Notorious RBG!Rest in Power!

September 19, 2020


Fred Klonsky writes about Howard Zinn and SCOTUS:
The late historian Howard Zinn was the target of a Red-baiting attack by Trump last week, although it is hard for me to believe the Trump even knew who Howard Zinn was.
Stephen Miller must have written the final solution of Trump’s speech
Trump’s historical knowledge is so limited that it led them to think Frederick Douglass was still alive.
The attack on Zinn was in the context of Trump’s attempt to make law and order a campaign theme, blaming the silliness of a national Left-wing public school curriculum where cadres of history teachers are trained to encourage sedition.
All of it just hokum.
Howard Zinn wrote the powerful The Peoples History of the United States, which many history and social studies teachers use in their classroom as an alternative to the mythology of the standard issue history texts
So, this morning I’m thinking about what Howard Zinn might say about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the fight for the Supreme Court, even though he died 10 years ago.
I’m certain he would want us to fight against a right-wing fascist take over of the Court and would encourage us to take the fight to the streets, to the ballot, on whatever level and with every tool we could muster.
The stakes in this fight are high.
It is not too much to say that lives hang in the balance.
I also certain that Howard Zinn would use this opportunity to teach us some history of the Court, to give us some perspective, as they did in 2005 when writing about the John Robert appointment as Chief Justice.
There is enormous hypocrisy surrounding the pious veneration of the Constitution and “the rule of law.” The Constitution, like the Bible, is infinitely flexible and is used to serve the political needs of the moment. When the country was in economic crisis and turmoil in the Thirties and capitalism needed to be saved from the anger of the poor and hungry and unemployed, the Supreme Court was willing to stretch to infinity the constitutional right of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. It decided that the national government, desperate to regulate farm production, could tell a family farmer what to grow on his tiny piece of land.
When the Constitution gets in the way of a war, it is ignored. When the Supreme Court was faced, during Vietnam, with a suit by soldiers refusing to go, claiming that there had been no declaration of war by Congress, as the Constitution required, the soldiers could not get four Supreme Court justices to agree to even hear the case. When, during World War I, Congress ignored the First Amendment’s right to free speech by passing legislation to prohibit criticism of the war, the imprisonment of dissenters under this law was upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court, which included two presumably liberal and learned justices: Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis.
It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds. Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice.
The distinction between law and justice is ignored by all those senators—Democrats and Republicans—who solemnly invoke as their highest concern “the rule of law.” The law can be just; it can be unjust. It does not deserve to inherit the ultimate authority of the divine right of the king.
The Constitution gave no rights to working people: no right to work less than 12 hours a day, no right to a living wage, no right to safe working conditions. Workers had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, the courts, the police, create a great movement which won the eight-hour day, and caused such commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, and Social Security, and unemployment insurance.
The Brown decision on school desegregation did not come from a sudden realization of the Supreme Court that this is what the 14th Amendment called for. After all, it was the same 14th Amendment that had been cited in the Plessy case upholding racial segregation. It was the initiative of brave families in the South—along with the fear by the government, obsessed with the Cold War, that it was losing the hearts and minds of colored people all over the world—that brought a sudden enlightenment to the Court.
The Supreme Court in 1883 had interpreted the 14th Amendment so that nongovernmental institutions—hotels, restaurants, etc.—could bar Black people. But after the sit-ins and arrests of thousands of Black people in the South in the early Sixties, the right to public accommodations was quietly given constitutional sanction in 1964 by the Court. It now interpreted the interstate commerce clause, whose wording had not changed since 1787, to mean that places of public accommodation could be regulated by Congressional action and be prohibited from discriminating.
Soon this would include barbershops, and I suggest it takes an ingenious interpretation to include barbershops in interstate commerce.
The right of a woman to an abortion did not depend on the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. It was won before that decision, all over the country, by grassroots agitation that forced states to recognize the right. If the American people, who by a great majority favor that right, insist on it, act on it, no Supreme Court decision can take it away.
The rights of working people, of women, of Black people have not depended on decisions of the courts. Like the other branches of the political system, the courts have recognized these rights only after citizens have engaged in direct action powerful enough to win these rights for themselves.
This is not to say that we should ignore the courts or the electoral campaigns. It can be useful to get one person rather than another on the Supreme Court, or in the presidency, or in Congress. The courts, win or lose, can be used to dramatize issues.
On St. Patrick’s Day, 2003, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, four anti-war activists poured their own blood around the vestibule of a military recruiting center near Ithaca, New York, and were arrested. Charged in state court with criminal mischief and trespassing (charges well-suited to the American invaders of a certain Mideastern country), the St. Patrick’s Four spoke their hearts to the jury. Peter DeMott, a Vietnam veteran, described the brutality of war. Danny Burns explained why invading Iraq would violate the U.N. Charter, a treaty signed by the United States. Clare Grady spoke of her moral obligations as a Christian. Teresa Grady spoke to the jury as a mother, telling them that women and children were the chief victims of war, and that she cared about the children of Iraq. Nine of the 12 jurors voted to acquit them, and the judge declared a hung jury. (When the federal government retried them on felony conspiracy charges, a jury in September acquitted them of those and convicted them on lesser charges.)
Still, knowing the nature of the political and judicial system of this country, its inherent bias against the poor, against people of color, against dissidents, we cannot become dependent on the courts, or on our political leadership. Our culture—the media, the educational system—tries to crowd out of our political consciousness everything except who will be elected president and who will be on the Supreme Court, as if these are the most important decisions we make. They are not. They deflect us from the most important job citizens have, which is to bring democracy alive by organizing, protesting, engaging in acts of civil disobedience that shake up the system.
Let us not be disconsolate over the increasing control of the court system by the right wing.
The courts have never been on the side of justice, only moving a few degrees one way or the other, unless pushed by the people. Those words engraved in the marble of the Supreme Court, “Equal Justice Before the Law,” have always been a sham.
No Supreme Court, liberal or conservative, will stop the war in Iraq, or redistribute the wealth of this country, or establish free medical care for every human being. Such fundamental change will depend, the experience of the past suggests, on the actions of an aroused citizenry, demanding that the promise of the Declaration of Independence—an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—be fulfilled.
Published in The Progressive • November 8, 2005


DEFEND CRT!

September 18, 2020

Critical Race Theory in Education Scholars Respond to Executive Memo M-20-34

Marvin Lynn, Portland State University

Lori Patton Davis, The Ohio State University

Robin Hughes, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville

Mark Giles, University of Texas at San Antonio

Chezare Warren, Michigan State University

David Stovall, University of Illinois at Chicago

Erica Davila, Lewis University

Adrienne Dixson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Enrique Aleman, Trinity University

Natasha Flowers, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

On September 4, 2020, Russell Vought, Director of the Office of Management and Budget for the Executive Office of the President issued M-20-34, a “memorandum for the heads of executive offices and agencies.” The document states that “Executive Branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars, to date, on “training” government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda.”  As critical race scholars working in universities and communities across the globe, the following statement is our response to Mr. Vought’s memorandum. 

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is committed to the historical documentation and naming of atrocities carried out in this country in the name of “freedom” and “liberty.”  In spite of this historical context, the claim that the United States is founded on freedom from tyranny, freedom of expression and speech, and the right to exist as a whole person, are ideals that all citizens of the US are taught in school to value, cherish and honor. From our purview as scholars of race and education, the United States of America has struggled to uphold not only the Constitution but also the Preamble of the Constitution. We are clear that racial healing cannot occur absent the recognition of the historical and current struggle against all forms of structural oppression that encumber the U.S. from ever fully living up to its democratic ideals. 

Conflating Critical Race Theory (CRT) with workshops on white privilege is an example of the profound ignorance the current administration has as it pertains to studying and understanding race in the United States. Furthermore, labeling CRT, an area of scholarly study, and diversity training that examines the role of white privilege as divisive and anti-American is an affront to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The current attempts to silence and suppress CRT also violate principles of academic freedom upheld by the American Association of University Professors. 

We are deeply concerned about the lack of understanding, ignorance, and silencing of Black, Indigenous, and other scholars of color, who have been instruments in the fight against racism, sexism, classism, and all xenophobic ways of thinking. We are outraged over a federal call to end efforts to name racism and address systemic racial inequities. We are disappointed to see leaders weaponize their position and power to further fuel racial discord during a time of significant racial unrest. We are disturbed that the Office of the President would denounce a well-vetted, rigorous, and theoretically sound framework that thousands of scholars have utilized for the last 40 years to understand how race shapes every imaginable societal system. 

CRT is necessary and powerful in the fight against systemic racism and essential to antiracist educational and professional development and training. We call on our institutions, fellow academicians, institutional leaders, community partners, policymakers, and all who have benefitted from CRT or learned as a result of their participation in anti-racism workshops to stand with us in acknowledging that systemic racism exists and is violence against ALL humanity. If this country is to “insure domestic tranquility,” it must work to protect ALL people, and make ALL people safe. We refute any communication that denies social and political realities and prohibits forward movement toward a racially just society. We challenge academic work by those who are fearful of open and critical discourse.  We honor the reality that multiple histories and experiences exist for the diversity of peoples in the United States, for every race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion brings with it its own histories included in and not erased by a whitewashed “American” experience. Most importantly, we fight against willful ignorance, hatred, and violence due to racism. The revolutionary roots of CRT drive us to contest such injustices. We have a lot of work to do. But we remain committed to engaging together in the worthwhile struggle to move this nation toward Dr. Martin Luther’s King Jr.’s vision of a beloved community.


EPISODE # 9 Now Available

September 18, 2020

“Artists Can Help to Make the Revolution Inevitable”

Life begins in wonder, and so does art—authentic education, too, begins in curiosity, and proceeds through discovery and surprise. Emily Dickinson wrote that “Art lights the slow fuse of possibility,” reminding us that every human being is endowed with the powerful and unique capacity to imagine, and that the arts can help us unleash our deepest human hopes and aspirations, our wildest dreams. We begin to explore the arts and the serious work of making justice with our friend and comrade Lisa Yun Lee, Director of the National Public Housing Museum, Associate Professor of Art History and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a leading cultural activist who describes herself as “intellectually promiscuous.”

UNDER the TREE: A Seminar on Freedom


CRITICAL RACE THEORY

September 17, 2020

Colleagues:

As you may be aware, the Trump administration recently administered a blistering critique of anti-racist professional development. In doing so, he referred to critical race theory – a chief area of study for me – as Un-American and essentially banned its use in professional development funded by federal dollars. I got together with a few of my colleagues this week and wrote a response. It has been signed by another 220 scholars of race in education. If you’d like to sign, you can do so here. Here is the statement for your information.  Feel free to forward as you see fit. You can also find an online version of the statement on Medium. Also, check out this Critical Race Theory in Education Teach-In today with Gloria Ladson-Billings and a bunch of other critical race scholars. It was organized by Adrienne Dixson at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. It was broadcast and can be watched via Facebook. Here is the Zoom link to the teach-in as well. If you wait til the very end of the teach-in, you’ll hear from me as well. See the statement and signers below.
Critical Race Theory in Education Scholars Respond to Executive Memo M-20-34
On September 4, 2020, Russell Vought, Director of the Office of Management and Budget for the Executive Office of the President issued M-20-34, a “memorandum for the heads of executive offices and agencies.” The document states that “Executive Branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars, to date, on “training” government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda.”  As critical race scholars working in universities and communities across the globe, the following statement is our response to Mr. Vought’s memorandum.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is committed to the historical documentation and naming of atrocities carried out in this country in the name of “freedom” and “liberty.”  In spite of this historical context, the claim that the United States is founded on freedom from tyranny, freedom of expression and speech, and the right to exist as a whole person, are ideals that all citizens of the US are taught in school to value, cherish and honor. From our purview as scholars of race and education, the United States of America has struggled to uphold not only the Constitution but also the Preamble of the Constitution. We are clear that racial healing cannot occur absent the recognition of the historical and current struggle against all forms of structural oppression that encumber the U.S. from ever fully living up to its democratic ideals.

Conflating Critical Race Theory (CRT) with workshops on white privilege is an example of the profound ignorance the current administration has as it pertains to studying and understanding race in the United States. Furthermore, labeling CRT, an area of scholarly study, and diversity training that examines the role of white privilege as divisive and anti-American is an affront to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The current attempts to silence and suppress CRT also violate principles of academic freedom upheld by the American Association of University Professors.

We are deeply concerned about the lack of understanding, ignorance, and silencing of Black, Indigenous, and other scholars of color, who have been instruments in the fight against racism, sexism, classism, and all xenophobic ways of thinking. We are outraged over a federal call to end efforts to name racism and address systemic racial inequities. We are disappointed to see leaders weaponize their position and power to further fuel racial discord during a time of significant racial unrest. We are disturbed that the Office of the President would denounce a well-vetted, rigorous, and theoretically sound framework that thousands of scholars have utilized for the last 40 years to understand how race shapes every imaginable societal system.

CRT is necessary and powerful in the fight against systemic racism and essential to antiracist educational and professional development and training. We call on our institutions, fellow academicians, institutional leaders, community partners, policymakers, and all who have benefitted from CRT or learned as a result of their participation in anti-racism workshops to stand with us in acknowledging that systemic racism exists and is violence against ALL humanity. If this country is to “insure domestic tranquility,” it must work to protect ALL people, and make ALL people safe. We refute any communication that denies social and political realities and prohibits forward movement toward a racially just society. We support academic work by those who are fearful of open and critical discourse.  We honor the reality that multiple histories and experiences exist for the diversity of peoples in the United States, for every race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion brings with it its own histories included in and not erased by a whitewashed “American” experience. Most importantly, we fight against willful ignorance, hatred, and violence due to racism. The revolutionary roots of CRT drive us to contest such injustices. We have a lot of work to do. But we remain committed to engaging together in the worthwhile struggle to move this nation toward Dr. Martin Luther’s King Jr.’s vision of a beloved community.


Eat the Rich!

September 13, 2020

As hunger escalates and haunts children and families across the country and around the world, remember that when the people have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.


Reparations Now!

September 11, 2020

Episode #8: Under the Tree: A Seminar on Freedom

Reparations for America’s “original sin”—generational slavery—as well as the long and abiding afterlife of chattel slavery, including Black Codes, poll taxes, Jim Crow, the regime of lynching and white terror, pogroms, red-lining, segregation, voter suppression, and mass incarceration, has moved urgently into the forefront of the national agenda. Malik Alim and Bill Ayers focus their conversation on reparations as both a moral imperative and a multi-dimensional practical necessity before turning to Katherine Franke, a leading scholar on law and racial justice and chair of the board of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Her most recent book, Repair: Redeeming the Promise of Abolition, takes a clear-eyed look at what might have saved us a century and a half ago, and what it will take to save us today.


Have you seen this?

September 7, 2020

A right-wing form of government that opposes liberal democracy, Marxism, socialism, and anarchism, and attempts to forge national unity under an autocratic leader with a totalitarian program advocating stability, law and order, and more and more centralized power, claiming all of this is necessary in order to defend the homeland from internal as well as external enemies, and to respond effectively to economic instability. The mobilization of a mass base through deliberately constructed fear and hatred as preparation for armed conflict and permanent war. An appeal to patriotic nationalism. The supremacy of military and police power, and the militarizing of all aspects of society. The agitation of “popular” movements in the streets, apparently spontaneous (but in reality well-funded and highly organized) based on bigotry, intolerance, and the threat of violence, all of it fueled by the demonization of targeted, distinct racial, religious, or gendered vulnerable populations and the creation of convenient sacrificial scapegoats who are repeatedly blamed for every social or economic problem people experience. Disdain for the arts, for intellectual life, for science, for reason and evidence, as well as deep contempt for the necessary back and forth of serious argument or discussion. The suppression of labor and the protection of corporate power. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Protectionist and interventionist economic policies as corporations are entangled with the state.

It’s the textbook definition of fascism.


Viva Allende!

September 4, 2020

Fifty years ago the socialist senator Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile in a peaceful and democratic election. For 1000 days the people of Chile participated in an experiment in popular democracy, and the lives of workers, women, farmers, families, and students improved. When the Fascist General Pinochet overthrew the popularly elected Allende government under the direction of the US CIA, a reign of terror reversed the peoples’ progress. When Nikki Haley said last week at the Repulsican Convention that socialism has always failed wherever and whenever it has been tried, we might add a footnote: the ruling class and the imperialists never mean their withdrawals; they will concede nothing without a fight.


EPISODE # 7: An Education for Freedom

September 2, 2020

Under the Tree: A Seminar on Freedom

Societies organize and build schools which are, of course, set up to serve the goals and interests of their hosts. Schools are both mirror and window: authoritarian schools serve authoritarian societies, and authoritarian nations create autocratic schools. We start this episode with a conversation between Malik Alim and Bill Ayers about the schools we need and the schools we deserve. We then welcome Kevin Kumashiro, author of The Seduction of Common Sense, Against Common Sense, and the forthcoming Surrendered, to help us explore the essential dimensions of an education for free people.


Am I the only one, or…

September 1, 2020

Do you feel eerily that we’re living in Kansas, 1859, and that tensions are boiling over, but only years later will people say, “Yes, the Civil War began there and then?”