Nathalie Baptiste

Nathalie Baptiste is a writing fellow at The American Prospect

Recent Articles

Oregon Surveillance of Black Lives Matter Spotlights Racial Profiling Challenge

Allegations against the Oregon office tasked with combating racially targeted surveillance are reminiscent of the illegal monitoring of activists during the civil-rights movement.

(Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock) W hen Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum received a letter on November 10 from the Urban League of Portland alleging that the state’s justice department was conducting digital surveillance of Salem Twitter users who used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, she was appalled. Among those monitored was Erious Johnson Jr., the director of the Civil Rights Division and a member of Rosenblum’s executive team. And Rosenblum herself was engaged in an effort to combat racially targeted surveillance—not promote it. Rosenblum chairs a state task force that was created by a state bill enacted in July, which aims to end profiling by Oregon law enforcement agencies. The so-called Law Enforcement Profiling Task Force is scheduled to send a report on the law’s implementation to the Oregon State Legislature on December 1. The fact that the very surveillance activities that Rosenblum and her task force had set out to combat were happening in her own agency highlights the tenacious...

Republicans Call Bernie Sanders Absurd for Agreeing with the Pentagon

During last Saturday’s Democratic debate on CBS, the moderator asked Bernie Sanders if he still believed that climate change is the greatest threat to national security—and he said yes. Republican senators scoffed at his claim that climate change could lead to destabilization and more terrorism, calling it “unrelated,” “disingenuous,” and even “absurd.” But what the GOP fails to realize is that even the Pentagon has acknowledged the very real threat climate change poses to our security.

The 2014 Department of Defense Climate Change Adaptation Road Map report details all the ways our changing climate will impact international conflict and military operations. Sea level rise and more extreme weather events will exacerbate ongoing global conflicts. The effects of climate change will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic diseases, as well as disputes over refugees and dwindling resources.

The Pentagon report does not just allude to terrorism—it mentions it by name:

“We refer to climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today—from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts.”

The report goes on to explain how climate change could topple fragile governments by creating an environment that fosters extreme ideologies and terrorism.

But Republicans on Tuesday (the same day the Senate voted to undo President Obama’s power-plant regulations) treated Sanders as if he had made a ludicrous claim. “There is a ballot initiative in Arizona concerning the substance that he must have been consuming,” Senator John McCain said, referring to a measure that would legalize marijuana.

The people at the Defense Department must have had a great time writing that report.

The Crazier Ben Carson's Statements Are, the Higher His Poll Numbers Go

Yesterday on Meet the Press, GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson told host Chuck Todd that women who have abortions are like slave owners. As delusional as that comparison is, it’s unlikely that it’ll derail his candidacy—in fact, it’ll probably just push him even further into the lead. With every bizarre, racist, or sexist Donald Trump comment, pollsters were predicting his demise, but Trump continued to do well in polls. And it looks Ben Carson is about to follow that trajectory.

The neurosurgeon turned right-wing fringe candidate is polling at 28 percent in Iowa, where the first round of votes will be cast—a healthy nine points above Trump. If this were 20 years ago, Carson’s penchant for comparing anything and everything to slavery or Nazi Germany would disqualify him from running for president of a tin-foil-hat club, let alone president of the United States. But this is no regular election.

In the latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll, Iowa Republicans were asked to rate how attractive they found Carson’s candidacy, based on some of his more bizarre statements. Eighty-one percent of responders found his comparison of the Affordable Care Act to slavery “very attractive” or “mostly attractive.” Seventy-three percent liked that he raised questions about whether or not a Muslim should be president of the United States, and 77 percent were onboard when he said that if Jews had been armed, Hitler wouldn’t have been able to kill so many people.  

In this election, crazy statements are rewarded with higher poll numbers. As Paul Waldman wrote in the Prospect, the Republican Party has spent so much of the last six years or so riling up its base and making people angry with the establishment, that the doors are now wide open for outsiders. These outsiders’ campaigns against career politicians have worked so well, a man who has never held a position in government and who believes that making health care more affordable is tantamount to American slavery is the newest frontrunner.






The Democratic Debate Was Proof That Protests Work

Last night, five Democratic presidential candidates took to the stage for their first debate hosted by CNN. The candidates—Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee—fielded questions from Anderson Cooper about a wide range of topics, including economic inequality and national security. However, one of the most telling moments during the two-hour debate was when Don Lemon read a question from a Facebook user: “Do black lives matter or do all lives matter?”

In July, at Netroots Nation—the largest gathering of progressives in the country—Black Lives Matter protesters interrupted the presidential town hall during Sanders’s speech. He fumbled on stage and left angrily. O’Malley fared even worse when he said, “All lives matter.” Clinton, who did not attend Netroots Nation, had the privilege of firming up her answer beforehand and later said “Black lives matter” in a Facebook Q&A.

Many Sanders supporters took to Twitter after Netroots to express their distaste for the protesters. Some said interrupting the candidate’s speech was rude or “not the right way” to go about addressing the issue of racism and police brutality. Others said that the protests discredited the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole. The message from those (mostly white) critics was very clear: Black people, stay in your place.

After Sanders’s poor handling of the protesters and the subsequent criticism from Black Lives Matter activists on his inability to stray from his pet issue of economic inequality and actually address systemic racism, Sanders released a racial equality platform. O’Malley also sought to do damage control by unveiling his plan for criminal justice reform.

Last night, Sanders answered Cooper’s question with an emphatic “Black lives matter!” Not all of the answers from the other candidates were thoughtful or encouraging, including Jim Webb, who came close to saying, “All lives matter” when he responded with, “Every life in this country matters.” But for the first time, the issue of police brutality and institutional racism made it onto the stage at a presidential debate in a substantial way—proof of the power of disruptive protest.