Harassment in schools skyrockets after election, teachers report

This article follows up the multiple reports of verbal harassment in the days following the Presidential election. Donald Trump’s bigoted campaign and eventual victory has confirmed racist notions that previously wouldn’t be expressed as often and explicitly.  Just to name a few examples this report covers; students in Kansas chanted, “Trump won, you’re going back to Mexico,” to students from other countries, in Oregon, a high school teacher photographed vandalism in the boys’ bathroom, which mentioned the KKK and used the n-word, and in Tennessee, a black student was blocked from entering his classroom by two white students chanting, “Trump, Trump”. Over 10,000 teachers reported incidents such as these through the Southern Poverty Law center website. There were a reported 2,500 negative incidents of bigotry and harassment that mimicked Donald Trump’s rhetoric.

However these taunts and incidents of harassment don’t come without a cost. Approximately 80 percent of educators who responded with these claims said they noticed heightened anxiety from minorities in their classrooms. One of the teachers that responded noted that in her school teachers were discouraged from speaking up about these incidents and encouraged to downplay them- leaving students who were targeted hopeless, and suicidal.

In class we’ve talked about the ramifications and cultural shifts that Donald Trump’s victory allowed for. This hyper-agression from his supporters present a real problem for students of color and the response from school administrations show that the problem has an institutionalized element to it. Rather than acknowledging a problem, the school boards thought the appropriate conduct for these situations is to turn the other way. Furthermore, creating incentive and reason for these aggressor students to conduct themselves in ways that jeopardize the mental health of other minority students.



No justicia para las mujeres


I found this article after one of my Peruvian friends on Facebook reacted angrily to a post that had a link to the text, and what struck me outright was the actual longevity of eugenic sterilization, which had survived and was indeed very active into the late 1990s. What I find disturbing is the denial that this campaign ever occurred, as well as the laughable excuse that these coerced operations were the deeds of individual physicians who did not abide by protocols, so the operations were ‘’isolated cases’’. I can’t help but ask myself how can more than 300 000 people be sterilized over the course of 4 years, if no nationwide incentive was present, and how can only 5 physicians be held responsible for such an enormous number of surgeries over the course of 4 years: did a single surgeon perform 15 000 sterilizations a year?

I have always been interested in the intersectional treatment of people and how mysteriously the role of the government is never called into question. Given president Alberto Fujimori’s turbulent past, his coming into power (which included an auto-coup and assumption of complete judicial and legislative powers) and his 25-year sentence due to human rights violation, how can charges against him be dropped without a further investigation and the claims of so many be dismissed?

As I read several other articles connected to the topic, I came across Fujimori’s statement upon prosecution that he ‘’deserved credit from saving Peru from anarchy’’1, but was he not encouraging therapeutic nihilism by ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and prompting them to reject the advances of Western medicine?

There are a lot of questions that arise, and I believe they all connect to the idea that the possession of power grants isolation from law, and that sadly there is no safe place in the world for impoverished indigenous people, as their segregation from political life and their denied social voice are cunning repressions by institutions. Another very striking connection is the fact that the people coerced into sterilization were threatened by the payment of taxes for having very large families, so it appears that they were held responsible for being poor and not being able to provide for their children. This links to our unit on eugenics because it reiterates the idea that it is not the socially induced conditions that lead to fertility and failure to provide for children, but the impoverished people’s fault for being unjustly treated in the first place.

A question which arises is why was sterilization sought after, and the answer I have so far been able to identify, is that a growth in a highly impoverished part of the population is unwanted. This is probably because the sterilized ‘’already got an army’’, raising concerns of race suicide. Furthermore, the refusal to hold government officials responsible might be due to the fact that, should the case be settled in favor of the Peruvian women, huge reparations will be needed, so in the end of the day, the in the hugely ethical world today everything is far more economic than humane.

And yet, why are we so silent about the past and its haunting ghost today? Is it because of our apparent conviction that death only happens to others? I feel that the lack of an institutional voice to represent the struggles of the oppressed is very relevant to the current political situation worldwide, and that an even larger outcry is needed in order to raise awareness. But as it appears for this case, Peruvian women are not likely to receive the justice they deserve, as it is supposed to close by the end of the year, and up to now there are no updates on court decisions.

1 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/apr/07/alberto-fujimori-peru

A Picture of Pain and Hope

My year-long internship at the Brooklyn Museum–and exposure to Sanford Biggers’ Blossom–provided me with the experience of not only researching the piece, but also teaching its physical and symbolic manifestation of materials and emotion tied through historical tragedy. Because of my past experience with this artwork, I was slightly disappointed in myself once I realized I had failed to make the connection between Blossom and our class earlier–but the connection is striking.

Created by Sanford Biggers in 2007, Blossom is an artwork that combines a tree with a piano, which seems to have collided with the tree, resulting in its distorted placement. The image of a tree and a piano recklessly fused together already begins to create a striking symbol of life and its beauty or hardship. This is further heightened by the way the piano–which is attached to a MIDI system–plays “Strange Fruit.” While the song played is Biggers’ arrangement, its meaning remains; “Strange Fruit” was popularized in the 30s and written as a protest towards lynching. Blossom itself is influenced by the events that took place at a high school in 2006, in which nooses were hung from a tree on school grounds.

Given the inspiration behind the artwork and the elements it incorporates–the bodhi tree, piano, and song–the juxtaposition created by these elements serves to exemplify a powerful aspect of how historical tragedy and trauma is dealt with. To clarify, Biggers created a bodhi tree, which is the tree that Gautama Buddha reached enlightenment. Not only is a tree symbolic of life and healing, but Biggers chose to create a bodhi tree, which represents enlightenment. The pairing of this tree with a broken piano that plays the notes of a protest song hints at a hopeful future, while still acknowledging past suffering and pain.

I feel like this analysis reflects the present conditions we’ve been discussing in class. The rise of movements that challenge the status quo coupled with events and people that try to stifle these movements reflects pain and suffering, but also hope and healing. Now, we’re at a time in history where we can look back on the past and present and acknowledge trauma, while still hopefully looking towards a future.

VENUS SELENITE November 10 @ Princeton University


Venus Selenite is a poet, writer, performance artist, social critic, editor, educator, and technologist based in Washington, D.C. The author of a poetry collection, trigger, she is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she began her career on the youth slam and spoken word circuits.

Venus’s work centers experiences of intersectionality, identity, liberation, joy, and suffering, intending to uplift and control narratives of trans and queer people of color.

Venus works as the Trans Voices Columnist for Wear Your Voice Magazine, serves on the leadership team of Trans Women of Color Collective, is an editor for Trans Women Writers Collective, and is the Communications Coordinator for The Future Foundation. She has performed and spoken at venues such as the Kennedy Center, Anacostia Playhouse, New York University-DC, American University, the Capturing Fire Queer Poetry Slam, and the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam. Venus will be publishing her first novella, Istrouma, and co-editing Nameless Women: An Anthology of Fiction by Trans Women of Color, both eyeing publication in 2017.

The Criminalization of Survival Strategies in Black and Brown Communities



I tend to bookmark articles that I find interesting and want to read later on at some point, but almost always I end up forgetting about them. Matthew’s post on Hurricane Katrina, however, reminded me of this article that I had come across a few weeks ago while scrolling through Facebook. The article talks about how the deaths of Eric Garner and Alton Sterling while trying to sell cigarettes and cd’s, respectively, are part of a larger phenomenon where “the hustle” is essentially criminalized by our current criminal justice system. Individuals, specifically black and brown folk, are shut out from the formal economy for a variety of reasons ranging from a criminal past to a lack of documentation, which leads them to then participate in the underground market. While out hustling in order to literally survive, these men and women are left “vulnerable to arrest and police violence.” Pushed out of the formal economy by US policies and our criminal justice system, black and brown folk are forced to pursue alternative methods of survival and then are re-victimized by the same system that drove them to these practices in the first place.

The idea of the criminal justice system as a living laboratory from my last post has been on my mind lately, especially now that I’m back home in Harlem and I’m actually seeing again on a daily basis how black and brown bodies are hyper-policed within their own communities. Once again, we see how the criminal justice system literally extends its power over the human body by criminalizing methods of survival. Instead of asking why these people are turning to hustling in the first place, the criminal justice system’s first instinct is to have them arrested for their actions, not even taking into consideration that these men and women are doing it in order to put food on the table. 

In the article, the author mentions how our modern prisons and criminal justice system were created specifically to deal with Black folk who had been shut out from formal jobs. This specific argument took me back to Marc Lamont Hill’s quote “Instead of saying, ‘The system is broke let’s fix it,’ we should be saying, ‘the system is working, let’s break it.’” Both men essentially acknowledge that the criminal justice system was never created to protect the people it serves. With this in mind, I’m left wondering how do we best go about effectively and realistically overhauling this system knowing what we know about the origins and intended purpose of it?

Lawyer Demands that Eric Garner’s Children Take a DNA Test Before Distributing the $7 Million Dollar Settlement


I came across this article while I was scrolling aimlessly through my Facebook newsfeed a few weeks ago. I was instantly captivated by the caption because after all that this family has been put through, I couldn’t fathom to think of what else our criminal justice system was forcing them to endure. The article talks about how the lawyer representing Legacy Miller (Eric Garner’s 2 year old love child) is demanding that Garner’s four other children undergo a DNA test before the $7 million dollar settlement is divided up amongst them. Even though Esaw Garner (widow of Eric Garner) has explained multiple times why Eric Garner’s name does not appear on her children’s birth certificates, the lawyer is continuing to press for the DNA test. The money has yet to be distributed to the children even though the $7 million dollar settlement was reached months ago.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the criminal justice system as a living laboratory and how officials in this system tend to go beyond their powers and abuse and violate the human body under the guise of “doing their job.” From the way police officers conduct searches to the way lawyers require victims to undergo humiliating medical procedures during trials, officials are constantly finding new ways to expand their authority over the body, specifically black and brown bodies. In the case of Esaw Garner, her testimony on the birth of her children is completely discarded in court. It doesn’t matter that her children knew Eric Garner as their father their entire lives. In the eyes of the lawyer, her testimony was viewed as unconvincing and thus merited medical intervention through a DNA test.

This article also brought me back to the chapters we read in Medical Apartheid a few weeks ago. In the book, Washington actually highlights how medical personnel continued to perform experiments on slaves even after they died. Not even in death were slaves able to finally be free from the oppressive systems that held them captive throughout their lives. In the case of Eric Garner and many others like him, his body and that of his family is continuously violated by officials who represent the criminal justice system. Even in death, there is no peace that is afforded to him or his family.

A New Olympic Sport: City Cleansing

A New Olympic Sport: City Cleansing

I encountered this article while I was researching the performance of the Bulgarian athletes during the Rio Olympic games this summer and what I found amusing is the confrontation with reality of the splendor and glory of short-lived major sports events and the prolonged process of preparation for hosting them and the way communities are transformed or completely erased while doing so. The sense of exclusion and community cleansing that it presented resonated with me and our discussions on unit two.

I could not help but feel a little exasperated because of the marginalization which occurs every time an economic incentive to ‘’cleanse’’ a district is underway, as I find the idea to not ruin the image of a site in the public eye while covering up but not solving its problems contemptible. It is logical to acknowledge that major sports events are a source of financial influx and they stabilize the economy, and that no tourist would like to feel unsafe and uncomfortable while enjoying themselves, but at the same time, Brazil is one of the countries with the highest GINI indices (an economic index that determines the income inequality in a nation, where a value above 50 is considered high) according to the World Bank, with a 51% index rate in 2014. This speaks of how unevenly wealth is spread and alludes to the idea that Brazil is an economically segregated nation. Therefore, these cleansing policies certainly deepen the income gap between lower and upper-class men, so that we end in a well-known living laboratory situation: thousands of people are dislocated from the place they live (sometimes 80 km away!), to make room for privileged visitors from all over the world to gape at the events for 19 days. The newly erected buildings are seldom used after the event in question is over. Hence we can identify a new aspect of a living laboratory, and that is the displacement from home and the psychological implications it has for the mental well-being of the homeless citizens and the people living in favelas, as they lose a part of their identity and the security of being accustomed to one’s surroundings, a sense built through devoting years to one’s home. We should also note that the displaced people do not have the financial assets to oppose the banishment from their homes, as lawyers are expensive.

Then should we really allow for the building of grand constructions to accommodate events generating enormous turnover for the economy, when the people who need this extra income benefit the least? How important is the partial loss of one’s identity as a determinant of a living lab and should we generate living labs when trying to appeal to foreign countries and their cultures, while trimming the uniqueness of our own? And lastly, how important a factor is money in government decision-making when the happy lives of people who constitute a significant portion of the electorate are at stake?

No Más Bebés Documents the Sterilization of Mexican-American Women During the 1970s


Rene Tajima-Pena latest documentary No Mas Bebes brings to light the non consensual, sterilization of Mexican-American women in the 1970s. The film follows just four of the many women who were unknowingly subjected to sterilization at a Los Angeles hospital. While in labor, the four women were told that they had to undergo an emergency c section operation in order to save their child’s life. At the same time that the women were being rushed to the operating room, nurses pressured the four women to sign release papers that the women were under the impression were related to their c section, but in reality that granted the doctor permission to sterilize them. None of the nurses fully explained the papers to the four women and translation was never provided to any of the victims, all of whom spoke only Spanish. It took many of the women in the film months, some even years, before they found out what had been done to them. It wasn’t until Dr. Bernard Rosenfeld, a white doctor, started drawing attention to the sterilizations that the case starts receiving attention and ultimately makes its way into the courts.

While we will be covering the topics of Eugenics within the next few weeks, we have already been exposed to some of its major tenets already. From Toni Morrison’s Home to Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid, people of color, especially women, have historically been sterilized at the hands of medical personnel who have abused their powers by performing non consensual procedures on unwilling participants. In this specific film, we learn that during this time there was a large fear of overpopulation which led to these non consensual sterilizations. Unsurprisingly, we also learn that these procedures were mainly performed on women of color, even though white women were also having large families during this time. The film highlights how sterilization was not only a gendered experience, but a racialized one as well.

When I finished watching the film, I was left with many questions and thoughts of “what could have happened.” I think the film does an excellent job of dispelling the idea that we are far removed from the Eugenics movement and that it was simply something that happened in the past. These women are alive and well today and their mere existence actively challenges this narrative. Still, I’m left wondering what would have happened had a white doctor not called out the abuses. Would the women’s stories have gone untold? Or would have someone else spoken up eventually? The film still has me dwelling on the topic of white privilege and how this privilege, although its unfair, can be used to draw attention to these types of abuses.


Living Laboratories as Emotional Sites


I found this image while I endlessly scrolled through Tumblr, immediately stopping to take a closer look. The image was taken by Ian Berry, a British photojournalist, in South Africa in 1969 and was captioned “A young black girl looks after a baby girl for a white family.” This image, coupled with its caption, strikes me as a reflection of the emotional turmoil and/or emotional imbalance within a living laboratory.

At first, I was simply focused on the expression of the young black girl’s face; her expression is one of discomfort, resignation, and detachment. I couldn’t help but feel an extreme amount of sympathy for the girl, who looks like she feels everything but comfort. Her physical position in the car also reflects a sense of discomfort; she’s leaning forward onto the structure in front of her, which can be indicative of her need for physical support or exit from the car. While her expression is one that captivates and intrigues, the juxtaposition created between the young black girl and the white baby is intensely effective in relaying a message. This message is one that speaks volumes on the dynamic between black and white bodies; while the young black girl feels discomfort, as expressed by both her facial expression and position in the car, the baby behind her is sleeping. The contrasts are extremely direct; the young girl is awake; the baby is sleeping; the young girl is uncomfortable and distressed; the baby has a space to rest and looks relaxed.

What I’m trying to convey is that a living laboratory has physical components, as seen through the weaponization of medicine on black bodies, but it also has psychological and emotional components as well. This image has nothing to do with physical harm or violence, yet, as seen in my analysis, I believe that it has all to do with the emotional impact of a living lab and its oppressive dynamics. I do believe that when discussing and viewing a living laboratory we should focus on the physical harm or violence imposed on people of color, but I think it’s also just as important to openly discuss the different ways violence and oppression manifests itself. What do you all think is an effective, or the most effective, way in dismantling and reframing a living lab?

The Belgian Congo: The Living Laboratory Of 20th Century Africa And The Origins Of AIDS

poliwho002  1-hiv


I watched this video 2 or so years ago (I love viruses) and thought that it really connects to our recent unit and the idea of vaccination against disease without consent and the medical experimentation on a readily available – unprivileged – population.

In short, the documentary links the production and research of the second wave poliomyelitis vaccine (after a lot of the original Salk vaccine was found to be faulty)  in the 1950s, and the competition between two doctors to create a new effective vaccine, one of whom is the man considered the pioneer of the fight against polio, Dr Hilary Koprowski, who allegedly tested and developed the vaccine in monkey tissue cells and potentially used chimpanzee kidney cells. The ostensible use of the latter, as argued by the movie, is linked to the emergence of AIDS and the isolation of the first ever seropositive HIV sample, coming from Leopoldville (contemporary Kinshasa). I believe that the connection to the living laboratories issues that the movie points out is the following: the Oral Polio Vaccine developed by Koprowski was delivered to 1 million citizens of the Belgian Congo, as it had to be tested before delivery into the US. This was problematic as 90 million Americans have already been vaccinated with the original Salk vaccine, so a ‘’fresh’’ population was needed. Eventually, the Belgian Congo government forced its citizens to undergo polio vaccination, as refusal to do so was illegal. Soon after the end of the campaign, the first cases of HIV-infected patients emerged, so that after the Rolling Stone published an article claiming Koprowski’s involvement into the emergence of HIV but later apologized to Koprowski due to a certain mistake that disproved their argument – the correct species infected by SIV.As some answers were missing,  journalist Edward Hooper started researching the link between the polio vaccination campaign and the potential use of chimpanzee cells for growing the vaccine (chimpanzees are infected by HIV-1 cousin virus, SIV, standing for simian immunodeficiency virus, so that it could have mutated into HIV, as human and chimpanzee genomes are 98-99% identical, creating potential zoonosis; SIV does not infect green macaque monkeys who are routinely used as sources of cells, hence the error of the Rolling Stone) and the first seropositive HIV samples. He found witnesses in the Camp Lindi Laboratory in Stanleyville  (where the vaccine was developed) whose testimonies were in favor of the fact that chimpanzee tissues were harvested for growing the vaccine.

I find the connection to our class in the way people were subjected to a subtle kind of experimentation: being vaccinated with lots that might have been contaminated with potentially deadly germs without checking for any issues of liability, namely contaminating people with a disease which ended up infecting more than 70 million people worldwide, of whom 35 million died by the end of 2015. In a way, this documentary is a continuation to our class experience from the times of Medical Apartheid, with translating results from the immunization in Africa to the subsequent immunization in the United States, and with our current unit, as the sanctuary of the body was forever ‘’branded’’ with disease, and what is worse is that this is ‘’a disease of  young people’’, as pathologist Dr Cecil Fox points out in the movie. This would mean that there is an ongoing legacy of scientific racism, as HIV is prenatally and sexually transmitted.

I think that we should pose the question whether the rush to find a novel vaccine to cure a terrific disease like polio (which in the 1950s killed and paralyzed 500, 000 people annually) should be justifiable as it might have caused the health crisis of the 21st century and left the continent of Africa devastated, and what is the ‘’lesser evil’’ when it comes to medicine: is it instantaneous dwindling of mortality rates of poliomyelitis (which today is almost eradicated), or is it the ongoing agency of infecting, killing and economically demolishing, and socially stigmatizing whole continents with AIDS?