Sincere Greetings of Peace:
The “In the Spirit of Mandela Coalition*” invites your participation and endorsement of the planned October 2021 International Tribunal. The Tribunal will be charging the United States government, its states, and specific agencies with human and civil rights violations against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.
The Tribunal will be charging human and civil rights violations for:
• Racist police killings of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people,
• Hyper incarcerations of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people
• Political incarceration of Civil Rights/National Liberation era revolutionaries and activists, as well as present day activists,
• Environmental racism and its impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous people,
• Public Health racism and disparities and its impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, and
• Genocide of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people as a result of the historic and systemic charges of all the above.
The legal aspects of the Tribunal will be led by Attorney Nkechi Taifa along with a powerful team of seasoned attorneys from all the above fields. Thirteen jurists, some with international stature, will preside over the 3 days of testimonies. Testimonies will be elicited form impacted victims, expert witnesses, and attorneys with firsthand knowledge of specific incidences raised in the charges/indictment.
The 2021 International Tribunal has a unique set of outcomes and an opportunity to organize on a mass level across many social justice arenas. Upon the verdict, the results of the Tribunal will:
• Codify and publish the content and results of the Tribunal to be offered in High Schools and University curriculums,
• Provide organized, accurate information for reparation initiatives and community and human rights work,
• Strengthen the demand to free all Political Prisoners and establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission mechanism to lead to their freedom,
• Provide the foundation for civil action in federal and state courts across the United States,
• Present a stronger case, building upon previous and respected human rights initiatives, on the international stage,
• Establish a healthy and viable massive national network of community organizations, activists, clergy, academics, and lawyers concerned with challenging human rights abuses on all levels and enhancing the quality of life for all people, and
• Establish the foundation to build a “Peoples’ Senate” representative of all 50 states, Indigenous Tribes, and major religions.
Endorsements are $25. Your endorsement will add to the volume of support and input vital to ensuring the success of these outcomes moving forward, and to the Tribunal itself. It will be transparently used to immediately move forward with the Tribunal outcomes.
We encourage you to add your name and organization to attend the monthly Tribunal updates and to sign on to one of the Tribunal Committees. (3rd Saturday of each month from 12 noon to 2 PM eastern time). Submit your name by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please endorse now: http://spiritofmandela.org/endorse/
Dr. A’isha Mohammad
– Coordinating Committee
Created in 2018, In the Spirit of Mandela Coalition is a growing grouping of organizers, academics, clergy, attorneys, and organizations committed to working together against the systemic, historic, and ongoing human rights violations and abuses committed by the USA against Black, Brown, and Indigenous People. The Coalition recognizes and affirms the rich history of diverse and militant freedom fighters Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, Graca Machel Mandela, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and many more. It is in their Spirit and affirming their legacy that we work.
We hope all is well with you.
We are happy to announce that the video recording of "No Life Like It: A A Tribute to the Revolutionary Activism of Ernie Tate" is now available for viewing on LeftStreamed
Please share the link with your comrades and friends.
All the best,
Photo from San Francisco rally and march in support of Palestine Saturday, May 15, 2021
Stand with Palestine!
Say NO to apartheid!
Join the global movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Governor's Press Office
Friday, May 28, 2021
Governor Newsom Announces Clemency Actions, Signs Executive Order for Independent Investigation of Kevin Cooper Case
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he has granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and 8 medical reprieves. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order to launch an independent investigation of death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s case as part of the evaluation of Cooper’s application for clemency.
The investigation will review trial and appellate records in the case, the facts underlying the conviction and all available evidence, including the results of the recently conducted DNA tests previously ordered by the Governor to examine additional evidence in the case using the latest, most scientifically reliable forensic testing.
The text of the Governor’s executive order can be found here:
The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant executive clemency in the form of a pardon, commutation or reprieve. These clemency grants recognize the applicants’ subsequent efforts in self-development or the existence of a medical exigency. They do not forgive or minimize the harm caused.
The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation, increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry, correct unjust results in the legal system and address the health needs of incarcerated people with high medical risks.
A pardon may remove counterproductive barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation and permanent family separation. A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction.
A commutation modifies a sentence, making an incarcerated person eligible for an earlier release or allowing them to go before the Board of Parole Hearings for a hearing at which Parole Commissioners determine whether the individual is suitable for release.
A reprieve allows individuals classified by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as high medical risk to serve their sentences in appropriate alternative placements in the community consistent with public health and public safety.
The Governor weighs numerous factors in his review of clemency applications, including an applicant’s self-development and conduct since the offense, whether the grant is consistent with public safety and in the interest of justice, and the impact of a grant on the community, including crime victims and survivors.
While in office, Governor Newsom has granted a total of 86 pardons, 92 commutations and 28 reprieves.
The Governor’s Office encourages victims, survivors, and witnesses to register with CDCR’s Office of Victims and Survivors Rights and Services to receive information about an incarcerated person’s status. For general Information about victim services, to learn about victim-offender dialogues, or to register or update a registration confidentially, please visit:
www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/ or call 1-877-256-6877 (toll free).
Copies of the gubernatorial clemency certificates announced today can be found here:
Additional information on executive clemency can be found here:
Questions and comments may be sent to: email@example.com
Jeff Bezos has at least $180 Billion!
9 minutes 29 seconds
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
By Marlo Mack, June 23, 2021
Marlo Mack writes under a pseudonym about parenting a transgender daughter, in order to protect her child’s safety. Her memoir, “How to Be a Girl,” is based on her podcast of the same name.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/23/opinion/trans-children-parenting.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
I live in Seattle, a large, liberal city in a very blue state. Is that why my child is trans?
According to supporters of the raft of proposed laws targeting trans youth in state legislatures around the country, the answer is emphatically yes: Transgender children are a liberal American fad.
Are they right? Is the Family Research Council, a powerful right-wing organization that supports many of these bills, correct when it claims that children like mine are the result of “a resurgence of postmodern thinking”? Is it true, as a best-selling book has argued, that my daughter is part of a “transgender craze” sweeping America’s youth?
The evidence in my inbox suggests otherwise. I write a blog and host a podcast about parenting my trans daughter, and as a result I receive emails from parents of transgender children every day. I can assure you they are not all writing to me from San Francisco, New York City and Seattle. I can also assure you that my child was not channeling postmodern ideology almost a decade ago when she told me, at age 3, that she was not the boy we all believed her to be.
“My heart is a girl heart,” she said.
Soon after her announcement, I stumbled into the loving arms of a fledgling support group full of parents like me as we grappled with raising gender-diverse children in a world that had yet to hear the name Laverne Cox. I don’t know how I would have managed without them. And I wondered — and worried — about how parents like me were faring elsewhere. Because everything I learned tells me that children like mine must exist everywhere.
I learned that while many transgender people do not transition until adolescence or adulthood, significant numbers of young children are aware of their gender identity from a very young age. Dr. Kristina Olson, a psychologist at Princeton University who studies gender development in children, says, “Research shows that there are a set of trans people who first identify with their gender by the toddler or preschool years and continue to do so throughout their lives.”
I learned that children like this are not new. In her book, “Histories of the Transgender Child,” the historian Jules Gill-Peterson documents the existence of transgender children in the United States dating back to the early 20th century. “As far back as historians like me have found evidence of transgender people,” she recently wrote in The Times, “we have found transgender children.” I read about the long history of people living outside the gender binary in cultures around the planet, including the hijra of South Asia, the fa’afafine of Samoa and the “Two Spirit” people in Native American cultures.
After I started my blog, I began to receive emails from parents who said they had children just like mine. At first, the messages came mostly from the United States, including many from the Midwest and the South. But then I began to hear from parents farther afield. “I am the mom of a gender fluid kid who seems to be the only one in the whole country,” wrote a woman from Italy. The father of a 6-year-old in Argentina wrote to share research he’d found on transgender issues. Groups on Facebook connected me with more parents from around the globe. We shared stories in lengthy emails and in hourslong video chats, meeting each other’s children and laughing and crying like old friends.
Some of them let me interview them for a radio documentary produced for the BBC World Service. I was struck by how remarkably similar their stories were to the ones I had heard for years at my local support group in Seattle.
In Johannesburg, South Africa, a 6-year-old wanted to know why God had forgotten to give him a penis.
On the outskirts of Paris, a mother knew something was amiss when her 5-year-old grew distraught at the idea of one day having “a beard like Papa.”
In Gurugram, India, a father was baffled by his child’s deep depression and frightening incidents of self-harm.
A mother from Kyushu, Japan, told me that she had never heard the word “transgender” when her child came out to her as nonbinary. She described a Japanese legend about people who come down to Earth from the moon. “And that’s how I felt,” she said. “It was as if my child had said, ‘I’m actually from the moon.’”
Like this mother (and like me), nearly all of these parents were bewildered and terrified when they first learned their child was trans. But their children’s suffering was too real to ignore. When the father in India finally discovered the source of his child’s depression — she told him that she could no longer bear living as a boy — she asked her father if he was going to throw her out on the streets.
He did not. Instead, he founded a group that supports transgender people in India. The mother in Japan did the same. A mother from Bogotá, Colombia, joined a similar group after consulting three priests and informing them that if she had to choose between her religion and her transgender son, she would walk away from a lifetime in the Catholic Church. All three priests told her that humans may judge, but God loved her son. She stayed.
These children, their parents told me, are now thriving, living in the genders that match their hearts — in some cases thanks to medical care that still remains inaccessible to many trans people around the world. But if transgender children are a global phenomenon, so are their struggles. Just as in the United States, parents who have spoken publicly are often harassed and threatened. (For safety reasons, I am not naming them.) Nearly all saw relationships with friends and family members disintegrate when their children came out as trans. Several families immigrated to countries that felt safer for their children. “When my daughter is older,” said one mother who left Mexico for the United States, “I’ll tell her the real reason we left.”
These kinds of moves are likely to become more common, as courts and legislatures around the United States and in other countries chip away at transgender rights, restricting access to gender-affirming (and lifesaving) medical care for children like mine. On my social media feed, parents around the world are asking one another: Where can we go now? Where will my child be safe?
It is not always easy to stay hopeful while raising a transgender child in a world that so rarely chooses to welcome her. I wonder what I would do if my own state passed a law making her medical care illegal. I worry about where she will be able to live and travel safely when she is older. I worry about the children who live in places where being transgender remains a crime.
Yet I am hopeful, because I have witnessed the ferocious, protective love of parents around the world. And that is not a liberal Western fad.
By Amanda Allen and Cari Sietstra, June 22, 2021
Ms. Allen is a reproductive rights lawyer. Ms. Sietstra is a reproductive rights advocate.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/22/opinion/miscarriage-abortion.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Up to 26 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. These losses can be as physically painful as they are emotionally wrenching. And yet many patients are not offered the best care for their miscarriages because of abortion politics.
Both of us have had miscarriages. We each visited our doctors for scheduled ultrasounds between eight and 11 weeks of pregnancy, expecting to see a little bean-shaped baby-to-be with a reassuring heartbeat. Unfortunately, all we heard was quiet. No motion. No beautiful pulse. Only stillness.
These pregnancies would miscarry; there was no way to stop it. The only questions were how and when our bodies would begin to move through the physical acts of loss.
In an ideal world, our health care providers would have offered us the best possible treatment to move the process along quickly, with the least amount of pain and in the privacy of our homes. That treatment would have begun with us each taking one pill of mifepristone, which would have blocked the hormone progesterone and signaled to our bodies that the pregnancies we carried were at an end. That would have been followed by several pills of misoprostol, which would have caused the cramping and bleeding needed for our bodies to swiftly finish our miscarriages. Then we could begin the process of healing and prepare, in both our cases, to try for another pregnancy.
But neither of us was given this option. Instead, we were offered one of three treatment possibilities: a procedure known as dilation and curettage at a local Planned Parenthood, watchful waiting and the use of misoprostol alone, which is less effective than when it’s paired with mifepristone.
Both of us declined the procedure at Planned Parenthood because we wanted to avoid enduring a gantlet of anti-abortion protesters on top of our grief and to select a less invasive and less costly alternative. One of us chose to wait for the miscarriage to pass on its own and weeks later had to undergo a painful procedure to dislodge the remaining pregnancy tissue. The other chose misoprostol alone, which involved more pain and trauma than if it had been preceded by mifepristone to prepare the body to begin the bleeding process.
Because we both work in reproductive health and rights and have deep knowledge of pregnancy loss, we knew there was another way — and we knew it wouldn’t be offered to us.
Why weren’t we offered the best care? It wasn’t an issue of coverage or payment for treatment; we both were fortunate enough to have great health insurance. Many patients who miscarry are not so fortunate. It wasn’t a safety concern; mifepristone has a 30-year track record of use and can be safer than Tylenol. It wasn’t a supply chain issue or unfamiliarity with the medicine. It was abortion politics.
Mifepristone is restricted in the United States for political reasons. Pharmacies are prohibited from stocking it. That’s because, in addition to managing miscarriages, it is used to induce early abortions. This means that because of opposition to abortion, mifepristone is as heavily regulated as drugs like OxyContin.
Last month in a court filing, the Food and Drug Administration announced a new review of the restrictions on this medicine. We applaud this first step and urge the agency to make mifepristone available as a prescription drug.
Right now, health care providers must be certified to prescribe mifepristone, even if they want to use it to manage miscarriages. Even though it could be bought and taken at home as easily as any other prescribed drug, health care providers are required to purchase mifepristone themselves and dispense it in person from their clinics (though the F.D.A. recently suspended the in-person dispensation requirement for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic). If patients are offered mifepristone, they have to sign a consent form stating that they are knowingly ending their pregnancies.
Anti-abortion policies frequently ensnare miscarriages and funnel women who lose wanted pregnancies into substandard treatments that can lengthen their pain and suffering. We are especially concerned that harmful policies around miscarriage will disproportionately hurt people who are already poorly served in pregnancy care. Black women, for instance, have a higher risk of miscarriage compared to white women, and Black women are three to four times as likely as white women to die from pregnancy or childbirth complications.
The mifepristone regulations benefit no one, regardless of whether a person is choosing to end a pregnancy or miscarrying. It’s time for the F.D.A. to allow patients to access this drug without red tape designed to stigmatize abortion.
An Indigenous group said the remains of 751 people, mainly children, had been found in unmarked graves on the site of a former boarding school in Saskatchewan.
By Ian Austen and Dan Bilefsky, June 24, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/24/world/canada/indigenous-children-graves-saskatchewan-canada.html
CALGARY, Alberta — The remains of 751 people, mainly Indigenous children, were discovered at the site of a former school in the province of Saskatchewan, a Canadian Indigenous group said on Thursday, jolting a nation grappling with generations of widespread and systematic abuse of Indigenous people.
The discovery, the largest one to date, came weeks after the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves on the grounds of another former boarding school in British Columbia.
Both schools were part of a system that took Indigenous children in the country from their families over a period of about 113 years, sometimes by force, and housed them in boarding schools, where they were prohibited from speaking their languages.
A national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established in 2008 to investigate, expose and document the history and consequences of the residential schools, called the practice “cultural genocide.” Many children never returned home, and their families were given only vague explanations of their fates, or none at all. Canada had about 150 residential schools and an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children passed through the schools between their opening, around 1883, and their closing in 1996.
It is unclear how the children died at the church-run schools, which were buffeted by disease outbreaks a century ago, and where children faced sexual, physical and emotional abuse and violence. Some former students of the schools have described the bodies of infants born to girls impregnated by priests and monks being incinerated.
The commission estimated that about 4,100 children went missing nationwide from the schools. But an Indigenous former judge who led the commission, Murray Sinclair, said in an email this month that he now believed the number was “well beyond 10,000.”
The discovery in Saskatchewan was made by the Cowessess First Nation at the Marieval Indian Residential School, about 87 miles from the provincial capital, Regina.
“There was always talk and speculation and stories, but to see this number — it’s a pretty significant number,” said Bobby Cameron, the chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the provincial federation of Indigenous groups. “It’s going to be difficult and painful and heartbreaking.”
He added: “This is what the Catholic Church in Canada and the government of Canada of the day forced on our children.”
For Canada’s 1.7 million Indigenous citizens, who make up about 4.9 percent of the population, the discovery is a visceral reminder of centuries of discrimination and abuse, which has led to intergenerational trauma among survivors of residential schools and their families.
It is also a powerful vindication of their testimonies. While the recent findings have intensified attention to the issue, Indigenous people had been suggesting for decades through their oral histories that thousands of children had disappeared from the schools, but had often been met with skepticism. “There’s no denying this: All of the stories told by our survivors are true,” Chief Cameron said.
The latest findings are likely to deepen the nation’s debate over its history of exploiting Indigenous people and refocus attention on the horrors of the schools, a stain in the history of Canada, a country which has often been perceived, fairly or not, as a bastion of progressivism and multiculturalism.
In September 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the nation’s past “humiliation, neglect and abuse” of Indigenous people, and vowed in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly to improve the lives of the country’s Indigenous people. The latest discoveries will add pressure for him to accelerate those efforts, which many Indigenous people complain have fallen short.
When Mr. Trudeau took office in 2015, he made the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 recommendations a top priority. But progress has been slow, in part because some of them are beyond the federal government’s control. The Indian Act, a collection of laws dating back to the 19th century that govern the lives of Indigenous people, also remains in place despite Mr. Trudeau’s promises to move it into a new system under their control. Chief Cameron and several other Indigenous leaders say that they hope the discovery of the children’s remains will accelerate the process.
The remains of the 215 children were discovered at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia through the use of ground-penetrating radar. Much like an M.R.I. scan of the body, the technology produces images of anomalies in the soil.
An official at the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said the latest analysis, which relied on the same technology, began about three weeks ago, not long after the announcement of preliminary findings about the Kamloops school by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.
The search at the Kamloops school is continuing, and the First Nation leaders said that they expected the count to rise further.
When the commission tried to look into the question of missing Indigenous children, the Conservative government at the time turned down its request for money to finance searches. Since the Kamloops discovery at the end of May, several Canadian governments have offered to pay for searches.
On Tuesday, the federal government announced that it would provide just under 4.9 million Canadian dollars (about $3.9 million) to Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan to search for graves. The provincial government previously committed 2 million Canadian dollars ($1.6 million).
In a statement, Scott Moe, the premier of Saskatchewan, predicted that the remains of more children would be found elsewhere. “Sadly, other Saskatchewan First Nations will experience the same shock and despair as the search for graves continues,” he wrote.
Like Kamloops, the Marieval school, which opened in 1899, was operated for most of its history by the Roman Catholic Church for the government of Canada. A marked cemetery still exists on the grounds of the school, which closed in 1997 and was subsequently demolished. The commission, relying on testimony from former students and archival materials, listed the Marieval school as a likely site for unmarked graves.
The commission called for a papal apology for the role of the church, which operated about 70 percent of the schools. (The rest were run by Protestant denominations.) But despite a personal appeal from Mr. Trudeau to the Vatican, Pope Francis has still not taken that step. By contrast, the leadership of the United Church of Canada, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, apologized in 1986 for its role in running the schools.
Former students of the Saskatchewan residential schools were particularly active in litigation against the government, resulting in financial settlements and the establishment of the commission, which heard testimony from more than 6,700 witnesses over six years.
Since the Kamloops announcement, Chief Cameron said, he has been traveling around the province, where farming and mining are major industries, looking at former school sites.
“You can see with your plain eye the indent of the ground where these bodies are to be found,” he said of some locations. “These children are sitting there, waiting to be found.”
Vjosa Isai contributed research.
Mr. Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, may choose to speak at his hearing. He could face decades in prison.
By Tim Arango, June 25, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/25/us/derek-chauvin-sentence.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
MINNEAPOLIS — For the past two months, Derek Chauvin has been held in solitary confinement as lawyers and investigators have been busy with the next phase of his case: determining the length of his punishment for the murder of George Floyd.
On Friday afternoon, Mr. Chauvin, 45, will return to the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis where he was convicted in April to learn his fate. Prosecutors are asking that Mr. Chauvin face 30 years in prison, while his defense team has requested probation. The maximum sentence allowed by law is 40 years.
The sentencing hearing is expected to last at least an hour and to include statements from members of Mr. Floyd’s family, who may speak about his life and how his death has affected them. The gruesome killing of Mr. Floyd as Mr. Chauvin, a former police officer, held a knee on his neck for more than nine minutes was captured on cellphone video and drew millions of Americans to the streets to protest against racial injustice and police brutality toward Black people.
Mr. Chauvin, who is white, did not testify at his six-week trial in March and April; he spoke only once, outside the presence of the jury, to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to take the stand.
Mr. Chauvin will be permitted to speak at his sentencing hearing on Friday, but legal experts said it was unlikely he would choose to do so. Any remarks, they said, could be considered in future federal court proceedings, where Mr. Chauvin faces additional charges, and might complicate an appeal of his state conviction.
Under Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, the presumptive sentence for a person like Mr. Chauvin, who had no previous criminal history, is 12.5 years for second-degree murder, the most serious of the three charges he was convicted on. After deliberating for about 10 hours, a jury also convicted him of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
But the judge who will decide Mr. Chauvin’s sentence, Peter A. Cahill, has already ruled that four “aggravating factors” apply in the case, which would allow Mr. Cahill to deliver a longer sentence than Minnesota’s guidelines call for. The judge found that Mr. Chauvin acted with particular cruelty; acted with the participation of three other individuals, who were fellow officers; abused his position of authority; and committed his crime in the presence of children, who witnessed the killing on a Minneapolis street corner on May 25, 2020.
Mr. Chauvin’s conviction was a rare rebuke by the criminal justice system against a police officer who killed someone while on duty. Officers are often given wide latitude to use force, and juries have historically been reluctant to second-guess them, especially when they make split-second decisions under dangerous circumstances.
According to research conducted by Philip M. Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University, 11 police officers, including Mr. Chauvin, have been convicted of murder for on-duty killings since 2005. The lightest sentence has been just less than seven years in prison, while the harshest was 40 years. The average sentence has been 21.7 years.
Most legal experts said they expected Judge Cahill to deliver a sentence closer to the 30 years the prosecution has asked for than the far shorter guideline sentence of 12.5 years. With good behavior, Mr. Chauvin would most likely serve two-thirds of any prison sentence, and then the rest on parole.
“I would hope that Judge Cahill sentences Derek Chauvin to the maximum amount of time in prison,” Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer and activist, said recently in a public forum held by the Legal Rights Center, a Twin Cities nonprofit group that provides indigent defense and advocates criminal justice reform. “But I believe that he will probably strike somewhere in the middle, between the lowest and the highest possible sentence he could have.”
In a memorandum seeking a 30-year sentence, the prosecution team wrote: “Such a sentence would properly account for the profound impact of defendant’s conduct on the victim, the victim’s family, and the community. Defendant brutally murdered Mr. Floyd, abusing the authority conferred by his badge. His actions traumatized Mr. Floyd’s family, the bystanders who watched Mr. Floyd die, and the community. And his conduct shocked the nation’s conscience.”
Eric J. Nelson, Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, has pressed for leniency, asking that Mr. Chauvin be granted probation and a penalty of the time he already has served behind bars.
In a memorandum to the judge, Mr. Nelson wrote that the life expectancy of police officers was lower than the general population, and said that Mr. Chauvin had been diagnosed with heart damage.
Mr. Nelson also argued that placing Mr. Chauvin in prison would make him a target of other inmates, pointing to the fact that Mr. Chauvin has already been placed in solitary confinement for his own safety. Mr. Nelson wrote that Mr. Chauvin was a product of a “broken system,” though he offered no elaboration.
The lawyer’s memorandum offered no sense of regret for what had happened. “Mr. Chauvin was unaware he was even committing a crime,” Mr. Nelson wrote. “In fact, in his mind, he was simply performing his lawful duty in assisting other officers in the arrest of George Floyd.”
By Thomas Page McBee, June 25, 2021
Mr. McBee is the author of “Amateur: A Reckoning With Gender, Identity, and Masculinity” and “Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness, and Becoming a Man.” He writes for TV and film.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/25/opinion/transgender-transition-testosterone.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Ten years ago this month, on an otherwise ordinary lunch break from my job as an editor at a local newspaper, I received my first testosterone injection from a no-nonsense doctor at a hospital in Boston. I was 30 years old and desperate to be known.
I also wanted it known that despite the media fixation on a trite narrative about what it meant to be trans, I was not “a man trapped in a woman’s body or any cliché like that,” as I emailed my friends and family. I was a man and I was born trans, and I could hold both of those realities without an explanation that could be written on the back of a napkin.
“I will not become a different person,” I wrote in that email, defiantly and, as it turns out, correctly. “I am myself. I just want to feel more like me.”
That day, as my doctor taught me how to aspirate a syringe, she gently warned me that there was woefully little longitudinal medical research into testosterone and trans men. She couldn’t say for sure whether taking the hormone would affect my life span, but what was left unsaid lingered in the subtext: No matter how long I lived, it would be a lot longer than if I had to manage one more sleepless night, hallucinating a bearded version of myself in my bathroom mirror, mapped over my dead-eyed reflection.
“You’re a medical pioneer,” she told me, with some apology, as she handed me my first prescription. Of course, I wasn’t — generations of trans people and their doctors had made this moment possible for me — but I knew what she meant: She had no idea how to envision my future. The problem was, neither did I.
That was in 2011, two years before Laverne Cox would star in “Orange Is the New Black” and three before Time would make her the magazine’s cover and announce that we’d reached a “Transgender Tipping Point.” Same-sex marriage, the primary focus of the mainstream L.G.B.T.Q. rights movement, was still prohibited by federal law, and President Barack Obama’s views on it were still “evolving.” There were zero regular or recurring transgender characters on broadcast television, and I could count on one hand the number of trans people I knew in real life.
The decade since I began my medical transition, it turns out, coincided with another American gender story, largely centered on people who weren’t trans and, yet, playing out beside my own: Lost jobs and a slow recovery from the Great Recession created a shake-up of gender roles in homes and workplaces across the country, leading to what some experts termed a “masculinity crisis” — a widening educational achievement gap between boys and girls, the high rate of male suicides and other “deaths of despair,” and single women dropping out of the marriage market rather than partnering with low-earning men. It all led to much gender anxiety and hand-wringing. What, I wondered, might it mean to ask a new question: What makes a man, at all?
Gender, it turns out, is a language, and the more fluent I became in it, the more finding the words to express the messy humanity of myself and others like me became an urgent task — in part because it was becoming increasingly clear that, whether we asked for the job or not, trans people were going to play a key role in shaping the future of gender for everyone.
But in those first years of my transition, before Twitter and Instagram and other social media platforms became central to our daily lives, the diversity of experience within the trans community — the kaleidoscopic potential that we contained — remained largely invisible, even to those of us who were trans. Instead, if we found ourselves at all, it was often in others’ bad translations: sensational stories doled out by the entertainment industry and the news media, designed to titillate audiences and created by people who had no idea what it was like to be us.
As the fantastic 2020 Netflix documentary “Disclosure” highlights in harrowing detail, mass media depictions of trans people have long been rooted in monstrosity and the idea of failed womanhood (and manhood). From the unhinged mother-impersonating murderer in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” to ’90s talk shows (“My boyfriend is really a girl!”), gender diversity — common throughout human history — has largely been portrayed as either the sinister stuff of nightmares or shocking tabloid fodder.
Learning to tell a story that didn’t begin with “born in the wrong body” and to acknowledge the rich, long history of trans experience would become as much a part of my transition as the synthetic hormone that I hoped would broaden the muscles in my back and deepen the sound of my voice. I was confident that the otherworldly, threatening narrative ascribed to my body in the popular imagination wasn’t the truth. And I began to realize that my experience offered a view into the way gender operates on all bodies.
We are, all of us, in a constant stage of negotiation with the political and cultural forces attempting to shape us into simple, translatable packages. Trans people, by necessity, are more aware of these forces; that fluency is a strength, and it has afforded us an opportunity to question the stories about the “biology” of gender that are so foundational to American culture: Do we all really want to co-sign the notion that a uterus, and thus reproductive potential, is how we define womanhood? When a nonbinary person births a child, why must the birth certificate dictate that the person who gave birth is a “mother,” and what does being a “mother” even mean, exactly? What might it mean for all parents if “mother” and “father” were not such distinct categories in child-rearing? Who benefits from their continuing separation?
Despite the growing interest in our lives over the past decade, being the trans flag bearers of the “future of gender” usually made us the subjects, not the authors, of our narratives. As we became more visible, trans people showed up in a glut of news stories with headlines such as “Transgender Love: When Husband Becomes Wife.” These tended to focus less on our experience as trans people and more on the supposed plights of our parents and partners. Our families were pitied for their bad fortune or celebrated for the enduring strength of their love, while the trans person in question was casually dehumanized. (“Don’t look at them as a monster,” suggested the wife of a trans woman in a network TV news story.) The widespread and anthropological interest in otherwise ordinary trans lives felt less about us and more about a broader gender anxiety — for better or, usually, for worse.
While much more recent three-dimensional portrayals of trans people are certainly a balm, it’s also crucial that we not underestimate the effects of those more disturbing takes. Today, only three in 10 Americans say they know a trans person, and experts and advocates twin the continuing epidemic of violence against trans people (especially Black trans women and other trans women of color) with those dehumanizing portrayals of our lives.
By 2015, a year after that Time “Transgender Tipping Point” cover and amid the urgent, intersectional calls for action against systemic racism championed by Black Lives Matter, I was working in another newsroom in New York, unpacking the continuing “masculinity crisis” from my vantage point as a still-new (and white) man. My beard had come in by then, and years of socialization as a cis-passing man after three decades as a queer feminist had left me with questions about the root relationship between masculinity and violence, and my own latent biases.
As the country roiled with pre-Trump rage, I had questions about the world I now inhabited, such as “Why won’t anyone touch me?” and “Am I sexist?” As a newcomer to this fraught landscape, I reckoned with my own masculinity in a very public experiment: I learned how to box, spending months grappling with other men in a Manhattan boxing gym, learning the rituals of the men’s locker room and asking sociologists and biologists and psychologists every “beginner’s mind” question I had about masculinity along the way. I became the first trans man to fight in Madison Square Garden. I wrote the story of my fight in 2016 and later wrote a book, “Amateur,” that expanded my examination of American masculinity.
By the time that book was published, in 2018, the #MeToo movement had toppled previously untouchable men, “toxic masculinity” had become part of our national lexicon, and trans and nonbinary artists, advocates and activists were leading powerful conversations about gender diversity, intersectionality and the limitations of the gender binary.
The entwined potential of the anti-racist, feminist, queer and trans rights movements gave rise to potent change and an equally potent backlash: Dangerous gender-reveal parties sought to reaffirm genitalia as the de facto definition of gender, no matter how many people got hurt or killed in the process; violence against trans people continues to hit record highs, with 2020 being the deadliest on record; and women of all gender backgrounds who went up against systemic injustices faced horrifying harassment.
Even as the TV show “Pose” elegantly engaged viewers with stories about Black and Latinx trans women, the (now legion) trans people in my life struggled. At a funeral for one of several trans friends who died by suicide, it was clear that the marginalized among us remained at the margins. As a white, trans man, I never forget that medical transition is — and should not be — a privilege. Trans people who either don’t want or can’t get medical interventions remain vulnerable to both the existential threat of erasure and the often-physical violence of gender policing.
Visibility, of course, is not the same as belonging. Language creates nuance, but not necessarily legislation. Stories save lives and also, paradoxically, endanger them. Seeing ourselves reflected in the broader culture may have given us more models of how to navigate the crushing weight of transphobia, but increased awareness of our existence also inflamed gender fundamentalists, who initiated a moral panic about trans kids duped into gender variance by predatory trans adults. Their rhetoric reminded me of the same sort of anxiety straight people had about gay kids like me in the late ’90s.
But, as with any civil rights movement in this country, what has been seen cannot be unseen, and in that sense, the tide really has finally turned. Even as bigots wage a near-constant legislative assault on our civil liberties via draconian “bathroom bills,” straw-man attacks on the supposed “competitive advantage” of trans athletes and medically unsound efforts to prevent trans kids from seeking lifesaving, gender-affirming care, our insistence that we be the architects of our own stories has only grown.
As a journalist, author and screenwriter, I’ve seen that firsthand. Over the past decade, I’ve found myself at what turned out to be epicenter of the movement for trans visibility — first in media, and then writing for film and television. As I filed stories and authored books and worked in writers’ rooms, I witnessed a sea change from the inside of our culture in the stories we tell about gender. Somewhere along the way I became the trans future I needed, embodied.
When I left my doctor’s office that June day in 2011, trans visibility was still a nascent strategy in the struggle for our civil rights. The prevailing advice to trans men on hormone replacement therapy was to focus on “passing” as cisgender men — even if that meant leaving your past behind. According to this myopic logic, being trans was not its own identity so much as a swift journey between two gender poles.
Now a new generation of trans young people is growing up in a much more expansive narrative landscape, one that makes room for a gender spectrum instead of a binary and trumpets evolving, reclaimed and even newly invented language far beyond “trapped in the wrong body.” They also have what most of us didn’t when we were younger — myriad paths forward modeled by real, live trans adults. The trans people making history as well as magazine covers include State Senator Sarah McBride of Delaware, Assistant Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, the writer and director Janet Mock, and the actor Elliot Page. A Black trans lives matter march in New York City in June 2020 drew 15,000 people, according to organizers. And a GLAAD analysis of the 2020-21 television season found 29 regular or recurring trans characters on scripted prime-time broadcast, cable and streaming shows.
I hope my generation will be among the last in this country forced to endure patronizing medical professionals requiring that therapists evaluate our capacity to know our own hearts. Today, self-determination has largely replaced medical gate-keeping, and with those gates open, the very fabric of our most retrograde gender narratives, like “born in the wrong body” and “boys will be boys,” has begun to come undone. Young people have a language, a history and a sense of possibility — and so do I.
In 2018, my wife and I were married. I’m an uncle to five nephews, and I work every day to model a different sort of masculinity to the many trans kids who regularly write to me online. Some of them cheekily call me “Dad,” and I’ve found it suits: Increasingly, I hope to be a parent myself someday. That’s a future I could never have imagined.
As trans and queer and BIPOC and cis youth join forces to reckon with historical wrongs and create new ways forward, I wonder with genuine awe, what new futures will bloom? I hope I live long enough to find out.
Trans time isn’t linear. Beyond the shared experience of birth and death, many of us live in loops that double back on themselves: A second birth, a second death, two puberties, a collapsing of space-time that becomes, eventually, a kind of integration.
“You don’t have to start at the beginning and go in order to achieve ‘truth,’” the trans historian Susan Stryker told me in a recent conversation about how she approaches writing trans histories. Trans people, she said, cut off from our history and traumatized both collectively and personally, live in a space without the constrictions and narrative benefits of neat arcs of time.
Our time is circular, organic, associative. Sometimes we return to the beginning and find that not much has changed. Late last year I met with a new primary care doctor who treats many trans patients in Los Angeles. He suggested I switch my injection site from my thigh to my stomach — and once again a medical professional had to teach me the way in which I can continue to make myself whole.
I asked him, as I held and stabbed a fleshy part of my belly, whether the research into the health outcomes of trans men on testosterone had advanced in the past decade. He promised to get back to me after reviewing the literature, but when he did, I wasn’t surprised to find few answers. Despite the continuing obsession with trans people as metaphors and boogeymen, there’s still very little medical research to ensure our survival.
But being trans taught me long ago that progress isn’t so much a straight line as a relentless drumbeat, a fire inside, an instinct that is clearer than the static blaring wildly in the background. Ten years later, and that’s what I see in the mirror: my body, messy and illegible and imperfect and, above all else, human. My body, a miracle beyond time.
Islands like the Bahamas are paying the price for wealthier nations’ emissions — an injustice crying out for a global remedy.
By Bernard Ferguson, June 23, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/23/magazine/climate-change-impact-bahamas.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
This May — 20 months after Hurricane Dorian unleashed its cruelty upon my Bahamas — I looked down from an airplane’s window and could see land that was still visibly wounded. Grand Bahama and the Abacos were once covered in dark green foliage that complemented the emerald waters; now long stretches had faded to brown, even gray. Two-story waves had blown apart wide sections of shoreline. Once-gorgeous mangrove swamps — habitat for algae and crabs and bonefish, and the land’s defense against a storm’s surge — were overwhelmed by Dorian’s salt water, and large swaths of them lay dead, their brittle shells shimmering in the heat. The same fate befell the abundant indigenous Caribbean pine trees, which take decades to grow to their towering heights of over 100 feet. They need fresh water to survive, so when the ocean stretched upon the land and sat there for days, it killed acres of them.
Interspersed between the dead mangroves and fields of mangled bark I would find still-marred neighborhoods. Concrete toppled. Roofs missing. Debris scattered. Some blocks looked akin to the aftermath of rapture: Those taken were not taken gently, and those granted enough mercy to survive had stories so harrowing they approached the point of legend. One man was flung high into a massive gum tree and remained there until rescue arrived. Another man and his son, almost swept away by the flood, managed to hang on to the trunk of a pine. By the end of the storm, they had no skin left on their arms.
Standing in her yard, her battered home behind us, Jacana Theoc told me how she and her six children endured three terrifying days inside the storm. The sky above was calm, with fading pink clouds, as she described how they spent nearly 12 hours standing atop their countertops while the living room and kitchen filled with water. At one point, nearly neck-deep in it, her oldest son said, “Mummy, I can’t feel my legs.” As she remembered, she paused to look up at the darkening sky, the stars just becoming visible, and wiped away a few tears.
Somehow, she said, they escaped. Somehow — after retreating into the attic, after struggling over a barbed-wire fence, after a bout with snakes in their search for dry land — she and her family were, by some miracle, still alive. But their house was gutted. The water inside climbed to the ceiling, destroying everything they owned. Very slowly, she and her husband have begun repairs. But “the reason it’s taking so long,” she told me, “is because we’re literally doing this out of pocket.”
Every time I have returned home to the Bahamas since the storm, I’ve also stopped by what remains of my uncle’s house. My mother was living there when Dorian began to worsen off the coast. Having been through many hurricanes, she decided to shelter in place. But her sisters had awful premonitions of danger and begged her to come to Nassau. Eventually she relented and, for the first time in her life, retreated from a hurricane. She turned out to be incredibly lucky: Dorian intensified rapidly just before landfall, and the house was thoroughly ransacked. Its windows and doors were blasted open, and much of what had been on the inside was in pieces on the outside. The roof survived, but the refrigerator was dangling among the support beams, having floated up into the ceiling and never descended. If my mother had remained there, we might never have found her.
Before my mother, before Bahamians, before the colonizers and the enslaved people they dragged here, it was in large part the Indigenous Taíno who cultivated the lands. They believed hurricanes arrived because of the powers of the zemis, or divine deities. The Taíno feared and respected these zemis, whose powers often devastated Taíno communities. To survive, they sheltered in sturdy structures when storms came, praying to be spared. European colonizers, before killing nearly all the Taíno, took note of these strategies — knowledge passed down across the time of colonization that serves as a basis for Bahamians today.
But even with that knowledge, Dorian far surpassed anything we Bahamians thought a hurricane could be capable of. Tyrone Mather, a 54-year-old I met as he tried to repair his house, seems to have internalized this difference with his own body. He told me that he went to the shoreline as Dorian’s lightning flashed off the coast. He put his palms in the water and felt that it was warm, and so he fled his home. Like most Bahamians, he has lived a life of surviving storms, and now he knows by touch what climate scientists have come to agree on: Warmer oceans mean stronger hurricanes.
Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, once said that the question with any given hurricane is not “Was it caused by climate change?” but rather “How much worse did climate change make it?” Hurricanes are seen as the Earth’s mechanism for ferrying excess heat from the Equator toward the poles. With the average surface temperature of the planet’s oceans having increased nearly one degree Celsius since the preindustrial era, there is now more heat in the tropics, and so the planet’s transfer of that heat has become more powerful; the storms quicker to intensify and the lives of those in their paths more precarious. Even small increases in hurricane strength can have catastrophic effects. According to the United States National Weather Service, doubling wind speed from 75 to 150 miles per hour can equate to 256 times more damage potential. And while the strongest hurricanes in the Bahamas’ history once topped out at 160-mile-per-hour sustained wind speeds, Dorian’s was 185 — a difference that, per the same scale, means more than three times the damage power. For Bahamians, only a handful of miles per hour seem to span the difference between tearing down power lines and tearing up concrete.
The consequences are immense. The damage Dorian inflicted on the Bahamas was estimated at $3.4 billion — about one-fourth of the country’s 2019 gross domestic product, and almost six times the damage of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, formerly the costliest storm the country had faced in the past 30 years. Historically, hurricanes kill very few people in the Bahamas, but Dorian officially killed nearly 100, and hundreds more remain missing.
The Taíno believed that hurricanes were the consequences of choices made by beings outside their control. Today it’s the intensifying strength of the hurricanes that is outside the control of Bahamians. It is the consequence of decisions made by wealthy nations beyond our shores, and the greenhouse gas emissions that have fueled their prosperity and way of life. Most of these gases have come from the United States, China, the European Union, Russia and other developed countries. Compared with them, the Bahamas’ own emissions are tiny. And yet it is the Bahamas, along with other small islands worldwide — like Antigua and Barbuda, the Maldives, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands — that are on the front lines of the climate crisis.
Given the long-known imbalance between those most culpable for climate change and those set to suffer most from it, the question of who should be held accountable for losses and damages is not a new one. It has been asked for three decades, and is even addressed in the Paris Agreement. The accord is thought to have three pillars. The first, “Mitigation,” mandates that countries commit to doing what they can to keep the rise in global average temperature well below two degrees Celsius. The second, “Adaptation,” concerns the preparation of infrastructure and communities to survive changes in the climate. “Loss and Damage” is third. It seeks to build support for joint financing, commensurate with different economies’ contributions to climate change, to address all the destruction of resources, homes, ecosystems and livelihoods that Mitigation and Adaptation cannot prevent.
The concept of Loss and Damage was first introduced by Vanuatu, a member of the Alliance of Small Island States (A.O.S.I.S.), as part of a 1991 proposal for a pool to compensate victims of sea-level rise. It didn’t prove especially consequential, though, until 2013, when a coalition of island states and developing countries pushed to bring attention to it during the United Nations’ annual climate conference. Just days before the conference began, the Philippines, long familiar with tropical cyclones, was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 people and displaced millions. Yeb Saño, a delegate for the Philippines, addressed the conference and swore to a hunger strike until meaningful negotiations took place. “What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness,” he said. “The climate crisis is madness.” And with this, for a moment, the divide between the rooms in which climate policy was negotiated and the climates those policies implicated became inescapably thin. Despite relentless pushback from developed countries, a landmark decision was made to award Loss and Damage its own mechanism in future negotiations.
At the 2015 conference in Paris, debate around Loss and Damage rose to a fever pitch. Developed countries, by and large, wanted to fold Loss and Damage mechanisms into the articles in the agreement regarding Adaptation, arguing that the two were coupled. Many developing countries believed they should be separate; some were already experiencing losses from climate change, and it seemed clear that even with profound adaptation, such injuries were now inevitable. “We mobilized very big-time, the climate-vulnerable forum countries, the least developed countries,” Saleemul Huq, the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, told me. “It became one of the make-or-break issues that took us into overtime on the last day in Paris.”
Toward the end of the conference, John Kerry, representing the Obama administration, met with Enele Sopoaga, who was then the chairman of A.O.S.I.S. and the prime minister of Tuvalu, a chain of low-lying Pacific islands. Throughout the conference, Sopoaga stressed his commitment to seeing A.O.S.I.S.’s goals included in the agreement, saying, “Nobody is going to take them out now without a war.” But in an interview after their meeting, Kerry told reporters that “I explained exactly where we’re coming from on that, and I think there’s good understanding.” The United States Congress, according to Kerry, would be rigidly against any implication of any nation’s liability for climate damages elsewhere. And so, when the landmark Paris Agreement was successfully adopted at the end of the conference, Loss and Damage did win recognition as a stand-alone article in the agreement — but while the accords included the aim to “enhance understanding, action and support” for such damages, a caveat was added, explaining that the agreement “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.”
After Dorian, a torrent of international aid began pouring into the Bahamas. To help manage recovery efforts, the government established a Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction — and, within that, the Disaster Reconstruction Authority. Over the 20 months since the storm, tens of millions of dollars have been spent on the islands’ recovery from the worst disaster in their history. Fourteen schools have been repaired and more than three million cubic yards of debris cleared; funds have been delivered for small businesses and payments worth thousands awarded for homes in need of repair.
“We’re pretty pleased about the Small Home Repair Program,” Katherine B. Smith, the managing director of the D.R.A., told me. The organization had helped about 2,600 people, and had another thousand approved and waiting. But, Smith said, there was still some way to go. Around 9,000 homes sustained damage during Dorian, and considerable debris still remains — all while the pandemic has paralyzed tourism, the Bahamas’ most significant economic driver, and tied up the government’s resources. When I asked Smith how much longer recovery efforts might take, given that we’re approaching two years since the storm, she said the answer was “a minimum of another two to three years. And that’s based on all things being good.”
Jacana Theoc and her family were left with only the shell of their home. “We figured we had more damage than anybody,” she told me. But when the government assessed what was left of their property and offered assistance, the family didn’t get as much as they expected. The Red Cross helped with food for a while, and social services provided some furniture and a few new appliances, but the house Theoc spent 10 years saving for remains boarded up and battered. The story was similar everywhere I went. In the High Rock area, where residents were still trying to rebuild, a woman with a measuring tape on her belt told me that while her community had lost many people in the storm, it had even more deaths in the aftermath. And Nadine Pinder, whose husband is pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church, told me many seniors in her community were in special need of help: “Some of them have lost their families. And the one thing you know you felt so secure in, which is your home, has now been taken away.”
Many residents had whole houses swallowed by the storm and were left with only foundations. For temporary shelter, the D.R.A. contracted for more than 100 white, igloo-like domes made of a fiberglass composite, at a cost of some $6 million. I’m told the domes leak, and have a tendency to get too warm and accumulate mold. A woman who lives in one (she asked to be referred to only as Zelma, worried about sounding ungrateful or jeopardizing future aid) told me she had been trying to rebuild her home with climate adaptation in mind. She’s using concrete this time, instead of wood, despite the expense. Other than funding from the D.R.A. and previous help from the Red Cross, her family has to stretch her daughter’s small salary to cover construction. They heard that an NGO, Samaritan’s Purse, was still around, offering free roofs. “We’ve been working on it, trying to get the house up to the belt course” — the juncture at the top of a story — “so we could get that roof,” she told me. “But it hasn’t worked out.” She shook her head for a while, holding it low. “And hurricane season is right here again.”
Similarly, Ann Wilmore now lives in a government dome built atop the foundation where her house once was, on a vibrant bluff overlooking the Sea of Abaco. She looked to NGOs for help rebuilding, but many left the islands when the pandemic arrived. Most of those who remained told her they’d depleted their resources, and for what they had left — windows, roofs, doors — “they told me I don’t qualify because I lost the whole structure.” When she went to the D.R.A., she was told they weren’t taking new applications. (Smith, the program’s managing director, told me earlier that the D.R.A. was looking to raise funds and partnerships to expand the Small Home Repairs Program, but until then its portal was scheduled to remain closed.) I watched Wilmore’s eyes dart around her remaining foundation, the different tiles indicating what were once different rooms, and I could tell she was imagining the home that had stood there. When she threw open her hands, I could see the sea behind her. “What do you mean I don’t qualify?” she said.
In the 1940s, a scientist named Irving Langmuir hypothesized that he could weaken a hurricane by flying crystals of dry ice into its eye wall. None of his results were reproducible by others. About a decade later, though, two terrible hurricanes made landfall in the United States, together inflicting damages upward of $1 billion — and the federal government became interested in Langmuir’s experiments, believing that controlling the storms, or at least weakening them, could prove worthwhile. The effort, authorized by Congress, was called Project Stormfury, and it continued until 1983. Every action the project thought might be successful at weakening hurricanes has since been proved false or inconclusive. But over the same period, of course, the country was indeed changing the nature of hurricanes: As the world’s No. 1 greenhouse gas emitter, it helped raise the planet’s average temperature. The United States may have failed at weakening hurricanes, but it has extensively contributed to making them more powerful.
Since the Paris Agreement, as the effects of climate change have worsened, the U.S. stance on Loss and Damage has remained the same. “Loss and Damage is an existential issue for us,” said an A.O.S.I.S. representative, the Belizean environment minister Omar Figueroa, at the most recent climate-change conference in 2019. “We need clear and predictable finance that we can access to really compensate for the loss and damage that so many of our sister nations are feeling.” U.S. representatives, however, operating under the Trump administration, continued to refuse discussions of finance, and privately underscored that doing otherwise would “push the button of a certain man in the Oval Office.”
As a proposed workaround, some developed countries, like those of the European Union, have suggested tapping the Green Climate Fund, a pool made available for developing countries to help in their mitigation and adaptation efforts. But Harjeet Singh, a senior adviser at Climate Action Network International, told me this would deplete an already underfunded stream. “Loss and damage occurs when you realize you have not done enough on mitigation and adaptation,” he says. Finance, he says, remains a paramount issue. According to some economists, losses and damages from climate change are set to amount to somewhere between $290 billion and $580 billion a year by 2030. Currently there is no finance stream to meet those costs. “That means that money that should have gone to education, health care, infrastructure is now being diverted to emergency response and rehabilitation and reconstruction, which puts developing countries into a vicious cycle of poverty and debt,” Singh says. “Finance is something that really rich countries, particularly the U.S., have made sure that there is no progress and not even discussion on.”
On April 22, 2021, the Biden administration began a Leaders Summit on Climate — part of an attempt, after the Trump administration, to rescue the narrative of the United States’ role in combating climate change. In his opening address, the president urged nations around the world to increase their ambition to curb emissions. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about climate justice, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that while every country was feeling the effects of climate change, “some countries are experiencing much more severe impacts than others, something we must acknowledge and address.” But they made no mention of developed countries rising to the call of accountability; they made no mention of Loss and Damage.
On behalf of my Bahamas, I wish I could say that the world wasn’t so inextricably connected. It would mean that as the planet continued to warm, Bahamians like my mother, like Jacana Theoc, Tyrone Mather and Ann Wilmore, would not be at such risk of having their entire lives lacerated. In a closed system, the carbon emissions from a small island state might change the climate at a rate proportional to their size. But the systems of this world are bewilderingly open, tangled across oceans and continents and nation-states, and so the cumulative carbon footprint of every country on the planet is coming to bear down on small islands. Some of us are disappearing as the oceans rise. Some are experiencing droughts. Some are facing storms that are swinging blades we can no longer parry. My Bahamas are facing effects of climate change that we could never have caused ourselves, and crises larger than we can survive alone.
I am told that global climate conferences tend to take place at convention centers, in windowless rooms with strip lighting and air-conditioning. This means that global climate policies are negotiated in climates far more neutral than the ones they affect. But their stakes remain incredibly high. Because this year’s conference, in November in Glasgow, will be the Biden administration’s first, it has an excellent chance to raise its ambitions and finally allow a discussion about accountability to developing nations and small island states. There’s no other way to achieve climate justice, and no other way our countries can survive.
Many Native people were forced into the most undesirable areas of America, first by white settlers, then by the government. Now, parts of that marginal land are becoming uninhabitable.
By Christopher Flavelle and Kalen Goodluck, June 27, 2021
Pierre Augare, a member of the Quinault Nation in Taholah, Wash., a community on the Olympic Peninsula that has been planning a retreat from the ocean for almost a decade. Josué Rivas for The New York Times
In Chefornak, a Yu’pik village near the western coast of Alaska, the water is getting closer.
The thick ground, once frozen solid, is thawing. The village preschool, its blue paint peeling, sits precariously on wooden stilts in spongy marsh between a river and a creek. Storms are growing stronger. At high tide these days, water rises under the building, sometimes keeping out the children, ages 3 to 5. The shifting ground has warped the floor, making it hard to close the doors. Mold grows.
“I love our building,” said Eliza Tunuchuk, one of the teachers. “At the same time, I want to move.”
The village, where the median income is about $11,000 a year, sought help from the federal government to build a new school on dry land — one of dozens of buildings in Chefornak that must be relocated. But agency after agency offered variations on the same response: no.
From Alaska to Florida, Native Americans are facing severe climate challenges, the newest threat in a history marked by centuries of distress and dislocation. While other communities struggle on a warming planet, Native tribes are experiencing an environmental peril exacerbated by policies — first imposed by white settlers and later the United States government — that forced them onto the country’s least desirable lands.
And now, climate change is quickly making that marginal land uninhabitable. The first Americans face the loss of home once again.
In the Pacific Northwest, coastal erosion and storms are eating away at tribal land, forcing native communities to try to move inland. In the Southwest, severe drought means Navajo Nation is running out of drinking water. At the edge of the Ozarks, heirloom crops are becoming harder to grow, threatening to disconnect the Cherokee from their heritage.
Compounding the damage from its past decisions, the federal government has continued to neglect Native American communities, where substandard housing and infrastructure make it harder to cope with climate shocks.
The federal government is also less likely to help Native communities recover from extreme weather or help protect them against future calamities, a New York Times review of government data shows.
Interviews with officials, members and advisers at 15 federally recognized tribes portray a gathering climate crisis and a test of the country’s renewed focus on racial equity and environmental justice.
Many tribes have been working to meet the challenges posed by the changing climate. And they have expressed hope that their concerns would be addressed by President Biden, who has committed to repairing the relationship with tribal nations and appointed Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous cabinet secretary, to run the Interior Department. But Mr. Biden has announced few specific policies or actions to directly reduce the climate risk already facing Native communities, and Ms. Haaland’s office declined repeated requests for an interview.
“The stakes are very, very high,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians. “We’re running out of time.”
Forced Off Their Land, Again
The Quileute Nation is a collection of about 135 homes on a narrow slice of land at the edge of the Olympic Peninsula that juts into the Pacific, about 90 miles west of Seattle.
As temperatures rise, the atmosphere holds more water, producing more frequent and intense storms. High winds now regularly knock out the electricity, while homes along the main street are vulnerable to flooding. The single road that connects the community to the outside world is often rendered impassable by water.
“The village is 10 to 15 feet above sea level,” said Susan Devine, a project manager who is working with the Quileute. During major storms “those waves are bigger than you,” she said.
Hundreds of years ago, the reservation was a fishing village, among many locations used by the Quileute as they moved according to the demands of the weather.
That changed in 1855 when a treaty stripped the tribe of most of its land; President Grover Cleveland later issued an executive order confining the Quileute to a single square mile — all of it exposed to flooding.
“No one chose to be in a seasonal fishing area year-round,” Ms. Devine said.
The resulting vulnerability has pushed the tribe to pursue a solution that few non-Native towns in the United States have seriously considered: Retreating to higher ground.
“Climate change has forced us to make the heart-wrenching decision to leave the village,” Doug Woodruff, chairman of the Quileute Tribal Council, said in a December statement. “Without a cohesive national and international strategy to address climate change, there is little we can do to combat these impacts.”
Mr. Woodruff and other members of the council declined repeated requests to be interviewed.
In 2012, Congress gave the tribe permission to relocate inside the adjacent Olympic National Park. But without a tax base to pay for its move, the tribe sought federal money. Progress has been slow: The Quileute received about $50 million in grants to build a new school farther from the coast, but the total cost to relocate homes and other facilities could be two or three times that much, according to Larry Burtness, who manages federal grant applications for the Quileute.
Forty miles south, the Quinault tribe has been working on its own plan to retreat from Taholah, the reservation’s main town, for almost a decade. Tucked between a driftwood-strewn beach and a coastal rainforest, Taholah is exposed to storms, flooding and frequent power outages. That tribe has also struggled to get federal help.
“There’s no single source of revenue, at a state level or congressionally, to undertake these kinds of projects,” said Ms. Sharp, who was president of Quinault Nation until March.
A Struggle for Federal Aid
The federal government offers help to communities coping with the effects of climate change. But Native Americans have often been less able to access that help than other Americans.
“We’re the most disproportionately impacted by climate, but we’re the very least funded,” said Ann Marie Chischilly, executive director of the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals at Northern Arizona University.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is less likely to grant requests for aid from native tribes recovering from disaster, compared to non-Native communities, according to FEMA data.
Native Americans are also less likely to have flood insurance, making it harder to rebuild. Of 574 federally recognized tribes, fewer than 50 participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, according to a review of FEMA data.
That’s partly because the federal government has completed flood maps for just one-third of federally recognized tribes, compared with the vast majority of counties. Flood maps can help tribal leaders more precisely understand their flood risks and prompt residents to purchase flood insurance.
But insurance premiums can be prohibitively expensive for Native Americans.
Individual households on Native lands are also less likely to get federal help girding for disasters. Of the 59,303 properties that have received FEMA grants since 1998 to prepare for disasters, just 48 were on tribal lands, according to Carlos Martin, a researcher at the Urban Institute.
FEMA said it is committed to improving tribal access to its programs.
Chefornak’s efforts to relocate its preschool illustrate the current difficulties of dealing with the federal government.
While FEMA offers grants to cope with climate hazards, replacing the school wasn’t an eligible expense, according to Max Neale, a senior program manager at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, who helped Chefornak search for federal aid.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has a program to pay for infrastructure on tribal lands, but the maximum amount available wasn’t enough for a new school, and the agency wouldn’t grant money until the village had found other ways to make up the difference, Mr. Neale said.
HUD declined to comment on the record.
Replacing the preschool would only begin to address Chefornak’s troubles. Some two dozen homes need to be relocated, potentially costing more than $10 million, according to Sean Baginski, an engineer working with the village. And Chefornak is just one of more than 100 Native villages in Alaska alone that are exposed to significant climate risks.
“If the intent is for the government to find a way to fund this stuff,” Mr. Baginski said, “now would be a good time.”
Living Without Water
Twice a week, Vivienne Beyal climbs into her GMC Sierra in Window Rock, a northern Arizona town that is the capital of Navajo Nation, and drives 45 minutes across the border into New Mexico. When she reaches the outskirts of Gallup, she joins something most Americans have never seen: a line for water.
Ms. Beyal’s destination is a squat concrete building that looks like a utility shed, save for the hoses that extend from either side. Once there, she waits as much as half an hour for her turn at the pump, then fills the four 55-gallon plastic barrels in the back of her truck.
The facility, which is run by the city of Gallup, works like an air pump at a gas station: Each quarter fed into the coin slot buys 17 gallons of water. Most of the people in line with Ms. Beyal are also Navajo residents, crossing into New Mexico for drinking water. “You can show up whenever you want,” she said. “As long as you can pay for it.”
Ms. Beyal has lived in Window Rock for more than 30 years and once relied on the community well near her home. But after years of drought, the water steadily turned brown. Then last year, it ran dry. “It’s on us to get water now,” she said.
Like much of the American West, Navajo Nation, the largest tribe in the country, has been in a prolonged drought since the 1990s, according to Margaret Hiza Redsteer, a professor at the University of Washington.
“As snowfall and rain levels have dropped, so have the sources of drinking water,” Dr. Redsteer said. “Surface streams have disappeared, and underground aquifers that feed wells are drying up. Conditions are just continuing to deteriorate.”
But unlike nearby communities like Gallup and Flagstaff, Navajo Nation lacks an adequate municipal water supply. About one-third of the tribe lives without running water.
The federal government says the groundwater in the eastern section of Navajo Nation that feeds its communal wells is “rapidly depleting.”
“This is really textbook structural racism,” said George McGraw, chief executive officer of DigDeep, a nonprofit group that delivers drinking water to homes that need it. Navajo Nation has the greatest concentration of those households in the lower 48 states, he said.
The federal government is working on a billion-dollar project to direct more water from the San Juan River to a portion of the reservation, but that work won’t be finished until 2028.
The drought is also changing the landscape. Reptiles and other animals are disappearing with the water, migrating to higher ground. And as vegetation dies, cattle and sheep have less to eat. Sand dunes once anchored by the plants become unmoored — cutting off roads, smothering junipers and even threatening to bury houses.
“We’ve got to adapt to these conditions,” said Roland Tso, an official in the Many Farms area of Navajo Nation, where high temperatures hovered near 100 degrees for much of June. “We’re seeing the weather going crazy.”
New Administration, New Promises
As a presidential candidate last year, Mr. Biden highlighted the connection between global warming and Native Americans, saying that climate change poses a particular threat to Indigenous people.
But Mr. Biden’s most ambitious climate proposal, written into his $2 trillion infrastructure plan, included just two references to on tribal lands: unspecified money for water projects and relocation of the most vulnerable tribes.
A White House spokesman, Vedant Patel, declined to comment on the record.
Ms. Haaland’s role as interior secretary gives her vast authority over tribal nations. But the department declined to talk about plans to protect tribal nations from climate change.
Instead, her agency provided a list of programs that already exist, including grants that started during the Obama administration.
“At interior, we are already hard at work to address the climate crisis, restore balance on public lands, and waters, advance environmental justice, and invest in a clean energy future,” Ms. Haaland said in a statement.
Heritage at Risk
Beyond the threats to drinking water and other basic necessities, a warming planet is forcing changes in the ancient traditions.
In Northern California, wildfires threaten burial sites and other sacred places. In Alaska, rising temperatures make it harder to engage in traditions like subsistence hunting and fishing. And on Cherokee Nation land, at the northeastern corner of Oklahoma, changing precipitation and temperature patterns threaten the crops and medicinal plants that connect the tribe with its past.
In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which resulted in the forced relocation of five tribes, including the notorious march of the Cherokee, from the Southeastern United States to Oklahoma, known as the Trail of Tears.
Despite losing their land, the Cherokee retained part of their culture: Heirloom beans, corn, and squash, as well as a range of medicinal plants such as ginseng, which they continued to grow in the temperate highlands at the eastern tip of their reservation.
“There was certainly a lot lost, but there was also a lot that was able to be maintained,” said Clint Carroll, a professor at the University of Colorado and a citizen of Cherokee Nation.
Now, drought and heat make it harder to grow the plants and crops of their ancestors.
“It can be seen as another removal,” Dr. Carroll said. But this time, he said, “Cherokee people aren’t moving anywhere — it’s the environment that’s shifting.”
In March, Pat Gwin, senior director for Cherokee Nation’s environmental resources group, showed a visiting journalist the tribe’s heirloom garden in Tahlequa, an enclosed plot the size of a tennis court where traditional squash, tobacco, corn, beans and gourds grow.
Seeds from the plants are distributed to Cherokee citizens once a year, a link to centuries of culture and existence that is dimming.
“Our access to and use of the land is so tied up with identity,” said Anton Treuer, professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University in Minnesota. “It’s who we are as a people.”
Ash Adams contributed reporting.
Baghdad said the attacks overnight were a violation of its sovereignty. One of the targeted militias threatened to wage “open war” on American interests in Iraq.
By Jane Arraf, June 28, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/28/world/middleeast/iraq-us-airstrikes-militias-iran.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
The Iraqi government on Monday condemned U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias near the Iraqi-Syrian border, and one of the paramilitary groups targeted in the attacks vowed “open war” against American interests in Iraq.
President Biden authorized the strikes against what the Pentagon said were facilities being used in attacks launched against U.S. forces in Iraq. The Pentagon said that two of the targets were just across the border into Syria and that the third was inside Iraq.
In a statement, the Iraqi government condemned the strikes as a “blatant and unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty and national security.” The statement, issued by Maj. Gen. Yahya Rasool, military spokesman for Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, called for avoiding escalation and said that Iraq did not want to be turned into an “arena for settling accounts” — a reference to the conflict between the United States and Iranian proxies in Iraq.
The American strikes were the latest escalation in tensions over recent revelations that Iranian-backed militias in Iraq had increasingly been using small, explosive-laden drones in late-night attacks on Iraqi bases, including those used by the C.I.A. and U.S. Special Operations units, according to American officials.
The strikes are expected to increase pressure on Mr. al-Kadhimi to order the remaining U.S. forces out of Iraq. Those forces are largely deployed to help Iraq fight remnants of the Islamic State. While Iraqi military leaders have said that they welcome continued help from the U.S.-led coalition, Mr. Kadhimi is being pushed hard by Iranian-backed political parties to expel them.
One of the groups hit by the American airstrikes, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, said that four of its fighters stationed along the border had been killed in the strikes.
“From now on, we will go to open war with the American occupation, the first action of which is targeting the enemy planes in beloved Iraq’s sky,” the group said in a statement.
Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada and Kata’ib Hezbollah, the other militia group targeted, are part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, which formed to fight the Islamic State in Iraq in 2014. The forces were later merged into the Iraqi government’s security forces.
But many of the Iranian-backed groups that are part of the Popular Mobilization Forces are only nominally under control of Baghdad.
John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, said that the strikes, carried out by F-15 and F-16 fighter, were intended to limit the risk of escalation while sending a message of deterrence. He described them as self-defense and limited in scope.
The command of the Popular Mobilization Forces said that the strikes targeting two of its brigades had been carried out about 10 miles from the border with Syria in the Iraqi town of Qaim in the western province of Anbar. It said that the casualties had been stationed at the border to prevent Islamic State fighters from infiltrating from Syria.
The Popular Mobilization Forces denied Pentagon claims that weapons storehouses were targeted and said that the airstrikes had targeted its fighters instead.
An umbrella group for the Iranian-backed armed groups in Iraq, the Iraqi Resistance Coordination, vowed revenge and said it would continue to target U.S. forces.
“We will avenge the blood of our righteous martyrs against the perpetrators of this heinous crime and with God’s help, we will make the enemy taste the bitterness of revenge,” the group said in a statement.
Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said that the United States was disrupting the security of the region through the attacks.
The airstrikes were the second in the same area authorized by Mr. Biden since he came to power and the first since elections in Iran this month that saw the hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi become president.
Although bodies are normally buried the same day under Islamic tradition, the Popular Mobilization Forces said that it would hold a public ceremony in Baghdad on Tuesday morning to transport the remains of those killed in the airstrike and to express condemnation of the attack.
By Amit Paley, C.E.O. and executive director of The Trevor Project, June 28, 2021
Last week, Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib made the barrier-breaking decision to publicly come out as gay, becoming the first active player in the N.F.L. to do so. Nassib’s news came just days after 21-year-old runner Sha’Carri Richardson thanked her girlfriend after qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team. And just two days later, Kumi Yokoyama, a forward for the Washington Spirit women’s soccer team, came out as a transgender man.
Nassib, Richardson and Yokoyama’s coming out should not have to be newsworthy. But it is newsworthy, for a reason that demands attention from high schools, colleges and the pros.
For years, L.G.B.T.Q. youth and young adults have reported avoiding sports out of fear, rather than lack of interest, citing experiences of locker room bullying and alienation from teammates. According to research from The Trevor Project, youth participation in sports was more common among L.G.B.T.Q. youth who were less “out” about their L.G.B.T.Q. identity. One in three L.G.B.T.Q. youth who were not “out” to anyone about their sexual orientation participated in sports, compared to one in five who were “out” to all or most of those they knew.
One L.G.B.T.Q. young person told us, “I never hated sports, but I hated how I was treated by kids and adults who played sports. The locker room was always a nightmare, the athletic kids at my school hated me, the coaches at my school hated me, and as much as I didn’t care for a lot of mainstream sports in general, I avoided athletic activities out of terror, not disinterest.”
The fact is, many L.G.B.T.Q. people enjoy sports, but sports remain a fertile ground for exclusion and hostility. The best hope to change this culture rests on the shoulders of coaches and teammates. Whether they know it or not, they have the power — through words, behavior, and gestures big and small — to improve L.G.B.T.Q. acceptance and understanding in sports.
These problems are particularly pronounced for transgender and nonbinary youth, who over the past year have been subjected to relentless political attacks. Even as Nassib’s coming out hopefully signifies increased inclusion in sports, more than a dozen states are actively considering or implementing restrictions on transgender student athletes. On the first day of this year’s Pride Month, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed legislation that will ban transgender women and girls from playing on school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity.
The cruel irony is that so many trans youth are afraid to play sports in the first place because they do not feel safe doing so, rather than because they don’t want to play. While all of us should be working to block these attacks on young people, we need coaches and fellow athletes to lead the fight.
Managers and coaches play a vital role in creating the conditions that make athletes feel safe, a prerequisite for youth to be their best selves and reach their full potential. They also help cultivate mores for millions of fans.
We cannot overstate the importance of supportive coaches, managers and trainers. Our research has shown that just one accepting adult can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt among L.G.B.T.Q. youth by 40 percent. For many young people, coaches, managers and trainers can be that one adult.
At the organizational level, schools and professional sports associations can help break the silence and stigma around being L.G.B.T.Q. in sports, by fostering a safe, inclusive and affirming climate. This can include everything from zero tolerance for harassment and discrimination in the locker room and on the field, to ensuring that announcers and others consistently use an athlete’s proper pronouns, to actively celebrating L.G.B.T.Q. pride and culture, to being active bystanders against anti-L.G.B.T.Q. speech, to speaking out against legislation targeting transgender athletes.
Nassib, Richardson and Yokoyama’s journeys — and the support from their coaches and teammates — are incredibly encouraging, particularly for L.G.B.T.Q. fans and aspiring athletes. We can only hope that this is the harbinger of a more inclusive era of sports. I write this while recognizing that not all L.G.B.T.Q. people feel safe about being public with their identity, nor may they want to be public about it. But at the end of the day, the burden of representation should not be placed on queer and trans individuals. The onus should be on the rest of society to ensure that we are creating an environment where everyone can be themselves. Creating that environment can begin with coaches, on and off the field. Doing so will literally save lives.
The lost potential in sports is deeply upsetting — how many young L.G.B.T.Q. athletes will be banned from playing, or will actively choose not to play out of fear of being rejected simply for who they are? Without institutional change, we’ll never know the full scope of athletic achievement and talent we have missed out on.
Criminal justice advocates say the pandemic offers a case study for a different type of punitive system in America, one that relies far less on incarceration.
By Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Maura Turcotte, June 27, 2021
“This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card,” said Wendy Hechtman, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence but was released to home confinement during the pandemic, “but what it is is an opportunity card.” Credit...Hilary Swift for The New York Times
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Ever since she was sent to a sober living facility six months ago, part of a mass release of nonviolent prisoners to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Wendy Hechtman has tried to do all the right things.
She is making up for lost time with her children, one of whom was only 6 when Ms. Hechtman was locked up roughly three years ago. She goes to weekly drug counseling sessions. She even got a part-time job helping former inmates reintegrate into society.
But now, Ms. Hechtman is among some 4,000 federal offenders who could soon return to prison — not because they violated the terms of their home confinement, but because the United States appears to be moving past the worst of the pandemic.
In the final days of the Trump administration, the Justice Department issued a memo saying inmates whose sentences lasted beyond the “pandemic emergency period” would have to go back to prison. But some lawmakers and criminal justice advocates are urging President Biden to revoke the rule, use his executive power to keep them on home confinement or commute their sentences entirely, arguing that the pandemic offers a glimpse into a different type of punitive system in America, one that relies far less on incarceration.
“If I go to prison for all the time I have left, I won’t have boys anymore. They will be men,” said Ms. Hechtman, who is serving a 15-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute a form of fentanyl. “I have so much to lose. And to gain.”
Mr. Biden has vowed to make overhauling the criminal justice system a crucial part of his presidency, saying his administration could cut the prison population by more than half and expand programs that offered alternatives to detention.
While the White House has yet to announce a decision about those on home confinement, the administration appears to be following the direction of the Trump-era memo.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Mr. Biden, said in a statement that the president was “committed to reducing incarceration and helping people re-enter society,” but he referred questions about the future of those in home confinement to the Justice Department.
Kristie Breshears, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, which is part of the Justice Department, said the bureau would “have the discretion” to allow inmates who were close to the end of their sentences to remain on home confinement even after the national emergency declaration was lifted.
“For the more difficult cases, where inmates still have years left to serve, this will be an issue only after the pandemic is over,” she said. “The president recently extended the national emergency and the Department of Health and Human Services has said the public health crisis is likely to last for the rest of the year.”
The White House revisits the emergency declaration every three months, leaving the former prisoners in a constant state of limbo. The next deadline is in July.
Stacie Demers, who has served nearly half of a 10-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, said she felt as if she was “stuck between the beginning and the end, so to speak.” She is currently at her aunt’s home in Albany, N.Y. “The thing is constantly in the back of my mind: Do I have to go back? Will I not see my family again?”
An Alternative to Crowded Prisons
The United States is believed to be the world’s leader in incarceration, spending $80 billion a year to keep more than two million people behind bars.
For nonviolent offenders in particular, home confinement can be a more humane — and cheaper — alternative to already crowded prisons, criminal justice advocates argue.
The United States spent an average of $37,500 to keep a federal inmate like Ms. Hechtman locked up in the 2018 fiscal year. Home confinement, by contrast, costs around $13,000 a year, with expenses including monitoring equipment and paying private contractors to handle supervision, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office report.
Those pushing for overhauling the prison system say the statistics are on their side. The vast majority of the 24,000 federal prisoners who were released to home confinement because of the coronavirus crisis followed the rules. Most of them had only weeks or months left on their sentences and completed them without incident.
Three people committed new crimes, one of which was violent, Michael Carvajal, the director of the Bureau of Prisons, told lawmakers during a Senate judiciary hearing in April. Roughly 150 people were returned to prison for other violations, including about two dozen for leaving their designated homes without authorization.
Kevin Ring, the president of the criminal justice advocacy group FAMM, formerly known as Families Against Mandatory Minimums, questioned the wisdom of cases in which people were sent back for technical violations such as online gambling, sending money to other inmates in prison or, in the case of a 76-year-old woman in Baltimore, attending a computer-training class. “That doesn’t make anyone safer,” he said.
Changing the prison system is one of the few areas that has drawn bipartisanship agreement in Washington. Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, joined Democrats in criticizing the Justice Department memo, which was issued in January.
“Obviously if they can stay where they are, it’s going to save the taxpayers a lot of money,” Mr. Grassley said at the hearing. “It will also help people who aren’t prone to reoffend and allows inmates to successfully re-enter society as productive citizens.”
Inmates are typically allowed to serve the final six months, or 10 percent, of their sentence on home confinement. The legal memo issued by the Trump administration argued that the roughly 4,000 inmates whose sentences would almost certainly outlast the pandemic would need to return to prison because they do not fit the usual eligibility requirements for home confinement.
Larry Cosme, the national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents probation officials, cautioned against changing those requirements without a proper review.
“It’s good to have adequate prison reform and get with the times but you have to do it meaningfully, with an adequate amount of personnel,” Mr. Cosme said. “Make sure the system works and not setting someone up for failure.”
He also said the releases put a strain on those responsible for monitoring the inmates.
Mr. Carvajal, the Bureau of Prisons director, said that while the bureau supported the reintegration of inmates, other issues were at play.
“The whole point of this is that they’re going back to society at some point,” Mr. Carvajal said. “We also respect the fact, though, that these sentences were imposed by the criminal justice system in a court of law.”
Inimai Chettiar, the federal director for the Justice Action Network, which consulted with the Biden campaign on criminal justice measures, said the prison system had needed to be overhauled for years. She said Mr. Biden should not only rescind the memo, but also use his executive power to issue clemency for the inmates.
“I worry that their commitment to ensuring D.O.J.’s independence is getting in the way of their commitment to racial justice and criminal justice,” Ms. Chettiar said of the Biden administration. “This is a fairly easy thing to do. This is not passing bipartisan policing legislation. It’s not some massive new executive action. It’s simply someone typing something up on a one sheet piece of paper.”
‘They Won’t Take Care of Me’
For some inmates, being released to home confinement has meant gaining access to lifesaving resources and support systems that they say were scarce from within prison walls.
Jorge Maldonado, 53, who has kidney disease, was released in October because his poor health made him especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. He has served five years of a seven-year sentence for fraud and theft, much of it in a federal prison in North Carolina that has been hard hit by the virus.
Mr. Maldonado, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, now receives dialysis 10 hours a day using a catheter through his abdomen as he waits for a new kidney, which would be his third kidney transplant.
Being at home in Oviedo, Fla., outside Orlando, he said, had allowed him to receive the medical care he needed through the Department of Veterans Affairs health system.
But Mr. Maldonado has 18 months left on his sentence.
“They won’t take care of me, health-wise, the way the V.A. does,” he said of the Bureau of Prisons, which has been frequently criticized for the quality of its medical care.
Mr. Maldonado also questioned why he might be forced to return to prison with only a year and a half left in his sentence.
“If somebody is doing what they should be doing, and proven that they’re not really a menace to this community, to society, then what’s the problem?” he asked.
Ms. Hechtman has nine years left on her sentence after she was caught producing a chemical analogue of fentanyl in 2017.
“I get it,” she said as she expressed remorse for selling to others in Omaha, where she was arrested. “This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card but what it is is an opportunity card.”
At the sober living home in New Haven, Ms. Hechtman said she did not need to worry about being exposed to the opioids she often saw peddled throughout prison. She starts her day by logging on to her computer in her 10-foot-by-12-foot room and working at her part-time job working with former prisoners.
To go for a walk in the park or even travel 20 yards to take out the trash, she must submit a request to a contractor working for the government.
When she leaves her home, she wears a black monitor on her right ankle and activates an app on her phone that allows government officials to track her.
Ms. Hechtman said she had yet to miss one of her weekly counseling sessions. She recalled that when she was in the minimum-security facility in Danbury, Conn., she often had to wait for weeks before getting approved for counseling for addiction.
“She has hope now and she didn’t have that,” said Kathryn Pérusse, Ms. Hechtman’s 22-year-old daughter, who lives in Montreal. “She needed a support system and that’s also another thing she couldn’t have inside.”
Ms. Hechtman often notes that a release to home confinement does not equate to absolute freedom. She still has not seen Ms. Pérusse or her three other children, including the 9-year-old son with whom she video chats regularly.
She is not authorized to visit them in Canada. She said her relatives had not yet visited her because of arduous quarantine requirements in place because of the pandemic.
Ms. Hechtman said she hoped she would see them outside of a prison visitation room for the first time in more than three years before she was sent back.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs reported from New Haven, and Maura Turcotte from Chicago. Hailey Fuchs contributed reporting from Washington.