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CI: #Oct22/Stolen Lives

October 22, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, 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.

 

#Oct22/Stolen Lives
by nancy a heitzeg

Today marks the 19th Anniversary of the National Day of Protest on October 22, organized by  The October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. The October 22 Coalition also coordinates The Stolen Lives Project, which documents/honors those killed by police violence.

Hopefully you found an event wherever you are. Say the Names. Honor the Dead. Commit to Fighting like Hell for the Living. This has always been so, but especially now. From the full statement of The October 22 Coalition:

In the United States, this year has seen a litany of state violence, with increasing documentation and coverage making these ongoing atrocities more difficult to deny. Over 800 people have been killed by law enforcement nationwide, at least 200 since Mike Brown, and at least 23 people in one week. Although police criminalization of and violence against women and transgender people is nothing new, they have become more newsworthy of late. There seems to be no level too low for law enforcement to stoop in their violence, whether it is against children and young teens, the elderly, the deaf, or those who are emotionally or mentally distressed.

It is unsurprising that death by police has a racial dynamic. We have long been alerted to this by experience and many sources, including the tireless work of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and their reports — see Operation Ghetto Storm: 2012 Annual Report on the Extrajudicial Killings of 313 Black People by Police, Security Guards, and Vigilantes. Recently, an analysis of federally collected data on 1,217 fatal police shootings by Propublica  verified what long time observers already knew: young black men are 21 times as likely as their white peers to be killed by police .

As with all matters related to the criminal injustice system, any efforts to redress police killings must openly confront the white supremacist underpinnings of the entire endeavor. There is no other way.

To that end, please also support the National Week of Action from #BlackLivesMatter. And, every day, as always, Let Your Motto Be Resistance.

 

 

CI: On Birmingham, #Ferguson and the Meaning of Movement

October 15, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Media Conglomeration, Voting Rights, 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.

 

On Birmingham, #Ferguson and the Meaning of Movement
by nancy a heitzeg

From the earliest days of unrest after the murder of Mike Brown, comparisons have been made to the Civil Rights Movement. Certainly Mike Brown himself evoked thoughts again of Emmett Till, as for 4 and one half hours, the whole watched as his body lay in the street. We saw what they had done to Leslie McSpadden’s boy. Then came the Ferguson Police Department with the dogs, reminiscent of Birmingham, the Bloody Sunday-like excesses of official response to non-violent protesters. And, in the 68 days since Mike Brown’s death from August 9th through #FergusonOctober, there have been unrelenting marches, protests, sit-ins, shut-downs, flash mobs,  and more.

The comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s have been furthered by both activists and media. 1964 = 2014. Ferguson = Birmingham. But does it ?

Although there are many points of comparison there are questions too. What has changed? What does that mean for movement vision and tactics today? There are many questions to consider– no concrete answers to had. Movements of course are organic – by their very nature , they evolve to address the issues of the time, and past movements are never a perfect template for present or future. Movements emerge and take on a life of their own that no amount of planning  or calculated questions can ever fully account for. But ask we must. And since History is a Weapon, Eyes on the Prize can serve as one of our guides.*

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CI: Misdirection ~ Imposing Silence; Criminalizing Reality

October 01, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, 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.

Misdirection: Imposing Silence; Criminalizing Reality

by Kay Whitlock

So the problem in Ferguson, Missouri isn’t the extrajudicial execution by a local police officer of 18-year old Michael Brown, who was unarmed and had his hands up. The problem isn’t the fact that Brown’s murder constitutes part of a grotesque, racist national tapestry of killings of unarmed people of color by police, security guards, and self-appointed white vigilantes.  The problem isn’t that law enforcement misconduct and abuse are endemic.  The problem isn’t racial profiling within a framework of white supremacy, or the criminalization of entire communities of color and U.S. race-based mass incarceration.

The problem, said Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, as he called out the national guard and state highway patrol to buttress local policing of demonstrators, is “a violent criminal element intent upon terrorizing the community.” Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson agreed that the “criminal element” is riling up – agitating – the protesters. He also believes that “that some — and he emphasized some — of the media outlets on the ground in Ferguson were enabling the looters and criminals embedded within the otherwise peaceful protestors.” In this way, protesting itself – purportedly a Constitutional right – becomes the problem, and the people doing the protesting are themselves framed as the source of violence.

Silence is a Lie- Urban Art

Silence is a Lie- Urban Art

And the problem when Amy Meyer stood on a strip of public land outside a Utah slaughterhouse to video a “downer cow” – one who is alive but too sick or injured to stand and walk – being moved around on a forklift was not the misery of that cow. It was neither the cruelty and horrific mistreatment of living beings, nor the lousy labor practices and unsanitary conditions endemic to the meat-producing arm of Big Ag – the huge feedlots, factory farms, and slaughterhouses. The problem isn’t the kind of supremacist belief that encourages human beings to permit countless animals to be subjected to unimaginable suffering at our hands.*

The problem, according to the “Ag-Gag” legal frame under which she was the first to be charged, is that she was an “animal rights terrorist.”  (Charges against her were dropped, but more arrests have been made under Utah’s law.)  The goal of such a terrorist? To destroy America’s agricultural industry. While charges against Meyer were dropped, more Ag Gag arrests are being made; in fact, state and federal Ag Gag laws constitute a chilling, much broader template for criminalizing undercover, independent exposure of cruelty and protest directed at that cruelty.  It’s a cautionary lesson; one need not be an animal rights activist to learn from it.

This is how is you utilize the political and cultural art of misdirection in order to alter reality, or at least the perception of it. This is how you convince people that multiple forms of cruelty, abuse, dishonesty, and exploitation aren’t really happening.  Or if they are, that they aren’t  that widespread or worrisome because the problems are caused by only a few “bad apples” within institutions that are basically fair, responsible, and trustworthy.

This is how you render invisible massive, structural forms of violence  that are so commonplace as to be normative.

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CI: Off Track, The Myth of American Justice

September 24, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, 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.

 

Off Track, The Myth of American Justice
by nancy a heitzeg

He could have said it anywhere, in Ferguson or Florida, in Los Angeles or the Bronx, in any Southern town from Emmett Till up till now. The song remains the same. But how many times has he said this to a room, during a moment, at what appears to be a turning point? Shouting in the wilderness is one thing. What must it be like to shout where everyone can hear you, to room after room full of people, to have everyone  nod their heads and the newspapers back you and millions rally to your cause and still nothing changes? How many times can you repeat the truth? ~ Emmett Rensin, After the Train Leaves Town: A Report from Ferguson

The swirl of headlines and response is dizzying. Drip, drip, drip.

Justice for Mike Brown, for Ezell Ford, for Eric Garner, John CrawfordRekia Boyd, Marissa Alexander, Jordan Davis (again) !  More. Fire Ray Rice, fire Adrian Peterson, fire Roger Goodell, Don Lemon too! More. Arrest Darren Wilson! Convict Michael Dunn! More.  One by one by one.

Send $$$, send water, send gas masks. More. #Hashtag it. Facebook it. Petition it.  Mobilize. March. Send Selfies with Signs.  More. Then Do It Again. Click, click, click.

train_tracks_and_approaching_train_by_ffelkat-d5cw2lsThe need to react to immediate injustice is understandable. So too, the desire to have systems that supposedly dispense ” justice” to do so equally, and to hold all perpetrators – be they police or pro athletes – accountable. It is easy to understand the lull of specific debates and focused actions. But as both a participant in and scholar/observer of social movements – particularly those directed towards the criminal “justice” system, i have many questions.

These have come to the fore again in the midst of the seeming national escalation of police violence, the wave of family violence cases involving NFL players, and finally, in a local event that revealing in microcosm a political landscape always marred by personal agendas and political in-fighting, non-profits protecting their money, a projecting power structure that appeals to fear, and  a media eager to report the small details, the specific skirmish, but in total avoidance of the systemic and structural issues which ultimately provide the frame.

Is this case by case approach enough? Can it be sustained? Are there more tools — questions to be asked, cautions to be raised about their most effective use? Are these the right questions to ask or demands to make ? What are the possibilities for proactive engagement rather than the endless hydraulic of reaction and retrenchment? Can we define the terms of debate on our own new terrain? Can we go bigger?

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CI: Captive Genders ~ Embodying Resistance and Envisioning Safety

September 03, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Prison Industrial Complex, 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.

 

Captive Genders: Embodying Resistance and Envisioning Safety
by Jed Walsh*

Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex has burning cop cars on the cover and incendiary content on every one of its 365 pages to match. Edited by Nat Smith and Eric Stanley, the immensely wide-ranging anthology begins with an introduction by Stanley titled “Fugitive Flesh: Gender Self-Determination, Queer Abolition, and Trans Resistance” and ends with tools and resources for prison abolitionists to use in their organizing. In the acknowledgments, Stanley and Smith say that “writing must always be produced within the context of action. Similarly, action devoid of analysis often makes for shaky ground upon which to build.” This is one of the central tenets of the book, and each contribution to the anthology is very clearly produced from lived experience. Captive Genders urges those who read it to take action as part of movements for queer and trans prison abolition now!

cgCENTERING PRISON ABOLITION IN QUEER AND TRANS MOVEMENTS

One of the most invaluable things to me about Captive Genders is the clarity with which the contributors reject the mainstream LGBT agenda and the entirety of the gay rights movement’s attendant violence and exclusion. In my coming of age years, I’ve watched gay marriage legalized in my home state and increasingly across the country, and I have experienced gay marriage take hold of popular imagination as “the” single LGBT issue. How did it get to be this way? When I was 17 and first getting politicized around opposing the Iraq war, I know that my dreams of social justice were bigger, more colorful, and far more wide-reaching than a single cause like gay marriage. Now as a queer and transgender person and someone working to end prisons, it’s heart-breaking to me to see how far away from my deepest values the gay rights movement has traveled. Luckily, there are increasingly visible examples of queer/trans activists and organizations that are working to oppose all forms of oppression, to reject the prison-industrial complex and the military-industrial complex, and to create livable, healthy communities for all.

The very first piece in Captive Genders succinctly lays out the fundamental differences between mainstream LGBT politics and radical queer/trans justice struggles. In “Building an Abolitionist Trans and Queer Movement With Everything We’ve Got,” Morgan Bassichis, Alexander Lee, and Dean Spade present a chart outlining the current LGBT political landscape that I think is absolutely essential in understanding the limitations of mainstream gay politics (see the chart here: h). The chart has three sections: “big problems” faced by queer/trans people, “official solutions” to those problems from a gay rights standpoint; and “transformative approaches” being used by radical queer/trans organizations.

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CI: #Ferguson, Spectacle and Script

August 27, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, 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.

 

#Ferguson, Spectacle and Script
by nancy a heitzeg

“…of what are the police the avant-garde? They prowl, categorizing and profiling, often turning those profiles into murder violence without (serious) fear of being called to account, all the while claiming impunity. What jars the imagination is not the fact of impunity itself, but the realization that they are simply people working a job…This spectacular evil is encased in a more inarticulable evil of banality, namely, that the state assigns certain individuals to (well-paying) jobs as hunters of human beings, a furtive protocol for which this shooting is simply the effect.”

 ~ The Avant-garde of White Supremacy, Martinot and Sexton

Those of us who were there (both literally and virtually ) knew immediately just what it was. We were alerted early on by The Man with Sign, Mike Brown’s family bearing witness on cardboard to the police execution of his son. Were there any doubts, these were to be dispelled soon enough, in the grindingly impossible more than 4 hours that they left, as a strange-fruit warning, The Body in the Street.

There it was at the essence – a Spectacle Lynching by agents of the law, revealing in the excessive response the core of policing, organized state violence in the service of white supremacy, a thin-blue line standing for only the protection of “orderly “whiteness” as property,  both tangible and otherwise. A thin-blue line standing too against Blackness, “the map of gratuitous violence, and a program of complete disorder,” dangerous and disposable.

This time the curtain was pulled completely away. The Spectacular revealing, this time, the Banality. What it Was.

We saw The Body in the Street. Uncovered.

Exposed.

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Revelations: “blood river run”

August 24, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

Wanda Coleman, Emmett Till

CI: Dispersing the White Fog Enveloping Ferguson

August 20, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, 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.

 

Dispersing the White Fog Enveloping Ferguson

by Kay Whitlock

Starting with the extrajudicial execution of Michael Brown by local police on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, a predictable white fog has settled in. It is a miasma, historically resonant, comprised of structural racism and denial of it, policing practices that are race-based and authoritarian, and political/cultural narratives that obfuscate rather than illuminate.

The properties of the miasma are brutally magical: they produce a triumphant white supremacist sleight of hand in which racist reality is refashioned to frame “civil order” and “law enforcement” as the perpetual victims of purportedly “out-of-control, criminal,” and pathologically violent black people – particularly young black people.

A still image taken from raw http://www.thewrap.com/police-tear-gas-not-fired-at-al-jazeera-news-crew-intentionally-video/ shows an Al-Jazeera new team covering protests being tear-gassed by Ferguson police.  When the team members fled, a SWAT team dismantled the equipment setup.

A still image taken from raw
shows an Al-Jazeera new team covering protests being tear-gassed by Ferguson
police. When the team members fled, a SWAT team dismantled the equipment setup.

Law enforcement riots and the repressive deployment of armed force against black people are not the causes of “civil disorder;” rather the cause is located in those who have been denied social and economic justice throughout U.S. history, who are now framed as creators of violence and terror.  Violent policing has vanished as the instigating factor.  No one seems to be considering the idea that those who are not violent, but who defy the curfew, are registering a principled and courageous protest against repressive state power.  Instead, the deployment of ever-greater force, including Missouri’s National Guard, initially sent to protect not the community, but the police command center, becomes its own surreal justification.

It has not yet been two weeks since Brown’s streetside execution, but the white fog just gets thicker, nastier, more toxic.

To help cut through the fog, CI urges you to read these pieces:

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