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StudentNation

Campus-oriented news, first-person reports from student activists and journalists about their campus.

From Ferguson to Miami, a Generation Demands Justice

GMU

Students walk out at George Mason. (Photo: GMU BSA)

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out July 25 and August 12. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. Getting Organized

In the wake of Michael Brown’s death, young people in St. Louis have participated in marches, delivered food and supplies to organizers and residents, conducted trainings—and acts—of civil disobedience and pushed demands in coordination with the Hands Up, Don’t Shoot Coalition. The Justice League, a collaboration of Show Me 15, the St. Louis fast food worker union, and Young Activists United St. Louis, which organizes students and youth, is led by people of color with the goal of combating and redressing police violence. As we prepare for Saturday’s appreciation day, whose goal is to elevate the leadership of youth in Ferguson, we are working on curriculum materials with an emphasis on individual rights and the historical threads that made Ferguson happen.

—Rasheen Aldridge and Tito Gardner

2. Walking Out in St. Louis

It is painful to watch someone who so closely resembles your brother, uncle or father lay in a pool of his own blood after departing this world. The black community, especially those of our generation, is in a state of trauma. On August 25, the day of Michael Brown’s funeral, students at Washington University at St. Louis and Saint Louis University organized #HandsUpWalkOut events on our campuses as part of a national walkout. We will continue to work as a united front for justice for Michael Brown and all those taken by forces who don’t believe in the humanity of those who happen to be black.

—Christopher Walter, Jr.

3. Walking Out Everywhere

On August 25, students and faculty at George Mason University, convened by a range of organizations, from the Black Student Alliance to Students Against Israeli Apartheid, came together to protest the murder of Michael Brown. The protest began at North Plaza with a march to the George Mason statue with everyone’s hands up, chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” We continued with a moment of silence followed by a reading of names of others taken too soon by police brutality, including Timothy Stansbury, Oscar Grant and Eric Garner. From there, we broke into smaller groups to develop proposals for how the campus community can help rebuild Ferguson, hold police officers more accountable and help limit and eventually eliminate police brutality.

—Christina Lee

4. Justice for Reefa Hernandez

On August 14, five days after the murder of Michael Brown, Dream Defenders went to US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida to demand a federal investigation into the murder of Israel “Reefa” Hernandez. Israel was a Miami Beach teen and street artist who was chased down, brutally beaten and tasered by police for painting on an abandoned McDonald’s. More than a year later, the officer has not been charged. We called for US Attorney Ferrer to open investigations into State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s Office, as well as the Miami Beach, Miami-Dade and Miami Garden Police Departments. Instead of having grievances heard, seven Dream Defenders and a mother from the Miami Workers Center were arrested and released later that evening. As we can’t count on police departments to adequately protect and serve us—or conduct proper investigations when the suspect is one of their own—we are issuing a national call to action.

—Shamile Louis

5. Justice for John Crawford

On August 5, 22-year-old John Crawford was killed by Beavercreek police inside a Walmart after brandishing a toy rifle, which was sold in the store. Since then, young people across Ohio have taken action to demand that Walmart’s security tapes be released to his family, their lawyers and the public. Within twenty-four hours of the Ohio Student Association’s third action in Columbus, the Ohio Attorney General allowed the family and their lawyers to see six minutes of the footage—prompting his father to say that his son was murdered. The AG has called a grand jury hearing in Greene County to determine if these officers will be indicted. On September 22, we are organizing a pilgrimage from the Beavercreek Walmart to the Xenia Courthouse to bring national attention to Greene County and demand justice for John Crawford.

—James Hayes

6. Justice for Chicago

On August 26, 100 young Chicagoans marched on Chicago Police Department Headquarters demanding to meet with Superintendent Garry McCarthy to end the unjust arrests of Black people for low-level marijuana possession. As of today, McCarthy has not responded to our request, despite publicly stating that the CPD should focus on ticketing instead of arrests. The Chicago Police Department makes an average of forty-four arrests per day for misdemeanor marijuana possession (fifteen grams or less)—more than all other offenses combined. Despite extensive studies showing that marijuana is used at similar rates across racial groups, Black people are fifteen times more likely to be arrested for minor possession than white folks. Black Chicagoans account for 78 percent of those arrested, 89 percent of those convicted and 92 percent of those jailed for low-level marijuana possession. The Chicago Department wastes nearly $80 million in local taxpayer dollars each year in court fees and thousands of police hours. This work is part of BYP100’s larger campaign to decriminalize blackness in America and end police brutality and abuse.

—Angie Rollins

7. History for Student Rights

On August 19, LA’s Community Rights Campaign won a huge victory by passing the Equal Protection Plan. The plan will restrict the role of police inside LAUSD and provide more serious protection for students, teachers and the community. For seven years, young people have taken direct action and organized around the plan in front of schools administrators, judges, school board members, police and teachers—and taken it to the surrounding community to seek its support. With its passing—fifty years after the original Freedom Summer in Mississippi, where I attended an anniversary conference at Tougaloo College—we see this as our moment to build the world we want and step closer to dismantling the school-to-jail track in Los Angeles and across the country.

—Delona Washington

8. Student Unionism Rising

On August 18, more than 100 members of the Chicago Students Union, alongside parents, teachers and elected officials, marched on Chicago Public Schools headquarters demanding the fair funding of schools and a democratically elected board of education. The CSU, formed in February 2013, has spent this summer holding meetings to listen to the problems students are having at school. In the upcoming school year, the CSU will register eligible students to vote, push CPS officials to ensure that students’ needs are prioritized in school budgets and escalate the fight for funding and democracy.

—Ross Floyd

9. What Wouldn’t Marco Rubio Do?

On August 25, members of United We Dream, United We Dream–Tampa Bay, El Cambio and the Dream Organizing Network came to South Carolina to confront Florida Senator Marco Rubio on his attacks on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, a program that has benefited more than half a million Dreamers like myself. Instead of standing with Dreamers, Rubio has turned his back on our community and sided with anti-immigrant Congresspeople like Steve King. As a Florida Dreamer, I had one question for Rubio: Does he want to deport me? Dreamers remain committed to fighting for DACA, turning back Republican opposition at every corner and winning similar relief for millions more.

—Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez

10. Who’s Next?

From August 11 to 14, thirty new members of the AFL-CIO’s Young Worker Advisory Council had a biannual meeting to discuss how the labor movement can empower young workers and better advocate for the largest generation to enter the workforce since the Baby Boomers. The YWAC, created in 2011, consists of young worker representatives from affiliates of the AFL-CIO. YWAC members are working on two major projects: growing local Young Worker Groups that can build community-based campaigns in targeted areas; and preparing for a 2015 Next Up Young Worker Summit that will engage, inspire and organize young workers. Through these projects, we hope to build a movement around our issues, including student debt, sub-living wages and—as the world’s eyes converged on Ferguson as we met—racial justice.

—Anthony Muniz

Girls Speak Out Against Sexist School Dress Codes

Haven Middle Schoolers

Kate McClintock, Kate Green and Lilly Bond, seventh graders who've been fighting back against the dress code at Haven Middle School in Evanston, Illinois. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)

In the chaotic script of a rising eighth grader, Frankie Lindsay’s notecard, written in preparation for a meeting with her school’s principal, read: “This school’s policy is one of the reasons why the US has the 6th highest rate of rape in the world.” Lindsay, along with three of her friends, was getting ready for a conversation with Principal Joseph Uglialoro about the way South Orange Middle School in New Jersey enforced its dress code. Although the code—mandating that shorts and skirts must be at fingertip length and forbidding “attire that exposes undergarments or anatomy”—is more or less common, Lindsay and her friends say that the way that the administration pushed the issue in mass e-mails to their parents and over the loudspeaker during morning announcements made them very uncomfortable.

With rising recognition, the girls realized that they did not appreciate being told, repeatedly, that their bodies were distractions to the school environment and required stringent regulation. In a June 2014 e-mail sent to South Orange-Maplewood Superintendent Osborne, local parents spoke out: “At South Orange Middle School, Principal Uglialoro has written that, ‘Dress code continues to be a concern, specifically with our female students,’ in all three of his e-blasts for the month of May. Additionally, in his May 19 e-mail, he alludes to the reason behind enforcing the dress code, as to a possible interference with establishing and maintaining a ‘learning environment.’ This begs the question of whose ‘learning environment’ is being prioritized, and at whose expense.”

The parents’ letter also noted with distress that girls are removed from instructional time and report being publicly shamed because of what they wear to school. In response to the frequent warnings about dress code enforcement, Lindsay and her friends formed the group #Iammorethanadistraction to raise awareness about what it means for a middle school girl to be told that her appearance is frustrating her learning environment. Ava Emilione, a member of the group, elaborated, “We shouldn’t be responsible for other people’s actions. When the school board is telling a girl that she has to dress a way so she won’t be distracting, that’s telling a girl that she needs to change herself, to make sure she’s not distracting. We are more than distractions to boys and the school environment.”

#Iammorethanadistraction is just one facet of a greater movement among young female students. Young women are fed up with being pressured to curate their appearance and, by extension, others’ potentially lecherous thoughts about them—especially when young men are so much less likely to be called out for dress code violations.

When Haven Middle School in Evanston, Illinois, banned leggings and yoga pants, 13-year-old Sophie Hasty spearheaded a petition to reverse the ban. The Evanston Review reported that a horde of young girls showed up wearing leggings in protest, holding signs that read, “Are my pants lowering your test scores?” In a letter to the Haven administration, parents wrote, “Under no circumstances should girls be told that their clothing is responsible for boys’ bad behaviors. This kind of message lands itself squarely on a continuum that blames girls and women for assault by men… If the sight of a girl’s leg is too much for boys at Haven to handle, then your school has a much bigger problem to deal with.”

Students at Morris Knolls High School in New Jersey, Kenilworth Junior High in California, Duncanville High School in Texas and even New York’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School have issued complaints about their dress codes, many of which have resulted in full-on protest. Stories of girls being harassed, sent home, shamed or asked to change into ill-fitting gym clothes in lieu of what they came to school in are commonplace on Tumblr, and are rapidly becoming more prevalent on Twitter. Young women around the country are arguing that the school’s reaction to a woman’s appearance is more distracting than her appearance itself and that it is unfair to be told that their attire frustrates the school’s goal to educate. On a more extreme scale, this philosophy of blaming women’s attire for men’s behavior toward them echoes what many call “rape culture:” a term describing, in part, the likelihood that a woman will be blamed for her rape.

The constitutionality of dress codes is attributed to the Tinker vs. Des Moines School District Supreme Court case. In December 1965, students in Des Moines, Iowa wore black armbands to protest the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. Christopher Eckhardt, 16, John Tinker, 16 and Mary Tinker, 13 wore their armbands to school religiously with the support of their parents. But on December 14, principals and administrators of Des Moines schools met and together resolved to rid the schools of this disturbance. If any student were to arrive wearing an armband, they would be asked to remove it. And if they refused, they would be suspended.

Tinker, Tinker and Eckhardt refused and were suspended. A formal complaint was filed under § 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code. The District Court’s opinion, however, was that the school “upheld the constitutionality of the school authorities’ action on the ground that it was reasonable in order to prevent disturbance of school discipline.” The case established, or at least sketched out, guidelines by which schools could juggle appropriate discipline and students’ right to free speech.

And when girls violate dress codes, schools do tend to focus on discipline. Nefertiti Martin, Community Organizer for New York-based Girls for Gender Equality, has been looking at harsh discipline in public schools. She thinks that girls who are taken out of class, given something else to wear or suspended for their style choices should be treated far more respectfully. “More often than not, the school system works in a disciplinary realm as opposed to being transformative, a learning opportunity. People do a lot of punishment without explaining why, or without a clear understanding of the roots of the problem.” Martin points out that when she facilities workshops with school officials, they often do not even know how to talk to students about sexual harassment largely the result of lack of training.

But disciplining young women for dress code violations has repercussions far more troubling than embarrassment or missing educational time. Placing such strong emphasis on young women’s bodies may play a large part in their self-definition, their perceptions of themselves as sexual objects. The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls holds that “Sexualization occurs when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics.” Self-objectification, to the APA, occurs when girls “learn to think of and treat their own bodies as objects of others’ desire.” In essence, focusing so much attention on a young woman’s sexuality—the visibility of her legs, her bra straps or midriff—teaches her that these things are of major importance to others; therefore, they should be of major importance to her. Compromised school performance, lowered self-esteem, anxiety and eating disorders are just some of the consequences that follow.

Of course, it’s not just schools that are pushing young women to frame themselves as sexual objects. But while larger cultural pressure for young women to self-objectify is steady, it is absolutely imperative to note that girls—young girls—can understand and control the implications of their appearance. Girls and boys experiment with their aesthetic as they search for their place among their peers, and more importantly, for who they are as individuals. Niv Miyasato, proud father of Lily Kirschner of #Iammorethanadistraction, underscores this point: “Honestly, I think that Lily and her friends are very aware of the choices they make. I feel that they have their own sense of what’s appropriate for them and what’s not. They self-edit. They’re not mindless consumers of what’s presented to them—they’ve seen all of this since they were little… To say they don’t have choices, that we’re just blind victims of consumerism, is not true … It’s when people impose their choices on other people, that’s when there are problems.”

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All girls interviewed emphasized that when they choose to wear revealing clothing, they do not do it primarily—or often at all—for the attention of their male peers. They want to feel good about themselves. According to Nathania Fields, a rising senior at Campus Magnet High School in New York: “I think a lot of the time girls wear what they wear to feel more confident in themselves. The attention from men is, I don’t know, extra.”

Comfort is also key: Sophie Hasty argued that her school should allow leggings because they are comfortable and low-maintenance. Fields, who says her high school does not turn on air conditioning until the last week of school, also stressed comfort: “A lot of the time, girls are like, ‘I buy my clothes. You don’t. It’s 90 degrees outside and you don’t have AC because you’re cheap. What am I supposed to wear… If it’s hot in the building, I’m gonna wear some shorts and you’re gonna leave me alone or put on some AC.”

Next step for the girls involved in #Iammorethanadistraction is to help create a space designated for young men to have candid conversations with parents, teachers and young women about how they view women’s bodies, and how their behavior can negatively impact young women. Martin said that young men are often surprised that, if a woman is wearing revealing clothing, she is not asking to be approached in a certain way. Fields elaborates, “We have to tell guys that just because a girl is wearing a short skirt doesn’t mean she wants you. I’ve heard guys say that there are females who wear short skirts and females who don’t, and the ones who do, those girls are thots [sluts].”

Girls around the country are speaking out against casual expressions of systematic sexism in the classroom. But despite widespread pushback against dress code enforcement, the issue is merely the face of a greater struggle: Emilione comments, “It’s not about the clothes, really. I could care less that I have to wear longer shorts. But it’s about the implications and the bigger message of the dress code—the message on the loudspeakers: ‘For all you ladies out there!’”

Read Next: Hannah Finnie on “The Hidden Crisis on College Campuses”

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 08/22/14?

Gaza

(REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.
Follow @barthosNY

Gruesome Tales Surface of Israeli Massacres Against Families in Gaza Neighborhood,” by Max Blumenthal. AlterNet. August 17, 2014. 

The coverage of Gaza in the past month has for the first time truly become humanized, ceding more place to Palestinian voices and to reporting. The tragedy of one family drowns out another, and given the intensity and depth of the current massacre, so many disastrous events fall off the map: Max Blumenthal's article is a very moving description of what is happening in Gaza before and after the missiles start falling. It gives a sense of Israel's targeting, of the destruction of the infrastructure as well as that of lives, of the sense of panic before and during attacks, and the loss after them - but also, movingly, of small acts of solidarity which tie people together. 

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.
Follow @seriouslysummer

 "Mental Health Cops Help Reweave Social Safety Net in San Antonio," by Jenny Gold. NPR. August 19, 2014.

The idea of "smart justice"—diverting individuals with mental illness into treatment rather than jail—is evident in San Antonio with its six-person mental health squad. Through answering emergency calls where mental illness may be an issue, the unit acts more like a group of social workers than law enforcers. As a result, the jails aren't overcrowded and the city and county have saved $50 million over the past five years. It seems like San Antonio figured out what should have been common sense all along: having the dignity to take the needs of individuals with mental illness seriously.

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.
Follow @ErinACorbett

Why don’t we hear about women victims of state violence?,” by Verónica Bayetti Flores. Feministing. August 14, 2014

In this piece, Bayetti Flores asks a very important question. And as you may have guessed from the headline, she questions why we have heard very little about cases of police violence against women and LGBTQ individuals.  She talks about how we use social media to communicate with one another, and she explains how we bring with us to these discussions our internalized racism, our anti-black bias, we bring misogyny, homophobia and transphobia.  She talks of how we calculate innocence and worth and how those most at risk of state violence don’t make the cut. They are sex workers, they are black, they are Latina, they are trans women, they are immigrants, they are queer, “or, God forbid more than one of those at once.”  So why are we not also outraged about the deaths, the beating, the sexual violence against these women? And why do more people not know who they are?

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.
Follow @crown_vic_

"Activists Connect Shooting of Michael Brown to Movement for Reproductive Justice," by the Feminist Newswire. Feminist.org. August 13, 2014.

It is important, perhaps more than ever before, to consistently integrate our conversations about the plights of this nation in an intersectional framework. Very fortunately, many activists have done just that and are beginning to widen the way in which we talk about Ferguson, civil rights, and how the genocide of black and brown bodies in this country is a feminist issue. In this article, the Feminist Newswire frames the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the window of another very specific civil rights issue: reproductive rights. This article also touches on the hashtag activist movement happening called  #reprojustice, a term, Imani Gandy, senior legal analyst at RH Reality Check has used when discusses the important of this intersectional discussion: “Black women are raising children and fearing that their children are going to be gunned down in the street. That affects their ability to parent freely."

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.
Follow @_grantde

"Republicans Hate the New AP History Exam,” by Avi Asher-Schapiro. VICE. August 20, 2014.

With the release of a new standard for the Advanced Placement US history exam, which aims to look more critically at the country's founding, conservatives are training their fury on what they see as undermining civic pride and patriotism and displaying history through a "leftist" perspective. 

This is hardly the first time conservatives have tried their mightiest to rewrite history – there was an epic fight in the Sixties over historian John Hope Franklin's history Land of the Free that was so vitriolic that one man said he'd rather be thrown in jail than let his daughter be in the same room as the book. One of its big offenses: favorite treatment to Martin Luther King, Jr. Paying attention to the foundational parts of our country's history that subjugated its black citizens – who weren't treated as humans, let alone afforded the benefits of citizenship – and noting the exploitation of immigrant labor is a bridge too far for these conservatives. Better not teach history than learn from it.

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.
Follow @write_noise

The Tenuous Future of Climate Migrants,” by Manish Vaid and Tridivesh Singh Maini. Himmal. August 11, 2014. 

At least for now, Bangladesh has more at stake than other countries in the global warming crisis. The swampy country could have one-fifth of its territory submerged in water due to climate change. But this issue doesn't only affect Bangladeshis—the governments of the countries where the displaced may migrate must also pay attention. In Himmal magazine, Manish Vaid and Tridivesh Singh Maini argue that the Indian government must change its policies to accommodate "climate refugees" from its neighbor.

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.
Follow @alanahinojosa

The Wisdom of the Exile,” by Costica Bradatan. The New York Times. August 16, 2014.

Costica Bradatan does the brilliant and beautiful work in this New York Times opinion piece of exploring the richness of the unknown, the depth of being uprooted and the arguably necessary experience of exile. Such an experience, through its lightness of being, yields the ability to create a world anew, he says, but also the chance the totally redraw the lines of yourself. "As an exile you learn that the world is a story that can be told in many different ways," he writes. "Certainly you can find that in books, there is no deeper knowledge than the one that comes mixed with blood and tears, the knowledge that comes from uprooting." Could it really be, as Bradatan suggests, that exile (in all its forms) be necessary for both the philosopher and the common wo(man)?

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—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.
Follow @agnesradomski

 “St. Louis: A City Divided,” by Jeanette Cooperman. Al Jazeera America. August 18, 2014.

"In St. Louis, segregation— geographic, cultural and economic—is normal," writes Jeannette Cooperman for Al Jazeera America. The Ferguson protests have a history that needs to be considered in any debate or discussion involving the current unrest. St. Louis has been "chopped into bits, remaining socially and economically segregated long after racist laws were erased from the books." The Mississippi and Missouri rivers have been used as racial divides and artificial boundaries carve the metropolitan into ninety separate municipalities, many of which can't afford good schools or highly trained police forces. In addition to this, the control of black people's movement can be traced back to the 1700's and in 1916, St. Louis became the first city to pass a segregation ordinance by referendum. This fascinating piece delves into the history behind today's Ferguson and is a must read for anyone interested in truly understanding the plight of a deprived yet resilient community. 

 

Read Next: What Nation interns are reading the week of 08/015/14.

Where Is the Voice of Migrant Children in the Immigration Crisis?

Immigration Child

 (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

This article originally appeared in Generation Progress and is printed here with permission.

While the voices of those in office have risen to the forefront of the border crisis, the child migrants and their families are the ones actually being affected by the shifts in policy, and ultimately, any decision made impacts their future first and foremost.

These children chose to leave their home countries in Central America because they were fleeing poverty, violence and, in some situations, death.

“I am afraid to go back to Guatemala because I am afraid that there is no one to protect me,” 15-year-old Dulce Medina said during an ad hoc press conference organized by the House Progressive Caucus on the influx of unaccompanied migrants from Central America.

Along with debate surrounding their future in the United States, their temporary status has been challenged, as many have been threatened with immediate deportation. Throughout the crisis, there have been reports of states not using shelters, US officials closing shelters previously used to house migrant children, along with unfounded accusations that the children may have Ebola.

On Tuesday, officials in Massachusetts said they will not need to open up shelters for unaccompanied children. According to officials, “fewer children have been caught while crossing the border illegally over the last month and the government has expanded capacity at existing shelters in other states.”

But there are many stories of children in Central America who have become victims of the extreme gang violence. Reports of missing children whose remains are later found buried in an abandoned field are common.

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During the ad hoc press conference, 12-year-old Mayeli Hernandez recalled witnessing two separate homicides in Honduras prior to fleeing. She said “it was very ugly to see the blood running on the ground.”

The immediate response from many lawmakers has been to send these kids back as efficiently and quickly as possible, but the question of their fate after returning to the very country they were fleeing from is rarely part of the conversation.

When the fact is that the violence children are fleeing is not just murder but brutal murder, where children are “stabbed to death, cut into pieces or tortured,” the question of what children are returning home to needs to be a part of the conversation.

With Congress having just entered a five-week recess, the pressure to have these voices heard lies on the shoulders of President Obama. And while shelters are closing or are no longer planning to accommodate migrant children, violence continues on in the countries of origin, without any guarantee as to when the increasing number of migrants coming across the border will come to a comfortable stop.

 

Read Next: StudentNation on reflections from the brick wall

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 08/15/14?

Rikers Island

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.

The Rebirth of Stockholder Capitalism?” by Robert Reich. Guernica, August 8, 2014.

In this article, Robert Reich offers useful terms to understand the paradox of our financialized economy: shareholders have been reaping the profits of most companies at the expense of other stakeholders, a larger category that encompasses employees and customers. Some companies are trying to circumvent this, such as the supermarket brand Market Basket, which reinvests its profits into providing higher wages for employees and lower prices for customers—as opposed to funneling money to shareholders. Inevitably, soon enough the company's board fired the CEO who started the initiative, to great public outrage. The control of companies by shareholders is absolute but benefits no one but shareholders themselves. Because of this, Reich advocates for a stakeholder capitalism, with companies taking into account their customers' constrained salaries and their employees’ basic necessities (and more cynically, purchasing power) in their decision making. These are the most basic measures we could ask for in a strained economy. But I wonder whether shareholders' unchecked power on industry is inherent to capitalism itself, insofar as there are shareholders with the leverage to drive companies according to their own interest. We need deeper, structural reform.

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.

"What Is a Woman?" by Michelle Goldberg. The New Yorker, August 4, 2014.

Nation writer Michelle Goldberg's piece on the divide between radical feminism and transgender identity adds another dimension to the influx of attention trans rights has received recently (e.g. trans* actress Laverne Cox appearing on Time magazine's cover last June). The complexities behind this particular issue within the trans rights realm has led Goldberg's piece to already face backlash for being one-sided, especially from the viewpoint of the trans community. It goes to show that the process of grasping the politics behind gender is only just beginning despite trans individuals having been in the public eye for years.

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.

The Most Wanted Man in the World: Edward Snowden in His Own Words,” by James Bamford. Wired, August, 2014.

In this article, James Bamford profiles Edward Snowden in hopes of answering his burning question: What drove Snowden to leak thousands of top-secret documents of domestic surveillance programs? Snowden reveals throughout the piece that he intended for the government to have some idea about what he stole, and that the biggest question is not what new story will come out next, but how that problem will ultimately be addressed.  His answer: We can end mass surveillance with technology, without any legislative action at all. Initially, as he first headed to Hong Kong before releasing the NSA documents, he expected that Americans would collectively shrug and move on from the information he had leaked; and regarding the question of whether or not there is another leaker, Snowden expresses how that simply underscores the NSA’s inability to control the massive amount of private information it has been collecting. This captivating piece is the story of Edward Snowden’s intelligence career and decision to become, as Bamford describes, “a uniquely postmodern breed of whistle-blower.” 

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.

"This is Why We Are Mad About The Shooting of Mike Brown," by Kara Brown. Jezebel, August 11, 2014

On August 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown did not simply "pass." Michael Brown was shot six times by a Ferguson Police Officer who stood thirty-five feet away from him. Michael Brown was gunned down. Ten bullets exploded inside of his body. Michael Brown was brutally murdered. Michael Brown was left uncovered and untouched in the street, his body left to burn in the summer heat for hours before any law enforcement official or paramedic came to the scene of the crime. No explanation has been offered to explain this unexplainable and inexcusable atrocity. Except to relay a broader message to a broken community of black people in this country. That Michael Brown was slaughtered. That Michael Brown was assassinated. That Michael Brown's life was violently and maliciously taken from him. His story rests among the countless others who have died beneath a country's fear of color. A life stolen by a country with a dirty, dirty history. On August 9, an 18-year-old was given no justice. He was given no liberty. He was given no protection from his country. And Michael Brown died the most unnatural of deaths. This we know is true.

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.

"The New Racism: This is how the civil rights movement ends" by Jason Zengerle. The New Republic, August 10, 2014

James Zengerle uncovers the efforts of the Alabama legislature's Republicans, since the 2010 Tea Party wave election, to roll back a half century of progress on all fronts, from Medicaid expansion to the imposition of strict voter ID laws doubtlessly intended to restrict voter participation—and to render moot the civil rights movement's biggest achievements. Zengerle focuses on a state senator, Hank Sanders, who has been marginalized in the wake of the GOP's takeover. In only the past few months black voters helped Thad Cochran win his GOP runoff in Mississippi against an extreme candidate, giving the impression that they can play a pivotal role in the coming midterm elections. "But these will likely be pyrrhic victories," Zengerle notes. "At the state level, Republicans can continue to win by catering exclusively to white voters, pushing the parties even further apart and making state laws ever more extreme. The fact that black people in the South still have the right to vote, and they’re still able to elect black politicians at the state and local levels, is what makes the end of the Second Reconstruction so much more insidious than the end of the First. Lacking white politicians to build coalitions with, those black politicians are rendered powerless. As Kareem Crayton, a University of North Carolina law professor, told me, 'The situation today has the semblance of what representation looks like without very much ability to actually exercise it.'” 

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.

Let’s Get Naked,” by Kristen Radtke. BuzzFeed, August 11, 2014.

The graphic novel is a male-dominated genre in which women's bodies are distorted and exploited, perhaps even more than they are in other realms of popular culture. In this BuzzFeed article, twenty-three female graphic novelists respond to this trend with representations of female bodies that they feel are closer to their own life experiences. “I look forward to the time when honest depictions of women’s bodies are a normal thing to look at, instead of some kind of statement," writes graphic novelist Anya Ulinich. “I love any excuse to look at naked bodies in a nonsexual context," writes Liana Finck.

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.

Death in Gaza: Some Counts More Controversial than Others,” by Peter Hart. FAIR.org, August 12, 2014.

The New York Times and Washington Post published articles recently that suggested (read: encouraged) the world to be skeptical of the death toll coming out of Gaza. At the same time, Palestinian and non-state organizations have reported that 84 percent of the deaths in Gaza right now are civilians. But surprise! Israel doesn't agree. The dispute over how many, and who, is being killed should be rather telling. As the author of this piece writes, the quarreling over death toll numbers is " reminiscent of some of the problematic reporting about deaths in the Iraq War. Which might lead one to conclude that what makes a given death toll controversial is linked to who is doing the killing."

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—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora, immigration, Black Feminist thought, and police brutality.

Ugandan pop star Bobi Wine ‘denied UK visa over homophobic stance,’” by Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire. The Guardian, August 13, 2014.

Recently, Ugandan pop star Bobi Wine was denied entrance into the United Kingdom and was forced to cancel performances over his homophobic stance and lyrical content. But Bobi Wine's visa denial does not come as a shock. For months, gay rights groups have voiced outrage over Uganda’s homophobic policies. But recently, Ugandan gay rights activists were celebrating victories—"Uganda's Constitutional Court recently overturned a ruling that would have seen homosexuals face life imprisonment" – and earlier this month LGBT groups celebrated their third annual pride celebration. As the nation’s former colonial power, there is a level of irony within Bobi Wine's UK visa denial—which offers a major statement against the Ugandan government’s anti-gay agenda. There is no telling what impact the UK's decision will have, but in the coming months the opposition in Uganda will continue to fight against the institutions that oppress sexual minorities.

—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.

Rikers: Where Mental Illness Meets Brutality in Jail,” By Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz. The New York Times, July 14, 2014.  

This New York Times investigation provides a harrowing account of how society’s most vulnerable are treated at Rikers Island, the country's second largest jail. Brutal attacks on inmates by correctional officers are a common occurrence, especially among the mentally ill (77 percent of the seriously injured inmates had received a mental illness diagnosis.) The vivid descriptions of abuse and profiles of inmates subjected to especially cruel treatment shows that mental illness at Rikers Island is met with severe violence. The investigation also reveals that there is no accountability for the correctional officers deplorable behavior, which have left several inmates with major injuries, some even requiring life saving surgery. Sadly, Rikers Island offers only a glimpse into a much larger and more systematic problem that can be found across the country’s correctional facilities—one that reflects a deep lack of understanding and empathy for those suffering from a mental illness. 

 

Read Next: What Nation interns are reading the week of 08/08/14.

Students Stand Up and Speak Out in Sacramento, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, DC

Gaza protest

Saturday’s march on Washington for Palestinian justice. (Photo: WJLA)

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on student and youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out July 14 and July 25. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. At 11, Not One More

On August 2, more than 2,000 people marched on Washington, DC, to pressure President Obama to stop deportations and expand deferred action for all. The mobilization, organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, was led by undocumented individuals and families affected by the president’s policy on deportations. Day laborers, members of the LGBTQ community and children were among the speakers at the march—illustrating how deportations impact many communities. Starting at the National Mall, we took over the streets en route to Border Patrol, where we stopped briefly to hear from families affected by the crisis at the border. From there, we continued to Freedom Plaza, where we dropped banners reading “Not1More Deportation” and “DACA4All.” Our last stop was at the White House, where we announced ongoing local action to pressure the president.

—Reyna Wences

2. At 12:30, Free Palestine

On August 2, some 20,000 people marched from the White House to The Washington Post in a display of anger over Israel’s most recent onslaught against the Palestinians. Before the march, supporters rallied in Lafayette Square to listen to a variety of speakers, ranging from Cornel West to local student activists. As a sea of Palestinian flags flooded the streets, traffic came to a halt. Once the march reached the Post, activists began to stack coffins against the windows. The protest was more than a cathartic experience; it was an opportunity for activists of all ages to reunite or meet for the first time—and share ideas for future action, including ramping up BDS work across the country.

—Tareq Radi

3. #MyOwnAdvocate

On Monday, July 28, undocumented leaders from the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Undocumented Illinois, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, ASPIRE and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network launched #MyOwnAdvocate, a campaign demanding that DC-based immigration advocates step aside and make space for undocumented people to negotiate the Obama administration’s pending changes to immigration policy. Together, we visited the National Immigration Forum, the Center for American Progress and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, asking all three to boycott all further immigration meetings with Obama until the people directly affected by his current and pending policies are present at the table. Afterward, we started a picket line in front of the White House and publicized our call.

—Hairo Cortes

4. #SupportSalaita

This week, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign revoked associate professor Steven Salaita’s appointment to its American Indian Studies program. Salaita, who left his position as an associate professor at Virginia Tech, was set to join UIUC this month—until his hiring was overturned by Chancellor Phyllis Wise following Twitter posts critiquing Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza. Wise’s decision blatantly disregards academic freedom and freedom of speech—which she herself defended earlier this year amid the American Studies Association’s decision to endorse an academic boycott of Israel. Student and activist groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace have mobilized online, with petitions demanding the Salaita’s reinstatement as well as an email campaign directed at Chancellor Wise. Joining faculty from across the country, the Director of American Indian Studies, Professor Robert Warrior, has stated his support.

—Ahmad Hamdan

5. At UC, Student-Workers Gear for a Boycott

The elected officers of UAW 2865, the union of 13,000 University of California student-workers including teaching assistants and tutors, published an open letter in solidarity with Palestinian labor unions’ call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israeli occupation. The letter, voted on and passed by the union’s 83-member Joint Council, outlines the union’s intent to support its Palestinian counterparts and seek a membership vote once the fall term is in session. If this vote passes, UAW 2865 would become the first US union to join BDS. The Joint Council is asking members to consider divestment of UAW International’s pension investments from companies that profit off Israeli occupation; join five of nine UC campus governments in pressuring the UC to divest; and observe a member boycott of academic activities officially sponsored or funded by Israeli universities justifying apartheid. The letter calls for members to vote “yes” on the resolution. Jewish members also published a letter in support of the move.

—Anti-Oppression Committee, UAW 2865

6. At UMass, Undergrads Call for a Union

In the fall of 2013, Peer Mentors at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst began efforts to join UAW Local 2322, which represents resident assistants and graduate student workers. Peer Mentors are live-in undergraduate student-workers who assist first year students in their transition to the university, with a focus on academics. A majority of Peer Mentors have signed union cards; we believe that we deserve higher compensation and a greater voice in the nature and future of our position—which has been undergoing ongoing revisions with little or no student worker input. While the university affirms the importance of Peer Mentors, it has contested our unionization efforts to the Department of Labor and, in a hearing, stated its intention to convert our job from an hourly waged position to a for-credit practicum with a stipend. By fighting undergraduate worker unionization efforts, the university silences our voices and experiences—and damages the communities it aims to create.

—Jenna Grady, Emily Braun, Ian Roche, Aeden McCarthy and Hoai Quach

7. Capitol Hill’s Title IX Teeth

On the week of July 28, bipartisan coalitions of Senators and Congresspeople introduced two bills to end sexual violence on college campuses. Know Your IX’s ED ACT NOW campaign, which advocates for better federal enforcement of Title IX, was particularly encouraged to see two provisions we’ve called for since our launch: greater transparency into civil rights investigations of schools and fining authority for the Department of Education if a school violates these rights. Currently, the only sanction ED can levy against a noncompliant school is revoking all federal funding, which would be a disaster for students, particularly those on financial aid. Perhaps for this reason, no school has ever been sanctioned for sexual assault-related Title IX violations, rendering the law an empty promise. Know Your IX looks forward to working with the bipartisan coalition and student allies across the country to make sure these key provisions become law, bringing our campuses one step closer to safety and justice for students of all genders.

—Know Your IX

8. Sacramento’s Preventative Education

Since last spring, federal complaints filed by scores of students across California, from the University of Southern California to Occidental College to UC-Berkeley, have pressured lawmakers to make campuses safer. Now, California lawmakers are springing into action with SB 967, a bill that would require students to have affirmative consent from their partners before engaging in sexual activity. The bill, which students have been vital in putting at the forefront of California’s legislative agenda, also aims to increase important preventative education and outreach to students to confront the widespread culture of campus sexual assault. Beyond serving as a model for how states can respond to sexual violence on campus, the bill has generated an important dialogue among anti-sexual violence activists, students and the mainstream media about how our culture can encourage safety, respect and consent.

—Sofie Karasek

9. Where Has Corbett Been This Whole Time?

At 9 AM on Wednesday, August 6, students from Youth United for Change protested in front of Governor Corbett’s office in Philadelphia as he held a press conference on funding for education. We tried to get inside, but security refused, saying that the event was closed to the public. As Corbett came out of the elevator, we greeted him with chants—and he ran from us. We were escorted out of the building, where we rallied with students from Philadelphia Student Union. Reporters asked me if we should cut Governor Corbett some slack, because he was giving us $265 million for education—but he doesn’t deserve to be the hero status as he is the main reason we are in this struggle in the first place. We will continue to demand full and fair funding so we can have the education that we deserve.

—Katherine Garcia

10. When Will the Genocide End?

On Saturday, August 2, more than 150 people, mostly under the age of 25, came together to offer and hear public testimony about Chicago police violence, participate in a workshop on the history of police violence and current resistance and network with each other. The gathering was the first event of a new group, We Charge Genocide, a grassroots, intergenerational effort to center the voices and experiences of the young people most targeted by police violence in Chicago. Our next action will be a copwatch training on August 21.

—We Charge Genocide

Reflections From Behind the Brick Wall

Ivy Walls

(youngist.com)

This article originally appeared in {young}ist and is reprinted here with permission.

"SCHOLARSHIP IS ART AND WE ARE ARTISTS. THIS IS IN ALL CAPS TO BE HEARD OVER THE NUMBING SILENCE AND CACOPHONIUS BLABBER OF THE ACADEMY. ARTISTS AND CREATORS AND LIFE-GIVERS ARE NOT APPRECIATED HERE. THERE IS NO BODILY INTEGRITY. NO REFLECTIVE QUIETNESS. NO TENDER TOUCH. ONLY THE CRUDE NECESSITY TO SELL AND CONSUME UNTIL YOU BECOME A CANNIBAL OF YOURSELF.”

I’m writing this as a way to process the four years I spent in school, but I am not sure where to start. I could plunge into a critique of the academic industrial complex and the corporatization of higher education, but my memory is working in snapshots right now. Crying in professor’s offices, in corners of the library, embarrassingly often. Looking at the ceiling and doodling during class in boredom and frustration. Feeling a murky cloud of self-doubt settling over me. I still feel silly and self-indulgent writing this. It’s not something I want to talk about, but I feel like I have to get it out of my head. 

I spent a lot of time wandering campus and feeling cynical and somewhat horrified by my surroundings. The thing about getting a critical education is that it will invert your gaze upon yourself in a self-destructive way. Not everyone carries the analysis of the world that they learn through gender theory, critical race studies or postcolonial studies far enough, but those of us that do realize that we are being given the tools to unravel the institution we find ourselves in from within that institution. It is a hugely unsettling paradox that can provoke a lot of rage (that has nowhere to go). We see what is wrong with not just the broader world, but with our immediate world—the university—a place that thrives off all sorts of material and psychological violence. And it is then that we come upon a painful realization that this place does not want to change, and will not. It may teach you what is wrong with the world, but it is divested from engaging in how to change it. What good is a “reading room in a prison?"

I discovered the limits of supposedly “radical” spaces in the university too quickly. I remember sitting in my senior feminist studies seminar, becoming aggravated with a classroom that was more interested in discussing whether Beyoncé is a feminist rather than talking about how neoliberalism is claiming feminism, more interested in reading Tina Fey than Marxist feminists, more inclined to read Audre Lorde’s poetry as “pretty words” than an clear articulation of a pain that necessitates action. Is this really the next generation of feminists? I would ask myself with frustration. I found out later that this was symptomatic of a focus on postmodernist feminism, one heavily invested in language and representation rather than material realities. In an age where the university was becoming increasingly ruled by capitalist interests, an article about the revolutionary potential of Rihanna’s pussy pat would sell more than writing that actually elaborates the grim realities of capitalist patriarchal exploitation. So even the “feminist" classroom was deeply disappointing; radical theory was far removed from radical action, coupled instead with the glittery status of “sounding” radical without being threatening to the status quo.

And there was no space for our rage. The classroom centered “the personal is political” around the individual, turning politics into a therapy session that glorified the narration of personal experience, rather than affirming that what was political was already profoundly personal and directly connected to histories of trauma and violence. We would hear ten stories about “the first time I got my period”, but reading the first-hand testimonies of third world revolutionaries provoked no emotional response. Centering our personal experience so much made students unable to draw links between their stories and collectives histories of oppression. 

I found that I learned far more outside the classroom, in student groups and organizing. Yet even that work was frustrating—our activism almost always culminated into fruitless meeting with administrators. While I think the presence of a loud and vocal bloc of students was beneficial to the overall apathetic student body typical of elite institutions of higher education, personally I found myself constantly exhausted from being in a kind of war with the university. I signed up for a column in the college newspaper, thinking that it would be a good outlet for my words, but I wondered how long I could keep informing people about the obvious, how many times I could say that an incident was racist, how many ways I could say that this is wrong

Sara Ahmed once described the work of diversity workers in a university as constantly banging their head against a brick wall. The “brick wall” was a metaphor I found grimly accurate for the university – a place that won’t change, no matter how much “head-banging” those invested in changing it painfully endured. I remember walking around campus taking pictures of brick walls as a kind of disillusioned art project. Another time, I took pictures of the beautiful scenery of my campus, and juxtaposed the imagery with text detailing collusion with imperialism, slavery, and colonialism. I spent a lot of my last two years not going to class (somehow I graduated), wandering around, and observing my surroundings with a sense of horror and absurdity that I never want to lose. I think that holding onto that initial feeling of “WTF is this” when our paradigm is being shifted is key to remaining authentically committed to the ongoing project of justice. Don’t get used to the way things are. 

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What to do with a place so absurd that it is showing you the tools to destroy the it but not letting you use them? Become a troll. Trolling as a bullshit response to the bullshit of the university is something that is impervious to co-optation in a way that can allow someone to maintain their sanity in a totally insane place. Subversive actions whether it was late-night “vandalizing’ racist posters with sharpies, wearing Israel day shirts as crop tops marked with Palestine to large school concerts, or gracing a racist and sexist creative writing teacher with a poem entitled “why I don’t want to talk to white people” as a final assignment (and getting full marks) were modes of survival in a place that was constantly drilling into our heads that we were wrong, “crazy”, even worthless. I found myself not being able to do the things I was best at, like writing, because  I was overcome with so much self-doubt. I kept coming back to a quote by Alexis Pauline Gumbs in her article The Shape of My Impact: “the university does not love you, but the universe does”. In such a place of invalidation, the affirming power of laughter and community were very important. My advice to young and critical people in the university is to find a family of trolls to nourish you. 

I hugely appreciated the words of others who have written on this topic, your words made me feel less alone. I write this now with a necessitated urge to take the theory we learn within the academy outside the academy. That is the only healing response to violence of the university: to redistribute its wealth and knowledge potential to the spaces where these things are needed the most, through community organizing, through art, etc. Right now, I am thankful to be out of the often toxic space that academia is, to be able to think outside of it and beyond it, and focus my mind and energy on things that matter. 

Read Next: Where is the voice of migrant children in the immigration crisis?

What ‘Nation’ Interns Are Reading the Week of 08/08/14

Roxane Gay

(© Justine Bursoni Photography)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats,” by Nick Hanauer. Politico Magazine, July/August 2014.

This has been a highly read story by zillionaire Nick Hanauer, which is interesting in both the many preconceptions it slashes and those it embraces. As Hanauer points out, the failure of considering workers as consumers is creating a society where most cannot afford the production of industry. There is actually a profit motive to advocating the minimum wage, as better paid workers would make more avid consumers. Zillionaires should therefore jump on the 15-NOW bandwagon! How lovely. Yet, Hanauer embraces a few highly problematic myths: firstly, that of capitalism as a vehicle for progress, which promotes some form of mild, necessary inequality, which simply has to be reduced and kept in check for capitalism to better strive. You can be poor insofar as we still profit. Then, he fearmongers on how the blood-lust of the unsophisticated masses will take over if we don't do anything. Reform, zillionaires, or you shall be killed. This is an abject vision of the disenfranchised as prone to passions and violence, not simply asking for basic rights and justice. If this sparks reform, it would be for the wrong reason—yet, in an odd and cynical way, it could lead to more worker rights, which we're hardly in a position to reject, unfortunately.

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.

Fifth-graders defend their South Shore neighborhood.” Chicago Tribune, July 27, 2014.

The narrative of the South Side of Chicago being a war zone, aptly nicknamed "Chiraq," is an issue even the youngest of its residents take to heart. In an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, fifth-graders at the Bradwell School of Excellence in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood call out the media on how it fails to put a human face behind its news coverage in the area. Even in elementary school, these fifth-graders know that they and their neighbors are more than just "another statistic."

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.

Fitting The Description.” Doifitthedescription.tumblr.com.

As I was scrolling through my Twitter feed over the weekend, I came across a hashtag, #ChiCopWatch. Curious about what this was, I clicked on the link and read through a number of testimonials about being harassed by Chicago police for “fitting the description.” #ChiCopWatch was launched by a grassroots group, We Charge Genocide, and is dedicated to revealing the “epidemic of police violence” in the city of Chicago. Along with the Twitter campaign (among other community organizing) is a site called Fitting The Description, a series of beautifully composed portraits of individuals holding whiteboards with three words to describe themselves.

“Focused, Motivated, Hopeful”
“Powerful, Progressive, Passionate”
“Feminist, Queer, Anti-Racist”

The social media campaign is an effort to both break down the stereotypes of those who are most brutally harassed by police, while also calling on communities to “copwatch” and report police abuse. This is of particular relevance and importance with recent outcries of police brutality as anational crisis, from New York to Chicago and beyond.

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.

"Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist is a manual on 'How to Be a Human,'" by Nolan Feeney. TIME, August 5, 2014.

If you haven't heard about Roxane Gay's new collection of essays—personal and scholastic—Bad Feminist, count yourself among the fallen (and now saved, because you're currently reading this sentence and the collection recently came out. Praise be). Time interviewed the professor and author of An Untamed State to discuss questions for those interested or at odds with contemporary feminist doctrine, from combating ignorance like the Women Against Feminism campaign to discussing Beyoncé as a target and then bringing feminism back to the basics—humanity and empathy. America needs this brand of imperfectly human commentary, written as both a shedding of self and a loud, earnest exhalation that teaches its readers how to better move through the world as woman, as man, as human. For this I would (if I could) scream from a mountaintop and say, so it might land on the heads of the many who need to read these essays, Thank you, Roxane.

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.


"The GOP's mixed message to minorities", Jill Lawrence. Al Jazeera America, August 6, 2014.

Jill Lawrence writes about the battle within the Republican Party and its official aim of reaching out to voters of color, while its members in Congress, channeling its most fringe constituents—those who chose to spend their Fourth of July weekend screaming invectives at child migrants fleeing deplorable violence—offer the worst possible message, lacking any compassion or logic. The striking contrast of Reince Priebus reaching out to the National Urban League as the House Republicans sue President Obama on spurious charges of abuse of power paints a picture of a party that has alienated the people of color in the country, which will shrink their party.

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.

Gaza Calls! Day of Rage August 9th, Jantar Mantar, Delhi,” by Nivedita Menon. Kafila, August 7, 2014.

Indians who protest Israel's assault on Gaza face similar resistance to Americans who are against the attacks—India has a military and trade relationship with Israel that many Indians do not wish to jeopardize. This week, Indians opposed to the war will meet to protest at Jantar Mantar, a famous Delhi landmark, to demand that the Indian government impose a military embargo on India, a boycott of all direct and indirect collaborations with Israel, including academic collaborations, and encourage increased educational and cultural exchange with Palestine. The Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel also campaigns for greater awareness of the destruction of Gaza.

 

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.

Understanding Israel’s War as Racist Is Crucial to Ending Occupation,” by Sonali Kolhatkar. Truthdig, July 31, 2014.

Twelve years ago, Jewish right-wing journalist Uri Elitzer referred to Palestinians as "snakes" in an article, and called for Palestinians and their mothers to be killed. Last month, a Danish reporter came across a group of Israeli's gathered outside in the Israeli town of Sderot with folding chairs and popcorn cheering and clapping as a bombs dropped on Gaza. This past May, Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu called for Israel to be formally defined as a Jews-only state. And this year, Upper Narazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso called for his city to be "Jewish Forever." He was quoted saying, "If you think I'm a racist, then Israel is a racist state." It's no doubt that racism might very well be the driving force for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What's even more sobering, as Sonali Kolhatkar points out in her July 31 Truthdig article, is that their Jews-only logic is not unique. "Just as Zionism is based on the belief that God granted Jews the land that Palestinians were living on," she writes, "white settlers in the United States believed they had a God-given right to the land they were settling—a Manifest Destiny." American settler colonialism was not thought of as racist at the time. But we know better now, or at least we should. So maybe it's time we take a more critical look at the very blatant racist behavior, rhetoric and policies towards the displaced, dying and disheartened Palestinians living in Gaza.

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—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora, immigration, black feminist thought, and police brutality.

I was wrong about Gaza: Why we can no longer ignore the horrors in Palestine,” by Brittney Cooper. Salon, August 5, 2014.

For centuries, religious texts have been used to justify the genocide and oppression of African-American communities. Today they've formed another barrier—but this time by halting solidarity with another marginalized group. African-American communities are disproportionately evangelical Christians, and stories of the Promise Land have left this community deeply rooted in a pro-Israel political agenda. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the violence and occupation that Americans for so long have been taught to support. Brittney Cooper eloquently deconstructs the lies Americans—and specifically people of color—have been told about the history and suffering in Palestine. Communities of color are not unfamiliar with racial and ethnic police brutality and political oppression, and what Cooper comes to realize is that "as a black person attuned to the processes of colonization, slavery and apartheid that built the West on the backs of black and indigenous people, [she] cannot help seeing these acts of war and terror as interconnected." With this understanding, it is hard to consume the sermons that use religion to morally justify the Israeli occupation of the Gaza. "Having come from people who have risen up, rioted and rebelled against oppressive state forces that confined us to land, restricted our movement and denied our humanity, [resisting] the urge to characterize all forms of resistance as terror" and evaluating religious understanding, may be difficult—but it is necessary. To read Biblical texts with a sociopolitical agenda—as many in power have been doing for centuries—only continues the cycle of violence and occupation. America has used religion to justify its "sordid history of settler colonialism, slavery, mass incarceration and other racially driven social ills, [and this] teaches us a lot about why our country identifies with Israel and it teaches us everything we need to know about why we shouldn’t." 

—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.

The CIA Must Tell the Truth About My Rendition At 12 Years Old,” by Khadija al-Saadi. Gawker, August 6, 2014.

This week, the Senate Intelligence Committee is battling the CIA and White House over redactions made in a Congressional report on the agency’s use of detention and rendition. At stake, is the possibility of one victim’s story “being hidden under a sea of black.” Khadija al-Saadi was just a child when her family was flown to Libya, surely to be tortured for her father’s opposition to Colonel Gaddafi. Her story is one that should be familiar to most Americans: rendition, secret prisons, our government’s complicity and involvement in heinous acts. Now, at 23, she hopes her name isn't one that’s been redacted from the report. Khadija al-Saadi’s story allows us to reflect on our post-9/11 world and empathize with the CIA’s victims. As al-Saadi’s family moves forward, she hopes to gain closure as a result of “a full admission of what has taken place in the past.”

 

Read Next: What are Nation interns reading the week of 08/01/14

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 08/01/14?

Mcdonald's

(Reuters/Mike Blake)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.

Facebook for Space? Airbnb’s Weird Corporate Nationhood,” by Kate Losse. Dissent, July 26, 2014.

This article in Dissent looks at the oddness of corporations’ constant appeal to emotional ties through the case of Airbnb: you no longer simply pay for a room, you actually belong to a community. The odd sense that you have to love the person you rent a room from hides the purely transactional nature of the company. It is not only tedious and slightly shallow, but it also makes bargaining harder and fundamentally transforms the way we think of payment, concealing it.

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.

Whiteness is Still a Proxy for Being American,” by Peter Beinart. The Atlantic, July 27, 2014.

The thought that someone might mistake me for a foreigner has crossed my mind many, many times since I was a child. Despite my Filipino ethnicity, my nationality is American, since I was born and raised here. Although the dialogue of America as a “melting pot” is a well-known one, it seems that the default image of an American has always been that of a white person. White people are the “norm” in society, which is evident from beauty standards to the fact that they’re more likely to uphold the image of the “American dream.” Let’s make this clear: race and ethnicity don’t devalue how “American” someone is.

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.

‘Water, Water Everywhere’: Racial Inequality and Reproductive Justice in Detroit,” by Cortney Bouse and Elizabeth Mosley. RH Reality Check, July 22, 2014.

This piece situates the water shutoff in Detroit in a larger sociopolitical context. The authors begin with the story of a woman named Kendra, who must push a cart several blocks every morning in order to access water, a basic human right, from a friend whose water hasn’t yet been shut off. They take this seemingly isolated story and draw connections to a rural area in Western Uganda where Mosley often saw women having to make these same daily trips for water. Mosley and Bouse also draw on the European colonization of East Africa in the twentieth century, “characterized by depletion of resources, exploitation of communities of color, and underinvestment in social infrastructure,” similar to what is currently happening in Detroit. And as if it wasn’t enough to make connections between the two “populations of color [facing] similarly devastating consequences from the inherently intertwined systems of capitalism and racism,” Mosley and Bouse tie the water shutoffs to reproductive health and justice.

They state how such water shutoffs “carry significant consequences for the health of racially and economically marginalized women,” and are “life-long assaults against personal autonomy endured by women.” This piece had my attention right away with its multilayered discussion, uncovering various intersections of gender, race and class regarding access to reproductive health and the movement for reproductive rights. I would go even one step further and consider the deteriorating situation of Detroit in the larger context of America’s “War on Terror,” just one example of the incarcerated “other” here at home. In an essay titled, “Detroit: Incarcerated and Disappeared in the Land of the Free,” by Trinh Minh-ha, the author states, “The war on terrorism has crystallized many of our phobias and prejudices. It gives racial profiling a new twist, while highlighting issues of immigration, identification,…as well as cultural and gender discrimination,” but “[c]olor, class, gender, culture are not categories, but an ongoing project and dimension of consciousness.”

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.

‘Even If You Don’t Like It, You’re Supposed to Appear That You Do,’” by Noah Berlatsky. The Atlantic, July 28, 2014.

As of late, increasing attention has been paid to women’s social justice movements, and along those lines, this week The Atlantic interviewed Feminista Jones, a writer, activist, social worker and founder of the street harassment hashtag campaign #YouOkSis. The interview centralizes around what every person can do to support victims of street harassment and highlights the failure of both law enforcement and public policy on this issue. Street harassment, as Feminista Jones articulates, has not always amplified black women’s voices (as many women’s movements have historically framed themselves to be) and the consequence of this history is as follows: “[Black women] have not been given the opportunity to express the pain that we feel. What happens when we’re walking down the street is that people will harass us and see us being both women and also black, and they understand that nobody gives a shit about us.”

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.

I’m Sick of Hearing About Political Polarization,” by Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg View, July 30, 2014.

The media’s driving narrative about Washington mostly focuses on political polarization, and rampant partisanship has become almost a cottage industry with new charts and studies coming out, it seems, on almost a weekly basis to show just how far apart the two parties are, harkening to a golden age of civility that never really existed, at least in the way that the press often presents it. Jonathan Bernstein discusses how the focus relies on how we got here—which is, admittedly, fascinating—but never on how to affect change through the framework of our representative government. Bernstein is right, too, that the focus on the trend of the conservative coalition (of southern Democrats and conservative Republicans) from the 1930s through the 1960s was an anomaly in what has been a history that’s rife with partisanship. (It should be noted, of course, that this coalition is what thwarted civil rights legislation for decades). Bernstein doesn’t provide any answers, but he does at least ask questions, the first step toward progress.

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.

Got Your Back.” This American Life, July 25, 2014.

Hamida Gulistani of Ghazni, Afghanistan was exactly the type of woman that the US wanted in its camp. Since 2005, she has been fearless about advocating for women’s rights, often intervening in abusive family relationships, using a combination of religious leadership and the press to shame men into treating their wives and daughters more humanely. With US support, she became a known figure in Afghanistan—a spokesperson for women’s rights who felt she could speak her mind in the public arena. Now that the US is leaving Ghazni, Gulistani is in a lot of danger—she’s been shot at in a mall, and her driver was shot in the arm. Kevin Sieff, the Afghanistan bureau chief for The Washington Post, reported her story for This American Life.

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.

The Unknown History of Latino Lynchings,” by Maximo Anguiano. independentcreativeservices.tumblr.com, July 9, 2014.

The title says it all: “The Unknown History of Latino Lynchings.” A summary of Richard Delgado’s 2009 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review article, Maximo Anguiano brought this predominantly unknown history back onto the online stage this week via his Tumblr page, Independent Creative Services. In doing so, he reminded America of its deep roots in multiracial racism, where Latin@s and African-Americans were being lynched alongside one another from 1846 to 1925. (Which, when you think about it, wasn’t really that long ago.) Unfortunately, as Delgado points out, Latin@ lynchings were edited and minimized out of documented history since most lynching accounts were reported in Spanish language newspapers—sources that few mainstream American historians consult. Interestingly, Delgado goes on to wonder if remnants of Latin@ lynching may still be present today in the form of current movements to make English the official language of the US, attempts to end bilingual school and/or enforcing English-only speaking at jobs. It’s absolutely fundamental, Anguiano writes, that people of color and whites alike educate themselves on this history and refuse to be quite about the modern day “lynchings”—like the school-to-prison pipeline, stalled immigration reform, deportations, etc. “In order to achieve our full capabilities,” he says, “we need to reject a fragmented history and seek a personal revolution, which starts with ourselves.

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—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora, immigration, black feminist thought, and police brutality.

The Girls Obama Forgot,” by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. The New York Times, July 30, 2014.

For too long, to be black in America has meant to be black and male. The struggle of men of color in this country is now broadcasted more than ever through Obama’s My Brothers Keeper program. The discourse in the United States today is about “fixing men of color—particularly young black men…[and] this hits a political sweet spot among populations that both love and fear them.” But while “liberal” advocates clench their purses and tend to the needs of men, women of color remain in crisis. To be black and female in America means that you are both absent and exploited. Black women’s bodies and experiences are continually appropriated to entertain the masses, but when it comes time to create racial justice policy, women of color are continually forgotten. As Kimberle Crenshaw states in her op-ed for The New York Times, “The median wealth of single black and Hispanic women is $100 and $120, respectively—compared with almost $7,900 for black men, $9,730 for Hispanic men and $41,500 for white women.” But what has been overlooked is that the women and girls of color who put the president in the White House refuse to be viewed as stepping stools for their male counterparts. My Brother’s Keeper advocates addressing individual circumstances and not systematic inequality. As Crenshaw outlines, it’s the classic analogy of the canary in the coal mine. Men of color have been used to alert everyone of the toxic environment in the mine, and policy creators and advocates have created narrow solutions to only alleviate the of distress of the canary. Women and girls have been left to survive in the mines toxic environment—holding their breath while continually being told that they are strong enough to endure. But systematic oppression is not the Olympics. Men of color must realize that their experiences are intricately bound to the women in their lives. Because this movement—that allows patriarchy and not gender equality to dominate—will never be sustainable.

—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.

McDonald’s Ruling Could Open Door for Unions,” by Steven Greenhouse. The New York Times, July 30, 2014.

The Fight for $15 campaign just won a small victory that could lead to big consequences for the McDonald’s franchise. On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the fast-food giant could be held “jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators.” The ruling was a result of the labor board’s legal team’s investigation of complaints from fast food workers accusing McDonald’s and its franchisees of unfair labor practices. The cases stemmed from the five one-day strikes demanding a $15 wage in November of 2012, when over 100 workers complained that they were retaliated against for protesting, either by having hours cut or losing their jobs entirely. The ruling is significant on many levels, one being the prospect of companies finally being held accountable for violating worker’s rights. As temp agencies proliferate, blame for workplace abuses is constantly tossed between employer and contractor, ending ultimately with no action. With this latest ruling, however, McDonald’s will no longer be able to partake in that model by diverting blame onto its franchisees.

Read Next: What Nation interns were readingthe week of 07/25/14

On Gaza, the Border Crisis and Police Brutality, a National Youth Groundswell

Gaza protest

Boston students mass for Palestine. (Credit: Elan Kawesch/The Times of Israel)

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on student and youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out July 1 and July 14. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. After Tariq Khdeir’s Return, Florida Youth Mass for Gaza

Tariq Khdeir is a 15-year-old Palestinian-American living in Tampa, Florida. Earlier this month, he went to visit family in Palestine around the same time his cousin, Muhamad Abu Khdeir, was made to swallow lighter fluid and set on fire by Israeli forces. While attending a peaceful rally in support of Muhamad, Tariq was arrested and brutally beaten by Israeli police, then kept on house arrest. His parents and protesters around the world called for his return home; he was eventually released amid escalating attacks on Gaza from the Israeli military. On July 11, Dream Defenders in Tampa held a press conference with other youth, including Tariq's peers, outside the city's courthouse, demanding his safe return and an end to collective punishment of the Palestinian people by Israeli forces. Outside Florida's capitol—where legislators are pushing anti-BDS legislation limiting people's ability to protest Israeli apartheid this spring—Tallahassee Dream Defenders and Florida State University's Students for Justice in Palestine rallied against the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza and called for an end to US government sponsorship of Israel.

—Dream Defenders

2. As Regents Blink at Foul Play, Students Rail on Israeli Apartheid—and Zionism at UC

Throughout July, students across California have participated in demonstrations opposing attacks on Gaza, including the largest Palestine solidarity rally in LA history. Earlier this month, the Daily Californian revealed that Avi Oved, the student nominee to the UC Board of Regents, had solicited funding from anti-Muslim political activist Adam Milstein for his prior campaign for student government at UCLA. Following the revelations, the UC Student Association voted to postpone his nomination, Jewish students spoke out against Hillel's facilitation of these donations and students across the UC spoke out against the corrupting influence of outside funding on student governance and against Oved's connection to an Islamophobic donor. During its July meeting, the UC Regents accepted Oved's nomination, despite the UCSA vote, a statewide petition of over 700 students and waves of public comment opposed to his nomination. Regents could see Oved as an ally in the effort to slow or stop the BDS movement at UC.

—Rahim Kurwa and Safwan Ibrahim

3. In Nashville, Governors Prove Silent Protesters’ Point

On July 12, the Freedom Side, a collective of progressive student and youth organizations, converged on the National Governors Association meeting in Nashville to demand our governors stop the separation of families through mass incarceration, deportation and laws that criminalize black and brown communities. We silently marched through downtown Nashville and protested outside the Omni Hotel, the site of the NGA meeting. Five of us, from the Ohio Student Association and the Dream Defenders, were arrested and detained for six hours without just cause and subjected to strenuous conditions at the hands of Tennessee state troopers. With the help of supporters in Nashville and across the country, we were released. The Nashville 5 and Freedom Side are determined to organize our communities and campuses and challenge our elected representatives who so far have failed us. Our lives matter.

—Michael Sampson, Aaron Hayes, James Hayes, Malaya Davis and Marshawn McCarrel

4. In McAllen, Undocumented Youth Mass for Child Refugees

While we have seen hateful messages toward children and families arriving in the United States, the Rio Grande Valley community has shown compassion and dignified treatment. On July 10, the Minority Affairs Council at the University of Texas Pan-American, along with United We Dream, started a three day vigil in support of the incoming immigrants. On July 15, activist Jose Antonio Vargas, who had joined in support, was detained for trying to board a plane in McAllen, Texas—facing what Rio Grande Valley residents live every day, the possibility of deportation simply for trying to move throughout their own country. While the Rio Grande Valley is known for its fast-growing economy, it is often forgotten that people live trapped within the boundaries of checkpoints and international bridges. We are segregated from the rest of the country; we live in a “Constitution Free Zone.”

—Tania Chavez

5. Democrats Get Listed

On Monday, July 21, members and allies of Fresno Immigrant Youth in Action gathered at Congressman Jim Costa's office in Fresno to kick off a statewide campaign, Migrant Lives Matter, led by the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance and Immigrant Youth Coalition. In a region heavily populated by farm workers and immigrant families, Costa, a Democrat, has not spoken on behalf of our communities: he did nothing to stop the deportation of forty people to dangerous conditions in Honduras; he hasn't pressured President Obama to use his executive power to grant administrative relief for the 11 million undocumented people in the country; and he has stated that activists need to switch our focus to the Republican Party. Our campaign is targeting all Democratic representatives to take action—or be placed on a "deportation party" list. At Costa's office, we delivered a letter and requested a response by the end of the month; later, he stated that will set up a meeting and work with us.

—Fresno Immigrant Youth in Action

6. Republicans Get Buried

On July 21, Dreamers from across the country converged on Washington, DC, to represent the thousands of undocumented immigrants in the state of North Carolina and the millions across the country, including my mother. We came with a message for Ted Cruz and the Republican Party as a whole: You are irrelevant, and the GOP is dead to our community. The GOP killed immigration reform. Now, amid the humanitarian crisis at the border, the GOP is advocating to get rid of DACA and leave Dreamers like myself under the threat of deportation. We went from office to office, holding funeral services in front of each, leaving a mock coffin at the door and letting legislators know that their shameful politicalization of the crisis to attack us will not stand.

—Oliver Merino

7. Southern Strategies

On the Unite to Fight–On the Road to Southern Movement Assembly IV road trip, July 10 to 18, ten community activists traveled to ten cities for a series of movement building events with community groups fighting to build a South where young people aren’t afraid to walk in their own streets and schools for fear of being targeted, harassed and killed. We witnessed the intersection of our struggles, from formerly and currently incarcerated people in Alabama and students fighting for the right to healthy food in our schools in Atlanta to environmental racism in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and gentrification and public space in Durham. Over the next month, we will bring this conversation to youth assemblies in Jacksonville, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia, during Standing Our Ground Week and Southern Movement Assembly IV.

—Donshay Brown

8. “Justice Center” Lies

Thanks to a misleading title on the 2012 ballot, calling the proposed construction of a new youth jail a “Children and Family Justice Center,” King County, Washington, voters approved a plan to replace the King County Juvenile Detention Facility with a new $210 million facility. A group in Seattle, Youth Undoing Institutional Racism/End the Prison Industrial Complex, is fighting to stop the proposed construction with our No New Youth Jail Campaign. On June 11, we hosted a community night with more than 200 people and marched to King County headquarters to protest the new youth jail. On August 8, we will be giving a televised presentation on youth criminalization and the new jail to elected officials.

—Yaninna Sharpley-Travis

9. How Long Can HWS Colleges Ignore Sexual Assault?

In May, the federal Office of Civil Rights listed Hobart and William Smith Colleges as one of fifty-five universities under investigation for mishandling of sexual assault cases under Title IX. On July 13, the New York Times published an article detailing the story of a student at HWS who was raped by three football players in late September—all of whom were found not guilty by an institutional review board. For the past year, students and faculty at the Colleges have been mobilizing around issues of sexual violence through organizations including the Sexual Violence Task Force and the Coalition of Concerned Students. We have pressured the administration to provide a resource center for survivors, a student staffed support hotline, transparency about policy and process and policy changes. Upon release of the article, an alumni-led group, HWS Community for Change, has joined the mobilization, demanding changes to the Colleges' reporting processes, additional support for survivors and improved trainings.

—Coalition of Concerned Students

10. When Will Justice for Eric and Renisha Be Served?

 

On Thursday, July 24, alongside local and national partners including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Communities United for Police Reform, Freedom Side, RaceForward, ColorOfChange and the Ella Baker Center, the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice hosted a Twitter town hall on #JusticeforEricGarner and #RememberRenisha—and police brutality, gun violence and surveillance affecting communities of color.

—Dante Berry

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