From East LA to Ferguson: The long line of violent police response to communities of color


By Joseph Orosco

The protests in Ferguson, Missouri over the past month have captured the nation’s attention, including many commentaries on the Anarres blog.  The on going tension draws attention to various issues:  continued racial inequality and white supremacy in the United States, and increasing militarization of civilian police forces across the country. Continue reading “From East LA to Ferguson: The long line of violent police response to communities of color”

An Epidemic of Police Violence on Communities of Color


By Javier Cervantes


A friend sent me this report that made me think a little. So I had to respond.


The claim that there is a double standard as it applies to the little outrage over the killing of an unarmed White male shot by a Black officer serves as a classic example of trying to distract from the primary issue at hand: there is an epidemic of police targeting communities of color often ending in catastrophic outcomes. Continue reading “An Epidemic of Police Violence on Communities of Color”

Ferguson is a Window to the New Jim Crow


By Mark Naison

Our political leaders and the business elites they serve are hoping the passionate discourse about police practices, race and class inspired by the death of Mike Brown and the events that followed will disappear and fade into the background the way Occupy Wall Street did when its encampments were evicted. They are probably right. Continue reading “Ferguson is a Window to the New Jim Crow”

We Need White Anti-Racist Activists

By Chris Crass

The murder of Michael Brown and the People’s Movement in Ferguson have again shown that we need visionary, strategic, and dynamic white anti-racist organizers, leaders and activists to move large numbers of white people away from the status-quo worldview and agenda of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy and towards collective liberation. Continue reading “We Need White Anti-Racist Activists”

On Privilege, Leadership, and Passing the Mic

By Alex S. Morgan

This morning, Pagan activist and author Thorn Coyle wrote the following on Facebook:

White people: when a group asks you to come speak on social and racial justice issues and organizing, please ask if you can also put them in touch with an African American, or Latina, or… and be willing to give up your slot if need be.

Men, do the same with women.

Heterosexual people, do the same with LGBQ.

Cis, with trans*.

Christians, do the same with minority religions.

(We can keep filling in examples. I figure you get the idea.)

Regardless of the topic, community is served when we inquire: “Who else is speaking? Would you like an introduction to this transman/Hindu/Black activist/female tech guru…I know their work. They’re really great.”

Systems will not change if we do not do this part of the work.

This piece hit home. I’ve been on both sides of this. I’ve been invited to speak or give a quote while uncomfortably aware that I’m speaking in part to experiences that are not my own, sometimes to a roomful of people who may have those experiences.

I’ve also been the sex worker, or the trans person, sitting silent while someone else without those experiences talks about my life as though I’m not in the room with them.

(This is especially pronounced for racially charged discussions and trans issues, since there’s an assumption that all the “others” in the space will be visible as other.)[¹]

Always remember: The people you’re talking about may be in the room with you, even if you can’t visually identify them. They should have their experiences respected and reflected.

As a speaker or a source, always ask yourself: “Who is not in this room that should be?”

When I offer to pass on underrepresented leads for a group, organization, or journalist that has reached out to me, I do notice who appreciates it and jumps on it and who looks for another “relatable” speaker instead. I also notice the trainers and speakers that pass the mic or collaborate vs. those that are happy to be paid experts on someone else’s experiences.

If you’re a go-to source, trainer, or speaker and you don’t have a list of folks to bring in or refer to, start by looking on the edges of your bubble for up and coming voices. Keep expanding. And ask your colleagues who they know. You’ll meet great folks and learn a lot.

This is in no way meant to encourage those who are speaking out to shrink back. This is too important for any of us to shrink back. But if you find yourself in the position of talking about an experience or perspective that is not your own on a regular basis because of work you do, you’ll find that collaboration will enrich the work. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the best thing to do.

There’s a piece of intersectional privilege that’s hard to talk about, and that’s the way that some of us have more internal (and cultural) permission to speak up and step up than others. We’ve had others look to us early on, or reinforce us when we shared an opinion, in a way that others didn’t.

What this means in practice is that even if you step back, sit down, and are silent, media may not reach out to voices that have been sidelined but will instead go hunting for more voices like yours. In practice, members of marginalized groups have been told so many times that they’re not enough that they often won’t put in to speak or to lead without a lot of encouragement, because they know they’ll probably be held to a higher standard of qualification.

This is where people can use their privilege for good. When you see someone who is ready to step up and lead, tell them so. Reflect their qualifications to them, because it matters, especially for those with a non-traditional life or career path. Encourage them. Signal boost them. Share your privilege by putting together a panel or a co-presentation and making sure they’re on it.

People who might not listen to them if you weren’t in the room, or who might not give them a chance if you weren’t on the ticket, will have their minds blown. People who might be unconsciously passed over will have a chance to shine.

Pass the mic. Hold the door open. And listen.

[¹]  As a visibly-white person whose relatives aren’t, I know what I look like, and I know what that’s meant for me, and I know what not looking like me meant for other members of my family. I also know that discussions about race take a funny turn when everyone in the room is read as white. Aside from that, there is so much I don’t know, and won’t pretend to. This is why it’s crucial to pass the mic to those who can speak to different experiences of race.

Alex Morgan is a writer and sex educator in the Bay Area of California

Originally published by Alex Morgan at their Tumblr.

Creating Safety Without Guns- An Inner City Love Story

By Mark Naison

One of the reasons I am haunted by the death of Michael Brown is that I have worked with young people in highly charged settings and have seen what they can accomplish when people who command their respect guide them, challenge them, inspire them and love them. This is a story that will help you understand where I am coming from.

The year is 1994. The crack epidemic is still with us, hip hop has entered its golden age, and the city’s murder rate is three times what it is now. The neighborhood where I live, Park Slope, is starting to gentrify, but there are still pockets of poverty and the drug trade is alive and well. I am very active in the biggest neighborhood sports program, the 78th Precinct Youth Council, as a coach and league director and it is in that capacity that I am offered an assignment.


There is a basketball league for HS students at JHS 51, sponsored by the Youth Council, that is out of control The players are fighting with one another, parents are coming out of the stands to fight with the kids, coaches and referees, and neighborhood teenagers are coming to the games to join the brawls. The Council leaders ask me to come in and try to bring order to the league, threatening to shut it down if I fail.


The first day the league meet, I size up the players. Half are Black and Latino, mostly from Bed Stuy, Prospect Heights, Sunset Park and Red Hook, all pretty tough neighborhoods; the white kids are almost evenly divided between middle class Park Slope and working class Windsor Terrace It is a pretty tough group, but with one thing in common-they all want to play ball and use this experience to get them ready for their high school teams I also take stock of the coaches Two thirds are Black- two of them are police officers, the rest teachers. The referees, both friends of mine are big strong guys who are great athletes. I take stock of the people and decide we can make this work if we take the right approach.


So here is what I did. I called the players together and told them what my rules would be. Anyone who throws a punch, for any reason, is thrown out of the league; any parent who leaves the stands will be escorted out of the gym. Showing disrespect for me, the coaches, or the referees results in automatic suspension. After I tell them the rules, I call up the six toughest kids in the group and announce that I am hiring them as security guards and people who keep the book. I tell them that everybody wants to close the league, but that I am determined to make this work along with the coaches and referees “You follow the program, and we are your protection” I tell them. “We are not going to let anyone hurt you when you are in here- not your parents, not the police, not neighborhood drug dealers. This is a safe zone for all of us, a safe zone for the neighborhood. Together, we can make this work.”


What happened was nothing short of amazing. One league director, two referees, six coaches working together to help kids create a space where they could play top flight basketball without having to worry about defending their reputation or defending themselves form assault. There were no fights. No one threw a punch. No brawls involving parents or by standers Every time something was stolen from the gym, or the school, the security guards investigated and the stolen property was returned. Games were amazing, played before up to 300 spectators. Local drug dealers came to the games and caused no beefs.


What made it work was giving kids everyone was afraid of real responsibility and decent pay; coaches who took kids home with them when they were in trouble and helped them with problems ranging from failed tests to school suspensions; and an environment where strong physically confident adults commanded respect from young people and made them feel safe.


It was also a place where class and privilege were temporarily erased- I brought wads of dollar bills to every game and made sure that if anyone had pizza, everyone had pizza. And what happened, with order, and discipline, and predicability and love is that kids from every conceivable background were able to enjoy their love of basketball and showcase their skills before appreciative crowds. At least half of the players in the league, including several girls, ended up playing high school basketball, and a few ended up playing in college- one of those who became a starting point guard at Fordham.


For four years we held the league together without a single fight, or a single brawl though there were a few near misses It was physically and emotionally exhausting, for the referees and coaches as well a the kids, but we showed that young people who many people feared, who in some cases were huge disciplinary problems for schools and for their parents, could be part of an incredible group experience without every losing control.


The experience left a lasting impact on me. Every time I see a shooting death of a young person like Mike Brown, I think of how many young people in our league fit that profile and how with the right combination of firmness understanding and respect, those young people blossomed. It is also why I am reluctant to write off or give up on any young person.


I have seen what is possible and find it hard to accept anything less.


Originally published in With a Brooklyn Accent.

Social Work and Structural Analysis


By Thao N. Lam

“I want to do more for my clients, but I can’t. Then I can’t look at my phone and see the news about Ferguson. I feel awful,” said a social service colleague, blinking back tears of frustration and anger. Continue reading “Social Work and Structural Analysis”

Gender Presentation is Not Identity

By Alex S. Morgan

Friendly reminder: gender presentation and identity are not the same thing. Too often we either just guess, or only ask someone’s pronouns if they’re visibly androgynous or gender-non-conforming. (I can count on one hand the number of people who asked me mine before I cut my hair, though I was out as genderqueer for years.) Continue reading “Gender Presentation is Not Identity”

Can We Trust the News to Report and the Police to Protect?


By Bill Ritchey

When Occupy had a camp in Portland, I was there, and everyday and night I watched the police and the TV news fabricate some outlandish story. Continue reading “Can We Trust the News to Report and the Police to Protect?”