In the Age of Obama…
Police Terror, Incarceration, No Jobs, Mis-education:
What Future for Our Youth?
A Dialogue between Cornel West and Carl Dix
CORNEL WEST is one of America’s most provocative public intellectuals and has beena champion for racial justice since childhood. His writing, speaking, and teaching weave together the traditions of the black Baptist Church, progressive politics, and jazz. The New York Times has praised his “ferocious moral vision.” Dr. West currently teaches at Princeton University.
CARL DIX is a longtime revolutionary and a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. In 1970 Carl was one of the Fort Lewis 6, six GIs who refused orders to go to Vietnam. He served 2 years in Leavenworth Military Penitentiary for his stand. In 1985 Carl initiated the Draw The Line statement, a powerful condemnation of the bombing of the MOVE house in Philadelphia. In 1996, Carl was a founder of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality. Carl coordinated the Katrina hearings of the 2006 Bush Crimes Commission.
Student Organizations: Platypus Affiliated Society • ACLU of U of Chicago • Black Law Students Association (BLSA) • Students Promoting Interracial Networks (SPIN) • Students for Correctional Reform Now (SCORN) • Chicago Justice Initiative (CJI) • Minority Graduate Students Association • African Americans at Social Services Administration (AASSA) • Southside Solidarity Network (SSN)
Departments: Political Science • History • OMSA • Race and Religion Workshop
Community: Chicago Theological Seminary • Critical Inquiry
Directions to get to West-Dix dialogue at the University of Chicago:
CTA: Take Red line to 55th Street/Garfield Blvd.. Get off and take 55 bus East to University Avenue. Walk 2 blocks South to 57th St. Enter Reynolds Club on Southwest corner of 57th & University to find Mandel Hall.
Note from the sponsors:
At the University of Chicago, freedom of expression is vital to our shared goal of the pursuit of knowledge. In order to promote rigorous inquiry, and allow all members of the community to learn and share ideas, we must protect civil discourse. That includes both listening to featured speakers and participating in the question-and-answer session that follows. Disrupting speakers may result in removal from an event. We appreciate your help in supporting
these fundamental values.
Dedicated to Anthony Wagner, Iraq veteran who opposed and spoke out against the wars and occupations for empire. Anthony passed away just hours after marching on Wall Street with other veterans in support of Scott Olsen on November 3, 2011.
Contact us to bring this tour to your school:
(866) 973 4463
On May 21, World Can’t Wait Chicago held torture workshops at the “We Are Everywhere” Youth Summit at the Multicultural Arts School in Little Village – a high school that was built after fierce struggle in the community, including a group of Latina mothers waging a nineteen-day hunger strike demanding a new school for their children.
We started off the workshops by asking the students: “Are American lives more valuable than the lives of people around the world?” Resoundingly the students responded “no,” though many thought that the reality was that people around the world were treated as if they were worth less. This led directly into the topic of torture. Showing the video I produced for the May 28th National Day of Resistance to U.S. Torture, the students were shocked to see the images from Abu Ghraib, which many of them had not seen before and did not know about.
We then got into the question of how do people like those in the video end up there. Some though that it was because they committed crimes, or did something wrong. In order to show a direct example of how people were really rounded up and ended up in places like Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo, we asked the students if they would point out someone in the room who was in a gang. Some refused to point anyone out, even after being offered $500. But once one of the students was picked out and put into an orange jumpsuit and hood, they quickly named the name of someone else in the workshop, who was also brought before the class and put into a jumpsuit and hood.
We then explained how people like them were rounded up for bounties in Afghanistan, or picked up off the streets, or had the doors of their homes kicked open by soldiers with guns shouting in a language that they couldn’t understand, and placed in these same jumpsuits and hoods. How they were then chained to the floor of a military transport plane in diapers and flown to some unknown destination, while their families had no idea what had happened to them. And once they got off the plane, they would be subjected to various types of torture that the Bush regime ordered committed. We asked if any of the students had heard of waterboarding, and one replied, “Isn’t that like where they drip water on your forehead?” And we explained that unfortunately no, it was far more vicious than that—that people were tied down to a board, a towel placed over their face, and water continuously poured over them till they began to choke, and that medical personnel were standing nearby to cut open their throats and shove a tube into their windpipe to keep them alive for further torture. And nearly 100 people were documented to have died in U.S. custody during the war of terror carried out in the wake of 9/11.
After explaining some of the methods of torture used by the U.S., we had the kids take off their hoods and jumpsuits and explain how that experience made them feel. Most replied that it made them scared and sad. One compared it to feeling like being a slave. And that even that brief experience in a classroom was nothing compared to what people who were actually being tortured experienced. We then went on to discuss what should happened to people who committed torture. At first many of them said that the people who did it should also be tortured. But after discussing if its ever right to torture someone, they thought that the people who ordered and committed torture should be put in jail.
We then discussed the lies that military recruiters use to get people—including high school students like themselves—to join the military, and why it is that the U.S is waging imperialist wars and using torture around the world. Obama has refused to prosecute anyone for these crimes, he has refused to release the torture photos, he continues to keep Guantanamo open and recently expanded Bagram prison facilities, and continues to use military commissions and indefinite detention. We discussed why it is imperative that people get in the streets on May 28th to oppose torture being committed in their names and to demand prosecution of the war criminals in the Bush regime that ordered and carried out torture.
After the workshops, there were a number of great performances by the students, including hip-hop, spoken word, and dance. It was really a great opportunity to talk with the kids, and the teachers at the school were amazing as well. Very inspiring.
A torturous tableau of naked, bloodied and bound prisoners writhing in agony on the floor of a cell at Abu Ghraib prison hangs from the neck of a hooded figure in an orange jumpsuit—this is how world-renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib series of paintings made their debut at the opening ceremony of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing. Organized by the Chicago Chapter of The World Can’t Wait, Botero’s acclaimed works—which most major art museums in America, including the Art Institute of Chicago, refused to show—displayed on the streets of Chicago viscerally encapsulated the horrific crimes committed by the U.S. in furtherance of its imperialist agenda of global domination and the urgent need for people in this country to stand up and oppose these crimes.
Calling on people in the streets to refuse to allow the perpetrators and architects of torture in the Bush regime to remain unpunished for their crimes against humanity—and to stop the continuation of torture and escalation of war for empire under Obama—we struggled with people over the mic not to turn a blind eye to the torture being committed in their names. As I stood in an orange jumpsuit I explained to them that many of those being held and tortured for years by the U.S. government were simply out walking on the streets of cities around the world just like they were, when they were snatched off the street, a black hood shoved over their head, chained, and put on an airplane to Guantánamo or some unknown black site.
We took up the challenge put forth in Revolution newspaper (The Torture Memos) to “challenge people and wage sharp struggle with those who have been silent or indifferent to not turn their heads away when confronted with the horrible reality of what their government is responsible for.” I reminded people of the complicity of the German people to the crimes of the Nazis, and urged them not to be “Good Americans” and to confront and oppose these monstrous crimes that have been—and continue to be—committed in furtherance of U.S. imperialism. And I thought of my comrades still caged in the hellholes of the American prison system, and that tens of thousands of people right within this country are being subjected to the same kinds of torture that the ruling class of the U.S. has been exporting across the globe.
The world does not have to be this way! Humanity needs revolution and communism, and we must stand up and take up the challenge to emancipate humanity and get beyond all oppressive and exploitive relations and ideas.
Stand up on May 28th – National Day of Resistance to U.S. Torture