Tag Archives: Civil Rights

The White Ruling Class & The Rising Under Class

I think most people merely want to get on with the business of living their lives and so long as there are no interruptions to what they consider normal then they do not become concerned with the things in this world that are unjust or unfair. I do not think they are necessarily at fault for having this desire. It is hard enough to get through school, to maintain a job, to sustain a relationship, to raise children and so on that becoming concerned with the problems of others may seem like too much of a burden to bear. In fact, many may never even notice the pervasiveness of suppression and inequality until someone attempts to challenge the structure and the order of the society in which they live.

 

For so long as the people who traditionally have fulfilled service sector roles perform those roles and do not attempt to interrupt or contribute to the ruling roles then there is no need for active suppression. However, when the son of a cobbler or a janitor aspires to become the owner of the janitorial business or even the corporation that employs the janitorial business and questions the rulership of those business owners and corporations then steps are taken to limit the progress of the individual from the underclass. The situation described above may appear unjustified and even wrong, inaccurate, and intentionally to be eschewing the facts and reality. However, this interpretation dissipates when the situation is considered through the lens of dialectal materialism, that is the competition for the control of resources and how this impacts the social fabric of a society. Furthermore, when it is understood that capitalism ideologically fosters a competition wherein victory is only achieved by the destruction of all other competitors, then the reality of the situation described above is not as far-fetched as one might have initially thought.

 

One of the more troubling observations I have made concerning the situation described above is that the rulers within a society often times do not know that they are in the ruling class. When Jim Crow segregation in the United States was in full force and cities had “white only” and “colored” signs plastered all over, it was quite obvious who was in power and who lacked power. However, different the outward appearance of the United States may be today, things are not as different as many believe. There may not necessarily be specific and overt signage signifying where a particular person, from a particular group belongs, but that does not change the net results of the system, which by and large remains much the same. Police officers still participate in context stops of individuals when they are ‘caught’ in the wrong neighborhoods; “sundown towns” are not necessarily a thing of the past. Henry Louis Gates Jr., a professor at Harvard University who is also a Black man, was arrested for walking into his own front door because the police thought he was a burglar. “Stop and Frisk,” a policy that began in New York under Mayor Giuliani in the 1990s, permitted police officers to stop anyone at any time that they chose, to inspect and violate their Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” In addition to that violation was also the arbitrary and targeted nature of the law, which primarily targeted young people of color to essentially harass and terrorize them in their own communities; racial profiling. Now here again we hear the that the presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to institute stop and frisk across the entire county under the supposed rationalization that it will help the Black community. Help the Black community to do what? Stay in a pre-scribed place. Not the place that we belong, but the position within this society which has been imposed upon us. In 1964, Black people could not vote in the United States and as such, also could not participate in juries. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed making illegal the infringement of the voting rights of all people, especially, as it had been done through the cryptic practices of poll taxes and literacy tests. Yet, as a result of further, clever legal finagling today there are over twelve million people who are disenfranchised within the United States and thus the net result is unchanged. The police institution is still predominately staffed and controlled by white people, the courts are still predominantly controlled by white people, the jails and prisons are still primarily controlled by white people, and the politics are still controlled by white people. All of these observations are readily apparent whether by first-hand account (walk into a courthouse or police department or legislature), or by statistics. The fact that there is a Black person for President, Barak Obama, or person as a Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, does not alter the reality of who holds the power and control. The issue here is the rule, although people may want to focus on the exceptions to the rule like they make a significant difference to the net results. Yet, tell a white person that they are part of the ruling class and they will oppose the proposition as staunchly as an accusation of capital murder.

 

Many white people operate under the perception that they are not part of the ruling class because they do not interpret race as being one of the major factors that contribute to class and also tend to deny the prevalence of racialized privilege.  These two condition are not only correlational, but are mutually reinforcing; i.e., the two structures work together to maintain the social order and class structure whereby Black people are largely politically, socially, economically, and socially constricted into positions of inferiority. To be certain, the control of capital is factor that impacts and delineates all people and many white people are certainly impacted by this in a negative manner. But, their mere affiliation with the group of people that are white removes many barriers that Black people must overcome to simply begin to compete in this system. Obstacles that many white people will never in their life have to consider prior to applying to school or a job, before walking into the grocery store, when a police officer pulls behind them in traffic, or renting an apartment, etc. When Black people are able to overcome some of these obstacles that are invisible to white people we may hear something like, “wow, you are very articulate” (for a black person; the end is usually left unspoken, but the intent is implied and felt). This is why a Black man with a college degree and no “criminal” record is at a disadvantage when competing with a white man with no college degree and a “criminal” record for the same position. A disadvantage that has been institutionalized and is reinforced by racial determinations within the United States society.

 

A very harmful outcome of these circumstances is the phenomenon of internalized racism, whereby the implications of the racialized class structure become a component of the identity of members from the subordinated group. This is expressed in terms of the belief that white people are superior and that Black people are inferior in intellect, politics, beauty, economics and so forth, and furthermore, that this is the way it is supposed to be. It leads to an apathy that limits the horizon of potential to but the near future because long-term planning tends to seem like “pipe dreams,” that is, things that are unachievable or unrealistic. It further leads people to feel satisfied with mediocre standards of living because they tend not to believe they deserve better and are worth more, that their contributions to society do not warrant a greater share of the profits of that society. The prevalence of the inner-city ghetto is the quintessential example of this in American society, wherein it seems the people are locked in a negative-feedback-loop of degradation into a deplorable and demeaning existence. These negative feelings are internally reinforced among those who are members within the subordinated group and may be expressed in phrases such as; “sell-out,” or “Uncle Tom,” of “look at you trying to be white.” A Black person is likely to hear something like this from other Black people when we excel in education, or we use something other than the local slang, or when we can manage to get into or graduate from college, or when we beat the odds and get a good paying job. The internalization of racism can go much further and people have even acted so as to prevent the others from progressing, such as the very conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who has taken stances both against the application of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and Affirmative Action. In 1982, Republican President Ronald Reagan, made Thomas the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, of whose roles it was to oversee the application of the Affirmative Action laws. Then in 1991, another Republican President, George Bush, placed Thomas onto the Supreme Court to replace the nearly polar opposite retiring Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the Civil Rights lawyer who with the NAACP at the time, won the Brown v. Board of Education suit in 1954. All going to show that an exception to the rule, Thomas very likely having benefitted from Affirmative Action going to Yale Law School (the same school as President George W. Bush Jr.), has worked to undermine that very system that would level the competition field for so many. These institutions, policies, and practices paid for with the blood of our predecessor’s and years of their lives being undermined by one of the people they were designed to help, and did help, can be nothing but the manifestation of internalized oppression. When the dynamics of the hierarchical class structure become internalized by the people marginalized and minoritized by that structure it has the tendency to imprison them into a negative belief system that permits the system to function almost unchecked or unchallenged.

 

People have a tendency to grow comfortable with things that are familiar as they get used to the way that things function, regardless of how beneficial or harmful the circumstances may be. White people who are not familiar with the constraints that Black people contend with and are relatively comfortable with the circumstance of the conditions of the United States society will lack the necessary motivation to interrupt the way things are. Furthermore, because economic class distinctions do impact white people with all the relevant political, educational, and social implications; any interruption from Black people into that system may seem like a corruption of their opportunities as a result of the added competition. Yet, instead of focusing attention on those who are members of the most elite group and who control the distribution of resources and thus the opportunities within our society, the people who are most closely identified as being related to the interruption are blamed and targeted.

 

Most recently, when Black Lives Matter emerged as a national political platform it was challenged with All Lives Matter and even Blue Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter is merely the assertion of equitable value of human life due a specific respect that is not tinged with subordination. Yet, white people felt as if their lives were somehow being devalued by this proposition and also felt the need to challenge it by claiming that all lives already had value and that there was no need for a specific assertion of value of a particular group because they do not believe that there are subordinated groups in this society. The slogan “All Lives Matter” was the tool they created to accomplish a supposed ‘rebalancing’ of the social order they had grown comfortable with. Blue Lives Matter was an even more specific attempt to rebalance the attention away from the systemic inequalities Black people are subjected to, towards the police institution itself. As if somehow the police were ever in the disadvantage of anything or that they needed any more power or authority. The “Blue Lives Matter” slogan was the tool utilized by police officers and their proponents to reestablish the unquestioned authority of the police institution in its role to maintain the hierarchical, racialized, class structure of economic privilege.

 

The pushback to “Affirmative Action” wherein the policy has been assaulted as being “reverse discrimination” and “reverse racism” is another prime example of this phenomenon of blaming the interruption of the social order on those most closely identified with the disruption of their privileges. For the first time, a space was being made for Black people whereby some of the barriers invisible to white people were legally disbanded and they were forced to compete with Black people not having barriers to access. They found it difficult to compete and felt that it was an imposition into their comfortable social order. White people, because they had also internalized their “racial privilege” couldn’t and wouldn’t believe that they were being out-competed by Black people and still do not. We are likely to hear such things as “you only got into that school because you got a scholarship,” which is an expression of class discrimination, and “you only got that scholarship because of affirmative action,” which is an expression of racial discrimination because it is code for “being Black and thus unworthy.” These two factors are not only correlational, but are mutually reinforcing. We are likely to hear these things even in states where Affirmative Action has been repealed because of the pushback from white people. The belief that Black people are inferior is so pervasive, and the maintenance of the social order is so important that any imposition or interruption is immediately challenged with the focus being on those most closely identified with the interruption. Thus, when Black people began to break out of the social order we had been constricted into, there was immediate pushback by those in the ruling class of this hierarchical society to put Black people back into “their place,” and yet it will undoubtedly be argued that racism is a thing of the past and that the social outcomes are not equitable to the outcomes of the legal impositions of the past.

 

Chattel Slavery in the United States as it existed in the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries was official abolished in 1865, with the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. A hundred years after that, Jim Crow segregation as it existed throughout the end of the nineteenth and for the first half of the twentieth century in 1964 and 1965, with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, respectively.  First and foremost, the Thirteenth Amendment did not abolish the institution of enslavement, it codified it into United States law. Second, slavery is an institution that humans have depended on for thousands of years in multiple cultures and civilizations, and has depended upon the identification of subordinated groups to justify the imposition of servitude and subservience upon others. The belief systems that rationalized enslavement did not disappear from the human consciousness and social fabric merely because it was abolished by law; the feelings and sentiments are still very much alive and continue to harm the entire civilization; e.g., the Prison Industrial Complex. In addition, we are only one-hundred and fifty-one years removed from the end of the American Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which is but a blink of an eye relative to the millennia the institution of slavery has survived through. Thus, to presuppose and to assume that the belief system which rationalized enslavement no longer exists and that the impacts of the institution have somehow disappeared is not only premature, but also, inaccurate and ahistorical. It is actually cognitive dissonance and a mere justification to rationalize the maintenance of the current hierarchical social structure.

 

White people are not interested in releasing the privileges they have which grant them opportunities or relinquishing their political position to share with the subordinated groups who are currently minoritized, marginalized, and disenfranchised. White people are not interested in challenging the most elite ruling group because it will undermine their capacity to compete for the meager resources they are granted access to and control over. White people are not interested in deconstructing the invisible barriers that grant them a negotiation advantage in rental, educational, business, economic, political, and purchasing situations. It is not in their best interest to do so, that is, it is not in their self-interest to share resources and opportunities because that would decrease their potential and likelihood of living a relatively comfortable life.

 

Therefore, since this is the reality of the context in which we live it is up to us, as Black people, to interrupt the status quo hierarchical, economic class structure held in place by racialized divisions. We have to seek to understand the internalization of racism and how it manifests in our lives and in our communities, and how it functions to hold us in a position of inferiority by doing the white man’s work for him. We are already being oppressed, we do not need to oppress ourselves with the garbage they want us indoctrinated with. This means that we have to stop consuming the media the white man propagates, which utilizes the tropes and stereotypes that portray our people in positions of inferiority; and we have to stop relying on and trusting their media machine that presents to us fabrications that they attempt to pawn-off on us as news. Each time we marshal the courage and muster the people to transgress the invisible barriers of class and racialized divisions, they send in their internal colonization force, the police, to suppress the advancement of our people from abject poverty and suppression into liberation and equality. Then they attempt to paint the political activists as “criminals” who according to them are breaking the “laws,” and who are upsetting the “order” of things. We have to recognize that these laws that criminalize our claim to liberty and equality are but the tools of an antiquated system of hierarchical privilege and subordination. Furthermore, that it is their indoctrination through their school systems and media that sustains the fragile veil of equality that people believe exists in the United States. Their indoctrination machine has been so effective that many Black people do not even know that we deserve more and that it is not our fault for not being able to compete equally in this system. That we deserve better than ghettos and prisons, that we deserve elite educations, that we deserve jobs that provide more than merely making ends meet week-to-week, that we deserve a further horizon than tomorrow as a future to strive for. We deserve to not live in fear that because of the color of our skin we may not make it home from school or the grocery store alive.

 

It is understandable that most people just want to go about their lives and not to create ruffles or to stand out. For white people it undermines their social order and comfort. For Black people we risk being killed and imprisoned. That most people, and especially white people do not recognize this difference in potential outcomes is a major part of the problem. It is ironic, but most from either side will never even recognize that there is a problem until someone from the underclass attempts to climb out of the position this society has boxed us into. To make matters worse, until a sufficient amount of people from the underclass stand up and oppose the structure of oppression, the privileged class will continue to deploy and employ its rationalizations and explanations to criminalize those of us fighting to claim our human rights; fighting to claim what we are due and that which we deserve.

 

Above all else what must be understood is this; rights are not granted, they are fought for and won. We cannot rely on, or wait for our oppressors to wake up magically realize that what they have been doing is wrong and that for some reason against all logic that they will simply concede their unjust privileges to us. We have to demand that they relinquish their unjust earnings. We have to demand reparations. We have to press for equality and equity and we have to bring it into being. We have to fight for these things because they will not be given to us.

 

We only demand what we have a claim to by Right.

Advertisements

A Prisoner on the Streets of America

I am a true renaissance man and I have experienced so many forms of life and held so many positions or roles that it is difficult to narrow my thinking down to one foundational experience that has shaped and influenced my life. I died in a car accident when I was seven years old and the outcomes of being brought back to life and my faculties resulted in every person who was close to me expressing that I had a great role to fulfill on Earth.

I grew up in rough, alcoholic, and often violent home when I was younger and this heavily shaped my perception of poverty, addiction, relationships and vulnerability. My parents split when my mother had to flee from my father after he threatened to kill all of us before killing himself. That morning was the last time I ever saw my father and that definitely had a major influence on my life. The only place my family could flee to were areas in Oregon where my brother and I were the only black students in the schools. This was at a time that Oregon still had a prohibition in its State Constitution stating that Oregon was to be a white utopia and that black people were not permitted to settle within the limits of the state. Those experiences definitely shaped my perception of the world and my life. When we finally escaped the racist treatment of the people in Oregon, we moved to the Central District in Seattle where my brother and I, being tri-racial and coming directly from an all-white area lacked much of the social capital needed to be accepted by the black community in Seattle and found ourselves ostracized as outsiders. Those experiences also shaped my perception and influenced my life.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself indoctrinated into gang-life, criminal activity, and drugs. As a result of my behaviors, I spent a lot of time incarcerated and even went to juvenile prison for an extended period of time. It was there that I began to write poetry, which later in my life would lead me to being a spoken word and hip hop artist and being named Renaissance the Poet. After I was released from their prison, I was not able to shake the gang or the drugs, but the poetry stuck with me. On my eighteenth birthday I was given a drug called ecstasy, and under its influence was when I had my first experience with god. That experience caused me to leave the gang and the drugs alone and before I knew it, I had walked across the country from Washington to Massachusetts where I joined and became a priest in a cult.

I stayed with them for the better part of a year before I was able to escape from the mental imprisonment and the only method I knew to shut out the demons swirling in my head was to use drugs and alcohol to silence them. However, when I found myself back in Seattle I was ensnared by the chains of addiction once again and when the excitement of my return wore off, all of my family and friend severed their ties with me. I was left homeless, without prospects, and alone. Worst of all, the drugs were no longer working to silence the demons swirling in my head and a deep depression set in. After giving up everything I thought I was supposed to give up for god I felt truly alone because to me at the time that not even god could save me from myself.

Without anything else holding me to the planet or the people on it, I decided to take my own life by jumping off the Aurora Bridge. However, while I was walking to the bridge from Lake City, a lesson I head while I was in prison came back to me. There was an O.G. Vice Lord from Chicago that came to visit us and he told us that strangely, he discovered that he felt more free when locked-up, and more of a prisoner when he was on the streets. At the time I heard him say that, I thought he was out of his mind, but as I became a victim of the streets and was on my way to end my life I finally understood what he meant so many years earlier. Aside from having my liberty taken from me, the single other largest factor to the peace I felt while I was in prison was that I was not using drugs. So, while I was on my way to the bridge I decided to call the emergency services and with the direction they gave me while they treated me overnight in a few short weeks I was able to find my way into a chemical abuse treatment facility, which changed my life forever. I have been sober ever since and I have never felt as hopeless as I did that night I walked to the bridge to end my suffering.

Getting sober did not solve all the problems I had in my life, but it did provide me with the tools to access a level of peace necessary to confront those problems. I had four felonies and several misdemeanors on my criminal record. Furthermore, I had failed high school and at the current standing when I left, I was a 0.0 GPA student. I had no place to call home, no friends, and my family wanted nothing to do with me. I was able to gain access to a half-way house for people in transition from institutions and shortly after I began living there I woke up to the news of 9/11. I did not know it when I moved in, but the house was run by a Mormon church, and while there is nothing wrong with helping the community, I had a hard time coping because of my experience with the cult I was in; there were too many similarities. Then given the factors of my history that were barring me from both employment and education, I decided to go to a Job Corps facility.

If there was any experience in my life that I believe really set the stage for the man I was to become, then it was my experience at Tongue Point Job Corps Center in Astoria Oregon because it was there that I learned that I as an individual could have a positive impact in the lives of the people around me. Job Corps used to provide a bi-weekly allowance for the students that lived on campus, but that stipend was very limited. However, students could get a job to subsidize the funds they were lacking and I was encouraged to become part of the student government. I did and within a few months I had worked my way up the being the student body president of the facility. Aside from providing for the extracurricular activities for my fellow students we also challenged microagressions and negative stereotypes, although, at the time I did not know that is what we were doing. We challenged the center’s policy on sagging pants and how it related to the administration’s and staff’s perceptions of black youth who sagged their pants. I sagged my pants at the time and I was the president. More important, it was the issue that the students wanted me to bring up and fight for them.

While at the job corps facility I earned my G.E.D., my high school diploma, and printing apprentice certificate, and even started college. My goal for attending college was to go into law school, become a lawyer, then enter into politics and eventually become the president. It was a mixture between my experience at Job Corps being the president and a class I had in when Mr. Mollette my high school history teacher that told me that any American citizen could become president, one of the days that I passed through his class. I dropped out of school a few quarters after beginning and returned to Seattle thinking that I would get into college, but that was much easier said than done. My criminal record from when I was a juvenile still haunted me and I was barred from employment in most establishments.

I gave up on the idea of ever being able to afford college and found myself working in a used retail store for about a year when I began my journey into construction work. A man I met started hiring me on weekends to do odds and ends for him and paid me well. Then he brought me on as his first full time employee and decided that I would become his apprentice and eventually buy him out and take over the company. Within a few years I had become a professional heavy equipment operator, pipe-layer, estimator, and project manage and then I became a partner in the developing construction company negotiating contracts with Mid Mountain Contractors, Turner Construction, King County, and the City of Seattle.

During this time with the construction company I also started, hosted and ran the Cornerstone Open Mic & Artist Showcase, a hip hop and spoken word open mic that happen monthly at the Fair Gallery and Café on Capital Hill in Seattle, with my best friend and adopted brother Marcus Hoy. Mark Hoy and Sean Stuart are the people who named me Renaissance the Poet, because of the rollercoaster life I had lived prior to meeting them and the skill I had with poetry. The Cornerstone, as it became known, was a hub for revolutionary minded poets and artists from around the Puget Sound area where we discussed and challenged some of the most disparaging issues confronting our generation, such as, patriarchy, sexism, racism, and state control of citizens. Some of us may have been revolutionaries and activists at the time, but for the most part we were simply artists learning how to exercise our minds and our voices while we were learning how to exist and survive in the world we were all born into. In the more than five years that we hosted the Cornerstone, there was not one fight, and this was nearly unheard of for any hip hop venue anywhere at the time. Many relationships were forged there and the underground cultural element of resistance and justice was kept alive and fostered.

In 2010, our company won the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business “Minority Business of the Year” award. However, I always felt that I had missed my true calling to fulfill a great role on earth and thought that becoming a lawyer was the method I was supposed to take to achieve that role. In 2008, the economy spun on its head and we went into a dire recession that put a lot of pressure on our company. In 2011, a couple years after I had destroyed my knee mentoring some youth with the organization called TSB, the Service Board, battling to keep our business afloat and continuing to damage my knee, I realized that construction was never a trade I wanted to be in and decided to do whatever it took to go to college. So, I left R.J. Richards CE LLC and enrolled in North Seattle Community College (NSCC).

Somehow and somewhere along the line I had gotten this plan for my life and what I was supposed to do with it embedded into my head. I am going to write a new socioeconomic system for the entire planet that is environmentally sound, socially just, and equitable for all; and I am going to see it implemented before the day I die. I began studying history, philosophy, economics, sociology, psychology, biology and mathematics and my understanding of the world exploded my perceptions of humanity and the insurmountable character of my goal. That is when I became involved with another student government and I was brought in as the Student Fee Board Coordinator, which was the treasurer for the college. To do that job I had to study the Washington State laws associated with public monies and student fees, and to study ethics because I had to select and train a board and we were going to have to make tough ethical decision. Before that I knew being part of the government enabled me to have a lot positive influence in the lives of marginalized people from my experience at Job Corps. However, I never fully grasped how much power the United States Congress has on the lives of every citizen in the United States until I was given a smaller, yet similar role. People can design all the best programs in the world, but if they do not have the funds to get them started and to maintain them, then they may often never be able to achieve the goals of their programs.

At this time OCCUPY was challenging the corporate structure and control of people’s lives worldwide after the economic collapse in 2008. Like Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about the white clergy who questioned the movement while he was in the Birmingham jail during Project Confrontation, I agreed with their aims, but I disagreed with their methods. I disagreed with the mostly because I did not comprehend how they could be successful. It was a leaderless movement with demands that ran the spectrum. At the time it seemed to me that the movement lacked the necessary cohesion to achieve its aims. It was not that I disagreed with any of the demands. To the contrary, I believed that all of the things people were asking for should be achieved. My issue at the time was that I thought they could achieve more of their demands if they focused on them one or few at a time. I did not get involved with the movement because I did not understand it.

In 2013 I graduated from NSCC and had been accepted to the University of Washington (UW). When I first started at NSCC I thought that I would enter into the Law, Societies, and Justice program at UW, but by the time I entered the university I had settled on double-majoring in history and philosophy. I was still intent on progressing onto law school. I thought getting a good background in reading and research, with training in analysis, which the discipline of history would provide me with would be helpful in this regard. I thought having a strong understanding of morality and ethics, and the philosophical frameworks they are grounded in, plus developing my argumentative skills, which the discipline of philosophy would provide would further prepare me for law school and the work ahead of me. My ethical training began with a look at global justice, which confronted issues such as poverty, hunger, gendered vulnerability, social contracts, state legitimacy, climate change, immigration and feudal privilege, and many forms of oppression. It was these arguments about justice, which is to provide for that which promotes most the flourishing of all human beings, not the interpretation of it as punishment common in the United States that exposed me to the concepts of obligation and responsibility. History provided me with a lens into why these conditions exist and what factors led them to come into being. The courses at UW changed the way I envision my role in the world and I began to feel an immediate responsibility and obligation to use the knowledge and wisdom I had to benefit people.

During the summer of 2013, Sarra Tekola, my partner in life, brought me to my very first protest. We traveled down to the Columbia River on the border of Washington and Oregon States to participate in the Portland Rising Tide opposition to the coal and oil that were being shipped from the west coast to China. At the time, Sarra was an Environmental Science major at UW and part of the Divest University of Washington coalition and she schooled me on how important the issue of climate change was to our survival as a species. She also hipped me to the fact that people of color worldwide are the not only the first impacted by the effects of climate change, but are also the most impacted by it as well. She informed me that the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of the best and brightest scientists on the planet determined that if we as a civilization burn enough carbon to increase the temperature of the planet by two degrees Celsius cumulatively, we will enter into a negative feedback loop of destruction that we will not be able to recover from. Desertification will destroy once plush and arid farm lands, like what had happened to her father’s people in Ethiopia. Melting polar ice caps will submerge places like the Philippines displacing millions, many of whom will die in the process. So, it was important to protest the extraction and transportation of carbon producing materials for everyone on the planet, but especially for people of color because people of color have nest to no power in the decision making circles like the U.S. Congress and the United Nations. It was scary and every moment I thought I was going to be arrested. Canoes spread across the river to block any ships and people spanned the bridge above holding signs, while a group rappelled off the bridge to display a huge banner. We did not stop the extraction or transportation of fossil fuel materials that day, but it felt good making a stand with like-minded people for the sake of justice.

The summer of 2014 I went to Greece with the Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS) of UW to conduct research on immigration. I thought my time in Greece would help me to work on the issues surrounding immigration in the United States. Greece had been suffering from a major recession for several years and was also experiencing a major influx of people from the Middle East and the African continent. Most of the migrants were fleeing from deplorable situations and most did not intend for Greece to be their final destination, many wanted to continue onto other European Union (EU) nations. Greece was the entry point by both water and land into the EU for many migrants. However, the EU had tightened its policy on migrants and because of the Dublin II Regulation, the EU was returning any migrant discovered in any country to the country they entered into the EU at to process their applications of asylum. In addition to the recession, and the lack of financial assistance from the EU for both the residents of the country and the new influx of immigrants, there was also a nationalist and xenophobic organization oppressing the immigrants named Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn was a two-winged organization like the Dixiecrats of the South because they had nineteen percent of the parliamentary seats in Greece, in coordination with an organization like the Ku Klux Klan because they had a grassroots physically repressive regime harming immigrants. Immigration could be studied in any country in the world, but the particular set of conditions in Greece enabled us to observe the systematic denial of almost every singly right it is commonly agreed that people inherently possess simply for the sake of being human.

My second night in Greece at the American College of Greece dorm that UW has a satellite facility, I was taking a smoke break in the smoking section when for officers on two motor cycles turned the corner and immediately jumped off their bikes and pointed assault rifles at me simply because I am a black man. This may seem like a strange assertion until you have been to Athens, Greece and become acquainted with the reality that millions of people smoke and because of the smoldering heat that many people are out on the streets at night. There was nothing about me or what I was doing that was out of place except for the color of my skin. Luckily, I had my passport on me at that particular moment and I was saved from being hauled off into one of their immigration prisons. Their whole attitude toward me shifted as soon as they discovered I was an American, but until that moment I felt as though they regarded me as less than the mud on their boots would have shot me just to get a laugh. It was not until I hung out with an enterprising group of migrants from all over Africa in Monostraki Square—an electric flee market—and spending time with a parliamentary member that I learned Greece was a police state, and that the police had the authority to act independently of the government. I heard stories of how the police would select a street that migrants were known to frequent, then would block the exits, beat all the people of color and then imprison them. I spent most of my time in Greece terrified for my life from both the police and Golden Dawn because I did not have the social networks or rights that I had back in the United States. However, two nights before we left Greece I received word about the execution of Michal Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by officer Daren Wilson and I knew there was no escape from state sanctioned or permitted violence.

The O.G. Vice Lord’s words came back to me and kept playing over and over in my head about how we are prisoners on the streets. Being a black man in America I exist as W.E.B. Du Bois mentions, with a “double-consciousness,” constantly viewing myself from two lenses; I experience myself as a man, and I am also always conscious of my status as a “black” man as viewed by white Americans. People of color in the United States suffer from dire economic sanctions which impose poverty upon us with a capitalistic system and an ideological framework of individualism. The system of oppression is held in place through red lining, the regressive tax system, voter disenfranchisement, poor education, and limited access to capital. Until I began researching the School-to-Prison Pipeline (STPP), I did not understand why many of the people I grew up with ended up in prison or dead, or locked in the revolving trap of poverty. I did not understand or even know about the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) or how it was linked to the Military Industrial Complex (MIC).  I had learned, like most people are taught that Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution ended slavery. However, what they do not teach is that slavery was abolished “except” in the case that a person is convicted of a crime. From that debt peonage and convict leasing emerged and over time prison slavery became a huge industry in the United States to the point that now America which has five percent of the world’s population also warehouses twenty-five percent of the world’s prison population. The largest consumer of prison labor in the United States is the U.S. Department of Defense, a.k.a., the MIC.  But prisoners also fabricate furniture and produce paint and clothing for many companies. Prison labor subsidizes many industries that otherwise would be too expensive to conduct in the United States, industries that create products other countries would have a comparative advantage producing. Prisons are an oasis for profit that is garnered from the exploitation of millions and that also disproportionately disparages communities of color.

Applying the aforementioned information about the PIC to the statistics about the rates of suspension, expulsion, and incarceration of the youth of color in the U.S. the School-to-Prison Pipeline began to make a lot more sense. Black children and children of people of color are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school. From the ninth grade on, one suspension or expulsion makes them fifty percent more likely to be incarcerated. After these children are incarcerated they become seventy-five percent more likely to enter the adult penitentiary system with prison slave labor, and over eighty-five percent likely to remain trapped in recidivism for the rest of their lives, in addition to their being disenfranchised from their first incarceration in accordance with the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of all these factors is a phenomenon known as Institutional Racism/Discrimination that permeates America’s society and institutions. The police and prosecuting attorneys have been granted arbitrary discretionary power and legal protections to act with impunity in its dealing with citizens. So, in toto, the U.S. Department of Justice with all its subsidiary prisons and law enforcement agencies when stripped of its colorful and well-sounding appeals to justice and order dissolves to a system of oppression, suppression, and exploitation.  With this understanding of the ‘criminal justice’ system in the United States, the fact that most of the people I grew up with wound up in the negative feedback loop of poverty and exploitation, or how and why Michael Brown’s executioner was able to commit the atrocity with impunity were no longer mysterious to me. We, being people of color, whom at any time can have our very lives stripped from us because the laws of this country deny that we have a right to life, are prisoners on the streets of America.

Therefore, when I returned from Greece and Black Lives Matter, which was started by Alicia Garza after the assassination of Trevon Martin in 2012, decided to organize and protest the abuses of law enforcement and for justice in the Michael Brown execution, given my sense of responsibility and obligation to use the knowledge and wisdom I had to the benefit people of my community, I joined the movement for Black Liberation. My participation in the movement has taken many forms over the last year reaching from protests, to arrests, to testifying at Seattle City Hall and King County Metropolitan Council chambers, to giving a speech to Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee. All the while I was still a student at UW continuing to learn about the system we live in and the factors that helped to created it. My academic pursuits definitely suffered when I became involved in the movement because my time became divided, but that does not mean I have not continued to be successful. I highly doubt that I will be selected as the valedictorian as I was when I graduated from NSCC, but I nonetheless, have managed to maintain a very strong GPA given all of my community activity. However, that has no longer been my primary objective. I have used my education to learn what happened during previous social movements and struggles and I now understand the importance of a leaderless movement and demands that are specific to the regions they are made. I have learned precisely what I did not understand about the OCCUPY movement. There are some similar macro-problems, such as racism and institutional discrimination that people of color suffer everywhere, but those problems are expressed differently in different places. Furthermore, there is a history of the U.S. Department of Justice, through programs like COINTELPRO under the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that systematically destroyed activists and Civil Rights organizations in the 1960s and 70s.

I have lived one incredible, rollercoaster of a life that has made me a jack of all trades, and a true renaissance man. At no time have I ever known where one event would lead me. And looking back it is very difficult to pinpoint any one specific event that shaped me into the man that I am or the man I am becoming. Taken out of context, none of the major shifts or events in my life will tell anyone very much about me, who I am, or why I do the things I do. But the words of the O.G. Vice Lord from Chicago that I met while locked up have been with me since then. There is something very wrong with feeling like and being a prisoner on our own streets. A place where one might think epitomized the essence freedom. That contradiction of beliefs filled my soul with dissonance and it reverberated through all of my life-experiences until it shook loose the warrior in me. Renaissance means to revitalize, or to bring new life. The system we live in has become a runaway train that no one seems to know how to stop or get off of, and what we need is to breathe new life into our civilization. We need a new system of values and an expanded conception of “we” that signifies, represents, and displays through action that we and our planet are all connected and intersecting components of our world organism. Each and every one is vital. No one is expendable. We all have our roles to fulfill on Earth. We are all responsible.

To Stand in the Shadows and Follow in the Footsteps of the Greats

Since, I was first introduced to the concept of making a pilgrimage to the South following in the footsteps of the Freedom Riders and Voting Registration activists, I have been incredibly excited to go to the very places where our liberties and freedoms were fought for and won.  I fully understand that racial and political climate is not the same today as it was in the 1950s and 1960s, but to feel the same weather, to walk some of the same streets, to see some of the same buildings and landscapes will help to make the stories more tangible to me. I have also just received notification that voting for all equally is still being challenged in Alabama: According to “Raw Story,” in the counties where 75% or greater of the registered voters are non-white citizens they will stop issuing driver’s licenses. This is a problem because photo identification is required to vote in Alabama and this will potentially bar people in those counties from voting. So, although the situation is different there are also more than remnants of the Civil Rights Era for us to learn from and participate.

Without question, the component of this adventure that I am most apprehensive about is all the cushy, emotional, touchy, feely stuff that has become such a norm at all of our meetings; and we are going to be on a bus together for over a week where I am sure this will be an expectation. I do believe that these types of experiences have their place, but because I have been so active in fighting an unjust system and in reactive modes of operation wherein I have had to silence or hide my emotions, this is somewhat difficult for me. On the one hand, it often feels like a waste of time to me, especially, since there are battles that I believe need to be fought. For example, while we will be on this pilgrimage the budget hearings for the City of Seattle will be going on and will be determining how much money is allocated for alternatives to incarcerating youth; a struggle that we have been waging for quite some time. Or in other cases, such as, people dying from police brutality, when responses to the unprovoked and unjust violence are necessary.

In my brain and the way that I have been thinking for so long, getting mushy and emotional has not been a high priority. However, I have also been coming to realize the importance of building community and that requires a deeper and more personal characteristic to our and my relationships. This is something that I have been watching emerge in the pilgrimage group. So, although, it is uncomfortable, I am beginning to see that it has advantages and is something that I have needed for much longer than I would care to admit. That however, does not change the fact that the emotional stuff on the bus is what I am least looking forward to during our pilgrimage.

I have never been to the South and as a result, I have never had an opportunity to experience being immersed in the Southern culture I have heard so much about. I mostly hear negative opinions about the South, but here and there brilliance has shined through the reports I have received. I am hoping that our short time will broaden my perspective about a people and a place I have never experienced firsthand. I do so loath forming opinions about subjects based on other people’s perspectives; it feels too much like rumors too me to fully trust.

With a host of friends, I will have the opportunity to meet some of the people who fought and won some of the rights we have today, and that many take for granted. I will get to listen to their stories firsthand, be able to feel their emotions, see their expressions, and share new and old experiences with people that I look up to and will stand with if the opportunity ever arises. We will be exploring the South for a little more than a week, getting a crash course in challenging the government and culture, seemingly against all odds. The harsh reality is that many were lost during the struggle and so that will be part of the learning as well, as some of those horrible stories are relived. But, we cannot forget the stories and the lives of those who gave so much to ensure a brighter future. All of this will inform and shape how I make decisions in the future and I am going down there with space prepared in both my mind and heart, so that I can carry as much back with me as is humanly possible.

Today we are confronted with a form of segregation and apartheid that is similar, but at the same time vastly different from Jim Crow because in the mid-20th century, the segregation was up-front and in people’s faces, but today it is behind fences and cement walls. The language that is used to justify the system of oppression has also evolved, but the feelings that gird them have remained somewhat consistent, however hidden them may seem to be. Challenging the system and the ideologies also seems to have changed because as the people have learned from the Civil Rights Era, so has the government and the people in power who wish for the system to remain the way it is; who protect the status quo. Our identities are much easier to track down and our relations much easier to flesh out today than in the 1960s because of the advent of social media so, it is not as easy to remain off the radar of programs or organizations like the COINTELPRO or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), respectively. However, the risks do not seem very much different than what the people we are going to meet were faced with, namely, restrictions on their life, liberty, and quality of life. I am hoping to learn how they managed to keep up their strength and dedication in light of the omnipresent, impending doom that always loomed right around the corner. I would love to learn just how they were able to motivate people and how they were able to overcome the petty difference that arose between the people. I especially want to learn how they addressed the class issues both within and without the Black communities they engaged with and how they were able to reconcile those differences.

To accomplish learning these things it will require that I neither, climb into my social shell, nor that I cling to it, but instead that I set it aside and expose myself to the uncomfortable emotional and intellectual experiences on the bus and at our stops along the way. Otherwise, I will not be able to engage in the conversations where such questions may be asked and lessons learned.  It is a small price to invest to gain access to a wellspring of knowledge and wisdom. Who knows, I may even make a few life-long friends along the way and stretch my conception of community all the way to Alabama after this trip.

Bridging Community

As it stands now there are approximately 7.3 billion people on the planet who identify with many different religions, nationalities, countries, cultures, economic systems, family structures, political ideologies, and tastes.  The United Nations predicts that by the year 2050 there will be over 9.7 billion people on the earth. To put that figure into perspective because just hearing the difference between seven and nine makes it seem miniscule; that is over eight times the current United States population. People in Seattle, Washington can barely afford their rents as it is now and if we are still following the same supply and demand, ‘invisible hand’ economics that are in effect today, I dread being alive to see the horrendous conditions that are in store for us. It is already being reported that wage gaps this large between the rich and the poor have not been witnessed since the fall of the Roman Empire and it is increasing at an exponential rate.

As if matters were not bad enough with only the population explosion, in addition to that is also the vast environmental degradation and destruction, which is increasingly causing our planet to become uninhabitable. The cumulative impacts of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere from our collective consumption of fossil fuels in our combustion vehicles, coal fire power plants, fracking plants, and oil burning are occurring simultaneously with the eradication of our forests that are the natural carbon sinks that could have restored the planetary ecosystem to equilibrium. Thus, instead of there being a fluid and efficient carbon cycle, the carbon our practices are releasing is getting stuck in the atmosphere, our public good, which traps in the heat from our Sun and leads to global warming. Global warming and climate change are natural occurrences, scientists and archeologists have confirmed this unequivocally. However, historically speaking, since the Industrial Revolution began in the 19th Century, human ingenuity has dramatically shifted the rate at which the natural process of climate change is occurring.

The net results stretch from rising sea levels to desertification of once arable land, of which the former is leading to the submersion of many inhabited regions and the latter is leading to famines and wars over limited resources. Furthermore, both are factors in mass migrations and the global apartheid unfolding before our very eyes. Take the migration crisis in Europe for instance, those people are fleeing from war and famine torn regions in the Middle East and Africa, fleeing over both land and water risking dehydration, starvation, death of both themselves and their families, or eternal isolation because those risks are more acceptable in comparison to the conditions they would otherwise suffer. The only difference between them and us is quite honestly, where we were all born and when. Yet, the massive influx of people has caused a panic among the peoples and the governments of the receiving nations who are ‘protecting’ their interests with sanctions, gates, walls, and brute military force to keep the migrators out. Ann Coulter, opening for presidential candidate Donald Trump at a convention said: “I love the idea of the Great Wall of Trump. I want to have a two drink minimum. Make it a big worldwide tourist attraction and every day, live drone shows whenever anyone tries to cross the border.” She was talking about making a spectacle of killing people—in this case from Mexico—looking to improve their life-conditions and life-chances, and these are Americans that we are talking about, and people who want to be at the head of the United States, no less. So, it is not the case that the issue is only something that happens abroad. Notwithstanding where it occurs, this is what is called, Feudal Privilege, because there is nothing that any of us did prior to any of our being born that justifies any of us possessing access to the necessities for life while others do not, and yet, we do possess those necessities, nonetheless. Our borders are symbolic extensions of the castle walls that once separated the affluent from the peasant, what was once called a birth right.

Making the situation even more complicated is the fact that the environmental degradation and destruction that is leading to these mass migrations from the less affluent nations and states, is a direct result of the practices of the more affluent nations. In the United States, based on our consumption rates cumulatively, it would take four and a half entire earth’s worth of resources to fulfill the demand if everyone on the planet today in all the states consumed as US citizens do. That is, US citizens have a carbon footprint of four and a half earths, while those in less affluent regions, like much of the African continent has a carbon footprint of less than one earth. Thereby resting the responsibility for the increased rate of global warming and climate change causing the rising tides and famines squarely in the hands of those from the more affluent nations; primarily, Western Civilization, where many of the migrators are seeking refuge and are being barred access to. Furthermore, at the moment we are only talking about millions of people migrating, and the people and governments from the more affluent nations are in a panic. However, this is nothing compared to the over two billion increase in population projected for 2050 while the environmental ecosystem collapse is exacerbated at the same time.

This is a huge problem, I know. A problem so large that it does not seem like there is a solution to it. But I think the heart of the issue resides within our definition of community: “A social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.”  More important than this characteristic of the definition of community, is that implicit in the definition and the common understanding of the concept is the multiplicity of communities as being distinct from one another, or in other words, different or separate from each other. And therein is the crux of the problem. This notion of distinctness is what maintains the separation between the sexes, and genders, between the social-construction of races, ethnicities, nationalities—which is different from the arbitrary political boundaries—of people, between states, social classes, and so forth.  The notion of distinctness is what was at the foundation of slavery, the Jim Crow segregation that led to the Civil Rights Era of the mid-20th Century and to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the New Jim Crow and state sanctioned violence in the form of police brutality. Inherent in racism is the notion of distinctness and scientific racism gave it fangs. Social Darwinism and the concept of “survival of the fittest” are both laden with the notion of distinctness and provide a quasi, but fallacious justification for acting on that distinctness.

We are inundated with this notion of distinctness each and every time we are told that we are individuals and that we have to achieve on our own.  Our society and our complete set of ideologies are designed to isolate people from one another, to put us into competition, and to set us at odds with each other. Take the grading system for example, instead of the entire class being graded collectively on the achievements of the group, individuals are rewarded or punished for their own merits. This is the case even though they all participate in the class collectively and it provides the incentive for students not to have as heightened of an interest in assisting their fellow classmates. It’s as if we were to somehow conceive of ourselves as something other than individuals that our personal identities would somehow dissolve into nothingness, but I believe this to be an unjustifiable fear. Nonetheless, as a result of this distinctness and individuality, we humans love to categorize ourselves; black, white, rich, poor, tall, short, German, Peruvian, smart, ignorant, man, woman, felon, law abiding citizen, alien, but therein between the categories is where most of the strife among and “between” us emerges.   Because with the distinctions comes an arbitrary system of hierarchical valuations and judgments that result in hyperbole and humiliations that provide reasons for segregation and delineation.

This individualistic conception destroys our relationships with our selves, other people and with the earth, of which we are not truly separate.  If there was not an earth, then humans as we understand our selves could not exist. The earth on the other hand, existed long before the human species and will most likely exist long after our species has vanished. Relationships are the key to community and to healing the ills of our civilization. Relation is the characteristic that is missing from the definition of community and culture, which emerges within and through a community, as a strategy for survival and as such, it is utterly dependent upon relationships. The reality is that we can do nothing alone and that there is no such thing as individuality. The words “alone” and “individual” are components of a language, that by its very definition necessitates a relationship because for communication to exist at least two parties must agree that a particular symbol will have a particular meaning that is transmittable. That is a relationship and without it there could be no culture to transmit to subsequent generations; there would be no commerce, no morality, no religion if there no people who formed instructional relationships with us. By corollary, there would be no societies, no cities, no schools, no families, and no identities. Relationships are at the core of everything it means to be human as we currently understand ourselves to be.

Our first relationship is with ourselves, but that relationship can only be understood and fully appreciated in the context of every other human that exists and that has ever existed, and on the context of the earth upon which we exist and rely with all the millions of other species. The individual does not exist in isolation, the individual is not a microcosm, but exists in relation to everything else that exists.  John Donne said it best and most simply; “No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.” Until this is understood there can be no relationship with ourselves because we do not fully grasp who we truly are. And if we do not know who we are, then we cannot transmit ourselves to another because we cannot convey a concept we do not fully comprehend. Thus, until we know ourselves, we cannot have relationships with other human beings, who in essence are of us and we are also of them. And lastly, without that comprehension and feeling, then there can be no relationship with the earth, which connects and sustains us all. This is how the ideology of individualism corrupts and destroys our relationships.

We have to expand our sense of community to recognize, appreciate, and incorporate the entire planet and all the things that exist upon it and in relation to it. Only then, will something like the atmosphere, a public good, something that we all own, have claim to, and are part of, become something that we cherish and love enough not to destroy. Only when we understand that the rainforest are not distinct from us, will we acknowledge that destroying them is in reality, destroying ourselves. Only when we comprehend that all the people on the planet are part of us and that the arbitrary valuations and judgments we currently attribute to them is wrong, will we begin to acknowledge the injustice of segregation and apartheid, murder and isolation. Much like the contemporary interpretation of the identity of a person can exist within the colloquial sense of a community, so too, can identity groups exist within this expanded conception of community. In fact, these identity groups are vital to the evolution of our culture and must exist, because the supposition that there is but one community does not presuppose the presence of a negative peace, which is the absence of conflict, but a positive peace in which the necessary tension required for growth and stimulation flourishes. That is the essence of relationships: gravitational and repulsive forces that continuously interact to maintain balance and harmony in relation to everything else that exists.

If we want to bridge communities and to foster a peace full of symbiotic mutually beneficial relations, then it is necessary to recognize that there is only one community and category that is of any import, the Human Identity Group within the Community of the Earth.

We Will Have Our Victory

Answering the call of war we ran into the streets

Blood had spilled, the cops had killed, revenge was looking sweet

Didn’t matter who you were, or what neighborhood you from

All that mattered, was that, with this system, you were done!

The horns and the drums, fire poundin in our hearts

Raging through our veins, was an anger off the charts

Black, White, Asian, Native, Mexican, we all

Knew this racist, white supremist system had to fall

Downtown to Westlake, where all of us converged

Hands Up! Don’t Shoot! Was the war-cry that emerged

As we took over the streets, people steady flooding in

Bringing traffic to a halt, the movement had began

A fight for Human Rights, for Dignity and Life

A fight for Respect, Liberty the Right

To go to the store and to make it home alive

Cuz it’s nearly, impossible, to be Black, and to survive

The gauntlet of the school system not going to jail

a prisoner, a slave, told we can do naught but to fail

While a system of laws, written to, protect, us all

We wanted to know that cops were not above the law

Due Process, that precious 5th Amendment clause

They are neither judge nor jury, but they’re acting without pause

And while none of this is new to a people who’ve seen the worst

Daren Wilson’s, non-indictment, is what pushed us to subverse!

We will have struggle

Won’t be defeated

We will have justice

Won’t be defeated

We will have freedom

Won’t be defeated

Working Together we will have our Victory

We will have struggle

Won’t be defeated

We will have justice

Won’t be defeated

We will have freedom

Won’t be defeated

Working Together we will have our Victory

Marching through the streets, was simply not enough

Police came gassed up, turtle suits, and billy clubs

Seattle Mayor Murray, Chief O’Toole, and Bruce Harrell,

Our supposed ‘Civil Rights, City Hall Official’ failed

To recognize and respect, our Right, to assemble

To petition our government, for grievances, rendered

And instead authorized paramilitary troops

To stifle Free Speech, and Suppress the People whose

Intent was to acquire equal unbiased treatment

Guaranteed, in the 14th, Amendment achievement

In 1868, and over a hundred years later

Still waiting, hence my reason for being an Agitator

The people grew complacent, felt comfort in their ignorance

So, there was nothing left but Civil Disobedience

They disregarded us at city hall and public meetings

Labeled hooligans thugs, with anarchist leanings

Negotiation failed, and out gunned and out strategized

We recognized, to mobilize, we had to organize ourselves

If we meant to win against a system generations fixed

& that, is why, we created OA206

We will have struggle

Won’t be defeated

We will have justice

Won’t be defeated

We will have freedom

Won’t be defeated

Working Together we will have our Victory

We will have struggle

Won’t be defeated

We will have justice

Won’t be defeated

We will have freedom

Won’t be defeated

Working Together we will have our Victory

We hit the streets, we had to, people were dying

All were upset, the government was conspiring

State Sanctioned Violence, was claiming our people’s lives

Impunity ubiquitous, getting off left and right

Martin, Brown, Garner, Rice, and Boyd

Their killers walked free, everyone was annoyed

Darren Wilson made half a mil with network ABC

Adding insult to injury, we just couldn’t believe

Being Black, was not, a precondition, for anger

But in the protracted struggle, color became a hang-up

First there was a split between the Brown and the White

Which, made perfect sense given the White Supremist plight

Then Black only spaces formed, to lead the struggle

Cuz One, should, rumble for their freedom, un-muzzled

But to deny, the vital intellect and the skills

Of a person, based on race, is a practice that kills

Black people suffering from internalized oppression

A festering pestilence, ushered death from within

& From the depths of deception, character assassination

Followed the path of this nation, down to the heart of black hatred;

This is where O.A. Split, and though, now it is clear

that the spiritual harms we came with left us unprepared

to truly unify against this Totalitarian Regime

We’re healing wounds and righting wrongs, that go back centuries

We will have struggle

Won’t be defeated

We will have justice

Won’t be defeated

We will have freedom

Won’t be defeated

Working Together we will have our Victory

We will have struggle

Won’t be defeated

We will have justice

Won’t be defeated

We will have freedom

Won’t be defeated

Working Together we will have our Victory

The Struggle Within

Setting out for justice, challenged at every turn
Only been centuries, I’d hoped, that we’d learned
But we still hate each other, just, want the world to burn
like here is your mother, cremated in an urn
Created in a flash can never be replicated
but the human intellect, selective and sedated
The individual over-weighted,
slated to be evaluated,
personal gain delineated
Look at the ones who finally made it
Sellin out they people to fatten they pockets lint
think they gettin somthin, but they souls have been spent
forgotten who they are, and what the movement meant
So, it is no wonder, that we’ve barely made a dent

Liberation from these chains, those were the calls that rang
Up and Down the streets, of a country so deranged
Estranged from its people, Hatred spewing from its steeples
Addicted to the havoc, like, the poison in a needle
Fear to be without, Hunger causes doubt
Will change what we’re about, till we purge the poison out
Taught to stand alone, we have to make our own
Buildin Brick by Brick, until, we can call it home
But, these are the chains that bind us
The gears, of the machine that grinds us
denies us the vital relations
Marx called it alienation, I call it constipation
Yet, Either way, it is the clot, that clogs the heart of our nation

So we stand at odds, casting lots and throwing rocks
Killing those who stand beside us, fearing plots
Co-Intel insidious, but something much more hideous
the pity is, we are worse than cops
Because our skin grants us in
we think an ally, even friend
But programmed by the system
opponent where it ends
We think of us, we think of me
We think of all our family needs
We think of all the harm been done
We think of all the treacherous deeds
And we come again to see
that beyond all the rhetoric
Alone is how we came, and alone is how we’ll leave
Till it shatters the meridians
And fills our hearts with greed
We assassinate and take, cuz we failed to believe
In us.

Looking Forward

More than a Moment! The struggle is real and it will not be fought or won over-night. We have to plan and implement the future we want. But first we have to know what the causes and conditions are that led to the circumstances we are contending with now, if we are to change the system and not run into the same problems all over again. This is a humble beginning, but I am in this for the long haul and I hope you will stand with me. We will only do this together.

Prison: A Just Desert

Deserves everything he got, and all that he has coming to him

Shit, should have never broke the law, caused the harm, knew what he was doing,

He made the choice of his own free-will, he had other options and opportunities

He could have chosen to starve instead of stealing to feed his children’s belliesCri

It’s about order and continuities, here!

The fact that I am the head of a corporation, raping and pillaging the indigenous in far off lands to increase the bottom line margins of profits for my stock holders, starving entire villages, so my kids can live like fat-cats, taking Disney Land homages, is not equitable to this man’s actions, because it is  legal

What he did was wrong, it was against the law…

A line that he should have never crossed regardless of what his circumstances are

And that my friend, requires consequences, his just desert is a prison sentence

The Department of Justice is a godsend, we don’t need the Klu Klux Klan anymore to keep them in check, brutal police practices, stop and frisk policies, state and federal penitentiaries relegating convicts to slaves of the system, which keeps our domestic products competitive with international markets; shit, spin it any way you like, the D.O.J. is on our side

It’s about order, I mean, imagine if everyone acted like him and everyone’s children on the planet were fed, there would be chaos! & we wouldn’t be able to control them anymore

Truth is, we need them to violate the laws, and that is why we depress the economic situations in redlined neighborhoods and do not allow them to vacate the premises, it drives up the price because space is limited and increased demand with static supply is a sure fire way to make profit gain within in oligopoly, no jobs means resorting to crime to make ends meet, and no employers will risk establishing a business in these areas so crime is all but guaranteed

All that is left, is to lobby the legislature to impose harsher punishments on non-violent crimes, like possession of marijuana, disenfranchise them based on a clause in the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, feed the public a few lies about crime statistics, and a colorblind language grounded in the individualistic ideology of America

And poor white Americans, who used to be Dixiecrats under F.D.R.’s New Deal during the Great Depression, now Republicans, will be lining up and signing up by the thousands, so that there white privilege in a post racial society will come to their benefit

And the blacks and other people of color who fall victim to this pit will not be able to make a difference because their right to vote will have been stripped from them, the rest of America will hold them responsible for making the choice to not die of starvation, because simultaneously, we will utilize the Central Intelligence Agency, to import Crack into Black neighborhoods via Rick Ross, and sign into Law the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, with 100-1 sentencing ratio for Crack possession and distribution

While running a “Tough on Drugs” media campaign identifying blacks as the culprits  of this intrusion

Then, in 1987 with McClesky v. Kemp, we will make discretionary discriminatory practices by the police and prosecuting attorneys Constitutional in the Supreme Court, and rule out any hope of bringing forth any more racial cases against law enforcement

Convince congress to invest money for an explosion in prison capitalization, privatizing incarceration and sit back and watch how the United States, which has only 5% of the world’s population, will boast 25% of the world’s inmates

This; is America,

the land of the Dream and the home of the Slave

The Failing Justice System

I know there has been a lot of talk about what happened at the Metropolitan King County Council meeting when they voted unanimously for the new Children and Family ‘Justice’ Center; the Jail, Prison, School-to-Prison Pipeline, factory, warehouse for our children. This is what really went down.

PhotoGrid_1426043531167[1]
The lid on Pandora’s Box has been torn off because our elected officials’ apathetic and unresponsive approach to our social ills is inadequate and inappropriate!

Although, they voted unanimously for the new supposed CFJC It is not built yet, and even if they waste the money to build it, we can still work to ensure that it is not used and that alternatives are employed to help our children, who are victims of the system, not criminals.

Recap:

Regan Dunn, Dave Upthegrove, Rod Demowski, Kathy Lambert, Larry Phillips, Petr von Reichbauer, Larry Gossett, Jane Hague, and Joe McDermott

These are the names of the people currently on the Metropolitan King County Council. Voting is right around the corner and we both want and need people in office who are going to be sensitive and responsive to our needs and concerns.

The Criminal Justice System is no longer,

if it ever has been in American,

about punishment and rehabilitation.

The philosophy grounding the criminal justice system suggests that society has a right to punish those who violate the laws. How the laws are devised is questionable at best, but the premise is that laws are rules that are less stringent than the actual moral code of a particular group of people, yet sufficient to ensure the stability and order of the society. In this regard, John Stuart Mill in the paper On Liberty (1859) phrased the justification as such: “the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” This is what is called the Harm Principle and is the primary principle by which of criminal justice system is justified. However, and in stark contrast to what the principle suggests and what the actual practices of the Department of Justice, with it many subsidiary police departments and courts, reveals is that it diverges dangerously far away from the grounding principle.

First, I do not think that we will find much argument, unless the person be a sociopath, that causing undue and unjust harm to another human being is wrong. People are naturally inclined to form or have desires; to form plans for their lives and to share special bonds or connections with those whom they care about. Furthermore, most people believe that insofar as those plans do not impede and infringe upon the plans of others, or horrendously violate some moral code, that all people should be permitted to express and exercise their desires, plans, and special connections. If this is disagreed with and the person be not a sociopath, then I do not think they have fully considered the implications of their argument because if it were the case that people did not have the liberty to do this, then the dissenter could not rightly voice their opinion in contention. For example, if this individual did not think that another should play baseball, let’s say, because the sport in their opinion is a useless endeavor,and this ruling was to hold even though no harm was done to anyone by the playing of the sport, then a new principle would be employed wherein no one is protected. Nothing would protect that individual’s expression from interference by others, and the result would be a system of arbitrary infringements based on whims. In other words, a devolving into lawless tyranny, (this is not to be confused with anarchy), wherein whoever could gain power would rightfully exercise that power over others at their choosing. This should make it clear that a principle needs to be in place, which permits the exercise and expression of one’s desires, given that they do not cause harm to others.

Second, the criminal justice system, as became clear with such recent events as the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Oscar Parez, John T. Williams and so forth, is causing undue and unjust harm to people. These cases by themselves should be enough to cast more than doubt on the Department of Justice, but actually usher in a reconstruction of the entire system. These are just the cases that have made national and international news, but are representative of a much more grave problem that exists within the United States concerning police brutality. The police have a dangerous task, there is no argument about that. If the Harm Principle is accepted, and the society chooses to attempt to limit or punish any harms that may occur to its citizens, then something like a police institution as an option becomes viable. For the sake of argument, assume that there are no socio-economic discriminatory conditions creating vital motivations to violate the laws in order to survive. In a society of millions it would be nearly impossible to ensure that undue and unjust harm was either not done, or that those who caused it were punished. This means that there would be a potential to escape punishment, and people tend not to enjoy punishment, so they do what they can to avoid it.This can create a dangerous situation for a police officer to walk into, given that their only intent is to prevent harm, or to assist in the punishing of those actually guilty of causing harm. Their own person is at risk of being harmed by performing this function that society deems as something necessary, and society does not think it’s guardians should be sacrificed or harmed, so it grants that these guardians can protect themselves against harm. This is all in accordance with the Harm Principle as stated earlier, “self-protection.” This line of reasoning also assumes that the guardians do not harbor biases against particular groups of individuals and act in an impartial manner with all people. This of course is an ideal world and is horrendously far from reality. As soon as we remove the things that we have assumed for the sake of argument, we will see that much that is considered crime is a response to socially imposed harms and that these groups suffering the socially imposed harms are also targeted by the supposed guardians of our society. Furthermore, because these guardians are granted the liberty to exert force to protect themselves and to execute their social function, they can justify unjust and undue harms as necessary to complete and fulfill the expectations of their roles. The result is the problem of police brutality and murder that we are now witnessing plague our country.

Third, punishment for acts considered to be crime in the United States tends to take the form penitentiary confinement. Aside from death, this is considered to be the ultimate restriction of liberty that an individual can experience and thus the harshest punishment. Again, in order to justify this system, it has to be assumed that  that the guardians do not harbor biases against particular groups of individuals and act in an impartial manner with all peopleHowever, the data shows that this is not the case. There is a disproportionate and disparaging representation of minorities and people of color in the penal system of the United States. Making matters worse, the US has 5% of the world’s population, but boasts 25% of the world’s prison population. In addition, the number of prisons are ballooning and so is the prison population, which reveals that the penitentiary system is not solving the problem. At best, it is like attempting to place a bandaid on a gushing wound. A more precise definition is that it is a treatment that is not suited to the cause because the cause of the problem is being ignored. This leaves us with one of two options; either the United States does not know or want to know what the real problem is, or the penitentiaries are not about punishment and rehabilitation.  If it is the former option, which I do not think is even possible given the mountainous research that has been conducted over the last few decades, then we need officials who are intelligent enough to perceive and understand that the problem is not that people are choosing to commit ‘crime,’ but the reason they do so. If it is the latter option, which I am more inclined to agree with, then we have to expose what the true reason for the prison system is to understand why it is failing at its purported reason for existing.

The Prison System relegates humans to slaves. Much of the argument that we hear from the public is couched in a colorblind language and an individualistic ideology that is characteristic of the United States, “they committed the crime, they deserve the time, and all that happens to them while they are serving that time.” The arguments further express that since these individuals are incarcerated and they are consuming state resources that they should work for their keep and pay their own way. Again, in principle this all makes sense, but for it to truly be justified the system must be fair and impartial both before prison and after the person is in the penal system. However, that is also not the case. I have already argued that the manner in which particular groups are targeted for prison is unjust and undue, and now I am fleshing out the reason why they are targeted for prison and exposing the unfair and undue treatment they receive while in the system.

The State of Washington has written into law that all municipal buildings must be furnished with products produced by prison labor. The corporation responsible for the fourth largest prison factory system in the United States, which is located here in Washington is Correction Industries Inc. This law guarantees C.I. a virtual monopoly on particular state purchases and guarantees a revenue stream. Most private prison companies, like Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group sign contracts with the states in which they operate guaranteeing a specific amount of inmates that is to increase over time so that they can continue to increase their profits from prison labor. Corporations are bound by law to increase their bottom lines to provide their stock holders with increased returns on their investments. Pulling all of this together in a rather blunt manner, as if it was not already apparent without my stating it explicitly, the motivation for the penal system, given all this, is not punishment and rehabilitation, but rather, profit.

Fourth, the School-to-Prison Pipeline is a serious concern because the data reveals that minorities, people of color, and those with mental disabilities are over 50% more likely to end up as a slave in the Penal System. Students from these groups are about 75% more likely to be punished (suspended or expelled) while in school. Of those who are punished they are 75% more likely to enter the Juvenile Detention System. And of those who enter the juvenile system, they are 80-95% more likely to enter the adult penitentiary system. These are very disparaging and upsetting statistics when just taken alone, but when included with the entire system of harm wrought against particular populations, what is revealed is a system constructed to to populate our prison system with slaves that is targeting our children.

The Criminal Justice System is not failing, it is functioning in precisely the manner that it was designed to function. The problem is that we are allowing it to continue to function in this manner. The problem is that we continue to permit this colorblind language and to accept the false justifications for this system that is failing us as a people. We are being lied to. We are being harmed. And we should not stand for this any more.

That is why the people, who after not being heard in the Metropolitan King County Council went off and occupied the court room. That is why we all testified against the creation of the supposed ‘Justice’ that they are proposing to build. Justice does not mean punishment for crime. What justice means is to provide for the flourishing of the human population. What the state is doing right now is not justice.

Hitler Becomes Useful, When the United States is Charged with Genocide

“THE RESPONSIBILITY of being the first in history to charge the government of the United States of America with the crime of genocide is not one your petitioners takes lightly. The responsibility is particularly grave when citizens must charge their own government with mass murder of its own nationals, with institutionalized oppression and persistent slaughter of the Negro people in the United States on a basis of “race,” a crime abhorred by mankind and prohibited by the conscience of the world as expressed in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1948.”

William L. Patterson, We Charge Genocide, 1951[i]

The actions of the German Nazis, especially as they pertain to the concentration camps and the extermination of the Jews during World War II became the touchstone by which the actions of other people or groups were evaluated in terms of Human Rights violations. The Nazis became a reference point because one of the major results of WWII was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights drafted by the United Nations (UN) in 1948 to hold individuals and governments responsible in international court for atrocious acts against humanity.[ii] In the same year, the Genocide Convention defined genocide as an international delict, with a definition of genocide, and relevant punishments for the guilty parties.[iii] Based on the Genocide Convention, William L. Patterson drafted and submitted a petition to the United Nations in 1951 titled We Charge Genocide, indicting the United States (US) government for its treatment and the mass murder of the African American population. Patterson compared the Nazis of Germany and Hitler to the US government and the citizens of the US to argue that the Human Rights violations against African Americans were equitable to the Jews and should be held accountable by the authority of the United Nations and punished under international law.

In the 1950s when We Charge Genocide was submitted to the U. N. many of the states within the US had Jim Crow laws that legally instituted segregation in employment, education, residence, transportation, hospitalization, and so forth, on the basis of race and relegated African Americans to an inferior position in society. In addition to this, the configuration of some state laws stood in contrast to the 15th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which guaranteed the right of citizens to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The state laws in conjunction with the actions of extralegal organizations such as, the Klu Klux Klan (KKK),[iv] deprived many African Americans of their right to vote, and thus barred them from participating in the democratic process.[v] Comparable to the Nuremberg Laws (1935), the Jim Crow laws were depriving a particular group of US citizens their Civil Rights.[vi] Often times enforcing these deprivations with economic, legal, physical, and psychological sanctions, many of which were upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States as permissible. For example, lynching was still permissible in many states, i.e., the hanging of African American people, whether legal or extralegal. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was waging a major Anti-Lynching campaign to convince the US Congress and or the Supreme Court to criminalize the act, but at the time of this petition, the campaign had not done so yet.[vii]

Furthermore, the United States had just weathered the Great Depression—when upwards of 24% of the US population was unemployed—and World War II, both of which divided the country along racial, ethnic, political and economic lines. The Nuremberg Trials of the Nazi war criminals were made internationally known, which set the stage to ask questions about Jim Crow and segregation, and their relation to the Genocide Convention and international law. After 1945 however, the Cold War between the United States and Union of Social Soviets Republics (USSR) in particular and between Democracy and Communism more generally, began. Many of the people, whom were not in support of the status quo within the United States, were perceived by those in the government of the US to be enemies of the state. This is the social and political climate that Patterson wrote and submitted We Charge Genocide to the United Nations in.

Patterson, with the help of the NAACP and the Civil Rights Congress, collected and analyzed hundreds of cases of brutality and injustice wrought against the African American population in the US between 1945 and 1951.[viii] Then Patterson used the language and the legal framework of the Genocide Convention to present an argument for the justification of the United Nations holding the United States responsible and accountable for genocide. As cited in We Charge Genocide from the Genocide Convention of the United Nations in 1948, genocide was defined as:

‘In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’

Article III:

‘The following acts shall be punishable:

(a) Genocide;

(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;

(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;

(d) Attempt to commit genocide;

(e) Complicity in genocide.’[ix]

Of particular interest to Patterson was the clause “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part” because it identified that motivation to destroy members of a group for their affiliation with that group, was more important than the successful destruction of that particular group, in whole or in part, at least in the terms of an act or series of acts qualifying as genocide. Patterson also listed several cases under each subheading of genocide and explicated reasons why the US should be punishable under each subheading of Article III.

Patterson could very well have cited incidents that reached as far back as the abolishment of slavery with the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution in 1865, but he constrained his reports to three years prior to the Genocide Convention, when WWII ended. Ex post facto is a legal, which is used to describe that a person or an entity cannot be held liable for a crime that prior to the act there was not a law condemning the action. In general practice this is because it is usually believed that a person or an entity must have foreknowledge that something is illegal so that they may make an informed decision about the action in question. However, the Nuremburg Trials of the Nazi war criminals (1945-1949), wherein a new legal framework was designed by the UN to hold those who were either active or complicit in human rights violations during WWII legally responsible, established a new mandate.[x] The UN displayed by its creation of Human Rights laws and the subsequent Nuremberg Trials that in some cases the ex post facto rule does not apply because there are some acts that humans, as members of our moral community, should know are wrong. For example, participating in the extermination of nearly six million Jewish people was perceived as being unequivocally wrong. Patterson recognized this, but also drew a line to 1945 when the United Nations became an official political entity and the United States one of its dominant members, for presenting cases arguing that genocide was occurring in the US.

However, Patterson had to contend with the fact that the United States was one of the founding members of the United Nations and also a major proponent of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Moreover, Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) who was president during most of WWII, was the chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Committee. She also denied Patterson’s request to present the petition to the UN. In addition to that the US State Department confiscated Patterson’s passport in an attempt to limit his international travel between the United States and France where the UN was at the time located. Both of these actions were an attempt to impede Patterson’s ability to address the UN and officially charge the US with genocide. In part, it was believed to be inappropriate for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to indict their governments and that if permitted, there would be no end to the petitions.[xi]

Yet, however true that reasoning may have been it seems more realistic that the US did not want to be implicated in a contradiction between its foreign and domestic policies, especially when the US was actively engaged in the international disbanding of racial oppression. Patterson says in regard to this; “Seldom in human annals has so iniquitous a conspiracy been so gilded with the trappings of respectability. Seldom has mass murder on the score of ‘race’ been so sanctified by law, so justified by those who demand free elections abroad even as they kill their fellow citizens who demand free elections at home. Never have so many individuals been so ruthlessly destroyed amid so many tributes to the sacredness of the individual.”[xii]  By the responses of Eleanor Roosevelt and the US State Department, as well as Patterson’s analysis of the conditions and characteristics of the US, it can certainly be asserted that the US had sufficient reason not to want this petition submitted to the UN. However, in the absence of corroborating evidence the reason can only be speculated upon. Yet, notwithstanding the reason why he was impeded in submitting this petition to the United Nations, the fact remains that there was definite opposition to this petition from the United States in the early 1950s. [xiii]

Patterson was confronted with a further complication, given that the genocide he claimed was occurring in the United States to the African American population was not as evident as the genocide that occurred in Germany to the Jewish population. A stark contrast between the African American population in the US in the 1950s and the Jews of Germany in the first half of the 1940s was that there were no concentration camps as defined by Nazi standards in the US. Furthermore, the African American population was also not indiscriminately as a whole being actively herded by the US military into ghettos or extermination camps. Thus, Patterson had to show piecemeal, on a case-by-case basis, that something very similar to what had occurred in Europe under Nazi occupation was occurring in the United States to sustain his claim that the United States was guilty of genocide.

Patterson referenced the Nazis and Hitler to draw some parallels in his argument to the US government to reveal the common characteristics of genocidal treatment to the Jews and African Americans. Patterson presents the first point of reference to the Nazis in the Introduction to We Charge Genocide: “The Hitler crimes, of awful magnitude, beginning as they did against the heroic Jewish people, finally drenched the world in blood, and left a record of maimed and tortured bodies and devastated areas such as mankind had never seen before.”[xiv] This analogy is drawn after Patterson mentions the “ghettos” and “cotton plantations” of America from which he states that the stories of mass murders “on the basis of race” emerged, before arguing that the then Justice Robert H. Jackson’s opening statements at the Nuremberg trials on November 21, 1945 should apply the same to the US government.[xv] In the Opening Address for the United States, Jackson states: “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.”[xvi] Patterson seems to be referencing three points from the opening address, “Crimes against Peace,” “Crimes against Humanity,” and that these acts should not be ignored.[xvii] Patterson’s argument was that Crimes against Humanity were occurring in the United States, that they were being ignored, and that they posed a threat to the continued peace of the world. The painstaking effort to collect and organize the cases in the Evidence section of We Charge Genocide, from the many disparate news articles and court cases from throughout the US, reveals that the conditions African Americans confronted in the United States were, for the most part, being ignored by the international community. Patterson’s allusion to Justice Jackson was a demand to be seen, heard, and respected.

The parallel that Patterson makes is not necessarily that a project of mass extermination of the kind witnessed during the Holocaust was occurring in the US. Rather, based on the Genocide Convention of 1948, Patterson argues: “15,000,000 of [the United States’] own nationals”[xviii] were suffering from genocide because of the laws and practices of the US government whom he further claims to be either, complicit in genocide or conspirator to it. The number “15,000,000” was important to Patterson’s case because in the US in the 1950s US representatives were debating the required number of harms for acts count as genocide.[xix] Nearly 6,000,000 million Jews lost their lives during the Holocaust, but many more suffered from the conditions of genocide under Nazi rule and occupation. Patterson establishes that more than just random cases of hate violence and terror were being wrought upon the African American population in the US during the 1940s, and asserts from this point that something parallel to Germany was occurring in the United States.

The crux of Patterson’s argument, although presenting empirical examples of violence and oppression that according to the Genocide Convention satisfy the sufficient conditions to qualify as genocide, rests more aptly on the parallel of the ideology between the United States government and society, and Hitler and his Nazi regime. Patterson writes; “The whole institution of segregation, which is training for killing, education for genocide, is based on the Hitler-like theory of the ‘inherent inferiority of the Negro.’ The tragic fact of segregation is the basis for the statement, too often heard after a murder, particularly in the South, ‘Why I think no more of killing a n—-r, than of killing a dog.”[xx] Patterson essentially argues and presents cases in support of the entire African American population, estimated at “15,000,000” people, being dehumanized, deprived of dignity and value, and being disposed of with impunity under the same pretext as the Jewish people who were exterminated under Nazi rule and occupation in Europe during the 1940s. Based on Patterson’s analysis and characterization of the United States in regard to the African American population, it was the ideology of inferiority that justified Jim Crow laws and red-lining neighborhoods. Permitted police brutality and extralegal organization like the KKK to terrorize people seeking to vote or improve their living conditions. That justified the US Supreme Court’s decisions to hold as Constitutional decisions regarding infringements of the 15th Amendment, extradition, and other state court rulings in criminal cases. And in permitting political leaders, such as governors to publically advocate the murder, “in whole or in part,” of the African American people in the US on the basis of “race”.

Given the considerable space devoted within the petition to justifying that the United Nations both could and should permit the petition, and the opposition from both the United States and its representatives, it is apparent that the petition was not met with wide approval and perhaps even much disbelief. This presented a few problems for Patterson. First, he was opposing the status quo of the United States during the beginning the Cold War, and was perceived as an enemy of the state. Second, a major component of the arguments within We Charge Genocide are economic in nature and not only do they serve as evidence for the “conspiracy to commit genocide” by the US government, but also implicitly advocate redistributive principles, which revealed his communist leanings. Third, he had to establish the grounds for being heard in the General Assembly of the United Nations as a non-governmental organization. Hence, Patterson had a necessity to compare the United States government to Hitler and the Nazi regime as a point of reference and so as to establish the credibility for the claims presented in his petition. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention were both direct results of the Holocaust concerning international law, thus making both Hitler and the Nazi regime the quintessential examples by which to evaluate human rights violations.

African Americans in the United States were suffering under horrendous conditions in the 1940s, but by comparing the perpetrators of that suffering to Hitler and the Nazi regime in such a profound way, Patterson only made the situation appear more dire and repugnant. What Patterson wanted was to have the United Nations force the United States to honor the treatise it had signed and to change the laws of the land to guarantee Civil Rights for the African American population. Yet, nearly ten years later, the Jim Crow laws were still in effect, segregation was still a dominant practice in the South, and African Americans had yet to unequivocally have their Civil Right to vote protected Constitutionally. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the October 1960 issue of the Courier, however, did not advocate for the revision of the US laws, but rather for a revision of the manner in which the children in the US were educated.[xxi] The Courier did acknowledge the “Hitler-like” ideology Patterson claimed to exist in the US with the statement; “there is still a fairly widespread feeling that ‘colored’ people are in some way inferior to ‘white’ people,”[xxii] but it did not go so far as to label the feeling “Hitler-like”. If the Courier is taken as representative of the response of the United Nations to Patterson’s petition We Charge Genocide, then it can be argued, the UN was unwilling to hold the United States accountable for the crime of genocide in light of the proof. Furthermore, it also reveals that although, Patterson’s charge of genocide was heard, that in contradiction of the Genocide Convention, it nonetheless still, remained largely ignored by the United Nations in 1960. And while the people of the United States and the representatives of both the US and the UN at the time may have been too close to the claims to fully acknowledge their gravity, a more objective analysis of the evidence and the analogy between Hitler, the Nazi regime, and the US government of the mid-20th Century is very relevant.

[i] Patterson, William L., We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government (1951), (p. 3) (doc. P. 32). http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015074197859

[ii] United Nations. Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/udhr/                           

[iii] United Nations. Genocide Convention https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume%2078/volume-78-I-1021-English.pdf

[iv] Patterson, “The Opening Statement,” (p. 18) (doc. p. 47)

[v] Patterson, “The Evidence,” (p.106) (doc. p. 135)

[vi] Newsweek, “Germany: Hitler Decrees Swastika Reich Flag; Bars Intermarriage; Relegates Jews to Dark Ages” September 21, 1935. American Views of the Holocaust 1933-1945: A Brief Documentary History, ed. Robert H. Abzug (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999), 58.

[vii] Dr. Glenn, Susan A. Lecture. University of Washington: History Department. The Holocaust and American Life (February 17, 2015).

[viii] Patterson, “The Opening Statement,” (p. 8) (doc. p. 37)

[ix] Patterson, (doc. p. 20)

[x] Dr. Glenn. Lecture. (January 6, 2015).

[xi] Dr. Glenn. Lecture. (February 17, 2015).

[xii] Patterson, “The Opening Statement,” (p. 3-4) (doc. p. 32-33)

[xiii] Dr. Glenn. Lecture. (February 17, 2015).

[xiv] Patterson, “Introduction,” (p. xii) (doc. p. 25)

[xv] Patterson, “Introduction,” (p. xi-xii) (doc. p. 24-25)

[xvi] Jackson, Robert H. “Opening Address for the United States” November 21, 1945. Reprinted in Michael R. Marrus, ed. The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial, 1945-46: A Documentary War History(Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1997), 79.

[xvii] Jackson, p. 83.

[xviii] Patterson, “Introduction,” (p. xii) (doc. p. 25)

[xix] Dr. Glenn. Lecture. (February 17, 2015)

[xx] Patterson, “The Opening Statement,” (p. 8) (doc. p. 37)

[xxi] United Nations. Courier. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. October 1960.

[xxii] Courier, p. 9.