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In Two Seconds: Tamir Rice 2002-2014

by Mark Doty

the boy’s face
climbed back down the twelve-year tunnel

of its becoming,  a charcoal sunflower
swallowing itself. Who has eyes to see,

or ears to hear? If you could see
what happens fastest, unmaking

the human irreplaceable, a star
falling into complete gravitational

darkness from all points of itself, all this:

the held loved body into which entered
milk and music,  honeying the cells of him:

who sang to him, stroked the nap
of the scalp, kissed the flesh-knot

after the cord completed its work
of fueling into him the long history

of those whose suffering
was made more bearable

by the as-yet-unknown of him,

playing alone in some unthinkable
future city, a Cleveland,

whatever that might be.
Two seconds. To elapse:

the arc of joy in the conception bed,
the labor of hands repeated until

the hands no longer required attention,
so that as the woman folded

her hopes for him sank into the fabric
of his shirts and underpants. Down

they go, swirling down into the maw
of a greater dark. Treasure box,

comic books, pocket knife, bell from a lost cat’s collar,
why even begin to enumerate them

when behind every tributary
poured into him comes rushing backward

all he hasn’t been yet. Everything
that boy could have thought or made,

sung or theorized, built on the quavering
but continuous structure

that had preceded him sank into
an absence in the shape of a boy

playing with a plastic gun in a city park
in Ohio, in the middle of the afternoon.

When I say two seconds, I don’t mean the time
it took him to die. I mean the lapse between

the instant the cruiser braked to a halt
on the grass, between that moment

and the one in which the officer fired his weapon.
The two seconds taken to assess the situation.

I believe it is part of the work
of poetry to try on at least
the moment and skin of another,

for this hour I respectfully decline.

I refuse it. May that officer
be visited every night of his life
by an enormity collapsing in front of him

into an incomprehensible bloom,
and the voice that howls out of it.

If this is no poem then…

But that voice –- erased boy,
beloved of time, who did nothing
to no one and became

nothing because of it –- I know that voice
is one of the things we call poetry.
It isn’t only to his killer he’s speaking.


In Two Seconds: Tamir Rice, 2002-2014″ previously appeared in vol. 44, no. 3 of American Poetry Review. Copyright © 2015 by Mark Doty. Used with permission of the author.


Author Biography

Mark Doty is the author of several collections of poetry, including Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which received the 2008 National Book Award. He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2011 to 2016.

Photo by Miki Jourdan via flickr (cc-by-nc-nd)

New Book on Immigration from Prof. Ruth Milkman

Distinguished Professor Ruth Milkman has just released her 13th book, Immigration Labor and the New Precariat, published by Polity. In it, she suggests that immigration is not the cause of growing inequality, as promoters of the “immigrant threat narrative” claim. Rather, the influx of low-wage immigrants is a consequence of a concerted effort on the part of employers to weaken labor unions, along with neoliberal policies fostering outsourcing and deregulation. Check it out!

Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat
Ruth Milkman
Polity Book, 2020

Immigration has been a contentious issue for decades, but in the twenty-first century it has moved to center stage, propelled by an immigrant threat narrative that blames foreign-born workers, and especially the undocumented, for the collapsing living standards of American workers.  According to that narrative, if immigration were summarily curtailed, border security established, and “”illegal aliens”” removed, the American Dream would be restored.

In this book, Ruth Milkman demonstrates that immigration is not the cause of economic precarity and growing inequality, as Trump and other promoters of the immigrant threat narrative claim. Rather, the influx of low-wage immigrants since the 1970s was a consequence of concerted employer efforts to weaken labor unions, along with neoliberal policies fostering outsourcing, deregulation, and skyrocketing inequality. 

These dynamics have remained largely invisible to the public. The justifiable anger of US-born workers whose jobs have been eliminated or degraded has been tragically misdirected, with even some liberal voices recently advocating immigration restriction. This provocative book argues that progressives should instead challenge right-wing populism, redirecting workers’ anger toward employers and political elites, demanding upgraded jobs for foreign-born and US-born workers alike, along with public policies to reduce inequality.

New Publications from SLU Faculty and Staff

Stephanie Luce has two new articles out: one in LaborNotes on workers and housing, and another in Portside on how unions are organizing for racial justice.
Gladys Palma de Shrynemakers is co-hosting Next Gen Assessment: A Series for Educators Transitioning Online for the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU). This is an ongoing series of blog posts complemented by brief video discussions designed to help educators exchange information about assessment challenges and emerging best practices in digital delivery.
Incoming Assistant Professor of Labor Studies Joel Suarez discusses two recent books about anti-immigrant sentiment in an article entitled “The Nativist Tradition” in Dissent magazine.
David Unger has authored a piece on police unions and the Black Lives Matter movement for the fall issue of New Labor Forum, which has been released early due to its timeliness. Read it here.

Update on Fall 2020 Semester

SLU will begin the Fall 2020 semester in distance learning and remote work modality. The University will continue to employ distance learning for most classes throughout the semester, until it’s safe for students and staff to return to the physical campuses.
In preparation for distance learning this fall, SLU’s faculty are currently engaged in intensive remote education professional development. A student survey has gone out to identify their needs, and a new student portal is being created to ensure that new and continuing students have the training, resources, and academic support that they need.
With regard to reopening CUNY’s campuses, the Board of Trustees has given the colleges flexibility to make plans to suit their specific needs, subject to approval by the Central administration.
Read the most recent messages from the Chancellor and the Dean.

New Labor Forum Highlights: July 2020

The New Labor Forum has a monthly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

Well in advance of the fall 2020 issue of  New Labor Forum , we are releasing an important article by David Unger on the relationship of organized labor to police and carceral work. In “ Which Side Are We On: Can Labor Support #BlackLivesMatter and Police Unions ,” Unger asks whether the highly unionized workforce of nearly 2 million people employed by the carceral state have a right to union representation. And if so, should there be limits placed on their ability to collectively bargain and lobby? And furthermore, do police unions deserve a place within the AFL-CIO, given the role they have sometimes played in strike-breaking as well as controlling and even attacking protests by labor and its allies?  Subscribe now to  New Labor Forum   to join conversations like this and support the work of the journal.

We also include here a cutting-edge talk by Maurice Weeks, of the Action Center on Race and the Economy, presented at a recent forum hosted by NLF publisher, the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. Weeks discusses #DefundPolice and its challenge to the structural power of police departments. He also reveals the extent to which police departments dominate municipal budgets, citing L.A., Detroit, and Tulsa, where policing accounts for 52%, 36%, and 30% respectively of those cities’ total expenditures. And, extending the discussion of labor’s role in the fight for racial justice, April Simms, Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, examines the impact on black families and communities of ceaseless police killings of unarmed black citizens. She also makes a plea for unions “to do the uncomfortable but necessary work of fighting the white supremacy that is choking us.” We end with a heart-rending poem by Mark Doty, commemorating 12-year-old Tamir Rice, murdered at the hands of the police.

Table of Contents
  1. Which Side Are We On: Can Labor Support #BlackLivesMatter and Police Unions? / David Unger, New Labor Forum
  2. Black Workers and the Triple Pandemic / with Maurice BP-Weeks, June 24, 2020, CUNY SLU forum
  3. “We need you to fight for us to breathe” / April Sims, The Stand
  4. In Two Seconds: Tamir Rice 2002-2014 / Mark Doty, American Poetry Review, vol. 44 no. 03

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Getting Involved In the Movement for Social Justice

If you are looking for ways to develop or deepen your involvement in racial justice, below you’ll find a collection of resources to help get you started, whether it be by donating, marching, signing a petition or writing your local and federal elected officials.

Articles and Resources

Photo by Johnny Silvercloud via flickr (cc-by-sa)

A conversation about workers, communities and social justice

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