good conversation and exploration of transgender representations in the media.
If you ever want to be truly horrified, read up on how employers who break the law and abuse employees rights are ‘reprimanded.’ It’s pathetic that even piece-meal reforms are fought by corporate interests every step of the way. I only hope some day that our country starts emphazising the humanity of workers over the ‘personhood’ of corporations.
(rant inspired by this recent piece by Gabe Thompson)
"Black people can’t talk to white people about race anymore. There’s really nothing left to say. There are libraries full of books, interviews, essays, lectures, and symposia. If people want to learn about their own country and its history, it is not incumbent on black people to talk to them about it. It is not our responsibility to educate them about it. Plus whenever white people want to talk about race, they never want to talk about themselves. There needs to be discussion among people who think of themselves as white. They need to unpack that language, that history, that social position and see what it really offers them, and what it takes away from them."
Georgia just implemented a new policy that asks employers to report people who are looking for work who test positive for drug use. Cause obviously we don’t want anyone who has used drugs in the last 30 days to find a job.
This of course follows Georgia’s new law that says if you have used a drug you are also not allowed to access public assistance.
So, if you have health problems in Georgia you are not allowed to try to find a job and you are not allowed to get help if you can’t find a job.
Thanks, Georgia, for showing the total heartlessness with which our drug policies treat a public health problem.
The New Jim Crow
I’m reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. This book stunningly synthesizes what racial justice and economic justice advocates have been shouting for decades, that the ‘criminal’ ‘justice’ system in this country is fundamental in enforcing white, bourgeois, privilege. In that order. Alexander’s look at how this system came to replace Jim Crow rings incredibly true and is both empowering to see written out so clearly, and incredibly depressing because it shows piece by piece the many layers that must be dismantled before we end this system of injustice.
Alexander’s account is most depressing for me when reading about our all powerful supreme court and judicial branch. It’s so clever that racism and white privilege hid behind the one branch of government that is most entrenched and unreachable by the common citizen. What more beautiful and insightful system to house the new racist agenda behind than the one that unites the all powerful police enforcers with the all powerful ‘objective’ judicial deciders (I say that with utmost distaste, and disgust, and with awe at how effective such a system is).
To give an example, one of the first cases Alexander talks about is, Florida v. Bostick. In this case the supreme court said evidence seized by police without a warrant is admissible if the person does not refuse the search. As Alexander explains it:
A reasonable person, the court concluded, would have felt free to sit there and refuse to answer the police officer’s questions, and would have felt free to tell the officers “No, you can’t search my bag.”
This is an amazing assertion in and of itself because, as Professor Tracey Maclin said, “Common sense teaches that most of us do not have the chutzpah or stupidity to tell a police officer to ‘get lost’ after he has stopped us and asked us for identification or questioned us about possible criminal conduct.” However, what makes it even more amazing to me is to think of Alexander’s observations in relation to Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada.
In Hiibel the Supreme Court ruled using the exact opposite logic. In that case, the court ruled that a law requiring citizens to disclose their identity to police officers who stop and question them was permissible, and did not violate the fourth amendment. This logic suggests that while citizens must disclose their names to police officers (dependent on location and relevant state and city statutes), ‘reasonable’ citizens should obviously know they can tell an officer to piss off if they ask you any other questions or ask to search your bag or your persons. And, of course, this is in light of the ever evolving case law dictating those rights. It would seem that the court assumes a ‘reasonable’ person is expected to check case law and state statutory law before each and every interaction with a police officer.
It is important to emphasize that this is just but a few of the laws and precedents that construct The New Jim Crow. It is also important to note that my sterile analysis does not begin to talk about the extreme fear that exists in communities of color where police presence is constant and where police murders of unarmed people is common. Nor does it acknowledge the way your rights are limited if you’ve already been part of the ‘criminal’ ‘justice’ system and are on parole, and have already been degraded, dehumanized, and intimidated by our justice system through a variety of means (including forced strip searches which are now also unprotected by the fourth amendment, despite our supposed presumption of innocence). Obviously these factors also dictate how a ‘reasonable’ person interacts with police officers and this system.
I’ve barely started this book and already it has brought to the fore the frustration and anger I feel every day, and I, with my white privilege, am not even a primary target. I suggest others pick up this book and see if they don’t feel the need to do anything in their power to call out this injustice and finally end this new Jim Crow.
Gratitude and Charity
I love this post.
I have a friend who is going in to social work. I commend this. I think going into a field where you will be underpaid and over worked is something that you probably shouldn’t do, but will still likely make you feel more human than going to a job where you will be overpaid and overworked to figure out ways to screw over consumers and the poor.
However, something she said to me last year scared me. It scared me because it wreaked of the white savior complex mixed with a good dose of classism. What she said was a comment about the family of a young foster girl she was mentoring. It was along the lines of “why do they have a big tv, why do they not take good enough care of their daughter, obviously they don’t work and live off the system.” This stopped me in my tracks and made me relive memories I had almost entirely forgotten about.
In 7th grade I had strangers give me christmas presents. They came to our house (it was a family of them), and watched us open the gifts they gave us which mainly consisted of clothing, possibly hand-me downs. One of the shirts I got as a gift was a horizontally striped, long sleeve shirt that was two sizes too big and had a giant picture of winnie-the-pooh and friends across the front. I smiled. I smiled and said thank you to the ugliest, most age-inappropriate gift I might ever get, from a stranger who was sitting in my house to watch me open a gift so they could pat themselves on the back. I was poor, who am I to feel anything other than gratitude? Who am I to have taste? or want affordable luxuries like tv? Or want to have and do these things so I am not further ostracized as the poor kid at my school who doesn’t know any of the hip things we kids are now supposed to know about.
This does not change when you become an adult, it just because more banal. More of the everyday struggle to enjoy even a moment of any given day when you can’t afford rent, can’t find a job, and are worried about where you will turn should any disaster strike on your literal day-to-day budget.
Don’t get me wrong. Those people were nice. Acknowledging that people have less than you is important. Wanting to help is a great first step. But too often that meager help does nothing to change the lives of those being helped while those helping reward themselves for doing a good deed and move on with their lives (which may themselves be contributing to the status quo…more on that in another post).
(s)he had it coming
This article is so good, and taps into the rage that I feel every single time the victim blaming begins. I am so sick and tired of victims being turned into less than perfect human beings and thus not worthy of justice and decency and bodily autonomy and, in this case, the right to life.
the privilege of social movements
I read a really tough piece by Elon James White today. It’s tough because it criticizes a movement for which I have a lot of respect. And, it’s tough because I think his comments have validity, I’ve certainly seen sexism, transphobia, racism, in both deed and word at Occupy events. However, I also think they pigeonhole and misunderstand the full breadth of the Occupy movement.
To address his comments about Wednesday’s event specifically, I can only comment that he was right about the seeming confusion, and that at times people were chanting various things while speakers were trying to talk (the one I heard the most was, “no justice, no peace.” At the time I took it to be a symptom of disorganization on the part of those who organized the march. I could not see the stage, and when the only bullhorn turned in a slightly different direction, I could no longer hear what was being said. Communication was fairly poor all around, and when no one was speaking, many people were confused about the hold up. Whether or not the people who started chanting were occupiers, I have no idea. I do know that they probably couldn’t hear as they were to the far left of me, and I was in direct line of the bullhorn.
But where do Elon James White’s comments fit in to the movement generally? I have definitely witnessed deep levels of privilege at occupy events. In New York I have personally heard remarks founded on various ‘isms’. I have also seen issues specific to certain groups of privileged folks submerge issues of those who don’t have the race, sex, class, able, cis, etc. privilege of others.
And yet, I have also seen honest attempts to acknowledge the immense differences among ‘the 99%,’ as well as acts to counter them. At most of the Occupy working groups I have attended, facilitators inform the group that they will be ‘stacked’ (calling on people) in ways that will acknowledge new members, those who haven’t spoken, race, gender, which organizations you may be a part of, and other considerations of privilege. I’ve been at meetings where people from all backgrounds are asked to introduce themselves, give their pronoun preference, and give a short sentence about why they’re at the meeting/in the movement. Privilege erects some major hurdles to working with various groups. I am impressed by OWS for cultivating a space that acknowledges and reaffirms those hurdles from the beginning of every meeting (most facilitators remind folks throughout as well).
As someone who comes from a labor organization, I’ve also seen the trials and tribulations of trying to coordinate events across a large group of diverse organizations. OWS, various community based organizations (CBOs), and unions that organized events together had debriefs where each group talked about what went well, what went terribly, and how we need to do better. Often times this involved people saying things that are tough to hear, “I felt like X group called the shots and didn’t work well with the rest of the groups,” “Our org found it difficult to organize around OWS’ wily structure…” Insofar as all populist social movements have factions, divergent issues, different experiences, and different ideas, I think the biggest contribution that Occupy has given, is getting people to the table, despite differences, to try to figure out how we can work around these hurdles in order to realize the goals we do have in common.
I do not see this work identified in media surrounding Occupy. The efforts of Occupy folks who have been focusing on internal organizing, outreach, and education campaigns is completely ignored and thus deligitamized as part of the Occupy movement, whereas every 20 year old wandering around acting like a jerk to pass the time is OWS incarnate.
Do I agree that Occupy still has a lot of work to do around outreach, and honestly trying to tackle overlapping structures of privilege? Yes, I think Occupy has a lot of growing to do. Do I think that the criticisms are helpful? Of course, we need to deconstruct and honestly figure out where we’re failing, and who feels excluded from participating. Do I think that most OWS folks agree: Absolutely. My hope is that instead of ending here, we find a good place to start.
a video of the march of #millionhoodies yesterday.