Category Archives: Crime

THE SHOT THAT ECHOES STILL

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.

James Baldwin

Getty

“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.

King at a press conference in Birmingham, 1963.

Magnum​

 

When Martin was murdered, I was based in Hollywood, working—working, in fact, on the screen version of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. This was a difficult assignment, since I had known Malcolm, after all, crossed swords with him, worked with him, and held him in that great esteem which is not easily distinguishable, if it is distinguishable at all, from love.


There is a day in Palm Springs, shortly before I left there, that I will remember forever, a bright day. Billy Dee Williams had come to town, and he was staying at the house; and a lot of the day had been spent with a very bright, young lady reporter, who was interviewing me about the film version of Malcolm. I felt very confident that day—I was never to feel so confident again—and I talked very freely to the reporter. (Too freely, the producer was to tell me later.) I had decided to lay my cards on the table and to state, as clearly as I could, what I felt the movie was about, and how I intended to handle it. I thought that this might make things simpler later on, but I was wrong about that. The studio and I were at loggerheads, really, from the moment I stepped off the plane. Anyway, I had opted for candor, or a reasonable facsimile of same, and sounded as though I were in charge of the film, as, indeed, by my lights, for that moment, certainly, I had to be. I was really in a difficult position because both by temperament and experience I tend to work alone, and I dread making announcements concerning my work. But I was in a very public position, and I thought that I had better make my own announcements, rather than have them made for me. The studio, on the other hand, did not want me making announcements of any kind at all. So there we were, and this particular tension, since it got to the bloody heart of the matter—the question of by whose vision, precisely, this film was to be controlled—was not to be resolved until I finally threw up my hands and walked away.

As the original assignment card shows, Baldwin was living in Palm Springs, California, at the time.

Ben Goldstein

I very much wanted Billy Dee for Malcolm, and since no one else had any other ideas, I didn’t see why this couldn’t work out. In brutal Hollywood terms, Poitier is the only really big, black, box-office star, and this fact gave me, as I considered it, a free hand. To tell the bitter truth, from the very first days we discussed it, I had never had any intention of allowing the Columbia brass to cast this part: I was determined to take my name off the production if I were overruled. Call this bone- headed stupidity, or insufferable arrogance or what you will—I had made my decision, and once I had made it nothing could make me waver, and nothing could make me alter it. If there were errors in my concept of the film, and if I made errors on the way to and in the execution, well, then, I would have to pay for my errors. But one can learn from one’s errors. What one cannot survive is allowing other people to make your errors for you, discarding your own vision, in which at least you believe, for someone else’s vision, in which you do not believe. Anyway, all that shit had yet to hit the fan. This day, the girl and Billy and I had a few drinks by the swimming pool. The man, Walter, was about to begin preparing supper. The girl got up to leave and we walked her to her car and came back to the swimming pool, jubilant.

The phone had been brought out to the pool, and now it rang. Billy was on the other side of the pool, doing what I took to be African improvisations to the sound of Aretha Franklin. And I picked up the phone.

It was David Moses. It took a while before the sound of his voice—I don’t mean the sound of his voice, something in his voice—got through to me.

He said, “Jimmy? Martin’s just been shot,” and I don’t think I said anything, or felt anything. I’m not sure I knew who Martin was. Yet, though I know—or I think—the record player was still playing, silence fell. David said, “He’s not dead yet”—then I knew who Martin was—“but it’s a head wound—so—”

Top, left: Members of the press corps stand on a crane-held platform to better photograph King’s casket at Morehouse. Top, right: Coretta King and Harry Belafonte at the service. Middle: A small group of the more than 150,000 people who lined the four-mile stretch from Ebenezer Baptist Church to Morehouse College, where a public ceremony was held. Bottom, left: Coretta King consoles their daughter Bernice. Bottom, right: James Baldwin and Marlon Brando.

Ben Goldstein

 

I don’t remember what I said; obviously I must have said something. Billy and Walter were watching me. I told them what David had said.

I hardly remember the rest of that evening at all, it’s retired into some deep cavern in my mind. We must have turned on the television set if we had one, I don’t remember. But we must have had one. I remember weeping, briefly, more in helpless rage than in sorrow, and Billy trying to comfort me. But I really don’t remember that evening at all. Later, Walter told me that a car had prowled around the house all night.

I went to Atlanta alone, I do not remember why. I wore the suit I had bought for my Carnegie Hall appearance with Martin. I seem to have had the foresight to have reserved a hotel room, for I vaguely remember stopping in the hotel and talking to two or three preacher-type-looking men, and we started off in the direction of the church. We had not got far before it became very clear that we would never get anywhere near it. We went in this direction and then in that direction, but the press of people choked us off. I began to wish that I had not come incognito and alone, for now that I was in Atlanta I wanted to get inside the church. I lost my companions, and sort of squeezed my way, inch by inch, closer to the church. But directly between me and the church there was an impassable wall of people. Squeezing my way up to this point, I had considered myself lucky to be small; but now my size worked against me for, though there were people on the church steps who knew me, whom I knew, they could not possibly see me, and I could not shout. I squeezed a few more inches, and asked a very big man ahead of me please to let me through. He moved and said, “Yeah. Let me see you get through this big Cadillac.” It was true—there it was, smack in front of me, big as a house. I saw Jim Brown at a distance, but he didn’t see me. I leaned up on the car, making frantic signals, and finally someone on the church steps did see me and came to the car and sort of lifted me over. I talked to Jim Brown for a minute, and then somebody led me into the church and I sat down.

Esquire’s October 1968 cover captures the fatal outlook of a country rocked by a half-decade of assassinations.

Esquire

The church was packed, of course, incredibly so. Far in the front, I saw Harry Belafonte sitting next to Coretta King. Ralph David Abernathy sat in the pulpit. I remembered him from years ago, sitting in his shirt-sleeves in the house in Montgomery, big, black, and cheerful, pouring some cool, soft drink, and, later, getting me settled in a nearby hotel. In the pew directly before me sat Marlon Brando, Sammy Davis, Eartha Kitt—covered in black, looking like a lost, ten-year-old girl—and Sidney Poitier, in the same pew, or nearby. Marlon saw me, and nodded. The atmosphere was black, with a tension indescribable—as though something, perhaps the heavens, perhaps the earth, might crack. Everyone sat very still. The actual service sort of washed over me, in waves. It wasn’t that it seemed unreal; it was the most real church service I’ve ever sat through in my life, or ever hope to sit through; but I have a childhood hangover thing about not weeping in public, and I was concentrating on holding myself together. I did not want to weep for Martin, tears seemed futile. But I may also have been afraid, and I could not have been the only one, that if I began to weep I would not be able to stop. There was more than enough to weep for, if one was to weep—so many of us, cut down, so soon. Medgar, Malcolm, Martin: and their widows, and their children. Reverend Ralph David Abernathy asked a certain sister to sing a song which Martin had loved—“Once more,” said Ralph David, “for Martin and for me,” and he sat down.

The long, dark sister, whose name I do not remember, rose, very beautiful in her robes, and in her covered grief, and began to sing. It was a song I knew: My Father Watches Over Me. The song rang out as it might have over dark fields, long ago, she was singing of a covenant a people had made, long ago, with life, and with that larger life which ends in revelation and which moves in love.

He guides the eagle through the pathless air.

She stood there, and she sang it. How she bore it, I do not know, I think I have never seen a face quite like that face that afternoon. She was singing it for Martin, and for us.

And surely He

Remembers me,

My heav’nly Father watches over me.

At last, we were standing, and filing out, to walk behind Martin home. I found myself between Marlon and Sammy.

Top, left: In 1956, King was arrested for his involvement in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It’s unknown who scrawled the notice of death, or when. Top, right: King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech to 250,000 people during the March on Washington in August 1963. Bottom: Newspapers around the world led with the news of King’s death. Meanwhile, riots broke out in dozens of cities throughout the country; 58,000 soldiers from the Army and the National Guard stepped in to quell the uprisings.

Ben Goldstein

 

I had not been aware of the people when I had been pressing past them to get to the church. But, now, as we came out, and I looked up the road, I saw them. They were all along the road, on either side, they were on all the roofs, on either side. Every inch of ground, as far as the eye could see, was black with black people, and they stood in silence. It was the silence that undid me. I started to cry, and I stumbled, and Sammy grabbed my arm. We started to walk.

I don’t think that any black person can speak of Malcolm and Martin without wishing that they were here. It is not possible for me to speak of them without a sense of loss and grief and rage; and with the sense, furthermore, of having been forced to undergo an unforgivable indignity, both personal and vast. Our children need them, which is, indeed, the reason that they are not here: and now we, the blacks, must make certain that our children never forget them. For the American republic has always done everything in its power to destroy our children’s heroes, with the clear (and sometimes clearly stated) intention of destroying our children’s hope. This endeavor has doomed the American nation: mark my words.

This photo, published in Esquire’s August 1968 issue, shows mourners at King’s burial.

Ben Goldstein

Malcolm and Martin, beginning at what seemed to be very different points—for brevity’s sake, we can say North and South, though, for Malcolm, South was south of the Canadian border—and espousing, or representing, very different philosophies, found that their common situation (south of the border!) so thoroughly devastated what had seemed to be mutually exclusive points of view that, by the time each met his death there was practically no difference between them. Before either had had time to think their new positions through, or, indeed, to do more than articulate them, they were murdered. Of the two, Malcolm moved swiftest (and was dead soonest), but the fates of both men were radically altered (I would say, frankly, sealed) the moment they attempted to release the black American struggle from the domestic context and relate it to the struggles of the poor and the nonwhite all over the world.

To hold this view, it is not necessary to see C. I. A. infiltrators in, or under, every black or dissenting bed: one need merely consider what the successful promulgation of this point of view would mean for American authority in the world. Slaveholders do not allow their slaves to compare notes: American slavery, until this hour, prevents any meaningful dialogue between the poor white and the black, in order to prevent the poor white from recognizing that he, too, is a slave. The contempt with which American leaders treat American blacks is very obvious; what is not so obvious is that they treat the bulk of the American people with the very same contempt. But it will be sub-zero weather in a very distant August when the American people find the guts to recognize this fact. They will recognize it only when they have exhausted every conceivable means of avoiding it.

In the meantime, in brutal fact, all of the institutions of this nation, from the schools to the courts to the unions to the prisons, and not forgetting the police, are in the hands of that white majority which has been promising for generations to ameliorate the black condition. And many white Americans would like to change the black condition, if they could see their way clear to do so, through the unutterable accumulation of neglect, sorrow, rage, despair, and continuing, overriding, totally unjustifiable death: the smoke over Attica recalls the bombs of Birmingham and the liberal Mr. Rockefeller reveals himself as being even more despicable than his openly illiberal confreres further down.

But it is not important, however irresistible, to accuse Mr. Rockefeller of anything. He is just another good American; one of the best. It is unlikely that any Western people, and certainly not the Americans, have the moral resources needed to accomplish the deep and mighty transformation which is all that can save them. Such a transformation involves unimaginable damage to the American ego; would reduce all the American religious ceremonies, including the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, to the hypocritically bloody observances many of us have always known them to be; and would shed too unsparing a light on the actual dimensions and objectives of the American character. White Americans do not want to know what many nonwhites know too well, e.g., that “foreign aid” in the “underdeveloped” countries and “anti-poverty” programs in the ghetto are simply a slightly more sophisticated version of the British policy of Divide and Rule, are, in short, simply another means of keeping a people in subjection.

Since the American people cannot, even if they wished to, bring about black liberation, and since black people want their children to live, it is very clear that we must take our children out of the hands of this so-called majority and find some way to expose this majority as the minority which it actually is in the world. For this we will need, and we will get, the help of the suffering world which is prevented only by the labyrinthine stratagems of power from adding its testimony to ours.

Baldwin’s first Esquire story ran in 1960; his ninth, and last, ran in 1980. In an interview for the July 1968 issue, conducted two days after King’s funeral, Baldwin grapples with the growing violence in the fight for equality.

Esquire

No one pretends that this will be easy, and I myself do not expect to live to see this day accomplished. What both Martin and Malcolm began to see was that the nature of the American hoax had to be revealed—not only to save black people but in order to change the world in which everyone, after all, has a right to live. One may say that the articulation of this necessity was the Word’s first necessary step on its journey toward being made flesh.

And no doubt my proposition, at this hour, sounds exactly that mystical. If I were a white American, I would bear in mind that mysteries are called mysteries because we recognize in them a truth which we can barely face, or articulate. I would bear in mind that an army is no match for a ferment, and that power, however great that power may consider itself to be, gives way, and has always been forced to give way, before the onslaught of human necessity: human necessity being the fuel of history.

If my proposition sounds mystical, white people have only to consider the black people, my ancestors, whose strength and love have brought black people to this present, crucial place. If I still thought, as I did when Martin and Malcolm were still alive, that the generality of white Americans were able to hear and to learn and begin to change, I would counsel them, as vividly as I could, to attempt, now, to minimize the bill which is absolutely certain to be presented to their children. I would say: if those blacks, your slaves, my ancestors, could bring us out of nothing, from such a long way off, then, if I were you, I would pause a long while before deciding to use what you think of as your power. For we, the blacks, have not found possible what you found necessary: we have not denied our ancestors who trust us, now, to redeem their pain.

Well. Baby, that’s it. I could say, and they would both understand me: Don’t you think Bessie is proud of Aretha?

Or: Do you think that Americans can translate this sentence both out of and into the original? My soul is a witness for my Lord.

By James Baldwin/Esquire

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Israel Is Exposing Africans to Danger of Slavery

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

‘Me Too’ Creator Tarana Burke Reminds Us This Is About Black and Brown Survivors There’s another “me too” story, about a movement that began a decade before it was a hashtag.

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

Democrat report ‘yet another tool to sell Russian collusion delusion’

The US Foreign Relations Committee report on alleged Russian meddling doesn’t reflect the will of the American people or Congress, and merely tries to peddle an anti-Russian narrative, political analyst Charles Ortel told RT.

Democrats in the US are calling for radical action against alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Senators on Wednesday published a 206-page report for the Foreign Relations Committee, with proposals including the creation of a new inter-agency cell, modeled on the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC).

The senators propose spending more than $250 million on building institutions in Europe and Eurasia to counter alleged Russian meddling. The report also suggests preemptive sanctions against so-called “State Hybrid Threat Actors”. In addition, it recommends that social media companies be required to track down propaganda and make public all income from political ads.

Political analyst Charles Ortel says the report is just another tool attempting to sell the delusion of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

RT:  No Republican senators signed the report, only Democrats. So do you think any of these measures will be implemented?

Charles Ortel: I highly doubt it. The report has got a lot of words in it on over 200 pages. When you look at the composition of the committee, you have a nominal Republican, I would argue, and Senator Bob Corker – President Trump refers to him as “Little Bob” Corker – who has his own problems with allegations of corruption. And that may be one of the reasons that he decided not to stand for reelection. You also have Jeff Flake, Republican on that committee.  So I don’t think that committee reflects the will of the American people, or even indeed the will of Congress. The Democrats tend to vote as a bloc. And this report, which must have been in preparation for many months, is yet another tool used to continue to sell the anti-Russian narrative and to sell the Russian collusion delusion.

RT:  The report calls for an international coalition to counter the Kremlin’s “malign influence operations.” Do you think America would find any allies for such a coalition?

CO: Sadly reports like this get written… I read the early recounting of history in this report. And it is really shameful – it is fake accounting of history, it is not objective, it doesn’t really have a proper context. I think serious objective people, when they look at this, and they try to weigh up the various ways in which we could spend money – this won’t be one where we put a lot it behind it. And while $250 million is a lot of money, in the scheme of our spending $6 trillion a year on government all told, it is really not that much. So I doubt that this will become an urgent priority for the American government.

RT America

@RT_America
A new poll reveals 48 percent of American voters believe it’s “very or somewhat likely” President Donald Trump will be cleared in the investigation into alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. https://on.rt.com/8wml
7:16 PM – Jan 10, 2018

RT:  The senators say the US government should increase spending in Europe and Eurasia to, as you’ve just mentioned, $250 million over the next two years to counter what they think is Russian interference. Do you think US taxpayers would be happy funding that?

CO: I don’t. We’re in a zone now in the US where Trump is succeeding in disrupting the status quo consisting of the ‘Never Trump’ person, anti-Trump Democrats, who are on that Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A lot is going to happen in 2018. I would not bet against this president and his team. He is getting this economy in America moving. That is going to have a positive impact on the global economy. I think he is going to go from strength to strength… The Republicans will do much better in 2018 – it is my prediction. And when a new Senate is seated, perhaps with the stronger Republican Trump-led majority – you’re going to see very different reports coming out of that committee.

RT:  For now, the Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate. If the Democrats gain control after this year’s mid-term elections, could we see an even more hostile stance on Russia?

CO: You might. But I think that is a very large ‘if.’ I think Americans vote with their pocketbook. We’ve been stuck down under less than 8 percent per year GDP growth for eight years. Incomes are now finally coming back; the economy is coming back; taxes are going down. I think you’re going to see a lot of good, strong moves from now through November 2018. And we’re going to vote with our pocketbook, and vote for success rather than schemes and slogans, and hackneyed reports.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

NC congressional districts struck down as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders

 

A panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s election districts for U.S. Congress on Tuesday as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders and gave lawmakers until Jan. 29 to bring them new maps to correct the problem.

The ruling comes in cases filed by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause in North Carolina stemming from maps adopted in 2016 during a special legislative session. It throws a new wrinkle and more uncertainty into the 2018 election cycle in North Carolina a month before candidates were scheduled to file for office.

“We’re enormously gratified on behalf of our clients and all voters in North Carolina that no one will have to endure another congressional election under an unconstitutional map,” said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represented some of the challengers. “The court was clear in demanding a real remedy before the 2018 elections, and we expect the General Assembly to respect that order.”

The judges – James A. Wynn, a Barack Obama appointee to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and federal district judges W. Earl Britt, a Jimmy Carter appointee, and William L. Osteen Jr., a George W. Bush appointee – were unanimous that North Carolina lawmakers under Republican leadership violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause when they drew maps explicitly to favor their party.

“On its most fundamental level, partisan gerrymandering violates ‘the core principle of republican government . . . that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around,’” the majority opinion states.

The ruling is the first time federal judges have struck down congressional districts as partisan gerrymanders. A Wisconsin case that was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court involved state legislative districts found to be partisan gerrymanders.

In North Carolina, Wynn and Britt also found that the 2016 redistricting plan designed to give Republicans wins in 10 of the 13 districts also violated the free speech of the challengers by trying to weaken the voices of Democrats with whom they did not agree. Osteen dissented from his colleagues on that point, but agreed overall that the maps were unconstitutional.

In the words of Rep. Lewis

The lawmakers, Wynn wrote in the opinion for the majority, “do not dispute that the General Assembly intended for the 2016 Plan to favor supporters of Republican candidates and disfavor supporters of non-Republican candidates. Nor could they. The Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly expressly directed the legislators and consultant responsible for drawing the 2016 Plan to rely on ‘political data’ — past election results specifying whether, and to what extent, particular voting districts had favored Republican or Democratic candidates, and therefore were likely to do so in the future — to draw a districting plan that would ensure Republican candidates would prevail in the vast majority of the state’s congressional districts.”

During the legislative session in which the maps were drawn, Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican who has shepherded the state’s recent redistricting efforts, announced that the maps were drawn to give Republicans a large majority. Lewis made his comments after the federal court found congressional districts drawn in 2011 to include unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. In announcing the new maps, Republican lawmakers stated that the race of voters would not be considered in the design of the new districts.

“I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with eleven Republicans and two Democrats,” Lewis said at the time.

At the time, the courts had allowed for some partisan consideration in redistricting, which happens every 10 years after the census shows population shifts. But voting rights organizations have pushed for changes to that, saying modern mapmaking technology has allowed candidates for elected office to choose their voters under new redistricting plans instead of letting voters choose who represents them.

The comment by Lewis has provided the underpinnings for a lawsuit that sets North Carolina apart from other partisan gerrymander challenges. The Wisconsin case before the Supreme Court relies more heavily on a proposed statistical formula called “the efficiency gap,” which counts the number of votes wasted when voters are shifted into districts where their votes won’t matter, either because their party’s candidate can’t win or is already sure to win.

The North Carolina challengers argue, like the challengers in Wisconsin, that the maps drawn discriminate against Democratic candidates and voters because of their political beliefs. They say the lawmakers who either “packed” them into a single district or “cracked” their district into multiple districts to weaken their influence are robbing them of free speech and equal protection rights because their opinions differ from the lawmakers in power.

Republicans contend that such arguments and formulas are not for the courts to decide – that redistricting is a legislative duty in North Carolina.

The lawmakers, Wynn wrote, “do not argue – and have never argued – that the 2016 Plan’s intentional disfavoring of supporters of non-Republican candidates advances any democratic, constitutional, or public interest. Nor could they. Neither the Supreme Court nor any lower court has recognized any such interest furthered by partisan gerrymandering – ‘the drawing of legislative district lines to subordinate adherents of one political party and entrench a rival party in power.’”

Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court coming

News of the ruling brought quick applause from Democrats and swift criticism from Republicans.

Legislative leaders plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a spokeswoman for Mitchell County Republican state Sen. Ralph Hise, who along with Lewis has led redistricting efforts in the legislature.

Eric Holder, who served as attorney general under Obama and now is chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in a statement that the ruling “was just the latest example of the courts telling state legislators in North Carolina that citizens should be able to pick their representatives, instead of politicians picking their voters. It’s long past time for the legislature to produce fair maps that represent the diverse communities of North Carolina.”

“Republicans comprise 30 percent of registered voters in North Carolina, yet they crafted a congressional map that would ensure Republican success in 10 of 13 districts, or 76 percent,” U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat from Wilson, said in a statement. “The Republicans made this case relatively simple when they admitted in court that the congressional map was drawn for partisan political advantage.”

U.S. Rep. David Price, a Democrat from Chapel Hill, also praised the ruling. “No state has suffered more than North Carolina from extreme partisan gerrymandering by Republicans – both after the 2010 census and in 2016, after their first map was ruled an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. But the current map is still designed to produce a 10-3 Republican advantage among congressional districts, in a state that is equally divided politically,” Price said in a statement in which he described the ruling as one with “national implications.”

‘Partisan war on North Carolina Republicans’

Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, sent out a tweet criticizing Wynn. “It is incredibly disappointing activist Judge Jim Wynn is waging a personal, partisan war on North Carolina Republicans,” Woodhouse said on Twitter.

Dallas Woodhouse@DallasWoodhouse

It is incredibly disappointing activist Judge Jim Wynn is waging a personal, partisan war on North Carolina Republicans. #ncpol#ncga

Wynn has been on a panel of federal judges that has ruled against the state in other redistricting cases that found districts to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders and who wrote a critical opinion striking down a 2013 election law overhaul and voter ID law, saying it with near “surgical precision” targeted African-American voters, who often support Democrats.

Woodhouse added to his tweet later: “It is Now very clear that Judge Wynn has decided that @ncgop should not be allowed to draw election districts under any circumstances under any set of rules. This is a hostile takeover of the #NCGA and legislative bodies across the U.S.”

North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin called the ruling a “major victory for North Carolina and people across the state whose voices were silenced by Republicans’ unconstitutional attempts to rig the system to their partisan advantage.”

“Republicans have shown time and time again they are more interested in drawing themselves into power than representing the best interest of their constituents,” Goodwin said in a statement. “It’s time the General Assembly put partisanship aside and draw fair, non-partisan maps that give North Carolina voters a voice.”

By Anne Blythe/News&Observer

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Mental Health Inc: How Corruption, Lax Oversight and Failed Reforms Endanger Our Most Vulnerable Citizens A new book exposes the greed and cronyism behind some of Big Pharma’s worst excesses.

An excellent new book by Art Levine exposes how “indifferent professional associations, pharmaceutical-subsidized patient advocacy groups and government regulators that either push a drug-industry agenda or fail to halt what amounts to an epidemic of behavioral health malpractice” enable Pharma’s worst excesses.

Toddlers drugged with psychiatric medication? Elderly in nursing homes dosed to make them manageable? Soldiers and veterans driven to suicide from their medication? Mental patients given drugs that cause diabetes and extreme obesity and lead to more dangerous drugs? It’s all there in Mental Health, Inc: How Corruption, Lax Oversight and Failed Reforms Endanger our Most Vulnerable Citizens, including psychiatric drugs that should never have been approved to begin with and “religious” youth treatment centers that abuse the young people in their care.

Greed explains much of the behavioral health malpractice Levine cites, but not all of it. Certainly Pharma-funded doctors oblige with prescriptions, and certainly Pharma-funded medical associations oblige with Pharma-friendly guidelines including describing “pre” disease states that create more drug customers. Certainly drug treatment centers are among Pharma’s most treasured customers especially as the opioid epidemic––which Pharma started––grows.

But cronyism––the revolving door between industry and government––is also a big factor. One example is Kerry Weems, a former Medicare official who joined Rechnitz’ TwinMed who Medicare regulates, writes Levine. Other examples of the effects of the government/industry revolving door include former CDC director Julie Gerberding, who went on to head Merck vaccines; former Texas governor Rick Perry, who recommended state-wide inoculation of all 11- and 12-year-old girls with Merck’s Gardasil vaccine after his chief of staff left to work at Merck; and Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, who left government for industry.

Mental Health, Inc. does an outstanding job of exposing a key player in the $220 billion-a-year behavior health field: the formerly Bain Capital-owned CRC Health, now Acadia Healthcare, the nation’s largest provider of addiction treatment services. Levine chronicles at least six, gory and preventable deaths at Acadia’s Sierra Tucson facility leading readers to wonder why the facility––or even the chain––is still in business and why the responsible parties have not been sentenced or jailed.

Also shocking in Mental Health, Inc. is the American Association Of Retired Persons’ silence on the well-known and well-documented drug abuse of people in nursing homes––AARP’s constituency. “Licensing deals with United Healthcare allow it, indirectly, to rake in a share of federal spending on antipsychotics,” Levine says of the group, which has 38 million members.

Despite “bought” medical institutions, prescribers and government regulators which result in over-diagnosis, overmedication and overtreatment of Americans with dangerous and expensive psychiatric drugs, Mental Health, Inc. offers hope.

Non-drug, non-medical models for mental problems do exist and they work, writes Levine. Two promising groups addressing PTSD, depression, anxiety and drug abuse in the military population without drugs are War Fighter Advance and Operation Tohidu. Hopefully they will become models for other populations.

By Martha Rosenberg / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Power, Race and Money: Why Jeff Sessions Loves Pot Prohibition

The announcement by US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions that he’ll pursue federal pot prosecutions has two age-old motivations: power and money.

Financially, of course, the Republican party is vested in America’s vast private prison system. Every new arrestee means money in the pockets of the investors who own and operate them. Keeping those cells and beds occupied is the essence of the industry”and of Pot Prohibition.

The Drug War is a giant cash cow, not only for the prison owners, but for the cops, guards, lawyers, judges, bailiffs and all the other operatives whose livelihood depends on destroying those of the nation’s tens of millions cannabis customers.

Medical legalization in about half the country, and full legalization in California, Colorado and other states, represents a serious threat to this multi-billion-dollar incarceration scam. Sessions has risen to its defense.

Then there’s the power.

As long as so many millions of people smoke the stuff, marijuana’s illegality give police the ability to bust whoever they want, whenever they want. It is the core enabler of a police state.

In fact, Pot Prohibition is a major foundation of the Republican Regime stretching from the White House and Congress to state government, the courts and beyond.

The key is disenfranchisement.

Since the Drug War’s initiation by Harry J. Anslinger in the 1930s, the principle focus has been on people of color. Anslinger promoted the term “marijuana” to deal with cannabis because it has an Hispanic twinge and aroused paranoid bigotry among the white population.

While promoting films like “Reefer Madness” to make pot appear like some sinister force, Anslinger’s minions made cannabis into a racist menace.

But it was Richard Nixon who took the assault to its ultimate depth. Nixon hated blacks and hippies. He also had a serious interest in slashing into their communities, and depriving them of the vote.

In 1972 his own Blue Ribbon Schaefer Commission recommended against Prohibition. Chaired by Pennsylvania’s liberal Governor Richard Schaefer, it said the health impacts did not warrant a national campaign.

Nixon ignored all that. Amidst a terrible war and racial upheavals, he proclaimed Drugs to be America’s most serious problem.

His own staff knew better. As aide John Ehrlichmann put it:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people.

“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

The Drug War gave Nixon the key to his “Southern Strategy.” Through a wide range of racist rhetoric and policy, he successfully campaigned to move southern white racists from the Democrats to the Republicans. But many southern states had substantial black constituencies. He needed to make sure they could not vote.

Slapping them in jail for pot was a powerful way to do that. Because pot is essentially everywhere, it also lets police arrest pretty much any black person they want at any time. According to Michelle Alexander’s THE NEW JIM CROW, tens of millions of blacks and Hispanics have since been busted. And independent survey by Prof. Bob Fitrakis has estimated the number of Drug War arrests since 1970 in the range of 41,000,000. At a cost of more than a trillion dollars, the US could instead have sent virtually everyone it busted for pot to a four-year university instead.

Instead, the assault has injected deep into the black and Hispanic communities a cultural toxin based in the prison culture. While busting peace, environmental and social justice activists for cannabis, politicians like Trump and Sessions damage the black and Hispanic communities while turning elections and driving the country to the right.

Sessions occasionally make absurd moral and public health claims for keeping cannabis illegal. But the damage it has done to individual lives and the broader community is incalculable.

Pot Prohibition has worked wonders for a fascist establishment keeps power only by using it as a way to crush its opposition, steal elections and fatten its pockets.

Anyone that says otherwise is blowing toxic smoke.

Posted by The NON-Conformist