Why #BlackLivesMatter Matters

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Looking at the recent violence from afar, it’s easy to say what should or should not happen. It’s easy to armchair quarterback when the dime in the dollar isn’t yours to lose. That’s the privilege we have when we don’t have to be out on the field trying to hold our ground. And that’s the problem with many of the opinions surfacing on social media today.

We live in a country that mistakenly believes the election of a black president cured our ills and erased our dirty secret we like to deny. Yet, we live in a country that was built upon systemic racism and sexism, so it’s still okay to shoot a person whose skin color doesn’t allow them to have the so called “freedom” fireworks celebrated four days ago. We still live in a country where it is okay to rape a woman—we can even say it’s her own fault for being too much or something or not enough of something else, especially if the melanin in her skin runs darker than her attacker’s. We live here in this country that decries freedom and democracy, yet men of color are gunned down like rabid dogs in the street for crimes their pale counterparts walk away from unscathed. We live in this country that has built a pressure cooker boiling so hot, it is bound to explode.

We have silenced the voices that have told us for decades they were not going to be oppressed anymore. Moreover, we have denied their truths, their stories, their life experiences so much by hiding our racism behind thin veils and smiles as we utter the word “thug,” hand out swift justice in the street, and deny them true freedom that they simply cannot abide in peace any longer. Yet, here we are living in a country that allows our white privilege to override that truth; we can deny because it is not us crying for our children in the streets; it is not us dying because of the color of our skin.

We live in a country where some can decry reverse racism without blinking an eye, believing this fantasy of white oppression really exists. And for as long as we continue to live this lie, there will be violence. You cannot squelch the voices forever. If words do not penetrate our minds to enact change, those who have been targeted for generations will take action. We live in a country where we should be acknowledging our sick past to try to make a better future instead of teaching lies. We live in a country that is being torn apart from the same problems that have plagued us for decades up decades, and we have the power to make this better. We choose not to. If we want to live in a country where we can raise our children without fear of gun violence, riots, and turmoil, then we need to live in a country that is truly “free” for each human being, and not just a few. We live in a country where not all lives matter, as has been proven in the past week—and this is why movements like #BlackLivesMatter simply must exist. We can certainly end the violence and make every life matter, but we must take positive action. If we want to walk what we talk as Nation, it’s time we get real and end the oppression.

Appealing To Fear: A Man Named Trump

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How could anyone be drawn to someone toxic? We’ve all asked that question so many times about people in abusive relationships. As so many people are caught under the spell of all things Trump, I can’t help but wonder the same question. It’s like an entire part of our Nation’s population is bemused by the words of a man who the rest of us want to warn them about. “No. Don’t pick him. He’ll only hurt you.” He doesn’t even hide his abusive nature very well; he makes openly misogynistic, racist remarks on live television for the entire world to hear. The curious thing isn’t that he says these things. What’s interesting is why so many listen in earnest.

Donald Trump has an appeal. He’s confident. His face is stern, fatherly maybe. He nearly sweats masculinity, and he doesn’t mince words. His reputation as a wealthy, successful businessman proceeds him, making him seem like an authority figure. Many look to Trump as a great leader because of his authoritative appeal, but there is something lurking beneath the surface they may not see.

Trump is a businessman. He knows how to pitch a good business plan, even when it’s not so good. He can make the sale, obviously. There is no doubt he has summed up his audience and their desires in order to make the sale. What he found when surveying a group he knew would buy into his pitch were people who had been terrified. They were fed up with terrorist attacks, and they wanted a solid solution. I mean, we all want a solution, right? The problem is that some folks are looking for a definitive solution to an equation without an easy, workable solution. He also found an underground of supporters who love his politics because it aligns with their own racist ideals. No doubt they want him because it helps them implement their own sickening agendas, and further resist the push for equality.

Another part of his appeal is his overtly masculine demeanor. People want protection. They’re looking for a daddy figure to roll in and save the day much like children being bullied on a playground. Trump stands up with his unapologetic “I’ll get ‘em at all cost” attitude, and people are more than willing to buy what he’s selling. Of course his logic is, at the very least flawed, and at the worst racist and misogynistic, but his supporters only see a protector. What they fail to recognize is his “plans” could crumble and divide this entire Nation. The underbelly of our country, ripe with racist agendas, would say the Nation is already destroyed because their white authority has been threatened, but they would say that until every person of color was back in chains. They’d love to have a man like Trump to help them get there, and so far, Trump seems like their fearless leader. At this point, though, he has only suggested  vague policies that are impossible to implement from the outset, and would enrage and alienate a large portion of our population, not to mention the rest of the world, causing increased violence.

He isn’t the first person to run on the guise of triumphing over fear. Unfortunately, so did Mussolini and Hitler. We can all see how those regimes ended, and I don’t think the American people want to follow in those tragic historical footsteps. Avid Trump supporters need to wake up and realize that their Wannabe Daddy will bring more harm than he ever will good. He’s only appealing to their fearful sides, and fueling a fire of racism, discrimination, and hate. Trump isn’t offering working policies for the betterment of the American people any more than the dad who threatens to beat up an 11 year old bully is. He’s no more than a mouthpiece looking to profit from the fears and insecurities of American citizens. If elected, he will without doubt, become the abusive parent from whom we will have difficulty separating ourselves. He’s already shown us the signs with his debasing, pejorative language and overbearing attitude. What Trump hates is logic. It’s his kryptonite. While his supporters call what he says “Truth,” his words are not only not true, they aren’t even close. We do not need to be led by a man who refuses to work in facts and logic. We don’t need a father figure, either. What we need is someone who leads by intelligence. The solutions are out there. Trump isn’t it. The quicker his supporters come to terms with the fact he will only harm them, the better off we’ll all be.

 

(Cover image source: http://www.bustle.com/articles/119046-donald-trump-hair-makeup-tutorials-for-halloween-2015)

Marketing A Culture: Genocide, Racism, and The “Others”

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We want to talk about racism in the past tense like it was something that happened rather than something that is happening. No one likes to admit that while we can send an expedition to Mars, our country still cannot overcome this disease that’s plagued us since the inception of our nationhood. Like smallpox, racism came across the ocean from Europe to infect a land and a people who had never been exposed to its deadly effects. While it’s true the indigenous people of the US were not always peaceful amongst themselves, slavery and racism was as foreign to them as the other diseases brought here by the settlers. Sure, we’d like to say none of that is relevant in 2015. It only takes this one picture to prove otherwise.

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Normally the discourse of racism is centered on either African American lives or the lives of immigrants, and it’s true that those groups are subject to hate even yet today. However, the one group’s voice no one seems to hear is that of the very Native Americans from whom this country was stolen.

It’s a historical fact that Native Americans were taken from the shores of this country as slaves long before any Anglo Saxon settled. It’s also a historical fact that Columbus, while never setting foot in the United States of America, did enslave and kill countless Native people to our south. In fact, the whole idea of slavery hit our shores because Columbus designed the idea of enslaving Native people on the sugar plantations he started. Most of us know Columbus was no hero—he was just an attention seeker, lost in the world, trying to make a fortune. In the process, he committed genocidal acts. Without recounting the entire history of the US, suffice it to say Native people have been treated in the same manner as any other minority: they have been enslaved, forced to assimilate, and made into a group of “others” pushed aside and largely forgotten.

Ask my grandson who the Indians are and where they live. He is in kindergarten, and the only conversation he has really had about Thanksgiving is what he’s learned from his public school education, so he will answer “I think they’re out in the woods looking for food still”. We correct his school-led misguidance at home, but many kids don’t know any better. “Indians” are still portrayed as wild, uncivilized heathens who hunt wild animals under the cover of the forest. It’s sickening. No one tells these children the truth, but the school mascot of my grandson is the “Brave” complete with headdress, so they do learn it’s supposedly acceptable to appropriate the very culture Europeans tried so hard to eradicate. Call them uncivilized. Steal their culture when it suits our needs. That’s the Anglo-Saxon way, apparently.

Which brings me back to the picture. While walking through a Wal-Mart store (a place I despise, but that’s a different article for a different time, but yet another solid reason to boycott them), I noticed this bow and arrow hanging out for display. We’re a small, largely agricultural community, so archery equipment and guns are typical here. That’s not what bothered me. It isn’t the aspect of hunting that bothered me, either. My own family hunts. What astounded me enough that I snapped a picture were the words “Lil Sioux”.  Those words punched straight through my brain into my soul. There they were in big, bold letters as if buying this plastic archery set would somehow transform the child for whom it was purchased into a Native American, and not just a random Native American, but a Sioux. It can’t be lost that many associate the strong Sioux leaders of Sitting Bull or Red Cloud with the picture of what they believe all Native people to be. Seeing this inanimate object hanging there as if one can buy what real Native hunters and warriors spent a lifetime learning made my skin crawl. It was culture for sale. Moreover, it was more false ideas of what being Native really means, as if all Indigenous people are just running around with bows. It wasn’t lost on me that while someone decided to market how great it is to be a Sioux warrior, one great Sioux warrior remains falsely imprisoned as a political prisoner yet today, having been imprisoned since the late 1970s, Leonard Peltier. We will never admit that in a public display at Wal-Mart, though. Nope. We’ll just continue to market a culture for white profit whilst committing cultural genocide on the very people from whom we steal.

I wish I could tell my grandson that racism “was,” but instead I have to tell him that it “is”. I can’t look at a display such as this and think any differently. Had this been a different type of display with pejorative, racist term about another ethnicity, it surely would have been removed. It probably would have never been displayed at all, although that’s debatable. What is glaringly obvious is that we, as a Nation, refuse to recognize our racist underbelly. We hide the seeds of racism in areas many never look, one of which is the Native American community. We let them lie nearly dormant there while we steal away from an entire people what is their own: their identity. Racism hasn’t been eradicated. Hell, it’s not even close to being wiped away. The seeds of racism are still here, hidden away in store displays and mascots, team and school names, classroom discussions and lessons, movies and depictions. One need not search hard to find them. All we have to do is open our eyes to the real meaning behind the words before us in bold print. The very people we owe our success to—we took all the land and resources from them after all, we continue to disparage, and as long as we let these seeds stay buried in our treatment of one people, they will vine out to all people. Don’t think racism matters because it doesn’t affect you?  Just wait. The finger will point at you one day, too.

 

(Cover photo via: https://awakeningthehorse.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/culturalappropriation1final.jpg)

A Call For Peace and Resolution

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The recent events concerning police officers killing suspects has raised many questions. We have now opened up dialogue about not only racism and race relations, but also police brutality. Another subject I’ve seen brought to the table is accountability.

Some folks are saying that criminals should not be forgiven, and they effectively get what they deserve. While this is true to some extent, we cannot ask for accountability on one hand,calling these men horrible names like “thug” and “animal”,  and then let those who we should be able to trust the most cross lines without repercussion after they have unquestionably pushed their allowable boundaries.

This, my friends, is what the greater part of us activists are seeking.

At no time should there be a call to openly assault law enforcement officers. There should never be violent defiance or retribution. This solves nothing.

No one ever said criminals should walk free. If any of these men who were killed by police committed a crime, they should have to answer to that in a court of law. However, the same follows for law enforcement officers.

If police are to be held in high regard, then they must act thusly.

Without debating what requires a judge and jury to decide in the cases of the three men killed by law enforcement in recent days, I would like to say at no time have I heard anyone from my camp say they should just get away with crime. All we ask for is the same accountability in law enforcement many of you have asked for from civilians. Law enforcement officers are, after all, human and prone to mistakes, just as any other human being.

What myself and many others want is a higher standard of accountability from law enforcement officers—an institution that has some members who have gone astray.

These officers are sworn to uphold the law—something that goes beyond the duty of a normal citizen. Being that as it is, they then should have no problem with citizens videotaping incidents, or answering to allegations of malfeasance in a court of law. As much as they are here to enforce the law, they are also employees of the citizens. Our tax dollars pay their salaries. We have the right to question their authority. I do, though, believe this is a place and time for ONLY peaceful protest. Additional violence will not end violence. In fact, it only puts police on high alert, making them even more prone to pull a gun.

Let’s face it, what has happened as of late is something tragic for all involved. As much as things like racism are intertwined in these events, this is not a time to be divisive. Rather this is the time when we should all come together to find solutions. We only stand strong if we are united. Divisive behavior will be the end of this thing we call our own. Let’s think before we speak and act. Let’s pull our Nation back together so we can face the woes together, and find amicable solutions for our problems both now, and in the future.

(image source:https://www.flickr.com/photos/bluerobot/5493833292/in/pool-protest)

Graphic Racism: Why We Say BLACK LIVES MATTER

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I guess one might say I’m a little tired of having this circular argument with people who will not accept that racism plays an integral part in what has happened to Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner. Paired with police brutality, we have major problems in our system that have been brought to light. I don’t want to debate innocence or guilt of those victims, because that is not clear. In fact, it’s not only not clear, but barely relevant given the fact none of their alleged crimes carry a death penalty sentence.  What I do want to point out is this:

During the 1960s, Charles Manson led a group of people know as the Manson Family on a crime spree, culminating with the brutal murders of several innocent people in order to spark a race war so that Manson could, effectively, take over the world. When he was captured by police, he was not only kept alive, but protected so he could stand trial for his heinous crimes that shook not only California, but the entire United States.

Ted Bundy kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered at least 30 women across the US, and participated in mutilation and necrophilia during the 1970s. Even after his escape and murder of a young girl in Florida, Bundy was taken back to prison and kept in protective custody. He received a fair trial, and was allowed to gain publicity by helping solve the Green River Murders. This man, who committed atrocities against more women than we may ever know, was more often described as “charismatic” than monstrous.

On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK. It was an act of domestic terrorism against the US Government. 168 people died, and countless more were injured. McVeigh was held in custody, received a fair trial, and was not assaulted in any way by law enforcement officers.

I can continue to list names and cases of white individuals who killed, maimed, and committed crimes far more heinous than petty theft, carrying a toy gun, or selling bootleg tobacco. Jeffery Dahmer lured young men into his apartment, drugged, murdered, and ate them. I repeat-ATE THEM, yet police let him live to face trial. We must question then, why men like Michael Brown are described as “demons” and murdered in the street, while men like Dahmer are treated with respect?

And I know, sometimes police pull guns on white people. It’s happened to myself and my son at a sobriety checkpoint when the officers thought a piece of a cellophane wrapper from a CD in my back floorboard was drugs. Point is, no one thought my 6’2” son looked like a “demon”. We were not shot, roughed up, or even talked to impolitely. They were new, green, and overzealous, but we lived to tell the tale. The three men in the bottom portion of the graphic above were not. They were not treated with the same dignity afforded to serial killers and terrorists. That speaks legions.

So, deny racial bias all you want—looking straight at you white folks! It’s your white privilege that allows you to do so. If you thought you or your child could essentially be lynched in the streets, you might think differently.  And that is why we are standing in the streets screaming BLACK LIVES MATTER. All lives matter, but as you can see, some lives are given more importance than others, and that needs to end.

For all of you fixated on “riots” and “looting,” you need to remember that is what the media allows you to see. They are worried about sensationalism and big ratings, not truth. Those aren’t all Black faces out there. Most of the protests are peaceful. If all you believe is what you see on your television–if you believe the only truth is what the media is feeding you, then you need to wake up and smell the bullshit. You’re being lied to. Search for what’s real. Stand up for justice. End the atrocity.
#ICantBreathe #BlackLivesMatter #EqualityandJusticeForAll

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

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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

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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)