Feminist Traps

Soapbox LogoSometimes we fight so hard for what we want we lose sight of what we need. This is true whether it is the individual us, the public us or the group us as a people or an identity. What does this mean? How does this affect us when we are trying to find our place in the world? I can’t speak for all, not for anyone but me in truth, but I can speak for myself, individually as the private, public and group me. As a woman, I can speak to that me. As a woman who has always held to feminist views on all issues but who is now wondering what this means, to be a feminist and to want my cake and to eat it too. What does that truly mean?

I suspect what I am about to say will cause some of my same gender some angst and maybe some anger. I suspect it will cause some to wonder what the hell is going on in my head, some may even want to burn my Feminist card and kick me out of the Woman Club, but bear with me. Women have been in a public fight for equality since 1848 that is more than a century; in fact that is one hundred sixty-eight years. Or in more easily understood terms, one hell of a long time. What have we really ‘won’ in all that time, what have we truly gained for ourselves?

1920 – 19th Amendment to the Constitution is signed and we are finally part of the national conversation, we can vote. What do we do with this privilege? Not very damned much, in truth most of us throw this away, we sit it out, we stay at home and hope someone will speak up for us and our interest.

From 1920 through 1978 there were two key issues on the table for women, how to earn a paycheck and how to own our reproductive processes. Seems to me these were inextricably linked, though most did not make connection. We saw a few key court rulings and pieces of legislation during these years.

Since 1978, well frankly it has been more of the same. More fair this and equality that, more bullshit added to the pile to make us be quiet and look the other way. You can’t beat us anymore without consequence and husbands can’t rape their wives any more either. But let’s face it in the grand scheme of things we really haven’t come all that far and we really haven’t done all that much to make this particular part of the world better for fifty percent of the population.

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Truthfully, as women we suck at taking power in our own hands and representing ourselves. We are fifty percent of the overall US population yet hold under twenty-five percent of the state and twenty percent of the federal legislative seats. These numbers are appalling, yet we wonder why we lose ground. I will tell you why, those advances were gifts. A group of Men gave us a gift, they didn’t mean for us to compete for seats at the table. What they intended was to allow us a little bit of freedom, too feel as if we were a bit more enfranchised so we would shut the hell up and start playing nice again. We were grateful and we thanked them instead of snatching victory by the balls and running with it.

There is something else that happened in the midst of all the clamor, we forgot we were women and we begin to allow others to redefine femininity on terms different and strange. We confused femininity and feminism, begin to believe we could not be both. As so frequently happens with movements we allowed the radical and outside voices to define our new ‘norm’. Now we don’t know who we are or what we are, frankly we are confused by our natural instincts and afraid to be women for fear we might be going against what we are told we should be.

I am absolutely a Feminist. I believe I should be paid the same money as my male counterparts. I believe every single woman has the right to control her reproductive life-cycle, this includes the right to legal and safe abortion. I believe in a woman’s right to access education, credit, housing and all the other needs of life without gender bias.

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I am a Feminist, but frankly I am a woman first. I love being a woman. I have always loved being a woman. I love having doors opened for me, dressing up in something soft and feminine, wearing high-heels and stockings for a night out with someone special. I like being a women, being a woman is part of my power and I have absolutely no fear in saying so. We are born with this power, men love looking at us because that is how we are designed. Why in the hell should we pretend it is otherwise?

I have a brain, in fact I have a really good brain and I expect the men who work with me and who date me to respect me for that brain. Nevertheless, I still have all the attributes of the female gender and I do not expect men to be emasculated, pretend they don’t know I am a woman. It is impossible for them to do so, hell most of us make it impossible for them to do so. This is at the center of the problem actually, most of us complain when men stare yet we make it impossible for them to do otherwise. Not all men are rapists, not all men are pigs either. What men are is the other half of the human equation. Without men we would quickly die out. We don’t have a rape culture, we have a sick culture brought about by our failure to recognize all these false definitions of masculinity and femininity send the wrong message. Women are one half of the human race, we are not gender neutral but instead specifically feminine and designed to be attractive to the other half.

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I am a woman. There are tens of thousands of us out here, we are I think being defined in terms we no longer understand and yet we refuse to stand up and call bullshit. We buy a package of goods that doesn’t feel right and yet we refuse to say it is wrong for fear we will be thrown out of the Woman’s Club. The Politically Correct definitions have gone so far now we are forced to accept lies and embrace them without raising voice of complaint. As an example, Caitlyn Jenner is not a woman so how in the hell are you going to award Woman of the Year twice to her? Are there not any accomplished women in the United States who are deserving of recognition and praise?

Yes, I will concede the ‘her’ to Caitlyn because I am polite and if she wishes to transition at the age of 66 from her born gender to female I am going to use her chosen gender. Nevertheless, Caitlyn is not a woman, she is in fact not even through her transition thus cannot even be legally called a woman. So why are any of us politely or otherwise accepting this insult?

On another note, why are we fighting so hard for the stupid? Why do you want your daughters in harm’s way, in combat positions?  We haven’t achieved parity in pay or secured our right to control our bodies, but we can now die in combat or worse be captured and only all the God’s know what will happen to a woman captured in battle.

I am a Feminist, but I am a woman first. I think it is time for all of us to think about what it means to be a woman. I frankly don’t want to be ‘man’ lite, but rather I want to be a woman able to stand on my own and with all the freedoms, rights and duties any of us are due. I want to work, contribute and provide within my competencies and capabilities as a woman, not in competition but in compliment.  Perhaps when we start seeing ourselves as one half of the population, start working from a position of power as women rather than begging for a seat at the table we will start to shift the focus and start standing up rather than simply complaining about the stupid shit.

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/womenstimeline1.html

http://www.representation2020.com/rankings.html

Intersections of Power

OpEdThursday, 6-August-2015 we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Voters Rights Act. One of the cornerstones of Civil Rights in this nation, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and reauthorized by President Richard Nixon in 1970, President Ronald Reagan, President Gerald Ford in 1975, President Ronald Reagan 1982, President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and last but not least President George W. Bush in 2006. It is important to note, all re-authorizations were with full support of both houses of Congress. Another important note, all US Presidents to extend the Voters Rights Act were Republicans.

The first of the GOP debates has taken place, sponsored by the infamous Roger Ailes and his propaganda machine Fox. It is important to note, not a single one of the candidates whether at the kiddie table or the Big Show supports the extension of the Voters Rights Act. Not one single one of them supports the right of all members of society to vote. In fact, those who are in a position to do so, or have been in the past have actively sought to restrict voter access through any means possible including; Voter ID laws, voter roll purges, early closing of polling places and other actions that would restrict voter access. Interesting isn’t it, though the laws have been coming into play for years, they didn’t reach the stridency or full on war against the ‘other’ until the election of this President, who represented everything they feared and hated, specifically the ceding of power to ‘other’.

The loss of White Male Power, had finally come to pass in a big damned way with the election of Barack Obama. It couldn’t be avoided any longer, it was in their face and up their nose; White Men no longer could rely on the ignorance of the citizen to keep them in power, there was a change in the air and something had to be done and by any means necessary. The first thing was Congressional action, without the consent of Congress this President was going to have a hard Presidency and the GOP had met and agreed, they would oppose this President at every turn.

To understand where we are as a nation, why it feels worse than ever before in our lifetime it is important to look at historical context. This is not the first time the backlash of the White Male tumblr_mdcctdnb471r4fn52o1_500Power Structure has risen up to retrieve authority and supremacy in this nation. In fact, it is fairly easy to trace the roots of racism, defined by institutional structures including Economic, Educational, Opportunity and even movement. Look at the historical intersections and how those in power created the great divide between people who should be banded together rather than fighting each other.

  • Until 1676, there were both African and European ‘slaves’ in the New World. Though the European ‘slaves’ were indentured for a set period they were treated no better than African slaves and frequently never lived to see their freedom. The Bacon Rebellion of 1676 saw the burning of Jamestown, Virginia and with it a new thinking by the ‘ruling’ class regarding their servants / slaves. New laws were created to separate the poor whites, whether indentured servants or free whites from the African whether Freeman or slave to prevent them from forming alliance in the future. These laws created the three (3) tier class system with the African at the bottom, the landowner at the top and all other White Men in the middle. This is considered, by many scholars, the beginning of institutional racism, along with the rule of law called Partus Sequitur Ventrem which means status followed the mother rather than the father, a distinct change to previous British common law.
  • For one hundred and eighty nine years (189) things went along swimmingly for slaveholders, the ‘Masters’ of all they surveyed and those who benefited from the status quo without recognizing their benefits. With the end of the Civil War the South entered into the period of Reconstruction, it wasn’t long from 1865 to 1877. This period saw the passage of the 13th, 14thand 15th Amendments which Abolished Slavery, Granted Black Men the Right to Vote and Prohibited the Federal and State governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on their Color, Race or previous condition of servitude.
19th century illustration via New York Public Library Digital Collection

19th century illustration via New York Public Library Digital Collection

  • The period of Reconstruction was short-lived; the loss of power by those who previously held all the power was not to be tolerated. Reconstruction led to backlash including the first KKK, the White League and Red Shirts, the first true home-grown terrorists, intent on preserving White Supremacy at all costs including violence against any they considered race traitors or those they considered uppity, their previous slaves. The true backlash though was the institution of the Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws throughout the South, including laws to disenfranchise the new Black voter from exercising their right to vote; Poll Taxes, Literacy Tests, Comprehension Tests, Residency and Record Keeping requirements (sound familiar?). While these laws disenfranchised poor whites as well, grandfather clauses allowed them to remain on the rolls, keeping those who should have found common cause apart once again.

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  • The Jim Crow period ushered in a new age of poverty and peonage. The Black Codes created a free labor force, empowering the police to arrest Black Men and Women for the slightest infraction, imprisoning them for long periods to forced labor for ‘loitering’ or ‘vagrancy’. For one hundred years, until 1964 and the passing of the Civil Rights Act, the Black family in America was segregated from active participation in American Life.
  • It was in 1954 though, with the SCOTUS decision of Brown vs. Board of Education the US saw the next rise of official terrorism and White Supremacy with the institution of the Citizens Councils aka The White Citizens Councils, across the southern states. Many state legislators, mayors and other influential White citizens were members of the Citizen Council, which met openly and whose entire agenda was the ongoing disenfranchisement and segregation of the American Black. Though usually their tactics were economic intimidation, they were not above violence when it suited them. During the last half of the 1950’s the Council produced children’s school books claiming heaven was segregated. They also opened and supported private segregated schools, some of which are still in operation today.

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These things have run in waves, fear and fear mongering is the red meat thrown out into the yard by those who know exactly how to keep the populace in line, keep them filled with hate of ‘other’. Now we have a more sophisticated model, the 24 hour news cycle but the message remains the same, hate those who are ‘not like you’, fear those who are ‘not like you’.

Do you see the pattern emerging? The prison industrial complex, the militarized police force, the systematic killing of Black men and women on the streets of every city in this nation without repercussion. Do you see a pattern emerge, when there is even a slight power shift and the election of Barack Obama was certainly that, those who define their supremacy based on race have risen up again through organized terrorism, the Tea Party is one example, another is the rise in membership of White Power / Segregationist groups such as Council of Conservative Citizens.

“I want my country back!”

The cry of those who feel the loss of power. We must ask where do they want to take us back too, from whom do they want it back from? The structures of institutional racism have been well established for centuries, each time we begin to break them those with the most power and the most to lose tighten their hold, we let it happen by not rising up and fighting back hard enough. By not understanding our own history and seeing the emerging patterns.

I don’t want my country back; I want my country to progress, to move forward. That is what I want.


Next, inter-sectional and women in the public domain.

All media licensed under Fair Use via Google or Wikimedia.

Spanish Fly

witches chair 2We are a people who fail to consider consequences just as we fail to consider the linear notes of our history. It seems it is impossible for some of us too reason, for us to see where we have been and acknowledge the whys and wherefores of how we arrived at where we are today. We only see the right this minute and think somehow this is all there is, this bubble of bullshit somehow represents the entirety of our social make-up, there is nothing else, we got to this moment in time without all of the transcendent moments before this too pile upon.

Really? Are we really, as a people this stupid, this blind? Can this truly be possible?

I swore I was not going to discuss the issue of Bill Cosby and his heinous acts against women and I am not. What I am going to talk about is why so many, men and women alike came to his defense. We watched Bill Cosby and Larry King and we laughed right along with them, a nation thought their discussion of drugging women was funny.

Why did so many turn their backs as women came forward to accuse Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby) of being a sexual predator? Because we accept his actions, it is simple. Why so many, shrugged their shoulders and thought to themselves even when not thinking it aloud, ‘boys will be boys and those women were probably asking for it’.

I said I wouldn’t discuss Bill Cosby, I won’t. What I will discuss, is why anyone would think to defend him or his sexual molestation and rape of twenty or more women. Why anyone would think it was okay for Bill Cosby to drug young women so he could sexually molest and rape them. I know why, but I wonder if most understand how far back our disdain for women goes.

 If within the city a man comes upon a maiden who is betrothed, and has relations with her, you shall bring them both out of the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbors wife.

Deuteronomy 22:23-24

There is of course more, but this is a good place to start with the very framework of those who lay the foundation of a nation in Biblical literalism. Starting with the Pilgrims and moving to the Puritans, not a single one of those who first came to these shores believed women were of equal value to men, in fact most believed they were of far less value.  In all cases, women could not own property, not even their own children unless they were widowed and never remarried. Even within the context of those much vaunted and hallowed documents of Independence and Democracy were women considered, only men are given a voice; not women and just to be clear, only White Men.

Witches and Puritans

Witches and Puritans

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.

Exodus 21:7-11

We are without moral ground, it is power and control and it is right there in the very book so many within this nation claim as their guiding light, their shining beacon. How could we not ignore rape, ignore or worse still, blame the victims of rape in favor of the rapist. How could we not look at the victim of rape and ask these horrible questions:

6371058_G“What were you wearing?”

“How many sexual partners have you had?”

“What did you do to entice your rapist?”

“How much did you have to drink?”

“Why were you at that restaurant, bar, party?”

Of course there is any number of other questions the victim is asked, making them party to their own violation. Making them at fault for their rape, not a victim of violence at all, rather a willing participant and someone to be victimized, ostracized and humiliated further by society, the criminal justice system and too often family and friends.

It is estimated there are 400,000 untested rape kits sitting in evidence rooms across the nation. Rape victims, waiting for justice, who have submitted to invasive examinations of their bodies so Untested-Rape-Kits-1000x600police can collect DNA evidence, in most cases they do nothing with. The decision to test those kits, at a cost of $500-$1,500, is usually left to the investigating officer. The officer or the District Attorney, who too often are making the decision the case is ‘too hard to prove’, or worse have decided the rape didn’t happen, who are all too often searching for consent, searching for a reason not to prosecute and thus serving the rapist.

How did we get here? We have always been here, this is what we have always been. This is not new, we have not reached some new sociopathic low. The difference is women have started to speak out, started to say enough and no more. The difference is social media and the ability to connect with other victims, to compare stories and begin to understand the true nature of rape, the damage rape does to us, not just the initial damage to our bodies but the long-term horror the rape victim suffers.

In the past rape was a silent crime, the victim was silent and thus after the fact consented. Perhaps, if they were fortunate they had family or friends who were supportive and loving, this wasn’t always the case though. There was a reason rape victims’ names were masked from the public, it was to protect them from being humiliated and ostracized by the community, to prevent the community from dragging them to the gates and stoning them.

images‘What were you wearing?’

Blue jeans, a tee shirt and tennis shoes; I was eleven years old. I was silent for far more than twenty years because my rape humiliated my mother.

Recent Stories: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/07/16/untested-rape-kits-evidence-across-usa/29902199/

Private Programs to end the backlog: http://www.endthebacklog.org/backlog/what-backlog

Be Damned

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church sits at 110 Calhoun St. in Charleston, S.C.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church sits at 110 Calhoun St. in Charleston, S.C.

I am incapable of words to express my sorrow or my fury. I am at a loss where to begin to express my deep empathy for the families of those who were lost, the survivors, all victims of a terrible hate crime, a horrifying act of violence. I find I am at a loss at how to express my compassion for those left behind to survive the terrible repercussions of violence.

Where do you even begin?

Do we start with the grief that we have not risen from the past but instead nurture hate so closely it drives some among us to walk into places of worship and indiscriminately murder innocent people. How do we battle this cultural nightmare, this disease that continues to feast on heart, decimate soul and destroy future?

We did this, yes when I say we I am specific in my calling out. We, White Folks, those of us with the privilege of being born with skin the color of moonlight. Those of us who check the box, ‘Caucasian’,  or ‘White’ on the Census and all the other forms through our lives, we did this. It is ours, we own it and we have owned it from the first slave sold in this nation. From the Three-fifths Compromise to Dredd Scott, from Jim Crow to Separate but Equal and everything before, after and in between. Every step along the way, White People in power worked to keep those they considered ‘different’ and ‘less than’ powerless. Through economic, educational and justice policies, we have divided this nation’s people into cultural classes that not coincidently aligned along racial-color lines, keeping Black, Brown, White in their separate and unequal lanes.

Now, in this century, in this decade and after the election of the first Black President the hate and fear, the true ugliness of racism has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of political correctness and the result has been truly terrible to witness. Fear and fury rose up from the White community, from the dirt floor of the poorest house in the Appalachians to the polished marble floors of Congress, White Men rose up in protest at the Black Man in the White House. It was terrible to see, but we turned away. We shrugged our shoulders and said, ‘these are not the norm, these are the minority’. We did nothing, said nothing, demanded nothing be changed nothing be confronted.

Worse than the rising up has been our acceptance of this ‘new normal’. We see it, we witness the horror of violence, we turn away. We justify our apathy with, ‘but it isn’t me, I am not a racist’. We11164745_892454580813961_4783942740135091392_n watch in horror as another act of violence is carried out, another unarmed black man, woman or child is beaten or killed by police or civilians but we do nothing except perhaps wring our hands and pretend we don’t understand why. We listen to the nuanced language, the media spin trying to justify the horror show of murderous rampages by white thugs, whether cops or civilians, against those they deem unworthy of life, liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness in the land their ancestors helped to build in chains. We pretend we don’t see it, we forget within the next news cycle.

The state of South Carolina flies the Confederate flag, a symbol of all that is wrong, a symbol of traitors who fought to maintain the status quo of enslaving human beings. The Sons of the Confederacy can whitewash and bullshit all they like, can cry their tears of states’ rights, liberty and freedom as the driving factors of their ancestor’s reasons for secession from the lawful government and their own reason for continuing to worship the Stars & Bars. We should pull that scab off the wound that was the Civil War, demand the history books be revised to tell the truth and call those who would say otherwise damned liars. The war of secession was fought  to keep human beings enslaved and preserve a way of life for wealthy White men and women who did not wish to give up their privilege. The majority who died fighting in that war were poor, ignorant and fearful, they were convinced if the slaves were freed they would be displaced, their women would be raped and their jobs taken. The language of the traitors was eerily similar to those of the Tea Party today, hauntingly analogous to many of those who would be President.

“Government Overreach”

10407515_10203057948409525_2425821899359663210_n“Preservation of Constitutional Values”

“Preserving Liberty and Freedom”

Yes, familiar rhetoric isn’t it. The hubris of those who would preserve a way of life built upon the blood and misery of others is exceeded only by the ignorance necessary to believe the lies. The amount of money spent to divide us, keep us separate, maintain the horror of racism and ignorance exceeds the budgets of some nations, yet we allow it to continue without rising up. We, owe ourselves better than this, better than more blood, more hate, more division based on ignorance. We must demand a change, an accounting; we must say no more.

We, each of us with the privilege of our Whiteness intact must stand up and demand the same privilege for those not born with skin the color of moonlight. We must demand history books tell the truth of America, of slavery, of Jim Crow, of enslavement through poverty, miseducation, unequal justice and incarceration; we must demand an accounting and we must apologize for our own ignorance and blind acceptance of the lies we have told to preserve our own power. We must rise up and against hate and hate groups, we must stop turning away and instead call them what they are, Domestic Terrorists. We must demand an accounting of media that uses their power to criminalize Black victims while whitewashing even celebrating White murderers. We must begin to call things and people what they are, we must hold accountable those who refuse to do so.

We must stop giving a pass to any person who refuses to stand up and call out Hate Crimes and Racism for what they are. We must hold those who would lead to the highest standard and demand they call the nation towards healing, towards justice, towards equality and fairness. Those who will not stand up and call racism what it is, who will not call out their followers for their racist remarks and acts, they do not deserve leadership roles, certainly don’t deserve to be President.

Dead at the hands of a terrorist, racist thug.

Dead at the hands of a terrorist, racist thug.

We all need to start demanding better, doing better, teaching our children better and demanding of our leaders better than they are today. For the lives that have been lost, we need to give them names and bear witness to their tragedy. For those who took their lives, we need to give them no name but murderer, thug, terrorist we need to give them no excuse for their act but the one they gave, racism and hate.

Cynthia Hurd, 54

Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49 Myra Thompson, 59
Clementa Pinckney, 41 Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45 Susie Jackson, 87
Ethel Lee Lance, 70 Daniel L. Simmons Sr., 74

Tywanza Sanders, 26

On this Day, Dream

bvwcku1icaapeh“Well, you know, you can’t change what’s in the hearts and minds of the white folks in the South. You can’t legislate what’s in their hearts.” He says, “Well, you can’t legislate what’s in their hearts, but I tell you what: If you can just stop them from lynching me, that’s progress. That’s a pretty good thing.” And over time, hearts and minds catch up with laws. That’s been the history of progress in this country.

Dr. Martin Luther King


 

Honestly, I have been trying all week to find the heart and the voice to write. It has felt as if my heart has been stopped in my chest and my voice has been silenced. Today is the day we honor Martin Luther King, many say we should treat this day as a day of service in honor of those who marched and served the cause of Civil Rights, worked to eliminate the egregious Jim Crow Laws and broaden Voting Rights Laws for all citizens. Imagine, there are those who do not know this history do not remember a time when our fellow citizens could not vote, could not sit at the counter or share a table in a restaurant simply because of the color of their skin. Despite how recent this history, there are those who wish to erase it from our school books and our memories.

Many today say it is better then when the brave men and women stood upon the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Sunday, 7 March 1965 and faced down State Troopers and civilian posse’ armed with tear gas and clubs wrapped in barbed wire on Bloody Sunday. There are those, including some who were there that say 2015 is better than 1965, we have made progress. I am hard pressed to find this much discussed much vaunted progress in light of the tragic and terrible across this nation. Is it me?

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Someone asked me yesterday if I thought it was getting better or worse. I had to consider the differences and the changes since 1965, what the meant. Have things really improved, as some would have us believe? Are some of us simply overreacting to the news cycles, which is what some say to those of us who follow and write about the issues of Race in America. Or are things regressing, going backwards having never truly changed only gone into hiding until the all clear signal was sounded the election of Barack Obama bringing out all the fears and fury of the dwindling White majority.

I had to think about it, consider my answer carefully. Ultimately, my answer was option three (3). Maybe it got better for a little while, things moved forward and improved on the surface. As a nation, we took seriously ending segregation, ending Jim Crow, ending lynching, ending the disparities in education and access to jobs for fifteen years before the disaster of Ronald Reagan and his War on Everything. Yes, I said it, the nation began a slow decline with his election, he was in my humble opinion the worst thing that could have happened to anything slightly resembling progress. We need only look at what he ushered in or who he attacked on his road to the White House, with his ‘Welfare Queen’ meme. Then his War on Drugs and the disparity in sentencing laws, started during his time in office, which have only begun to be addressed by this administration. Finally, we need look no further than the the slow disintegration of our infrastructure, education systems and the rise in poverty to understand what he started has finally come to fruition. If there is an afterlife, Saint Ronnie must be gleeful.

Has it gotten better?

What could possibly lead any of us to believe it is better? Truly, the scales over our eyes must be iron plated that we believe it is better. But let’s examine so maybe I and others can be convinced of this ‘better’.

Voters Rights, the act was originally authorized in 1965 and until 2006 was reauthorized as required with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and signed by the President, no matter the party. In 2006, thirty-three members of the GOP House voted not to reauthorize the Voters Rights Act, they went on record as being against protecting the rights of all citizens to exercise their fundamental right to vote. In 2013 the Supreme Court gutted, in a vote of 5-4 the most critical portion of the Voters Rights Act Section 5, freeing states to change their voter laws without oversight by the Justice Department; in essence paving the way for a return to pre-1965. For a good synopsis of the Voters Rights Act and Voting in America, go here.  Since the gutting of the VRA, multiple states mostly in the South, have enacted new voting laws including Voter ID, changes to hours, changes in the availability of voting equipment primarily in minority districts, reductions in early voting, changes to mail in voting and a host of other ‘conveniences’ that predominately impact minority voters.

Extrajudicial killings, we even have a name for it now this murder by cop, sounds all official and everything, like somehow these murders are somehow acceptable within a civil society. Well based on outcomes apparently they are, no police officer is being prosecuted for murdering an unarmed man or woman, in fact they are being protected by the public servants we pay to protect us, from cops to district attorneys all the way up to Governors. There was a time in this nation when at least people had the courtesy to murder in the dark of night, with white sheets covering their shame. Now? Not so much. Now police, in their uniforms murder unarmed men, women and young boys in broad daylight and the middle of the street knowing they will get away with it. Hell, the media will help them by digging up every minor flaw in their history, painting their victim as the aggressor despite the truth, using language to convince an ignorant and unthinking public to be afraid of the ‘other’, language like ‘criminal’, ‘thug’, ‘gang member’, ‘hulk like’, ‘monster’ and ‘demon’. We heard terms like these about every single unarmed person the police murdered, every single person some citizen murdered, every single unarmed Black child, man or woman; they were other and somehow deserving of their death.

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We have the highest prison population in the free world. Now there is something to be proud of. This country has divided families, created horrific poverty, destroyed communities and developed a de facto slave economy with their for profit prison solution. We have men in prison for decades, men who did not commit the crimes but who were railroaded by dishonest cops and DA’s into prison. We have Black and Brown men and women in disproportionate numbers filling our systems up with far longer sentences than their White counterparts for the same crimes, oh wait we have the Affluenza Defense for White Folks, kill people, rape children your own or others, but don’t go to jail if you are White.

These are just some of my observations. I wish I could say I thought it was getting better. I don’t think it is getting better at all. I think perhaps, there are some of us out here who have shed our bigotry and bias, but we are not doing enough, we are not speaking up, we are not lending our support and standing up with those who need us to stand up with them. What we are doing is allowing those who would like nothing better than a return to Jim Crow and the day’s pre Civil Rights, pre Loving-v-Virginia, pre VRA and pre Integration to be voted into Congress at a state and national level, to remain seated on the highest courts of the land and what they are doing is dismantling every single protection and piece of progress ever made.

Do I think it is better? No, I don’t think it is better. I think in many ways it is far worse. I think it is worse because I know it could be better but we are sitting back and allowing our nation to falter through our apathy. I weep for all of us, for the loss of life and the loss of our promise, for the loss of a great dream.

Sit Down Shut Up

tears_of_sadnessWhat do we do? What do we owe?

Those of who still make up the majority of this nation, who are still walking through the world with a certain privilege bought by the lack of melanin in our skin; we owe something. You might not think so, but we owe something. Oh, I know I have heard the song and dance many times before I could likely put it to music and do a soft shoe shuffle:

  • I didn’t own slaves
  • My family didn’t own slaves
  • My family fought for the Union
  • I have Black Friends, it isn’t me
  • I voted for Barack Obama, I’m a Liberal it isn’t me
  • Slavery was 200 years ago, racism is dead

The list goes on, sometimes ad infinitum. So, I ask the question again, what do we owe those of us privileged not to walk through the world in fear, what do we owe?

There are those who would answer nothing. To them I say, leave my sight, get out of my space, don’t breathe my air, please. Yes, I try to say it nicely.

There are those who would say, little; maybe, they could send money because money soothes their conscious and allows them to continue with their comfortable lives unencumbered with the dirt xbckx8mqslodq9a6j3fa84xfixqc9lj5and grime of what is happening outside. To them I say, well make it a big check and remember your children might someday ask what you did, where you were and how you made a difference. How will you answer them?

Then there are those, like me who struggle with the question. Who struggle with how to reach across the chasm of righteous fury, who can no longer find the words to express our own fury at the quagmire of injustice, blood and brutality that is now in the light of day. There are those, like me who are not the enemy, but we surely do look like them. What can we do, even as we stand up and try to reach across the abyss of mistrust and fury, what can we do? Our empathy is shallow, we who cannot walk in the shoes, cannot slip into the skin; we cannot fully empathize because we cannot place ourselves even for a minute in the position of the mother mourning her dead child, the father who cannot find work simply because of the color of his skin, the youth stopped and frisked one hundred times before he is eighteen for walking on a city street; we cannot feel what they feel, not even for a minute.

What can we do, our compassion seems almost misplaced, sometimes more like sympathy or pity both of which are unwelcome and most especially as we barely move from our comfortable chairs. What can we do, our anger at the injustice seems unfocused as we sit contentedly ensconced in suburbia, nodding our heads and listening to other people telling us, ‘it is terrible out there’. There are those like me who are at a loss, our voices silenced by our inability to speak coherently our own rage, our own fear, our own pain; despite our inability to walk in shoes already filled, some of us, many of us are enraged and want to find our place in a fight that should be ours as well. What do we do, when we can only speak from what we know and who we are, from our own experiences and our own hearts and minds, how do we bring that to a table brimming with righteous pain, rage and mistrust.

 

Featured Image -- 94374What do we do? What do we owe?

I don’t know the answer to either question anymore. I know we must stop trying to over-write and invalidate the clarion call of the movements for justice.

#BLACK LIVES MATTER            ≠              #ALL LIVES MATTER

I know we would all like to think ‘All Lives Matter’, it has a pretty ring doesn’t it? The fact is, right now, it isn’t a movement of ‘All Lives’, some of our lives have always mattered, some of us have always had a preferred position, a front seat on the bus. This right now is a different thing, it is not all about ‘All Lives’, it is not about us or you, it is a movement for Justice, for Equality in Justice and it is focused on a community of people who have not received justice since the first sale of African Slaves, known as the ’20 and odd’ in 1607 on these shores.

Historical Arch

From 1607 through centuries of slavery, Jim Crow to today with institutional and structural racism built into every corner of our social, cultural and geo-political foundations we have proven ‘all lives’ do not matter, only some matter. What can we do? We can stop hijacking movements, stop being insulted when ‘we’ aren’t included as a matter of principal, stop arguing that we matter; we have mattered for four hundred years, get over it. For once, we can honor the call of another movement, rally to a call that is not specifically ours, be foot soldiers instead of officers, if the movement for justice is to be cohesive and acknowledged, we can simply repeat the call rather than change it.

What do we owe?

I don’t know. Maybe we owe our bodies on the front line, standing in front of police in riot gear protecting those who have been without shields for far too long. Maybe we owe that. Maybe we owe our voices, our demands added to theirs for justice, for equality; maybe we owe that as more than lip service.

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I don’t know, what we owe. I don’t know what we can do. Maybe we ask and if we are told nothing, we have done enough; just maybe we should take it, accept it sit down and shut up and wait until we are invited to the party rather than demand our voices be heard.

Perhaps we see ourselves as something other than the enemy, but you know maybe it is just too damned late, maybe it has gone on too damned long. Perhaps, we have allowed by our inaction, our blind indifference the disparity of our systems to corrupt our nation to such an extent, even those of us who wish to reach across the chasm can’t find the right bridge.

What is the answer? I wish I knew.

Too Late

Screenshot (1944)Do not tempt a desperate man

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 5 Scene 3

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Is fear the only thing we feel as we stare through the open window into the future, certainly seems this might be the truth of it, at least for many of us.

The question must be asked, what is it we fear? The better question is, what do those in power fear.

Is it the future itself; is it the unknown and unknowable? Or is it something else, something we can see out of the corner of our eye that frightens the hell out of us. Is it the loss of something most of us don’t have but are certain we could if only, what?

If only, something would happen the way it was promised, by all those damnable slick men way back in the day who said to us, it was them folks over there who were sucking up what was ours, taking away our jobs, our tax dollars and if we voted for them they would make it right. Those slick politicians who said if we would pay a bit more so the ‘job creators’ could pay a great deal less, itimages would trickle down to us, you know we would be lifted up with them and those moochers and leeches would be left behind in the gutters where they belonged. If only, it would begin to happen the way it was promised way back when St. Ronnie started telling us the Gospel of Trickle Down and the Parable of the Welfare Queen.

What is it they fear?

I think I know what it is so many in this nation truly do fear. They fear the loss of power. They fear the loss of autonomy. They fear the loss of true majority and the loss of privilege. They fear they will no longer be able to walk through the world with complete sovereignty over every speck of dirt their feet touch and the assurance no person can push them off their pedestal.

That is what they fear and that fear is palatable. It is clear in the laws passed to prevent people from going to the polls and from voting even when they get there. It is clear in the militarization of police forces across the nation, the shift from ‘protect and serve’ to ‘command and control’. It is clear as the corruption of justice becomes blatant, supported by corporate media and corporate owned politicians. It is clear as prison systems become private, corrupt and for profit feeding the greed of the same small feudal lords who own the defense contracts, the militarization of the police, the guns on our streets, our state houses and Washington.

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What is it they fear?

I will tell you what they fear. They fear the loss of Whiteness as a sign of Good and Right. They fear the loss of control. They fear the loss of Power. They fear they might not be the biggest, baddest monster in the woods and it scares the living hell out of them. What are they doing? They are trying hard to crush all dissent by any means necessary. They have been doing so for years, decades really. For a brief moment in time, it shifted, but not really what happened is things calmed down and we all looked in a different direction. The truth of the matter is, it is hard as hell to wrest power from the hands of those who have it. It is difficult to convince those who are hanging on to let go, to fall backwards that someone will catch them.

I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.

President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1960 in response to racist signs held up during a motorcade in Tennessee

It seems we haven’t come far since the signing of the Civil Rights Act by President Johnson. The difference between today and 1960, we have a Black President the hate, fear and outright disrespect shown towards him and his family has escalated to a fever pitch in direct response to the fear of the White Man, no matter their place on the economic scale. Oddly, it is predominately the poor and ignorant who hate him, in fact the lower on the economic ladder the more vehemently the hate is expressed.

What do they fear?

Those in power, fear dissent, ultimately they fear the loss of power and thus they are doing everything they can to retain their power. They are crushing the spirit of this nation. They are crushing everything that could make us great, humiliating, imprisoning and killing communities and people. They are dividing us, making those of us who should come together in common cause enemies instead. They are destroying our education system, making each generation more ignorant than the last. We are allowing this, we are buying the pabulum they are selling; sucking at the tit of mass consumerism as if we were starving and they are the sow of plenty.

We sit back and nod our heads, sit on our hands, stare stupidly at the television screen and agree as some overpaid and under-informed talking head delivers lie after lie to our living room, then we repeat it to our friends and family as if it were gospel. We allow and enable the rich and powerful to create a storyline of criminal history for every single unarmed Black Person killed by the police, armed citizen or vigilante. Remember they are the enemy of Whiteness, Rightness and all ‘we hold dear’.

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We sit back and nod our heads as families are broken and the pipeline is filled from school to prison, we say not one single thing as schools crumble with not a single cent spent for infrastructure, school improvements, education improvements. Meanwhile prisons continue to be built nationwide and the vast majority of them are filled from those very schools that are crumbling. The false picture being painted, the constant harping of ‘Black-on-Black’ crime with no mention of ‘White-on-White’ crime, no mention of how often one is prosecuted over the other, no mention of outcomes resulting in long prison sentences to feed the for profit system.

What do they fear?

I think they fear we might figure it all out and we just might come together. We just might reach across the vast barrier and rise up. We just might overthrow the oligarchy, the feudal lords of profit and greed before it is too late.

What do you fear? I fear it might be too late.

Ham Sandwich and the Zimmerman Defense

screen-shot-2014-11-25-at-4-34-05-pmThere is now a process for how it is done, a script to follow, a recipe to mix from that insures a free pass for the right kind of killing. Everyone knows it, in fact, I am going to guess there is a super-secret class taught and only some of the good ole boys are invited to attend. Maybe it is part of the graduation ceremony, or perhaps they wait a little while suss out what kind of good ole boy you are going to be before issuing the invitation, but chances are eventually if you have feelings of superiority combined with a powerful need to kill, you will get invited.

Let’s call it the Zimmerman Defense.

The terrible thing about the Zimmerman Defense, if you are a cop the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will aid and abet you presenting your defense in the media and to the Grand Jury, thus you will never be indicted for your heinous acts of murder. It is damned near the perfect murder. If you are a sociopath, in need of a bit of blood, simply join your local police force. If you are a racist asshat, in need of a bit of mayhem, have at it put on the uniform; you know the one with the patch that says ‘To Serve and Protect’.

Join the local police force and prepare your Zimmerman Defense, you will have friends in high places jumpstarting your road to freedom, your opportunity to continue your life of violent crime sanctioned by the uniform you wear. Not only will the Chief of Police be on your side making public statements about your sanctioned murder, the Police Union will stand behind you, the Prosecutors Office will lie for you, Governors will protect you, the media will work hard to show your ‘side’ of the story, no matter how insane it is. Finally, if you are truly the type of person everyone loves to whimper over as if your murderous actions were somehow heroic, they will raise money for you and you will become rich and famous; not infamous as you should, not a convict downloadas you deserve, but rich and famous.

The most ludicrous part of this entire situation is we the people pay for this. We the people, pay the cops who kill. We the people, we pay the District Attorney to lie and warp the justice system in favor of Killer Cops. We the people, we pay the salaries of the Governors who call out the National Guard to ‘control’ peaceful demonstrators exercising their Constitutional Rights at Free Speech, or maybe in at least one case (Ferguson) Jay Nixon knew the fix was in and he wanted to avert riots from overflowing into White parts of town (yeah, I am suspecting this was likely it). The fact is, we the people pay for all of this, we pay for Apartheid, we pay for Genocide and we turn our backs, failing to acknowledge these acts for what they are. Making excuses for the murderers in our midst wearing the uniforms we pay for, with those patches that clearly say, ‘To Serve and Protect’. Obviously, they were not intended To Serve and Protect the communities or the people they are with abandon murdering in cold blood.

Do I sound bitter? Do I appear to be one sided in my views? I was told, as recently as yesterday my credibility on this subject was lost for several reasons:

  • My views are too far left to allow me to see things with any degree of reasonableness
  • Despite the obvious lack of melanin in my skin, I am more Black than White
  • Given my past associations, marriages and otherwise my opinions are not credible

Those are just the highlights; some of the others were even more insulting to my intelligence. I let them slide, I didn’t respond to the person saying them instead taking a page from someone I care for deeply, blocking them and ending the conversation. Am I bitter? Why yes I am, I find this nation growing worse rather than better, I find this nation instituting laws to disenfranchise communities of people, stop their voices and strip them of their rights and those of us who could do something instead do nothing. I watch as voices are silenced, men and women are slaughtered in our streets, prisons are filled, schools are emptied and we do nothing. I listen to those who should be our leaders as they say the most blatantly racist and sexist things in public forums and are re-elected to high office; we sit back and do nothing. I watch as our justice system is corrupted to serve the few, we do nothing. In fact, we do worse than nothing; we nod our heads and remain silent.

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We watch as an 18 year old is gunned down and left to lie in the street for four hours, we say nothing instead allowing his name to be tarnished. We listen as they call him Thug, Thief, Demon and MB1we nod our head and accept this as maybe truthful, maybe Michael Brown did ‘puff up as the bullets entered his body’ as that murderer Darren Wilson claimed in his Grand Jury testimony. No, No it didn’t happen that way. No, Michael didn’t punch him on the right side of his face while he was still in the car, no he didn’t go after his holstered gun either. The murder, Darren Wilson lied he applied the Zimmerman Defense and was aided and abetted in doing so. The murder, Darren Wilson is lower than a ham sandwich and anyone with an ounce of common sense knows it. The problem is we watch then hang our head, refusing to do more.

tamir riceWe watch as police roll up on Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old child and shoot him dead in an empty park. We see it all on video, we see they make no attempt to talk to him, no attempt to determine whether his ‘gun’ is real or a toy, despite the 911 caller said he thought it was a toy. They just roll up and before the car stops moving they shoot to kill, not wound but kill. Will they be indicted? Likely no, the DA in Cleveland is planning the Grand Jury route on this one also.

We watched as Eric Garner is taken down in a chokehold, as he says eleven times while face down on the sidewalk of New York, “I can’t breathe”, we watched cops pile on him, we watched knees eric garnerplaced on his head forcing his face further into the concrete. We listened and learned that chokehold had been banned, made illegal twenty-years earlier and then we watched as the Grand Jury came back with a No Bill against the cop who killed Mr. Garner with that chokehold. That cope, Daniel Pantaleo is another who is lower than a Ham Sandwich.

murders

How dare we condemn other nations for their civil rights violations when we think it is perfectly acceptable to gun down unarmed Black and Brown men and women in the streets of our cities, or choke them to death, or beat them on the side of the road, or perform no-knock warrants and kill infants in the process. How dare we even consider condemning other nations for their records when we have undeclared Apartheid in our own nation, with each whittling away at Voting Rights it becomes more declared and more obvious. How dare we look outside of our borders to point fingers at the bad behavior of any other nation when we are incapable of living up to our own declared standards of behavior, even the basics of ‘All Men are Created Equal’.

Bitter, hell yes I am bitter and I am ashamed of this nation and its people.

Bow Your Head and Weep

harriet tubman“If you hear the dogs, keep going.
If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.
If there’s shouting after you, keep going.
Don’t ever stop. Keep going.
If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.”
― Harriet Tubman

Today across this nation in Cleveland, Ferguson, St. Louis, New York, Beavercreek, Salt Lake City and countless other cities families will sit down to dinner with less to be thankful for, with an empty chair at their table and it is likely mothers and fathers will weep at the loss of their child to violence. Parents, spouses and children will bow their heads and instead of thanking whatever god they pray to, they will ask “Why”. They will weep as they find themselves bereft of their loved one and struggling to understand why the system they were told to trust did not work, why the life of their husband, father or child did not matter. Today across this nation, families will weep as they mourn the loss of their beloved and lost members to police violence.

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We are a terrible nation, a nation that turns away from entire communities, blaming them for their failure to thrive within a greater society determined to see them as always ‘less than’ and undeserving of the rights and privileges embodied by this nation’s founding documents and ‘moral’ standard. We are a tragic nation, built upon theft of land and resources, blood of innocents, indentured servitude, forced labor, rape and violence; yet we have the unmitigated gall to hold ourselves, as a nation, up as a standard of excellence. We dare to act as police and moral arbitrators, condemning violence and human rights violations across the world while within our own nation we fail to uphold the Rights and even Humanity of our own citizens.

Today, families weep and we should all be weeping with them. Those of us who do not send our children out into the world with fear in our hearts each time they leave our side, we should hang our heads that we do nothing, say nothing and enable this genocide within our borders to continue. Yes, I said it, We Enable. By our silence, through our failure to stand up and say,  ‘no more’, each timescreen-shot-2014-11-25-at-4-33-18-pm we fail to demand answers for the depraved acts of murder by those tasked with defending the law and protecting citizens, WE ENABLE and WE AGREE they are in the RIGHT. Each and every time we listen to media pundits, elected officials, journalists, has been’s and never were’s such as Rudy Giuliani disparage entire communities WE ARE ACCOUNTABLE along with them for enabling the horror story of structural and institutionalized racism that has destroyed the soul of this nation and its people. It is us, as much as them that allow and enable Genocide to escalate unencumbered by Law or Justice.

I am saddened there are those in this nation who refuse to face up to the fact there truly are two nations, truly two systems of justice, two systems of opportunity, two systems for damned near everything. It is not about ‘responsibility’ and ‘accountability’ as some would have us to believe. It is not about pulling your pants up, speaking better English, getting a job or any of the other idiotic and ignorant bile that spews forth from the lips of those who have never been at risk a day in their life simply for the skin they were born in.

Any one of us can say all day long, “I personally am not a racist”. However, the problem with that statement, so long as ‘I personally’ do nothing to actively fight against the institutionalization of racism within this country I am passively agreeing to its continuation, I am by my refusal to stand up and speak out, by my refusal to put myself in harm’s way agreeing my life, my way of life matters more.

screen-shot-2014-11-25-at-4-34-05-pmTime and again, the President of this nation has been called divisive by those who hate him for only one reason, who fear him for only one reason. Time and again, the Attorney General has been called divisive for speaking out on issues of race and violence. We have had for nearly six years our first Black President, our first Black Attorney General; this combination scares the hell out of those who see their power base slipping and they are fighting hard, with ugly tactics to convince this nation these two men are the cause for the rise in violence, the rise in racist language and attitudes. Those who see these two men of calm as divisive have deceived their base and even many of us into believing a story, a fable of Black and Brown rage and danger, one that is escalating and must be controlled by occupation forces and murder. The truth is, this President and this AG have spoken infrequently and with cautious language on issues of race, they have used the Bully Pulpit rarely and with great restraint so as not to offend those who would use their words to stir the already boiling caldron of White Rage and Fear.

We are not divisive because we point out racism, whether it is police murdering or the KKK marching with police escorts while peaceful protesters are tear gassed and shot with wooden bullets. We are not divisive because we identify the documented fact a Black Man is 4 times more likely to die in custody than a White Man, a Hispanic Man is 2 times more likely to die in custody than a White Man. We are not divisive because we find it disturbing when mass killers are taken into custody alive if they are White, but Black Men and Black Children with toy guns are killed by cops. We are not divisive when we identify the difference between media coverage of college students rioting during a sporting event or festival for squash and communities rioting in response to police murdering their children without fear of reprisal. We are not divisive when we point out a wealthy White teenager walking out of a courtroom with a new syndrome, Affluenza (he is to wealthy to go to jail it might harm his delicate sensibilities or future) preventing him from going to prison after killing four people in a drunk driving joy ride, but a Black teenager is killed for jaywalking.

We must begin to stand up, to point out what is wrong with this nation and the leadership of this nation that we do not demand better. We are not divisive, what we are is challenging a system that has consistently shown itself to be Racist, unjust and weighted towards one group in this country. Either we are one nation, with one rule of law, one set of values and principles, striving toward the betterment of all citizens … lifting all boats in a rising tide; or we are a Slave State, intent on the debasement of an entire group of our citizens, the death of their next generation.

screen-shot-2014-11-25-at-4-14-25-pm

Today, families gather to give thanks far too many of those families will instead shed tears of anger even fury at the loss of a loved one to violence at the hands of police.

Where does it end?

We must begin to stand up, to scream our demands for change. We must begin to silence those who turn away and refuse to see what is before them; we must demand those who are tasked with protecting our citizens; we must demand those who are elected to office high or low, perform their tasks to the benefit of all citizens not just those who can pay for their services; we must stand up and demand journalists, pundits and others tasked with delivering information become fair, balanced and perform their tasks with integrity and ethical standards or be taken off the air, a return to the standards of old is necessary to raise this nation out of the mire of ignorance we have fallen into.

It is time to rise up out of our apathy. It is time for us to bow our heads and weep with the families who will gather today with an empty chair at their tables. It is past time for us to demand a change to this failed experiment that is the two-nation system of have and have not, divided by the color of our skin and the privilege those of us born with the fortune circumstance of White skin have not earned.

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It is time to acknowledge we have a problem and it is not the criminality of the Black Community it is the Criminality of a nation built on privilege, brutality, greed, violence and a desire to retain what was never earned but stolen.

It is about fixing what is broken in this nation no matter the cost.

Mothers, Fathers and Nations

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a young, beginning even before I was a teen I started to run away. By the time I was fourteen I was deemed a habitual delinquent by the juvenile court system. I was also considered past redemption by many. At the age of fourteen, I was removed from my parents’ custody and placed in foster care, shortly thereafter I ran for the last time. I have written some parts of my story in Broken Chains, it might explain why I was a runaway, why I was a Juvenile Delinquent.

There was a time, many years ago when many told me, including judges and my own mother they didn’t expect me to see twenty-one they certainly didn’t expect me to ‘make anything of myself’.

I say all this because I did make it to twenty-one and beyond, today I am a grown woman; I am alive with a loving though slightly dysfunctional family. With two sons, grandchildren, friends, a decent career, my own home and mostly the things I want in life when I want them. I have books to read, a good education; I have seen the world (even if I complain about travel). I have been most fortunate, surviving heartbreak and violence in my life to become ‘Victorious’.

This isn’t the story of me; this is about a mother’s heart. I thought it was important to say first where I came from, to say first someone in fact many someone’s saw my promise and gave me a chance, thus I am here.

My two sons were a gift. I did not bring them into the world but I married their father when they were barely potty trained. At the ripe ages of two and five, they were already handfuls, already opinionated and full of themselves as little human beings. Our first run in after my marriage happened the first weekend they came to stay, with Number One Son hands on hips and head twisting side to side like a cobra spitting, “I don’t have to do what you say you aren’t my mother”.

I glanced at their father sitting calming and silently on the couch behind me and realized at that moment this would be the weft of our relationship, especially with regard to his sons. Staring at these two small humans, I realized I had the opportunity to shape lives, it was frightening and my heart hit my throat. I knelt down in front of them so I could look Number One Son in the eye, “You are right, I am not your mother but in this house your father does what I say and so will you. In this house, you will not smart mouth me. You will say Yes Mam’ and No Mam’, Please and Thank You. In this house I will tear a knot in that narrow butt if you smart off to me again.”

By the end of that first weekend, both of those boys had been swatted and stood in a corner. Number One Son never was swatted again, ever; though he found a few corners to his liking over the years. Number Two Son on the other hand, he was me all over. When my mother use to say to me, ‘some day you will have a daughter and she will be just like you, then you will reap what you sow’, honestly I thought I had dodged that bullet, until Number Two Son, he was my Waterloo. During my marriage to their father, their mother and I made a pact, to raise them with love. We didn’t always agree on tactics, but we did agree on one thing we wanted these young men to survive to adulthood.

 

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It is thirty-two years later, water has passed under the bridge, I divorced their father seventeen years ago. In that divorce the best thing I got was custody of my youngest son, no one fought this; his place in my home was secured with love. At the time he was just turning seventeen, he and I had a unique relationship. While his brother was the child of my mind, he was the child of my heart and soul. His mother and I agreed the best place for him was with me. His father did not want him, walked away without a backward glance.

My two sons were by no means angels, they weren’t devils either, like so many they were simply teenagers. They weren’t complete delinquents though Number Two Son certainly worked hard at achieving this goal. Certainly if you saw them during their teen years, walking down the street you might have crossed to the other side. They had their days, with tongue piercings, eye brow piercings, tattoos and sagging pants, hair midway down backs and dyed colors not intended for humans, Goth finger nails (black and dark blue were popular) and yes experimentation with marijuana and drinking that I am aware of. My sons were no angels.

Do not get me wrong, I fought hard for Number Two Son, for his safety and his sanity. Some things you can ignore, some things you can shrug off as childish; other things you yank chains and demand change. I knew too well the path he was following and I put a leash on him, marshalled every resource I had and fought hard to save him. Number One Son, he played at being ‘Cool’, but really he just wanted to grow up and be part of the crowd. He didn’t want to rock the boat; he listened and was smart enough not to be truly stupid about the choices he made.

I tell the story about my two sons because it is important, Number One Son just turned 37 this week; Number Two Son will be getting married next month. Both have good jobs, their own homes, lovely families, brilliant futures. All it took to get them here was love, patience, belief, a few tears and sometimes a whack upside the head. All it took to get them here was giving them a chance to thrive on their own, the opportunity to grow up a support system and trust.

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Though I sometimes worried about Number Two Son reaching adulthood, I never once had to worry either of them would be gunned down in the street by a rogue cop. Every child in this nation has the right to grow up and achieve their full potential. Every parent has the right to raise their child in safety, without fearing the people who are paid to protect our neighborhoods will murder their child.

Every child has the right to walk down the street in broad daylight or at night without fear. Every child in this nation has the right to an education, to hope, to a future. Every parent in this nation has the right to believe their child can be successful in life including education, work, family and home.

Every parent has the right to believe they will outlive their child. Every parent has the right to believe they won’t bury their child due to violence, especially police and vigilante violence.  We have seen far too many mothers and fathers burying their children due to violence and especially recently due to police violence against mostly unarmed young Black Men. It is hard for me to call them men, so many of them aren’t out of their teens, so many of them haven’t yet reached their majority. So many of these young ones couldn’t even tell you what they want to be when they ‘grow up’, yet they are gunned down in the street by cops or vigilantes, or by a ‘good guy’ with a gun who ‘feared’ for his life and made up a story to justify what there is no justification for.

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How did we get to this place? The media are complicit with the police painting each shooting as justified; each young person becomes a ‘thug’ and the murderer the ‘victim’, even as brokenhearted parents bury their child. When did we become so lacking in compassion, so deficient in empathy as a nation or a people. When did we lose our heart, perhaps we never had one to start with and now it is more obvious with every loss more reported on within social media and the contrast so clear.

I realize I am blessed, along with their other mother we are both blessed. We have sons who are alive, healthy and grown to adulthood. There are far too many mothers today who can only visit their sons at gravesites, who will only see their child as a teenager in photographs because that is the age he was when he was gunned down in the street. This must end and only we can end it. Every parent has the right to see their child grow to their full potential in safety. No parent should have to bury their child due to violence.

Only we can end this. Only we can stand up and demand change.

Only we can stand up and demand a change to Police behavior across the nation through better hiring practices, training, education and penalties.

Only we can stand up and demand Stand Your Ground laws be repealed nationwide.

Only we can stand up and demand changes to gun laws, nationwide.

Only we can stand up, demand the Department of Justice do their job and investigate police violence.

Only we can stand up and demand more money for education less for incarceration.

Only we can end this violence. Only we can protect our future by protecting our children, all of them.

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