Chicago

 

About 45 people gathered on a hot August night at a Chicago LBGT community center  to hear a chapter in Chicago history that is often forgotten--how John Gacy prowled the streets of Chicago's northside from 1972 through 1978, picking up young men and murdering at least 33 of them. Gacy, one of the most vicious mass murderers in U.S. history, was found guilty of the murders, sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois on May 10, 1994.

 

Author and activist Patrick Dati spoke about his acclaimed memoir, I Am Me: Survivor of Child Abuse and Bullying Speaks Out which recounts how Dati overcame a life of bullying and emotional terror which included an assault by mass killer John Gacy when he was only 9-years-old. The book has been acclaimed by Fox News, the Chicago Sun-Times and Kirkus Reviews. Dati told the group he hid his true identity as a gay man through two failed marriages and that sharing his story in his memoir, as he has finally done, is the "ultimate coming out journey to find acceptance and love."

 

The book started as a personal diary that Dati's psychiatrist recommended he write to "release the trauma" Dati told the group. But when his best friend who was a writer read the manuscript, he told Dati that the powerful narrative of overcoming shame, childhood abuse and bullying would have national appeal. Soon a book was born and I Am Me: Survivor of Child Abuse and Bullying Speaks Out was launched by Amazon Digital Services earlier this year.

 

Many who now live in Boystown, Chicago's LBGT neighborhood, were not alive when Gacy cruised its streets. On the day of Dati's encounter with Gacy in the winter of 1973, he had been playing outside in the snow with his brother and other children. The boys went into Goldblatt's at Belmont and Central, a prominent Chicago department store chain now closed, to warm up and continue playing. But when he went to the men's room something happened to Dati that meant he "was never a child again," he says. He was sexually assaulted by a knife-wielding John Gacy. Dati fought back, he told the audience, refusing to "leave with" Gacy and possibly saving his own life.

 

Dati was likely only the second of Gacy's scores of victims, Dati told me. The crimes would continue until 1978, with victims usually losing their lives.

 

Dati said the shame and guilt about the violent assault kept him from telling anyone about it for many years. Ironically, when police finally arrested Gacy in 1979, Dati was with a friend of his who lived close to the Gacy Chicago residence. It was only then that he realized who had assaulted him. As soon as he saw Gacy's face flash on the TV screen, Dati said he ran to the bathroom and "I was throwing up and I was crying."

 

In addition to the assault, Dati said he has coped with bullying and abuse most of his life made all the more acute by a strict Catholic upbringing. The youngest of five children, Dati was bullied by his brother and his father would dismiss the abuse as "boys will be boys," he said.  But it wasn't good natured pranks or teasing, says Dati, "It was bullying."

 

Dati struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide after the assault, enduring more abuse in personal relationships because the emotional landscape of exploitation was so familiar to him. Dati also had two marriages before coming out and has a daughter. Since I Am Me has been published, Dati has become an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse and bullying as well as closeted gay men. Eighty to 85 percent of men who have been abused never come forward and reveal the harm and violence done to them, he says. He hopes to become a public speaker on the topics and his talk at the community center was videotaped for an upcoming CD.

 

“Too often in life the person we were raised to be is not the person we are,” Dati explains. “I lived my life to please others and it doesn’t work. I suffered so much and now I want to share my journey with others to that they too can come out of their darkness and into their light. Just be who you are. That’s the message!”

 

In addition to regularly speaking at national forums, he is active in several local and national anti-bullying and child abuse prevention organizations including, RAINN the Rape, Incest National Network.

 

Dati says he now regrets that he "didn't come forward" and reveal his traumatic experience sooner than he did. "I may have been able to save so many other kids' lives," he reflects. Dati is planning a second book to educate parents, teacher and school superintendents about the signs of bullying and abuse.

 

 

 

 

Any serious student of history is on alert for “interesting accidents.” Because sometimes they are accidents. Sometimes, they’re not.

We have no opinion at the moment on the one-car-wreck that left former FBI director Louis Freeh badly injured around noon on August 25, other than to note some curious facts: the police were hours late informing the office of the governor of Vermont; Freeh was flown by helicopter to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital in New Hampshire under armed guard, and has remained under armed guard; the hospital has refused to confirm that he is a patient, even after reports of two surgeries; at least for the first few days no one has answered the phones at his company, Freeh Group International.

The Crash

From news reports available at press time, Freeh

was headed south on Vermont 12 in his 2010 GMC Yukon when he drove off the east side of the road. The vehicle struck a mailbox and a row of shrubs, then came to rest against the side of a tree, police said…

Louis Freeh

Louis Freeh epitomizes the risks attendant in a president’s decision to demonstrate bipartisanship by appointing or re-appointing figures associated with the opposing political party and/or prior regime. He also embodies the troubled legacy of the Bureau from its earliest days. (For a look at how the U.S. media cooperated with the Bureau to misleadingly burnish its image, see this)

Louis Freeh was appointed by George H.W. Bush to the federal bench in 1991. In the first year of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Clinton named Freeh head of the FBI.

Right from the start, the Freeh FBI was drenched in controversy. The “screw-ups” were legion—from the exposure of fraudulent FBI crime lab results to the wrongful blaming of an innocent man for the bombings at the Atlanta Olympics—to the bloody standoff and shootout at Ruby Ridge.

Freeh vs the Clintons

In order to move the heat off himself and his agency, Freeh made political peace with Newt Gingrich and his firebrand GOP Congressional operation, deflecting the political pressure back onto the White House. He did this via a Campaign Finance Task Force, under the auspices of his parent agency, the Justice Department. In December of 1996, after Clinton was re-elected. This became, prior to 9/11, what some say was the largest federal investigation in U.S. history.

Over 300 FBI agents were assigned to the investigation, which targeted both Clinton and Gore. No one was ever indicted but a steady drip of leaked stories pounded Gore particularly—feeding the damaging story line that he was a captive of the China Lobby and possibly even compromised by certain foreign intelligence services. This long-simmering PR crisis did serious damage to...

For the rest of the story, please go to WhoWhatWhy.com

 

Any serious student of history is on alert for “interesting accidents.” Because sometimes they are accidents. Sometimes, they’re not.

We have no opinion at the moment on the one-car-wreck that left former FBI director Louis Freeh badly injured around noon on August 25, other than to note some curious facts: the police were hours late informing the office of the governor of Vermont; Freeh was flown by helicopter to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital in New Hampshire under armed guard, and has remained under armed guard; the hospital has refused to confirm that he is a patient, even after reports of two surgeries; at least for the first few days no one has answered the phones at his company, Freeh Group International.

The Crash

From news reports available at press time, Freeh

was headed south on Vermont 12 in his 2010 GMC Yukon when he drove off the east side of the road. The vehicle struck a mailbox and a row of shrubs, then came to rest against the side of a tree, police said…

Louis Freeh

Louis Freeh epitomizes the risks attendant in a president’s decision to demonstrate bipartisanship by appointing or re-appointing figures associated with the opposing political party and/or prior regime. He also embodies the troubled legacy of the Bureau from its earliest days. (For a look at how the U.S. media cooperated with the Bureau to misleadingly burnish its image, see this)

Louis Freeh was appointed by George H.W. Bush to the federal bench in 1991. In the first year of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Clinton named Freeh head of the FBI.

Right from the start, the Freeh FBI was drenched in controversy. The “screw-ups” were legion—from the exposure of fraudulent FBI crime lab results to the wrongful blaming of an innocent man for the bombings at the Atlanta Olympics—to the bloody standoff and shootout at Ruby Ridge.

Freeh vs the Clintons

In order to move the heat off himself and his agency, Freeh made political peace with Newt Gingrich and his firebrand GOP Congressional operation, deflecting the political pressure back onto the White House. He did this via a Campaign Finance Task Force, under the auspices of his parent agency, the Justice Department. In December of 1996, after Clinton was re-elected. This became, prior to 9/11, what some say was the largest federal investigation in U.S. history.

Over 300 FBI agents were assigned to the investigation, which targeted both Clinton and Gore. No one was ever indicted but a steady drip of leaked stories pounded Gore particularly—feeding the damaging story line that he was a captive of the China Lobby and possibly even compromised by certain foreign intelligence services. This long-simmering PR crisis did serious damage to...

For the rest of the story, please go to WhoWhatWhy.com

Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Michael N. Nagler

Some time back in the early fifties the U.S. Navy conducted an "exercise" to test bacterial warfare...in San Francisco! They sprayed bacterial agents into the fog over the Bay to "see what would happen." Sure enough, some people got sick, and one elderly gentleman died. When Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, discovered this through the Freedom of Information Act he wrote a stinging essay in the magazine.He said, "We are outraged, and we should be; but we have to realize that these are the wages of violence. You cannot authorize a group to go out and defend you with military force and expect that that force will never come home to roost."

This is the lesson we again seem to not to be learning from the violence - all of it, on both sides - unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri. Yes, what Officer Wilson apparently did on the night of August 9th was outrageous, inexcusable. I say "apparently'" because at this time controversy and contradictory reports are still swirling and it may be a while before we know - if we ever do - the truth. But even when we do, and no matter what it is, there is a deeper truth to which the mainstream media will never direct us to, and will, in fact, obscure by their attention to details and particulars of this event as though it occurred in a vacuum. What I'm thinking of here goes even beyond the racial tensions underlying the scenario of the white officer and black victim.

The deeper, uncomfortable truth is, we will never see the end of these confrontations and this violence and this anguish (if you have seen the interviews of Michael Brown's mother you know what I mean) until and unless we realize that we are creating a violent culture and set our faces against it. The militarization of our police force is but one inevitable step in a long process that involves the promotion of violence for "entertainment," violence as the only escape from the unfulfilling, if not hopeless lives that many lead in a materialistic culture, and violence as the means to stem the tide of that violence which is thus created. Once you let the genii of violence out of the jar you cannot order it to attack only this or that person, within this or that guideline.

The only real escape from the wrenching destruction of the social fabric of Ferguson, of the lives of Michael Brown's parents and so many like them, is to turn away from unleashing the influence of violence in the first place. And the only way that I know of to do that, realistically, is to create its alternatives on every level: media that celebrate the spiritual potential of the human being, the wonders of creation, and the innate longing for and capacity for peace in every one of us.

To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s free newsletter, sign up for Tikkun Magazine emails  or visit us online. You can also like Tikkun on Facebook  and follow us on Twitter.

Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Warren Blumenfeld

Officials in 17th-century Puritan Boston coerced Hester Prynne into permanently affixing the stigma of the scarlet letter onto her garments to forever socially castigate her for her so-called "crime" of conceiving a daughter in an adulterous affair. Stigmata include symbols, piercings, or brands used throughout recorded history to mark an outsider, offender, outcast, one who is enslaved, and others.

Though Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter is a work of fiction, members of several minority communities continue to suffer the sting of metaphoric stigmata through their skin color, hair texture, facial features, sex assigned at birth, sexual and gender identities and expressions, religious beliefs and affiliations, countries of origin, linguistic backgrounds, disabilities, ages, and so on.

1999, Amadou Diallo, 23; 2000, Patrick Dorismond, 26; 2003, Ousmane Zongo, 24; 2004, Tim Stansbury, 19; 2006, Sean Bill, 23; 2009, Oscar Grant, 23; 2012, Stephon Watts, 15; 2014, Eric Garner, 43; 2014, Michael Brown, 18.

This list stands as a black or Latino parent's worst fear. It includes the names of innocent, unarmed black people, primarily boys and men, killed at the hands of police officers for virtually no other reason than the color of their skin.

Many white parents often dread engaging with their children in "the talk," you know, the one about the so-called "birds and bees." The trepidation they feel compels them sometimes to put it off as long as possible or never to bring it up at all. While this version of "the talk" may also engender anxiety in black and Latino parents, they must not only broach, but delve deeply into another form of "the talk" with their children, and in particular with their sons, that most white parents never have to consider.

Since the time white people first forcibly kidnapped, enslaved, and transported Africans across the vast oceans to the Americas, some law enforcement officers as well as civilian white residents of the United States routinely profiled and targeted black and Latino boys and men for harassment, arrest, violence, and murder simply for walking down the street or later driving in cars while being black or Latino.

Black and Latino parents from all walks of life throughout the country engage with their sons in what they refer to as "the talk" once their sons reach the age of 13 or 14 instructing them how to respond calmly if ever confronted by police officers. Parents warn youth that if ever approached by police, walk toward them and never run away, keep hands out of your pockets in plain view, don't raise your voice, always act in a polite manner, and never show anger or use derogatory language. Parents of these young men know full well the stigmata embedded into their sons by a racist society, branding them as criminals and forever signing them onto the endangered species list.

Stigmatized and marginalized groups live with the constant fear of random and unprovoked systematic violence directed against them simply on account of their social identities. The intent of this xenophobic (fear and hatred of anyone of anything seeming "foreign") violence is to harm, humiliate, and destroy the "Other" for the purpose of maintaining hierarchical power dynamics and accompanying privileges of the dominant group over minority groups.

On February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader in Sanford, Florida, shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Martin was walking on the sidewalk talking on a cell phone to his girlfriend and carrying a can of ice tea and a small bag of Skittles when Zimmerman confronted and shot him, and then he claimed self-defense. By most reports, Martin's "crime" was walking while being black in a predominantly white gated community visiting family and friends. His stigmata included his black skin in tandem with his youth while wearing a "hoody."

In the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin, 32-year-old Iraqi American Shaima Alawadi appears to have been the victim of a brutal hate-inspired murder in her San Diego home. On March 24, 2012, Alawadi's oldest daughter, Fatima al-Himidi, found Aalwadi "drowning in her own blood," beaten with a tire iron. A note near Alawadi bloodied body read, "Go back to your country, you terrorist."

We witnessed the brutal attacks on Rodney King in Los Angeles, the barbarous slaying of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas, the fierce rape and murder of Cherise Iverson, a 7-year-old girl in a Las Vegas casino bathroom, the police chokehold death of 43-year-old Eric Garner, and the recent multiple-bullet police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. And these are simply just a few of the most visible examples of this form of stigmatized violence.

We must not and cannot dismiss these incidents as simply the actions of a few individuals or "bad cops," for oppression exists on multiple levels in multiple forms. The killers live in a society that subtly and not-so-subtly promotes intolerance, imposes stigmata, and perpetuates violence. These incidents must be seen as symptoms of larger systemic national problems.

We are living in an environment in which property rights hold precedence over human rights. Metaphorically, oppression operates like a wheel with many spokes. If we work to dismantle only one or a few specific spokes, the wheel will continue to roll over people. Let us, then, also work on dismantling all the many spokes in conquering all the many forms of stigmatized oppression in all their many forms.

In the final analysis, whenever anyone of us is diminished, we are all demeaned, when anyone or any group remains institutionally and socially stigmatized, marginalized, excluded, or disenfranchised, when violence comes down upon any of us, the possibility for authentic community cannot be realized unless and until we become involved, to challenge, to question, and to act in truly transformational ways.

To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s free newsletter, sign up for Tikkun Magazine emails  or visit us online. You can also like Tikkun on Facebook  and follow us on Twitter.

 

 In Omaha, Nebraska, there is a proposal on the table for people buying meat to choose an animal and watch it being slaughtered. But many are saying this encourages insensitivity and lack of empathy for suffering, whether human or animal. Many anthropologists say there is a strong cultural link between barbaric treatment of animals and barbaric treatment of humans--agony and terror no longer disturb people because they have become used to it.

 

Since the United States and other countries moved from an agrarian society to an urban one, many complain that kids think chicken nuggets grow on trees and that they have no awareness or respect for the fact than an animal died to make lunch. Because meat is daintily wrapped in cellophane at the grocery store, it is easy to pretend no violence, sacrifice or pain was involved--not even the pain experienced by the slaughterhouse workers who also suffer from a shockingly unregulated industry.

 

Many people realize that even though they may eat meat all day and every day, they would not be able to kill an animal themselves. This guilt and awareness of how cushy their dietary situations are can produce a perverse respect for hunters who are not in denial. But of course not all hunters eat what they kill or allow an animal "fair chase." 

 

For example, Madonna told BBC Radio One in 2001, "You have more respect for things you eat when you go through, or see, the process of killing them.” But the pop star was allowing "canned hunts" at her historic Wiltshire mansion, Ashcombe House, stocked with battery cage-raised baby pheasants from France and allowing rich guests like bankers, brokers and celebs Vinnie Jones and Brad Pitt to "pay up to £10,000 a day" to kill the tame and defenseless birds, reported the Sunday Times.

 

Chefs and foodies are also experimenting with slaughter transparency and self-slaughter. College student Jake Lahne enrolled in a meat production course at the University of Illinois, a strong agricultural school, to achieve “a real understanding of where meat comes from.” But during his do-your-own slaughtering, he found that “animals do not want to die. They can feel pain and fear, and, just like us, will struggle to breathe for even one single more second.” He even warns other self-slaughterers, “If you’re about to run 250 volts through a pig, do not look it in the eyes. It is not going to absolve you.”

 

Christine Muhlke, a New York Times food writer, planned to report on one of the first uses of a van-like “mobile slaughterhouse,” which serves customers who live far away from slaughterhouses or who have a hard time transporting animals. But even though she describes herself as a “meat hipster who serves pickled pigs’ tongues,” the frenetic “wild thrashing” of the animal in the box which did not want to die horrified her.

 

New York Times city critic Ariel Kaminer also tried her hand at witnessing slaughter. She decided to take the life of a Bourbon Red turkey with rich brown feathers “flecked with white” at an Islamic slaughterhouse in Queens. But, “Stepping out of the slaughterhouse and squinting at the light, I didn’t feel brave. I didn’t feel idealistic. I felt crummy,” she wrote.

 

Many who eat meat say they feel "squeamish" about the animal's death. But squeamish implies something unpleasant but necessary like giving blood or treating bedsores. Animal flesh is not necessary for a healthy diet and is actually the opposite of a healthy diet when you consider heart disease, stroke and obesity. Do we really want to get over such "squeamishness"?

“Ferguson” is now a meme as opposed to a place; it is a story that individuals can read themselves into depending on their own politics, values, and life experiences.

A person’s response to the explosive combination of race, crime, and the law in Ferguson is a litmus test for deeper political values and life experiences.

Black Americans have historically and in the present been victims of police abuse and disproportionately punished by a racist and classist criminal “justice” system. The killing of Michael Brown is one more death in a necropolis of unarmed black people killed by white police, white street vigilantes, and others with like power and orientation.

The killing of Michael Brown is not a surprise or a shock to most black Americans. We have either personally experienced racially motivated harassment by police authorities, have a relative or friend who has, or live in a community where such norms govern our day-to-day lives and limit our full citizenship. Police abuse is part of the collective memory of black Americans. Understanding how to navigate that maze and mine field is a necessary skill which is taught to us early in life.

Black parents, and those others who love black or brown children, have to rob the latter of their childhood innocence by teaching them that their very personhood will be looked at as a threat by the police and other white authority figures. We have to tell our children that they will be “niggerized” even if they are unarmed innocent victims. We will adultify them so that they will not be surprised when the world does so in ways much, much crueler.

Responsible parents and mentors of black children must rob them of their innocence by teaching them about the realities of life in a racist society. We are their “hard masters”. These lessons are not mean or some type of child abuse. No, they are acts of love, because if you love your child you want them to live, prosper, and grow into adulthood. A black child who does not learn how to interact with the police is more likely to end up killed and dead at the end of a police officer's pistol or rifle.

For many white Americans, the killing of Michael Brown by a white police officer is an anomaly; in their cognitive framework, there must be some reasonable explanation for why a police officer would kill an unarmed person. The collective experience of White America is one where its members are not routinely abused, violated, killed, and harassed by the police. Of course, individual white people may have negative encounters with a given police officer. However, those interactions are not reflections of an institutionally biased set of power relationships where that negative treatment is legitimated and encouraged as both a normal and expected type of public policy.

Historically, the primary role of the police in the United States has been to monitor and control black and brown people in the interests of protecting a dominant racial hierarchy, one that serves to maintain the material, economic, and psychological advantages of white people en masse.

Many white Americans may not have the knowledge or language to articulate this fact. Others know this fact to be true, but they are unwilling to state it for fear of violating the bargain of Whiteness as a type of historical amnesia, and whose owners and signatories believe that Whiteness is ultimately benign and harmless. Both groups of white folks instinctively defend police abuse and the killing of black and brown people because of a deeply learned and taught set of assumptions in which African-Americans are viewed as a race of inherently dangerous rapists, brigands, and murderers.

When people say that “Darren Wilson must have had a reason for killing Michael Brown”, or that “we should give police the benefit of the doubt when they shoot someone”, is as much an embrace of lazy thinking and a default surrender to petit authoritarianism, as it is a projection of a type of white racist logic which deems that black people are “scary”--and "what 'smart' white person would not proceed from such a 'reasonable' assumption and act accordingly?"

And yes, there are some white folks who dare to tell the truth about white supremacy and the realities of white privilege and the color line. In turn, they often face censure, hostility, and rage from other white people. Whiteness and white privilege are a version of the Mafia’s infamous “omerta”. There are consequences for breaking its trust and pact.

The recent events in Ferguson, Missouri are a metaphorical nucleus around which a person’s and a community’s political attitudes and values revolve. Here, the national controversy surrounding Michael Brown’s killing by Darren Wilson channels and arouses the sentiment and ideology known as white racial resentment and symbolic racism. Narratives of black criminality, guns, and police authority are central to the “law and order” politics that have driven the Republican Party’s racist Southern Strategy, as well as the Right-ward shift of “New Democrats” from the 1960s to the Age of Obama.

In all, scaring the white American public about “black crime”, ginning up white racism, and creating resentment towards reasonable efforts to ameliorate or confront the economic and social consequences of centuries of white racism against people of color, pays political dividends for white politicians in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

And like “old fashioned racism, the “new racism” embodied by white racial resentment and “conservative colorblindness” also pays material dividends to its owners, beneficiaries, and owners.

As was seen with George Zimmerman—he also raised significant monies from the (white, gun right) American public—killing unarmed black people is an occasion for generous charity towards the shooter.

Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed an unarmed teenager named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, is one such white person who has directly profited and benefited from a literal version of “the wages of whiteness.” As of today, he has raised almost 170,000 dollars.

[On ethical and moral grounds, I will not share the website or other information about Darren Wilson’s donation drive.]

This amount is larger than that raised for the Michael Brown memorial fund, monies that will be used to bury a young man in what will likely be a closed casket because his face was disfigured and shattered by Wilson’s bullets, and whose body lay in the street for hours like garbage.

The comments on Wilson’s donation page are very revealing. They help us to understand what type of person would give money to a man who shot dead an unarmed black teenager, in broad daylight, who eyewitness accounts was surrendering.

Undoubtedly, given that the KKK is raising money for their new hero, some of the donors to the Darren Wilson fund are white supremacists.

Others may be friends or relatives of police officers. This close relationship has limited their ability to locate the events in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere within a historical and social context of police abuse towards people of color. They assume that because “their cop” is one of “the good ones” that all others must be given the same consideration: perhaps it a weakness of the human condition, but intimacy and closeness often rob us of the capacity for rigorous and critical thinking.

Some of the donors to Darren Wilson have not outgrown the infantile and juvenile idolization of the police. They gave money to Wilson because it is their way of connecting with a projection of who they would like to be in an alternate version of this life. Perhaps these people want to be "super" and "heroes"? They do not realize that police are regular folks, with a range of human flaws which deem them neither "heroic" or "superior".

The most degenerate of Darren Wilson’s donors have given him money in order to experience the killing of Michael Brown by proxy.

The instinctive defense of Darren Wilson by the White Right and the Right-wing hate media is a reflection of a sick and perverse type of white victimology politics that have existed in the United States since slavery. During the American slaveocracy, whites worried that they would be conquered by blacks if the latter won their freedom. In 2008, the election of Obama was met by all manner of virulent racism from the White Right as circulated by the Fox News hate media. This obsession with white victimhood continues into Obama’s second term, where Mo Brooks, the white racially reactionary and Republican Congressman from Alabama, publicly complained that there was a “war on white people” in the United States.

White racial paranoia is a fixture and continuum in America’s social, cultural, and political life.

Beyond the contemptible public trolling and petty racist contrarianism of the “counter-protesters” in Ferguson, Missouri who marched in support of Darren Wilson, there is a deep moral rot in the heart of Whiteness—one that persists even in the Age of Obama.

White people are the most economically and politically dominant racial group in the United States. Yet, many white folks are delusional: they believe that they are actually victims of “racism”, and that “discrimination” against white people is one of the United States’ biggest social problems. Their anger is also misdirected. Instead of raging at the plutocrats, robber barons, and their assorted enablers in the Republican Party, white racial resentment points their ire towards black and brown folks, the poor, and the working classes.

Darren Wilson is not a victim. He has been protected by a militarized police force that ran amok in Ferguson, Missouri, terrorizing tens of thousands of black people, all for his sake.

Like the white welfare king Cliven Bundy, Darren Wilson is a beneficiary of one of the most gross and obscene demonstrations of white privilege in recent memory.

Libertarians and“principled conservatives” will deny the role that race has obviously played in the public and the police department’s response to the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson. In reality, the bona fides and credentials of libertarians’ and “principled conservatives’” on these matters of racial justice are weak and flaccid because conservatism and racism are one in the same thing in the post civil rights era.

The Republican Party is the United States’ largest de facto white identity organization. Libertarians of the Ron and Rand Paul variety would not have supported the Voting and Civil Rights Acts: they view the rights of black people under the Constitution as secondary to the freedom of white people to trample on them.

A more basic litmus test of the distorted reality created by the white racial frame and white supremacy is highlighted by a basic question. If Darren Wilson was a black police officer, and Michael Brown was a white teenager, in the same exact circumstances, would the first person be free and the police, the Right-wing media, and the Tea Party GOP public, be defending him?

The answer is “no”. Racism is not an opinion. It is a dominant fact in American life, culture, and politics. The events in Ferguson, Missouri are one more data point in support of that truth.

By Sharon Davies, Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute,

“. . . the hands of none of us are clean if we bend not our energies to righting these great wrongs.”  --W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk

 

 

The nation’s focus on the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in  Ferguson, Missouri confers yet another opportunity for deeper racial understanding, but like other (too many other) teachable moments arising from the tragic loss of young Black life, the opportunity is fleeting and frail.  To make the most of it, the nation will need to embrace decades of research about how unconscious biases continue to shape how Black males are perceived in public, and impede their access to opportunity and even threaten their lives.

The African American community has a deep and painful understanding of the negative assumptions about Black people--particularly Black males—that can distort their encounters with strangers.   The expression of these assumptions has changed over time, but honest reflection about the trail of deaths of unarmed young Black men counsels us that harmful stereotypes continue to corrupt these interactions with grievous consequences.  In earlier decades, Black Americans were openly warned about the consequences of breaking the unwritten discriminatory rules that governed their daily lives.  Not infrequently these warnings came from members of police forces themselves-- “Don’t let the sun go down on you here, boy.”—through unwarranted stops, arrests, threats, beatings, and worse.

Today, we have a broadened acceptance that the Constitution’s equal protection guarantees demand better treatment of African Americans and a more elevated racial discourse.  This is real racial progress.  It is why when an NBA team owner is taped warning his mistress not to bring Black men to his team’s games, the nation has no trouble denouncing him.  But it would be a grave disservice to ourselves and the nation we aspire to be to extrapolate from that consensus that chance encounters between Black males and others are governed by fair treatment and mutual respect.  Unconscious bias research shows that Black men and boys are quickly, automatically and routinely linked in the human mind with violence, crime, aggression and danger.  Neurologists have documented that the amygdala, the part of the brain that registers threats and fears, is activated in the same way when observing images of unfamiliar Black faces as when observing images of snakes and spiders.  The result of millions of on-line takers of the “Implicit Association Test” designed by Harvard researchers show that the vast majority of test takers are able to link positive words and attributes more quickly with Whites than with Blacks, and to link negative words and attributes more quickly with Blacks than with Whites.  This extensive IAT research has uncovered a pro-White/anti-Black bias in most Americans regardless of their racial group.  “Shooter Studies” revealed that police participants in a video game simulation who were instructed to “shoot” individuals who wielded a threatening object (gun or other weapon) but to refrain from shooting individuals holding innocuous objects (cell phone, wallet, etc.), were found to mistakenly shoot more unarmed Black targets than unarmed White targets, and to fail to shoot more armed White targets than armed Black targets.

The implications of unconscious bias research are never graver than when thinking about the quickly unfolding interactions that occur each day between Black males and the police, such as that between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown in Ferguson last week.  Researchers are exploring ways to build new, better cognitive associations that align more closely with our desire to view and treat others fairly irrespective of race.  To get there will demand many things, including: a willingness to face our implicit biases with honesty and self-reflection, and a resolve to diversify our spaces of consequence—our workplaces, schools and neighborhoods—so that through increased meaningful contact with each other, stereotypes can give way to deeper understanding and mutual regard.  Black Americans know this and are raising their voices with calls for change.  The appropriate response from our police is transparent accountability, not military tanks, and the hoped for response from our fellow citizens is one of solidarity and a singularity of purpose to get to that better us.

 

---

Executive Director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity, John C. Elam/Vorys Sater Professor of Law, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University. Professor Davies was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and a Notes and Comments Editor of the Columbia Law Review while in law school at Columbia University. After graduation she worked for Steptoe and Johnson in Washington, D.C. and Lord, Day & Lord Barrett Smith in New York City. Professor Davies served for five years as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. She joined the law faculty at Ohio State University in 1995, was awarded tenure in 1999, promoted to Full Professor in 2002, and awarded a named professorship in 2003. Professor Davies teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure (Police Practices), Race and the Criminal Law, Civil Rights Law, and Evidence. Professor Davies’ primary research focus is in the area of criminal justice and race. Her articles and other writings have been published in some of the nation’s leading law journals including the Michigan Law Review, the Duke Law Journal, the Southern California Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, and Law and Contemporary Problems. In 2010, Oxford University Press published Davies’s narrative nonfiction account of a 1921 murder trial in Birmingham, Alabama, titled Rising Road, A True Tale of Love, Race and Religion in America, for which the Mayor of Birmingham awarded her a “Key to the City.”

Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Donna Nevel

In conversations about Gaza, I have heard many thoughtful people in the Jewish community lament the loss of Palestinian lives in Gaza but then say, "But Hamas...," as if that were the heart of the problem. I'd like to suggest that, when we have these conversations about Hamas and Israel's current bombing campaign, we begin with the necessary context and historical perspective.

Re: The Nakba

1. To create the Jewish state, the Zionist movement destroyed more than 400 Palestinians villages and expelled 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and land. Palestinians who remained in what became Israel were relegated to second-class citizenship, had much of their property confiscated, and, to this day, have fewer rights than Jewish Israeli citizens.

Re: The 1967 Occupation

2. In 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem and still occupies them until this day.

Re: Settlement expansion; the apartheid wall; and the siege of Gaza

3. Over the past 47 years of occupation, Israel has illegally confiscated more and more Palestinian land; built an apartheid wall; systematically denied Palestinians basic human and civil rights and engaged in state-sponsored violence; and forced the Palestinians in Gaza to live in appalling conditions that make it increasingly impossible to survive. Israel's latest bombing campaign, Operation Protective Edge, has killed over 1,900 Palestinians, at least 450 of whom are children, and has displaced hundreds of thousands more.

If those of us in the Jewish community who are committed to justice begin from these facts, I think it would become clearer - regardless of who the Palestinian leadership is - that the underlying problem really is the denial of freedom and basic human rights to millions of people, for decades. And, as a community, it should also become clearer where priorities need to be in order to have any integrity on this issue: addressing the Nakba of 1948 and the responsibility for the Nakba head-on - including the right of return for refugees; ending the occupation; ending the siege on Gaza; and recognizing the right to full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is a long-time organizer for peace and justice in Palestine/Israel. More recently, she is a founding member of Jews Say No!, on the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and on the coordinating committee of the Nakba Education Project-US.

To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s free newsletter, sign up for Tikkun Magazine emails  or visit us online. You can also like Tikkun on Facebook  and follow us on Twitter.

 

Little_Logan
Opponents of the Homeless Children and Youth Act, inexplicably a major national “advocacy” organization, are putting plenty of effort into denying the reality of families and youth experiencing homelessness. 

Let me ask a question:

Is your way— rebuffing the existence of millions of families, youth and adults with nowhere to go—working? 

In the 30 years I’ve been involved with homelessness I’ve seen homelessness go from a trickle to a flood. My book, Crossing the Line: Taking Steps to End Homelessness (Booklocker, 2005) describes people I saw as I ran shelters. I witnessed the steady increase of families and youth in those we’ve served. And it’s only getting worse.

I’ve seen the federal government, and many states, drastically retreat from providing affordable housing and supportive services to the growing beleaguered poverty populace, the source of the burgeoning homeless families and youth population, at the same time as federal welfare policy drastically scaled back family supports. Oh yeah, then the economy tanked….

What rarely gets mentioned—the astounding number of communities that lack any shelters or services for homeless families/youth—contributes to the trauma of millions. We seem to have dismissed their plight, tossing them into a survival mode that includes sex trafficking, prostitution, child abuse, hunger, physical and mental health issues and more.

Another question:

Why, after hearing the demands from policymakers to document the scope of the existence of homeless students, when we show dramatic increases in the numbers of children and youth experiencing homelessness (knowing that parents, and younger/older siblings are not included in the school census), do you dismiss their plight?

In the years since our nation’s economic meltdown began, 2006, public schools have identified an astounding 72% increase of students experiencing homelessness. The 2012-13 school year finds the census (albeit an undercount) at a record 1.2 million, not including parents, younger/older siblings. 

We’ve been counting students’ noses for about 10 years now to document the extent of their homelessness. Now what? Do they count or not?

And another question:

Do you think Congress will just wake up one day soon and decide to provide ample resources to ease the growth of family/youth homelessness?

Seeing that the paltry funds tossed at homeless by the feds came about because of massive grassroots actions, it makes sense to me that we need to be moving toward an expansion of advocacy, not retreating into a comfortable sense of we’ve got something, let’s not rock the boat. We need a concerted advocacy effort, not complicity with the status quo.

And my final questions:

Instead of hiding behind what appears to be a fear of not having enough resources to address homelessness for the pathetically inadequate programs now trying their best to ease and end homelessness, why not take a principled stand and say we need to expand HUD’s definition of homelessness to match the reality faced by millions of children, youth, parents and single adults with nowhere to go?

How do you sleep at night knowing that so many babies, toddlers, children, youth and parents struggle to survive with nowhere to go? 

To those uncomfortable with knowing that millions have nowhere to go, I urge you to take just a few moments and send this petition to your federal legislators to urge them to cosponsor the bipartisan Homeless Children and Youth Act. 

Having been instrumental in getting the Education for Homeless Children and Youth Act passed in 2001, I can assure you that Congress, not being accustomed to hearing that homelessness is an issue that besets families/youth, might just pay attention. We’ll all sleep better when that happens.