Socialism 2018

Posted on July 10, 2018

On Wednesday, July 4th, myself (Vice Secretary) and the Vice chair of YDSA FIU were able to attend the Socialism 2018 conference in Chicago. None of this would have been possible for us, had it not been for the South Florida International Socialist Organization (SF ISO). SF ISO informed YDSA FIU about the conference in April of the Spring 2018 semester, and then secured our flights to and from Miami and Chicago for us.

So, what is Socialism 2018?

Much as the name suggests, it’s a gathering of 2,000+ socialists who believe that human beings should come before profit. The annual Socialism Conference “has brought together revolutionaries and activists to exchange and debate ideas to advance our struggles” for more than two decades.

To actualize this, everyone at the conference is already, or is interested in, learning about getting rid of capitalism due to the harmful inequalities and violence that the capitalist system thrives on. Thus, there is a broader understanding (as the conference contains socialists of many stripes) that we are fighting for a new system where capital and the means of production are publicly and democratically controlled by the majority of people– those that are part of the working, exploited, and excluded classes.

Check out our cool earrings that we picked up at Socialism 2018 from awesome handcrafters existenceresistance (IG) and tarinandreadesigns (IG)

[Side Note: Due to the wealth of information, my blog post on the Socialism Conference will mostly highlight the panels that stood out to me for various reasons. I will then just list the other panels that I attended. I would also like to note that photos and videos inside of panels were restricted to those with media cards and access (unless you received express permission to record/photograph participants and speakers). Audio of all presentations are available at WeAreMany.org You can also visit the Socialism Conference Facebook page or @socialismconf on twitter for updates and information regarding the conference. I also appreciated that the Socialism Conference provided free childcare services, translation services, and a bookstore– while being hosted at a hotel where the workers are unionized.]

Day One

On Thursday, July 5th Socialism 2018 was underway!

I attended three panels plus the Welcome Plenary to the conference.

To get as much information as possible, whilst also sticking true to our own individual interests, myself and my colleague/comrade/friend only attended the first panel on the first day of #Socalism2018 together. That panel was:

“The Fallacies of “Scientific” Racism: From Thomas Jefferson to the Alt-Right” given by Phil Gasper.

In this panel, Gasper spoke about the resurgence of scientific racism in the era of Trump, particularly where scholarship is concerned. He highlighted recent scholars promoting racial difference (inferior vs superior) like Nicholas Wade, Richard Lynn, Charles Murray, and Thilo Sarrazin. Although one may be surprised that these authors are able to publish such horrendous material, even after race science and eugenics have been debunked as credible, they’ve been published by right-wing publishing agencies like Washington Summit Publishers (which is owned by notable racist and white supremacist, Richard Spencer).

Additionally, there’s a long history within the United States of utilizing fallacious science to explain race and racial difference. Gasper talks about how Thomas Jefferson, in the 18th century, created a hypothesis to explain the “inherent” inferiority of the enslaved in order to justify why they, unlike “all [other] men” were not “created equal,” and are thus slaves. To assert this, Jefferson wanted science to prove his hypothesis which births the anatomical science that starts measuring human brains and, through the falsification of measurements, asserts that each race is a new species.

Then, in the 19th century, Darwin releases his Origins of the Species which brings about evolutionary science in racism. During the 20th century when eugenics is accepted as factual and true within the United States, IQ testing enters the discourse with the United States. Ironically, the IQ test was created in France by Alfred Binet as something altruistic for society. The inventor of the test wanted to identify and provide remedial services to children which underperformed in their age category. His altruism came from the understanding that IQ measurements were not immutable and can be improved based on environment and learning. In the U.S. however, the IQ test as used by conservatives were to limit social programs for the poor which they stereotyped as largely being genetically inferior minorities that were unworthy.

Just like the aforementioned works written within the past 4 years, today the resurgence of scientific racism, is being used by the right to explain inequality. Why? Because if race is seen as a political category versus a disguised biological category (which race science and scientific racism aims to do), then you’d have to address the social and political inequalities based on race. This would require changing a society that depends and generates racial inequality (unsurprisingly, this would also be how we eradicate scientific racism). The other way around, the conversation becomes “why must we provide for their genetic/biological disadvantages?”

On Thursday, I also attended these panels:

“Marxism and Intersectionality,”which was given by Hailey Swenson (amazing panel)

“Loaded: AnDisarming History of the Second Amendment,”which was given by no other than Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz herself!

The Opening Plenary deserves a small space of its own. Theenergy in the roomwas amazing/exciting/thrilling/overwhelmingly good! Before the welcome could even begin, we were already chanting: Shut Down ICE and Free abortion on demand. We can do it, yes we can!

It was absolutely amazing and got me pumped for the of rest the Conference.

For Further Readings/ Information on the Panels that I Attended, Below are Book Recommendations and Online Resources 

Books:

“Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century” by Dorothy Roberts

“How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective” edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

“On Intersectionality: Essential Writings” by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw

“Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Online Resources:

“Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color” by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw 

“Intersectionality and its discontents: Intersectionality as Traveling Theory” by Sara Salem

Day Two

On Friday, July 6th I was able to pick up 4/5 of the books that I had wanted to get at Socialism 2018. Haymarket Books hosted the book store shop, and as a “radical, independent, non-profit book publisher based in Chicago,” it should come as no surprise that they specialize in selling providing us with texts critical of the social, financial, international, and political world. A lot of the books seemed to be themed around helping us to understand histories of struggle and present day struggles (again, from a critical lens) within the U.S. and around the globe.

In no specific order, the books that I got were:

1. Decolonizing Dialectics by George Ciccariello-Maher

2. The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy by John Bellamy Foster

3. Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump by Asad Haider

4. Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life by Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields

5. Blood of Extraction: Canadian Imperialism in Latin America by Todd Gordon and Jeffrey R. Webber

I cannot wait to read all of these books. I am hoping that Decolonizing Dialectics, Blood of Extraction, and Theory of Monopoly Capitalism will help me with my dissertation research. I got Racecraft because many panelists and audience members brought up how profound it was at the conference. I picked up Mistaken Identity as a leisure book (how nerdy does that sound, haha) for me to read, in order to better understand identity politics and how analysis on identity cannot be divorced from class and other narratives of struggle as well.

[Sidebar: Have you read any of these books yet? Please comment and let me know!]

On Friday, I admittedly was only really excited about two panels, one on Israel and the other by Democracy Now!, but I ended up going to three:

“Capitalism and the Gender Binary,”which was given by Lichi D’Amelio (GREAT panel)

“Israel: Colonial Settler State,” which was given by Bill Mullen

“Democracy Now! Covering the Movements Changing America,” by the wonderful Amy Goodman

All I will say here is #FreePalestine, and that there should be a one state solution. The Zionist project started off as a racist white supremacist project to rid certain European countries of Jews, and in the WWII period the Zionist State was (1) not to protect Jews from the Holocaust, but (2) to build a Jewish State in Palestine based on the dislocation, dispossession, relocation, and oppression of Palestinians and Arabs. Israel is an apartheid state which is why BDS is so important, especially in light of decreased Arab nationalism and increased neoliberalism after what happened in Egypt with the Arab Spring. Narratives which try to downplay apartheid and colonial settlement of Israel should always be debunked.

For Further Readings/ Information on the Panels that I Attended, Below are Book Recommendations and Online Resources 

Books:

“The Struggle for Palestine” by Lance Selfa

“On Antisemitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice” by Jewish Voice for Peace and Judith Butler

“Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations” by Ronen Bergman

“Lineages of Revolt: Issues of Contemporary Capitalism in the Middle East” by Adam Hanieh

“Democracy Now! Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America” by Amy Goodman with David Goodman and Denis Moynihan as contributors

Online Resources:

Jewish Voice for Peace

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IAJN)

Democracy Now!

Day Three

Saturday, July 7th was a full day, and I attended five full panels!

“Slavery and Capitalism,”which was given by Brian Jones (GREAT panel)

“Class Struggle and the Color Line,” which was given by Paul Heideman

“Decolonizing Socialism: Getting Racially Organized so we can get Free” which was given by Demita Frazier (wonderful workshop)

“Trump’s War on Immigrants,” which was given by Lucy Herschel and Heather Ramirez

“The Importance of Being Unruly,” which was a conversation between Frances Fox Piven with Sarah Jaffe

Because all of these panels were really good, I sat here thinking for 28 minutes thinking about which one I would like to highlight the most on my blog. I decided on “The Importance of Being Unruly,” which seemed to embody the broader theme of all of the other panels on Saturday.

While some people are drinking the #MAGA and neoliberal #RESISTANCE juice, they lose their perspective on what U.S. politics means, and how it impacts the rest of the world. This is dangerous because behind the apparatus of the right-wing #MAGA folks, there is formal power that they also wield and there is also an unhinged business group (like those in the fossil fuels industry) getting what they want. There’s also financial and banking interests getting what they want right behind them. Because of the nature of the formal #RESISTANCE which is neoliberal, it is insufficient to properly counter anything that the right-wing is doing. So the real Resistance– mostly composed of women are those people taking to the streets. Are those people realizing the importance of anti-racist socialist movements.

There is, and has always been, power in the collective. Collective refusal to cooperate on behalf of the enslaved southern Blacks to participate in the plantation economy decisively won the war and defeated the confederacy. Collective refusal to cooperate on behalf of the teachers strike which arose all across the nation teaches us the importance of collective refusal today. Massive movements, unorganized by formal bodies are allowing in the present, people to seize their own power and act on it.

If anything, Socialism 2018 reinvigorated me. And for that, I am glad to have gone.

For Further Readings/ Information on the Panels that I Attended, Below are Book Recommendations and Online Resources 

Books:

“Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”” by Zora Neale Hurston

The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition” by Manisha Sinha

“Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All” by David R. Roediger

“Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution” by Laurent Dubois

“Class Struggle and the Color Line: American Socialism and the Race Question 1900-1930”by Paul Heideman

“The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800” by Robin Blackburn

“Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail” by Frances Fox Piven

“Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare” by Frances Fox Piven

“Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America” by Frances Fox Piven

“Why Americans Still Don’t Vote: And Why Politicians Want It That Way” by Frances Fox Piven

“U.S. Politics in the Age of Uncertainty: Essays on a New Reality” edited by Lance Selfa

Online Resources:

African Blood Brotherhood

Negro Resolution Adopted by Indianapolis Convention, August 1901

Poor People’s Movement/Campaign

Black Lives Matter

Immigration Act of 1917, I

Immigration Act of 1924, I

Immigration and Control Act of 1986, I

Immigration Act of 1990, I, II

Clinton: Operation Gatekeeper

Questions for Organizers and Individuals Willing to/wanting to Organize

1: When was the last time you had a conversation on race, involving the political sphere?

2: Is it forbidden to have a discussion about race within your group/organization?

3: Have you had deeply dissatisfying discussions on race?

Themes that came up within the Conference Workshop in Response to the Aforementioned Questions

-Tokenization

-Racial Justice always being pushed to the end of agendas

-Contradictions within Marxist spaces as they regard race

-Microaggressions which end people of color retention within organizations

-Branches being “too white”

-Diverse branches do the “job” of race well

-Talking about race and understanding race and issues of race as two different things

Comps Results: 2/3; Why I Won’t Be The Angry Black Woman That White Supremacy Disrupts

Posted on June 29, 2018

I got my comps results on Tuesday! I passed my major and minor comps, but failed my core comps. This came as a shock to me, because whereas I anticipated failing 1 question on the core comps, I did not anticipate failing all 3 questions. I was passed by one core professor on 2/3 questions. But failed by the other professor on all 3.

I posted the above status and then waited one day before I sent out emails thanking my committee’s readers. On the day that I found out, I also went to the gym to blow off some steam (and mostly lose some weight since the gym was planned before I got my results back).

Most felt that there is no need to withdraw from the program– but if I’m being honest, the program is too expensive and the stipend rarely pays rents. Failing one section of comps– with only 1 year of funding left– decreases time dedicated to dissertation proposal and dissertation writing. People aren’t lying when they say that grad school is for the already wealthy.

Nonetheless, the professor that failed me, over the span of one day— and in the most passive aggressive way ever…bordering on (stupid and uniformed) smugness—tried to paint me as an “angry black woman.” And not just any angry black woman, but one who would— if I decided to continue on with my PhD— still be subject to his version of academic “rigor” on any possibility that I would decide to retake the exam. I put his version of rigor since his comments seemed to be upset with how I was taught theory, versus actual theory itself.

Of corse the latter clause (about me having to retake it with him) wouldn’t be true, as I found out the day before. But to him, the assertion meant that he had power– which he obviously does have, seeing as his singular assertion made me fail comps, in spite of passing the two questions to the askers standards.

As proof of his smugness, he decided to add in a director (of which, in the initial email I sent, I stated that I had already met the director) and I responded back to them both, saying that it would not be true. That is when the assertion was made. As a pro tip, I should note that if you intend to be smug against someone, and they pull your smug (the email version of this is that they keep the person CC’d) you should know: maybe they know something that you don’t 🤫.

But I won’t digress. As I thought about this assertion—and the one other time in the span of eight years in which a white male professor essentially made similar claims that:

(1) you are angry black woman

(2) whose future I could interrupt

I’ve realized that what they’re really addressing is the fact that I have the gall to voice my thoughts, emotions, and understandings of a specific situation and be confident and eloquent when I do (my transition from email petty to social media petty is unmatched, quite literally).

The first time this happened, I was an undergraduate and dared to correct the professor before our Habitat for Humanity volunteer break in one of the poorest reservations in South Dakota that: Native American people are not white and it’s incorrect for him to pretend that we’ll be meeting blonde hair and blue eyed Natives… unless the implication is that Natives have been completely genocided.

Unfortunately for him, upon arrival, it was clear that the Native peoples were not white or blue eyed and blonde haired. For some reason, he was mad that people saw what I said was right. On the reservation, he further became enraged after I stood up for a Native woman, over a fellow undergraduate student also on the trip, that was being offensive to someone Native. Apparently, Natives dislike claims from white people that their “4 generations back grandma was Native and “danced with wolves in the cemetery.” Because I called the white girl out on why it was offending the native people, since for some reason she appeared to be fine deaf, this to him warranted giving me an ‘F’ on his alternative break course. He was brought in to take the white girl away, by someone Native, but I’m black— so naturally he came in blazing at me and my intellect. (Everyone was like 😳 TF, wrong person)

Be it God or some other force, I wasn’t actually enrolled in the course, so he couldn’t give me a grade. Unfortunately in this case, no matter how many students came forward to back what happened, he was tenured and the University could do nothing. Unsurprisingly, multiple students— past and present had warranted claims against this professor, but tenure-ship was something too slippery for the university to deal with.

Fast forward to now— it’s always the white male professors with no real prodigies who tend to be doing the most when it comes to students and students of color. In grad school, this continues to be the case. Maybe it’s their personalities or maybe it’s because they’re wishy-washy and vindictive since they view their own intelligence as astronomical. And thus, if you’ve ever corrected them before, you must be perfect in everything that you do– they end up disenchanting others, I don’t really know.

But I’ve learned to stay away from these types a long awhile ago. Funnily enough, he was the last person I actually wanted on a committee since I peepped him to be one of these types after taking a course with him. But sometimes, life works out funny to reaffirm lessons that you’ve long learned in the past.

You don’t get away from white male professors, or authority figures, in grad school. You also don’t get rid of racism and sexism in grad school.

I think that what this has taught me, is that it’s okay to be an angry black woman. Prior to starting grad school, I intentionally— and even on this blog— have talked about how I’ve tried to avoid that label. But maybe it’s not that I’ve had or even needed to avoid it. But rather, I should embrace it.

I am an angry black woman, with every right to be.

I’m also #HereToStay. Nothing motivates me more than knowing I have haters that want to see me fail. Unknowingly, the angry black woman assertion COUPLED with the “your future is in my hands” bullshit, makes me want to go all the way awf!

You’re welcome.

Safeguarding the Fragile Male Ego in Academia

Posted on June 11, 2018

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A comment made to me last semester, Spring 2018

‘Hey, I think you should do it this way…not because what you have is wrong, but maybe it’d read easier like this.’ 

I found myself saying this to a male colleague last semester, instead of outrightly saying: ‘what you wrote makes no sense to me, no matter how much I re-read it.’ I said the former because I knew that if I said what the exact problem was he (1) would not believe me and (2) tell people just how much of a bitch Tamanisha always is. 

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My response to the comment made to me in Spring 2018

Unsurprisingly, he had other males read what he wrote too, and I do believe that they told him the exact problem without any fluff.  These men would never be subjected to number 2—however, as a trusted female colleague who is frequently introduced to others as “she’s smart,” he felt that with me telling him the same thing (of course) in a “nicer” way, his ego would not be harmed. Thus, I ended up freely helping him solely to keep his ego in tact, because, why not?

Far from people’s beliefs, I do not consider myself a “feminist” in the same way that some women who might study feminism may. I hardly ever read feminist texts— although I do tend to always be subjected to white feminism in grad school.  

But something that has been irking me as of late, is the easy way in which men in the academy—at the professor and student/colleague level—dismiss women’s knowledge if it does not serve their ego. What this looks like, for me as a black woman, is a continued conversation of always showing that I too am an intellectual. I too am capable of critically thinking and that in spite of your emotional backlash when your male ego is harmed:

I DESERVE TO BE HERE.

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Safeguarding the male ego in academia happens when you must tip-toe around the truth, so as to not upset a male colleagues ego. You must dumb yourself down—in case he has not read— to not threaten his ego. You must pretend to be able to see his side— no matter how wrong or not effectively argued it is, to not threaten his ego. Otherwise you go from “smart” and “respected” to now your academic intellect is being called into question. This happens quite frequently to me because although I do not mind the occasional ‘dumbing oneself down,’ I refuse to let someone that is blatantly wrong, pretend to be right— solely for the sake of his ego. 

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The safeguarding of the male ego in academia is atrocious, when one considers that sometimes we negate information, to not harm the male ego. Sometimes we pretend to not have knowledge to keep that ego in tact. 

What is being witnessed via this safeguard goes beyond simply accepting instances of mansplaining. It is like we are accepting “fake news” helping fake news spread itself, for the sake of something toxic.

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Some of the men in academia need to set aside their emotional, condescending remarks to women when their fragile male egos are hurt, and instead use that opportunity to really learn.

That education should also be done by themselves and without the expectation that their hand will be held through that learning process since they are the ones that must undergo it. Women should not be tasked with explaining academic and political intricacies to them, because their egos make it incapable for them to learn or understand what is being said contrary to their own beliefs, simply because it is coming from a woman.

This behavior is insulting.

“Freedom Is Still More Expansive Than Civil Rights”

Posted on April 30, 2018

This past week, I was given the opportunity to present at the 19th Annual SALISES conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The theme of the conference was “Sustainable Futures for the Caribbean: Critical Interventions and the 2030 Agenda.” I learned a great deal from that conference and was able to see a lot of great presentations and take-in a lot of knowledge from those presentations…

However, that is not what this blog post is about.

That information simply sets the stage for my leisure reading that I was able to do on my way to Jamaica and whilst in Jamaica. I decided to take the book Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angel Y. Davis with a foreword by Cornel West with me and it was a really good addition to my trip.

The book spoke to the violence of austerity, prison as part of an industrial complex rooted in slavery and capitalism, anti colonial struggles which are happening in various parts of the world, and transnational solidarity along with the importance of making the links/connections of our local struggles with global ones. In all the book made a statement about the power in protest and in collectivising— in a world where neoliberal ideology teaches us to value individualism— which still matters for systemic change.

The book also raises an important set of questions. Namely, “[h]ow do we respond collectively to the militarization of our societies? What role can Black feminism play in this process? What does being a prison abolitionist means in concrete terms today?” (sic) (xiii).

In the opening interview by Frank Barat, the dangers of individualism are spelled out—not only as promoting capitalism, but also as minimising history and the work of ALL of our ancestors to historic individual stories. It is noted that “it is essential to resist the depiction of history as the work of heroic individuals in order for people today to recognise their potential agency as part of an ever-expanding community of struggle” (2).

I think that this is important to remember as someone continues on to read the book,so that they can make the broader connections of the themes. There are a few themes in the book which stood out to me, that I would like to potentially engage with others on. This can be done in the comments or in person. To save time on this post however, I will share some general thoughts and ideas that I had whilst reading the book—which should collectively be on all of our 2030 agendas.

1: We need to, in these United States of America, recognize that our tax dollars fund imperialism, thus genocide, abroad. We need to not only acknowledge this, but take responsibility for this—in terms of who we elect and whether or not they will continue to fuel a military industrial complex which are hurting those in the Arab world in the Middle East and in Africa.

SETTLER COLONIALISM AND APARTHEID IS HAPPENING IN PALESTINE BECAUSE THE UNITED STATES AND THE UNITED KINGDOM FUNDS IT THROUGH ISRAEL.

2: Academic institutions within the United States of America, MUST do more for advocating issues regarding social justice—in the US and abroad. They advocated against an apartheid South Africa and they must do so again for Palestinian, Black, and Indigenous struggles.

3: Thanks to the Occupy Movement, we can now openly critique capitalism. We must not think of the Occupy Movement as done, just because people aren’t visible with tents.

4: What does the world’s largest private corporations say about us? (Walmart, Foxconn, and G4S)

5: We need more action— not conversations on race— however, we also need to learn how to talk about race, in order to have meaningful action.

6: We can learn from feminism— in terms of methodologies. We can learn from trans-feminism’s which would allow us to be flexible precisely because “we have to learn how to think and act and struggle against that which is ideologically constituted as “normal”” (100).

I think that we have gotten this wrong many times, which is why we are still in struggles which have started long ago.Trans-feminism teaches us that “the process of trying to assimilate into an existing category in many ways runs counter to efforts to produce radical or revolutionary results” (101).

7: In regards to feminism which shows that the “personal is political,” we must acknowledge and recognize that “[t]he imprisoned population could not have grown to almost 2.5 million people in this country [USA] without our implicit assent” (106). If we protested under the Reagan-Bush era and the Clinton era— we would not be dealing with a prison crisis.

8: We all— not just white people— have to unlearn racism. People of colour unlearn that racism is an individual act that can be dealt with via sensitivity training (cough, Starbucks 2018). “No amount of psychology therapy or group training can effectively address racism in this country, unless we also begin to dismantle the structures of racism” (107).

9: Protest matters.

10: Do not let narrow individualism overwhelm you because ‘when x happens you’ll be dead’ — if our ancestors gave up, where would we be? This is why i also think these points matter for a 2030 agenda. The future generations should always start at a different (more progressive) point in the struggle (freedom is a constant struggle).

11: Freedom is more expansive than civil rights (Black Panther Ten Point Programme highlights what freedom would look like. If Civil Rights guaranteed freedom, we would still not be engaged in the same struggles)

12: Education has been so commodified, that “the very process of acquiring knowledge…is subordinated to the future capacity to make money” (120).

13: We must expand the sole emphasis on the working class to also focus on the poor— as distinct— in our critiques of capitalism.

14: We must incorporate, into our stories of Black struggle, LGBTQ struggles, Islamophobia, Immigrant Rights, and Transformative Action—because they are all related and interconnected.

“Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (127).

15: Genocide, as per the Genocide convention at the U.N. still happens within the U.S. against Indigenous (Native) and Black communities.

16: Why is a foreign government (Israel) aiding in the training of policing U.S. citizens? Is the Israeli police mandate to “protect and serve?” If not, is their training of our police warranted? Especially when that training has helped the militarization of U.S. police forces.

17: How is it, that we have allowed corporations to make connections between education, health care, security and prisons to increase their profits— before we have made these connections within our own struggles? (e.g. G4S has a hand in all of this)

The last sentence within the book reads: “We cannot be moderate. We will have to be willing to stand up and say no with our combined spirits, our collective intellects, and our many bodies” (145).

RECOMMENDED BOOKS IN THE BOOK:

W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America

Jo Ann Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It

Claudette Colvin, Twice Toward Justice

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow; All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, but Some of us are Brave

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble

Beth Richie, Arrested Justice: Black Woman, Violence and America’s Prison Nation

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Eric Stanley and Nat Smith, Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex

Andrea Ritchie, Kay Whitlock, and Joey Mogul, Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States

Dean Spade, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of the Law

Tennessee Fails to Condemn Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and the Alt-Right…because to do so would be “Divisive”

Posted on March 16, 2018

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but presently, we live in a world where morality and ethics are increasingly seen as solely relative. This has allowed pleas for morality when it comes to our interactions with each other to simply be ‘liberal buzzwords’ and ‘emotional pleas,’ from those who fight for human rights and legislative decency and/or justice. No longer is this a debate amongst philosophers, but apparently, the debate has ended.

This is troubling.

I cannot think of any instance, where the persecution of someone based on race, for instance, is morally ‘relative’ versus ‘universal.’ Can you?

In this climate, to question the morality of a white supremacist is considered ‘bashing.’ Therefore, it is implied that we must take a neutral stance when interacting with their beliefs, because condemning it is simply a ‘disagreement,’ which implies that there is something to their beliefs which is valid or not wrong (because nothing can be ‘wrong’).

This neutral tendency for white supremacist beliefs also plagues the “ivory tower.” Not just amongst students and administrators who hold these beliefs, but also by  professors aiming to ‘not offend’ in their classes. This undoubtedly helps with the legitimization of these despicable views—which are inherently immoral, abhorrent, and disgraceful—as simply ‘self-expression(s).’

On February 28th, as I sat in my grad course, my professor aimed to defend the indefensible—not because he “agrees with it,” but to not just “throw [an author’s] argument away.” The conversation went like this, verbatim:

Prof: it doesn’t take into account whether the alt-right is wrong or not—

Me: that’s not even a question of whether I think it’s wrong or not, it’s literally a “self-expression” which has structural and institutional implications as to whether or not some people should live or be discarded from societies

And if you’re wondering, then yes: class discussions in grad school are actually like this.


So, why  did I just give you this long tangent before I getting into the topic of discussion for this blog post?

Simple. First, I want you to know my stance on the issue up-front; and Second, because those in the house who commented after not putting the notion up to vote, tried to make a ‘relative’ argument.

Here’s what happened:

On Wednesday March 14, 2018 Tennessee legislators declined to vote on a resolution (House Joint Resolution 583) that would denounce White Nationalism, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and the Alt-Right within their state. Because they declined to vote on the resolution, it did not even need to be discussed on the floor of the House Subcommittee.

The resolution was proposed by Representative Jon Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) last year in August 2017 after the White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville, VA (Unite the Right), which killed one anti-racist protestor and injured several others (after a white supremacist drove his car into the anti-racist protestors). Shelbyville,TN was also the October 2017 site of the second largest “White Lives Matter” rally. During this time, Rep Bill Haslman (R-Knoxville) denounced the rally , stating that those who participated were “not welcome in Tennessee” and he denounced the White Supremacist Movement.

 

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[Image: https://medium.com/@NagasakiOsada/347-white-lives-matter-rally-in-shelbyville-tennessee-should-i-attend-3286ee23e7cb]

Clemmons proposal aimed to recognize, via the courts and police, White Supremacist groups as domestic terrorists. Stating that these ideologies “remain very real threats to social and racial progress.” Ideally, he wanted his state to market clear that they were anti the actions of White Supremacists.

Why This Matters

The bill could not have presented itself at such an opportune time. On Sunday, March 12, 2018, Identity Evropa (IE), a Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist organization, held its first national conference—“Leading Our People Forward 2018”—in Nashville, TN. During the conference, they displayed a large banner which read “European Roots, American Greatness” in front of the Parthenon in Nashville. This symbolism is not to be mistaken.

[Image: https://twitter.com/IdentityEvropa/status/972897038483492864]

The goal of the conference was in line with its ideology that “advocates for the preservation of Western (read: white) culture.” Part of this pursuit is to help get themselves closer to “a white ethnostate [that] opposes multiculturalism.” IE is inspired by the European identitarian movement. Its speakers included older members of the alt-right “American Renaissance editor Jared Taylor and former Ku Klux Klan lawyer Sam Dickson, both of whom are members of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the white nationalist hate group that inspired Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. Taylor praised IE members for as being “smart, committed, sensible, and impressive in every way.””

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[Image: https://twitter.com/IdentityEvropa/status/974042862890471425]

The question remains: given Tennessee’s current—and past—situation with these abhorrent groups, why did this bill not get passed or even make it to discussion?

The Blame Game— cue, Relativism

House Joint Resolution 583 which condemned white-hate groups was rejected without any explanation because, according to some Tennessee Republicans, “the resolution was a trap, written to embarrass them.”

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^That was my face too when this reasoning came out. How is a resolution that condemns White-Supremacy, ‘embarrassing’?? Apparently, one lawmaker thought that using the term ‘terrorist’ for White-Supremacist organizations and group identities was “vague and designed to be divisive.”

The Resolution in Full Context

In its full context, the resolution stated that it wanted to:

urge law enforcement to recognize these white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups as terrorist organizations and to pursue the criminal elements of these domestic terrorist organizations in the same manner and with the same fervor used to protect the United States from other manifestations of terrorism.

The reasoning behind the language, according to the resolution, was because present-day manifestations of the alt-right conjure painful memories of our nation’s past.” This painful past, according to the resolution saw White Nationalism and Neo-Nazism as menaces to societal order that seek to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide the nation, and foment hatred, classism, anti-Semitism, and ethnic eradication.” 

Does the Language in the Resolution go too Far?

The answer is no.

The resolution is very straight forward and factual. In literally uses the past history of the U.S. as the impetus for legislative improvement in Tennessee. We are not that removed from knowing that the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), was a domestic race-based terrorist organization.

Due to the massive amount of attention that the rejected resolution received, Tennessee Lawmakers—that are overwhelmingly Republican—now want it to be filed for a second motion. Because ‘of course’ they agree that White Supremacism is ‘bad.’

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I don’t know what if I believe that, but I am interested in seeing what happens next.

Why Guns in Schools to Prevent Mass Shootings Does Not Work

Posted on February 25, 2018

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Only in the U.S. could one propose more guns in schools to curb mass shootings.

I wish that I was kidding, but I’m not.

Early last week, I wrote a post about the Parkland shooting which occurred on Valentine’s day in Florida. After the massacre, 17 students and adults were left dead. In spite of their deaths, two days later, Florida legislatures tried to sneakily relax gun laws in the state by hiding it in an agricultural bill. Thankfully, that bill was put on hold once major Florida news outlets picked the story up.

I ended my post early last week stating:

What matters are those who died when they did not have to. What matters is recognizing the hurt and pain students (survivors), parents, and other loved ones—who had to prematurely bury someone– went through. What matters is recognizing that part of their mourning process, will include calls for stricter gun reforms, that should be adhered to. What matters is voting out politicians who will hear those cries, send thoughts and prayers, and do nothing because they’re beholden to the NRA.

Now, I want you to pay attention to the last two sentences of that post.

First, that part of the mourning process will include calls for stricter gun reforms—which is notably the most nonsensical and rational approach to take. And second, that we need to vote out politicians who will hear the mourning, simply send thoughts and prayer, and do nothing about the situation because they’re beholden to the NRA. Now I wish I was making this stuff up, but on Tuesday, February 20th the Florida House opened up with a prayer for those who died on the Valentine’s Day Massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Less than five minutes after that prayer, the Florida House Lawmakers “declined to open debate on a bill that would ban assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines. The motion to debate the bill, introduced by a Democrat, required a two-thirds vote and failed. Thirty-six lawmakers supported it, while 71 voted no. Its merits were not considered.”

Do they not know what irony means? Apparently not, because a lot of Florida lawmakers have an A+ rating from the NRA and receive money from the association. Something that should be considered when one thinks about their voting choices.

This is why South Florida and all politicians must be held accountable. Especially when their position on certain issues goes against that of their constituents and the broader U.S. public.


Most heinously, these GOP lawmakers and supports are now supporting  measures which state, or suggest, that more guns should be allowed in schools, via teacher concealed-carry, to “prevent” mass shootings.

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To be fair, there are talks now, and support for, raising the gun buying age to 21—even in Florida—due to a tweet that Donald Trump sent out supporting the measure. However, this, in conjunction with the idea to arm teachers, is most notably the stupidest idea ever.

First, ever since Columbine, guns in school have increased and this has not prevented mass shootings! HELLO: There was an armed cop at Parkland, and a mass shooting still occurred! Apparently, he “froze” when the shooting happened according to local Florida news.  A trained cop froze! But somehow, we expect teachers to, no questions asked, kill a mass shooter that they may have taught or know from their communities.

Second, there’s the most obvious question: Is it impossible for a student to take a gun from a teacher? The answer is resoundingly NO.  Even if we are to raise the age to 21, you’re practically giving younger people access to guns still.

Third, should teachers really put their lives on the line to prevent mass shootings?  Outside of their minimal wages, we do not even supply teachers with enough teaching resources, and are somehow okay with giving them resources of destruction?!?!? Hence why the #ArmMeWith hashtag was started.

Finally, let’s imagine that teachers are armed. Are we really going to deny the fact that teachers can now commit a crime? Will the “defense” of fearing for one’s life still stand when a fed-up teacher shoots a student? To be honest, this really makes me scared for the black and brown students that are already disproportionately disciplined and viewed as threatening by teachers and society at large—even when they aren’t.

All of the ideas which do not include strict gun reform, do not make us safer in the long-term. And unfortunately, those ideas are what is winning over the voices of constituents and broader U.S. public.

 

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[Image: https://theeducatorsroom.com/armmewith-starts-movement-among-teachers/]

NRA + GOP: Thoughts & Prayers Do Not Stop Gun Massacres in the U.S.

Posted on February 19, 2018

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[Image: https://www.today.com/news/florida-divided-over-gun-laws-parkland-rallies-protest-after-school-t123375]

On Valentine’s Day 2018, Nikolas Cruz walked in to his old high school in Parkland, Florida and massacred 17 students, teachers, and adults. As with many cases of mass shootings in the U.S., many people were quick to send their “thoughts and prayers.” Republicans and their supported decried “politicizing” the issue—or in other words, bringing up gun reform and control in light of the 18th mass shooting in the U.S. for the year. Unsurprisingly, most politicians in South Florida are beholden to the National Rifle Association (NRA), receiving large sums of money from the association. Needless to say, despite the massacre hitting home, most South Florida representatives were in the “not politicizing” camp.

However, let me be very clear: the South Florida shooting did not have to happen. If Cruz—someone that has been reported to the FBI prior to the massacre—were subject to stricter background checks, 17 people would not be dead right now. No one would be injured right now. The U.S. has a gun problem and policy change is what is needed. If thoughts and prayers have not worked each time an incident like this happens—something else needs to happen. And that something else does not include having “more legal guns in schools” via arming teachers, because over half of these mass shootings are committed using LEGAL guns.

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In South Florida, we need to hold our legislators and congressmen—like Marco Rubio who receive NRA funding, accountable. They are in the pockets of the NRA and exacerbate the mass shooting phenomenon— unique to the U.S.— by not acting on tougher and stricter gun laws. To make matters worse, less than one day after the Parkland massacre, politicians in Florida, were trying to vote to make gun laws in the state more relaxed. Because no one would agree to this, they tried to sneak it into an agricultural bill. This kind of behavior should not be tolerated— especially when people’s lives are on the line.

Although I can go on a rant about how Cruz was wrongfully linked to a white nationalist group that conducts paramilitary experiments, or to the fact that Cruz was a racist— none of that matters. What matters are those who died when they did not have to. What matters is recognizing the hurt and pain students (survivors), parents, and other loved ones—who had to prematurely bury someone– went through. What matters is recognizing that part of their mourning process, will include calls for stricter gun reforms, that should be adhered to. What matters is voting out politicians who will hear those cries, send thoughts and prayers, and do nothing because they’re beholden to the NRA.

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[Image: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/parkland-florida-school-shooting_us_5a849439e4b0774f31d19627?ncid=fcbklnkukhpmg00000001]