19 February 2015

How Los Angeles Covered Up the Massacre of 17 Chinese

The greatest unsolved murders in Los Angeles' history — bloodier than the Black Dahlia, more coldly vicious than the hit on Bugsy Siegel — occurred on a cool fall night in 1871. Seventeen Chinese men and boys, including a popular doctor, were hanged by an angry mob near what is now Union Station, an act so savage that it bumped the Great Chicago Fire off the front page of The New York Times.
Eight men eventually were convicted, but the verdicts were thrown out almost immediately for a bizarre technical oversight by the prosecution. Unbelievably for a crime that occurred in full view of hundreds of people, no one was ever again prosecuted.
The truth about the Chinese Massacre remained buried for 140 years, until writer John Johnson Jr. took up the hunt. Johnson spent more than a year examining every piece of evidence, including documents long thought to have been lost to history. Aided by newly discovered records at the Huntington Library, Johnson found that the men convicted of the killings were in fact guilty. Little surprise there. But Johnson found something astonishing — and sinister. The bloodlust unleashed that October night was allowed to unfold (if not also set in motion) by some of the city's leading citizens, men so powerful they could arrange to have the convictions fall apart and the reasons for the massacre covered up. What emerged from Johnson's research is a portrait of a town engaged in a death struggle against its own worst nature. Come with us on a journey into the liar's den of our Los Angeles ancestors.

Black, queer, feminist, erased from history: Meet the most important legal scholar you’ve likely never heard of

Pauli Murray is one of the most pivotal figures in 20th century African-American civil rights history, but beyond academic circles, she is not very well known. In 1944, she graduated as the valedictorian of her Howard University law class, producing a senior thesis titled “Should the Civil Rights Cases and Plessy Be Overruled?” Trained by William Howard Hastie and Leon Ransom at Howard, Pauli Murray had been witness to their early legal strategy of combating separate but equal doctrine by forcing states to either make black institutions equal to their white counterparts or integrate white institutions, if they failed to do so. However, she argued that Plessy v. Ferguson was inherently immoral and discriminatory and should be overturned. When she brought up this argument to her classmates, she noted that her suggestion was received with “hoots of derisive laughter.” Murray coined the term “Jane Crow” to name the forms of sexist derision she frequently encountered during her time at Howard. It was the piece she co-authored in 1965 called “Jane Crow and the Law” that Ginsburg cites as so influential in her thinking about legal remedies for sex discrimination. Nearly 10 years later, in 1953, Spottswood Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and others pulled out a copy of her senior paper and used it as a guide to strategize how they would argue the Brown v. Board case. They didn’t bother to mention this until about 10 years later, when she ran into Robinson at Howard Law School.

News Reports & Analysis: ISIS and its Campaign of Violence Against Religious and Ethnic Minorities

UPDATED:  February 19, 2015

Selected news reports, op eds and analysis on ISIS and its campaign of violence against Iraqi Christians and other minorities:
Related -- Background on ISIS:

18 February 2015

Why Serra Should Not Be A Saint

Why Serra Should Not Be A Saint, by Jacqueline M. Hidalgo (Religion Dispatches, 3 February 2015)

Thus the Serra that Pope Francis seeks to canonize is not just a potential saint because of his violent evangelism, but also because he became a European tool for the U.S. conquest of Californian territory—a means for ignoring the complex Mexican history of the U.S.’s most populous state. Perhaps for this reason, more than any other, California’s mission period is the last place we should look for saints; too much violent nationalism lies at the core of California mission memorialization to be of use to a global church.

16 February 2015

The First Victims of the First Crusade

The First Victims of the First Crusade (New York Times, 13 February 2015)
THE first victims of the First Crusade, inspired in 1096 by the supposedly sacred mission of retaking Jerusalem from Muslims, were European Jews. Anyone who considers it religiously and politically transgressive to compare the behavior of medieval Christian soldiers to modern Islamic terrorism might find it enlightening to read this bloody story, as told in both Hebrew and Christian chronicles. The message from the medieval past is that religious violence seldom limits itself to one target and expands to reach the maximum number of available victims.
Link: The First Victims of the First Crusade

News Reports & Analysis: Unpacking Charlie Hebdo and Related Events in Paris

Last updated: February 16, 2015
Selected news reports, op eds and analysis on Charlie Hebdo, its aftermath and related topics:






How Black Lives Have Always Mattered: A Reading List

This year, Black History Month carries a special significance, because America is marking not just the 150th anniversary of Emancipation, but also the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. It was propelled into reality through the heroic witness of non-violent demonstrations in Selma, Alabama and across the nation. But the freedom dreams of enslaved Africans, southern sharecroppers and northern militants too often remain muted in the popular imagination of our own times. Black political radicalism fueled America's democratic imagination, even as institutions of white supremacy, Jim Crow, and racial and economic exploitation remained determined to extinguish the flames of black liberation and rebellion. Several recent history books help illuminate the historical contradictions that Black History Month exemplifies, namely, how a nation founded on racial slavery became both a beacon for radical hope and a defender of racial segregation and economic injustice.

News Reports & Analysis: #MuslimLivesMatter -- Unpacking the Murder of Three Muslim Students in the #ChapelHillShooting

Last Updated: 16 February 2015
Selected news reports, op eds and analysis on the murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and its aftermath:


News Reports: 

Related Links:

12 February 2015

This is How Many Words Are Spoken By Women In The Bible

There are 93 women who speak in the Bible, 49 of whom are named. These women speak a total of 14,056 words collectively -- roughly 1.1 percent of the total words in the holy book. These are the findings of the Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman, an Episcopal priest who three years ago embarked on an unprecedented project: to count all the words spoken by women in the Bible. With the help of three other women in her church community -- as well as highlighters, sticky notes and spreadsheets -- Freeman painstakingly dissected the Bible's New Revised Standard Version. "I wanted to know what women in the Bible really said," Freeman told The Huffington Post. "I was stunned to see that nobody had done this before."