Category Archives: Obituary

Dr. Luke Tripp: The Political and Structural Context of the Police Murder of George Floyd

Editor’s Note: Back in 1988 I was a student reporter for the Daily Egyptian, the student newspaper for Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. I reported a story about campus activist and Black Studies professor Dr. Luke Tripp being denied tenure there. During a Facebook discussion about an off-the-record threat I received from an administrator to be mindful of the kind of reporting I did: (‘If you’re going to be a trouble-maker, you’d better be damned good, otherwise, if we find an excuse to get rid of you, we will.’) a friend wondered whatever happened to Dr. Tripp.

A google search traced him most recently to St. Cloud, Minnesota as the acting chair for the Department of Ethnic, Gender & Women’s Studies at St. Cloud State University.

I sent an email there to Dr. Tripp. I wrote Dear Sir: I would like to start a political podcast and have you on my first show to discuss your campus activism in Carbondale and where it led you. I’d be interested to share whatever you have to say about politics, social justice, and the possibility or lack of possibility for racial reconciliation or political reform.

I regret you did not get a better platform from my article in 1988 and would like to offer whatever amplification I might produce through this effort.

Dr. Tripp responded promptly in the affirmative and included this essay. I am blogging it now and look forward to having him as guest on the podcast.

This was sent as an email draft and has not been proofed by an editor. – Adam Broad – Lake County, IL June 1, 2020

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Author: Dr. Luke Tripp

The Political and Structural Context of the Police Murder of George Floyd

During a pandemic, the savage murder of George Floyd has sparked protest demonstrations and the mobilization of millions who are morally outraged. His brutal death represents the everyday inhuman racist treatment of people of color in the United States. This case is socially and politically explosive.

To understand the social and political dynamics of this case, we have to focus on the centrality of race and the criminal justice system. Americans profess to believe that the rule of law should be applied equally to all citizens regardless of race or status. Yet, it is beyond dispute that the criminal “justice” system functions from start to finish (definitions of crime, investigation, arrest, charging, conviction, and sentencing) in a racially biased way.

Black bodies have been made to signify criminality, a threat and a menace to society by the American government at all levels. It logically follows that these bodies (male, female, young, and old) will be harshly and brutally assaulted by the law-enforcement forces of public safety (police). The continuing and pervasive practice of the extremely aggressive policing of Black people is a manifestation of the fear and contempt that the White power structure and White American culture have of people of African ancestry. A militant, well-organized, and the highly politicalized Black community is necessary to curb anti-Black policing. Recent mobilizations of the Black community in reaction to the shooting deaths of unarmed Black men demonstrate that we can have an impact on the course of actions by officials of the criminal justice system. 

America: Racialized Police State

Every Black male, young and old is stigmatized as a potential or actual threat or menace to society. The vast majority of Black men have had a negative encounter with the criminal justice system, including Martin Luther King. One of my many personal encounters with the police department happened in St. Cloud, Minnesota. On Monday, July 9, 2007, at about 3:40 pm, while walking home from my office at St. Cloud State University, I was stopped on the sidewalk by two police officers who were in separate squad cars. One officer got out of the car and looked at me and my bag, which I use to carry books and papers, and said that she had mistakenly perceived my bag as a purse. The fact that I, a university professor and senior citizen, was stopped on a busy street in mid-afternoon and publicly humiliated by police officers because they perceived me as a suspected purse thief indicates the high level of anti-Black police profiling in the city of St. Cloud. I filed a formal complaint, but it was disdainfully dismissed. I did not even receive an apology.

The social structure of racism is predicated on stereotypes based on the appearance of our bodies. Negative stereotypes and anti-Black prejudices shape the discrimination that makes the everyday lives of Black Americans painful. Anti- Black stereotypes are derogatory beliefs and cognitions and feelings of antipathy toward Black people. They are used to discredit, vilify, persecute, dehumanize, and target Black people, and they become toxic when supported by White power and dominance. The George Floyd case is especially painful for Blacks. Daily, Blacks feel the stress largely caused by White police officers and hostile Whites. The George Floyd case reveals more about the criminal justice system than it does about his killers.

The American Constitution: Black Lives do not Matter

Racial tensions are very high in the U.S. today. The Black community is angry, hurt, and in pain because of the frequent killings of Blacks by police officers. This institutionalized violence is evidence to Black people that their lives are not respected or valued by White American society. Throughout American history, the government has created institutions that functioned to maintain White privilege and supremacy, resulting in the continuing oppression of Black people. One major arm of the government that is used to control Blacks is its criminal justice system. Since the very inception of the United States, through its ratification of the Constitution in 1787, Black people have had to fight against the legal system which legitimized our dehumanization and enslavement.

To understand why criminal justice works against black people, we need to know a little legal history. Dred Scott v. Sanford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), was a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Dred Scott v. Sanford, Supreme Court judges considered this key question: Did the citizenship rights guaranteed by the Constitution apply to African Americans? The Supreme Court decided the case by a 7 to 2 decision that Black people were not American citizens. They reasoned that people of African ancestry had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order and altogether unfit to associate with the White race, either in social or political relations — and so far inferior that they had no rights which the White man was bound to respect. This decision continues to be the guiding constitutional principle of the legal system in the U.S. This is the legal anti-black foundation of the criminal justice system. it is morally bankrupt. It confirms that the legal system continues to operate on the basic principle that “Blacks have no rights which the White man was bound to respect.”

Today, the criminal justice system in Minnesota is being used to control and weaken the Black and American Indian communities by making felons a very large segment of the Black and Indian male populations. Only about 6 percent of Minnesotans are Black, according to 2018 census estimates. Yet nearly 36 percent of the state’s prison population is Black. American Indians make up about 1 percent of the population and more than 9 percent of prisoners. Section 1. Adult Prison Population Summary as of 07/01/2018.

Turning the Black community against Itself

Perhaps the greatest immediate danger to the social fabric of the Black community is the criminal “justice” system. Through mass incarceration, millions of Black parents are now in prison, on probation, or parole. Moreover, a large segment of the Black population is legally marginalized by being branded as felons or ex-felons. Thus, police actions against the Black community have serious implications for the economic status of the family and the educational future of the children.

The criminal justice system has become a dominant presence in the lives of Black males. It impacts employment, housing, family formation, and political participation. Racialized incarceration is a manifestation of the political strategy to control and stigmatize Blacks as violent criminals and dangerous threats to civil society. The social, economic, and political consequences of stigmatizing and criminalizing Black males have seriously weakened the social fabric of the Black community. Black ex-convicts are viewed as social pariahs.

They have been virtually banished from the labor market and in many states, they have been banned from civic engagement by the Felony Disenfranchisement Laws. They return to the Black community from prison with very few skills or opportunities to lead constructive lives. The social dysfunctions in the depressed areas of the ghetto can be largely attributed to the anti-Black functions of the criminal justice system, which operates to debilitate the Black community by making felons out of a large proportion of Black men who then prey largely on members of their community- “Black-on-Black” crime. Racial profiling is a tactic used in the strategy of the criminal justice system to maintain the subordination of Black people. But we are fighting back. The mass protest marches show our resolve to struggle against racial injustice in America. Racism divides and dehumanizes groups. Resisting racism is an act of liberation.

The militarization of the Police Force 

This militarization of the police force is a manifestation of the strategic planning of the government to control Black people. The war on drugs serves as the rubric under which anti-drug laws and administrative policies have targeted Black people for marginalization and criminalization. Through the criminal justice system, many Blacks are denied basic citizenship rights (the vote, student loans, public housing, etc.). The criminal justice system has become a dominant presence in the lives of Black males. It impacts employment, housing, family formation, and political participation.

The militarization of the police force in terms of army weapons, military tactics, and special assault units has been a long-term trend since the urban rebellions of the 1960s. The display of naked military-style intimidation against protesters for social justice in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown is an example of the extent to which the police departments across the nation have been militarized with equipment from the U. S. Department of Defense.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement grew out of this reality which continues to propel it. The main thrust of the movement is aimed at the criminal “justice” system, especially on police brutality and harassment, racial profiling and ticketing, police militarization, and mass incarceration.

The White ruling elite views BLM as a disruptive threat that has the potential to become an insurgent force that will challenge their stratified power structure of racial domination. Therefore, they are implementing both repressive and reform strategies to weaken and defuse BLM. The repressive measures taken by the White elite include hiring more police officers and equipping them with military weapons, putting more people under surveillance and detention, restricting the space for protest demonstrations, and stigmatizing protesters as violent, uncivil, militant troublemakers.

Social Control through Deceptive Color-Blind Policies

The grievances that are acceptable to the White elite only address lite manifestations of racism in the criminal “justice” system. By making small concessions to minor demands and incorporating the moderate protest elements into the mainstream entities, the White elite wants to co-opt BLM. The White liberal establishment has framed the issue as the bad or inappropriate behavior of a few White police officers. Hence their remedies include a better screening of police officer candidates at the point of hiring, conducting racial/cultural sensitivity training, and arranging get-acquainted sessions with people and police in the patrolled area. Also, recommendations are made to incorporate more people of color and women into the police force to change the White image and to reduce the racial criticism of the police force.

The racial integration of police departments and prison staffs may reduce the level of profiling, brutality, and harassment, but they will not address the basic underlying issues because these fixes are predicated on the erroneous idea that the blame for police profiling and brutality is on White police officers who harbor racial animosity toward people of color. By focusing on racist police officers, serious attention is deflected away from the systemic control role of the police, of any color, which is to serve and protect the racialized capitalist social hierarchy from disruptive insurgent forces.

The basic fact is that the police force is under the command of the ruling White elite, which directs the criminal “justice” system to target those individuals and groups whom it views as a threat to social stability and its dominant power structure in the social order. History has shown that organized morally driven disruptive strategies against racialized political structures by Black people and their allies have been effective in the struggle for social justice in America. The struggle to dismantle U.S. apartheid will continue.

Resistance to the Racist Police State 

Why should Black people obey unjust laws that do not recognize their humanity? Protests in the form of demonstrations, marches, rallies are acts of resistance against a brutal repressive system that targets and dehumanizes and assaults Black people. The political officials are calling for calm and acceptance of the racialized capitalist structure. But to accept the structure is to legitimize the moral authority of an inherently racist system, which debases Black people. 

Government officials view Black’s people’s moral outrage as a problem that must be repressed and dissipated; they ignore the anti-Black function of the CJS that caused the outrage. The CJS is used as an assault weapon and an extortion mechanism against the Black community. Black people have a moral duty to actively fight against a system that operates to strip them of their dignity. People who have a sense of what constitutes justice will not accept immoral policies. Moreover, they will vigorously protest them. Racism divides and dehumanizes groups. Resisting racism is an act of liberation. Rallies, marches, forums, and petitions are moves we take to empower ourselves to dismantle racism. The struggle for justice in the George Floyd case is a struggle against racism. Paul Robeson, a Black liberation hero, reminds us that we “must take a stand” to advance our humanitarian struggle.

A Benefit and Memorial For Jason Tanner

Feb 15, 2020 Carbondale, IL LIVE RECORDING at Lost Cross House

Tanner – Lost Cross House 2010

April 4, 1968 to 2019 in one micro-blog

The Great Society and The War Against Poverty were laid to rest in the napalm ashes of the Vietnam War and the Reagan Reaction that came after the malaise of the Carter years. Dr. King died on this day in 1968 while advocating for sanitation workers in Memphis. 15 years later Ronald Reagan signed MLK Day into a national holiday while at the same time The Reagan Adminstration made sure the modest gains of the Poor Peoples Campaign withered in austerity. The 30 million dollars per day burden of killing Vietnamese peasants to save them from communism has become a 30 million dollars per hour Forever War. For Dr. King, the protest against mindless militarism and for economic justice was one and the same. It is not only fitting we remember the lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is essential for our future to act upon them.

Dan Everhart fought, ferociously, for social justice

Dan Everhart fought, ferociously, for social justice

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Dan Everhart fought, ferociously, for social justiceSobriety was a watershed in Chico resident’s life

by Steve Breedlove

Dan Everhart provided this photo when he wrote guest commentary for ChicoSol just a few months before his passing.

Born Danny Allen Everhart in Madison, Ind., on Sept. 2, 1958, Dan split his time between Elgin, Ill., with his mother, and southern Indiana, with his father, until he was 20. Displaying anti-authoritarian hard-headedness and the general alienation that foments, Dan lived rough and tumble in his formative years and fell into alcohol and drug abuse. He didn’t stay in one place for very long and he dropped out of high school.

He also fathered a child around this time, but left him in his infancy. Christopher was adopted by his mother’s husband, and said that Dan was “never his ‘dad.’” According to Chris, Dan definitely imparted his intellect and curiosity, and also his skill in IT and data analysis. They maintained communications with twice-a-year phone conversations — on Chris’s birthday and on Christmas. One of Dan’s friends recounted that “he despaired” about having left his infant son and that he carried a picture of Chris. Another said it was one of the demons he carried for the rest of his life.

Like many young men looking for a paycheck and some direction, Dan enlisted in the Army in 1979, serving very briefly. Like many recruits who are unwilling to play by the rules quickly learn, the military is not very accepting of anti-authoritarianism, no matter how deeply it is embedded in good conscience. He was discharged honorably in 1980.

While visiting a cousin in Nashville, Dan fell from a balcony while intoxicated — describing it as a “cartwheel” to a college friend — and it changed the course of his life forever. The doctors gave him five years to live, but he was as stubborn as a tumbleweed’s taproot, and lived another 35 years beyond their expectations.

Despite his longevity, he did experience considerable “phantom pains,” as well as general discomfort from being quadriplegic. As one friend in Dallas who had the same spinal cord injury described it, it feels like “your bones want to puncture through your skin.” From the VA facility in Chicago, he transferred to the halfway house, Winning Wheels, in Prophetstown, Ill., to finish rehabilitation and to learn how to live in a wheelchair.

While he recovered from his accident, Dan obtained his GED and enrolled in nearby Sauk Valley Community College. He then transferred to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale — a school that was an early adopter of accessibility programs and infrastructure — and moved into an innovative independent living facility off-campus called “The Fields.” Dan received a BS in psychology, graduating summa cum laude in 1987, writing his capstone paper on the dynamics of loneliness — a condition that proved perennial.

Near the end of his undergraduate years and after, he worked for a crisis hotline for a program called Synergy in a geodesic dome facility they called, unsurprisingly, “The Dome.”

During this period of his life, his friends and peers recalled his intense intelligence and his “acerbic wit.” One asserted that, “We weren’t squares, and Dan was kind of like a leader,” and that he was prone to deliver monologues of deep philosophical musing “while we tripped.” Dan and his friends continued to party hard, and a few bad experiences led him to finally decide to become sober. One friend noted he was later ashamed that he had been a “horribly mean drunk.”

Carbondale had a really strong recovery community which most certainly helped him in his process and, according to a confidant in Dallas two decades later, “Dan was proud of being sober.”

Another friend recounted that “sober Dan was like not-sober Dan, just without the hangover,” referring to his often abrasive personality, his intellect and his sense of humor. While always concerned with the suffering of others, sobriety granted Dan new opportunities to focus on social justice work and was a watershed in his life.

In 1991, now sober, he enrolled in a Master’s in Social Work program, also at SUI-Carbondale. A study partner recalled that he was brutally critical, but that he couldn’t “help being critical when [he was] so intelligent.” He graduated in 1993 and was named Graduate Student of the Year. One classmate joked, “he actually read the books,” counting Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” and Thomas Szasz’s “The Myth of Mental Illness” as important influences on Dan’s thinking. His passion for the unhoused emerged around this time.

After a very brief career as a social worker in a local prison, Dan went to Dallas to work for Microsoft, where he remained until retiring in 2011. He was on the development team of the SOAP XML protocol, which facilitates the exchange of information over networks. While in Dallas, he joined other activists in fighting for accessibility across the city, which, according to a close friend and activist, was “one of the least accessible cities in the country.”

Dan was an expert poker player, a cinephile and a member of the Dallas Movie Geeks. He participated in Occupy Dallas and brought his wit, intelligence and compassion for the unhoused. He was described as a “trooper” for the long days he spent exposed to the elements, much as he was a trooper meeting with the folks at the makeshift Butte County camps that sprung up in the wake of the Camp Fire.

After a bad breakup, Dan decided to go West.

He told his family Dallas was too hot, but ironically Dan chose Chico. According to them, he thoroughly researched Chico and felt it was a town where he could “make a difference.” To say he made a difference is an understatement that obscures the legacy of this amazing and principled man.

Shortly after arriving in Chico, Dan involved himself in the remnants of Occupy Wall Street and Food Not Bombs. He was instrumental in forming the Northern California Counties Time Bank, where he served on the board at his passing, advocating for face-to-face egalitarian economics as an antidote to the crushing pains of capitalist exploitation. He served, for a time, as treasurer of the Chico chapter of the ACLU, where his uncompromising principles and stubbornness were often on full display. He served as board president of the Chico Peace and Justice Center, advancing the teaching and practice of Gandhian nonviolence and social change.

Dan believed voluntary suffering was central to struggles against oppression and that loving your enemy is a revolutionary act. This led him to de-emphasize his own disability and focus on his relative privilege vis-à-vis other oppressed groups, particularly the unhoused and people of color suffering under the white supremacist criminal injustice system. Also a testament to both his principles and his intersectional thinking, Dan was a strong voice for the elders to step back from positions of power within organizations and open space for younger and more diverse voices.

Dan’s principled nonviolence and belief in direct action for social change led him to many protests and actions against war, against fossil fuels, rail transport of oil, and more. He truly understood the scope and scale of our ecological crisis. Dan was also the driving force behind the Chico Housing Action Team, taking decisive action to provide immediate shelter to unhoused folks during a dangerous winter cold snap and bringing together people who shared a desire to address the crisis of homelessness. As a regular speaker at City Council and board and commission meetings, Dan was a powerful voice advocating for justice for the least among us and against the insane economic paradigm of endless growth.

Dan was one of those rare people who could light up a room with his child-like excitement for ideas, like direct democracy through neighborhood assemblies, while also being bluntly truthful about the mass extinction underway and the slim prospects of humanity surviving.

People who knew him described him in many ways, including as “wicked smart,” as “curious about everything,” as someone who “loved a good debate,” as someone who “had a personal side that was warm, generous and charming” and offered a “genuine handshake.” But he was also described as someone who could be at times “very cruel” and a “difficult friend to have . . . because he had crazy high standards not only for himself but others as well.”

Many who worked with Dan on issues of social and economic justice here in Chico can verify this latter fact with their own experiences.

Dan inspired other individuals and organizations and his legacy will never be fully understood. Like a tumbleweed, Dan rolled in from the Midwest, broken from a tenacious taproot, and spread seeds of a better world all over the city. Some of those are maturing, like a tiny house village recently approved. Some have already sprouted, like North Valley Mutual Aid. Many more seeds are dormant, waiting for the right moment to spring to life. We owe these to him.

Rest in power, comrade.

Dan Everhart died in his home Dec. 23, 2018. He is survived by his mother, ValDean White, his son, Christopher Heaney, sister Pam Asinopo, his father, Dan Everhart, Sr., stepmother Avalon Hampton, brother Dan Jr., and his sister, Kat Knox.

Writer’s note: Thanks to all the people — near and far, estranged or intimate — who shared their stories and helped me learn about my friend and mentor. I see so much of myself in Dan’s story. His lessons encourage my self-reflection and give me the strength to persevere. Let’s carry his flame as a torch to pierce the darkness of our moment and to light the path to a world of beauty, abundance and love.

Editor’s note: Steve Breedlove is a father, gardener, veteran and an occasional contributor to ChicoSol.

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