Saturday, July 13, 2013






"Remember:  Everything that Hitler did was legal"

The Verdict, and the Fallout Here
by Rayfield A. Waller
July 13, 2013

Here in Detroit I have been managing my many students' and ex-students' despair and pain for the last few hours, returning their endless emails, phone calls, and their text messages, letting them know they now ought to read the long history of racially motivated attacks and murders in America if they want to understand the Zimmerman verdict that has so shocked and appalled them.

Too many of the younger generation have been slowly, insidiously disarmed and misled by mass media fantasies, advertising banalities, blurb thinking, and PR pitch speak. Some of them are genuinely dismayed and even confused by the verdict. One student lamented, "Prof Waller, this verdict makes no sense--it's so immoral!” I have reminded them of what I have said to them so many times in class: to read the history of Eleanore Bumpurs, Amadou Diallo, Malice Green, Rodney King, Arthur McDuffie, James Byrd, Jr. and Keyarika Diggles, and of the hundreds of other victims of white supremacy.

Far too often, young people in their twenties, college age, although they know every detail of the doings of XYZ (Jay Z), Piranha (Rihanna), Dap Diddy (P Diddy), and Bouncy (Beyonce), are largely unaware of the truth of the target painted on their own backs at birth.

If there is anything that can be called positive about this not very unexpected verdict, it may be that yet again and for a new generation, there is concrete evidence that cell phones, a good conk, blue contacts, nice clothes, and designer purses do not a free people make; that our criminal justice system sees ‘the criminal’ as ‘just us’. It is perhaps in a twisted way a positive outcome that my students are finally listening to me tonight, because now it is real to them that most racially motivated murderers are NOT found guilty in the first, local trial, and that what might need to happen now is the inevitable charge of violation of Trayvon Martin’s civil rights by a federal prosecutor wielding the ‘hate crimes’ statute.

What may follow after that is the typical civil case being filed against Zimmerman so that Martin’s family can be afforded a chance to appropriate the hundreds of thousands of blood dollars Zimmerman has and will rake in from his fans for his ‘defense fund’, and now for his ‘protection’ (his lawyers have already begun the PR pitch that Zimmerman, although found not guilty is now a ‘marked man’ who must ‘live in fear’, never mind that Trayvon too, lived in pain and fear the last ten minutes of his life and now no longer lives). That ‘defense fund’, reported at approximately $200,000 just last May, was the very same fund he and his ex-wife perjured themselves over when they lied about it to a judge.

As usual, every generation must be wounded afresh to come to consciousness and recognize that the struggle for freedom and dignity, for justice, goes on and is about them, that the struggle is inter-generational.

Martin’s parents are being circumspect right now, a wise and dignified response to the outrage of this verdict, but I suspect that what will likely happen in the coming days will be an announcement by various civil rights and human rights entities, and certainly by the Martin family legal representation, that pressure is going to be brought to bear upon the justice department and/or federal prosecutors to send Zimmerman back through the wringer and then to strip him of the profits he’s earned from stalking a young Black teen and from the cold blooded murder of that same young Black teen.

If such an announcement comes, it will come inevitably, along with the sickeningly ecstatic self-vindications of the local police officials who violated their civic, legal, and moral duties by seeking to cover up, downplay, and abet Zimmerman’s crime, and along with the typical rush to ‘relief’ by those who will preach ‘healing’ and ‘calm’ with mediocre commentaries proclaiming that ‘justice has run its course,’ and that this is now a ‘time to move on” (back to America as usual, where every 36 hours a person of color’s life is taken by the police—many in ‘extra-judicial’ killings):

The glib comments meant to whitewash the root cause of Martin’s murder—the dehumanizing values of rampant corporate capitalism, racial hysteria, the assumptions of white supremacy, America’s fetish for guns and for vigilante-ism—will almost drown out the residual outrage of the mass movement that was the only thing that led to charges and a trial for Zimmerman in the first place. There will be copious and venal balderdash about the racially maligned Rachel Jeantel’s testimony being the factor that ‘damaged the prosecution’s case’, a ridiculous claim we have already heard from the zombie media and from white supremacy’s mouthpieces.

But, I predict that the additional trials will come, or at least I hope they will, for my students’ sakes.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Katrina vanden Heuvel On the Dire Necessity Of Fighting On Behalf of the Unemployed and the Ongoing Struggle for Public Education and Teachers Unions in Chicago


Do we have the will to fight for the jobless 
by Katrina vanden Heuvel 
July 9, 2013 
The Washington Post
Job seekers wait in line at a construction job fair. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Turmoil in Egypt. Edward Snowden’s travel plans. Immigration reform’s fortunes. Obamacare’s troubles. The Weiner-Spitzer return to politics. There’s no shortage of items absorbing political energy and media bandwidth. But simmering below all of this is a crisis that goes without the immediate attention it demands. Last Friday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yet another month of lackluster jobs numbers. While Washington has long since lost any sense of urgency regarding the jobs crisis, this is an issue that continues to poll at the top of Americans’ concerns.

Our economy is stuck at just over 2 percent growth, and the rate of productivity is worse than anemic. We have hit a point where an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent inspires cheers of “it could’ve been worse!” The result is a painful “new normal” for too many of our fellow Americans.

Few commentators even mention that most of the 195,000 jobs added last month, as well as the ones added in the last few years, are low-paying, temporary, part time and usually without benefits. Much of the job growth we have seen is in restaurant, retail and temporary work — the sort of jobs that rarely offer basic security, let alone a foothold for people to climb into the middle class.

For working families, the struggle is painful, persistent and real: Hourly wages have plummeted to record lows, while executive pay has soared to record highs. There is no longer an income gap; there is now an income gulf. In 1978, the average American chief executive earned 26.5 times more than the average worker. Today, that gap is four times larger, with chief executives taking home 206 times more than average workers.


The crisis is disproportionately affecting minorities and younger Americans. Youth unemployment is at a staggering 16.1 percent, while African Americans are at 13.7 percent and Latinos are at 9.1 percent. The picture we are left with is of a severe shortage of jobs, in which millions of Americans drop out of the labor force in frustration and despair.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party, not least its “intellectuals,” such as Paul Ryan, has come to fetishize the values of Ayn Rand — radical individualism, a hatred of government intervention and spending — and the sort of austerity policies that have proved to be a disaster all over the world. They display adoration for the wealthy and apathy toward the working, and non-working, families that they claim to represent.

Recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows that after four years of recovery, we’re only one-fifth of the way out of the hole left by the recession. At this rate, we won’t close the jobs gap until 2020. That’s too long for out-of-work Americans who continue to suffer.

Fortunately, some in the media are speaking out. And dedicated lawmakers, including members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and other thoughtful Democrats in both the House and the Senate, continue to introduce strong, smart bills to put people back to work. They are stymied only by the wrongheaded belief that debt, not joblessness, is our central challenge — and by GOP obstructionism that has paralyzed the capital.

Indeed, despite the stagnation, solutions to our problem abound.

With interest rates at a historic low, now is the time to invest in job creation and rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure. We could listen to 72 percent of the country and put unemployed Americans to work on government-funded projects to shore up aging bridges, roadways, and schools. President Obama and others have proposed a passel of infrastructure legislation that could put people back to work and transform our nation’s landscape.

They have also proposed major investments in education, especially in preschool, to prepare tomorrow’s workforce. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has been a fierce advocate of job creation, successfully included a provision in the Senate’s recently passed immigration bill to invest $1.5 billion in expanding job opportunities for young people.

Instead of giving tax breaks to companies that move their assets and jobs to distant shores, we should offer tax incentives to companies that create jobs at home.

We could and should tie executive pay to average employee pay in a company, expand the earned income tax credit and raise the threshold for paying payroll taxes. And as Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has noted, in the wealthiest nation in the world, “the people with so much of the wealth bought lobbyists and influence to get loopholes for themselves so that they would not have to pay for the civilization that is America.” That’s why he introduced a bill to create a financial transaction tax, which would tax Wall Street to rebuild Main Street.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has stitched together an array of strong proposals in its Back to Work Budget, which ought to be a starting point for a serious jobs push by Congress.

There are plenty of good ideas, plenty of good bills and plenty of good legislators willing to fight on behalf of the millions of Americans who simply want a decent job. As Obama gears up to spend the summer focused on the economy, isn’t it time to summon the energy and the political will to solve the crisis before our eyes?

Read more from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s archive or follow her on Twitter

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Chicago Rising!
by Rick Perlstein
July 2, 2013
The Nation

A resurgent protest culture fights back against Rahm Emanuel’s austerity agenda.

Karen Lewis, center, president of the CTU is joined by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, left, and United States Representative Bobby Rush, right, during a demonstration and march over the a plan to close fifty-four Chicago Public Schools through Chicago's downtown Wednesday, March 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
On a sunny saturday this past May, far down on the city’s black South Side where corner stores house their cashiers behind bulletproof plexiglass, about 150 activists assembled at Jesse Owens Community Academy. In just a few days, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointed Board of Education would vote on the largest simultaneous school closing in recent history. Owens, along with fifty-three other public schools, was on the chopping block. A recent Chicago Tribune/WGN poll found that more than 60 percent of Chicago citizens opposed the closings, and a healthy cross section of them had turned out for the first of three straight days of marches in protest.

Women in red Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) T-shirts registered participants; a vanload of purple-shirted SEIU marchers lingered in excited anticipation; an activist from the city’s Anti-Eviction Campaign, which breaks into and takes over foreclosed houses, donned a parade marshal’s orange vest; two street medics from the Occupy-associated Chicago Action Medical checked on some elderly marchers who arrived in a church bus. The music teacher at Owens, a former minister, asked rhetorically, “Will I have a job on Monday?” She answers her own question: “That’s OK.” A white, middle-class mother with two kids in the system, who traveled almost 100 blocks to be here, told me that she is a Republican but that “people on the right don’t like being pushed around by overbearing government.”

There were signs representing Jobs With Justice and the community-labor umbrella group Grassroots Collaborative. Another sign snarked: if rahm and his unelected school board ever set foot in a CPS school perhaps their math wouldn’t be so bad. The president of Michigan’s American Federation of Teachers spoke. Then a parent mocked public schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s recent invocation of Martin Luther King at a City Club of Chicago speech: “How can you call this a civil rights movement when you resegregate our schools, decimate our teacher corps and destabilize our neighborhoods?”

The march stepped off, passing boarded-up houses and auction signs; a CTU staffer called cadence (“I don’t know but it’s been said/ Billionaires on the Board of Ed”). Supporters shouted out in solidarity from front porches. When we passed the first of five closing schools along our seven-mile route, a clutch of 10-year-olds bearing handmade signs joined in and got turns at the bullhorn. I noticed something striking: again and again, when the CTU yell-leader barked out the first half of a new chant (“We need teachers, we need books”), everybody already knew the second line: “We need the money that Rahhhhhhm took!”

They know the words because they’ve been here before. The CTU beat Rahm in a historic strike this past September and hasn’t stopped fighting austerity and privatization since. They probably know the words across town too, where a simultaneous march along an even longer route on the even poorer black West Side was going on.

But it isn’t just CTU members who know the words. The progressive tribes have been gathering in Chicago with force, efficiency, creativity, trust and solidarity, building a bona fide, citywide protest culture. And it’s working. Days before these marches, Mayor Emanuel, who has been talked up in some circles as possibly the first Jewish president, told the Chicago Sun-Times, “I am not running for higher office—ever.” This purring protest infrastructure is one of the major reasons why.

To many national observers, this rebirth of the city’s militant protest culture seemingly came out of nowhere. But it didn’t. It’s the product of years of organizing from sources both expected and surprising. And while the radicalized CTU under the leadership of Karen Lewis has deservedly received much of the credit, the teachers union is just the current tip of the spear in a long and potentially transformative movement.

* * *
“I think we have a synergy going on here that is unrivaled in any other city,” says the Rev. C.J. Hawking, “but it could be replicated.” Hawking is originally from the far South Side neighborhood of Mount Greenwood, “where all the firefighters and cops live.” Twenty-nine years ago, she became a United Methodist pastor. Twenty years ago, during a historic strike in the downstate town of Decatur, she began devoting her ministry to labor issues. In 2007, she became executive director of Arise Chicago, a group founded in 1991 by local religious leaders who wanted to mass their voices together in favor of workers and immigrant rights. Arise created a thriving workers center in 2002, and in the fall of 2011, the group was at the center of the Week of Action, one of the most extraordinary protests in any US city in recent memory.

It began on a Monday in October. The Mortgage Bankers Association was in town for its annual meeting. From five separate sites across downtown, the marches began; late in the afternoon, they converged on the Art Institute of Chicago. There, on the rooftop pavilion of a sumptuous, brand-new wing designed by Renzo Piano, the wizards responsible for wrecking the US economy sipped champagne and networked. Or at least they tried to above the din of the peasants singing, chanting and yelling up at them from below. On any other day, the pavilion’s vertical struts look like graceful architectural ornaments, but on this day, they looked like jail bars. Martin Luther King said a long time ago, “There is nothing more powerful to dramatize a social evil than the tramp, tramp of marching feet.” He is right—still. I saw fear written on the bankers’ faces. On our faces, I saw joy.

The next day at the Pritzker family’s Hyatt Regency Hotel, sixteen activists from Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation were arrested for occupying the sky bridge between the hotel’s two wings, as hundreds in the streets below cheered them on. A group called Action Now dumped garbage from a vacant foreclosed home outside a Bank of America branch. The rest of the week was filled with similar actions. It was a triumph.

“I never entered a bank before because of my immigration status,” one participant said. “I felt uneasy, but then we became family.” “I was scared,” said another, “but my courage grew.” A third: “I can’t believe I sat in the street! That was my first time. It was great!” A fourth: “I am going to educate my children about what I did and bring them up to do the same.”

Nineteen months later, I asked Hawking how it all came together. The idea sprang from meetings the previous summer of the convening umbrella organization, which eventually became known as Stand Up! Chicago. Twenty groups were at the table: religious groups, a senior citizens group, immigrant groups, community groups and labor unions—a rare convergence in itself. “It was a little awkward at first,” she says. “We always got along. But we were also competing for all those precious grant dollars.”

It turned out to be easier to work together than anyone thought. After testing out a smaller feeder march in June, the groups met in October for an intensive week of planning using an innovative organizing model: they separated into a dozen or so groups of twenty-five. Each group contained members from different organizations; those members planned their own actions, argued together, socialized together and then, when the pivotal moment came, stuck together on the streets.

“People from Arise Chicago, workers who’d had their wages stolen, unionists from Jobs With Justice, people from the Lakeview Action Coalition…I think this [collaboration] is really unique and pivotal to understanding how we’ve been so successful,” says Hawking. “If I get caught and the light turns red, twenty-four other people are going to make sure that I get across the street.”

Stand Up! Chicago dubbed the groups “flying squads” after the Flint, Michigan, General Motors sit-down strikes of 1936–37. “Each flying squad was completely bonded to each other by the end of that week,” says Hawking. At a debriefing after one protest, an experienced activist testified that he rarely felt so free to voice an opinion, to disagree and still feel that he was heard.

I ask Hawking whether she thinks the Week of Action had a direct effect in inspiring the success of the Chicago Teachers Union the following year. “Absolutely. Absolutely,” she answers, before listing a tumult of actions that followed, one feeding into the next: a takeover of the LaSalle Street Bridge over the Chicago River on November 17; 4,000 teachers in their red CTU shirts filling the Auditorium Theatre for a rally that grew into a 10,000-person march in May 2012; the September CTU school strike itself and, three months after that, a meeting of a Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago at the St. James Cathedral, dedicated to fighting for a $15 hourly wage; Black Friday at Walmart; the spread of the fast-food strikes to Chicago; and the latest marches against Rahm’s school closings.

“Organized labor as we know it seems to be struggling,” Hawking says. “And so what did they do in the 1880s and the 1930s? Well, you start building power in the streets.”

* * *

Occupy Chicago has also played a fascinating role in the city’s burgeoning protest movement. Listen to wiry, intense and voluble Jerry Boyle, the movement’s pre-eminent legal defender. Boyle is another product of a “classic South Side Irish family”—this one, though, made up of stalwarts of the Irish Republican Army. “I’m a green diaper baby,” he says, which explains something of his fascination and passion for street politics, a subject on which he has emerged here as something of a theorist.

“It has really encouraged me to see what’s happening here over the last few years. I mean, there has always been a good, strong activist community here, but two things converged that I think made a big difference. One was, Rahm Emanuel became mayor of Chicago, OK?” (Boyle expels one of his thin, reedy laughs.) “And the second one was the particular character that Occupy Wall Street took on as a result…Rahm knew he had NATO and G-8 coming [to Chicago], and he didn’t want that mess on the streets.”

The mayor’s decision to prohibit encampments turned out to be the movement’s ironic source of power. In contrast to other occupations, Chicago Occupiers were forced to move around; they had their own flying squads. They moved, for instance, to places where the mayor was scheduled to appear in order to provoke him. “He has ambitions,” Boyle explains. “Chicago is just a steppingstone for him…and he’s kind of a control freak.” When things don’t turn out the way he wants, Emanuel famously loses his temper. “One of the best weapons the Occupiers have is, you don’t get elected president when you’ve got a temper like that.” The Occupiers would go where Rahm went, “and he left—because he didn’t want to get pissed off.”

The Occupiers also moved one mild October evening to Grant Park, the city’s front yard. Many were arrested for violating the city curfew, some violently—one reason the White House announced, in March, that the G-8 was taking its conference elsewhere. Meanwhile, lawyers working with Occupy contested their arrests before a judge named Thomas Donnelly. Late in September of 2012, Emanuel was served another humiliation—his second in weeks after losing the school strike—when Judge Donnelly dismissed the charges by ruling that the application of the curfew law violated the First Amendment because it was applied differently for different political events, such as President-elect Obama’s legendary victory party in Grant Park in 2008.

By then, Jerry had watched his Occupiers mature into seasoned, effective hell-raisers. “This whole generation of people have a first-rate education from experience,” he says. And unlike elsewhere, where Occupy energies feel dissipated, “they’re all over the place, OK? They’ve spread like a virus!” Even, he relates, in this very cafe where we’re sitting. One day, Jerry watched as the mayor and his entourage walked in. The wait staff here write the customer’s name on the cup, to call out the order when it’s ready. “And they didn’t realize he was being waited on by someone who was busted during OWS. Straight face: ‘And your name?’

“Rahm. Went. Ballistic. ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’

“The whole room is silent. The manager, also busted during OWS, says: ‘Sir, if that behavior is repeated here, we’re going to have to ask you not to come in.’”

And so Occupy Chicago is everywhere. “They go down to the South Side! They’re so clueless, they don’t care!” exclaims Jerry, imitating old-generation Chicago lefty activists who, he says, “wouldn’t be found dead on the South Side…. Just yesterday, there was a vigil and die-in down on the South Side. I see brilliant Occupiers wearin’ shirts spattered with fake blood, in handcuffs. “They’ve changed the whole face of protest in Chicago. It helped lay the foundations for what the teachers did.”

* * *

There’s another group that has changed the face of protest in Chicago, and they’ve done it indoors, sans picket signs or fake blood: the data nerds. Tom Tresser is a former Shakespearean actor who moved to the city in 1980 and soon found himself making his way into arts administration, which sparked an interest in policy. “You start asking questions. You start to look at zoning laws, city planning,” Tresser says.

When Republicans started going after the National Endowment for the Arts in 1989, Tresser began attending the Midwest Academy, a legendary training ground for Chicago organizers. In 2007, he noticed a neighborhood outrage: the Latin School of Chicago, one of the city’s toniest private high schools, was carving out a corner of Lincoln Park as its own private soccer fiefdom; the public would be permitted access only 10 percent of the time, during winter. On a shoestring, he and some neighbors filed a lawsuit. On their day in court, they were shocked to find that among the twelve lawyers lined up on the other side, one was a partner in Chicago’s most high-powered white-shoe law firm and another was the city’s chief corporation counsel.

Tresser quickly realized that “something bigger than a soccer field was at stake” in his Lincoln Park suit. At the time, Chicago had been named a finalist for the 2016 Olympics. “If we got a legal ruling that you can’t privatize a park, the Olympic bid would have been dead before it was unsealed,” he recalls. For privatizing parks on behalf of corporations were what the Games would be all about, and “we would have got nothing for it except bankruptcy.” Tresser and his neighbors weren’t going to stand for it.

“We have a massive global movement of capital,” he told me, “which, because they’ve burned their own fucking houses down through their own greed, don’t have the gilt returns that they’re used to receiving…. So the new guaranteed annual returns that big business and big capital are looking for is our assets.”

In the summer of 2009, he used his credit card to finance a trip by his core activists to Switzerland, where the International Olympics Committee was deliberating. They were armed with a book composed only of articles from the Chicago press about why a corrupt and incompetent city government would botch the Games. When the dust cleared, the Olympics went to Rio, and a consultant with knowledge of the IOC’s deliberations told Tresser that his group’s efficient presentation of information had played a significant role in the decision. Tresser, the son of a public school teacher, began conceptualizing himself as a “public defender.”

“I believe what we call ‘the public’ is under attack in America today: public housing, public education, public health, public transportation. All these things have become precious and scarce, and have actually become dirty words,” he tells seventy-five activists one April evening at a meeting of his next venture, the TIF Illumination Project.

TIF, or tax increment financing, was a potentially noble solution to fix a market failure. Developers don’t want to build in blighted areas where banks won’t lend money, thereby guaranteeing their continued blight. TIF districts are supposed to subsidize development in these underdeveloped areas essentially by borrowing against projected gains in tax revenue generated by the new construction. But in Chicago, the idea has metastasized in a particularly wicked way. TIFs became a scam to funnel public funds to wealthy private interests; the allegedly “blighted” areas came to encompass the Lyric Opera, which got TIF money to spruce up its bronze door handles, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which was pledged $15 million, in part to refurbish its bathrooms. In response to the latter scandal, activists from the anti-TIF movement marched on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange bearing a golden toilet, embarrassing the company into publicly rejecting the money.

Tresser’s work is to create more stories like that one. But to get TIF money returned, you have to find it first—a frightfully difficult task. Each TIF district goes through a review panel composed of representatives from various city agencies, all of them appointed by the mayor. There is supposed to be one public representative on each panel, but that person is appointed by the local alderman and usually doesn’t have much of a clue about what’s happening. A TIF developer seeking public favor can promise to hire a certain number of locals, but there is no mechanism for evaluating whether the developer holds to the deal, and no penalty if it doesn’t. TIF projects are discussed at Chicago Development Commission meetings, but by that time they are basically done deals. No one knows the backroom process by which TIF-worthy projects are determined, though there does seem to be one constant: “If the mayor wants a project,” Tresser notes, “the project will happen.” What’s more, TIF amounts are excluded from the tax bill that property owners receive each year, which itemizes how the city is spending their money.

Finding that crucial hidden information is where the data nerds come in. “This stuff is enough to glaze your eyes over,” Tresser warns his audience, picking up his PowerPoint remote. He’s wrong; Tresser describes his first encounter with the TIF page on the city website, and the audience is rapt. His presentation features a city spreadsheet of individual projects with an unmanageable 4,588 rows, sortable by name, type or by amount of money allocated—but not by ward or neighborhood, the only information relevant to citizens who want to find out whether their community is being ripped off.

To get at that, Tresser’s team sat around his kitchen table and worked through the spreadsheet line by line, compiling their own database—a task made harder by the fact that the TIF districts bear no logical relation to the city’s fifty wards or seventy-seven official planning areas. He flips to a slide of the city’s map of 163 TIF districts. “It looks like a lady with varicose veins!” he says. The map is even harder to work with; when you click on each district, you get a PDF document. Chicago city bureaucrats love PDFs—you can’t enter information on them into database programs unless you do it by hand, which is what Tresser’s data team did. Only then were they able to arrive at some basic conclusions about a program that ate up no less than $455 million in 2011, out of total city property tax receipts of over $1.3 billion. Another even more stunning find was that each TIF district includes a fund balance, an unspent surplus that totals $1.7 billion citywide. That’s a lot of business for whichever bank gets to hold those funds—but the identity of the bank is secret, too.

Tresser begins his presentation explaining what led him to the TIF problem in the first place: hearing, over and over again, “We’re broke… sorry about your overcrowded school, sorry about your public park with no basketball hoops, sorry about the fact that you have to wait forty minutes for the bus, but we’re broke!” That is the excuse for the city’s proliferating privatization deals. It is the excuse, indeed, for Rahm’s fifty school closings.

Later, Tresser describes the even more painstaking work of breaking down TIF finances in each of the city’s fifty wards; they have been able to finish only fifteen so far. (The old trouper, who is a cueball, gets a laugh joking, “I used to have hair.”) He points to a chart indicating that the Fourth Ward, which we’re in, has $15 million in its fund balance. (“The provocative question is: What would you do to improve the ward if you had $15 million in your checking account?”) He points to another chart listing the ward’s TIF beneficiaries: twenty-one private real estate developments and one public school (one of the schools, ironically, that the school board is closing), all outside the designated blighted areas.

Tresser announces, “We want to deputize you to go to these projects and ask them what they did with your money.” He notes that while the city claims 54 percent of property taxes went to the Board of Education, if you include the money in the TIF “black box,” it’s actually only 36 percent.

“So are we broke?” Tresser asks. “It starts to get a little hazy to me.”

The local alderman, Will Burns, has sent his policy and communications director as his representative. At the beginning of the meeting, the aide announced that without TIFs, “high-quality development would not happen in the South Side community.” By the end, he is the recipient of some very hard stares. And a new cadre in Chicago’s activist army has been stirred.

Chicago school activists call this kind of work “data liberation,” and it’s been crucial to their campaign. Sorting through the data (when they could get it), they discovered that the “utilization formula” the school board was using to select which schools to keep open was based on whether homerooms were in a certain range: 20 percent above or below an “ideal enrollment” of thirty students. This means a school could average thirty-six students per classroom and still be considered underutilized. Activists had to dig that statistic out of an entirely separate pool of numbers, the district’s “empty seat” calculation. “We know it’s intentional,” explains Eric Téllez, communications and research coordinator for the Grassroots Collaborative, “to keep the public at bay and unaware of what’s going on.”

It’s not working. Such data liberations have turned into major propaganda coups for the CTU and a major driver of outrage against the school closings. So did a finding by radio station WBEZ, based on much of this same work, that of the nine empirical claims the school board was making about school closings, all nine were either inaccurate or false.

Chicago is where the spreadsheets are meeting the streets—and changing the face of politics in the city. Consider the victories of the last few years. Activists helped sink an Olympic bid that would have been a giant boondoggle and land grab (the failure was a key reason Mayor Richard Daley shocked the city by deciding not to run for re-election in 2011 after six terms). The Chicago Mercantile Exchange was embarrassed into returning $15 million in TIF money. The G-8 moved its conference out of fear of an advancing activist army. The CTU led its members in a victorious teachers strike. This kind of thing is not supposed to be possible, because teachers unions are said to be despised, especially by public school parents. But not in Chicago, where in a recent poll the most militant teachers union in the country is supported by 54 percent of parents; only 9 percent side with the mayor. That mayor came into office with national ambitions, but now his disapproval rating is 40 percent, and only 24 percent of Chicagoans believe the city is better off than it was under the also-unpopular Mayor Daley.

Watch Chicago. Watch it this September, when the school year is set to open with fifty fewer schools in operation. “So let me tell you what you’re gonna do,” shouted CTU president Karen Lewis in a rally last March. “On the first day of school, you show up at your real school! Don’t let these people take your schools!” The conditions are ripe for such civil disobedience: the bonds of trust within a variegated activist community; a growing culture of militancy extending all the way down to formerly quiescent middle-class parents; strategic smarts, passion, momentum. Brazil, Bulgaria, Taksim Square… Chicago. The next battle in the global war against austerity, privatization and corruption just might spark off right here.

Past shuttered schools and glass-strewn vacant lots, the Chicago Teachers Union documented the likely toll of Rahm Emanuel’s latest disastrous education plan, in Rick Perlstein’s April 5 blog entry, “A New Chicago Freedom Ride [2].”

Read more: Chicago Rising! 

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why We Must Fight and Defeat the False Media Narrative About the Reasons For Serena Williams Extraordinary Success As the Best Female Tennis Player in the World

(b. 1942)


With all due respect to Serena's current coach (see BBC article below) I must push back very hard against the incredible amount of outright false, distorted, and thoroughly dishonest misinformation that is currently being spread by the tennis media in charting Serena's (ongoing!) success on the court over the past year. I simply can't believe the barrage of straightup LIES and sheer propaganda that is being foisted on the public and how naive and clueless so many people in the general tennis community seem to be about Serena's ACTUAL phenomenal record of success that she has ALWAYS had--and long before she ever met Patrick Mouratoglou!  This is not to say that her  present coach is not a skilled professional or even that he doesn't have Serena's best interests at heart--in fact he alone is not even the real issue here--but come on now let's get real--HE IS NOT 'THE MAN' BEHIND HER SUCCESS as this headline arrogantly--and stupidly--proclaims. NOT EVEN CLOSE. In fact as I've stated before this absurdly transparent attempt on the part of the media and former white tennis players like Jim Courier (who really made some ridiculously egregious statements yesterday on Tennis Channel about how much Serena's current coach is responsible for her record over the past 12 months) is nothing more after all is said and done than a condescending and ultimately racist assertion by the media, some former players, and Serena's many former detractors in and out of the game who are now trying to pretend they are her "friends" since it's crystal clear she's on the brink of breaking nearly every major historical record left in women's tennis.

So it is in that major and most important context that I share the following astounding statistics about Serena's extraordinary career that she amassed LONG BEFORE she staried "working with" Mouratoglou in June 2012. What the following stats will reveal is that RICHARD AND ORACENE--AND ESPECIALLY RICHARD--are clearly and largely responsible for Serena's success since it was the self taught Mr. Wlliams who taught EVERYONE in the Williams family how to play tennis--as even Oracene openly and honestly admits!--and who first taught the sisters how to play at age 4 and 5. It wasn't until the sisters were 10 and 11 that Richard even sought out other coaches and settled on Rick Macci who proceeded--in collaboration with Richard--to coach Venus and Serena for the next four years whereupon Venus formally began her professional career at age 14 in 1994 and Serena followed three years later. And it's very significant to add that Richard, Oracene and the girls accomplished all this AFTER Venus compiled a 63-0 record (and Serena was 46-3) for girls in California who played tennis in the 12 and under division --which as it turned out were the ONLY junior level matches the two sisters ever played because Richard was wise and perceptive enough--he even said as much--not to burn out his two young phenoms too early. So in honor of the tremendous coaching job and guidance that Richard and Oracene provided for their two daughters I present the following FACTS as evidence that the real "man behind Serena's career" is indeed HER FATHER and not her current coach. I know this FACT really sticks in the craw of many people who simply don't like or respect Richard because of his overall "personality"--and to a LIMITED degree I can well understand why some of Richard's personal behavior can upset people. After all the man is far from perfect and obviously has his own personal faults and shortcomings but the truth of the matter is that in the final analysis Richard is no different from ANYONE ELSE in that respect. I mean NOBODY'S PERFECT and despite whatever problems some people may have with Richard, I for one WILL ALWAYS DEEPLY RESPECT, HONOR, AND SUPPORT what he has accomplished with his two daughters through a dynamic combination of LOVE, PATIENCE, DISCIPLINE, PERSEVERANCE, COURAGE, KNOWLEDGE, AND DETERMINATION--all sterling qualities and values which have IMO--and that of many others!--collectively made Serena THE BEST FEMALE PLAYER IN TENNIS HISTORY. What follows is the detailed empirical PROOF of exactly what Serena's two parents--and especially her father--have done as COACHES in shaping and providing real leadership in the formation, expansion, and growth of Serena's amazing career. The FACT that in the past 10 years Venus and Serena between them have won 23 of the 24 Grand Slam titles that ALL AMERICAN TENNIS PLAYERS COMBINED HAVE WON--AND THAT INCLUDES BOTH MEN AND WOMEN is not only a profound tribute to the astonishing GENIUS, savvy, innovation, and genuine INSIGHT that Richard Williams has brought to the game via his daughters but is an INDICTMENT of the nearly ALL WHITE USTA who despite having many sponsored programs and coaches throughout the country as well as MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in their well endowed budgets have utterly FAILED to accomplish anywhere near the gigantic success of ONE BLACK MAN AND ONE BLACK WOMAN over the past 15 years. Just THINK about those incredible FACTS for a moment. No matter what others falsely claim Serena's current coach is not even remotely close to matching what Richard and Oracene have done. My point is this: For once let's give the proper credit to black people for a change--they've earned it!-- and stop pretending that the "real narrative describing or acknowledging an African American's major success lies elsewhere--because the reality is that it doesn't...For the record then consider the following FACTS about Serena's unprecedented career and the obvious role her parents have played in it:

--Serena won four straight GS titles in just one seven month period from June 2002 to January 2003 which she herself dubbed the "Serena Slam." (she won again five months later at Wimbledon in June 2003)--and all finals were against Venus. The four straight Grand Slam finals they played from June of 2002 to January 2003 were the only time in tennis history that the same two people played against each other in four straight GS finals
--Serena was 94-8 in 2002 and 2003 winning 12 titles and was runnerup in four other tournaments

--Serena had already won Grand Slam titles on all four surfaces by the time she was 21 from 1999-2002

--Serena and Venus won 12 straight Grand slam doubles titles from 1998-2010; Serena also won two gold medals in doubles in the Olympic Games in 2000 and 2008 with Venus

--Serena was the Number One ranked player in the world five different times from 2002 to 2011

--Serena won six Grand Slam singles titles from 1998-2003 and she won seven more from 2005-2010 before she was out most of 2011 with injuries--so much for the completely phony and absolutely false argument that Serena hasn't really been "consistent" throughout her career!

--15 different players other than Serena have been ranked Number One in the WTA at some time or another since Serena began playing professionally in 1998 and Serena is the ONLY PLAYER in the last 15 years who has a WINNING RECORD against EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM--an extraordinary record that she established LONG BEFORE she ever met her current coach


Wimbledon 2013: 
The man behind Serena Williams's success
By Simon Austin BBC Sport 
June 24, 2013
When Patrick Mouratoglou's dream of becoming a top tennis player was blocked by his businessman father, he vowed to scale the heights as a coach instead.

The last 12 months have seen him realise that ambition spectacularly.

Mouratoglou, 43, started working with Serena Williams last June, just days after she had suffered a humiliating defeat to Virginie Razzano, ranked 111, in the first round of the French Open.

Since then, the American has embarked on one of the most remarkable runs in the entire history of women's tennis, which Mouratoglou himself encapsulated on Facebook on 10 June.

"Anniversary of one year of collaboration with Serena," he wrote. "Three Grand Slam titles, two Olympic Gold medals (single and doubles), winner of the Masters Cup, 11 titles, back to number one in the world, oldest number one in the history of the game, 74 matches won out of 77, 31-match winning streak and still counting. Serena is just unique."

The collaboration has seen Mouratoglou, little-known outside tennis circles a year ago, become the subject of front-page stories because of speculation about a romantic relationship with Williams.

Williams' record with Mouratoglou:

Won 74 of 77 matches
Lost only two of 28 matches v top-10 opponents
Won Wimbledon, Olympics, US Open, Masters Cup and French Open
Won 31 matches in a row
Just two short of Martina Navratilova/ Chris Evert's record of 18 Grand Slam titles
Regained world number one ranking and oldest number one in history of women's game

He says Williams has improved several facets of her game in the last 12 months. "Firstly, I think she moves better on the court, which is so important.

"And she is more consistent, meaning her low level is now much higher than it used to be. She doesn't have to rely only on her champion's mentality to come through a match on a bad day."

Williams, now 31, is also competing in more tournaments and many observers have spoken about a happier, friendlier and more motivated athlete.

One of them is former world number one Tracy Austin, who told BBC Sport: "In the past, it seemed like Serena could get bored, as it all came so easily to her. It seems Patrick has made it interesting.

"To wake up every day and feel challenged, and like you have something to improve on and get better on, is phenomenal for an athlete .

"When you have someone in your corner who is not only a great coach but also a great motivator, it's special. Serena has also spoken about the fact she'll look up now and see Patrick in her box and he'll never change his expression, which is so different from her father, who always seemed to be in a different seat and would leave in the middle of matches. Patrick seems to me to be a real stabilising force for her.

"Serena seems in a really good place right now. She's settled, hungry, fit, healthy and confident, which is not a bad combination."

Mouratoglou has reignited Williams' passion for tennis, says former world number one Tracy Austin

Mouratoglou agrees that Williams has less "ups and downs" than she used to.

"You have to remember that tennis players are human beings," he said. "They cannot keep motivated at their best throughout the whole of their careers. But you have to say this - even when Serena was having those downs, she was still winning Grand Slam titles, which is incredible. She really is amazing.

"Serena had already won 13 Grand Slams when we started working together, but had the will to go on, to keep practicing hard, to keep looking for ways to improve. That requires a special frame of mind, the mindset of a very special champion."


Why doesn't Serena Williams get the credit she deserves?

IF you want to spark a reaction on Twitter, just say something complimentary about Serena Williams.

"I can't stand the sight of her - she's the person who ruined women's tennis," was one of the more printable responses to a comment I posted last Thursday evening suggesting that Williams had not received enough praise for a staggering demolition of Sara Errani in the semi-final of the French Open that saw her lose just a solitary game.

Two days later, and Williams was defeating Maria Sharapova in straight sets to claim a 16th grand slam title. Did that lead to an outpouring of superlatives? Not exactly.

Most of the public acclaim appeared grudging at best, while the media response to Williams' 43rd victory from 45 matches this season was muted in comparison to the deluge of column inches that accompanied Rafael Nadal's victory over David Ferrer a day later.

In part, that reflects the extent to which women's tennis is still seen as something of a poor relation compared to the version of the game that is played by men, but it isn't always like this and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that something specific is involved when it comes to Williams.

It is equally hard to avoid the conclusion that that 'something specific' is related to issues of race and femininity, thorny subjects undoubtedly, but ones that cannot be ignored when one of the greatest sportswomen of our era is being denied the credit she deserves.

What is it about Williams we either dislike or distrust? The most common criticism hurled in her direction is that her playing style is predicated solely on power, and that her naturally muscular physique somehow gives her an unfair advantage over her opponents.

This is a desperately flawed argument for a number of reasons. For a start, you don't become the best player in the world simply because of an ability to hit the ball hard.

Yes, Williams' preferred playing style owes much to the strength of her shots, particularly when it comes to her serve, which is significantly superior to that of most other female players.

But her athleticism, precision and ability to consistently keep hitting the lines under the most intense of pressure mark her out as a supreme technician.

Particularly on the forehand, she can mix things up much more than she gets credit for, but even if her game was solely about strength, it's not as if such an approach is against the rule book.

So much of Nadal's play revolves around his repeatedly heavy hitting from the back of the court, his metronomic consistency and the competitive instinct that enables him to keep balls alive that other players would give up on.

In Nadal, that is a ferocious will to win. In Williams, it is somehow regarded as unsportsmanlike.

Is the distinction because Williams is black? It must surely play a part for some people on some level, yet it would be wrong to claim that society, particularly in this country and the United States, is completely uncomfortable with the idea of a physically powerful black champion.

On the football field, the likes of Patrick Vieira and Yaya Toure were lauded for their physical attributes. Americans are used to black footballers and basketballers using their size and strength to their advantage. Nobody seems to complain about the way Usain Bolt towers over his rivals in the 100m.

Yet the common denominator in all of these situations is that the athlete in question is a man. Try to think of examples of powerful black females - and the word 'powerful' here can have both physical and emotional connotations - and it quickly becomes apparent that Williams is blazing something of a trail.

The leading female sprinters are perhaps comparable, but none have dominated their sport in the way Williams has over the last decade-and-a-half, and so none have been subjected to the same sniping and judgement. The same can be said of Nicola Adams, another black sportswoman who has achieved success in a sphere where strength is all-important.

In many ways, Williams is a new type of champion, challenging conventions of what is deemed desirable in a sport that has strong, pre-conceived notions of what a women's number one should look like, and how she should perform and conduct herself on the court.

Williams' behaviour is often held up as another defect, and there have been times when she has strayed beyond the boundaries of acceptability, most notably when she threatened a lineswoman during the final of the 2009 US Open.

Again though, different things seem to be demanded of Williams than of other players. Roger Federer is no stranger to swearing on court, and can be churlish and argumentative in his press dealings, yet he is held up as the ideal sporting gentleman. John McEnroe's entire persona was built around his combativeness and fiery personality.

Williams isn't allowed to be like that, even though she would only be half the player she is if she didn't have an unquenchable need to succeed.

That competitiveness has enabled her to tower over her rivals, another stick that is used to beat her down. "It's an extremely weak time for women's tennis," is the cry, evoking a previous halcyon era, but conveniently forgetting that that halcyon era never really existed.

Steffi Graf, one of Williams' rivals for the title of the greatest of all time, once won a French Open final 6-0, 6-0, yet you don't find many people saying she had it easy.

Williams has overcome multiple obstacles to reach the pinnacle of the game, and continues to tackle adversity at every turn.

In 2011, she almost died after suffering a pulmonary embolism, yet within little more than a year, she was beating Agnieszka Radwanska at Wimbledon to claim her fifth All England title.

Later this month, she will return to SW19 at Wimbledon in an attempt to defend her crown. Perhaps in years to come, we will fully appreciate how privileged we are to be able to witness her achievements.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Civil Rights, African American Citizens, and the Venal Racism of the U.S. Supreme Court in the 21st Century


All of Us or None

Civil Rights and the Supreme Court: Why We Can’t Celebrate


The recent Supreme Court decisions striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (in United States v. Windsor) and reaffirming the California Supreme Court’s rejection of the challenge to Proposition 8—the state ban on gay marriage (in Hollingsworth v. Perry)—mark a major moment in United States civil rights history.  No longer can the federal government discriminate against legally married gays and lesbians, and same sex couples may now legally marry in California.  Though in neither case did the Court go so far as to prohibit states from denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, the cases nonetheless constitute a significant milestone.  These outcomes were far from certain in the hands of an institution that only recently had legitimized the prerogative of states to criminally prosecute gays and lesbians, and to deny them basic rights as a legitimate expression of moral opprobrium. But things have changed.  Windsor and Perry are now not only part of our constitutional infrastructure; they are part of the American story of civil rights reform.  In this respect, we have come a long way.  That we have travelled this distance should be cause for celebration.  And, yet, we cannot.

We can’t celebrate because despite the affirmation of one set of rights, another—the civil rights of African Americans—is being relentlessly undermined.  Continuing a decade-long trend of attacking and eroding legal remedies for racial inequality, the Supreme Court effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act –the most powerful and productive civil rights provision secured through the Civil Rights Movement’s bloodiest struggles against racial domination.  In Shelby v. Holder, for the first time in over a century, the Supreme Court ruled that despite the fourteenth amendment’s express grant of authority to Congress to remedy racial discrimination, Congress’ actions were unconstitutional.   This was not merely a narrow ruling regarding congressional intentions that might have invited Congressional clarification.  Instead the Court overturned Congress’ bi-partisan conclusions, supported by voluminous evidence, that the promise of racial equality in the democratic arena required ongoing protective measures, and substituted its own groundless judgment that voting rights protections imposed unjust burdens on unfairly stigmatized states.  In so doing, the Court afforded states’ rights greater constitutional concern than individuals’ rights, trading on an old and sadly familiar constitutional technique to suppress racial equality.  Given the current fractured political landscape, the power that the Court so brazenly grabbed from Congress’ grasp may never be restored.  This will further erase the very limited collective memory we have of the sacrifice of the thousands of lives irreparably damaged or lost to achieve these and other civil rights protections.

Yet notwithstanding this aggressive assault on civil rights, and the fact that these rights formed the very terrain out of which more recent demands for equality grew, there was very little public outcry.  This muted response cannot be attributed to any confusion about the inevitable consequences of this devastating loss.  Indeed, in the immediate wake of the decision, various Republican politicians have quickly and unapologetically moved forward to install highly restrictive and unnecessary voter identification laws previously blocked by the VRA, knowing full well, and intending the negative impact those laws will have on people of color and poor people.

We cannot celebrate because even though the Court did not declare affirmative action per se unconstitutional, its ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas will make such policies far more difficult to sustain.  In sending the case back to the lower court, the Supreme Court made a formal nod to precedent in affirming that diversity constituted a crucial interest for an academic institution, but stealthily departed from prior case law in ratcheting up the evidentiary standard that the university is required to meet in order to justify its most limited use of race.  Rather than strike down affirmative action outright, the Court has subjected it to the risk of death by a thousand cuts.   The Court’s ideological hostility to policies that seek to dismantle racial inequality is masked behind technical evidentiary rulings that lighten the load for those opposed to diversity and place potentially insurmountable burdens on those who carry the imperatives of racial justice forward. Indeed, while the Court’s majority lowered the bar to embrace Abigail Fisher’s claim that her equal protection rights were violated in the absence of any evidence that she had qualifications superior to those students who were admitted, it ruled that the lower court’s evaluation of the University’s extensive evidence justifying its use of race was not stringent enough, essentially requiring the school to jump over an even higher hurdle to support the policy.   Although asserting that these results flow from neutral principles, the Court’s decisions reveal that in effect there are different standards for different claimants—a difference that decidedly is not colorblind but is marked by race.   While the case is not over, and the university will have another chance at bat, we should not lose sight of the fact that the game is now rigged.    White claimants along with aggrieved Southern States are the new recipients of the Court’s interventionist sympathies.   Together with Shelby, these decisions reflect conservative racial politics dressed up as race-neutral, colorblind constitutional jurisprudence, a repackaging of resistance to racial equality that we cannot celebrate.

We can’t celebrate because the Roberts’ Court continues to impose heavier burdens on those who seek to prove employment discrimination in the workplace—an ongoing problem verified by repeated studies and investigations.  In two decisions that remained largely under the radar, the Court required plaintiffs alleging employment discrimination to essentially submit proof beyond a reasonable doubt in the context of civil cases where the standard is less.   Researchers over the past decade have demonstrated that cases asserting race-based discrimination are the most difficult to win, in part because of the kinds of aggressive interpretations of the statutes that the Court has imposed and that lower courts have adopted.   The most recent decisions reflect the Court’s zero-sum approach to equality, previewed in a prior ruling that effectively framed efforts to minimize disparate impact discrimination against minorities as intentional discrimination against whites.  In Ricci v. Destefano, the New Haven firefighters case, the Court held that the City’s efforts to avoid the racially exclusionary effects of its promotional test by cancelling the test results for everyone and looking for a less discriminatory metric was itself a form of intentional race based discrimination against whites.  This move effectively placed such disparate impact claims on the critical conditions list, with Justice Scalia seemingly anxiously and peevishly awaiting the opportunity to declare this bedrock provision of the employment discrimination act to be unconstitutional.

We can’t celebrate because the Court continues to frame racial remediation efforts no matter what the context—in education, in employment, in voting—as racial preferences or reverse discrimination.   What is even more distressing is that many liberals and progressives frame racial remediation in this way as well.  For example, the standard liberal defense of affirmative action is that the policies are racial preferences that are necessary to ensure diversity.  This framing of affirmative action is precisely what Justice Scalia traded on when he cast the stigma of preferential treatment around the fundamental right of non-discrimination in voting, referring to the Voting Rights Act as a “racial entitlement.”

We can’t celebrate because the Supreme Court cases this term reflect a more general phenomenon whereby African Americans are becoming increasingly irrelevant in social justice advocacy. Whether via calls to “get beyond the black/white paradigm” or the slogan that “gays are the new blacks,” efforts to discuss African Americans as the appropriate subjects of civil rights interventions are regarded as out of step with current realities.  We are to seek remedies for racial inequality without using the “r” word and particularly admonished to avoid any reference to specific forms of anti-black racism.  Apparently, we are to acquiesce to the view that the country—and certainly the Supreme Court—is sick and tired of African American civil rights claims (read: racial grievances), but not sick and tired of African American inequality.  The yawning and sometimes widening inequalities that still exist are, if ever acknowledged, typically framed as a product of our alleged cultural dysfunction.

 We can’t celebrate because our President, our leaders and our advisors tell us that we cannot hope to achieve effective coalition by drawing attention to racial inequality.  They insist that we have to find another register in which to make our concerns speak to those who are not concerned about us.  We cannot celebrate because we know what gay rights advocates know: that an inequality that can’t be named cannot be addressed.

We cannot celebrate because African Americans cannot benefit from the kind of empathy that played at least a partial role in mobilizing the public to support marriage equality.  We know that when appeals to be treated as an equal are pitched so that “persuadables” can understand this imperative through the lives of a loved relative, trusted colleague or dear friend, we who have been America’s Others will not gain traction or empathy through such ties.  We cannot celebrate because we know that we are not able to have our difference minimized, because our difference defines not only who we are in the eyes of fellow Americans, but also defines who other Americans imagine themselves to be.

While we join in acknowledging with respect the work and sacrifice that went into achieving the gain of the marriage equality decisions, we do so with the sobriety that comes from recognizing the Court’s decisions for what they are—a vision of equality that appears to create winners and losers but in the end shortchanges everyone. Formal equality—the idea that we all just want to be treated the same—was never the only objective of the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, nor any social movement.  The African American freedom struggle was not over when the Supreme Court decided Brown, or the Civil Rights Act was passed.  Nor was the women’s movement over when women got the right to vote or were no longer excluded from military combat.   Immigration rights will not be won if the bill before Congress is passed, nor will the right to marry resolve the ongoing patterns of discrimination against LGBT people. We cannot celebrate because we recognize that despite the myriad constraints imposed by those who stand against human rights in all its various dimensions, we should not accept the current terrain as the map of our possibilities. What we can do is celebrate the clarity that comes from speaking the truth about where things are—a truth that must be reckoned with as a necessary if insufficient precondition towards realizing our freedom dreams.

All of us or none.

Devon Carbado teaches Constitutional Criminal Procedure, Constitutional Law, Critical Race Theory, and Criminal Adjudication. He is an outstanding teacher who was elected Professor of the Year by the UCLA School of Law classes of 2000 and 2006.  In 2003 he received the Law School’s Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching, and he has also received the University’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the Eby Award for the Art of Teaching. He writes in the areas of critical race theory, employment discrimination, criminal procedure, constitutional law, and identity. He is editor of Race Law Stories (Foundation Press) (with Rachel Moran), and is working on a book on employment discrimination tentatively titled “Acting White” (Oxford University Press) (with Mitu Gulati).  In 2005 Professor Carbado was named an inaugural recipient of the Fletcher Foundation Fellowship.  Modeled on the Guggenheim fellowships, it is awarded to scholars whose work furthers the goals of Brown v. Board of Education.

Kimberlé Crenshaw is a Professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia Law School. She is a leading authority in the area of Civil Rights, Black feminist legal theory, and race, racism and the law.  Her articles have appeared in the Harvard Law Review, National Black Law Journal, Stanford Law Review and Southern California Law Review. She is the founding coordinator of the Critical Race Theory Workshop, and the co-editor of the volume, Critical Race Theory: Key Documents That Shaped the Movement. Crenshaw has been executive director of the African American Policy Forum, a legal think tank since she co-founded it in 1996.

Cheryl Harris, Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Professor of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights at UCLA School of law, began her teaching career at Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1990, after more than a decade in practice that included criminal appellate and trial work, and municipal government representation as a senior attorney for the city of Chicago. As the National Co-Chair for the National Conference of Black Lawyers for several years, she developed expertise in international human rights, particularly concerning South Africa. Professor Harris was a key organizer of several major conferences both in South Africa and in the United States that helped establish a dialogue between U.S. legal scholars and South African lawyers during the development of South Africa’s first democratic constitution in 1994.   Harris is the author of leading works in Critical Race Theory including the highly influential “Whiteness as Property” (Harv. L. Rev.). Her work has also taken up the relationship among race, gender and property, and most recently has focused on race, equality and the Constitution through the re-examination of Plessy v. Ferguson and Grutter v. Bollinger.