Dance the Dialectic!

December 9, 2017

Let’s gather, link arms and build a public square, talk politics and dance the dialectic with Eve Ewing, Kevin Coval, Rachel DeWoskin in Hyde Park:


ALI in Hyde Park

December 8, 2017


December 5, 2017

The charter school crowd surrenders to segregation.

by Fred Klonsky

MacArthur grant winner Hannah Nikole-Jones.

The connection between segregation and quality education was at the heart of Brown v. Board of Education ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court when it banned legalized  segregated public schools  over 60 years ago.

Separate but equal cannot be equal, the court ruled.

Sixty years later segregated schools still predominate in the U.S.

So does the argument that you can have racially segregated but equal schools. What may strike some as odd is that the argument comes from charter school promoters who once claimed that the creation of charter schools were the new civil rights movement

No — what we are saying is that traditional public schools account for 20 times more segregation than charters so if you’re really concerned about it, clean your own house. In the meantime, kids need an education–segregated or not.

— Peter Cunningham (@PCunningham57) December 4, 2017

“Segregated or not.”

That is a surrender to separate but equal.

Of course, Cunningham is right about the public school systems. And fighting to clean up our house – one that reeks of the stench of racism – is exactly what those of us who oppose racial segregation have been up to all these years.

But, unlike the charter promoters, I believe it is all our house.

The charter education reformers are responding to a report from Associated Press.

Charter schools are among the nation’s most segregated, an Associated Press analysis finds — an outcome at odds, critics say, with their goal of offering a better alternative to failing traditional public schools.

National enrollment data shows that charters are vastly over-represented among schools where minorities study in the most extreme racial isolation. As of school year 2014-2015, more than 1,000 of the nation’s 6,747 charter schools had minority enrollment of at least 99 percent, and the number has been rising steadily.

The problem: Those levels of segregation correspond with low achievement levels at schools of all kinds.

In the AP analysis of student achievement in the 42 states that have enacted charter school laws, along with the District of Columbia, the performance of students in charter schools varies widely. But schools that enroll 99 percent minorities — both charters and traditional public schools — on average have fewer students reaching state standards for proficiency in reading and math.

“Desegregation works. Nothing else does,” said Daniel Shulman, a Minnesota civil rights attorney. “There is no amount of money you can put into a segregated school that is going to make it equal.”

Shulman singled out charter schools for blame in a lawsuit that accuses the state of Minnesota of allowing racially segregated schools to proliferate, along with achievement gaps for minority students. Minority-owned charters have been allowed wrongly to recruit only minorities, he said, as others wrongly have focused on attracting whites.

MacArthur “genius” grant winner Nikole Hannah-Jones, writes for the New York Times. She writes extensively about schools and race. She has argued and presented data that the single most effective way to improve school performance for all are racially integrated schools.

I have worked very hard to dispel the myth that somehow segregation that’s not required by law is less harmful, so we should be OK with it. I actually believe what Richard Rothstein believes, which is that much of the segregation we see today is de jure even though we call it de facto. It is a direct result of official action. And even where it’s not, we know that black people, specifically, and to a lesser degree Latinos, do not have the same choices and options as other families do. [They are not] somehow the only groups of people in this country who choose substandard schools and substandard neighborhoods; they are in those schools and neighborhoods because they do not have a choice.

I also try to push back against this idea that we tried really hard to integrate our schools and it just didn’t work. We didn’t try very hard for very long. And when we did try, it did work.

The most common myth that I confront is that racism, discrimination, and segregation are Southern phenomena, when clearly the most segregated parts of the country are in the Northeast and the Midwest—areas with white folks who believe that they are quite progressive, who say they believe in integration but practice segregation. My work in recent years has been most critical in trying to discomfort white progressives who’d like to believe that I’m writing about someone else. Really, I’m writing about them.

A Fire Survivor’s Review of Bill Ayers’ Radical Manifesto

December 3, 2017

An inferno, painting the skies red and filling the air with acrid smoke, raged down on my neighborhood in the early hours of October 5th. Awakened by my son, we had only a few minutes to consider what to take – a picture album, cell phones,
several changes of underwear, toothbrushes, my favorite winter boots, my laptop, a Kamaka pineapple ukelele coveted by my youngest grandson – our cars joining the painfully slow river of evacuees trying to leave the area. The fire was not slow; it jumped around us, lit up a palm tree, leapt over a freeway; our route changed  abruptly several times as the sheriffs, gesturing desperately, shouted “Go! Go! Go!”, directing us away from the crosshairs of the blaze.

We reached safety within the hour and by the next day we were sheltered with family and friends, waiting to hear about our home. The ground had shifted under us and, shaken to the core, we imagined what would have seemed impossible the
day before – that we might lose it all, the tangible memories, the hours spent working in the garden, the books and CDs, our safe place, stripped down to the clothes on our backs, our dog, and each other.

By the middle of the week we learned that the wind had shifted and spared our immediate neighborhood. Our cat had been found and fed by a neighbor who came  back to his house via the nearby creek. He fed our chickens, too. Life would soon
return to normal and on the surface, it did. We ran the air purifier 24/7, planted a cover crop and mulched the vegetable garden, raked up leaves, and each evening I read chapters from Bill Ayers’ Demand the Impossible: A Radical Manifesto to my husband.

I read Ayers’ book last summer and was so impressed that I bought three more copies, one for each of my sons. Now, raw from my trial by fire and touched to the core by the suffering and losses in my community, wondering how we can influence the recovery process towards a new vision, one that takes into consideration the looming threat of climate change in its various guises – flood, drought and fire – I turned again to this manifesto, reading it out loud and savoring with Roland its spirit of hopeful resilience in the face of daunting challenge.

Ayers looks unflinchingly at the facts: the unprecedented number of incarcerated Americans, the trillions being poured into the bottomless pit of an aggressive military empire, the militarization of police, the vast financial discrepancy between the power elite and the rest of us, the privatization for profit of our commons, the resulting crises in health, education, infrastructure and general well- being and, looming over everything, the existential threat of global warming to our biosphere. He brings home that this has happened largely on our watch and that pulling the covers over our heads or allowing ourselves to be distracted by the latest scandals promoted by the corporate media are not satisfactory responses. Instead he calls on us to imagine a different world – a world in which our resources are shared to provide for the basic needs of all people, a world that recovers our humanity from the soul-destroying grip of greed and allows us all to find a role in building a better, more just and hopeful world for our children. He describes education as “powered by a precious and fragile ideal: Every human being is of infinite and incalculable value. . . each a unique intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual, moral and creative force, each deserving a dedicated place in a community of solidarity”. (pg.161) Ayers exhorts us to “love the world enough to put your shoulder on history’s great wheel” (pg.199) and begin here in our communities, in our daily lives, to throw off the delusion of powerlessness and begin to do the real, messy, engaging work of social democracy – building a healthier, more inclusive, just and sustainable world together.

I love this small book. It sits on my bedside table to remind me of my task as I make the bed each morning. It directs me to look unflinchingly at the ruins and to see them as opportunity as well as tragedy – a chance to do things better through building community and educating each other and sharing our creative talents. It helps me at bedtime when I take a breath after the slog of meetings, conversations and well laid plans gone awry, to remember that, “in our pursuit of a world powered by love and reaching toward joy and justice, imagination is our most formidable and unyielding ally…there is no power on Earth stronger than the imagination unleashed and the collective human soul on fire.”(pg. 196) I think then of my beautiful grandchildren, “each a being of infinite and incalculable value”.

They and all children are carrying the seeds of the future in their souls. I want these seeds to be able to blossom after I am gone. This is not a rational process; my skepticism dissolves as an inner voice whispers that the moment of choice is always now. We can be socially isolated victims of the fire, preyed on by disaster capitalists, or we can be agents of change that rise from the ashes with regenerative vision and strengthened community, defying those who would marginalize or divide us by joining hands, standing together and proving that the changes we envision are not impossible after all.

By Anne Cummings Jacopetti, retired educator and teacher, environmental activist with 350 Sonoma and author of What Are We Going to Learn Today? How All Children Can Become Enthusiastic Lifelong Learners. Contact Anne at

Brother, Rick Ayers is Pissed Off!

December 2, 2017

Brother Rick Ayers posted:

We don’t have a democracy – Like at all

Time to take the blinders off. We don’t have a democracy.

Not even kinda sorta.

From the beginning – we had slavery. We didn’t have a democracy.

Only propertied people could vote. We didn’t have a democracy.

We had a constant war against indigenous people. We didn’t have a democracy.

We did not allow women to vote. We didn’t have a democracy.

Then we had Jim Crow laws, poll tax. We didn’t have a democracy.

Now we have massive gerrymandering. We still don’t have a democracy.

Voter intimidation. We still don’t have a democracy.

If we had democracy, Mississippi and Arizona would be some of our most progressive states – because Black and Brown people would be able to lead. We don’t have a democracy.

When we get to vote, it is once every four years to see which multimillionaire bought the most effective ads. We don’t have a democracy.

The myth is that capitalism and democracy go together. But capitalism is all about controlling wealth – wealth that is socially produced is privately appropriated. We don’t have a democracy.

Capitalism desecrates words like “freedom” by redefining freedom to mean only the right of rich people to grab and steal everything in sight. We don’t have a democracy.

The West cheered when the Soviet Union fell: capitalism and democracy at last! Nope. Capitalism and oligarchy, the natural development. We don’t have a democracy.

The new tax bill reveals capitalism at its bare-teethed exquisiteness. Just taking and taking and taking. We don’t have a democracy.

Bourgeois democracy exists to allow the masses just enough participation to feel like maybe, somehow, we have some input to the system. We are pacified to the extent that we are compromised with the game. But these latest moves may remind us: We don’t have a democracy.

Can it get worse? It will. We are looking at massive tent cities, world refugee migrations, climate disasters, and we don’t know what to do. We don’t have a democracy.

We may find ourselves in nuclear war and wonder why we were simply wringing our hands while it was being prepared. We don’t have a democracy.

We can be mad at the over-fed white men, the ones with blood and oil leaking from their pores, for this latest atrocity. But we need to look to ourselves, our illusions, our passivity. We don’t have a democracy.

Keep the dream alive – participatory democracy, genuine freedom, rich fulfilling lives, socially shared resources, an end to wars. We can do nothing less than to fight for these.

Burn Down the Plantation!

November 30, 2017

“White Americans finding easy comfort in nonviolence and the radical love of the civil rights movement must reckon with the unsettling fact that black people in this country achieved the rudiments of their freedom through the killing of whites.”

~~~Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power

Stay calm, white folks. Coates is referring to the bloodiest war in US history, the Civil War, a war begun by confederate traitors willing to blow up the whole house in defense of a single freedom: their assumed right to own other human beings. But still…

That war never ended, once and for all, and the afterlife of slavery included the infamous Black Codes, chain gangs, segregation and red-lining, Jim Crow, poll taxes, and the organized terrorism of lynchings and night rides. Now the afterlife of the afterlife abides in the serial murder of Black people by militarized police forces, the Thirteenth Amendment and mass incarceration, separate and unequal schools, disenfranchisement, the creation of ghettos and homelessness through law and public policy, and more.

Of course there’s also prejudice, racial bias, and all manner of backward stupidity, but the well-spring of that bigotry is the structure of inequality itself, not the other way around. That is, the reality of inequality baked into law and economic condition as well as history, custom and culture generates racist thoughts and feelings as justification, and those racist ideas keep regenerating as long as the structures of white supremacy and black oppression are in place. Race itself is, of course, both everywhere and nowhere at all—a social construction and massive fiction, and at the same time the hardest of hard-edged realities in everyday life.

To end the racial nightmare we’ll need more than body cameras or prison reform or sensitivity training or education—even if some reforms would be welcomed. The answer requires us to face reality and to courageously confront our history, tell the truth, and then destroy the entire edifice of white supremacy—metaphorically speaking, it means we must burn down the plantation.

And when the plantation is at last burned to the ground, people of European descent, or “those who believe they are white,” will find the easy privileges they’d taken for granted disappearing, and along with them their willful blindness and faux-innocence. Also gone: the fragile, precarious perch of superiority. White folks will have to give up their accumulated, unearned advantages, and yet they stand to gain something wonderful: a fuller personhood and a moral bearing. We face an urgent challenge, then, if we are to join humanity in the enormous task of creating a  just and caring world, and it begins with rejecting  white supremacy—despising and opposing bigotry and backwardness, of course, but spurning as well all those despicable structures and traditions. It extends to refusing to embrace optics over justice, “multiculturalism” or “diversity” over an honest reckoning with reality—to becoming race traitors as we learn the loving art of solidarity in practice.

There’s a similar challenge facing men at this moment, and it’s roiling the whole society and confronting us all—it too requires facing up to reality, examining history courageously and thoroughly, and noting the interaction of prejudice with the structures that uphold and spread the bias: sexism, and also the heteronormative patriarchal system of male supremacy. It, too, will demand that we burn down a plantation, and it, too, will mean the privileged—all men—will lose their comfortable and taken-for-granted advantages and also their shaky and inherently unstable place of dominance. Listen up: just as African Americans know white people well—they’ve had to as a matter of survival—women know men much better than we know ourselves.

Gender, too, is a social construction, a fiction—as De Beauvoir said long ago, “one is not born, but becomes a woman”—and once more, a harsh reality. Let’s work to assure that this is not just a cultural blip, a marginalized issue that encourages men to be more careful in their utterances and overt actions while the same contempt prevails (the way white folks have generally learned not to use the “n-word”). This moment should propel something deeper—a sea change.  It’s a moment that challenges deeply held cultural practices that have held women as inferior human beings, shackled by dehumanizing myths, objectified and dominated by men. Women who’ve been manipulated and controlled, forced to see themselves as passive objects but never the active agents and subjects of history, are standing up and speaking out. Men who believe in freedom must listen up and stand up as well.

When male politicians and commentators, including Mitch McConnell, declare, “I believe the women,” let’s take responsibility for testing that hypothesis. Do they believe the women who do domestic work, or work for tips, and do they believe African-American women, poor women, and immigrant women? Do they believe that women should have control over their bodies, that their uteruses belong to them and them alone, and that women can express their sexuality in any way they choose? That women must receive equal pay, and have a living wage stipend where needed? That women should not be forced to be married in order to access basic needs like health insurance and decent housing, or free child care while attending school or job training or work?

Believe the women, yes. Believe that this constant barrage of sexual assaults is a reality they’ve had to live with, and that the sexism that cuts and controls women’s lives must end. But believe as well that the structures of inequality, patriarchy, and male supremacy that oppress and exploit women must be destroyed.

Let’s burn down the plantation!

A Poem for Today

November 30, 2017

Disclosure Agreement

Tidal wave of sexual assault swamps all ships
Except the sloop The Rapist-in-Chief
Fondle women and children first!
Save the CEOs and their appetites
Tax the Students and tax the Poor
Tax the Women who give birth to the Poor
No abortions allowed
Rape is the judgment of God
Tax the Sun and tax the Stars
No climate can stop the Monster Storm
Tax the hope for Love
Reach under Liberty’s dress
And tax Justice until it explodes like a piñata
All the treats flying into the arms of bankers
Tax Black folks for crossing the street
Tax Black athletes until they cross the street
Crawling on their knees
Nothing is neutral not even the Net
We must pay for all of our lies
Or else we are not free to divulge our tears
The Great Orange Chief mumbles praise to Navajo vet heroes
In front of Indian killer Jackson
And quips Pocahontas
Consorts with neo-Nazis and flashes Hate Muslims
Remember D Day? It wasn’t Dick Day
Did he apologize for Access Hollywood
Or was it all Fake Truth?
Don’t matter, the Beast walks among us,
Need to zip up mouth full of lies
Greed keeps Congress Republicans young
Kid Ryan and the Old Turtle allow
The Nazis to frolic
The rich need to be made whole again
They need to own all and get away with it
North Korea awaits the Little Hand Bomb
Make America Vaporize Again
We’re on the cusp of erasing the Constitution
Even though it’s hard to rub out parchment
Much easier to delete cut and paste
Reality is not virtuous
Praise God and pass the mustard
Years from now, if we haven’t perished
We’ll have some explaining to do
It is happening here, right now
Alarms are going off
In Alabama and around the world
So, I’ve torn up my Non Disclosure Agreement
No NDA no delusions no jokes
Take your money back
Take your obscene stupidity
Take your vicious arrogance
Take all of it back
The time has come
I won’t shut up
Will you?

Hilton Obenzinger