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Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America These Past Few Years

Mother Jones

In Shots Fired, the buzzworthy police drama premiering March 22 on Fox, federal agents investigate a black cop who has gunned down a young, unarmed white man. By the numbers, police actually kill more white people than they kill black people, but they kill black people at a far higher rate. Using population data from the Census Bureau and police shooting data from the Washington Post‘s 2015 database, we calculated that black men between the ages of 18 and 44 were 3.2 times as likely as white men the same age to be killed by a police officer. And while black men make up only about 6 percent of the US population, last year they accounted for one-third of the unarmed people killed by police.

We’ve obviously got some policing issues, but the Trump administration seems inclined to look the other way. Last month, in his first speech as attorney general, Jeff Sessions made clear that his Justice Department will curtail the monitoring of problem-plagued police departments that the Obama administration used as a tactic to combat civil rights violations by police. (Sessions suggested the monitoring had undermined “respect for our police and made, oftentimes, their job more difficult.”) Lest readers have forgotten just how divisive the racial disparities in law enforcement have been, and continue to be, we put together this brief history of recent police violence and backlash to it.

July 2013
Sickened by the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, labor organizer Alicia Garza writes on Facebook, “I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter.” Her friend Patrisse Cullors turns the last bit into a hashtag.

Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire via AP Photo

March 2014
In a Pew poll, 46 percent of Americans agree that “our country needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites.”
July 2014

Eric Garner is choked to death by an officer on Staten Island, New York. His last words, “I can’t breathe,” become a civil rights slogan.

Bruce Cotler/ Globe Photos/Zuma

Aug. 2014
A white cop in Ferguson, Missouri, kills black teen Michael Brown, sparking weeks of protest. Police deploy riot gear, armored vehicles, and sniper rifles, while demonstrators adopt a “hands up, don’t shoot” posture based on claims that Brown had his hands up when he was shot. On Twitter, #BlackLivesMatter takes off.
Oct. 2014
A Chicago cop shoots Laquan McDonald 16 times. Police officials claim the teen was approaching officers with a knife—a union rep says he “lunged”—but the city won’t release dash-cam footage.
Nov. 22, 2014

Tamir Rice, 12, is killed by a Cleveland officer as he plays with a toy gun in a park.
Nov. 24, 2014
A Ferguson grand jury declines to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Michael Brown‘s killer. More protests. Critics of #BlackLivesMatter respond with #AllLivesMatter.

Darren Wilson St. Louis County Prosecuter’s Office/Reuters

Nov. 30, 2014
Five St. Louis Rams players walk onto the field for a game in the “hands up” position.
Dec. 3, 2014
The NYPD officer who choked Eric Garner escapes indictment. Days later, LeBron James and other NBA players don “I Can’t Breathe” shirts at pregame warmups.

Jonathan Brady/ PA Wire via Zuma Images

Dec. 18, 2014
The White House announces a new task force to “strengthen trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”
Dec. 20, 2014
Two NYPD officers are ambushed. Their killer, a black man, had posted a photo of his gun on Instagram: “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today.”
Jan. 2015
#BlackLivesMatter tweets average 10,000 a day.

Erik McGregor/Zuma

March 2015
A Department of Justice report says Ferguson police employees sent racist emails and targeted black residents with nuisance citations to generate revenue.
April 2, 2015
A white sheriff’s deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shoots black suspect Eric Harris after a foot chase. “I’m losing my breath,” Harris pleads in a video. “Fuck your breath,” another officer responds.
April 4, 2015

Walter Scott is fatally shot as he attempts to flee from Officer Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Walter Scott in his Coast Guard days Courtesy of the Scott family

April 19, 2015
Freddie Gray dies of his injuries after a “rough ride” in a Baltimore police van.
May 2015
“I have heard your calls for ‘no justice, no peace,'” prosecutor Marilyn Mosby says as she announces charges against six officers in the Gray case. The White House task force releases its report: Police must “embrace a guardian—rather than a warrior—mindset.”

Alex Brandon/AP Photo

June 2015
Rapper Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” video depicts him being shot by police. It garners about 70 million YouTube views and wins two Grammys.

July 2015
BLM activists seize the mic at a Democratic candidate forum to grill Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders on police violence.
Oct. 2015
Rapper Vic Mensa’s video for “16 Shots,” a song about Laquan McDonald, goes viral.

Nov. 19, 2015
A judge orders the release of dash-cam footage that appears to show McDonald walking away from police when he was shot. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fires his police chief the next month.
Nov. 22, 2015
Presidential candidate Donald Trump tweets out a chart of fabricated crime statistics suggesting that black criminals are responsible for the vast majority of homicides against white people. It’s entirely bogus. Here’s Politifact’s summary:

Feb. 7, 2016
Beyoncé’s dancers adopt a Black Panther look for the Super Bowl halftime show. Police unions call for a boycott of the star.


Feb. 24, 2016
BLM activists disrupt a Hillary Clinton fundraiser, demanding she apologize for her racially charged comments about “super predators” during the 1990s. Clinton appears irritated, but the next day she does just that.
May 2016
The first state “Blue Lives Matter” bill passes in Louisiana. Attacking a cop is now a hate crime.
June 2016
The police-van driver in the Freddie Gray case is acquitted.
July 5, 2016

Alton Sterling is fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while officers have him pinned to the ground.
July 6, 2016
During a traffic stop, a Minnesota cop shoots Philando Castile as he reaches for his wallet—that’s according to Castile’s girlfriend, who livestreamed his demise on Facebook: “You told him to get his ID, sir!”

July 7, 2016
A black gunman kills five cops at a Dallas protest against police violence. He holes up in a parking garage, where police kill him with an explosives-bearing robot.
July 12, 2016
President Barack Obama defends Black Lives Matter at a memorial for the slain officers. “We have all seen this bigotry in our lives at some point,” and “none of us is entirely innocent,” he says. “That includes our police departments.”
July 17, 2016
A black military vet who ranted online about the treatment of black people by police assassinates three officers (one of them black) in Baton Rouge.
July 18, 2016
At the Republican National Convention, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who is black, proclaims that “blue lives matter.” In an op-ed the same day, he calls Black Lives Matter the “enemy.”

Mike Segar/Reuters via ZUMA Press

July 18, 2016
A police officer in Florida shoots a black caregiver who was lying in the street with his hands up. A union rep explains that the officer had been aiming at the man’s autistic patient, whose toy truck he mistook for a firearm.
July 27, 2016
After further acquittals in the Freddie Gray case, charges are dropped against the remaining officers.
Aug. 2016
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick starts sitting out the national anthem to protest police violence. A few pros and countless high school and college athletes follow suit.

Kevin Terrell/AP

Sept. 2016
Clinton debates Trump: “I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police,” she says. Critics pounce. “Yes, Hillary Clinton called the nation racist,” writes a Washington Times columnist.
Oct. 2016
Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the DOJ will (finally) start collecting national data on police use of force.
Dec. 2016
A jury of 11 whites and one African American deadlocks in the trial of Michael Slager. A retrial is scheduled for late August 2017. A separate federal trial, to determine whether Slager violated Walter Scott’s civil rights, is slated to begin in May 2017.

Mic Smith, File/AP Photo

Feb. 2017
In his first speech as attorney general, Jeff Sessions suggests that the Justice Department, under his watch, will discontinue its practice of monitoring police departments suspected of violating people’s civil rights.
March 2017
A new drama series, Shots Fired, debuts on Fox. “There were a lot of people who never saw Trayvon Martin as a kid,” one of the show’s co-creators tells Mother Jones. “He was painted as the victimizer, and Zimmerman Martin’s killer got donations from all over the country. So in doing a show that deals with police violence, the question was how do we make those people who sent in the donations see this kid as a human being? One of the things we came up with was to make one victim white.”

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Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America These Past Few Years

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At His Inauguration, Trump Signals No Break From His Politics of Fear and Loathing

Mother Jones

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Today, as of noon, the president of the United States is a man who boasted of sexually assaulting women. The nation’s leader is a purveyor of fake news and conspiracy theories who led the racist birther campaign. The commander in chief in charge of the US nuclear arsenal is a fellow who was unfamiliar with the nuclear triad but who is obsessed with revenge. The head of the federal government is a businessman who vowed to “drain the swamp” but who has taken office loaded with troubling conflicts of interest and flouting multiple ethics norms. The defender of the Constitution is a record-setting prevaricator and fabulist who has repeatedly attacked journalists who challenge his false assertions. The guy who oversees national law enforcement is a dishonest developer who was sued for racially based housing discrimination and who lied about his mob ties. The person in charge of US national security is a foreign policy novice who has called for enhancing relations with a foreign power that covertly worked to subvert American democracy in order to benefit him and whose associates are under investigation by agencies he now oversees for possible contacts with that foreign power. The most powerful man in the world is a thin-skinned, arrogant, name-calling, bullying, narcissistic hotelier.

Thank you, America. Or, that is, the 46 percent of the electorate who voted for Donald Trump.

Their view of the nation and its current condition was diametrically opposed to the perspective of the majority, who voted for Hillary Clinton. Trump voters bought his spiel and his shtick. He portrayed the United States as a declining hellhole, a dystopia under siege by undocumented Latino immigrants, criminals, and ISIS, with Middle America workers played for rubes by uncaring, screw-you political, corporate, and media elites in league with international bankers. And Trump was the tough-guy white knight who would do whatever it took—disruption! chaos!—to restore the lives and dreams of hardworking folks and bring about the return of some mythical (whiter?) American greatness. (Details to come.)

And when he gave his first speech as president—his inaugural address on a dismal and gray day—Trump, no surprise, stuck with the simple and bumperstickerish themes that had brought him to this once improbable point: There is “carnage” across the land, the American people have been betrayed by a small group of elites, and it’s time for America First. Speaking to a sea of white people—who were being protected by a police force that is mostly black—Trump peddled the same big and bold promises he slung during the campaign: “America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.” The crowd cheered wildly for the nation’s No. 1 salesman. And they hooted when Clinton appeared on the big screen, and many in the VIP section toward the front of the crowd jeered when Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the speakers before Trump, referred to gender identity equality.

Trump turned hate into a political tool. He’s not the first. But he effectively fueled and exploited long-established conservative hatred of Latinos, Obama, Clinton, the media, Muslims. He mocked a disabled reporter. He derided a federal judge who had ruled against him in the Trump University fraud suit as a “Mexican.” He described black communities as nothing but crime-infested and burned-out ghettoes. He encouraged voters to detest Washington and government. He made common cause with conspiracy nut Alex Jones. He won the support of the Ku Klux Klan and the alt-right (the fancy name for white nationalists). He encouraged violence at his rallies. He denounced his opponent as a treasonous criminal and called for her to be locked up. He obnoxiously insulted and openly feuded with, well…just about everyone: Miss Universe, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, Carly Fiorina, Rosie. Spite was his meme.

Worse, Trump hitched hate to fear. He claimed that the nation was gripped by a crime spree (which didn’t exist), that ISIS was on the verge of invading the United States (not really), and that hundreds of millions of undocumented immigrants were poised to “pour” across the border (nope).

Most people who behave in such caddish and uncivil ways are dismissed as jerks—not embraced as the embodiment of the nation and its hopes and aspirations. In modern times, no candidate who campaigned so angrily has ever won the presidency. But early in the race, Trump’s team concluded that Trump was already widely known for his crass and abrasive public persona. (This was well before he was caught on video boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy.”) What was most important, one of his strategists told me this summer, was whether voters accepted Trump’s pitch that the country was in free fall (terrorism! no jobs! immigrants invading!) and were sufficiently freaked out to embrace a political novice who would promise extreme measures to deal with all this crap. Were the voters pissed off enough to accept a TV star businessman (forget the bankruptcies or mob ties—look at that jet) who didn’t give a damn about niceties and who would screw anyone who disagreed with him or got in his way? His only chance, his strategists knew, was if enough Americans wanted an asshole as president. As it turned out, a majority did not, but 63 million did—and that was enough for Trump to bag a win in the Electoral College.

After the election, Trump continued to act and tweet like Trump. As if the act had to continue. With inane tweets, he repeatedly dumped on Alec Baldwin and civil rights icon John Lewis. He referred to Americans who voted against him as the enemy. He compared the intelligence community—which concluded Vladimir Putin had meddled in the US elections to boost Trump—to Nazis and continued to make nice with Putin and to demonize Clinton. Having won the grand prize, Trump showed not a smidgeon of graciousness. He fibbed about matters large and small. (He claimed all the ball gowns were sold out in Washington because so many people would be celebrating his inauguration. High-end clothing outlets told reporters they had plenty of inventory.)

Trump demonstrated that his campaign trail populism was no more than an artifice. He appointed billionaires and Goldman Sachs vets to the Cabinet and did little to clean up the swamp he had denounced. His plan to deal with his own conflicts of interest was a sham. (He begins his presidency in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.) Trump empowered Republicans aiming to privatize Medicare and eviscerate Social Security—notions Trump opposed during the race. He vowed that his Obamacare replacement would entail “insurance for everybody”; then he backtracked. He demonstrated no core ideological convictions. He showed once again that he is 100 percent situational.

His approval rating plummeted to a record low for a president-elect. Yet congressional Republicans stood by him and waved a rubber stamp for his appointees. And it was unclear whether any of his missteps tainted him in the eyes of his die-hard supporters. At the inauguration, his supporters gasped with excitement when he gave the crowd a thumbs-up. Well-heeled folks in the big-donor section applauded his denouncement of the establishment and his vow to give government back to the people. Many went gaga when Melania Trump appeared on the television screens, wearing a fashionable blue coat.

During the campaign, one Trump aide told me that the Trump camp understood that many of his supporters were low-information voters. “They mainly just see the headlines,” he said. So if a headline said, “Trump Vows to Make America Great Again,” that was the message many of these people absorbed. By speaking in slogans and memes—”Lock her up!”—Trump was effectively communicating and connecting with a large group of voters. The specifics didn’t register—or matter.

This has continued during the transition period, with Trump issuing bold promises and boasting that his efforts have already saved American jobs. (The details, often more complicated, don’t reach many of his voters.) He did the same with his short inaugural address, which was light on compound sentences or sophisticated ideas. Consequently, there is no telling if his folks will sour on him, if he keeps insisting that he is doing one helluva job.

Trump now shifts from campaigning to governing. It’s unlikely he will change his tactics. He will continue to praise himself and his efforts and declare every step he takes a gargantuan win for America. He will continue to blame others, if anything falls short or goes wrong. He will keep on picking Twitter feuds and behaving in a juvenile and puerile manner—perhaps as a strategic distraction or perhaps because he simply cannot help himself. He certainly is not embarrassed by his behavior—and a man who cannot be embarrassed is a dangerous man.

So for the American majority who voted against Trump and his keep-it-simple politics of fear, hate, and insult, the nation begins the Trump era with no silver linings. A vain, vengeful, and erratic celebrity who has often acted in crude, bigoted, and ignorant fashion is in control. And, ultimately, he is not the problem. The real trouble is with the 63 million who voted for him. How long will they stand by him and buy his easy-answers, reality-defying pitch? In front of the Capitol, Trump told his supporters, “Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.” They have already made great progress on that path of hate and fear.

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At His Inauguration, Trump Signals No Break From His Politics of Fear and Loathing

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Michael Eric Dyson Wants White People to Step Up and Actually Do Something About Racism

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>
St. Martin’s Press

The election of Donald Trump sent things spinning in America and got people talking about “whiteness.” Did Democrats ignore the white working class? Was Trump making a legitimate appeal to rural America, or was his rhetoric a thinly masked courtship of white racists? If progressives want to win the next presidential election, do they need to abandon identity politics?

As befuddling as it all seems, the author Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University sociology professor and Baptist minister, has a pretty simple message: If America is to improve racial harmony, then white people—all of them—will need to get on board.

In Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, out this week, Dyson doesn’t sugarcoat what he expects from “white brothers and sisters.” He demands action, not just empathy. The book calls on all whites, urban and rural, to get involved, and Dyson even offers a list of ways to do so. You might start reading notable black authors (James Baldwin is a favorite), create an “individual reparations account,” or find another way to pay a “secular tithe” that helps young black people in your neighborhood. He even calls on whites with social-media savvy to use their resources for good: If young whites were to tweet, for example, every time a cop let them off the hook for a minor infraction that a minority kid might have been punished for, it might help highlight policing disparities.

Not everyone, as Dyson is well aware, will be receptive to his ideas—in fact, he might just piss some people off. But minority voices in America can’t be buried, Dyson writes, least of all during a Trump administration

Mother Jones: Tell me a little bit about your childhood in Detroit.

Michael Eric Dyson: I grew up on the West Side—the “near West Side,” as they say—in what would be considered now the inner city. I had an exciting, interesting childhood, to be sure, with all of the challenges that ghetto life provides—but had loving parents. I was born in ’58, so the riot in Detroit in 1967 was a memorable introduction to the issue of race and how race made a difference in American society. And then the next year, of course, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. And the Detroit Tigers winning the World Series. All of that made a huge impression on my growing mind.

MJ: Why the World Series?

MED: It introduced me for the first time to a team with a lot of black players. Detroit had about three of them: I think it was Willie Horton, Gates Brown, and Earl Wilson—might have been one or two more in ’68. But the St. Louis Cardinals, the team we were facing and eventually beat in a seven-games series, had Lou Brock and Bob Gibson, who just mowed down 17 batters in that first game and made me want to become a pitcher. To see all those beautiful black ballplayers in one place and thriving and doing so well made a huge impression on me.

MJ: So you were a good student? A big reader?

MED: Yep.

MJ: You have a great list of black authors at the end of your book. When did you start reading their books?

MED: Mrs. James, my fifth-grade teacher, introduced us to some of the great literature of African American culture. I won my first blue ribbon reciting the vernacular poems of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, in particular “Little Brown Baby.” She introduced us to these authors early on and taught us that their literature is important. Langston Hughes—we read his poetry. We studied who W.E.B DuBois was. And so she whetted our appetites.

And then I went to the library and began to read some of this stuff on my own. My discovery of James Baldwin was life-changing. I read Go Tell It on the Mountain first, and that was hugely impactful. The beauty of the literary art, the grappling with the black church, the wrestling with one’s identity in the bosom of a complicated black community that was both bulwark to the larger white society as well as a threshing ground, so to speak, to hash out the differences that black people have among ourselves.

MJ: You were ordained as a minister pretty young, right?

MED: Yeah, I grew up in the church and began to recite set pieces at the age of four and five, like many of the other kids. We began to connect literacy and learning and the lively effects of biblical knowledge and preaching pretty early. That was a tremendous impact. When I was 12 years old, my pastor came to the church: Dr. Fredrick Samson. And that was revolutionary because he mentored me and I got a chance to see up close the impact of a rhetorical genius. I received my calling and accepted it at around 18. I went to school four years later than most people because I was a teen father, hustled on the streets, worked, lived on welfare and the like, and didn’t get to college until almost 21. That’s when I officially got licensed and ordained, right after that.

MJ: You note in this book that you felt a sermon coming—as opposed to a sociological work.

MED: I was trying to write a straightforward book of sociological analysis, or at least cultural criticism, and I failed. I’ve written a lot of other books and this book was different. I couldn’t just say what I wanted to say in the same style that I said it in those other books. I felt compelled to preach.

MJ: You also write that Trump’s victory was America’s response to eight years of Barack Obama. In terms of racial attitudes, do you think his victory uncovered something new—or merely revived things that never went away, but that many of us had forgotten?

MED: I think it’s both. When people are not sure about their future, when their economies are suffering, when their personal fortunes are flagging, we have often in this country turned to nativism and xenophobia and racism and anti-immigrant sensibilities and passions to express our sense of outrage at what we can’t control—and to forge a kind of fitful solidarity that turns out to be rather insular—we look inward and not outward.

As a result, the demand for racial (and sexual) justice gets reduced to politics of identity—and excoriating the so-called perpetrators of the identity politics. What the left ends up missing is that politics have always been at the heart of American culture; it’s been a white identity that’s been rendered invisible and neutral because it’s seen as objective and universal. As a result, we don’t pay attention to how whiteness is one among many racial identities, and that identity politics have been here since the get-go. But they only become noticeable when the dominant form gets challenged—when the invisible is made visible, when the universal is seen as particular. That’s what people of color do when they challenge white privilege and unconscious bias. In that sense, it’s an ongoing process.

MJ: One line that really stuck with me came when you were talking about urban white people looking down on rural whites as “poor white trash.” You write, “In the end, it only makes the slaughter of our people worse to know that your disapproval of those white folks has spared your reputations but not our lives.” Are you basically saying to the “good” white people who didn’t vote for Trump that not being racist isn’t enough?

MED: Right. It’s not enough to be against something. What are you for? It may be, to a degree, consoling that white brothers and sisters did not vote for Trump, and do not participate in that brand of animus, that gas-bagging of enormous bigotry. But the problem is we are left only with empathy—which is critical, if it can be developed—without substantive manifestations of that empathy. It’s one thing to attain it intellectually, but it’s another thing to do something about it. To challenge norms, presuppositions, practices in communities across this country—where the unconscious valorization and celebration of whiteness and conscious resistance to trying to grapple with black and brown and other peoples of color’s ideas and identities—makes a huge difference.

MJ: So you would say that’s one of the more important roles for an enlightened white person?

MED: Yeah, that kind of peer learning, that peer teaching, that peer evaluation, and then administration of insight. That is an extremely important role: how white brothers and sisters laterally spread knowledge, insight, and challenge in a way that white brothers and sisters will not hear it from a person like me, necessarily. I hope they read this book and engage with it, but other white people have a better chance of speaking more directly to the white folk they know, because they’re less likely to be subject to ridicule. They’re insiders, so to speak.

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Michael Eric Dyson Wants White People to Step Up and Actually Do Something About Racism

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How the LGBT Community Can Fight Back Against Trump

Mother Jones

After every major LGBT rights group in America campaigned in support of Donald Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton, it came as little surprise that Trump won just 14 percent of the LGBT vote on November 8. Yet, one of Trump’s most vocal and controversial cheerleaders has been a gay man, political provocateur and Breibart News writer Milo Yiannopolous. Yiannopolous—who has penned columns such as “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “The Conservative Father’s Guide to Cutting Off Activist Children”—repeatedly made headlines last year for his inflammatory rhetoric. At his gays-for-Trump event at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last summer, Yiannopolous argued the Democratic Party was “nannying us about transgender pronouns” while “pandering to an ideology that wants me dead”—his take on Islam as an anti-gay religion. He declared Trump “the most pro-gay candidate in American electoral history,” arguing Trump would be great for gay people.

Last July, Yiannopolous was banned from Twitter after inciting his followers to make racist attacks against black actress Leslie Jones. More recently, he mocked a transgender student at a college campus where he was giving a speech. Stops on Yiannopolous’ campus tour have regularly been met with protests and calls for university administrations to cancel his appearances.

When gay magazine Out put Yiannopolous on its cover last summer, the backlash was fierce and swift—especially from LGBT people of color, who recognized all too well the dangers of “normalizing” champions of bigotry.

So how should queer folk react to Yiannopolous’ hatred, and what can we do to combat it? I talked to Preston Mitchum, an LGBT rights and racial justice advocate, to find out. Mitchum—whose writing has appeared in The Atlantic, the Huffington Post, Ebony, and more—is also a policy analyst at the Center for Health and Gender Equity and a legal research professor at Georgetown University.

What follows is our conversation about racism and sexism in the LGBT community, and what queer solidarity looks like in the face of hatred.

Mother Jones: Milo is an admitted troll, and his rhetoric is over-the-top. Should we even take him seriously?

Preston Mitchum: Queer people of color have always taken those kinds of hateful ideas—and the actions that flow therefrom—seriously. Bias is not new to the LGBT community. Our community is racist, sexist, and transphobic. But Milo feels different because of the extreme nature of his statements. His views aren’t common. But he is setting the stage for what vitriol can look like in the community if left unchecked.

Preston Mitchum

MJ: Queer folk—even white ones—are marginalized too. Why would some be receptive to ideas like Milo’s?

PM: Racism, sexism, and transphobia are foundational to this country. Queer people didn’t invent them, but we can’t separate them from the LGBT community. We internalize what we see every day. I think about people like Ben Carson, who pushes ideas that have been popularized by racists. We also learn from our experiences. So Milo being a gay man does not mean that he’s going to believe everything that I believe, because I am a black man who experiences racism and homophobia at the same time. Milo doesn’t have that experience. Part of fixing this is to first recognize that we are predisposed to discrimination and then intentionally work to undo what we have been taught about racism and misogyny.

MJ: A lot of people don’t get that.

PM: They don’t. They might understand what their own oppression looks like as a white gay man, but systemically that looks different for someone who is a woman and black and gay. People who are part of multiple marginalized communities face harsher treatment just because of their intersections. Many people don’t understand privilege. What’s worse is they don’t recognize that they contribute to other queer people’s oppression, either. The same goes for a lot of mainstream white-led LGBT organizations.

MJ: Talk about that.

PM: Mainstream white individuals and white-led organizations are oftentimes the ones who sweep statements like Milo’s under the rug. A lot of it has to do with responding to donors’ demands. If your donors are sending you money to advocate for marriage equality, that’s what you’re going to do. But there are other communities who also need the support of those groups but who have been made invisible because they don’t have the money to give them to focus on their needs. It’s incumbent on those organizations who say they care about all LGBT people to find it within their capacity to still do work on behalf of black and brown LGBT people even if they’re not paying for it. That’s what solidarity looks like.

In the past few years, I’ve noticed a more concerted effort to address certain racism, certain violence against black trans people—mainly black trans women. But I’m ready to see what that can look like big picture. What does it look like to have a black trans person on your board? What does it look like when you are actually starting something separate for black trans people in your organization? That is what I have yet to see.

At the start of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was led immediately by black queer and trans folk, you didn’t hear much from many white-led LGBT organizations, which was frustrating because a lot of the immediate leaders of the movement were black queer and trans people. And earlier than that, when there was a campaign to repeal DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, many white-led orgs sought the support of the NAACP. But when the crux of the Voting Rights Act was struck down by the Supreme Court that same year, there was silence from those same groups. I talked to people in LGBT organizations who were immediately defensive when that critique was brought to their attention. We have to be willing to have these conversations about racism that require us to be critiqued.

MJ: Why are those conversations difficult to have?

PM: Part of the problem is that progressives are so focused on unifying against conservatives. Unity is good, but it often silences more marginalized groups. We have to be honest about what’s happening within our own community if we want to push back against Trump. It’s easy to point out people who don’t identify as you and say, “You’re the bad person here.” It’s more difficult to look within our own community and say, “We identify and have some common ground, but there’s something about you that I know is vehemently opposed to me.”

MJ: How has this bias been manifest within the LGBT community historically?

PM: It’s hard to say. LGBT people have vocally been discussed only for the past 40 years. But even in that, the way we talk about our history is racist. Only in the past couple years have we started to mention some of the black and Puerto Rican trans women who were really at the start of Stonewall. Or acknowledge people like Bayard Rustin, who was the architect of the 1963 March on Washington. We know that is the whitewashing of history. LGBT history is no different.

MJ: How are queer people of color pushing back on that exclusion—and how can the larger community root out the bias that drives that exclusion?

PM: Black Youth Project 100—which I’m a part of—has been challenging that erasure of black queer and trans folk for the past two and a half to three years, and making sure that people who are marginalized within the LGBT community are centered and that work is done to organize around their needs. There are others doing this work. But there are things that everyone can do—and that many people have been doing. One is to come prepared with information to push back on racist and sexist rhetoric. Social media is a huge way people have been doing that. Black and brown people also need to be very blunt about how oppression treats us as queer and trans folk.

One of the things that I always want to discuss is believing the experiences of people of color. We often aren’t believed until a white person confirms our stories. I would also encourage people to donate money to organizations that do this work. That’s what people can do to help fix the problem.

See more here:

How the LGBT Community Can Fight Back Against Trump

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California Mobilizes for War Against Trump

Mother Jones

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Here in America’s most populous state, the wealthy pay the nation’s highest income tax rate, the minimum wage will soon rise to $15 an hour statewide, more than a quarter of the population is foreign born, and the economy is booming. California, the world’s sixth-largest economy and a bastion of progressivism, is now being hailed as a kind of great blue firewall—Democrats’ most important bulwark against the retrograde policies of Donald Trump.

“If you want to take on a forward-leaning state that is prepared to defend its rights and interests, then come at us,” Xavier Becerra, the state’s incoming attorney general, taunted the president-elect in December.

“One thing that should be made very clear is that one election won’t change the values of the state of California,” Kevin de León, the Senate president pro tempore, told Mother Jones. “What we would say to the incoming Trump administration is that we hope you find value in what we do in California—by growing the economy, creating real jobs that can be verified, reducing our carbon footprint, respecting immigrants for who they are, and recognizing that diversity, a rich mosaic of different hues, is actually a strength, not a weakness.”

Soon after Trump announced Cabinet nominees that “confirmed our worst fears about what a Trump presidency would look like,” says de León, he and his colleagues in the Statehouse retained former US Attorney General Eric Holder to advise on potential legal challenges from the next White House. “He brings a lot of legal firepower to do everything within our power to protect the policies, people, and progressive values of California.”

In a state where Democrats control all statewide elected offices and a supermajority of the Legislature, the economy grew 4.1 percent in 2015—the fastest in the country and nearly double the national average. Since 2011, when Democrat Jerry Brown replaced Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor, the state has turned a $26 billion budget deficit into a surplus that is projected to include upward of $8 billion for a rainy-day fund by the end of 2017. California has leveraged its booming economy to expand social services; since 2014, it has increased its budget for child care and preschool for low-income children by 24 percent, to $3.7 billion.

Trump’s bigoted rhetoric and alignment with far-right extremists during the presidential campaign alienated many people in California, which boasts an economy that in many ways is defined by immigrant labor, global free trade, and a progressive regulatory regime. A push to deport undocumented farmworkers could hurt the state’s agricultural sector. The green-energy sector fears a loss of subsidies and more drilling, maybe even in pristine federally protected waters just off the coast. Silicon Valley is suspicious of Trump on cybersecurity, trade protectionism, and the import of highly skilled tech workers. And then there is Hollywood: Meryl Streep’s condemnation of Trump at the Golden Globes this month underscored a deep antipathy for the president-elect among celebrities, many of whom have declined to perform at his inauguration.

But California’s leaders aren’t just engaging in a rhetorical war on Trump. Here’s what the Golden State is already doing to counter the president-elect on a range of major issues and defend its progressive achievements.

Climate Change

Trump famously suggested global warming is a Chinese hoax and has vowed to “cancel” the Paris Accord committing nearly every nation to curb emissions. His pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is a climate change denier best known for suing the EPA in an effort to overturn its clean-energy policies. A darling of oil and coal interests, Pruitt has vowed as EPA chief to fight “unnecessary regulations” and promote “freedom for American business.”

But even if the Trump administration works to pull America back toward its carbon-spewing past, it will have little impact in California, which last year enacted a bill requiring the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Recently, Gov. Brown and other state leaders said they would bypass Trump and work directly with other nations and states to reduce emissions; California already trades emissions credits with Quebec, and in 2013 the state inked a pact with China committing to joint efforts to combat climate change and support clean energy—the only such agreement China has signed with a subnational government.

California plays a unique role in setting national energy policy: Section 209 of the Clean Air Act allows California, but not other states, to set its own stricter-than-federal emissions standards for automobiles if they address “compelling and extraordinary conditions.” Other states are then allowed to adopt those regulations. To date, 10 other states, representing 40 percent of the US population, have signed on to California’s tighter efficiency and emissions rules for cars, appliances, and automobiles. “The California standard actually governs in many cases rather than the federal standard,” notes Hal Harvey, president of Energy Innovation, a policy research group in San Francisco, “because nobody wants to make two product lines.”

California plays a less decisive role in directly supporting environmental sciences and energy research, which depend heavily on federal support, but Brown has signaled a desire to step in if Trump pulls the plug. “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers, and we’re ready to fight,” Brown said at the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco. He even suggested that if Trump follows through on some advisers’ ambitions to end NASA’s role in climate science, California could step in and “launch its own damn satellite.”


Though Trump campaigned on the idea of deporting America’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, he has more recently said he will focus first on deporting 2 million to 3 million immigrants with criminal records—a number that would presumably include many people who’ve committed minor infractions. (Only about 820,000 undocumented immigrants have been convicted of crimes, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.) But pursuing mass deportations in California won’t be easy. A 2014 law bans state authorities from holding immigrants convicted of minor crimes for any longer than required by criminal law, thereby protecting them from being turned over to federal authorities for deportation. Many California cities have even broader “sanctuary city” policies.

Last month, state legislators introduced a package of bills that would go even further: Legislation authored by de León would bar state and local authorities from enforcing immigration laws, limit records sharing with federal immigration officials, and create “safe zones” at schools, hospitals, and courthouses where immigration enforcement would be prohibited. “To the millions of undocumented residents pursuing and contributing to the California Dream, the state of California will be your wall of justice should the incoming administration adopt an inhumane and overreaching mass-deportation policy,” de León said last month.

Other proposed bills would subsidize immigrant legal services by training public defenders in immigration law and setting up a fund to cover legal bills for immigrants caught up in deportation proceedings. Studies have shown that immigrants with a lawyer are far more likely to succeed in challenging deportation proceedings. Los Angeles last month announced a $10 million immigrant legal fund; the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office has proposed a similar $5 million fund.

More than a quarter of immigrants in the United States illegally live in California. In 1994, voters approved Proposition 187, a ballot measure making undocumented immigrants ineligible for public benefits. But since then, the state has moved sharply in the other direction. In 2011, Brown signed the California DREAM Act, allowing Californians who came to the country illegally when they were children to apply for financial aid from state colleges. In 2013, California allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, qualify for in-state tuition, and obtain law and other professional licenses. Last year, the state expanded its California-only Medicaid (Medi-Cal) program to undocumented children.

Anticipating that the Trump administration could use records collected through such programs to identify and round up undocumented immigrants, the American Civil Liberties Union is pushing for further safeguards here. “We’re concerned about ensuring that information is protected and can remain confidential,” says Jennie Pasquarella, the director of immigrant rights for the ACLU of California. “It is critical that California first show a model for the rest of the country—our values as a state that is filled with immigrants.” California’s Kamala Harris announced earlier this month that her first act as a US senator would be to co-sponsor legislation to protect the nation’s 744,000 “DREAMers” from deportation.

Health Care

Republicans and Trump have vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act—but in California the law is overwhelmingly popular and successful. The law has provided $20 billion for the Medi-Cal program and for insurance subsidies for 1.2 million Californians, helping to cut the state’s uninsured rate by half, from 6.5 million people in 2012 to 3.3 million in 2015. Patient advocacy groups don’t want to give up those gains. In December, the California Endowment announced that it would spend $25 million over three years to defend against federal cuts to Obamacare and other social programs. “California has made great progress both economically and on the health front over the past several years,” says Daniel Zingale, senior vice president of the Endowment’s Healthy California program. “We think it is important to defend that from threats in Washington.”

Several California leaders are even pushing Trump to replace Obamacare with “Medicare for All,” a.k.a. single-payer health care. “The one I am counting on the most to push nationalized health care is Trump,” RoseAnn DeMoro, the head of the Oakland-based National Nurses United union, told Politico, citing Trump’s “international perspective” as a businessman and the fact that his wife comes from Slovenia, which has a single-payer system. Another major backer of “Medicare for All” is California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, who as mayor of San Francisco in 2007 launched Healthy San Francisco, a health care plan available to all city residents regardless of their immigration status, employment, or preexisting conditions.


Trump’s pick for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, last year killed a bipartisan bill that would have reduced prison sentences for some lower-level drug offenders. He said last April that “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and that “we need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”

Though Sessions moderated that rhetoric during his confirmation hearing this week, his nomination is staunchly opposed by California’s $3 billion legal marijuana industry and its representatives in Washington. “Sessions has a long history of opposing marijuana reform, and nothing he said at the hearing suggests he has changed his mind,” Bill Piper, senior director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, said in a press release. The DPA was a major backer of November’s successful California Proposition 64, which legalizes recreational marijuana.

In an echo of the Proposition 64 campaign, drug policy reform groups have partnered with civil rights groups such as the NAACP and LatinoJustice to oppose Sessions on the grounds that the war on drugs has fueled mass incarcerations of people of color for nonviolent offenses. They want to make sure Trump stands by his 2015 statement to the Washington Post that marijuana legalization “should be a state issue.”

Marijuana industry leaders expect California to vigorously defend Proposition 64 from any federal court challenges. “We would expect a very, very strong pushback from the state, because the reality is it’s a public safety issue,” Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, told the Los Angeles Times. “They have decriminalized a product, so if you don’t allow any sort of regulation in place for people to access that product, the underground market is only going to grow.”


Enthusiastically endorsed by the National Rifle Association, Trump has vowed to diminish federal gun regulations, including eliminating gun-free zones at schools and on military bases, and he supports a national right-to-carry law for concealed guns. During the presidential campaign he also suggested he would appoint an explicitly anti-gun-control justice to the US Supreme Court.

But California this year further strengthened its gun laws, which were already among the toughest in the nation. In July, Brown signed off on legislation that outlawed the possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, required background checks for the purchase of ammunition, and banned the sale of certain types of semi-automatic assault rifles. Proposition 63, approved by voters in November, added requirements for owners to report lost and stolen guns and created a system for confiscating guns from felons.

“The United States is a federal republic, not a monarchy, and California plays an outsized role in our nation’s success,” Lt. Governor Newsom, the architect of Proposition 63, said in a statement to Mother Jones. “The reduction of our state’s gun violence rate is a model for the nation and we’re resilient, flexible, and well prepared for any effort by the NRA and the President-elect to make California a Wild West again.”

One place where California hasn’t pushed back much against Trump since the election is Silicon Valley. A few rank-and-file tech workers have held meetings with civil rights groups, but tech CEOs have quietly sidled up to the president-elect. A few weeks ago, a handful of top tech names climbed Trump Tower for an awkward photo op with Trump and his children. “We definitely gave up a little stature now for possible benefit later,” one source told Recode’s Kara Swisher at the time. “It’s better to be quiet now and speak up later if we have to, and save our powder.”

The San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends free speech and privacy on the internet, took out a full-page advertisement in Wired magazine in December, warning the technology community, “Your threat model has changed.” The ad calls upon tech companies to secure their networks against an incoming Trump administration by encrypting user data, scrubbing data logs, and disclosing government data requests while fighting them in court.

“For California, Trump is creating a lot of fronts where organizations and government are going to be fighting battles,” says Dave Maass, an investigative researcher at EFF. “We are focused on civil liberties and privacy, and we believe they are fundamental to whatever kind of activism battle that you want to fight. If you don’t have free speech and don’t have the ability to organize, then you can’t do anything.” He anticipates that California lawmakers will be generating a flurry of new bills, and that no small number of them “are going to be direct responses to Trump.”


California Mobilizes for War Against Trump

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