Polyphasic Sleep and Better Thinking
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — gaveldrop

When the Law is on Your Side

U.S. Federal Statue

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242
Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

This statute makes it a crime for any person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived from any person those rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the U.S.

This law further prohibits a person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation or custom to willfully subject or cause to be subjected any person to different punishments, pains, or penalties, than those prescribed for punishment of citizens on account of such person being an alien or by reason of his/her color or race.

Acts under "color of any law" include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within the bounds or limits of their lawful authority, but also acts done without and beyond the bounds of their lawful authority; provided that, in order for unlawful acts of any official to be done under "color of any law," the unlawful acts must be done while such official is purporting or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties. This definition includes, in addition to law enforcement officials, individuals such as Mayors, Council persons, Judges, Nursing Home Proprietors, Security Guards, etc., persons who are bound by laws, statutes ordinances, or customs.

Punishment varies from a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, or both, and if bodily injury results or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire shall be fined or imprisoned up to ten years or both, and if death results, or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

 

…Furthermore, not part of the statute, but FYI most police officers sued for violation of Federal law can't be defended (have their legal defense paid for by) the tax payer (i.e. their department). 

Hey, they have no problem using the rules against you.  In light of some of the crap going on lately, it's important to know how to use them in your own favor.

(Can anybody tell I'm writing a story with an anarchist character in it?  ;)

April 20, 2011   Comments Off

Emphasis Mine

The law discriminates against rape victims in a manner which would not be tolerated by victims of any other crime.

In the following example, a holdup victim is asked questions similar in form to those usually asked a victim of rape.

“Mr. Smith, you were held up at gunpoint on the corner of 16th and Locust?”
“Yes.”
“Did you struggle with the robber?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“He was armed.”
“Then you made a conscious decision to comply with his demands rather than to resist?”
“Yes.”
“Did you scream? Cry out?”
“No. I was afraid.”
“I see. Have you ever been held up before?”
“No.”
“Have you ever given money away?”
“Yes, of course–”
“And did you do so willingly?”
“What are you getting at?”
“Well, let’s put it like this, Mr. Smith. You’ve given away money in the past–in fact, you have quite a reputation for philanthropy. How can we be sure that you weren’t contriving to have your money taken from you by force?”
“Listen, if I wanted–”
“Never mind. What time did this holdup take place, Mr. Smith?”
“About 11 p.m.”
“You were out on the streets at 11 p.m.? Doing what?”
“Just walking.”
“Just walking? You know it’s dangerous being out on the street that late at night. Weren’t you aware that you could have been held up?”
“I hadn’t thought about it.”
“What were you wearing at the time, Mr. Smith?”
“Let’s see. A suit. Yes, a suit.”
“An expensive suit?”
“Well–yes.”
“In other words, Mr. Smith, you were walking around the streets late at night in a suit that practically advertised the fact that you might be a good target for some easy money, isn’t that so? I mean, if we didn’t know better, Mr. Smith, we might even think you were asking for this to happen, mightn’t we?”
“Look, can’t we talkin about the past history of the guy who did this to me?”
“I’m afraid not, Mr. Smith. I don’t think you would want to violate his rights, now, would you?”

(via blackenedbutterfly)


[The whole point is very, very good and badly, badly needed...but one thing that stuck with me is the wording in the first sentence:  "...would not be tolerated by victims of any other crime" -- Not society, not victims' families, but the victims themselves are assumed to be the tolerators of this behavior here.  But the victim, if in court, is already doing what fighting they can, aren't they?  What else should they do?  Chain themselves to the witness stand?  --I'm actually not being wholly facetious, because I think there is a lot more that can be done by victims of sexual violence, who spend way too much time being successfully shamed into silence.  It will take great strength to change the way things are now, and I'm not sure who else but the victims might have it.  I AM pretty sure that we don't require the victims of other crimes to be the ones changing the system for the fairer...but this is a crime that discriminates, and those not on the wrong side of that line are probably never, as a whole, going to be very interested in fighting for those victims' rights.  So perhaps it is rather sick to assume that the victims are the ones being too tolerant here -- but perhaps it is also, in cold hard reality, correct.]

April 5, 2011   1 Comment

Skeet shooting bullshit with numbers: Wisconsin edition

In Michigan as well as elsewhere, I've heard the attempted anti-union argument that "teachers make too much money anyway".  Now, I know a few teachers (experienced, in difficult subjects like science) and they do pretty well, so it's easy to see how some people might find that argument (i.e. "teachers make too much money, so there's something wrong with unions") at least a little convincing.

Thanks to my iFriend zentiger (via kataplexis), today I can kill it dead for good.  Behold, simple high-school math:

Suppose that teachers are making too much money. OK, that's fine. Let's treat them like babysitters, and pay them less than minimum wage. Say, $3/hour. The conversation wandered from there, but I decided to put some numbers on it and see what happens.

Now, teachers don't work full-time; around 180 days a year for around six and a half hours a day. (Lunch? No, you don't get paid for lunch. Or grading. Or planning.) On the other hand, teachers deal with ~30 students at a time, so that's something — your average babysitter deals with one, or maybe two, at a time. Let's call it 1.5.

Now let's do some math. $3/hour/1.5 kids is, shockingly enough, equal to $2/hour/child. And each day is, as we know, 6.5 hours, so it looks like we should have (in a given day), $13/child. Multiply that by the (sadly small estimate of class size) 30 kids each teacher deals with, and we're at $390/day. $390/day * 180 days/year = $70,200/year. That seems like a reasonable introductory salary for a schoolteacher, no? If not, where did I go wrong in my math? I mean, I'm doing this all in my head, so I might have screwed up somewhere.

This result is especially interesting given that, according to salary.com (I don't actually know if this is a good source), the median salary of a high school teacher is $53,558. If that website is accurate, it looks like we're paying our teachers, on average, $20,000 per year less than we'd pay a 14-year-old for the same service. Oh, and the teachers also, y'know, educate our children. So that's a plus.

What the hell, America?

February 23, 2011   Comments Off

And how the hell is it almost Friday??

"At COMPANY _______ we value your privacy a great deal. Almost as much as we value the ability to take the data you give us and slice, dice, julienne, mash, puree and serve it to our business partners, which may include third-party advertising networks, data brokers, networks of affiliate sites, parent companies, subsidiaries, and other entities, none of which we’ll bother to list here because they can change from week to week and, besides, we know you’re not really paying attention.

We’ll also share all of this information with the government. We’re just suckers for guys with crew cuts carrying subpoenas.

Remember, when you visit our Web site, our Web site is also visiting you. And we’ve brought a dozen or more friends with us, depending on how many ad networks and third-party data services we use. We’re not going to tell which ones, though you could probably figure this out by carefully watching the different URLs that flash across the bottom of your browser as each page loads or when you mouse over various bits. It’s not like you’ve got better things to do.

Each of these sites may leave behind a little gift known as a cookie — a text file filled with inscrutable gibberish that allows various computers around the globe to identify you, including your preferences, browser settings, which parts of the site you visited, which ads you clicked on, and whether you actually purchased something.

Those same cookies may let our advertising and data broker partners track you across every other site you visit, then dump all of your information into a huge database attached to a unique ID number, which they may sell ad infinitum without ever notifying you or asking for permission.

Also: We collect your IP address, which might change every time you log on but probably doesn’t. At the very least, your IP address tells us the name of your ISP and the city where you live; with a legal court order, it can also give us your name and billing address (see guys with crew cuts and subpoenas, above).

Besides your IP, we record some specifics about your operating system and browser. Amazingly, this information (known as your user agent string) can be enough to narrow you down to one of a few hundred people on the Webbernets, all by its lonesome. Isn’t technology wonderful?

The data we collect is strictly anonymous, unless you’ve been kind enough to give us your name, email address, or other identifying information. And even if you have been that kind, we promise we won’t sell that information to anyone else, unless of course our impossibly obtuse privacy policy says otherwise and/or we change our minds tomorrow. 

We store this information an indefinite amount of time for reasons even we don’t fully understand. And when we do eventually get around to deleting it, you can bet it’s still kicking around on some network backup drives in somebody’s closet. So once we have it, there’s really no getting it back. Hell, we can’t even find our keys half the time — how do you expect us to keep track of this stuff?

Not to worry, though, because we use the very bestest security measures to protect your data against hackers and identity thieves, though no one has actually ever bothered to verify this. You’ll pretty much just have to take our word for it.

So just to recap: Your information is extremely valuable to us. Our business model would totally collapse without it. No IPO, no stock options; all those 80-hour weeks and bupkis to show for it. So we’ll do our very best to use it in as many potentially profitable ways as we can conjure, over and over, while attempting to convince you there’s nothing to worry about.

(Hey, Did somebody hold a gun to your head and force you to visit this site? No, they did not. Did you run into a pay wall on the home page demanding your Visa number? No, you did not. You think we just give all this stuff away because we’re nice guys?  Bet you also think every roomful of manure has a pony buried inside.)

This privacy policy may change at any time. In fact, it’s changed three times since we first started typing this. Good luck figuring out how, because we’re sure as hell not going to tell you. But then, you probably stopped reading after paragraph three."

 

These lawls* brought to you by this genius here.

Just to type something non-sleep related for once… ;)

pd

*hell yes that was a legal pun.

December 9, 2010   1 Comment

The only thing worse than bigots is bigots who misuse the legal system

Health insurance mandate upheld : SCOTUSblog.

A federal judge in Detroit, in a broad ruling upholding Congress’s power to require all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, decided Thursday that the mandate is necessary to prevent the “extinction” of the nation’s entire health care insurance market. U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh said the requirement was well within Congress’s power to regulate commerce among the states. The decision is the first by a federal court to rule directly on the constitutionality of the buy-or-be-penalized provision of the sweeping new health care reform law. [....]

The ruling came in the case of Thomas More Law Center, et al., v. Obama, et al. (District Court docket 10-11156) in the Eastern District of Michigan. That lawsuit is one of a lengthy list of court challenges across the Nation to several parts of the new health care law. But the provision requiring everyone to have a health insurance policy by the year 2014 was clearly the most visible part of the package for most Americans, and it has been subjected to the most energetic challenge. The key to most of the challenges is the argument that refusing to buy health insurance is not activity, but inactivity, and Congress has never had the power to order people to engage in economic activity when they choose not to do so.

But Judge Steeh refused to accept that view of what the insurance mandate is. “Far from ‘inactivity,’” the judge wrote, “by choosing to forgo insurance [the challengers] are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now through the purchase of insurance, collectively shifting billions of dollars, $43 billion in 2008, onto other market participants.”

IMPORTANTLY YET UNSAID (the Court is too damn polite sometimes): The "Thomas More Law Center" is a disgusting racket openly dedicated to destroying the separation of church and state. Besides conducting lawsuits (sometimes over heinously frivolous and/or hateful things), the Center serves as a school for lawyers who want to learn specifically how to use legal precedent as a weapon to enforce Christian values by trying the right cases in the right way to warp the Constitution into a supporter of their chosen religion.

Not much has made me feel great about Detroit lately, but I'm damn proud that it could be one of the places where a level-headed judge put his boot on the face of Matt Staver and his fellow bigoted zealot lunatics. Yaaaaay, D-town!

(For the record, although I wouldn't care much *what* the case was as long as the Thomas More Center lost it, I think the judge's argument is sound in this — though I think that for the situation to be truly fair, there should be a mandate that free market controls (note the phrase) be in place to guarantee that people aren't being forced to buy from only certain companies, or to pay unfair prices. It's not cool that people can be forced to buy insurance (car, health, whatever) in markets that are obviously poisoned by bad business practices and storebought politicians. However, it isn't this judge's fault that that piece is missing; he made a sound decision with what he had.)

October 12, 2010   Comments Off

Denying physics won’t save the video stars | Cory Doctorow – Times Online

Fifteen years of draconian copyright regimes show that when you create powerful enforcement tools without any consequence for misuse, they get misused. And half a century’s worth of evidence on digital technology shows that no amount of enforcement will make computers and the internet worse at copying. Hard drives won’t get magically bulkier and more expensive. Networks won’t get less accessible, slower and harder to use. General technological literacy won’t decline. If you want copying to stop, physics is not on your side.

–via Denying physics won’t save the video stars | Cory Doctorow – Times Online.

 

Good article, good facts, catchy headline — what more could you ask for? Oh yeah, a kickass author to write it. If you haven’t read his amazing YA novel "Little Brother ", or checked out the free online serialization of his new (also kickass, I think) novel "Makers", well, now you have the tools to do so, dontcha? ;)

October 30, 2009   Comments Off

Can’t anti-racism be color-blind?

Maybe it’s the philosopher in me, but I don’t see how any argument against racism that depends on color to make its point is valuable in the long run.  If the goal is to end racism, which I hope it is, then shouldn’t we be engaged in activities and rhetoric that de-emphasize skin color (etc.) as a valid reason to make political (and by extension certain types of personal) decisions?

[Edit: If you're reading this on PD.com, you may want to head over to the mirror-post on my LJ to read the huge glut of awesome and thoughtful commentary it provoked there.  I got a lot out of it, and thank you to everyone who participated/is participating!]

I’d like to give one example, with the understanding that there is a whole can of worms here that has to do with re-balancing and re-distributing privilege, which I’m deliberately not getting into (for now).  My current thoughts, and this example, stem from this interesting “definition of racism”, from this post “Racism 101 for Clueless White People“.  The emphasis is all theirs; I’ve added nothing.

3. Make sure you understand the definitions of the terms that are going to be used. The first thing you really need to understand is that the definition of racism that you probably have (which is the colloquial definition: “racism is prejudice against someone based on their skin color or ethnicity”) is NOT the definition that’s commonly used in anti-racist circles.The definition used in anti-racist circles is the accepted sociological definition (which is commonly used in academic research, and has been used for more than a decade now): “racism is prejudice plus power”. What this means, in easy language:

A. Anyone can hold “racial prejudice” — that is, they can carry positive or negative stereotypes of others based on racial characteristics. For example, a white person thinking all Asians are smart, or all black people are criminals; or a Chinese person thinking Japanese people are untrustworthy; or what-have-you. ANYONE, of any race, can have racial prejudices.

B. People of any race can commit acts of violence, mistreatment, ostracizing, etc., based on their racial prejudices. A black kid can beat up a white kid because he doesn’t like white kids. An Indian person can refuse to associate with Asians. Whatever, you get the idea.

C. However, to be racist (rather than simply prejudiced) requires having institutional power. In North America, white people have the institutional power. In large part we head the corporations; we make up the largest proportion of lawmakers and judges; we have the money; we make the decisions. In short, we control the systems that matter. “White” is presented as normal, the default. Because we have institutional power, when we think differently about people based on their race or act on our racial prejudices, we are being racist. Only white people can be racist, because only white people have institutional power.

D. People of color can be prejudiced, but they cannot be racist, because they don’t have the institutional power. (However, some people refer to intra-PoC prejudice as “lateral racism”. You may also hear the term “colorism”, which refers to lighter-skinned PoC being prejudiced toward darker-skinned PoC.) However, that situation can be different in other countries; for example, a Japanese person in Japan can be racist against others, because the Japanese have the institutional power there. But in North America, Japanese people can’t be racist because they don’t hold the institutional power.

E. If you’re in an area of your city/state/province that is predominantly populated by PoC and, as a white person, you get harassed because of your skin color, it’s still not racism, even though you’re in a PoC-dominated area. The fact is, even though they’re the majority population in that area, they still lack the institutional power. They don’t have their own special PoC-dominated police force for that area. They don’t have their own special PoC-dominated courts in that area. The state/province and national media are still not dominated by PoC. Even though they have a large population in that particular area, they still lack the institutional power overall.

F. So that’s the definition of racism that you’re likely to encounter. If you start talking about “reverse racism” you’re going to either get insulted or laughed at, because it isn’t possible under that definition; PoC don’t have the power in North America, so by definition, they can’t be racist. Crying “reverse racism!” is like waving a Clueless White Person Badge around.

G. If you go into an anti-racist discussion and start trying to claim the colloquial definition that “racism is simply viewing or treating others differently based on race”, you’re going to get a negative reaction. Stick to “racism = prejudice + power”. Anti-racists aren’t going to take it well if you wander in halfway through the debate and start trying to make them abide by your definition rather than the commonly accepted “prejudice + power”. Imagine if everyone in a classroom was chatting about a particular subject and then someone walked in and said, “No! You’re all doing it wrong! The REAL definition is ABC and I don’t care that all the rest of you think it’s XYZ!” — do you think that would go over well? Of course it wouldn’t; the newcomer would be considered rude. (Also, making an appeal to Dictionary.com is not going to work. Pointing out that the colloquial definition is how Webster’s Dictionary defines racism is not going to make anti-racists suddenly say, “Wow, you know what? You’re right! I never realized it, but now that Webster’s has backed you up, I see that you’re totally right and racism really is just judging people based on their skin color!” Actually, they may say that, but they’d be saying it sarcastically.)

H. I’m under the impression there are a number of different reasons why anti-racists use the sociological definition as versus the colloquial one, but the major reason I’m aware of is that anti-racists aren’t just focusing on individual acts of racism; they’re looking at racism as an entrenched system that pervades every layer of our society. The colloquial definition reduces racism to an individual level; the sociological definition focuses on the systemic level. The systemic level is actually more important, because even as individual/obvious acts of racism become less socially acceptable, the systemic effects of institutionalized racism continue to work quietly, efficiently, and powerfully. Think of it like a body; it’s easy to find a cancerous lesion on the skin and remove it, and then you’d look like you were cancer-free. But even as you looked fine on the surface, the real cancer would be inside your body, spreading from lymph node to lymph node, and invading your bones and organs. Individual and overt acts of racism are the lesions on the surface; the invisible cancer is the systemic racism. Unless you’re addressing the underlying disease, eradicating surface symptoms isn’t going to accomplish much. But that’s enough about the definition of racism for now; let’s continue.  (Full post here.)

I’m completely in agreement that CWP need a guide like this (it’s awesome, and the rest is worth a read); it’s absolutely true that there’s a tendency of (mostly)-well-meaning whites to wander into race-relevant situations and start a conversation that either a) completely misses the point or b) demands that everyone please educate them right now ok I’m waaaaaaitiiiinnnng…  So hell yes, more things written to educate whites about racism and how to talk about it, absolutely. Awesome.  I’m also quite okay with the idea that “this is the definition we use, so don’t barge in demanding a new one or trying to change ours” — but there’s a fine line between that, and demanding that no-one (especially no pesky outsiders) challenge your ideas, and across that line I will not follow.

*REVERSE COWGIRL*

But this excerpt in particular addresses something that, to most (educated) anti-racists is an occasional case or a non-issue, but which to me is not:  I’m referring to the white person stuck in a (yes I’m calling it a) “reverse racism” scenario who wants some acknowledgment from PoC that their (people of color’s) behavior (individually and as the heads of institutions) in that case isn’t okay either.

And it’s not, of course.  I think the idea of “anti-racism” is that racism isn’t okay in principle, right?  No matter who’s doing it?  But there are genuinely people who use definitions like this, that categorically deny the possibility of racism against white people, to excuse behavior that does qualify as racist under this definition. You literally get an argument that goes “racism is prejudice plus power, unless it’s prejudice against and power over white people, in which case it’s not.”

Of course, the answer to that statement is often given as “but that never happens”.  And maybe it’s easier for me to spot how making color a part of the formulation of racism is problematic, because I’ve seen the prejudice-plus-power of a non-white population in effect.  I personally know more than a few people who, growing up as whites in Detroit, experienced continuous exposure to a kind of ostracization and mistreatment that can only be called “Jim-Crow-like”.  I’m not talking about being called “honky” or feeling uncomfortable walking around at night. I’m talking about a whole childhood (sometimes longer) of not being served in restaurants, not being permitted to apply for public assistance and scholarships because you’re the wrong color, being harassed in school by kids and adults alike; of being openly taught that your race is inferior and bad and you’re inferior and bad because of it, and forced to “act dangerous” and constantly live in fear for your safety because you “don’t belong” and you might be blamed or punished for anything perceived as being the fault of your race.  Any time a person of color experiences that kind of oppression, we encourage each other to call it out, to call it racism.  And while it’s certainly FAR less common, and not in keeping with the habits of our country as a whole, to have it happen to white people, I fail to see what good comes from denying the harm it causes when it does.

The point of being anti-racism isn’t to be anti-white (I hope); it’s to be anti-institutionally-supported-prejudice.  At least, that’s why I’m in.

According to this article, which certainly boasts more authority on the topic than I do, living the way some white kids in Detroit have is not being a victim of racism.  Those kids, who grew up a minority in a situation where the majority feels justified in (and is capable of) openly and systemically mistreating people of the “wrong race”, may forever be shut out of any discussion of what it’s like to be a victim of racism…because they’re the wrong color. Yeah, the irony on that one stings a little.  But according to this article and others (many of which are taught in Detroit schools), “reverse racism” is impossible, because “racism” as a technical term here refers only to cases involving prejudice AND institutional power, and moreover (here’s where I think the problem lies), “institutional power” is defined as NATIONAL power.

*INSTITUTIONS AND THE REAL WORLD*

It’s true, by that definition, that whites have the institutional power in the U.S.  It’s also true that the majority of politicians and cops in Michigan are white.  But it’s not true that white privilege operates in a place like Detroit the same way it does in New York or Dallas or Boston.  And while there are probably other places — small towns maybe, or other cities or parts of them, where non-white power-structures have built up and become racist, Detroit makes a good and powerful example of how it can happen, and happen here, right in the middle of the good-ol’ nonthreatening midwest.

Detroit isn’t a “diverse” city — it’s a heavily-segregated, almost-entirely-black city.   (That’s not to say it isn’t affected by the institutional power of white-dominated things nearby; obviously such arrangements are complicated.  But it IS possible to grow up there and be mostly, or entirely, under the control of institutions dominated by blacks, which is all the sociological definition of “racism” requires, I think.)  My white friends who grew up there were often one of less than ten white kids in all-black schools, taught by black teachers and run by black administrators, under a school board that was almost entirely black, overseen by a majority-black city council and a black mayor, enforced by a largely black police force in a place mostly ignored by white media and even the white politicians of our own state.  (If that seems outrageous to you, it should:  Segregation in the 21st century is not pretty, and Detroit has somehow gone from being the cradle of Civil Rights to the drainage-ditch of post-modern segregation.  Yuck.)  But somehow, the fact that it’s a poor white kid being tromped on by an entire cityful of angry and prejudiced people is supposed to save them, or ameliorate their pain and fear and the other negative effects of the treatment they received. Why?  Is their whiteness supposed to comfort them, or shield them?

Tell me, when you were ten or twelve or fifteen, how much good did the adults and institutions fifty miles away do you?  In a poor, neglected neighborhood that everybody’s either afraid of or disgusted by, how does the “national media” help you?  How much does it do for you in real life, that most of the people on TV are white like you?  (Other than to make you feel like a totally crappy specimen, of course.)  And to what degree should we, those of us interested in standing up against racism, ignore or push away the victims who were, or are, caught up in such a situation?

I’m not saying that Detroit is some kind of racial otherword, but I do think it serves as a powerful example to raise good questions about where “institutional power” is really located. When you’re a kid in a city, does the fact that the state governor is white protect you from the effects of prejudice-plus-power racism?  Is it those effects on you, and people like you, or the overall balance of state power that matters? When you’re afraid in school and none of the teachers will stand up for you and everyone wants to beat you up if you try to date anyone who’s not one of the two girls of your race in the whole school and you know the cops wouldn’t do anything about it….when your school hires speakers to come talk about how bad white people are and you’re squirming in the audience, is it not racism because you’re white and whites have the institutional power at the state and federal level?

Racism is about what happens to people, in their neighborhoods and schools and workplaces and lives, and not just “entire groups of people, nation-wide”.  That’s one of those generalities that ends up hurting everyone, I think.  The real world, at ground-level, is where a systemic problem like racism starts…and stops.  Racism is about power, and not just prejudice.  But one city, and one neighborhood, is certainly not the same as all others when it comes to the balance of power.   Maybe there IS a welfare program, and a federal law that says that you’re allowed to apply for it — but we understand the harm when the white people working the counter “lose” your application because you’re black; why can’t we understand that in places like Detroit, the reverse happens, and that it’s just as harmful and wrong when it does?

On top of that, children, who are arguably worse affected by all of this (considering the educational and psychological damage, which I should add is quite definitely present in the “white kids from Detroit” I still know), usually don’t have the option to leave even their neighborhoods, so if the north-east side, for example, is black-controlled and using that institutional power to back up its prejudice against whites, then I think it’s inarguable that what those kids experience is racism.  Any definition of racism that categorically denies someone’s experiences, and the effects those experiences have, simply because “they’re white” is just not okay with me. If racism is wrong, it’s because it’s wrong for any human beings to treat any human beings that way.

…Somebody’s going to ask if I feel this way, or if it’s easier for me to feel this way, because I’m white.  Obviously my “white guilt” gets a little soothing when I think about things like “reverse racism”; that’s a fact of psychology.  I’m aware of this, and I’m just as incapable of taking off my skin as everyone else, so it’ll have to remain an open question.  But I can say that I’m also a woman, and that I genuinely feel the same way about male victims of rape as I do about white victims of racism:  They exist, and they are genuine victims, and they don’t function as evidence against the overwhelming reality of the problem (of racism-against-PoCs, or rape-against-women).  They–the “backwards” or unusual cases–are good reminders, I think, for the crusaders, to help them remember that it’s the crime they’re up against and out to defeat; not the group that mostly comprises the perpetrators.  (If it were the perpetrators, then we would just be the “other side” in the same stupid war that’s been going on for millennia, and not really about solving anything at all.  I, and I think others, are interested in solving racism, not lobbing stones back at the “white side”.)  Victims of “reverse” rape or racism deserve support and protection because rape is wrong just like racism is wrong, and it’s crucial, if we’re going to make any headway in alleviating the actual problems, to stand by our principles no matter who the victim is. I really do feel that way.  So maybe that helps.

(A sidenote:  Isn’t it, I wonder, monumentally stupid for the anti-racist movement to ignore or de-legitimize these rare people who have an amazing and valuable point of view to offer?  They’re white, and they’ve experienced systemic racism firsthand!  That may make them seem scary to those of us who are either only white, or only victims of racism (much like feminists and men tend to get uncomfortable around men who’ve experienced rape, I’ve noticed), but let’s get over the fear that the existence of a few of these people somehow damages or lessens our point about the rest of the country — it doesn’t. And lest you wonder, all of the “reverse-victims” that I know are not only rabidly anti-racism, but far better than most white people–including me–at spotting where institutional racism comes into play.  Moreover, they know firsthand that racism is bad for everyone, that even those “with privilege” aren’t safe from its negative effects.  They could be amazingly helpful to the movement, I think, were they not being excluded from it.)

*WORKING TOGETHER*

I’m not, overall, in disagreement with the definition of racism given here, or how it’s presented. I see that it’s intended to address political racism, the kind that affects whole groups, and not just the prejudices and assholery of a given person or small group.  That’s valid.   I know that the “reverse racism doesn’t exist” argument is mostly intended to stop whites who would try to use reverse-cases as a reason to not work on solving the problem of racism-against-PoCs, and while I agree that those people need to be slapped answered, I don’t think shutting the door on all victims of racism who happen to be white is the way to do it.

I also don’t think we need to rewrite or make major changes to anti-racism so that we can focus on the tiny minority of whites in America that suffers from the “reverse” variety; it would be enough just to include them as real but non-standard victims, and to do a little walking-the-walk, by treating them the same as other victims in spite of how uncomfortable their color makes us feel.  Regarding that,  I have some suggestions I’d like to make, which perhaps others have already made, but here they are anyway:

1) Let’s re-think what “institutional power” is, and how it affects real people. One police station, one school and one court, working together, especially in an isolated or ignored area, can wield incredible power over the lives of families and individuals, and saying “they could leave” is short-sighted and victim-blaming.  Some racism happens on a federal level; some doesn’t.  And the feds can’t (and/or won’t) rescue citizens (even white citizens) who are trapped by localized racist institutions, so just because the feds are your color doesn’t guarantee you 100% protection from institutionalized racism.  Regardless of their color, individuals and families deserve protecting from prejudiced institutions and systematic oppression.  Representation in Washington is important, but it alone doesn’t solve the problem on the ground in a million different neighborhoods.

2)  Anti-racists need to be very, very careful about excluding any group by race from their definitions and discussions, even if that race is white. While it makes sense to be proactive and on-the-lookout for defensiveness and redirection from whites who either don’t understand privilege and real, institutional racism or have motives for derailing discussions about it, it doesn’t make sense to get so wrapped up in colors that you lose track of what racism is really about:  A powerful negative effect on groups of people, caused by irrational prejudiced ostracization and abuse from other, powered, groups of people.  In the pure sense, racism can happen wherever there are two races and one is in power, even if the colors involved are green and purple (or bellies-with-stars and bellies without!) — and it’s the racist behavior of people and groups of people that we’re fighting here, right?  Nor should it shock us that racism against white people in a majority-controlled non-white area is not only possible, it happens.  Why is that surprising?  People — human beings, regardless of color — tend to be ignorant racist assholes if not properly educated. We know this.  People who claim to be anti-racist but who can ignore the plight of some victims of racism because they’re white are, um, missing the point I think.

3)  If we’re going to define racism in such a way that excludes “individual and small-group prejudices and assholery”, that’s fine I guess, but then can’t we have another word, or a sub-term, that does include that concept? Often I&SGP&A (whether against whites or people of color) is the clearest direct experience of anything like racism that whites know they have, so to cut it out of the conversation entirely — to say “that doesn’t count, moving on” — does encourage whites to disengage from the discussion, not because they’re dickheads but because you’ve removed the aspect that they have the most direct and emotionally-compelling knowledge of.  That was their way in to understanding bigger, more subtle racism, so why slam that door?  I would very much like to see anti-racists taking more of an inclusive angle on individual prejudice & assholery, something along the lines of “Yes, it’s terrible when that happens.  And just imagine the damage a court system run by people who think that way can do!  For example…”

4)  Let’s not forget that whites are a very very important part of the discussion here, okay? It’s analogous to men and rape.  The party responsible, as a group, for the atrocity under discussion doesn’t like discussing it; and their victims don’t want to sit down and have heart-to-hearts with them either.  Everybody’s hurt and angry and understandably so.  But there is no healing a rift without cross-boundary cooperation.  The only way for women to prevent rape, or people of color to prevent racism, is to get down on the ground and talk openly and honestly with the other side.  (Well, the other way would be to segregate fully — whether by race or gender is a fun question — and then we can all stay enemies and stay out of each others’ way.  But we’re assuming that nobody reading this is pro-segregation; I’m certainly not.)

If we want to get along, we have to talk to each other, to the victims and the bad guys and the people who don’t understand and the people who don’t want to understand, and that means that yes, Virginia, it IS important how your anti-racism rhetoric makes white people feel.  Sorry.

(Thanks for reading!  -PD)

August 25, 2009   6 Comments

Supreme Court Fails while Michigan Suburb Does Great

Oddly enough, yesterday I was really impressed with the court system in a little city that I expected to be unfair, and which was surprisingly well-handled and unbiased.  I ended up being one of the last people to get my “informal hearing”, and not only did they agree with me that my own ticket was unfair, but they dismissed the tickets of quite a few people — basically anyone to whom the benefit of the doubt could rightfully be accorded.  The system they used was balanced, fair and simple.  I was both surprised, and got a good education in how to handle institutional resolution of small disputes.

But at the same time as a little suburb in Michigan did so well, Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the opinion in this case, really REALLY ought to be ashamed of himself.

In a nutshell, the Supreme Court says that states don’t have to give prisoners access to evidence they might need to prove their innocence, even if the prisoner is covering the cost of the tests they want to do. The person in question is a man who’s spent more than 15 years in jail, and thinks new tests can prove his innocence, and his family is willing to pay for the tests — but the state won’t give him access to the evidence.  Which just screams “someone’s afraid they screwed up” — If they’re sure he was guilty, what would be the harm in handing it over?

I understand state’s rights, really I do.  But there’s no reason the Supreme Court couldn’t have compelled the state (Alaska in this case) to hand over the evidence in this case, without forcing them to change their laws.  It would send the message that they were being idiots (which they are), without having the effect of compelling other states or creating a Federal precedent.  Presumably Roberts, and the other soulless jerks who voted for state governments’ rights to let innocent people die in jail, understand this point as well.

Alaska is really the one guilty of the hideous end of the crime here, but by choosing not to step in, the Supreme Court has dealt a nasty blow to the core ideology of the U.S. Court system, which is to protect the freedom of the innocent.

Talk about seeing a tree and missing the forest.  Inexcusable.

June 19, 2009   1 Comment

Help, Help, My Internet’s Bein’ Repressed!

Here you go, people:  a full-on lapse of the Taoist calm as I struggle with

Why Americans ACTUALLY Don’t Have Cheap, Fast Internet

There are a lot of theories about this.  I’m here to talk about the big central truth behind all the right theories.  The core of it; the main point; the real problem.

Simply, it’s because Major internet-providing companies are getting governments to pass laws making it illegal for anyone to beat their prices.

NO I AM NOT KIDDING. READ THAT AGAIN.

Here’s the deal: In a few states, people have successfully gotten together and formed some type of community organization to provide Internet access.  They didn’t do it for fun — they did it because the deal they were getting from the major providers sucked, with really slow speeds and high prices, and they got sick of it.  This actually happened in the city next door to me, when a local muni-fi project was shut down by lawsuit from Comcast (I think it was Comcast).  The non-tax-funded company in North Carolina that the article above talks about built their own fiber network for a city of 74,000 people.  They were able to provide WAY faster internet than the local BigCo (Time Warner in this case), and at much cheaper prices – something like the kind of deals people have in OTHER COUNTRIES but NOT IN THE USA.

Ah, The USA.

Where we’re all advanced and innovative and democratic, as long as the innovation and democracy come from, you know, the right sort of people.  As long as it doesn’t come from groups of individuals working together to better themselves and their communities.

No, we’re only allowed to have as much innovation and democracy as a certain class of people tell us we can. They will control our government for their financial benefit, and we’ll buy what they have to offer whether we like it or not. If we create our own companies to compete with them, or just flip them off and decide to do it ourselves, us and our neighbors and screw them – if we exercise our “right to vote with our wallets” — then they’ll do everything they can to shut us down.

Am I being strident enough about this yet? Because I really don’t think a topic like this can be strident enough. I don’t want to live in a fucking corporatocracy like in some sick science fiction future, okay? And I know enough about science fiction that I don’t think I’m fucking crying chicken when it’s real actual giant corporations really actually wielding the government as a tool of repression and control to the point where citizen groups that can accomplish things for cheaper than the corporations want to sell us get shut down by their own legislators.

Here, just to spark some outrage (because that is what good stridency does), have some real live example numbers:

(Click “Read More” and prepare to say “Holy Sh!t”)

[Read more →]

April 23, 2009   1 Comment

Detroit Hates Racism, but Insulting the Poor is Alright

Remember The I$land?

So, a lawyer for the City of Detroit decided it’d be funny to refer to the 36th District court — which is Downtown — as a “Ghetto Court“.

Obviously this was hideously unprofessional, and she was demoted as a result.

Which is fine.  I couldn’t get away with such a comment at my job, and I’m not raking in the bucks as permanent Counsel for a huge city judicial system.  Obviously she was way out of line, or at the very least stupid about who she mouthed off around.

BUT, the city decided to refer to her comment (and subsequently the reason they demoted her) as “racist” — since the lawyer is white and most of the 36th district, employees and customer-victims alike, are brown-skinned.  That was stupid, because of course the racist intent of the comment can be challenged, which is exactly what the uppity lawyer is now doing, claiming the city owes her damages because they’re being racist.  And of course she has a point — if she’d been African-American, she wouldn’t have been punished for racism.  (It’s a stupid, petty point, but a point is a point.)

So, if the city had had a brain and just demoted her for being unprofessional and insulting the court she worked for, they’d have saved themselves a lawsuit.  That’s one lesson.

But I think there’s another lesson here:  Namely, the perception that it’s okay for her to have insulted the District for being poor, which is really the only other thing (and really the main thing) that the word “ghetto” refers to.  (She says that she meant to insult the place for having “poor and inefficient service” — but even insofar as that can be true — insofar as, say, someone might refer to a store with bad (funny that she chose the word “poor” though) service as a “ghetto store”, which is a damn stretch anyway — it’s only in reference to being poor like a ghetto neighborhood that the insult carries any weight.)

What’s really inappropriate here?  That a white woman called a mostly-black court “ghetto”?  Or that a woman making over 100K a year in taxpayer money made fun of a poverty-stricken city for being poor?

Now, the racial issues of Detroit are not really separable from the economic issues — a lot of the poverty there is caused by deliberate and systemic segregation and racial injustice, much of which was perpetrated by the politicians and corporations whose responsibility it was (and is) to design and run the city.  (And many of them are black, for the record; their actions only make real sense when seen as rich-against-poor, rather than just white-against-black.)

But if a black woman making a phat salary called the poor mostly-white (or mixed-race) court she worked in “ghetto”, would that be okay?  If you remove the racist element, is it then okay to insult the poor for their poverty?

The scary truth is, to a lot of people it would seem more okay, if not outright “fine”.  Maybe if you look hard, you’ll see that you find it easier to be outraged about the racial insult than the economic one, too.

That’s just because it’s a societal norm that while racial injustice is at least “not-okay on paper”, economic injustice isn’t even not-okay on paper. That’s why the city felt the need to classify her comment as racism — because people will take the side of the city against someone who made a racist remark, but not necessarily against someone who mocked the poverty of the place.

Much like race and gender were in the pre-equality days, poverty is still seen by everyone–poor included–as something that’s mostly the fault of the poor; or, even if it’s not their fault, it’s just their “natural place” to be made to suffer for it.  (Look up some old documentaries, and you’ll see that many blacks used to feel the same way — like they themselves didn’t deserve better treatment.  And many women still feel that way.  Believe it or not, part of repression of a group is to make them feel they deserve it, and it works.)

Me, I’m sick to death of poverty being seen as a fault, as something that’s not the responsibility of the better-off to fix.  (Hear the echoes of “it’s the black’s job to better their station”?)  Especially when poverty itself is a punishment, and all the additional flak the poor take is nothing more than insult added to injury. The same people that claim this is a Christian nation spend an awful lot of time looking down their noses at people who are hungry, don’t they?  Sneering at the homeless for being dirty, or at immigrants for not getting enough education?  When–news flash!–the poor have often worked a hundred times harder for what they’ve got than anybody.  They’ve just gotten a lot less in exchange for their hard work, due to a system that favors the already-well-off at almost every turn.

But when you speak up about it, even the disadvantaged tend to look at you funny.  It’s ingrained into our society to the point where everyone believes it. Stories like this one hit the news and the citizens of Detroit aren’t outraged, because they think, “But we ARE poor.  The rich deserve to make fun of us now and again — look how much nicer they look, and imagine how much happier they must be” –due, of course, to nothing but their own luck and Inherent Betterness; surely there’s no systemic repression going on.

Surely we could get to The I$land too, if only we were trying hard enough, or if only we got lucky.

Eff.

The.

I$land.

April 9, 2009   4 Comments