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Funny men, Unfunny facts: the prison system slave trade

Stephen Fry and comedians on the British game show QI, discuss the astonishing condition of prison marketeering ie the back door slave trade.

Sept 10, 2013

AFL-CIO Pledges Prison Reform, Partnerships and Accountable Organizing Plans

The largest federation of US unions, the AFL-CIO, passed resolutions Monday slamming “the big business behind mass incarceration,” promising intensified collaboration with alternative labor groups and granting its leadership new oversight tools designed to spur more effective organizing by its fifty-seven unions.

“Politicians and employers want to divide us,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told delegates in a morning keynote address. “They want to tell us who can be in the labor movement and who can’t. We can’t let them.”

read more here

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Saru Jayaraman: Why Sustainable Food Must Include Sustainable Working Conditions for the People Who Serve Us

Dandelion Salad

Dandelion Salad

talkingsticktv on Sep 8, 2013

Talk by Saru Jayaraman author of “Behind the Kitchen Door” on “Serving Up Justice: Why Sustainable Food Must Include Sustainable Working Conditions for the People Who Serve Us” given September 7, 2013 at the Community Alliance for Global Justice 7th Annual Strengthening Local Economics Everywhere Dinner held at University Christian Church in Seattle, WA. 

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Politics, politeness and the dangers of nice

angry101

This article originally appeared at Social Justice League.  It is reblogged without permission but in the spirit of solidarity and public education. (If asked to do so, we will gladly remove it.) In reblogging, please retain original source and author whenever possible.

The Revolution Will Not Be Polite: The Issue of Nice versus Good

Author: 

A while ago, tumblr user “iamateenagefeminist” compiled a list of non-oppressive insults, a public service that will never be forgotten. The people of tumblr wept with joy and appreciation (although it should be noted that the people of tumblr will literally weep over a drawing of an owl). The list is not perfect, and “ugly” should NOT be on there as it reinforces beauty hierarchies. Still, I was happy to find it, because I am always looking for more insults that don’t reinforce oppressive social structures.

But if you scroll through the reblogs you’ll see that not everyone was enamoured of the idea of creating this list at all. In particular, several people said that trying to find non-oppressive ways to insult other people is “missing the point” of social justice. Those people seem to think that being nice is a core part of social justice. But those people are wrong.

Social justice is about destroying systematic marginalisation and privilege. Wishing to live in a more just, more equal world is simply not the same thing as wishing to live in a “nicer” world. I am not suggesting niceness is bad or that we should not behave in a nice way towards others if we want to! I also do not equate niceness with cooperation or collaboration with others. Here’s all I am saying: the conflation of ethical or just conduct (goodness), and polite conduct (niceness) is a big problem.

Plenty of oppressive bullshit goes down under the guise of nice. Every day, nice, caring, friendly people try to take our bodily autonomy away from us (women, queers, trans people, nonbinaries, fat people, POC…you name it, they just don’t think we know what’s good for us!). These people would hold a door for us if they saw us coming. Our enemies are not only the people holding “Fags Die God Laughs” signs, they are the nice people who just feel like marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense, it’s just how they feel! We once got a very nice comment on this site that we decided we could not publish because its content was “But how can I respect women when they dress like – sorry to say it, pardon my language – sluts?”. This is vile, disgusting misogyny and no amount of sugar coating and politeness can make it okay. Similarly, most of the people who run ex-gay therapy clinics are actually very nice and polite! They just want to save you! Nicely! Clearly, niceness means FUCK ALL.

On an even more serious note, nice people also DO horrible bad things on an individual level. In The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker, he explicitly says that people who intend to harm others often display niceness towards them in order to make them feel safe and let their guard down. This trick only works because we have been taught that niceness indicates goodness. What is more, according to De Becker, women have been socially conditioned to feel indebted to men who are “nice” to them, which is often exploited by abusers. If this doesn’t seem obvious to you, I suggest you pick up the book – it talks a lot about how socialisation of men and women makes it easier for men to abuse women.

How many more acts that reinforce kyriarchy have to be done nicely and politely before we stop giving people any credit for niceness? Does the niceness of these acts make them acceptable? It does not.

An even bigger issue is that if people think social justice is about niceness, it means they havefundamentally misunderstood privilege. Privilege does not mean you live in a world where people are nice to you and never insult you. It means you live in a world in which you, and people like you, are given systematic advantages over other people. Being marginalised does not mean people are always nasty to you, it means you live in a world in which many aspects of the cultural, social and economic systems are stacked against people like you. Some very privileged people have had awful experiences in life, but it does not erase their privilege. That is because privilege is about groups of people being given different rights and opportunities by the law and by socio-cultural norms. Incidentally, that is why you can have some forms of privilege and not others, and it doesn’t make sense to try to “tally up” one’s privilege into a sum total and compare it against others’.

By the way, the first person who says “But then why are TV shows a social justice issue?” in the comments will have their head put on a pike as an example to others. Cultural narratives are part of what builds and reinforces social roles, and those determine what opportunities a person has – and the rights they can actually exercise, even if they have them in the law. If you don’t believe me and don’t want to accept this idea, you will now google “stereotype threat”, you will read Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, you will watch this speech by Esther Duflo on women and development (which talks about stereotypes and outcomes), and THEN you may return to this blog.

The conflation of nice and good also creates an avenue of subtle control over marginalised people. After all, what is seen as “nice” is cultural and often even class-dependent, and therefore the “manners” that matter get to be defined by the dominant ethnic group and class. For example, the “tone” argument, the favourite derailing tactic of bigots everywhere, is quite clearly a demand that the oppressor be treated “nicely” at all times by the oppressed – and they get to define what “nice” treatment is. This works because the primacy of nice in our culture creates a useful tool – to control people and to delegitimise their anger. A stark example of this is the stereotype of the desirably meek and passive woman, which is often held over women’s heads if we step out of line. How much easier is it to hold on to social and cultural power when you make a rule that people who ask for an end to their own oppression have to ask for it nicely, never showing anger or any emotion at being systematically disenfranchised? (A lot easier.)

Furthermore, I think the confusion of meanness with oppression is the root cause of why bigots feel that calling someone a “bigot” is as bad as calling someone a “tranny” or taking away their rights. You know, previously I thought they were just being willfully obtuse, but now I realise what is going on. For example, most racists appear to feel that calling POC a racist slur is a roughly equal moral harm to POC calling them a “racist fuckhead”. That’s because they do not understand that using a racist slur is bad in any sense other than it hurts someone’s feelings. And they know from experience that it hurts someone’s feelings to be called racist douche.

So if you – the oppressed – hurt someone’s feelings, you’re just like the oppressor, right? Wrong. Oppression is not about hurt feelings. It is about the rights and opportunities that are not afforded to you because you belong to a certain group of people. When you use a racist slur you imply that non-whiteness is a bad thing, and thus publicly reinforce a system that denies POC the rights and opportunities of white people. Calling a white person a racist fuckhead doesn’t do any of that. Yes, it’s not very nice. And how effective it is as a tactic is definitely up for debate (that’s a whole other blog post). But it’s not oppression.

Being good and being nice are totally unrelated. We need to get serious about debunking this myth, because the confusion between the two is obfuscating our message and handing our oppressors another tool with which to silence us. In some cases, this confusion is putting people (especially women) in real danger.

This social movement can’t achieve its goals if people think it’s essentially some kind of niceness revolution. And anyway, social justice is not about making the world a nicer place. It’s about taking back the rights and opportunities denied to us by law or by social and cultural norms – and breaking out of the toxic mindset that wants us to say please and thank you when we do.

The article above is reposted in its entirety from The Social Justice League.  Authors at The Social Justice League are referred to as “mysterious masked bloggers” and use only first names. The site’s tagline is “Everyone’s A Superhero“. Here is Rachael’s bio as it appears on Social Justice League.

Rachael is a queer, nerdy, white cisfemale with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a give ‘em hell attitude. She has a culturally unacceptable amount of body fat but sometimes “passes”, and she accesses some forms of thin privilege but not others. She has unorthodox brain chemistry. She believes in leveraging the privilege one has in order to smash the kyriarchy. In her spare time she enjoys reading, swimming in the ocean, hiking, martial arts and shouting.

http://www.socialjusticeleague.net/2012/04/the-revolution-will-not-be-polite-the-issue-of-nice-versus-good/

Letter to the NC General Assembly: I Can No Longer Afford to Teach

making our way

Dear members of the North Carolina General Assembly,

The language in this letter is blunt because the facts are not pretty. Teaching is my calling, a true vocation, a labor of love, but I can no longer afford to teach.

I moved to North Carolina to teach and to settle in to a place I love. My children were born here; we have no plans to leave. I reassured my family in Michigan, shocked at my paltry pay and health benefits, that North Carolina had an established 200 year history of placing a high value on public education and that things would turn around soon.

When I moved here and began teaching in 2007, $30,000 was a major drop from the $40,000 starting salaries being offered by districts all around me in metro Detroit, but it was fine for a young single woman sharing a house with roommates and paying…

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An open letter to whites about the black community and the Trayvon Martin case

The Molinist

This morning, I woke up to this. Like many, many people within and without the black community, I followed this case intently and had (continue to have) definite opinions on them (the justice of those opinions is another matter) and, like many, I received the news not with anger or frustration but a sort of quiet sadness that is difficult to explain. I’m going to try, though, in the hopes that I can share some insight into what this case, and this verdict, mean for communities of colour in and outside the United States.

I wasn’t present when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, so I don’t know what transpired. I cannot peer into George Zimmerman’s soul, so I don’t know what he was thinking or with what intent he followed Martin down the street. What I do know is what it’s like to be a Trayvon Martin. To be…

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The Unenlightened Society

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

In honor of Trayvon’s life and all other murders based on hatred….

Liberation is not won only in deep exploration or just seeing racism, sexism, or homophobia in closed quarters of study and meditation. It cannot be experienced through introspection alone or waiting for others to point out places of oppression. This work for everyone must come by openly acknowledging norms, desires, biological myths, and practices that fuel racial, sexual and gender based hatred. There is a collective liberation between us that requires a society to go within to dissolve the hatred that has claimed our lives. A society must reconcile the harm within and without. It must say, “Ah, we have hurt people after having covered up our mess for so long.” A society must learn to see. An unexamined society is an unenlightened one.

We cannot be an enlightened society without facing ourselves. A society that survives examines…

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Guest Blogger Starling: Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

Shapely Prose

Phaedra Starling is the pen name of a romance novelist and licensed private investigator living in small New York City apartment with two large dogs.  She practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu and makes world-class apricot muffins.

Gentlemen. Thank you for reading.

Let me start out by assuring you that I understand you are a good sort of person. You are kind to children and animals. You respect the elderly. You donate to charity. You tell jokes without laughing at your own punchlines. You respect women. You like women. In fact, you would really like to have a mutually respectful and loving sexual relationship with a woman. Unfortunately, you don’t yet know that woman—she isn’t working with you, nor have you been introduced through mutual friends or drawn to the same activities. So you must look further afield to encounter her.

So far, so good. Miss LonelyHearts, your humble instructor, approves. Human connection…

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