—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.
“Israel's media strategy: What lies beneath,” by Marwan Bishara. Al Jazeera America, July 16, 2014.
While watching a Democracy Now! debate between Palestinian human rights lawyer Noura Erakat and the US's Israeli ambassador, Joshua Hantnam, I was surprised by Hantnam's sugar-coated and conciliatory tone. It still concealed the same inflammatory concepts typical of Israel's warmongers, but Hantan was politely inserting himself in the framework of a liberal peace activist, blaming Hamas for the unfortunate loss of civilians in Gaza. Should someone have grown up in a political vacuum, he could even have been convincing. Reading Marwan Bishara's article in Al Jazeera, I was astounded to discover that his carefully-crafted comments were almost word for word renditions of an Israel Project's 2009 Global Language Dictionary. As Bishara reveals, this guide provides pro-Israel pundits with the rhetorical tools to convince Americans of the legitimacy of Israel's massacres: appealing to the peace process and to Hamas rockets, blaming the victims in an empathetic and understanding tone. Like Brand Israel, this is another disturbing marketing effort by Israel to represent itself as a democracy seeking peace but forced into 'war' by blood-thirsty terrorists. This is another PR strategy to insidiously highjack the debate to hide Israel's crimes.
—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.
“Rikers: Where Mental Illness Meets Brutality in Jail,” by Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz. The New York Times, July 14, 2014.
The line between what differentiates mental institutions from prisons becomes more blurred with the increasing amount of mentally ill inmates (a recent report by the Treatment Advocacy Center found that there are 10 times more mentally ill Americans in prisons and jails than in state psychiatric hospitals). If mentally ill inmates are common figures in prisons, why are they most susceptible to prison violence by correction officers? A four-month investigation by The New York Times finds that 77 percent of brutally injured inmates at Rikers Island Correctional Facility are those who had received a mental illness diagnosis. Although the investigation focused on one prison, it goes to show that the abuse of power over mentally ill inmates by prison employees is an issue needing to be taken more seriously.
—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.
“The truth about the immigration “crisis”: Our drug policies and U.S.-backed tyrants created Central America’s culture of violence,” Patrick L. Smith. Salon, July 15, 2014
Smith begins his piece with three short anecdotes addressing the experiences of different Latin American migrant groups in the US, and then follows with three major questions:
1. Why do we suddenly have floods of unaccompanied children washing across the southern borders of the U.S.?
2. Why have we had floods of Latin Americans pouring northward for a couple of generations running?
3. Why are we so preoccupied with the first question that the second never gets asked?
Smith’s article then recounts a brief history of the ways in which US economic and foreign policy in Latin America are very much at the root of this immigration crisis. “This is not a Latin American crisis; it is an American crisis in the fullest meaning of the term,” he writes.
From state-sponsored violence in the 70s and 80s, to poverty due in large part to neoliberal economic models, it would be absurd to suggest that the US has not had a major role in the many reasons for Latin American migration. The immigration crisis is a multilayered issue that is not rooted in Bush policies or Obama policies, but one that has a deep history in US foreign policy. And as to the $3.7 billion increase in border enforcement, Smith suggests, “[t]he southwest border with Mexico must already be one of the world’s most militarized, up there with the Israel-West Bank wall.”
—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.
“In Defense of Jada: The Danger of Being a Black Girl in a Rape Culture,” by Michelle Denise Jackson. For Harriet, July 12, 2014.
Jada is a sixteen year old high school student from Houston whose rape was documented and later went viral via social media networks after her attacker(s) released images and a video of her unclothed and unconscious on a party floor. Now, Jada has been publicly discussing her testimony and retaliated against the Twitter campaign #jadapose, which blatantly made a mockery of her sexual assault. Author Michelle Denise Jackson details Jada's story and provides readers with a list of instructions charging us all responsible for combatting sexual assault against women (especially women of color) and obliterating rape culture in America.
—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.
"Dispatches from the Labor Market," Aaron Braun. Full-Stop, July 15, 2014.
This summer, Guernicahas done an excellent job examining the role of class in American life, and this piece by Aaron Braun over at Full-Stopis no different, exploring the ever-evolving and increasingly uncertain world of post-graduate life. Having found myself after graduation in the shaky job market in the shadows of the Great Recession, I understand what Braun's saying—the pull of a disproportionate emotional attachment to work that some employers try to provide, the overlay of insecurity and fear that drive some people into work, the overriding desire to avoid "bad work," work without status or fulfillment but merely serve to pay the bills.
—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.
“A Muslim citizen’s US passport gets him everywhere but home,” by Basim Usmani. The Boston Globe, July 9, 2014.
In his op-ed for The Boston Globe, Basim Usmani describes how inconvenient it is to be a Pakistani-American with a girlfriend in Canada. Although he has no criminal record, he would frequently find himself in handcuffs simply for trying to board planes to visit his loved ones. After the September 11 attacks, writes Usmani, Pakistani-Americans lost their "model minority" status and have been treated like criminals simply for existing. Ironically, some right wing websites have quoted the article and lauded authorities for profiling Muslims, making ignorant comments. "Funny how Muslims like to lump themselves together with Asian-Americans, while everyone else thinks of Asian Americans as Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, etc., NEVER Muslims," writes one blogger in response to a passage where Usmani discusses his 30 percent Asian-American high school in Lexington, Massachusetts.
—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.
“Eat Like a Human: How Gender Stereotypes Affect Our Relationships With Food,” by Allison Epstein. Adios Barbie, July 14, 2014.
Too often, Amber Ikeman writes in this Adios Barbie piece, we make judgments about people's eating habits in relation to their gender. Telling a woman she eats like a man, or calling certain foods "man foods" or "man-sized," is not only policing people's eating choices (which can be triggering for those who are struggling with eating disorders), but also ends up monitoring and influencing the way people perform their gender according to the foods they put in their mouths—which is totally ridiculous. Stereotyping food, Ikeman argues, starts with the ever-present gender specific marketing that we're constantly being exposed to, but it only perpetuates when we are constantly telling one another that she or he is not acting (read: eating) according to their private parts. Like, do our private parts tell us what we want to eat? Cause I thought it was those things called neurotransmitters that exist in our brains. Not only does this kind of food policing affect how we feel about ourselves, but it also is a way of controlling gender expression by way of the binary female-male sex thing—which neglects to acknowledge that there are those who identify as trans, both female and male, or neither. But if we can "become more aware of these [food] stereotypes in our daily lives," Ikeman writes, "we can allow ourselves to move towards a more open and accepting society, where even if our choices seem to break the rules of social acceptance, we will not be judge for eating like humans." She's totally spot on. Now I'm gonna go eat one of those "manly" Powerful Yogurts and be a total human about it.
—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora,immigration, Black Feminist thought, and police brutality.
“Appeals Panel Upholds Race in Admissions for University,” by Tamar Lewin. The New York Times, July 16, 2014.
On Tuesday, July 15, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld University of Texas at Austin's affirmative action policy, in which race is included as one of the many factors of admission. Texas’s "Top Ten Percent Plan" guarantees a seat at a Texas flagship to the top graduates of every high school in the state, including the UT Austin. Abigail Fisher, "a white student who was not in the top 10 percent of her high school class and was denied admission to the university for the fall of 2008," sued the institution, expressing that race based policies had excluded her from a fair evaluation in the applicant pool. As a white student, to assume that she was denied admittance into any institution because of her race shows how deep the roots of privilege and ownership run in this country. The history of socioeconomic marginalization and exploitation of people of color in this nation did many things—but what it did not do, was make it more difficult for white students to attain higher education. Unless Fisher was unaware that her race is not a golden ticket to becoming a Longhorn, any college application would exemplify that there are multiple qualifications, essays and records necessary to determining admittance. So instead of challenging the University of Texas at Austin's legacy students, those who had greater access to SAT/ACT prep, or those hand picked by the institutions athletic department, Ms. Fisher chose race. And what this revels is a lie that many American students—of all races—have been told. What needs to be upheld in American classrooms is that race based affirmative action is a necessary part of higher education, not a crutch for low achievers.
—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.
“Why Opposing the Israel Lobby Is No Longer Political Suicide,” by Phyllis Bennis. The Nation, July 15, 2014.
The assault on Gaza continues. The latest reports show that the death toll has now passed 200; nearly 80 percent are civilians, almost half are women and children. Harrowing accounts of the death and destruction have beendocumentedas this marks the third time Israeli airstrikes have pounded the Gaza strip in the past six years. Media coverage and public discourse of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the United States has been predictable. White House and U.S diplomats continue to voice support for “Israel’s right to defend itself.” But what’s worthy of noting, is despite this fealty for the state of Israel and its reprehensible actions, public dialogueis shifting. Phyllis Bennis argues that it is no longer political suicide to oppose the Israel lobby and says the shift started with coverage of Operation Cast Lead in 2008/2009. “It transformed how we understand what an occupation looks like,” Bennis writes. She continues, “what a siege does to a town, what white phosphorous bombs look like when they hit a school.” Although Bennis notes this change isn't “strong enough yet to end the carnage in Gaza,” she’s still hopeful. “The shift in public discourse is a crucial first step.”