The “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” was written seven months before I was born, and just under five years before Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered.
The 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed just under two months before my birth, and JFK was assassinated within my first 20 days on the planet.
This shit is toxic, it’s REAL, and it’s deadly. Continue reading “Another black man dead…Only this time?”
And these children
That you spit on
As they try to change their world
Are immune from your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through…
A little under two years ago, I wrote this post in reaction to Philando Castile’s murder:
In that time, nothing changed, until last February, kicked off when a series of white males took up arms against their social circle and inspired a movement in the aftermath of their destruction. Except, that’s not the whole picture.
Compare and contrast.
Four articles from The Guardian, a somewhat left-leaning source with roots in the United Kingdom:
1. Florida shooting: suspect escaped scene by hiding among students as they fled
Nikolas Cruz, 19, charged with 17 counts of murder as officials confirm the AR-15 rifle used to commit massacre was purchased legally
(Incident: February 14, 2018. Dead: 17, injured: 17)
2. Austin bomb suspect left video ‘confession’ before he died
Police say footage portrays ‘a very challenged young man,’ but nothing to show he was motivated by hate
(Incidents: March 2-20, 2018. Dead: 2, injured: 5)
3. ‘They executed him’: police killing of Stephon Clark leaves family shattered
A young, unarmed black man was shot 20 times in his grandmother’s backyard. Now his brother is fighting through grief to demand justice
(Incident: March 18, 2018. Dead: 1)
4. Maryland student who shot classmate dead killed himself, officials say
Austin Rollins, 17, fired a fatal shot to his head just as he encountered the school resource officer at Great Mills high school
(Incident: March 20, 2018. Dead: 2, injured: 1)
Wait. Did I say four? I meant five.
5. Alton Sterling shooting: two police officers will not be charged with any crime
Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II won’t be charged for incident that occured [sic] in July of 2016 that sparked unrest throughout Baton Rouge
(Incident: July 7, 2016. Dead: 1)
Two of these incidents are not like the others. In fact, the victims in those two incidents stand in stark contrast to the others, even though they are connected by the way in which they died. And in how the victims were described. And in the accountability of those who perpetrated their murders.
On March 22nd, I wrote this piece, after the Associated Press put out a horrendous article describing the Great Mills murderer as a “lovesick teen.” The phrase AP used seemed completely tone deaf, wholly inappropriate given the reality that, according to the Violence Policy Center, 11 murder-suicides happen every week, and that 9 out of 10 murderers use a gun.
As the article above shows, the Resource Officer originally credited with stopping the murderer actually hit him in the hand, and that the kid died from a self-inflicted gunshot.
Think about that.
In contrast, Stephon Clark was shot twenty times in his own backyard, murdered in cold blood, and the only thing the cops could find after the dust settled was a cellphone. And nobody could explain why they had to turn off their body cameras.
When Alton Sterling was shot, he did have a gun on him. And it shouldn’t have mattered. After all, Louisiana is an Open-Carry state, and Sterling was within his legal 2A right to possess and carry the gun.
According to an eyewitness report from his friend inside the store, near where Sterling was murdered, the gun was in his waistband, not in his hands.
People of color have been targets since the first of the slave ships landed on these shores. And cops have proven that lynching isn’t necessary as long as they feel free to pump lead into any individual they view as a threat, regardless of reality.
Being born with dark skin isn’t inherently threatening unless one wants an excuse to pump the entire contents of a gun clip into a human being and call him a target, to exercise summary justice outside of the legal system, to shut down any possibility of accusations of police brutality or corruption.
Any excuse will do, regardless of whether the victim’s legal and civil rights say otherwise.
I’ve been writing about racism since the first few posts I wrote in this blog, way back in 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when the Bush family turned a blind eye to reality and cost the lives of almost 1,500 people and displaced a huge number of poor families, many of color, in New Orleans.
#BlackLivesMatter, which started as a hashtag on social media, came into existence in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman’s acquittal finally drew attention to the massive disparity between being black and being white in America.
But not enough. Not nearly enough.
No, it took a major tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in a privileged part of Florida’s Broward County, to focus the movement like a laser. These students are articulate, driven, privileged kids. They have finally, firmly, seized that banner of truth and anger and sadness, raised it high, and reached out to their siblings across the country who have been targets far longer.
Inclusive, determined, driven by force of will, these kids who founded the March For Our Lives movement, who have declared #NeverAgain in places across the country, are defining the future in their terms.
Now that they’re coming of age, their movement looks a lot like the Vietnam War protests of our past. And no wonder.
We ARE at war.
We are deep into Civil War, and we have no idea where it will lead, but the children…OUR children…have declared in more than a million clear, strong voices of all ages, ethnicities, genders, and cultures, that #EnoughIsEnough.
Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky and their friends speak not just for the students at MSD, but for kids across the country, and they will sit in silence no longer.
It’s no surprise that they have welcomed their siblings of color, who are considered “at-risk” merely for existing. After all, they’re theatre kids. They understand diversity in ways only some of us fully understand.
In a time and place where our people of color are maimed or killed in disproportionate numbers, simply because they’re not white, these kids see only one thing: Themselves.
In our gun-saturated society, there’s a reckoning coming. It’s coming at the ballot box this year.
May these children succeed where we have failed, in the ten years since the District of Columbia v. Heller decision, to force change. I only wish David Bowie was still here to see it.
David Bowie – Changes (Olympia)
In December of 2014, I wrote this post as a placeholder for further exploration. I never got back to the subject because I was trying to juggle the holiday performance schedule and the last semester of classes before graduation in May. It isn’t that the problem had gone away, but it seemed quiet for a time.
The primaries have come and gone, the presumptive nominees are digging in and preparing for their party conventions, and we are reaping the rewards of decades of toxic repressed racism and anger, combined with a rhetoric of hate from the Right that promises to throw our supposedly inclusive society out in favor of pre-war fascism, just as I’ve been predicting since 2012.
Go back and reread the posts I’ve made since I launched this blog, way back in October, 2012, just prior to the election. Every word, every warning…it’s all there.
In March, 2015, articles began to surface that identified a serious problem. The problem, outlined in several useful articles, suggested that white people are so privileged, so clueless about what it means to be a person of color in this country, that any approach at all voids the conversation because people are too entrenched in their beliefs to see what that privilege looks like.
These articles include the following:
America’s white fragility complex: Why white people get so defensive about their privilege The author of “What Does It Mean to Be White?” on Black Lives Matter and our biggest misconceptions about racism
As I said at the bottom of the post I made in December, race is fiction. Racism is real.
But that’s not all. Not even a fraction of reality.
In the wake of three horrific events that are currently in the news, people who care are seeking answers, trying to come to grips with retaliation and looking for someone to blame. Stories, like clockwork, are coming out again. They describe similar circumstances, near misses, lucky escapes that depended on the gun holder’s ability to put it away instead of using it without thinking first. And they will not go away. They MUST NOT go away.
What we have learned in a short 72 hours is this:
- Police still fire on unarmed men because they believe their own lives are at risk.
- Going armed is, in fact, a privilege reserved for white people, because by definition a black man is guilty, regardless of due process.
- “The right to bear arms is …also to defend yourself from the government should it become tyrannical.“
Except, of course, when you’re a person of color.
How has this become a thing in our country, where freedom is supposed to be prized above and beyond all else? This shit’s not new. 1968 was only 48 years ago. And in just that brief generation or two, look at what we have done.
Here’s why this matters: The Counted People killed by police in the US. You’ll notice right off the bat that the cops are doing this to all sorts of people, but based on the statistics, Native Americans and Blacks outnumber the rest of the dead by 2:1. Make of this statistic what you will, but why are good guys with guns doing these things, when due process is supposed to do it for them?
Cops don’t wait. If you’re packing heat, you’re guilty until proven innocent. Doubly so if you’re not white. Here’s why: Shooting to kill: Why police are trained to fire fatal shots
After last night’s events in Dallas, they may have a point. The attack on Dallas cops who were there to help, not hurt, has drawn the attention of everyone, and for various reasons. It was, on its face, a horrible event. Anyone who appears shocked that it happened has clearly missed the point, though, about rhetoric that says our guns are intended to protect us from oppression and tyranny. How are these identified? By the shooting of unarmed men by hair-trigger cops with axes to grind?
What do you do when a good guy with a gun can’t stop bad guys with guns?
Where’s the NRA on this?
The NRA includes talking points that boil down to Number 3, nine times out of ten, in an argument over gun rights. I’ve heard plenty of this crap since I started making noise about it online. But when the tyranny is aimed at people who don’t look like us, and when those numbers seem to be invisible except for a few high profile incidents where someone was in the right place at the right time to shine a light on the truth, the argument evaporates in a puff of white privilege.
It is the same with the open carry policy. It’s okay to carry a gun for protection if you’re white. If you’re not, it’s a ticket to the grave. The NRA is still largely silent on the subject, because on the one hand, this is the bed they made, and on the other hand, they can’t condone violence against the police or they risk unmasking themselves as the hypocrites they are.
Justin Cohen, in a piece from July 6th that predates both Philando Castile’s murder and the Dallas shooting, lays it all out. If we want justice for all, if we truly want a nation where all men, women and children are created equal, then it is on US to make this happen. Accountability starts and ends with the holder of the weapon. It should not ever require chance or accident to see these acts of murder for what they are.
If we don’t do something, Dallas will be just the start of the ugliest summer on record in the United States of America since the American Civil War.
Storm’s not coming anymore. It’s here.
#BlackLivesMatter #SayTheirNames #AltonSterling #PhilandoCastile #DisarmHate #Enough
Some timeline, isn’t it?
Baltimore’s police leadership is SO out of touch that Gene Ryan, President of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, had the gall to suggest the call for jail time for the officers involved in Gray’s death was tantamount to a lynch mob. He later walked the comment back (sort of) in a news conference with police union attorney Mike Davey, saying “Maybe I need to reword that.” His thoughtless comments illustrate just how out of touch our police force really is.
And we know the news isn’t good. The protests turned violent again. It’s horrible how those protesters have NO RESPECT for anything, isn’t it?
That’s what a lot of people are saying, in all these cities across America. At least, that’s what a lot of folks who aren’t black are saying. Because, you know, violence isn’t necessary. Voices get heard when protests are peaceful, and change happens when we’re quiet and polite and respectful, and we don’t run.
Only that isn’t true today, any more than it was true in 1968 or in the 1950s or, in fact, any time prior to that, including 1938, when the last man was lynched in Maryland.
So, how often do these things actually happen? In August, 2014, Mother Jones published an article written by Jaeah Lee entitled Exactly How Often Do Police Shoot Unarmed Black Men?
I’m going to explore this a little more fully when I have some time to go find references, which I don’t have time to do this morning, but you better pay attention to this because it may explain some things about the posts I’m making here and why I’m so very, very appalled not just at what’s happening to people across the country but why I can’t believe what some of the people I’ve known for decades are saying.
I attended the School Without Walls (SWW) from 1977 to 1981. The school, part of a movement that came about in 1968, was very different from traditional high schools. Some of the people reading this note attended the school with me, and I’m shocked to hear what some of them are saying. Shocked because they clearly did NOT understand why SWW existed in the first place, and I’m frustrated because they’re not listening now.
Teachers, students and parents from Monroe High School founded SWW because they needed a place to learn, in an environment that was exploding after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. That core group came from a mix of backgrounds and the student population was diverse, too. It was an intense four-year journey for me, that launched a career of writing, even if I haven’t been paid for much of it.
I’m not going to pretend or idealize the experience I had while I was there, but I can count at least 40 people on my Facebook Flist who attended or graduated from SWW. So here’s the thing. Check it out:
And you thought Rochester wasn’t part of that?
You want to know where SWW derived? Look up the Free School Movement.
I’m not saying folks aren’t paying attention. I’m saying they’re not applying an empathy filter. Put your own kids in the place where Michael Brown was, and imagine what this would be like for you. If you can’t put yourself in that place, examine WHY you can’t do that. Is it because you don’t get it, or because you simply can’t imagine your kid being shot just for being big and belligerent? Not your kid’s style? So what? USE YOUR IMAGINATION! Put yourself or your son or daughter or their friends in that place.
The core problem with today’s world, with all the arguments about money, guns, race, equality, sexuality? They are happening because people (some of them on my own Flist) canNOT imagine what this is like and because they don’t get it, they think it’s okay, what’s going on with the cops today.
I’m telling you, that’s wrong.
If you still want to know what’s wrong with this country, maybe it’s because you can’t imagine what it’s like to be Michael Brown or Eric Garner or Tamir Rice or their siblings or their parents or their friends. And you can’t imagine that cops could possibly be corrupt or that the system does fail.
And to those of you who find yourselves wondering how this could possibly be happening, I say it’s time you woke UP!
You’re being set up. Educate yourself.
The court case I got called for over the summer? It had eerie overtones and I’m glad I wasn’t on the jury because I don’t think in hindsight that I could be impartial. Here’s how it shook out:
Now the thing is, would he have gotten jail time if the cop had been white? Would he even have been indicted? We will never, never know.
No, not all cops, not all lawyers, not all courts, but if there’s even one that’s practicing the law as if some people aren’t worth the same as others, that cop or lawyer needs to GO!
And if we don’t try these people in a court of law, we will never know what happened.
Where’s the justice in that?
Race is fiction. Racism is very, very real.