Monthly Archives: August 2014

Confrontational Justice

As a black, self-employed attorney and elected official in my community, I started August 28th with gratitude, believing that the Civil Rights Movement made it possible for me to be possible. I started with a sense of hope that racial progress was still not only possible…it was inevitable.  

But, within 3 hours, in two Chicago-area courthouses in two different counties, I was reminded that although the nation was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the history-making “I Have A Dream” speech, the reality is that I, a highly educated black woman, still exist at the margins of society.  While I can now physically enter the courthouse through the front door, I am still mentally relegated to back door entrances and persona non grata status by white court personnel.

In the first instance, the court clerk rudely told me that I could not check in with her for my case. Instead, I was told to take a seat and wait for my case to be called, and then asked if I had an attorney.  Even though I was dressed like other attorneys in the courtroom, had a file in my hand, and attempted to explain that I was checking in as the attorney.  There was no moment of awareness nor acknowledgment of how offensive and racist she had just been.  No apology.  Just business as usual.

I observed that the white male attorney before me and the two white female attorneys after me, were assumed automatically, just by their presence, dress, and demeanor, to be attorneys.  They were treated professionally and with respect.  I, on the other hand, was talked down to and practically ordered to sit down (as she pointed to the public seating area of the courtroom, not the “inner sanctuary” where judges, clerks…and attorneys sit).

In the second courthouse, I stood in line inside the Circuit Court Clerk’s office, under the overhead sign marked “Attorneys”.  In front of me stood a white, male attorney.  After he was waited on, the clerk looked at me and walked away.  She just walked away and left me standing there wondering if she was coming back or what.  I soon had my answer.  As she sat down at a desk across the office, I called out to her and motioned to the open window.  She looked at me, and without saying a word, pointed to the sign above…because, after all, that line was “for attorneys only.”  No chance she hadn’t seen me.  We made eye contact.  She saw me alright, but not as an attorney.

And then I remembered when a court security officer motioned to my white, female client that she could come around the metal detector, while I, walking right behind her, was motioned directly to the metal detector.  When she hesitated, the officer said,“You are an attorney, aren’t you?”  So, not only are white attorneys automatically presumed to be attorneys, white people, in general, receive the presumption and apparently get to avoid the metal detector…at least if walking into court with a black person.  Ahhh, white privilege.

And then I remembered the time when I stepped up to the judge with a white, male client charged with a DUI.  As started to talk, the judge cut me off and told me to let my attorney talk for me. In a nano-second I realized that the judge thought my client, dressed like he was on his way to a rodeo, was the attorney…and that I, dressed like I was going, well, to court, was the DUI defendant.

There are other similar incidents.  I repeatedly get to see how the justice system treats people who look like me when they think I’m not an attorney.  I get to see what’s really happening.  

So, I’m on a mission. If you believe in “the Dream”, please join me in turning a mirror on America’s persistent, racist pathology.  If you see discrimination, call it.  Like roaches, discrimination hates the light.  But injustice doesn’t scream and call attention to itself.  It is usually more subtle, more nuanced.  If you don’t look, you won’t see it.  

Don’t ignore it.  Confront it.  Join the movement.


There’s an old saying that goes “just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after me”.  Or something like that.

So, when it comes to “The Exceptional Nigger”, some might say I’m paranoid.  Whatever.  I say they’re after us.

Watch this clip.  I rest my case.


Ferguson, Football, Fits and Fundraising

I was just thinking.

Kill a dog, and you’re going to prison.

Shoot yourself, and you’re going to prison.

Walk Black down any street in America, and you “fit the profile”, so you just might be on your way to prison.

Die an unarmed black man at the hands of white cops and your character goes on trial by a national jury of media and non-peers.

Kill an unarmed black man as a white cop in America, and you’ll be home in time for dinner, with a couple of hundred thousand dollars in crowd-sourced fundraising to show for your trouble.

The difference?  Being a nigger versus a white man in America.


Passing the Baton

I’ve had an epiphany.

I realize that I have spent an inordinate amount of my life – time I can’t get back – trying to convince white people that white privilege really does exist.  And trying to convince them of how they benefit from it.  And trying to convince them that it is part and parcel of the regime that oppresses black and brown folks in this country and further marginalizes us.

But, after reading this and especially this in the past two days, I’m done.  I’m now focused on dismantling it and operating effectively in spite of it.  This is going to cause some people a lot of confusion and I’m sure I’ll be accused of being insensitive at best, and perhaps militant, at worse.  I’m neither.  I’m simply resolved to call a spade a spade and move forward.

So, this is a virtual passing of the baton to others.  Specifically to white allies.  As these two authors have so powerfully pointed out, you need to come for your own.

The Weary Facts

I had a “conversation” on Facebook today with a white guy who essentially wanted facts to prove that there is any systemic racial profiling or police brutality aimed at black and brown men in this country.  That should have been my first clue to keep scrolling, but as so often happens, I took the bait.  So, I figure I might as well get some mileage out of this response here because I don’t have the energy to repeat it over and over again to disingenuous white people.  So here goes:

It is incredulous to me how you can’t connect the dots between this story and the Mike Brown story. How does a white guy who is already wanted by police, assault 2 cops, breaking one cop’s hand, clearly trying to elude them…live to tell about it, while another guy…who is black…doesn’t assault a cop (at least there is no evidence of that, unlike in this story where we have clear evidence of such)…and is gunned down in the street as seen by 5 eyewitnesses with eerily similar stories?

And there’s no connection to racial profiling and police brutality against black men?  You’d have to be a white man in America blinded by white privilege to miss that connection. Oh. Sorry. I guess you are.

But ok.  You want facts? How about this:

FACT – as it relates to Ferguson MO, we know very little “officially released” information about police officer Darren Wilson, but we know LOTS of “officially released” information about Mike Brown.

FACT – between 2006 and 2012, a black man was shot by the police every 48 hours in this country.

FACT – in 2012 alone, a black man was shot by police, security guard or a vigilante every 28 hours…and in a mind-blowing 71% of the cases, had no weapon. In other words…UNARMED.

FACT – black folks make up 13% of the U.S. population, but over 40% of the prison population.

FACT – Even though African-Americans use or sell drugs about the same rate as whites, they are 2.8 to 5.5 times more likely to be arrested for drugs than whites.

FACT – Black offenders receive longer sentences compared to whites for the same offenses.


FACT – in the past 4 weeks alone, 5 unarmed black men across this country have been shot (one tasered) and killed by police officers.  Note: you’ll have to scroll to the bottom of this article to get the information on the 5th guy who was tasered and died.  By the way, any irony on the fact that an article on how many black men are killed by police had to be updated a day after it originally posted because the number just keeps going up and up?

And my final FACT – what I have been trying to convey to you is that black folks are weary, angry and hurt at what is happening across this country to us and even more weary, angry and hurt at some white people’s seeming all-out resistance (to the point of being irrational and illogical) to connect the dots and tell the truth. This is not a gray area. It is black and white – literally – and we’re tired of white people trying to make us think we’re crazy.

Furthermore, it is so damn arrogant to tell black folks that our reality as a black person in America isn’t really our reality…which is essentially what you’re trying to do by “facting” us to death.

But nonetheless, because I want ya’ll to “get it” I gave you some FACTS. I’ve got 500 years worth of more FACTS if that’s what it takes to convince you, but I’m guessing that the FACT that it would take that many more FACTS means it isn’t worth the effort.

The Black Parent Tax

I’m a mom of two young, adult sons.  And my husband and I have done our level best to raise them to be productive men.  It’s important to us that they love God, find a legal way to become financially independent of us, and lead productive lives.

All that to say that as a mom, like any mom, I have hopes and dreams for my sons.  In fact, over the years, some of my white friends and I have talked together about our sons and daughters and those hopes and dreams for their lives.  And we talked about worries too.

Will they make friends in high school?  Will they score well on the state standardized test?  Will they get into college?  What about the son who dropped out of college? What will their careers be like?  Are they maturing at an acceptable pace?  All the normal, natural worries that loving parents go through.

But that’s as far as the conversation goes with my white friends.  Because to finish the conversation, I have to turn back to my black friends.  Because they are in the same boat I am.  They too pay the Black Parent Tax.

That’s the burdensome tax we pay to raise our kids to adulthood safely.   That tax represents the extra worries that we have that white parents don’t have.  And if you have a black son, then you know what I’m talking about.

Because raising black boys into well-adjusted, productive young men who live to a ripe old age is not for the faint of heart given the active resistance working against us and the narrative that society will try to engraft into their psyche about black people and especially black men.

Like when you have to worry about whether a white teacher will stereotype him and he’ll be “labeled” in school and given less attention and fewer, if any, high performance expectations than Little Billy receives (Note: On this blog, “Little Billy” always represents little white boys). Or whether the police will pull him over again tonight for DWB (Driving While Black)?  Only this time, they won’t just harass him and let him go…usually without a ticket.  This time might be THE time…that the police officer decides he doesn’t like his attitude, or his dreads, or his tattoos or that he’s driving a nice car or whatever.  And things go quickly south, spiraling out of control until my son is dead on the hard, cold concrete.  Or arrested on some bogus, trumped up, over-charged…ish, knowing that black men are multiple times more likely to be arrested and multiple, multiple times more likely to be convicted than Little Billy for just about anything.

Oh.  Sorry.  I got caught up in the authenticity of my fears.

The point is that white parents have the luxury of the joys and pains of regular parenting. Black parents have that too.  And THEN we pay the Black Parent Tax.  And there’s no sense trying to escape that tax.  Because if you cheat on that tax, then society will be on your sons like the IRS on a fishy deduction.  And as with the IRS, it’s hard to beat that system.

So we willingly pay the BPT.  Willingly.  Because the alternative is even more burdensome.  For parents who refuse to pay the BPT (and occasionally even for those who pay it…just because it can…), the system has non-payment penalties.  They are called the Prison Industrial Complex and the County Morgue.  Either way, there’s a cold, hard, concrete or metal slab for your son,  just waiting for you to miss a BPT installment payment.


On Cops and “Black Crime”

I have to separate COPS killing unarmed young black men from what’s happening in black neighborhoods over in Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago or New York. (Pick your urban area of choice).

Yes it’s true.  Young black men are killing each other at a rapid pace in urban ghettos, causing the media to report the body count every weekend, while black folks point out that the same rage unleashed for Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown should be unleashed for “black on black” crime.

I confess.  It frustrates me.  First of all, most violent crime is intra-racial.  In other words, people commit crime where they live.  So “black on black” crime is no more a phenomenon than “white on white” crime.   Second, the fact that “ghettos” have higher crime,  including violent crime, is hardly newsworthy.

Let’s be clear: ghettos did not happen by accident. They were created by federal housing policies to enrich white suburban America, and leave poor, disenfranchised, minorities behind.  Ta-Nahesi Coates describes the research on this issue beautifully here.

So, think about this.  When you essentially create entire neighborhoods, without jobs, access to quality education, and role models, and you allow drugs to infiltrate (and be clear: drugs are allowed in)…and then start a “war on drugs” (that curiously fails to nab those with the planes making international trips to get the drugs and infuse them into poor black neighborhoods), and that war is waged against poor black and Latino men (even though white people come from the suburbs to these neighborhoods to “score” and then return to their suburban homes to use, with their criminal records unscathed), thereby leaving these young men with criminal records and even fewer job prospects….Then you destroy the Black family…leaving ghettos riddled with people who have no jobs, no education, no money, no HOPE and living in despair…then you create the perfect conditions for violence. Against themselves.

This situation was CREATED. Against people who have no resources, no platform, and no voice with which to fight back. Do you think this violence would ever be allowed in upper middle class and wealthy neighborhoods in any urban city in America?  Nope. It would be shut down. Quick. Fast. In a Hurry. But, as long as they are taking out each other? Well, who cares about poor, black folks?  There’s just no ROI on investing in ghettos for those who helped to create them.

The two situations (white cops killing unarmed black men) and black on black crime in urban ghettos simply cannot be compared…except to say that SYSTEMIC RACISM and STRUCTURAL INEQUITIES created and allow both to continue.

And let’s keep it 100.

In the right set of circumstances, for long enough, each one of us could be broken. And if left with nothing but basic survival instincts, those instincts will eventually come out. I don’t disagree that we have to try to overcome these deficits, but I unequivocally reject the racist notion of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. The very notion of expecting the oppressed and least-resourced, least-educated among us to overcome systemic racism and disempowerment by sheer will is incredibly short-sighted, without an equal full court press on the system to level the playing field. All of that makes perfect sense on a level playing field. Then those who have any sort of ambition can make it and those who don’t want anything, won’t get anything. But right now the deck is stacked and marked against us.

“Cops on blacks” crime is worthy of a separate (and urgent) discussion.

Jim Crow Jr.

After almost 300 years of chattel slavery and approximately 150 years of convict leasing, black codes and Jim Crow, we are now squarely facing Jim Crow, Jr. with all the legacy that preceded him.  Unarmed black men are being gunned down at an alarming rate in this country.  And apparently, that’s ok because…

No Passes


“But you see now baby, whether you have a Ph.D., D.D.. or no d, we’re in this bag together. And whether you are from Morehouse or Nohouse, we’re still in this bag together.” — Fannie Lou Hamer

Just chew on that today.

One A Day

And I ain’t talking about multi-vitamins.  I’m talking about black men.  That’s approximately how many black men were killed in the United States in 2012 by police officers, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes.

One black man every 28 hours.  Most of these men were unarmed and, overwhelmingly, their families never received even a modicum of justice as the killers were never held accountable.

This article provides the details of a study showing a history of police brutality in black and brown communities, as well as a move by police departments from a philosophy of “protecting the community” to a philosophy of “soldiers fighting the enemy”, where the enemy is black men.

But that was in 2012.  It’s now 2014 and where do we stand?  Well, without even thinking deeply about it, I count 4 young, unarmed brothers killed by the police in the past approximately 3 weeks.

Eric Garner, John Graham (alleged had a toy gun in Walmart.  Still waiting for more details), Mike Brown and Ezell Ford all died at the hands of their local police.

Without regard to what has already happened in 2014, let’s look at the rest of this year.  So, let’s see, 4 men killed in 3 weeks.  We have approximately 20 weeks left in 2014, so according to my calculations,  that means…………………………….. (hold on…..Stephen Colbert is calculating this for me…………………………………………………….)

Approximately 28 more young, black, unarmed men can expect to be killed by their local police, security guards or vigilantes before the end of the year.  Are these “casualties” acceptable?

Call to action:  We need a full court press on local, county and state police and government bodies to cease the “War on Black Men” coupled with a full court press at the polls.  This means we must organize, march and demonstrate (I’m advocating peaceful, but persistent, unrelenting protests), and we must “occupy” city council/village board meetings, speaking during public comments to express our rage and demands that the madness stop.  Our list of demands:

  • The de-militarization of police departments.  They must return to community policing and “protect and serve” mentality.  This necessarily includes eliminating military-grade weaponry.  Police are not on the battlefield.  They are in neighborhoods.  They are not soldiers.  And our residents are not a foreign enemy.  They are civilians.  If you don’t like the tone and tenor of the neighborhood, then get out and build relationships with the residents.
  • The immediate termination of police officers who have bought into the “war mentality”.  They must go.  I understand there are union contracts, but we will not allow you to hide behind those contracts to protect rogue police officers.  If your police union contract does protect rogue officers, then the chief negotiator needs to go and you start fixing that stat.
  • The full prosecution of officers who fail to understand they are “protect and serve” and not “suppress and attack”.  These officers are oppressing and harassing people of color and killing unarmed citizens and it needs to STOP.  Your local prosecutor must know that he is an elected official, and if he or she won’t prosecute these rogue officers (while disproportionately prosecuting men of color), we will exercise our voting power to send him or her into early retirement.
  • We must present a united front.  This is NO TIME to public engage in internal fighting.  This is a war and we must come together and stop bickering with each other…and bicker instead with the enemy.   All this petty bickering is a distraction that allows the “system” to continue unchecked.  EXAMPLE:  Stop publicly denigrating those who are looting and rioting.  Yes, their behavior is unproductive and irrational.  And no, I don’t condone it.  But is the looting of consumer packaged goods and the burning of brick buildings any more unproductive and irrational than the police looting of black neighborhoods by harassment and oppression and killing unarmed black men?  Do those goods have more value than a black man’s life?  FOCUS and keep the main thing the main thing.  STOP blaming victims who are channeling their rage in the wrong way.
  • We must demand legislation requiring full, independent investigations of all police shootings.  Minimally, all deaths at the hands of police must be independently investigated.  We can no longer trust the proverbial fox to guard the hen house.  Independent review is key.
  • And then we must vote.  En masse.  Even at local elections.  ESPECIALLY at local elections. Those locally elected officials have the most influence on the quality of our collective lives.  Local elections are arguably even more important than national elections for that reason.  We have to use every tool at our disposal.  Use your social media skills to “turn up” your activism.

This obviously is not an instant process.  But they have to feel pressure and know that we are watching and will not stand for it anymore.  There are 28 unarmed, black men whose lives are depending on us to do something NOW.

This is the NEW civil rights movement.  Civil Rights 2.0.  We’ve done it once.  We can do it again.  TURN UP!

Please comment and add to the list of demands.  We need action now.