The Flying Squirrel Community Space played host to investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill's Oscar-nominated documentary "Dirty Wars" on February 18 2014. The film chronicles the USA's expanding covert and proxy wars in the Mideast, Asia and Africa. While not explicitly mentioned in the film, the US engages in similar activities in Central and South America. The free screening was sponsored by Rochester Against War. About 40 people were in attendance. It was not the first time the film was shown in Rochester. The Cinema theater hosted it during its theatrical release in November, which was sponsored by Rochester Community Television.
The film is nominated for Best Documentary. More screenings are planned for the Rochester area as long as the wars continue.
Doug Noble, of Rochester Against War hosts a discussion following the February 18 showing.
After the November showing, a discussion was held with the film's directory Rick Rowley via skype. Video here:
On January 8, 2014, Dr. Grania Marcus, who has spent more than 30 years involved with immigration issues in Florida, upstate New York, on the US-Mexico Border and in New York City, discussed US immigration history, the spread of border enforcement throughout the country and what we can do to help end the deportations and family separations that US immigration policy promotes. This was taped at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church in Rochester, NY at a meeting of the Rochester Committee on Latin America.
On Feb. 4, 2014, Dwayne Ivery and his attorney Charles F. Burkwit are announced the filing of a federal civil rights lawsuit against Rochester Police Department officers Alexander C. Baldauf and Rickey J. Harris, JR., former RPD police chief James Sheppard and the City of Rochester for excessive use of force. Enough Is Enough, an anti- police brutality organization, hosted the press conference in solidarity with Mr. Ivery.
On August 17, 2013, around 10:15PM, officers Baldauf and Harris were dispatched to Mr. Ivery's property at 1509 East Main St. because of a dispute between him and his girlfriend. The situation remained calm as Mr. Ivery and his girlfriend moved his belongings to his truck and she, with the help of Baldauf, removed the license plates to his truck. (The registration was in her name, the title in his.)
Mr. Ivery, after conferring with Harris, proceeded to walk calmly toward his girlfriend and Baldauf in front of the truck.
“I thought I told you not to saying anything!” shouted Baldauf, without warning.
Baldauf then grabbed Mr. Ivery's hand and punched him in the head. Mr. Ivery stumbled around the front of the vehicle trying to move away from the officer who continued punching him numerous times in the head and face before throwing and pinning Mr. Ivery on the ground near his garage. While pinned, Baldauf continued punching Mr. Ivery in the face, head, and areas all over his body. At one point, Baldauf stomped on Mr. Ivery's head with his boot. Officer Harris stood idly by and did nothing while Mr. Ivery lapsed in and out of consciousness with the punches.
Harris eventually jumped on Mr. Ivery, pinning him, while Baldauf continued hitting him until Harris finally handcuffed him.
Mr. Ivery was charged with harassment in the 2nd degree and resisting arrest and was offered an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal on November 13, 2013. Reluctantly, he took the ACD. A home video surveillance camera captured the brutality.
Mr. Ivery suffered a nasal fracture, a hematoma superior and pain to his left eye, seven or more large throbbing bumps on his face and neck, multiple contusions, right elbow pain and tendonitis, both eyes swollen shut, facial swelling, neck pain, headaches, memory problems, PTSD, post concussive syndrome, and other physical and mental pain and suffering.
Above: Police brutalizing Dwayne Ivery on August 17, 2013 as captured by his home surveillance system.
Above: Dwayne Ivery recounting the unprovoked police attack against him a few weeks after he was brutalized by officers Baldauf and Harris.
Other News Coverage: WHAM Channel 13: Rochester Police officers named in lawsuit | Democrat & Chronicle: Lawsuit: Police beat man without cause | TWC News: Rochester Man Files Federal Lawsuit Alleging Police Brutality | WHEC Channel 10: Rochester man suing city and police department | Davy V: Lawsuit names Former Rochester, NY Police Chief James Sheppard, officers Alexander Baldauf, and Ricky Harris Jr., for Beating Caught on Home Surveillance Video
Additional Information: Dwayne Ivery Severely Beaten by RPD in his Backyard | Discovery Docs in Dwayne Ivery Case | Ivery's federal civil rights lawsuit | Impossible choices: Brenda Hardaway pleads guilty to assault in the second degree | United Christian Leadership Ministry make demands in the Brenda Hardaway case | Affronted by Affronti: Hardaway Bail Increased, Unexpectedly and Without Explanation, to $25K | Video from the Forum on Police-Community Relations | Michele Cunningham: another victim of zealous, illegal policing and a broken justice system | discovery documents in Michele Cunningham case | Enough Is Enough! | Facebook page for Enough Is Enough | Benny Warr announces federal civil rights lawsuit against police & city | Rochester Police Officer Mario V. Masic: “I do what I wanna do. My name's Cowboy. This is my block.” | Sylvester Pritchett: Beat, Tased by RPD & Monroe County Probation Officers
We decided to pull together two One on One shows hosted by James Brown.
#1: Paris Hilton and the art of fake DJing #ROC
#2: A brief history of electronic music with #Roc based DJ and Producer rajmarathe
The City of Rochester Bureau of Planning and Zoning is in the process of updating Center City Master Plan. From the City’s website, “The intent is for this document to be a strategic plan [to] help the city measure and celebrate downtown progress, prioritize further research and analysis, prioritize projects, and help secure funding.”
A draft plan can be viewed online , and in a series of open houses the City is now gathering public input on that draft. The last open house is this Wednesday evening (details at the end of this story). [Ed.-This article is a little out of date, but still interesting.]
I had a chance to catch up with Jason Haremza, senior planner with the City of Rochester, to ask a few questions about the update…
ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: This draft Center City Master Plan is an update of the 2003 plan. What are the key improvements made over the previous plan?
HAREMZA: The 2003 plan is a good plan. There’s a lot of great content in it. We’ve found though, after using the plan for 10 years, that changing it into a more concise, easy-to-read, document could improve it.
Also, the updated plan is envisioned to be more of a strategic document. It will lay out broad principles and prioritize actions rather than be a detailed physical plan. For example, we know that Main Street will be changing with the buses shifting into the new RGRTA transit facility. We know we’ll have to do some detailed physical planning for the Main Street public realm and discuss issues such as number of lanes, where to have on street parking, how wide the sidewalks will be, what they will be paved with, streetlights, trees, benches, crosswalks, etc. That sort of detail is outside the scope of the Center City Master Plan update and so rather than try and come up with a quick hypothetical drawing that may or may not be feasible, the plan calls for a Main Street study that follows the broad principles included in the plan.
Other improvements have to do with technology. The plan will not only be a paper document but also a website. The city has also been working with Bergmann Associates on a computer simulation 3D model of downtown. This 3D model has some very exciting possibilities in terms of development review. It will help city staff, land use boards, developers, and the public by providing the ability to fly around and even walk down the street next to proposed but unbuilt developments and get a sense on how a new project will “feel.”
ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: How was the boundary of Center City determined?
HAREMZA: This question has led to some of the most interesting conversations throughout the update process so far. What is downtown? What is Center City? Is it the same thing? Not everyone defines downtown or Center City the same way. Should they? Or can there be different definitions for different purposes? Since the plan is still only a first draft, this discussion is very much ongoing. Please let us know how you define downtown and/or Center City.
For a working definition for the draft plan, and as a starting point for discussion, we chose the Center City Zoning District boundary. It is almost identical to the “Center City Core” area from the 2003 Plan.
I think what almost everyone agrees with is the need to not define downtown by the Inner Loop. For decades, that’s how many people and organizations defined downtown Rochester- everything within the Inner Loop. The 1990 downtown plan started to change that. The 2003 plan dramatically broke free of the Inner Loop. For the past decade at least, the real estate market has not defined downtown by the Inner Loop. And within a few years, once the Inner Loop Transformation Project replaces a section of highway with a city street, Rochester will no longer have a loop of expressways encircling downtown.
ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: Has anything dropped out of the list of priorities from 2003, and why?
HAREMZA: The 2003 plan had a list of 89 recommended projects. Over one third (36%) have been completed, partially completed, or are underway, so these have obviously dropped off the list of priorities. I think 36% is a great track record for a relatively short amount (10 years) of time in a midsized Great Lakes city.
A substantial number (42) of the remaining projects from 2003 have been brought into the updated plan in some way.
Some projects have dropped off the list because they are no longer relevant and no one has expressed an interest in pursuing them. The expansion/redevelopment of Schiller Park is an example. That’s not to say these projects may not come back with future revisions to the plan, or if the neighborhood situation changes but projects like this may not be among the highest priorities for the next 10 years.
We will be posting a chart comparing the 2003 projects with the proposed 2014 actions so folks can see the status of each one.
ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: How heavily did the public survey weigh in the final decision making process when drafting the new plan? Did any insights from the survey stand out? Give an example or two of how those insights manifest themselves in the plan.
HAREMZA: We gave a great deal of weight to the public survey. The one issue that clearly rose to the top in the survey responses was retail. People want retail downtown, specifically a grocery store. The city, Rochester Downtown Development Corporation (RDDC), and the development community has developed the basic components of a retail strategy. These retail strategy components are included in the updated master plan. Implementing them is the next step.
RDDC is working hard to create a Business Improvement District (BID). A BID has the real potential to transform how people experience downtown as well as implement some of the retail strategy, such as marketing. Other components of the retail strategy depend on property owners, the city, the county or state.
The survey also asked the public to help prioritize public projects and the top five were Midtown site, Main Street streetscape, Riverway Trail development, the Inner Loop Transformation, and completing the improvements to Martin Luther King Park (formerly Manhattan Square). Two of the five, Midtown site public improvement and Inner Loop Transformation, are already funded and underway. The other three will likely be the focus over the next few years.
ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: My “hot button” issue is mobility. And I’m not talking about convenient parking. How will this plan address how we move people into and around Center City?
HAREMZA: True mobility is about giving people choices. The plan makes a real effort to focus on mobility in ALL its forms. Mobility in a dense, urban environment like downtown Rochester should prioritize pedestrians, bicycles, and transit. Private automobiles will continue to be accommodated downtown in a manner appropriate to an urban center. But downtown, the city, and the region must begin to re-balance its auto-oriented transportation system to reduce our dependence on the private automobile to provide real mobility choice for people.
We believe this plan takes some steps in that direction. It states clearly that downtown is a very walkable place and identifies some of the remaining barriers to even better walkability (large surface parking lots, blank walls, vacant storefronts, perceptions of being unsafe, snow removal). It states that downtown is the most transit accessible place in the region and calls for continued dialog between the city and RGRTA. It recommends some innovations such as a downtown transit circulator, employer paid transit passes, and distance-based, employee home purchase assistance programs, similar to one at the U of R.
That being said, parking is one of the concerns we’ve heard about mobility. If you’re a property owner and potential tenants are telling you parking is a concern, than that’s a problem. The question is, how to address it? If we demolished even more of downtown for surface parking, we wouldn’t have much of a city left. Building and maintaining parking garages cost money. Undergound parking costs even more money. Should the city pay for these out of the general fund? Should we utilize tools like tax increment financing (TIF) districts? A realistic strategy will likely include some additional parking, some increased transit use, some more walking…in short a little bit of everything.
ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: How will this plan be used to effect real results over the next “x” number of years?
HAREMZA: The plan lays out the actions. The plan cross references and reinforces other planning efforts. The plan can help create interest, build momentum, leverage funding, reinforce citizen advocacy, and measure progress. We hope the plan inspires. But no plan can make things happen. That’s up to the people of Rochester.
Some actions are relatively cheap and easy. Some actions are more expensive and complicated. Many actions require funding or action by various levels of government or the private sector. The plan in and of itself cannot make any of these entities do anything. But it can help guide decision making processes.
If, in 10 years, we can look back and say we’ve accomplished 36% of the items in this plan, I think we should be very happy.
ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: What are the next steps, and how can the public get involved?
HAREMZA: The first draft has just been released. It is a rough draft. There are errors and omissions. We wanted to bring it to the public in that draft form so that it is clearly a working document. If we presented a polished document that looked complete or nearly complete, people might feel like it’s already done. We want feedback. Did we get it right? Did we miss something? Are the maps helpful? Do they tell the story of downtown? What other maps would you like to see? What other images would you like to see?
Check the website www.CityofRochester.gov/CenterCity for updates. Follow @CityRochesterNY on Twitter to get updates. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Come to the public open house on December 11 at Martin Luther King Park Lodge.
I’m as available as much as possible for the next couple of months to talk to any group that wants to hear more about the plan. I love Rochester, I love downtown, and this process has made clear that lots and lots of other people do too.
ROCHESTERSUBWAY.COM: Thanks Jason.
HAREMZA: Thank you.
We were in greater danger from nuclear weapons than we thought during the Cold War era, and that danger still exists.
That is what I learned from reading COMMAND AND CONTROL: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schosser, a history of nuclear weapons technology from World War Two to the present.
The danger was not so much that the USA or USSR would intentionally start a nuclear war. Deterrence did work. The danger was an accidentak discharge or launch of a nuclear missile. As Eric Schlosser documented, this nearly happened literally hundreds of times. Evidently nobody knows the actual number because the U.S. government doesn’t keep a list.
Even Robert Peurifoy of Sandia Laboratories, the leading advocate of safer nuclear technology within the government, didn’t know of all of them.
The book has two narrative threads. One is the evolution of nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy from FDR to Reagan, the technical and engineering difficulties, and a relentless piling up of reports of bomber crashes, accident bomb drops, computer system failures around nuclear weapons and weapons being lost or left unguarded. We’ve been on the brink of nuclear war and nuclear disaster many more times than we know.
The other thread is an hour-by-hour report on a near-disaster a Titan missile complex near Damascus, Arkansas, in 1980. I had not thought of missile crews as brave in the sense that fighter and bomber pilots are brave, but the missile crews deal with dangerous and not completely predictable forces.
The accident began when an enlisted man, performing routine maintenance near the top of the missile, accidentally dropped a socket, which punctured the oxidizer tank of the lower stage. Both the oxidizer and the fuel are toxic as well as highly flammable and explosive. If the air pressure in the oxidizer tank were to fall below a certain level, the tank would collapse and the rocket fuel would explode. The rocket carried a nuclear bomb with the explosive power of all the bombs dropped during World War Two, including the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The following few hours were a story of bureaucratic paralysis and individual heroism as a fire broke out in the complex and the rockets eventually exploded despite everything the crew could do. It was only by good fortune the nuclear warhead was not detonated.
The U.S. nuclear arsenal, both as a whole and in its individual parts, is an example of what the writer Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls a fragile system. The failure of any of its parts would have led to the cascading failure of the whole system.
Nuclear strategy for 40 years was based on the “Single Integrated Operational Plan,” which was an all-out attack which would have taken the lives of an estimated 200 million people in Russia, China and eastern Europe. Some U.S. military leaders actually contemplated launching such an attack which would have taken the lives of more people than were killed by Hitler, Stalin and Mao combined; presumably the Soviets had a similar plan.
The U.S. had no plan for what to do after the attack. Planning ended with the nuclear holocaust
Robert McNamara, Henry Kissinger and others sought alternatives. Their efforts were unsuccessful for, in my opinion, good reason. If the leaders of a nation are going to use nuclear weapons at all against an enemy which also has nuclear arms, it is too late to hold back.
Schlosser gives great credit to General Curtis LeMay, who commanded the Strategic Air Command from 1948 to 1957 and higher Air Force positions through 1965, for his strict insistence on proper procedures and checklists and tough unannounced inspections. It was said of LeMay that he did not distinguish between the unfortunate and the incompetent, and that to err is human, but to forgive is not SAC policy. This tough attitude saved many lives, Schlosser said.
The situation is different now. In 2003, Schlosser reported, half of the Air Force units responsible for nuclear weapons failed their safety inspections, despite three-day advance warnings.
Schlosser pointed out that the United States has never had an unauthorized detonation of a nuclear weapon—a remarkable achievement. But each day that nuclear weapons exist is a gamble that a detonation won’t take place. Meanwhile nuclear weapons proliferate. India, as Schlosser noted, has double the industrial accident rate of the United States, and Pakistan has three times the rate. How long until one of those weapons goes off? And then what?
If We Don’t Slash Our Nukes, “a Major City is Going to Be Destroyed,” an interview of Eric Schlosser by Michael Mechanic of Mother Jones.
A Sneak Peak at Eric Schlosser’s Terrifying New Book on Nuclear Weapons, an excerpt printed in Mother Jones.
America’s biggest threat is its own N-weapons, an earlier post of mine.
The day we nearly bombed North Carolina, another earlier post of mine.
Eric Schlosser’s Command and Control, a review by Louis Menand in The New Yorker.
Hat tip to Jack Clontz for calling Schlosser’s book to my attention.
original article: http://queerfamilymatters.com/2013/11/13/a-kid-who-looks-like-me/
This post is by K.
I’m adopted. I was born in South Korea and abandoned as a baby. On my official adoption paperwork, they wrote that I was a “foundling,” which means I was neither abandoned by family or taken from my family. I was left somewhere and luckily, found by someone who took me to an orphanage. It’s kind of interesting to be a “foundling,” but I’ll save the birth story thing for another post.
On June 15, 1984, I arrived via plane and was placed in my parents’ waiting arms. I was 17 months old with a thick head of hair pulled up into a topknot. My parents took me home to a small town in Western New York that was predominantly agricultural and rural. My parents were not farmers. They were public school teachers. They just wanted a country house, both hailing from a city.
When I was 4, we adopted my younger sister. She is also South Korean. She was 13 months when she arrived, so she is 3 years younger than me. Growing up, we were pretty much the only Asian kids in our neighborhood and at our school. My mom is a blond Swedish-German woman. My dad is 100% Italian. They are both 2nd generation Americans. My sister and I are technically immigrants. I have always felt very much like an American, whatever that means.
There’s the saying, “blood is thicker than water,” and I agree with the sentiment. I have uttered it myself before. Of course, our family is not drawn from blood. But my family is important to me. We are a family, a close family, with all the things that come with family–both awesome and challenging. Love is unconditional in my family and I’m lucky to have two parents who very much wanted to have me–so much that they spent tons of moolah and went though lots of paperwork and stress and a home study in order to hold me in their arms. I value my family so much, even though none of us are blood related.
I have never felt that my family was any less because my sister and I are adopted. It was always and continues to be hurtful when well-meaning people ask if I know my “real parents.” My response is always that my real parents are my parents, my mom and dad, the parents who adopted and raised me, fed and sheltered me, clothed and spoiled me, angered and challenged me, loved me unconditionally. And no, I don’t know my biological relatives, nor do I plan to.
When I was little, I was very curious. It can be confusing to be the only Asian kid. I wasn’t deeply damaged by it, but I did have lots of questions. That’s just the kind of person I am. I have lots of questions. I would read books about Asian culture–Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. I asked my parents about finding my birth parents, not because I wanted to find my “real parents,” but because I was curious about what they looked like, if I looked like them, why they gave me away.
As I grew up, I liked to think that I looked kind of white–more white than my sister or than other Asian people. People of color, especially little kids, often desire to be white. Yes, that’s kind of messed up, but the reality is that it is better to be a little blue-eyed white girl than a little yellow girl or a little black or brown girl. You are accepted and you are beautiful when you’re a little white girl. Plus, when I was really little, kids sometimes made fun of me. In middle and high school, people didn’t openly taunt me, but they sometimes called me “that Chinese girl” and things like that. I spent a lot of my teenage years thinking I was undesirable because I wasn’t white. I also had body image issues and all that stuff that comes with being female assigned at birth and socialized female, but I blamed my inability to get a boyfriend mainly on the shape of my eyes and the fact that I looked different. When I looked in the mirror, I convinced myself I looked “a little white”. I asked my friends if I looked more white than other Asians. They said I just looked like me. I still have this white-washed image of myself in my head, even though I know it isn’t true. I don’t want it to be true anymore, but it’s a hard thing to unlearn when you’ve convinced your brain of it for a long time.
All that said, being physically different made me stronger. I was always a loud mouth and I generally stood up for myself. I especially stood up for others that I saw being teased or harassed. My parents say that I was “always trying to fix the bad kids.” I would try to keep them out of trouble and help them at school and such. I was a smarty-pants and a student leader. I had friends at the smart kids’ table and the weird kids’ table at lunch. I did a lot of extracurricular stuff. I think I had to self-identify early on in life, which made it easier for me to self-identify later in life, as queer and as a feminist and an activist. I built empathy for others from an early age. I was lucky to have an amazing support system in my family. They were always there for me, but they also didn’t let me feel sorry for myself. I give them all the credit for helping me become a strong and self-reliant adult.
I didn’t identify as Asian or Korean for most of my life. I’d joke that I was a Twinkie, yellow on the outside, white on the inside. In college, I tried joining the Asian Student Association, but it didn’t really work out. I ended up hanging with the one white girl in the club and generally felt out of place. Everyone was kind to me, but I didn’t really get the cultural stuff and I kind of felt like I was just too much–too loud, too fat, too radical–so I left the club after one semester. I got involved in feminist activism and social justice and queer rights and put my ethnic identity on a shelf. It wasn’t until my mid-20′s that I strongly started identifying as Korean-American.
Here’s how it happened. I started meeting more Asian-American people who were in my field–organizers, activists, nonprofit leaders, young professionals, feminists, and queer folks. I realized that my confused identity was not all the much different from many other Asian-Americans who are 1st or 2nd generation. I met more adoptees and found we had almost identical feeling in regards to self-identification with the dominant white culture over our Asian heritage. I realized that my Asian experience is an Asian experience, just one of an adoptee. It doesn’t make me any less Asian-American and there are many of us out there with unique, but similar stories.
It is with all this in mind that I wanted to adopt from South Korea. We can’t. Just. Legally, we can’t. It made me sad, not being able to adopt from Korea. I know that I could relate to an adopted kid in a special way and I’m so grateful of being adopted into a loving family. I wanted to provide that love for another abandoned kid.
When we realized, through much discussion and very personal revelations about ourselves, that having me carry a pregnancy would be the best option, something shifted for me. I have never dreamed of having kids. I’ve never dreamed of being pregnant. I’d never thought about what it would mean to carry a child with my DNA. Assuming I can get knocked up and have a kid (fingers crossed), that kid will be the first and only person I know who shares my blood, my genetics. I think about it and it kind of blows my mind. I would love my kid equally, whether adopted or conceived, but I am kind of dumbstruck at this idea that I will have the opportunity to look at another face and see parts of my face. In fact, since I was 17 months old when I came to the U.S., I have no idea what I looked like as a baby. Suddenly, having a Korean kid became something I really wanted. W doesn’t care if the kid looks like him or not. We have talked about seeking out a Korean sperm donor.
I never thought I would have any interest in what my kid looks like, if I ever had a kid. In fact, I have to admit that I never understood why more people don’t adopt. I thought it was a little selfish to want a kid who looks like you. More than once someone has talked to me about wanting a kid who looks like them, not knowing I’m adopted, and it stings a little. I know it’s not about me, but they are kind of saying, “Adopted kids are the 2nd option. We are less than perfect. We are not really as good as biological kids. Why would you want a kid who is not really yours?”
So it feels so strange to want a Korean baby and to want one who looks like me. It’s going to be a weird and wonderful moment, I think, to look at a kid and see myself in them. If you’re not adopted, it is probably hard to imagine spending your whole life being the only one who looks like you. It is probably hard to imagine not knowing where you were born or what you looked like as a little baby. But this is my normal. I wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s normal. I wouldn’t trade my family for anyone else’s family. I just can’t fathom anything different and it freaks me out a little. In a good way.
In queer communities, we know a lot about creating the families we want and the families we need. Our families are often not blood related and frequently are not recognized by law. Many of us have our real parents and our queer parents–the ones who helped us our while we were coming out, or struggling with our identities. I am excited to create a little queer family with W. More excited than I ever thought I could be about having kids. I love that W doesn’t care if he looks like or is perceived as the father of our kid. He knows that he will be that kid’s father as much as I know my parents are my parents. I am freaked out that I am going to meet a person who looks like me and I am kind of in a state of constant awe about the thought of it.
On January 12, 2014, I gave a talk at the Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, NY, about “Islamophobia: the New Racism.”
Since I am a filmmaker, I like to add an audio-visual dimension to everything I do, so I started with a Ted Talk by Melissa Boigon and then proceeded to focus on certain aspects of Islamophobia and explore how they fit the definition of racism.
Melissa’s 10-minute talk is a great way to break the ice and get into the meaning and nature of Islamophobia:
It’s important to remember that barely three decades ago, Islam had been a marginal concern located on the edge of western consciousness. In fact during the cold war, the militant, conservative "Mujahideen" in Afghanistan, who had been fighting the evil Soviets with America’s help, were welcomed warmly by President Reagan. He called them “the moral equivalent of our founding fathers.” In order to jog our collective memory, please listen carefully to this dedication:
This was the 1980s, before we decided to invade and occupy Afghanistan ourselves.
Although Western imperialism and the knowledge it produced over centuries of colonialism were always suffused with Orientalist constructions of the “other,” the present preoccupation with Islam began with 9/11. All of a sudden “Islam” became a globalised issue, shaped by countless images and sound bites transmitted relentlessly and indiscriminately by Western media.
The Muslim world became a silent object that does not speak, but is spoken for, an anonymous background against which stands the reporter dispatched from the metropolis.
It was this frustration at being constantly talked about while being willfully shut out of that discourse which motivated me to make a documentary called “The Muslims I Know” in 2008. The idea was to give actual Muslims a chance to be a part of the ongoing conversation about them.
The creation of images and messages by Western media is not an objective or random process. It’s an intentional, fairly involved process of applying editorially distorting filters to news reporting. Nowhere is this reductionism and distortion more evident than in reports of conflicts in the Middle East.
Viewers are given a few minutes during which they watch and hear descriptions of wreckage, smoke, burnt cars, scorched bodies, severed limbs, blood, and wailing widows. With no attempt to explain the underlying causes and histories of the crises in question, the reports merely compound existing misunderstanding. The confusion is such that roles are often reversed, with the victim mistaken for the oppressor.
For a better understanding of reporting on the Middle East, I strongly recommend a documentary that you can watch on YouTube or Vimeo. It’s called “Peace, Propaganda & The Promised Land” and it provides a striking comparison of American and international media coverage of Israel/Palestine.
Also, we have to be aware of the nature of media. The media industry is unequivocally corporate, narrow and tightly controlled in the United States. Do you know how many companies own 90% of American media? A whopping 6. They include: Time Warner, GE, News-Corp, Disney, Viacom and CBS. Six business corporations, which also happen to sell us entertainment, ovens and light bulbs, produce 90% of our news. It’s truly stunning.
The presence of Muslim minorities inside western countries has created another level of hysteria. Fears of an existential Muslim threat overlap with fears of immigrants and aliens. Some of these fears, and the language in which they’re expressed, are reminiscent of anti-Semitism in Europe prior to WWII. Of course I’m not talking about the Holocaust, nothing like that has happened to Muslims in the West, so far. But anti-Semitism also manifests itself below the level of ethnic cleansing and genocide, it manifests itself through damaging stereotypes and how they mold mainstream culture.
Just like Muslims today, Jews were always perceived as the “other” within. They were accused of separating themselves from the mainstream on account of religion and culture. They were accused of harboring hostile feelings against the majority: they didn’t want to integrate and they were not loyal to the state. In short, they were “corrupting” wholesome European culture. The exact same accusations are leveled at Muslims, who are often portrayed as being incompatible with Western modernity. The fear of Sharia law is kept hanging over our heads, as if it were an actual danger. First of all, do you know what percentage of the American population is actually Muslim? It’s 1.6%, so there’s hardly any fear of the country being overtaken by Islam. Secondly, the very idea of a Sharia “threat” is a deception.
The ACLU has published a detailed report on the subject. Here is a brief description of the report’s findings from the ACLU’s website:
A new report by the ACLU, Nothing to Fear: Debunking the Mythical "Sharia Threat" to Our Judicial System, examines, in detail, the cases repeatedly cited by anti-Muslim groups as evidence of the alleged "Sharia threat" to our judicial system. The report concludes that these cases do not stand for the principles that anti-Muslim groups claim. Rather, these court cases deal with routine matters, such as religious freedom claims and contractual disputes. Courts treat these lawsuits in the same way that they deal with similar claims brought by people of other faiths. If Sharia law were completely banned from consideration, it would be nearly impossible for Muslims to bring First Amendment claims when their religious rights are violated because the court could be barred from referring to a Muslim plaintiff's religious beliefs. This result would be patently unfair because it would single out Muslims for disfavorable treatment in our judicial system and render them second-class citizens.
It is good to remember that the invocation of an “occidental” or opposite identity is often needed to stabilize national identity, especially in times of uncertainty. Over and over again in history, we see how socio-economic and political malaise is accompanied by the resurfacing of the “us vs. them” narrative.
The Runnymede Trust has identified eight components that define Islamophobia. This definition, from the 1996 report “Islamophobia: A Challenge For Us All” is widely accepted, including by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.
The eight components are:
1) Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc. Do you know how many countries are included in what we simplistically call “the Muslim world”? There are 57 countries in the vast geographic and diverse cultural expanse known as the Muslim world.
2) Islam is seen as separate and “other”.
3) Islam is seen as inferior to the West.
4) Islam is seen as violent, aggressive.
5) Islam is seen as a political ideology, not a world religion.
6) Criticisms made of the West by Muslims are rejected out of hand.
7) Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and the exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
8) Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural or normal.
Whenever the media indulge in any of these assumptions, they are in fact indulging in islamophobia. It has become a new form of racism because although Muslims are considered to be a religious group, not a race, they are nevertheless constructed as an ethnic category or a race.
Many argue that the term “Islamophobia” does not adequately express the full range and depth of antipathy towards Islam and Muslims in the West today. It is an inadequate term and a more accurate expression would be “anti-Islamic racism” for it combines the elements of dislike of a religion with active discrimination against the people belonging to that religion.
The same kind of racial coding markers are at work here as those that apply to people of another race – these markers are eminently visible and impossible to miss. They work just as well for Muslims, who are often differentiated in America by clothing or skin color. “Muslim” is always conflated with “Arab” or even with “Sikh.” There have been horrific attacks on Sikh temples and the Sikh community at large because Sikhs are perceived as being Muslim, not on account of their religion but due to racial markers.
The Ted Talk I started with, opens with a news report in which a woman pushed someone in front of a train in New York because she “hated Muslims and Hindus since 9/11.” Again, that’s hardly a religious or political articulation of hate. It’s clearly racist. Muslims and Hindus have completely different religions and could be from completely different parts of the world, but they’re being lumped together on account of how they look, they are being identified as the “other,” a monolithic category that can provoke discrimination and violence.
This is why during the 1990s many sociologists and cultural analysts observed a shift in forms of prejudice, from being based on skin color to being based on notions of cultural incompatibility and otherness. It’s what they call racism without race.
 Soumaya Ghannoushi, The propagation of neo-Orientalism, Al Jazeera, January 27, 2011.
 Mara Ahmed, The Muslims I Know, Neelum Films LLC, 2008.
 The propagation of neo-Orientalism
 Anthony Gucciardi, Graphic: How Just 6 Corps Own 90% of the Media, www.StoryLeak.com, July 31, 2013
 Yasemin Shooman, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism in Europe, The Jewish Museum Berlin Journal, 2012.
 Heather L. Weaver, Debunking the Mythical "Sharia Threat" to Our Judicial System, www.ACLU.org, May 17, 2011.
 Islamophobia: A Challenge For Us All, www.runnymedetrust.org, 1996.
 Al-Maktabi, Islamophobia, www.salaam.co.uk.
 Donovan Schaefer, Is Islamophobia Racism?, Religion Bulletin, June 19, 2012.
 Islamophobia, Wikipedia.
Reza Aslan, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, Random House (March 15, 2005)
Reza Aslan, Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East (Words Without Borders), W. W. Norton & Company, Reprint edition (November 21, 2011)
Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror, Harmony (June 21, 2005)
Stephen Sheehi, Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims, Clarity Press (February 1, 2011)
Deepa Kumar, Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire, Haymarket Books (August 7, 2012)
Edward Said, Orientalism, Vintage; 1st Vintage Books edition (October 12, 1979)
Max Blumenthal, The Great Islamophobic (an investigation of the Islamophobia industry), CBS News, December 19, 2010.
Faiz Shakir, $42 Million From Seven Foundations Helped Fuel The Rise Of Islamophobia In America, thinkprogress.org, August 26, 2011.
Usman Ahmedani, Islamophobia as a political ploy (The fixation with diagnosing Islam's ills may mask deeper anxieties about upheavals in European and American societies), The Guardian, March 29, 2012.
Max Blumenthal, Anders Behring Breivik, a perfect product of the Axis of Islamophobia, mondoweiss.net, July 24, 2011.
NGOs call for recognition of Islamophobia as form of racism: Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March, the European Network Against Racism called the European Union institutions to recognize Islamophobia as a specific form of racism.
Muslim Americans: No signs of growth in alienation or support for extremism (Pew Center) - A Demographic Portrait of Muslim Americans
FBI: Bias Crimes Against Muslims Remain at High Levels (Southern Poverty Law Center): Hate crimes against perceived Muslims, which jumped 50% in 2010 largely as a result of anti-Muslim propagandizing, remained at relatively high levels for a second year in 2011, according to the FBI’s new national hate crime statistics.
Mychal Denzel Smith, Three Ways to Fight Racism in 2014, The Nation, January 3, 2014.
Radical environmentalist Peg Millett, who served time in federal prison for defending the Earth, spoke at the Flying Squirrel Community Space in Rochester NY on January 23 2014. Introduction was by Buffalo Burning Books author Leslie James Pickering who wrote The Evan Mecham Eco-Terrorist International Conspiracy.
There are 4 parts to the video. Scroll down and click "read more"
part 1 of 4
part 2 of 4
part 3 of 4
part 4 of 4
On Friday, January 17, 2014, Brenda Hardaway, between five and seven days past her due date, stood before state Supreme Court Justice Francis A. Affronti and plead guilty to felony second degree assault with the understanding that she would get a reduced sentence of six months in jail and five years of probation.
The Friday appearance was meant to be a Huntley hearing before the start of a trial on February 10, until Assistant District Attorney Brian Green said that he had spoken to several parties—his boss—District Attorney Sandra Doorley, the injured officer, Justice Affronti, and the defendant's attorney Eric Teifke—and felt that “a resolution in this matter is appropriate.”
Ms. Hardaway's case went viral on YouTube, when a video surfaced on August 27, 2013. The video showed an RPD officer—Lucas Krull—attempting to arrest her after it was alleged that she interfered with the arrest of her younger brother (a minor) Romengeno Hardaway. The video starts with her screaming that she's pregnant; officer Krull is behind her attempting to handcuff her. Eventually, she is thrown into a railing, punched in the back of the head multiple times, dropped to the ground belly first, and then kneed by the officer. While she is being attacked, her brother can be seen in the background with three or four officers attempting to subdue him. At one point during this attack, Romengeno expressed at a later date, the side of his head was smashed against a railing with an exposed nail causing the nail to be driven into the side of his temple. The video ends with Brenda and Romengeno being lead away in handcuffs with family members and friends protesting to more than 10 police officers. What began as a domestic dispute between family members escalated into a full-scale RPD brawl against the Hardaways.
Part of the plea deal involves Ms. Hardaway explaining and acknowledging her actions on the day in question.
After Justice Affronti checked in with Ms. Hardaway about her first, late pregnancy, the judge acknowledged that ADA Green's statements in favor of a resolution were accurate. He said that he had had conversations with the different parties on December 17, 2013. He then posed a question to ADA Green:
“I'm also asking, at this time, about the police officer. What is his medical status?” Earlier in the proceeding, the judge identified the officer as “the victim in this case.”
ADA Green replied, “He's on light duty right now—he has a shoulder injury and is scheduled for exploratory surgery because it has not healed right.”
Justice Affronti acknowledged the statement and moved on. “The court is deciding whether it is legally and procedurally appropriate to allow this resolution.”
Mr. Teifke reminded the judge that aside from the incident on August 27, Ms. Hardaway has no prior criminal record and that she has had no interactions with law enforcement since.
The judge agreed with Mr. Teifke's comments and then proceeded to ask Ms. Hardaway questions about her age and schooling; if she knew about the hearing today; that her case could go to trial before 12 people that would decide the outcome and where she would not be obligated to testify, offer evidence, or call witnesses. She acknowledged all of the questions asked of her. He asked if she was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. She responded in the negative.
“If you tell me today that you are guilty of assault in the second degree then you won't have a trial,” the judge said. “Do you understand that?”
“Yes,” Ms. Hardaway said.
The judge acknowledged that she was “clear minded” and able to enter into a plea deal.
“Do you know what your sentence will be?” the judge asked.
“Yes. Six months in Monroe County and five years probation,” she responded.
“What happened on August 27, 2013 Ms. Hardaway? What did you do? I want you to be as specific as possible,” the judge said.
“The officers were trying to arrest my little brother and i got involved with the arrest and I had pepper spray on me. I tried to stop the arrest,” she started.
“Wait a minute,” said Justice Affronit, “Where did it happen?”
“It happened at 384 Selye Terrace.”
“And where did it happen? Was it inside that address? Outside?”
“Outside in the front yard.”
“What is your brother's name?”
“Go on Ms. Hardaway.”
“I was trying to get them off my brother. I was trying to break them up. I didn't do anything with the pepper spray—we were grabbing and pulling at each other as I tried to break up the fight.”
“Did you hit or strike one of the officers, Ms. Hardaway?”
“I did not strike a police officer,” she said.
She continued, “As I tried to break the fight up I was pulled away from them and I fell to the ground. When I got up, then they arrested me. When the two of us fell to the ground, that's when the shoulder injury happened to the officer. I was pushing away from him—I never hit him. Could I show you?” she asked.
“Assault in the second degree requires that we know what if any part of your body came in contact with the officer causing injury,” said the judge. “This needs to be on the record, so you cannot show me.”
“I was telling him that I was five months pregnant and I was trying to get away from him.”
Mr. Teifke interjected here, “When her arms were pulled behind her back, she complained about the pain and then proceeded to try to bring her arms forward when the pain did not cease. At that point, they were moving forward together and fell to the ground. That's when the injury to the officer occurred. Assault in the second degree requires only that an officer was injured without any indication of her intent to injure. We do not dispute the injuries.”
The judge accepted this.
ADA Green then asked Ms. Hardaway, “how do you plead to assault in the second degree?”
“Guilty,” she said.
Her plea was entered into the record.
“This matter will be adjourned until her sentencing which will be on March 18, 2014, at 9:30AM,” said the judge.
Justice Affronti then looked at Ms. Hardaway and said, “Between now and March 18, you are to have contact with the Monroe County probation office. You must make all your appointments with them so that I can have their report on March 18. Between now and then you are not to be arrested for any violation of the law. If you don't keep your appointments or have involvement with the police, I can't keep my promise regarding your sentence.”
Court was adjourned.
After court I asked Mr. Teifke about the plea deal.
“It's a deal she can live with. Going to trial always has risks and in this case, all the prosecution has to prove to get a conviction for assault in the second degree, is that the officer was injured during the arrest.”
He told me that the statue is “extremely police friendly” and joked that it seems like every year a new type of civil servant is added to the list of the protected. Reading the statute, you get a sense of that: sanitation workers, first responders, police officers, and everyone in between is protected by this law. He also told me that the maximum sentence is seven years in jail.
“You could be running from the police, two blocks ahead of them, and one of the cops chasing you trips and wrecks his elbow. Once arrested, you can be charged with assault in the second degree because that's the way the statue is written,” said Mr. Teifke. “There doesn't have to be intent to injure—just that an injury has occurred.”
The plea deal says six months of jail and five years of probation. Mr. Teifke thinks that she will be out in two months because of time served and good behavior. There was no misdemeanor offered by the DA, so his client went with the next best thing—pleading to a felony conviction with minimal time in jail. Part of that decision was influenced by her impending delivery.
Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness makes the argument that “mass incarceration in the United States has, in fact, emerged as a comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.” Under this “well-disguised system” people are forced to make impossible choices that may lessen their bodily punishment now (shortened jail sentences), but in the end, creates a life-time of punishment (a felony conviction) where there is no way to atone for one's transgressions.
Eric Teifke, a lawyer with the Monroe County Public Defender Office and Ms. Hardaway's lawyer, told me that a trial was risky and that this was a deal that Ms. Hardaway could live with. It seems to me that this is an impossible choice: have your child and then go to jail for two months with a felony conviction, or take your case to trial where your chances of being found not guilty are slim compounded by a heavy amount of anxiety that is neither good for you nor your newborn. On top of that, if you are in fact found guilty, be prepared to be sentenced to a potential seven years in jail with a felony conviction.
The way Justice Affronti talks about police being victims in this case makes me think he would not have much compassion for Ms. Hardaway.
Neither choice is appealing when police go crazy by storming the front lawn of the Hardaways' home, escalating instead of de-escalating a verbal dispute, and then arresting a minor after smashing his head into a post driving a nail into his temple and then punching and dropping a pregnant woman to the ground. This kind of insanity would never fly in the suburbs of Rochester, NY so why is it allowed to flourish in the city? (It's a rhetorical question; one doesn't have to look far beyond race and class.)
The life-time punishment of being convicted of a felony is listed in Alexander's book as well as the article published in The American Prospect:
...we use our criminal-justice system to associate criminality with people of color and then engage in the prejudiced practices we supposedly left behind. Today, it is legal to discriminate against ex-offenders in ways it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you're labeled a felon, depending on the state you're in, the old forms of discrimination -- employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, and exclusion from jury service -- are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights and arguably less respect than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.
She calls the system colorblind because instead of it being an explicitly racially discriminatory system, it is predicated on one's criminal status—and it doesn't just happen to be a coincidence that people most targeted by law enforcement are people of color. (Thanks, War on Drugs!)
The lack of confidence in the public defender's office by many people of color I've spoken to is of high concern. A lot of folks think the judges, district attorneys, and public defenders collude to get those charged with crimes—though innocent until proven guilty—convictions and jail time. This does not bode well for an office that is supposed to fight and advocate for their court-appointed clients. I've also had conversations with lawyers who think that part of the problem stems from the county's lack of funding and staffing for both offices. In the end though, it is the people who have to make the impossible choices, not their lawyers. This has to end.
Romengeno Hardaway, also arrested on August 27 and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, has court before Judge Thomas Rainbow Morse on January 27, at 9:30AM.
Brenda Hardaway's sentencing is March 18 at 9:30AM before Justice Affronti.
Enough is enough.
Rochester Indymedia coverage: United Christian Leadership Ministry make demands in the Brenda Hardaway case | Affronted by Affronti: Hardaway Bail Increased, Unexpectedly and Without Explanation, to $25K | Video from the Forum on Police-Community Relations