Tag Archives: Civil Rights

On the Table, 8/8

The US economy is in shambles, people are starving in Somalia, the European economy is diving as well…but here’s a little slice of the bright side of life.

These are some recent articles from Good Magazine – an online and print medium devoted to social change, and the NY Times:

“Summer is the season for awareness-raising road trips. The latest one we’re excited about is the Food and Freedom Rides, which is spreading the word about our broken food system in communities across the South and Midwest. Kicking off in Birmingham, Alabama with meetings with civil rights leaders today and yesterday, the movement pays tribute to the 50th anniversaryof the anti-segregation Freedom Rides that roiled the South and galvanized the civil rights movement…Along the way, the 12 traveling activists hope to “expose injustice in the food system, and reveal real solutions in both urban and rural communities” by putting a spotlight on local food activism [Read on]….”

Read more:

  • Check out their itinerary here.
  • Learn more about the Freedom Riders by watching this PBS documentary.

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August 6th marked the beginning of Ramadan for the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. “Alas, many Americans are still completely ignorant to Islam’s holiest month of observance. For the next four weeks, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq are out to change that.

Ali and Tariq are the two young Muslims behind the project 30 Mosques in 30 Days. Since August 1, when Ramadan started this year, the duo have been traveling to a new state each day and meeting with a new Muslim community. They then document their experiences with multimedia presentations on their blog. The goal is to hit 30 states and 30 mosques in 30 days, thereby introducing the world to the wide breadth of wonderful people composing Islam, a religion and culture still considered by many to be foreign and scary….” [Read on]

Read more:

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A protest in Santiago, Chile, last month. Students have held rallies of up to 100,000 people and taken control of dozens of schools around the country

“…If the Arab Spring has lost its bloom halfway across the world, people here are living what some have come to call a Chilean Winter. Segments of society that had been seen as politically apathetic only a few years ago, particularly the youth, have taken an unusually confrontational stance toward the government and business elite, demanding wholesale changes in education, transportation and energy policy, sometimes violently.

…The education protests have become ever more creative. There are at least two or three people jogging at all times around La Moneda, the presidential palace, trying to complete 1,800 laps to symbolize the $1.8 billion a year that protesters are demanding for Chile’s public education system. They carry flags that say “Free Education Now.”  Others have held a mass kiss-in, dressed like superheroes, danced as zombies to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and even staged fake group suicides where they fall in a heap of bodies….” [Read on]

Read more:

  • Check out more photos of the protests here.
  • Learn about the leader of the university student group, Camila Vallejo Dowling.  Her blog (in Spanish) is here.  The translated version is here.
  • Learn more about their list of demands here.  The Wiki site is actually pretty informative as well.

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“Michael Jackson, Glenn Beck, MLK, and the Worlds We Create” – Racialicious

This is an excerpt of Latoya Peterson’s poignant blog post for Racialicious.  Read and watch the entire article here.

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Friday night, after another day of survey gathering and site visits, I headed over to the 9:30 club for DJ Dredd’s dance party to celebrate Michael Jackson’s birthday. As we swayed with the crowd rocking along to Michael’s (and Janet’s!) greatest hits, an observation kept pushing to the forefront of my mind, one I had wanted to write about last year when he passed.

While much was written about the racial politics of Michael Jackson, particularly in reference to his skin color/plastic surgeries, there was little discussion of the most striking part of Michael’s racial politics: the worlds he created in his music videos. Most folks are familiar with two of his most political hits, “Black or White” and “Man in the Mirror.”

But what always stood out to me was the populations of Michael’s created worlds – which were overwhelmingly multicultural, featuring a lot of different types of people all rolling with the King of Pop.

Michael’s worlds were often overwhelmingly urban. Featuring streetscapes and subcultures, Michael’s videos illuminated – and humanized – different segments of American and global life, in the face of a pop culture environment that insisted those types of images remain marginalized. Even his journey back to ancient Egypt became a quiet political statement.

Watching the mega-sized images accompanying the DJs selections, and looking at the assembled crowd gathered, it hit me that Michael’s legacy was one of both pop and politics – and in many ways, he had succeeded, continuing to unite very different factions of people through the shared love of his music.

On Saturday morning, I woke up early to work Columbia Heights Day for the Public Media Corp (Read the whole article to get the full gist of her work). Sore from dancing, but with Michael’s songs playing in my head in an endless loop, I worked, gathered surveys, handed out waters, and looked at the conscious effort to create community. It was interesting working an event in my neighborhood – some of the other fellows asked if the make up of the crowd go-ers reflected Columbia Heights. While the crowd was pretty diverse for a community day, it still didn’t reflect the Columbia Heights I have come to know and love. Columbia Heights Day was intended to celebrate the diversity of a neighborhood in transition, the historically working-class black and latino population meshing with the new young, predominantly white professional set. But did we succeed in creating a celebration the entire community felt comfortable participating in?

It is these ideas of inclusion and exclusion that I keep thinking of, particularly in the aftermath of this weekend.

If my neighborhood looks like this:

Columbia Heights Mural

And Glenn Beck’s world (amusingly tagged “Whitestock”) looks like this:

And Al Sharpton’s world (as seen by his “Reclaim the Dream” rally) looks like this:

Al Sharpton Rally

What type of worlds are we each creating?

If Beck cared about creating a truly equitable society, then where is that reflected? Why didn’t the Restoring Honor rally look like my neighborhood? Or, better yet, why didn’t it look like Dr. King’s original march on Washington?

Dr. King's original march on Washington

…The part I hate the most is that we are all involved in shaping and creating the world in which we live – even those who chose to dodge these issues. And, as Dr. King showed, inclusion and opportunity for all is something that must be fought for. Complacency will not lead to equality. Bitterness (which many trade upon for political gain) and hatred of those different than ourselves can never lead to true unity – only more divisions… The battle has changed, no doubt, but in many ways we are still fighting for those same values so many marched for in the 1960s.

In a way, I can understand why people want to declare the fight for racial equality over. It is tiring work, to undo hundreds of years of policy, thousands of years of conditioning that those that are different are lesser beings. It is so temptingly easy to rest on our laurels now, to say that the heavy lifting was over, that the most important goals have been achieved. And it is far to easy to allow those who did not stand with us to pervert what we fought for, to “get their country back” by ignoring the massive inequalities that still exist.

No one said fighting for justice will be easy. And it is always a fight. In our own, tiny way, sweating out in the sun with surveys that most people don’t want to take, grappling with feeling inadequate, fighting the feelings of internalized shame, wanting to give up, knowing that if we do, we will do a grave disservice to the communities that need the most help…

The larger fight requires far, far more effort.

But, luckily, we have a lot of things working in our favor.

One of which is the burning desire for a better world, held by those who can look around and acknowledge that yes, injustice exists, and yes, we have the power to change it.

And fortunately, those of us who believe that we can make a change have a kick ass soundtrack to help ease the load.

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Feds Sue Arizona Sheriff In Civil Rights Probe – NPR

Reposted from NPR.  Link here.

John Moore/Getty Images Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio stands in front of his county jail in Phoenix on July 29, the day Arizona's immigration enforcement law SB 1070 went into effect.

The U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights unit sued Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Thursday for refusing to turn over records in a civil rights investigation.

The lawsuit says the Maricopa County lawman’s office acted in an “unprecedented” way by refusing to hand over documents that could show whether Arpaio’s tough-on-crime traffic sweeps violated the civil rights of Hispanics who were pulled over and whether he mistreated prisoners in his custody.

Federal authorities say they can’t move forward with their investigation until they get arrest records and other information.

Arpaio, who gained national attention for making inmates work on chain gangs, live in tent cities and wear pink clothes, says the Justice Department case is politically motivated. His attorney calls the federal demands wildly overbroad.

The government has been trying since March 2009 to get officials to comply with its probe of alleged discrimination, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and having English-only policies in his jails that discriminate against people with limited English skills. Arpaio had been given until Aug. 17 to hand over documents it first asked for 15 months ago.

Amid a push for stricter immigration laws, some predict greater division in communities.

The lawsuit marks the latest clash between the Obama administration and the state of Arizona. The Justice Department sued to block a new anti-immigrant law in the state this summer, and the civil rights unit also sued the Maricopa community college system for allegedly discriminating against people who aren’t U.S. citizens.

“The actions of the sheriff’s office are unprecedented,” said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the department’s civil rights division. “It is unfortunate that the department was forced to resort to litigation to gain access to public documents and facilities.”

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix and names Arpaio, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the county.

Arizona’s new law — most of which a federal judge has put on hold — mirrors many of the policies Arpaio has put into place in the greater Phoenix area, where he set up a hot line for the public to report immigration violations, conducts crime and immigration sweeps in heavily Latino neighborhoods, and frequently raids workplaces for people in the U.S. illegally.

Arpaio believes the inquiry is focused on his immigration sweeps, patrols where deputies flood an area of a city — in some cases heavily Latino areas — to seek out traffic violators and arrest other offenders.

Critics say his deputies pull people over for minor traffic infractions because of the color of their skin so they can ask them for their proof of citizenship.

Arpaio denies allegations of racial profiling, saying people are stopped if deputies have probable cause to believe they’ve committed crimes and that it’s only afterward that deputies find many of them are illegal immigrants.

The sheriff’s office has said half of the 1,032 people arrested in the sweeps have been illegal immigrants.

Last year, the federal government stripped Arpaio of his special power to enforce federal immigration law. The sheriff continued his sweeps through the enforcement of state immigration laws.

Last year, the nearly $113 million that the county received from the federal government accounted for about 5 percent of the county’s $2 billion budget. Arpaio’s office said it receives $3 million to $4 million each year in federal funds.

In a separate investigation, a federal grand jury in Phoenix is examining allegations that Arpaio has abused his powers with actions such as intimidating county workers by showing up at their homes at nights and on weekends.

NPR’s Carrie Johnson contributed to this report, which contains material from The Associated Press

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A Classroom Divided

“Oh Great Spirit, keep me from ever judging a man until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.”

After Martin Luther King Jr.’s death April 4, 1968, elementary school teacher Jane Elliot created an exercise for her students to learn discrimination.  With no formal training in psychology, she created the famous “blue-eyed/brown-eyed” exercise, first done with grade school children in the 1960s, and which later became the basis for her career in diversity training and critical pedagogy.

In the all-white, all-Christian town of Riceville, Iowa, Elliot created an exercise in which students would discriminate against other students based on eye color.  The “blue eye/brown eye” exercise, as shown in the video, pitted blue-eyed children against brown-eyed children.

Elliot’s experiences with the exercises were turned into a documentary and book, The Eye of the Storm.  14 years later the children participating in the experiment watch the original video.  What’s most interesting is how, although the children spent less than a week being discriminated against, how traumatized and positively changed they were due to this experience.

The video, a segment of PBS Frontline, also includes a diversity training session with adults(who work at a prison) using the same principles.

To learn more about Jane Elliot and her “blue-eyed/brown-eyed” exercise, you can check out her website here, or her Wikipedia page here.

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From Wikipedia:

Elliott was invited to appear on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show.  At the commercial break, audience reaction to her was instant as hundreds of calls came into the show’s switchboard, most of the reaction was negative.) The most often-quoted letter states “How dare you try this cruel experiment out on white children.”

The exercise and the publicity that it was getting did not make her popular with her neighbors. When Elliott walked into the teacher’s lounge the day after being on the Johnny Carson show, several teachers walked out. Her children were taunted and/or assaulted by other children. Her family was shunned, forcing her father into bankruptcy as her parents’ store was boycotted. All of this convinced Elliott of the need for her exercise. She felt that it would be wrong to do nothing and the people’s lack of understanding and fear of change allows racism to exist and grow.

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Elderly Gay Couple Forcibly Separated, Abused, Robbed By County Officials in California

Sonoma County, CA: Clay Greene and Harold Scull, an elderly couple, were partners of 20 years, when the County separated them, terminated their lease, and auctioned off all of their belongings. Harold died without Clay.

Photo taken from their Facebook support group.  Go there for information on how to help.

Text taken from a Slog article.

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Clay and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place—wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health.

One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold’s care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital. The county then ultimately went one step further by isolating the couple from each other,placing the men in separate nursing homes. Ignoring Clay’s significant role in Harold’s life, the county continued to treat Harold like he had no family and went to court seeking the power to make financial decisions on his behalf. Outrageously, the county represented to the judge that Clay was merely Harold’s “roommate.” The court denied their efforts, but did grant the county limited access to one of Harold’s bank accounts to pay for his care.

What happened next is even more chilling: without authority, without determining the value of Clay and Harold’s possessions accumulated over the course of their 20 years together or making any effort to determine which items belonged to whom, the county took everything Harold and Clay owned and auctioned off all of their belongings. Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county workers then terminated Clay and Harold’s lease and surrendered the home they had shared for many years to the landlord.

Three months after he was hospitalized, Harold died in the nursing home. Because of the county’s actions, Clay missed the final months he should have had with his partner of 20 years. Compounding this tragedy, Clay has literally nothing left of the home he had shared with Harold or the life he was living up until the day that Harold fell, because he has been unable to recover any of his property.

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Do I Look Illegal?

I haven’t posted anything yet about the new immigration bill because I’m still at a loss for words.  I’ve got some words for Arizona now.

May 1 to May 8 Facebook members can participate by posting the question “Do I look illegal?” as their status to protest Arizona’s new immigration bill.  The law requires the police “when practicable” to detain people they reasonably suspected were in the country without authorization.  It also allows the police to charge immigrants with a state crime for not carrying immigration documents and allows residents to sue cities if they believe the law is not being enforced.  And most importantly, the law sanctions racial profiling.  When Governor Jan Brewer was asked what an illegal immigrant looked like, she replied, “I don’t know.” (See video below)

The Facebook event encourages participants to, “wear shirts, buttons or hold signs saying, “Do I look ‘illegal’? and take pictures to send to Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona.”

Her mailing address is:
Jan Brewer
Governor of Arizona
1700 West Washington
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

I know what I’m going to be doing next week.

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NPR story – A ‘Recovering Skinhead’ On Leaving Hatred Behind

April 7, 2010 – As a teenager, Frank Meeink was one of the most well-known skinhead gang members in the country. He had his own public access talk show, called The Reich, he appeared on Nightline and other media outlets as a spokesman for neo-Nazi topics, and he regularly recruited members of his South Philadelphia neighborhood to join his skinhead gang.

This is the most inspiring story I’ve heard in a while.  If you have about 20 minutes you should totally listen to the interview – it made me teary-eyed.

Click on the book cover to take you to the NPR story

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