Archive | September 28th, 2020

Muslim Solidarity With Black Lives Matter Is Fueling the Push to Defund Police

Muslims demonstrate against police brutality and racial injustice at Barclays Center in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City on June 13, 2020.
Muslims demonstrate against police brutality and racial injustice at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on June 13, 2020.

BYRimsha Syed


The Road to Abolition


The Road to Abolition

Muslim groups across Wisconsin and from Washington, D.C., joined together soon after the police-perpetrated shooting of Jacob Blake to issue a joint statement saying, “Yet again, police officers committed horrifying, infuriating violence against a Black person.… We condemn this police shooting and demand a thorough investigation in order to bring justice to Blake and his family.”

Blake was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha police officers on August 23, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down, with injuries to his kidney, liver, spinal cord, stomach, intestines and more.

Muslim groups’ rapid condemnation of the shooting of Blake comes after a spring in which many Muslims joined in on powerful demonstrations against systemic racism across the United States following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers on May 25.

Following the murder of Floyd, many Muslim Americans had been asking why workers at Cup Foods, which is owned by a Muslim immigrant family, called the cops in the first place. New discussions and disagreements about Black and Muslim solidarity also helped to expose the anti-Black sentiments still harbored in many South Asian and Arab Muslim families.

The Black-led, youth-led protests that have risen up in the past several months — alongside the decades-long work of Black women abolitionists like Angela DavisRuth Wilson Gilmore and Mariame Kaba — have ignited global conversations around abolition as the complete dismantling of the policing system. In short, “abolition” seeks to build a world in which we do not rely on anti-Black, white supremacist institutions to oversee society. While high-profile politicians attempt to push reformist policies, like giving police departments $300 million for body cameras, self-determination cannot come from a system that continues to imprison, surveil, terrorize and murder Black communities.

Police abolitionists have long fought for defunding local police and redistributing that money toward education, housing, food and other necessities as a true means to confront neighborhood violence. It is critical for Muslim communities to envision this model on a global scale and demand that the trillions spent on weapons, some of which are being used by the Israel Defense Forces to colonize more Palestinian land, be reallocated to the needs of the community.

In spite of the fact that one-third of the U.S. Muslim population is Black, non-Black Muslims often don’t consider anti-Black racism, mass incarceration, or police brutality as “Muslim” issues. Not only are mosques deeply segregated by race and class, but many non-Black Muslims have no knowledge of the anti-Black racism in policing.

Kenyatta Bakeer, a senior trainer at the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, said that it’s been heartening to “see the surge of non-Black people” getting engaged in the movement against anti-Black police violence, “as they awaken regarding the light being shown on anti-blackness,” but that some efforts still feel “performative” rather than doing work that goes beyond meaningless messages or words.

“I am a born and raised Black American Muslim,” Bakeer added. “I grew up in a primarily Black Masjid and it wasn’t until my father took me to an Indo Pak [Indian-Pakistani] Masjid [mosque] when I was in college, at the age of 21, when I encountered bias and being shunned by non-Black Muslims. I just thought it was because of a difference in culture. I didn’t really process it, until years later when I went to another non-Black Masjid.”

In mid-June, a few weeks after the mass mobilization against police brutality, the East Plano Islamic Center in Plano, Texas, partnered with the city’s police department to hold a panel discussion called “Systemic Racism – An Open Discussion about Policing Policies with Plana Police Chief.” A petition was created mere seconds after the lecture was publicized that now has over 50,000 signatures. Many Muslims across the globe pleaded for the East Plano Islamic Center to cancel the event, highlighting the hypocrisy of giving the police a platform instead of listening to the demands of Black organizers. Instead, the East Plano Islamic Center reached out to Imam Khalid Shahid, of Masjid-al-Islam, a historically Black mosque in Dallas, in an effort to mollify the masses of Muslims who agreed that this event was not in line with the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement. Imam Shahid made comments such as, “I’m not saying the police are perfect,” and the event went on as planned.

“It’s unfortunate that the Islamic Center chose to seek out one Black imam to validate their poor decision to host this event against their community members’ wishes,” said Shandraya Rogers, a community member involved with the East Plano Islamic Center, adding that if the center “truly wants to end police brutality and other forms of systemic racism in this country, I encourage its leadership to give their Black community members the same opportunity and platform that was given to the police chief of Plano.”

Alliances between mosques and their local police departments are not uncommon, given that Muslim communities are reliant upon law enforcement to readily combat Islamophobic threats, vandalism, or other unsafe events. But in a period of history in which conversations around the outright abolition of police are widespread, it’s time for Muslim communities to re-evaluate their connection to law enforcement.

In the same vein, it’s important to note that law enforcement’s targeting and surveillance of Muslim communities is an inseparable part of police violence. The Obama administration’s so-called Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs continue to give police departments across the nation funds to monitor Black Muslim communities, leading to a generation of armed cops who characterize Black Muslim youth as extremists based on both their race and religion. While Black youth are at the forefront of demonstrations across the U.S., CVE programs have equipped cops to equate rightful resistance with criminality. Piecing together the position of Black Muslims through U.S. history can help not only to highlight how stealthy surveillance programs can adapt with time but also to highlight what that means for Black Muslims today.

COINTELPRO (an acronym for Counterintelligence Program) was the official name of the project conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation to spy on, infiltrate, discredit, disrupt and destruct domestic organizations and individuals it considered “subversive.”Although COINTELPRO officially ended in 1971, similar counterterrorism or surveillance programs exist to threaten communities of color using surplus military weapons and procedures learned from the Israel Defense Forces. The creation of both the Department of Homeland Security and Denaturalization Section of the Department of Justice, which strips rights from naturalized citizens if they are convicted of certain crimes, are just a few examples of how counterterrorism has worsened the lives of Black and Muslim people.Islamic liberation is indistinguishably linked to the journey of abolition. There is no room for police in our mosques or in our hearts.

In the face of decades-long surveillance and violence, asking mosques to discard their relationships with law enforcement isn’t easy. However, abolition offers a compelling perspective that offers communities the chance to take safety into their own hands, rather than believing that surface-level reforms will make us human in the eyes of imperialist aggression. Islam compels us to imagine justice, freedom and liberation. Islam also demands us to stand against oppression, which is why it is not enough to say “Black Lives Matter” without action to change ourselves, our mosques and our communities.

“It is my understanding that police presence in any space where marginalized communities reproduce or replicate causes the same carceral harm either in their communities or in closer spaces,” said Queen-Cheyenne Wade, an organizer, educator and cofounder of the Greater Boston Marxist Association. “We, in Boston know the police here do not keep our Black Muslim youth safe, and many of our community leaders and spaces act accordingly in efforts of community, safety and solidarity in the face of police violence and surveillance.”

Young Muslim organizers draw heavily on Angela Davis’s work and the connections it draws between policing, the prison-industrial complex and capitalism. Capitalism is evidently antithetical to Islam, identifying the role that abolition plays in our faith. It is our duty to vehemently stand for justice by acknowledging that Islamic liberation is indistinguishably linked to the journey of abolition. There is no room for police in our mosques or in our hearts. Queen-Cheyenne Wade reminds us that the Quran contains many surahs recounting those who sustain their greediness by oppressing others, like Surah Al-Masad.

“As an abolitionist, I understand this work as not only the dismantling and abolition of police systems, but of all systems that are created with the intention of harm and exploitation of Black peoples and other communities of color,” said Queen-Cheyenne. “To look away from these injustices is a direct betrayal to our understanding of God’s truth about human connectedness.”

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Schools Are Preparing for a Mental Health Crisis Amid COVID

A masked girl in a shirt that reads "justice" looks onward
A child takes part in a community event for disadvantaged children ahead of the beginning of the school year on August 30, 2020, in Stamford, Connecticut.

BY: Caroline Preston

The Hechinger Report

The calls started at 6 a.m., and Patrick McCauley was ready, having retreated to the privacy of his garage where he sat waiting for Angelenos to share how they’re coping with the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic.

For the last 14 years, McCauley has worked as a mental health counselor and consultant in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In April, he began staffing a new hotline the district created to reach students, parents and teachers in need of mental health supports and other services as the virus forced people into isolation and cost jobs and lives.

One day he heard from a fifth grader who was terrified that her parents would catch the illness. Another day, a mother wanted advice on her once mild-mannered daughter, who had started throwing tantrums and yelling profanities after the quarantine began. Teachers wanted to know how to respond to students who appeared distraught during Zoom lessons, or what to do about the kids who didn’t log on at all.

McCauley, who has a soothing voice and a surfer’s unruffled mien, listened carefully and reassured the callers that they were experiencing understandable reactions to highly abnormal circumstances. Their testimony amounted to a warning, though, of what schools may face when they restart this fall: kids with a history of mental health problems whose symptoms have worsened, students who maybe experiencing anxiety or anger for the first time, children in households that have become financially precarious and those who are experiencing loss. More and more, schools are recognizing that academic learning may at times have to take a back seat to alleviating those challenges.

“Before we push anything at students academically, let’s ask how they’re doing, with no unrealistic expectations that we can somehow solve all their problems or magically fix everything and make all this go away, but just a lot of acknowledgement, a lot of listening to kids and trying to get them the support they need,” McCauley said.

Around the country, school leaders are trying to anticipate how these mental health burdens will shape what unfolds in classrooms and via screens during a school year in which the trauma is likely to worsen. Some school districts, such as Los Angeles Unified and Baltimore City, are running hotlines to provide guidance and connect families to services. Other schools are offering grief training to teachers, counseling them on how to recognize signs of distress, and encouraging them to attend to their own emotional wellbeing. Still others are setting up virtual “wellness rooms,” inviting community mental health agencies into schools and unveiling new or expanded “social-emotional curricula” to help students process their feelings.

“What’s happening right now is that all children, regardless of their backgrounds, are experiencing a potential stressor,” said Marisha Humphries, an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a licensed clinical psychologist. “Schools appear to be very focused on academics and how do we combat summer slide, but I think the first priority has to be how are we going to support children’s social and emotional development. You cannot do effective instruction if children’s social and emotional needs aren’t met. It’s very hard to focus on algebra if you’re anxious or depressed.”

Research on the emotional toll of the pandemic on kids is relatively scant, given how new the crisis is. But what does exist is worrisome: A study of more than 2,300 kids who endured home confinement during the pandemic in Hubei province, China, found that nearly 23 percent reported symptoms of depression, and nearly 19 percent reported experiencing anxiety. In a review of past studies on loneliness and disease, researchers noted that, even early in the shutdown, more than a third of adolescents reported increased loneliness during the pandemic. Given the “well-established links between loneliness and mental health,” the researchers wrote, children and teens were more likely to experience depression and anxiety, even after quarantine concludes.

Already, in the U.S., up to 1 in 5 children experience a mental health challenge such as anxiety, depression or a behavioral problem in a given year. And yet many children don’t get the help they need. Even before the pandemic, many schools were overwhelmed with helping to fill gaps in health services and helping kids develop emotional coping skills. Now their efforts may be further complicated by the education system’s looming financial crisis, which is expected to bring layoffs for teachers, counselors and other school staff who work closely with students and can provide emotional support. The virus’ resurgence has also made efforts to support students more difficult by prolonging their isolation and ending hopes for an immediate return to face-to-face instruction and counseling in much of the country.

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District, where 42 percent of children live below the poverty line, has tried for more than a decade to prioritize its students’ social-emotional needs. Administrators hope that before the district reopens in early September for remote-only learning, teachers and principals will have an opportunity to participate in “restorative learning circles” where they can debrief on how the pandemic has affected them. Then, when virtual learning begins, teachers would model those circles for their students, encouraging them to share their experiences since schools closed in March.

At the top of each school day, teachers would also do a “temperature check” of students, asking them how they’re doing, while mindfulness exercises would be sprinkled throughout the day, said William Stencil, who leads the district’s social-emotional work.

In recent decades, lessons like these have become popular in schools nationwide, amid a growing body of evidence suggesting that children’s capacity to regulate their emotions affects their ability to learn. But the lessons can be a burden for teachers, who have to squeeze them in between the avalanche of academic content they must cover. The pandemic, though, has left adults with little choice about prioritizing these needs.

“We’re going to have to offer an astounding amount of support,” said James Wagner, a fifth-grade teacher at Cleveland’s Benjamin Franklin PK-8 school. “We’re going to have to embed social-emotional learning within every single subject we teach, every minute that we’re with the students.” Wagner, who has taught in the district for 33 years, said he worries about many of his students, few of whom showed up for Zoom lessons in the spring.

It’s not just the virus that is leaving students feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Next door, in the East Cleveland school district, Jerome West said he wants to make space this year for conversations around racial injustice, which some psychologists refer to as “the second pandemic.” This spring, when George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, “kids were upset, they were angry, they were enraged, they thought how is this still happening, this is 2020,” said West, executive director of the East Cleveland Neighborhood Center. The nonprofit center provides social-emotional support to the school district, where 99 percent of students are Black.

When schools shut, the group held “wellness calls” with parents, and ran virtual programs for small groups of students, including a You Matter Academy designed to help kids cope with stress. Kids reported feeling lonely, frustrated and concerned that teachers were piling on worksheets and other assignments to compensate for the lack of in-person classes. Parents reported feeling anxious about taking on the role of teacher, but they also appreciated having more time with their kids, West said.

The Philadelphia school district, which will open remotely on September 2, plans to train principals, teachers and other staff on trauma and coping with stress, with a particular focus on racial injustice and social isolation. While the district has done social-emotional work in a piecemeal way in the past, all schools will now ask students to spend 30 minutes greeting each other and talking through their feelings each day, said Abigail Gray, deputy chief of school climate and culture. The district also intends to contract with additional counselors and social workers from local mental health agencies to work directly with students who need additional support.

At some KIPP charter schools in New Jersey, teachers will receive training in suicide prevention, grief counseling and how to spot signs of distress in an online environment. This fall, teachers will also trade “calming corners” in classrooms for an online wellness space where kids can listen to music, fill online coloring books or practice yoga on the school’s virtual learning platform. If students seem upset, a teacher might ping them through the virtual learning platform and encourage them to visit the web tool, said Sheyla Riaz, director of social work for KIPP New Jersey.

As crises go, the pandemic is unusual in that it combines a public health emergency and an economic downturn while isolating kids from school, friends, activities and other support. Each of these emergencies has the potential to create adverse child experiences, known as ACES, that can have long-term consequences on children’s health and wellbeing. Archana Basu, a clinical psychologist and instructor at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, noted that studies after the 2008 recession showed increases in partner violence and child maltreatment, which are among the experiences that can make a child more vulnerable to later health problems.

Basu also expects to see an increase in social anxiety and in students refusing to attend school. And Michael Lindsey, who directs New York University’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research, noted that following the death of Floyd, anxiety and depression among Black Americans shot up. Violence, overpolicing and hate “all play a role in the psyche and mental health of Black youth that may make them reflect on whether their lives really matter, it might make them feel hopeless about their futures and if things might change,” he said. “Teachers are going to have to be very understanding and considerate of the frustrations that kids have experienced.”

“It is important to emphasize that this is not just remote or homeschooling,” Basu wrote in an email. “This is really very different. It is crisis schooling.”

This doesn’t mean that every kid will experience trauma from the events of this year; most won’t. Sadness and anxiety are perfectly natural responses to the pandemic and typically don’t become clinical concerns, said Karestan Koenen, a professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Harvard school of public health. On the whole, kids tend to be more resilient than adults, she said.

“What’s hard in a lot of these situations, after any disaster, is that a lot of people have symptoms of anxiety, depression, even PTSD,” said Koenen. “Some of that is going to be normal reactions to difficult circumstances, and in many people and kids they will resolve over time … But in some people they won’t, and we can’t always predict well where the problem is.” That reinforces the need for universal interventions such as the social-emotional work that some school districts are trying, experts say.

But efforts to intervene and help kids can be expensive. Social-emotional lessons sometimes require curricula schools must purchase and professional development for teachers. Counseling and other one-on-one supports for kids who need greater attention is costly and counselors are already stretched thin: Nationally, counselors serve an average of more than 430 students. Many schools lack social workers, psychologists and other mental-health staff. It’s unclear whether schools will have the money to help kids who need it at a time when falling tax revenues will soon force deep cuts in U.S. public education.

Historically, districts have been relatively quick to shed school counseling jobs. The Philadelphia school system, for example, eliminated hundreds of school counselors and nurses during a 2013 budget crisis. But Jayme Banks, director of trauma-informed school practices, said the district recognized the toll that spreading counseling staff thin had on students, and would prioritize mental health through this crisis. “Lessons were learned,” she said.

In Tennessee, the governor had pledged in February to put $250 million in a trust fund for mental health in schools. But in June, amid predictions of a $1 billion shortfall, that money was cut from a revised budget. Teachers, counselors and parents say they worry how schools will grapple with the increased needs this fall, in a state where youth suicide rates have been steadily climbing.

“It’s the opposite of robust,” said Rachel Bauer, a parent in Memphis, of the support available at the PK-8 school her daughter, Noel, attends. “It’s minimal, basic.”

Four years ago, after her son died of misdiagnosed strep throat, Bauer sought school counseling for Noel, who is now 11. For a while Noel benefited from seeing the counselor once a month, but “there are just too many students who need her as well,” said Bauer. When the year ended, they turned to private counseling, an option unavailable to many families.

Bauer worries that the pandemic will exacerbate feelings of grief and anxiety in kids like Noel who’ve experienced past trauma. This spring, said Bauer, “I saw her spirits dim.”

Still, there are a few places that have made investments in counseling and support. In June, the Dallas Independent School District announced that it would hire 53 new clinicians and reorganize its work helping children with emotional and behavioral needs under a new Mental Health Services Department.

That expansion was prompted by the fact that students were waiting an average of three months to see a clinician, said Leslie Stephens, assistant superintendent of school leadership. “Three months is a long time to say, ‘Deal with it the best you can,’ ” she said.

For now, Dallas schools are planning to open in early September under a hybrid model, with a mix of virtual and in-person classes. Paula Agulefo, a clinician who has worked in the district for 10 years, said she was able to stay in touch with students this spring via video calls.

She spoke with kids who couldn’t sleep, kids who’d started wetting the bed again, and children who’d been chatterboxes but had gone quiet. It was harder to connect with kids virtually but not impossible, she said.

“If they’re watching a Disney movie, I’m watching the Disney movie too. If they’re playing a hand game, they’re telling me about it. I know more about Fortnite than I have ever known,” she said. “Children are very good at allowing you into their world when they trust you.”

Agulefo said she’s optimistic teachers and administrators will find a way to meet kids’ emotional and academic needs when schools reopen. “There’s no blueprint or examples of how this can be done, but we know it has to be done,” she said. “We have to get it done because kids, they have to learn.”

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Identity, Race and Electoral Politics


Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Ongoing protests against police violence raise the question— if the police could be made to either serve a constructive social role or disappear, would the objectives of the protests disappear with them? Racism, as it is being put forward, is certainly a larger issue than police violence. But as with the police, what would ending racism look like? Would it mean diversity, where the distribution of power remains the same, but exclusion on the basis of race is prohibited. Would it mean a redistribution of power to select groups only? Or would it mean the creation of a just society?

Similar questions arise regarding the police. Their function is to protect the property of people who have property to protect. This includes preventing rebellion by the property-less against the propertied. But how likely is it that the rich would leave their property unprotected? Private police forces that answer directly to the rich and capital have been around for decades. Therefore, is bringing the police to heel a piece of a larger political program that would preclude the creation or expansion of private police? Or would it further the realization of the neoliberal project of a privatized civil police force?

The purpose in asking these questions is to achieve analytical clarity around political objectives. A lot is being said, and animosities are growing, regarding issues that are likely quite different than imagined once they have been properly considered. For instance, there are at least three versions of identity politics being deployed at the moment. The first is implied through the existence of Black Lives Matter, that there is something called ‘black,’ and it has particular social meaning. The second is the operational version embedded in the political marketing of the political parties. And the third is the academic version that emerged from later iterations of postmodern social theory.

A base conceit of capitalism is competition between various social aggregations, e.g. individuals, companies and nations. This logic emerges from a particular conception of existence, Cartesian ontology. This ontology has an embedded dualism that is both categorical and oppositional. It is premised in the static thought-objects that support both identity politics and racism. Through it race and intersectional identity are ‘things’ in a particular conception of what that means. This leaves the logic of racism and anti-racism emerging from the same premises about the structure and nature of the world.

The back-and-forth over identity politics versus Marxist class analysis proceeds from the charge that class analysis doesn’t adequately account for racism. In the terms put forward, that there is something called race that constitutes real difference between people that racists are responding to with racism, this is certainly true. The analytical problem is that if racism and anti-racism emerge from the same ontological premises, anti-racism grants form and logic to racism. For example, when liberal political operatives use race, ‘black’ and ‘white,’ as categorical distinctions, they aren’t asking the question: is racial difference real? They are asserting that it is. In this same way, by challenging racists, rather than the concept of race, anti-racists affirm the premise that racial difference is real.

This isn’t to deny that racism and racists exist. It does and they do. And it and they have made life dangerous and miserable for millions of human beings for a few centuries. But just because racists insist that the difference is real doesn’t make it so. A recent Netflix documentary found an entire subculture of people who believe that the earth is flat. They developed involved geometrical theories to ‘explain’ how round is flat. Likewise, the qualities attributed by racists to racial difference can be numerous and involved. Here the process is important. Racists start with the premise of racial difference and then attributes qualities to the alleged difference. Similarly, identity politics isn’t simply to grant difference for which there is no empirical basis. It is to assert it.

Graph: the ratio of men to women killed by the police is about 20:1, versus the ratio of black to white of 3:1. Outside of the identity view, this difference has little bearing on the politics of police killings. A functioning politics isn’t based on ratios. But within the logic of IDPOL, the greatest injustices in police killings in descending order are 1) gender bias, 2) class bias and 3) racial bias. These are the relative disproportionalities in terms of categories of identity. If the categories are changed, so are the hierarchies. In this sense, identity politics is radically indeterminate. Source:

Identity politics isn’t a single theory. Academic IDPOL emerged from philosophical postmodernism, which itself is premised in Martin Heidegger’s critique of Cartesian ontology. However, along with the near entirety of the American left, in particular left critics of postmodernism, a majority of IDPOL proponents conspicuously haven’t read Heidegger. Intersectionality is the intersection of Cartesian categories. The IDPOL academic move is to declare them historically contingent. But historical contingency renders them indeterminate in the way they are put forward. This point is addressed in more detail below.

In 1991, George H.W. Bush weaponized the use of racial identity when he nominated Clarence Thomas to fill Thurgood Marshall’s position on the Supreme Court. Mr. Marshall, a civil rights activist who had successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education before being elevated to the Supreme Court, defined the liberal turn the Court took in response to the post-WWII re-conception of the U.S. as a liberal state. In nominating Clarence Thomas, a political reactionary who Ronald Reagan had appointed to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) to undermine its mission, Mr. Bush was daring liberals to oppose him because Mr. Thomas was black.

In fact, Thurgood Marshall was a lot of things— a civil rights activist, a lawyer who successfully used the law as a means of achieving political ends, and a fighter for social justice. He was also black. Reducing Mr. Marshall’s life to being black, as was implied by Bush’s assertion of equivalence with Clarence Thomas, was in a particular sense as racist as it gets. The subtext of racial difference that united liberals with active racists was the conception of a ‘black consciousness’ that was implied in the alleged unity of Marshall and Thomas. In fact, Mr. Bush was rolling liberals with the appointment. Bush knew that there was no ‘black consciousness,’ else his political goals couldn’t have been achieved by appointing Thomas.

The Reagan administration, in which Mr. Bush had served as Vice President, was rightly decried as reactionary in every sense of the term. Mr. Reagan launched his 1980 campaign in Neshoba County, near Philadelphia, MS where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964. Mr. Bush was patriarch of the Bush family, with ties to the Third Reich; he was the former head of the CIA, and he was planning a run for a second term as president when he nominated Clarence Thomas. Mr. Thomas’s background was as a political operative whose ideology made him sympathetic to Mr. Bush’s political program.

Mr. Thomas’s case is doubly relevant because in his role at the EEOC he opposed, and worked to undermine, Affirmative Action, a race-conscious effort to redress employment discrimination against designated groups in Federal hiring. Following Affirmative Action’s re-emergence as a strategy to redress racial discrimination in the early 1960s, the concept was endorsed and broadened by a majority of states. While employer groups and conservative ideologues led the propaganda effort against the program, its targeted nature undermined class unity with poor and working-class whites who perceived it as providing an unfair advantage to others.

In the narrow terms of identity, Thurgood Marshall— a giant of twentieth century jurisprudence and civil rights activism, and Clarence Thomas— a right-wing functionary chosen for his willingness to throw civil rights lawsuits out without review, are equivalent. One black man plus another black man equals two black men. Two black men minus one black man equals one black man. What Mr. Bush accomplished was to replace living politics— the civil rights movement, as its goals had been embedded in a powerful state institution, the Supreme Court, with a counting game whose success was measured in units of identity equivalence.

The goal of broadening the distribution of social, political and economic power to include blacks became the insertion of a representative proportion of blacks into the existing distribution of economic power. In this sense, identity politics is radically reactionary. In terms of a ‘black consciousness,’ black elected representatives and corporate functionaries have legislated and made corporate decisions much like their white counterparts. In terms of progress, now blacks can be the people firing water cannons at protesters, ginning up fake stories to start wars, bailing out the banks, and implementing austerity on the dispossessed and unemployed. Instead if redistributing power, identity was used to redistribute injustice.

Plenty of people are happy with this outcome. Three centuries of exclusion were turned into partial inclusion. That most blacks, like most whites, are still a paycheck away from being homeless in the midst of serial economic calamities is but a slight variation on the way that it has long been. My working-class black neighbors share 98% of their belief system with the working-class white neighbors. The liberals who come looking for victims of oppression don’t find many people who view their lives that way. However, through a lens of economic relations, the neighborhood is a plantation where people are the crop. But that is capitalism, not something else.

According to a 2015 survey by Pew Research, black voters support Democrats by the same disproportion that white voters support Republicans. The count is complicated a bit by different population sizes, etc. But the bottom line is that Democrats can’t win national elections without black voters. And Republicans can’t win without white voters. This would seem to explain the divergence in racial posturing. The symmetry of the disproportionality may seem odd outside of the quantitative models used in electoral marketing. As both fact and metaphor, the models are premised on dividing people into affinity groups, a.k.a. ‘identity.’

In these quantitative models, in order to count members of an identity group, identities must be conceived as timeless and unvarying. Otherwise, what is being counted in indeterminate. When counting members of one race or another, the first premise implied is that race is ‘real’— it has to be to be counted. The second premise is that it is invariant with respect to time and place. Black or white in 2020 was black or white in 1253. The concept of race needn’t have existed in 1253. But if it had, it would be the same as in 2020. Without the premises that race is ‘real,’ timeless and place invariant (universal), identity is indeterminate.

Graph: according to Pew, white voters are +9% for the Republicans and black voters are +69% for the Democrats. Adjusted for percent of the population, blacks are +9% for the Democrats and whites are +8% for the Republicans. This symmetrical disproportionality keeps race at the forefront of political sniping and the parties offering small-ball enticements around the contested middle rather than competing political programs. Given the political distribution by race and the premise that it is fixed, Republicans benefit from stoking white resentment and Democrats benefit from urging ‘tolerance.’ Note: this graph was edited for clarity. Full graph can be found here. Source:

Through structure and intent, the political marketing models aren’t asking if race reflects real differences between the races. They are asserting it. Through the categories of ‘black’ and ‘white,’ marketing schemes, ploys and appeals are launched. Posed as appealing to racial differences, what they do is create them. Qualitative differences in these models are found the same way that the KKK finds them. Begin with the premise of categorical difference and see what turns up. Intuitively, a list of qualitative differences appears to prove that categorical differences are real. However, with the example of the graph of police killings by gender, the categorical premises determine the nature of the results, not vice-versa.

While the academic theories that support IDPOL are often portrayed by right wing critics as ‘cultural Marxism,’ they are premised in the same Cartesian ontology that supports capitalism. Paradoxical in ways apparently not understood by proponents, identity is either essential, meaning Cartesian, or it is indeterminate. To function as identity, race must be rendered determinate in a specific way. Otherwise, members may have a sense of an object, say race, without knowing what it is that they have a sense of. In fact, IDPOL academics made this very theoretical move. Race might not be a thing, but whiteness and blackness are things.

Through the abandonment of grand theories of how the world works, ‘isms’ applied to political theories, and the truth generating capacity of science, postmodernism served to de-politicize social theory, as if doing so had bearing on the distribution and use of power outside of the academy. Identity through this lens is a personal or group possession without identifying what ‘it,’ the basis of identity, is. Quite remarkably, the individuation that IDPOL takes from postmodernism follows quite closely the view from capitalism. In capitalist theory, materialist theories of human needs are totalitarian, while psychic wants are the path to self-realization.

The move by academic proponents of IDPOL to get around Cartesian categories of identity is to posit them as sensibilities such as whiteness and blackness, rather than through the categorical differentiator of race. But if these aren’t premised in race, to whom do they apply? As sensibilities, they apply to people who self-identify as white or black. What is the basis of this self-identification? 1) Tautological— people self-identify as who they self-identify as, or 2) they self-identify by race. What then is race? Race is a sensibility. Needless to say, the activists with Black Lives Matters aren’t asserting that the police are shooting people based on their racial self-identification.

The same ontological challenges apply to the concepts of white supremacy and racial capital. White supremacy is a sensibility that is either universally held (by white people), making it categorical, or it is indeterminate. As a conscious or subconscious view from whiteness, implied is a white consciousness, in opposition to a not-white consciousness. The issue of determinacy— to whom does white supremacy apply, and to whom does it not apply, is answered with race. It applies to white people. Established now is that there are white people and that whiteness is an essential quality in the sense of being a categorical differentiator based on race. At this point it has been established that race is a real differentiator of human beings into the categories of ‘white’ and ‘not-white.’ The KKK most certainly agrees.

Racial capital is the argument that capitalism requires the categorical opposition of race to motivate the relationship between exploiter and exploited. Actually, logically, any categorical difference would do. Were it not for history, gender, weight, height, hair color, preference in foot care ointments, favorite Britney Spears song, etc. could serve the purpose. The relationship of oppositional reasoning to capitalism is a function of Cartesian dualism. The peculiar nature of the Cartesian individual, locked away ‘inside’ of the life of the mind, makes all interactions with the world oppositional in a structural sense. The profit motive and a starting power differential explain exploitation quite effectively.

These are all interesting ideas that, when framed in history, have particular logic and meaning, but when posed as categorical truths, are made into what they are intended to critique. I have no interest in either shutting other people up or in winning an argument with what I written here. Unless we collectively figure out the politics pretty quickly we— people and other livings things, are toast. Unless political and economic power are redistributed widely, reforms like defunding the police will be turned into something worse than currently exists.

Of course racism is a curse upon the land. The question is what to do about it? The subtext of all of the back-and-forth over IDPOL is that the political operatives for the establishment parties that are promoting it are cynical, lying, opportunistic, neoliberal sacks of shit who see it as a con, a scam, a dodge and an angle. PMC liberals are using it for emotional healing, as a cathartic release from the deep-suck of their lives and the existential misery of what they spend their time not doing. Analytical criticism serves a purpose by separating dubious motives from important issues. If the ideas are questionable as posed and they have been given quarter in the Bank of America boardroom and the executive suites at ExxonMobil, then maybe they aren’t that threatening to the interests that matter.

Posted in USA0 Comments

Class Reductionism and Environmental Racism


Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

On August 14th, the N.Y. Times reported on the clash between Adolph Reed Jr. and the Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus in DSA. The caucus advocates stepped up support for BLM protests while Reed views them as tools of corporate America. Naturally, when the event organizers scheduled a Zoom lecture for Reed, the caucus demanded a debate, surely expecting to be ignored. When Reed grew wary over the possibility that the upstarts might crash his talk, he canceled himself.

The Times article summarized the Reed position as shared by a class of historians, political scientists and intellectuals who argue against overstating race as a construct. Even if they accept the existence of racism in the U.S., they reject the need for an anti-racist movement. Instead, the goal is to create class unity around programs like Medicare for All since poor whites would benefit as well. When you “fixate” on race, you risk dividing a potentially powerful coalition and play into conservatives’ hands.

Of course, this vulgar Marxism seems even more outlandish than ever in the face of the massive resistance to the status quo now underway. After the George Floyd murder, anti-racist protests became the largest in American history. Without skipping a beat, the NBA has gone on strike to protest the cops who left Jacob Blake permanently paralyzed. To counterpose Medicare for All to these struggles is foolish, if not outright reactionary.

While it is true that poor whites have much in common with poor Blacks economically, racial oppression afflicts Blacks no matter the income. That’s the lesson to be drawn from an August 2nd Sunday N.Y. Times Magazine article titled “The Refinery Next Door” that chronicles the deadly impact of pollution on the Black community, even when it is middle-income. When I read the article, a paragraph struck me as dealing a decisive blow against the economic determinism of Adolph Reed Jr. and his co-thinkers:

In 2007, the United Church of Christ updated its research, this time with Bullard as a principal author, in “Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987-2007,” finding that racial disparities in the location of toxic-waste facilities were “greater than previously reported.” People of color made up a majority of the population in communities within 1.8 miles of a polluting facility, and race — not income or property values — was the most significant predictor. The following year, a study by two University of Colorado social scientists published in the journal Sociological Perspectives found that African-American families with incomes of $50,000 to $60,000 were more likely to live in environmentally polluted neighborhoods than white households with incomes below $10,000.

The Bullard mentioned in the article is Robert Bullard, the father of the Environmental Justice Movement. Bullard, an African-American born in 1946, is currently a Distinguished Professor at Texas Southern University in Houston, a public historically Black college. In 1979 his wife, attorney Linda McKeever Bullard, represented Northwood Manor neighborhood residents in their fight against their middle-class, suburban neighborhood housing a landfill. The lawsuit was the first ever that charged environmental discrimination in waste facility siting under civil rights legislation. The upscale Northwood Manor neighborhood was an unlikely location for a garbage dump, except being over 82 percent black.

Author of 26 books and many articles, Bullard clearly understands the combined character of class and race in poor Black neighborhoods that suffer from environmental racism. However, he also understands that Black people are often the victims, no matter their income. In an article for the Autumn/Winter, 2001 edition of Phylon titled “Environmental Justice in the 21st Century: Race Still Matters,” Bullard refers to “racial apartheid” as responsible for corporate polluters preying on Black neighborhoods. Since it is far more difficult for Blacks to become homeowners, they are in no position to call for NIMBY (not in my backyard). When you are a renter, it is up to the landlord to resist a landfill or an oil refinery in a Black neighborhood. White landlords are not famous for standing up for the rights of Black tenants.

Blacks not only have to put up with racist landlords and banks. Municipal governments, particularly in the south, impose zoning laws that turn white neighborhoods into racial enclaves. Even when zoning laws do not exist, there are other ways to make Black neighborhoods dumping grounds. Bullard points out that in Houston, the local government replaced NIMBY with PIBBY (place in black’s back yard.)

These practices lowered residents’ property values, accelerated physical deterioration, and increased disinvestment in the communities. Moreover, the discriminatory siting of landfills and incinerators stigmatized the neighborhoods as “dumping grounds” for a host of other unwanted facilities, including salvage yards, recycling operations, and automobile “chop shops.”

It is little wonder that when a neighborhood suffers pollution, its residents’ health suffers. Poor Black communities have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic just as they have from cancer and pulmonary ailments.

On August 8th, the Intercept published an article titled “What Racism Smells Like”  that connected the dots between racism, pollution and the pandemic. It profiles Kim Gaddy, who works as an environmental justice organizer for Clean Water Action of New Jersey. Gaddy describes Newark, her home-town, as having 930 facilities permitted to release pollution, 87 of which have current violations. Environmental racism has affected her personally. Born and raised in the South Ward, she suffered from asthma. During an attack, she would wind up in the local emergency room. All of her children — now 31, 20, and 16 — also have asthma, as do her parents, two of her brothers, and her first cousin. Newark’s death rate from Covid-19 is 223 per 100,000 people, compared to 177 statewide and just under 44 in the U.S. as a whole. The connection between environmental racism and the fatality rate in Newark could not be more obvious.

Wouldn’t it benefit Black people to move away from the polluters to a pleasant neighborhood far from Newark? Even if they couldn’t afford to own a home, they might rent an apartment in a comfortable, well-maintained multiple dwelling. That’s the last thing Trump would permit, even using this possibility as a racist calling card in his reelection bid. In a virtual rally, he said, “People have gone to the suburbs. They want the beautiful homes. They don’t have to have a low-income housing development built in their community…which has reduced the prices of their homes and also increased crime substantially.” In essence, he wants to build a “beautiful new wall” between Newark’s Blacks and white towns in New Jersey.

It would be a mistake to think that white liberals are any more open to such housing. In a Nation Magazine article titled “Trump Supports Housing Segregation—and So Do a Lot of White Liberals”, Kali Holloway pointed out that in Maplewood, N.J., where BLM signs are ubiquitous, a group of Black parents had to file a lawsuit in 2018 to force the desegregation of district public schools.

As for BLM, one might hope that it will begin to challenge racist housing practices in combination with police brutality protests. Richard Rothstein made a good case for that type of activism in a N.Y. Times op-ed titled “The Black Lives Next Door”. He focuses on San Mateo, California, where young white BLM activist Sophia Heath and fellow activists were trying to figure out their next steps after the George Floyd protests had subsided.

Rothstein describes San Mateo as a segregated Silicon Valley city. Sophia Heath wondered why there are no Black families in her Hillsdale neighborhood. San Mateo’s few remaining African-Americans mostly live in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Also, only one percent of Hillsdale High School students are Black. Heath would like to see a more diverse city but is not sure where to start. A housing development for lower-income Blacks might help, but most Black families in the vicinity have incomes too high to qualify. Others are not rich enough to buy the typical Silicon Valley house. It would help if she understood how her neighborhood became so lily-white. Rothstein provides some background:

In San Mateo, they would learn that builders constructed the residential Hillsdale neighborhood for whites only in the mid-20th century. Public records reveal that the 1941 deed to Sophia Heath’s family home says, “No persons other than members of the Caucasian or White race shall be permitted to occupy any portion of said property, other than as domestics in the employ of the occupants of the premises.”

This racist exclusion was part of a pattern in which a cabal of real estate developers and banks openly worked to keep Blacks out of desirable neighborhoods. Rothstein is the author of a book titled “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” that makes the case that even Democratic Party politicians worked hand in glove with the real estate and banking industries to enforce segregated housing. If the idea of racial segregation in the north summons up images of Fred Trump at a KKK rally, keep in mind that the New Deal was in cahoots with racists in both the north and the south. Despite Bernie Sanders describing Joe Biden as possibly the most progressive president since FDR, FDR was anything but when it came to housing. As for Biden, he is on record as stating in 1977 that certain desegregation policies would cause his children to grow up “in a racial jungle.” Now, he sings a different tune. He calls for desegregating suburban housing. Is that just something he is saying to win votes from Black people? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Given Jacobin’s hero worship of Bernie Sanders, whose idea of socialism is identical to the New Deal, it is not surprising that it published a hostile review of Rothstein’s book. Critic Richard Walker, a professor emeritus of Geography at the University of California–Berkeley and director of the Living New Deal, felt the need to whitewash the New Deal.

Titled “The New Deal Didn’t Create Segregation”, the article tries to excuse FDR because segregation “something [is] embedded in American social structures since before the founding.” That might be true, but the New Deal didn’t challenge racism, as Rothstein points out in his reply. Rothstein writes:

Walker is troubled by what he terms my “attack on public housing.” I make no such attack but provide a dispassionate account of its racial history. The book’s frontispiece, as Walker notes, is a photo of FDR giving keys to the one hundred thousandth family to get New Deal public housing. The family and surrounding crowd of Pittsburgh project residents are white and apparently middle class. The Public Works Administration, the first New Deal agency to construct public housing, listed each project’s racial designation. The all-white projects outnumbered the all-black ones. A very few were “both,” but the PWA segregated those by building.

The great African American writer Langston Hughes’s autobiography recounts his adolescence in integrated Central Cleveland, where he dated a Jewish girl and his best friend was Polish. Such early-twentieth-century neighborhoods were not as rare as they later became. Before highways, factories needed access to ports or railroad terminals to receive parts and ship products; workers of both races and varied ethnicities lived nearby and walked to work. The New Deal created segregation in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood by building one project for whites and a separate one for blacks.

It seems that Richard Walker wasn’t the only professor trying to absolve FDR of racism. In November, 2019, Adolph Reed Jr. wrote an article in The New Republic titled “The New Deal Wasn’t Intrinsically Racist” that managed to say not a single word about FDR’s promotion of segregated housing. Fancy that.

In addition to opposing BLM, Reed is also a long-standing critic of reparations. In 2007, Jonathan Kaplan and Andrew Valls made the case in Public Affairs Quarterly for reparations being justified b housing discrimination rather than slavery, which has generally been the basis for prior claims. When Blacks were excluded from home ownership due to redlining, they could not build wealth based on home equity. To buy a house, you need to get a mortgage. When Blacks went to the same banks as whites, they got shafted just as Richard Rothstein noted in his op-ed piece on San Mateo.

The FHA, a New Deal program, also made sure to provide loan insurance mostly to whites. Also, the GI Bill had the same racist dynamic:

The GI Bill, passed in the waning days of World War II, only served to reinforce the discriminatory tendencies of other policies. As Ira Katznelson has recently documented, though the GI Bill made no reference to race or racial categories, and was officially available to all returning veterans (many of whom were black), the bill was written with the intention of limiting the benefits that blacks could receive – and it was largely successful in this regard. The key provision that allowed for this was the one that required that the bill, though federally funded, to be implemented by states and localities. Hence African Americans had to approach white-controlled local boards to access benefits to which they were entitled under the act. This greatly discouraged blacks from applying, and those who did often faced discrimination.

Even after Congress passed the Fair Housing Amendment Act in 1988, nothing could reverse the damage of the past hundred years. Redlining had condemned Black people to live in run-down neighborhoods close to landfills, garbage dumps and oil refineries. Segregated housing combined with underfunded schools and Blacks blocked from better factory jobs resulted in a permanent quasi-apartheid status that defies all attempts to remediate. When Martin Luther King Jr. tried to build a movement against de facto segregation in the north, a racist assassinated him for his efforts. While nobody would argue against Medicare for All or any other reform that benefits low-income people as a whole, Rothstein made a good case for BLM beginning to struggle against segregated housing.

At the conclusion of their article, Kaplan and Valls call for reparations. While they admit that reparations might be a challenge to administer in terms of individual payments, they conceive of an alternative form that would compensate for past injustices on a group basis:

If there is a clear – and clearly unjust – structural inequality as a result of recent housing discrimination, but we cannot determine what is owned to whom in precise terms, it is perhaps best to think of reparations as being paid, at least in part, through policies whose overall effect will be to close the wealth gap, and particularly to close that the portion of the wealth gap that is based on home equity. For starters, the federal and state governments should devote greater resources to preventing and prosecuting the racial steering that we have good evidence to believe continues to take place. Furthermore, African Americans ought to be eligible for very favorable terms on mortgages, with very low interest rates and low or no down payment, subsidized by the government. Also, African Americans should be provided with opportunities that would lead to the creation of wealth through means beyond the housing market alone: access to good education, favorable terms for loans to start new businesses, etc. These measures, too, would help close the wealth gap that housing discrimination has done so much to create.

As sympathetic as I am to such a program, it is doubtful that it can be carried out given American capitalism’s terminal illness. It is likely that the horrifying killings of Black people were not just the acts of “bad” cops. The culture of police departments has become more and more that of a colonial army trying to suppress a restive native population. As much as I would like to see BLM focus on racist housing, as Richard Rothstein proposed, there is little chance of it succeeding for the reason Kaplan and Valls put forward. Namely, too much water has passed under the bridge. The class differences between Black and white America have become so profound that the only recourse is a revolutionary struggle that can overcome the basis for inequality: private property and racism.

Only eight months into 2020, there have been unprecedented mobilizations against racial injustice that have been joined by millions of whites like San Mateo’s Sophia Heath. With the capitalist system failing to meet young peoples’ expectations, there will be and more sympathy for revolutionary change. When Karl Marx spoke of socialism, he had the elimination of the private ownership of the means of production in mind. That would be the start.

With the elimination of the profit motive, we began to lay the basis for solidarity between Blacks and whites for the first time in American history and unalienated work. In the past, hopes for a socialist future were the dream of an isolated and idealistic minority.

In the same way that the small minority of forward-thinking Americans opposed chattel slavery in the 1840s, a new generation will come to the fore to overthrow wage slavery in the future. Idealism alone will not be sufficient to bind this generation together. Those who join will have come to the grim realization that the current economic system can only produce misery and, finally, extinction. As Rosa Luxemburg put it, the choice is between socialism and barbarism.

Posted in USA0 Comments

Naziyahu vs Gantz: Gaza Escalation as Reflection of Nazi Political Rivalry

Netanyahu vs Gantz: Gaza Escalation as Reflection of Israel’s Political Rivalry


Only recently, the Palestinian group, Hamas, and Israel seemed close to reaching a prisoner exchange agreement, where Hamas would release several Israeli soldiers held in Gaza while Israel would set free an unspecified number of Palestinian detainees held in Israeli prisons.

Instead of the much-anticipated announcement of some kind of a deal, on August 10, Israeli bombs began falling on the besieged Strip and incendiary balloons, originating in Gaza, made their way to the Israeli side of the fence.

So, what happened?

The answer lies largely – though not entirely – in Israel, specifically in the political conflict between Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing political camp, on the one hand, and their government’s coalition partners, led by Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, on the other.

The discord between Netanyahu and Gantz is concentrated on a fierce budget conflict currently underway in the Knesset, which has little to do with government spending or fiscal responsibilities.

Gantz, who is supposed to serve his term as Prime Minister, starting November 2021, believes that Netanyahu plans on passing a one-year budget to disrupt the coalition agreement and to call for new elections before the leadership swap takes place. Therefore, Gantz insists on extending the budget coverage to two years, to avoid any possible betrayal by Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Netanyahu’s plot, which was revealed by the daily newspaper Haaretz on July 29, is not entirely motivated by the Israeli leader’s love for power, but by his mistrust of Gantz’s own motives. If Gantz becomes the country’s Prime Minister, he is likely to appoint new judges who are sympathetic towards his Blue and White and, thus, eager to indict Netanyahu in his ongoing corruption trial.

For both Netanyahu and Gantz, this is, perhaps, the most crucial fight of their political careers: the former fighting for his freedom, the latter fighting for survival.

One issue, however, is acceptable to both leaders: the understanding that military strength will always garner greater support from the Israeli public, especially if another election becomes inevitable. A successive, fourth election is likely to take place if the budget battle is not resolved.

As a military showdown in South Lebanon becomes unattainable due to the massive explosion that rocked Beirut on August 4, the two Israeli leaders have turned their attention to Gaza. Moving quickly, as if on the campaign trail, Gantz and Netanyahu are busy making their case to Israelis living in the southern towns bordering the Gaza Strip.

Gantz paid the leaders of these communities a visit on August 19. He was joined by a carefully selected delegation of top Israeli government and military officials, including Agriculture Minister, Alon Schuster and Gaza Division Commander, Brig.-Gen. Nimrod Aloni, who joined via video conference.

Aside from the customary threats of targeting anyone in Gaza who dares threaten Israeli security, Gantz has engaged in election campaign type of self-promotion. “We have changed the equation in Gaza. Since I entered office, there has been a response to every breach in our security,” Gantz said, emphasizing his own achievements, as opposed to those of the coalition government – thus denying Netanyahu any credit.

Netanyahu, on the other hand, has threatened harsh retaliation against Gaza if Hamas does not prevent protesters from releasing incendiary balloons. “We have adopted a policy under which a fire is treated as a rocket,” he told the mayors of southern towns on August 18.

Netanyahu is keeping the Gaza war option open, in case it becomes his only recourse. Gantz, as Defense Minister and Netanyahu’s rival is, however, enjoying greater political space to maneuver. From August 10, he has ordered his military to bomb Gaza every night. With every bomb dropped on Gaza, Gantz’s credibility among Israeli voters, especially in the south, increases slightly.

If the current conflagration leads to an all-out war, it will be the entire coalition government – including Netanyahu and his Likud party – that will bear responsibility for its potential disastrous consequences. This places Gantz in a powerful position.

The current military showdown in Gaza is not entirely the outcome of Israel’s own political fight. Gaza society is currently at a breaking point.

The truce between Gaza groups and Israel, which was reached through Egyptian mediation in November 2019, amounted to nothing. Despite much assurance that besieged Gazans would receive badly needed respite, the situation has, instead, reached an unprecedented, unbearable phase: Gaza’s only power generator has run out of fuel and is no longer in operation; the Strip’s tiny fishing zone of barely three nautical miles was declared a closed military zone by Israel on August 16; the Karem Abu Salem Crossing, through which meager supplies enter Gaza through Israel, is officially shut down.

The 13-year-old Israeli siege on Gaza is currently at its worst possible manifestation, with little room for the Gaza population to even express their outrage at their miserable plight.

In December 2019, the Hamas authorities decided to limit the frequency of protests, known as Gaza’s March of Return, which had taken place almost daily, starting March 2018.

Over 300 Palestinians were killed by Israeli snipers during the protests. Despite the high death toll and the relative failure to ignite international uproar against the siege, the non-violent protests permitted ordinary Palestinians to vent, to organize and to take initiative.

The current growing frustration in Gaza has compelled Hamas to open up a space for protesters to return to the fence in the hope that it pushes the subject of the siege back to the news agenda.

The incendiary balloons, which have ignited the ire of the Israeli military recently, is one of several Palestinian messages that Gazans refuse to accept that the protracted siege is now their permanent reality.

While Egyptian mediation may eventually offer Palestinians a temporary fix and avoid an all-out war, Israeli violence in Gaza, under the current political arrangement, will not cease.

Certainly, for as long as Israeli leaders continue to see a war on Gaza as a political opportunity and a platform for their own electoral games, the siege will carry on, relentlessly.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

Millennials and the Jewish holocaust

Gilad Atzmon writes:

What is it that causes some to constantly measure how much they are hated? What kind of people demands its host nation be intimately familiar with its past? We learned this week that once again, some Jews are upset by the fact that a considerable segment of the American people refuses to see the past exactly as they themselves see it.

The Jewish Forward reported over the weekend that “survey results on holocaust knowledge in America are in, and the findings are terrifying. Not only do they show a shocking level of ignorance, but they reinforce findings about all adults, as well as trends throughout Western Europe.” Those Americans who worry that Americans are uniquely ignorant should be relieved. Americans are only just as “ignorant”, or maybe as “rebellious”, as Europeans. 

It seems that despite intensive holocaust indoctrination and the fact that holocaust museums and monuments have mushroomed all over the USA, fewer Americans are interested in their Jewish neighbours’ historic suffering, and the question is: what can be done about it? Perhaps they will have to erect a holocaust museum on every American street corner. Maybe they can solve this acute educational problem by attaching a large and heavy iron Star of David to the back of every millennial.

How many Jewish millennials know about the Sabra and Shatila massacre? Or the Kafr Qana massacre?

The Forward reports that two thirds of young Americans didn’t know how many died in the holocaust. For some peculiar reason it is very important to most Jewish institutions that everyone parrots the “six figure’. This is peculiar, as the notion of a genocide is within the realm of the categorical rather than the numerical. But if these institutions insist upon reducing the holocaust into a materialist, quantified figure, I am inclined to ask how many Jews know the exact number of Ukrainians who were starved to death in the Holodomor? How many Jews have even heard of the Holodomor? Which Jews know about Stalin’s Jews as leading Israeli columnist Sever Phlocker identifies them. Do contemporary Jews know about the impact of the Yiddish Speaking Spanish International Brigade on Catholic Spain in 1936? How many Iraqis died in the neocon “war against terror”? I ask because Haaretz writer Ari Shavit wrote in 2003 that “the war in Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals, most of them Jewish”. If Jewish institutions want everyone else to understand the holocaust in numerical terms, maybe it would be reasonable to expect Jews to know the numbers of colossal crimes against humanity perpetrated largely or partially by Jews. 

The Forward is upset by the fact that nearly half of millennial goyim [gentiles] couldn’t name a single death camp. In return I ask how many Jewish millennials know about Deir Yassin or can name a single Zionist massacre in Palestine in 1948 or before? How many Jewish millennials know about the Sabra and Shatila massacre? Or the Kafr Qana massacre? What do they know about the malnutrition in Gaza caused directly by years of blockade imposed by the Jewish State?

Apparently, “11 per cent of respondents harbour ‘intensely’ anti-Semitic views by agreeing to six or more anti-Jewish statements. That’s 28 million Americans,” the Forward writes. I was curious to find out what are those “intensely” anti-Semitic views. The survey refers to the following list produced by the “Anti-Defamation League” (ADL) in early 2020.

ADL questionnaire

According to the ADL, back in January “44 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that ‘Jews stick together more than other Americans’, 25 per cent agreed that ‘Jews always like to be at the head of things’ and 24 per cent believed that ‘Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America’”.

Americans should be thrilled by the ADL’s findings and the recent study of millennials’ attitude to Jews. These studies suggest that despite the tyranny of correctness, Americans at large and millennials in particular aren’t blind to the reality in which they live. They still think independently and authentically. Yet, despite the fact that almost half of Americans admit to being aware of Jewish clannish exclusivist culture, America is kind to its Jews as peace and harmony are embedded in its Christian ethos. Yet one issue must be raised. If the ADL and the recent holocaust study represent Jewish American attitudes to their gentile neighbours, it may reveal that 2 per cent of the American population disapprove of the legitimate views of 44 per cent of Americans as “anti-Semitic”. Nearly half of Americans are castigated as “racists” for noticing the generally accepted notion that “Jews stick together”. By doing so, the ADL and its ilk actually confirms that from a Jewish perspective, it is “all about the few not the many”.

Admittedly, the situation is potentially volatile. Still, if fighting anti-Semitism is so important for American Jews, maybe people like Alan Dershowitz, who is struggling desperately to clear his name of underage sex allegations, are not the best candidates to preach to Americans about who they should read and what history and education are all about.

Watch Alan Dershowitz preaching to the American people about history and morality:

Jews and gentiles

Zionism, Jews and gentiles

In “QuickPress”

Iran, Israel and the holocaust

In “Highlights”

Gilad Atzmon - truth and lies

Debunking the lies spread about musician and writer Gilad Atzmon by Zionists and other Israel apologists

In “British stooges”

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Campaigns, Politics0 Comments

Do you buy this phony “anti-Semitism” smear language?

Palestinian flag against the sky

If you support the genuine inheritors of the Holy Land you’re “pro-Semitic”

By Stuart Littlewood

Semites are a language group not a religious group. They spoke (and still do) Semitic languages, especially the Canaanite and later Aramaic dialects of Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian territories.  

The Western world today is seething with accusations of “anti-Semitism”, a threatening term with nasty connotations. Before 1879 nobody had heard of “anti-Semitism”, although hard feelings towards Jews as a religious group had existed for many centuries. One thinks immediately of the atrocities of the first Crusades (1096), the massacre at York in 1190 and the expulsion of Jews from England by Edward I in 1290 (only to be allowed back in 1657 by Oliver Cromwell). But discrimination against Jews existed long before, in various countries and for various reasons.

Then along came a German agitator and journalist, Wilhelm Marr, who coined the expression “anti-Semitism” knowing full well that it embraced all Semitic peoples, including Hebrews, Arabs and Christians of the Holy Land. It wasn’t long before it was twisted to become a metaphor for hostility only towards Jews based on a belief that they sought national and even world power. More recently, holocaust denial and criticism of the state of Israel’s vile behaviour have been considered anti-Semitic. Anti-Zionism too is claimed to be anti-Semitic because it singles out Jewish national aspirations as illegitimate and a racist endeavour – which of course they are, as Israel’s recently enacted nation state laws prove.

Indeed, some hardcore Israel flag wavers regard any pro-Palestinian, pro-Syrian or pro-Lebanese sentiments to be anti-Semitic, even though those peoples are constantly victims of Israeli military aggression.

A catch-all smear weapon

The hijacking of the term anti-Semitism and its fraudulent conversion into a propaganda tool for defending the Zionist project has enabled brazen attacks on our rights to free speech and attempts to shut down peaceful debate on Israel’s crimes. The word anti-Semitism, as now used, is a distortion of language and a deliberate misnomer larded with fear and trembling for those touched by it. This prompted Miko Peled, the Israeli general’s son, to warn a Labour Party conference that

they are going to pull all the stops, they are going to smear, they are going to try anything they can to stop Corbyn… the reason anti-Semitism is used is because they [the Israelis] have no argument…

And so they did. Jeremy Corbyn, a genuine anti-racist, critic of Israel and champion of Palestinian rights, was soon gone. He was the only British leader who might have reduced Israel’s sinister influence on UK policy. But his Labour Party, like the cowards they are, surrendered to Israel lobby pressure and helped bring him down. Israel’s pimps at Westminster and in local parties across the country were able to chalk up a famous victory.

They even managed to force the party to adopt the discredited International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism and incorporate it into the party’s code of conduct. The new leader [Keir Starmer] is their obedient stooge. He has publicly bent the knee, tugged the forelock.

Who has claim?

However, it has been shown that most Jews today are not descended from the ancient Israelites at all. For example, research by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, published by the Oxford University Press in 2012 on behalf of the Society of Molecular Biology and Evolution, found the Khazarian Hypothesis to be scientifically correct, meaning that most Jews are Khazars and confirming what some scholars had been saying. The Khazarians converted to Talmudic Judaism in the 8th Century and were never in ancient Israel.

No doubt these finding will be challenged by Zionist adherents till the end of time. But DNA research suggests that no more than 2 per cent of Jews in present-day Israel are actually Israelites. So, even if you believe the myth that God gave the land to the Israelites, He certainly didn’t give it to Netanyahu, Lieberman and the other East European thugs who infiltrated the Holy Land and now run the apartheid regime. It seems the Palestinians (Muslim and Christian) have more Israelite blood. They are the true Semites.

As for Zionists’ preposterous claim to exclusive sovereignty over Jerusalem, the city was at least 2,000 years old and an established fortification when King David captured it. Jerusalem dates back some 5,000 years and the name is likely derived from Uru-Shalem, meaning “founded by Shalem”, the Canaanite God of Dusk.

In its “City of David” form, Jerusalem lasted less than 80 years. In 928BC the kingdom divided into Israel and Judah with Jerusalem the capital of Judah, and in 597BC the Babylonians conquered it. Ten years later, in a second siege, the city was largely destroyed, including Solomon’s temple. The Jews recaptured it in 164BC but finally lost it to the Roman Empire in 63BC. A Christian (Crusader) kingdom of Jerusalem existed from 1099 to 1291 but held the city for only 101 of those years. Before the present-day shambles, cooked up by Balfour and stoked by the US, the Jews had controlled Jerusalem for around 500 years, say historians – small beer compared to the 1,277 years it was subsequently ruled by Muslims and the 2,000 years, or thereabouts, it originally belonged to the Canaanites.


Since the three main Semitic faiths – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – all have historical claims to Jerusalem and a presence there, and masses of non-Semitic believers around the world also wish to visit the holy places, the best solution seems to be the one recommended by United Nations General Assembly resolutions 181 and 194: that Jerusalem is made a corpus separatum, an open city administered by an international regime or the UN itself. Why this hasn’t been implemented isn’t clear. We’ve seen the abominable discrimination inflicted on Palestinian Muslims and Christians by Israel since seizing control of Jerusalem.

The other side could play word games too – and with more honesty. Anti-Semitism has been fashioned by the Zionists into a catch-all smear weapon. What if pro-Palestinian groups and the BDS movement declared themselves (in correct parlance) to be “pro-Semitic”, i.e. supportive of all those with genuine ancestral links to the ancient Holy Land and entitled to live there in freedom?

They could coin a new expression just like Marr and establish it through usage.

Fishing for contrived anti-Semitism

Wider still and wider: The holocaust alliance’s solicited “anti-Semitism” as a reaction to insufficient supply of anti-Semitism

In “Home”

Israel – no criticism allowed

Stooges seek to criminalize criticism of Israel

In “American stooges”


Who are the true Semites in the topsy-turvy world of anti-Semitism?

In “British stooges”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Politics0 Comments

White Supremacist Groups Have Infiltrated US Police Departments, Report Says

Police stand with shields during a third night of unrest on August 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Police stand with shields during a third night of unrest on August 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

BY: Julia ConleyCommon Dreams

As law enforcement agencies and lawmakers respond to nationwide outrage over countless police shootings of Black Americans with pledges to address racial profiling and “implicit bias,” the Brennan Center for Justice released a report Thursday on what it called “an especially harmful form of bias, which remains entrenched within law enforcement: explicit racism.”

The presence of virulent racism within police ranks across the country has grown over the past two decades, Brennan Center fellow and former FBI special agent Michael German wrote in the report, as white supremacist and far-right militant groups have infiltrated law enforcement agencies.

“While it is widely acknowledged that racist officers subsist within police departments around the country, federal, state, and local governments are doing far too little to proactively identify them, report their behavior to prosecutors who might unwittingly rely on their testimony in criminal cases, or protect the diverse communities they are sworn to serve,” wrote German. “Efforts to address systemic and implicit biases in law enforcement are unlikely to be effective in reducing the racial disparities in the criminal justice system as long as explicit racism in law enforcement continues to endure. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that it does.”

According to the report, titled “Hidden in Plain Sight,” police officers with alleged ties to white supremacist groups or violent far-right militias have been identified in states including Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

The report was called “wild and timely” by attorney and writer Madiba K. Dennie, as it was released two days after police in Kenosha, Wisconsin appeared to welcome the presence of armed militias at a protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man who was left paralyzed.

As Common Dreams reported Thursday, cell phone video showed police telling armed white people that they “appreciated them being there” and handing them bottled water. One of the people in the video appeared to be a 17-year-old gunman who allegedly shot three people at the protest, killing two.

Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis blamed the victims for being at the protest after a city-wide curfew while defending the suspected gunman and other militia members for “exercising their constitutional rights.”

Footage of Kenosha Sheriff David Beth saying in 2018 that Black people who shoplift are “a cancer to our society” and “have to be warehoused” also surfaced on Wednesday, sparking alarm and outrage over the official’s open racism.

The ACLU on Thursday called for the immediate resignation of Beth and Miskinis.

ACLU@ACLU·Aug 27, 2020Replying to @ACLUWe’re calling for these resignations following the lead of organizers on the ground in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after the shooting of Jacob Blake by police and the murder of two protestors who were shot by a 17-year-old participating in an armed counter-protest.ACLU@ACLUSheriff David Beth’s deputies not only socialized with white supremacist counter-protestors on Tuesday but allowed the shooter to leave the scene. Sheriff Beth also previously called for five people of color who had been arrested for shoplifting to ‘be put into warehouses.’8:33 PM · Aug 27, 2020

·Aug 27, 2020Replying to @ACLUTo call for Kenosha County David Beth’s resignation, call Governor Tony Evers’ office at (608) 266-1212.ACLU@ACLUDuring the police department’s first press conference in response to the Blake shooting and subsequent murders committed at protests, Police Chief Daniel Miskinis blamed the victims in Tuesday night’s shooting for their own deaths.8:33 PM · Aug 27, 2020

ACLU@ACLU·Aug 27, 2020Replying to @ACLUTo call for Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis’ resignation, contact the Kenosha Police and Fire Commission at (262) 653-4135, or fill out a citizen complaint form:…ACLU@ACLUIf Sheriff Beth and Police Chief Miskinis refuse to immediately tender their resignation, we call on Mayor John Antaramian to demand the police chief’s removal with the Kenosha Police and Fire Commission, and the sheriff’s removal with Gov. Tony Evers.8:33 PM · Aug 27, 2020

The conduct of police in Kenosha offers only the most recent evidence that law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have sympathy for if not direct ties to far-right militias and white supremacist groups, according to German’s report.

Police in states including California, Oregon, and Illinois are currently being investigated for their alleged connections to far-right groups that oppose the Black Lives Matter movement, with many law enforcement officers engaging “in overtly racist activities in public, on social media, or over law enforcement–only communication channels and internet chat rooms.”

Earlier this year, an officer in Salem, Oregon was caught on video asking “heavily armed white men dressed like militia to step inside a building or sit in their cars while the police arrested protesters.”

The officer said he made the request “so we don’t look like we’re playing favorites.”

Officials in Olympia, Washington opened an investigation into an officer who posed for a photograph with a heavily armed far-right militia group called Three Percent of Washington, allegedly after the officer thanked the group for guarding a shopping center.

The Brennan Center noted that few safeguards exist at the local and federal level to root out police officers who have ties to far-right militant groups or white supremacy.

The failure to respond to evidence of explicit racism among police officers “signals to white supremacists and far-right militants that their illegal acts enjoy government approval and authorization, making them all the more brazen and dangerous. Winning back public trust requires transparent and equal enforcement of the law, effective oversight, and public accountability that prioritizes targeted communities’ interests.”

In addition to working to end implicit bias in policing, German wrote, agencies must establish mitigation plans when overt racism is detected in their ranks.

“Mitigation plans could include referrals to internal affairs, local prosecutors, or the DOJ for investigation and prosecution; termination or other disciplinary action; limitations of assignments to reduce potentially problematic contact with the public; retraining; and intensified supervision and auditing,” German wrote.

The report also called on the FBI to determine whether its domestic terrorist investigations involving white supremacists uncover any connections to law enforcement, and whether police officers investigated for civil rights violations “have connections to violent white supremacist organizations or other far-right militant groups, have a record of discriminatory behavior, or have a history of posting explicitly racist commentary in public or on social media platforms.”

“The most effective way for law enforcement agencies to restore public trust and prevent racism from influencing law enforcement actions is to prohibit individuals who are members of white supremacist groups or who have a history of explicitly racist conduct from becoming law enforcement officers in the first place, or from remaining officers once bias is demonstrated,” German wrote.

Posted in USA0 Comments

The Sturgis and Standing Rock Protests


Bear Butte. Photo: David Mattson.

I grew up in the Black Hills of western South Dakota on a small ranch roughly 30 miles away from the small city of Sturgis and between 100 and 200 miles away from the sprawling Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River Indian Reservations. David Taylor, who homesteaded our ranch, created a sinuous inholding within the newly created Black Hills Forest Reserve, laid out to capture as much bottomland pasture as possible along aptly named Hay Creek.

As chance would have it, Colonel Custer’s enormous wagon train wound its way down Hay Creek, near our property, on the infamous 1874 intrusion that set the stage for Custer’s final demise at the Little Big Horn. I think I found the ruts from Custer’s wagons cutting across one corner of our property. But probably not. More certainly, my second cousin found the very rock where Custer proudly sported “his” grizzly bear for the infamous trophy shot that has become near-synonymous with despoliation of the Black Hills by Europeans.

The Waters of Racism

The mythos of Custer was infused into a largely unexamined racist narrative in which my grandparents were heroic homesteaders of an unclaimed land to which they applied the last civilizing touches. According to this narrative—both voiced and tacit—Indians lurked somewhere over the horizon on their reservations or in squalid suburbs of nearby Rapid City. A good Indian was one who worked hard for a white employer and otherwise strove to be a virtual white person.

Emergence of the assertive American Indian Movement, or AIM, in the early 1970s rocked this narrative, or perhaps merely affirmed it for some die-hards among my relatives. But even before that, Korczak Ziolkowski’s plans for a monumental sculpture in the Black Hills celebrating the Sioux warrior Crazy Horse—on a scale dwarfing Mount Rushmore—had challenged the triumphalist assumptions of local white culture. On more personal note, Peter Matthiessen’s far from perfect history of AIM’s occupation of Wounded Knee placed our small ranch in context of the larger struggle between whites and Indians for the Paha Sapa, or Black Hills. Much to my surprise, Mattheissen began “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse” with his impressions of a drive along the Nemo Road accompanied by some AIM activists…right through the meadows on our property.

Bear Butte

Bear Butte is a sacred outpost of the sacred landscape of the Black Hills. It stands like a sentinel over grasslands to the north and east, roughly 6 miles from Sturgis and nearby historic Fort Meade. The Fort’s garrison entered into family lore by providing one of my grandfathers with a market for horses that he and a great-uncle raised to sell as army remounts, which in turn provided my grandfather with enough cash to buy the beginnings of his ranch in Harding county.

The Butte itself was one of my favorite places to hike as a kid, well before it became a State Park with a parking lot, maintained trails, and overlook platforms. I remained blissfully ignorant of the spiritual import of this volcanic laccolith up until the early 1970s, when I started encountering prayer flags attached to the scattered ponderosa pine, with rocks wedged into forks of tree limbs. Many of these trees had grown over and around rocks placed in crooks of branches many years before. It wasn’t by coincidence that the appearance of new prayer flags coincided with the emergence of AIM and a resurgence of Native American religious practices.

The spiritual significance of Bear Butte is not surprising. You can’t help but feel like you’ve been elevated into some part of the heavens. The view from the top is stunning. The sweep of the Black Hills lies to the south, with the town of Sturgis in a fold of nearby encircling hogback ridges.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Sturgis itself was an unremarkable town when I was growing up, a typical center of commerce for nearby ranchers and farmers, as well as a way station for tourists on their way to Deadwood and Rapid City. Sometime during the 1930s a bunch of locals with motorbikes thought it would be fun to get together to race their bikes and have a big party, although the event didn’t begin to attract anyone other than locals until after the mid-1960s. Even during the early 1970s, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally wasn’t much more than a distant literal and figurative rumbling for people such as us, sequestered along a back road in the Black Hills.

But that rapidly changed. By the late 1970s the Nemo Road had been discovered by the bikers. By the 1990s an unending stream of motorcycle packs roared through meadows that had been previously graced by solitude during late July and early August. Even back in the 70s, I was mystified and even a bit horrified by the ethos of noise, intrusiveness, and even lawlessness that seemed to possess the ever-larger throngs of people who relished displays of black leather and death’s heads. From the 1990s on, the population of South Dakota nearly doubled during the weeks when people from all over the U.S. and even the world descended on Sturgis to celebrate what seemed to be a collective rebellion against the norms of civilized society.

Notably, almost all the bikers are white. Most of them are male. Many are respectable businessmen in the life they leave behind while acting out their adolescent fantasies in Sturgis.

The Standing Rock Protests

This backdrop of personal history was subsumed for decades by the immediacy of a life focused on work, family, and relationship unfolding hundreds of miles away from the Black Hills. But the protests during 2016 and 2017 on Standing Rock Indian Reservation, roughly 30 miles north of the North Dakota-South Dakota border and the adjacent Cheyenne River Reservation, threw my earlier life experiences into sharp relief.

The protests erupted when Native Americans organized to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, which was being constructed to transport crude oil extracted by fracking from North Dakota’s Bakken oil field south to refineries in Oklahoma and Texas. DAPL was charted to cross sacred burial sites and thence the Missouri River, all within the boundaries of Standing Rock Reservation. Intrusion of the pipeline into the Missouri River raised the specter of a rupture that was almost certain to happen. And, as if cause for concern needed proof, a recently constructed upstream part of the Pipeline ruptured during the protests—fortunately on more-or-less dry land.

The protests drew Indigenous Peoples from throughout North America, indeed from around the world. Even more striking, people of European descent thronged to impromptu campsites in support of the protests—my wife and youngest son among them. The issues of fossil fuels, pollution, corporate greed, Indigenous rights, and legacies of dispossession and genocide clearly struck a powerful symbolic chord.

But what was every bit as attention-getting was the massive militarized response of almost wholly white police and politicians, not only in North Dakota, but in adjacent states as well. The response was in fact tedious, in the sense that we saw yet again the brutal tactics perfected by white Southerners during the Reconstruction and Civil Rights era to violently suppress protests by African-Americans, complete with attack dogs, water cannons, and tear gas. One can only assume that the whites who were meting out violence saw the protests as some sort of mortal threat to the greater public good. Maybe.

The Sturgis COVID Paradox

Bear Butte. Photo: David Mattson.

Fast forward three years to August 2020 and the defiant arrival of 10s of thousands of bikers in Sturgis to participate in a Rally that was officially discouraged yet tacitly encouraged by politicians and business-owners of South Dakota and the Black Hills region. After all, it was money in the pocket.

It perhaps goes without saying that bikers were encouraged to stay away, albeit reluctantly, even peevishly, because of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the Rally 170,000 people were known to have died from COVID-19 in the United States, although the death toll may have been 50% higher. As I write this, public health officials estimate that perhaps 300,000-500,000 Americans will eventually die from the pandemic, with more continuing to die after the disease becomes endemic.

At best, losses to COVID-19 as of August 2020 were twice the number of American fatalities during the Vietnam and Korean Wars combined and, at worst, nearly as many as died during the entirety of World War II. Without belaboring the point, the casualties from any one of these wars—certainly World War II—were considered horrific and, during World War II, sufficient to justify dropping atomic bombs rather than endure the additional casualties that would have resulted from an invasion of the Japanese home islands.

You would think that politicians and public officials of all stripes and persuasions would consider the COVID-19 pandemic to be a mortal crisis and related acute threat to the body politic. You would think that they would respond to large public gatherings under conditions guaranteed to disseminate and accelerate the spread of the disease with strong proclamations, if not overwhelming force, and with clear connections to threats posed by the pandemic. You would think that anyone who had been paying attention to the evidence accumulated by public health officials since March, even January, of this year would take extraordinary precautions, or avoid such gatherings altogether…like the plague.

But I saw no evidence of this with the 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Unlike recent Black Lives Matter protests, attendees flaunted their disregard for basic precautions. Official communications were ambiguous at best. The response of law officers was, as has always been the case, tantamount to gentle admonitions with an occasional slap on the wrist…in the midst of drunken brawls, trafficking of drugs, and other transgressions of law. Certainly a stark contrast to the authoritative response to the Standing Rock protests.

Cultural and Community Motifs

All this raise questions. What is the Sturgis rally about culturally and socially, especially given our current racially and politically charged times? What does this phenomenon mean, not only to those who attend, but also to those who craft authoritative sanctions and permissions? And what do the answers to these questions mean when juxtaposed with the Standing Rock protests?

Often the reflexive response to questions such as these is that one shouldn’t paint with too broad a brush. People are complex. Amalgams of people have varied motivations. All these cautions are certainly worthy considerations.

Yet, modalities matter, as do organizing motifs and symbols. People invariably adopt identities and engage in specific activities to signal important messages to themselves and others, all of which happens in the context of communities and cultures that shape the symbols used for messaging. But, importantly, some signals are highly problematic for those of us who care about fostering an expansive commonwealth in which as many people as possible live a life of dignity and fulfilment.

What are people saying by riding loud motorcycles with the symbolic loading of Harley Davidson—unlike, perhaps, the even more reliable, smoother-riding, equally large, and much quieter Honda Glide (which actually do show up at the Rally)? What are people saying by attending a super-spreader event in defiance of even the most basic precautions for preventing the spread of COVID-19? What are people saying by belonging to a community that is almost exclusively white, largely male, and disproportionately populated by men sporting culturally provocative tattoos? What are people saying by attending an event that has been likened to a massive Trump rally?

These are questions that deserve answers.

At face value, all the answers to these questions suggest a protest of some sort against something—necessarily in context of social and demographic change. The derivative question is against what and with what agenda for American society?

The Sturgis Motif

The key symbols and signifying behaviors of Sturgis’s motorcycle rally are glaringly obvious to anyone who takes a few minutes to look at photos from the event. And it doesn’t take too much digging to uncover its mythic and cultural roots.

Although motorcycles of all sorts are a centerpiece, unmuffled low-slung Harley-Davidsons are central symbols. So are displays of tattoos, bandanas, black leather, and blue denim. Increasingly, American flags are part of collective displays, accompanied since 2016 by a veritable cornucopia of knick-knacks celebrating Donald Trump—bobble-head dolls, bumper stickers, flags, hats, ad nauseum. As important, white beefy males are an inescapable, even defining, feature of the Rally’s human landscape. All this, perhaps barring outbreaks of patriotism and support for Trump, bears an uncanny resemble to gatherings of Hell’s Angels, Bandidos, Pagans, and Outlaws dating back decades.

Symbolic mirroring of symbols perfected by outlaw motorcycle clubs is clearly no accident. The meaning of these symbols is also no mystery. Hunter S. Thompson probably best plumbed the deeps of this meaning in his ground-breaking 1967 book entitled “Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.” Hollywood explored and even helped to define this subculture through characters such as Marlon Brando’s Johnny Strabler in the “The Wild One” and James Dean’s Jim Stark in “Rebel Without a Cause.” If there is a through thread, it is one of inchoate rebellion against norms and conventions of society, closely aligned with tacit or even overt threats of violence.

The Sturgis Apologia

As a general and non-specific proposition, people come together in large gatherings for all sorts of reasons. Among the most common is the pursuit of community and communion organized around friendship and shared rituals. This motivation is almost certainly prominent for many who travel long distances to participate in the Sturgis motorcycle rally, especially among those who have been attending for years. Likewise, the role of community and communion was also certainly prominent for most who gathered at Standing Rock.

I feel confident in saying that the allure of community organized around a shared ethos is nearly universal.

But a person can find community, communion, and shared ritual in any number of ways, including by going to Church, supporting the local volunteer fire department, protesting against racial discrimination, becoming a member of Kiwanis…ad infinitum. What ultimately matters is where one chooses to find this existential solace. It matters whether one chooses to commune with people as part of Black Lives Matter protests, journey a long distance to participate in the Standing Rock protests, or jump on a motorcycle to travel to Sturgis to hang out with a bunch of white people—mostly guys—and flaunt basic public health precautions.

Likewise, I can find “decent people”—yeh, “the salt of the earth”—in virtually any community brought together for any number of reasons. Numerous such people are undoubtedly part of the Sturgis Rally. Yet such people populated parts of the Nazi Party of Hitler’s Germany, or the Communist Party of Stalinist Russia. One of my dearest uncles was proverbially “salt of the earth,” yet he was an unredeemed racist and a devotee of conspiracy theories holding that the United Nations perpetually lurked in the wings waiting to send in blue-helmeted soldiers in black helicopters to take over the United States. “Salt of the earth” often means little more than you are benevolent to a highly circumscribed circle of people who meet certain familial, racial, and ethnic criteria beyond which all bets are off.

Or, more to the point, I find invocations of community and friendship, peppered with references to “salt of the earth people” to be disingenuous but essential features of apologias commonly fielded to excuse and explain the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, especially as manifest during the 2020 COVID-19/Trump reelection pandemic. Basically, I don’t buy the Bull Shit, without in any way intending to honor Donald Trump’s pretentious campaign slogan.

The Standing Rock Protests Reprise

Although collective actions invariably have layered meanings for individuals, communities, and societies, the main meaning and intent of the Standing Rock protests was clearly communicated by those who were involved. The protests were against on-going violations of treaty rights, sovereignty, spiritual sensibilities, and material well-being of local Indigenous People. But these protests also manifest anger against and resistance to a history that featured the dispossession, depopulation, and destitution of Native Peoples at the hands of European colonists unambiguously intent on cultural genocide.

But other meanings accreted to this core, brought by diverse white and non-white participants. Standing Rock was also a protest against racism, bigotry, capitalism, corporate greed, police brutality, and institutionalized political corruption, all given urgency by the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Trump was then, and is even more so now, a central symbol of and advocate for all these pathologies.

The Sturgis Protests

I have no doubt that the 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was a protest of sorts. The question is against what and whom? Unlike the Standing Rock protests, the 2020 Sturgis protests were opaque, yet not all that obscure. White people sporting outlaw symbols assembled in unprotected droves despite the on-going COVID-19 pandemic to not only celebrate their allegiance to Donald Trump, but also act out the rituals of shared conspiracy theories, among which was denial of the threat posed by COVID—all under the covering rhetoric of freedom and patriotism.

More than this, though, explicit loyalty to Donald Trump as well as a shared demographic are key to understanding the Sturgis “protest.” Ample research has shown that the majority Trump followers are fueled by anger, fear, and resentment at the erosion of white power and privilege—something they share with many good citizens of South Dakota who live outside the Reservations. Moreover, Trump devotees not only often harbor resentment against educated elites, but also share an affinity for Putin-style authoritarianism and disregard for science. Call it populism if you will, although this usage sullies the populism I grew up with rooted in egalitarianism and agrarian activism.

So, leaving side the near universal pursuit of community, friendship, and shared ritual that bring people all sorts together for all sorts of reasons—common to both the Standing Rock protests and Sturgis Motorcycle Rally—what were the 2020 Sturgis Protests about?

After all these preliminaries, the answer is unambiguous. The Sturgis Protests were against liberalism, urbanity, the norms of civil society, and even evidence-based enlightenment. Perhaps even more than this, it was against the rising power of non-Caucasian people in this country, all encapsulated in the symbolism of Trump, white solidarity, and the rebellious ethos of a motorcycle gang. Even deeper yet, the Sturgis Protest was almost certainly an expression of existential angst arising from the demise of a culture centered on white working-class men with a modicum of education. Despite invocations of patriotism, the Protest was not about anything particularly virtuous or noble.

The Disproportional Response of Authorities

So, why were authoritative responses to the Standing Rock and Sturgis Protests so strikingly disproportional, especially given that by any objective standards the Sturgis Protests constituted the greater threat to public health, welfare, and overall greater good?

Again, the answer is not hard to find. The Sturgis Protests were by a bunch of white people—mostly men—expressing a politically reactionary worldview in support of maintaining white power. This demographic and worldview harmonizes not only with the South Dakota culture and politics I grew up with, but also core beliefs of most people in the region who carry guns and sport law-enforcement badges. Moreover, this protest was part of a gathering that generated a huge amount revenue for local and regional businesses. Perhaps what’s more surprising than the non-response of South Dakota authorities to the Sturgis Protests is that they didn’t play a more overtly supportive role.

By contrast, participants in the Standing Rock Protests were overwhelming Native American, non-Caucasian, or from hives of liberalism, all come together to demand the transformation of American culture and the dethroning of capitalism. And they did not generate massive amounts of revenue for local and regional businesses. This was near-perfect fuel for existential terror among local whites—who also happened to own lots of guns and have near exclusive hold on power. I can only assume that the only reason local authorities didn’t gun down Standing Rock protesters in droves—like their Southern brethren did African-Americans during Reconstruction—was a modicum of federal oversight, a frenzy of national and international media attention, and an urban-centered tidal shift in American culture.

The Waters We Swim In, the Air We Breath

It has taken me decades to translate my early-life experiences into something more than inchoate unease. With some embarrassment I confess that it wasn’t until my 60s that I was able to see, albeit vaguely, the racism that saturated the narratives I grew up with and that continue to hold sway among many descendants of Europeans in South Dakota—indeed among most of my relatives.

But I am not alone. As many have observed before, the trauma of Trump and the related violence meted out against Black Lives Matter protests has perhaps done more than anything else during recent decades to invite deeper examination of the racism and regression that still pervades our culture and institutions.

Even so, this exercise in personal and collective self-reflection is clearly challenging. I’ve been surprised at the superficial coverage of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, even by media outlets such as the New York Times. Aside from some rather trite documentation of cultural motifs and lack of health precautions, no coverage I’ve read has provided much insight into—much less acknowledgement of—the Sturgis Protests and the related non-response by authorities. Nor have I seen any recognition of the lessons contained in a seemingly obvious juxtapose of protests at Standing Rock and Sturgis. Perhaps even more striking, on-going violation of the sacred Paha Sapa by a blasphemous gathering of white men spewing noise pollution and sporting symbols of white supremacy seems to have gone unnoticed, at least outside of Indian Country.

We clearly have a long journey ahead of us.

Posted in USA, Human Rights, Politics0 Comments

Why Cuban Doctors Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize


Photograph Source: Department of Foreign Affairs – CC BY 2.0

Five years ago, I read the story of Dr. Félix Báez, a Cuban doctor who had worked in West Africa to stop the spread of Ebola. Dr. Báez was one of 165 Cuban doctors of the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade who went to Sierra Leone to fight a terrible outbreak in 2014 of a disease first detected in 1976. During his time there, Dr. Báez contracted Ebola.

The World Health Organization and the Cuban government rushed Dr. Báez to Geneva, where he was treated at the Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève. He struggled with the disease, but thanks to the superb care he received, his Ebola receded. He was flown to Cuba. At the airport in Havana, he was received by his wife Vania Ferrer and his sons Alejandro and Félix Luis as well as Health Minister Roberto Morales.

At the website Cubasí, Alejandro—a medical student—had written, “Cuba is waiting for you.” In Liberia, the other Cuban doctors also fighting Ebola cheered for Dr. Báez. A Facebook page was started called Cuba Is With Félix Báez, while on other social media forums the hashtag #FélixContigo and #FuerzaFélix went viral.

Dr. Báez recovered slowly, and then, miraculously, decided to return to West Africa to continue to fight against Ebola.

No wonder that there is an international campaign to have the Cuban doctors be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. This aspect of Cuba’s work is essential to its socialist project of international solidarity through care work.

U.S. Campaign Against the Doctors

When Dr. Báez returned to West Africa, his colleague Dr. Ronald Hernández Torres, based in Liberia, wrote on Facebook, “We are here by our decision and we will only withdraw when Ebola is not a health problem for Africa and the world.” This is an important statement, a reaction to the offensive campaign led by the United States government against Cuban internationalism.

The U.S. Congressional Research Service reported that “In June 2019, the [U.S.] State Department downgraded Cuba to Tier 3 in its 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report,” for, among other reasons, not taking “action to address forced labor in the foreign medical mission program.” This policy came alongside pressure by the U.S. government on its allies to expel the Cuban missions from their countries.

Strikingly, the UN Human Rights Council—under pressure from Washington—said it would investigate Cuban doctors. Urmila Bhoola (UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery) and Maria Grazia Giammarinaro (UN special rapporteur on trafficking in persons) wrote a letter to the Cuban government in November 2019. The letter made grand statements—such as alleging that the Cuban doctors suffered from forced labor; but there was no evidence in the letter. Even their statement of concern seemed plainly ideological rather than forensic.

In early 2020, the U.S. government intensified its attempt to delegitimize the Cuban medical mission program. On January 12, 2020, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, “We urge host countries to end contractual agreements with the Castro regime that facilitate the #humanrights abuses occurring in these programs.”

U.S. allies in Latin America, such as Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, expelled the Cuban medical missions. This would become a catastrophic decision for these countries as the COVID-19 pandemic developed across Latin America.

Human Rights Watch Channels the U.S. State Department

In July 2020, the New York-based Human Rights Watch published a document accusing the Cuban government of formulating “repressive rules for doctors working abroad.” It focuses on Resolution 168, adopted in 2010, that provides a code of conduct for Cuban doctors, including ensuring that the medical workers honor the laws of their hosts and do not exceed the remit of their mission, which is to take care of the medical needs of the population.

Human Rights Watch merely offers this resolution—and other regulations—as evidence; it accepts that it cannot prove that these regulations have ever been implemented: “Human Rights Watch has not been able to determine the extent to which Cuban health workers have broken the rules and law, or whether the Cuban government has enforced criminal or disciplinary sanctions against them.” It is stunning that a human rights organization would spend so much time with so little evidence assaulting a program that is widely recognized for bringing an improvement of living standards for people.

The organizing committee for the group Nobel Peace Prize for Cuban Doctors responded to Human Rights Watch with a stinging rebuttal. It pointed out that the HRW report said nothing about the attacks on the Cuban medical program, including the official U.S. government attempt to bribe Cuban doctors to defect to the United States and the expenditure by USAID of millions of dollars to create disinformation against the program.

Even more egregious, the HRW document misreads the evidence it does offer, including the transcript of a dialogue between the Cuban ministry of health and medical workers. The HRW report uses as factual a text by Prisoners Defenders, a Spain-based NGO led by an anti-Cuban activist; HRW does not declare the political opinions of this highly controversial source.

The HRW report reads less like a credible account by a human rights organization and more like a press release from the three Republican senators—Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rick Scott—who recently introduced a bill to scuttle Cuba’s medical mission program.

But Nevertheless, They Persist

In a study published in April 2020, the Instituto de Comunicação e Informação Científica e Tecnológica em Saúde found that Mais Médicos (More Doctors) program of the Cuban doctors in Brazil improved health indicators of the population; this program brought medical care to remote areas, often for the first time.

Alexandre Padilha of the Workers Party (PT) was a minister of health under President Dilma Rousseff and a member of the team that created the Mais Médicos program. He said that after the Cuban doctors had been ejected, there was an increase in infant mortality and increased pneumonia among the Indigenous communities where they worked; all this was catastrophic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In June 2020, President Jair Bolsonaro, who had expelled the Cuban doctors in December 2019, asked for them to start work again in Brazil; they were needed to compensate for Brazil’s catastrophic reaction to the COVID-19 virus. Even USAID money to compensate for the loss of the Cuban doctors was not sufficient; Bolsonaro wanted the Cuban doctors to stay.

Cuban Doctors to the Rescue

Cuban medical workers are risking their health to break the chain of the COVID-19 infection. Cuban scientists developed drugs—such as interferon alpha-2b—to help fight the disease. Now Cuban scientists have announced that their vaccine is in trials; this vaccine will not be treated as private property but will be shared with the peoples of the world. This is the fidelity of Cuban medical internationalism.

On August 21, Raúl Castro—the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba—spoke at an event for the 60th anniversary of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). At the meeting, Castro mentioned that 61 percent of the medical workers in the Henry Reeve Brigade were women; since the start of Cuban medical internationalism in 1960, over 400,000 medical workers have worked in more than 40 countries. These medical workers believe in the twin missions of medical care and internationalism; it is a lesson that they learned from the teachings of Che Guevara, a doctor and an internationalist.

It is a lesson that should be learned in Oslo, Norway, as they adjudicate the Nobel Peace Prize.

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