“What parents have done for decades who have children of color, especially young men of color, is train them to be very careful when they have…an encounter with a police officer.”
- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, ABC’s “This Week”
The Mayor added that “With Dante, very early on, we said, ‘Look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do. Don’t move suddenly. Don’t reach for your cellphone,’ because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color.”
by: Metis on February 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
One of my most favorite film dialogues is from Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium:
Mr. Edward Magorium: [to Molly, about dying] When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He’s written “He dies.” That’s all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is “He dies.” It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with “He dies.” And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it’s only natural to be sad, but not because of the words “He dies.” but because of the life we saw prior to the words.
Deah’s brother, Farris has explained that whether this tragedy is classified as a hate crime or not, “so much good has come out of it” and it may help people understand that “hate can kill.” Credit: mcwooten 92 / Instagram
I have quoted this several times but never has it made more sense than now with the triple homicide in North Carolina on February 10, 2015. 23-year old Deah Barakat, his new wife 21-year old Yusor Abu-Salha and Yusor’s 19-year old sister Razan Abu-Salha were unarmed and gunned down (execution style) inside their apartment by their neighbor Craig Hicks. Police claim the murder of all three took place in response to a parking dispute with the neighbor. Hicks is a self-identified anti-theist and the dead were all Muslim.
Most of us didn’t know the victims personally. We will probably never meet their families. Yet there is more than simple empathy that makes their death so real to so many of us, and some have come to realize that it was not their death or how they died, but because of the lives we saw prior to their death that makes their loss so painful to accept. Social media has that power. Within hours their Facebook pictures, messages, evidence of active social work, and even wedding photos were all over the Internet. In less than 24 hours the world knew the lives the young man and the two young women had lead.
In their death, they had risen.
by: Jacob Klein on February 12th, 2015 | 2 Comments »
The news that three young people – Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha – were killed Tuesday near University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is finally making its way into the mainstream press following social media outcry over an initial silence on the evening news and in local newspapers.
We must take action in memory of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha so Islamophobic violence like the Chapel Hill shooting doesn't happen again. Credit: Our Three Winners (www.facebook.com/ourthreewinners).
The media’s slow response to this tragic loss – something that would otherwise be all over the 24-hour news cycle – is a painful reminder of how racism and Islamophobia distort reporting on crimes like these. This wasn’t a favored story because the victims were Muslim, and because their alleged killer is a white man.
Most sources that have reported on the Chapel Hill Shooting, as it’s come to be called, make mention of a parking dispute as a potential cause for the killings. Some highlight this more than others, a Fox Nation post going as far as to say in the headline that “Parking dispute, not bias, triggered triple murder.”
However factual the parking dispute may be, how does it come to pass that neighbors disagreeing over parking turns into an execution-style murder spree? Police have reported that all three were shot in the head, an act that undermines potential arguments of a heated fight. And according to some reports, gunshots may have numbered up to ten.
We have an Islamophobia problem in this country. Typically I don’t like using the “I word” because it’s easy to see how others may hold a different view than mine about what constitutes hate and bigotry. But the news out of Austin, TX this week is startling in a number of ways and the word Islamophobia just fits perfectly, especially the phobia part. A group of Muslims from Texas, many of whom I know personally, went to Austin to this week to meet their elected officials and they had a few unpleasant surprises waiting for them. The worst part? It was all under the guise of patriotism and loyalty.
by: Donna Swarthout on January 28th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
Anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism, and other rising tides of extremism have dominated recent media coverage of European affairs. A growing number of Jews are fleeing Europe, right wing patriot rallies and marches have spawned an increase in violence against Muslims, and the outlook for an abatement of hatred against Europe’s minorities and immigrants seems bleak. Media coverage of these trends seems to sow the very fear to which civilized people say they will not succumb.
European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP) protests against PAX Europe, a racist organization. Credit: Frank M. Rafik/ Creative Commons.
Amidst the constant reports of threats from extremist forces, many observers claim that European leaders and the media show indifference towards some victims of terror. Some see double standards in the amount of attention that is devoted to certain groups of victims over others. After the slayings in the kosher market in Paris, there were cries from some Jewish quarters about the insufficient amount of attention given to these anti-Semitic crimes. “Why won’t Europe acknowledge the grave threat to its Jews?” screamed one recent headline. As if Angela Merkel and the rest of the continent had been silent or inactive in the face of anti-Semitism.
Must we really compete with other victims for attention in a world besieged by so many tragedies? Responding to terrorism with complaints about the amount of attention one group receives compared to another is divisive and counterproductive. Some groups do receive more attention and expressions of sympathy than others. Jews are not at the top of the list, but we have not been ignored either.
Viewing the threat from extremist forces in Europe through the narrow lens of identity politics does little to address the root problems that foster terrorism. I worry less about the depth of hatred towards Jews than I do about how to support Germany’s economically depressed regions and growing refugee population so that extremism does not take root and spread. The racism of PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West), the group that has been holding enormous anti-Islamic rallies in Germany, threatens all of us, not just Muslims.
by: Sharon and Abbsi on January 8th, 2015 | Comments Off
As Israelis and Palestinians, it’s easy for us to become disillusioned and lose the vision for peace. This is especially true after this past year brought us a horrific war in Gaza, followed by a cycle of violence that some have termed a Third Intifada. Tensions have continued to simmer and it seems that even the optimists have lost the ability to hope or dream.
Because of this, we feel compelled to share two short dreams for 2015 and beyond — one written by an Israeli woman and the other a Palestinian. These are both a part of a blogging series by a group of Israeli and Palestinian women, featured on the blog Another Voice.
My dream really goes well beyond 2015, but I hope it begins there and that 2015 can be the year that sets a new course for all of us and, especially, my son’s generation.
It seems but a distant dream, one that a few keep trying to grasp but is so elusive. The majority in our societies keeps pushing it further and further away from our children’s reach, carelessly ready to leave them bankrupt and with an even bleaker future than we have.
But I see this dream written on my son’s peaceful face as he sleeps or in the innocent joy of his smile and it gives me renewed hope that it is perhaps possible. And then I can’t help but dream and think about how I want this place to be for him:
by: Cherie R. Brown on December 11th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
Many are rightfully outraged by the recent killings of unarmed African American men by police officers. As a result, there is an important national movement now to protest the killings, to demand that Black lives matter, and to address a criminal justice system that continues to target Black men with little accountability. From my thirty years of experience with the National Coalition Building Institute, I offer one perspective on how to effect institutional change among law enforcement agencies to make them more responsive to Black and Latino communities.
At a moment when many police officers are reacting with defensiveness and hostility, Richmond Chief of Police Chris Magnus has stood with the protesters. What would it take to spread this sentiment and make the U.S. justice system a less racist institution? Credit: Mindy Pines.
Community residents and local police officers are often both victims of larger institutional racism. When theNational Coalition Building Institute first started leading local training programs between law enforcement agencies and community activists, it became clear that neither side completely understood the other. Community leaders felt under siege by the police, recounting their experiences of constant racial profiling. They understandably organized against the violence from the local police, but sometimes with little awareness of the daily struggles that law enforcement officers face. Police officers in the U.S., like the rest of us, are a product of centuries of racism. They have internalized a great deal of unconscious bias that informs their actions. When the police are called to account for their racism, instead of facing it and changing, they often react with enormous defensiveness, retreat inward, and shut off important contacts with the community.
by: Arlene Goldbard on December 9th, 2014 | Comments Off
The demonstrators who are stopping traffic, occupying public spaces, and marching through busy shopping streets want to disrupt business-as-usual in the hope of awakening conscience and action.The tags for every demonstration at Ferguson Response tell the story: #WeCantBreathe, #ThisStopsToday, #JusticeforEricGarner, #JusticeforMikeBrown.
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area – specifically in Berkeley and Oakland, two centers of activism – there have been incidents of vandalism, arrests, tear gas lobbed by police into crowds (and sometimes lobbed back). These loom very large in mainstream media coverage, of course: if it bleeds, it leads. They loom large in some people’s minds too. I’ve been hearing concern expressed that these demonstrations will discredit the movement for justice: if they turn violent, some have said, they lose moral force.
I want to parse that response because it reveals something about embedded cultural attitudes that are part of the problem. How do we become aware of and correct for racist frames that have shaped our perceptions and attitudes? Let me see if I can help to break it down.
by: Miki Kashtan on December 4th, 2014 | Comments Off
Last week, when I sat down to write in response to the situation in Ferguson, I ended up writing much about my own journey of learning about how to engage the topic of race; I wrote more about that than directly about Ferguson. The difference between that first draft and the piece that finally got posted was dramatic. It was made up of feedback from Dave, my editor and supporter, that initially knocked me out completely in its depth and intensity. This was the point at which I turned to Uma and Ya-Ping for support, as well as my colleague and friend Roxy Manning. After about ten rounds of back and forth with some combination or another of all four of them, the piece that is now on the website came into final form.
As much as I like the result, I was left with all that was cut out of the original piece. Although I wholeheartedly agree about taking it out from that piece, I still want to share it. This is what this piece is. If nothing else, for anyone who is like me, I have always had the experience that understanding a process in addition to seeing the results deepens my understanding and increases the chances of integration and personal application. Also, because I want to spell out what I learned as part of my own continuing learning, and in the hopes of supporting others’ learning about the very complex questions involved in these topics. Lastly, because I want it known that this learning process is neither easy nor comfortable. The two days of feedback were, at times, excruciating and nonetheless I am in awe, I am grateful, and I found immense beauty and depth along the way.
There are times, and this is one of them, where my ongoing choice to stay away from public events and electoral politics no longer stands up to my inner sense of moral integrity. This is a time where I am just too clear that it’s only my privilege that makes it even an option to choose. No, I don’t think that privilege is “bad,” nor do I aim to make it go away, nor believe it’s possible or even always desirable to do so. Rather, I want to consider my privilege as a resource, and to keep asking myself day in and day out how I mobilize my privilege and use it for the benefit of all.
Credit: Vox Media
In my position of privilege, I can write whatever I want about Ferguson, and I don’t risk losing a job, alienating people who can make my life miserable, or possibly even more imminent physical risks to my body. I want to be taking the most risk that I can in speaking as much truth as I know, with as much love for all as I can muster, because this is my creed: truth with love, and with enough courage to face all consequences.
This is one small part of a larger aim I have regarding privilege. I want to find ways of getting those of us with privilege to recognize and own it without defensiveness or shame, and to become loving stewards of the resources given to us by the history of racism. Stewarding resources means to me that we know it’s not “ours” to own or use for our personal gain. This is my understanding of Gandhi’s idea of trusteeship, which I see as a major step towards a world that truly works for all. I plan to come back to the very complicated and exceedingly painful topic of privilege soon.