Wednesday, November 11, 2009

24 Hours in Gaza: A Black Perspective

24 Hours in Gaza: A Black Perspective

by Russell Curry

On July 15, 2009 200 men and women from cities all over the United States entered one of the most dangerous places on earth and one of the final vestiges of colonial rule in the world; the Gaza Strip, Palestine. I was lucky enough to be one of them as a member of the Viva Palestina USA aid convoy under the leadership of British MP and pro-Palestinian activist George Galloway. The convoy had a jointly political and humanitarian mission: break the Israeli siege – considered illegal under international law – currently engulfing the territory of Gaza and deliver desperately needed medicine and medical supplies to the Palestinian people who are deprived of their most basic necessities.

With a population of nearly 1.5 million, the Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places in the world. The aforementioned siege denies basic goods and services from entering while at the same time denying Palestinians from leaving, and has consequently earned the Gaza Strip the title of the world’s largest, open-air prison. This illegal, ongoing humanitarian crime maintained by the Apartheid, Zionist state of Israel, which has committed more violations of United Nations resolutions than any other country, is able to survive mostly because of aid paid to Israel in the form of United States tax dollars and weapons[1] combined with an American public misinformed by Israel-biased media.

During my time as a student-activist at UCI as a member of Afrikan Student Union, Umbrella Council, etc. I gained an immense desire to learn about struggles for social justice and human rights worldwide, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Nowhere was this more obvious and familiar to me than in Israel/Palestine. The product of a largely untold political history[2], the struggle of the Palestinian people against their Zionist oppressors[3] is part Manifest Destiny – land stolen from indigenous peoples and (mistakenly) justified with a supposed divine right to it – and part Jim Crow – a segregated system where Palestinians aren’t allowed citizenship or access to the same resources as their Israeli neighbors. Is it surprising that the architect of these two systems of domination, the United States, would be the world’s strongest supporter of their continuation in the world? But we’re past all of that, right? After all, we have a Black President. At any rate, when I understood the nature of the oppression of the Palestinian people, I knew that for me to be an activist at home for the sake of Black people meant that I must be an activist abroad as well for the sake of the Palestinian people. I signed up to join the Viva Palestina USA convoy as soon as I had the chance.

I arrived in Cairo, Egypt on July 5, 2009 to start preparing for our humanitarian mission along with those 200 other remarkable people I mentioned earlier. During our stay in Cairo I saw the pyramids, the Nile River, joined a press conference for the convoy, met victims of Israeli violence in Cairo’s Palestine Hospital, helped buy medical supplies and so much more. But something I took to myself was personally documenting why other Black activists joined the convoy, since I knew the community back home was so divided on the issue if they knew anything about it at all. In my various video interviews I found that almost everyone was there for the same reason that I was, because the struggle was so similar to our own that we couldn’t just sit idly by.

Black activists were about 10% of the convoy, almost representative of the nation’s makeup of 12% African-American, but, more importantly the actual on-the-ground leadership of the convoy was Black people! The two unspeakably admirable individuals that MP Galloway placed in charge were former Congresswoman, Presidential candidate and outspoken human rights activist Cynthia McKinney[4] and former Black Panther and current New York City Councilman Charles Baron. Not enough can be said about their contribution to the convoy or how much they’ve inspired me personally. These two were the ones who negotiated our entry into Gaza with the Egyptian government and led us through with flying colors.

Our reception was warm and affectionate. The besieged people of Gaza, elated that we were there to show our solidarity, showed us hospitality that most think is reserved for royalty. Amid destruction that we sponsored we were provided amenities that many Gazans themselves enjoy rarely if at all, and were told so insistently to take, though we came only to give. But to them we did, and we were often reassured that we were the gift, not the medical supplies, and that we would have been welcomed just as warmly had we brought nothing but ourselves and our intentions.

I came face to face with true oppression. I saw with my own eyes the mosques, homes, farms and the UN and American schools that were annihilated; the evidence of war crimes against Israel. I met and talked with the people who have lived through all of the facts, numbers and news stories that I obsessed over for a year prior to leaving. All of this I experienced in 24 hours in the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen of the 10 countries I’ve been lucky enough to visit. But this is only part of the story.

Those of us who went now have the duty of informing the world of what we saw and what we experienced, to balance out the bias. But this is just a first step toward a free Palestine because actions must have a foundation of knowledge. I hope that the little bit of work I have done, and will continue to do, contributes to the eventual goal. Viva, viva Palestina!

All Sources for factual claims can be found at Anna Baltzer’s website ( as well as in the documentary Occupation: 101

[1] The United States gives more money each year in foreign aid to the state of Israel than the entire continent of Africa.

[2] Contrary to popular belief, the origins of today’s Israel/Palestine conflict are indeed political and not religious and only really date back to 1948.

[3] It is important to note that Zionism – supporting the establishment of the state of Israel – and Judaism are two different things. One cannot be labeled anti-Semitic simply for critiquing the state of Israel, nor is it the stance of all Jews that Israel even has a right to exist.

[4]Ms. McKinney was deported from an Israeli prison not a week earlier for attempting to bring supplies by boat to the people of Gaza. Her dedication to Palestinian human rights nearly cost her her life on two separate occasions at the hands of the Israeli navy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's Time

Check out the link:,0,1126906.story

Great story about the international movement to boycott Israel

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Connection Between Blacks As Apes And Police Brutality

Taken from by Jack Turner.

Talking on television is always a challenge cause you’re trying to get out your points in the very limited amount of time the medium allows. I was trying to get a few more details into my MSNBC appearance yesterday but didn’t get it all out. I mentioned that a psychologist at UCLA has studied the link between seeing blacks as apes, monkeys, etc and treating them brutally. In addition, he has expanded this work to encompass deep academic research into the causes of police discrimination and brutality. This is the connection I was able to draw in my closing line on air, but I didn’t have time to give full references.
Now, I’ll do you one better. The psychologist is Dr. Phillip A. Goff. I actually attended undergrad with him which is why I’m familiar with his work. He’s been putting me on to his analysis and the applications of his research for years, and I’m finally in a position to help bring it to a larger audience. He was the first person I called after I saw the cartoon, and the timing around this cartoon, the Oscar Grant murder and upcoming events next week could not provide a better introduction to his work.
In short, what Dr. Goff and his colleagues have found is a clear connection between the psychology of racism and real harm to black people. Further, they have been working with police departments across the nation to study their records, analyze their people and adjust their training in order to save the lives of black people and improve the effectiveness of policing. This is truly where the academy meets the streets.
Next week in NYC, on February 26, there will be a summit on racial and gender bias in policing and the need to expand these studies and their remedies. Here’s an article Dr. Goff wrote yesterday in response to the NY Post cartoon. I strongly urge you to read the entire thing and follow the links.
Little Things Are Still a Big Deal
By: Phillip Atiba Goff
I cannot imagine that 10 minutes passed from the time it first appeared online to the time my phone rang early this morning. The New York Post had published a (now controversial) cartoon depicting two police officers that had shot a monkey — one of them quipping, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”
The cartoon — you see it here — was clearly referencing the recent odd-ball news item, that a woman from Stamford, Conn., had been mauled by her pet chimpanzee and that the animal had to be “put down,” as it were, to preserve public safety. But the political commentary seemed an odd juxtaposition to the visual. Could the cartoon have been suggesting that Barack Obama, principal champion of the bill and our first black president, was somehow chimp-like?
Though much of the reaction to the cartoon has been outrage at the implication that our 44th president is remotely simian, there have been other messages in the blogosphere as well. A few pleaded with us to see reason in this post-Obama era. They begged us to understand that the cartoonist clearly meant to impugn congress, Wall Street executives and academic economists and that there was no racial subtext to the piece. Others saw the cartoon as racist but declined to become outraged. Saw the injustice in the image, but saw it as a minor injustice, not one worth worrying too much about. After all, having a black president means that America is post-racial and does not need to worry about petty things like harmless pictures in a paper.
The messages in my inbox mirrored the commentaries I saw online. A few (though not many) defending the cartoon. Many more exasperated with indifference. All of them insisted this was a little thing.
The best science available suggests otherwise.
For the better part of the past seven years, my colleagues and I have conducted research on the psychological phenomenon of dehumanization. Specifically, we have examined cognitive associations between African Americans and non-human apes. And the association leads to bad things. When we began the research, we were skeptical of whether or not participants even knew that people of African descent were caricatured as ape-like — as less than human — throughout the better part of the past 400 years. And, in fact, many were not. However, even those who were unaware of this historical association demonstrated a cognitive association between blacks and apes. That is, when they thought of apes, they thought of blacks and vice versa — when they thought of blacks, they thought of apes.
But the fact of this cognitive association was not the most disturbing part of the research. Rather, it was the fact that the association between blacks and apes could lead to violence.
In one study, participants who were made to think about apes were more likely to support police violence against black (but not white) criminal suspects. The association actually caused them to endorse anti-black violence. Most disturbing of all, however, was a study of media coverage and the death penalty. Looking at a sample of death-eligible cases in Philadelphia from 1979 to 1999, the more that media coverage used ape-like metaphors to describe a murder trial (i.e. “urban jungle,” “aping the suspects behavior,” etc.) the more likely black suspects, but not white suspects were to be put to death.
Not surprisingly, black suspects were much more likely to be described in ape-like terms. And they were more frequently executed by the state.
Similar psychological mechanisms of discrimination are at work in the bloated incarceration rates of young black men, the trenchant educational achievement gap between blacks and whites, and the racial bias evidenced in law enforcement officer’s use of force. Though some are demonstrating leadership towards equality, we find that many of our nation’s oldest racial shames have persisted into a period when a black person can reasonably aspire to the highest office in the land.
I mention these depressing findings because it is tempting to ignore them in the wake of President Obama’s inauguration — to downplay the significance of “isolated events” of bigotry and “harmless words or pictures.” But precisely because the dream of post-raciality is seductive for so many, it is all the more important that we not forget that cartoons like the one in today’s New York Post are never isolated-and consequently, never harmless.
Today’s Post cartoon is not far removed from the “Curious George” Obama sock puppet, a “Curious George” Obama T-shirt, a Japanese advertisement depicting Obama as a monkey, and countless other Obama/monkey comparisons that cropped up throughout the year-long Democratic primary and presidential campaigns. Psychological science has long known that words and pictures, far from harmless, can be the very instruments of dehumanization necessary for collective violence-regardless of how innocently they are intended.
As we live through this historic presidency, there will doubtless be more of these moments of impolitic insensitivity. Some will be more egregious than others. But, as a scientist, my sincerest hope for us all is that we not be biased by the desire to see our struggle towards racial equality as over. The evidence is too clear that the little things are still a big deal.
* * *
Phillip Atiba Goff is an assistant professor on the department of psychology at the University of California and the executive director of research for the Consortium for Police Leadership in Equity. The consortium is hosting the first Summit for Police Leadership in Equity on Feb. 26 in New York City. High-ranking representatives from 15 of the largest municipal police departments in North America will be attending to discuss a new model for research collaborations that would — for the first time — allow independent researchers to gain unprecedented access to law enforcement personnel, policies and records.
Although the release of another racist cartoon can be seen as repetitive, annoying and a distraction, I’m glad at the opportunity this moment gives us. Usually, something like this goes down, we get fired up, maybe protest, threaten some advertisers and that’s it. What we’re trying to do at JJP and the broader “we” in this new generation of informed, networked activists, however, is bring more insight and intelligence to the discussion and ultimately, change the world for the better.
Please pass this post far and wide, especially to activists and those in the media. Digg it, post to Facebook, etc.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Why is this okay?

I have really been questioning the kinds of things that are let go and exploited in the name of entertainment these days. The honor and respect of men and women, the innocence of children, consumerism and the lifestyle that is sold to people, racism, sexism, classism, and the sheer amount of money that is invested in and generated from this crap, all for profit, money at the expense of humanity. Goodness.

On a brighter note, this is exactly why people should stay dedicated in whatever field they are in, hold on to their moral values, and work for the betterment of all people God-willing! Si se puede si Dios quiere!

Rights group: 1.5 million people displaced by preparations for 2008 Beijing Olympics

GENEVA — Some 1.5 million Chinese have been forced from their homes during preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, a rights group said Tuesday.

China rejected the figures from the Geneva-based Center on Housing Rights and Evictions as "groundless" and said some 6,000 families had been compensated and properly resettled.

Some 6,037 households have been demolished since 2002 to make way for nine venues in the process of preparing for the 2008 Olympic Games, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

Read more here.

(Props to Zahra Billoo for sharing this information and insight)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This just makes me sick:

I really felt sick to my stomach when I read this:

"It wasn't just one cop attacking Oscar Grant on New Year's Eve. A new video shows that before Grant was killed, officer Tony Pirone punched him in the face without cause, hitting him so hard that he dropped to the ground. Experts have called it criminal. So why has the District Attorney said he's not pursuing charges?"
-James Rucker,, 01/28/2009

Please sign this petition to have your voice heard in this matter:

If this isn't a glaring example that our tax dollars need to be redirected away from wars and towards real, longterm solutions and investments (like education), I don't know what is. We have too many issues on the homefront, that's forreal.

And this for-profit sh*t called capitalism really needs to stop.