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”:

Continue reading “Another phrase that irks me”

Another phrase that irks me

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

Shattering unconscious biases

More than once in my life I’ve had someone remark “I didn’t know you were gay” or “There’s nothing gay about you. I’d have never guessed.” Statements of that nature reflect the biases about gay people held by that individual. There is no visual characteristic defining all gay people. We’re not a monolithic entity all acting the same. We are human beings with a diverse background and beliefs who express their sexuality in a variety of ways (with some choosing not to express their sexuality). Being surprised that I’m gay or saying there’s nothing gay about me is saying “Your expression of sexuality does not comport with how I think gay people act” (it’s also treating heterosexuality as the default). It’s that thinking right there that needs to be challenged. Gay people don’t “act” in any specific way that would allow someone to recognize their sexuality (just to be clear, I’m talking about engaging in everyday activities like going to the gym, the grocery store, or interacting with employees on the job. I’m not talking about holding hands with a significant other, kissing them, or otherwise acting in a way that signals one’s sexuality).

I’ve also had some personal experience with implicit racial biases. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told “You’re so well-spoken” or “You are eloquent”. Rarely have I heard those words directed at others, so what made me so special? For years, that question lingered at the back of my mind. Then I learned that many people hold unconscious beliefs about black people, and one of those beliefs is that African-Americans don’t speak correctly. While I’m not entirely sure what speaking correctly means, I know it involves enunciating words and speaking clearly (to be honest, I suspect it’s a criticism of black people for not speaking like white people). Here’s the thing though:  all black people don’t speak the same.  Shocker, I know.

It’s implicit biases like those above that need to be shattered so that people can come to view TBGL people, women, and People of Color as people, rather than a collection of stereotypes. In a recent post, I wrote about the importance of diversity initiatives in combating racial stereotypes. One of the suggestions I had was for Hollywood to cast more PoC in non-stereotypical leading or supporting roles. Whether a live-action movie or television show or an animated series, presenting People of Color in a positive role can help shatter unconscious racial stereotypes. What type of positive role?

How about a wealthy globe-trotting black woman who becomes a superhero after acquiring a mystical amulet that allows her to channel the abilities of any animal on the planet?

It looks like DC’s team of TV heroes is growing by one more: Vixen. According to KSiteTV CW a Vixen animated series which will debut this fall on its digital-only channel was announced by the CW at the Television Critics Association event Sunday. The project is being headed up by Arrow‘s Marc Guggenheim, and will reportedly be tied into the DC television continuity shared by Arrow and The Flash.

Originally created back in 1978 by Gerry Conway and Bob Oksner, Vixen is primarily known as a team member of books like Justice League and Suicide Squad. In current comics continuity, she has been a member of both Justice League International and the main Justice League team. She’s made several appearances in various DC animated shows, from Justice League Unlimited to Batman: The Brave and the Bold and even a cameo in Teen Titans Go!.

Guggenheim explained to CBR that the series is initially planned for six episodes, and will be set in Detroit as a homage to the Justice League in the 1980s. The writer/producer said Vixen will be an origin story with heavy magical elements, in constrast to Arrow being crime-based and The Flash being science-based. Arrow writers Brian Ford Sullivan and Keto Shimizu will be joining Guggenheim on Vixen, but said the voice-casting of the title character hasn’t been finalized. Guggenheim did say that The Flash‘s Grant Gustin and Arrow‘s Stephen Amell would voice their own characters in the animated series.

While I envisioned more roles for People of Color on the big or small screen rather than digital (I worry that a digital-only series won’t reach many viewers, but I really don’t have anything to base this feeling on), this is still a step in the right direction.

Shattering unconscious biases