January 16–email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, in the WIP office: 119 Capitol Way N, Olympia, in the Labor Temple
Moving from moment to movement: The aftermaths of Ferguson and Staten Island
As we all know, there have been (and still are) intense responses to the verdicts regarding the deaths of two Black men, Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York. More specifically, the fact that the police officers responsible, who are white males, were never indicted. Based on that reality, protests continue to take place across the country. These demonstrations range from persons holding picket signs, chanting the phrase “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!,” conducting shouting matches with police and other people who approach them, destroying numerous properties, wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts to staging “die-ins” on city streets and pavements. In addition, journalists, scholars and experts continue to participate in never-ending debates on television regarding these events. Furthermore, my days remain filled with hearing and engaging thought-provoking dialogue on the status of racism in our society. Therefore, I must ask the question, which I coin from the Rev. Al Sharpton: will the aftermaths of Ferguson and Staten Island become a movement or a moment in our quest toward racial justice in our country? I will argue that a movement is needed, not a moment, in order to educate, equip, and empower ourselves to rid our land from the dangers of racism.
To further understand what racism is and its effects, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, a Black psychiatrist and a critical race theorist, in 1991 defines it best below:
Racism is the local and global power system and dynamic, structured and maintained by persons who classify themselves as white, whether consciously or subconsciously determined; which consists of patterns of perception, logic, symbol formation, thought, speech, action, and emotional response, as conducted simultaneously in all areas of people activity (economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex and war); for the ultimate purpose of white genetic survival and to prevent white genetic annihilation on planet Earth—a planet upon which the vast and overwhelming majority of people are classified as nonwhite (black, brown, red and yellow) by white-skinned people, and all of the nonwhite people are genetically dominant (in terms of skin coloration) compared to the genetic recessive white skin people.
In other words, Welsing asserts that racism has made a permanent residence in our world. It permeates our every sense of being in every sect of life. It controls the way we behave, the way we live, the way we think, and the way we work. Furthermore, racism was birthed out of the global white minority’s anxiety to control everything, especially at the expense of people of color. So are Welsing’s points significant? Yes, because our world is dominated by this type of racist thinking, which has influenced the whitewashing of ancient African histories, slavery, the implementation of Jim Crow laws, and even a deadly version of what we know as religion. Hence, regardless of where we stand on the issue of racism, particularly concerning the police murders of Brown and Garner, it is a lot bigger than we realize and it is not something that will go away if we ignore it.
The prolonged illness of racism reminds us of how large it really is. Robert Bernasconi, the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University, discovers, as a European White male academic, the following observation in his book “Waking Up White in Memphis”:
Whiteness is not an exclusively North American phenomenon, or a North American invention, but it is in the United States that it has received one of the most vicious modern forms: a society of unprecedented wealth whose benefits are unevenly distributed largely along racial lines.
In addition, he contends that “…racism today has less to do with individual prejudices than it has to do with an institutionalized system of oppression.” In other words, it is in the United States that racism exists. It is here that racism divides, not unites. It is also here that racism is no longer blatant and honest, but it is invisible and deceptive in our everyday lives. It could communicate as a friendly joke. It could rest in the minds of ambitious opportunists who decide to form educational corporations, with intentions to enslave students of color with thousands of dollars of debt with fast track promises of academic achievement. Further, it could move a food industry to sell cheap and unhealthy food to a particular community. Thus, what we have witnessed and continue to witness from these examples and the recent police killings is a rampant disease that needs to be wiped out.
Now that I have painted a picture of what racism is, how it lives, and how deadly it is, there are some who do not believe that racism was a motivating factor in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. For example, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani argues the following recently in an interview on Meet the Press:
Ninety-three percent of blacks are killed by other blacks. I would like to see the attention paid to that that you are paying to this. What about the poor black child that was killed by another black child? What aren’t you protesting that?…Why don’t you cut it down so that so many white police officers don’t have to be in black areas?
I admit that Guiliani’s argument raises an important issue, which is the responsibility of the collective to eradicate this conduct within our environments. It is sad that such treatment still happens. We will kill each other over someone of the opposite sex (or same sex), a cell phone, a pair of sneakers, a loss over a video game, or even from a facial expression. All of these actions remind us that we have work to do to heal our communities instead of just crying out racism. While Guiliani and proponents of his reasoning are right to argue that Black people are killing one another, it does not necessarily address the systematic implications of racism. Welsing notes that “these very disturbing individual- and group-destructive pathological forms of behavior are the direct and indirect by-products of a behavioral power system fundamentally structured for white genetic survival, locally and globally” (Welsing, 1991, p. ii). For this reason, we must expose the root of all the world’s problems than just complaining about the symptoms.
Even all African-Americans do not agree that racism played a role in the treatments of Brown and Garner. Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder and president of two organizations: BOND (Brotherhood of a New Destiny) and BOND Action claims:
Eric Garner’s death was tragic, but it wasn’t murder. It had nothing to do with race. Garner caused his own death by resisting arrest while suffering with pre-existing medical issues. Garner was asthmatic; he had heart disease, and he was obese. Garner was out on bail and had 31 prior arrests. If Garner didn’t struggle with police, the altercation wouldn’t have escalated—and he’d still be alive today.
On the one hand, I agree with Peterson that Eric Garner did not have a clean bill of health or a spotless criminal record. Even Garner’s widow concurs. Yet, on the other hand, I still insist that he did not have to die the way he did, receive the hostile treatment that the police gave him, or be ignored by tax-supported EMS workers. He was unarmed and did not resist arrest. You will see from the video that went viral that he was tired of being confronted and bullied without justifiable reasons.
Tamir Rice of Cleveland, OH, a 12-year old Black boy, did not struggle with police, yet was killed before having discovered he had a BB gun. John Crawford III, a 22-year old Black man, did not resist the police, yet was fatally shot at a Wal-Mart in Dayton, OH while not pointing a BB gun at them. Moreover, Levar Jones, an unarmed 35-year old Black man, was shot in Columbia, SC after Lance Cpl. Sean Groubert, a White male police officer, asked for his driver’s license. It is from these examples I conclude that Peterson’s final statement falls short of a fact.
Now, after having brought out the concern of racism, what else should we do about it while protesting this disease? What Bernasconi wants us to do in our own context is to “take responsibility of what is taught, who does the teaching, and who is taught” What is he saying? Well, he argues that we need to examine closely what we are reading and what we are discussing. What kind of history are we given? Whose views are prominently shared and are eventually adopted? How influential is the media in transmitting such information and who are the consumers? The answer is that it is necessary for us to become attentive that biases, narrow-mindedness, and particular ideological stances can delay our quest for equality. Our antennas must also become raised and aware of whether certain beliefs and practices benefit a greater number of people or just a few. Hence, I agree with Bernasconi’s advice that “we must keep the issue of racism, especially institutional racism, constantly at the forefront of attention in every context in which we operate: whether it be college admissions, recruiting majors, or curriculum development.”
Based on the arguments represented and examined here, will the aftermaths of Ferguson and Staten Island become a movement or a moment toward racial justice in our land? Will we, as a people, pursue this opportunity to mobilize, strategize, and wage war against a system that continues to reward inequality, injustice, and oppression at the cost of equality, justice, and liberation? The choice is ours. However, for this moment to become a movement, we should not return to “business as usual” and ignore the elephant in the room when the emotions disappear. This country has failed repeatedly to not only address this problem of racism, but has masked and buried it in the name of diversity, post-racial ideology and the American Dream. I invite you to join me with an open mind, a reflective soul, and an eager heart. Let us become comfortable to feel uncomfortable. Let us labor together, regardless of our social status and ethnic background, to eliminate our world from the disease of racism for good. In the same way, let us prepare and encourage the next generations to fight, hold decision makers accountable, and love one another.
Rev. L. Jonathan Wilder is an educator in Greenville, SC and a doctoral learner at Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
This article speaks to the concept of multiple Fergusons that have happened over the past 250 years. Ferguson, Missouri is a symptom of an already explosive reality regarding race during the 21st century. The problem identified herein is much older than Ferguson but events like Ferguson demonstrate unchanged and unaddressed behaviors that are centuries old. Two hundred and fifty years is a relative short period, but the rate in which civilization has sped up puts an intensified pressure upon most events in today’s world. Ferguson is no different, and the battle that is confronting Blacks in societies around the globe is no different than what Blacks have had to deal with over the past 250 years.
The solutions, however, require a different kind of sacrifice, such as being willing to freely give personal time, unwavering dedication and development of a cadre of leadership with the courage of the 19th and early 20th century African Americans. Africentricity (formerly Afrocentricity) is the ideology and way of life that the new and upcoming cadre of leadership must be devoted in order to remain singly focused with an agency for the people of Africa. These people are Africans, African Americans, Blacks, and Mulattoes. An African agency does not seek to dominate or hold power over but to actualize liberation without grafting itself into a European ideology.
There are numerous public policies, events, and atrocities to point out what the white establishment has done and is not doing that have worsened the African Americans’ plight in the United States. Among them, none are as great as the need for African Americans to fully realize the need to pull up no matter how great the resistance is from the outside or how traumatic the pains are buried on the inside. In order to do so, a cadre of African American leadership must lead the way, and here is also where the greatest lack currently exists with the African American culture. what leadership that does exist is divided and that too is a problem in resolving racism in America.
African American leadership over the past several decades has taken on a new look. The type of leader ascending from the bottom—at the grassroots level—is no more. Leaders today are following the model of the dominant culture and are missing the mark as to how to lead with an agency that focuses solely upon the African American. Today’s leadership is watered down and has become sidetracked with an agenda that has all but forgotten an agency for African Americans.
The two primary camps of Black leadership are the Africentrist and Multiculturalist. The primary issue between them is assimilation versus separation unto others like self. Realistically, the Africentrists know there can be no such thing as complete separation in this country. A Black nationalist, for example, would consider a modified separation plausible in the areas of economics, education, spirituality, technology science, and medicine.
While the Multicluturalist desires to assimilate by acculturation into the dominant society, which has rigidly opposed that assimilation, acculturation nor equality will exist between African American and the European American, the Africentrist seeks impendence from such awkward and unworkable alliances.
The way of thinking for Africentrists and the Multiculturalist is very different although the antagonist of each has been and remains the same. According to Africentrists the multiculturalist does not understand nor accept their plight in knowing that the antagonist is the same for both groups. African Americans are living under forced integration, which basically began for most Africans upon their initial arrival and the same forced integration has remained in place. Public segregation had become an institution in the north and south but not without economic dependence upon cheap labor which justified the tolerance for a manipulated integration. The Africentrist is not asking for manipulated integration, assimilation or acculturation, but to not be blocked in the pursual of acquiring educational, political and spiritual freedom for the African Diaspora. Whereas the Multiculturalist desires to integrate into a system that continues to disempower the student. The Multiculturalist is committed to seeking acceptance into a political system that refuses to change. Furthermore, the Multiculturalist continues to worship a type of spiritual practice that inherently regards both groups as infidels.
African American leadership is caught in a bind for two reasons: first, the financial backing offered and provided is primarily for those who are not defiant and who show compliance with the way things are currently being done. The Africentrist’s agenda requires that the African American learn about who they are as well as who is in control of the system in which they live. Although today there are more African Americans learning about their history—which began thousands of years before the arrival of the first slave ships—unfortunately there also remains a miscarriage of knowledge in the Black community. The miscarriage has created a failure to awaken the Black mind into the 21st century by failing to have its mind learn how to heal the Black collective.
The necessary healing has not been accomplished by traditional religion, therefore, the solution to healing must be found outside of traditional avenues just as the remedy to combat the public display of racism through police violence must also be attacked by venues outside of marching and demonstrating. It is no mystery that the United States prides itself upon it capitalistic ways and honors money more than human life. The Montgomery Bus Boycott accomplished what the Million Man March could not do—it affected the pocket books of the white infrastructure. Anything less than a direct assault on white economics is useless. Solidarity without economic pressure is not respected in this country by the powers that be. Whites can march and protest all they want with Blacks but what affects people’s lives is not protesting but economic strategies.
Without such economic strategies African Americans will do no more than observe ourselves on television singing old outdated slogans. Another approach is to ally with those who are suffering the same type of injustices. Whites are not being slaughtered on the streets by policemen. The Hispanic and Latino coalition is ripe and a place to focus for a meaningful ally. Multiculturalists are assimilating instead of fighting and yet there is a war going on and those who are not White are at risk. Finally, the spiritual approach must not include a doctrine which founded this country as it murdered, slaughtered and took the lands away from a peaceful people all in the name of Jesus.
Addressing the lack of an economic strategy that will affect the overall economy and the absence of a coalition whose alignment is deeper than just one group, and developing a focus upon a spirituality that does not rely upon a doctrine of enslavement is crucial for a new cadre of leadership to offer to the African American. Christmas is such a boycott of spending that would have affected the economy at large. How and where Blacks spend their money must take on a new type of consciousness. The agenda of a new cadre of leadership must change to become more like the leadership that existed during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This would include, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Martin Delaney, Marcus Garvey and others who were willing to put everything on the line.
African Americans have failed to build a bridge with Blacks in other regions outside of the United States. Our own arrogance is biting us in the foot. We have abandoned everyone else just as we too felt abandoned by our motherland. We must build bridges with the Black collective because we are all in this mess together and to change it will require a very strong coalition. Changing what happened in Ferguson requires the changing of many minds, educational system, economic system and spiritual practices. These things can change overnight if there is the foundation to support the change. Currently, there is no such foundation in place. Hence, today’s Black leaders have missed the opportunity to focus on genuine agency for the African American.
Wilson Jordan, formerly a teacher in Washington State, currently teaches in Connecticut.
The circuitous road to democracy that has yet to be realized
Do we know who invented the Blues?
In her book Bright-Sided, a brilliant study about delusional American optimism, Barbara Ehrenreich mentions a remark by Soviet émigré and poet Joseph Brodsky who referred to the stereotypical image of Americans as perennially cheerful, upbeat, optimistic, and shallow as a consequence of having “never known suffering”. According to Ehrenreich, obviously “he [Brodsky] didn’t know who had invented the blues.” Curiously enough, the author of Nickel and Dimed extrapolates a musical form and genre traditionally associated with the Afro-American experience to the whole American people, forgetting to mention the specific historical connection between the blues and the suffering of black people in America. This is not to say that blacks, when compared to other groups, have the monopoly on suffering. The needs of American capitalist expansion have affected, and continue to do so, all ethnic subordinate groups, poor whites included. Nonetheless, with the exception perhaps of Native Americans, no other group has experienced, and continues to do so, the levels of exploitation, human degradation, and inequality forced upon black people in America since the very first days of the nation.
“Black and Blue,” popularized by Louis Armstrong, was composed in 1929 by Fatz Waller, H. Brooks, and A. Razaf. The lyrics of the song reflect the condition of African Americans and have a relevance that is able to transcend time, both in the past and present. Parts of the lyrics read as follows:
I’m hurt inside, but that don’t help my case
Cause I can’t hide what is on my face
How will it end? Ain’t got a friend
My only sin is in my skin
What did I do to be so black and blue?
Tell me, what did I do?
What did I do? What did I do?
What did I do? What did I do?
What did I do? What did I do?
What did I do? Tell me, what did I do to be so black and blue?
What did I do to be so black and blue?
These words could have been written during the first slave ships that brought free African men and women to be sold as slaves during the infamous triangular trade route between Africa, the Americas, and Europe in the 17th Century; or as a caustic commentary on the duplicity of the Founding Fathers that in spite of openly stating in the Declaration of Independence of 1776 that certain truths are self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights, among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, nonetheless, had no problem in preserving slavery as a key institution of the state and backbone of the economic system. In fact, the lyrics of “Black and Blue” could be applied to most instances of American history, a country that dragged its feet for close to 200 years to “grant” civil rights to black people, a country that in spite of electing a black man as president has made obvious after two administrations that America is far from being a “post racial society,” that the system does not work for those who black sociologist W.J. Wilson once called “the truly disadvantaged.”
Two-hundred-thirty-eight years after the Declaration of independence, 225 years after the American Constitution, and 50 years after the Civil Rights Act, the same words of “Black and Blue” could have been the last words uttered by 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 2014, the day he was shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson Missouri, for no other apparent reason than being black and therefore immediately criminalized because of the color of his skin.
It’s not just music, it’s also numbers
While cultural expressions like music and other arts can synthetize and present a vivid and valid interpretation of existing social conditions, so can statistical surveys and analysis. Michel Fletcher in an article written for The Washington Post, noticed that 50 years after Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, the economic disparities between white and black persist and continue to expand. Here are some of the most important findings:
The black unemployment rate has consistently been twice as high as the white unemployment rate for the last 50 years. (According to the Economic Policy Institute EPI (2013), it is 6.6 percent for whites and 12.6 for blacks)
For the past 50 years black unemployment has been well above recession levels. The recession level for 2013 was 6.7 percent nation wide, 5.1 percent for whites, and 11.6 percent for blacks.
The wealth disparity between blacks and whites grows wider and not improved in the last three decades. On the average the income of white families is six times higher than of blacks and Hispanics.
The black poverty rate is no longer declining. In 2011 almost 28 percent of black households were in poverty, nearly three times higher the poverty rate for whites.
Black children are more likely than whites to live in areas of concentrated poverty. 12 percent for whites, 35 percent for Hispanics, 45 percent for blacks, 21 percent Asian and Pacific Islander, and 39 percent American Indian.
School Segregation has increased since 1980, which means that “the more nonwhite students a school has, the fewer resources it has. A 10 percentage-point increase in the share of nonwhite students is associated with a $75 decrease in per student spending.”
The racial disparity in incarceration rates is bigger than it was in the 1960’s. While in 1960 the number of inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents was 262 for whites and 678 for blacks, in 2010 it was 1,313 for whites and 4,374 for blacks.
A separate study on social mobility for the same year (2013, Social Mobility Memos) conducted by Richard Reeves shows that “Black children are more likely to be born into poverty than white children; but they are also less likely to scape”.
Understanding Ferguson: the part and the whole
As is usually the case, mainstream media has a tendency to report popular dissent and indignation as isolated occurrences, disconnected from the historical circumstances from which they emerged. Consciously, given their ideological and material connections with the establishment, they choose a moment in time, usually the moment of irate and violent discontent of the masses (i.e. riots) to negatively characterize a popular response that is actually the result of a long history of injustices suffered by those without genuine channels of participation in the institutional life of democracy. This is the case of Ferguson.
Ferguson, from a perspective of change, incarnates one of those moments in history in which an event unveils the structures of power, social contradictions, and forms of popular resistance within a given society. If we take a broader view we can see that the indignation expressed by black people (and other ethnic groups nation wide) is not exclusively about the unjustified act of killing Michael Brown, and the shameful acquittal of police officer Darren Wilson. It is all that and much more; it is about a deep and longstanding dissatisfaction with the system. It is about unveiling the ugly face of American racism and deep socio- economic inequalities.
Ferguson reveals at the same time the best of America in the sense that Black people’s struggle represents the true struggle for democracy in this country. The current indignation of blacks and other groups of people is not just a struggle against police violence and brutality, it conveys a message of hope to materialize the long forgotten self proclaimed essential values of the nation — those rights pronounced by the Founding Fathers but overlooked throughout American history. The current struggle of black people for the humanization of black lives personifies the preservation and implementation of the values of democracy in the present tense, against the crime of historical indifference of the past. Their struggle is an open challenge to the system and to all of us who benefit from the selective eye of American democracy
If the Occupy movement brought to the American mind the awareness of inequality, the current nation-wide marches and protests initiated around Ferguson have made visible how class inequality is also permeated by race in America. In a society in which malls have been designed to equate public gathering with consumption, the multiple rallies organized by students, young performers, teachers, unions, and just plain citizens show how people can recuperate public spaces (streets and plazas) as stages from which to express their dissent and indignation.
Ferguson also showed and is showing the ability of people to organize themselves and to deliberate, their ability to make decisions without the mediation of institutionalized public administrators or opportunistic political organizations. Most importantly, Ferguson points to the crisis of legitimacy experienced by the state, government functionaries, traditional politicians, political parties, and public service institutions like the police.
The Ferguson Commission created by President Obama to supposedly re-establish ‘the trust’ between citizen and the police, reflects the pathetic narrow misunderstanding of the true systemic causes of the problem. It characterizes the issue in psychological terms (trust), avoiding the socio-economic aspects surrounding the events in Missouri and the rest of the nation. This commission is design to have the political effect of beheading the movement and transferring political control to the state.
The most recent marches show how the “barriers of fear”–created by repressive institutional laws and reinforced by oppressive and sometimes violent organizations like the police–can be eliminated by collective participation on the streets and the creation of group identification, empathy, and compassion. The struggle of black people is a struggle for what James Baldwin called “Black people’s quest for humanity”–a long lasting struggle that takes place against the backdrop of the economic interests of capital, and reflects the aspiration of all of us to live in a better and more just society. In Ferguson the inventors of the blues are pushing the system in which we all live one more time in the struggle for democracy. Black lives matter!
Enrique Quintero, a political activist in Latin America during the 70’s, taught ESL and Second Language Acquisition in the Anchorage School District, and Spanish at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He currently lives and writes in Olympia.
El tormentoso camino de una democracia que no se realiza
¿Sabemos quien inventó los Blues?
En su libro Bright-Sided, un brillante estudio sobre el delirante optimismo norte-americano, Barbara Ehrenreich menciona una observación por el emigrante soviético y poeta Joseph Brodsky quien se refirió a la imagen estereotipada de los estadounidenses como perennemente alegres, contentos, optimistas y superficiales como consecuencia de no haber “Nunca conocido el sufrimiento”. Según Ehrenreich, obviamente, “él [Brodsky] no sabía quien había inventado los blues”. Curiosamente, el autor de Níquel and Dimed extrapola una forma musical y género tradicionalmente asociado con la experiencia afro-americana a todo el pueblo americano, olvidando mencionar la conexión histórica específica entre los blues y el sufrimiento de los negros en Estados Unidos. Esto no quiere decir que los negros, en comparación con otros grupos, tengan el monopolio del sufrimiento. Las necesidades de la expansión capitalista estadounidense han afectado, y continuarán haciéndolo, a todos los grupos étnicos subordinados, los blancos pobres incluidos. No obstante, con la excepción tal vez de los nativos americanos, ningún otro grupo ha experimentado, y continúa haciéndolo, los niveles de explotación, degradación humana y la desigualdad impuestas sobre los negros en Estados Unidos desde los primeros días de la nación.
Black and Blue, popularizada por Louis Armstrong, fue compuesta en 1929 por Fatz Waller, H. Brooks, y A. Razaf. La letra de la canción refleja el estado de los afroamericanos y tienen una relevancia capaz de trascender el tiempo, tanto en el pasado y el presente. Partes de la canción letras dicen lo siguiente:
Estoy herido por dentro, pero eso no ayuda a mi caso
Porque no puedo ocultar lo que está en mi rostro
¿Cómo terminará todo esto? No tengo un amigo
Mi único pecado está en mi piel
¿Qué hice yo para ser tan negro y azul?
Dime, ¿qué he hecho?
¿Qué hice? ¿Qué hice?
¿Qué hice? ¿Qué hice?
¿Qué hice? ¿Qué hice?
¿Qué hice? Dime, ¿qué he hecho yo para ser tan negro y azul?
¿Qué hice yo para ser tan negro y azul?
Estas palabras podrían haber sido escritas durante los primeros barcos de esclavos que trajeron hombres y mujeres africanos hasta entonces libres para ser vendidos como esclavos durante la ruta del infame comercio triangular entre África, América y Europa en el siglo 17. También pudieron haber sido escritas como un comentario cáustico a la duplicidad de los padres de la patria que, a pesar de afirmar abiertamente en la Declaración de Independencia de 1776 que ciertas verdades son evidentes, que todos los hombres son creados iguales y dotados de ciertos derechos inalienables -entre ellos la vida, libertad y la búsqueda de la felicidad – sin embargo, no tuvieron ningún problema en la preservación de la esclavitud como una institución clave del Estado y columna vertebral del sistema económico. De hecho, las letras de “Black and Blue” se podrían aplicar a la mayoría de los casos de la historia Norte-Americana, un país al que tomo cerca de 200 años para ‘conceder ‹Derechos Civiles a la gente negra; un país que a pesar de la elección de un hombre negro como su presidente ha hecho evidente después de dos administraciones de Obama que Estados Unidos está lejos de ser una “sociedad post-racial”, y que el sistema no funciona para los que el sociólogo negro W.J. Wilson llamó una vez «los verdaderamente desfavorecidos».
238 años después de la Declaración de Independencia y la Constitución de Estados Unidos, y 50 años después de la Ley de Derechos Civiles, las mismas palabras de ‘Black and Blue› podrían haber sido las últimas palabras pronunciadas por el joven de18 años Michael Brown en agosto de 2014, el día en que fue asesinado a tiros por un policía blanco en Ferguson MI, por ninguna otra razón aparente que ser negro y por lo tanto penalizado inmediatamente por el color de su piel.
No es solo la música, son también los números
Mientras que las expresiones culturales como la música y otras artes pueden sintetizar y presentar una interpretación viva y válida de las condiciones sociales existentes, de igual modo pueden hacerlo los estudios y análisis estadísticos. Michel Fletcher en un artículo escrito para el diario The Washington Post, reporta de que 50 años después del famoso discurso de Martin Luther King I Have a Dream, las disparidades económicas entre blancos y negros persisten y continúan ampliándose. Éstos son algunos de los hallazgos más importantes:
La tasa de desempleo negro ha sido siempre el doble que la tasa de desempleo blanco durante 50 años. (De acuerdo con el Instituto de Política Económica EPI  es 6,6 por ciento para los blancos y 12.6 para los negros)
En los últimos 50 años el desempleo negro ha estado muy por encima de los niveles de recesión . El nivel de recesión para 2013 fue de 6,7 por ciento a nivel nacional, con un 5,1 por ciento para los blancos, y el 11,6 por ciento para los negros.
La disparidad de riqueza entre blancos y negros se ensancha y no ha mejorado en los las tres décadas. El promedio de ingresos de las familias blancas es seis veces mayor que las familias negras e hispanas.
La tasa de pobreza negra ya no está disminuyendo. En 2011 casi el 28 por ciento de los hogares negros vivían en condiciones de pobreza, lo cual representa índices casi tres veces más altos que la tasa de pobreza para los blancos.
Los niños negros tienen más probabilidades que los blancos de vivir en zonas de pobreza concentrada. 12 por ciento para los blancos, 35 por ciento de los hispanos, 45 por ciento de los negros, 21 por ciento para asiáticos y las islas del Pacífico, y 39 por ciento para pueblos indígenas nativos.
la segregación escolar ha aumentado desde 1980, lo que significa que “cuanto más alto sea el numero de estudiantes no blancos de una escuela, menor serán los recursos de la misma. Un aumento de 10 puntos porcentuales en la proporción de estudiantes no blancos se asocia con una disminución de $75 en gastos por alumno.”
La disparidad racial en las tasas de encarcelamiento es más grande de lo que era en la década de 1960. Mientras que en 1960 el número de presos por cada 100.000 residentes de Estados Unidos fue de 262 para los blancos y 678 para los negros, en 2010 fue de 1.313 para los blancos y 4.374 para los negros.
Un estudio sobre la movilidad social para el mismo año (2013, Movilidad Social Memos) realizado por Richard Reeves, muestra que “Los niños negros tienen más probabilidades de nacer en condiciones de pobreza que los niños blancos; pero también tienen menos probabilidades de escapar de la misma”.
Entender Ferguson: la parte y el todo
Como suele ser el caso, los principales medios de comunicación tienen la tendencia a reportar la disidencia y indignación popular como sucesos aislados, como desconectados de las circunstancias históricas de las que surgen. Esto no es casual dadas sus conexiones ideológicas y materiales con el sistema, y sus reportajes por lo general eligen un momento específico en el tiempo, el momento en que las masas expresan su descontento en forma violenta (motines por ejemplo), y utilizan estos momentos para caracterizar negativamente una respuesta popular que es en realidad el resultado de una larga historia de injusticias sufridas por los que no tienen canales genuinos de participación en la vida institucional de la democracia. Este es el caso de Ferguson.
Ferguson, desde una perspectiva de cambio, encarna uno de esos momentos de la historia en la que un evento particular desvela las estructuras de poder, las contradicciones sociales y formas de resistencia popular en una sociedad determinada. Si tomamos una visión más amplia, podemos ver que la indignación expresada por los afro-americanos (y otros grupos étnicos) no es exclusivamente sobre el acto injustificado de matar a Michael Brown, y la absolución vergonzosa del policía Darren Wilson. Es todo eso y mucho más, se trata de una insatisfacción profunda y antigua con el sistema. Se trata de desvelar la cara fea del racismo estadounidense y sus profundas desigualdades socioeconómicas.
Ferguson revela al mismo tiempo la mejor de América en el sentido de que la lucha del pueblo negro representa la verdadera lucha por la democracia en este país. La indignación actual de los negros y otros grupos de personas no es sólo una lucha contra la violencia y la brutalidad policial, sino que transmite un mensaje de esperanza para materializar en la actualidad los valores que fueran proclamados esenciales pero han sido olvidados por la nación – esos derechos pronunciadas por los Padres de la Patria, pero pasados por alto a lo largo historia de Estados Unidos. La actual lucha de los negros por la humanización de sus vidas personifica la preservación y la aplicación de los valores de la democracia en el tiempo presente, contra el delito de la indiferencia histórica del pasado. Su lucha es un abierto desafío al sistema y para todos los que se benefician de los beneficios selectivos de la democracia estadounidense
Si el movimiento Occupy trajo a la mente americana la conciencia de la desigualdad existente, las actuales masivas marchas y amplias protestas iniciadas alrededor de Ferguson, han hecho visible cómo la desigualdad de clases también está atravesada por factores raciales en Estados Unidos. En una sociedad en la que los centros comerciales han sido diseñados para equiparar sitios de reunión pública con el consumo, las múltiples manifestaciones organizadas por estudiantes, artistas jóvenes, maestros, sindicatos y simples ciudadanos, muestran cómo la gente puede recuperar espacios públicos (calles y plazas) como escenarios validos para expresar su desacuerdo e indignación.
Ferguson también mostró y está mostrando la capacidad de los ciudadanos comunes para organizarse y para deliberar, su capacidad de tomar decisiones sin la mediación de los administradores públicos o organizaciones políticas oportunistas. Lo más importante, Ferguson señala la crisis de legitimidad que vive el Estado, funcionarios del gobierno, los políticos tradicionales, los partidos políticos y las instituciones de servicios públicos como la policía.
La Comisión Ferguson creada por el presidente Obama para supuestamente restablecer “la confianza” entre los ciudadanos y la policía, refleja el patético malentendido y la estrecha comprensión de las verdaderas causas sistémicas del problema. Caracterizado por Obama en términos psicológicos (desconfianza ), evitando los aspectos socioeconómicos que rodean los acontecimientos en Missouri y el resto de la nación. Esta comisión es diseñada para tener el efecto político de decapitar el movimiento y la transferencia de control político de las masas al el Estado.
Las marchas más recientes muestran cómo las “barreras del miedo ‘, creado por las leyes institucionales represivas y reforzado algunas veces violentamente por organizaciones v opresivas como la policía, puede ser eliminado por la participación colectiva en las calles y la creación de identificación de grupo, empatía y compasión. La lucha del pueblo negro es una lucha por lo que James Baldwin llamo “la búsqueda de humanidad por parte de los negros.” Una lucha larga duración que tiene lugar en el contexto de los intereses económicos del capital, y que refleja la aspiración de todos nosotros a vivir en una sociedad mejor y más justa. En Ferguson quienes fueran los inventores de los blues están cuestionando el sistema el que vivimos todos una vez mas en la lucha por la democracia. Black Lives Matter!
Enrique Quintero, un activista político en América Latina durante la década de los 70, enseñó ESL y adquisición de segundas lenguas en el Distrito Escolar de Anchorage, y español en la Universidad de Alaska Anchorage. Actualmente vive y escribe en Olympia.
Do you ever get a sense of déjà vu? When you get a creepy feeling that you’ve been there before, or experienced something before? On Saturday, December 13, I was marching in a #BlackLivesMatter march down 4th Avenue in downtown Olympia, Washington, with about 50 other people in the middle of the street. It was dark, cars were honking in anger or support, and protesters were chanting about racist violence, militarization, and the police. That’s when the déjà vu hit me hard.
But of course, I had heard it all before. Only seven years ago, a few blocks to the north, antiwar protesters had blocked the Port of Olympia. They were keeping armored vehicles from being shipped between Fort Lewis and the killing fields of Iraq. The port protesters were facing down the police who were protecting the military equipment, so it could be sent against brown-skinned people in a foreign land.
But now, we were marching down 4th Avenue because similar armored vehicles were being brought back from Iraq to be deployed in the “homeland.” They were being deployed for the oldest and longest war that the United States has ever fought, against black- and brown-skinned people on American soil. Instead of occupying Iraq or Afghanistan, they were occupying the streets of American cities. The militarization of the police is causing the deaths of more and more African Americans and others, so that every new police killing becomes a déjà vu of the last one.
We live in a country where not only are the police being militarized, but an overseas military intervention is officially termed a “police action.” When soldiers return from Iraq or Afghanistan, sometimes the only job they can find is in law enforcement or private security firms, and their military training causes some of them to see potential enemies everywhere. And because there are fewer jobs available in the U.S., the same kids who are harassed by cops in their own neighborhoods have few options other than joining the military to harass other kids abroad.
We shouldn’t be so surprised that the war is coming home, because it’s always been here. When martial law was declared in African American neighborhoods of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, private Blackwater mercenaries were flown directly from Baghdad to enforce it. When the U.S. torture chambers in Abu Ghraib Prison were exposed, it was revealed that one of the torturers had come directly from the prison-industrial complex in Pennsylvania, where he presumably had learned his tradecraft on African American and Latino inmates.
The grand jury refusal to indict the killer of Eric Garner came the same week as the release of a Senate report on the CIA torture empire that has grown since 9/11. Part of the report focused on waterboarding, a torture technique (stretching back to counterinsurgency wars in Native America and the Philippines) in which the victims are nearly drowned to extract information or confessions. In other words, the purpose of waterboarding is to prevent a person from breathing, much like the police chokehold that caused Eric Garner to gasp for air. #ICantBreathe is a statement with global implications.
We don’t know the names of most of the civilians who have been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, or in U.S. bombings in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and countless other targeted “tribal regions.” But we can better understand their suffering through the voices of the mothers of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Trayvon Martin, John T. Williams, Aiyana Jones, and the countless other targets of racist killers.
We can have more empathy for what civilians face abroad by understanding this war at home, and conversely have more solidarity with civilians here by understanding the wars abroad. If repressive techniques are successfully tested on foreigners or immigrants, they are then inevitably brought back into the “homeland” to be used on citizens (as we’ve seen here in Olympia with Army surveillance of antiwar groups). And if cops and armed white citizens can commit violence with impunity in the homeland, it enables even greater violence elsewhere.
Only two hours before the Olympia youth rally, and a few blocks south at the Washington State Capitol, 1,000 gun-rights activists held an “I Will Not Comply” rally against a new voter-mandated state law for background checks on gun owners. The camouflage-clad militants openly brandished automatic assault weapons, and passed them freely amongst each other. The Washington State Patrol claimed it witnessed no violations of the law at the rally. These protesters, of course, were almost all white, and they flew at least one Confederate flag.
Whatever one thinks about gun control, let’s get one thing straight here. If a heavily armed crowd of 1,000 African Americans, Latinos, or Native Americans had protested at any State Capitol, the State Patrol would have tried to find (or engineer) an excuse to detain them. If the heavily armed crowd had been Muslim, the Army would have been brought in helicopters and armored vehicles against the “terrorists.” But because this homegrown threat was posed by white, Christian citizens, they were portrayed in the local paper merely as liberty-loving “advocates.”
The same double standards apply to wars abroad. When the enemies of the U.S. launch wars, they are “committing genocide” or “ethnic cleansing.” When the U.S. and its allies launch wars, they are “defending freedom,” or carrying out “humanitarian interventions.” Even at times when the military is called on to stop genuine dangers, it generally ends up killing more civilians and alienating its own allies. In much the same way, a family that calls the police to restrain a mentally ill relative sometimes regrets the decision, when the cops end up causing more harm than good.
The attention of the American public is moving away from overseas wars, because the Pentagon’s shift to bombers and drones, and proxy armies and mercenaries, has caused lower casualties among U.S. troops. But public attention is shifting toward the war at home, where it will be more difficult to automate or outsource the war, and it will be more difficult to hide it from evening commuters or even football fans. And if more Americans lose their faith in the local police department as our protectors, they may begin to rethink the Pentagon as our protector as well.
Since President Obama’s election in 2008, conservatives and progressives alike have declared the “death” of the antiwar movement. Strong antiwar sympathies caused a lowering of troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, and prevented wars against the Syrian and Iranian militaries, but could not prevent the new bombings of Iraq and Syria. Certainly the antiwar movement is not as visible or vocal as it was during the Bush years, if we only look at opposition to the wars abroad.
But if we see the upsurge in Ferguson, New York, and the entire country as opposing the racist militarization of American society and the “war at home,” the current upsurge is one of the strongest antiwar movements we’ve ever seen. It has stronger leadership from people of color than earlier movements. The movement is broadly based and deeply rooted in a wide range of local communities, and its protests have been sustained over weeks and months.
Black Lives Matter is even far more multiracial and multigenerational than earlier uprisings against the war at home, such as the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion. The youth who are taking the lead in the recent protests are not playing politics as usual, and will not easily go back to a compliant acceptance of militarization, either at home or abroad. I’ve witnessed many social movements in my years, and it just feels different this time.
Déjàvu means “already seen,” and that’s just the problem. We’ve already seen genocide and lynchings in our history. We’ve already seen kids shot down in cold blood, and their killers get promoted. We’ve already seen police and military alike trained to strike at peaceful civilians with their “hands up,” for the crime of challenging the empire, or merely for being in the way. We’ve already seen social movements blossom, get intimidated or coopted, and then wither away. But history doesn’t always have to repeat itself, because the cycles exhaust themselves and eventually hit a wall.
A tectonic generational shift is underway that we are only beginning to perceive. Upsurges—such as Occupy, Idle No More, Climate Justice, and Black Lives Matter—may either gradually release tension in the fault lines, or serve as harbingers of more intense shake-ups ahead. If, in our cynicism and fatalism, we think that we’ve “already seen” it all, we may be surprised by how quickly change can and does happen. Things will not always stay the same, and old patterns do not have to be repeated. If social movements remain brave and unpredictable, they can move mountains.
Zoltan Grossman is a professor of Geography and Native Studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, who has been a warm body in peace, justice, and environmental movements for the past 35 years. His website is http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz and email is email@example.com
This article was originally published in Counter Punch and submitted to Works In Progress by the author.
WIP converses with Daniel Einstein of OlyEcosystems about their efforts to rescue the West Side Woods
Last summer, Olympia was focused on the West Side neighborhood near the Olympia Food Co-op as it rallied around the heronry at the end of Dickinson Avenue. The sole blue heron nursery within city limits and one of only five remaining in Thurston County, it was threatened by the proposed development of the Wells Townhomes project.
People spoke at city government meetings and many signed an online petition. Letters were written to government officials and The Olympian and interviews were given to local radio stations. It seemed like a vertical uphill battle and then suddenly it was announced in October that Alicia Elliott had purchased the property and the heronry was saved. The Olympian, which had not taken a position until then, printed an editorial praising the purchase.
That one individual with means stepped forward to protect a local animal habitat is a delightful (and extremely important) Olympia twist, but it is not the only interesting aspect of the story.
We’ve been here before
The movement to save the heronry actually started back in late 2007 when Glenn Wells filed his first land use application with the city of Olympia. The local residents responded in opposition with numerous letters to the city and other activities, but they had no effect.
The city issued Wells a permit and in January 2009 he logged a 450 foot driveway through a portion of the heronry. Daniel Einstein, of the Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Perservation, reported that the driveway was not built on Wells’ property, but on an easement through an adjoining parcel. “The permit applied only to the parcel on which the townhouses were to be developed. It never spoke about the easement that goes right through the heronry. No one from the city ever went on the property to find out if things were done properly. When you look at the closing document it says ‘not inspected.’”
Einstein continues, “Why it didn’t get inspected is hard to say. Until recently, [the city] only had a part-time urban forester. In the 2015 budget, in part due to our advocacy, the city is getting a full-time forester. You cannot not inspect your permits.”
The collapsed housing market in 2008-2009 proved a temporary respite for the rest of the heronry. According to Eintstein, Wells allowed his permits to lapse in 2010.
Walking the dog enlightenment
Early last June, Stephen Bylsma was walking his dog near the heronry when he spotted a sign announcing a May 22 meeting of the Olympia City Site Plan Review Committee regarding the Wells’ townhouse project. As the meeting had already passed Bylsma immediately contacted Steve Herman, a professor emeritus at Evergreen, informing him of the threatened heron colony and asking for advice on how to proceed.
In his email to Herman, Bylsma wrote, “Some friends [have] said that they walked down the trail and there were already workmen cutting down trees at the forest edge. They were informed by a worker that ‘if they don’t like it, they should take it up at the community talk.’ [Ed. note: Federal law prohibits activity near heronries during nesting season—February-August.]
“I am very unaware of the laws and agencies, or how these situations can be managed effectively, and I know well that you have more insight here.”
Bylsma added that he couldn’t understand why the neighborhood wasn’t alarmed about the construction so near the heronry and wondered if it was well known since the sign alerting the community of the project had been posted in an inconspicuous location.
In response, Herman sent out letters to various people and soon meetings were being held.
Responding to the threat
“In the neighborhood we had always been sort of aware of the threat because of a painted sign someone had posted there,” explained Daniel Einstein, “but as time passed concern fell off… When it came to light again last spring, we started having neighborhood meetings.”
“We convinced the [site plan review committee] to hold another meeting, which was on June 22. Sixty-three people showed up.” Einstein explained the meeting was “open to public comment though not officially a meeting and therefore would not be transcribed.”
“The developer was there. There was also a representative from the federal Fish and Wildlife who essentially spoke on behalf of the developer—he was sort of a shill.
“Steve Herman presented a document from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which called for thousand foot buffers [around the herony] and said, “Have you seen this document?,” to the city staff. And no, they hadn’t. It turned out to be a rather surprising response when you go back and look at the record because there had been ongoing dialog between the state Fish and Wildlife and the Site Plan Review Committee for years.”
When asked by WIP if he thought that the site plan review committee were ready to grant the permit, Einstein replied, “Well, that was our feeling. There had not been any substantive comments from the city until that time. They also produced this draft approval. It showed their intent in my mind. We [would later] read that to the city council and said, “how can we conclude that this is anything but a forgone conclusion?”
An email from the City
In the latter part of July, Cari Hornbein, of the Community Planning and Development Department, sent out an email informing all those concerned with the status of the Wells Townhome project.
Bethany Weidner, another Westside resident, said that the email claimed “as a result of issues raised by citizens, the developer voluntarily hired a biologist to identify ways to mitigate the impact on the herons and then they’ll take that report and talk to Fish and Wildlife about it.”
Weidner interpreted the email as saying “the project is exempt from State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review because of the code, based mainly on the size of a project or maybe the number of parking spaces. She added, “It, of course, has nothing to do with the environment. So, as the project was not subject to environmental review, the city did not have to have a public hearing on it, and therefore there would not be much opportunity for public comment..
“However, the city decided that they would make the developer announce a public meeting where people could comment. Hence the sign at the end of the dead end road and the meeting that no one attended.”
According to Daniel Einstein, this is when the neighborhood decided to go to the city council.
“We lined up 13-14 people and they went one person after another. We zeroed in on the Comprehensive Plan as this is what the city is so proud of. We read to them whole paragraphs from the then current Plan—sections about the importance of preserving wildlife and species and habitat.”
Unfortunately, the city council would not be useful on this front of the neighborhood’s fight. As stated on the city website, the Olympia city council is similar to a “legislative branch.” It creates policy, but it does not implement policy. That’s the job of the city manager, Steve Hall, who the website compares to the “executive branch.” The Council cannot alter decisions made by the city staff as the council was reminded during the meeting by the city attorney.
About this same time the group discovered that the city’s Critical Areas Ordinance was also a hindrance to their efforts.
Einstein says “Olympia’s Critical Areas Ordinance has some protections for endangered and threatened species such as salmon and pocket gophers—a couple of animals found locally. Yet it really does very little to protect the wildlife we have around us.”
Great blue herons, which are a priority species, are not currently protected though they could be as a priority species. Coincidentally the Critical Areas Ordinance is coming up for review in September 2015. Unfortunately for the heronry, the deadline for review is September 2015, this is too late to protect it from the proposed development.
What action next?
“Shortly after the city council meeting we established the non-profit [Olympia Coalition for Ecosysems Preservation],” related Einstein. “We felt we needed to get organized, we needed some structure.”
Because the group planned to appeal the land use permit, they hired attorneys.
“We realized that West Bay is a tricky area and we were going to get further with lawyers then we were on our own.
“At the same time we were doing outreach,” he continued, “we were looking for what grants we could apply for and we were talking to Alicia.
“Alicia stepped in on her own. I never said ‘buy these’ to her. I never would have asked. I went to see her at West Central Park, the park she is developing[at Harrison and Division] and said, ‘Your group is kind of unique as you hold land and this is what we want to do. I want to get some advice from you.’ I explained the situation and showed her the parcels on the map. She simply said, ‘Well, we should buy these.’ I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Then we started talking about strategy.
Elliott purchased the property that contained the easement as well as another adjacent parcel and Einstein reports relief, “The decision to go ahead and lock up these properties was a transformative one. We would be in a very different place but for that and it has taken a lot of the focus away from legal action for which, I have no doubt, the city is also grateful.
“At the same time Alicia opened up a conversation with the developer about possibly buying his property, but currently his asking price is not practical. He has been open to dialog. What part of that is due to the change in reality and what is due to a change of heart, I don’t know, but he has been open. The easement still exists though. Legally it still exists.
“It is called a reciprocal easement,” Einstein explained. “That means any future subdivisions of those parcels can buy into the utility Wells was going to lay down for a fee, a late-comers fee. There is reason to believe that he was looking at that as a means to finance the utilities’ cost, which is substantial. He would have to put in a road, sewer, sidewalk, everything. By essentially removing that possibility [of added income], it changed the profitability of the property. So he says he is no longer going to go through the easement. That’s over. He’s apparently now looking for access down below.”
Following Alicia Elliott’s decision to purchase the two parcels, the Westside neighbor group became very low-key. Says Einstein, “We didn’t tell anyone. I still had a lot of people coming to me and saying you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that. And our petition reads very generic—we’re going to work on this and we value this and come work with us. All the while we were working behind the scenes to purchase the properties. It was hard to keep quiet for a month and a half, but we didn’t want to get in a price war.”
“Land acquisition is really hard-knuckle politics. Land is power. The conversations with the city transformed almost overnight when we had those properties. Suddenly we were stake holders and we had economic heft that we didn’t have before. That shouldn’t be the case.”
Plans for the future
OlyEcoSystems, as the organization is called for short, in addition to applying for grants, is considering the possibility of an agreement with Forterra, formerly the Cascade Land Trust. “They are based in Tacoma,” Einstein shared, “but they preserve lands all over the Pacific Northwest and have experience in urban areas. An example is Mason’s Gulch in Tacoma, which is very similar to our project. We think it may be a good fit and so far the conversations with them have been positive.
“They run their trust as a business, a little bit more than one would expect, but they’re modest. They require some level of buy-in from the city. Some commitment for matching grants, for example, and just political buy-in.
For the long haul
For OlyEcoSystem it’s not just about the heronry. The neighborhood’s vision of saving the ecosystem of West Bay Woods and Schneider Creek includes the West Bay waterfront and shoreline. The great blue heron, the star of their crusade, will lose its heronry without the neighborhood’s efforts, but a lone priority species does not an ecosystem make.
As stated on OlyEcoSystems’ website, “this ecosystem is critical to the survival of locally threatened coho and steelhead salmon, the landlocked sea-going cutthroat trout and sculpin that are trapped in Schneider Creek, the young salmon from outside our area who come to prepare for their long voyage to the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, and to the many shorebirds whose numbers have steadily dwindled. In short, the health of this ecosystem is important for our whole region.”
And the battle to save it will not be short or easy. According to Daniel Einstein “there are $7.5 million dollars of real estate currently for sale on the West Bay shoreline, the West Bay woods, and along Sneider Creek. That’s the magnitude of it. These areas are hugely consequential for the health of Budd Inlet and for the wildlife that’s there and the wildlife that could be there.”
In addition, Einstein pointed out that the West Bay shoreline is one of the community renewal areas [where properties that are eyesores are transformed into productive use]. He claims the County, the Squaxin, and developers are also interested in what is decided. “So it is complicated.”
Einstein believes Olympia’s Comprehensive Plan is important in defining a future people want to have. He also considers it a huge energy drain because it has no force of law if its ideals are not then codified into ordinances. The Comprehensive Plan can say we value wildlife, but if the Critical Areas Ordinance has no provisions in it for wildlife then it doesn’t matter what the Comprehensive Plan says.
The real battle starts now
There are going to be updates of the Storm and Surface Master Plan, the Parks Master Plan, and the Critical Areas Ordinance. These are documents that should draw from the comprehensive plan and codify it into law. It matters what gets written into city ordinance and that’s where the city council needs to be held accountable.
When asked how the community can best support the efforts of OlyEcoSystem, Einstein replied that people should for now pay attention. Over the coming months the city staff will be developing recommended updates to the Critical Areas Ordiance, which will go before the Olympia City Council later this year. It will be then that citizens need to speak out in support of strengthening this ordinance in order to protect what remains of Olympia’s wildlife habitats.
Sylvia Smith, a resident of Thurston County, is an Evergreen alumna and a member of Works In Progress.
For more information about the Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Protection, go to their website at www.olyecosystems.org.
The last 30 years have seen a massive redistribution of wealth from the 99% to the 1%. This redistribution has been relentless and ongoing and is growing exponentially.
In 2007, a bunch of Wall Street bankers pulled off one of the largest criminal frauds in human history. We form governments to protect us from thieves, but in this case the fraud was perpetrated with the full cooperation of the United States government.
The bankers offered and approved home loans to anyone with a pulse. They required no proof that an applicant could afford to pay a mortgage. The bankers assured the buyer they didn’t need to worry because they could sell the house for substantial profit in a couple of years. These were called “Liar’s Loans.”
What the bankers did next was bundle these sub-prime mortgages and aggressively market them as AAA rated investments. This rating was determined by independent agencies and meant this was the the safest form of investment there was.
How was this possible? Rating agencies are tasked with determining the investment’s rating. Since Wall Street also influenced the government that makes the rules about such things, the rules were crafted so that corrupting these agencies turned out to be incredibly easy thing. This was especially because the rating agencies were being paid by the bankers which allowed them to comparison shop for the best ratings.Obama’s top contributors (2008) University of California $1,799,460 Goldman Sachs $1,034,615 Harvard University $900,909 Microsoft Corp $854,717 JP Morgan Chase $847,895 Google Inc $817,855 Citigroup Inc $755,057
The result was that Wall Street sold trillions of dollars of worthless investments to a multitude of other countries, domestic pension funds, state governments and retirees. When these sub-prime mortgages went into foreclosure, there was then a rippling effect that resulted in the Great Repression.
Tens of thousands of honest working people lost their homes, pensions and/or their life savings while the banks faced no repercussions whatsoever. In fact, they experienced ever-increasing record profits, while their executives enjoyed ever increasing compensation packages, as well as astronomically sized bonuses.
A few banks paid token fines that represented a small fraction of the money that they made off of the crisis and not a single executive received jail time. The cover-up of this fraud is bi-partisan: Republicans and the Democrats were on board with Wall Street’s immunity to prosecution.
Legal proceedings against JP Morgan Chase are a case in point: Recently Attorney General Eric Holder touted JP Morgan Chase’s payment of a $9 billion settlement. This was the largest regulatory fine in American history.
Readers should note that these fines are paid by the stockholders not by the executives who actually perpetrated the crimes. A few weeks after that settlement, Chase CEO Jamie Dimon announced the market capitalization of JP Morgan Chase had increased by 6%, which equals $12 billion, $3 billion more than the fine. In addition, Mr. Dimon got a 74% raise.
It is impossible for Mr. Dimon to not have known what was going on unless he was a highly ineffective administrator, in which case, he certainly does not deserve such a large raise. It is, however, quite possible that Mr. Dimon was the kingpin of a monstrous criminal fraud that devastated the economy and destroyed the financial lives of millions. Yet he did not go to jail and he did not personally pay a penny in fines.
Attorney General Holder said the following when asked about the Chase settlement, “I certainly think that the way in which this case has been settled is a template of what we can expect [in the future]…”
Dana Walker is an Olympia activist and publishes The Thunderbolt, a community digital newsletter.
For addition information on this topic, the author reccommends “The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare” by By Matt Taibbi in the Nov. 6, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone.
Social trends in the United States are disturbing and confusing. Production and wealth are growing at the same time as inequality and poverty is rising. Communication technologies are more available and sophisticated as conversations between partisans and communities diminish. Our national leaders enshrine peace and goodwill as we continually fight wars both publicly and covertly. We love our neighbors but we kill each other at alarming rates. We sanctify freedoms but we are building a surveillance state and punishing whistleblowers and dissenters.
It is easier to identify these and other social, economic, and political trends than to explain them. There are, of course, many who try. Republicans blame Democrats and vice versa. Media critics point to Fox News, journalistic biases, or the oligopolies that own the means of communication. Pacifists denounce the military industrial complex, while realists worry about terrorism, immigrants, and enemy states, e.g., Iran, North Korea, and now Russia
No one has a definitive answer as to why the American polity is faltering. It is possible though to better understand our changing and complex society by having a conversation around four general questions:
How involved are US citizens in making decisions that affect their well‐being? Here we should discuss voting, elections, political parties, money and politics, the media, elections, lobbying, and participation.
Who or what rules the United States in the 21st century? There are many possibilities including the people, elected national and state executives and legislators, financial and business elites, private corporations, trade associations, and pressure groups.
How have the American people been affected by the policy decisions of the powerful (whoever they are)? Our discussion should include education, income, taxation, health, social welfare, military and defense spending, retirement, housing, children, poverty, and the physical environment.
Borrowing from Nikolai Chernyshevsky and Vladimir Lenin, “What is to be done?” The answer will depend on our answers to the first three questions. If we believe (and some of you may not) that government exists to advance and protect the well-being of the people, then the necessary reforms hinge on the gap between promise and performance. We should assess the significance and value of reformists like the Tea Party movement, Popular Resistance, community rights initiatives, city and state efforts like Minnesotan for a Fair Economy or Solidarity NYC, Evergreen Cooperatives (based on the Mondragon Cooperative movement in Basque Spain), the Fresno and Lummi Business Council efforts, Idle No More, worker owned enterprises, public ownership, and others.
I will submit a short essay every month that relate to these questions on involvement, power, living conditions, and reform, focused on the lives of real people and common experiences.
David Mass taught political science at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He currently lives and writes in Bellingham, Washington.
The Community Sustaining Fund’s (CSF) autumn 2014 grant cycle was completed noon Saturday November 15, when four local groups were provided grants following interviews, presentations, and subsequent deliberations.
This fairly rapid process has been a hallmark of the CSF. In its 27th year, the fund has distributed over $80,000 to over 200 welcoming project sponsors The majority of the funds the CSF distributes comes from shoppers at the Eastside and Westside Olympia Food Co-ops “rounding up” their purchases. The recipients during this cycle included the following:
Olympia Coalition for Ecosystem Preservation received support of $1000 for split-rail fencing and interpretive signage at the west side herony (also referred to as a rookery). This property was threatened by development and has recently been acquired for conservation and preservation purposes. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The West Central Park – Habitat Renewal Pollination Garden received $400 in support of the garden, Mason Bee interpretive brochures, and surveys of participants. Contact email@example.com for more information.
The Port of Olympia Militarization Resistance (PMR) received support of $400 for assisting in the printing of material required for a submission to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Contact julianne.panagacos@gmail for more information.
Placemakers Academy – Part of 2015 Olympia Village Building Convergence received $900 in support of their ten-week “train the trainer” Academy based on a Portland model. This project addresses community-inspired places that ties back to Olympia neighborhood associations. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The CSF is always impressed with the applications we review and the subsequent interviews we conduct. It’s inspiring to hear of people’s passions for actions and activities in the realms of social justice, environmental education and protection, local stewardship, and other local causes that are responding to the CSF funding criteria: http://www.oly-wa.us/CSF
This particular grant cycle the CSF appreciates the additional $1500 provided by the Co-op Board. If there is interest in supporting the Community Sustaining Fund, and/or joining its Leadership Team, please contact us and consider attending our monthly gatherings at Traditions, starting at 10AM on the second Saturday of the month.
Keith is a member of the Community Sustaining Fund of Thurston County.
“Global average annual precipitation through the end of the century is expected to increase, although changes in the amount and intensity of precipitation will vary by region;” states the Environmental Protection Agency under climate change on the Federal government website. “Washington can expect an increase of ten inches of rainfall annually by the end of 2100;” informs Dr. Susan Digby, Professor of Geology at Olympic College, with confidence. Indeed, Washington has already seen ten inches more rain than this time last year.
Can present infrastructure, like storm water drainage systems, handle the increased load? The current self-evident answer is ‘yes.’ So far, this year, Seattle and Olympia haven’t seen flooding in their streets. “King County is at the forefront of drainage systems, not just at the local but global scale;” exults Will Pedey, spokesperson for King County Storm water Services. After the last two years storms, landscape drainage systems were installed.
One of the biggest problems facing Puget Sound is polluted runoff according to Mary Wohleb, a King County project manager; “We’re able to take the polluted storm water out of the system, filter it and keep it from going into the local waterway.” Which is good, because Tacoma could use some friendly advice. Posted phone videos document the November ninth’s stormy ending of the Seahawks game at Tacoma’s Stadium Bowl. There was a reported vehicle accident due to street flooding, no one was seriously injured and the perceived problem was leaves clogging grates. But the waters don’t just come from the sky.
Remember, December 17 of 2012, when record setting high tides flooded Seattle by 14.51 feet and we were warned, “Yesterday’s tide would be an everyday tide by midcentury,” by meteorologist James Rufo-Hill of Seattle Public Utilities? The answer will be a multifaceted approach combining moving, raising and protecting facilities, according to the groups head, Paul Fleming.
While government agencies are preparing homeowners can too. Rainwater catchment systems litter YouTube with detailed information on filtering and calcifying for household use like showers to yard maintenance like seasonal creaks or millponds. Since increased precipitation will result in decreased snow, harvesting your own water isn’t just an exercise for the overzealous. A study by Marketa Elsner and other University of Washington researchers suggested a decrease of 27 percent water available from Cascade snowpack by 2020. Decreased snowmelt with require cities like Seattle to consider municipal water source alternatives. It could be a good thing that demand for that resource will likely decrease.
By utilizing berms and vegetated swales rain gardens can become interesting features in a yard. The splash of color offered by irises and canna lilies will cut down on the splash suffered by the grass. If not flowers, elephant ears; variegated varieties offer distinction while soaking up more rain than sun and are impervious to both. A gravel path could wind around like a prayer maze, reminding of the different perspectives afforded by a few steps.
Having permeable surfaces instead of concrete is recommended and lining what concrete is present with gravel ditches will also save soil the trouble of running off. Deterred by too much digging? One willow tree can absorb over 20 gallons of water a week. Unwilling to give up your view for a tree? Ostrich ferns and creeping jenny are short and chartreuse, with golden blooms creeping brightly along the ground.
Rocks are also a viable option for minimizing water impact. Like dry stream beds, rock gardens can take a beating and hold their own. Can People?
There are those who are “not optimistic;” like Nancy Anderson, MPh MD a professor at Evergreen State College who suggests that “things have to get really bad before people [are willing to change].” Anderson’s concern over weather refugees in need of shelter from flooding and landslides is valid. Sometimes the measures taken to prevent the worst wont be enough. It will be important to keep up moral; suggested student of environmental studies at Evergreen, Emily Stanislaw.
While previous flooding has resulted in current preparedness by counties and cities, individuals can also play a personal part. Plants can’t plant themselves in cement. Let’s continue efforts to save paradise from the parking lot. “Get outside…bicycling!” suggests Stanislaw. Ultimately, we are capable of dealing with climate change; one drop in the bucket at a time.
KIra Sabini, a college student pursuing a career in medicine as a general practitioner, would like to contribute to making the world a better place.