Hexbyte Glen Cove MIT grapples with early leader’s stance on Native Americans

Hexbyte Glen Cove

David Shane Lowry, distinguished fellow in Native American Studies at MIT, stands for a photograph, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, on the front steps of the Walker Memorial building on the schools campus, in Cambridge, Mass. MIT is grappling with the legacy of one of its founding fathers, whose name graces the iconic building. Francis Amasa Walker was a former head of the U.S. office of Indian Affairs who authored The Indian Question, a notorious treatise on Native Americans that helped justify the nation’s tribal reservation system. Credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne

As the third president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Francis Amasa Walker helped usher the school into national prominence in the late 1800s.

But another part of his legacy has received renewed attention amid the nation’s reckoning with racial justice: his role in shaping the nation’s hardline policies toward Native Americans as a former head of the U.S. office of Indian Affairs and author of “The Indian Question,” a treatise that justified forcibly removing tribes from their lands and confining them to remote reservations.

MIT is now grappling with calls from Native American students and others to strip Walker’s name from a campus building that is central to student life—part of a broader push for the nation’s higher education institutions to atone for the role they played in the decimation of Native American tribes.

“Walker might be the face of Indian genocide and it is troubling that his name is memorialized at MIT,” says David Lowry, the school’s newly-appointed distinguished fellow in Native American studies and a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.

MIT President L. Rafael Reif wrote in a recent column in MIT Technology Review that addressing Walker’s legacy is an “essential step” in the school’s commitment to its Native American community. Native students account for 155 of the school’s nearly 3,700 students this year.

A late-19th century photo provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows Francis Amasa Walker, the third president of MIT. Walker helped usher the struggling school into national prominence, but the former Civil War general and former head of the U.S. office of Indian Affairs also authored “The Indian Question,” a treatise on Native Americans that helped cement the young nation’s system of forcibly removing tribes from their native lands to live on far flung, remote reservations. Native American students and their supporters want the university to rename Walker Memorial, a classical-style building named in his honor. Credit: MIT via AP

“The question we are working through now is what to do with these facts, as well as other aspects of the history of MIT and Native communities,” wrote Reif, who stopped short of weighing in on the name change debate in his column and declined to be interviewed.

Built in 1816, Walker Memorial houses student group offices, the college radio station and a campus pub. Its is a great hall decorated with soaring murals meant to depict scientific learning and experimentation.

Alvin Harvey, a doctoral student and president of the MIT Native American Student Association, says the classical-style building overlooking the Charles River is one of the most visible reminders of the school’s white, Western-centric past.

“As a Native American individual, you feel the full brunt of what MIT built its foundations on,” said Harvey, a 25-year-old New Mexico native and member of Navajo Nation. “The ideology that Western men, white men are going to lead the United States and the world into a new utopia of technological development.”

Alvin Donel Harvey, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Native American Student Association, stands for a photograph, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in front of the Walker Memorial building on the schools campus, in Cambridge, Mass. MIT is grappling with the legacy of one of its founding fathers, whose name graces the iconic building. Francis Amasa Walker was a former head of the U.S. office of Indian Affairs who authored The Indian Question, a notorious treatise on Native Americans that helped justify the nation’s tribal reservation system. Credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne

MIT was among the nation’s first colleges to benefit from the Morrill Act, a 1862 law that helped create the U.S. public higher education system. The law allowed for the transfer and sale of federal lands to colleges to help establish their campus, or bolster an existing one. But many millions of those acres were actually confiscated from Native American tribes.

In MIT’s case, it received at least 366 acres scattered across California and a number of Midwest states, High Country News reported last year. At the time, their sales helped generate nearly $78,000, or more than $1.6 million in today’s dollars, the magazine said.

Lowry cautions those land and revenue estimates are likely conservative and that some students in his course on the “Indigenous History of MIT” are working on a fuller accounting.

Simson Garfinkel, an MIT alum who wrote a recent article on Walker’s life and legacy in MIT Technology Review, worries that renaming Walker Memorial would only serve to erase the contributions of a singular figure in MIT history.

David Shane Lowry, distinguished fellow in Native American Studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stands for a photograph, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in front of the Walker Memorial building on the schools campus, in Cambridge, Mass. MIT is grappling with the legacy of one of its founding fathers, whose name graces the iconic building. Francis Amasa Walker was a former head of the U.S. office of Indian Affairs who authored The Indian Question, a notorious treatise on Native Americans that helped justify the nation’s tribal reservation system. Credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne

“Without Walker there would be no MIT. He was pivotal to making it the institution it is today,” Garfinkel said. “He placed it on vastly better financial footing, dramatically expanded enrollment and brought a discipline to the school that was really needed.”

As president from 1881 until his death in 1897, the former Union Army general and Boston native helped improve student life and oversaw the introduction of the first female and Black students on campus.

Garfinkel also argued that “The Indian Question” offered significant and lasting contributions to the wider understanding of indigenous peoples, even if its analysis and policy recommendations were ultimately racist and “problematic.”

The book, published in 1874, included detailed descriptions of American tribes, their populations and the offenses incurred against them, mainly by illegally settling on their lands and instigating violence.

  • David Shane Lowry, left, distinguished fellow in Native American Studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Alvin Donel Harvey, president of the MIT Native American Student Association, stand for a photograph, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in front of the Walker Memorial building on the schools campus, in Cambridge, Mass. MIT is grappling with the legacy of one of its founding fathers, whose name graces the iconic building. Francis Amasa Walker was a former head of the U.S. office of Indian Affairs who authored The Indian Question, a notorious treatise on Native Americans that helped justify the nation’s tribal reservation system. Credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne
  • Alvin Donel Harvey, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Native American Student Association, stands for a photograph, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in front of the Walker Memorial building on the schools campus, in Cambridge, Mass. MIT is grappling with the legacy of one of its founding fathers, whose name graces the iconic building. Francis Amasa Walker was a former head of the U.S. office of Indian Affairs who authored The Indian Question, a notorious treatise on Native Americans that helped justify the nation’s tribal reservation system. Credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne

But Walker also described Native Americans as “an obstacle to the national progress” and concluded the country was justified in pushing Native Americans off their ancestral lands. He recommended confining them to reservations and forcing them to adopt European farming and production methods.

Rather than remove Walker’s name from the building, Garfinkel suggests providing more historical context by installing an informational marker on site.

“Walker was an amazing person who we need to understand in all of his complexity,” he said. “It’s easy to rename buildings, but much harder to learn about the past.”

Harvey said MIT has taken promising steps, such as appointing Lowry, recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day and providing a new campus space for Native American groups.

But it still needs to hire more Native faculty and provide other support for Native students, he said. As for Walker Memorial, Harvey suggests not only renaming it, but turning it into a center for indigenous sciences.

“MIT is missing out on this huge swath of indigenous knowledge,” he said. “Indigenous people are practicing their own valuable sense of science, engineering and knowledge of the natural world, and it’s being completely shut out.”



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Hexbyte Glen Cove Black Americans are most likely to experience fatal police violence thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Black Americans are most likely to experience fatal police violence

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

More than 55% of deaths from police violence in the USA from 1980-2018 were misclassified or unreported in official vital statistics reports according to a new study in The Lancet. The highest rate of deaths from police violence occurred for Black Americans, who were estimated to be 3.5 times more likely to experience fatal police violence than white Americans.

Researchers estimate that the US National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), the government system that collates all in the USA, failed to accurately classify and report more than 17,000 deaths as being caused by during the 40-year study period.

“Recent high-profile police killings of Black people have drawn worldwide attention to this urgent public health crisis, but the magnitude of this problem can’t be fully understood without . Inaccurately reporting or misclassifying these deaths further obscures the larger issue of systemic racism that is embedded in many US institutions, including law enforcement. Currently, the same government responsible for this violence is also responsible for reporting on it. Open-sourced data is a more reliable and comprehensive resource to help inform policies that can prevent police violence and save lives,” says co-lead author Fablina Sharara of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington School of Medicine, USA.

To examine the extent of under-reporting, researchers compared NVSS data to three non-governmental, open-source databases on police violence: Fatal Encounters, Mapping Police Violence, and The Counted. These databases collate information from news reports and public record requests. When compared, the researchers’ new estimates highlight the extent to which deaths from police violence are under-reported in the NVSS and the disproportionate effect of police violence on Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous people in the USA.

Across all races and states in the USA, researchers estimate that NVSS data failed to report 17,100 deaths from police violence out of 30,800 total deaths from 1980-2018 (the most recent years of available NVSS data), accounting for 55.5% of all deaths from police violence during this period. Using a predictive model, researchers also estimated the total number of deaths from police violence in the USA, for all races/ethnicities and all states for 2019, estimating an additional 1,190 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths from police violence from 1980-2019 to 32,000.  

Black Americans experienced fatal police violence at a rate 3.5 times higher than white Americans, according to this analysis, with nearly 60% of these deaths misclassified in the NVSS (5,670 unreported deaths from police violence out of 9,540 estimated deaths). From the 1980s to the 2010s, rates of police violence increased by 38% for all races (with 0.25 deaths from police violence per 100,000 person-years in the 1980s as compared to 0.34 deaths from police violence per 100,000 person-years in the 2010s).

Compared to the deaths recorded in the new analysis, NVSS also missed 56% (8,540 deaths out of 15,200) of deaths of non-Hispanic white people, 33% (281 deaths out of 861) of non-Hispanic people of other races, and 50% (2,580 deaths out of 5,170) of Hispanic people of any race.

Deaths due to police violence were significantly higher for men of any race or ethnicity than women, with 30,600 deaths in men and 1,420 deaths in women from 1980 to 2019.

Previous studies covering shorter time periods have found similar rates of racial disparities, as well as significant under-reporting of police killings in official statistics. This new study is one of the longest study periods to date to address this topic.

The authors call for increased use of open-source data-collection initiatives to allow researchers and policymakers to document and highlight disparities in police violence by race, ethnicity, and gender, allowing for targeted, meaningful changes to policing and public safety that will prevent loss of life.

Additionally, the researchers point out that because many medical examiners or coroners are embedded within police departments, there can be substantial conflicts of interest that could disincentivize certifiers from indicating police violence as a cause of . Managing these conflicts of interest in addition to improved training and clearer instructions for physicians and medical examiners on how to document police violence in text fields on death certificates could improve reporting and reduce omissions and implicit biases that cause misclassifications.

“Our recommendation to utilize open-source data collection is only a first step. As a community we need to do more. Efforts to prevent police violence and address systemic racism in the USA, including body cameras that record interactions of police with civilians along with de-escalation training and implicit bias training for police officers, for example, have largely been ineffective. As our data show, fatal police violence rates and the large racial disparities in police killings have either remained the same or increased over the years. Policymakers should look to other countries, such Norway and the UK, where police forces have been de-militarized and use evidence-based strategies to find effective solutions that prioritize public safety and community-based interventions to reduce fatal police violence,” says co-lead author Eve Wool of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington School of Medicine, USA.

The authors acknowledge some limitations in the study. This paper does not calculate or address non-fatal injuries attributed to police violence, which is critical to understanding the full burden of police violence in the USA and should be examined in future studies. The data also do not include police officers killed by civilians, police violence in USA territories, or residents who may have been harmed by military police in the USA or abroad. Because the researchers relied on death certificates, which only allow for a binary designation of sex, they were unable to identify non-cisgender people, potentially masking the disproportionately high rates of violence against trans people, particularly Black trans people.  The authors note that the intersectionality of gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other identities and the relationship to fatal police violence should be studied in the future.

A Lancet Editorial adds, “The study is a potential turning point for improving national estimates of fatalities from police violence by incorporating non-governmental open-source data to correct NVSS data…Better data is one aspect of a public health approach; introducing harm-reduction policies is another. Policing in the USA follows models of hostile, racialised interactions between civilians and armed agents of the state. Marginalised groups are more likely to be criminalized through the war on drugs or homelessness. Reducing hostile or violent interactions between police and civilians, particularly those who are most vulnerable overall, is a forceful case for investment in other areas of community-based health and support systems, including housing, food access, substance use treatment, and emergency medical services. Strategies to lower fatalities from must include demilitarisation of , but with the broader call to demilitarize society by, for example, restricting access to firearms…Police forces too must take greater responsibility for police-involved injuries and deaths. Such changes are long overdue.”


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Hexbyte Glen Cove Asian Americans report biggest increase in serious incidents of online hate and harassment during COVID pandemic thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Asian Americans report biggest increase in serious incidents of online hate and harassment during COVID pandemic

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Asian Americans reported the single biggest increase in serious incidents of online hate and harassment as racist and xenophobic slurs blaming people of Asian descent for the coronavirus pandemic spread over the past year, according to a new survey shared exclusively with U.S. TODAY.

Some 17% of Asian Americans reported , stalking, physical threats and other incidents, up from 11% last year.

Half of them said the harassment was spurred by their race or ethnicity, according to the survey from anti-hate group ADL. Overall, 21% of Asian-American respondents said they were harassed online.

CEO Jonathan Greenblatt says the survey’s findings, which come amid a growing outcry over the rapid rise in attacks on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders nationwide, show that efforts to curb surging anti-Asian sentiment by like Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube have fallen short.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey are slated to testify on Capitol Hill on Thursday about their handling of misinformation, disinformation and other harmful content. The vast majority of those polled by ADL—81%—agreed with the statement that social media platforms should do more to combat online hate.

In a statement, Facebook said it does not allow hate speech and removes content that attacks someone for who they are, their race, ethnicity or national origin.

“Over the past year we’ve updated our policies to catch more implicit hate speech,” Facebook said. “Thanks to significant investments in our technology we proactively detect 95% of the content we remove and we continue to improve how we enforce our rules as hate speech evolves over time.”

Fatal shootings of women of Asian descent in Atlanta escalate concern

The fatal shootings of eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at Atlanta-area massage parlors, have escalated concern that racist and xenophobic rants online are spilling over into real-world violence.

Though police say the suspect said he did not target the women because of their race, the crime touched a nerve with the sharp increase in anti-Asian incidents in recent months. Experts say the killings were inextricably linked to racism and hate.

“Hate and stigma against Asian-American populations have gone viral during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Anahi Viladrich, a professor of sociology at Queens College and The Graduate Center at the City University of New York, who recently published a paper in the American Journal of Public Health exploring the rise of anti-Asian language.

“Social media has significantly contributed to the pandemic of prejudice and hate against Asian populations globally,” she said. “With its power to freely move across time zones and social geographies, social media has turned terms such as ‘Chinese virus’ and ‘Wuhan virus’ into race-based stigma against Asian groups in the United States and overseas.”

Researchers at University of California at San Francisco traced the rise of anti-Asian hashtags on Twitter to Donald Trump’s tweet in March 2020 referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.”

“The use of racial and ethnic terms to describe the coronavirus is an important contributor to the record-breaking level of severe online harassment against Asian Americans over the past year,” John Brownstein, an epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and co-author of the study, told U.S. TODAY.

Anti-Asian sentiment rose 85% after Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 last fall, the ADL found at the time. Trump used the term “China virus” in a recent Fox News interview.

How Trump, ‘China virus’ fueled hate speech

Jeremy Blackburn, a professor of computer science at Binghamton University, is studying Sinophobic,or anti-Chinese, terms on 4chan and Twitter.

What he and his colleagues witnessed was the evolution of anti-Chinese hate speech in real-time.

“One slur many people are probably familiar with is ‘Wuhan Flu,’ which did not exist in the lexicon until COVID-19,” he said. “But we also found not only dozens of new slurs, but more importantly that previously benign words like ‘pangolin’ were increasingly used as slurs.”

Blackburn points out how difficult it is to measure the scope of the problem given how much the language has changed—even in the time since the pandemic started.

“One of the major challenges in measuring Sinophobic content is that it has rapidly evolved,” he said. “Although it is quite easy to look for occurrences of well known slurs, we’ve seen all sorts of new Sinophobic terms arise.”

Advocates for the Asian American community have warned for months that inflammatory online rhetoric about COVID-19 from political leaders including Trump could lead to violence.

Hate crimes against Asian Americans jump during coronavirus pandemic

Hate crimes against Asian Americans rose 149% from 2019 to 2020, even though hate crimes overall decreased 7% during the pandemic, according to findings released in early March by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University.

Stop AAPI Hate, a group that tracks discrimination and xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, received nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents during the year-long pandemic.

These numbers are probably a fraction of actual incidents. One in 4 Americans, including nearly half of Asian Americans, in recent weeks have seen someone blame Asian people for the coronavirus epidemic, a U.S. TODAY/Ipsos Poll found.

Recent attacks include multiple violent assaults on elderly people of Asian descent.

“Racially motivated violence and other incidents against Asian Americans have reached an alarming level across the United States since the outbreak of COVID-19,” a United Nations report released last year found, citing sharp rises in vandalism, physical assaults and robberies against Asian American people, businesses and community centers.

President Joe Biden denounced the attacks as un-American in his first prime-time address. During his first week in office, Biden condemned racially motivated harassment and violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and directed federal agencies to explore ways to counter the attacks.

Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday the Senate will take up legislation on anti-Asian hate crimes.

The ADL survey of 2,251 individuals also found:

  • Nearly 6 in 10 African Americans reported a sharp rise in racially motivated online harassment, up from 42% last year.
  • American adults who were harassed said they were exposed to the most harassment on Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, (75%), followed by Twitter (24%), Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, (24%) and YouTube, owned by Google, (21%).
  • More than a quarter—27%—experienced severe online harassment over the past year which includes incidents of swatting, in which false police reports are made in hopes of getting a SWAT team sent to someone’s home, and doxing, which is leaking personal information online.
  • Overall, 41% of Americans said they had experienced some form of online hate and harassment.
  • A third of those surveyed attributed the harassment to an identity characteristic, which was defined as sexual orientation, religion, race or ethnicity, gender identity, or disability.
  • LGBTQ respondents reported disproportionately higher rates of harassment than all other identity groups at 64%

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