This 49-minute playlist is comprised of mostly ambient music. The last track is a smokin’ jazz track from Kamaal Williams.
This week I offer five long reads and two podcast episodes. Topics include climate refugees, surveillance in education, food inequity, wokeness and cancel culture, racial capitalism, climate justice, white supremacy, religion and oppression.
Where Will Everyone Go? By Abrahm Lustgarten published in ProPublica
ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, with support from the Pulitzer Center, have for the first time modeled how climate refugees might move across international borders. This is what we found.
Building Anti-Surveillance Ed-Tech by Audrey Watters published in Hack Education
Surveillance in schools reflects the values that schools have (unfortunately) prioritized: control, compulsion, distrust, efficiency. Surveillance is necessary, or so we’ve been told, because students cheat, because students lie, because students fight, because students disobey, because students struggle.
We Can’t Address Climate Without Addressing Food Inequity By Evan Shamoon published in Tenderly
Communities of color are at the center of balance for bringing our species back into harmony with the planet. we must listen to the voices of Black and indigenous vegans and activists, and other people of color. There are countless Black thinkers and activists in this space. Sisters and authors Aph and Syl Ko have been incredibly important voices in discussing issues around veganism and communities of color.
A new intelligentsia is pushing back against wokeness by Batya Ungar-Sargon published in Forward
Today we are having a new national debate about whether the United States is redeemable, about the nature of its founding figures and documents – even the date of its founding — and what to do with those who dissent. But one side is winning. Since George Floyd’s horrifying murder, an anti-racist discourse that insists on the primacy of race is swiftly becoming the norm in newsrooms and corporate boardrooms across America. But as in Douglass’s day, the sides are not clearly divided along racial lines. A small group of Black intellectuals are leading a counter-culture against the newly hegemonic wokeness.
Racial Capitalism, Climate Justice, and Climate Displacement by Carmen G. Gonzalez from Oñati Socio-Legal Series, symposium on Climate Justice in the Anthropocene
This article expands our understanding of climate justice by demonstrating how racial subordination, environmental degradation, and the fossil fuel-based capitalist world economy are interrelated. It uses these insights to critique the emerging legal and policy responses to climate change-induced displacement and to examine alternative approaches emerging from climate-vulnerable states and peoples. The article argues that racialized communities all over the world have borne the brunt of carbon capitalism from cradle (extraction of fossil fuels) to grave (climate change) and that a race-conscious analysis of climate change and climate displacement can reveal the commonalities among seemingly distinct forms of oppression in order to forge the alliances necessary to achieve just and emancipatory outcomes.
Symbols of White Supremacy from In the Thick (July 28, 2020)
Maria and Julio take on the national conversation about racist Confederate monuments and the push to take them down. They talk with Dr. Keisha Blain, an author and associate professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh, and Rebecca Keel, the Virginia Statewide Organizer with Southerners on New Ground (or SONG), about what it means to be honest about our country’s racist past and to reimagine how it is taught and remembered.
Anthony Pinn on Religion, Oppression, and Humanists from Point of Inquiry (July 9, 2020)
Lord and Pinn discuss the power and persistence of magical thinking as we face the current pandemic, the role of the church at a time when science is so important, Black Lives Matter and Pinn’s opinion on struggle and progress, how women of color deal with oppression based on race, gender, and class, and the issue with respectability politics. Pinn also proposes the question, “What does our nontheistic perspective offer folks at this moment? What do we offer them beyond the critique of religion?” as we face the pandemic and the ever growing need for honest discussions and action on the issues of race.
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Recently I have been engaged in a conversation with a dharma friend who is questioning the idea of white people talking to each other about white supremacy and if it’s possibly doing more harm than good. What you will read below are my thoughts in response to my friend. It felt important to share some of this discussion. It may seem a bit random at times, but I hope enough meaning is present to be of value.
Slavery and Racism
I think it’s important to understand slavery as it was practiced in the United States. Slavery in the United States is a race-based system and came with the invention of white. This is very different from slavery practiced in other countries and throughout history. The term “white” only came into being a few hundred years ago. By saying slavery has always existed throughout the world comes across as dismissive of the Black experience in the United States.
That said, I do believe that racism extends into other parts of the world, especially in light of all the colonialism based in (European) white supremacy. Our role as white people is to take the bold step into looking at how it manifests in our lives and the impacts on POC communities. Despite working on it for over 20-years, it continues to amaze me how much more work there remains to be done to transform my own internalized racism and white supremacy. In some ways, it’s a lot like our mindfulness practice; we continue to grow and learn.
Some of the language in the justice movement talks about decentering as a method to lift up the voices of those who have historically been unheard. It is natural and easy to center on our own experience, but that may come at the cost for others. A good example is how we practice dharma sharing. When guiding these groups, we try to say “if you find it easy to share, try stepping back, and if you are shy about sharing, please step forward.” I think we also try to make sure that everyone gets a chance to share. Recently I experienced a group session whereby the facilitators invited people of color to speak first. Very direct. Bringing awareness to who speaks first, or the longest, or wants to share more than once is an enlightening experience for me. As a white male, I am working to not speak first or to speak less often when I am in mixed groups (gender and race). It’s part of my effort to shift systemic practices.
Regarding harm to people of color when speaking in mixed groups. We may say words that we don’t even know are harmful, especially if we come with a strong white lens. Words that might be consistent with the dominant narrative around race. We might say that others feel unsafe sharing in a mixed group for other reasons, but for POC people it may be part of their wide-ranging experience found in work, school, and daily life. It can feel exhausting. This is what I’ve heard.
Trauma and Racial Healing
In my observation, it’s difficult to talk about racial trauma in the context of other types of trauma. And each type of trauma can stand on its own. And if we are going to focus on racial trauma then we need to stay focused on that type of trauma and make an effort to withdraw all the other types. This is where harm can come in also because it is natural for us to compare, but I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison. My trauma is deep and ugly. And yet it can’t be compared with the collective trauma of an entire population.
I think we have a long way to go in healing racism in our society. So much harm has been done to people of color that I often think we need some kind of truth and reconciliation committee. We need to find a path forward for reparations and atonement. These need to be both societal and personal. The Yet-To-Be-Named-Network says, “The possibility of full-fledged reconciliation depends on full-fledged redistribution. Any sincere redress for unspeakable crimes against humanity requires action on a societal scale that individuals can never accomplish in isolation.” And this is where sangha has a part to play. To seek restitution for past harm and attempt to repair the damage done. In my view, working on whiteness is a step in the right direction. Does it have flaws? Most certainly. But the vast majority of racial justice activists (both POC and white) recognize that a conversation must take place among white people in a way that doesn’t perpetuate more harm toward communities of color.
Again, the Yet-To-Be-Named-Network says, “For those who identify as white in our network, this means the naming of the lives, lands, and cultures that can never be restored, and the turning over of time, energy, money and land to those impacted by the brutal legacy of colonization and white supremacy, most notably Indigenous peoples of this continent and Black descendants of slaves.” This is a concrete expression for racial healing.
Bias and White Fragility
I heard the criticism of Robin D’Angelo’s (White Fragility) work from some people, and at the same time recognize that just about any work in the public domain is going to face some criticism. I read both her books. The first was very academic and was based on her doctoral research. The second one tried to take that research into a more accessible format. I read them both as a means to grapple with some of the research findings and not to agree/disagree with everything. Another book that looks at research is called Biased by Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt. It finds much of the same information but focuses more on inherent biases found in everyone socialized in America. It links nicely with the Harvard Implicit Bias studies. Like white people, people of color also carry internalized racism and white supremacy. In the myriam francois podcast, the discussion said as much–we all contain internal white supremacy, including BIPOC people. I don’t believe we need to feel “guilty” for these circumstances, but to take action toward healing and reconciliation.
For me, transformation needs to take place at the level of consciousness. And at the same time transform wealth, patriarchy, and racism. Our practice talks about the historical and the ultimate dimensions. I think the ultimate dimension is where we can see equality and harmony. But in the historical dimension we are still very stuck in suffering, harm, and discrimination. A friend said to me, no oppressed group can liberate itself without the cooperation of the dominant group (for example, the right to vote for women required the men to approve).
Thich Nhat Hanh was a revolutionary. Constantly challenging the status quo. He did this directly and through his practice. I don’t believe that working on whiteness and how it has caused suffering for people of color is focusing on what’s wrong. It’s focused on healing. On reconciliation. On interbeing. It’s not making the situation worse. And not acknowledging the experiences of people of color will make the situation worse.
I am reminded of the Tenth Mindfulness Training where it says, “As members of a spiritual community, we should nonetheless take a clear stand against oppression and injustice.”
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This week we begin with three articles on Black liberation followed by a piece on forests as they relate to climate crisis. The final article is a fascinating read on driverless vehicles.
Racism Is Bipartisan by Marina Ruiz published in Left Voice
“In this election period, the dominant political caste is doing its best to pacify and deflect the anti-racist uprisings. They fear unity, organization, and the emergence of independent action by the masses that they will be unable to contain with the mechanisms of bourgeois democracy used historically. The capitalists count on their parties to sustain bourgeois democracy as the best shell of capital. There is no “lesser evil” when it comes to Black lives. Constructing a third party that is a tool of the working and oppressed majorities is key to the force deployed by the majorities to achieve the profound changes they propose.”
Truth-Telling Leads to Racial Healing, Studies of Other Countries Show by Benjamin Appel & Cyanne E. Loyle published in Yes Magazine
“Truth commissions are investigations into past wrongdoings by a group of authorities, such as community or church leaders, historians, or human rights experts. The truth commissions are designed in varied ways, but their missions are the same. These investigations include the voices of those who experienced the wrongdoings as well as those alleged to have done harm.”
A Former Black Panther Party Leader Reflects on Her Revolutionary Work by Christina M. Tapper published in Zora
“So, when I think of the front-line people, wherever they are in the world, whatever that front line is, I think about the breath—how important it is to pause and breathe. Even if you have an hour to sit somewhere and be in nature or walk in nature, which is very, very important.”
Will Climate Change Upend Projections of Future Forest Growth? by Gabriel Popkin published in Yale Environment 360
“Ever since global climate change was recognized as a major threat, scientists have struggled to determine how much carbon ecosystems, and forests in particular, can soak up from the atmosphere as both carbon dioxide levels and temperatures rise.”
Driving into the Wreck by Patrick McGinty published in The Baffler
“Tech journalism is trapped in the same bind as political journalism. The powerful, disreputable men in both realms avoid participating in substantive and sustained dialogues with their critics.”
Is this the end for colonial-era statues?
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Here you will find a selection of the books I’ve read this year. The first five titles are non-fiction followed by five fiction titles. The fiction titles are predominately science fiction or fantasy but are easy crossovers for those who don’t typically read genre fiction.
Our History is the Future by Nick Estes
The author of this book is a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. We begin with the 2016 #NoDAPL movement in North Dakota but soon move through the history of settler colonialism and the hundreds of years of Native resistance that continues to this day. Estes places the reader right in the story and in the places of this long history. A very relevant read within todays environment. This book draws you to the present through the lens of history.
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt
Dr. Eberhardt is a professor of psychology at Stanford University. You don’t have to be a racist to be biased. This is a book about unconscious bias and how it plays out in the lives of all people. Grounded in scientific and investigative work, we also read from the personal experiences of the author–a black woman in America. We discover the “tragic consequences of prejudice” and that’s not the fault of a few “bad apples.” A very readable and informative title.
Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing by Dr. David Treleaven
The author is an educator and psychotherapist whose work focuses on the intersection of trauma, mindfulness, and social justice. Rooted in research and scholarship, combined with personal stories and clinical methods, we are taken on a journal of trauma healing. The book is based around five principles – window of tolerance, shift attention to support stability, keep the body in mind, practice in relationship, and understand social context. It is in this last one where we take a deep dive into trauma events experienced by marginalized social groups. Get out your highlighter for this one.
Mr. Clark is an eco-communitarian anarchist writer, activist, and educator from New Orleans. He is professor emeritus of philosophy at Loyola University. This book is a collection of essays that explores empire, earth justice, indigenous struggles, and awakening our consciousness. His essays on Chiapas and Black Panthers are particularly enlightening. And as a resident of New Orleans, his insights into the racial aspects of Hurricane Katrina are clear and direct. For the awakening, we take a dive into Buddhism, Solstice, and Rumi. “The books shows that conventional approaches to global crisis on both the right and the left have succumbed to processes of denial and disavowal.” We need large-scale regeneration “rooted in communities of liberation and solidarity.” There is much here to ponder and also be inspired by.
A New Yorker staff writer, he spends several years in and out of extremist groups in the United States. All about the alt-right ‘news’ creators. The bulk of the story takes place leading up to the election of Trump. As a journalist, the story is engaging and easy to read even if we may be uncomfortable with some of the disclosures. Deeply researched through getting to know the people putting out the propaganda. At times you could tell the author was very uncomfortable with the work. Here you will learn about white supremacy, manipulation of social media, and about unregulated big tech. This book is disturbing.
Agency by William Gibson
Gibson is a well-established speculative fiction writer. Agency “is a ‘sequel and a prequel’ to his previous novel The Peripheral, reusing the technology from the novel to explore an alternative 2017 where Hillary Clinton won the 2016 Presidential Election.” There are two different plots lines, one set in 2017 and a second set in the post-apocalyptic 22nd century (where they are meddling in 2017). We also have a well-evolved AI system.
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Blue and Red are on opposite sides of war. A war fought through time. It is a story of treachery, of love, and of poetry. Written in the form of letters between to the two characters. It is a book to read slowly and savor the words, the imagery, and the tragedy of love and war. The book is a Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (2020), a Nebula Award for Best Novella (2019), and a Locus Award Nominee for Best Novella (2020).
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
This story primarily takes place in the early 1900s in the northeast. The young January Scaller is growing up in a mansion while her father travels the world looking for curiosities. It is about her looking to find out who she is and what her place is in the world. The book evolves as a mystery as we learn more about her parents and the man she lives with in the mansion. We learn of secret doors that lead to love, adventure, and danger. A strange and beautiful tale. The book is a Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2020), a Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2019), and a Locus Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2020).
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Political intrigue. Buried and exposed memory. A powerful empire and a small society with secret technology. All told through the voice of a young and skilled ambassador – Mahit Dmare. But there is more than one voice inside Mahit as we learn about a hidden technology secret. It is all at once a mystery, a story of empire, and also of love. Who will be saved? It is an “interstellar mystery adventure.” The book is a Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2020), a. Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2019), and a Locus Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2020).
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
The book tells the story of a snarky young Gideon and her childhood rival, the Reverend Daughter of The Ninth House. Technically there is space travel in this book, but 99% of the book takes place on one planet where members of each of the nine houses are put into play in a test of wits and skill. A true mystery and whodunit. If you don’t care for teenage snark, it might be a rough read. But it’s a fun book. The book is a Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2020), a Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2019) and a Locus Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2020).
Five articles this week covering climate, surveillance, big data, and racism.
Revolution or Ruin by Kai Heron and Jodi Dean in e-flux
Climate: “The state is a ready-made apparatus for responding to the climate crisis. It can operate at the scales necessary to develop and implement plans for reorganizing agriculture, transportation, housing, and production. It has the capacity to transform the energy sector. It is backed by a standing army. What if all that power were channeled by the many against the few on behalf of a just response to the climate crisis?”
Out of Time: The Case for Nationalizing the Fossil Fuel Industry by People’s Policy Institute
Climate: This is a very long report, but well worth the read. “Nationalization is one of the more straightforward ways to overcome many of the systemic hurdles that prevent meaningful action, allowing us to move towards decarbonization in a way that is planned, provides for workers, and supports communities. Leaving decisions about the life and death of current and future generations up to private enterprises beholden to shareholders has never been a viable option.”
The Loss Of Public Goods To Big Tech by Safiya Noble in Noema
Surveillance Capitalism: “Calls by Black Lives Matter and others to defund the police must include dismantling and outlawing the technologies of governments and law enforcement that exacerbate the conditions of racial and economic injustice. Investments in anti-democratic technologies come at an incredible cost to the public at a time when deeper investments should be made in public health, education, public media and abolitionist approaches in the tech sector.”
Police Surveilled George Floyd Protests With Help From Twitter-Affiliated Startup Dataminr by Sam Bittle in The Intercept
Surveillance: “But to some surveillance scholars, legal experts, and activists, there’s little doubt about what Dataminr is up to, and what Twitter is enabling, no matter what careful terminology they use. According to Brandi Collins-Dexter, a campaign director with the civil rights group Color of Change, Dataminr’s practices are an example of “if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck,” with regards to surveillance.”
When Proof Is Not Enough by Mimi Onuoha in FiveThirtyEight
Racism: “Data showing racism might be useful in clarifying the things we already know to be true, but it is far more limited in terms of shifting them. To those who have not experienced the ever more creative forms that structural racism can take, even when presented with evidence of racism, the world may still appear to be full of regular playing cards.”
White supremacy = Mother of climate crisis by Kritee Kanko in Boundless in Motion
One can’t deal with the climate emergency without facing racism head-on. If you ignore white supremacy, you ignore a fundamental enabler-engine of climate emergency. You forget colonialism, you forget what brought us to this point of ongoing sixth mass extinction.
Why Planting Trees Won’t Save Us by Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone
If a climate solution sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Two new studies expose the magical thinking around the trillion trees initiative. Tree planting is also a key part of cap-and-trade schemes, which allow polluters to continue emitting CO2 if that CO2 can be offset (or absorbed) in other ways. In California, the cap-and-trade program has recognized 133 million tons of CO2 in benefits from forest carbon offset projects between 2013 and 2019.
Abolish Oil by Reinhold Martin in Places Journal
Oil abolition implies social transformation — a systemic change toward collective freedom. The Green New Deal points in its very name to a usable past for today’s climate politics. Inattention to the cunning of ‘oil’ as a system of domination risks reifying historical injustices.
Black Lives Matter, Protests, and Whiteness by by Jaime Caro-Morente Marta Caro-Olivares in Industrial Worker
“All Lives Matter” does not imply a humanistic position against the alleged violence of Black Lives Matter. It supposes to equalize the oppressor and the oppressed. It involves denying systemic racism, essentializing race, and accepting the status quo as the natural state of affairs. Standing side by side with violence against the Black population means standing side by side with the legacy of slavery and segregation.
Protesting Police Violence: A Race-Class Messaging Guide by Ian Haney Lopez
This messaging guide is written for progressive advocates, and the advice is consistent with our values. That said, the messages presented here are framed to appeal to a broad spectrum of people. They reflect lessons learned in our Race-Class Narrative Project, as well as in focus groups among Latinos taking place in May and June of 2020.