Facebook knows better. Let’s make it DO better.

Via email from Color of Change (all emphasis in original):

color of change's facebook campaign image: pile of facebook's iconic thumbs-up "like" icons turned upside-down, with text "IT'S BEEN A YEAR. FACEBOOK DO SOMETHING."

Dear Iris:

One year ago, in response to Facebook doubling down on their refusal to remove calls to violence against Black protestors, we launched our “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign. Together, with our partners and Color Of Change members like you, we successfully compelled an unprecedented 1,200 business partners to withdraw millions of dollars in advertising from Facebook for failing to protect Black users and community stakeholders.1 The boycott increased the pressure we placed on Facebook to respond, resulting in them agreeing to some of our long standing demands, including creating a senior role to oversee civil rights at the company and a dedicated team to study algorithmic racial bias.2 Despite these important changes, Facebook continues to fall far short of adequately addressing the harms they cause our communities. [Read more…]

BREAKING: Derek Chauvin sentenced to 270 months for murder of George Floyd.

It’s a ten-year upward departure from the state’s sentencing guidelines for the crime of second degree murder. The victim impact statements were fucking heartbreaking and incredibly moving, especially the appearance of Floyd’s 7 year old daughter Gianna, who spoke via video link. It’s just a fact that there can never be any real justice for her. Floyd’s brother just aches to understand why. I don’t think he will ever get any kind of answer either, at least not a satisfactory one.

The judge said the upward sentencing departure was based on four aggravating factors, one of which was cruelty. No one who has seen the video of Floyd’s murder could deny that. Nevertheless, the defense argued for a sentence of “probation and time served.” And Chauvin’s mother got up there to proclaim Chauvin’s innocence, and assured her son that many other people believe in his innocence, too. That the Floyd family sat quietly through all of that is a testament to their extraordinary strength of character. I’m sure I couldn’t do it.

Now the world will bear witness to Chauvin’s endless appeals, as well as the additional trial on federal charges. I will be paying attention, because George Floyd matters.

Graffiti artist Eme Freethinker kneels in front of his portrait of George Floyd, which he painted on one of the last remaining sections of the Berlin Wall. “I remember when I came in [to paint it], some guy told me, ‘You have to do it with the police over his neck,'” Freethinker says, “and I was like: ‘No, man. Not like that. No.'”

Juneteenth: Boosting Black Voices.

Today, this Whitey McWhiteperson yields (most of) this space to BIPOC.*

Following are messages I received from two congresspersons I admire deeply. (I helped elect both to Congress by donating as generously as I could during their primary campaigns – where cash really counts – and in the latter case, also by providing intel and oppo research to him and his campaign peeps throughout his successful run to unseat a 16-term incumbent and darling of the Democratic Party.)

First up, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN-5) (emphasis in original):

via email:

Iris,

156 years ago today, Black southerners in Galveston, Texas, finally learned the news of their freedom from enslavement — nearly two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed — now known as Juneteenth.

[Read more…]

Georgia conservatives attempt world record for pettiest voter suppression law.

BREAKING NEWS ALERT via Washington Post:

Georgia lawmakers pass sweeping voting bill that would curtail the use of drop boxes and allow challenges to voting eligibility

The measure, which also expands early voting hours and makes it a crime to give voters food and water while they wait in line, now goes to the desk of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who has not yet announced whether he will sign it.

That’s right: this law “makes it a crime to give voters food and water while they wait in line” to exercise their right to vote. It’s still early in the season, but it’s certainly an ambitious entry for this year’s pettiest voter suppression law!

Still, I can’t help but think perhaps these assholes haven’t quite thought this through. For instance, I wonder whether there’s a (pro-business!) loophole wherein it’s not a crime to sell voters food and water while they wait in line to vote. Or whether the state’s police forces are actually on board with assigning hundreds of officers to enforce this statute on election day, especially when relations between Georgia’s police forces and its minority citizens ain’t exactly copacetic.

I also wonder whether they remembered to grant to themselves and the police officers who enforce the law full immunity from criminal prosecution and civil suits, after some diabetic dies in line when their blood sugar crashes and no one can offer them anything sweet to bring it back up. Or when someone requires emergency medical attention due to severe dehydration.

Maybe I’m overthinking this and worrying for nothing. I mean, it’s not like people in Georgia ever have to wait in line for eleven hours to vote! (Oh wait.)

Now before you get to thinking this law is obviously racially motivated because – as we can all predict with a pretty high level of certainty – it will never be enforced in majority white voting districts, rest assured that this is not the case at all! This law, by constitutional standards, is “racially neutral.” You see, it simply cannot be enforced in majority white districts, because those districts don’t have lines. DUH! No racism to see here, people! Nope, none at all.

I wonder who will try to out-petty Georgia with their voter suppression laws next? I have a feeling it won’t be very long before we have another strong contender.

MLK Day 2021: A Time to Break Silence.

Black Lives Matter

While the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are perhaps his most notable and oft-cited works, it has become my habit on this day to highlight another. Delivered on April 4, 1967 at Manhattan’s Riverside Church, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence reveals King as his fiery and ever-eloquent self, though as a wiser, wearier man than he was just four years earlier, sitting in that Birmingham jail cell.

With the Vietnam conflict raging at the time, King directly linked the profound injustices of that war to many other injustices in our own society – injustices which remain to this day. I wonder what King might say of the Black Lives Matter movement, and of the protests sparked by the police murder of George Floyd, if he were alive today. Of course, we’ll never know. But for me, one overarching message that the movement for Black lives delivered loud and clear to white America is that it is not enough to personally reject racism. If we are not doing the necessary anti-racist work, we whites are failing as human beings. Especially after reading Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, I get the feeling that King could not agree more.

Silence is complicity.

This work was urgent then. It is just as urgent now. That fact is as infuriating as it is heartbreaking. Let us use it, then, to rekindle our own sense of urgency, and to redouble our anti-racist work.

Speaking as a die-hard atheist, I would be remiss if I did not address King’s repeated references to religion. First, as I’ve noted before,

King tethers these to his eloquent defenses of secular ideas of justice, compassion and love to make the same case; in this way they function to bolster his arguments (for the religious-minded) instead of standing in for them.

Second, as a die-hard anti-theist, I’ll take any opportunity to point out that Christians don’t own every virtue- including forgiveness.

Speech below the cut.

[Read more…]

Indigenous Peoples Day 2020.

On Friday, the preferred president of assholes everywhere issued a shitty proclamation declaring that today’s federal holiday is exclusively a celebration of Italian-American contributions to our nation and the exploits of a particular 15th century Italian explorer, said exploits necessarily encompassing the ensuing brutal colonization and genocide of Indigenous people in the Americas. This proclamation is much, much worse than I even imagined. (And I write this as a person with significant Italian-American heritage.) If you choose to read on, you will first want to ensure that your irony meter is in excellent working order and – this is the important part – still under warranty.

For one thing, consider what Pres. Alpha Asshole and his Merry Minions of Masklessness would be saying and doing about Italian immigration a hundred years ago. You know: before Italians suddenly and miraculously became white. I’m pretty sure my grandmother, who happened to be exceptionally dark-skinned even for southern Italy, would have been locked up in a cage along with her sister and all the other Italian immigrant children.

Of course those among us who think we should instead recognize and reckon with the truth of our nation’s history are deemed “radical activists” and “extremists” who “seek to squash any dissent from their orthodoxy” and instead promote a “radical ideology” and “revisionist history” just to “spread hate and division.”

Let us pause for a moment here so that you can recalibrate your irony meter and/or attempt to extinguish the flames emanating therefrom.

Okay now? Good. The preceding was merely setting the stage for what I really want to talk about on this Indigenous Peoples Day. If you guessed that is “Indigenous people,” you win all the internetz! 🏆⭐️🏅

[Read more…]

What’s up, doc? The ills of race-based medicine.

I know you’ll all be mightily impressed to learn that I read The Lancet [although I hardly understand any of it]. I even have a subscription – actually several subscriptions: to The Lancet, The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology and The Lancet Oncology [I have “email subscriptions” to these journals, which are free and contain lots of links to paywalled content I can’t afford to read and probably wouldn’t understand anyway]. Despite being imprisoned by the Evil Elsevier Empire, there is actually plenty of open access Lancet content available to anyone with a web browser [and delusions of scientific literacy in multiple areas of cutting-edge medical research]. Some of that content is accessible in every sense of the word, and so outstanding that you might consider becoming a regular reader of The Lancet yourself. Exhibit A comes from the current issue: a “Viewpoint” titled From race-based to race-conscious medicine: how anti-racist uprisings call us to act.*

While I would encourage you to go read the whole thing [perhaps with another browser tab open to a medical dictionary?], I just want to highlight a few…uh…highlights.

[Read more…]

NYPD Beat, Arrest Peaceful Protesters in Planned Assault.

[CONTENT NOTE: police violence against peaceful protesters, lying police liars who lie.]

A new report from Human Rights Watch documents the NYPD’s brutal assaults against peaceful George Floyd protesters at a June 4 rally in the Bronx (via New York Daily News):

NYPD trapped over 300 George Floyd protesters in the Bronx and waited until after curfew to ‘assault and arrest’ them: report

The NYPD trapped over 300 protesters in the Bronx marching for George Floyd and waited until the 8 p.m. citywide curfew to arrest them for breaking the law, a human rights group wrote in a scathing report released Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch said Bronx cops surrounded protesters on June 4 in a tactic known as kettling, refused to let them disperse, then began “whaling their batons, beating people from car tops, shoving them down to the ground and firing pepper spray in their faces” as soon as the curfew hit.

The 8 p.m. shutdown was imposed a few days earlier to stem widespread looting amid marches against the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody.

“As protesters cried out — some with blood dripping down their faces — the police began to arrest them. They forced people to sit on the street with their hands zip-tied behind their backs, at times so tight that their hands went numb,” said Human Rights Watch in their report.

[Human Rights Watch] said they questioned 81 protesters and reviewed 81 videos and police scanner calls for the report. They also released a 12-minute video filled with diagrams of the Mott Haven clash, interviews with witnesses and protesters, and cellphone videos taken at the scene.

Here is video from Human Rights Watch detailing the sequence of events on June 4.

CONTENT NOTE (from the filmmakers):

“This video contains violent and disturbing images and profanity. Viewer discretion is advised.”

[Read more…]