police brutality

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Crossfitting While Brown

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/12/2020 - 4:19am in

I ‘CrossFitted.’ And I’m Brown. But I just didn’t CrossFit anywhere. I trained at CrossFit South Brooklyn (CFSBK). That is a crucial component of my “CrossFitting While Brown” experience. Being brown and chasing ‘elite fitness’ does not necessarily entail a conceptual clash between the two, but my personal insecurities and the cultural placement of CrossFit when I started at CFSBK back in 2009, ensured an internal discomfort that took some dispelling. CFSBK had a great deal to do with it.

Brown people, especially Indians, are not supposed to be athletic. We do not occupy such a place in the American imagination. The Indian immigrant has other stereotypes to conform to: the doctor, the systems analyst, the storekeeper, the motel owner, the taxi driver. He is typically skinny or just out of shape; he speaks with a comical ‘Apu accent’; he is better known for spelling bees; he does not play organized sports. I fulfill some components of the stereotypical Indian: I am a professor, I do math in my head, I talk about the books I read, I write books, I used to write computer code once; I’m a nerd; I fly my nerd flag proudly. I’m aware I’m not supposed to be strong or fast or athletic; those are not the images associated with ‘folks like me.’ I grew up with a legacy of athletic failure at both national and personal levels; it is how I view myself. My personal failure appeared embedded in a broader cultural failure ‘back home’; in my darkest moments, it became pure essentialism, driving me to find flaws in my genes. My sense of my body is very closely tied up with its failures. All of this suggested I did not belong in CrossFit, a place only for the very fit, the very strong, and dare I say it, at least back in 2009, the very white.

Then too, it was a time when I, as a brown man, thought better of my going to Crossfit because I had been warned about its ‘right-wing politics,’ its flirtations, or rather, its wholesale embrace of militarism and a problematic masculinity grounded in workouts that aspired to ‘fuck you up,’ ‘make you puke,’ and ultimately, like in those photographs that make the rounds, sprawled out on the floor in a puddle of sweat, ripped bodies heaving and gasping for breath. In post-911 America, to go to a gym dominated by hard white bodies, whose group photographs (those L1 certs!) and ‘CF main site’ pages were dominated by images of law enforcers (the guys who’ve never let me, and many others of a darker persuasion, feel at home in the US), or the military (which seemingly specialized in killing brown people with turbans, and which seemed to hate my wife’s Muslim community), just felt like a fraught decision. Still, I made the decision to sign up at CFSBK because I desperately needed to kickstart my fitness—and my associated downward headed head space—and because I trusted the woman friend who directed me to CFSBK.

I came to CFSBK with my baggage of being an unathletic brown man, one insecure about his bodily self-worth and about whether he belonged in its spaces. Once I began, every CrossFitting failure of mine, my failures to perform kipping pull-ups, handstand push-ups, or even the elementary forward roll, further slotted me into the category of athletic failures. My back injury, incurred a few weeks after I started at CFSBK, made it even worse. Perhaps I was not cut out for this ‘elite fitness’ business – genetically, culturally, ethnically. We are all racked by self-doubt and insecurity and a diminished personal image of ourselves (as Orwell once said, “every life, when viewed from the inside, is a series of small failures”); my insecurities were not any greater or any worse than others, they were decked out in a different form with a different affective content.

Every time I ‘failed,’ I felt I failed my entire demographic, a race, an entire people, and added one more datum point to the claim that brown men are unathletic. I would often wonder, “These folks must be shaking their head at this out-of-place brown dude, whose numbers are the lowest, his times the slowest.” It was a peculiar burden to carry, a weighty additional framing of what should have just been a workout. I did not want to be the sole representative of a large and varied group, but I found myself functioning as one—in my mind. I felt, keenly, that such was the spotlight turned on me. When I did ‘well’ in a workout, that is, I did not disgrace myself, I chalked another win up for my own, entirely personal, stereotype-dispelling project. (Variants of these exist in my other walks of life.) Every time I ‘did poorly’, I put one in the loss column. This was perhaps self-destructive, but it was an instinct, not something that I consciously took on.

This is a familiar tension for the immigrant, to be aware of the preconceptions that frame your presence in the spaces you frequent: you want your particularity to be noticed, but you also want to be ‘just like everyone else,’ to blend in, to not be noticed. When I stepped on to a CrossFit floor, I was aware of this fact. I was made aware of my identity when my lifting partners would ask me to repeat my name, when my accent made people ask me ‘where I’m from’ or insist I repeat a word which I had subjected to my idiosyncratic pronunciation. Sometimes the ƒQuestion of the Day would become fraught for that reason; I did not want to attract attention to myself, even as I sought to stand out with my own distinctive answers to questions like ‘what was your favorite television show growing up.’ (The real answer: live cricket games on other folks’ televisions; we didn’t have a TV till I hit eleven.)

But of course, my identity is not just that of a brown man or an immigrant. I’m a teacher, a writer, a metalhead and Deadhead, a pothead, a father, an immigrant, a New Yorker, a Giants and Yankees fan, and like so many others at CFSBK, just someone hoping to look better, feel better, live longer. These all found expression in CFSBK’s many, varied spaces. At CFSBK, I shared platforms with cops, Iraq war veterans, firefighters, doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers, teachers, photographers, management consultants, actors, comedians, with black, brown, and white (and many other skin toned) folks. I was given a nickname and made some very good friends; my back injury was accommodated, and even given personal attention! I found my peeps at CFSBK in more ways than one. I was welcomed in all the right ways; CFSBK peeps laughed at my stupid jokes, my endless drug references, my silly dancing, they cheered for me during workouts, they counted my reps, they cheered for big lifts at the Strength Cycle Total, they cheered whether I came last or first (never!); heck, CFSBK even picked me as Athlete of the Month.

Eleven years on, I do not have the bulging biceps or boulders in my shoulders that the male Crossfit ideal has; I do not have a six-pack, and have resigned myself to a three-months-of-good-diet-and-regular-workouts-will-give-me-my-dream-body state (where we all are, really.) I still do not qualify as a ‘firebreather’ or a ‘beast,’ I did not become a member of the ‘competition team,’ I’m not among the strongest or fastest older men at CFSBK. But none of that seemed to matter any more at CFSBK. I had friends, among coaches and members, and I found a space for expressing myself, both physically and emotionally. CrossFit South Brooklyn made me feel at home. Which, as those who leave ‘home’ will tell you, counts for a great deal.

It is important to note that my sense of belonging does not necessarily transfer to other CrossFit gyms. I do not CrossFit when I travel. Perhaps some traces of my earlier associations with CrossFit still linger on; a workout is a space in which I feel I’m putting my body on the line, and I like doing so around people I trust. CFSBK was that place. I came to CFSBK as an insecure brown man, and in some ways, I remain one. But if I grew out of that self-conception at all, Crossfit South Brooklyn, ‘the house that David built,’ had a great deal to do with it.

France’s New Security Law May Have Just Sparked a “George Floyd” Moment

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/12/2020 - 5:56am in

Award-winning Syrian photographer Ameer Alhalbi lies dazed on the ground. His head is heavily bruised and bandaged, blood covers his face, arms, and much of his body. Lengths of cotton wool have been stuffed up his broken nose, giving him an almost comical appearance. Alhalbi has been badly beaten by police. But this is not Syria, it is Paris, where he was covering — ironically — huge, nationwide protests against police brutality this weekend.

Perhaps even more concerning is that new laws pushed through by the government of Emmanuel Macron and passed by France’s National Assembly (akin to the U.S. House of Representatives) mean that sharing images of Alhalbi or other victims of police brutality might soon be considered illegal.

Article 24 of the country’s new national security bill, which now only needs to be ratified by the Senate, specifically outlaws the publishing and dissemination of images of police that undermine their physical or psychological “integrity,” and is punishable with a fine of up to €45,000 and up to one year in jail. The bill specifically states that filming police in such a manner would be against the law, but questions have been raised about how liberally authorities would interpret the nebulous language of the new edict. Media unions and human rights groups warn that it could prevent journalists from documenting police abuses.

The National Assembly’s decision to approve the law last week sparked large protests in many major cities around France, including Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier, and Nantes. However, an incident caught on camera on Saturday threw large amounts of fuel on the fire of resentment, drastically increasing the demonstrations’ size and intensity.

Images from mobile phones and closed-circuit television showed an unprovoked police attack on a young black music producer at his place of work. A group of four officers can be seen chasing after Michel Zecler, following him from outside into his studio, where they kick, punch and beat him with truncheons. Zecler also alleges they shouted racial abuse while they assailed him.

Before the videos went viral on social media, the officers testified that Zecler had, in fact, attacked them, and was resisting arrest. The officers have now been charged with “deliberate violence” and with “falsifying statements.” Two of the gang of four, including a 44-year-old senior officer with the rank of brigadier, remain in custody, while two others have been released.

The viral images provoked a storm of condemnation across the country this weekend, and propelled as many as 500,000 people into the streets, with demonstrations in dozens of cities. Protestors marched through the streets, setting light to cars, damaging buildings, and clashing with police, of whom a reported 98 were injured nationwide. Many of Paris’ iconic boulevards resembled a war zone as thousands of demonstrators pitched battle with lines of police in riot gear.

President Macron said he was “very shocked” by the footage of the police attack on Zecler, yet continues to be a driving force behind the new security law, under which many have noted that the images might never have come to light, given as they essentially identify the Parisien officers and clearly undermine their integrity or authority. Without the footage, it is possible that Zecler would have been facing prosecution himself.

Although the bill and the protests against it are dominating French politics, the story has been covered sparsely in the American corporate press, with no coverage whatsoever in MSNBC, CBS News, or CNBC. Fox News, meanwhile, reprinted one Associated Press article, featuring an egregious, uncorrected error in its subheadline, asserting that protestors were shooting tear gas at themselves.

While foreign desks have been seriously cut in recent years, huge demonstrations in central Paris should not have been too difficult to cover. Lebanese political commentator Sarah Abdallah suggested that if the rallies had been happening in countries antagonistic to the United States, they would have been front-page news. Certainly, similar protests in Iran and Hong Kong dominated the news cycles last year, prompting constant reaction from Mike Pompeo. The Secretary of State is yet to comment on the events in France, suggesting that they are not at the front and center of his thoughts.

President Macron came to power in 2017, winning in the final round of the election against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen. A strong believer in neoliberalism and an admirer of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he has insisted that France must not merely be reformed, but transformed, and has attempted to radically alter the shape of French society, away from a social democratic model to one more resembling the United States. Almost immediately after gaining the presidency, however, his average approval rating tumbled and has not risen above 40% since.

Indeed, the 42-year-old former investment banker has faced almost constant resistance to his agenda from the general public. His attempts to increase the cost of fuel in 2018 sparked the Yellow Vest movement across the country. Meanwhile, his plans to raise the age of retirement and reform France’s pension system was met with a months-long general strike that paralyzed the country last winter. Despite losing over 50,000 people to the coronavirus pandemic, he has seen his popularity increase this year due to the government’s financial response to the virus, which included aid to small businesses and paying employees to stay home. Despite this, it appears possible that France might be headed for its own “George Floyd” moment, where its racial injustices are finally reckoned with.

Feature photo | Assa Traore, center, sister of Adama Traore attends a demonstration against a security law that would restrict sharing images of police, Nov. 28, 2020 in Paris. Francois Mori | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post France’s New Security Law May Have Just Sparked a “George Floyd” Moment appeared first on MintPress News.

Back to Normal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/09/2020 - 4:28pm in

One of the more persuasive arguments in favor of supporting Joe Biden is that things would go back to normal after Donald Trump leaves office. For those of us who remember what normal was, and is, that’s not necessarily appealing.

SOS USA

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 12:54am in

Heather Cox Richardson: Natural, social and political turmoil at record levels. Continue reading

The post SOS USA appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Bill Moyers and Heather Cox Richardson on Her Daily Letters

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/07/2020 - 8:54am in

Last fall Heather Cox Richardson started writing small essays on the history behind today’s politics and posting them on her Facebook page as LETTERS FROM AN AMERICAN. Today over half a million readers, and counting, wait for her daily dispatches. Continue reading

The post Bill Moyers and Heather Cox Richardson on Her Daily Letters appeared first on BillMoyers.com.