On: Violence

violence

Violence is any action perpetrated with the intent of harming oneself, an individual, a group, community, establishment, or idea, which results in or has the potential to result in any form of tangible damage. While the outcome is an important part of the understanding of this definition, the focus should be on the notion that violence is enacted when the intention of the perpetrator is malicious. The perpetrator’s intention in any act of violence is to cause either physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological harm, socioeconomic deprivation, degradation, to strip one of their agency, maldevelopment, or even death.

Fortknox Kentucky U.S. Army Base,  C. 1970.

My father was immediately drafted in the military after he graduated from UCLA in 1969. Being ethnically Japanese, he was heavily discriminated against by the white people who also served with him, and it did not help that the U.S.’s enemy were the Vietnamese, as the whites often called anyone who was of Asian descent a “gook”, as they did my father. He was thus immediately marked as the enemy despite his U.S. citizenship, his actual ethnicity, and the fact that he too was fighting for his country. As his story goes, my father encountered violence midway through his training in Kentucky. One afternoon, the drill sergeant was explaining to everyone how to detain and capture “the enemy” when out in the field. He told my father to stand up, pointed at him directly in the face, and told the room, looking straight into my fathers eyes with contempt, that “this is what the enemy looks like”. My father, intelligent but prideful still, raised his middle finger directly at the drill sergeant and said, “I am an American citizen and you just violated my civil rights”. Without delay, two drill sergeants grabbed my father and dragged him to the barracks where they ruthlessly and incessantly beat him with sticks and bats to the point where he had to be hospitalized. That afternoon, yet another instance of violence enacted against a person of color occurred with the intent to degrade, dehumanize, and hopefully kill. This act, amongst countless more at the time, were meant to demonstrate to colored people that White Supremacy was still alive and well, and that no matter how hard they tried, no matter how loyal they were to the U.S. government, they were and would always remain the enemy. This is violence.

Violence is geographically and historically ubiquitous, covering large spans of time and physical space. It is present insofar as greed is perpetuated, and can be best understood through a cross-sectional analysis of three particularly shaking events that have marked entire generations and palpable landscapes, intertwining beautifully to comprehensively rework the definition violence. 

Native American Boarding Schools C.1869 into 20th c.

“U.S. and Canadian authorities took Native children from their homes and tried to school, and sometimes beat, the Indian out them” starting in 1869, enacting further cultural genocide against Native Americans, as if literal genocide and the appropriation of their lands was not enough. “Through a process of forced acculturation that stripped them of their language, culture, and customs”, the U.S. government maintained and eternalized not only a physical structure of violence, but a timeless, unbroken practice of systematic oppression through the forced co-optification of White Supremacy, and this “genocide is the law of the country”. As The violence here is permanent, affecting generations of Native peoples, as not only were their mouths “scrubbed with lye and chlorine solutions for uttering Native words”, but their culture was violently assaulted and consistently undermined. Through this experience, we reshape our conception of violence, understanding its ability to cross generations through traumatic emotional and physical wounds, its geographical and structural permanence manifested through the physical buildings of these schools that still stand today, and its ability to desecrate cultural pride. Violence thus becomes a discursive and defining narrative for Native peoples in America.

African American Lynching; Post-Reconstruction Era

Lynching, “the practice of killing people by extrajudicial…mob action” is a central and reoccurring theme in the African American, post-emancipatory narrative. “The major motive for lynchings… was the white society’s efforts to maintain white supremacy after emancipation of slaves”, and was responsible for the inexplicably cruel deaths of 3,446 blacks in less than one hundred years. Onlookers and participants treated these deeply violent lynchings as social events, where white people would bring their families to picnic, their sons to partake in the physical abuse as a rite of passage, and where people would celebrate White Supremacy and the further social death of black men, women, and children. The blood of the lynched is physically located in the soil below which these bodies were burnt, beaten, dragged, hung, and slaughtered. This fetishized violence is ingrained not only in this country’s White Supremacist narrative, but it is situated across every generation of black ancestry. It is precisely this tangible and conceptualized violence that was sanctioned and promoted by law enforcement, celebrated by the democratic left, and photographed to freeze in time — that serves as a tool to better understand the aspect of violence that is intentional and preserved in order to further a historically oppressed group’s maldevelopment.

Executive Order 9066: Japanese Internment; February 19, 1942

Executive Order 9066, or the forced, mass internment of Japanese Americans beginning in 1942 under President Woodrow Wilson, “nullified [Japanese American] citizenship, exclusively on grounds of racial difference”. The remnants of their physical internment can still be found on this country’s soil, the stories and trauma still shake the lives of the U.S. citizens that were deemed “the enemy” by the country they pledged their allegiance to. “A Jap is a Jap”. The color of their skin, the shape of their eyes, the combination of letters that formed their last names — these were grounds on which the U.S. government constitutionally appropriated the dreams, lives, property, and sense of pride that belonged to these people. In attempting to “protect” U.S. citizens, the government deeply compromised the lives of thousands of U.S. citizens, just not the ones that ‘mattered’, or white people. Violence is deeply rooted and its origins are in unfounded debates, constitutionally upheld and often perpetuated by those who we trust the most to protect us.

Through this triangulation of historically situated events, violence is modified from its original definition, as it is able to cross generations and indirectly affect individuals whose ancestors were hung or interned, it is able to seep into the ground of countries, to be the law of countries. Violence still aims to harm, it maintains that intention that is so central to its definition and to its spirit — but what I have discovered is that the pain is meant to be felt for hundreds of years, through millions of lives, and on limitless acres of land.

sources:

  1. Mae Ngai. Internment and Renunciation. PDF.
  2. Rucker, Paul . REWIND. Accessed February 24, 2017. www.rewindexhibition.com/ documents/PRucker_Rewind2_PressReady_rev4.pdf.
  3. Smith, Andrea. Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy. PDF.
  4. “Soul Wound by Andrea Smith.” Manataka. Accessed February 24, 2017. http:// http://www.manataka.org/page2290.html.

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On: Freedom

Google defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint,” but there is much more to it than just this. When I was younger I completely believed, and was convinced, that in our day and age everyone had freedom. I thought that everyone could do whatever they want and, knowing the consequences of doing the things they want to do, could decide freely, “without hindrance or restraint,” if the consequences or rewards were worth it. I realize now that I could not have been farther from the truth. I realize that no one has complete freedom.

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Every single living being is constrained by some sort of fear, desire, or external or internal pressure to be, think, do, and speak a certain way. To me, freedom can be seen through two distinct lenses: freedom of body and freedom of mind. Freedom of body mean materialistic freedom. It is the tangible freedom that people who have violated the law in some way and are locked behind bars lack. It is the freedom that our new administration constricts when they implement travel bans for people from a particular origin. It is the kind of freedom that allows people with a valid passport or visa to travel wherever they want to and explore and experience the world around them. It’s the freedom that allows people to do whatever and go wherever they desire. It’s the freedom that people with physical disabilities lack in many ways to participate and engage in any activity. Freedom of mind, on the other hand, is not directly associated materialistic liberties. Rather, it is something very intangible and something that everyone, whether they know it or not, lacks to some extent. It is the kind of freedom that allows people to love, think, feel, be happy, learn, and experience whatever and however they want. I touched on this earlier but to be more specific, there is no possible way to avoid all the pressures and constraints of society, accessibility to information, fear, insecurity, and hopes and dreams from getting in the way of what you think or believe.

My first two years of high school in 2012 and 2013 I lived in Los Angeles with my family. I attended my local all-girls private high school and was the MVP of the varsity cross country team. I worked extremely hard to stay at the top of the team and did not let myself be relaxed about my performance. I was constantly anxious because in my head I could never let a single person beat me—that would be the end of the world. In my own head, I created a barrier of stress and anxiety that enclosed me to the experiences, happiness, and lightheartedness that I desired. I lacked freedom of mind in this case. I could tell my body to do whatever I wanted but that was was confined to the thoughts and feelings I had. I tortured myself and put myself down during practices and devoted much of my weekends and free time to training. Essentially, I had no social life. My entire self-confidence depended on my performance in my sport comparatively to my peers. Before races and meets I would shake uncontrollably out of fear that I would not be able to beat every single one of my peers this time. I feared what my family, friends, and teammates would think of me if I let them down. But what I did not know was that it was not them who cared, it was only me. I was stuck in my own mind.

At a certain point, I decided that I could not withstand the pressure and anxiety that I had brought upon myself with this sport being a vehicle. I told my parents that I wanted to change high schools because I wanted to quit my athletic career in cross country because I realized that my anxiety around it was taking over me. I decided to go to a boarding school in Rome, Italy because it would give me so many opportunities to learn and experience new things and start fresh. I did not want to admit to my peers that a large reason for moving was because I was, in reality, “giving up” because I realized that my obsession with being the best in the sport was getting the best of me. During my time in cross country I was confined to my mind’s pressures that I truly believed were external pressures. Separating myself from those experiences I now realize that I gained so much freedom in escaping my anxieties and fears of not only what people thought of me and my successes or failures but what I thought about myself and how I used cross country to value my worth.

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The Berkeley Desk Series: Brianna

*The Berkeley Desk Series will feature the desks of people we know, UC Berkeley students, strangers, artists, savants, intellects, eccentrics, normies, and whomever wishes to contribute.*

The first installment is brought to you by Brianna, the founder of Blend and BBB, second year UC Berkeley student studying Undergraduate Law, and avid social justice advocate.

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We’ve made Protest Materials so you don’t have to!

Feel free to print these out and bring them to protests / hang them up on campus or around town / put them up on your walls or on your windows / hand them out to anyone wearing a MAGA hat.

{all designs by blend}.

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I want so badly to be knowledgable, experienced, politically aware, worldly… and all of that sh*t

I’m so curious. I want to know about literally everything! I wish I could somehow acquire knowledge and experience infinitely quickly. I have always been this way and I love this about myself but it definitely does pose challenges for me.

I was the type of child to go through a million different phases and interests… my poor parents had to deal with this and I am eternally grateful for how well they did so. When I wanted to be a singer my parents sent me to singing lessons. When I wanted to be a pianist the signed me up for piano lessons. And guitar. And ballet. And theatre. And gymnastics. And soccer. And softball. When I wanted to be a scientist they, being the supportive parents they are, supplied me with the microscope I had been begging for. When I wanted to learn a new language, learn what it’s like to live in a new culture, and learn to be independent and create a network of friends and peers around me, they gave me this opportunity too! They sent me to Rome, Italy all by myself during high school… just as I had asked for.

Anyways… that’s all to say that I haven’t changed one bit. I am still curious and interested in just about EVERYTHING. I don’t know what I want to major in… because I want to choose all of the majors. I want to do pre-med, economics, business, legal studies, engineering, nutrition, political science, cognitive science, computer science, mathematics, integrative biology while simultaneously learning 3 different languages and joining  an investment club, the sailing team, the Effective Altruists club, trying to get in shape, stay updated on the news and have a social life… oh yeah and I want to get a part-time job too! Although I am very far from it, I want to be well-read and be able to discuss books that commonly come up in conversation. I even feel left out when people discuss TV shows they are following and feel that I need to keep with that part of “general knowledge” and watch popular shows to stay in the loop with that stuff.  Does anyone else feel this way? It’s such a struggle because I feel that if I am not learning all of these things and experiencing all of these things then I am not taking full advantage of the life and opportunities I have been given. I feel like I am missing out on everything and anything that I am not doing… which is most things. It’s just too much. There’s not enough time in life to do all of these things and be sane. I wonder all the time if being more efficient and wasting less time and taking less time to just talk to friends and relax would allow me to get more of these things done. I wonder to what extent it would be worth it. Who knows!

This all feeds into why I want to know about what’s going on in the world, know about different political views and understand where everyone is coming from and know the context of big topics and events. I want to be able to engage in conversation and understand what people are talking about and be able to contribute my own ideas too. I have for the longest time stayed away from engaging in particular conversations because I am insecure that my knowledge on whatever particular topic being discussed is too narrow. I always think:”they probably all know a lot more about this topic than I do so that’s probably the main reason I have a different opinion.” I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I am completely confident with how much I know because I will always feel that it is not enough, but I know that learning more about frequently conversed topics helps with this enormously.

I recently copied Brianna and downloaded the Apple News App on my phone and turned on the settings for notifications from some of the top news stations such as CNN, NY Times, Tim, Vox, The Washington Post, and even Fox News. I think it is very important to look at information from all sides because all news is biased. It is essentially impossible to learn what is going on in the world objectively. If you surround yourself with information that is already in conjunction with your bias you are not learning anything really. Is your intention just to convince yourself more of what what you already believe? Well that’s definitely not mine as I want to learn NEW things. It’s a lot easier to follow the track you have already been on and not look outside of what you already believe. It’s easy to not have to question your past views, but it’s much more rewarding and commendable to fully consider opposing beliefs and decide for yourself in this moment, not just going back to what “old you” would have felt, what your stance on any particular topic is.

I have found it incredibly helpful to read about what is going on in the world. I only recently, maybe just 3 or 4 days ago, notably increased how much I go out out of my way to read and/or listen to the news and have already recognized how big the return for this small investment is. For example, with the recent political events that have occurred at my school, UC Berkeley, I decided to read about everything that was happening and why people on the right felt the way they did and likewise with the left. In this particular instance,  Berkeley College Republicans invited an alt-right speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos, to speak at our school. Left supporters protested against this to show that they did not tolerate the Yiannopoulos’ ideas and the speech was eventually canceled. Although it was not typical of me, I really challenged myself to learn about the events and to fully understand the different points of view. Although it may seem like a small feat for most, I was proud of myself because I was completely able to understand the context and arguments of the many in-person and social media debates about the topic.

So am I crazy? Or do you want to know about everything too?

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G

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BBB Reading Lists: Social Justice Edition

The purpose of this reading list: to get woke.

  1. The Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Gareth Stedman Jones
  2. The Autobiography of Malcom X – Malcom X, Alex Haley
  3. Why We Can’t Wait – Martin Luther King Jr.
  4. Animal liberation – Peter singer
  5. Up From Slavery – Booker T. Washington
  6. Are Prisons Obsolete – Angela Y. Davis
  7. On Anarchism – Noam Chomsky
  8. Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order – Noam Chomsky
  9. The History of Sexuality – Michel Foucault
  10. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption – Bryan Stevenson
  11. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City  – Matthew Desmond
  12. Undoing Gender – Judith Butler
  13. Plunder: When the Rule of Law is Illegal – Laura Nader

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