From the September-October 2016 issue of News & Letters
RACISM AND REVOLT PUT U.S. ON TRIAL
Regarding the uprising in Wisconsin against racism, the most oppressed are indeed the vanguard and are now using direct action. Sherman Park is not the worst crime neighborhood. It varies by street. Most of the residents worked for Harley Davidson or A.O. Smith—two factories that border the neighborhood. Harley cut at least half their staff and Smith closed with little notice. The situation is complex and surprised most of us on the North Side, which is predominantly an African American and poverty-stricken area. The media falsely describes Sherman Park as a criminal-controlled slum, which it isn’t. If anything, the Reagan/Clinton policies closed industrial labor opportunities in trade for barely a minimum wage, and, even more, alienated customer service work and put a serious shock and generational clash into the material fabric of Sherman Park.
A Black Lives Matter protest was held in Memphis near Graceland during the yearly candlelight vigil marking the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. Many people were outraged when cops and private security blocked Black people from the vigil, suspecting they were protesters even if they were not. They welcomed whites, including protesters. Now the Coalition of Concerned Citizens has sued the police and Graceland Enterprises over racial profiling. The Coalition said:
“Never did an official of Graceland or Memphis Police Department offer a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for not allowing entrance to a public event… Despite the constant inquiry by Coalition members and other concerned citizens into the grounds and criteria on which citizens, overwhelmingly people of color, were being denied access; the only responses offered were threats of arrest and force….The Coalition joins State Representative G.A. Hardaway in seeking a Justice Department investigation into the pattern and practice of the MPD.”
Black Lives Matter supporter
It’s the system. A few months back in Ohio, Avon Lake police cuffed and put on the ground a man dressed in his traditional garb. He spoke mostly Arabic, but guns pointed at him by white uniformed Americans express a universal language. I indict the system because last year around this time, Avon Lake police were caught on camera as well, but this encounter involved Johnny Manziel. Manziel had been drinking and assaulting his girlfriend. Even admitting the drinking and visible marks on his girlfriend, “Johnny Football” was allowed to be on his way!
I was talking to my wife about the murder of the young men in Minneapolis and I noted, “It’s only going to be a matter of time before Black men start shooting back.” That night came the killings of cops in Dallas and the shootings of cops in Baton Rouge at the same time that protests are becoming more confrontational. We are in a war that has been going on since the 1600s—ever since the first slave was brought to these shores from Africa.
The lead and arsenic poisoning of people at West Calumet Housing Complex is one of a thousand toxic secrets in our region. This is the third neighborhood in East Chicago, Ind., whose poisoning was revealed in the last 20 years. All are communities of color. Some residents have had to leave one neighborhood just to find themselves leaving another. The housing authority was never designed to care for its community, and it doesn’t.
East Chicago, Ind.
Now, in the hottest 14 months in the history of record keeping, the U.S. Department of the Interior has granted new oil and gas leases in the Everglades. All drilling and intrusive exploration should be stopped by law—not continued. What can possibly be a big enough reward to the Department for doing this?
One heartening thing in the article on “Fires in Canada, drought in India inspire creative revolt” (July-August N&L) is that there is so much on people fighting back on pollution and global warming. A lot of people are fighting back, but it’s hard to get traction because so many feel nothing can be done. The latest struggle around the Dakota Access pipeline is getting traction (see “Lakota resist pipeline,” p. 10), which is why the authorities are repressing it so harshly.
WAR AND ATROCITIES
Is it really in our best interests to be constantly engaged in high-stakes struggles with North Korea? So far war has not broken out between our countries, but how long can this chronic international crisis continue before some violent incident happens, and the U.S. finds itself in a war that threatens to draw in China and Russia, thus risking a large-scale destruction of lives and property and the nightmare of a possible nuclear holocaust? I urge the U.S. government to end their war games and military exercises in the Korean Peninsula and redirect this energy into more peaceful and creative projects.
Eighteen months of war has plunged the already impoverished country of Yemen beyond destitution. Atrocities must be condemned from all and anyone. For the same main reason, I refuse to engage in anti-Saudi and anti-Houthi campaigns because I refuse to be biased. Both are evil, butchering Yemeni lives with impunity. I’m against both at the same time. Why is this hard to understand?
Yemeni in exile
WOMEN’S LIVES AT STAKE
A couple in Texas—where abortion is banned past 20 weeks due to their so-called “fetal pain” law—was told their 20-week-old fetus would not survive in utero because of a medical complication. When the woman started feeling pain, they went to the hospital, where medical staff discovered she was miscarrying, but because of the law, labor could not be induced. She was in and out of the hospital four days, once because she was bleeding, but the hospital only sent her home. Finally, the stillbirth occurred. Their only comfort after all that: “We got to hold him for 15 minutes.”
A Nebraska woman was forced to wait for her uterus to crush her fetus, erasing any chance for it to live outside of the uterus. Hypocrites: if fetuses do feel pain after 20 weeks, why would those who favor the—scientifically debunked—fetal pain laws mandate that they suffer in the womb!?
The whole of page two on women in the last issue was excellent. I’ve seen a lot of weirdness over the years of confinement, but I have never seen many of the things that are going on today where certain people’s white male privilege rules the day. The funny thing, or sad if you will, is that the same discussion, for example, on women’s rights, has been going on as long as any other discussion for freedom. In 1911, Christabel Pankhurst noted, “We are here to claim our right as women, not only to be free, but to fight for freedom. That is our right as well as our duty.” One of my favorites, however, is from “A Taste of Honey” by Shelagh Delaney: “Women never have young minds. They are born three thousand years old.”
Unbelievably for a so-called “advanced” capitalist land, deaths of women from pregnancy or childbirth in Texas doubled over a two-year period. It’s as if Texas is having a race with Mississippi to see which state can do women the most harm. A new study also showed that the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. as a whole also increased from 2000 to 2014. In Texas, some of the deaths can be laid at the feet of state legislators who, in their rabid haste to end women’s access to abortion, cut family planning funds by 66%, which closed over 80 clinics. Many of these clinics did not offer abortions and many that did also offered other women’s healthcare. These closures affected poor women the most, the same women who are already at risk for maternal mortality. Texas legislators made a bad situation much worse and women died because of it. Who says there’s not a war against women?
LIFE AND DEATH UNDER THE CLASS DIVIDE
I’m appalled that a country that boasts of so many super-rich billionaires like Donald Trump can be so callous to the homeless. Can those in power fail to see that their self-righteous claims of democracy are seen by the rest of the world as hypocrisy? I’m a former homeless person who experienced the almost impossibly challenging denial by many businesses of their restrooms; the near impossibility of getting money for food because asking for spare change is illegal in many cities. Added to this is the hateful attitude and verbal abuse from many who have no idea of the true causes of homelessness.
Recently I attended a meeting where Mark Burrows, an experienced train engineer, explained how the railroad company responsible for the Lac Megantic catastrophe (see “Lac Mégantic: capitalism’s train wreck,“ Sept.-Oct. 2013 N&L) had forestalled modernization, track maintenance, and engine repairs. Yet now the engineer, Tom Harding, is awaiting trial for the destruction, including 47 deaths. This is a huge issue, among many serious labor problems with U.S., Canada and Mexico railroads. Basically, if the engine at the Lac Megantic “accident” had been in good shape, 47 lives would have been saved.
S.F. Bay Area, Calif.
The Detroit November ballot has two proposals. Proposal A originated in a grassroots effort to ensure that large developers obtaining tax breaks and other compensation would be required to negotiate legally binding community benefits within their census tract. In the past, corporations have fled the city once the tax abatements expired, often leaving blighted structures and environmental damage. Proposal B requires that the community be informed of development and was created only after A. After talking it over, it was clear that my neighbors recognized that A means Accountability but B means Business as Usual.
Nicole Mullis wrote a column in the Battle Creek Enquirer on June 19 about one of her children graduating from high school. She wrote that students who are graduating this year have had “active shooter” training every year in school since they began kindergarten. These young Americans may indeed turn out to be the gravediggers of capitalism. The cover of the August issue of Consumer Reports said in letters an inch high: “I kind of ruined my life by going to college.” It was spoken by Jackie Krowen, age 32, $152,000 in student debt. Capitalism has created a new category of indentured servants, a new complement to the reserve army of the unemployed.
Battle Creek, Mich.
I’m a prisoner of the capitalist machine. I’m working on my seventh year of a ten-year non-aggravated (i.e., I didn’t hurt anyone or use a weapon) sentence and they continue to deny my parole. I’ve done what’s required of me, mostly, and still my history of drug and alcohol abuse is used to keep me here. I try to go to school but education is not free in the state of Texas. Rehabilitation programs aren’t designed for the atheist and I’ve never been one to “fake it till I make it.” In short, they keep me here and make whatever money they get for people incarcerated and they continue to get free labor. Indigent prisoners are given postage for five letters a month and when I got your first subscription renewal reminder I was out of postage.
Tennessee Colony, Texas