Before beginning I must first acknowledge that we are on stolen Duwamish and Salish land.
Second, I would thank you for making the time to visit us at the University of Washington Governor Inslee. There are myriad pressing issues you could have selected to devote your time to, but you have chosen to invest your time with us and your concern and interest has not gone unnoticed. Thank you.
Today I am going to speak on issues of equity and how they pertain to the qualities and characteristics of the kind of Board of Regents members we desire here at the University of Washington and why. Equity is not blind it is very intentional and it differs drastically from equality. Equality as I have come to understand it is like placing everyone from different socio-economic, racial, gender, and citizenship status backgrounds on the same starting line. On the one hand this would seem just and fair because of the concept of equality, but what it lacks is an understanding of preexisting conditions for some that translate into unfair advantages for others. Many of the non-white students here at UW are also first generation college students, which may mean that our families do not possess as much disposable income to assist us in times of need, or that when it comes to academic concerns or administrative issues they are unable or incapable of helping us. Gender is a fluid and evolving concept of identity, but one thing that is certain is that when a student does not fit into a particular definition of gender they face discrimination and marginalization. And citizenship status can often pose an almost insurmountable barrier to affording tuition or other helpful resources, regardless of the reasons a particular individual’s status is in question. These preexisting conditions and many others can make admittance into and successful completion of university programs difficult, if not, nearly impossible for many. Merely placing everyone on the same starting line is simply not enough. On the other hand, equity seeks not to establish a similar starting point rather it seeks to garner similar outcomes regardless of preexisting conditions.
Last week students from universities across the country staged demonstrations in solidarity with the students of the University of Missouri who were protesting racial injustices and unfair responses from their administration. The demographics of University of Missouri are not unlike University of Washington, which is also a predominantly white institution; black students make up roughly eight percent and three percent of the undergraduate populations respectively. Earlier this year the students of the University of Washington staged what has been reported as the largest demonstration on campus since the 1960s when we declared a State of Emergency because of the racial and class disparities on campus, and walked out on February 25, 2015. During that demonstration we were subjected to racial epithets and as a result of further reprisals intent to silence our people through violence, which went unpunished, we determined it was necessary to challenge the unjust system of impunity with further demonstrations, much the same as the students at the University of Missouri.
These demonstrations are part of a much larger national struggle challenging the racial and class inequities and injustices within institutions such as law enforcement, the prison industrial complex, and education that reemerged onto the agenda of the general public with the Black Lives Matter movement. Police brutality and murder by police officers are major problems because they equate to state sanctioned violence against the people, which is extremely problematic because this violence is perpetuated in the name of and purported to be for the benefit of society. We are members of this society and this treatment is disreputable, and repugnant, humiliating and dehumanizing. Moreover, police brutality, which is nothing new to poor and minority communities is but one of the many factors that constitute the negative preexisting conditions that layer and stack upon each other to consolidate into a system of oppression and inequity.
The School-to-Prison Pipeline is also a major factor contributing to the racial, class, and ethnic disparities that confront many of our communities. People of color and those with mental disabilities are three times more likely to be disciplined while at school. From the ninth grade onward, one suspension or expulsion makes a student over fifty percent more likely to wind up in juvenile detention. Once in juvenile detention they become seventy-five percent more likely to end up in the adult penitentiary system and, once in that system they are more than eighty-five percent likely to return. Many people equate these statistics to inherently ‘bad’ youth, but Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, reveals that there is just as much if not more crime committed by white people. And one of our very own professors at the University of Washington, Katherine Beckett, the author of Making Crime Pay, has shown racial profiling is real and a serious problem even here in Seattle. So, it is not the case that students and people of color are ‘bad,’ but it is the case that we are being punished at disparaging and unfair rates.
The prison industrial complex is an institution grounded and founded upon extracting profit from slave labor. The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which supposedly outlawed slavery made one exception in the case of a person being convicted of committing a “crime.” That short clause provided justification for the creation, expansion, and explosion of the prison labor system. It began with convict leasing to plantations and mines that used to be worked by slaves, and now the prison industrial complex produces products that range from military equipment, to furniture, to home appliances and Correctional Industries’ website looks like any other online shopping website where people can purchase products. More troubling is the relative monopoly that Correctional Industries is granted by Washington State Law. RCW 39.26.251 states that all state agencies which include both universities and colleges must purchase the products made by Class II type prison labor. What this all equates to is an inequitable system of oppression entrenched in our largest and most prestigious institutions, which forms many of the preexisting conditions that stack and layer upon one another to create an inequitable system.
I was the president of my high school and the treasurer of North Seattle College and I used to be a business owner and helped the Department of Planning and Development of the City of Seattle revise it Job Order Contracting, so I am very familiar with bureaucratic governmental organizations. I was also part of the Divest UW coalition who for three years negotiated with and challenged the Board of Regents until we won a divestment from coal fire power earlier this year. I was also part of the team that helped draft and pass the City of Seattle City Council Resolution 31614: “Zero Use of Detention for Youth” in Seattle on September 21, 2015. What has been a consistent pattern is the nearly ubiquitous feeling that we as people are not being heard by the representatives that are supposed to be working on our behalf. Our UW President, Ana Mari Cauce, has done a lot to shift that phenomenon and also to address the racial and equity issues at the university, but we must do more. Although, I do not agree with all of the capitalistic and profit driven motives of the institution, I do understand that the university is operating within a capitalist system. Nonetheless, I and the many people I represent find it deplorable to be dehumanized and objectified, being reduced to dollar signs. When a human being is “thingified,” as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called it, it dissolves one’s perception of their moral culpability to that individual and that is problematic. We need some Board of Regents members who are not the heads of major corporations, who are leaders in marginalized communities and can represent our concerns. We need Board of Regents members who have a firm understanding of how interlocking and intersecting forms of systemic and structural oppression function to foster inequitable conditions for many people. So that when we bring our grievances we feel heard, are heard, and our concerns are responded to appropriately and in a timely manner. And most importantly, we demand that we are respected as Human Beings.
Should of seen it comin
&, Hit the ground runnin
in the, opposite direction
Cuz my, life was meaning nothing
To the cops, with the guns in hand
Pop Pop Pop Pop
there we go again
Got another badge of honor
Running cross his shoulder man
But Why it gotta be
Life is valued less than
Things that don’t walk
Things that won’t talk
Things with no soul
Things without heart
Object, by, every sense, of the word
Got more, worth, than a life, that’s absurd!
But, How else, could they, own a human being
Unless, they were, to reduce them to a thing
Sell it, trade it, mate it, complicate it, debated
the price at which it was stated, couldn’t escape, it
was slated as racist, lyin to faces
said if places was traded, justice be weighted
but the coldest shit that I ever did see
Was to make us think that they ended slavery
But have you ever read amendment 13/
When they made an exception
hope you’re peepin the lesson
the Crime clause a justification
to move & arrest’em
to conceal in punishment,
Profit from leasing convicts
to mines and plantations
the spine of this nation
Black Belt, Southern tribulations/
Fat Cats, with Fat Pockets
Getting Richer than George Wallace
On, Jim Crow and Politics
While Booker T, was like just take it, we’ll make it
Du Bois, was like fuck these haters
& face hidin KKK’ers, get educated
& Take the ballot box before they encase it/
Cuz Section 2, of the 14th Amendment Stated
and gave basis for felony disenfranchisement
Which was a slap to the faces of the newly liberated/
So this whack ass system, yo, they couldn’t change it
cuz they couldn’t vote to replace it
Black Codes, were the new modes, of enslavement/
Vagrant to chain gangs workin the pavement/
Repayin a debt to society that was never lent; shady
in the first place
Black Wall Street, the first Case/
Tulsa, Oklahoma a metropolis that rivaled New York’s monopolist
With Black Teachers, lawyers, Doctors
Separated from white culture, was obvious
that integration anomalous, like the Battle of Salamis
not analogous to the Freedom Riders in 1961/
Peep game Son of the Sun, Anubis, Akhenaton
Timbuktu, Cairo, Addis Ababa , Abyssinian
Zulu, who knew,
that the negative language in the 15th Amendment
could and would be used for legal lynching and social estrangement
like fuck the arraignment,
went from there’s a tree, “let’s hang’em”
Billy Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” to ghetto assassination
state sanctioned, for those who escaped the New Jim Crow
and prison slave labor
Yo, for real though,
these crooked ass cops ain’t nothing but modern day: SLAVE CATCHERS
You know the Fugitive Slave Clause in the U.S. Constitution
Article IV: Section 2
“No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”
Is still in force and on paper
And you cannot even begin to debate it,
that the 3/5 clause in Article I: Section 2 has been erased
when prisoners who cannot vote are still being counted as voters in the states they are caged in
regardless, of whether or not, that was the state from which they originated
so that Congress can have more seats in office
What I am saying is that I should have turned away
because Black Lives, in this nation, with these rules, and these ideological traces
Are valued not on the basis of being human beings
but on the sweat our labor displaces
And if and when we are not consigned to enslavement, our value they attempt to debase it
and that is why cops get away with, emptying cases in our hide on a damn near daily basis
this system is racist
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.
Diggin in the trenches
Flipping over benches
Running through Seattle
Cuz, I aim to make a difference
Marching up these Streets
Rapping on these Beats
Pouring through these books
And my words come with heat
Speakin at the Council
Chillin at the Town Hall
Repping our People
Bouncin to throw my hands up
Teaching youth the answer
Fighting cops like cancer
Questioning the system
And how it loves to pander
Reeling at rejection
Cuz they hear nothing
And recoil from inspection
Retaliate with weapons
Paid for with our taxes
They forget to ask us
want bullets in our asses
Went from hoses to mace
suppression the case
The same as the 60s
& We still up in they face
My people unstoppable
Success more than probable
Tearing down this Jim Crow
First thing that’s gotta go!
The protests that have been occurring nationally in the United States ignited because of the recent Grand Jury decisions of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but there is a much longer, older, and deeper system of oppression that tolerates and permits these decisions. These cases were the proverbial straws that “broke the camel’s back,” so to speak, that galvanized the people to action.
The negative responses about these protests are precisely the reason that the protests have continued and why some people decided to protest at the Seahawks game, most people do not know, and or disregard the importance of an unjust Department of Justice and Criminal Justice System in the United States. It is very clear that most people are not aware of the “New Jim Crow” and how the laws of the United States have been crafted not only to be discriminatory towards people of color—McCleskey v. Kemp (1986)—but also fill in the Prison Industrial Complex with people of color at alarming rates, and disenfranchise entire populations. The legal framework that permits this new system of Jim Crow to exist is the same system that is permitting the Grand Juries to make and levy the decisions that they are making in these cases and essentially, allowing police officers to kill with impunity.
The assertion that a “thug” got what he deserved because she or he was a “criminal,” when the label of criminal is almost ubiquitously paired with being a person of color—even though the data shows that white people commit just as much if not more crime as do people of color—what is being presented is a justification for the murder of people of color by an institution established for the protection of the people. The people who are protesting feel that either, they themselves or others are not being treated fairly by the system and are correct in the feeling. We do not feel like we are being granted the full status of People of the United States.
It is unfortunate that these protests have to occur at all and it is also unfortunate that The People had stand outside of a stadium where fans were gathering to make our complaints heard. If the system was fair and just then The People would not be taking the actions they are taking all across the country. Just that fact alone should tell the civilization of the United States something is wrong. However, what we see most are people who are upset that events are being disrupted and are presented with arguments like “get over it” and “the Grand Jury already made their decision and there is nothing you can do about it.” But as was stated earlier, this is a much bigger problem than any two Grand Jury decisions. Many people in the United States either fail to understand the depth of the injustice or choose to ignore that it is unjust and would prefer that these issues not be brought to the surface.
I challenge all of you who think that these protests are a pointless waste of time and that they should stop, to imagine, just for a moment, how you would feel and what you would do if, you were a member of a marginalized group being discriminated against and denied your rights. Then imagine that your marginalized group has also been relegated to this inferior position because of some benign characteristic that has nothing to do with your character or merits and the world tells you to “just get over it,” what would your position on the issues be then?