Dec 14, 2016 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 161

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Guest Interview: Shakeia on Colin Kaepernick’s racial justice protests. Other Topics: Democratic legislative stunts that fall short. People: Bill and Jonathan. Produced: Dec 12th, 2016.

Episode 161 (52 min):
AFD 161

New Reading Materials (from Jonathan):

Senate Democrats Threaten a Government Shutdown, then Concede While Getting Nothing. What Message Does That Send?

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Music by friend of the show @StuntBirdArmy.

No moment for bystanders

Seeing grave injustices mounting publicly, abetted openly by some in our political system and many in our society, we are all called upon to stand up, step up, and speak out.

Since August 2014, I have been working to find ways to contribute to turning back this tide of bigotry and indifference toward rampant injustice. I have devoted many hours of my radio show and countless articles to exposing racial injustice and Islamophobia in our country. I have sought to amplify the voices of the unheard via the platform that I have.

I refuse to be a helpless bystander or hopelessly apathetic in the face of what is going on in this country. I would rather try to do something and fail, than to have done nothing at all. My values are meaningless if they remain inert and unvoiced.

I hope you will join me in this fight.

You chose not to listen. You chose not to act.

The reality of the situation right now, in Chicago and in Minneapolis, but also everywhere else is this:

First of all, it should not have taken seeing video evidence to convince so many White Americans that police violence was happening — and happening pretty frequently — because Black America (as well as basically every other marginalized section of our population) has been telling us all for years/decades/centuries about widespread police violence, and society chose not to listen or believe them.

Second, many more White Americans are *continuing* to put their heads in the sand and their fingers in their ears, just as they did after the 1991 footage of Rodney King — except now there’s wall-to-wall evidence available, which makes the indifference and denial look far more deliberate.

Third, even if you believe that it is just “a few bad apples” in these police forces, the rest of that old expression is “spoil the bunch” — and if you don’t remove the rot then it will spread. Every one bad / violent cop probably undermines the hard work of thousands of law enforcement officials who are selflessly putting the lives of innocent people before their own or are simply acting appropriately every day on the job.

Every leader of a city government or police force who attempts to cover for or cover up or excuse police abuses is reducing the force’s ability to build trust with its community to be able to do its job. Misconduct and acts of violence should be cause for termination. Mishandling those acts should be cause for resignation.

Stop acting like everything is a one-off episode. We know it’s not.

Nov 4, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 149

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: The Spring Valley High School video and multiple intersections of rights violations (race, gender, age); Colorado’s proposed single-payer health care system; Guatemala update. People: Bill, Kelley, Maria. Produced: November 1st, 2015.

Episode 149 (49 min):
AFD 149

Discussion Points:

– How can we better protect young Black girls – along with all young people – from institutional violence and abuse?
– Could Colorado kick off a cascade of state action on single-payer health system experiments?
– A quick update on Guatemala’s recent election

Related Links

Vibe: “Everything You Should Know About The Spring Valley High School Assault”
AFD: “Protecting children and students by empowering them”
Previously, De Ana’s essay on the McKinney TX incident and misogynoir
AFD: “Could single-payer be coming to Colorado?”
– Other links Kelley cited: Vermont, Pennsylvania, New York
AFD: “The total vacuousness of Guatemala’s election”

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RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video game blog of our announcer, Justin.

Protecting children and students by empowering them

Promoting the rights of children, youth, and students is vitally important for keeping them safe. We’ve seen the footage this week from Spring Valley High School of a girl being body-slammed and seriously injured by a police officer in her school — an all-too-common occurrence. While this itself is a grave abuse (➚) and clearly one escalated by racism and misogynoir (learn more➚), one additional element we need to be aware of is how many schools (including in Massachusetts) have adopted policies that may limit our ability to find out about these incidents in future.

Such measures include monitoring students’ internet communications on campus and restricting or confiscating cell phones. While some of this is ostensibly to reduce distractions, its secondary (and I hope unintended!) effect is to reduce the ability of students to record authority figures or otherwise get the word out about abuses or inappropriate behaviors by adults who are supposed to be keeping them safe.

This doesn’t just apply to inappropriate uses of physical force to contain situations, but also to other types of abuse. There have been more than enough institutional sex abuse scandals erupting in recent years to learn from. These often occurred in eras where children and youth were neither respected nor readily empowered to document illegal actions (of any kind) by adults in positions of power. We now know that young people are endangered when they are unable to advocate for themselves against powerful adults or institutions and are unable to prove what is happening.

It would be a serious mistake to move toward policies that prioritize omnipresent surveillance and policing while deprioritizing student rights and student privacy. Such an approach doesn’t foster a culture of being willing to constructively stand up to authority or institutions when there are abuses or illegal activity. (And reportedly, a student who tried to intervene physically in this case to protect his or her classmate from abuse was also disciplined by the school, which should raise some similar questions too.)

In immediate terms, while we always hope these things won’t happen in our schools, if they do happen, it’s much better that we know about them quickly so we can stop them and act against those responsible. For that to happen, students must feel comfortable about coming forward and be empowered to do so. Part of a safe learning environment is not just taking a “public safety in schools” approach but also ensuring students can advocate for themselves when something isn’t right.

In the bigger picture, I believe that the latter approach – respecting the rights of young people and protecting their ability to blow the whistle on abuses of power without fearing recrimination – also helps promote a generally more engaged and empowered civic attitude for a lifetime. Part of our education system should be to encourage people to defend each other and themselves from abuses of power wherever it may occur. It should never be to teach our children that they are powerless to stop injustice, illegal activity, or abuse.

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Other students in the Spring Valley High School video are terrified and still. Other adults are in the room and do nothing. Public abuses of power make people frightened of authority and more subservient, even after we all agree they are abuses. The officer’s been fired; good, but you can hardly still act surprised if people of color feel threatened by state authority.

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Black Life in Retrograde

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The morning the news broke about the massacre in Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal, I was driving. Having been unemployed since early April I’d tried to make my money by ridesharing. I found it difficult and I never was able to make the ends solidly meet, but made more than I would have on unemployment. Like most mornings, I did my best to be awake and alert at five a.m. in order to catch rides to the airport. Like most mornings, I made my own coffee and turned on NPR. These activities always made me feel more in control, more put together, better at adulting. I heard the news shortly before my first ride, and I was numb.

I was so numb, that I drove nearly an hour north from my home while listening to James Blake’s “Retrograde” on repeat. Something about the melancholy music that buzzes with such heavy vibrations hypnotized me. These lyrics sunk into me for an hour:

Is this darkness of the dawn?
And your friends are gone
When you friends won’t come
So show me where you fit
So show me where you fit
I’ll wait, so show me why you’re strong
Ignore everybody else,
We’re alone now
We’re alone now
We’re alone now

 
The song is about finding love, but I clung to the emotion of darkness. I felt like we were truly at war with white supremacy. People are gone and we’re so alone here. If you asked me about that hour, I couldn’t tell you anything. All I remember was feeling cold; totally focused on moving forward with the sky full of blushing peach tones of the rising sun. I felt alert, yet dead, completely hollowed out, filling myself with this song.

I spent the later half of that day and the entire next day inside, crying, on the couch repeatedly asking ‘why’. And: Where are we allowed to be human? Where can we feel safe from slaughter?

I didn’t listen to it again for 11 weeks.

Now it makes me cry. It makes me feel despair. If I can get through a listen without tears I feel strong.

The reaction to the tragic killing of two reporters in Virginia in August truly seared this despair into my being. Read more