Posted by Libergirl
Posted by Libergirl
Jim Young / Reuters
With sales of Diet Coke in a prolonged rut, Coca-Cola announced last Wednesday that it is tweaking the design of its most famous zero-calorie soft-drink can to be more slender and colorful. It is also launching several new flavors of Diet Coke, including “Feisty Cherry,” “Twisted Mango,” and “Zesty Blood Orange.”
“You don’t mess with a good thing,” Coca-Cola said in its statement. But, quite to the contrary, Coca-Cola is in a near-permanent state of messing with its things. The first version of Diet Coke debuted in 1982. The very next year, the company released a caffeine-free Diet Coke, and a cherry-flavored variety followed in 1986. This century, several more flavors have joined the family, including lemon, vanilla, lime, black cherry, and raspberry.
These changes—in addition, of course, to the old standards—amounted to a winning formula. At the peak of soft-drink consumption in the mid-2000s, America consumed 53 gallons of soda per person each year—more than half a liter, per person, per day.
But soda’s prospects have since fizzled. Diet Coke may still be the second-most popular soda in the country, but soft-drink consumption has declined every year this decade, according to an analysis shared with The Atlantic by the research group IBISWorld. In its last annual report, Coca-Cola said that the volume of Diet Coke sold in North America declined by 5 percent—more than any other Coca-Cola beverage brand identified in the report.
Per Capita Soft-Drink Consumption
It’s not hard to understand Diet Coke’s imploding popularity: The diet beverage is suffering both as a diet product and as a beverage.
A growing consumer focus on health has clearly dented soda’s dominion. Beyond widespread concerns of the dangers of artificial sweeteners, government research has found that daily drinkers of diet soda are at higher risk for strokes and other “vascular events.” While Diet Coke’s new can designs are tall and slender—a possible reference to the body type a diet-beverage drinker seeks—more of them simply don’t trust any kind of soda to be a part of a healthy diet. Between 2000 and 2015, switching from sodas to other beverages saved the country an estimated 64 trillion calories in total—that works out to 71 fewer calories per day, per drinker.
At the same time that academics have questioned the health effects of soda, the U.S. has undergone a profound change in its taste for liquids, in three major ways.
First, bottled water has transformed from an ecologically dubious ordinary consumer product to an ecologically dubious economic juggernaut. Since 2000, bottled-water consumption has tripled. In 2016, the volume of it consumed surpassed that of soda in the United States for the first time ever, according to data from the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC). Meanwhile, related categories such as flavored water and flavored seltzer water have grown even faster, albeit from a much smaller base. Sales of so-called “value-added” water, like Coca-Cola’s vitaminwater, have grown by nearly 3,000 percent since the turn of the century, according to BMC. The flavored-seltzer market is growing by more than 10 percent annually, with the top five brands—Sparkling Ice, LaCroix, Perrier, San Pellegrino, and Polar—now accounting for $1.2 billion in yearly sales.
Second, whereas many Americans once turned to Diet Coke to power their afternoons, these days the market for energy-giving beverages is crowded. At the peak of Diet Coke craze, in the early 2000s, soft drinks outsold coffee by a three-to-one margin in the U.S. But thanks to rising coffee consumption (and coffee’s high price, relative to soda), the U.S. coffee industry is on track to surpass domestic soda sales sometime in the early 2020s. Meanwhile, sales of energy drinks in the U.S. have grown by more than 5,000 percent this century, according to analysis from the BMC.
Finally, while Diet Coke is still one of the most popular sodas in the country, it’s losing market share to more-flavorful beverages. Many drinkers prefer the richer taste of classic Coca-Cola, which is still growing worldwide. Sales of Sprite and Fanta are also rising in the U.S., according to Coca-Cola’s financial reports. Research has shown that black cans and avoiding the word diet in beverage titles lures male consumers; indeed, the black-bottled Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is growing at Diet Coke’s expense.
But slender bottles with streaks of color probably won’t arrest Diet Coke’s demise. As the Harvard business professor and author Clayton Christensen has written, products and customers have certain “jobs” that need to be done. One could argue that, in the last decade, all of the jobs of Diet Coke are being outsourced to superior beverages. The role of hydration has been outsourced to bottled water and sports drinks, like Gatorade. Getting a jolt of energy has been outsourced to coffee and energy drinks, like 5-Hour Energy. And the satisfaction of a cold liquid fizzing on one’s tongue? That’s been outsourced to the trendy crop of flavored seltzers, like LaCroix. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter what the Diet Coke can looks like. Young people know what’s inside the can. Perhaps that’s precisely why they’re drinking so much less of it.
By DEREK THOMPSON/TheAtlantic
Posted by The NON-Conformist
We are now experiencing the coming to the surface of a triple prong sickness … [that] has been lurking within our body politic from its very beginning … the sickness of racism, excessive materialism and militarism. … the plague of western civilization.
—Martin Luther King, Aug. 31, 1967
We kill the most beautiful among us—anyone, it seems, who reveals the nastier, brutish elements of American society and has the audacity to imagine, demand even, a better path: peace, unity and tolerance. Abraham Lincoln, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and so many others.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of King’s tragic assassination, and though countless publications will brim with commemorations and retrospectives of this misunderstood icon, most will miss the mark. Long ago co-opted and sanitized by mainstream political figures, the King of memory bears little resemblance to the radical, complex man himself.
He’s remembered by Democrats and Republicans alike as the “good,” “peaceful” civil rights leader—a useful foil for the “bad” activists of the black power movement, the Stokely Carmichaels, Malcolm Xs and Huey Newtons of the world. In reality, the categories were never so neat, the commonalities staggering.
In a sense, we all—white and black, liberal and conservative—have our own King. My King is the provocative King, the critic of bigotry but also of capitalism and the Vietnam War. The King, in truth, who has been willfully concealed from view.
When I arrived at the American history department at West Point in 2014, I—a white, heterosexual, military man—was handed the portfolio and teaching load on civil rights. Everyone else, it seemed, studied the American Revolution or the Civil War, and, well, I came across as vaguely progressive and willing, at least compared with my peers. A former student of counterinsurgency operations in Northern Ireland, I decided to ditch the old scholarship and embrace my new role. I’ve never looked back. I taught classes and led an annual summer excursion for cadets to visit with movement veterans across the South. I, along with two academy law professors, faced an immediate challenge: the cadets’—and most Americans’—utter misunderstanding of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King himself.
After 50 years, with the United States again locked in racial conflict, culture wars, gaping inequality and perpetual global war, now seems as good a time as any to take stock of the state of King’s “three evils”: racism, materialism and militarism.
The cry of “Black Power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear … the economic plight of the Negro poor.
They are all linked, by the way. To treat each challenge as discrete is to rob them of their intertwined, inescapable power. Racism is a no-brainer. We’ve not come as far as we like to believe. Sure, there’s been the Brown v. Board ruling, Civil and Voting Rights Acts, even a black president. Nevertheless, each of these historic victories is being rolled back before our eyes. Schools are again as segregated as they’ve been in two generations. Conservative courts have dismantled key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Heck, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions—a man too racist to serve as a federal district judge in the 1980s—heads the Justice Department.
Race and empire are intimately connected. Look only to the unprecedented militarization of the nation’s police—decked out in camo fatigues and sporting the same armored vehicles we drove in Baghdad—and the never-ending catalog of racially charged brutality cases nationwide for evidence. America resembles two armed camps, physically and intellectually isolated from each other. Five decades into an unwinnable and racially biased war on drugs, black men still fill the prisons in this nation—which has by far the highest rate of incarceration worldwide. In 2018 in the U.S., a black male is nine times as likely to serve time as a citizen of the next worst country: Cuba. We’ve got a long way to go.
The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.
The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.
We inhabit a peculiar moment, when most Americans hardly look up from their smartphones long enough to realize they’re missing “Real Housewives.” The vacuous world of celebrity worship and material preoccupation does not lend itself to the impassioned activism King demanded. Unfettered, free-market capitalism—enabled by neoliberal Democrats like the Clintons—has gutted the American dream and rendered it an unattainable nightmare for many. The empirical evidence is staggering.
Income inequality in the (ostensibly) egalitarian United States has reached its worst levels since the Gilded Age. Wages for the working class have been stagnant for 40 years, while the superrich bask in an embarrassment of riches. The federal minimum wage is worth less in real dollars than it was 50 years ago.
Yet it’s all so much worse than that. Obsessive materialism and big money (think pharma, oil, fracking) in politics have set American culture in the express lane to existential disaster. Most of us live a delusion, wishing away the gathering storm of global warming while chasing immediate gratification from social media clicks. Soon after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, Syria finally joined up, making America the true, lone international pariah. Really doubling down, Trump’s recently released National Security Strategy completely removed climate change from the Pentagon’s list of threats. I’m sure King would approve.
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.
One could plausibly argue that the United States remains a prominent purveyor of death, or at least chaos, across much of the planet today. It is this—the third of King’s evils—with which I am myself most familiar. Alas, in 2018, American militarism is alive and well, ranging from the symbolic martial pageantry pervading the National Football League to an ongoing, expanding and genuinely global war. Thanks to painstaking research at Brown University, we now know the U.S. military is conducting counterterror operations—all undeclared wars—in 76 countries. The bill so far? Some 7,000 dead American soldiers (eight of my own), 1.3 million war-related Arab/Muslim deaths, 10 million refugees and $5.6 trillion dollars. For this, we’ve gotten 30 times more worldwide terror attacks than occurred in 2001. What a steal.
Taking further stock of the state of U.S. militarism requires a macabre tour of direct and sponsored operations across the greater Middle East. In Yemen, the United States is complicit in Saudi terror bombing—providing munitions and in-flight refueling—that is causing famine and a world-record cholera epidemic in the Arab world’s poorest nation. In Syria and Iraq, the (perhaps justifiable) campaign against Islamic State resulted in far more civilian deaths than originally reported. Ceaseless backing of the far-right Israeli government has helped facilitate an incessant state of siege of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. also backs dictators, kings or strongmen with abhorrent human rights records far and wide across the region, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. Sure, they’re crooks, sure, they gun down protesters, sure they behead women for “sorcery,” but hey, at least they’re our crooks.
The point is as simple as it is disturbing: While there are many “purveyors of violence” in the world today, the United States is far from innocent. Militarism is alive, well and growing in our increasingly martial culture. In King’s time, young Vietnamese girls burned in napalm strikes signified this mindset. Today, perhaps the consummate image is a starving Yemeni child.
In America, in the fifties and sixties, one of the important crises we faced was racial discrimination. The man whose words and deeds in that crisis stirred our nation to the very depths of its soul was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
—President Ronald Reagan, 1983
When a Hollywood performer [Reagan], lacking distinction even as an actor can become a leading war hawk candidate for the presidency, only the irrationalities induced by a war psychosis can explain such a melancholy turn of events.
That neoliberal and neoconservative voices—along with mainstream figures in both parties—annually pay dutiful homage to King, without uttering a word about materialism or militarism, is a national disgrace. That former President Reagan, hero of the contemporary right, would publicly praise him, borders on the absurd. Lest we forget, Reagan, after all, made the first stop on his general election campaign in Neshoba County, Miss.—praising “states’ rights” in the city where three civil rights workers were famously murdered in 1964. He also initially opposed the bill officially designating Martin Luther King Day. Refusing to deny that King was a “communist,” Reagan would only say, “We’ll only know in about 35 years, won’t we?” And by the way, there are still four sitting (Republican) senators who voted against the MLK holiday: Richard Shelby of Alabama (no surprise there), Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Orrin (There’s No Blacks in Utah) Hatch and (disturbingly) John McCain of Arizona.
Every year, we’re treated to the same hypocrisy. Mainstream figures in both parties—some who vote for massive tax breaks for the rich, nearly all who support America’s endless wars—publicly laud and then invoke the ghost of King. None lays out a 21st century plan to implement MLK’s still incomplete vision. They have no such plan. They were bought and sold by corporate elites and the military-industrial complex long ago. On the right, some even engage in the fantasy that King was actually a Republican. He wasn’t. Truth be told, King would fit into neither of the two parties today. His platform and favored issues hardly receive public airing anywhere but the fringe left. Nonetheless, both Democrats and Republicans invoke King’s ghost every January for petty political gain. It’s heinous.
Republicans especially, but also centrist liberals, want us to believe King was one thing only: a narrow, nonviolent civil rights activist. That he gave only one speech: about a dream of his black daughters attending school with young white girls. They’ve sanitized him, castrated his message, omitted (through strikingly Orwellian “new speak”) his uncomfortable quotes. They’ve done so with nefarious intentions and political agenda: convince the masses that King’s revolution is over, completed, final. Stop complaining, stay out of the streets, there’s no reason to protest. Be thankful for what you have.
By Maj. Danny Sjursen/truthdig
Posted by The NON-Conformist
It takes a level of pomposity inconceivable to most of us to describe another country as a “shithole.”
It’s unfortunately just one more of the obnoxious, racist, and altogether absurd statements we’ve come to expect from President Donald Trump. If the president were to venture beyond the manicured lawns of Mar-a-Lago or the White House, he might see that the U.S. is not exactly in a position to judge, much less denigrate, our global neighbors.
In case you missed it, here’s what Trump reportedly said: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He was referencing Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, and apparently most of Africa. He went on to ask why more people from Norway (a nearly all white country) weren’t coming to the U.S.
Trump and his defenders completely ignore the direct and disgraceful role America has played in making life worse in the countries he cited. Among many other things, we’ve backed right-wing death squads in El Salvador, supported cruel dictators in Haiti, and trapped poor countries the world over in debt through International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans with tight strings attached.
I’ll leave it to foreign relations scholars to parse the rest. What I’m concerned about is Trump’s complete lack of concern over the “shit-holiness” of the country he leads.
Gandhi taught us that a country’s greatness is measured not by its richest, but by how it treats its most vulnerable members. By this measure, the U.S. is a certified shithole.
The U.S. is the wealthiest country on earth. Yet one in five children here will go to bed hungry tonight. Thirteen million American children live in poverty, the highest rate among the world’s wealthy countries.
One shining light for poor American kids is that almost all of them have health insurance, thanks to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) put in place in 1997. That light is rather dim right now, however, as Congress waffles on funding the program, leaving millions of children’s lives in the balance.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, conducted a two-week tour of the U.S. in late 2017. He found some of the most extreme inequality anywhere in the world.
“The United States is one of the world’s richest and most powerful and technologically innovative countries,” Alston wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian, “but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty.”
America also has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, the highest infant mortality rate among developed countries, and is the only industrialized country not to guarantee health care as a basic human right. The list goes on, but you get the point.
As Alston put it, “Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy.”
This is not to say that many, many Americans aren’t living happy, healthy, wealthy lives. They are. And some kids born into poverty will someday work their way to financial security. But the proportion of those actually succeed is steadily shrinking.
Still, this is a country where disoriented hospital patients can be dumped on the street in freezing cold weather, wearing only their thin hospital gowns—as a viral videorecently captured happening to a woman in Baltimore.
Fortunately, far from the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, dedicated activists and organizers are working tirelessly to make the U.S. a better place. Social movements like the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, Indivisible, #MeToo, and a new Poor People’s Campaign are leading the nation in this direction.
Leaders, some whose names we’ll never know, are doing the tireless work to right the wrongs and correct deep-rooted injustices. They know that despite Trump’s slogan, this country has never really been “great” for everyone. They’re the ones working to clean this shithole up.
By Josh Hoxie / Fortune
Posted by The NON-Conformist
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, fifty years ago this April, marked a blow to the struggle for racial equality from which the nation has still not healed. In an essay published in Esquire in April 1972, James Baldwin reflected on attending the funeral, and how King’s death signaled the end of civility for the civil-rights movement. At turns heartbreaking and hopeful, Baldwin’s words are as powerful—and urgent—as ever.
This year marks the 85th anniversary of Esquire. To commemorate this historical moment, each issue of the magazine in 2018 will feature a classic Esquire story written by an iconic Esquire author that feels as timely today as the year it was originally published.
An Introduction By Michael Eric Dyson
On April 9, 1968, thirteen hundred people filed into Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta for the private funeral of a man who, like his father before him, had once served as its pastor: the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Attendees included Thurgood Marshall, Wilt Chamberlain, Marlon Brando, Dizzy Gillespie, Stokely Carmichael, and Robert F. Kennedy, who’d be killed less than two months later. The choir, 160 strong, sang sorrowful hymns. Ralph David Abernathy, cofounder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, officiated. A lone singer performed a devastating rendition of “My Father Watches Over Me.” But the most memorable speaker that morning—a haunting baritone piped out of tinny speakers that left his four children startled—was King himself.
“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral,” King pleaded posthumously in a recording from his “Drum Major Instinct” sermon given two months earlier and played at the behest of his widow, Coretta. He didn’t get his wish: The service lasted two hours, followed by a public, nationally broadcast funeral held that afternoon at King’s alma mater, Morehouse College. Such pageantry was a too-familiar vessel into which black pain was stuffed at moments like this, moments when suffering made no sense, moments for which we had no words. Yet the writer—especially one whose fiery style was forged in the pulpit of his church-bound boyhood—must have words. In “Malcolm and Martin,” as the essay was titled, James Baldwin recalled King’s funeral “the most real church service I’ve ever sat through in my life” and then grappled with the national undoing set loose by his death. Baldwin knew that America could survive only if it underwent an extraordinary social transformation—equality for all, hatred for none—that echoed the most noble ideals set out by our founding fathers. (That is, when they set aside their blinding bigotry.) But he also knew that King’s death, and Malcolm X’s in 1965, were signs the nation refused to acknowledge that the key to its salvation was held by those very people whom it had enslaved. The former quickly embraced pacifism; the latter was an advocate for black freedom at any cost. But the daily battles took a toll on both men, and their views had begun to converge—Malcolm mellowed; Martin grew more radical—so that, as Baldwin wrote, “by the time each met his death there was practically no difference between them.” Not that the country much cared about the particulars; the American experiment had once again bet against its redemption by black moral genius and lost.
America, Baldwin believed, was split in two—not between North and South but between the powerful and the disenfranchised. Racism, that scourge that beclouded our democracy, remained—remains—the nation’s greatest peril. But the powerful maintained the status quo by sowing discord among the disenfranchised. Poor white folk, rather than uniting with their socioeconomically oppressed brothers and sisters against the rich, trained their targets on poor black folk. They channeled their anxieties into a vengeance against blackness.
In this way, Baldwin predicted the forces that would one day lead to the return of xenophobic white nationalism, to the rise of Donald Trump. But to say Baldwin was ahead of his time is to miss his point: America will always need a prophet—a Malcolm, a Martin. The powerful will always seek to silence that prophet, instead trying to achieve the nation’s redemption on the cheap—not through self- correction but through crimson-stained violence that sacrifices the Other, whether black or brown or queer or immigrant. Fifty years after one lone prophet who didn’t make it to forty gave up the ghost on a bland balcony in Memphis, this essay is proof that King’s legacy, and Baldwin’s words, remain vital.
Since Martin’s death, in Memphis, and that tremendous day in Atlanta, something has altered in me, something has gone away. Perhaps even more than the death itself, the manner of his death has forced me into a judgment concerning human life and human beings which I have always been reluctant to make—indeed, I can see that a great deal of what the knowledgeable would call my life-style is dictated by this reluctance. Incontestably, alas, most people are not, in action, worth very much; and yet every human being is an unprecedented miracle. One tries to treat them as the miracles they are, while trying to protect oneself against the disasters they’ve become. This is not very different from the act of faith demanded by all those marches and petitions while Martin was still alive. One could scarcely be deluded by Americans anymore, one scarcely dared expect anything from the great, vast, blank generality; and yet one was compelled to demand of Americans—and for their sakes, after all—a generosity, a clarity, and a nobility which they did not dream of demanding of themselves. Part of the error was irreducible, in that the marchers and petitioners were forced to suppose the existence of an entity which, when the chips were down, could not be located—i.e., there are no American people yet. Perhaps, however, the moral of the story (and the hope of the world) lies in what one demands, not of others, but of oneself. However that may be, the failure and the betrayal are in the record book forever, and sum up and condemn, forever, those descendants of a barbarous Europe who arbitrarily and arrogantly reserve the right to call themselves Americans. The mind is a strange and terrible vehicle, moving according to rigorous rules of its own; and my own mind, after I had left Atlanta, began to move backward in time, to places, people, and events I thought I had forgotten. Sorrow drove it there, I think, sorrow, and a certain kind of bewilderment, triggered, perhaps, by something which happened to me in connection with Martin’s funeral.
You’ve probably heard that right now, in the year 2018, African men, women and children are being sold at slave auctions in Libya. What you may not have heard is that Israel—the recipient of more United States military aid than any other country in the world—is putting tens of thousands of Africans at risk of torture at the hands of those very slave traders. How did these refugees come to find themselves in Israel to begin with? And why is Israel now expelling them all?
First of all, Israel is connected to Africa—northeast Africa. And as African people flee the dictatorships oppressing them and ethnically cleansing them, they flee in every direction, including northeast, to Israel. Those that have fled to Israel believed its claim to be a democracy, and thought that a state supposedly established to provide a safe haven for refugees would understand them and grant them asylum.
But they were wrong. In 2012, Israel built a high-tech fence on its border, cutting the country off from the rest of the African continent, to ensure that no more refugees could enter. And once it was completed, the government worked on forcing out the 65,000 African refugees that had already made it into the country. At first, Israel feared what the world would say if it sent these refugees right back to the tortures they had fled. So instead of outright deporting them, it announced an official policy to “make their lives miserable” in order to drive them all out.
Hundreds of Israeli chief rabbis issued a joint religious edict decreeing that it is a sin against God to rent apartments to African refugees. Israel’s political leaders baselessly accused the Africans of being incorrigible criminals and of spreading diseases. And for years, the government outright refused to examine African refugees’ asylum requests. When it finally did, Israel earned itself the distinction of having a higher refugee rejection rate than any other country in the world, over 99 percent.
And then the government built the largest detention center in the world, and rounded into it thousands of refugees off the streets of Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. All this in order to “make their lives miserable,” so that they buckle to the pressure, grudgingly relent and agree to self-deport back to Africa. In this way, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to ethnically cleanse the country of between a third and a half of all African refugees in just five years.
All this was bad enough. But now an old-new evil spirit is sweeping across the globe. Buoyed by a worldwide wave of white supremacy, Netanyahu now realizes that it’s no longer necessary to coerce consent from these African refugees in order to deport them. Netanyahu’s new plan is to simply round up the remaining 35,000 African refugees, and physically force them out of the country. If any refugees refuse to leave, Israel will jail them for life. In December, the measure passed in the Israeli parliament with a large majority, and the country’s Supreme Court gave the policy its stamp of approval.
Netanyahu is beginning to boast about Israeli xenophobia, and trying to convince some European Union allies to adopt its racist policies—and purchase its high-tech fences to keep refugees from reaching Fortress Europe. If Israel is allowed to expel its remaining African refugees, it will send a clear message to the EU that it’s legitimate for any country to adopt anti-refugee rules and keep out black and brown people that are fleeing for their lives—without even a sense of shame.
Let’s not pretend that Israel is some kind of safe haven for black folks. In recent years, the government’s racist rhetoric has led to lots of vigilante violence against this community. African refugees have been murdered by Israeli lynch mobs across the country. Even the babies of African refugees have been violently attacked by Israeli racists: In Tel Aviv, a kindergarten was firebombed, and a 1-year-old baby was stabbed in the head. No Israeli has ever been sentenced to jail for any of these savage hate crimes.
But the fate that awaits these refugees if they are forced out of Israel will be far worse. Israel has bribed the government of Rwanda with tens of millions of dollars to agree to take in the refugees that Israel expels. But the refugees aren’t granted status there. Instead their documents are confiscated, and they are quickly forced to leave the country and begin their search for safe haven all over again, from scratch. While seeking protection in Europe, they are falling into captivity in Libya, where they are tortured and raped, mutilated and murdered.
By David Sheen/truthdig
Posted by The NON-Conformist
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts with #MeToo have been used tens of millions of times since the hashtag was initially used in October, when actor Alyssa Milano set off the social media storm by posting, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”
Within 24 hours the hashtag had been used on Twitter 825,000 times, and on Facebook, 4.7 million people had used it in 12 million posts.
But there’s another “me too” story, about a movement that began a decade before it was a hashtag.
In 2006, Tarana Burke, founder and director of Just Be Inc. and senior director of Girls for Gender Equity, founded the program me too Movement. Its goal is to empower young women of color who have been sexually abused, assaulted, or exploited, women from marginalized communities. These are the women missing from media discussions of celebrity cases such as Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, and Louis C.K. They are the survivors of sexual harassment and assault that occur in ordinary work spaces, or schools, churches, homes of friends or family members, or the streets of their neighborhoods. But they lack the resources, class status, or even the acceptable skin color to have their stories told.
I recently had a conversation with Burke about the decade-old me too Movement, the recent social media campaign, and what’s in store for me too in 2018.
This interview has been lightly edited.
Zenobia Jeffries: How did Just Be’s “me too Movement” begin? How is it different from the current social media campaign?
Tarana Burke: My work started in support of Black and brown girls in the community in Alabama. And it grew to be about supporting Black and brown women and girls across the country. And beyond that it grew to be about supporting marginalized people in marginalized communities. And it was very specifically about supporting survivors. It didn’t deal with the perpetrators so much as it dealt with supporting the survivors.
And so this iteration in social media has placed a larger focus on perpetrators being called out and held accountable for their actions. But the actual me too Movement is about supporting sexual assault survivors. So that’s where it’s different.
Jeffries: On your site you mention, as an example, young girls in school being harassed or made to commit sexual acts or perform sexual acts under duress. That reminded me of a story I recently learned of about a young mother in St. Louis who was similarly sexually exploited, but by a police officer. Andrea Ritchie, talks about stories like hers in her book Invisible No More. Can you talk about the dynamics of those gray areas for women between consent and compliance or coercion?
Burke: Right, she felt intimidated. By the nature of being a police officer there’s a certain power and authority that you hold, stature that you hold, that immediately qualifies it as coercion in my opinion.
The gray area is really important to talk about because so many of us live in the gray area. People talk a lot about how men are confused about consent and they don’t know if they should touch this or touch that, or ask.
But I also think there are issues around consent for women as well because we’ve been socialized to believe that we have to give in to the whims of men. That you have to well, OK, he asked three times, he asked four times, I gave in on the fifth time. And I’m not saying that giving in is automatically sexual assault, but it definitely is a gray area.
Or cases of people with their spouse or their partner who are forced into sexual acts. There’s just so many nuances that we don’t cover. And what we’ve been raised on is media giving us the stranger danger, the person that you see in the dark alley ready to jump you. And that happens, there are definitely lots of cases of women being sexually assaulted by strangers, or at gunpoint as part of a robbery or things like that.
But more often than not, the reality is we live in the gray areas around sexual violence.
Jeffries: How do we—men and women—effectively navigate those gray areas?
Burke: I just don’t think that you can policy your way, or legislate your way, into teaching somebody to treat another person as a human being. You can incentivize it in that way, or make consequences that say if you do this, then these are consequences, or if you don’t, then you’ll have your freedom, or whatever.
But at the end of the day we have to really interrogate the way that we raise our children. And the way that we socialize our children. We have to talk about consent really early on. I’m a big champion of sex education. Because I think that the only way we can have lasting changes is if we change the way that young people think about each other. We start teaching respect and boundaries very early, you know kindergarten, pre-kindergarten. We should be talking about respect and boundaries. We should be talking about what it means to ask permission. We should be talking about those things.
I’m 44 years old. I grew up with [the] Just Say No [campaign against drugs]. I grew up in the midst of the “drug war,” with Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan. And there were many problematic things about that, but the flip side of that was I was inundated as a child with the message of “just say no.”
So, I feel like we have to have a similar wave with young people around consent. We need to be inundating these children with the idea that consent is the way of life. Yes, you do have to ask to touch somebody.
I think that’s how we start having an actual culture shift. This moment is the start maybe of a culture shift.
Jeffries: I read an article that stated, “We should also keep in mind creating new injustices in the service of correcting old ones.” Meaning that while trying to correct or eliminate the predatory culture on women and girls, there shouldn’t be a lack of, or no, due process. It’s only been a couple of months, and already people are talking about a backlash. Do you think this could prevent that culture shift?
Burke: I do think a backlash is coming. But I think that we have to be present and know that that’s coming and really be aware and ready to push back against that. Those of us who do this work know that backlash is inevitable.
I know what the underlying sentiment is about, [having] a sense of fairness. And I think a sense of fairness is right. This is not a witch hunt as people try to paint it. It’s not about that at all.
We’re talking about two months of people—that’s all we’ve had, two months of people—interrupting something that is a deeply pervasive problem in our country, and in our world.
Sexual violence happens on a spectrum, and I think that accountability should happen on a spectrum as well.
I think people are really focused on the drilling-down part before we even get to the sorting-out part [of who’s a perpetrator and who’s not]. Everybody’s like, “Whoa, whoa, wait a minute, what about the good guys?”
The “good guys” need to spend more time examining how they support rape culture and less time thinking about how they haven’t actually touched anybody.
Jeffries: To your point, there are men chiming in on the issue. I’m sure you’ve heard Matt Damon’s comments. What advice would you give the Matt Damons, those who are saying, “What about us good guys?” “Not all men are sexual predators?”
Burke: That’s actually the most problematic part here. All of this media attention is on the perpetrator. All of the conversation about fairness and due process is focused on the perpetrator. And this movement, this work that we have to do is about supporting survivors. And about interrupting and ending sexual violence where ever it lives.
And so, in terms of advice, I don’t know if I have advice except for what I say. A hit dog will holler. You know, that’s an old saying.
Folks who consider themselves good guys know that they exist in a world where guys are not good in the same way that they claim that they are. And so maybe your focus should be on what can you do to help lessen rape culture. Standing up and just making a declaration that you’re a good guy is like the safety pin thing: Let me show you that I’m somebody that you can trust. That’s not really helpful in this moment. Go talk to your people. Men can talk to other men, and support other men to become the unicorn that they are.
Jeffries: The stories that are coming out now are focusing on high-profile people in Hollywood, media, Congress. Yet so many others are going unheard. While praising the work of the TIME magazine “silence breakers,” Melissa Harris Perry said, “But the space has not been silent. Our nation has been deaf.” Do you worry that the responses—with the expediency of firings, etc.—could close our ears again to the pervasiveness of sexual assault in other spaces?
Burke: I think that was a great line. Something that needs to be said. And what I’ve been saying from the beginning.
People keep saying to me, “Don’t you feel so fortunate that Alyssa Milano or this movement has elevated your work and now people know about it and now you’re successful?”
That’s “successful” based on whatever your gaze is. I’ve been doing this work successfully for 10 years. Now, is it elevated, is my platform larger? Absolutely. I have a bigger platform to talk about what I think should be happening around survivors of sexual violence, and the ways I think we can interrupt sexual violence in our community. And I’m grateful for that.
But success for me looks very different. Success for me is not just being recognized or acknowledged or becoming some sort of celebrity of the moment. Success for me is when we are acknowledging the pervasiveness of sexual violence in all areas of the country, in all industries. Not in just Hollywood.
Jeffries: So, Alyssa Milano knew about your movement and work? Had you met?
Burke: No, she didn’t know. Alyssa Milano is not complicit in doing anything sinister to me. I’m not trying to say that at all.
I don’t know if a friend suggested it to her to put that out. And when she found out about it, to her credit, she not only contacted me, she tweeted about it. She made every effort to make sure that people knew that this was my work. And I appreciate that level of support. And we’ve become friends in this process.
But our work is inherently different. Our goals are inherently different.
Jeffries: The story of Recy Taylor has been talked about a lot lately in media, unlike 70 years ago when she was first gang-raped by six White men. It makes me think of the young women you started out helping, how similarly their stories are being ignored. Gabrielle Union, a survivor of sexual violence, who was raped before her celebrity, has called attention to these stories going unheard and the focus being solely on White women. You’ve been working with survivors in vulnerable communities for so long. How does that make you feel?
Burke: I struggle with this as an idea because I don’t expect the media to cover, to talk about, and highlight the issues that happen in marginalized communities. It took us taking it to the street en masse for them to look at the issue of police brutality because of Black Lives Matter. Literally, human beings going into the streets with signs and protest and interrupting everyday reality in order for it to become a mainstream media event.
I would love if mainstream media would highlight the fact that R. Kelly has been preying on Black and brown girls for almost two decades. But we’ve been screaming and yelling about it for just as long, and nobody has done anything.
Jeffries: That reminds me of a Facebook friend’s post that read, “Why is it that the whimpers of White women are always heard louder than Black women’s screams?”
Burke: Because we are conditioned to respond to the vulnerability of White women.
Jeffries: But your work will continue to focus on those vulnerable communities of Black and brown women and girls.
Burke: Absolutely. And that’s what it’s going to take. It’s going to take our communities.
I guess that’s my point about it being complicated and nuanced because I don’t have an expectation of media—White media—to pay attention to us, but I do have an expectation of us to take care of us.
So, it’s going to take other me toos and Just Be’s and grassroots organizations, which exist across the country, committed people who are focusing on the health and well-being of Black and brown girls, the most marginalized of us, queer children and trans.
It’s going to take us making sure that we are taken care of. I have a girlfriend who always says, “We all we got.”
And so, I think we spend a lot of energy worrying about what White people aren’t doing for us.
And that’s a hard quote, and Black people don’t hear that, sometimes, in the right way.
Jeffries: What else can we do besides the online #MeToo?
Burke: That’s the question. There you go, right there. The work that I am responsible for, the lane that I occupy, is helping people understand what community action looks like, and what supporting survivors looks like. For me, I’m interested in what we’ll be doing in 2018—building this out both online and offline. Helping people, training people, guiding people to be active in their community.
And that looks like parents who come together and vetting the guidelines for hiring paraprofessionals and teachers, or whatever, in their school. I’m being super-specific, but these are things you can do right away. Are your teachers being fingerprinted, are they running background checks to make sure they’re not pedophiles? I mean that’s a real thing that needs to happen in schools. And sometimes schools don’t have the money to do it, or they don’t have the capacity, or they just don’t. That’s an action that parents can take tomorrow.
I think that what we have to do is be really proactive in our communities. Really drill down to the most basic in our communities. We have to find ways to interrupt sexual violence everywhere, every day, all the time.
What my lane is, is helping people to figure that out. And also finding real, legitimate ways to support survivors. As many organizations and advocacy agencies that we have across the country, there are still so many communities without resources. And so, part of my work is also teaching us, again, take what you have and make what you need.
I live in Alabama, so I got all these old people sayings.
Jeffries: You gave an example of what parents can do in the schools. What about in community at home, with family?
Burke: We’ll have guides on how to have hard conversations, guides on how to disclose.
That’s part of the online thing. We saw this wave of me too on social media, but one of my biggest concerns when I saw that is disclosure is hard. It’s easy to type something on the internet, not realizing in that moment that’s going to live there forever.
So, we want to help, support survivors around disclosure and what they need after that.
I’m just going to continue to speak, and speak out, and try my best to represent the many intersections that I sit in. I’m a Black woman. I’m a Black mother. I’m a survivor of sexual violence. I’m an advocate for survivors of sexual violence. In all of those ways that I exist, all of those things coexist, there’s a role that I play in supporting people whom I represent in those demographics. So, that’s really important to me.
By Zenobia Jeffries / YES! Magazine
Posted by The NON-Conformist