The union that represents 13,000 graduate student-workers in the University of California system has become the first major U.S. labor union to pass, by member vote, a resolution endorsing the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli occupation and in solidarity with Palestinian self-determination.
The teaching assistants, tutors, and other UC student workers who belong to United Auto Workers Local 2865 voted strongly in favor of a bill calling on the union’s umbrella organization, UAW International, and the University of California Regents to divest from companies complicit in Israeli occupation, and calling on the U.S. government to end all military aid to Israel. The results were released yesterday, following the counting of ballots cast on December 4, and the measure passed with 65 percent in favor and 35 percent opposed.
Because this was the headline in the local newspaper (later addition: Richmond, CA, I forgot to say!):
Richmond police chief a prominent participant in protest against police violence
…a different kind of protest popped up in Richmond on Tuesday, and at the vanguard of the gathering calling for a reduction in police violence in communities of color was an unlikely participant: Richmond’s police chief.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, not in Richmond, not anywhere,” said longtime resident Mary Square, who stood on the north side of Macdonald Avenue watching the protesters on the south side of the street. “All these police, and the police chief, holding signs calling for an end to police violence. … I’m going to tell my kids.”
Richmond Chief of Police Chris Magnus stands with demonstrators to protest the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths during a peaceful demonstration in Richmond, Calif., on Dec. 9, 2014. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)
So what’s different about this white police chief? Here’s one thing:
Chris Magnus and Terrance Cheung (Ellen Seskin)
Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus and Terrance Cheung, the chief of staff in Supervisor John Gioia’s office, were married in a ceremony that took place among blooming flowers in the terraced amphitheater at the Berkeley Rose Garden over the weekend. After the small ceremony, the newlyweds held a reception for about 250 people at the Richmond waterfront restaurant Salute’s.
Magnus and Cheung form something of a political power couple as was evidenced by some of the guests at the reception….
Some years ago my hijab wearing friend was approached by an older woman in Melbourne and told to “go back home”; there was no place for her in Australia. My friend is Caucasian Australian. She was at home!
Earlier this year I was making small talk with an acquaintance, a hijab wearing Indian Muslim woman, as I waited for my pizza order. She asked me what I was doing these days. I told her that I was comparing two major tafasir (exegesis or explanation of Quranic verses) on women’s issues and collecting various interpretations for verse 4:34 of the Quran. Without a moment’s thought she said, “Oh, wow Mashallah! I didn’t know you’d be interested in something like that, I mean I’d understand if a woman with hijab did that!”
I am very happy that the author wrote this article because I’m old enough to see the shift in clothing symbols for Muslims pre and post 9/11. I was born Muslim in the West, in a world when Muslim majority countries were more secular than religious and grew up in the pre 9/11 time when Islam was being revived so I see post 9/11 world through the eyes of an older adult who has experience of what it was like before it.
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.
A vital aspect of the ongoing Berkeley Protests (along with those around the country) is the undeniable power of voice. We at Tikkun believe in the voice of the people, from that of an individual blogger to the harmonious chants of thousands in the streets. We know, as these protests have shown, how powerful a group of citizens can be when they come together to let their voices be heard. And we know the importance of each individual within the crowd.
Over the years both Tikkun and the Tikkun Daily blog have expanded their writer base, drawing in brilliant younger writers and increasing interfaith diversity. We’ve created a platform for individuals to let their voices free. This grants them the opportunity to gather momentum and support and turn their single cry into the chant of many.
Below we have two examples of writers who have graced Tikkun with their voice and in turn found a home:
Tens of millions of Americans are deeply disturbed by the racism that has recently gotten the focus that it should have had for the past many decades. The failure of juries to indict police who kill African American males was not new, but the awareness of this reality which has been just one of the many faces of racism that weigh down the lives of African Americans in this society was quite unusual and momentarily broke through the dominant discourse that “that problem has been solved decades ago after Martin Luther King, Jr. saved his people by ending segregation and winning the voting rights laws.”
Of course, even now there are many in the media who try to deny the ongoing significance of racism in our society. Yet the outpouring of anger that we’ve seen on college campuses and in the streets of the U.S. is a reason for hopefulness that when the media turns its attention away from this issue some of the consciousness about racism will remain alive beyond the peoples of color who can never forget it as long as it is shoved in their face by police, unemployment, hunger, poverty, harassment, and endless opportunities to experience the contempt that many whites feel toward them.
Is it any wonder that some young African Americans find it hard to believe that there is a strong connection between how hard they work and how well they will be treated in this society? Does anyone really think that if a Black cop had killed a middle class white youth or strangled and then let die a white man that the grand jury would not have indicted him? What we have been hearing more clearly than ever in the past few years is the tremendous fear that African Americans carry with them at all times — fear of white majority and their occupying force in communities of color that we call police and some of us call “pigs,” and fear of the way the system keeps on undermining them, manifesting contempt for them, and treating them as though their lives did not matter.
That’s why I am so glad that this Sunday, December 14, the Progressive National Baptist Convention has called for a morning of standing in solidarity with African Americans. I strongly urge you to find a Black church near you and show up in solidarity. The focus is not only on mourning but in publicly proclaiming: “Black Lives Matter.” That afternoon, we at the Network of Spiritual Progressives will be holding a strategy conference to assess what needs to change in the way the liberal and progressive forces have developed in the past few decades that has rendered them less influential and hence less able to defend the mini-steps that were taken in the past to overcome American racism. I’m hoping that our event will spur dozens of others.
One of the first acts of the 112th United States Congress was to stage a reading of the entire constitution on the floor of the House of Representatives. The reading was planned as a way of acknowledging the strength of the new Tea Party faction in the House and its ideological commitment to upholding its particular understanding of the Constitution. There was just one problem: the U.S. Constitution, despite having been modified since, still contains references to its own codification of the anti-democratic beginnings of American democracy. Namely, the Constitution makes distinctions between citizens and “other persons,” or slaves, in counting population numbers for the purposes of apportionment of representatives and taxation. Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution provides that population will be counted “by adding to the whole Number of free Persons…three fifths of all other Persons.” Not wanting to be reminded of the imperfections in our Constitution, or the contradictions encoded in our democracy, the House leadership decided to read a redacted version that eliminated all language later superseded by amendments.
Simply removing the language that codified the dehumanization and disenfranchisement of African-Americans, however, can’t make it disappear. This week brought further evidence that despite Constitutional amendments and other forms of political and judicial reform, the lingering effects of Article 1 remain. Last month’s decision by a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, not to indict the white police officer who killed the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August was a reminder that our country was founded on the principle that African-American lives are worth less (three-fifths, according to the Constitution) than white ones. That sentiment was everywhere evident at protests decrying the grand jury decision, on signs that read “Black Lives Matter.” The fact that we still need to be reminded that black lives have worth brings us back to the way the founding documents of our democracy have, in a sense, written some American citizens out of it from the start. As a line from the Ferguson tribute song “Don’t Shoot” puts it, “I’m a resident of a nation that don’t want me.”
We live in a culture based on images, none more powerful than those of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. In this age of the armchair activist, a voice of dissent is a click, a tweet or often just vitriol in a comment box. We can happily surf away to another distraction from the safety of our sofas. What if you took your solidarity and you turned up, in real time, to the trouble spot on the screen? This is exactly what activist Victor Paes did when he recently joined The International Solidarity movement (ISM) in Palestine for the annual olive harvest. Unsatisfied to merely click and share, many politically engaged citizens of the world are showing solidarity for issues in revolutionary new ways. Compassion is being translated into action because the passivity of social media often numbs feeling.
Racism causes racial bias and derangement of mind.
Racism can make a large portion of society crazy.
Now I know that many people who either suffer from mental illness or have loved ones who suffer from mental illness will not appreciate the use of the word “crazy.” I know that when we look at the reality of mental illness that causes great stress on individuals and families that the idea of racial bias as a societal psychosis may seem as if it is a stretch. I want to use this disturbing word because it is this craziness that creates a life and death situation when African Americans meet police officers who misperceive them as a threat, and in a matter of seconds may shoot them dead, or choke them to death or beat them viciously by the side of the road.
And the crazy is so crazy deep that many people affected by the crazy do not realize how crazy they are. The insanity causes us to misperceive reality, so we see what is not really real and do not see what is really real.
In the current discourse around the rash of police killings of unarmed African-American men and the failure of two grand juries to indict the police officers, we are necessarily having a conversation on race. This essay is about societal mental health. These killings are a result of how too many white police officers perceive and misperceive African-American men. When people have limited contact with members of another group they very often see members of that group through the lens of stereotypes. The super-physical black man is one stereotype of African-American men. He is the large, brute Negro who is capable of doing physical harm. In some circumstances even small African-American men are perceived to be larger and stronger than they actually are.
A recently published psychological study demonstrates this racial bias. This study – “A Superhumanization Bias in Whites’ Perception of Blacks” -published in Social Psychological and Personality Science describes five studies and their results that support the idea that very often European Americans often misperceive African Americans as either subhuman or superhuman but not as human. And when they do perceive African Americans as superhuman it is not a favorable perception.
I say this distorted view is the content of a societal psychosis. It has made crazy ordinary.
Gazans pick up the pieces after buildings are demolished in Gaza City. Credit: Creative Commons/Al Jazeera English
The temperatures rose sharply in the Gaza-Sderot region during July and August. But it wasn’t the heat that made our lives unbearable; it was the third war that tore through our area in less than six years. It was the lethal ping pong of over 5000 Israeli bombings in Gaza and over 4000 rocket attacks on Israeli communities that killed nearly 2200 Gazans, and wounded over 10,000 and that took the lives of 70 Israelis and wounded 875. In addition to the deaths and injuries, ‘Protective Edge’ – or what I termed Unprotected Abyss – forced half a million Palestinians in Gaza from their homes during the war (many still have no homes to return to), and led to the two-month escape of nearly 8000 Israelis – mostly young families – all desperate to find shelter from the bombs, rockets, mortar shells and bullets.
In the south, we knew that after Prime Minister Netanyahu declared the Hamas responsible for the kidnap and murder in mid-June of the three boys – Naftali, Gilad and Eyal – Israelis lucky enough to have ‘safe rooms’ or friends and relatives in the north, would soon be running in their direction. Even though the intelligence branch of the army knew that the terrorists came from Hebron, the air force was sent to punish Gaza. This is the script we know by heart: we go in and bomb, they respond with rockets.
It was not satisfying to be in the know then, nor is it comforting to be in the know now.