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CI: Torture and the Lie: “That’s Not Who We Are”

December 17, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

 

CI: Torture and the Lie: “That’s Not Who We Are”

by Kay Whitlock

“That’s not who we are.”

The phrase is repeated endlessly, like a mantra, in the wake of the release of the redacted 525-page executive summary of the post- 9/11 “torture report” – the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program [PDF].  Even President Obama uttered it.

It’s a reassuring phrase that seeks to (ever so) briefly acknowledge some expression of sadistic violence inflicted by powerful people on vulnerable others that somehow, inconveniently,  enters public awareness. At the same time, it asserts this violence is an aberration, a temporary departure from American values of goodness, freedom, and democracy. Others take refuge in the idea that recent torture revelations are evidence that a once moral nation has “lost its way.”

More accurate phrases would be: “That’s not how we want to see ourselves,” or “That’s not who we wish we were.” Or even just “Blame somebody, anybody else, except me/us.”

But torture is who “we” are as a society, whether we want to believe it or not.  It is not a case of unintentionally wandering astray, off some unambiguously moral and ethical path so designated by unambiguously good people. No amount of denial or distancing from that terrible and painful truth can change the reality that torture isn’t – and never was – primarily the province of evil others – “extremists,” psychopaths, crazed loners and misfits, depraved criminals, terrorists, and a handful of “bad apples.”  The real culprits are much closer to home; often, they look, uncomfortably, just like you and me.

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Revelations: His Eye Is On The Sparrow…

December 14, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Police Brutality, Police State

John Lennon (10/9/40 – 12/8/80) ☮ ☮ ☮

December 08, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

“He Was a Holy Fool” ~ UK Guardian

 

The Death and Life of John Lennon, by Pete Hamill

New York Magazine, December 20, 1980

“The news arrived like fragment of some forgotten ritual. First a flash on television, interrupting the tail end of a football game. Then the telephones ringing, back and forth across the city, and then another bulletin, with more details, and then more phone calls from around the country, from friends, from kids with stunned voices, and then the dials being flipped from channel to channel while WINS played on the radio. And yes: It was true. Yes: Somebody had murdered John Lennon.

And because it was John Lennon, and because it was a man with a gun, we fell back into the ritual. If you were there for the sixties, the ritual was part of your life. You went through it for John F. Kennedy and for Martin Luther King, for Malcolm X and for Robert Kennedy. The earth shook, and then grief was slowly handled by plunging into newspapers and television shows. We knew there would be days of cliché-ridden expressions of shock from the politicians; tearful shots of mourning crowds; obscene invasions of the privacy of The Widow; calls for gun control; apocalyptic declarations about the sickness of America; and then, finally, the orgy over, everybody would go on with their lives.

Except . . . this time there was a difference. Somebody murdered John Lennon. Not a politician. Not a man whose abstract ideas could send people to wars, or bring them home; not someone who could marshal millions of human beings in the name of justice; not some actor on the stage of history. This time, someone had crawled out of a dark place, lifted a gun, and killed an artist. This was something new. The ritual was the same, the liturgy as stale as ever, but the object of attack was a man who had made art. This time the ruined body belonged to someone who had made us laugh, who had taught young people how to feel, who had helped change and shape an entire generation, from inside out. This time someone had murdered a song. “

black line Capture

CI: The Power of Symbolic Protest in Sports

December 03, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, What People are Doing to Change the World

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

 
 

CI: The Power of Symbolic Protest in Sports
complied by nancy a heitzeg and Kay Whitlock

 

A Brief History Of Racial Protest In Sports, npr codeswitch

“On Sunday, five St. Louis Rams players jogged onto the field with their arms raised by their heads, a stream of fog behind them: hands up, don’t shoot.

The players — Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Stedman Bailey — were invoking the gesture that’s been widely used in protesting the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson…

“No matter what happened on that day, no matter how the whole situation went down, there has to be a change,” said Cook, a tight end for the Rams.”

1968:The Black Power Salute

Forty Million Dollar Slaves, William C. Rhoden

Requiem for a Lightweight

The Trials of Mohammad Ali, Independent Lens

“Sports recapitulates the most serious and deeply-rooted cultural social values in every society,” Edwards said…

“These are not tragedies. Mike Brown was not a tragedy. It was part of a pattern. Since Michael Brown was shot, there have been 14 young unarmed African-American men shot across this country,” Edwards said. “And this is what these athletes are saying, and I’m so proud of them I don’t know what to do.”

 

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Revelations: “Today’s art has been cancelled due to police activity”

November 30, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, What People are Doing to Change the World

banksybanksy1

CI: In the Long Shadow…

November 26, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

 

In the Long Shadow…
by nancy a heitzeg

This is a version of a piece that will appear soon in the Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy. It will be featured in an issue devoted to a discussion of the impact, 50 years later, of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At a related conference last Spring, there was some celebration  with regard to how far we had ostensibly come and the alleged “successes” of the law. But how can we say so in the short shadow of Ferguson/Everywhere, under still the long shadow of slavery, called by any of its’ newer names?

And so, here this is –  in the aftermath of the expected non-indictment, on the eve of that thankful celebration of settler colonialism – a look at the legal contours that still shape the terrain.  And perhaps, a thought of what is required then for change.

ON THE OCCASION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964: PERSISTENT WHITE SUPREMACY, RELENTLESS ANTI-BLACKNESS, AND THE LIMITS OF THE LAW [1]

PART I INTRODUCTION

         White supremacy – once writ large in the law via slavery and Jim Crow segregation – was removed from its’ legalized pedestal with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and finally, The Fair Housing Act of 1968.[2] The law became “race-neutral” and it now suddenly was illegal to discriminate on the basis on race – in housing, employment, public accommodations and access to the franchise. It was hoped that this legislation would finally bring to fruition the long overdue promise of the Civil War Amendments, long subverted via both legislation and judicial interpretation.[3]

These strokes of the pen, of course, could not remove bigotry long steeped in racist archetypes; nor could this legislation remove the structural barriers of nearly 400 years of white racial preference and cumulative advantage in the accumulation of wealth and property, access to education and housing, health and well-being, and all matter of social opportunities.[4] Racism, as both white supremacist/anti-Black [5] ideology and institutionalized arrangement, remains merely transformed with its’ systemic foundations intact. Segregation in housing and education persists at levels beyond that noted in Brown v. Board of Education, racial wealth gaps grow, and racial disparities in criminal injustice proliferate at a pace that has led to the label “The New Jim Crow”. [6]

Detail from Silouette by Kara Walker

Detail from Silouette by Kara Walker

In tragic irony, the Civil Rights Act’s requirement of race-neutrality has perhaps ushered in an era of more insidious de facto discrimination, that is now denied through “:color-blind” rhetoric. A large body of research documents the paradigmatic shift from overt essentialist racism to color-blindness.[7] This style of racism relies heavily on ideological frames and linguistic shifts which allow whites to assert they “do not see race”, deny structural racism, claim a level playing field that in fact now victimizes them with “reverse discrimination” and appeals to the “race card”, and argue that any discussion of race/racism is on fact racist and only serves to foment divisions rather than reflect/redress societal realities. “Color-blind racism” also creates a set of code terms that implicitly indict people of color without ever mentioning race.[8]

In the Post -Civil Rights Era, the color-blind paradigm has become deeply ensconced in law and politics. Continued movement towards “race-neutrality” is the hallmark of a series of Supreme Court decisions that deny the role of institutionalized racism and increasingly limit the role of race in constitutional remedies for inequality in matters of affirmative action and educational access, voting rights, and all matters of criminal injustice. [9]Criminal justice – as it did post- Reconstruction – continues to play a central role in the continued subjugation of Blacks in particular and will serve as the central example of both past and current patterns of discrimination.

On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, questions again must be raised about its’ ultimate impact on racial justice. While this legislation made a substantial contribution to effectively dislodging white supremacy from overt expression in the law, the call instead to race-neutrality left anti-blackness unchallenged. The result, buttressed by judicial interpretations that further limit the consideration of race and the proliferation of color-blind rhetoric throughout popular and political discourse, has resulted in a situation of continued subjugation, particularly through the criminal justice system. One must ask – given Constitutional history, Supreme Court rulings that grind at a snail’s pace from the legitimation of slavery and exclusion to segregation to no consideration, and legislative lethargy – what are the pathways towards racial redress and equal protection of the law?

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Revelations: Transgender Warrior

November 23, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, What People are Doing to Change the World

Leslie Feinberg, Beyond Pink and Blue

Remembering Leslie Feinberg—A Queer and Trans Fighter for Justice

Leslie Feinberg (September 1, 1949 – November 15, 2014)

CI: We Join Forces with Truthout to Separate “Criminal Justice Reform” Fact from Fiction

November 05, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Smoke and Mirrors, What People are Doing to Change the World

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

 

We Join Forces with Truthout to Separate “Criminal Justice Reform” Fact from Fiction

 By Kay Whitlock and Nancy A. Heitzeg

For several years, the weekly Criminal Injustice series here at Critical Mass Progress has focused on policing and punishment at the intersections of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, age, and disability. Week after week, we examine and help to expose racist myths concerning “crime,” “criminals,” the criminal legal system, and expansion of the prison industrial complex (PIC). We help connect readers to organizing resources – groups, analysis, information – in order to help people better understand the far reach and unholy, brutal influence of the PIC.

And we will continue doing that, right here. Week after week. Why is it so important? Because, as Prison Culture points out, the prison industrial complex “structures our world.” That’s no exaggeration: surveillance, criminalization, and coercive/violent control of peoples and communities regarded as “less than,” even as disposable, is the paradigm for too much of U.S. civic life. As abolitionists, we oppose this death-dealing paradigm and, in concert with so many others, imagine and organize for different, more life-affirming ways of creating new structures of justice.

As part of this effort, we’ve also been among the first to critically examine the feel-good phrases – sentencing reform, community corrections, reducing prison expenditures – used more recently to galvanize support for “bipartisan criminal justice/prison reform.” The art of the sound byte currently dominates the discussion. But these phrases don’t always have unambiguous meaning, and some “reforms” may actually make things worse, especially in the long run.

So many justice advocates and organizations are embracing generic promises of “reform” without asking what’s really embedded in the initiatives. And without recognizing that because prisons, policing, and punishment structure so much of our society, meaningful structural transformation requires a vision that is interdependent, that sees how this connects to that. “Criminal justice” was never a standalone issue.  Some reform measures deserve our support; others deserve consignment to oblivion. But how do we tell the difference, clearly and usefully?

Criminal Injustice & Truthout

In order to support that effort, and in addition to continuing with the Criminal Injustice Series, we’re joining with Truthout.org to examine what really is – and is not – embedded in emerging proposals for criminal justice and prison reform. The new series is called Smoke and Mirrors: Inside the New “Bipartisan Prison Reform” Agenda.

smoke and mirrors

“Smoke and Mirrors is a new series that dives into the details of “bipartisan prison reform” to reveal the right-wing, neoliberal carceral sleight of hand that’s really at work. By asking hard questions about the content and consequences of various proposals and exploring ways in which commitments to unregulated free markets, privatization and states’ rights drive the agenda, Smoke and Mirrors shows how this new generation of reforms will reinforce structural racism, intensify economic violence and contribute to the normalization of a surveillance society.”