Monday, August 18, 2014



Today is Theoretical Monday at Scission.  I can't say that I feel much like being theoretical.  On the other side of the state from me is Ferguson....about 250 miles to my east.  Here I sit, a 65 year old white guy, with decades of "experience" under my belt not really sure what the hell to do...It reminds me of another time when I didn't know what to do.  Last night as I watched along with the world a police state in action I wrote, 

Tonight has flashed me back to April of 1968. I was at KU and living in Lawrence, Kansas, forty miles west of KC at the time. Following the death of MLK, police in KC fired tear gas and the like at a march of peaceful hight school students, and into a church where they had retreated. By nightfall, the uprising had begun. I rushed into KC that night, but as a 18 year old white person, still a rookie to the movement (which I had been relating to for a while) I had no idea what to do when I got there. Felt lost, listening to reports of gun battles on the streets of KC. I grew up about that time...and here I am tonight 250 miles from Ferguson...

During the past week a couple of other events from my own personal past have come to which while personal to me, are as "American as apple pie."

In April of 1970 racial tensions which long existed in the Kansas college town of Lawrence simmered over, as they say.  

A few years back, I received a phone call from a young KU student who was trying to write a story about what happened decades before in a Lawrence that seemed so strange to her.  I actually talked to her, unusual for me as my policy is to never talk to the press.  However, she seemed genuine.  She seemed to really want to know what happenedthen, how, and why.  She later wrote in an article in the University Daily Kansan:

 Racial tensions added to the already explosive Lawrence atmosphere. Two days after the (student) strike, John Spearman of the Black Student Union encouraged all black students to arm themselves, saying they weren't safe and were receiving threats on their lives.

Racial conflict sparked at Lawrence High School (LHS) that spring when its Black Student Union demanded a black homecoming queen and black cheerleaders in addition to the current ones. When the principal didn't meet demands, students locked themselves into the school's main office. Then fighting broke out over the next few days. One day 28 people were injured. Another day police threatened to use tear gas to disperse more than 100 students, some armed with tire irons, trying to enter the school.

As the situation escalated, the students demanded that the school hire black teachers and a black counselor as well as meet their previous demands. Police used tear gas later when black students and residents broke windows at the high school.

I was there.  I remember rushing over to LHS in solidarity with the black  students there. The cops, we called pigs, looked like pigs.  I honestly do not remember any broken windows, though I wouldn't be surprised if there were.  I do remember the cops and I most definitely remember the tear gas.

KU History reports on the same events this way:

In the days preceding the Union fire (Note: on April 20 a multi million dollar fire gutted the building), several incidents occurred which contributed to local tensions. According to the Lawrence Journal-World, for example, on April 10, John Spearman, chairman of the Black Student Union, urged all KU African-American students to arm themselves. Citing “attempted and threatened” violence aimed at BSU members, Spearman claimed his organization was taking simply responsibility for “protecting Blacks on campus.” Then, on Saturday, April 11, the Kappa Sigma Fraternity house was set on fire and sustained over $200,000 worth of damage. Four days later, Gambles Furniture Store in downtown Lawrence was also firebombed and destroyed as the flames burned out of control for nearly two hours.

And on the evening of April 20, just several hours before the Union building firebombing, a crowd of approximately 200 African Americans stormed out of a school board meeting when their demands for an expanded Black Studies curriculum and more representation in student activities were tabled. Within 10 minutes, at approximately 9:13 pm, the first calls into the Lawrence Police and Fire Departments reported acts of vandalism and fires at Lawrence High School. Reports cited evidence of Molotov Cocktails and gunshots. Several windows were broken and some fire damage was discovered. Responding fire fighters reported hearing gunshots while they worked to put out the fires at the high school.

I might add, that KU History does not report on the long history of white supremacy, of racial discrimination, of police harassment of blacks, of segregation, and of the equaly long history of resistance to all of this which was also a part of the history of Lawrence.  None of this just fell from the sky one day in April of 1970. 

Anyway, in the course of the next few days, there were fires downtown and on the KU campus, there were gunshots and resistance in the Black community. In my own neighborhood, predominately white, long haired, radicals, students, non students (as they were called) erupted in support of the folks across town.  A curfew was declared, the police arrived and we met them in the streets with rocks, bottles, whatever.  The cops were overwhelmed. The National Guard was called in, there were more fires, more snipers, bombs, lots of arrests (I got arrested twice in two days).  Others forms of material support, including the movement of arms from white radicals to blacks occurred as well. ...Amazingly no one died over the course of that week.

JULY, 1970
In July of the same year, writes that same young women quoted above, "Black activists gathered at the Afro House, a place they could feel welcome and escape racism they found in Lawrence and in the police. On the night of July 16, police were called to the house after someone heard gunshots."

Lawrence cops spotted a young black man leaving Afro House on Lawrence's east side.  They took chase for some reason.  Moments later 19 year old Rick "Tiger" Dowdell, a member of the Black Student Union and one son of a well known and respected local black family was dead.  He'd been shot in the back of the head by a police officer.  

The official story sounded like this:

Rick Dowdell, 19, of 918 W. 24th, was killed, according to policemen, when he fired at a patrolman while fleeing down the alley between New Hampshire and Rhode Island south of Ninth Street.

That was a lie and everyone knew it. 

KU History puts what happened next like this:

The next day, about 60 black citizens presented a petition with 75 signatures to City Manager Buford Watson demanding the suspension of Garrett (Note: the cop who shot Dowdell) and a “thorough and objective investigation” into the death of Rick Dowdell. That night, in the vicinity of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania streets along 10th Street, Lawrence police responded to a report of “four to five Negroes” shooting out streetlights and sniping at passing motorists.


But when the police arrived, they found themselves in a pitched gun battle with 45 armed African-Americans near the corner of 10th and Pennsylvania. Officer Eugene Williams, 48, was shot in the chest with buckshot and hospitalized.

Violence also erupted at the “Hippie Haven” neighborhood near 12th and Oread. Trash fires burned in the streets, and firebombs were tossed into a building known as the “White House” at 1225 Oread. Police accompanied firemen into the neighborhood and were pelted with rocks and bricks. About 75 youths marched to KU Chancellor E. Laurence Chalmers’ residence. When no one came to the door, someone threw an object through a window...

Over the next few days, again there were bombings, fires, snipers, rocks and bottles.  On July 20, the cops showed up once again in our neighborhood and were greeted by a large crowd which didn't disperse as demanded.  Nick Rice was killed only a few feet from me shortly thereafter when the police opened fire on an unarmed crowd.    Ironically, Rice, a white youth, was also shot in the back of the head, not so ironically by Lawrence police.  Through the tear gas Rice and another man, a black man by the name of Mert Olds, who was wounded, were carted into a local tavern by "bystanders." 

Again the official story will sound familiar.  From the Lawrence Journal World:

In a statement issued to the press in the pre-dawn hours, (County Attorney) Young said:

"It is not known at this time who fired the shots which struck Olds and Rice. Several tear gas cannisters were used in the area to disperse the crowd that was assaulting police officers with rocks, bottles and other missiles.

"Tear gas was used both before and after the shooting occurred. It is known that police fired several shots. It is not known whether any of these are the ones which struck Rice and Olds.

"Investigation is continuing to determine the source of the shots which struck Rice and Olds. Interviews have been conducted with approximately 10 witnesses and interviewing of witnesses will continue in the morning.

Police Chief Richard Stanwix said today that officers were assaulted with rocks and bottles before they opened fire but Miss Lair disputed this statement. Watson said a policeman is justified in shooting "when he sees a felonious action about to be committed or when protecting persons or property.

Other witnesses said they heard police telling such things as, "If you don't run I'm going to shoot you," and "Kill the —— ——."

Earlier in the day, Young had announced that tentative plans had been made to hold the coroner's inquest into the slaying of Dowdell at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The slaying of Dowdell prompted City Manager Buford Watson and Police Chief Richard Stanwix to relieve Patrolman William Garrett from active duty.

Garrett, who apparently fired the shot which killed Dowdell, remains a member of the force at pull pay pending the outcome of the inquest.

County Coroner Dr. James Reed said today the inquest will proceed as scheduled.

Reed performed an autopsy on Rice's body and said the wounds of Rice and Dowdell were only inches apart in location.

Reed said the cause of death in Rice's case was laceration to the brain stem. He said the bullet entered the back of the neck just below the base of the skull.

Reed said his investigation into which type of bullet which made the wound is not yet complete. But he said the bullet would have to have "a fair amount of energy to go all the way through."

Same old same old. 

No police were ever charged with anything in any of this.  

I bring this up not to wax nostalgic, but to point out how old the story of Ferguson really is. White cop shoots young black man, film at ten.  Of course, the story didn't start in Lawrence or anywhere else in the started long before when Africans were kidnapped by white men, taken to America, and sold into slavery. It is a story also of resistance.  It is a story that has not ended.  It is a story that I am sick and tired of living and writing about.  It is a story that if I, a white man, is sick and tired of, I cannot even presume to imagine what African Americans are feeling about it today, yesterday, and beyond.


Note: I do want to say that I was proud of the solidarity shown by many white youths in our neighborhood, and amongst the radical community with Lawrence's black community in April and June of 1970.  For a brief moment in history a group of whites shed their white skin privilege and became race traitors.  I am also sad to say that following the killing of Nick Rice most of those same white folks faded away into the more safe climes of whiteness, as it were. 

The following is from We Are Respectable Negroes.  I included all the comments up to now.

This piece was written  by Chauncey Devega.

The Inevitable 'Niggerization' of Michael Brown by the Ferguson Police Department and the Right-Wing Hate Media

The niggerization of Michael Brown has begun in earnest. The police and the Right-wing media have decided that like all other black people who have been killed by the police and white (identified) vigilantes, Brown is guilty of causing his own execution-style murder.

Writing about the behavior of the police department in Ferguson, Missouri and their efforts to derail, obfuscate, lie, and dissemble about the murder of Michael Brown is an experience akin to Bill Murray's in the movie Groundhog Day. It is a cultural script that plays out repeatedly in the United States--the events of which are only a surprise to the naive, willfully ignorant, dishonest, and/or stupid.

Those of us who write about race and work the "racism beat" have to struggle to find something new to say about the seemingly endless parade of black unarmed men killed by police and other white-identified authorities. Being a truth-teller on such matters is tedious, not easy, and mentally exhausting.

Cornel West's use of the word "niggerization" to describe how black people are robbed of their humanity by the White Gaze and White Supremacy is cited and mentioned so frequently for a reason: it is one of the most precise and sharp ways of describing both the institutional as well as the ethical and moral violence visited upon black people by centuries of white racism in the United States and the West.

While "Black Twitter" developed a meme designed to point out the twin lying nature of the White Gaze and racial paranoia in how it selectively frames black people's humanity, Right-wing hate media such as the Drudge Report, Fox News, and other conservative sewers defaulted to the black rapist "Bigger Thomas" frame, wherein Michael Brown is a "thug" who got "what he deserved":


Sociologist Joe Feagin's concept of the white racial frame dominates this moment:
In the book Systemic Racism I develop the concept of a white racial frame holistically and comprehensively. Since its development in the 17th century, this racial frame has been a “master frame,” a dominant framing that provides a generic meaning system for the racialized society that became the United States. The white racial frame provides the vantage point from which European American oppressors have long viewed North American society. 
In this racial framing, whites have combined racial stereotypes (the cognitive aspect), metaphors and interpretive concepts (the deeper cognitive aspect), images (the visual aspect), emotions (feelings), and inclinations to discriminatory action. This frame buttresses, and grows out of the material reality of racial oppression. The complex of racial hierarchy, material oppression, and the rationalizing white racial frame constitute what I term systemic racism. This white racial frame includes much more than the usual concepts we use in the study of racial matters, such as stereotyping and prejudice or discrimination.
Black people who have had violence visited upon them by the white racial state and its agents are forced into a type of bizarro world. Like women who are the victims of sexual assault, black victims are forced to defend their right to exist; rapine logic as applied to women is a neat analogy for white racial logic as it applies to black victims of white police (and other) abuse. In this framework, Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, and Trayvon Martin were somehow asking to be killed.

As social scientists have repeatedly documented, there is a deep connection between white racial animus, a fear of black criminality, support for guns, and what is euphemistically labeled as "law and order" politics. White conservative politicians have skillfully exploited that bundle of attitudes for great electoral gain from the end of Reconstruction and "Redemption", to the Southern Strategy, and the present.

The mainstream corporate media dances around a basic fact, one that I have no fear or compunction about stating clearly and directly. Michael Brown is dead because the police are empowered by a good percentage of the white American public to kill black and brown people preemptively and with extreme prejudice. If you doubt the glee that the White Right and the silent majority feel for the killing of Michael Brown, a quick examination of the comment sections on CNN and other news sites will disabuse you of that notion.

During the Cold War, it was "better to be dead than red". Historically, in the United States "it is better to be safe than sorry" by killing black people--who may or may not have committed a crime--as due process is jettisoned in favor of white rage and brutality as a means of enforcing the color line.

There has been an amazing amount of racial progress in the United States. Barack Obama, a black man, is President of the United States. Black culture is American culture.

However, it is the "exceptional" and "special negro" who is lauded and praised, made acceptable and embraced as an exemplar of white tolerance and the virtues of American exceptionalism and superiority.

But what of the black stranger who exists in a type of liminal space? Where he or she is just an idea or concept for the collective White psyche and white racial consciousness, in which cultural biases and old fashioned racism too often deem black personhood as dangerous, predatory, and criminal?

On both sides of the color line, it is easy to love the idea of the exceptional negro. By comparison, for the White Gaze, it is far harder to possess a common feeling of shared humanity and decency with a black stranger, one who even in the Age of Obama and the post civil rights era is overlaid and embossed with the stain and shadow of Whiteness's paranoia, nightmares, fantasies, fetishes, anxieties, longing for, desires, fears, arousal, envy, hostility, and other assorted feelings.
White Supremacy colours black and brown people with a reflective patina that shines back to it a projection of what white racism desires to see people of color as, instead of who we actually are.

The substantive racial progress required to finally vanquish White Supremacy from American cultural life will mandate that all Americans accept the full humanity of non-whites...even as some of the latter, like all people, are less than perfect in their behavior and comportment.

Loving an exceptional and perfect black person is easy; loving less than perfect human beings who happen to be black, and simultaneously extending to them their basic human rights on an interpersonal level, is a far more difficult task for white folks--and those others--who are infected by the racial logic of Whiteness and White Supremacy.

Join the discussion…

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    Interesting comment on the militarization of our police (posted on
    “If officers are soldiers, it follows that the neighborhoods they patrol are battlefields. And if they’re working battlefields, it follows that the population is the enemy. And because of correlations, rooted in historical injustice, between crime and income and income and race, the enemy population will consist largely of people of color, and especially of black men. Throughout the country, police officers are capturing, imprisoning, and killing black males at a ridiculous clip, waging a very literal war on people like Michael Brown.”

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        I'm seeing this kind of framing garbage in the comments sections of my friends' FB posts. It's insidious. I like what you say about exceptionalism. Bella Abzug once said of the women's rights movement (roughly) that "Our goal is not to make sure that a brilliant woman physicist can be an assistant professor, our goal is to make sure that a woman schlemiel can rise as high as a male schlemiel." The Ferguson police have been trying hard to show that Mike Brown was not exceptional, and thus cut off white empathy. It's a sad comment to see how willing so many whites are so eager to lap it right up.

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            There is a cultural sickness at play here. It actually makes me feel dirty which is why I don't do Facebook, read online comment sections beyond what is necessary, etc. I have had lots of my white friends tell me they had no idea how bat shit crazy and racist there relatives, friends, and colleagues were until Obama got elected. One of my former colleagues said that he knew that his brother was a Republican, but he had no idea how racist he was. And they were raised together by the same parents in the same household.

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                I don't use Republican---I use "RethugliKKKan." I can barely get 2-3% of white AmeriKKKans to accept that the Transatlantic slave trade between ca. 1500-ca.1800 was the most vicious and systematically, long-term genocidal violation of the human rights of a specific targeted group in the last 4,000-5,000 years of human history. Calling it a cultural sickness even makes it sound too nice. What's really at play is that mainstream white AmeriKKKan society is deeply and pathologically psychotic in the high level of cognitive dissonance and the total lack of moral concern or moral imagination for black life---especially the lives of young black males.

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                    I was watching C-SPAN earlier today about Fergusion. I did not get to see the whole program. Three of the callers discussed how communities of color are targeted by police and how police brutality against Blacks is an ongoing thing, and that Ferguson is just the latest. Three other callers were White supremacists, one a racist Cuban calling from Miami. They kept saying that the cops were doing their jobs, and that witnesses who said that Michael Brown was in a surrendering position when he was shot are lying. One of these callers said he Googled the case and that a Black eyewitness claimed that Brown attacked the officer and that he ignored demands to stop, and that he continued to lunge at the officer when he was shot. This racist idiot said, This big kid was coming at him. Is the cop supposed to let him beat him up? He did what he was supposed to do! I wonder which one of these sources this fool Googled:

                      see more

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                        I need to watch that...I will not be surprised but again it shows the cultural sickness at work here. The Right-wing media is getting its propaganda machine spinning--law and order and racism and dead Negroes are their decision rule.

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                      As always a well done piece. "Color arousal" (I first heard of on the Field Negro site) is a prominent feature of this "cultural sickness" you speak of in your article. I remember a relative whom as an elderly person years ago spoke of "resistance" as being a necessary and ongoing aspect of black life. He further cited that many of us have grown group weary and have become a part of the status quo. They must be resisted as well. Daunting indeed!

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                        I was out at a lunch with coworkers during a training session this week and CNN was on in the background. The scenery was about Missouri and they were anticipating President Obama to speak about ISIS as well as Missouri.
                        The headline was, President expected to address Iraq, Missouri unrest. Like the two were related and on the same level of magnitude and just, ugh..
                        I pointed out that the tear gas scenes and everything were from Missouri and my coworkers were SHOCKED and aghast. I mean, if you're paying attention to things like these, you shouldn't be surprised.
                        I did my best to explain what happened and how the were over reacting and heavily militarized, but people are just too damn busy in their personal and professional lives to understand this shit unless they make a concerted effort to be present about political and social news.
                        how do you get the silent majority to show up, listen and pay attention, and then speak up?

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                            The silent majority, in my opinion are at the least racially resentful and at the worst old school racists who have learned to hide it. That phrase re: Right-wing politics as you know has a long history of misrepresenting reality. I just saw the author Nixonland give a talk here in Chicago on his new book about Reagan. His interlocutor was Garry Wills. Both were damn frank and straight about white conservative racism in a way that surprised me.
                            Wills went hard and said how there are still lots of conservatives who use the word "nigger", hate Dr. King, and have just learned how to be polite in public. I looked at one of the other 2 black people there and we smiled at his telling the truth. The rest of the crowd was shocked.

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                                I've always liked Mr. Wills---his writings on Reagan were always excellent. And to me, Reagan basically is pure evil. Perlstein's Nixonland is also a great book---Nixon's 1972 campaign (where he had to compete against the likes of open segregationists like Wallace) was the real beginning of the intense white racist backlash that only has been growing in intensity even as the overall population is browning....

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                              The authentic "looking glass self" is a reflection of ourselves. We look at another person and see our very self and thereby gain empathy as in "there but for the grace of god go I." This process is short circuited when one reflexively engages in "niggerization," whereby a negative stereotype is substituted for a genuine mirror image. It amounts to deliberate self delusion; to self imposed stupefication, dumb-ization, hatred, self and collective destruction.

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                                  Projection is very powerful both individually and collectively. How to unlearn its negative aspects?

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                                      The human race is hardwired for altruism, inclusion, and empathy as a matter of evolutionary adaptation. Due to a series of historical accidents humanity has embraced egoism, exclusion, indifference, and hostility. As Neil deGrass Tyson and so many others have proven, said short sightedness is threatening our very survival. We can only hope that the survival imperative will shock us out of our complacency. Like Irving Goffman said "nothing focuses the mind more that the knowledge that he'll be executed in a fortnight;" the point being that survival is a mighty motivator, more effective than mere moral outrage. The necessity of education for survival is palpable.

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                                      As usual, thank you for these hard hitting truthful posts.

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                                        As I am writing this the autopsy report is in by independent doctor Michael Baden. He concluded that Michael Brown was shot at least 6 times. I'm not sure if I'm down with the celebrity pathologist. But of course it was the family's decision. The only thing I'm going to say about this topic tonight is watch the media it always does. They will take every bit of irrational, unreasonable, insane, nonsensical excuses of the police, and make it logical.. This is what they do, EVERY TIME! When there was video tape of Rodney King being pummeled by police, you were told because he was moving... as he was being struck, he was therefore resisting. In other words it wasn't the video tape, it was your lying eyes. Furthermore, they invited George Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O;Mara, on CNN and allowed him to paint Trayvon Martin as a thug. Never mind he was no such thing. When Zimmerman was acquitted, they hired the ghoul faced O'Mara as a legal analyst.
                                        Now you just watch people of Warnville.

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                                            The corporate media lies. I'm watching Ferguson live on

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                                              I'm trying to maintain a legit timeline of the initial events. I'm not interested in playing detective with Mike Brown's autopsy reports and whatever surveillance videos have been released.
                                              Mike Brown was clearly not an immediate danger to Darren Wilson from over 30 feet away and having no weapons.
                                              If the Anonymous recording of police dispatch is correct, then immediately following Brown's death the Ferguson police dept demanded an over-the-top security response instead of reporting the incident in the regular manner.
                                              That exact day! according to this time stamp on twitter, armored vehicles were rolling into Ferguson. How are people going to respond to an immediate presence of riot police and armored vehicles in their neighborhood intentionally pointing their guns at them and praying that they start something?
                                              Now there are pro-cop rallies to support Darren WIlson. Where are the riot police to control the crowd?

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                                                  You also want t olisten to the St. Louis dispatch audio of just after the shooting.(The release of that audio by Anonymous may have been what prompted the local PD to admit that WIlsn knew nothing about the "robbery that they claim occured before the shooting.) The audio is still up on Youtube, I think. At any rate it needs to be disseminated as widely as possible before it is inevitably removed.
                                                  The autopsy shows that the last bullet entered through the back of his head at the hairline and exited out the right eye. It alsosays the wounds on his arms are consistent with someone fleeing or rasing their arms.
                                                  At any rate it may all be moot as Wilson has fled and will probably nebver be arrested for what he did. Iwould be very shocked if he decided to turn himself in and face judgment.

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