“Indescribably insane”: A public school system from hell ” – Salon

MONDAY, AUG 19, 2013 07:01 PM EDT

“Indescribably insane”: A public school system from hell

 

Pennsylvania’s right-wing governor drains public schools of basic funds — and the sickening details will shock you

BY 

 

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett(Credit: Associated Press)

Want to see a public school system in its death throes? Look no further than Philadelphia. There, the school district is facing end times, with teachers, parents and students staring into the abyss created by a state intent on destroying public education.

On Thursday the city of Philadelphia announced that it would be borrowing $50 million to give the district, just so it can open schools as planned on Sept. 9, after Superintendent William Hite threatened to keep the doors closed without a cash infusion. The schools may open without counselors, administrative staff, noon aids, nurses, librarians or even pens and paper, but hey, kids will have a place to go and sit.

The $50 million fix is just the latest band-aid for a district that is beginning to resemble a rotting bike tube, covered in old patches applied to keep it functioning just a little while longer. At some point, the entire system fails.

Things have gotten so bad that at least one school has asked parents to chip in $613 per student just so they can open with adequate services, which, if it becomes the norm, effectively defeats the purpose of equitable public education, and is entirely unreasonable to expect from the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

The needs of children are secondary, however, to a right-wing governor in Tom Corbett who remains fixated on breaking the district in order to crush the teachers union and divert money to unproven experiments like vouchers and privately run charters. If the city’s children are left uneducated and impoverished among the smoldering wreckage of a broken school system, so be it.

To be clear, the schools are in crisis because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania refuses to fund them adequately. The state Constitution mandates that the Legislature “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education,” but that language appears to be considered some kind of sick joke at the state capital in Harrisburg.

It’s worth noting that the state itself runs the Philadelphia School District after a 2001 takeover. The state is also responsible for catastrophic budget cuts two years ago that crippled the district’s finances. And in a diabolical example of circular logic, the state argues that the red ink it imposed, and shoddy management it oversees, are proof that the district can’t manage its finances or its mission and therefore shouldn’t  get more money.

Make no mistake, on the aggregate the district does not perform well. Only slightly more than 60 percent of students graduate from high school, with less than 60 percent proficient in reading and math. But put that in the context where 80 percent of students come from disadvantaged backgrounds while administrators struggle to cobble together enough cash to even open doors, let alone provide a safe, rich and comprehensive educational experience.

Particularly noxious lawmakers are fond of spouting the ridiculous notion that money can’t help struggling schools, as if more and better-trained staff, better equipment and diverse programming wouldn’t make a difference in kids’ educations and their lives.

The timing of this meltdown is unfortunate, as if there were ever a good time for the euthanasia of public schooling. According to the 2010 census, Philadelphia grew in population for the first time in 60 years, changing direction from decades of decline. Most of that growth came from immigrants who will rely on public schools — or not, as the case may be. Another area of growth was in young families, who will face a choice, once they have school-age children, to stay in the city or flee to superior suburban schools as previous generations have done.

Nearly the entire burden to keep the district afloat has fallen to the city, which raised property taxes each of the two previous years specifically to funnel extra money that the schools weren’t getting from the state. This is in one of the poorest and most highly taxed cities in the nation.

The floundering district is both a symptom and cause of the city’s predicament, creating a vicious cycle of people who can afford to bail moving to the suburbs, leaving a crippled tax base, with the result being less money to fix the schools and ever-higher taxes imposed on those who stay.

Unlike the city, the state could come up with the necessary cash without excessively burdening its finances. Pennsylvania has the lowest severance tax of any state drilling for Marcellus shale gas, with plenty of room for an increase. The state had a modest surplus at the end of the last budget year. The governor has no trouble coming up with money to build new prisons, which will serve as future homes for all too many children of Philadelphia who are being failed and tossed aside by adult leadership, if you can call it that.

The pattern has become clear: defund the schools, precipitate a crisis and use that as an excuse to further attack the schools, pushing them closer and closer to a point of no return. The $50 million to open the schools this year is just the latest and most immediate example of three years of brinkmanship.

The district was hit with a double whammy in 2011, when stimulus funds that it had idiotically been using for operating expenses dried up, and incoming Gov. Tom Corbett took office eager to prove his reactionary bona fides by enacting massive budget cuts to public education to the tune of $1 billion statewide, disproportionately hitting Philadelphia. The result was an absurd $629 million shortfall, which was filled by a mix of cuts and city tax hikes.

Last year, the district took out a $300 million bond to patch another big deficit, the very definition of a band-aid fix as it only added to what is now $280 million in annual debt payments.

This round of budget hysteria kicked off in May when the superintendent announced that the district was another $304 million in the hole for the upcoming school year and requested extra funding from the city and state as well as givebacks from the teachers union to fill the gap.

To prepare, he laid off nearly 4,000 teachers and staff members, and closed 24 schools, after the district had shut eight the year before. Empty buildings and mass layoffs — the perfect image of 21st century education.

The city and state came up with a Rube Goldberg device of funding worth about $140 million, composed of repurposed federal funds, better city tax collections, borrowing against future city taxes and a whopping $2 million thrown in by the state beyond what it had already committed.

Most of even that inadequate amount hasn’t arrived yet as the state sits on $45 million in federal money it refuses to disperse until the teachers agree to enormous salary cuts and rollback of other benefits and city officials bicker among themselves on how to deliver the money they promised.

It’s still unclear what, if anything, will be kicked in by the teachers, who already make disproportionately less money than their suburban counterparts while teaching in much more challenging environments. Their contracts expire at the end of the month.

Leering over the whole mess is the controversial charter school movement, which siphons $675 million from district schools. The charter experiment has been a mixed bag, with some performing well, others proving mere vehicles for graft and corruption. Critics see them as a way to divert public money into politically connected private hands, and even more important, a way to break the teachers union because they aren’t bound by district collective bargaining rules.

It’s not hard to see the same forces at work here as those taking apart public sector unions in Wisconsin and trying to confiscate Detroit city employees’ pensions in Michigan. Indeed, the district leadership met Thursday to unilaterally suspend the school code to get around teacher seniority and automatic raise rules as they use the $50 million to rehire some of the employees laid off earlier this year.

Teachers are understandably displeased at being blamed for a problem the state has caused. “It is Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s obligation to fully fund public education. Yet the budget office seems to be employing any and every means to avoid living up to this responsibility,” Philadelphia Teachers Federation president Jerry Jordan said in a statement. “Chronic lack of resources has brought this crisis to our schools, not work rule provisions in collective bargaining agreements.”

“The trunk of my car is now filled with a carton of paper, pens, lined paper, and copybooks I have bought for my students this September,” district teacher Christine MacArthur wrote in an editorial to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Now we are also to pay for the mistakes of our employers?”

Parents and students are trying to push back, but may ultimately have little traction. Thousands of students led by the Philadelphia Student Union walked out last spring to protest the doomsday budget, to no avail. Now, with the stark projections of May becoming reality in August, members are canvassing the streets to rally support. “I’m just doing it for my school because it’s the right thing to do,” one student told a local television station. “We are going to need counselors. Without counselors, it’s going to be hard to get into college.” The group is considering boycotting school entirely if the district doesn’t get the money it needs.

“It’s indescribably insane,” says Helen Gym of the advocacy group Parents United for Public Schools, who has three children in the public school system. “It’s unbelievable that it’s come to this.” The group put out a statement Thursday reemphasizing that $50 million was far from enough to have effective schools.

“I don’t send my child to go to a shell of a building, I send my child to get an education,” Gym says. “They can’t do that with $50 million.”

The district got its $50 million, though, and will get more in dribbles and drips. That will barely, not really, suffice for inadequate schooling this year. Next year, stay tuned for a repeat. Barring an unforeseen economic renaissance in the city or thorough overhaul of the state executive and legislative branches, the district is poised for year after year of one crisis after another.

Parents and teachers are all too aware of what’s happening. “Tom Corbett, the weakest governor in the United States, is trying to stake his claim on completely dismantling and starving one of the nation’s largest school districts into dysfunction and collapse,” says Gym.

The nails aren’t all in the coffin yet, but they are being pounded deeper every year by a state that has turned its back on, if is not openly hostile to, the idea of free and equitable education for all.

“It’s an absolute atrocious mockery of anything related to public leadership,” Gym says. “To not have a stable public school system is more devastating to Philadelphia than anything that has happened before.”

Aaron Kase is a freelance writer and a reporter for Lawyers.com. Follow him on Twitter at@Aaron_Kase.MORE AARON KASE.

We’re Saddling College Students with Crushing Debt … and the Govt. Is Acting Like a Greedy Profitee

Matt Taibbi: We’re Saddling College Students with Crushing Debt … and the Govt. Is Acting Like a Greedy Profiteer

 

“Even gamblers can declare bankruptcy, but kids who enter into student loans will never, ever be able to get out of this debt.”

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/KenDrysdale

August 20, 2013  |

The following content originally appeared onDemocracyNow!

On the heels of President Obama’s signing of a measure keeping federally subsidized student loans at a relatively low rate through 2015, Rolling Stone political reporter Matt Taibbi joins us to discuss how the high price of U.S. college tuition and the federal expansion of student debt to pay for it pose a major threat to the economy. In his new article, ” Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal,” Taibbi writes: “The dirty secret of American higher education is that student-loan interest rates are almost irrelevant. It’s not the cost of the loan that’s the problem, it’s the principal — the appallingly high tuition costs that have been soaring at two to three times the rate of inflation, an irrational upward trajectory eerily reminiscent of skyrocketing housing prices in the years before 2008. … Throw off the mystery and what you’ll uncover is a shameful and oppressive outrage that for years now has been systematically perpetrated against a generation of young adults.” Taibbi says the federal government is poised to make $185 billion over the next 10 years on student loans, with no way out for the young borrowers: “Even gamblers can declare bankruptcy, but kids who enter into student loans will never, ever be able to get out of this debt.”

Transcript

The following is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: We begin today with student loans. When President Obama signed it into law this month, the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act was hailed as a major victory for students. The bill reversed a temporary doubling of the interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford student loans that took effect in July. Most students will pay a low rate of around 3.8 percent through 2015 but then see that rate jump as it becomes attached to financial markets. At the signing ceremony, President Obama praised Congress for reaching an agreement, but he warned the temporary fix in rates doesn’t address the underlying problem: the massive cost of college tuition and the debt burden imposed on students and their families.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Even though we’ve been able to stabilize the interest rates on student loans, our job is not done, because the cost of college remains extraordinarily high. It’s out of reach for a lot of folks. And for those who do end up attending college, the amount of debt that young people are coming out of school with is a huge burden on them. It’s a burden on their families. It makes it more difficult for them to buy a home. It makes them more difficult—more difficult for them if they want to start a business. It has a depressive effect on our economy overall, and we’ve got to do something about it.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama speaking in the Oval Office earlier this month.

Well, our next guest has just written an in-depth  piece exploring the nation’s soaring education costs and their dangers. In the latest edition of  Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi argues that the high price of college tuition and the federal expansion of student debt to pay for it pose a major threat to the economy, as Taibbi writes, quote, “The dirty secret of American higher education is that student-loan interest rates are almost irrelevant. It’s not the cost of the loan that’s the problem, it’s the principal—the appallingly high tuition costs that have been soaring at two to three times the rate of inflation, an irrational upward trajectory eerily reminiscent of skyrocketing housing prices in the years before 2008. … Throw off the mystery and what you’ll uncover is a shameful and oppressive outrage that for years now has been systematically perpetrated against a generation of young adults.” Matt Taibbi’s article is called “Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal.” He’s a political reporter for  Rolling Stone.

Full Article

Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Please direct all media requests to taibbimedia@yahoo.com  Matt is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice

Read more of Taibbi: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog
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King’s “Dream” vs. Obama’s Realpolitik – Dr. Wilmer Leon

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King’s “Dream” vs. Obama’s Realpolitik

 | August 20, 2013

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III

– “Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4, 1967

As America commemorates the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom I am compelled to ask the following question, would Dr. King be invited to speak at upcoming events to commemorate the March?

king 3If you get past the marketed “Dream” reference in the “I Have a Dream” speech you will understand that it was an indictment of America.  If you read “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” or Dr. King’s last book Where Do We Go From Here, Chaos or Community?; you can rest assured that today Dr. King would be in opposition to America’s backing of the assignation of Muammar Gaddafi, drone attacks, indefinite detention at Guantanamo, NSA wiretapping, mass incarceration, and the Obama administration’s failure to speak forcefully about poverty in America. From that premise one can only conclude that if Dr. King were alive today, those within the African American community who are engaged in stifling honest, fact-based, critical analysis of the administration’s policies would not allow Dr. King on the dais.  Reason being, Dr. King committed his life to a morally based sense of justice and humanity not actions taken from a sense of political expediency or realpolitik.

On August 28, 1963 Dr. King stated, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation…One hundred years later, the colored American lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”  Today according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate stands at 7.6% and 15% in the African American community.  Today, “in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity,” according to Bread For the World, “14.5 percent of U.S. households—nearly 49 million Americans, including 16.2 million children—struggle to put food on the table” and “more than one in five children is at risk of hunger. Among African-Americans and Latinos, nearly one in three children is at risk of hunger.”

President Obama has claimed to be a champion of the middle class but rarely speaks to the plight of the poor in America.  Dr. King would not stand idly by and allow this to go unchallenged.  As America spends billions of dollars on its drone program, children continue to go hungry.  In his 1967 speech Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence Dr. King stated, “A few years ago…It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program…Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube.”  If you replace Vietnam with Afghanistan and the War on Terror I believe Dr. King would be engaged in the same analysis and saying the same things today.

Dr. King said that the people of Vietnam must see, “Americans as strange liberators…they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy…What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them…?”  Today, Dr. King would be asking the same questions about America’s actions in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and the continued US support for the Zionist government in Israel as it continues to build settlements on Palestinian land in violation of international law.

ObamaLet’s be very clear, I have used actions of the Obama administration to highlight many of the contradictions that we face and to demonstrate how the man we now revere, the icon that will be lauded at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington would not be invited to speak in today’s political context. That’s the symptom of a greater problem.

To gain great insight into the real problem you have to examine the work of Edward Bernays and the rise of the propaganda industry in the 1920’s. “[The] American business community was also very impressed with the propaganda effort (created by Bernays). They had a problem at that time. The country was becoming formally more democratic. A lot more people were able to vote and that sort of thing. The country was becoming wealthier and more people could participate and a lot of new immigrants were coming in, and so on.  So what do you do? It’s going to be harder to run things as a private club. Therefore, obviously, you have to control what people think. There had been public relation specialists but there was never a public relations industry.” History as a Weapon – Noam Chomsky – 1997.

The business community as Chomsky discussed or the corptocracy in today’s parlance uses propaganda to co-opt the American political landscape and has contributed to the decline of the American political left.  The politics and policies of the Obama administration are examples of that decline, not responsible for it. th

At the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington pay very close attention to what is said and even closer attention to what is not (August 27, 2013 is the 50th commemoration of the passing of W.E.B. DuBois).

Understanding the moral basis of Dr. King’s analysis, he would be standing today for the very things he stood for then.  He would be critical of the current administration, and as such, great efforts would be made to shut him out of the national debate since many in the African American community see honest, fact based, criticism of Obama administration policy as antithetical to the interests of the African American community.  The prophet is never welcome in his own village.

Dr. King’s “Dream” was significant because of its juxtaposition against the reality of the Negros nightmare but Bernaysian propaganda keeps the focus on the “Dream”.

04-06 Wiler2 LeonDr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the Sirisu/XM Satellite radio channel 110 call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Leon” Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email:wjl3us@yahoo.comwww.twitter.com/drwleon and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facebook.com  He is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, joining us as Guest and Co-Host.

© 2013 InfoWave Communications, LLC

– See more at: http://www.wilmerleon.com/

Chemo Checklist – Things To Bring With You During Chemo by the Lymphoma Club

trust your struggleChemo Checklist – Things To Bring With You During Chemo by the Lymphoma Club

July 9, 2011 at 9:56am

This checklist and tips was created to help those undergoing chemo with ideas and suggestions on things to bring during chemo day including tips on how to prepare for chemo day.

 

Suggested items to bring with you during chemo (Put small items in a tote bag or back-pack and other items leave in car ):

 

1.     An advocate, family or friend to hold your hand and be there for you

2.     Portable notebook/laptop to help pass the time

3.     iPad/iPod or Kindle

4.     Portable DVD player – favorite movies

5.     Favorite music

6.     Books/Magazines – pen/pencils

7.     A small notebook to take notes

8.     A list of all your current medications

9.     Extra cotton t-shirt or change of shirt – preferably v-neck for women (for port access)

10.   Sweater/layers and sweats (be comfortable)

11.   Bottled water (very important to stay well hydrated)

12.   Sugarless candy (good to suck on before the heparin or chemo)

13.   An insulated lunch bag with snacks – important to eat a light meal  before chemo

14.   Travel size pillow (for comfort)

15.   Travel size blanket (cancer center may be cold)

16.   Soft toothbrush and travel size toothpaste

17.   Alcohol free mouth wash like Biotene (check with doctor or nurse)

18.   Alcohol-free sanitizers or towelettes

19.   Kleenix/tissue

20.   Paper Towels

21.   Chapstick

22.   Lotion

23.   Popsicles or ice cubes (to prevent mouth sores)

24.   A plastic bag for laundry or in case of nausea

25.   Small bucket to keep in car (in case of nausea emergency)

26.   A cooler for food and snacks, include extra for caregiver

27.   Small first aid kit

28.   A cooler to keep in car with cold water (optional)

29.   Pictures of favorite destinations, family and friends to keep you focused and motivated

30.   Anything inspirational to you

31.   Your doctor’s phone number or possibly nurse (obtain after-hours phone number too)

 

Chemo Tips and Suggestions

 

1.    Stay well hydrated

2.    Rest when tired

3.    Track and report side effects to doctor

4.    Reduce stress (as much as possible)

5.    Dress comfortable (loose, comfortable clothing)

6.    Stock up on items you need

7.    Eat a light, fiber meal before treatment

8.    Ask questions about the drug and what it’s for

9.    Have a supportive person nearby

10.  Allow for fatigue and recovery

11.  Keep a list of all medications and be sure doctor has a copy

12.  Have somebody check up on you after treatment. Know the warning signs of adverse chemical reactions.

13.  Buy a digital thermomater

14.  Never take supplements, vitamins, herbs or related WITHOUT checking with your oncologist/doctor, as it may interfere with treatment.

 

Other Suggestions:

Visit the dentist before you start chemo to ensure your teeth and gums are healthy

 

By the Lymphoma Club at FB

 

“I Fear I May Have Integrated My People Into a Burning House” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“I Fear I May Have Integrated My People Into a Burning House” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Burning+Down+The+House.jpg

Harry Belafonte speaks on last conversation between him and MLK.

http://www.scu.edu/ethics/architects-of-peace/Belafonte/essay.html

Midway through the Civil Rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. realized that the struggle for integration would ultimately become a struggle for economic rights. I remember the last time we were together, at my home, shortly before he was murdered. He seemed quite agitated and preoccupied, and I asked him what the problem was. “I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply,” he said. “We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know that we will win. But I’ve come to believe we’re integrating into a burning house.”

That statement took me aback. It was the last thing I would have expected to hear, considering the nature of our struggle, and I asked him what he meant. “I’m afraid that America may be losing what moral vision she may have had,” he answered. “And I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears at the soul of this nation.”

“I fear, I am integrating my people into a burning house.”

~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Dr. King said the above statement to Harry Belafonte in a conversation they had before his death. Belafonte startled at the statement said to him “What should we do?” Dr. King told him that we “Become the firemen, Let us not stand by and let the house burn.”

On the flip side of that, you have a speech by Malcolm X. It was entitled “The House Negro and the Field Negro.” He spoke about how the House Negro loved the Master more than he loved himself. And that if the Masters house caught on fire, the House Negro would try to put the fire out. On the other hand you have the Field Negro. The Field Negro hated the master and despised his very existence. If the Master’s house were to catch on fire, the Field Negro would pray for a strong wind to come along.

Here you have two black thoughts that are on opposite sides of the spectrum. The feelings are as true today as they were when both these statements were proclaimed in the mid 60’s.

What are your thoughts on this?

How can one fight for something they don’t believe in?

or

Why would someone fight for something they believe will ultimately destroy the people they are supposedly fighting for?

MORE

“Talking about White Privilege Is Not Profound, Its Just for Profit” Dr. Tommy J. Curry

THE NATIONALIST

“Talking about White Privilege Is Not Profound, Its Just for Profit”

By: Dr. Tommy J. Curry

tcurry1

Dr. Tommy J. Curry Coming to OCG September 14, 2013

There is a growing economy for discussions about white privilege in this country that are employing Black and brown intellectuals and whites who profess anti-racism, to be the missionaries that save white souls. white privilege, or the idea that white individuals are born with unearned benefits and advantages, over others has been making its way through out the public media as well as the classroom. On the face of it, this seems like a radical conversation. Black, brown and some white people calling out white liberals and conservatives for their racism, and starting “real” conversations about race that air on MsNBC,CNN and even the Huffington Post. But conversations about white privilege are not really conversations about race, and certainly not about racism—its a business—WHERE BLACKS MARKET THEMSELVES AS RACIAL THERAPISTS.

See the first discussions of white privilege like W.E.B. DuBois’s Black Reconstruction (1935) or George Lipsitz’s The Possessive Investment in whiteness, or even Cheryl Harris’s “whiteness as property,” came from the radical Black intellectual tradition (race-crits, Black nationalists, Pan-Africanists) that did not believe that whites would simply donate their power and act against their global racial interests to be good people IN THE EYES OF BLACKS, people they owned and still imprison.  DuBois, and Lipsitz understood there is an antipathy and power in being against Blacks. Like George Jackson said, regarding the ILLUSION many Black academics have in romanticizing their ability to solve racism, “the white race, the economic elites of America, are not going to let themselves be educated out of existence. But today, you sound radical, progressive and insightful by MARKETING YOURSELF as therapist for whites, and know nothing about the actual conditions, structures, and ills that concretely effect the lives of Blacks. You can even talk about white privilege and not even know the names of the Black thinkers, the literature, the context, or the history the term comes from, and get acclaim for only citing white celebrities like Peggy McIntosh or Tim Wise.

It’s not genius to say in an oppressive society there are benefits being in the superior class instead of the inferior class. That’s true in any hierarchy, being on the top is better than being on the bottom, but the speaker of white privilege gets to pretend that America is not oppressive, they love America, they just want whites to surrender their privilege so we can be equal. See the revolutionary doesn’t have white friends: the government killed MLK, Assata is called a terrorist, Derrick Bell is erased from a field he started, because they spoke about the actual racial and economic tyranny of corporations, governments, the military and the white public,  but the for profit revolutionary wants to be commodified by whites…that Black friend that feels like they cured the racist white, while that same white person gets to point to these very relationships as proof they are healed and show to other whites they are the “white ally.”

Conversations about white privilege are simply moral appeals to the conscience of whites who have shown themselves to be committed to racism and social inequity IN THE IDLE HOPE THAT THEY change their mind. The implication of talking about privilege suffers from a childlike naiveity, it suggests that simply exposing racism and the privilege of whiteness to the white mind motivates whites to no longer act in their own self interest. See like the liberal utopia born out of integration, there is an unjustifiable assumption that telling whites about their social position means they are willing to surrender their power to appease a pop culture account of oppression. Think about the dishonesty of this approach. Black people, oppressed people, know there is a fundamental difference between being oppressed/Black and not oppressed, a citizen, white. We call for “national conversations on race,” where these public intellectuals get credit for starting conversations that amount to little more than allowing white America the opportunity to deny the actual realities Black America suffer from. And regardless of the outcome they come out LOOKING LIKE PROPHETS. This issue is white supremacy, and anti-Black death…trying discussing that…and see if your oppressor recognizes you then.

I remember at a recent APA I sat next to a feminist of color trying to get her white male student who couldn’t get a job in the white figures he studied and wrote a book on, and never studied race, racism, or Black philosophy, a job. This professor felt comfortable telling him if you start talking about white privilege, where she claimed the field was going, he could land a race job easily.  Think about this. So all the Black, Brown, and Indigenous scholars who study the raw histories of oppression and resistance lose out because they don’t want to give white liberals and conservatives a guilt trip. This is a powerful example of how as an academic discussion white privilege distracts the oppressed, and empowers the oppressor class to be employed in discussing systems they have no real interest in dismantling.

“The Nationalist”

Returning 9-14-13

#BlackPowerIsForBlackMen: Letters from Brothers Writing to Live \/ The Femin

#BlackPowerIsForBlackMen: Letters from Brothers Writing to Live

August 15, 2013

By 

By Brothers Writing to Live

fistsWe are a collective of black men dedicated to challenging the ideas of black masculinity and manhood through the written word. Through our work, we explore the ugliest parts of ourselves and our community, in the hope that we can illuminate the beauty that we know exists as well. We challenge each other daily to create and be more than what this racist, patriarchal society has raised us to be. But simply wanting it will not do. It requires tons of hard work, and much of that work includes listening to our sisters, black women, who tend to bear the brunt of our messiness. Unfortunately, in this regard, we have been woefully absent.

When the hashtag #Blackpowerisforblackmen, created by Ebony.comeditor Jamilah Lemeiux, took over Twitter, it was a clear sign that we haven’t been doing enough. Thousands of our sisters (and brothers) tweeted for hours about the imbalance in our community.  We, black men, tend to pride ourselves on our anti-white racial supremacy activism but often fail to reach out and consider the pain and trauma faced by the women in our lives. Our culture actively denigrates the very existence of black women. We take their love, support, nourishment, and spiritual presence for granted. As a whole, black men have not reciprocated our love and support in a way that affirms the humanity and dignity of black womanhood in the face of white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, sexual violence, and physical and verbal abuse.

#Blackpowerisforblackmen became the call, and as black men dedicated to fighting alongside our sisters, we have taken up the responsibility of answering. As individuals, we recognize where we have fallen short, and as a community we make a promise to participate in deep self-reflection and correction.

This ain’t just an apology; it’s a commitment.

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Dear @BougieBlackGurl, You tweeted the following: “I am supposed to give a cookie to the BM who are involved in their children’s lives while Single BW carry the blame #blackpowerisforblackmen”
father
When my daughters were babies—they are now 10 and 14—I used to relish the attention that I received when I was with them in public.  The expectations held out for Black fathers have often been so low, that Black men who even show a small amount of attention to their children are lauded; I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy being thought of as special.Yet being at daycare, or volunteering at school, I was also able to witness the women—often single mothers—who don’t parent for the prestige of it, but because it’s what they are supposed to do.  Save Mother’s Day and the Hip-Hop Awards Show shout-out (often uttered after rhetorically bashing a “baby-mama”), there is very little attention to those women who put in the work, because if they don’t, nobody else will.  And of course if they don’t, these women are blamed for failing, not only their children or their family, but the “Race” itself.And this is one of the ways that male privilege functions—that which is ordinary and mundane is deemed as exceptional when done by men. When these everyday activities are done by women, they are demeaned and devalued—and all we have to do is look at what we pay folks who work in so called “women’s professions” or the fact that we so devalue parenting that we think that those women who are raising children on their own, and perhaps on Federal or State assistance, should be required to work outside of the home, because apparently parenting is not really work.
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Dear Monifa Bandele (@monifabandele), You tweeted the following: “#blackpowerisforblackmen when trying to discuss gender privilege is black male bashing.”

Tomi Ungerer: black Power / White Power Poster

Tomi Ungerer: black Power / White Power Poster

I had one of those moments like the old folks do in church where all I could do was sway and say to myself “well ain’t that the truth.” It’s most disheartening because a quick glance at our past or present shows us just how dedicated black women have been to addressing the black men in this country. But when sisters speak up and ask us to consider the ways in which we have contributed to their oppression, we consider it an affront to our fragile sense of community and an attack on our manhood.

Undoubtedly, there were the brothers reacting with the predictable “not me!” responses. But those individual “not me’s!” aren’t enough to drown out the massive indifference to black women’s suffering at the hands of black men. We defend to the hilt the culture we’ve created around a toxic vision of masculinity, but can’t muster up a tenth of that energy to get into the streets and demand our sisters stop being raped, and then we pretend we don’t know what privilege is.

I heard one brother flat out say sexism isn’t the problem in our community. If ever there was a moment we could use a drop squad, that was it. We can pretend away the sexism and misogyny we inflict upon black women. We mirror the worst of the defense of racism when we do and enact untold damage to the bodies and psyches of the women who have loved us most. We can stand back and pretend, as black men, we’re the only ones under attack, as we’ve done, or we can acknowledge our culpability in oppressing black women and dedicate ourselves to striving for better. The choice should be clear.

Mychal (@mychalsmith)
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Dear @YoloAkili, “#BlackPowerisForBlackMen Becuz I can’t think of ONE national march that black men organized becuz a black woman was raped or killed.”

I must have reread your tweet a hundred times today. I understood fully, maybe for the first time, that black men who profess a love for black women can’t have it both ways. The truth is too true and the stakes are too high. We can’t, as I did, call Kendrick’s verse one of the dopest lyrical performances of the year when the song is bubbling with spectacular disses of black women and black femininity, then wonder why we never organized around the killing or rape of a black woman.

Photograph by: Darnell Moore (NYC March for Trayvon Martin 2013)

Photograph by: Darnell Moore (NYC March for Trayvon Martin 2013)

We can’t watch and participate in the national obliteration and shaming of Rachel Jeantel and wonder why we never organized around the killing or rape of a black woman. We can’t lie, cheat on, or manipulate black women while convincing black women it’s so hard for us then wonder why we never organized around the killing or rape of a black woman. We can’t literally and figuratively kill and rape black woman for fun, for free, for checks, for claps from our niggas, and wonder why we never organize around the killing or rape of black woman.

No art, no person, no relationship, no sexual fantasy that kills and rapes black women is going to stop black women from being killed, hurt, and raped. If our consumption and creation doesn’t affirm, accept, and explore the complicated lives of black women, we can’t be bout that life. No exceptions. Never. Shameful that after all this life, and education, and art creation, your tweet made me know that we really ain’t been bout shit. We really been encouraging black women’s death while leaning on black women for survival. Sorry ain’t enough.

Kiese (@KieseLaymon)

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Dear @PrestonMitchum, ”@PrestonMitchum: #blackpowerisforblackmen because as sad as it already was, what if Trayvon were a woman?”

What if Trayvon were a woman? After reading your tweet, I contemplated that question for hours. I thought about everything I read about Trayvon Martin. I thought about all the conversations I had about Trayvon Martin. I tried to remember similar conversations about female-identified individuals. They really didn’t exist. And when they did, they were framed in the context of blaming the victim for something “she” should have done to prevent the horrendous actions perpetrated against her. If Trayvon were a woman, the story would have been told though the lens of a male because our society always allows men to speak for women, believing this act gives women a voice. We have yet to truly move past ideas of coverture and do the work to train our sons, husbands, brothers, and male friends to  view women not as property but as equal partners.silence

The silencing of women is so deafening that even in life and death we want to dictate the terms of how a women can give life or how we would tell her story in death. I don’t profess to understand the myriad ways my male-privilege continually operates to suppress and oppress women but I can celebrate all women and I can do the work to love women as Rainer Maria Rilke teaches. — “Love is the commitment to be the witness to someone else’s joy in life, not to be that joy.”

Wade (@Wade_Davis28)

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Dear @Blade_Varzity, ”#blackpowerisforblackmen Can someone explain exactly how BM are stopping BW from addressing ANY of these issues they’re tweeting about?”

scaleBlade, I have come to realize that sometimes we as people,who exist on the scale of oppression (I am a Black man of immigrant parentage from a ghetto in Brooklyn who spent 1/3 of his life in prison), are so easily blinded by our own marginalized place on that scale that we are unable to see how we contribute to the oppression of others. I say this not as an indictment on you in any way, but as an expression of understanding and realization of the shrewd nature of the hierarchy of oppression and our subconscious infatuation with our own oppression.

As Black men in a patriarchal, white supremacist world it’s so easy not to realize our own male privilege because in comparison to white male (and female) privilege, we think our whatever-privilege is minuscule. But, however minuscule, it DOES exist, particularly in the eyes of Black women, and especially when we, black men, don’t acknowledge our role in their oppression as Black Women.

Like I said Blade, this is not an accusation just an observation. Peace, bruh. 

Marlon (@marlon_79)

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Dear Yolo Akili Robinson (@YoloAkili), You tweeted the following: “#BlackPowerisForBlackMen becuz even in the Black LGBT community MALE voices (cis/trans) r still privileged over all women&genderqueer folks.”

Damn, bro! Your words hit me hard—in the best way possible.

I am a gay black man who has been skilled at calling out white racism and heterosexism as weapons that have stifled my own senses of freedom. I even try to do the type of self-work necessary to understand my complicity in sexism and the part I play in maintaining the patriarchy, but I know that I can do and be better.

hrcI can do better at not only calling out sexism, misogyny, transphobia, rape culture, and so much else, but I can be a better brother to my cis and trans sisters (regardless of their sexual identities) by not taking up too much space (when I know that some spaces are often made available to me precisely because I am a black gay cis man). That is the work, my work, for sure.

We black gay men have models of the “better,” however. My brother Kai M. Green (@Kai_MG) reminded me that some of our black gay male elders (who, too, benefited from the unearned privilege of maleness) worked hard to think and practice feminism. Kai tweeted: “#blackpowerisforblackmen bcuz we 4get Joseph Beam and Marlon Riggs were Blk feminists 2. Feminism isn’t just for cis women–>we ALL need it!” Yes, feminism is for all of us. I am in community with women I can learn with/from, remain accountable to, and engage transformative personal and social justice work alongside. I want my sisters and critically conscious brothers, as my brother Kiese once wrote, “to knock my hustle” when need be. I will do the same for you and others. That is the only way I can grow. The only way that we can be better. The only way that I/we might truly show up as allies in the struggle to end patriarchy, the power-driven reign of “the man” (and not just the one imagined as white, but also the one who stares us black men back in the face when we look in the mirror).

Darnell (@moore_darnell)

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Dear Raequel Solomon (@systris2h), ”cause tyler perry and steve harvey are deemed worthy of telling US how we should be living? #blackpowerisforblackmen”

Your tweet is complicated and my feelings towards both Tyler Perry and Steve Harvey are as complicated. I’m assuming the “US” that you are referring to is black women; but even if that isn’t the case, the black community at large is still deeply affected by these two men and the public platforms they occupy. I don’t know who is deeming Perry and Harvey as “worthy” and again, I’m assuming because of the hashtag that accompanied your tweet you may have meant black men are. But I’m completely convinced what is responsible for this “christening” of Harvey and Perry’s black sagaciousness is not a population, but an institution and a doctrine.tyler-perry-steve-harvey

Black living is messy and difficult and is more trial and error than anything else. Anything or body that says otherwise is standing on the side of black powerlessness as opposed to black power. What is also crucial in my conceptualizing this tweet is the context that black media has carved into this moment of post-racial hopscotch and difference’s reduction. The sheer number of black faces and spaces in American media is slim to none and the ability to choose with a convicted agency is placed in jeopardy as a result. But a choice is nonetheless being made.

It would be misguided and misinformed to approach this tweet without sensitivity to gender’s role in producing it. Yes, Steve Harvey and Tyler Perry are black men and, yes, black men have participated in the patriarchal tradition of speaking for and over black women, but issues of hegemony and capitalist seduction aside, the consumers of products made by these two men make a choice to support their products and never should we, as black people, attack the people choosing or producing the product, but instead the product itself. Bottom line is this – the interrogation of the function and usefulness of the tangible products that make up a black social reality is a fundamental method to form and maintain black power in this profit-driven, privately influenced market we know as America.

Peace,

Hashim Khalil Pipkin (@ablkCharlieBrwn)

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Dear Charlene Carruthers (@charlenecac),

You tweeted, “#blackpowerisforBlackmen because Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Denmark Vesey would never end up in a sex tape spoof.” You also tweeted, “Uncle Rush and Co. didn’t just pick a nameless black woman. They picked our ‘Black Moses.’ The gun wielding guide to freedom.”

You made me revisit Audre Lorde’s call for women to make use of the erotic as a source of power, a source of power that because of patriarchy, misogyny, and white supremacy has been deemed solely pornographic. There is power in the erotic—it is a site of reproduction, a site of intimacy (intimate relationships with lovers, intimate relationships with kin, intimate relationships with violence, loss and death), and a site of struggle. The erotic terrain is a site of embodied knowledge. That Black men like Uncle Rush and Co. feel it is funny to make a sex tape starring Harriet Tubman is violent and sick. They went back and sexually violated a historical figure and then disappeared the evidence (the video), but the deed was done and those ghosts will continue to haunt us like so many other “nameless Black women,”–-we must speak up. The struggle that Black women have had and continue to endure in order to gain access to their erotic power is real.tumblr_mcl7neINkP1rpkenpo1_400

Although Audre Lorde’s call was to women, it is clear that men, Black men especially, need to interrogate the erotic as well (Thank you Alexis Pauline Gumbs for this lesson). The erotic for Black men has been distorted by a violent type of pornography perpetuated by Black men as well as others—it is the notion that Black manhood is only fully realized when men through domination take control of their houses, their women, and their stuff. The erotic as a source of knowledge cannot be fully reached until we, Black men, let go of our ideas about reclamation of some ideal manhood that was taken from us. We must let go of manhood as ownership. We spend so much time trying to reclaim some sense of humanity through manhood that we don’t see how we become the oppressors in our quests to reclaim.

If we could only realize that everything we need, we have. But then that is scary, because what is it that Black men have that we don’t want to face? Lorde stated that the erotic “lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane.” Hortense Spillers says, “It is the heritage of the mother that the African-American male must regain as an aspect of his own personhood–the power of the ‘yes’ to the ‘female’ within.”

For Black men to really be able to interrogate the erotic, we must face the real truth of our vulnerability, too. Because though we will not see a sex tape spoof of Booker T. Washington, we know that historically and in the present day, Black men’s bodies also archive dis-(re)membering sexual traumas. We too were made to bend over and open up, taking in whatever the master decided to feed us that night. But if we cannot face that in ourselves and in our bodies because we only see it as emasculation, then we lose our erotic power. We lose the power to unite with Black women. We lose the power to ultimately unite with our full selves. We lose the power to analyze the ways in which we become oppressors because we are no longer able to see Black male privilege–we only see white racism and white men. We reach for that white power not realizing we have access to something much greater, much more generative, right here in our own bodies as Black men.

Black men need to do as Hortense Spillers says and interrogate that being that we are encouraged to despise, the being that we fear will destroy our manhood, that Black woman that lies deep in us—this strength is also this vulnerability.

We are not enemies, Black men and women. Black men need to recognize that critique is love. Love asks us to grow. We need to grow.

I want you to trust me.

I understand that the love of a Black woman is a privilege often times devalued, but I value you and your love. I value the love of Harriet Tubman. I value the love of my mother—Black love, tough love, deep love, mama love, granny and auntie love, lover love, sweet potato pie love, I’m tired from working all day love, get the holy ghost and pass out love, get school clothes for baby while you still wear that same ol’ raggedy dress and make it look good love, stay up all night and watch over me when I’m sick love, I’m tired of yo’ triflin’ ass I’m leavin’ love, I’m hurt love, I’m exhausted but I’m still gonna make you dinner love, You locked up so I’mma hold it down for you love, gansta love, Black professional don’t have time to cook but let’s share a glass of wine love, I will carry your stash love, I will go down on your behalf love, I will testify in court love, young love, hot love, you getting on my nerves love, love love, Black women’s love is God love.

I will do my part to reflect that love. I will hold you when I am strong and when I am weak. I stand with you. And I vow to you that no quest for freedom of mine will begin with the devaluation of your body, spirit or intellect. I vow to listen to you. I vow to stay open to being checked, but I will not wait on you to check me. I will work to check myself too, because I understand that feminism isn’t just about your liberation, it’s about OUR liberation. If my manhood becomes a placeholder for my humanity, we are doomed. But I want to live, love.

<3Kai (@Kai_MG)

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Several members of the Brothers Writing to Live Collective

Several members of the Brothers Writing to Live Collective

Brothers Writing to Live is a group of black cis and trans-men who hail from spaces across the United States. We come from myriad neighborhoods, diverse familial backgrounds, and different life worlds. We are different, indeed. And, yet, in so many ways we are the same. We are black male identified writers whose notions of blackness, manhood, and writing are as assorted as our multifaceted lives. Whether we have come from the red clay roads of Mississippi or the cement paved streets of New York City, through our writings we have mapped out similarities regarding the ways that racism, gender restrictions, capitalism, heteropatriarchy, ableism, economic disenfranchisement, heteronormativity, criminal (in)justice systems, and so much else has shaped the men that we have become and yet to be. This campaign has united the following black male writers:

Kiese Laymon, Writer & Professor at Vassar College

Mychal Denzel Smith, Writer, Mental Health Advocate, & Cultural Critic

Kai M. Green, Writer, Filmmaker, & Ph.D Candidate at USC

Marlon Peterson., Writer & Youth & Community Advocate

Mark Anthony Neal, Writer, Cultural Critic, & Professor at Duke University

Hashim Pipkin, Writer, Cultural Critic, Ph.D. Candidate at Vanderbilt University

Wade Davis, II, Writer, LGBTQ Advocate, & Former NFL Player

Darnell L. Moore, Writer & Activist