Sunday, March 01, 2015

Lighter-skinned Black and Latino People Look Smarter to White People

White Colorism: lighter-skinned Black and Latino people look smarter to white people
Perhaps reflecting a desire to emphasize the enduring power of rigidly constructed racial categories, sociology has tended to downplay the importance of within-category variation in skin tone. Similarly, in popular media, “colorism,” or discrimination based on skin lightness, is rarely mentioned.

When colorism is discussed, it is almost exclusively framed in terms of intraracial “black-on-black” discrimination. In line with arguments highlighting the centrality of white racism, the present paper contends that it is important for researchers to give unique attention to white colorism.

Using data from the 2012 American National Election Study, an example is presented on white interviewers’ perceptions of minority respondent skin tone and intelligence (N = 223). Results from ordinal logistic regression analyses indicate that African American and Latino respondents with the lightest skin are several times more likely to be seen by whites as intelligent compared with those with the darkest skin.

The article below concludes that a full accounting of white hegemony requires an acknowledgment of both white racism and white colorism.

white colorism

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Harlem Oral Histories: Love Thru Struggle

Thanx to the Hard Work of the115th Street Branch of the NYC Public Library...
 Charles E. Wilson

Click Here for AUDIO: http://oralhistory.nypl.org/interviews/charles-wilson-40caaa
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David White

Click Here for AUDIO: http://oralhistory.nypl.org/interviews/david-white-3e032u

Note: sound quality is not that great... but Brother David is a great Griot!
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Sunday, February 08, 2015

VENEZUELA REVOLUTION- US HELLBENT ON DESTROYING IT

The Same Old Dirty Tactics

Venezuela: a Coup in Real Time

by EVA GOLINGER
 
There is a coup underway in Venezuela. The pieces are all falling into place like a bad CIA movie. At every turn a new traitor is revealed, a betrayal is born, full of promises to reveal the smoking gun that will justify the unjustifiable. Infiltrations are rampant, rumors spread like wildfire, and the panic mentality threatens to overcome logic. Headlines scream danger, crisis and imminent demise, while the usual suspects declare covert war on a people whose only crime is being gatekeeper to the largest pot of black gold in the world.

This week, as the New York Times showcased an editorial degrading and ridiculing Venezuelan President Maduro, labeling him “erratic and despotic” (“Mr. Maduro in his Labyrinth”, NYT January 26, 2015), another newspaper across the Atlantic headlined a hack piece accusing the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, and the most powerful political figure in the country after Maduro, of being a narcotics kingpin (“The head of security of the number two Chavista defects to the U.S. and accuses him of drug trafficking”, ABC, January 27, 2015). The accusations stem from a former Venezuelan presidential guard officer, Leasmy Salazar, who served under President Chavez and was recruited by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), now becoming the new “golden child” in Washington’s war on Venezuela.

Leasmy Salazar
Two days later, the New York Times ran a front-page piece shaming the Venezuelan economy and oil industry, and predicting its downfall (“Oil Cash Waning, Venezuelan Shelves Lie Bare”, Jan. 29, 2015, NYT). Blaring omissions from the article include mention of the hundreds of tons of food and other consumer products that have been hoarded or sold as contraband by private distributors and businesses in order to create shortages, panic, discontent with the government and justify outrageous price hikes. Further, multiple ongoing measures taken by the government to overcome the economic difficulties were barely mentioned and completed disregarded.

Simultaneously, an absurdly sensationalist and misleading headline ran in several U.S. papers, in print and online, linking Venezuela to nuclear weapons and a plan to bomb New York City (“U.S. Scientist Jailed for Trying to Help Venezuela Build Bombs”, Jan. 30, 2015, NPR). While the headline leads readers to believe Venezuela was directly involved in a terrorist plan against the U.S., the actual text of the article makes clear that no Venezuelans were involved at all. The whole charade was an entrapment set up by the FBI, whose officers posed as Venezuelan officials to capture a disgruntled nuclear physicist who once worked at Los Alamos and had no Venezuela connection.

That same day, State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki condemned the alleged “criminalization of political dissent” in Venezuela, when asked by a reporter about fugitive Venezuelan general Antonio Rivero’s arrival in New York to plea for support from the United Nations Working Committee on Arbitrary Detention. Rivero fled an arrest warrant in Venezuela after his involvement in violent anti-government protests that lead to the deaths of over 40 people, mainly government supporters and state security forces, last February. His arrival in the U.S. coincided with Salazar’s, evidencing a coordinated effort to debilitate Venezuela’s Armed Forces by publicly showcasing two high profile military officers – both former Chavez loyalists – that have been turned against their government and are actively seeking foreign intervention against their own country.

These examples are just a snapshot of increasing, systematic negative and distorted coverage of Venezuelan affairs in U.S. media, painting an exaggeratedly dismal picture of the country’s current situation and portraying the government as incompetent, dictatorial and criminal. While this type of coordinated media campaign against Venezuela is not new – media consistently portrayed former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, elected president four times by overwhelming majorities, as a tyrannical dictator destroying the country – it is clearly intensifying at a rapid, and concerning, pace.

The New York Times has a shameful history when it comes to Venezuela. The Editorial Board blissfully applauded the violent coup d’etat in April 2002 that ousted President Chavez and resulted in the death of over 100 civilians. When Chavez was returned to power by his millions of supporters and loyal Armed Forces two days later, the Times didn’t recant it’s previous blunder, rather it arrogantly implored Chavez to “govern responsibly”, claiming he had brought the coup on himself. But the fact that the Times has now begun a persistent, direct campaign against the Venezuelan government with one-sided, distorted and clearly aggressive articles – editorials, blogs, opinion, and news – indicates that Washington has placed Venezuela on the regime change fast track.
The timing of Leamsy Salazar’s arrival in Washington as an alleged DEA collaborator, and his public exposure, is not coincidental. This February marks one year since anti-government protests violently tried to force President Maduro’s resignation, and opposition groups are currently trying to gain momentum to reignite demonstrations.

The leaders of the protests, Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, have both been lauded by The New York Times and other ‘respected’ outlets as “freedom fighters”, “true democrats”, and as the Times recently referred to Machado, “an inspiring challenger”. Even President Obama called for Lopez’s release from prison (he was detained and is on trial for his role in the violent uprisings) during a speech last September at an event in the United Nations. These influential voices willfully omit Lopez’s and Machado’s involvement and leadership of violent, undemocratic and even criminal acts. Both were involved in the 2002 coup against Chavez. Both have illegally received foreign funding for political activities slated to overthrow their government, and both led the lethal protests against Maduro last year, publicly calling for his ouster through illegal means.

Leopoldo López at a recent antigovernment demo.


María Corina Machado with Pres Bush in 2002.
The utilization of a figure such as Salazar who was known to anyone close to Chavez as one of his loyal guards, as a force to discredit and attack the government and its leaders is an old-school intelligence tactic, and a very effective one. Infiltrate, recruit, and neutralize the adversary from within or by one of its own – a painful, shocking betrayal that creates distrust and fear amongst the ranks. While no evidence has surfaced to back Salazar’s outrageous claims against Diosdado Cabello, the headline makes for a sensational story and another mark against Venezuela in public opinion. It also caused a stir within the Venezuelan military and may result in further betrayals from officers who could support a coup against the government. Salazar’s unsubstantiated allegations also aim at neutralizing one of Venezuela’s most powerful political figures, and attempt to create internal divisions, intrigue and distrust.

The most effective tactics the FBI used against the Black Panther Party and other radical movements for change in the United States were infiltration, coercion and psychological warfare.
By inserting agents into these organizations, or recruiting from within, that were able to gain access and trust at the highest levels, the FBI was able to destroy these movements from the inside, breaking them down psychologically and neutralizing them politically. These clandestine tactics and strategies are thoroughly documented and evidenced in FBI and other US government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and published in in Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall’s excellent book, Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement (South End Press, 1990).

Venezuela is suffering from the sudden and dramatic plummet in oil prices. The country’s oil-dependent economy has severely contracted and the government is taking measures to reorganize the budget and guarantee access to basic services and goods, but people are still experiencing difficulties. Unlike the dismal portrayal in The New York Times, Venezuelans are not starving, homeless or suffering from mass unemployment, as countries such as Greece and Spain have experienced under austerity policies. Despite certain shortages – some caused by currency controls and others by intentional hoarding, sabotage or contraband – 95% of Venezuelans consume three meals per day, an amount that has doubled since the 1990s. The unemployment rate is under 6% and housing is subsidized by the state.

Nevertheless, making Venezuela’s economy scream is without a doubt a rapidly intensifying strategy executed by foreign interests and their Venezuelan counterparts, and it’s very effective.

As shortages continue and access to dollars becomes increasingly difficult, chaos and panic ensue. This social discontent is capitalized on by U.S. agencies and anti-government forces in Venezuela pushing for regime change. A very similar strategy was used in Chile to overthrow socialist President Salvador Allende. First the economy was destroyed, then mass discontent grew and the military moved to oust Allende, backed by Washington at every stage. Lest we forget the result: a brutal dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet that tortured, assassinated, disappeared and forced into exile tens of thousands of people. Not exactly a model to replicate.

This year President Obama approved a special State Department fund of $5 million to support anti-government groups in Venezuela. Additionally, the congressionally-funded National Endowment for Democracy is financing Venezuelan opposition groups with over $1.2 million and aiding efforts to undermine Maduro’s government. There is little doubt that millions more for regime change in Venezuela are being funneled through other channels that are not subject to public scrutiny.

President Maduro has denounced these ongoing attacks against his government and has directly called on President Obama to cease efforts to harm Venezuela. Recently, all 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations, members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), publicly expressed support for Maduro and condemned ongoing U.S. interference in Venezuela. Latin America firmly rejects any attempts to erode democracy in the region and will not stand for another US-backed coup. It’s time Washington listen to the hemisphere and stop employing the same dirty tactics against its neighbors.

Eva Golinger is the author of The Chavez Code. She can be reached through her blog.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

FERGUSON: The Black Persistence of Rebellion Against All Odds

In Ferguson

By Darryl Pinckney, The New York Review of Books | Op-Ed
2015.1.20.Ferguson.mainProtesters of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, join with participants in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in St. Louis, January 19, 2015. (Photo: Whitney Curtis / The New York Times)

Saturday, 24 January 2015 --Forty years ago, in the days of "white flight" from American cities to the suburbs, Ferguson, Missouri was a "sundowner town" - black people did not drive through it at night because they knew they would be harassed by the white police force. Ferguson is now 65 percent black and low-income, but its police force is still predominantly white and working-class, approximately 53 white officers and three black officers. Although black people no longer sneak through town, the police treat young black men as either trespassers or ex- and future prisoners. The hip-hop artist T-Dubb-O said that black males throughout the St. Louis area know how old they are from the tone of the police. "When you're 8 or 9, it's, 'yo, where are you going?' and when it's 'get down on the ground,' you know you've turned 15."

The St. Louis city limits encompass a small area, and Ferguson is one of 90 incorporated municipalities that immediately surround the "Gateway to the West," each with its own mayor or manager. These local authorities raise money in significant part from fines levied against motorists. A police officer citing someone for a petty infraction is in reality a municipal worker trying to get paid. In addition to the municipalities, suburban St. Louis has a county government, with a council and a county executive. The outgoing county executive, Charlie A. Dooley, is black and a Democrat.

Voter turnout in Ferguson itself is low, but the remainder of North County (one of the four sections of St. Louis County) outvotes St. Louis city. (The city has a population of around 300,000; the county nearly 1 million.) Hazel Erby, the only black member of the seven-member county council, said that the city manager of Ferguson and its city council appoint the chief of police, and therefore voting is critical, but the complicated structure of municipal government is one reason many people have been uninterested in local politics.

A North County resident of middle-class University City for almost 50 years, Erby said that she hadn't discussed what Ferguson was like with her children when they were teenagers 20 years ago. Her son and two daughters told her not long ago, "We did, Mom." Her district, which she has represented for 10 years, is made up of 38 municipalities, including Ferguson. She said that she never had "that conversation" with her son about how to compose himself when confronted by the police, but her husband recently told her, "I did."

For the first time in U.S. history, more poor people live in the suburbs than in the cities. In St. Louis County, the "Delmar Divide" (at Delmar Boulevard) separates the mostly white South County from North County, where the black towns are. The Ferguson police do not live in Ferguson, and some even live outside the county, in rural areas.

A county council member's stipend of $11,500 is not enough to live on, but because of her husband's support Erby has been able to be active in her hometown's politics. She founded the Fannie Lou Hamer Democratic Coalition, a group of 34 black elected officials who endorsed the Republican candidate for county executive in the last election. She was feeling betrayed by the state Democratic leadership over issues such as their failure to help a black high school in her district keep its accreditation or support a bill she sponsored that would give minority contractors in St. Louis County a share of construction business.

Fannie Lou Hamer was a civil rights organizer who caught the nation's attention when her Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party attempted to unseat the all-white regular delegation at the Democratic National Convention in 1964. The daughter of sharecroppers, Hamer brought a folk eloquence to her testimony before the party's credentials committee about the campaign of intimidation and violence that was daily life for black people in the South. Erby said the trouble she has had in politics has come more from her being a woman than from her being black, serving alongside white businessmen and attorneys who mistake her good manners for weakness.

In the run-up to the Aug. 5 primary in St. Louis, the white Democratic candidate for county executive, Steve Stenger, joined with the prosecutor of 23 years, Bob McCulloch, who was up for re-election, in saying that they would clean up North County and they did not need the black vote. They won, if not by much. Erby speculates that the arrogance of their position created a sense of "empowerment" among the police that may have contributed to the tragic events of Aug. 9, when a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager, whose body was then left untended for 4 1/2 hours in the street.

People engaged in the movement that has grown in protest against Darren Wilson's killing of Michael Brown on Aug. 9 often invoke Martin Luther King Jr.'s name. 

Cornel West & Rev. Osagyefo Sekou
Through Cornel West, I met Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, the pastor "for formation and justice" at the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, Boston. A native of St. Louis, Sekou is currently a fellow at the Martin Luther King Papers Project at Stanford and was in residence there when the Brown killing happened. Six days later, Sekou was in St. Louis to support the young who are, as he sees them, the leaders in the Ferguson protest. Also associated with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a group that has done peace work in Israel, Sekou told me that the movement that has coalesced around Ferguson looks especially to Bayard Rustin and Ella Baker, a gay guy and a woman, because as civil rights figures of the 1960s they "incarnate a theology of resistance of the historically othered."

Rustin, who was a liability in the eyes of traditional black leaders, put emphasis on building coalitions among black groups, white liberals, labor unions and religious progressives. Ella Baker's long career as an organizer took her from tenants' rights in the 1930s and voter registration for the NAACP in the 1940s to setting up the offices of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the late 1950s and then to urging the youth of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the early 1960s to broaden their goals beyond lunch-counter integration. She warned them not to let themselves be controlled by established civil rights organizations, arguing that strong people didn't need strong leaders. She was also ambivalent about nonviolence.

The story of the Aug. 9 police killing of Michael Brown had stayed in the news because people had refused to leave the streets. Sekou stressed that although the protest was one of the broadest coalitions in ages, the protesters themselves were largely young, black, queer, poor, working-class, "unchurched" or secular and women. We were about 10 miles from Ferguson on the largely white South Side, in MoKaBe's Coffeehouse, an informal meeting place for organizers, journalists and protesters owned by a courageous white woman. It was Monday morning, Nov. 24, and the St. Louis police were no doubt preparing for the announcement of the grand jury's decision. Since the summer the police had been raiding safe houses and churches where organizers were known to work from. Sekou had already been arrested three times. The Ferguson movement gathers mostly under an umbrella group, the Don't Shoot Coalition. It includes tested groups, such as the Organization for Black Struggle, founded in 1980. Four years ago, Montague Simmons left an investment brokerage firm to become OBS head. Two very beautiful young black women, one with a crown of braids, stopped at Sekou's table for hugs.

Brittany Ferrell & Alexis Templeton of Millennial Activists United

"Young people will not bow down," he said of them, and introduced Brittany Ferrell and Alexis Templeton. They started Millennial Activists United in the days after Michael Brown's death. In a British documentary about the Ferguson protest, Ferrell and Templeton can be heard discussing how they were going to "change the narrative" of one evening's action, reminding their peers not to drink, not to play music and to stay focused. In photographs and news footage, Templeton is the young black woman with a bullhorn, emblematic of protest at the Ferguson Police Department.

Sekou - everyone was calling him simply "Sekou" - observed that as of the 107th day of protests in Ferguson, these young people had sustained the second-longest civil rights campaign in postwar U.S. history. "Ferguson has worn out my shoes." They were a third of their way to equaling the Montgomery Bus Boycott in its duration. The young knew the history, he went on, and to know your history is to become politicized. But in Sekou's view, too much black political capital has been spent in electoral politics. Elections are thermometers, social movements the thermostats, he said, echoing King. They set the agenda, whereas elections merely monitor them.

To Sekou, it matters how we define political participation. "If it's only the ballot box, then we're finished." He sees voting as "an insider strategy," one without much relevance to a town like Ferguson, where two-thirds of the adult population have arrest warrants out against them. Things don't come down to the vote, they come down to the level of harassment as people get ready to vote, he added. Sekou ventured that given the little black people have got for it, voting fits the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and each time expecting a different result.

Then, too, the young are distant from "the prosperity theology" of an already beleaguered black church, Sekou continued. Its social safety net - by which it offers a place to go, food, education, adult guidance and prayer - is not something they have grown up with; it's another pillar many young black people have had to do without, like having fathers in jail. Black churches "have become hostile to youth." But this also means that the young are remote from the politics of respectability and black piety. At previous meetings about Ferguson, the young booed, for different reasons, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and NAACP President Cornell William Brooks. But perhaps the most crucial factor in what Sekou called the "holy trinity of disfranchisement and dispossession" is the economic catastrophe of the past decade and the ongoing deindustrialization of urban centers.
For Sekou, Obama traffics in the language of the movement while betraying it. "Shame on him." I wanted to say that Clarence Thomas is the race traitor, not Obama. Sekou is 43 years old, a short, dark, charismatic man with thick, long dreadlocks like those of early reggae stars. He rejected what he called the Beltway strategy of appeasing forces on the right of center in favor of what he sees as the political possibility that has come from the street. He, like the young he counsels, feels that the system hasn't worked and now needs to be born again. The young demonstrating in Ferguson had faced tear gas and assault rifles. "There isn't any political terrain for them to engage in other than putting their bodies on the line."

Older people were going out of their way to defer to the young in the Ferguson movement, just as I would hear the sort of white people who had no reason to chastise themselves confess to being beneficiaries of "white privilege." But while Sekou pointed to the young adults who have, he said, discovered something extraordinary in themselves, it was clear what he himself stood for in their eyes. They trusted him and he showed them the affection and approval they needed.

"We are," he said, "at a critical moment in American democracy whereby the blood of Michael Brown has wiped away the veneer and at the same time seeded a great revolution. In a situation like St. Louis, where there has been a cowardly elite, an ineffectual black church and a dominant liberal class afraid of black rage and public discourse about white anxiety, we have to repent for not being here."

Sekou sees the Ferguson movement and the Don't Shoot Coalition as an answer to the call made at the National Hip-Hop Political Convention of 2004 against police brutality. But this was not the hip-hop culture that celebrated Malcolm X as the black man who refused to turn the other cheek. If anything, Sekou was talking more like the radicalized, antiwar Martin Luther King Jr., whom people tend to forget. The important differences were "attitudinal," not generational, Sekou said. He identified what he thought was the real issue at stake in Brown's murder: "What do you fundamentally believe about black people?"

Hey hey ho ho
These killer cops have got to go.

Few in the chanting, placard-carrying crowd across from the police department on South Florissant Road in Ferguson that evening of Nov. 24 expected the grand jury to hand down an indictment. Many expressed the feeling that whereas a grand jury usually takes from five to 10 days in its deliberations, this one used up three months so that everyone could say they'd been thorough before arriving at the decision that they had been going to make in the first place: to protect the police. The uncertainty all day long about the time when the announcement would be made was taken as further indication of Bob McCulloch's manipulation of the whole process. Local news stations were reporting that the prosecutor wanted to wait to make the grand jury's findings public until after schoolchildren were home.

But the darkness played into McCulloch's hands as well. The upscale, white shopping centers like Frontenac Plaza were guarded by police before McCulloch addressed the press. There was no police protection in the strip malls where blacks shopped along West Florissant Avenue, which had been a main trouble spot over the summer. These facts suggest that the authorities wanted the nation and the world - the international press waited in parking lots behind the protesters - to see what a lawless community young black Ferguson would be without a firm hand.

The police came out of their Ferguson station gradually, a few at a time, in blue riot helmets and wielding transparent shields. I heard people say that even after a sensational case like Brown's, the police killing of black youth was going on as if unchecked, in the murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, who had an air gun on a playground, in the murder of 28-year-old Akai Gurley in a darkened stairway of a Brooklyn housing project. I heard someone say that we should not forget Eric Garner, killed by Staten Island police last July. (In early December, a grand jury declined to indict the officer who choked Garner to death though the choking had been caught on video.)

I saw Templeton leading the chant-dancing in the crowd, the young black woman with the bullhorn, and a blond youth chant-danced back at her in response.

But it was not a party. Solemn young faces peered out from hoodies and more and more handkerchiefs over mouths and noses. I saw masks. The glow of phones was everywhere. The revolution will not be televised, but it will be tweeted, Keiller MacDuff, Sekou's tireless volunteer communications director, told me people were saying. The night of the grand jury's announcement, the Ferguson movement did seem to move with the speed of Twitter, but I pressed with others around a car radio in front of the police station. Templeton shifted her bullhorn and helped Leslie McSpadden, Brown's mother, up onto the car where we were listening. The group on top of the car held on to her. She had been told the outcome already. As she broke down, it was clear to the crowd what the decision was. I stopped trying to hear what McCulloch was saying as McSpadden said to the line of policemen in front of the station, "It's not right."

"We're going to barbecue tonight," I heard from somewhere behind me.

While Sekou was giving a television interview in the parking lot across from the police station, where the crowd had begun to press angrily against the police line, we heard gunfire. Sekou swept me along with Keiller MacDuff - she's from New Zealand - and three young white volunteers from Faith and Reconciliation. More gunfire sounded behind us as we reached the Wellspring Church, where Sekou had been a guest before, and we were buzzed in. Sekou and one of the volunteers decided they'd no choice but to get his car parked on the other side of the police station.

From the steps of the church, I heard glass breaking and saw hundreds of people fleeing down South Florissant. The women in charge of the church in the Wellspring pastor's absence had instructions to lock the doors, turn off the lights and not admit anyone else. MacDuff was offended that no more protesters would be let in, because there were young people falling in the street, cowering under the church wall.

In the church sanctuary, we watched on a laptop the violence a few hundred yards away. Citizen journalists who streamed what they saw live from their smartphones and iPads had stayed on the street. They have a mixed reputation. Some can say inflammatory things and put protesters in danger or become aggressive, while others understand what it means to have such power in your pocket. People around the world have been glued to live streams from Ferguson ever since the killing. The police have targeted live streamers, who can save lives by keeping the spotlight on police activity when traditional media have pulled back from hot spots. A white girl appeared at my shoulder to watch also. I didn't realize at first that she'd pulled off a gas mask.

As we left the church, once again, Sekou included me in his group, though there was really no room for me in the car. Out on West Florissant, I saw black youths running out of Walgreens, their legs pumping like marionettes'. I didn't see them carrying anything, but that does not mean they hadn't entered the drugstore with the intention of grabbing stuff. A young white volunteer was at the wheel and black youths shouted from the meridian at the driver's window at every stoplight.

Sekou refused to go inside the MSNBC compound on West Florissant to do an interview if we, his people, couldn't come in, too. At the sound of gunfire, the MSNBC guards dropped to the pavement with us. Sekou didn't wait to be turned down by MSNBC again, and walked us to a parking lot in the rear where we remained for two hours, hiding in the dark behind a brick shed. I recall a fire truck coming at one point, but it went away, maybe driven off by gunfire. Buildings burned on either side of us, huge boxes of acrid flame, and what really confused me was the honking. It sounded like a football victory at times. Except for the gunfire.

I was afraid of what the police helicopters with searchlights might mistake us for. And then I was wary of two black youths who seemed to be loping in our direction. They weren't loping, they were making their way along the sides of the parking lot, looking for shelter from the smoke and overhead buzzing. The one with dreadlocks turned out to be a grandson of a pastor whom Sekou knew. I had to ask myself, When did I become afraid of black youth? How had I, a black man, internalized white fear?
Eventually, a loudspeaker voice told people they had to move onto the sidewalk or else they would be subject to arrest. They had to disperse; they needed to get out of the street. They had to get back into their cars. It had taken the police a while to take back territory. "Riots are the voice of the unheard," Sekou said, quoting King. I heard many deplore the attacks on black businesses, but those felt random. Glass smashed along a route of panic and retreat. The feeling was that young rioters weren't after mobile phones; they wanted to burn police cars.

In the days since, people have been blocking highways, shutting down shopping malls, lying in the streets and walking out of classrooms around the world. Hands up; don't shoot. The Missouri National Guard stood behind the line of Ferguson police at the station on Florissant the next night and the night after that, the temperature dropping and the crowd thinning. But nonviolent direct action has won out as the defining tactic of the Ferguson movement.
I felt a bond with everyone in St. Louis I talked to about what was happening, and that in itself seemed odd. I met people who had been moved somehow to come and bear witness: the young rabbi from Newton, Mass.; the black single mother who works downtown as a food scientist; the white women of a certain age up from their lesbian commune in Arkansas; the black taxi driver who got from his dispatcher, before it was on Twitter, which highways had been blocked; the white middle-aged clergyman from Illinois who normally worked in hospital trauma units; the Japanese-born campaign director of the Right to Vote Initiative who was beaten up a lot as a kid in New Jersey in the 1970s because white neighbors thought his family was Vietnamese; the owner of MoKaBe's Coffeehouse who opened for business Tuesday morning after having been tear gassed twice Monday night.

"Just for the record, I am so over being tear gassed," Sekou said. "That's what tear gas is, it's just tacky." This from the man who when the police returned Tuesday night got everyone in the coffeehouse to lock arms and told the police that he knew they weren't getting everything they wanted either. He'd read their contract. "This is about a heartbeat," he told them. He got the people inside MoKaBe's to strike their breasts.

The police went away.
Back up back up
We want freedom freedom
All these racist ass cops
We don't need 'em need 'em.

Following the release of the grand jury testimony, many have argued that McCulloch acted more like a defense attorney than a prosecutor. There have been mutterings about his own history, and a possible connection between the Michael Brown case and McCulloch's personal tragedy of his police officer father having been killed by a black suspect back in 1964. But what in some ways was even more troubling was Wilson's ABC interview on the evening after the verdict, for which he seemed to have been well-coached, including the galling statement that his conscience was clear. An attorney for Brown's family observed that this was a poor response to his having taken the life of a young man. In his testimony, Wilson "deployed," as Sekou called it, every racist trope in order to assert that he was in fear of his life. Brown, Wilson said, looked "like a demon."

After the Civil War, thousands of black men were on the roads, looking for new starts, but mostly looking for loved ones sold away. Vagrancy laws were passed that said if you couldn't say where you lived or worked you could be picked up and put on the chain gang. America has always felt the necessity of keeping its black male population under control. Behind every failure to make the police accountable in such killings is an almost gloating confidence that the majority of white Americans support the idea that the police are the thin blue line between them and social chaos. Indeed, part of the problem in several such cases has been the alarmist phone calls from third parties to police dispatchers, reporting any situation involving a black male in a stereotypical and therefore usually false fashion - the police aren't the only ones to engage in racial profiling. If you are a black man, be careful what you shop for in Walmart.

There is a chance that the federal government may vigorously investigate the Michael Brown case. "Please help us fight these monsters," the hip-hop artist Tef Poe asked the president in a recent open letter. But for decades Congress resisted passing any legislation making lynching illegal. The Congress we have now is not going to convene hearings on our police culture or pass a comprehensive public works bill.
Yet the Ferguson movement has promised that the situation cannot go back to normal, to the way things have been. Everybody knows what racism is. The problems needn't be explained over and over. They can't be deflected by saying that Michael Brown took some cigars from a store, that he broke the law and therefore it was proper to kill him with six bullets, although he had no weapon. This is the kind of thinking that racism hides behind. Ferguson feels like a turning point. For so many, Brown's death was the last straw. Black youth are fed up with being branded criminals at birth.

Ferguson was the country stepping back in time or exposing the fact that change hasn't happened where most needed, that most of us don't live in the age of Obama.

"It's a myth that we're a fair society," Sekou said. "We have to take that needle out of our arms."

Darryl Pinckney

Darryl Pinckney's new book is Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Trans Pacific Partnership: Obama's WestCoast Imperialism

Trans Pacific Partnership: Obama ready to defy Democrats to push secretive trade deal

by Siri Srinivas

A protester holds a placard during a rally against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Tokyo. 


The TPP has drawn the ire of Democrats including Elizabeth Warren who object it will destroy jobs, limit online freedom, increase outsourcing and derail climate agreements. Ironically, it has made allies of his GOP rivals TPP

A protester holds a placard during a rally against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Tokyo. Photograph: Shizuo Kambayashi/AP

The Trans Pacific Partnership is a trade agreement so significant and important, its details can't be disclosed.

The TPP, sure to make an appearance during tonight's State of the Union, is a 21st-century trade agreement involving 11 Asian countries along the Pacific Rim, and said to cover 40% of the world's economy.

The TPP is a subject close to the heart – and the economic plans – of President Obama. In a November trip to Beijing, he urged other world leaders to finalize the agreement, calling it a "high priority" that would strengthen American leadership in the Asia-Pacific region and lead to growth, investment and job prospects for more workers.

The administration has argued that the deal will allow lower tariffs for American exports, in an environment of increasing competition, especially from China. Obama is also touting the deal as a boon for small businesses. When 98% of the US's exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships will help them create even more jobs, he proclaimed in last year's State of the Union address. "Listen, China and Europe are not standing on the sidelines. Neither should we."

Right now, American citizens will have to take those promises about the impact of the TPP on faith.

The TPP is one of the largest international trade agreements the US will sign, yet most of it is mired in secrecy. Congress won't have access to the TPP before it is signed, and the terms won't be publicly disclosed – ironic since the negotiations include 600 corporate advisers, including representatives of Halliburton and Caterpillar.

A chunk of the trade deal was leaked most recently by a Wikileaks release. "Everything we know about it are from document leaks," says Maira Sutton, a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

That sets light to the anger of Senator Bernie Sanders, who has called the TPP "disastrous" and "written behind closed doors by the corporate world". He denounced its purpose "to protect the interests of the largest multinational corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy."

It's not just Sanders, who is among the most progressive in Congress. Democrats have long expressed their opposition to the deal, even though 14 unions and consumer groups and environmental groups are also involved in the negotiations.

No matter: the president says he is ready to defy his fellow Democrats to push through the TPP. In a case of odd bedfellows, Obama has found new Republican allies in pursuing the deal.

US trade representative Michael Froman promised that the Trans Pacific Partnership was on course and due in as little as two months.

Obama's State of the Union address should give the TPP another push – even as public interest groups, trade experts and digital freedom advocates voice their criticism of the agreement, particularly its secrecy. 'Don't fight the last war' Obama Facebook Twitter Pinterest The US vice-president, Joe Biden, and House speaker John Boehner of Ohio listen as President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, claiming that the TPP will lead to more small business job creation. Photograph: Charles Dharapak/AP

What makes the TPP distasteful to experts is its resemblance to the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), signed in 1994 between the US, Canada and Mexico. Advertisement

Post-Nafta, the US saw a mass exodus of jobs, with nearly 700,000 jobs offshored, 60.8% of them in manufacturing.
Now as the Obama administration uses the same verbiage as the Clinton administration used two decades ago, trade experts are alarmed at what is to come. The incentives of the Trans Pacific Partnership are going to cause millions of additional jobs to be lost, says Lori Wallach, the director of Global Trade Watch.

Wallach quotes the Department of Labor statistics to show that the workers in the US who lose their jobs to trade agreements in the manufacturing sector when re-employed earn only three-quarters of their original earnings, in three out of five cases.

"The opposition to the trade agreement comprises unions, environmental, consumer groups – in other words, the entire Democratic base," says Wallach.

Wallach says that the agreement is based on the terms of the US-Korea free-trade agreement, which were derived from Nafta. The complications include limits on food safety and a ban on the export of gas derived from fracking – which "would limit our ability to have energy policies to combat the climate crisis", Wallach says.

Another complication: the terms of the TPP won't be open to debate. A fast-track treatment is likely, with Congress implementing the deal without changes.

"The president wants the authority to railroad through Congress to sign the agreement even before Congress," explains Wallach, saying it delegates congressional authority to the president.

Yet Obama insists that the TPP's terms are new and improved. The president's only advice to critics: "Don't fight the last war."

'It copies and pastes US law into international law'

The Trans Pacific Partnership, although billed as a trade agreement, includes provisions on intellectual property and copyright that are usually outside the boundaries of trade, critics say.

For instance, there is a scuffle around the TPP's rumored treatment of Digital Rights Management tools, which corporations use to limit access to digital devices – often to prevent piracy.

TPP has provisions that make it a crime to break these locks, and to do things that aren't even copyright infringement.

"These DRM laws prevent us from doing that research legally," says Maira Sutton, a policy analyst at Electronic Frontier Foundation. "That's our main concern."

Sutton objects that the TPP will extend problematic US laws into international law. One example: the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which prosecutors used to hound open-web advocate Aaron Swartz.

"Similar provisions in the TPP that will prevent whistleblowers and journalists from accessing or 'disclosing' trade secrets through a computer system," Sutton says. aaron swartz Facebook Twitter Pinterest Information access advocate Aaron Swartz speaks to a crowd. Photograph: Daniel J. Sieradski/dpa/Corbis

Sutton adds that the recent Sony hacks would not be reported freely under the provisions of the TPP, says Sutton.

The third issue the EFF is concerned with is that of intermediary liability, which burdens ISPs and websites with stricter copyright infringement laws in a way that is veiled censorship, cautions Sutton. Climate activists up in arms

Climate activists have been the most vociferous in opposing the TPP's many terms. As John Fullerton wrote in the Guardian: "What few seem to realize is that this agreement, if approved as is, could make it virtually impossible for the United States to meet its current and future climate pledges."

Elizabeth Warren too has come out against the deal. In a letter to Froman last year, Warren and two other Senators objected that the TPP "could make it harder for Congress and regulatory agencies to prevent future financial crises". Warren Facebook Twitter Pinterest Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts wrote to Michael Froman, objecting to the TPP's terms that undermine major Wall Street reform. Photograph: Jose Luis Magana/AP

Warren and others have raised concern over a provision called "investor-state dispute settlement" which gives foreign corporations the political power to challenge US laws in front of a small private group of attorneys that answers to no country.

"If the foreign country prevails, the panel can order compensation from American taxpayers without any review by American courts," Warren warned. One such panel in 2006 forced the Czech Republic to pay $236m to a Dutch bank for not providing it with a bailout, Warren wrote.

Even though dissent is plenty, the means for these public advocates to get involved in the TPP are few.

Public interest groups that want to be on trade advisory committees in order to participate in the negotiations are required to sign non-disclosure agreements, which robs them of the voice to object.

Sutton, of the EFF, says it is the organization's responsibility to share information with the public and to do public advocacy.

"If we were to sign on to this trade advisory committee to influence the text, then we tie our hands behind our backs to do the work that we need to do," she tells the Guardian.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Charlie Hebdo: A Celebration of Western Hypocrisy

The Charlie Hebdo White Power Rally in Paris

A Celebration of Western Hypocrisy
The “civilized” have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their “vital interests” are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death; these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the “sanctity” of human life, or the conscience of civilized world. — James Baldwin
I have witnessed the spectacle of Eurocentric arrogance many times over my long years of struggle and resistance to colonial/capitalist domination and dehumanization. The grotesque, 21st Century version of the “white man’s burden,” which asserts that the international community (meaning the West) has a moral and legal “responsibility to protect,” is one current example; the generalized acceptance by many in the West that their governments have a right to wage permanent war against the global “others” to maintain international order is another.

Yet, when I think I have seen it all, along comes the response to the attack at the racist, Islamophobic publication Charlie Hebdo. Even though I shouldn’t be surprised, I am still left in complete wonderment at the West’s unmitigated self-centeredness and self-righteous arrogance.

The millions who turned out on Sunday claimed to be marching in solidarity with the victims at Charlie Hebdo and against terrorism. They were joined by political leaders from across Europe, Israel and other parts of the world – on the same weekend reports were emerging that 2,000 Nigerians may have lost their lives at the hands of Boko Haram, another Muslim extremist group.

Surely there would be expressions of solidarity with the survivors in Nigeria at a gathering ostensibly to oppose terrorism and uphold the sanctity  of life. But the expressions of solidarity never came. In fact, based on the attention the massacre received from the Western press, it was if the massacre had never happened.

It is clear that there was a different agenda for the march and a different set of concerns for Europe. The people of France mobilized themselves to defend what they saw as an attack against Western civilization. However, the events in Paris did not have to be framed as an existential attack on the imagined values of the liberal white West. Providing some context and making some political links may have been beneficial for attempting to understand what happened in the country and a political way forward beyond the appeal to racial jingoism.

The attack could have sparked an honest conversation about how many Muslims experience life in contemporary France and viewed French policies in various Muslim and Arab nations. It could have examined the relationship between the rise of radical Islam and the connection of that rise to the activities of various branches of the French intelligence services. An open discussion might have framed it as a classic blowback operation resulting from the weaponization of radical Wahhabism as a tool of Western power from the late 1970s to its current assignment in Syria. But those ideas were not allowed a forum on that massive stage.

Je Suis Charlie: European lives have always mattered more than others
A lost African Soul.
The Je Suis Charlie slogan like one of those mindless advertising themes meant to appeal to the unconscious and the irrational, nevertheless,  has to have cultural reference points, culturally embedded meanings that evoke the desire to want to buy a product, or in this case to identify with an imagined civilization. It does not matter that the supposed superiority of Western civilization and its values is based on constructed lies and myths, it is still the basis of a cross-class, transnational white identity.

The white identity is so powerfully inculcated while simultaneously invisibalized that identification is not seen as the essentialized identity politics that people of color supposedly engage in, instead it is just being “human.” And as we witnessed this weekend and throughout the colonial world, identification with whiteness is not limited by one’s racial or national assignment.

It is not necessary in this short essay to even address the contradictory nature of the European self-understanding, how that self-perception is utterly disconnected from its practice, and how many people in the world see the 500-years European hegemony as an interminable nightmare.

However, for those folks who believe the simple assertion that black lives matter and that “racial progress” will be realized through progressive legislative reform derived from a better understanding of the harmful  impact of racially discriminatory practices, the unfiltered expressions of white solidarity and the privileging of white life should be a wake-up call.

The humanity and cultures of Arabs and Muslims have been denigrated in France for decades. Full recognition of the humanity of Arabs and Muslims has always come at a cost – Arabs and Muslims are required to “assimilate,” to mimic French lifestyles, embrace the language, adopt the values and worldview of their cosmopolitan patrons. Older generations of fully colonized individuals subjected themselves to that degrading ritual, but later generations see this requirement as the colonial assault on their being that it is and have resisted.

It is the arrogant lack of respect for the ideas and culture of non-European peoples that drove the French ban on the wearing of the niqab and other traditional veiling clothing for Muslim women, just one example of the generalized discriminatory treatment of Arabs and Muslims in France. In this lager context, Charlie Hebdo’s blatant disregard and disrespect for another religion, shielded by an absolute commitment to freedom of  speech that gives them blanket immunity, is now compounded by the “Je Suis Charlie campaign,” orchestrated in the name of upholding the values of liberal, Western civilization.
France's National Front racist anti-islam/anti-immigration movement grows in France to such an extent that it head- Marine Le Pen -may become the next Head of France.
 What it means for many of us in the Black community is that Je Suis Charlie has become a sound bite to justify the erasure of non-Europeans, and for ignoring the sentiments, values and views of the racialized “other.” In short, Je Suis Charlie has become an arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy that was echoed at the white power march on Sunday in Paris and in the popularity of the new issue of Charlie Hebdo.

A shared ethical framework under the system of capitalist/colonial white supremacy is impossible. Deeply grounded in the European psyche and in the contradictions of its “humanist” traditions, who was considered fully human always had qualifications, and equality was always a nuanced concept.

The contradictory ethical framework that informs the world view of Parisians is grounded in the colonial division of humanity that emerged out of the liberal humanist movement of the 18th Century. This tradition allowed for humanity to be divided into those people who were considered fully human with rights that should be respected and those peoples consigned to non-being. Those non-beings became eligible to have their lands taken, to be enslaved and murdered at will.

The valuation of white life over everyone else is a fundamental component of white supremacy and not limited to those people that might be defined as white.

That is why no one cares about the families that weep for their love ones in Nigeria and no one marches for them.

That is why anti-Muslim and anti-Arab violence has exploded across France but the only mention in the Western press is the supposed fear in the Jewish community.

And that is why that after the attack in Baga, Nigerian authorities were largely silent until  Nigerian President Goodluck  finally issued a statement on terrorism where he forcefully condemned the attack in Paris!

Ajamu Baraka is a long-time human rights activist and veteran of the Black Liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity Movements in the United States. Read other articles by Ajamu, or visit Ajamu's website.