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Sen. Dodd on the Jena 6

Nice to see a Presidential candidate and a mainstream politician speaking out on this one:

“The events in Jena, Louisiana are a sobering reminder that while segregation was outlawed long ago, de facto segregation in many parts of this country is still very real. No reasonable person would call what these young men have received ‘equal justice.’

“I sincerely hope that Governor Blanco intervenes in this case and grants immediate reprieves should any of the Jena 6 be convicted.”

On Hate Crimes

Two must-read posts: Vox ex Machina and XicanoPwr.

Vox details a handful of recent hate crimes, and points out that these are not individual acts; they are part of a larger and long-standing trend of violence against people who differ from the standard straight white Christian able-bodied man. She writes,

Given the history of hate crimes in the United States, the history that we, as a nation, are only now beginning to address with the arrests of people like James Ford Seale, no, this crime is not special or unique. If we cannot talk about our history, honestly and with an eye on preventing it from repeating itself, then it’s going to do just that.

It’s not a pretty history. It’s a history of lynchings, from Native Americans to blacks to Chinese immigrants. It’s a history of genocidal wars, slavery, forced sterilization, imprisonment in asylums, and discriminatory laws. It’s a history of unspeakable crimes committed against people of color, immigrants, and social “undesirables,” against women, against people of other faiths.

And because we won’t face it head on, every few years, the cycle rears its head.

There’s an urge to talk about hate crimes as individual acts — some crazy racist in some ass-backwards white trash town decided to attack a person of color. Some homophobe in the fly-over zone decided to kill a gay person. That’s it. A crime like any other.

But that’s not it. Hate crimes are unique because, as Vox points out, they’re part of a larger history of targeting traditionally disempowered groups. They’re also different in purpose than most other violent crimes: The purpose of a hate crime is not only to injure or kill an individual; the purpose of a hate crime is to terrorize an entire community of people who share an immutable characteristic. That’s what makes hate crimes different from “regular” crimes. That’s why the argument that “every crime is a hate crime” doesn’t fly. Many crimes involve hate. But hate crimes specifically lash out at a collective group by injuring one of that group’s members.

XicanoPwr points out that hate crimes also have a hand in maintaining traditional power structures:

The truth is, hate crimes function to maintain the status quo; they protect the people in charge, the men and women who are responsible for making important decisions at the highest levels of society. Blame tends to move away from the top, minimizing the possibility that profound changes could ever occur.

When your daily life is tinged with fear, it’s awfully hard to make substantive change. Consider the pervasive fear and threat of violence and sexual assault that women live with every day: It impacts our ability to freely move through society, to travel, to challenge male authority. Turning rape and intimate partner violence into individual, isolated crimes obscures their broader impact.

Further, as XicanoPwr says, isolating hate crimes removes responsibility from those in power — those who benefit from prejudice and hatred. Individualizing crimes that are by their nature collective removes culpability from all of us who help to maintain a system where entire classes of people are less valued and less protected than others.

Continuing to view hate crimes as one-time events perpetuated by people crazed by prejudice (you know, people who aren’t like you or I or anyone we know) against some unlucky individual does not do justice to their true nature. The rash of crimes detailed by Vox and XicanoPwr are not unfortunate incidents between two parties. They are part of an ongoing and wide-reaching epidemic. And they harm many, many more people than those who are named in the police report.

Good News

Mychal Bell’s conviction has been overturned. I’m a few days late to this one because I’ve been internet-less all weekend. So it was a nice Monday-morning surprise.

But the fight for justice for the Jena Six isn’t over. The Thin Black Duke tells us that the rally scheduled for September 20th is still on. He also offers a list of things you can do if you can’t make the rally:

Everyone should wear either black or green on the 20th. Black will symbolize “strength and mourning,” while green will symbolize “growth and surpassing hate.” Take your pick. You can’t go wrong with either color. Many folks are suggesting that you walk out of your job or class in support, but I’ve always found those suggestions to be slightly classist. There are a lot of folks that are down with the cause that simply can’t afford to do something like that, and I can’t get mad at someone for wanting to keep food on the table. Activists and their families gotta eat too, y’know.

And he links to Color of Change, which offers more suggestions for the Day of Action:


Early next week, we’ll provide flyers that you can download and print that will give background on the Jena 6 case and actions folks can take to support the Jena 6. On the 20th, you can pass them out, set up a table in a public place, or post the flyers in local businesses or in other public places.

We’ll also provide a quarter-sheet version of the flyer, so if you’re wearing a Jena 6 t-shirt, you can have flyers in your pocket, ready to pass to everyone who asks about your shirt.

Phone Calls

On the 20th, you’ll be able to use our call tool to make calls to Louisiana officials, stepping up pressure on the Governor and making it clear she needs to act now. You can make as few or many calls as you like. All you need is your computer and your phone—the tool provides you with the phone numbers and the call script.

Vigils, Rallies, & Meetups

One of the most powerful ways to take action is by organizing or participating in a rally, meet-up, or vigil. These events truly bring people together as a community, and they often attract local press which is great for making more people aware of the situation. Vigils could happen the evening of the 19th or the day of 20th. Rallies can happen before work, at lunchtime, or at the end of the workday. Easier to plan, but no less important, would be a meet-up, where you and others get together in a high traffic spot in your community to raise awareness and spread the word with flyers and/or to engage folks in writing postcards for the young men and their families.

Head over there and see how you can help.

I guess it’s easier to separate yourself from “them”

Rachel has been writing about the kidnapping and torture of a young black woman, and it’s incredibly horrific stuff. I read about this case the other day, and have been holding off posting because it’s so thoroughly repulsive and disturbing that I couldn’t make myself read the articles about it, and I certainly couldn’t formulate any sort of coherent thoughts. Luckily, Rachel has been wading in, and one of the interesting things she’s discovered is how other bloggers are responding to this — by calling the torturers “white trash” and “hillbillies” and referencing Deliverance.

It’s a sentiment I can understand — white people are so disgusted and angry at the torture of this woman that we need to other her torturers to prove that they’re different than us. We need to put racism in a neat box — out there in the hills, with the people who don’t have any class, the people who are unenlightened and snaggle-toothed and live in trailers. Not like us.

It takes a special kind of evil to do what those people did. But it’s not rare. It’s not a symptom of poverty. It’s not about “white trash.” For every one of us who reads these news articles in horror, there’s an upper middle class white college kid somewhere who idolizes Patrick Bateman and thinks that misogynist torture is kinda cool — you know, if you’re classy about it. The focus on the class background of these torturers obscures the larger picture of what they did. It makes it comprehensible — those pieces of trailer trash aren’t quite human, which is why they were capable of doing this. Only subhuman hillbillies are racist.

What happened to this woman was evil. No decent human being should be able to comprehend how people can do what the individuals in West Virginia did. But that doesn’t mean that horrific acts of violence like this are isolated, freakish occurrences. It doesn’t mean that the ideologies which inspire violence are relegated to the hills or the trailers or the homes of poor people. This crime was not caused by the perpetrator’s economic or social status; it was caused by their violence, their racism, their absolute rottenness.

Hate crimes aren’t always this extreme, but they happen with regularity. Shifting the explanation to someone’s economic or cultural background obscures the reality that racism, and race-related violence, permeate every social and economic class in America. Poor white folks definitely don’t have a monopoly on it.

Holy. Crap.

I can’t believe I just read this. From a thread on Feministing responding to a cute video of Jessica’s puppy Monty, in which several people excoriated Jessica for getting Monty from a breeder, and demanded she justify her decision because she’s a feminist and dog breeding is somehow a core feminist issue:

There is absolutely no need to breed animals for profit, be them for pets or meat. It’s slavery and it’s wrong.

I just — that’s offensive to me on so many levels; I simply can’t imagine how that feels to someone whose ancestors survived the Middle Passage only to be sold at auction and kept in bondage for the rest of their lives; someone whose relatives in living memory were denied civil rights, equal access to education, and subject to lynching for nothing more than looking at a white person funny.

That’s just so willfully blindly privileged, and tin-eared, and utterly cruel, and racist all at the same time. But I suppose, given PETA’s history of racist and anti-Semitic ads, where images of black slaves and Jewish inmates at extermination camps were set alongside images of cattle going down a chute or chickens in battery cages, that this is not so uncommon an attitude among the animal-rights set. From Steve’s* post about Ingrid Newkirk’s dismissive response to the objection of James Cameron, the director of America’s Black Holocaust Museum to PETA’s “Slavery” campaign: (my emphasis)

Remember, [Dr.] Cameron almost died at the hands of a lynch mob. They were screaming “get the nigger” and had yanked him out of his cell. Only the lone voice of a woman saying “leave that boy alone” saved his life. But this harrowing experience means nothing to Newkirk, his pain is irrelevant to her. I thought I had seen cruel responses to Mrs. Sheehan. But this tops them. By a mile.

It’s the same kind of ignorant cruelty Cindy Sheehan is facing. Newkirk is simply incapable, like most fanatics, of seeing any side but her own. And she is blind to the outrage this will cause. She has no idea of how her response is not going to go over with black people. Even her explaination is as tone deaf as George Bush. That may go over well with her donors and allies when she makes a mistake, but it will fall on deaf ears with black people. I dare her to defend this on any black radio show, or even Air America.

Now, not only is PETA refusing to apologize, as they did with the Holocaust ad, they intend to continue the tour, well until they’re denounced on Tom Joyner and from church pulpits. To compare black people to animals is the gravest insult a white person can do, and no matter how “liberal” PETA says it is, this will dog it until their tour is cancelled. Because she is fucking with something she does not understand in any way, shape or form. Angry isn’t the word. I’d be surprised if Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton aren’t outside PETA HQ at the end of the week.

So, given that this is the mentality of PETA’s leadership, do you think it’s fair to call them racist, now?

Somehow, it’s even crueler when the animal in question is not a steer being led to the slaughterhouse, but a well-loved puppy from a responsible breeder.

I’m just gobsmacked.

And after I originally wrote this, the commenter explained herself:

Regarding Zuzu’s comments about slavery: Only people who think their lives are more important than non-human animals’ lives can be offended by the comparison of human slavery to animal slavery. The definition of slavery is to treat another as property. Property is the essential concept of slavery. Property. The only way you can be offended is if you think it’s OK to treat non-human animals as property. I’ve had this discussion on my blog before:
so you can read more if you’re truly interested in understanding my perspective. Or you can just ignore my criticisms and right me off as a loon, like you normally do.

I just really don’t know how to respond to that.


(cross-posted here)
* God, I miss Steve.

To My Friends

I am feeling really down about my lack of phone or internet connection. My mum had to call me from England on my mobile and we could only chat for a few minutes. I feel out of touch with my blogging and all my dearest blogging friends. Bad day. Anyway, I apologise for my absence yesterday. I just couldn’t make it to an wifi-spot and I am too tied up with real life things to be able to really spend time a new post for today.

So instead of being down on myself about it, I decided to re-post something I wrote after a particularly nasty round of attacks on me and my blogging friends.

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Racism and Greece

My blogging began because of a racist attack that had happened here in Greece six years earlier. It shocked the country then, not just because it was so horrific but also because the country had to wake up and see that racism exists here, contrary to popular opinion.

It is a commonly held belief that Greeks are not racist. It is also common to hear people say, “We don’t mind Black people, it’s the Albanians, Turks or Gypsies, we have a problem with. In more recent times, the Chinese have joined the list of baddies because of the small shops selling cheap clothing that have sprung up all over the big cities. This is a country where it is still acceptable to put your house up to rent and to specify that foreigners need not apply. This is a place where the media will accuse any crime on Albanians before any facts are known. There is no shortage of stories here about racism and xenophobia. There is more material than I could possibly cover myself.

I understand that It is often difficult for people to face up to racism. It is not an enjoyable experience to be accused of racism. And here I was accusing a whole country of the racism they didn’t want to see or acknowledge. There has been a collective temper tantrum and an avalanche of denial. How dare a foreigner call us racist? And worse still, a black one!

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