Archive for June, 2008

Working within the system

“Working within the system” to produce change that is substantial and transformative is kind of like trying to insert a third team into a standard foozball table without any tools or supplies while obnoxious, rich fat white male brats play the game.

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Police and repression

I just finished writing an article about police repression of dissent a couple of days ago, which may get published somewhere, and which I will post here when it does. It’s basically about how police get funding as social services get cut, and how they use arrests as a method of intimidation and marginalization — against activists but also against the poor and racialized groups.

As I finished writing it on Saturday and Sunday, OCAP activists staged a demonstration at Allen Gardens which the police repeatedly interfered with. The next day, Monday, they arrested an OCAP activist. The next day, Tuesday, they announced an infusion of $5 million from the province to fund more cops. And the next day, Wednesday, police chief Bill Blair announced that there would, in fact, be armed and uniformed police officers strolling the halls of our city’s schools. And a “linchpin witness” in the “homegrown terrorist” Toronto 18 trial testified in court that the police and crown’s case was weak.

And this from a New York blog, AngryBrownButch, posted two days ago:

It’s not about arresting people who are actually doing anything wrong – after all, observing the police is not officially a crime, though I’m sure they wish it were. No, they do it to scare us, make us too scared of arrest or other retaliation to hold them accountable.

And you know what? Sometimes their fear tactics work. Getting arrested is fucking scary, and even just getting messed with or threatened by the cops is daunting. Especially when I’m alone, I get nervous to stop and watch the cops. Not even question them, not even take pictures, and certainly not even anything close to intervening – I get scared of standing nearby and looking at them. And that fear pisses me off. When I’m with someone else, it’s easier; with a group, even easier. The fear makes sense – cops and the power they wield are scary – but we can’t let it stop us from practicing our civil rights and our civic duties in holding them accountable.

Perhaps one of the easiest things to take for granted in this society is that the police are here to “serve and protect” us. Sure. But that depends entirely on how you define “us.”

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Fired for teaching Malcolm X

A high school teacher in Los Angeles got fired for encouraging her students to be, well, socially engaged. Karen Salazar was accused of teaching a curriculum that was too “Afro-centric”. You see, teaching texts like the Autobiography of Malcolm X is dangerous. Students organizing and mobilizing on the high school campus was apparently too much for stuffed up administrators (and most definitely, their higher ups) to see and deal with, so they do what they usually do in such circumstances: Scapegoat a teacher, because, of course, students themselves are too stupid to do anything on their own, and press down on her. In this case, they’ve decided to fire Ms. Salazar.

No, wait, it wasn’t that the curriculum was too “Afro-centric” after all — the materials, apparently, were appropriate. It’s just that her teaching style crossed the line into advocacy. You see, when someone encourages you to change the conditions in society that produce inequality and injustice, that’s inappropriate. Ms. Salazar quotes Paulo Freire, she says one should practice “education as the practice of freedom.” In a democratic country, where education is supposed to be a pillar of freedom, that would be all right. But in countries which pass themselves as democracies but practice so many dispersed forms of tyranny, education needs to be the brainwashing of students to toe the line.

And by firing Karen Salazar, that’s precisely what these administrators are trying to enforce. It’s not that she teaches Malcolm X and Tupac, or that she quotes Freire. It’s that students are organizing and mobilizing, learning to work together in cooperative and collective frameworks to challenge authority and change things for the better. And that’s too much.

Learn more about the struggle of the students to have Ms. Salazar reinstated — including videos of their mass actions — here:

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