Tag Archives: Thirteenth Amendment

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

Speech Delivered to Governor Jay Inslee November 16, 2015

Speech to Governor Inslee Nov. 16, 2015

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.

Brighter Tomorrows

I am sure that you have been watching the news and the posts and you may have even seen me on television or some news report somewhere, somewhen. I have been protesting to end police brutality. I have not been violating any laws, just marching and chanting with our people in an effort to help the laws to change and to help the system to become more just. So, I have been more than just a little busy this month since the Grand Jury decisions of Michael Brown and Eric Garner were made.

I pulled through the quarter okay. I know that I told you that I thought I was going to fail this quarter and that I was struggling at UW, but I did fair. Not as good as I would have liked, but much better than what I expected and I am still alive and in school. I studied Ancient Greece, Ancient Persian Empires, and Ancient Greek Philosophy and I will tell you right now, those people back then were crazy, I mean off the hook crazy. There was not a year that I studied that some war was not going on and that someone was not killing someone else for some religious or political ideology. I do not think that I can say that we have progressed much in this day and age, we are just in the ivory tower here in America.

I have also been making some serious ground for my UW research project about the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Mass-Incarceration. I have been identifying how the laws were written since the 19th Century and how the political debates formed and influenced the public to accept the claims that politicians made to justify the formation of the system. Unfortunately, I will not be done with my research in time to help you out while you are in there, but hopefully, my research will be able to help you regain your Civil Rights once you are returned to your family.

It is crazy to think that the current Penal Industrial Complex that the United States now operates and sustains has its roots in the Reformation Era (1865-1877), the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution that abolished slavery and sought to establish rights for Black people, and the Civil Rights Era (1950-1975). You may be reading this thinking, yeah, I could have told you that the system is rooted in slavery, but I am finding the proof of how the system formed and the ideological justifications for the system.

With the movements for civil rights going on right now and the negotiations with all of the many governmental branches and the several states and their legislatures, it is very likely that we are to see some reforms occurring within the next few years. These are very exciting times and they are also very scary times because as people have exposed the tension that laid just beneath the surface of this colorblind society it has been revealed that racism is alive and flourishing. However, what this is allowing the people to do, is address the implicit biases that people harbor and hopefully we can amend some of these biases and form a new conception of Black people in America.

Needless to say, as stark as the times are ahead of us, I have a lot of hope that we can pull through this and pave the way to a brighter future for the next generations that follow us.