Thursday, May 20, 2010

"I'm a criminal"

Lately, I've been telling people that I'm a criminal. This shocks most people, since I don't "look like" one. I'm a fairly clean-cut, light-skinned black woman with fancy degrees from Vanderbilt University and Stanford Law School. I'm a law professor and I once clerked for a U.S. Supreme Court Justice -- not the sort of thing you'd expect a criminal to do.

What'd you get convicted of? people ask. Nothing, I say. Well, then why do you say you're a criminal? Because I am a criminal, I say, just like you.

This is where the conversation gets interesting. Most of my acquaintances don't think of themselves as criminals. No matter what their color, age or gender, most of the people in my neighborhood and in my workplace seem to think criminals exist somewhere else -- in ghettos, mainly.

They have an unspoken, but deeply rooted identity as "law-abiding citizens." I ask them, "Haven't you ever committed a crime?" Oddly, people often seem perplexed by this question. What do you mean? they say. I mean, haven't you ever smoked pot, didn't you ever drink underage, don't you sometimes speed on the freeway, haven't you gotten behind the wheel after having a couple of drinks? Haven't you broken the law?

Well, yeah, they say, but I'm not a criminal. Oh, really? What are you, then? As I see it, you're just somebody who hasn't been caught. You're still a criminal, no better than many of those who've been branded felons for life.

Perhaps there should be a box on the census form that says "I'm a criminal." Everyone who has ever committed a crime would be required to check it. If everyone were forced to acknowledge their own criminality, maybe we, as a nation, would second-guess our apparent zeal for denying full citizenship to those branded felons.

In this country, we force millions of people -- who are largely black and brown -- into a permanent second-class status, simply because they once committed a crime. Once labeled a felon, you are ushered into a parallel social universe. You can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits -- forms of discrimination that we supposedly left behind.

Full piece at: CNN

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Aiyana Jones

she was alive yesterday, 7 years old. she went to bed on a couch in a first floor room with her grandmother last night. in the wee hours of the morning, cops raided her house. a man outside the house shouted that there were kids inside. a man on the second floor of the house was a suspect in the murder of a 17-year-old last Friday.

the police threw a "flash bang" through the front window. it blinded everyone inside; it lit aiyana on fire.

the news reported a tussle with the grandmother, during which the firearm discharged. everyone in the family says there was no tussle, that the grandmother was throwing herself over the baby when aiyana was shot in the head.

what do you call the blinded, terrified groping of a grandmother who knows her grandchildren are in the room, blasted from safety and sleep into chaos and danger, whose granddaughter is on fire? how do you comfort a man like aiyana's father, which was forced to lie face down in his daughter's blood by the same police officers who killed her?
. . .
the police shot and killed aiyana. they shot her in the forehead. her family saw her brain on the couch. by accident, perhaps. which doesn't even matter to a 7-year-old. you don't get let off any hooks for your intentions in this case, officer.

apparently a crew from the television show 48 Hours were with the police during the raid. i can't help but wonder what their footage shows, and if filming for the show had anything to do with the drastic tactics and fatal timing - flash bombing a home in the middle of the night when the women and children are most likely to be home and sleeping.
. . .
why are police officers legally able to use military tactics on a house with children in it on a sunday morning...or any morning, on any house, with anyone in it?
why do the grieving faces of people on this street look so unsurprised?
. . .
to step back from the immediate events is to see what happens in communities who internalize the corporate military worldview that some people are expendable. the way we function as an economy that places profit first is that it's normal for people in uniform to throw bombs into the home of civilians and shoot children.

an economy that valued people first could never justify those tactics.
. . .
we have to demand that police fundamentally shift how they are allowed to function in our communities - they must be disarmed, we must demand they focus their training on the humanity of communities, unlearning these tactics of creating devastation from a safe distance.

More at: Feministing

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ALERT: Reports of FBI Visits Prompt Reminder of Legal Rights

(SANTA CLARA, CA, 5/18/2010) -- The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) said today that CAIR offices nationwide have been receiving an increasing number of reports of FBI agents, along with local law enforcement and Department of Homeland Security officers, visiting and interviewing American Muslims, particularly members of the Pakistani and Yemeni community. Reports received by CAIR-SFBA describe visits by the FBI as "community outreach" visits.

Considering recent events, and the increase in FBI/Joint Terrorism Task Force-related (JTTF, including officers from the Department of Homeland Security and local police or sheriff departments) incidents reported to our office, it is important that Muslims understand their rights when visited by FBI/JTTF at their home or workplace:

1) Understand that your providing information to the FBI or any law enforcement, absent a subpoena, is strictly voluntary. You are not obligated under law to answer any of law enforcement's questions, other than giving your name and sometimes your address.

2) You may choose to have an attorney accompany or represent you for any interview or questioning. We strongly recommend you consult with an attorney regarding the risks and benefits of being interviewed by law enforcement in your specific case. CAIR-SFBA may provide legal assistance, or can refer you to an attorney.

3) If an FBI/JTTF agent shows up at your home or workplace, and they do not have a search or arrest warrant, you have no obligation to let them in.

4) If they do have an arrest or search warrant, you can still exercise your right to remain silent. Comply with all directives and do not physically resist an officer. Be polite and respectful at all times. Remember that you retain the right to remain silent and do not have to comment or respond to any inquiries. You also have the right to an attorney.

5) If an agent or officer says they have some questions for you, you have the right to refuse to speak to them and/or you may tell the agents or officers that you will have your attorney contact them if they wish to speak to you. Again, CAIR-SFBA may provide legal assistance, or can refer you to an attorney.

6) Note that anything you say to an agent or officer can be used against you in a court of law, and lying to an agent or officer is a criminal offense.

7) Should you decide to speak to agents alone despite the risks, note that you may set the conditions of the interview, including choosing when and where the interview is to take place, having a third party present such as a family member or community leader, and deciding what questions to answer, and refusing to sign any documents. You may cancel the interview at any time.

8) Be sure to get the names, agencies, badge numbers, and business cards of ALL agents or officers.

9) Contact your attorney and/or CAIR-SFBA to report the interview/incident and to discuss next steps. If you feel that your civil rights were violated, you may also file a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. CAIR-SFBA can help you with this process.

10) To file a complaint with CAIR-SFBA, please go here: CAIR-SFBA Civil Rights Page


1. "FBI Interview: Knowing the law can protect you," by Ahilan Arulanantham and Ranjana Natarajan. InFocus News.

2. VIDEO: "Got Rights: Protect yourself and your family at home and at the airport," by Muslim Advocates.

3. To file a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, go to:
DOJ Civil Rights Page

American Muslims strongly support law enforcement and the protection of our national security. As Americans, we also value the civil rights of every individual. All Americans have the constitutional right of due process and to be politically active.

If you know of any criminal activity taking place in your community, it is both your religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity to local and federal law enforcement agencies.

[Please note: This above is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Should you have any questions about the material herein or about a specific case, please consult with your attorney.]

CONTACT: CAIR-SFBA, 408.986.9874, E-mail:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Disturbing Police Abuse News

There have been numerous reports of police abuse recently, ranging from Washington to Missouri and now Illinois.

An 18 year-old male was brutally beaten by officers from an Illinois Police Station in retaliation for his mother's attempt to file a complaint against the way her son had been treated. The mother is a Muslim-American woman and wears the Hijab, the traditional Muslim headwear. During the beating, one of the officers yelled at the young man that this was all because of his "Muslim bitch" mother. ADC has been in contact with the Department of Justice and is working with the family to pursue legal remedies.
Source: ADC

Disturbing. Our tax dollars support this form of domestic terrorism.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bad Hotel? Bad Romance?

I can appreciate Lady Gaga in this format. Check it out and remember to double check on the labor conflict status of the hotels you're staying at this summer.

Monday, May 03, 2010

"Diamonds Are Forever But So Are Cockroaches"

"Diamonds are a girl's best friend." Really? Whoever made that statement, had not met this girl. There are two primary diamond criticisms that served as obstacles to my wanting one.

1) "Blood diamonds"
Blood diamonds are also referred to as conflict diamonds. The term is used to describe diamonds that are mined in war zones and are often sold to fund these war efforts. As if that weren't bad enough for a peacenik like myself, there is more. There are also serious allegations that conflict diamonds are mined unethically, which includes concerns of child labor and worker abuse. The solution? The Kimberly Process, maybe. This process was put into place to ensure greater transparency in diamond mining and selling. Ideally, what it would have done was certify diamonds that were mined ethically and outside of conflict zones. Unfortunately, there were holes in the process and there have been numerous allegations about the access to loopholes.

"Some say the Kimberley Process amounted to little more than a public relations stunt for the diamond industry, and recent reports by Global Witness and other NGOs have found little evidence of genuine attempts to deliver on industry commitments."
More at: Global Policy

2) Apartheid Israel
Is there something disconcerting about the fact that the Apartheid State of Israel participates in the Kimberly Process?

Apartheid Israel is one of the leading world producers in cut and polished diamonds, and most customers won't be able to distinguish a diamond cut in Israel versus one cut elsewhere. According to BDS activists, the very same issues "blood diamond" activists are concerned with are happening in Israel as well. Revenues from Israel's diamond industry fund genocide against Palestinians.

"The WDC fails to mention that the much more lucrative, high-value end of the diamond industry is the main artery of the Israeli economy, accounting for more than 30 percent of Israel's total manufacturing exports worth nearly $20 billion in 2008 ("Trade Performance HS: Exports of Israel" accessed 25 March 2010) (See Figures 3 and 4). By comparison, the budget for Israel's Ministry of Defense was $16 billion in 2008."
More at: BDS Movement

So what's a girl to do? What alternatives are there to satisfy one's desire for pretty things, but ensure that we didn't start out on our life together with blood on our hands?

While there are several options available, we chose Moissanite.