Whiteness has its benefits

Black backround with the words 'Black Lives Matter' in large, bold, white letters.
Its time the justice system realized this.

50-year-old  Patrick Harmon  (an African-American male) was executed by Salt Lake City police officers on August 13. Harmon, who was riding his bicycle when at the time, was pulled over by a police officer who claimed Harmon crossed six lanes and was missing his required red tail light. He wasn’t killed for the infraction, which surprises me, given the trigger happy, racist cops we have in this country.  Initially calm, Harmon became increasingly agitated, especially when backup arrived and his record was pulled. It was pretty much all over at that point, bc the officers discovered Harmon had felony warrants out in his name (for aggravated assault), and proceeded to arrest him.  Upset, Harmon turned away from the three police officers and bolted. Unfortunately for Harmon, one of our country’s finest (Clinton Fox, who decided to wear his Judge-Jury-Executioner hat) can be heard saying “I’ll fucking shoot you!”  Three shots later, he does just that. If you’re a reasonable person looking for a justification for this extrajudicial murder by cop, you aren’t likely to find it. There is nothing in the video that offers a justification for him opening fire. Take a look:

Best I can figure, the thought of shooting a fleeing Black man in the back was too intoxicating for Officer Clinton Fox to pass up. In his defense, he (and the other officers) did say ::yawn:: he felt his life was in danger, bc a Black man who runs fast is deadly (someone ought to warn Usain Bolt).   I mean, I guess its possible.  You just need to get hit by a bolt of lightning and a bunch of unknown chemicals and develop super speed (instead of dying). That should enable you to run several hundred mph and leave a cloud of dust in the faces of people that look at Black people and think “target practice”. Their eyes might get cloudy and itchy. Maybe even start to water (which would be more tears than they show when they kill Black people). Heck, they might even begin coughing heavily.  Under those somewhat…unlikely circumstances…I can see how that might be a potential threat to their lives.
That’s not how it went down though. Officer Happy-Go-Murder claimed that Harmon threatened one of them with a knife, which–HEY, maybe he did have superpowers, bc the video shows that he was running away from them and didn’t have a knife. It will surprise no one to know that the D.A.’s office sided with the murderous cop and released a photo of a knife supposedly found at the scene (which, even if he had a knife, the video shows him doing…what again? Oh–running, not stabbing). In a revelation that is sure to shock people, the D.A. dropped the charges against Officer Shooty McKill-A-Negro.  Then, mysteriously, the above video of the incident was released. Said video does not corroborate their version of events. But why let something pesky like the truth get in the way of letting yet another cop get away with killing a Black person? Not when “I feared for my life” can be used once again to excuse the lynching of another Black body.
Sometimes, however, police cam footage comes in handy, and the victims of police brutality are exonerated, rather than executed. Of course to survive such an encounter, they have to have certain ::ahem:: privileges. Privileges like whiteness.

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Whiteness has its benefits
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National Burn It All Down Day

Meow.

Krakoom!

Meow.

Krakoom!

Meow!

I woke to two sounds. To my cat, sitting on my chest meowing as if to say “wake up and feed me ya lazy bum”. This was a new experience for me. Although I’ve had Cassie for more than 8 years, she never sleeps in my room with me. Mostly bc I didn’t want cat hair all over my clothes, but also, I like my sleep. The idea of having a four-legged feline alarm clock wake me every morning isn’t appealing. Still, I just got her back from the veterinarian after having a serious health scare and I wanted to monitor her closely. So I bit the bullet and let her into my sanctum (which she promptly took over, taking half the bed at times, and leaving me with only two pillows, rather than my customary three). Her comfort is important and she seems to appreciate having me at her beck and call.

The other sound came from my laptop. You might be thinking that the sound ‘Krakoom’ on a laptop was a bad thing, but it is not. Those ‘Krakooms’ are nothing more than the sound of thunder from a Youtube video playing ‘Soothing Thunderstorm’. I find the sound of thunder and rainfall relaxing; the sounds enable me to relax and drift to sleep with ease. Without such sounds, I find it difficult to sleep. I hear the crickets outside. I hear the snoring of the dogs one room over. The traffic on the street near the house can be heard. Such sounds…such erratic sounds annoy the fuck out of me, making it difficult to relax. Such is the curse of having good hearing. Good hearing is a good thing in the right context. After all, I’ve been complimented on my hearing multiple times in the past by guests at my bar (back when I was gainfully employed). Patrons appreciate having someone who overhears-however unintentionally-their drink order and begins preparation before they’ve even said ‘hello’. But that’s a radically different context than trying to sleep. When it’s time to sleep, I need no extraneous sound. I need the equivalent of white noise-a consistent, soothing sound.

Cat fed, I proceeded to feed myself. And check the dogs. And hydrate myself. Once those tasks were done, I began to ponder what to accomplish today. Before making a ‘to do’ list, though, I decided to open Facebook and see what was going on with my friends and in the world.

That would prove to be a mistake.

Because three stories in and I was reminded how little African-Americans are valued in this country.

Three stories in an I’m reminded how little justice there is for African-Americans in the United States.

Three stories in and I’m ready to declare today ‘National Burn It All Down’ Day.

BLACK-LIVES-MATTER

Continue reading “National Burn It All Down Day”

National Burn It All Down Day

Black Lives Matter? Not to NBC

During a recent appearance on NBC’s Today, singer Janelle Monáe performed her songs ‘Yoga’ and ‘Tightrope. Along with several labelmates (including Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, Deep Cotton, St. Beauty, and George 2.0)  she also performed a new song, ‘Hell You Talmabout’. ‘Hell You Talmabout’ is an amazingly powerful song. It literally gave me goosebumps. The song is a protest song in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It features a series of chants naming many African-Americans who have had their lives stolen as a result of systemic racism. Eric Garner. John Crawford III. Trayvon Martin. Emmett Till. Freddie Gray, Jr. Michael Brown, Jr. Walter Scott. These are some of the names featured in the song. I’ll be honest, while the song affected me powerfully, I was worried for a few minutes that the focus would only be upon African-American men. It is a significant concern because the deaths of African-American women as a result of police brutality are often downplayed in the media. I’m happy to say that several minutes into the song, the names Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Sandra Bland, Miriam Carey, and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton were also featured, which allayed my fears, and allowed me to enjoy the song without regret (because funny me, when I say Black Lives Matter, I’m talking about *all* black lives and last I checked black women are part of that group).  I can’t embed the video of her Today performance, but it can be viewed here. Here is a YouTube video of the song at the kickoff night of the Eephus Tour at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, PA (it’s fine, but I prefer the Today version).

Continue reading “Black Lives Matter? Not to NBC”

Black Lives Matter? Not to NBC

Another phrase that irks me

Yesterday I discussed how much I want to take a certain phrase out back, put a stake through its heart, chop its head off, and burn the body. Today I’m going to share another one that irritates the holy heck out of me. This time though, I’ll skip the guessing game and get down to it.

I hate reading or hearing “I don’t see race”

 

On the one year anniversary of the execution of Michael Brown, Jr. an article at CNN takes a look at the views of several residents of Ferguson, Missouri. The perspectives on display are intriguing, and I think the article is worth reading just to get inside the heads of Ferguson residents. But one of those residents was a police officer who said she “doesn’t see race”:

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Another phrase that irks me

Michael Brown, Jr. was killed a year ago today

 

Note:

Today is the one-year anniversary of the execution of Michael Brown, Jr at the hands of ex-police officer Darren Wilson.

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Michael Brown, Jr. was killed a year ago today

Black Lives Matter, all of them (Content Note: Transphobia)

In response to the 2012 acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, Patrice Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi created the Black Lives Matter movement. Their goal was to address the multiple forms of systemic racism within the United States and to protest the injustices African-Americans continue to feel living within a racist system. They sought an inclusive movement-one that spoke to the needs of all black people:

Continue reading “Black Lives Matter, all of them (Content Note: Transphobia)”

Black Lives Matter, all of them (Content Note: Transphobia)

Black lives are devalued in Barstow, California

A woman in Barstow, California found herself wrestled to the ground and arrested in the wake of a traffic dispute. The dispute involved an unidentified white woman and Charlena Michelle Cooks, an African-American woman who was pregnant at the time of the incident. Here’s the video:

In police body camera video obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), an officer is responding to an apparent traffic dispute between Charlena Michelle Cooks, who is 8 months pregnant and black, and an unidentified white woman.

The officer first talks to the white woman, who accuses Cooks of acting “all crazy.”

“I don’t see a crime that has been committed,” the officer admits after examining the woman’s car. After promising the woman a police report, the officer heads over to talk to Cooks.

Cooks explains that the argument occurred because the woman disagreed with the way she was driving in the parking lot. Cooks also said that the woman frightened her daughter, who was in second grade.

“She called the police for whatever reason, I don’t know,” Cooks says. “Should I feel threatened by her because she’s white? Because she’s white and she’s making threats to me?”

At that point the officer asks for Cooks’ name, but she insists that she does not have to tell him.

“I actually do have the right to ask you for your name,” the officer replies.

I wonder-did the officer ask the white woman to identify herself, or was this request made only of Cooks?

“Let me make sure,” Cooks says as she makes a phone call to someone.

The officer says he will give Cooks two minutes to verify his right to ask for her identification. But less than 20 seconds later, the officer and a colleague are performing a painful wristlock takedown on Cooks. The pregnant woman screams as she is forced belly first into the ground.

Translation: “I know I said I’d give her 2 minutes to verify, but my life was threatened by a pregnant black woman talking on the phone. Do you hear me?! My life was threatened! No, I don’t have to justify my fear. I’m a cop. We don’t have to do that.”

“Why are you resisting?” the officer demands.

Oh, I don’t know, maybe she was resisting because she was in a painful wristlock and was forced belly first onto the ground, which isn’t something many pregnant women are likely to be comfortable with. Y’know, given the actions of this cop, the forced birthers should be out in droves supporting Cooks. After all, assaulting her could have harmed the fetus.  And we know how concerned they are for fetuses.

ACLU SoCal staff attorney Adrienna Wong pointed out that Cooks had a right to refuse to show her ID.

“It would be a wrongful arrest, but it would be an arrest,” she noted. “Even if an officer is conducting an investigation, in California, unlike some other states, he can’t just require a person to provide ID for no reason.”

Interesting. At least one cop in Barstow is unaware of a law that he ought to be knowledgeable of.

ACLU SoCal staff attorney Jessica Price observed that Cooks, who is black, was handled very differently than the white woman.

Happens quite a bit in this country. Why, it’s almost like the lives of black people aren’t valued as much as the lives of white people.

“Imagine getting wrestled to the ground and handcuffed in front of your child’s elementary school,” Price remarked. “Imagine interacting with other parents afterwards. Imagine what kids who saw the incident tell your child. And if you think the whole incident happened because of your race, how does that impact your view of police?”

Oooh, I know!

It might cause you to distrust the police more than you already do.

The charges of resisting arrest against Cooks were also dropped, but the city insisted that it acted properly in that case.

“The Barstow Police Department continues to be proactive in training its officers to assess and handle interactions with emotionally charged individuals while conducting an investigation, for the protection of everyone involved,” the city said in a statement.

“This incident was in no way racially motivated, as implied by the ACLU,” the statement said. “Barstow is a racially diverse community, as is our Police Department, and we affirm our Police Department’s commitment to protect and serve all of our residents.”

It’s proper to detain a citizen for no apparent reason, demand they identify themselves for no apparent reason, use a painful takedown maneuver on them for no apparent reason, and then wrestle them to the ground for no apparent reason?  If that’s proper and not racially motivated, why was the white woman treated differently?

To make matters worse, Cooks was banned from her daughter’s school until the charges were dismissed. She said that she has not decided whether or not she wants to sue the city. But ultimately, her goal is to move out of Barstow as soon as possible.

“I’m still trying to process everything and get in a good state of mind,” she told the Desert Dispatch. “I’m in a very fearful state of mind. Barstow is so small and I used to be comfortable living here. Not anymore. I really felt like after all that happened I had some of my everyday freedoms taken from me.”

Sadly, that’s what happened. Your freedom to move about in the public was infringed upon by the state for absolutely no fucking reason.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been that terrified in my life,” Cooks continued. “I never saw that coming. I told him I was pregnant so he could proceed with caution. That didn’t happen and the first thing I thought was I didn’t want to fall to the ground. I felt the pressure on my stomach from falling and I was calling for help. But those guys are supposed to help me. But who is supposed to help me when they are attacking me?”

And that’s one of the scariest things for many African-Americans terrorized by law enforcement officials. There’s nowhere for them to turn to. No one to help them. And that includes the courts. Sure, victims of police brutality and harassment can sue the city. They often win such cases too, but that doesn’t ensure that they’re safe from police harassment and brutality in the future.

Btw, if the Barstow PD thinks that is protecting and serving their residents, they have a warped view of what it means to serve and protect. Or maybe they devalue the lives of black people. Or both.

Black lives are devalued in Barstow, California

Chaos has not engulfed Baltimore

On April 4, 1968 civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. His death outraged African-Americans across the country and was the inciting event that led to riots in several major U.S. cities including Chicago, Louisville, Kansas City, Washington D.C., and Baltimore. While King’s death was the proximate cause of the riots, in cities like Baltimore, years of economic inequality, high infant mortality, above average unemployment (compared to the national rate), and sub-par housing contributed to the anger and frustration felt by Black Baltimoreans. That frustration and anger provided the fuel that sustained riots in Baltimore from April 6-14 in the spring of ’68.

47 years later, civil unrest has once again come to the city of Baltimore, and once again, the catalyst for the unrest has been the death of an African-American male. On April 12, 2015, Baltimore police arrested Freddie Gray, Jr. after (I kid you not) he gave them a look and started running. Police reports claim his arrest was for possession of a switch blade (I didn’t know it was illegal to possess one in Baltimore). During transport Gray somehow fell into a coma and was eventually taken to a trauma center where injuries to his spinal cord and larynx were discovered. Gray died on April 19 as a result of these injuries. Although he was struggling to walk when he was arrested, he showed no signs of other injury, and the official police report states that the officers involved did not use force. Somehow he incurred damage to his spinal cord and larynx between his arrest and his admission to the trauma center (despite reports to the contrary, Gray did not have a pre-existing spinal injury). As he was in police custody during this time, it is highly likely that the police officers involved know more than they’re saying (it’s possible Gray sustained his injuries as a result of a rough ride). While some news outlets hint that Gray’s injuries were self-sustained, I find that quite implausible (and so does Gray’s family). Baltimore authorities have released little information regarding the events surrounding the death of Gray, claiming that it is important to allow the investigation to run its course. City officials have also said that they will not release the results of their investigation when it is completed on May 1.

With so little information released by city officials, many questions regarding Gray’s death remain unanswered. How did he sustain his injuries? Did they occur before or during his time in police custody? Were the officers involved aware of his injuries? Did the officers involved cause his injuries? Why were his hands cuffed and his legs in irons, yet he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt during transport? Why did the police chase him to begin with? Why did the police arrest him? With no answer to these questions, many African-Americans have become frustrated and suspect that a cover-up is underway. That frustration is fed in no small part by ongoing outrage over the unjust criminal justice system in the United States. That outrage fueled the creation of #BlackLivesMatter, a civil rights movement founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in the wake of the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.  The goal of the BLM is to raise awareness of and broaden the conversation surrounding state sanctioned violence against African-Americans. In their words:

When we say Black Lives Matter, we are broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state.  We are talking about the ways in which Black lives are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity.  How Black poverty and genocide is state violence.  How 2.8 million Black people are locked in cages in this country is state violence.  How Black women bearing the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families is state violence.  How Black queer and trans folks bear a unique burden from a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us, and that is state violence.  How 500,000 Black people in the US are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows. How Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war.  How Black folks living with disabilities and different abilities bear the burden of state sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by white supremacy, and that is state violence.

#BlackLivesMatter is working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.  We affirm our contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.  We have put our sweat equity and love for Black people into creating a political project–taking the hashtag off of social media and into the streets. The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation.

In the wake of Gray’s death, protests began in Baltimore (ostensibly under the banner of #BLM). Initially the protests received little coverage from the mainstream media. Apparently, it isn’t news when an African-American man in police custody later dies under mysterious circumstances. On April 25, a small number of protesters became violent and hurled rocks at police officers and that’s when the MSM took note. The coverage of the protests focused on the relatively minor incidences of civil unrest, serving to paint a decidedly negative image of the protesters in the eyes of many USAmericans. Headlines like USA Today’s ‘Baltimore police say Freddie Gray protest turns destructive‘, TIME’s ‘Baltimore Riots: Instagram videos show violence, looting, unrest‘, CBS’s ‘Calls for calm amid rioting, chaos in Baltimore‘, CNN’s ‘Baltimore riot video shows liquor store on fire, chaos‘, and CNBC’s ‘Chaos in Baltimore: what you need to know‘ have helped perpetuate the idea that the protests in Baltimore are violent, chaotic, and city-wide. Two images courtesy of Vocativ dispel that notion:

The smaller scale of the 2015 civil unrest in Baltimore belies the claim that the city was engulfed in chaos, and yet many media sources chose attention-grabbing headlines that imply the opposite. AJ Woodson of Black Westchester warns people not to fall for the media narrative surrounding the protests:

As you read most of the nationwide coverage, the various news media and websites do admit that most of the protesters were peaceful as you read further down their stories, despite the attention grabbing headlines that speaks of only the violence, destruction and criminal mischief of a few. Unfortunately there will always be a few agitators in any crowd this size. Some of which are purposely positioned among the peaceful protesters for just that reason.

After what has been going on with black men being killed nationwide without any justice taking place even after grand juries, video evidence, incidences being ruled homicide by medical examiners, No officers go to jail, very few cops lose their job and the Ferguson officer who killed Mike Brown was allowed to retire and protect his pension, there is a sense of frustration in these protests, yes!

What happened in the streets of Ferguson was worst by comparison. But let’s be very clear, the scene the media is describing, the picture being painted with all headlines are something no one, I repeat NO ONE wants to see. What they’re showing you are the actions of 100 or so people, there were 10,000 people there, and despite some of the headlines, and you can see by the pictures below all the protesters were not black and out of control. And despite what a local pastor would have you believe, some of those who were acting up the most were doing so before those (he called outsiders), who came to town in support showed up.

Words have power, they create perceptions that make other actions possible and allow the most outrageous of  explanations why they kill black people believable and acceptable by other groups of people. Let’ be clear here, NO ONE wants to truly see Scenes of Chaos: 1,000’s of Frenzied Protesters Rioting In Baltimore, the city would truly still be burning. But they media will show the worst or the worst, you know if it bleeds it leads. It’s true it’s great for ratings which leads to heavy advertising revenue, but it is not good for our community or the race relations nationwide.

Just like the media takes the liberty to show the worst of the worst like they did in Baltimore, I am taking the liberty to show the worst of the worst in their reporting and calling them out. It’s important to not allow the mass media to distort the narrative and take away from the message of this fight for justice.

What they don’t report was there were, “Muslims, Christians, Jews, Blacks, Whites, Asians, Young and Old, Rich and Poor people all united and standing harmoniously against common oppression,” shared one of the organizers Frank ‘Sha’ Francois. The demonstration was sponsored by a wide coalition of social justice groups, including Malik Shabazz of Black Lawyers For Justice (BLFJ), Carl Dix of Stop Mass Incarceration (SMIN) and brother Ted Freedomfighter Sutton of Sutton House, just to name a few who came in support of their brothers and sisters in Baltimore. Support for justice of Freddie Gray, 25, who was arrested one week ago, in West Baltimore. Who died on April 19th, from injuries sustained while he was in police custody.

Contrary to news reports from many sources, the story out of Baltimore is not ‘police were hit by rocks‘, ‘a CVS store burned to the ground in an act of arson‘, or ‘protesters became violent‘*. Yes, there were pockets of violence and property damage. Yes, roughly 15 police officers were injured and a CVS was destroyed. The CVS can be rebuilt, and the officers are still among the living. The same cannot be said of Freddie Gray, Jr, who joins a growing list of African-Americans killed in fatal police encounters including Michael Brown, Jr., Rekia Boyd, Walter Scott, Tanisha Anderson, Shelly Frey, Eric Garner, Alesia Thomas, John Crawford III, Rumain Brisbon, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Kajieme Powell, Ezell Ford, Malissa Williams, Dante Parker, Yvette Smith, Miriam Carey, Shereese Francis and many more. The real story is one the mainstream media has largely failed to address: the failure of the U.S. criminal justice system to treat People of Color-especially African-Americans-equitably.

Let me be clear here: I do not condone the civil unrest. I recognize that there are people who suffer emotionally and financially when their property is destroyed. At the same time, I do not fully condemn the civil unrest because I understand that it is the last option open to an oppressed people who have had their lives and their rights trampled upon by an unjust criminal justice system enabled by the government. When black person after black person continues to be the victim of disproportionately harsh sentencing laws, racial profiling, and police brutality…when peaceful protests and lobbying politicians doesn’t work…when writing and blogging and being an activist does not work to change the system-what then? What is left? How can positive change be accomplished when all other avenues have been exhausted?  It is this understanding that led Martin Luther King, Jr. to say the following about riots:

Urban riots must now be recognized as durable social phenomena. They may be deplored, but they are there and should be understood. Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community. They are a distorted form of social protest. The looting which is their principal feature serves many functions. It enables the most enraged and deprived Negro to take hold of consumer goods with the ease the white man does by using his purse. Often the Negro does not even want what he takes; he wants the experience of taking. But most of all, alienated from society and knowing that this society cherishes property above people, he is shocking it by abusing property rights. There are thus elements of emotional catharsis in the violent act. This may explain why most cities in which riots have occurred have not had a repetition, even though the causative conditions remain. It is also noteworthy that the amount of physical harm done to white people other than police is infinitesimal and in Detroit whites and Negroes looted in unity.

A profound judgment of today’s riots was expressed by Victor Hugo a century ago. He said, ‘If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.’

The policymakers of the white society have caused the darkness; they create discrimination; they structured slums; and they perpetuate unemployment, ignorance and poverty. It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society. When we ask Negroes to abide by the law, let us also demand that the white man abide by law in the ghettos. Day-in and day-out he violates welfare laws to deprive the poor of their meager allotments; he flagrantly violates building codes and regulations; his police make a mockery of law; and he violates laws on equal employment and education and the provisions for civic services. The slums are the handiwork of a vicious system of the white society; Negroes live in them but do not make them any more than a prisoner makes a prison. Let us say boldly that if the violations of law by the white man in the slums over the years were calculated and compared with the law-breaking of a few days of riots, the hardened criminal would be the white man. These are often difficult things to say but I have come to see more and more that it is necessary to utter the truth in order to deal with the great problems that we face in our society.

The outrage felt by African-Americans is the result of centuries of discrimination, oppression, disenfranchisement, and economic inequality that sustains the engine of white supremacy. USAmericans must confront the deadly legacy of racism this country was founded upon and continues to benefit from (with an eye to demolishing that system) even if it means white USAmericans lose a bit of privilege. Until then, equality for all citizens will continue to be nothing more than a dream for all but a privileged few.


*For the pearl clutchers concerned about property damage, I have two things to say:

  1. Your priorities are deeply screwed up. You’re hand-wringing over property damage, but where is your concern for black lives? Why are you not outraged over the mass incarceration of black bodies? Why aren’t you similarly angry over the disproportionate levels of police brutality experienced by African-Americans? Why do you care so much more for property than human beings?
  2. Given your concern for property, if you would focus your attention on dismantling the engine of white supremacy, fewer and fewer African-Americans will reach the point of desperation whereupon they choose to engage in civil unrest.
Chaos has not engulfed Baltimore

Conservative columnist is egregiously wrong

Conservative ideology is so often based on misrepresentation, half-truths, outright falsehoods, and appeals to mythical sky daddies (and where you find conservative ideology, you frequently find sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of bigotry). From their claims that Trickle Down Economics is a reasonable economic concept for anyone who is not uber-wealthy, to their opposition to public assistance programs which keep millions of people from living in far worse poverty than they already are, to their claims that marriage equality will bring about the downfall of USAmerica, to their claims that trans women are really just men who want to attack girls and women in public restrooms, to their warmongering, to their…you get the point by now.

One topic I’ve found conservatives to be consistently wrong on?

Abortion.

Conservative columnist J. Kenneth Blackwell of The Washington Times is no exception. In a recent column, titled ‘Aborting Black America‘, Blackwell complains that the focus of the Black Lives Matter Movement is misplaced.

“Black lives matter” has become the slogan of anti-police protests across the nation, but the target of the protests is so misplaced that the motives of the so-called civil rights leaders behind the movement must be questioned. Do they really care about black lives? Or are they cynically exploiting isolated incidents, such as the death of Michael Brown, to inflame the black population and advance their own political interests?

Today, on the somber anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, it’s time for black leaders to face up to the real danger threatening black lives in America. It isn’t the police. According to an anti-police brutality organization, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, 313 blacks were killed by “police, security guards and vigilantes” in 2013. It isn’t even black criminals, who, as Rudy Giuliani famously pointed out on “Meet the Press,” are responsible for 93 percent of violent deaths among blacks. Sources estimate that between 6,000 and 8,000 blacks are murdered each year.

Blackwell clearly doesn’t understand what the Black Lives Matter Movement is about. While not everyone in the movement shares exactly the same goals (imagine that), one of the primary objectives of the activists is the reform of the criminal justice system. Contained within that are other goals, such as:

  • greater accountability of police officers
  • a significant reduction in police brutality and the use of excessive force
  • a end to racist policies like Stop & Frisk, Broken Windows, and jump-outs
  • greater police transparency
  • sensitivity training of police officers in the hope that they base fewer of their decisions on unconscious stereotypes
  • an elimination of the wartime mentality adopted by many police departments across the country
  • an end to the 1033 program by which police departments acquire military-grade equipment
  • a retraining of USAmerica’s lawyers and judges so that they have a greater understanding of how racial biases against People of Color affect the outcome of courtroom decisions
  • a fairer approach to policing that doesn’t disproportionately target People of Color

(the above is not intended to be a comprehensive list)

Note that none of those goals are anti-police. Given the sheer number of people in the movement, there are bound to be some who are anti-police. Overall though, the Black Lives Matter Movement is not anti-police. Blackwell would know this if he actually researched the topic he’s discussing. If he did, he might turn up something like, oh, this:

I created #BlackLivesMatter with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, two of my sisters, as a call to action for Black people after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was post-humously placed on trial for his own murder and the killer, George Zimmerman, was not held accountable for the crime he committed. It was a response to the anti-Black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately, our movements.

Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.  It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

Alicia Garza (pictured above) is one of three women who created the Black Lives Movement. She is also someone this blogger would like to meet one day.

Then of course, he trots out that tired, well-worn cliché of black-on-black violence (I notice he both conflates violence with murder and offers no sources for his 6,000-8,000 figure). It’s more of a myth than a cliché, actually. While it is true that 93-94% of Black victims were killed by Black offenders, 84% of white victims were killed by white offenders. Blackwell dishonestly focuses on black-on-black murders, possibly in an attempt to make it appear as if Black America has some unique problem, while ignoring the fact that murder is intraracial.

Not content to simply misinform his readers about violence and murder statistics in the African-American community, Blackwell decides to show he’s also ignorant about biology:

No, the greatest danger to blacks is found precisely where we ought to be safest: in our mothers’ wombs. In 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 138,539 black babies were aborted.

That should read 138,539 black fetuses (or embryos depending on what stage of development they were in when the pregnancy was terminated). After all, babies are born. Yes, laypeople use the term baby interchangeably with fetus, but from a medical perspective, they are not the same thing. Within the womb of a pregnant woman, the correct term (after 8 weeks of gestation) is a fetus. Once they are born and exist outside the womb (and not infringing on the bodily autonomy of the pregnant woman), they are called newborns, infants, and yes, babies.

This is an image of a 4 week old embryo. Not a baby.
Baby.
An image of a 20-week old fetus in 2D and 4D. Notice how it’s still in the womb? Not a baby.
Baby. See how this works?

Even Wikipedia gets it right:

An infant (from the Latin word infans, meaning “unable to speak” or “speechless”) is the very young offspring of a human or animal. When applied to humans, the term is usually considered synonymous with baby or bairn (Scotland), but the latter is commonly applied to the young of any animal. When a human child learns to walk, the term toddler may be used instead.

The term infant is typically applied to young children between the ages of 1 month and 12 months; however, definitions may vary between birth and 1 year of age, or even between birth and 2 years of age. A newborn is an infant who is only hours, days, or up to a few weeks old. In medical contexts, newborn or neonate (from Latin, neonatus, newborn) refers to an infant in the first 28 days after birth; the term applies to premature infants, postmature infants, and full term infants. Before birth, the term fetus is used.

Moving on, Blackwell says:

Thankfully, abortion is on the decline in America, down 3 percent between 2007 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Strikingly, the number of surgical abortion clinics has plummeted, from 2,176 in 1991 to 551 today. Nevertheless, the CDC report that in 2010, a staggering 765,651 abortions were performed in the United States. Black women continue to have the highest abortion rate of any ethnic group, with a gruesome 483 abortions for every 1,000 live births.

Note his use of the emotionally loaded term gruesome. He’s clearly pandering to his audience, a readership that likely agrees with his views on abortion. I wonder if he’s aware that onerous regulations placed upon abortion clinics by anti-choice politicians have been the reason these clinics have closed down? In Texas alone, more than 80% of abortion clinics have been forced to close in the last few years thanks to laws ostensibly meant to protect women and children, but which, in reality make their lives increasingly more difficult. Even if he knows about statistics like that, I imagine he’s happy. After all, we’re talking about someone opposed to abortion and who doesn’t care whether a woman wants to be pregnant or not. Oh, and if Blackwell is so concerned about African-American women terminating their pregnancies (which he really shouldn’t be, that’s a medical decision between the woman and her healthcare provider, it’s none of his goddamn business), then he should look into the reasons why Black women are seeking abortions.  According to a 2008 Guttmacher report:

This much is true: In the United States, the abortion rate for black women is almost five times that for white women. Antiabortion activists, including some African-American pastors, have been waging a campaign around this fact, falsely asserting that the disparity is the result of aggressive marketing by abortion providers to minority communities.

The Issues4Life Foundation, for example, is a faith-based organization that targets and works with African-American leaders toward achieving the goal of “zero African-American lives lost to abortion or biotechnology.” In April, Issues4Life wrote to the Congressional Black Caucus to denounce Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its “racist and eugenic goals.” The group blamed PPFA and abortion providers in general for the high abortion rate in the African-American community—deeming the situation the “Da[r]fur of America”—and called on Congress to withdraw federal family planning funds from all PPFA affiliates.

These activists are exploiting and distorting the facts to serve their antiabortion agenda. They ignore the fundamental reason women have abortions and the underlying problem of racial and ethnic disparities across an array of health indicators. The truth is that behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy. This applies to all women—black, white, Hispanic, Asian and Native American alike. Not surprisingly, the variation in abortion rates across racial and ethnic groups relates directly to the variation in the unintended pregnancy rates across those same groups.

Black women are not alone in having disproportionately high unintended pregnancy and abortion rates. The abortion rate among Hispanic women, for example, although not as high as the rate among black women, is double the rate among whites. Hispanics also have a higher level of unintended pregnancy than white women. Black women’s unintended pregnancy rates are the highest of all. These higher unintended pregnancy rates reflect the particular difficulties that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using their chosen method of birth control consistently and effectively over long periods of time. Moreover, these realities must be seen in a larger context in which significant racial and ethnic disparities persist for a wide range of health outcomes, from diabetes to heart disease to breast and cervical cancer to sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV.

Holy factual information Batman!

Do you mean to tell me that if African-American women had greater and easier access to contraception the need for abortion services might not be so great? Someone let J. Kenneth Blackwell know so that he working tirelessly to ensure African-American women have access to affordable contraception, thereby reducing the number of abortions, something he is clearly worried about.

Blackwell continues with:

The bottom line? I’ll say it again: 138,539 black babies, nearly one baby in three, were killed in the womb in 2010. According to the CDC, between 2007 and 2010, innocent black babies were victimized in nearly 36 percent of the abortion deaths in the United States, though blacks represent only 12.8 percent of the population. Some say the abortion capital of America is New York City. According to LifeSiteNews, the city’s Department of Health reported that in 2012, more black babies were aborted (31,328) than born (24,758). That’s 55.9 percent of black babies killed before birth. Blacks represented 42.4 percent of all abortions.

He really is worried about the number of abortions African-American women are having. I wonder how much he actually cares about these fetuses though. Does he support paid maternity leave so that pregnant women can take time off after they give birth and not stress about a lack of income? Does he support universal child care so that new mothers can reenter the workforce and provide for their children while having the comfort of knowing that their child will be cared for? Does he support a robust social safety net so that low-income mothers who are jobless can provide for their children? Does he support vaccinations for children? There is far more to supporting women and children than whining about the termination of fetuses.

If I sound a bit callous with regard to fetuses, it is, to a degree, intentional. I support the right of all women to make their own decisions regarding their reproductive health. That means I support a woman who chooses to carry a fetus to term (in which case, I hope for the best for both the woman and her fetus) just as much as I support a woman who wants to end her pregnancy (in which case, I’m not concerned about a fetus). My primary concern (as should everyone else’s) is with the needs of the woman in the situation. She is an existing person. She has hopes, dreams, fears, desires, emotions, intelligence, and all the other markers of being a human person, which is something that a fetus does not have. True, a fetus is biologically human, but it is not a human person. None of the qualities of personhood apply to a fetus. Nor should they. When anti-abortion advocates call for fetal personhood measures they either don’t know or don’t care (I suspect the latter) that a living, breathing human being will be forced to carry a fetus to term. They don’t know or don’t care that such personhood measures mean that the needs and desires of the pregnant woman would become secondary to the “needs” and “desires” of a fetus. Since fetuses are not self-aware and have no needs and desires (not in the sense that an extant human being does), who is going to determine what is best for them? A bunch of male politicians (and a few female ones too) who think they have the right to determine the conduct of a pregnant woman?! I find that loathsome.

Now, where were we?

Legalized abortion is working out exactly as Margaret Sanger intended. Sanger, the founder of the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, was part of the eugenics movement back in the 1930s. Her goal was to use abortion to cull what she considered inferior races from the human gene pool. According to Sanger, “Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated.” She opened her first abortion clinics in inner cities, and it’s no accident that even today, “79 percent of Planned Parenthood’s abortion facilities are located in black or minority neighborhoods.”

Searching for the source of the Margaret Sanger quote turns up a 2006 book (available on Amazon) called The Pivot of Civilization. Not having read the book, I can neither confirm nor deny that she actually said that. If she did, then yes, that’s pretty fucking racist.  If she didn’t then this would be another case of a conservative fabricating information to fit an agenda (or perhaps taking information out of context). That comment aside (because it isn’t relevant to whether or not African-American women should have access to abortion services), Blackwell’s comments sound eerily similar to remarks made by former USAmerican presidential candidate and all around asshole, Herman Cain (actively working to make the lives of other human beings worse is a textbook definition of an asshole to me, and Cain tries very hard to do that). In a 2011 interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, Cain said:

Schieffer: … you said that it was not Planned Parenthood, it was really planned genocide because you said Planned Parenthood was trying to put all these centers into the black communities because they wanted to kill black babies –

Herman Cain: Yes.

Scheiffer: — before they were born. Do you still stand by that?

Cain: I still stand by that.

Schieffer: Do you have any proof that that was the objective of Planned Parenthood?

Cain: If people go back and look at the history and look at Margaret Sanger’s own words, that’s exactly where that came from. Look up the history. So if you go back and look up the history — secondly, look at where most of them were built; 75 percent of those facilities were built in the black community — and Margaret Sanger’s own words, she didn’t use the word “genocide,” but she did talk about preventing the increasing number of poor blacks in this country by preventing black babies from being born.

Regarding the claims by Blackwell and Cain about the locations of past (or present) Planned Parenthood clinics, well, surprise, those claims are not true:

Cain also claimed that “75 percent of [clinics] were built in the black community.” But we found no evidence that that was true in Sanger’s time, and it’s not true today.

Sanger’s first clinic, opened in 1916, was in Brooklyn in a neighborhood called Brownsville, which was 80 percent to 85 percent Jewish in 1910 and 1920, according to author Wendell E. Pritchett’s “Brownsville, Brooklyn: Blacks, Jews & the Changing Face of the Ghetto.” Cathy Moran Hajo writes that the neighborhood was “populated largely by Italians and Eastern European Jews” in “Birth Control on Main Street: Organizing Clinics in the United States, 1916-1939.” She says that Sanger didn’t choose to open her first clinic in Harlem, where infant and mother mortality rates were similar to those of Brownsville.

In fact, early birth control clinics didn’t welcome black women with open arms, Hajo writes: “In the 1920s and early 1930s, African Americans had far more limited access to birth control than did white women. Not only did many clinics discriminate against black women, but the regions with the largest black populations had fewer clinics.”

Sanger opened a clinic in Harlem in 1930, and, as mentioned, the “Negro Project” began in the late 1930s.

That doesn’t support Cain’s implication that Sanger’s “objective was to put these centers in primarily black communities,” or that “75 percent” of clinics were in such neighborhoods. It should also be noted that these early clinics were focused on providing birth control, and Sanger herself warned of the dangers of abortion. “While there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization,” she wrote in her 1920 book “Woman and the New Race.”

Cain’s claim also isn’t true today. Tait Sye, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, told us in an email that “73% of Planned Parenthood health centers are located in rural or medically underserved areas.” Not all of those would be predominately black communities.

Also, the Guttmacher Institute reported this year that 9 percent of abortion clinics in the U.S. are in neighborhoods in which 50 percent or more of the residents are black. That’s according to the group’s “census of all known abortion providers.”

Blackwell could have easily dug up this information rather than parroting more right-wing talking points, but well, he is a conservative asshole with an agenda. Let’s continue looking at that agenda:

We mustn’t forget that babies aren’t the only victims of abortion. Sadly, more and more of the mothers are suffering and dying as well. Though many people continue to deny it, the link between abortion and breast cancer has been amply documented, and this deadly consequence of abortion is plaguing greater and greater numbers of black women.

Oh golly, the dreaded link between breast cancer and abortion. Note that despite this “ample documentation”, Blackwell provides no credible source for this assertion. In point of fact, he is WRONG. There is no causal link between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer. This is a flat-out lie. J. Blackwell could have found this out easily if he actually did his homework.

His article continues its descent into a feces filled toilet with the following distortion:

Sanger relied on black ministers to act as Judas goats leading their sisters to abortion mills. According to LifeSiteNews, Sanger wrote in 1939, “We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten that idea out if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

When placed within the correct context (rather than removed from it as Blackwell has done), one can easily see that Sanger had no intentions of “exterminating the Negro population”:

Sanger, who was arrested several times in her efforts to bring birth control to women in the United States, set up her first clinic in Brooklyn in 1916. In the late 1930s, she sought to bring clinics to black women in the South, in an effort that was called the “Negro Project.” Sanger wrote in 1939 letters to colleague Clarence James Gamble that she believed the project needed a black physician and black minister to gain the trust of the community:

Sanger, 1939: The minister’s work is also important and he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.

Sanger says that a minister could debunk the notion, if it arose, that the clinics aimed to “exterminate the Negro population.” She didn’t say that she wanted to “exterminate” the black population. The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at New York University says that this quote has “gone viral on the Internet,” normally out of context, and it “doesn’t reflect the fact that Sanger recognized elements within the black community might mistakenly associate the Negro Project with racist sterilization campaigns in the Jim Crow south, unless clergy and other community leaders spread the word that the Project had a humanitarian aim.”

It goes on to characterize beliefs such as Cain’s as “extremist.” The project says: “No serious scholar and none of the dozens of black leaders who supported Sanger’s work have ever suggested that she tried to reduce the black population or set up black abortion mills, the implication in much of the extremist anti-choice material.”

Funny how removing the proper context transforms the quote to suit Blackwell’s needs. Such dishonesty on his part.

Blackwell concludes with:

Abortion is the greatest threat to black lives in America today. People who claim to represent the black community while also abetting the black holocaust — abortion — are hypocrites. Any “civil rights leader” who genuinely believes that “black lives matter” should be working to see that every black baby is accorded the very first civil right — the right to life.

As I said above, if he is so concerned with African-American women terminating their pregnancies, then he needs to support efforts to bring affordable contraception into the hands of the Black women who want and need it, rather than complaining about all the dead fetuses. In doing so, and in using distortion or outright lies to support his position, Blackwell demonstrates he has no interest in dealing with facts and reality. Which pretty much sums up the GOP.

Conservative columnist is egregiously wrong

Advice for black people

In the days, weeks, and months following the extrajudicial execution of Michael Brown, Jr at the hands of ex-police officer Darren Wilson, one of the common refrains I’ve heard from people (predominately white people) is that if African-Americans would listen to the police, bad things wouldn’t happen to them.

Great advice, that. I’m sure no Black parent in the history of Black parenting has ever told their child to listen to the police to avoid horrible things happening to them. Nope, we needed a white savior to swoop in and give us this piece of advice from the ‘How to survive as a Black person in the US’ handbook. Thanks ever so much.

Now, what’s your advice on how to survive as a Black person in the US when you haven’t done a damn thing wrong? What do you say to the Black people walking around outside, in the cold weather, with their hands in the pockets?

Video of the incident, which has been making the rounds across social media, shows the cop, who also recorded the incident, explaining to the man that his walking around was “making people nervous. They said you had your hands in your pockets.”

“Wow, walking by having your hands in your pockets makes people nervous [enough] to call the police, when it’s snowing outside?” the unidentified man says. “There’s 10,000 people in Pontiac right now with their hands in their pockets.”

The Pontiac police officer acknowledges that the man is right but notes that “we do have a lot of robberies, so just checking on you. You’re fine, you’re good?” he asks.

No, the man wasn’t arrested. Nor was he shot. He was, in my opinion, profiled, and racial profiling is a bad thing that happens to Black people. All. The. Damn. Time. Racial profiling is based on the idea that a particular race has a propensity for criminality. In the United States, that means African-Americans (and Latinos and American Indians) are often treated by law enforcement (and civilians) as if they’re criminals. In this case, a man was treated as a potential criminal for the crime of walking around in the cold weather with his hands in his pockets. As he said, there are thousands of people in Pontiac that likely had their hands in their pockets. Was the officer going to stop all of them on suspicion of being robbers? Or was he only going after this one Black man?  If so, why?  And is this advice given to white people as well? What’s the advice from white people on this one?  “Don’t walk around in the cold weather with your hands in your pockets”? I guess it’s a good thing there were no cops around to watch me walk to the store yesterday–with my hands in my pockets because it was cold. I might have been racially profiled and stopped by police. Or worse, like the next example, where a man got tasered and arrested by the police while walking down the street:

An innocent 34-year-old autistic man was tasered and arrested by police on Christmas eve because he was walking down the street at night.

Greenville City Police were in the area responding to reports of gunshots when they came across Tario Anderson and shined a spotlight in the innocent man’s face. Anderson reacted by walking away from this stressful sensory overload.

“When they put their spotlight on him, he immediately put his head down, put his hands in his pockets and began to walk away from him,” Officer Johnathan Bragg with Greenville Police said. “They then got out of the vehicle and approached him and ordered him to stop at which point he did flee from the officers and they pursued him.”

Anderson had committed no crime but since he did not immediately bow down to the police, he was tasered and cops piled on top of him.

His mother, Carolyn Anderson, said he has severe autism, does not understand much and did not need to be arrested or shocked with a Taser.

“Tario can say yes or no, he might ask for a thing or two, but just verbal, no,” Carolyn Anderson said.

According to WYFF, Carolyn Anderson said the family has lived on Sullivan St. her entire life and he often walks most nights to other relatives’ homes on the street. When neighbors saw Tario shocked with the Taser, Carolyn Anderson said they called her to come outside, but officers would not let her near her son.

“If you had seen my baby was out there, laying on that sidewalk and every time he reached for me, I reached for him- [they’d say] ‘Get back, we gonna Tase you,’” Carolyn Anderson said. “I was trying to make them take me to jail. I curse everything, ‘Take me! I’m the one causing trouble! Take me. He’s not doing nothing.’ No matter what I said, it didn’t make no difference to them.”

Bragg callously stated that Tario Anderson deserved the force he received from officers. He said the officers were not aware that Anderson has a mental handicap, and because he broke the law by running and resisting arrest, they arrested him.

I wasn’t aware that it’s against the law to run from the police when you haven’t done a fucking thing wrong! In this case, the advice from white people would probably sound like “Don’t walk down the street and for heaven’s sake, don’t run from the cops. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Even if they scare you because you have a mental disability.” But what about when you’re walking down the street, doing nothing but talking on your cell phone, and you’re sprayed with pepper spray?

Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian will file a tort claim this afternoon against the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department, according to his lawyer, former Seattle NAACP President James Bible, over the way he was pepper sprayed during demonstrations on Martin Luther King Day this year.

As you can see in the video, Hagopian is merely walking and talking on his cellphone when the female police officer douses him with pepper spray. Why?  It’s not evident. It’s not like he was violent. It’s not like he was a danger to the police or anyone else.  So what’s the white savior advice for this situation? Don’t have the audacity to engage in those mundane activities that white people do every day and expect to get away with it? That’s pretty much the advice being offered in all the above examples, and many, many more. It’s not useful advice either, bc Blacks are only trying to live their lives on their own terms. That means doing mundane things like warming your cold hands in your pockets, walking down the street, and talking on a cell phone. If we can’t even perform such mundane tasks without the threat of police harassment and brutality, what recourse is there? Stop existing?

Advice for black people