Suffering at Orwellian Mexican Detention Centers Indicts the Governments of the Americas

By Joseph Orosco (June 28, 2019)

The UK Independent picked up a horrendous video from the Mexican news outlet El Universal.  It shows a Haitian immigrant at a Mexican detention center in southern Mexico, screaming in Spanish for the news cameras.  She pleads for help for herself and her child of five years old, saying they have received no food or water in the last ten days.  It is extremely disturbing:

Ever since Mexico agreed to the Trump administration’s coercion, there has been a lot of attention on the condition of the detention centers at Mexico’s southern border.  Remember, in June, the US threatened Mexico with import taxes up to 25% if it did not take active steps to stop immigrants in the South.  Mexico had already agreed to do so, stepping up detention and troop deployments.

News outlets have reported extreme overcrowding at the centers.  The Associated Press reported that the Orwellian named center “Twenty First Century” has over 2,000 detainees in a facility designed only for 960.  The Haitian mother in the video is reported to be at a nearby center named “Mesoamerican Fair”.

It should be obvious now that the United States’ immigration policy is fostering a hemispheric humanitarian disaster, outsourcing the policing power of border security to other American nations and increasing the suffering of thousands.

The Responsibility of the Writer

By Octaviano Merecias (June 26, 2019)

The responsibility of the writer

Is to measure the rising poison into our soul by reminding us of
our numbness of distraction into the apathy of oblivion
as the dissolving heart of our neighbor lingers in our pupils

Is to face evil with a piece of pen and ink as mighty weapons
And biting the metal fences as their saliva screams…
For the freedom of God, queens, and saints facing administrative agony
because when peace is crucified and hope remains caged
only faith loiters into the roads of our past, present… and future.

Is to scribble angels of water and shelter with a stroke of feeling
Is to draw photographs of rising waters and cadavers
to imprint into our memory the legacy of banana republics
and colonial interventions for our gold comforts and fake peace

What is the responsibility of the writer then?
It is to remind us that it is your river, is my rio, is our Rio Grande too;
Is to remind us that his name was Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramirez
and Valeria was 23-months-old.


No More Concentration Camps: A Movement Beginning

By Joseph Orosco (June 25, 2019)

Many people have responded in the last week to Arun Gupta’s call for a movement to end the mass detention of immigrants at the US/Mexico Border.  He has created a Facebook social media presence to coordinate efforts:

He adds the following:

“Hey Folks, I know many of you are eager to get involved in a national campaign against the concentration camps. We will be getting out a national call soon. This requires a lot of moving parts: lots of outreach to media, an interactive events website, fundraising, social media, design, and so on. Al of this is in motion and will happen very soon.
We are using a self-organizing model, as with Seattle and the Global Justice Movement and Occupy Wall Street.
You can get a head start by organizing your community. The goal is to get as many people down to a few key border cities this summer in the hopes it eventually takes off like Standing Rock.
But this will require extensive support on the ground as well as from afar. We aim to have coordinated days of action so everyone around the country can participate.
The first goal is simple: NO CONCENTRATION CAMPS!

There is a Facebook page you can join and start creating discussion threads. More social media and a website will be on the way very soon — within days!


Direct Action Will Work Against ICE

By Teka Lark (June 24, 2019)

Direct action is a tool that should only be used when it needs to be used. Protesting with a permit is not direct action. Anytime you appeal to authority in a way that puts them in the position of reasonable, you’re not doing direct action.

What is direct action? When you resist with your body or with your wallet. The Montgomery Bus Boycott is an example of direct action.

The most effective direct actions understand that the system is corrupt and unreasonable, not parts of the system, the ENTIRE system and people resist accordingly. i.e. You can’t call the police on ICE.

I have been involved in three direct actions in my life, both involved law enforcement and children. I taught little kids in the fall, but in the summer I taught bigger children. When I went from teaching in the wealthiest schools in LA to some of the most economically oppressed, I realized I needed some kind of code to guide me, one of them was I don’t help the police and I don’t help LA Migra (now ICE), because I was not in education to make things worse.

One time I refused to let the police interrogate my student, even after the police got in my face and told me I was “a ‘stupid’ woman for dealing with ‘thugs’ and to not call them when I found that out who I was dealing with.” I told the police and my principal that they weren’t going to violate my student’s rights and they explained, “We can interview minors without a parent present.” And I said, “The laws of this stolen country don’t guide me and I do not consent to a searching of my classroom.”

I didn’t know whether that was within my rights or not, but I just knew they weren’t questioning my student alone while I was in charge. We already know what happens to teenage Black boys when the cops think they did something. To my surprise the police actually left, they left pissed, but they left, all because I said no, because they so rarely hear no, at least from a Black woman with a college degree, who was supposed to be vetted to be “one of the good ones.”

Another time was when I was teaching poetry at a community day school. The police came in my classroom for a student who was in the bathroom. They said, “Where is James?” And I said, “He didn’t come to school today? Is there a message you have for him?”

The third involved La Migra and a parent and I can’t discuss it.

I do not believe in the prison industrial complex and I will not cooperate or abet in putting someone in the hands of the police.

In my life I have always thought if I could just convince more people to stand up with me, we could really do so much to prevent injustice.

This brings us to current day. The #ICERaids are delayed, but they aren’t stopping, they never will. The point of #ICERaids is to terrorize people into shutting up, so they can be exploited. As Adam Serwer said in regards to Trump, “The cruelty is the point.”

What I really want you to do now is to understand your power. When you are on social media, when you watch the news, what they are trying to do is take away your courage, take away your power, to convince you that YOU CAN NOT make a difference. I know for a fact that is a lie.

If we all understood our power, we could stop injustice. When ICE comes for your neighbor (regardless of who is president), I don’t want you to go on FB Live and record them taking your neighbor away, then edit music into it, and share it with thoughtful words of how angry you are, what you need to do is to STOP them.

We all occupy different spaces in oppression, currently your job is this, if ICE comes for someone in your physical space you need to do whatever you can to stop them from taking away the person in their custody. Get creative, but we need to all mentally prepare ourselves that ICE doesn’t work, because we’re not going to let it work.

We all say:
If it was during Jim Crow, I would have…
If it was during Slavery, I would have…
If it was WW2, I would have been fighting the NAZis like Josephine Baker…

Here is your chance to put on your best lipstick and do something. They can’t arrest everyone, not if we all decide that no one is going anywhere.

Direct action, it will work, if we all agree that is what we’re doing.

So you agree, right?


The Past Is Never Truly Past: We are Still Imprisoning Indigenous People in Deadly Conditions

By Arun Gupta (June 23, 2019)

Take a good look at these faces. What do you see?


They are all indigenous peoples.

527 years after the conquest of the Americas began, we are still penning, brutalizing, kidnapping, and killing indigenous people.
Asylum-seekers are 100% legal, protected by U.S. law as the signatory to international agreements such as the Fourth Geneva Convention protecting civilians in 1949 and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Yet 12,000 children of indigenous descent are in concentration camps in which the government is arguing before judges this week that denying children — children! — access to soap, dental hygiene, blankets, and even sleep are not needed to ensure the safe and sanitary conditions they are required by law to provide.

Deprivation of sleep is one of the cruelest forms of torture, yet children are being forced to sleep on cold cement floors under fluorescent lights on 24/7 with a thin aluminum blanket as their only bedding.
We have essentially recreated the 19th reservations for Native Americans that existed somewhere between concentration camps and death camps.

The conditions in these modern concentration camps are designed through malice and indifference to be hothouses of disease. Just today, officials from Central America who toured the concentration camps were warned they should wear surgical masks because of the prevalence of respiratory diseases.

The past is never truly past.

We need to stop this. It’s not going to happen through memes. It won’t happen through social media or online petitions.


We need to start organizing Caravans of Hope and flood the border cities with thousands of people to record, to witness, to vigil, to protest, to blockade, to force such an outcry that these camps are all shut down and that we give these people, our indigenous brothers and sisters, the compassion, care. and respect they deserve and that is long, long overdue.

Stay tuned for updates on what’s next.


What Could Happen if Trump Tries to Deport Children and Families

By Mark Naison (June 22, 2019)

Do not assume that Donald Trump’s planned deportation raids will produce the results he intends- unless his goal is the bring the nation to the edge of Civil War.

In places where public sentiment is strongly against such policies, I.C.E. Agents may face such massive civil disobedience that they will need US military escorts to carry out their mission, since local police will not cooperate and governors will not send the national guard in support

There are two examples from US History which anticipate such a scenario

The first took place after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850. In response, Abolitionists not only hid escaped slaves from government agents and private detectives trying to capture them, they organized large groups of people to surround houses where fugitives had been cornered and dared agents to shoot their way in. As a result, in places where anti slavery sentiment was strong, such as Boston. it became impossible to enforce the new law. This virtual nullification of the Fugitive Slave Law was one of the major reasons behind the rise of secessionist sentiment in the South.

The second took place during the early years of the Great Depression in large sections of the Bronx. As thousands of families were being thrown into the street for non payment of rent, radicals began employing a novel tactic. Every time a family was thrown into the street, they would organize groups of outraged neighbors to put the furniture back. Since it cost money to carry out an eviction, if you did this often enough, it was actually cheaper to keep families in apartments than keep calling in marshals to throw them out. When outraged landlords decided to get the police to accompany marshals, they sometimes faced thousands of people deployed on streets and rooftops to resist the police. So effective we’re these tactics that by 1932, it became almost impossible to carry out evictions in Bronx neighborhood such as Bronx Park East and Crotona Park East that we’re radical strongholds.

It may seem that enforcing a law is a relatively straightforward thing. But enforcing a law that is widely viewed as unfair and unjust can produce such massive resistance as to render it unenforceable.


Laughter in the Face of White Mediocrity – and other strategies for anti-oppression excellence


By Christian Matheis (June 21, 2019)

“What do I tell my kids?” a student asked me last spring in an intro class on community problem solving. She, African-American and one of the few (4, she tells me) on the municipal police force of around 450 officers, caught my words.


“What do I tell my kids???” she repeated as I searched for an answer worthy of the question.


Here is what had prompted the question. In response to a class discussion about the covert and persistent versions of authority, white supremacy, and white privilege in institutions, I made a casual remark about mediocrity. Paraphrasing something Lani Roberts told me many years ago I said, “Remember, bureaucracy tends to select for mediocrity. And mediocrity tends to bolster bureaucracy. Act excellent, show brilliance and you’re a threat to the mediocre who have careers built on mediocrity. Stay mediocre, get promoted.” I voiced it matter-of-factly.


Her question, “what do I tell my kids???” was not casual. It was urgent.


In the moment I didn’t have the kinds of liberation-informed response I wish I had. So, I’ve given it some thought and reflection over the past few weeks and I at least found some of my voice to try again. In other words, through the cruel irony of white mediocrity itself I had casually named white mediocrity while a Black mother in a class I taught lived it, felt it like a ton of bricks and instantly had to wonder how to parent in spite of it.
More and more recently, a growing number of people have written about and re-emphasized Black excellence — a term by Black people, for Black people, about Black people that highlights the successes of Blacks who thrive despite and in resistance to global white supremacy. Or perhaps irrespective of white supremacy. I do not know.
I think it is not for me to say much at all about Black excellence, except that I think it stands in critical, liberatory opposition to white supremacy, white privilege, and white mediocrity by making these latter systems wholly irrelevant (or as much as possible) to how African Americans treat one another. Or to paraphrase Toni Morrison, “When I started writing I found that all the stories by Black men about Black people were about someone locked in a fight with their oppressor. Once I decided to kick the oppressor out of my stories I could write the realities of Black women, for us and about us” (my recollection of her remark at the Sheer Good Fortune event at Virginia Tech in 2013).
I want to reiterate that the mediocrity here is not just any mediocrity, not just any bureaucracy. It is *white* mediocrity. And it helps maintain and fuel white bureaucracy, white privilege, and white supremacy by any and all names we might call these systems.
Intersectionally, white mediocrity as the paradigm inside of white bureaucracies depends on the entire system of capitalist imperialist cisheteropatriarchal mediocrity (riffing on bell hooks).
(As much as I admire Bonnie Mann’s work on “sovereign masculinity” (2013), we have to read our Marx and Engels closely enough to notice that an elite class struggles with sovereign masculinity, while the vast majority of people exploited, abused, and murdered by patriarchy suffer in systems of “bureaucratic masculinity”)
White mediocrity plays out its favors and punishments through a system that at least includes:

– Aesthetic white mediocrity: collapsing and controlling beauty, awe, wonder, ineffability, the sublime, etc. in ways that protect and further entrench the role of whites as the paradigm of aesthetics, the benchmarks of all beauty, pure and magnificent. All others, ugly, impure, and mundane.
– Moral white mediocrity: assessing right, wrong, good, bad, and any complex value determinations in ways that protect and further entrench the role of whites as the best evaluators, the best at making judgments.


– Political white mediocrity: adjudicating claims of injustice, distributing resources and opportunities, distribution of social benefits and burdens, and ranking individual and group interests in ways that protect and further entrench whites as the best deciders.
– Economic white mediocrity: conceiving of quality of life, social welfare, distribution of resources and opportunities, etc. in ways that protect and further entrench whites as the best owners and controllers — to say little or nothing of interrogating and dismantling ownership paradigms in themselves.
Let’s get a few things on the table.
White mediocrity has promoted me.


My refusal to collude in white mediocrity, when I have mustered the strength and strategy, has also cost me. But it has never cost me as much as it has promoted me. The cost is optional for whites.


I both have and can still give talks titled, “Anti-Racism for White People: Or How to Stop Worrying and Become a White Race Traitor” knowing that it is a luxury, an option. White mediocrity allows me to do so, but with as much or as little efficacy as I choose.


The social positionality allows me to write about it, in this moment, with relatively limited consequences.


We know all too well that whites can count on cashing in the white mediocrity chip at any time, anywhere, and that it benefits us to remain unaware of this particular form of corrupting privilege (Peggy McIntosh).


White mediocrity may take familiar forms. Though because systematic oppression operates to conceal itself it may not always appear obvious when one has come face to face with white mediocrity. For that reason, I want to try to help expose the anatomy of white mediocrity by naming what seem like common aspects:


– Assume authority is yours for the taking, that as white you deserve it if you put enough loyal years into an organization.

– Speak with the tone and cadence that always, flawlessly implies the threat, “I decide, or must I remind you.”

– Seek managerial promotion in white-dominated bureaucracies as an inherent good.

– Treat others as if they want managerial promotion in a white-dominated bureaucracy.

– Reward/encourage others as if they want promotion in a white-dominated bureaucracy.

– Sanction/discourage others who resist promotion in a white-dominated bureaucracy, especially anyone who doesn’t “play ball.”

– Defend your mediocre decisions as best for the white-dominated bureaucracy.

– Offer to mentor, coach, or advise people from underrepresented groups in how to obtain the fruits of white mediocrity by assimilating.

– Avoid people from underrepresented groups who question and challenge the mediocrity of white rule over white-dominated bureaucracies.

– Pat on the back anyone from any group who validates your fragile, white mediocre ego.

– …what else? This must be an open list.


These and many other normalized traits of administrative leadership and managerial authority depend on and bolster white mediocrity. We whites dare not admit to it. What would become of our claims to authority, force, power, rule? All so flimsy.


One salient insight into white mediocrity I can now recall was with a supervisor during an annual performance evaluation meeting. At the time I served in an advocacy role in a university, my salary paid for by student fees. During the conversation while I listened to “recommendations for professional growth” I had a sudden and inexplicable need to explain, “I think you think I someday want your job. Or the vice-provost’s job.” She looked shocked. I went on, “I took this job because I want this job, this work right now. I’ll hopefully take the next one for similar reasons. But I have zero aspirations about promotion, about climbing the status ladder.”


She, a cis heterosexual woman of color, confided in me several months later that that remark had seriously upset her. Not because it wasn’t fair or relevant, but because she realized that she had never once in her career questioned her desire to climb the administrative hierarchy. It was a given.


Given by whom? By mediocre whites.


White mediocrity can co-opt, tokenize, and assimilate people from underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds.
Various scholars of liberation such as Jane Nardal, Frantz Fanon, Angela Davis, Audre Lord, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Herbert Marcuse, Karl Marx, etc. have shown that oppression plants in the oppressed the seeds of their own liberation, while at the same time it (oppression) also masks that fact.


This is probably why Black excellence is so crucial to undermining white mediocrity. Black excellence exposes and at the same time treats as irrelevant the scheme of white mediocrity, or so I suspect.


In “Shooting an Elephant” (1936) George Orwell tells about the time in his young adulthood when he served as part of the brutal, colonial British military force occupying India. Many years later, reflecting on the depth of his acculturation into white imperialist rule he remarks, “Theoretically – and secretly, of course – I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. …I was young and ill-educated and I had had to think out my problems in the utter silence that is imposed on every Englishman in the East.”
What catches my attention is not that Orwell merely notices and confesses to his acculturation into British imperialism, doing the job while hating the job. It is the pattern of events that Orwell says most frustrated and upset him at the time, and what helped to expose to him the mediocrity of British bureaucratic oppression over India and Burma. In the opening of the essay he writes,


“As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so. When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once. In the end the sneering yellow [sic] faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves.


Then later, in closing, “The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.”


What if white mediocrity has no immunity to laughter?


Perhaps what white mediocrity fears most is that the oppressed will realize how preposterous and mediocre white rule has always been. How laughable, unimaginative, and incoherent white supremacy actually is, and how it appears maybe most laughable in its bureaucratic administrative formations. Moreover, laughable in that so much of the scheme and scam of white mediocrity is about whites coercing whites to remain ignorant of it, and to use white bureaucracy to eradicate spaces in which people of color can create overt language – a language in which to talk about white mediocrity in institutional settings (e.g. in the workplace, classroom, research conference, annual performance evaluation, etc.).


Where and when can we talk about white mediocrity? Cisgender mediocrity? The mediocrity of the temporarily able-bodied? Masculine mediocrity? Heterosexual mediocrity? And so on.
“What do I tell my kids?” she asked.


I do not know.


At least for today, I hope she tells them to consider laughter and Black excellence — Tell your children to laugh and love their Black excellence.

How Can We Make You Stop? They Can’t. A Guide for Marginalized People Who Challenge Discrimination

By Christian Matheis (June 20, 2019)

One of the things that happens to people from underrepresented backgrounds when they begin to advocate for themselves, including when they challenge patterns of institutional / systematic discrimination: attempts by people in positions of authority to get you to doubt your reality.

We need to call this what it is: an attempt to get people from marginalized groups to further internalize oppression, to engage in horizontal hostilities, and to accept assimilation and tokenism as “the other” (Suzanne Pharr).

Naomi Zack, a philosopher role model and mentor to me many years ago, told a story at a conference a few years ago (2016 APA Central Division Meeting) I want to paraphrase as an example.

Naomi had been invited by a colleague to give a talk at another university as a guest lecturer. As the talk neared, the colleague who invited Naomi wrote to say that faculty in the hosting department — also philosophers — were pressing this question: “how is what Naomi Zack does philosophy?”

Naomi identifies as a biracial/multiracial African-American Jewish woman from the U.S.A.


This is, in brief, how Naomi responded: she itemized her entire CV by illustrating that she earned various degrees in philosophy, including a PhD, has taught philosophy courses for several decades at accredited universities, has held various non-tenure and tenure-track positions in philosophy departments at different universities, is now a tenured full professor of philosophy, and has a long list of peer-reviewed publications in various branches of philosophy in a range of philosophy journals.

At the end of this narrative Naomi added the key response: “Tell them this, my CV. And then tell them that what they are asking is not how what I do counts as philosophy. They are asking, ‘how do we make her stop?’ And the answer is, tell them they can’t. They can’t make me stop.”

The intimidation may take all sorts of different forms, but it owes to the same objective of trying to convince people from marginalized groups that they are not qualified by their experiences, studies, survival mechanisms, community mentoring, etc. to address institutionalized oppression.

The intimidation may percolate up and take shape through a whole range of different phrases and behaviors that seem all-too-reasonable.

But what those with authority are asking is not whether thou art qualified. They are asking, “how can we make you stop?”

And the answer is: they can’t.

But you have to believe it and spend time with other people who live it, care about liberation, and who also believe it.


We Need a March on the Concentration Camps

By Arun Gupta (June 19, 2019)

We need a massive march on the border, tens of thousands who will peacefully, nonviolently disrupt the machinery of ethnic cleansing, to give aid to migrants, to witness and record the concentration camps, the killings, the torture, the ethnic cleansing.

The Left is good at mobilizing in large-scale protest: the anti-globalization movement, the anti-Iraq War protests, immigrant rights, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock. All these mass mobilizations took place in the last couple of decades. All these movements helped shift the national debate.

The Left has the power to shift the national discourse. To make it clear we are not just going to let this happen in our name, we will use our bodies and brains and hearts to stop this and force everyone in this country to pick a side: either you’re with humanity or you’re with fascism.

If Trump wins again, full-blown fascism is a distinct possibility. This is about what path humanity takes. This is a moment where we need to stand up and stop what is happening. Whatever price we pay is nothing compared to that these migrants are already suffering.

There are far more of us than there are of them.