Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dispossessions in Ferguson

Part I: The Dispossession of the Illini

The city of Ferguson, MO, was built within the historical territories of the Illini/Illiniwek or Illinois Confederacy, including the tribes of the AlbiuiAmonokoaCahokiaChepoussaChinkoaCoiracoentanon, Kaskaskia, MoingwenaMichigameaEspeminkiaMaroaMatchinkoaMichibousaNegawichiPeoriaTamaroa, and Tapouara.

Through 1700, the confederacy was decimated by disease and warfare. By 1800, only five tribes remained—the Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Michigamea, Peoria, and Tamaroa. Under the terms of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, they were forced to cede their remaining territorial holdings and remove to Indian Territory.

Allegedly, some tribal lands were bought or otherwise acquired by Charles A. Lewis, who sold them to William B. Ferguson. In 1855, Ferguson deeded 10 acres as a right-of-way to the North Missouri Railroad Company--or, the Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railroad Company. In exchange for the deed, the company located a train stop on the property and named the stop after Ferguson.

In 1876, the company built a spur line linking Ferguson and St. Louis. Ferguson Station then served as a rural place around which a suburb was built. It was incorporated as a city in 1894. Early settlers were primarily wealthy white landowners and investors following the railroad line.

Part II: The Dispossession of African Americans


  Total population
    One race
      Black or African American
      American Indian and Alaska Native
      Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
      Some Other Race
    Two or More Races
      Two races with Some Other Race
      Two races without Some Other Race
      Three or more races with Some Other Race
      Three or more races without Some Other Race


  Total population
    Hispanic or Latino (of any race)
      Puerto Rican
      Other Hispanic or Latino [2]
    Not Hispanic or Latino

According to the Census 2010, Ferguson is 29.3 percent (6,206) are White, 67.4 percent (14,297) are Black, 0.4 percent (80) are American Indian/Alaskan Native, 0.5 percent (103) are Asian, and 1.2 percent (260) are Hispanic or Latino.

As has been reported in relation to the murder of Michael Brown, often as a banal fact of life for African Americans, the overwhelming majority of Ferguson city officials, police, and school board members are White.

As reported in the New York Times
With primarily white police forces that rely disproportionately on traffic citation revenue, blacks are pulled over, cited and arrested in numbers far exceeding their population share, according to a recent report from Missouri’s attorney general. In Ferguson last year, 86 percent of stops, 92 percent of searches and 93 percent of arrests were of black people — despite the fact that police officers were far less likely to find contraband on black drivers (22 percent versus 34 percent of whites). This worsens inequality, as struggling blacks do more to fund local government than relatively affluent whites…. That helps explain why majority-black Ferguson has a virtually all-white power structure: a white mayor; a school board with six white members and one Hispanic, which recently suspended a highly regarded young black superintendent who then resigned; a City Council with just one black member; and a 6 percent black police force.
But this is not just a matter of the disparity between white men and everyone else in the public life of Ferguson (though there is that), but how racist and sexist ideologies and practices of violence inform and reproduce that disparity as banality.

Part III: Dispossession in Between

The current structure of power in the United States is predicated on the violent and fraudulent dispossession of Native nations from their historical territories and resources and the exploitative dispossession of Blacks from their bodies and labor.

Opposing that power demands that we not dismiss as banal either the erasure of Native peoples from Ferguson, Missouri, as a historical fact that those few Natives still around need to get over and stop making everyone else feel guilty about or the killing and disenfranchisement of Black people as an unfortunate deviance from an otherwise democratically principled society.

Opposing that power demands that we look for ways to connect our histories of dispossession in compassion, generosity, and solidarity. What would it look like if Native governments, in their government-to-government relations with the United States and Missouri, advocated with Ferguson leaders against police violence on Black male bodies? What would it look like if Black leaders in Ferguson and elsewhere demanded, as part of the necessary legal reforms needed to address violence against their communities, Native land rights? How might we rethink our histories and struggles as interlocked and interdependent against their fractured separation in the service of existing power relations? 

“A great many people in North America believe that Canada and the United States, in a moment of inexplicable generosity, gave treaty rights to Native people as a gift. Of course, anyone familiar with the history of Indians in North America knows that Native people paid for every treaty right, and in some cases, paid more than once. The idea that either country gave First Nations something for free is horseshit.” ― Thomas King (Cherokee)The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America

“Where the really sincere white people have got to do their ‘proving’ of themselves is not among the black victims, but out on the battle lines of where America’s racism really is – and that’s in their own home communities.” -- Malcolm X, Autobiography

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Some Notes on Gaza, Ferguson, and Irony's Lack

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana, The Life of Reason 

"Hegel remarks somewhere that history tends to repeat itself.
He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 

Notes on Mistaking for Irony What Is Very Much Not

1) The United States military consolidated and acuminated its imperialist tactics against English totalitarianism and Native/Indigenous sovereignty. After English withdrawal, it honed these tactics in relation to Native/Indigenous sovereignty with the singular focus of "exterminating" the people and territorial claims of Native nations. And it did so with massive popular support.

For instance, in describing the campaign of extermination in California policy, Jack D. Forbes emphasizes that it was not merely military or state officials who participated in it: “the sequence of events [are] all the more distressing since it serves to indict not a group of cruel leaders, or a few squads of rough soldiers, but, in effect, an entire people; for the conquest of the Native Californian was above all else a popular, mass enterprise” (Native Americans of California and Nevada).

The results were catastrophic: With regional difference, between 60 and 95 percent of the Native population died in military conflict and by disease. Today, Native nations hold less than 4 percent of their original territories.

2) The United States executive and legislative branches of government in junction with its military and intelligence agencies funded, supplied, and trained the State of Israel in its efforts to illegally annex Palestine and push back neighboring Arab nations. It rationalized these investments on the grounds of establishing the only democratic state in the region. To make this argument, it willfully ignored the religious and racial discrimination of Israeli citizenship and property rights against Arabs and Muslims.

For instance, in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt write that,

Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War ll. Total direct U.S. aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America's entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.

According to the Congressional Research Service report, US Foreign Aid to Israel for fiscal year 2014, the US gave $3.1 billion or $9.9 million per day in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to Israel. "Over the last 20 years, the U.S. has been slowly phasing out economic aid to Israel and gradually replacing it with increased military aid. In 2007, the Bush Administration and the Israeli government agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package FY 2009 to FY 2018. In 2012, the U.S. began giving Israel $3.1 billion a year (or an average of $8.5 million a day) and promised to provide that amount every year through FY 2018."

Why does the US provide so much financial--and diplomatic--support? Noam Chomsky is useful here:
NC: .... And, in fact, the United States has overwhelmingly vetoed Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli crimes and atrocities, prevented the Security Council from calling on Israel to terminate aggression, and so on and so forth. The descriptive comment is not really controversial. There are interesting questions about why it’s true. There were also interesting questions about the sources of support for this position in the United States, which helps us explain why it is true. 
The history is reasonably clear. This was not the case up until 1967. In fact, before 1967, the relationships were not very different from relationships among other powers. There was sympathy and support for Israel, which has many, many sources, including the Christian Zionism, which is a very powerful force that precedes and is numerically far stronger than Jewish Zionism. But for somebody like, say, Harry Truman, raised in a deeply Christian tradition, it was just taken for granted that the Bible instructs us that God gave the land of Palestine to the Jews. So it is kind of like in his bones. And that’s true for a very large part of the American population, much more so than -- far more than any other country.  So that is one factor, and there are other factors.  
But the major change in relationships took place in 1967. ... So what happened in 1967? Well, in 1967, Israel destroyed the source of secular Arab nationalism -- Nasser's Egypt -- which was considered a major threat and enemy by the West. It is worth remembering that there was a serious conflict at that time between the forces of radical Islamic fundamentalism, centered in Saudi Arabia -- where all the oil is -- and secular Arab nationalism, centered in Nasser's Egypt; in fact, the two countries were at war. They were fighting a kind of a proxy war in Yemen at that time. The United States and Britain were supporting the radical Islamic fundamentalism; in fact, they’ve rather consistently done that – supporting Saudi Arabia.  And Nasserite secular nationalism was considered a serious threat, because it was recognized that it might seek to take control of the immense resources of the region and use them for regional interest, rather than allow them to be centrally controlled and exploited by the United States and its allies. So that was a major issue…That was considered a major contribution to U.S. geopolitical strategy and also to its Saudi Arabian ally. And, in fact, that's when attitudes toward Israel changed sharply and the U.S. support for Israel -- material, diplomatic, and other -- also increased sharply.  In 1970, there was another turning point. In 1970, the Jordanian army (Jordan was a strong, close U.S. ally) – the Jordanian dictatorship was essentially massacring Palestinians during what's the month that's called Black September….
This was under the framework of the war on terror that Reagan had declared. The African National Congress -- Mandela’s ANC -- was designated as one of the more notorious terrorist groups in the world as late as 1988. [So] that it [could] support South-African apartheid and the Guatemalan murderous dictatorship and other murderous regimes, Reagan needed a kind of network of terrorist states to help out, to evade the congressional and other limitations, and he turned to, at that time, Taiwan, but, in particular, Israel. Britain helped out. And that was another major service. And so it continued.
3) The United States military, intelligence agencies, and local police have sought training from and alongside Israeli Defense Forces and Mossad.

For instance, Max Blumenthal wrote about Urban Shield:
Training alongside the American police departments at Urban Shield was the Yamam, an Israeli Border Police unit that claims to specialize in “counter-terror” operations but is better known for its extra-judicial assassinations of Palestinian militant leaders and long record of repression and abuses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Urban Shield also featured a unit from the military of Bahrain, which had just crushed a largely non-violent democratic uprising by opening fire on protest camps and arresting wounded demonstrators when they attempted to enter hospitals…. The Israelification of America’s security apparatus, recently unleashed in full force against the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has taken place at every level of law enforcement, and in areas that have yet to be exposed. The phenomenon has been documented in bits and pieces, through occasional news reports that typically highlight Israel’s national security prowess without examining the problematic nature of working with a country accused of grave human rights abuses. But it has never been the subject of a national discussion. And collaboration between American and Israeli cops is just the tip of the iceberg.
The process of Israelification began in the immediate wake of 9/11, when national panic led federal and municipal law enforcement officials to beseech Israeli security honchos for advice and training. America’s Israel lobby exploited the climate of hysteria, providing thousands of top cops with all-expenses paid trips to Israel and stateside training sessions with Israeli military and intelligence officials. By now, police chiefs of major American cities who have not been on junkets to Israel are the exception. 
“Israel is the Harvard of antiterrorism,” said former US Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer, who now serves as the US Senate Sergeant-at-Arms. Cathy Lanier, the Chief of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police, remarked, “No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel.” “One would say it is the front line,” Barnett Jones, the police chief of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said of Israel. “We’re in a global war.” Karen Greenberg, the director of Fordham School of Law’s Center on National Security and a leading expert on terror and civil liberties, said the Israeli influence on American law enforcement is so extensive it has bled into street-level police conduct. “After 9/11 we reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture,” Greenberg told me. “The training in Iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. There’s been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and now we’re going to spread that into the fabric of everyday American life? It’s counter-terrorism creep. And it’s exactly what you could have predicted would have happened.” 
4) Local police use Israeli tactics originating in anti-Indigenous US imperialist strategies against #Ferguson protestors, the majority of whom are from the local Black community engaged in civil protest against the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teen.

In March 2011, it was reported that the St. Louis police chief was set to visit Israel:
St. Louis County police chief Tim Fitch will be traveling to Israel next month to learn how Israeli police, intelligence and security forces work to prevent terrorist attacks. Fitch will visit for a week with other law enforcement officials from across the United States, including representatives of the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The trip is part of the Anti-Defamation League's National Counter-Terrorism seminar. Fitch and the others will visit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Tiberias, among other cities. The Israel National Police and senior officials from Israel's defense forces, intelligence and security organizations will meet with the Americans. St. Louis County police houses the region's anti-terrorism center.
On his twitter page, @DustinSlaughter posted this picture, highlighting the racial profiling within St. Louis/Ferguson police force:

On his twitter page, Dustin Slaughter posted this picture, highlighting the racial profiling within St. Louis/Ferguson police force:

Don't Call it Irony

There is nothing ironic or curious about the historical consistencies of imperialist ideologies and practices.

From @MariamBarghouti, we see an image of the tear gas canister made in the US, supplied to Israel, and used in Gaza:

We also watch, in real time, as Gazans offer advice to the protesters in Ferguson how to protect themselves against tear gas:

History is not a repeating itself--as tragedy or farce or in amnesia. This isn't scripted. We remember.

US democracy has not gone off course. This is what it has always looked like from the perspectives of Native/Indigenous and Black peoples all along.

This is not fate; there is no fate. We have choices. It does not have to be this way.

Boycott, divest, sanction.

“We're going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we're doing, you can say, We're remembering. That's where we'll win out in the long run. And someday we'll remember so much that we'll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in it and cover it up.” 
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Anti-Indigeneity of the Anti-Palestinianism

I want to put together a set of remarks about the political implications of the Palestinian call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel (PACBI), and of BDS more generally, within the U.S. academy; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne (UIUC) firing of Steven Salaita on the grounds of his use of twitter as a form of political expression; and the academic-as-scientific integrity of Native/Indigenous studies.

I do so in order to think through the prevalence of anti-Indigeneity within anti-Palestinian arguments (and vice versa), the perniciousness of which fuels all kinds of rationalizations for state-sanctioned programs of Native/Indigenous genocide and dispossession in the United States and Israel. These rationalizations excuse international human rights violations by state governments as well as states from having to adhere to their own constitutional and federal laws while denouncing the political and intellectual work of Native/Indigenous peoples against those violations as "non-science."

They Said This

In his ongoing criticisms of PACBI, USACBI, and BDS politics more generally, Cary Nelson (UIUC) writes that:
I do not support the “right of return,” in part because the adults who lived in Arab-owned homes [sic] in what became the state of Israel are now almost all dead….The right to return to some place you have never been seems rather chimerical, mainly a form of political combat by other means, designed to undermine or eliminate the religious character of the Jewish state.
In support of UIUC's firing of Palestinian scholar Steven Salaita, Nathanial Zelinsky (History Ph.D. candidate at Cambridge) writes that:
Salaita also chose time and again to integrate his politics with his academics. He was a loud proponent of the campaign for the American Studies Association to support the BDS movement. His views on Israel have a real bearing on his ability to be an objective teacher and researcher. In many non-science fields like "American Indian studies," politics and academics are sadly interchangeable. The buzzwords of what "theoretical framework" someone chooses to employ really means to "what ideology" does he or she subscribe. Nixing Salaita on academic grounds alone was more than appropriate, because his anti-Israel comments were his academics.
They Mean This

Nelson and Zelinksy are not making especially original arguments but more importantly they are not making arguments that are neutral, objective, or scientific in the context of PM Netanyahu's call for vengeance, Israeli elected officials call for the murder of Palestinian mothers, Israeli academics' call to use of rape as a "terror deterrent," or the Israeli military assault of Gaza and murder of 1,940 Palestinians, the majority of whom are civilian, and 67 Israelis, the majority of whom are soldiers.

Instead, their remarks dismiss the very real consequences of Israel's violent exceptionalism in Palestinian lives. This exceptionalism disguises the Jewish-only religious provisions of Israel's land laws and the racist anti-Arab policies and practices on which those laws are carried out. These include forced evictions and confiscations of Palestinian lands and homes, the detention and torture of children, the restriction of travel and communication, and the outright ethnic cleansing of Arabs from the occupied territories.

Nelson and Zelinksy condone these actions on the grounds of the "the religious character of the Jewish state" and, ironically, the veracity of scientific rationalism in the determination of what counts for legitimate academics.

Implied and Implicated

Corey RobinDavid Palumbo-Liu, and David Lloyd provide excellent analysis of the implications of Nelson's and Zelinsky's arguments in relation to BDS politics and the current situation in Gaza. For here, I want to consider the implications of Nelson's and Zelinky's arguments in relation to US and Canadian based anti-Indigeneity efforts.

For Nelson, there is no legitimate claim to the right of return under international law for Palestinians because their and/or their parents were forced to leave their home(land)s under the conditions of war and then forbidden to return under the conditions of statehood. In other words, for Nelson, since 1948 Palestinian refugees have lost any credible claim to their home(land)s because Israel effectively killed or dispossessed them of those home(land)s. The only thing they can do now is to accommodate themselves to the "religious character of the Jewish state" predicated on their disenfranchisement and homelessness.

In profound ways, this exact same argument has been made for hundreds of years against Native/Indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada. American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians, First Nations/Indians, Metis, and Inuit have all been told--directly and indirectly--that their treaty and constitutional rights to sovereignty and self-determination were either nullified or eliminated a long time ago by the fact of their conquest. That they need to "get over" their pasts and "move on" to the realities of the present, where United States and Canadian corporate profit and development preside over the final vestiges of their lands, waters, and other natural resources.

Unwittingly or not, Nelson's arguments about the Palestinian right of return are co-produced by the discourses of anti-Native/Indigenous rights arguments in the United States and Canada. This is most powerfully coded by his remarks about the dead Arab, a figure of imminent discursive fluidity in anti-Indigeneity logics that render the Indigenous culturally and so legally authentic only on condition of their being stuck in a far-distant historical past to which they can never return and consequently renders them rightless in the present.

For Zelinksy, Native/Indigenous studies--like other "non-science fields"-- are nothing but political ideology at its worst because it offers that ideology in the name of scientific-as-objective theory. I imagine Zelinsky links all of critical race and ethnic, gender, and sexuality studies together in his "non-science fields" category and the real social sciences of history, anthropology, and the like as doing legitimate, scientific-as-objective work.

These are very familiar refrains of anti-intellectualism that believe proper theoretical and methodological approach renders one's work relevant to scholarly debate and public policy. They offer a familiar binary that divides between the legitimate and illegitimate in incredibly racialized, gendered, and sexed ways that are about disguising the faith, bias, assumption, and disagreement within the 'sciences' for objectivity and immediate social relevance.

It is an argument that has been made for a very long time about Native/Indigenous scholarship and scholars to render insignificant their critical attention to the structures, operations, and practices of US, Canadian, and Israeli colonialism. It is an argument made in anti-Native/Indigenous movements and scholarship that have maintained that Native/Indigenous international, treaty, and constitutional rights amount to nothing more than a double-standard that advances reverse racism and discrimination. These arguments pretend scientific objectivity and rationality in discerning political motivation and cultural bias in the "non-science" gibberish and cultural gobbledygook of Native/Indigenous peoples.

Historical experience has taught Native/Indigenous peoples very well that what passes for science in the academy is often overtly racist, sexist, homophobic, and nationalist and deployed with specifically political goals in mind that seek to rationalize and even incite genocide and land fraud in the name of advancing the more superior civilized society's rights over and against the savage.

Historical experience has also taught Native/Indigenous scholars that unless you speak/write the party line of scientific theory and methodology you risk your career and professional reputation. Because if you dare to challenge the credibility of science and its very political ambitions at directing, advising, and legitimating state policy, you risk the efforts of those who need to trivialize your work--either by making you crazy or dogmatic-- in order to conceal the way they have benefited from and within the current structure of US and Canadian imperialism and colonialism.

It remains to be seen what response UIUC is going to have in regards to Salaita, but it is very clear that the Zionist contingent in United States, Canadian, and Israeli academics are working very hard to justify his firing. It also remains to be seen whether or not Palestinians will get any kind of redress through the International Court of Justice for Israel's latest war crimes. However, Nelson and Zelinsky can rest assured that their remarks will be protected as expressions of free speech and Salaita's have not.