Social Justice Is a Christian Tradition — Not a Liberal Agenda

Many Christians are wary of participating in social justice because of a deep-rooted fear of being labeled “liberal,” “progressive,” or “secular.” They don’t want to be associated with “secular” movements, and are uncomfortable delving into issues that go beyond their cultural comfort zones.

But the Bible tells us that Jesus cared deeply about the social causes around him.

Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Samaritan lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Children’s lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Gentile lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Jewish lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Women’s lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Lepers’ lives matter.”

Even though Jesus loves everyone, even to the point of dying for their sins, he went out of his way to intentionally help specific groups of people — the alienated, mistreated, and those facing injustice.

So saying “Black Lives Matter” and participating in a movement seeking justice, positive reform, and empowerment is one of the most Christ-like things we can do.

Christians must recognize that our society is filled with numerous groups and communities facing systemic oppression, and we must act. We must be willing to admit and address the complex realities within our world that create such problems, and avoid the spiritual laziness that tempts us to rely on generic excuses and solutions.

Christians do a disservice to the gospel message by removing the cultural context from Jesus’s ministry and watering down his message to one of religious platitudes. We like to generalize the words of Jesus and transform his life into a one-size-fits-all model that can apply to all of humanity.

Throughout the New Testament Jesus was more complex than we give him credit for.

He intentionally, purposefully, and passionately addressed very specific causes. He radically addressed the diverse and complicated conflicts of the time and shattered the status quo.

Jesus wasn’t just preaching a universal salvation message for the world, but he was also addressing specific political, social, and racial issues. He was helping those who were being abused, violated, and oppressed.

Involving ourselves within these issues — serving those who need justice — is an example of following Jesus that today’s Christians must adhere to, because throughout the world there are millions of people who are suffering. But many Christians remain simply apathetic, ignorant, or refuse to admit any problems exist.

They’re uncomfortable facing the complex and controversial issues surrounding race, ethnicity, history, and culture.

To avoid such discomfort, many Christians assume that equality and justice looks like a total dismissal — and rejection of — any cultural, ethnic, or distinguishing form of identity. They believe our very humanity should supersede all other labels or descriptions, and that a love of Christ wipes away any “superficial” characteristic such as skin color, heritage, or other cultural identifier.

They see verses such as Galatians 3:28 that states, “ There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV) to mean that nothing else matters beyond our faith in Christ.

Ironically, verses like this show that these things — race, ethnicity, culture — DO matter to God, because God is recognizing the very public fact that there are various laws, expectations, practices, and opinions regarding each distinction mentioned.

Paul is validating all of the cultural issues associated with Jews, Gentiles, slaves, the free, men, and women rather than disregarding them. He’s stating that Jesus is relevant to these differences, and is working throughout their lives by understanding and recognizing the unique pros and cons they’re dealing with — the privileges, disadvantages, stereotypes, assumptions, treatment, rights, social value, and expectations they face on a daily basis.

Participating in social justice is a Christian tradition inspired by Jesus, not liberal causes, populist agendas, media platforms, lawmakers, or mainstream fads. It’s a deeply spiritual practice.

Instead of being motivated by political affiliations, financial gain, power, pride, control, or our own secular motivations, we should be active participants for the sake of following Jesus — for the purpose of glorifying God by through acts of justice, empowerment, and love.

Because everyone is created in the image of God and loved by God, we are responsible for identifying the victimized — not rejecting their existence.

That’s why the New Testament goes into great depth detailing the newfound worth given to the Gentiles, slaves, and women. These countercultural instructions to believers were radically progressive, to the point where the gospel writers had to put them in writing to make sure they were implemented within the newly formed church.

While God does love everyone and all believers are united in Christ, this doesn’t negate the fact that we have a unique cultural identity and upbringing and are called to recognize the marginalized, help the oppressed, and avoid rejecting their significance by denying their identity or ignoring their plight.

By acknowledging and actively participating in the #blacklivesmatter movement, addressing racism, immigration, gender equality, and a litany of other issues, you are following in the steps of Jesus.

It’s not a matter of pitting social causes against the gospel message of Christ; it’s a matter of realizing that these causes ARE actually an important part of that gospel message.

50 Years Later, Sister Corita’s Political Pop Art is Relevant As Ever

May 16, 2016 by

Sister Corita Kent is a Pop Art pioneer too often erased from the annals of modern art history. Now, she’s taking center stage at an exhibition at Miami’s Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University. In the Beginning Was The Word, which opened Saturday and will remain on view until September 18, is part of a three-part program at the museum called The Summer of Women, lending space and attention to a wide range of female artists.

Kent’s journey to social justice-oriented art pioneer was unusual. She joined a Catholic convent in 1936—right after she completed high school—and served in the Immaculate Heart of Mary order in Los Angeles for three decades as a “rebel nun” and head of the art department. (She ultimately left the order to pursue art in Boston, feeling stifled by an archdiocese that did not always stand by her politicized service.)

In 1962, she took her students to a gallery exhibition for a man who, at the time, was little known: Andy Warhol. In response to viewing his now-iconic soup can paintings, Kent began a career in Pop Art that utilized logos and corporate slogans as backdrops in silkscreen pieces calling for world peace, civil rights and dissent. She was a feminist who weaved the words of Gertrude Stein, Martin Luther King, Jr. and even the Beatles into works that remain relevant in a time where the gains of the sixties and seventies are under attack.

Wonder Bread

“Her works reflect the activist ethos of the time and express her concerns about racism, poverty, and the Vietnam War,” Dr. Jordana Pomeroy, director of the Frost Art Museum, said in a press release. “She saw her calling to use art as a response to cultural discord and shifts in public sentiment. Corita Kent’s legacy as a Sister who sought to awaken social consciousness in the United States is exemplified by her dynamic colorful prints that continue to provoke discussion and promulgate sentiments about social iniquities that still exist in our society, half a century after their creation.”

Kent’s art did more, though, than simply spark conversation. Her works were frequently spotted at protests in the sixties and seventies, where activists carried them as protest signs. She herself also walked the walk of activism by designing posters and billboards for organizations like Amnesty International, the International Walk for Hunger and Physicians for Social Responsibility in order to lend a hand to the movements that defined her career.

help

Despite her contributions to not only the art world but cultural conversations at-large, Sister Corita is often left behind in conversations about Pop Art, and even when her career was reaching a fevered peak she remained on the fringe of the male-dominated art movement. As a woman in the arts, she was already at a disadvantage; as a woman of the cloth, she stood in even starker opposition to the art world’s typical heroes: Men.

“An ‘artist’ was from New York,” Ian Berry, who co-curated a retrospective of her work at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, said in an interview with NPR. “They were a man; they were an epic, abstract painter. And she wore a habit—she just didn’t look like what the, sort of, movie version of an artist looked like.”

Art historian Susan Dackerman made the same point in Harvard Magazine. “Corita Kent in her habit couldn’t very well go hang out at The Factory with Warhol,” she told Jonathan Shaw. “There wasn’t really room in Pop art’s macho style for women artists.”

Nevertheless, Sister Corita and her work endure—and 50 years after some of her most important pieces made their original debut, she’s finally getting her due.

Photos are all from the Corita Art Center.

carmen riosCarmen Rios is the digital editor at Ms., community director and feminism editor at Autostraddle, and a contributing writer at Everyday Feminism. Her work has also appeared in MEL, Mic, BuzzFeed, Feministing, and BITCH. She’s been dubbed a “digital native” and “vapid and uninteresting” by various people across the Internet and stays very zen in L.A. traffic. You can find her on Twitter,Instagram and Tumblr


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50 Years Later, Sister Corita’s Political Pop Art is Relevant As Ever

The Radical Dissent of Helen Keller

Here’s what they don’t teach: When the blind-deaf visionary learned that poor people were more likely to be blind than others, she set off down a pacifist, socialist path that broke the boundaries of her time—and continues to challenge ours today.

posted Jul 12, 2012

“So long as I confine my activities to social service and the blind, they compliment me extravagantly, calling me ‘arch priestess of the sightless,’ ‘wonder woman,’ and a ‘modern miracle.’ But when it comes to a discussion of poverty, and I maintain that it is the result of wrong economics—that the industrial system under which we live is at the root of much of the physical deafness and blindness in the world—that is a different matter! It is laudable to give aid to the handicapped. Superficial charities make smooth the way of the prosperous; but to advocate that all human beings should have leisure and comfort, the decencies and refinements of life, is a Utopian dream, and one who seriously contemplates its realization indeed must be deaf, dumb, and blind.”

—Helen Keller (letter to Senator Robert La Follette, 1924)

The bronze statue of Helen Keller that sits in the U.S. Capitol shows the blind girl standing at a water pump. It depicts the moment in 1887 when her teacher, Anne Sullivan, spelled “W-A-T-E-R” into one of her 7-year-old pupil’s hands while water streamed into the other. This was Keller’s awakening, when she made the connection between the word Sullivan spelled and the tangible substance splashing from the pump, whispering “wah-wah,”—her way of saying “water.” This scene, made famous in the play and film “The Miracle Worker,” has long defined Keller in the public mind as a symbol of courage in the face of overwhelming odds.

Less well known (but no less inspiring) is the fact that Keller, who was born in 1880 and died in 1968, was a lifelong radical who participated in the great movements for social justice of her time. In her investigations into the causes of blindness, she discovered that poor people were more likely than the rich to be blind, and soon connected the mistreatment of the blind to the oppression of workers, women, and other groups, leading her to embrace socialism, feminism, and pacifism.

Early Life

Helen Keller at Water Pump photo by Jimmy Wayne

Photo by Jimmy Wayne.

Keller was born on a plantation in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to Arthur Keller, a former Confederate officer and a conservative newspaper publisher, and Kate Keller, a descendant of John Adams. At nineteen months old, she lost her sight and hearing as a result of a fever. She became uncontrollable, prone to tantrums—kicking, biting, and smashing anything within reach. In that era, many blind and deaf people were consigned to an asylum. Some family members suggested that this was where Helen belonged.

Instead, her mother contacted the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, which recommended that a former student, the 20-year-old Sullivan, become Helen’s private tutor. In 1887 Sullivan—the daughter of poor Irish immigrants and nearly blind herself—moved to the Kellers’ home. She helped calm Helen’s rages and channel her insatiable curiosity and exceptional intelligence. She patiently spelled out letters and words in Keller’s hand. With Sullivan’s support, her student soon learned to read and write Braille, and by the age of ten she had begun to speak.

Her story became well known and she, a celebrity. Newspapers and magazines in Europe and America wrote glowing stories about the young Keller. Her family connections and fame opened up many opportunities, including private schools and an elite college education. Mark Twain, who admired Keller’s courage and youthful writings, introduced her to Standard Oil tycoon Henry Huttleston Rogers, who paid for her education. She later acknowledged, “I owed my success partly to the advantages of my birth and environment. I have learned that the power to rise is not within the reach of everyone.”

“I owed my success partly to the advantages of my birth and environment. I have learned that the power to rise is not within the reach of everyone.”

In 1894, at 14, Keller began formal schooling—initially at the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York and then at the Cambridge School for Young Ladies. Sullivan accompanied her, spelling into her hand letter-by-letter so she could read the books assigned in her classes. In 1900, at age 20, Keller entered Radcliffe College with Sullivan still at her side. At Radcliffe (from which she graduated magna cum laude in 1904), Keller was first exposed to the radical ideas that helped her draw connections among different forms of injustice. She began to write about herself and her growing understanding of the world.

“I Must Speak”

In a 1901 article entitled “I Must Speak” in the Ladies Home Journal,Keller wrote, “Once I believed that blindness, deafness, tuberculosis, and other causes of suffering were necessary, unpreventable. But gradually my reading extended, and I found that those evils are to be laid not at the door of Providence, but at the door of mankind; that they are, in large measure, due to ignorance, stupidity and sin.”

She visited slums and learned about the struggles of workers and immigrants to improve their working and living conditions. “I have visited sweatshops, factories, crowded slums,” she wrote, “If I could not see it, I could smell it.”

In 1908 Sullivan’s socialist husband, John Macy, encouraged Keller to read H. G. Wells’s New Worlds for Old, which influenced her views about radical change. She soon began to devour Macy’s extensive collection of political books, reading socialist publications (often in German Braille) and Marxist economists. In addition to giving inspirational lectures about blindness, Keller also talked, wrote, and agitated about radical social and political causes, making her class analysis explicit in such books as Social Causes of Blindness (1911), The Unemployed (1911), and The Underprivileged (1931). In 1915, after learning about the Ludlow Massacre—in which John D. Rockefeller’s private army killed coal miners and their wives and children in a labor confrontation in Colorado—Keller denounced him as a “monster of capitalism.”

In 1909 Keller joined the Socialist Party, wrote articles in support of its ideas, campaigned for its candidates, and lent her name to help striking workers. Although she was universally praised for her courage in the face of her physical disabilities, she now found herself criticized for her political views. The editor of the Brooklyn Eagleattacked her radical ideas, attributing them to “mistakes sprung out of the manifest limitations of her development.” In her 1912 essay “How I Became a Socialist,” published in the Call, a socialist newspaper, Keller wrote, “At that time, the compliments he paid me were so generous that I blush to remember them. But now that I have come out for socialism he reminds me and the public that I am blind and deaf and especially liable to error.”

Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights, and War

Keller was part of wide circle of reformers and radicals who participated in a variety of overlapping causes.  She was a strong advocate for women’s rights and women’s suffrage, writing in 1916: “Women have discovered that they cannot rely on men’s chivalry to give them justice.” She supported birth control and praised its leading advocate, Margaret Sanger, with whom she had many mutual friends. Keller argued that capitalists wanted workers to have large families to supply cheap labor to factories but forced poor children to live in miserable conditions. “Only by taking the responsibility of birth control into their own hands,” Keller said, “can [women] roll back the awful tide of misery that is sweeping over them and their children.”

“Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings! Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction! Be heroes in an army of construction!”

She donated money to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—then a young and controversial civil rights organization that focused on opposition to lynching and job and housing discrimination against African Americans—and wrote for its magazine. At an antiwar rally in January 1916, sponsored by the Women’s Peace Party at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Keller said, “Congress is not preparing to defend the people of the United States. It is planning to protect the capital of American speculators and investors. Incidentally this preparation will benefit the manufacturers of munitions and war machines. Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought! Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder! Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings! Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction! Be heroes in an army of construction!”

Helen Keller portrait

Photo courtesy of U.S. Library of Congress.

In 1918 she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union, which was initially organized to challenge the U.S. government’s attempts to suppress the ideas of and jail or deport radicals who opposed World War I, including Socialists and members of the Industrial Workers of the World.

The following year she wrote a letter, addressed to “Dear Comrade” Eugene Debs, the Socialist labor leader and presidential candidate, in jail for advocating draft resistance during World War I. She wrote, “I want you to know that I should be proud if the Supreme Court convicted me of abhorring war, and doing all in my power to oppose it.”

In 1924, while campaigning for Senator Robert La Follette, the Wisconsin radical and anti-war stalwart who was running for president on the Progressive Party ticket, Keller wrote him a note: “I am for you because you stand for liberal and progressive government. I am for you because you believe the people should rule. I am for you because you believe that labor should participate in public life.”

After 1924, Keller devoted most of her time and energy to speaking and fundraising for the American Foundation for the Blind, but still supported radical causes. Even as feminism began to ebb, she continued to agitate for women’s rights. In 1932, she wrote an article for Homemagazine, “Great American Women,” praising the early suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She also penned a humorous article for the Atlantic Monthly, “Put Your Husband in the Kitchen.”

Between 1946 and 1957 she visited 35 countries on five continents. In 1948, Keller visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, cities destroyed by American atomic bombs at the end of World War II, and spoke out against nuclear war.

In 1955, at the height of the Cold War, she wrote a public birthday greeting and letter of support to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a leading Communist activist, then in jail on charges of violating the Smith Act. In response, some supporters of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), for which Keller was the national face, threatened to withdraw their support. The AFB’s executive director wrote to one of his trustees, “Helen Keller’s habit of playing around with communists and near communists has long been a source of embarrassment to her conservative friends.” 

The FBI kept Keller under surveillance for most of her adult life for her radical views. But Keller, who died in 1968, never saw a contradiction between her crusade to address the causes of blindness and her efforts to promote economic and social justice. 

Keller is well known for being blind, but she also deserves to be heralded for her progressive social vision.

References

Dorothy Herrmann. Helen Keller: A Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

John Davis. Helen Keller. New York: Ocean Press, 2003.

Kim Nielsen,  The Radical Lives of Helen Keller. New York: New York University Press, 2004.

As We #SayHerName, 7 Policy Paths to Stop Police Violence Against Black Girls and Women

In honor of the National Day of Action to End State Violence Against Black Women, Girls and Femmes, lawyer, researcher and activist Andrea J. Ritchie presents some policy ideas to eliminate police sexual violence, gendered racial profiling and other ways officers target Black girls, women and gender nonconforming people.

5-year-old holds up #SayHerName poster at Sandra Bland funeral

Groups sponsoring the National Day of Action to End State Violence Against Black Women, Girls and Femmes include BYP100, Black Lives Matter Network, Project South and Ferguson Action.

Along with the collective call to #SayHerName, we also need policies that prevent and remedy the specific forms of police violence, racial profiling and criminalization that impact Black girls and women—cis and trans—and gender nonconforming people. In other words, we need to answer the call of Sandra Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, who last month told the Congressional Black Caucus on Women and Girls:

I don’t come to sit and be a part of a caucus where we talk and do nothing. …Movements move. Activists activate. We have got to stop talking and move. …[I]t is time to wake up, get up, step up or shut up.

I have been studying how we can answer the call for an action agenda around Black women and policing over the past two years, as a Soros Justice Fellow. What follows is a list of seven starting points based on what I’ve found in a range of sources including my survey of 35 police departments, President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, reports like “A Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing Criminalization of LGBT People and People Living With HIV,” and The New York Young Women’s Initiative‘s criminal justice recommendations released this week. I’ve also drawn from changes police departments have made due to public pressure and litigation.

This list is by no means definitive. Rather, it’s a starting point for an agenda that focuses on the particular ways that Black girls, women and gender-nonconforming people experience police violence. Each point represents an area where legislators and policymakers should take action, and where advocates can put pressure on them to act.
1. Problem #1: Black girls, women and gender nonconforming people experience gendered racial profiling.

Racial profiling takes on gender-specific forms including the policing of prostitution, pregnancy and motherhood. Officers particularly profile Black women as being engaged in prostitution based on the age-old jezebel stereotype. They perceive them as bad mothers based on stereotypes similarly rooted in slavery and the more recent “welfare queen” trope.

Statues such as “loitering for purposes of prostitution” also aid gender-based racial profiling. In many cases, police cite condoms they’ve found in women’s purses or pockets as evidence of prostitution. The combination of vague laws, dangerous police policies and entrenched stereotypes can make Black women who are simply walking down the street late at night carrying condoms grounds for arrest. These patterns of policing demand gender-specific and -inclusive responses.

New York City has led the way in adopting broad protections against multiple forms of racial profiling. Its End Discriminatory Profiling Act of 2013 is the most comprehensive, enforceable ban in the United States. The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and the NAACP recommend similar measures for departments nationwide.

Recommendations:

  • State and local lawmakers should adopt and enforce policies as comprehensive as New York City’s. On the federal level, Congress should pass the End Racial Profiling Act of 2015, which would prohibit profiling based on gender, gender identity and sexual orientation alongside race, religion and ethnicity.
  • State lawmakers should repeal of vague “loitering for the purposes of prostitution” laws, and ban the use of condoms as evidence of prostitution-related offenses. Local police departments should independently prohibit their officers from criminalizing condoms as well.

Problem #2: Police are doing strip- and body cavity-searches of Black women in public.

In August 2015 at a Harris County, Texas, gas station, one male and two female police deputies overpowered and held down Charnesia Corley, a Black 21-year-old they suspected of marijuana possession. One female deputy pulled down her pants. Another sat on her back and cavity-searched her in full view of passersby. The horrific treatment of a Black woman is not unique. Public strip- and body-cavity searchers are experienced as sexual assaults, and should be addressed as such.

Recommendation:

  • Shortly after Corley was strip- and cavity-searched, Texas legislators passed a law specifically banning body cavity searches during traffic stops unless the officer obtains a warrant. All of the other states should follow suit to bring search practices in compliance with the requirements of the U.S. Constitution.

Problem #3: Police sexual violence goes unreported, ignored and unpunished.

Although there is currently no official data collection on the issue, study after study by law enforcement leaders, former police officials, academics and community groups demonstrate that police sexual misconduct is a systemic problem. In 2010, the Cato Institute found that sexual violence was the second most frequently reported form of police misconduct, after excessive force. Other research shows that officers disproportionately target women who are young, of color, trans and gender-nonconforming. Police also single out women who are criminalized through the war on drugs and prostitution enforcement. In surveys of 35 police departments across the country, I found that 52 percent don’t have any policy that specifically addresses police sexual violence against the public.** An investigation by Al-Jazeera America found similar results.

Additionally, the investigation and prosecution of police sexual misconduct is largely left to the police themselves, along with local prosecutors. Survivors are already reluctant to report sexual assault to authorities, but they are particularly hesitant to tell the police departments that employ their assailants. This is especially true for women who are—or are profiled as—involved with drugs or prostitution. Daniel Holtzclaw’s serial rape and sexual assault of scores of Black women made this plain.

Recommendations: 

  • The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) should collect national data about police sexual violence against civilians through the Police-Public Contact Survey and other national surveys.
  • The DOJ should develop and disseminate a model policy as recommended by the President’s Task Force and deny federal funding to police departments that refuse to ban all forms of police sexual misconduct, create prevention strategies and ensure accountability for officers who sexually abuse civilians.
  • The DOJ should mandate, expand and audit police departments’ compliance with the 2003 Prison Elimination Act. This legislation and accompanying regulations set standards for the prevention and detection of sexual misconduct in all places of detention, including holding cells.
  • Civilian oversight bodies and special prosecutors appointed to address police misconduct should be equipped and required to receive complaints of sexual violence. They should be able to support survivors, investigate police, and impose discipline up to and including firing guilty officers.

Problem #4: Police officers conduct illegal “gender searches” on trans people of color.

Transgender and gender nonconforming people are all too often subject to officers searching their bodies because they are curious, want to assign them a gender based on anatomy, or degrade them. These searches plainly run afoul of the Constitution. With the passage of HB2 in North Carolina, police could very well begin conducting such searches outside public bathrooms. Because they come into frequent contact with police due to racial profiling and discriminatory enforcement, gender searches disproportionately impact trans and gender nonconforming people of color.

Recommendation:

  • The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing unequivocally calls for explicit bans on gender searches.
  • In partnership with advocacy organizations, the DOJ should develop, disseminate and monitor how model policies are implemented to ensure that authorities respect the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people

5. Police are beating and using TASERS on pregnant Black people.

While the idea of a police officer punching a pregnant woman or shocking her with 50,000 volts of electricity is shocking but not uncommon. The cases of Raven Dozier, Nicola Robinson, Tiffany Rent, Lucinda White, Malaika Brooks illustrate the need for clear and strong policies banning the use of TASERS, chokeholds, pepper spray, forcible takedowns and other forms of excessive force against pregnant people. Yet, fewer than half of the 35 police departments I surveyed around the country over the past year had a policy limiting this kind of force.

Recommendation:

  •  Police departments should impose and enforce strict bans on use of force against pregnant people.

Problem #6: Black women are dying in police custody due to neglect, refusal of medical care and use of force.

All too often, Black women and women of color are perceived as deceptive, undeserving of medical care and incapable of feeling pain or illness. In July 2015, at least five Black women—Sandra Bland, Kindra Chapman, Joyce Curnell, Ralkina Jones and Raynette Turner—died in police custody. This January, 16 year-old Gynnya McMillen died in an Elizabethtown, Kentucky, juvenile facility after staffers took her down using a so-called aikido restraint. Staff members failed to check on McMillen overnight, a policy violation. When they found her unresponsive in her cell the next morning, they waited for more than 10 minutes to act.

Recommendations:

  • Keep girls and women out of police custody by minimizing enforcement and detention for traffic and low-level offenses.
  • Use independent monitoring to ensure that staff are following detention policies.
  • Demand accountability from law enforcement personnel who fail to provide medical treatment to individuals in police custody.

Problem #7: Police are searching people without identifying themselves or the reason for the encounter.

Regulation of consent searches is particularly important to Black women because they are so often sites of sexual harassment, abuse, unlawful gender searches and drug patdowns. It is hard enough to hold an officer accountable for profiling and violence. It’s even harder when you don’t know the officer’s name and you aren’t empowered to exercise your rights during an encounter.

Recommendations:

  • Police departments should adopt the President’s Task Force recommendation that officers be required to identify themselves and explain why they’ve stopped, detained and arrested a civilian.
  • Officers should be required to advise people of their right to refuse a search without legal basis. They should also be required to show proof of voluntary, informed consent to searches. These common-sense policies that are already in place in cities, from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh to Denver.

Of course, changing police policies is not a panacea to police violence against Black girls, women and gender nonconforming people. In order to to strike at the root of the issue, we need to transform our responses to poverty, violence and mental health crises in ways that center the safety and humanity of Black women and our communities. Still, taking action in these seven areas would go a long way to reducing harm while we work toward deeper systemic change.
Andrea J. Ritchie is a Black lesbian police misconduct attorney, organizer and co-author of “SayHerName: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women.” She was a 2014 Soros Justice Fellow, a member of INCITE! and co-author of “Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States.” She has been organizing, advocating, litigating, writing and agitating about police violence against women and LGBT people of color for the past two decades. Ritchie is currently at work on“Invisible No More: Racial Profiling and Police Brutality Against Women of Color,” and is a contributor to “Who Do You Serve? Who Do You Protect?, books coming out in 2017.

**Post has been updated since publication for precision. Fifty two percent of police departments surveyed didn’t have any policy that specifically addresses police sexual violence against the public, not just women.

http://www.colorlines.com/articles/we-sayhername-7-policy-paths-stop-police-violence-against-black-girls-and-women

Why Eat Organic?

Experts discuss why sustainably grown and healthy foods matter to you and the planet – Friday, October 23 @ 7pm 

For more than ten years, Andrew Rodman has been publishing In Good Tilth magazine, focusing on organic and sustainable agriculture issues. He has been a longtime community activist and progressive event promoter.

Garth Kahl is an organic farmer and homesteader in the Five Rivers area and a longtime organic inspector specializing in Latin America. He runs Independent Organic Services.

Rodman and Kahl will be co-presenters at the next Williams Lecture Series, coming to Oregon Coast Community College’s Central County Campus in Newport at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 23.

The two will discuss the importance of organic agriculture from an ecological and social justice perspective, including the health impacts of pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A question and answer session will follow the presentation.

The OCCC Central Campus is located at 400 SE College Way in Newport. The presentation will be held in the Patrick O’Connor Community Room.

For more information, visit www.oregoncoastcc.org or call 541-867-8501.

Wendy Williams created the Williams Lecture Series in 1993 in honor of her husband, William Appleman Williams, a noted historian. Williams was known as the “Father of Revisionist History.” He taught American diplomatic history and foreign policy for over 30 years as OSU. His last teaching assignment was at OCCC, where he taught maritime history. Ms. Williams made a donation to the OCCC Foundation to create a fund for the lectures.

Oct. 9, 2015

Contact: Dave Price

Director of Small Business Development & Community Education

Oregon Coast Community College

dave.price@occc.cc.or.us

541 994 4166

Economic Gains Flow to the Top as Oregon Income Inequality Soars – Oregon Center for Public Policy

Economic Gains Flow to the Top as Oregon Income Inequality Soars – Oregon Center for Public Policy.

A View of the State of Working Oregon The past three decades in Oregon have witnessed a surge in income inequality. As the income of the fortunate few at the top has soared, the income of most Oregonians has stagnated or declined. The surge in income inequality has occurred even as Oregon’s economy has expanded.[1] Indeed, although inequality declined during the recession, the income gap has widened during the recovery. This shows that economic growth alone does not and will not create economic opportunity and security for many Oregonians. Policymakers need to use every tool available to increase opportunity for those who have been left behind and should avoid upside-down tax policies that exacerbate inequality. A View of the State of Working Oregon is a series of occasional OCPP fact sheets published to help explain Oregon’s economy from the perspective of working families. See the series here. Download a copy of this fact sheet: Economic Gains Flow to the Top as Oregon Income Inequality Soars (PDF) Related materials: If Economic Growth Assured Well-Being Oregonians Would be Thriving, April 30, 2014 Those at the top of Oregon’s income scale have seen their income soar over the past three decades. To belong to Oregon’s top 1 percent in 2012, the most recent year with data available, a taxpayer had to make at least $340,470. The top 1 percent’s average income was about $880,000 that year. Though this is down from the pre-recession peak in 2007, it is more than two-and-a-half times the inflation-adjusted average of about $317,000 in 1980.[2] By contrast, the typical Oregon taxpayer’s income has eroded. The income of the median taxpayer was about $31,940 in 2012, about $260 less than it was in 1980 after adjusting for inflation.[3] Although as a group the entire 1 percent has done fabulously well over the past three decades, the income gains by a tiny sliver at the top of the top of the heap dwarf even the rest of the top 1 percent. To be among the 1,600 households that comprise Oregon’s top one-tenth of 1 percent, a taxpayer had to make at least $1.4 million in 2012.The average income of the top one-tenth of 1 percent, the wealthiest 1 out of every 1,000 Oregon taxpayers, stood at over $3.9 million in 2012. That was over four-and-a-half times the inflation-adjusted amount of about $848,000 in 1980. Over the same period, the rest of the top 1 percent saw their average income more than double, from about $275,000 to about $581,000.[4] Income inequality spiked again in 2012 after narrowing during the recession. That year, after taking inflation into account, Oregon’s median income (the income for the “typical” Oregonian) inched up $300 — an increase of less than 1 percent. Over that same year, the income of the average taxpayer grew by $3,068, or 6 percent. Meanwhile, the average income of the top 1 percent jumped nearly $200,000, about a 29 percent increase.[5] The sizeable increase at the top of the income scale may be due to the wealthy cashing out capital gains in 2012 ahead of anticipated federal tax changes.[6] Net capital gains income increased about 72 percent from 2011 to 2012. The concentration of capital gains income among the wealthy contributes to income inequality. Capital gains income comes from the profitable sale of assets such as stocks, bonds and real estate. In 2012, the top one-tenth of 1 percent — the wealthiest 1 out of every 1,000 Oregon taxpayers — collected about half (49 percent) of all capital gains income. The rest of the top 1 percent took in another 23 percent. Together, the entire top 1 percent collected 72 percent of all capital gains income in Oregon. The rest of Oregon taxpayers shared the remaining 28 percent.[7] Put another way, the 1,600 hundred tax filers who comprise the top one-tenth of 1 percent together took in over $1 billion more in capital gains than the 1.6 million taxpayers who constitute the bottom 99 percent. Wages — income earned from work — also help explain growth in income inequality. High-wage workers have seen their paychecks grow, while median and low-wage workers have not.[8] The hourly wage of high-wage workers rose from $25.56 in 1980 to $29.09 in 2013, when adjusted for inflation. Over the same time period wages have stagnated, or fallen, for other groups of Oregon workers. For example, in 2013 the median, or typical, hourly wage was $16.71 — below the $17.28 inflation-adjusted median wage more than 30 years earlier. Similarly, low-wage workers earned just $10.19 per hour in 2013, less than the $11.04 they made in 1980 in inflation-adjusted terms. Over the past three decades, the income share of the wealthiest 1 percent of Oregon grew to more than double the share of the bottom 40 percent.[9] In 1980, the bottom 40 percent of Oregon taxpayers together collected 10.1 percent of all income, while the top 1 percent together collected 7.4 percent. But by 2012, the share of all income of the bottom 40 percent had dropped to 7.6 percent, while the share of the top 1 percent had risen to 15.9 percent. Thus, in 2012 the top 1 percent took home more than two times the income that the 700,000 taxpayers at the bottom of the income ladder did. In dollars, that was $8.5 billion more. Oregon’s wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers have seen their slice of total state income more than double over the last 30 years, while the slices of nearly all other income groups have shrunk. Specifically, the share of total state income collected by the top 1 percent increased by 115 percent from 1980 to 2012. The only other group to have gained total income share was the rest of the top 20 percent (the top fifth excluding the top 1 percent), which ticked up 3.7 percent. As the share of total income rises for some, it necessarily declines for others. From 1980 to 2012, the bottom 80 percent of Oregon taxpayers saw their income share decline. That was especially the case for the lowest-earning 20 percent, who lost almost a third of their income share over the course of the last three decades.[10] Conclusion After narrowing during the Great Recession years, income inequality in Oregon snapped back in 2012. The wealthiest 1 percent — especially the 1,600 households that comprise the top one-tenth of 1 percent — made huge gains in income that year, while the income of the typical Oregonian only inched up. President Barack Obama has declared income inequality the “defining challenge of our time.”[11] In Oregon, as in the rest of the nation, that challenge is real. [1] Uniform Gross State Product (GSP) data from the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) dates back only to 1997. But while state-level BEA data does not allow for confident comparison of the pre-1997 period, BEA’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data shows that the national economy has expanded fairly steadily over the course of the past three decades, even if interrupted by intervening recessions. Specifically, U.S. GDP more than doubled over the last 30 years (see data available at http://bea.gov/national/index.htm#gdp); and since 1997, Oregon’s GSP has tended to outperform growth in national GDP during economic expansions (see Oregon Center for Public Policy, If Economic Growth Assured Well-Being, Oregonians Would be Thriving, Fact Sheet, April 30, 2014. [2] Unless otherwise noted, income figures in this publication are OCPP calculations based on Oregon Department of Revenue data and income is adjusted gross income data for all income tax filers. [3] Oregon’s 1980 median income was $32,200 in 2012 dollars. [4] Calculations for top one-tenth of 1 percent and the rest of the top 1 percent are based on total income for full-year returns. [5] The tremendous income gains at the top help explain why the average Oregonian’s income increased more than the typical Oregonian. [6] Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, Oregon Economic and Revenue Forecast, March 2014, p. 5. [7] Calculations for capital gains income are based on total income for full-year income tax filers. Some portion of the increase in capital gains income in 2012 can be attributed to people pulling capital gains income into the 2012 tax year due to anticipated changes in the federal tax code, Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, Oregon Economic and Revenue Forecast, March 2014, p. 5. [8] Here, wage levels correspond to percentiles. “High-wage” refers to the 80th percentile, meaning the worker whose wages were higher than 80 percent of all workers (and lower than 20 percent of all workers). “Median” refers to the worker in the 50th percentile, with half of Oregon workers earning more and half earning less. And “low-wage” refers to the 20th percentile, meaning the worker whose wages are higher than 20 percent of all workers (and lower than 80 percent of all workers). [9] Tax returns with negative adjusted gross income have been excluded. [10] Ibid. [11] Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on Economic Mobility,” December 4, 2013, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/12/04/remarks-president-economic-mobility. Posted in Income, Oregon Economy, Wages. More about: capital gains, income inequality, median income, state of working oregon – See more at: http://www.ocpp.org/2014/04/30/fs2010430-economic-gains-Flow-top-oregon-income/#sthash.u7jLVM6q.dpuf

Yes, All Men

Yes, All Men

As I drove my son back to college last week, where he’ll take a summer chemistry course, he said something that struck me: “I believe it’s very important for everyone to be a feminist.”

He didn’t say it for effect, to shock or provoke conversation. It was just one of those thoughts that surface on a road trip, a kind of sorting out of life by a son before his father.

He explained that he had never truly been aware of the extent of his own male privilege until recently, and that after watching the #YesAllWomen campaign unfold and doing quite a bit of reading, he had begun to chafe at the subconscious — and sometimes overt — gender inequity that pervades our society and the world.

It wasn’t fair, he insisted. Not to the millions of women he didn’t know and had never met, nor to his girlfriend, friends who are girls or his own sister.

I couldn’t have been more proud of his most principled stance.

Yes, we should all be feminists, but too often we believe that the plight of the oppressed is solely the business of the oppressed, and that the society in which that oppression is born and grows and the role of the oppressors and beneficiaries are all somehow subordinate.

Wrong.

Fighting female objectification and discrimination and violence against women isn’t simply the job of women; it must also be the pursuit of men.

Only when men learn to recognize misogyny will we be able to rid the world of it. Not all men are part of the problem, but, yes, all men must be part of the solution.

The statistics on violence and discrimination against women are just staggering. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women has reported that:

■ According to a 2013 global review of available data, 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced intimate-partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. However, some national violence studies show that up to 70 percent of women have at some point experienced violence from an intimate partner.

■ In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, violence by intimate partners accounts for between 40 percent and 70 percent of all murders of women.

■ More than 64 million girls worldwide are child brides; 46 percent of women ages 20 to 24 in South Asia and 41 percent in West and Central Africa report that they married before the age of 18.

■ Approximately 140 million girls and women in the world have suffered female genital mutilation/cutting.

■ In the United States, 83 percent of girls 12 to 16 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools.

■ Women are already two to four times more likely than men to become infected with H.I.V. during intercourse. Rape increases the risks because of limited condom use and physical injuries.

■ In the United States, 11.8 percent of new H.I.V. infections in the previous year among women 20 or older were attributed to intimate-partner violence.

And that is only a sampling of the points made by the U.N. about the devastating scale of the problem. It doesn’t even take into account more subtle, but still corrosive, issues like job and pay discrimination, imbalances in parental roles and responsibilities, sexual double standards and the imbalance of political power.

Many of these issues are particularly acute right here in the United States. As CNN reported last year:

“The U.S. has a larger gender gap than 22 other countries including Germany, Ireland, Nicaragua and Cuba, according to a World Economic Forum report … [that] rates 136 countries on gender equality, and factors in four categories: economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and political empowerment.”

Men around the world, in general, do not have to worry as much, if at all, about being the subjects of such physical and psychological violence. They have the luxury of not being forced to fully engage and confront the scale and scope of the problem — and that is the very definition of privilege.

But we can fix that.
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Comments

Empathy is not particularly elusive. It only requires an earnest quest to understand and act on that understanding. The problems women face in this world require the engagement of all the world’s people.

“It’s very important for everyone to be a feminist.”

#YesAllMen
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/02/opinion/blow-yes-all-men.html?_r=0