Sunday, October 29, 2017

To be clear: White Pride is just racism

I saw this tweet again today and want to expand on it.

Once again, louder for those in the back.
"White" is defined by the experiences it doesn't experience.

It has reminded me of an image that was being distributed on Facebook: 
I can see apparent contradiction that is being demonstrated here. There is one significant thing missing from that appearance: context. Context is everything and is all too often stripped from anything which addresses the legacy of white supremacy.

Asia is a place. The people from there are Asians. Europe is a place, and it is home to Europeans. Both tend to associate more strongly with their national background then the continental one anyway. Additionally, America is two places (three or four even depending on regional labels) and as such an entire hemisphere of people are Americans. Which makes the dog whistle "Real Americans" all that much more incorrect and ignorant.

In the past Africans had their cultures, families, and even their names stripped and beaten from them. All they were left with was their blackness and then punished for that. Descendants did not know where their ancestors were from, as families were split apart and sold to different sections of the continent. Literacy was banned and teaching it was punishable after it enabled revolts. All that they had left was their blackness, which was also their curse. That legacy has held on, black people isolated and punished for their blackness through explicit laws and de facto abuse. Black is what is left and a shared culture derived from it.

White people never had their life and culture stripped away. There is no shared experience for white people to draw on. Racists are proud to be white because it means not having lived the trials of others.

German heritage is celebrated. Irish heritage is celebrated. French, Welsh, Scottish, Russian, Scandinavian, Italian, Swiss, etc. There is no united White culture.

Consider the symbols used to support White Pride: Confederate and Nazi iconography. One rooted explicitly in preventing black equality and promoting white supremacy. One which committed mass genocide to exterminate the "other" based on racial, sexual, religious, and ideological lines.

Contrast this to the often cited, by white racists, Black Power movement with its easily recognizable raised fist used by the Black Panther Party. Rather than being based on subjugating and exterminating people, the first "means life and liberty being fought for and a greeting of solidarity with the democratic peoples of the world." (Letters from Spanish Civil War, 1938) A raised fist is often displayed as a signal of strength and solidarity against oppression, which has been the default state of black USians for the majority of the European colonization of North America and then the United States of America.

Five hundred years of oppression by white people in North America has made Black have its own culture independent of religion and nationality. It is not racist for that culture to be owned and celebrated. It is a sign of strength to succeed and to even flourish in such an environment. That strength, a strength that white USians will never experience or be able to fully grasp, is something worth being proud of.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Harassment: Should you ask that question on your mind?

Early this month a tweet sized anecdote was shared concerning a recent interaction with TSA. While traveling, the author smiled at an agent and was rewarded with a sexually loaded request for personal information. The resulting feedback from the Internet was... mixed. I used the moment to support the author's concern because of its intersection between abusive law enforcement and women's safety.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, the original author has well over half a million followers. Since "woman with safety concerns" seems to be a favorite of toxic Internet trolls, the thread in question was visited with massive amounts of vitriol. I have not read through the thousands of replies to the original post, nor tracked down the thousands of retweet quotes, so I can only discuss the slice of the conversation after I posted. There is no amount of money that I would accept to have to read the full mentions of the author from that day though.
Among my replies and mentions there seems to be basically three themes: how can men meet women, who had power during the original interaction, and personal attacks against me. While the personal attacks were uncomfortable, I have no useful discussion for them. To quote Wil Wheaton... "Don't be a dick." Suffering through such attacks for supporting a woman online still doesn't provide me the perspective of the suffering required to be a woman online. Listen to them, read their accounts, and believe them. We can be better.

At 140 characters, or even at the future 280 characters, there is not much room for nuance in a tweet. That was discussed a bit in my replies and one user requested I expand on it. This is my wider post to add the nuanced discussion that was condensed into my Twitter post.

Questions that need to be asked

Positions of power exist because our society utilizes hierarchy and specialization to function as well as variations among people. All three of these points create fluid power dynamics between actors which change based on the context of the moment. A smaller, soft spoken man might be normally quite amicable, but intimidating and threatening when out with his three large bruiser appearing pals. Mobster depictions in media are great examples of this dynamic. Entrepreneurs are have a lot of power in their role as employer, even if they come across as unimposing in other relationships. Badges and uniforms tend to carry significant influence and discretionary impact.
Hierarchy and specialization necessarily brings about communication that is required by the roles and situations that they generate. As such, these roles generate questions that must be asked, even if they might seem intrusive and involve personal information. Recruiters and hiring managers have to confirm that applicants will be able to complete an I-9 form to demonstrate legal work status. For clearance jobs they must confirm US citizenship. Nurses will have to ask about medical history and family medical history. Police, when in the course of an investigation, will need to ask questions to advance the investigation. Questions dictated by law or by context are always appropriate: they can and should be asked.

Small talk

Small talk consists of light discussions that fill otherwise silent time typically does not involve soliciting personal information, interrupting activity, and can be between speakers of any level of familiarity. Discussions of drink choices, current weather, and not intrusive compliments or sourcing queries about clothing are rarely inappropriate, when short, nondisruptive, and amicable. "I like your shoes. Where did you get them?" keeps the conversation light. Further inquiry, like which specific building, whether it is in walking distance of their house or job, or sexual comments of where they could leave the shoes push the conversation into a place where the target is likely to feel pressured or threatened.

How might a power imbalance be detected?

Obviously this does not apply to you, but place yourself into the mind of the target and ask "What could they do with this information?" and "What could a vindictive person do to retaliate?" No matter who you are, information like where they keep security backups, like a spare house key, is a potential threat. Where their children are at when no family members are near is a potential threat. (Consider the movie Blow and when the pilot has to turn over information about his children) It really should go without saying, but making yourself a threat creates a power imbalance. Unless necessitated by the situation and context, do not solicit information that can make you a threat.
Moving away from how an information disclosure might make you a threat, we need to address how you may already be a threat. As a reminder, people cannot give free and open consent (to anything) under threat, which creates duress. Requests for favors, sexual advances, contract acceptance, or the like all need to take place while all parties are freely consenting. Any situation where you are requiring the other party to provide acceptance or rejection might result in you being rejected. You are a threat if it is possible to retaliate if rejected.

Retaliations that you would never perform

If you are…then you pose a threat of...
Physically imposing and there are not witnessesimmediate assault.
A stranger on the streetfollowing and delayed assault.
A local law enforcement officerabuse from behind the badge, targeted investigation, or sexual assault ("frisk" or "cavity search").
A TSA agentdetainment, arrest, and sexual assault ("frisk" or "cavity search").
An educatorderailing their educational goals.
A mentorderailing their professional goals.
A supervisorabuse through scheduling: spiteful shifts or lack of shifts, or even termination.
Well connected in their fieldblacklisting and other forms of derailing their goals.


Harassment, in general and sexual harassment specifically, can come in many forms and so this discussion alone will not keep you from committing it. This discussion will, though, help recognize interactions that are always harassment. Do not ask favors, including and especially related to sex, from a position of power. Just don’t do it, because the other party cannot provide free and open consent to accept. If there are potential repercussions to rejection, do not solicit it. That is harassment at best.

@LandryRobandry, please DM me to request my mailing address.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Beware the insidious propaganda of White Supremacy

I recently came across a tale being distributed by a family member that speaks to the subtle, insidious white supremacy I was raised with. The kind that focuses on the symptoms in order to distract from the underlying, systemic issues that caused it. The kind that sends a child off to college “knowing” that awareness of race itself is the modern manifestation of racism.
The white supremacy that sends a child off to college “knowing” that awareness of race itself is racism.
The tale comes from an organization that promotes bicycling as a way for minority youths to escape poverty. It’s a noble goal giving the youths a hobby that connects them with mentors, teaches them discipline and physical fitness, and helps them make contacts in the wider community. All sources indicate that the organization is excelling both as a successful cycling team and as a way to improve outcomes for its members.

So why am I mentioning a successful youth outreach organization in an editorial about white supremacist propaganda? Because as much as this program does for the youths whose lives it touches, it merely treats the symptoms. By equating the positive outcomes for these specific minority youths to the potential positive outcomes for the black community, it says this: buckle down! Just try harder and you can do it too! It says this while downplaying the barriers the black community faces.

Yes, I did just jump from youth raised in poverty to black youth raised in poverty. That was the first issue with the tale. The tale was posted and told of taking five of their youth, who live in subsidized housing, to experience the Confederate monuments. It was accompanied by a photo of five black teen boys and ended with their names, four of which suggested the teen was black. After the trip the youths discussed their experience and wrote their feeling from the trip. The whole recounting and presentation of the tale created an appeal to authority about the impact of Confederate monuments on the racial environment because the authors were black teens presenting their own feelings from the day. This appeal to authority is made explicit by the use, in triplicate, of the all-caps word “their”.

The dangerous propaganda comes in when the teens describe that these statues have nothing to do with the problems they deal with daily. Problems like violence, bad food choices, and failing schools. Don’t misunderstand me, these are real problems that they have to deal with. And of course monuments do not directly cause low income neighborhoods to be cut off from jobs, but they do serve as a visible manifestation of the institutional lack of respect for poor, black lives.
It was white supremacy that extended loans to white buyers while withholding the same from black buyers.
Decades of white supremacy have funded schools based on property value and devalued property that is primarily black owned. It was white supremacy that extended loans and sold real estate to white buyers while withholding the same from black purchasers, sometimes explicitly for the purpose of keeping property values high. These forces are not visible to students suffering in underfunded schools, and so it’s easy to take them to see Confederate monuments and have them write about the irrelevance of that monument to their daily problems.

What makes this framing so sinister is that these issues are real and need to be confronted too, both the acute symptom and the root cause. When bringing out victims of white supremacy to write about their experience of the symptoms in the face of a discussion of making progress on the causes, this is a bad faith presentation to shut down the conversation. If society is celebrating and honoring white supremacy then, as a people, black people will not be able to compete on an equal level.
White Supremacy dangles current hardships to distract from efforts to address systemic hardships.
Such framing is also used when attempting to keep the focus of mitigation efforts on the symptoms. When the conversation turns to how to address problems like poor schools or a lack of mentorship, then white supremacy brings out success stories like these youth outreach programs to dismiss the prevalence of the issue. Because these specific black people were able to overcome hurdles most white people don’t face, it must not be a real problem, white supremacists say.

So beware the insidious propaganda of White Supremacy. It dangles the existence of extreme current hardships to distract from efforts to address systemic hardships. It dangles the success of an exceptional few to distract from the widespread hardships faced by many minority members of our great nation. And all the while it reaps the benefits of the lie of “equality”.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Open Letter: No, Grandma, Trump *is dangerously* racist.

October 1, 2017


You sent me a forwarded propaganda chain email that purported to disprove negative claims against Donald Trump. It included 11 individual data points going back 30 years to establish a pattern of generosity and good nature. The charges that it was disproving were racist, bigot, sexist, xenophobe, anti-Semitic and Islamophobe. The content of the email is a column by Liz Crokin. (source)

Racist, bigot, xenophobe:
Of the eleven points, three involved specific black persons and that Mar-a-Lago was a pioneer in the Palm Beach private club market to accept black members. This ability to support individuals is regularly seen from racists, so much so that it is a named trope: Model Minority and One Of The Good Ones. Other uses of this racist trope include the I Have A Black Friend. These defenses all ignore the fact that someone can hold prejudiced views against a community and consider the people they actually know as statistical outliers. I will ignore the clear benefit that can be gained by being the only business in an area that is patronized by a community. A recent article on these tropes is from Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

Since I will cite ample evidence from the past few years to justify the allegation that Donald Trump is openly hostile to black communities, I will not try researching to establish a lifelong pattern of prejudice. And even in the absence of a lifelong pattern, people change. It is not 80's Trump or 90's Trump that is governing the nation. It is Trump today.

I do have one historical datapoint, though. Donald Trump is a named defendant (As president of Trump Management Inc) in the 1973 Eastern District of New York docket 73-c-1529: A violation of Fair Housing Act of 1968. The complaint alleged "a pattern and practice" of discriminating on the basis of race and refusing to correct the effects of past discriminatory policies. It was filed in October 1973. In December 1973 a counter claim was filed claiming that the claim of discrimination was defamatory (and necessarily false), which was dismissed by the court in January 1974. After over a year and a half of legal defense against the claims of discriminatory policies, Trump Management Inc agreed to a Consent Order that sought to change the rental practices of the company, one that explicitly did not admit fault. After two years of the Consent Order the number of properties with under 5% black renters had dropped by 30% and the number with over 15% black renters had increased by 800%. This demonstrates that the terms of the Consent Order changed the existing policies and practices of the company Donald Trump was president of. Therefore it is defensible to state that Donald Trump supported systemic discrimination against the black community in 1973. (source)

In a 2016 campaign speech (Aug. 19, 2016) to a primarily white audience, Donald Trump summed up his views of the state of the black communities with the question of "What the hell do you have to lose?" On March 31, 2017 Donald Trump's Attorney General answered that question by announcing a review of all "existing and contemplated consent decrees" which are the levers that the federal government use to address systemic civil rights violations by police departments. (source) Using NYC stop and frisk numbers, between 2003 and 2013 well over 85% of people harassed under that policy were innocent and over 50% stopped were black, with over 80% being black or latinx. (source) Reducing civil rights oversight of local police is directly damaging to black communities and is not the direction taken by someone that holds a priority of protecting those communities.

In a 2020 campaign speech (July 28, 2017) to an audience of uniformed police officers, Donald Trump explicitly promoted the abuse of suspects by officers. As was stated above, harassment and violence by police is a threat to black and latinx communities. Promoting increased violence against black and latinx bodies is unquestionably racist.

In the 2016 campaign announcement speech (June 16, 2015), Donald Trump explicitly categorized Mexican immigrants as drug trafficking rapists while allowing that there may be some that are good people. See my first point about making exceptions from the rule of a terrible community. He categorically defined an entire country's immigrants and naturalized American citizens as criminals, which is solidly bigoted. He then continued to explain that the problems faced by the United States are coming from Mexico, "all over South and Latin America", and "from the Middle East". This set of racist coded language translates to Hispanics and Muslims, a pair of groups that would be regular targets for his demagoguery over the next two years. Bigoted and xenophobic. That xenophobic demagoguery discourages assuming citizenship and benign intent to people that visually appear Latinx, Arab, or Persian which directly impacts how such American citizens are then excluded from full equality and respect. (source)

On August 26, 2017 Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio of his criminal Contempt of Court conviction. That conviction was the result of systemic harassing of Latinx appearing people in violation of a court order to stop harassing based on people appearing Latinx. As Contempt of Court is the only enforcement mechanism Federal Courts have to carry out their protection, this action was performed to prevent the Federal Judiciary from preventing racially-motivated, abusive policing.

And don't forget the multiyear campaign to paint the first and only black President of the United States as native African.

It is getting late and I don't track these instances as much, mostly because I'm too ignorant of Jewish faith and culture to catch the coded language. In January and April the Trump White House engaged in Holocaust denial by first avoiding mentioning the primary target of that genocide and then by asserting that [German Chancellor] Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons against his own people. That second statement was then explicitly defended, which could only mean that either the German Jews were not being considered Germans or not considered people.

The most egregious act of anti-Semitism that I know can be placed directly at the feet of Donald Trump is the defense of the terrorism in Charlottesville, VA on August 13, 2017. As part of the Unite the Right assembly, the temple of Congregation Beth Israel was terrorized by armed men, harassment under Nazi symbols, and threats of arson. (source) Multiple times Trump as used his pulpit as President to avoid condemning such terrorism.

I cannot give a better response here than Rumana Ahmed's description of the first days of the Administration. (source) Plus the entire campaign-long tirade against Muslims and promise of banning Muslim immigrants, which was attempted through two separate executive orders. There is also the increase in civilian killings due to a loosening of rules of engagement for US troops carrying out orders while operating in Muslim-heavy countries.

Demonstrating incidences of generosity from Donald Trump does not diminish his sustained pattern of xenophobic bigoted demagoguery since he joined the birther movement in 2011. (source) He actively leveraged racists to maintain his position near the political limelight through 2014 and then launched his campaign in 2015 with blatant bigotry. It has remained a constant right up until the current day with him distracting from the disaster in Puerto Rico by trying to convince white racists that genuflecting by a black man to highlight police brutality is the height of disrespect.