Thursday, May 30, 2013

"dehumanizing stares"

Dogs make us human. Except when even a 6-week old puppy is not enough to "humanize" you in the eye of the police:
New cell phone footage shows Miami-Dade Police officers aggressively pinning an unarmed teen to the ground while choking him. His alleged crime: giving the officers “dehumanizing stares” and “clenching his fists.”  
Fourteen-year-old Tremaine McMillan says he was feeding his puppy and playing on the beach with some friends when cops riding ATVs approached him and asked what he was doing. The "peacekeeping" officers say they saw McMillan roughhousing with another teenager, told him it was “unacceptable behavior,” and asked where his mother was. When McMillan walked away, they chased him on ATVs, jumped out, pinned him to the ground and arrested him.
These screenshots are from the arrest video shot by the kid's mother - via Alternet.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"make the right move"

The Miami Herald has a pretty good article up on the Trayvon Martin killing (the cliched reference to the perpetrator George Zimmerman's "mild manners" in the subtitle notwithstanding). I was particularly struck by the story of two of Zimmerman's African American neighbors:
Zimmerman told neighbors about stolen laptops and unsavory characters. Ibrahim Rashada, a 25-year-old African American who works at U.S. Airways, once spotted young men cutting through the woods entering the complex on foot, and later learned items were stolen those days.
“He came by here and talked about carrying guns and getting my wife more involved with guns,” he said. “He said I should have a weapon and that his wife took classes to learn how to use one.
“I do have a weapon, but I don’t walk around the neighborhood with mine!”
Actually, he does not walk around the neighborhood at all.
“I fit the stereotype he emailed around,” he said. “Listen, you even hear me say it: ‘A black guy did this. A black guy did that.’ So I thought, ‘Let me sit in the house. I don’t want anyone chasing me.’ ”
For walks, he goes downtown. A pregnant Quianna listened to her husband’s rationale, dropped her head, and cried.
“That’s so sad,” she said. “I hope our child doesn’t have to go through that.”
I hope the fear and anguish of the Rashadas help people move past the dead-end argument that racism is not an issue in this killing because George Zimmerman is himself of a mixed ethnic background or that he has black relatives and friends. Some might say: "Look, he even tried to recruit - and arm - black people... and he was friendly to them!" But the point is that Zimmerman's vigilantism was directed at blacks - to the point that the very black people he tried to enlist became afraid for themselves. The Rashadas' complex reactions show that, despite their own anxiety about property theft and breached boundaries, as African Americans they literally could not fit themselves into the narrative of "crime watch" or "self-defense." That ideological neighborhood is off limits, redlined. Given Ibrahim's choice of walking path even before Martin's lethal run-in with Zimmerman, it's not clear that his physical neighborhood was ever truly open to his family, either. 

"Make the right move" - website banner for Retreat at Twin Lakes, Sanford FL gated community where Trayvon Martin was shot to death

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I recently started keeping my daily readings at Pinboard, which describes itself as a "bookmarking website for introverted people in a hurry." A kind of anti-Facebook, it has an ascetic, frill-less interface. The only two modes of organization (as far as I can tell) are chronology and tags. I'm liking it so far!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

limited good

* A couple sentences tweaked 12:44am September 14, 2011

This essay by Christopher Newfield (Remaking the University; Unmaking the Public University) has stuck with me since I first encountered it in early August, in the throes of the debt ceiling "crisis." Especially this paragraph:
In reality, our extreme inequality is extremely unpopular, nearly as much on the right as on the left. But once the banana republic has been established, low taxes make individual sense, and in the U.S. they function as a kind of political booby prize. With the stock and housing booms over, most people feel they can't increase their own incomes through known legal means, and since virtually no one thinks they can make America more egalitarian, low taxes on our modest incomes can look like the next best thing.
Newfield's insight here reminds me of the concept of "limited good," which I learned in a weirdly old-fashioned, out-of-touch Anthropology course in college. LG is a world view ascribed by Western anthropologists to non-industrialized societies, as Wikipedia helpfully explains:
The term limited good is a concept from anthropology describing the theory commonly held in traditional societies, that there is a limited amount of "good" to go around. In other words, the amount of good luck, money, etc. available is held to be finite, so every time one person profits, another loses. Societies that subscribe to this philosophy tend to display strong levels of equality among members and to be strongly resistant to social change.
The term was coined by George M. Foster in his 1965 article, Peasant Society and the Image of Limited Good, "American Anthropologist." [Original punctuation and syntax - i.e., don't blame me!] The concept has been described by [Tim] Allen as the rural counterpart of the culture of poverty. The Mexican peasants (in Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán) Foster studied were seen by him to lack interest in new opportunities because of their perception of the word as a "competitive game." This led to a high level of distrust and envy and fragile and constantly shifting patterns of alignment.
This seems to me an ironically, uncannily prophetic description of Tea Party America: A "traditional society" "resistant to social change," beset by record poverty rates and a "see no evil" political culture. Thus goes the right-wing self-destruct pact: with so little hope of making America more egalitarian, let's make sure it's as unequal as possible. If we can't have equality, then no one can.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

totem animals

Over at Village Dog ( scroll view | mosaic view ) I've been keeping a list of "totem animals" - kind of a journal in animal images, or animal avatars perhaps. The idea came from the late great Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, who would start off a seminar by asking students to take turns naming their "totem animals," and going around the room reciting each other's totems. I had the privilege of taking my very first graduate course with Eve in the olden days. My totem that day was completely uninspired - I think I just said my Chinese zodiac sign. So this is my attempt to do better. Another day (or two, or three), another ice-breaker.

Here are a few recent entries (strange that sleeping and sound technology seem to be on my mind lately):
#68: Lucian Freud, Eli

#67: Todd Baxter, Fox on Reel to Reels (toile pattern based on photograph)
#65: Charles Dury, young grizzly cub born in Cincinati Zoo, 1870s
#62: Toadfish, from the Reanimation Library visual archive
All 68, altogether.

Friday, June 10, 2011

gold star for settler colonialist paranoia

American culture really hurts my brain sometimes. Imagine poor Catherine Jourdan getting this as a reward for her academic labor.

From Princeton Library's collection of Awards of Merits from the 1820s onward - not sure exactly of the date for this one. Less pedagogically twisted examples here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

flipper, we are not in san diego anymore

Another military animal story: this time a photo essay at Mother Jones. Some of the images are quite surreal. As is the final quote in the caption below. I guess we all have different opinions of what San Diego is like?