[NetBehaviour] Voices in the Crisis

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Tue Jun 2 06:18:21 CEST 2020

Hi Paul thank you great message.

I had a very personal encounter with such an individual here after the first night of fires and it left a searing, indelible impression.

I'll send separately a different post about what today was like here.

From: NetBehaviour <netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org> on behalf of Paul Hertz via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Sent: Monday, June 1, 2020 10:10 PM
To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Cc: Paul Hertz <ignotus at gmail.com>
Subject: [NetBehaviour] Voices in the Crisis

I have been considering the ways in which this current crisis over racism is different from the demonstrations of the 50s and 60s, and also how I might open a brief window on some of the events that do not show up so much in the news, largely concerned with the dramatic extremes of confrontation and violence.

One thing I am not alone in observing is the diversity of race, ethnicity, creed, and ages in the demonstrations. It is important to realize how much of a stake black people have in local institutions in the cities and states. In Chicago we have the mayor and the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Janice K. Jackson, who has sent a letter to parents  of students (which I quote in its entirety):

Dear Families,

Today, I’m writing to you as a mother of a black boy who is worried for him, and the millions of other black boys in our country. I worry that when he leaves our home to ride bikes with his friends, he will come back to me as a headline, a hashtag, a rallying cry—an Ahmaud, a Breonna, a George.

My mother raised me to never bring up a problem without a solution, but today, I can only share with you my hurt and sorrow for our community. Tomorrow and in the days and weeks to come, we will have to have some real and difficult conversations about the worth of a person—not only in death but also in life.

We must acknowledge that far too many of us have come to accept fear and pain as part of normal life. Fear should not be the first thing we feel in the morning and the last thing we feel at night but it is for many in the African American community. If we are going to progress as a society, this moment must lead us to confront racism — in all of its forms — on a daily basis.

Racism is all around us, but for too long, our nation has locked it away in the Civil Rights chapter of our history books. We taught and talked in terms of segregation, bus seating, and Bull Connor, while not giving enough attention and voice to what’s happening today. I’m challenging our community—parents, teachers, students—to call racist behavior out when we see it. We’ve tolerated intolerance for far too long, and the time has come for us to act.

This work is not easy but that cannot be an excuse to delay progress. Black lives matter, and it’s past due for us to prove it with action. Families of all backgrounds have a role to play, and it starts by speaking honestly with our children and our own respective communities. These will be undoubtedly difficult conversations and we will be sharing resources beginning Monday to help you begin these conversations.

We are here for you today, and we will be here for you tomorrow. Together we have a responsibility to ensure each day is safer, fairer and more just than the last.

Janice K. Jackson, EdD
Mother of CPS students

As a distressing counterpoint to this, I want to post also a word from a former student, Koy Suntichotinun, posted to Instagram (check Koy's post at https://www.instagram.com/p/CA3PkcNJOg2/ for a video of a BLM activist also making the same post):

Non–Black people who choose to loot and vandalize does nothing for the cause. They get to go home while Black people take the blame. I’m all for destroying elite buildings like Starbucks and Target IF it’s by Black people because they are already targeted, they are the most affected, and they are rightfully the most angry.
>From what I’ve seen from videos and news of the protest in La Mesa. Most people looting and destroying buildings are white people. That’s white privilege, that’s white supremacy. Being able to take a movement as an excuse to destroy and be anarchists under the gauze of being an activist. While white people are out here smashing windows screaming BLM, a Black person peacefully protesting gets arrested. Be out there protesting, be a shield, but listen to the Black community before taking drastic action •
“They don’t show your face when they show that (the graffiti) they show ours.”
Note I acknowledge I am speaking about the movement as a Non-Black person as well so please call me out if I’m stepping out of boundaries.

Tay Anderson, a BLM activist and Denver School Board member had a similar point to make: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/roxane-gay-anna-deavere-smith-and-tay-anderson-on-the-protests-hope-and-despair. I highly recommend this panel, in which author Roxane Gay and actor Anne Deavere Smith reflecting on the role of artists in this critical moment.

White supremacists are undoubtedly acting as provocateurs in some instances, but there also seems to be any number of white people, from rebellious suburban kids to self-styled anarchists or "direct action" romantics who see themselves as protagonists. Its an old story. If anyone still reads Trotsky (and I don't anymore), he saw such behaviors as a standard rite of passage for bourgeois youth. "Afán de protagonismo" was the criticism leveled against proponents of provocation by militants who had spent decades of clandestine struggle in Spain, during the largely peaceful transition to democracy.

Just want those of you who aren't present in the States to understand the degree to which the people on the streets are people with real political and institutional power. This power is of course what the Republican Party wants to shut down, because it is the power of a disenfranchised America that has been organizing and changing the political landscape in the gradual, undramatic ways for decades.

I don't know if this is a tipping point. The potential for violent repression is clearly present in the vile rhetoric spewing from the White House. At least one Republican governor though, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, has publicly rejected Trump as a failed leader. It remains to be seen what this means.


-- Paul

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