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Marissa Alexander: Out of prison, still being punished

As noted yesterday, Marissa Alexander was released from prison yesterday. She has been, however, sentenced to two years’ of house arrest (after having spent three years in prison already), all for the crime of, nine days after having given birth, firing a warning shot at her estranged abusive ex-husband who was threatening to kill her (you can find this info, and the citations, on Wikipedia–I know we’re all pissed at Wikipedia right now, and for good reason, but I don’t see a reason not to trust the article). She had tried to escape through the garage, but the garage door wouldn’t open, at which point she got her gun out of her car and returned to the house, which is when her ex threatened to kill her. Her ex, Rico Gray and his son, who was present, corroborate every bit of this, and other women who have been involved with Gray confirm that he’s an abusive asshole.

Angela Corey’s vendetta, and decision to attempt to go for a sixty year sentence, has been documented already here. Angela Corey feels that Alexander fired the gun “in anger, not fear.” Apparently, if you’re a black woman in Florida, you are not allowed to let anger at being abused and threatened taint your fear of your abuser. Do we need to talk about how this plays into racist tropes of the Angry Black Woman? That what Corey is saying here is that as an Angry Black Woman, Alexander did not have properly ladylike emotions, and therefore should be punished?

Anger is a legitimate response to abuse. This is something I had to reiterate in very different circumstances, when I was running a petition regarding a friend who had been sexually harassed and her attempts at redress. Women are allowed to be angry. Black women are allowed to be angry. A woman can be angry and still need to defend herself.

Under you learn something new every day, I did not know that Alexander is required to pay for the ankle bracelet monitoring her movements and keeping her under house arrest. As the email that was sent to me by Free Marissa Now notes, this bracelet extends state surveillance and control into Alexander’s very home, and forcing her to pay for it is part of the privatization of the prison industry (please see Maya Schwerner’s article for more on the former, and Professor Beth Richie’s piece for more on the latter).

As far as I’m concerned, no matter what pieties the courts may mouth about this, they have no credibility. They have no place sitting in judgment on a woman trying to defend herself in her own home. That’s all I have to say right now. I’d like to find the text of Judge Daniel’s ruling/statement, but no luck so far.

Marissa Alexander released from prison

I have every intention of writing a longer post about this, but today got away from me. I just want to note that Marissa Alexander was released from prison today, and is now under house arrest for two years. More tomorrow, I promise.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

So, today, 1/27, is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and this is the Primo Levi quotation making the rounds on my Twitter feed:

It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.

The Drowned and the Saved

Nowhere is so “civilized” that its people can’t descend into rabid genocide; Until the Holocaust, Germany had won renown for the “German-Jewish symbiosis,” the way Germany and its Jews had created culture and lived together.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about group membership and intergenerational trauma. My family has been in the US for over 100 years; I’m the…fifth fourth generation born in the US on my mother’s side, and the fourth third on my father’s. Here are some quotations from my family:

My grandmother, to my mother when she was a little girl: “Remember, if you ever have to flee, Ireland has never persecuted its Jews.” (What they didn’t know at the time was that Eamon de Valera saw the Nazis as kindred spirits, nationalists trying to claim Germany for Germans, and refused to take in any Jewish refugees post-war, even while granting asylum to highly placed Nazis. This came out a few years back.)

My mother, to me, when I was a little girl. We were getting our passports renewed, and I had asked if we were going somewhere. When my mother said no, I asked why we were bothering, then: “We’re Jews, so we always have to be ready to flee.” To this day, I keep my passport in my purse at all times.

My mother, to me, more recently. We had been discussing Israel. I had been raised as anti-Zionist as it is possible to me and my mother was now expressing some ambivalence over that: “The Holocaust ended five years before I was born. Am I just supposed to take on faith that it can’t happen again?”

My therapist, a Jewish woman of my mother’s generation. I had been talking about this statement of my mother’s, and mentioned that even if I ever had to flee to Israel, I doubted they would take me, because I don’t have any paperwork proving I’m Jewish. I would have to get my great-grandmother’s burial records, my grandmother’s birth and marriage certificate, my mother’s birth and marriage certificate, and my birth certificate, and what were the odds that I was going to be able to pull all those together as I was fleeing?: “You should start getting them together now, so you have them ready. Just in case.”

My father: “Never miss the opportunity to kill a (neo-)Nazi. Because they’d do the same to you.”

Not one of these people was joking, even half-way.

I can’t speak about my therapist’s family, but I know for a fact that nobody in my family has suffered significant trauma due to anti-Semitism since my great-grandparents’ generation. Sure, individual incidents here and there–my first significant boyfriend lied to his grandfather about my being Jewish and during the ensuing fight, compared my being Jewish to his cousin’s cocaine problem and said his grandfather was an old man who “shouldn’t have to worry” about the possibility of his great-grandchildren being Jewish–but nothing on a life-choices-abridging institutional level, as far as I know, since leaving Eastern Europe (good call, (great-)great-grandparents, and I’m very grateful). These comments are all about group membership, group trauma, and intergenerational memory.

What I’m saying is that I’ve long suspected that the effects of group trauma last a long time. It’s well established that trauma can be conveyed unto a second generation (the best analogy I ever heard was that it’s like growing up in a house where for years before you were born, there was a giant hole in the porch that nobody had money to fix. Then they finally fix it, but everyone is so used to walking around the space where the hole was that they keep on doing it, and you do it too, because that’s how everyone walks, and you never even know the reason why. I think about this a lot when I have reactions that seem more appropriate to my mother given her childhood experiences than me.). But I was fascinated by this article outlining work being done on the cumulative effects of generation upon generation of trauma. I was less convinced by its use of African-Americans and Native Americans as examples, because those groups are still living in an ongoing traumatic situation–it’s less convincing to me. But when it comes to Jews in the US…I can’t help but wonder if this is why we’re all so fantastically neurotic. I’m a little facetious here, but only a little. My family, my friends–we’re all a bunch of anxious, depressive neurotics. Is this the after-effects of generation upon generation of violent trauma, of not being able to feel or be safe anywhere? I don’t know. But I found the article really suggestive.

And yet…as the article itself says, there’s a very bad history to locating the cause of injuries in the injured person rather than in the experience of injury. The idea that some people are just more predisposed to misery and that’s that, rather than spurring medical interventions, has all too often been used as an excuse for luckier people to shrug their shoulders and reassure themselves that they deserve their place at the top of the heap. Or sometimes it’s spurred horrific medical interventions. I don’t want to open the door to that sort of thing. On the other hand, I think it speaks to the power of repeated group trauma that it may be able to imprint itself on the biology of those three or four generations later, and give us all the more reason to fight against such horrors. I don’t know.


Radical Brownies

It can seem like right-wingers in the US are spoiled for choice when it comes to youth- and family-groups, and that those of us on the left can have a harder time connecting with others who have shared values. How can we free radicals find extra-curricular activities and groups for our kids that will help us combat so much of the miseducation coming out of mainstream education (I’m thinking of textbooks that have banned mention of Thomas Jefferson because his writing was too radical–I’m guessing Tom Paine, the only “founding father” not to own slaves is simply beyond the pale of consideration; I’m thinking of Thanksgiving and the way our schools gloss over the US’s treatment of Native Americans when it bothers to mention them at all)? My mother felt on her own with me, and took it on herself to educate me–she was also a stay-at-home mom at the time. My parents sent my sister to a socialist sleepaway camp called Camp Kinderland, founded by Jewish socialists near the beginning of the 20th century.

Now Anayvette Martinez, a community organizer in Oakland, CA has established another way to help children learn and grow in community with fellow left activists, the Radical Brownies. Not actually affiliated with the Girl Scouts, the Radical Brownies. A friend of mine on Twitter linked to this article about them, which tells us that this organization, open to girls of color ages 8-12, offers badges in “Radical Beauty,” “LGBT ally,” (I’m not sure why “ally”; perhaps so as not to pressure girls who might not be ready to come out?) and “Black Lives Matter.” They talk about political issues relevant to their daily lives, such as beauty ideals and pressures, and they learn about radical history, such as the stories of the Black Panthers and the Brown Berets, a Chicano rights group active in Chicago at around the same time. According to the news stories, their berets are brown as a tip of the hat (you see what I did there? I’m so clever.) to those two groups.

The plan is to expand to chapters across the nation, eventually opening membership to young white girls as well, while continuing the center the experiences, issues, and needs of girls of color. If my future child is a girl, and they open to white girls by the time she is eight, I can guarantee at least one New York City member. This photograph is particular does my heart good.

Whitney Plantation: Memorial to those who were Enslaved

Content note: slavery, racism

When I saw a news story about the Whitney Plantation, I was reminded of the conversation we had here about Ani DiFranco’s obnoxious and ill-conceived idea to have a retreat at a plantation, about how, if at all, a plantation could be used as a proper memorial to the black slaves on whose suffering such places depended upon. It seems that John Cummings has spent years in an effort to do just that. The website has not only pictures but links to various news articles about the restoration and Cummings’s decision to make this museum as a memorial/tribute to those who were enslaved.

From what I can tell, the museum’s admission and tours are free–no fees are listed on the website, and apparently Cummings’s is wealthy enough that he wouldn’t need to charge admission anyway. The articles are a little over-focused on the heroism of the white man in charge and not as much on the black scholars whose work inspired him and with whom he worked for my taste, but I’m guessing that’s not the museum’s fault.

What do you all think? Did Cummings do well? I was quite moved by many of the photographs, particularly those of the infants’ memorial and the wall dedicated to memorializing the slaves by name and I think that incorporating recordings of slaves’ own narratives of their lives was a vital step, to allow people so often silenced to speak for themselves. Apparently Cummings is also working with scholars to produce a database that would aid African-Americans in genealogy research. But I’ve been wrong before. I’m interested to hear the opinions of others here.