Articles of interest to our readers. Topic: Black Lives Matter

Powerful essay by Fox Chapel student Will Generett on being Black today

NEXT staff  June 1, 2020 ~

If racism is worse than it’s ever been, says Will Generett, “it’s not because it was never there but because people didn’t know about it like they do now.

“Racism is like dust. You can’t really see it until you shine a light on it,” says the senior at Fox Chapel High School, referencing an insight he read online. “Right now social media is shining a light on it.”

Will has never been active on social media but since the lockdown in mid-March, he has spent more time on it and found plenty to disturb him.

The student — who started a Black Student Council in Fox Chapel after the school failed to celebrate Black History Month — was looking for a way to cope with his anger over the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man who was going for a run in his Georgia neighborhood when he was attacked and killed by two white men.

Read the whole article HERE

Statement on Police Violence at Pittsburgh Protests

Bend The Arc: Pittsburgh, June 10, 2020

We, the members of Bend The Arc: Pittsburgh, were horrified to witness Pittsburgh police gassing protesters at the June 1 protest in East Liberty. Tear gas is a weapon of war, banned by the Geneva Convention. American forces should never use it against American citizens.

We were particularly enraged to see this happening at the end of a peaceful protest, organized by Black activists, in response to yet another senseless murder of a Black person by the police.

Bend the Arc: Pittsburgh has also organized peaceful protests. We’ve seen first-hand how Pittsburgh’s mayor, director of public safety, and police department have a long track record of treating White protesters far differently from how they treat Black ones. Last Monday’s state-sponsored violence stands in stark contrast to the police’s response to our protests. We’ve marched, and we’ve blocked streets, just as the protesters did on Centre Ave. on June 1. When thousands of us marched through Squirrel Hill, clogging the streets for hours, the police behaved like our partners in keeping us safe. When a smaller group of us were arrested for civil disobedience, we were gently handled as we were arrested one-by-one, despite the full riot gear donned by the arresting officers. We’ve never had rubber bullets shot at us, or smoke fired at us. We’ve never been tear gassed.

The use of tear gas on June 1 was very different from the response to the “re-open” protests just a few weeks ago, when an almost exclusively white, heavily-armed group descended upon the City-County Buildings to confront our city officials where they work, with barely a hint of a reaction from Pittsburgh police.

The double-standard is stunning and sickening.

Read the whole article HERE

How McCarthyism and the Red Scare Hurt the Black Freedom Struggle

An earlier generation of civil rights struggle saw things differently. They, and their opponents, understood that black equality required a fundamental transformation of American society.

PAUL HEIDEMAN 05.21.2020 ~ Jacobin

In the years immediately following World War II, the movement for black equality, rooted in the militancy of black workers, was making massive strides. The McCarthyist anticommunist campaign of the late 1940s dealt a hammer blow to that project, attacking its unions and scattering its activists, ultimately narrowing the ambitions of the black freedom movement.

The line between race and class is one of the most potent fault lines in left politics today. There’s a sense that a contradiction exists between fighting class inequality and fighting racial inequality. Among liberals, this has become almost an article of faith. Even among leftists, there’s a sense that these are dangerous waters, and that special theoretical acumen is necessary to navigate them successfully.

Read the whole article HERE

Tony Norman: Is this the conversation on race we’ve been waiting for?

If you happen to be monitoring the world from a satellite in low Earth orbit and turn your attention to our nation’s capital, you’re going to see something that would’ve been unthinkable just a few years ago.

You’re going to see the words “Black Lives Matter” in illuminated letters spanning the length of two blocks on 16th Street. The words are pointing directly at the White House, just a few blocks away.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

It grew organically from two weeks of nationwide protests against police brutality. The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, who makes the droogs in the dystopian satire “A Clockwork Orange” look like paragons of humanity, triggered an unexpected response from a cross section of Americans unprecedented in recent times.

Read the whole article HERE

Who Gets to Be Afraid in America?

Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University MAY 12, 2020 ~ The Atlantic

Oakmont beckoned outdoor runners—even novices like me.

We were the second family to move into Oakmont, a new housing development seven miles west of the University of Florida, when I joined the faculty in 2015. My partner and I loved how our living space wrapped around a green-dotted, open-air indoor courtyard like homes we’d seen in West Africa and Latin America. Nothing compared to being outside inside our courtyard home.

Well, maybe being outside in Oakmont—running down its newly paved roads, gazing up at stately oak trees with moss draping down, staring down into the ponds, racing all the galloping or flying animals, all to the sweet melody of quietness. Few houses. No people. Just paved roads. Just nature’s sight lines.

At first, I hardly worried about cars while exercising. But the vehicles started coming. Trees were cleared. Foundations laid. New houses framed—a fascinating new picture screening every day for my curiosity.

Read the whole article HERE

Man Who Mocked George Floyd’s Killing Is Fired by FedEx

By Ed Shanahan and Tracey Tully June 9, 2020, Updated June 10, 2020 ~ New York Times

One white counterprotester yelled while kneeling on the neck of another who was facedown on the ground. The display drew fierce condemnation.

The protest in the southern New Jersey township was similar to those that have unfolded across the United States since George Floyd was killed in police custody: About 70 people gathered to rally against police brutality and systemic racism.

But as the diverse group marched along Monday, waving signs and chanting slogans in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, it was met by several white men who had gathered near a sign that said “All Lives Matter” and in front of a pickup truck draped with an American flag and a pro-Trump sign.

One of the men yelled at the marchers angrily while kneeling on the neck of another who was facedown on the ground — an apparent attempt to mock the killing of Mr. Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Read the whole article HERE

‘The silence is what’s killing us.’ Public defenders protest against institutional racism in criminal justice system

Juliette Rihl | 6/8/20 PublicSource

Public defenders, social workers and activists on Monday kneeled in front of the Allegheny County Courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh to protest institutional racism in the criminal justice system.

“We, as public defenders, are here to say, ‘Black lives matter to us,’” Matt Dugan, chief public defender for Allegheny County, said to the crowd. Dugan called for an end to systemic racism in policing and criminal justice outcomes.

Several participants in Pittsburgh called for systemic changes to the criminal justice system, including defunding police and stopping the practice of laying disproportionate charges on  Black people. “The District Attorney’s office has to change their method of charging and overcharging people,” attorney Lena Bryan Henderson said to attendees. “It’s a systematic way of putting their knee on peoples’ lives.”

Read the whole article HERE

Nihilism and White Bliss in America’s Most Livable City

On Pittsburgh, the canonization of Mario Lemieux, and stories white progressives like to tell.

Casey Taylor/June 5, 2020 ~

From a distance, Le Magnifique looks almost like a scene from a cartoon. The hero of the statue, former Penguins center and captain Mario Lemieux, is skating one way with the puck dangling on the blade of his stick, every bit the menace in the open ice who earned the right to be called the best hockey player who ever lived. (In this town, Gretzky is always second. And after a few beers, an argument about what kind of numbers Sidney Crosby would put up during the stand-up goaltending era may also come up.) On the other side of Lemieux are two defenders skating completely the opposite way, colliding, dumbfounded by this marvel of a human being who skates past with a Looney Tunes smirk on his face. The statue is beautiful, save for the hair. The hair on bronze statues always looks a little weird texturally, like uncooked ramen noodles.

Last weekend, during Pittsburgh’s uprising in response to the brutal murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, protesters spray-painted a hammer and sickle above Mario’s powerful wagon, and the phrase “IT IS RIGHT TO REBEL.” Unlike the poverty, mass surveillance, and routine state violence that black residents of the city are subjected to, and which the protesters made their target, the spray paint splatter on the city’s idol was enough to get white Pittsburghers to finally pay attention.

Read the whole article HERE

A Letter to White Urbanists

June 1, 2020 By Alicia John-Baptiste, President and CEO, SPUR

Fellow white urbanists and policy professionals, I know that so many of us right now are grappling with grief and rage over George Floyd’s murder. So many of us want to see an end to racist violence and the killing of black and brown people in this country. And many of us struggle to know what to do to be effective allies in the fight to end racism, particularly given the racist history of policy and planning in the United States.

From my perspective, there are two key things to acknowledge if we are to be effective allies:

First, white America, we must understand that we are the aggressors. We must end our aggression — both in our actions and in our thoughts — if we want the violence to end.

Second, we must understand that we disproportionately hold the power. Therefore, it is on us to fix this.

Since the days of slavery, white people have been taught to fear blackness as a means to justify the immoral ownership of other humans. And since slavery, we have held power. What we have failed to see — over and over and over again — is that our fear of blackness and our hold on power has meant that we are the aggressors. Our learned response to blackness — danger! — means that we kill black people, whether they are jogging or driving or struggling for breath. And we largely do it with impunity.

Read the whole article HERE

Facing the Reality of Racism

by Patricia DeMarco June 3, 2020 ~ PATRICIA DEMARCO PH.D. (Blog)

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

My heart is heavy this night as I see once again streets filled with people in peaceful protest being forcefully suppressed by police in military riot gear. We may join in sorrow with the family of George Floyd but know that tears are useless unless we act. Righteous rage at the violent response of authorities to peaceful protests across the land must translate into action.

We as a nation once again must confront the truth of our country: systemic racism is woven in the fabric of America. It is evident in the wealth gap – the health gap – the education gap – the environmental injustice – the inequity inherent in the system of justice. All these injustices persist, even thrive, because we who are wealthy enough, have health care, assume that justice is ours, and experience no overt hatred have allowed such conditions to exist among us. We take care not to see. We go out of our way not to feel.

Read the whole article HERE

Protesters’ arrests spotlight scrutiny of Allegheny County’s bail system

PAULA REED WARD, JUN 3, 2020 ~ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

After dozens of protesters were arrested in Pittsburgh on Saturday and Monday nights, they were transported to City Court to be arraigned and processed.

Outside of a handful of people who faced more serious counts, the vast majority of those arrested were charged with failure to disperse and disorderly conduct and had no criminal records listed in Pennsylvania.

Whether the protesters were freed to await their next court date without having to visit jail, or whether they had to put up bail money or no money at all, depended on a process that critics describe as arbitrary.

Allegheny County’s system of setting bail, they say, is not transparent, leads to a wide range of outcomes and puts enormous discretion in the hands of the court system’s 46 district judges who preside over the initial court appearance — all of whom make their decisions independently.

Read the whole article HERE

Ballots Not Bullets in Minneapolis


Common Cause Minnesota Executive Director Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera offers a first-person perspective after two nights on the streets of Minneapolis reaching out to communities she has worked in for years and offering people watching around the country a different perspective than cable news.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m no Pollyanna.

I am an activist, a longtime civil rights and defense attorney, and a Latina woman with deep roots in communities of color in the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota.

For the last two nights I’ve pitched in helping to board up windows trying to help some of our POCI small business owners protect themselves, their employees and businesses. I found myself in the midst of raw emotion, understandable anger, and the palpable rage of our African American and POCI youth and the broader communities of color by extension, at seeing the police murder George Floyd in broad daylight, unarmed, not resisting arrest, pleading with the last moments of his life, “please, I can’t breathe” and calling out for his mother – his last primal attempt at getting help.

Read the whole article HERE

When we do nothing in the face of racism and brutality, we represent Amy Cooper and Derek Chauvin. We are complicit.

First-person essay by Zack Block | June 3, 2020 ~ PublicSource

In the past two weeks, we watched police officers snuff George Floyd’s breath and life away and a white woman report Christian Cooper to the police simply for asking her to put her dog on a leash in an area where dogs were required to be on leashes. Just weeks before these most recent events, Ahmaud Arbery’s murder by two vigilantes while jogging in plain daylight rose to national awareness.

Nearly two years ago in my beloved hometown, 17-year-old Antwon Rose II was murdered, shot in the back by police as he ran away. 

Has racism by white people against Black people in this country hit a crescendo? Or is it simply a perpetuation — albeit now publicly consumable — of the same white supremacy we have seen in the United States for more than 400 years?

Read the whole article HERE

Tear Gas Is Way More Dangerous Than Police Let On — Especially During the Coronavirus Pandemic

by Lisa Song June 4, 2020 ~ ProPublica

In the middle of a respiratory pandemic, law enforcement agencies have used tear gas in especially dangerous ways. The chemical agent also seeps into homes, contaminates food, furniture, skin and surfaces, and can cause long-term lung damage.

When Amira Chowdhury joined a protest in Philadelphia against police violence on Monday, she wore a mask to protect herself and others against the coronavirus. But when officers launched tear gas into the crowd, Chowdhury pulled off her mask as she gasped for air. “I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “I felt like I was choking to death.”

Read the whole article HERE

  • Read Tamika Butler’s blog post “Stop Killing Us: A Real Life Nightmare”. Tamika is former executive director of Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust and former executive director of Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and a leading advocate for social justice in planning.
  • See “The Cities We Need,” an in-depth op-ed series by the New York Times calling for a new and ambitious era of inclusive urban reinvestment.