Who gets to be a brave survivor?

Rape culture has many strongholds, and one that stands out is incarceration. Because of the naive perception that incarcerated people have done something wrong (most plea bargain and are never proven guilty in court), many people will excuse prison conditions as being “part of the punishment.” [Content Notice for extreme sexual violence at this link] We see this in how sexual assault is weaponized as a consequence for high-profile offenders like Brock Turner–despite the fact that survivors ourselves often object to this.

I’ve quoted the less gorey details here:

When Tarana Burke started the Me Too movement, she hoped it would elevate the voices of survivors of sexual abuse—especially the voices of women of color. Although Burke’s Me Too has molded into a viral movement and hashtag, made famous mostly by celebrities and those who have access to platforms like Twitter, the survivors whose abusers are actually facing consequences are still mostly white women with resources and power. Some women with privilege are attempting to be better allies to those often erased from these conversations, by putting money behind their words, but some members of marginalized groups, like people in prison who’ve experienced abuse while incarcerated, have no voice.

The public seems to care less about the stories of incarcerated survivors than others, as Victoria Law has reported, and does not work as hard to end their abuse or the normalization of abuse in prisons. The result is a culture of sexual violence so extreme that speaking out could put prison abuse survivors in serious danger. The mainstream Me Too movement as cultural effort falls short for them.

Reporting sexual abuse can always put a survivor in danger, but in prison that threat is elevated because survivors are either detained alongside their abusers or their abuser is the one who holds the key to their cell.

“We’ve seen the power wielded by an abusive person like Harvey Weinstein,” said Jesse Lerner-Kinglake, communications director for Just Detention International, a nonprofit whose mission is to end sexual abuse in detention centers worldwide. “But for inmates, the stakes are raised, because even if they could participate in these hashtags, then their personal safety would be very much at risk.” Often that means their stories go untold and do not receive the kind of attention necessary for real change.

You can read the rest here, though again, content notice for graphic violence.

-Shiv

Funny how those whining about safe spaces are advocating for safe spaces

I’ve seen the concept characterized as a “protective bubble against the wrong kind of thinking,” a position tenable only if you have never actually accessed a safe space. In reality I might just want to talk about something without some dipshit shrieking “MAN! UR A MAN!” into my ear through a blow horn. You would never know this judging by the complaints leveled about safe spaces by people who don’t use them, though–such as apologists of white supremacy and colonization calling for the banishment of scholarship on colonial history.

Nigel Biggar’s research project proposes to take a cost-benefit analysis of British imperial history, weighing the bad things against the good. In defending the project he called on “usBritish to moderate our post-imperial guilt” (emphasis added) in an article in The TimesThere have been some excellent critiques of the naive simplicity of the research methods proposed, most notably an excellent open-letter drafted by a range of prominent Oxford academics of different disciplinary backgrounds. This led to a backlash from right-wing newspapers against these academics.

For me, any defence of British imperialism is by implication a defence of white supremacy. To take the example of British India—my own field of study—there were always exceptions and protections for white populations written into the laws. Similarly in the political sphere there were always positions of authority reserved for white rulers only. Elizabeth Kolsky’s amazing book on white violence in colonial India is a great place to learn more about how these privileges operated. To judge British colonial rule by its effects without taking into account its fundamentally racist legal and bureaucratic structures is to suggest that there are circumstances when white supremacy is acceptable. The argument that positive things were done through British imperialism that might excuse its inherent racism (let alone the numerous atrocities committed by British colonial regimes across the world) is, thus, also a subtle defence of white supremacy.

The claim that colonial rule did good because it “developed” colonized societies (with proponents of this position often citing improvements in medicine and infrastructure) rests on the implicit counter-factual that without imperial intervention these societies would not have participated in modernity. The assumption here is that pre-colonial polities were stagnant, static and disconnected from wider historical changes. This is an assumption that work on pre-colonial histories have shown to be demonstrably false. For instance, Victor Lieberman’s colossal comparative global history shows that there were parallels between Europe and other parts of the world prior to 1830. Moreover, colonized people engaged with modern practices without the direct instigation of the colonial regime, and sometimes in the face of imperial opposition. The assumption that the apparently “positive” changes that occurred during colonialism can be attributed to the British presence is unsustainable. It implies that only white rulers could have brought about these changes.

Read more by Jonathan Saha.

-Shiv

More plaintiffs in the brutality lawsuit stemming from J20 arrests

It’s been one year since the mass arrest at Trump’s inauguration. 240 people were rounded up by police for their proximity to half a dozen vandals–some 1,800 charges would be pressed against 230 defendants, 194 of which are going to trial. While the first six defendants were acquitted of all charges in December last year, there remain dozens of trials yet to go, and any of them can secure the precedent that would further empower prosecutors to smash activist movements. The second trial group had their second round of procedural hearings on the 18th.

Coinciding with this criminal litigation is a competing police brutality and false arrest lawsuit by the ACLU. During the first trial Police Commander Keith DeVille admitted the Metropolitan Police Department’s liability “would be limited” in the event of convictions stemming from the J20 protests.

Now a mother, Gwen Frisbie-Fulton, and her child have joined the brutality lawsuit. [Content Notice: This link has footage and descriptions of police brutality]

We left early in the morning and bought day-long Metro passes. They were special inauguration passes with a picture of Donald Trump on them. A. thought these would be good for his memory box. But the memory we left D.C. with that January day felt much more sinister.

After we spent a few hours protesting, I learned that a friend was being detained. When we got to the location, people had gathered across from where a large group of protestors had been cornered by police. A. stood on the base of a lamp post so he could wave to the people he knew. He chanted “Let them go!” gleefully with other protesters. We talked with friends. We shared some of the snacks I had packed in my backpack. We were there for more than half an hour without incident.

But then, without warning, everything changed.

Colour me stunned that another 188 people are going to trial over 1,550 charges pressed during an arrest we’re not even sure is legal because they walked past a broken window.

Read more about the events that day and the lawsuit here.

-Shiv

Trans feminism and the law

Florence Ashley opens this essay by distinguishing between the “rule of law” and the “rule of man,” describing the latter as a widely undesirable state of governing (or lack thereof) while the former is supposed to be a steady and reliable foundation of order:

The rule of law is a lot like gender. The analogy is puzzling, at first glance. Coming from a trans experience, the parallels are much more visible to me: “Then an analysis can focus not on what the rule of law is, or what it should be, but on what it does, what it accomplishes, what it produces. Indeed, if the only thing we know for sure about the rule of law is what any of these many state actors say it is in any particular instance, the rule of law will turn out to be as messy and diffuse a concept as the state[2].” This passage is perfectly intelligible, and yet every reference to the rule of law in the passage was a replacement of the term “sex”. Both the rule of law and gender, in legal contexts, are normative notions which seek to define the proper relationship between citizens and between citizens and the state. Whereas the supported relationship is a cisheteronormative[3] one with regards to gender, the rule of law promotes a law-abiding relationship between citizens and state. In the negative chasm of each conception, we find transgender people and emancipatory actors. Gender as a state construct makes trans lives either impossible or difficult, whereas the rule of law makes emancipatory lives either impossible or difficult. That trans lives are often led as emancipatory lives attests to importance of transfeminist analyses of the rule of law. The analogy is also interesting insofar as the enforcement of gender as a legal-administrative category to the disadvantage of trans people is frequently defended by appeal to the rule of law.

However, Ashley argues that it’s a false distinction: Man must apply the law, and discretionary power brings us back to square one.

The notion of the rule of law implies that we are ruled by law. However much a truism as this sentence may be, it is not a trivial point. There must be a meaningful way in which laws, rather than people, are what rule our lives[4]. For some rule of law theorists, the enforcement of laws satisfies the rule of law if it is exercised by those in power in their role as agents of the law, in a good faith belief that the law mandates them to exercise their powers in that manner[5].

Inherent in this notion is that being ruled by law is possible. We have room to doubt this assertion on two grounds. First, discretionary power is distributed widely and unevenly. Too many people have too much discretionary power for us to realistically ensure that they always act in accordance to such a good faith belief. Second, good faith beliefs cannot be so detached from the agents which hold them that their imposition can be reasonably interpreted as a rule by law rather than by men.

Ashley then examines what it means for the agents of law to import their own experience of the world into legal constructs, and relates that to the current state of struggle for trans folk. I thoroughly recommend it.

-Shiv

 

 

Canadian exceptionalism

Exceptionalism has typically been used in the past to describe the mentality that justifies the United States’ many many contradictions–the USA can do something because it’s “different” but when another country does the same it’s suddenly bad. This contradiction can be found in, for example, someone who supports the actions of the United States but condemns the actions of Israel: Israel’s colonization of the West Bank is horrific, but also par for the course in terms of colonization, something which can be extensively described in American history.

Anthony Morgan coined the term “racial exceptionalism” to describe a similar occurrence in Canada, where our self-perception of being “nice” is used to avoid frank conversations about racism. The situation in Flint is horrible, see, but the fact that we have piped poison water into Indigenous reserves is different because mumble mumble something mumble we’re nice.

Melayna Williams has a more comprehensive review of racial commentary in Canada:

It’s difficult to determine what qualifies as “nice.” The words “nice” and “kind” are often used interchangeably. When Canadians are characterized as nice, it has more to do with being polite. And 66 per cent of Canadians believe we’re as nice as the world thinks we are, according to a survey conducted as part of   The Canada Project Survey, in partnership with Abacus Data. But this Canadian niceness is worth a closer look, particularly because “nice” is how the world often defines us and how Canadians define themselves. Yet it’s used to erase and undercut many things that aren’t so nice.

Niceness has historically been utilized to undercut progress toward dismantling systemic oppression. In a piece published earlier this year entitled “You Can’t Kill Racism with Kindness,” Lindsay King-Miller wrote: “I can think you’re an asshole and still fight for your rights. You can find me unbearable and still fight for mine. And when we simplify oppression into mere unkindness, we provide cover for friendly people who support oppressive policies.” In Canada, this is all compounded by the fact that nuanced and accurate conversations on race remain rare. Here, niceness and politeness are utilized to shut down race discourse and create what Anthony Morgan calls Canadian “racial exceptionalism”—the falsehood that positions Canadians as too nice to take racist actions and to talk about racism itself. “Having avoided the depth and scope of American Jim Crow, we imagine ourselves innocent,” wrote Rosemary Westwood in a 2016 piece that asked “Is Canada too Polite to Talk About Racism?”

The problem is that there’s a wealth of evidence that racism can actually look like it’s nice. Characterizing racism as mean and blatant is misguided and inaccurate. It also means there’s no accountability for subtle, harmful behaviour that is indeed racist.  What Christy DeGallerie aptly describes as “nice racism”—subtle “microagressions” and friendly forms of discrimination—can easily describe what Black Canadians tolerate dressed up with the veneer of niceness. Among these “nice” actions: Being asked where you are from, being told you’re intelligent for a Black person or offhand comments about a hair style. They all serve to center whiteness and frame a racialized identity as different. Blackness (and by default Black experience and Black thought) remains characterized as irrational, angry and misguided, while whiteness remains juxtaposed as rational, calm and intelligent.

Read more here. And never let a Canadian tell you they’re too nice to be racist.

-Shiv

Jordan Peterson, Jack off of all trades, Master of none

I don’t envy proponents of genetically modified organisms, as a technology. On the one hand they have to grapple with heinously unethical corporate greed as large businesses try to patent something that doesn’t always follow the logic of possession; on the other they have to deal with scientifically illiterate antis who conflate corporate ownership and the actual research.

Like many topics, it’s something you ought to sit down with for a while and get acquainted with the issues. A lot of wires are crossed in this conversation, so doing your homework is a prerequisite for not looking like an asshole.

That, of course, will never deter Jordan B. Peterson.

[Read more…]

It’s that bad

Intelligence agencies are (unsurprisingly) cagey about their activities. Every time we get a chance to peek under the mask, we learn more about how bad it is. The Liberals, who inherited Conservative policy that characterizes environmentalists and indigenous activists (there is plenty of overlap) as a domestic terrorist threat, have done little more than spew hot air, keeping the worst of the human rights violations from Conservative policy.

This is what that looks like.

The records detailing monitoring of individual activists and leaders speak to a larger pattern of surveillance against non-violent dissent, Indigenous-led social movements and their allies. As APTN reported in relation to the documents referring to Thomas-Muller, RCMP records also listed a number of groups as “involved persons,” including “the Defenders of the Land, Direct Action in Canada for Climate Justice, Ontario Public Interest Research Group, Ruckus Society, Global Justice Ecology Project, Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance, Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, the Indigenous Action Movement and the Wet’suwet’en Direct Action Camp.” In 2014, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed complaints against both the RCMP and CSIS, alleging unlawful surveillance against opponents of Northern Gateway that included many of the same organizations. While the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP launched an independent investigation, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) (the body responsible for CSIS oversight) instead held a series of secret hearings. They issued a decision in 2015, but barred the BCCLA from speaking about the outcome. The BCCLA has since applied for judicial review of this decision.

Just last month, documents obtained by VICE News demonstrate that the RCMP surveilled Indigenous activists who constructed a Tipi on Parliament Hill as part of Idle No More’s Unsettling Canada 150, a campaign coinciding with 150 years since Canadian confederation. Idle No More has come under government scrutiny on other occasions: in 2015 documents obtained by APTN confirmed that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AAND, now INAC) shared information about peaceful protests led by the group with Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and passed on information about meetings between government and First Nations leaders to the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and others.

Read more here.

-Shiv

I know those cognitive shortcuts, too

It’s clockwork at this point: No argument, no matter how meticulously evidenced or delicately constructed, will ever be engaged with as long as it implicates people as participants in a harmful system. Instead a variety of shortcuts are employed to avoid confrontations of complicity. One of the more routine ones I receive is the presumption of “insanity”–that none of my conclusions need be examined or grappled with because I’m “crazy”–and it’s a familiar one Sherronda Brown receives too.

When I wrote “The Racist Roots of Gynecology and What Black Women Birthed” for Wear Your Voice Magazine, I was called a liar. My credibility and intelligence were challenged by white readers who refused to believe the facts that I laid out about disparities in pain management and anti-Blackness medicine.

“Sims never gave [anesthesia] to the enslaved women in his care. It is recorded that he subscribed to the belief that Black people did not have the same capacity to feel pain as white people, a belief that many people in the medical field unfortunately still hold. Physicians continually offer less pain relief and fewer management resources to their Black patients, even to children, due to this accepted myth.”

I spent an entire weekend reading through texts like Trial and Error: J. Marion Sims and the Birth of Modern Gynecology in the American South, “Toward an Understanding of the ‘Medical Plantation’ as a Cultural Location of Disability,” and A Calculus of Suffering: Pain, Professionalism, and Anesthesia in Nineteenth-Century America. I even read Sims’ own account of his life, work, and ideology in his autobiography.

I provided evidence and sources. Still, the legitimacy of my work was questioned, because so many white people refuse to admit that the insidiousness of racism and anti-Blackness reaches as far and as wide as it does, and that it harms us in the many horrific ways that Black people and non-Black people of color know all too well.

White supremacy’s modus operandi is not only to deny the validity of clear evidence set before it, but it is also to alter narratives in its own favor, something that we have witnessed Trump and his supporters do time and time again. It’s something that we have seen history textbooks perpetrate, claiming that the enslaved Africans of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade were nothing more than immigrants and that Canada’s First Nations peoples agreed to move out of their own lands to make room for European settlers.

It’s lazy thinking, and it’s fucking ubiquitous.

Read more by Brown here.

-Shiv

Man, I just cannot imagine why anyone would want to exclude cops from Pride

It’s almost like their reputation precedes them or something. Oh, right, the reputation comes from the mouths of undesirables, so it goes unremarked.

CW: Abuse, sexual assault, misogyny.

A female sergeant with nearly 20 years on the force is coming forward with claims of sexual harassment and discrimination within the Toronto Police Service, allegations detailed in a recent complaint filed to the Human Rights Tribunal on Ontario.

Sgt. Jessica McInnis, a 43-year-old officer who has earned accolades since joining the Toronto Police Service in 1998, alleges she was subjected to a “steady barrage of unsolicited sexist, sexual, harassing and obscene messages” by Det. Mark Morris, her former police partner and co-leader of their Criminal Investigations Bureau (CIB) team, at downtown’s 14 Division.

The CIB tackles a range of crimes within the division, including thefts and suspicious deaths.

“I hope you don’t call the (Special Investigations Unit) on my (sic) when we do the nasty,” Morris texted her on Nov. 27, 2015 according to the claim, a message sent after Morris caught wind that the SIU, Ontario’s police watchdog, was probing sexual assault allegations against a colleague.

“Remember if I slapped that ass it’s not a sexual assault if I say nice game. That’s what we do in sports,” he added, according to the claim.

Sounds like the sort of person I’d trust with my safety. You?

-Shiv