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Weekend Read: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Education and Segregation

Weekend Read: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Education and Segregation

For the educators and learners among us: Make time for this meandering introspection from The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates on learning a new culture, navigating its border police and finding out this summer that, “I was more ignorant than I knew.” Baltimore born and raised Coates spent the summer learning French at Middlebury College in Vermont. He uses this French immersion to understand and explain how segregation prepared him well to become a writer, less so a high-achiever in the classroom.

There’s much to dig in Coates’ essay. But I’m drawn to the notion that for members of marginalized communities, acquiring education does not necessarily mean an end to persecution. It has often meant the opposite:

In the early 19th century, the Cherokee Nation was told by the new Americans that if its members adopted their “civilized” ways, they would soon be respected as equals….

The Cherokee Nation…embraced mission schools. Some of them converted to Christianity. Other intermarried. Others still enslaved blacks….Thus the Native Americans of that time showed themselves to be as able to to integrate elements of the West with their own culture as any group of Asian or Jewish American. But the wolf has never much cared whether the sheep were cultured or not.

“The problem, from a white point of view,” writes historian Daniel Walker Howe, “was that the success of these efforts to ‘civilize the Indians’ had not yielded the expected dividend in land sales. On the contrary, the more literate, prosperous, and politically organized the Cherokees made themselves, the more resolved they became to keep what remained of their land and improve it for their own benefit.”

Cosmopolitanism, openness to other cultures, openness to education did not make the Cherokee pliant to American power; it gave them tools to resist. Realizing this, the United States dropped the veneer of “culture” and “civilization” and resorted to “Indian Removal,” or The Trail of Tears.

Read the whole essay, “Acting French” on The Atlantic.

15 Photos to Remember Hurricane Katrina

15 Photos to Remember Hurricane Katrina

Labor Day weekend marks a somber anniversary in the United States. Nine year ago, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. The storm itself, as well as the subsequent flooding, claimed nearly 2,000 lives and displaced some one million people.

Hurricane Katrina also illustrated systemic racism in the U.S. and in the New Orleans area specifically—from the collapse of the levees to the belated rescue efforts to police shootings to media coverage. Katrina first made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 3 hurricane on Monday, August 29, 2005. By the time celebrities gathered to raise funds on television for the survivors four days later on September 2, Kanye famously blurted out “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” before his feed was cut off.

Here are some of the striking images from a devastating storm, nine years ago: 

08-29-14-katrina-1.jpgA man who refused to give his name covers his face as 50-mph winds blow in advance of Hurricane Katrina August 25, 2005 in Deerfield Beach, Florida. (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Getty)

 

08-29-14-katrina-2.jpgTrinidad Ribero stands at the gate of her flooded home after Hurricane Katrina dumped as much as 15 inches of rain as it passed over this community south of Miami August 26, 2005 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Getty)

 

08-29-14-katrina-3.jpgPeople wait in line while attempting to rent a car at New Orleans International Airport in preparation for Hurricane Katrina August 27, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty)

 

08-29-14-katrina-4.jpgJeff Johnson holds his daughter Kayla, 1, in the nearly deserted French Quarter before the arrival of Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty)

 

08-29-14-katrina-5.jpgResidents wait in line to enter the Superdome which is being used as an emergency shelter before the arrival of Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty)

 

08-29-14-katrina-6.jpgWinn Dixie grocery store meat manager Amanda Keierleber stocks the last expected supply of meat before Hurricane Katrina moves through the morning of August 29, 2005 in Meridian, Mississippi. (Photo: Barry Williams/Getty)

 

08-29-14-katrina-7.jpgA man peers out of a window broken by Hurricane Katrina at the Hyatt Hotel on August 29, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty)

 

08-29-14-katrina-8.jpgPeople walk down a flooded street after Hurricane Katrina hit the area August 29, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty)

 

08-29-14-katrina-9.jpgMark Benton, of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, helps to rescue three month old Ishmael Sullivan from a school rooftop after he and his mother were trapped with dozens of others in high water after Hurricane Katrina August 30, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Mario Tama)

 

08-29-14-katrina-10.jpgA McDonalds lies in ruins across from the beach and Highway 90 August 30, 2005 in Biloxi, Mississippi. (Photo: Barry Williams)

 

08-29-14-katrina-11.jpgPatricia Barela (L) and Jose Samaniewo make a donation for victims of Hurricane Katrina at a daylong disaster relief collection event at Dodger Stadium August 31, 2005 in Los Angeles. (Photo: Ann Johansson/Getty)

 

08-29-14-katrina-12.jpgDaryl Thompson holds his daughter Dejanae, 3-months, as they wait with other displaced residents on a highway in the hopes of catching a ride out of town after Hurricane Katrina August 31, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty)

 

08-29-14-katrina-13.jpgIn this handout photo provided by the White House, U.S. President George W. Bush looks out over devastation from Hurricane Katrina as he heads back to Washington D.C. August 31, 2005 aboard Air Force One. (Photo: Paul Morse/White House via Getty)

 

08-29-14-katrina-14.jpg

Evacuees from the New Orleans area take shelter in the Reliant Astrodome September 1, 2005 in Houston, Texas. (Photo: Dave Einsel/Getty)

 

08-29-14-katrina-15.jpgEvacuees from New Orleans who survived Hurricane Katrina arrive on September 2, 2005 at Kelly USA in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty) 

#BeyondFerguson Town Hall Puts Mayor in Hot Seat

#BeyondFerguson Town Hall Puts Mayor in Hot Seat

A standing room only crowd gathered at church last night for a frank town hall with Ferguson’s mayor and invited guests that included nationally respected moderator and mediator, NPR’s Michel Martin. Mayor James Knowles III, who is white, weathered heavy criticism from the multi-racial crowd and in particular, sharp disagreement from Daniel Isom about police procedure and allowing Michael Brown’s uncovered body to lay on the asphalt that Saturday afternoon. Isom, a former St Louis police chief and current professor, was recently nominated by Gov Jay Nixon to become Missouri’s top law enforcement official and the first African-American in Nixon’s cabinet. Listen at 6:45 in the NPR audio above for more.

More young people arrived as the evening wore on, Martin says, and some complained that none of yesterday’s panelists represented their generation, which has disproportionate contact with area police. Listen at 2:30 above as a 20-year-old college student tells the mayor, “The people who’re directly under you are taking our rights away,” and more. (The absence of young people, specifically, in policing discussions has been noted elsewhere.)

Listen at 4:15, too, to hear some of the views of Ferguson’s white residents, many of whom expressed surprise at learning of their black neighbors’ frustrations with police.

A Twitter chat #BeyondFerguson accompanied last night’s town hall and it’s still active today. Video of the forum, sponsored by St Louis Public Radio, is supposed to be up at noon today.

3 Million Syrians Displaced, Google Drones, Senegal Confirms First Ebola Case

3 Million Syrians Displaced, Google Drones, Senegal Confirms First Ebola Case

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • The U.N. says that three million Syrians—or about one of out every eight—have been displaced since 2011. 
  • West African students arriving on U.S. campuses this fall may be subjected to increased health checks.
TAGS: Morning Rush

Hillary Clinton Actually Says Something Meaningful About Ferguson and Racism

Hillary Clinton Actually Says Something Meaningful About Ferguson and Racism

It took her almost three weeks, but likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton finally said something about the shooting and killing of Michael Brown and what’s transpired since.

She said she was heartbroken by Brown’s funeral, and added she also grieves for the community of Ferguson. Clinton, who was in San Francisco for a conference, called out the militarized of police on Ferguson streets, which she says looked “like a warzone.” She also praised community leaders, young demonstrators and “decent and respectful law enforcement officers.”

She then explicitly addressed the institutional racism of the entire criminal justice system—from traffic stops to prison sentences.

Clinton had long been called out for not addressing Ferguson—although one writer recently attempted to make a case as to why Clinton should remain quiet about one of the biggest stories in the world. 

(h/t TPM)

Ferguson Update: Audio of Michael Brown Shooting Authenticated

Ferguson Update: Audio of Michael Brown Shooting Authenticated

Audio appearing to capture the shots fired at unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson has been authenticated by Glide, a video messaging app company. An unidentified resident of the nearby apartment complex was using the app on his/her smartphone and unwittingly captured the sound of gunshots and the time of the incident: 12:02:14 p.m. CDT according to a Glide press release today. Lee reports that time matches when police say Brown was shot. The audio, in which a pause between shots can be heard, could be a critical piece of evidence in the investigation of Brown’s death. The unidentified resident is cooperating with the FBI.

Read more at MSNBC.

Ousted High-Ranking Official: Border Patrol has Become a ‘Paramilitary Force’

Ousted High-Ranking Official: Border Patrol has Become a 'Paramilitary Force'

Twenty eighy unarmed migrants have died at the hands of U.S. Customs and Border Protection since 2010—and not one agent has faced criminal charges in the killings. Two months ago, the Border Patrol’s head of internal affairs, James F. Tomsheck, was fired for not doing enough to investigate the shootings. But since that time, Tomsheck’s gone on the record to refute that claim, and to tell the public just corrupt the agency has become.

Tomsheck spoke with NPR in a report that aired this morning. He explains that agents routinely lie or distort the truth to protect themselves. But the problem isn’t individual agents—it’s the leadership, too. And, according to Tomsheck, the agency itself tends to think of itself as a “paramilitary border security force” that’s operating outside of the “constitutional restraints regarding use of force.”

The Border Patrol is largest federal law enforcement agency in the United States. It says it is launching a new training program, as well as an improved internal affairs unit headed by the F.B.I. 

New Report Tracks Discrimination Against California’s Muslims

New Report Tracks Discrimination Against California's Muslims

California’s Muslims reported 933 discrimination complaints during 2013, according to a new annual report from the state offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Chief among them were employment discrimination (15 percent) with immigration and FBI and law enforcement complaints coming in at a close second.

Though they comprise the vast majority, not all complaints to CAIR came from Muslims. They also include complaints from individuals thought to “look Muslim,” too. 

“While most people who know of CAIR know us through our grassroots work within the American Muslim community and therefore tend to be Muslim, we would never turn away someone who was discriminated against because they were perceived to be Muslim,” says Brice Hamack, CAIR’s civil rights coordinator in the San Francisco office.

Read the full report here, which shows a slight increase in reporting from 854 complaints received in 2012.

Hip-Hop’s Biggest Names Release Song After Ferguson: ‘Don’t Shoot’

Hip-Hop's Biggest Names Release Song After Ferguson: 'Don't Shoot'

Some of hip-hop’s biggest stars got together to record a new track dedicated to Michael Brown called “Don’t Shoot.” The song features the Game, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Diddy, Fabolous, Wale, DJ Khaled, Swizz Beatz, Yo Gotti, Currensy, Problem and King Pharaoh & TGT. It also names other victims of police and vigilante violence, including Ezell Ford and Trayvon Martin. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ New Book Club To Tackle Mass Incarceration

Ta-Nehisi Coates' New Book Club To Tackle Mass Incarceration

The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, writer of The Case for Reparations, is reviving his book club. But instead of the Civil War, this time it’ll focus on mass incarceration. First up is Michelle Alexander’s, “The New Jim Crow.” The reading schedule for September is posted. Take a look and join the discussion. 

Black Oakland City Workers Find Noose on Truck

Black Oakland City Workers Find Noose on Truck

A group of black Oakland Public Works employees noticed a noose was placed on one of their trucks Tuesday—in a department in Northern California where many say racial tensions have been brewing. 

According to San Francisco’s local CBS News, KPIX, the workers’ union says the hangman’s noose is representative of racism in the department. Mayor Jean Quan reluctantly told KPIX that she thought there weren’t racial tensions there, only concerns over promotions.

The case is being investigated by Oakland Police Department. 

Black Ex-Police Chief May Become Missouri’s Top Cop

Black Ex-Police Chief May Become Missouri's Top Cop

Governor Jay Nixon has nominated an African-American ex-police chief to direct the Department of Public Safety (DPS), the top law enforcement post in the state. Daniel Isom’s nomination comes amidst heavy criticism of Nixon’s response to Ferguson protests, and it’s been interpreted by some as the governor’s attempt to appease blacks in his state. If confirmed, Isom would be the only African-American in Nixon’s cabinet and the second high profile African-American law enforcement officer tapped by Nixon in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s killing by a white police officer.

Isom spent 24 years with the St. Louis police, four as chief. He retired two years ago to become a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The head of DPS oversees the Highway Patrol, the National Guard, the Office of Homeland Security and other statewide law enforcement agencies.

(h/t The New York Times)

Ukraine Fears Russian Invasion, Hello Schrödinger’s Kitty, Josh Shaw’s Suspension

Ukraine Fears Russian Invasion, Hello Schrödinger's Kitty, Josh Shaw's Suspension

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:

  • Some headlines this morning are actually wondering whether 9-year-olds should be learning how to use submachine guns.
  • The Samsung and LG smartwatches are here
  • USC’s Josh Shaw is suspended after he admits he lied about a heroic story. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Navajo Kindergartener Told to Cut his Hair, Sent Home on First Day of School

Navajo Kindergartener Told to Cut his Hair, Sent Home on First Day of School

Five-year-old Malachi Wilson was all set to start kindergarten at F.J. Young Elementary in Seminole, Texas, but on Monday he was told to cut his hair and was sent home. His mother, April Wilson, contacted the Navajo Nation; the American Indian Movement also put pressure on the district to reverse its decision against the child. Only after she provided documentation of her son’s Native-ness through Malachi’s Certificate of Indian Blood did the Seminole Independent School District change its mind.

The district’s rather lengthy student dress code stipulates more than a dozen rules when it comes to hair. Among them, Mohawks are prohibited. (Mohawks are called that for the way that some actual Mohawk people wear their hair.) Dreadlocks are also prohibited. The handbook says exceptions are made on “certain recognized religious or spiritual beliefs,” but students “must receive prior approval by the campus administrator.” The district changed its mind about Wilson’s hair—but he nevertheless missed his first day of school.

The school district is ostensibly named for the Seminole people. The district’s schools use various Native mascots, and refer to their students as “Indians and Maidens.” 

Former Giuliani Speechwriter Says We Don’t Need Another Dialogue on Race

Former Giuliani Speechwriter Says We Don't Need Another Dialogue on Race

After Michael Brown’s killing, Damon Linker doesn’t want another national dialogue on race. Instead the former speechwriter for Mayor Rudy Giuliani wants white Americans to see their country through the eyes of African-Americans. Here’s why:

Blacks overwhelmingly believe that the police use deadly force against black suspects…while whites tend to presume that cops do their jobs fairly. This is a big deal, and one that should trouble white America far more than it does — because it means that whites view armed agents of the government as their allies, while African Americans see those same agents…like the occupying army of a hostile power.

Linker doesn’t get at the hard stuff: “how” to get more white Americans to see life from the other side of the color line. But the full essay over at The Week is worth the read. 

 

Comic Relief: Jon Stewart Takes Down Fox News’ Take on Ferguson

Comic Relief: Jon Stewart Takes Down Fox News' Take on Ferguson

Watch Jon Stewart take down a number of Fox News talking points that are popular among people of color on the left and right, too. Stay tuned until the end when Stewart, who’s just returned from vacation asks, “Do you not understand that life in this country is inherently different for white people and black people?” The question gets at the difference, well-noted these past few weeks, in how white and black Americans react to Ferguson. Stewart answers with a tale of two of his employees sent out on an assignment. One is black, the other white. Not much to say: many people know how this story goes.

Parents Announce Boycott of Newark Schools Over School Reform Plan

Parents Announce Boycott of Newark Schools Over School Reform Plan

A group of Newark parents announced today that their children will boycott Newark public schools beginning next week, at the start of the new school year. “NPS Boycott 4 Freedom” is a response to “One Newark,” a school reform plan set to take effect next month that will restructure or shut down a third of schools in the city’s state-run public school district.

“The NPS Boycott 4 Freedom is an act of resistance and a statement against the One Newark Plan — Gov. Christie and Superintendent Cami Anderson’s destructive and shortsighted plan,” Newark parent Deborah Cornavaca said in a statement. “We have decided to escalate our actions to a boycott because we cannot continue to let the state and the superintendent disregard our lived experience and endanger the lives of our children.”

In May, Newark parents, together with groups from Chicago and New Orleans and the Advancement Project, filed federal complaints with the Department of Education, charging that school reform and closure plans disproportionately affected African-American and Latino children in those cities. Last month, the Department of Education confirmed that it opened an investigation into Newark’s One Newark plan off of the complaints it received.

According to the federal complaint civil rights groups filed, African-American students comprised 53 percent of the district enrollment but nearly three quarters of those impacted by school closures in the 2011-2012 school year. One Newark will have similarly racially disparate impacts on Newark students, parents warn.

Parents are calling for an end to the One Newark Plan, and an end to decades-long state control of Newark Public Schools, as well as implementation of “community-driven sustainable schools,” according to parents’ demands.

Learning From Ferguson: The Real Cost of Criminal Debt

Learning From Ferguson: The Real Cost of Criminal Debt

In a city with 14 percent unemployment and where more than 20 percent of residents live below poverty, criminal fines and court fees levied on the poor are Ferguson’s second largest source of revenue. That’s according to a new white paper from St. Louis-based indigent defense group, ArchCity Defenders. “I’ll be real honest, I didn’t believe them,” at first, executive director Thomas Harvey tells the Daily Beast about incessant client complaints of being targeted because they were black and poor. But findings from a yearlong court-watching program changed Harvey’s mind—and they’re drawing attention to an ongoing national problem of municipalities using local courts to generate revenue from the poor instead of dispensing justice.

The debt-to-prison pipeline—through traffic violations, misdemeanors and arcane courthouse rules and financial penalties—is a major cause of antagonism between Ferguson residents and local police. Criminal debt cripples families and communities after all, and not only the individual receiving the warrant.

(h/t Daily Beast/The New York Times)

Hours After Brown’s Killing, Police in Ferguson Let K-9 Urinate on Memorial Site

Hours After Brown's Killing, Police in Ferguson Let K-9 Urinate on Memorial Site

It was bad enough that Ferguson police left Michael Brown’s dead body in plain sight on a residential street for more than four hours after Darren Wilson shot and killed the unarmed 18-year-old. But what police did the evening of August 9 gives us a better understanding of why Ferguson’s black community was even further enraged.

In an article over at Mother Jones, Mark Follman explains how police officers disrespected the still bloodstained spot where Brown was gunned down. It’s unclear which police department was responsible, but according to witnesses, one unit allowed their K-9 dog to urinate directly on the memorial site.

And, as if that’s not sufficiently horrific, Follman describes what happened to the flowers and candles that Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden had brought to the site where her son was killed:

The day brought other indignities for Brown’s family, and the community. Missouri state Rep. Sharon Pace, whose district includes the neighborhood where the shooting occurred, told me she went to the scene that afternoon to comfort the parents, who were blocked by police from approaching their son’s body. Pace purchased some tea lights for the family, and around 7 p.m. she joined Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, and others as they placed the candles and sprinkled flowers on the ground where Brown had died. “They spelled out his initials with rose petals over the bloodstains,” Pace recalled.

By then, police had prohibited all vehicles from entering Canfield Drive except for their own. Soon the candles and flowers had been smashed, after police drove over them.

Things got so bad that local residents began using their own bodies to block police cars from entering the street where Brown was killed.

You can read Follman’s article in its entirety on Mother Jones

How News Media Fuels the Myth of Black Crime

How News Media Fuels the Myth of Black Crime

You’re not just imagining things. The local news media’s intense focus on violent crime is also deeply racialized, at least if New York City’s media market is indicative of national trends.

Media Matters reviewed the 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. broadcasts of four New York-area stations over the course of this summer and compared their crime stories to arrest data from the New York Police Department. In a report released Aug. 26, the watchdog group found black suspects in crime stories far outweigh their actual representation in arrests—which is saying something, since we also know arrests themselves are racially skewed, with black people representing far more arrests for, say, marijuana possession than drug-use rates suggest is appropriate.

The disparity in crime coverage was most striking for stories about theft. In local news-land, 80 percent of suspects in New York-area thefts are black, Media Matters found. In real life, blacks represent 55 percent of NYPD’s arrests for theft. For assaults, TV-land sees 72 percent of suspects as black. Real life: 49 percent. 

This reality skewing coverage is part of how black bodies become synonymous with crime and danger—and helps justify the violence and danger the state then reigns down upon peolpe like Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But the news media’s skewed racial reality doesn’t end with crime.

Earlier this year, Colorlines’ publisher, Race Forward, analyzed national news media coverage of stories about race. Our research team found that two-thirds of race-focused stories ignored the systemic factors involved, and focused instead on personal prejudices and individual level efforts to name the racist in the room. Race Forward’s Jay Smooth explains the findings in the video below.

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