White Supremacy and Trump Cannot Have Our People



By Chris Crass (July 28, 2016)

White working class anti-racist leadership is rising all around us and points us towards the work that must be done to unite white communities away from the death culture of racism and into the life-affirming, liberatory mass movement for racial justice and Black Lives Matter that is all around us. And to help us get there, it’s important to take note of the differences between a middle class and a working class orientation to the work of ending racism.


One of the dangers of a middle class-oriented anti-racism is that it replicates some of the ways middle class people are institutionally positioned in society. This isn’t about individual people making mistakes, it’s about a political orientation that evolves out of the lived experiences of people trying to survive in a capitalist society invested in the exploitation of the vast majority of people’s labor, hearts, and souls.


A middle class-oriented anti-racism often operates from:


1) a focus on individual achievement, rather then collective/community justice. Often those recently becoming middle class are encouraged and rewarded for looking “down” on their working class and poor communities, families, cultures, and pasts.


+ for anti-racist work, with a middle class orientation, this then often looks like an over-emphasis on changing personal behavior, using correct language, and calling out other people who aren’t acting and speaking in the right way. It can lead to a looking down on the communities that you have come from and distancing yourself from your own past by ruthlessly criticizing everyone who acts and talks like you did two weeks ago.


2) fundamental insecurity based on striving towards a vision of the American Dream that puts you in massive debt, overworking, emotional isolation trying to present as “we’re doing fine, we have it all together”. Insecurity which isn’t just imagined, but rooted in the soul crushing, body breaking realities of how capitalism functions to make the vast majority of us live in regular fear of losing our ability to take care of and provide for our families and loved ones. Capitalism thrives on mass structural, cultural, and social insecurity and it understandably then shows up in our liberation movements. To be middle class is to be just making it, and to properly internalize and project the insecurity.


+ for anti-racist work, this can translate into a wanting everything to look perfect, fear of making mistakes, and external and internal pressure to appear and convince oneself that “we’ve got it all figured out”. This fuses with the individual achievement to again push many of us into an individualistic mode of operating – to work as hard as we can (into burnout), to experience a sense that nothing we do is ever enough, to continually doubt our selves and doubt the possibility of large scale transformative change. To deal with the structural insecurity by tearing down everyone around us, to use cynicism and critique to appear more experienced, effective, and sophisticated then others in the movement.

The enemy is capitalism, not middle class activists. And a middle class orientation isn’t something that only middle class people can have, it’s the orientation that all of us who aren’t ruling class are raised to endlessly and exhaustingly strive for.


A working class oriented anti-racism often operates from:


1) a focus on structural change and collective/community power and pushes us beyond a focus on unattainable personal perfection and into the long haul person commitment to build grassroots liberatory power. A working class-oriented anti-racism often leads people into seeing the institutional injustices failing their communities, how racism mobilizes working class white communities into active agents of perpetuating everyday acts of racism that serve to enforce and maintain the structural racism that generates wealth and power or the ruling class.


+ for anti-racist work, this translates into a vision of organizing white communities in ways that addresses the real ways they are screwed over in this system and unites the demands and efforts for justice to an understanding of how white supremacy helps maintain a lack of economic security in white working class communities, and how racial justice is central not only to economic justice for all, but freeing the humanity of white people from the death culture of white supremacy. This means seeing the messy, contradictory, complex humanities of white people and looking for opportunities to move white people into justice work, rather then a focus on distancing through easy denouncements. This means become experts at seeing and illuminating opportunities for large number so white people to join in the struggle and be on the right side of history, rather then a focus on personal purity of “perfect politics”.


2) a focus on long haul change rooted in history, rooted in loving our people, rooted in knowing that our people are not just privileged through socialization into whiteness, but our people are also battered and twisted by whiteness that turns our capacities to love into engines of hate.


White working class anti-racist leadership is growing all around us:

With Drew Joy and the Southern Maine Workers’ Center organizing in white working class rural communities for health care and for Black Lives Matter, and being part of national multiracial coalitions that unite white working class leaders with leaders of color to fight for an agenda rooted in racial, economic, gender, social, and environmental justice.


With Meredith Martin Moates and the McElroy House: Organization for Cultural Resources in rural working class Arkansas creating community gatherings to learn about cooperative economics, Transgender liberation, and what it means to stand against racism in these times.


With Jardana Peacock calling white anti-racist healers, spiritual leaders, and activists to share personal practices that help ground them in times likes these and help them take action for racial justice, for Black Lives Matter, and then collecting these practices as a resource for white people to use all over the country.


With Kellie Kelly, a Unitarian Universalist faith leader who is creating cross class conversations in UU congregations on economic justice, how anti-working class attitudes permeate middle class culture, the importance of supporting working class faith leadership, and in all of this, why majority white faith communities need to act for racial justice and Black Lives Matter.


With Rahula Janowski and Catalyst Project, putting forward a vision of a working class-oriented anti-racism, mentoring and developing white working class leaders from around the country, and helping to illuminate how parenting and families are part of liberation movement, rather then a distraction from it.


With Zoe Williams in Colorado engaged in organizing a multiracial working class coalition for improved public transportation, through the working class women’s rights group 9to5, while also bringing their leadership to their local SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) and nationally through anti-racist toolkits for white families.


A working class-orientation isn’t something that all working class people just have, nor is it something that middle class people can’t learn. A critical step is learning from and supporting working class leaders and the work they are doing. Another step is developing class consciousness of our own experiences, taking time to understand our class position (knowing that capitalism does as much as it can to create class confusion), and then making choices about the class orientation of our work.


We are not here to become the perfect white anti-racists, to make changing behavior and language the goal (rather then part of the larger process), to strive for an educated white anti-racist elite.


We are here because those of us raised to be white in this white supremacist society refuse to be silent and complicity in this racist society that devours lives, dreams, humanity and dignity in communities of color, while also poisoning the hearts and minds of white people who then blame our economic miseries and insecurities on communities of color.


We are here because we are ready to rise in love for all of our people, and in rage for the structural nightmare of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.


We are here for collective liberation, with the values of socialism rather then capitalism at the heart. And in this white working class leadership, organization, and a working class orientation to the work are all key to not only defeating Trump, but to all of us getting free.


Dan Savage on the Green Party: Just No



By Adam Hefty (July 20, 2016)

Incredibly privileged gay white man comfortably speaking for all the oppressed? Just no.

– Acting as though political change in the US progresses in some gradual, arithmetic way from local races to national races? Just no.

(How could anyone think this after just watching the Bernie Sanders campaign? Yes, I’m aware that it happened within the context of a Democratic primary. But we just watched one of the two most significant insurgent, progressive presidential campaigns in the last 40 years, and you are seriously telling people to run for city council to the exclusion of higher offices? Also the Greens are running for city council in many places … but it’s the fact that Savage thinks this is a serious argument and people seem to buy it that I find flabbergasting.)

– My 2 cents, since I’m already counter-ranting: it’s not just California; if you live in one of 35-40 states that are probably safe for one major party or the other, and you have left-liberal, progressive, or radical politics, then you are wasting your vote if you vote for Clinton, in that you are voting for something you do not want when you could be voting for something you more or less do want. Live in one of the swing states? I dunno, consult your conscience, higher power, or friends, and make a call. Vote one way or the other, realize that your hands are dirty either way, realize that voting is a rather incidental political act, and join an organization that is doing something to fight anti-immigrant politics, Islamophobia, white supremacy, austerity, etc.

– On “tone” or the ethics of the discourse: engaging with a Dan Savage rant about electoral politics as if he’s not just a hack on this topic drags the conversation into such a muck. Who and what benefits when we stop having careful conversations about third-party politics and the dangers of a Trump presidency or a Clinton presidency and we descend into a slug-fest of shaming, chiding, vitriol, and condescension? Responding to this or the Rebecca Solnit article from 2012 feels like getting masterfully trolled by a puppetmaster with a Bill Clinton mask. I’m a sucker every time.

We Have Seen This Bitterness Before: Reflections on 1968 and Now


By Mark Naison (July 20, 2016)

I have many friends, most of them younger than me, who are terrified by the divisions in the country, by the violent acts that periodically add to the tension, and by an election which brings out a level of fear and anger they have never seen before.

Unfortunately, this is not new to me. I have vivid memories of the year 1968 and that Presidential election. We had a terrible war. Assasinations. Riots in every major city. Campus take overs. And a country divided down the middle over race and politics

I will give you snippets of this to put things in perspective. Race was a huge divider. There was bitter white resentment of Black urban uprisings and campus protests, fueled by a third party candidate named George Wallace, and used as a political platform in somewhat less visceral ways by the Republican candidate Richard Nixon. You could feel the tension on the streets, especially in neighborhoods which were undergoing rapid racial change. I vividly remember signs along the Cross Bronx Expressway which said “This is Wallace Country” as the line separating whites from Blacks and Latinos quickly moved from Tremont Avenue to Fordham Road. It also divided families. I was basically kicked out of my family for falling in love with a Black woman and adopted by her extended family, which had a base in the Bronx. Walking hand in hand through the city was like maneuvering a minefield. You never knew who was going to blow up at us

But it wasn’t just race. It was the war, drugs and the “hippie youth culture too.” I vividly remember driving through the Midwest with white friends on the way to Chicago, all of whom had long hair, and getting hate looks from parents while the children passed the peace sign. Some of my friends had been virtually disowned by their parents too, for growing their hair long, opposing the war, or participating in protests..

Those of us who were living through it saw no end in sight. Many of us thought we would die early deaths and that there would be a revolution or the emergence of some kind of fascist state. We had our apocalyptic fantasies and great music to fuel our fevered imaginations.

But though some people died, others burned themselves out, and families fractured, the nation survived and we stumbled on without our political system collapsing.

I suspect the same will happen now. We will hurt one another, and leave some lasting scars, but we will not turn into some unrecognizable dictatorship.

So friends, by all means worry, but do not despair. We will get through this. Damaged, but not destroyed.

Melania’s Speech: Bootstrapping and Manifest Destiny

(July 19, 2016)


Phoenix Calida:

So um, I get all the jokes about Melania plagiarizing.

But can I please just point out that the speech in question was about the moral and ethical superiority of capitalism and boot strapping?

And both white republicans AND white liberals couldn’t stop jizzing themselves over the greatness of the bootstrap message?

There’s an underlying problem when both parties look at people from “unfortunate” circumstances- one black, one an immigrant- and praise their bootstrap struggle, rags-to-riches life rhetoric like The Holy Gospel.

We should be concerned the same words were so popular at political events of parties that are allegedly opposites. These political parties are not for the people as a whole. But we knew that.


Chris Crass:

People seem to have completely missed the point of ‪#‎MelaniaTrump‘s speech. She was giving everyone a glimpse of what it means to Make America Great Again; rich white people so deeply accustomed to taking and benefitting from the fruits of unpaid Black labor, so entitled to it, like Indigenous Nations land through Manifest Destiny, that they can effortlessly and cavalierly claim the work of “subgroups” as their own, and be celebrated for their genius.

Plagiarism? This is Donald Trump and the Angry White People Party reestablishing their vision of the proper ruling order.


Oregon is Out of Step on Police Use of Force


By Joseph Orosco (July 13, 2016)

Last week, I wrote that tackling the problem of police violence was going to be difficult without altering legal standards around the use of deadly force. I used the example of Missouri’s laws which shielded Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Some people contacted me about the piece and asked me how Oregon state laws compared. Others wrote and insisted that police training really could make a difference and cited our local Corvallis police department as a nationally recognized example of what good cops can do.

I want to insist that better training of police officers may be a good thing, but the deeper issue is what police officers are legally allowed to do—that is, what legal standards around using deadly force can law enforcement officials use to defend their actions in court?

As it turns out, the Missouri legislature is working to alter their legal standards this year when it realized that their laws ran contrary to US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) standards. In 1985, SCOTUS ruled, in the case of Tennessee v. Garner, that police officers may not use deadly force to prevent the escape of a suspect unless the officers have “probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.” Missouri law previously allowed a police officer to kill someone if they believed that a suspect had merely committed a felony or attempted to commit a felony. For instance, if Darren Wilson had believed that Mike Brown had robbed the convenience store, then he would have had legal justification to shoot him dead if he tried to flee arrest.

In 2015, Amnesty International issued a report that reviewed the use of force standards across the United States. Their key findings:

  • Nine states and Washington DC have NO legal standards at all on the use of deadly force by police officers.
  • All 50 states and Washington DC fail to comply with international law and legal standards on the use of lethal force by police.

 The international standards set by the United Nations in 1990 hold that:

“Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.”

  •  Thirteen states have legal standards on the use of deadly force by police officers that do not even comply with the Garner standard set by SCOTUS.


Oregon is one of those states. 

 Oregon law allows police officers to shoot to kill a suspect if (among several conditions) the suspect is believed to have committed a felony involving use or threat of imminent physical force against someone, or engaged in kidnapping, arson, or burglary. Indeed, the law allows officers to use deadly force if they believe a suspect has committed any felony at all, given the “totality of the circumstances existing at the time and place” as they appear to the office and whether or not the suspect poses imminent threat of death or grave harm to the officer or someone else.

In other words, Oregon law allows police officers to use deadly force against suspects in a manner that is contrary to both national and international standards of law.

Body cameras and better training won’t stop the kind of killings we have seen if it is the law itself that licenses those actions.

It would appear to me that any groups in Oregon interested in preventing police brutality against people of color should have as part of their work a strategy to force state lawmakers to reform Oregon’s use of deadly force standards and bring them in line with the nationally and internationally recognized laws.  Missouri has done some of this work.  We should also.

Police Brutality: The Pattern Continues


By. S. Brian Willson (July 13, 2016)

As a criminologist I find it instructive to place police brutality in its historical perspective (it is not an aberration). For example:

(1) The 1968 “Walker Report: Rights in Conflict” examined the civil disturbances (“rioting” at the DNC in Chicago, Aug, 22-29). It took more than 20,000 pages of statements from 3,437 eyewitnesses and participants, looked at 180 hours of film, and over 12,000 still photographs. The report essentially concluded that disorders resulted primarily from refusal of authorities to grant permits and from the subsequent systematic brutal and indiscriminate attacks by Chicago police on demonstrators, most of whom were peaceful. So, in effect, we witnessed government brutal violence against US Americans at home protesting an illegal war abroad, while that same, the government was committing brutal violence against Vietnamese in their homeland who were protesting the illegal war waged against them. It was the police, in effect, who had rioted against the people. The Walker report cited “ferocious, malicious and mindless violence” and “gratuitous beating” by the police.

Many years later it was discovered that “almost one in every six demonstrators was an undercover agent”  (see Myra MacPherson. “All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone” (New York: Scribner, 2006), 421)

(2) The 1931 (Hoover) Wickersham Commission’s Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement concluded that the “third degree,”– the willful infliction of pain and suffering on criminal suspects–was “widespread.” The commission discovered that “official lawlessness” by police, jailers, judges, magistrates, and others in the criminal justice system was widespread in many jurisdictions, including major cities. It investigated illegal arrests, bribery, entrapment, coercion of witnesses, fabrication of evidence, “third degree” practices, police brutality, and illegal wiretapping. It defined “The third degree” as employment of methods which inflict suffering, physical or mental, upon a person, in order to obtain from that person information about a “crime”, saying it was “widespread” and “secret.” It called the practice (torture) “shocking in its character and extent, violative of American traditions and institutions.” It catalogued some of the “third degree methods”: physical brutality, threats, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme cold or heat–also known as ‘the sweat box’–and blinding with powerful lights and other forms of sensory overload or deprivation.”

This behavior IS very much part of the (US) American tradition and institutions. We need to unravel from the entire mythology about the US founding and its continuing “exceptionalism.” Exceptionally diabolical, perhaps.

We need to develop nonviolent revolutionary strategies of noncooperation, withdrawing support from dependency upon the system while radically downsizing into cooperative, locally food sufficient communities.

Ask Every Police Chief: Do you condone racism?


By Chris Crass (July 12, 2016)

Rather then the standard in media of asking Black people about their forgiveness of the police who killed their babies, or asking if they are anti-police, and the standard of nearly every Black person in the country needing to hold a press conference expressing that they aren’t calling for violence against police, but rather equal protection under the law and an end to racism:

I think it’s time that every police chief, every police union, every Mayor, every Governor, every head of the Chamber of Commerce, every head of a local, regional, federal government agency should be asked: “Do you condone anti-Black racism? Do you feel remorse for the repeated racist violence experienced in the Black community at the hands of law enforcement? How do you explain the consistent racially unjust disparities in both law enforcement and every other indicator of equity in our society and government?” 

To be asked “What would you say to the Mother and Father of Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and the thousands of other parents whose children have been stolen from this world due to the refusal of law enforcement to be accountable for ending racist violence in their departments.”

To be asked, “Given that police fatalities are at a historic low during the Obama administration and fatalities of Americans of color are at historic highs, do you think the Blues Lives Matter message is really intended to position demands for civil rights and human rights for Black people as being anti-police? Furthermore, given that Black Lives Matter leaders consistently denounce police killings and express public sympathy with their families; that white people shot police officers at far higher rates and are responsible for the majority of fatalities; and the killing of police is universally condemned; and the shooters are punished under the law, while law enforcement leaders routinely slander the character of those murdered by racist police violence and provide justification for nothing to change; and the shooters routinely escaping any penalty let alone punishment for their crimes, it gives the impression that the function of the police and even the rule of current law, are in fact, fundamentally opposed to civil and human rights for Black people.”

“Given this, isn’t the Blues Lives Matter response to Black Lives Matter just a terrifying way of affirming that, indeed, from law enforcements’ perspective, and the perspective of most politicians and business leaders, the problem isn’t racist violence or inequity; the problem is, Black people are forgetting their place?”

To be asked, “Given the pattern of racist violence endemic in the criminal justice system, do you support the growing voices for change led by the Black Lives Matter movement, and if you don’t support that movement, can you explain how you believe change can happen in an entrenched social order evolved during the slave society that continues to create the racist outcomes it was designed to enforce?”

The Human Element in Policing



By Mark Naison (July 11, 2016)

When approaching controversial issues, people bring personal experience as well as ideology to the table. My vantage point on the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Alton Sterling is very much shaped by my experience as a coach and youth program director. When I was coaching and running a neighborhood basketball program, I was given the kids everyone else was afraid of. I was their last hope. If they couldn’t work with me they were out of the program. I was tough and direct with them, but went out of my way to listen to them and understand them, and was able to talk them out of self-destructing when they panicked and lost their cool This is what the best police officers can do when they confront someone who is out of control. There are so many ways to get someone back from the abyss other than killing them. I think that could have been done with Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Alton Sterling. And we all would be in better shape, including our police officers

There is a human element to policing, just as there is to teaching, which, if properly directed and encouraged can save lives. Just imagine there was a beat cop in Ferguson on patrol who knew everyone in Mike Brown’s neighborhood and was respected, if not always loved, by everyone there. If he saw Mike walking in the middle of the street in a rage (which he was because his grandma was suddenly hospitalized), he would drive up beside him and say “Big Mike, chill out. I know you’re having a bad day, but I’m going to have to pull you in if you don’t calm down. If you need a ride somewhere get in the car, but you’ve got to get out of the street. OK?” If this was an officer everyone’s been the neighborhood knew and no one fucked with, chances are Mike would be alive today. But I suspect police officers in Ferguson were not trained or encouraged to play that role.

It’s Not Just Bad Cops, It’s the System


By Joseph Orosco (July 7, 2016)

The criminal justice system that is. In the aftermath of the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, there are calls for widespread police reform, ranging from mandatory body cameras, better training to the establishment of civilian oversight committees and the election of pro-reform officials.

It’s not clear that these reforms that focus on police force reform will do much good to stem the tide of the killing of people of color. Part of the reason is that police operate within a criminal justice system that has given them wide lattitude to use deadly force. This is why, even when cops are indicted for the use of excessive force, they usually go free. In fact, the US Justice Department study in 2002 found that about only 8% of complaints of police brutality are ever upheld.

Since 1989, the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has held, in the case of Graham v Connor, that the use of deadly force by police officers has to be judged by whether it was “objectively reasonable” in that particular circumstance. The Graham test for whether force is reasonable, according to SCOTUS, has to be based on the police officer’s perception at the time. In other words, an officer may use deadly force if they reasonably believed at the moment of use that they or others were in imminent danger, regardless of whether such danger in fact existed. Indeed, the court said it doesn’t matter if its determined with “20/20 hindsight” that no one was really in harm’s way—all that matters is what the police officer reasonably perceived to be the case.

This leeway is the reason why officer Darren Wilson was not brought up on charges for the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The law in Missouri, Section 563.046 “Law Enforcement Officer’s Use of Force in Making an Arrest” creates a shield against prosecution based on this standard. It holds that the use of deadly force is justified if the officer: “reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest and also reasonably believes that the person to be arrested (a) has committed or attempted to commit a felony; or (b) is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon; or (c) may otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.”

It is into the space of this legal leeway that all sorts of problematic racial prejudices can enter. Was Darren Wilson’s perception of the threat posed by Michael Brown “reasonable”? In his testimony to the grand jury, Wilson said that he felt severely overpowered and in terror of Mike Brown: “When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five year old holding onto Hulk Hogan.” After he shot Brown the first time, Wilson said that Brown “looked up at me had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.” Wilson continued to shoot and remembers: “At this point, it looked like he was bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him…And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.”

What is most striking about Wilson’s testimony is that his characterization of Brown as a threatening superhman animal with extraordinary strength and resilliance is not a peculiar quirk of his. Researchers at Northwestern University have found that many white American have an implicit racial bias against African Americans which the researchers call “superhumanization bias”. Whites are more likely to associate African Americans with mythical creatures and they are more likely to assume that African Americans do not experience as much pain as white people. In other words, the story of Blacks as beings endowed with magical abilities and supernatural powers is a common, unconscious framework operating in the minds of many white Americans. This framework conditions how white Americans understand the forces at work in the world, what is true in it, and what to expect from their interaction with African Americans. It’s not surprising then that Wilson might “reasonably” believe at the very moment of his encounter with Mike Brown that he was confronting something that he was not equipped to deal with except through the use of deadly force. And the law protects him in doing so.

And while it is difficult to criminally prosecute police officers for the use of unreasonable deadly force, it is also almost impossible to gain a civil remedy. In the case of Plumhoff v. Rickard (2014), SCOTUS ruled that police officers cannot be sued for excessive force or killing someone if they did so under the reasonable belief that force was necessary.

So when people defend police officers by saying that we cannot judge whether or not the use of force was justified because “we weren’t there” and don’t know what split second decision the cops might have had, they are actually voicing the current legal standards for judging police brutality. But hopefully we can see that those standards allow for some very heinuous racial biases to enter into the definition of a reasonable assessment of reality.

It’s clear that the problem of extrajudicial execution of people of color won’t be tackled merely by reforming police training or even strong community oversight boards (though these might help a little). It must involve significant legal overhaul and cultural intervention into the foundations of white supremacist worldviews, as well. Maybe it will also get us to consider whether or not we need police forces to keep us safe at all.