Defending the indefensible

I’m growing increasingly frustrated by the historical ignorance on the part of many Southerners. In the wake of the June 17 act of racial terrorism that took the lives of 9 African-American churchgoers in Charleston, SC, a debate has reignited over the Confederate flag (which has flown over the South Carolina state capitol since 2000). On one side of the debate are those who argue that the flag represents white supremacy, slavery, and treason. On the other side are those who think the flag is a symbol of Southern heritage and freedom from tyranny. The supporters of the flag are attempting to revise history with proclamations such as “The Civil War was fought over states’ rights”, “The Confederate flag represents bravery, valor, and heroism”, and “The Civil War wasn’t just fought over slavery”. The only proper response to the previous claims are (IMO) “no, it wasn’t”, “no the fuck it doesn’t”, and “hell yes it was”. While I’m sure that many people are genuinely ignorant of the causes of the Civil War and the symbolism of the Confederate flag (owing to deliberate attempts to paint the Southern states in a positive light in the wake of the Civil War), I have no doubt that many other people know full well what they argue for. Whatever the case may be, it disgusts me that whether intentional or not, people are defending the indefensible. To understand the reasons why supporters of the Confederate flag are deeply wrong, a little history lesson is in order. The following is a broad overview of the causes behind the Civil War.

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Defending the indefensible
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The legacy of the Confederacy lives on in white supremacists like Dylann Roof

Congregants honor the nine people murdered last week at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. They were slain in a terrorist attack by a white supremacist attempting to incite a race war.

Last week, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof drove two hours from his home in Columbia, South Carolina to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. After being welcomed in with open arms by the African-American churchgoers, Roof sat. And sat. And sat. A little over an hour after he arrived, he jumped back into his car and sped away, leaving behind the bodies of 9 people he shot to death in a horrific act of racial terrorism that has justifiably outraged the nation. Thanks to a perceptive florist, the 14+ hour manhunt for the killer ended in Shelby, North Carolina, more than 245 miles from Charleston. Following his arrest, he has been charged with 9 counts of murder and possession of a firearm. His bond is set at $1 million. The shock and bewilderment felt by many USAmericans upon first hearing of his deadly crime largely centered around “why would someone do this”. The answer to that was made apparent less than 24 hours after his shooting rampage:
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The legacy of the Confederacy lives on in white supremacists like Dylann Roof

Black women’s lives matter

Discussions about the protests surrounding the racial bias in the criminal justice system (from the police to the courts) often mention Michael Brown, the unarmed teen gunned down in August by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson (the death of Brown was the beginning of the protests). You’ll also hear of Eric Garner, the 43-year old father of six who was killed by NYPD officers while being placed under arrest. You may also hear the name Tamir Rice, the 12-year old shot to death by a police officer literally seconds after the officer exited his vehicle. Other names that you might here are Dontre Hamilton, Antonio Martin, Darrien Hunt, Kimani Grey, and Kendrec McDade.

Often overlooked in the discussions of African-American victims of police brutality are black women. I have been guilty of this myself. Thanks to an article by Evette Dionne at Bustle, I can work on ending that ignorance:

Protestors in New York flooded the streets last week, toting signs that blazed with images and phrases about cruel injustice. Just a week after similar events in Ferguson, a grand jury ruled that Daniel Pantaleo — the NYPD officer who put Eric Garner, a 44-year-old, black, Staten Island man, in a chokehold that led to Garner’s death — should not be brought to trial for his actions. A failure to indict the police officer responsible for Garner’s unjustifiable, illegal, and unnecessary death signifies why there’s been a breach of trust between communities of color and those tasked with enforcing the laws. In black American communities, we are holding our breath, waiting for whoever’s next. There is no guarantee that the next victim will be a black male, but there appears to be a guarantee that the victim will be marginalized or forgotten by the mainstream media if she is a girl or woman of color.

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a non-profit organization whose mission is to defend the human rights of black people, found that every 40 hours, a black man, woman, or child is killed by police, security guards, or self-appointed law enforcers. In fact, since the killing of Mike Brown, more than 14 black teens have been killed by the police, including 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a boy in Cleveland, Ohio who was murdered less than two seconds after police arrived at a playground to answer a 911 call related to a black child carrying a pellet gun. We know another Eric Garner is coming, and it is impossible to prepare for the onslaught of grief that will accompany the next traumatic injustice.

But one of the largest injustices is how little we collectively discuss the many women of color who are also killed by police.

Dionne goes on to list 9 women (and one young girl) who were killed by law enforcement officials.

 Aiyana Mo’nay Stanley-Jones

7-year old Aiyana Stanley Mo’nay Stanley-Jones was killed during a SWAT team raid in 2010.

Rekia Boyd

22-year old Rekia Boyd was killed by an off-duty Chicago police officer in 2012.

Yvette Smith

Yvette Smith, 47, was shot to death by police officers as she opened her front door.

Pearlie Golden

Pictured at right, the 93-year old Pearlie Golden was killed by a Texas police officer in 2014.

Tarika Wilson

26-year old Tarika Wilson was shot and killed by an Ohio SWAT team member in 2008.

Tyisha Miller

Tyisha Miller, 19, was killed by four California officers in 1998.

Kathyrn Johnston

The 92-year old was killed in 2006 by Georgia police officers during a botched drug raid.

Gabriella Nevarez

Nevaraz, 22, was killed by a California police officer in 2014.

Eleanor Bumpurs

66-year old Eleanor Bumpurs was killed by NYPD officers in 1984.

All black lives are affected by police brutality. The black women who have had their lives taken by police officers deserve to be recognized.

Black women’s lives matter

Black women's lives matter

Discussions about the protests surrounding the racial bias in the criminal justice system (from the police to the courts) often mention Michael Brown, the unarmed teen gunned down in August by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson (the death of Brown was the beginning of the protests). You’ll also hear of Eric Garner, the 43-year old father of six who was killed by NYPD officers while being placed under arrest. You may also hear the name Tamir Rice, the 12-year old shot to death by a police officer literally seconds after the officer exited his vehicle. Other names that you might here are Dontre Hamilton, Antonio Martin, Darrien Hunt, Kimani Grey, and Kendrec McDade.

Often overlooked in the discussions of African-American victims of police brutality are black women. I have been guilty of this myself. Thanks to an article by Evette Dionne at Bustle, I can work on ending that ignorance:

Protestors in New York flooded the streets last week, toting signs that blazed with images and phrases about cruel injustice. Just a week after similar events in Ferguson, a grand jury ruled that Daniel Pantaleo — the NYPD officer who put Eric Garner, a 44-year-old, black, Staten Island man, in a chokehold that led to Garner’s death — should not be brought to trial for his actions. A failure to indict the police officer responsible for Garner’s unjustifiable, illegal, and unnecessary death signifies why there’s been a breach of trust between communities of color and those tasked with enforcing the laws. In black American communities, we are holding our breath, waiting for whoever’s next. There is no guarantee that the next victim will be a black male, but there appears to be a guarantee that the victim will be marginalized or forgotten by the mainstream media if she is a girl or woman of color.

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a non-profit organization whose mission is to defend the human rights of black people, found that every 40 hours, a black man, woman, or child is killed by police, security guards, or self-appointed law enforcers. In fact, since the killing of Mike Brown, more than 14 black teens have been killed by the police, including 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a boy in Cleveland, Ohio who was murdered less than two seconds after police arrived at a playground to answer a 911 call related to a black child carrying a pellet gun. We know another Eric Garner is coming, and it is impossible to prepare for the onslaught of grief that will accompany the next traumatic injustice.

But one of the largest injustices is how little we collectively discuss the many women of color who are also killed by police.

Dionne goes on to list 9 women (and one young girl) who were killed by law enforcement officials.

 Aiyana Mo’nay Stanley-Jones

7-year old Aiyana Stanley Mo’nay Stanley-Jones was killed during a SWAT team raid in 2010.

Rekia Boyd

22-year old Rekia Boyd was killed by an off-duty Chicago police officer in 2012.

Yvette Smith

Yvette Smith, 47, was shot to death by police officers as she opened her front door.

Pearlie Golden

Pictured at right, the 93-year old Pearlie Golden was killed by a Texas police officer in 2014.

Tarika Wilson

26-year old Tarika Wilson was shot and killed by an Ohio SWAT team member in 2008.

Tyisha Miller

Tyisha Miller, 19, was killed by four California officers in 1998.

Kathyrn Johnston

The 92-year old was killed in 2006 by Georgia police officers during a botched drug raid.

Gabriella Nevarez

Nevaraz, 22, was killed by a California police officer in 2014.

Eleanor Bumpurs

66-year old Eleanor Bumpurs was killed by NYPD officers in 1984.

All black lives are affected by police brutality. The black women who have had their lives taken by police officers deserve to be recognized.

Black women's lives matter

Darren Wilson gets to do what?!

Remember this guy?

That’s officer Darren Wilson. Back on August 9, he killed this guy:

That’s Michael Brown for those that have been living under a rock.  Why did Wilson kill Brown?  We may never know (racism).  We know it wasn’t because of stolen cigars (it was a racially motivated killing).  We’ve heard that it’s because Brown got into a struggle with Wilson (not sure what the scuffle was about, but I’m sure racism on the part of Wilson played a role).  Of course we also know that Brown ran away from Wilson and that Brown was unarmed and presented NO threat to the officer (being a large black man does not make someone a threat, but when you’re a racist shitstain, that doesn’t matter). We know that Officer Wilson chose to shoot Brown at least 6 times (because that’s what racist people do when empowered by and thinking they’re above the law). We know he did not file a police report (why would he? He shot a black kid, and black lives don’t matter, bc racism). We know that he has been on paid leave since the day of the shooting (because shooting and killing a civilian is a perfectly good reason to get a paid vacation. Don’t know how to tie that into racism, but I’m sure there’s a way).  We know that he has not been arrested for the execution of Michael Brown (well duh, bc people don’t care that a racist cop killed a black kid. Why arrest him if they don’t care).

Now we know one more thing:  if he is not indicted, he’ll be able to return to work immediately.

Yes, according to the police chief, if Wilson is cleared, he can return to work:

The Ferguson police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown will be “immediately” returned to active duty if he is not indicted, Chief Tom Jackson told Yahoo News on Friday.

Officer Darren Wilson has been on paid leave since the controversial shooting in early August.

He would come back to a “not yet determined assignment,” the chief writes in an email.

If the grand jury charges Wilson, Jackson said the officer would “most likely” be terminated “if it is a felony.”

Why the hell would you even say that?

Tensions in Ferguson (and around the country) are already high. The police should be working on repairing the damage to the community and building relationships with the citizens of Ferguson. This statement is yet another slap in the face to Brown’s family and friends, as well as all the people who have been protesting. It’s tactless and insulting. It should not have been made, no matter how truthful it is.

And if Wilson chooses to return, I can only imagine what kind of uproar that would cause.  I fear that would inflame tensions past the breaking point. I’m almost certain he’s not going to get indicted (did I mention that black lives don’t matter in the US?), so he’s already going to get away with killing an innocent civilian. To add to that travesty of justice by allowing him to return to the police force…I can’t even…

Darren Wilson gets to do what?!

Static show a good move toward greater racial acceptance

Static, aka Virgil Hawkins, is an African-American superhero created in 1993 as part of DC Comics’ Milestone Imprint.  The creators of Milestone, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, Derek T. Dingle, and the late Dwayne McDuffie sought to add some much-needed diversity to mainstream American comic books. Deliberately patterned after Peter Parker (and taking his name from a black man denied entry into the University of Florida’s law school in 1949), Static is a comic book nerd, a video game aficionado, and a gifted inventor. After exposure to an experimental chemical, Hawkins gained the ability to manipulate electromagnetic energy and took the superhero name Static. Along with Hardware, Icon, and Blood Syndicate, Static received his own series as part of the debut of the Milestone Universe. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, Milestone Comics was a short-lived endeavor (they closed their comic book division in 1997, though they continue on today as a licensing company).  Static would go on to have his own animated series, Static Shockwhich lasted four seasons on the Kids’ WB! block.  He also joined the cast of the WB!’s Young Justice animated series with the second season. With the cancellation of Young Justice, and no longer having his own comic book, fans of Static were probably fearful that the character would languish in comic book limbo.

But worry not. Not only will he not be limbo bound, he’ll be the title character in an all new digital series. Warner Bros. (parent company of DC Comics) has unveiled Blue Ribbon Content, a new digital production unit. Blue Ribbon Content has several live-action, short form series in development. One of those series is Static Shock.

Static Shock — Writer/producer/director Reginald Hudlin (Best Picture Oscar nominee for producing Django Unchained) leads the creative team behind a live-action adaptation of Static Shock, featuring the African-American super hero Static, aka Virgil Ovid Hawkins. Static Shock is based on the Static comic co-created by the late Dwayne McDuffie with co-writer Robert L. Washington III and artist John Paul Leon, which was originally published by the DC Comics imprint Milestone Comics and, later, by DC Comics. Milestone Media co-founder/comic book artist/TV producer Denys Cowan (the original Static Shock animated series) is collaborating with Hudlin on the new Static Shock.

No word yet on when the series will debut, nor how long it will last, but this is good news for fans.

This is also good news from a diversity standpoint. Like Marvel Comics, one of the complaints about DC Comics is a lack of diversity. Traditionally, the monthly output of both companies has not seen many titles featuring African-American characters (or women, or LGBT people).  Certainly both companies are making strides in gender diversity (Marvel has 10+ books led by female characters, with DC not far behind), but they still have a long way to go in representing LGBT characters and People of Color.  This also holds true for both companies’ cinematic universes (although it should be noted that DC recently announced solo movies for both Wonder Woman and Cyborg, while yesterday, Marvel revealed its slate of movies for the next 5 years, which includes both a Captain Marvel and a Black Panther movie).

Diversity is important for a few reasons. Despite what some angry white men might think, exposure to positive, successful media images of African-Americans tends to improve racial attitudes. What this means is that the more people are exposed to images of African-Americans that represent them as well-rounded people who can be courageous, powerful, heroic, and successful, the more people begin to reject racial stereotypes. This can be seen in the success of NBC’s The Cosby Show, which helped change the way American viewed African-Americans.

Ever since television’s beginning in 1939, Blacks have often been portrayed as custodians, maids, servants, clowns, or buffoons. These negative perceptions started to appear in Black sitcoms such as Amos ‘n Andy (1964) and continued in the late 1970s with Good Times. For the most part, Black sitcoms portrayed negative views of Blacks until 1984 with the introduction of The Cosby Show. As a result of The Cosby Show, perceptions of Blacks on television were altered. Black roles of today have come a long way since Amos ‘n Andy (where Blacks were viewed as poor and living in the ghetto). Today, many Black roles avoid much of the racial stereotyping that was characteristic of shows such as Beulah and Julia in the 1960s; Sanford and Son and Good Times in the 1970s. The Cosby Show took the positive perceptions given in most of the earlier Black sitcoms and puts them into one show.

Racial diversity on the small screen is also important for young children. A 2012 study published in Communications Research found that “children are affected when they don’t see themselves on tv”.

In discussing the results of their findings, the authors point to three potential explanations:

  1. Male characters are portrayed as powerful, strong, rational, and the main character, while in contrast, female characters are portrayed as emotional, sensitive, and more likely to be a sidekick or love interest. In contrast to white characters, black male characters are more likely to be depicted as menacing or unruly, and black female characters are more likely to be shown as exotic and sexually available. As a result, young white boys have greater access to positive media representation. Social identity theory would argue that exposure to this coded messaging helps young white boys believe that anything is possible, and that they can attain, achieve, and be heroes.
  2. If television serves to reinforce gender and racial stereotypes, then social identity theory also predicts that the white girls, black girls, and black boys in the study used messages from the media to evaluate themselves, and that these comparisons can impact self esteem. In addition to messages kids get from family members, peers, community members, and other areas in their lives, if white and black girls and black boys also absorb messages from the media, it could impact their self esteem if they do not see themselves as successful, as main characters, or as heroes.
  3. If kids are watching television, this might be displacing real-life experiences that could otherwise build self esteem. (The study found that black kids watched 10 hours more of television than white kids did.) Arguably, these kids could be learning more about themselves through activities other than television, which could otherwise have raised self esteem. (The authors note that this theory does not explain why watching television hurts self esteem for girls and kids of color but raises self esteem in white boys who watch a lot of TV.)

Co-researcher Nicole Martins explained the contrast between white male, female, and black male characters on television:

“Regardless of what show you’re watching, if you’re a white male, things in life are pretty good for [people who look like] you. You tend to be in positions of power, you have prestigious occupations, high education, glamorous houses, a beautiful wife, with very little portrayals of how hard you worked to get there.

“If you are a girl or a woman, what you see is that women on television are not given a variety of roles. The roles that they see are pretty simplistic; they’re almost always one-dimensional and focused on the success they have because of how they look, not what they do or what they think or how they got there.

“Young black boys are getting the opposite message: that there is not lots of good things that you can aspire to. If we think about those kinds of messages, that’s what’s responsible for the impact.”

We need to change the messages being sent to our youth. We need them to know that no matter their ethnicity, gender, disability, sexuality, or gender identity, they can be powerful, successful, and heroic. A show like Static can go a long way to showing our youth that the sky is the limit.

Static show a good move toward greater racial acceptance

The importance of Sam Wilson as the new Captain America

There’s a new Captain America in town, and he’s not your dads Sentinel of Liberty. In case you missed Stephen Colbert’s interview with Joe Quesada, here’s the skinny:  Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, has had the Super-Soldier Serum drained from his body. As a result, he has aged rapidly, and is no longer able to be Captain America.  He chose his longtime friend and partner, Sam Wilson (aka Falcon, aka the same guy from Captain America: Winter Soldier, played by Anthony Mackie), to take over the mantle of Captain America. For those that don’t know, the Falcon is black. Though not the first black Cap, (that honor goes to Isiah Bradley), Sam Wilson will be the most prominent one.

Sam Wilson as Captain America has a deeply symbolic meaning.  Throughout US history, African-Americans have been treated as lesser…as not fully human. They’ve been subjected to slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow laws, and unethical experiments.  Despite the advances of the Civil Rights Movement, black people in the United States still face racism.  Whether it’s the wage gap, the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, or policies such as Stop N Frisk, blacks in America have still not achieved full equality. The system was built by white America, for white America, and continues to benefit white America to the exclusion of people of other ethnicities (actually, white American benefits white men above all else).  Yes, an African-American has reached the White House and has even been re-elected to the highest office in the land. Though that achievement did not end racism (only a fool would think it would), it is symbolically important.  So too is Sam Wilson as Captain America. Barack Obama as the President of the United States and Sam Wilson as Captain America show that black people can step into roles traditionally held by white men and do just as good a job.  They can represent this country every bit as much as a white person can.  And that is a powerful message.

Here are a few pages from the October 29 release of the newest volume of Captain America, featuring Sam Wilson’s first adventure in the role:

(art by Stuart Immonen; via Comics Alliance)

The importance of Sam Wilson as the new Captain America

Milwaukee police officer fired 6 months after killing unarmed mentally ill black man

MILWAUKEE POLICE FIRE OFFICER WHO SHOT MAN IN PARK

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said Wednesday that he had fired an officer who instigated a fight with a mentally ill man that eventually led the officer to shoot the man 14 times, killing him.

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Milwaukee police officer fired 6 months after killing unarmed mentally ill black man

Dear White People

Has Hollywood ever produced a satirical coming of age story featuring 4 black college students struggling to discover themselves while pressured by friends and family?  I can’t claim to have seen all of the movies ever made, but I’m guessing ‘no’ is the answer. Justin Simien aims to change that with his upcoming film Dear White People:

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Dear White People

Quote of the Day: Sojourner Truth

African-American abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Sojourner Truth (born Isabella Baumfree) was born into slavery in New York in 1797. In 1826, she escaped to freedom with her infant daughter. In 1843 she changed her name to Sojourner Truth, becoming devoted to Methodism and the abolition of slavery. She is perhaps best known for the speech she gave on racial inequality and womens rights, “Ain’t I a Woman?“, delivered at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851.

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Quote of the Day: Sojourner Truth