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Responding to Charlottesville

by Michelle Palmer

 

“The greatest indicator of whether we’d have marched or stayed home, spoken out or remained silent, been brave or safe in the last civil right movement is whether we’re marching, speaking up, and being brave in THIS civil rights movement. Who you are is not about what you believe or how you feel. Who you are is about what you do or do not do.” – Glennon Doyle

“Sickened.” “Disgusted.” “Devastated.”

Those are some of the words I saw flash across my timeline after last weekend. (If you are not one of the 30 million people who have already seen the VICE News video about Charlottesville, please do. I’m confident you will be sickened, disgusted, and devastated. WARNING: It’s graphic. It’s painful. It’s vulgar. But it’s important.)

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As thankful as I was to see so many denounce white supremacy publicly, including several who often steer clear of controversial issues, I am left, the week after, hoping their words aren’t empty. Hoping that their disgust will lead them to action. I’ve seen it stated in a variety of ways over the last week: If you think you would have marched with Martin Luther King in the 60s, you should be marching now. For folks who are just waking up to the severe racial divides and inequality in America, and indeed the world, I wanted to provide a resource that answers, “What do I do now?” I freely admit that I have stolen these lists from various sources for your convenience, but each source is linked and I encourage you to read them in full, if at all possible!  

I. Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide (This resource from Southern Poverty Law Center is the best I’ve seen thus far. If you’re sickened or disgusted or devastated, please click through to the full guide and find a way to get plugged in.)

  1. Act. “Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public and — worse — the victims. Community members must take action; if we don’t, hate persists.”
  2. Join Forces. “Reach out to allies from churches, schools, clubs, and other civic groups. Create a diverse coalition. Include children, police, and the media. Gather ideas from everyone, and get everyone involved.”
  3. Support the Victims. “Hate crime victims are especially vulnerable.”
  4. Speak Up. “Hate must be exposed and denounced. Help news organizations achieve balance and depth.”
  5. Educate Yourself. “An informed campaign improves its effectiveness. Determine if a hate group is involved, and research its symbols and agenda. Understand the difference between a hate crime and a bias incident.”
  6. Create an Alternative. “Do not attend a hate rally. Find another outlet for anger and frustration and for people’s desire to do something. Hold a unity rally or parade to draw media attention away from hate.”
  7. Pressure Leaders. “Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies.”
  8. Stay Engaged. “Promote acceptance and address bias before another hate crime can occur.”
  9. Teach Acceptance. “Bias is learned early, often at home. Schools can offer lessons of tolerance and acceptance.”
  10. Dig Deeper. “Look inside yourself for biases and stereotypes.”


II. “How to ‘Love Anyway’ After Charlottesville” – Courtney Christenson

  • recognize that racism is woven into the very fabric of our society
  • stand by our black and brown brothers and sisters and make sure that they know their well-being is more important to us than the feelings of their oppressors.
  • by pointing out the ways racism infiltrates our everyday language, culture, media, and government—rather than pretending that the extremists who showed up in Charlottesville are the only perpetrators.
  • advocate for the rights and fair treatment of people of color by law enforcement.
  • challenge white privilege when we see it in the relatively gentle response of law enforcement and government officials to white supremacist marching in Charlottesville, compared to their response to protests largely made up of people of color.
  • seek justice and reconciliation, instead of victory and domination.
  • use every nonviolent tactic we can think of to destroy hate and unmake violence, but we distinguish between destroying ideologies and destroying the people who hold them.
  • respect the humanity of the people in these groups by refusing to injure or kill or dehumanize them, even though they don’t show the same respect to others.
  • advocate for the healing and rehabilitation of white supremacists whenever possible. Because real peace is healing for everyone involved.
  • refuse to lose sight of the humanity of the oppressor… while remembering that our hearts belong to the oppressed.

III. “White Feelings: 0-60 for Charlottesville” – Erynn Brook (which I feel obliged to tell you has NSFW language, but I highly recommend anyway)

Amplify. Speak out. Follow the voices on the ground. Denounce white supremacy. Denounce white supremacy publicly, on all your social media accounts. Donate here (Solidarity Cville Anti-Racist Legal Fund). Donate here, Black Women Being will provide funds to individuals on the ground. Donate here, Nice White Ladies has an emergency fund that is directly available to community organizers. Get on Twitter and Facebook and ask your friends to donate as well. Donate to BLM Charlottesville, they are on the ground. If you feel like you need more education on anti-black racism, sign up for Safety Pin Box. Contact your local Black Lives Matter chapter and follow them. Just be present, do something, do anything. If you’ve done nothing because you’re worried about being the best, then you’re a bigger problem than someone who’s trying but messing up.

I know, I know: Many of these are pretty daunting. I get that. To quote my old pastor, Crispin, “Condemning racism is easy. Making space in one’s life for relationship with folks who are different from you is work, hard work, holy work.” Doing the hard, holy work of ending white supremacy and fighting for racial reconciliation requires time and energy and other resources. If you have the time and energy for this stuff, keep going. Keep working. It’s so worth it!  

If you’re not quite there yet, but still want to do something, there’s a (relatively) easy way to get involved that only requires one resource, CASH! Donating funds to the people on the ground is important, necessary work. (Erynn gave four great places to donate to up there ^.) Another organization to support, both financially and otherwise, is the Southern Poverty Law Center. I love the work this organization does! They are on the forefront of research on hate groups in America, and they use their research to fuel the fight against white supremacy.

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The SPLC is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.

FIGHTING HATE

We monitor hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States and expose their activities to the public, the media and law enforcement.

TEACHING TOLERANCE

We’re dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children.

SEEKING JUSTICE

We’re seeking justice for the most vulnerable people in society.

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(Also, I am donating my birthday to these guys on Facebook, and I would LOVE for you join my campaign. Click here!!!)

But it’s not just about financial support. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and share their work with your family and friends.

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I know this was a lot. If you’re feeling super overwhelmed right now, bookmark this post, come back to it, and in the meantime, do this:

“Tell your family you love them. Tell your friends you love them. Tell strangers you see them. Tell the marginalized you will stand alongside them. Tell children you see their potential. Whatever you do, don’t be silent.” – Matthew Huard

 


For More Information…

 

The Day I Became a White Man Was the Day I Became a Black Man: A Story About Race

Michelle here! Just a quick note about today’s post. No, it’s not the 5th Tuesday of the month, but we’ve got a guest post! We are so thankful to publish this piece by Vershal Hogan while we’re a week into our 2017 Tuesday Justice Survey campaign. We have already seen several requests for more ways to get involved and to tangibly work towards freedom, equality, and justice. That is coming, I promise. But this post isn’t it. With that being said, I fully believe that some of the most important work we can do is in our own hearts and minds. Vershal’s story has encouraged me to come to terms with my own whiteness and how that affects my interactions and relationships. As a person passionate about these issues, it’s mandatory that I regularly confront this in my own life. I hope this story helps you do just that, like it did for me. 

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Vershal and his son quite a few years back, closer to the time of the story than today.

by Vershal Hogan

At the time, I was in my first year of working for a newspaper in southern Mississippi, in a city renowned for its preservation of antebellum homes and — to some extent even now — culture. Any discussion of race in the city inevitably mentions its historic tableaux, which was originally known as the Confederate Pageant and wasn’t rebranded until the early 2000s, but even outside the spring and fall pilgrimage seasons — in which the city’s garden clubs open their historic homes for tours — the historic realities of the Civil War, slavery and Jim Crow are a part of a complicated history and present. Some embrace that history with unquestioning enthusiasm, waving the banner Lost Cause, while others wrestle with being the inheritors of estates that were built and paid for by human chattel. Many members of the black community are descendants of those slaves, growing up in the shadows of homes that were raised by the blood and sweat of their kin but never gaining any social capital from it. Couple that with Jim Crow and civil rights eras that were as violent as the worst parts of the country, and race becomes an issue that almost always simmers just below the surface.

I met David one day while I was out doing an assignment for the newspaper, a weekly feature in which we threw a dart at a map and then went and wrote a story about whatever we found. It was usually an innocuous, inconsequential story, usually something about a grandmother spending time with her grandchildren or about friends who worked on antique cars together – typically, it was something very middle-class.

That day was different, however. The dart had landed on a street in a historically black neighborhood that had once been renowned for its success, but had drifted into decay in recent years. My editor had given us a rule that you were allowed to go only as far as one street over from where the dart landed to find a story, and normally that worked. In that town, one street over from shacks leaning in on each other could very easily be gentrified, or just as likely, bourgeoisie. Economic degeneration and revitalization in southwest Mississippi is a strange thing.

The street the dart landed on was by far the better of the three choices we had using the one-street-over rule, and even then there was a gang of Bloods standing at the corner eyeballing me and the photographer, Frank.

The first couple of houses we approached had “Keep Out” and “Beware of Dog” signs, and when we saw David sitting on a porch, he was working on a neighbor’s kerosene heater, tinkering and trying to get it to fire up. He had a plastic cup and a bottle of cheap whiskey on the porch next to him, whiskey I smelled before I ever saw it. It looked like a lazy afternoon, and he would be someone we could speak with and get a story quickly.

“Hey, Mr. Frank,” he called out, recognizing the photographer, who seemed to know everyone in that town, “What are you doing with that Jew in this neighborhood?”

After Frank and I both laughed at the comment (I’d been mistaken for being Jewish a number of times, several of them while with Frank in black neighborhoods), we explained what we were doing, and David agreed to talk to us. He talked about the history of his neighborhood (he alleged, among other things, that a nun had been hanged in his house in the 1880s), about his personal doubts about organized religion even though he occasionally attended a church, about how he wanted to help people and how he gathered and distributed information around his neighborhood about how to get back into school, start a business or get corporate grants. He talked a lot about race relations, how they had gotten better and how, in some cases, they had gotten worse.

He had a master’s degree in agriculture production and had been part of a program that had the goal of teaching young black men how to be commercial farmers and catfish producers. That had been going well until his work in the field got the best of him, leaving him out of commission for a long time, he said.

“Sunstroke is a hell of a thing to happen to a man,” he said. “Especially to a black man.”

Through all of this, he would occasionally give me a strange look.

Finally, he came out with it: “You look white, but I know you’re not all white.”

Like many people in the South, I’ve got some Chickasaw-Choctaw Nation genes, but I’ve never considered myself to be anything but white and have certainly never been bold enough to try to identify otherwise.

“You know how I know you’re not all white?” David said, his eyes intense. “I know that because you look me in the eyes. White people don’t look me in the eyes.”

Here was a man who — while a little rough around the edges — was educated and articulate (yes, I said it), but conditioned by a dynamic that expected me not to treat him as an equal. His bringing up what he perceived to be my own ethno-racial identity was predicated on the safety of the neighborhood.

I don’t remember what I said after that. Back then, making eye contact in conversation wasn’t so much a professional or human courtesy as it was a compulsion because I had a teacher who berated me for not doing so when I talked to her when I was 15. I was just trying to be polite to an adult who was much older than I was, and for a brief moment, I felt a pointless pang of corporate white guilt even though he had praised me for doing what he didn’t expect me to do.

I had already come to the conclusion that in the South race problems were rooted in more than just a hatred or disdain for that which is different, that it was a social construct that conflated socio-economics with melanin. The city was the location anthropologists chose to study in the 1941 (at the time) groundbreaking anthropological study, “Deep South,” and though at the time I hadn’t read it, I’d noticed similar dynamics to what the authors published — that racial boundaries are often about maintaining a caste system, which is why, for example, it’s often considered shameful for a rich white girl to date a black boy (even a rich black boy) but not for a white girl from one of the poorer trailer parks.

But David then did something that made me realize that everything we do, consciously or unconsciously, reinforces those caste systems.

He reached over, put his hands on my shoulder, and said, “Because you look me in the eyes, I now adopt you as my black brother. You are now one of us.”

That was the day I really grasped how my own race could import an unspoken dynamic into a conversation, especially with someone who has the living memory of some of our shared culture’s uglier moments. Here I was, a kid just out of school interacting with a man three times my age and with twice the education, and he was socially conditioned to assume I wouldn’t grant him a basic courtesy, whether out of a sense of superiority or fear. Until that point, my general beliefs about racism had been facile, the thought that if one does not speak or think with overt hatred they’ve covered their bases, and a few years later, when talk of non-verbal racism became mainstream, I thought back to that occasion.

The story I wrote from that afternoon, like many dart features, wasn’t very long or memorable. I’m sure that if David even read it, he laughed at it, as he would laugh at this writing.

But I remember it, and sometimes I still think about it. Since then, I’ve had opportunity to attend sessions where black people — especially older people — talked about the conditioning that was drilled into them from a young age, how they weren’t to look certain people directly in the eyes, how deferential language was non-negotiable and even how where one positioned themselves in a room or a public space were important considerations. While most of the overt behavior codes of the bad old days are now gone, the complexity of our interactions continue; in fact, it may be more difficult to root out now because most people will affirm that racism is bad, and thus don’t want to admit their own shortcomings.

(And if you don’t see how that doesn’t sometimes translate into frustration or even rage…)

I am fortunate in that I don’t get to qualify my own failings with the old social crutch of “That’s how I was raised;” our home was pretty open. But the culture around me being what it was, there were a lot of unconscious cues that I absorbed, and I’ll admit that there are still things I have to work on.

But I’ll give this: If I have to be called out for something, I’ll at least be looking you in the eye.

 



For more on battling racism, check out our other posts on the subject:

The Art of Being an Ally

Being an ally means laying aside my own feelings and recognizing the larger forces at work beyond what affects only me and people who look like me. Being an ally means shutting down the pride that says, “It doesn’t matter if it’s not good for you; it’s good for me and that’s all that matters.” Being an ally means hearing hard things without getting immediately defensive.

by Michelle Palmer

DISCLAIMER: This is going to be a far more personal post than usual, and I’ll start with a confession. I’ve been thinking about this post for well over a month. I’m typing the first words of it at 8:45 PM the night before it’s meant to be published. I’m no stranger to procrastination, but this time it’s because I’m a bit overwhelmed and a bit afraid of what I want to say. I hope you’ll bear with me.

593ff1b91d00002900cc2ac9I first started thinking about writing this post when I saw Wonder Woman and loved it. But it didn’t take long, because of the people and pages I follow, before I saw a post on my timeline lambasting it. (A post which I am very annoyed to say I now can’t find.) The author made several excellent points. Firstly, she spoke about the tropes used on two of the featured Black women at the start of the film: the first a “mammy” figure chasing after Diana and the second a “brute” figure fighting Antiope (eloquently explained in this post by Cameron Glover). Then she spoke about Gal Gadot’s problematic Zionist views (outlined in detail in this post by Susan Abulhawa), which she and many others find deeply oppressive and unjust.

I don’t intend to tackle either harmful Black stereotypes or intersectionality or the Israel-Palestine conflict in this post.

Today, I want to tackle my white fragility.

329958-fragileWhat happened when I was confronted with the notion that Wonder Woman wasn’t perfect was a deep frustration…an exhaustion…a temptation to give up. It wasn’t just Wonder Woman. I remember thinking at the time about all the other frustrating and exhausting things I kept encountering that particular week. I just wanted a win. I wanted something to enjoy, something that I didn’t have to question.

That reaction was prideful and unfair, and it revealed my fragility.

You see, the truth is that even though feminism matters and there is some good to be said about Wonder Woman, the film is not intersectional; it’s not good for women of color like it is for white women. The truth is that minority groups, especially women in minority groups, don’t have the luxury of just ignoring what’s problematic. (Erynn Brook had a similar experience and writes about it beautifully in her post on Medium.)

As a privileged white woman, I can easily ignore what’s problematic and focus entirely on what’s good and post a highly-edited, shiny photo of my ticket stub with the caption “OMG BEST MOVIE EVERRR.” I can comfort myself and shy away from harsh truths and keep myself shielded from unfortunate realities. But that’s a temptation I don’t want to fall into.  

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Why? Because I want to be an ally.

Being an ally means laying aside my own feelings and recognizing the larger forces at work beyond what affects only me and people who look like me. Being an ally means shutting down the pride that says, “It doesn’t matter if it’s not good for you; it’s good for me and that’s all that matters.” Being an ally means hearing hard things without getting immediately defensive.

It can get complicated too. There are a lot of voices. And I’m still not sure I can explain intersectionality on my own without Google. (Though this article by Kimberlé Crenshaw, the law professor who coined the term, gives the clearest explanation I’ve come across yet.) But there are lots of articles, posts, and websites that make it plain and simple. Here are some I really like:

I encourage you to check them all out, but I’ve summarized them down to the bare bones here in case you don’t.

    • When you see it, call it out. Don’t let racism go unchecked. In your workplace, in your home, on your Facebook page, in your church. Challenge racism every single time you see it.
    • Get educated. (Find resources here and here.) Know about redlining, systemic racism, and mass incarceration.
    • Amplify the voices of people of color. Post stories and videos on your social media pages. Be supportive in your workplace and community and church, and don’t let other White people silence POC. Pass the mic as often as you can.
    • Listen. Listen. Listen.

There’s more to it, of course, but that’s a good place to start.

Last week, a friend of mine shared this picture on Facebook, and the quote absolutely floored me. I love it, and I feel like I need it tattooed on my arm so I can be reminded of it every single day.

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Then Sunday night, we were watching Captain America: Civil War, and Peter Parker said, in his own Peter Parkery kind of way, almost the same exact thing:

“When you can do the things that I can, but you don’t, and then the bad things happen? They happen because of you.”

The way Spiderman says it is less fancy, but it speaks the same truth:

Being an ally means doing all I can to end the vices and the bad things, and failure to do so is failure.

 


For more information….

The 2017 Freedom Post

by The Tuesday Justice Community

In honor of both the 4th of July and Canada150, we asked our readers and friends and family to tell us about FREEDOM: What is it? What does it mean to you? When you hear the word, what comes to mind?

The answers ranged from the humorous….
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– Garrett

“Apple pie” – Erich

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– Jason

“Babysitter” – Hart

 

…to the personal….
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“An open field!!!! Being in nature with no agenda feels like freedom to me!” – Alice

“Freedom to me personally would be to live without anxiety. I’ve been dealing with it since I was young but did not understand until a few years ago that I struggled with this. There are some days when I wake up and do not have it – that is the most free I have ever felt. I just never know when those days will surface.” – Jessica

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“Freedom means that I am able to safely live authentically and be able to marry my wife.” – Corie

 

…some based their answers on imagery…-

FREEDOM by Rach Pace

“It’s a dancer and represents how we are pulled down by the events, surroundings, failures, pain, or even the people in our lives, but the light is just above us and attainable. We simply have to take a leap to experience freedom, and allow those experiences to boost us up, not drag us down.” – Rachael

 

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“I am so thankful to the women that have paved the way for my daughter to have freedom to choose her own paths and fulfill her ambitions. We still have a long way to go, but for me equality, justice and freedom are interlinked. This photo was taken on my first mother’s day this year. 3 generations.” – Leah

 

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“Freedom- the reality/concept/belief/right that I can fully express my individuality and personality without fear of ridicule or judgment. The right any human has because of their humanity. Freedom protects the dignity of human life. Freedom allows my worth as a person to be celebrated and encouraged. I am free to live, to love, to study, to work, to praise, to mourn, to teach, to grieve, to socialize, to travel, to save, to spend. Freedom expressed is freedom celebrated. My inherent worth shines when I am free. Because I work with adolescents, this picture, which hangs in my office, is a great reminder of freedom. She is free to be a kid, to learn and play as she sees fit…regardless of gender, color, belief, or class. I want this for all my adolescents. I want to see each one experience freedom. Freedom for all.” – Kayla

 

…and others used song…

(I particularly appreciated these because I’m always looking for good songs to listen to while I write posts for Tuesday Justice!)Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 11.31.47 PM.png

(Channon and I had some song ideas too. See the full collection here in The Tuesday Justice Freedom EP.)

…but my favorite responses were those that really got to the heart of what Tuesday Justice is all about:

working for the full FREEDOM of all people.

“I’ve often learned about freedom as being an absence of something. Freedom is not being caged. Freedom is when you aren’t hindered from doing or saying what you want. Freedom is the abolition of slavery. I think that definition is on the right track, but I would argue that there’s a little more to it. To me, freedom is being able to thrive. Freedom is being empowered and self-sufficient. A person is free when she has agency to draw her own conclusions about the world and make decisions accordingly. Freedom isn’t just the absence of enslavement; it’s the presence of autonomy.” – Anna Grace

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“’I will tell you what freedom is to me: No fear.’ – Nina Simone” – Katherine

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“What is freedom? It’s getting up every morning for a fight. Because freedom isn’t ‘won.’ It’s not a marker that we can reach or ever will reach. It’s always going to be a fight… Freedom for black and brown bodies…. Freedom for LGBTQ folks…. Freedom for those with pre-existing conditions…. Freedom for the poor and the disenfranchised… It’s always a fight against the powers that be… The principles and powers in high places.” – Terry

 

 

What I love about these answers is that they point to the reality that, while we can celebrate how far we’ve come, we’ve still got a long way to go. I hope you’ll keep going with us, fighting the good fight for freedom.

 


The Tuesday Justice Freedom EP

(for y’all without Apple Music)

 

Indigenous People & Canada 150: A Time for Reflection

by Channon Oyeniran

So here we are, five days before Canadians celebrate Canada’s 150th year since Confederation, when the British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united as one into the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. The Canadian government has spent over 500 million dollars to mark this occasion, and there are numerous events happening across the country. However, this 150th year is not a celebratory time for all, in particular Indigenous people, whose treatment in this country has been, and continues to be, deplorable.

Intro_MapE_aApproximately 12,000  years before Europeans arrived in what we now call Canada, Indigenous people lived on this land. Not only were Indigenous people here before anyone else arrived, but when the Europeans did arrive, they decimated the Indigenous population through violence and disease.

Today, the conditions of Indigenous people are poor, to say the least. The Indigenous population mostly live on reserves that are in poor condition; alcohol use, drug use and suicide run rampant amongst the various Indigenous communities. They are isolated, forgotten and their land continues to be taken and used by others without their permission.

Although Canada 150 is a time to celebrate, it is also a time of learning and a time to look back over the last 150 years and ask ourselves the questions: “What were our mistakes? What can we do better? How can we make amends for our troubling past, so that it doesn’t happen again?” These questions and more need to be addressed, not only for the dark times in Canadian history for the Indigenous people, but also for other marginalized groups in this country such as black people, Japanese people, Chinese, Vietnamese, South Asian peoples, etc. Let’s take a brief look at some of the sensitive, yet hugely important, issues that give Indigenous people pause in celebrating Canada 150.

Treaties:

treaty-8-logo_flipedAccording to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Indigenous treaties in Canada are “constitutionally recognized agreements between the Crown and Indigenous peoples”. These agreements often describe exchanges where Indigenous people agree to share some of their ancestral lands in return for different kinds of payments and promises. But more than that, treaties were and are still seen as  sacred agreements between those who view Canada as their ancestral homeland and those whose familial ties lie in other countries (i.e. immigrants to Canada). These treaties are constitutional and moral agreements between Indigenous people and Canada. There are many different treaties across the ten provinces and three territories that make up Canada, however due to broken promises and failure to deliver what was agreed upon when the signing of certain treaties took place, honouring treaties and making up for what was never delivered continues to be a source of tension between Indigenous people and the Government of Canada.

Residential Schools:

Residential Schools in Canada were government sponsored religious schools that were created to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture from the late 1800s. (The last one did close until 1996!) These residential schools attempted to convert Indigenous children to Christianity, educate and integrate them into the European culture that was dominant in Canada at that time. However, many of these schools caused more harm to these youth than good and incited negative long term effects. From about 1880 until 1996, approximately 150,000 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis children attended residential schools in Canada. 57e6470635e9c2ff2247433da3438f04As some form of acknowledgment for the negative and lasting effects residential schools had, many of the former students fought for recognition and some form of restitution from the government of Canada. In 2007 the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was the largest class action settlement in Canadian history and recognized the damage done by residential schools. A multi-billion dollar fund was created through this settlement to help former students in the recovery process of being students at these schools. Also in 2008, then Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, gave a formal apology to First Nation, Inuit, and Métis peoples who were affected by residential schools.

Imagine being discouraged from speaking your native language or practicing traditions that you grew up with your whole life. Imagine trying to practice these traditions and then being punished for it if you were caught. Imagine being forced away from your family for ten months or sometimes years on end. Imagine not being able to even communicate with your family through letters because all correspondence was written in English or French. Imagine being verbally, emotionally and sexually violated. Imagine not even being able to see your brothers or sisters who were at the same school as you because all activities were segregated by gender. Imagine being a malnourished student and then being used as a guinea pig in a nutritional experiment and the government of Canada knowing about it and not doing anything to stop it. Imagine spending years in these residential schools, returning to your reserve, to your family and feeling like you don’t belong, aren’t able to help your parents, are ashamed of your native heritage and find it hard to function in an urban setting all because you were subjected to years in a residential school that did more harm more than it ever did good. This was the reality for those 150,000 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis children. Historica Canada’s Heritage Minute on Chanie Wenjack shows a short but important snippet of what living in a residential school was like.

Why Canada 150 is not a celebratory time for Indigenous people:

For many Indigenous people, broken promises, treaties, large scale decimation and centuries of distrust have made this Canada 150 celebration not one worth celebrating. For many Indigenous people, and other marginalized groups as well, Canada’s 150th birthday is a time to be critical of the country’s history and question how our country has dealt with those who have come to make this place home. University of Saskatchewan PhD student Shane Henry, who is Métis, Ukrainian and Cree background, said this about celebrating Canada 150: “I became jaded after realizing the divisive and patronizing way the federal government has dealt with First Nations issues. […] it’s important for those who don’t understand Indigenous perspectives to start challenging the narrative behind Canada’s Confederation”. Across the country people are recognizing that there is not much to celebrate, especially when there are still major issues that are plaguing Indigenous communities. Here are eight major issues, that affect Indigenous communities:

  1. Poorer health
  2. Lower levels of education
  3. Inadequate housing and crowded living conditions
  4. Lower income levels
  5. Higher rates of unemployment
  6. Higher levels of incarceration
  7. Higher death rate amongst children and youth due unintentional injuries
  8. Higher rates of suicide

With all of these issues affecting Indigenous people, and the extensive and often times negative history, it is no wonder that Canada 150 has not been embraced by many and will not be celebrated in five days time.

imagesWhile many are gearing up to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in a variety of ways across the country this Saturday July 1st, 2017, many are also asking important questions and standing up against what they believe is a celebration of colonization. For example students at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, voted to not sanction, participate or endorse any activities relating to Canada 150. The University’s campus was once the site of the Shingwauk Indian Residential School, which only closed down in 1970, and knowing what we know now about residential schools in Canada, it wouldn’t be fitting to celebrate at such a location. One Indigenous Algoma University student, Quinn Meawasige, said this about Canada 150: “Those policies at the time of Confederation were designed to eliminate the Indigenous people. What it was founded on was broken treaties, and it was founded on, essentially, the genocide of Indigenous peoples, because they needed to make way for settlement [. . .] I just don’t feel like celebrating that.”

While it is okay to celebrate and be proud that the country where you were born or where you are a citizen is turning 150 years old, it is also okay to ask questions and create dialogue regarding that same country’s history, how it came into being, treatment of specific groups of people and what they could be doing now to rectify past mistakes, thus creating a platform where everyone who calls this land home can feel welcomed, acknowledged and that their voices are being heard.

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Pathways to Modern Slavery

 

by Michelle Palmer

 

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The reality is that most victims of modern slavery and human trafficking are not abducted or kidnapped. That can happen, and people should exercise reasonable precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, but there are factors that create higher risk, or vulnerabilities, to enslavement. Many of these factors can only be fully alleviated by ending global inequality and extreme poverty, but don’t let that discourage you. While ending global inequality and extreme poverty is a noble pursuit that will take years, understanding these vulnerabilities will help us to understand more ways to fight back against traffickers in the meantime. These factors intersect and overlap and several can be present at once, but because each one can be tackled in different ways, each deserves its own look.

Poverty

“A bonded laborer named Haresh in West Bengal, India, once described to me how he took a loan of approximately $110 from the local landowner to get married to his beloved wife, Sarika. Two decades later, Haresh told me, ‘My entire family is still in debt to the landowner.  Sarika and I work in the fields, my sons and their wives work at the brick kilns.  One day my grandchildren will work for the landowner.  There is no way to repay these debts.  We will only be free when we die.’” – Siddharth Kara, CNN Freedom Project

Poverty overlaps with almost all of the other risk factors. Debt bondage, or bonded labor, is when a person exchanges their labor for a loan but ends up trapped by the employer, coerced into working long hours to pay off unreasonable interest rates. Often, the employer will provide minimal food and shelter and add these costs to the worker’s debt, resulting in a never ending cycle. 

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What happened to Haresh is not wholly uncommon in South Asia. Kara estimates “18.5 to 22.5 million debt bondage slaves in the world today, almost 90% of whom are in South Asia.” The ILO gives a more conservative estimate: 11.7 million slaves in the region, most of whom are bonded laborers. This form of debt bondage is illegal, but extreme poverty leads people to fall prey to these dubious lenders in times of desperation. Many of my examples are from developing regions, but this isn’t something that only happens “over there.” There are people in extreme poverty in the West, and their desperation could lead to situations of enslavement and various forms of forced labor.

Lack of Opportunity

“Nartey is the oldest of 10 siblings. His mother, Maria, is disabled. She cannot work in farming, the traditional and predominant occupation of the family’s indigenous people in a village in the Central Tongu District of Ghana. She had no way to provide for her children and could not afford school fees, so Nartey had to abandon his education at just 13. That is when Nartey was trafficked to a fishing community along Lake Volta.” – Anna Bengel, Free the Slaves

Thankfully, Nartey’s story doesn’t end with his enslavement. Because of Free the Slaves’ efforts alongside partners in Ghana, Maria learned about slavery and is working towards learning a trade so she can be financially independent despite her disability.

In 2015, I worked as a volunteer on a literature review for Free the Slaves on sex trafficking in Nepal. One of the recurring themes I came across was the lack of opportunity for women and girls in rural areas. Their desperation led them to seek work outside of their villages, and in some cases, women were trapped in sexual exploitation in Kathmandu or trafficked into India.   

rgq8JnWhen I was in grad school, I quoted Captain Jack Sparrow at the start of a paper on the concept of freedom. It was risky, I know, but I don’t regret it. In the first film, he tells Elizabeth Swann, “Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails; that’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.”  You see, if the Black Pearl is freedom, then a keel and a hull and sails are the tools needed to escape poverty and desperation. One of the primary tools people need for freedom is opportunity.

Lack of Access to Healthcare

“Impoverished and faced with impossible challenges, Setsofia’s sick mother arranged for him to be trafficked to a fishing village along Lake Volta. It was a desperate bid to get money for treatment for her protracted illness.” – Anna Bengel & Theodore Atsu Ameme, Free the Slaves

Stethoscope

As I said, many of these factors overlap. Anna and Theodore (quoted above) tell a story about Setsofia (spoiler: it has a happy ending!), and it sounds really similar to the story about Nartey. Nartey’s mother didn’t have opportunity because of her disability, and Setsofia’s mom was bedridden due to a sudden illness. The difference is that access to quality healthcare may not have helped Nartey’s mom, but it would certainly have made a difference for Setsofia and his family.

Lack of access to healthcare can also lead to debt bondage. “Lenders” prey on those who can’t afford a life-saving procedure or treatment for a loved one, and family members can become trapped by the debts obtained paying for medical expenses.

Violence/Lack of Law Enforcement

Millions of the world’s poor are trapped in slavery, because there’s no one there to protect them. In many places, the laws against slavery simply aren’t enforced by the police and courts—so slave owners and traffickers know they can prey on the poor without fear of any consequences at all.” – IJM

On duty

Anti-slavery laws are on the books everywhere, but those laws must be enforced. The American anti-slavery organization, IJM (International Justice Mission), focuses its efforts on this particular weakness. In fact, IJM CEO and founder, Gary Haugen, wrote an entire book on the issue; in The Locust Effect, Haugen argues that ineffective justice systems are hindering poverty alleviation worldwide. “While the world has made encouraging strides in the fight against global poverty, there is a hidden crisis silently undermining our best efforts to help the poor. It is a plague of everyday violence.” In regards to slavery in particular, whether law enforcement officers are not trained to spot human trafficking or they’re being bribed by the traffickers, effective law enforcement is a key component of ending the practice altogether.

War and Unrest

“Armed conflict and a weak government allow slavery to flourish in eastern Congo. Forced labor and sex slavery are widespread in mining regions—as is forced marriage.” Free the Slaves, Congo

121123110824-congo-crowds-fleeing-horizontal-large-galleryWar and unrest in a region create vulnerabilities to modern slavery in a number of ways. In Democratic Republic of Congo, which is remarkably rich in natural resources that are used in our modern technologies, men and children are forced to mine for these resources by groups of armed militants to fund their war. In other regions, children are forcibly recruited into the conflict. (See Channon’s post on Child Soldiers.) Refugees are also at a higher risk of being trafficked, simply because of the desperation of their situation. Without a home, seeking asylum, people may come to rely on traffickers to help them escape to what they hope will be a better, safer life.  

Migration

“‘I’d seen a lot of women in my village go abroad. I thought I could earn enough money and do something with it.’ Instead, for attempting to access the basic human right to a decent job, Seema was trapped as a domestic slave for more than two years.” – Survivor Stories, Free the Slaves

This particular vulnerability is closely connected to poverty, lack of opportunity, and war and unrest. Not all immigrants are vulnerable to trafficking. For example, Channon and I both immigrated to the UK for our studies. The difference is that we chose to leave our homes to study, not to escape a desperate economic situation or violence in our home countries. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked.migration1-537x350.png

I took the quote above from Seema’s and Kamala’s Survivor Story from Free the Slaves (another happy ending!). It’s a story I’ve come across all too often in my research (but not always with a happy ending):  No opportunity at home. Recruited for a job overseas. Arrive in a foreign country. Passports and visas taken by employers. Trapped and abused as a domestic slave. (Or a construction worker. Or a farmworker.)  

Runaway and Homeless Youth

“…people who may not be financially stable because of homelessness or a lack of job opportunities may be susceptible to manipulation by traffickers who promise safety, stability, a job, or a better life. Runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, past violence or abuse, or social discrimination are also frequently targeted by traffickers.” –  Stay Safe, Polaris Project

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Many of the examples used previously have been about factors that are more common in, but not confined to, developing regions. However, this particular issue affects young people both at home and abroad, particularly those identifying as LGBTQ. According to Covenant House, “40% of homeless and runaway youth in the U.S. identify as gay or transgender.” If they are rejected by their families after coming out, LGBTQ youth may end up on the streets and be targeted for sexual exploitation. To a slightly lesser extent, this is true for other homeless and runaway youth as well. Without a home or a family, there is a desperation for stability and belonging.

I’m ending this section with another quote because it’s incredibly important in combating this particular risk factor.

“Sociological research shows that what makes people most vulnerable to being victims of trafficking is the same thing that makes people most vulnerable to being perpetrators of trafficking: an extreme need for belonging. Actual, sustainable trafficking prevention at its most foundational is, therefore, loving yourself, being yourself, loving others, and encouraging others to be themselves. Creating community and being connected is the safest way forward.” – Zhaleh Boyd

Lack of Rights Awareness

“In the Congo, for example, we support the broadcasting of anti-slavery messages over a network of community radio stations. In Nepal, we explain the risks of labor trafficking and how to migrate safely. We work with communities to organize anti-slavery committees that act as a neighborhood watch against slavery and as a bridge to the police and other authorities.” – Free the Slaves FAQs

00532006701_20150525Simply put, people just don’t know their rights or the dangers of modern slavery. Many who are trapped in debt bondage don’t realize that the lenders are violating the law. Seema and Kamala, whose story I mentioned earlier, now work to educate other Nepalese women about the dangers of migrating for work and help them determine if they are being tricked by recruiters. Rights education is an essential component of prevention.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the causes of modern slavery, but I hope it sheds some light on the ways in which traffickers prey on people in desperate situations. By tackling these areas of vulnerability, we can begin to prevent slavery before it happens.


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When They Get the Story Wrong: Muslims, Ideology & Terrorism

The truth is that nobody knows what actually causes terrorism to a point where we can generalize the motivations of all terrorists. There are different levels of explanation – social, individual, structural or political motivations – and whilst each may play a part, the dominant narrative takes a religious ideological approach as fact without any demonstrated scientific basis.

Guest Post by Tom Pettinger

“Religion had nothing to do with this. We watched films. We were shown videos with images of the war in Iraq. We were told we must do something big.”

– failed 7/21/05 London Underground bomber, Hussein Omar

ad67f2_ade1bfe5d3b947eebf8b2466c0ac3ff5-mv2How well do we as a society really understand the causes of terrorism? Since 9/11, and especially 7/7 in London, we’ve been fed the line that Islamic ideology, rather than politics, causes extremism, each new ‘Islamist’ attack apparently proving the theory. And because the theory that terrorists are mentally deranged has no scientific basis, what really drives individuals to engage in this kind of socially deviant and devastating behaviour, sometimes even to a point of killing themselves as well? Is it primarily religious ideology? Is it politics? What is the effect of choosing one narrative over the other?

Following a ‘jihadist’ attack, news coverage hysterically focuses on how individuals were radicalized by an increasingly fanatical Islamic ideology (white-supremacist attacks, conversely, receive far less attention), often with a backdrop of a failed personal life or a lack of integration into modern Western society. The actual motivations for the attacks are rarely investigated. 9/11, the Boston bombing, 7/7 in London, the Brussels attacks, Paris, Florida, Madrid are frequently implied by media and politicians to have no aims other than instilling senseless terror on the basis of a warped interpretation of Islam. 7ZPVBUXU6FFVHFUFFB7FYW3WDQIt is often ignored that such atrocities attempt to accomplish a goal or communicate a political message. All definitions of terrorism have at their core some political or social aim, but aside from passing comments, we don’t hear about these in news coverage. There is a growing body of literature (see here, here and here) that suggests this direction has been encouraged by governments to silence dissent over their foreign policy; it is in Western governments’ interests to ascribe the attackers’ motivations to reasons other than their military interventions and the so-called ‘War on Terror’. It’s a natural defence mechanism to place the blame for attacks like 9/11 on anything but their own actions (be it invasions, drone strikes, or Guantanamo).

George W. Bush notoriously claimed, “They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.” This has become commonly accepted; the media and politicians incessantly bombard us with this idea. However, The Defense Science Board, a Federal Advisory Committee established to provide independent advice to the US Secretary of Defense, wrote in 2004 that,

Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.

As well as politics appearing central to acts of terrorism, further problems with taking religious ideology as the principal driver of terrorism are that:

  • Most basically, there are people who possess what society deems as ‘radical ideologies’ yet don’t engage in violence;
  • To take ‘religious ideology’ as equivalent to brainwashing is misguided when a group’s beliefs are debated to a point where they sometimes split apart;syria-war-anniversary-body-image-1426292826
  • Radicalization scholars have found an ideology is only acquired following incorporation within a group;
  • Studies have consistently found “no empirical support” for many ideologically-focussed approaches to de-radicalization or countering terrorism, suggesting it plays little part in their radicalization;
  • And above all, there is nowhere near enough scientific research into individuals’ motivations to cast generalizations (and where studies have occurred, they often find social interactions play the most important role).

Governments totally ignore the attackers’ motivations in explaining terrorism; look up basically any attack on the West – what do the attackers say? Political grievances and aims are always central. Boston Marathon BombingWhat did the Boston bomber scrawl on the inside of the boat? It wasn’t challenging freedom and democracy, but US foreign affairs and the deaths America has caused. What did the Woolwich attacker say in the street when he was standing over Fusilier Lee Rigby? It wasn’t about creating an Islamic State, but lamenting the suffering Western invasions have brought to other parts of the world. What motivations did the failed US underwear bomber Abdulmutallab give during his court case? Not the rewards from martyrdom, but US tyranny and its oppression of Muslims. As an aside, it should also be remembered that those most affected by ‘Islamic’ terrorism are other Muslims. (Stats can be found here, here, and here.)

The truth is that nobody knows what actually causes terrorism to a point where we can generalize the motivations of all terrorists. There are different levels of explanation –  social, individual, structural or political motivations – and whilst each may play a part, the dominant narrative takes a religious ideological approach as fact without any demonstrated scientific basis. If that perspective only seems like common sense, it’s because it has been constantly emphasized by politicians and the media over time. hassan_reutersNo study has had anywhere near sufficient access to terrorists to show any causation. However, these unfounded assumptions cause us to view certain communities (those perceived to be Muslims) as suspicious, based purely on correlations with widely-publicized attacks that have previously taken place. In Britain for example, following the IRA Birmingham pub bombings, those with Irish accents were viewed with suspicion and hostility; similarly, the now-suspect ‘Muslim community’ is placed under constant suspicion of being a potential threat following jihadi attacks. Studies into the creation of suspect communities show they are treated with disdain and blamed for attacks, that they experience negative interactions with the police, racism and discrimination at work, and feel unsafe walking around and like second-class citizens.

“We are constantly demonized, all through the media. I used to go to the cinema every weekend…I’ve given up because every time I would go…there’s at least one hint somewhere [that Muslims are terrorists or cause terrorism] – and in newspapers and the media as a whole, constantly we’re demonized.”

– Anonymous audience member, Evening with Arun Kundnani, YouTube

The West spends billions on domestic counter-terrorism efforts taking this unproven and highly presumptuous ideology-based explanation to minimize the threat from suspect communities. Desktop6-005A frightening consequence of this drive is that particularly within the US, in borrowing predictive principles from the widely-criticized British Prevent Strategy, a network of 15,000 informants has developed to target Muslims, and the practice of entrapment (“tricking someone into committing a crime in order to secure their prosecution”) has escalated. The FBI has even killed Americans on American soil based on opportunities the agency itself has provided to ‘vulnerable’ Muslims. (A recap of the events can be found here, but Arun Kundnani goes into more detail in his book, The Muslims Are Coming.)  Judges have repeatedly noted that these entrapped individuals would not otherwise have engaged in such deviant activities had the FBI not placed them in the ‘wrong place’ at the ‘wrong time’. Judge McMahon, sentencing the Newburgh Four, said,

Only the government could have made a terrorist out of Mr Cromitie, a man whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope… I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would have been no crime here except [that] the government instigated it, planned it, and brought it to fruition.

Activists Demonstrate Against Recent Rhetoric Against Muslims And Refugees Near Trump Tower

Governments have gradually diluted the threshold for ‘terrorism’ charges: in the UK, non-violent extremism is now a criminal offence, and thousands of children as young as four have gone through the British de-radicalization program. Umm Ahmed, a British Muslim, was jailed for 12 months for the possession of Inspire Magazine which she had obtained to keep updated with her brother’s trial (apparently reading the magazine online does not land you in jail, but possessing it on a USB stick does!). In sentencing her the judge said that Umm posed no threat, that she had no intent to harm, that she was not a terrorist – and even that she was a good Muslim – but that he had to imprison her based on her possession of the magazine.

The idea of a distinct and definable ‘Muslim community’, separate from the rest of the population, has been encouraged by the provision of cohesion funding that targets places with a certain number of Muslims, and by politicians calling for this apparently distinct community to condemn the latest attacks as though they were in some way collectively responsible. David Cameron in his (in)famous multiculturalism speech called for moderate Muslims to condemn the radical ones, and Trump similarly called on Muslims to “report when they see something going on”. cariprotestnwexpy4This leads to Muslims being seen collectively as a threat, and advancing the perception of them as separate to ‘the rest of us’. In turn, like after the recent Manchester bombing, we see a rise in hate crimes against those perceived to be Muslims, who are often approached in public and told, “shame on you… for what you did”. People have been killed as a result of anti-Muslim attacks, although like other right-wing extremist attacks, they get far less attention than what is considered ‘Islamist’ violence.

We have become obsessed by denouncing those engaging in political violence as deluded Islamist ideologues, when in fact, by their own testimony, the attacks they carry out seem much more like retaliations for Western policy decisions, like invasions and occupations, support for Israel (which is taken as definitional support for the oppression of Palestinians), Guantanamo, drone strikes, and so on. Claims that ideology is the overriding explanation are wholly unfounded and exist to minimize Western governments’ responsibility in motivating the attacks. However, because of these narratives being endlessly repeated, we have succeeded in separating Muslims from non-Muslims, and non-Muslims from Muslims, allowing totally irrational fear and distinction, rather than unity, to triumph.

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