All posts by Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: Quick Hits Part 2

Brookins Head Shot*There are plenty of reasons not to like Hillary Clinton as a potential president; plenty of reasons not to vote for her.

You might disagree with any one of her political stances from abortion rights to the importance of labor unions. But how she handles her email should not be on the list. As president there would probably a dozen checks on anything she did so digital security is the least of her issues.

So you think racism is no longer a problem in the United States? My local paper ran a headline with pictures of the alleged perpetrators regarding $250 worth of credit card fraud. Undoubtedly someone was unhappy about having to call their credit card company and dispute charges. Certainly the credit card company was unhappy about paying for something that their client didn’t really buy. But this isn’t the kind of crime that deserves the front page of the newspaper. Nor is it the kind of crime that warrants placing photographs of the alleged (not convicted) criminals on the front page. But the people charged were black so of course their pictures were on the front page.

My brothers and I love each other. But we are distinct people; I cannot claim my opinions reflect their mindset. So to disqualify Jeb for political positions and actions his brother or father took would be silly. Because, again, there is enough information about his own views to either merit your vote or not.

I’m not sure if Rachel Dolezal deserves credit for living as a black person or derision. But I do know if was unnecessary. There are just too many other ways to promote racial equality.

We just had a horse racing triple crown winner and outside of a few hours nobody in the sports world really cared. On the national landscape at large it was a non-story. When horseracing became established as a big deal during the late 19th century when most people owned horses, knew about horses, and it mattered that my horse was bigger, better, and/or faster than your horse. This hasn’t been the case in at least two generations. NASCAR on the other hand has been steadily rising in the sports and national pictures. For the exact same reasoning.

So you think sexism is no longer a problem in the United States? Chloe Cross highlighted the fact that dress codes for high school students frequently prohibits female students more than male students. Because we as a society A. refuse to normalize women’s breasts/bodies and continue to regard them as taboo and B. refuse to acknowledge that men and boys are able to control themselves when confronted with women’s breasts/bodies. Cross’ school made her change her clothes on multiple days because what she was wearing was deemed to be distracting to other students (boys). I like women, women’s bodies, and women’s breasts. But I don’t stop functioning when I see any of those three things. I’m not the exception either. We as men should be held to a higher standard than we currently are.

I won’t pretend to understand all of the computer science and technology behind the case. But a serious precedent was set by the federal government recently when an individual was convicted because of a search that was conducted illegally in another country. The government didn’t argue that they had probable cause or that a crime was imminent. No they simply searched private areas of a server and found evidence. Granted they may have prevented some serious drug trafficking from happening but I’m not sure that as a society we should co-sign what happened to Ross Ulbricht. At some point we have to be able to say private is private. Isn’t that why everyone was so up in arms over the PATRIOT Act?

When teachers at Sulphur Springs Middle School in Carrollton, Texas gave out ghetto awards either they were making light of the situation that the students were/are in or they were saying the students should aspire to being ghetto. Neither of these ideas is okay.

So you still think sexism is no longer a problem in the United States? Why are there so many problems with women breastfeeding in public? Only because we refuse to see women’s bodies in the same light as men’s bodies.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

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The Socialist’s Journal: Supremacists

Brookins Head Shot*Chris Rock has a bit in one of his comedy specials about how it’s okay if fat women talk about skinny women, or how short men can talk about tall men. But the reverse is not acceptable; it’s just mean.

The underlying concept is that it is understood that society values skinny women and tall men more. There have been studies that show attractive people gain advantages over those considered ugly and our society finds skinny women and tall men more attractive, thus their higher value.

Of course Rock was pointing this out for laughs but the idea is valid. Certain groups in society have been put in a better position to succeed historically, and even today some of the remnants of racial, sexual, and religious prejudices remain. There is a reason Mitt Romney had to address his Mormonism and reassure everyone that his faith was not going to be an issue if he were elected president.

The difference between white supremacists and black supremacists is illustrative of this idea. Anyone who professes that society should privilege one racial group over another should be monitored. And anyone who professes a willingness to perpetrate violence to forward their ideology should be prevented from doing so. But it is worth noting that black supremacists usually do not fall into the second of those categories.

Black supremacists grew out of the Civil Rights Movement and efforts to establish the racial equality of black people. Eventually some people went further and affirmed their preference of things related to black people and black culture and asserted the superiority of those things over the things related to European-Americans and their culture. To be clear – black supremacy started as a small percentage of African-Americans and grew to a slightly less small percentage.

White supremacy on the other hand was a foundational belief of the United States. The country was set up to benefit white people based on the labor of other racial groups when possible. White supremacy had been the dominant perspective throughout the history of the United States until the Civil Rights Movment. To be clear – white supremacy started as a large percentage and then got smaller.

This doesn’t mean that black supremacy can’t be a threat to people. On some level it is refreshing that people see it as a viable threat.

But it is also worth noticing that there is very little evidence of black supremacist violence against white people. The mass murder perpetrated in Charleston last week does not allow us to say the same of white supremacists. Furthermore white supremacists target not only black people but also those of any race of advocate for racial equality, thus making them more dangerous.

It is possible to regard the increased frequency of reports on police violence against black people as a sign that the reality of living as a black person in this country having changed, or as simply an increase in the reporting of something that has been happening all along. What is not possible is to deny that race continues to be a factor for some people and some institutions.

When short men make fun of tall men, it is seen as the undervalued group puffing up its chest. When tall men make fun of short men, it is seen as more mean spirited because the tall men don’t need to assert their primacy in our society. The same goes for black supremacy. When they complain it is an effort to be taken seriously. White people have always been taken seriously so there is no need to complain about how things are stacked against them.

And when they react as if they do, black people lose.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

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The Socialist’s Journal: Hope Solo as a Feminist Hero

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

*If we start from the premise that feminism is a perspective on the world that considers women the same as men then it becomes clear that Hope Solo has really advanced women’s rights since her altercation with family members and subsequent arrest.

What is undeniable is that Solo is an elite athlete. She has been a member of the United States National team since 2000, was a member of the Junior National Team prior to that, and has started in goal for the last 7 years. Currently her play has the United States sitting atop their group, having given up only one goal in 2 games during the current Women’s World Cup.

What is also undeniable is that Solo is a high profile celebrity. She was a contestant on the ABC program “Dancing with the Stars.” And she is so popular that she is one of the celebrities that was victimized in the celebrity hacking scandal last year when her personal photos were distributed on the internet.

So it should be no surprise then, that the United States Women’s Soccer program is willing to forgive just about anything when it comes to Solo because they want her star power on the team and her skill in goal.

In this way there really is no difference between Solo and Ray Rice or Adrian Petersen (two football players who found themselves in serious legal trouble) in the recent past. When you are good enough, teams and fans (and in the case of Solo – most of our country) will ignore the negatives; this is why Petersen, who has won the MVP award in his career and looks like a future Hall of Fame player who is still able to play well, still has a job. On the other hand if you can no longer perform at a high level, teams and fans will ignore the positives; this is why Rice, who by all accounts has been a model citizen following his violent outburst, told the truth, was active in his hometown and in Baltimore where he was a professional athlete, doesn’t have a job.

Solo has now proven that teams and fans can be just as shallow

when it comes to holding an elite athlete and celebrity accountable when the athlete is a woman. And take note that one of her alleged victims was a young man.

This is probably not the kind of victory that Betty Friedan envisioned when she wrote the Feminine Mystique so many years ago. But it is a victory nonetheless. The country is treating Solo just like they would any man in her position. And to be frank, in Friedan’s day Solo may have been forced to ignore any athletic aspirations in favor of settling down with a husband and raising children.

Ahhh. Progress.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

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The Socialist’s Journal: A Time and a Place Part 2

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Trevor Brookins

*Last week I spoke about knowing when to try and make a point about the way law enforcement officers police people of color. This week presented the perfect illustration of what I was saying.

In Texas, some black teenagers were targeted by police after residents called the cops about the unusually high number of youths (we’ll get to the racial aspect of their report in a second) in the neighborhood. When officers arrived on the scene they identified who might be causing the issue and began to try to take control of the situation.

My point last week was that there are two issues in play: first – how to conduct yourself respectfully around law enforcement; second – whether law enforcement is treating you correctly. Several young black people in the video from Texas failed to put themselves in the best position. Multiple people ran from police and failed to follow directions. Hopefully none of them ever gets in a situation in which they need the help of law enforcement to control a situation but can’t because no one wants to follow directions.

That being said, on to issue #2.

There are multiple problems with how these black youths were viewed and treated. First is the fact that the police were ever called. Apparently there is some sort of quota system in that neighborhood because there has been no reason given as to what illegal activity was witnessed that necessitated law enforcement. The teenagers were in the area for a pool/birthday party and I’m sure it was loud but it looked to be the middle of the day and parties are loud. Whoever called the police did so for no apparent reason other than there were too many black youths on their block.

Yes I am drawing a conclusion that may not be merited but it is a reasonable conclusion to make. Consider that if illegal activity were going on, and the police were actually needed, we would have heard about that by now. Consider that police only addressed black teenagers about not following directions when clearly the area contained people of many skin colors (and presumably many races). Unless a better explanation is given, it is fair to say that these police called because of race.

The second problem is how the officers behaved once on the scene. There are multiple instances of people attempting to explain the presence of the black teens in the area – some of these attempts are by young black men in custody who are calm and address the officer as “sir.” Nevertheless the officers are agitated (they just had to run so their adrenaline was probably pumping) and are trying to gain control over an uncontrollable situation. It’s outside, they are clearly outnumbered, and in an unfamiliar location. They are grasping at straws trying to sort out why they were called and take the appropriate action.

But if we look a bit more in depth we see that they came with certain prejudices. Whether because it was explicitly called in as a problem with the amount of black people or whether they assumed as much when they arrived, the officers clearly made it a priority to restrict the movements of the black people they encountered. The officers should take some of the blame for that reaction but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they were explicitly trained to react in just this way when presented with multiple black youths.

Third, because they were so intent on restricting the movement of the black teens they became overzealous. When one young lady refused to follow directions (again not what I would have done or suggested she do) an officer became physically aggressive. Some of the other young black people reacted by approaching the officer who then drew his weapon. The officer has been placed on suspension. If the police had come with the mindset of investigating a possible problem rather than trying to solve (what they considered) a known problem, none of this would have occurred.

I firmly believe that police need to be trained differently if we are to see progress in the area of relations between white law enforcement officers and the non-white populations they police.

But if there is a silver lining to this situation it is this. In the 21st century when everything is recorded, the possibility of these incidents being swept under the rug is gone. So we are that much closer to the people who decide on things (like changing police training) from actually making changes.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

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The Socialist’s Journal: A Time and a Place (What Charlena Michelle Cooks Should’ve Done)

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

*Last week police in Barstow, California were exposed as having been unnecessarily forceful with a pregnant African-Americans woman, Charlena Michelle Cooks, who was arrested because she refused to identify herself to officers after arguing with a Caucasian woman.

(Scroll down to see the video)

The facts of the case are pretty straightforward: two women argue, one called police, after hearing the story the police decided this isn’t worth them arresting anyone, in speaking with the black woman the police asked her name and she wouldn’t give it to them.

There are two related but separate issues in play here. First is the proper way to behave around law enforcement officers; second is how those officers treat you. I think these two issues are equally important so do not read a value judgment into the order I’ve placed them.

The first issue is important because it is about the immediate well being of a person dealing with people who have the ability to kill. For anyone in that situation it is imperative that they do everything in their power to come out alive. This is why people, especially those who are part of groups that have historically been targeted by police lacking integrity. You don’t know who you are dealing with but it goes without a doubt that there is a power imbalance and the police officer(s) have the advantage.

The second issue is important because if we, as a society, get this issue worked out the first issue probably goes away. Even from a societal vantage point this second issue is not necessarily more important. While police training may be giving officers a certain mindset when patrolling certain areas or encountering certain people, any one on one interaction can overcome prejudices in an officers mind. Furthermore most police officers are products of an integrated society and will uphold the dignity of the people they are speaking with. So even on a macro level, the second issue should not trump the first.

I’ve written multiple times about inequalities both in the United States and internationally. There are plenty of ways to argue about the second issue, and plenty of time to do it. When you are trying to convince the police of your version of events that might not be the appropriate time.

I’m sorry if this seems overly conciliatory. But if you think that then you haven’t fully separated the issues. When someone is driving a car on the sidewalk you don’t argue with them about where cars belong – you get out of the way.

Now – after she has made it home safely – Ms. Cooks should shout from the rooftops how she was unfairly treated. She should sue the police department. She should get an apology from Barstow dignitaries.

But let’s understand that without handling the first issue she wouldn’t be alive to do any of that stuff.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

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The Socialist’s Journal: The Duggar Scandal

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Trevor Brookins

*I’m not quite sure why TLC is cancelling the Duggar show. Or even if it is in fact getting cancelled.

But here is the crux of the matter: some unsavory incidents in the distant past of one of the Duggar sons, and in the recent past of some of their acquaintances, has spooked network execs into taking the show off the air for the time being. But there are a few reasons why this might not make sense.

First it was not a secret that the family was not part of mainstream Christianity. They weren’t even part of mainstream conservative Christianity. At some point the people at TLC made the conscious decision to court viewers that believed as the Duggars do. I doubt that audience went away due to the recent scandals. So why take them off the air?

Secondly the show is primarily about the patriarch and matriarch of the Duggar family. Of course with a show about a couple who tried to have a child annually, the children will become focal points. But the show was really about Jim and Michelle. But Jim and Michelle haven’t done anything wrong. So why is TLC reacting as if a show about them is no longer a viable programming option?

But understanding that there would be some backlash against the show in general still doesn’t equal taking it off the air. We are talking about an incident involving a family member that happened over a decade ago. And we are talking about conservative Christians and presumably the conservative Christian viewership that TLC is after. If there is any group that could forgive a transgression from over 10 years ago, especially with so much evidence that the offender has turned a corner, it would be this audience. So why take them off the air?

The only explanation is that TLC is just finding out about this. And I guess that’s possible if the network didn’t do its due diligence in researching the family when they first considered the show. But if that’s true Jim and Michelle aren’t the only people TLC needs to cut ties with. Whoever was in charge of finding stuff like this out should be relieved of that duty because they apparently aren’t up to the challenge. And if TLC knew about this, then again, why take them off the air?

I’m not arguing that the Duggar lifestyle is admirable. I probably wouldn’t have given them a TV show in the first place. And there are a bunch of things I disagree with them about. But at this point TLC made their bed.

Now sleep in it – with the 20-something Duggars for warmth.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.