Category Archives: Education

School Segregation Is Not a Myth Skeptics claim that concerns over racially divided schools are false alarms—but they’re missing the full picture.

Black students are escorted through the front door of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., Sept. 26, 1957. AP

Is school segregation getting worse?

Plenty of people say yes, including scholars, journalists, and civil-rights advocates. For the first time in years, there’s something approximating a consensus: Racially divided schools are a major and intensifying problem for American education—maybe even a crisis.

There’s seemingly compelling numerical evidence, too. According to my analysis of data from the National Center on Education Statistics, the number of segregated schools (defined in this analysis as those schools where less than 40 percent of students are white), has approximately doubled between 1996 and 2016. In that same span, the percentage of children of color attending such a school rose from 59 to 66 percent. For black students, the percentage in segregated schools rose even faster, from 59 to 71 percent.

But not everyone is on board. In the eyes of some writers, the warning signs of segregation are all a false alarm—little more than a statistical mirage. The National Review writer Robert VerBruggen recently made this case, attacking what he called the “resegregation myth.” VerBruggen and other skeptics contend that methods meant to identify school segregation are instead detecting something much more benign: The growing diversity of the American population.

This is possible because many measures of school segregation are narrow, focusing only on a single symptom. For instance, one common research technique is to count the number of schools above a certain demographic cutoff (for instance, more than 90 percent nonwhite). Another is to focus on “exposure,” or how common it is for white and nonwhite students to encounter each other in the education system.

Doubters like VerBruggen argue that people using these metrics have been fooled by demographic change. The past several decades have seen a precipitous increase in the racial diversity of U.S. schoolchildren. For example, since 1996, the share of Hispanic and Asian students in public schools has grown from 17 to 31 percent. As a result, across the board, schools have tended to become less white.

When diversity increases, some measures of segregation are likely to get worse, more or less by default. For instance, if an integrated school is growing, but most of the new students are Hispanic, at some point, it’ll tip over and become segregated. If white students become a smaller share of the American population overall, all else equal, “exposure” to white students will probably decline.

VerBruggen claims that this shift, and little else, is responsible for the perceived crisis. “The rise in ‘segregation’ disappears when one measures segregation properly,” he asserts. He and others say that, with slim evidence of increasing segregation, policies designed to proactively integrate schools are an obsolete form of social engineering.

It’s a simple case. Too simple: There is plenty of evidence that resegregation is urgently real.

School segregation seems like it would be easy to gauge: Just add up the number of segregated schools, and see whether that number is going up or down over time. But the reality, unfortunately, is a lot more complicated.

The core problem is that the nation’s schools are evolving in many ways at once. Student populations undergo slow shifts; new schools are constantly opening and closing; attendance boundaries are drawn and redrawn. As a result, the effects of large-scale demographic change and those of local school policy get tangled up with one another. It can be hard for researchers to separate one factor from the other.

Making things even tougher, increased national diversity tends to generate mixed signals about whether segregation is happening. As skeptics like Verbruggen point out, some measures of segregation, especially those that focus on the prevalence of white students, tend to look worse when student diversity increases. But other measures tend to look better. For example, one statistic known as a “dissimilarity index” calculates how many people would have to swap places to achieve demographic balance. When diversity increases evenly, dissimilarity indexes will improve—because the share of minority students in the least-integrated schools will grow, making fewer swaps necessary.

Contrary to the assertions of VerBruggen and others, there is broad statistical evidence of new racial stratification in schools. A recent (and helpfully illustrated) piece in Vox runs through some of that evidence, focusing on the changing role of attendance boundaries. The short version: Entire school districts are becoming more racially distinct from each other, even while racial diversity within those districts may be increasing.

In addition, while sweeping statistical indices have their uses, they tend to overlook some lower-level trends, like school openings and closures. That’s a major blind spot when talking about the causes of new segregation. According to my analysis of the most recently available federal data, closures are about three times as common among segregated schools, and new schools account for a substantial share of current segregation. In 2016, 38 percent of all segregated schools had opened within the last two decades, compared to 20 percent of predominantly white and integrated schools. In at least this sense, nearly four-tenths of educational segregation is the result of students being shuffled into newly opened schools.

And there are other numbers that suggest a worsening trend. Almost everybody agrees that economic segregation is growing in schools, and many of those dubious about racial segregation like to advance this idea as a competing, alternative theory for educational inequality. But while income segregation can be simpler to measure than race, race and income are closely interwoven. The poorest schoolchildren are very disproportionately nonwhite; the poorest schools are usually racially segregated. The existence of economic segregation does not contradict evidence of racial segregation—it helps confirm it. It shows that, underneath the confounding effects of growing diversity, American schoolchildren are still being divided on the basis of social caste.

While resegregation skeptics are relying on oversimplified statistical evidence, there are even larger holes in their argument. One major reason civil-rights advocates fear resegregation is because they’ve directly observed changes to school policy that seem likely to contribute to racial isolation. Changes like this won’t necessarily show up in statistical measures of student demographics—at least, not right away—but they’re still important.

For example, most researchers believe that court-ordered integration plans, maintained by many school districts throughout the 1970s and 80s, were effective at reducing segregation. But since the turn of the century, hundreds of court orders have been terminated, and virtually no new ones have been created.

In places where segregation is already firmly established, government action can have the effect of “locking in” those racial lines. Here, an analogy might help: Imagine a housing subdivision where almost everyone is white, surrounded by neighborhoods that are heavily nonwhite. Now, imagine that the subdivision builds a large wall, hires a security guard for the entrance, and refuses to sell houses to anyone new. You’d be hard-pressed to argue these changes weren’t segregative, even if, for the time being, everyone continues to live in the same place.

In American schools, metaphorical walls are going up all over the place. For instance, school districts in the south are traditionally larger than elsewhere in the country, often including entire counties. As a practical matter, this makes southern districts easier to integrate: Their wide expanse means they contain many white and nonwhite students alike. But in recent years, southern districts have begun to fragment. Sometimes this is caused by white neighborhoods and cities that attempt to “secede” and form their own, all-white districts. In other places, fragmentation is driven by statewide political forces, such as in North Carolina, where a conservative legislature is currently weighing breaking up large districts. No matter the cause, the ongoing splintering of districts places integration further out of reach.

In Memphis, Tennessee, for example, new racial lines are being drawn around the area’s schools. In 2013 the majority-black Memphis city school district merged with the schools of the surrounding county, which were majority-white. At first blush, this was a move that promised integration. That is, until the next year, when six cities seceded from the merged district. Five of the six new districts are even whiter than the original county district had been—a new geography of segregation, freshly imposed.

And there are other ways to raise barriers to integration. In many big-city school districts, policymakers have spurred the growth of new charter schools to compete with traditional public schools. But because charters usually operate independently of the district they’re in, students transferring into them can’t be as easily included in a district’s integration plans. This is another form of fragmentation, with charters acting as islands, administratively detached from the district around them. Perhaps not coincidentally, charters are also usually highly segregated, with students often sorted into distinct racial groups. Legal barriers are still barriers; this, too, is resegregation.

Underneath all of this is a deeper question: How much does the cause of segregation matter?

Imagine if a landlord, confronted with a leaking roof, responded by saying that the real problem is just too much rain. It’s true that, in some sense, rain causes leaks—but only because there was something wrong with the roof in the first place. And at the end of the day, the leaks are still a problem that needs to be fixed.

Likewise, it’s true that diversity in schools is increasing. But it’s only making segregation worse because of flaws that already existed in the education system. The fundamental defect in American schools—the hole in the roof, if you will—is that they have long exhibited patterns of racial concentration, mostly due to housing segregation and decades of discriminatory education policy. If schools were already integrated to begin with, you’d expect increasing diversity to raise all boats relatively evenly. Most schools would get less white, but few would find themselves truly segregated. Instead, in a long-segregated system, the effects of increased diversity are inevitably lopsided. Schools already suffering from a relatively high degree of segregation have found themselves completely isolated.

Because of this, demographic changes are not experienced evenly. Because black students were already overrepresented in segregated schools, they often bear the brunt of an increase in racial isolation, whatever the proximate cause of those increases. That’s why the share of black students in segregated schools has increased by 11 percent nationwide in the last two decades, faster than the share of either white students or nonwhite students overall, both of which have risen by about 6 percent, according to my analysis.

And, ultimately, there’s just not much reason to think that identifying the exact cause of resegregation will ameliorate its harms. The vast majority of research into school segregation does not focus on its causes, but rather on the costs of attending a racially isolated school. There are many. They include reduced academic achievement, increased exposure to the criminal justice system, and significantly worsened professional and educational outcomes. Children in integrated schools find it easier to live and work in diverse environments; children in segregated schools are more prone to hold racially prejudiced views later in life. Racial isolation also tends to deprive children of color of what are sometimes obliquely called “networks of opportunity”—in plain language, the day-to-day connections most people rely on to get a job or get into college.

And of course, there’s another reason to worry about school segregation, regardless of its cause: the problem of second-class citizenship. Ironically, this problem generates less discussion than wonky, technocratic concerns about test scores and income mobility. But it was pivotal in propelling the school-integration push of the 1960s and 70s, and for good reason. Civil-rights advocates are not wrong to worry that, beyond any set of individual outcomes, it is not healthy nor sustainable for a society to effectively consign most children of color to an alternative system of schools. Doing so helps construct or reinforce ideas about racial caste in the minds of Americans—and, worst of all, in the minds of the children themselves.

None of these ills will heal themselves so long as segregated schools exist, or grow in number. And right now, such schools are growing in number, for reasons ranging from the benign to the nefarious. Dedicated advocates and smart policymakers can thwart school resegregation, and eventually reverse it. But it will not reverse itself.

By Will Stancil/TheAtlantic

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Scientists Have Established a Link Between Brain Damage and Religious Fundamentalism This explains a lot about our current political situation.

study published in the journal Neuropsychologia has shown that religious fundamentalism is, in part, the result of a functional impairment in a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex. The findings suggest that damage to particular areas of the prefrontal cortex indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by diminishing cognitive flexibility and openness—a psychology term that describes a personality trait which involves dimensions like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.

Religious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations, and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.

 Religious fundamentalism refers to an ideology that emphasizes traditional religious texts and rituals and discourages progressive thinking about religion and social issues. Fundamentalist groups generally oppose anything that questions or challenges their beliefs or way of life. For this reason, they are often aggressive towards anyone who does not share their specific set of supernatural beliefs, and towards science, as these things are seen as existential threats to their entire worldview.

Since religious beliefs play a massive role in driving and influencing human behavior throughout the world, it is important to understand the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism from a psychological and neurological perspective.

To investigate the cognitive and neural systems involved in religious fundamentalism, a team of researchers—led by Jordan Grafman of Northwestern University—conducted a study that utilized data from Vietnam War veterans that had been gathered previously. The vets were specifically chosen because a large number of them had damage to brain areas suspected of playing a critical role in functions related to religious fundamentalism. CT scans were analyzed comparing 119 vets with brain trauma to 30 healthy vets with no damage, and a survey that assessed religious fundamentalism was administered. While the majority of participants were Christians of some kind, 32.5% did not specify a particular religion.

Based on previous research, the experimenters predicted that the prefrontal cortex would play a role in religious fundamentalism, since this region is known to be associated with something called ‘cognitive flexibility’. This term refers to the brain’s ability to easily switch from thinking about one concept to another, and to think about multiple things simultaneously. Cognitive flexibility allows organisms to update beliefs in light of new evidence, and this trait likely emerged because of the obvious survival advantage such a skill provides. It is a crucial mental characteristic for adapting to new environments because it allows individuals to make more accurate predictions about the world under new and changing conditions.

Brain imaging research has shown that a major neural region associated with cognitive flexibility is the prefrontal cortex—specifically two areas known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Additionally, the vmPFC was of interest to the researchers because past studies have revealed its connection to fundamentalist-type beliefs. For example, one study showed individuals with vmPFC lesions rated radical political statements as more moderate than people with normal brains, while another showed a direct connection between vmPFC damage and religious fundamentalism. For these reasons, in the present study, researchers looked at patients with lesions in both the vmPFC and the dlPFC, and searched for correlations between damage in these areas and responses to religious fundamentalism questionnaires.

According to Dr. Grafman and his team, since religious fundamentalism involves a strict adherence to a rigid set of beliefs, cognitive flexibility and open-mindedness present a challenge for fundamentalists. As such, they predicted that participants with lesions to either the vmPFC or the dlPFC would score low on measures of cognitive flexibility and trait openness and high on measures of religious fundamentalism.

The results showed that, as expected, damage to the vmPFC and dlPFC was associated with religious fundamentalism. Further tests revealed that this increase in religious fundamentalism was caused by a reduction in cognitive flexibility and openness resulting from the prefrontal cortex impairment. Cognitive flexibility was assessed using a standard psychological card sorting test that involved categorizing cards with words and images according to rules. Openness was measured using a widely-used personality survey known as the NEO Personality Inventory. The data suggests that damage to the vmPFC indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by suppressing both cognitive flexibility and openness.

These findings are important because they suggest that impaired functioning in the prefrontal cortex—whether from brain trauma, a psychological disorder, a drug or alcohol addiction, or simply a particular genetic profile—can make an individual susceptible to religious fundamentalism. And perhaps in other cases, extreme religious indoctrination harms the development or proper functioning of the prefrontal regions in a way that hinders cognitive flexibility and openness.

The authors emphasize that cognitive flexibility and openness aren’t the only things that make brains vulnerable to religious fundamentalism. In fact, their analyses showed that these factors only accounted for a fifth of the variation in fundamentalism scores. Uncovering those additional causes, which could be anything from genetic predispositions to social influences, is a future research project that the researchers believe will occupy investigators for many decades to come, given how complex and widespread religious fundamentalism is and will likely continue to be for some time.

By investigating the cognitive and neural underpinnings of religious fundamentalism, we can better understand how the phenomenon is represented in the connectivity of the brain, which could allow us to someday inoculate against rigid or radical belief systems through various kinds of mental and cognitive exercises.

By Bobby Azarian / Raw Story

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Students nationwide stage walkouts for stricter gun laws after last month’s deadly school shooting in Florida

Students across the country — from middle school to college — began planned walkouts Wednesday, calling on state and federal legislators to enact stricter gun laws one month after the mass shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Seventeen students and staff members were killed at the school in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14. On Wednesday, 3,000 schools across the nation planned to leave class at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes — one minute for each victim.

At Marjory Stoneman Douglas, two walkouts took place. Citing safety concerns, student government officials and administrators urged students not to leave campus, but to walk to the football field with teachers. Some students balked at the idea of a chaperoned walkout, saying they wanted to get off campus and spread their message to the broader public.

As students made their way to the football field, past a sculpture of the school Eagle mascot, they walked hand in hand or with their arms around each other. Only a few carried placards. There were no chants. Helicopters buzzed overhead.

David Hogg, 17, one of several students at the school who’ve gained national prominence for advocating gun control, live streamed the walkout on his YouTube channel.

“We have to stand up now and take action,” Hogg said. He interviewed several of his classmates.

“This is about the need for change,” another student told Hogg.

Organized by the youth branch of the Women’s March, called Empower, the National School Walkout is urging Congress to take meaningful action on gun violence and pass federal legislation that would ban assault weapons and require universal background checks for gun sales.

In Massachusetts and Ohio, students said they would head to the statehouse to lobby for new gun regulations. In Washington, D.C., hundreds of students gathered outside the White House, holding signs and marching quietly.

In Maryland, students at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute poured out the back doors of the school and onto the football field. Many of them laid down on the football field. Hundreds of Baltimore students left school to march to City Hall, calling for an end to gun violence in schools and on the city’s streets.

In Illinois, high school students from Barrington to Plainfield to Naperville to Chicago have worked with peers and school administrators and prepared signs and speeches as part of the national movement designed to prevent mass shootings and gun violence that have devastated their schools and communities for decades.

With nearly 3,000 walkouts planned across the country — at elementary schools, high schools and universities — organizers published a “tool kit” online that offered students tips on how to organize, get support from parents and guardians and share information on social media.

Earlier this week, Robert W. Runcie, superintendent of Broward County schools in Florida, notified parents he had instructed staff not to interfere with peaceful student-led protests.

“Such occasions are teachable moments, during which students can demonstrate their 1st Amendment right to be heard,” Runcie wrote in a letter to parents. “In the event students walk out or gather, school principals and assigned staff will remain with students in a designated walkout area, so that supervision is in place.”

Over the last month, students across Florida and the nation have staged spontaneous walkouts, with some leading to disciplinary action. Two weeks after the Parkland shooting, dozens of students at Ingleside Middle School in the Phoenix area were given one-day suspensions after they walked off campus.

In Needville, Texas, 20 miles southwest of Houston, Superintendent Curtis Rhodes warned students that anyone who left class would be suspended for three days, even if they had permission from their parents.

“Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative,” Rhodes wrote in a letter to parents posted on social media. “We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty, or five hundred students involved.”

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union issued advice for students who walk out, saying schools can’t legally punish them more harshly because of the political nature of their message. In Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Texas, some lawyers said they will provide free legal help to students who are punished.

In Parkland, school officials urged students not to leave campus.

“We’re just trying to protect the students,” said Jaclyn Corin, 17, the high school’s junior class president. “We’re telling everyone not to leave campus, but we can’t stop them.”

Hogg said he worried students would be “a group of soft targets” if they left campus.

Yet some students balked at the idea of a chaperoned walkout, saying they wanted to get off campus and spread their message to the broader public.

When the first bell rang Wednesday at the high school, Susana Matta Valdivieso was not sitting in Spanish class. Instead, the 17-year-old junior was hauling a stack of handwritten placards across a community park in the hope that her classmates would eventually come outside and join her.

“I’m nervous and excited because I’ve never spoken in front of a crowd of people before,” Valdivieso said with laughter as she leafed through the speech she had typed up the night before.

While student government leaders and administrators were urging Parkland students to remain on campus and walk with teachers to the school football field, Valdivieso was hoping to coax students off school grounds to take part in a public rally at the nearby North Community Park.

“This is a student-led movement,” Valdivieso said after dispatching two close friends into the school with a plan to lead their classmates outside. “We want to communicate our message to the press and the public.”

In Florida, the Parkland students’ protests in recent weeks have seen some results.

Last week, Gov. Rick Scott, in a rebuke of the National Rifle Assn., signed into law a measure that, among other things, raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21 and bans the sale or possession of “bump stocks,” which allow semiautomatic rifles to mimic machine guns.

The walkouts on Wednesday are among several protests planned for coming weeks. The March for Our Lives rally for school safety is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the nation’s capital on March 24, its organizers said. And another round of school walkouts is planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.

By Jenny Jarvie and Kurtis Lee/LaTimes


posted by The NON-Conformist

Veganism Is Being Redefined in Black Communities More people are connecting the health implications of a vegan diet with the struggle against race-based oppression.

Food is a key part of any culture. Take the USA: Could there be a more potent symbol of all things Americana than BBQ? For many, to go against this national pastime amounts to a form of treason. Which is why it should cause little surprise to learn that a new culture has begun to take root among African Americans: veganism.

In years past, this dietary decision was largely associated with being, like, super white. In part, this could be due to the fact that avoiding all animal products is seen as a bourgeois indulgence, enjoyed by the sorts of people who like to proclaim that “All Lives Matter.” That perception is starting to shift.

“The black vegan movement is one of the most diverse, decolonial, complex and creative movements,” said Aph Ko, founder of the website Black Vegans Rock, in a recent New York Times article. And Ko should know. Back in 2015, she compiled a list of “100 Black Vegans” to highlight the fact that veganism is more than just an animal welfare-based lifestyle choice. Listed among Ko’s cohorts are a diverse group of individuals such as civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, neo-soul superstar Erykah Badu, the Williams sisters, and comedian Dick Gregory.

The Times listed a number of other notable vegans: Kyrie Irving from the Boston Celtics is just one of a number of professional basketball players to stop eating meat, prompting Kip Andersen (director of the documentary “What the Health”) to proclaim in an article for the Bleacher Report that the NBA should be renamed the National Vegan Association.

Animals and race

A number of factors account for this growing trend. The Times’ Kim Severson notes that the Black Lives Matter movement and “What the Health” have helped expand veganism to “connect personal health, animal welfare and social justice with the fight for racial equality.”

“I always assumed ‘Black veganism’ was just white veganism experienced and perpetrated by black people, and not a framework to analyze various oppressions,” writes Sincere Kirabo on BlackYouthProject. But after reading a book Ko published with her sister Syl last year, Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters, Kirabo reconsidered this point of view. “Now I’m rethinking the entire way the defining biases of our society create dehumanizing standards that not only impact me as a Black person,” he writes, “but also extend to animals, inform our food options, and empower the anti-Black food industry.”

What is the “anti-black food industry”? How can a diet be decolonial? Time for a quick history lesson. A core element of both slavery and colonialism was the promotion of an ideology that dehumanized black people. When Aph and Syl Ko describe veganism as a form of liberation, explains Kirabo, they are talking “less about meat consumption and more about the necessity of re-framing racism to include the relationship between anti-Blackness and anti-animal sentiment as codified into the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

This is not a new line of thinking. Anti-colonial writers like Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire first drew the connection between the colonial construct that disadvantaged certain humans and non-human animals alike. By understanding this historical context, the connection between racial oppression and our carnivorous culture begins to make more sense.

This might be a cognitive leap for some, but consider the fact that both racism and meat-eating are motivated by a sense of superiority. As such, Kirabo writes, describing the Ko sisters’ logic, “animality is a Eurocentric concept that has contributed to the oppression of any group that deviates from the white supremacist ideal of being—white Homo sapiens.”

A means to an end

Another way to understand this logic is through the simple facts of health. A 2012 analysis of national meat consumption showed that according to averages delineated by race, African Americans were overall the largest consumers of meat in America. This figure is no coincidence. As Nzinga Young points out in the Huffington Post, due to centuries of entrenched systemic poverty, black Americans have had to adapt to “making do” with what they have. In practice, this has translated, Young continues, into “eating everything from common staples like chicken and fish to chitlins, pigs’ feet, and other discarded animal parts our ancestors ate in desperation.”

In other words, meat-eating became an essential part of survival. Ironically, much of the foods that form part of this culture are centered around unhealthy eating habits. In her article, “How Black Veganism Is Revolutionary and Essential for Our Culture,” Danni Roseman explains how this situation has arisen from the fact “that the unhealthiest of foods were the cheapest and most easily available to low-income, black and brown families.” The existence of food deserts, which are predominant in poorer communities, have also contributed toward these unhealthy eating habits. As a result, a number of diet-related diseases have become endemic to the culture.

“Food is political,” writes Roseman, adding how these unhealthy eating habits have led to a rise in “illnesses that kill black people at astounding rates.” Roseman cites information provided by the CDC, which shows that “over 40% of black men over [the age of] 20 have hypertension and 44% of black women.” That’s not to mention that two of the three leading causes of death in this community are strokes and heart disease.

“It’s not just about, I want to eat well so I can live long and be skinny,” said vegan-friendly chef Jenné Claiborne in an interview with the Times. “For a lot of black people, it’s also the social justice and food access. The food we have been eating for decades and decades has been killing us.”

In order to counter this trend, Claiborne has become a specialist in vegan-friendly soul food. In her new book, Sweet Potato Soul, Claiborne combines the traditions of Southern cooking with recipes from West Africa and the Caribbean. The book is the latest in a series of similar titles joining restaurants around the country that have helped bring about the rise in black vegan culture.

(Other popular books that are part of this endeavor include Amie Breeze Harper’s anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society; Tracye McQuirter’s By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat; and the Afro-Vegan cookbook.)

Diet as resistance

As Roseman points out, “if you’re dead, or perpetually functionally ill, you cannot march, you cannot protest, you cannot protect your family or yourself.” Framed in this light, a growing number of people are starting to connect the health implications of a plant-based diet with the ongoing struggle against race-based oppression.

For Kirabo, this goes beyond “people planting gardens and advocating for animal rights.” He argues that veganism is a “sociopolitical movement that renounces white-centered definitions of the world” and through that process “re-examines social norms imposed on us and calls out politics many of us take for granted.”

In other words, choosing not to eat animal products is a way of asserting a form of independence. “[We] take back control of [our] own diet in a system in which [we] are not in control of many of the things that we purchase,” performance artist and activist Jay Brave said in an interview with the BBC.

In the Times article, Zachary Toliver, a PETA columnist who appeared on Ko’s original list of black vegans, said, “I no longer feel like an endangered species out here.” Instead, Toliver and the growing community he represents are redefining what it means to be black and vegan. In the process, this movement is reframing the way society understands our relationships to animals, food and each other.

By Robin Scher/AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

What the Koch Brothers Want Students to Learn About Slavery The history-teaching wing of the Koch brothers empire is seeking to promote an alternate narrative to slavery

Given that the billionaire Charles Koch has poured millions of dollars into eliminating the minimum wage and paid sick leave for workers, and that in 2015 he had the gall to compare his ultra-conservative mission to the anti-slavery movement, he’s probably the last person you’d want educating young people about slavery.

Yet the history-teaching wing of the Koch brothers empire is seeking to promote an alternate narrative to slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. The political goal of these materials is to ensure students see racism and slavery as flaws in an otherwise spotless U.S. record, rather than woven into the fabric of our country from its inception.

The Bill of Rights Institute (BRI) is the education arm of the network of front groups the Koch brothers use to promote their far-right ideology. Maureen Costello, the education director from Teaching Tolerance, has pointed out the many factual inaccuracies in the “Homework Help” video the BRI has recently promoted to teach students about slavery. She concludes that the history presented is “superficial, drained of humanity, and neglects to reckon with the economic and social reality of what opponents called ‘the slave power.’”

A dive into their “Documents of Freedom” readings reveals an even more disturbing agenda. The BRI bills the “Documents of Freedom” as a “modern take on the traditional textbook” — a “completely free digital course on history, government, and economics” authored by unnamed “teachers.” It’s essentially an online textbook that aims to promote a particular version of history, government, and economics that aligns with the interests of the Kochs.

The main “Documents of Freedom” reading on slavery, titled “Slavery and the Constitution,” is essentially a defense of the founding fathers and the Constitution against “some scholars” who “portray the founding fathers as racists.” The reading cherry-picks quotes from “the Founders” to argue that they believed slavery was morally wrong. Although the authors write that “most of the signers of the Declaration and the Constitution own[ed] slaves,” they steer clear of the brutal reality of chattel slavery.

They paint Thomas Jefferson as an anti-slavery crusader who “attacked the slave trade in harsh language” and “included African Americans in the universal understanding of the promise of liberty and equality.” But the Kochs’ curriculum fails to mention that Jefferson wrote Black people were “inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” Jefferson kept nearly 200 people in bondage, and even in his death emancipated only five. He regularly sold human beings away from their families to raise money to buy wine, art, and luxuries that only wealthy planters could afford. Nothing in the BRI reading acknowledges any contradiction between “the Founders’” awareness of “the immorality of slavery and the need for action” and their actual actions defending and protecting slavery.

Furthermore, the reading justifies the so-called three-fifths compromise — whereby an enslaved person was counted as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of congressional representation — by arguing “the Founders” had to make a “prudential compromise with slavery because they sought to achieve their highest goal of a stronger Union of republican self-government. Since some slaveholding delegations threatened to walk out. . .” Not only is this type of “compromise” immoral, but the problem with this logic is that the “slaveholding delegations” that threatened to walk out were themselves “Founders” who played an important role in crafting the Constitution.

In addition to selectively quoting the founders, the authors use quotations from Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln to bolster their argument that the Constitution was an anti-slavery document. It ignores that most politicians, including Lincoln, believed that the Constitution protected slavery where it existed. It also ignores the very large wing of the abolitionist movement, whose most prominent figure was William Lloyd Garrison, that viewed the Constitution as a “devil’s pact,” one “dripping with blood.” Douglass himself was part of that wing of the movement until he broke with Garrison in the 1850s, when he became convinced that framing the Constitution as an anti-slavery document could be a useful tool in the struggle to end slavery.

The reading also ignores how central slavery was to the economic growth of the United States, with phrases like “the number of slaves steadily grew through natural increase.” Natural? There was nothing natural about the expansion of slavery. Slavery expanded because it was profitable. The authors seek to divorce the expansion of slavery from the economic design of the capitalist cotton empire and from the horrific practice of breeding, which became a large source of revenue, especially for Virginia slaveholders.

What is most egregious is what the reading leaves out. Even today’s corporate textbooks will include a paragraph or two that attempt to provide the perspective of enslaved people. However, this reading concludes by arguing there was a steady “rise of freedom” after the Constitution because “the new nation was mostly bent on expanding liberty and equality.” The only way the Koch brothers’ Bill of Rights Institute can draw this conclusion is by completely ignoring the perspective of those whose land and labor were violently stolen by the wealthy U.S. elite.

As if that reading wasn’t bad enough, the follow-up reading, titled “Civil War and Reconstruction,” is a long, boring account that almost exclusively focuses on the battles between Radical Republicans in Congress, who the authors claim wanted to “punish the South,” and Presidents Lincoln and Johnson, who favored more “moderate” reconstruction plans. It might be the first reading I’ve ever looked at on Reconstruction that makes almost no mention of what Black people were doing during the era and barely discusses anything happening in the South.

Only in a pro-KKK film like Birth of a Nation and in the Koch brothers’ curriculum is Reconstruction reduced to a punishment for white Southerners. Let’s look at Reconstruction from the standpoint of those who were freed from more than 200 years of enslavement. It was a time when the formerly enslaved became congressmen; when the Black-majority South Carolina legislature taxed the rich to pay for public schools; when experiments in Black self-rule in the Georgia Sea Islands led to land reform, new schools, and a vital local governance. During Reconstruction Blacks and poor whites organized Union Leagues, and led strikes, boycotts, demonstrations, and educational campaigns. During this period other social movements, especially labor and feminist movements, were inspired by the actions of African Americans to secure and define their own freedom.

As the late historian Lerone Bennett Jr. wrote: “It had never happened before, and it has never happened since, in America.” During Reconstruction, “the poor, the downtrodden, and the disinherited present[ed] their bills at the bar of history.” Of course, today’s elites like the Kochs have no interest in students learning this radical history. In the Kochs’ history, the only mention of Black people’s actions comes in one sentence at the end of the reading that papers over the massive accomplishments of the era: “Although African Americans soon made up the majority of voters in some southern states and even elected some black representatives to Congress, the right to vote was curtailed by southern states through several legal devices. . .”

Tellingly, the Koch authors finish off this reading with a quote from James Madison about the “Tyranny of Majorities.” The authors claim that Jim Crow was an example of when “African Americans in the post-Civil War South discovered firsthand the dangers of majority tyranny in a republic.” That’s the main lesson the Bill of Rights Institute wants students to draw from the Civil War and Reconstruction: You can’t trust the masses, so leave politics to elites like the Koch brothers. Of course, the inconvenient truth is that when one actually focuses on the South during Reconstruction, we see an era where poor white and Black people took political power away from elites. It’s this history that the Koch brothers don’t want students to learn.

By Adam Sanchez / Zinn Education Project

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Baltimore Mayor Pugh and Laura Ingraham Go At It Over Gun Protest

More on this story from Mediate

Posted by Libergirl

Black Woman Defends the NRA, Claims Organization Was Founded to Arm Blacks Against the KKK

The NRA was founded as a civil rights organization intended to help Black Americans arm themselves against the KKK, according to writer and conservative commentator Candace Owens.

Owens, who’s also the director of urban engagement for right-wing student movement  Turning Point USA, made an appearance on “Fox & Friends” his week to defend the NRA amid fallout from the organization’s refusal to back sensible gun reform in the wake of the deadly Florida school shooting.

Owens said she recently became a member of the NRA and touted herself as a “Black American who knows her history” in regards to the organization’s legacy with Black folks.

“I happen to fall into the window of people who knows my history,” she said. “I’m a Black American and I know that the NRA was started as a civil rights organization training Black Americas to arm themselves and defend themselves against the KKK. So it’s incredulous to me that they stand on that formula.”

Owens went on to accuse Democrats of “wiping away history and rewriting it.”

“So it’s very important Black Americans take a stand and defend the NRA in the same way that they’ve defended us,” she said.

Owens isn’t the first African-American to make his claim, however. In 2013, Harry Alford, then-president and CEO of the D.C.-based National Black Chamber of Commerce made the same assertion, thanking God for the “Constitution and the NRA for its legacy.”

“The National Rifle Association was started, founded by religious leaders who wanted to protect freed slaves from the Ku Klux Klan,” Alford said a news conference were several Black leaders also spoke out against proposals for gun reform, according to Politifact.

 The news site, which researches and debunks political claims, never found any evidence supporting Owens’ and Alford’s suggestion. His platform cited an excerpt from the NRA’s website about its founding, which explains the organization was started due to the poor marksmanship of union soldiers.

“Dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops, Union veterans Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate formed the National Rifle Association in 1871,” i reads. “The primary goal of the association would be to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.”

Though the NRA does tout itself as he nation’s oldest civil rights organization, there’s  no mention of helping freed Blacks fight the KKK in its history.

“The claim is not only inaccurate but ridiculous — Pants on Fire,” Politifact wrote

By Tanasia Kenney/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist