Truthout Stories http://www.truth-out.org Sun, 02 Aug 2015 20:33:08 -0400 en-gb Post-Migration Trauma and Evaluating Children in Texas Immigration Facilities http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32175-post-migration-trauma-and-evaluating-children-in-texas-immigration-facilities http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32175-post-migration-trauma-and-evaluating-children-in-texas-immigration-facilities

Luis Zayas, PhD, is the Dean and Robert Lee Sutherland Chair in Mental Health and Social Policy, at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work. He is also a member of Migrant Clinicians Network’s External Advisory Board. For about a year, Luis has been regularly visiting the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s South Texas Residential Center in Dilley and Karnes County Residential Center, two Texas facilities housing many of the women and children who came to the US during the US-Mexico “border surge” last year. (You can read more about MCN’s coverage and position on last year’s influx of immigrants seeking refuge in the US here.) The two facilities have been at the center of heated debate on the federal handling of the influx of immigrants; many human rights groups and others have called for their closure. As a national expert on the mental health of children and adolescents during deportation, Luis has been evaluating children primarily on behalf of the pro-bono attorneys at Karnes and Dilley who are presenting asylum claims on behalf of individual residents.

Lately, Luis has been even busier than usual: he’s been in the news, like the Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Associated Press, and elsewhere; he met with House Democrats when they recently toured the two facilities; and he continues to evaluate facility residents. We spoke with Luis the day after Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s startling turnaround in policy regarding the length of detention for Karnes and Dilley residents. This was just a few days after the visit from the Congressional delegation was followed by a resident’s suicide attempt. In late June, he took some time out of his schedule to help us better understand the lives of the women and children, and what we as clinicians need to know.

How did you first encounter migrant health issues, and how did you come to work with immigrant children in the Karnes and Dilley facilities?

I came to the issue of immigration about ten years ago, pretty much as just a sedentary reader of the newspaper. But I became a very active participant when I got called in to evaluate a little girl whose father was challenging his order to be removed from the country. I evaluated her, we were able to get the cancellation of removal, and I realized that there was a whole lot there that was missing -- [like health] information about citizen children in these situations.  The more I dug into the literature and science to see what we knew about these kids, we realized that we didn’t know much about what happened to them upon deportation.  We have an idea of what living in the shadows of undocumented immigration does to kids, and to parents, and the fears and so on, but once their parents entered the detention system, there was really nothing. I decided to continue to work on cases like this, most of it in St. Louis. Then, I wrote a grant and studied what happens to these kids and was able to get that funded.

Then, last summer, with the surge at the border, I was asked to come in and evaluate children, but this was a unique thing. These weren’t US citizen children whose parents were being deported; these were immigrant kids, who came with loads of trauma from their countries of origin, whether it was domestic violence, community violence that they saw on the streets or were a victim of -- I’m talking about gangs, parents being extorted for money, and the complicity [or] inaction of the police…. This was a whole new thing [for me]: the pre-migration trauma. Then there’s the peri-migration trauma -- the process of crossing 1,800 miles from Honduras, a little less from the bordering countries…. and the kind of things these children saw, and witnessed, and were subjected to, and their mothers subjected to.

And then they arrive at our country [to seek asylum, hoping] that they will be greeted and brought into safety, and instead they’re put into hieleras -- the ice boxes -- and then put into detention, for 10 or 11 months now in some cases. 

What work have you been doing in the facilities?

I’ve been evaluating children primarily on behalf of the pro-bono attorneys who are down at Karnes and Dilley who are doing the asylum claims… by showing the situations that the children are in. It’s an interesting thing, because I have to focus on what’s happening to them as a result of being in detention -- we have to set aside all the other trauma, because the issue is, how is detention harming these kids?  I get a rough idea of what had happened back home, but the issue is, how has it been since you’ve arrived here? What are people doing to you? What are you doing? What are you thinking? Are you dreaming? Having nightmares? Eating, sleeping…?It’s a very narrow band of attention. But when a child is there three months, six months, nine months, there’s plenty for them to tell you.

What is the goal of your work at Dilley and Karnes?

At the case level, it’s really to help the families get bonds and get released to their families here in the US. Just about 99% of these families, these women and children, have family here in the US that they’re going to see. I’ve already interviewed kids on their way to Florida, Virginia, Michigan, California, and many are coming to places like Houston, within Texas….  At the overall level, it’s using all those cases, consolidate them and show the government the damage that’s being done to these children and their mothers, and therefore to end family detention. 

Today, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a statement saying he’s changing some of the approaches in these immigration centers, including shortening immigrants’ stays. What’s your reaction?

These children, in my mind and with my experience with them, should spend no more than 14 days in a detention facility. None of these mothers, by the way, say to me, ‘We expected to waltz into the country and continue on.’ They knew they were going to be detained, but they didn’t expect it to be this long. The children that I’ve seen -- they could understand two weeks of detention, where they are processed, where health examinations are done, maybe [given] immunizations and vaccinations…. That would not be harmful. They would understand it, especially if these detention centers are set up to be what they should be -- which is resettlement centers, a stopping-off point to get them to their destinations, rather than a place where they stay and languish for so long without any idea of whether and when they’ll be let go, and whether they’ll be sent to their home country or whether they’re going to get to stay with their family [in the US].

It’s nice that Secretary Johnson is pulling back, but it’s really not enough. He needs to go farther. He’s been running an experiment for over a year. The long-term damage on the mothers and the children is extraordinary. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Japanese internment camps in World War II. 

How quickly do you think changes will come?

I don’t anticipate changes quickly. He’s setting up a federal advisory committee. He did say he wants [stays] shortened, but he didn’t say how long. That’s my primary concern as a clinician -- the lawyers have other concerns about the three or four steps that [Johnson] has taken, but basically he is shifting his stance from last year, but not enough to satisfy most of us. He doesn’t explain what shorter stays are -- that’s insufficient. He’s not basing anything on evidence or empirical science about the damage done to kids. It’s certainly not enough. We need to end family detention, period.

Can you tell us about some of the cases that you have seen?

[I evaluated] a teenage girl from El Salvador, [who told] me how the Mara followed her home from school, with cat-calls and things… Finally, they jumped her, tore off her clothes. She denied being raped, but from everything she told me, she was sexually assaulted…. She’s now in a real depression here.

[I saw] a teenage boy who was told [by gang members], ‘If you don’t join us, you’re going to be killed.’ He’s now suicidal in the detention center.

I met a little girl last Saturday, an eight-year-old girl, who has reverted to breast feeding. She’s not really feeding because her mother is not lactating, but she’s sucking on her mother’s breasts. 

[I also met] an 11-year-old boy who was the son of one of the hunger strikers at Karnes who was perceived to be one of the leaders. They held [them] in isolation, and she was very paranoid. She came into the office, a little cubicle, and she was looking for bugging devices under the table, because… she thought they were bugging my interview with the kids... This boy, after being held in isolation with his mother for 24 hours, he started bedwetting. I asked his mother, ‘Had he been bedwetting before?’ She said no. This kid had endured that trek through Mexico… and was managing, if you will, but when he was held in isolation in a cold room with lights on and a camera on them -- he started bedwetting … We’ve seen countless things like that.

How often are you visiting the centers?

I had been going between August and February or March, once a month, every two months, whenever I got called in by lawyers. Now, I’m going more frequently. I saw a 13-year-old boy and an eight-year-old girl on Saturday, and I’m going there this Friday to interview the mother who attempted suicide by slitting her wrists.

Can you tell us more about this busy week you’ve had?

I was at Dilley on Saturday. On Sunday, I drove to San Antonio and stayed overnight. On Monday afternoon, a group of eight congress people visited Karnes, and among the women they spoke to was the one who attempted suicide [the next day]. 

On Monday night, they did a press conference, and then a group of four of us conducted a private briefing for the delegation. Yesterday morning, they were at Dilley. The mothers demonstrated in front of the members of Congress... While they were there, the mother they saw before was slitting her wrists. She has a four-year-old daughter. I’m seeing her on Friday [along with] another child who I’m told is depressed. So it’s getting more frequent and I may have to slow it down, because I’m getting tired, and I’ve got a school to run.

How have volunteers like lawyers and clinicians helped those held in the centers?

We should be proud of this: the number of lawyers who are doing pro-bono work has been remarkable. [There are] solo practitioners, who are immigration lawyers, [and] group practitioners -- but there are even corporate law firms, who are releasing their attorneys to do pro-bono work, or the attorneys have been finding time to do pro-bono work. It’s been outstanding… These attorneys are pushing back. 

Alongside of that, there have been lawsuits -- the two main ones being the ACLU lawsuit with the University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic, called RILR, and another class-action which was...based on the Flores settlement from the mid-1990s… which said that children should not be held in detention in secured facilities licensed by the state.  

Communities around our country have stepped up to try to provide clothing; when the first cold wave swept through Texas, these kids were not prepared… ICE got the kids coats and things -- but many others had donated as well... It’s quite remarkable how our people have mobilized. 

How does it work when a family is released on bond? Do they receive support services?

If it wasn’t for the volunteers, these families would be sent to Missouri, or wherever they’re going, and that’s it. At least the volunteers are helping as much as they can. We do really need a lot more case management at the point when we know they’re going to be released, so the case managers can be in contact with the hospitals, the clinics, the day care centers, the schools, the churches in the community as well as the family they’re going to be with.

We need a lot of that -- but it has to start at the detention level, to be able to give them all the contact numbers, to make the warm handoff into their community. [Case management comes] usually as a result of the attorney who is getting them out -- the attorney then makes the connection to the volunteer who can help, but, I must admit, it’s not a lot...

We all know the lives of migrant families and these [women and children] are different insofar as their migration included these lengthy detentions. It’s not that they were farmworkers -- they just came into this country and were detained immediately.

Our posts are aimed toward clinicians working with mobile populations, perhaps even some people who have recently spent time at Dilley or Karnes. What do clinicians need to know about what you’re seeing at Dilley and Karnes?

We know that detention is unnatural. What we’re doing is we’re devastating the kids’ lives, and their mothers. There is deprivation of freedom; these kids are not experiencing a normal childhood. They can’t get on a bike and go to the corner store and get something and hang out with the kids. They’re constantly being watched. There are guards who are not very friendly. We’re learning more about the neurobiology of stress and trauma -- and how it affects people lifelong. We’ve got to be prepared to work with these kids now, while they’re inside -- but also as soon as they come out. 

We’ve got three levels of trauma, as I said: there’s pre-migration, peri-migration, and then there’s post-migration -- the detention.  We’re going to have to work as clinicians at those three levels. And I think we may have to work backwards, because I think the most recent trauma will be what they experienced [in the immigration centers]. We need to be aware of that.

In those conditions -- sure, they have showers, clothes, and beds -- but there was a constant vigilance that these kids had to maintain, and the stress levels were high. So we’ve got to really be prepared. I think what we need to do is get them connected with services at their destination points as soon as possible, into schools, lots of support services -- mental health services, health services -- and as clinicians, that’s what we’ve got to be thinking about.

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News Sun, 02 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Rural Challenges, Real Solutions http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32174-rural-challenges-real-solutions http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32174-rural-challenges-real-solutions

The ongoing paucity of public and private investment in the rural South has caused outsized harm to African-American women and girls. In a study published this week titled "Unequal Lives: The State of Black Women and Families in the Rural South," the Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative (SRBWI) found "on nearly every social indicator of well-being - from income and earnings to obesity and food security - Black women, girls and children in the rural South rank low or last." According to the survey, the unemployment rate for African-American women is four times that of white women in the same counties, and the poverty rate for African Americans and Latinos is more than double that of whites.

SRBWI was formed by nonprofit leaders from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia to pursue solutions to poverty and injustice in some of America's poorest counties. One of its founders says the Initiative helps women leverage their existing skills and resources. "We work with farmers and try to get women to produce food that's marketed to the school system and to farmers markets and other outlets in the area," said Shirley Sherrod, who is also Executive Director of the Southwest Georgia Project. "Many of them are widows who own land and need to derive an income from that land. ... We looked at the fact that women worked in factories – factories that closed – and those skills were still out there, and that's what gave us the idea of starting a worker-owned sewing coop. ... We have a community foods project that's in 22 counties. We've done lots of work on nutrition and gardens."

Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama Executive Director Sophia Bracy Harris, who also helped launch SRBWI, says it's it's about much more than marketable skills. "It's leadership development of the young women so that we're able to move these women to a place of self-sufficiency around their choice of careers, but with an understanding of the history of the region, understanding of the larger picture of what they're working against so they have the tools to be able to address those issues as well," Harris said.

SRBWI is one of many organizations devising innovative ways to achieve success in the uniquely challenging environment of the rural South. One of the biggest hurdles is simply connecting people to each other. Establishing and maintaining networks of resources are two of the ways the West Virginia Community Development Hub fosters community development efforts. "One of the big challenges you face in a rural state is just that people who are really active in their communities, they're so busy being active, they don't have any idea what's going on five counties away from them," said Director of Community Engagement and Policy Stephanie Tyree. "A lot of what we do is create those connections, share information and let people know, 'Okay, you want to start a bikeability program? You want to create bike lanes in your town? Well, here's a town that is a similar size to you that is also working on creating bike lanes, so you guys should talk and figure out how to do it together.'"

Tyree says another part of that strategy is collaboration on seemingly disparate issues. "There's a statewide campaign that is being organized that is really looking at, how does poverty and the safety and quality of life of children serve as a thread that runs through everything?" she said. "The Hub is a major partner in that campaign, even though we don't really work on children's health issues normally, but we think that you can't have community development if you can't have a place where children can't grow up happy, healthy and safe, and you can't have community development if you're not addressing poverty. ... We end up working in a lot of different areas that you wouldn't necessarily think fit together, but they fit into a larger vision of building a prosperous state, creating a transition and working for social justice."

Organizations have found coalition building to be an effective path to success all over the rural South. Harris says FOCAL began with three core focus areas – advocacy, training and technical assistance – but found that it needed to broaden its base to achieve its goals. "The organization evolved and became aware even in trying to carry out those things, that we could not do that in isolation, that we needed to broaden our base to address other issues. We went from there then to build an alliance for childcare, reaching again across lines of whites and African Americans to try to work collectively together."

In Arkansas last year, two strong nonprofit organizations – one focused on entrepreneurship and one on clean water infrastructure – merged to form a new entity with vast economic development expertise and a broad reach into remote areas. "It's pretty amazing what we can do together," said Communities Unlimited CEO Ines Polonius. "Our hope is that as we continue the community's work, but look at it more comprehensively, we can bring in other partners who can help us address health issues, who can help us address education issues. We don't have to be the expert in all these fields, but what we've built is an infrastructure that allowed us to deliver our services so that we can move a whole community that has been in persistent poverty onto a trajectory toward prosperity."

The most important key to success in the rural South is patience, says former Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund Executive Director Ralph Paige. "The thing that's most challenging is people to see that it doesn't happen overnight," said Paige. "Change comes in increments, and people grow. Farmers grow to be better farmers. Farm leaders grow to become community leaders. They grow and become board members of the church. They become members of the city council. ... You can build a building; a tornado can blow it down. You can build a person and he keeps growing, his children, his community – and I've seen that happen."

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News Sun, 02 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Black Unionists Try to Save South Africa From Becoming a Failed State http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32173-black-unionists-try-to-save-south-africa-from-becoming-a-failed-state http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32173-black-unionists-try-to-save-south-africa-from-becoming-a-failed-state

South African flag(Image: South African flag via Shutterstock)Irvin Jim, the general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the largest union in South Africa, and Zwelinzima Vavi, the former general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) visited Washington, DC, this month to discuss the crisis within South African trade unions. They spoke of the betrayal by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in failing to implement the 1955 Freedom Charter [that contained the core values of the coalition that fought against the apartheid regime] and the deleterious impact of neoliberal economic policies that have exacerbated inequalities, continued unfair trading conditions and accelerated environmental degradation, unemployment and continued misery.

As NUMSA takes an increasingly central role in the struggle for full economic sovereignty and for the complete economic freedom of workers and the rural poor, the importance of international solidarity cannot be underestimated. In this interview, Jim and Vavi discuss: (1) NUMSA’s and Zwelinzima Vavi’s expulsion from COSATU, and the united stand by NUMSA’s and seven other COSATU affiliates to continue to fight for the rights of South Africa’s workers; (2) NUMSA’s formation of a United Front to galvanize other trade unions, as well as grassroots organizations, in the fight against inequality, poverty, and unemployment in South Africa; and (3) The formation of a worker’s party to contest elections and advance much-needed economic change in South Africa.

Irvin Jim was elected general secretary of NUMSA in October 2008. A fearless leader of workers and an unwavering advocate for the working class, Jim has not shied away from criticizing the ANC government as the triple crisis of poverty, unemployment, and inequality has continued to deepen in South Africa 21 years after the country’s first democratic election. Undeterred by the pressure to accept the status quo, he remains resolute and committed to the struggle to build a South Africa for all South Africans.

Zwelinzima Vavi is the former general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and is the vice-chairperson of the Millennium Labour Council. His name means: “this word is tough.” He was a former child laborer and mineworker. In 1988, he became COSATU’s regional secretary for the Western Transvaal. In 1992, he took up the position of national organizing secretary. Vavi served as COSATU’s deputy general secretary from 1993 to 1999. In 1999, he became general secretary of COSATU. He was expelled as general secretary in March 2015 for speaking out vigorously against the expulsion of NUMSA from the trade union federation in November, 2014.

NUMSA was founded in 1987 through the merger of four metalworkers’ unions. Today, it is the largest worker’s union in South Africa, with more than 300,000 members. Following the fall of apartheid and the election of South Africa’s first democratically elected government in 1994, NUMSA became known for its refusal to remain silent on controversial ANC policies, especially the promotion of privatization and its failure to end mass poverty in the country. Due to its continued criticism of the ANC and, specifically, its stance as a COSATU affiliate that COSATU should hold the ruling party accountable, NUMSA was expelled from the labor federation in November, 2014.NUMSA has continued to fight for its right to be a part of COSATU and for the need for COSATU to remain an independent voice advocating the rights of South Africa’s workers. NUMSA’s leadership sees its mandate, in part, to maintain solidarity within the union, as well as with working-class movements internationally.

This interview takes place in the aftermath of the South African government release of the investigation into the Marikina massacre in which 34 platinum mine workers, protesting low wages and environmentally unsafe conditions were killed by police. The majority of the striking miners were shot in the back. The South African government determined that no officers involved in the massacre would be held accountable. As a sidebar issue, South African Vanadium mine workers have also continued their strikes against US/Russian multinational corporations.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: The labor movement in South is in transition. The two of you are at the center of the struggle around the direction of the labor movement. Can you provide insight?

Zwelinzima Vavi: We flew here [to the US] to meet old friends of the labor movement who played a very critical role in cultivating solidarity between the unions in the United States and South Africa. We are meeting union leaders who were in the forefront of battling the apartheid system and who mobilized American citizens to isolate the apartheid government. Labor leaders who succeeded in organizing massive dis-investment campaigns against the apartheid economy and played an important role in the release of Nelson Mandela and other prisoners and who worked to un-ban [legalize] the African National Congress and other banned organization.

Irvin Jim: Mr. Vavi and I were expelled from COSATU because we championed four pillars of our struggle: mass mobilization, underground structures of movement, isolation of South Africa in trade matters and Umkhonto we Sizwe (the armed struggle wing of ANC, co-founded by Nelson Mandela in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre).

COSATU has moved in an unfortunate direction. It was previously a part of the revolutionary movement and played a critical role in the overthrow of the apartheid system. It was COSATU that went into exile with the ANC in different capacities. At that point, we were driven by the same revolutionary agenda to overthrow the apartheid system. But also to mainstream, as a part of the revolutionary agenda, the execution of what we defined as the national democratic revolution. We have been a part of an alliance. And that alliance was brought together through the championing of a minimum program.

That minimum program is the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter needs to be advanced because the people of the country, in Fliptown and other areas, rejected the apartheid system, its colonization and super exploitation of Black people. The Freedom Charter was the cornerstone upon which the ANC was formed. Essentially, in 1910, a union developed between English and Afrikaner capital – whose sole mission was to exploit Black people. So, the ANC was formed in 1912, in reaction to the coalescing of the white groups in South Africa.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Many people on the Left would argue that South Africa has transitioned to a de-colonization process instead of national liberation. What is your perspective on this distinction?

Irvin Jim: It has become very clear since South Africa’s independence, that what was secured, through negotiated agreement, was some form of political power without the necessary economic power. There was a lot of engagement by Capital of ANC leaders before liberation.

By now, we can see that what we achieved was a negotiated agreement and quite frankly, we can be bold enough to say this, because of the research that has come out on this topic. What Black South Africans secured was political power without economic power. Because of the research and our current political reality, we can conclude that a “deal” was done. It was such a cheap deal for white monopoly capital – for multinationals. Apartheid, with all of its structures and institutions was expensive to maintain, the costs of police in our communities, the maintenance of an army and other infrastructures of oppression. Of course, it was also expensive for the revolutionary forces, as well. But we quickly learned that political power without economic power is an empty shell.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Were you surprised in 1996 when then President Nelson Mandela decided to endorse the World Bank Structural Adjustment Program?

Irvin Jim: Unfortunately, for us, when the movement led by Mandela in 1996 endorsed the World Bank structural adjustment program we found out that the devil is in the details. It became a very terrible program for our people. It destroyed jobs across sectors, removed exchange controls and allowed money to leave the country to search for financial speculation. South African companies were allowed to list in London, Lisbon and therefore investing in the casino economy. Mind you, we desperately needed to invest in our own production sectors of the economy in order to create jobs. We are the only country where the reserve bank is still in private hands and it basically champions inflation and keeps high interest rates, as the only pillar to attract capitol infusion. The ANC government has refused to nationalize the mineral and extractive industries and finance.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Did NUMSA take the position that it would not support ANC candidates in future elections and that the union would organize a United Front- perhaps, a Worker’s Party?

Irvin Jim: In 2013, we decided that we shall not take workers money and campaign for the ANC. In fact, the workers resolved that the time has come that we must organize the working class, as a class to challenge the neoliberal agenda and settle the fight for the full implementation of the Freedom Charter. As such, that means that we will launch and organize a United Front. The United Front will be a “front” to take up battles. We are very clear that we lost the South African Communist Party, which used to be with us in the trenches because the ANC took all of its leadership to Parliament and instead of [the South African Communist Party] championing the working class struggle it has become the spokesperson of the State.

COSATU is now run by a group of individuals who are aligned with the ANC and co-opted from both the main ANC group and the South African Communist Party. Outside of COASTU, they took a decision that they would dismiss NUMSA and dismiss Vavi. As things stand, we are talking about alternatives -- of launching a United Front of crystalizing an alternative political organ and building a new federation.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: What would you like this trip to Washington, DC accomplish in the short term?

Zwelinzima Vavi: We are forever indebted to the labor and anti-apartheid movements for the role that it played. We are coming back now to ask for both labor and anti-apartheid activists to discuss the obstacles and challenges still facing South Africa, such as the challenge of democracy. We want to make sure that South Africa does not slide back into a dictatorship or become yet another symbol of a great promise that fades into a failed state.

Irvin Jim: What the South African people fought for is not what they have received and not the vision put forth by the Freedom Charter. We think it is high time that we continue the struggle for liberation.

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News Sun, 02 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
ALEC, Where Corporations Are "People" Like You and Me http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32172-alec-where-corporations-are-people-like-you-and-me http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32172-alec-where-corporations-are-people-like-you-and-me

Also see: Blowing the Whistle on ALEC's Little Brother ACCE - for Local Officials

Empty suit(Image: Empty suit via Shutterstock)Unlike other political organizations of locally elected public officials, corporations, business associations, and think tanks are full voting ALEC members, referred to as the private-interest partners.

From talking to one private-interest member, the cost of joining ALEC is just over $1,000 but to vote in one of ALEC’s task forces that make policies, the cost goes above $3,000. I suspect that a higher contribution allows for greater participation: sort of a pay-to-play model. However, no fee schedule was available. I believe that a dozen corporations paid $50,000 a piece to just sponsor ALEC’s conference, and that another 42 paid at least $10,000 for that privilege (updated).

While I could not attend ALEC’s task force meetings where corporations vote, I saw how corporations participated in ACCE’s meeting. There were five private-sector representatives at the initial orientation meeting of 15 attendees: two represented tobacco interests, including one from RJ Reynolds Tobacco, two bail bond interests, and one from the Americans for Progressive Bag Alliance, the folks who fight plastic bag bans. Some weren’t actually from corporations but lawyers servicing those businesses. At no time did I count more than 7 private sector members at a meeting, and they were always out numbered two to one by the public sector members.

All ALEC task forces, and ACCE in this case, have two co-chairs, one from the private sector and one from the public sector. At our meeting, they were Nicholas Wachinski, an attorney and former director of the American Bail Coalition, and a self-declared Democrat. The other was Mayor John Harkins of Stratford, Connecticut and former Connecticut House Republican Caucus Chairman.

Over the two days of ACCE meetings, there were never more than 30 people in attendance. Forty-two had registered for the ACCE conference, which was held simultaneously with the ALEC meeting, sharing breakfasts and lunch to hear national speakers.

The ACCE panels covered the following topics: streamlining the permitting process as proposed by one councilmember; increasing the use of PVC piping to replace metal piping pitched by a company selling that product; exploring the use of body cameras by the head of the police union, who made an even-handed presentation; the role of federalism as a defense of state preemption laws and stopping unfunded mandates by law professor Rob Natelson; and lobbyists presenting local free-market alternatives to payday loan companies being put out of business by federal consumer protection laws.

Some panels were just business reps pitching their products within the context of promoting more local control to get around federal regulations. However, in the case of preemption, it was a strategy for passing local right to work laws in states that didn’t have those restricting laws. This clearly promoted ALEC’s goal of overturning existing federal or state laws that provided worker or environmental protections in favor of letting the free market control local decision-making. One piece of advice that came from the attorney promoting his services for this approach: don’t mess with public employees right now, they’re too powerful. There are so many other pickings to go after, wait until you have enough political momentum to focus on them.

At the end of the two-day session the ACCE members broke into 4 small task forces to discuss and propose any resolutions for consideration. Two were brought forward and passed. One called for fair competition for city water projects, which was a way of allowing PVC pipes to be included in all bids. It was probably written with the help of the lobbyist promoting his client’s products.

The other motion encouraged ACCE members to push their state legislators to adopt Arizona’s legislation denying cities from passing any plastic bag bans. I pointed out to a member that this didn’t seem to be in alignment with federalism. He said that it was too confusing to have so many different local laws and this was a more pragmatic approach. Federalism went only so far.

Ironically, in the panel discussion on cities passing their own right to work laws, arguments were made that cities should be able to be exempt from state laws that allowed workers to organize for collective bargaining. In this instance, it didn’t matter if many cities had different rules within the same state. That proposal did not come up for a vote.

It takes a majority vote within both the private and public sectors to pass any legislation in ALEC or ACCE. If one sector disagrees with the proposal it does not pass. The public sector moves the motion and the votes are taken.

In this particular instance, the public officials spoke passionately in promoting the plastic bag bans. The corporate representatives were passive. They didn’t need to beat the drum. One public official emphatically said that she did not want local government to pay for inspectors to check on the thickness of bags. The resolution was packaged as protecting retailers and consumer choice and one amendment was added by another public official, "We believe that the free market is the best arbiter for container choice." He could have added, "and for all other decisions." (CMD has previously documented how public officials have been scripted by the ALEC private sector to take the lead in the debate over the bills sought by the private sector, as part of ALEC's PR claims that the public sector is driving the (private sector) legislation.)

Next up, ALEC’s targeted enemies.

ALEC’s Targets: Unions, the Supreme Court, Political Parties and Bureaucrats

Unions are ALEC’s favorite whipping boy. When ALEC opened up its conference with Governor Scott Walker, he snapped that whip within his first few moments boasting "we took on the unions and won." The crowd cheered. Even though union membership has been slashed by two-thirds from its peak in the mid-fifties, there are still enough left to be kicked around to show one’s allegiance to a free-market unfettered by over-paid complaining workers.

During one of the ACCE panels, a councilmember gave a thoughtful description of how a city’s permitting process could be streamlined, but then at the end he apologized for not laying off a bunch of city workers as it was part of a compromise to get his legislation passed.

While ALEC met inside the Hyatt in San Diego, more than 1,000 union members and their supporters demonstrated outside opposing ALEC’s model legislation which would strip away the right of workers to organize and bargain for better working conditions. A councilmember speaking at our ACCE meeting chuckled after the sound of beating drums drifted up to the room. She smartly remarked, "We must be doing something right, if we can hear their drums."

Later inside the elevator, several ACCE members chatted about how the demonstrators were bused in and they were just the same folks going to different sites. Another laughed and said that they were capitalists because they wanted jobs.

If the Democrat-dominated unions are scorned and dismissed as a nuisance, it’s the Republican-dominated SCOTUS (i.e., the Supreme Court) that is feared and loathed as an enemy of federalism and hence freedom. It seemed apparent to all present at ALEC that the recent decisions upholding gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) trampled state sovereignty. That led to many a speaker on and off the stage to characterize SCOTUS as irrelevant and acting beyond its powers.

Gov. Mike Huckabee renamed the Supreme Court the "Extreme Court", telling an ALEC luncheon that they "cannot make laws, they give thoughtful opinions, but they don't have law-making powers." At another gathering, a speaker kept emphasizing how the Court's opinions -- drawing out the last word so no one would miss her point -- could be ignored, since "They don’t make laws, all they do is give opinions."

Mark Meckler, the co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots and current President of Citizens for Self-Governance, argued for having a Convention of States to constitutionally limit the terms of the SCOTUS justices and possibly other federal judges.

Closer to home, at the ACCE meetings, the most apparent enemy to innovation were politicians’ own local city and county staffs and other politicians. It didn’t matter if they were Republicans or conservatives.

Jon Russell, the director of ACCE, said the main purpose of their members was to rock the boat, get changes made. He told me how his own all-white council was out of touch with the city’s substantial minority population. He got the council elections moved, over opposition on the council but with the support of the local NAACP, from May to November in line with national elections in order to encourage more of the black community to vote.

A county commissioner in Indiana criticized the Republican supermajority-controlled legislature for funding a rapid ride bus project through an income tax increase. He assured me that he opposed this mass transit project because of the funding not the project itself. He also shared with a small group of us that the Chamber was behind the income tax, because they didn’t want businesses to spend the money on the project and instead were willing to see their workers pay for it.

A Phoenix City Council member complained to our ACCE meeting that city staff refused to give him information on how they handled the permit process, and that other council members, Republicans and Democrats alike, didn’t care to make any changes to speed up permitting because it would be too much work. He was surprised to find that even some businesses would just as soon keep the current practices because they didn’t want to fight the system.

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Opinion Sun, 02 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
US Education Reform and the Maintenance of White Supremacy Through Structural Violence http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32171-us-education-reform-and-the-maintenance-of-white-supremacy-through-structural-violence http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32171-us-education-reform-and-the-maintenance-of-white-supremacy-through-structural-violence

School bus(Image: School bus via Shutterstock)

U.S public schools are more segregated today than they have been since before the desegregation efforts that followed the 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education. Coinciding with this segregation are vast racial inequities and stratification, which are being intensified through the policies known as corporate education reform. In this article, we share the voices and stories of scholars and education activists who have documented the racism and segregation of U.S. public schooling over the rise of corporate education reform. We start with the current state of our segregated schools, before stepping back and looking at the historical and ideological context of U.S. schooling under industrial capitalism, white supremacy and neoliberalism, all creating the perfect storm for the punitive and dehumanizing conditions within 21st century public education. We will then explore the formula of corporate education reform through an examination of specific instruments used to enact these policies: school choice and charters, high-stakes testing, and the disciplining and criminalizing of black and brown bodies. We also examine the delivery of these policies via the discourse used to justify them and the intentions behind them. Finally, we call the question of whether public schools are our best hope for achieving social and economic equity and how those working in this struggle might keep that vision in mind.

“We have, in the country, a history of not just the police, but the state, the law enforcement agencies, disrespecting black life. And it’s disrespected in hundreds of ways. And then the police are just one expression of that. And again, we can measure that now. It’s not simply a question of asking. And it’s not the same as saying, “Is the country racist?” or even, “Are the police racist?” We live in a system in which black life is devalued. And it’s reflected in our schools.”

john a. powell, August 19th, 2014, in an interview with Amy Goodman about the events in Ferguson, MO.

Introduction

In the midst of the writing of this article, white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed, 18-year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The events that quickly followed—Brown’s bloody body left lying for hours in the street for all to see; the violent militarized police response to community expressions of pain and anger; the perpetuation of a blaming narrative about racial violence by framing Brown as a wilding “demon” who attacked Wilson which provided the subterfuge to exonerate Wilson of the crime; and establishment leaders pathologizing the ensuing social unrest—are emblematic of a deeply rooted violent design in U.S. society.

Michael Brown’s murder is just one of countless reminders that we live in a society that deems the lives of Black and Brown people disposable. This disposability is never so evident than in the vast racial inequities that have always existed within the U.S. public school system, and now being intensified through policies known as corporate education reform as exemplified by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Charles Blow wrote in the New York Times that “Brown’s mother told a local television station after he was killed just weeks after his high school graduation: “Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many black men graduate? Not many. Because you bring them down to this type of level, where they feel like they don’t got nothing to live for anyway. ‘They’re going to try to take me out anyway’” (Blow, 2014, para. 22).

Poignantly, two months prior to his killing, education historian Diane Ravitch wrote about Brown’s school district, citing it as an egregious example of the neglect of the nation’s promise to end racial segregation in schools. She wrote:

That district had been a high-achieving all-white district in the 1950s. After years of white flight, the district became all-African-American. As its test scores fell, the state of Missouri put the district on provisional accreditation. Help was definitely not on the way. After 18 years of provisional accreditation, the state merged the struggling Normandy district with another struggling, all-black district that had been under state supervision for five years. After the merger, the new district was stripped of accreditation (Ravitch, 2014, para. 1).

Michael Brown’s school district, like many other poor and under resourced districts in the country, is one of numerous examples of the ongoing legacy of institutionalized racism in U.S. society and in U.S. schools. If current policymakers were truly working toward justice in public schooling, it would follow that we would see all children enjoying the privileges of schooling environments that the children of the elite experience. Civil rights activist and the first female African American judge in Alabama, Faya Rouse Touré, critically poses this question, exposing the contradictions between policymakers’ rhetoric and their practices. She contemplates why anyone wouldn’t want an education system that is humane for all children, where every child has the opportunity and the preparation to achieve his or her potential.

Education systems in all societies are designed to serve as the primary institutions that reproduce dominant social and economic orders, customs and beliefs systems. In U.S. public education, this makes schooling a function of capitalism, white supremacy and their intrinsic restraints on democracy and social equality. Current efforts to reform primary and secondary public education are based within the violence of white supremacy aligned with the broader brutality of neoliberalism. Elite, Eurocentric education policymakers continue to espouse a language of equity while simultaneously maintaining private elite schools for their own children, spaces that look nothing like the ones they are designing for the masses. This results in a hyper intensification of the sorting of students based on their “value” as defined by a neoliberal worldview steeped in white supremacy. In this system, those identified to have the least amount of value are ultimately deemed disposable.

This article is composed of several components that seem on the surface distinct but are actually quite connected, and will illustrate the relationship between education reform policies and the lives of children and communities of color in the United States. Essential to this project are selected audio interviews with some of the most powerful U.S. critical education scholars and activists of our time. Alongside our own narrative, we share their voices and stories, collected by Education Radio[1] from July 2011 through June 2012. The two authors of this article were producers for Education Radio, which documented testimony and analysis of the impact of U.S. education reform policies on schools and communities. We have selected pieces of that audio from the Education Radio collection as a way to weave together a narrative of a public education system that is structured—both historically and contemporarily—within the violence of white supremacy. Our hope is that the voices we share will both enhance the story we are telling as well as connect readers more deeply to the issues we discuss.

We begin with the current state of our segregated schools, what Jonathan Kozol refers to as a state of “apartheid education” (Kozol, 2005). Then, we step back and look at the historical and ideological context of U.S. schooling under industrial capitalism, white supremacy and neoliberalism—all creating the perfect storm for the punitive and dehumanizing conditions within 21st century public education. We explore the formula of corporate education reform through an examination of specific instruments used to enact these policies: school choice and charter schools, high-stakes testing, and the disciplining and criminalizing of Black and Brown bodies. We also examine the delivery of these policies via the discourse used to justify them and the intentions behind them. Finally, we call the question of whether public schools are our best hope for achieving social and economic equity, and how those working in this struggle might keep that vision in mind.

Current Context: Separate and Unequal

U.S public schools are more segregated today than they have been since before the desegregation efforts that followed the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case (Kozol, 2005; Mullins, 2013; Rothstein, 2013; Strauss, 2014; UCLA, 2014). Many education scholars have noted the simultaneous widening of the gap between resourced and under-resourced schools over the same time period that the market-based education reforms, heralded by their proponents as addressing this inequity, have been implemented. Education activist and author Jonathan Kozol reminds us that the travesty lies not just with segregation of schools but within the combination of segregation and inequity – and remarks that if we had separate but equal schools we would at least be living up to the Plessy vs. Ferguson, the landmark 1896 U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld state segregation laws but required those segregated public spaces to be “separate but equal.” However, as Kozol laments, U.S. schools are decidedly separate and unequal.

Despite the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, education looks very different for many Black and Brown children than it does for many white children. But in addition to integrating students of different races, desegregation must also address the racist and white supremacist structures institutionalized within U.S. education policy and practices. As education activist and author Soloman Comissiong writes, “After all, has desegregation cleansed the black community of the infestation of American racism and white supremacy? Integration only truly works when the integratee is allowed the same rights, respect, and overall privileges as the integrator” (Comissiong, 2009, para. 2). Half-century after Brown, racial segregation in U.S. schools is intensifying, while the current desegregation practices that do exist require children of color to assimilate to and model the behaviors, values and appearances of middle-class white America (Comissiong, 2009). Even if mandates are followed, the threat of structural racism continues and equality of opportunity and equality of outcome remains elusive.

The reality that children are living their lives in vastly segregated spaces—both in and outside of school—shapes how both white and Black students view themselves and their world. In a talk that New York City public school teacher and education activist Brian Jones gave to a group of parents and teachers during Black History Month in February 2012, he describes the way his 6th grade students understood their schooling environment through the lens of segregation and how current policies and rhetoric ignore what it would take to truly address issues of segregation.

A theme in Jones’s stories are the repeated contradictions he points out—that in his class discussion of Ruby Bridges and the success of desegregation—he is speaking to a completely segregated room of Black students, that the schools named after Black civil rights leaders are almost always the most segregated schools and in the most segregated urban areas, and that current education policies—driven by notions of excellence rather than equity—ignore the issues that have the potential to actually address segregated schooling (i.e., resources). No matter how conspicuous the segregation of schooling, it seems to remain hidden from policymakers who choose to omit it from their discourse.

This standpoint of ignoring race, of ignoring struggles related to poverty and equity in public education—of ignoring any policy that might lead to greater social and economic equity for students and communities of color—must be explored within a wider historical context of white supremacy and neoliberal capitalism.

Historical Context: White Supremacy and Neoliberalism

During the 15th century the Transatlantic Slave Trade, along with the conquest and colonization of the global south and the western hemisphere by European monarchies, set in motion a genocidal era and a corresponding worldview that has inflicted incalculable suffering to this day. This worldview—known as white supremacy—became firmly established in North America with the conquest, mass murder, enslavement and dehumanization of African and Native people by the white Europeans who founded the United States.

According to sociologist Joseph Feagin, this broad worldview is composed of entrenched racist narratives, racist images, racist biases and racist emotions that together construct a powerful belief system that rationalizes systems of racial violence and oppression. Feagin refers to this worldview as the white racial frame, which has two primary subframes. One white racial subframe, often referred to as “white supremacy,” affirms the superiority of white people in every possible way including intelligence, work habits, religion, morals, civilization, language and appearance. This powerful pro-white frame comes with a set of attitudes, images, emotions and stereotypes. The second white racial subframe targets and dehumanizes people of color and includes anti-Black, anti-Latino, anti-Asian and anti-Indigenous subframes (Feagin, 2012).

This historical context is essential to understanding that race is not a biological or genetic concept. Rather, it is a social construct manufactured by a dominant group based on their power to impose boundaries of group membership and define race as a means to justify exploitation, subjugation and murder to establish racial superiority. Racism is based on the assertion of white supremacy and operationalizes the ideological, structural, and institutional disparity in the distribution of social and material rewards, benefits, privileges as well as access to resources, capital, property and the possession of social agency, power and influence (Goodman, 2005; Lusca, 2008; Moses, 2004; Ortiz, 2013; Wells, 2013). Moving beyond an understanding of racism as stereotype or bigotry, and grasping the deeply entrenched racial narratives through which white people view the world is a foundational part of any project of liberation and justice. In addition, it is important to recognize how the virulent legacy of white supremacy persists in all facets of contemporary U.S. society.

While this article presents lived experiences and documented narratives to illustrate the brutal nature of racial terrorism and violence in the U.S., hard data also bear out this reality. People of color make up nearly thirty percent of the U.S. population, yet account for sixty percent of those imprisoned. These incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color, with 1 in every 15 Black men and 1 in every 36 Latino men incarcerated as opposed to 1 in every 106 white men. One in three Black men will go to prison in their lifetime. While the number of women incarcerated is relatively low in the U.S. (yet has increased by 800 percent over the last thirty years), Black women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated; and Latino women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated (ACLU, 2011; Bowman, 2010; Kerby, 2012; Sentencing Project, 2007; Sentencing Project, 2014).

Racial profiling also results in people of color having a disproportionate number of encounters with police—they are three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop compared to white people. Black people are twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to be subjected to the use of force when encountering the police. Nationwide, young Black males are 21 times more likely to be killed by police compared to young white males (ACLU, 2007; Gabrielson, Jones & Sagara, 2014; Kerby, 2012). According to the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization that represents prisoners who have been denied fair treatment in the legal system, “the lives of African Americans have been profoundly shaped by the era of slavery, the era of racial terror that continued from the end of Reconstruction until World War II, the era of Jim Crow and racial apartheid that produced the civil rights movement, and now the era of mass incarceration” (2014, para. 2).

Additionally, felony-disenfranchisement policies in 11 states deny the right to vote to over 10 percent of their Black population. Current efforts by state legislators to implement restrictive voter ID laws that disproportionately impact people of color along with shortened early voting periods, limits on same-day voter registration, polling places without enough voting machines or poll workers are furthering the marginalization of Black and Latino voters (Kerby, 2012; Liebelson, 2014; Oh, 2014; Sentencing Project, 2009).

These forms of racial violence and disenfranchisement disproportionately subject people of color to a life of poverty or economic insecurity that further impedes social, political and economic agency; effectively distressing family systems and severely impacting health outcomes and life expectancy (Marable, 2001; Goldberg, 2012; Ortiz, 2013; Justice Policy Institute, 2014).

In the U.S. the prevailing and deeply rooted social order of white supremacy and structural racism have long served the political, economic and cultural interests of capitalism. Over the past three decades a more expansive and aggressive form of capitalism known as neoliberalism has been imposed on economies globally, mandating the deregulation of private industry and elimination of social welfare programs; eradicating labor, environmental and civil protections; facilitating the privatization and marketization of public sector institutions; and lifting trade and tax barriers in order to maximize corporate shareholder profits across borders. Government’s role in this new order is confined to ensuring that corporate subsidies are prioritized over public investment, and that policy decisions further the accumulation of wealth for an elite minority, while austerity is the rule of law for the vast majority. In the U.S. and elsewhere, these social darwinistic policies and practices ensure entirely new levels of suffering for groups who have been, and continue to be, systematically subjugated (Gewirtz, 1995; Apple, 2006; Scott, 2011). Henry Giroux goes on to claim:

The spectacle of neoliberal misery is too great to deny any more and the only mode of control left by corporate-controlled societies is violence, but a violence that is waged against the most disposable… Under the regime of neoliberalism, the circle of those considered disposable and subject to state violence is now expanding. The heavy hand of the state is not only racist; it is also part of an authoritarian mode of governance willing to do violence to anyone who threatens neoliberal capitalism, white Christian fundamentalism, and the power of the military-industrial-academic-surveillance state (Giroux, 2014, para. 2).

On a global scale over the past thirty-five years, neoliberal ideologues within governments, private think tanks, trade associations and private industries have had their sights set on public education, which in many countries remains the largest public sector institution with the densest unionized workforce. The public school system in the U.S. remains a microcosm of this landscape—with extreme levels of disinvestment and institutionalized means of disposability—manifesting in spaces that are supposed to serve children of color. According to Means, this scheme has:

…led to a general disinvestment in public schools—especially the most historically neglected and racially segregated—in favor of school privatization initiatives designed to create school systems of ‘choice’, where parents ‘shop’ for schools in a competitive marketplace. This has led to the erosion of public schools and the development of charter schools, voucher schemes, and for-profit schools, effectively allowing corporations to take over large sectors of public education systems throughout the United States. This has coincided with union busting, the imposition of a narrowed and scripted curriculum, the de-skilling of teachers, and the operation of schools under a corporate managerial structure…(2008, p. 4).

Within the neoliberal design, public education systems are well positioned to be transformed into profit-generating enterprises that will effectively control, sort and indoctrinate students to become obedient subjects of a corporatocracy as future workers, prisoners and consumer citizens (Scott & Keisch, 2014). The realities of structural racism coupled with the ruthless nature of neoliberalism—broadly and within education reform—further dehumanizes Black and Brown youth as commodities within the for-profit education marketplace, while also intensifying their disposability on a massive scale.

Chris Kershner of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce made the dehumanizing design of corporate education reform explicit when he claimed, “The business community is the consumer of the educational product. Students are the educational product. They are going through the education system so that they can be an attractive product for business to consume and hire as a workforce in the future” (Straus, 2014, para. 8).

We see this market logic being applied globally and across spheres. Education scholar Kevin Kumashiro notes the similarity between neoliberal institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank’s structural adjustment mandates and corporate education reform policies imposed on public schools.

While Kumashiro illustrates how this framework of marketization and global neoliberalism leads to even greater disparities and an increase in structural racism, Professor of Education William Watkins explains that in the U.S., neoliberal ideologues inherited a pre-existing racist society that conveniently serves their interests.

Corporate education reformers, who adhere to this neoliberal approach to education imbued with racism, purport to offer their reforms as a way to challenge long-standing education inequities. Attorney and Executive Director of Witness to Innocence David Love talks about the problem with education reformers trying to “sell a bill of goods” to desperate communities, without revealing their true goal of privatization of public schooling. Love reflects on his experience working in Pennsylvania politics around education issues and his observations during that time that the public was always very concerned about cuts to education, because historically public schools were an important means of social mobility. Love also notes that it is not a coincidence that as school budgets are being cut, prisons budgets are increasing, and there is no shortage of space in prisons for more poor people and people of color.

Civil rights activist Faya Rose Touré has underscored, in her advocacy work, how the U.S. education system has always primarily served capitalism and white supremacy. She upholds an alternative vision that includes a holistic approach to schooling in which children’s social and emotional needs are met; in which every child has a foundational education across all subjects (including art and music) that serves both vocational and life enriching purposes; and in which all children learn the histories of people of color- including the legacies, accomplishments and the complex and devastating struggles (Touré, 2013). In the following clip Touré notes that Black bodies are no longer needed for their physical labor, and yet their bodies are still needed for the economic success of the prison system. She notes that her vision of education (as described above), poses a threat to capitalism.

The Formula of Corporate Education Reform

All of what we have outlined thus far has set the stage for the implementation of corporate education reform policies, which by design, are intended to restructure public education to exist outside of public control and instead serve private profit generating interests (Scott, 2011). Accordingly, journalist Stephanie Simon, reporting at an education investors gathering in 2012, wrote, “The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18: The entire education sector…represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors…investors are signaling optimism that a golden moment has arrived. They’re pouring private equity and venture capital into scores of companies that aim to profit by taking over broad swaths of public education” (para. 5 & 7).

Moving from ideology to policy, we will examine the ways in which corporate education reform is carried out through a similar formula across the U.S. This formula is enacted in ways that are subtle as well as obvious, but consistently employs the notion of the “free-market” as well as inherently embeds a white supremacy worldview. Something to keep in mind, as we describe particular instruments employed, is that the children of the wealthy (and usually white) do not have to navigate this formula. Across the board, the children of the elite, including the children of those who are dictating these reforms such as Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, the Walton Family, etc., attend schools that look nothing like those that corporate education reform mandates require. Those children attend private schools with no high-stakes testing, with small classes, with project-based learning and authentic assessment. Those are schools where music and the arts flourish, where learning is approached holistically, and is often self-directed (Cohen 2013; Davies, 2013; Davis, 2014, Sirota, 2012). It is useful to return to the question we posed in the introduction – if these are the schools that are working for the children of the wealthy, why do the schools for the children of the poor look so incredibly different?

There are many instruments used to implement the formula of corporate education reform, which is being carried out in different cities and towns across the U.S. As we articulated in Education Inc.,

Within the scheme of corporate education reform, there is a formula repeatedly being enacted – on state, city and district levels – to institutionalize education reform policies. While slight variations in the formula exist, there are shared elements within several main areas: standardized testing, the market notion of ‘choice,’ privatization, union-busting, profiteering and workforce development – meaning students as future workers are trained to have the vocational aptitudes required by private sector industries (Scott & Keisch, 2014, para. 8).

Before we examine the specific instruments, it is important to note the coupling of corporate education reform policies and the neoliberalization of cities, which reinforces the displacement of low-income people of color and the gentrification of their communities. Neoliberal education policies contribute to this through “racialized discourses of pathology that legitimate racial exclusion and expropriation of their communities for capital accumulation” (Lipman, 2011, p. 231). Large portions of poor Black and Brown urban communities that have been subjected to neoliberal austerity measures for decades are now being eyed as valuable real estate, for commercial and housing development that serves white middle-class and upper middle-class people (Lipman, 2011, Fenwick, 2013).

Historically, education and housing policy have been closely linked in the structural landscape of racial apartheid in the U.S. Schools have long been a major selling point in terms of housing markets in specific neighborhoods. Realtors will promote a house in a so-called “good” school district, with corresponding higher home prices. In this case “good” is code for high-performing schools (i.e., high test scores) with college preparatory curriculum, which infers schools with a majority of affluent white children. The relationship between racially segregated neighborhoods and racially segregated schools is also inherent to the neoliberal design. In line with this, policies in cities around the country that seek to disinvest from, close, “flip” or “turnaround” neighborhood public schools in poor communities are contributing to the displacement of low-income Black and Brown residents, replacing these schools with incentivized charter schools that appeal to white middle-class families— essentially greasing the wheels of gentrification.

This process is also being encouraged by current federal policy found in the 2009 federal stimulus that authorized states to allocate billions of dollars in Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs), allowing under resourced schools to access interest-free bond financing. Charter schools conveniently have access to more flexible bond resources than public school districts. “By allocating millions of dollars in little-known bonds exclusively to charters while imposing austerity on public facilities, the state has quietly stacked the deck for charters, leaving neighborhood schools to molder in decline” (Davis, 2014, para. 4). Additionally, many states that receive federal QSCB bonds are primarily allocating them to charter schools. Nationally, charters are being creative, if not notorious, for using their political capital, large financial reserves and leveraging their flexible federal bond resources to “flip” dilapidated public schools, and in some cases other buildings located in poor communities, into charter schools that fit within the larger gentrification plans of cities (Davis, 2014; Fenwick, 2013; Lipman, 2011; Paschall, 2014; Scott, 2013).

Leslie Fenwick, Dean of the Howard University School of Education, adds:

Whether they are solidly middle- or upper-income or poor, neither group of blacks controls the critical economic levers shaping school reform. And, this is because urban school reform is not about schools or reform. It is about land development…black inner-city residents are suspicious of school reform (particularly when it is attached to neighborhood revitalization) which they view as an imposition from external white elites who are exclusively committed to using schools to recalculate urban land values at the expense of black children, parents and communities (Fenwick, 2013, para. 4).

In the following pages we will focus on three primary instruments used to implement the formula of corporate education reform: the notion of “choice” and charters, high-stakes testing, and discipline and criminalization.

Choice and Charters

The rhetoric of choice is central to the formula of corporate education reform, as it is to all neoliberal policy discourse, and is closely tied to the notion of the free market and viewing students (and their parents) as consumers of education. The purported idea is that if schools are expected to compete for “customers,’ they will be forced to improve, thereby increasing equity among schools. This philosophy, in practice, is an illusion that ignores the existing deep racial and class stratification that school districts are already facing when they lose students (and large pieces of their budgets) to charter schools or other public schools. This is also grounded in the “no excuses” rhetoric that implies if a person is just hardworking enough, he or she will succeed—that individuals are either to be rewarded or to blame for their own successes and failures—thus absolving society, the state, or any socioeconomic context of all responsibility (Lack, 2011; Strauss, 2012; Weiss & Long, 2013).

The proliferation of charter schools within the framework of choice is especially pernicious. Charters operate on the tuition they receive from the school district in which the attending student resides and thus are not affected by state level budget cuts. The money that follows children attending charters decimates the local school budgets, as those districts maintain the same brick and mortar expenses that they’ve always had. Charter proponents will often cite state reimbursement formulas as a justification for this siphoning of funding, however the reality is that districts often face an overall net loss.

In Massachusetts, for example, there is a complicated reimbursement formula that results in much of these monies not being recovered by districts. As state legislative assistant Paul Dunphy described in a letter to the editor of his local paper, “every year there are new charter students, as some enroll and others leave. Under the state formula, public school districts only receive reimbursement if their total charter school costs increase from one year to the next, and the reimbursement is only on the increase. And the reimbursement is made at a declining rate over several years. So in time, virtually the entire financial burden of charter schools falls on public school districts” (Dunphy, 2013). In the city of Holyoke, MA, approximately 85% of children are on free and reduced lunch (a common indicator of low socioeconomic status in schools) (Massachusetts Department of Education, 2013). In FY2014, Holyoke lost nearly $12 million to charters and choice combined and received only $1.8 million from the state in charter reimbursement (Plaisance, 2014a). That same year, due to an incredible $4.5 million budget deficit, the Holyoke schools were faced with cutting programs and laying off teachers, despite protests from students, parents and teachers in the school community (Monahan, 2014; Plaisance, 2014b).

Charter schools fall broadly into two main categories—for profit charters and non-profit charters (often considered to be boutique in nature). In either case, these schools are privately operated. As we explained in a column we wrote for our local newspaper, even the so-called boutique charters do not operate as public schools in practice: “To be clear, charters are not traditional public sector schools. They are unaccountable to locally elected school committees and appoint or elect their own boards that control their budgets and hire and fire employees. Charters are labeled ‘public’ due to being publicly funded and free… for those who are ‘fortunate enough to win a spot’ via a lottery” (Scott & Keisch, 2013).

An important piece to note is that charter schools are not mandated to accept all students as public schools are, thus, they can push out students who are “undesirable” and who might bring down test scores. In other words, they can push out those students who are distracted by more pressing matters based on their socioeconomic conditions – students who have multiple stressors within their family systems; for whom English is not their first language; whose cultural and ethnic identities are marginalized; who have significant learning challenges; who struggle from mental health conditions; whose learning abilities are incompatible with imposed standards; who require time and attention schools don’t allow for; or who don’t “fit” into the population those schools are cultivating (Clawson, 2013; Knefel, 2014).

Not surprisingly, research has shown that charters are part of the engine of increasing segregation, as they continue to sort students along race and class lines (UCLA, 2014). A 2014 research review by Iris Rotberg of George Washington University showed that “there is a strong link between school choice programs and an increase in student segregation by race, ethnicity, and income” and that “the risk of segregation is a direct reflection of the design of the school choice program” (Rotberg, 2014). It is not difficult to point to glaring evidence of segregation as a result of charters, particularly in urban areas already experiencing visible segregation (Ahlquist, 2012).

In the following clip Jonathan Kozol notes that corporate education reformers, who have little to no understanding of education but know a lot about business, readily invoke interests in eliminating longstanding educational inequities. He claims they do this by promoting the sorting of poor children according to varying advantages and abilities into what is he refers to as boutique charter schools. Kozol also questions the social values of middle-class liberal white parents who he suggests favor their small alternative and racially-isolated progressive schools; seeming to not notice or care that poor Black and Latino students are absent from those spaces. Kozol goes on to call this phenomenon “built in apartheid.”

Often those who defend charter schools, particularly the boutique charters, will claim that the intention of charters is sound, that some have merely strayed from these intents, and that they can be reclaimed and still have potential as spaces to experiment with education for the social good. However, charters are now so embedded as instruments in the machine of corporatization in the effort to defund public schools—and are so championed by those who seek to obliterate public education and turn it over to the free market—it is difficult to imagine them outside of this framework. Additionally, there is no reason why community public schools can’t also experiment and revision public education for the public good, and some are indeed doing that incredibly successfully (see the Mission Hill School in Boston for one such example: http://www.missionhillschool.org/a-year-at-mission-hill/).

In the following clip, William Watkins notes that charter schools originated with good intentions as new experimental models of education that could provide greater creative opportunities within schools. He goes on to explain that this was short lived and instead they became organizations run by “hustlers, grifters and profiteering corporations.” Watkins talks about the amount of charter schools that are owned by large corporations, and how once they are granted their charter by a state, they receive public funds and the same capital expenditures that public schools receive, proving to be very profitable.

One of the most striking examples of charter schools as an essential instrument of the privatization movement in the U.S. is what happened to the New Orleans Public Schools after Hurricane Katrina. The immeasurable destruction that Katrina wreaked on New Orleans was viewed by the U.S. Department of Education, as well as corporate reformers and profiteers as an opportunity for obliterating the public schools in that city, by turning them over to charters (Carr, 2013, Klein, 2011). Arne Duncan’s was explicit about this mission when, four years after Katrina, he said in an interview, “I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina” (Anderson, 2009). Now, nine years after Katrina, New Orleans public schools are some of the most segregated and stratified by race and class in the U.S.—as of the fall of 2014, 100% of its schools are charters. While the New Orleans population is made up primarily of people of color, nearly 80% of the city’s white students attend the most selective charter schools, according to a study published by the Institute on Race and Poverty (Institute on Race and Poverty, 2010).

According to Al Jazeera America producer Dexter Mullins, other larger urban districts are looking to replicate the New Orleans charter school initiative. He writes, “There are efforts in Washington, D.C.; Detroit, Kansas City, MO; Newark, NJ, and Philadelphia, among others to replicate the New Orleans way of schooling, in part or completely, in an effort to turn around struggling city schools. All those cities have large, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations of color, and the majority live in the inner city, where public schools often receive much less funding and are much more segregated than schools in better-off suburban areas” (Mullins, 2013)

While in New Orleans charters are now the only option for students, in other cities and districts it is still easy to understand why a parent might choose to send their child to a charter. In the following clip, former New York City teacher Brian Jones begins by talking about how groups that have been historically marginalized in the US have an understandable propensity to listen to the narrative that the privatizers are telling them – that their child is being underserved, or that their child is a victim of racist schooling. Jones goes on to talk about how corporate reformers create a false narrative about why there is vast economic inequality and then rationalize or deny that they are creating more segregated schools. Jones references one reformer from Goldman Sachs who is setting up charters and exalting Thurgood Marshall at the same time that he is constructing segregated school systems.

Investigative journalist Owen Davis underscores Jones’s insinuation that there are strong economic motives behind the creation of privatized systems using charter schools. He also notes that charters sort students by those who produce the highest test scores, since those students are seen as the greatest “assets.” He writes, “when considering the $5 billion charter school bond markets, with investors inherently making demands that charter schools are good assets, high test scores becomes a financial matter and are required in order for the charter school industry to exist and expand. This naturally drives classroom practices, incentivizes pressure to raise test scores, and intensifies the sorting of students to guarantee student populations that will produce the right test scores” (Davis, 2014).

High Stakes Testing

High-stakes testing is the conceptual framework and fundamental instrument in the move to privatize public education and provides the rationale to sort and segregate students and schools according to race, class and ability. It is inherently tied to standards-based education, which was born out of the social efficiency movement and the scientific management model of education that together served as the foundations by which public education was widely institutionalized in the early 20th century.

During this period of industrialization and mass immigration both industry leaders and the political establishment recognized that in an increasingly inequitable society, a cohesive and mandatory education system needed to be established to serve the purpose of social control, social reproduction and social cohesion; all essential preconditions for social efficiency. Essentially, social efficiency was understood to mean that all institutions in society needed to be aligned to serve the social aims of the dominant culture and industrial capitalism. It was understood that the state, as the great protector of property rights and private industry, was best positioned to establish and oversee an education system that prioritizes human capital development, premised on generating the living commodity of labor power (Dow, 2003; Kliebard, 1986; Ross, 1901; Labaree, 1997).

John F. Bobbitt, who published “The Elimination of Waste in Education” in 1912, became a prominent designer and leader of the social efficiency movement by applying Frederick Taylor’s concept of scientific management in factory production to the emerging systems of education (Au, 2009; Bobbitt, 1912).

The idea behind this movement was that social and fiscal waste could be identified and cut, allowing for a social order to be shaped by way of carefully considered systems of scientific planning. The model of attaching the industrial metaphor to schooling was intended to create and maintain the larger social order of industrial capitalism, positing that students were “raw materials” to be molded into refined products according to their future social class positions. Teachers were the disciplined factory workers who utilized the most efficient means to ensure that students (as products) met the encoded standards and objectives of schooling. School administrators were the factory managers who established and dictated to teachers (as factory workers) the most efficient method in the production process. In this model, the school becomes a factory assembly line, designed with the singular intent of reproducing and maintaining existing social orders (Au, 2009; Bobbitt, 1913).

This model of schooling was highly influential and shaped public education for decades to come, on many levels. Bobbitt’s views on education, like most of his contemporaries, were explicitly infused with the ideologies of white supremacy and class superiority propagated by eugenics. Drawing on Social Darwinism, the social and scientific movement of eugenics quickly emerged in the 19th century within the new science of human genetics, providing the foundation for social efficiency in establishing science-based rationales for racial and class hierarchies (Quigley, 1995). Eugenicists advocated putting limitations on political participation based on race and class, arguing the Anglo-Saxon ruling class was in grave danger of “committing racial suicide” resulting from the precipitous reproduction of the “genetically inferior,” combined with the steady decline in the birthrate of the genetically superior (Quigley, 1995, para. 1). To address this social crisis, eugenicists advocated for mandatory segregation, sterilization, immigration restriction, and legal prohibition of inter-racial marriage.

In his 1909 article titled Practical Eugenics, Bobbitt declared, “if a child is well-born” of Anglo-Saxon “stock” and is thus genetically superior, “he possesses high endowment potential” and is “protected from adverse influences…and abundantly responsive to the positive influences of education” (Bobbitt, 1909, p. 385). Referring to children who were not born of superior genetic “stock,” Bobbitt went on to claim:

…if, on the other hand, the child…springs from a worm-eaten stock, if the foundation plan of his being is distorted and confused in heredity before his unfolding begins, then the problem of healthy normal development is rendered insoluble before it is presented. Such a child is difficult to protect against adverse influences, and he remains to the end stupidly unresponsive to the delicate growth factors of education” (Bobbitt, 1909, p. 385).

Bobbitt and his contemporaries were distressed about the decreasing birthrate of the Anglo-Saxon “stock” and how this would result in a “drying up of the highest, purest tributaries to the stream of heredity” (Bobbitt, 1909, p. 388). He diagnosed the problem as the increased birthrates and immigration of those who are not from the “strains of our imperial race,” which were causing a “rising flood in the muddy, undesirable streams” into society (Bobbitt, 1909, p. 388). Bobbitt went on to ponder the problems facing eugenics, which in his words was “the newly-arising science which seeks to improve the inborn qualities of our race” and while “it is easy to see the practical advantages to result from an application of its principles…it is not at all easy to see how it is to be done” (Bobbitt, 1909, p. 386). Apparently he found the solution to this “problem” when he published Elimination of Waste in Education two years later.

During this era, newly developed Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests became an instrument to reinforce the hegemony of eugenics and social efficiency, and over time became the basis for standardized tests generally, as a means to efficiently sort and rank students according to race, class and ability (Knoll, 2009; Quigley, 1995; Richie, 1896). Wayne Au (2009) explains, “the technology of standardized testing… proved to be a pivotal technical, conceptual, and ideological apparatus in the ascendancy of the application of scientific management and models of capitalist production to education” (p. 39). Any authentic historical examination of the establishment of public education in the U.S. cannot ignore its social engineering design through the congruence of scientific management, eugenics and standardized tests. These are also the ideological instruments being reconfigured and reinforced through 21st century corporate education reform policies.

Under the guise of objectivity and fairness, standards-based education—then and now—has always been designed to maintain the myth of meritocracy, which is intended to convey that all people have the opportunity to attain the “American Dream” of economic success if they merely work hard enough.

During the 1980s, the standards-based model was evident within corporate education reforms initiated by the Reagan administration, in partnership with private industry, leading to bipartisan policy initiatives over the succeeding three decades that have systematically restructured public education. The resulting state and federal policies have focused on the construction of a comprehensive standards-based model of education where systems of instruction, assessment, tracking of academic progress and accountability mechanisms are tied to students’ ability to demonstrate proficiency according to specific content and performance standards measured by standardized tests (National Academy of Education, 2009; Wixson, Dutro & Athan, 2003). Content standards define what all students should know and be able to do, while performance standards describe and determine the level of proficiency students need to achieve on tests in order to be designated as meeting or exceeding content standards. According to this design, not meeting expectations on expected learning outcomes provides the criteria for imposing rewards and sanctions on students, teachers, administrators and schools (National Center for Fair & Open Testing, 2007; Wixson, Dutro & Athan, 2003).

Content and performance standards and their accompanying tests have become the “high stakes” instruments for corporate reforms in that punitive sanctions are tied to low student test scores, resulting in significant life-altering impacts on the most marginalized students and communities, while at the same time initiating neoliberal restructuring. As we wrote in Education, Inc.:

[standardized testing is] designed by for-profit companies are imposed on state, city and district levels through state-corporate partnerships; sanctions are applied to schools for poor-performance on these standardized tests; there is increased involvement of for-profit companies supplying test development and preparation, data analysis and management, mandated remedial services and the utilization of proprietary online software. This forces schools and students to experience a greater narrowing of curriculum and focus on rote learning where teachers are expected to be technicians who teach to the test, while their pay and job security is dependent upon test scores that do not capture the most meaningful aspects of teaching and learning (Scott & Keisch, 2014, para. 9).

High stakes testing requires the reduction of teaching and learning to what can be measured quantitatively, and because the tests are the primary measure of progress, they ultimately drive the content and pace of curriculum. In his interview with Education Radio, Ed Brockenbrough describes how white supremacy is manifest in these tests.

The severity of the impact of high stakes testing cannot be understated. The massive and far-reaching high-stakes testing regime has evolved to become a totalitarian instrument used to implement, maintain, and intensify the violence of corporate education reform, and now permeates all sectors of education. It is poised to destroy public education as a site of contestation as well as to obliterate the development of critical capacities for generations of children—both of which are essential for civic participation and social change. It is wreaking havoc on many aspects of healthy and whole child development, and is shifting entirely what teaching and learning inside classrooms looks and feels like, most intensely for groups who have little social agency. In these classrooms, it exacerbates inequity, and mandates the stripping of histories and identities that are essential for the development of self-worth and civic capacities in young people. It positions poor children of color to be more highly controlled and surveilled within an increasingly militarized police state and prison industry. High stakes testing has become the weapon of mass destruction of corporate education reform.

All of this has a profound impact on the day-to-day lives of youth in their schools. In the following audio clip, Wayne Au talks about how testing culture impacts students’ self-worth and how it limits their ability to become fully realized human beings and full participants in their communities. He also cites the tests as contributing to the high drop-out rate for students of color. In addition, Au speaks to the criminalization of kids who do poorly on these tests—the “criminalization of failure”—and how these children then are viewed as “bad,” which feeds into the criminalization of youth in society in general.

The racism of high stakes tests is not news to those who are being abused by them. Florida high school student Aisha Daniels opted out of her state’s standardized testing, with the support of her mother, Ceresta Smith, one of the organizers of United Opt Out. This organization’s mission is to draw attention to the devastating impacts of high stakes tests and to offer guidance, support and solidarity for students and parents who choose to opt their children out (http://unitedoptout.com). Aisha explains her reasons for opting out to Education Radio producer Barbara Madeloni, which include feeling the tests are racist and dehumanizing, and not wanting to contribute to a testing company’s profits.

While Aisha Daniels articulates poignantly the ill-effects of high-stakes testing, many scholars have discussed the toll that testing (and the resulting test-driven curriculum) has had on youth too young to advocate for themselves, especially as testing and/or test preparation is now mandated at even younger ages (FairTest, 2013; Kozol, 2005; Strauss, 2014). In an interview with Education Radio, early childhood education scholar Nancy Carlsson Paige talks about the stress that young children are experiencing as a result of the coupling of the financial strain that can create stress within the family system with intense pressures at school to succeed within the testing environment. She emphasizes that instead of a focus on play, which is essential for children to learn and explore their world, they are receiving developmentally inappropriate material driven by the standardized curriculum and testing that results in rote memorization rather than authentic learning. She notes that from the perspective of a young child, “it has got to feel stressful and anxiety-laden if you are trying to please a teacher by memorizing something that you don’t really understand.”

Corporate education policies impose highly controlling and disciplinarian schooling models on poor Black and Brown children, utilizing strict Skinnerian controls on behavior, rote methods of instruction and assessment; disabling a child’s capacity to critically reflect, while setting many up to fail and be sorted into the insatiable school to prison pipeline (Kozol, 2005; Thomas 2013). This intensification of discipline in schools and the resulting criminalization is yet another instrument of the corporate education reform formula.

Just as people of color in the U.S. are disproportionately policed and incarcerated (as previously cited), there is a similar trend with students of color inside schools. Sophia Kirby writes, “Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement.” (Kirby, 2012).

As a social psychologist who engages in participatory action research around injustice in schools and prisons, CUNY professor Michelle Fine has spent a great deal of time in urban public schools. She has observed the increased police presence (and resulting accelerated arrests for otherwise basic disciplinary actions) in New York City schools. In the following clip, Fine shares the heart-wrenching story of what happens to a particular student who was rushing to make a before-school appointment with her college counselor, and thwarted the security officer’s attempt to stop her from running up the stairs to the appointment before the school was officially open.

Tragically, this student’s story is not unique, and these increasingly severe procedures in urban schools reveal that it is becoming all too common for routine disciplinary matters to be handled not by school administration, but by law enforcement. Sarah Carr has written extensively about these practices, especially within the charterization of schools in post-Katrina New Orleans. Carr explains,

Untangling causation and correlation is obviously no easy matter, but one statewide study in Texas reported that students suspended or expelled for a “discretionary violation”—having a bad attitude, for example—were nearly three times as likely to come into contact with the juvenile-justice system the following year. Ramifications like these have spurred several large urban districts (Baltimore, Los Angeles, Chicago) to take aggressive measures over the past couple of years to curb discretionary discipline tactics. Schools have begun banning suspensions, for instance, for vaguely defined offenses like “willful defiance,” which can contribute to the troubling racial disparities, several experts have concluded (Carr, 2014, para. 19).

Charles Blow’s recent column in the New York Times, Michael Brown and Black Men, shared stark statistics about these practices. Blow cites a 2010 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center that found, in a study of 18 of the nation’s largest school districts, that suspension rates for Black male students is more than double what the average rate is for all students in that age group (Blow, 2014). Blow also reports that dropout rates are similarly disproportionate. He writes,

Black male dropout rates are more than one and a half times those of white males, and when you look at the percentage of black men who graduate on time – in four years, not including those who possibly go on to get G.E.D.s, transfer to other schools or fail grades – the numbers are truly horrific. Only about half of these black men graduate on time. Now, the snowball is rolling. The bias of the educational system bleeds easily into the bias of the criminal justice system — from cops to courts to correctional facilities. The school-to-prison pipeline is complete. A May report by the Brookings Institution found: “There is nearly a 70 percent chance that an African American man without a high school diploma will be imprisoned by his mid-thirties (Blow, 2014, para. 10-12).

All of this contributes to a cultural understanding of both in and out-of-school discipline that accepts as common sense that children of color are future criminals who must be surveilled. Ed Brockenbrough discusses how white supremacy is manifested through the monitoring of bodies in schools—the fact that Black and Brown bodies are seen as dangerous, that in urban areas there are metal detectors that do not exist in more suburban areas despite the high profile episodes of school violence in the suburbs. He goes on to note that Black boys are treated as criminals from a very young age, contributing to the school to prison pipeline.

In his article, Education Reform in the New Jim Crow Era, P.L. Thomas draws connections between the similar insidiousness of the racism in both the war on drugs and corporate education reform, while the rhetoric of both initiatives purport instead to address inequities. He refers to both Sarah Carr’s work on charter schools in New Orleans and Michelle Alexander’s on the New Jim Crow to emphasize the limitations of choice when one’s choices are so intensely constrained. Thomas writes, “Carr reports that African American parents not only choose ‘no excuses’ charter schools in New Orleans, but also actively cheer and encourage the authoritarian policies voiced by the schools’ administrators” (2013, para. 40). Quoting Alexander, Thomas writes, “Given the dilemma facing poor black communities, it is inaccurate to say that black people ‘support’ mass incarceration or ‘get-tough’ policies” since “if the only choice that is offered blacks is rampant crime or more prisons, the predictable (and understandable) answer will be ‘more prisons’” (2013, para. 40).

Professor of Education Erica Meiners refers to this phenomenon not as a school-to-prison pipeline which she feels is too linear of a metaphor, but as a “prison nexus.” She suggests this prison nexus operates in schools in three ways: with increasing disciplinary actions, special education labeling, and the interlocking of schools with the juvenile justice system and policing. She also points out the broader aspects of the nexus, which include a massive expansion of prisons and work camps.

More recently there is evidence of criminalization happening at even younger levels—an increase in academic and rote instruction and harsher disciplinary tactics for children as young as the pre-school age (Gilliam, 2005; Powell, 2014; Smith, 2014). A 2014 study by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights found that “suspension of preschool children, by race/ethnicity and gender (new for 2011-2012 collection): Black children represent 18% of preschool enrollment, but 48% of preschool children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension; in comparison, white students represent 43% of preschool enrollment but 26% of preschool children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension.” The reasons given for these suspensions are primarily discipline-related (USDOE, 2014). When these tactics are this pervasive, starting at these young ages, the predetermination of certain tracks for children of color is that much more solidified.

The Discourse and Intentions of Corporate Education Reform

How is this formula presented within dominant discourse, and what is the intent behind those delivering it? Corporate education reformers, such as Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and others, often use a language of social justice when they talk about both the intent and impact of these reforms.

When interviewed by Education Radio, Bill Watkins was asked to respond to the rhetoric of these messages from corporate reformers—such as the insistence that these reforms will close the achievement gap, despite research that has proven otherwise. Watkins explains that the reformers have appropriated populist language, which is a common tactic for conservative forces throughout history.

Faya Rose Touré also identifies the social justice rhetoric used to encourage people to buy into corporate education reform initiatives. Like Watkins, Touré encourages a disregard of the discourse, which has always been about what she calls “deliberate miseducation.” She points out that even the phrase “liberty and justice for all” was intended for white men, and reflects that until critical thinking is taught, however, students will not be prepared to analyze these messages.

Touré’s point is well taken. This slippery discourse makes it difficult for those unfamiliar with education policy, or with the on-the-ground impacts of under-resourced schools, to interpret the meaning and impact of their message outside of the white racial frame in which they operate, which can reinforce their white supremacist and colonialist worldviews. Investigative journalist Owen Davis talks about his work in Newark, NJ charter schools. He writes, “when you see a mostly young, white staff excitedly parading around and enforcing extreme discipline on an entirely black student population with posters of MLK and Malcolm X on the walls, it produces an extreme sense of discomfort. It’s just bizarre to consider how the rhetoric of civil rights is being used to push these systems that, when you take a step back, you realize are not the ideal of the open free progressive public school. If that’s the vision that these reformers have of emancipation or progress, then there’s a real problem there” (Davis, 2014, para. 16).

As for those who are experiencing disinvestment in their communities and schools first-hand, the language of social justice through the guise of choice or meritocracy can have understandable appeal. When success in an economic and socio-cultural context requires participation in the framework of white supremacy that defines it, a tension can arise between social agency and restricted options. Pauline Lipman notes that the discourse of choice, in particular, legitimately resonates with many due to the lack of real educational equity and opportunities, historically, for Black, Latino and working-class students. She points out that there have always been choices for white economically privileged parents through their social and cultural capital providing them the ability to be more mobile, allowing them to choose better public school systems or pay for private schools.

Lipman asserts that the discourse of choice understandably appeals to marginalized groups who have only had access to schools with very few resources and inadequate materials and infrastructure, thus providing a poorer quality of education. According to Lipman, such a discourse speaks to parents who wish for a better education for their children—through having the option to move their children to schools that are perceived to be better. When people who have had little agency in their lives are finally offered a “choice,” after having tried in vain to address issues of inequality, racism and unhealthy conditions in their school systems, they are likely to seize upon it.

It is easy to see why this discourse is palatable to many, as it is embedded within the familiar and accepted framework of capitalism. Lipman goes on to point out how the discourse of choice is marketed to people, requiring them to be individualistic consumers in a marketplace of education, where parents compete against one another to get their children into schools which they perceive as being superior.

It is understandable to question the motivation or intent of those who are driving corporate education reform, aside from the obvious economic boon for those who are profiting from these reforms. As far back as 1998, Fortune magazine predicted that, “education, broadly defined, will emerge as one of the leading investment sectors over the next 20 years” (Justin, 1998, p.198; Means, 2008). However, is it possible that some “reformers,” who are committed to a market-based approach to education, truly believe that their reforms will close the so-called achievement gap? Michelle Fine reflects on a time when she was working on her book Framing Dropouts and was looking for the “bad guys” who were responsible for the devastating impacts of these reforms. She then talks about her realization that rather, “everyone was just sort of doing their job” and that in a machine of racism, segregation, mass incarceration and underfunding of public education, people didn’t need to be evil to produce terrible outcomes, the terrible outcomes were just built into the larger system they were upholding.

Lipman writes:

In the United States, dominant interests convince the vast majority of people to accept massive social inequality and unequal power relations through processes of cultural hegemony—the construction of ‘commonsense’ understandings, or taken-for-granted assumptions, about social reality that legitimate the social order. Hegemony works to impose a particular understanding of social problems and to define the parameters of possible alternatives so as to limit the possibility of thinking otherwise. In this way social inequality and unequal relations of power are legitimated, normalized, and perceived as inevitable” (Lipman, 2004, p. 14).

Kevin Kumashiro, Dean of the School of Education at San Francisco University, further examines intent, by posing the crucial question: what if these corporate education reforms aren’t failing? What if they are doing exactly what they were set up to do, by widening disparities in schools? He notes that in some ways this is intentional and by design, driven by people (like free-market economist Milton Friedman) who felt that public schools should not exist and privatization was the solution. But he also notes that there are many reformers who actually believe that the policies they promote will indeed improve public education.

These notions—of how this discourse is formed and reproduced in and outside of schools and how public consent for these notions are manufactured—are an essential part of how the racism of education reform operates. Understanding the hegemony of the white racial frame and how it works to reinforce the prevailing neoliberal ideology that has intensified over the past forty years is essential to understanding how corporate education reform discourse serves to uphold “common sense” thinking about the purpose and content of education; a discourse that ultimately reproduces and maintains racial violence and furthers the practices of disposability within existing and inequitable social and economic orders (Herman & Chomsky, 1988).

The evidence of how white supremacy intersects with the theme of disposability is never so evident than in the intentional destruction of the Mexican American Studies (or Raza Studies) program in the Tucson Unified School District. Located sixty miles north of the Mexican-U.S. border, Tucson, Arizona is a location where the brutality of white supremacy is well documented—dating back to the Spanish Requerimiento, a divinely ordained right to take possession of land and conquer, subjugate and exploit Native Americans throughout the hemisphere. Since the U.S. took possession of this region in 1853, subjugation, criminalization, disenfranchisement and cultural genocide of Native Americans, Latin American immigrants and Mexican-Americans has persisted to this day. Due to this history, Chicano /Chicana movements throughout the U.S. southwest have developed a strong tradition of resistance over the decades that has encompassed a broad range of liberatory goals, including restoral of land, civil, social and political rights, educational equality, worker rights, immigration rights and cultural affirmation (Education Radio, 2012; Rodriguez, 2011; Viva La Raza!, 2014).

In 1974, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sued the Tucson Unified School District in federal court, based on long-standing segregation practices and discrimination against its Black students. That same year the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a later-consolidated lawsuit claiming similar allegations on behalf of Mexican American students. In 1978 a settlement was reached which included a comprehensive desegregation plan. Resulting from these and other longstanding struggles and legal actions, and with over 60 percent of TUSD’s students sharing a Mexican American identity, efforts to improve retention and graduation rates among Mexican American students were addressed by TUSD. In 1998 the district established Raza Studies, designed by Chicano educators (Education Radio, 2012; TUSD, 2014).

The Raza Studies program incorporated indigenous (or maíz–based) concepts, and is linked to the fight for civil and human rights, social justice and the undoing of hundreds of years of colonization and dehumanization, which is at the core of Chicano/Chicana movements (Education Radio, 2012; Rodriquez, 2013). The program was an extraordinary success. Ninety percent of students who participated in the Raza Studies program graduated high school, compared to 44 percent nationally. Seventy percent entered college, compared to 24 percent nationally. Raza Studies students scored much higher on the Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards test compared to other Hispanic students who did not take the classes (Aronson. 2014; Planas, 2012). David Stovall, Professor of Education at University of Illinois Chicago, was part of a team that performed an independent study of these gains. In the following clip, he explains what they found.

Due to the program’s deeply meaningful curriculum based in identity affirming counter narratives, underscored by these significant academic gains, it came to be viewed as a direct threat to the white leadership in the district and in the state. In 2010 Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed a bill intended on targeting TUSD’s Raza Studies, which “bans schools from teaching classes that are designed for students of a particular ethnic group, promote resentment or advocate ethnic solidarity over treating pupils as individuals. The bill also bans classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government” (Santa Cruz, 2010, para. 3). Led by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and state schools Superintendent John Huppenthal, a legal and public crusade to destroy Raza Studies ensued with claims that the program was not only illegal (despite and independent audit claiming otherwise), but according to Horne “if this were a KKK course, all would agree that the Legislature has a legitimate interest in prohibiting it,” bizarrely reasoning that it promotes “racist values” (Huicochea, 2012, para. 10).

The contradiction here is perverse. Education reformers claim that the end goal is higher test scores that will lead to greater equity for all students. Here is a case (and it is not by any means the first or only one[2]) in which enormous gains were clearly demonstrated for a group of students—not only in test scores but also across the board with regard to attendance, grades, and overall student satisfaction. And yet this was also a result of students feeling empowered through gaining a deep and meaningful understanding of their cultural identities and histories, including the brutality of conquest and colonization that has led to current social conditions. The idea of students developing this self-efficacy, of gaining knowledge of that history, knowledge that contradicted the historical narratives of those in power—ultimately led to the destruction of the program by leadership who felt threatened by it. In the following clip, David Stovall talks about how the politics of disposability is evident in the destruction of ethnic studies in Tucson.

Is Public Education Our Best Hope?

When we understand that racial violence has always been woven into the public education system, the “good ole days” of public education—as is often cited by white middle-class public education advocates—is exposed to be a dangerous myth. While this is the case, we must also recognize that universal public education— democratically controlled, equitably funded, free and easily accessible to all, and based in a social and restorative justice curriculum—provides the greatest potential for schools to serve as essential sites of contestation; where critical capacities are generated as vital precursors to actions that can disrupt and change these existing orders.

David Love asserts that public education is absolutely necessary because everyone has access, and that learning from people from different backgrounds, and learning tolerance, is important. But he also calls for public schools to address what he feels like he gained from his own public education – support for overall growth and development around how to be a good person.

Touré echoes this when she talks about the philosophy of education embraced by her Selma, AL organization, Replacing Inequities in School with Excellence (RISE). RISE is dedicated to de-tracking in schools, and embraces a philosophy that schools should be holistic, meeting the needs of children’s bodies, spirits and minds.

In an interview with Noam Chomsky in 2003, Chomsky was asked to respond to his thoughts on John Dewey’s philosophy of democracy and education—and his thoughts echo those of both Love and Touré about the need for a holistic approach. Chomsky (2003) responded,

A decent educational system would allow these natural aspects of human nature to flourish and encourage them. And it would be part of developing a free and democratic society of real participation. But of course that runs counter to elite interests. It’s worth remembering that the United States was not founded to be a democratic society and elites do not want it to be a democratic society. It’s supposed to be what political scientists sometimes call a “polyarchy,” a system basically of elite decision and public ratification. And if you had the kind of educational system that Dewey spent his life committed to, you wouldn’t be able to sustain that. People would become active, involved, engaged, and would try to create a truly functioning democratic society (para. 2).

Chomsky nails the crux of the paradox, here: the creation of a true public education—an education for democracy—poses fundamental challenges to existing systems. How are such embedded and seemingly unyielding notions disrupted? Kumashiro gives us hope by reminding us of the longstanding history of disruption in schooling.

Public education as it was envisioned during the early 20th century by those who opposed the scientific management model of education and who viewed education as a means of resistance and/or as a potential to be a democratizing medium included, among others, John Dewey, Jane Adams, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Francis Parker. Dubois, who viewed education as having power beyond that of creating future workers and saw the great potential of education as a tool for liberation, famously wrote, “education must not simply teach work, it must teach life” (Provenzo, 2002, p. 92). Zilversmit explains that during this period, which is often referred to as “the progressive era,” democratic educators wanted to circumvent the regimentation that exemplified most classrooms of the time, and instead they “enlisted the spontaneous interests of the pupils and adapted the curriculum to the interests and needs of each child” (2005, para. 3). The idea was that replacing the authoritarian approach with a more democratic approach to teaching and learning would provide a model for a more democratic society.

Ultimately, however, progressive education movements lost traction to the social efficiency movement as a result of the political backlash against the left during and after World War I, but maintained notable influence until the fascist fervor of the cold war era following World War II. Regardless of the influence of twentieth century progressive educators, throughout the 20th century, public education continued to primarily serve an important function in the reproduction of the social and economic inequalities that are a structural reality of the U.S. political economy (Keisch, 2013).

As it stands, current education policy is incapable of wrestling with the structural inequalities that are inherent to white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy—issues that education is compelled to address today if the goal is true participatory democracy. However, that progressive vision of universal public education can be viewed as a starting point that, over the past thirty-five years with the omnipresence of neoliberalism, the pernicious and unrelenting attempts to erode the public sphere, and the increasing imposition of standardization on education, has veered dangerously off course and even farther away from its potential. So this begs the question: what are the important directions for this struggle?

It is essential to view the solution holistically and connected across sectors. Pauline Lipman writes, “the struggle over education is part of the contest for the city and in relation to struggles for housing, living wage jobs, public transit, access to public space, and against police abuse and race and class exclusion” (Lipman, 2011, p. 231). With regard specifically to schools, Lipman speaks directly to the need to remove the notion of choice by creating high quality schools in every neighborhood so that parents don’t have to be put in a position where they compete against one another to get their child into the better school.

Communities and schools (and even individual classrooms) serve as sites of struggle and contestation, as individuals weigh the “common sense” understandings that are delivered to them from their own lived experience and social identities (which is all too frequently dismissed as a legitimate source of learning), and thus they also become spaces of hope and possibility. Lipman writes, “because dominant ways of seeing the world conflict with people’s real experiences and competing ideologies hegemony is never secure and must be continually reconstructed” (Lipman, 2004, p.14).

Resistance is occurring. It is important to recognize the grassroots efforts gaining momentum around the U.S. (and the world) that are coming together to not only resist corporate education reform but to revision public education in general. Erica Meiners talks about the excitement she feels about the young people who are naming the injustice and organizing against it, as well as the diverse amount of resistance to corporate education reform from activist groups including parents, teachers and others around issues such as the deprofessionalization of teachers, working toward restorative justice, and the development of alternative accountability systems.

However, while there is indeed a growing state-level and national movement against corporate education reform, it is essential that this struggle be centered in the fight for racial justice throughout society. In fact, the opportunity is now. As this article is “going to press,” a powerful grassroots movement for racial justice, comprised of both local and national groups, is emerging in the U.S. As a result of the ongoing destruction and degradation of Black lives, prior to and after the murder of Michael Brown, “Black Lives Matter” became a powerful slogan for massive civil rights protests and an evolving national network of social justice campaigns. The mission of one of the leading organizations, Black Lives Matter, includes the following: “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.  It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression (Black Lives Matter, 2014, para. 2). This movement places at the forefront the systemic nature of racism and white supremacy and the importance of addressing the manifestation of these in all public spheres, including education. One of the central demands of another leading group, Ferguson Action, is an “end to the school to prison pipeline and quality education for all” (Ferguson Action, 2014).

As Professor of Education and education activist Nelson Flores notes:

It is the fundamental disposability of black and brown bodies that has led to the disinvestment in communities of color and the public schools that serve them. It is the fundamental disposability of black and brown bodies that has allowed for children of color to become commodities that can increase the profit margins of corporations. It is the fundamental disposability of black and brown bodies that has allowed for the criminalization of youth of color and the creation of the school-to-prison pipeline. And it is the fundamental disposability that has allowed for the implementation of a testing regime that delegitimizes the knowledge of communities of color (Flores, 2014, para. 8).

Thus, working toward a racially just and equitable public education system cannot be achieved without simultaneously challenging white supremacy and structural racism in all other aspects of society. As professor of women’s studies and Black feminist theorist Brittney Cooper proposes in a recent piece for Salon Magazine:

If the U.S. would “clean up its act,” this would necessarily mean a real commitment to due process, protection of voting rights, a livable wage, the dissolution of the prison industrial complex, funding of good public education at both K-12 and college levels, a serious commitment to affirmative action, food security and full reproductive justice for all women. Those are the kinds of conditions under which black communities, and all communities, could thrive. That kind of commitment to the ideals of democracy would require us, as my friend activist Marlon Peterson did recently, to “ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what your country can undo for you (Cooper, 2014, para.13).

Endnotes

1. Education Radio was a documentary style radio program that featured interviews, testimony and analysis on issues facing public education in the U.S. through voices of teachers, parents, students, community members, education activists and education scholars. All of Education Radio’s shows are archived at: http://education-radio.blogspot.com

2. The “Back to Basics movement” of the 1970s, coupled with Reagan’s A Nation at Risk report, served as a way to quell significant gains for students of color. Back to Basics called for a return to a strict social efficiency model of schooling, and among other things was a response to social and cultural shifts resulting from the Civil Rights, Black Power, Women’s, Anti-war and New Left movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s. During this period, many aspects of “traditional American” education were being disrupted and reconsidered to various degrees, resulting in more child-centered curriculum and pedagogy and the inclusion of ethnic studies, revisionist histories and democratic models of education. Education inequities were also being addressed legislatively and legally resulting in school desegregation, affirmative action and Head Start, leading to a shrinking achievement gap for Black high school students during the 1970s and 1980s. (Barton & Coley, 2010)

 

Acknowledgements

Our heartfelt thanks goes to the activists and scholars engaged in the struggle for a just and equitable public education system.

 

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Sirota, D. (2012). Education reformers send their kids to private school. Truthdig. Retrieved from: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/education_reformers_send_their_kids_to_private_school_20120113.

Smith, B. (2014). Principal to chancellor: Take the lead on school discipline. May 30, 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinions/5082-principal-chancellor-farina-take-lead-school-discipline-brady-smith

Smith, M.D. (2014). The school-to-prison pipeline starts in preschool. The Nation, March 28. Retrieved from: http://www.thenation.com/blog/179064/school-prison-pipeline-starts-preschool#

Strauss, V. (2014a). How, after 60 years, Brown v. Board of Education succeeded — and didn’t. The Washington Post, April 24. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/04/24/how-after-60-years-brown-v-board-of-education-succeeded-and-didnt/

Strauss, V. (2014b). And now, final exams for kindergartners. Really. The Washington Post, August 22. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/22/and-now-final-exams-for-kindergartners-really/

Strauss, V. (2014c) The quote that reveals how at least one corporate school reformer really views students. The Washington Post, August 27. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/27/the-quote-that-reveals-how-at-least-one-corporate-school-reformer-really-views-students

Thomas, P.L. (2013). Education reform in the new Jim Crow era. Truthout, May 17. Retrieved from: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/16406-education-reform-in-the-new-jim-crow-era.

Tucson Unified School District (2014). Desegregation & the Unitary Status Plan. Retrieved from: http://tusd1.org/contents/distinfo/deseg/index.asp

USDOE (2014). Data snapshot: School discipline. U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Issue Brief No 1 (March).

Weiss, E., & Long, D. (2013). Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality. Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. Retrieved from: http://www.stopthecrime.net/market%20based%20rhetoric-trumps-reality.pdf

Wixson, K. K., Dutro, E., & Athan, R. G. (2003). The challenge of developing content standards. In R. E. Floden, (Ed.), Review of Research in Education, pp. 69-107. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

 

This article originally appeared at Landscapes of Violence. Landscapes of Violence (LoV) is a peer reviewed periodical dedicated to fostering a dialogue between scholarly discourses on violence, conflict and trauma in both past and present populations. One of the primary goals of LoV is to create an inclusive platform designed to reach a broad audience including scientists, academics, policymakers, and the public.

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News Sun, 02 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
It's Time for a New Story of Humanity's Place in the World http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32170-it-s-time-for-a-new-story-of-humanity-s-place-in-the-world http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32170-it-s-time-for-a-new-story-of-humanity-s-place-in-the-world

It goes without saying that humans are good at causing problems. Climate change, overfishing and widespread environmental contamination from chemical toxicants are all creations of our own making. But are we destined to create such problems? Many people believe so, and argue that our capacity for self-interest, avarice and ecological shortsightedness make us inherently unsustainable as a species. Not only is this way of thinking built on long-disproven myths about human nature and human origins, it also constrains how we think about solutions and alienates us from the rest of the natural world. We need to abandon this belief and not allow ourselves to be defined only by our most recent history. The truth of the matter is that we belong here, and belonging is a much more powerful narrative for sustainability than isolation.

In western society, most people’s understanding of human nature can be traced back to the writings of a handful of social philosophers: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, John Adams and Adam Smith, to name the core few. Collectively, their respective works create a picture of humanity that is driven by extreme self-interest and in which life before the advent of government was nasty, brutish and short. This picture of humanity is now widely accepted and invoked; former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan famously opined, for example, that corruption, embezzlement and fraud are all symptoms of human nature, and that the best we can do is try to keep these to a minimum.

Greenspan’s words mirror how many people think about sustainability: People are the problem and we must learn to limit our impacts. Indeed, the environmental movement and many of today’s most popular frameworks for thinking about sustainability are built upon this basic assumption; the “leave no trace” mantra and the notion of the Tragedy of the Commons, which says that people acting in their own self-interest always do so to the detriment of a larger group and common resources, are two ready examples.

Yet these perspectives are ignorant to the full history of humanity. These early social philosophers lived in a time when people believed that we had been around for only a few thousand years. They had little knowledge of evolution, of human origins, or of our species’ many hundreds of thousands of years of tenure on this planet. Hobbes’ Leviathan was published in 1651, more than 200 years before the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859 and the first discovery of a Homo erectus specimen, Java Man, in 1891.

These social philosophers did not know that human altruism and cooperation have an evolutionary basis, rooted in the success of early subsistence strategies for hunting, sharing and enduring short-term resource scarcity. Nor did they know that members of early tribal societies usually worked less and were more food secure than many people today. Finally, they were unaware that humans have a long track record for environmental conservation, including in areas that sustained dense populations of tens to hundreds of thousands of people, such as the Pacific Northwest region of North America.

All of this is not to suggest that humanity should somehow go back to “Stone Age” living, nor am I implying that prehistoric peoples never behaved unsustainably. Rather, I raise these facts because they contribute to a very different picture of human nature than was imagined by Hobbes and others.

People tend to think of myths as being things of the past - fanciful tales that have been eliminated, at least from secular society, by Western science and Enlightenment rationality. Yet myths are much more than this. Mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote extensively on the power of myths and described them as life-motivating and life-directing concepts that provide people with justification and purpose. Many myths are so powerful and fundamental to people’s worldviews, Campbell argued, that they don’t need to actually be elaborated in story form in order to be widely known and believed.

That we are inherently flawed is such a myth, one that infuses many of our cultural stories, secular and religious alike. We find it in the fall from grace in the book of Genesis in the Bible, in Hobbes’ account of the state of nature and in Garret Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons. The latter example is illustrative of just how durable this myth can be; many people still believe Hardin’s tragedy is the default outcome in shared resource situations, despite the decades of research by social and political scientists such as Bonnie McCay and Elinor Ostrom that show otherwise.

The trouble is that belief in this myth preconditions how we try to solve problems. We use it to explain away failings in our contemporaries and come to expect the same of ourselves. We focus on limiting and policing our interactions with the natural world, when the real causes of environmental problems, from rapid population growth to resource overharvest, tend to be societal in nature.

Unsustainable population growth, for example, is not simply a biological feature of our species or even a product of religion. It is driven, tragically, by poverty and high rates of infant mortality. Likewise, when people misuse resources for personal gain, there are invariably social and cultural institutions that drive and reward that behavior. Rather than blindly blaming ourselves for these problems, we need to look to the means of success in our societies. Are people marginalized and left with no other choice but to overharvest resources? Does our society protect human rights to ensure people’s opportunities to live secure and fulfilling lives, or does it leave everyone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps at any expense?

This myth of a broken humanity neuters our potential and alienates us from the rest of the natural community. All other species leave a trace, so why shouldn’t we? Surely, we have a great capacity as a species for self-interest, avarice and hate, and there’s no doubt that there are many people who are ideologically inclined to misuse and overuse resources for short-term gain. Nevertheless, we are a social creature by nature, one with a capacity for and long track record of cooperation and sustainability. Sharing and egalitarian social mores were the norm, not the exception, during our hundreds of thousands of years in hunter-gatherer societies. The great biodiversity of the Amazon is a result, in part, of humanity’s footprint. Likewise, the long-term social and ecological sustainability of Pacific Northwest cultures was the product of a land ethic that emphasized restraint and planning on a long time horizon and social norms regarding reciprocity and gift-giving among houses.

The question at hand is what kind of trace we choose to leave. Rather than focusing on how to shield ecosystems from our impacts, we could be experimenting with ways to achieve comfort and security while also promoting biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function. Using livestock to combat desertification and restore grasslands is one example, and the ongoing efforts of people in places such as Madagascar and Haida Gwaii to find win-win solutions that restore and enhance marine biodiversity and support local food security is another.

Meanwhile, protecting human rights such as the right to food and food sovereignty would be a good start to solving the root causes of unsustainability. Ensuring these rights would eliminate many of the aspects of our societies that pit us against one another and give people the space to experiment with more sustainable ways of living.

Regardless of the specific strategies people develop, and I believe they are numerous, we must stop using human nature as a scapegoat for our environmental problems and turn our attention to addressing the societal drivers of unsustainable practices - issues such as poverty, inequity and injustice. For the long term, we need to teach our children a different story of us, one in which we belong and have the potential to thrive and coexist with the rest of the natural world.View Ensia homepage

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Opinion Sun, 02 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Still Boxed Out: NYU Discriminates Against Students Who Have Faced Arrest http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32169-still-boxed-out-nyu-discriminates-against-students-who-have-faced-arrest http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32169-still-boxed-out-nyu-discriminates-against-students-who-have-faced-arrest

It's time to abolish application questions that require an individual to disclose documented interaction with the criminal legal system when applying to college or university. Reformist approaches to this problem are tacit acceptances of the violence that this discriminatory practice inflicts on communities disproportionately targeted by the criminal legal system.

Check box(Image: Check box via Shutterstock; Edited: JR/TO)"Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a felony? Check yes or no."

For over two years the Incarceration to Education Coalition at New York University (NYU) has been organizing to abolish this checkbox from NYU's admissions application.

Composed of current and former New York University students (both with and without "documented" criminal records), the coalition has obtained support from a vast coalition of community members, scholars, activists and artists to abolish this application question, which we refer to as "the box."

We know that this question discriminates against poor communities of color, who are far more likely to be arrested and charged than other communities. Systemic violence such as housing regulation, poor public schooling, underfunded public benefits and sheer racism has continuously pushed these communities away from a college education and the benefits it entails. We know that people with a criminal record are discouraged from applying to college upon seeing this very question.

We are joined in our struggle to abolish this form of discrimination on a national scale by students and community members at a number of colleges and universities, as well as community organizers and activists across the United States.

Incremental Reforms

In response to mounting pressure and tenacious organizing efforts, at least four New York area colleges and universities have taken steps to reform their policies around "the box." In 2014, three institutions (St. John's University, Dowling College and Five Towns College) reached a deal with the New York State Attorney General's Office to change the wording of this application question. These schools agreed only to screen candidates based on convictions, as opposed to inquiring about all arrests, even those that did not lead to conviction. Meanwhile NYU, (after forcibly ejecting student and community organizers from deliberations) has promised to reform its admissions policy so that admissions officers will first review and accept students based on a preliminary "box-blind reading." Students who checked the box will then undergo a secondary screening wherein NYU retains the right to deny admission.

There is a real temptation to herald incremental reforms like these as evidence of social progress, not only for those who currently bolster or benefit from the status quo, but also for those of us doing advocacy and organizing work.

However, even with the best of intentions, reformist approaches to structural violence and oppression can only replicate and entrench that violence. Constitutive to a reformist framework is a piecemeal approach that, in its attempts to alter minor details, necessarily reaffirms the larger structure. These reforms to education access for individuals and communities impacted by the criminal punishment system are no different.

The all-or-nothing stance of an abolitionist framework may appear more difficult and less politically palatable, but any semblance of progress or justice demands nothing less.

It is with this understanding that the Incarceration to Education Coalition refuses to accept these new policies as victories, and instead identifies reformist approaches to the issue as deliberate attempts to further entrench the violent and overtly discriminatory policies of the prison industrial complex.

The Box Does Not Make Our Campuses Safer

The popular rhetoric around the box is the idea that campuses must screen incoming students for their documented criminal histories in order to ensure campus safety, and that such screening is a foregone conclusion.

The facts of the box fly in the face of this rhetoric. There is nothing natural or common sense about this application question. In fact, this checkbox suddenly and mysteriously appeared on admissions applications for colleges and universities on a national level via the Common Application in 2006. The addition of this question was never proven to significantly alter campus safety. A comprehensive study done by the Center for Community Alternatives found no statistically significant differences in campus safety between schools that require applicants to disclose documented criminal histories and those that do not.

The box completely fails to identify individuals most likely to cause harm on campus. As Alan Rosenthal, co-director of Justice Strategies at the Center for Community Alternatives, reveals, "Those college applicants that do have experience with the criminal justice system, and who then decide to take the big step to go on with their education, are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior than their counterparts who have not had criminal justice experience."

Compounding this harm is the fact that the discrimination of the box forecloses upon an individual's education and the single most effective strategy in reducing recidivism rates.

The box fails by its own logic. Not only does it fail to predict who commits crimes on campus, but also its presence actively makes our campuses and communities less safe.

Reproducing Violence

These blatantly false appeals to public safety are nothing more than pathetic excuses offered in the face of the box's overwhelming racism, sexism, classism and homophobia. Reformist approaches to this application question that in any way attempt to validate its existence do nothing but validate and reproduce its discriminatory violence.

Even a surface level analysis of the reforms undertaken by these four schools reveals them to be nothing but a reproduction of racist violence.

For context, St. John's University, Dowling College and Five Towns College were pressured to change their policies by the attorney general, who took exception to the "overbroad nature" of their versions of the box (it is their version of the box quoted at the beginning of this article). The attorney general's office argued that "the information solicited by the schools was overbroad and not relevant to an applicant's fitness as a student," going on to say that such questions "disproportionately disadvantaged African-American and Hispanic men [who are] more likely than white men to be stopped, detained, and arrested by police for minor misconduct."

The schools in question agreed with the attorney general's objections. Notably, they agreed with the racist and discriminatory implications of the application question as a direct consequence of the racist and discriminatory practices of the criminal legal system. But instead of abolishing the box altogether, they decided that altering the wording of their question to only ask about arrests that led to conviction would somehow solve the problem.

This is where any and all logic seems to break down. The previous iteration of the box that asked about arrests and convictions was deemed unacceptable through an acknowledgement of the discriminatory and racist practices involved in an individual being stopped, detained and arrested by the police. The current iteration, which only asks about convictions, somehow makes the claim that the racism accepted as being inherent in the process of stopping, detaining and arresting an individual magically disappears if an individual is convicted.

This is a perfect example of why reformist practices do not offer tenable solutions. This new version of the box is exactly as racist as its predecessor but is more insidious in that its continued "revised" existence entrenches the idea that the box in some form is necessary, thus entrenching its inherent violence.

NYU attempted a different kind of reformist tactic. In a recent policy change, the university has promised to conduct an initial "box-blind" reading, where it will consider and accept applicants without considering an individual's documented criminal history. It is only after applicants have been accepted, that the university considers whether or not an individual has checked the box, and retains the right to revoke the acceptance.

Again, the failings of a reformist approach are readily apparent. The viability of an initial "box-blind" reading is a tacit admission to the fact that an individual's contact with the criminal legal system is irrelevant to a student's application and their readiness for college-level work. To go back and reassert the box in a secondary reading is simply an attempt to entrench and normalize its violence.

Reformist approaches may offer an ego boost and good PR to those within the institutions, but they do so only by further validating the exclusion of the groups these policies pretend to help, and they are tacit acceptances of the violence that any vestige of the box inflicts on communities that are systematically and historically targeted by the criminal legal system.

The violence and discrimination of the box can only end with its abolition.

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Opinion Sun, 02 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
We Gon' Be Alright: Black Love, Black Resistance and Black Liberation http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32168-we-gon-be-alright-black-love-black-resistance-and-black-liberation http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32168-we-gon-be-alright-black-love-black-resistance-and-black-liberation

(Photo: Movement for Black Lives, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn)Participants in the Cleveland convening of the Movement for Black Lives take part in an impromptu dance and drumming circle on the campus of Cleveland State University. (Photo: Movement for Black Lives, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn)

At this month's convening of the Movement for Black Lives in Cleveland, we experienced the power of Black people coming together across different ideologies and experiences. We need to build our strength throughout the country to sustain this reinvigorated Black liberation movement.

(Photo: Movement for Black Lives, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn)Participants in the Cleveland convening of the Movement for Black Lives take part in an impromptu dance and drumming circle on the campus of Cleveland State University. (Photo: Movement for Black Lives, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn)

Coming together across different ideologies, generations, geographies and experiences, participants in the Movement for Black Lives have the potential, the brilliance and the power to get free and to stay free.

More than 1,500 Black people came together in Cleveland, Ohio, last week for the Movement for Black Lives convening. It was a gathering designed to bring Black people together across different fault lines in order to continue to solidify our vision, our purpose and our relationships with one another.

The convening, which began on July 24, was an opportunity to ask ourselves the question of what a world would look like in which Black lives actually mattered - and not just some Black lives, but all Black lives. This question is increasingly important in a context where, as author and public policy leader Heather McGhee so eloquently stated, Black lives were the first currency of this nation.

More importantly, the convening in Cleveland offered an opportunity for us to be together in community and solidarity in ways that are wholly discouraged by a racialized capitalist society - an opportunity for us to practice in real time the strategies and tactics that we need to build a coordinated movement that can get us closer to liberation.

This is more important than one might realize. On the surface, the concept of being in "community" and "solidarity" may seem esoteric. But in fact, this practice of solidarity is an essential step toward liberation. Solidarity means Black people of all genders, geographies and generations coming together across class to love each other in a country that traded and sold our bodies for profit. Solidarity means Black people loving each other in a country that designed state programs like COINTELPRO that were intended specifically to dismantle and disrupt once-powerful and vibrant Black liberation organizations and movements.

The consequences of those dynamics - racialized capitalism and state-sanctioned violence - have meant that Black movements for liberation, which have sparked the imaginations of many other oppressed and marginalized communities, have been so weakened and diminished that it has impacted our ability to be powerful together. Given that, we could say that Black love - building community and solidarity - is a liberatory act and an act of resistance.

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the Movement for Black Lives convening was also an opportunity to assess our strength and cohesion as a movement. What's the state of the organizing and the movement-building and the infrastructure in St. Louis, especially as the news cameras have left Canfield Drive, where Brown was murdered, and now reappear in places like the Gilmore Homes in Baltimore, Maryland, where Freddy Gray was murdered?

People in St. Louis loved their brother Mike Brown so much that when he was murdered in August 2014 and bled to death in the middle of the street on Canfield Drive, just steps away from his mother's home, they sparked a resistance movement that impacted this country and the world in profound ways. The willingness of young people to reject respectability politics, to confront power (in the form of police) directly and militantly, and even to challenge the notion that the only place that resistance can happen is within formalized nonprofit organizations has re-infused the movement with new energy and ideas, new tactics and most importantly, more people.

We are reminded on the heels of this month's historical convergence of Black people that we have come so far, and that at the same time, we have to challenge ourselves to go further. If it weren't for the ongoing strength of the resistance movement in Ferguson, the national Movement for Black Lives might risk lacking the strength we need to push forward in ever-growing strength, cohesion and coordination. We need to continue building our strength throughout the country so that a reinvigorated Black liberation movement can be sustained.

Let us not forget that assessing our strength is about more than how many of us can come together, despite racialized capitalism and state-sponsored programs designed to keep us disorganized and in disarray. Our strength lies in how well we take care of one another when the cameras are gone, when the buzz has died down and when the trending on social media ends.

Today, we should be proud of the Movement for Black Lives and all who have contributed to it. And as we celebrate, let us renew our commitment to strengthening the activists, protestors, organizers and institutions that make this movement possible. If we are successful, as hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar so eloquently said, "We gon' be alright."

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Opinion Fri, 31 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Are Undercover Attacks on Planned Parenthood Part of a Broader Effort to Outlaw Abortion? http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32164-are-undercover-attacks-on-planned-parenthood-part-of-a-broader-effort-to-outlaw-abortion http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32164-are-undercover-attacks-on-planned-parenthood-part-of-a-broader-effort-to-outlaw-abortion

The Senate is planning to vote as soon as Monday to strip Planned Parenthood of $500 million in federal funding. The vote comes as Planned Parenthood is coming under fire from anti-choice activists after the release of a series of undercover sting videos were published online. The heavily edited videos suggest the organization profits from supplying aborted fetal tissue for medical research. Planned Parenthood said it broke no laws, because abortion providers are allowed to charge costs to cover expenses associated with fetal tissue donation. We speak to Dr. Willie Parker, a physician, abortion provider and a board member of Physicians for Reproductive Health. He previously worked for Planned Parenthood.

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The Senate is planning to vote as soon as Monday to strip Planned Parenthood of $500 million in federal funding. The vote comes as Planned Parenthood is coming under fire from anti-choice activists after the release of a series of undercover sting videos were published online. The heavily edited videos suggest that Planned Parenthood profits from supplying aborted fetal tissue for medical research. Planned Parenthood, though, says it broke no laws, because abortion providers are allowed to charge costs to cover expenses associated with fetal tissue donation. In one video, Dr. Deborah Nucatola of Planned Parenthood appears to discuss the cost of fetal tissue with operatives posing as biotechnology representatives. The clip begins with a fake representative raising the issue of costs.

FAKE BIOTECH REPRESENTATIVE: What price range would you -

DR. DEBORAH NUCATOLA: You know, I - I'm going to throw a number out. I would say it's probably anywhere from $30 to $100, depending on the facility and what's involved.

FAKE BIOTECH REPRESENTATIVE: The $30 to $100 price range, that's per specimen that we're talking about, right?

DR. DEBORAH NUCATOLA: Per specimen.

FAKE BIOTECH REPRESENTATIVE: Yeah.

DR. DEBORAH NUCATOLA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: The unedited version of the video actually shows Dr. Nucatola repeatedly saying Planned Parenthood is not trying to profit off fetal tissue. In this clip, she tells the fake researchers there is no revenue stream at play. Just listen carefully.

DR. DEBORAH NUCATOLA: This is not something -

FAKE BIOTECH REPRESENTATIVE: Right.

DR. DEBORAH NUCATOLA: This is not any revenue stream that -

FAKE BIOTECH REPRESENTATIVE: Right.

DR. DEBORAH NUCATOLA: - affiliates are looking at. This is a way to offer patients a service that they want, do good for the medical community -

FAKE BIOTECH REPRESENTATIVE: Right.

DR. DEBORAH NUCATOLA: - and still maintain access.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, House Republicans launched an investigation into Planned Parenthood, claiming it's harvesting fetal tissue for profit. However, Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, has repeatedly denied these claims.

CECILE RICHARDS: Recently, an organization that opposes safe and legal abortion used secretly recorded, heavily edited videos to make outrageous claims about programs that help women donate fetal tissue for medical research. I want to be really clear: The allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true. Our donation programs, like any other high-quality healthcare providers, follows all laws and ethical guidelines. Over our hundred-year history, we've continually engaged leading medical experts to shape our practices, policies and high standards, and we always will. Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide.

AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood's website was reportedly attacked by anti-choice activists, who took the site offline for hours. The organization tweeted the site was being targeted by anti-abortion extremists.

For more, we're joined now by two guests. In Los Angeles, we're joined by Sharona Coutts, vice president of Investigations and Research at RH Reality Check. Her new piece is called "Exclusive: The Faces and Fake Names of People Behind Planned Parenthood Attack Videos."

And in Birmingham, Alabama, we're joined by Dr. Willie Parker, a physician, abortion provider and a board member of Physicians for Reproductive Health. He previously worked for Planned Parenthood and recently wrote an article for Cosmopolitan magazine called "Why I Stand with Dr. Deborah Nucatola."

Sharona Coutts and Dr. Willie Parker, we welcome you to Democracy Now! Dr. Willie Parker, can you talk about what's at the heart of this story? Talk about the allegations that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue.

DR. WILLIE PARKER: Well, Amy, it's a pleasure to be back on your show again. And as I think about what's happening, two things come to mind. I grew up here in Alabama, and we had a photographer, when I was a kid, who would every year take our picture. And in order to get us to pose, he would say, "Watch the birdie," to distract us from what he was really trying to do, which was take a great picture. And in that regard, similarly, what's happening here is a high-stakes game of "watch the birdie." The picture is the sale of fetal parts and impugning Planned Parenthood, but the real theme is to outlaw abortion.

Second thing is the fact that in a court of law, you know, the credibility of the witness goes a long way. And if you don't have a credible witness, nothing that they say counts. We know that what's happening here is an attempt to impugn the integrity of Planned Parenthood using the allegation of the sale of fetal parts, with the ultimate goal of outlawing abortion. This is not new. This is what has always been the case. And the high stakes of this, Amy, is the impairment of very important human science research that can help millions of folk, as well as doing away with very vital abortion services -

AMY GOODMAN: You know -

DR. WILLIE PARKER: - that Planned Parenthood provides.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Parker, I remember when Nancy Reagan, who was extremely anti-choice, broke with other people, who she usually agreed with, on the issue of stem cell research, with her husband who at the time was suffering from Alzheimer's, and afterwards - Ronald Reagan, of course, the president. She said this is too important. Now, I want to ask about what this fetal tissue research is. Explain what fetal tissue is. And how is it used for medical research? And is it used all over the country or only in certain states?

DR. WILLIE PARKER: Well, Amy, they say, when you stay in your lane, there's no traffic. And I would be out of my league to talk in depth about fetal tissue research. But what I can tell you is that, using scientific terms, any of the products of conception that are removed - a preborn, a pregnancy that's not given birth to - all of the parts are called "fetal parts." And so, there are some - you know, over the years, research has been furthered, to the extent that it can be, by using animal models and the like, but there are some disease processes where in order to make the real breakthroughs, you have to have access to human tissue. The one area where there is the availability of human tissue has been with regard to the tissues that are removed during an abortion process.

The only reason that that tissue would be available is that in every situation that I've ever been involved in, even when I worked at Planned Parenthood, there are these heavily regulated, heavily supervised agreements with research facilities, where they procure tissues from places where that tissue is generated. The other side of that is, when women have often approached me as I've done their abortions, when they are asking during the information process and the consent process, they will ask, "Is there any way this tissue could be donated for research?" So, the fact that there are disease processes like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, certain dementias, muscular dystrophy and other disease processes that are causing serious problems, the major breakthroughs that have been achieved have come about as a result of human tissue or fetal tissue being made available to further that research.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you know what states it's allowed in and where it isn't?

DR. WILLIE PARKER: Could you say that again? I'm sorry.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you know what states it's allowed in and where it isn't?

DR. WILLIE PARKER: I do not. I can tell you, like most things that are subject to regulations, there are federal guidelines that are overarching, but state to state, it varies. I would say, where you have states that are more liberal and progressive, like California and New York, where there is a heavier reliance on evidence to guide decision making, it may be more liberal to operate in these states as opposed to others.

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News Fri, 31 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Will Prosecutors Charge Officers Who Lied to Protect Ray Tensing After He Shot Sam Dubose? http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32163-will-prosecutors-charge-officers-who-lied-to-protect-ray-tensing-after-he-shot-sam-dubose http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32163-will-prosecutors-charge-officers-who-lied-to-protect-ray-tensing-after-he-shot-sam-dubose

Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing has been released on a $1 million bail after pleading not guilty to the murder of Sam Dubose. Tensing, who is white, fatally shot the 43-year-old African-American man on July 19 after stopping him for not having a front license plate. Two additional officers, Phillip Kidd and David Lindenschmidt, have been placed on administrative leave. Meanwhile, new information shows that Officer Phillip Kidd and another officer on scene during the Dubose shooting were involved in the death of an unarmed African-American man five years earlier. According to documents revealed by The Guardian, Phillip Kidd and Officer Eric Weibel were part of a seven-officer team that tased and shackled a mentally ill man who was having a psychotic episode. We speak to Iris Roley, longtime police accountability activist with the Cincinnati Black United Front. She is the cousin of Kelly Brinson, who died after being tased and restrained by University of Cincinnati police officers in 2010. Two of the police officers involved in Roley's cousin's death were at the scene of Sam Dubose's shooting and later lied to investigators to try to corroborate Officer Ray Tensing's false claim about being dragged by Dubose's car.

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: A former University of Cincinnati police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black man has been released from jail on a million dollars' bail, hours after an initial court appearance on Thursday. Twenty-five-year-old Ray Tensing pleaded not guilty in the death of 43-year-old Samuel DuBose, an unarmed African-American man. Officer Tensing appeared before Hamilton County Judge Megan Shanahan.

JUDGE MEGAN SHANAHAN: Ray Tensing, do you understand you have been charged with one count of murder and one count of voluntary manslaughter?

RAY TENSING: Yes, Your Honor.

JUDGE MEGAN SHANAHAN: This defendant has been served. The defendant is facing the possibility of life in prison. It's the court's duty to ensure his appearance. The bond will be $1 million any way. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a courtroom. You will conduct yourselves at all time appropriately.

AMY GOODMAN: Officer Ray Tensing shot Sam DuBose on July 19th, after pulling him over for not having a front license plate. Tensing wanted to see Dubose's driver's license. When DuBose said he didn't have it, Tensing made a motion to open Dubose's car door. Within seconds of this interaction, Officer Tensing's right hand swung into the video frame with a pistol. He fired a single shot into DuBose's head, which sent the car, with DuBose dead behind the wheel, rolling down the street, where it crashed to a halt. On Thursday, prosecutors released disturbing footage of the actual shooting.

RAY TENSING: Until I can figure out if you have a license or not, go ahead and take your seat belt off for me.

SAM DUBOSE: I didn't even do do nothing.

RAY TENSING: Go ahead and take your seat belt off. Stop! Stop!

AMY GOODMAN: Officer Tensing had claimed he was forced to open fire after he was "dragged" by DuBose's vehicle. But the local prosecutor, Joseph Deters, rejected that claim, saying there's no evidence the officer was dragged. Deters called the killing "senseless" and "horrible."

JOSEPH DETERS: I've been doing this for over 30 years. This is the most asinine act I've ever seen a police officer make. Totally unwarranted. It was - it's an absolute tragedy in the year 2015 that anyone would behave in this manner. It was senseless. And I met with the family just moments ago. It's just horrible.

AMY GOODMAN: The prosecutor, Deters, also said that the whole interaction was based on a, quote, "chicken crap" stop - the police officer stopping Samuel DuBose for not having a front license plate.

Well, on Thursday, two other University of Cincinnati officers, Phillip Kidd and David Lindenschmidt, were placed on administrative leave after being accused of lying that Tensing had been dragged. Newly released police body cam video shows officers discussing the incident with Tensing moments after it happened.

RAY TENSING: I think I'm OK. He was just dragging me.

PHILLIP KIDD: Yeah, I saw that.

RAY TENSING: I thought I was going to get run over. I was trying to stop him. No, he was dragging me, man.

PHILLIP KIDD: You good?

RAY TENSING: I'm good. I just got my hand and my arm caught inside.

PHILLIP KIDD: Yeah, I saw that.

POLICE SERGEANT: You can talk about anything you want except for what happened. For my purposes, for the investigation part of it, I need to know where it started, which is going to be right - it's at this center on this side of the tape, is that correct?

RAY TENSING: Yes, just south of the back of the intersection of Vale and Rice.

POLICE SERGEANT: And it looks like you got dragged, if I'm looking -

RAY TENSING: Yeah.

POLICE SERGEANT: OK. And it ended up here?

RAY TENSING: I'm sorry?

POLICE SERGEANT: This is our crime scene, right here?

RAY TENSING: Correct.

AMY GOODMAN: Excerpts from the police body cam video released Thursday, edited by The Guardian.

Well, for more, we go to Cincinnati, where we're joined by Iris Roley, who's a longtime police accountability activist with the Cincinnati Black United Front. She has been working closely on the Samuel DuBose case and with his family. But her work began more than a decade ago, in 2001, when riots broke out after the wrongful death of two unarmed black men by the Cincinnati Police Department. Roley helped document more than 400 stories of police brutality and misconduct for a class action lawsuit that led to the historic Collaborative Agreement and the Memorandum of Understanding between Cincinnati and the Department of Justice.

Well, I want to welcome you to Democracy Now! And if you can start off by talking about, Iris Roley, the family's reaction at this point, since you watched the video, when it was released, with them.

IRIS ROLEY: Well, good morning. Good morning. The family's reaction has been far superior to my family's reaction. We had the same incident with university police with my cousin, Kelly Brinson, in 2010, who was a mental patient and who was tased to death by the university police officers. I have watched this family deal with this with such grace and dignity. It has just been phenomenal. The children have been asking the most appropriate questions, to be children, and they have made me take a step back and think about some things. His sisters and brothers and his friends, they are all trying to honor Samuel DuBose's legacy by being more like him. They want the community to be peaceful and calm, and to let the process play out. So they have been phenomenally giving gifts to the community even in their time of grief.

AMY GOODMAN: After the indictment of Officer Tensing Wednesday, protesters gathered to demand an end to police britality. Sam DuBose's nine-year-old son, Samuel, addressed the crowd.

SAMUEL DUBOSE: I feel good that he's being locked up, because he had shot him, blatantly murdered. He didn't do nothing but shoot him. He just shot him. Like what is he doing? My daddy, he was just shot at. [inaudible] They just shot him in the head. He didn't go. He didn't get caught up in a car. This dude lied. He knew he was going to be on video. He knew he was going to lie. He thought he wasn't going to get locked up. That's why they're charging him for murder.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Samuel DuBose, Samuel DuBose's son. You know, Samuel DuBose, 43 years old, killed just this past July 19th - it was July 17th, a year ago, that another 43-year-old African-American man, Eric Garner, was killed in Staten Island.

Iris Roley, so now the police officer has met the bond he needed to meet for the $1 million bail. His lawyer said he is raising it hand and fist from people just wanting to give money. What about the other two officers who have now been - what is the word? They have been suspended or placed on administrative leave. Can you talk about them confirming what Tensing said, that he was being dragged, not saying that the man was dead in the car? The car started going after he shot him in the head.

IRIS ROLEY: Yeah, that is extremely difficult for me to imagine that these two officers are not being charged, because they clearly lied. And also, I may add that these same two officers were involved in my cousin's murder, as well. So there is a lot of evidence that they should no longer be on the force, as well. I think that the university president should have fired them also, as well as the prosecutor charging them with this blatant lie. It's clear, even though all three officers knew that Officer Tensing had a body camera on, they still chose to lie. And that is very problematic for people who are trying to reform police departments and build stronger community relations with police, in particular the University of Cincinnati's police department.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, it is very rare for a police officer to be charged for a murder. You heard the cheer break out in the courtroom. Can you talk about the significance - and we just have 10 seconds - of the DA's very strong response, the immediate indictment for murder, not to mention the mayor backing him up?

IRIS ROLEY: Well, one, the mayor had the same problem in 2001, when he was chair of law and public safety, and that's when the eruption spilled into the streets of Cincinnati, Ohio - part of his language, too. African Americans in the city of Cincinnati have had a terrible relationship with the prosecutor, Joe Deters. So we are waiting for a conviction. We're not in celebratory mode. Officer Tensing has bonded himself out. The family is very worried about that, and so is the community. So we're waiting on a conviction.

AMY GOODMAN: Iris Roley, we hope to speak to you again next week, longtime police accountability activist with the Cincinnati Black United Front.

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News Fri, 31 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400