3-22-12 Links Roundup

Those tweets, though unpremeditated, were intentional in their irony and seriousness. I did not write them to score cheap points, much less to hurt anyone’s feelings. I believed that a certain kind of language is too infrequently seen in our public discourse. I am a novelist. I traffic in subtleties, and my goal in writing a novel is to leave the reader not knowing what to think. A good novel shouldn’t have a point.

But there’s a place in the political sphere for direct speech and, in the past few years in the U.S., there has been a chilling effect on a certain kind of direct speech pertaining to rights. The president is wary of being seen as the “angry black man.” People of color, women, and gays — who now have greater access to the centers of influence that ever before — are under pressure to be well-behaved when talking about their struggles.

There is an expectation that we can talk about sins but no one must be identified as a sinner: newspapers love to describe words or deeds as “racially charged” even in those cases when it would be more honest to say “racist”; we agree that there is rampant misogyny, but misogynists are nowhere to be found; homophobia is a problem but no one is homophobic. One cumulative effect of this policed language is that when someone dares to point out something as obvious as white privilege, it is seen as unduly provocative. Marginalized voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely from the discourse.

Most of all, you may try to avoid driving, for this is where you will most likely be stopped, and possibly killed. This may offer some limited comfort. In my teen years, by not having a car I avoided many of the humiliations endured by my cousins and friends. One of my cousins, a doctor whose father is a diplomat, can tell you of the time he was told to get out of his father’s vehicle (which bore a diplomatic license plate) and lie face down, spread eagle on the side of the highway. He was on his way home from a residency interview. The same police officers came to the other side of the van and asked his white brother-in-law if everything was okay.

Know that we have already tried to take these precautions for you. We agonized daily over what neighborhood to raise you in and what schools you should attend. We thought about being actively involved in your afterschool activities and your PTA. In the end, we realized none of it mattered. Your greatest achievements will be fluff for your eulogy.

The small but substantial collection of books by Mexican American, Chicano and other minority authors was banished from Tucson classrooms after the board’s January vote.

“We wanted to hand these love letters in the form of books to these students,” said Tony Diaz, a literature professor at Houston Community College, who led the weekend protest. “We’re defending our culture and freedom of speech.”

Diaz coined the term librotraficante, or “book smuggler,” for the movement. Activists started in Houston last week, making stops in Texas and New Mexico along the way to collect books and supporters.

The Tucson school board acted under duress. Arizona’s education chief had ruled the district in violation of a controversial state law banning classes designed for a particular ethnic group, or that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” or that “promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.”

4. According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates. The data showed that 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those students, black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students. Harsh school punishments, from suspensions to arrests, have led to high numbers of youth of color coming into contact with the juvenile-justice system and at an earlier age.

5. African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison. According to the Sentencing Project, even though African American juvenile youth are about 16 percent of the youth population, 37 percent of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58 percent of African American youth are sent to adult prisons.

6. As the number of women incarcerated has increased by 800 percent over the last three decades, women of color have been disproportionately represented. While the number of women incarcerated is relatively low, the racial and ethnic disparities are startling. African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated

Victim’s brother: “I am asking you, you give me the answer.

“You give me the answer,” he asks the army chief of staff across from him, who has his head bowed.

“Mr Minister, You give me the answer. Because of whom, that’s all.

“I want an answer,” he repeats, scanning all the officials across from him. There is a six second silence. Karzai’s gaze is fixed on him, then he lowers his eyes.

“I want its answer and you are silent. Wait – my words are not done,” he tells someone who is trying to speak.

Karzai: “Say what you have to say.”

So much of the existential, psychic, and emotional violence afflicted on people of color in this society is prefaced on a basic idea: there are those who “naturally” belong to a political community and others who are perpetual “guests,” “outsiders,” or “anti-citizens.”

The Black Freedom Struggle was many things: primarily, it was about a fight for civic inclusion, equality, and dignity. The Black Freedom Struggle was also centered on a politics of respectability which keenly understood that white supremacy was dependent on a basic premise: the lowest white person is automatically elevated in social stature, respect, and accomplishment over the most accomplished, brilliant, intelligent, and graceful black person.

Of course, these norms have been massaged and “evolved” to fit the “colorblind” post Civil Rights era. They still exist however, and are as ugly, pernicious (and at times) violent as ever.

“Stop and frisk,” “driving while black,” housing segregation, being harassed and racially profiled while shopping, and the conservative Right wing vitriol which suggests that President Obama is “uppity” or “arrogant,” are all examples of how racism is a cognitive map. The white gaze orders bodies and peoples. Racism puts individuals in the “right” place and reacts with hostility to those who dare to step outside of it.