We don’t often post about national issues that don’t have a direct impact on District of Columbia residents, but this speech is too good to pass up. Senator Warren breaks down structural racism in a way that the Black Lives Matter Movement would like to hear from Bernie Sanders. As a progressive of color, I’m frustrated when white allies still think inequality is really just a class issue. Warren blows past that argument, reminding us that historical racism was as much about the denial of economic opportunities as it was about violence. She teaches history that we all should know but sure enough didn’t get in school. Enjoy and pass on.
I wrote this essay in response to liberal notions of nonviolence, which tend to be irritatingly sentimental and shallow. In the wake of this nation’s imprisonment system’s failure to indict Darren Wilson and Daniel Panteleo, the two police officers responsible for the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, respectively, much debate has been sparked about the nature of the rebellions, both peaceful and retaliatory, which have taken place across the country. Although not written in response to this particular series of tragedies, I believe the insights I offer in this piece shed light upon the necessity of transforming systemic manifestations of violence rather than condemning those groups and individuals who choose retaliatory tactics in response to the brutality they, and their community members, are subjected to.
Protest in Ferguson…
There is a force in our society, one that has come to manifest itself in countless forms, that many people are hesitant to name as a detriment to their lives. Most who dare to speak against this force, to utter the word that names it, are waved away as sentimental dunces, are charged with promoting lofty idealisms and are thereafter banished to society’s dim margins. Very few wish to acknowledge the hideous commonness of this force in its many manifestations.
That force’s name, that persistent presence, that scourge of pain, and fear, and shame, is ‘violence’. When most people hear the word ‘violence’, memories of physical brutality may replay in their minds. A vicious swat by an older sibling, a sailing fist cracked across a jaw, a bloodcurdling assault by an anonymous assailant. Although many are quick to decry the most intimate aspects of physical violence where it rears its head, the majority of those are also unwilling, or incapable, to enact healing work against those lingering traumas associated with having one’s body ravaged at another’s hands. Of course, they themselves are not to blame.
Ours is a society that seeks to, at every turn, devalue the significance of its citizens interior lives. We are encouraged to neglect our inner lives; religious practices are derided as narrow-minded and uncouth within increasingly secularizing cultural spheres, those who seek out therapists are snickered at in secret, and all who deeply ponder about human nature are handled with suspicion and apprehension. For most people, extended silences and solitude allow sinister things to bubble up to their conscious, and no one has taught them to be at peace with these haunts. Too many flee their demons by embracing addictions. Too many lack skills that would disallow past traumas to rend their spirits. Too many have been coaxed into allowing their interior lives to decay.
Yet, the state of people’s interior lives can never be divorced from the surrounding sociopolitical and sociocultural environments in which they’ve developed. Is it not violence when ours is a society that devalues the humanity of female-bodied people to no more than their sexual organs, their bodies violated time and time again, their appeals for justice ignored just as often? When young children, of all colors, point to dolls of darker skin and Afro-features as inherently nefarious? When indigenous voices of various tones seeking sovereignty over ancestral lands are constantly ignored and, instead, have the miniscule wedges of Earth they’ve been murdered onto bombarded with toxic wastes? When people of all races lacking in economic resources must either subsist on foodstuffs that poison their bodies, or nothing? What world do we inhabit where these realities often go acknowledged and, yet, unmanaged; where the suffering of another is commonly associated with a character flaw on the individual’s part and not symptomatic of systems of domination our society was built, and tragically thrives, upon?
Any path toward nonviolence that fails to acknowledge and work against physical, non-physical, and structural manifestations of violence is inherently lacking in depth. Any paths toward nonviolence lacking in strategies for justice and healing are underdeveloped. We are past the era where the division between mind, body, and spirit can be justifiably imposed upon the masses. We are past the point of presenting the populace with sparkling words in hopes that they will suffice for the arduous labor of transforming our world into one where harmony reigns.
Comprehensive nonviolent ideologies must offer tactics and solutions to address the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of evil, blatant and insidious. Nonviolence is only authentic when the livelihoods of all persons are accounted for, when voices resounding at the margins become centered and their requests heeded. Ultimately, the nonviolent path is one that aims for peace. However, peace will never exist without justice. Justice for everyone.
We will welcome author and activist Eugene Puryear to speak about his book and the subject of the prison industrial complex in America.
Presented by Family & Friends Of Incarcerated People and the Washington Ethical Society.
Tuesday, February 18
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m
Washington Ethical Society,
7750 16th St NW, Washington DC
Shackled and Chained, Mass Incarceration in Capitalist America is a thorough examination of mass incarceration, its causes and consequences. Eugene Puryear examines the evolution of mass incarceration as a product of the exigencies of U.S. monopoly capitalism as well as bipartisan political fealty to the system’s needs. In addition to detailing its historical origins, Puryear provides a detailed examination of the oppressive reality that reigns inside America’s prison system. This book is a must read for anyone interested in the “how” and “why” of mass incarceration.
This event is an opportunity for us to really focus on the issue of mass incarceration and what might be an alternative to the human cost of locking up so many people, many who are imprisoned for non-violent offenses. Come out and lend your voice to the cause!
On August 17, a coalition of organizations held a unity rally for immigrant rights in front of the White House, calling for Congress to act on immigration reform and put an end to deportations. Organizers of the rally included WORD (Women Organized to Resist and Defend), DMV LOLA (Latinas Organized for Leadership and Advocacy), and NAPAWF-DC (National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum), joined by the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). Speakers at the event discussed the misrepresentation of immigrant rights as an exclusively “Latino issue,” instead demonstrating that the movement for immigrant rights is part of the movements for women’s rights, workers’ rights, and human rights. A running theme of the rally was that whether we like it or not, the hijacking of immigration reform at the national level has devastating consequences for all our families, economies, and communities.
The mainstream media often falsely represents immigration as a Latino issue, leaving out large portions immigrant populations and not accurately reflecting migration patterns. A more complicated picture emerged at Saturday’s rally, which was led by a diverse coalition of immigrants and their allies.
Standing in front of the White House, Linda Khoy shared her sister Lundy’s story with the audience. Lundy was born in a refugee camp, and eventually, their parents were able to leave Cambodia because of the war. Linda, however, was born in the United States. They wouldn’t realize until many years later the effect that different sorts of papers would have on their lives. Lundy went to college and at the age of 19, found herself arrested for a misdemeanor level offense. In immigration terms, however, that meant deportation proceedings. Now they work with One Love Movement, organizing Southeast Asian refugees and others to put a stop to deportations. Listen to Linda tell Lundy’s story and her message for President Obama:
Diana, another speaker at the event, shared her experience of being undocumented in DC. “I was a career criminal before I could even talk, and since then, every breath I took was labelled an unlawful one.” A DREAM Activist member and UDC honor student, Diana was born in Lagos, Nigeria and arrived in Washington, DC when she was only 2 months old. She attended Bancroft Elementary, Shaw Junior High School, and Roosevelt High School.
“I was a career criminal before I could even talk, and since then, every breath I took was labelled an unlawful one.”
Diana said she felt like any other Washingtonian until her senior year, when she found out she was undocumented. Listen to Diana tell her story and come out as undocumented, joining 11 million others in the US:
Catalina Nieto with the Detention Watch Network, who is originally from Colombia, posed a provocative question to the crowd: “What does it really mean to be in unity, to be in solidarity, and have each others’ backs, for real?” — also bringing up the important point that “there is a group of people right now who are benefiting from having us divided.” If you want to listen to more of what she had to say about moving from slogans to meaningful change, listen below:
These stories illustrate the very real impacts of a broken immigration system upon families, and particularly women, facing the threat of deportation. Their call to action is clear: they want President Obama and Congress to stop deportations. Cases like Lundy’s show that judges need to use discretion in the sentencing process for undocumented people, rather than deporting immigrants for minor offenses. More broadly, the organizers demonstrated that they are part of much larger struggles, including the struggle to end mass incarceration of US citizens and to stop prison labor profits via the prison industrial complex. Nieto urged the crowd to consider what it means to be unified with people going through solitary confinement, trapped in an immigration system with no access to family and friends.
“At this point, seeing each other as humans and having each others’ backs is a revolutionary act,” said Nieto.
Visit the websites of the organizations linked in the post above to get involved in the unified struggle for immigrant rights. Join Women Organized to Resist and Defend (WORD) at the 50th Anniversary March on Washington Rally beginning @ 8 am at the Lincoln Memorial, then marching to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
Wow, What a forum! Family & Friends of Incarcerated People (FFOIP) along with our many co-sponsoring organizations thank you for attending our forum The Human Cost of the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). Your attendance was as important to the success of the educational forum as the panelist and the great effort that went into bringing part II of FFOIP’s first focus together. So, once more we thank you. The Ideas expressed were so valid and varied that it is difficult to point to what might have been the strongest message coming out of this forum. However, the wrenching story of Markia Smith was so profoundly saddening it lingered in the air setting a somber tone for why we should be fighting mass incarceration, the Prison Industrial Complex, the disparities in sentencing, and the school to prison pipeline as well as pathways to prison!
In the future FFOIP plans to host more educational forums. We will be looking to those of you who came out and took part in this first two part event to point us in the direction that these forums should be going. We do intend to address as many prison issues as we are able. So we invite you to join us in this effort to bring about social justice change!
We ask that you keep in touch and share what you learn with us. Just log onto our web page www.FFOIP.org or Facebook fan page and like the fan page and leave us a comment? Your unanswered question are welcome and can be addressed as well by writing us at the P. O. box listed below. Thank you again,
Stuart W. Anderson, Founder/Director CEO Family & Friends of Incarcerated People P. O. Box 91621, Washington, DC 20090 (202) 239-9439 firstname.lastname@example.org