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Criminal InJustice: To Break the Chain

June 24, 2015 at 5:37 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Gun Culture, Intersectionality, Media Conglomeration, 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.

 

To Break the Chain
by nancy a heitzeg

Charleston.  The latest USA edition of the “race-tinged death story”.

Although the racial motivations were clear from the outset (survivors told the tale), this did not deter mainstream media and invested policy makers from spinning the familiar script. Liberals pointed towards guns and debate erupted over which language of the carceral state to adopt — was this hate crime or terrorism? The Right feigned confusion or claimed that it was really just Christians who were under attack..

The white shooter, typically,  was both isolated and humanized – arrested without a scratch, fed Burger King, described as a lone wolf who may be mentally ill or exceptionally evil, ultimately unknowable. In the words of South Carolina Governor Nikki Hayley, “We’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”

Until we did. The discovery of Dylann Roof’s last racist screed laid bare the motives, and set off another round of spin. The fact that Roof named the Council of Conservative Citizens, as both source and inspiration, induced a panic-stricken flow of returned campaign contributions, the fine line between “extremist” hate and the GOP mainstay, erased.

Exposed now, attention then turned quickly to the Confederate Flag and calls for its’ removal as remedy. The flag, which should have never flown, was long embraced by slavers and segregationists, and served as key code in the deployment of the ostensibly color-blind “Southern Strategy”. But perhaps now the costs had finally come to outweigh the benefits. Perhaps too, in keeping with the climate of premature forgiveness and healing, it was time for rapid reversal from those who had ridden the undead Confederacy to power.

As Glen Ford notes in The Perils of the Politics of Symbolism:

The demand that South Carolina remove the “Stars and Bars” from in front of the state capital building is wholly symbolic, directly affecting one pole and one piece of cloth.  The state’s governor and top Republican legislators would never consider letting go of the flag if it had not already become as much a burden as an asset to the Party… “Reconciliation,” therefore, comes cheap – and, in fact, redounds to the benefit of the former offender. Whites in South Carolina will get the chance to feel as good about voting the Confederate-free Republican ticket, as white Democrats in Iowa felt voting for Obama. Power relationships are unaffected…”

So the Flag may come down – forever or just for one day. Or it may not. It may be banned from Wal*Mart and Amazon and eBay for as long as Duck Dynasty was off the air or more. Regardless, the effects of the performance of contrition and distancing will have been achieved for those who rose to power on this very white supremacist imagery and the blood money it raised.  And we will be approaching peak color-blindness, an entire uninterrupted landscape of racism without racists, replete with complete denial-ability but deep structures which remain, untouched.

The juxtaposition of last week’s news-maker, the “trans-racial” Rachel Dolezal, with the trajectory of the unfolding Charleston story is unsettling. The singular message is this: race and racism are individualized performances that allow for both white appropriation of Blackness when convenient and white supremacist denial of structural racism viz a viz its’ projection onto a disposable Symbol. Elusive; ephemeral.

The reality is, flag or no, the structural white supremacy that is the bedrock foundation of this country has never been redressed. The Civil War has never been over. Slavery has been unwilling to die, morphing via the “reform ” offered by the 13th Amendment into the prison industrial complex and the punishing state. And the promises of “due process”, “equal protection” and the franchise, continue to be denied.

Until there is that full accounting – in word, deed and reparation – that flag, even figuratively, will continue to fly.

The Paradox of Summer Solstice

June 21, 2015 at 10:51 am by: seeta Category: Eco-Justice, Natural Law, Spirituality

Cross-posted from Seeta’s Environmental/Photography Blog:

The Waning Light Ahead…

Dauphin Island

Dauphin Island

Today officially marks the first day of summer with the sun at its highest point in the sky gracing us with the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The great paradox, of course, is that with the arrival of summer, along with its attendant abundant signs of life, the days will gradually begin to grow shorter from here on out as we head into fall.

This paradox is the inherent law of nature: the balance of life and death. During summer, the sun shines its brightest at its greatest strength with the promise of shorter days and waning light ahead. Shorter days ahead are not cause for sadness or melancholy, but is a gift that allows deep appreciation for the fleeting, ephemeral beauty of life and our transient and impermanent place in it.

Implicit, too, in the paradox of the summer solstice is the inevitability of rebirth. We can immerse ourselves in the here and now, reflect on the swift inevitable passage of time, and also have an appreciation for the value of seasonal changes ahead.


Revelations: Laudato Sí

June 21, 2015 at 9:04 am by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Eco-Justice, Economic Terrorism, Imperialism, International Law, Intersectionality, Spirituality

CI: Isolation

June 17, 2015 at 6:35 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Police State, 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.

 

Isolation
Editors note by nancy a heitzeg

For Albert Woodfox, Kalief Browder, Millions more..

June is Torture Awareness Month. How ludicrous really to type these words – to imagine, in the 21st Century, that torture remains an issue here (or anywhere), or that we are unaware.

But of course it is an issue here.  Our entire system of criminal injustice — from policing to prison to capital punishment – in built in varying degrees on torture. Built on a desire to control/cage, dehumanize/kill that is insatiable in its’ scope (due in part to the penchant for profit here) or in any limits to conditions of cruelty. The long-standing struggles of Albert Woodfox and Kalief Browder in isolation are but two of millions. They are not isolated cases.

And of course we are aware. Most of us have, in fact, cosigned this. Others claim condemnation. But tepid requests for “reform”, outrage over selected cases, hope that if we say enough names, click enough petitions, tweet/retweet enough egregious cases that something will magically change — all of these responses, in the end, solidify a system which is well-equipped to manage the predictable spectacle and script.

So connect all the stories to the level of structure, eschew the proposed quick fixes and the click-bait merchants. Go to the root – indict and dismantle the very system.

Only one word is relevant now and it is Abolition.

 

National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Breaking Down the Box

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Revelations: Adapt/Die

June 14, 2015 at 10:24 am by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Eco-Justice

Photograph: Samuel Blanc/AFP/Getty Images

Photograph: Samuel Blanc/AFP/Getty Images

Polar bears eat dolphins as Arctic warms

A polar bear eats a white-beaked dolphin in the Raudfjorden fjord, on the northwestern coast of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, Norway, on July 2, 2014. Dolphins had become trapped too far north possibly due to the almost absence of ice in the region in the past few years and the sudden arrival of ice in April. As the climate warms, the sight of polar bears tucking into weird meals, such as dolphins, could become more common.

A polar bear eats a white-beaked dolphin in the Raudfjorden fjord, on the northwestern coast of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, Norway. Melting sea ice has led to more species venturing further north, they are the new preys for polar bears.

CI: The #Police in Your Heads

June 10, 2015 at 7:07 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Police State, 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.

 
The #Police in Your Heads
by nancy a heitzeg

Last week the Minneapolis City Council voted 12-1 to repeal the rarely used, racially enforced, and  constitutionally questionable ordinances on Lurking and Spitting. The effort was spearheaded by City Council Members Council Members Cam Gordon and Blong Yang and passage was supported by a variety of groups, including the Minnesota ACLU, Coalition for Critical Change, #Blacklivesmatter Mpls, Community Justice Project and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. The Council was persuaded by a series of ALCU Reports that documented the role of these low level offenses in racial profiling and compelling testimony from the community as to the negative impact of “public ordering policing” and racial profiling on their everyday lives.

The victory was not achieved without some attempts at derailing via fear-mongering – mostly from  the sole vote against repeal, Council President Barb Johnson, Downtown Business interests , the police union , and a few random white citizens who fantasize that such ordinances may keep them “safe.” Largely ignoring the extensive data linking these offenses to racial profiling and criminalizing poverty, the red flags of livability, safety, and the slippery slope were waved; “we may find that the ripple effects from such changes simply undermine the security of individuals who live, work and visit here.”

Hardly.

Policing, here as so often, is the first knee-jerk and the last resort to anything and everything that might disrupt “whiteness” and/or property. This is the default for dealing with any sort of “other”; there is no alternative thought, no imagination.

The Police in Their Heads.

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Revelations: #TripleCrown

June 07, 2015 at 8:55 am by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Eco-Justice

American Pharoah
American Pharoah

Triple Crown

On very rare occasion, non-human athletes transcend their handlers, the odds, and the many perils of a brutal game.

And just run…

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CI: Counting

June 03, 2015 at 6:30 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Police Brutality, Police State, 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.

 
Counting
by nancy a heitzeg

How many are killed by law enforcement in the United States each year? And who is counting ?

While local state and Federal law enforcement agencies keep absolutely accurate records of the number of police officers killed or assaulted in the line of duty (typically less than 60 killed per year), there is no comparable systematic accounting of the number of citizens killed by police each year. This data is not nationally gathered or reported, save for a voluntary FBI reporting program. The task has largely been left to individual researchers to cobble together local and state – level data (much of which has removed racial identifiers) and report what police only seem to be concerned about in light of potential litigation.

A variety of efforts have attempted to document both the numbers and the racial disparities. Included here are a 2007 study conducted by ColorLines and The Chicago Reporter, two major reports from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (Report on the Extrajudicial Killing of 120 Black People, January 1n to June 30 2012 that documents the police killing of one Black Man Woman or Child every 36 hours and Operation Ghetto Storm: 20)12 Annual Report on the extrajudicial killing of 313 Black people by police, security guards and vigilantes #Every28Hours) and an analysis of federally collected data on 1,217 fatal police shootings by Propublica, Deadly Force in Black and White. All studies found that Blacks were substantially more likely than whites/other racial or ethnic groups to be killed by police, even when they were unarmed.

In the era of #Ferguson/#Baltimore/#Everywhere, there are calls for an accounting. Yesterday, Senators Barbara Boxer and Cory Booker introduced the The Police Reporting of Information, Data and Evidence Act. This that would require police departments to report any incidents in which an officer is involved in “use of force” that results in serious injury or death to the Justice Department. The chances of the bill passing remain to be seen.

In lieu of any current mandated recording, the Guardian as launched an interactive crowd-sourced database of police killings that records what government officials will not: The Counted. It represents the most comprehensive data source to date on the stories and statistics, the demography and geography of “any deaths arising directly from encounters with law enforcement”, including people who were shot, tasered and struck by police vehicles as well those who died in police custody. So far this year..

 

Please share this invaluable resource and contribute to the database via the online links if you have information on police killing(s). It is hoped Counting will lead to Accountability, but that burden rests with us.

Make the stories, make the numbers Count towards Systemic Change.