Monday, January 19, 2015

MLK Day Linkfest

Some post-Ferguson post-Staten Island clips I've been saving for today. I can't add much to what these writers have said. If you've got the day off, use some of your time to read.

The struggle continues, and it's not just a domestic issue. Rachel Gillum and Tony Johnson:
Americans should be concerned when the nation’s principles and values are compromised. Losing credibility on domestic human rights and social justice issues is detrimental to U.S. foreign policy and national security because it weakens America’s legitimacy as a global ethical and moral leader. Recently, U.S. State Department officials calling for justice and accountability in repressive societies have been questioned and criticized over America’s treatment of black Americans. As a defender of human rights and champion of ethics-based domestic and international policies, the United States must promote a just society, supported by the rule of law, and a respect for all of its citizens with as much fervor and commitment at home as it does abroad.
And it's not just a regional thing, as Isabel Wilkerson writes:

It was because of the Great Migration — six million black Southerners fleeing Jim Crow from World War I to the 1970s — that African-Americans now live in every state of the union. They were seeking political asylum within their own country in what was, in effect, one of the nation’s largest and longest mass demonstrations against injustice. It was barely recognized for what it was at the time, arising as it did organically, rather than from a single leader, much like the protests today. Both migrants and protesters were pleading with the world to take notice that something was terribly wrong in the places where they lived.

One of the few contemporaneous studies in the early years of the migration, published by the Chicago Commission on Race Relations in 1922, surveyed Southern migrants to determine why they had come north and what they had hoped to find. The migrants responded:

“Freedom in voting and the conditions of the colored people here.”

“Freedom and chance to make a living.”

“Freedom and opportunity to acquire something.”

“Freedom of speech, right to live and work as other races.”

“Freedom of speech and action. Can live without fear, no Jim Crow.”

Those desires went little noticed. Indeed, it was resentment toward the Southerners’ arrival and obstacles to their entering the mainstream of Northern life that helped create the current conditions.
Gene Demby at Politico on a civil rights generation and tactics gap:
The ambivalence many younger activists feel toward Sharpton—and the civil rights establishment more broadly—isn’t just some intergenerational beef between old-heads and young bucks. Some of it is tactical. Tory Russell of Hands Up United thought that Sharpton’s proximity to the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner was, in part, a way to shield himself from criticism. “When Al Sharpton comes to St. Louis, he don’t come out unless he’s with the parents,” Russell said. “It’s a cloak. He can say ‘you’re attacking the family!’”

But Hayes said that there was a financial and socioeconomic divide, too. “Organizers, a lot of times, have advanced degrees and worry about things like proper email etiquette,” he said with some sarcasm in his voice. “The nonprofitization of social movements has led to their professionalization.”

He said that the existence of a professional civil rights class has made it harder for people with less education or money to participate, and those older, more established groups often soak up resources and donations that the newer organizers need. “If the only way we can get [financial] help is to be a 501(c)(3)”—the tax designation for nonprofits—then something’s wrong,” Russell said.
And J on Oprah Winfrey as an example of that gap:
She's looking for the civil rights movement of half a century ago. But today's protests against racism look and sound different because today's racism looks and sounds different.

The fight there was between people who believed racism was good and people who believed racism was bad. Today, the fight is over whether racism persists as a live force in American life at all.

The battle is no longer between people who say African Americans should have equal rights and those who don't. It's between those who believe that we already have a colorblind society —a society where, if you just listen to what police officers say and don't behave like a thug, you'll be fine — and those who believe that racism still infects the criminal justice system, including among people who don't believe themselves to be racist.
The flash point of the current movement is law enforcement.  Via Daily Kos, The Real Reason Police Hate Bill de Blasio:
Emphasizing his multiracial family and personalizing issues of social and economic inequality has allowed him to capture the support of an Obama-esque coalition of people who never had access to the halls of power. Further, like Obama, he projects a masculinity that is empathic and introspective -- anathema to the patriarchal attitudes that dominate hierarchal institutions like the police...

Therein lies the fundamental split between the Mayor and the NYPD -- it is the clashing of egalitarian and authoritarian mindsets. There was no tipping point in their relationship. Bill de Blasio was hated by the police from day one.
Not to paint everyone with one brush. There are progressive-minded law enforcement folks, some of whom are my friends and some of whom are Democratic elected officials who want to fix things.  Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo shares a long message from a liberal NYC cop who tries to explain some of the mindset going on at NYPD today.  The whole thing is worth a read, here's a taste:
The siege mentality that animates the Tea Party national is alive and moving in Law Enforcement, which even under normal circumstances perceives the world as “us against them.”  The closing of ranks when the Brotherhood is threatened is palpable.

There is a sense, too, that the protesters have crossed over the line of free speech. Free speech should not include the right to block traffic, or bridges - and there is a sense that de Blasio has allowed that… the sense is that we enforce those laws that the people put in place. And when the politicians allow people to break those laws in the name of free speech, the cops feel betrayed. I get the reason behind civil disobedience, etc, but civil disobedience is normally undertaken at the risk of arrest. I think even the cops respect that.
Michelle Chen at The Nation argues that the larger labor movement is the pressure point
What to make of a union of workers who have historically been charged with breaking strikes and protecting the property of corporations?

Should the labor actions of recent weeks alarm New Yorkers? If PBA members go beyond passive de-policing and escalate to a confrontational “coup” against the Mayor, the cops could shift from patriarchal enforcers to a rogue agency. But New Yorkers should not buy the conservative line that these events are a reason to weaken public sector unions across the board.

Grappling with these contradictions might actually foster a more democratic labor movement. Ari Paul argues that police unions deserve not solidarity from other city unions, but rather, healthy antagonism—public sector workers like teachers should take a forceful stance against police brutality.

The point of labor organizing isn’t necessarily promoting ideological purity among the proletariat; it is to take the power structure of waged labor that forces the exploited to be complicit in their oppression, and empower them to resist to the greatest extent possible.

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