Monthly Archives: September 2014

White Sons/Black Sons

Sometimes it is fascinating to get a close up, in depth look into white people’s minds when they let their guards down and they have no idea that you’re looking.  Such was the case when I read “11 Things Only Parents of Boys Understand”.

Consider her thoughts on the #2 thing only parents of boys will understand:

2. Simultaneously hating and being grateful for the privilege your son will have as an adult male. This is a tough one. We all want our children to succeed and let’s be honest, males — particularly white males — have an advantage in the skewed world we live in. It’s easier for them. We don’t like it. We fight hard to change it. We rail against it with every fiber of our feminist being. But in the back of our minds, we breathe an uneasy sigh of relief that our boys will not struggle as hard as others. We hate ourselves for it, but we do it nonetheless.”

Ruh-Ro.  CLEARLY this chick was not speaking for any black parent of black boys I know.  All I could think was that THIS is how white privilege gets indoctrinated and perpetuated.

I’m struggling to make sense of Ralph’s thought process. Either she has been living under a rock and is completely ignorant to how offensive her admitted protection of, and indeed, perpetuation of, white male privilege is to mothers of sons of color or she is just that arrogant, insensitive and racist. Either one is unacceptable.

As the mother of two black, adult sons I can no longer protect my sons by holding their hand as they navigate this world which seems hell-bent on taking them out…one way or the other. That’s not Ms. Ralph’s problem. But her secret celebration of her sons’ privilege, which, truth be told, comes at the expense of my sons, is more than I can swallow.

“That Boy In Ferguson, MO”

Mike BrownRecently I attended a community event.  While trying to hold a conversation with an acquaintance, I was distracted by the conversation going on next to us between two white women.  I wasn’t eavesdropping.  Until.  Until I heard “that boy in Ferguson Missouri”.

THEN I was eavesdropping.  Which was incredibly rude to the person to whom I was already talking.  But I just knew the other conversation was going to be much more enlightening and interesting.

And it did not disappoint.

White Woman #1:  Did you hear that black people are still rioting over that boy in Ferguson, MO?

White Woman #2:  No, I stopped paying attention to that stuff.  Until all the facts come out, I think they’re just playing the race card to deflect from the fact that that boy was up to no good.  We all saw the video of him robbing that store.

White Woman #1:  I know.  It’s so crazy.  I. just. don’t. get. it.

No, you don’t get it.  And you know why a lot of white people don’t get it?  Because Michael Brown, and others like him, are so incredibly devalued by them that losing him MAY be acknowledged as unfortunate, but not as an injustice to humanity.  For some white people to “get it” in any meaningful way, they have to feel that an innocent person (who is not despised by them or at the very least seen as extraordinarily expendable) was wrongfully murdered. They have to relate to the person as someone who truly did not deserve to die on any level.  And it helps if they feel that it could have been them or someone they love.

Right now, I think many white people have stronger sympathetic emotions towards the adorable, innocent dogs killed on Michael Vick’s property than they do towards the “ignorant, ugly, poor, ghetto, dangerous black criminal” human being that Officer Darren Wilson had the misfortune of encountering on August 9th.

Some black person “worthy” of feeling a loss over will have to be killed by the police before droves of white people will speak out against racism corporately and in their personal lives.

Somebody like, you know, an Exceptional Nigger.

Black People Are Criminals

arrestedThat’s basically what NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the other day when he defended the inequalities in arrest rates of blacks and Latinos for minor crimes versus white people.  According to Commissioner Bratton, minorities are arrested more because they are the ones committing more crimes.  You can read the article here.

I could point out that his argument is a preposterous circular one.  The reason more minorities are arrested is because the NYPD (and the colleagues across this country) keep arresting more minorities.  It’s not that they’re committing more crime than white people.  It’s that they are arrested more often than white people.

But it is in fact true that there is a lot of crime in poor neighborhoods, and at least with respect to black neighborhoods, the high crime rate has created a frenzy about “black on black crime”.   Once again, victims of systemic oppression become the scapegoats for systemic discrimination and oppression.  I’ve written about this before.

Lately, I’ve been reading some of Dr. King’s lesser known speeches and have been amazed at how relevant his speeches are even still today (which, considering it’s 50 plus years later, is beyond troubling).  His speech at Western Michigan University in 1963 is particularly rich as it relates to black criminality.

“I read just the other day where someone in Mississippi said that God was a charter member of the White Citizens Council. These ideas still linger.  But on the whole, the Biblical justifications have passed away. The arguments are now on more subtle sociological cultural grounds. The Negro is not culturally ready for integration, the argument goes, and if you integrate the schools and other facilities, you will pull the white race back a generation. And the Negro is a criminal, you see. These arguments go on ad infinatum. The people who set forth these arguments never go on to say that if there are lagging standards in the Negro community, and there certainly are, they lag because of segregation and discrimination. Criminal responses and other things like this are environmental and not racial. Economic deprivation, social isolation, ignorance, poverty
breed crime, whatever the racial group may be, and it is a tortuous logic to use the tragic results of segregation as an argument for the continuation of it. There is a need to go for the causal root, to grapple with the problem at that point and to get rid of the notion once and for all that there are superior and inferior races. There are too many things alive in our nation and in our world to disprove this notion that has existed all too long. Then we’re challenged after working in the realm of ideas, to move out into the arena of social action and to work passionately and unrelentingly to make racial justice a reality. In other words, there is great need to develop an action program in order to remove all of the vestiges of the old order.”

We need an action program.   I’ve laid out necessary actions here and here.  More to come.

Mississippi Burning

If this doesn’t make you want to jump up and get every black person you know see registered to vote (AND make sure they actually go vote)…including Pookie and ‘nem…then I don’t know what will.  These people vote and then we (black folks) spend the next four years on a rampage about the legislators who not only don’t represent our interests, but in fact, specifically work against our interests.  WE are not these legislators’ tribe.  THESE folks in this video are.  Sure their ignorance makes us LOL.  But who’s laughing last?


What Were They Thinking?

“To paraphrase several sages: Nobody can think and hit someone at the same time.”  ~ Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

We started last week with domestic violence in the NFL, hit mid-stride with racism in the NBA and ended the week with child abuse in the NFL.  Contemplating these headlines over the weekend, several random thoughts came to mind in no particular order:

  • The NFL has a domestic violence problem that it is not handling well because it is putting profits over people and women and children aren’t important policy issues.
  • America has a domestic violence problem that it is not handling because it often puts profits over people and for sure, women and children aren’t important policy issues.
  • Ray Rice was dead wrong but shouldn’t be permanently banned from football.  He should be held accountable with required treatment and “probation” covering future incidents.
  • Ditto for Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald and any others that surface in the future.
  • Society needs to stop “victim shaming” by dragging Janay Rice through the mud for staying and marrying him.
  • Society needs to do more “perpetrator shaming” by outing abusive men and holding them accountable for their actions.
  • Federal Judge Mark Fuller should be permanently removed from the bench.  Federal judges have the ability to significantly impact people’s lives permanently.  He cannot be trusted with matters of justice – civil or criminal – when he himself is a criminal.  Removing him from the bench will take an act of Congress.  Literally.  He has to be impeached.  So I’m not holding my breath for that one.
  • The NFL has been schizophrenic in its handling of domestic violence among its players.
  • Society has been schizophrenic in its handling of domestic violence among is residents.
  • Adrian Peters deserves criminal prosecution for beating his 4 year old like that.  It was abuse.  Period.  No excuses.  No ifs ands or butts.  He should be held accountable for his actions.  But he shouldn’t be permanently banned from the league either.  Suspended indefinitely pending completion of domestic violence/child abuse counseling, parenting classes and mental health counseling…yes.
  • Ben Roethlisberger is notably being vewy, vewy quiet.  And he should.
  • I don’t care if your mama beat you when you were a kid and it was good for you because you would be dead or in prison if she hadn’t.  If she left lacerations, welps, scars and blood, then she abused you.  You may forgive her now as an adult, but you should NOT beat your own children.  Children need to be DISCIPLINED (and sometimes that may mean a spanking) but not ABUSED.  There is a difference, and it is not a fine line.
  • Danny Ferry’s leave and sensitivity training are the right thing.  I don’t think he should be fired for his comments–this time.   I’m all about accountability.
  • Mark Levenson outed himself and as the owner/leader of the team, I think he did right to step down.  Personally, I think it was a ploy to create controversy in order to draw potential buyers to the team because he wants out.  Some of have said that his comments were purely commentary about marketing strategies.  Yeah. Right.  Those marketing strategies sound eerily reminiscent of another marketing strategy: “We’re not racist, but we can’t sell our home to you because white people don’t want to live in neighborhoods with black people so if we sell to you, then our property values will go down.”  Marketing strategy my arse.
  • Roger Goodell has to go.  For so many reasons.  It’s easy to manage an organization when things are going well and whatever isn’t going well you just sweep under the carpet and ignore it and your customers (fans) love you.  Just keep making the owners “mo money, mo money, mo money” and keep pocketing your own $44mm annual salary (FORTY FOUR MILLION DOLLARS!).  But it takes real leadership to lead with integrity and proactively acknowledge and address the problems in your organization and come with a plan (a real plan) to address the issues in order not to hurt the brand or your loyal customers/fans AND to support your employees.  LEAD PROACTIVELY WITH INTEGRITY.  Roger has to go.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

LegislationPicI was reminded of Dr. King’s passage about the need for legislation when an acquaintance of mine said that we can’t fix police brutality with legislation because the problem is the police officers’ intrinsic bias towards black men.

Maybe we can’t fix their hearts.  But we can make them think twice about killing another unarmed black man.

“Now the other myth that gets around is the idea that legislation cannot really solve the problem and that it has no great role to play in this period of social change because you’ve got to change the heart and you can’t change the heart through legislation. You can’t legislate morals. The job must be done through education and religion. Well, there’s half-truth involved here. Certainly, if the problem is to be solved then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart. But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also. So there is a need for executive orders. There is a need for judicial decrees. There is a need for civil rights legislation on the local scale within states and on the national scale from the federal government.”  Dr. Martin L. King, 1963 at Western Michigan University

Rallies, marches, protests and civil disobedience are important tools in this new civil rights movement.  Indeed, the mobilization of a people demanding that which ought not even be in question – the basic dignity of recognition that #blacklivesmatter – is powerful and, I believe, effective.

To a point.  It brings awareness in ways that conversation cannot.  It makes the oppressor stand up and take notice.  Even if only out of nervousness.  But at the end of the day, we need legislation addressing police brutality.  We need legislation requiring that police departments wear front facing cameras and have dash cams in every squad car.  We need legislation requiring citizen review of police-involved shooting deaths.  All of them.  And we need legislation mandating uniform reporting of police shootings to state police departments as well as to the U.S. Department of Justice.

It won’t make rogue police officers believe that #blacklivesmatter.  But it just might tame those itchy trigger fingers.

We Need An Uprising

Wordle: RevoltLast month, I wrote a couple of posts (here and here) about black rage in connection with the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.  I didn’t condemn the rage black folks were feeling about Ferguson, MO then; and I’m not going to condemn it now.

In fact, I’m going to celebrate it.  Because we are tired of being patient.  And I think that rage was necessary to bring us to where we are today.  We are at the precipice of an uprising.  The edge of an uprising if you will.

And it’s about time.

While rage is irrational and often unproductive, it has quite possibly moved us beyond thinking of Ferguson, Mo as being solely about Mike Brown.  It appears that we have turned the corner (and if we aren’t quite there yet, I’m absolutely suggesting we get there. Now.) so that Ferguson, MO is now about the dignity of black lives all over this country.  We are at the point where we demand that the world recognize that #blacklivesmatter.  We are sick and tired of it, and we’re not going to take it anymore.  “It” means, for starters, we’re not taking police officers killing black men at a rate of 1 every 28 hours anymore.

It’s time for an uprising: an act of resistance or rebellion; a revolt.

I’m not proposing a physically violent revolt or rebellion.  I’m proposing a psychologically violent revolt.  By that I mean that our patience has ended.  We have to demand the end to the daily police brutality against black men.  We have to demand that racial profiling end.  We have to insist that the police stop beating, maiming and killing us.

Every time we are killed by the police, our souls are traumatized.  Our mental state is thrown out of equilibrium.  Our blood pressure rises, our hearts race, our temples pulse.  That is extremely stressful and distressing and takes a toll on our psyche, not to mention the toll on our physical health.  It’s time to give it right back.  We have to return the same level of distress to the collective psyche of police departments and communities around this country.  They have to know that we will mobilize in a “Mike Brown Minute”.  Everywhere.  Wherever they misbehave, we have to mobilize.  Wherever there is evidence that a “Ferguson” exists anywhere in this country, we have to turn our collective attention there.

We need feet on the ground.  We need to ambush legislators with letters and emails.  We need to be that city government power structure’s worst nightmare.  We need to demand media coverage.  We need to create our own coverage via the strength of our pooled social media.  We need a full court press.  We need an uprising.  I described it in more detail here.

Psychological warfare is not for the faint of heart.  But confining our angst to kitchen table conversations and Twitter isn’t enough.  And losing the momentum we have right now by limiting our rage to the Mike Brown tragedy diminishes us all.

#Blacklivesmatter.  All of them.  So don’t mistake the meaning of Ferguson.  It represents our collective message to this country…indeed the world:

We’re mad and we’re not gonna take anymore.

You did not die in vain Mike.  None of you did.