Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ferguson Protests Highlight Link Between Growing Poverty and Militarized Policing

The problems of America's poor have been "off the grid" for some time. Politicians of both parties reserve their concern for the middle class, fearing that any reference to poverty will destroy their electoral appeal. The one mass movement against social inequality we have had, Occupy Wall Street was predominantly white and college educated. But in a society where a majority of people are now likely to find themselves in or on the edge of poverty at some time in their lives, it was only a matter of time where the voices of the economically-and racially-marginalized broke through, and that, I suggest is what is taking place in Ferguson right now. People do not protest this long and angrily against the killing of a youth by police if they do not have many deep and long suppressed grievances, and not just against police. Nor will their protest have this kind of resonance around the nation and the world.
We as a society have pushed the problems of the poor out of sight and out of mind, and have depended on huge, highly militarized police forces to "keep them in their place" in a society increasingly segregated by race and class. That is why the police are the target of protests. They are the surrogate for the economic and political elites whose policies keep so many trapped in poverty.
But if protests remain focused solely on police, we will leave many of the underlying source of people's suffering largely untouched. People need better jobs, higher wages, housing they can afford, more programs for youth, and schools which serve and uplift their communities as well as an end to the drug war and police forces which are less militarized
If those things all happen, alongside an honest discussion of how race shapes all these issues, perhaps we will save lives and avoid future tragedie

Monday, August 18, 2014

Why Michael Brown's Death has Sparked Protests Around the Nation

The protests in Ferguson not only reflect rage at the killing of an unarmed man, they reflect longstanding discontent of a Black community living in a small city where the reigns of power still lie in the hands of white leaders and major institutions are still white dominated. Ferguson is 67 percent Black but only 3 out of 33 police officers are Black and the school board is entirely white. Relations between police and the Black community have been polarized for some time.  Which is why this unfortunate death triggered 7 days of protests, with no end in site, Also, there are many cities and towns just like Ferguson where similar conditions prevail, hence sympathy protests have taken place all over the US.. In the last twenty years, there has been a substantial migration of Blacks out of the center of cities into small towns and suburbs and more wealthy people have moved into the inner city, And many of those towns and cities have majority black populations and overwhelmingly white police forces and political leadership, just like Ferguson. Hence what happened there has struck a chord

As for Barack Obama, his presidency has coincided with deteriorating conditions for the majority of African Americans  largely because of the spill over from the subprime mortgage crisis, where many African Americans lost their homes, and the Great Recession, where many African American lost their jobs.  He is admired in the Black Community but has not had the power to change trends in US society which have lowered wages, shrunk the middle class and concentrated wealth at the top, all trends which have disproportionately affected the Black community

As for the future, Black americans are going to have to fight for better job opportunities, less restrictive policing, less drug arrests and imprisonment of non-violent offenders, better schools, and higher wages.  Those are policies which can only be achieved as part of broad social justice coalitions

What A Difference A Year Makes: The Evolution of BATS

BATs is not the same group as it was a year ago. It is far more urban and multiracial and has changed its focus. It is now as concerned with school closings and school privatization as it is with testing and common core and with fending off attacks on teacher tenure and due process. It is also much more explicitly concerned with issues of poverty, racism and social inequality than it was when the group first began. This has been a gradual evolution and many people have left because they are uncomfortable with the change. But history does't stand still and neither did BATs . Some people may disagree with my analysis. But that is what I think has happened. The group is also far more collective in its leadership and I do NOT call the shots.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Racial Bullying in Small Town Ohio~Guest Post By Kelly Shoemaker Cooper

I feel that I must share my son's story from small town USA. Last school year my son was in 4th grade. He was being bullied and called racial slurs (nigger and porch monkey) by a 6th grader and a group of other boys. My husband reached out to the principal of his school to discuss what was happening to our son. He told my husband that bullying and racial intimidation does not occur in his school. A week later the group of boys showed up at our house trying to get my son and another black boy to go to the neighborhood park. They had baseball bats and intended to harm my son and his friend. The boy's father was waiting at the park. We contacted the police and filed a report. My husband contacted the principal regarding this incident. He was told that this isn't a school issue. The bullying and racial intimidation continued through out the week at school. Many days this group of boys would back my son and his friend into a corner, threatening them. Still nothing was done by the school or police department. That weekend the group of boys showed up at my house again. They were as bold as to knock on my front door. I told them to leave my property. They went to the corner and continued taunt us. One boy yelled "I am going to kick your nigger as." I contacted the police and filed a second report. The following Monday my son was cornered again by this group of boys in the morning and told "hey nigger, we will see you at recess." My son went to the principal and told him. He did NOTHING! Fast forward to recess. My son walked onto the playground and was immediately confronted by one of the boys. My son feeling threatened, had no choice but to defend himself. He put the boy down with 3 punches. Another boy started to jump in and my son's best friend ( who is white) jumped on the boy's back to stop him from attacking my son. My son and his friend were suspended 3 days! The school said my son and his friend planned to attack these boys. The other boys were given no form of punishment!!! The school filed a report on my son's friend with the police department for assault. They are 9 years old! The prosecutor finally charged the ring leader with disorderly conduct but the school still blames my son. Now anyone dare tell me race and education isn't connected! Where is the justice for my son? This is just one of many stories in the life of my son.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Imagination- A Poem for Michael Brown

I can only imagine
what its like to be
watched
feared
seen as a threat
when i walk
when i drive
when i go to school
Never knowing
when i will be
stopped
searched
thrown on the ground
or when words that
I say
and gestures that I
make
can lead to my
death

Us VS Them- A Guest Post on the Larger Implications of Ferguson by Dr Lori Martin

The systematic killing of people of color provides the best evidence that many Americans have been wrong about racism all along. For far too long racism has been understood as an illness, a sickness, or a disease, that older and uneducated individuals come down with because they are ignorant, ill-informed, resistant to change, or are mere products of their racially segregated environments. Racism-for individuals adhering to the aforementioned definition-was manifested in signs that read, For Whites Only, or when some folks from the Deep South draped themselves in white hoods and the Confederate Flag. In fact, comments from people like Donald Sterling notwithstanding, some have declared racism dead. Welcome to the so-called post-racial, or colorblind era. The wave of violence against people of color-particularly at the hands of law enforcement officials- is the result of the establishment of a racialized social system whereby members of the dominant racial group in America use social institutions to subjugate and control members of subordinate racial and ethnic groups. Criminal justice, education, the economy, politics, and the mass media, all play key roles in perpetuating, producing, and reproducing disadvantage and privilege. People of color are dying in inner cities, in the suburbs, and in rural areas. They are relegated to under resourced schools, while new schools are established and marketed as everything the very schools students of color are trapped in, are not. People of color throughout the country experience economic recessions and depressions long before the rest of the nation. When a national recession hits, people of color are hit the hardest. Asset poverty among people of color is the rule, not the exception, even among those considered income rich. As in days past, majority black communities are represented by majority white elected officials. Clever gerrymandering and the peddling of messages of apathy, hopelessness, and despair, account for the lack of civic engagement in some areas, and changes in voting registration laws contribute to disenfranchisement in others. Representations of people of color in the media often perpetuate myths, misconceptions, and stereotypes, which are taken as truths and become part of the collective imagination of some whites, including those sworn to protect and to serve. The silence about the role that racism-and not merely race-plays in understanding why history-in this case the killing of unarmed black men- is repeated, is deafening. The silence drowns out the cries from grieving parents tasked with planning yet another funeral for a young person of color who will not live to see the dawning of another day. It drowns out the chorus of voices pointing to the gap between what we say we value as a nation –liberty, equality, and justice-and how we actually treat people. Any loss of life that results from an act of violence is tragic, including the loss of a black life. As a society we must respond with the same indignation, passion, and empathy no matter the race, age, gender, geographical or social location of the victim. When mass shootings take place in schools, or in other public areas, the response from elected officials, interest groups, and the general public are almost immediate. Condolences for the family, the community, and the nation are almost instantaneous, and rightly so. Efforts to address a number of related public policy concerns fill the airwaves, including debates about mental health matters and gun control. As a society we tend to elevate these events because of the perceived threat the events pose to all of “us.” When the mass killing of people of color takes place in virtually every corner of the U.S.-in urban, rural, and suburban areas-there is reluctance on the part of those in positions of power and influence, and the broader society, to call it what it is-racism-and to work towards meaning change. Part of the problem is that the killing of unarmed people of color by members of the dominant racial group is understood as an issue affecting “them.” We must come to the realization, as a society, that no one should remain silent in the face of the injustices taking place across the nation. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so eloquently reminded us as he sat in a Birmingham jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ferguson Missouri- Face of a Nation Where Poverty Has Moved to the Suburbs



Fegruson Missouri, where the police killing of an unarmed young Black man, Mike Brown, sparked rioting yesterday, represents the demographic contours of a society changed by gentrification and demographic inversion.. There are now more poor people living in suburbs than there are in inner city neighborhoods. In New York, the most famous historically Black neighborhoods, Harlem and Bedford Stuyvestant, have experienced an enormous white, and middle class influx, and can no longer be deemed "hypersegregated" That label would be more accurately applied to two suburban neighborhoods- Hempstead and Mount Vernon. I suspect the same dynamic can be found Chicago, Washington DC, and several other large US cities.

This means that civil unrest, in response to racial and class marginalization, should it take place--- and there ample reasons to think it might-- is far less likely to take place in center cities than it did in the 1960's or even in the 1990's. It is also less likely to threaten powerful institutions.

We are only beginning to understand the apparatus of containment and control-including zero tolerance policing and a huge prison industrial complex-developed to cope with higher levels of poverty in this country than most other advanced societies. But one thing is for sure- population distribution by race and class look very different than they did in the 1960's. Cities are increasingly sites of investment and residence for the Global rich- poor people and people of color are now mostly living in the suburbs