Friday Links Roundup 12-9-11

The practice ensured that foster children — mostly poor or minority — received care from world-class researchers at government expense, slowing their rate of death and extending their lives. But it also exposed a vulnerable population to the risks of medical research and drugs that were known to have serious side effects in adults and for which the safety for children was unknown.

So all this came together when, on October 22nd, a group affiliated with OWS set out specifically to protest the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” policy by way of nonviolent direct action. Around 150 people gathered in the center of Harlem for the first of its events. Things proceeded with a familiar Occupy feel—a General Assembly-type gathering, hand motions and “mic checks” all included. John Hector, a 25-year-old Navy veteran, addressed the group, telling of when he was subjected to “stop-and-frisk” after returning from Iraq.

“He decided he was going to be funny,” Hector said of the officer who had stopped him one night, “and asked us if we knew how to do the ‘chicken noodle soup.’ He asked us to dance for him. He said that was the only way we were going to be let go. It was humiliating, embarrassing, and I hate being represented like that in front of my community.”

Hector later marched with students, clergy, and criminal justice professors to Harlem’s 51st police precinct building, passing the iconic Apollo theater en route. “Bring back the Fourth Amendment,” one marcher’s sign simply read. Hector, who had no previous criminal record, was arrested when he and 35 others attempted to block the precinct building’s front entrance.

The subject was officers’ loathing of being assigned to the West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn, an annual multiday event that unfolds over the Labor Day weekend and that has been marred by episodes of violence, including deaths of paradegoers. Those who posted comments appeared to follow Facebook’s policy requiring the use of real names, and some identified themselves as officers.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s deputy commissioner for public information, said he learned of the Facebook group from a reporter and would refer the issue to the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.

The comments in the online group, which grew over a few days to some 1,200 members, were at times so offensive in referring to West Indian and African-American neighborhoods that some participants warned others to beware how their words might be taken in a public setting open to Internal Affairs “rats.”

But some of the people who posted comments seemed emboldened by Facebook’s freewheeling atmosphere. “Let them kill each other,” wrote one of the Facebook members who posted comments under a name that matched that of a police officer.

Contrary to the naive (and destructive) idea that we should live in a “colorblind” society where simply avoiding race as a topic makes it go away, talking about race, identifying its continuing impact on individuals and our society at large, allows us to move toward addressing continuing inequalities and validating a diverse set of experiences.

And let me again be clear, I do not mean that only people of color should talk about race. In fact, I agree with Steve Locke that people of color face the unfair burden of being expected to talk about race, even when they don’t want to or don’t, frankly, know much about it in an intellectual sense. I have seen this in my classroom when white students fall silent on issues of race and look to their black and brown classmates to address complex racial issues single-handedly. It’s as if my white students think that despite their peers sharing their age and educational level, the extra melanin in their skin has imbued them with the wisdom of Martin Luther King, the tenacity of Cesear Chavez, and the patience of Ghandi. I promise you, it has not. Similarly, like Locke, I have experienced the sting of being told I’m being “too sensitive” or “unobjective” about race many times, because of, yep, my race. Which is exactly why I want everyone to talk about race.

    It is very important that I be allowed to exercise my freedom of free speech. I’m one of the nicest people, but today, you can’t say anything without people getting offended or hurt by what you are saying. I felt very offended when I was asked to take down that flag because [the housing department] said it violated the racist code. It’s a freedom thing to me.

    The generation before us told us that the flag is racist. It’s not going anywhere. No one is going to burn all of the flags. If me or someone else can show my generation that it means something different maybe it won’t divide us. I haven’t experienced racism myself but it still exists. Maybe if we start now with this flag, racism can continue to get smaller.

    When I was younger, I was on the left side of Pluto when it came to a lot of these questions. Now, I’m in my mid-40s. I’m a father, a homeowner and my views on these issues have evolved more back to where my father was. My dad always taught us that America is two things and not one thing. In its founding reality it was ugly and unequal – even Thomas Jefferson admitted that. The country was not equal at its birth, but America is more than just our founding reality. America is also our founding dream. And the founding dream is a value quality. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

    So what is America? America is this place where an imperfect people have been struggling now for 200+ years to drag that ugly founding reality closer to the beauty of that founding dream. And that’s who we are; that’s all America is. America is that place. Only 5% of the world’s population but 95% of the world’s dreams half the time. Here we are. Nobody should deny the pain of what America has failed to do and what America has in fact done… but we’re not going to let the pain have the last word. We are a unique experiment on earth. There’s nothing that’s wrong with America that can’t be fixed by what’s right about America and what’s right about America is people like us [freedom fighters]. We’re America too. In the tug of war between our founding reality and founding dream, our side has been winning.

  • dersk

    Well, essentially from the end of the civil war the revisionist history – it was all about states’ rights, it was a tarrif issue, and so on – was already in full bore. TNC’s been writing a lot about it lately, and has a full length article in the current issue of the Atlantic. The New York Time’s Disunion blog (a day by day retelling of the Civil War) addressed this back in the summer, I think, in which all the leading Civil War scholars dismiss the idea that it was anything but slavery. Let me know if you like and I can dig up a link.

  • dersk

    Something tells me that when Byron Thomas says the stars and bars aren’t racist and he knows because he’s studied it, he means he’s seen Fox News. Kid needs to read the articles of secession from his home state, South Carolina, which specifically name slavery as a reason for secession.

    The sheer blind stupidity of other Southerners who refuse to acknowledge the prime cause of the Civil War is both amazing and depressing.

  • dersk

    Something tells me that when Byron Thomas says the stars and bars aren’t racist and he knows because he’s studied it, he means he’s seen Fox News. Kid needs to read the articles of secession from his home state, South Carolina, which specifically name slavery as a reason for secession.

    The sheer blind stupidity of other Southerners who refuse to acknowledge the prime cause of the Civil War is both amazing and depressing.