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Dream Defenders Stand Their Ground, Occupying the New Jim Crow

September 18, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Gun Culture, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege


Dream Defenders and Trayvon Martin protesters take a stand in Sanford, FL. (Werth Media/Flickr)

From In These Times:

As nationwide protests erupted this July after a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of murdering Trayvon Martin, President Obama asked Americans to exercise “calm reflection” and reminded demonstrators that “we are a nation of laws.” But a group of young organizers in Florida decided that the moment instead called for civil disobedience to challenge unjust laws, and proceeded to hold a 31-day sit-in at the state Capitol in Tallahassee.

The Dream Defenders, formed in the aftermath of 17-year-old Martin’s killing last year, have chapters on 7 college campuses across Florida. The group, whose name alludes to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech at the 1963 March on Washington, aims to address the structural problems at the heart of the Martin case: the criminalization of people of color, police brutality and mass incarceration—all of which add up to a system law professor Michelle Alexander calls “the new Jim Crow.”

On July 16, the activists launched an occupation of the Florida Capitol, demanding that Gov. Rick Scott (R) convene a special session of the legislature to reform Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which figured prominently in the Martin case. During their sit-in, the Dream Defenders announced their support for Trayvon’s Law, drafted by the NAACP, which would repeal Stand Your Ground altogether. Trayvon’s Law would also curtail racial profiling by police through an independent civilian complaint review board with the power to discipline offending police officers and ban the “zero tolerance” policies that fuel the school-to-prison pipeline.

Though no special session was convened, by the time the sit-in ended, on August 15, they had met with the governor, several top-level state officials had agreed to talk with them, and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford had committed to hold hearings on Trayvon’s Law this fall.

Homicides soar in states with ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws

September 17, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Gun Culture, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

From Southern Studies:

Many of the 22 states that have enacted “Stand Your Ground” self-defense laws — like the one at the center of the controversy over last year’s shooting death of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of shooter George Zimmerman — have experienced a dramatic jump in the number of homicides, with African Americans disproportionately affected.

That’s the finding of a new report from the bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition in collaboration with the National Urban League and VoteVets. It was issued Sept. 16, the day before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights is scheduled to hold a hearing on the effect of such laws, which allow people to use deadly force in public places even if they can avoid the conflict by safely leaving the area.

The report, titled “Shoot First: ‘Stand Your Ground Laws and Their Effect on Violent Crime and the Criminal Justice System,” found that states with such laws have seen their “justifiable homicide” rate rise by an average of 53 percent in five years following their passage. Over the same period, states without such laws saw justifiable homicides fall by an average of 5 percent.

The increase was not simply the result of more homicides being classified as “justifiable” but of an overall rise in firearm-related and total homicides in Stand Your Ground states, the report found.

The jump in homicides deemed justifiable was particularly dramatic in some states, especially in the South. The average annual number of such killings rose by 54 percent in Texas, 83 percent in Georgia, 200 percent in Florida, and an eye-popping 725 percent in Kentucky.

Florida Will Hold Hearings On ‘Stand Your Ground’ This Fall

August 05, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Imperialism, Military Industrial Complex, White Privilege

From ThinkProgress:

Will Weatherford, the Republican speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives, revealed on Friday that the state’s legislature will hold hearings on its infamous “Stand Your Ground” laws sometime this fall. While the announcement came buried in one sentence of a defensive opinion piece published this past Thursday in the Tampa Tribune, Reuters nonetheless characterized it as “the biggest concession yet by the state’s Republican leaders to protesters’ demands for a top-to-bottom review of the law.”

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law came in for widespread public criticism after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman on murder and manslaughter charges for the killing. Some version of the law has been passed by legislatures in 22 states, and it’s been defended as a “human right” by the National Rifle Association — which helped draft and disseminate the laws along with the American Legislative Exchange Council. Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Attorney General Eric Holder, and President Obama himself have said “Stand Your Ground” laws need to be re-examined in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict.

Police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman, citing “Stand Your Ground” in their reasoning, and kicking off the initial round of protests over the case. But subsequent to his arrest, Zimmerman and his lawyer declined to raise the law as a defense, leading many commentators — including Weatherford in his op-ed — to characterize it as irrelevant. But “Stand Your Ground” was cited in the instructions given to the jury. And interviews with several jurors make it clear that, explicitly cited or not, “Stand Your Ground” now comprises part of the inescapable legal infrastructure Florida jurors must use when judging self-defense.

The Politics of Respectability, System Justification and those sagging pants

July 31, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege


Excellent piece from Black Skeptics/Frederick Sparks:

It’s all well and good to say “finish school” but how about examining the factors that attribute to high dropout rates, including punitive corrective measures such as expulsion and detention that are applied disproportionately to African American students for the same offenses as white students. When we have a criminal justice system that through the war on drugs, imprisons young black man at rates that are several multiples of that of their white counterparts, despite the fact that blacks and whites both sell and use drugs at similar rates (Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow should be required reading for anyone even attempting a discussion of contemporary racial disparity), when we have continuing joblessness in inner city communities that started with the shift from living wage paying manufacturing jobs to an economy based on financial services, when we have persistent wealth disparities between whites and blacks largely traceable to disparities in home ownership which are explained by far more factors that gangsta rap and sagging pants…when we have all these causative factors that are far more prominent in magnitude and far more insidious…this compulsion to always turn the conversation back to black behavioral choices is particularly short sighted, reductionist and troubling when it comes from black commentators.

Even pointing to the popularity of gangster rap as evidence of pervasive black community celebration of violence and criminality is problematic. For one, as we know, the majority of the consumers are white. And has there not been a persistent celebration in popular culture, across racial lines, of criminals, rebels and counterculture figures? Does the love for the Sopranos and the Godfather and Bonnie and Clyde as works of art and fiction indicate a celebration and endorsement of the values of these characters? Are these images problematic? Sure they can be. And far from wholesale endorsement of these images among black people, there has been a long discussion and critique within the community about these images. I’m not convinced by the argument that these images therefore reflect cultural values or that they are the predominant contributor to the racist stereotyping and profiling of African American men. There’s too much historical precedent for the existence of that phenomenon without the need for a valid reason.

There’s also historical precedent for this type of critique by African Americans about African Americans. It’s the Booker T Washington-esque Politics of Respectability. Washington exhorted newly emancipated African Americans to prove themselves worthy of the franchise, worthy of being treated equal, by demonstrating thrift and industry, and eschewing indolence and wantonness ( Isn’t it amazing how even back then before gangsta rap and sagging pants the black masses somehow still managed to drag down the upwardly mobile blacks?) Then as now, the problem apparently was not continuing racial hostility and discrimination in a land that had been decimated economically by a war, but was instead traceable the behavioral choices and character flaws of black Americans.

I also believe the cognitive roots of this type of critique are explainable by System Justification Theory. People exhibit a tendency to defend the status quo, even if one belongs to a group disadvantaged by that the status. There is a psychological imperative to believe that one does exist within a just system. Implicit in these critiques of dysfunctional black behavior I see the embrace of the idea that America is at heart a true meritocracy, perhaps with a few racial distortions here and there. Yes there is some discrimination, but really the lived experiences of the masses are predominantly dictated by their behavior and choices. This is incredibly psychologically useful for the individual African American, who, while cognizant of racism, still needs to feel like the worse can’t happen to them because they are educated, professional, wear their pants at an appropriate level on their waist and in general made the right choices. When a person’s “in group” status is precarious I think there is even more of tendency to dump on the marginalized (as we saw with virulent white ethnic immigrant opposition to racial integration) and to reinforce in one’s own mind the ultimate justice of the system.

There need be no false dichotomy between the recognition of continuing structural inequalities and the recognition of the need to be personally responsible and avoid counter-productive choices. But this discussion needs to be based in a context of comprehensive understanding of the issues facing the communities discussed, not on convenient rhetorical touchstones.

Full piece here.

(h/t: Sikivu Hutchinson)

Disturbing chart shows rise in “justified killings” of blacks in U.S.

July 16, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

From I09:

Last year, PBS Frontline published a fascinating analysis of how murder convictions have been affected by “Stand Your Ground” laws, which expand the reach of self-defense laws that protected Zimmerman. The study was conducted by John Roman, a senior analyst at Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center who had previously conducted studies on the statistical relationships between race and homicide in the United States.

As an interesting aside, it’s worth noting that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 1987 that a defendant cannot use statistical evidence in court to prove racial bias when it comes to death sentences. Mull that over as you read.

Writes Sarah Childress for Frontline:

At FRONTLINE’s request, Roman analyzed the pool of 43,500 homicides by race in states with Stand Your Ground laws and those without them. Because he wanted to control for multiple variables — the races of the victim and the shooter, whether they were strangers, whether they involved a firearm and whether the murders were in Stand Your Ground states — Roman used a technique known as regression analysis, which is a statistical tool to analyze the relationship between different pieces of data.

Using this analysis, Roman found that a greater number of homicides were found justified in Stand Your Ground states in all racial combinations, a result he believes is because those states yielded more killings overall.

Roman also found that Stand Your Ground laws tend to track the existing racial disparities in homicide convictions across the U.S. — with one significant exception: Whites who kill blacks in Stand Your Ground states are far more likely to be found justified in their killings. In non-Stand Your Ground states, whites are 250 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than a white person who kills another white person; in Stand Your Ground states, that number jumps to 354 percent.

You can see the breakdown of the killings in the chart below. The figures represent the percentage likelihood that the deaths will be found justifiable compared to white-on-white killings, which was the baseline Roman used for comparison:

After Trayvon: Black Boys Speak

June 06, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights, White Privilege

5-3-2012 Link Roundup, Zimmerman hates Mexicans, Pro Bono Reqs for NYS Bar Admission, et al….

May 03, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Immigration, Prison Industrial Complex


  • Unearthed: George Zimmerman’s MySpace Page

    In a long, rambling “About Me” section of the site, Zimmerman, who would have been in his early 20s when the site was active, wrote that he missed his friends in Manassas, Va., where he grew up and went to high school. But there were things he said he didn’t miss.

    “I dont miss driving around scared to hit mexicans walkin on the side of the street, soft ass wanna be thugs messin with peoples cars when they aint around (what are you provin, that you can dent a car when no ones watchin) dont make you a man in my book,” Zimmerman wrote. “Workin 96 hours to get a decent pay check, gettin knifes pulled on you by every mexican you run into!”

    Zimmerman also used the account to celebrate some legal victories, including one against his ex-fiancee, who he referred to as his as his “ex hoe,” and another in which he was accused of assaulting a law enforcement officer.

    “Im still free!” he wrote on Aug. 24, 2005. “The ex hoe tried her hardest, but the judge saw through it! Big Mike, reppin the Dverse security makin me look a million bucks, broke her down! Thanks to everyone for checkin up on me!”

  • Lippman Announces Pro Bono Requirement for Bar Admission

    Starting next year, prospective lawyers must show that they have performed at least 50 hours of law-related pro bono service before being admitted to the New York state bar, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced yesterday.

    The chief judge said in his annual Law Day address at the Court of Appeals that the requirement would serve a two-fold purpose: It would address the large, unmet need for lawyers to represent the poor and it would inculcate in aspiring lawyers a career-long duty to serve the public.

    “If pro bono is a core value of our profession, and it is—and if we aspire for all practicing attorneys to devote a meaningful portion of their time to public service, and they should—these ideals ought to be instilled from the start, when one first aspires to be a member of the profession,” Lippman said to a crowd of judges, lawyers and legislators.

  • A Historical Guide To Hipster Racism

    nd as our friends at Bitch pointed out, it is also distressing, though not in the least surprising, that the words “hipster racism” are more palatable, resonant, and listenable when they come from the mouth of a white blogger. It’s enough to make you get real low and start thinking terrible emo thoughts, like one white blogger is worth more than ten bloggers of colour.

    And so! To keep the emo monster at bay and, as an ancient person who remembers all the way back to a long lost time when Racialicious was known as Mixed Media Watch, I decided to quietly slip out of retirement for a moment to revisit just a few of our landmark posts about hipster racism, so as to remind ourselves (and yes, to remind the internet) of all the brotherpucking hard work we have done, lo these many years.

  • ‘Scream’ Still Echoes After More Than A Century

    When I think of The Scream, it takes me back to the 1960s and the Vietnam War. The image was everywhere on T-shirts and posters; it seemed to be both a personal scream from the abyss and a symbol of that particular horror. Created in the 1890s, it seemed to portend two world wars and the Holocaust. Simon Shaw, head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby’s in New York, says it’s been a talisman in times of crisis that “crystallizes our fears and anxieties. In recent times, the financial crisis and the global turbulence, we have seen more and more use of The Scream since 2007 than ever before,” he says.

    Munch and other painters in the Expressionist movement wanted to express a new internal, psychological form of reality. Art historian and psychoanalyst Laurie Wilson says the image touches on something primitive within all of us, because we were all once young and helpless like the hairless creature in the picture, wordless and afraid. She says Munch managed to convey something all human beings have felt at some time: “I am overwhelmed. I am helpless. There is nothing I can do and when I try to convey it, in some way, whether I am screaming or expressing some of what nature is screaming at me, other people ignore it.”

  • Gender Disparity on Power Rules

    A just released study by the Yale Law Women documents that class participation at Yale Law tends to be disproportionately male (H/T to Jeff and Lior Strahilevitz at Prawfblawg). Although the report offers prescriptive advice for Yale faculty and students on how to close the gap, it does not offer an empirically grounded explanation for why the gap exists in the first place. Coincidentally, I recently read another empirical study that appears to offer an answer.

    In an article in the 2012 volume of Adminstrative Science Quarterly, Yale School of Management professor Victoria Brescoll (photo above) provides compelling evidence that different power rules apply to women than men. Brescoll’s article, “Who Takes the Floor and Why: Gender, Power, and Volubility in Organizations,” found that when women possess the same objective measures of power as men, they are reluctant to use that power to speak up (i.e., be voluble) in organizational settings.

  • Senate Republicans Reject ‘Genocide’ to Describe Treatment of American Indians

    It was 1:30 p.m. April 19 when I received a frantic phone call from Colorado State Senator Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, who said she had less than 24 hours to resurrect the Recognition of the American Indian Genocide resolution of 2008.

    By noon the next day, the original draft of the new 2012 American Indian Genocide resolution, SJR12-046, was dead on the senate floor, and what was left was a watered-down euphemism that still reeks of sugarcoating and naiveté.

    What was contentious to the republican state senators was the use of the word “genocide.” The bevy of right-leaning Reagan fans had nothing but acrimonious things to say about American Indians, including myself, who assert that genocide was inflicted upon the first peoples of this continent.

    And the most boisterous polemic of the bunch that day was republican State Senator Ellen Roberts of District 6.

    Her argument, which she repeatedly reiterated at the podium, was that she didn’t feel the death of millions of American Indians since Columbus qualified as genocide because American Indians are not extinct.

    “When I look up the word ‘exterminate’ it is to destroy totally,” she argued. “And my problem with this resolution is I thank God that we have not destroyed totally the Native American people. And one of my challenges … is (the) wording; that is as if they are extinct, because they are not.”