Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 5th, 2016

Rahm Emanuel and Chicago’s Policing Nightmare

Evaluating police crimes outside of a context that considers police culture?

A resistance to rebuilding a centuries-old justice system never meant to protect colored citizens, regarding their spaces as places to occupy and control rather than serve.

Revisiting Margaret Walker Alexander’s 1942 poem “For My People”

“For my people …

distressed and disturbed and deceived and devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,

preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty,

false prophet and holy believer …

“walking blindly spreading joy, losing time, being lazy, sleeping when hungry,

shouting when burdened, drinking when hopeless …”

By Deborah Douglas. December 31, 2015

American race relations in 2015 seemed like one enormous déjà vu.

Residents of Chicago, a character in “For My People” and the city where Alexander once lived, certainly know a thing or two about facile forces of state in the person of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, currently in the hot seat for his actions—or lack thereof—after the grotesque police shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

It doesn’t help that police shot and killed two more residents on Saturday after the father of one victim, 19-year-old engineering student Quintonio LeGrier, had called 9-1-1 seeking help for his distraught son, who was at home wielding a baseball bat during a mental breakdown.

LeGrier’s neighbor, 55-year-old Bettie Jones, perished in the pursuit, guilty only of answering the door so police could get in to minister to LeGrier’s needs, according to his father.

The McDonald case and others like it have put Chicago and its mayor in the national spotlight just as the neo-civil rights movement in the guise of Black Lives Matter is leveraging pressure and awareness of police brutality in black communities.

If Emanuel flew under the radar of #sayhername activists who uplifted the name of Rekia Boyd, an unarmed Chicago woman shot and killed by off-duty police officer Dante Servin, he certainly isn’t now.

Protesters like those from the Black Youth Project 100, one of the leading activist groups challenging Emanuel, have been unrelenting in pressing the need for safety from police in a city where residents in poor black and brown communities need to be protected from criminals, too.

The city has seen days and weeks of protests in front of posh retail establishments, City Hall, police headquarters and even the mayor’s own house.

Let’s not forget that Chicago was in the grip of an epidemic of youth murders before Emanuel came to office and before 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida by a wannabe cop who got off.

And before another cop mistook 18-year-old Michael Brown for a monster and felt perfectly sane in saying so because he knows so many others don’t regard black men has fully human anyway.

Residents have sought answers to community-based gun violence since before the 2013 death of fresh-faced 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, which drew the attention of the White House where Emanuel’s friends, the Obamas, live.

Believe it or not, African Americans want to call the police, too.

And yet a sense of rote operation—tone-deaf, automatic and without empathy— has been infused in the response to a judge’s order to release the McDonald video and Emanuel’s actions since then, such as the Wednesday announcement of new policies to change way police use excessive force.

The mayor’s apology for McDonald’s death was punctuated by uncharacteristic and frankly incredible near-tears.

That his ill-fated listening tour was followed by a holiday vacation to Cuba paints a picture of a man perfectly comfortable working from a well-worn crisis communications handbook—not someone attuned to his constituents.

It is this refusal to address the racial component baked in to American policing that chips away at blacks’ enfranchisement as citizens.

While some, including Chicago’s own brand of “glory craving leeches who crowd into the shot every time local TV news cameras roll around, have called for Emanuel’s resignation, he’s not legally compelled to leave an office for which he was duly elected, even if he had to work for it this last time.

But just because he isn’t going anywhere doesn’t mean Emanuel shouldn’t act swiftly and offer real answers to the race and culture question no one in authority in Chicago or beyond wants to address.

While Chicago police move to inject “more humanity” into policing and train all officers to use stun guns, it shouldn’t have taken additional deaths at the hands of cops to get to this point.

It is this rote, workaday approach that treats cases like McDonald’s, Boyd’s and even Sandra Bland’s as isolated incidents that is the real problem with the American way of policing in black communities.

This ethos spends more time protecting a culture of authority and excessive force than residents—and even has some black officers believing in its efficacy. It is this refusal to address the racial component baked in to American policing that chips away at blacks’ enfranchisement as citizens.

For example, how is it that the cases of Tamir Rice in Cleveland or Brown in Ferguson or Eric Garner in New York or Freddie Gray in Baltimore could be evaluated outside of a context that considers police culture?

These tragedies have provided plenty of opportunities to address broader systemic problems such as how race and history intersect—with often-tragic results for people of color.

Yet there’s a resistance to rebuilding a centuries-old justice system never meant to protect them, regarding their spaces as places to occupy and control rather than serve.

From Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow to mounds of other research, we know the problem—and the answers. The fact is Chicago police apparently showed up to the LeGrier home more ready to shoot to kill than to help.

It’s notable that Emanuel, whose first run for Chicago mayor got a lift from the blessing of President Obama, benefited from a sort of shorthand for black and brown voters affected by violence. Many apparently felt no need to do due any further due diligence on a candidate with a lengthy record of championing causes antithetical to their plight, such as being anti-union.

If more Chicagoans spend as much time marching to the polls next year as they have downtown blocking retail traffic that, too, will be progress.

If Emanuel is comfortable allowing time to usher in forgetfulness and the same brand of complacency that kept so many voters from the polls when they had a choice, he, too, is poetic in understanding what Alexander described as “walking blindly spreading joy, losing time, being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when burdened, drinking when hopeless …”

Through this bleakness, however, there are signs of progress: In Chicago, Emanuel was forced to fire Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and the cop seen shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times in that notorious video, Jason VanDyke, has been indicted. (He pleaded not guilty Tuesday.)

As racial patterns go, the all-white Oklahoma jury that drew skepticism among those seeking justice for 13 marginalized black women sexually assaulted by former officer Daniel Holtzclaw deposited a little more faith in the justice system.

If every 18-year-old high school senior registers to vote for everything from judges and the state’s attorney to president—and actually follows through to show critical mass—people like Emanuel who keep wishing it all would go away will know better.

But then again, Alexander knew that, too:

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born.

Let a bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second generation full of courage issue forth;

let a people loving freedom come to growth.

Let a beauty full of healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing in our spirits and our blood.

Let the martial songs be written, let the dirges disappear.

Let a race of men now rise and take control.”

Deborah Douglas is a Chicago-based journalist and adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University.

 

How one tweet ruined my life

This is the first time I speak about my ordeal with Twitter mobs in public, and I do it with a sense of duty and to raise awareness about the dangers of this kind of online bullying, in hope that we could learn something from this unpleasant episode.

Karl reMarks posted. 17 Feb 2015

The story begins yesterday around six in the evening, when I came across a website called It’s Back To The Future Day! which proclaimed that today (yesterday) was the day that Marty McFly went forward to in Back to the Future, along with a picture of the dashboard of the car showing the actual day.
So I tweeted the image with a line that said “If you want to feel really old, today is the ‘future’ in Back to the Future”, not expecting that this single tweet would change my life forever.

Shortly afterwards someone tweeted me saying: “Today is a day for ANOTHER rude photoshoping. (sic) The real date is 21.10.2015.”

The tweet was disturbing for two reasons.

Firstly, someone knew the actual date McFly went to in 2015 by heart, and by actual I mean pretend of course because it’s a bloody movie in which nothing is really actual, and

secondly, this was considered ‘rude photoshoping’. I didn’t make much of it however, and thought it was an over-zealous fan.

Soon after I was flooded with similar messages, of varying grammatical standards, but all saying pretty much the same thing. “No it isn’t It’s a hoax resurfacing for the 1000th time. The real date is Oct 21st.” “no, it is not. Back to the Future day is October 21, 2015. Google before you tweet is the new think before you speak.” and even more zealously: “21 October 2015. 21st October 2015. HOW HARD CAN IT BE TO JUST FUCKING WAIT?”

I quickly realised that I had inadvertently stumbled into the unpleasant underbelly of Twitter, infuriating a powerful lobby of Back to the Future truthers and accuracy guardians.

The flood of corrective tweets didn’t stop, I couldn’t keep up with the mentions on my Twitter feed. The accusations were coming thick and fast, aiming at my most cherished attribute: my integrity.

I couldn’t eat or sleep as the burden of this ugly incident weighed on me. Those 45 minutes were really difficult.

Then things got even more complicated. Most people said that the real date was 21 October, but some said 16 October, and some others 26.

I felt completely disorientated. What was the truth? What is the images people were sending me were also ‘rudely photoshoped’ and the real date wasn’t 21 October at all? Maybe the 16-Octoberists were the holders of the truth and they were being silenced by the more powerful 21 October conglomeration?

What future was there for humanity if we couldn’t agree on this one date? I was experiencing a sense of loss in authority and intellectual framework very similar to what the West experienced after the end of the Cold War.

The someone tweeted me saying: “October 21, 2015. Watch the damn movie” and another “it’s like you guys never watched the movie…..10/21/2015!” and another and another.

I felt so worthless, my self-esteem hit rock-bottom. How could I have forgotten a date in a movie I had seen 25 years ago? I am clearly a loser.

All those self-confident, attractive looking people had memorised this important date, and I had forgotten. My priorities in life were all wrong.

I considered deleting the offending tweet, but I remembered people are advised not to do that. Then I thought of deleting my Twitter account and disappearing from the public eye. But was there as escape in this age of social media and surveillance? Someone even threatened me: “I’m going to hurt you.” Will I be able to run away from them?

Fortunately by now my bus journey was over and I had arrived home. In total I had spent an hour and a half in hell.

All because I missed out the actual date by 8 months. I had been up against jihadi fanboys and dictator trolls on Twitter before but they weren’t anywhere near as cruel or as savage as the Back to the Future zealots.

This has left me completely broken. My therapist says I am making quick progress and I will, learn how to live with the trauma.

I probably won’t be able to watch Back to the Future ever again, but it’s ok because the special effects were crap.

Note: Do you know how the date of New Year in the west was finally fixed?

French king Charles 9, then 14 of age, was touring France with his mother Catherine of Medici. Every province and city had a different date for New Year. The King decided on January 1st. In most countries, the New Year was on March 21, the beginning of Spring, especially in the Near East,

(Nawrouz in Iran and many communities) and is still celebrated in many countries, along with January 1st.

Israel Justice Minister Shaked Is ‘Neo-Nazi Scum,’ Says Hebrew University Professor

The very young and pretty Israel Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, and totally brainless, files police complaint against Dr. Ofer Cassif.

The  political science lecturer defends his comments: ‘it’s fair to compare Israel to Germany in the 1930s.’

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has filed a police complaint against Dr. Ofer Cassif, a political science lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who roundly attacked her on his Facebook page on Monday.

Cassif called her “neo-Nazi scum” and said she is an indirect partner to murder and crimes against humanity in Africa. He also wrote that Shaked is responsible for making Israel more fascist.

The professor wrote the comments when he shared a separate post from Prof. Amiram Goldblum, a lecturer at the Hebrew University pharmacy school. Goldblum wrote that Jewish-Belgian diamond dealer “who sold weapons to murderers in Sierra Leone and the Colombian drug cartel” was among the donors to Shaked’s primary campaign in Habayit Hayehudi.

Serge Muller, who contributed to the primary campaign of Shaked’s as well as of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) was arrested in March on an international warrant by Belgian police on suspicion of drug trafficking, selling arms to criminals and money laundering, according to a Channel 2 report in June.

The comments on social media sparked outrage from several government representatives including MK Moti Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) who called on the university to distance itself from Cassif and to consider firing him.

In their own response to media inquiries however, the Hebrew University spoke against such actions.

“The University is not responsible for the comments of the lecturers and it is not [the University’s] job to deal with them as long as the academic stage is not being exploited to distribute them,” the Hebrew University said in a statement on Monday. “Anyone who believes this or another statement constitutes incitement or a violation of state laws should turn to law enforcement authorities.”

Shaked responded herself to the Facebook post, calling on the authorities, rather than the university, to handle the matter.

“Today the frail line was crossed between freedom of speech and incitement and the poisoning of the public discourse,” said the justice minister. “I’m sure that law enforcement will deal with this incident in the appropriate manner.”

Cassif, however, was unapologetic. “I don’t see what (to apologize) about,” he told Army Radio in an interview. “Becuase I told the truth? I usually tell the truth.” The professor continued to flirt with controversy when he told Israel Radio in a separate interview, “I think it’s fair to compare Israel to Germany in the 1930s, and not to the years of genocide.”

(A warning that Israel is preparing the ground for another blatant massive genocide on the remaining Palestinians)

“The spotlights,” said Cassif, “need to be aimed at the minister and her government, not at me … we have moved into a completely different phase in the history of this country. We are now the Germany of the 1930s and this is expressed in the completely Nazi video that Im Tirtzu released and also in the nonprofit organization law.

“I’m not afraid of anything,” he continued when the possibility of a police investigation was raised. “If they call me in, I will come respectfully. Maybe I will go with a tag of a (foreign agent) proudly to the police.”

Asked what his students should think about his post, he replied: “my students must understand that freedom of speech, criticism and a strong, non-violent opposition are the building blocks of democracy.”

“This is the worst case of incitement against an acting justice minister since the founding of the state,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is also the leader of Shaked’s party, Habayit Hayehudi, said.

Bennett added that he has asked Hebrew University President Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson to look into the incident. Bennett said he refuses to label the lecturer as a “leftist,” and said: “We must stop the mutual accusations and work to reduce the level of incitement.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog also addressed the incident on Twitter, calling Cassif’s comments on social media “pathetic,” and condemning the Facebook post.


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