Justice Department Inquiry Finds Abuses by Cleveland Police
Tamir Rice Killing Caused by Catastrophic Chain of Events
This post is in response to Mackenzie’s Change.Org post about ending police brutality. I recently read an article in the New York Times about a federal civil rights investigation of the Cleveland Police department. The Justice Department recently announced that there has been an “unreasonable and unnecessary use of force” by the city’s police department. The findings of the investigation were consistent with the injustices pointed out by (mainly) the black community in protests and calls to action these past few weeks. The abuses extend to how firearms, tasers, chemical sprays and physical force are used on the job. A prime example is the shooting of Tamir Rice.
I know we have talked about Tamir Rice before, but just to reiterate, Tamir was a twelve-year-old boy who was murdered by a (or one could argue two) police officer in Cleveland. Rice was in a local park playing with a toy gun when someone called the police on him. The caller reported that someone who was “probably a juvenile” was waving a gun that was “probably fake.” Two officers, Loehmann and Garmback, arrived at the scene and within two seconds 12-year-old Tamir was lying on the ground bleeding out. The officers supposedly told Tamir to put his hands in the air by yelling to him out of a crack in the passenger window but Tamir instead appeared to reach for his waistband. Loehmann got out of the car and opened fire on the child within two seconds. I think it’s extremely important to note that neither officer performed any life-saving measures on Tamir after he was shot. In other words, Loehmann and Garmback watched as a sixth-grader bled out in front of them. (Let that sink in for a second.)
Back to the DOJ’s investigation. The timing of the conclusion of this case was either lucky or very intentional. What better time to release a report addressing the prevalence of police brutality than during the height of nation-wide civil rights demonstrations following the Garner and Brown verdicts. Other officials in Los Angeles and South Carolina have also ruled this week against cops who committed acts of police brutality. Even higher up on the ladder President Obama met with civil rights leaders and law enforcement officials to address the”simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color.” No shit, Sherlock. (I think some other acceptable ways to phrase it are racial oppression…systemic racism…discriminate policing…but that diplomatic bullshit works too, Obama.)
I hope that increased attention to these issues from the Department of Justice, White House and local governments will be effective. But, as it is said over and over again, how many more innocent black men need to be killed at the hands of white cops before we see big changes?
“The world sends us garbage, we send back music.”
Cateura is a slum in Paraguay that is built on top of a landfill. One of the poorest slums in South American, the 2,500 families living in this community live among and from the trash. Their livelihood is dependent on money made from sorting out recyclable materials for resale from the 1,500 tons of garbage that is brought in every day. Illiteracy, a lack of clean water, substance abuse, violence and child labor are some of the issues facing the people of Cateura.
About five years ago an ecological technician named Favio Chávez decided he wanted to teach children living in the slum how to play music. He taught students using his own personal instruments until the number of students surpassed the number of instruments. Chávez has since teamed up with local Cateurans to make instruments from the trash that surrounds them. Tin cans, bottle caps, pipes, barrels and scrap wood are examples of prime materials for instruments like violins, cellos, guitars and flutes.
The Landfill Harmonic is now a widely successful 30-person ensemble. The group has performed internationally, is somewhat of an internet sensation and a documentary has been made about their story. More importantly, the Landfill Harmonic has been extremely beneficial to the Cateura community. The orchestra provides an outlet for young adults who don’t have many opportunities musically or otherwise. According to Chavez, it is a place for young adults to develop values and find a sense of community. The project has even encouraged some of the musicians’ parents to get clean or continue on with their education. I thought after our somewhat depressing conversation in class today it would be refreshing to hear about this amazing thing that is happening.
Stop Forcing Tibetan Nomads Off Their Lands
This past Friday Mackenzie and I went to a panel on religious freedom in Tibet. A few of the points made by the panelists seemed directly related to issues we have been discussing in class surrounding the right to movement. Tibetans are not only largely unable to travel internationally, their ability to move within Tibet is limited. The difference between our conversations and the discourse around Tibetans’ freedom of movement is the difference between immigration and migration.
Nomadism is at the core of the Tibetan culture. The nomadic way of life has been threatened since the beginning of China’s occupation of Tibet in 1949. Tibetans living nomadic lifestyles were deemed ‘uncivilized’ by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In 1998 China declared that, “…all herdsmen are expected to end the nomadic way of life by the end of the century.” This was an effort to obliterate a culture that had thrived for hundreds (if not thousands?) of years in a matter of two years. The CCP, as it missed that deadline, had in 2010 forcibly removed approximately 1.5 million Tibetan nomads from the grasslands and relocated them to ‘ghetto style housing blocks.’ This denies the Tibetan people their right to migration and movement on their own land in addition to the already stringent policies about movement among foreign lands.
When the panelists on Friday spoke about the lack of freedom in Tibet, whether it was of movement or religion, they were speaking of human rights. One of the men said, “With no survival and dignity what is someone to live for.” I think this sentiment really applies to the readings we have been doing about the U.S.’s southern border and borderlands. Immigrants and minority Americans alike are targeted, discriminated against, jailed and shipped away without second thought. For many people the lack of human rights means a slim chance at a free life. No governing body should be able to take that away from a single person, nevertheless such large groups of people.
Weekend Update, Oct 25, 2014, Part 1 (1:18-2:00)
I was distractedly watching Saturday Night Live last night when Michael Che unexpectedly started talking about race relations and bioethics. The bit, apart of SNL’s Weekend Update, opened with the story about the first confirmed case of Ebola in New York City. The segment then moved to relate our concern about Ebola to our concern about the black population. As he says, “I’m not saying black people are like Ebola, I’m saying they’re treated like Ebola.” He made the point that the white population tends to ignore the black community until something happens that makes white people feel threatened or scared. Would the majority of the American white community have paid mind to Michael Brown’s murder if those people had not felt threatened by the demonstrations held in Ferguson? Probably not.
While sometimes people choose to ignore the issue, I think more often the problem is that people don’t know the issue exists. I grew up in a small, white town in Vermont that did not have a visible black community. I wasn’t really aware of race relations in the United States until my sister went to college, started taking classes like this one, and began sharing what she was learning. It’s not that I purposefully avoided thinking about the issue, it’s that it had never entered my radar. In my experience, the “average” white school doesn’t facilitate conversations about white privilege or systemic racism outside of learning about the Civil Rights Movement in the 50’s and 60’s. News coverage about atrocities like the Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin shootings is often a one-sided report of facts that may or may not be true.
As Che says, this lack of concern relates to Ebola. It seemed like there was little international attention to the rapid spread of the disease before the first white person contracted it, as if it was Africa’s problem while black Africans were the only ones being affected. Now that it has found its way to the States, Ebola is all the rage. But still, no one seems to care about ALL the people sick and dying from the disease overseas. We only care that the very, very small handful of Americans who got it will make a full recovery. And the Americans are making full recoveries have access to treatments and medicines that aren’t being distributed to the countries that really need them.
I was hesitant to post my selection this week because I worried the content was too explicit. But I realized that’s the precise reason I want to bring attention to it. I came across this song, “Love Me” by Lil Wayne, about two years ago. The hook is pretty catchy and I found myself humming the chorus once in a while. One day I stumbled upon the music video, which is repulsive, and I was prompted to actually listen to the words of the song.
Before you keep reading I encourage you to do either or by using the links below.
Love Me by Lil’ Wayne
I loathe this video and song for a number of reasons. Firstly, women are objects to serve his sexual needs. Although this is not an uncommon occurrence in mainstream media it has been taken to a new, terrifying level here. Take a look at verse one lines 5-6 and 14-19. Or just watch any five seconds of the music video. How can we ever expect our young men to be feminists if these are the words spoken by their idols? Secondly, it alarms me how the video sexualizes the confines that are very similar to the ones used for solitary confinement. There’s nothing sexy or hot about a human being locked in a cage. Thirdly, and this is a question, how does a rapper like Lil Wayne play in the public’s image of black men in America? Does a misogynistic and offensive song like this validate, in some people’s minds, the stereotype that black men in America should be feared?
A TV Star Had To Explain Why A White Man Killing A Black Kid Is An American Problem, Not A Black One
Celebrities rarely choose to use their fame as a platform to speak out about current social issues. Jesse Williams, who stars in Grey’s Anatomy, is an exception. Included in this post are three clips in which Williams addresses the disparity between the treatment of members of our black communities and white communities. He draws attention to the school to prison pipeline that young black men are pushed into, the systemic racism that is so clearly evident within our criminal justice system and the need for Americans to understand that we are not living in ‘post-racial’ times.
Williams’ arguments across the three videos address so many of the topics we have discussed in class. He touches on the shootings of Jordan Davis and Michael Brown. Williams talks about his different experiences as a student in the public school system in, what he refers to as, the hood in Chicago and the white suburbs of Massachusetts. I think it is so refreshing to hear an intelligent, articulate person of fame speak out about these issues. Williams is so on point and I encourage everyone to watch the video above and these two videos below.