cops, is unrelenting, and it’s leading to high anxiety and low morale. And that the union, an organization that is supposed to have officers’ interests at heart, is involved in the setting of quotas is mystifying, says one cop.

It’s all the more problematic given the union’s very vocal and public stance against quotas, such as in their ad campaign, “Don’t Blame The Cop,” which tries to engender sympathy for the officers who are pressured to write tickets and arrest motorists. “Blame NYPD management,” it says.

This development also signals to officers that there is one fewer place they can go to register their concern about departmental policy and practice. “I feel foolish for having gone to my [union] delegate with my complaints,” says one officer who has been unsettled by the continued pressure to meet quotas.

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Adhyl Polanco, the officer who recorded the audio and first brought it to the attention of the press, has since had charges brought against him by the department for writing false reports—the same false reports he pointed out to the department’s Internal Affairs office as evidence of the quota system. Polanco maintains these and other charges against him and other officers who have spoken out are evidence that the department is retaliating against him and others for blowing the whistle.

The NYPD has just surpassed 5 million stop-and-frisks during the Bloomberg era. Most stops have been of people of color, and the overwhelming majority were found innocent of any wrongdoing, according to the department’s own statistics. And though the number of stops may have gone down recently—as pressure on the department and increased awareness of the policy has officers and supervisors thinking twice about how they employ the practice—the existence of quotas ensures that New Yorkers will continue to be harassed unnecessarily by the NYPD.

“The way I think about it,” says a patrolman, “is, say a fireman is told by a supervisor, we need you to put out fifteen fires this month. And if you don’t put out fifteen fires you’re gonna get penalized for it. So if he doesn’t find fifteen fires to put out, is that his fault? It’s not. But the fireman might even go out there and start setting fires, causing fires, just so he’s not penalized or looks bad…. And that’s kind of what the police officers are doing.”

What are the plaintiffs in the Floyd v. City of New York case fighting against? Watch the exclusive video of a stop-and-frisk encounter gone wrong.

Editor’s note: This piece has been edited since publication to reflect the response of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. Voices in the above video have been altered to protect the identities of the officers interviewed.

Open Season On Young Black Men In America Continues: NYPD Cops Shot 16-Year-Old Kimani Gray While He Was On The Ground

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Carol Gray, mother of Kimani Gray, 16, killed by police after he allegedly pulled a gun Saturday night, talked about the lingering doubts about the police story at Councilman Charles Barron's office in East NY Brooklyn this afternoon. The shooting has led to several nights of rioting and arrests. HERE, picture of Kimani and mom two years prior. March 14, 2013 (Photo by Todd Maisel, New York Daily News)Oldspeak: “Details are still emerging in this latest police shooting of a young black man in a poor neighborhood. Troubling details like the 2 cops involved have a notable history of violent civil rights violations, fabricating and falsifying evidence, and unconstitutional and aggressive stop-and-frisk practices.  Now this latest witness revelation that these violent and aggressive “peace officers” stood over and continued to shoot this frail, 5’6″, 100 pound child to death.  Then threatening the lives of witnesses asking why the officers shot the child so many times. This boy was shot to death after he  “adjusted his waistband in a manner the officers deemed suspicious.” According to friends, cops have been harassing  Kimami for some time and “were out for him“, even making fun of his older brother’s death in a car accident 2 years ago. The cops say they shot him because he pointed a .38 revolver at them.  All the news stories make a point of this and that the revolver he pointed was recovered at the scene. Yet NYPD has not as yet clarified the source of this claim.  “The scene” is a decent sized space. Was the gun recovered near Kimani’s body? It wasn’t fired. Did it have Kimani’s fingerprints on it?  Is it police protocol to shoot people before identifying themselves as police officers? Why after the child fell did the cops continue shooting, getting close enough stand over him while doing so, instead of tackling and subduing him physically? When analyzing a case where the officers have a history of excessive force, false arrests, illegal stop and search, falsifying and fabricating evidence, these are crucial questions that are not being asked? Why? I’m thinkin these crucial details are being left out for a reason.  This is a crystal clear example the unconstitutional  and racist practice of stop and frisk gone deadly wrong. Hot headed violent officers seeing suspicion where there was none, unidentified & aggressively approached a youth, who had a gun that no other publicly identified witnesses saw and fired on him repeatedly, ultimately close enough to be right on top of him while he was on the ground, without attempting to first identify themselves and diffuse the situation. This is ginormous lawsuit waiting to happen, on account of officers who’ve already cost the city 215,000 dollars in lawsuits. I’ll be very curious to see what this  investigation finds.”

Related Stories:

Voices from Brooklyn: Racial Profiling’s Part of Everyday Life Here

Oscar Grant, A Victim Of American Fear: Decades After The Civil-Rights Era, Cops Shooting Unarmed Black Men Is Barely A Crime

By Ryan Devereaux @ The Village Voice:

The only publicly identified eyewitness in the killing of a Brooklyn teen by two New York City police officers is standing by her claim that the young man was empty-handed when he was gunned down, and now says one of the cops involved threatened her life.

In an extended interview with the Village Voice Saturday night–one week to the day after 16-year-old Kimani Gray was killed–Tishana King, 39, provided new, vivid details about the 10th-grader’s final moments.

King said one officer stood “right over” Gray, continuing to shoot him while he was on the ground, and that neither cop identified himself as law enforcement when the incident began.

Read More:
Tensions Mount After Police Fatally Shoot Brooklyn Teenager Kimani Gray
Eyewitness “Certain” Kimani Gray Was Unarmed When Police Shot Him
Police and Protesters Clash at Kimani Gray Vigil in Brooklyn

Sgt. Mourad Mourad, 30, and Officer Jovaniel Cordova, 26, were identified as the officers involved in the shooting. Both are decorated members of the NYPD who have been involved in prior non-fatal shootings and received awards for their actions. They have also been targeted in five federal lawsuits stemming from allegations ranging from illegal stop-and-frisks to physical abuse, costing the city $215,000. Both have been placed on administrative duty while the investigation continues.

The police department says the officers were patrolling in East Flatbush in an unmarked car around 11:30 p.m. last weekend when they spotted a group of young men, one of whom adjusted his waistband in a manner the officers deemed suspicious. According to the police, the individual broke away from the group as the officers approached.

In a statement last week, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said, “After the anti-crime sergeant and police officer told the suspect to show his hands, which was heard by witnesses, Gray produced a revolver and pointed it at the officers, who fired a total of 11 rounds, striking Gray several times.” A loaded .38-caliber Rohm’s Industry revolver was recovered at the scene.

Whether or not Gray had a gun, King said she never saw one pointed at the police. “I can’t say if they had one on them or not, but no one had a gun pointing at the cops,” she told the Voice.

King’s account, which contradicts the NYPD’s version of the events on key points, builds on what she first said in a New York Daily News article published last Tuesday. King told the paper she was “certain [Gray] didn’t have anything in his hands.” The article described a tape-recorded interview she gave to police investigators hours after the shooting. A police spokesman told the paper that when investigators asked King what she saw, she told them “she couldn’t see what the boys were doing ‘from the angle I was at.'”

But King told the Voice that from her third-floor vantage point, “I can see everything.” A street light illuminates the area where the incident took place.

Speaking to the Voice on her stoop Saturday evening, King made her first comments on the case since NYPD responded to her claims. She confirmed that she was interviewed by police–“about two hours after” the shooting–and says she has not been interviewed by the department since.

When asked if she saw a gun at any point during the incident, King told the Voice, “No. Not from the kids.”

An internal NYPD report cited by the Daily News stated that the officers wore badges around their necks. King said she didn’t see any: “No. No badges.”

NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly has said the department has three “ear witnesses to the shooting,” two of who said they heard the officers say “Don’t move” and a third who claims to have heard an officer ask, “What do you have in your hands?”

King claims the officers said only one thing after stepping onto the sidewalk, “‘Don’t move.’ That’s it.”

Gray was shot “on the sidewalk” two driveways down from her building, King says, near the home of a pair of twins he often visited. The kids hadn’t been around much in recent months, she added. King said she was in bed when the sound of loud voices and laughter drew her to her window last Saturday night.

“That’s why I looked out,” she said. ” To just see, ‘Oh, hey, what’s going on?’ Then when I saw it was the kids visiting, I said ‘Oh, okay.'”

Peering out from the third-story of her brick building, King claims to have seen “about seven to eight” young people. She said they had only been gathered for “maybe a minute or two” before the police arrived. “There was no suspicious behavior. The worst they were doing, laughing out loud and, you know, talking loud. That’s about it,” King said.

When asked if she recognized any of the kids, Gray said, “Just a few. I know the twins because they’re my direct next-door neighbors.” In addition to the twins, King also claims to have been familiar with Gray, though prior to the shooting she says she knew him only by his nickname, “Kiki.”

“I know him from his friends and always being in the neighborhood and visiting the twins,” she said. “He’s always a frequent visitor.” King said she recognized Gray’s voice outside the night he was killed.

King could not confirm what direction Gray was facing at the time he was shot. “I’m not the shooter. I wouldn’t be able to tell you. If I had the gun and I was shooting at him I’d be able to answer that question,” she said. King said the officers “looked white, from what I was seeing.” News reports have indicated, however, that Sgt. Mourad is Egyptian.

After the gunfire subsided, King claims the officer who “did the most shooting” put his hands on his head “like, ‘Oh my God.'” She describes him as “the main shooter.”

“That’s the one I was focused on,” she explained. “He just kept shooting while [Gray] was on the ground.” When asked how close the officer was when he was shooting Gray, King said, “right over him.”

“I thought he was dead,” King said. That’s when Gray began to scream. “‘Help me. Help me. My stomach is burning. Help me. They shot me,'” she said the teen cried out. Friends have said Gray was approximately 5’6″ and weighed at most about 100 pounds. King described him as “frail” and said she was surprised he was not killed instantly. “I didn’t think anybody could take those amount of bullets,” she added.

“I just remember screaming out the window ‘Why?! Why so much?!” King recalled. She claims the “main shooter”‘s partner–“with the short haircut”–responded.

“He started waving his gun up at our windows, myself and my neighbor. ‘Get your F-ing head out the window before I shoot you.'” King said she and her neighbor “jumped back.”

“I told the authorities that,” she said. “You threatened our lives and we didn’t even do anything.”

King says a number of questions continue to bother her. “Why did they exit their vehicles? Why were they in our neighborhood? Why were they on our block? What was the reason? Why didn’t you follow protocol?”

“The scene just keeps replaying in my head,” she told the Voice, “over and over and over and over and over again.”

Youth In Revolt: The Plague Of State-Sponsored Violence

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Oldspeak:The predominance of violence in all aspects of social life suggests that young people and others marginalized by class, race and ethnicity have been abandoned as American society’s claim on democracy gives way to the forces of militarism, market fundamentalism and state terrorism.” In a state where children are disposable, subjected to violence and threats of violence in most every aspect of their lives, programmed from birth to be nothing more than finely tuned profit generating”happiness machines”. Where 1o children a day are killed by guns (more than police killed in the line of duty) can we really be surprised by the senseless violence perpetrated on children like Trayvon Martin?

By Henry A. Giroux @ Truthout:

Young people are demonstrating all over the world against a variety of issues ranging from economic injustice and massive inequality to drastic cuts in education and public services. At the moment, these demonstrations are being met with state-sanctioned violence and insults in the mainstream media rather than with informed dialogue, critical engagement and reformed policies. In the United States, the state monopoly on the use of violence has intensified since the 1980s and, in the process, has been increasingly directed against young people, poor minorities, immigrants and increasingly women. As the welfare state is hollowed out, a culture of compassion is replaced by a culture of violence, cruelty and disposability. Collective insurance policies and social protections have given way to the forces of economic deregulation, the transformation of the welfare state into punitive workfare programs, the privatization of public goods and an appeal to individual responsibility as a substitute for civic responsibility. Under the notion that unregulated market-driven values and relations should shape every domain of human life, the business model of governance has eviscerated any viable notion of social responsibility while furthering the criminalization of social problems and cut backs in basic social services, especially for the poor, young people and the elderly.(1) Within the existing neoliberal historical conjuncture, there is a merging of violence and governance and the systemic disinvestment in and breakdown of institutions and public spheres, which have provided the minimal conditions for democracy.

As young people make diverse claims on the promise of a radical democracy, articulating what a fair and just world might be, they are increasingly met with forms of physical, ideological and structural violence. According to OccupyArrests.com, “There have been at least 6705 arrests in over 112 different cities as of March 6, 2012.”(2) Abandoned by the existing political system, young people in Oakland, California; New York City; and numerous other cities are placing their bodies on the line, protesting peacefully while trying to produce a new language, politics, long-term institutions and “community that manifests the values of equality and mutual respect that they see missing in a world that is structured by neoliberal principles.”(3) This movement is not simply about reclaiming space, but also about producing new ideas, generating a new conversation and introducing a new political language. Rejecting the notion that democracy and markets are the same, young people are calling for an end to the corporate control of the commanding institutions of politics and culture, poverty, the suppression of dissent and the permanent war state. Richard Lichtman is right in insisting that this movement should be praised for its embrace of communal democracy as well as an emerging set of shared concerns, principles and values articulated “by a demand for equality, or, at the very least, for a significant lessening of the horrid extent of inequality; for a working democracy; for the elimination of the moneyed foundation of politics; for the abolition of political domination by a dehumanized plutocracy; for the replacement of ubiquitous commodification by the reciprocal recognition of humanity in the actions of its agents.”(4) As Arundhati Roy points out, what connects the protests in the United States to resistance movements all over the globe is that young people are realizing that “they know that their being excluded from the obscene amassing of wealth of US corporations is part of the same system of the exclusion and war that is being waged by these corporations in places like India, Africa and the Middle East.”(5) Of course, Lichtman, Roy, and others believe that this is just the beginning of a movement and that much needs to be done, as Staughton Lynd argues, to build new strategies, a vast network of new institutions and public spheres, a community of trust and political organization that invites poor people into its ranks.(6)

All of these issues are important, but what must be addressed in the most immediate sense is the threat the emerging police state in the United States poses not to just the young protesters occupying a number of American cities, but also the threat it poses to democracy itself as a result of the merging of a war-like mentality and neoliberal mode of discipline and education in which it becomes difficult to reclaim the language of obligation, social responsibility and civic engagement. Unless the actions of young protesters, however diverse they may be, is understood within the language of a robust notion of the social, civic courage and the imperatives of a vital democracy, it will be difficult for the American public to resist state violence and the framing of protests, dissent and civic responsibility as un-American or, at worst, a species of criminal behavior.

While there is considerable coverage in the progressive media given to the violence being waged against the Occupy movement protesters, I want to build on these analyses by arguing that it is important to situate such violence within a broader set of categories that enables a critical understanding of not only the underlying social, economic and political forces at work in such assaults, but also allows us to reflect critically on the distinctiveness of the current historical period in which they are taking place. For example, it is difficult to address such state-sponsored violence against young people without analyzing the devolution of the social state and the corresponding rise of the warfare and punishing state. The notion of historical conjuncture is important here because it provides both an opening into the forces shaping a particular historical moment and it allows for a merging of theory and strategy. That is, it helps us to address theoretically how youth protests are largely related to a historically specific neoliberal project that promotes vast inequalities in income and wealth, creates the student loan debt bomb, eliminates much needed social programs, eviscerates the social wage and privileges profits and commodities over people. Within the United States, the often violent response to nonviolent forms of youth protests must also be analyzed within the framework of a mammoth military-industrial state and its commitment to war and the militarization of the entire society. As Tony Judt put it, “The United States is becoming not just a militarized state but a military society: a country where armed power is the measure of national greatness and war, or planning is the exemplary (and only) common project.”(7) The merging of the military-industrial complex and unbridled corporate power points to the need for strategies that address what is specific about the current warfare state and the neoliberal project and how different interests, modes of power, social relations, public pedagogies and economic configurations come together to shape its politics. Such a conjuncture is invaluable politically in that it provides a theoretical opening for making the practices of the warfare state and the neoliberal revolution visible in order “to give the resistance to its onward march, content, focus and a cutting edge.”(8) It also points to the conceptual power of making clear that history remains an open horizon that cannot be dismissed through appeals to the end of history or end of ideology.(9) It is precisely through the indeterminate nature of history that resistance becomes possible and politics refuses any guarantees and remains open. Following Stuart Hall, I want to argue that the current historical moment or what he calls the “long march of the Neoliberal Revolution,”(10) has to be understood in terms of the growing forms of violence that it deploys and reinforces. Such anti-democratic pressures and their relationship to the rising protests of young people in the United States and abroad are evident in the crisis that has emerged through the merging of governance and violence, the growth of the punishing state and the persistent development of what has been described by Alex Honneth as “a failed sociality.”(11)

The United States has become addicted to violence and this dependency is fuelled increasingly by its willingness to wage war at home and abroad. War in this instance is not merely the outgrowth of polices designed to protect the security and well-being of the United States. It is also, as C. Wright Mills pointed out, part of a “military metaphysics”(12) – a complex of forces that includes corporations, defense industries, politicians, financial institutions and universities. War provides jobs, profits, political payoffs, research funds and forms of political and economic power that reach into every aspect of society. War is also one of the nation’s most honored virtues, and its militaristic values now bear down on almost every aspect of American life.(13) As war becomes a mode of sovereignty and rule, it erodes the distinction between war and peace. Increasingly fed by a moral and political hysteria, warlike values produce and endorse shared fears as the primary register of social relations.

Shared fears and the media hysteria that feed them produce more than a culture of fear. Such hysteria also feeds the growing militarization of the police, who increasingly use their high-tech scanners, surveillance cameras and toxic chemicals on anyone who engages in peaceful protests against the warfare and corporate state. Images abound in the mainstream media of such abuses. There is the now famous image of an 84-year-old woman looking straight into a camera, her face drenched in a liquid spray used by the police after attending a protest rally. There is the image of a woman, who is two months pregnant, being carried to safety after being pepper sprayed by the police. There are the all-too-familiar images of young people being dragged by their hair across a street to a waiting police van.(14) In some cases, protesters have been seriously hurt as in the case of Scott Olsen, an Iraqi war veteran, who was critically injured in a protest in Oakland in October 2011. Too much of this violence is reminiscent of the violence used against civil rights demonstrators by the forces of Jim Crow in the fifties and sixties.(15)

The war on terror has become a war on democracy as baton-wielding cops are now being supplied with the latest military equipment imported straight from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Military technologies once used exclusively on the battlefield are now being supplied to police departments across the nation. Drones; machine-gun-equipped armored trucks; SWAT vehicles; “digital communications equipment and Kevlar helmets, like those used by soldiers used in foreign wars.”(16) The domestic war against “terrorists” (code for young protesters) provides new opportunities for major defense contractors and corporations who “are becoming more a part of our domestic lives.”(17) As Glenn Greenwald points out, the United States since 9/11 “has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil; they will simply find other, increasingly permissive uses for those weapons.”(18) Of course, the new domestic para-military forces will also undermine free speech and dissent with the threat of force while simultaneously threatening core civil liberties, rights and civic responsibilities. Given that “by age 23, almost a third of Americans are arrested for a crime,” it becomes clear that in the new militarized state the view of young people as predators, a threat to corporate governance and disposable will increase as will the growth of a punishment state that acts with impunity.(19)

No longer restricted to a particular military ideology, the celebration of war-like values has become normalized through the militarization of the entire society. As Michael Geyer points out, militarization in this sense is defined as “the contradictory and tense social process in which civil society organizes itself for the production of violence.”(20) The conceptual merging of war and violence is evident in the way in which the language of war saturates the ways in which policy makers talk about waging war on drugs, poverty and the underclass. There is more at work here than the prevalence of armed knowledge and a militarized discourse; there is also the emergence of a militarized society in which “the range of acceptable opinion inevitably shrinks.”(21) But the prevailing move in American society to a permanent war status does more than promote a set of unifying symbols that embrace a survival-of-the-fittest ethic, promoting conformity over dissent, the strong over the weak and fear over responsibility; it also gives rise to a “failed sociality” in which violence becomes the most important element of power and mediating force in shaping social relationships.

As a mode of public pedagogy, a state of permanent war needs willing subjects to abide by its values, ideology and narratives of fear and violence. Such legitimation is largely provided through a market-driven culture addicted to the production consumerism, militarism and organized violence, largely circulated through various registers of popular culture that extend from high fashion and Hollywood movies to the creation of violent video games and music concerts sponsored by the Pentagon. The market-driven spectacle of war demands a culture of conformity, quiet intellectuals and a largely passive republic of consumers. But it also needs subjects who find intense pleasure in the spectacle of violence.

As the pleasure principle is unconstrained by a moral compass based on a respect for others, it is increasingly shaped by the need for intense excitement and a never-ending flood of heightened sensations. What has led to this immunity and insensitivity to cruelty and prurient images of violence? Part of this process is due to the fact that the American public is bombarded by an unprecedented “huge volume of exposure to … images of human suffering.”(22) As Zygmunt Bauman argues, there are social costs that come with this immersion of a culture of staged violence. One consequence is that “the sheer numbers and monotony of images may have a ‘wearing off’ impact [and] to stave off the ‘viewing fatigue,’ they must be increasingly gory, shocking and otherwise ‘inventive’ to arouse any sentiments at all or indeed draw attention. The level of ‘familiar’ violence, below which the cruelty of cruel acts escapes attention, is constantly rising.”(23)

Hyper-violence and spectacular representations of cruelty disrupt and block our ability to respond politically and ethically to the violence as it is actually happening on the ground. In this instance, unfamiliar violence such as extreme images of torture and death become banally familiar, while familiar violence that occurs daily is barely recognized relegated to the realm of the unnoticed and unnoticeable. How else to explain the public indifference to the violence waged by the state against nonviolent youthful protesters, who are rebelling against a society in which they have been excluded from any claim on hope, prosperity and democracy. As an increasing volume of violence is pumped into the culture, yesterday’s spine-chilling and nerve-wrenching violence loses its shock value. As the need for more intense images of violence accumulates, the moral indifference and desensitization to violence grows while matters of cruelty and suffering are offered up as fodder for sports, entertainment, news media, and other outlets for seeking pleasure.

Marked by a virulent notion of hardness and aggressive masculinity, a culture of violence has become commonplace in a society in which pain, humiliation and abuse are condensed into digestible spectacles endlessly circulated through extreme sports, reality TV, video games, YouTube postings and proliferating forms of the new and old media. But the ideology of hardness and the economy of pleasure it justifies are also present in the material relations of power that have intensified since the Reagan presidency, when a shift in government policies first took place, and set the stage for the emergence of unchecked torture and state violence under the Bush-Cheney regime. Conservative and liberal politicians alike now spend millions waging wars around the globe, funding the largest military state in the world, providing huge tax benefits to the ultra-rich and major corporations and all the while draining public coffers, increasing the scale of human poverty and misery and eliminating all viable public spheres – whether they be the social state, public schools, public transportation, or any other aspect of a formative culture that addresses the needs of the common good. State violence, particularly the use of torture, abductions and targeted assassinations, are now justified as part of a state of exception that has become normalized. A “political culture of hyper punitiveness”(24) has become normalized and accelerates throughout the social order like a highly charged electric current. Democracy no longer leaves open the importance of an experience of the common good. As a mode of “failed sociality,” the current version of market fundamentalism has turned the principles of democracy against itself, deforming both the language of freedom and justice that made equality a viable idea and political goal. State violence operating under the guise of personal safety and security, while parading species of democracy, cancels out democracy “as the incommensurable sharing of existence that makes the political possible.”(25) Symptoms of ethical, political and economic impoverishment are all around us.

Meanwhile, exaggerated violence is accelerated in the larger society and now rules screen culture. The public pedagogy of entertainment includes extreme images of violence, human suffering and torture splashed across giant movie screens, some in 3D, offering viewers every imaginable portrayal of violent acts, each more shocking and brutal than the last. The growing taste for violence can be seen in the increasing modeling of public schools after prisons, the criminalization of behaviors such as homelessness that once were the object of social protections. A symptomatic example of the way in which violence has saturated everyday life can be seen in the growing acceptance of criminalizing the behavior of young people in public schools. Behaviors that were normally handled by teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators are now dealt with by the police and the criminal justice system. The consequences have been disastrous for young people. Not only do schools resemble the culture of prisons, but young children are being arrested and subjected to court appearances for behaviors that can only be termed as trivial. How else to explain the case of the five-year-old girl in Florida who was put in handcuffs and taken to the local jail because she had a temper tantrum; or the case of Alexa Gonzales in New York who was arrested for doodling on her desk. Even worse, a 13-year-old boy in a Maryland school was arrested for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance. There is more at work than stupidity and a flight from responsibility on the part of educators, parents and politicians who maintain these laws; there is also the growing sentiment that young people constitute a threat to adults and that the only way to deal with them is to subject them to mind-crushing punishment. Students being miseducated, criminalized and arrested through a form of penal pedagogy in prison-type schools provide a grim reminder of the degree to which the ethos of containment and punishment now creeps into spheres of everyday life that were largely immune in the past from this type of state violence. The governing through crime ethic also reminds us that we live in an era that breaks young people, corrupts the notion of justice and saturates the minute details of everyday life with the threat, if not reality, of violence. This mediaeval type of punishment inflicts pain on the psyche and the body of young people as part of a public spectacle. Even more disturbing is how the legacy of slavery informs this practice given that “Arrests and police interactions … disproportionately affect low-income schools with large African-American and Latino populations,”(26) paving the way for them to move almost effortlessly through the school-to-prison pipeline. Surely, the next step will be a reality TV franchise in which millions tune in to watch young kids being handcuffed, arrested, tried in the courts and sent to juvenile detention centers. This is not merely barbarism parading as reform – it is also a blatant indicator of the degree to which sadism and the infatuation with violence have become normalized in a society that seems to take delight in dehumanizing itself.

As the social is devalued along with rationality, ethics and any vestige of democracy, spectacles of war, violence and brutality now merge into forms of collective pleasure that constitute an important and new symbiosis among visual pleasure, violence and suffering. The control society is now the ultimate form of entertainment as the pain of others, especially those considered disposable and powerless, has become the subject not of compassion, but of ridicule and amusement in America. High-octane violence and human suffering are now considered another form of entertainment designed to raise the collective pleasure quotient. Reveling in the suffering of others should no longer be reduced to a matter of individual pathology, but now registers a larger economy of pleasure across the broader culture and social landscape. My emphasis here is on the sadistic impulse and how it merges spectacles of violence and brutality with forms of collective pleasure. No society can make a claim to being a democracy as long as it defines itself through shared fears rather than shared responsibilities. Widespread violence now functions as part of an anti-immune system that turns the economy of genuine pleasure into a mode of sadism that creates the foundation for sapping democracy of any political substance and moral vitality. The prevalence of institutionalized violence in American society and other parts of the world suggests the need for a new conversation and politics that addresses what a just and fair world looks like. The predominance of violence in all aspects of social life suggests that young people and others marginalized by class, race and ethnicity have been abandoned as American society’s claim on democracy gives way to the forces of militarism, market fundamentalism and state terrorism. The prevalence of violence throughout American society suggests the need for a politics that not only negates the established order, but imagines a new one, one informed by a radical vision in which the future does not imitate the present.(27) In this discourse, critique merges with a sense of realistic hope and individual struggles merge into larger social movements. The challenge that young people are posing to American society is being met with a state-sponsored violence that is about more than police brutality; it is more importantly about the transformation of the United States from a social state to a warfare state, from a state that embraced the social contract to one that no longer has a language for community – a state in which the bonds of fear and commodification have replaced the bonds of civic responsibility and democratic vision. Until we address how the metaphysics of war and violence have taken hold on American society (and in other parts of the world) and the savage social costs it has enacted, the forms of social, political and economic violence that young people are protesting against as well as the violence waged in response to their protests will become impossible to recognize and act on.

To read other articles by Henry A. Giroux or other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.


1. See Loic Wacquant, “Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal government of Social Insecurity” (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).

2. See here.

3. Kyle Bella, “Bodies in Alliance: Gender Theorist Judith Butler on the Occupy and SlutWalk Movements,” Truthout (December 15, 2011). Online here.

4. Richard Lichtman, “Not a Revolution?,” Truthout, (December 14, 2011).

5. Arun Gupta, Arundhati Roy: “The People Who Created the Crisis Will Not Be the Ones That Come Up With a Solution,” The Guardian UK, (12/01/2011). Online here.

6. Staughton Lynd, “What is to be Done Next?,” CounterPunch, (February 29, 2012).

7. Tony Judt, “The New World Order,” The New York Review of Books 11:12 (July 14, 2005), pp. 14-18.

8. Stuart Hall, “The Neo-Liberal Revolution,” Cultural Studies, Vol. 25, No. 6, (November 2011), p. 706.

9. Daniel Bell, “The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties” (New York: Free Press, 1966) and the more recent Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History and the Last Man” (New York: Free Press, 2006) .

10. Stuart Hall, “The March of the Neoliberals,” The Guardian UK, (September 12, 2011), online here.

11. Alex Honneth, Pathologies of Reason (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 188.

12. C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 222.

13.13. See Gore Vidal, “Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia” (New York: Nation Books, 2004); Gore Vidal, “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace” (New York: Nation Books, 2002); Chris Hedges, “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning” (New York: Anchor Books, 2003); Chalmers Johnson, “The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic” (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004); Andrew Bacevich, “The New American Militarism” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Chalmers Johnson, “Nemesis: The Last Days of the Republic” (New York: Metropolitan Books); Andrew J. Bacevich, “Washington Rules: America’s Path To Permanent War,” (New York, N.Y.: Metropolitan Books, Henry Hold and Company, 2010); Nick Turse, “The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives” (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008).

14. Philip Govrevitch, “Whose Police?” The New Yorker, (11/17/11).

15. Phil Rockstroh, “The Police State Makes Its Move: Retaining One’s Humanity in the Face of Tyranny,” CommonDreams, (11/15/11). Online here.

16. Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz, “Cops Ready for War,” RSN, (December 21, 2011). Online here.

17. Ibid.

18. Glenn Greenwald, “The Roots of The UC-Davis Pepper-Spraying,” Salon (Nov. 20, 2011). Online here.

19. Erica Goode, “Many in U.S. Are Arrested by Age 23, Study Finds,” The New York Times, (December 19, 2011) p. A15.

20. Michael Geyer, “The Militarization of Europe, 1914 – 1945,” in The Militarization of the Western World, ed. John R. Gillis (New York: Rutgers University Press, 1989), p. 79.

21. Tony Judt, “The New World Order,” The New York Review of Books 11:2 (July 14, 2005), p.17.

22. Zygmunt Bauman, “Life in Fragments” (Malden: Blackwell, 1995), p. 149.

23. Zygmunt Bauman, “Life in Fragments” (Malden: Blackwell, 1995), pp. 149-150.

24. Steve Herbert and Elizabeth Brown, “Conceptions of Space and Crime in the Punitive Neoliberal City,” Antipode (2006), p. 757.

25. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, “Translators Note,” in Jean-Luc Nancy, “The Truth of Democracy,” (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2010), p. ix.

26. Smartypants, “A Failure of Imagination,” Smartypants Blog Spot (March 3, 2010). Online here.

27. John Van Houdt, “The Crisis of Negation: An Interview with Alain Badiou,” Continent, 1.4 (2011): 234-238. Online here.

Class Dismissed: How Television Frames The Working Class

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Oldspeak:Class Dismissed explores the ways in which race, gender, and sexuality intersect with class, offering a more complex reading of television’s often one-dimensional representations. The video also links television portrayals to negative cultural attitudes and public policies that directly affect the lives of working class people. It examines the patterns inherent in TV’s disturbing depictions of working class people as either clowns or social deviants — stereotypical portrayals that reinforce the myth of meritocracy.’ A brilliant deconstruction of TVs transformation in its beginnings with accurate depictions of working class life, to its infiltration by powerful commercial interests who demanded sanitized, product placement filled depictions of middle class life. Where the working class are constantly aspiring to consume more and more. How It propagates deeply ingrained stereotypes & the subtle propaganda-filled myths of a ‘classless society’ where everyone has access to “The American Dream”. Class judgement abounds. Racism, sexism, bigotry, and societally generated downward pressures on people do not. Conformity and consumption in the prescribed ways are glamorized any deviation from prescribed ‘norms’ are demonized or worse ignored/not depicted.  Must see TV!


Niggabots No More: Those Idiotic, Jive-Talkin’ Robots Won’t Be Back in ‘Transformers 3’ After All

In Uncategorized on May 20, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Today, America is a little more whole.

Oldspeak: Well. That’s nice. :-/  Now if we could just get Popeyes to stop using that 21st century Mammy  Annie “The Chicken Queen” to hawk their chicken….

By Will Leitch @ Yahoo Movies:

So much about “Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen” was horrible that picking a least favorite moment is like choosing between your children, if you kinda hated your children. But you really can’t fall much farther than “Mudflap” and “Skids,” the “urban” robots that, as The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis’ rightly said, “have been given conspicuously cartoonish, so-called black voices that indicate that minstrelsy remains as much in fashion in Hollywood as when, well, Jar Jar Binks was set loose by George Lucas.” Director Michael Bay defended Mudflap and Skids (who, in the year 2009, had gold teeth and bug ears), claiming, “We’re just putting more personality in. I don’t know if it’s stereotypes — they are robots, by the way. These are the voice actors. This is kind of the direction they were taking the characters and we went with it.”

But even Bay is smart enough to avoid more controversy while he can, claiming Monday on the official Michael Bay fan board — oh, by the way America, there are Michael Bay fan boards —  that the twins will not appear in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”

A fan blog tried to get fired up that Bay was lying, with reports that new and “improved” versions of Mudflap and Skids were seen on the set yesterday, but they have the date wrong on the post; the post they’re referencing is more than a year old. So it looks like there will not in fact be awful stereotypes of African-Americans as portrayed by robots from an alien planet in the third “Transformers” movie. In Michael Bay’s brain, perhaps this is considered progress.

The Twins Are Not Back In T3 [MichaelBay.com]

Related Story: Transformers: Rise Of The Fallen, Featuring The Niggabots. Seriously.

African-Americans Fall In Equality Index

In Uncategorized on April 6, 2011 at 11:55 am


African-Americans trail whites the most in economics and social justice, according to the National Urban League


Oldspeak:” ‘Don’t believe the HYPE!’ –Flavor Flav. Yeah I know the black folk you see on TV flossin, ballin, dancin, talkin, dunkin and governin are doing just swell. But in the world outside the glowing box, in physical reality, shit is real in the field for a significant majority of black folk. ”

By the CNN Wire Staff:

African-Americans are faring slightly worse relative to their white counterparts than they did last year, according to an index released Thursday by the National Urban League.

The group’s 2011 Equality Index stands at 71.5%, compared to a revised index last year of 72.1%, the league said as it released its annual report, called The State of Black America.

An equality index of less than 100% suggests blacks are doing worse relative to whites, while an index greater than 100% suggests blacks are doing better.

The league attributed the 2011 drop to a decline in the economics index, driven by housing and wealth factors, and to a decline in the health index, driven by children’s health.

Economics and social justice continue to be the areas in which blacks trail whites the most, with ratings of 56.9% and 58% respectively. Those are followed by health at 75% and education at 78.9%.

Since the Equality Index was introduced in 2005, researchers have found growing equality between blacks and whites in the unemployment rate, the percentage of uninsured, the incarceration rate, and prisoners as a percentage of arrests, the league said.

The index has also charted growing inequality over that period in rates of poverty, home ownership, school enrollment (both “preprimary” and college), and the level of educational attainment (both high school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees).

The index of median household income has remained unchanged, the league said.

In 2010, the index measured Hispanics in America for the first time. This year’s index finds them faring slightly better than last year compared to their white counterparts, at 76.8% compared to a revised 2010 index of 76.6%, the league said.

It attributed the rise to improvements in health and social justice indices, but said those were offset by declines in economics and education.

In the past year, the league said it has observed growing gaps in the relative status of blacks and whites in the areas of loan access, wealth and children’s health.

For Hispanics, there have been growing gaps in the areas of loan access and college enrollment, it said.

The 2011 State of Black America report includes essays from a variety of authors including League President Marc Morial and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.


The McEducation of the Negro

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Oldspeak:“Administrators pushing out low-performing students. Teachers helping students cheat. Administrators hiring managers with no background in education or working with children. The banking system of education, infused with a profit (funding) driven, corporate business ethos centered around high stakes”teaching to the test”, with teachers as technicians and students as widgets to be serviced, produces results like these. Disadvantaged children are being groomed to be unthinking, creatively challenged happiness machines, learning to follow rules and directions in a hyper competitive ‘global marketplace’. Completely commodified. Neatly packaged to perform their designated functions without questioning the misguided system. Democracy has no chance in a society of  misinformed citizens, with no language to engage in critical thinking and discourse.”

From Natalie Hopkinson @ The Root:

Franchising is an outstanding model for selling Big Macs. But it can be toxic to classrooms.

Something wasn’t right at the high school that Darwin Bridgers’ son attends, so he sat in on the class to see for himself. All morning long, the instructor at the Washington, D.C., charter school pointed to a list of ground rules, a detailed list of rewards and punishments posted on a wall near the front of the class filled with black and Latino students.

Then the students filled out worksheets. That’s how it went: rewards and punishments, then worksheets. No instruction, just worksheets. At the end of the class, Bridgers, who works as an exterminator, pulled aside the teacher, a young white male and recent graduate.

“I wanted to know when he was going to do some, you know, teaching,” Bridgers explained to me recently. “You know, like, how we used to have in school? She would stand in front of the class … ”

I nodded my head. I attended K-12 at schools in Canada, Indiana and Florida in the ’80s and ’90s, but I knew exactly what he meant. There would be assignments to read from textbooks. A teacher would give a lecture and randomly call on students. Students would ask questions and write things down. Then there would be some sort of written exam to see what you’d learned.

Of course, today the “reformers” say that that way of teaching is old school. It was fine before the days of social media and the “information revolution” and the global economy. But now, as the argument goes in films like Waiting for Superman, no self-respecting parent would ever send his or her child to a “failing” public school like the one that generations of Bridgers’ family attended in their neighborhood in Northeast Washington.

For Bridgers’ son and a disproportionate number of black students around the country, charter schools have become the preferred choice. The idea is that charters can find a model that produces results — measured in test scores — then apply it to different campuses. They can raise and spend money independently. They can have management consultants, and they can compete — just like a business. As the charter school movement picks up steam nationwide, the District of Columbia may provide a glimpse of the future of “choice”: Roughly 40 percent of children enrolled in District of Columbia public schools attend charters.

Many D.C. parents are finding that, sure, there are plenty of choices — just not a lot of good, or even passable ones. When you mix corporate strategies with an ominous 2014 compliance deadline under the No Child Left Behind law, you often end up with scenes that look nothing like what most of us might recognize as a classroom.

“What once was an effort to improve the quality of education turned into an accounting strategy,” the acclaimed education historian Diane Ravitch writes in her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System. “The strategy produced fear and obedience among educators. It often generated higher test scores. But it had nothing to do with education. It produced mountains of data, not educated citizens. Its advocates then treated that data as evidence of its success.”

That strategy has grown even more intense as teachers and administrators are testing for their professional lives. Under NCLB, 100 percent of schools must reach certain test-score targets by 2014; schools that fall short could lose federal funding, or be closed.

Even if the law is repealed, which is something the Obama administration has signaled it will do, education has been changed in this country forever. Obama’s Race to the Topprogram continues to use the same sticks and carrots that require educators to teach to the test or else be fired or make less money.

The looming deadline is making people do crazy things: Like administrators pushing out low-performing students in North Carolina. Like teachers helping students cheat in Atlanta. Like officials producing math so fuzzy, it would make Wall Street CEOs blush. And, in the case of the Oprah-certified former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, like importing shoddy private managers to take over a school.

Under this framework, “failing” schools are by definition the ones serving the most vulnerable populations — recent immigrants learning English, families battling poverty, children with trifling or MIA parents. The reformers say that even these students would produce better test scores if only they weren’t sitting in front of “lazy” teachers collecting checks, a slight upgrade from Ronald Reagan’s welfare queens.

Under this movement, teachers don’t get better with practice. Instead they are installed and reinstalled like interchangeable parts. Teachers’ unions, originally organized to protect the mostly female work force from capricious regulations of their marriages and lifestyles by mostly male administrators, are depicted as the enemies of progress. (Police unions somehow escaped blame for rising murder rates.)

I’m less concerned about the teachers and administrators than I am the children stuck in those classrooms. What it means to learn has been transformed for a generation of urban children. Education is acquiring a basic body of knowledge needed to competently vote and play Jeopardy, appreciate music and art, go to college and get a job, communicate and so on.

But in the name of reform, it’s as if somehow the goalpost has been moved without our realizing it. Now education — for those “failing” urban kids, anyway — is about learning the rules and following directions. Not critical thinking. Not creativity. It’s about how to correctly eliminate three out of four bubbles. The whole messy, thrilling, challenging work of shaping young minds has been reduced to a one or a zero. Pass or fail.

A decade of this language has taken its own toll. Kids attend “failing” schools. A majority of black boys are “failures.” Whole communities are branded with a collective “F.” Conservative California politicians liken Compton parents who demand the heads of school staff to modern-day versions of Rosa Parks.

So in cities such as New York, they bring in the number crunchers instead of real education experts — even if these privatization experiments can go horribly, tragically wrong. And even if choosing a charter school often means choosing to racially segregate.

Public schools that enjoy certain socioeconomic privileges (and a minimal number of needy kids) are thriving and will continue to be left alone. But for the “failing” communities and students, there will be no public system. Instead they are required to navigate the education marketplace, choosing between neighborhood schools that have been creamed of their best students and the new experimental start-ups that on average perform worse than traditional public schools. “This strategy plays a shell game with low-performing students, moving them out and dispersing them, pretending they don’t exist,” Ravitch wrote.

We have collectively decided that we are incapable as a society of honoring the social contract to own buildings and pay teachers in disadvantaged communities. How can a whole demographic of children need to be “fixed”? How can all of them be wrong?

As for his black son, Bridgers believed that there was something wrong with the medicine. “The teacher was too young,” he says. “He couldn’t handle the pressure.” A week after Bridgers visited the school, his son told him that the young teacher had left and never come back. So Bridgers sent his son to live with his mother in Pennsylvania. “I coach football Little League,” he told me. “This is what we talk about on the sidelines. It’s terrible what they are doing to these schools.”

Cornelius Dupree Jr. Proven Innocent By DNA After 30 Years In Prison

In Uncategorized on January 5, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Oldspeak:”Cornelius Dupree Jr., wrongfully convicted and imprisoned 30 years ago for rape and robbery, has been released from prison after being exonerated by DNA evidence. On Tuesday, Dallas County Judge Don Adams freed Dupree, saying, “You’re free to go. Thank you very much. Sorry for everything.” 😐 How much is 30 years of your life worth? According to the state of Texas, for Mr. Dupree it’s 2.4 million. This man and others like him inspire me…and most of us never know they exist.

From Jeff Carlton @ The Associated Press:

A Texas man declared innocent Tuesday after 30 years in prison had at least two chances to make parole and be set free – if only he would admit he was a sex offender. But Cornelius Dupree Jr. refused to do so, doggedly maintaining his innocence in a 1979 rape and robbery, in the process serving more time for a crime he didn’t commit than any other Texas inmate exonerated by DNA evidence.

“Whatever your truth is, you have to stick with it,” Dupree, 51, said Tuesday, minutes after a Dallas judge overturned his conviction.

Nationally, only two others exonerated by DNA evidence spent more time in prison, according to the Innocence Project, a New York legal center that specializes in wrongful conviction cases and represented Dupree. James Bain was wrongly imprisoned for 35 years in Florida, and Lawrence McKinney spent more than 31 years in a Tennessee prison.

Dupree was sentenced to 75 years in prison in 1980 for the rape and robbery of a 26-year-old Dallas woman a year earlier. He was released in July on mandatory supervision, and lived under house arrest until October. About a week after his release, DNA test results came back proving his innocence in the sexual assault.

A day after his release, Dupree married his fiancee, Selma. The couple met two decades ago while he was in prison.

His exoneration hearing was delayed until Tuesday while authorities retested the DNA and made sure it was a match to the victim. Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins supported Dupree’s innocence claim.

Looking fit and trim in a dark suit, Dupree stood through most of the short hearing, until state district Judge Don Adams told him, “You’re free to go.” One of Dupree’s lawyers, Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck, called it “a glorious day.”

“It’s a joy to be free again,” Dupree said.

This latest wait was nothing for Dupree, who was up for parole as recently as 2004. He was set to be released and thought he was going home, until he learned he first would have to attend a sex offender treatment program.

Those in the program had to go through what is known as the “four R’s.” They are recognition, remorse, restitution and resolution, said Jim Shoemaker, who served two years with Dupree in the Boyd Unit south of Dallas.

“He couldn’t get past the first part,” said Shoemaker, who drove up from Houston to attend Dupree’s hearing.

Shoemaker said he spent years talking to Dupree in the prison recreation yard, and always believed his innocence.

“I got a lot of flak from the guys on the block,” Shoemaker said. “But I always believed him. He has a quiet, peaceful demeanor.”

Under Texas compensation laws for the wrongly imprisoned, Dupree is eligible for $80,000 for each year he was behind bars, plus a lifetime annuity. He could receive $2.4 million in a lump sum that is not subject to federal income tax.

The compensation law, the nation’s most generous, was passed in 2009 by the Texas Legislature after dozens of wrongly convicted men were released from prison. Texas has freed 41 wrongly convicted inmates through DNA since 2001 – more than any other state.

Dallas County’s record of DNA exonerations – Dupree is No. 21 – is unmatched nationally because the county crime lab maintains biological evidence even decades after a conviction, leaving samples available to test. In addition, Watkins, the DA, has cooperated with innocence groups in reviewing hundreds of requests by inmates for DNA testing.

Watkins, the first black district attorney in Texas history, has also pointed to what he calls “a convict-at-all-costs mentality” that he says permeated his office before he arrived in 2007.

At least a dozen other exonerated former inmates from the Dallas area who collectively served more than 100 years in prison upheld a local tradition by attending the hearing and welcoming the newest member of their unfortunate fraternity. One of them, James Giles, presented Dupree with a $100 bill as a way to get his life restarted.

At one point, Scheck pointed out that eyewitness misidentification – the most common cause of wrongful convictions – was the key factor that sent Dupree to prison. The attorney then asked how many of the others were wrongly imprisoned because an eyewitness mistakenly identified them. A dozen hands went in the air.

Not in attendance Tuesday was Dupree’s accused accomplice, Anthony Massingill, who was convicted in the same case and sentenced to life in prison on another sexual assault. The same DNA testing that cleared Dupree also cleared Massingill. He says he is innocent, but remains behind bars while authorities test DNA in the second case.

Dupree was 20 when he was arrested in December 1979 while walking to a party with Massingill. Authorities said they matched the description of a different rape and robbery that had occurred the previous day.

Police presented their pictures in a photo array to the victim. She picked out Massingill and Dupree. Her male companion, who also was robbed, did not pick out either man when showed the same photo lineup.

Dupree was convicted of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. According to court documents, the woman and her male companion stopped at a Dallas liquor store in November 1979 to buy cigarettes and use a payphone. As they returned to their car, two men, at least one of whom was armed, forced their way into the vehicle and ordered them to drive. They also demanded money from the two victims.

The men eventually ordered the car to the side of the road and forced the male driver out of the car. The woman attempted to flee but was pulled back inside.

The perpetrators drove the woman to a nearby park, where they raped her at gunpoint. They debated killing her but eventually let her live, keeping her rabbit-fur coat and her driver’s license and warning her they would kill her if she reported the assault to police. The victim ran to the nearest highway and collapsed unconscious by the side of the road, where she was discovered.

Dupree was convicted and spent the next three decades appealing. The Court of Criminal Appeals turned him down three times.

Racialized Memories And Class Identities – Thinking About Glenn Beck’s And Rush Limbaugh’s America

In Uncategorized on September 9, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Oldspeak:” Any talk about the political and material transformation of a deeply racial social order is largely off the radar for the mainstream media, if not for most of the American public. There is no shame over racism today because it is no longer viewed as a social problem, but merely an individual issue, and when its poisonous rhetoric and policies emerge, we seem to lack any vocabulary for addressing it, except through the discourse of those fanning the flames of racial injustice.”

From Henry A Giroux @ Truthout:

As a young kid growing up in Providence, Rhode Island, I was always conscious of what it meant to be a white male. Whiteness was a defining principle shaping how I both named and negotiated the class and racial boundaries that my friends and I traveled when we went to school, played basketball in gyms throughout the city and crossed into “alien” neighborhoods. Whiteness and maleness were crucial markers of our individual and collective identities; yet, we were also working class and it was largely the interface of race and class that governed how we experienced and perceived the world around us. Of course, we hadn’t thought deeply about race and class in a critical way; we simply bore the burdens, terrors and advantages such terms provided as they simultaneously named the world and produced it. We were immersed in a culture infused with the markings of a racially and class marked society, but had no language to either name it or reflect on it in a serious way. We simply accepted the notion that such divisions were part of human nature, something we had to both live with and negotiate in the limited terms given to us by the dominant society.

In my working-class neighborhood, race and class were performative categories defined in terms of the events, actions and outcomes of our struggles as we engaged with kids whose histories, languages and racial identities appeared foreign and hostile to us. Race and class were not merely nouns we used to narrate ourselves; they were verbs that governed how we interacted and performed in the midst of “others,” whether they were white middle class or black youths. Most of the interactions we had with others were violent, fraught with anger and hatred. We viewed kids who were black or privileged from within the spaces and enclaves of a neighborhood ethos that was nourished by a legacy of racism, a dominant culture that condoned class and racial hatred, and a popular culture that rarely allowed blacks and whites to view each other as equals, except of course, in athletics. Everywhere we looked segregation was the order of the day. Community was defined within racial and class differences and functioned largely as spaces of exclusion – spaces that more often than not pitted racial and ethnic groups against one another. Solidarity was mostly based on the principles of exclusion, and race and class identities closed down the promise of difference as central to any notion of democratic community.

When college students walked through my Smith Hill neighborhood from Providence College to reach the downtown section of the city, we taunted them, fought with them on occasion, but always made it clear to them that their presence violated our territorial and class boundaries. We viewed these kids as rich, spoiled, privileged and different from us – a reminder of how little we counted in a society which seemed more concerned about punishing us than providing us with the resources that spoke to a more humane future. We hated their alleged arrogance and despised their Pat Boone-type music. Generally, we had no contact with middle-class and ruling-class kids until we went to high school. Hope High School (ironically named) in the 1960s was a mix of mostly poor black and white kids, on the one hand, and a small group of wealthy kids on the other. School authorities and administrators did everything they could to make sure that the only space we shared was the cafeteria during lunch hour. Generally black and working-class white kids were warehoused and segregated in that school. Because we were tracked into dead-end courses, school became a form of dead time for most of us – a place in which our bodies, thoughts and emotions were regulated and subjected to either ridicule or swift disciplinary action if we broke any of the rules. We moved within these spaces of hierarchy and segregation deeply resentful of how we were treated, but with little understanding and no vocabulary to connect our personal rage to either larger social structures or viable forms of political resistance. We were trapped in a legacy of commonsensical and privatized understandings that made us complicitous with our own oppression. In the face of injustice, we learned to be aggressive and destructive, but we learned little about what it might mean to unlearn our prejudices and join in alliances with those diverse others who were oppressed in different and sometimes similar ways.

Rather, the everyday practices that shaped our lives were often organized around rituals of harsh discipline, rigid regulation and ongoing acts of humiliation. For instance, the working-class black and white kids from my section of town entered Hope though the back door of the building, while the rich white kids entered through the main door in the front of the school. We didn’t miss the point and we did everything we could to let the teachers know how we felt about it. We were loud and unruly in classes, we shook the rich kids down and took their money after school, we cheated whenever possible, but more than anything, we stayed away from school until we were threatened with being expelled. While race was a more problematic register of difference, class registered its difference through a range of segregated spaces. Along with the black kids in the school, our bodies rather than our minds were taken up as a privileged form of cultural capital. With few exceptions, the teachers and school administrators let us know that we were not bright enough to be in college credit courses, but were talented enough to be star athletes or do well in classes that stressed manual labor. Both working-class whites and blacks resented those students who studied, used elaborate, middle-class language and appeared to live outside of their physicality. We fought, desired, moved and pushed our bodies to extremes, especially in those few public spheres open to us. For me, as a white youth, that meant the race track, the basketball court and the baseball diamond.

As a working-class white kid, I found myself in classes with black kids, played basketball with them and loved black music. But we rarely socialized outside of school. Whiteness in my neighborhood was a signifier of pride, a marker of racial identity experienced through a dislike of blacks. Identities were viewed as fixed, unchanging and defined within complex notions of privilege. Unlike the current generation of many working-class kids, we defined ourselves in opposition to blacks and, while we listened to their music, we did not appropriate their styles. Racism ran deep in that neighborhood and no one was left untouched by it. But identities are always in transit: they mutate, change and often become more complicated as a result of chance encounters, traumatic events or unexpected collisions. The foundation of my white racist identity was shaken while I was in the ninth grade in the last year of junior high school.

I was on the junior high basketball team along with a number of other white and black kids. The coach had received some tickets to a Providence College game. Providence College’s basketball team had begun to receive extensive public attention because it had won a National Invitation Basketball tournament; moreover, the team roster included a number of famous players such as Lenny Wilkens and Johnny Egan. We loved the way in which these guys played and we tried to incorporate their every move into our own playing styles. Getting tickets to see them play was like a dream come true for us. Having only two tickets to give away, the coach held a contest after school in the gym to decide who would go to the game. He decided to give the tickets to the two players who made the most consecutive foul shots. The air was tense as we started to compete for the tickets. I ended up with two other players in a three-way tie and we had one chance to break it. As I approached the foul line, Brother Hardy, a large black kid, started taunting me as I began to shoot. We exchanged some insults and suddenly we were on each other, fists flying. Suddenly I was on the floor, blood gushing out of my nose; the fight was over as quickly as it started. The coach made us continue the contest and ironically, Brother Hardy and I won the tickets, shook hands and went to the game together. The fight bridged us together in a kind of mutual esteem we didn’t quite understand, but respected. Soon afterward, we started hanging out together and became friends. After graduating from junior high school, we parted and I didn’t see him again until the following September when I discovered that he to also was attending Hope High School.

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I made the varsity team my sophomore year; I never knew why, but Brother Hardy never bothered to try out. We talked once in a while in the school halls, but the racial boundaries in the school did not allow us to socialize much with each other. But that soon changed. The second month into the school year, I noticed that every day during lunch hour a number of black kids would cut in front of white kids in the food line, shake them down and take their lunch money. I was waiting for it to happen to me, but it never did. In fact, the same black kids who did the shaking down would often greet me with a nod or “Hey, man, how you doin?” as they walked by me in the corridors as well as the cafeteria. I later learned that Brother Hardy was considered the toughest black kid in the school and he had put out the word to his friends to leave me alone.

During the week, I played basketball at night at the Benefit Street Club, situated in the black section of the city. I was one of the few whites allowed to play in the gym. The games were fast and furious and you had to be good to continue. I started hanging out with Brother Hardy and on the weekends went to the blues clubs with him and his friends. We drank, played basketball and rarely talked to each other about race. Soon, some of my friends and myself were crossing a racial boundary by attending parties with some of our black teammates. Few people in our old neighborhood knew that we had broken a racial taboo and we refrained from telling them.

I couldn’t articulate it in those formative years, but as I moved within and across a number of racially defined spheres it slowly became clear to me that I had to redefine my understanding of my own whiteness and the racism that largely informed it. I had no intention of becoming a black wannabe, even if such an option had existed in the neighborhood in which I grew up and, of course, it didn’t. But at the same time, I began to hate the racism that shaped the identities of my white friends. My crossing of the racial divide was met at best with disdain and at worst with ridicule. Crossing this border was never an option for Brother Hardy and his friends; if they had crossed the racial border to come into my neighborhood they would have been met with racial epithets and violence. Even in the early sixties, it became clear to me that such border crossings were restricted and only took place with a passport stamped with the legacy of racial privilege. My body was relearning the lessons of race and identity because I was beginning to unlearn the racist ideologies that I took for granted for so long. But I had no language to question critically how I felt nor did I understand how to reject the notion that to be a working-class white kid meant one had to be a racist by default.

The language I inherited as a kid came from my family, friends, school and the larger popular culture. Rarely did I encounter a vocabulary in any of these spheres that ruptured or challenged the material relations of racism or the stereotypes and prejudices that reinforced race and class divisions. It was only later, as the sixties unfolded, that I discovered in the midst of the civil rights and antiwar movement, the languages of dissent and possibility that helped me to rethink my own memories of youth, masculinity, racism and class discrimination.

In many ways, much of my work has been an attempt to engage in a form of memory work – exploring how I was positioned and how I located myself within a range of discourse and institutional practices – in which it has become clear that racial and class differences fueled by bigotry, intolerance and systemic inequality were the disruptive forces in my life. My own sense of what it meant to be a white male emerged performatively through my interactions with peers, the media and the broader culture. The identifications I developed, the emotional investments I made and the ideologies I used to negotiate my youth were the outcome of educational practices that appeared to either ignore or denigrate working-class people, women and minority groups. Popular culture provided the medium through which we learned how to negotiate our everyday lives, especially when it brought together elements of resistance found in Hollywood youth films such as “Blackboard Jungle” (1955) or the rock n’ roll music of Bill Haley and the Comets, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Etta James, and other artists. Moreover, working-class street culture provided its own set of unique events and tensions in which our bodies, identities and desires were both mobilized and constrained. We were the first generation of working-class kids for whom popular media such as television played a central role in legitimating not only our social roles, but also the limited range of possibilities through which we could imagine something beyond the world in which we lived. The trauma I associated with negotiating between the solidarity I felt with Brother Hardy and my white working-class friends suggested that education works best when those experiences that shape and penetrate one’s lived reality are jolted, unsettled and made the object of critical analysis.

In looking back on my experience of moving through the contested terrains of race, gender and class, it is clear to me that power is never exerted only through economic control, but also through what might be called a form of cultural pedagogy, what C. Wright Mills called the cultural apparatus and Pierre Bourdieu called the privileging of certain forms of cultural capital as forms of symbolic power and privilege. Racism and class hatred are learned activities, and, as a kid, I found myself in a society that was all too ready to teach them. Biography only takes us so far, but when connected to history, it offers an important narrative for linking the personal to the political while at the same time enabling one to translate private issues into public considerations. And it is these personal memories of my own experience with the indignities and power structures of race and class that bear so heavily on how I now mediate those forces at a much different period in my life.

Today, I find the racism that shaped my youth has resurfaced with a vengeance and, yet, seems to be abstracted from any sense of the past, the civil rights struggles that fought for racial justice and the emergence of a new racist cultural pedagogy that became visible, if note celebrated, with the infamous Willie Horton political ad run by George H. W. Bush during the 1988 presidential campaign. Racism today has been both reconfigured and made invisible with regard to its real victims. In the first instance, racism now represents an attack on white people who see themselves as on the receiving end of black power structures and black politicians. This is most obvious in the remarks of a number of infamous politicians and media celebrities. For example, Glenn Beck recently claimed that President Obama was “a racist” who has “a deep-seated hatred for white people” and compared his administration to the “Planet of the Apes.” Rush Limbaugh has called Obama a “halfrican American” and repeatedly played a song on his radio show unapologetically titled “Barack the Magic Negro.” All the while the dominant media says little about how these comments are symptomatic of a vile racism that has gained increasing respectability since the 1980s. When the notable talk-radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger went out of her way to use the N-word 11 times in 15 minutes in order to largely humiliate a black female caller, the press largely focused on the event as an expression of unfortunate and erratic behavior for which Dr. Laura later apologized. In the face of Dr. Laura’s decision to retire from her radio program, Sara Palin used Twitter to fire off some advice to her: “don’t retreat … reload.” This up front support for a racial slur coupled with a metaphor for violence does more than mimic the worse elements of the Jim Crow South, it also points to how the legacy of racism is both forgotten and simultaneously updated.

It appears that much can be forgiven in a society where it is increasingly believed that white men are now under attack by black people, largely embodied in the image of a black president who allegedly is a Muslim in disguise. The all too obvious and troubling claim being made daily by right-wing politicians and others that the public sphere is primarily the preserve of white Christians is too easily equated with a defense of nation, citizenship and patriotism; unfortunately, this monstrous claim is rarely challenged in the dominant media. Instead, racism becomes exclusively the preserve of language and utterly privatized as a result. Hence, foul racist remarks are treated as jokes, indiscreet humor, bad taste or a harmless species of opinion and largely removed from even a hint of the structural racism and accompanying power relations that have become increasingly visible in the United States. One obvious example of this strategy can be found in the way in which the current intense racism directed against Muslims, exemplified in numerous remarks made by conservative politicians and talk-radio hosts, is viewed as simply an expression of anger rather than a species of virulent racism.

Echoes of racism now present themselves in multiple forms and are spreading across the country like a highly contagious virus. This is obvious in terms of a racist cultural pedagogy spread largely through a right-wing cultural apparatus. But its traces and effects can also be found in acts of real violence that now run like a highly charged electric current through the mainstream media, which both reproduces representations of racist violence while failing to comment on it critically. Hence, when right-wing journalists, bloggers and politicians make comments about Obama instituting death panels, concentration camps, mass round ups and a socialist government, such comments are either dealt with as simply individual opinions or individual prejudices. Individual free speech now trumps any claim to social and racial justice. At the same time, state and structural racism are no longer viewed as significant forces in shaping contemporary American society and is now safely ensconced in a market-driven discourse that imagines itself free of racism, legitimated by the election of the first African-American president. Not surprisingly in this alleged era of a post-civil rights society, as politics becomes more racialized, the discourse about race becomes more privatized, reduced to the realm of psychology, emotive disorders, individual responsibility and that old line of defense, free speech.

Any talk about the political and material transformation of a deeply racial social order is largely off the radar for the mainstream media, if not for most of the American public. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that the dominant media has largely refused to connect the racism characteristic of the current debate and resistance to building a Mosque near ground zero to a more comprehensive political and cultural agenda or even the escalating and brutal burning of Mosques and violence being waged against Muslims in other parts of the country. The barely disguised racism at work in this controversy is simply treated as another opinion, an expression of post-9/11 anger, legitimated by the principle of free speech. What is disturbing about this controversy is that it registers both an alarming growth of racism in the United States and it indicates how the escalating of racist name calling and proliferation of racist representations easily moves into a nightmarish siege mentality brimming with the threat, if not actual practice, of violence. As insecurities and anxieties grow among the American public in the midst of an economic recession and the failure of state and federal governments to offer substantive reforms, race, religious, cultural and class hatred become convenient scapegoats for allowing right-wing corporate and religious drones to promote their ideological and political agendas while enhancing their celebrity status and raking in large profits.

Growing up in the fifties and sixties, I witnessed how egregious acts of racism such as the killing and torture of Emmett Till, the beatings of civil rights demonstrators and the humiliation suffered by Rosa Parks sparked major demonstrations, mobilizations and social movements dedicated to fighting racism. Racism was brutally exercised, but did not escape the public shame the country rightly felt about it. There is no shame over racism today because it is no longer viewed as a social problem, but merely an individual issue, and when its poisonous rhetoric and policies emerge, we seem to lack any vocabulary for addressing it, except through the discourse of those fanning the flames of racial injustice.

How else to explain the willingness of many Americans to accept Beck’s claim that he is appropriating the civil rights movement while at the same time spewing out daily the most offensive racial commentaries? What are we to make of NBC’s Brian Williams revisiting Katrina on a heavily promoted Dateline special, “Hurricane Katrina: the First Five Days,” and focusing largely in a self-congratulatory manner on how well the media then covered the event? Lost in his analysis was any commentary on the racist policies that defined the Bush administration’s response to Katrina or the racist brutality exercised in the aftermath of the storm by elements of the New Orleans Police Department. Instead, he reinforced the myth Katrina was a natural tragedy rather than a political one and that violence was out of control in the days following the tragedy – a myth that has been exposed by none other than the new Orleans Times-Picayune. But, of course, the media in this instance did not merely fail to adequately report on the events and response leading up to Katrina, but, instead, became complicit in once again suggesting that African-American culture is largely a culture of violence. We need to pay attention to how race is being spoken in our dominant media and everyday language just as we need to examine the cultural and social formations that benefit from class and racial injustices. We need to remind ourselves about how race and class injustices undermine the fabric of democracy.

As a child growing up in the midst of severe racial segregation, there were spaces of resistance where the gap between America’s democratic ideals and the realities of class inequality and racial injustice were made visible. There were oppositional spaces, movements and a trace of democratic idealism running through the sixties and President Lyndon Johnson’s image of the “Great Society.” While such idealism often covered over a host of injustice, it did provide a political and ethical referent for thinking about the gap between the existing democracy and the promise of a substantive democratic polity. I think that idealism has turned to cynicism in America. The gap between the rich and poor and the powerless and powerful is larger than ever and the deepening inequalities and misery and human suffering these gaps produce are growing out of control. Moreover, everywhere we turn, the shadow of Jim Crow is engulfing the policies, practices and discourses about race in America. The racial segregation of public schooling is greater today than in the sixties; racism is on full display in the increasing collective anger waged against Muslims; the prison has become the pre-eminent public space for black youth; poor minorities of class and color are now viewed by politicians, the dominant media and the general public as largely disposable, a drain on the public coffers and unworthy of social protections. Similarly, the racially specific burdens of poverty, unemployment and despair and the emergence of a neoliberal market driven order suggests a new era in racial violence and a dangerous moment in the proliferation of multiple forms of racism. America has lost its capacity to bear witness as the avatars of racism are now treated in the dominant media as just another ideological position or, even worse, just one opinion among many. The pathology of racism and the growing inequality impacting those marginalized by class and age suggest the emergence of a society in which we no longer believe in the humanity of the other; instead, too many Americans increasingly believe and support the notion that humanity has lost its claim on democracy and is no longer worth fighting for. The deeper causes of class inequality and racial injustice have been drowned out by the shouting and demagoguery of a group of radical authoritarians who control the cultural apparatuses in America and make any form of legitimate politics dysfunctional. They speak of a new American dream and civil rights movement, but they lack either the imagination or the ethics to be taken seriously, especially given how much they despise democracy, thrive on racist and class-based social relations and disdain any vestige of the social state.

If we are going to take democracy seriously, it is time for social movements, parents, unions, intellectuals and elements of the new media to address rigorously the need to contest individually and collectively this new form of racism and class inequality head on as part of a new post-civil rights struggle.[1] This means fighting for public services, emboldening the social state, waging a cultural war in which progressive opinions and democratic values can be heard, connecting various independent struggles as part of one larger movement for a radical democracy. Central to such a struggle is the fight for ideas and power. Structures of power, whether they be in the realm of economics, politics or the cultural realm, will not change by themselves. The struggle for ideas, subjectivities, desires, minds and different modes of agency signify that pedagogy and education and the public spheres that make them possible have to become primary to any form of politics that believes in the merging of reason and freedom. We are at a watershed in American history and dark clouds are forming on the horizon. The price to be paid for living in this increasingly privatized, consumer-oriented and corporate-dominated culture is almost too bleak to imagine. But we have to both imagine it and then organize in every way possible to prevent it

Not “Ground Zero mosque” Debate Echoes Europe’s Fears Of Muslims

In Uncategorized on August 20, 2010 at 9:15 am

Oldspeak: “Let’s wrap our heads around some indisputable facts constantly overlooked. #1 This mosque is 2 blocks away from Ground Zero, not ‘At Ground Zero’ . #2 The muslims who are building this mosque did not attack WTC. #3 All muslims are not terrorists. #4 There was no hew and cry to halt or ban construction of churches, when so called christians, crashed planes into a building, blew up a federal building, firebombed black churches, burned crosses in peoples front yards etc etc etc. Incalculable death, destruction and suffering has been wrought on this world in the name of christianity. The hypocrisy and xenophobia needs to end.

From Robert Marquand @ Christian Science Monitor:

PARIS — As they weather a steamy August, Europeans are dimly aware of a convulsing U.S. debate over the so-called ground zero mosque in New York, an Islamic center that’s scheduled to be built two blocks from where al Qaida destroyed the World Trade Center in 2001.

In Europe, America is seen as a harbor of religious freedom whose embassies promote interfaith dialogue and protection of minority faiths. President Barack Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech to harmonize Islam and American values was perceived as typical, as is the American inclination to push Europeans not to ban small churches and “cults.”

In Paris and London, opinion seems split between those who support and even admire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s acceptance of the Islamic center and those who say the 16-story center is inappropriate or a provocation Americans shouldn’t accept.

In France, stories on Bloomberg’s decision registered surprise that America, which they often see as narrow-minded and Arab-hating, proved more open and tolerant in some ways than current French opinion.

“What we see (in New York) is a fair, balanced treatment of communities ….Let the Americans do it their way. …Most of their founders settled in the U.S. in order to obtain absolute religious freedom, and this is what is being upheld by this decision,” one Francois Bogard commented in a Le Monde forum.

Yet striking among pundits, websites and bloggers is an often articulate though sometimes churlish depiction of Islam as a monolithic form of faith, inherently violent and extreme, and of Muslims as incapable of being moderate.

An essay on the French leftist website Agoravox spoke of incomprehension and shock that in the same week that German authorities closed a radical Hamburg mosque, New York approved the Islamic center: “The mayor, instigated by an imam who is said to be ‘moderate,’ plans to build a mosque extremely close to ground zero, where stood the Twin Towers that Islamist fanaticism reduced to rubble. …You rub your eyes and read again. No, it is not a hallucination. … You look for the justification … but instead of understanding, you dive deeper into an impression of unreality.”

To be sure, Europeans who are familiar with the U.S. see the brouhaha as largely driven by the same nativist sentiments they hear about in the upstart U.S. “tea party” movement. They know the U.S. has something called a First Amendment that guarantees religious rights even when faiths are unpopular or different.

“I understand the sensitivities of many speaking against the mosque; their wounds are still raw, nine years later,” pointed out Nick Spencer at Theos, a faith and public policy center in London. “But reacting against it is counterproductive … for reasons of religious liberty. … But it also is a positive opportunity. Those responsible for building the center know the eyes of the world, and America’s eyes, will be directly on them. That’s a chance to show Islam as conciliatory, and a chance for Islam and the U.S. to exchange.”

Yet the controversy plays out as Europe, long proud of its cosmopolitan tolerance, is roiled by rising Muslim populations, has banned minarets and burqas and is seeing populist anti-Islamic sentiment in its politics. The rise of “Islamophobia” here five years ago hasn’t ended. Rather, it’s become more comfortably settled. Social politeness and taboos on talking about Islam are eroding.

The fact is, Europeans aren’t exactly sure what they think about Islam, analysts said. Its educated classes grew up in a multicultural world and imbibed values of getting along, but a shadow is falling between the idea and the reality. The French and Belgian burqa ban is a symbolic pushback against growing numbers of Muslims, not yet embraced by the countries but whom the nations want to assimilate. The burqa discussion hit Great Britain powerfully in July, before the new Conservative government put its foot down against such a ban.

One British religious scholar points out that public opinion in Great Britain today on the Islam question bounces back and forth between the “positions of guys like Tony Blair, who argue absolutely about positive pluralism and the need to support moderate Muslims, and the concerns of us who for the first time are thinking it isn’t that simple, as we see the identity of Britain changing.”

In early January a proposed “mega-mosque” in London was sidelined after four years of increasing opposition. The mosque would border a London Olympics 2012 site. The symbolism of the site and the size of the mosque — designed to hold 12,000 worshippers, when most British churches hold 500 — brought considerable opposition, led by a Christian evangelical politician. Many Muslims also opposed the project, initiated by the controversial Islamic missionary group Tablighi Jamaat.

Even many hard-core religious pluralists finally said they thought the idea was a bad one, but the long debate added to the poisonous and exaggerated positions in the general atmosphere.

London, Paris and Barcelona cosmopolitans still insist on an ethic of tolerance and fairness, but there’s an uneasy fear about how a growing melange of peoples and faiths is going to turn out. The Swiss, Austrian and Dutch have elected political figures who are committed to curbing Islamic expression, if not erasing it.

Noam Chomsky, the linguist and public intellectual, a Jew long critical of Israeli policies, recently stopped in France after being prevented from lecturing at an Palestinian university in the West Bank, and observed that, “Europe has always actually been more racist than the U.S.”

Such opinions are deeply unappreciated in Europe. Yet in the past week of comment on the lively website Rue 89 and on Le Monde, the majority of those who chose to express themselves on the ground zero subject, though a self-selected group, expressed hostility to Muslims without much qualification. There were other views, including the humorous French position that a mosque or any other building would be fine on the site so long as it wasn’t a McDonald’s, but a majority took the case as a chance to air a “clash of civilizations.”