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Warren Blumenfeld
Warren Blumenfeld




Steve King’s Brand of “Freedom” Only for People Like Steve King

Jan30

by: on January 30th, 2015 | No Comments »

U.S. Representative Steven King from Iowa’s fourth congressional district, on January 24, attempted to play kingmaker by bringing some of the most politically conservative of the Republican Party’s potential 2016 candidates to his so-called “Iowa Freedom Summit” in Des Moines. This event is seen as the kickoff — of a deflated Right’s game ball — to Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucus.

I find the title of this gathering very misleading, and actually a form of false advertising. When Steve King talks about “freedom,” just what exactly does he mean? As a former resident living in his congressional district, I never understood his definition of the term.

King certainly has no need of promoting freedom to undocumented residents. Last year, he dismissed the notion that many undocumented immigrants are high-achieving students. He asserted that they should not receive a pathway to citizenship saying that for every valedictorian who is legalized, “there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

And King has no use for the concept of “freedom” for the diversity of cultural traditions in the United States other than his own. He claimed that the promotion of the concept of multiculturalism will ultimately bring about the demise of the country as we know it.

In the course I taught at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa titled “Multicultural Foundations in Schools and Society,” I showed students a video of Steve King’s. Speaking to supporters on August 21, 2012 at a Le Mars, Iowa, Town Hall meeting, King conjured up a supposed deep and sinister plot to ensnare young and impressionable first-year college students into campus multicultural groups for the purpose of turning them into victims, which he asserted will convince them to work toward the eventual overthrow of this country’s power structure.

King talked about preparing for a debate some time ago on the Iowa State University campus on the concept of multiculturalism. He talked about checking out the university’s website: “I typed in ‘multicultural,’” he stated on the video, “and it came back to me at the time, 59 different multicultural groups listed to do, to operate on campus at Iowa State….And most of them were victims’ groups, victimology, people who feel sorry for themselves.”

He warned that these groups are “out there recruiting our young people to be part of the group who are feeling sorry for themselves….But just think of 59 card tables set up across the parking lot on the way to the dorm….And the first group says, ‘Well, you’re a victim that fits us. We want to help you. Why don’t you join us?’….And then you’re brought into a group that has a grievance against society rather than understand there’s a tremendous blessing in this society.”

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Blasting Away Black Faces and Lives

Jan28

by: on January 28th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Mugshots with bulletholes

Florida National Guard Seargent Valerie Deant saw her brother's mugshot being used for target practice by North Miami Beach Police. Credit: @truthseekerstv

With the increased visibility of police officers killing unarmed black men and boys surfacing in the media, the wide scale demonstrations of outrage and protest traveling throughout the United States and in countries around the world, and investigations by the Justice Department into allegations of racial bias in policing, one would anticipate that police force officials might begin to assess procedures, at the very least, to give the impression they are willing to correct any appearance of racial profiling of black and brown people. I suppose, however, the Chief of the North Miami Beach Police Department in Florida never got that memo.

What members of the Florida National Guard found when they showed up at a shooting range for their annual weapons qualifying training shocked and angered them. Before they arrived, the North Miami Beach Police Department conducted sniper training at the site using mug shots of African American men for target practice, and for some reason, they failed to removed the pictures. For one of the members of the Guard, Seargent Valerie Deant, this was extremely traumatic. One of the hanging mug shots was of her brother, Woody Deant, with a clear bullet hole in one of his eyes and another in the center of his forehead.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Inescapable Network of Mutuality’

Jan20

by: on January 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

“My husband, Martin Luther King Jr., once said, .’We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny…an inescapable network of mutuality….I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be.’ Therefore, I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”

— Coretta Scott King, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change Conference Plenary Address, Atlanta, Georgia, 2000

At this time of year, as we commemorate and celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am reminded once again of his vibrant image of the “inescapable network of mutuality” that links humanity. Dr. King envisioned an inclusive model of social justice because he believed that “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

Though the concept of “social justice” has been defined a number of ways, I have constructed my definition as:

“The concept that local, national, and global communities functionwhere everyone has equal access to and equitable distribution of the rights, benefits, privileges, and resources, and where everyone can live freely unencumbered by social constructions of hierarchical positions of domination and subordinationbased onsocial identities.”

Yes, identities based on race and sexual and gender identities, for example, are very distinct, and the weight of oppression often falls on members of these groups differently. However, many argue that since “race” is an immutable biological trait that people are born with, certain protections must be provided to prevent the dominant group from persecuting minoritized “races.” They also assert that same-sex and both-sex attractions and gender identities and expressions outside the binary are not factors that people are born with but rather “choose” later in life, and therefore, they do not deserve nor require “special rights” for their chosen so-called “life styles.”

I see an underlying assumption to this argument: there are only limited rights to go around, and since there is such a scarcity of rights available, we must divide them among people on the basis of biology. This “scarcity” theory results in marginalized groups competing for what they see as the crumbs of a small and limited pie, rather than joining together to work for a larger and more equitable pie. This argument also fails in that it neither understands nor even acknowledges individuals’ intersecting and multiple identities or multiple positionalities from which they experience the world.

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LGBT Equality and the 2012 GOP Presidential Candidates

Jan14

by: on January 14th, 2015 | No Comments »

I would like to provide a bit of a historical retrospective as we begin to enter the sweepstakes for the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. I do this for the purpose of assessing whether Republicans — individual candidates and as a larger Party – remains attached to the policies of the past or has evolved and moved forward in terms of issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality (LGBT).

Back in 2011, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum described marriage for same-sex couples as “a hit to faith and family in America,” and he asserted that if legalized, “their sexual activity” would be seen as “equal” to heterosexual relationships, and it would be taught in schools. “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” he continued. Previously, he said that marriage between same-sex couples will cause our country to “fall.”

When asked by Jane Schmidt, student coordinator of the Gay/Straight Alliance at Waverly High School in Waverly, Iowa on November 30, 2011, “Why can’t same-sex couples get married [throughout the United States]?,” Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann responded that gay and lesbian people should have “no special rights” to marry people of the same sex, insisting that “the laws are you marry a person of the opposite sex.” She added: “They can get married, but they abide by the same law as everyone else. They can marry a man if they’re a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they’re a man.”

Bachmann has consistently represented same-sex attractions and sexuality as a “disorder” that encourages child abuse and “enslavement.” Her husband, Marcus, has been roundly criticized for his so-called “conversion therapy” (“praying away the gay”) practices at his Minnesota counseling center. Michelle Bachmann’s Iowa co-chair, Tamara Scott, was recorded as asserting that the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples would ultimately lead to people marrying turtles and inanimate objects, like the Eiffel Tower.

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Cruel & Tyrannical Christian ‘Conversion Therapies’

Jan13

by: on January 13th, 2015 | No Comments »

The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was. They’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something….Fix society. Please.”

Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old trans* girl, wrote these tragically poignant words just before stepping in front of a 18-wheel tractor trailer on December 28, 2014 at 2:20 a.m. as she walked along the southbound lanes of I-71 near her home in Kings Mill, Ohio. Also in her suicide note, she outlined her troubled relationship with her conservative Christian parents who would not accept or support her trans* identity claiming their religious beliefs as justification. They sent her to a so-called “Christian therapist” who refused to grant her permission to undergo gender confirmation medical procedures.

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Police and Protesters as Potential Allies

Jan9

by: on January 9th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

“The ruling class has…needed people to control those on the bottom. Some of the largest male occupations are police, security guards, prison wardens, immigration officials, deans and administrators, soldiers, members of the National Guard and state militias, and, of course, the father of the family as the disciplinarian.”

Paul Kivel, You Call This a Democracy?

The current demonstrators protesting alleged police harassment and unprovoked killings of unarmed black men and boys surfacing throughout U.S. highlights the longstanding and continuous tensions and confrontations between police forces and the communities they are meant to serve. An essential question we must discuss and eventually answer, however, is: “Whose interests do they actually serve?”

Examination reveals that in communities where incidents of police killings occur most frequently, law enforcement officers come primarily from similar socioeconomic classes (middle and working class) — while not necessarily from similar ethnic, cultural, racial, or gender backgrounds — of the people they patrol. What we are witnessing is an intra-class conflict in the service of the wealthy ruling class.

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Racism Reproduced in Social Institutions Like Police Departments

Dec22

by: on December 22nd, 2014 | 2 Comments »

brooklyn shooting of police

Police officers Rafael Ramos (left) and Wenjian Liu (right) fatally shot in Brooklyn over the weekend. Credit: Creative Commons / The Independent

A 28-year-old man identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley apparently shot two uniformed New York City Police Department officers, Rafael Ramos, 40, and Wenjian Liu, 32, execution-style as they sat in their marked patrol car in Brooklyn last Saturday. Investigators believe the gunman’s motive for the slayings was to avenge the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown – two black men killed by police officers earlier in the year. Police also suspect Brinsley of shooting his ex-girlfriend in the abdomen previously that day at her residence in Baltimore.

According to NYPD Police Commissioner, William Bratton, the gunman shot the officers with “no warning, no provocation – they were quite simply assassinated, targeted for their uniform.”

Only minutes after murdering the officers, Brinsley turned his gun on himself and died on a subway platform as police began surrounding him.

While allegations of racism against individual officers and entire departments have certainly gained traction across the nation with the high-profile killings of black men and boys recently, no one can condone the random murder of police officers as a solution to this long-standing problem.

In fact, speaking for the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton was emphatic in his condemnation of the events in Brooklyn: “I have spoken to the Garner family and we are outraged by the early reports of the police killed in Brooklyn today. Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, in connection with any violence or killing of police, is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases.”

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Sport as Socio-Political Institution

Dec4

by: on December 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

1968 Olympics Tommie Smith and John Carlos

Tommie Smith and John Carlos salute all the human rights workers and the victims of injustice.

I still clearly see in my mind’s eye the raised black-gloved fists of gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos soaring into the air of history during the track and field medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. As the Star Spangled Banner blared throughout the stadium, Smith and Carlos stood to salute all the human rights workers and the victims of injustice in the United States and throughout the world.

They both ascended the winner’s platform shoeless wearing black socks to highlight black poverty. Representing black pride, Smith wore a black scarf around his neck, and Carlos unzipped the top of his tracksuit in solidarity with all working class blue collar workers in the United States. He wore a strand of beads, which he declared, “were for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage.”

I watched the ceremonies from my university dormitory lounge with other residents, while tear tracks of pride streamed down my face, not merely because of my connections with Smith and Carlos as undergraduate students at the same institution, San José State University, but because they clearly demonstrated not only the political potential, but more importantly, the very political nature of sport to forever transform minds, hearts, and souls for the betterment of society.

Not everyone, though, even at my university, supported their actions, stating that the purpose of sport is for entertainment only, and not to advance a political policy or agenda. Avery Brundage, International Olympic Committee president, scolded the athletes and the U.S. Olympic Committee for bringing domestic politics into “the apolitical, international forum [of] the Olympic Games.” Soon following Smith and Carlos’ actions, the U.S. Olympic Committee suspended them from the team and barred them from the Olympic Village. My university, however, gave them a hero’s standing ovation when they returned to campus, and we honored the two athletes with a 22-foot high statue in 2005.

I suggest to those who assert the “apolitical” nature of sport to ask President Jimmy Carter why he chose to have the U.S. boycott the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Ask the athletes and spectators at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia why they proudly waved rainbow flags and wore rainbow garments, held placards, and publicly embraced and kissed others of the same sex as Russian authorities passed legislation and cracked down on so-called “homosexual propaganda.”

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“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” and “I Can’t Breathe!”

Dec4

by: on December 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Eric Garner

Credit: Creative Commons/ Gerard Flynn

A grand jury in St. Louis county Missouri, on November 24, 2014, failed to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of unarmed black man, Michael Brown, Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014.

Now a grand jury has decided not to indict Staten Island police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, in the July 17, 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner, a black man who was selling loose cigarettes in violation of New York law.

After my initial outrage and disgust after hearing both these decisions, I am left with so many unanswered questions that I don’t know where to begin, but begin I will.

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Alan Turing Helped Save the World and They Persecuted Him

Nov18

by: on November 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

“[Alan Turing] was and is a hero of all time…a man who is a gay icon, who didn’t deny his nature, his being, and for that he suffered. … This is a story that celebrates him, that celebrates outsiders; it celebrates anybody who’s ever felt different and ostracized and ever suffered prejudice.”

Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing on set of The Imitation Game. Credit: Creative Commons/ touchedmuch

Though I usually find TV award shows to project primarily fluff and silliness, and they rarely stir deep emotions in me, listening to Benedict Cumberbatch’s acceptance speech in the Best Actor category for his portrayal of Alan Turing in the film “The Imitation Game” at the American Film Awards ceremonies brought me to tears. This stemmed from a sense of deep pride and an endless abyss of sadness. Cumberbatch’s commitment and passion shinned through on stage as he talked about transforming Turing’s story, his brilliance, and his humanity to the silver screen helping in his way to give him the long-overdue wide-scale recognition he rightly deserves.

Alan Mathison Turing was a pioneering computer scientist, and he served as a mid-20th century English mathematician, logician, and cryptanalyst who, working during World War II at England’s Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, succeeded with his team of scientists and linguists in cracking the “Enigma code” used by the Nazi command to conduct covert communication operations. Because of Turing and his colleagues’ efforts, Cumberbatch stated that there is now general agreement that they significantly shorted the war by at least two years saving an estimated 17 million lives. Prime Minister Winston Churchill singled out Turning as the person whose work contributed the most to defeating the Germans.

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