Sunday, January 29, 2017

Executive Orders, Memorandums, and American Laws: Ghosts of the Past

Many have been alarmed (and many are celebrating) by President Trump's early blitzkrieg of executive orders and memorandums, especially those that seek to:

Restrict the travel and immigration of persons from several countries in Africa and the Middle East regardless of their visa status.

Build a border wall with Mexico and increase our deportation and border patrol personnel.

Expedite the process (environmental reviews, etc.) that would eventually support the completion of the Keystone XL (Dakota Access) Oil Pipeline.

I have heard many commentators talk that "this is the first time we have ever seen restrictions on immigration based on religion, country of origin...or the that our treatment of indigenous people is suddenly so atrocious...or that this is a first that a president has been so blatantly racist, xenophobic, etc."

There are many historical examples that illustrate that President Trump's Executive Orders are nothing (definitely not new) more then ghosts of the past coming back to haunt us.

Here are a few examples (among many) of these vicious ghosts:

The Original United States Constitution support of Slavery

The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798

The Indian Removal Act of 1830

Dred Scott Decision 1854

Violation of the Ft. Laramie Treaty in 1877

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

Plessy v Ferguson 1896

The Palmer Raids and Immigrant Deportations 1919-1920

The Mexican Repatriation Movement 1929-1936

FDR's Anti-Jewish Immigration during WWII

FDR's Executive Order 9066: Japanese Internment

Our treatment of Korean War Orphans

Our treatment of Vietnamese Refugees

Our denial of responsibility to Agent Orange victims

And the list goes on and on...

When will we begin to practice our most basic creed in America...that "All Men Are Created Equal"?

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Angel of Fredericksburg

On December 13, 1862, Richard Kirkland (Confederate) of South Carolina and his unit inflicted serious damage on Union troops near Fredericksburg, Virginia...over 8,000 Union troops lay dead or injured on the battlefield.

Soldiers on both sides heard the painful cries for help, but for hours nobody from either side dared to venture out on to the field in fear of being killed by the enemy.  Finally, Richard Kirkland received permission to help the Confederate and Union casualties saying, "I'll take my chances."

For nearly two hours Kirkland filled canteens with water, collected warm clothing/ blankets and administered care to those suffering on the battlefield.  Luckily for Kirkland, both sides quickly realized what he was doing and refrained from firing.

While some historians challenge this account, the story of Richard Kirkland has now become legend...

I hope that we could learn from this lesson (whether fact of legendary myth) the meaning of being human/ humanitarians...

What would the world say of us if:

We accepted refugees, immigrants, strangers no matter the cost to our safety or economy.

We truly attempted to correct the way we have enslaved, oppressed and marginalized people.

We gave Native People true autonomy over the land that was stolen from them (and is still being stolen).

Monday, January 16, 2017

Great Americans Day?

For most of us, today is a federal holiday known as "Martin Luther King Day".  But, in several states and municipalities across the Old Confederacy it is celebrated as "MLK Day and Robert E. Lee/ Great Americans Day".  There is one state that (until 2000) even combined the celebration of three (MLK, Lee, and Stonewall Jackson) birthdays into one holiday!

Now if you know your history, it may come as quite a surprise/ ironic that anyone could possibly think that this was a good/ intelligent idea...or am I just too much of a Yankee to understand so-called "Southern Pride", the celebration of traitors to the United States of America, or how Lee and Jackson could be referred to as "Great Americans"?

IMO, to combine the birthday celebrations of Confederate Generals with MLK Day into one day is an insensitive and racist insult to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Best Presidents Who Never Were (30 in Pictures)

As the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King's life and legacy approaches on Monday, I ponder the fact that many Americans were disappointed/ apathetic about our choices in the 2016 elections...

There are many people who I feel would've been an excellent POTUS...of course this list is highly subjective. Most of the selections had extensive political and social/ civil rights activist experience in their resumes.

I feel that if given the opportunity within the context of their historical era, they would have helped shape a much different world to be...

Less: Imperialistic...Militaristic...Capitalistic...Racist...Sexist...Greedy...Hypocritical...etc.

More: Egalitarian...Empathetic...Collaborative...Generous...Just...Principled...etc.

I hope you spend some time researching those who you may not know as much about and add you own choices in the comments.

I have listed my choices alphabetically.

Abigail Adams

James Baldwin

Mary McLeod Bethune
Cesar Chavez
Shirley Chisholm

Henry Clay

Eugene Debs

Medgar Evers

Frederick Douglass

W.E.B. DuBois

James Farmer

Fannie Lou Hamer

Dolores Huerta


Daniel Inouye

Jack Kemp

Martin Luther King, JR

Robert Kennedy

Robert LaFollette

John Lewis

Gerald Nye

Wendell Phillips

A. Philip Randolph

Paul Robeson

Eleanor Roosevelt

Thaddeus Stevens

Tatanka Iyotanka

Henry Wallace

Ida B. Wells

Richard Wright

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Operation Pipeline

During the past 3 decades, the so-called "War on Drugs" has (IMO) revived a return to the Jim Crow tactics used since the Civil War to legitimize racial profiling, millions of "stop and frisk" arrests, pretext traffic stops aka "fishing for drugs", police brutality, a racial caste system, and the rise of the Prison Industrial Complex.

So what has caused The United States of America to become "the greatest warden in the world"?

The history of these Nazi/ Jim Crow-like stops originated under the Ronald Reagan administration in 1984 with a law called "Operation Pipeline" is considered one of the most effective government drug programs.

This federal program (supported by the Supreme Court) has trained nearly 30,000 law enforcement personnel/ over 300 agencies in 48 states on how to use "pretext traffic stops" as a way to "fish for drugs".

This is exactly what was feared when the framers of the Constitution considered the Fourth Amendment...a program to target and search people without probable cause and without a warrant.

The training includes manuals that train officers who to look for/ profile:

  • Traveling with luggage or traveling without luggage
  • Driving an expensive car/ rental car or driving a very old car
  • A calm or nervous driver
  • "Mismatched" occupants
  • Wearing fancy clothes/ jewelry or dressing casually
  • Using large bills or using small bills
  • Out of state license plates at a hotel (especially with fast food wrappers/ coffee)
  • Obeying the speed limit and other traffic rules

The manual also gave explicit recommendations to stop anyone who looked Mexican, Black, or Jamaican...All this for stops that yield no drugs 95% of the time! 

If you think this is all necessary for our so-called safety/ this doesn't affect me...can you say "Edward Snowden"? 

Sunday, January 1, 2017


As I contemplate anything new that might come from 2017, I am reminded...

How little we want to know about our true history.

How current events reflect how little we have learned from our past.

That one of the only hopes we have in the future is in our youth.

How jaded our national priorities have become (and still reflect many evils of the past).

As I begin to end my 33rd year of teaching, I still deeply ponder and attempt to strategically articulate my vision that will construct a "perfect" and transformative classroom for  my students.

But as schools become exponentially obsessed with standardized test scores, statistical data, and robotic classrooms, the less motivated (if I ever was) I am by the current (very shallow) goals of modern day "education"...and the more convinced I become that without teaching empathy education is useless.

So this is where I usually start to talk about Plato, Paulo Freire, W.E.B. DuBois, Frantz Fanon, Henry Giroux, Kimberle Crenshaw, Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Cornel West, etc. and emphasize the virtues of a true education to be Truth, Goodness, and Beauty which lead to critical thinking, critical consciousness, social action, and human empowerment...and this is where people usually look at me like I'm crazy and walk away.

I am truly thankful for 2016 and students who do not walk away from seeking the truth, the tough conversations, becoming more empathetic, etc. and I look forward to (new) learning with them in 2017!