Baltimore is bringing racism out from under its rock

Allow me to say, I haven’t seen so much stupid racist rubbish expressed in a long time as Baltimore has evoked. The last time I saw it was just after the O.J. Simpson verdict in 1995. And just like now, it was in media & common conversation among whites. I heard it all around me & felt quite threatened by it as if it was a parallel dimension akin to hell.

In a stroke of historic good fortune, the Million Man March took place in Washington, DC a week or so after the verdict, which had conservative politics but drew hundreds of thousands of Blacks. Power is so damn persuasive. All the jibber-jabber of social hatred stopped on a dime & went back into hiding. Black power is the answer now too. And the long-term solution.

It’s times like these when whites can realize what Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and others face all the time.

The language of the oppressed

A friend asked why I use the term Black–which I use as a proper name, not as an adjective. The question of what you call yourself is a sensitive issue for all of the oppressed, including women, the disabled, LGBT people, Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, oppressed castes in India, indigenous peoples all over the world. The vocabulary of epithets & hate terms for each is vast; even women’s body parts are given demeaning names.

An important part of every social movement has been deciding what we call ourselves, what names we deem respectful & that embody our dignity. There is of late a trend of thought that wants to reclaim hate language like slut or whore. Why one would ever want to do that escapes me & I frankly consider it politically jejune. We’re not in a pissing contest but a momentous historic struggle to end oppression & see each other with dignity. Language is a part of that.

Since I was a kid there have been a few different names for Black people–not including the numerous hate terms. A Black co-worker once laughingly told me name changing was to make people think something had changed when everything was just the same.

In the 1950s & 1960s, Negro was the appropriate term & that’s what Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., & other activists in the Civil Rights Movement used. With the Black power movement in the late 1960s-1970s, radical youth began calling themselves Black in association with the demand for Black power & the slogan “Black is beautiful.” It’s a movement that came under severe political repression.

Somewhere in the 1970s, middle-class Blacks began calling themselves African-Americans. Its usage seemed peculiar to many because Blacks in the Americas go back 500 years plus. The offspring of Irish, Italians, French, Germans, etc., who came much later don’t call themselves French-Americans, etc. So why should those of African ancestry do so when most feel no more connection to Africa than, for example, my family does to Tipperary?

I wanted to use the name acceptable to Blacks I worked with and asked them what they preferred to be called. They were of the Black power generation or younger & all were working class. They were dismissive of the term African-American, considered it awkward, & said Black was the name they preferred. It’s possible there is a class difference in preference; it’s possible time has passed me by & the name is no longer suitable. But that’s the only reason I use the name Black. Plus I love its association with power & beauty.

Media campaign to turn civil rights protest into riots

Lone protester in Baltimore (Matt Rourke:AP) Apr 29 2015

There is a concerted media campaign to turn the discussion about Baltimore into moralizing about the looting, arson, vandalism even though there is precious little evidence it is widespread. Allegedly, a senior community center, pharmacy, wig store, & convenience store were torched by protesters. Maybe the protesters torched all four; maybe they didn’t.

Obama made a statement about Baltimore that echoed what he said about Ferguson. As forcefully as one can in a monotone, he condemned the riots in Baltimore & called those involved “criminals & thugs.” In Ferguson he said “I don’t have any sympathy for protesters burning buildings.” So now we know where he stands on that question. Where does he stand on police violence that provoked the outrage? What does he think about suspending the Bill of Rights in Ferguson & Baltimore? On that he’s remained dumb as a stump. What does he have to say about the hundreds of Black kids murdered every year by cops?

In September 2014, the Baltimore Sun newspaper reported on their six-month investigation of police misconduct in the city. They reported the city of Baltimore paid out about $5.7 million since 2011 from lawsuits claiming police brutality & civil rights violations with alleged suspects. That’s not counting another $5.8 million spent by the city on legal fees to defend the accused cops. The newspaper found a “disturbing pattern” of such conduct. Over 100 people had won court judgements or settlements in a period of less than four years & the victims ranged from a 15-year-old boy to a 65 year-old church deacon & an 87 year-old woman helping her wounded grandson. That’s what needs to be talked about–not stealing toilet paper from a chain pharmacy.

Fox News is reporting that a data mining firm (which shared its findings exclusively with them) analyzed social media interactions in Baltimore & found 20 to 50 social media accounts were used to provoke & organize violence in both Baltimore & Ferguson. Fox reports ” While further analysis is being conducted on the data, it suggests the presence of “professional protesters” or anarchists taking advantage of Freddie Gray’s death to incite more violence.” The old “outside agitator” claim they used not just against civil rights activists who went to Ferguson to stand with the Black community but against activists who participated in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. On the face of it, it’s farcical but it’s a serious charge since crap like that can be used to censor social media & prosecute those who defend the Black community on social media.

The discussion of those who stand with civil rights & Black power should not be controlled by media or Obama’s turgid rhetoric but by justice & the Bill of Rights. When they talk about the pharmacy, we talk about Freddie Gray. And we stand with the protesters in Baltimore without reciting the mantra “I’m opposed to rioting, but…!”

(Photo of Baltimore protester by Matt Rourke/AP)

Toya Graham is being used by media

Media is making a celebrity of the mother in Baltimore seen on video assaulting & humiliating her teenage son who is trying to join the protests. She’s already been interviewed & will be on morning talk shows. The clock is ticking on her 15 minutes of fame.

The message is she tried to save her son from becoming an arsonist & looter; responsible parenting is chastening juvenile delinquency; good versus evil. But it’s more good homiletic television; stinking rotten politics.

There are thousands of people protesting in the streets of Baltimore against the barbaric gruesome murder of a young man guilty of nothing. It gives shivers to think of what they did to Freddie Gray to break his spine. Her son has the good sense to know if that violence is not opposed, he could just as well be next. She should be heading out with him, not attacking him in the streets.

The media narrative on police violence in Baltimore

While the state of Maryland marches in 2,000 National Guard to help the 1,000 riot cops in Baltimore, media is marching out the pieties to justify repression. Nearly 60 years of listening to this horse manure merits a place in the highest levels of heaven, a halo & the title of Saint Mary of Choler to boot.

So the media homily goes: if Black kids just complied with cops & didn’t run there’d be no need to shoot them. If they trusted cops who stop them, they wouldn’t die. Nary a reporter who thought to ask if they had reason to be scared or more importantly to report that many of them were standing completely still–& unarmed?

40th commemoration of Fall of Saigon

Vietnam War child killed (Horst Faas:AP) Apr 28 2015

This week, on the eve of the 40th commemoration of the Fall of Saigon marking the rout of the US military by the Vietnamese & the end of the war, the Guardian-UK newspaper ran two retrospective photo albums. Both favorably–or at least, uncritically–portray US & South Vietnamese troops in action. There are GI rock & roll jam sessions & even a photo of Bob Hope with one of the starlets he used to sexually titillate soldiers. There are photos of both armies rescuing wounded comrades & recovering bodies or engaged in heroics. In some photos the bodies are piled on top of each other.

There’s no way in hell media can clean up the image of the Vietnam War. Millions of people around this globe know the truth & it will forever stand condemned–as should every other murderous US military intervention. There is no such thing as a “humanitarian intervention.”

Due process is no part of war. So there are many photos of South Vietnamese soldiers threatening “Việt Cộng suspects” with weapons; there is the famous photo of a South Vietnamese general assassinating a “suspected Việt Cộng official” in Saigon; & images of US & South Vietnamese soldiers torching whole villages & evicting residents to rout “suspected Việt Cộng guerrillas”.

There is also a 1966 photo of women & children crouching in a canal to “take cover from intense Việt Cộng fire”. We’re told the US military rescued them to safety from the US assault on a Việt Cộng stronghold. Of course there wouldn’t have been any Việt Cộng fire if the US army weren’t assaulting the village.
There’s a 1969 photo of a woman crying over a body bag with the remains of her husband “found in a mass grave containing civilians killed by Việt Cộng during the Tet offensive of 1968.” No alleged here? Couldn’t that mass grave have been dug by US soldiers? Thousands of Vietnam veterans don’t have PTSD for nothing.

Then there is the famous 1972 photo of screaming children severely burned in a US aerial napalm attack who are running down a highway followed by South Vietnamese soldiers. The caption informs us “A South Vietnamese plane seeking Việt Cộng hiding places accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on civilians & government troops instead.” Maybe a South Vietnamese plane dropped the napalm; maybe it didn’t. It’s the US military that pioneered the use of napalm in war, including WWII & the Korean War. In Vietnam, the US dropped almost 400,000 tons of napalm bombs just between 1963 & 1973. Napalm is particularly barbaric because it causes fifth-degree burns which go down to the bone.

The US also sprayed 43 million liters (11.4 million gallons) of Agent Orange on thousands of villages in Vietnam, Laos, & Cambodia to kill off crops & defoliate & expose Việt Cộng guerrillas. The poisonous ingredient in Agent Orange is dioxin which had long been banned in most countries because it remains toxic for at least 100 years & was known to cause at least 24 symptoms in those exposed & in their offspring. The Vietnamese government estimated 400,000 people died from Agent Orange poisoning & over a half million were born with incapacitating disabilities. Decades later it remains a problem in the underground aquifer system of Vietnam. Thousands of US soldiers & their children also died or sustained the symptoms.

This 1964 photo is a grieving father holding the body of his small child before a tank of South Vietnamese rangers. The child was killed when South Vietnamese troops pursued Việt Cộng guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border. Another accident by the South Vietnamese army? Are we to believe the savagery of the Vietnam War all just a series of mishaps & South Vietnamese military incompetence?

The most important political responsibility of this generation is to rebuild the international antiwar movement. Media is now embedded up the ass of the Pentagon. If the truth is to be known about the barbarisms still going on in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, & elsewhere, it will be by activists committed to ending war & to making this world suitable for human beings to live & love in.

(Photo by Horst Faas/AP)

Solidarity with the Black community in Baltimore

Baltimore pepper spray (Shannon Stapleton:Reuters) Apr 28 2015

Media is in its element now–going after the Black community in Baltimore with articles denouncing the riots & photos of young Blacks demolishing police cars & pummeling riot cops with rocks. Black lawlessness on a rampage! Meanwhile 25-year-old Freddie Gray was laid to rest. And media quotes politicians & even his grieving family denouncing the riots.

Are we expected to join the chorus of denunciation & separate out the 10,000 peaceful protesters from the handful of rioters? If there are peaceful protesters it only means the cops haven’t yet taken their military arsenal after them, like in Ferguson. It just means they haven’t yet thrown out the Bill of Rights in Baltimore like they did in Ferguson. But they’re getting around to it beginning with that curfew. Then all 10,000 will be declared rioters & they’ll move in the National Guard.

There’ll be no denunciations here of Black youth who have endured decades of police harassment, seen Black teens around this country murdered by cops with impunity, saw the assassins of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, & countless others walk away scot-free from justice. There’ll be no attempts to talk around the riots or portray the youth involved as the criminal element.

It’s very dangerous to be young & Black these days. If you wear your pants too low, if you lip off to the science teacher, if you smoke a joint, if you walk too fast or too slow, or loiter on a corner, you’re at risk of being harassed or assaulted. Or murdered for no good reason.

The problem is police violence, as part of the US war on Black youth, which has gone on for several decades without the media clamoring for justice but portraying the Black community as a war zone of lawless drug peddlers. The problem for youth is the compromised old guard of Black leadership who operate within the Democratic Party to silence Black protest against tyranny.

We leave the denunciations to others. We stand with the protesters in Baltimore. All of them. Without distinction. A new civil rights & Black power movement is emerging. A new leadership is emerging who will not truck with compromise. And that’s a glorious development we have no intention of parsing or denouncing.

Our fullest solidarity with the protesters in Baltimore. May Freddie Gray RIP. And may the unspeakable crime against him marshal in a new era of resistance to racism & tyranny.

This is a young man hit by pepper spray from riot cops. Is he a peaceful protester or a rioter?

(Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Protests continue in Afghanistan against murder of Farkhunda

Kabul Farkhunda protest (Reuters:Omar Sobhani) Apr 27 2015

Street protests continue in Kabul, Afghanistan over the March 19 beating death of Farkhunda, a young woman who was attacked by a mob while police stood idly by. Male & female protesters are demanding justice & the prosecution of those involved, including the police who did nothing.

These demonstrations suggest US-NATO have bombed the misogyny right out of the Afghans just like the Pentagon promised when they occupied the country & started bombing everything in sight. That must be what the US is trying to do in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq too.

But now with men & women standing up together against misogynist violence–along with that nail salon in downtown Kabul–surely the Pentagon can announce “Mission accomplished” & get the hell out of there.

Of course the emancipation of women is only reason number umpteen for the war which began nearly fourteen years ago under the guise of hunting down Osama bin Laden in the caves of Afghanistan. The US has no intention of leaving or closing down its torture centers.

The women of Afghanistan do not need US marines to liberate them. For heavens sake, there isn’t a woman in the US who would request military occupation against misogyny here. We’ve taken a look at the rape statistics within the US military & we know something about US war crimes in Afghanistan.

The international antiwar movement must be rebuilt demanding US-NATO close down those torture prisons & get out of Afghanistan & Iraq–lock, stock, & barrel. Our fullest solidarity with the men & women of Afghanistan who have stood nearly alone against the mighty military force of US-NATO. Our deepest regrets we have been unable to stay the hand of US aggression but don’t give up on us yet.

(Photo is from April 8th march in Kabul by Omar Sobhani/Reuters. There were also protests today.)

Millionaire philanthropy: picking the pockets of working people

You can be goo-goo eyed about celebrity philanthropy all you like but there’s something unseemly about millionaires shilling donations for UNICEF. Salma Hayek is visiting Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon to raise money. Ah she’s a saint & likable indeed. But she alone is worth millions from film earnings & is married to a guy worth over US $15 billion.

Who is UNICEF trying to get the dough from? Corporations? Other billionaires? Or working people? Hayek & her husband could hand over their petty cash purse & it would dwarf anything most of us could give.