A Message to White Folks in My Life Who. Still. Don’t. Get. It.

important-messageYou are entitled to your opinions but you are not entitled to your own facts. You can believe that FB and negativity is dividing us (opinion) or you can listen to what black people are saying about the trauma we endure to be black in America (fact) and learn that there are two very different Americas. You live in one, and I live in another.

If you love someone, then you don’t minimize or marginalize their very real pain by absurdly attributing it to “negativity” or “Facebook disease”. You believe them, listen, learn, wrap your arms around them and figure out how in the hell to help them. To do otherwise is the violence that black folks keep referencing.

You have no earthly idea what I and other black folks are feeling right now. That is obvious to us from all the folks who think our pain is simply because “our candidate” lost. NO. Black America is gasping for air. We were seeking an inhaler (no matter the undesirable side effects) so that we could keep breathing while we figure out the antidote to the negative side effects of that particular inhaler. What we got instead was served notice that the rooms we live and breathe in are about to be sealed off. No air will be circulating. No air will be incoming.

Until you really raise your consciousness and wrap your mind around this, blaming my gasping and flailing (due to lack of oxygen) on Facebook and negative posts is incredibly cruel and violent to me. “Get Woke” as the saying goes or keep your distance because I’m gasping for air and you’re standing on the sidelines looking at me like I’m a freak show in a circus. And since I’m in survival mode, I’m doing everything in my power to save myself even if that means knocking you down. Get me an inhaler or go away. THIS is where Black America is right now. Let’s keep it ūüíĮ.

The Greatest Threat of the 21st Century Is Not Terrorism

Hidden-threat-600x398Note: This is a guest post by Dr. Vincent Gaddis, Professor of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies at Benedictine University.

As the United States prepares to elect its 45th president amongst unprecedented gridlock, vitriol, and a divided country along economic, racial and social lines, it is surprising we still think terrorism is the greatest threat to our freedom and the democracy that is the United States.  A longer, more critical view of America in the last 30-35 years reveals a deeper, uglier reality that is bubbling up and making itself visible in unexpected ways across this country’s vast political and economic spectrums.  The greatest threat to democracy, the greatest threat to America, the greatest threat to our future, is not terrorism, it is nihilism.

Nihilism, according to the Oxford dictionary, is ‚Äúthe rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless.‚ÄĚ More generally, it is the rejection of authority in the face of hopelessness. This is the threat we face.¬† It has been a harbinger of death in the black community for over a generation of inner city youth who saw no future for themselves other than prison or the grave.¬† The policies of this country helped produce that nihilism.¬† With over 2.3 million Americans in prison, and over 7 million in the system if you include probation and parole, with over half of those in the system African American and 86% of all prisoners locked up on nonviolent drug offenses, the nihilistic threat is growing. When we look in inner cities like Chicago and see young black men engaged in the horrible violence that attends the underground economy, we stand in shock, yet we have created the very mechanism for this extreme violence.

Let‚Äôs go back in time to the late 70s as jobs left in manufacturing, leaving blacks who had long been treated as a source of surplus labor as colonial subjects inside a socially constructed, hyper segregated reality, an underground economy grew around drugs as they and guns came in and capital, education spending, job training and other bridges to the 21st century economy were burned. This was the beginning of the nihilistic threat.¬† What was the point of continuing to believe in a government, in an authority structure that since the passage of the Civil Rights bill of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, had made only grudging concessions to a nascent black middle class, but for the vast majority of blacks, white supremacy in all its forms appeared to be more ‚Äúcovert‚ÄĚ in the sense of no signs pointing out colored bathrooms, yet more pernicious and vicious as ever more blacks were denied the vast economic opportunities still reserved, so it seemed, for all those outside of the ghetto.¬† The police state appeared even stronger and the incidents of police brutality and structural racism, for those willing to see, became even more obvious and destructive to black lives. Ultimately, a sense of what Cornell West called a profound since of ‚Äėaloneness‚Äô and hopelessness began to grip those at the bottom.¬† Caught in a reinforced underclass, stripped of dignity and then blamed for America‚Äôs ills, the country witnessed the first explosion of nihilism in the L.A. riots of 1992.¬† As Florence and Normandy burned, Korean store owners armed themselves and blacks rampaged an area the outside said was their community, but those inside of the area realized was not their space, but rather, they were trapped there by policies of red lining, white flight, physical barricades and food desserts, no one appeared interested in the question, why? Why was America so unwilling to address the realities of racism, white privilege and poverty? Why were the police allowed to beat and torture African Americans at will? Why do we not see that when people are isolated, angry, and resentful and oppressed that they lash out- regardless of our raised eyebrows?

The last twenty years have not eased the nihilistic threat.  Now, 1 in 3 African Americans are involved in the criminal justice system, the underground economy has entrenched itself in communities that more resemble Homms or Aleppo than American cities that once were the centers of global economic domination and the growth of a diverse growing middle class with, although small, open avenues none the less for some blacks to get to the middle class through higher education or skilled labor. In typical neo colonial form, in the collapse of the manufacturing economy, the surplus labor of the ghetto was shifted to the new growth industry, prisons. The war on Drugs of the 1980s, the crime bill of 1994 and the continued advocating of a state of siege of black communities in lieu of any sustained, rational development strategy meant crack, cocaine, heroin, mandatory sentencing, three strikes and you’re out. The last 25 years have witnessed an all-out assault on black lives.  Police brutality continues practically unchecked. Men like John Burge convicted of almost twenty years of torture of black suspects, unarmed men gunned down like Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Amadou Diallo, stop and frisk, broken windows policy all accompanied by a continued drain of resources and a failure of black leadership on a national, legislative level did nothing but grow the nihilistic threat.  Add to that the reality that a felony conviction means for all practical purposes social death- the almost complete ostracization of the felon from society and the body politic (in 9 states, even after completing probation and parole, the ex-felon still cannot vote) and the threat grows.  Add to this a cultural shift that legitimizes the nihilism by equating manhood with doing time, and a flood of weapons and drugs and you have record numbers of African Americans caught in a web of murder, police brutality, state sanctioned violence; lack of investment in the community, the destabilization of the family, and you have a generation that in large measure (but not all of course) has succumbed to the nihilistic threat.

Of course, for most of America, as long as the nihilism in the black community doesn‚Äôt appear to be leeching out into the mainstream, out of sight out of mind.¬† But that has been the miscalculation, the incomplete analysis.¬† Why is Trump leading the Republican polls? He has tapped into an anger, primarily of white, working class men, who feel threatened by a host of what they see as aliens- immigrants, Muslims, ‚ÄúRadical Jihadist Muslim Terrorist Extremist Freedom Killers,‚ÄĚ blacks, women and many manifestations of ‚Äėthe other.‚Äô Closer to reality, they are angry and threatened by globalization and the changing demographics of the country, they see a potential end to their white privilege and they want someone, anyone to listen to them. They feel isolated, threatened, alone and hopeless- they suffer from the nihilistic threat. And so it is on the left.¬† The Sanders critique of capitalism has struck a nerve in those living paycheck to paycheck, resentful of the lazy, manipulative 1%. They see themselves working hard every day yet falling further and further behind. In many ways they are two sides of the coin of nihilism. The politics of the last eight years, the politics of obstruction, fear mongering and hate has turned both parties into harbingers not of hope, but nihilism. The rise of the Tea Party was another manifestation not of hope, but fear, not confidence, but nihilism.¬† Particularly for those who became members of the Tea Party, the nihilistic threat was very real. Globalization and immigration had threatened their economic position, and with the election of Barak Obama, Tea Party members saw in him the manifestation of all their fears of losing ‚Äútheir‚ÄĚ country, and so the rally cry ‚Äúwe want our country back.‚ÄĚ

The disregard for people‚Äôs lives in Flint, Michigan who are suffering catastrophic levels of lead in their drinking water, a man made crisis created by an unelected city manager appointed by the republican governor is another example.¬† As more information comes out of the willful negligence of the governor and those who were supposed to protect the people, anger and hostility is rising.¬† Look at the conditions of inner city schools, let alone life, and yet we sit in our suburbs with our feet up on the couch thinking it can‚Äôt happen ‚Äėhere‚Äô and yet, somewhere in the back of our minds, we are afraid that‚Äôs not true.¬† Growing numbers of those who were in the middle class, are now in poverty, and a larger proportion of those still in the middle class hang on, one paycheck from homelessness, upside down on their mortgages or already foreclosed on, are seething with anger at government, and capitalism, at themselves- the nihilistic threat is alive in the suburbs. Need some more evidence? Explain the epidemic of heroin in upper middle class white communities.

What shall we do? How do we kindle the flames of hope? How do we struggle against the virus of aloneness when we have become so atomized? My solution is radical, it is old and it can work.¬† We need a revolution in values.¬† We have to come to realize that the answer to nihilism is community.¬† That requires a revolution in values.¬† Pope John Paul II recognized this when he defined community as vital participation between people working for the common good, built on a foundation of recognizing every human being as unique, unrepeatable, and deserving of dignity and respect. That requires a revolution within each of us to overthrow our prejudices, whatever they may be.¬† It will require us to overthrow our self-centeredness, our fear and recognize that as Martin King Jr. said, ‚Äúwe are bound together in a web of mutuality.‚ÄĚ We have to see each other as human beings and recognize that the values of a self-centered, highly individualistic, highly competitive, fear based, society rooted in extreme materialism and war mongering and race hatred will not only destroy our freedoms through nihilism; it will destroy our planet as well. Only when we evolve to a higher state of cooperative economics that reigns in capitalism can we begin to hope. Only when we, as Dr. King said, reorient ourselves to be a society focused on the well-being of others rather than creating identity through the things (including people) we possess, can we begin to hope. Only when we enter a world where we see ‚Äúman as man,‚ÄĚ can we have hope. We must have a revolution in values and recognize that only through such a revolution do we stand any real chance of defeating the nihilistic threat.

 

A White Man Checked His Privilege at the Door

In case you aren’t paying attention, there are some serious issues at Mizzou that didn’t stop when University President Tim Wolfe resigned.¬† In fact, the racial animus has markedly increased.

(As an aside, that resignation speech was steeped in racism and did a lot to explain why he had to go.¬† As I listened to¬†him resign, it became crystal clear why He. Had. To. Go.¬† But don’t take my word for it.¬† Here’s what the experts had to say about it.)

Black students don’t feel safe – physically or emotionally – on the Mizzou campus.¬† And some white people feel threatened by the black students’ demands, and power.¬† And what happens when racists feel threatened?¬† Attempts to discredit and minimize black pain.¬† Like this.¬† And this.

imageAnd yet. In the midst of the chaos, a white ally. There may be others. In fact I know there are. But here is a lesson for those with a desire to be allies. Don’t stand on the sidelines talking to your family and friends (or worse, just yourself) about how you support #blacklivesmatter.

DO something. Don’t tell me. I’m from Missouri. Show me.

Who REALLY killed Tyshawn Lee?

TyshawnLeeI gasped while getting dressed for work this week when I heard about the murder of Tyshawn Lee, a beautiful little 9 year old boy in Chicago. I’m heartbroken and incensed.

But unlike some, I am not angry over “black on black crime”. I am angry over the media portrayal of urban crime that shapes the perception that “black on black crime” is any more of a phenomena than “white on white crime”. And I’m angry at the conditions that lead to these traumatic losses.

Because I am interested in these issues from a scholarly standpoint, I tend to read the research about these social justice issues and as is the case with many things, the research sheds light that the media isn’t interested in. I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep repeating that urban crime is a function of the human condition in urban areas. Here is a quick summary of some of the leading research:

“In general terms, social disorganization refers to the inability of a community structure to mobilize the common values of its residents to maintain effective social controls (Kornhauser). Empirically, the intervening dimensions of community social organization can be measured in terms of the prevalence and interdependence of social networks in a community (both formal and informal) and in the span of collective supervision that the community directs toward local problems (Thomas and Znaniecki; Shaw and McKay; Kornhauser). Given this, neighborhoods characterized by high levels of poverty or economic deprivation, residential mobility, ethnic heterogeneity, family disruption, poor housing conditions, and low levels of education are most likely to be disorganized and have higher levels of crime and violence. Disorganization, a lack of solidarity and cohesion, and the absence of a shared sense of community and mutual commitment between residents allows crime to flourish because the community’s capacity for informal social control (that which does not depend on the less efficient formal criminal justice institutions) is inhibited.”

You can read more here: Urban Crime РExplaining Urban Crime РViolence, Social, Subculture, and Values РJRank Articles http://law.jrank.org/…/Urban-Crime-Explaining-urban-crime.h…

Find out who did committed this heinous murder and lock them up.¬† But if you want REAL justice for this little boy, then we MUST fix the conditions which led to these crimes.¬† Reactionary criminal justice measures are not justice. ¬†Let’s not forget our federal government’s role in creating and perpetuating ghettos.

Urban crime is the natural consequence that flows from bad policy.

Hypes, Junkies and “Substance Abusers”

I’ve known a junkie or two in my life. ¬†In fact, I know one or two right now. ¬†And there’s a whole lot less than six degrees of separation between those junkies and me. ¬†Over the years, those junkies have been in and out of prison for various crimes. ¬†That junkie life ain’t cheap. ¬†Habits are high. ¬†No pun intended.

The War on Drugs has not been kind to hypes. ¬†Busted with a stash of crack means a trip to jail. Over and over again. ¬†Politicians promising to get “tough on crime” have passed legislation over the years to ensure that black men and women – the junkies and hypes – were removed from society in order to cause no harm. ¬†Never mind how the “War” devastated communities and families of non-violent users. ¬† Despite the black community’s outcries about the negative impacts of this War, this country – at ¬†the state, federal and local levels – continues undaunted.

Heroin

But then. ¬†Actually, but NOW. ¬†Now WHITE kids are the hypes and junkies. ¬†And it ain’t weed or crack they’re enamored with. ¬†They’re jonesing for Smack. Black Tar. Horse. The “H”. ¬†HEROIN. ¬†And they’re overdosing in record numbers. ¬†Now, WHITE families and communities are being ravaged. ¬†But not for being over-policed. ¬†Because NOW the narrative has changed.

White parents aren’t fond of their loved ones being called junkies and hypes. ¬†And they don’t particularly care for calling them “addicts” or treating them as criminals either. ¬†Instead, they are demanding a “kinder and gentler” approach to dealing with their kids. ¬†And their demands are changing the entire conversation. ¬†White parents prefer that rather than policing their children as criminals…rather than waging a war in their communities with their children and husbands and siblings the hunted enemies…that their loved ones be treated as suffering from a disease known as ¬†“substance abuse disorder”.

That’s right. ¬†There’s a WAR being waged in the black community. ¬†But there’s a HEALTHCARE CRISIS ¬†being addressed in white communities. ¬†So while black folks are being locked up and put on lock down, white people are treated with the compassion reserved for patients suffering from serious illnesses.

Don’t get me wrong. ¬†This is the right approach. ¬†The obvious issue is that how you’re treated, and what level of care you receive, is all dependent, like so many other things, on your zip code.

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

 

Thanks to Huffington Post for the graphic.

 

 

 

The Three Rs and a Beat Down

Spring Valley HighBy now, we’ve all seen the video of Officer Ben Fields having a “field day” on a 16 year old high school student. ¬†We’ve also likely seen all the victim blaming (well if she respected authority; well if she had only done what the teacher/principal/officer asked her to do, etc).

And I’ve seen several great articles on the racial bias implications of the way that young lady was man-handled. ¬†THIS is one of the best ones I’ve seen. ¬†[FULL DISCLOSURE: the author of that article is my cousin. ¬†Even still, it is an awesome article] ¬†Let me say THIS about THAT issue:

If we examine even the surface of how this child was treated, we’ll find just what most of us know to be true: racism. Why doesn’t it happen to white, Asian, Indian and Hispanic girls? Why aren’t those young girls subjected to the same level of “man-handling” that black girls and women are? ¬†Because there isn’t the context of 400 years of slavery, black codes, Jim Crow and now Jim Crow, Jr. connected to the others. Black people, including (especially?) black women and girls have a long history of being objectified and dehumanized in this country. The depth and breadth of the erasure of our humanity is staggering.

But I digress from the topic at hand: school discipline.

Some people ask what SHOULD the school and FORMER officer Ben Fields have done in the face of her alleged defiance to requests to put her cell phone away and to get out of her seat?

Well, let’s address that. ¬†How should this allegedly non-compliant, defiant teen have been handled?

I’m a school board member in a large urban district. ¬†Do you have any idea how many noncompliant teens there are in a school district on any given day between middle and high schools? ¬†I receive daily emails from district administration informing the board of situations where students have been defiant and escalated.

What’s the appropriate response to her very typical teenage behavior? ¬†Do you think this officer’s reaction is how you handle disrespectful, noncompliant teens? Is his behavior an acceptable standard?

All together now class: “Hell no!”

First, the teacher and/or school administration should not have called an officer for the “egregioius” offense of not giving up her cell phone. Talk about wasting educational time.

How about leaving it to be dealt with for later disciplinary action? A detention? That’s about what her cellphone offense merited.¬† How about, worst-case an in-school suspension? Perhaps not being allowed back in class on a go forward basis with a cell phone? ¬†Consequences don’t have to be violent to be effective.

And then, what if the school administrators had really stepped out of the box and engaged in a restorative justice practice with her?  Restorative justice is an approach to discipline based on respect, responsibility, relationship-building and relationship-repairing. It focuses on mediation and agreement rather than punishment. It aims to keep kids in school and to create a safe environment where learning can thrive.  Interested?  Read more about restorative justice here and here.

How many examples do I have to give?

Turns out this child at Spring Valley High School is a recent foster care child. She’s got a lot going on. Hopefully they are providing appropriate services to her and in the future will use CPI (crisis prevention intervention) training to handle situations as a school discipline issue, not a criminal police matter. First lesson: unless she is a danger to herself and to others, not every situation needs to be solved right then and there; otherwise it becomes a power struggle and escalates. There was nothing so urgent about her behavior that merited that response, or any response for that matter, from a police officer.

If we learn nothing else from this case about school discipline, we should use this situation as the “poster child” example of why we need CPI training and trauma-informed care in our schools.

Kids need effective discipline; not beat downs.

Ghetto Names and Ratchetness

imageI’ve been reading Raven-Symone’s comments that she wouldn’t hire someone with a ghetto-sounding name. This from a person whose own name (as has been pointed out by many others), with its hyphen, alternate spelling of “Simone” and gratuitous accent mark, bears all the hallmarks of a ghetto name.

She is one apostrophe away from platinum ghetto-name status. ¬†Black folks really need to stop copying white folks’ bad habit of mistreating us. ¬†That’s RATCHET regardless of your name.

But kudos to the sista below who did all black folks a favor. I applaud you and will vote for you for president of the Club at our next duly-called elections. You hit the nail on the head.

image

One more point. ¬†I’d like to make a motion that we give them Kanye next. ¬†Can I get a second?

Denise. Cynthia. Addie Mae. Carol.

16thStreetBombingToday is the 52nd anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.

Remember their names. Remember their faces. Remember that HATE killed them. And that same hate flourishes, unchecked today. They are still killing us for the color of our skin.  And now, as then, they are getting away with it.

What are we going to do about it?

How to Kick a Cop’s A** & Live to Tell About It

White people smilingBe white. ¬†It’s that simple.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time writing about the policing of black bodies. ¬†It’s ugly, oppressive, devastating and detrimental to healthy communities, not to mention that it denigrates an entire race of people and is reminiscent of America’s history of trying to keep black folks in our place.

But enough about that. ¬†Let’s talk about the policing of¬†white bodies. ¬†From my vantage point, it’s fascinating and devastating at once.

So, in no particular order, here’s a run-down of several real-life examples of how white people encounter the police:

Sarah Culhane committed three hit and runs, had several other traffic violations and assaulted police officers, and she will get a clean record.

Kevin Miner assaults police officers and breaks an officer’s hand.

This chick got in and out of her car dancing and ignoring police officer commands to put her hands up.

Need more?

How about eight more?

Policing white people? ¬†It’s ugly, oppressive, devastating and detrimental to healthy communities, not to mention that it denigrates an entire race of people and is reminiscent of America’s history of trying to keep black folks in our place.

White or black bodies. ¬†Cops in America send a message to black folks. ¬†And it’s loud and clear.

 

 

Shout out to DJ Stone Crazy Spot for the picture.

The Latest Face of The Exceptional Nigger

WEBDuboisQuoteAdd “Standing While Black” to the list of offenses which are apparently criminal acts when committed by black folks. ¬†James Blake found that out recently.

I’ve said it before here, and I’ll say it again:

“If you‚Äôre a person of color in America, especially a highly educated and/or acomplished Black person, your exceptionalism does not exempt you from racial profiling, blatant racism and the subtle (and not so subtle) psychological stress of systemic oppression. Your exceptionalism is inconsequential to your one, immediately defining physical characteristic‚ÄĒyour blackness.”

That is the classic Exceptional Nigger. ¬†We are frequently reminded that America views us still as Niggers, despite our JDs, Phds, Ed.Ds, MDs, MAs, MBAs, MSs, and the plethora of other elite pedigree calling cards that open doors and provide entree into our respective communities’ inner circles, to mix it up in the “right” social circles and to hold sway with elected officials and to enjoy some modicum of influence with the “powers that be”.

But lest we get too comfortable, and think that the “collective we”, by virtue of our pedigrees and positions, are exempt from the fate of the likes of less influential black folks like John Crawford, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and Freddie Gray, the “system”, that complex machinery that churns independent of, or in concert with, active racists (depending on the circumstances) comes bearing down on us with its massive oppressive weight, and reminds us that we, especially those of us who society deems “exceptional” are still, nonetheless, just Niggers in the eyes of the state.

So deeply ingrained is our status as NIggers, that a white man accused of the cold-blooded massacre of nine people who welcomed him into their bible study could be arrested peacefully, and the white man who convinced millions of people that Subway could aid us in our weight loss efforts, all the while allegedly molesting children, could merit a knock on his door in order to be arrested, while a Harvard-educated tennis star ranked #4 in the world at one time, could be violently tackled and taken down by not one, not two, but four New York police officers, all for the suspicion of having purchased a cell phone with a stolen credit card, while standing outside his swanky New York hotel.

But, Exceptional Nigger status has its perks over just being a nigger. ¬†You see rarely will the “system” acknowledge that it called us out as a Nigger. ¬†Rarely will it validate our¬†state-induced psychic trauma with as much as a “we’re sorry” or “we messed up”. ¬†Instead, it criminalizes the victims of its oppression. ¬†We’ve seen this. ¬†We know what this looks like.

But, James Blake is an Exceptional Nigger, so the NYPD Commissioner is trying to apologize to Mr. Blake. ¬†He even placed the first officer who charged Blake on a “modified assignment”, removing his badge and gun while Internal Affairs investigates. ¬†Blake’s money, pedigree, and celebrity status are the perfect trifecta for the illusion that justice will be served.

That’s certainly more than Mike Brown or John Crawford got. ¬†Usually, police officers make money off their state-sanctioned abuse of unarmed black folks. ¬†Donations to GoFundMe accounts overflow in support of the police, while those in charge clear officers of any wrongdoing.

But here’s what the “system” grossly misunderstands. ¬†Exceptional Niggers won’t be bought, compromised or placated by illusory efforts at making amends. ¬†We know that for every one of us, there’s dozens of others for whom no justice is forthcoming; not even illusory justice.

Instead, we’ll use our “Exceptional” status to shine a light in dark places and demand changes. ¬†We didn’t acquire “exceptionalism” by being docile. ¬†And we won’t allow it to be used for the manipulative purpose of silencing us.

 

Thanks to IZ Quotes for the graphic.