Stop trying to change the name of Black Lives Matter

Protesters carry signs insisting all lives matter.

Protesters carry signs insisting all lives matter.

Since it became a national movement, Black Lives Matter has been met with antagonism for its name alone. The phrase “black lives matter” is seen by some as divisive, confrontational and perhaps even racist. It reveals a great deal about the struggle black Americans face that controversy arises when they assert the value of their lives.

But there’s an important reason why the name shouldn’t be changed: In our criminal justice system, black lives are not treated like they matter. The name is therefore both an expression of what we wish reality to be and an exposé of what reality isn’t. Continue reading

Despite murder indictment, Cincinnati still reveals the deep roots of police state

Samuel DuBose argues with Officer Ray Tensing, whose hands are seen here on his body cam. Moments later, Tensing shot DuBose as he began accelerating.

Samuel DuBose argues with Officer Ray Tensing, whose hands are seen here on his body cam. Moments later, Tensing shot DuBose as he began accelerating.

A routine traffic stop in Cincinnati quickly escalated into yet another chapter in the ongoing American saga, “Cop kills unarmed black man.” University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing’s body camera shows the July 19 encounter between himself and the victim, Samuel DuBose. In the video, DuBose becomes somewhat evasive when Tensing asks for his ID, suggesting he had a license but not on him. When DuBose did not immediately comply with Tensing’s follow-up command to exit the vehicle, Tensing reached into the car, DuBose accelerated, and Tensing shot him in the head.

Unlike countless other officers in similar situations, Tensing was charged with murder for his actions. That’s a small measure of justice, but there is still plenty about the incident that speaks to the monstrousness of the police state and the judicial protections that insulate it from scrutiny. Continue reading

Activists are right to make Bernie blacker

Activists join Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley on stage at the Netroots Nation conference. (CNN)

An activist joins Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley (right) and moderator Jose Antonio Vargas at the Netroots Nation conference. (CNN)

Ordinarily, the Netroots Nation convention – an influential, annual gathering of progressive politicians and activists – might not receive much press outside of progressive media. But this year, a group of #BlackLivesMatter activists made headlines when they challenged Democratic presidential candidates, notably Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, to address issues of police brutality and systemic discrimination against black Americans. Continue reading

Confederate flag discussion distracts from what really happened in Charleston

The new face of American terror: white males worried about minorities taking over

The new face of American terror: white males worried about minorities taking over “their” country.

Even as mass shootings in America have become almost a banality, last week’s massacre in Charleston, South Carolina manages to stand out. White supremacist Dylann Roof brought a concealed handgun into an African-American church, issued a series of terrifying proclamations about a race war, and murdered nine people. He intentionally left witnesses so they could repeat his words. Later research uncovered a trove of racism, including a detailed manifesto and pictures of the shooter wearing patches of racist African regimes on his jacket.

Any sane person could acknowledge that our gun culture, combined with venomous and widely proliferated rhetoric about black “takers” and “thugs,” were the ingredients for this act of terror. Yet in the tragedy’s immediate aftermath, conservatives threw their hands up in the air, offered meaningless condolences and said, essentially, “Who knows what went wrong or what we can do about it?” Continue reading