A Quick Religious Comparison: We’re Not So Different

Standard

Remember when we were all kids who fought over whose mom made the best cookies, whose uncle belched the loudest, or whose dad was actually a super man? As we grew, we learned those petty points of contention were never going to be solved; everyone’s own mom, dad, or uncle were the best, at least by their own perception. It’s also likely they were probably all quite similar, just as many of the things we fight about as adults. Unfortunately, we no longer work out our angst with do-overs on the ballfield to prove who’s the best. Instead, we wage literal war against one another not only with words, but also real military weapons, fighting over whose god is best, or who is the most righteous.

While these deadly battles play out in villages and towns torn to shreds while children look on, the looming question is: what does any of this matter? Just like everyone’s dad was a superhero in his own right, each religion has their own important figure who is probably wonderful. Moreover, just like all the dads were similar in that they held similar positions: worker, father, provider, protector, each religion is strikingly similar.

Admittedly, this comparison leaves out a great many religions. It will not cover eastern or pagan religions. It completely excludes atheists and agnostics. The focus here is on the big three: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Why? The answer is pretty simple. We don’t see many wars fought over Buddha, nor do many Wiccans commit terrorists attacks in the name of a sacred crystal. That statement is only recognizing fact. It’s not meant to say any religion is superior.

Having an attitude of moral and spiritual superiority is what causes us to fight in the first place, so let’s put that aside to investigate how three religions are similar rather than constantly pointing out why one is right or wrong.

I’ve included a nifty Venn diagram I found on the net to help compare some of the bigger components. It’s not my own, but I think it’s fairly accurate. I also think we can add to it.

religion

As we can see, great parts of the beliefs are the same. Only a very few are different. There are some other similarities we can add:

Head coverings—
All three religions include some component of females covering their heads. Catholic nuns wear the habit, which includes a white coif. Married Orthodox Jewish women wear the tichel, or mitpachat. Lastly, Muslim women wear hijabs.
We tend to micro-focus on Islamic religions requiring head coverings for women, but as we can see, they are not the only ones. Furthermore, none of them feel oppressed when they wear them. It’s simply a part of their religious tradition.
We should also recognize it is not only women who cover their heads. Although the traditions vary and may not necessarily be religiously required, Muslim men may wear a prayer cap called the taqiyahs. Jewish men wear the kippah. Although men in Christian religions do not normally cover their heads, Roman Catholic cardinals regularly wear head coverings called the zucchetto and the biretta.

Beards—
Another common denominator betwixt the three is beards. No matter Jewish, Islamic, or Christian, beards can be required. Because of the media, we are more familiar with the Muslim beard, but the Old Order Amish also require beards, as do Orthodox Jews.

Modest Dress For Women-
While it seems Muslim women are the focus of many discussion concerning their modest form of dress, all three religions may require women to be covered and dressed in a modest fashion. This may include sleeves to cover elbows and dresses long enough to cover knees in the Orthodox Jewish and many Christian religions. It could also be a complete covering from shoulders to ankles in the Muslim and other religions. Regardless, the Islamic religion is not the only one to require women to cover themselves, especially if they are married.

• Raising Devout Children
Although we often hear words like “brainwashing” used to describe the way children are raised in the Muslim community, all three religions begin teaching children from birth, specifically when they are old enough to attend school, in the ways of their respective churches. The Catholic Church, in fact, provided all the education and educational materials for most of Europe until secularism gained popularity during the late 19th and early 20th century. While secular teaching was used as early as the late 17th century and was the subject of many philosophers like Locke and Voltaire, church-led education was still the standard until well past the Enlightenment. Yet today, if one so chooses, they might send their child to a Christian or Hebrew school. Muslims do not own the market on educating children in religion.

• Conflict—
There has been no shortage of conflict between the three religions. From the earliest crusades to now, the three have had obstacles between them. The Jewish and Christian communities do not have the long-lasting war we see between the Muslim and Jewish communities, but we cannot overlook the fact Hitler used religion against the Jewish community during the genocide he and others committed in WWII.

To say we have all been peaceful in our religious practice would be what we might now call an “alternative fact.” However, I’ve only listed a short amount of similarities here, omitting the similarities between these and other religions not listed. Why we continue this battle between whose religion is best astounds me. We’re all great in our own ways. We all have downsides. Most importantly, we’re all humans trying to attain the same thing.

It shouldn’t matter what word we assign for “God”. It shouldn’t matter on what day we worship. It shouldn’t matter what book we read the message from. All that should matter is if we would all stop killing each other, we might actually be living the way all three texts expect us to. If we all quit fearing one another, maybe we can see we’re more alike than we ever imagined.

( Since this is not meant as a scholarly paper for publication, I did not cite the information in this piece. All the data and facts are easily searchable, and most is basic common knowledge, anyway. The source of the diagram is watermarked inside the graphic.Thank you for reading. I’ll include a couple links in case you’d like to fact check me.
The history of secular education: http://science.jrank.org/pages/11240/Secularization-Secularism-History-Nature-Secularization-Secularism-1914.html
Islamic Male headcovering:https://www.reference.com/world-view/muslim-men-wear-heads-1cdc44449fd15f2f
Traditional clothing for Orthodox Jewish women:http://www.orthodox-jews.com/jewish-clothing-for-women.html#axzz4XS3f9gRB
)

Understanding Racism and the Perpetuation of Racial Stereotypes: Why Did Ferguson Happen?

Standard

Today, a friend shared a video of a speaker in her UU church. Although I didn’t know it before I began watching, I needed desperately to see this video. The message was so profound, I was nearly in tears when it ended.

The speaker began to highlight some recent hot topic events, including what is happening in Ferguson. His message reached beyond guilty/innocent, and into the depths of why we are even experiencing this atrocity—something I believe we should address head on until it is no more.

He spoke of the racial stereotypes embedded in our collective mind so deeply that we often act before our better judgment changes our actions. These stereotypes of which he spoke are age old. They didn’t come about by any truth, but were perpetuated during what is known as the postbellum period in the United States.

That time of reconstruction after the Civil War found many with a sour taste in their mouths. They were upset they’d lost the right to own slaves—their source of profit. So, they concocted a string of lies to scare people into discriminating against people of color in order to keep people of color in indentured servitude. Some of those lies were created out of fear—former slave owners really thought slaves would revolt and kill them if freed. What we see today in our media is an outgrowth of the web of lies these angry, fearful white southern sympathizers created.

In the documentary film Ethnic Notions by California Newsreel, we are shown several stereotypes created to defame African American people, as well as other people of color. Early filmmakers concocted images of African Americans who were “lazy,”  “shiftless,” “violent,” and African American women who are not sexually attractive. Each of these stereotypes served a purpose.

By showing African Americans to be less than the ideal human beings and perpetuating prejudices, white Americans could retain the control they so desired. Beyond that, these stereotypes also created a group of “others” who barely functioned as “true Americans,” therefore making it “acceptable” to exclude them from the “in” group. These stereotypes were the bedrock of Jim Crow laws—the dastardly laws enacted to form segregation, justify lynching, and the other atrocities that happened pre-Civil Rights Movement.  Why would we still subconsciously submit to these false stereotypes? Have you ever watched TV?

In the media, nearly every person of color fits into some stereotype. African American men are portrayed as either only successful because they are athletes, or lazy criminals with no job. Moreover, no matter which role they portray, they’re shown to be violent. We, then, are subliminally told to fear them, not to admire them, and definitely not to respect them.

African American women are often portrayed as having children they do not want—or worse, need. They are shown to be loud mouthed, disrespectful, and either sexually unattractive or promiscuous. In that way, white men would never “want” to be with them sexually, and if they are with them, it is because the women are “giving it away”—the men are led on by sexual prowess and promiscuity. Sadly, this stereotype was born of the “Mammy” figure in order to cover the sins of white men who raped African American slave women.  Male or female, these stereotypes are dangerous and damaging to the African American community. Yet the media perpetuates them over and over for us to view—although this is improving, somewhat.

Bringing this back to the issue of Ferguson, Missouri and the death of Michael Brown, we can see that we cannot separate this tragedy from racism. What happened there is so deeply intertwined with racism that we cannot tear them apart. Although people want to deny that and argue only that Michael Brown was a “criminal,” a “thug” who “got we he deserved,” we must ask ourselves why Darren Wilson thought it necessary to use deadly force. For one, he was not carrying a Taser—a fact released after the grand jury decision, but why did he think he needed to shoot and kill Michael Brown, a young man who was unarmed and who had not committed a violent crime such as murder?

By his own account, Wilson was afraid. He thought Brown was a “demon”.  This man towering near 6’4” and 210 pounds, a man who was carrying a gun and had access to call in back up, feared an unarmed teen—a Black teen. But why? Was it so embedded in Wilson’s subconscious that black men are “demons,” that they want to kill all white men, that his better judgment was lost?  Is this the world we have created, and continue to perpetuate? Are we going to continue to allow groups like the KKK to feed this toxic disinformation to us?

We need to remember from where these stereotypes are born—they are born from hate filled white men, who feared loss of their patriarchal power, and sometimes even their lives, to those they had enslaved for hundreds of years. These stereotypes have no scientific basis—ethnology was disproved decades ago. We must end these lies in order to save lives and procure peace.

If you take nothing else from Ferguson, please at least recognize why this tragedy happened, and why it happens over and over again. It’s not just about one police officer, one child killed, or even one community at odds with itself. This is about an entire group of people seeking no more than the same rights we white people enjoy every day. This is about understanding our fellow human beings as actual human beings who are as capable of being moral and upright as we. We cannot let this fade away, known only as “that time some protesters set some buildings on fire”. No. We need to make this known as the time we all finally came together to change our world—both black and white—for the better. If we want to prevent more Fergusons from happening, if we don’t want more parents to feel the pain the parents of Michael Brown are experiencing, then it’s time to demolish the walls we’ve built, once and for all. Let’s put Jim Crow to rest. It’s long past time to say goodbye to him, the only real demon here today.

Bad Reflexes: Reactions to Ferguson

Standard

I awoke this morning to comments to the effect of “you didn’t see white folks protest after OJ was acquitted,” and “white people don’t go around destroying their own neighborhoods over a court decision”.  You know what? There is a kernel of truth there, but there is reason behind the truth.

First of all, the OJ case was different. He was indicted. He went to trial. Wilson will never be on trial. He appointed himself as the supreme decider of Michael Brown’s life. Even if the kid stole a truck load of cigars, he didn’t deserve to die. Michael Brown didn’t have the opportunity for a trial. No grand jury got to decide if he’d be indicted because Wilson decided that there, on that street where Mike Brown lost his life. OJ’s case was also not racially motivated. Brown was killed because of racial stereotypes. How many differences would you like me to point out? Point being there was no need to protest because an entire People was not under attack by OJ Simpson.

Which brings me to the second point. No, white folks generally don’t protest court decisions. Would you like to know why? The militarized police state we white folks have created doesn’t have white children in the streets killing them. People of color must live in fear of law enforcement. Would you not protest if your babies were being killed in the streets?

Don’t get me wrong. This overreaching police state is becoming a problem for everyone, more so than most would like to admit. However, if you’re a person of color, as has always been, you are at a greater risk for being acted upon violently. Racial stereotypes have perpetuated visions of demons that simply do not exist.

And while I’m at it, let’s make one thing clear: White folks do protest. We riot over our favorite sports team being “robbed” on the court or field. We will burn a town down if a rival basketball team takes a championship. We are as prone to violence as anyone of color, just for different reasons. We don’t protest and riot court decisions because we don’t have to. We aren’t under attack.

Mainly, what I would like for people to understand comes from a tweet I read this morning. It stated simply:

If, after last night’s decision, all you saw was rioting, you missed everything.”

(Image and quotation source: https://twitter.com/KevinAvery/status/537231346473893888)

Drug Testing for Food Assistance: But Who’s Testing The Man?

Standard

Recently, many states have begun drug testing state assistance recipients and applicants. So many people are pro-drug testing of that particular group of people, but I take much exception to this new trend.

The pro argument seems to be based in the theory that people who work must submit to testing to earn money, so then people asking for assistance should be forced to submit in order to receive benefits from the money working folks pay into the system. I get it. Working folks feel slighted because A) Part of their tax dollars go to folks they’ve been taught to believe don’t work, and B) they are forced to submit to a test that crawls up into their private lives. I’ve heard many a person say “You shouldn’t worry if you haven’t been doing things to worry about.” The truth is, they’re wrong on both accounts.

Americans by and large do not understand poor people unless they are poor people. It’s easy to stand in judgment and use the example of a family elder who worked their fingers raw and lived without assistance. The staggering reality is that life is infinitely more difficult than in decades past, and this might come as a shock, but even working folks need assistance.

People really do want to work, most people anyway. Many of those applying and receiving state benefits do have a job, but when a person meets tough times, they still need to eat or have medical care. The road to government is assistance is not just paved with laziness or drug addiction. For some, it might very well be, but for others that road is paved with illness, death of a spouse or loved one, losing a home, job loss, and too many other tragic events to list. Moreover, not that many people who are in the system are using drugs. In fact, many states have found those numbers who do test positive to be miniscule. Take for instance, Tennessee.
In this article, we are told that of the recipients and applicants in Tennessee, Florida, Utah, and Maine, very few actually tested positive for drugs. In Tennessee, that number was less than 1%. Testing for drugs, therefore, is unfounded and an utter waste of tax payer dollars.

The disinformation in which testing is based is really troubling. During the Reagan era, former president Ronald Reagan invented the image of the “welfare queen”. She was the woman with more babies and baby daddys than anyone could keep up with. She was driving her Cadillac while spending the tax payers’ hard earned cash in the form of food stamps. She probably bought crack cocaine, alcohol, and cigarettes with most of her funds, according to the stereotype. The one factor we often keep hidden behind a veil is that when this stereotype was created, this woman was probably also African American. This stereotype was used to not only shame those in need of public assistance, but also to disenfranchise and shame people of color, specifically women of color. Moreover, everything about this stereotype was a delusional fantasy. This woman does not exist in the world I know regardless of her ethnicity.

That’s another problem with the drug testing trend, we shame poor people—even the working poor, although we don’t understand what it means to be poor. We make some strange assumptions, but we don’t really understand.

See, being poor means when you’re sick, you probably stay sick because even if you’re able to afford one trip to the doctor, there’s no way to afford the subsequent testing or medication. What person can afford to pay out of pocket for an MRI, CAT SCAN, X-Ray, blood work, or expensive prescription besides the very rich? Who can pay for follow up visits at more than $100 dollars per visit? Very few. So, while you feel your symptoms worsen, the aches and pains spread through your body, your blood pressure remains high, your vision dims, and your energy escapes your body, all you can hope is that you just miraculously improve. You can’t even hope to die because you know your family can’t afford your funeral.

When you’re poor, it means dreading checking the mail because it’s time for the utility bills to come again. You were careful and suffered through the milder days without heat or air, but you know it’s still going to take most of your pay to keep the electricity and gas on. It also means choosing whether or not you want cable or internet, if you can even afford either one, because those are luxuries.

New clothes are a luxury, too, and as a poor person, you become an expert at thrift store shopping. $100 shoes? That’s never going to happen. $300 jeans? Hell no. That’s a month’s worth of groceries. That’s all okay, though. You just buy what you can afford. Not that you never wish, but you would never make a splurge like that. If you did, you’d be homeless.

Poor people can’t afford to make bad decisions, and in fact, most of them don’t. Many poor people are too busy educating themselves, working, and trying to better their lives to become involved with drugs and alcohol. Of course, there are those who are addicts, but those are people with a disease. Some say it’s self-chosen, but I disagree with that, too. Sure, they chose to use the drug, but there was a psychological issue that drove them to that point. And I want to make this point loud and clear—No one chooses to remain a drug addict. Their psychological and physical states may lead them to act in a way that seems converse to that statement, but they are not really making a conscious choice. It’s the addiction talking—not the addict, which is the other problem with this state testing. What forms of help are being offered to those found to be using drugs?

Do we just cut them off assistance and tell them to come back when they’re clean? How does a poor person just go get clean without assistance? To me, all this system does is create a system of discrimination. If states are willing to offer real help, then testing is fine, but if the intent is to throw addicts away like they don’t matter, then it’s exclusionary and wrong. Moreover, the other qualm—the “I have to be tested at work” argument, is also little ridiculous.

People aren’t drug tested at work because of some bad stereotype or discriminatory act, they’re tested because they might cause harm to a co-worker. Someone who’s been using meth, has been awake for a week straight, and just happens to be operating a piece of machinery next to me is a danger to me. I’m sorry, folks, that testing just makes sense.

There is also another testing I’d actually like to see: White Collar testing. Yes, those of you on Wall Street, working as legislators, senators, congressman, let’s start testing you, because the one thing so few address is that drug use and addiction does not discriminate. Rich folks are addicts, too, meaning that those making decisions that just so happen to effect all of us and our money could be shooting up as we speak. Don’t for one second think money and power make one exempt from drugs and alcohol.

I once heard the saying “Never fear Rome, the snake lies coiled in Naples.” How true is that? We are looking so hard to blame those whom the stereotype was built around that we rarely glance to those who might cause us more harm than we ever imagined possible. The Man built the monster to keep the heat safely away from him.

In a way, I’m glad some states implemented drug testing because I’m hopeful it breaks down the misinformed notion that people who are receiving government assistance are bad people. I do hope we can look forward from this moment in time to more worthwhile causes—like questioning the actions of those we’ve covered our faces to for so many years. Poor people aren’t the problem here, folks, and neither are addicts. Our problem lies with those we trust too much, and it’s past time to end that.

Conversations With Racists

Standard

Having conversations with racist folks is usually awkward and frustrating. It can also be eye opening. Unfortunately, it’s usually only eye opening for the non-racist party.

Last night I spoke with a childhood friend. He no longer lives in my state, and now resides in a large metropolitan area. My assumption that once one moves away from a tiny town like the one in which we grew up into the higher populated city they grow from some of the small town mentality, was horribly wrong, at least in this case.

As we discussed the goings on in the world, we hit on the Ferguson, Michael Brown,racism, and white privilege. His initial comment was “I don’t believe in white privilege. It just doesn’t exist. I’ve never been given anything extra in life, and in fact, I can tell you a story showing how stupid this all is.”

Not only was moving away from his rhetoric about having to “work for a living like everyone else” a nice vacation, but I couldn’t wait to hear how he was going to outline for me the supposed non-existence of racism and white privilege. My ears were at full attention.
His story follows:

My son and I were at the movie theatre the other night. As we left, the light turned red,
but no traffic was coming, so I just made a rolling stop. Apparently, there was a taillight
on my truck, too, and the policeman pulled us over. He approached our vehicle, and tried
to be really tough with us. I basically argued with him a little bit, and we both handed
him our credentials so he could check for warrants. I’d forgotten my NRA card was
behind my driver’s license, and I inadvertently handed it to the officer along with my
ID. When the officer returned to the car, he let me off with a warning, thanking me
for supporting the 2nd Amendment Rights of American citizens.

According to the man, his story was supposed to prove that A) white folks get pulled over and questioned just like everyone else. B) The police officer wasn’t friendly with him, a white male, until he knew they weren’t criminals, and finally, C) That officer was just doing his job, not harassing anyone.

My answer is the story he told makes the exact argument for white privilege. There are so many things about this scenario that might have, and probably would have, played out differently had he and his son been of color.
1) Arguing or disrespecting law enforcement would have probably led to an immediate call for backup.
2) They probably would have both been breathalyzed due to running the light, as that would have been documented as erratic driving.
3) Reaching for their wallets could have been misconstrued as reaching for a weapon.
4) Showing an officer, inadvertently or not, a card denoting gun ownership would have led to removing both parties from the vehicle, handcuffing, and searching the car.

In other words, the incidents that night would have made them suspects, not respected members of a community, and this is where so many white folks go blind. Yes, you may get pulled over and questioned, but you aren’t a suspect unless you give good reason. People of color are suspects from the moment some officers approach the vehicle.

Growing up and living in a tiny, racist town, this isn’t the first illogical argument like this I’ve heard. It’s not the first discussion I’ve had with someone who tried with all their might to prove to me (the liberal whackjob of my town) that racism went away in the 60s, and definitely with the inauguration of President Obama. They all try to prove there is no white privilege because white folks have to work, too. For whatever reason, they all seem to believe people of color just don’t want to work for anything, and they call it “white privilege” because they think white folks just hang out in the shade somewhere. They don’t even try to understand that all people of color have ever done is work. Be it in chains or to overcome and survive—they have worked. That’s not the privilege of which they speak. What they speak of is the privilege to be able to work, go to school, and achieve without discrimination. They want to be able to walk down the street without fear of false arrest or being beaten and/or murdered. And that’s exactly the privilege we white folks enjoy every single day.

I’ve lived here all my life, with brief exceptions. I’ve heard the slurs thrown about like they’re meaningless. I’ve witnessed the stern objections to anyone of color being part of our town. Aside from complete lack of diversity and culture, my town is okay. It’s quiet. The school system is advanced enough, yet small. If the citizens could move beyond their own biases, I’d say it’s a pretty great place to live.

I don’t know shit about what it means to be a person of color in the US, let alone in my hometown. Sure, I’ve gone to college. I’ve taken a cosmic ton of sociology courses. I’ve studied multicultural literature.I know what the books say. However, I do not personally know the feeling of fear and anger a non-white must feel in a community like mine. Some of the horrible comments I’ve heard white folks say around here are enough to invoke fear and anger in anyone.

What I have been is lucky enough to have lived outside this town as a very small child, so my initial years were complete with experiencing diversity. My parents were not racist. That made all the difference, too. I was taught to never mistreat anyone. I’m also lucky to have friends beyond the white friends I have here. I listen to them as they tell me how they feel and the struggles they face. They teach me to be a better human being, and I can never fully repay that.

As I remain in my tiny town, I see the ignorance and fear from which racism is born. Some of these folks have their white privilege turned up so high it screams from far away as they commit crimes, yet the police let them walk away. They’re no better than anyone because of the level of melanin in their skin. Somehow, though, they fear what they have never taken the time to understand—the people who look different from them, different cultures, different languages. What’s more, they fear the loss of control they have over our tiny town. Someone might come in and make changes. They might lose complete charge. I, for one, would embrace some change. Some culture around here would be nice. These old timers though, they just keep passing on their racism to their descendants like a sick inheritance. It’s not going away anytime soon.

Look, I’m just some white chic from a small town with only some thoughts I record for others to read. I’m often accused from the aforementioned fellow citizens of my town of having “white guilt,” and to answer that, no, I do not have white guilt. I’m not ashamed because I was randomly born white instead of some other color. What I do have is what I call Human Responsibility. It’s my job to speak out to these white racist fools who can’t see beyond their own stories to understand the experiences of someone else. It’s my duty to try to teach folks that racism is founded in fear and ignorance, and the white privilege does exist. If I’m ever going to even try to repay the debt I owe my friends who helped me understand what life is like for them in the country which is supposedly “the land of the free,” I must speak out—not for them, but with them. Finally, it’s my job, not as some great white hope, but as a human being to try to make the world a better place. That, my friends, is everyone’s job.

Let’s Debunk Those Bad Arguments

Standard

Gather ‘round, folks. We need to have a chat.

I know I’ve been talking a lot about #Ferguson lately, but it deserves the attention. I’m sorry if that makes some people uncomfortable, which is sort of a lie. I’m not really “sorry” in the truest sense. It really should make some people uncomfortable. Actually, the whole discussion should make them squirm in their seats, and hopefully realize they’re doing the entire Be A Human thing wrong.

During the last few days, I’ve written about the tragedy that is unfolding in a St. Louis suburb, and I’ve read a plethora of articles, news reports, opinion pieces, and the like. Whilst reading electronically published pieces, I always take the time to scroll through the comments. What people are thinking and saying about issues means a great deal to me. It’s the equivalent of surveying the land before stepping into unknown territory. I need more than one thought about a situation. It helps me orient myself to some of the raw emotions surrounding an issue.

In any case, as I’ve read through many an online discussion concerning the shooting death of Michael Brown at the hands of a law enforcement officer, there are a couple remarks that make my head spin—Exorcist style. Let’s just address these individually.

1) “What about reverse racism?”

This one belongs in the racism denial hall of fame. There always has to be one person who says they’ve been treated poorly by someone of color. You know what? Sometimes folks just treat each other like shit. Maybe someone has been conditioned to distrust white folks. Maybe their anger just runs that deep. Whatever it is, this mistreatment does not count as “racism”. Racism is keeping people in chains, buying and selling them like chattel, raping them, controlling their economic situations, discriminating against them—whether blatantly or slyly, and profiling them. Racism has multigenerational effects. We’ve gone from chains to jail cells, but racism exists—and this is important,for people of color and nationalities other than American. White people have not had that experience within the United States.

2) “Why can’t I be proud to be white?”

Do you really need to be proud over something you had no control over? Let me break this down: Your parents had sex. Some cells joined together, randomly forming a fertilized egg. Magical DNA shit happened. Then voila—you were born. Nothing more luck of the draw ever happens in your life. Your parents could have been anyone of any nationality and ethnic background. Maybe you should just realize how stupid it sounds to say “Proud to be white”. Should I be proud to have green eyes? That’s pretty ridiculous. I’m proud of my accomplishments or my children, not something biology took care of. I guess I should also say nationalism is equally as ignorant. It was luck of the draw you were born in whatever country, too. There’s a massive difference between embracing cultural practices and customs and sharing those with others and being “proud”. Proud of randomness is just weird and completely divisive.

Also, no one has ever told you that being white is bad. You’ve never been told to assimilate or that the closer you look to white, the more attractive and trustworthy you are. By the way, the latter is called colorism, and it happens in the African American communities because old white slave owners raped black women. Did you read that? They raped them. Then the lighter skinned slaves were treated slightly better than the darker skinned, causing a social divide within an ethnicity. Thanks, assholes, for projecting your whiteness by socially unacceptable means, only causing a group of people to think if they were white, the world would love them more. If I was them, I’d be damn proud I was able to keep my ethnic identity and culture alive, too.

3) “Yeah, but that kid was committing a crime”

I don’t care what in the hell that kid (who, by the way was named Mr. Michael Brown not “that kid”) was doing. He wasn’t in the process of killing someone. Deadly force was overkill. No matter how you break this down, there was a policeman who in the best case got scared and overreacted. In the worst case, he’s an animal. Either way, he has no support from me. All I can feel is empathy and sorrow for a family and community that is suffering a tragic loss of life.

4) “What was he wearing? Did he look suspicious?”

If I never hear these questions again it will be too soon. Let me just get one thing straight: I have walked into a store wearing a ripped up pair of jeans, a baggy hoodie, a hat, and sunglasses. I looked shady as fuck. No one ever questioned me or even so much as looked at me funny.

I’ve seen white kids in my community wearing sock hats and hoodies with their bagging, sagging shorts in 100 degree weather. If that isn’t suspicious, then neither is anything any kid who isn’t white could wear, and the cops don’t bug these white kids (at least not here).

Profiling someone by what they wear is the same as saying a woman is guilty for her own rape because her skirt was too short. Don’t come at me with this argument. It holds no merit. It’s like we look for reasons to victim blame here. Are we trying to create criminals?

If I had the first twenty years of my adult life to do over again, I would become a public defender specifically defending folks just like the young African American men and women who are judged in the street every day.

One of the problems we face is that the first stop in the Road of Justice is what a police officer thinks someone did. If cops were always right, courts wouldn’t exist. Problem is, even those trained and sworn to not only uphold the law, but to protect and serve make mistakes. Moreover, and infinitely worse, police officers are still human beings with individual thoughts and biases. Sometimes that variable leads to the death of young men such as Michael Brown. Other times those biases lead our most vulnerable to a path of incarceration.

Our prisons are full of not only cold blooded criminals, but the mentally ill, the indigent, and people of color. Because, even though many people of color have attained and overcome obstacles, many others are still fighting income and education inequality leaving them in difficult circumstances and the lower socioeconomic rungs. They are often targeted by law enforcement because society has been taught to fear anyone poor or of darker skin tone.If you live in a poor neighborhood and you’re African American, for instance, you’re automatically the suspect. Without the resources to pay quality attorneys, they often face accepting plea agreements, which in turn leave them labeled as “felon,” one of the groups in our society which it is still acceptable to discriminate against. It’s the new way to keep those our society deems unacceptable locked away and under white control.

I only wish I could do more to change that dynamic. My only weapon is my words. My only hope is that someone reads what I say and helps me change the world.

If you’re interested in this subject, check back for a forthcoming article about growing up in a community sans ethnic diversity, and the racism I’ve witnessed all my life. I’ll talk about how it formed the way I think, why I’m not a racist, what I believe is at the root of racism, and how the new paramilitary police forces and some media outlets perpetuate it.