Even My Hate Mail Reveals White Privilege

By Mark Naison (April 30, 2018)

My Black friends have always told me “Mark, if you were Black, saying the things you do, acting the way you do, you would have been dead a long time ago.”

If you think they were exaggerating, read the article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the death threats and insults the African American philosopher George Yancy is repeatedly deluged with when he comments about issues in commercial media. The great Fordham Theologian Father Bryan Massingale has had a similar experience, as have my friends Johnny Eric Williams and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. This is startlingly different from what I have experienced when I comment about race in America for CNN, or other media outlets. I get hate mail. I have scores of people telling me I should never be allowed to teach. But I have NEVER received a death threat, or a rape threat, or an email that begins “Dear N…..r Professor.”

Black people in positions of academic leadership, commenting on the issues of the day, bring out a kind of insecurity in too many whites that is easily transferred into violent fantasies, and in some cases, into violent actions.

No one should underestimate the power and prevalence of White Rage in this country. It is quite literally life threatening to Black people, even when they reach positions of influence through their talent and hard work.


What No One Says About the New Portlandias: They are Also Very White

By Arun Gupta (April 24, 2018)

“Pittsburgh is the New Portland” has become a cliche. The meaning is it’s a medium-sized environmentally friendly city hospitable to young people who are creative, have an unorthodox lifestyle, or politics, and the city is low cost and close to nature, at least compared to cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

What is usually left unsaid about très cool Portlandias is their whiteness. The culture, politics, and ideology of Portland is saturated with whiteness, but you never really notice it if you are white. Histories of violent ethnic cleansing, police brutality, disparity in housing, education, and employment are erased. Portlandias become blank spaces for play by the same homogenized social group.

Portland is often described as “the whitest big city in America.” Turns out that may not be true. Pittsburgh is the least diverse among the top 100 metropolitan areas: It’s 87% White, 8% Black, 2% Asian, and 1% Hispanic. I found this surprising given the city of Pittsburgh has had a significant African-American population for nearly a century. The numbers though are for the metropolitan area, which include much of Allegheny County.

There are a lot of complexities to this. As Pittsburgh deindustrialized in the seventies and eighties, the Black population increased and became poorer as whites and middle class Blacks moved to the suburbs. But as Pittsburgh started to acquire the cachet of a creative city, starting in the 2000s, it appears the Black population started to decline faster than the overall population decline in the city and surrounding Allegheny County.

I suspect what is going on is also extreme segregation. Austin, Texas is often lumped together with Portland. This article says it may be “the most segregated city in Texas,” which would be astonishing given the racial divisions there.

I have my own thoughts as to what is going on and what it all means. But I am interested in hearing yours.


White America’s Communication Problem

By S. (April 23, 2018)

Dear White America,
We have a communication problem. You are getting better at listening. In the past you’ve blamed us for not communicating to you in a manner that would facilitate you listening. We were too angry, too quiet, too loud, politically inconvenient, self-centered, stuck in victim mindset.

Finally, thanks to cell phone footage, you can see for yourselves what us black people know too well. You had to see it for yourselves to believe it. And you had to see it not once but multiple times, over and over, to truly understand. Now you get it. Black people are in danger from cops. Thank you. I am sincerely grateful at how far you’ve come in the last 15 years. But there’s still so much more work. There’s all the stuff that you don’t see, that you’ll never see. So we need you to listen. We need you to step up and intervene.

I knew Holly Hylton, I complained to you about her. You brushed me off and got annoyed at my discomfort. You blamed me for not having a better attitude, for not trying harder, for being a victim. I came to you because you were my friend. I was asking for support for your help in allowing me to process the racist and ugly way Holly treated me when I: *worked with her
*went to school with her
*bought coffee from her
*heard her sermon
*read her newspaper op ed
*watched her Oscar acceptance speech.

You said Holly didn’t do anything wrong, she didn’t mean to, she has a good heart, I caught her on a bad day, she gives money to starving children every week, she has black friends, she grew up in a black neighborhood, she went to a BLM protest, she loves hip hop. You defended Holly against my claims of racism.

You interrogated me. You made me become a lawyer, a ballistics expert, a pathologist, an economist, a historian, a translator of cultures, and many more so that you could find the loophole in my feelings and prove that I’m wrong about Holly.

Holly’s reputation as a non-racist became more important to you than my emotional needs.

You denied me support and validation when I came to you vulnerable and needy. That’s not what friends do.

If you’re a true friend, you’ll listen, learn, and apply what you’ve learned. You’ll call Holly out before she calls the police on me. You’ll empathize with Holly so that you can better figure out how to communicate effectively with her. There will be social consequences to her actions based on what she and has not learned.

This is where the party ends, because I can’t stand here listening to you and your racist friend.

A License to Insult

By Mark Naison (April 20, 2018)

I just had a conversation about the Trump Presidency with a Fordham professor who commands great respect in the Bronx. An immigrant from East Africa, she sees the greatest damage inflicted by the President not in the area of policy, but in how he encourages people who support him to speak disrespectfully to people who came here from countries he has insulted or attacked.

My colleague gave several examples of people in her hometown in New Jersey who have taken liberties in addressing her they would not have taken before the last election. Some of these instances have taken place in Whole Foods where one woman randomly approached her and asked where she came from, and whether she had a day off from work.. When she answered “New Jersey,” to the first question, the woman asked what country she was from. My colleague replied “what country are YOU from. We are all immigrants from somewhere.”

The more people I speak to, the more I am convinced that Mr Trump has unleashed a species of psychological warfare against immigrants of color, not only in the sphere of policy, but by inspiring a climate where their suitability to become American is subject to question. People are taking resentments expressed in the privacy of their homes or with close friends into public encounters in ways which have left many people feeling victimized or put upon,

For those people, Donald Trump’s election has been ” A License to Insult”.


Immigrants, Not Donald Trump, “Made New York Great Again”

By Mark Naison (April 18, 2018)

Donald Trump thinks he is the right person to “Make America Great” because he imagines he was responsible for New York’s revival after the Fiscal Crisis of the 70’s. But when you closely examine commerce in city neighborhoods outside of Manhattan, you realize that the very people Trump is attacking–IMMIGRANTS–are the ones who did most to bring New York back from disinvestment, arson, redlining, fiscal crises and drug epidemics

For every Trump building in Manhattan:

There are thousands of bodegas and small delis owned by Dominicans and Yeminis

Thousands of Chinese take out spots

Hundreds of gas stations and Duncan Donuts franchises owned by South Asians

Thousands of nail salons owned by Koreans and Hair Braiding Salon owned by Dominican and West African Women

Along with countless fried chicken spots, coffee shops, clothing stores, and small restaurants owned by people from all over the world

Immigrant commerce is the lifeblood of NY City neighborhoods. Attack immigrants you attack all of us.


Starbucks Shows Black People No Longer Have Public Spaces

By Teka Lark (April 17, 2018)

Boycott all Starbucks. Not just the one. The good white people need to learn too.

Why I do the work that I do. I will not share the video of two Black men being removed by the Philadelphia police from Starbucks, because a white person was “afraid” (they aren’t afraid, they are racist) and I will not normalize and desensitize people to the sight of Black people being brutalized.

Google it.

We no longer have public spaces. We have private spaces masquerading as public space. The dismantling of our public spaces came around the time that Supreme Court (thank you elders who participated in the Civil
Rights movement) granted Black people the right to be in public spaces.

Black people couldn’t go to the library, public pool. Before you fix your mouth to discuss or give commentary on the Black Church, understand that was the only place Black people could legally allow to meet up until some places as late as the 1970s.

So, now we have private spaces masquerading as public spaces, and Jim Crow masquerading as trespassing, and people making barely over minimum wage calling the police, and the police taking their word. Because the word of a barista protecting a white company is worth more than a Black person who is a real estate agent.


Churches Are Not Enough for Social Justice

By Irami Osei-Frimpong (April 13 2018)

There is a weird variety of Protestantism that suggests that the only social institution trained on securing justice is the Church. And everything else is mammon.

So instead of a church exhorting you to go out and love one’s neighbor through organizing a workers union, etc., the church will try to bring the institutions of justice INTO the church, but then those institutions are limited by the church’s capacity, so instead of the community having workers’ unions supporting fair pay in the name of justice, we have soup kitchens in the name of justice.

In truth, we need mediating institutions in order to secure justice.

These mediating institutions may not be centered around a Christian identity in their mission statement, because our neighbors also participate in these institutions and not all of our neighbors are Christian, but these mediating institutions are necessary for doing justice.

And let me be clear, justice is what loving your neighbor looks like in a fallen world.irami

Elle Stanger: Sesta/Fosta Is Dangerous for Sex Workers and Everyone’s Privacy Rights

April 12, 2018

Elle Stanger recently spoke at the Opening Spaces for Radical Imagination Conference at Oregon State and mentioned federal legislation targeting sex trafficking that would, in effect, place sex workers into more dangerous working conditions.  Upon the signing of this legislation by President Trump on April 12, 2018, Stanger prepared several short videos calling for its repeal and asked that they be shared.


Video:  Fosta/Sesta does not distinguish between sex trafficking and consensual sex work

Video_1:  Why the removal of online sites will push sex workers into trafficking and more dangerous situations.

Video_2 Why Fosta/Sesta will make the lives of LGBT sex workers and people of color even more dangerous. It will also erode privacy rights for the general public.

Dreaming New Futures: Walidah Imarisha @ Radical Imagination Conference

Walidah Imarisha was one of the keynote speakers at the first Opening Space for the Radical Imagination Conference at Oregon State from April 6-8, 2018. Walidah Imarisha is co-editor of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS) book, co-published with AK Press, Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements and author of IAS/AK Press book Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption.

Her talk was entitled:  Dreaming New Futures:  Science Fiction and Social Change.

We’ve Let Employers Set the Terms of the Labor Debate

By Irami Osei-Frimpong (April 10, 2018)

We’ve let employers dictate the terms of the labor debate.

Forget the skills mismatch. There is a wage mismatch, and when wages aren’t pegged to cost of living increases, it’s a bit ridiculous.

I first noticed it when I heard some older cat harangue a kid for not working their way through college like the baby boomer did, but when you look at the student’s rent and tuition, working for 7 dollar an hour isn’t really worth the student’s time. Then I just started listening to non-students laboring under medical bills, and once again, if you have tens of thousands of dollars in medical debt, the shine falls off working at 8 dollar an hour.

Gordon Lafer’s book, The Job Training Charade, lays out the myth of the “skills mismatch” and how it’s not the reason for under and un-employment, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that we simply stopped believing in organizing an economy for employers and employees, and instead, organized it for capitalized employers (black people, that’s not us), and serfs (that is us).


Sesta/Fosta means Sex Workers Will Die


Phoenix Calida (April 9, 2018)

Have I ever told y’all about my Jack the Ripper stalker on twitter?

Yeah. Some dude was using Jack the Ripper as a handle. He would tweet pics of ripper victims at me and ask if I was a street sex worker, and where I could be found.

People online thought it was hilarious watching these interactions. They’d egg him on, make “jokes” and say things like “I bet you never forgot your first time” People would laugh when he asked I bore any physical resemblance to ripper victims

It went on for months. I’d block him, he’d make a new account, tweet more dead sex workers at me. He’d even send pics of modern day London, all the places ripper victims were found. Pics of “Jack the ripper tours”. Pics of old school surgeon knives. It was terrifying.

The worst part was because Twitter is public, everyone could see it. All people thought it was funny. People would retweet his tweets of dead bodies to me. One guy told me I should be flattered because the only way whores get famous is by murdered by serial killers

I was scared as fuck . And then thru him stalking my social media, he found out I was black and my grandfather was Jewish. It went from Jack the Ripper references to Holocaust pictures and plantation rape jokes

He even went so far as to guess where I was from in Chicago. He told me he wanted to visit, and play a game of slave catcher. And of course, his followers thought it was funny. Because dead hookers, lulz. Instead of ripper victims, now it was murdered American Sex workers

Fortunately, my friends kept me sane. And helped me learn how to screen and monitor other people’s social media better. I’m not saying that guy found me…. I am saying that by learning from my friends, I passed a potential date that looked like Mr. Jack the Ripper

By using available sources to screen, I quite possibly avoided something truly terrible. And now that SESTA/FOSTA has passed… those screening tools are gone.

This situation happened a long time ago. But if it started again right now? I don’t know what I would do.

That story has been in my head ever since this #SESTA #FOSTA bullshit has gone down. Was it really him? Was he going to kill me? Will he ever find me again? Do his followers still think this is a joke? If he did kill me, would anyone even care? Has he killed/hurt others?

This isn’t a game. Sex workers will die because of these laws. what side you really on? If you aren’t supporting team sex workers right now, I can’t fuck with you. Not when men on the internet openly fantasize about killing sex workers. Fin.