Oct 25 2015

#SurvivedandPunished: Criminalizing Survivors of Violence

It’s domestic violence awareness month. I’ve been wanting to write about this all month. Sadly, between work and life, I’ve had little time to post regularly. I hope that 2016 will allow me to do so more consistently.

As some of you know, I was a co-founder and co-organizer of the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander (CAFMA). CAFMA has become Love and Protect. The mission of Love and Protect is to “support those who identify as women and gender non-conforming persons of color who are criminalized or harmed by state and interpersonal violence.”

This month, in partnership with other defense committees and organizations, Love and Protect launched a project called #SurvivedandPunished.


#SurvivedandPunished released its vision statement last week. I am republishing it below:

For many survivors, the experiences of domestic violence, rape, and other forms of gender violence are bound up with systems of incarceration and police violence. According to the ACLU, nearly 60% of people in women’s prison nationwide, and as many as 94% of some women’s prison populations, have a history of physical or sexual abuse before being incarcerated. Once incarcerated or detained, many women (including trans women) and trans & gender non-conforming people experience sexual violence from guards and others. Being controlled by police, prosecutors, judges, immigration enforcement, homeland security, detention centers, and prisons is often integrated with the experience of domestic violence and sexual assault. This is especially true for Black, Native, and immigrant survivors. The Survived And Punished Project demands the immediate release of survivors of domestic and sexual violence and other forms of gender violence who are imprisoned for survival actions, including: self-defense, “failure to protect,” migration, removing children from abusive people, being coerced into acting as an “accomplice,” and securing resources needed to live. Furthermore, we demand that these same survivors are swiftly reunified with their families.

Our coalition of freedom campaigns and organizations believes that policing, immigration enforcement and the prison industrial complex are violent institutions that primarily target poor communities of color. They are fundamentally racist, anti-family, anti-trans/queer, anti-woman, anti-Black, anti-Native, anti-poor and anti-immigrant. Black women are constantly policed, controlled, and dehumanized by these systems. Immigrant and refugee survivors face constant threat of detention and deportation. Native women’s high rates of incarceration are part of the colonial conditions of ongoing gender violence waged against them. Trans women, trans, & gender non-conforming people are violently profiled and targeted by police officers and prison guards. All are threatened with being separated from their children and families. Poverty, which disproportionately impacts communities of color and trans/queer communities, renders survivors even more vulnerable to all forms of violence, including police violence and imprisonment. It is in this context that self-defense and other survival actions are often criminalized.


In the face of epidemic rates of domestic and sexual violence, anti-violence advocates have partnered with police and district attorneys to try to find protection for survivors, and to institutionalize gender violence as a “crime.” However, this pro-criminalization approach to addressing violence has created a racial divide between “good victims” and non-victim “criminals.” A “good victim” is one who readily accesses and cooperates with the criminal legal system in order to prosecute and incarcerate their batterer or rapist. But when a survivor of sexual or domestic violence is only supported when seen as a “victim of crime,” survivors who are already criminalized are not recognized as people in need of support and advocacy. Survivors are criminalized for being Black, undocumented, poor, transgender, queer, disabled, women or girls of color, in the sex industry, or for having a past “criminal record.” Their experience of violence is diminished, distorted, or disappeared, and they are instead simply seen as criminals who should be punished. They face hostility from police, prosecutors and judges, and they are often denied the support “good victims” receive from anti-violence advocates. These “criminal” survivors are then particularly vulnerable when racist pro-criminalization policies (such as mandatory minimums, the war on drugs, “Felons not Families” deportation enforcement, and increased police authority) are waged against our communities because those policies facilitate and reinforce domestic and sexual violence. For example:

Marissa Alexander defended her life from her abusive husband by firing one warning shot that caused no physical harm. She was targeted by a racist smear campaign by Florida State Attorney Angela Corey designed to frame her as an “angry black woman,” but never as a victim of domestic violence. She was prosecuted and sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison.

When Marcela Rodriguez called the police during a domestic violence incident, the police came, arrested her, and turned her over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which detained her and forced her into deportation proceedings.

Nan-Hui Jo fled her abusive American citizen partner with her child to seek safety for her and her young daughter. She was then arrested for child abduction, and the district attorney who prosecuted her tried to portray her as a manipulative illegal immigrant seeking to cheat U.S. systems, calling her a “tiger mom” who was too competent to be a victim.

The New Jersey 4 were called a “killer lesbian gang” by both prosecutors and media after they defended themselves against racist, misogynistic and homophobic sexual violence in a gentrified neighborhood.

Ky Peterson was told that he, as a transman, was not a “believable victim” of rape after defending himself against a brutal sexual assault, and he was bullied into signing a “plea deal” of 20 years in prison.

All of these survivors of violence were prosecuted using racist, sexist, anti-trans/queer and classist logic. Many were prosecuted by using policies that target poor communities of color, and many did not receive support from anti-violence organizations. The same system that criminalizes, re-traumatizes and further abuses victims is also the one that the anti-violence movement entrusts and authorizes to protect survivors and create safety. The institutionalization of this racialized “good victim/criminal” dichotomy has left a huge portion of survivors, overwhelmingly Black women, unsupported and unaccounted for by the anti-violence movement.


We affirm the lives and self-determination of all survivors of domestic and sexual violence. We endorse efforts to abolish these anti-survivor systems and create new approaches that prioritize accountable, community-based responses to domestic and sexual violence. Knowing that abuse and incarceration are both meant to isolate and diminish the person, we hope for more restorative resources and options for survivors. We must organize for a world in which survivors are always supported by their communities. We look forward to the day when survivors do not have to resort to calling 9-1-1, anonymous hotlines, restrictive shelters far from home, and broken legal systems in their attempts to find support. We reject false dichotomies of “good victim/prisoner/immigrant” and “bad victim/prisoner/immigrant” that individualize the problems of domestic and sexual violence, and choose to instead target the systemic issues that further facilitate abuse. We focus on survivors because we want to highlight the specific pipeline between surviving sexual and domestic violence and being arrested, locked up, and/or deported.

We call for the anti-domestic violence and anti-rape movements to seriously contend with how their enmeshed relationships with prosecutors and police limits the ability to see criminalized victims as deserving of resources and advocacy, undermining their safety and well-being. We call for racial justice and migrant justice movements organizing against the violence of policing, immigration enforcement, and prisons to consistently highlight survivors of gender violence in political analysis and strategies. We call for your fearless support of survivors who live within the intersection of gender violence and criminalization. They need and deserve our solidarity.

Sep 16 2015

Guest Post: “You Ain’t Shit” Says Cop to Young Person

In light of the story of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14 year old boy in Texas who was arrested for bringing a clock to school that administrators mistook for a bomb, I wanted to share this a post by my friend Pidgeon Pagonis written last year. It underscores the routine criminalization of young people of color in our public schools. Pidgeon is an intersex activist, lecturer & consultant. For more information about them, visit their site.


Last Wednesday I was in a Chicago Public High School (CPS) recruiting youth in the cafeteria for an after school program centered around teen dating violence prevention and social justice. Undergrads from a local University are paired with high school students for 2/3 of the school year and culminates with an end of the year community project where the youth share back what they’ve learned with their people. Throughout the year, we investigate oppression, racism, classism, sexism, ableism, masculinity, healthy relationships, sexuality and the list continues. You get it.

So, like I said, I was handing out flyers in the cafeteria of a high school on the city’s southwest side. The immediate neighborhood has houses that are all tidy and kept up and the school is all nice looking.

Anyways, I met with the school counselors, representatives from a local large “family services” org, the student advocate/dean (due to budgeting, he’s both) and some other folks that deal with student activities. I asked them about their sense of dating violence in the school and they said “There hasn’t been none of that in about 3 years…” They looked at each other and all sorta shook their heads in agreement. They told me that all the “bad kids” are gone and I wouldn’t have to worry bout that. “Where did they go?” I asked? “Dead, transferred out, or just gone,” was his response. “The problems we have now are kids being lazy or making out in the hallways. That’s what you can help them with. You can probably open this door right now and see some of that in the hallway.” They all “um-hmm’d” at the same time and it was a consensus. All the bad kids are gone, and the ones left make out too much.

This was my first day there so I didn’t say much. I was just there to ask questions, listen, and get our program’s foot in the door.

Fast forward to the following week (last Weds.). So, I was standing in a cafeteria of a strange new high school. All my insecurities and fears came back like it was my first day in that new school I had to go to in 5th grade. I haven’t been in a high school cafeteria since before I started getting gray hairs…

So like I said, I was recruiting. I was looking cute. Feeling brave. My undergraduate interns were scattered across the cafeteria handing out flyers and information about the after school program and some were stationed at our table. I walked over to a table of 2 students and handed them 2 flyers. I started talking about why our program is badass and necessary. Just as I started to say, “the program looks at violence in dating relationships and tries to empower young people to…”, I heard a student about 20 yards away from me that had just been thrown up into the cafeteria wall by a cop. The young person was almost a foot shorter than the cop and the cop was decked out in his uniform, vest, gun, night stick, tazer, etc. The cop repeatedly threw the kid in the wall and chest bumped him over and over again. The young person repeatedly tried to maintain his balance and defend himself, but the cop was winning this battle.

Before I knew it, my feet were carrying me over to the cop and the young person. I started yelling at the cop “STOP TREATING HIM LIKE THAT?! STOP TALKING TO HIM LIKE THAT!!” The cop at this point was yelling in the kids face, “YOU AIN’T SHIT. FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU! YOU AIN’T SHIT” while spit flew from his mouth into the young person’s face. The young person responded back the best he could with his own round of “Fuck You’s”—but really it was a futile attempt to reclaim a bit of his dignity in a manufactured situation where his power had already been stripped from him the minute he walked through those metal detectors that morning. The cop looked as if he was about to break his arm over his head and eventually handcuffed him and pushed him out.

I immediately saw the people I had met the previous week. I looked at the “student advocate/dean” and pleaded with him and he just said, “that’s just the way it is.” I then looked at my contact from the “family services” program and he just shrugged as well. Everyone went back to eating and functioning as if what had just happened was normal. It was normal. It is normal for our kids everyday. I went back to the table that I had previously been recruiting at and asked if that was a normal occurrence. They said, “not really, but to the black kids—it is.” And they say young girls are falling behind in the sciences…that was some participant observation if I ever saw it.

I continued my recruiting until the last lunch bell rang. Then I headed out of the school with my team of interns and we debriefed on the train. We shared with each other how in just a little over an hour we had each heard some heavy stuff from the teens. One person told us that she was kicked out a year before and now lived with her boyfriend who she was engaged to. She also shared with us that she was selling cigarettes saying, “I gotta pay rent.” Another student told us she had a seizure after getting in fight the prior week with her boyfriend who I’ll call “Nick”. Screen printed on her shirt were the words, “Nick’s Keeper.” Multiple students told me that she was abusive towards “Nick” and one even told me “She’s the man in the relationship.” When I pushed back and asked her if she believes men beat their girlfriends, she just kinda smiled and said “I don’t know.” I told her to come to the after school program so we could talk about it. She asked if she would be able to see “college boys” if she joined, and I said “yes”— to which she started screaming and signed up right a way. Another student at that table that had signed up to come to the program had ‘Chi-Raq” tattoed across his neck. He spoke very softly and said he really wanted to come to the program. Another girl, who was pregnant, told us she would come if “this didn’t get in the way” and by this, she meant her soon to be born baby. We heard so much in so little time. It triggered me into remembering the school officials telling me the week before that dating violence hadn’t been an issue in the school in “over 3 years.”

As we begin the program this week I will start to ask the youth questions about what they think are the biggest injustices going on in their community. I will work with the interns to create an environment that taps into their own curiosity and observations about what’s going on in their school to hopefully inspire them to reach out to fellow students with surveys about violence. Then, I hope they can turn around and share their youth led research results with their administration. Maybe we can also work together to create digital storytelling pieces that allow their voices to come together as a unified story that can be shared with the world.

One of my interns who graduated from a nearby CPS high school. He said that when he saw what happened earlier in the day with the cop and the kid—he just brushed it off as normal. He was desensitized to it because it’s what he grew up seeing all the time in his own high school’s cafeteria. He said that he no longer feels like it’s okay for cops to treat kids like that. He said he feels his ideas changing now.

If you have any ideas about how to do this work with youth please share your thoughts. My views do not represent the views of the program, university or high school that I work with.

MLK said he had a dream that one day his children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. We ain’t there yet.

Aug 12 2015

“The Outrage in North Carolina:” The Savage Brutalization of Phillis

When I was creating the No Selves to Defend exhibition last year, I knew that it would have two anchors: the stories of Celia and of Marissa Alexander. As I began to conceptualize a new exhibition about Black women and state violence (with several friends), I remembered the story of Phillis, a newly emancipated young Black woman. I knew that she would be an anchor of ‘Blood at the Root.’

Harper’s Weekly described how Phillis was brutally and savagely beaten by a group of men in North Carolina in 1867.

Harper’s Weekly, September 14, 1867 (From My Collection)

Harper’s Weekly, September 14, 1867 (From My Collection)

Below is an excerpt from the Harper’s story tiled “The Outrage in North Carolina.” TW: It is very difficult to read.

“There has been no minor incident of late occurrence at the South which has caused a more general expression of indignation throughout the country than the whipping inflicted by a set of ruffians in North Carolina on a poor, defenseless, colored girl who had fallen into their power. No single act of inhumanity has more clearly indicated the animosity yet existing in Southern hearts against the former slaves; or shown how unwise it would be to trust the government of these people in the hands of their former masters.

The order of General Daniel E. Sickles approving the sentences inflicted on the perpetrators of the outrage, reviews the evidence and furnishes the following history of the affair. The General says:

“The evidence in the foregoing cases discloses a deed of lawless and inhuman violence. It appears that the daughter of one of the prisoners, having attempted to beat a young colored girl, met with resistance which became successful, and resulted in the chastisement of the white by the black. This unlooked-for reversal of a long-accustomed relation filled the neighborhood with consternation and rage. Couriers passed to and fro from farm to farm inflaming the temper of the people, and concerting measures to produce terror among the negroes. A meeting of citizens convened at a school-house near the residence of the parties. The accused were among those assembled. The magistrate, Jenkins, was invited to lend the sanction of his presence, and did so. Phillis, the young freedwoman, was sent for. Dragged before the self-constituted conclave of angry men, whom she had been accustomed since infancy to call masters, some of whom she now heard urging her incarceration, while one swore she should be hung, and all agreed she must be imprisoned and whipped, the frightened girl exclaimed that she had rather be whipped than go to jail. This was taken as the expression of assent which they desired. Some sort of writing was drawn up, called an indenture, by which Phillis having signed it, was made to bind herself as apprentice to one Mrs. Harmon, who thereupon consented that her so-called ward should be flogged. Quite enough was thought to have been thus conceded to the mockery of legal formalities, and the impatient assemblage, consisting of all the prisoners who have been convicted except the magistrate, hastened to execute the penalty awarded.

Phillis was conducted into an adjacent wood, where, at a spot some sixty yards remote from any road, she was halted and told to take down her dress. She not obeying with alacrity, one of the prisoners snatched it off her shoulders. Stripped to her waist, except of her chemise, she was then whipped by five of these men in succession, by whom, according to the testimony of one of them, one hundred and twenty-six (126) lashes were inflicted upon her half-naked body with rods three feet long and one-half to three-eighths of an inch thick. Her garment was cut through and through; blood run from the wales raised on her lacerated back; one gash in her flesh three days after showed four inches in length; the heavy blows fell upon her person at random; she was pushed, she was pulled, she was kicked in the abdomen; till at last it seems that one of the accused, an applauding by-stander, not utterly insensible to the sufferings and the sex of the wretched victim, was so far touched by the spectacle of her torture that the cry was wrung from him: ‘Boys don’t hurt her breast!’

Having satiated their savage vengeance, her tormentors, fatigued by their exertions, withdrew: not, however, without considering the proposal of one of the number to return and give her ten more lashes each to stop her screaming. Finally the poor child, wounded and groaning, was permitted to make her way to the house of her mistress, where for days she suffered, scarcely able to crawl to her unremitted task, or even to wear her clothes without pain.

In the revolting crime thus briefly outlined all of these prisoners are shown to have been eager participants. In the interest of outraged justice it is to be deplored that the perpetrators have been adjudged to undergo punishment so inadequate to the enormity of their offense.”

The sentences were as follow: Jenkins, the magistrate who authorized the whipping, was removed from his office, fined $25, and confined at hard labor for one month; Dunning, Cook and James and John Early were confined for two months at hard labor and fined $25 each; the other guilty participant, George Mitchell, was fined heavily and imprisoned for three months, the common jail at Plymouth, North Carolina, being designated as the place of confinement.

Phillis’s story is remarkable for two reasons: 1. it was published in a popular newspaper; 2. the men who were responsible for her savage assault were actually made accountable in some way.

On Friday, Blood at the Root will open. I hope that you will come out to see the exhibition. You’ll get to see an original copy of the newspaper article about Phyllis and much more. RSVP HERE.

Jun 01 2015

Chicago Youth Try to Make Sense of Violence

Once again, the conversation about interpersonal violence in Chicago has turned into a debate about the moniker of “Chiraq.” Spike Lee is making a film called “Chiraq” and this has sparked editorials and endless commentary. I’ve received some calls from the press asking for my opinion. Since I’ve already discussed this issue ad nauseum, I’ve declined to offer more words.

Young people in Chicago have been commenting on the violence that they experience for years. They have been making art about that violence too. Recently, my friend Daphne, a Chicago Public School teacher, worked with her students on a series of audio and visual pieces about interpersonal violence. One video that was entirely shot, edited and produced by some of her students is below.

In a community-based program at the YMCA, one of my colleagues helped young people produce a series of audio stories about their experiences of violence. You can listen to all of them below:

One particular story about the trauma caused by interpersonal violence really stood out to me.

May 11 2015

Image of the Day…

photo from the Manifest Justice exhibition  credit Gary Schmitt

photo from the Manifest Justice exhibition
credit Gary Schmitt

Details about Manifest Justice here.

May 07 2015

Police Torture, Reparations and Echoes from the ‘House of Screams’

photo by Kelly Hayes (5/6/14)

photo by Kelly Hayes (5/6/14)

Yesterday, the Chicago City Council passed historic legislation to provide reparations for Burge police torture survivors. The package that was approved includes:

“a formal apology for the torture; specialized counseling services to the Burge torture survivors and their family members on the South Side; free enrollment and job training in City Colleges for survivors and family members (including grandchildren) as well as prioritized access to other City programs, including help with housing, transportation and senior care; a history lesson about the Burge torture cases taught in Chicago Public schools to 8th and 10th graders; the construction of a permanent public memorial to the survivors; and it sets aside $5.5 million for a Reparations Fund for Burge Torture Victims that will allow the survivors with us today to receive financial compensation for the torture they endured.”

Chicago is the first municipality in the U.S. to legislate reparations for survivors and victims of racist police violence. This victory was an improbable one. In his book “Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People” published in 2000, journalist John Conroy offered a bleak assessment of the city’s response to allegations about Burge and his henchmen’s torture:

“The citizens of Chicago were unmoved. The clergy showed no leadership; with the exception of a few mostly low-ranking ministers, religious officials were silent. In the absence of any clamor, politicians showed no interest. Reporters, hearing no complaint, conducted no investigations, and editorial writers launched no crusades. State and federal prosecutors, feeling no pressure from the press or the public, hearing no moral commentary from the religious quarter, prosecuted no one. Judges, seeing no officer indicted and hearing no officer speak against his comrades, could therefore comfortably dismiss claims of torture, and with few exceptions, they did.

I found I did not have to journey far to learn that torture is something we abhor only when it is done to someone we like, preferably someone we like who lives in another country (p. 240).”

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (5/6/15)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (5/6/15)

Fifteen years later, I listened from the third floor of City Hall as the Mayor and members of the City Council apologized for the torture endured by over 118 Black people at the hands of Burge and his henchmen. It was a miraculous moment.

What changed between Conroy’s description of an apathetic public response to allegations of Burge’s torture and yesterday’s Council vote on reparations? I actually think that Conroy was too dismissive of the organizing that took place in the 1990s. He thought that the protests were mostly insignificant and small. It’s a reminder, I think, that our perspectives on historical moments that we inhabit can sometimes be myopic. Conroy could not have known that the organizing in the 90s would serve as a foundation and a road map for efforts into the future. He was right that the political class, the 4th estate and most of the public were generally apathetic about the allegations of police torture. But I think that he also underestimated the importance of the sustained resistance led by groups like Citizens Alert, Black People Against Torture, the People’s Law Office and more. There were small victories along the way. Our historic achievement yesterday is owed to those hard-fought wins. The organizing and activism that began in the late 80s took the form of protests, advocacy, litigation, and storytelling (including Conroy’s powerful investigative journalism). Struggle and organizing matter. Change is too often slow. But sometimes we do win.

I became immersed in the Burge reparations campaign last Fall. Over the past six months, a coalition of individuals and groups organized tirelessly to pass this legislation. We held rallies, sing ins, marches, light actions, train takeovers, exhibition-ins, and more. The price of being immersed in this struggle is to be a witness to unspeakable acts of cruelty committed against other human beings. Burge and his fellow police officers electrocuted, beat, suffocated and generally tortured dozens of people over two decades. The rooms where Commander Jon Burge and his fellow officers tortured and forced confessions from suspects were called the “House[s] of Screams.” Those screams echoed in my head yesterday as I heard the Chicago City Council vote on the reparations legislation for survivors of Burge’s torture. Slowly those screams became whispers: thank you for believing us and for refusing to forget, they seemed to say.

To focus on such harms is painful and can lead to despair. Yet by organizing for some justice for torture survivors, I’ve seen and experienced incredible kindness, selflessness and compassion. This is what sustains my hope. I’m convinced that injustice and oppression will not have the last word. Last night, I attended a gathering of friends and comrades who have in their own ways contributed to this struggle. Some have spent the better part of 3 decades fighting to bring some justice to the torture survivors. I was asked to say a few words and I had difficulty expressing my feelings and thoughts. As I reached for my words, I was overcome at seeing the now old Black men standing before me. A couple had been brutalized in the early 1970s. I wasn’t eloquent last night but my words were heartfelt. I held it together but when I got home, I cried. They were tears of relief, gratitude, and most of all of love.

There will be time in the coming days and weeks to reflect and to find my words. But for today, let it be known that here in Chicago, we were determined not to forget the atrocities committed in our names by the police. We resisted the violence of fading memories and fought to preserve the knowledge of atrocities for which we all bear some responsibility. We struggled with survivors of torture and yesterday, we won.

May 05 2015

Some Words About Genocide by Ossie Davis

The 1970 edition of the “We Charge Genocide” petition included a preface by Ossie Davis. I recently re-read it and there was much that resonated with me. I’ve decided to re-publish his words not because I agree with every point that he makes or with all of the analysis but because I think that the essay echoes in our current historical moment. I’ve re-typed it faithfully.

Preface by Ossie Davis

by Micah Bazant (2015)

by Micah Bazant (2015)

This is not the first time the black people of the United States have issued a warning. W.E.B. Du Bois himself said it plain in 1900: “The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.”

We say again, now: We will submit no further to the brutal indignities being practiced against us; we will not be intimidated, and most certainly not eliminated. We claim the ancient right of all peoples, not only to survive unhindered, but also to participate as equals in man’s inheritance here on earth. We fight to preserve ourselves, to see that the treasured ways of our life-in-common are not destroyed by brutal men or heedless institutions.

We Charge Genocide! indeed we do, for we would save ourselves and our children. History has taught us prudence — we do not need to wait until the Dachaus and Belsens and the Buchenwalds are built to know that we are dying. We live with death and it is ours; death not so obvious as Hitler’s ovens — not yet. But who can tell?

Black men were brought to this country to serve an economy which needed our labor. And even when slavery was over, there was still a need for us in the American economy as cheap labor. We picked the cotton, dug the ditches, shined the shoes, swept the floors, hustled the baggage, washed the clothes, cleaned the toilets — we did the dirty work for all America — that was our place, the place where the American economy needed us to be.

As long as we stayed in that place — there at the bottom — we were welcomed to love and work in America. The murder practiced against us then was partial and selective. A limited genocide meant not so much to exterminate us — America still had a job for “good niggers” to do — as to warn us, to correct us, to use those of us who would not submit as examples of what could happen to the rest of us. Those who objected to being kept in their “place” at the bottom were beaten or killed for being uppity. Those who challenged our racist overlords, claiming for themselves and for us our rights as men and as citizens, were burned for being insolent; lynched to teach the rest of us always to stay in our “place.”

But a revolution of profoundest import is taking place in America. Every year our economy produces more and more goods and services with fewer and fewer men. Hard, unskilled work — the kind nobody else wanted, that made us so welcome in America, the kind of work that we “niggers” have always done — is fast disappearing. Even in the South — in Mississippi for example — 95 per cent and more of the cotton is picked by machine. And in the North as I write this, more than 30 per cent of black teenage youth is unemployed.

The point I am getting to is that for the first time, black labor is expendable, the American economy does not need it any more. What will a racist society do to a subject population for which it no longer has any use? Will America, in a sudden gush of reason, good conscience, and common sense reorder her priorities? — revamp her institutions, clean them of racism so that blacks and Puerto Ricans and American Indians and Mexican Americans can be and will be fully and meanfully included on an equal basis?

Or, will America, grown meaner and more desperate as she confronts the just demands of her clamorous outcasts, choose genocide? America, of course, is not an abstraction; America is people, America is you and me. America will choose in the final analysis as we choose: to build a world of racial and social justice for each and for all; or to try the fascist alternative — a deliberate policy on a mass scale, of practices she already knows too well, of murderous skills she sharpens each day in Vietnam, of genocide, and final, mutual death.

We Charge Genocide — not only of the past but of the future. And we swear: it must not, it shall not, it will not happen to our people.

August 17, 1970.