Trump and the GOP Fuel Fantasies of White Victimhood

A crowd of Trump supporters in Washington, D.C. (Susan Walsh / AP)

Fifty-five percent of white Americans believe there is discrimination against whites in the U.S., according to a recent NPR poll. But when asked about specific instances in which they personally experienced discrimination, less than 20 percent responded that their whiteness hurt them in job applications, pay equity and promotions and college applications. Reality does not match the perception of the poll respondents, but it does reflect an increasingly common belief—one that Donald Trump has promoted and exploited virulently—that white victimhood is a large-scale problem.

A recent email from a white listener of my radio program offers a perfect example of this type of dissonance. She complained that I focus too much on white supremacy in my news coverage and that in doing so I am “promoting the destruction of the middle class.” She went on to complain that at the McDonald’s she had visited that morning, all 12 employees were Hispanic, and not a single one Caucasian. She lamented the fact that everyone in the computer engineering department of her local university is “mostly Asian or foreign,” and that almost all of her local female leaders are Jewish or have Jewish husbands. She railed about the corporate media and banking industry being mostly run by Jews (“just a fact,” she offered almost apologetically). She also noted that while she is against allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country, she does support the Black Lives Matter movement and had voted for Barack Obama. Ultimately, she said, she isn’t seeking privilege or supremacy—she just wants a decent job to pay her bills.

Ignoring the racist themes of her email, I responded to her in the following manner:

What you are describing is what communities of color have suffered for decades while most whites remained silent because it was not impacting them. Now that the horrible state of the economy is spreading its malaise far and wide into white communities, you are feeling the terrible toll of capitalism. No one should have to suffer trying to make ends meet, trying to get a decent job with decent pay. Is your suffering the fault of people of color and Jews or is it the fault of the Donald Trumps and Hillary Clintons, and wealthy elites?

I think we are on the same side. Racism does not need to be the answer to capitalist failings. It’s too easy to scapegoat another person rather than point the finger at the wealthy people and corporations that are laughing all the way to the bank.

After digging into the listener’s background, I realized she is highly educated, with multiple degrees in technical fields. Still, like so many white Americans who are hurting financially, she blames communities of color for her struggles rather than finding common cause with them.

While this woman appeared to be critical of President Trump as well, her frustration with the state of the economy is real, and reminiscent of many voters’ reasons for supporting Trump. Indeed, her assertions about people of color appear to be informed by much of the disinformation and “fake news” that passes as fact these days and fuels Trump’s power. Trump has often promoted easily refutable lies on his Twitter account, feeding such propaganda. In November 2015, a year before his election win, he retweeted an infographic about violence in communities of color that contained not one single truth among its multiple assertions about whites, blacks and violence.

Yet this week, the president accused the press of publishing false stories, citing a Politico poll that found nearly half of all Americans think the media fabricate news about him. (Incidentally, Trump has railed against Politico several times in the past but had no problem promoting the results of its poll.)

Evidence and polls do not seem to alter the perceptions of some white Americans who consider their personal experiences indicative of the norm. This comes as no surprise, given the propaganda being flung around by conservative activists and politicians who want to assure white Americans that their racial resentment is valid, despite evidence to the contrary. Just last week, on his Twitter feed, Trump erroneously attributed Britain’s 13 percent rise in overall crime to “radical Islamic terror,” while staying silent on horrific gun violence in the United States. Sebastian Gorka, who briefly served as a White House adviser, said on a television panel Monday that “our big issue is black African gun crime against black Africans. … Black young men are murdering each other by the bushel.” Setting aside the casual and ignorant racism of the term “black Africans,” Gorka cited the standard right-wing, pro-gun trope about “black-on-black” violence that reinforces racist stereotypes.

Even the government’s specific actions serve to justify the fantasy that people of color are perpetrators and whites are victims: The FBI under Trump is focusing on “black identity extremist” organizations, which experts say is “fiction.”

News headlines are rife with instances of violence that dispute these racist stereotypes. Take one recent example: A white man’s mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, which led to nearly 60 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Or the lynching threat made against Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson after she boldly stood up to Trump and chief of staff John Kelly. There are many other recent examples of violence and threats of violence in our country, and there also are plenty of studies offering irrefutable evidence of systematic racism (a topic I covered in an earlier column).

Author Joan Williams identifies the phenomenon represented by the listener who emailed me, saying in a recent interview with The Washington Post, “White people who are not privileged feel belittled. They feel stereotyped. They feel openly ridiculed and they are really, really angry because of what elite white people are doing to them. … Now, because of this poisonous dynamic among white people, guess who’s paying the price?”

Others have summarized this idea in slightly different ways, but it is important to articulate: To those who have been used to privilege all their lives, equality may feel like oppression. The challenge facing progressive whites and people of color is to identify the mistaken assumptions about who the perpetrators of social and economic violence actually are, and address these perpetrators head on. Along with growing anti-fascist movements nationwide, we need to articulate and promote a vision of economic justice that will benefit the majority of struggling Americans. We need to simultaneously underscore that people of color are here to stay and that wishing them away will not solve anyone’s economic problems. If we don’t meet this challenge, we will find ourselves in the midst of a race war that obscures the class war the rich are waging against us all.

Sonali Kolhatkar
Columnist
Sonali Kolhatkar is a columnist for Truthdig. She also is the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV (Dish Network, DirecTV,…

7 things to know about the mindset of the neo-Nazis

The era of the loud and proud white racist is upon us.

7 things to know about the mindset of the neo-Nazis

(Credit: Getty/Chet Strange/Salon)

AlterNet

The neo-Nazis with whom Donald Trump openly sympathizes fit a psychological profile for the most part, according to two psychologists who just released a survey on the subject. Patrick Forscher and Nour Kteily, researchers from the University of Arkansas and Northwestern University respectively, compiled their findings into a working paper titled “A Psychological Profile of the Alt-Right.” To arrive at their conclusions, they polled 447 neo-Nazis who self-identify as members of the “alt-right,” and compared their answers with 382 non-group affiliated survey subjects.

Writing at Vox, Brian Resnick highlights Forscher and Kteily’s most salient conclusions. The two researchers found that much of what seems obvious about the neo-Nazis of the alt-right — their racist outlook, their dehumanization of others — holds true when members are questioned about their beliefs. Especially because the respondents were so forthcoming, as Resnick notes. The era of the loud and proud white racist is upon us, from Charlottesville to the White House.

Forscher and Kteily also found a slight schism among the self-identified alt-right respondents, with some skewing more extremist than others. They labeled the less extreme alt-right members “populists,” while more extreme members were clustered into a subgroup they called “supremacists.” They note that the difference might be a matter of indoctrination level. “It is possible, for example, that the clusters represent two stages in a developmental trajectory of alt-right identification, with people starting in the populist cluster and then moving into the supremacist cluster as they acquire more alt-right friends — a possibility consistent with our finding that those in the supremacist cluster were relatively ideologically embedded among fellow alt-righters. Becoming more embedded within alt-right social networks may further motivate people to express prejudice, both for value-based and normative reasons, causing more dehumanization and aggression.”

Forscher and Kteily hope that examining the thinking of alt-righties may contribute to changing their beliefs. “If we can change the motivation to express prejudice,” they suggested to Resnick, “maybe that gives us a way to prevent aggression.”

Here are seven things to know about the mindset of the alt-right.

1. They’re not lone wolves.

Every time some white guy gets into major trouble, especially if it involves violence against others, someone brings up how quiet he was, what an unassuming loner he seemed to be. We’ve seen this a bunch of times before, from Dylann Roof to Adam Lanza, and now in the case of James Alex Field Jr., who viciously killed Heather Heyer with his car on Saturday. The New York Times cited sources who alternately described Field as a “very quiet little boy” who “had some trouble in school making friends” and “kept to himself a lot.” No one describes him as “no angel” — that kind of talk is reserved for unarmed black kids who are killed by cops — but it should be implied by the crime.

In any case, this inherently sympathetic idea doesn’t hold up here. The researchers write that “compared to the non-alt-right sample, the alt-right reported relatively similar levels of closeness . . . to their friends.” Sure, that doesn’t discount the idea that maybe some of these guys are archetypal loners who found community in the alt-right. But that never seems to engender much sympathy for gang members when they commit crimes, so not sure there’s much difference here.

2. It’s not the economy, stupid.

Producing articles about the economic anxiety that plagues Trump’s base has become a virtual cottage industry at certain media outlets. (I see you, New York Times.) That’s a good way of ginning up sympathy for Trump’s most fervent supporters — including the alt-right — but a bad way of getting to the truth of what truly motivates them. The short answer to that question is, racism and bigotry.

Forscher and Kteily had alt-right respondents “assess each of their personal economic” situations and “rate whether they expected their personal and the national economic situations to get worse or improve.” Not only did respondents not report any uniquely high worries about the economy, researchers write that “the alt-right expected more improvement in the state of the economy relative to the non-alt-right sample.”

3. They think other groups are less human.

Unsurprisingly, alt-right adherents saw other racial and religious groups as less human and evolved than white people, who were rated, of course, as the most fully human of all.

Using a scale of 1 to 100, respondents rated white people’s humanity at 91.8, Jews at 73.09, Mexicans at 67.75, black people at 64.72, Arabs at 58.77, and Muslims at 55.4. The respondents scored men’s humanness at 88.47 and women’s at 83.12, while feminists’ humanity ranked far below at 57.22. Weirdly, at the very bottom of the list was Hillary Clinton, whose humanity they placed at 54.83.

Dehumanization is at the heart of every campaign of genocide and system of oppression. Dehumanization yields a justice system that criminalizes, over-polices and over-incarcerates entire groups, which is horrifying enough. When you continue the trend of describing people as not fully human, it becomes a lot easier to put them in gas chambers and internment camps; render them as chattel property; or kill off the native people of countries you’ve colonized.

4. They’re pretty open about their anti-black racism.

Vox notes that alt-righties co-signed statements including “I avoid interactions with black people,” “My beliefs motivate me to express negative feelings about black people,” and, “I minimize my contact with black people.” The outlet goes on to note:

Forscher explains it like this. When he runs these questions on samples of college students, he usually sees average scores around 2 (out of 9, meaning people largely don’t agree with these questions). “In the alt-right samples, I’m seeing numbers around 3 or 4, relatively close to the midpoint. In all the samples I’ve worked with, I haven’t seen means at that level.” In other words, members of the alt-right are unabashed in declaring their prejudices.

Why would you worry about expressing your prejudices when they’re shared with people like the president? No wonder they’ve taken off the sheets and masks.

5. They score highly in ‘dark triad’ traits.

The alt-right grew out of trollism, a culture that festered and grew in the bowels of 4chan and Reddit. Studies of trolls have found they score highly in “dark triad” personality traits, a trio that includes narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Turns out that the apple doesn’t far fall from the rotting tree. Alt-right adherents have higher than normal levels of these traits. Forscher and Kteily emphasize that these personality traits are “associated with callous, manipulative behavior.”

6. They are unashamedly aggressive.

Researchers looked into “the self-reported frequency of online and offline name-calling, physical threats, harassment, and making statements because others find them offensive” as well as doxxing “and sharing memes intended to offend others.” Alt-right respondents were much more likely to report engaging in those behaviors than non-members of the alt-right. Those who researchers identified as supremacists were most likely to admit having perpetrated those acts.

7. They believe in collective action for whites, and no one else.

An actual majority of white Americans believes anti-black racism is over, and a significant number believe whites experience more racism than blacks. So it’s not that surprising that members of the overwhelmingly white alt-right think like most of their white American counterparts. Guess that makes that thinking not so “fringe,” huh? These are the beliefs, by and large, of many white Americans.

Where alt-righties scored higher than other people is in their support for “collective action on behalf of white people.” In large part, they agreed with the statement, “I think there are good reasons to have organizations that look out for the interests of whites.” There’s a circularity here that seems self-evident: if you see yourself as a victim of some imaginary multicultural takeover and think groups that are focused on white power — like the alt-right or the Trump coalition — are doing the right thing, you’re likely to join those groups. The more indoctrinated you are as a member of those groups, the more likely you are to believe in their necessity, however much observable reality and peer-reviewed studies prove that thinking wrong.

For the record, despite the alt-right’s insistence that everyone should be proud and fight for their own rights, alt-right members were less keen on the idea in practice. They were particularly likely to register opposition to Black Lives Matter, and to agree with the statement, “I think [BLM] has been very harmful to our country.” (BLM has been bad for the U.S., by this logic, but the Klan hasn’t. Absolutely stunning how these people will twist rational thought to fit an agenda.) It’s worth noting that both the alt-right populists and white supremacists gave high levels of support to these ideas.

http://www.salon.com/2017/08/17/7-things-to-know-about-the-mindset-of-the-neo-nazis_partner/

The Police State Trump Is Building Is Far More Destructive to American Democracy Than Any Collusion with Russia

NEWS & POLITICS
Three years after Ferguson, the administration seeks to militarize policing even more. It’s a dangerous path.

Photo Credit: Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock

Three years ago next week, Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed a young man named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. That shooting sparked nationwide unrest and a national discussion of “use of force” doctrine and the militarization of the police. Those had been subjects of concern among civil libertarians for some time as more and more departments around the country developed policing models based upon the rules of engagement in war zones.

War in Afghanistan and Iraq for more than 15 years has produced a surplus of military gear that ends up being sold to local law enforcement agencies, along with a culture of “us against them” that’s created a sense of siege in too many communities of color. Although this has been a gradual change, the sight of all that combat-style weaponry rolling down the streets of the middle American suburb of Ferguson came as a shock to a lot of people.

The Black Lives Matter movement, which grew out of the Trayvon Williams shooting in 2013, gained momentum after Ferguson, as did various organizations working on policing reform. Awareness seemed to be growing that the drug war had become a real war. As the ACLU report, “The War Comes Home” stated:

All across the country, heavily armed SWAT teams are raiding people’s homes in the middle of the night, often just to search for drugs. It should enrage us that people have needlessly died during these raids, that pets have been shot, and that homes have been ravaged.

Our neighborhoods are not warzones, and police officers should not be treating us like wartime enemies. Any yet, every year, billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment flows from the federal government to state and local police departments. Departments use these wartime weapons in everyday policing, especially to fight the wasteful and failed drug war, which has unfairly targeted people of color.

For a brief moment it felt as if there might be the political will to put a stop to some of these excesses. But of course for every action there’s a reaction, and a backlash against Black Lives Matter and police reform grew as well. When Donald Trump came along promising to be the “law and order” president and won the election, whatever progress was being made stalled out completely.

Unfortunately, it’s not just local police forces that are militarized; national police agencies are as well. The Department of Homeland Security has the largest law enforcement agency in the country, with ICE and the Border Patrol heavily invested in tactics and strategies developed in war zones. They use all manner of military equipment, including battle-tested helicopters and weaponized drone aircraft.

Their reach is much farther into the country than most people realize. Customs and Border Protection, which includes the Border Patrol, has a huge jurisdiction that stretches 100 miles from any U.S. international border, whether on land or at sea. That means it covers the entire state of Florida and the entire state of Maine, as well as virtually every major metropolitan area. These agencies routinely use interior checkpoints far from any border for roundups of suspected undocumented immigrants and conduct various other kinds of Homeland Security investigations.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the second largest federal investigative agency in the country after the FBI, with more that 20,000 employees. Under the direction of former Marine Gen. John Kelly (now the White House chief of staff), and despite protestations that they are only going after the “bad hombres,” ICE agents have been instructed to “take off the gloves” and seize any and all undocumented immigrants that may cross their paths.

For a brief moment it felt as if there might be the political will to put a stop to some of these excesses. But of course for every action there’s a reaction, and a backlash against Black Lives Matter and police reform grew as well. When Donald Trump came along promising to be the “law and order” president and won the election, whatever progress was being made stalled out completely.

Unfortunately, it’s not just local police forces that are militarized; national police agencies are as well. The Department of Homeland Security has the largest law enforcement agency in the country, with ICE and the Border Patrol heavily invested in tactics and strategies developed in war zones. They use all manner of military equipment, including battle-tested helicopters and weaponized drone aircraft.

Their reach is much farther into the country than most people realize. Customs and Border Protection, which includes the Border Patrol, has a huge jurisdiction that stretches 100 miles from any U.S. international border, whether on land or at sea. That means it covers the entire state of Florida and the entire state of Maine, as well as virtually every major metropolitan area. These agencies routinely use interior checkpoints far from any border for roundups of suspected undocumented immigrants and conduct various other kinds of Homeland Security investigations.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the second largest federal investigative agency in the country after the FBI, with more that 20,000 employees. Under the direction of former Marine Gen. John Kelly (now the White House chief of staff), and despite protestations that they are only going after the “bad hombres,” ICE agents have been instructed to “take off the gloves” and seize any and all undocumented immigrants that may cross their paths.

“I like predictability,” the agent said. “I like being able to go into work and have faith in my senior managers and the Administration, and to know that, regardless of their political views, at the end of the day they’re going to do something that’s appropriate. I don’t feel that way anymore.”

Furthermore, the Trump administration wants to hire 15,000 more agents to throw into this chaos. According to a new report by the DHS inspector general, that would require vetting more than a million people in order to fill those jobs. Even worse, the report says that the department is so poorly run that it couldn’t come up with any decent reason to justify hiring all those new agents in the first place.

I’m not sure this will stop them from doing it. We already knew that the agency planned to lower its standards anyway. Remember, the “law and order” president promised his loyalists that “American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” He wants his police state.

Maybe Congress will finally find some backbone in its dealings with President Trump and tighten the purse strings. We can only hope so. These massive paramilitary agencies have already expanded their mission beyond any reasonable scope. They represent a threat to democracy and the rule of law, and the last thing we need is even more of them.

Note: Unless President Trump resigns or declares war I’ll be off until Aug. 16. 

Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/police-state-trump-building-far-more-destructive-american-democracy-any-collusion?akid=15939.265072.6NPoLt&rd=1&src=newsletter1080571&t=17

Trump’s Allies Are Taking Over the Media and Creating Their Own Reality

MEDIA

Is anybody paying attention?

Members of the media watch the third US presidential debate on Oct. 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

This post originally appeared at The Nation.

On July 17, the Idaho television station KBOI tweeted a story about a would-be robber who allegedly “arrives early at banks to find doors locked.” Even more confusing than the indecipherable English was the photo it ran: that of Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson being arrested at a protest in Baton Rouge (the robbery suspect was not even black). Having had the mistake called to their attention, the station apologized, although another story on KBOI’s website used the same image of Mckesson beneath the headline “Officer wounded in deadly ambush sues Black Lives Matter.”

That KBOI is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group should surprise no one who has ever paid attention to the company — a category, alas, that includes precious few people. Sinclair is a far-right media operation that until recently has flown under the radar of all but the most studious media critics. It received brief scrutiny in December, when it was revealed that Jared Kushner had struck a deal with the company to give it special access to Donald Trump in exchange for a promise to run Trump interviews across the country without commentary. These were especially important to the campaign in swing states like Ohio, where Sinclair reaches many more viewers than networks like CNN. More recently, the station made news when its vice president and director, Frederick G. Smith, whose family owns the company, made a $1,000 donation to Greg Gianforte’s House campaign the day after he assaulted Ben Jacobs of The Guardian for the crime of asking a question about Trumpcare. Now the company is poised to take over Tribune Media in a $3.9 billion deal. Add Tribune’s 42 stations to the 173 that Sinclair already owns, and you’ve got the single biggest conglomerate of TV stations in America, reaching 70 percent of all households in the nation.

Though it receives a fraction of the attention lavished on Fox News, Sinclair is, in its own way, every bit as awful. It forces its affiliates to run regular segments by a former Sinclair executive, Mark Hyman, along with those of Boris Epshteyn, who, until recently, was a “senior adviser” to Trump and is now a full-time apologist for anything and everything the president says and does. In an impressive recent segment on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver noted that Sinclair sends scripts to its local news anchors to be delivered verbatim together with the clips it wants shown. Among these are “questions” like “Did the FBI have a personal vendetta in pursuing the Russian investigation against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn?” When the Trump administration approves Sinclair’s merger — which it certainly will, despite the fact that the merger violates current rules about concentration of ownership — local television news will be further delocalized as it grows simultaneously more right-wing and Trump-friendly.

A similar fate awaits Time Inc. if it is sold to either of what are reported to be its most energetic suitors. The first of these is American Media, which, run by David Pecker, might as well be run by Trump himself. Earlier in the year, Kushner offered to kill a story about Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski’s then-secret romance in Pecker’s flagship tabloid, the National Enquirer, if the Morning Joe co-hosts would personally apologize to Trump for their critical coverage. This extraordinary collusion was only recently revealed by Scarborough and Brzezinski in The Washington Post, after our idiot president went after Brzezinski for allegedly “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” Pecker denies all this, but it is entirely consistent with the tone of the coverage that Pecker has given his friend since Trump first announced his presidential campaign. (Representative headlines: “Donald Trump — His Revenge on Hillary & Her Puppets” and “Top Secret Plan Inside: How Trump Will Win Debate!”)

It’s hard to imagine a worse combination than a terrible tabloid tied to Trump and right-wing extremism, but if you were forced to find one, it would be the billionaire father-daughter combination of Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who infamously bankrolled Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway and are the moneybags behind Breitbart News. The Mercers’ Renaissance Technologies recently snapped up nearly 2.5 million shares of Time Inc., creating speculation that they, too, were angling to buy the publisher of TIMEPeopleand Fortune, among other titles.

So on the one hand, far-right extremists with next to no commitment to traditional journalistic standards are seeking to expand their empire to the point where their version of “reality” will soon overwhelm the reporting from what remains of the mainstream media. On the other hand, those institutions — under intense financial and political pressure — are increasingly caving in to demands that they tailor their coverage to make it more consistent with the fantasy world promoted by Trump and his acolytes. CNN head Jeff Zucker, recently profiled in The New York Times Magazine as a lonely defender of truth under fire from a hostile White House, not only guided Trump’s career at NBC, he practically turned CNN over to the huckster during the campaign. In addition to all the free airtime he gave Trump, Zucker hired both the hapless Jeffrey Lord to act as Trump’s de facto on-air surrogate and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was simultaneously being paid by the campaign and enjoined by a nondisclosure agreement from telling the truth at the time of his hiring. Zucker’s defense? Lord and Lewandowski, far from informing CNN viewers regarding facts and evidence, are instead acting as “characters in a drama,” as if news programming were no different than The Sopranos.

MSNBC, meanwhile, has been on a hiring spree of right-wing hacks like Hugh Hewitt, Charlie Sykes, Greta Van Susteren (since fired) and George Will, who will join Elise Jordan, Steve Schmidt, Michael Steele, Rick Tyler, Nicolle Wallace, Scarborough and the execrable Mark Halperin on this allegedly “liberal” counterpart to Fox. Meanwhile, Fox is still Fox, despite the departures of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, among other sexual predators formerly in the station’s employ.

And yet, where are you reading about this? Who besides a British comedian with a weekly show on pay cable is raising this particular alarm? Almost no one. The frog is in the water and the heat is turned up high. But it’s not a frog; it’s the possibility of truth even entering our political discourse and determining the fate of our democracy that’s dying a slow death.

Eric Alterman is CUNY distinguished professor of English and journalism at Brooklyn College, media columnist for The Nation, a senior fellow of the Center for American Progress and the author of nine books, including When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences (2004), Kabuki Democracy: The System vs. Barack Obama (2011) and Inequality and One City: Bill de Blasio and the New York Experiment, Year One (2015). Follow him on Twitter: @Eric_Alterman.

http://billmoyers.com/story/trumps-allies-taking-media-creating-reality/

The Chicago kidnapping isn’t about Black Lives Matter. It’s about the violence faced by people with disabilities

Mindless violence and hideous cruelty against the disabled has to be condemned by all Americans whenever it occurs

Don’t let racists fool you: The Chicago kidnapping isn’t about Black Lives Matter. It’s about the violence faced by people with disabilities
(Credit: Mila May via Shutterstock/Salon)

A brutal crime in Chicago shocked the nation earlier this week after four teenagers kidnapped an 18-year-old student and tormented him over Facebook Live — punching him, kicking him, and tearing off his clothing while he screamed for help. What made the crime a front page story, however, isn’t that it was live-streamed over social media: The perpetrators — Jordan Hill, Tesfaye Cooper, Brittany Covington, and Tanishia Covington — invoked the name of the president-elect during the attack. “F**k Trump!” the assailants yelled. “F**k white people!”

Since video of the attack went viral, racists have used the footage as evidence of the scourge of black-on-white crime, a phenomenon white nationalist leaders say the media ignored.

Richard Spencer, an alt-right leader infamously referred to as the “dapper white nationalist” in a Mother Jones story published earlier this year, used the incident as a marketing tool in a series of tweets published Wednesday. “This isn’t even the first instance of terrorism against whites by anti-Trump #blacklivesmatter supporters in Chicago,” Spencer wrote, adding later in the day:

“Remember the #BLMKidnapping every time some journalist lies about my white advocacy organization and calls it a hate group.”

In the latter tweet, Spencer refers to a hashtag that trended after the attack, one that attempted to pin the violence on Black Lives Matter, the national network of advocates for racial equality. Deray McKesson, a Baltimore-based activist who has become one of the faces of the BLM movement, tweeted: “It goes without saying that the actions being branded by the far-right as the ‘BLM Kidnapping’ have nothing to do w/ the movement.”

While white nationalists use the incident to stoke fears of black people targeting innocent whites, the truth is that hate crimes against white people are relatively rare. 2012 statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigations show that of the 3,467 hate crimes reported to police that year, 66.2 percent were motivated by racial animus against black people. This is despite the fact that African-Americans make up just 13.3 percent of the U.S. population, according to 2015 statistics from the Census Bureau. Meanwhile, just 22 percent of bias attacks were anti-white.

Instead, this incident is a reminder of the violence that people with disabilities experience in everyday life. The young student, whose name has not been published in the press to protect the privacy of his family, has an intellectual disability, which means that his brain processes information differently than the rest of ours. He was a classmate of Jordan Hill, who invited him over for a “slumber party.”

People with disabilities aren’t often the targets of hate crimes. FBI data shows that just over one percent of people who suffer a bias attack have a mental or physical impairment. Instead this population, which totals over 63 million Americans, is more likely to be the victim of other types of crimes — including rape.

According to the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, 80 percent of women with a disability report being assaulted by a friend, family member, or a stranger. That also includes 30 percent of disabled men. Many of these crimes take place in their youth. The WCSAP claims that male adolescents with a hearing impairment are five times more likely than their peers to be a rape survivor. Young girls who are deaf or otherwise hard of hearing are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as girls who aren’t hearing impaired.

When dealing with police, those with disabilities often face a lot of the same struggles that non-white people do, subject to extraordinary, disproportionate harm. A 2016 report from the  Ruderman Family Foundation showed that differently abled persons make up between a third to one half of all people killed by law enforcement every year.

Robert Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old with Down syndrome, was called “Ethan” by his family. He went to see the Kathryn Bigelow film “Zero Dark Thirty,” which details the hunt and capture of Osama Bin Laden, with his caretaker on Jan. 12, 2013. After seeing the movie, Saylor decided he wanted to watch it again and went back into the theater, despite the fact that he hadn’t purchased a ticket. Although his caretaker warned police, who were called to the scene to remove him from the theater, that Saylor would “freak out” if touched, he was dragged out of the facility as he yelled for help.

“Mommy!” the young man screamed. “It hurt! Call my mom.”

Saylor, whose mother was just five minutes away from the scene of the accident, would die of asphyxiation in the struggle with police. As the young man was thrown to the floor and handcuffed, the cartilage in his throat fractured. His siblings remember Saylor as someone who looked up to law enforcement officials as role models, collecting cop badges and other police paraphernalia.

Saylor’s case, which might remind you of Eric Garner, the man suffocated by police officers as he protested that he couldn’t breathe, is one of many.

There’s Antonio Love, a deaf man who was pepper sprayed and tasered by police in the bathroom of a Dollar General in 2009 because he couldn’t hear the command by police to come of the facility. Ernest Griglen, who is diabetic, was brutally beaten by police in 2008 who thought he was driving drunk. At the time of his beating, Griglen was experiencing insulin shock. Six years later, Natasha McKenna, who was schizophrenic, was stripped naked and tasered four times in her cell because she wouldn’t come out of her cell. As she died, she protested, “You promised you wouldn’t kill me.”

In fact, many of the cases of police brutality you’ve heard about in the media intersect with disability in crucial ways. Sandra Bland, who was removed from her vehicle and tossed to the ground following a routine traffic stop in 2015, had a history of depression. The 28-year-old was later found hanged in her jail cell. Laquan McDonald, a Chicago teen whose death made national headlines after being gunned down by a white cop in 2014, had a learning disability, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

These aspects of police violence are rarely reported on, but these details are crucial and often make the difference between life and death. Garner, a Staten Island man who was selling cigarettes on the street when he was assaulted by police, was asthmatic.

As The Daily Beast’s Elizabeth Heideman reports, police do receive training on how to respond to people with disabilities, but that education is limited. Law enforcement officials are instructed to issue simple, clear commands in order to prevent difficult situations from escalating further, like “Get on the ground!” and “Drop that!” But those instructions wouldn’t have helped Love, because he wouldn’t have been able to understand them. This training needs to be expanded in a way that recognizes the unique challenges the community faces and how to handle them.

This attack isn’t about what people like Spencer want you to believe it is. White supremacists hope to use this incident to stoke the flames of racial hate, but it’s about a society that lacks compassion for people with disabilities and a nation that still doesn’t know how to address it. Too many differently abled people are assaulted, hurt, and killed every year, and their stories rarely become trending topics. It’s time to start telling them.

 

SALON

The socialist history they hide from us

Socialism was put at the center of U.S. politics by the campaign of Bernie Sanders, which confirmed again what people who protest for a living wage or stand up against police racism have been saying for years: The capitalist system isn’t working, and we need an alternative.

At this summer’s Socialism 2016 conference in Chicago, Sharon Smith and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor were the main speakers at an evening plenary session on “The Fight for a Socialist Future.” Here, we publish the speech by Sharon Smith, author of Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States and Women and Socialism: Class, Race and Capital, edited for publication, in which she talks about the hidden history of socialist organizing in the U.S. and the lessons that history holds for today. SW also featured Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s speech here.

Members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers on the picket line in 1915

Members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers on the picket line in 1915

I HAVE a message for all those naysayers who are absolutely certain that the U.S. could never go socialist because the working class is too–fill in the blank here–a) bought off; b) materialistic; c) apathetic; d) self-absorbed; e) pro-capitalist; f) consumeristic; g) reactionary; h) ignorant; or i) stupid to ever join a socialist movement.

To all those naysayers, I feel compelled to say, “We told you so.” And the supporting evidence for this statement can be summed up in two words: Sanders supporters.

Yes, the millions of youth who have flocked to Bernie Sanders and declared themselves to be socialists–that is, committed to confronting the colossal degree of inequality that capitalism produces–have proven that America could indeed go socialist if today’s younger generation has anything to say about it.

This generation–which is saddled with debt and faces living standards lower than their parents, with a future of a series of low-paying jobs–has demonstrated to all that this country, just like all others in the world, is divided into classes, in which the vast majority of people suffer because of capitalism: A system that is driven only by the insatiable quest for profits on the part of a tiny capitalist class, without the slightest regard for human need or for the workers who produce their profits.

But the young socialists of today want to fight all forms of inequality and oppression. Large majorities are against the continued oppression of women and LGBTQ people and against racism. They mobilized in large numbers in support of Black Lives Matter and against the oppression of LGBTQ people, including after the horrific murder at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando just a couple of weeks ago.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the youth of today are giving us exactly the kind of hope for the future that has been missing for quite a long time in the socialist movement. This last year is the first time in many decades that a self-described socialist presidential candidate has won mass support in this country–and that is an enormous tipping point for our side.

Having said that, I want to emphasize that we older folks also have an indispensable role to play in the fight for socialism because a socialist organization acts as the collective memory of the working class. Knowing our history allows us to gain from the experience of those who have fought before us–so we can learn from the victories as well as the defeats of the past.

Without that knowledge of history, we will find ourselves reinventing the wheel every time we begin a new struggle, repeating past mistakes and having to learn old lessons all over again, suffering unnecessary defeats instead of advancing the fight for socialism.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

KARL MARX and Frederick Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle”–meaning that class struggle on a massive scale ultimately creates the conditions for socialist revolution.

But the truth is that a ruling class offensive against the working class has been going on for 40 years now–and make no mistake, it’s a bipartisan project, with the aim of lowering working-class living standards and destroying working-class organizations. While the mainstream media tells us that it’s great progress when the Democrats and Republicans work together, exactly the opposite is true: Bipartisanship means that their side is completely united against our side, which is never good news for us.

The one-sided class war of the last 40 years means that today’s generation of young radicals knows only a lifetime of declining living standards, defeat and setback, with very few victories in between.

There has never been such an extended period of working-class retreat and defeat in the history of U.S. capitalism as what we have experienced these last 40 years–this is true. But we need to understand that, as terrible as it has been to go through it, the last 40 years is the exception rather than the rule.

Capitalism created two objectively antagonistic classes in society, the exploiters and the exploited, the capitalists and the working class. Unfortunately, many people even on the left have written off the potential of the working class to fight for socialism because it hasn’t happened in so long. This makes our history even more important to learn and understand.

The working class in this country actually has a long-standing tradition of radicalism. Anarchists, socialists and other radicals played a leading role in nearly every major strike in our history until the radical movement was destroyed by McCarthyism. During the anti-communist witch hunt in the 1950s, Communist Party members Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed just to make an example out of them, and literally thousands of radicals and union militants, from Hollywood actors to the United Auto Workers, were persecuted, prosecuted, fired from their jobs, blacklisted and sent to prison for their beliefs.

This was a conscious assault on the part of the U.S. ruling class that succeeded at physically removing the radical tradition from inside the working class. Since that time, through no fault of its own, the socialist movement has been exiled to the margins of the class that it champions. Until now, that is.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE HISTORY of the socialist movement and the class struggle in the U.S. is barely mentioned in history classes at school–not because the teachers refuse to teach it, but because their lesson plans are scripted from on high by those who have an interest in maintaining the capitalist system. They don’t want us to know about it in case it gives us any ideas about doing something similar.

In reality, the U.S. working class possesses a tradition that has, at certain key points, led the world working class in its heroism and combativity. The U.S. working class movement launched the struggle for the eight-hour workday back in the 1880s, and Chicago was the site of the very first May Day. That holiday is named after the Haymarket Martyrs and celebrated in countries all over the world every May 1. The U.S. is one of the few places where May Day is not celebrated.

The U.S. is also the home of the New York City garment workers’ struggle of 1909 involving 20,000 women workers, all of them immigrants who spoke a dozen different languages and yet managed to unite and strike against sweatshop conditions. That struggle launched the first International Women’s Day, celebrated as a socialist holiday the world over–again, seemingly, everywhere but here.

Most people don’t know it, but hundreds of thousands of working-class people built a grassroots antiwar movement against the First World War in this country–in spite of the fact that the government passed a law called the Espionage Act making it a crime to speak out against the war.

Groups of workers and poor farmers organized and passed declarations like this one by the Oklahoma Socialists society in December 1914: “If war is declared, the Socialists of Oklahoma shall refuse to enlist; but if forced to enter military service to murder fellow workers, we shall choose to die fighting the enemies of humanity in our ranks rather than to perish fighting our fellow workers.”

The U.S. is also the home of the sit-down strikes of the 1930s that built the industrial unions. This was not only the highest point of working-class struggle in U.S. history with the strike wave that built the CIO unions, but it also brought together thousands and thousands of Black and white workers, who stood shoulder to shoulder against a common enemy, on picket lines and in sit-down strikes, on demonstrations to free the Scottsboro Boys–nine young Black men put on death row in Alabama on trumped-up rape charges.

In other words, in the 1930s, thousands of white workers consciously came over to the fight against racism for the first time in U.S. history.

And far from taking a backseat to men in the class struggle during the 1930s, women workers built unions in their own right, and played a leading role in some of the most important strikes that took place.

During the Flint sit-down strike of 1937, when the mostly male workforce occupied the plant to demand a union, socialist women organized the Flint Women’s Emergency Brigade, which was far from a typical women’s auxiliary that limited itself to cooking food for the strikers. On the contrary, the women armed themselves with objects that looked remarkably like baseball bats to fight–and beat–the police and National Guard. That is the power of the class struggle when it reaches massive proportions.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE 1930s was also an era of political radicalization inside the working class. And workers who were in the forefront of the class struggle began to break with the Democratic Party–seeing through Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s posturing as the spokesman for the downtrodden, when in reality he stood solidly on the side of saving capitalism during the Great Depression.

Instead, those workers leading key industrial struggles called for a working-class party of their own. The United Auto Workers (UAW) convention of 1935 actually voted down a resolution supporting Roosevelt for president, and instead voted overwhelmingly to launch a national farm-labor party as a left-wing alternative. They only backed down after the CIO leadership threatened to take away their strike funds if they didn’t support Roosevelt.

In fact, at any given time prior to the McCarthy witch hunts, thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of working-class people belonged to a radical political party.

The Socialist Party in the early 1900s reached a membership of 120,000, and their candidate for president, the revolutionary socialist Eugene Debs, got almost a million votes when he ran for president on the Socialist Party ticket in 1912.

It has also been estimated that roughly 1 million workers passed in and out of the Communist Party in the 1930s and ’40s. The party reached 80,000 members at its height, with a membership that was 9 percent Black. And remember that this was still a time when Jim Crow segregation and lynching were the order of the day, showing the possibility for building a multiracial movement in the U.S. today.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the U.S. was the home of a wildcat strike wave that built rank-and-file workers movements like the Miners for Democracy, the Teamsters for a Decent Contract and the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, known as DRUM.

DRUM and other movements like it were significant because they were organizations of Black workers that took on not only the racism of the auto companies, but racism inside the UAW. And they drew in a sizeable number of white workers who walked out of their factories in solidarity with Black workers, in a fight explicitly against racism.

In the 1960s, not only was the U.S. the home of the women’s liberation movement and the Black Power movement that inspired people all over the world to fight against oppression, but the U.S. also gave birth to the gay liberation movement, after the Stonewall Rebellion that also touched off gay liberation movements around the world.

In more recent history, on May 1, 2006, May Day or International Workers’ Day, was celebrated on U.S. soil with mass working-class demonstrations appropriately led by immigrants, who have always played a key role in the U.S. radical working-class tradition. The movement’s most powerful slogan, “a day without immigrants,” showed that its strategy of social struggle was tied explicitly to the power of workers to withhold their labor.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WHETHER OR not you plan to hold your nose and vote for Hillary Clinton, or plan to vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party, or just abstain from the whole voting process this year, we all actually have a more important choice to make at this point.

The German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg put the choice that we face as that between “socialism or barbarism,” because we’ll either end up with one or the other.

And I’d say we’re getting pretty close to barbarism when refugees are drowning by the hundreds at a time to escape civil war, and then getting stopped and detained once they reach Europe; when UNICEF just predicted that 69 million children will die of starvation and disease by 2030, and half of these children who will die are from Sub-Saharan Africa; when prisons are teeming with poor people and people of color, and yet General Motors executives knowingly killed at least 125 people with faulty airbags then tried to cover it up–yet no one has yet suggested that any of them spend even a minute in jail.

And if you think things can’t get any worse, I guarantee you that it can. History tells us that.

But the same conditions that fuel the potential for the growth of the right also create the potential for the growth of the left. This is the only way to understand the massive support for both Donald Trump and also for Bernie Sanders.

The question is not now and never has been if but when workers in the U.S. will begin to fight back once again–and not if but when it will become possible to build a political party based on the principles of socialism.

We also need to recognize that the working class today is composed of many races, sexualities and gender identities, and is capable of propelling issues of racism and other forms of oppression to the center of the class struggle in ways that would have been unimaginable in the past.

I want to end by saying to those of us here who have survived all or part of the last 40 years: Thank you for not wavering from your belief in the power of the working class to change society. And to those of you who are new to the socialist movement, who are unjaded and full of optimism, and will undoubtedly carry on the struggle: Thank you for giving us hope for the future of all humanity.

https://socialistworker.org/2016/08/15/the-socialist-history-they-hide-from-us

THE LEFT IS UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO SUPPORT HILLARY CLINTON

hillary-clinton-banks-wall-street

Breaking the cycle of lesser evilism


The astonishing rise of Donald Trump has ratcheted the intensity of this argument to an unprecedented level. His open racism and misogyny has pushed many on the left to rally, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, behind Hillary Clinton’s campaign. We share the disgust and revulsion at Trump that so many have expressed to justify their support for Clinton, and our preference is for a Clinton victory—which at this point is highly likely. As such, socialists should campaign for whomever they want (or nobody at all) without being browbeaten, guilted, or privilege-baited.

Hillary Clinton is a staunch defender of the status quo, and will not be a friend of social movements and the left when in office. We think our time and energy is much better spent on building opposition to her administration now instead of canvassing votes for her.

In practice, campaigning for Clinton entails convincing people that she and her party will move to do a number of things—attacking the finance sector, opposing bad free trade deals,  raising the national minimum wage to $15 per hour, defending and expanding Social Security, etc.—they are not likely to do. Socialists should not undertake this work because it has the potential to undermine our efforts to build a base after the election, when all too often the promised effort to “hold the Democrats accountable” doesn’t materialize.

There is always a new threat from the right to rally against, a new opportunity to insist that maybe this election will really be different. More importantly, institutions like unions that would have the most capacity to enforce accountability pursue a self-preservation strategy that depends upon access to Democratic politicians. If forced to choose between confrontation and access, they will choose access—the same way that most of them chose Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries.

Our dissatisfaction with the old formula goes beyond this seemingly endless presidential campaign. The choice on offer this November shows just how ineffective it has been on its own terms. For decades, Republicans have moved steadily to the right while most Democrats, with the votes of a potential left-wing base safely in their pockets, have moved ever further to the neoliberal center.

As a defensive strategy focused on protecting the institutional infrastructure of the left, it has been remarkably unsuccessful. One only has to look at the labor movement for a measure of its ineffectiveness—union political spending hits a new record high each election cycle, but union membership declines and working class living standards continue to crumble.

We agree with everyone else on the left that social movements are of critical importance. Militant and dynamic movements are absolutely necessary to disrupt the political system and foster the conditions for a new resurgence of the left. To that end, we participate in and support worker organizing campaigns, Black Lives Matter, minimum wage fights, and every struggle against racial, gender, and sexual oppression.

While social movements are a necessary condition for the emergence of a new left, they are not sufficient. A new left needs a new approach to electoral politics, an approach that takes seriously the need to build independent political formations—including new left-wing and socialist parties.

The US has a rich tradition of third party challenges to the two-party system, and they were not simply motivated by a sense of ethical purity. The Liberty and Free Soil parties helped to put abolition on the nation’s agenda, and contributed to the political fissures that resulted in the most successful third party in our history—the Republicans. After the Civil War, new parties of workers, farmers, populists, and socialists put demands for change on the agenda and propelled party militants into office at all levels of government, particularly at the state and local levels. Their success inspired a backlash resulting in the passage of “reforms” aimed at getting these forces out of politics—voter registration, high thresholds for ballot access, bans on fusion voting, etc. These laws, followed by integration of the labor movement into the New Deal coalition of the 1930s, led many on the left to conclude that independent political organization was a dead end. The formula that resulted—build social movements while voting for Democrats—continues to dominate today.

Advocates of the old formula often argue that the two main parties are simply lines on a ballot, or perhaps a “field of struggle” that the left can step on to and potentially win. While these parties are more loosely organized than their counterparts around the world, they still represent recognizable teams of interest groups, donors, and elected officials. While the Democrats and the Republicans have their respective popular bases, their organizational structures and funding networks are dominated by the rich and corporations. This means that each party will, by and large, choose issues and themes that reflect those interests. When Democratic leaders have to choose between articulating the interests of union members and people of color, or those of the financial, media, and technology elites that fund their campaigns, who usually wins? One only needs to compare the needs and preferences of the vast majority with the shape of actual policy to know the answer to that question.

We reject the realignment strategy that has guided much of the left’s electoral orientation for decades. We do not, however, call for an immediate and total break from voting for or supporting any Democratic candidate. We all fervently supported Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, and recognize that he probably would have been a footnote to the campaign if he tried to run as an independent. Voting for Democratic candidates in specific state and local races can be justified in many circumstances.

But if we want to move beyond the cycle of mobilization and retreat that dominates left electoral activity in the US, we have no choice but to build our own political formations, as difficult as that will be. They will have to do what all parties do—run candidates for office, particularly in states and localities where competition between Democrats and Republicans is low. Considering the many institutional barriers to effective independent politics, they will also have to launch fights to change ballot access  laws and other measures aimed at maintaining the two-party duopoly.

Beyond that, they should also focus on building the intellectual and organizational capacities of their base between elections, and raise people’s expectations of what is possible instead of managing them downward. And perhaps most importantly, they must resist the tendency of unions and other social movement organizations to prioritize short-term interests and goals above all other concerns.

The Sanders campaign and the mini-revival of protest activity shows us that millions of people are fed up with the political order and want an alternative to it. Instead of accepting and working within the limitations of the system they despise, why not begin the hard work of offering one to them?

http://inthesetimes.com/features/dsa_clinton_left_support.html

Battle Over Dakota Access Pipeline Should Be the Most Important of the Year

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 A protester against the controversial Dakota Access pipeline project takes a stand before law enforcement officers Oct. 27 as police and other forces attempt to force activists from a camp set up in the path of pipeline construction near Cannon Ball, N.D. (Photo: James MacPherson / AP)

More than a million people around the U.S. have “checked in” via Facebook to Standing Rock Indian Reservation in Cannon Ball, N.D. While this began as an attempt to confuse Morton County Sheriff’s Department officials thought to be digitally surveilling activists, the check-ins morphed into a collective gesture of solidarity. They are also a measure of how deeply the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s fight over the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) resonates with the American public. A similar measure is apparent in how crowd-funding campaigns set up by activists have far outpaced their funding goals—one effort to raise $5,000 ended up generating more than $1 million. Americans who are unable to physically lend their support are eager to participate in some way in the struggle against the pipeline that one New York Times op-ed writer equates with the Keystone XL pipeline fight.

The DAPL conflict is symbolic of so many wrongs and is at the intersection of so many issues that it is no wonder it is shaping up to be the most important contemporary struggle in the U.S. It embodies, in particular, the historic mistreatment of Native Americans, as well as their ongoing efforts to preserve their sovereignty. It is also a matter of environmental racism, given that the pipeline is routed under the water source of a vulnerable minority. Short-term pollution from pipelines and other oil infrastructure, as well as the longer-term pollution of greenhouse gases that affect the climate, are also part of the DAPL story.

In the massive police response against protesters, we are seeing horrifying examples of police brutality and witnessing how state power protects private commercial interest and preserves corporate domination over people. This has engendered domestic solidarity from the Black Lives Matter movement, labor groups and others who consider it a common struggle, as well as international solidarity offered by oppressed communities, such as Palestinians. Many threads are coming together to weave a tapestry of struggle.

The fight to stop the DAPL is a perfect storm of issues, a convergence of ills that represents so much of what is wrong with American society that needs desperately to be fixed. A growing list of celebrities—including actors Shailene Woodley, Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth, as well as musicians Neil Young and Dave Matthews—are lending their star power to the cause and turning their fans on to it.

The fact that our elected officials are so deafeningly silent on this crucial struggle is exactly why many Americans are disillusioned by our electoral system. GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has said nothing about the pipeline project, perhaps because he has numerous business interests tied to it. But Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who ought to be a natural ally to the “water protectors,” as they refer to themselves, had to be shamed into issuing a statement. Indigenous youths from various tribes occupied her campaign office in Brooklyn, N.Y., recently to demand she take a stand against the pipeline. When she issued a statement, it was a meaningless request that “all voices should be heard and all views considered.” Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, spouted similar nonsense in a recent interview, saying, “I think she believes that stakeholders need to get together at this point. … It’s important that all voices are heard.”

Similarly, President Obama, who seems to have very little to lose by stopping the project made a vague comment about it when he was questioned at an international arena in Laos. The Obama administration simply asked Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, to consider voluntarily halting its project. The company, obviously, did not comply. However the president did suggest in an interview this week that “the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline.”

The only high-profile elected official who has taken a courageous and moral position against the DAPL is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who wrote an open letter to Obama, calling on him to “take a bold stand” against the project.

It’s not just most elected officials and candidates running for office who are silent. Mainstream corporate media outlets have only recently begun covering the protests at Standing Rock, although they began in April. In September, the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting called out TV networks for their “blackout” of the story. Even with increased media coverage, there has been little focus from traditional media outlets on police brutality against water protectors and journalists and the extreme felony charges many of them are facing.

The fact that the fight over the DAPL is heating up only days before a highly anticipated general election feeds a feeling that there are two parallel universes, one in which a very real set of issues are playing out, and the other dominated by an obsession with poll numbers and email scandals.

But the activists in North Dakota are on the right side of history. Their concerns about short-term pollution were emphasized in two recent, high-profile pipeline accidents: In Pennsylvania, a ruptured pipeline spilled 55,000 gallons of oil into the Susquehanna River when there was flooding from rain; and a gas pipeline in Alabama exploded, killing one worker and injuring five others. It is not a matter of “if” but rather “when” pipelines spill or burst.

In the same year the historic Paris climate accord is going into effect, it will be the water protectors in North Dakota who are taking actions consistent with climate justice, not the heads of state who signed the agreement.

The fight of the year in 2016 is not Trump vs. Clinton. It is Energy Transfer Partners vs. the Standing Rock Sioux. By extension, it is colonial power vs. the indigenous; corporate and state power vs. human beings; and profits vs. people and the planet.

Sonali Kolhatkar is the host and executive producer of Uprising, a daily radio program at KPFK Pacifica Radio, soon to be on Free Speech TV (click here for the campaign to televise Uprising). She is also the Director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a US-based non-profit that supports women’s rights activists in Afghanistan and co-author of “Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence.”

TruthDig

Taking the struggle forward in Columbus

Will Myers and Haley Swenson write from Ohio’s capital city on a surge of protests against police violence–and the questions about strategy now facing the movement.

Protesters speak out in the Columbus City Council room (People's Justice Project)

Protesters speak out in the Columbus City Council room (People’s Justice Project)

IN SPITE of the movement-withering heat of election season, Columbus, Ohio–the political center of a swing state–has seen an upsurge in the struggle for Black lives.

The demand for justice for Tyre King and Henry Green, two of the most recent victims of the Columbus Police Department, was at the heart of two simultaneous direct actions that upset business as usual in Ohio’s capital city on September 26.

One protest–organized by the People’s Justice Project (PJP), a nonprofit organization that is part of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative–took over a city council meeting, leading all council members to exit their own meeting.

The other demonstration, called by the Ohio State University Coalition for Black Liberation (OSU4BL), a campus-based coalition of student and alumni, stopped traffic on a major street near the OSU campus during the evening rush hour.

The two actions were some of the most confrontational and confident the city has seen in the history of Black Lives Matter organizing. They show that many people believe justice can’t wait, even during election season, and that Black Lives Matter is a movement with the power to mobilize people in unlikely places.

But for those committed to opposing police violence in Columbus, the newfound strength of the struggle has led to questions about strategy and tactics after the city’s Democratic Party machine tried to corral the movement into a non-threatening source of votes in an upcoming election for Franklin County prosecutor.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

HENRY GREEN was shot seven times on June 6 by plainclothes police officers Jason Bare and Zachary Rosen, who, according to the surviving victim, didn’t identify themselves after jumping out of an unmarked van and confronting the two.

According to police, Green drew and fired his weapon first. For months, police refused to release any details about the shooting, including how many times Green was shot, even to the victim’s mother.

The escalation of resistance to police brutality in Columbus came after 13-year-old Tyre King was shot three times on September 14 by officer Brian Mason. Mason chased King as a suspect in an armed robbery in which $10 was taken. An independent pathologist’s report concluded that it was “more likely than not” that King was shot while he was running away. According to initial police reports, King drew a BB gun that looked like a real gun.

No officers have been charged and no independent investigation is underway in either case. The only person facing criminal charges in either case is 19-year-old Demetrius Braxton, who was with Tyre King the night he was killed.

On September 19, a delegation of faith leaders delivered five demands crafted by PJP to the Columbus City Council, calling on its members to defund the police department in multiple areas:

— Discontinue the Summer Safety Initiative, a supposed anti-gang initiative, and reinvest its budget into community-based violence prevention strategies, trauma services and youth programming.

— Allocate at least half of the $300 million police and safety budget to prevention, intervention and community-controlled policing.

— Reallocate the $33.4 million bond package that the city is floating to pay for police facility improvements and substations, and use the funds instead for trauma recovery services in neighborhoods hardest hit by violence.

— Work with a task force that includes community members, experts in criminal justice reform and violence prevention, and family members of the victims of police shootings to reinvest the funds.

In addition, the delegation called for independent investigations and transparent prosecutions in the deaths of King, Green and all future victims of police.

Given the evidence that initial police reports are filled with misinformation meant to justify police actions rather than accurately inform, the call for independent investigations opens up a necessary alternative to allowing the cops’ story to stand unchallenged.

But even in cases with strong evidence of police wrongdoing, killer cops are rarely prosecuted–so the call for independent investigations is fundamentally limited.

Coupling this final demand with the call for the city council to reallocate tens of millions of dollars from police to low-income communities is an appropriate strategy in a city that dedicates one-third of its budget to police, while nearly 18 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The city’s investment in police militarization has led to disinvestment in public services that most benefit poor and Black neighborhoods.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

ONE WEEK after this initial airing of the PJP’s demands, close to 250 people filed into the next city council meeting to send their message again.

This time, the anti-police violence opponents focused on ending the “Summer Safety Initiative,” which was responsible for the presence of the plainclothes officers who shot and killed Henry Green.

As Green’s mother, Adrienne Hood, wrote in a letter to Columbus’s main newspaper, the Summer Safety Initiative “has a long history of being implemented strategically in gentrifying areas. Poor people and Black people who live in or near neighborhoods targeted for development are not only priced out of their homes, but policed out of their neighborhoods.”

But it was clear that City Council had no intention of addressing community members’ concerns. When protesters interrupted the meeting to ask City Council President Zach Klein to answer to the demand to end the Summer Safety Initiative, Klein evaded the question and threatened to have everyone escorted out.

Ignoring this threat, a group of activists approached the front of the room and unveiled a banner. Police filed in, but made no threats, and the city council members packed up and left the room. For 20 minutes, protesters controlled the council room, their chants of “No justice, no peace, no racist police!” echoing through the building.

At the same time as the city council occupation, hundreds of Ohio State University students, alumni and campus-area community members led by OSU4BL marched through campus to protest police brutality and raise awareness of King’s life and tragic death.

When the crowd reached a major intersection nearby, people entered the street and formed a large square to block traffic in all directions. They held the space for 13 minutes–one minute for each year of King’s life–in the middle of evening rush hour, despite pressure from police and racist jeers from some drivers.

The group then proceeded to march to the OSU student union, where protesters staged a 13-minute-long die-in. The protest concluded with a rally in the same space, where members of OSU4BL spoke about King and other victims of police brutality, and the importance of continuing the movement and building independent political organization.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

FACED WITH this unexpected upsurge of protest while elections for key public offices were approaching fast, Democratic Party leaders in Columbus scrambled to respond.

One week after the occupation of the council room, Zach Klein and every member of city council posed with members of PJP at a press conference on the steps of City Hall. Klein and fellow council members promised to re-evaluate the Summer Safety Initiative–and little else.

On the one hand, the city council’s embrace of PJP organizers shows the power of the direct actions the week prior. Yet there is little reason to believe there is anything behind Klein’s words except damage control and electoral ambition.

Klein, a former Republican and ex-member of the Federalist Society, is the Democratic candidate for county prosecutor, running against a Republican incumbent who has held the office for a decade and a half. The need for votes explains why he would stand with Black Lives Matter protesters.

But it’s clear that Klein and Columbus’ Democratic machine in general can’t and won’t challenge police killing Black people with impunity. After the PJP press conference with Klein, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, also a Democrat, came out against discarding the Summer Safety Initiative, showing quite clearly that even if city council members have sincere hopes of changing policy, other forces will stand in the way.

Years of effort by Columbus activists to get the city to establish a civilian review board for police misconduct haven’t resulted in any progress, even though Columbus has the second-highest rate of police shootings per capita in the country. And Democratic leaders in Columbus have a long history of covering up police brutality.

Supporting a Democrat as a progressive alternative to a Republican on the issue of police brutality is a strategic dead end–that reality is underlined by the fact that in cities with Democratic prosecutors, the police still virtually never face criminal charges for killing people.

Plus, in this coming election, a longtime anti-racist activist in Columbus, Bob Fitrakis, is also running for county prosecutor as a Green Party candidate and with an explicit Black Lives Matter agenda. Unlike Klein, Fitrakis has promised to appoint independent prosecutors in cases of police shootings; to stop jailing individuals for drug-related crimes and provide treatment instead; and ultimately to jail killer cops.

After the friendly press conference with PJP organizers and city council members, a crowd of about 150 marched to the current Republican prosecutor’s office and protested outside–a further symbol of a shift away from the direction of the protest one week earlier that shut down a city council meeting.

PJP organizer Tammy Fournier-Alsaada promised the crowd that activists would not continue to work with the city council if they felt it wasn’t serious about meeting activists’ demands for a changed Summer Safety Initiative.

Meanwhile, other forces in the city have continued meeting to discuss next steps for grassroots organizing in Columbus–with many activists determined to keep the pressure on Columbus officials and ensure that the Democrats’ political ambitions don’t crush the momentum and potential they’ve seen in the past weeks.

https://socialistworker.org/2016/10/12/taking-the-struggle-forward-in-columbus

Black Lives Matter Founder on Charlotte: We Need ‘Police-Free Communities’

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BY ANDREW WHITE

Editorial intern at Complex. Sharing life’s narratives from a passionate perspective for Complex Life.

SEP 23, 2016

Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images

Three days after the new broke that Keith Scott was killed by a police officer in Charlotte, Alicia Garza, one of three founders of the Black Lives Matter organization, says she hasn’t watched videos of the incident that have made the rounds through media and fueled intense protests.

“I’ve chosen not to,” Garza told Complex in an exclusive interview. “I think we know what it looks like when somebody is murdered.”

Instead, Garza says she’s has been paying attention to the protests that began Tuesday evening. Those protests turned violent Wednesday with the fatal shooting of one protester by another civilian. Despite the previous night’s shooting, protesters were back out Thursday and continued to demand justice for Scott.

Garza says, with so much media focus on the violent elements of the protests in Charlotte, many have lost sight on the injustice that sparked them.

“The thing that people get so concerned about is how do we stop the violence in Charlotte, but yet we’re not thinking about the fact that there’s been violence in Charlotte since way before whatever is happening there has happened,” Garza says. “The brother who was killed is a form of state violence. He was killed and the police will not release the video. The police are not taking accountability for the violence that they enact in our communities and yet there isn’t as much outrage about that as there is about some broken windows and lost property.”

According to Garza, those who are concerned with violent protests in Charlotte should focus instead on the conditions that create them. Indeed, studies find that not only is the city of Charlotte intensely segregated by race and income but as of 2014, 70 of Charlotte’s 79 high-poverty tracts were majority non-white. In fact, the median income for white families in the city is 86 percent higher than for black and Latino ones.

“How do we stop violence, looting, and riots? The way that we stop that is by making sure that people have the things that they need to thrive,” Garza says. “When people are systematically denied their right to adequate housing, adequate schools, to adequate food, to dignity—this is a response and a reaction that we should absolutely expect.”

Garza also proposes an unconventional solution to brutality by law enforcement in Charlotte and around the country: “police-free communities.”

“Ultimately, policing in and of itself is problematic,” Garza says. “I know that in this country we give a lot of veneration to police. In the ethos of this country, police can do no wrong. And if and when police do wrong, it’s a case of individual bad apples, as opposed to a corroded and corrupt system… Quite frankly, many of our [Black Lives Matter] members are continuing to investigate what it would mean to have police-free communities. I think what we’ve continued to see over time is that no moral appeal is actually stopping the deaths of black people, whether they be armed or unarmed.”

Finally, Garza told Complex that in the midst of so much attention paid to cases of black men killed by police, it’s important that those interested in the movement for black lives not lose sight of the black women who’ve also lost their lives to violence, like Korryn Gaines in Baltimore and Kayla Moore in Berkley.

“This is a perfect moment for us to have each other’s backs,” Garza says, “to call out the names of people who have been killed like the brother who was killed in Charlotte and the brother who was killed in Tulsa, but to also remember that this isn’t just a problem impacting black men, but it’s a problem that is impacting black people. For us to advance on this front, we have to bring everyone along with us.”

Complex