Saturday, April 26, 2014

An Open Letter To Chokwe Antar Lumumba

I know we're not connected in any personal sense, Mr. Lumumba, but writers sometimes feel compelled to wax eloquent or even intimate to and about humans they probably will never meet. I make no apology for butting into your business. I love you from a distance and I'm going to tell you why.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Albert Woodfox Speaks To The Experts

This past weekend, I visited Albert Woodfox for the umpteenth time in the last five years. All but one of the visits have been at the David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, Louisiana, five hours from where I live.  At the beginning, it was a grueling trip because I wasn't used to it and I have to go up on Saturday and come back the following day for a total of ten hours behind the wheel in one weekend. Sometimes it rains and once, it poured all the way up and all the way back.

I know I could take someone else along, but visiting somebody that's been in solitary confinement for what has now been forty-two years is emotionally draining and I don't want to have to be nicer than I really am for two solid days when I've been visiting people in prison since 1971 and every visit eats my lunch.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, R.I.P.

"There are prisons made of brick, steel and mortar. And then there are prisons without visible walls, prisons of poverty, illiteracy and racism. All too often, the people condemned to these metaphorical prisons -- poverty, racism and illiteracy -- end up doing double time. That is, they wind up in the physical prisons, as well. Our task, as reasonable, healthy, intelligent human beings, is to recognize the interconnectedness and the sameness of all these prisons, and then do something about them." ~ Rubin "Hurricane" Carter

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Trombone Shorty: "You and I (Outta This Place)"

I don't really like to post music that isn't accompanied by a kick-ass video. But I picked up this cd the other day and the second cut almost made me pull the car over so I could focus on the words.

Sometimes, when I'm trying to get through to people -- in a classroom, around a table in a restaurant, chilling with students at the library, standing around at a cocktail reception for a bunch of middle class writers and their upper class aficinados -- I look at the expressions on the faces around me and wonder how I wound up in this place. I don't mean Louisiana. I think I've figured that out. I mean this place where I seem to be speaking some language I brought with me from some former life or other planet. The troubled blankness in my listeners' eyes, the confused tilt of their heads as they try to decipher what the hell I could possibly be talking about, the wary caution of their demeanor if they happen to be Black around White people and I start doin' my thing -- I look from face to face to face and check the body language, all the time my mouth goin' a mile a minute while the oxygen leaves the room.

Then I read a post like Lindy West's or run across a film clip of a young Black woman owning her space or I hear a song like this one and I know for sure that I'm just one of millions of men and women of all body types and skin tones and nationalities and sexual orientations and religions (or lack of religion) that threaten the system by our very existence whether anybody gets us or not. Yeah.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Amnesty International: Free Albert Woodfox Now!

A billboard campaign to mark the 42-year
commemoration launched in New Orleans yesterday.

This statement was released yesterday by the Campaign to Free the Angola 3:

As we mark the 42nd year since the tragic and as yet, unsolved murder of Angola correctional officer Brent Miller, and the 42nd year since Albert Woodfox was first put in solitary for a crime he didn't commit, we are confident that it will be the last.  We remain hopeful that the 5th Circuit will finally side with justice and affirm Judge Brady's second decision to throw out Albert's conviction once and for all.  Although he will then have to petition for bail and potentially face a retrial, freedom will not be far behind.  With the civil case only months from trial, thousands of others who languish in long-term solitary could soon have the necessary legal precedent to challenge their conditions as constitutionally cruel and unusual.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Loretta Ross: On the Origin of the Term "Women of Color"

So-called "White" people (whatever "White" is perceived to be) have a tendency to discount whatever People of Color say or even People of Color themselves before they open their mouths. Listen (really listen) to Loretta Ross for just three minutes and you'll see why that practice is stupid and even, quite possibly, dangerous. This woman obviously brings great intelligence, insight, and analysis to the table. She should be at the table more often and much, much more publicly.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sharon Jones: "This Land Is Your Land"

I have no idea how I avoided hearing about Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings for so long. This woman is a musical force of nature and apparently has been for decades. Here, she uses her version of a famous Woody Guthrie song to remind us that just because White Supremacy is the ideology we've all been raised up under doesn't mean People of Color -- and many people who look like me -- don't know it's a lie, no matter how hard those with the power-to-define work to convince us otherwise.

Insofar as we're living on it, this land is your land and my land. In actual fact, the land (like the air and the oceans and the sky and all that is) belongs to all that lives. We just get to live on it, be sustained by it, and enjoy the privileged vocation of taking care of it together so it can receive, give birth to, and sustain future generations of life.

Hit it, Sharon.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Aamer Rahman's Take On "Reverse Racism"

Having trouble believing that the oppression is institutionalized? Well, let's try looking at it from a little different perspective...

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Institutionalized Oppression: the American Way?

Having taken a fresh look at institutionalized oppression by re-posting Lindy West's essay on "hipster racism" a few days ago, I'm gonna release a flurry of body punches now on some more very touchy issues related to the socially-constructed, political notion of "race." Institutionalized oppression, by the way, occurs when one group holds another group (or even more than one group) in a position of reduced status for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation means taking advantage of people because you have the power to do so and the whole point of it is the range of benefits (especially economic benefits) that result from the arrangement. In other words, White Supremacy ensures that White people as a group get the most of the best and the least of the worst in the U.S., while People of Color wind up with the most of the worst and the least of the best in that society.

Does every member of the dominating group benefit equally and in all the same ways? Not necessarily. But they all benefit. Does every member of an oppressed group suffer equally and in all the same ways? Not necessarily. But they all feel the lash (pun intended) in ways the members of the dominating group don't typically like to and don't have to acknowledge.

Why don't oppressors have to acknowledge what's going on? Because the oppression is actually embedded in the social institutions: the systems we call family, education, religion, politics, and economics. So people who call themselves "White" can ignore it and pretend that, because they don't indiscriminately use the "n-word" in public (for example), they're not part of the problem. They're good people. How could they be "racist?" And because we're all -- Black and White -- socialized on the same page, People of Color are affected in a whole series of ways by the constant barrage of physical, psychological, emotional, social, and economic reinforcements that produce results used to "prove" their inferiority. (A phenomenon sociologists call "internalized oppression" exacerbated by the widespread practice of "blaming the victim.")

The social institutions keep the ideology of White Supremacy so firmly in place, we have come to view it as "natural." So, we think that whatever White people do is well-meaning and basically positive, while whatever People of Color (and especially Black people) do is unacceptable, embarrassing, and basically negative.

You might want to read these with a little space in between. The first two are pretty intense.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Lindy West: "A Complete Guide to 'Hipster Racism'"

After two solid months of reading nothing to speak of but Facebook and "Tales of the City" by Armistead Maupin because I moved from one apartment to another -- downsizing by half -- while I was working fifty hours per week on my day job and keeping my hand in on some political organizing and some more stuff...I read this today (which I thought would knock me out and it did). There's nothing to do but re-post it here and hope nobody gets mad at me.

I considered letting it kick off a new feature under the category title of "Wish I Wrote This." But -- obviously -- I wish I wrote this because I'm re-posting it. With almost 3000 comments on Jezebel (where this appeared on 4/26/12), West doesn't need my help to put this out in the blogosphere, but I just want to make sure My Faithful Readers (who keep coming back even when I'm hiding out), get to see it. You're gonna like it. And some of us might learn something.