Monday, October 23, 2017

Too Sensitive Or Potentially Sensitive: Racist Threats OK With Twitter, Facebook But Discussing Racism Is Not

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson has a voice that white supremacists despise, but her role as a public official makes it difficult to silence her. So, they insult her instead.
A favorite local blogger, Shay Stewart-Bouley, who publishes Black Girl in Maine Media, posted about being blocked on Twitter for discussing the racism she and her family live with 365 days a year.

Stewart-Bouley wrote in "Real talk is sensitive, or How the truth is silenced" that her tweets have been blocked as "potentially sensitive" (whatever the hell potentially means in this context-- thought crimes anyone?). If you read her at all you know that she is in the habit of using well-considered words and refraining from invective.

Not implying that she should do so, but that is her choice of style in public communications.

So Twitter is really bending over backwards to silence an eloquent black woman while elevating the voice of vile, inflammatory, openly racist and violent tweeters.

Can you think of any vile tweeters that may spring to mind? 

A similar block on social media happened last week when I tried to comment on Penobscot Not Your Mascot organizer Maulian Dana's post on Facebook and fb flagged it as "too sensitive." WTF?

Here's what I wrote: I have heard versions of this powerful truth so many times in connection with the racist mascot used by Skowhegan Area High School: "I had to explain to my 8 year old why they were making fun of us..."

Here's Maulian's post that sparked my comment:
I am sharing in its entirety the eloquent and impactful letter that Amelia Tuplin shared with the Wells School Department after seeing her race mocked and degraded through Indian mascot usage. Her words are powerful and I am thankful for her speaking out. This is far from over and hopefully we can continue this dialogue that has gone on for many years now and finally free our state of these acts and make it a better place for people of all races and backgrounds. Woliwoni, Amelia.
My name is Amelia Tuplin.
On behalf of my entire family, I'm writing to express my outrage over the display of racism, ignorance and mockery that took place at the Wells high School football game on Friday, October 13th, 2017. Your team, students and spectators mocked our families heritage including my son, Quarterback Lucas Francis, by painting their faces, banging on fake drums that included 5 gallon buckets, singing mock chants, performing mock dances, and continuously making hand over mouth sounds. It was the most ultimate display of racism on the largest scale I’ve ever seen. A quick search on social media will bring up hundreds of photos to prove my case.
Before I get into detail, I'd like to first share some background information about myself and my family to help you understand my anger and disgust.
I'm a Mother, a wife,a school bus driver, a sports mom, football booster, volunteer & Native Artisan. I'm also a full blooded Mi’kmaq (MicMac) women from Lisbon Maine. We’ve lived in Lisbon for 13 years. I’m proud to be a part of a community that has accepted my family's culture and a school system that respects and embraces my children for who they and their heritage.
I'm originally from the Abegweit First Nation Reservation. My husband Jeffrey Tuplin Sr. has roots on the Lennox Island First Nation Reservation. My children are also full blood Mi'kmaq. We have family roots in the Elsipogtog First Nation Reservation, Piktu’K (Pictou) Landing First Nation Reservation and the Blood Reserve.
Our family is proud to be Mi'kmaq & Blackfoot, it's part of our daily lives, it's who we are, it runs thick in blood. Our immediate families have a long line of prominent Chiefs, Tribal Council Members, Medicine Men & Women, Traditional Elders, Jingle Dress Dancers, Drum Keepers, Pipe Carriers, Sundancers, Sweat Lodge Keepers, basket makers, quillwork artists, Aboriginal Authors, Aboriginal Lawyers, Aboriginal Nurses, Retired Native Military Members, Native B.ED Educators and Principles. We are proud of our heritage and it shines through in our work and ethics. I represent my entire family when I say we are offended and outraged.
We take pride in persevering our language, our sacred teachings, traditional medicines, sacred face painting ceremony, ceremonial regalia, sacred drums & honors songs. These things have been passed down for many generations and are sacred and precious to preserving our culture.
Unfortunately on Friday night, October 13th, 2017, my family witnessed first hand a racially insensitive display of racism and mockery of our culture on a large scale at the Wells High School Football Game.
Prior to the game, I was well aware of your Warriors Mascot and logo, which I did not find offensive, at the time. When tastefully used, with an appropriate display of homage used, Tribal Mascots would make one feel proud, proud to be Native, proud to be a Warrior.
This is not the case for Wells High School. You made a mockery of my culture.
Your chants, fake drums, war paint, dance and hand over mouth sounds were embarrassing to watch and hurtful.

This behavior is culturally insensitive, distasteful, and downright racist. To say the least I was ashamed and disappointed in your school for allowing and encouraging this type of racial mockery by your staff, students, fans, players & coaches.
Do you realize that you as a school, as educators, by encouraging this, are sending your students out into the world with a false idea of how Native Americans behave. Not once in my entire life have I seen any person in my family, from my community, at a Powwow or a ceremony behave the way you betray Natives. It was was belittling and racist.
Here are just some of the things I witnessed first hand.
Spectators including students holding fake drums and five gallon buckets, pounding and drumming on them singing offensive chants.
Face paint, distastefully done.
Hand over mouth sounds.
Players doing a mock native dance and chant.
This was not an isolated incident or a small group of people, this was on a large scale that continued throughout the entire game.
After the game I witnessed a celebratory Native mock dance and mock chant by the Wells football team.
I escorted my son from the field to the School only to be taunted by people making hand over mouth sounds.
I have been informed that this type of behavior is normal by the Wells Warriors high school team and fans and is considered part of their theme and mascot.
My family suffers from the direct effects of abuse and oppression from the Indian residential school era. With that being said, I'm shocked to be on the receiving end of racial mockery at this magnitude especially from a school in modern 2017.
My goal is to bring this to light, to as many people as possible. Your mascot is offensive, simply because of the way you represent it. I'm asking your mockery to stop immediately. Educate yourself on our culture, be classy and show some respect. Paint a true picture of our culture. Fill your students minds and hearts with the truth, stop encouraging false depictions of how natives behave and celebrate, it comes off as hateful and racist. You're promoting a false image of Natives. This is what your graduates are taking with them into an already world full of hate.
I refuse to subject my children to this type of behavior again, it needs to stop. Wells you created a hostile, hate filled racist environment for my family. What should have been a full filled night of football, a celebration of our young athletes, instead turned into a night of shame and embarrassment. I spent my night reassuring others I was ok, but not ok with what was happening. I had to explain to my 8 year old why they were making fun of us and his older brother on the football field.
Ultimately this behavior needs to stop immediately, and your Mascot should go up for immediate review and removal. I recommend Wells School Dept. have proper Native American cultural awareness training. I have brought this to the attention of the Commissioner of the Dept of Education, Maine Principal Association, Lisbon Town Council, Lisbon & Wells Superintendents of Schools, Lisbon & Wells Athletic Directors, Several Tribal Chiefs, State Senator Mason & the Media. I can only hope this brings to light an investigation and you are held accountable.
I'm requesting a public apology.
Amelia Tuplin
Lisbon Maine
Talk about potentially sensitive!

One of the links shared by Stewart-Bouley, "Activists of color lose battles against Facebook's moderator army" recounts an experiment by psychologist Mary Canty Merrill. Similar to experiments sending out résumés with "white sounding" names vs. "black sounding names," Merrill asked white friends to repost verbatim the words she had written that resulted in not only blocking but having her account suspended. Can you guess what happened?

Here are Merrill's truths that must issue only from white facebook accounts, apparently, but not from the account of a person who is most knowledgable and affected by them:
“Dear White People: The terminology we use to define a problem determines how we attempt to solve it.
“You are so accustomed to defining racism as people of color being the problem that you want to fix us, patronize us, save us and heal us. You rarely perceive yourselves as the problem (which is where its root lies). Thus, your interventions are most often ill-informed, misdirected and yield no meaningful or sustainable results.”
Talk about inflammatory! One can only imagine what would have happened if Merrill had used ugly racist epithets, threatened her white readers with violence, disparaged their ancestors, or accused them of being money-grubbing "empty barrels."

Ijeoma Olulo reported last year that she was blocked by Facebook for posting screenshots of the harrassing, violent, threatening messages sent to her -- messages that Facebook refused to block at their source.

Facebook's management was sent a letter last week from two congressmen detailing concerns about publishing advertising from white supremacists that qualifies as hate speech, and asking for answers. 

Like Frederica Wilson, Keith Ellison and John Conyers will be harder to silence than activists like Black Lives Matter organizer Didi Delgado. ProPublica reported in "Facebook's secret censorship rules protect white men from hate" that

Delgado had her account suspended when Facebook removed her post: “All white people are racist. Start from this reference point, or you’ve already failed."

Talk about a sensitive truth! White people, let's get to work and use our white privilege to shout it from the digital rooftops.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ignore Your Empire's Wars At Your Peril

"Troops killed in ambush on joint US-Niger patrol" Al-Jazeera 
My friend Janet re-tweeted photos of the four U.S. military men killed in Niger last week, which led me to search for more news about this disturbing event.

Now that Google has re-configured its search algorithms to even more strongly preference corporate "news" sources, I have to dig deeper for nuggets of information about the misadventures of the empire I'm funding (e.g. my yearly bonus for achieving National Board Professional Teacher certification is $3,000, but I'll receive only about $2,000 after taxes of which more than half will go to the Pentagon).

I could stop using Google and instead use DuckDuckGo or another search engine that does not track my activity. But, it returns similar corporate media sources and will never tailor itself to my preferences as it doesn't remember what I've clicked on in the past.

Such is the labor required to find news in the declining days of the so-called Information Age.

I thought I had found something useful on, the website of the Centre for Research on Globalization. But it turned out to be a reprint of an article from focusing on the demagogue with bad hair and his non-reaction to the deaths in Niger.

Every time I look for news online these days it seems to want to fall into one of two categories: bland regurgitation of press releases from the government, or an obsessive focus on the role of the demagogue with bad hair.

Progressive journalists in the U.S. seem to have become mentally ill under the steady influence of their obsession with the man and his misdeeds. I find myself drifting further from finding such news purveyors relevant or even useful with each passing day.

Eventually I navigated to the World Socialist Website article "Killings of four elite soldiers in Niger highlight vast scale of American military operations in Africa" by Eddie Haywood.

Besides offering current context, it provided useful background on how regime change in Libya effected by a U.S. Democratic Party administration sparked military conflict in the bordering nation of Mali which has in turn led to militarized violence in Niger, which shares a border with both.

Along the way of my search I stumbled on news that the former Deputy PM of Qatar is warning that mercenaries employed by Erik Prince (i.e.Blackwater, now known as Academi) are poised to invade Qatar from the United Arab Emirates. Middle East Monitor reported that these military preparations pre-date the recent sanctions and threats against the home base of media company Al Jazeera.

Also, I encountered a report on U.S. troops rotating home from northern Australia where Obama sent them to engage in war rehearsals with their counterparts in Oz. 


According to a report in Reuters:
During the six-month deployment, the U.S. troops participated in 12 joint exercises with the Australian Defence Force, giving them an opportunity to interact with a range of countries including China, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The exercises are part of the "pivot to Asia" which U.S. troops in Niger could also be seen as participating in; both are about countering China's considerable influence in Africa and, of course, southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

All of this led me to reflect on the best essay I read this week, an examination by military historian Andrew Bacevich of "How We Learned Not To Care About America's Wars."

Bacevich presents what he sees as the salient factors in descending order of importance:

1) U.S. casualty rates are low
2) the actual costs of U.S. wars are never calculated
3) lip service about supporting the troops has supplanted actual engagement
4) the dangers of terrorism are "hyped and hyped and hyped some more"
5) talking head nonsense crowds out substantive discussion and debate
6) people in the U.S. educated classes keep themselves very, very busy
7) belief that the next Commander-in-Chief will save the day
8) the diverse "progressive" military is seen as immune to criticism

His final paragraph renders this scathing indictment (from a West Point graduate who lost a son to the war on Iraq):
A collective indifference to war has become an emblem of contemporary America.  
But don't expect your neighbors down the street or the editors of the New York Times to lose any sleep over that fact.  Even to notice it would require them -- and us -- to care.
Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it, or so the old saying goes. I find our deliberately induced ignorance of current events is integral to our historic amnesia.

Here's an historical nugget of archival footage of a pro-America pro-Nazi rally held in 1939 in Madison Square Garden, NYC that you may wish you could unsee.

A Night at the Garden from Field of Vision on Vimeo.

Cue the chorus of "my grandfather fought fascists in WWII" clogging up the comment sections of articles on the rise of white supremacists again going proud and public in 2017. Never mind that it was mostly the Soviets who defeated Nazi Germany. Who remembers that?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

When A Picture And Caption Are Worth One Thousand Words

I am a word person but the explosion of visuals that digital media makes possible and social media makes visible has been one of the joys of my middle and now elder life.

The image above is one I created after sister peace activist Palma Ryan pointed out the opportunity for messaging created by Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit images growing old enough to enter the public domain.

Maine Veterans for Peace leader Richard Clement is creating buttons based on the design, and I expect to be receiving some in the mail soon. (Let me know if you'd like one by leaving a comment on this blog post.)

Art work by Russell Wray
As the annual Maine Peace Walk gets underway this week, I'm inspired by artist Russell Wray's eloquent banners and sculpture to express where we are and where he'd like us to be.

Banner posted by Mary Ann Grady Flores of protest at Hancock Air Base where she was arrested and sentenced to 6 months in jail for photographing protesters. Her appeal is being heard in Albany, NY this week.

How best to move people to realize we're bankrupting ourselves and killing forms of life all over the planet so a few very wealthy people can become even more wealthy?

Banner by Artists Rapid Response Team (ARRT!) of the Union of Maine Visual Artists

Anthony Freda is one of my favorite artists for the movement. His work ranges over many topics, but nobody does antiwar imaging better.

Here's one he created at my request that I use for the Natural Guard campaign:

Image: Anthony Freda
And a more recent image he created in response to the death wish expressed by the nominal leader of the USA:

As the leaves die brilliantly around me these days, I fear we may be in danger of witnessing the end of our ability to imagine and create images. I hope not.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Black Lives Matter And Trans Rights Are Human Rights Word Out To Augusta

Yesterday about two dozen people canvassed neighborhoods in Maine's capital city where KKK flyers were thrown onto lawns or stapled to telephone poles last January. Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) organized several rounds of deep listening in towns around Maine where KKK recruitment flyers were found, including Augusta. (Trigger warning: clicking on this link will take you to an article that includes a photo of the flyer.)

Some who received the KKK flyers felt they had been targeted because they are immigrants and or people of color. 

I teamed up with Jan to knock on doors using a prepared script to ask residents how they felt about the flyers, and if they would be willing to display a lawn sign (pictured above) or attend a community discussion to support the families who felt targeted.

A potentially scary activity but as good a way as I could imagine to spend my extra day off on Indigenous Peoples Day, formerly Genocidal Maniac Day.

The canvassing was well-organized and we had time to rehearse and put safety measures in place. Jan and I traveled with Lydia and Bridget who knocked on the doors across the street from us.

me, Jan, Bridget & Lydia

We were assigned a middle class neighborhood up the hill from where the flyers had been found. Everyone we talked to was white and said they had not seen or even heard about the flyers. Reactions to the news ranged from astonishment and "That's disgusting!" to disinterest. Two of the older people whose homes we visited just wanted to talk to someone and we listened to accounts of their daily struggles without making much headway with our script. That was ok with us.

We started with a resident I'll call Teflon man who was adamant that KKK flyers in his town were none of his concern. His accent suggested he was from NY originally, and he took us patiently through the common talking points of white privilege without ever uttering the phrase. For example, he argued that if police are killing Black people, might it be because the Black people are criminals, and cops get killed every day in the line of duty? He claimed he was not racist, but he had no interest in learning more about how to stand with targeted people in his community. He told us he didn't consider the KKK much of a force and that even if it were, it certainly wasn't his problem.

He also said Antifa was just as bad as facists because, well, they were fascists too. He was unable to explain why he believed this to be so, or to make a distinction between free speech and hate speech. I asked if he would be willing to share where he got information about current events and he responded, "From a wide variety of sources: newspapers, tv and radio." Jan and I thanked him for his time and moved on.

Two of our contacts were new in town and had moved there for work after the flyering incident last January. Both of the newcomers said they were concerned about the news and they signed up to receive more information. One was working at a restaurant and didn't appear to speak much English or to understand what we were saying; she took a flyer and said she would share it with the owner later.

One man who was too busy to talk took our information and said he hadn't heard about the KKK flyers but added, "I'm not surprised." I was disappointed that he didn't have time to explain more about that.

Another man took our information and said that, as a Jehovah's Witness, he often canvassed too. He also said that, although he was against racism personally, he and his faith group did not take a stand on political issues because it might alienate people.

Our final contact was a woman who expressed disgust and was very concerned. She was eager to display the lawn sign we offered (pictured above) and said when she saw it that she had a trans family member and really appreciated that part of the message.

When the larger group reconvened to debrief we heard that one pair had encountered a man with a swastika tattoo they noticed only after giving him info on the community meeting and SURJ. His response to their saying they were concerned about the KKK flyers was a vaguely threatening, "You should be." This led some in our group to note the need to organize security for the community meeting.

Most interesting in the debrief was news that some elderly contacts had an historical awareness of the KKK in the area during the early 20th century.

One woman told the canvassers she knew where their old headquarters was nearby. The KKK's history in Maine is well-documented and at one time they had membership in the tens of thousands. They targeted immigrants, Catholics, Jews and people of color.

Image: Maine Memory Network with caption, This is an Associated Press photo with accompanying text that reads in part, "Deputy Carl Churchill displays a Ku Klux Klan cape and hood he cut down from its perch 20 feet up a power pole." 

Another woman told the SURJ volunteers that her grandfather had been a KKK leader, organizing secretive harrassment by night and then serving as a respectable government official by day. She said that it was difficult to talk about racism with her family and they had strained relations as a result.

SURJ is a group for white people who want to do the work with other white people to address systemic racism and white supremacy. There are currently three chapters in Maine and I suspect Augusta will soon be getting its own chapter. Yesterday's canvas was one in a series of visits to towns targeted by the KKK including Boothbay, Freeport, and Appleton.

I wish I had more capacity to organize a chapter for Skowhegan, which has the last racist high school mascot in Maine and which also saw KKK flyers appear last year. Ditto my own school district where the Civil Rights Team organized a response when flyers turned up in classrooms there and administrators buried the news.

For now, I'll continue to work on anti-racist education and help out when I can. Sharing this video, for example. Depending on how you feel about organized religion, you may be surprised by the ending. For myself, it was good to see what I consider real Christian ethics in action. You know, like Love one another.

For subscribers who read this blog post via email, you can see the video here:

Saturday, October 7, 2017

USA Wedded To War Is Message Of Activists Arrested Protesting Violence Near Las Vegas

Drones fly, children die and Stop killing for empire seen at Creech Air Base near Las Vegas where flying killer robots known as drones are used to terrorize civilians thousands of miles away. This is a screenshot from a video of peace activist Toby Blome being arrested for blocking access to the base.
It is sadly ironic that bullets raining down on hundreds of concertgoers in Las Vegas happened just miles away from the U.S. military base flying drones to rain down bombs on wedding guests.

This has been going on for years, and so have blockades and other forms of protest at the gates of Creech Air Base. People in the U.S. were terrorized by the events at Mandalay Bay last week, but they mostly turn a blind eye to the terror their government unleashes in their name and at their expense. That terror, for most in the U.S., is invisible.

But it's not invisible to everyone here in the heart of the violent empire. Here's an eyewitness report of the protest at Creech and a link to a Facebook video of the arrests recorded by peace activist Ann Wright:

Two arrested Friday at Creech Drone Base north of Las Vegas in mock wedding and blockade

CREECH AIR BASE, INDIAN SPRINGS, NEVADA -  On the sixteenth anniversary of the war on Afghanistan, two citizens were arrested for challenging the use by the United States of assassin drones, which were first used in Afghanistan in 2001.

The two arrestees were part of a larger group of activists  blocking the main gate to Creech Drone Base. Arrested were long time peace and justice activists Toby Blome of California and JoAnn Lingle of Indiana.  Other activists hailed from California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and Pakistan. All participated in the enactment of a mock wedding attacked by a killer drone.  U.S. assassin drones have routinely attacked wedding parties in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. 

Prior to her arrest Toby Blome said, “The killing has to stop.  We are bombing and assassinating people in the poorest countries in the world.”

JoAnn Lingle said, “Being arrested is non-violent resistance to U.S. endless wars.”

As the sound of drones operated by military student pilots at Creech Drone Base was seen and heard overhead, the bride and groom exchanged vows to work for peace and justice.  A sign reading “U.S.A. Wedded to War” was held over the wedding party. 

This is a part of the ten-year campaign at Creech Drone Base, 40 miles north of Las Vegas, to stop the extrajudicial killing of civilians.

Over 100 arrests of peace activists have been made at Creech over these years.

The events at Creech Drone Base are a part of the global mobilization to raise international concern about endless war in violation of the U.S. constitution and international law.  We invite the public the join with activists in local Global Days of Action found at and at Creech AFB home of the Predator and Reaper killer drones.

Actions at Creech will continue through Wednesday, October 11 with morning and afternoon vigils.

For more information contact: Eleanor Levine at 510-290-7071

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

On Indigenous Peoples Day (Formerly Genocidal Maniac Day) Let's Remember: Colonialism Is Ultimately Unsustainable

In advance of Indigenous Peoples Day (formerly known as Genocidal Maniac Day, observed in New England this year on Monday, October 9) I am reposting a cartoon from my inbox.

Hat tip to Judy Robbins for sharing this succinct and truthful cartoon about the stages of colonialism. It was created bZig Zag /  Nov 3, 2014 (and also shared via and Transcend Media Service).

I'll be celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day this year by canvassing against the KKK in locations where their flyers have been distributed recently in central Maine. This is one way I can use my white privilege, and I'm a little scared but also looking forward to it.

Going door to door in the whitest state in the nation -- one roiling with indignation over football players protesting racial injustice at the hands of police -- is likely to be an unforgettable experience.

I'll be writing here about what I learn from this experience.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

If The Shooter Is White It's Not Terrorism, And If The Victims Are Native Children...

One of the few things we can be thankful for about the Mandalay Bay massacre is that few if any children were slaughtered (unliked the Wounded Knee massacre). As the Las Vegas attack took place on outdoor concertgoers at 11pm, the innocent victims were mostly -- if not all -- adults.

But how innocent are any of us adults in this nation of violence we have built?

We built it on the bloodied soil we took violently from Native people living there when white people arrived.

We built it on the bloodied soil of enslaved Africans forced to labor or die.

We built it on the bloodied soil of every country we've bombed, invaded or occupied since and right up to the present day.

We keep building it on the stolen childhood of boys and girls glued to screens where they pretend to murder people to "win" their games.

My unpopular view: if you're not actively part of the solution, you're part of the problem of violence breeding violence.

Those who can't bring themselves to oppose the U.S. wars on brown people around the planet (because "terrorism" right?) could work for gun control here on the homefront.