Juxtaposition Shots Fired

OpEdThe State of Texas informed me a few days ago one of my shooters was re-entering the Parole system, no he hasn’t been granted parole he is simply being considered. I don’t know how I feel about this, I am processing my reaction. I know how people think I should feel, hell I know how I think I should feel, but I have changed, my heart is heavy as I consider my response.

Then, a few days ago, I read this, by Jeff Winbush who I greatly admire. I realized while reading this piece about the mistrial of Randall Kerrick, just how truly great the chasm sometimes is.

When I was carjacked, shot three times and left in the street for dead I was scared. There is no other way to describe my feelings, I was afraid. I did not know how I was going to survive what could have been fatal wounds. I did the best I could; I staggered to the nearest home late at night and pounded on their front door. The couple was older, they didn’t open the door, they told me to go away. There was nowhere for me to go, I couldn’t go further, I slid down their wall and in tears begged them to call 911. Nothing more, just call 911. Once again, they told me to go away; they didn’t want to be involved. At that point, I was so afraid but I was angry too how could anyone turn his or her backs on another human being in need? I didn’t understand, my only response too what seemed a terrible cruelty, ‘I am not going anywhere, you will have to explain a dead woman on your front porch tomorrow if you don’t call 911 now.’

I sat, waiting to die. I didn’t know if they were going to call. Holding the tourniquet, I had made and wrapped around my neck, feeling my warm blood as it dripped through my fingers, I talked to the universe. The one thing I was not afraid of was the police, I knew if they appeared I was not in danger, I knew if they were called and saw me sitting on the porch of these strangers home their instinct would be to help me, they would not see me as a threat.  I knew, if they rolled up on me they would not do so with guns drawn, screaming for me to get on the ground. I knew if the police were called they would help me, it would be foremost on their mind, to save my life.images (8)

My unwilling hosts must have weighted their options, they made the call. I heard the sirens in the distance and shortly thereafter, the blue lights of police and rescue cars rolled up the street. I was surrounded by men in blue whose first concern was my life and well-being. Could I talk, could I tell them what happened came after. How I got to that house, that porch came as I was laying on the gurney. I told them only part of the truth, not that I had to ask more than once for them to be called, only that I had been shot elsewhere and how far I thought I had walked. I didn’t understand until weeks later why they didn’t want to be involved, why they wanted me to ‘go away’. Even with my intellectual understanding, it would be years before I let go of my fury at their disregard for my life.

This brings me to the juxtaposition of my experience and the mis-trial of Randall Kerrick. If you don’t know who Randall Kerrick is, or why he is on trial I would suggest reading Jeff’s piece that I linked above, or this piece also by Jeff, but in short.

Jonathan Ferrell_zps6diudjvmOn September 14, 2013 Johnathan Ferrell, 24, had a car accident in the middle of the night. He crawled out of his car and made his way to a home where he tried to ask for help. The homeowner, after seeing a disheveled and bloody young black man on her porch immediately calls 911 and asks for assistance. When the police arrive things go from bad to worse, there doesn’t seem to be a point in time where the police attempt to discern if Johnathan is a threat, instead there is simply an assumption he is. First, as he runs toward them, likely because he is injured and needs help there is an attempt to Taser him when the Taser fails to discharge, Randall Kerrick fires his weapon, not once, not twice but ten times. Excessive? Absolutely.

Does anyone but me see the difference in response? I don’t believe it is getting worse, I believe it has always been this way, the difference is we are seeing it more now, hearing about it more now. We are becoming more aware and having to face just how truly unequal our entire system is. The push back on the demand for equality is both fascinating and heartbreaking. The fear that if we acknowledge indeed Black Lives Matter, we somehow are saying other lives do not yet for centuries we have said through our actions Black Lives Matter Less. How can we now demand inclusion in a movement of recognition?

The other day I saw this and thought it a perfect explanation of what is happening to the conversation, yet was saddened it had to be said.

BlackLivesMatter2

The last question is important, why are we having these misunderstandings? Why aren’t we able to reach common ground, accept there is a problem and begin to work toward solutions together? What is it about our national psyche that forces us to demand there be winners and losers, rather than all of us working toward common good. Why do we continue to hate ‘other’?

I do not ask these questions rhetorically; rather I ask them because they deserve answers. I look at the very real difference I as a white woman am treated by the police and the way in which Sandra Bland, a black woman was recently treated by the police leading to her death in custody, these questions demand answers. I consider the ‘arrest’ and death of Walter Scott in South Carolina in comparison to the extraordinary protections taken in the arrest of Dylann Roof, these questions demand answers. I watch the press and many others with voices smooth over the actions of Dylann Roof, calling him a troubled youth, but jumping on the horrific actions of Vester Flanagan as a Racist Hate Crime, I wonder why do we allow these definitions to stand.11951145_476709872503362_4356076426194746518_n

When do we all start to truly question the systems that keep us apart, keep us from building the necessary bridges toward true freedom and real power. When will we realize it is time for us to find common cause, common ground.

I stare at the letter from the State of Texas, I have the right to respond. I have the right to speak to the Parole Board, through a letter, on the phone or in person. I have done so every time one of my shooters has been up for parole. Three years ago, both of them made parole and both of them were back inside within 120 days. My heart has changed a great deal in twenty-three years, my understanding of the world changed too. I don’t know how I feel anymore, I don’t know if I want to demand more of my pound of flesh in retribution for my pain. I don’t know anymore if I am being vengeful or if my heart simply won’t let go.

I do know my experience is a very different one than that of Sandra Bland, Johnathan Ferrell, Walter Scott and the thousands of others. I also know there is something inherently wrong that needs to be corrected.

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.

Three Legged Stool

3leggedstoolSome would have us all believe we are in a ‘post racial society’, those who say this with a straight face are either delusional or simpletons. Others would have us believe women have achieved equality or something closely resembling it, I say those who say this, ‘you are beyond half bent over and should return to whence you came, 1890 perhaps’. I would like to note, if the person uttering this nonsense are of my gender, they are likely being paid well for the garbage dripping from their lips. What keeps us in line is the distinct and bright line of money, or the lack thereof. Let us call it what it is, poverty; we live in a society where money buys your way through life, if you ain’t got it you ain’t going to get it. Those born with it are working hard to keep it and keep it out of the hands of others.

It is a three-legged stool, an ugly and nasty stool. One we have been sitting on and pondering our navels from for far too long.

One from which we watch and shrug our shoulders as our African-American brothers and sisters die, as they are shot in the streets, as they are beaten in jail cells, as their children die of preventable disease for lack of access to health care. One from which we watch our schools crumble and our children fail even basic educational skills. One from which we watch as women/mothers struggle to make ends meet, while the fathers of their children languish in corporate prisons for the crime of trying to pay the rent. One from which we refuse to acknowledge there is a problem and it is called institutional racism, we are a part of it. We inherited it, we continue it, we benefit from it if we are White.

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One from which we watch and shrug our shoulders as our sisters are raped and beaten, we make excuses for their rapists rather than protect our young women in the military and on college campuses. One from which we watch as women who once had the right to agency to choose to protect their reproductive health through birth control and yes, even the right to choose abortion if necessary no longer have this agency, as men strip them of their adulthood of their rights over their own bodies and push them further back into poverty and dependency. We watch as women are paid less than men in every field of endeavor and our leaders at every level of government refuse to acknowledge the inequity. We watch as women struggle to gain parity and representation without success.

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We watch and shrug, refusing to acknowledge the widening gap between those who have and those who have not. We uphold the wealthy as heroes to be propped up, while we lose more of our own small value in the market. We watch the gap widen every year without demanding changes to the very systems of inequity that created the abyss we are unable to cross, no matter how many jobs we hold or how many hours we work. We watch as our neighbor loses their home, shrug and are grateful it isn’t us that lost our job to outsourcing or the latest free market con. We shrug as our neighbor drives away never drawing the line to it could be us next time given our abysmal lack of compassion last time we voted. We blame everything without ever considering the agenda of the person or group who has put forth the illogical Meme of the week for why we are sinking in to the chaos of poverty, why our neighborhood is losing market value, why the middle-class is shrinking, why we don’t have any damn money.

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We are a nascent society, with the emergence of social media and our use of cell phones and other means of communication there is at least one thing changing and rapidly. Can you guess? We are beginning to talk, we aren’t saying much yet but we are beginning to talk. We are beginning to look at each other and see humanity rather than enemy. We are beginning to see violence against another person, not like us, and challenge the violence rather than challenge those who protest the violence. We are beginning to look across the road and at a burning church and pick up a bucket full of water.

It isn’t all of us, not yet but some of us are beginning to say, ‘no more’. Some of us are beginning to challenge racism, challenge historical structures and challenge symbols with the truth. It isn’t all of us, but it is more of us, more of us are asking the question, “What can I do? How can I help?” It matters, that we ask, that we see and that we are offended and aren’t afraid to offend those who sit and shrug.

It isn’t all of us but some of us are beginning to challenge women’s ‘proper place’ and why we are taking steps backward rather than forward, how we are losing ground. It isn’t all of us, but some of us are asking the questions, stepping forward fearlessly with our stories and demanding to be heard. It isn’t enough of us yet, but some of us are standing up and saying we will be heard, we must

a demonstrator after the Eric Garner Grand Jury announcement Mark Makela/Getty Images

a demonstrator after the Eric Garner Grand Jury announcement
Mark Makela/Getty Images

be heard, we must be represented in State Houses, in Board Rooms, in Congress. Women cannot afford to sit back, to lose the rights our mothers and grandmothers laid down their bodies, their reputations and even their lives to gain for us. Yet, we are bleeding them out again in back alleys; it isn’t all of us but some of us are beginning to stand up and take up the fight for our agency.

We are beginning to recognize we are losing ground, all of us. We are losing our voice, the voice we each have the right to express through our vote. Money has stolen our voice, through a bought and paid for SCOTUS and Congress we have seen our vote being slowly eroded. Through Voter ID Laws, through Super Pacs, through other egregious acts by our acting leadership we have handed over our voice. Now, some of us have recognized how bad it is and we are beginning to fight back.

Poverty comes in many ways, as a nation our worst form of poverty is that of spirit. We have suffered a terrible loss of spirit, of national soul. We have sold ourselves for a dream, to slick talkers with the promise that if we allowed those at the top to lift themselves without limitations or consequence for bad acts, we would somehow be lifted with them. It was a lie, it was always a lie and we were warned but were blinded by the con of free money. Now we are paying for our desire for something for nothing.

I can only say, if you haven’t already WAKE THE FUCK UP!

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.

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