AFD Micron #37

If you think acknowledging America’s awful history of slavery, genocide, and discrimination necessitates that you don’t love America, then guess what? You don’t love America! Because those things did, in fact, actually happen. So to call someone out for discussing them is less a sign that they don’t love America than a sign that you only love some vague, nonexistent fantasy version of America, and find the real thing detestable.

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Immigration & Nationality Act of 1965 turns 50

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Although it didn’t take effect until 1968, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was signed into law on October 3, 1965 — 50 years ago today — by President Lyndon Johnson. It was instrumental in transforming the racist eurocentric immigration quota policies that preceded it into a truly global immigration system focused on worker skills and family reunification.

However, as The Atlantic explained this week, the latter point was almost accidental — and its effect was unanticipated. The White supremacist faction in Congress at the time, disappointed in the abandonment of explicit national quotas, introduced family reunification in the hopes that it would encourage recent European immigrants to bring their extended families over and thus keep the balance of immigration overwhelmingly White and European. Instead, it created a beachhead for so many other countries’ migrants to make a new home in America.

In the subsequent half century, the pattern of U.S. immigration changed dramatically. The share of the U.S. population born outside the country tripled and became far more diverse. Seven out of every eight immigrants in 1960 were from Europe; by 2010, nine out of ten were coming from other parts of the world.
[…]
The heightened emphasis on family unification, rather than replicating the existing ethnic structure of the American population, led to the phenomenon of chain migration. The naturalization of a single immigrant from an Asian or African or Hispanic background opened the door to his or her brothers and sisters and their spouses, who in turn could sponsor their own brothers and sisters. Within a few decades, family unification had become the driving force in U.S. immigration, and it favored exactly those nationalities the critics of the 1965 Act had hoped to keep out, because those were the people most determined to move.

 
The large numbers of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian immigrants and naturalized citizens in the United States today are here thanks in large part to the family reunification provisions passed in 1965.

Counter-narratives in New Orleans

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

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From the forthcoming August 23, 2015 issue of the New York Times Magazine – “Why New Orleans’s Black Residents Are Still Underwater After Katrina”:

In this frustration, he represents what might be called the black Katrina narrative, a counterpoint to the jubilant accounts of Landrieu and other New Orleans boosters. This version of the story begins by noting that an African-American homeowner was more than three times more likely than a white one to live in a flooded part of town. Where Landrieu sees black and white coming together, many African-Americans recollect a different New Orleans: rifle-carrying sheriffs and police officers barricading a bridge out of an overwhelmed city because they didn’t want the largely black crowds walking through their predominantly white suburbs; a white congressman overheard saying that God had finally accomplished what others couldn’t by clearing out public housing; a prominent resident from the Uptown part of the city telling a Wall Street Journal reporter that in rebuilding, things would be ‘‘done in a completely different way, demographically, geographically and politically’’ — or he and his friends weren’t moving back.
[…]
Ten years after Katrina, only 36 percent of the Lower Ninth Ward’s population has returned, according to the New Orleans Data Center.

 
Editor’s note: Keep an eye out in the coming days for Arsenal For Democracy’s audio documentary on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with extensive firsthand narration. We started major recording on August 18th, and we’re working on finishing up shortly.

Ferguson + 365 Days: A Culture of Police Impunity

On the anniversary of Mike Brown’s death, another abusive police crackdown played out.

Map: Ferguson, MO within St. Louis County. (© OpenStreetMap contributors)

Map: Ferguson, MO within St. Louis County. (© OpenStreetMap contributors)

Last year, on August 9th, the death of Mike Brown at the hands of a police officer pushed the chronic abuse of an entire community at the hands of police to the forefront of global news media and kicked off a national movement.

Ten days ago, on August 9th 2015, the first anniversary of his death, people began tweeting links to articles and feeds about violence breaking out in Ferguson. I naively thought that people were posting old articles, as a reminder of the trauma that Ferguson residents endured last year in the wake of Mike Brown’s death. It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized that the links being posted were brand new. It’s been a year to the day, yet St. Louis County Police Department still doesn’t seem to want to fix the problem.

Over the past year, Whiteness and its privileges have been under the microscope. More and more people of color, especially Black people, are able to document their interactions with Whiteness — from the smallest micro-aggressions to major instances of Police Brutality and abuse. Ferguson in the past week alone has shown examples almost all of these issues.

On the night of August 10th, a 19-year-old White girl decided she was going to show solidarity with St. Louis PD as the tension increased at the ongoing Ferguson anniversary protests. The girl is quoted saying that she was there to protect the police, because she would rather have something thrown at her, than to have something thrown at and possibly injure cops.

It seems strange that someone would feel that police with guns riot gear would need protection from peaceful protesters. Meanwhile, the same instinct isn’t felt for a 12 year old Black girl detained by St. Louis County PD in Ferguson during protests. When the news spread on Twitter of the girl’s arrest, the STL PD account was quick to respond that the girl had an ID that stated that she was 18 years old, despite the fact that there were eyewitness accounts of the girl stating that she was 12 when asking why exactly she was being detained. Apparently she posed the same threat that Dajerria Becton posed in McKinney, Texas: being young, Black, and female in front of the police.

Earlier that same day, prominent activists Netta Elzie and DeRay Mckesson were both arrested, along with many others, during a peaceful protest at the Ferguson courthouse. It wasn’t until the following day, upon release, that other detainees came forward on Twitter with stories of being abused by the police — who ignored their requests not only to know why they were being detained, but also requests for things such as rolling down the windows in hot police vans.

This level of neglect harkens back to the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, or the death of Sandra Bland in Texas. In both of those instances, the police claimed that the victims hurt themselves, but the negligence shown toward the detainees makes one think that any pre-existing issue anyone might have had could only have become worse in police custody.

While Black protesters were detained abusively, an armed group of vigilantes called the Oath Keepers showed up at Tuesday night’s protests weren’t even approached initially by police and the legality of their presence had to be reviewed before the police ever asked them to leave. As usual, the threat of White violence (against Black protesters) was apparently less dangerous than the protesters’ unarmed presence.

Virtually all of this — incredibly — played out in front of global news media again, just like the first time around.

It’s been a year since the death of Mike Brown at the hands of a Ferguson police officer, and it seems as if the police there has not learned a single lesson. It is still treating unarmed Black citizens as a threat. Its attempts to “control” already peaceful situations only raise tensions higher. With the growing list of Black and Brown people being murdered by police, and with the entirety of the world watching, Ferguson is a reflection of the entire country’s inability to take any substantial move towards valuing and preserving our lives.

While the movement that expanded in the aftermath of Mike Brown’s death seems to have started very slightly changing the discussion in the country — by refusing to “let it go” — it is telling that the police in St. Louis County feel they can act with such impunity with the world watching.

That means they believe enough people in power or the general public don’t object to their behavior enough to correct it. Or that if they do object, the system will continue to protect them anyway. Sadly, that assumption is probably correct. And with Ferguson being the example of systemic racism on a smaller scale, imagine how that is playing out nationwide, off-camera.

Janelle Monáe: Magical Black Womanist Revolution Music

Guest post by Maria Jackson. You can read her last guest essay here.

I have been a fan of Janelle Monáe since 2008’s Metropolis: The Chase Suite. Hearing her music was like hearing my inner most thoughts, desires, and interests manifest. Her electric, bouncing, soulful, sci-fi sound paired with strong, storytelling lyrics of a quest for freedom had me hooked. Everything Monáe has presented and produced has been created thoughtfully and with a clear-eyed purpose.

Janelle-MonáeMonáe has been hyper aware of her image and how others perceive her ever since she came onto the scene over seven years ago. Preferring to be covered up than baring skin or being “revealing” was choice dictated not only by style, but also by conscious and personal comfort. Her iconic look, bouncy pompadoured coif with a black and white tuxedo (although her wardrobe has expanded and her hair has been down recently) is a uniform in tribute not only to her parents, but also to working class people:

“When I started my musical career I was a maid, I used to clean houses and the girls I used to clean houses with used to always beg me to sing while we cleaned. I lived in a boarding house with five other girls and I would sell my $5 CD out of my room. My mother was a proud janitor, my step-father who raised me worked at the post office, and my father was a trash man. They all wore a uniform and that’s why I wear my uniform to honor them. I have work to do. I have people to uplift. I have people to inspire. And today I wear my uniform proudly.”

 
Beginning with narrative Cindi Mayweather vs. The Wolfmasters, much of Monáe’s musical catalogue tells the story of a future society where androids are sold at auction for the pleasure of their buyers. Specifically androids are the “others” whose independence and freedom are feared by the very same who have created and own them.

In Cindi’s musical sojourn to be free, Monáe references negro spirituals and melds them with the origins of modern sci-fi, citing the influences of Philip K. Dick and the 1927 silent film, Metropolis. Fusing retro fashions of suspenders and the pompadour, while blending sci-fi vision with the frustration and joy entangled in the current realities of living as marginalized person in the U.S., Monáe’s artistry has always been about the very revolutionary act of bringing the outsiders to the forefront of their own stories about love, freedom, humanity, and self-acceptance.

These womanist themes of living at the intersections have continued through each album reaching a commercial and pop culture peek in her 2013 release of Q.U.E.E.N featuring Erykah Badu. Q.U.E.E.N, which stands for Queer, Untouchables, Emigrants, Excommunicated, Negroid, tackles themes of respectability politics, morality, black femininity, white supremacy, inequality and poverty. So, when she and the other Wondaland artists spoke up about police brutality during their performance on the TODAY Show (and were cut off), no one should have been surprised.

Earlier that day the Wondaland artists released Hell You Talmbout (a rework or sequel to the Electric Lady bonus track of the same name) a percussive protest jam made for marching where the names of men, women, boys, and girls killed by police brutality are shouted. Monáe described the meaning behind the song her Instagram:

“This song is a vessel. It carries the unbearable anguish of millions. We recorded it to channel the pain, fear, and trauma caused by the ongoing slaughter of our brothers and sisters. We recorded it to challenge the indifference, disregard, and negligence of all who remain quiet about this issue. Silence is our enemy. Sound is our weapon. They say a question lives forever until it gets the answer it deserves… Won’t you say their names?”

 
The only way you could be unaware of Monáe’s views on Black life in America is to be wholly ignorant of her body of work.

Guest essayist Maria Jackson is a thirty-something, 4th generation Georgia Peach who writes for Shakefire.com and can be heard trading opinions and laughter on the Nerdgasm Noire podcast, with Arsenal For Democracy columnist De Ana and others. Co-owner and full time fatshionista for luvfattax.com.

AFD Micron #9

We like to think of historical people as trapped in the morals of their times, but history is filled with well-researched, articulate debates on the moral harms of slavery or Indian genocidein societies that decided in favor of them anyway. The fact that we talk a lot about racism or sexism today can’t be taken as evidence that we’re effectively dealing with them.

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One year later

In case you missed it last year, you can still stream or download my August 17th radio interview of eyewitness accounts in Ferguson MO from longtime area residents.

We talked about: Longstanding tensions with police in Ferguson and the wider St. Louis County, the geography of the Ferguson protests and manifestations of outrage, militarization of American police forces, respectability politics (why dressing and speaking a certain way won’t save Black Americans), personal stories of being harassed by police in the St. Louis area (including Ferguson), raising children under / growing up with an abusive police force, & organizing for future change (from social media to events on the ground).

This is one of several interviews and panel shows I did on Ferguson, but it’s the earliest one.