Monica Jones, AZ transgender woman, convicted of the crime ‘Walking while trans’April 14, 2014
A Phoenix judge on Friday found a transgender woman guilty of a prostitution-related offense based on a city ordinance that the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has deemed unconstitutional.
Monica Jones, 29, was arrested in May as a part of a Phoenix police prostitution-sting operation.
Jones, an activist for sex-worker rights, was charged with manifestation of prostitution, which police can enforce based on a number of qualifiers: repeated attempts to engage a passer-by in conversation, attempts to stop cars by waving at them, inquiries as to whether someone is a police officer or requesting that someone touch his or her genitals.
She pleaded not guilty and challenged the constitutionality of the law she allegedly violated. She subsequently asked that the case be dropped. Attorneys for Jones filed a memorandum in March stating that the ordinance targets transgender women by its interpretive nature and violates the First Amendment.
"Even assuming the government has a compelling interest in prohibiting prostitution, a measure that criminalizes a broad range of legal speech surely cannot be the ‘least restrictive’ means to furthering such an interest," the document states.
In an interview with The Arizona Republic on Thursday evening, Jones said she felt she was targeted because of her race and gender.
"You never see a heterosexual transgender man (accused of manifestation of prostitution)," she said. "It targets women, especially women in poverty, and women of minority."
Jones returned to court Friday with reinforcement.
Dan Pochoda, legal director of the ACLU of Arizona, argued on behalf of Jones. He said the ordinance is a “classic example of criminalizing protected speech” and said courts in other states have vacated similar statutes.
Assistant City Prosecutor Gary Shupe argued that the ordinance contains an element of intent and said that there appears to be a split between how courts have dealt with comparative laws.
Two witnesses were called to testify during the trial before Phoenix Municipal Judge Hercules Dellas: Jones for the defense and an undercover Phoenix police officer for the prosecution.
Their stories about what happened the night the officer picked up Jones in his truck diverged on a key factor: Although Jones agreed that she accepted a ride from the officer, she maintained that he was the one who approached her.
The courtroom gallery was spilling over with supporters for Jones and transgender and sex-worker rights, many of whom protested the charges outside the courthouse just before the trial. An audible moan rang throughout the courtroom when Dellas announced his guilty verdict.
The case underlines a rift among some activists who work with sex workers. Many advocates work within the bounds of existing anti-prostitution laws to offer other life alternatives. Others, like the Sex Workers Outreach Project, aim to decriminalize the profession altogether. Jones is an advocate for the Sex Workers Outreach Project of Phoenix.
Jones’ crusade shone a spotlight on Project Rose, a Phoenix initiative that aims to divert prostitutes away from jail and toward social-service providers.
Through an interagency collaboration, the project offers those picked up for prostitution-related offenses a chance to sidestep the charge upon the completion of a diversion program and provides health and housing services immediately after police contact. If the person does not complete the program, the arrest is filed.
Other prostitution-diversion programs require suspects to plead guilty, with a promise to dismiss the conviction once the program is completed.
Jones was arrested in one of the Phoenix police stings that involved Project Rose. She said she had been protesting the project just one day before her arrest.
Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of Arizona State University’s Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, who evaluates Project Rose, said that of the 367 people who were offered diversion under the project, 366 chose it over jail.
She said there is a 28 percent success rate in the diversion program. But Roe-Sepowitz added that it’s important to note that it often takes multiple tries for sex workers get out of the profession. She said a first chance is offered through Project Rose and a second chance through traditional plea agreements.
Jones said that even with the diversion program, Project Rose is helping to criminalize sex workers. She said resources would be better spent talking to sex workers and offering services without criminalization.
Source

Monica Jones, AZ transgender woman, convicted of the crime ‘Walking while trans’
April 14, 2014

A Phoenix judge on Friday found a transgender woman guilty of a prostitution-related offense based on a city ordinance that the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has deemed unconstitutional.

Monica Jones, 29, was arrested in May as a part of a Phoenix police prostitution-sting operation.

Jones, an activist for sex-worker rights, was charged with manifestation of prostitution, which police can enforce based on a number of qualifiers: repeated attempts to engage a passer-by in conversation, attempts to stop cars by waving at them, inquiries as to whether someone is a police officer or requesting that someone touch his or her genitals.

She pleaded not guilty and challenged the constitutionality of the law she allegedly violated. She subsequently asked that the case be dropped. Attorneys for Jones filed a memorandum in March stating that the ordinance targets transgender women by its interpretive nature and violates the First Amendment.

"Even assuming the government has a compelling interest in prohibiting prostitution, a measure that criminalizes a broad range of legal speech surely cannot be the ‘least restrictive’ means to furthering such an interest," the document states.

In an interview with The Arizona Republic on Thursday evening, Jones said she felt she was targeted because of her race and gender.

"You never see a heterosexual transgender man (accused of manifestation of prostitution)," she said. "It targets women, especially women in poverty, and women of minority."

Jones returned to court Friday with reinforcement.

Dan Pochoda, legal director of the ACLU of Arizona, argued on behalf of Jones. He said the ordinance is a “classic example of criminalizing protected speech” and said courts in other states have vacated similar statutes.

Assistant City Prosecutor Gary Shupe argued that the ordinance contains an element of intent and said that there appears to be a split between how courts have dealt with comparative laws.

Two witnesses were called to testify during the trial before Phoenix Municipal Judge Hercules Dellas: Jones for the defense and an undercover Phoenix police officer for the prosecution.

Their stories about what happened the night the officer picked up Jones in his truck diverged on a key factor: Although Jones agreed that she accepted a ride from the officer, she maintained that he was the one who approached her.

The courtroom gallery was spilling over with supporters for Jones and transgender and sex-worker rights, many of whom protested the charges outside the courthouse just before the trial. An audible moan rang throughout the courtroom when Dellas announced his guilty verdict.

The case underlines a rift among some activists who work with sex workers. Many advocates work within the bounds of existing anti-prostitution laws to offer other life alternatives. Others, like the Sex Workers Outreach Project, aim to decriminalize the profession altogether. Jones is an advocate for the Sex Workers Outreach Project of Phoenix.

Jones’ crusade shone a spotlight on Project Rose, a Phoenix initiative that aims to divert prostitutes away from jail and toward social-service providers.

Through an interagency collaboration, the project offers those picked up for prostitution-related offenses a chance to sidestep the charge upon the completion of a diversion program and provides health and housing services immediately after police contact. If the person does not complete the program, the arrest is filed.

Other prostitution-diversion programs require suspects to plead guilty, with a promise to dismiss the conviction once the program is completed.

Jones was arrested in one of the Phoenix police stings that involved Project Rose. She said she had been protesting the project just one day before her arrest.

Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of Arizona State University’s Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, who evaluates Project Rose, said that of the 367 people who were offered diversion under the project, 366 chose it over jail.

She said there is a 28 percent success rate in the diversion program. But Roe-Sepowitz added that it’s important to note that it often takes multiple tries for sex workers get out of the profession. She said a first chance is offered through Project Rose and a second chance through traditional plea agreements.

Jones said that even with the diversion program, Project Rose is helping to criminalize sex workers. She said resources would be better spent talking to sex workers and offering services without criminalization.

Source

How Israel’s war industry profits from violent US immigration “reform”April 10, 2014
Immigrant rights advocates in the US organized a national day of action on 5 April, the day they expected President Barack Obama’s record-breaking rate of deportations to reach a total of 2 million during his administration.
But scant attention has been paid to the list of global benefactors awaiting the profits from legislation escalating border militarization.
Israel, America’s closest ally, tops the lineup of patrons eager for rewards while advocates demanding a meaningful overhaul of US immigration and border enforcement continue their defiant battle in the streets. In this setting, rights supporters must know which global partners stand beside the US in repressing undocumented im/migrant communities.
But how does the situation in Palestine — thousands of miles away — affect US immigration reform and vice versa? What does one have to do with the other?
Quite a lot, actually.
“Border security on steroids”
Take the recent news that Israeli arms manufacturing giant Elbit Systems won a USDepartment of Homeland Security (DHS) contract to provide surveillance technology along the southern divide with Mexico, initially in Arizona.
Specifically, Elbit will provide its sensor-based Peregrine surveillance system for Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Integrated Fixed Tower project, which consists of ground radar and camera technology mounted on towers strewn throughout the borderlands. Congress approved the plan earlier this year.
A Bloomberg trade analyst estimated that Elbit’s $145 million award “may eventually reach $1 billion if legislation to rewrite US immigration laws passes Congress and helps fund the project’s expansion in the Southwest” (“Israel’s Elbit wins US border work after Boeing dumped,” 27 February 2014).
The little-discussed Corker-Hoeven amendment attached to the 2013 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) is the key legislation referenced by the Bloomberg analyst. The Senate passed the bill last June; the House of Representatives has stalled on voting on the package in any form.
Promoted as “border security on steroids” by the bill’s co-author, Republican Senator from Tennessee Bob Corker, the measure sets aside $46 billion for security “triggers” that must be in place in areas including Arizona before a pathway to citizenship can be opened for an estimated 11 million people living undocumented in the US today.
No wonder that DHS’s $145 million payment to Elbit could skyrocket by 700 percent. And that’s just one bid by one Israeli company. There could be many more to come.
Israel and the “homeland security” industry
Journalist Todd Miller, author of the book Border Patrol Nation (City Lights Books), interviewed numerous corporate leaders and scoured boundary-enforcement security fairs and expos across the Southwest.
Miller described to The Electronic Intifada his constant encounters with Israeli security peddlers in the borderlands.
During his research for the book, Miller wasn’t looking for Israel anywhere. Yet the state’s agents kept surfacing at every turn, he said.
Israeli companies, specialists and top military brass have become an increasingly visible presence at border and “homeland security” trade shows in the years since the 11 September 2001 attacks.
The US has spent $100 billion on immigration enforcement in the decade since then.
In that time, Israel became the world’s sixth-largest defense exporter and a leading supplier and consumer in the budding border-security industrial complex (“Israel ranks as the world’s sixth largest arms exporter in 2012,” Haaretz, 25 June 2013).
Companies large and small such as Elta Systems, Elbit Systems and NICE Systems have provided technologies including radar, virtual fencing and CCTV surveillance for Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Phoenix, Arizona department, as Jimmy Johnson has reported (“A Palestine-Mexico Border,” North American Congress on Latin America, 29 June 2012).
The Golan Group (founded by former Israeli special forces officers) provided training sessions for the US Border Patrol, as Naomi Klein notes in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine.
Israel aids deadly “deterrence” strategy
Elta Systems got a boost in late 2012 when, Haaretz reported, the US Border Patrol hired the company to provide radar along the border “to protect the US-Mexico border against illegal migrant infiltration.” US Border Patrol’s deal offered the company “a potential market worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The US partnership with Israel is reciprocal: where the US has the finances, Israel has the expertise.
On the company’s end, according to Raanan Horowitz, CEO of Elbit Systems of America, the Peregrine system “will meet the demanding mission requirements of the Customs Border Protection (CPB) while enhancing its agents’ safety” (“Elbit Systems of America awarded contract for US Customs Border Protection integrated fixed towers project,” Elbit Systems, 8 March 2014).
But what does this situation look like in terms of human consequences? In CBP’s statedmission of “keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the US,” under the pretext of personal safety, Border Patrol agents have killed at least 19 persons in recent years, often under the alleged threat of rock-throwing (“Border Patrol’s use of deadly force criticized in new report,” Los Angeles Times, 27 February 2014).
In this deadly equation, the reform legislation’s amendment calls for a “military-style surge” of 700 more miles of “border fencing” and doubles the current number of Border Patrol agents to 40,000 (“Border security: Boost for Senate immigration bill,” Associated Press, 20 June 2013).
Two decades of border militarization
Increased deployment of military-style resources to strategic areas along the border has mushroomed since the early 1990s, as Joseph Nevins documents in his book Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the “Illegal Alien” and the Making of the US-Mexico Boundary.
President Bill Clinton, expanding on past boundary security-enforcement trends under his predecessors Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, instituted a new “deterrence” strategy designed to “reroute” migrants away from urban areas and into “geographically harsher,” more “remote and hazardous border regions” where the treacherous terrain would potentially kill them (“656 Weeks on the Killing Fields of Arizona,” The Huffington Post, 12 November 2012).
In such a way, planners devised, the “mortal danger” of the “geography would be an ally to us.”
This aggressive shift came less than a decade after the last immigration overhaul. In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act opened the door to citizenship for three million people of extra-legal status and increased border controls for those continuing to come, but without addressing the US-based economic and political policies driving migration.
Predictably, within a decade of the “deterrence” policy’s onset, “Arizona had become a killing field,” Tucson-based journalist Margaret Regan describes in her book The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands.
Israel continues to reap the benefits from US border militarization as the levels of death and suffering grow in line with an enriching investment climate.
Border death rate doubles
A June 2013 study by scholars and forensics specialists at the University of Arizona’s Binational Migration Institute and the local county medical examiner’s office found that the rate of migrant deaths had nearly doubled in the previous two years (“A continued humanitarian crisis at the border: undocumented border crosser deaths recorded by the Pima County office of the medical examiner, 1990-2012” [PDF]).
As more and more bodies are recovered, government and media continue to report all-time lows in apprehensions by the Border Patrol. Yet the simultaneous increase in border deaths remains enormously underreported.
But this is all good news to Senator Corker, who urged those concerned with border security not to worry because the bill is so tough that it’s “almost overkill.”
In fact, the package “is not only sufficient, it is well over sufficient,” Arizona Republican Senator John McCain concurred. “We’ll be the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” McCain boasted.
More drones
One provision in S. 744 would add 18 more unmanned aerial vehicles (also known asdrones or UAVs) to the already ballooning fleet operated by Customs and Border Protection.
Israeli-built “Hermes” drones were the first deployed along the southern border with Mexico as early as 2004. Currently, the fleet buzzing throughout the borderlands skies is wholly comprised of US-made Predator B drones, according to a CBP spokesperson.
Rivaling the US as the world’s leader in such technology, Israel can still view immigration reform as a hefty bounty for its “battle-proven” military technology that is “tried and tested on the West Bank and Gaza.”
As proposed in the legislation, the path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people in the US would take at least 13 years. Even then, the measures would benefit only those who are able to afford the mounting fees associated with the process, according to an analysis by Coalición de Derechos Humanos.
Though it won overwhelming approval in the Democrat-controlled Senate, the bill has stalled for nine months in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Many House members are hostile to any pathway to citizenship for undocumented people. Worse, House Republicans, like their Senate counterparts, have shown a penchant for fueling the fantasy of border security as a sound solution to US immigration issues.
A new military occupation
The US and Israel both continue to dispossess indigenous people of their lands, and even of their existence.
In the US, Native peoples are left out of the “immigration reform” discourse altogether. Even though some are US-born, they are “undocumented” in every sense of the term, since they were born at home and lack a birth certificate.
The ancestral lands of the Tohono O’odham people span from modern-day Sonora, Mexico into southern Arizona — bisected by the Mexico-US border wall. Some were born on one side of the divide but grew up or spend most of their time on the other side and are therefore considered suspect by Border Patrol.
Miller writes in Border Patrol Nation: “While it may seem that the days of killing or corralling Native Americans and annexing their territories are an ancient and forgotten chapter in US history, the experience of the Tohono O’odham Nation show us that nothing can be further from the truth.” O’odham people regularly face abuse, harassment and even death at the hands of US Border Patrol.
Some of the country’s largest Border Patrol stations (and at least one US military outpost in a remote location, known as a “forward-operating base”) surround the Tohono O’odham Nation as the second-largest reservation in the US, and military-style checkpoints control all movement entering and leaving the nation. According to Miller, this presence of federal forces occupying permanent positions on Tohono O’odham lands is the largest in US history.
The extra layers of militarized infrastructure isolates the nation while still in Arizona, Miller observes, “as if the nation itself were a foreign country under a new, post-9/11 form of military occupation.”
Full article

How Israel’s war industry profits from violent US immigration “reform”
April 10, 2014

Immigrant rights advocates in the US organized a national day of action on 5 April, the day they expected President Barack Obama’s record-breaking rate of deportations to reach a total of 2 million during his administration.

But scant attention has been paid to the list of global benefactors awaiting the profits from legislation escalating border militarization.

Israel, America’s closest ally, tops the lineup of patrons eager for rewards while advocates demanding a meaningful overhaul of US immigration and border enforcement continue their defiant battle in the streets. In this setting, rights supporters must know which global partners stand beside the US in repressing undocumented im/migrant communities.

But how does the situation in Palestine — thousands of miles away — affect US immigration reform and vice versa? What does one have to do with the other?

Quite a lot, actually.

“Border security on steroids”

Take the recent news that Israeli arms manufacturing giant Elbit Systems won a USDepartment of Homeland Security (DHS) contract to provide surveillance technology along the southern divide with Mexico, initially in Arizona.

Specifically, Elbit will provide its sensor-based Peregrine surveillance system for Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Integrated Fixed Tower project, which consists of ground radar and camera technology mounted on towers strewn throughout the borderlands. Congress approved the plan earlier this year.

A Bloomberg trade analyst estimated that Elbit’s $145 million award “may eventually reach $1 billion if legislation to rewrite US immigration laws passes Congress and helps fund the project’s expansion in the Southwest” (“Israel’s Elbit wins US border work after Boeing dumped,” 27 February 2014).

The little-discussed Corker-Hoeven amendment attached to the 2013 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) is the key legislation referenced by the Bloomberg analyst. The Senate passed the bill last June; the House of Representatives has stalled on voting on the package in any form.

Promoted as “border security on steroids” by the bill’s co-author, Republican Senator from Tennessee Bob Corker, the measure sets aside $46 billion for security “triggers” that must be in place in areas including Arizona before a pathway to citizenship can be opened for an estimated 11 million people living undocumented in the US today.

No wonder that DHS’s $145 million payment to Elbit could skyrocket by 700 percent. And that’s just one bid by one Israeli company. There could be many more to come.

Israel and the “homeland security” industry

Journalist Todd Miller, author of the book Border Patrol Nation (City Lights Books), interviewed numerous corporate leaders and scoured boundary-enforcement security fairs and expos across the Southwest.

Miller described to The Electronic Intifada his constant encounters with Israeli security peddlers in the borderlands.

During his research for the book, Miller wasn’t looking for Israel anywhere. Yet the state’s agents kept surfacing at every turn, he said.

Israeli companies, specialists and top military brass have become an increasingly visible presence at border and “homeland security” trade shows in the years since the 11 September 2001 attacks.

The US has spent $100 billion on immigration enforcement in the decade since then.

In that time, Israel became the world’s sixth-largest defense exporter and a leading supplier and consumer in the budding border-security industrial complex (“Israel ranks as the world’s sixth largest arms exporter in 2012,” Haaretz, 25 June 2013).

Companies large and small such as Elta Systems, Elbit Systems and NICE Systems have provided technologies including radar, virtual fencing and CCTV surveillance for Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Phoenix, Arizona department, as Jimmy Johnson has reported (“A Palestine-Mexico Border,” North American Congress on Latin America, 29 June 2012).

The Golan Group (founded by former Israeli special forces officers) provided training sessions for the US Border Patrol, as Naomi Klein notes in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine.

Israel aids deadly “deterrence” strategy

Elta Systems got a boost in late 2012 when, Haaretz reported, the US Border Patrol hired the company to provide radar along the border “to protect the US-Mexico border against illegal migrant infiltration.” US Border Patrol’s deal offered the company “a potential market worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The US partnership with Israel is reciprocal: where the US has the finances, Israel has the expertise.

On the company’s end, according to Raanan Horowitz, CEO of Elbit Systems of America, the Peregrine system “will meet the demanding mission requirements of the Customs Border Protection (CPB) while enhancing its agents’ safety” (“Elbit Systems of America awarded contract for US Customs Border Protection integrated fixed towers project,” Elbit Systems, 8 March 2014).

But what does this situation look like in terms of human consequences? In CBP’s statedmission of “keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the US,” under the pretext of personal safety, Border Patrol agents have killed at least 19 persons in recent years, often under the alleged threat of rock-throwing (“Border Patrol’s use of deadly force criticized in new report,” Los Angeles Times, 27 February 2014).

In this deadly equation, the reform legislation’s amendment calls for a “military-style surge” of 700 more miles of “border fencing” and doubles the current number of Border Patrol agents to 40,000 (“Border security: Boost for Senate immigration bill,” Associated Press, 20 June 2013).

Two decades of border militarization

Increased deployment of military-style resources to strategic areas along the border has mushroomed since the early 1990s, as Joseph Nevins documents in his book Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the “Illegal Alien” and the Making of the US-Mexico Boundary.

President Bill Clinton, expanding on past boundary security-enforcement trends under his predecessors Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, instituted a new “deterrence” strategy designed to “reroute” migrants away from urban areas and into “geographically harsher,” more “remote and hazardous border regions” where the treacherous terrain would potentially kill them (“656 Weeks on the Killing Fields of Arizona,” The Huffington Post, 12 November 2012).

In such a way, planners devised, the “mortal danger” of the “geography would be an ally to us.”

This aggressive shift came less than a decade after the last immigration overhaul. In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act opened the door to citizenship for three million people of extra-legal status and increased border controls for those continuing to come, but without addressing the US-based economic and political policies driving migration.

Predictably, within a decade of the “deterrence” policy’s onset, “Arizona had become a killing field,” Tucson-based journalist Margaret Regan describes in her book The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands.

Israel continues to reap the benefits from US border militarization as the levels of death and suffering grow in line with an enriching investment climate.

Border death rate doubles

A June 2013 study by scholars and forensics specialists at the University of Arizona’s Binational Migration Institute and the local county medical examiner’s office found that the rate of migrant deaths had nearly doubled in the previous two years (“A continued humanitarian crisis at the border: undocumented border crosser deaths recorded by the Pima County office of the medical examiner, 1990-2012” [PDF]).

As more and more bodies are recovered, government and media continue to report all-time lows in apprehensions by the Border Patrol. Yet the simultaneous increase in border deaths remains enormously underreported.

But this is all good news to Senator Corker, who urged those concerned with border security not to worry because the bill is so tough that it’s “almost overkill.”

In fact, the package “is not only sufficient, it is well over sufficient,” Arizona Republican Senator John McCain concurred. “We’ll be the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” McCain boasted.

More drones

One provision in S. 744 would add 18 more unmanned aerial vehicles (also known asdrones or UAVs) to the already ballooning fleet operated by Customs and Border Protection.

Israeli-built “Hermes” drones were the first deployed along the southern border with Mexico as early as 2004. Currently, the fleet buzzing throughout the borderlands skies is wholly comprised of US-made Predator B drones, according to a CBP spokesperson.

Rivaling the US as the world’s leader in such technology, Israel can still view immigration reform as a hefty bounty for its “battle-proven” military technology that is “tried and tested on the West Bank and Gaza.”

As proposed in the legislation, the path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people in the US would take at least 13 years. Even then, the measures would benefit only those who are able to afford the mounting fees associated with the process, according to an analysis by Coalición de Derechos Humanos.

Though it won overwhelming approval in the Democrat-controlled Senate, the bill has stalled for nine months in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Many House members are hostile to any pathway to citizenship for undocumented people. Worse, House Republicans, like their Senate counterparts, have shown a penchant for fueling the fantasy of border security as a sound solution to US immigration issues.

A new military occupation

The US and Israel both continue to dispossess indigenous people of their lands, and even of their existence.

In the US, Native peoples are left out of the “immigration reform” discourse altogether. Even though some are US-born, they are “undocumented” in every sense of the term, since they were born at home and lack a birth certificate.

The ancestral lands of the Tohono O’odham people span from modern-day Sonora, Mexico into southern Arizona — bisected by the Mexico-US border wall. Some were born on one side of the divide but grew up or spend most of their time on the other side and are therefore considered suspect by Border Patrol.

Miller writes in Border Patrol Nation: “While it may seem that the days of killing or corralling Native Americans and annexing their territories are an ancient and forgotten chapter in US history, the experience of the Tohono O’odham Nation show us that nothing can be further from the truth.” O’odham people regularly face abuse, harassment and even death at the hands of US Border Patrol.

Some of the country’s largest Border Patrol stations (and at least one US military outpost in a remote location, known as a “forward-operating base”) surround the Tohono O’odham Nation as the second-largest reservation in the US, and military-style checkpoints control all movement entering and leaving the nation. According to Miller, this presence of federal forces occupying permanent positions on Tohono O’odham lands is the largest in US history.

The extra layers of militarized infrastructure isolates the nation while still in Arizona, Miller observes, “as if the nation itself were a foreign country under a new, post-9/11 form of military occupation.”

Full article

Ride for Freedom: An anti-deportation internationalist motorcade demonstration in NYC
April 8, 2014

A caravan of NYC activists –in solidarity with immigration resistance– rode in “Ride for Freedom: an Anti-deportation Internationalist motorcade”, to arrive to the Immigration and Costumes Enforcement Detention Facility at 182-22 150Avenue, Queens, NY for a noise demonstration on Sunday.

The demo was a success, there were no arrests and we made our voices heard loud and clear against the cruelty of the prison complex and against the massive deportations taking place recently. The demonstration was also in solidarity with the hunger strikes: “This month alone, 1,000 immigrant detainees in Washington state launched a hunger strike against inhuman conditions and deportation. Demonstrators outside chained themselves together and blocked deportation busses bound for the border.”

We were joined by class traitors such as: the riot police from the prison, the prison guards (who in their confusion and not knowing what to do started filming us, even though we were fully aware there is CCTV everywhere outside the prison in plane sight.) There was also a white van apparently used for prison transport, a few cop cars and a police van to carry arrestees.

This is the call for the noise demo:

“Immigrants across the country are standing up. This month alone, 1,000 immigrant detainees in Washington State launched a hunger strike against inhuman conditions and deportation. Demonstrators outside chained themselves together and blocked deportation busses bound for the border. In San Diego, 150 previously deported Mexican immigrants re-crossed the U.S-Mexico border to rejoin their families in an act of civil disobedience. And in Texas, immigrant detainees have declared a second hunger strike against detention and deportation.

In New York City, the American Dream remains a nightmare. After crossing militarized borders, immigrants arrive to find only brutal exploitation, racist cops, cruel bosses, and dilapidated housing. The state government refuses to provide financial aid for undocumented college students, robbing immigrant youth of a future.

Against these obscenities, the recent wave of immigrant resistance offers hope to everyone who is poor, exploited, policed or incarcerated. Stand with the rebels in Washington, California and Texas! Together we can demolish every jail and every border, and share the wealth and freedom that belongs to us all.”

Source

Pre-school-to-Prison Pipeline: Studies confirm the dehumanization of Black childrenApril 6, 2014
Although African-Americans constitute only 13 percent of all Americans, nearly half of all prison inmates in the U.S. are black. This startling statistic has led the United Nations Human Rights Committee to publicly criticize the U.S. for its treatment of African-Americans. A number of recent studies and reports paint a damning picture of how American society dehumanizes blacks starting from early childhood.
Racial justice activists and prison abolition groups have long argued that the “school-to-prison” pipeline funnels young black kids into the criminal justice system, with higher rates of school suspension and arrest compared with nonblack kids for the same infractions. More than 20 years ago, Smith College professor Ann Arnett Ferguson wrote a groundbreaking book based on her three-year study of how black boys in particular are perceived differently starting in school. In “Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity,” Ferguson laid out the ways in which educators and administrators funneled black male students into the juvenile justice system based on perceived differences between them and other students.
Today this trend continues with record numbers of suspensions as a result of “zero-tolerance” school policies and the increasing presence of campus police officers who arrest students for insubordination, fights and other types of behavior that might be considered normal “acting out” in school-aged children. In fact, black youth are far more likely to be suspended from school than any other race. They also face disproportionate expulsion and arrest rates, and once children enter the juvenile justice system they are far more likely to be incarcerated as adults.
Even the Justice Department under President Obama has understood what a serious problem this is, issuing a set of new guidelines earlier this year to curb discriminatory suspension in school
But it turns out that negative disciplinary actions affect African-American children starting as early as age 3. The U.S. Department of Education just released a comprehensive study of public schools, revealing in a report that black children face discrimination even in preschool. (That preschool-aged children are suspended at all is hugely disturbing.) Data from the 2011-2012 year show that although black children make up only 18 percent of preschoolers, 42 percent of them were suspended at least once and 48 percent were suspended multiple times.
Consistent with this educational data and taking into account broader demographic, family and economic data for children of various races, broken down by state, is a newer study released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that found African-American children are on the lowest end of nearly every measured index including proficiency in math and reading, high school graduation, poverty and parental education. The report, titled Race for Results, plainly says, “The index scores for African-American children should be considered a national crisis.”
Two other studies published recently offer specific evidence of how black children are so disadvantaged at an early age. One research project, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, examined how college students and police officers estimated the ages of children who they were told had committed crimes. Both groups studied by UCLA professor Phillip Goff and collaborators were more likely to overestimate the ages of black children compared with nonblack ones, implying that black children were seen as “significantly less innocent” than others. The authors wrote:

We expected … that individuals would perceive Black boys as being more responsible for their actions and as being more appropriate targets for police violence. We find support for these hypotheses … and converging evidence that Black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their White same-age peers.

Another study by researchers at UC Riverside found that teachers tended to be more likely to evaluate black children negatively than nonblack ones who were engaged in pretend play. Psychology professor Tuppett M. Yates, who led the study, observed 171 preschool-aged children interacting with stuffed toys and other props and evaluated them for how imaginative and creative they were. In an interview on Uprising, Yates told me that all the children, regardless of race, were “similarly imaginative and similarly expressive,” but when their teachers evaluated those same children at a later time, there was a discriminatory effect. Yates explained, “For white children, imaginative and expressive players were rated very positively [by teachers] but the reverse was true for black children. Imaginative and expressive black children were perceived as less ready for school, as less accepted by their peers, and as greater sources of conflict and tension.”
Full article

Pre-school-to-Prison Pipeline: Studies confirm the dehumanization of Black children
April 6, 2014

Although African-Americans constitute only 13 percent of all Americansnearly half of all prison inmates in the U.S. are black. This startling statistic has led the United Nations Human Rights Committee to publicly criticize the U.S. for its treatment of African-Americans. A number of recent studies and reports paint a damning picture of how American society dehumanizes blacks starting from early childhood.

Racial justice activists and prison abolition groups have long argued that the “school-to-prison” pipeline funnels young black kids into the criminal justice system, with higher rates of school suspension and arrest compared with nonblack kids for the same infractions. More than 20 years ago, Smith College professor Ann Arnett Ferguson wrote a groundbreaking book based on her three-year study of how black boys in particular are perceived differently starting in school. In “Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity,” Ferguson laid out the ways in which educators and administrators funneled black male students into the juvenile justice system based on perceived differences between them and other students.

Today this trend continues with record numbers of suspensions as a result of “zero-tolerance” school policies and the increasing presence of campus police officers who arrest students for insubordination, fights and other types of behavior that might be considered normal “acting out” in school-aged children. In fact, black youth are far more likely to be suspended from school than any other race. They also face disproportionate expulsion and arrest rates, and once children enter the juvenile justice system they are far more likely to be incarcerated as adults.

Even the Justice Department under President Obama has understood what a serious problem this is, issuing a set of new guidelines earlier this year to curb discriminatory suspension in school

But it turns out that negative disciplinary actions affect African-American children starting as early as age 3. The U.S. Department of Education just released a comprehensive study of public schools, revealing in a report that black children face discrimination even in preschool. (That preschool-aged children are suspended at all is hugely disturbing.) Data from the 2011-2012 year show that although black children make up only 18 percent of preschoolers, 42 percent of them were suspended at least once and 48 percent were suspended multiple times.

Consistent with this educational data and taking into account broader demographic, family and economic data for children of various races, broken down by state, is a newer study released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that found African-American children are on the lowest end of nearly every measured index including proficiency in math and reading, high school graduation, poverty and parental education. The report, titled Race for Results, plainly says, “The index scores for African-American children should be considered a national crisis.”

Two other studies published recently offer specific evidence of how black children are so disadvantaged at an early age. One research project, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, examined how college students and police officers estimated the ages of children who they were told had committed crimes. Both groups studied by UCLA professor Phillip Goff and collaborators were more likely to overestimate the ages of black children compared with nonblack ones, implying that black children were seen as “significantly less innocent” than others. The authors wrote:

We expected … that individuals would perceive Black boys as being more responsible for their actions and as being more appropriate targets for police violence. We find support for these hypotheses … and converging evidence that Black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their White same-age peers.

Another study by researchers at UC Riverside found that teachers tended to be more likely to evaluate black children negatively than nonblack ones who were engaged in pretend play. Psychology professor Tuppett M. Yates, who led the study, observed 171 preschool-aged children interacting with stuffed toys and other props and evaluated them for how imaginative and creative they were. In an interview on Uprising, Yates told me that all the children, regardless of race, were “similarly imaginative and similarly expressive,” but when their teachers evaluated those same children at a later time, there was a discriminatory effect. Yates explained, “For white children, imaginative and expressive players were rated very positively [by teachers] but the reverse was true for black children. Imaginative and expressive black children were perceived as less ready for school, as less accepted by their peers, and as greater sources of conflict and tension.”

Full article

People want the rugged authenticity of being different without actually being punished for it — and I understand why they do it. I recognize the insecurity. Just a decade ago, my peers were flinging words like “terrorist” and “faggot” to me in the halls of our high school. Now I’m “trendy” and “fierce.” Either assessment rings lonely and desperate. How they are tremendously afraid of being insignificant. How the fantasy of race that they have projected on my body makes me have some mystic power they are jealous of. They are afraid of boring. They are afraid of being nothing. They are in a constant state of falling — grasping for all of the bindis, beards, dashikis, gauges that they hold on to to feel relevant. And what hurts the most is that when they do it, it magically becomes beautiful. It becomes a beard worth $8,500 and not a beard worth five bullets. When the white body wears our scars, they finally become beautiful.

Every brown boy has a story about the hair. Pluck it out of him. He’s used to it.

"Boston" by Janani Balasubramanian of DARKMATTER

Equal signs appear in the horizon 

Like two towers bending over

America remembering how to make skin illegal

How to steal colors & put them in a rainbow

The Middle East is backwards

Let’s bomb them off the map

Black people voted for Prop 8 

Let’s build more prisons to incarcerate their homophobia

Palestine does not have enough gay bars

Let’s fund its occupation

Asia has no sexuality at all

Let’s exploit their bodies for our labor…

Torture, racism, drones & unlawful killings: UN Human Rights Committee releases report on US government
March 28, 2014

The United Nations Human Rights Committee completed its review of the United States’ compliance with a major human rights treaty. It takes issue with the government’s interpretation that the treaty only applies to persons when they are inside the country and also expresses concern with drones, racism, gun violence, excessive use of force by police, Guantanamo, NSA surveillance, mandatory detention of immigrants and impunity for those who commit torture and unlawful killings.

It is the Obama administration’sposition that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the US is a signatory, does not impose any “human rights obligations on American military and intelligence forces when they operate abroad.”The treaty covers “individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction” so the committee refused to accept this position.

It expressed concern about the “limited number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions of members of the Armed Forces and other agents of the US government, including private contractors, for unlawful killings in its international operations and the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees in US custody, including outside its territory, as part of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” program.”

“The Committee notes with concern that all reported investigations into enforced disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that had been committed in the context of the CIA secret rendition, interrogation and detention programmes were closed in 2012 leading only to a meager number of criminal charges brought against low-level operatives,” the Committee added.

Torture victims, in general, are unable to claim compensation from the US government and its officials “due to the application of broad doctrines of legal privilege and immunity.” The US lacks legislation prohibiting all forms of torture.

The review drew attention to “targeted killings” in “extraterritorial counterterrorism operations” with drones and criticized the “lack of transparency regarding the criteria for drone strikes.” It questioned the government’s “very broad approach to the definition and the geographical scope of an armed conflict, including the end of hostilities, the unclear interpretation of what constitutes an ‘imminent threat’ and who is a combatant or civilian taking a direct part in hostilities.”

On the continued detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, the review lamented the fact that President Barack Obama’s administration has no timeline for the closure of the prison.

NSA surveillance was highlighted the body of secret law that has developed, which makes it possible for the government to systematically violate privacy rights. It expressed concern that non-US citizens receive “limited protection against excessive surveillance.”

This review acknowledged the “practice of racial profiling and surveillance by law enforcement officials targeting certain ethnic minorities and the surveillance of Muslims undertaken” by the FBI and New York Police Department in the “absence of any suspicion of any wrongdoing.”

When it comes to indigenous people, “insufficient measures,” the committee said, are being taken to protect  sacred areas from “desecration, contamination and destruction as a result of urbanization, extractive industries, industrial development, tourism and toxic contamination.”

The committee noted the significant racial disparities in the imposition of the death penalty. African-Americans are disproportionately affected and this is “exacerbated” by a rule that discrimination can only be proven on a case-by-case basis. Plus, a high number of individuals are wrongly sentenced to death and untested lethal drugs are being used to execute people.

It also called attention to the “high number of fatal shootings by certain police forces” like the Chicago Police Department and continued reports of excessive use force by law enforcement including “deadly use of tasers, which has a disparate impact on African-Americans.”

Also, as highlighted in the report’s findings, high numbers of “gun-related deaths and injuries” and the “disparate impact of gun violence on minorities, women and children” persist. There is a steady trend of “criminalization” of homeless people, who engage in “everyday activities, such as eating, sleeping or sitting in particular areas, etc.” Students in schools are being increasingly criminalized by administrators seeking to “tackle disciplinary issues” in schools.

In the criminal justice system, juveniles can be sentenced to life without parole for homicides and adults can be sentenced to life without parole for “non-homicide related sentences.” A number of states” exclude 16 and 17 year olds from juvenile court jurisdictions and thus juveniles continue to be tried in adult courts and to be incarcerated in adult institutions.”

Solitary confinement continues to be practiced in US prisons. “Juveniles and persons with mental disabilities under certain circumstances” may be subject to “prolonged solitary confinement” (which often amounts to cruel and inhuman treatment or torture).

Immigrants, the review found, are subject to “mandatory detention” in violation of the treaty. The “mandatory nature of deportation” is extremely troubling. It also is problematic that undocumented immigrants and children are excluded from the Affordable Care Act.

There also is “widespread use of non-consensual psychiatric medication, electroshock and other restrictive and coercive practices in mental health services.”

The Committee would like to see the US government “disclose the criteria for drone strikes, including the legal basis for specific attacks, the process of target identification and the circumstances in which drones are used,” which has been a top priority of human rights organizations in the country. The Obama administration has vigorously resisted this call.

Like numerous human rights groups, it urged the US to transfer detainees “designated for transfer” to countries, including Yemen. Provide detainees with a fair trial or immediate release and “end the system of administrative detention without charge or trial.” It suggested the US “ensure that any criminal cases against detainees held in Guantánamo and military facilities in Afghanistan are dealt with within the criminal justice system rather than military commissions.”

Furthermore, it recommended a federal moratorium on the death penalty, reforming surveillance so it does not violate privacy, impose strict limits on solitary confinement, enact legislation to prohibit torture. And, to address impunity, the recommendation that “command responsibility” be incorporated into criminal law was made, along with a call to “declassify and make public the report of the Senate Special Committee on Intelligence into the CIA secret detention program.

Source

~American excellence~

Mother arrested after leaving kids in the car during job interview because she couldn’t afford childcareMarch 27, 2014
Shanesha Taylor is a homeless, single mother of 2 children, who was arrested for child abuse this week. Taylor left her children, ages 6 and 2 years old, in her Dodge Durango while she attended a job interview in Scottsdale, Arizona.
A passerby found the children in the car, with the engine turned off and the windows cracked open. Once Taylor returned to the car, 45 minutes later, she informed the police officer that she did not have a babysitter for her children.
“She was upset. This is a sad situation all around. She said she was homeless. She needed the job. Obviously not getting the job. So it’s just a sad situation,” said Scottsdale Police Sergeant Mark Clark.
She was arrested and booked into jail for child abuse.
Her children are now in CPS custody.
Source
Update from Prison Culture: 
An email from Amanda Bishop who has organized a fundraising drive for Shanesha offers the following additional information:

Shanesha has been in jail over a week. She will be out within the next few days when her bail is done by her family. I do not know if the family would like me sharing any information regarding the jail she is at.
She has plans to get a specific lawyer when she is out. Her children are with family

Ms. Bishop also responded to a question about where the funds raised would be directed:

“All money from this fundraiser is deposited into a bank account of Shaneshas mother. The money is currently being used to bail her out. The money collected afterwards will be used for the care of herself and her children.”

Here is a local report where Ms. Bishop is quoted about the case here.
There is currently no more information available. @lifeandmorelife and I would like to encourage everyone who wants to support Shanesha to please donate to the fundraiser for now. You can also continue to spread the word about this story through your networks. A newsreport about this story is here.
We have been in touch with some folks based in Arizona, are gathering more information, and will provide updates as they become available.

Update #1 (4:30 p.m. central)Shanesha is still in jail at this point. I was able to learn that she has a hearing scheduled on Friday at 8:30 am. Perhaps, she’ll be able to make bail at that point. Please keep donating to the fundraiser.

Mother arrested after leaving kids in the car during job interview because she couldn’t afford childcare
March 27, 2014

Shanesha Taylor is a homeless, single mother of 2 children, who was arrested for child abuse this week. Taylor left her children, ages 6 and 2 years old, in her Dodge Durango while she attended a job interview in Scottsdale, Arizona.

A passerby found the children in the car, with the engine turned off and the windows cracked open. Once Taylor returned to the car, 45 minutes later, she informed the police officer that she did not have a babysitter for her children.

“She was upset. This is a sad situation all around. She said she was homeless. She needed the job. Obviously not getting the job. So it’s just a sad situation,” said Scottsdale Police Sergeant Mark Clark.

She was arrested and booked into jail for child abuse.

Her children are now in CPS custody.

Source

Update from Prison Culture

An email from Amanda Bishop who has organized a fundraising drive for Shanesha offers the following additional information:

Shanesha has been in jail over a week. She will be out within the next few days when her bail is done by her family. I do not know if the family would like me sharing any information regarding the jail she is at.

She has plans to get a specific lawyer when she is out. Her children are with family

Ms. Bishop also responded to a question about where the funds raised would be directed:

“All money from this fundraiser is deposited into a bank account of Shaneshas mother. The money is currently being used to bail her out. The money collected afterwards will be used for the care of herself and her children.”

Here is a local report where Ms. Bishop is quoted about the case here.

There is currently no more information available. @lifeandmorelife and I would like to encourage everyone who wants to support Shanesha to please donate to the fundraiser for now. You can also continue to spread the word about this story through your networks. A newsreport about this story is here.

We have been in touch with some folks based in Arizona, are gathering more information, and will provide updates as they become available.

Update #1 (4:30 p.m. central)
Shanesha is still in jail at this point. I was able to learn that she has a hearing scheduled on Friday at 8:30 am. Perhaps, she’ll be able to make bail at that point. Please keep donating to the fundraiser.

sans-nuage
fennekin-the-fox:

classicladiesofcolor:

Sacheen Littlefeather holds up a statement that she read on behalf of Marlon Brando at the Academy Awards ceremony held on March 27, 1973. [LA Times]

“She represented Brando and his boycott of the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972), as a way to protest the ongoing siege at Wounded Knee andHollywood's and television's misrepresentation of American Indians. Brando had written a 15-page speech for Littlefeather to give at the ceremony, but when the producer met her backstage he threatened to physically remove her or have her arrested if she spoke on stage for more than 60 seconds.[5] Her on-stage comments were therefore improvised. She then went backstage and read the entire speech to the press. In his autobiography My Word Is My Bond, Roger Moore (who presented the award) claims he took the Oscar home with him and kept it in his possession until it was collected by an armed guard sent by the Academy.
The incident provoked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to rule out future proxy acceptance of the Academy Awards” (source)
Let’s not forget that part. Happy Women’s History Month, guys.

fennekin-the-fox:

classicladiesofcolor:

Sacheen Littlefeather holds up a statement that she read on behalf of Marlon Brando at the Academy Awards ceremony held on March 27, 1973. [LA Times]

She represented Brando and his boycott of the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972), as a way to protest the ongoing siege at Wounded Knee andHollywood's and television's misrepresentation of American Indians. Brando had written a 15-page speech for Littlefeather to give at the ceremony, but when the producer met her backstage he threatened to physically remove her or have her arrested if she spoke on stage for more than 60 seconds.[5] Her on-stage comments were therefore improvised. She then went backstage and read the entire speech to the press. In his autobiography My Word Is My Bond, Roger Moore (who presented the award) claims he took the Oscar home with him and kept it in his possession until it was collected by an armed guard sent by the Academy.

The incident provoked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to rule out future proxy acceptance of the Academy Awards” (source)

Let’s not forget that part. Happy Women’s History Month, guys.

Michelle Alexander: White men get rich from legal pot, black men stay in prisonMarch 14, 2014
Ever since Colorado and Washington made the unprecedented move to legalize recreational pot last year, excitement and stories of unfettered success have billowed into the air. Colorado’s marijuana tax revenue far exceeded expectations, bringing a whopping $185 million to the state and tourists are lining up to taste the budding culture (pun intended). Several other states are now looking to follow suit and legalize. 
But the ramifications of this momentous shift are left unaddressed. When you flick on the TV to a segment about the flowering pot market in Colorado, you’ll find that the faces of the movement are primarily white and male. Meanwhile, many of the more than  210,000 people who were arrested for marijuana possession in Colorado between 1986 and 2010 according to a report from the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, remain behind bars. Thousands of black men and boys still sit in prisons for possession of the very plant that’s making those white guys on TV rich.
“In many ways the imagery doesn’t sit right,” said Michelle Alexander, associate professor of law at Ohio State University and author of  The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness in a  public conversation on March 6 with Asha Bandele of the  Drug Policy Alliance.  “Here are white men poised to run big marijuana businesses, dreaming of cashing in big—big money, big businesses selling weed—after 40 years of impoverished black kids getting prison time for selling weed, and their families and futures destroyed. Now, white men are planning to get rich doing precisely the same thing?”
Alexander said she is “thrilled” that Colorado and Washington have legalized pot and that Washington D.C. decriminalized possession of small amounts earlier this month. But she said she’s noticed “warning signs” of a troubling trend emerging in the pot legalization movement: Whites—men in particular—are the face of the movement, and the emerging pot industry. (A recent In These Times article titled “ The Unbearable Whiteness of Marijuana Legalization,” summarize this trend.)
Alexander said for 40 years poor communities of color have experienced the wrath of the war on drugs.
“Black men and boys” have been the target of the war on drugs’ racist policies—stopped, frisked and disturbed—“often before they’re old enough to vote,” she said. Those youths are arrested most often for nonviolent first offenses that would go ignored in middle-class white neighborhoods.
“We arrest these kids at young ages, saddle them with criminal records, throw them in cages, and then release them into a parallel social universe in which the very civil and human rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights movement no longer apply to them for the rest of their lives,” she said. “They can be discriminated against [when it comes to] employment, housing, access to education, public benefits. They’re locked into a permanent second-class status for life. And we’ve done this in precisely the communities that were most in need of our support.”
As Asha Bandele of DPA pointed out during the conversation, the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. Today, 2.2 million people are in prison or jail and 7.7 million are under the control of the criminal justice system, with African American boys and men—and now women—making up a disproportionate number of those imprisoned.
Alexander’s book was published four years ago and spent 75 weeks on the New York Timesbestseller list, helping to bring mass incarceration to the forefront of the national discussion.
Alexander said over the last four years, as she’s been traveling from state to state speaking to audiences from prisons to universities about her book, she’s witnessed an “awakening.” More and more people are talking about mass incarceration, racism and the war on drugs.
Full article

Michelle Alexander: White men get rich from legal pot, black men stay in prison
March 14, 2014

Ever since Colorado and Washington made the unprecedented move to legalize recreational pot last year, excitement and stories of unfettered success have billowed into the air. Colorado’s marijuana tax revenue far exceeded expectations, bringing a whopping $185 million to the state and tourists are lining up to taste the budding culture (pun intended). Several other states are now looking to follow suit and legalize. 

But the ramifications of this momentous shift are left unaddressed. When you flick on the TV to a segment about the flowering pot market in Colorado, you’ll find that the faces of the movement are primarily white and male. Meanwhile, many of the more than  210,000 people who were arrested for marijuana possession in Colorado between 1986 and 2010 according to a report from the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, remain behind bars. Thousands of black men and boys still sit in prisons for possession of the very plant that’s making those white guys on TV rich.

“In many ways the imagery doesn’t sit right,” said Michelle Alexander, associate professor of law at Ohio State University and author of  The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness in a  public conversation on March 6 with Asha Bandele of the  Drug Policy Alliance.  “Here are white men poised to run big marijuana businesses, dreaming of cashing in big—big money, big businesses selling weed—after 40 years of impoverished black kids getting prison time for selling weed, and their families and futures destroyed. Now, white men are planning to get rich doing precisely the same thing?”

Alexander said she is “thrilled” that Colorado and Washington have legalized pot and that Washington D.C. decriminalized possession of small amounts earlier this month. But she said she’s noticed “warning signs” of a troubling trend emerging in the pot legalization movement: Whites—men in particular—are the face of the movement, and the emerging pot industry. (A recent In These Times article titled “ The Unbearable Whiteness of Marijuana Legalization,” summarize this trend.)

Alexander said for 40 years poor communities of color have experienced the wrath of the war on drugs.

“Black men and boys” have been the target of the war on drugs’ racist policies—stopped, frisked and disturbed—“often before they’re old enough to vote,” she said. Those youths are arrested most often for nonviolent first offenses that would go ignored in middle-class white neighborhoods.

“We arrest these kids at young ages, saddle them with criminal records, throw them in cages, and then release them into a parallel social universe in which the very civil and human rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights movement no longer apply to them for the rest of their lives,” she said. “They can be discriminated against [when it comes to] employment, housing, access to education, public benefits. They’re locked into a permanent second-class status for life. And we’ve done this in precisely the communities that were most in need of our support.”

As Asha Bandele of DPA pointed out during the conversation, the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. Today, 2.2 million people are in prison or jail and 7.7 million are under the control of the criminal justice system, with African American boys and men—and now women—making up a disproportionate number of those imprisoned.

Alexander’s book was published four years ago and spent 75 weeks on the New York Timesbestseller list, helping to bring mass incarceration to the forefront of the national discussion.

Alexander said over the last four years, as she’s been traveling from state to state speaking to audiences from prisons to universities about her book, she’s witnessed an “awakening.” More and more people are talking about mass incarceration, racism and the war on drugs.

Full article

Former Baltimore Black Panther leader released from prison after more than four decadesMarch 4, 2014
Former Baltimore Black Panther leader Marshall “Eddie” Conway was released from prison on Tuesday. Conway was convicted of gunning down Baltimore City Police officer Donald Sager in 1969. 
Baltimore City NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston released the following statement; “Today is a monumental day for the thousands of Marylanders and millions around the world that have championed the release of Marshall “Eddie” Conway for a very long time. The release of Conway after four decades of imprisonment is an important page turner in this tragic story.  The Baltimore NAACP has been supporting Conway’s release for decades and now a new chapter begins for Marshall “Eddie” Conway, his family and supporters. Our prayers remain with him as he makes the transition to freedom.” 
On January 15, 1971 Conway was convicted by a Baltimore City jury of the first degree murder of Sager and two counts of assault with intent to murder Baltimore Police officers Stanley Sierakowski and Roger Nolan. He was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 30 years. A ruling handed down by Maryland’s highest court that found jury instructions were unconstitutional up until 1980.
Hundreds of convictions could be affected by the appeal filed by cop killer Merle Unger. Unger has since been retried and remains in prison to this day, sentenced to life. 
According to Conway’s settlement agreement during his incarceration he earned a bachelor’s degree from Coppin University and will now be employed in the field of publishing and printing.
Source

Former Baltimore Black Panther leader released from prison after more than four decades
March 4, 2014

Former Baltimore Black Panther leader Marshall “Eddie” Conway was released from prison on Tuesday. Conway was convicted of gunning down Baltimore City Police officer Donald Sager in 1969.

Baltimore City NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston released the following statement; “Today is a monumental day for the thousands of Marylanders and millions around the world that have championed the release of Marshall “Eddie” Conway for a very long time. The release of Conway after four decades of imprisonment is an important page turner in this tragic story.  The Baltimore NAACP has been supporting Conway’s release for decades and now a new chapter begins for Marshall “Eddie” Conway, his family and supporters. Our prayers remain with him as he makes the transition to freedom.”

On January 15, 1971 Conway was convicted by a Baltimore City jury of the first degree murder of Sager and two counts of assault with intent to murder Baltimore Police officers Stanley Sierakowski and Roger Nolan. He was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 30 years. A ruling handed down by Maryland’s highest court that found jury instructions were unconstitutional up until 1980.

Hundreds of convictions could be affected by the appeal filed by cop killer Merle Unger. Unger has since been retried and remains in prison to this day, sentenced to life.

According to Conway’s settlement agreement during his incarceration he earned a bachelor’s degree from Coppin University and will now be employed in the field of publishing and printing.

Source

183 Palestinian children arrested by army, facing military courts in January aloneMarch 4, 2014
A new report indicates that as of the end of January, 183 Palestinian children were arrested and detained by Israeli occupation soldiers and occupation police, and imprisoned and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system. Of the 183 children, 20 are between the ages of 14 and 15 years old.Defence for Children International - Palestine section (DCI-PS) added in its detention bulletin that 75 percent of Palestinian children detained during 2013 “endured physical violence during arrest and interrogation.”DCI-PS documents specific case studies of Palestinian children being detained, arrested and violently abused by Israeli forces. In their bulletin, the rights group highlights the case of 16-year-old Salah S. from Qalqilya in the occupied West Bank:
In January, Israeli soldiers detained Salah S, 16, from Azzun, Qalqilya around 4:30 pm while he was with friends near a road used by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Israeli soldiers held him overnight and transferred him to multiple locations over a 12-hour period, while subjecting him to physical violence and ill-treatment.Salah was previously arrested in January 2013, then 15 years old, and spent 10 months at Megiddo prison inside Israel.On January 1, Israeli forces arrested 16 residents from at-Tabaqa village, west of Hebron, in the West Bank, including nine Palestinian children, some as young as 13, on suspicion of stone throwing.DCI-Palestine research shows that children arrive to Israeli interrogation centers blindfolded, bound and sleep deprived. Unlike their Israeli counterparts, Palestinian children have no right to be accompanied by a parent during an interrogation. In 96 percent of cases documented by DCI-Palestine in 2013, children were questioned alone and rarely informed of their rights, particularly their right against self-incrimination.
Each year approximately 500-700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years [old], are detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system. The most common charge is for throwing stones. Currently, 41.5 percent of Palestinian child prisoners are detained inside Israel in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Source

183 Palestinian children arrested by army, facing military courts in January alone
March 4, 2014

A new report indicates that as of the end of January, 183 Palestinian children were arrested and detained by Israeli occupation soldiers and occupation police, and imprisoned and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system. Of the 183 children, 20 are between the ages of 14 and 15 years old.

Defence for Children International - Palestine section (DCI-PS) added in its detention bulletin that 75 percent of Palestinian children detained during 2013 “endured physical violence during arrest and interrogation.”

DCI-PS documents specific case studies of Palestinian children being detained, arrested and violently abused by Israeli forces. In their bulletin, the rights group highlights the case of 16-year-old Salah S. from Qalqilya in the occupied West Bank:

In January, Israeli soldiers detained Salah S, 16, from Azzun, Qalqilya around 4:30 pm while he was with friends near a road used by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Israeli soldiers held him overnight and transferred him to multiple locations over a 12-hour period, while subjecting him to physical violence and ill-treatment.

Salah was previously arrested in January 2013, then 15 years old, and spent 10 months at Megiddo prison inside Israel.

On January 1, Israeli forces arrested 16 residents from at-Tabaqa village, west of Hebron, in the West Bank, including nine Palestinian children, some as young as 13, on suspicion of stone throwing.

DCI-Palestine research shows that children arrive to Israeli interrogation centers blindfolded, bound and sleep deprived. Unlike their Israeli counterparts, Palestinian children have no right to be accompanied by a parent during an interrogation. In 96 percent of cases documented by DCI-Palestine in 2013, children were questioned alone and rarely informed of their rights, particularly their right against self-incrimination.
Each year approximately 500-700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years [old], are detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system. 
The most common charge is for throwing stones. Currently, 41.5 percent of Palestinian child prisoners are detained inside Israel in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

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Marissa Alexander’s sentence could triple for warning shot fired against abusive husbandMarch 2, 2014
Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman whose case generated outrage when she was sentenced to 20 years in prison may end up behind bars for 60 years for the same crime.

The Office of State Attorney Angela Corey will seek to put Marissa Alexander in prison for 60 years, essentially a life sentence, if it succeeds in convicting her for a second time for firing a shot in the direction of her estranged husband and two of his children. Her trial is scheduled to begin on July 28.
Alexander, 33, was previously convicted in 2012 of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Circuit Judge James Daniel under the state’s 10-20-life law. Daniel actually imposed three separate 20-year sentences on Alexander but ordered that they be served concurrently, which meant Alexander would get out in 20 years.
The conviction was thrown out after the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee ruled that Daniel made a mistake in shifting the burden to Alexander to prove she was acting in self-defense. During jury instructions, Daniel said she must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was battered by her husband.
Alexander’s case drew national attention after she was denied immunity under the state’s Stand Your Ground law, with critics saying the crime Alexander was convicted of didn’t warrant 20 years behind bars. Supporters of Alexander blasted prosecutors Friday for seeking to triple her prison sentence.
“It’s unimaginable that a woman acting in self-defense, who injured no one, can be given what amounts to a life sentence,” said Free Marissa Now spokeswoman Helen Gilbert. “This must send chills down the spine of every woman and everyone who cares about women and every woman in an abusive relationship.”
Seeking 60 years is an incredibly abusive and outrageous action by Corey, Gilbert said.
But Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei, the lead prosecutor in the case, told the Times-Union his office was simply following the sentencing laws of the state of Florida.
The same appeals court that ordered Alexander’s retrial separately ruled last year that when a defendant is convicted of multiple counts under 10-20-life that arose from the same crime, judges must make the sentences consecutive and are not allowed to impose them concurrently.
The law has not changed since Alexander was sentenced in 2012, but courts throughout the state have been struggling to interpret what the Legislature meant when it passed sentencing laws regarding 10-20-life.
The Alexander case inspired the so-called “warning-shot” bill that will be part of the Florida legislative session that begins Tuesday. The proposal, which is expected to pass, would create an exception to the 10-20-life law and prohibit those who fire a warning shot from getting 20 years in prison.
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Marissa Alexander’s sentence could triple for warning shot fired against abusive husband
March 2, 2014

Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman whose case generated outrage when she was sentenced to 20 years in prison may end up behind bars for 60 years for the same crime.

The Office of State Attorney Angela Corey will seek to put Marissa Alexander in prison for 60 years, essentially a life sentence, if it succeeds in convicting her for a second time for firing a shot in the direction of her estranged husband and two of his children. Her trial is scheduled to begin on July 28.

Alexander, 33, was previously convicted in 2012 of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Circuit Judge James Daniel under the state’s 10-20-life law. Daniel actually imposed three separate 20-year sentences on Alexander but ordered that they be served concurrently, which meant Alexander would get out in 20 years.

The conviction was thrown out after the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee ruled that Daniel made a mistake in shifting the burden to Alexander to prove she was acting in self-defense. During jury instructions, Daniel said she must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was battered by her husband.

Alexander’s case drew national attention after she was denied immunity under the state’s Stand Your Ground law, with critics saying the crime Alexander was convicted of didn’t warrant 20 years behind bars. Supporters of Alexander blasted prosecutors Friday for seeking to triple her prison sentence.

“It’s unimaginable that a woman acting in self-defense, who injured no one, can be given what amounts to a life sentence,” said Free Marissa Now spokeswoman Helen Gilbert. “This must send chills down the spine of every woman and everyone who cares about women and every woman in an abusive relationship.”

Seeking 60 years is an incredibly abusive and outrageous action by Corey, Gilbert said.

But Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei, the lead prosecutor in the case, told the Times-Union his office was simply following the sentencing laws of the state of Florida.

The same appeals court that ordered Alexander’s retrial separately ruled last year that when a defendant is convicted of multiple counts under 10-20-life that arose from the same crime, judges must make the sentences consecutive and are not allowed to impose them concurrently.

The law has not changed since Alexander was sentenced in 2012, but courts throughout the state have been struggling to interpret what the Legislature meant when it passed sentencing laws regarding 10-20-life.

The Alexander case inspired the so-called “warning-shot” bill that will be part of the Florida legislative session that begins Tuesday. The proposal, which is expected to pass, would create an exception to the 10-20-life law and prohibit those who fire a warning shot from getting 20 years in prison.

Full article

What “My Brother’s Keeper” - Obama’s new blame game initiative - gets wrong about young men of colorBy the Philadelphia Student UnionFebruary 28, 2014

In a statement issued by the White House on President Obama’s latest initiative called My Brother’s Keeper, it says: “Boys and young men of color—regardless of where they come from—are disproportionately at risk from their youngest years through college and the early stages of their professional lives.” 


What exactly are young men of color at risk for? We know that they are at risk for being funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline. They are at risk for being put in cages of the prison industrial complex. They are at risk for being shot, murdered, or sexually assaulted by police officers. They are at risk for living in a society that criminalizes, abuses and exploits their bodies, while refusing to invest in their communities and schools. 
The White House goes on to say: “And we need to help these young men stay in school and find a good job– so they have the opportunity to reach their full potential, contribute to their communities and build decent lives for themselves and their families.” 
This plan puts the onus of success on the backs of young people, rather than transforming the systems that oppress young men of color in the first place. When it comes to dismantling systems like the school-to-prison pipeline or the prison industrial complex, we know that it is not about individual effort. Collective organizing is needed to dismantle the systems that continue to oppress young men of color.We seek systemic change that would improve the lives of young men of color for generations to come. We do not expect that systemic change to come from those who manufactured the systems themselves. 
This effort will seek “to make sure that every young man of color who is willing to work hard and lift himself up has an opportunity to get ahead and reach his full potential,” the White House official said. 
By making the problem seem like young men of color just need to “work hard”, they cover up the real barriers to equal opportunity, such as the racial violence of police brutality that is directed at young black men. It is very difficult to “work hard” when the powers that be are working hard at criminalizing you. They allow the bodies of young men of color to be criminalized when they put the blame on young people rather than changing racist policing polices. 
When society, specifically those in power, tell a young man of color to “lift himself up”, they are telling him to ignore hundreds of years of racial injustice designed to keep people of color down. This blames youth themselves for their disadvantaged position and the inequities they face. This delegitimizes the current systems and long histories of oppression that have led us to where we are today. We must look back at hundreds of years of the criminalization of young black men and disinvestment from communities of color before placing the responsibility of fixing that in the laps of young people. 
Young men of color have in fact been rising up! They’ve been fighting the root causes of systemic oppressions in their lives. We’ve seen young men of color rise up across the nation in remembrance of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and other victims of racial violence. Youth of color, LGBTQ youth and other impacted youth work together to end the schoolhouse to jailhouse pipeline. Young people know the obstacles they face, because they encounter them daily.
The White House recently released a statement on ending the school-to-prison pipeline. For years, young men of color across the nation have been organizing in coalitions such as the Alliance for Educational Justice, the Dignity in Schools Campaign, Journey for Justice and many others. This work has finally received a response from the the government on the growing crisis of the school-to-prison pipeline. Young men of color have been fighting for change in a way that far surpasses the White House’s request for young men of color to “lift themselves up” They have been fighting to lift up their entire communities despite stop & frisk, the prison industrial complex and widespread poverty. 
The President made today’s announcement alongside Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Michael Bloomberg. These two men have been responsible for the closing of hundreds of schools in both Chicago and New York City; the results of which undeniably displaced hundreds of thousands of young black men. The systematic uprooting of young black men from their communities, those which the President claims will be lifted up by these various proposals, is a perfect example of why we cannot expect those in power to make changes that will actually serve to benefit young men of color in our communities. Real change always comes from we who are impacted by injustice and who have the vision to fight for a just world.
Let’s talk about the responsibility of those in power and their abuse of it, before we ask young people to do the same. 
Source

What “My Brother’s Keeper” - Obama’s new blame game initiative - gets wrong about young men of color
By the Philadelphia Student Union
February 28, 2014

In a statement issued by the White House on President Obama’s latest initiative called My Brother’s Keeper, it says: “Boys and young men of color—regardless of where they come from—are disproportionately at risk from their youngest years through college and the early stages of their professional lives.” 

What exactly are young men of color at risk for? We know that they are at risk for being funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline. They are at risk for being put in cages of the prison industrial complex. They are at risk for being shot, murdered, or sexually assaulted by police officers. They are at risk for living in a society that criminalizes, abuses and exploits their bodies, while refusing to invest in their communities and schools. 

The White House goes on to say: “And we need to help these young men stay in school and find a good job– so they have the opportunity to reach their full potential, contribute to their communities and build decent lives for themselves and their families.” 

This plan puts the onus of success on the backs of young people, rather than transforming the systems that oppress young men of color in the first place. When it comes to dismantling systems like the school-to-prison pipeline or the prison industrial complex, we know that it is not about individual effort. Collective organizing is needed to dismantle the systems that continue to oppress young men of color.We seek systemic change that would improve the lives of young men of color for generations to come. We do not expect that systemic change to come from those who manufactured the systems themselves. 

This effort will seek “to make sure that every young man of color who is willing to work hard and lift himself up has an opportunity to get ahead and reach his full potential,” the White House official said

By making the problem seem like young men of color just need to “work hard”, they cover up the real barriers to equal opportunity, such as the racial violence of police brutality that is directed at young black men. It is very difficult to “work hard” when the powers that be are working hard at criminalizing you. They allow the bodies of young men of color to be criminalized when they put the blame on young people rather than changing racist policing polices. 

When society, specifically those in power, tell a young man of color to “lift himself up”, they are telling him to ignore hundreds of years of racial injustice designed to keep people of color down. This blames youth themselves for their disadvantaged position and the inequities they face. This delegitimizes the current systems and long histories of oppression that have led us to where we are today. We must look back at hundreds of years of the criminalization of young black men and disinvestment from communities of color before placing the responsibility of fixing that in the laps of young people. 

Young men of color have in fact been rising up! They’ve been fighting the root causes of systemic oppressions in their lives. We’ve seen young men of color rise up across the nation in remembrance of Trayvon MartinJordan Davis and other victims of racial violence. Youth of color, LGBTQ youth and other impacted youth work together to end the schoolhouse to jailhouse pipeline. Young people know the obstacles they face, because they encounter them daily.

The White House recently released a statement on ending the school-to-prison pipeline. For years, young men of color across the nation have been organizing in coalitions such as the Alliance for Educational Justice, the Dignity in Schools CampaignJourney for Justice and many others. This work has finally received a response from the the government on the growing crisis of the school-to-prison pipeline. Young men of color have been fighting for change in a way that far surpasses the White House’s request for young men of color to “lift themselves up” They have been fighting to lift up their entire communities despite stop & frisk, the prison industrial complex and widespread poverty. 

The President made today’s announcement alongside Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Michael Bloomberg. These two men have been responsible for the closing of hundreds of schools in both Chicago and New York City; the results of which undeniably displaced hundreds of thousands of young black men. The systematic uprooting of young black men from their communities, those which the President claims will be lifted up by these various proposals, is a perfect example of why we cannot expect those in power to make changes that will actually serve to benefit young men of color in our communities. Real change always comes from we who are impacted by injustice and who have the vision to fight for a just world.

Let’s talk about the responsibility of those in power and their abuse of it, before we ask young people to do the same. 

Source

Two years later: Why there will be another Trayvon
February 26, 2014

It has been two years to the day since George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. The shooting and Zimmerman’s eventual murder acquittal triggered a painful, impassioned, at times even exhausting discussion about the state of race and racism in this country. More recently, the trial of Michael Dunn, the shooter of another unarmed black teenager, Jordan Davis, ended in a hung jury on the murder charge. (Dunn was convicted of three counts of attempted murder for continuing to fire at Davis’ associates after Davis was hit.) A member of the jury who blocked a guilty verdict said that the shooting was not about race, taking their lead from the prosecution team, which chose not to mention its racial dimensions. As with Zimmerman’s acquittal, the case has reopened a testy public conversation about race, often reluctantly engaged, often marked by silence and denial. That conversation is largely concerned with debating individual racism; the ways in which bias are institutionalized in our systems, however, go unexplored.

There are certainly arguments, both formal and more anecdotal, for not focusing on race explicitly, particularly with regard to our legal system. A frequent pattern in these arguments has to do with what is known as a perception gap: People of color see racial dimensions of a given problem, while whites do not. The race raisers are accused of being obsessed, even racist themselves, while the race deniers are accused of being clueless.

John Roberts, chief justice of the United States, articulated the supposed benefits of color-blindness when he wrote in the majority opinion for a school desegregation case that the “way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” For Roberts, many considerations of race, even those designed to generate equity, are problematic. His colleague on the bench Clarence Thomas also suggested recently in a speech that people are overly “sensitive” and talk too much about race. With that kind of guidance, it’s no wonder why so many Americans feel nothing but fatigue when the topic arises.

Race fatigue represents a complex array of feelings. White people often resist discussing race because they don’t see themselves as hostile to people of color and fear accusations of racial bias. People of color also have race fatigue, often rooted in frustration. Facing skepticism or nonchalance about discrimination can gradually impel one to suppress public reflection about one’s experiences. During a workshop I gave last year on how to achieve racial equity, a middle-aged African-American man told me that he welcomed my focus on systems rather than on individuals. Previous workshops he attended required him to share his most painful experiences with bias, to no visible effect on the white people present. “I was really anxious about that,” he said. “I didn’t think I could do it again.”

We may wish that we were finished with the race project, but much remains to be done in education, housing, voting rights, criminal justice and employment. The way to make that progress is not by ignoring racial bias, endorsing a color-blind approach or focusing on people’s intentions. Instead, the path forward lies in understanding fully how such bias works in our public schools and prisons and at the ballot box — and how those systems enable or discourage discriminatory actions.

Redefining racial bias

Most Americans think of racism as a matter of individual, intentional and overt discrimination — such as telling black people that the apartment they want has a nonexistent waiting list or is no longer available when it is. Even those sensitive to subtle discrimination (for example, Oprah being offered a less expensive handbag in a Swiss retail store) can sometimes cleave to the individual, intentional character of the problem. The focus therefore tends to be on whether someone is deliberately biased. We saw this play out during the Henry Louis Gates arrest incident (was the white cop racist?) and throughout the Martin case (was Zimmerman racist?).

Yet years of brain research tells us that much bias is actually unconscious — known as implicit bias — and perpetuated in hidden ways that are often enabled by seemingly race-neutral choices. A 2012 study used patient vignettes to examine the role of implicit bias among pediatricians. Those doctors with higher levels of pro-white bias were more likely to prescribe painkillers after surgery to white patients than to black. More holistically, a 2013 report from the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity found that bias is institutionalized in our collective practices and policies, not just overtly perpetuated by individuals.

We must thus ask a much broader question than Who is the racist? Rather we could ask, What are the policies (which dictate action in our police departments and courthouses) that lead to the statistic that black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men?

“Stand Your Ground” laws are an example of how we institutionalize implicit bias. By removing the duty to retreat that exists in traditional self-defense law, shooters who claim to be threatened by young black men need little proof of actual threat because attorneys, judges and juries find it all too easy to believe — albeit unconsciously — that unarmed black men are nothing but dangerous

Because individuals, then, are often unaware of their biases, systems have to focus on the impact of their actions, not just on their stated intentions. Whether or not Dunn set out to kill an unarmed black man that night, he did just that. In the opinion of many close observers, the prosecution team’s choice to leave even the possibility of racial bias off the table contributed deeply to the mistrial. Two dozen racial justice leaders have signed onto an open letter to Florida State Attorney Angela Corey, the prosecutor for both the Zimmerman and the Dunn cases, and the rest of the legal community, that Race Forward, the organization I work for, produced. The letter states that, “Jurors, in particular, need education and guidance to recognize the many ways in which racial bias works, just as they need to be educated about forensic reports or medical evidence.” Jury instructions are part of the structure of our criminal justice system, and the assumption that one cannot talk constructively to juries about racial bias has been proved untrue. U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett in northern Iowa, for one, takes the extra step of urging jurors (PDF) in his courtroom not to be swayed by their implicit biases.  

Taking action toward equity

Talking about race is often unsatisfying because it is just talk. Exposing, disrupting and enjoining our systems to pursue real solutions to discrimination in all its forms — this is the stuff that forces us to be better people, even if we don’t, on an individual basis, recognize any need for improvement. 

Among the reasons that corporate managers say they have diversity fatigue (the corporate version of race fatigue) is that corporate diversity training is too often a one-day event with no follow-up. This means there is no way to measure progress and no institutional method for addressing issues of advancement, practices or policies. Without those elements, diversity training produces tokenism at best — I can come to the table, but once there I won’t be taken seriously. (In the corporate setting, high-level staffing and use of suppliers that are owned by people of color are two indicators that there is more than a token regard for fighting racial bias.)

In government too, working toward equity requires more than an occasional intervention. The city of Seattle requires every department to run its policies and programs through a racial equity impact analysis. Similar to an environmental impact analysis assessing, say, the effects that erecting a new building might have on pollution or traffic, a racial impact analysis can predict and prevent actions that would increase racial inequity and can generate ideas for closing that gap. In Minneapolis, for example, the Board of Education has adopted the practice of conducting racial equity impact analysis systemwide. When they piloted this practice a few years ago, their analysis led them to save a community school serving a large number of Somali students that had been considered for closure, and to provide more school selection options to Native Americans in order to help keep families and communities unified. 

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Rest in power.