Instagram’s New Terms of Service Help Absolutely No One

No matter who the president, prime minister, or sovereign head of state is, one individual rules the online world – Mark Zuckerberg. The founder and owner of Facebook, and now Instagram, recently released new content rules for his virtual empire. Instagram’s new terms of service, effective December 20th, crackdown even more harshly on Instagram content, listing “suggestive elements”, “regional sexualized slang”, and “contextually specific or commonly sexual emojis” as terms of violation. While the social media site is already notorious for punishing users (through means of taking away accounts, shadow banning them, removing followers) at their seemingly random will, this new set of rules almost explicitly targets sex workers who use the app for marketing purposes. 

The pandemic has undoubtedly been a catalyst for the explosion of OnlyFans, a platform where creators can post nude or sexually explicit photos and videos for paid subscribers. Unfortunately, many have lost their jobs due to coronavirus, and the need for supplemental earning is higher than ever. Research has shown that women, especially women of color, have faced the brunt of the emotional and economic burden caused by the pandemicThis creates an environment ripe with possibilities for exploring sex work as a means of income

The accessibility of OnlyFans as a platform for creators to sell content is undeniable. One of the site’s most unique aspects is that they have a team of lawyers who ensure the content that creators post is not leaked or distributed for free. This means that the exploitation factor is very low for creators- their content can only be consumed by paid subscribers. Yet, this means that creators have to turn elsewhere to promote their OnlyFans profile and must rely on other social media networks – TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter – to gain a following in hopes that ‘fans’ will eventually purchase a subscription. Of course, these creators are not posting the kind of explicit content they would on OnlyFans; Instagram will ban accounts for even putting the link to their OnlyFans profile on an Instagram post or bio, never mind a sexual video clip. Unless you’re an existing celebrity, self-promotion on social media is the lifeblood of online sex work. Instagram already makes it difficult to work around their existing rules, and these terms will only make it harder, critically draining the livelihoods of thousands of sex workers, who are majority women. 

Instagram doesn’t only discriminate against sex workers. In fact, the site has had a long and storied history of targeting female, black, queer, and plus-sized influencers. Instagram’s existing ‘algorithm bias’5, a euphemism for programmed discrimination, will undoubtedly exacerbate the penalization of femme creators, specifically black creators under the new rules. 

There is evidence that this algorithm bias is already working swiftly without Instagram’s harsher rules; in August, a photo of plus-sized black woman Nyome Nicholas-Williams was removed from a professional photographer’s account for violations of Instagram’s terms of service. There was nothing ‘sexual’ about the shirtless photo. The photographer who shot the photo responded, saying “I have posted photos of many more women – white women – who had [fewer] clothes on than Nyome that never got reported or deleted…what is it about a plus-size black woman’s body that is so offensive and so sexualized? The Playboy [Instagram] feed is filled with naked white models and it’s all for the male gaze, which is the opposite of what I do, and they’re allowed to stay”5. In a country where black women are already oversexualized in all aspects of life (especially in the media), they will now be forced to accept additional emotional, financial, and social consequences on social media imposed by the czars of Silicon Valley. 

Two months prior, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri acknowledged the company’s technological bias, admitting that he had been “hearing concerns about whether we suppress black voices and whether our products and policies treat everyone equally”. If Instagram’s previous terms of service can’t decipher between artistic versus sexual content, provocative nudity versus body positivity, and business promotion versus sexual solicitation, there are very low hopes for any kind of progress towards a more equitable future on Instagram after December 20th. 

It’s truly ironic that a decade ago Facebook started as a website for Zuckerberg to rate his female peers. Now that women across the world have decided to monetize that same misogyny, he’s shutting them out and taking away their platform. 

Below is the image of Nyome Nicholas-Williams that was repeatedly taken down from photographer Alexa Cameron’s Instagram account.

By Laura Goodfield

(Laura Goodfield, a member of “Generation Z”, seeks to make sense of the increasingly virtual world in which she was born into. She is specifically interested in how patriarchal and capitalist structures persist on social media platforms. )

(Photo Credit: The Guardian / Alexandra Cameron)

In 2016, in Canada, a “vulnerable” Black six-year-old girl was handcuffed and shackled by police

The Peel Region is in southern Ontario, Canada. In September 2016, officers responded to a 911 called at a Peel primary school. The `emergency’ was a six-year-old Black girl whose behavior `caused alarm.’ This was the fourth time the police had responded to an emergency call concerning this girl’s behavior. At the time, the girl weighed 48 pounds. Police took the girl, handcuffed and shackled her and, having shackled her wrists and ankles, lay her on her stomach, in full view of everyone, for a little under a half hour. This week it was reported that the Human Rights Tribunal had decided that race, and more specifically anti-Black racism, was a factor, that the girl, known as J.K.B., “suffered implicit harm in experiencing anti-Black racism at a very tender age”. The Tribunal awarded J.K.B. $35,000, $30,000 in damages, $5,000 in counseling costs. The Peel police said there is room for improvement. J.K.B.’s mother, known as J.B., said, “I can now focus on what lies ahead, which is making my daughter whole.” Who else will focus on making Black daughters, in Canada, in the United States, whole?

 Activists and allies wish the damages had been more, wish the police anti-racist training were better, wish the actions were more sustained and definitive, and with good reason. At the same time, why do schools call police to address student behavior, and especially in primary school? Where are the counselors? Where are the alternative public services? How many times must we `discover’ that the police are not trained to address emotional and psychological situations, much less crises? A girl is having a bad day, a terrible day. Why would adults call in people with guns and handcuffs to address that girl? And if that girl is Black, in an area where Black people constitute less than 10 percent of the population, how would adults, adult educators, not understand that calling the police on J.K.B. was far beyond the last thing they should have done. That phone call should never have occurred. The possibility of that phone call should never have been imaginable.

J.K.B’s story was reported January 7. The next day, January 8, it was reported that the police, in Aurora, Colorado, who drew their guns on a Black family they `thought’ was driving a stolen car, the two White officers who drew their guns on the family, who took the four children and handcuffed them and laid them on the ground, would not face prosecution. I can now focus on what lies ahead, which is making my daughter whole. Who else will focus on making Black daughters whole?

By Dan Moshenberg

(Photo credit: Toronto Star)

Do NOT be mistaken

Do NOT be mistaken. 

In the shadow of yesterday’s violence and siege of the United States Capitol, many of us are NOT calling for additional police. 

We were not yesterday, and are NOT today, wishing or hoping there had been more police. 

We are NOT wishing or hoping police had treated the trump mob with the type of violence they unleash on people who protest racial injustice and social inequity.

What many of us want is for law enforcement to NOT be violent with us just like THEY CHOSE not to be violent with yesterday’s majority white, male rioters. 

And I want to know that law enforcement – including Capitol police – are NOT comprised of the kind of people shown in the photograph below.

Yes. He’s posing for a selfie, with a domestic terrorist, who is participating in an attempted coup. 

#GetOut

By Aurora Vasquez

Aurora Vasquez is a Washington based attorney and activist. You can find her on Twitter at @SoyYoya

To Be Fraudulent: A Black Feminist’s Response to Joseph Epstein

A man with a bachelor’s degree has accredited knowledge while a woman with a doctoral degree merely professes knowledge. At least, that’s what Joseph Epstein and his acolytes would have you believe. In his recent Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Epstein sets out to reproduce the terms of Enlightenment thought in which a white (and white-passing) man is the prototypical human subject, having reason, with a white woman’s claim to reason as fraudulent: “Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.” That he casually mentions being referred to as ‘Dr. Epstein’ in academia and by scientists recalls how men, at various stages of knowing and accomplishment, are legible as experts in the eyes of the patriarchy. Despite my belief that experience can have equal intrinsic value to formal education – that someone with a bachelor’s degree and experience can be just as knowledgeable and impactful as someone with a doctorate – patriarchal norms are responsible for gender asymmetries that hail men as having legitimate knowledge while vilifying women’s knowledge as fraudulent.

Imani Perry’s groundbreaking work in Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation urges us to reconceptualize patriarchy in order to uncover how it operates as a system that produces, structures, and stratifies categories of non-personhood. White women are human-adjacent, caricatures of white men whose doctoral prefixes denote real knowledge. Affixing ‘Dr.’ to a woman’s name is an affront to the disciplinary arm of patriarchy, misogyny, which is levied by folks like Epstein to reinstate men’s predominance as legitimate knowers. Some have narrowly interpreted this piece as emerging from a disgruntled senior with antiquated views on “Dr.” being the preserve of the medically trained. I’m more inclined to read this drivel as that which replicates the grammar of misogyny in the service of patriarchy, a practice that is very much à la mode.

Distinguishing between misogyny and sexism, Kate Manne, author of Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny says, “sexism is taken to be the branch of patriarchal ideology that justifies and rationalizes a patriarchal social order, while misogyny is the system that polices and enforces its governing norms and expectations.” In his op-ed, Mr. Epstein addresses Dr. Jill Biden in the second person, and employs the language of misogyny in his policing of her title and disavowal of her knowledge. For Epstein, Dr. Jill Biden disappears as a woman through a title that puts distance between her as a person and her relationship to a man…and not just any man, the man: President Elect Joe Biden. He will become, like many before him, the ultimate symbol and agent of patriarchal dominance. Knowing this, Mr. Epstein attempts to ‘rescue’ and foreground her womanhood by collapsing and tethering her identity to her husband. She is not Dr. Biden, she is Mrs. Biden. And in order to close the distance between himself and this doctoral holding woman, he infantilizes her by referring to her as “kiddo” and personalizes his address by calling her “Jill.” It is a disgusting move that reeks of condescension. A ‘watch-me-put-you in-your-place kiddo’ kind of move. 

Using the language of fraudulence becomes a way of policing womanhood. A woman who is threatening to the patriarchy proudly goes by Dr. so and so. Another mitigates patriarchal anxiety by elevating her position as ‘wife’ and hiding the credentials that make being a wife seem secondary. What makes Epstein’s comments even more significant is that Dr. Jill Biden will soon be ascending to one of the most hallowed sites of femininity in the world: the First Lady. It is imperative for many that it remains a site that fixes women’s subordinate status to men in every respect. What would it mean for the wife of a president to demand that she be seen primarily through the lens of her own knowledge and worldmaking rather than through her relation to her husband? Would a First Lady who didn’t take her husband’s last name have committed an even more egregious sin?

It is somewhat comforting to see the outpouring of support for Dr. Biden, with many academic women on twitter deciding to go by ‘Dr.’ in their Twitter bios in solidarity. One such person tweeted: “Added ‘Dr’ to my profile, wearing my doctorate with pride. So #JosephEpstein and other bitter misogynists can crawl back to the 1930s. Doctorates are not easy, @DrBidenshould be proud of her achievements. Being First Lady doesn’t and should not mean reducing who you are! #PhDs”. Another shared: “Misogyny is when a man calls a woman with a doctorate ‘kiddo’; Misogyny is when the editor of @WSJ thinks a sexist attack is a good piece of journalism. Misogyny is following sexist tropes of the 50s. #DrJillBiden #DrBiden.” I pause, however, at the implication that Epstein’s misogyny is anachronistic. Misogyny, defined by Kate Manne as “a property of social environments in which girls and women are prone to face hostility because of the enforcement and policing of patriarchal norms and expectations,” is mobilized by the gendered norms and expectations of today. His piece cannot be reduced to fringe speak that reflects a bygone era. Rather, it is distinctive of a 21st century social order where women have yet to be elected to the world’s highest political office. 

People like Mr. Epstein enact the violence of misogyny by policing how women take up space in a world made for men. Dr. Jill Biden ain’t it, he intones sagely. Sit down, be woman. And if you thought misogyny was the extent of Joseph Epstein’s appeal, try his misogynoir: “Political correctness has put paid to any true honor an honorary doctorate may once have possessed. If you are ever looking for a simile to denote rarity, try ‘rarer than a contemporary university honorary-degree list not containing an African-American woman.’” In stratifying categories of non-personhood, patriarchy has determined that Black women be relegated to the nadir. Honorary degrees, like white women with doctoral degrees, are already suspect, but disproportionately awarding them to African-American women, the most fraudulent kind of woman imaginable, is all the evidence you need of their worthlessness.

By Sarah-Anne Gresham

Sarah-Anne Gresham is an Antiguan Ph.D. student in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Rutgers University

(Image Credit: Mashable / Vicky Leta)

All that is human drowned in the sea: The Mediterranean now extends to the Canary Islands

“How do we overcome war and poverty only to drown in your sea?”
                                                                                    Jehan Bseiso

For the last few years, Europe (including the United Kingdom), the United States, and Australia – the imperial ‘we’ – turned bodies of water, such as the Mediterranean, into massive graveyards. This year, dissatisfied with having poisoned the Mediterranean, Europe extended the Mediterranean into the Atlantic Ocean, to the Canary Islands. According to Helena Maleno and her organization, Caminando Fronteras, this year 2170 people died, drowned, trying to reach Spain. The overwhelming majority of those who drowned died on their way to the Canary Islands. 1851 people died in 45 shipwrecks. In 2019, 893 people died trying to reach Spain. A 200% increase in African deaths is considered a success in Fortress Europe, having `secured’ the Mediterranean by increasing military patrols and forcefully decreasing rescue ships. As of two days ago, 1,156 deaths were recorded this year in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean Sea the deadliest migration route and, extending now to the Canary Islands, the largest cemetery ever built. 

None of this is new or unexpected. 

December 30, 2016: “This year, all that is human drowned in the sea, all that is holy has been profaned, and we are at last compelled to face with sober senses our real conditions of life, and our relations with our kind. In 2016, at least 5000 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean. Last Friday, two boats capsized, and `about 100 people are missing and feared dead.’ Who fears them dead? No State and no amalgam of nation-States fears them dead. Rather, in this the deadliest year ever for migrants trying to reach Europe, the year’s epitaph is simple: `2016: The year the world stopped caring about refugees’. We are the world, and we turned the sea into a graveyard. This year, the women, child, man of the year lies on the bottom of the Mediterranean, and we do not know their names, and we do not much care. If we did, they would be alive today. So here is a poem for the unknown refugees who lie in the cemetery that we have made of the Mediterranean.”

December 31, 2017: “The year ends with the surface of the Mediterranean concealing thousands of humans lost, sinking into the sea bottom as it reveals the sinking of our own collective humanity. Last year, over 5000 women, children and men drowned in the Mediterranean. The year before close to 4000, and the year before that, a little over 3000. This year, the reported death toll hovers just over 3000. That “success” is largely due to draconian measures that have sent refugees back to slave markets and brutal prisons in Libya and life-in-death in Morocco. Spain has replaced Italy as the preferred port of entry for those seeking a life, be they called migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers. Such is today’s morbid mathematics that over 3000 innocents drowned in one body of water in one year is touted as `success’.”

December 31. 2019: “Once again, the year ends with the surface of the Mediterranean concealing thousands of humans lost. According to the International Organization of Migration, 1246 people – women, children, men – drowned in the Mediterranean while trying flee certain death. In certain circles, this number, 1246, is being celebrated as a mark of success. The numbers of dead have declined. Fortress Europe, like Fortress Australia and Fortress USA, is working. This is the mathematics of success in our contemporary world. 2019: 1246 dead: “the fifth straight year of at least 1,000 deaths on the Mediterranean”. 2018: 2299 dead. 2017: 3139 dead. 2016: 5143 dead. 2015: 4054 dead. 2014: 3283 dead.  From 2014 to today, 19,164 souls – women, children, men – thrown into the deep waters of unmourning. No language, no marking of names, no taking of place. No singing. Only the silence of `success’.

December 31, 2020. A country’s President asks his constituents, his brothers and sisters, to light a candle tonight, to remember and honor those whom we have lost, whom we remember and cherish. There are no candles able to offer light at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, there is no light on the Atlantic Ocean’s floor. 

Here is a poem, a prayer, for the failure and collapse of the fortresses that turn oceans and seas into graveyards, for the human that is not yet drowned … 

No Search No Rescue
By Jehan Bseiso

To the families and lovers at the bottom of the sea, trying to reach Europe.

I.
How do we overcome war and poverty only to drown in your sea?

II.
Misrata, Libya
Habeebi just take the boat.
In front of you : Bahr.
Behind you : Harb.
And the border, closed.
Your Sea, Mare,Bahr. Our war, our Harb.

III.
Augusta, Italy
Where is the interpreter?
This is my family.
Baba, mama, baby all washed up on the shore. This is 28 shoeless survivors and thousands of bodies.
Bodies Syrian, Bodies Somali, Bodies Afghan, Bodies Ethiopian, Bodies Eritrean.
Bodies Palestinian.
Your Sea, Mare,Bahr. Our war, our Harb.

IV.
Alexandria, Egypt
Habeebi, just take the boat.
Behind you Aleppo and Asmara, barrel bombs and Kalashnikovs.
In front of you a little bit of hope.
Your Sea, Mare,Bahr. Our war, our Harb.

V.
Maps on our backs.
Long way from home.

by Dan Moshenberg

(“No Search, No Rescue”, by Jehan Bseiso appeared here) (Photo Credit: Electronic Intifada /Oren Ziv/Active Stills)”

When Doling Out the Vaccine, Do Not Forget Domestic Workers

Maria Del Carmen, a housekeeper in Philadelphia

As the Covid-19 vaccine makes its way across America, the biggest question is, “when can I get it?” States must make difficult choices when deciding who can receive the limited amounts of vaccines currently available. As the rollout marches on, domestic workers must be one of the first groups to get the vaccine. The news from today has been heartening. In Kansas, one of the first five employees to be vaccinated at St. Francis hospital was a housekeeper in the COVID-19 unit. In Massachusetts, the first employee in the VA Bedford Healthcare system to get the vaccine was a housekeeper in environmental management services. It is good to see that domestic workers are being recognized as a priority for the vaccine in institutional settings. 

Domestic workers have been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of the first week of April 2020, 72% of domestic workers in the US reported losing all of their clients. Domestic workers are desperate for work and, since they are excluded from most labor protections, are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. The CDC recommends that workers in essential and critical industries be prioritized for the vaccine when supply is limited. This leaves interpretation up to individual states, and they must recognize domestic workers as essential workers. 

While domestic workers like nannies may not be explicitly mentioned as essential workers, a feminist understanding of production underscores how crucial they are. Domestic labor is the cog that keeps the machine called society running. While some may not recognize it, domestic works is a multi-million dollar industry that goes mostly ignored. This industry is often seen as unworthy because, as explained by Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein in Caring for America, “Black, immigrant, and poor white women long have undertaken these jobs; indeed men who engage in them usually earn less than other men, experiencing the costs of racialized feminization.” They also cite “the way the state chooses to structure it” as another reason for the lack of respect given to care work. 

Nannies and housekeepers are not considered essential workers because the state undervalues domestic labor. Since the state plays a large role in devaluing care work, active steps such as ascribing care workers a higher priority for the COVID-19 vaccine will prevent domestic workers from falling through the cracks. If domestic workers are vaccinated on the same schedule as everyone else, how can we expect any sort of economic recovery? It will be impossible to get people back into their offices without adequate childcare. This will also prevent care shortages if the number of vaccinated people in other industries outpaces vaccinated care workers. People will likely start requesting care workers be vaccinated before coming into people’s homes. If the demand for domestic workers outpaces the vaccinations, many workers could be pressured into taking jobs in an unsafe environment. This issue speaks to our country’s need for a new understanding of domestic labor. While it is excellent to see housekeepers included in these initial vaccinations, we mustn’t forget about domestic workers as the vaccination rollout continues.

By Katy Ronkin

(Photo Credit: The New York Times / Hannah Yoon)

Farmers’ Protest in India Is An Intersectional Feminist Issue

It is important for the Indian farmers’ protest movement currently unfolding in New Delhi, India, to be seen as intersectional feminist issue. 

Farmers from the Punjab are protesting the latest laws of the Indian government designed to now hand over to the billionaires—who already hold this poor country’s wealth since the so-called liberalization of the 1990s.The farmers are calling attention to the government’s colonizing of the agrarian sector.  Among networks covering news about the farmers’ protest in New Delhi, we see only male farmers and male protesters and male speakers. Where are the women, especially since the state of Punjab is rife with violence against women, a warped sex ratio, and the wide economic gap between the genders? The reality is that women farmers all over India are underrepresented in the news. They do the same work as men and use machines that are easier for men to use than for women. In the spate of suicides among farmers that we have seen in the past decade, women farmers are part of this statistic, but did not make the news. According to Surbhi, “out of total 8007 farmers suicide in 2014, 441 were female farmers.” Additionally, the women are affected by the farmers who commit suicide, since now they become the sole supporters of their families and receive no welfare form the government. Undervalued, women farmers are the building blocks of the country’s economy. 

What is the reality on the ground during the current farmers’ protest in New Delhi? Women from across villages and towns in Punjab have traveled to Delhi to speak. When a women protests, she is speaking for her whole family and for her whole village of farmers. Women protestors are enlightening the public about the bias against female farmers who are called agricultural laborers and are paid less and given poorer implements and are exposed to toxic chemicals. In fact, the women farmers work hard for long hours and do the same kinds of work as their male counterparts, from sowing and harvesting, to threshing and winnowing. 

The farmers are protesting not just the lack of control over the prices of their products but the corporate pressure to use GMO seeds. In a recent Twitter post, Vandana Shiva states, “In 1984 Punjab farmers were protesting against the #GreenRevolution model saying if you cannot choose what you grow or how you will grow it , these are conditions of slavery . They have already paid a very high price with debt , suicides & a #CancerTrain”. Shiva’s ecological activism is based on understanding that the exploitation of the earth and our ecology is both intersectional and transnational. She traces back the exploitation of the most vulnerable, earth, women, and the poor to colonialism and capitalism. In the same Twitter feed, Shiva argues, “No one was dying of famine in India in 1965 when the World Bank & US govt imposed the #GreenRevolution on Punjab to sell left over war chemicals. Chemical Monocultures of dwarf rice & wheat forced on farmers use 10 times more water.” Here is an example of economic colonialism at play, which in another 60 years has not subsided but increased in power. 

As Shiva and other feminist activists see, a stitching together of agricultural activism across borders can impact governments subservient to corporate interests. In the current farmers’ protest, Sikh women in the U.S., Canada, Amsterdam, are taking to the streets, bringing attention to their farming families spread over the diaspora. As Ramanpreet Kaur, one of the Sikh activists in Queens, New York says, “Even if you don’t feel a personal connection to India or the farmers out there like many of us do, as a human being who lives on earth you should be concerned about exploitation of the people who feed you everyday.”

Women activists who are part of the long arc of farmer activism in Indian history are not only protesting the Indian state with its development model but also patriarchy and capitalism. Currently organizations such as Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MAKAAM) are on the ground offering the strong voices of women farmers. 

In other parts of India, there are grassroots movements such as Fatima Burnad’s Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED), which lists support of women farmers as part of the intersectional model. SRED challenges the oppression of Dalit and women laborers. These movements are intersectional and bring religious, caste, communal, and gender perspectives into the fight for farmers’ rights. 

What is interesting about the Sikh farmers is that Sikhism as a religion is critical of caste discrimination and religious divisions. Men and women were equally active during partition. They are admired for their warrior spirit and their generosity. At the height of the protest, the farmers offered langaar, or food donation, to all protesters—a sign of their good will despite the draconian measures they are battling. The farmers are careful not to let the news media misconstrue their protest into a religious protest or the 1980s disastrous “Khalistan” protest. They do not want to be labeled anti-national. In fact, the stories about women farmers can become the linchpin for any success that can be seen in this latest farmers’ protest movement. In addition, feminist protests across the globe can show solidarity with the farmers and increase pressure on the Indian government and point to the danger to food, earth, and human and animal health.

Pramila Venkateswaran

(Photo Credit: Reuters / Anushree Fadnavis)

Neither eviction wave nor tsunami, what’s coming is ethnic cleansing, a pogrom

For the past few months, the United States, at all levels, has and has not faced the reality of impending mass evictions. The Center for Disease Control, or CDC, issued an eviction moratorium, which runs out December 31. Numerous states, counties, and cities have issued their own eviction moratoria. In almost each case, the moratorium was riddled with loopholes and way too short-term. None of the moratoria cancelled debt or rent, although some cancelled late fees. Thus, once the moratorium expires, families and individuals will be faced with months of piling debt. Along with debt, hunger has intensified and expanded. Many are forced to decide between food and shelter. Meanwhile, with the pandemic surging, with lockdowns proliferating across the country, evictions are not only ongoing but, in some parts of the country, spiking, despite the pretense of a moratorium. Why? What is the investment in evictions? When staying at home means staying alive, what `inspires’ landlords and police or sheriffs to throw fellow human beings into the cold? What is our investment in evictions that we let them go on? Eviction haunts the United States. Why do we take eviction for granted?

For the past few months, housing activists and advocates as well as the media have warned that mass evictions are on the way, to no avail. Every day brings another spate of heartbreaking stories of people who did what they were supposed to do and are facing eviction or have been evicted. These stories are generally under headlines that invoke eviction waves or, more emphatically, eviction tsunamis. Again, to little or no avail. “It’s terrible and no one cares.”

The impending mass eviction is not a wave, nor is it a tsunami. It’s ethnic cleansing, it’s a pogrom. Various reports have demonstrated that mass evictions will do exactly what evictions have done for decades, target Black and Latinx households, communities, and neighborhoods. The central focus of this assault is, and historically has been, Black women. A recent study of racial and gender disparities among evicted people in the United States found “Black renters received a disproportionate share of eviction filings and experienced the highest rates of eviction filing and eviction judgment. Black and Latinx female renters faced higher eviction rates than their male counterparts. Black and Latinx renters were also more likely to be serially filed against for eviction at the same address.”. This was based on evictions between 2012 and 2016. As eviction scholar Matthew Desmond noted, in a research article published in 2012, “In poor black neighborhoods, eviction is to women what incarceration is to men: a typical but severely consequential occurrence contributing to the reproduction of urban poverty.”

And this year, during the pandemic? “During the pandemic, the rate of evictions in majority Black and Latino neighborhoods has been twice that of mostly white neighborhoods, even as COVID-19 affects minorities disproportionately.” According to last week’s Government Census Household Pulse Survey, among Black and Latinx households, around 40% say they have little to no confidence they’ll be able to meet next month’s rent payment. Most are already heavily in debt to both credit cards and family members. Evictions today increase the numbers of Covid deaths, immediately, and will hobble Black and Latinx for years to come. Of the nearly 40 million people targeted for eviction, “women are both disproportionately likely to be evicted and disproportionately hit by the current economic downturn.” Here’s what disproportionality looked like in October: 15% of Asian, non-Hispanic women were behind on rent; 19% of Latinas and 25% of Black, non-Hispanic women couldn’t pay rent

A tsunami is “a brief series of long, high undulations on the surface of the sea caused by an earthquake or similar underwater disturbance. These travel at great speed and often with sufficient force to inundate the land.” A pogrom is “an organized massacre aimed at the destruction or annihilation of a body or class of people … an organized, officially tolerated, attack on any community or group.” The United States is not facing an eviction tsunami, it is creating an eviction pogrom. Eviction is not a natural force crashing on our built environment; eviction is an officially tolerated, organized attack on a community, with the ultimate purpose of extermination. Call it a pogrom. 

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo credit: The New York Times / Sally Ryan)

Cruelty has a Human Heart

Cruelty has a Human Heart
by Dan Moshenberg

Sometimes the world is awash with spectacular cruelty. England races to deport asylum seekers ahead of BrexitThe President of the United States races to execute people before he leaves the White House. In this world of Big Men, Big Women making big decisions, what is the life of an eleven-year-old girl in Birmingham, England? Apparently, for the Birmingham City Council, very little, if that much. Here’s the story. It’s a small story.

An 11-year-old girl, born in the United Kingdom, lost her mother to a terminal illness. The girl’s father was denied permission to enter the United Kingdom. When the mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness, she asked the girl’s father to assume responsibility for the girl. He refused. When the mother died, family friends took her in. They acted as foster parents. They also applied to the Council for help, specifically a social worker, and financial support. The Council, deciding that the arrangement was “private”, denied the application and moved to start proceedings to have the girl deported. This week, the Ombudsman ruled in the girl’s favor, noting, “As a result of the council’s actions, [the girl] spent over two years in a placement that was legally insecure. She was not recognised as a ‘looked after’ child and therefore missed out on the additional support and protections that come with this.

“She lost contact with her only remaining relatives and was at risk of being deported due to her fragile immigration status. She lost significant sums from the trust fund provided by her mother. Despite her vulnerabilities and the significant upheaval in her life following her mother’s death, her needs remained unassessed and potentially unmet.”

The Birmingham City Council has agreed to pay the girl £1,000 for distress caused; £1,000 to the family friends, along with the support money they should have received; and money to cover the cost of the girl’s citizenship application, when that day arrives.

The story ends: “A spokesman for Birmingham Children’s Trust, which is in charge of caring for looked-after children for the council, said it accepted the ombudsman’s findings and apologised to both the complainant and the girl.” We don’t know if the complainant and the girl accepted the apology. They shouldn’t. We shouldn’t either.

In what world does it make sense to deport an 11-year-old girl child, whose mother has just died, whose father has rejected her? Ours. We must address the cruelty. The world is awash with the tears of those who suffer cruelty, spectacular cruelty, intimate cruelty. Cruelty. Cruelty has a Human Heart.  

(Image Credit: Martin Kammler)

Say it out loud

Say it out loud
(Gender-Based-Violence)

Irked is he
at the acronym
saying it hides
the word violence

Connected to jazz
is Nigel Vermaas
on evening Bush Radio
the 16 Days Campaign
at its end

Say it out loud
Gender-Based-Violence
don’t hide it
don’t let it hide

Behind an acronym
Behind a committee
Behind closed doors
Behind a veil a cloak
Behind a pandemic

Woman got a right to be
follows the little opinion
a Caiphus Semenya song
he finds fitting

He said it out loud

Bush Radio’s Nigel Vermaas puts his foot down on evening community radio.

By David Kapp

(Photo Credit: Design Indaba)