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Edward Nero

edward-neroEdward Nero (c. 1986- ), a Baltimore police officer, was one of the three officers who chased down Freddie Gray on April 12th 2015. Gray would later die in police custody, leading to riots in Baltimore.

Nero is one of six officers charged with crimes in the death of Freddie Gray. He is the second the stand trial. On Monday May 23rd 2016 he was found not guilty on all charges.

It was a long shot: Never before in Maryland history has a police officer been charged with a crime for making an arrest. Officers who make an unconstitutional arrest generally either drop the charges, throw out any evidence found – or are sued for damages.

Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe said the people of Baltimore were “jacked up all the time” and that officers must justify their actions. The Nero case, at the very least, puts officers on notice that they might be charged with a crime for a bad arrest.

Lawmakers and judges, though, generally give police officers the benefit of the doubt.

On top of that, to prove a crime in a case like this, you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. There was nothing like that in this case. Officer Garrett Miller, the one who put the handcuffs on Freddie Gray and made the arrest, said Nero was off getting their bicycles at that time. Even a friend of Freddie Gray said Nero was not there.

One other thing Nero was charged with was for not making sure Gray had his seat belt on after helping to put him into the back of the of the police van. That is what led to Gray’s death. There was even an email that went out just three days before saying that suspects must always have their seat belt on.

But the judge said that because Nero had little training and was not in charge, it was not “reasonable” for him to question why Gray was not being seat-belted. He got the email, sure, but who reads that stuff? It had not been brought up at any of the daily roll calls, so he may well have not even known about it.

Nero continues to work for the Baltimore police, but will not return to the streets till after all six trials are completed and the investigation (done by another police department) can be closed.

The first officer to go on trial was William Porter. The jury of eight Blacks and four Whites could not agree on a verdict. The judge declared a mistrial. Porter will be tried again in September. Nero himself had forgone a jury trial: judges tend to strictly follow case law, which favours the police.

Next to go on trial, in two weeks, is Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., he who drove the van. He is charged with second-degree murder since it was his duty to make sure Gray was seat-belted. If he is not found guilty, it seems unlikely anyone else will.

the-baltimore-six

– Abagond, 2016.

Sources: Mainly the Baltimore Sun and TheRealNews.

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trump-hat

Donald Trump, a White man who is running for US president in 2016, says he wants to “Make America Great Again”, by which he means the US. He wears a hat that says the same. It is an old Reagan slogan from 1979.

Hillary Clinton, a White woman who is running for president, says, “America never stopped being great.”

Krystal Lake, a Black woman who supports Bernie Sanders for president, thinks “America was never great.” She wears a hat that says just that:

krystal-lake-hat

Lake:

“The message that other people are trying to send out is that, America’s this wonderful place, like nothing bad ever happened in the world, but it never was great so I feel like it was a lie, so I wanted to show people that, no, it never was great.”

She had the hat made online. On Sunday May 15th 2016, the day after she got it, she wore it to work at Home Depot in Staten Island (the same part of New York City where the police killed Eric Garner).

Home Depot does have a policy against wearing “items that reflect political statements” while at work. But over the past two months some of her fellow workers have been wearing “Vote for Trump” pins and no one said anything.

On Sunday she wore her hat to work and no one said anything either – not the shoppers, not fellow workers, not the managers. But, unknown to her, one Joey Carlino took her picture wearing the hat and posted it online on Facebook, saying, “A Home Depot in Staten Island. What a joke.”

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Wednesday morning her friends kept calling: her picture was all over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and elsewhere on the Internet! She was shocked.

She received dozens of death threats and was being called the N-word left and right. She was told that she did not know much, that she hated America, that she should go back to Africa.

She was not afraid of the death threats, but she was surprised: “It’s just a hat.”

Lake notes:

“I feel it offended a lot of people because a lot of Trump supporters live in Staten Island. Trump is very rash and in your face, but when someone else has a message against him, his supporters can’t take the criticisms.”

They admire Trump for speaking his mind, but not her.

On Trump:

“If you’re not the race that he would want, or whether it’s sexual preference, if you have any disabilities, your financial status, race, everything, all of that combined, or even if you don’t think like him, he will automatically write you off … having Trump as a president definitely wouldn’t make America better.”

That is, in fact, the message of Donald Trump’s hat: the only time the US was ever great for anyone was for the straight White men it was designed for. For everyone else, it has only slowly been getting better, two steps forward, one step back. Trump, judging from his hat, wants to take a step back.

MAGA-Civil-Rights-2

– Abagond, 2016.

Sources: mainly the New York Times, RT and Snopes.

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Yuna ft Usher: Crush

Remarks:

The more I hear this song, the more I love it. In 2016 it was a top-20 hit across South East Asia and on the US R&B chart (#15). It went to #1 in her native Malaysia.

The video was shot on the steps of city hall in Los Angeles. It shows love at first sight – thus the slow motion that comes from the adrenalin rush.

She emailed Usher asking if he wanted to be on the song. She thought he would be perfect. He did not answer her email for like two months – but when he did, he sent back the completed song!

See also:

Lyrics:

[Verse 1 – Yuna:]
You call me on a lazy afternoon
Asking me what I’m up to, let’s find something to do
Baby I’d be down, down, down, down, down,
Down down down down.
You know I’d be down, down, down, down, down,
Down down down down.

[Verse 2 – Yuna:]
I see you arriving in your car.
Jet black Mercedes, built in the 70s
Classic like you and me
I’ll be coming down, down, down, down, down,
Down down down down.
I’ll be coming down, down, down, down, down,
Down down down down.

[Chorus – Yuna:]
I feel a little rush
I think I’ve got a little crush on you
I hope it’s not too much
But boy when I’m with you I hear it
My heart is singing
La la la la la la…
La la la la la la…

[Verse 3 – Usher:]
Honestly you shouldn’t waste time no more
‘Cause all these little boys you’re chasing did
They break your heart?
I know you’ve been down, down, down, down, down,
Down down down down.
I won’t let you down, down, down, down, down,
Down down down down.

[Chorus – Yuna & Usher:]
I feel a little rush
I think I’ve got a little crush on you
I hope it’s not too much
But girl when I’m with you I hear it
My heart is singing
La la la la la la…
La la la la la la…

[Bridge – Yuna & Usher:]
I wonder if you feel the same
I see it in the way that you behave around me
And I can tell
What we have is different from anyone else
‘Cause you stop doing what you doing
When I call you come up to me running
And I would do same for you
So tell me that you feel it too

[Chorus – Yuna & Usher:]
I feel a little rush
I think I’ve got a little crush on you
I hope it’s not too much
But boy when I’m with you I hear it
My heart is singing
La la la la la la…
La la la la la la…

[Outro – Yuna & Usher:]
Think I’ve got a crush, baby
Feel a little rush baby
Think I’ve got a crush, baby
Feel a little rush baby

Source: A-Z Lyrics, Songfacts.

Oppression Olympics

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The Oppression Olympics is where you argue about which group has it worse – as if there were some kind of special prize for the “winner”.

For example, in the US, do gays have it worse than Blacks? Do Blacks have it worse than Asians? Black men or Black women? What about Muslims, Natives, and trans women? The Irish? Jews? Or what about White middle-aged working-class men – whose life expectancy has been going down and who favour Trump?

It is a common derailment: People who do not want to hear about the injustice done to your group will make it about their group or some other group. “All Lives Matter.” “The Irish had it hard too!” “What about … ?” Etc.

But sometimes it is seriously meant. There is more than enough injustice to go round and people tend to think that done against their own group is the worst, especially if they or their family have experienced it directly.

If you grew up in the US and are willing to listen, you can learn something new, filling in the holes left by a Whitewashed education and media.

But after a point it becomes a dead end:

  1. Oppression is not one-dimensional. There is no clear way to measure oppression and boil it down to just one number. Some of the side effects can be measured – poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, life expectancy, high blood pressure, police killings, etc. But which measure or what mathematical formula do you use? And some oppression cannot be bottled in a number, like racist beauty standards, stereotypes or cultural appropriation.
  2. Oppression is not exclusive. In the case of White supremacy, it is fully capable of oppressing more than one group at a time and do it in different ways. In Oppression Olympics, people seem to act as if there can only be one oppression at a time, that highlighting one group’s oppression means downplaying or overlooking another’s.
  3. Oppression is intersectional. Most Americans are not, for example, rich straight White cis males nor poor gay Black trans females. That means most Americans are privileged in some ways and marginalized in others. Their privileges do not cancel out their marginalizations and their marginalizations can intersect, creating something worse.

A useful way to look at racial oppression in the US is Andrea Smith’s Three Pillars of White Supremacy. White Americans oppress Blacks, Natives and Browns (Latinos, Asians, “Muslims”) each in different ways for different reasons – while at the same time using each group to oppress the others!

For example, Blacks in the US are used for forced labour and medical experiments, even today, and yet live on land they helped to take from Natives. Natives, meanwhile, serve in the military, bringing death and destruction to Asia in American wars of empire. And so on. There is no moral purity of group victimhood to be had in the US.

The gold medal in the Oppression Olympics always seems just out of reach because it is not there.

nooneisfree

– Abagond, 2016.

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Yuri Kochiyama

yuri-kochiyamas-95th-birthday-5723472594468864-hp

The Google Doodle for May 19th 2016, honouring her on her 95th birthday.

Yuri Kochiyama (1921-2014), an Asian American activist, was part of the Black Power and Asian American movements. She was friends with Malcolm X, who died in her arms. They were both born on May 19th. The FBI said she was a ringleader of Black nationalists and a Red Chinese agent.

Her parents were born in Japan. She was born in San Pedro, California. Hours after Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, the FBI took her father away. He came back six weeks later – and died the next day.

Then came the Japanese American internment:

“I was so red, white and blue, I couldn’t believe this was happening to us. America would never do a thing like this to us. This is the greatest country in the world. … I didn’t feel the anger that much because I thought maybe this was the way we could show our love for our country … I was naive about so many things. The more I think about it, the more I realize how little you learn about American history. It’s just what they want you to know.”

It was not till she read W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin and others that she came to truly understand the US.

By 1960 she was living in Harlem in public housing bringing up six children. At first she protested the schools. By 1963 she was protesting construction sites that would not hire Blacks or Puerto Ricans. That was how she met Malcolm X. She was amazed by his knowledge of Asian history.

She joined his Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). The police regularly came to their public meetings, but one day they did not. On that day three men started shooting. Malcolm X was falling backwards. She ran to the stage:

“[I] picked up his head and just put it on my lap. I said, ‘Please, Malcolm … stay alive.'”

She went on to protest against the Vietnam War, for Puerto Rican independence (taking over the Statute of Liberty in 1977), for freeing political prisoners, like Mumia, and for prison reform:

“Do you know there are 2 million people in prison in America? That’s almost a country. The treatment of prisoners is so bad that Abu Ghraib has nothing on places like Corcoran and San Quentin.”

She was against the War on Terror.

She also pushed for ethnic studies and reparations for Black, Native and Japanese Americans. In 1988 the US government, in part because of her, paid reparations for the Japanese American internment.

She served as a bridge between Black and Asian American activists and between those on the east and west coast.

Heroes: Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Patrice Lumumba, Fidel Castro and Osama bin Laden:

“Besides being strong leaders who brought consciousness to their people, they all had severe dislike for the US government and those who held power in the US. I think all of them felt the US government and its spokesmen were all arrogant, racist, hypocritical, self-righteous, and power hungry.”

– Abagond, 2016.

See also:

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The two-race model

two-race-model

The two-race model (1676- ) sees the US as divided by race into Blacks and Whites. Everyone else – third-race people like Native, Asian, Latino, Pacific Islander and biracial Americans – are seen as either not being truly part of the US or in numbers too small to matter.

For example, in 1997 when President Bill Clinton set up a commission for a “dialogue on race”, it had no Native, Latino or Asian Americans.

On this blog, racism often comes down to the relations between Blacks and Whites.

The percentage of third-race Americans through the years:

  • 1850: 0.5%
  • 1900: 1.1%
  • 1950: 2.5%
  • 2000: 18.6%
  • 2050: 39.0% (projected)
  • 2100: 45.6% (projected)

In 2010 the number was 24.1%. But that is the overall number. From state to state the picture can be markedly different. For example:

  • 3.4% West Virginia
  • 7.4% Missouri
  • 9.2% Michigan
  • 9.4% Indiana
  • 11.8% Montana
  • 13.2% North Carolina
  • 13.6% Georgia
  • 14.0% South Dakota
  • 15.9% Maryland
  • 19.7% Oregon
  • 25.8% New York
  • 26.1% Florida
  • 32.6% Alaska
  • 42.9% Texas
  • 53.7% California
  • 57.4% New Mexico
  • 75.7% Hawaii

New York and Florida are thought of as “diverse” states that get tons of immigration, yet they are not far from the nationwide average.

In 1965 the US overturned its Aryanist immigration laws, allowing millions of Asians and Latin Americans to come to America, changing the face of race in the country.

But even before that, the two-race model was not a “good approximation”. Part of why only 2.5% of Americans were third-race by 1950 is because of genocide, massacre and deportation. A two-race model pushes that out of the frame. Given where all the land in the US came from, it is hard to see that as an accident. The two-race model comes with moral blindness built-in.

The two-race model is strengthened by one of the worst thought patterns of White Americans: dichotomous thinking, dividing the world into two, especially into good and bad halves – with themselves on the “good” side.

Since 1965, the two-race model has been held together by string, tape and glue:

  • String: Asians are written off as a Model Minority which does not experience racism, at least not in a way that leaves marks.
  • Tape: Latinos and Asians are written off as “being mainly immigrants”, not a true part of the country. Even those who are citizens are seen as foreigners. Especially Asian Americans, who are seen through the Perpetual Foreigner stereotype, even when native-born and speaking Perfect English.
  • Glue: Politicians, and their running dogs in the media and think tanks, put a Black face on poverty and the other ills of society so that Whites vote against their class interests.

And Native Americans, as always, are out of sight, out of mind,

And so race in the US still largely comes down to a matter of Blacks and Whites. And even when people do talk about Asians or Latinos, it is mainly in relation to Whites.

Enter the three-race model: Sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva says the US is moving towards three-race model. Whites will maintain their political majority by making enough lighter-skinned Asians and Latinos into “honorary Whites”, keeping anti-racists in the minority.

Obama Family 2003

Obama family, 2003.

– Abagond, 2016.

See also:

530

David Bowie: China Girl

Remarks:

My favourite David Bowie song. In 1983 it went to #10 on the US pop chart and #2 in Britain. It is his remake of the 1977 Iggy Pop song of the same name that they wrote together in a castle in France. Nile Rodgers produces, Stevie Ray Vaughn plays lead guitar.

The video was shot in Chinatown in Sydney, Australia. It was banned in several countries because of the love scene at the end.

This is the video, by the way, that beat out Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” for Best Male Video at the first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984. And that was after David Bowie had openly criticized MTV for being racist. Which brings up:

Is “China Girl” racist?

In 1983, Bowie said of the “China Girl” and “Let’s Dance” videos:

“They’re almost like Russian social realism, very naive. And the message that they have is very simple – it’s wrong to be racist! [laughs] … I mean, these are little movies, and some movies can have a point, so why not try to make some point. This stuff goes out all over the world; it’s played on all kinds of programs. I mean – you get free point time!

And Niles Rodgers says about the stereotyped riff that opens the song:

“David was either going to hate this so much he would fire me, or he was going to get the comedic value of writing this silly little poppy thing.”

Bowie loved it instantly.

It is that hipster racist satire thing: use stereotypes to make fun of stereotypes. Ha ha. The trouble is that many will not “get the comedic value”, but just have their racism confirmed.

And I am not so sure Bowie himself completely gets it. Like:

  • He does that thing that racist White people think is funny, and in the video he thinks it is funny too: pulling up the corner of his eyes (at the 1:12 mark). She did make fun of his nose, but it is not the same thing.
  • In concert he has used a mock Chinese accent for “Oh baby, just you shut your mouth.” (See the 3:20 mark in this video from 2002.)
  • The song brings up Marlon Brando, but in “Sayonara” (1957) Brando’s girlfriend was Japanese not Chinese.
  • The woman the song was written about was neither Chinese nor a girl: KueLan Nguyen, a Vietnamese French woman Iggy Pop had a short affair with.

“China” seems to have a triple meaning: she is from China (which might mean East Asia stereotyped as “China”), she is addictive like “China White” (heroin), she is fragile like china (porcelain).

Geeling Ching, who played the title character, is proud of the video and says its message is “quite clear”. She is a Chinese New Zealander who at the time was a model and waitress in Sydney. She had been a Bowie fan since his Ziggy Stardust days. She dated Bowie afterwards but hated the lack of privacy. She said the whole thing was like living in someone else’s dream.

– Abagond, 2016.

See also:

Lyrics:

Oh, oh, oh, little China girl
Oh, oh, oh, little China girl

I could escape this feeling, with my China girl
I feel a wreck without my, little China girl
I hear her heart beating, loud as thunder
Saw the stars crashing

I’m a mess without my, little China girl
Wake up in the morning where’s my, little China girl
I hear her heart’s beating, loud as thunder
Saw the stars crashing down

I feel a-tragic like I’m Marlon Brando
When I look at my China girl
I could pretend that nothing really meant too much
When I look at my China girl

I stumble into town just like a sacred cow
Visions of swastikas in my head
Plans for everyone
It’s in the white of my eyes

My little China girl
You shouldn’t mess with me
I’ll ruin everything you are
You know, I’ll give you television
I’ll give you eyes of blue
I’ll give you a man who wants to rule the world

And when I get excited
My little China girl says,
Oh baby, just you shut your mouth
She says, shhh
She says, shhh
She says
She says

Sources: mainly Rolling Stone (1983), Songfacts (2016), Daily Mail (2016).

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