Police dressed in riot gear accost peaceful protester in sundress. Baton Rouge. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters.
To be candid, this past week I’ve struggled to write Field Notes. As you know, at Progressive Pupil we strive to remain optimistic. A steadfast faith in the power of collective action and community-based leadership, rooted in the successes of social movements in the past, drives our work. Hearing the news of the killing of Philando Castile in Minneapolis, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and Delrawn Small in New York, as well as witnessing the grief of their children, tested that faith.
I lost my mother and grandfather (who was a surrogate father to me) a few years ago and understand the pain of losing a parent as an adult. I can only begin to imagine the despair losing a parent causes a child. Seeing Alton Sterling’s 15 year-old burst into tears, nearly collapsing from grief, while his mother expressed outrage about his father’s death overwhelmed me with sadness and frustration. At a press conference, they stood in front of a sign that read “Stop Killing Us.”
“Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all—black and brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression.” – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Happy Birthday Muhammad Ali! Mainstream media continues to revere him for his extraordinary achievements as an athlete and his influential oratory style (How many of us have alleged to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”?). However, Ali is beloved to the progressive community and the African diaspora for his candid criticism of racial discrimination and poverty as well as his refusal to be inducted in the US Army during the Vietnam War due to his religious beliefs. Ali could have exercised his class privilege, entered the army and fought entertaining exhibition bouts without ever being in any physical danger. Instead, he chose to take a principled stand which in the short run cost him millions of dollars and some of his peak years as a boxing champion. In the long run, Ali’s example made him a legend.
To learn more about Muhammad Ali, see the Academy Award-winning film When we Were Kings, or read this Dave Zirin article in The Nation.
On January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation making slavery illegal in the US. Soon afterwards, newspapers such as the Southwestern Christian Advocate in New Orleans were flooded with letters and advertisements by freedmen searching for their mothers, children, and spouses who had been sold or disappeared, or who had fled the brutality of plantation owners. These letters reveal no one ever adjusted to slavery. And the trauma the experience caused endured long after Lincoln’s decree. How does slavery continue to impact African American families today?
I am, in the words of Black twitter, #ActualBlack. I say this not to endorse “identity policing” but to point out:
I have parents, grandparents and great grandparents who were forced to cope with the following forms of White supremacy (in chronological order): the TransAtlantic Slave Trade, lynching, segregation, mass incarceration, and microaggressions.
My body, skin, hair, voice, accent (or lack of accent), sashay, and personal aesthetics are to some degree disturbing in all public and private institutions (except for prisons and the morgue).
I did not sign up for this club, but I am proud to be a member.
In all seriousness, I have been thinking a lot about the question: Why has the outing of Rachel Dolezal and Andrea Smith as White – allegedly – caused such a sensation?
All over the country the #BlackLivesMatter movement has spread, making an impact here at The New School as well. I am only an ally to the cause; I don’t personally know what it is like to be Black in this country. However, I do know what it is like to be a person of color and the challenges that comes with it. I understand the discrimination communities of color face. (more…)
Dr. Robin J. Hayes, director of the award-winning documentary Black and Cuba will be on New York City’s WBAI today Tuesday April 14 at 2pm EST to discuss the film and “Feeling a Foreigner” on the Artsy Fartsy Show. Listen live or download here.
Any theory is just a theory. It can never be fully proven, but it can always be debunked. The Broken Windows Theoryhas been used to justify aggressive policing of identified ‘unsafe‘ areas. Broken Windows policing violates rights, moral ground, and creates a perception of criminality amongst certain communities. Introduced in 1982, the criminological theory is rooted in the belief that people view disorder as a breeding ground for crime. The example often used (and the theory’s namesake) is a broken window in a building or a car, more damage to the car or building would encourage several undesirable actions including, vandalism, loitering, and squatting. Ultimately, the theory alludes that police can make an area, or an entire city, safer by focusing on smaller crimes that may build up to larger acts of crime. (more…)
The general concept behind decriminalization is simply to make a previously illegal act, legal. However, the actual practice of decriminalization is much more complex and involved. The term is often thrown around within the discourse of social control within our criminal justice system. Referencing the debate that outlawing vices is an outdated means of dictating “norms,” decriminalization is often looked at as an action that needs to be taken in order to properly reflect an evolving society. (more…)