You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2009.
I can only hope for the safety of these housing activists and their impoverished communities. Mazwi, the first speaker, is one of the Abahlali members whom I met at a poverty camp here in the States. He is a very young man, and yet as you can see in the video he has the fire in him!
Please refer to my previous post on this matter, Shack Dwellers Attacked – People Have Been Killed to find out how you can get involved.
There will be a protest in London at 6pm today outside of the South African’s Trafalgar Square embassy. Find out more at London Coalition Against Poverty.
Also, here’s a statement from the NGO Children of South Africa on the attacks.
Below is a solidarity statement from Slum Dwellers International.
Check out the 5th Carnival of Feminists over at Zero at the Bone.
Lots of good reading to do. They’ve got some big names, they’ve got some little names. (I’m a little name, FYI.)
TODAY from Durban, South Africa:
Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC) Emergency Press Release, Sunday 27 September 2009
Kennedy Road Development Committee Attacked – People Have Been Killed
Last night at about 11:30 a group of about 40 men heavily armed with guns, bush knives and even a sword attacked the KRDC near the Abahlali baseMjondolo office in the Kennedy Road settlement. The movement was holding an all night camp for the Youth League but the camp was not attacked but the people at the camp were intimidated and threatened.
The men who attacked were shouting: ‘The AmaMpondo are taking over Kennedy. Kennedy is for the AmaZulu.” Some people were killed. We can’t yet say exactly how many. Some are saying that three people are dead. Some are saying that five people are dead. Many people are also very seriously injured. The attackers broke everything that they could including the windows in the hall. They destroyed 15 houses before launching their attack. They were knocking on each door shouting ‘All the amaZulu must come out’ and then destroying the shacks. As far as we know two of the attackers were killed when people managed to take their bush knives off them. This was self defense.
The Sydenham police were called but they did not come. They said that they had no vans but they didn’t radio their vans to come. This has led some people to conclude that this was a carefully planned attack on the movement and that the police knew in advance that it had been planned and stayed away on purpose. Why else would the police refuse to come when they are being called while people are being openly murdered? When the attack happened one officer from Crime Intelligence was there in plain clothes.
The rest of this press release is below the fold.
This is heart-breaking. I recently met some leaders from Abahlali baseMjondolo at a poverty camp in the States. They are back in South Africa now. I am worried about their safety.
I was thinking about the St. Bernard Parish Housing Discrimination Saga while at work today. Or should I say, while I was bathing in cash from the huge payments I’ve been getting from Provident to write this. ;) And I was mulling over how several commenters at the above thread expressed anger at St. Bernard Parish being labeled racist, or at the label of racist being applied to themselves individually.
To wit, Amy wrote: “I am not NOT talking about race or what not. I am talking about Low-Income housing that people are on welfare and expect to get everything for free.”
Amusingly, lsder said: “In My Honest Opinion, The only racist people are the people screaming it.”
Yet in a later comment wrote: “answer two questions for me, who sold the black people into slavery(not who purchased slaves) who freed the slaves? ”
And then we have the immediately-banned Kay:
I am so sick of the race card always being played. What is funny it is the blacks who are always using it. The Blacks are their worse enemy. Look at the stats, who does the killings….blacks, who screams about race……blacks. Turn on the TV an the first thing you hear is about the murder or murders of someone……who is the suspect……..a black person.
While still arguing for an outcome in this housing battle that would have racially disparate effects and undeniable racial implications, these particular commenters claim that they are not racist and have some other motive in mind that is 100% divorced from race. Which in a situation where a white majority is making it nearly impossible for a black minority to live amongst them, is a hard argument to make.
Por ejemplo Jude (the guy who figured out I make the BIG BUCKS being a social justice blogger) escribe:
if you had any common decency you would be demanding that this developer place these apartments in a place where there is a hospital, services, and a tax base that could provide needed services. This blog isn’t about what’s best, or the right thing to do, it’s about jumping into a fight that you know little to nothing about and sadly people are going to pay for it with their lives. It’s too bad you don’t get it, but then you are probably being paid not to
Yet while his concern that low income blacks have the best possible housing built for them is one that I share, somehow I can’t bring myself to believe that the resistance to public housing in SBP is due to the fact that whites are concerned it won’t be good enough for blacks.
Perhaps my skepticism (besides it being a natural Czech trait) is due in part to comments like George Crossman’s: “Wow, all these wasted words and time on this, the bottom line is when the blacks moved to village square [demolished public housing] it ruined st bernard parish there is statistical proof of it.”
So I sez to myself, what kind of statement could a white St. Bernard Parish resident make that would make me not doubt their sincerity when they say they are not racist, or even, as some commenters have said, only have the best interest of blacks at heart?
Here’s what that would look like to me:
1. I assembled a community group who met with concerned blacks about what kind of housing would best suit the poor black community’s needs.
2. I arranged a meeting between the Parish Council and black leaders in St. Bernard.
3. I lobbied the Parish Council to ask Provident to build several smaller public housing units scattered throughout the Parish instead of simply one giant building.
4. I met with local housing advocates and asked for their opinions on affordable housing and preventing housing discrimination in St. Bernard.
5. I read up on the Fair Housing Act and the history of racial discrimination in housing in the US.
6. I organized some people to survey low income residents in St. Bernard and established a task force to implement their suggestions.
7. I took an anti-oppression class.
8. I located the former residents of the Village Square and wrote to the newspaper about their current situation and solutions to improve it.
9. I looked at recent cases where cities, parishes or counties experienced similar housing problems and learned x, y and z from their examples.
10. I learned to question common stereotypes about poor people, recipients of government aid, and blacks.
11. I volunteered my time to work in low-income communities on neighborhood beautification projects.
12. I talk with my neighbors about the harm racial discrimination brings to St. Bernard Parish.
13. I accepted that St. Bernard Parish has a terrible history of racial discrimination and decided to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, starting with myself.
14. I learned what terms are considered offensive by minorities in my community and have stopped using them.
But I have not heard anything like this. Instead, I have heard decades-old arguments that whites use when forcing shitty situations onto blacks and trying to wash their hands of the racist label.
So if anyone is wondering what it would take for me to believe white St. Bernard residents sincerely have the best interests of the black residents and former residents of SBP at heart, something like the above would convince me.
Anyone have any other positive anti-racist suggestions for steps forward in SBP?
This thread will be strongly moderated for racist language, personal insults, and threats. Sadly, after my previous St. Bernard post, this has now become a problem.
“Every society is judged by how it treats the least fortunate amongst them.”
UPDATE: Anti-racism =/= racism against whites. Do we really have to play that game? Try reading Color Blinded by Whiteness.
My brain made a thought recently.
After Glenn Beck’s accusation that Obama hates white culture, coupled with his refusal to explain what he means by “white culture”,
after Rush Limbaugh’s “Obama’s America” comments and his demands that Obama make a personal apology for every act of violence perpetrated by a black person,
after Pat Buchanan’s umpteenth racist screed,
after certain rhetoric at Tea Parties,
and closer to home, after racist whites in St. Bernard Parish freaked out when I wrote about housing discrimination in their community,
it is clear that there are plenty of Americans who are proud of their racism. They are happy to display it in public places, from prominent news sources, and to be completely unequivocal in their hatred of blacks and black equality.
Just don’t you dare call it racism.
My question is: why? Why are the proudly racist among us so unwilling to claim their racism? If they are so proud of their opinion that blacks are inferior, why don’t they proudly name themselves racist?
Racists, do you think you’re tricking us? ‘Cause we can tell.
I ask because I think it would be great if racists could just reclaim the racist label. If they would just call themselves racist right from the get-go, it would save the rest of us a lot of time. I would much prefer to know someone is racist up front than to find it out much later after they’ve done something shitty. It would also make it a lot easier to socialize and choose friends. Or to choose one’s work environment.
Do any non-racists have an opinion on this matter? What is so alluring about claiming to be non-racist, but yet being really really racist? Again, if you are so proud of your high opinion of whites and your low opinion of blacks, why are you not proud to declare it openly?
Are you ashamed?
If that’s a case, here’s a suggestion: stop being racist! The shame just melts away.
Please contribute your thoughts. Racist comments will not be tolerated. Big surprise. Please visit the Race section of my 101 post if you honestly want to discuss in good faith but are worried you might not have the background or language to do so.
There have been reports of women and queer people being harassed on the street in Flatbush, Brooklyn, particularly along Cortelyou Avenue.
If you are from that area and would like to join a discussion on neighborhood safety, you are welcome to attend.
September 29, 7pm at Vox Pop Cafe, at Cortelyou and Stratford.
“If the pope wants to create a religious revival in Europe, there is no worse place he could come to than the Czech Republic, where no one believes in anything,” said Jaroslav Plesl, a self-confessed lapsed Catholic who is deputy editor of Lidove Noviny, a leading daily newspaper here. “Add to that the fact that the pope is German and socially conservative and he might as well be an alien here.”
The main event of the pope’s visit is an open-air Mass in Brno on Sunday in the country’s Roman Catholic heartland. During the trip, a group called Condom Positive said it planned to distribute condoms with a likeness of the pope and the question, “Papa said no! And You?”
I want one! Someone send me a condom with the Pope’s face on it! I can’t think of anything that would encourage chastity more.
The Prague Monitor has more about the protests:
Representatives of Czech gay and lesbian groups have also announced protests against the Pope’s position on condoms which they intend to stage during Benedict XVI’s stay in the Czech Republic.
They will meet on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Monday, on the last day of the Pope’s visit to express their disagreement with the Pope’s alleged “policy of genocide.”
Organisers of the Mezipatra (Mezzanine) gay and lesbian film festival that is annually held in the Czech Republic are participating in the preparation of the protests.
Some history of our skepticism for ya, courtesy NYT:
Religious experts have noted that the Czechs’ abiding religious skepticism stretches to the 15th century, when Jan Hus, a revolutionary preacher, preached against what he saw as the corrupted practices of the church at a time when indulgences absolving sins were up for sale. Hus, whose teachings anticipated the Protestant Reformation, was burned at the stake and is a hero to many Czechs. In 1999, John Paul called Hus’s violent death “a sorrowful page” in Czech history.
Czech antipathy for the Roman Catholic Church was fanned further during the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries, religious scholars say, when the church supported the emperor’s efforts to repress Czech nationalism.
Gee. I miss the good ol’ days of John Paul. I kinda liked him. Because despite all our natural skepticism and stuff, my family has been Catholic for as long as there is recorded history of us. So I grew up thinking quite highly of JPII. BTW no one in my family likes Ratzinger. See? We don’t even call him Benedict.
“The dispossessed of this nation—the poor, both white and Negro-live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against the injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty.
…There are millions of poor people in this country who have very little, or even nothing, to lose. If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
“Nonviolence and Social Change”
Trumpet of Conscience (1967)
Looks like some people don’t like what I have to say about housing discrimination:
check this out – someone from FAR AWAY made it a point to support the apts we are fighting. please go to this blog and post your comments. if we make enough noise, he will shut down his blog for awhile. thx! ~Arabi~https://theczech.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/keeping-blacks-out-of-st-bernard/
It’s a little bit scary, but I guess it means I’m on the right track! And my site hits are waaay up.
PS. I am not shutting my blog down.
UPDATE 9/29/09: My friend robert, from the first St. Bernard thread, has kindly advertised this here “liberal activist from Brooklyn” blog at Tigerdroppings.com. Someone who has been successfully absorbing his daily Limbaugh Lessons responds eloquently.
“I think it must be clear to all that if there is no equal sharing of goods there can be no equal sharing of power. So for me this equal sharing of goods is crucial to the definition of democracy. If democracy is the right to have a decent life, health, education, freedom and security, then i am a democrat.”
Mandela Park Back Yarders
Mandela Park, Khayelitsha
Really, this headline could sum up much of what Tea Partiers are about. They want “government” to stay away from government programs like Medicaid. They want the government to pave the planet for their cars, to police our borders, to hunt down “illegals”, to provide fire protection, to respond to disasters, to keep paying their SSI, to pay for foreign wars, and etc. Just so long as poor people, “illegals”, non-English speakers, and non-whites don’t accrue any benefits.
In a microcosm of their ideological incoherence, some Tea Partiers (do you see how I use the nice term? I am so big-hearted.) who were in DC for the big 9/12 protest are angry that the government didn’t provide them with enough publicly-funded transit for them to effectively protest publicly-funded health care and the like.
From the Wall Street Journal:
The Texas Republican on Wednesday released a letter he sent to Washington’s Metro system complaining that the taxpayer-funded subway system was unable to properly transport protesters to the rally to protest government spending and expansion.“These individuals came all the way from Southeast Texas to protest the excessive spending and growing government intrusion by the 111th Congress and the new Obama administration,” [Rep. Kevin] Brady [of Texas] wrote.
“These participants, whose tax dollars were used to create and maintain this public transit system, were frustrated and disappointed that our nation’s capital did not make a great effort to simply provide a basic level of transit for them.”
Just like the government should, um, not make a great effort to provide a basic level of something even more basic to life – health care? I don’t get it.
And here’s a precious kicker. Brady is upset that some of the most vulnerable members of the group, when provided insufficient help by the government, were forced to turn to expensive private market alternatives they could barely afford… i.e. taxis.
Brady says in his letter to Metro that overcrowding forced an 80-year-old woman and elderly veterans in wheelchairs to pay for cabs.
THIS IS KILLING ME! I mean, what is government funding for, if not to fund conservatives’ crusade against government funding?
My brain hurts.
Amazing yet true pictures from the DC Tea Party protest found by googling.
Do we all remember the depressing story of Jamie Lee Jones, who, while an employee of Halliburton/KBR in Iraq, was drugged, gang-raped by fellow employees, then locked up without food or water in an empty shipping container for 24 hours? And then told that if she sought medical attention outside of Iraq she would lose her job? And then Halliburton, a company whose previous CEO was Dick Cheney, refused to take any action against her assailants? And then the Department of Justice refused to take her case because she had signed a (clearly illegal) document saying “these matters” would be handled in secret extra-judicial arbitration?
Well…. she is still fighting and has won a small battle. She went to trial against the Halliburton arbitration agreement to fight for her right to go to trial against Halliburton for realz. And 2-1 the the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor.
Apparently, Halliburton tried to argue that the gang-rape was a “work-related” activity and was therefore rightfully dealt with by forced arbitration with a tots impartial Halliburton-paid arbitrator.
There is so much justice going on in this story I almost can’t handle it. Does it add any justice-y awesomeness that this arbitration policy was put into place during Cheney’s watch? I should hope so.
More power to Jamie for drawing a line in the sand. The courage it takes to stand up to a mega-company like Halliburton, and to the Department of “Justice” is awe-inspiring. She deserves real justice, and the perpetrators deserve to be ferreted out. Where are those cowards now?
From Manitoba, Canada:
“We had asked for funding so we can get organized and to ensure medicines, hand sanitizers and other preventative kits were in place but, instead, we are shocked to receive the body bags,” Chief Jerry Knott of Wasagamack First Nation said. “Is the shipment of the body bags part of Canada’s preparedness plan for all Canadians? Is the body bags a statement from Canada…?”
“It really makes me wonder if health officials know something we don’t,” said Grand Chief David Harper.
“Don’t send us body bags. Help us organize; send us medicine.”
Chief David McDougall of St. Theresa Point First Nation said, “We can acknowledge we also received body bags in our community. To me, this is an ominous sign that the government is predicting a grim outcome.”
Canada’s Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who is herself an indigenous Canadian, has ordered an inquiry into the little snafu.
Here is the St. Theresa Point First Nation press release on this topic.
I would like to echo Chief Knott’s question: Is the shipment of the body bags part of Canada’s preparedness plan for all Canadians? Or just the First Nations people? And, of course, why would that be?
From the National Women’s Law Center:
Take Action Now: Oppose Anti-Choice Efforts to Take Away Abortion Coverage from Millions of Women in Health Care Reform
As we speak, insurance coverage for abortion care is being negotiated out of health care reform. This is unacceptable and your action is urgently needed.
And as you are reading this, there’s language on the brink of being included in health care reform that will take away coverage of abortion that millions of women currently have. We must not let this happen because comprehensive reproductive health care is basic health care for women.
Call and email your Senators and the White House TODAY. Tell them to protect women’s coverage of abortion care in health care reform!
To call your Senators, dial 202-224-3121. When you call, you’ll reach the Capitol switchboard. Ask to be connected to your Senators. Note that you’ll need to call two times to reach both of your Senators.
Click here to email.
Looks like St. Bernard Parish isn’t alone in the blatantly racist housing practices department.
Huh, Westchester is one of the wealthiest suburbs in America. Interesting.
Hmmm, I love the crisp smell of racism in the morning.
Best comment at the NYT: “Why should a community have to import poverty, of whatever color? If people, with or without color, have the money to buy a home there, fine, but to say that a group of affluent people should be “punished” for being Affluent While White by having poor and probably culturally incompatible people dumped on them is absurd.”
Oh, the burdens one must bear, when one must live in proximity to the poor! Oh, it is so terrible to be forced to look at the distasteful dwellings and personages of the dusky-complexioned! Quelle peine!
I have to say something about this craziness. I will tell the story of racist housing policy in St. Bernard Parish, LA below, and hope to follow up down the line, as the story develops. What follows would be hilarious if it weren’t so… nefarious.
St. Bernard Parish is located to the south of New Orleans. Whereas New Orleans is 67% black, St. Bernard Parish just a few miles away is only 7.6% black.
Hurricane Katrina severely damaged both St. Bernard Parish and Orleans Parish (whose boundaries are identical with New Orleans city). In St. Bernard, nearly all of the housing where black and low-income renters lived was destroyed, eliminating much of the already tiny black population.
Now, the white residents of St. Bernard are fighting an all-out battle to prevent blacks from returning or migrating over from New Orleans, where there is also an affordable-housing shortage. The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, which has been fighting against racist housing policies, has a detailed timeline of the battle.
It officially started when Craig Taffaro Jr. (pictured), president of the St. Bernard Parish Council, introduced the infamous blood-relative ordinance, which states that property owners can only rent to their blood relatives. The ordinance passed in 2006. Before the storm, whites owned 93% of the housing stock. (reference) We can see pretty easily the effects of such an ordinance.
The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) sued the Parish for racially discriminatory housing practices and won. The Parish settled, and then enacted an ordinance banning multi-family housing, i.e. most rental housing, affordable housing and most forms of public housing.
The same judge, U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan, who is apparently awesome, found St. Bernard to be in contempt of court and ordered that the ban be repealed, as it also violated the Fair Housing Act. She also ordered St. Bernard to pay fees, costs and damages to GNOFHAC. So the Parish went ahead and repealed the ban, simply switching it for a year-long moratorium on multi-family building.
Provident Realty Advisors then applied to the Parish to build affordable housing projects. After a public hearing rife with racist statements both implied and open, their application was denied. After GNOFHAC took the Parish to court again, Judge Berrigan found them in contempt of the court order and hit them with more fines. She also had this to say:
Based on the factual record and judged under a clear preponderance of the evidence, the Court finds that defendants’ conduct since March 25, 2009, by subverting the re-subdivision process, has a discriminatory effect on African-Americans and therefore violates the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3604(a), and the terms of the February 2008 Consent Order.
Does St. Bernard Parish get it yet?
DUH, of course not. As a matter of fact, the Parish Council is seeking a ballot referendum that would force any developer seeking to build a development with more than 12 units to have their plans approved by a public referendum, which the developer would also have to pay for. How soon will this be voted on? “In order to get the measure on a Nov. 14 ballot, the parish would have to pass the ordinance and get approval from the state Bond Commission and the secretary of state’s office before Sept. 29.”
Meanwhile, Judge Berrigan is fed up with St. Bernard’s delays in approving Provident’s development application and has granted a THIRD motion of contempt against them just last Friday, saying:
Defendants are hereby enjoined from interfering or withholding approval of Provident’s re-subdivision applications. Provident’s re-subdivision applications are deemed approved.
…If the defendants fail to meet any of the various deadlines without advance notice and good cause shown for their failure, a daily sanction beginning at $5,000 for the first day, and increasing to $10,000 each day thereafter per each individual missed deadline will be imposed.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 11th day of September, 2009.
Booyah St. Bernard Parish Council and racist inhabitants.
This story is developing. So is my analysis. More to come.
From GNOFHAC: Timeline of the Lawsuit
The Root: Keeping St. Bernard Parish White
Read the coverage at the Times-Picayune, starting here: St. Bernard Parish Council housing plan drawing fire
Scathing Times-Picayune Op-ed: Housing bias in St. Bernard Parish is proving costly in the long run
Scathing Times-Picayune Editorial: Legally and Morally Wrong
You can donate to the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center here.
And you can respectfully and without making inappropriate threats contact the St. Bernard Parish Government here to let them know how you feel about this situation.
Cross-posted at Womanist Musings.
Insurance companies have used the excuse of “pre-existing conditions” to deny coverage to countless Americans. From cancer patients to the elderly suffering from arthritis, these organizations have padded their profit margins by limiting coverage to patients deemed “high risk” because of their medical condition.
But, in DC and eight other states, including Idaho, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming, insurance companies have gone too far, claiming that “domestic violence victim” is also a pre-existing condition.
…In 1994, an informal survey conducted by the Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee revealed that 8 of the 16 largest insurers in the country used domestic violence as a factor when deciding whether to extend coverage and how much to charge if coverage was extended.
It is clear that insurance companies refuse to police themselves. It’s up to us to call on Congress to take action now to pass health care reform and end discrimination against patients with pre-existing conditions.
UPDATE: The National Women’s Law Center has just confirmed that in April, Arkansas actually passed a law prohibiting insurance discrimination against domestic violence survivors…
By Maria Tchijov
Please email, tweet, facebook, repost, and reblog this. This is cRaZy shit and people need to KNOW. BTW, I love the invisible hand of the market.
HAVE YOU HUGGED YOUR INVISIBLE HAND TODAY?