You Plan to Go Hand to Hand with Robocop?

By Teka Lark (October 30, 2019)

The current Bosstown Dynamics video circulating is a parody of the very real Boston Dynamics and you should still be concerned.

The only thing fake about it is that the technology isn’t quite there yet, but it is only a decade off. According to Stars and Stripes (June of 2018), Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert was a former military contractor who got much of his funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Since 1994, Boston Dynamics has received over $150 million in defense funding.

I have talked about this for a decade. The police are tools. And yes, we need to discuss the individuals, but we also need to discuss the unsexy-might-be-longer-than-a-tweet policies, economic and constitutional. What kind of anti-bias and unconscious bias training do you have planned for police robots? What kind of advisory board do you have planned for drones? How long should a robot sit in jail for murdering you?

So you plan on fighting back in hand to hand combat? You are going to do a shootout with a robot? What damage do you think you can do when technology can come at you from above with a drone that never goes to sleep.

As we need to think tactically about the knowledge we have in regards to labor and technology, we also need to start thinking this way when it comes to the criminal injustice system.

The future wealthy won’t need humans to do the killing directly, they will only need the police and a system that enables them to enact those policies.


On Women Who Get Mad at the Removal of Pink and “Feminine” Markers from Menstrual Products

By Elle Stanger (October 26, 2019)

On Women who get mad at the removal of pink and “feminine” markers from menstrual products*:

Many assigned-female-at-birth (AFAB) children are pushed into liking pink and flowers from the time they are born, so when you base an entire identity around gender roles, it’s going to be very upsetting for people who have strongly attached to those roles.

Example: ‘Pink things have always meant for-girls and I’m a girl and now that’s going away! Women = Pink! I’m being erased!’

Like men who are angry that they are being asked to rework behaviors showing entitlement and aggression (the Gillette razor ad, for example):

You told these boys to act a certain way their entire lives and now taking that away or altering expectations makes them confused about their role in society.

Look around for people who raise their kids on “How to be a Man/Woman”; it’s often rife with double standards and specific themes.

Gender roles are garbage and ascribed activities and tastes based on sex/gender are one example.

*Some people are just transphobes though.


Why Should Leftists Support Impeachment?

By Rebecca Hill (October 14, 2019)

Over the last week, a few pundits have put out left wing arguments against impeachment on the basis that impeachment treats Trump as the only problem, seeking to return to the pre-Trump neoliberal normalcy that preceded (and contributed to) his election. I doubt that a successful impeachment would result in this outcome.

First of all, existing social movements have already shown that the old “normal” models are broken. Second, the current move to impeach is happening in the midst of a broader legitimation crisis in the government, and a conflict within the ruling class. This conflict does not just exist between Democrats and Republicans, but within both the Democratic and Republican parties. Liberals will no doubt make the argument that impeachment should be a return to normalcy, and they will surely advocate a united front with never Trump Republicans. The choice that the left faces is not simply to accept these terms or reject impeachment as a creature of “normal” politics. Much about the current moment already represents a break with that, and a desperate struggle to maintain the center as the Democratic base moves left. As long as we are talking about politics short of revolution, there are plenty of legislative actions that a left movement could advocate as part of a popular movement to impeach the president, including a number of legislative campaigns to follow after the 2020 elections – even if Trump is not removed in the Senate. Watergate and the Nixon resignation had long-term impacts that benefited both liberal and left politics. They strengthened FOIA and the War Powers Act, were part of a more general activist push against the war in Vietnam, and the federal government’s legitimation crisis paved the way for the investigation of federal policing agencies, including the Church Committee hearings on the FBI in 1975 and 1976. Obviously Nixon’s resignation didn’t create a revolution against capitalism, and neither would Trump’s impeachment, but popular movements contributed to the way Nixon’s impeachment happened. Possibilities opened in the 1970s, and it wasn’t the impeachment of the president that caused the political defeats that the left suffered in the decade that followed.

Popular movements have already been part of the House’s decision to finally open a formal inquiry. The centrists had to be pushed into impeachment by the Democratic base, which has been leaning left and whose aspirations are not captured by Clinton, but by “the squad” who very openly challenged Pelosi. As someone who follows many #Resistance Twitter accounts and a few large popular podcasts, I was surprised to see the confrontational responses to Nancy Pelosi coming from people sometimes sneeringly dubbed “wine moms” and “shitlibs” by some on the left. My own hope is that the left would build on this popular momentum against the Trump presidency and help it grow, rather than writing it off as a creature of normative party politics. That a movement for impeachment would go toward the left is not a foregone conclusion. The leadership wants to keep the impeachment inquiry narrowly focused on the Ukraine phone-call, and that’s because the lesson they learned from the Mueller Report was that slow, long, detailed legal investigations behind closed doors followed by the release of a complex 450-page legal document didn’t build popular momentum. What a shock! It’s also, as others have pointed out, because Trump’s actions in Ukraine offended bipartisan consensus on foreign policy that has been and continues to be ruptured by challenges from the left and the right since the Iraq War. However, that bipartisan consensus around broader foreign policy within the current party leadership is not going to change because of not impeaching Trump.

The Republican strategy has been – and apparently still is – to let Trump serve as a figurehead to rally the base while they “govern around” him on the issues that actually matter to them (tax cuts, judges, maintenance of US international power, contracts with corporations in their home districts).

Look for example at Lindsey Graham’s recent effort at threading the needle by denouncing Trump’s green light to Turkey while maintaining his position that an attempt at Congressional oversight of the president is some kind of unconstitutional outrage. There is nothing good about letting the GOP continue to govern by “damage control” while Trump keeps pushing the line on the level of xenophobia, mendacity and authoritarianism that is acceptable to the Republican leadership and base, whether by treating domestic political opposition as enemies in a war of elimination, building walls, raiding immigrant homes, or maintaining concentration camps on the border. The risk is not going back to the old normal, but accepting a new normal of even less government transparency, an even more disempowered congress, greater levels of voter suppression in GOP-led states, greater violence against even liberal opponents who are seen as godless socialist revolutionaries regardless of their actual views, and a continued attack on institutions perceived as strongholds of the “left,” including universities.

What are the positive things a Trump impeachment *could* lead to?

It can reduce the perception of invincibility of, and possibly even remove from office the individual who continues to encourage his followers to be ever more cultish, giving hope to democracy activists and a dose of reality to the deluded Trumpian cult. It can also include the continued push from the left for small “d” reforms related to reducing the power of the imperial presidency and the GOP’s ability to succeed as a minority party, especially as it is likely that the Senate will outrage everyone again by refusing to convict and remove. Any left support for impeachment can advocate including more counts of impeachment, and if the House doesn’t pick these additional counts up, let them become part of a running count of people’s impeachment articles for crimes that social movements declare they will not tolerate in their leaders, and which can be followed by legislation in years later.

After impeachment, what next?

Momentum against authoritarianism in the GOP can lead to movements to reconsider many long over-due restrictions on executive power that take into account the longer-term trends that enabled the Trump presidency. Activists have already been making a case for the reorganization of the Supreme Court, a reform that the left could support. A broadened set of articles of impeachment including Trump’s crimes against refugees and the pardon of Joe Arpaio can be taken up by and can help people learn more from the broader movement to abolish prisons and police. My belief is that part of the reason that many have supported the impeachment of Trump since before he was even inaugurated is a general sense of the injustice at the second GOP president to be elected with a minority of the popular vote, only because of the electoral college, and supported by a Senate that represents such a small portion of the electorate. Left support for impeachment could also support an increasingly robust movement to radically reform or eliminate the electoral college, as well as contribute to existing movements for voting rights and against gerrymandering. These are the concerns of broader popular outrage with the entire political system that are currently directed toward the single goal of impeachment, but which need not stop there. Concerns about hyper-partisan media and monopoly control of social media in the rise of the current “asymmetric” media environment could also contribute to major reforms regarding corporate media concentration that would consider such changes as a reconsideration of the fairness doctrine, among other ideas.

Finally, the risks of not impeaching are great.

Everything will become a precedent for the next leader, and the will to popular outrage will fade more and more into cynicism and despair. Iran-Contra and the failure to hold the Bush regime accountable for torture and war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan paved the road to Trump. What will Trump’s unpunished law-breaking lead to, even if there are fair elections in 2020 – which is already in doubt. A small victory on impeachment in the House, even if it fails in the Senate, has momentum. That momentum will not be a distraction, but full of possibility for a mass popular movement against ongoing impunity for the wealthy and powerful.

Letter to the President of Georgia Southern University Regarding Book Burning

By Mark Naison (October 13, 2019)

Letter to the President of Georgia Southern University regarding book burning at his school
Kyle Marrero
President, Georgia Southern University

Dear President Marrero

As a historian of race in the United States, who has written 7 books on the subject, and a professor for 49 years at one of the nation’s major universities, I am writing to express my extreme dismay at the burning of the books of a prominent LatinX author who spoke at your campus. In all my years of college teaching, this may be the single most disturbing act of racial harassment I have heard, both because of the specter of Nazism it invokes, and the chilling message it sends to students of color in an already highly charged political climate.

If students of color at your university are to feel protected from racial violence- and book burning is a violent act- and if your university’s reputation is not to be permanently tarnished, you must take much more dramatic action than you have so far done.

First of all, the book burning must be described as an act of racial violence and harassment, not as a manifestation of free speech. You must say, in the loudest possible voice, that this action has covered Georgia Southern with shame, and that it must NEVER happen again on your campus or at any campus in the nation

Secondly, you must take some disciplinary action against the students involved, ranging from academic probation to suspension. Your students of color will never feel safe unless those responsible for the book burning are punished

Let me close with one more reminder. There was another time when the state of Georgia was known for the use of fire as an expression of rage- the burning of Black bodies during lynchings. If you don’t believe me, look up the lynching of Sam Hose, who was burned at the stake in your home state after his body was dismembered

The history that comes before us should be a guide to greater wisdom, not an excuse for looking the other way when racial violence and harassment occurs.

Please consider what I say very carefully, because it is in the minds of thousands of my peers who teach at universities around the nation


Mark D Naison

Dr Mark Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Founder and Director, Bronx African American History Project


Men Being Able to Express Vulnerability Will Help Erode Rape Culture

By Elle Stanger (October 9, 2019)

I’m a sex worker who recognizes that many of my man clients are afraid to express their discomfort or pain because it makes them seem less “manly”.

Before I begin touching someone of any gender presentation I always say,

“Let me know if something is uncomfortable or you need to adjust”, and cis men usually are the ones who scoff,

“You can’t hurt me”, which is untrue because I could very easily and accidentally hurt someone; like pinch your scrotal skin under my body if I shift a certain way on your lap. Or what if you have a fresh tattoo?

I have met so many men who would rather suffer pain silently (and do) than vocalize their needs for comfort and safety and security, because they’ve been raised to believe that expressing those needs makes them less valuable in a society that praises stoicism and aggression in men.

Quite often these same men will thank me after the touch interaction, for allowing them space to express their needs.

“I actually do have a bad knee” or “I kinda hate my ears being touched, honestly.”

I truly believe through experience that ending rape culture in this country is about allowing people to be vulnerable and communicate their needs, and that this is teachable and healing.


Do Black Lives Matter in The Joker?

By S. (October 8, 2019)

This article is spot on BUT Joker is also racist AF too. The more I thought about the movie after watching the more my blood started to boil. It’s the subtle racism of erasure, misdirection, and employment of poorly thought out visual tropes. I fully expect the filmmaker’s defense against a racism accusation to be one of gaslighting and denial. I don’t care though. Here’s my evidence:

a) Within the first five minutes Phoenix’s character, Arthur Fleck, is the victim of a “gang” attack in which a group of teen boys steal his sign and beat up him. You probably saw it in the previews. The camerawork zooms in on the faces of these children so that we can see that they are children but we also see that they are beautiful shades of brown with afros that change color based on where the light is shining. I don’t think the filmmakers saw the beauty of these children. The narrative tone of the film is one of fear and the threat of violence. These children are not depicted as humans but as cruel animals toying with their prey. And they are all black.

b) At two different points in the movie, Fleck talks to two separate black, middle-aged, female social workers. I can’t even. The trope of the black woman social worker swallowed up by an indifferent bureaucracy who then becomes an uncaring face of that bureaucracy is so freaking dangerous and ugly. There is a grand history of black women in social work. And to see white filmmakers treat it is as a quickie signifier is gross. My maternal grandmother died of tuberculosis when my mother was 3. She contracted the disease from working with populations for whom TB was endemic. She literally gave her life for the cause. A generation of brave and kind black women, inspired by Jane Adams among others, became social workers in the 1930s to combat the extremes of inner city poverty and the lazy ass filmmaking of Joker treats it as more evidence of urban blight. Also the Joker kills one of those women, do black lives in films matter?

c) The love interest is a black, single mother and Fleck is white. I’m always for more diversity in casting but sometimes more thought needs to go into the choices. The love interest is a neighboring tenant in Fleck’s giant apartment building. The casting choice would have been interesting if the other tenants were predominately white, it would invoke the question of why Fleck singled out the sole black inhabitant. Or what if the love interest was white and the majority of tenants were black and brown. Yet race does not seem to be an issue in Gotham City in 1981.This leads us to the biggest problem I have with race in this movie.

d) the movie depicts the urban unrest and crime of the 1970s and 80s as if were the fault of income inequality, not racism. It whitewashes the history of our cities. It denies the history of urban black America and replaces it with a class analysis. There are no black people in this Gotham, there are just people with different skin tones. This movie goes out of its way not to see race and in doing so it replicates racist tropes. The movie doesn’t understand the danger of showing a group of black boys mugging people, it doesn’t understand the offensiveness of the black female bureaucrat, it doesn’t get that years of municipal neglect, economic shock, voter disenfranchisement, segregation, and demonization flavored urban environments from that era. White people and power structures that favor white people created the urban inequality of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The Joker replaced that history with a rich-versus-poor narrative.

I love a good comic book movie and the world of Batman is ripe for storytelling. Gotham has always been depicted as a corrupt city of haves and have nots. Presumably, the inspiration for many of Batman’s foes were the colorful mobsters of the Prohibition Era. Tim Burton’s Batman captures this well. Burton’s Gotham is so visually distinct that you can imagine a separate history in which racism is a less important factor in civil unrest than income inequality. I have no problem with an income-inequality storyline, I have a problem with the displacement of a real historic event in favor of a fictional one. Joker’s fetish for realism (even though Fleck’s mental illness is largely fictional) reminds us of the very real history. You can’t have it both ways. Gotham is a fictional city with a fictional history. We don’t even know where it’s located. Is it in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware. Maybe it really is Chicago. We don’t know. But when you throw in the visual language of 1981 inner-city urbanity, Gotham becomes part of our very real United States, with its very real history of urban disinvestment.

In 2019, I expect more from my filmmakers.

Extinction Rebellion Should Target the System, Not the People Caught in It

By Paul Messersmith-Glavin (October 8, 2019)

Extinction Rebellion is a necessary and vital response to the climate crisis. They are forcing the issue and helping us focus on what’s important. But they are mistaken in targeting people caught up in a larger system by blocking traffic and disrupting everyday life, rather than aiming for instance at the 100 corporations and governments changing the climate: it’s the system, not the people caught up in it.

Through this disruption they seem to hope to pressure governments to act to stop climate change, but this assumes that the very system responsible for changing the climate can somehow stop it.

In this sense they are militant reformists who hopefully will take the next step and locate the climate crisis specifically in the drive to accumulate wealth by a minority of the population, and all its manifestations in racial and gender domination, colonialism, and class society.

To solve the climate crisis we need a new society, one that doesn’t by its very nature change the climate and destroy the natural world. The sooner we set that as our aim the better.


What Would Justice for Botham Jean Look Like?

By Teka Lark (October 3, 2019)

White America believes in vengeance. It believes in an eye for an eye. The Botham Jean case was so very hard to watch, because here is a Black man who was perfect, as perfectly good as a human can be–because if he hadn’t been, the defense would have found out his imperfections and smeared them all over the Internet.

People say if he were a white man, Amber wouldn’t have shot him or she would have gotten more time than 10 years – but here is the thing: a white man with Botham’s credentials and talent wouldn’t be living next door to a cop. If Botham were a white man he’d be living in NY making half a million dollars. The reason he was living next door to a cop in a Dallas suburb, was because he was a Black man, because these are the kinds of people that even the most talented of Black people end up next to when they do well. They end up next to angry, barely middle class, white people who have failed. And this puts us in all kinds of danger. People who have grown up with trauma, who are angry, because they have had their dreams crushed owing to capitalism, and only have their whiteness to lean on, are dangerous people for Black people to be around. Well they are pretty dangerous for anyone, but typically it is OK to kill Black people if you feel angry and say “you’re scared.”

They are never scared. I learned that a long time ago; they just lie, the police lie, the women on the cellphone lie, and the people next door lie, they are all liars.

Our system of justice is dishonest, punitive, and sadistic –just like our country, the United States.

You know I don’t want the kinds of wins that white nationalism celebrates, that Americans celebrate. It has never brought me joy to see a person sentenced to the maximum prison time or the death penalty, even if I know they did it.

What would a victory for Botham Jean have looked like for me? A victory would be him being alive, a system where no one has to fail, a system where everyone feels supportive, and a system that doesn’t create situations that are unforgivable. Anything less than that to me –is still losing.

I don’t want your eye. I don’t need your eye. I don’t want vengeance, I want justice.



Lynching Was About Race, But Also About Land and Power

By Teka Lark (October 1, 2019)

They lynched Mexicans.

“They” being white people. Texas has always been home to nightmares. It is where my half my family who didn’t go to LA from Louisiana ended up. It is where my great-great aunt was burned alive. I read in Manitowoc, Wisconsin this weekend. I love Manitowoc, but somehow I ended up watching PBS and this show about the Porvenir massacre came on. The state (the US) under the guise of outlaws under the guise of Texas Rangers killed Latinx people for their land; they killled women, children, men. 

But I want to stress they killed people who owned land. Why do I stress this? Because really there is nothing white nationalism hates more than empowered people of color who don’t need their help. This PBS show made it seemed like it was a battle and sort of implied they did stuff too and I said to Charles’ parents, “That is bullshit they killed them for their land, they are thieves! This show is bullshit I am from California. I have friends whose families were here before the white people stole it!”

The story of lynching is that it is just about race. It is, but it is also about land and power. The people who they lynched Black and Chicano owned land, had businesses. White nationalism is not random in its viciousness.