Yesterday, George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. I want to highlight the tweets and posts of US activists of colour who have commented since the acquittal. This isn’t a time for white people to take the mic. Please listen to these people.
LeVar Burton has to teach his son how not to get killed by police.
Even in the aftermath, the narrative is that black people are dangerous and violent. It’s not outrageous to the people who experience it every day. It’s part of a constant policing of their behaviour. It’s terrorism.
Some additional information: In non-Stand Your Ground states, whites are 250 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than a white person who kills another white person. The NAACP has a petition up for the Department of Justice to open a civil case against Zimmerman, and you can support the Trayvon Martin Foundation – which has raised 1/3 of the funds George fucking Zimmerman got.
And here’s a fucking good resource for white people who actually do want to learn.
But as @IdiAuslander says, this isn’t just a US thing. So here’s what I do want to add:
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this trial and how it “couldn’t” happen here. But it did. It did when Bruce Emery chased down Pihema Cameron and stabbed him to death over a tag on a fence. It did when you couldn’t move for people saying “oh well he was a vandal” and acting like Bruce Emery was justified in “being afraid” of the young man he pursued with a knife. When the conspiracy theory was that Pihema Cameron and his friend “lured” Emery into some kind of trap and forced him to start swinging a knife. When our ever-vocal “law and order” advocates excused Emery’s actions because getting graffiti off your fence is so frustrating.
This happened here, New Zealanders. And a white businessman served two years for killing a brown teenager. And we cannot let this shit happen.
(Note: NRT beat me to it. Damn him..)
Twitter was aflame over the weekend due to this article, detailing how pregnant, incarcerated, predominantly women of colour in California were coerced into being sterilised – for their own good, of course. To save them producing any more little brown burdens on the welfare system. Because they couldn’t be trusted to make their own reproductive decisions.
But amongst the completely understandable outrage, there was another reaction, from the women of colour who I follow: annoyance that white people got to once again clutch their pearls and decry how terrible racism is.
This is racist, of course, and for far deeper, scary, institutional reasons than just the basic facts – because of poverty, because of a judicial system geared against people of colour. That’s not the issue.
The issue is why white people like me get away with continually being surprised by this.
Let’s be fucking angry at this abuse. Let’s be frustrated at how long it’s taken to come to light. Let’s be utterly contemptuous of medical “professionals” who act like it’s no big thing to coerce vulnerable patients into making socially-acceptable medical decisions. Let’s be motivated into action.
But let’s not do that whole “OMG! How can this happen in this day and age?” thing.
Because that’s our privilege talking. Our existence as women-who-will-not-face-this-kind-of-pressure (yes, we’ll face plenty of other pressures, but if you’re a white, middle class, educated cis woman like me it’ll probably go in the complete opposite direction), women who do not deal with this kind of oppression as a fact of our daily lives.
We don’t really have the right to say “how can this happen in the 21st century?” because it’s never stopped for the people who experience it.
The few stories which make it into our awareness aren’t exceptions, except in the fact that they made it into our awareness at all.
Less than half the compensation awarded to New Zealand prisoners who have been mistreated has actually been paid to them – or to their victims.
The scheme, which came into effect in 2005, was set up to ensure that prisoners who have been mistreated do not receive compensation until any outstanding debt they owe to their victims has been paid.
One prisoner, Steven Brent Gunbie, was awarded $43,313 for [something]. However, the payment has been held in trust since 2007, and Gunbie will only receive the money after claims from victims of his crimes are settled.
However, only six victim claims have been successful since the scheme started in November 2005. The six victims have received payments totalling $49,000, and another $63,000 is being held in 19 cases for court-ordered reparation.
The delays are caused by [something].
The scheme was originally set up after prisoners at Auckland Prison at Paremoremo were forced under a programme called the “behaviour management regime” to live in isolated squalor and were treated inhumanely.
The prisoners were awarded a large sum in compensation. This led to public outcry over the rights of victims of crime. The Labour government introduced the current law on a trial basis to ensure money would not go directly to prisoners if their victims were owed anything.
The Government has now made the scheme permanent, even though its own advisers say it does not help victims of crime.
Prisoners have received $220,000 from a total pool of $516,000. Another $290,000 is being held in trust pending 12 claims from victims.
After the initial payments, almost all compensation payments are being made to prisoners who have been kept in prison beyond their release dates.
Correction Minister Anne Tolley said work was in progress to move to an electronic system to reduce the number of these errors, but also said prisoners should not receive taxpayer money, despite being illegally detained after their sentences finished.
Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust criticised the scheme for forcing victims of crime to re-engage with offenders if they wanted compensation. He said the Justice Minister at the time, Phil Goff, “was trying to pacify and tried to have a foot in both camps.”
Current Labour Party justice spokesperson Andrew Little said the law did not work and failed to meet victims’ needs. It also had the perverse effect of victims benefiting only when the state abused prisoners.
[insert list of unsettled claims here if necessary]
This is the article which David Fisher wanted to run in the NZ Herald – an article about obstacles in the path of giving just compensation to prisoners mistreated by bungling corrections staff.
It’s just a pity the version which got published was headlined “Prisoners paid $500,000” – which isn’t true – describes Steven Brent Gunbie as “violent gun-wielding kidnapper Steven Brent Gunbie” and began,
A child sex offender was paid $26,600 in compensation by the taxpayer under a scheme which has awarded more than $500,000 to prisoners since it came into effect in 2005.
which puts a rather different spin on the matter, don’t you think? Or am I just unintelligent and poorly informed?
But let’s be serious – David Fisher could’ve written the above – or even something better. The NZ Herald? Ain’t got no time for giving a shit about abuses of prisoners’ rights. Not when there’s pageviews in them thar hills.
You might think the legal/policy arrangements around reimbursing carers of adults with disabilities would be a bit of a minority issue which the vast majority of New Zealanders don’t have to worry about, due to their able-bodied privilege.
But you’d be wrong, because right now that issue is the site for the National government’s most egregious shitting-upon of basic concepts of justice.
What’s a good way, you might ask, to create a policy on paying family caregivers without running the risk of it being overturned? And the answer I assume you’d give is “make sure that the policy isn’t unlawfully discriminatory, so there is no reason for this to happen.” If so, you are an idiot. Because there’s a far, far better way to respond.
You simply tell the Human Rights Review Tribunal and the courts that they are not allowed to look at the policy and decide whether or not it is unlawfully discriminatory.
I’d just like to end with a little thought experiment for the class: imagine that Labour were in power and passed any legislation – say, to plant more native trees on public land, or to make it illegal to waterboard people – and then said “but you can’t see the advice we’ve made this decision on, and you can never ever challenge it.”
Oh, and passed it under urgency.
Just imagine it. The Kiwiblog commentariat would shit themselves. W****O**’s servers would probably explode. You’d hear Cactus Kate’s screams all the way across the Pacific.
Add this to Sky City’s 35-year protection clause and our whole constitution just got taken out back and shot in the head, and National’s turned the corpse into a ventriloquist’s doll and is assuring us that democracy is just resting after a rather vigorous squawk.
We are so fucked. And the mainstream media will probably do fuck-all about it.
Possibly not, according to the font of all NZ political procedural knowledge and God-Emperor of the kiwipoliblogosphere, Idiot/Savant.
Quite apart from her total lack of experience and dodgy views on such matters, the Race Relations Commissioner must have mana. Devoy has none. But there’s another aspect to this that is worth exploring: the appointment may be unlawful.
On the not-fit-to-hold-a-teaspoon-much-less-public-office front, Morrissey in comments at The Standard raised this interesting piece of history:
Dame Susan Devoy says her testimonial for broadcaster Tony Veitch – splashed across newspapers today – was for an application to return his passport, not to support him in a court sentencing.
In her testimonial presented to the court at Veitch’s sentencing yesterday for injuring his former partner with reckless disregard, Dame Susan said he deserved a chance to get his life back and have the opportunity to work again.
She had written it because she believed Veitch, whom she knew and whose stepmother was a close friend, deserved a chance to work again.
“I mean we can’t ostracise him for the rest of his life. But it is a different kettle of fish when you are writing a letter of support of someone coming up for sentencing.
“And I know that because I have written a letter recently for someone who is actually serving 10 years and six months for something probably a lot less than what Tony has done.”
She said she would not necessarily have refused to provide a testimonial for his sentencing.
Oh no, Dame Susan was totally lied to! She wouldn’t have written that testimonial if she knew it was for Tony Veitch’s sentencing for kicking his partner in the back so hard he broke her spine! Except she also wouldn’t have not written him a testimony. It just … would’ve been a testimony that looked less like she’s willing to exploit her celebrity to bail out a mate’s grown abusive stepson, when entered on the public record.
Fuck, someone probably thinks that episode helps to qualify her for the job, being all conciliatory and open-minded about things. Gross.
[Trigger warning: rape, rape apologism]
Five young men pack-raped a woman in Rotorua.
But don’t worry: they didn’t cause her any harm “more than what was inherent in multiple rapes with multiple offender” [emphasis mine].
They just caused the standard amount of harm you get with your average brutal gang-rape.
I’m running low on righteous fury right now, so I’m going to hand things over to Catriona MacLennan:
Our legal system imposes penalties by comparing different cases, weighing their seriousness and making judgments as to factors that are both aggravating and mitigating.
However, the way in which this is done in rape cases trivialises the ordeals of victims and displays a lack of understanding of rape.
Judges need further education about rape – who the perpetrators are, what the impacts are on victims and how terrifying, humiliating and painful rape is.
But let’s be honest, it’d probably just be easier to execute all rapists. Death is a nice, final kind of punishment, so we wouldn’t have to worry about whether the scumbags involve get a year less because it was only a two-hour ordeal, not two-hours-fifteen.
… is this, MRAs:
For actual hard, crunchy numbers on the topic, I refer you to The Little Pakeha.
Of those that go to mediation and are decided on by both parents, 65% go to the mother, 11% to the father, 12% to a third party and 12% shared.
Of those decided by a judge, 19% go to the father, much higher than the 11% when the two parties decide by themselves.
The real kicker though is when you look at the percentage of male applicants and the percentage of female applicants who are awarded custody. That is, the person who brings the case to court because they want more than their ex-partner wants to give them. Of all female applicants, 69% are awarded custody. Sound like a lot? You might be surprised, then, to find that of all male applicants, 65% are awarded custody, nearly the same amount.
Oops, looks like there’s only about a 4-point difference between the sexes in custody being granted to the parent who applied for it.
Men getting awarded custody less (that is, of cases which actually make it to the court system)? Might just have something to do with men applying for custody less. Because it looks like whatever assumed junk is in your trunk, there’s a 2/3 win rate for those who choose to go through the system.
The annoying thing about this “issue”? Is it’s one of those real-life examples where patriarchy does hurt men too. Because in heterosexual-couple households, men aren’t expected, much less supported, to take parental leave when the baby arrives. And in a double-income household they’re likely to be earning more so if it’s a matter of financial stability, it does make sense for Mum to be the one who suffers the career break.
People still seriously use phrases like “he’s babysitting this weekend” when referring to a dude taking care of his own children. That’s how we treat men being primary caregivers – and we always assume it’s a temporary arrangement, probably because “she” is so strung out / exhausted / needs Girl Time / a manicure / whatever.
Women get granted custody more because women are assumed to be the default caregiver. Men apply for custody less because their lives and expectations aren’t geared around childrearing. In one case I personally know of? A dad seeking 50/50 custody was told by his relatives that “the kids need to be with their mum”. So there’s fuck-all social support for the guys who do give a fuck.
And I’m sorry, MRA wankheads, but that has fuck-all to do with feminism.
So, finally, the comedian who sexually assaulted a child but was initially discharged because he’s so funny then re-sentenced because that’s not actually a fucking excuse will finally actually serve his sentence. Which is only eight months’ home detention anyway.
Here’s the latest problem (because this story is just packed full of delicious, angry-making problems):
Judge Cunningham decided not to sentence Comedian Z (as referred to by the courts) because it would damage his career. (My thoughts on this argument remain the same: Sexually assaulting a kid SHOULD FUCKING WELL AFFECT YOUR CAREER.)
Judge Perkins decided this argument was bunkum not because sexually assaulting a child SHOULD FUCKING WELL AFFECT YOUR CAREER but because:
[he] considered that, to a significant extent, the adverse consequences had already been suffered and would not be significantly exacerbated by the refusal of a discharge
And this is what the Court of Appeal has agreed with in choosing to enforce the frankly pathetic sentence.
Not because sexually assaulting a four-year-old is fucking awful. Not because changing your story about sexually assaulting a four-year-old – “oh I don’t remember what happened” but “oh I thought she was my adult partner” – is fucking digusting.
Nope, it’s okay for this guy to serve eight fucking months‘ home detention because his career’s already been shot to hell – AS IT FUCKING SHOULD BE – so a sentence can’t make it worse.
Which leaves only the fucking terrifying conclusion that if his career hadn’t already been ruined by his sexual assault of a child … the Court of Appeal would entertain the idea he should be let off. Their argument is literally that his career can’t be ruined any worse by a custodial sentence, so he should serve a sentence.
For, let me just remind you one last time, sexually assaulting a four-year-old.
Our fucking justice system, ladies and gentlemen. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the Angry Dome.
[Trigger warning: transphobia in the judicial system]
Judge Duncan Harvey has decided that a trans woman will serve her prison sentence in a men’s prison.
The bit which just highlights how repugnant this is?
Her sentence is 2 years, 1 month.
If it were under 2 years, she could serve home detention.
But Judge Harvey decided to just “reduce” her sentence:
in recognition of the difficulties she would have in serving her sentence in a men’s prison.
So he recognises that she’ll have “difficulties” (vomit) in a male prison. He’ll reduce her sentence a little bit because of that. But he just can’t reduce it that 1 extra month which would mean she could serve home detention and not face “difficulties” like, oh, violent physical assault.
Fuck you, Judge Harvey.
Props however to the Northern Advocate for gendering her correctly.
What sort of sentence do you get if you run someone over in a fit of road-rage, causing serious and lasting injury? Community service, if you’re a banker. But even better, you get the judge weighing in on your side, minimising your offending, and haranguing the media for taking an interest in the case
As with comedians, it seems if you’re rich and white enough, the humiliation of being charged with a crime which you actually did commit is sufficient “punishment” for deliberately mowing down a human being with your car.
I’m sure if someone had just contacted the Sensible Sentencing Trust they’d have been more than happy to excuse the act on the basis of the terrible frustration he felt.
Anyway, he clearly felt threatened, because the man he ran down “might have been carrying a weapon”. After all, he could clearly see the man was Asian, and they’re all ninjas, you know.
Here’s the thing: this kind of attitude, displayed by our judiciary and even our most fervent hang-’em-high proponents, is fucking dangerous. It’s like LudditeJourno said of the efforts in Whanganui to stop Stuart Murray Wilson being paroled there:
People of Whanganui – you already have rapists living there. I’m sorry, but you do. It’s just that they don’t look like our imaginary rapist, they are not quite “beastly” enough, they are “good, kind loving family men” and/or “pillars of the community.”
When we say, oh, the poor little rich man, he’s such a contributor to the community, he’s got a spotless record, he really showed remorse, honest he did – all we are doing is setting ourselves up to let murderers and rapists and child molesters walk free.
You think Graham Capill would have gotten away with abusing as many children as he did if people didn’t assume, why, he’s a religious ex-police prosecutor, that makes him A Good Man! You think BTK would have killed 10 people before being caught (largely due to his own ego) if he weren’t a Good Church Man? John Wayne Gacy was head of his local chamber of commerce! And a kid’s birthday clown!
Seriously, people. Use your brains, stop assuming that if someone joins the Rotary his behaviour must be above reproach. Stop assuming that if someone from a privileged background has a “clean record” that means he’s never done anything bad before. To quote the great Terry Pratchett: “I’ve got ten years’ good conduct!” “No, that’s ten years’ Not Found Out.”