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The War on Black Women and Children

"Black people are punished for driving, for walking down the street, for having children, for putting their children in school, for acting the way children act, and even for having children who are killed by other people. We are punished, in short, because we still exist."

By Margaret Kimberley

We are told that the Republicans are waging a war on women. It is true that they are on an endless quest to restrict access to abortion, if not outlaw it altogether, and want to prevent insurance companies from paying for contraception. In Wisconsin, the Republican governor recently signed legislation which repealed that state’s equal pay enforcement act.

The Republicans deserve the label, but if there is a war on women in America today, it is being directed primarily at black women as a group and at their young children as well. Black women have been criminalized for the most minor of offenses, for enrolling their children in schools outside of their home districts, and even when their children are victimized by other people.

In Ohio in 2011, Kelly Williams-Bolar, was convicted of felony theft and spent ten days in jail for enrolling her children in a school district that was not her own. The merits of the case were debatable, as her children lived with their grandfather in the district in question, but no matter, Ms. Williams-Bolar had to be taught a lesson and she and her father were indicted. The governor did reduce her sentence, calling it unduly harsh, but she was still convicted of a crime.

In Connecticut, Tanya McDowell was sentenced to five years in jail after she used her babysitter’s address to send her son to school. Ms. McDowell was homeless, living in her vehicle. It could be said that she did live in the district, but again, only pursuing criminal charges and sending this mother to jail would satisfy local prosecutors. McDowell had a drug conviction as well, so the war on drugs and the war on black women were both used against her.

All over the country, black women are criminalized for bizarre reasons. In some cases, they are even punished for doing what other people have done to their children. In Cobb County, Georgia, Raquel Nelson’s son was struck and killed by a drunk driver when she crossed the street with him. Because she was crossing at the green and not in between, Nelson was charged with vehicular manslaughter even though someone else killed her child.

For the rest of this article, please go to World Can't Wait.

Editor's Note:

With respect to the underlying rationale behind these increasingly savage and bigoted attacks on black people, see this passage from Dennis Loo's Globalization and the Demolition of Society:

Since the basis for people to cooperate, to behave normatively (for example, to abide by the law) is constantly and deliberately undermined under neoliberal regimes, and since, for the most dispossessed, even less of what was available to them in welfare states with Keynesian economic policies is now offered, governments must increasingly rely upon coercive means with spending on “security” (law enforcement, military, immigration control, prisons, surveillance and so on) rising inexorably. This point bears underscoring: more repression and more coercive means of social control are not principally a policy choice in the sense that people might think of the GOP favoring more coercion and the Democrats less. The overall direction of neoliberal regimes dictates that more coercion will be required, regardless of the party in power and the individuals in office.

The socialist camp’s collapse by the late 1980s opened up the formerly socialist and quasi-socialist world of more than a billion and a half people to capitalist exploitation. In one fell swoop, whole sectors of the US population were thereby rendered disposable from the perspective of capital, especially transnational capital. For blue-collar workers and those in the broken sections of the proletariat for whom steady work is nearly impossible and who must survive at the margins in the gray and underground economies and through hustling, compliance with the status quo becomes increasingly problematic. What is to be done with these people?

For those most oppressed within the US, jail and prison are the short answer. Prisons and jails have, since at least the early 1990s, been the biggest supplier of public housing and public services to US youth.[i] The US leads the world in imprisoning its own people: every fourth prisoner in the world is behind bars in the US even though the US accounts for less than 5 percent of the world’s population. In 2006, two million people were behind bars and another four and one-half million were under some form of custody—probation or parole. By 2010 those numbers reached 2.4 million behind bars with a total of more 7.5 million under some form of correctional supervision. Even when South Africa was under apartheid, the US imprisoned more blacks both in absolute numbers and per capita.[ii] Criminal justice expenditures have been rising since the mid-1970s, rising an additional 95 percent by states in the 1980s, compared to a decline in state spending on education of six percent.[iii] In California, spending on criminal justice now exceeds its spending on higher education, with ten percent of its general fund going to prisons versus seven percent going to higher education. This has happened even while index crime rates have been falling in California and nationally since the early 1990s. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 53-55).

[i] As Currie put it in Elliott Currie, Reckoning: Drugs, the Cities and the American Future (New York: Hill and Wang, 1994), 19:

Under the impact of the drug war, indeed, the correctional system has become our principal public agency for disadvantaged young men – their chief source of publicly supported housing and one of their most important sources of employment, nutrition, and medical care. We now spend considerably more on institutional housing for the poor via the jail and prison systems than we do on ordinary public housing for low-income people: eight times as much is spent on corrections as on low-rent public housing, for example, and nearly twice as much as on public housing and rent subsidies for the poor combined.

[ii] Becky Pettit and Bruce Western, “Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course: Race and Class Inequality in US Incarceration,” American Sociological Review, April 2004, 151:

Combining administrative, survey, and census data, we estimate that among men born between 1965 and 1969, 3 percent of whites and 20 percent of blacks had served time in prison by their early thirties. The risks of incarceration are highly stratified by education. Among black men born during this period, 30 percent of those without college education and nearly 60 percent of high school dropouts went to prison by 1999. The novel pervasiveness of imprisonment indicates the emergence of incarceration as a new stage in the life course of young low-skill black men.

[iii] Tara-Jen Ambrosio and Vincent Schiraldi, “From Classrooms to Cell Blocks: A National Perspective,” Justice Policy Institute, 1998, abstract cited at the National Criminal Justice Reference Service online,, accessed February 6, 2011.

Body Parts and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan

By Dennis Loo (4/19/12)

On April 18, 2012 the Los Angeles Times ran a small number of photographs of U.S. soldiers posing in macabre smiling poses with the severed body parts of Afghans who reportedly died either in carrying out a suicide attack or by accidentally setting off the explosives before reaching their targets. I suggest that you click on the link above to see the photographs.

Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby is quoted in the story as saying that the conduct depicted "most certainly does not represent the character and the professionalism of the great majority of our troops in Afghanistan....”

We’ve been hearing that official response a lot lately. “Does not represent the character…” Each month lately, beginning in January, we have had yet another revelation that does not represent the character of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

These photos, as the Times notes, “have emerged at a particularly sensitive moment for U.S.-Afghan relations. In January, a video appeared on the Internet showing four U.S. Marines urinating on Afghan corpses. In February, the inadvertent burning of copies of the Koran at a U.S. base triggered riots that left 30 dead and led to the deaths of six Americans. In March, a U.S. Army sergeant went on a nighttime shooting rampage in two Afghan villages, killing 17.” (Boldfacing added).

How many months in succession must we have revelations of atrocities and/or abhorrent behavior that do not represent the character of the U.S. until they do represent the character of the U.S.?

As for those who think this is merely the misbehavior of low-ranking soldiers, see this:

“With regret,” the Russian official said, “I have to say that you’re really going to get the hell kicked out of you [in Afghanistan].”

Cofer Black, Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, responded: “We’re going to kill them,” he said. “We’re going to put their heads on sticks. We’re going to rock their world.”[i]

The people who are in charge, the people whose idea it was to attack Afghanistan in the first place, the people who give the orders to others and set the tone for everyone under them, are advocates for putting “their heads on sticks” and “rocking their world.”

What else do you expect to happen?

In a comment on the Times website there is this:

Insult the corpses?  Gimme a break!  They're our enemy!!!  Who cares?  Send me over there and after I kill em I'll stuff pigs feet in their mouths and smile big for the camera!  Will it upset the enemy?  I hope so!  Come get me!  I'll send more of you to meet allah and get your share of the virgins.  Idiots! -- Kane Bonkers at 10:32 AM April 19, 2012

I challenge anyone to find an iota of difference between the expressed sentiment of this Kane Bonkers and Cofer Black.

These are not aberrations. These are the natural and logical outcome of the policies that make legitimate the invasion and occupation of other countries by the U.S., the treating of people who live in those countries as if they were fair targets for killing, including if they’re wedding parties or people gathering to rescue others who have just been drone attacked.

[i] Bob Woodward, Bush at War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002), 103.

Sweatshop Star: Project Runway, Fashion Star, and the Missing Working Class

By Dennis Loo (4/17/12)

I caught an episode of NBC’s new reality show “Fashion Star” the other day.

Can you say “derivative?”

This show looks like a rip-off of Project Runway and Victoria’s Secret wrapped up into a tight little package, masquerading as a show while raising the nature of the original Soap Operas - that were created to sell soap to housewives - to a new level – an ongoing promo for Macy’s, H & M, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

The buyers for those stores are on the set to decide on the spot whether a contestant/designer’s offerings are going to be in their stores tomorrow or not, tendering offers to the designers of either “No Offer” or something in the thousands or tens of thousands. They sit at a table like the contestants on “What’s My Line?” or “Jeopardy,” dispensing judgments like a (Commodity) Greek Chorus, deciding your fate before the Mercantile Gods.

In place of Project Runway’s smug “supermodel” Heidi Klum - who declares with clear delight on PR that someone is gone in each episode, reminding me of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland declaring “Off With Her Head!” – is another “supermodel,” Elle MacPherson.

Unlike Project Runway, where you see the designers actually having to sew some clothes, Fashion Star dispenses with such nuisances (no need for manual labor of any kind except the buyers pushing buttons) so that we don’t even see them making their clothes. Instead, there are numerous interviews, including with the celebrity “mentors” Jessica Simpson, Nicole Ritchie, and John Varvatos who offer their advice to the wannabe fashion stars.

I wondered out loud as I was watching this wretched show where the set for the sweatshop workers was so that we could see the work that would have to go into producing the clothes that were going to be on sale tomorrow at Macy’s, H & M, or Saks Fifth Avenue.

Perhaps we could have a group of sweatshop owners on the set, pronouncing judgment upon the workers sewing the garments. Shall this poorly paid woman or that one be fired, not productive enough to be Sweatshop Star?!

Then the Social Darwinist nature of so much of popular culture today with its disdain for the "losers" who, like the homeless, are quickly forgotten and pushed away like so much spoiled food, and its celebration of the "winners" who get to have it all would be crystal clear: it's all about individual victory and chronic envy of the "winners" in the cut-throat world that those who control our airwaves and economic, social, and political fates dictate.

A colleague of mine recently asked his students about manufacturing, as in, how are things actually made, and the students were a bit puzzled by the question. It’s no wonder that many Americans are at a loss to grasp this concept of making things and the people who make them, as those folks aren’t on TV and we don’t see them in the news or in ads. What exists in the world of “Reality” TV and news is entrepreneurs, American Idol contestants, fashion maven wannabes, housewives of athletes and Mafioso bosses, "job creators" who "create jobs" by destroying jobs, not, come on, actual workers.

Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12