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Who is Shirley Chisholm?

“I ran because most people thought the country was not ready for a black candidate, not ready for a woman candidate. Someday, it was time in 1972 to make that someday come,” she told an interviewer at the time

Before Hillary Clinton. And before Obama. there was Shirley Chisholm

Decades before Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, there was Shirley Chisholm

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

“Tremendous amounts of talent are lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.

“The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It’s a girl’.”

“What do we want? What does any human being want? Take away an accident of pigmentation of a thin layer of our outer skin and there is no difference between me and anyone else.”

Forty-four years ago this week, Shirley Chisholm made history as she announced her candidacy for the White House. Her bid for the top job was short lived, but the symbolism is as powerful today as it was then.

Marj Henningsen  shared this link
Robert Reid-Pharr via The Feminist WireFebruary 6, 2016

BBC Newsbbc.com

She was a pioneer for her generation, a woman of many firsts – the first African American congresswoman. The first African American to run for president. The first woman to run for president.

“She paved the way for me to be able to set foot on Capitol Hill,” says 22 year-old Kimaya Davis, who works for a congressional committee.

Davis is black and secured her job after an internship with the Congressional Black Caucus.

Founded by Shirley Chisholm, the Caucus represents black members of Congress.

“It’s because of her that I was able to get that internship – it helps young black students. A lot of kids like me, we don’t have family connections and privilege.”

To those who know about her, Shirley Chisholm is more than a role model, she’s an icon and a trailblazer who deserves greater credit and attention than history afforded her.

Despite her many achievements Chisholm is not a household name in the US.

“She was well known in the late 1960s and 1970s, but if you don’t come from that era, it’s easy to be forgotten,” said Ky Ekinci, a social entrepreneur from Florida’s Palm Coast.

A few months ago, Ekinci organised the inaugural Shirley Chisholm Day. Around 50 people in the area met to celebrate her life.

His goal was to get many of the younger people in the Palm Coast area, where Chisholm retired and spent her final years, to learn about her.

He created a hashtag, #IKnowNow, to spread the word further afield, tweeting out bite-size facts about Chisholm.

Born in 1924 in Brooklyn, New York, Shirley Chisholm, spent some of her childhood years living with her grandmother in Barbados, before returning to her parents in New York to complete her education.

After qualifying as a teacher she worked in childcare, where she developed an interest in politics. She served in the New York state assembly, then made history in 1968, becoming the first African American woman elected to the US Congress.

Shirley Chisholm wisdom

“In the end, anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing – anti-humanism.”

Charles Rangel speaks to Witness about Shirley Chisholm

“I have no intention of just sitting quietly and observing. I intend to speak out immediately in order to focus on the nation’s problems,” Chisholm said of her new role.

Her victory, against the backdrop of the civil rights era, was a huge milestone, but with it came challenges.

“Can you imagine being a woman, and black in congress then?” says Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who represents the 13th District of California and is one of 35 African-American women who has served in Congress to date.

The first black woman, and the second ever female on the influential rules committee in Congress, she shattered a lot of glass ceilings, says Lee.

“Some of the men in Congress did not respect her, she just stood out and they didn’t get her. But she wouldn’t back down. She didn’t go along to get along, she went to change things.”

This was demonstrated in the sort of legislation Ms Chisholm worked on as a congresswoman, fighting for the underprivileged and minority groups.

She championed a bill to ensure domestic workers received benefits, was an advocate for improved access to education, and fought for the rights of immigrants.

She sponsored a bill to expand childcare for women, supported the national school lunch bill and helped establish the national commission on consumer protection and product safety.

Shirley Chisholm also worked tirelessly to expand the government-funded food stamps programme so it was available in every state, and was instrumental in setting up an additional scheme, The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (Wic), which provided support for pregnant women

In politics, Chisholm found her gender a particular setback, “I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men,” she once said.

She had guts, and she made people believe that they too can be someone, that we are equal, that gender doesn’t mean you can’t achieve the highest office of government,” her goddaughter Marya Boseley says.

That desire to break boundaries was what drove Shirley Chisholm to make a run for president in 1972, seeking the Democratic nomination a mere three years after she became a congresswoman.

Ms Chisholm, whose slogan was “Unbought and Unbossed,” said she never expected to win but hoped her candidacy would “change the face and future of American politics”.

“I stand before you today, to repudiate the ridiculous notion that the American people will Not vote for qualified candidates, simply because he is not white or because she is not a male,” she told supporters as she launched her campaign.

“I do not believe that in 1972, the great majority of Americans will continue to harbour such narrow and petty prejudice.”

Congresswoman Lee first met Shirley Chisholm during her presidential race, and ended up volunteering for her. “She spoke to us in Spanish,” she recalls.

“Then when I said I wanted to work for her she took me to task and made me register to vote first. She told me if I wanted to shake things up, I better get involved in politics.”

The campaign wasn’t easy – Shirley Chisholm survived several assassination attempts and sued to ensure she was included in the televised debates.

She made it as far as the Democratic convention, losing out on the nomination to George McGovern, but leaving a lasting impression.

She served 7 terms in Congress, retiring in 1982, after which she returned to teaching.

She died in 2005, at the age of 80.

Despite her many achievements, those close to her say she never received the place in history she deserved.

“People are ignorant to history,” says Bosely who is 47. “When I was growing up black history was prevalent in schools and now it’s not.”

Congresswoman Lee agrees education around her legacy is lacking, “especially as we are still dealing with many issues as it relates to the inclusion of African Americans in society.”

Lee successfully lobbied for a painting of Shirley Chisholm to be hung in Congress, and for a stamp to be released in her honour.

And, in November of last year, Chisholm was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“There are people in our country’s history who don’t look left or right – they just look straight ahead. Shirley Chisholm was one of those people,” President Obama told the gathered audience at the White House as he presented her award posthumously.

“Shirley Chisholm’s example transcends her life. And when asked how she’d like to be remembered, she had an answer: ‘I’d like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts.’ 

And I’m proud to say it: Shirley Chisholm had guts.”

Follow Rajini on Twitter – @BBCRajiniv

Blacks killed by Police: Nothing changed since 2014?

Note: Re-edit of “A few Statistics: Victims of Police Violence Are Mostly Blacks, December 1, 2014

Apparently, Nothing has changed since 2014, concerning the violent behavors of Police toward Black citizens. We all hope that this daily mass demonstrations in most US city for the death of George Floyd will make a qualitative change.

Pew study found that 63% of white and 20% of black people think that Michael Brown’s death at the hands of Darren Wilson (who resigned the force) is not about race.

Those people are wrong.

When Force is Hardest to Justify, Victims of Police Violence Are Most Likely to be Black

African Americans are, in fact, far more likely to be killed by police.

Among young men, blacks are 21 times more likely to die at the hands of police than their white counterparts.

But, are they more likely to precipitate police violence?  No. The opposite is true.

Police are more likely to kill black people regardless of what they are doing. In fact, “the less clear it is that force was necessary, the more likely the victim is to be black” (source).

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That’s data from the FBI.

This question was also studied by sociologist Lance Hannon.

With an analysis of over 950 non-justifiable homicides from police files, he tested whether black people were more likely to take actions that triggered their own murder. The answer was no.

He found no evidence that blacks were more likely than whites to engage in verbal or physical antecedents that explained their death.

There is lots more evidence if one bothers to go looking for it.

So, no. Just… no.

This is about race. It is very, very obviously about race.

It’s not a matter of opinion; it’s a scientific question that has been asked and answered.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Note: Centuries of oppressions and uprising have left their mark on the racial issue in the USA.

White are scared shit of blacks, even female blacks, and Blacks are afraid shit of the police force when it converges to the neighbourhood, and especially when the blacks are away from their neighbourhood.

Most probably, new recruits from white police officers are not comfortable when confronting a robust black male, and any sign of closing distance between the two bring a violent reaction from the white officer.

On the other hand, many blacks take advantage of the police force keeping a distance from them in order to exaggerate their outlawed activities, mainly the petty thefts and mugging.

Note: In Minneapolis, between 2000 and 2018 unemployment rose from 6.8% to 8% among black people, while it dropped from 2.5% to 1.9% among whites. In many other US cities where protests have erupted in recent days, the pre-pandemic racial gap in unemployment is striking:

Before colonial powers took over Africa: Africa history

Note 1: Repost of 2014 of “Africa, Uncolonized: A Detailed Look at an Alternate Continent”

Note 2: Maps were drawn upside down during the Arabic Empire and they skew the current traditional eurocentric point of direction.
Africa was called before the European colonization Al-Kebulan or Alkebulan meaning ‘Garden of Life’, ‘Cradle of Life’, or simply ‘the Motherland’
Frank Jacobs, November 12, 2014
Uitsny_suid_afrika

What if the Black Plague had killed off almost all Europeans?

The Reconquista in Spain would have never happened.

If Spain and Portugal didn’t kickstart Europe’s colonization of other continents in the 16th century, this is what Africa might have looked like.

The map shows an Africa dominated by Islamic states, and native kingdoms and federations.

All have at least some basis in history, linguistics or ethnography.

None of their borders is concurrent with any of the straight lines imposed on the continent by European powers, during the 1884-85 Berlin Conference and in the subsequent Scramble for Africa.

By 1914, Europeans controlled 90% of Africa’s land mass.

Only the Abyssinian Empire (modern-day Ethiopia) and Liberia (founded in 1847 as a haven for freed African-American slaves) remained independent.

This map is the result of an entirely different course of history. The continent depicted here isn’t even called Africa [1] but Alkebu-Lan, supposedly Arabic for ‘Land of the Blacks’ [2].

That name is sometimes used by those who reject even the name ‘Africa’ as a European imposition.

It is therefore an ideal title for this thought experiment by Swedish artist Nikolaj Cyon.

Essentially, it formulates a cartographic answer to the question: What would Africa have looked like if Europe hadn’t become a colonizing power? 

To arrive at this map, Cyon constructed an alternative timeline. Its difference from our own starts in the mid-14th century.

The point of divergence: the deadliness of the Plague.

In our own timeline, over the course of the half dozen years from 1346 to 1353, the Black Death [3] wiped out between 30 and 60% of Europe’s population. It would take the continent more than a century to reach pre-Plague population levels. That was terrible enough.

But what if Europe had suffered an even more catastrophic extermination – one from which it could not recover?

Allohistorical Africa, seen from our North-up perspective. The continent’s superstates (at least size-wise): Al-Maghrib, Al-Misr, Songhai, Ethiopia, Kongo and Katanga.

European colonies in Africa in ‘our’ 1913.

Blue: France, pink: Britain, light green: Germany, dark green: Italy, light purple: Spain, dark purple: Portugal, yellow: Belgium, white: independent. Lines reflect current borders.

Cyon borrowed this counterfactual hypothesis from The Years of Rice and Salt, an alternate history novel by Kim Stanley Robinson. The book, first published in 2002, explores how the depopulation of Europe would have altered world history.

Robinson speculates that Europe would have been colonized by Muslims from the 14th century onwards, and that the 20th century would see a world war between a sprawling Muslim alliance on the one side, and the Chinese empire and the Indian and native American federations on the other.

Cyon focuses on Africa – or rather, Alkebu-Lan – which in his version of events doesn’t suffer the ignominy and injustice of the European slave trade and subsequent colonization.

In our timeline, Europe’s domination of Africa obscured the latter continent’s rich history and many cultural achievements.

On the map of Cyon’ s Africa, a many-splendored landscape of nations and empires, all native to the continent itself, gives the lie to the 19th- and 20th-century European presumption that Africa merely was a ‘dark continent’ to be enlightened, or a ‘blank page’ for someone else to write upon.

Basing himself on Unesco’s General History of Africa, Cyon built his map around historical empires, linguistic regions and natural boundaries.

His snapshot is taken in 1844 (or 1260 Anno Hegirae), also the date of a map of tribal and political units in Unesco’s multi-volume General History.

Al-Andalus, in this timeline still a dependency of Al-Maghrib; and the Emirate of Sicily to the left of the map.

Zooming in on the northern (bottom) part of the map, we see an ironic reversal of the present situation: in our timeline, Spain is still holding on to Ceuta, Melilla and other plazas de soberania in Northern Africa.

In Cyon’s world, most of the Iberian peninsula still called Al-Andalus, and is an overseas part of Al-Maghrib, a counterfactual Moroccan superstate covering a huge swathe of northwestern Africa.

Sicily, which we consider to be part of Europe, is colored in as African, and goes by the name of Siqilliyya Imārat (Emirate of Sicily).

The Arabic is no accident.

Absent the European imprint, Islam has left an even more visible mark on large swathes of North, West and East Africa than it has today.

Numerous states carry the nomenclature Sultānat, Khilāfat or Imārat. And what are the difference between a Caliphate, Sultanate and Emirate?

A Caliph claims supreme religious and political leadership as the successor (caliph) to Muhammad, ideally over all Muslims.

I spot two Caliphates on the map: Hafsid (centered on Tunis, but much larger than Tunisia), and Sokoto in West Africa (nowadays: northwest Nigeria).

Sokoto, Dahomey, Benin and other states in country-rich West Africa. 

A Sultan is an independent Islamic ruler who does not claim spiritual leadership.

Five states in the greater Somalia region are Sultanates, for example: Majerteen, Hiraab, Geledi, Adāl and Warsangele. Others include Az-Zarqa (in present-day Sudan), Misr (Egypt, but also virtually all of today’s Israel), and Tarābulus (capital: Tripoli, in our Libya).

An Emir is a prince or a governor of a province, implying some suzerainty to a higher power. There’s a cluster of them in West Africa: Trarza, Tagant, Brakna, all south of Al-Maghrib. But they are elsewhere too: Kano and Katsina, just north of Sokoto.

Islam of course did not originate in Africa, and some would claim that its dominance of large areas of Africa, at the expense of pre-existing belief systems, is as much an example of foreign cultural imperialism as the spread of Western religions and languages is in our day.

But that is material for another thought experiment. This one aims to filter out the European influence.

Neither European nor Arab influence is in evidence in the southern part of Africa – although some toponyms relate directly to states in our timeline: BaTswana is Botswana, Wene wa Kongo refers to the two countries bearing that name. Umoja wa Falme za Katanga is echoed in the name of the DR Congo’s giant inland province, Katanga.

Rundi, Banyarwanda and Buganda, squeezed in between the Great Lakes, are alternative versions of ‘our’ Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

Some familiar-sounding names around the Great Lakes.

There is an interesting parallel to the Africa/Alkebu-Lan dichotomy in the toponymic ebb and flow of Congo and Zaïre as names for the former Belgian colony at the center of the continent.

Congo, denoting both the stream and the two countries on either of its lower banks [4], derives from 16th- and 17th-century Bantu kingdoms such as Esikongo, Manikongo and Kakongo near the mouth of the river.

The name was taken up by European cartographers and the territory it covered eventually reached deep inland.

But because of its long association with colonialism, and also to fix his own imprint on the country, Congo’ s dictator Mobutu in 1971 changed the name of the country and the stream to Zaïre.

The name-change was part of a campaign for local authenticity which also entailed the Africanisation of the names of persons and cities [5], and the introduction of the abacos [6] – a local alternative to European formal and business wear.

Curiously for a campaign trying to rid the country of European influences, the name Zaïre actually was a Portuguese corruption of Nzadi o Nzere, a local term meaning ‘River that Swallows Rivers’.

Zaïre was the Portuguese name for the Congo stream in the 16th and 17th centuries, but gradually lost ground to Congo before being picked up again by Mobutu.

After the ouster and death of Mobutu, the country reverted to its former name, but chose the predicate Democratic Republic to distinguish itself from the Republic of Congo across the eponymous river.

Kongo – a coastal superstate in the alternative timeline.

This particular tug of war is emblematic for the symbolism attached to place names, especially in Africa, where many either refer to a pre-colonial past (e.g. Ghana and Benin, named after ancient kingdoms), represent the vestiges of the colonial era (e.g. Lüderitz, in Namibia), or attempt to build a postcolonial consensus (e.g. Tanzania, a portmanteau name for Tanganyika and Zanzibar).

By taking the colonial trauma out of the equation, this map offers a uniquely a-colonial perspective on the continent, whether it is called Africa or Alkebu-Lan.

Map of Alkebu-Lan and excerpts thereof reproduced by kind permission of Nikolaj Cyon.

See it in full resolution on this page of his website. Map of Africa in 1913 by Eric Gaba (Wikimedia Commons User: Sting), found here on Wikimedia Commons.

_______________

Strange Maps #688

[1] A name popularized by the Romans. It is of uncertain origin, possibly meaning ‘sunny’, ‘dusty’ or ‘cave-y’.

[2] The origin and meaning of the toponym are disputed. The Arabic for ‘Land of the Blacks’ would be Bilad as-Sudan, which is how the present-day country of Sudan got its name.

Other translations offered for Alkebu-Lan (also rendered as Al-Kebulan or Alkebulan) are ‘Garden of Life’, ‘Cradle of Life’, or simply ‘the Motherland’. Although supposedly of ancient origin, the term was popularized by the academic Yosef A.A. Ben-Jochannan (b. 1918).

The term is not a 20th-century invention, however. Its first traceable use is in La Iberiada (1813), an epic poem from 1813 by Ramón Valvidares y Longo. In the index, where the origin of ‘Africa’ is explained, it reads: “Han dado las naciones á este pais diversos nombres, llamándole Ephrikia los Turcos, Alkebulan los Arabes, Besecath los Indios, y los pueblos del territorio Iphrikia ó Aphrikia: los Griegos, en fin, le apellidaron Libia, y despues Africa, cuyo nombre han adoptado los Españoles, Italianos, Latinos, Ingleses y algunos otros pueblos de la Europa”.

[3] A.k.a. the Plague, a very contagious and highly deadly disease caused by Yersinia pestis. That bacterium infested the fleas that lived on the rats coming over from Crimea to Europe on Genoese merchant ships.

[4] In fact, Brazzaville and Kinshasa, capitals of the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo respectively, are positioned across from each other on the banks of the Congo River – the only example in the world of two national capitals adjacent to each other.

[5] The ‘founder-president’ himself changed his name from Joseph-Désiré Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa za Banga. The capital Léopoldville was renamed Kinshasa, after an ancient village on the same site.

[6] Despite the African-sounding name, abacos is an acronym of à bas costumes, or: ‘Down with (Western) suits’.

Plagiarism tool used to catch college students detects similarities in Shakespeare’s plays and the work of an obscure Englishman named George North

 Nancy Bilyeau
Featured image

Does anyone know who William Shakespeare is?  Playwright, England’s national poet and the world’s genius, and the Bard of Avon? Yes, of course you do. (Not necessarily, to claim “of course”)

How about George North? Anyone? (That one I do know)

Crickets.

And yet according to a new academic book being published on February 16th, Shakespeare made good use of the work of George North. Very good use.

Shakespeare scholars Dennis McCarthy and June Schlueter fed a 1567 manuscript written by the little-known George North into WCopyfind, a web tool designed to catch college students plagiarizing, and when comparing North to the work of Shakespeare, found 20 matching passages, with echoes in King Lear, Richard III, Macbeth, Henry V, and several other plays. (Not many)

McCarthy and Schlueter did not set out to shame William Shakespeare, but to research North’s work as a source of facts for the Bard. North’s manuscript was titled A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels, and while it’s clear that Shakespeare read it, now it is so obscure that no one seemed to have a copy of it.

McCarthy had seen only a description of North’s handwritten manuscript in a 1927 catalog of rare books as “an original and unknown work.” It took McCarthy and Schlueter a year to discover the book itself in the British Library, where it had been “filed under an obscure shelf mark,” according to the New York Times.

George North was a minor figure in the court of Elizabeth I, possibly her ambassador to Sweden, who was an ardent supporter of the aristocracy.

The manuscript, which is “a diatribe against rebels,” was written at Kirtling Hall, the family estate near Cambridge.

The first page of “Richard III,” printed in the Second Folio of 1632. Photo: Folger Library Digital Image Collection CC BY-SA 4.0

One passage that echoed North’s book is Gloucester’s opening soliloquy in Richard III. 

Each contained “a tight juxtaposition of the same eight terms: glass, proportion, fair, feature, deformed, world, shadow, Nature.” McCarthy and Schlueter argue that Shakespeare not only used the same words in all of the similar passages used them in scenes exploring the same themes, and with the same characters.

For example, Macbeth’s comparison of men to certain breeds of dogs seems to have originally come from North. The use of the canine word trundle-tail is especially convincing, as an exhaustive search of sources shows it appears in only one other work besides North’s before 1623.

A comparative study of North and Shakespeare brings clarity to the Fool’s mysterious reference to Merlin in King Lear, and “also upsets the prevailing opinion that Shakespeare invented the final hours of Jack Cade in Henry VI, 2.”

The book’s co-authors say that the chances of Shakespeare and North coincidentally using the same words and passages is “one in a billion.”

McCarthy was inspired to use the plagiarism software by Sir Brian Vickers, who used the technique to establish that Shakespeare was most likely the co-author of the play Edward III.

Shakespearean scholars have long known that the playwright made heavy use of certain sources in his plays, some of which tell the story of real historical figures. One of his main sources was Holinshed’s Chronicles, recording the history of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Shakespeare also relied on the Italian poet Giovanni Boccaccio and Plutarch.

“It shows that there are still manuscript sources out there that have not been published that Shakespeare may have used, and it shows that we don’t know everything about the origins of the Shakespeare canon,” said McCarthy in a recent interview.

In reaction to the revelations in this new book, some writers say this brings much-needed focus on Shakespeare’s place in literature.

“The discovery of North’s influence on Shakespeare is a welcome opportunity to remember how the Bard of Avon’s genius actually worked, and how much his methods are at odds with our own ideas of artistic greatness,” wrote Isaac Butler in Slate.

“Shakespeare is not Western literature’s great inventor but rather its great inheritor…Creating a work of art is part of an endless dialogue that reaches both back thousands of years and out into the world around us. This is what Shakespeare did, and he didn’t do it alone.”

 

Pop culture, white privilege and widening the lens

This aspect of white privilege has bubbled under the surface of recent debates about college admissions policies and unpaid internships.

As a recent post on the Web site Journos of Color noted, for instance, “The only people who can afford to work full-time for free come from wealth, and generally, if you’re wealthy in America, you’re white.”

Outlook published this July 27, 2013 on the WP Opinions section:

Ron Koeberer/AP – Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant in a scene from “Fruitvale Station.”

Many people, especially white people, don’t realize the extent of the disparities that persistent structural privilege creates. According to some estimates, whites on average possess 6 times the accumulated wealth — in the form of home equity, savings and retirement accounts — of blacks.

That discrepancy is explained Not by financial savvy or luck, but by the legacy of now-illegal practices in housing, education and employment that formed the foundation of America’s enduring — and widening — wealth gap between non-Hispanic whites and minorities.

As mortified as some white people may be at the suggestion that we’ve enjoyed career advancement at someone else’s expense, we need to acknowledge that one can benefit from privilege even if it isn’t explicitly claimed.
Indeed, perhaps the ultimate marker of privilege is Not having to be conscious of it.
Thanks to other people’s positive projections and expectations, I’ve often been able to view the world as a welcoming, or at least benignly neutral, meritocracy.
I’ve never been followed in a department store by anyone other than an aggressive perfume lady with a spritzer.
I haven’t had to pay an “anxiety tax,” expending untold physical and psychic energy managing other people’s reflexive fears.
Obviously, gender, geography, economic and social class, and temperament play a part in my outlook as well.
No one’s experience, positive or negative, can be reduced to just one characteristic. But it didn’t always occur to me, nor was I ever taught, to consider race as part of my personal bundle of x-factors.This is where popular culture can be particularly helpful. Granted, the 1947 film “Gentleman’s Agreement” didn’t eradicate anti-Semitism. Nor did “Tootsie” stamp out sexism or “Philadelphia” erase homophobia. But each of those films reframed its subject matter in ways that galvanized audiences into reaching “aha” moments about prejudice.Perhaps it’s time to make a modern-day “Black Like Me,” the 1964 film based on John Howard Griffin’s memoir of impersonating a black man in the Jim Crow South, this time for the 21st century: a story that throws the condition of whiteness, with its myriad unseen, unspoken advantages, into clarifying relief.

The challenge is creating characters that can transcend polarized and entrenched perceptions of race. This past week, a Washington Post poll found that a sobering 86% of African Americans say blacks and other minorities do not get equal treatment under the law, whereas a majority of whites — 54 percent — say there is equal treatment for minority groups.

In a recent interview about their book “Justice in America: The Separate Realities of Blacks and Whites,” political scientists Jon Hurwitz and Mark Peffley described a “gulf” between African Americans, who largely lack faith in the criminal justice system, and white citizens, who consider it essentially color-blind.

Just as the roots of blacks’ mistrust of the system lie in their unfair treatment over generations, the roots of whites’ optimism can be found in our own history.

Like compounded interest from an investment we never made, the advantages white people enjoy derive from past racist practices and present-day unconscious behaviors that create channels no less wide, deep and real for being largely invisible.

If movies are equipped to do anything, it’s to make those channels visible. And the best films can show viewers how to navigate them.

“Fruitvale Station” does that, in just one brief encounter. The San Francisco street scene may begin with an acute observation of separate realities, but it ends by suggesting a possible bridge, in the simple act of a black character taking the business card of a white man he’s just met.

 

Is US National Anthem Celebrating Slavery?

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Aug. 28 2016
Before a preseason game on Friday, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

When he explained why, he only spoke about the present: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. … There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”Twitter then went predictably nuts, with at least one 49ers fan burning Kaepernick’s jersey.

Almost no one seems to be aware that even if the U.S. were a perfect country today, it would be bizarre to expect African-American players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Why?

Because it literally celebrates the murder of African-Americans.

Few people know this because we only ever sing the first verse.

But read the end of the third verse and you’ll see why “The Star-Spangled Banner” is not just a musical atrocity, it’s an intellectual and moral one, too:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

“The Star-Spangled Banner,” Americans hazily remember, was written by Francis Scott Key about the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. But we don’t ever talk about how the War of 1812 was a war of aggression that began with an attempt by the U.S. to grab Canada from the British Empire.

However, we’d wildly overestimated the strength of the U.S. military.

By the time of the Battle of Fort McHenry in 1814, the British had counterattacked and overrun Washington, D.C., setting fire to the White House.

And one of the key tactics behind the British military’s success was its active recruitment of American slaves.

As a detailed 2014 article in Harper’s explains, the orders given to the Royal Navy’s Admiral Sir George Cockburn read:

Let the landings you make be more for the protection of the desertion of the Black Population than with a view to any other advantage. …

The great point to be attained is the cordial Support of the Black population. With them properly armed & backed with 20,000 British Troops, Mr. Madison will be hurled from his throne.

Whole families found their way to the ships of the British, who accepted everyone and pledged no one would be given back to their “owners.”

Adult men were trained to create a regiment called the Colonial Marines, who participated in many of the most important battles, including the August 1814 raid on Washington.

Then on the night of September 13, 1814, the British bombarded Fort McHenry.

Key, seeing the fort’s flag the next morning, was inspired to write the lyrics for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

So when Key penned “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,” he was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves. His perspective may have been affected by the fact he owned several slaves himself.

With that in mind, think again about the next two lines: “And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave / O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

The reality is that there were human beings fighting for freedom with incredible bravery during the War of 1812. However, “The Star-Spangled Banner” glorifies America’s “triumph” over them — and then turns that reality completely upside down, transforming their killers into the courageous freedom fighters.

After the U.S. and the British signed a peace treaty at the end of 1814, the U.S. government demanded the return of American “property,” which by that point numbered about 6,000 people. The British refused.

Most of the 6,000 eventually settled in Canada, with some going to Trinidad, where their descendants are still known as “Merikins.”

If those leading the backlash against Kaepernick need more inspiration, they can get it from Francis Scott Key’s later life.

By 1833, Key was a district attorney for Washington, D.C.

As described in a book called Snowstorm in August by former Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley, the police were notorious thieves, frequently stealing free blacks’ possessions with impunity.

One night, one of the constables tried to attack a woman who escaped and ran away — until she fell off a bridge across the Potomac and drowned.

“There is neither mercy nor justice for colored people in this district,” an abolitionist paper wrote. “No fuss or stir was made about it. She was got out of the river, and was buried, and there the matter ended.”

Key was furious and indicted the newspaper for intending “to injure, oppress, aggrieve & vilify the good name, fame, credit & reputation of the Magistrates & constables of Washington County.”

You can decide for yourself whether there’s some connection between what happened 200 years ago and what Colin Kaepernick is angry about today.

Maybe it’s all ancient, meaningless history.

Or maybe it’s not, and Kaepernick is right, and we really need a new national anthem.

Andrew Bossone shared this link

“So when Key penned “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,” he was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves. His perspective may have been affected by the fact he owned several slaves himself.”

No one seems to be aware that our national anthem literally celebrates the murder of African-Americans.
theintercept.com

A simple Way to Keep Wildlife Away From Crops and domestic animals

 A fence with moving lights

From afar, it’s easy to get furious at the people who go to great lengths to kill innocent animals because they trespassed onto their land. There is no excuse for thoughtlessly murdering an innocent animal; however, in places where wild animals pose a threat to people’s crops livelihood’s, things aren’t always so cut and dry. In Kenya, lions are commonly targeted for the threat that they pose to livestock. Considering that the African lion population is highly endangered, many are working to reconcile human-wildlife conflict in a way that is mutually beneficial to people and animals.

Luckily, some people are coming up with ingenious solutions to this frustrating reality. One young man from Kenya, Richard Tuerre, came up with a brilliant idea to protect his land while simultaneously protecting endangered wildlife.

One morning, Richard discovered his family’s bull had been eaten by lions during the night.

Richard was saddened, but also recognized how many lions are also killed as a result of farmers and Maasi (Massaya?) warriors protecting their land.  As a “budding electronics whizz-kid,” he knew he had to come up with a solution.

Richard created a fence with moving lights that helps to deter wild animals from his land. These lights ward off wild animals without harming them physically or putting their lives in danger.

Richard’s invention is an amazing example of animals and humans working in harmony to achieve what’s beneficial for both parties.

If you’re as amazed by Richard as we are, share this video and encourage others to learn more! 

Image Source: Elephant Asia Rescue and Survival Foundation/Facebook

The Rise of 1,000 Small Jails

The rate of incarceration of People of color behind bars in small counties increased 10 fold growth when the resident people of color population had only doubled.

A few jails are notorious.

Think New York City’s Rikers Island or the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail.

News stories about overcrowding, violence, and deplorable conditions fuel ongoing public debate about the nation’s two largest jail systems and capture the public’s imagination about just what jail looks like.

But it turns out urban jails are in decline—there is even a movement to “close the jail” in New York City; Los Angeles is already tearing down its largest jail and building a smaller one—and it is rural America that represents the true picture of U.S. jails today.

That’s because growth in the jail population is not driven by the largest counties; it has taken root in a thousand very small ones across the United States.

By Jacob Kang-Brown. Mar 24, 2016

It wasn’t always like this. The nation’s very small counties once had less than half as many people in jail as New York City and Los Angeles combined.

Now, it is the very small counties that have double the combined jail population of the two cities. Original analysis of the Vera Institute’s online jail population tool show that jails have grown the most in small counties, not large ones.

In the last decade, the outsized jail growth in very small counties has only continued, but jail populations in larger counties have actually begun to decline.

To illustrate this, I conducted additional analysis to compare two groups of counties—each with a population of 18.6 million.

The first group: Los Angeles County and New York City, which have a combined resident population of 18.6 million in 2014, and are also the largest—and perhaps most notorious—jail jurisdictions in the United States.

The second group: 1,003 very small counties, each with between 10,000 and 30,000 residents in 2014, and also with a combined resident population total of 18.6 million (around one-third of all U.S. counties fall into the 10,000 – 30,000 category).

Each group holds 6% of the total U.S. population, and has grown at nearly the same rate since 1970.

There are differences between the two groups. The growth of mass incarceration in local jails is one key difference.

From the 1970s to the present, NYC and LA’s combined jail population grew 30 percent, from 23,000 to 30,000 people on any given day.

This outpaced the cities’ resident population growth of 25 percent. In contrast, in the very small counties, jail populations started out much smaller.

For example, Gonzales County, Texas—with 20,000 residents between San Antonio and Houston—had 2 people in jail in 1970. But very small counties grew far more. The jail populations in these very small counties grew six-fold from the 1970s to the present—from 9,000 to 62,000—and now hold double the amount of people behind bars as NYC and LA.

Gonzales County had 87 people in jail in 2013, for a jail incarceration rate twice the national average. Or Marion County, Tennessee— with 28,000 residents outside of Chattanooga—had only 8 people in jail in 1970, and now has 131 in 2013.

Another meaningful difference is in diversity: the combined population of New York City and Los Angeles is about 70 percent people of color, and the very small counties are about 80 percent non-Hispanic whites.

To understand the full impact of mass incarceration at the local level, it’s important to understand how it affects people of color.

Compared to very small counties, far more people of color live in NYC and LA County. One might expect NYC and LA to have more people of color in jail. But they don’t—very small counties have more people of color behind bars on a given day than NYC and LA.  

While data limits mean we can only compare back to 1990, the changes since then are dramatic. In 1990, 33,000 people of color were behind bars in NYC and LA, but only 9,000 were behind bars in the local jails of very small counties.

Twenty-four years later, in 2014, very small counties had tripled to 27,000 and NYC and LA had dropped to 25,000.

In some very small counties, the change is dramatic: Custer County, Oklahoma held 11 people of color behind bars in 1990 and 114 in 2013—10 fold growth when the resident people of color population had only doubled.

When thinking in terms of populations, might the increasing numbers of people behind bars in small counties be caused by rapidly shifting demographics, particularly in diversifying suburban areas?

Though the number of people of color in very small counties has grown, this relatively moderate population growth does not explain the huge increase in jail incarceration.

When looking at the changes in terms of rate of jail incarceration, the racial disparities in the very small counties become even more visible. (Looking at rate controls for changes in the population, by taking the number of people of color who are jailed per 100,000 people of color aged 15-64.)

In very small counties, nearly 1,100 out of 100,000 people of color aged 15-64 are behind bars in a local jail on a given day. For NYC and LA, that rate is significantly lower, at just 280.

For a national perspective, the jail incarceration rate of people of color is 502 out of 100,000 aged 15-64, which is less than half the rate in very small counties, and significantly higher than the total national jail incarceration rate of 341.

This disproportionate growth is further evidence that the era of mass incarceration hasn’t delivered on public safety. It has, however,  taken a fiscal toll as well as damaged individuals, families, and whole communities.

Jails are under the jurisdiction of local stakeholders, and their day-to-day size and operations are not significantly affected by federal or state legislative proposals to reduce prison populations.

As we know from looking deeper into the national data, the use of jail incarceration is embedded in the culture and practice of communities nationwide, large and small.

Growing evidence suggests that reform efforts to downsize local jails are catching on in many large jurisdictions. Ways to shrink jail populations safely include alternatives to arrest, expanded pretrial release options, alternative sentencing options, improved drug treatment, and mental health resources.

However, in many small communities, there’s little awareness of a jail overuse problem that would spur the adoption of such tools. For national criminal justice reform efforts to be successful, every county will need to understand not only their jail size in relation to historical trends or similar counties, but also the racial disparities it may contain.

With more information about jail trends nationwide—and who they are affecting—small counties can begin the critical conversation about what kind of change is needed in their own backyard.

This article is part of our Next America: Criminal Justice project, which is supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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.

About time for Palestinian liberation: Statement by over 1,000 Black activists

The actual distance between Ferguson, Missouri, and Gaza is about 6,000 miles. But last summer, the repressive and deadly violence visited upon blacks and Palestinians, respectively, made that distance seem to disappear.

Immediately, lines of solidarity began to emerge between those groups, and in August a set of activists and organizations in Palestine issued this statement:

We the undersigned Palestinian individuals and groups express our solidarity with the family of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man gunned down by police on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri. We wish to express our support and solidarity with the people of Ferguson who have taken their struggle to the street, facing a militarized police occupation.

From all factions and sectors of our dislocated society, we send you our commitment to stand with you in your hour of pain and time of struggle against the oppression that continues to target our black brothers and sisters in nearly every aspect of their lives.

We understand your moral outrage. We empathize with your hurt and anger. We understand the impulse to rebel against the infrastructure of a racist capitalist system that systematically pushes you to the margins of humanity.

And we stand with you.

At the same time, I wrote an article in Salon that spelled out the similarities between the forms of oppression both groups live under, including dispossession from lands and homes; de facto forms of inequality; state violence; the constant interruption of daily life; and the ways the perpetrators of such violence are often immune from prosecution.

Nevertheless, such comparisons were criticized by some here in the U.S., and acts of solidarity were sometimes regarded with suspicion:

In what ways might solidarity with Palestinians be harmful to black political projects here?

Individual activists such as Angela Davis and Cornel West addressed that issue and spoke out on the need for black solidarity with the Palestinians.

As West put it:

In terms of the various kinds of Zionist critiques, we make it clear that this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Jewish hatred or anti-Jewish prejudice.

This has to do with a moral and spiritual and political critique of occupation.

Secondly, there is no doubt that Gaza is not just a “kind of” concentration camp, it is the hood on steroids. Now in the black community, located within the American empire, you do have forms of domination and subordination, forms of police surveillance and so forth, so that we are not making claims of identity, we are making claims of forms of domination that must be connected.

There is no doubt that for the Ferguson moment in America and the anti-occupation moment in the Israel-Palestinian struggle there is a very important connection to make and I think we should continue to make it.

But until today there has not been a mass statement of support from black activists and groups to echo the one issued by Palestinians last year.

Now, in a historical event, well over 1,000 black activists, artists, scholars, students and organizations have released a comprehensive, carefully crafted and passionately intoned statement reaffirming their “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people,” and supporting “freedom and equality for Palestinian people.”

In this sweeping and momentous document, the signatories make a point of drawing out the historical connections between the issues of black and Palestinian freedom and rights, and the urgency of their present-day struggles, calling the fight for Palestinian liberation “a key matter of our time”:

On the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre, in the 48th year of Israeli occupation, the 67th year of Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba (the Arabic word for Israel’s ethnic cleansing)—and in the fourth century of Black oppression in the present-day United States—we, the undersigned Black activists, artists, scholars, writers, and political prisoners offer this letter of reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.

The list of signatories includes scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West, political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli, rappers Talib Kweli, Boots Riley and Jasiri X, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Organizational signers include the Florida-based Dream Defenders and St. Louis-based Hands Up United and Tribe X, which were founded after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, respectively, as well as the 35-year-old Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis.

The statement calls on the U.S. government to end diplomatic and economic aid to Israel, for black and U.S. institutions to support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law, and for supporters of black and Palestinian liberation to target the private security company G4S for boycotts and divestment, as well as other companies doing business in the occupied territories.

Besides endorsing both academic and cultural boycotts (which in the U.S. is facilitated by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel), as well as divestment and sanctions, the statement makes emphatically clear the signatories’ commitment to the three goals of BDS and especially addresses the issue of Palestinian refugees:

Our support extends to those living under occupation and siege, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the 7 million Palestinian refugees exiled in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. The refugees’ right to return to their homeland in present-day Israel is the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians.

Andrew Bossone shared the link

“In terms of the various kinds of Zionist critiques, we make it clear that this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Jewish hatred or anti-Jewish prejudice.

This has to do with a moral and spiritual and political critique of occupation. Secondly, there is no doubt that Gaza is not just a “kind of” concentration camp, it is the hood on steroids.

Now in the black community, located within the American empire, you do have forms of domination and subordination, forms of police surveillance and so forth, so that we are not making claims of identity, we are making claims of forms of domination that must be connected….

There is no doubt that for the Ferguson moment in America and the anti-occupation moment in the Israel-Palestinian struggle there is a very important connection to make and I think we should continue to make it.”

More than 1,000 black activists released a statement reaffirming their “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle”
salon.com|By David Palumbo-Liu

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