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September 20, 2015

11 Major Misconceptions About the Black Lives Matter Movement

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter — millerlf @ 11:41 am

You might associate it with the fight against police brutality, but it’s simply not true that it’s a one-issue movement.

By Brittney Cooper Cosmopolitan Magazine (When did Cosmopolitan become a political magazine?)
Since the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer in 2013 and the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, the phrase “black lives matter” has become a rallying cry for a new chapter in the long black freedom struggle. But this new movement’s penchant for disruptive protest and impassioned public speeches about persistent racial inequality have been disconcerting to many Americans who wonder what the end-game is for this new generation of protesters. Do black lives matter more than white lives? bystanders ask. Why can’t black people simply address the crime problem in their own communities? others want to know. And if the problems are really this bad, can’t voting for new political leaders solve them? sympathizers wonder. These are just some of the many questions surrounding this new movement. But the young people taking to the streets in protest have a righteous cause. They deserve a fair hearing. And we can begin by debunking a few myths about what the Black Lives Matter movement is and what it isn’t.

1. The movement doesn’t care about black-on-black crime. The idea that black-on-black crime is not a significant political conversation among black people is patently false. In Chicago, long maligned for its high rates of intraracial murder, members of the community created the Violence Interrupters to disrupt violent altercations before they escalate. However, those who insist on talking about black-on-black crime frequently fail to acknowledge that most crime is intraracial. Ninety-three percent of black murder victims are killed by other black people. Eighty-four percent of white murder victims are killed by other white people. The continued focus on black-on-black crime is a diversionary tactic, whose goal is to suggest that black people don’t have the right to be outraged about police violence in vulnerable black communities, because those communities have a crime problem. The Black Lives Matter movement acknowledges the crime problem, but it refuses to locate that crime problem as a problem of black pathology. Black people are not inherently more violent or more prone to crime than other groups. But black people are disproportionately poorer, more likely to be targeted by police and arrested, and more likely to attend poor or failing schools. All of these social indicators place one at greater risk for being either a victim or a perpetrator of violent crime. To reduce violent crime, we must fight to change systems, rather than demonizing people.

2. It’s a leaderless movement. The Black Lives Matter movement is a leaderfull movement. Many Americans of all races are enamored with Martin Luther King as a symbol of leadership and what real movements look like. But the Movement for Black Lives, another name for the BLM movement, recognizes many flaws with this model. First, focusing on heterosexual, cisgender black men frequently causes us not to see the significant amount of labor and thought leadership that black women provide to movements, not only in caretaking and auxiliary roles, but on the front lines of protests and in the strategy sessions that happen behind closed doors. Moreover, those old models leadership favored the old over the young, attempted to silence gay and lesbian leadership, and did not recognize the leadership possibilities of transgender people at all. Finally, a movement with a singular leader or a few visible leaders is vulnerable, because those leaders can be easily identified, harassed, and killed, as was the case with Dr. King. By having a leaderfull movement, BLM addresses many of these concerns. BLM is composed of many local leaders and many local organizations including Black Youth Project 100, the Dream Defenders, the Organization for Black Struggle, Hands Up United, Millennial Activists United, and the Black Lives Matter national network. We demonstrate through this model that the movement is bigger than any one person. And there is room for the talents, expertise, and work ethic of anyone who is committed to freedom.

3. The movement has no agenda. Many believe the Black Lives Matter movement has no agenda — other than yelling and protesting and disrupting the lives of white people. This is also false. Since the earliest days of the movement in Ferguson, groups like the Organization for Black Struggle, the Black Lives Matter network, and others have made both clear and public a list of demands. Those demands include swift and transparent legal investigation of all police shootings of black people; official governmental tracking of the number of citizens killed by police, disaggregated by race; the demilitarization of local police forces; and community accountability mechanisms for rogue police officers. Some proposals like the recently launched Campaign Zero by a group of Ferguson activists call for body cameras on every police officer. But other groups are more reticent about this solution, since it would lead to increased surveillance and possible invasions of privacy, not to mention a massive governmental database of information about communities of color that are already heavily under surveillance by government forces.

4. It’s a one-issue movement. Although it is true that much of the protesting to date has been centered on the issue of police brutality, there is a range of issues that movement work will likely push in years to come. One is the issue of our failing system of public education, which is a virtual school-to-prison pipeline for many black youth. Another is the complete dismantling of the prison industrial complex. Many of the movement’s organizers identify as abolitionists, which in the 21st-century context refers to people who want to abolish prisons and end the problem of mass incarceration of black and Latino people. Three other significant issues are problems with safe and affordable housing, issues with food security, and reproductive justice challenges affecting poor women of color and all people needing access to reproductive care. As I frequently like to tell people, this movement in its current iteration is just over a year old. Give it some time to find its footing and its take on all the aforementioned issues. But the conversations are on the table, largely because many of the folks doing on-the-ground organizing came to this work through their organizing work around other issues.

5. The movement has no respect for elders. The BLM movement is an intergenerational movement. Certainly there have been schisms and battles between younger and older movers about tactics and strategies. There has also been criticism from prior civil rights participants. There is a clear rejection of the respectability politics ethos of the civil rights era, namely a belief in the idea that proper dress and speech will guard against harassment by the police. This is a significant point of tension within black communities, because in a system that makes one feel powerless to change it, belief in the idea that a good job, being well-behaved, and having proper dress and comportment will protect you from the evils of racism feels like there’s something you can do to protect yourself, that there’s something you can do to have a bit of control over your destiny. This movement patently rejects such thinking in the face of massive evidence of police mistreatment of black people of all classes and backgrounds. All people should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of how one looks or speaks. If you ever have occasion to attend a protest action, you will see black people of all ages, from the very young to the very old, standing in solidarity with the work being done.

6. The black church has no role to play. Many know that the black church was central to the civil rights movement, as many black male preachers became prominent civil rights leaders. This current movement has a very different relationship to the church than movements past. Black churches and black preachers in Ferguson have been on the ground helping since the early days after Michael Brown’s death. But protesters patently reject any conservative theology about keeping the peace, praying copiously, or turning the other cheek. Such calls are viewed as a return to passive respectability politics. But local preachers and pastors like Rev. Traci Blackmon, Rev. Starsky Wilson, and Rev. Osagyefo Sekou have emerged as what I call “Movement Pastors.” With their radical theologies of inclusion and investment in preaching a revolutionary Jesus (a focus on the parts of scripture where Jesus challenges the Roman power structure rather than the parts about loving one’s enemies) and their willingness to think of church beyond the bounds of a physical structure or traditional worship, they are reimagining what notions of faith and church look like, and radically transforming the idea of what the 21st-century black church should be.

7. The movement does not care about queer or trans lives. The opening presenter at the first national convening of the Movement for Black Lives in Cleveland this summer was Elle Hearns, a trans black woman organizer from Ohio. That she was collectively chosen to open the proceedings was a deliberate choice to center both women and queer and trans people as movement leaders. This is a clear break from prior racial justice movement politics. Not only does the Movement for Black Lives embrace queer and trans black people, but it has been at the forefront of efforts to highlight our national epidemic of murders of trans women of color. This year alone, we have had nearly 20 murders. Moreover, the movement does not merely give token representation to queer and trans people. Two of the founders of the Black Lives Matter network, Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza, are queer black women. And queer and trans black people are not called in merely to discuss queer and trans issues. They are at the table, on the stage, in the protests. These moves have not been without their challenges, and the movement has had to deal with queer and trans antagonism both from the broader public and within movement spaces. But there is a fundamental belief that when we say Black Lives Matter, we mean all black lives matter.

8. The movement hates white people. The statement “black lives matter” is not an anti-white proposition. Contained within the statement is an unspoken but implied “too,” as in “black lives matter, too,” which suggests that the statement is one of inclusion rather than exclusion. However, those white people who continue to mischaracterize the affirmation of the value of black life as being anti-white are suggesting that in order for white lives to matter, black lives cannot. That is a foundational premise of white supremacy. It is antithetical to what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for, which is the simple proposition that “black lives also matter.” The Black Lives Matter movement demands that the country affirm the value of black life in practical and pragmatic ways, including addressing an increasing racial wealth gap, fixing public schools that are failing, combating issues of housing inequality and gentrification that continue to push people of color out of communities they have lived in for generations, and dismantling the prison industrial complex. None of this is about hatred for white life. It is about acknowledging that the system already treats white lives as if they have more value, as if they are more worthy of protection, safety, education, and a good quality of life than black lives are. This must change.

9. The movement hates police officers. Police officers are people. Their lives have inherent value. This movement is not an anti-people movement; therefore it is not an anti-police-officer movement. Most police officers are just everyday people who want to do their jobs, make a living for their families, and come home safely at the end of their shift. This does not mean, however, that police are not implicated in a system that criminalizes black people, that demands that they view black people as unsafe and dangerous, that trains them to be more aggressive and less accommodating with black citizens, and that does not stress that we are taxpayers who deserve to be protected and served just like everyone else. Thus the Black Lives Matter movement is not trying to make the world more unsafe for police officers; it hopes to make police officers less of a threat to communities of color. Thus, we reject the idea that asking officers questions about why one is being stopped or arrested, about what one is being charged with, constitutes either disrespect or resistance. We reject the use of military-grade weapons as appropriate policing mechanisms for any American community. We reject the faulty idea that disrespect is a crime, that black people should be nice or civil when they are being hassled or arrested on trumped-up charges. And we question the idea that police officers should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to policing black communities. Increasingly, the presence of police makes black people feel less rather than more safe. And that has everything to do with the antagonistic and power-laden ways in which police interact with citizens more generally and black citizens in particular. Therefore, police officers must rebuild trust with the communities they police. Not the other way around.

10. The movement’s primary goal should be the vote. Recently the Democratic National Committee endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement. The BLM network swiftly rejected that endorsement. While voting certainly matters, particularly in local municipalities like Ferguson, movement members are clear that voting for policies and politicians whose ultimate goal is to maintain a rotten and unjust system is counterproductive. Thus the movement cares about national politics, and many participants have sought to make presidential candidates responsive to their political concerns. However, there is deep skepticism about whether the American system is salvageable, because it is so deeply rooted in ideas of racial caste. In this regard, the BLM movement, together with the Occupy movement of years past, is causing a resurgence of a viable, visible, and vocal (black) left in national politics. Moving some issues of import onto the 2016 election agenda should therefore be viewed as a tactic, not a goal. The goal is freedom and safety for all black lives. And that goal is much bigger than one election.

11. There’s not actually a movement at all.
Until Bernie Sanders sought the attention of Black Lives Matter participants, many were wont to acknowledge that a new racial justice movement even existed. For the record, since August 2014, more than 1,030 protest actions have been held in the name of Black Lives Matter. A new generation of protest music has come forth with songs from Janelle Monae, Prince, J. Cole, Lauryn Hill, and Rick Ross. The first national convening in July drew over 1,000 participants. There is a new consciousness and a new spirit seeking justice, and the participants carrying the torch show no signs of slowing down.

Some thoughts on Wisconsin’s fight against the right wing: My conversation with Chicago education activist Fred Klonsky

Filed under: Scott Walker — millerlf @ 11:33 am

Fred Klonsky September 17, 2015 (Fred Klonsky Daily posts from a retired public school teacher who is just looking at the data.)

Recently I had the chance to sit down with Milwaukee school board member, Larry Miller, to talk about the lessons he has drawn from the fight against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

Tell my readers about yourself.
I taught for 15 years in Milwaukee Public Schools and for 2 years was a principal at a small high school. I ran for the school board of Milwaukee Public Schools and I am now midway in my second 4-year term and serve as vice-president of the board. I am also an editor of Rethinking Schools.

We know about Gov. Walker’s attack on workers, unions and bargaining rights. What are some of the ways it has impacted students in classrooms in Milwaukee?
Walker and the Republican legislature have driven thousands of qualified and dedicated teachers from the profession in Wisconsin. The cuts in funding for public education have been disastrous. Walker cut nearly $1 billion statewide from public education when he first took office. Milwaukee Public Schools lost $80 million with those cuts. Over the past five years, the legislature followed with more cuts to public schools and increased funding to vouchers and private charters. There are presently over 26,000 students receiving private school vouchers in the city of Milwaukee – many of them students at parochial schools who were already enrolled when they began using vouchers.
All of this has meant increased class sizes, reduced resources and expanding stress to the one school system that has the capacity and will to teach all students. For many schools the funding for the arts, physical education, school nurses and librarians is reduced. Our children are suffering.

I was in Madison during the early protest of Walker policies. Some protests had over 150,000 people. What happened to that movement?
The Madison marches in 2011 were in response to Act 10, Walker’s proposed legislation to destroy public sector unions and particularly Wisconsin’s teacher unions, and to demean the teaching profession. He hid his intention to do this when he ran for governor a few months earlier. But the background to that election shows the advantage he’d been given. It was clear in 2009 that the Democratic mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, was going to run against Walker for governor. So what did Tom Barrett, in alliance with Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle propose?
They attempted to take over Milwaukee Public Schools and replace the elected school board with an appointed superintendent. The Wisconsin legislature at the time was controlled by the Democratic Party.
A grassroots movement in Milwaukee split the Democratic Party and prevented any changes to the governance of Milwaukee Public Schools. So the Democrats entered the first election against Walker divided. The critical Milwaukee electorate had no enthusiasm for the Democratic nominee who had just attempted to take away their right to elect a school board, and who earlier had opposed a highly popular paid sick days initiative.
After Walker won, he introduced Act 10 and the Democratic senators left the state to prevent a quorum in the legislature, the uprising grew, with tens of thousands marching in Madison.
Once the Democratic senators returned, Act 10 was enacted and the movement switched from the streets of Madison to a recall election. Walker was very savvy in focusing on the idea that he was democratically elected and the recall was undemocratic. He ran ads with white workers saying, “I didn’t vote for Gov. Walker but I do not support a recall.” Many voters who opposed his policies bought into this view.
More damaging, the Democrats in the recall ran the same neoliberal, tepid candidate who had divided the electorate going into the first election, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Also he had no standing to challenge Walker on failure to create jobs.
Throughout the state, opponents of Walker gathered nearly one million signatures. People signed at doorsteps, at shopping centers, at deer hunting stations, at workplaces; it was truly a mass movement. But once the election happened, the movement did not have a cohesive focus.
Many grassroots organizations used the opportunity to expand their work and strengthen their membership. This included groups like Voces de la Frontera, a Latino workers organization, Wisconsin Jobs Now, pro-public education networks, the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, and many others throughout the state. They grew their base from the recall activities. But there was no statewide apparatus to follow up for the many others who had spoken out.

Larry, from your point of view, what are some of the things that were done right and what things were done wrong in fighting Walker’s agenda?
It became very clear once Walker was re-elected, with full control of the legislature, that organizing was needed both to elect strong candidates in the future and to carry out day-to-day grassroots resistance. This work is continuing throughout the state.
For example, in Milwaukee a coalition has formed called Schools and Community United, made up of 19 organizations, to fight moves against public education and other forms of privatization. They have played a role in resisting the attempt by the Republican legislature to create a New Orleans style recovery school District in Milwaukee. A grassroots coalition stopped an attempt to prohibit a living wage for contract workers in Milwaukee County.
Last year Walker ran for reelection and won by 138,000 votes. Once again the Democrats put forward a moderate and uninspiring candidate. The Democratic candidate for governor did not inspire the base and was unable to make inroads with new voters, even with Walker’s failings exposed.
An important lesson shown throughout the Wisconsin experience is that the Republicans and the status quo they represent are in no way willing to compromise. All they want is everything.
A fight during the legislative session this year was around a “right to work” bill. We needed a new uprising comparable to the one in 2011. Instead some within the construction trades believed that a compromise could be worked out. Their influence held back the labor movement from going all out to oppose this right-wing anti-labor bill. It passed in full.
Compromise with the tea-party Republicans is not an option.

Walker’s poll numbers are way down and his reelection seems improbable. What would it take to undo the damage he has brought to Wisconsin?
Since the 2014 Walker victory, many previous supporters in Wisconsin have turned against the governor. More people have seen the harm from his attacks on public education and his tax cuts for the wealthy. Damage to the environment and the rights of women, refusal to take funds to boost transportation and expand Medicaid, attempts to undermine government transparency, and failure to deliver job creation have helped undermine support for Walker. So has his bumbling performance on the presidential campaign trail.
But defeating Walker as governor and replacing him with a progressive governor won’t be enough to undo the damage. Gerrymandering by the Republican legislature following the 2010 census will make it very difficult to retake the Assembly and the Senate. That can be done only with strong candidates and real organization. It cannot be accomplished by running to the center or to the right to try and appease conservative voters. A movement that calls for real change that serves the needs of the poor and working class in the tradition of Wisconsin progressivism is the only way to reverse this travesty. This means work on the ground, grassroots organizing, must be the backbone of moving forward.
Wisconsin is overwhelmingly white. It voted strongly for Barack Obama both times he ran. If you add up the number of votes for Democrats and Republicans statewide, there are more citizens voting for Democratic candidates than Republicans. But gerrymandering and the tea-party anti-democratic power grabbing policies keep the right-wing in power.
Future organizing has to be able to win over the majority white counties throughout the state to secure a better future. Groups like Working America that know how to go into these communities and move them in a progressive direction must be invited to return to Wisconsin. We also need to energize voters of color, low-wage workers, women, young people – and that requires candidates who stand for a genuinely progressive agenda.
The alliance of labor, communities and social movements must be the backbone for future success.

September 1, 2015

Report: Wisconsin to spend $258M on school vouchers next school year

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 5:05 pm

The state will spend $258 million the 2016-17 school year on private school vouchers, a new estimate shows.
At the same time, the amount of state aid sent to public schools will be reduced by $83 million to offset the voucher spending, for a net cost to the state of $175 million, according to an analysis drafted by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau in response to a request from Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, who opposes school vouchers.

9/1/15 Molly Beck Wisconsin State Journal
The state will spend $258 million in the 2016-17 school year on private school vouchers, a new estimate shows.
At the same time, the amount of state aid sent to public schools will be reduced by $83 million to offset the voucher spending, for a net cost to the state of $175 million, according to an analysis drafted by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau in response to a request from Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, who opposes vouchers.

The amount spent each year on vouchers will have increased by 77 percent next school year over 2011 levels, according to the estimate, as lawmakers have expanded the number of vouchers available to students and where they can be used.

The amount of money spent has risen from $146 million in the 2011-12 school year to $236 million this school year.
The state spent $5.2 billion on public schools in 424 school districts last school year, according to the LFB, when it spent $213 million on vouchers used in 159 private schools.

Over the six school years, $1.2 billion will be spent on school vouchers and about $30.6 billion will be sent to public schools during the same time, according to LFB and Department of Public Instruction data.
The number of students using school vouchers to attend private schools grew from 22,439 during the 2011-12 school year to 29,609 last school year, according to the DPI. At the same time, 870,650 students attended public schools last year — which is about the same number that did in the 2011-12 school year. Enrollment grew to 873,531 in the 2013-14 school year before decreasing last school year.

Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers have created new voucher programs in Racine and statewide to join the program in Milwaukee, created in 1990 as the country’s first.

Milwaukee and Racine school districts have been allowed to raise property taxes to offset their reductions in state aid.

Starting this school year, each voucher used outside of Milwaukee will be paid for using aid set aside for school districts. The districts won’t be able to raise taxes to make up the money, but will be able to start counting students using vouchers in their enrollment to determine state aid levels and revenue limits.

Voucher payments are $7,210 for K-8 students $7,856 for high school students.

Earlier this year, the LFB estimated between $600 and $800 million could be diverted from public schools over the next 10 years.

Scott Walker blames Milwaukee Public Schools for Wisconsin’s incarceration rate of African American men

Filed under: Scott Walker — millerlf @ 4:58 pm

Sunday August 30: Chuck Todd, the host of Meet the Press, questioned Walker about Wisconsin having a higher incarceration rate of African-American men than anywhere in the country and ranking last in the country in the overall well-being of black children. Walker then blamed Milwaukee Public schools. See Milwaukee Journal report at:

Milwaukee is the 2nd poorest city in America and the most segregated. For the last 13 years Scott Walker has been directly in a position to reverse poverty and segregation in Milwaukee. Instead both have gotten worse.

As Milwaukee County Executive, starting in 2002, Scott Walker cut jobs, health care, recreation and transportation serving Milwaukee’s African American community. As Governor one of his first acts was to refuse Federal high speed rail funding that would have given Milwaukee’s Black community significant access to suburban and rural jobs. His economic development policies have served Milwaukee’s downtown while leaving poor communities with flat growth.

Scott Walker’s approach of economic deprivation has been accompanied with devastating cuts to public education. In his 1st budget, Walker cut $80 million directly from the MPS budget. This included a $10 million cut from the Math Project, a highly successful program in MPS. These cuts do not include the over $50 million lost by MPS annually to the failed voucher program.

Poverty and racism are the source of Wisconsin’s incarceration rates and the disgraceful well-being of African American children. It is time for Scott Walker to show some fortitude and take responsibility for his role.

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