Since 1903, a poem has lain before the feet of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor that declares to the world that the United States will be a safe haven for the world’s neediest people: “Give me your tired, your poor/ your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” As historians we know that… Read more →
I often receive inquiries from white and non-black folks about how they can get involved in anti-racist organizing, especially after high-profile police shootings of African Americans. The requests for advice increased after Donald Trump’s election. I usually oblige because I always want to help, and I consider answering such questions to be part of political… Read more →
One of the functions of social movements is to raise consciousness around a particular problem or issue. The Black Lives Matter movement is no different. Activists have successfully used disruptive protest, policymaking, and social media to influence public debates around structural racism, state violence, policing, and mass incarceration. The movement, as well as my experiences… Read more →
This is my fantasy: I’m standing at the Main Street corner in my little New Jersey suburban downtown, waiting to cross the street. As usual, I’m stressed out by the giant SUVs whipping by, oblivious to the crosswalk. But then I remember the “alterations” I made to my ID cane. I whip it out, and… Read more →
Last May, the Republic of Ireland legalized same-sex marriage, just 22 years after the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1993. This was put to a referendum in Ireland due to the change to the Irish Constitution’s definition of Marriage. While there are obvious and real issues with allowing a public vote on human rights, the Yes… Read more →
In December last year, the FDA lifted its longtime policy of deferring any blood or tissue donations coming from men who have had sex with other men at any time since 1977. The new policy defers only those men who have had sex with other men within one year of donation. This might seem like… Read more →
By Austin McCoy
Two weeks ago, hundreds of young whites clashed with riot police in Keene, NH, during the city’s annual Pumpkin Festival. The details regarding the riot’s spark are not clear. Witnesses describe the riot as a college party that spiraled out of control. Observers talked about how participants threw bottles and rocks, turned over dumpsters and a car, and uprooted traffic signs. The police responded in kind by firing tear gas and rubber bullets at rioters. Around thirty people were injured.
By Sarah Handley-Cousins
Ten years ago, on October 2, 2004, Wells College, a tiny, women’s liberal arts college in rural New York State, announced its decision to become coed. Frustrated and angry, many Wells Women — myself included — protested by holding a sit-in at the main academic building in hopes of compelling the college board of trustees to reverse its decision. We refused to leave. We slept in our classrooms; we chanted and sang; we lined up from one end of the building to the other, arm-in-arm, our mouths gagged with black fabric to symbolize how we had been silenced by the Wells administration.
By Austin McCoy
“It would be grossly unfair to omit recognition of a minority of whites who genuinely want authentic equality…But they are balanced at the other end of the pole by the unregenerate segregationists who have declared that democracy is not worth having if it involves equality. The great majority of Americans are suspended between these opposing attitudes. They are uneasy with injustice but unwilling yet to pay a significant price to eradicate it.” In the wake of Michael Brown’s killing and the Ferguson uprising, I am reminded of these passages written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Lyndon Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, commonly known as the Kerner Commission. Both quotes reflect hard truths about the history of black uprisings in the U.S.—they are not the products of criminality or pathology; they are responses to longstanding grievances against racial and economic inequality. And in light of the Ferguson uprising, we should all take note of one argument advanced by Dr. King and the commissioners: America refuses to acknowledge how generations of structural racism have created the conditions for black rebellions.
by Austin McCoy
Detroit’s movement to oppose the city’s water and sewage department’s draconian bill collection program won a significant victory on July 29. The city’s Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr, extended more control over the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) to Mayor Mike Duggan. While Orr retains the authority to restructure the DWSD, the announcement means that the DWSD will suspend its bill collection program temporarily. In March, the DWSD announced that it would shut off its delinquent customers’ water. To date, thousands of Detroiters have experienced shut offs already. According to the Detroit Free Press, the DWSD shut off water to 7,556 customers. If the DWSD’s goal was to pass the costs of its financial crisis to its customers, the program appeared to work, as up to 17,000 Detroiters have entered into payment plans. Unfortunately, the DWSD turned its fiscal emergency into a human rights issue, a public health and political crisis.