Truthout Stories Wed, 25 Nov 2015 11:20:00 -0500 en-gb Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz on Native American Genocide

Each November, Americans celebrate a mythical version of US history. Thanksgiving Day's portrayal of the experience of Native Americans under the boot of settler-colonialism is one of the Empire's most cherished falsehoods.

To hear about the true story of native peoples' plight - from genocide to reeducation - Abby Martin interviews Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, renowned indigenous scholar and activist, about her most recent book An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States.

News Wed, 25 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
The Crimes of French Imperialism
"The home of freedom has been assaulted by terrorists determined to attack and suppress freedom."
- Malcolm Turnbull on the Paris attacks.

France should not be synonymous with the word "freedom". As with all colonial empires, its history is soaked with the blood of oppressed peoples across the globe. And its record of perpetrating violence continues.

The size of the territory claimed by the French empire in the 19th and 20th centuries was second only to Britain. From North Africa to South-East Asia, the Middle East to the South Pacific, millions were subjugated, repressed and murdered as French rulers scrambled to secure resources and markets for manufactured goods and profitable investments.

It was only in the face of heroic mass struggles by the colonised determined to win their independence that France was eventually forced to cede control in the 1950s and '60s.

From the outset of French colonialism in Vietnam, any form of political dissent was met with repression. Books and newspapers deemed subversive were confiscated. Anti-colonial political activists were sentenced to death or imprisoned on island fortresses.

The grotesque violence would only escalate.

After the defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific War, the French ruling class was determined to re-establish its control over Vietnam. In 1946, the prime minister ordered the shelling of Haiphong, killing 6,000 Vietnamese.

It wasn't until the 1954 battle of Dien Bien Phu that the national liberation forces drove the French out of the country.

Violence was part of the fabric of French rule. The best farmland was concentrated in the hands of the colonialists and their collaborators, leaving the majority of peasants vulnerable to famine. Some 2 million Vietnamese died during the Second World War; there was a famine despite the granaries being full with rice.

Conditions on the rubber plantations and in the mines were described as like slavery. Attempts at escape were met with hunger and torture. At one Michelin plantation, 12,000 workers died between 1917 and 1944.

Vietnamese workers were paid on average 48 piastres a year for their hard labour. This was a pittance, as Vietnamese historian Ngo Vinh Long noted: "Even a dog belonging to a colonial household cost an average of 150 piastres a year to feed".

The French claimed a "civilising" mission as false as Britain's white man's burden. Take literacy. Pre-conquest, 80 percent of the population were considered functionally literate. By 1939, the figures had reversed, with 80 percent now illiterate.

The story was the same in Algeria. Before the French invasion in 1830, there was a high rate of literacy. By the time of independence, it had been reduced to a mere 10 percent.

The virulently racist French settlers, numbering 1 million by the 1950s, lived a luxury lifestyle. But for the 6 million Arabs and Berbers, French colonialism was a disaster that they resisted by any means necessary.

Violence wasn't the terrain chosen by the independence movement. It was given. The crushing of a rising in Setif in eastern Algeria in 1945 paints a picture of a "pitiless war". At least 15,000 were killed by French troops and settler death squads.

The National Liberation Front (FLN) was formed in 1954, and quickly became the dominant nationalist organisation. It was committed to military confrontation with the French, including bombings on French soil. But as philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, "It is not their violence, but ours, turned back".

By the end of 1956, 450,000 French troops were on Algerian soil. This build-up was directed by the Socialist Party prime minister, Guy Mollet, the same party as François Hollande's.

In 1957, an eight-day general strike was broken by repression. It took another round of mass protests, riots and strikes in 1962 for the Algerian revolution to triumph.

The violence of the French state was not confined to Algerian soil. In October 1961, Paris police massacred up to 300 Algerian immigrants. They were part of a peaceful unarmed protest of some 30,000 called out by the FLN to break an imposed curfew.

Confident that they could act with impunity, the police herded panicked protesters onto bridges across the city, where they clubbed and then tossed them unconscious into the River Seine. For weeks, bodies, mutilated by truncheons and rifle butts, washed up on the river's banks.

Thousands more were arrested and taken to makeshift detention camps where they were tortured. This dark episode was the worst violence in Paris since the Second World War.

The colonial legacy lives on. The children of North African immigrants continue to live on the periphery of the "city of lights". Their shantytowns of the 1960s have been replaced by impoverished ghettoised housing estates. Here, curfews and armoured vehicles are not a historic relic.

The 70 percent of the French prison population that is estimated to be Muslim is testament to the enduring reality of state violence and racism. The policing of oppressed identities is codified into law by various bans on the Muslim veil.

Nor is French imperialism a thing of the past. From the Ivory Coast to Mali, the Central African Republic, Libya and Syria, French foreign policy has been increasingly muscular, particularly in its old colonial stomping ground.

Today as French fighter jets scream over Raqqa and lifeless bloodied bodies of children are pulled from the rubble of bombed apartment blocks, we would do well to remember the millions who have suffered a similar fate in the name of French "civilisation".

Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
Land of the Brave ]]> (Lauren Walker) Art Wed, 25 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500 Climate Change Negotiations Exclude the Most Impacted: The Young and the Poor

Next week, global leaders in industry, government, and finance will descend on Paris for the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). With a significant focus on private sector innovation, more than 25,000 delegates will aim to produce the first legally binding agreement on industrial greenhouse gas emissions, as well as financial incentives for more efficient models of sustainable growth. While it remains to be seen whether international leaders can achieve the lofty goal of legally binding yet ecologically sound carbon emission standards, what is clear is that UNFCCC forgot to invite an entire generation to this discussion table.

In response to growing pressure from the younger generations to make significant, inclusive, and environmentally necessary decisions, COP21 will be hosting an open forum for the general public to participate in climate discussions, education workshops, and exhibition shows. Providing an external platform for millennial voices, however, does not erase the severity of excluding millennials from the negotiation table. While expertise is necessary, millennials, their values, and their innovative ideas would give the negotiations a desperately needed sense of urgency.

Including millennials in key discussions and negotiations would allow negotiators to leverage their values and strengths to resolve an economic, ecological, financial, and political situation too often viewed as unsolvable. A recent Pew Center report found that American millennials are more upbeat about their economic futures, more likely to be ethnically diverse, and more likely to be tolerant and open-minded to new ideas, peoples, cultures, and concepts. As the impacts of climate change entangle themselves in all aspects of our lives, it is important to bring the most invested, most innovative, most motivated, and most optimistic thinkers to the stage.

Millennials aren't the only ones excluded from negotiations. Despite the fact that climate change disproportionally impacts lower socioeconomic classes in both financial stability and political agency, the social injustice of climate change is silently dismissed at industry-influenced COP conferences. People capable of using wealth as a cushion do not fall prey to fluctuating crop prices or suffer from undue communal risk during storms. Drought and other climate change-driven calamities directly affect the financial and political stability of countries globally. As global climate change fans the flames of already tenuous situations - as we've seen in Syria - the already vulnerable working classes are increasingly at risk. Poverty, refugee crises, and security conflicts will continue to persist with or without global climate change, but it cannot be denied that the unpredictable nature of global climate change destabilizes food, economic, and political systems.

The uncomfortable truth is that the victims of global climate change will be disproportionally poor, socioeconomically vulnerable communities, often ethnic or class minorities within their countries. Vulnerabilities may stem from socioeconomic class, age, education status, or legal and immigration status. Another uncomfortable truth is that climate change negotiations, policies, and implementation are largely constructed by the wealthy and privileged. Wealth allows the privileged to move to neighborhoods outside of flood ranges or pay high insurance fees; wealth blinds the privileged to the impact of the destabilized market prices of staple crops, which can affect how and whether less fortunate families eat. Wealth in the U.S. has blinded many of our policy writers and decision makers to the harsh realities of the ecological, economic, and security effects already burdening many of our developing neighbors to the south.

The exclusion of vulnerable communities and millennials - two groups with significant overlap - is not only reflective of the industrial and financial bias of COP21 but also threatens to undermine the successful implementation of any COP21 agreements. How can oligarchical committees expect buy-in without the inclusion and reflection of working class and millennial concerns, values, and priorities? The Paris leadership delegation and UNFCCC should actively make COP21 more class- and generation-inclusive. We must engage the generations and communities most at risk from climate change impacts in order to build a comprehensive, realistic, and values-driven climate agreement.

Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
My Factory-Farmed Thanksgiving Terror

The leaves are changing colors and the air is getting crisp. As we settle into fall, Americans take time to reflect on what they're thankful for.

Like many folks, I've got plenty of gratitude for the most important meal I'll eat this month. Sweet potatoes, stuffing, pecan pie… My mouth is already watering just thinking about it. But the real centerpiece is the turkey, which - thanks to Norman Rockwell - evokes feelings of homecoming, family, and love.

Yet when I look at the turkey on my family's table this year, it will evoke a very different emotion: terror.

Unless your turkey came of age on an organic farm, there's a good chance it was pumped full of antibiotics. The overuse - and misuse - of these life-saving drugs on factory-farmed animals is making them less effective for humans.

In fact, at least 70 percent of the medically important antibiotics sold in the United States are wholesaled for use on poultry, cattle, and hog farms.

Factory farming crams thousands to tens of thousands of animals into tiny confined spaces, which can lead to disease outbreaks that threaten the industry's bottom line. As a precautionary measure, factory farmers add antibiotics to farm feed and apply them in huge volumes to animals that aren't sick.

This steady diet of anti-bacterial drugs breeds antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the animals' guts. Those bugs wind up in their excrement, which can filter into our food, air, and water - exposing humans.

The terrifying part is that these drug-resistant bacteria render our usual remedies ineffective. Infections that were once easily treatable can become deadly when our drugs stop working. And hospitals are reporting large increases in antibiotic-resistant infections.

In Maryland, where I work, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found an increase in infections on the Eastern Shore, where most of our large chicken farms are located. Unsurprisingly, research also shows a much higher rate of antibiotic resistance in farmworkers, who are in close contact with these animals.

Other countries, including Denmark, have phased out antibiotic abuse for their livestock without jeopardizing productivity. Here at home, some states are following their lead.

California just passed landmark legislation curtailing the practice. States like Maryland and Oregon are considering measures that would go even further to protect public health.

More than once around this time of year, I've counted myself thankful for effective antibiotics. When I got a throat infection that left me bedridden a few years ago, I could rely on penicillin to help me recover. And when I suffered from a particularly nasty case of gastroenteritis last year, one round of antibiotics cured all my symptoms.

The next time I contract a bacterial infection, will I be so lucky? Will you?

We need to protect this sacred resource - and we can start by banning the use of unnecessary antibiotics in animal farming. Because no turkey should be terrifying.

Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
Massive Rolling Strikes Shut Down Quebec

After provincial bargaining stalled, 400,000 public sector workers across Quebec walked out in October and November on rolling one-day strikes.

The government is proposing pension cuts and only a 3 percent salary increase over five years. Since coming to power in April 2014 it has already begun cuts to services, including slashing health and education funding.

The Common Front, a coalition of Quebec public sector unions, is coordinating the strikes, which include teachers, health care workers, and government employees. Members voted to authorize six days of strikes per union. These began with one-day strikes, staggered by region. The Common Front vowed that if no agreement was reached, all members would strike at the same time December 1-3.

Labor Notes interviewed Benoit Renaud and Philippe de Grosbois, who have both been on strike. Renaud is an adult education teacher in the city of Gatineau and a member of the La Fédération Autonome de L'enseignement. de Grosbois teaches in a pre-college program in Laval and is an executive of his local, which is part of the Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux.

At the time of the interview, a December general strike was still planned. However, the Common Front recently announced it's postponing the strike while negotiations continue.

Labor Notes: Teachers kicked off this wave of mobilizations, and overwhelmingly supported strike votes. What issues are they facing?

Renaud: When the government presented their offers back in December [2014] they demanded a worsening of our working conditions on all fronts. They basically asked teachers to work more hours, work more years before retiring, and accept more students in each class.

It really angered all the teachers. It's as if they are trying to roll back all the little gains that we have won over decades of negotiations. So we have no choice but to fight back.

And it's not just teachers. Can you describe the human-chain actions parents have been organizing?

de Grosbois: The movement is called Je Protège Mon École Publique, which means I'm Protecting My Public School.

Quebec union and student union leaders spoke at a Burlington, Vermont forum: Their Fight Is Our Fight! Lessons from the Labor Struggle in Quebec. Photo courtesy of Travon Leyshon. Get your Troublemakers Union gear here.

Parents and their children, and people in the community, go to their local school on the first working day of the month between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. They make a circle and join hands around the school in a symbolic gesture to show that the school is an important institution in the neighborhood and that it needs to be taken care of.

They started in June and now they are at something like 300 schools. So that's really quite impressive. It shows that the concern for our public school system is not just being brought up by teachers and workers inside the schools, but it's also being brought up by parents and even children.

That really undermines attempts to say that teachers are just fighting for their own conditions or that they're going to ruin one semester for the students.

Coming back to the strikes, how did this coordination across public sector unions start?

de Grosbois: Almost all of our collective agreements expire on the same date. So it's been a practice for a long time to have those negotiations at the same time for everyone.

Renaud: It started in the mid-1960s after the Quebec government took over the health care and education systems and all kinds of other public services which had been managed by private organizations up to that point, most of them owned by the Catholic Church. In the process people who all had different employers before, ended up all having the same employer.

One of the main fights in that period was to have the right to strike, and the other one was to have centralized bargaining - so that teachers all across Quebec, for example, would have the same wages and working conditions. Up to the mid-'60s it was all over the place, it was a big mess.

Is the government putting forward the same package of demands to all these sectors?

de Grosbois: We know from talking to other workers that the government is working on a very coordinated plan. For example, in the summer, on the very same day, the negotiators from the government all came with a new document saying, "We're going to give you these minor adjustments."

Renaud: Really what it comes down to is that the government is presenting its budget goals as completely non-negotiable. They're saying, "We have a finite amount of money for all those services, so if you want something, you have to give us something else to compensate."

Basically they are telling teachers, if you want to have better wages, then you have to have more students in each class. They are trying to present the entire negotiation as a zero-sum equation.

It's really frustrating, because the people managing the provincial government and supervising the negotiations all used to work for banks before they became ministers. They don't have a lot of credibility to tighten our belts when they come from mega-corporations that make billions of dollars of profit every year.

de Grosbois: I think that's what plays a role in people being mobilized. They are really going against everything that has made Quebec different in terms of public services and social rights.

The Common Front has contested the idea that it's a zero-sum game by organizing a series of disruptive actions. There was one day in mid-October where a firm called KPMG [an international firm that provides tax advice to corporations] was blocked and occupied for some time.

The Common Front said, "There's lots of money going to fiscal havens with the help of that firm, so saying that we don't have money for public services is just not true. If we have the political will to go and get that money, then we would have money for public services - and for other things as well." The week after, another bank, HSBC, was blocked.

There were also local actions. In my union, for example, 20-30 teachers went into a bank that's in our neighborhood. The finance minister of our government was the chief economist for a section of that bank. So we went there for 15 minutes and had a class about the political power of banks in Quebec. It was like a flash mob.

That leads us to the general strike planned for December - that's something we don't see very often in other parts of Canada and definitely not in the U.S.! What are the possibilities that the government could act to prevent a general strike from happening?

de Grosbois: The government can pass a special law that determines our working conditions for the next few years and forbids new means of pressure or disruption at our workplace, with risks of steep financial penalties. It has been used many times in the last 50 years. The last time, for public sector workers, was in 2005.

I don't have a crystal ball, but I think if there is a special law it will be later, closer to Christmas. It's a lot harder to organize and mobilize in that period.

If they were to vote a special law at the end of the November, when people are still very mobilized, there is a much higher risk that it could backfire. Just this week [November 2-3], 1,300 community organizations struck for two days because of cuts in their funding. That's something that has never been done before. It's completely new.

Renaud: There is pressure on both sides. The union leaders are afraid of that kind of legislation. It's tailored to target the top of the union more than the bottom, and the penalties are heavier for disobeying the law.

But on the other side, the government is also afraid to trigger the kind of social movement that took place in 2012 with the student strike. It's still pretty fresh in people's memories. If the government tried to force an end to the struggle through legislation, it might actually trigger some kind of broader movement. ASSÉ, the student union that initiated the strike movement is also mobilizing in support of public sector workers.

There must be big tactical debates going on inside the government about how much they want to stick to their position on the overall fiscal framework and maybe risk a lot more trouble than that would be worth. I would be very happy to be a fly on the wall at cabinet meetings these days!

We've heard about autonomous strike fund organizing. Is this a moment where rank-and-file members might continue to strike even if there was a special law?

de Grosbois: It's quite hard to predict, but my feeling is the preparation that this would involve is a lot bigger than we're ready for right now.

I wouldn't be surprised if there would be actions to protest the idea of a special law. Just that would be an improvement compared to 2005, where nothing happened except for a press release and going to court and having an answer from the court a few years later.

The 2012 student strike was a very big inspiration in saying these laws can be denounced and protested. But I think we still have a lot of work [to do] in terms of organizing an illegal strike.


New book from Labor Notes: How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers tells how activists transformed their union and gave members hope. "A beacon to all rank-and-file members on how to bring democracy to their locals." Buy one today, only $15.

News Wed, 25 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
The Vicious Cycle of Pitiless Violence

The ruins of the World Trade Center in New York City on September 18, 2001. (Photo via Shutterstock)The ruins of the World Trade Center in New York City on September 18, 2001. Snared by geopolitical interests, post-9/11 interventions have too easily been captured by leading states. (Photo: Larry Bruce /

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There has been carnage over the last few days in Beirut, Baghdad, Paris and Bamako and, of course, there have been numerous such attacks before these and, no doubt, numerous more to come. To understand something of why, it is important to start with the terrorist atrocities on 9/11, when hijacked jets crashed into the World Trade Centre and into one side of the Pentagon.

On Sunday, September 23, 2001, 12 days after 9/11, the novelist Barbara Kingsolver wrote something remarkable in The Los Angeles Times, a passage I have come back to many times:

'It's the worst thing that's happened, but only this week.  Two years ago, an earthquake in Turkey killed 17,000 people in a day, babies and mothers and businessmen….  The November before that, a hurricane hit Honduras and Nicaragua and killed even more….  Which end of the world shall we talk about? Sixty years ago, Japanese airplanes bombed Navy boys who were sleeping on ships in gentle Pacific waters. Three and a half years later, American planes bombed a plaza in Japan where men and women were going to work, where schoolchildren were playing, and more humans died at once than anyone thought possible. Seventy thousand in a minute. Imagine….

There are no worst days, it seems. Ten years ago, early on a January morning, bombs rained down from the sky and caused great buildings in the city of Baghdad to fall down - hotels, hospitals, palaces, buildings with mothers and soldiers inside - and here in the place I want to love best, I had to watch people cheering about it. In Baghdad, survivors shook their fists at the sky and said the word "evil".  When many lives are lost all at once, people gather together and say words like "heinous" and "honor" and "revenge"…. They raise up their compatriots' lives to a sacred place - we do this, all of us who are human - thinking our own citizens to be more worthy of grief and less willingly risked than lives on other soil.' (2001)

This is an unsettling and challenging passage. When I first read it, I felt angered and unsympathetic to its call to think systematically about 9/11 in the context of other disasters, acts of aggression and wars. It makes uncomfortable reading precisely because it invites the reader to step outside of the maelstrom of 9/11 and other terrorist atrocities and put those events in a wider historical and evaluative framework. Uncomfortable as this request is, we have to accept it if we are to find a satisfactory way of making sense of them.

If 9/11 was not a defining moment in human history, it certainly was for today's generations. The terrorist violence was an atrocity of extraordinary proportions. It was a crime against America and against humanity; a massive breach of many of the core codes of international law; and an attack on the fundamental principles of freedom, democracy, justice and humanity itself, i.e. those principles which affirm the sanctity of life, the importance of self-determination and of equal rights and liberty.

After 9/11, the US and its allies could have decided that the most important things to do were to strengthen international law in the face of global terrorist threats, and to enhance the role of multilateral institutions. They could have decided it was important that no single group or power should act as judge, jury and executioner. They could have decided that global hotspots like the Middle East which feed global terrorism should be the core priority, and that all key parties need to be involved in a sustained dialogue (including Russia, Iran and other regional players). They could have decided that the disjuncture between economic globalization and social justice needed more urgent attention, and they could have decided to be tough on terrorism and tough on the conditions which lead some people to imagine that Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other similar groups are agents of justice in the modern world. But they have systematically failed to pursue any of these things. In general, the world after 9/11 has become more polarized and international law, weaker.

Failure: A Vicious Cycle

Enter the war in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq again. We are in a vicious cycle of violence. President Hollande's statement, following the Paris atrocities that "we are going to lead a pitiless war" could have been applied to any one of these post-9/11 conflicts. He calls for, what is in effect, an extension of previous policies that have failed in almost every one of their objectives.In recent weeks, there has been much commentary, in the press and social media, about the consequences of the failed post-9/11 wars and military interventions, renewed by the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Commentators note with alarm the spread of ISIS across Northern Syria, large swathes of Iraq, parts of Libya and other countries with copycat armed groups. The beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya and 45 people burned to death in Iraq, for example, inevitably raise the loudest possible alarm; the grotesqueness of the events only matched by the brazenness of the executioners' celebrations. There is a call again, and again, to arms. The events in Paris, and Hollande's response, can be placed in this context.

Some blame the failure to stabilise Afghanistan after 2001 on the start of the war in Iraq in 2003. Some blame the failure of the war in Iraq on a lack of adequate planning and a failure to follow through. Some blame the failure of intervention in Libya on reluctance to put "boots on the ground" due to the widespread war fatigue that followed Afghanistan and Iraq. Some people blame the chaos in Syria on the ad hoc arming of rebel groups and an unwillingness (at least up until now) to intervene more directly. The point being that all these wars might have succeeded if only the tactics had been better, the strategy sharper, and post-conflict reconstruction more clearly defined.

The truth is, however, that these wars were misconceived from the outset and have created a calamitous geopolitical failure from which very few lessons have been learned. The wars have also created a vast power vacuum as postcolonial regimes were toppled with no viable strategy for what comes next.

Into this vacuum stepped armed groups who have sought to shore up power like postmodern medieval warlords and warring barons. The result has been a calamitous orgy of violence linked to social media for the widest possible impact in the search for territory, resources and power. The claims to religious justification cannot disguise the barbaric cruelty of the actions.

At What Cost?

The 9/11 wars were governed by a belief that despots could be toppled and replaced by accountable or, better still, democratic regimes as a result of short demonstrations of awesome American military power, with some allies in-tow. The wars were led by people that had no understanding of the countries they were fighting in, no grasp of the culture or language, no sense of the politics and the peoples, no account of local interests and divisions, and no plan for once the fighting had begun. These wars were led by men who, at best, were gripped by the belief they had the ability to reshape other countries in their own image.Such a mind-set might be conceived as a benign deployment of a colonial imaginary put to the service of reconstructing other societies through armed conflict in the interest of repressed peoples. But there is a less benign interpretation, of course, that such a position veils the prosecution of war fought out for resources (oil), revenge, and, at times, for a Christian god. This is less a benevolent colonial imaginary than, perhaps, the return of a crusading mind-set.

While some may claim that the 9/11 wars rolled back Al-Qaeda, prevented a massacre in Benghazi and rid Assad of chemical weapons, at what cost? The advances have not been sustained: terrorism continues to flourish, arms abound, open markets for slaves have developed, and massacres are widespread. The scale of the death toll and displacements of people have become difficult to grasp, and the destruction of infrastructure evokes images of Armageddon. By this standard, war after war has failed.

The Evolution of Citizenship

The 9/11 wars were conceived against the tide of history. There are only few historical instances of democracies being borne out of war (e.g. Italy, Germany, Austria and Japan in the aftermath of WWII). But this should hardly be a surprise. Democracies depend on the most subtle cultural conditions in which people can separate the values of citizenship from sectarian, ethnic, tribal and other forms of identity politics. This shift took centuries in the west and came about through centuries of struggle, debate and the slow entrenchment of that most universal of ideas - citizenship, as a trump for other forms of particular political claims.

The 9/11 wars sought to circumscribe these processes and, instead of democracy, produced the vacuum into which sectarian and tribal identities could flourish. This was a negation of history and a negation of all that should have been learnt about how liberal and democratic cultures evolve in delicate and slow trajectories.

Given the current crises in the Middle East and North Africa (and of course, one might add Ukraine), we must ask if lessons have been learnt from the series of post-9/11 failures. In Europe David Cameron still speaks of the war in Libya as necessary and justified, and now of the necessity and justification of extending a bombing campaign to Syria. Obama is more explicitly reticent on the prospect of direct military engagement on the scale deployed in Libya, instead emphasising long term strategies to combat terrorism - in the form of development and self-determination (supported, in part, by arming and training local actors such as the Kurds), while using airstrikes to slow down the advance of groups like ISIS. At the same time, he is aware of what one might call the dilemma of violence whereby a military operation may be urgently needed, but runs the risk, in aggregate, of reinforcing the cycle of violence.

But these lessons have been learnt too late and at too high a price. Presumption against war and intervention must be the starting point. We have overwhelming evidence of the failure of war as a contemporary vehicle for the promotion of good governance: freedom cannot be achieved through war and organised violence, and a lasting peace can only be won through the consent and act of participation of the many. Just as there must be a presumption against war, there must a presumption in favour of nurturing sites of citizenship values, with a commitment to building intermediate institutions such as a free press and access to social media, as well as nurturing civil society, with the aim to lay down the roots of a culture of self-determination and curtailment of the use of arbitrary power.

Unresolved Issues

There remain many unresolved issues about how to proceed faced with ISIS, Boko Haram, or despotic and repressive states, with civilians frequently caught in the crossfire.

After the Mumbai attacks of 2008, which left 164 people dead, the government in India did not rush to war. As Vijay Prashad has aptly noted, the Indian government opened an "investigation into the attack and unravelled the plot and its execution. Diplomatic discussions opened with Pakistan, which is accused by India of harbouring the planners of the attack. The file remains open. Patience is the order of the day. No hasty missile strike could make up for the attack in Mumbai. It would only have escalated the conflict further and drawn India and Pakistan into an intolerable war. It is far better to pursue the case prudently."

 Today, we all know the challenge of ISIS and other such groups does not have straightforward solutions. In the short-term, ISIS must be checked by cutting off economic resources that feed their activity via tough sanctions; by confronting Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies whose funds have supported and enhanced these violent networks; by stemming their access to arms from many of the same countries (as well as from captured US supplies to moderate Muslim groups); by putting pressure on Turkey's rulers to put aside domestic considerations and to stop attacking the Kurds; by involving all leading global and regional powers in strategic conversations about how to curb and stop ISIS, and to create a foundation for a new political settlement in the region; and by holding ISIS fighters to account as criminals, not conventional military adversaries, for their violent crimes within a framework of law and law enforcement.  In the current period, this can only be done by a mixture of national and regional military arrangements. But herein lies a difficulty.

A robust law enforcement process that upholds impartial norms would need to draw on military and policing assets that serve as enforcers of law, not as agents of geopolitical interests. An enforcement capacity of this kind only exists today in embryo and in an uneven manner, and there are no institutions that can impartially apply frameworks like the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine. Snared by geopolitical interests, post-9/11 interventions have too easily been captured by leading states. Building a robust law enforcement process is a long-term process and, yet, it is paradoxically a requirement of legitimate and effective short-term solutions.

The new resolution at the UN (resolution 2249) goes some way towards creating a legal framework for intervention against ISIS. Yet it falls short in crucial respects. While it calls on all nations to redouble and coordinate their efforts by "all necessary means" to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed by ISIS, it does not specify what these means are, and leaves the scale and scope of military action unspecified and in question. It also falls well short of generating a robust law and law enforcement framework which would allow the pursuit of criminal terrorists and the capacities to bring them to account. Instead, it provides an impetus for the intensification of conflict yet again. Few lessons seem to have been learnt from the failures of the post-9/11 wars to date.

The intensity of the range of responses to the atrocities of 9/11, Beirut and Paris is fully understandable. There cannot be many people in the world who do not experience shock, revulsion, horror, anger and a desire for vengeance, as the Kingsolver passage acknowledges. This emotional range is perfectly natural within the context of the immediate events. But it cannot be the basis for a more considered and wise response.

The fight against terror must be put on a new footing.  Terrorists must be bought to heel and those who protect and nurture them must be bought to account.  Zero tolerance is fully justified in these circumstances. Terrorism does negate our most elementary and cherished principles and values. But any defensible, justifiable and sustainable response to terrorism must be consistent with our founding principles and the aspirations of international society for security, law, and the impartial administration of justice - aspirations painfully articulated after the Holocaust and the Second World War - and embedded, albeit imperfectly, in regional and global law and the institutions of global governance.

The framers of these institutional arrangements affirmed the importance of universal principles, human rights, and the rule of law when there were strong temptations to simply put up the shutters and defend the decision of some nations and countries only. The response to terrorism could follow in the footsteps of these achievements and strengthen our multilateral institutions and international legal arrangements; or, it could take us further away from the fragile gains towards a world of further antagonisms and divisions - a distinctively uncivil world. At the time of writing the signs are not good, but we have not yet run out of choices.


This article is based on a talk David Held gave on Monday November 23, 2015 as part of a Durham Castle Lecture Series special event on Paris: Terrorism and After.

Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
Research Confirms ExxonMobil, Koch-Funded Climate Denial Echo Chamber Polluted Mainstream Media

(Photo: Car Exhaust via Shutterstock)A new study found that organizations funded by ExxonMobil and the oil billionaire Koch brothers may have played a key role in sowing doubt in the US about climate change. (Photo: Car Exhaust via Shutterstock)

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A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS) shows that the climate denial echo chamber organizations funded by ExxonMobil and Koch family foundations produced misinformation that effectively polluted mainstream media coverage of climate science and polarized the climate policy debate. 

The abstract and full text of the study can be found here: Corporate funding and ideological polarization about climate change.

The analysis of 20 years' worth of data by Yale University researcher Dr. Justin Farrell shows beyond a doubt that ExxonMobil and the Kochs are the key actors who funded the creation of climate disinformation think tanks and ensured the prolific spread of their doubt products throughout our mainstream media and public discourse.

"The contrarian efforts have been so effective for the fact that they have made it difficult for ordinary Americans to even know who to trust," Dr. Farrell told the Washington Post which was first to cover the news of the study's release. "This counter-movement produced messages aimed, at the very least, at creating ideological polarization through politicized tactics, and at the very most, at overtly refuting current scientific consensus with scientific findings of their own," Dr. Farrell said.

From PNAS's press briefing note about the article by Dr. Farrell:

Corporate funding likely influences the nature and content of polarizing texts pertaining to climate change, according to a study. Political polarization has become a hallmark of climate change policy discussion, with multiple groups in various sectors contributing to public discourse regarding climate and energy. To quantify the influence of corporate funding in climate change discourse, Justin Farrell analyzed more than 39 million words of text produced by 164 organizations active in the climate change counter-movement between 1993 and 2013. The author examined the ideological content of the produced texts, as well as the funding behind the organizations that produced the texts.

Organizations with corporate funding were more likely to have produced polarizing texts, the author found, with ExxonMobil and the Koch family foundation acting as influential funders (emphasis added). Further, according to the author, corporate funding may have influenced the ideological content of produced texts. The results suggest quantitative evidence of the influence of funding in the climate change debate that had previously been hypothesized, and suggests an analytical model for integrating texts with the social networks that created them, according to the author.

This study confirms once again the central thesis of industry-funded attacks on climate science, which inspired the DeSmog book Climate Cover-up and countless articles about the deception campaign over the past decade.

Now let's see how the mainstream media cover this story - that is what I'm most curious to see. (The Washington Post article was pretty straightforward, although it gave ExxonMobil an unchallenged last word, and Joby Warrick seemed to pose a bogus question to Dr. Farrell equating the fossil-funded disinformation campaign with pro-climate-action campaigns, but Dr. Farrell correctly rebutted such a comparison.)

Will this study, published in a highly authoritative journal, finally compel the newsrooms and boardrooms of the traditional media to take responsibility to undo some of the damage done by their complicity in spreading fossil fuel industry-funded misinformation?

Will false balance - quoting a distinguished climate scientist and then speed-dialing Pat Michaels at the Cato Institute for an opposing quote - finally stop?

Will editors commit to serving as referees to ensure the same industry PR pollution isn't published any longer?

It's critically important today that the public hears the scientific facts about climate change without the confusion injected into the policy debate by well-funded think tanks and their highly paid PR operative counterparts.

Dr. Farrell's research also provides further evidence of the public deception orchestrated by the fossil fuel industry, and should prove valuable to investigators examining ExxonMobil as well as other current and future efforts to hold polluters accountable for their PR pollution.

Here is a video produced years ago, Doubt by The Climate Reality Project, which provides a nice overview of this issue:

Also highly suggested: track down access to Merchants of Doubt, the full-length documentary by Food Inc. director Robert Kenner that exposes the history of tobacco-to-climate denial and their common PR manipulators such as Marc Morano and Fred Singer.

It's far beyond the time to end the climate cover-up. And responsible media can lead the way.

News Wed, 25 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
The Thanksgiving Myth: Reflecting on Land Theft, Betrayal and Genocide

While glossing over the very real consequences of colonialism, the mythical version of Thanksgiving creates a fairytale of land theft, betrayal, brutality and genocide, virtually functioning to erase the very real and traumatic experiences of entire Indigenous nations. 

(Image: "First Thanksgiving", Brushed Border, Cracked Texture via Shutterstock; Edited: LW / TO)(Image: "First Thanksgiving", Rolled Ink Texture, Cracked Texture via Shutterstock; Edited: LW / TO)

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As Thanksgiving approaches, many schools throughout the U.S. are making preparations for the standard, and all too cliché, Thanksgiving Day lessons, and fairy tale-esque Thanksgiving plays.

And more often than not, the school Thanksgiving activities are largely based on what ultimately amounts to myth, created to serve the imaginations of the dominant society, and simultaneously functioning to erase the tragedies of Indigenous nations.

The myth usually goes a little something like this:

Pilgrims came to America, in order to escape religious persecution in England. Living conditions proved difficult in the New World, but thanks to the friendly Indian, Squanto, the pilgrims learned to grow corn, and survive in unfamiliar lands. It wasn't long before the Indians and the pilgrims became good friends. To celebrate their friendship and abundant harvest, Indians in feathered headbands joined together with the pilgrims and shared in a friendly feast of turkey and togetherness. Happy Thanksgiving. The End.

From this account, the unsuspecting child might assume a number of things. Firstly, they may assume that pilgrims merely settled the New World, innocently, and as a persecuted people, they arrived to America with pure and altruistic intentions. Secondly, children might assume, and rightfully so, that Indians and pilgrims were friends, and that this friendship must have laid the framework for this "great American nation."

So, what exactly is the harm in this school-sanctioned account of history? Understandably, the untrained eye may not notice the harm in such a myth, as most Americans are victim to the same whitewashed lie as the rest, and dismantling a centuries-old myth certainly does prove challenging.

But the first lesson for educators and adults to digest is the fact that this narrative is egregiously whitewashed and Eurocentric on many levels. Moreover, it is a lie, which serves to rob American children of valuable historical lessons.

Truth be told, this beloved lie was packaged solely for nationalistic consumption when, following the bloody Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Back then, Americans were desperately in need of unity and inspiration. Hence, the myth of the first Thanksgiving was born to inspire and unite.

Beyond the myth, and the seemingly good intentions of Abraham Lincoln (who actually despised Indians) the actual story of pilgrims and indigenous people went down much differently.

As a social science educator, I strongly advocate for the unabridged study of human history; for the many valuable lessons imbedded in the stories of our past. Changing any story, essentially, means short-changing American society from some extremely valuable lessons - lessons that function to plant the seeds of social consciousness and humanitarian evolution.

So let's take a look at a different version of history; a fuller version, and hopefully, extract some meaningful lessons from our shared past:

One day, the Wampanoag people of the Eastern coast of the Americas noticed unfamiliar people in their homelands. These unfamiliar people were English pilgrims, coming to a new land which they dubbed "America," in order to settle and create a new life.

The Wampanoag were initially uneasy with the settlers, but they eventually engaged in a shaky relationship of commerce and exchange. Also, in observing that the pilgrims nearly died from a harsh winter, the Wampanoag stepped in to help.

The Wampanoag chief, Massasoit, eventually entered into agreements with the pilgrims, and, on behalf of the Wampanoag Nation, decided to be allies while each nation coexisted in the same space together. At one time, the Wampanoag and pilgrims shared in a meal of wildfowl, deer, and shellfish.

After Massasoit's death, the Wampanoag nation became weakened as a result of disease contracted from the English. It wasn't long before the pilgrims began tormenting surrounding tribes, burning entire villages to the ground, while indigenous men, women, and children lie sleeping.

Uneasy with the growing cruelty, greed, and arrogance of the new people in their homelands, the Wampanoag began to distrust the pilgrims. The pilgrims soon demanded that the Wampanoag submit to them, and give up all their weapons.

Shortly after, the pilgrims and Wampanoag were at war, and in the end, the pilgrims rose victorious. At the close of the war, the Wampanoag were nearly decimated, and the son of Chief Massasoit, Metacom, was killed by the pilgrims, dismembered, beheaded, and his head impaled on a spear outside of Plymouth. Metacom's young son was sent to the West Indies as a slave, along with numerous other Wampanoag and surrounding tribes.

A day of Thanksgiving was declared, and to celebrate, the pilgrims kicked the heads of dead Indigenous peoples around like soccer balls. (This was not the end … )

As indigenous nations throughout America were continually betrayed by European settlers, killed by disease, germ warfare, hunted for bounties, sent overseas as slaves, and ultimately pushed out of their homelands and onto prison camps (now commonly known as reservations), few survived the depressing conditions. As a result of centuries of historical trauma, indigenous nations today have staggering rates of depression, mental health disparities, suicide, and deaths due to alcohol and drugs. Indigenous people continue to struggle to cope with historical trauma, and heal deeply imbedded wounds which stem directly from colonialism. This, still, is not the end.

The lessons to be gained from the truths of history are many, and conversely, those lessons are lost in whitewashed myths.

While glossing over the very real consequences of colonialism, the mythical version of Thanksgiving creates a fairytale of land theft, betrayal, brutality, and genocide, virtually functioning to erase the very real and traumatic experiences of entire indigenous nations. This phenomena of whitewashing and outright erasure of indigenous history, in many instances, is not only inhumane and oppressive to the indigenous people, but it is also unfair to all Americans who stand to learn from rich and equally tragic history.

Without question, colonialism is great for the colonizer, and disastrous for the colonized. Colonization reduces entire populations, and leaves generational wounds that linger stubbornly for centuries. This is a lesson that all Americans must heed.

As a result of propagating the mythical version of Thanksgiving, American children and adults alike, become confused about history, and moreover the Thanksgiving lie outright prevents a collective American understanding of the contemporary struggles of Native American people today.

Without understanding the 500 years of colonial impact on indigenous people, scores of bigoted attitudes have emerged, as Americans cannot seem to wrap their heads around the many struggles of tribal communities today that stem directly from colonization.

To be sure, the Thanksgiving myth has many consequences, and aside from breeding ignorance and reinforcing bigotry, the myth silences the already marginalized indigenous people, who desperately need to hear, share, and tell our story as a part of the healing process.

It is time to let go of the myth and embrace truth, and we must start in schools, where young children look to their teachers with inquisitive eyes as the all-knowing authorities.

As educational institutions, schools must be progressive in bravely moving toward truth, while moving away from any semblance of ongoing myth-sanctioning.

This change is long overdue, and all of our children deserve truth, meaningful lessons, and a robust dose of humanitarian development. And the great news is: our entire world stands to benefit from it.

Depending on the age of students, different degrees of the story can and should be told. Educators can find ideas here.

And conversely, the myth, the school plays, and the story of happy Indians and friendly pilgrims needs to be abandoned, wholesale. This leveling out of myth creates space for new conversations and lessons of unity, and deeper understandings of what it truly means to be a good human being, and that is something to be thankful for.

Opinion Wed, 25 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
From Mizzou to Yale: The Resurgence of Black Student Protest

 Graduate student Jonathan Butler, third from right, who went on a hunger strike on Nov. 2, leads Concerned Student 1950 members in an oath reciting "I am a revolutionary," after the resignation of University of Missouri President Timothy Wolfe was announced earlier, on campus in Columbia, Mo., Nov. 9, 2015. Wolfe announced that he was stepping down after a wave of student outcry, including an ultimatum from dozens of black football players that they would not play if he did not resign. (Daniel Brenner / The New York Times) Jonathan Butler leads Concerned Student 1950 members in an oath reciting "I am a revolutionary" after the resignation of University of Missouri President Timothy Wolfe was announced earlier on campus in Columbia, Missouri, November 9, 2015. (Photo: Daniel Brenner / The New York Times)

Black students and youth have historically been in the forefront of efforts to combat racism. Modern protests - from Yale to Mizzou, and beyond - are a part of a long tradition of fighting racism, and connecting with other justice movements.

 Graduate student Jonathan Butler, third from right, who went on a hunger strike on Nov. 2, leads Concerned Student 1950 members in an oath reciting "I am a revolutionary," after the resignation of University of Missouri President Timothy Wolfe was announced earlier, on campus in Columbia, Mo., Nov. 9, 2015. Wolfe announced that he was stepping down after a wave of student outcry, including an ultimatum from dozens of black football players that they would not play if he did not resign. (Daniel Brenner / The New York Times) Jonathan Butler leads Concerned Student 1950 members in an oath reciting "I am a revolutionary" after the resignation of University of Missouri President Timothy Wolfe was announced earlier on campus in Columbia, Missouri, November 9, 2015. (Photo: Daniel Brenner / The New York Times)

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Over the past few weeks, Black-led student protests have disrupted business as usual on dozens of US college campuses, with tactics ranging from sit-ins and vigils to hunger strikes and mass rallies. Much of this activity occurred under the banner of the hashtag #StudentBlackOut. Triggered by events at the University of Missouri (Mizzou), where students mobilized in response to several racist incidents, including a swastika written in feces on a bathroom wall, Black students and supporters across the country have rallied to demand change.

Protesting students are fed up with duplicitous campus cultures that tout diversity and tolerate pervasive racism.

On most campuses, there was a specific incident that sparked protests, but the real issues are much broader and ongoing. The protesting students are not simply angered by a single incident or racial epithet; they are fed up with duplicitous campus cultures that tout diversity and tolerate pervasive racist practices, symbols and policies. Many of the protests revolved around the issue of hostile or inhospitable campus climates, but some demands have gone further.

While every historical moment is unique, this wave of anti-racist campus protests is reminiscent of past struggles in its focus on points of connection between campus and community issues. The wide range of tactics and organizations involved in the current protests is also reminiscent of past student struggles, as is the backlash that students are facing from conservatives and liberals alike - a backlash that attempts to trivialize student complaints and derail organizing efforts.

Black student struggles historically have had deep roots and strong ties to movements beyond the campus. In the 1960s, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organized students to leave school and work full-time in the Southern-based Black freedom movement alongside maids, sharecroppers and local griots who taught them more about race, politics and justice than they could have possibly learned in their classrooms. At Columbia University in 1968, in the 1980s anti-apartheid struggle there, and in the more recent successful prison divestment campaign, students linked with community organizers around access to resources, racial profiling of Black people in the neighborhood (and Black students), as well as unethical and racist investment practices.

Yale students too have been linked to a broader set of issues. They have been involved in a prolonged and intense struggle over racial profiling and a hostile campus climate. What is significant here is the intimate connection between community grievances, racist policing and the Black student experience. For example, while much attention has been given to the fact that students took offense at two professors' defense of racist Halloween costumes, the real day-to-day issues are much deeper. Remember in January 2015, African-American Yale student Tahj Blow, the son of New York Times columnist Charles Blow, was detained at gunpoint after leaving the library because he "looked like a burglary suspect." It's not a trivial event, and this type of profiling is all too common.

Black-led, campus-based struggles have never been isolated to the campus or solely focused on students.

Black-led, campus-based struggles have never been isolated to the campus or solely focused on students. It is no coincidence that many of the Mizzou student activists are from St. Louis and Ferguson, Missouri, and were influenced by the sustained and militant protests following the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August 2014. In general, this wave of protests is linked to the growing Black Lives Matter movement. Some students have taken up chants from the Black Lives Matter movement. Signs at some of the campus vigils echoed the quote by Black political exile Assata Shakur, first popularized by organizers in the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100): "It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains."

The demands of contemporary student activists are diverse but again, they are not all student-centered. The Black Liberation Collective, a new coalition that helped to coordinate this recent wave of campus actions, is calling for universities to adopt ethical and anti-racist investment policies by "divesting from prisons and investing in communities." As part of this collective, activists at the University of Toronto have called for divestment from the US for-profit prison industry. Washington University students are demanding that the university "widen the pipeline to higher education for local K-12 students, many of whom attend schools with under-resourced college prep programs." At the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, student protesters are calling for the university to immediately institute a policy of a $15 per hour minimum wage and support the unionization of all campus workers, a link to labor and the growing Fight for $15 campaign.

Black student activism has a long history in the United States, and contemporary struggles rest squarely in this tradition. It is the militant and sustained Black-led campaigns at campuses like San Francisco State, Howard University, Harvard, UCLA and CUNY that led to the formation of Black studies, African American studies and Africana studies programs and departments across the country. This movement is outlined in historian Martha Biondi's 2012 book, The Black Revolution on Campus. The campus struggles of the 1960s and 1970s were inextricably linked to the broader Black freedom movement, as students demanded an end to nearby neighborhood segregation, opposed the war in Vietnam and brought national organizers onto campus for rallies, teach-ins and debates. In the 1980s and 1990s, Black students allied with campus workers, tenants organizations and groups opposed to university gentrification.

Creative tactics are the hallmark of student protests. Students camped out in tents on the Mizzou campus to draw attention to their concerns. This echoed the anti-apartheid shanties built in solidarity with township dwellers in South Africa that marked hundreds of campus quads in the 1980s. These visual statements make the issues at hand hard to ignore. The longstanding tactic of building and office takeovers has also been employed by contemporary activists at Princeton, Towson and Virginia Commonwealth University. What does this accomplish? It disrupts business as usual, refuses to allow racism to remain routine and directs demands for change at top administrators, rather than focusing on the individual behavior of white students. Rallies and marches are also still a favored tactic. So, while 21st century organizers rely on social media and other technologies not available decades before, it still appears to be mass collective action and putting bodies on the line that galvanize campus movements, past and present.

Any movement that makes an impact will experience a pushback. Not surprisingly, contemporary student activists have suffered a sharp backlash from various quarters. Donald Trump labeled the Mizzou students' efforts as "disgusting." Some social media and mainstream media responses have belittled student grievances and maligned the students as pampered, entitled and petty. Some student leaders have even received death threats.

But it is supposedly liberal critics that have been some of the most vocal. In a recent New York Times opinion piece, 1960s activist Todd Gitlin maligns Black student leaders as whiners who lack confidence in their ability to counter offensive ideas and want protection from their elders. He counsels more courage and independence. He obviously does not know the 2015 youth leaders that I have witnessed close up. They are sharp and fearless. The fact that they are willing to expose both blatant and subtle forms of racism is a strength, not a weakness. They are unveiling the postracial myth that pervades so many liberal circles by rooting out old- and new-style racism.

The other liberal critique of Black student campaigns centers on the issue of free speech. Every institution has stated and unstated rules about the values and protocol that define it. Many of those rules and protocols sometimes deserve to be broken. However, it is significant that while students and faculty are expected to adhere to a set of practices that facilitate the smooth functioning of the university (not my rules, mind you), it is when racist behavior is involved that free speech becomes an absolute. While I don't support "speech codes," the reality is that we are all responsible for the implications of what we say, and speech never occurs in a vacuum. It is also important to historicize racial slurs and mocking and degrading jokes - the types of speech uttered by rowdy lynch mobs as they conjured the collective spirit to do serious damage to Black bodies. That reality is not so far removed from today.

From the Black Lives Matter movement and its dozen or so constituent organizations and campaigns, to the increasingly coordinated Black-led protests on college campuses, we are seeing a resurgent challenge to racism and white supremacy at a historic juncture when the violence of a crushing student debt is forcing many Black working- and middle-class students out of college altogether, and rampant state violence is threatening the very survival of others. It is also a moment that is defined by hundreds of thousands of Black people under the control of the prison industry, declining quality of Black life for the majority of Black people (Black millionaires and elected officials notwithstanding), rising inequality overall, intensified surveillance under the rubric of anti-terrorism, and increased racism and xenophobia from pundits and political candidates alike. Black youth (not only students) are pushing back and finding their collective voice. We are witnessing a growing movement with varied demands and tactics - a movement that, if sustained, holds the promise of realizing a more hopeful future.

Acknowledgement: I want to thank Deana Lewis and Martha Biondi for contributing to this essay.

News Wed, 25 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500