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Reading

Sunday Reads

This week’s reading covers TikTok, surveillance capitalism, California farmworks, California prisoners as firefighters, and facial recognition in the schools. Settle in a pick these pieces up in the coming week.

TikTok and the Evolution of Digital Blackface by Jason Parham published in Wired

“Minstrelsy thrives on TikTok, but the phenomenon goes back a long way. The earliest American iterations emerged in the 1840s as a form of entertainment and endured for more than a century. White people would darken their skin with burnt cork, greasepaint, or shoe polish and perform in variety shows. The musical acts, comedy sketches, and dances relied on stock characters, like Sambo and Zip Coon, to parade Blackness as laughably uneducated or as a target of humiliation.”

How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism by Cory Doctorow published in OneZero

Totally worth the 109-minutes of reading! A great writer and skilled writer about technology, copyright, and civil liberties. A sample, “Facebook is heralded as the origin of all of our modern plagues, and it’s not hard to see why. Some tech companies want to lock their users in but make their money by monopolizing access to the market for apps for their devices and gouging them on prices rather than by spying on them (like Apple). Some companies don’t care about locking in users because they’ve figured out how to spy on them no matter where they are and what they’re doing and can turn that surveillance into money (Google). Facebook alone among the Western tech giants has built a business based on locking in its users and spying on them all the time.”

An extraordinary summer of crises for California’s farmworkers by Alejandra Borunda published in National Geographic

“On the first day of the smoke, Villegas got a headache after a day working without an N95—with just her cloth mask and a cotton face covering she’d sewed from an old embroidered pillowcase, its bright flowers encircling her brow. On the second, her boss showed up with a box of N95s for the crew but said a single mask would have to last for four days. “Take it home and wash it,” Villegas recalls being advised. Everyone had laughed, knowing the masks wouldn’t hold up to water.”

Cameras in the Classroom: Facial Recognition Technology in Schools by Claire Galligan, Hannah Rosenfeld, Molly Kleinman, and Shobita Parthasarathy published by George R. Ford School of Public Policy at University of Michigan

This is a very long report (115-pages), so if you only have a little time then Executive Summary is only 6-pages. They write, “On the basis of this analysis, we strongly recommend that use of FR be banned in schools. However, we have offered some recommendations for its development, deployment, and regulation if schools proceed to use the technology.”

Can California’s Prison Firefighter Program Be Reformed from Rattling the Bars. California’s Conservation Camps put prisoners to work fighting climate change-fueled fires for pennies on the dollar.


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Justice Reading

Sunday Reads

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.

EL PASO, TEXAS. A mother and daughter from Central America, hoping for asylum in the United States, turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents.

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.

Podcast Episodes

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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Justice Reading

Sunday Reads

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.”

Climate Lenin intervenes in Mann and Wainright’s Climate Leviathan diagram, from the eponymous 2018 book.
Categories
Environment Justice Reading

Sunday Reads

This week the articles focus is environmental justice, racism, capitalism and surveillance. And these are often connected.

What Did Cedric Robinson Mean by Racial Capitalism? By Robin D.G. Kelley in the Boston Review

It’s a few years old, but remains extremely relevant to our conversation today. “So what did Robinson mean by “racial capitalism”? Building on the work of another forgotten black radical intellectual, sociologist Oliver Cox, Robinson challenged the Marxist idea that capitalism was a revolutionary negation of feudalism. Instead capitalism emerged within the feudal order and flowered in the cultural soil of a Western civilization already thoroughly infused with racialism.”

Rising up against white revenge by Max Haiven in Roar Magazine

“The courts and laws, which we have been told exist to forestall and prevent society from descending into the hell of revenge, have in so many ways revealed themselves to be institutions to defend, perpetuate and mystify the systemic, structural and institutional forms of racial capitalist vengeance that make so many racialized people, especially Black people, disposable and, indeed, make a gruesome spectacle of that disposability.”

In the Midst of the Coronavirus, California Weighs Diesel Regulations by Julia Kane in Inside Climate News

Reyes sees the push to pause regulations as “a form of environmental discrimination,” she said. Diesel exhaust disproportionately affects minority communities with fewer resources. “We are the people who can’t leave this place. We can’t move away,” she said. Now California’s freight and oil industries are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to try to delay two proposed regulations that would limit diesel exhaust throughout the state, sparking outrage from clean air advocates.

Beyond a climate of comfortable ignorance by Kevin Anderson Isak Stoddard in Ecologist

“For thirty years we’ve swallowed the delusion offered by the blue pill, nonsense models of utopian tech and cheery tales of green growth. But in 2020, even the blue pill dealers are having their doubts. Perhaps now is the time to embrace the unpalatable reality revealed by the red pill?”

Trump Is Using the Pandemic to Undo Environmental Rules. It’s Hurting Black Americans by Rebecca Leber in Mother Jones

“These rollbacks do not affect everyone equally—they’re particularly devastating for people of color. And the pandemic has intensified the burden that vulnerable neighborhoods already carry.”

Our Infrastructure Is Being Built for a Climate That’s Already Gone by Shayla Love in Vice News

“The solution is to develop infrastructure that is agile, flexible, and ultimately adaptable, rather than sturdy, unchanging, and permanent.”

Smart Cities, Surveilled Citizens By Tom Westgarth in Tribune

“‘Smart cities’ technologies have grown in popularity during the coronavirus crisis, and are now being touted as tools of economic recovery – but they will also deepen the power of surveillance over our lives.”

Worker Surveillance Is on the Rise, and Has Its Roots in Centuries of Racism by Esperanza Fonseca in Truthout

High-tech corporate monitoring of workers today stems from the legacy of tracking enslaved workers in the 18th century.

SURJ’s Call to White People by Hilary Moore in Medium

“Defund the Police” is a response to decades of divestment from public health infrastructure, education systems, and good housing. This deliberate gutting of social institutions is directly related to the ballooning of police budgets and proliferation of prisons. Punishment and control have become the State’s automatic response to its failure in meeting basic needs.”

Categories
Reading

Sunday Reads

Five articles and two excellent podcasts for your review.

The Challenge of Equity in California’s Municipal Climate Action Plans by Hillary Angelo, Key MacFarlane, and James Sirigotis a report from the Institute for Social Transformation at UCSC.

This report analyzes the inclusion and operationalization
of “equity” in 170 California cities’ and counties’ Climate Action Plans (CAPs). California’s municipal climate action planning landscape is unique for both its size and diversity, as aggressive statewide environmental legislation has put unique pressure on all cities—even (or especially) small and less well-resourced ones—to adopt climate/emissions plans.

Insurrection in the Eye of the Beholder by Hala Allan published in the Baffler.

The Insurrection Act. Its invocation is enmeshed with this country’s long history of racial injustice: “insurrection” has been defined, in practice, as either rebellion against slave power or ongoing racial injustice, or as resistance to federal laws mandating civil rights and integration.

The Inequality Engine by Geoff Mann published in the London Review of Books.

Piketty’s follow-up, Capital and Ideology, is a massive, globe and history-spanning attempt to figure out what’s inside the ‘black box’ that Capital in the 21st Century left unexamined. What makes it possible for inequality to persist, let alone get worse? Why don’t governments do anything about it? And since they so often don’t, why doesn’t runaway inequality provoke the mass resistance that might force them to?

Extinction Event by Simon Torracinta published in n+1 Magazine.

What can we expect in the fall? As pandemic lockdown orders extend further and further through the spring, there has been a great deal of speculation about how or whether college education would proceed. Rumors floated at different schools of cancelled or remote semesters, even of months-long adjustments to the academic calendar. But for all but the richest universities, the conclusion has never truly been in doubt.

Bonus Material

Ruth Wilson Gilmore Makes the Case for Abolition interviewed on Intercepted Podcast.

The movement to defund the police in the United States is gaining unprecedented momentum as protests continue across the globe. This 2-part series taking with Ruth Wilson Gilmore is insightful and motivating. Iconic geographer and abolitionist Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of “Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California.” Gilmore is one of the world’s preeminent scholars on prisons and the machinery of carceral punishment and policing.

Floodlines: City of New Orleans

Floodlines: The story of an unnatural disaster hosted by Vann R. Newkirk II from The Atlantic.

This 8-part exploration of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans offers a clear and complete narrative on what actually happened in 2005. Very well worth the time.

Categories
Reading

Sunday Reads

This week I highly recommend the “Revolutionary Suicide” article and the “Seeds” article. Both are very long but totally worth the time. The other three articles highlighted are also excellent – topics explored include slavery, conspiracy theories, and a review of Michael Moore’s latest documentary.

Revolutionary Suicide: Risking Everything to Transform Society and Live Fully
By Reverend Lynice Pinkard
Published in Tikkun (this article is behind a paywall, so check with your local library about access; drop me a note if you need help).

We need to commit revolutionary suicide. By this I mean not the killing of our bodies but the destruction of our attachments to security, status, wealth, and power. These attachments prevent us from becoming spiritually and politically alive. They prevent us from changing the violent structure of the society in which we live. Revolutionary suicide means living out our commitments, even when that means risking death.

It’s Still Slavery by Another Name
By Michael D. Yates
Published in Monthly Review

We are left with an inescapable conclusion. Being black, in and of itself, is a grave economic and social disadvantage, while being white confers considerable advantage. That this is true today, 155 years after the end of the Civil War, after three constitutional amendments, the great civil rights movement, a large number of civil rights laws, and lord knows how many college courses and sensitivity training sessions is testament to the power and tenacity of racist social structures.

‘Keeping seeds in our hands’: the rise of seed activism
By Karine Peschard & Shalini Randeria
Published in The Journal of Peasant Studies

This article explores the rise of activism around seeds worldwide over the past three decades. We adopt a broad definition of seed activism as encompassing all actions that oppose the enclosure of seeds and defend individual and collective rights to seeds. Not surprisingly, those whose livelihoods depend on agriculture – peasants, farmers, and indigenous peoples – are clearly on the frontline of these struggles.4 Communities are displaced by agribusiness expansion and lose plant varieties due to genetic contamination. They are not only denied the right to save seeds but can also be prosecuted for infringing seed patents.

Variety of Seeds

The Prophecies of Q
By Adrienne LaFrance
Published in The Atlantic

If you were an adherent, no one would be able to tell. You would look like any other American. You could be a mother, picking leftovers off your toddler’s plate. You could be the young man in headphones across the street. You could be a bookkeeper, a dentist, a grandmother icing cupcakes in her kitchen.You know that the mainstream media are their handmaidens, in partnership with Hillary Clinton and the secretive denizens of the deep state. You know that only Donald Trump stands between you and a damned and ravaged world. You must find those who are like you. And you must be prepared to fight. You know all this because you believe in Q.

Planet of the green capitalists
By Aragorn Eloff
Published in New Frame

Short Read. Critical reviews of the new Michael Moore documentary Planet of the Humans have missed its key point: capitalism can never be sustainable.

Categories
Justice

Capitalism and White Supremacy

Capitalism and White Supremacy. I don’t know if that’s quite the right title. I really wanted to have the Environment in there too. Anyway, these are the topics I’ve been wrestling with lately and are the general theme of this essay.

Introduction

The quarantine of 2020 has forced each of us to live and do things differently. As a librarian at a community college, I have been very fortunate to both retain my employment and to work from home. Although it has been difficult from time to time, it is truly a luxury to have personal safety and a steady income. I know this isn’t the case for many millions of Americans. 

Throughout my life, I’ve always been a learner. It’s one of the reasons I went into academic librarianship. Not only do I get to learn from the students on a regular basis, I also get to be surrounded by the written word. And during this quarantine, I’ve definitely upped my reading. In fact, I seem to have accidentally created a curriculum for myself that focuses on capitalism, white supremacy, and the environment. 

Book Covers

This isn’t a catch-all, be-all type of essay. Just opening up with a few of my thoughts and then sharing my curriculum with you. It’s at the bottom if you want to skip ahead.

Capitalism and Racism

These topics are so intertwined together. Moving forward, it will be difficult for me to look at each individually without considering the whole. And that’s a good thing! Researching and experiencing these more deeply has been pushing me to reflect on what is most important, and therefore where I might place my attention and resources. In some ways, the curriculum has radicalized me more than I expected. 

Historically, I have rarely identified myself as “a liberal.” I’ve always considered myself a bit further to the left than the liberal. In fact, I’ve struggled to vote for a Democrat for president for decades (and 2020 is going to be especially difficult). In the end, they seem to always let me down and don’t seem to move society forward.

So, I’m probably somewhere on the anarchist, socialist, communist spectrum. It does beg the question whether someone like me should even vote in a presidential election. I don’t know the answer. If you have ideas, please do comment. This accidental course of study has definitely forced me question our current political structures as it relates to capitalism, white supremacy, and the environment. Do current politics in United States have the capacity to address the damages of capitalism, white supremacy, and environmental degradation?

Capitalism in the United States is detrimental for all workers, but especially for BIPOC communities, and the environment. It forces the lowest possible wages and the weakest environmental considerations in order to feed the shareholder. The costs of capitalism are both extremely obvious and also deeply hidden. The Capitalist State upholds this structure and the mentality permeates all aspects of society. From the church to the oil company. I’m not a great scholar, but this is the sense of what I have gleaned from my recent readings. It’s also been quite interesting during this COVID Crisis to see capitalists embrace more socialist approaches (such as the large bailouts of corporations and the IRS payment to workers). 

White supremacy is propped up by capitalism.

Perpetual growth based on theft and slavery is the name of the game. From the first arrival to North America by Europeans that forced the death and/or migration of native peoples, to the theft of the southwest (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California), to chattel slavery, to post-reconstruction lynchings and Jim Crow laws well into the 20th century, to redlining to prevent home ownership of black people, to the continued violence and murder of black Americans in the 21st century, to reliance on fossil fuels. My god, I’m only 52-years old and legalized segregation in schools and colleges existed within my lifetime! And three of the greatest Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s were all assassinated (Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X).

And white supremacy isn’t only about Black Americans. Immigration of cheap labor from “non-white” countries such as Italy and Ireland in the early 20th century, all the way to present-day immigrants from Central America and Mexico. And then we have anti-semitism throughout history that continues to this day. They all suffered at the hands of the Capitalist State. Is it surprising that some of the most polluted locations in North America are within non-white communities? Is it surprising that incomes, better health, and home ownership are all highest for white Americans? 

I’m feeling this is enough of an introduction to the topic at hand. I did want to dig deeper into the environment, since this is intricately tied with capitalism and racism, but I’ll leave that to be explored on your own through the books, podcasts, videos, and articles listed below.

A Curriculum

Books

Clark, John P. Between Earth and Empire: From the Necrocene to the Beloved Community (2019)

Eberhardt, Jennifer L. Phd. Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do (2019)

Lowy, Michael. Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe (2015)

Podcasts

Note: The title of each episode is first, followed by the guest on the show, and then the name of the podcast. You can search online or in your favorite podcatcher.

Community-Led Practices To Build the Worlds We Need, Sasha Costanza-Chock | Data & Society

COVID-19 in Black America, Ibram X. Kendi | This is Hell!

Covid19 and the Crisis Capitalism Creates in Normal Times, Silvia Federici | Latin Waves Media

Food Workers and the Virus, Raj Patel | Belabored

I Am Not Your Negro: Racism in the Us, Richard Johnson | Factual America Podcast

The Nature of Democracy in the Times of Crisis, A. C. Grayling | KPFA – Letters and Politics

Technological Change and Social Protests, Kerstin Enflo | A Correction Podcast

We Have To Begin With Emancipation, Asad Haider | Millennials Are Killing Capitalism

Any episode | The Benjamin Dixon Show

Videos

COVID-19, global climate policy and carbon markets

Life-Making, Capitalism and the Pandemic: Feminist Ideas about Women’s Work

Articles

hooks, bell. An Aesthetic of Blackness: Strange and Oppositional | Center for Black Music Research

Kalm, Sara. Citizenship Capital | Journal of Global Society

Kendi, Ibram X. We’re Still Living and Dying in the Slaveholders’ Republic | The Atlantic

Martinez, Elizabeth ‘Betita’. What Is White Supremacy? | Catalyzing Liberation Toolkit

McGee, Julius Alexander and Patrick Trent Greiner. How Long Can Neoliberalism Withstand Climate Crisis? | Monthly Review

Saunt, Claudio. The world’s first mass deportation took place on American soil | Aeon Essays

St. John, Victor J. Placial Justice: Restoring Rehabilitation and Correctional Legitimacy Through Architectural Design | SAGE

Tittle, Chris. Now Is the Time to Take Radical Steps Toward Housing Equity | Yes Magazine

Yates, Michael D. It’s Still Slavery by Another Name | Monthly Review

Wijnberg, Rob. Why climate change is a pandemic in slow motion (and what that can teach us) | The Correspondent

Other 

White Supremacy and the United States James Baldwin

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