A PUBLICATION OF HUMANITIES NORTH DAKOTA
RACIAL JUSTICE issue 1
CONTENTS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NOTE 01 Questions of Justice Are Questions of the Humanities By Brenna Daugherty Gerhardt NONFICTION 02 Racism Defined By Dismantling Racism Works 08
Standing at the Event Horizon of a Movement: Do We Seize Our Moment of Liberation?
By Tamba-Kuii Bailey
20 Why Mama? By Sue Skalicky
24 Standing Rock: The ‘Test Kitchen’ for America’s Uprising By Jenni Monet 30 The Incarcerated Body and Mutual Liberation By Karen Van Fossan
ON SECOND THOUGHT is published by Humanities North Dakota. To subscribe, please contact us: 800.338.6543 email@example.com humanitiesnd.org
42 America’s Racial Reckoning By David Adler POETRY 48 My Fire By Ronya Galligo-Hoblit 50 We Are All Here By Karen Ehrens
COVER PHOTO Sue and Silas Skalicky Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this magazine do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Humanities North Dakota.
QUESTIONS OF JUSTICE ARE QUESTIONS OF THE HUMANITIES
BRENNA DAUGHERTY GERHARDT
If everything had gone as planned, this would have been our In Good Humor issue â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a collection of witty, satirical, or silly articles to offer a light-hearted distraction to our readers during the uncertainty of Covid-19. As the magazine was about to go to press, however, antiracism protests erupted all over the nation. In response, the HND staff realized that now is not the time to retreat into humor. Now is the time to use the tools of the humanities to help us understand and further racial justice in America. To do anything else would appear tone-deaf. This issue of On Second Thought magazine isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t a comprehensive guide to antiracism. Instead, the articles and poems in these pages are snapshots of the subject from people who currently live or have worked in North Dakota. We hope it helps bring the discussion a little closer to home.
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WHAT IS RACISM? by Dismantling Racism Works
he definition of racism offered here is grounded in Critical Race Theory, a movement started in the 1970s by activists and scholars committed to the study and transformation of traditional relationships of race to racism and power. CRT was initially grounded in the law and has since expanded to other fields. CRT also has an activist dimension because it not only tries to understand our situation but to change it. The basic beliefs of CRT are:
1. Racism is ordinary, the “normal” way that society does business, the “common, everyday” experience of most People of Color in this country. 2. Racism serves the interests of both white people in power (the elites) materially and working-class white people psychically, and therefore neither group has much incentive to fight it. 3. Race and races are social and political constructs, categories that society invents and manipulates when convenient. In reality our differences as human beings are dwarfed by what we have in common and have little or nothing to do with personality, intelligence, and morality. 4. Society chooses to ignore this and assigns characteristics to whole groups of people in order to advance the idea of race and the superiority of whiteness. 5. The power elite racializes different groups at different times to achieve their economic agenda, continually and repeatedly prioritizing profit over people.
When white Americans frankly peel back the layers of our commingled pasts, we are all marked by it. We … are marred either by our connections to the specific crimes and injuries of our fathers and their fathers. Or we are tainted by the failures of our fathers to fulfill our national credos when their courage was most needed. We are formed in molds twisted by the gifts we received at the expense of others. It is not our “fault.” But it is undeniably our inheritance. - Douglas A. Blackmon 3
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RACISM DEFINED • PREJUDICE
An attitude based on limited information, often on stereotypes. Prejudice is usually, but not always, negative. Positive and negative prejudices alike, especially when directed toward oppressed people, are damaging because they deny the individuality of the person. In some cases, the prejudices of oppressed people (“you can’t trust the police”) are necessary for survival. No one is free of prejudice. Examples: Women are emotional. Asians are good at math.
The systematic subjugation of one social group by a more powerful social group for the social, economic, and political benefit of the more powerful social group. Rita Hardiman and Bailey Jackson state that oppression exists when the following 4 conditions are found: • the oppressor group has the power to define reality for themselves and others, • the target groups take in and internalize the negative messages about them and end up cooperating with the oppressors (thinking and acting like them), • genocide, harassment, and discrimination are systematic and institutionalized, so that individuals are not necessary to keep it going, and, • members of both the oppressor and target groups are socialized to play their roles as normal and correct.
Oppression = Power + Prejudice • SOCIAL and INSTITUTIONAL POWER
• access to resources • the ability to influence others • access to decision-makers to get what you want done • the ability to define reality for yourself and others
• an interlocking set of parts that together make a whole • an established way of doing something, such
that things get done that way regularly and are assumed to be the ‘normal’ way things get done • runs by itself; does not require planning or initiative by a person or group
• a leg up, a gain, a benefit
• WHITE SUPREMACY
The idea (ideology) that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Color and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. While most people associate white supremacy with extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis, white supremacy is ever present in our institutional and cultural assumptions that assign value, morality, goodness, and humanity to the white group while casting people and communities of color as worthless (worth less), immoral, bad, and inhuman and “undeserving.” Drawing from critical race theory, the term “white supremacy” also refers to a political or socio-economic system where white people enjoy structural advantage and rights that other racial and ethnic groups do not, both at a collective and an individual level.
• Race is a social and political concept, not a scientific one. • Even though this is true, race is a powerful political, social, and economic force. Race was and is constructed for social and political purposes, in large part to divide and conquer poor and working white people from poor and working People and Communities of Color.. • The term ‘white’ was constructed to unite certain European groups living in the U.S. who were fighting each other and at the same time were a numerical minority in comparison to the numbers of African slaves and Native peoples. • In order to justify the idea of a white race, every institution in this country was and is used to prove that race exists and to promote the idea that the white race is at the top of the racial hierarchy and all other races are below, with the Black race on the bottom. All institutions were and are used to promote the idea of white supremacy. • All European immigrants did not and do not
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• Racism = race prejudice + social and institutional power • Racism = a system of advantage based on race • Racism = a system of oppression based on race • Racism = a white supremacy system
Racism is different from racial prejudice, hatred, or discrimination. Racism involves one group having the power to carry out systematic discrimination through the institutional policies and practices of the society and by shaping the cultural beliefs and values that support those racist policies and practices.
HOW OPPRESSION OPERATES:
Cycle of Oppression
In order for oppression (racism in this case) to flourish, we must: forget / pretend – the oppressed must forget what has happened to them historically and what is happening to them in their day to day lives in order to get through their lives and their day; the dominant group must never identify as white or as benefiting from white privilege; the dominant group must ‘forget’ about their membership in the white group; the dominant group must pretend that everything is OK now, that the problem was in the past lie – the oppressed must stop speaking the truth about their experience, both to themselves (to survive internally) and to others (to survive in the world); the dominant group must lie to themselves and each other about their role in oppression, positioning themselves
Cycle of Oppression Diagram
Find out what people will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them ... -Frederick Douglass 5
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as blameless, passive (I didn’t cause it), individual and not part of a bigger system, while ignoring the internal racist conditioning and tapes (I am not racist, I’m a good white person) stop feeling – the oppressed must cut themselves off from their feelings, become numb in order to survive, or feel that it is personal (I am bad or at fault); the dominant group must also cut themselves off from their feelings, insist on being ‘rational’ and ‘logical’ and never stop to feel the cost as oppressors; the dominant group must avoid feeling, because to begin feeling means to begin feeling guilt or shame lose voice – the oppressed must internalize the oppression, feel bad about themselves and their situation so that they are no longer able to speak to it or about it, distrust their voice and the truth they have to speak; when the oppressed do speak out, they are labeled as ‘aggressive,’ ‘overly sensitive,’ ‘angry,’ and discounted; the dominant group becomes afraid to speak out because of the social pressure against it, the threat of losing family and friends, and separating themselves from the white group make power invisible – the oppressed must begin to identify more with the dominant group than with their own group and as a result lose a sense of their collective power; the dominant group must assume their right to 6
power along with the myth that power is individual and everyone who works hard can have the same power they do; or the dominant group must act as if they don’t have power as white people and deny the power that they get just by belonging to the white group
THREE EXPRESSIONS OF RACISM: CULTURAL The ways in which the dominant culture is founded upon and then defines and shapes norms, values, beliefs and standards to advantage white people and oppress people of color. The ways in which the dominant culture defines reality to advantage white people and oppress People of Color. The norms, values, or standards assumed by the dominant society that perpetuate racism. Examples: thin, blond, white women as the basis for our society's standard of beauty; women on welfare assumed to be Black or Brown and portrayed as irresponsible while white collar fraud in the business community is costing the US hundreds of billions of dollars a year; requiring people to speak English historically (Indigenous peoples) and today (people from Central and South America) as a way of deliberately destroying community and culture. INSTITUTIONAL The ways in which the structures, systems, policies,
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and procedures of institutions in the U.S. are founded upon and then promote, reproduce, and perpetuate advantages for white people and the oppression of People of Color. The ways in which institutions legislate and structure reality to advantage white people and oppress People of Color. The ways in which institutions – Housing, Government, Education, Media, Business, Health Care, Criminal Justice, Employment, Labor, Politics, Church – perpetuate racism. Examples: People of Color under-represented and misrepresented on television, racially biased standardized tests used to determine who will be admitted to higher education
programs and institutions, historic and ongoing breaking of treaties with indigenous Native American communities, reliance on low-paying undocumented immigrant labor by farms and factories. PERSONAL The ways in which we perpetuate and/or assume the idea that white people are inherently better and/or People of Color are inherently inferior on an individual basis. The ways in which white people act out of racist implicit bias. Examples: calling someone a racist name, making a racist assumption. l
This article was produced and published by Dismantling Racism Works. The article was published on the Dismantling Racism Works (dRWorks) website, which is a web-based version of a workbook designed originally to support the Dismantling Racism workshop. The workshop was one step in a longer process developed initially by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun over three decades ago. It builds on the work of many people, including (but not limited to) Andrea Ayvazian, Cynthia Brown, Bree Carlson, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Eli Dueker, Nancy Emond, Jonathan Henderson, Vivette Jeffries-Logan, Michelle Johnson, Jonn Lunsford, Jes Kelley, Sharon Martinas, Jona Olsson, Suzanne Plihcik, Christina Rivera-Chapman, David Rogers, James Williams, Sally Yee, as well as the work of the Peace Development Fund, Grassroots Leadership, Equity Institute Inc, the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, the Challenging White Supremacy workshop, the Lillie Allen Institute, the Western States Center, and the contributions of the many participants in the DR workshops over so many years. Visit the website at DismantlingRacism.org 7
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STANDING AT THE EVENT HORIZON OF A MOVEMENT: DO WE SEIZE OUR MOMENT OF LIBERATION by Tamba-Kuii M. Bailey
eorge Floyd died on May 25, 2020, at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a White Minneapolis police officer, who kept his knee on the neck of George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. George Floydâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s death
represents an all-too-common story of Black people being unnecessarily killed during their interactions with law enforcement in the United States (US). While the unconscionable and ubiquitous experiences of police brutality within the Black community are not new occurrences, the reporting of police brutality through the use of live recordings, police body cameras, and social media have given us an all-access pass to view this systemic behavior. In the shadow of George Floydâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s murder, the US and world have witnessed a rise in daily protests and calls to end police brutality, institutional racism, and White supremacy. We have witnessed hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets with demands for justice, the end of police brutality, defunding law enforcement, and the end of racism across the country. These demands for fundamental changes in policing and the end of institutional racism have served as a catalyst of change and have forced many to acknowledge the racism and mistreatment that exist in many institutions across the country. In juxtaposition to these current reactions,
We must ask ourselves how do we employ anti-racism to address generations of police brutality, institutionalized racism, and White supremacy in the US. 9
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The modern-day system of policing, rooted in these earlier slavery patrols, has seemed to accept archaic beliefs and behaviors which have led to the false perceptions of Black criminality.
the video recording of the Rodney King beating in 1991 and the recording of Eric Garner being choked to death in 2014 were met with different responses. Recall the protests after the non-guilty verdicts of the police who were involved in the Rodney King beating, as well as the delayed actions taken against Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who killed Eric Garner. While many people within the Black community and others fighting against police brutality did engage in protests and civil disobedience, there was no sustained movement. Additionally, many of the institutions, now willing to acknowledge the systematic police brutality and institutionalized racism woven in the fabric of our society, dismissed those earlier behaviors as anomalies, rogue actions, and actions by “bad apples.” Simultaneously, these institutions rejected any calls to investigate the systematic nature of police brutality or racism against Black people. Although many were outraged as they watched these incidents of horror, it seemed these earlier incidents and the ensuing protests failed to light a fuse in the masses. These responses failed to galvanize people in the way that George Floyd’s death has done with so many now. As we reel in the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Botham Jean, and Rayshard Brook (all killed by police) and watch the sustained protests against police brutality and racism, we must wonder what makes this moment and movement feel so different from the outrage experienced in the past. We must ask ourselves how do we employ anti-racism to address generations of police brutality, institutionalized racism, and White 10
supremacy in the US. To offer some understanding of and explore strategies of anti-racism work directed at dismantling police brutality, systemic racism, and White supremacy, it is imperative that we explore the historical and modern-day experiences of police brutality in the US as an example of historic and modern institutional racism, as well as explore institutionalized racism and understand its consequences and manifestations.
HISTORICAL AND MODERN POLICING
The first organized and state-sponsored policing in the US began in the 1700s, with the formation of “slave patrols.”1 These patrols, initially sanctioned in the antebellum south, were created to squelch forms of resistance from enslaved Africans such as revolts, insurrections, destruction of planters’ property, and offenses against the White population.2 Also, these militia units were empowered to track and apprehend those enslaved Africans who had run away.3 These patrols were empowered to search the quarters of enslaved Blacks, break up any organized meetings among Black people, and regulate the movements of enslaved and/or free Black people.4 These armed militia, often poor Whites, were given a wide latitude of discretionary power with regard to the tactics and treatment used against Black people at the time. The patrols were well-known for their cruel and inhumane treatment towards free and enslaved Black people.5 Post slavery, these patrols were given the duties of enforcing the newly created Black Codes. In those states and cities where these patrols were
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disbanded, many of the individuals joined federal militia, state militia, and the ku klux klan as a means of continuing to exert control and intimidation towards Black communities.6 It has been argued that these armed patrols played a significant role in determining what behaviors are classified as crimes and structuring the criminal justice system in America.7 Ultimately, it has been argued that there was an ease in the transition from these patrols to that of formalized policing in the US.8 The modern-day system of policing, rooted in these earlier slavery patrols, has seemed to accept archaic beliefs and behaviors which have led to the false perceptions of Black criminality, the need to control Black Communities (e.g., the over policing of Black and Brown communities, stop and frisk programs), and the idea that deadly force is needed to stop the violent behaviors of Black individuals. Although not all police officers and police forces hold notably overt racist perceptions towards Black people and other people of Color in the US, police are not immune to the systemic racism that exists in our society. So, while many police may verbally disavow racist ideologies and discrimination, at a deeper, an almost unconscious level, they might have negative racial associations and beliefs of Black people and other people of Color that lead to an implicit racial bias.9 This implicit racial bias can negatively impact police officers’ judgement and treatment of Black individuals, while positively influencing their judgement and behaviors towards White individuals.10
In addition to the impact of implicit racial bias on policing behaviors, police officers are given “qualified immunity. ” This legal term means that public officials (including police officers) cannot be sued for actions and behaviors while acting in their professional capacity and performing their job.11 The idea of qualified immunity for police is that they should be shielded from lawsuits and allowed space to make some mistakes when making split-second decisions and actions in tense situations.12 Police officers are granted this immunity even if they are found to have violated an individual’s constitutional rights. Based on this understanding of qualified immunity as well as the fact that police can experience implicit racial bias, it is not difficult to understand how police brutality towards the Black communities has gone unchecked for decades.
BLACK CODES AND THE 13TH AMENDMENT
Along with the influence of these patrols on modern day policing, it is important to understand and contextualize the impact of the Black Code laws and 13th amendment on police brutality and the criminalization of Black people. At the end of slavery, a new system of laws was constructed and legalized to maintain essential components of slavery and to punish any Black individuals violating these laws.13 This new legalized system of oppression, called Black Codes, forced Black people to work under similar conditions experienced during slavery and held in place the continuation of racial oppression.14 11
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While the Black Codes regulated a wide range of daily living for Black people, such as property rights, voting rights, rights in court, marriage, travel, and gun ownership, the central element of these laws focused heavily on work and contractual obligations for work.15 For example, in South Carolina, there was a Black code that stated employers (White individuals) were referred to as “masters” and Black employees were referred to as “servants.” These “masters” were given the right to whip “servants” under the age of 18 years old as a means of discipline when the “masters” perceived the “servant” as being unruly.16 A law in Louisiana, stated that employees (Black individuals) were given only ten days at the beginning of the year to find a job and sign a one-year labor contract. If a Black person did not have a job at the end of the ten-day period, then that person could be jailed for vagrancy. Once the employees entered into these contracts, they could not quit or stop work until the contract was fulfilled. Otherwise, the employee will face punishment and loss of wages.17 In Mississippi, there was a law that allowed anyone to apprehend and return, by force, any Black employee who quit the services of his or her employer prior to expiration of a work contract.18 These types of Black code laws continued the oppression and White supremacy that began during slavery. These laws criminalized Black individuals and legalized harsh punishment for those Black individuals found guilty of breaking the Black Codes. The Black Codes seemed to convey a message that Black men, in particular, needed to be feared, controlled, and punished to protect the White population. The 13th Amendment of the Constitution, while formally ending the law of slavery in the US, allowed for the continuation of practices and treatment associated with slavery for those convicted of a crime.19 The 13th Amendment states “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”20 We see that the 13th Amendment, by providing an exception for the continuation of slavery as a form of punishment, influenced the way in which the southern penal system crafted vile forms of treatment for Black prisoners.21 Thus, the combination of the Black Codes, the 13th Amendment, and historical policing practices have given way to a complex cycle of systemic racist oppression, which has led to greater 12
incidents of police brutality and higher rates of arrest and incarceration for Black individuals than their White counterparts.
RACISM AND INSTITUTIONAL RACISM
To understand the undergirding system driving police brutality, oppression, and the dehumanization of Black people in the US, we must examine racism and institutionalized racism. Racism is a system of power, dominance, subjugation, and privilege created from racial stratification classification. In the system of racism, Black people and other people of Color are viewed as being inferior, deviant, and violent, whereas White people are viewed as superior, normative, and the dominant racial group.22 This ideology of racism is followed by discriminatory and prejudiced behaviors, where the dominant racial group asserts its power through control and oppression of people of Color.23 This system of dominance and power is maintained and replicated through cultural, individual, and institutional actions within society across cultural, legal, medical, religious, political, and educational settings.24 Cultural racism occurs when the White racial majority asserts that their cultural heritage and their definition of what constitutes culture and art are superior and more valuable than that of people of Color.25 In addition, cultural racism imposes these beliefs of a superior cultural heritage onto other groups, while ignoring the cultural heritage of people of Color.26 An example of this cultural racism is playing itself out amid the current protests. There have been multiple calls for and the removal of monuments and statues honoring White confederate soldiers and officials along with other White individuals who lauded White supremacists’ ideology. The cultural racism response to the removal of these figures has been to say that “we cannot let these radical people destroy our heritage” or “they are trying to take away our culture.” These statements convey a belief that these memorials are of important cultural value and should be valued by all. This sentiment fails to acknowledge the one-sided nature of praising historical figures who believed in and fought to preserve the system of racism and White supremacy in this country. This sentiment is in juxtaposition to so many of the country’s elected officials who oppose adding Harriet Tubman, a historical figure and cultural icon for so many people, to the twenty-dollar bill.
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This veil of denial also pushes society to look for and rebuke individual forms of racism, while failing to acknowledge the generational damage caused by systemic racism.
Individual racism is described as any discriminatory attitude or action, by a person of the dominant White majority, that attempts to subordinate and exert power on a person of Color.27 Typically, racially motivated hate crimes and racial microaggression28, which are subtle, innocuous degradations and putdowns, fall under this designation of individual racism. Individual forms of racism have been found to add to the chronic stressors that many Black people frequently experience. Another component of individual racism is the phenomenon of color-blind racism. A color-blind racism reflects an attitude or belief that race should not and does not matter in today’s society.29 Additionally, individuals subscribing to this belief system assert that while racism was a horrible experience of the past, all people now have equal access to all resources and receive equal treatment under the law.30 Finally, this belief system allows individuals to deny that racism and White supremacy continue to benefit White individuals.31 By ascribing to this belief system, it allows individuals to publicly admonish racism while at the same time continuing to benefit from structural and systemic racism. In contrast to individual racism, institutional racism represents the manifestation of racist ideologies in the policies, practices, or structures of an institution (e.g., law enforcement, judicial, educational, religious, corporate, housing, finance, government, and/or medical) that creates, supports, or enforces decisions 14
that oppress people of Color and simultaneously benefit the White majority group.32 Institutional racism is so ingrained into the fabric of society that we no longer believe that oppressive actions against people of Color are racist, but more so a consequence of individual actions. Based on this assertion, when people of Color are denied a bank loan or access to housing, health care, or educational resources, the societal discourse would say these denials occurred because the individual lacked the merits to qualify for the loan, rather than viewing the incident as a consequence of institutional racism. Additionally, the notion of systemic racism has been replaced with the seemingly innocuous concept of meritocracy. Acceptance of the meritocratic belief that someone’s success or failure is due to their individual abilities, offers our society a thin veil of denial that keeps us from recognizing the patterns of institutionalized racism across the country and the globe. This veil of denial also pushes society to look for and rebuke individual forms of racism, while failing to acknowledge the generational damage caused by systemic racism. This overly zealous search for acts of individual racism offers the dominant White group scapegoats in the form of individual “bad apples” to whom they can point as causing the racial unrest in our society. Also, this search for individual acts of racism offers the white majority cover for their failure to critique their own active or complicit contributions
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and maintenance of systemic racism. This focus on individual racism also inhibits the White majority from investigating their own racist attitudes and perceptions that are replicated in structure of the country and the ways in which they benefit from structural racism. In addition to this understanding of what racism is, we need to understand some of the consequences of racism on people of Color. The effects of racism can have a lasting and profound impact on the experiences of Black people and other people of Color.33 Social science studies have found that racism has a negative and detrimental impact on the physical and mental health of Black people and other people of Color.34 In terms of physical health, research has found relationships between racism and higher levels of stress, poor cardiovascular health, weight gain, poor sexual health functioning, poor physical health, and premature births.35 It has been found that the mental health effects of racism may be expressed as “anger, fear, sadness, resentment, or bitterness.”36 Also, it has been argued that experiences of racism can lead to the internalization of racists attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes regarding Black people.37 In addition to this direct effect of racism, it has been argued that racism can have a vicarious effect on Black people and other people of Color. This vicarious form of racism occurs when a person of Color witnesses or learns of an experience of prejudice or discrimination that happens to someone known to the individual.
Although the individual did not directly experience the racism, learning of the incident can create as much distress, anxiety, sadness, a heightened sense of danger, and vulnerability as the person who directly experienced the racism. Thus, I argue that the protest signs and shirts with George Floyd’s statement of “I can’t breathe” are recognition of the pain and suffering from this vicarious experience of racism.
ENGAGING IN ANTI-RACISM WORK
To effectively address police brutality and create lasting change in this society, we must work to understand and dismantle the system of institutional racism that is so pervasive across the foundation and structure of our society. While there is no single, dogmatic approach to engaging in anti-racist work38, there are several overarching characteristics that exist in this work. To engage in anti-racism work, we must first have a common understanding of what antiracism work looks like. Anti-racism work serves as a broad term for behaviors, practices, action plans, and strategies used to confront, challenge, disrupt, dismantle, and eradicate racist policies and practices.39 Anti-racism work must attempt to eliminate the power, prejudice, White supremacist ideology, stereotypes, disparities, and unequal treatment associated with racism.40 This understanding of anti-racism represents an active process where individuals across communities work collaboratively to end racism and deleterious 15
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effects of this phenomenon. Additionally, anti-racism efforts work to affirm the value, humanity, and lived reality of people of Color. In terms of the goals of anti-racism work, it is focused on challenging the White supremacist ideology that asserts the notion of superiority for White individuals and inferiority for people of Color. Also, anti-racism work has the goal of eliminating all policies and laws that legalize and sanction the violent and brutal force that is directed at people of Color. Another goal of anti-racism work is to contribute to the educational process where all people learn the characteristics and components of racism as well as how to move towards an anti-racist society. Further, anti-racism work strives for the establishment of a multi-racial, shared democratic process where the experiences of all communities are factored into the development of laws, policies, actions, and initiatives at all levels (local, state, and federal) of functioning.
BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT
Black Lives Matter serves as an example of a movement that engages in anti-racism work by working to eradicate cultural, individual, and institutional racism 16
in this country. The Black Lives Matter Movement grew out of a response to the killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. The Black Lives Matter Movement works on confronting the inequities and injustices faced by Black people that are rooted in systemic racism and White supremacy. Further, this Movement works to eradicate all forms of injustice by holding our public and elected officials accountable, challenging racist policies in institutions, demanding equal justice under the law, and monitoring the impact of actions that negatively impact the lived experiences of Black people. The Movement affirms the culture and heritage of Black people in the US and across the diaspora by working to uplift and support Black families and assert the humanity of Black people. In fact, the Black Lives Matter Movement works toward freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people. Thus, Black Lives Matter recognizes that anti-racism work must involve people of Color as well as the White community. It seems that, as a society, we now stand at the event horizon of a movement to address the systemic and structural racism in this country and around the globe. This moment, the energy, and the seemingly endless dedication to changing our society feels like we are
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donning the cloth of a new society. What remains to be seen is if we will seize the opportunity to grab hold of this new society by weeding out the racism and White supremacy that have permeated our beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, policies, and procedures. My hope is that we all take the leap of faith and go beyond the event horizon, never to return. l
TAMBA-KUII BAILEY, currently living in Grand Forks, grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland by way of North Carolina. He received his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Georgia State University. Tamba-Kuii moved to North Dakota to teach graduate students in counseling and counseling Psychology. Tamba-Kuiiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s research focuses on Black psychology and the ways in which racial oppression impacts the mental health function of Black people.
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Endnotes and References 1. Turner, K. B., Giacopassi, D., & Vandiver, M. (2006). Ignoring the past: Coverage of slavery and slave patrols in criminal justice texts. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 17(1), 181-195. 2. Reichel, P. L. (1988). Southern slave patrols as a transitional police type. American. Journal of Police, 7, 51. 3. Ibid. 4. Durr, M. (2015). What is the difference between slave patrols and modern day policing? Institutional violence in a community of color. Critical Sociology, 41(6), 873-879. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid. 7. Turner, K. B., Giacopassi, D., & Vandiver, M. (2006). Ignoring the past: Coverage of slavery and slave patrols in criminal justice texts. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 17(1), 181-195. 8. Ibid. 9. Monteith, M. J., Voils, C. I., & Ashburn-Nardo, L. (2001). Taking a look underground: Detecting, interpreting, and reacting to implicit racial biases. Social Cognition, 19(4), 395-417. 10. Richardson, L. S. (2017). Implicit racial bias and racial anxiety: Implications for stops and frisks. Ohio St. Journal of Criminal. Law, 15, 73 11. Baude, W. (2018). Is qualified immunity unlawful. California. Law. Review, 106, 45. 12. Ibid. 13. Du Bois, W. E. B. (1998). Black Reconstruction in America: 1860-1880. New York: The Free Press. 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid. 16. Ibid. 17. Ibid. 18. Ibid. 19. Jones, D. E. (2016). The Unknown Legacy of the 13th Amendment. 20. U.S. Constitution. Amendment XIII 21. Gilmore, K. (2000). Slavery and prison— understanding the connections. Social Justice, 27(3 (81), 195-205. 22. Harrell, S. P. (2000). A multidimensional conceptualization of racism-related stress: Implications for the well-being of people of Color. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 70, 42-57. 23. Pieterse, A. L., Todd, N. R., Neville, H. A., & Carter, R. T. (2012). Perceived racism and mental health among Black American adults: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59, 1-9. 24. Feagin, J. R., & Sikes, M. P. (1994). Living with racism: The Black middle class experience. Boston, MA: Beacon Press 25. Jones, J. M. (1997). Prejudice and racism (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
26. Ibid. 27. Constantine, M. G. (2006). Racism in mental health and education settings. In M. G. Constantine & D. W. Sue (Eds.), Addressing racism: Facilitating cultural competence in mental health and educational settings (pp.3-14). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc 28. Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62, 271–286. 29. Gushue, G. V., & Constantine, M. G. (2007). Colorblind racial attitudes and white racial identity attitudes in psychology trainees. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38, 321. 30. Neville, H. A., Worthington, R., L, & Spanierman, L. B. (2001). Race, power, and multicultural counseling psychology: Understanding White privilege and color blind racial attitudes. In J. G. Ponterotto, J. M. Casas, L. A. Suzuki, & C. M. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of multicultural counseling (2nd ed., pp. 257–288). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 31. Ibid. 32. Jones, J. M. (1997). Prejudice and racism (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. 33. White, J. L., & Parham, T. A. (1990). The psychology of Blacks: An African-American perspective (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. 34. Ibid. 35. Williams, D. R., & Mohammed, S. A. (2009). Discrimination and racial disparities in health: evidence and needed research. Journal of behavioral medicine, 32, 20-47. 36. White, J. L., & Parham, T. A. (1990). The psychology of Blacks: An African-American perspective (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. 37. Bailey, T. K. M., Chung, Y. B., Williams, W. S., Singh, A. A., & Terrell, H. K. (2011). Development and validation of the Internalized Racial Oppression Scale for Black individuals. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58, 481-493. 38. Gillborn, D. (2006). Critical race theory and education: Racism and anti-racism in educational theory and praxis. Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education, 27, 11-32. 39. Berman, G., & Paradies, Y. (2010). Racism, disadvantage and multiculturalism: towards effective anti-racist praxis. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 33(2), 214-232. 40. Ibid.
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Author’s 9-year-old son, Silas on vacation in Washington D.C.
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WHY, MAMA? by Sue Skalicky
y nine-year-old son jumped from tree to tree, hiding from me and laughing as he and I walked to my work in downtown Bismarck. I laughed with him and drank
in his bright eyes and captivating smile as he played without any inhibitions. Then he whipped his hands together to form a weapon and wielded it at a passing squirrel. Adrenaline hit my stomach and I yelled. He stopped and looked hurt. I caught up with him, put my arm around his shoulders and we continued to walk. “We need to talk about something important.” “What’s wrong, mama?” “You can’t pretend to have a gun and shoot at squirrels.” “Why, mama?” I hate the fear I felt that day. In an instant, I choked up at the injustice. My son’s friends’ moms don’t have to ask them to stop pretending to shoot squirrels. In raising our first four kids I only ever had to yell out to them if
they were about to run into the street. When they were young they climbed trees, looked in store windows, trespassed on large fields to chase butterflies, and attempted to take candy from the store without paying. I taught them right and wrong as each lesson presented itself. But, I was never afraid to do so. I was offered grace from grocery store clerks and property owners as we discussed how tough parenting can be. “Mama, what did they say?” I swallowed my tears and clenched my fists at the slurs the man screamed at my daughter as he drove by us on the sidewalk. “Mama?” She was on a day pass from the pediatric behavioral hospital in the small Kansas City bedroom community where she was doing the hard work of reconciling a past
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of neglect, abandonment, and abuse. We were simply taking a walk and talking. I kept walking and told her he clearly didn’t know us and his comments weren’t worth our time. How can she heal from her past when strangers were continuing the abuse? What do I say to her to give her the strength and courage she needs to stand up for herself? “He did what the two cars in front of him did and the man didn’t yell at them, Mama. But, it was so embarrassing when he yelled at us.” “What did he say?” “You said we can’t say those words.” Our oldest son had agreed to pick up our daughter after school and he found himself in a traffic jam. The two cars ahead of him opted to do a U-turn that involved driving part way into a driveway. Our son followed them. The homeowner sat quietly on his porch watching the daily pickup routine at the nearby elementary school. This man didn’t react when the cars ahead of my son used his driveway to get out of a tight predicament. But as soon as our son’s front tire crossed over onto his driveway the man stood, turned red, and yelled for our son to get the hell off his property. His language was racial and I refuse to even write it here. I have seven children. Four are white and three are black. And I’m saddened by the fact that I don’t need to tell you which children I’m talking about above. But, I’m also saddened that I lack the context to respond to the hatred directed at my kids. I let them know they are loved for who they are. I encourage them to never back 22
down from injustice. I teach them black history the best I know how and surround them with adults from their birth country as well as adult African Americans. But, it daily burns within me to do more, to learn more, to admit my mistakes, and to acknowledge my lack of understanding. I couldn’t love them any more than I do right now. But, because I love them it is my job to also educate myself about what they suffer due to no fault of their own. I have added #blacklivesmatter to my social media posts. I have reshared powerful articles and posts about racism. I have stood up for them when needed. I even apply sunscreen to their dark skin because I know it will burn even though I can’t see the burn. But, none of that is enough. Because I am white, I need to do more. I need to understand more. I don’t know what it is like to be the only one in a room who is a different color. I don’t know how it feels for the neighbor’s grandmother to glare at me as I go through the back door of my house because I forgot my key. I have never had someone ask to touch my hair or my skin because it is different. I am privileged and I need to own up to that. So, my precious kids, I am sorry. I’m sorry that I haven’t come close to being the person you have needed me to be. I don’t know how to teach you to stand up against prejudice and hatred. But, I promise that I won’t ever stop learning and growing into the strongest ally you’ve got.
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First, you will need to acknowledge that you have implicit bias. It’s okay, we all do. We were raised in surroundings that were not our choice.
How about you? Are you also privileged? I invite you to walk with me and learn how to be an ally, not just an empathetic bystander. First, you will need to acknowledge that you have implicit bias. It’s okay, we all do. We were raised in surroundings that were not our choice. If you grew up without diversity, it’s not your fault. But, you have a lot to learn. Admitting that is a great start. Start today by taking Harvard’s Project Implicit test. The results will give you a measurement of where you are beginning your journey to becoming an ally. Your results should startle you. Mine did. You will need to educate yourself on the history of racism and whiteness. It is not pretty. But, make yourself read it. See yourself in it. Let the tears flow for the injustice of all of it. Don’t stop. Read every last word of it. Then teach it to your kids and other youth. Ask questions when you don’t know the answers. Don’t ever assume. Ever. You will need to say something. Intervene when someone is being racist. It will be uncomfortable, and even a bit scary. But, don’t just walk away. Say it’s wrong. Look the person in the eye and say it isn’t right and it needs to stop. Don’t back down. And whatever you do, don’t be silent. You will need to do something. Donate to the Let Us Breathe Fund, Equal Justice Initiative, The National Urban Fund, or other organizations who are tirelessly working to bring about racial justice. Support those who
are speaking out. Engage only with businesses that don’t support systemic racism. And finally, you will need to become anti-racist. Racism exists. Therefore, we can’t just say we aren’t racist and do nothing. If we are not racist then we are anti-racist and we need to daily learn what that fully means. My kids need me to do something. I need to work towards being part of the answer to their whys. I’m ready to go. Are you coming with me? l
SUE SKALICKY is a writer, speaker, and pursuer of abundant life. Over the past 30 years, she has worked as a medical photographer, photojournalist, leadership trainer, writer, and teacher. She has worked with the Navigators and Heartbeat Ministries, and has written for several publications including Discipleship Journal, The Small Group Network, Christianity Today, The Casper Journal, and The New York Times. She is currently the program coordinator for Humanities North Dakota. Sue has published two books, Change For a Penny and The Silent Sound of Darkness. Sue has lived one adventure after another with her husband Dave for the past 33 years, fumbled through parenting seven of the best kids in the world, and seeks to get away with as much as possible with her nine grandkids. Sue is passionate about teaching and inspiring adults and youth worldwide. 23
STANDING ROCK: THE “TEST KITCHEN” FOR AMERICA'S UPRISING by Jenni Monet
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awny Cale wore a ribbon skirt and burned a bundle of sage the day she showed up in Rugby, North Dakota for a Black Lives Matter protest. The Standing Rock Sioux woman grew up in
the sleepy ranch town just south of the Canadian border. She joined the high school cheerleading squad and marched in annual homecoming parades. It was her way of fitting into a community that was ninety-eight percent white. So, when Cale heard a racial justice rally was hitting her girlhood streets, her jaw dropped. She almost didn’t believe it. “A Black Lives Matter protest in Rugby?,” she remembered thinking to herself. “I was so proud.” Cale, 33, moved away years ago, got married, had kids, and then moved again. Each time, she made her life in North Dakota cities not far from her mother and step-father who still call Rugby home. It was in early June, while visiting her family, that she learned of the Black Lives Matter demonstration. A group of recent graduates from Rugby High had filed for a protest permit, succeeded, and secured police escorts to help organize their peaceful march. But that did little to temper some neighbor's nerves.
The presence of so many people who gathered on the borderlands of the reservation captures at the heart of today’s resistance - a stand against systemic racism, police brutality, and attacks on free speech.
Cale remembers the gossip that was circulating in the days leading up to the event. “Agitators are coming in by train. They’re going to destroy downtown; burn down city hall,” she rattled off. “People were so angry.” The rhetoric reminded her of how locals reacted to the fiery demonstrations over the Dakota Access Pipeline led by the Standing Rock tribe. “After the NoDAPL protests started, I wasn’t as proud to be from Rugby,” said Cale, referring to the pipeline’s acronym, DAPL. The way she put it, the stand at Standing Rock had revealed a “casual under the surface racism”. “It was sad,” she said. Calling out such bigotry is now central to an uprising that began in Minneapolis and has spread to hundreds of cities and small towns around the world. In the U.S., the outrage has resulted in thousands of arrests, serious injuries, and National Guard troops being deployed. The catalyst was a viral video of yet another black man in America killed by a police officer – the death of George Perry Floyd. But his tragedy is just one of many like-minded tragedies that date back decades in our shared timeline. In North Dakota, it should be impossible to speak of what is happening now without taking into account the recent history of Standing Rock, what I often referred to as the “test kitchen” for what to expect at the start of the 25
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presidency under Donald Trump. The presence of so many people who gathered on the borderlands of the reservation captures at the heart of today’s resistance – a stand against systemic racism, police brutality, and attacks on free speech. The most potent humility came from the legion of veterans who descended on the Dakota buttes with a mission that is also their oath: to defend the country against “enemies foreign and domestic.” At Standing Rock, this adversary was anyone advancing corporate-led violence in the name of greed. But if Standing Rock and Floyd’s murder equally represent outrage over injustices, why then has one moment – a pipeline protest – been responded to so differently by North Dakotans than protests over the killing of a Black man? The answer may lie in a racial reckoning that has yet to unravel in the Great Plains, perhaps the sturdiest foundation of confronting the colonization of this country. For Cale, she’s optimistic. She thinks the smallest act, a 50-person protest in the racially-segregated town of Rugby, could be a hopeful sign that North Dakotans are becoming aware. “I think people are doing a lot of inner work,” she said. “They’re realizing that saying ‘I'm a nice person’ is not the same thing as saying ‘I’m not racist.’” • --------------------------• I found Cale from reading about the rally in Rugby. I don’t live in North Dakota, but I’ve frequented the state, even before my reporting 26
from the frontlines at Standing Rock. My return visits often include making the drive past Rugby toward the Indigenous homelands of my Turtle Mountain Chippewa father and grandfather. But by statewide standards, I know that even these family ties still make me an “outsider”. For six consecutive months, I filed dispatches from the demonstrations at Standing Rock beginning Sept. 3, 2016. That was when DAPL
Even if Black Americans represent only 2.5 percent of the statewide population, it is another marginalized group that’s more visible, Native Americans, that help tell the story of North Dakota inequality. security guards sicced dogs on a group of Native American protesters attempting to stop pipeline construction that day. Crews had begun to scrape away at lands considered sacred to the Lakota. Days earlier, tribal officials told a judge that ancient artifacts were buried there. Months later, North Dakota state energy regulators issued a $15,000 fine to the pipeline company after historic cairns were unearthed on the disputed lands. According to state records, neither Dakota Access or its
operator, Energy Transfer Partners, has ever reconciled their debt for the desecration that occurred there. Just as viral video sparked global outrage over Floyd's apparent suffocation, Democracy Now!’s news clip of the dog attack galvanized activism at Standing Rock. And just like the aftermath of Minneapolis, the videoed violence kept rolling. There was the tense standoff on Highway 1806 in which police pulled Joseph Hock of the Mackinac Bands out of a sweat lodge as he prayed (Oct. 27, 2016), and the night Sophia Wilansky nearly lost her left arm from explosives as police weaponized water cannons in subfreezing weather (Nov. 20, 2016), and then there was the police raid that resulted in Marcus Mitchell losing sight in his right eye after being shot at close range with a bean bag round (Jan. 19, 2017). The latter incident was the night I was also trampled on by a line of sheriff ’s deputies. Two weeks later, I was arrested while on assignment despite displaying my press pass to police. For the veterans, what drew their ire most was the water cannon incident. The next day, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeir defended the police action as a measure to help keep “everybody safe.” But obviously, “everybody” did not include the protesters or “water protectors” who, like Floyd, may have lost their life. That night, on Nov. 20 as hypothermia set in, grassroots medics tended to victims in a makeshift clinic set up in a casino hotel room. John Lewis, the 80-year-old Georgia congressman and civil rights activist who worked closely with Dr. Martin
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Luther King, said when he watched the Minneapolis videos, it reminded him of the 1955 murder of Emmit Till and the “sham trial” that soon followed. “Justice has been denied for far too long,” Lewis said in a statement. These sentiments ring true, today, at Standing Rock. But the fight is far from over. Oil now flows beneath the Missouri River but a federal court in Washington D.C. has recently ordered the DAPL to shut down. Judge James Boasberg declared the project was fast-tracked and called for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full environmental review. The ruling was what the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe had been demanding all along with hopes that the pipeline stay shuttered for good. “It is the only way to right some small measure of the historical wrongs that the government has perpetrated on the Sioux nations throughout history,” said tribal chairman Mike Faith in a recent op-ed. • --------------------------• Indigenously, the Oceti Sakowin or the Seven Fires of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people are renowned, if not revered, for their ultimate resistance and resilience to colonization including their victory at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876; their tragic bloodshed at Wounded Knee in 1890; and their activism at Wounded Knee, again, in 1973. Then as now, this history serves as a living force in the immediate American condition; a critical link to understanding what may be the hardest circumstance for North Dakotans to reconcile with, overall: white supremacy and the impact it continues
to have on the First Peoples of these lands. “There’s just so much of our history that’s not taught,” said Cale who studied to become a high school English teacher. As an example, she referenced the massive 1950s Army Corps of Engineers dam project that flooded out tribes from their most fertile homelands. For Standing Rock, this forced families onto the fierce windswept uplands to make way for Lake Oahe. It’s a recent memory the Lakota live with everyday but that was so easily erased in the minds of so many others. Few were aware of this history before the pipeline protests began.
systemic racism continues to breed. In this regard, a protest in Rugby is exactly why Cale and others have responded so emotionally to the small event (Cale said she cried) because outrage over injustice should be universal, everywhere - and for everybody. “North Dakotans have a sense that when big events happen, they happen far away, in other states,” explained Cale. “But these are things happening in our own backyard and not from outsiders, but literally, the Indigenous Peoples of these lands.” l
“No one knew it was a town beneath that lake,” said Cale. “The intergenerational trauma felt from this experience is still a thing.” From these narratives, she hopes it helps open others to an understanding that the chronic poverty that permeates reservation life is sourced from real suffering. “These problems didn’t just stem from nowhere,” she said. Even if Black Americans represent only 2.5 percent of the statewide population, it is another marginalized group that’s more visible, Native Americans, that help tell the story of North Dakota inequality. In between these two flashpoints - NoDAPL to Floyd - are recent telltale signs to consider: the delayed murder investigation into Spirit Lake mother, Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, the reservation-based voter ID law that negatively impacts the Native vote, and the ongoing battle over the DAPL. Combined, these events represent the steady burdens that
JENNI MONET is an investigative journalist and founding editor of the newsletter, Indigenously. She is a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna and a descendent of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa.
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THE INCARCERATED BODY AND MUTUAL LIBERATION by Karen Van Fossan
ach month, behind the wheel of my 2002 Toyota, which runs better on the inside than it looks like it might from the outside, I take a 221 mile drive, past teeming lakes, clustering trees, and any number of big box stores, to Sandstone Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone, Minnesota.
Or I used to, before the COVID-19 pandemic and the moratorium on public visitation. Rattler, also known as Michael Markus, lives there, along with roughly 1,155 other imprisoned men. I met him during the Standing Rock Water Protector movement, or revolution as he calls it. Rattler served as Akicita, an honored Lakota role of peace-protection and conflict deescalation. He took the name Rattler when he served as Akicita at Oceti Sakowin Camp. Like Rattler, Little Feather and Angry Bird also served as Akicita. Dion, the youngest of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) Political Prisoners, who celebrated his 21st birthday in prison, didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t directly serve as Akicita, but he was associated with Akicita, and for this he was also charged. In a separate and complicated scenario, RedFawn, like countless other Water Protectors, fell in love at camp. Unfortunately, her love story ended in prison time and, to quote her support committee, entrapment.1 30
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All told, the five NoDAPL Political Prisoners – Rattler, Little Feather, Angry Bird, Dion, and RedFawn – are Indigenous people who were targeted by the U.S. government for engaging in an Indigenous-led struggle to preserve Indigenous ways of life – on Indigenous land. The pipeline and the vast security forces, from private to state to countless enlisted localities, should never have been there. While Energy Transfer Partners still insists that the pipeline project is not blatantly racist and unjust, because it does not cross Standing Rock2 – that could only be true, or be seen to be true, because of other blatant injustices. Regular violations by colonial governments and corporations have steadily shrunk the boundaries of the Great Lakota/Dakota/Nakota (Sioux) Nation, as established by the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868.3 According to these treaties, as well as others, DAPL crosses all over Indigenous lands. A descendent of White settler-colonialism4 myself, I also cross Indigenous lands – Lakota, Dakota, Hidatsa, Anishinaabe, and more – as I journey to Sandstone FCI. It’s a minimum-security facility not too far from the Kettle River and the sandstone ridges, which that 32
meandering, copper river has helped to create. The prison sits, just about dead center, in aptly named Pine County. Last fall, I saw sandhill cranes for the first time in my life, there on the Sandstone campus. The sandhill cranes, the river, and the rest of Pine County are separated from the men of Sandstone FCI by a double row of massive fencing and untold lengths of spiraled razor wire. The first time I visited Rattler, having just been granted visitation privileges, eight long months and three frustrating visitor applications after he was admitted, I stopped to snap a few pictures from the scrappy, front patch of lawn. I was inspired by Leoyla Cowboy who had recently shared a selfie from the outside of USP Hazelton in West Virginia, where Little Feather, her beloved spouse, was doing time. That selfie, even with the copious razored fencing of Hazelton in the background, had been strangely comforting to the rest of us – the loved ones who had become loved ones through our resistance to the pipeline and the violence it brought to us. I thought Rattler’s loved ones, his new spouse especially, might be just as comforted by a Sandstone selfie – fencing, razor wire, and scrappy patches of grass
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While Energy Transfer Partners still insists that the pipeline project is not blatantly racist and unjust, because it does not cross Standing Rock – that could only be true, or be seen to be true, because of other blatant injustices.
notwithstanding. But a female guard, twice my size in muscles and bullet-proof padding, burst from the solid door. “Are you a visitor?” I nodded and tucked my phone away. “What are you doing? Are you taking pictures?” As I mumbled something about the rest of Rattler’s family maybe wanting to see where he’s living now, she interrupted, “You’d better not be taking pictures of our fence, or you’ll never visit here again.” I didn’t love this exchange. But as far as harassment by armed authorities goes, it was nothing. I wasn’t threatened with the loss of my life, just the loss of a life-giving experience – and the loss of a life-giving experience for a loved one on the inside. If he were isolated from one visitor in a short list of authorized visitors, he would be exponentially more isolated from life on the outside. That’s why I didn’t speak up, keep my camera in hand, or make any gesture that could imply I was doing those things. As harmless as this experience turned out to be, it stays with me now because of how it troubles, ever so slightly, my White, settler-colonial identity – an identity which has always depended upon the consent of other Whites to maintain. Also a White person, the guard had the prerogative, in that moment by the door, to treat me like a quasiprisoner, a proximal prisoner, an outsider to White settler-colonialism, because of my proximity to a prisoner and the imprisoned role itself. My ancestors must have experienced many moments like these. If they were anything like the European immigrants
of history, my Scottish, German, and Irish ancestors (to name a few) fought, sometimes literally, to be admitted into Whiteness, into the in-group of colonialism here in the U.S. – in order to be free from, or at least more free from, injustice. But they were rarely certain, rarely secure, in this hoped-for state of insulation against economic and existential suffering. Using the Doctrine of Discovery in the 1400s, colonizers first claimed primacy because of their Christianity.5 As increasing numbers of colonized peoples adopted a Christian orientation, colonizers claimed primacy largely because of their Anglo-Saxon identity.6 Then, in the 1700s and 1800s, increasing numbers of light-skinned immigrants resisted colonial powers by joining Black people and Indigenous people in revolts like Gabriel’s Rebellion. So colonizers extended primacy to other light-skinned groups – to disturb affinities among the poor of many colors, and, just as importantly, to find overseers for their slavery plantations and settlers for their land claims.7 But each new wave of light-skinned immigrants to the U.S. – Scottish, German, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Eastern European, and more – was (and is) at first excluded from the sanctity of White identity. Their economic usefulness had (and has) to be shown.8 Then, even after it’s been established, Whiteness isn’t always easy to maintain. After scores of Irish immigrants escaped the Great Famine of the 1840s, they, as was the custom in this country, were originally scorned by other light-skinned Americans. Then, before the Civil War, having quickly learned the advantages of Whiteness, a group of Irish-American dock workers in New York City attempted to push German-Americans out of dock working jobs, claiming Germans were 33
| RACIAL JUSTICE | a different color, and campaigning for an “all-white waterfront.”9 Whiteness, then and now, is a slippery device. Whiteness, then and now, comes at a cost – what W.E.B. Du Bois termed the “wages of whiteness.”10 As traumatized peoples from Europe, fleeing hunger, abuse, and environmental degradation, my ancestors’ best hope seemed to be to rid themselves of their proximities – 1. To their own history of land and cultural loss. 2. To their own history as indentured servants and slaves. 3. To the like realities of those who could not dwell behind a mask of White. To be White, my ancestors gave up their own histories, covered their own pain, and shifted, to a greater or lesser extent, their historical suffering onto the more recently colonized peoples of Africa and this continent – in order to be safe.11 Or at least to be less in danger. Even today, a “safe neighborhood” is often code for a predominantly White neighborhood – regardless how much domestic violence, child abuse, and emotional suffering happens within; regardless, in fact, how unsafe such a neighborhood, like the Retreat at Twin Lakes, might be for Trayvon Martin. In my own childhood, growing up on an all-White block, a cul-de-sac shaped like an elongated button mushroom, adults in the neighborhood would have called the place safe. We kids could play in the cul-de-sac, dawn ‘til dusk. My best friend Dana and I would squeeze our two, wiry bodies onto her bicycle built for one, singing for all the world to hear, if they wanted to.
The other kids loved to hold races, from up the street by Shawn’s house all the way down to Amy’s. Some kids played cops and robbers. The bad guys were the robbers, of course, always getting their wrists tied up in Jeff and Greg’s garage. When the real police drove by, that’s all they did – drive by – on the bigger street, called Gettysburg Drive, which our cul-de-sac emerged from. The only time I even remember a firetruck was a midsummer block party – the firetruck clambering with grade-school bodies that had taken a break, for a time, from bicycling, and racing, and sending each other to jail. The only guns I saw there, on my cul-de-sac, were the ones that waited, side by side, in my dad’s bedroom closet, or came out for cleaning and greasing on my parents’ queen-size bed. Out on the street, we were safe, relatively safe. In the secrecy of our homes, though, where no one else could see, our bodies – too many of our bodies, anyway – faced something other than safety. As I remember the ways many of us children lived, behind our masks of White, I can scarcely pick my heart up off the mushroom-shaped street. There was one particular evening, way past dark, cloudy, not much of a moon. It was early Spring, I’d say, though the season has escaped me. I bolted, as if tossed by the hand of God, from the living room to the front lawn. The thing I had just witnessed left me severed from my sanity. So I made noise, plenty of noise, plenty of wounded, animal noise.
We need to come together as one – not as one better than the other – and to remember it’s going to take us all to help fix what we’re destroying. – Angry Bird
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Cannon Ball, ND, USA - November 18, 2016: A Teepee overlooking the the Oceti Sakowin Dakota Access Pipeline resistance camp near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
But no one came out to help me. No one checked in at our house, or gave my folks a call, or summoned the local police, which would have been the custom when noisy trouble was unfolding. What must our neighbors have been thinking? What did it mean, in that moment, to live on a safe street? What did it mean, in that moment, to come from a mushroom-like cul-de-sac? What did it mean to be settlers and colonials? To be White? I was taught, though no one ever said it out loud, that being White means – 1. We’re protected. 2. The danger is non-Whites. 3. Other Whites don’t harm us. Even when they do. Because that’s what it means to be White.
Maybe, as a child, as a descendant of settlercolonialism, I longed, like my ancestors did, for the safety they came here to find. Maybe, as White people, we are still afraid, still struggling to find that safety – in the very form and function of our identity. Maybe that’s what places like Sandstone FCI, USP Hazelton, the new Burleigh-Morton Detention Center are meant to guarantee. Safety. Security. Separation. Freedom from the suffering that only “they” can cause. Never “us.” Because us-ness is the thing that makes us safe. And yet –
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I stand in peace, in prayer, and in solidarity with our relatives through every struggle. Remember the strength and the lives of our ancestors. – RedFawn
Our us-ness doesn’t save us. Enough. Our us-ness doesn’t protect us. Enough. My ancestors fought to be White, to be “us,” to be welcomed within colonialism – Not because “us” was so loving and so welcoming – But precisely because “us” was not. By being “us,” by fighting to be White, by disavowing “them,” my ancestors sought protection, assimilation, ingratiation. The deepest reason we White people long to be “us” – Is not what “they,” those with lesser might, could do to “us” – But what “us,” by definition, does to “them” – And what suffering we’d endure, if we failed to be “us.” Sometimes, the gates around the communities – the walls along the borders – keep “them” out. Sometimes, the razor-wire fencing around the prisons keeps “them” in. Either way, the premise is: we’re safe among our kind – The “us,” the settlers, the colonials, the good ones, the Whites. But what if our experience tells us otherwise? What if our own proximity to Whiteness tells us otherwise? And what if we don’t stick with our own us-ness, our own kind? Then what? As a regular visitor at Sandstone FCI, I can’t help noticing that the visitation room – a squat, lowceilinged spot that feels like a deep, down basement – is one of the most culturally and ethnically integrated places that I experience in my regular, North Dakota 36
life. The only place more integrated, in recent memory, has been the Water Protector camps and the Water Protector happenings that have followed. Certainly, I’m still a descendant of settler-colonialism when I’m at Sandstone FCI. I don’t become Black, and I don’t become Indigenous, the two most prevalent backgrounds of people I see there – along with White. But when I arrive at the prison, as a visitor of a prisoner, I am situated, for a time, on the other side of the fence. While I may not be an enemy of the empire, not a person in a cage herself – I’m also not a friend of the empire, not a person with a key, a gun, or, in those moments, a voice. For those moments, if rare others, I feel my Whiteness slipping. While I am not “them,” I’m also not fully “us.” My proximity to prisoners disrupts the White identity that my ancestors struggled so hard – oppressed so hard – to make for me. My ancestors, fleeing Europe, hoped to free me from such a prison, from having loved ones in exactly this kind of place. But the NoDAPL Political Prisoners are not my first loved ones to do time. A handful of years ago, a 20-something year-old relative, a descendant of White settler-colonialism himself, joined 2,000 other sex offenders on his state’s registry. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He wasn’t supposed to meet the local police at a local motel, believing he was meeting a local teen. He did a terrible thing. Or he would have done a terrible thing, if that teenage girl had been a teenage girl
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and not an undercover cop. He did a thing that, by definition, “us” does not do. Is he “them” now, or still “us”? Are we, his extended family, “them” now, or still “us”? And what of our various ancestors who did what he wanted to do, who took bodies, who took from bodies, without repercussion – and called the taking something else? That’s the colonial paradigm: To take land – and call the taking, civilization. To take freedom – and call the taking, an act of faith. This is how I arrive. These are my itchy, ancestral memories, as I travel among the cabins and lakes to Sandstone FCI. On that first prison visit, Rattler and I sat face to face, hunched forward in our seats – part bench, part pew, part chair. Except for the matching uniforms (tan), except for volume of talking (much), you’d almost think we were visiting at an oversized, indoor bus stop. In a one-gallon, Ziploc bag, I’d brought $40 in quarters for the various mismatched vending machines, which slumped along the exit wall. Under a sign, NO REFUNDS, printed on standard copy paper, half the machines didn’t function. The others didn’t disclose the various prices of their items. No meals were served in that room – except at the annual Powwow – so you had to buy lunch for your loved one. Rattler, like every prisoner, was barred from any contact with the vending machines, the microwave, or the money. Everything prison-related seems to cost money. There’s a copay to see the doctor. You have to buy soap, and shoes, and phone time. Even wiring money to prisoners’ commissaries costs extra money. Dion, who used to do time at Sandstone before his release to a halfway house, had a job in the kitchen. He made 50 cents a day. One evening on the phone, we figured he had to work 14 days to afford one commissary pizza. “It’s slavery,” we both said, even though, in 1863, 38
enslaved peoples were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation – even though, in 1865, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery for good. But there’s one clear exception to the 13th Amendment: “Punishment for a crime.”12 If you’ve been convicted of a crime, according to the U.S. Constitution, you can be made a slave. And it’s not just the wages. When Little Feather and Leoyla wanted to have a legal marriage, with full benefits of the certificate, they chose a few places and times. They asked if I would conduct it, as I was vested with that colonial power. Since they’d been wedded in their hearts from the days of Oceti Sakowin camp, we liked to call the event their “re-wedding.” But the re-wedding wasn’t allowed, not while he was in prison, or later, in the halfway house – because a colonial authority, not Little Feather himself, had the power to decide. As Frederick Douglass said in 1845, “I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted.”13 Prison is the epitome of not doing the things you wanted. Prison is the slavery of our age. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Little Feather in chains. Or Rattler behind those fences. Or Dion, and later RedFawn, behind the visitation glass. Or Angry Bird, peering up at the judge on that elevated throne. When the federal defendants – RedFawn, Little Feather, Rattler, Dion, and Angry Bird – first received their charges, they faced possible sentences, mandatory minimums, of 10 years and up. So the Water Protector Legal Collective commissioned a poll.
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Please let our people know that I love them, and I'm honored to be where I am at for them. I want our people to know also to never give up hope on our movement. – Little Feather How likely was a fair jury? It turned out, roughly 85% of Bismarck-Mandan people believed Water Protectors were guilty, already.14 So defendants petitioned the court for a change of venue. Could their trials be relocated to Fargo, maybe, where minds weren’t so made up? The answer came back – no. That’s when legal advisors made a difficult recommendation: Cut your losses. Take a plea. Do less time. So each of the five NoDAPL defendants pled guilty to a lesser charge, felonious Civil Disorder, a category increasingly reserved for political resisters.15 Each plea was “non-cooperating,” meaning defendants would not provide evidence in other cases. RedFawn, in the most extreme example, went from possible life imprisonment to a sentence of 57 months. In addition to Civil Disorder, brought against all the defendants, RedFawn’s plea included a more significant charge, related to the gun her former boyfriend, an FBI informant, had given her.16 According to Daniel Hovland, the judge in each of these cases, 95% of federal defendants take plea deals.17 This means 95% of people in the federal system – 1. Never have a trial. 2. Forfeit the right to appeal. 3. Lose the chance to have their story heard. That’s the reason, one of the reasons, loved ones have formed the NoDAPL Political Prisoners Support Committee – so the story, which doesn’t end there, doesn’t have to end there. Here’s RedFawn: “I stand in peace, in prayer, and in solidarity with our relatives through every struggle. Remember the strength and the lives of our ancestors. In the spirit on Tasunke Witko, protect all things sacred. Never give up, my strong heart relatives.”18
Here’s Christina, Dion’s mom: “My son had a purpose. Water is life, that’s why he was there. Whatever he did to protect the water and the Water Protectors, he did out of love.”19 Here’s Angry Bird: “We need to come together as one – not as one better than the other – and to remember it’s going to take us all to help fix what we’re destroying. If not for us, then for our children and children’s children to live.”20 Here’s Rattler: “When I get out, quite honestly if the fight isn’t over, I'm gonna jump right back in it, because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s where I belong. So when I get out, I’ve got your back.”21 Here’s Little Feather: “Please let our people know that I love them, and I'm honored to be where I am at for them. I want our people to know also to never give up hope on our movement. Our struggle is only the beginning, and we need to remember that what we stood for and fight for are the essence of our movement.”22 Just this past September, Little Feather and Leoyla did have their re-wedding. We assembled down by the river – the same rolling river we had gathered to protect. We wrapped them up in a star quilt, green as Mother Earth, blue as the wide Missouri. Many loved ones, Little Feather, Leoyla, my daughter, trusted elders from Standing Rock nation – we made our prayers that day. In many languages. Many ways. Some of us touched the water. All of us touched the earth. We took pictures for the ones who couldn’t join us. 39
| RACIAL JUSTICE | We said blessings for the ones who couldn’t join us. We called upon the ancestors – theirs, yours, mine. We named a painful past. We envisioned a sacred future, where all people have value, where all of life has value. And maybe in that circle – Maybe in that moment – Maybe with one another – We were free. l
Endnotes and References 1. From the RedFawn Support Committee at standwithredfawn.org. 2. Representatives of Energy Transfer Partners made this claim during a Public Service Committee hearing on November 13, 2019, in Linton, ND, regarding expansion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which Standing Rock nation opposed. 3. For maps and history related to the Fort Laramie Treaties, you can visit ndstudies.gov and search “Section 3: The Treaties of Fort Laramie, 1851 & 1868.” 4. Colonialism is a system of government and culture that is superimposed upon a place and a people and is extractive of both. Settler-colonialism relies upon individual and collective members of the colonial system to claim and occupy lands and other resources. White settler-colonialism preferences White people and relies upon White supremacy as a mechanism of colonialism. 5. For a complete account of the Doctrine of Discovery and the use of Christianity as a mechanism of colonialism, read Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery by Steven T. Newcomb, published by Fulcrum Publishing in 2008. 6. For in-depth historical analysis of the development of Whiteness, please see The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter, published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 2010, as well as The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class by David R. Roediger, published by Verso in 2007. 7. Please see above. 8. Please see above. 9. This example comes from page 148 of The Wages of Whiteness. 10. W.E.B. Du Bois coined this term in Black Reconstruction: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to 40
KAREN VAN FOSSAN, who recently relocated from Bismarck to Fargo, ND, is a minister ordained in the Unitarian Universalist tradition. She is an anti-racist activist, writer, and family matriarch to a boisterous family that has come together through unconventional means. Her awards include the Archibald Bush Artist Fellowship, the Arc of Justice Award, and the Prairie Peacemaker Award; she is currently working on a memoir.
Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880, originally published 1935. 11. This history comes from The History of White People and The Wages of Whiteness. 12. The documentary, 13TH, directed by Ava DuVernay and released in 2016, provides an in-depth analysis of this history. 13. This quote comes from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass, originally published in 1845. 14. More information about this poll and process is available at waterprotectorlegal.org. 15. For a map of states, including North Dakota, that have passed anti-protest legislation following the Standing Rock uprising, visit aclu.org/issues/freespeech/rights-protesters/anti-protest-bills-aroundcountry. 16. From standwithredfawn.org and waterprotectorlegal. org. 17. Judge Daniel Hovland shared this statistic in the sentencing hearing for each of the NoDAPL Political Prisoners. 18. This quote comes from RedFawn’s letter to the “17th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues,” retrieved from her website on January 10, 2019. 19. This quote from Dion’s mother, Christina, comes from an article posted by the Water Protector Legal Collective on October 22, 2018. 20. The quote from Angry Bird comes from an article posted by the Water Protector Legal Collective on December 6, 2018. 21. The quote from Rattler comes from a statement, recorded in my office and then posted on the NoDAPL Political Prisoners Support Committee website, retrieved on March 7, 2020. 22. The quote from Little Feather comes from a statement he shared with me by phone from prison on June 4, 2018.
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UPCOMING EVENTS WRITING WORKSHOP Little Mo Writers Incubator Project If you have a nonfiction project that you want to bring to life or are having trouble with those final stages of editing before publishing, check out the Little Mo Writers Incubator Project. Instructed by Debra Marquart and Tayo Basquiat, this 7-month, intensive writing workshop will get your project ready for publishing. OTHER EVENTS Chautauqua & Chat Frederick Douglass with Charles Everett Pace August 4 from 4 to 5:30 PM CST This show is about how Frederick Douglass not only escaped slavery, joined the abolitionist movement, but emerged as the most vocal abolitionist leader that advanced President Abraham Lincolnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Civil War Mission to save the union, free the slaves and further democracy in America. One Book One ND The year-long North Dakota online book club where authors speak, answer questions, present, and read from their newest books! The last Sunday of every month from 4 to 5:30 PM CST Raised in Captivity by Chuck Klosterman July 26 Where Am I Giving? by Kelsey Timmerman August 30 The Lives of Edie Pritchard by Larry Watson September 27 ONLINE CLASSES Media Literacy Tuesdays 6 to 8 PM CST and Wednesdays 6 to 7 PM CST beginning September 1st Focusing on the 2020 presidential campaign (e.g., political advertisements, campaign rallies, presidential debates), this course explores the relationship between political rhetoric and public deliberation. Through this class,
participants will gain a better understanding of how political communities are formed, political persuasion operates, and how audiences engage with messaging. Each week, students will learn how a particular communication theory (e.g., public sphere theory, multi-step model of communication) helps to make sense of contemporary political communication and practices. Racial Healing: From Awareness to Action Begins September 3rd from 6:30 to 8:30 PM CST A consecutive series of four weekly 2-hour gatherings for attendees to gain personal knowledge and build community around their accountabilities and response-abilities for racial healing. This course will include foundational definitions and working assumptions, connect interpersonally to strengthen capacities for deep learning, investigate the contours of personal DKDK (we don't know what we don't know!), and help to develop and share action plans for next steps to participate in the racial healing so urgently needed today. Each session builds on previous sessions - so participation from the beginning is essential. A Republic If You Can Keep It: Plato and a World on Fire Begins September 14th from 7 to 8:30 PM CST Building on the work of dozens of scholars, educators Serge Danielson-Francois and J. Mike Courage argue that no philosopher is more central to conversations about justice today than Plato. Over six weeks, students will read and discuss the ten books of Plato's Republic in order to gauge if a persuasive case for justice can be made today in North Dakota. Together, the class will stitch together centuries-old arguments through thoughtprovoking primary and secondary texts, with the goal of answering Ibn Rushd's timeless question: "What has The Republic to do with me?" 41
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AMERICA’S RACIAL RECKONING: SQUARING REALITY WITH FOUNDING ASPIRATIONS by David Gray Adler
he hundreds of thousands of Americans who poured into city streets across our nation this spring to protest racial injustice and police brutality have brought center stage to a long-overdue and much needed historic focus on a question of surpassing importance for the United States: How to atone for our original sin of slavery and its public and private manifestations for the past four centuries?
The trigger for these nationwide protests was the excruciating video, viewed by millions of Americans, that revealed a Minneapolis police officer nonchalantly grinding his knee into the neck of George Floyd for eight minutes and 46 seconds, well after the last of Mr. Floyd’s dying, desperate pleas—“I can’t breathe”—had been heard. Officer Derek Chauvin’s modern-day lynching of an African- American citizen harked back to the cruel and savage era of slavery and Jim Crow, and reminded a nation, suffused with shock, outrage and grief, of its sweeping history of racial injustice and inequities, replete with countless acts of private, institutional and systemic racism which, for a variety of reasons, were met by generations of Americans with general indifference and tolerance. The murder of George Floyd – in broad daylight, no less – was a searing moment in our history and public consciousness. It has produced an awakening in white America. A recent Monmouth Poll indicates that 75 percent of the citizenry agrees that race discrimination is a serious problem, and nearly 60 percent believe that Black Americans are more likely to suffer from police violence than other demographic groups. As a consequence, a racial reckoning, centuries overdue, is at hand. That this accounting should occur in the context of a pandemic health care crisis and a deepening economic recession which claim both the lives and jobs of African-Americans at a disproportionate rate that exceeds the losses of white citizens, speaks volumes 42
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about the systemic racism in the United States that requires immediate and sustained attention. America’s incipient national reckoning requires, above all, a searching examination and honest appraisal of our nation’s tragic history of racism, viewed against a backdrop of our national origins and identity. Pulling back the curtain to engage in a rigorous review of the character, indeed, the soul of America, is the necessary first step in achieving resolution and redress of the momentous racial issues that have plagued our country since 1619, when some 12 million slaves were forcibly brought to the colonies. “Not everything that is faced can be changed,” James Baldwin rightly observed in his memoir, Remember This House, “but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” The duties and responsibilities of citizenship, as well as the opportunities afforded citizens in a democracy to both pursue and secure justice, provide the planks and pillars of this grand participatory platform. Confronting racism—past and present—in its many shapes and forms, attesting to its historical harms and future dangers, if not rebuked and repudiated, is all part of what Robert Penn Warren, in All the King’s Men, described as “the awful responsibility of Time.” Our willingness as citizens to bear witness is as indispensable to discerning and exposing the truth of racism as it is to curbing and burying it. In the end, white privilege does not justify white silence. America’s racial reckoning requires a deep dive into its soul and character. A nation’s character is defined, in part, by the choices – laws, policies and programs – that it makes. Ghandi wisely observed, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” And so, if we proceed with a measurement of America by its
treatment of African-Americans since 1619, what can we say of the laws and policies and programs that denied the humanity of those whom it kidnapped and enslaved, and permitted the rape, torture, abuse and, indeed, the murder of those whom it enslaved? What can be said of the character of a nation, in the wake of the Civil War and passage and ratification of the Reconstruction Amendments, that devised and enforced mechanisms during the long period of Jim Crow, state sanctioned segregation and tolerance, indeed, encouragement, of private acts of racial discrimination? What can be said of the character of America in light of hundreds of years of wealth theft from Black Americans—after the end of slavery—through the systematic practice of redlining, obstruction of home ownership through federal
America’s racial reckoning requires a deep dive into its soul and character.
A nation’s character is defined, in part, by the choices – laws, policies and programs – that it makes. mortgage lending programs and inferior education programs that all but precluded access to gainful employment, when racist machinations didn’t? What can be said of a nation whose policing standards and criminal justice practices that have exhibited institutional racism, whose political institutions for so many years have engaged in the disenfranchisement
of Black voters, a career of voter suppression means and methods, and undercut the potential influence on American Democracy? We could continue to add to this laundry list of examples of systemic racism, but the recitation of sordid deeds perpetrated by whites against Blacks, leaves us with an unavoidable question for our time: Can America look at itself in the mirror, in the morning? Atonement for four centuries of suppression of African-Americans is unlike any pursuit undertaken in our nation’s history. In 1988, America sought to atone for its tragic internment program of Japanese Americans in World War II with the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided a reparations payment of $20,000 to each of the 82,219 survivors, accompanied by an apology. Members of Congress had acquainted themselves with West Germany’s reparation payments in 1952 to Israel, in absorbing the settlement of victims of the Holocaust. There is growing support in the United States for restitution to Black Americans, but despite the merits of various proposals, the concept remains controversial. Short of reparations, along the lines of payments to JapaneseAmericans, is there a starting point for American atonement, one perhaps familiar to us as foundational principles that could catch the attention of citizens from Boston to Bismarck to Berkley? The initial step on the road to atonement is to square reality with the founding ideals and aspirations that shaped and formed our nation. America’s creation, it is familiar, was unique. As former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher observed, “Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.” Another, older Brit, the distinguished historian, G.K. Chesterton, captured the intellectual cornerstone of America: it is “the only 43
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nation in the world that is founded on a creed.” That creed is that all men are created equal, which means that America has “the soul of a church.” The soul of America is found in the grandeur of the Declaration of Independence, an iconic document that occupies in our secular history a divine status without rival, not only for its statement of our nation’s political creed, but also for Jefferson’s majestic phrasing: “All Men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including the rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration, what Lincoln called “the sheet anchor of the
Republic,” embodies commanding, transcendent principles, linking the founding generation with our own, maintaining across a vista of 250 years a continuity of expectations for the roles and responsibilities of government, a recitation of indelible rights bestowed by the Creator at birth, and lessons of civic duty, lest the citizenry forget its crucial role in holding government accountable. The problem, at the beginning, lay in the fact that the Declaration, the cornerstone of our political thought, had a crack in its foundation. The entire world knew that Jefferson had not meant that all men are created equal. The Founders did not, after all, conceive of Blacks or Native-Americans or women as equals. The hypocrisy of the language, as early abolitionists pointed out, was conspicuous and could not be avoided. Or could it? Abraham Lincoln, our Poet President, and as attuned intellectually to the thinking and aims of the Founders – the authors of the Declaration and the Constitution – as any chief executive in our history, with the exception of James Madison, and thus worthy of the title, “The Last of the Founders,” rescued the majestic principle – all men are created equal – from the oblivion of hypocrisy and rendered it timeless. Those who drafted “the immortal emblem of humanity,” Lincoln elegantly observed in 1855, had “simply meant to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances would permit it.” Although the Founders had not meant to accord Blacks political and social equality, Lincoln believed, they did not intend that their position in America would remain static. The Founders, Lincoln reasoned, aimed to establish a “standard maxim for a free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all, and
constantly labored for, even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.” Ever the lawyer, Lincoln justly stated: “The assertion that ‘all men are created equal’ was of no practical use to our effecting our separation from Great Britain, and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for future use.” Lincoln’s astute analysis, understood as the Founders’ theory of aspirational rights, was bolstered by his demonstration of the irrelevance to the rebellion against England of the phrase, “all men are created equal,” hit the mark. The Founders were indeed looking to the future, to a time when the country matured socially, politically and culturally, and circumstances permitted equal treatment of Black Americans. Delegates to the Constitutional Convention anticipated the end of slavery in their prohibition in the Constitution of the import of slaves after 1808, which would begin, however slowly, to usher in societal changes, heading toward the day, in Lincoln’s words, when the “declared right” could be enforced because “circumstances would permit it.” And change was coming, perhaps peacefully, but more likely through an inevitable war between the states, as Benjamin Franklin predicted. Lincoln’s understanding of aspirational rights inherent in the Declaration of Independence raises the question of when those aims might enjoy fulfillment? At what point would the United States become sufficiently mature to embrace equality for all Americans? Viewed from another angle, when will the majestic phrasing in the Declaration, and appeals to the Spirit of ’76, cease to be so much
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fanciful rhetoric, and assume its status as “the sheet anchor of the Republic,” reliable and steadfast, a monument to principles no longer inert but, indeed, active and suffused with energy? We are entitled to wonder whether America is finally ready, at this moment of racial reckoning, 400 years after the arrival of slaves in Jamestown. Is this our time and, if not now, when? There emerges in the context of centuries of unfulfilled aspirations, the question of national integrity and sincerity. Do American citizens want their country to be regarded the world over as one that is, and perhaps always will be, guided by racist passions and principles, governed by indifference to racial injustice and inequality that betray the elegance and beauty of Jefferson’s writing? A prospective racial reckoning, theoretically available at any historical juncture, requires a sincere and serious effort to square reality with its founding ideals and aspirations. The construction of the Union in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention, by delegates who gathered in Philadelphia as representatives of the “people,” to write a Constitution which, Chief Justice John Marshall later wrote, was “intended to endure for ages,” was grounded in yet another aspiration, one crisply stated in the Preamble: “We the People Ordain and Establish this Constitution to Create a More Perfect Union.” There was, at that moment, an opportunity for delegates to breathe life into the foundation stone of the Declaration— “all men are created equal”—if they wished to do so. Some members of the Convention pushed for abolition of slavery, and rightly decried its continuation as a “pact with the devil,” but the Convention, to borrow from Lincoln’s words, evidently did not believe that “circumstances would permit” the elevation of Black Americans to the status of freedmen,
The assertion that ‘all men are created equal’ was of no practical use to our effecting our separation from Great Britain, and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for future use.
let alone equals with whites in the areas of civil and political rights. Thus, the Constitution, as every student knows, retained and protected the “peculiar institution” of slavery, America’s “Original Sin.” The wages of this Original Sin were high and tragically costly to America. Perhaps Civil War was unavoidable, as Franklin, and others, had prophesied but, in any case, the war, inflicted upon the nation by the Confederacy on behalf of white slave owners who wished to preserve their right to own African-Americans, as they owned livestock, resulted in the desire, indeed, the need for the “reconstruction” of the United States. The Reconstruction Amendments constituted a second American Revolution, given their sweeping aims to elevate Blacks through the 13th Amendment’s abolition of slavery, the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection of the law,” and the 15th Amendment’s protection of the right to vote. In Reconstruction, it seemed, moreover, to afford a genuinely historic opportunity to effectuate Lincoln’s assertion that all men are created equal-the core idea of the Declaration of Independence. The premise and promise of the 14th Amendment protections appeared,
at long last, to satisfy unfulfilled aspirations. After all, “we the people” ratified the Amendment, which granted to Black Americans the status of citizenship, and to Congress broad enforcement powers to superintend actions by states that might undercut the rights of the newly-minted citizens. They also approved the foundation principle of equality through the Equal Protection Clause, which over the next 150 years became the workhorse of lawsuits that aimed to remedy violations of Black Americans’ civil rights. The 14th Amendment contained so much that was necessary to square reality with the nation’s ideals and aspirations. But it did not, as every student knows. What transpired in the wake of the ratification of the Reconstruction Amendments was the creation of a pervasive racial caste system, built upon racism perpetrated by government and citizens alike. The system of racial apartheid known as Jim Crow, relegated Blacks to the status of secondclass citizenship, and essentially denied the benefits of Reconstruction Amendments. The U.S. Supreme Court inflicted heavy, indeed, incalculable harm. In the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, the Court ignored the debates and purposes of the 39th Congress, 45
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which drafted the 14th Amendment, and which sought to prohibit private acts of racial discrimination. The Court provided a crabbed view of the14th Amendment, and held that the Amendment proscribed only “state actions’ that deny equal protection, due process of law and the privileges and immunities of citizenship. Private acts of discrimination were beyond the power of Congress to prohibit. In a brilliant dissenting opinion, Justice John Marshall Harlan pointed out the historical and textual errors committed by the Court and noted, with irony, the historical oddity that, despite the passage of the 14th Amendment, Congress possessed less power to protect Black citizens than it had before the Amendment to harm them. In 1896, in Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court introduced the “separate but equal doctrine,” which permitted states to impose segregation across the board, making hash of the protections and guarantees of the 14th Amendment. Apartheid in America was a real thing. It was as if time had stopped and the 14th Amendment never had been introduced and ratified. Apparently, to invoke Lincoln again, the nation was not ready to embrace the principle of equality; the aspirational rights and goals of the Declaration and the 14th Amendment would await another day, another time, when “circumstances would permit” the “enforcement” of equal protection. The sad, tragic history of governmental and private indifference to the aspirational quest of the Declaration of Independence and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, has left AfricanAmericans to wonder whether any of the nation’s foundational documents mean what they said. Slavery, Jim Crow, Separate-but-Equal, the terror inflicted on Blacks by the KKK, voter 46
suppression and police brutality, are but a few of the many hallmarks of systemic and institutional discrimination that represent a blight on American history. These actions are hallmarks of the failure of the federal and state governments to enforce constitutional and statutory mechanisms passed at the end of the Civil War that were designed to fulfill aspirations articulated in founding documents. They also represent hallmarks of white tolerance of race discrimination, an exercise in white privilege that justifies white silence in the face of outrageous conduct and evil. And yet, despite 400 years of brutal racism, Black Americans continue to work within the system, challenging discrimination, raising their voices in peaceful demonstrations, standing in very long lines meant to discourage and suppress their right to vote, a critical mechanism to influence the course of the nation. Of course, they march on, always marching for better policies to improve the quality of life for themselves and for Americans everywhere. One wonders about the source of this incredible patience and determination, a magical belief in a system that has rejected Blacks at every turn. Andrea Young, author, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, and daughter of Andrew Young, an Atlanta mayor, United Nations Ambassador and civil rights icon, has observed: “Nobody has believed more in the promise and mythology of America than Blacks. We have believed all people were created equal, fought over generations for the truth of the statement. The fact that I am here means that I m descended from people who, even enslaved, did not give up hope. To do so now would be a betrayal.” A racial reckoning is at hand. Several cities across the nation have enacted
bans on police utilization of notorious chokeholds, just as they have moved to redirect funding for police departments to make better use of taxpayer dollars under the name “Defund the Police,” a broad umbrella of a term that has collected support principally from supporters who seek police reform rather than elimination of funds for legitimate law enforcement programs and policies. Nationwide protests of racial injustice and inequities in America are persuading cities and states to remove monuments to Confederate generals and politicians that defended slavery in their war against the United States. Thoughtful citizens and organizations are scanning the American landscape for symbols and emblems and other badges and incidences of the terrible legacy of Jim Crow, segregation and acts of racial discrimination, sometimes at the highest levels of our government. Princeton University has removed the name of Woodrow Wilson from its prestigious school of public and international affairs, which he built as President of the university, before he became the 28th President of the United States. Wilson’s racist views, and participation in segregation, were more than his alma mater could tolerate. The State of Mississippi has removed its flag and ordered production of a new design that no longer reflects the racism of the Old South. Significant change is afoot in America. Americans from coast-to-coast are reading and discussing articles and books that provide insights and instruction on anti-racism. As a nation, America is at a crossroads; citizens want to know how to make swift changes, to move beyond the systemic racism that has haunted our country for four centuries. And so, we confront a momentous question: How does a community atone for the collective,
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historical evil—laws, programs, policies and private acts of racism, even though many citizens alive today were only passively complicit? The complexity of this issue can be illuminated by recalling Judge Learned Hand’s observation about the origin and life of liberty: “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, court can even do much to help it.” Judge Hand’s insight may help Americans remember that we have a common interest in the preservation and maintenance of liberty. Denials of liberty to serve one’s narrow interests in one instance may well lead to reciprocal denial in another. The human qualities of empathy and fair play, and a
Apartheid in America was a real thing. It was as if time had stopped and the 14th Amendment never had been introduced and ratified ...the nation was not ready to embrace the principle of equality. commitment to even-handedness, adherence to the rule of law for all people, meritocracy and transparency, so critical to the success of democracy, should enjoy wide currency in an effort to dismantle systemic racism. But let us not be naïve about this; many in our nation, mostly white men, have been
for centuries the beneficiaries of racism. What incentive have they to endorse anti-racism? Perhaps we needn’t be cynical about the possibilities of individual transformation. There is, after all, widespread recognition of shared interests and networks of mutual goals and values that have united Americans across the centuries. Those mutual interests and the sense of a shared destiny brought victory in the American Revolution, as it did in World War I and again in World War II. At all events, the question of the means of atonement will require major reforms in laws, policies and programs that have inflicted the evil of systemic racism on Black Americans. Government has a large role to play in enacting meaningful, substantive change that will make a difference in the lives of African-Americans. Restitution should be considered, although there are important questions to be addressed and resolved in the process of weighing such a historical remedy. Fortunately, officials can look for guidance at the reparations provided to Japanese Americans, and to the means employed by West Germany in reparations to Israel. But there is also an important role for American citizens to play in helping their country overcome a history of suppression as it sets foot on the path of anti-racism. There is wisdom in remembering that Americans do have shared interests, what the Founders characterized as the general welfare of the citizenry, and that community is bound by reciprocal interests, shared values and goals. The ancient Athenians believed that the interest of the community was inseparable from the interest of the citizenry that, as Plato put it, the soul of the individual is happiest when it is aligned with the soul of the community. That is a worthy goal for Americans to
emulate in our time. Who among us will sound the trumpet and declare as Ghandi said of the path to peace: there is no path to anti-racism but antiracism. l
David Gray Adler is President of The Alturas Institute, a non-profit organization created to promote the Constitution, gender equality, and civic education. A recipient of teaching, writing and civic awards, Adler has lectured nationally and internationally, and published widely, on the Constitution, presidential power and the Bill of Rights. He is the author of six books, including, most recently, The War Power in an Age of Terrorism, as well as more than 100 scholarly articles in the leading journals of his field. Adler’s scholarly writings have been quoted by the U.S. Supreme Court, lower federal courts, the U.S. Attorney General, the White House Counsel, the Legal Adviser to the State Department, by Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress, as well as political scientists, historians and law professors. He has consulted with members of Congress from both parties on a variety of constitutional issues, including impeachment, the war power and the termination of treaties. He has delivered more than 700 public lectures throughout Idaho, and writes Op-Ed pieces that run regularly in six newspapers across Idaho, and in papers across the country. David Adler will begin writing a weekly column for North Dakota Newspapers titled “We the People” wherein he will discuss the Constitution, civics, and American Government. 47
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MY FIRE by Ronya Galligo-Hoblit
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What if I am on fire? Do you see me now? Is this what it takes to see my face, my tears, my heart? This fire, this scorching, scarring blaze felt first by my ancestors has been tended for the length of our DNA. It has not destroyed, eliminated, crippled my humanity. It has tempered it to a strength not yet fully tested. Let me tell you once and again, peaceful is my choice. Let me tell you again and again. Let me let you hear the hurt in my voice. Hear me and know we are equal. Hear me and know action will support intent. Hear me and know that forgiveness awaits. Come closer to this fire. Feel its heat. Feel its source. Feel its potential. Come closer. See me and know I am on fire and Will no longer be denied My voice.
RONYA GALLIGO-HOBLIT, Oglala Lakota, was born and raised in Martin, SD, but now resides in Mandan, ND. She has had works published in the Tribal College Journal, a South Dakota Humanities Council anthology, Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS). 'My Fire' was written as a form of self-preservation; writing about hope as opposed to losing it.
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WE ARE ALL HERE by Karen Ehrens
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Our lives are bound together. There is no ‘them’...‘us’ How, then, to get past OR to AND past ‘versus’ to ‘with us’? Together. Together. See the eyes Offer a hand Pass the bread Together. Together. Walk a mile Sing a song Mumble a prayer Together. Together. KAREN EHRENS is a health and nutrition consultant, anti-hunger advocate, and Registered Dietitian. She carries out her faith through handson volunteering in food and policy projects locally and nationally. She and her family live in Bismarck. The floral artwork was drawn by a young girl from Honduras seeking asylum in the U.S. with her mother while finding refuge in a shelter run by a religious organization in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas 51
HUMANITIES NORTH DAKOTA WELCOMES LYLE BEST, DINA BUTCHER, JESSICA ROCKEMAN AND AMY STROMSODT TO ITS BOARD OF DIRECTORS
LYLE BEST, WATFORD CITY Lyle Best enjoys variety and has had many varied experiences in life, including washing dishes in the 7th grade to earn his 35 cent hot lunch ticket, smoke jumping for the US Forest Service, assembly line work in a German VW plant, 20+ years as a physician for the Indian Health Service, and his current work as a genetic researcher. Lyle is a lifelong learner and an avid reader of history, government, religion, ethics and science. His wife and he are currently living with his sonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s family on their ranch 14 miles SE of Watford City. He also has a daughter who lives with her family in Berkeley, CA, where she is an energy efficiency consultant; and a son who is a family physician, living with his family in Invergrove Heights, MN.
DINA BUTCHER, BISMARCK Dina Butcher has worked the past twelve years as a private investigator in her family-owned business, but prior to that had extensive experience in state government, serving as North Dakota Human Rights Division director for Gov. John Hoeven, director of Community Services Division and senior staff member for Gov. Ed Schafer, as well as director of his state Leadership Initiative, and deputy agriculture commissioner in the 1980s. She has in recent years worked across political lines on initiated measures to strengthen citizen rights. Dina is an outspoken supporter of the humanities and is unabashedly proud to be on the Humanities ND Board of Directors. The youngest of four siblings, she is a first generation American, whose parents and siblings fled Nazi Germany in 1939. She was married to Bill Butcher for 54 years before his death last year and has two daughters, Marnie Piehl (husband Shadd) living in Mandan, ND, and Amanda Mack (husband David) living in Anchorage, Alaska, and amazing grandchildren Owen, twins Ryder and Wyatt Piehl, and Audrey and Adam Mack.
JESSICA ROCKEMAN, RICHARDTON Jessica is a mild-mannered museum professional by day and an unashamed co-conspirator in the webcomic community by night. She lives in Western ND with two dogs, a cast of other critters, and husband Karl.
AMY STROMSODT, LARIMORE Amy Stromsodt, CFRE, is a Development Director for the North Dakota Community Foundation working out of the Foundationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Larimore, ND, office. She is a UND grad and a former ND House member. Amy is an active volunteer having served 6 years on the ND Supreme Court Disciplinary board, 12 years on the Emerado School Board and the ND Association of Fundraising Professionals Board. She is a Bowhay Institute of Legislative Leadership Development Fellow and alumni of the American Council of Young Political Leaders. She has traveled internationally and brings her unique perspective to the Humanities ND Board. 52
Turn your gray matter into what matters HND Board of Directors
CHAIR Sarah Vogel, Bismarck VICE CHAIR Marilyn Foss, Bismarck Lyle Best, Watford City Dina Butcher, Bismarck Dennis Cooley, Fargo Patty Corwin, Fargo Eric L. Johnson, Grand Forks Joan Locken, Enderlin Ann Crews Melton, Bismarck Leslie W. Peltier, Belcourt Jessica Rockeman, Richardton Barbara Solberg, Minot Linda Steve, Dickinson Amy Stromsodt, Larimore
Brenna Daugherty Gerhardt, Executive Director Kenneth Glass, Associate Director Sue Skalicky, Program Coordinator George Welder, Communications and Membership Officer
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