I Am So Sick of White People’s Excuses (And I’m White!)

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What the heck is wrong with us, white people?

Systematic racism is all around, but we refuse to see it.

Oh, and I do mean REFUSE. It’s not a matter of being unable to see it. Our eyes and minds work just as well as anyone else’s. We can perceive reality. Too many of us just choose not to.

According to the Guardian, at least 793 Americans have been killed by police so far this year. That number includes 194 black people or 4.86 per million. That’s more than double the rate for white people at 1.96 per million.

This is not an opinion. This is an undeniable fact. Every number is backed up with verifiable data. And moreover, it follows the same pattern we’ve seen for a couple of years now since news organizations have taken up the slack from the federal government and started counting.

Why does that not worry more white people? It worries me. I don’t want to live in a country where police use lethal force so often against civilians, so much more than almost any other developed country on Earth. And I don’t want my black friends and neighbors to be targeted so much more.

I’m a middle school teacher. Most of my students are black. I don’t want to have to worry that they or their parents are going to be murdered just because of an excess of melanin. Street gangs are worrisome enough without having to add into the mix many of the very law enforcement officers that are supposed to keep us safe from those gangbangers.

But when you bring this up to white folks and other facts detailing the systemic racism that pervades our society, you get every excuse in the book.

They simply refuse to engage with what you’re saying. They deflect and redirect and change the subject – and they don’t even seem to realize they’re doing it.

Blue lives matter, they say. All lives matter. Every form of life seems to matter to white people – except explicitly black lives.

We seem to think it’s impossible to care about both police and African Americans. We seem to think any expression of the value of human life has to be universal without mentioning individual groups that are at a higher risk than others.

It’s wacko, clearly a way of shutting down a conversation white folks will do anything to avoid.

The easiest dodge seems to be talking about black-on-black crime. As if somehow that makes it right.

It goes something like this: You’re worried about police killing black people, what about other black people? Most African Americans are killed by other African Americans.

Of course what they omit is that the same is true for white Americans. White folks kill each other much more than any other race does. But you never see people wringing their hands about white-on-white crime, do you?

Moreover, it’s irrelevant. If I point to a single incident of a white person killing a black person, it is not therefore justified because black people kill black people more often. Would you think an African American is justified for popping a cap in your Caucasian mom’s ass because most of us, honkies, usually off other honkies? Of course not!

But so much for logic. One of the most popular evasions is to blame it all on inferior black culture.

It goes like this: Black people don’t suffer systemic racism. If there are any ways in which they are selected against in society, it’s because they’ve earned that treatment because of the way they act.

Black people come from unmarried parents. They are on Welfare and a host of other social ills. THESE are the reasons behind so-called racism, not unjust systems.

It’s pure nonsense.

How does coming from unmarried parents mean you deserve to be killed by police at a greater rate than white people? How does parental marital status affect the justice system handing out more severe and longer sentences for blacks than for whites who commit the same crimes? How does the Facebook status of your pops and your moms somehow translate into difficulty getting a job due to your black sounding name?

In short, the two have nothing to do with each other.

Yes, black people have children out of wedlock about twice as often as white people. So what? Some people aren’t meant to be married. Often it’s better for the children if the parents don’t stay married to people who mistreat each other, a marriage where there is no love. Would racism suddenly disappear if black people just kept their chins up and married each other irregardless of whether the relationship was healthy for them and their children?

Let’s get to what white people are really saying here. Whites aren’t saying marriage is a magical shield against prejudice. They’re saying: Damn! Look at these strangers! These others! These people who aren’t like you and me!

The fact that many of them don’t get married before having children just shows how morally inferior they are to us. They deserve their treatment because they don’t share our sensibilities.

This is a pretty heartless way to think. Not only do the parents, apparently, deserve to be selected against, but so do their kids who had nothing to do with whether daddy gave mommy a ring or not. Moreover, where did the culture of marriageless childbirth come from for black people? When their ancestors were kidnapped from Africa and brought to these shores as slaves, it was the white slave masters who forbade them from marrying. In many cases, that tradition doesn’t exist because we took it away. Meanwhile, about a quarter of white couples have children out of wedlock, too. What’s our excuse?

But this won’t be enough to convince most white interlocutors.

They’ll just huff and puff and spout some nonsense about welfare.

They’ll say Black people fall into immoral and violent behavior because they’ve been taught by liberals to exist on welfare and not get jobs of their own.

Again, the problem is black people, themselves, aided by bleeding heart liberals trying to give them a helping hand. Some white folks even go so far as to say this is real racism because by giving black folks such sweet benefits for not working, liberals purposefully destroyed black people’s natural inclination to productivity.

Think about it for about two seconds, and you can see how crazy it is.

Black people deserve to be killed at twice the rate of whites because they don’t have jobs? They deserve to be gunned down because they’re too lazy to work?

Or alternatively, they deserve not to get call backs when they turn in resumes with black sounding names because they’re lazy!? These people just handed in job applications. We can imagine they did that because they wanted freaking jobs! But being lazy makes them unqualified for the very jobs they tried to apply for in the first place?

Let’s look at the facts for a moment. Black people don’t accept the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) more than whites. It’s the other way around.

More than 40% of SNAP recipients are white. Only 25% are black.

But that’s raw data. When we look at it as a percentage of the population, black people are twice as likely to be on Welfare as Whites. Only 12% of the country is African American, after all.

So why bring up the raw data? Because if you’re upset about the sheer numbers of people on assistance, you’re mad at more white people than black people.

Moreover, black people actually need it more than whites. More than 27% of black people live in poverty compared to only 10% of whites. Hence the larger percentage of blacks on SNAP.

This isn’t meant to throw anyone under the bus for being on public assistance. Times are tough and well paying jobs are hard to come by. For instance, most of the people who accept SNAP benefits actually are employed, but their pay is too small to sustain them. Thanks, Walmart.

So how much does a family of four get on SNAP? It depends on how much money the household earns, but the total income must be below the federal poverty level – $23,050. For many families it comes to about $399 a month. That’s $1.10 per person, per meal.

This isn’t exactly living high off the hog. I can’t imagine anyone making bank who would throw it all away to live so luxuriously on food stamps.

However, this is exactly what a lot of white people think about blacks.

It goes against the facts, and it doesn’t explain the reality of systemic racism.

In so many ways our society is set up to give white people an advantage and black people a disadvantage. That doesn’t mean all white people have it perfectly. There are an awful lot of dirt poor white folks out there – many of their kids are in my classes, too. But while they may be disadvantaged socially, economically or many other ways, they aren’t disadvantaged racially.

That’s the whole point.

Racism still exists and talking about it doesn’t make you anti-white. It makes you pro-black and pro-justice.

Those aren’t bad things to be.

We, white people, have to stop being so fragile when racism is brought up. Though I’ve artificially concerned myself only with black people here, we need to listen to what all people of color are telling us about how they’re treated. We need to take a hard look at the facts.

Being white and admitting racism exists doesn’t make you a racist – though you probably benefit from it. It just means that if you want to stand on the right side of history, on the side of equity and justice, you may need to bring your thinking into agreement with reality.

Puerto Rico Teachers Plan One-Day Strike to Protest Corporate Education Reform

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Welcome to sunny Puerto Rico.

The ocean is a gorgeous cerulean blue. Palm trees wave gently in the salty breeze. And in the distance you can hear percussion, horns and singing.

The protest has begun.

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Residents of this United States territory have been fighting freshman Governor Alejandro García Padilla’s efforts to close public schools, privatize those left and shackle teachers to the same corporate education reform schemes that are crippling schools on the mainland.

This Tuesday island educators are asking parents not to send their children to school. Teachers plan to conduct a one-day strike to protest legislation that could be passed the same day to further cripple the Commonwealth’s public education system.

“On November 17th we’ll be giving our lesson’s outside our classrooms,” says Mercedes Martinez, president of the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the teachers union.

“We’ll be in front of our schools early in the morning and at 10:00 a.m. will march from Congress to the Governor’s Mansion in San Juan. This is one of many activities that we’ll perform in defense of public education. We will not accept these precarious impositions and will fight back.”

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The protest is in response to Project 1456 which would close more than 380 public schools. The government has already closed 150 schools in the past 5 years.

This would force many students into even more overcrowded classrooms. Thousands of children would have to be relocated to schools far from their homes.

But that’s not all.

The proposed legislation would also privatize 15% of those schools left standing. Unlike the mainland, Puerto Rico has no charter schools. Teachers went on a 10-day strike in 2008 which only ended after the island Secretary of Education Rafael Aragunde signed an agreement promising not to open any charters.

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If privatized schools opened on the island, parents might have to pay an additional fee for services they now enjoy for free. Amenities like lunches and even tuition may have to be subsidized by parents out of pocket.

Moreover, it would collapse the teachers retirement system, Martinez says. Charter schools would not deduct employees payments to the pension system so it might not be able to remain solvent.

Project 1456 would harm teachers in another way, too. It would enact a punitive evaluation system where 20% of educators value would be based on students standardized test scores. Any teacher with a 79% or less would have two years to improve or be fired.

“Teachers will have no rights,” Martinez says.

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The proposed legislation has already been approved by the Commonwealth Senate. It’s main author Sen. Eduardo Bhatia is pushing for the House to fast track it for approval.

Discussions began in the House last week.

Protesters were there on Wednesday. They stood up in the government chamber and walked out en mass when it was brought up for discussion. Eighteen of them wore white T-shirts spelling out the message “Our Schools Are Not For Sale.”

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Inside the House, presidents of private universities testified in favor of the measure.

“Obviously they want to become administrators of charter schools on our island,” Martinez says.

Outside the building, protesters held their own emblematic hearing on the matter. Community members, teachers and parents testified in the open air about how this legislation would hurt children. They ended with a symbolic vote against it.

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Puerto Ricans are not alone in this fight.

Jitu Brown, a community organizer from Chicago and Director of Journey for Justice Alliance traveled there to stand in solidarity with those fighting for their schools. Brown participated in a 34-day hunger strike in his hometown a month ago to protest Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to close the last open enrollment school in his neighborhood.

“This beautiful, breathtaking place is marred by ugly U.S colonialism and privatization of public services on steroids!” says Brown of Puerto Rico.

“I was blessed to spend time with powerful people fighting for a better world. Big ups to your warrior spirit, discipline and hospitality! Where we struggle, we can win! If we don’t struggle, we are guaranteed to lose.”

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The plight of Puerto Rican communities also inspired support from the Badass Teachers Association, a group of more than 56,000 educators, parents, students and activists.

“The Badass Teachers Association stands in strong solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico who are fighting for the very foundation of their democracy – the survival of their public school system which is under assault by the 1% who seek to close it up and deny Puerto Rican children a right to an education,” says Executive Director Marla Kilfoyle.

Protesters are getting the word out. They’ve already handed out thousands of fliers. Today they plan to drive in a large caravan across the island.

“We’ve got a bunch of cars with sound equipment,” Martinez says.

“We will go to all the communities near our schools in different regions asking parents to support the strike on the 17th.”

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Much of the the island’s financial woes are imported from the mainland. Puerto Rico is besieged by vulture capitalists encouraging damaging rewrites to the tax code while buying and selling the territory’s debt.

Hundreds of American private equity moguls and entrepreneurs are using the Commonwealth as a tax haven.

As a result, tax revenues to fund public goods like education are drying up while the super rich rake in profits.

Officials warn the government may be out of money to pay its bills by as early as 2016. Over the next five years, it may have to close nearly 600 more schools – almost half of the remaining facilities!

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“That’s why the Teacher’s Federation and other teacher unions allied together to fight back against the attack on our education system,” Martinez says.

“As you can see, we’ve been busy.”

If Project 1456 is passed by the House, the union is considering a general strike.

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Of the 135 schools closed in just the last two years, Commonwealth Secretary of Education Rafael Román had originally proposed shuttering 200. The remaining 65 were only kept alive because communities occupied the buildings and refused to let the government step in.

Protesters stormed the Senate in October when Bhatia first introduced Project 1456.

“Senators decided to approve it without discussion because they did not want to listen to teachers chants and indignation,” says Martinez.

“Senator Bhatia has become the symbol for privatization under this administration. He has never been in a public School. He has no bond with it. He’s a demagogue.”


NOTE: This article also was published on the Badass Teachers Association blog.

 

Saturday Night Lame – Sucker Punching Teachers for a Laugh No One Made

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Go ahead.

Make jokes about teachers.

Please.

But make them fair. No sucker punches.

And – goddammit – make them funny!

However, all we got on Saturday Night Live this week during the “Teacher Snow Day” segment were unconvincing lame low blows.

In the rap video parody, we see educators boasting of all the money they’re making for doing nothing, telling their students to “go to Hell,” having sex on school property, using meth they made in the science lab, and bragging that there’s nothing you can do about it because they have tenure so can’t be fired – all while students have the day off because of snow.

Are you freakin’ kidding me?

As a public school teacher of more than a decade, I wasn’t laughing. Nor was I alone. Ratings plummeted yet again from an already dismal viewership.

I hesitated writing this article at all because so few people saw the segment the first time, and I certainly don’t want to encourage anyone to go back and view this groan-fest.

But address it I must, because it’s part of a larger problem: the idea that teachers are fair game as a target for just about any dishonest criticism you can imagine.

And that’s the problem – dishonesty.

Jokes work best when they attack the powerful, not the powerless.

That’s the whole point of satire – to allow an attack on the dominant from below. When a mighty person attacks someone less powerful, that’s not satire and it’s not funny. It’s bullying.

We all remember teachers from school. When we were students, they were authority figures and – as such – fair targets of criticism.

But in a larger social context, teachers are one of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised groups in our society.

Educators are under constant onslaught from all sides.

Every problem of our public school system is heaped on top of them. No matter what’s wrong, it’s always their fault. And we’re quick to prove it by stacking the cards against them.

Just look at how we evaluate them. Our federal and state governments mandate we base teachers’ effectiveness substantially on their students’ standardized test scores. Statisticians call this approach “junk science” because it uses a test created to evaluate students as an assessment for something it was never meant to assess – their instructors. But that doesn’t stop the continued use of these value-added measures to “prove” how crappy teachers are at their jobs. And when educators gather together in a union to demand real proof of wrongdoing before they can be fired, they’re accused of insisting we give them a job for life.

Teachers don’t even have control over their own curriculum anymore. In many schools, educators can’t choose which books to use, which skills to teach or how to assess student learning. Often they’re even denied the choice of their own words since they’re forced to read from scripted lessons provided by multinational for-profit testing corporations.

Education policy doesn’t come from teachers. Do you think educators came up with Common Core? Of course not! That was a billionaire philanthropist’s pet project created with the help of think tanks and policy wonks. But teachers are expected to follow it regardless of their years of classroom experience that tell them it’s nonsense – at best – and developmentally inappropriate – at worst!

And if a teacher wants to speak up, the venues open to him are few and far between. Turn on any media program about education and you’ll see half a dozen talking heads offering their opinions but not one of them will be a teacher! Heck! Congress just held hearings on the federal law that governs K-12 schools (ESEA) and only let a handful of teachers testify.

Why?

Because if they don’t blame teachers, they’d have to face the facts of income inequality and child poverty.

More than half of all public school students are impoverished. Instead of providing extra resources to help those students, budgets have been slashed. Less tutoring. Less arts and music. Less extra curricular activities. Less social services. But instead larger class sizes! And we expect teachers to magically make our uncaring budgetary priorities work!

Yet, the “not ready for prime time” crew at SNL thought it was funny to target one of the only groups to stand up for these children.

You’d never see them make jokes at the expense of our troops, but teachers are soldiers on the front line of the war on poverty.

Yes! Soldiers!

When troubled teens denied the proper mental health services use our lax gun laws to take a semi-automatic with them in their book bags to school, it’s these same teachers who literally give their lives to save our children!

And these unsung heroes, these public punching bags, these scapegoats for all of society’s ills were your choice of target for feeble clowning?

I expect that from dark money fueled privatizers and corporate backed union busters. I don’t expect it from someone who’s supposed to help me get through another week with a few good laughs.

Snow day? You should have called it snow job because the only ones laughing were the Koch Brothers!

Sure, if you want to joke that teachers are too stuffy, fine! We deserve that criticism. As a whole, we are unhip, mostly white, sometimes pedantic and give too much homework.

But don’t you dare criticize us for being uncaring or lazy or criminal.

While you’re making jokes, our nations children are forced to go without – unless a teacher somehow manages to help.

That’s no joke, and the punchline may well be the future of this nation.

So while I’m out using my own money to buy supplies for my students…

While I’m staying hours late at school almost every day…

While I’m counseling a student with severe emotional problems…

While I’m doing my job, why don’t you do yours, SNL?

Make me laugh.


This article was also published in the LA Progressive.

Stealing Your Right to Appeal – Tortured Logic in York Schools Takeover

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Q: When can’t you take a robber to court for stealing your stuff?

A: When the robber steals your ability to appeal.

Such is the tortured logic being used by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania against one of its own public school districts.

Last week, a judge ruled that the state was entitled to take over York City Schools from taxpayers.

The district filed an appeal, which the state is trying to strike down.

None of that is surprising. But the justification the state Department of Education is using to overturn this appeal is something out of Alice in Wonderland.

Get this! When the state was granted control of York Schools, the district lost the ability to appeal unless that appeal was approved by the state.

So goes a motion filed by the state in York County Court.

When the judge allowed the district to go into receivership, control of almost all functions except taxation went to the Chief Recovery Officer David Meckley.

“Consequently, at the time that he filed the notice of appeal, the (school district) solicitor had no lawful authority to appeal the order on behalf of the district,” the state argues.

And Meckley did not approve the appeal to unseat himself.

That this is ridiculous should need no explanation. There can be no justice when wronged parties lose the ability to petition for a redress of grievances in a court of law.

If the court rules for the state, one could easily imagine a murderer getting off because his victim was unavailable to testify. Or a thief might complain that the original owner has no right to sue because he no longer owns the item in question.

But what’s obvious to you and me is sometimes obscure to judges.

The state also accuses York School Directors of violating the state’s open meeting “Sunshine” laws by voting to appeal the decision in a closed meeting.

The school board should have voted to authorize the appeal during an open meeting in full view of the public, the state alleges.

While the state’s first objection is absurd, this one is simply incorrect. School boards are – in fact – allowed to vote behind closed doors in executive sessions for various reasons including litigation matters. School boards are given this right because if they had to discuss legal matters publicly, they could easily endanger their cases.

A judge is expected to rule on the state’s motion Tuesday.

It’s just another sad page in a history of governmental overreach and circular logic in York, Pennsylvania.

First, outgoing Governor Tom Corbett slashes $1 billion from education funding, taking the lion’s share from impoverished districts like York that need it the most. For York Schools that was an $8.4 million cut – over 15% of the district’s budget.

Then when York can’t cope with the loss of funding nor does it have the tax base to make up the difference, the state labels the district a failure.

So the state swoops in to save the day – not with the money the district desperately needs – but with a bureaucrat to come up with a recovery plan: Meckley.

And what a plan it is! Let’s try these few targeted reforms, tighten our belts and if that doesn’t work, give the entire district over to a charter school operator.

How will that help?

It’s funny, but no one ever answers that question. They just assume it makes sense.

It doesn’t.

Unfortunately, the school board approved this plan in 2013, but it was having second thoughts. Thus the bid by the state Department of Education to take it over and let Meckley continue with his privatization scheme.

Let’s hope the court doesn’t fall for the Mad Hatter defense against appeal.

Even if the judge allows the appeal to move forward, the court still needs to decide who controls York Schools in the meantime.

One would assume it should be the school board.

That seems to be a no brainer.

Obviously the state shouldn’t be in control of York Schools until the appeals process is completed.

Obviously Meckley shouldn’t be able to move forward with charterizing the district until his legal right to do so has been firmly established.

But in York, a “no brainer” no longer means something obvious – it often means people with no brains get to make the decisions.

The district’s appeal isn’t the only one.

Attorneys for the district’s two employees’ unions also filed appeals mere hours after the court decision allowing the state takeover.

The matter should be tied up in court for a while. However, this move by the state and the question of who controls York in the meantime may make the court’s other actions irrelevant.

The Corbett administration – which backs the privatization of York – has only a few weeks left before Governor-elect Tom Wolf takes office on Jan. 20.

Wolf has said he is not in favor of privatizing the district. In fact, he asked the Corbett administration to hold off on the state takeover until the Gov.-elect takes office.

He was ignored.

One could easily read this motion to strike the school district’s appeal and remain in control of the district as a last ditch effort to push through a charterization scheme that no one else seems to want.

The school board is against it. The parents are against it. The students are against it. The teachers are against it. Even many York County Commissioners such as President Steve Chronister – a Republican – are against it.

The people have spoken. Unfortunately, the lame duck Corbett administration doesn’t care.

When Wolf takes office, he could easily direct the state Department of Education to drop the whole matter, return control of York Schools to its duly-elected school board and create a recovery plan that makes sense.

But if this matter is settled before he takes office, his power to intervene becomes questionable.

So once again in York, the rule of the people hangs by a thread.

Will it hold for just a few more weeks?


NOTES:

-This article was also published in the LA Progressive and on the Badass Teachers Association blog.

-Please sign the petition from York residents asking the PA Department of Education drop the petition for receivership, replace David Meckley as Chief Recovery Officer, and to approve a new recovery plan that does not include turning the school district over to charter schools.

-Feel free to use the following memes created by madly talented BAT Sue Goncarovs to help spread awareness of the injustice unfolding in York:

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Dissent – The Most “Un-American” American Value

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Shut up!

Don’t you know that what you’ve just said has caused this horrible tragedy!?

It’s ironic that in a country born from dissent, the most popular message the powerful have for the powerless is “shut up.”

When two NYPD officers were ambushed and murdered by a madman on Saturday, the media was quick to point out his motive. Allegedly, the “execution style” shootings of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenijan Lui were in retaliation for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown – unarmed black men killed by police.

When Mayor Bill de Blasio entered a press conference to speak about the murders, police turned their back on him. The reason? The mayor had been outspoken against a grand jury decision that Garner’s death didn’t need to be investigated with a full criminal trial of the officer who killed him.

Criticism was even worse in an internal department memo which accuses de Blasio of having his hands “literally dripping with our [NYPD’s] blood because of his actions and policies” and that the NYPD is now “a ‘wartime’ police department”  that will “act accordingly”.

It’s beyond ludicrous.

What does that even mean? Who exactly is the NYPD at war with – the people its officers swore to protect and serve?

But perhaps more troubling is the insinuation of guilt – that the mayor caused this tragedy because of his criticisms of police brutality.

Across the country, on social media, between friends and family the same pattern emerges. People complain the death of these police officers is because of the nationwide protests against a wave of police killings of unarmed black men.

If only people hadn’t spoken up, Ramos and Lui would still be alive!?

America has a history of crazy people doing all kinds of crazy things for just as many crazy reasons.

When Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber,” killed 3 people and injured 23 with home-made bombs because of his hatred of modern technology, no one blamed Apple computers.

When John Hinckley shot President Reagan to get the attention of Jodie Foster, no one blamed the Academy Award winning actress.

When Brenda Spencer fatally shot a principal and custodian and injured eight children and a police officer from her home across the street from a school because she “didn’t like Mondays”… Well, we still have Mondays.

But suddenly when a lunatic’s motives are politically expedient, they’re justified.

Millions of people all across the country have taken to the streets to protest a racist system of justice that doesn’t hold police accountable for killing unarmed black men. We could confront that system and change it, or we could try to shush those calling for reform.

What’s worse, protestors are shamed into silence. Before they can continue to air their grievances, they’re told they must stop and recognize the tragedy of Ramos and Lui’s death. Of course these murders were despicable! But what does that have to do with us?

Once again the powerless have to repeatedly condemn violence while the powerful have no such mandate put on them. Ex-Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson hasn’t offered any regret over his fatal shooting of Michael Brown. He went on national television and said he’d do the same thing again.

If people are worried about the negative image of police instilled by these protests, perhaps the cause isn’t the protests. Perhaps the cause is the negative actions of some police.

Before this story broke, the nation was reeling from the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture. The report details actions by CIA officials including torturing prisoners, lying to government officials and the media, harsher treatment than was previously disclosed, and the failure of the program to obtain accurate information.

Senator Dianne Feinstein made the rounds explaining the report to congress and the media. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer echoed many pundits when he asked her if the release of the report made America less safe.

What a stupid question!? The report didn’t make America less safe. The fact that America tortured people made us less safe!

But again we have attempts to squash dissent with appeals to shame and fear.

Why did you speak up, Sen. Feinstein? If you had remained silent about the heinous actions done in our name, we would remain safe and secure.

We used to hold freedom of speech as one of our most cherished values. It was a point of pride. Now it’s a dusty trophy on the mantle that we rarely practice in public. It’s just not worth the effort.

That’s a lesson North Korea learned this week. After hacking Sony Pictures and making threats against movie theaters that showed the Seth Rogan comedy “The Interview,” the film company pulled the picture from distribution. After all, the movie made fun of Kim Jong-un in a plot where the American government fictitiously planned to assassinate him with late night talk show hosts.

There was a time when the United States would not abide by such terrorism and threats.

That time has passed.

We not only bow down to foreign powers, we attempt the same kind of coercion for our own people.

How dare you say THAT! You are causing harm by speaking THIS WAY.

Imagine if we thought that way in 1776.

How dare you speak out against Great Britain! Sure, we have no say in our own government, but speaking out will only bring on more tragedy.

Dissent has truly become the most “Un-American” American value.


This article was also published in the LA Progressive and Badass Teachers Association Blog.

Black Lives Matter – Except in Court

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Let me ask you a question. When exactly would a grand jury indict a white police officer in the death of a black man?

No. Really. When?

Let’s look at some possible scenarios.

If the police shoot a black man who’s minding his own business holding a bb gun he got off the shelf at Walmart…
No indictment.

If the police are described by multiple witnesses as shooting a black man who’s in the process of surrendering with his hands up…
NO INDICTMENT.

If the police are caught on video choking a black man to death while he screams, “I can’t breathe”…
NO INDICTMENT!!!

NOT EVEN THEN! ON VIDEO!

I mean it. If not then, when WOULD a grand jury make this indictment? What would it take?

The way things are going it’s easy to imagine a black man being stabbed to death in a court of law right in front of the jury box, and those 12 angry men still wouldn’t be able to find enough evidence to bring it to trial!

That’s what we’re talking about here.

This has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. This has to do with there being enough evidence for a jury to decide that there are enough questions about the incident to make it worthy of a criminal trial.

We’re not talking about finding the police guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

We’re not talking about finding the police guilty at all.

We’re talking about the possibility that something might be wrong here.

In the top three examples above, grand juries didn’t even think there was an outside chance the police might have been in the wrong. And those are all real cases.

The fourth example is pure fantasy but look for it to hit the news real soon.

Some will say this has less to do with race and more to do with the police. To which I’d ask where are all the cases of this happening to white people?

Where’s the police officer killing a white man holding a child’s toy gun? Where’s the police killing a white man with his hands up? Where’s the video of the police choking a white man to death?

If you go looking, this is what you’ll find: white guys pointing guns – not toy guns, real weapons – at police and bystanders before being calmly talked down by police. You’ll find white men with hands in the air being taken peacefully into custody. You’ll find white guys choking on a cup of coffee the officer provided and being helpfully slapped on the back.

This isn’t to say all police officers are racist. Far from it.

This isn’t even really about the militarization of the police force. It’s a huge problem, but it’s not the central issue here.

What is at issue is a justice system that continually fails to seek justice.

For some reason in a court room, all human life is precious unless it is wrapped in a black skin. And police are innocent. Period.

The system has repeatedly failed. That’s why people are taking to the streets and in some cases looting and rioting.

If you can’t trust the police and the justice system, what’s the point of obeying the law? You’re a target – fair game – whether you’re law abiding or not. Might as well tip those scales back a bit in your favor.

I’m not saying this reaction is right, but it’s certainly comprehensible.

When people become citizens they enter into an unspoken contract with society. I’ll obey the laws if you’ll treat me fairly. We’re letting down our side of the bargain.

You’ve probably seen the hashtag #nojusticenopeace. That’s not a prescription. It’s a description of reality.

We MUST restore our courts to working order. Justice must be blind. Fair. Impartial.

If not, we will have no society at all.

Only questions about what went wrong.


This article has also been published on the Badass Teachers Association blog.