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.

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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Anonymity and AssHats

OpEdRecently I was listening to one of the various talk radio stations I listen to on the way to work, or on the way home I don’t remember which now. What I do remember about that day is the caller who was furious and righteous in his fury. Now and then I find myself talking to the radio, sometimes I even curse and I do know many terrible words in a couple of languages even. This particular caller caused me to use them all; I tell you he was beyond ignorant and bordering on downright stupid, perhaps even evil.

It is my assumption that most people have some grain of good in them and some grain of intellectual honesty as well. I know, it is never good to make assumptions they are usually wrong and they usually disappoint. Another thing I know, social media, as well as, radio call in shows allow people the mask of anonymity, thus giving the privilege / right to be gigantic Assclowns without fear of discovery or retribution.

So what turned my crank? Got me screaming foul names at my radio and most certainly looking like a raving idiot at 70mph, well it went something like this:

Radio Host: You are on the air, what did you want to say?

Caller: I just wanted to say, if it wasn’t for White People there wouldn’t be any science, art; nothing. Everyone would still be living in caves and dirt huts grubbing for food like they do in Africa.

Radio Host: What are you saying Caller that you think all advancements came from Caucasians in Europe throughout history?

Caller: Well of course. White people are the only ones with enough intelligence to invent anything; all the modern conveniences came from white people.

This conversation went on for a minute with the caller getting uglier, more racist and ultimately more stupid in his remarks, the host finally shut him down without ever explaining to him just how wrong he was.

I have a secret; it is an important one I think, something we should have all learned in school, something we should all know by now and should all consider critical in how we view the world and our fellow man. So I am going to share it and then find something else to talk about for a day or two, I am going to take a break from my current bout of rage for a few days. Honestly, I am weary of the ignorance I am surrounded by and it seems only to be getting worse.

So here is my secret.

If it were not for those people of Africa, Asia Minor and Asia there would be no Civilization as we know it today. Going back to the time before Christ (how time is measured) while Europeans were barely walking upright, great civilizations rose and fell. Do you wonder what in Hades I am saying, what in Hell I am referring to?

I just bet you do. Well, let me first refer you to the following maps so you understand the definitions of Africa, Asia Minor and Asia.

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I know, you know what Asia Minor, Asia, Africa and even the Middle East are and didn’t need that small refresher course, did you? However, really it was likely a good thing I provided it. Here you were thinking all good things came from Europe and White Men, just like that caller the other day. I mean really that is what you thought in the back of your mind, right? If you were raised in the US of A, it is what you were conditioned to think, no matter how Liberal your family, how well rounded your education, you were none the less trained to think all good things came from those with pale skin and with few exceptions, a penis.

Let me provide a baseline from which we can leap into the pool of understanding.

Were it not for the people of Asia Minor in particular, but also Africa and Asia there would be no “God” of the Jews, the Muslims or the Christians to fight over. Certainly, there would be no Jesus Christ for the Christians to claim as their own. Were it not for the ancient people of Asia, there would be no Buddha. There is not a single religion, not one that was founded by Europeans, that is by Caucasians or White folks. There are offshoots such as Mormons or Snake Handlers they are though all based on something that came before them and not ‘new’. So just to get this straight in our heads, the faith based religions most White Folks follow so fervently, the ones they are willing to kill for and die for these were all created by Brown Folk. Jesus Christ himself, he was of Jewish / Arab racial descent, would have been brown eyed, with black hair, swarthy skin; in fact he would look much like the men and women we fear today in the airport.

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Without religion, there would be no philosophy. Just thought I would throw that one out there as a bone to chew on.

The next great one that did not come from Europe, did not come from Caucasians or more commonly known as White Folks…Writing. Nope, we did not invent any form of written communication. This was first discovered and then improved upon in other parts of the world. In fact, those same parts of the world we are so quick to condemn as barbaric and backward are the seat of early civilization where the first forms of written communication and math are documented.

Some of the Great Wonders of the World could not have been built without Architectural genius and advanced Mathematics.

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None of them strangely enough in Europe, none of them oddly enough from White Folks. With all this being said, I don’t want anyone to believe I don’t give credit where credit is due. Once the Romans conquered, marching through Asia Minor and parts of Africa, along with much of Europe, spreading joy and book burnings wherever they went, things changed quickly. Slavery for the sake of slavery came into vogue, violence and blood sports as a national pastime (think murder for the masses) and new forms of economic Democracy (vote buying) that have been passed down to us here in the good old US of A.

In the meantime, simply to put things in perspective here are just some of the Black Folks who have contributed to the betterment of our human society.

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To the caller and anyone else who thinks this way, please educate yourself or simply find the pit in Hell and jump in. You and your kind are why we are in the pitiful condition here and elsewhere in the world. It is your thinking that causes the problem. It is your thoughtless ignorance that starts the wars, kills our children and draws borders around nations. It is you, your ignorance that has people, both men and women, young and old lying on the streets of this nation dead by police too quick to fire their guns. Your ignorance, your xenophobia, your misplaced pride in something you had nothing to do with other than being born with the ‘right’ level of melanin.

You are the problem and you truly should seek help for your ignorance. Someone I love continues to tell me racism is a disease. I wish you and everyone like you would work toward a cure, I truly do.

White Man Improvements

Look Over There

OpEd

Today, in the United States of America, we have a national tragedy on our hands and we casually turn our backs, shrug our shoulders and with aplomb blame others, including the victim, for outcomes we own entirely. In the year of the Lord 2014, we continue the slow and sure genocide of those members of our society we first enslaved and then disenfranchised, no matter the dreck we pretend to, post racial my happy azz. Then throw in those members of society we stole the very land we call our own, the land we stole through hook, crook, death dealing and broken treaty, yes they remain on lands we continue to try to steal ‘back’. Finally, there are those who cross our borders in search of a better life, we have the gall to stand before them as if we ourselves are not the descendants of immigrants, demanding they return from whence they came pretending there aren’t criminals and other shady characters slipping about our family trees. We are a soulless community hate filled hypocrites that make me ashamed to claim my citizenship most days.

But just in case anyone doesn’t know the history of pap and dreck called Civil Rights, it includes:

  • Emancipation Proclamation of 1863
  • Thirteenth Amendment of 1865
  • Executive Order 9981, giving ‘equality’ within the Armed Forces
  • Brown v. Board of Education, 1954
  • Twenty-Fourth Amendment of 1964
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1968
  • Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 1971
  • Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988, overriding Reagan’s original Veto
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991, overriding a threatened Veto by Bush
  • Shelby County v. Holder, 2013 the current SCOTUS reverses the voter protections of section 4 and made section 5 toothless of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act. In a strongly worded dissent, Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the V.R.A.” (Voting Rights Act).

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The President said today, “We will not be intimidated. Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists.”

No the President of the United States of America was not talking about the Terrorists in our midst, he was talking about others far away, others we in fact created. Created through our love for war and our propensity for nation building and the spreading of the falsehood of ‘Equality’, ‘Democracy’ and ‘Freedom’. This nation is built on a lie, a great huge sinkhole of propaganda. We are neither Equal, Free nor are we by any stretch of any imagination a Democratic Republic and we get further and further from this shining ideal every single day of our existence.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t talking about the police who are terrorizing and brutalizing entire communities. Killing children, men and women in the street and in their homes. Beating them on the side of the roads with impunity. Raping them without fear of retribution. Arresting them for no reason other than they are Black and sitting on a public bench outside a bank in broad daylight. I ask, what is the difference in these four killings?

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I personally do not give two tinkers damn if IS (ISIL, ISIS) continue to make their way through every nation in the Middle East, let them fight their own battles. I am unwilling to spend another drop of American blood, another drop of American sweat untangling the mess. I personally have no desire to see another American life destroyed for greed and the ignorance of rich white men who don’t give a damn whether any of us survive so long as their bank accounts thrive and they can ultimately negotiate another contract with another puppet government when it is all over.

This is what I give a damn about, right now, right here, today and without equivocation.

  1. Educating our young people from pre-K through grade 12 and making it possible for every young person to gain either a trade or a university education without going into a lifetime of debt. I want this education to be ‘real’ and I want it to include Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, History, Philosophy, Human Biology, Age Appropriate Sex Education, Science, Political Science and Comparative Religion and the Arts. I want sports to be secondary but PE to be mandatory. I want every child to have access to Head Start, Healthy Meals, Technology and Books (real ones). I want education to be PUBLIC and every school no matter where it is to have the same access to information, facilities, books, equipment and teachers. I want children to be taught to alleviate ignorance not to pass a f’ng test.
  2. Invest in our INFRASTRUCTURE, now and without trying to pick and choose who has the ‘best’ must kiss-ass-suck-up Senator or Congressperson. There are plenty of reports that identify the roads, bridges, ports and rail that are in the most desperate need, start there and work forward. This nation should be ahead of the curve instead of decades behind our competition, we should have high-speed rail for transporting goods and people. Our airports should be state of the art rather than third world nation, our ports should be pristine, we suck at all of it.
  3. Pass gun laws, now. No bullshitting on this one, no pansy ass negotiating with the NRA, tired of them. Let’s all face it, guns have one purpose to kill, that is their only purpose. Screw the Second Amendment, repeal now. Want to shoot stuff, want to kill stuff? Join the Army and volunteer to go over to the Middle East or wherever the latest hot spot is, otherwise no guns on your back, in your car, on your hip; no armory in your house. It is ignorant and stupid. We do not live in the Wild Wild West and guns are unnecessary.
  4. De-Militarize the police and start testing all applicants for sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies. Take away their toys first. Put cameras on their cars and their uniforms next. Anyone who turns a camera off is subject to automatic unpaid suspension. Establish external, citizen investigation of all complaints of police brutality. All police killings investigated by DoJ. Internal affairs essentially to become null, departments should never be allowed to investigate themselves, ever.
  5. Let’s start emptying our prisons of non-violent criminals, shall we? These mandatory sentencing laws are ridiculous. Three strikes, can you guess who this hurts the worst? How about life-sentences for juveniles, any guess who are sentenced most often? While I am at it, I want an end to the play for pay scheme all together, no more private prisons in the Good Ole US of A, no more Governors boosting their coffers by emptying streets into these horror shows.

I want; damn what I want is for all of us to be lifted up out of this soul sucking poverty we seem to have fallen into without a fight. I want an end to dead men, women and children of all races lying in the street at the hands of cops who are not held accountable for their actions. I want all of us to give a damn again, to give enough of a damn that we demand a change and demand it now rather than allow our horrifying descent into us-against-them feudalism, where all of us lose to continue. We have turned our backs on what we were supposed to stand for, what some of us did once stand for and now we are burying our dead, every single day without a tear shed.

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It Starts With Me

LVal_2010When I look in the mirror, I don’t see Privilege. I do not think to myself, well today when I go to the store I will be treated well, store security will not follow me, the lady at checkout will not demand two pieces of identification if I write a check. I don’t think the police will likely let me go with a warning if I drive a few miles over the speed limit; no one will follow me if I am somewhere, in some neighborhood I have never been before looking at houses.

When I roll out of bed and consider my day, I don’t think to myself, “Damn, I am so lucky I was born White.”

Do you, or if like me your skin is White and your heritage is mixed bag of European American you simply take for granted the beginning of another day and never consider what it means to be fundamentally, you as in your racial identity.

When I look in the mirror, I see crow’s feet and think, “Shit they are getting longer and deeper”.

When I look in the mirror, I see the reverse skunk stripe down my part and think, “Dang, time for another touch up”.

I do not however ever see my racial identity in stark terms. I don’t see it and wonder how it might affect my life today.

What I don’t do is wonder what I should wear to the local market, it doesn’t matter what I wear, they will still treat me as if I matter. Even if I don’t do anything more than sort of comb my hair or just run water through it and hope for the best, throw on yoga pants and a tee shirt. Not one person in that store would ever think to wonder just what the hell I was doing there, I belong; my skin tone gives me the right, the privilege of belonging.

Never thought about how I was lucky, fortunate in comparison simply based on my much paler skin. What I considered were those things I could not change about myself that made my life more difficult;

  • I was born a woman.
  • I am getting older.
  • I had been divorced and financially ruined in that divorce.
  • I had been hurt and left with disabilities.

These things, some which are simply characteristic to my birth and others, which are part of life, affect my ability to find work and sometimes advance, stay productive, earn a living, prepare for my retirement and be financially stable.

They are frankly first world problems. They do not prevent me from moving in the world in meaningful ways. They do not cause others to look at me with suspicion simply for walking into a store or in the neighborhood. In fact some of my problems are invisible, some of my problems because of the color of my skin are more easily overcome than they would be otherwise.

Do I compartmentalize my own experiences? View the world based on my own expectations of a world that is better than it is. My husband has told me I do this that I frequently do not see “ugly” behavior for what it is; I do not put the behavior in its proper perspective. I have had to wonder about this lately, question my own ability to truly “see”.

One True Story

When my parents were alive they lived in a small town in the Hill Country of Texas, we visited often, to eat, drink and play golf. My parents lived on the golf course and frequented the clubhouse for lunch. There are very few Black people in this community. We never thought about this, never considered it an issue; it never occurred to us that anyone would treat a member of our family badly.087

We sat down and perused the menu (written on the chalkboard), we were all chatting and laughing together. My brothers, father and ex-husband had just finished a rousing game of golf and DB had beaten their pants off. The men were bad talking each other and we women were rolling our eyes and hoping they would stop, soon please. DB and I were only recently married and had not been to the new house together, but my father and mother were well known to the staff. When the waitress came over to the take our order, she went around the table joking with members of the family, taking orders as my father proudly introduced those she hadn’t met before. When she got to DB and me, she skipped over him, her eyes slid off him as if he didn’t exist though she had taken my order and he was sitting right next to me she pretended not to see him. It was astounding. My father reminded her she had missed his order and proceeded to proudly introduce my husband.

I realize now my father saw what DB saw and I am humiliated by my insensitivity. My husband was mortified and hurt by the encounter and refused to eat there ever again. He told me why and I understood it, I simply did not “see” it until he told me.

The arrest of Miss Rosa Parks - Historical Context

The arrest of Miss Rosa Parks – Historical Context

We that is all of us, in our intransigence regarding race relations in the United States today are the problem. Our refusal to see the problem, our refusal to discuss the problem in real terms, our refusal to ‘allow’ historical context to those that racial bias most affects; we are the problem. Whether we ourselves are unambiguous in our pathological bigotry or we are vague and shroud our intent in a labyrinth of policy and statistics, we remain the problem. Even if we believe we have not a shred of bias, bigotry or racism in our hearts, we are the problem if we refuse to see the truth of this nation and its very real problems with race relations today in 2013.

Discussions of Race and its Historical Context by the President of the United States is not divisive. This President is a Black Man in this United States. In spite of his Bi-Racial make-up he is seen as only one thing on the street, that is Black Man. When he was growing up he was seen as a Black Boy, a Black Teenager. When he ran for office he was hated or loved for his Blackness in many cases. His words on July 19, 2013, were not divisive they were contextual and personal. Yet before he was done those who refuse to see, refuse to hear and refuse to accept Historical Context and Racism as Reality in 2013 went after his comments as if he were the problem. He isn’t.

We are the problem. We are the problem on individual levels when we refuse to examine and correct our own responses and reactions. We are the problem when we refuse to engage in necessary discussions. We are the problem when we don’t speak up, when we don’t get involved when we see inequity happening right in front of us. We are the problem when we don’t stand up and refuse the status quo. We may not be able to change the hearts of men (or women), we can certainly change the outcome of how their words and our own affect our society.

It starts with us as individuals. It starts with me. It starts with you.

Notions, Odds and Ends

soapboxpileIt has been a long slog through the muck. There were things left undone as my attention was diverted by both Campaign 2012 and blogging for Race 2012. I admit it, I love politics it is both an intellectual distraction and a philosophical passion, sometimes futile I admit but this time, I think we all learned a few things. Does the end of the campaign and the re-election of POTUS 44 mean I will stop bombarding you with politics?

Well no, probably not but what it does mean is I will stop blitzing you quite so much. My earlier intent to look at and compare the platforms of the two parties moving forward from 1900 to today hasn’t changed, I think this is remains an interesting subject. What about you?

The world we live in remains disrupted by stand your ground ideology on both sides of the aisle. For those of us who voted for the winning side, we can celebrate today but the heavy lifting is only just beginning. For those who voted for the opposition, I am sorry your team lost. I know you are feeling despondent even today the loss is still sinking in. The problem is we are all Americans; we have to find common ground and move our nation forward. We cannot afford to allow those we sent to Washington to set the agenda against our collective best interest.

We are not:

  • African (Black) Americans
  • Hispanic (Brown) Americans
  • Native Americans
  • Asian Americans
  • White Americans
  • Gay Americans
  • Young Americans
  • Older Americans
  • Female Americans
  • Male Americans
  • Christian Americans
  • Muslim Americans
  • Buddhist Americans
  • Mormon Americans
  • Atheist Americans
  • Deist Americans

Nor are we any other flavor of American the pollsters or for that matter, the Census Bureau can think of. We truly need to begin to think of ourselves not as special interests groups, rather simply as Americans, citizens of this nation. Do not mistake me, I fully agree we have not achieved equality and Civil Rights across the board remain elusive for many of our citizens. Some continue to believe Civil Rights should be a ballot measure, granted only if your neighbor pulls the lever and agrees you as a citizen should have the same rights they have.

This past few years has been ugly. We have seen billions of dollars poured into campaigns, dollars that could have been better spent to feed and educate children, create jobs, research new technologies or study new cures. Instead, these dollars were spent to divide the nation, spread fear and lies, clog our airways with party ideology that did nothing to move us forward, nothing to solve our nation’s very real problems. I along with others, watched in outrage and horror as SCOTUS passed Citizen United and the Super Pacs came onto the political field. My repulsion grew exponentially as gerrymandering became de rigueur and new voter laws begin to pop-up with regularity where there was no reasonable cause.

Worse still, we missed it we missed the most important SCOTUS decision possibly of the century in 2000, in Bush v. Gore while we rung our hands and whined the election had been stolen we failed to see the writing on the wall, the future of our great nation hanging in the balance with these simple words:

 “the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote.”

The state has preeminent rights, greater than individual citizens and greater than the federal government to direct voting. We, the people (remember us) do not have an affirmative right to vote in federal elections! Yes, you read that correctly. There are Constitutional Amendments, namely the 15th, 19th and 26th that prevent discrimination on the basis of Race, Gender and Age. These wonderful Amendments nevertheless do not provide an affirmative right to vote as an American Citizen, they only prevent discrimination where the State allows voting to occur.

What does this mean? Well, think of it this way, as a citizen you have the following:

  • A positive Right to own a Gun
  • A positive Right to Free Speech
  • A positive Right to Assembly and Protest
  • A positive Right to practice your Religion
  • A positive Right to Free Enterprise

You do not have the RIGHT TO VOTE. The right to vote, who will vote or how the electors to the Electoral College for your state will vote is in truth in the hands of your Governor and your Secretary of State. How do you like them apples? Everything the states did leading up to the Presidential Election of 2012, was legal. We might not have liked it. We might have recognized it for what it was and found it repugnant, but it was within the law.

What do we do now? SCOTUS said November 9th, they will hear a case on whether Congress exceeded its authority when they reauthorized the 1964 Voters Rights Act, specifically Section 5. This section requires States with a history of discrimination, gerrymandering and disenfranchising voters to submit changes to their voter laws to the Federal Government before they are enacted. Is there a correlation between the Courts decision to take this case up and the reelection of POTUS 44? The possibility certainly exists and we the people of this nation need to be watching this case along with others they have agreed to hear that quite possibly will change the will of the people as they legislate from the bench what is not the will of the people.

We have allowed this, in some cases encouraged this scourge on our national dialogue. We the people failed to see through bile being spread before us as Truth and the American Way instead we repeated it. We were sucked in. We engaged our friends and family members as if they were foes on the battlefield, all too often forgetting to dull the edge of our sharp tongues, forgetting sometimes we catch more fly’s with honey.  I am as guilty of this as many others, having had to fall on my sword more often than I can count. Having had to apologize to many I love for my acerbity.

We are a nation still divided. I am saddened by this great divide within our country. Separated not because we are really so different but rather because we have allowed those who do not have our best interest at heart to convince us we should be enemies. We have drawn lines in the sand and called them race, religion, gender, sexual orientation; what they really are the boxes others have placed for us to crawl into preventing us from getting to know our neighbors, preventing us from learning we might be friends. We have aligned behind ideologies, believing the talking points without digging down and asking questions and thus defending the indefensible. We have in fact allowed our great nation to be hijacked by two Parties the DNC and the GOP, two sides of a coin Heads I win Tails I lose, nothing in between no diplomacy, compassion or negotiation. Two sides embittered and embattled wanting nothing but power for powers sake, never mind the bodies left on the field in their wake.

Truly, is the middle so hard to find? I wonder, I do. So will I continue to write about politics, I will because I can’t help myself, it is my passion this nation of ours. It won’t be my only subject though, there are other things I think about, other passions I have.

So, for those I insulted with my acidic and barbed tongue, I hope you will forgive me. Believe me as often as I snap (I do I know despite my attempts to do otherwise) will be just that often that I will fall upon my sword and grovel for you forgiveness. My comments are never personal (well mostly never personal) and are never meant to attack anyone personally (mostly not).  

Race 2012, Platforms & Ideology

This nation has taken on the inequity of education at every level from K through university as part of the on-going debate. The question we have to ask ourselves is it only poverty that drives the inequity or is there something else at work is there a racial undercurrent, still. It is hard to ask the question, hard to look at the year and think back to the days of Civil Rights marches, sit-ins, busing and finally forced school integration and have to ask; have we really not come any further than this?

There are some things we can see in black and white, there is no question there is a lack of parity. What is not so easy to determine is why. It is easy to say this is pure institutional racism, brush our hands together and move on to the next subject. Is that enough, have we solved the riddle? I don’t think we have, the inequity built into our education system has been with us for a very long time, it is the outcome of how we fund and administer our local schools. It is only natural, eventually, as poverty forces people together into communities, schools along with other services would suffer the consequence of economic decline.

It isn’t just poverty that divides us. Unless we cannot absolutely avoid it, we will always seek out communities where we are comfortable. We will always seek out a place to settle where the people look like us and sound like us.

Ruby Bridges, New Orleans 1960

It is natural, we might not even realize we are doing it; it is our own deep-seated fears and underlying prejudice driving us on, informing our choices. We might not be Racist, we might not be a raging flaming outright Bigot but these are very different animals from carrying that seed of fear and that ember of racial bias. We are by nature Xenophobic; we fear what is different from us.

I am not a Racist!

Except where racism is overt, where the neo-Nazis, KKK and others of their ilk march down city streets decked out in well-pressed sheets or Para-military gear, racism hides behind polite social forms. Since the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 there have been changes in what is accepted in our public discourse regarding race we have even found a racial etiquette, at least until recently. This etiquette though, this burying of the Jim Crow era overtness has given way to new resentments and new racial dog-whistles.

  • Government Intervention
  • Welfare
  • Affirmative Action
  • Title I
  • Drug War

What does all this mean when it comes to education? It is an unfortunate truth, the very communities that have been ripped apart by our failed policies and barely concealed bias, have failing schools. We covertly accept some children, within some communities will not thrive and thus set up the circumstances for them to fail while paying lip service to hoped for success.

I am not going to try to hide my disdain today; the following quotes are taken directly from the GOP Platform, you can read all about their thoughts starting on page 35 [2]:

The Republican Party is the party of fresh and innovative ideas in education.

periodic rigorous assessments on the fundamentals, especially math, science, reading, history, and geography; renewed focus on the Constitution and the writings of the Founding Fathers, and an accurate account of American history that celebrates the birth of this great nation;

We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with abstinence education which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. Abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually. It is effective, science-based, and empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes and avoid risks of sexual activity.

We support keeping federal funds from being used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs.

Republican Governors have led in the effort to reform our country’s under performing education system, and we applaud these advancements.

Now let me just quickly give some examples of what one Republican Governor has done as part of the reform of his under performing system.

  • Removed Thomas Jefferson from history books as part of the Enlightenment. Why you ask? Well because he was a known Deist who coined the phrase “separation of Church and state”; can’t have that coming out of the mouths of one of our Founding Fathers. He is still in the History Books, obviously can’t remove him completely but he isn’t mentioned as one of the key figures of the Enlightenment.[1]
  • Added a section called the unintended consequences of Affirmative Action. In the meantime, there is a section about the positive aspects of slavery in America and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is now referred to simply as ‘Atlantic Triangular Trade’. [1]

Can you begin to guess who this genius of Educational reform is? This stellar representative of a GOP Right Wing-nut might be? This would be President? Oh, I won’t hold you in suspense; it is my very own Governor Rick Perry. Only in Texas would they think to screw the pooch of Education this deep, keeping in mind a very large portion of our students are poor, Hispanic or Black.

The GOP promotes school choice, so do I so should we all. The GOP also promotes vouchers and privatization of our education system, here is where the GOP and I part ways. Families with no means to send their children outside of their communities, no transportation, no extra funds for school uniforms will not be in a position to ‘choose’ schools outside of their immediate communities. School choice is only for those with true choices, true means beyond the single ‘voucher’ for tuition and possibly books. The meme of borrowing money from your parents doesn’t begin to touch on what poverty means to those whose entire communities have been decimated by it.

Private industry will not build schools or invest in communities that represent no return on that investment, no profit. What does this mean? It means public funds will be all that remains and will be even more limited so long as we continue to limit public funding to property tax collection. It means after the Unions have been busted, public school teacher ranks have been further demonized and decimated and school text have been bastardized by boards with agendas, our children our future will be left in failing systems with no hope and no future.

Is this Race Based? It is poverty based and has the unintentional effect of further kicking the can down the road, closing the door on dreams and opportunity for those who would like to live the once real American Dream.

Is this Race Based? Perhaps a more important question is this truly unintentional or is it simply the new more polite Jim Crow.

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_sdi.asp

http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012006.pdf

http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acsbr10-05.pdf

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/education/13texas.html?_r=0

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/22/education/22texas.html?fta=y

[2] http://whitehouse12.com/republican-party-platform/

http://www.democrats.org/democratic-national-platform#moving-america

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