Truth vs. Meaning – When rubber bullets aren’t rubber, or bullets

This piece was originally posted on Wednesday, November 19,  on the Center For Story Based Strategy blog, where I am currently a Worker Justice Fellow. 


Last Friday St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson and St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar went on live public radio  to fire the latest volley in the battle of truth vs. meaning, which started with the first protests in Ferguson when people took to the streets calling for #JusticeforMikeBrown.

police

Referring to the early days of protest in Ferguson, Belmar said, “We didn’t use rubber bullets. If they’re actually rubber bullets, they’ll kill you. We did use tear gas. We did use smoke. We did use pepper balls — different things such as that. We did use armored trucks. But you know what? We didn’t use those on peaceful protesters. We used that on unfortunate criminal activity that spun out of the protest.”

This statement is a doing a few things at once:

  • Distancing police from violence that leads to death.
  • Bullets = death, so they deny any type of bullet was used.
  • Replacing the idea of rubber bullets with weapons that are not automatically linked to death, such as pepper balls.
  • Advancing a core frame of criminals and criminal activity.
  • Police force is justified when dealing with criminals.

Read the rest of the post here.

When stomping Nazis, no room for neutral

When I was growing up I could have been considered a thug. The short of it, I was a teenage punk rocker, I was smart, and I hated authority. And the only thing I hated more than authority were Nazis.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.12.34 AM
Pretty simple

It wasn’t just me, it was the scene. In the 90’s Nazi skinheads were growing in organizational power and form. There was a story that passed around my high school. Once, a New York City hardcore band was playing a show in town. A bunch of Nazi skinheads flooded into the venue with baseball bats, cue balls in socks, and rolls of quarters in their fists, some real medieval stuff. And what did the punk and hardcore kids do? They fought them.

For me, and a bunch of my punk friends, it was a simple politic: Nazis are racist, racists are bad, if we allow racists at our shows then our shows are racist, we all loose (historical supported fact). Therefore you couldn’t sit out, there was one choice: we stomped Nazis.

Then things get complicated
Sometimes I long for those days when it was easy to just point to a skinhead and say, “See that bonehead right there? Let’s stomp ‘em” and know that I was fighting the good fight.

Of course, those days were only easy because my understanding of racism was simple. For my teenage punk rock self, racism was racial prejudice expressed physically or verbally.

But, as Michelle Alexander writes in The New Jim Crow, there is a “…widespread and mistaken belief that racial animus is necessary for the creation and maintenance of racialized systems of social control. The unfortunate reality we must face is that racism manifests itself not only in individual attitudes and stereotypes, but also in the basic structure of society.”

Continue reading “When stomping Nazis, no room for neutral”

Warning: Click Bait – Racism in your Machine

kitty trap
Told you so.

OMG! We live in exciting times!

Technology is evolving and innovating all the time. We are integrating hardware and software into our lives more and more everyday. And opportunities for digital intervention, organizing, and activism are multiplying with each new iteration of tech.

Some of the technology will be born from the nexus of social justice organizing and technology development along the lines of the tools developed by the early pioneers of digital campaigning, MoveOn.

Yet, if new technology is not developed by those who are leading the charge for racial and gender justice, then we are missing the real chance to innovate our society.

The foundation
Today’s paradigm of digital campaigning, emerged in 1998, from an email group and petition started by Wes Boyd and Joan Blades, a married couple, who were interested in getting Congress to censure Clinton (over the Monica Lewinsky scandal) and “move on.” They succeeded in getting over half a million signatures, but not winning the censure.

The founders of MoveOn should be applauded for innovating and finding a new way to campaign, a way that has come to be the dominant form of digital campaigning (regardless of my earlier criticism).

moveon kitty

And yet…

MoveOn was started by rich white people (their software company Berkeley Systems was making $30 million in annual revenue until they sold it for $13 million a year before starting MoveOn – according to Wikipedia).

(@JTPspeaks #BFD –  masses of well meaning white technologists are tweeting)

Continue reading “Warning: Click Bait – Racism in your Machine”

Can virtual reality save young Black people from a deadly reality? Palmer Luckey hopes so.

Residents of Ferguson, MO., who have been protesting the killing of teenager Mike Brown by a police officer Darren Wilson for almost two weeks, have a new and unlikely ally: Palmer Luckey.*

Ferguson, Mo. residents protesting the police shooting of unarmed Mike Brown. - courtesy of NBC News
Ferguson, Mo. residents protesting the police shooting of unarmed Mike Brown. – courtesy of NBC News

The 21 year-old inventor of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is offering to outfit the Ferguson police department with special versions of the crowd funded device. White police officers can wear the headsets as they go about their policing business, but instead of seeing the people around them as they are, they will see and hear old white people.

According to a statement released by Oculus Rift, which was bought by Facebook in March for $2 billion,  making white police officers see elderly white people, “is intended to intercede on what many blame for the ongoing killing of young Black men by the police in the United States: implicit and explicit racial bias.”

Palmer Luckey, the creator of the Oculus Rift virtual reality gaming headset, at his workshop in Irvine, Calif.- courtesy of the Dallas Morning News.
Palmer Luckey, the creator of the Oculus Rift virtual reality gaming headset, at his workshop in Irvine, Calif.- courtesy of the Dallas Morning News.

The statement continued, “According to recent research in race perceptions and bias, elderly white people trigger the least amount of bias in younger white police officers– the intended users of the headsets. By removing the trigger of bias and the accompanied perceived threat, the headset creates a situation where police officers can respond to actual circumstances, such as assessing whether a suspect is actually carrying a weapon and/or behaving in a threatening manor.”

Continue reading “Can virtual reality save young Black people from a deadly reality? Palmer Luckey hopes so.”