Saturday, August 30, 2014

Graham v. Connor:The Thin Blue Line

 The "Thin Blue Line" is a phrase used to symbolize and describe the honorable men and women of our country who risk their lives to serve their communities in our nation's police departments. The line symbolizes the separation between good and evil, order and chaos, safety and paranoia, justice and injustice, peace and anarchy, etc.  Unfortunately, to many of us that line sometimes appears to be very gray...racial profiling, police brutality, war-like presence, unnecessary deadly force, etc.

How are we too judge? I guarantee if you haven't heard of Graham v. will in the near future!

 Since 1989, every action that police have taken in using "reasonable", excessive, or deadly force has been judged through the lens of Graham v. Connor. To most people (including me), Rodney King, Amandou Diallo, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown (to name a few) did not pose a deadly threat...but, in the eyes of The Supreme Court a police officer is justified in using force if a "reasonable officer" with a similar background and in similar circumstances would have responded the same appears that hindsight and 20/20 vision are not standards by which The Supreme Court used to judge this case.


On November 12, 1984, Dethorne Graham, a diabetic, asked a friend of his to drive him to a convenience store to buy some juice to help increase his blood sugar and avoid a diabetic sugar reaction.

Graham ran into the store, grabbed some juice, but when he realized he would have to wait to long to pay in a very long checkout line...he quickly ran back out and got in the car.

Charlotte, N.C. police officer M.S. Connor felt this activity looked suspicious, followed the car, and almost immediately pulled the car over on a traffic stop. Graham explained that he was having a reaction and needed sugar...but, Officer Connor didn't believe him. Graham now "hallucinating" from his low blood sugar got out of the car and ran around it twice before passing out on the side of the road.

Other officers arrived, and Graham was "subdued", handcuffed, lifted from behind, and placed face down on the hood of the car, and decided to arrest him because "he's probably drunk."

Graham begged the officers to look in his pocket for a diabetic identification pin, but he was told to "shut up" and thrown face first into the police car and taken to the police station.  When police found out that Graham was indeed a diabetic and had not committed a crime they drove him to his house and left him lying in the yard.

Graham sustained an injured shoulder, a broken foot, a bruised forehead, and many other cuts and bruises in this altercation.


Dethorne Graham lost his law suit against The City of Charlotte and also lost his case in front of The Supreme Court. Since 1989, "The Graham Standard" is the standard by which police are trained (it is mentioned in many police training manuals across the United States) and judged.

We all could (still) learn from the love of Rodney King's  heart...

Rodney King... "Can we all get along?"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Did You Read This Summer?


Every summer, my strategy is to choose a "main topic/ theme" to focus on for my self-imposed "Reading Challenge"...

In the past several summers, I have chosen some of the following themes:

  • "Unknown" Stories of the Civil War
  • The History of the Transcontinental Railroad
  • The Importance of Grassroots Radicals in the Civil Rights Movement
  • North American Native Americans (especially Cahokia)
  • The Influence of J. Edgar Hoover on American History

This summer, I chose to focus primarily on Civil Rights...especially Mexican-American History as it relates to Civil Rights and Social Justice. Here are the books I read in the order I read them...


On The Road to Freedom: A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail (2008)- 388 pages
Poems: The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, vol. 3 (1951-1967)- 352 pages
The Bystander: JFK and the Struggle for Black Equality (2006)- 576 pages


Mexican-Americans 1930-1960: Leadership,Ideology, & Identity (1990)- 376 pages
A Dolores Huerta Reader (2008)- 380 pages


Blowout! Sal Castro & The Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice (2011)- 384 pages
This Non-Violent Stuff'll Get You Killed! (2014)- 320 pages

Currently Reading

Deliver Us From Evil: The Slavery Question in the Old South (2011)- 688 pages

I hope you had a great summer of reading...writing...thinking...and dreaming!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Constructive Criticism


Constructive Criticism- a "criticism" or advice that is useful and intended to help or improve something, often with a suggestion of possible solutions.

In 1775, British literary critic Samuel Johnson questioned/ mocked Thomas Jefferson and his "Idealism of American Independence"...

"How is it, that we hear the loudest yelps for Liberty from the driver's of the Negroes?"

During the summer of 2014, it is still an excellent and still troubling question to ask...or do we like The Founding Fathers ignore the "moral tension" and allow slavery, domination, and oppression, etc. to become a "necessary evil" or worse yet...consider it a "positive good"?!?

In this world of Colonialism/ Imperialism, Geopolitical Hatred, "Cold War" Resurgence, Racism/ Sexism/ Classism, Metadata, drones, building bigger walls, etc...maybe we (Humanity) could stand to listen to each others constructive criticism in order to make this world a better place.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ella Baker:Understanding History

In a summer of national and international "war" and civil unrest (Chicago, Ferguson, Immigration Gridlock, Syrian Civil War, Iraq, Gaza, Mexican Drug Wars, Congo, Southern Sudan, Ukraine, etc.) I am strongly drawn to the "Philosophy of Ella Baker"...especially as we search for real solutions (not 60 second CNN Soundbite Solutions/ "Messianic" leader speeches, "expert" analysis, etc.) to these issues. 

 Ella Baker (1903-1986)

Ella Baker was one of the most "famous" grassroots organizers (she was very critical of the "messianic leadership model" saying, "strong people don't need strong leaders.") within the Freedom Movement and worked tirelessly to promote Civil/ Human Rights, active and participatory "movement-led" Democracy, and a true understanding of history (the beginning of solutions) ...her words are as true today as they were in the 1960's.

"In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become a part of society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed. That means we are going to have to learn to think in radical terms. I use the term radical in its original meaning...getting down to and understanding the root cause. It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system. That is easier said than done. But one of the things that has to be faced is, in the process of wanting to change that system...

how much have we got to do to find out who we are, 
where we have come from, and where we are going?

I am saying, as you must say too, that in order to see where we are going, we not only must remember where we have been, but we must understand where we have been."

My challenge as a "US History Teacher"...

Do we truly understand where we've been?

Do we develop not just "critical thinking skills" but, a Critical Conscience?

Monday, August 11, 2014


 "1968 Blowout!!!"

 John Ortiz coined the phrase "blowout" to describe the 1968 L.A. Student Protests, he explains:

"The term blowout was originally used as a Jazz improvisation term...
it meant being expressive. You would say of a musician 'he blew it out'."

In 1968, East L.A. was the largest Mexican-American neighborhood in the United States. Mexican-Americans had been plagued by decades of segregation (schools, housing, etc.), severe corporal punishment, police brutality, and substandard schools which tracked Mexican-Americans (due to racism/ low expectations) into domestic, agricultural, vocational, and sweatshop jobs...the "Mexican" Schools actually promoted a sense of inferiority and belittled Mexican-American language, culture, traditions, etc.

Sal Castro

Students and teachers (especially Sal Castro) began to organize and developed a list of demands (about 50) to be delivered to the Board of are some of the major demands.

1. Bilingual Education
2. Access to honors/ academic classes
3. More Mexican-American teachers and counselors
4. Smaller class size
5. Mexican-American history classes
6. The end of physical abuse
7. The firing of racist teachers
8. Equality in school funding

When the school board ignored their demands, thousands of students (with the help of several teachers, college students, and The Brown Berets) planned a massive walkout to seek the attention of the news media, public, national politicians, etc...these walkouts became known as the "L.A. Blowouts".

 Bobby Kennedy supporting Chicano Students

Many were arrested and beaten by police, 13 adults were arrested and faced 60+ years in jail, further walkouts and sit-ins were carried out, and national leaders (Cesar Chavez, Bobby Kennedy, etc.) began to support the students/ parents quest for true equality and freedom.

The 1968 Blowouts raised awareness about social injustice in the Chicano Community, built tremendous pride, and helped institute some positive change in L.A. (and nationally) Public Schools...questions.

Have things really gotten better?
Are students still "tracked" (into domestic/ vocational jobs) into "non-academic classes" according to their skin color?
Why are schools more segregated in 2014 than they were after Brown v. Board of Education?
Are teachers promoting and building cultural pride in all of their students?
Do students know history...have a critical conscience...have pride in who they are?

Educacion Justicia 2014?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tree of 40 Fruits

 Tree of Forty Fruits: Is This America?

This morning on The CBS Morning News, I watched a segment talking about a "Tree of 40 Fruits."  This concept is a creation of artist, photographer, sculptor, and Syracuse University art professor Sam Van Aken. Van Aken has grafted/ hybridized many pitted fruit trees in this scientific/ artistic project. Not only is he looking to create stunning seasonal colors, he is saving native, heirloom fruits that are not popular with supermarket chains.

His trees contain over 40 varieties of peaches, apricots, cherries, nectarines, plums, and almonds that date back to the 17th Century! Click below for a 5 minute TED Talk featuring Professor Van Aken.

San Van Aken in his orchard.

I immediately thought that this tree was a perfect symbol for "Killing Jellyfish" and how beautiful America could truly be...

Is This America?

Since 1790, The United States of America has performed a census (a very important information gathering tool) every 10 years and has sorted people by very distinct racial groupings since the early 1800's (even categorizing "degrees of blackness")...and "race" was grafted into the national census during the Eugenics Movement of the early 1900's. These racial groupings were based on a widely accepted "scientific" study entitled, "The Five Races of Mankind."  Still today, we use this preposterous, archaic, and racist system to classify human beings as White (Hispanic or non-Hispanic), Black, American Indian/ Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander.

Listen to Kenneth Prewiitt (Census Expert) discuss Census History
 and advice on how to improve the census...27 minutes.

IMO...the word "race" should be immediately removed from our census. To ask people who come from over 20+ Spanish-speaking countries, are multicultural, etc. to describe themselves as a monolithic race is simply mind boggling and an insult to our rich heritage. 

When will people be able to describe themselves however they want and in as many ways as they want in America...the most grafted and hybridized "Tree of 40 Fruits" in the world!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Deep River

This "Summer of Tears"...with wars and atrocities covering the earth, apathy toward the starving and the orphans, extreme anger lashing out at the hopeful immigrant, horrendous examples of police brutality, millions of homeless veterans struggling on the street, a listless U.S. government, etc...I often find myself singing "Deep River" silently in my head. 

“Deep River” is a classic African American “spiritual” – born from plantation songs of slaves in the Deep South. It is a song of weariness, suffering, sorrow, hope, faith, determination, and universal longing for peace and freedom in the present and future afterlife. It was also used as a coded message by fugitive slaves as they raced toward the symbolic Jordan River (The Ohio River) matter what country we live in, shouldn't love, empathy, and freedom and not selfish international geopolitics be our ultimate goal?

Marian Anderson (1897-1993)
Click to listen..."Deep River"

In my opinion, the greatest rendition of “Deep River” ever was performed often by Marian Anderson.  As a matter of fact, circa 1923 she sang "Deep River" at an audition for private musical studies with Giuseppe Boghetti and Agnes Reifsnyder, the best voice teachers of the time...Boghetti was brought to tears.

I too am moved and brought to tears when I listen to this haunting message...and dream of a day when we too can "crossover into campground".