Tag Archives: America

Gordon Parks’ photos of segregation in the South

Gordon Parks was an American photographer and director, probably best remembered for his photo essays for Life magazine and as the director of the 1970s blaxploitation movie Shaft. 

Recently, the Gordon Parks Foundation discovered a series of over 70 unpublished photographs in an old storage box marked ‘Segregation Series’. This never before seen series provide the modern audience with a fascinating insight into the every day lives of African Americans in the 1950s and 60s. The pictures are particularly notable for being in colour which was still fairly uncommon for photographs at that time.

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Filed under History, Photography

What’s your jihad?

Back in October, Conservative American blogger, activist and executive director of the American Freedom Defence Initiative, Pamela Geller courted controversy by announcing plans to expand a pro-Israeli, ‘anti-jihad’ advertising campaign from its initial position on three subway platforms to include all of the buses in Manhattan.

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In response, the public education campaign MyJihad has brought its campaign (to share the proper meaning of jihad as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims) to the buses of New York as well.

Jihad means “struggling in the way of God”. The way of God being goodness, justice, passion, compassion, etc. It is ‘putting up the good fight’ as it were, against whatever odds or barriers one faces in life.

Jihad is a central tenet of the Islamic creed that has been widely misrepresented due, first and foremost, to the actions of Muslim extremists, with the knock-on effect that Islamophobes use these actions to further convince the public that such actions are the true face of Islam. Finally, a selective media understandably focuses on the sensational.

The campaign’s focus is on reclaiming Islam for the majority of Muslims, especially in relation to the public’s wider perception of what this means.

I enjoyed the campaign for its ability to combat such a negative attack so airily.

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Filed under Ad Campaigns, America, Politics, Religion

Armistice Day

The shirtless young anti-war protester in this photo is Frank C. Plada. He later died in Vietnam.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, History, Life, Photography, Politics, War

Myths About Crime In Black America – Debunked

Just as the after-effects from the arrest of George Zimmerman for the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida began to die down, America has once again been hit with an uncomfortable reminder of the delicate state of its relationship with its dark-skinned communities.

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On Sunday morning, a policeman in Oakland chased 18 year-old high school senior Alan Blueford and shot him three times (also managing to shoot himself in the foot once) as Blueford ran away from him. Blueford died as a result of his injuries. Blueford and two friends were standing outside waiting for some young lady friends to come and pick them up. According to Oakland police, two of their officers “believed one of them were carrying a hidden gun.” How they managed to deduce this from looks alone was not clarified, nor was it explained why this might be an issue in a country which thinks that carrying killing machines is a fundamental civil right.

Police say the young men ran. In light of what happened next, nobody could blame them. An officer followed Blueford for two block before recklessly firing at him. This is, by the way, against the law on a federal level in the US: in Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985), the Supreme Court specifically outlawed police shooting at fleeing suspects without probable cause. Nonetheless, the officer has been given a free holiday (“paid administrative leave”) for his troubles.

It is clear that Blueford was in possession of a gun at the time. Police claim he pointed it at them. However, it’s not clear when he might have had time to do this if he ran away from them immediately. The weapon found by his body was never fired.

Police detained his innocent friends for 6 hours and ignored protocol by neglecting to contact Blueford’s parents informing them of the death of their son, even though they had identified him. Instead, one of Blueford’s friends had to call them after he was released.

A summary execution such as this one shows just why a black American might have trouble trusting any police force. All of the officers involved were white. Their identities are being kept secret.

This case, along with Trayvon Martin’s killing, indicates the extent to which racial profiling has a detrimental effect on American citizens’ abilities to live harmoniously with one another. It also shows that the problem is not about to go away and illustrates just how disenfranchised black and coloured communities are within the States and how unfairly they are treated by the media, by law enforcement agencies and (as a result) by society in general.

This would not be as important an issue if so many white Americans weren’t convinced that racial discrimination is a thing of the past now that they have appointed a black president.

As Shani Hilton writes:

In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, we’ve seen a lot of discussion of the larger societal issues that play into how and when people are perceived as criminals. There were hoodies, there were marches, and there were frank talks from parent to child about how to minimize the danger of being a young person of color. On the other side, there were justifications of George Zimmerman’s actions: a smear campaign against Martin’s character, and plenty of writers explaining that statistically, blacks are simply more dangerous to be around.

That framing ignores the realities behind the numbers.

Below is an infographic explaining how five popular presumptions regarding the relationship between race and crime are, in fact, not only false but very false.

It is relevant because, much though Europeans like to think of themselves as better, more equal and more liberal than America, our racial situation is only slightly less horrendous.

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Filed under Africa, America, Culture, Current Affairs