Tag Archives: racism

YouTubesday: Rare Repentance

(If You are reading this post via email the videos will not show up. If any of the titles are interesting to you please visit the site and view them here, just click on the link above)

I was going to skip Youtubesday this week, trying to slim down the number of weekly posts, but I didn’t want to pass this up. Just one video today, and it’s a interview format so you might not get the fullness of the story. Here’s a brief write up about it. It’s sad that these stories are so rare, but we should cherish the ones we are able to share in.

Rare Repentance (ht)

When We Don’t Know Each Other

I little while ago I talked about one of the things I think we should all do, know your neighbors. I think it might be necessary to add a qualifying statment to that: that we need to meet, know and build relationships with people that our different then us (and I don’t just mean different gender). Get to know people who differ in their political views, their religious background, their culture, ethnicity, race. There are obvious reasons for this, it shouldn’t take too much convincing. However, the reason it’s been on my mind lately as because of some recent tragic stories I’ve come across.

The first happened in my own neighborhood. A SWAT Team entered a house on a ‘no-knock’ raid based on information that a gang member lived there.

But minutes after a SWAT team entered the house about 12:30 a.m., things went awry. The homeowner, a father of six, thinking the intruders were burglars, fired at them through a bedroom wall. He hit two officers, one in the back and one in the head, but both were uninjured because they were wearing protective armor. Police shot back, but did not hit him.

The tragedy: The police had the wrong house.

As an aside, this is one reason I believe firmly that we need to address the disparities in the police force (less then 20% of the police in Minneapolis are people of color). The real tragedy to me is that we don’t really know our neighbors. When that happens, police end up following individual obscure tips and endangering a family (they weren’t even the same ethnicity as the person they where looking for). The story becomes only more disturbing when those police where recently awarded for their bravery in the situation.

The second story is even more tragic.

Just hours before he was savagely attacked by a pack of thugs here, a Toronto man had complained to police he was being harassed and accused of being a rapist.

When a 17-year-old girl later confronted him on a downtown street and made similar allegations, the man was attacked by as many as six youths and young men who stabbed him twice in the chest, once in the back, hit him with a piece of lumber and, according to a witness, “beat the crap out of him.”

The 42-year-old Toronto man is black. His attackers are white.

But Deputy Chief Bill Sornberger of Owen Sound police said the Wednesday night attack wasn’t racially motivated.

“He was absolutely innocent, simply in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Sornberger told the Star. “He was a victim of mistaken identity.”

Again, there are many facts about the story that are disturbing, but the tragedy to me again is that we don’t know each other. Stereotypes, racism, injustice, profiling, and more, I believe are all perpetuated in large part because we are unwilling or apathetic to meeting our neighbors.

The Failing Experiment: A brief thought on July 4th

About four years ago I was reading the paper in a small town in Minnesota. I read an article by Congressman Mark Kennedy entitled: “The Great Experiment” which discussed the sacrifices many soldiers had made to make this country what it is today. I felt the need to reply in this letter to the editor that you see below. I’ve left it unedited, but I’ll include further thoughts at the end. Surprisingly, the local paper published my letter the following week:

The Failing Experiment
I want to first of all thank Congressman Mark Kennedy for his article concerning this country’s “Independence Day.” There is certainly room for celebration and many of the historical facts he pointed out are worth noting and esteeming. Unfortunately I fear Congressman Kennedy missed out on the whole picture of the American Experiment and I feel the need to complete, or at least add to his summary.
It is true our Experiment has succeeded because of sacrifice, but whose sacrifice? Let us not forget the genocide of the Native Americans – from whom we took and still keep this land. They sacrificed many lives to our “Manifest Destiny.” Even today the effects of this sacrifice are felt and if you dare look, they are still seen. Our brothers and sisters of the human race live on small, infertile plots of land that we’ve forced them to, and the effects of injustice for hundreds of years can be seen clearly today. The Native Americans sacrificed.
Let us remember that the fourth of July is Independence for only part of the citizens of this country. It wasn’t until December 1865 that the denial of freedom (slavery) was abolished by law in this country. And we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that this is a reality today. It takes only a brief look at the statistics to see that even since the Civil Rights movement of the sixties, we are still discriminating against people because of their skin (look up red-lining, the education system, and the demographic layout of most cities). It was on the backs of our brothers and sisters of the human race from Africa that this country began to thrive. It was their sacrifice for which they currently still have never reaped full benefits.
They sacrificed as soldiers too, Africans, Mexicans, Japanese, Native Americans – only to return to a “free” nation where they were discriminated against and treated as less than human. Remember the sacrifice of the American citizens of Japanese decent forced into Internment camps in the Desert. Remember the replacement of slaves with sharecropping and cheap labor from Mexico which we discriminate against yet desperately “need” in order to keep our way of living “affordable” for us.
There are many more groups that have been sacrificed to this American Experiment, but only one more I will note in this summary. They are half the population and for years have fed, clothed, cleaned, and cared for generations of American men. Women, they celebrate their independence on August 26, 1920 when the law at least extended to them the vote. They, like these many other groups, are still fighting for the freedom we will celebrate July 4th.
Celebrate your freedom on Sunday, but open your eyes to reality. Freedom even in America is only for the privileged, unless we choose to make it for everybody. Freedom will never come at the barrel of a gun. It will take sacrifice, sacrifice from you and me, not our lives, but our love. Will you sacrifice with love for that freedom you so enjoy to be extended to all people?

There is probably much more to say on this Independence day about the current state of affairs in our country, but I’ll leave that mostly to your own reflection. Let me only remind you that we celebrate this day while Guantanamo remains operational, are nations attempt to spread “freedom” is showing tragic and horrific results, and racism, sexism and much discrimination still lies unaddressed in our society.

Celebrate the 4th, but please do so with these words in mind.

photo credit

Can’t Read? Let’s Build You A Prison Cell!

A long time ago I had heard the comment thrown out that they look at illiteracy rates for third grades and build prison cells based on those numbers. It was an interesting correlation, but learning about the school system, and the struggle it is for kids to catch up, it isn’t surprising that they would look at those statistics. In school students spend up to third grade “Learning to Read” and after that they must “Read to Learn.” If your not on track and reading at third grade it is likely you will struggle for years to catch up, likely you will drop out, and likely you will get in trouble with the law.

I put up a series of quotes I found online a while back acknowledging this correlation and usage of reading rates to base prison cell projections on. That post has seen quite a few readers lately so I thought I would update things here with a video from one of my recent readers.
At about 4:30 into the video you have Dr. Russ Whitehurst, Director, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education saying essentially the correlation is obviously there and the ‘need for jails.’

Here are some other quotes from around the net on the same subject.

From Investing in Literacy

Indiana’s former governor has stated that determining the number of new prisons to build is based, in part, on the number of second graders not reading at second-grade level.

From Dialects, Teaching Reading and Literacy to Dialect Speakers: Educational CyberPlayGround™

In California they plan how many jail cells they will build in the future by how many children are not reading on grade level by third grade.

From Democracy and Equity: CES’s Tenth Common Principle

“Based on this year’s fourth-grade reading scores,” observes Paul Schwartz, a Coalition principal in residence at the U. S. Department of Education, “California is already planning the number of new prison cells it will need in the next century.”

From Evidence Based Education Science and Learning to Read

David Boulton: We were interviewing Lesley Morrow, the Past-President of the International Reading Association, and she made a statement which flabbergasted me. She said this was a fact: that there are some states that determine how many prison cells to build based on reading scores.

Dr. Grover (Russ) Whitehurst: Yes. Again, the predictability of reading for life success is so strong, that if you look at the proportion of middle schoolers who are not at the basic level, who are really behind in reading, it is a very strong predictor of problems with the law and the need for jails down the line.

Literacy for societies, literacy for states, literacy for individuals is a powerful determinate of success. The opposite of success is failure and clearly, being in jail is a sign of failure.

People who don’t read well have trouble earning a living. It becomes attractive to, in some cases the only alternative in terms of gaining funds, to violate the law and steal, to do things that get you in trouble. Few options in some cases other than to pursue that life. Of course reading opens doors.

From ReadFresno:

Several states, including California, use reading achievement levels of students in the third grade as a basis for projecting the number of future prison beds needed.

I’m looking into more statistic as well, so if you have any please let me know. I’ll update this post as we find more. This needs some serious consideration and reflection. Any thoughts?

Trading Schools: Still Savage Inequalities

I recently brought up the topic of schools and Kozol’s documenting of the inequality in the public schools in the USA. I understand that if you don’t read the stories or see the pictures and the facts yourself it can be hard to believe at times. So, with the help of Oprah, I bring you some insight into the public schools:
What are your thoughts? Does this disparity make a difference in the type and quality of education one receives? Is it fair?

(ht: racialicious)

Update: The Jena Six Need Your Voice!

UPDATE (7/28/09): Two years later, here is the results of the Jena Six trial. Mostly a victory.

I mentioned the Jena Six when they first appeared in the news and that post has had more hits this summer then any other. A lot of people are interested in what’s going on, and I felt the need to update you, by way mostly of quotes from other blogs and news outlets. First, if you know nothing about the Jena Six, this short news clip should catch you up.

Watch Part Two here.Here’s the most recent news, via While Seated:

Mychal Bell, the first of the Jena Six to face trial, was found guilty of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit the same on June 28th. A comprehensive look at the case, the trial and the verdict was published on July 2nd at friendsofjustice. Plus, Democracy Now did a full story.

Jack and Jill Politics also gave a comprehensive look at the situation, including interviews with the parents of the victim in the case.

There are a lot of ways to get involved. The Daily Kos has a list of representatives to call and the link below has multiple Actions for you to partake in.

Action Updates