Columns

Malcolm X and Police Accountability on My Mind

July 11, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Photo of Malcolm X poster labeled "NOT FOR SALE"

By Ernie McCray

I attended a meeting the other night at the Malcolm X Library about a proposed Amendment to the City of San Diego Charter to create a Commission on Police Practices.

I couldn’t help but think of Malcolm throughout the evening because he would be pleased at the very idea of why we were gathered together, considering that he relentlessly tried to keep an eye on the police, especially in black communities where they have, throughout our country’s history, practically run rampant in black neighborhoods: cruising up and down the street flashing “the look”; messing with folks for giving them “the look”; taking somebody out because of “how they looked.”

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Summer Chronicles 2018 # 4: Getting Inside the Inexhaustibility

July 10, 2018 by Jim Miller

“A desire to be inside the inexhaustibility.”
–Karl Ove Knausgaard My Struggle

In Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, he writes eloquently about how writing is what helps one escape the prison of our “purely fabricated world” that gives us the feeling that “the world is small, tightly enclosed around itself, without openings to anywhere else.”

This bubble world that the construct of modern civilization has locked us into is only exacerbated by the closed feedback loop of our cell phones and social media which pretend to expand our known worlds while, in reality, deeply limiting our consciousness to a simulacrum of screens.

What does writing do? Well, as Knausgaard observes, it speaks to our desire for more,

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Simply for the Children’s Sake

June 27, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Baby's head witth shadow of Donald Trump

I was singing the blues
until I heard the news
that children
being torn from the
arms of their parents
was coming to an end,
if but for a minute,
a breather
from evil being played
out in my face,
beautiful innocent
brown skinned children,
screaming “Mami! Papi!”
as Mami and Papi
are pulled one way,

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Summer Chronicles 2018 #2: Learning to Be No One

June 25, 2018 by Jim Miller

Alone on the plane, I had the same thought that I always do: “we could crash and my life might end at any time.” As always, images of the moments before death subsumed me. I imagined the faces of my fellow passengers contorted in horror. I heard the weeping, the screaming, the voices futilely attempting to leave last messages for their loved ones on their cellphones, all to no avail.

My fantasy was real enough that amidst a banal announcement about expected turbulence, I came close to tears as I thought of never seeing my wife or son again and went on to consider the weight of the collective losses of all the souls on the plane.

But, in this case, what used to be a source of physical anxiety gave way to a feeling of absolute groundlessness.

There is something liberating about anonymity and the small pleasure of being unrecognized in the odd womblike environment of a passenger jet.

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Thoughts on California Midterms: Defeats for Big Money, November Hopes Survive for Democrats

June 11, 2018 by Jim Miller

Thud! What’s that sound? It’s the unceremonious crash landing of tens of millions of dollars of Charter Schools Association money in the Governor’s race backing Antonio Villaraigosa.

Never has such an obscene amount of money been spent on a bad cause with so little to show for it. The good news here is that their efforts to turn the November election into a proxy war between the billionaire boys club and California’s educators failed miserably.

Now, rather than having to watch the tragic irony of a multimillion-dollar crusade against teachers’ unions standing in for our Governor’s race in California while elsewhere in the red states teachers are turning the tide against decades of austerity budgeting brought to us by the GOP, we can watch a Democrat cruise to victory against the Trump-endorsed Republican.

That’s more like it.

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Dreaming of Racial Harmony

June 7, 2018 by Ernie McCray

At 80 I find myself still pursuing the same dream in which I’ve indulged myself all my life, a dream that someday the races of people would get along in harmony. Or at least try.

I say try because it seems to me that it’s been our failure to even pursue such a dream that has gotten in the way of it becoming a reality.

But, I’d dare say, there’s no better time than now for us to find ways to embrace each other. I feel that way just because of how the world is.

I mean you can sit down, after a long day of being retired, and turn on the tv and see a man, on this occasion a representative of the NFL, privileged beyond belief, telling football players (most of them black) that they can no longer protest police brutality at their knees while the flag is being sung to.

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A Few Last-Minute Reminders for the Procrastinating Progressive Voter

June 4, 2018 by Jim Miller

If you are part of that dwindling tribe who (like me) still prefer to show up at your polling place to vote in person, here are a few final reminders for the procrastinating progressives out there:

Defeat the Lincoln Club: There is only one way to foil the plans of the Lincoln Club in the San Diego County Board of Supervisors race and discourage them from spending big money to intervene in San Diego Democratic politics in the future: Don’t Vote for Lori Saldana. See Doug Porter’s column on this race here. See my column here.

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Feeling in Tune With ‘La Neighbor’ and Logan Heights

May 30, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I just finished reading a collection of essays, “La Neighbor: A Settlement House in Logan Heights,” written by a longtime friend, Maria Garcia.

Maria and I go back a ways and we’re soulmates in so many ways. We’re writers, and activists, who’ve taken to the streets many a time in the pursuit of equality. We’re educators who modeled, in our schools, how to treat children with respect and

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Reflecting on What Could Have Been

May 22, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Ernie with sunglasses behind screen

 

(Photo: Maria Nieto Senour)

Reflecting on my 80 years I find myself still dreaming of a better world. Not some “Kumbaya” singing fantasy world, but one where people, at the very least, try to find ways to understand and appreciate each other. A loving world.

But that was not the dream of my generation. Getting our hands dirty in pursuit of a world where concepts like “peace and justice and equality” rang true, just wasn’t something we cared to do.

We were called the “Silent Generation”

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Oh, If We Could Listen With Heart Like Nipper

May 9, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

When I was a child there was a commercial about a dog named Nipper who was supposed to be listening to his “master’s voice” on a windup disc gramophone. I thought about him early one morning recently.

On this morning I woke up a little earlier than usual because my iPhone SE startled me awake, vibrating and buzzing like crazy, kind of like those European police sirens.

And, hey, I’ve got to say I didn’t know I had an app for such as all that. I shut that little device up by grabbing it like a cowboy wrestling a steer he’d just roped only to find out that its histrionics was regarding an article about a book Arizona Senator John McCain had written. I was forced to question the very notion that I was in possession of anything approaching a smartphone.

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‘Some San Diegans Want to Keep Having a Beach Party at the End of the World’

April 30, 2018 by Jim Miller

Author of Last Days in Ocean Beach Explains How We Live on the Border Between Dread and Wonder

Last Days in Ocean Beach is an effort to capture the mood of deep unease and uncertainty that permeates our era and informs the thinking of many writers, artists, and intellectuals, even if they are not quite saying it out loud.

It was written before the election of Donald Trump, but it is clear that his election only underlines the chasm between the cartoon reality driving much of our social, cultural, and political discourse and the unrelentingly grim truth that we are killing the world whether many of us want to admit it or not.

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Putting My Love in Play

April 25, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Man holding a stained glass heart

Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I recently wrote a rhyme about all the love I’ve enjoyed for 80 years, and now I’d like to share how I’ve put that love in play.

Regarding that, I have to say that loving has been easy for me because my life’s work has been dedicated to schools which are perfect places for spreading love.

And my intent, all along, has simply been to make my world more just for all human beings – beginning, in a moment in time, when I was in grade school myself.

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Still Loving After All These 80 Years

April 17, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Still Loving After All These 80 Years
(The Formative Years: More to Come)

Infant sitting on table next to birthday cake with one candle

If I’m breathing April 18th, 2018,
I will be 80 years old.
And to brag a little bit,
I lived those years
with a lot of love in my soul
and that’s quite an ac-com-plish-ment
for someone with
COLORED written on his birth cer-ti-ficate
if the truth be told,
considering I first said “Hello”
to the world
in Tucson, Arizona,

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Shedding Light on the Shady Money Trail of a Candidate for Calif. Superintendent of Public Instruction

April 9, 2018 by Jim Miller

Recently, when the San Francisco Chronicle endorsed Marshall Tuck for California Superintendent of Public Instruction, they did so because, according to their editorial board, he has “the skills and vision to bring about needed change” and would stand up to “the status quo” (read: teachers’ unions).

While it has become quite common for mainstream corporate media outlets to blindly parrot the rhetoric of corporate education reformers, in this case, it is an exercise in doublethink of Trumpian proportions. Far from being a populist outsider fighting the establishment, Tuck is the pure product of the billionaire class.

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If the Democrats Want a Blue Wave Next Election, Don’t Sell Out Main Street for Money

March 26, 2018 by Jim Miller

I have long thought that if you wanted to look back to find one of the key moments that showed how out of touch the Democratic establishment was on economic issues that it might very well blow the 2016 Presidential election, you’d likely want to revisit the debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Indeed, in 2015, in the wake of the riots in Baltimore, I observed how President Obama could sound great on some social justice issues while badly missing on key economic ones:

So while Obama might be talking social justice this week, he is walking corporate rule. death panels.

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Overcoming Gloom In a Grand Canyon State of Mind

March 21, 2018 by Ernie McCray

View of Grand Canyon from the rim

By Ernie McCray

Overcoming Gloom In a Grand Canyon State of Mind

The other day

I sat in my living room

caught up in thoughts of my daughter,

feeling a kind of gloom

that seemed to loom

over me

like a petrifyingly dark full moon

in a horror movie

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The National School Walkout: Welcome to the Future

March 19, 2018 by Jim Miller

Sometimes just the act of standing up against injustice starts to make things right. Speaking the truth to power can be redemptive. That’s how it felt last week as I watched my own family and my students (who I love like family) take part in the National School Walkout Day. If you are middle-aged like me and have participated in too many protests and political activities to count, it’s easy to start to see activism as work, a job that needs to be done but takes its toll– particularly in these grim times. You get tired, weary of the endless fight.

Then, once in a while, something happens that gives you renewed life, helps you see the world again with fresh eyes.

That’s what watching my kid get ready for the Roosevelt Middle School Walkout did for me.

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Notes from the Class War: the West Virginia Strike Shows That Solidarity Wins

March 12, 2018 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

In the early days of the Trump administration, most savvy observers were quick to note that, populist bluster aside, Trump’s policies would be a disaster for America’s already historic level of economic inequality. As economist Charles Ballard wrote in The Hill, “the main thrust of policy proposals from President Trump is to maintain, and even accelerate, the anti-egalitarian policies of recent decades.”

A year later, it’s now abundantly clear that the anti-egalitarian nature of this administration has only poured gasoline on the fire.

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Marshall Tuck’s Dirty Secret: How Right-Wing Money Infiltrates Democratic Politics

March 5, 2018 by Jim Miller

Recently in the lead up to the Janus vs. AFSCME case that hit the Supreme Court last week, I wrote several columns focusing on the impact of the Koch brothers’ network’s attack on the union movement, the Democratic Party, and public education. Thus, I was cheered to learn that the California Democratic Party overwhelmingly endorsed the stalwart progressive Tony Thurmond over Marshall Tuck for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

While this is a low-profile affair as statewide races go, it is important because lots of moneyed interests see it as a way to push their agenda under the radar here in super blue California.

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An Email to NewsManager@FoxNews.com

February 27, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Laura Ingraham’s put down of LeBron James on your network was so out of line and unnecessary and ridiculously insulting and dismissive. What does his grammar have to do with anything or his perceived “lack of education”? Why should he, in a country where he has the right to express himself, “Shut up and dribble”?

As a 79-year-old black man, it’s refreshing for me to see young black people like this great athlete speak out on what’s happening in the world — in this case, expressing his views on our president — who really “doesn’t give a fuck about the people” as he pointed out.

The “people” being those who don’t support his hateful, racist, mysogynist, sexist, xenophobic, abusive, disgraceful, dictator-loving, ill-informed, unintelligent, illogical, jingoistic, bewildering, divisive, predatory, blow-harded, clownish, non-Christian,

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Teachers, Guns, and Money

February 26, 2018 by Jim Miller

The generalized rage and indiscriminate, spectacular violence that characterized the first year of the Trump era shows no sign of abating. In the wake of yet another horrifying mass murder at a school in Florida, the President’s response is to meet senseless violence with the threat of more violence.

Speaking to justify his breathtakingly stupid proposal to arm teachers as a defense against school shootings, Trump opined that if the educators at Stoneman Douglas High School had weapons they would have stopped the attack, “A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.”

The logic of Trump’s cartoon Western version of the world is chilling.

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Working People’s Day of Action at Convention Center Park – February 24th

February 19, 2018 by Jim Miller

This coming Saturday, Feb. 24th thousands of workers, along with their families, friends, and allies in the community, will gather in San Diego to stand up for the rights of working Americans in the face of the impending Janus vs AFSCME decision by the Supreme Court that aims further rig the system against us. Against this assault, we will continue to insist on our right to form strong unions, raise our collective voice, and fight for equitable pay, affordable health care, civil rights, strong communities, and quality public education for all.

As public sector unions confront the threat of Janus, it is important to remember that fifty years ago Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Memphis to support striking city sanitation workers. By the time of his assassination, King had come to see that it was impossible to fight for civil rights without including economic rights. The battle for racial equality was inextricably linked to the fight for economic opportunity.

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Will ‘Money Is Speech’ Logic of Supreme Court Be Used to Screw American Workers?

February 12, 2018 by Jim Miller

In the wake of my last column on the agenda of the billionaire backers of the Janus vs. AFSCME case soon to be heard by the Supreme Court, the Los Angeles Times published a solid piece that outlined the broader context and suspect reasoning guiding this shameless attack on American labor:

This year, the high court is poised to announce its most significant expansion of the 1st Amendment since the Citizens United decision in 2010, which struck down laws that limited campaign spending by corporations, unions and the very wealthy.

Now the “money is speech” doctrine is back and at the heart of a case to be heard this month that threatens the financial foundation of public employee unions in 22 “blue” states.

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Two Bad Ideas for California Higher Education in Governor Brown’s Budget Proposal

January 29, 2018 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

It’s the first week of classes in the San Diego Community College District where I teach, and, as has become almost an annual ritual, the new year comes with a number of suspect education reforms from Sacramento.

Jerry Brown released his budget proposal recently, and unfortunately, there are two big, bad ideas that the Governor would like to be part of his higher education legacy: a new fully online college and performance-based funding. What unites these initiatives is that they are both driven more by corporate education reform ideology than sound pedagogy or evidence that they will be effective in reaching their stated aim.

I’ll start with the online college.

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Welcome to Plutocracy: Wealthiest 1% of Americans Own 40% of Country’s Wealth

January 22, 2018 by Jim Miller

Buried under all the noise of the national circus over the last month was some fairly stark economic news. Despite all the hoopla about the stock market booming along and other financial happy talk, it appears the iceberg of economic inequality is becoming an even larger threat to our collective ship.

Late last December we learned that the world’s wealthiest people got a whole lot richer in 2017. As the Washington Post reported, “The richest people on earth became $1 trillion richer in 2017, more than four times last year’s gain, as stock markets shrugged off economic, social and political divisions to reach record highs.”

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Surviving 2017 – Looking Like a Palm Tree Bent Over By the Wind

January 15, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Lone slightly leaning palm tree in grassy plain, cloudy skies, mountain range in distance

I am so glad to say “Good riddance” to 2017 because it was a bit unearthly to me.

I mean, on top of being barraged by all the abject buffoonery in D.C. that was unleashed by that fool who occupies the presidency, I had to go around most of the year looking like a palm tree bent over by the wind.

All due to some life-threatening vicious form of bacteria that found its way into my body and started whacking away like a field hand taking a machete to the stems of sugarcane, devastating my belly and tightening and weakening my muscles, making an absolute wreck of my lifelong bad back. It made standing and walking upright kind of an aerobic exercise that took all my might.

And let me tell you, trying to struggle to get your health back in a world that’s out of whack isn’t easy by any means.

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Love and Resistance: Lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 15, 2018 by Jim Miller

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and, for those of us who deeply value his legacy, it’s hard not to greet the first official King holiday of the Trump era with a deep sense of painful irony. As I wrote last year at this time on the eve of his inauguration:

Today we are at [a] dead-end with Trump’s administration full of revanchist billionaires, right-wing demagogues, and military strongmen representing the triumph of market fundamentalism married to racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and authoritarian militarism. Simply put, in Trump Nation, King’s “triple evils” [of racism, economic injustice, and militarism] are akin to the holy trinity.

Unfortunately, the last year has done little else but confirm this proclamation, making this year’s remembrance especially important. For King’s critique of American society is now even more relevant than it has been in the decades since his death—it haunts us like a ghost.

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Reflections on 2017: The Year of Generalized Rage

January 8, 2018 by Jim Miller

My first column back after the holiday hiatus comes in the wake of all the usual end-of-the-year media ruminations on the significance of 2017, most of which focused on a notable person, seminal event, a list of significant trends, etc. While there were many astute observations to be found, the one thing that stood out to me as definitive of 2017 was not a person, place, or thing, but the phenomenon of generalized rage.

In his most recent book, Requiem for the American Dream: The Ten Principles of the Concentration of Wealth and Power Noam Chomsky describes the phenomenon that more than anything else defines the Age of Trump:

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A New Years Wish for My People

December 29, 2017 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I dream a New Years Wish for my fellow black brothers and sisters, one steeped in my yearning for a country that truly is committed to the mythical land of “liberty and justice for all” we Americans pledge loudly and proudly in classrooms and public gatherings.

I just wish we actively pursued such ideals.

Now, I realize that we, like all other “individual” citizens of the country, can rise and shine and fulfill the loftiest of hopes and dreams.

We can find ample proof of that in our history as we’ve accomplished a little of everything. We’ve won Nobel Peace Prizes and journeyed beyond earth’s skies into outer space.

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Progressive Stocking Stuffers for Year Two of the Trump Era: Reading for Dark Times

December 18, 2017 by Jim Miller

If you just can’t bring yourself to give up on the sordid consumer frenzy and go all in for a Buy Nothing Christmas, then perhaps getting your loved ones a few good books to help them navigate our dark times is the next best thing.

Here is my list of a handful of some of the best books of the last awful year:

As I noted in my first column on this fine book, “Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America is the single most important new book for progressives to read this year if they want to understand how we got to the dark moment of the present . . .

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