by: Warren Blumenfeld on September 1st, 2014 | Comments Off
Credit: Creative Commons/AFGE
There are milestones in the history of education where conditions have come together to advance progressive social policy reforms. One such milestone was the momentous United States Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education (Topeka, Kansas), rendered on May 17, 1954. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that the “separate but equal” clause (set down in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896) was unconstitutional because it violated children’s rights as covered under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when separation was solely on the classification of “race.” Delivering the court opinion, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that the “segregated schools are not equal and cannot be made equal, and hence they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws.”
The Brown decision rested on accumulated social science research that emphasized the detrimental effects of school segregation on students of color. Following the decision, intransigence on the part of a number of Southern political leaders prevented the law from fully taking effect. In fact, President Eisenhower was compelled to call out federal troops to ensure compliance in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. Some Southern governors chose to close some public schools in their states rather than comply with desegregation orders.
Michael Brown, the African-American young man killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, has been laid to rest. His homegoing celebration was at once a period to his earthly life and the blank space before the next chapter of activism that his family and a variety of communities promise to write.
After peaceful protests, marching in the street, chants of “hands up, don’t shoot” and “no justice no peace”, after fires, looting, a militarized police force aiming weapons of war on its own citizenry, smoke, tear gas, and national and international news coverage, the question now is: what is next? Some commentators have suggested that President Obama come to Ferguson and give another speech on race. Others have suggested that we as a nation engage in another conversation on race, this time with different contours.
I say, what this country does not need is yet another presidential speech on race. Is there anything new to say? And I am too tired of the conversation on race. I have been having this conversation my entire life, and I am weary of it. I remember watching Martin Luther King, Jr. give his “I Have a Dream” speech at the first March on Washington. I was a little girl watching with my parents. Twenty years later, I was in Washington DC for the anniversary march. In the 1990s, I taught race and racism at Temple University. In the first decade of the 21st century I taught courses on the civil rights movement and on “The Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Since the election of President Obama, I have written about race within the context of birther madness, and after the George Zimmerman verdict, I wrote about the myth of the super-physical black man that explains why so many people see the African-American male body as at once less than human and more than human that requires extraordinary force to subdue.
I have made my contribution to that conversation, and I am done with it.
Let us talk instead about cop psychology. What kind of psychological screening must one pass before we hand him or her a badge and a gun and give them the power to administer lethal force in the name of the state? What is the level of education required of police officers? How are they trained? Does this training include diversity and racial sensitivity training? Do they learn to subdue a suspect without illegal choke holds or gun fire? What goes through the mind of an officer when he is beating an unarmed woman by the side of the road, or when he is choking an unarmed man to death while the man says over and over and over again that he cannot breathe? What goes through the minds of the other officers on the scene who are pressing the man’s head into the pavement as if the man were not human? What is an officer thinking when he shoots six shots into an unarmed young black man and kills him? What police procedures allow for a body to lie in the streets for hours?
by: Andre F. Shashaty on August 20th, 2014 | Comments Off
A local organizer in a town neighboring Ferguson, Mo., shows a typical "porch." Credit: Silicon Valley De-Bug
(Crossposted from New America Media)
On the surface, the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., was about local police using deadly force on an unarmed young man. But on a deeper level, it reflected the increasing poverty and economic decline that affects ethnic communities all over America.
Despite rosy reports in the media about the end of the national foreclosure crisis and the recession that followed, all is not well in our inner cities and suburbs with largely minority populations, like Ferguson.
The foreclosure crisis was hard on many Americans, but it was a disaster for communities of color, including the citizens of Ferguson.
by: Warren Blumenfeld on August 2nd, 2014 | Comments Off
Credit: Creative Commons
While contemplating the topic and eventual focus of my doctoral dissertation at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I was having difficulty deciding since so many potential directions and questions excited me. Knowing me as well as she did, my major professor offered me some guidance.
The seemingly simple but deeply profound words she uttered placed, for me, the scope of my eventual research into poignant and profound prospective driving my research agenda to this very day.
“Your research is your therapy,” she told me. Though framed as a declarative statement, she was posing in these words what I understood as a number of underlying questions. By implication, what I heard her saying was, “There are many potential directions and research questions for you to investigate. What directions and questions will challenge you to change and to grow, not merely as a researcher, not merely intellectually and academically, but also, and very importantly, personally, spiritually, ethically, emotionally, psychologically?”
I listened to my professor’s words, “Your research is your therapy,” and as I did, the bottlenecks in my mind unclogged and tears welled in my eyes. Visions of my childhood swirled in my memories settling upon a five-year-old self seated upon my maternal grandfather, Simon (Szymon) Mahler’s, lap in our cramped Bronxville, New York apartment.
Writing in Ha’aretz today,
Gideon Levy predicts that ultimately the Netanyahu government will pay a heavy price for the atrocities being inflicted on the people of Gaza. He writes:
I’m no fan of Hamas, quite the contrary. But Israel’s attempt to put all the blame on Hamas is outrageous. The international community will soon judge this war’s atrocities. Hamas may be reprimanded, deservedly, but Israel will be condemned and ostracized far more. And then Israelis will say, ‘It’s Hamas’ fault. And the world will laugh.
I don’t agree. I don’t see that happening for one obvious reason: the power of the Israel lobby.
Think about it. When it comes to Israel, the United States is the ball game. It provides Israel with the money, the weapons, and the United Nations’ vetoes that enable both the occupation and its multiple wars (like this one) to preserve it. And that shows no sign of changing.
Watch the television coverage. For three weeks the killing of children and other innocents in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli military has dominated the news. We see the bombs dropping. We see the destroyed schools, hospitals and mosques. We see the parents wailing over the deaths of their children and children wailing at the deaths of their parents and siblings.
But it makes no difference to the United States government which can stop the slaughter with a few words. (Five of those words are “your $3.5 billion aid package.)
“Listen, if you’re 14, 15, 16, 17 years old, and you’re coming from a country that’s gang-infested – particularly with MS-13 types, that is the most aggressive of all the street gangs – when you have those types coming across the border, they’re not children at that point. These kids have been brought up in a culture of thievery, a culture of murder, of rape. And now we are going to infuse them into the American culture. It’s just ludicrous.”
- Florida Republican Representative Rich Nugent
Rich Nugent does not stand alone in his dire warnings of the dangers children and other migrants will impose on the citizens of the United States if allowed to enter and remain. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican Representative, warns of grave public health threats as well. In a July 7, 2014, letter Gingrey wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
“As a physician for over 30 years, I am well aware of the dangers infectious diseases pose. In fact, infectious diseases remain in the top 10 causes of death in the United States. …Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning.”
Well, “as a physician for over 30 years,” he should know that Ebola is not only extraordinarily difficult to spread, but that it also does not occur in Central America. According to the World Health Organization, Ebola has only been discovered in humans living in sub-Saharan Africa.
Unfortunately, the absence of facts has never seemed to get in the way of anti-immigration activists. Nugent and Gingrey join a long list in their rhetoric of horror, hysteria, hyperbole, and hypocrisy throughout the immigration battles of the United States.
by: Michael Lozano on July 29th, 2014 | Comments Off
Credit: New American Media
(Cross-posted from New American Media)
Editor’s Note: Young people in Los Angeles held a fast during the fourth week of July to call attention to the welfare of Central American children crossing into the United States. They are asking the Obama administration to take executive action to treat the children as refugees. The Obama administration is currently considering whether to make this change, according to The New York Times.
LOS ANGELES – Young people are once again leading the moral charge on a humanitarian issue that they say has been hijacked by politics.
Eight Los Angeles youth between the ages of 14 and 22 are fasting to call attention to the welfare of the tens of thousands of Central American children who have entered the United States to flee violence in their home countries.
Eighteen-year old Yamilex Rustrian says she decided to participate in the seven-day fast to remind the country whom the White House and Congress are seeking to deport: “These are children, not animals,” she said. “They still deserve to have human rights.”
The youth are spending their nights inside a giant white tent encampment perched on the grass lawn of historic Olvera Street in Los Angeles, hoping that Washington, D.C. politicians will consider treating the 50,000-plus children coming into the United States as refugees.
Attitudes toward the Central American children have clearly become politicized. Forty-six percent of Democrats support speeding up immigration proceedings even if those eligible for asylum may be deported, as do 60 percent of Republicans, the Pew Research Center reports.
But the fasters say they want to keep politics out of the discussion.
Credit: Creative Commons
Even before the Cold War and the so-called “McCarthy Period” (named after Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy), individuals and groups on the political and theocratic Right have flung the term “Socialist” from their metaphoric sling shots into the faces of their political opponents to discredit their characters and dismiss their political ideas and policies, and to sway the electorate toward a conservative agenda. This continues to this very day as evidenced by the Tea Party’s representations of President Obama and of various progressive politicians.
As destructive and as freedom-killing as the Right would have us believe,Socialisminvolves “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole,” where each of us has a stake and advances in the success of our collective economy.
No country in the world today stands as a fully Socialist state, but rather, some of the most successful economies combine elements of Capitalism with Socialism to create greater degrees of equity and lesser disparities between the rich, the poor, and those on the continuum in between.
by: Elliot Sperber on July 3rd, 2014 | Comments Off
As the Fourth of July is celebrated across the United States – and as economic reports, our ballooning prison system, and a barrage of climatological studies, among other pieces of evidence, lead ever more people to consider whether our collective way of life is in need of a fundamental transformation – an examination of the ostensible objects of our celebration (independence and democracy) seems in order.
Credit: Creative Commons/buildscharacter.
Aside from the concept of independence (and the question it implies: independence from what?), democracy, it should be remarked, is an especially vague and ambiguous concept.
Because democracy can refer to egalitarian, emancipatory politics, as well as to the political-economic systems of slavery-based societies like that of the southern U.S. or ancient Athens-an initial distinction should be drawn between egalitarian forms of democracy (which tend to be organized more or less horizontally, with social resources distributed more or less evenly) and what, in practical terms, are really plutocratic societies – or what, perhaps, can be termed market-based democracies (which tend to be more or less hierarchical and representational). And it’s the market-based or plutocratic society that,with only minor egalitarian democratic interruptions and adjustments,exists today and characterizes what democracy has meant since the bourgeois democratic revolutions of the late eighteenth century.