All Together Now #BLM #ReadingList
Need me to back up? Reading this years later? George Floyd was murdered by police officers in May 2020 (upsetting video) and it took a few days to work out exactly how it happened that he ended up on the ground being kneeled on and unable to breathe. Protests against police brutality and racism in general erupted immediately around the world.
And if you're a woman, then there's another insight here. Men have been plundering women's property in a systematic way for generations, millennia, since time immemorial. With property laws that favor boys over girls in inheritance, as just the beginning of the problem. If that makes sense to you, then why would it not make sense to you that white people have systematically plundered the savings of black people and people with "darker" skin for generations in the US? It's all one issue. It's all about singling someone out for this excuse or that excuse. And, it's about the police killing black people too. And getting away with it. Using the badge to get away with it.
At its core, systematic poverty is the real problem. But once killing enters the picture, it changes everything. Now it's not a sad tale of poverty, it's a gruesome tale of racist murder.
Historically, every time black people gained wealth, their wealth was destroyed, often with bombs or arson, emphasized by lynching. How can you expect that not one of them will loot an already burned and broken into store, given the history? A few of them will make that calculation and decide this is justice. I think some white people are shocked because they were systematically made ignorant by their history teachers. If the police truly understood their community they'd focus on finding the people who broke in, and set fires, not just simply opportunistically looted.
It's obviously not the purpose of the protests to break things. Or take random merchandise from stores, though. Considering how many protests there have been, there have been relatively few acts of looting, including this montage when protesters protected stores from being broken into. It seems to me that, once these three so called "Boogaloo Bois" were arrested, the vandalism morphed into just petty stuff, or symbolic acts against statues. The word Boogaloo comes from Electric Boogaloo, the name of the second Breakin' movie in the 1980s. This vigilante group with a colorful name really annoys me. I'm of an age when I remember Breakin', Beat Street, Do the Right Thing, The Color Purple, The Fresh Prince, and the now-defunct Power 99 radio station from NYC. I saw some of those in the movie theater when they came out. I don't have mild feelings about it. I hope they throw the book at those guys.
You can watch Breakin' 1 and 2 on Youtube for free. Watch them and make up your own mind. I think the vigilantes use of the name is a despicable act of disinformation.
The Gray Areas of Right and WrongI don't blame people for taking things from a store already broken into. I don't think it's right. But I don't think our society's right either. We need to do better. We need to make it so it's easy to resist such an impulse. For me, it's simple not to do such a thing. I don't think it's equally easy for everyone. And I think that's by design. By design we impoverish black and brown people and that's the reason they are more tempted. It's our fault. We failed to make a fair society for them.
Did you hear that? "we... make.... for.... them..." ? Exactly. If that hit your ears wrong, it was deliberate, to make you hear it. It's wrong to think you can make a society "for" someone. That's child/parent thinking. Next time you see a qualified black person being considered for a position of power, a manager, a community leader, a doctor etc... give them the job. You can't make a fair workplace without that person being in a position to help you do that. You can't, my fellow white people.
That's why exclusively white male power has to end. It's not because white males are "bad" it's because they should never have been asked to make a fair world for everyone else. They should've been asked to play nice with all the multicultural children in school. And to be happy to see multicultural people applying for work. And to be happy to share power with them.
We can no longer go on dividing ourselves into silos of "Women's issues" labeling, "Poverty" labeling, "LGBT issues" labeling, "Immigrant" labeling, "Black" labeling, "Romani" labeling, etc, and expect that each of these issues can be successfully worked out alone. Each issue is connected to the other. Once we allow someone to take the rights of a group away for some excuse, we allow that to happen to others. The point is there's no more excuse.
Humans are one family. You can try to exclude people from it but they don't stop being human. We need to examine our habitual tendency to divide and classify people into "us" and "them." Ultimately that's based on a fear that's no longer real. We know how to grow and raise enough food for all humans. We just need the will to distribute it to everyone. We have to de-incentivize hoarding. As we saw perfectly well in the Covid-19 emergency, our better angels need a hand taking control of our instincts. Hoarding during an emergency became a lesson in the larger economic forces already in play every day.
Black Lives Matter - The PhraseSo the phrase "Black Lives Matter" is sometimes rebutted with "All lives matter." To understand why this is hurtful, you have to understand "coded language" and how it's used when there is pervasive racism in a society. When racism exists there is an erasure of a person's concerns, and in today's climate of police violence toward black people, their lives don't seem to matter. The phrase Black Lives Matter corrects that. If it feels strange, it's because it's strange to call attention to something that's been missing.We might say Native American lives matter, or Romani lives matter, but let's correct one racism at a time and stick to Black Lives Matter.
Additionally, with the justice system in the US incarcerating more people than any other country, and mainly people with darker skin, and usually for non violent crimes like drug possession or dealing, we have to ask ourselves another question. Do those people matter who have finished their incarceration, paid their debt to society and are now free to go? Because parole is always seeming to lengthen, and we seem to be creating a second Jim Crow system for these people. Do their lives matter? Pretty soon they'll be wearing ankle bands and won't be allowed in certain places. Segregation, legally. For how long?
There's no moral ambiguity about "black lives matter" or "black trans lives matter" like there is for "black convict lives matter." But because of our supercharged prison system and mandatory sentencing and extensive list of misdemeanors and felonies for non violent crimes, we have to correct for the distortion. A large portion of the prison population is recoverable if we give them a chance because they should've never been given a sentence in the first place. While I understand that a person's compassion fatigue will probably trigger if I demand that they should care about every convicted criminal, I don't think it's asking too much to recognize that we put too many people away and for too little reason, and it has affected black and brown people the most.
What went wrong?
This reading list is aimed at white people who generally vote Democrat and are wondering why Trump would ever get elected in the first place. A lot of this is the missing manual, the missing pieces that help explain the current news. Some of it is called "radical" or "extreme" but most of it is very, agonizingly true. You can criticize the tone of it, but not the content. A few of the authors now have to live under guard because their lives have been threatened. Are you sure you want the truth? If so, here it is, in all its gore and horror. But it comes with strings. You have to promise to do something about it.
Pace yourself. This reading is not cheerful. A lot of this stuff will be extremely depressing to know about. Also some of the books describe torture techniques, so if you, like me, have difficulty with such narratives, be careful.
Rethinking Incarceration (2018)Dominique DuBois Gilliard
I haven't read this one yet. I like the idea of looking at justice through the eyes of Theology. I've always struggled with Christianity and what it means to be a "good Christian" in such times as I've lived in. It promises to be an eye opener. I very much object to people being used as rent-able labor in jails. Have we forgotten about the workhouses of England?
The New Jim Crow (2010)Michelle Alexander
Another book I just bought to read. I had heard of people being jailed and then rented out like some sort of workhouse. Then I heard someone talking about this book recently and I wanted to hear more. It was described in the context of black people being tired of having to re-explain the concepts in it, over and over again, to white people. If you're on a budget and you buy only one book, then make it this one. If you have a really hard time reading or have ME/CFS and a video can help you, this movie, The 13th, can introduce you to similar concepts as this book, though obviously it's not as deep.
I Wonder as I Wander (1934, Jim Crow era travel autobiography)Langston Hughes
This book is a delight to read since the author is insightful and sensitive. He makes his escape from Jim Crow in the US during the Great Depression and travels the world, sharing insights as he goes. I have a fascination with the "Turkmen" he visits already so I was delighted about that part, and about Central Asia, but he goes to many places and keenly observed how he is treated as a black man in many parts of the world. Mostly people don't make a big deal about it. He makes a comparison between the treatment of serfs and slaves at times when it naturally comes up. He also observes the treatment of women in some of the most remote places at that time. Reading it can help us see how our thinking has evolved on subjects such as communism, socialism, capitalism, religion, women, acculturation, and medicine.
The Shock Doctrine (2006)Naomi Klein
Uncovers the brutal plots by Chicago school economists to take control of South American and other "developing" governments and use them as a laboratory for their social experiments which included the use of torture as a means of forcing compliance. In one of its finest moments, it shows how South Africa's government gained power, but lost the ability to control its economy, so it became a puppet to its banks and debts. Expropriations happening today are just the latest symptom of that problem.
Democracy in Chains (2017)Nancy MacLean
Historian at Duke
In some ways the update or sequel to Shock Doctrine. The economic "neoliberal" or "alt-right" principles of privatization, cutting social programs and militarization were thought to be impossible to fully implement in a rich democracy. However, the attack on American values has been underway since the 1970s in a little known Virginia economics department. The plan is inherently racist. Its goal is to cause mass poverty and divide America into "makers" and "takers". But I bet you haven't heard of it. Hardly anyone has.
The Chicago Economists focused on foreign governments as laboratories for capitalism. (The Shock Doctrine) The Virginia Economists focused on how to bring it about in the US. (Democracy in Chains) Meanwhile the "American Way" and "American Dream" were popular ideas which slowly became more and more fictitious, but "we" all still operated by those rules in our minds, so we kept voting for people who paid lip service to it. And we were "sad" but we believed them when they said that social services were too expensive. By winning the Cold War, we lost something essential.
Today, whenever a person talks about Medicare for All or many social programs now, they are labeled a "socialist" quickly, the purpose of that labeling is to hide the fact that for generations, the US was walking a middle path between Communism and Capitalism and we were happier with it than we are now. We were also wealthier, as a whole. We need to go back to that middle path for our wealth, our public safety, and our sanity.
Gomorrah (2006)Robert Saviano
Will tell you what you didn't know about world trade, how consumer goods travel on giant cargo vessels, and who makes them. Why the goods are getting cheaper, who's making them, and how any resistance to globalization and the new poverty is crushed by criminal cartels that also act as drug distributors. Want a fair world? Reckon with this.
The Snakehead (2009)Patrick Radden Keefe
I have several personal stories of the Chinese American tendency to use what is effectively slave labor in restaurants. People who have no legal status, were smuggled into the US, and may have a dangerous living situation. I made a few friends in the Chinese American community, mostly through college. I haven't read this specific book, but I know this story from being told it by friends. It's incredibly chilling. How do you help people like this? How do you not make their life worse by trying to help? Even if they wanted to help us break up these rings, our laws for informants are a form of solitary confinement for them. I've never seen a more complex puzzle.
Narcoland (2010)Anabel Hernandez
Our closest southern neighbor needs our help and understanding. How can that happen if all we know is "drugs are bad mmm'kay?" We have to reckon with the worldwide criminal cartels if we're going to make a safer world.
Walking with the Wind (1999)John Lewis
Firsthand account of the civil rights movement from a man who was there and is right now, a Congressman in Georgia. Instead of making kids read Steinbeck in school how about John Lewis and Maya Angelou? They will learn more relevant things. He's a wonderful storyteller and I must say I felt much the same way about chickens too, when I was a child.
Bury Me Standing (1995)Isabel Fonesca
The travelogue of an aid worker who went to inspect the condition of Romani villages after the fall of Communism in Europe. The Romani are commonly called Gypsies and are descended from people who left India over a thousand years ago. Although they've lived in Europe for over a thousand years, they are still regularly bullied by police, and told to "go back to India" by neighbors. Many live by begging. Their homes are often destroyed by arson and lynching is still occurring. They were a target of Hitler's genocide, which they call Porraimos. They have never had restitution for the crimes of Hitler and his regime. The current protests have given surprisingly little voice to Romani concerns, but just look at the comments in this article. Here is a book written by a Romani scholar about Romani history: We are the Romani People.It should drive home the similarities between the civil rights struggle in the USA and the Romani rights struggle in Europe.
An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United StatesRoxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
For me, this was the hardest of all of these to read. I am a trespasser. We all are. There is no easy solution really. I can't just say sorry and move on. The reasons that I feel (or don't feel) like a cuckoo in the nest are worth examining. The retelling of history through the eyes of those who lost everything and had to rebuild, is worth hearing. Want to get involved locally in a positive way? Here's where to start. If that Facebook post is gone later, try Women AdvaNCe. Or listen to some local radio from WUNC regarding the Lumbee Tribe.
I propose we make an effort to hear history through the eyes of everyone who lost every war through time. It would help us see how foolish it is to think we're civilized while we are still callous.
This is maybe the most controversial thing I say in this article. If I say that, then surely, the Confederacy will gain this treatment as well. It does. But what story will we tell? What callousness will we show? Surely the biggest losers in the North vs the South were the blacks. No matter how the war turned out, they still lost. They gained only partial freedom, and civil rights were decades away. Juneteenth is celebrated as a step in the right direction but it wasn't the end of the matter. An American President was murdered for winning the Civil War and setting them free. Surely the victims were the blacks, not the rich whites, even if they were the losers of the war.
I think we have to be careful of callousness to the loss of wealth though. There is a strong tendency today to hate wealth. Billionaires have sickened us with hoarding. Which reminds us of plantation excesses and colonial plundering, multinational corporation excess, IMF/WB strong-arming, and on and on through time. But while we are sick of "the rich robbing the poor" we need to define what honest wealth is. Being smart enough not to struggle for your wealth is not proof of dishonesty. But abusing people to gain wealth is.
We all need to define what success looks like if we're going to criticize the billionaires of the world. The effect of impoverishing people has had a textbook example in Germany since World War II, and the rise of neo-conservative media, sometimes funded by billionaires should be a warning signal that we need to communicate with them. I view them as terrified people who think we're out here with pitchforks ready to take their money. But they're wrong and I hope they'll figure that out before this turns into a full on class war.
Who owns what is the most human question in the world, not just boring economics. Banking policy shouldn't make us sleepy. It should make us sit up and pay attention with a jolt of adrenaline. The books I have chosen can help us wake up from the nightmare we've created. If we listen. If we stop the parade of nonsense and deliberate cruelty.
The current protests give me a glimmer of hope.
Obviously I've taken a break from normal Celiac Disease and recipe posts. These issues are more important. I'd say they're the most important. Without a basic social contract, we don't have any reason to expect that any other promises will be kept. We are fighting for that social contract. We have to reinstate it, or nothing will matter. All lives don't matter, until Black lives matter.
Local News about Police Reforms: https://www.heraldsun.com/news/local/article243399806.html
Angela Davis, do you know who she is? I didn't. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/15/angela-davis-on-george-floyd-as-long-as-the-violence-of-racism-remains-no-one-is-safe
Rev. Barber's Poor People's Assembly and Moral Revival: https://www.june2020.org Because this is as much about race as it is about poverty. Every time he comes to my attention, he strikes me as someone who is miles ahead of me in working out the intricacies of morality. Which is exactly what I expect from the clergy but don't often receive. I think we should listen to him.
Bubba Wallace's team member found a noose in his garage. He's the only African American driver in NASCAR and drove with a Black Lives Matter logo recently. The "Dixie" flag was banned in NASCAR recently. However, he is undeterred.Turns out it was there for months, which is a relief, but the question remains, why was there a noose there at all? Who does that? (humorous)
This is what happens when white students realize how much their education has been whitewashed. I know how they feel. I went to my local "black college" and still managed to get a whitewashed education. The science department is now headed by a professor I heartily disliked. He is a sadist who actively hid information from students. Looking back I realize that the corporatization of education was well underway in my college which is why I had such experiences while there. I still managed to learn a lot, but it was in spite of them, not because, and that's a shame. Those kids are right and we can learn from this event.
The blue eyes / brown eyes experiment is highly controversial, but plays out whenever groups of people think they are superior to other groups.
A Black author grapples with being given an award that memorializes a racist: http://nnedi.blogspot.com/2011/12/lovecrafts-racism-world-fantasy-award.html There's a more in depth discussion of the Lovecraftian horror genre here: https://www.vox.com/culture/21363945/hp-lovecraft-racism-examples-explained-what-is-lovecraftian-weird-fiction I like how some people have been using this genre to directly face and grapple with racism, sexism and all those other isms that stalk our dreams.
A book about Trump's child separation and family torture policy was just published. I know that's a phrasing that triggers people, but that's exactly what it is. This author was and is central to the reporting of several incidents at the southern border, and his Twitter has heartbreaking pictures. Hurting children, just, no, words. https://www.amazon.com/Separated-American-Tragedy-Jacob-Soboroff/dp/0062992198
A Navy veteran just reminded us what BLM means: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/07/21/portland-protest-navy-vet-christopher-david-beaten-federal-agents-video/5477552002/ Christopher David reminded me how proud I am to be an American, in one act, he restored my hope and confidence. That there is a real American hero. I stand in awe and completely humbled by this example of courage.
There were a lot of misinformed announcements early on, eventually we got the truth, George Floyd was under the influence of some street drugs, but it did not cause his death, which two medical examiners have concluded is homicide. He was Coronavirus positive as well. https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/06/04/869278494/medical-examiners-autopsy-reveals-george-floyd-had-positive-test-for-coronavirus
Two months later, the protests continue: https://www.npr.org/2020/08/11/901219045/chicago-authorities-aim-to-prevent-another-night-of-looting It was a controversial night that Rev. Jesse Jackson condemned: https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/511334-jesse-jackson-chicago-looting-humiliating-embarrassing-morally-wrong
EpilogueOne of the most important things we can do is fill in the gaps in our education. We know that "history is written by the victor" but we don't have to live that way. The history is out there for us to find. Be honest with yourself about what you don't know. At some point, curriculum developers decided that issues related to Black people were too niche for general education, but human rights are not niche at all. They were wrong. We can do better, starting today.
Prefer to watch videos? This is a wonderful discussion, organized by Oprah Winfrey.
Don't forget to look for part 2.