Friday, December 7, 2012

Neither Jordan Davis nor Trayvon Martin were "Lynched": It is Time We Stopped Using Such Powerful and Historically Specific Language So Casually


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It is common to read online that young black people such as Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin were "lynched":



As an alternative, I would argue that they were murdered. Both were subject to random violence that may very well have been motivated by racial animus. It is also likely that Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin would both be alive today if not for the careless actions of wannabe vigilantes and thugs with too ready and easy access to guns.

However, neither of those young men were the victims of a "lynching." I will tread carefully here, because the subject matter is quite (correctly) very sensitive given how the shadow of racialized violence hangs over--quite literally--the heads of people of color, and black Americans even into the 21st century.

Language has power. Because of its power, we should take great care to use it with a specific meaning and intent. When we use language casually and imprecisely, especially words that evoke the imagery of many thousands of black men, women, and children hanging from trees, burned alive, bodies brutalized, postcards made from their pictures, and souvenirs cut from them by blood thirsty white mobs, there is a risk of a loss of meaning, and a betrayal of the specific historical circumstances that African-Americans suffered through (and triumphed over) during the centuries-long great Black Freedom Struggle.

The ritualistic killing of thousands of black people in the United States for more than one hundred years from the end of slavery, until at least the middle of the 20th century, was unique to this country. While racial violence was certainly not unknown elsewhere, the idea of "spectacular lynchings" where thousands of white people would attend the mass murder of black people for sport, pleasure, and in pursuit of an almost religious and mystical type of catharsis where the "offending" black body was destroyed in the white body politics, was a special fixture of Jim and Jane Crow America.

In South Africa, with its Apartheid system for example, even that barbarous White herrenvolk society did not feature the types of ritualistic racial murder common to the United States. It would seem that American Exceptionalism is true in some regards; it is not true in many others.

[What would the "real America" types say about that observation. I wonder?]

Lynching in the United States was ultimately a type of political violence that was designed to demobilize black people in the aftermath of Reconstruction and the end of slavery. The rise of the KKK and the mob violence of Jim and Jane Crow were a type of racial terrorism that worked to keep black labor firmly fixed to the land, maintain convict lease labor and share cropping systems, to deter migration, and ultimately to make sure that African Americans remained a type of rural peasantry subject to white rule (this was also true in regards to the Southwest and Texas where Latinos and Hispanics were the primary targets of lynchings by whites).

Lynching was also a way of reasserting that black people were anti-citizens, not fit to vote, the virtual property of white capitalists and elites, and who should not become upwardly mobile. As such, black soldiers in uniform were a particularly fond target of violence by white hordes. These white murderers could not accept the idea of racial equality with non-whites for fear that the latter would somehow earn their full rights and full membership in the American polity.

The NAACP and other organizations identified and responded to lynching violence in an organized way, and with such righteous fervor, precisely because it was a type of political violence that served the purposes and goals of day-to-day white supremacy.

By comparison, I would suggest that the measured response to the murder of Jordan Davis, and to a lesser degree Trayvon Martin, is a function of the fact that black leadership is in an odd, and almost paradoxical position, in this moment.

The game has changed. There is a black man who is President. The regime of Jim and Jane Crow was vanquished decades ago. Black politics is facing obsolescence. Do you ring the alarm bells using the same language that you did decades ago? But, what to do about violence that is (perhaps) racially motivated? And how does black on black violence complicate any such appeals?

We are still working through that puzzle.


Michael Dunn's murder of Jordan Davis, as well as the vigilante hunting and killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman (a "Hispanic" who is overly identified with Whiteness and White Authority) are both rooted in a deep contempt for black people, and an implicit understanding that we can be shot dead with little impunity in this country. Black on black street violence is fueled by the drug trade, poverty, and social disorganization in many communities. I would also suggest that black on black violence is a sign of internalized white racism where some people of color devalue themselves and others like them: thus, our lives are made to be less worthy, and violence against each other made more likely.

It too is rooted in a dual sense that black life is cheap, and that black people can be killed with little consequences. Old school racism, what fueled the lynching tree, is still present through echoes and fitful moments today. Do not make the mistake of overlooking that fact.

There is a political element to the crimes of Dunn and Zimmerman; but, the politics are likely more symbolic and implicit--I doubt that either Zimmerman or Dunn were meditating on questions of black agency and freedom when they felt entitled by their Whiteness to shoot dead two innocent African-American youth.

Murder rarely, if ever, takes the form of a lynching in post civil rights Age of Obama America.

Racially coloured and infused murder is not necessarily lynching either. When we play games with language, there is the risk of cheapening our ancestors' memories by misunderstanding the nature of white supremacy (and racial violence) in post-civil rights era America. The other danger is one where black folks and others minimize our triumph over Jim and Jane Crow, and formal white supremacy, by an appeal back to a very specific enemy that we defeated in battle decades ago.

Thus, some real talk.

Do some of black and brown folks amplify the political stakes of the sad and unnecessary murders of young men like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis because we want to imagine ourselves in some great and titanic racial struggle against white racism? The post civil rights generation did not have the lynching tree or the Red Summers of post World War One America to contend with. Are they spoiling for a clear fight that they can use to define themselves...and as such, overlooking many of their own victories?

This "inconvenience" of history does not remove a generation's desire for a great struggle to define itself against. Would this generation have had the honor, strength, and personal steel to fight back against the naked discrimination of the State and its agents in the Klan, the local police, militias, and at the time, the U.S. military? I wonder. Or would they have rolled over and surrendered?

Moreover, does this lead to a borrowing from the wickedness of Jim and Jane Crow as a means of framing colorblind racism because institutional racism, metaracism, racial neoliberalism. and conservative colorblindness, are chimeras and stealthy ninjas that are relatively immune from direct confrontation?

Thus, I must ask: are black activists and their allies fighting the last war? Is this why their appeals and tactics have minimal (if any) currency in the present? And where does that leave rank and file people of color?

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Challenging, thoughtful piece. Thank you.

I am tempted to add that another reason Davis and Martin weren't lynched is that they weren't accused of sexual harassment by an African-American woman and then had some senators ask them about those charges (high-tech lynchings being the WORST, you know).

But I won't give into that temptation.

CNu said...

I will tread carefully here, because the subject matter is quite (rightly) very sensitive given how the shadow of racialized violence hangs over--quite literally--the heads of people of color, and black Americans even into the 21st century.

No its not and no it doesn't.

The simple fact of that matter is that the likelihood of black on black crime and violence is exponentially greater than the likelihood of "racialized" crime and violence.

Stop playing to emotional negroe imagination and sensationalism and tell the truth CDV. Otherwise, you risk coming across EXACTLY like Faux news/WND/Drudge and the other race sensationalists who ply their WWE tradecraft on the suckers and the rubes.

While racial violence was certainly not unknown elsewhere, the idea of "spectacular lynchings" where thousands of white people would attend the mass murder of black people for sport, pleasure, and in pursuit of an almost religious and mystical type of catharsis, was a special fixture of Jim and Jane Crow America.

Really?

I'll trade you a century of America's worst 50-60 years ago, for one year of the Congo's worst under Paul Kagame's regime of racialized tribal violence anytime during the last decade. There is no comparison. Matter fact, what's going on in Africa at this very moment beggars the imagination of all but those who architected and enable it.

Between the mutilations, dismemberments, and mass rapes, a whole century of Mr. Charlie can't hold a candle to inter-ethnic violence on the continent or even just inter-ethnic violence on these mean urban streets.

Inter-ethnic crime and violence on the mean streets of America 1990-2012 ABSOLUTELY DWARFS anything perpetrated by Mr. Charlie since the end of the civil war.

CNu said...

oops, meant to say "intra-ethnic"..,

adamabroad said...

"Do some of black and brown folks amplify the political stakes of the sad and unnecessary murders of young men like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis because we want to imagine ourselves in some great and titanic racial struggle against white racism? The post civil rights generation did not have the lynching tree or the Red Summers of post World War One America to contend with. Are they spoiling for a clear fight that they can use to define themselves...and as such, overlooking many of their own victories?"

Social trauma creates psychological trauma in individuals. And when you're trying to deal with long-term psychological issues, it's always easier for the healing process to stall or go backwards than it is to move it forwards. The stakes may not be the same now as they were 60 or 70 years ago, but there's still something important to figure out in order to continue moving forwards.

With black people in powerful positions now, including one that, up until 2009, no black person had ever held before, there seems to be a new, very important question - figuring out what the responsibilities of black people in power should be, especially when racism has mutated into a sort of superficial colorblindness which holds a different sort of danger from its older forms.

"Lynching" isn't the right word due to the fact that white Americans en masse don't form mobs to kill black Americans now. But I think if some modified form of it comes into popular use, I wouldn't be too upset - there may not be social enthusiasm for such killing anymore, but there's still definitely a sense in many white peoples' minds that their interactions with black people, especially young black men, are defined by violence or the threat of violence, and that could form all sorts of triggers (or excuses for triggers) to violence. Shocking language, so long as it brings greater awareness of that psychological trauma and its connection to older horrors to the surface, is fine by me.

adamabroad said...

CNu:

The amazing thing is that I still sometimes meet people who moved here for pilots' school from the DRC, and they've told me they're looking forward to going home once they're certified. I wouldn't think to challenge them on that - they want what they want - but I wonder what it requires from them mentally to look at the prospects of working in Ukraine, or far better yet, one of the countries west of here, compare that to the conditions they'll be returning to in Africa, and decide they'd rather be home, because you're absolutely right, DRC's a pretty horrifying place.

But we think about, and deal with, the problems we're faced with, and comparisons like that seem to make it harder to face all but the most egregious problems. Sure, a lot of things are comparatively worse than unjustified acts of violence by white Americans against black Americans. But if that's the logic you follow, anything else that's comparatively less of a problem doesn't deserve attention either, and eventually you'll wind up whittling down your focus to one or two things.

CNu said...

With black people in powerful positions now, including one that, up until 2009, no black person had ever held before, there seems to be a new, very important question - figuring out what the responsibilities of black people in power should be

Adam, I consider that to be a reality evasion of sorts. Frankly, I don't care that much about what "people in power" do or don't do with regard to matters that will effect me personally. From where I sit, the more pressing question for folk in the breech of "what this way comes" - in a context of increasing fiscal austerity and actual pressing scarcity - is what must I do right now to shore up my own practical resilience?

Shocking language, so long as it brings greater awareness of that psychological trauma and its connection to older horrors to the surface, is fine by me.

That shocking language should be reserved for those continuing and tangible sources of threat and instability which undermine the personal and collective resilience of black folk in America.

IMOHO - intra-ethnic point sources are doing a great deal more damage to the fabric of black folks lives at this juncture than any other external cause.

On the political front, with states like Colorado and Washington overthrowing the drug prohibition and the 40 year long War on Drugs (which has played itself out as a counterinsurgent and socio-economic war on young black men) from a grassroots level - I feel far more confident that the wisdom of the crowd is going to take care of this impractical and unsustainable responsibility of people in power.

As for the people in power themselves, we should always be mindful of the fact that they do not work in our interest, but rather work pursuant to their own mendacious and fundamentally self-serving interest.

CNu said...

Sure, a lot of things are comparatively worse than unjustified acts of violence by white Americans against black Americans. But if that's the logic you follow, anything else that's comparatively less of a problem doesn't deserve attention either, and eventually you'll wind up whittling down your focus to one or two things.

Physical security and food security are two things which have vast implications on a personal and communal level. Those are the two things that all po folk in America need to be about before anything else at this juncture.

adamabroad said...

Marx had it right re: poor people when he talked about how people's views are limited by economic imperatives - if you're food-insecure and at risk of physical danger most of the time, those are, appropriately, the most important things to care about. But if others aren't in that situation, is it acceptable for them to care about other things as well? For example, are preventive measures like ensuring greater access to higher education, the undisputed best way to guarantee that people get out of poverty, things that deserve attention?

I'd still argue for those sorts of pursuits. People who are lucky enough not to be part of the most at-risk groups may be able to multitask to some degree. Or the more socially conscious people can decide for themselves which issues to try to tackle based on their talents and emotional connection to the issues, which seems likely to produce better results (and a stronger sense of satisfaction for the activists in question) than any sort of conscription to a certain problem or set of problems.

CNu said...

So, you're in the Ukraine right now as a medium-term, deeply engaged visitor. To what extent - if any - is the financial contraction (collapse) now roiling across the PIGS being felt in the Ukraine?

What is your perception of financial contraction(collapse) in those countries?

How do you suppose ethnic minorities are fairing and will be fairing in those countries which no longer have enough $$$ to meet the baseline economic expectations of their ethnic majority populations?

My understanding is that Greece is not a particularly hospitable place to be right now if you're not ethnically Greek, and for the Greeks themselves, austerity is pinching hard enough to have them rioting in the streets fairly routinely.

What do you suppose the effect of hardcore austerity and financial collapse would be in America?

How do you suppose ethnic minorities will fair under those circumstances in this country?

Nah Adam, physical and food security are job one for po folk in America because of the practical resilience and vocational competence required to achieve both/either.

If in the course of getting at those "must do's" there's some time left over to get at some "nice to haves" well, all's the better. If your "activism" doesn't address the basic necessities of life, then your "activism" may just be expendable busy work.

Black folks in America could learn a lot from the Mormons and the Mennonites. Cause sitting around in a big city, entirely dependent on a fragile and financially and infrastructurally vulnerable supply chain for your basic living necessities is not a good look at this juncture.

chaunceydevega said...

@Anon. Good one.

@Cnu. The shadow of racial violence does hang over the heads of black people. Thus, the continual allusion to it. As you know we are barely one generation removed from organized white mob violence against black Americans. Has the changed? Of course. Black people are still subjected to the most hate crimes, but we have nothing like the lynch law of Jim and Jane Crow America. That was part of my point.

Genocidal barbaric violence is not necessarily working according to the same racial logic of organized mass spectacular lynchings in the United States. There is a whole body of research emerging on the subject of lynch culture, race, and violence. There is a new book comparing S. Africa Apartheid and Jim and Jane Crow which works through the puzzle of why the former did not produce spectacular lynchings.

I will check the link because this is something I am getting more interested in and am always open to learning new things. But, my suspicions would be that there are differences between the inter-ethnic civil war genocide-like strife of Africa and the U.S.

Also, street crime murders, however many there are, do not constitute the types of lynchings and lynch culture I am talking about.

@adam. Great points. I particularly like this: "Social trauma creates psychological trauma in individuals. And when you're trying to deal with long-term psychological issues, it's always easier for the healing process to stall or go backwards than it is to move it forwards" The triggers are still there for racial violence.

They are still there for the protected class in this country--white women. See the moral panics whenever they are "kidnapped." Not too long ago there would have been a roundup and lynching when such events occurred...most of which were fictions. Progress? Yes. And no.

adamabroad said...

"So, you're in the Ukraine right now as a medium-term, deeply engaged visitor. To what extent - if any - is the financial contraction (collapse) now roiling across the PIGS being felt in the Ukraine?"

Ukraine's not part of the EU, so it's not really directly affected by the economic collapses of EU nations. It's never been particularly economically strong anyway. One small bit of good news: there's a fair amount of VC activity in the IT sector in major cities, due to the rest of the economy being so weak that business owners can get away with not paying a lot, making their numbers more attractive to investors. That sort of development, however, isn't really seen anywhere else in Ukraine. Even in some of the major southern port cities, trying to start up a small business is about as feasible as it'd be on Mars.

However, Ukrainians' attitudes towards joining the EU are less enthusiastic than they were prior to the EU's downturn, because austerity does threaten to take away the few things government is appropriately spending money upon. It's largely a moot point how they feel about it, however, because the government would have to undergo some major changes its majority coalition's not willing to
accept - freeing Timoshenko, allowing completely free and fair elections, seriously addressing government corruption on every level - before Brussels would consider it for membership.

"How do you suppose ethnic minorities are fairing and will be fairing in those countries which no longer have enough $$$ to meet the baseline economic expectations of their ethnic majority populations?"

We're already basically at that point. The Ministry of Health sets dietary requirements which the government uses to determine the amount of money to give older people through the pension system. However, those standards are pretty ridiculous; at times they've been compared, unfavorably, with the amount of food people received in German concentration camps. This is especially shocking given that inasmuch as any political party here depends on public support, the second-largest partner in the majority coalition, the Ukrainian Communist Party, depends on older voters who are nostalgic for pre-independence times when they weren't starving to death. Aside from a relatively small number of African students, and my fellow PCVs, I haven't met a lot of people who would willingly move to the middle of Ukraine.

Point taken, though. A lot of people in the ethnic majority wouldn't be reasonable about the fact of minorities entering the country in the context of a worsening economy. There's already discrimination and occasional violence against Roma, Jews, homosexuals, and other "non-Ukrainian" people by ultra-nationalists, and it would get worse if, economically speaking, things got worse.

And your link to the climate change article is pretty persuasive. There are a lot of things to worry about. Some of those things, however, could kill most of humanity. Prioritizing is definitely a good thing in that case, so I'll pull out of this argument and reconsider for a while before posting again.

CNu said...

lol, a generation is fifteen years CDV. I remember feeling a little trepidation riding through backwoods Mississipi in 1972, and I got into a humdinger of an unprovoked knife fight in South Boston in 1981 - since then - not so much.

OTOH;

FBI Uniform Crime Statistics;

Blacks are seven times more likely than people of other races to commit murder, and eight times more likely to commit robbery.

Blacks are three times more likely to use a hand gun, and twice more likely to use a knife.

Hispanics commit three times more violent crimes than whites, but the statistics are nebulous because sometimes they are classified as white, so it could be far higher.

The best indicator of violent crime levels in an area is the percent of the population that is black and Hispanic.

Blacks are 39 times more likely to commit a violent crime against whites then vice versa, and 136 times more likely to commit a robbery.

Forty-five percent of black crime is against whites, 43 against other blacks, and 10 percent against Hispanic.

Blacks are seven times more likely to go to prison

Genocidal barbaric violence is not necessarily working according to the same racial logic of organized mass spectacular lynchings in the United States.

So? We're going to split hairs on inter-ethnic violence because.....?

and that's going to help us understand this topic in situ better because.....?

Katrina, i.e., what happens in a collapse scenario is VASTLY more relevant and instructive at this particular juncture in time.

But, my suspicions would be that there are differences between the inter-ethnic civil war genocide-like strife of Africa and the U.S.

yeah..., in the last decade 6 million have been killed by Ugandan and Rwandan incursions - thus making the genocides in the Congo dwarf the whole and entire Southeast Asian holocaust perpetrated by the U.S.

Also, street crime murders, however many there are, do not constitute the types of lynchings and lynch culture I am talking about.

Quite right. The latter is relic of a bygone era now 4 generations removed, while the former has been many times more prolific in its casualty count over just the past generation alone.

chaunceydevega said...

cnu. i hear you that when you are dead you are dead. but again, those are not lynchings. they are not spectacular lynchings. and yes, the genocidal violence in africa is a crime against humanity. i have never disagreed with that fact. i am interested in the casual use of the word lynching to describe random murder, that may or not be racially tinged, in the U.S.

You know my opinion about social disorganization and ghetto ign't culture. No disagreement there.

You have seen this word overused as well I am sure. I would suggest the word genocide is also overused as well too, because that too, refers to a very specific set of circumstances.

The Sanity Inspector said...

"Equal justice under law" should remain the goal, whether the civil rights movement is still alive or not.

I'm of the opinion that the Trayvon Marting slaying was a legitimate case of self-defense. I don't see how any such interpretation can be plausibly made for the Jordan Davis case, based on what's been made public so far. I interact with obstreperous black adolescents all the time (though by no means exclusively), and though I don't claim that I could have dialed that SUV's crew down any, I'm sure I or anyone could have avoided what actually happened.

The Sanity Inspector said...

And thanks for avoiding overstatement re lynching. I still remember the ML King family in the 90s, during a spat over some historical papers, likening the National Parks Service to the KKK.

chaunceydevega said...

@Sanity. We had a big to and fro on Martin. Not surprised by your defending him.

As I said there you can't hunt someone down and then claim self-defense. Zimmerman was a toy cop wannabe thug killer. He is also fixated on black people and wanted to play dirty harry and shoot one.

He will get his just comeuppance in prison from the brothers I am sure. Plus, how can you believe that impudent delusional liar--given his many lies to this point--has any credibility whatsoever?

Razor said...

CD, I share your discomfort with the desciptor "lynching" to describe the murders of black folk by whites or their proxies under the circumstances that it has been used lately. However, given the reactions by others after-the-fact does bring to mind the lynch mob mentalities that allowed them to exist and persist. Though I would not have preferred that particular explosive word, I understand why some of the persons who used it did so. It was employed by some persons trying to wake up black folk in a near comatose state of social and political lethargy. But your point is well taken.

Though the traditional American-style lynching is not a real reality today, if I may use lynching as a metaphor in a more respectful way, I submit that there are mass lynching taking place everyday. The pernicious War on Drugs and the concomittant mass incarceration of black men ( mostly marijuana and non-violent )( a parting gift for the gains made during the Civil Rights era ) with all of the attendant life-altering baggages is nothing short of societal public lynching, while the capitalist stand to the side counting their money, and the white crowds cheering their assent knowing that the blacks are being conscripted into perpetual non-competitive indentured servitude.
No matter how many families are destroyed...and their children don't count anyway...they never did.

To ensure the viability of this War on Drugs ( more aptly termed the War on Black/Brown Folk ) the federal government became intimately involved in it's free-flowing and abundant supply to America in trades for political/economic/military access in overthrowing and controlling Asian and Latin American countries by our government and economic global elites.

Blacks were targeted not only for consumption of the drugs but also for mass arrests (whites using most of the drugs not targeted for arrest and therefore rarely encarcerated) and the encarcerated in record numbers for lengths of record time. Not by accident. Lynchings?

That same War on Drugs (vs. rational consideration of the Decriminalization of Drugs depriving it of it's profitability as European nations are sucessfully beginning to do) is also the reason that many blacks are killing other blacks which feeds into the violent culture. Here, blacks are using the rope given to them by whites to in turn lynch each other...and the same crowd cheers. The cheering crowd also finds an ironic justification for their premise that since blacks shoot each other often enough then they have a valid irrational fear of the same fate.

Tax starving of our major cities and the more-than-necessary reform of the welfare system accompanying the manufacuring job losses during this same period (NAFTA & CAFTA), while de-emphasing meaningful public education reform...another public mass lynching of young black folk. This was always a formula for the destruction of persons who were struggling to overcome the psychological stigmas and scars of the past.

Then there are the stark and cold realities of our lives that CNu alludes to...about the absolute necessity ( particularly for people of color in America) to by whatever means (I say through God) to somehow overcome the deficits built over several generations, evade all of the psychological and even physical traps ingeniously and strategically set by very purposeful ruling elite schemes, and sacrifice all that you must to change the course of your family history if it had not been accomplished already, which generally does not leave much room for error...unless you happen to be one of those so gifted and lucky that you make it through not too damaged while living black in America.

CNu, while I agree with you on a basic level about preparedness for a financial collapse, you must be careful not to spend too much time around those Preppers...we don't want to lose you.

Sanity Inspector, I'm curious, have you ever stood accused of being a troll?

adamabroad said...

CNu:

Back after thinking about the issue of prioritizing for the day.

Yes, conscription is sometimes necessary. But the act of imposing pressure on people to prioritize carries negative results in the long term. I seem to refer to my current job and experiences a lot, but I think they're instructive here, so:

There are two words which mean "volunteer" in Russian. The first, "dobrovolyets," is the word I was taught to use in training, but no longer use, because of the connotations. The Soviet government used to release flyers and messages "encouraging," i.e. not so subtly threatening, citizens to volunteer. The government did this because it believed it could force the next stage in Marx's theory of societal evolution if it controlled its economy as much as possible.

Not only did that not wind up happening, the word "dobrovolyets" took on a meaning closer to "forced public labor," and the idea of doing public labor without being forced to do it is being reintroduced to former Soviet republics. I use "volonter," which is a newer English loanword and wasn't plastered over propaganda posters, instead.

The point of all this: in an emergency, ordering people to work is acceptable to most of us. But the long-term use of pressure to compel certain kinds of work, even for the public good, can kill even good peoples' appetite for good works. You can wind up solving immediate problems, but exhausting your resources for the next mounting problem, if you don't allow people to work according to their talents and passions.

The Sanity Inspector said...

Sanity Inspector, I'm curious, have you ever stood accused of being a troll?

Not trolling, I just like to get outside my bubble & expose myself to other attitudes now & again.

CNu said...

Yes, conscription is sometimes necessary.

Adam.

Where?

In anything I've written or reposted,

that you've read,

have you seen me to recommend compulsory participation?

lol, I'm faaaar too Malthusian for that.

No, as far as I'm concerned, the planet teems with more two-legged roaches than an alphabet city apartment kitchen at 3:00AM in the morning.

Those who refuse to attend to their near-future predicament have simply failed a very significant fitness test.

The point of all this: in an emergency, ordering people to work is acceptable to most of us. But the long-term use of pressure to compel certain kinds of work, even for the public good, can kill even good peoples' appetite for good works. You can wind up solving immediate problems, but exhausting your resources for the next mounting problem, if you don't allow people to work according to their talents and passions.

good riddance....,

adamabroad said...

CNu:

Okay. I thought that, by writing about how "the likelihood of black on black crime and violence is exponentially greater than the likelihood of "racialized" crime and violence," or "a context of increasing fiscal austerity and actual pressing scarcity," you were suggesting that discussion and/or action should be focused on those issues. But if I understand you correctly, you see the majority of humanity as "two-legged roaches," and therefore any discussion or action which might prevent widespread suffering or death makes as much sense as, well, not calling an exterminator when you've got a cockroach problem.

If that's the case, why don't you want people to focus on the Davis and Martin cases? You seem to believe there are matters which would be more pressing to most people. But at the same time you don't seem to care what happens to most people. I'm having trouble figuring out what you actually want.

CNu said...

lol, I want those who have ears to hear and eyes to see - to rub out the detritus of irredeemable distraction and imaginary identification, and to focus instead on their own tangible personal resilience.

CNu said...

I want respectable negroes to focus on what's practical, measurable, and doable - and to leave aspirational nonsense alone.

Why are you in the Peace Corps in the Ukraine right now Adam? Is that an aspirational increment in your life, are you CIA, or, is that about the best you could do coming out of college in this collapsing economy?

adamabroad said...

Is this an aspirational increment in my life?

I always wanted to travel to another country and really understand another culture and language while doing something helpful. And several family friends, co-workers, college professors, and bosses had done Peace Corps and told me it was a good experience. It's definitely not what I'd expected it to be, but I'm still glad I'm doing it.

Am I CIA?

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*pause for breath*

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hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah
ahahahahahahahahahaha

No. I'm a teacher in a town of less than 20,000 people. There are absolutely no state secrets worth uncovering here, unless the cafeteria at my school is actually a chemical weapons lab (which, judging from what they call "meat," is entirely possible). Additionally, PCVs' identities are made known to *everyone* - we're registered as US government workers with Ukraine's Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education, Health, and State Security; we're on national TV when we complete our training and officially become volunteers; we're in local newspapers when we arrive in our new homes; and we show up in the papers again whenever we do something good. We would be terrible spies.

Is this the best I could do in a collapsing economy?

No. I made decent money back in the States at a bicycle shop, and my boss didn't want me to leave. I'm here because I wanted to do something useful and see/learn about a part of the world I hadn't really known before.

"I want respectable negroes to focus on what's practical, measurable, and doable - and to leave aspirational nonsense alone."

I appreciate your sense of pragmatism. But what's "practical, measurable, and doable" is going to be different for different people. Some black people need the sort of focus on their bare necessities that you care about. For some, those things are covered, and there are greater goals to aim for.

CNu said...

I appreciate your sense of pragmatism. But what's "practical, measurable, and doable" is going to be different for different people. Some black people need the sort of focus on their bare necessities that you care about. For some, those things are covered, and there are greater goals to aim for.

Actually Adam, very few people know how to do anything useful when it comes to meeting the necessities, nowhere does this become more evident than in the aftermath of a disaster like Sandy.

I consider cuban-style urban agriculture, bicycle repair, basic plumbing, and low-energy, low-water consumption home repair and rennovation as highly desirable vocational callings.

One wonders, what are the fundamental differences between the cuban people who had to get it together on some fairly profound levels after the fall of the soviet union, and who now have it together to the extent of being entirely self-sufficient, the most educated people in the western hemisphere, etc., etc.., and folks in America who fall to conditions of chaos in the wake of fairly modest supply chain and utility disruptions?

Anyway, as for the tongue in cheek CIA query, you have some slightly unrealistic understandings about the nature of field-work and the value of cultivating relationships on the ground in other countries.

Because of its mode of engagement with folks that it serves, the Peace Corps remains one of the indispensable insertion points for young, green field hands.

adamabroad said...

"Anyway, as for the tongue in cheek CIA query, you have some slightly unrealistic understandings about the nature of field-work and the value of cultivating relationships on the ground in other countries."

And you, in turn, have a fairly strange concept of what the CIA would do in an eastern European context.

Relationships "on the ground" couldn't possibly lead to connections between the CIA and any individuals or groups the CIA might find worth investigating/screwing around with. Ukraine, as with most of the FSU / Warsaw Bloc, is a high power distance country, meaning that there are effectively no connections between powerful people and ordinary people.

Additionally, due to the relative lack of ethnic and cultural diversity in most places, along with the relatively small sizes of communities and one funny holdover from the Soviet era, most terrorist groups or clandestine opposition to the government would find it impossible to escape detection here. Foreigners in Ukraine, even if they're white, are recognizable as foreigners - even at night, even forty or fifty feet away - and will attract attention most places they go. That particularly includes PCVs, but really, any foreigner here's pretty easy to spot.

The funny holdover, by the way, is probably among the most extensive ground-level espionage programs any government has ever conducted against its own citizens. Widowed or otherwise single women during the Soviet era were employed to do nothing more than watch the entrances to the apartment buildings where most people, including the women themselves, lived, and report back the comings and goings to the committee on government security (Komitet Gosudarstvenoy Bezopasnostiy, aka KGB). The jury's out on whether or not the post-Soviet government still pays those women, but they're still out in front of most buildings, just watching people come and go all day. When the weather's not too brutal to be outside, there's three or four of them outside the buildings near mine at all times.

The CIA wouldn't try to use PCVs to gather intelligence in a clandestine way, not if they're smart. Everyone in our communities knows where we go and what we do. It's much easier to just set up a fake company, hire a bunch of out-of-work host country hackers, and get them to monitor whatever you need monitored. God knows there are a lot of unemployed/underemployed computer nerds in this part of the world who look and sound like they fit in.

CNu said...

lol,

Adam, you realize you've done a better job of explaining precisely why PCV remains an indispensable introduction to journeyman field work - which work depends on relationships on the ground and intimate familiarity with the culture?

I'll trade you one drinking buddy relationship with a slightly disgruntled Kyivstar radio tower repairman for any dozen hackers attempting to clandestinely subvert standard security and controls on a GSM radio network.

and the value of a bootie-call black book among those porch-money women - all the while doing Gawd's innocent and innocuous work as a PCV teacher?

Priceless....,

Of course, I can't speak for the hamlet where you're lodged, and I trust that it is distant from power networks, however, the fundamental modus operandi is none the less valid for that fact.

adamabroad said...
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adamabroad said...

And if we were spies and asked that Kyivstar tower repairman (assuming he lives in the town - he probably doesn't, because his home office is in a major city hours away) to help us tap someone's phone line, he'd assume someone from the Ukrainian government was watching us, and he'd probably be right. The Ukrainian state security apparatus has five times as many officers as the United Kingdom's does for a similar population size. There is no way for us to actually be spies here. We are not clandestine or covert in any way.

I suppose I can't understand where this level of distrust comes from. I think this is because my ethnicity has never had its activists targeted for illegal surveillance by the American government for no other reason besides its ethnicity, so I can't feel the sort of fear you apparently feel whenever the US government tries to do something in partnership with another government and within another country's borders. But this isn't the CIA, or even some sort of CIA training course. God help the US government if that was actually the idea, because we'd be useless at espionage.

We'd be useless because deception is the central idea of espionage. We have to possess and develop teaching, grant-writing, communication, negotiation, and a whole host of other skills, but deception is not one of them. Everyone here knows what my responsibilities are, and my colleagues know everything that I'm doing. Or supposed to be doing, if they ever pick up their )*@&#^@)#&^ phones...

CNu said...

lol, Adam, I don't suspect you of being a CIA anything, I take you at face value as what you profess to be.

My account of the value of social engineering (and I'm using that in the most explictly hackerish way possible) not in the sense of centralized planning of social policy, rather, in the applied exploitation of relationships and human habits for information gain - is rooted in years of professional experience.

From 1988-1996, I perfected my own cybonic trade craft in the U.S. Treasury Dept. and from 1999-2003, I was a rather notoriously successful professional hacker. In consequence of this experience, I've done a fair amount of work for military and federal law enforcement agencies.

I'm not the least little bit paranoid about what the government does (as government) - however - I know from years of direct personal experience what's possible within the aegis of "government".

PCV is merely a vehicle through which other entities routinely operate in order to do journeyman, pedestrian social engineering and relationship management.

adamabroad said...
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adamabroad said...

Yeah, relationship management is definitely a major idea here. We're not just teachers, we're ground-level diplomats. And although there are regulations that prohibit people from joining the Peace Corps after the military/intelligence community or vice versa for 4 to 10 years after they complete a term of service, the Peace Corps definitely feeds people into the Foreign Service Office and other parts of the State Department, Department of Education, etc. Everyone gets a year of noncompetitive eligibility after they complete their service.

But we're encouraged to use it, not forced; there's no penalty if, like me, you'd rather still be a TEFL, albeit in a job where you might actually make more than $200 per month, than work for the government for the rest of your career. I see no problem with being encouraged to do good in particular ways, and I think that people who want to help out via water engineering and ensuring healthy food access are doing something wonderful which prevents a lot of suffering. I just have a problem with the idea of being told that any other sort of service is irrelevant; if, for example, one teaches people how to dig wells and plant their own food, it may have a larger impact than if they just do it for themselves.

CNu said...

Yeah, relationship management is definitely a major idea here. We're not just teachers, we're ground-level diplomats.

That's the money shot right thurr, and the essence of what I was talking about.

One of the reasons I believe it's imperative that folks unglue themselves from fin d'siecle popular cultural bread and circus and reorganize their interests and efforts around pedestrian urban food and physical security vocations - is that when contraction and collapse have TSHTF in earnest, not only will they be personally resilient, they'll have stock-in-trade valued by the majority ethnic community.

Missouri in general and Kansas City in particular, have a very interesting and compelling story - quite distinct from other slave states in the U.S. - this was a nexus of black artisanry and cultures of competence.

I see ample opportunities to restore the cultures of vocational competence and specialized artisanry - minus the labor value appropriation of slavery.

Matter fact, I consider architecting and implementing specifically that type of local cultural reformation my own professional calling.

matrix said...

In short, racism is ALIVE and well, just more refined and stealthy. I hate Jewish terms like 'post racial America', this country is clearly not "post racial" it just looks good on paper and adds intentional confusion in a subtle way. Lynch is a powerful word, but if it quacks like a duck, then it is a duck. There was no rope and tree, but a gun stood in for that, the mindset of the perpetrator was old school KKK racist, the media was the crowd of spectators, the same as 100 years ago, but a modern version, therefore it was a lynching.

makheru bradley said...

Only in Police State America: The option of choice is deadly force

Who needs a justice system? Extra judicial killings at home just like extra-judicial killings abroad.

“He was between the car door and driver’s seat and feared for his safety.” Shooting the passenger was supposed to stop the car? SMH!

http://www.khou.com/news/Walmart-shooting-victim-was-a-mother-of-two-182626411.html

http://bit.ly/TWHxzk

MaMu1977 said...

@CNu

There's a museum in Brussels, Belgium, that holds over 1 million Congolese hands. Over 1 million hands of men, women and children who made the mistake of being born in a country that could supply rubber. To be clear, prior to the introduction of Belgians to the patch of land that became the Congo, 20+ million natives of various tribal affiliations lived a "Now, let's not dismember random people for food!", lifestyle. Post-Belgian exit, about 10 million Congolese were left alive, half of whom were missing 1 or both hands, all of the children having lived in a world in which chopping off peoples' hands for committing crimes like burning a pot of rice or touching upper class people was considered "right and proper behaviour".

In other words, don't push the "Zaire is run and populated by savages" meme unless you know all of the facts.

CNu said...

uh..., mamu - please try and pay attention.

I was pushing the Susan Rice is a jack and jill boule-esque operative who in concert with Paul Kagame has pushed continuing holocaust in the Congo.

Oh yeah, and, that, that lynched meme is plain silly and excessive in a contemporary context in which holocaust-scale violence is being perpetrated against POC by U.S. satraps and proxies.

Ben Brung said...

The resonant word in this piece for me is "paradoxical." The only way these current crimes have depth beyond the superficial is if the unique circumstances and individuals are treated as such. At the same time, there is no way to understand racism in isolation from current and historical societal factors.

These crimes shouldn't be linked at all AND they have to be linked to understand their implications. It's hard to even approach the topic of racism without iconic historical ideas that are immensely meaningful AND only historical markers.

This country understands the Civil Rights movement as a quest for all to be seen as a person rather than a race AND this is now a rallying cry for some of our most virulent "colorblind" racists.

The paradoxical idea that someone can be a race AND not a race is especially hard to grasp when one's race is white and the level to which one is defined by race is left almost completely to their discretion.

Most discussions of race leave me feeling you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. I come here a lot because paradox lives here. But, as you can see, my time is better spent in confusing thought than timely comment.