This week I include topics such as the First Amendment in the context of booksellers, racism in Germany, online court hearings, the intersection of pollution, white supremacy, and the coronavirus, and last liberation theory in social justice education.
This article piqued my interest because it explores the First Amendment in the context of booksellers along with a reference to libraries (my field). Spring writes, “As bookstores across the country field an unprecedented number of orders for anti-racism books, it’s time for the bookstore industry to face its own reckoning with white supremacy.” An important read for readers and librarians.
An international perspective on white supremacy. In this case, the author is looking at comparisons between Germany and the United States. If you don’t know anything about circumstances in Germany, then this is the read for you. For example, Bruce-Jones writes, “Making a comparison to the German context seems absurd to some, given that the scale of police killings is much smaller in Germany. However, scale is not the most interesting point of comparison between the United States and Germany. In Germany, if a person is killed in a policing altercation, there is no ability by the family to bring a private (civil) action on behalf of that person.”
Learned something new with this one. For example, video bail hearings have occurred in some places for over 30-years. But what is the impact on those being charged? And what about the dehumanizing aspect of video hearings? Kirchner writes, “some courts have reacted to the pandemic by putting almost all operations on hold for now — and with it, defendants’ right to a speedy trial. There’s an enormous pressure for courts to start back up again, and the safest way to do that is either by video or phone. What technological substitutes courts allow vary from state to state and are changing every day.”
What happens when you cross white supremacy, climate crisis, and the coronavirus? We truly have a moment of interbeing with these three topics. They are interconnected and people are dying. Britt writes, “While we might believe that the pandemic lowered pollution everywhere, that in fact has not been true, and in some places pollution increased substantially because of this rollback.”
I recently had the privilege of attending a East Point Peace Academy webinar with Victor Lee Lewis and I really appreciated what he had to share of teach. Much of his topic is covered in this article. It’s a short article and Lewis is looking to redefine social justice education. The foundation of which is the question: “Is this liberating?”
For this week’s long reads, we explore the topics of racism against Chinese scientists, linguistics and race, applying democracy to climate change, the lockdown and public works (by Naomi Klein!), and California’s privacy ballot measure. Plus one recommended podcast. I hope you enjoy.
“…the already strained relationship between the U.S. and China continued to deteriorate, worsening as the Obama era gave way to the Trump administration. Hundreds more Chinese American scientists have been scrutinized as a result. The U.S. maintains that it is doing so to protect against the threat of Chinese espionage, an argument it has maintained for decades. But a growing network of advocates and scientists fear that the FBI is targeting scientists based on racial discrimination, and that is not only destroying the livelihoods of Chinese American scientists but also damaging American science output as well.”
“There’s this anxiety over saying the wrong thing,” says deandre miles-hercules, a PhD linguistics student who focuses on sociocultural linguistic research on race, gender, and sexuality. “And so instead of maybe doing a little research, understanding the history and the different semantic valences of a particular term to decide for yourself, or to understand the appropriateness of a use in a particular context, people generally go, ‘Tell me the word, and I will use the word.’ They’re not interested in learning things about the history of the term, or the context in which it’s appropriate.”
“Climate change is a complex challenge, the largest collective action problem in history, and a classic illustration of the concept of a wicked problem. It is distinctive in many ways: unlike most forms of air or water pollution, the effects are not immediately obvious; harms occur mostly in the future, with a perceived temporal mismatch of costs and benefits. There is good reason to believe, however, that democracies overall are more suited to handling climate change than their authoritarian counterparts.”
“As in the 1930s, this generation is already being referred to as a “lost generation” — but compared to the Great Depression, almost nothing is being done to find them, certainly not at the governmental level in the U.S. There are no ambitious and creative programs being designed to offer steady income beyond expanded summer job programs, and nothing designed to arm them with useful skills for the Covid and climate change era. All Washington has offered is a temporary break on student loan repayments, set to expire this fall.”
California voters need to read this article. This November, Californians will be called upon to vote on a ballot initiative called the California Privacy Rights Act, or Proposition 24. EFF does not support it; nor does EFF oppose it.
Where did the notion of “whiteness” come from? What does it mean? What is whiteness for? Scene on Radio host and producer John Biewen took a deep dive into these questions, along with an array of leading scholars and regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, in this fourteen-part documentary series, released between February and August 2017. The series editor is Loretta 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Four long reads worth your time. This week we begin with a discussion on being Asian American by Pulitzer Prize winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen. This is followed by a long essay on politics, nature, and the coronavirus. The next two uncover climate change issues in Ethiopia and Southwest United States. And we conclude with a short opinion piece on the relationship between climate change and dismantling white supremacy.
Throughout Asian-American history, Asian immigrants and their descendants have been offered the opportunity by both Black people and white people to choose sides in the Black-white racial divide, and we have far too often chosen the white side. And yet there have been vocal Asian Americans who have called for solidarity with Black people and other people of color, from the activist Yuri Kochiyama, who cradled a dying Malcolm X, to the activist Grace Lee Boggs, who settled in Detroit and engaged in serious, radical organizing and theorizing with her Black husband James Boggs.
If you read only the first few paragraphs, you will be treated to a story of the pangolin. And then, “A key feature of nature according to the virus is interconnectedness: All organisms are inseparably interwoven with one another — and with the biosphere.” And lastly, “looked at from the perspective opened up by COVID-19, it appears that modern politics has been a tool invented to defend the illusion of the free-standing human as such. Essentially, modern politics has been a differentiation machine.”
Solid story and beautiful pictures. “Today, wild Arabica’s greatest threat is climate change. Highly sensitive, it can only survive within a narrow band of conditions. Aaron Davis, a senior research leader at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the world’s foremost authority of coffee and climate change, has forecasted that the places where wild coffee can grow will decrease by 65 percent by 2080. That’s the best-case scenario. The worst-case showed a 99.7 percent reduction, with wild Arabica tree populations dropping by 40 to 99 percent.”
“New research reveals a creeping, permanent dryness expanding across the United States. It’s much more than “drought,” and researchers hope more accurate descriptions will spur critical action. The current megadrought in the Southwest is defined not so much by declining precipitation — although that did have an effect too — but by increasing temperatures from climate change. That’s going to continue to climb as long as we keep burning greenhouse gases.”
This one is a short read. “The reality is that the communities being battered by both the coronavirus and climate are also epicenters of over-policing, incarceration, and state-sanctioned violence. In every aspect of our lives, starting in our mothers’ wombs, we are systematically devalued. Black communities face the long-term effects of environmental racism, intentionally zoned into neighborhoods surrounded by factories, highways, pipelines, and compressor stations.”