Author: Devan Gunther, WPJC Intern
More than 4 out of 5 Indigenous women have experienced violence, with 1 out of 2 having experienced sexual assault. In 2016, almost six thousand missing Indigenous women and girls were reported. Only 116 of them were logged in the United States’ federal missing person database.
Violence against Native American women——and Native Americans as a whole—is not anything new. The data shows a governmental indifference——if not malice——towards the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).
With a red handprint over the mouth and the mantra “no more stolen sisters,” people have sought to bring national attention to this issue. However, apathy and a lack of attention towards this violence——often due to anti-Indigenous racism——disregards these preventable tragedies. The cases get lost due to institutional mismanagement and negligence. The women fall through the cracks, often victims to addiction, domestic violence, and sex trafficking. The women and girls continue to go missing, and the ones that return often go missing again because of insufficient follow-up or support. Too often, they don’t come back.
The vanishing and murders of Native Americans has a legacy that goes back hundreds of years to one of the most fatal events in history. Though, often it’s not ever referred to by its true name: genocide.
There’s significance in language, in how one describes both the past and the present. The term “ethnic cleansing” was used in the Bosnian Genocide to avoid calling it what it was, to give a loophole so that other states didn’t have to intervene per the UN Genocide Convention—--so they wouldn’t face the consequences of their crimes. Russia still denies that the Holodomor—--the intentional famine of Ukrainians—--was a genocide. The People’s Republic of China denies the current genocide of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. In the same way, the United States denies the genocide of the Native Americans by European colonizers and the current genocidal discrimination against them today.
According to Genocide Watch, there are ten stages of genocide, with the final stage being “denial”. Denial is said to last throughout the genocide itself and tends to follow it, leading in the coverup of evidence as well as systematic oppression of the traumatized survivors. The United States’ own denial of the past only furthers this, cementing the dismissal of their present day massacres.
Genocidal acts do not have to just be about the killing of the physical body——they are also of the culture, the religion, the identity. The United Nations defines genocide as
"[...] any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
Genocides are not exceptional. There have been dozens (if not more) in history and many remain unnamed or mislabeled. Most claims of “misuse” of the label genocide come from people who either don’t know the definition or are in denial of these atrocious acts. Not every genocide is the same and not every genocide is condemned.
In bringing attention to the missing and murdered Indigenous people, we must refer to the past and present with a label that reflects the truth——it was and is an ongoing genocide. We must emphasize how that past has caused the issues of apathy and denial today. European colonizers had the intent to destroy Native Americans and that intent is still here, that genocide is still with us. The destruction of Indigenous people in America still continues to this day with the pipelines through native land, with revoking reservation status from tribes, with ignoring the pleas for help amidst the pandemic outbreak in these areas, with ignoring the ever growing list of missing and murdered Indigenous women...
With every death or disappearance is another victim added to this legacy of genocide, another sister stolen. Another cultural practice lost, another unjust incarceration of an Indigenous man, another sacred site desecrated for racial capitalism...The United States continues to deny the Native American genocide and will continue to do so unless widespread attention is brought to this issue. To ignore what is occurring is to be complicit. We cannot continue to deny the truth of what is occurring any longer. The colonization of the Americas involved a genocide of the Indigenous people and that genocide never truly stopped——people must speak out and lift Indigenous voices, must call the mass execution by its true name——genocide——and we must start on structural reforms and reparations for Indigenous people.
Please consider donating to one of the following organizations, clans, or nations:
Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANWW)
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA’s (MMIW USA)
National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
Author: Carmen Ferran
Late last night [5/28] in response to the protests and riots in cities across the country over the failure to prosecute the police officers responsible for the murder of George Floyd, President Donald Trump tweeted:
“…These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Waltz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
He then called in the National Guard.
Even though these events are not surprising, are never surprising, I simply cannot get over that phrase: When the looting starts, the shooting starts.
When the looting starts, the shooting starts.
When the looting starts, the shooting starts.
Not since White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett stated “our human capital stock is ready to get back to work” has a U.S. leader so blatantly revealed their ideology. The cards are on the table.
When the looting starts, the shooting starts.
When “thugs” steal, the police will hunt them down, because
We, the people who own the police, value private property over Black lives.
We will mourn a Target over a Black man, because
Our property is more important than he is.
Our property is more important than you are.
When the looting starts, the shooting starts.
When you disrupt our means of profit, we will shoot you
with military grade weaponry, because
your purpose for existing is to make us money.
When the looting starts, the shooting starts.
If you challenge us, we will try
To kill you.
If there is one blessing in all this harm, it is the affirmation that I am not the only one who is outraged. I am grateful to see the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #PeopleOverProperty across my social media feeds. I am lucky that a friend of mine put together a resource document of petitions to sign, organizations to donate to, and numbers to text & call to support the Minneapolis protesters. I am glad to see solidarity in action as Minneapolis bus drivers refuse to transport protesters to jail, and as veterans call on officers in the National Guard to stand down. And because of the direct action of the protesters (and only because of their direct action) Derek Chavin has been charged with 3rd degree murder and manslaughter.
There is still lots of work to do. The remaining 3 officers who were fired over Floyd’s death have yet to be charged. The family of Breonna Taylor, who was shot 8 times by officers in her own home in March, is still calling for the Louisville Police Department to be held accountable. If you want to take action in #JusticeforBreonnaTaylor, The Misidentified 4 have created the website https://justiceforbreonna.org/.
If you are like me – angry, upset, driven to work towards actual, substantial social change – there are two terms that you need to know (which, if you’ve read my other posts, you will have some familiarity with already): Racial capitalism and antimilitarism.
Racial capitalism is a term coined by Cedric Robinson in his book Black Marxism as a means of representing that the evolution of capitalism occurred alongside the development of racism, and that the two are fundamentally linked. In other words, capitalism has always depended on “slavery, violence, imperialism, and genocide”. It needs the racial other, and that primary other has always been, and always will be, Black people.
Antimilitarism refers to the social movements throughout history that have advocated against militarism and the structuring of society to exist for the military, and by extension, to exist for war. An antimilitarist analysis of the riots that have occurred over the past few days would point out that the police responded to what were originally peaceful, unarmed protests in military gear before the riots broke out, and that the Minneapolis police department was trained not in deescalation but in “warrior style” response tactics. They are not trying to protect people when a building is set on fire, but are standing in front of untouched malls with guns at the ready. They are not throwing tear gas at, shooting rubber bullets at, and arresting the actual murderers, but the protesters, because the police do not exist to prevent harm. Rather, they exist to cause it in the protection of private property.
When the looting starts,
the shooting starts.
I believe that it is crucial to understand both terms if we want to do anti-racist work, to make the demands to “defund the police” and “invest in community” to become a reality. To learn more about racial capitalism, I highly recommend this article by Robin D.G. Kelley, as well as any of Cedric Robinsons works. To learn more about antimilitarism, I recommend this transcript of my interview with Brittany DeBarros, Organizing Director of About Face: Veterans Against the War, on May 11. If you are near the sites of protest, stay safe, and keep fighting the good fight. We are with you.
Edit 6/1/2020: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/# is a site with detailed lists of where you can donate as well as other resources in multiple languages. It is extremely comprehensive and regularly updated by the admin.
Edit 6/15/2020, by WPJC: Since this piece was written, the other three officers involved in the murder of George Floyd have been charged. Lane, 37, Kueng, 26, and Thao, 34, are now charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
Authors: Aisha Mansour, Marii Herlinger (WPJC Interns)
On Sunday May 31st, WWU’s Shred the Contract (STC) organized a community caravan which was co-hosted by Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER), and the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center (WPJC). The goal of this caravan was to take direct action to show up for people at the Whatcom Jail and to demand that WWU’s administration stand on the side of justice and shred its contract with Aramark. The decision whether to renew Aramark’s contract with Western is two months overdue. In order to hold the university accountable, STC demanded a response from WWU President Sabah Randhawa within a week from the action.
The caravan commenced at the Whatcom Jail. Students and community members sang songs of protest in solidarity with incarcerated folx, many of whom showed their support for the action by drumming on the windows. The caravan then continued on to President Sabah’s mansion. This is where activists chanted from their cars to demand a response regarding the decision to renew the contract with Aramark. Sabah emerged from his home to watch the protest take place and students communicated clearly with him what STC’s demands were. The caravan then concluded at Western Washington University, in order to make a statement about how the university profits off of a direct flow of resources from the prison industrial complex. Representatives from SUPER and YDSA gave speeches at this location, and, in an unplanned moment, a survivor of sexual violence spoke up to draw attention to an immediate injustice that had just occurred in Bellingham. The speaker announced that a community organizer and trans woman named Nadelyn had been illegally arrested after police invaded her home. Although this arrest took place during the time of the caravan, it was unrelated to the student-led direct action. Nonetheless, student organizers and community members realized the intimate relationship between the abolitionist caravan and Nadelyn’s violent detainment, so they quickly mobilized everyone to the jail while simultaneously starting a GoFundMe for Nadelyn’s bail and legal fees.
The community gathered at the jail in support of Nadelyn and her family, in a spontaneous solidarity vigil. The GoFundMe campaign exceeded its goal of $5,000. Nadelyn was released at 6 p.m. after a few hours’ delay, despite her bail having been paid earlier that afternoon.
Although the organizers had not planned for the caravan to end at the Whatcom Jail, especially under such circumstances, Nadelyn’s detainment was strong and immediate evidence of the way in which the carceral system punishes folks with marginalized identities. The organizers of the caravan recognized that fighting for prison abolition at a macro-level requires also showing up for individuals and community members impacted by incarceration at the local level. During one of the biggest uprisings of many of our lives as young organizers, this connection must be at the forefront of our efforts while we fight for racial justice.
Author: Marii Herlinger, WPJC Intern
Too often, the topic of war is framed as either a thing of the past or as a primal activity only afflicting “underdeveloped” countries in places far away. Both of these assumptions are inaccurate. Worse, they perpetuate dangerous illusions of “safety” and “security” at home, while deflecting accountability from superpowers—like the United States—responsible for waging war on so many places. It is no accident how many people think of the military as a distinct and separate entity from their everyday lives. This veil we are under is a result of a grossly manipulated narrative(1) about what America needs defense against—and it has grave consequences.
In 2014, police in Watertown, Connecticut purchased a mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle with a retail price of $733,000 at the meager cost of $2,800. My sister bought her first used car at that price. And yet, a landmine has never been found in Watertown.(2)
Police forces in every state have the ability to procure such items through the 1033 program—or what the government so dreamily calls the Pentagon's Law Enforcement Support Office.(3) The 1033 program enables the Pentagon to distribute military equipment to local police departments per request. Items procured through the 1033 program are not released to the public, nor are the names of the agencies requesting them.
The 1033 program is far from the only example of at-home militarism. Police departments have long prioritized military veterans in their hiring processes, a practice which the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program of the Department of Justice openly permits.(4) Programs like COPS are bolstered by the guise that the military is our “great protector.” They assume that ordinary citizens will not think to challenge the notion of military training as helpful or necessary in law enforcement. The questions we need to be asking are: what kind of threats does the government foresee needing combat-trained officers for? What many atrocities could result from hiring officers with war PTSD? How can we address veteran unemployment without creating a funnel from the military to law enforcement? Programs like COPS fuel the narrative that a militaristic approach proves useful in domestic conflicts. As we are reminded from the long list of lives stolen and communities broken from police brutality, violence is never the solution.
Other examples of militarism at home: the construction of military bases often dislocates entire communities(5), forcing them to leave the land where they once lived, danced, cooked, made homes, raised their babies, and laid their heads at night. Prisons, jails, immigrant detention centers, federal agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other structures of state violence perpetuate America’s long legacy of family separation and xenophobia. Bureaucratic complexities and high exposure criteria still bar so many downwinders (a term for those who live downwind of nuclear test sites and are thus subject to radioactive fallout) from receiving compensation. And, in the middle of a pandemic which has exposed the inadequacy of the American healthcare system, the Pentagon chooses to “honor” healthcare workers by authorizing expensive military flyovers. Meanwhile, the shortage of PPE in healthcare facilities is such that some hospitals have prohibited their workers from bringing their own masks since they cannot be guaranteed for everyone.(6) This is a serious misplacement of priorities.
How about honoring healthcare workers by supplying PPE and tests? How about replacing prisons and jails with life-affirming institutions? How about not creating populations of downwinders in the first place? How about severing the flow of equipment from the military to police agencies? How about creating a system of restorative justice that centers the needs of survivors of harm and prioritizes the health of the human body and spirit?
When I refer to “the militarization of our lives,” I’m talking about how photographs of the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, could be mistaken for war zones. I’m talking about the reality that in far too many neighborhoods across America, kids can look out their windows and see tanks rolling down the street. I’m talking about the fact that the police can acquire MRAPs, combat gear, and military-grade equipment as if they are on sale at the mall.
We need a narrative shift and we need it now. The antiwar movement must include the constant acknowledgment that war abroad is inherently linked to war at home. Without active resistance to both, violence will continue to inform government responses to conflict across the globe and in our very backyards.
Here are some upcoming actions steps you can take to help fight militarism at home!
Author: Marii Herlinger, WPJC Intern
Students of Western Washington University are calling for an end to the university’s contract with its food vendor Aramark. Beginning with a petition and letter addressed to WWU’s President Sabah Randhawa and Director of University Residences Leonard Jones in May of 2018, students requested that the university move toward a self-operated dining system. The petition, which was drafted by a campus organization by the name of Students for Sustainable Food, garnered more than 1,700 signatures. The momentum, however, did not stop there—the issue gained enough student support to warrant the creation of a separate committee branching off from Students for Sustainable Food: called Shred the Contract.
Supporters of the Shred the Contract movement have cited several reasons for their urgency in dropping Aramark. Most important, as I believe they would concur, is the food vendor’s strong connection to the prison industrial complex. Operating in over 500 prisons across the country, Aramark profits off of the cheap labor found among a disproportionate number of BIPOC* inmates. Those students speaking out against a renewed contract with Aramark understand the need to abolish this system of white supremacy and racist exploitation.
Western’s current contract with Aramark ends in 2021. Students have taken to Red Square with signs and voices of protest this February, and are engaging in university-officiated forums with their sights set on a self-operated dining service to replace Aramark.
As hopeful as 1,700 petition signatures sound, the prison-industrial complex is a deepset institution — it can be difficult to imagine it going away anytime soon. Being only ever one person at a time, we are apt to feel powerless. But I am uplifted by the thought that within our community, young people are recognizing the power they have to demand reform. They are serving up a much-needed reminder that change at a local level is not only possible but crucial in achieving change on a larger scale.
*BIPOC = Black Indigenous People of Color
(Be sure to follow Shred the Contract on Facebook for updates on events and actions.)
Links for more info & action items:
Direct link to the Shred The Contract Petition:
Info alert for last round of university forums (November 2019): https://calendars.wwu.edu/food-justice-forum
Article from The Western Front about the beginning of the Shred the Contract movement:
Community members are encouraged to contact Whatcom County Council members to show support for the Welcoming Refugees Resolution. Members of Amnesty International Group 270 drafted the resolution and spoke in favor of it at the June 18 council meeting. They are now asking for support to get it on the agenda for the July 9 meeting. The agenda comes out next Wednesday, July 3.
“Every day there are more human rights abuses going on that involve refugees,” says Colleen Curtis of AI Group 270. “A resolution will not solve this, and it won't mean the County Council has to incur any costs or other responsibilities, but it's an important statement of support.”
You can view the draft resolution here.
Similar resolutions have been adopted by cities and schools around the country, including Las Vegas and the State of Vermont House of Representatives.
Curtis says that comments or suggestions on the draft are welcome; you can submit them on this contact form: http://amnestyinternational270.weebly.com/contact.html. “Whether or not it ends up being placed on the agenda, I encourage attending the next County Council meeting to show or speak of your support,” she says.
Please call & urge the Whatcom County Council members to address and pass a resolution welcoming refugees:
Letter sent to Whatcom County Council on June 20, World Refugee Day:
We believe our communities should welcome refugees.
We urge the county council to pass a resolution that would be a non- binding declaration of support of refugees, regardless of their religion, race, gender identity, sexual orientation or country of origin. More than 200 communities have already stood up for refugees and asylum seekers.
The society we want to live in is one where we take care of people who need safety. Strong communities help people realize their potential, and welcome others who also want to contribute makes society better for all.
The United States should be the world’s leader in welcoming refugees, but our government has abandoned that leadership. They have decided to meet the world’s worst refugee crisis in recorded time with historically low levels of support. If our national and local officials don’t hear our voices in support of refugees, this will only get worse.
Right now, 25.4 million refugees worldwide are seeking a home, and more than half of them are children. Less than 1% will be resettled each year. Refugees deserve to be welcomed – not demonized. But in the face of the largest refugee crisis in recorded history, the U.S. is closing its doors. The Trump administration capped annual refugee admissions to another historic low of 30,000 refugees this fiscal year, implemented a series of severe restrictions which act as a de facto refugee ban, restricted access to asylum at the southern border for those fleeing violence and persecution, and proposed drastic cuts to funding for refugee programs and humanitarian aid. ICE is currently detaining more than 52,000 people, an all time high. Families continue to be separated from their children, as people are kept in overcrowded and inhumane detention centers.
Seeking asylum is legal under US law, regardless of where or how people enter. The administration’s efforts to curtail access to protection violates both U.S. and international law. People have the right to seek asylum where they feel safe. Refugees leave their homes because they have no other choice, and should be treated with compassion. All countries, including the United States, should protect dignity and fairness, and reject fear and prejudice.
We invite the WPJC community to contribute fact-checked submissions on local, national and global current events. Linking to original sources and articles is required. Submissions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org for review.