What If He Had Been White?

It happened over a week ago, on March 1st, in Boulder, Colorado.  Zayd Atkinson was minding his own business, picking up trash on his own property.  Suddenly a police officer approached him to ask who he was, why he was there, what he was doing, as if he were an interloper or a suspect in some crime.  The officer pulls his gun, although he doesn’t point it directly at Zayd, and soon the officer is joined by seven other officers.  Did I mention that Mr. Atkinson is African-American?  Did I even need to mention that?

At couple of Zayd’s neighbors were in the area, saw what was happening, and tried to tell the officer that he was only picking up trash, that he lived there.  One even happened to film the incident.  The officers ultimately walked away, after checking his identification and were finally convinced that Mr. Atkinson did, indeed live there, and that he was not holding a lethal weapon, but one of those trash-picking-up-stick-thingies.  The video Mr. Atkinson’s neighbor filmed went viral and public outrage was fierce.

According to Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa …

“This is a very concerning issue, and one we’re taking very seriously.  All aspects of this incident, specifically the actions of the initial officer, are being investigated.”

Okay, so there you have the facts.  I am glad that the police department is taking the matter seriously, if in fact they are, but will withhold judgment on that until their investigation is complete and we see what, if any, action they take.  But I do have a couple of questions.

First, if the officer had noticed Mr. Atkinson in the yard with the long stick and a bucket, and if Mr. Atkinson had been pale-skinned, would the officer have even given it a second thought?  Would he have walked over to Mr. Atkinson, pulling his pistol out of its holster?  Folks, we can all answer this question without even thinking about it.  It was a nice neighborhood and Mr. Atkinson is black.  In the officer’s mind, no doubt that did not add up, Mr. Atkinson could not possibly have belonged there, and holding a stick, too!

Second question I have is, if the video filmed by Mr. Atkinson’s neighbor had not quickly been seen nationwide, would the Boulder Police Department be investigating now?  Was the investigation launched, not as a matter of due process or justice for Mr. Atkinson, but as a result of coverage by both local and nationwide (CNN, The Washington Post) media outlets?  I think we probably know the answer to that one, too.

Chief Testa said the investigation could take months.  Why?  He says the officers were all wearing body cams, plus there is the ‘unofficial’ video by the neighbor.  The incident only lasted sixteen minutes.  Why should the investigation take ‘months’?  The officer who initiated the contact and drew his weapon has been “placed on administrative leave”, almost certainly with pay.

Racist incidents take place in every state in this nation, but coincidentally, there was yet another in Colorado the same week the officer harassed Mr. Atkinson.  This time, a home in Denver, owned by Ken Jenkins, an African-American man, was sprayed with racist graffiti, including an image of a lynching scene and the N-word, that was scrawled all over the front of the home.

Mr. Jenkins said he is leaving it up for a little while …

“I felt like if I painted over this, it makes everything go quiet and it just kinda fades out like everything else does. We will have this removed at some point, but we wanted the community to be able to have a conversation about it and leave it up for a little while.” 

Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks said …

“This isn’t an isolated incident. This is the world we’re living in.”

These two incidents are just another in a long string of such incidents by both law enforcement and private citizens, but unless we shine a bright light on these incidents every time they happen, then they fade into the background and before we know it, will become the norm, “just one of those things” that everybody accepts as “the way things are”.  I’m not willing to allow that to happen, which is why I wrote this today.  Awareness is key.  Protesting such atrocities is key.  We will not turn away or bury our heads in the sand, but we will speak up and speak out whenever we can and as loudly as we can.bigotry

Max Boot: President Trump Has Been Working To Normalize Racism

Most of us do not rely on others to set an example for us of how we should think, speak and act. Most of us have functional brains and were taught by responsible parents. But there is a contingent in this nation who will play “follow the leader” and “monkey-see, monkey-do”, and those are the ones who are following Trump’s example of blatant racism. Gronda, with just a little help from Max Boot of The Washington Post, has written an excellent post tying the racism that is Donald Trump to some of the events happening today. Please take a few minutes to read and ponder. Thank you, Gronda!

Gronda Morin

Related image THESE ARE TYPES OF SIGNS CARRIED BY SOME AT SARAH PALIN AND DONALD TRUMP RALLIES

As a former republican until 2016, I have become painfully aware that there is a racist living in the white House but President Donald Trump could never have been elected without the help and support of the current republican party which created the environment to guarantee his success.

In 2013, I had started to become painfully aware of a strain of racism that had permeated the republican party to where I finally left it in 2016. It started with the Trayvon Martin case. Too many in my former party (2012-2013) were propping up as a hero the likes of a bum, George Zimmerman. Then there was the demonizing of Trayvon Martin as a pot smoking thug when he was just a kid walking home from a store. When George Zimmerman was declared “not guilty” by…

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Tears of Rage …

There are so many important things I need to write about today that as I sit at the keyboard, I am conflicted, not knowing where to begin.  Trump’s emoluments lawsuit?  His DACA threat?  His intent to pull out of Syria?  His threat to pull out of NAFTA?  His ignorant statement that The Washington Post should have to register as a lobbyist organization?  Laura Ingraham’s cruel statements about the kids protesting for gun regulation and the backlash against her?  Then again, I have a piece started about how gerrymandering could affect the mid-term elections, but it requires more research that I haven’t yet found time for.  Sigh.  But I know that I will write about none of these topics for this post, because while they are all extremely important, another story has stirred my emotions … all of them: rage, grief, despair.

Stephon Clark with his two children

A young man, Stephon Clark, was only 22-years-old when he died, fatally shot in his grandmother’s backyard by police officers.  Police said he was coming toward them with a weapon.  In fact, he held a cell phone.  Police said they shot in self-defense … all twenty times.  In fact, six of the eight bullets that hit Mr. Clark, hit him in the back … in the back!!!  They shot an unarmed man six times in the back!  Stephon, as I’m sure you have guessed by now, was black. It happened two weeks ago, 18 March, to be precise. At first I steered clear of this story, for it was reported that Stephon may have been vandalizing cars in the neighborhood, and details seemed conflicting in several areas.  Besides, our friend Gronda had done a fine post about it, so I went in a different direction.    But when I heard the autopsy reports, I began to lean toward writing about it after all.  And then today … on Saturday night, a Sacramento County Sheriff’s car hit a 61-year-old woman in a crowd of protestors and then … sped away!!! That’s right … one of “Sacramento’s Finest” is guilty of hit-and-run against a woman who was doing nothing more than protesting a brutal murder by other members of “Sacramento’s Finest”! It was at this point that I knew I had to write this else my fury would eat me alive.

Wanda Cleveland, the woman the deputy hit, will fortunately be alright.  She was treated at the hospital for injuries to her arm and the back of her head.  The incident was captured on video, so there should be no doubt as to who the guilty deputy is, though the Sheriff’s office has not released that information as yet.  They say only that it is ‘under investigation’.  There is already a demand that the two officers who shot Stephon be fired, and I would add this deputy’s name to the list of people who do not need to be in law enforcement.

Does anybody remember the riots in Los Angeles in 1991 after the videotaped beating of Rodney King by L.A.P.D. officers?  It looks a lot like Sacramento wants to repeat those riots.  Protests in Sacramento had been ongoing for days, but those protests increased in intensity and tension after the results of the autopsy were released.  Thus far, the protests have shut down major roadways, blocked entry to an NBA game and created a seemingly ever-present tension in the streets of California’s capital.  I must commend the protestors, for through it all, there have been only two arrests.

And there have been signs of compassion and remorse.  Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg walked with Clark’s family as they left his funeral last week.  The Sacramento Kings NBA team has launched an education fund for Clark’s children.  Protest organizers are cautiously optimistic about the new Police Chief Daniel Hahn, who just last August became the city’s first African American police chief. Hahn did not hesitate to swiftly release body-cam videos of the shooting and summon the assistance of the state attorney general’s office to investigate it.

So yes, there are signs that this is being taken seriously, there may well be olive branches extended, but it is not enough.  Steps must be taken to hold law enforcement accountable, and thus far that has not been done.  As Attorney General under President Obama, Loretta Lynch initiated investigations and implemented procedures to ensure federal oversight of police departments, especially those accused of racial profiling.  Upon taking office, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who has a history of proven racism,  repealed much of what Ms. Lynch had put into place, saying …

“It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies.”

Then whose responsibility is it, Mr. Sessions???  We The People are sick and tired of unarmed black men being gunned down in cold blood by local police, and never being held accountable.  Local police across the nation have proven that they are not going to terminate officers who shoot unarmed black men.  Community outrage?  Sure, for a while, and then it dies down, the officers are found “not guilty” and reinstated in their positions, their killing weapons returned to them so that they can go out and take another young life.  #BlackLivesMatter is a movement that is rarely understood among the white population of this nation.  It is not saying, as some would claim, that only black lives matter … it is saying that black lives matter every bit as much as white lives!  Just maybe not to the police, the courts, or the current Department of Justice.

Something must change.  This cannot continue.  The people of Sacramento are angry.  The people of this nation are angry, at least most of us.  And we are tired … tired of racial injustice, tired of law enforcement being “above the law”.  Tired of white supremacism, bigotry, racism and hatred.  I hope the protests in Sacramento continue until finally somebody sits up and takes notice.  I do not hope to see more lives lost, but hope that, like the young people who marched for laws to control guns, the protesters are spirited, yet operate peacefully, within the bounds of the law. But the point must be made, somehow, that no, this is not okay with us!

In two days, 04 April 2017, it will have been 50 years since the assassination of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King.  Are we any further along in our quest for racial equality than we were 50 years ago?  You tell me …

Another Tragic Injustice …

19 July 2015, Cincinnati, Ohio.   Ray Tensing, a 25-year-old University of Cincinnati (UC) campus police officer is patrolling off campus when he spots a car with no front license plate.  He pulls the driver, 43-year-old Samuel DuBose, over in a ‘routine’ traffic stop.  Tensing asks DuBose for his driver’s license, and DuBose responds that he does have a license, but that he does not have it with him.  Tensing opens the driver’s-side door, DuBose pulls it shut again and puts the car in gear, although he does not accelerate and the car is not moving.  Tensing reaches into the car with his left hand, and with his right hand pulls out his pistol and shoots DuBose in the head.  Tensing claims that the car was moving and that he was being dragged along after hooking his arm through the steering wheel and that was the reason he fired the shot.  Footage from his body cam showed otherwise.  In case you’re wondering, Officer Tensing is white, Samuel DuBose was black.

Ten days after the shooting, Tensing was indicted by Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter.  As a result, Tensing was fired by the UC Police Department.  Tensing pleaded not guilty and was released on $1 million bond.  The first trial began on 31 October 2016, and ended in a mistrial less than two weeks later when the jury deadlocked.  The re-trial began on 25 May 2017 and ended in a mistrial on 23 June 2017.  Less than a month later, Deters announced he was dropping the case.

Now, I hear you wondering why I am bringing this sad story to you today, nearly a year after the case was dropped.  Well, because that wasn’t the end of the story.  Yesterday afternoon, University of Cincinnati officials announced that they have paid Ray Tensing a settlement of $344,230 for back pay, benefits and legal fees.  Although UC fired Tensing on 29 July 2015, apparently the police union contract states that employees charged with a felony are to be placed on paid leave until the court case is resolved. Tensing brought a contractual grievance to the university regarding his termination.  In exchange for the settlement, Tensing agreed to resign his position as a university law enforcement officer and to never return to employment at UC.

A young white officer with only four years’ experience shoots an unarmed black man in the head, lies about the circumstances, gets off scot-free, and then sues his employer for over a quarter-million dollars … and gets it.

And Samuel DuBose is still dead.

A Conversation Starter …

Late last week, my friend Brian, who I have mentioned before as being my sensible & sane republican friend, sent me the following message:

Hey Jill.  Someone posted this on a conservative news site.  I am not sending this because I believe all this, but most Conservatives appear to have this view about the Left.  Would love to hear your views.  Again… I didn’t write this. 😎.   Please forgive the insulting name. “DEMONUTS CHECKLIST 1Let the criminals out. 2Let illegals in. 3Mainstream media 100% gospel. 4Let boys in the girls bathrooms. 5Condemn police officers. 6Don’t care about the veterans. 7Eradicate history if offensive. 8Believe Healthcare is a Constitutional right.9Kill the unborn-10Stomp on and burn the American flag. 11Accept barbarity in the name of Islam- 12hugs,love and no borders will stop terrorism. 13Protect the Sanctuary cities. 14Black lives only matter. 15Coddle the lazy.16Encourage hate crimes. 17Call for the assassination of our president, 18talk of overthrowing ourgovernment. 19Burnbusinesses, attack innocent bystanders, destroy City property, 20call for, and try to incite a civil war. 21Refuse freedom of speech on others, while  their own political and government obstructionists.”

I tried to find information about the creator of this checklist, but all I could find is that it was created by a woman named Beverly Gibbs, and a visit to the Facebook account where this originated left me feeling ill.  However, the point here is that the ‘great divide’ as I have been calling it, has its roots in this very type of rhetoric.  People like Beverly and her followers, Trump’s followers, do not truly understand what the liberal left believe in or stand for.  Perhaps the reverse is also true.  So, I took this as an opportunity to correct the views expressed in the “Demonuts Checklist” in hopes that my responses might open some back and forth conversation whereby a few people make an effort to understand others’ views.  It’s worth a shot anyway.  I apologize for the length of this post, but I hope you find some value in it.

My responses:

  1. Let the criminals out – This is rather vague, so I am unclear what exactly is meant, but I am going to assume it refers to the fact that democratic presidents historically have commuted sentences at a greater rate than republicans. Barack Obama has now commuted the sentences of more than 1,000 people in prison for drug crimes We are not talking, necessarily about releasing the prisoners, merely reducing their sentences in most cases.  And, most importantly from my point of view, these are non-violent drug offenders.  Doesn’t it make more sense to attempt rehabilitation than to keep them in prison where they may well be exposed to more violent criminals and come out with harder attitudes than they went in?  It is, of course, a slippery slope and we must ensure that violent offenders serve their full sentences.  But the guy who was caught with a few ounces of pot in his car?  Let him out and place him in supervised rehab.

  1. Let illegals in – This is one I could write a book on, so I will try to condense my thoughts. First, the term ‘illegals’ is a misnomer.  They are humans.  They may be here against the law, but they are humans, not illegals.  Now, the objections to these immigrants appear to fall into two categories:  1) that they will take jobs away from U.S. citizens, and 2) that they may be terrorists.  They are not taking jobs that Americans want … they are taking the low paying (often below federal minimum wage) jobs that Americans do not want.  And they are not terrorists.  Terrorists typically fly into the U.S. with legal Visas.  I address terrorism in #12.  Now, to the greater point as I see it.  This nation is based on opening our arms to the persecuted, to those in need of safe harbour.  The immigrants that come here from the Middle East have been living in danger, fearing for their lives, for years and seek only a safe place to raise their children and have a better life.  Granted, there must be some limits, but simply to send these people back into chaos, turmoil and danger is unconscionable in my book.  Other nations are doing their share, and we must also.  As I said, I could write a book, but the above summarizes my thoughts in a nutshell.

  1. Mainstream media 100% gospel – While the mainstream media do sometimes make mistakes, for the most part what they report is fact-based and verifiable. We all make mistakes, as we often have less than perfect information.  As a writer of political analysis, I have made my share, but, like the reporters of the mainstream media publications, I recant my error as soon as it comes to my attention.  They/we must do that, lest we lose credibility.  As a rule, reporters report facts and leave the subjective material to the OpEd writers like myself. If you do not trust the U.S. media, turn to the overseas publications like BBC, Reuters and der Spiegel or The Guardian, for they report on U.S. events as much as on those of the EU. More to the point, why are some so willing to believe every conspiracy theory, no matter how unlikely, put forth by the likes of Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk?

  1. Let boys in girls’ bathrooms – Personally, I would like to see all public restrooms be unisex. People typically go to the restroom to relieve themselves and/or wash their hands, not for wanton sex. It is the 21st century, not the 14th. I do not see an issue here, and perhaps if adults would stop being so narrow-minded when it comes to matters of gender and sex, we might have fewer teen pregnancies and therefore need fewer abortions.  Teach children the anatomical differences between males & females, teach them right from wrong, and then trust them. There are so much more important issues in the world than which restroom a person uses.

  1. Condemn police officers – Most all of us have the utmost respect for our police force, and hold them in high regard. In fact, I grew up in the 1960s when it was not at all uncommon to hear the police referred to as ‘pigs’, but I do not know a single person who would say that today. However, when police treat blacks differently, when they use excessive force and even shoot to kill unarmed black men simply because they are black, then those particular officers are not deserving of respect.  When Middle-Easterners, Latinos and African-Americans are subjected to racial profiling, it lowers our respect, for we look up to our law enforcement community, we hold them to a higher standard, one which some are not living up to.  When we condemn the police, it is for their actions, not a sign of disrespect for the badge.

  1. Don’t care about veterans – I have no idea where this notion even comes from, so I have no response other than to say that I have never heard a single person of either party disparage veterans. Having come of age during the Vietnam War, and having lost more than one friend to that war, I well remember the disdain toward Vietnam veterans in the 60s and 70s, however I have seen nothing along those lines since.

  1. Eradicate history if offensive – I assume this point is in reference to the removal of confederate monuments. Admittedly I have mixed thoughts on this issue.  On the one hand, yes, they are pieces of history, but on the other hand, we are currently in an era of growing racism and an expanding white supremacist movement that are using the existence of those monuments as a sort of shrine to their purposes, stirring emotions and creating hate.  The other point is that the monuments themselves were not erected, for the most part, immediately following the Civil War, which would have made them truly historic, but were instead erected during the Civil Rights Era as an endorsement of the “southern cause”.  The southern cause, by the way, was in fact nothing more nor less than slavery.  The compromise solution I would like to see is to remove the monuments to Civil War museums, for perhaps they should not be destroyed, but neither do they belong on public property.

  2. Believe health care is a Constitutional right – No, I realize that it is not written into the Constitution that every person should have access to affordable healthcare, but it is inarguably a human right. Would you see a child die of a disease that could have been cured, simply because the parents could not afford medical treatment?  Perhaps the right to health care should be a Constitutional amendment.  Many other nations, including the UK, and Canada have decided it is the right of all people to be able to obtain health care, so why are we willing to allow people to die for a lack of? I support universal health care for the U.S., for it is an abomination that a rich person receive nothing but the best, while a poor child dies.

  1. Kill the unborn – While I am not a fan of abortion, I do support a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. First, there may be medical issues that would threaten the life of the woman.  But on a practical side, if the woman realizes that she is, for whatever reason, incapable of taking care of a child, then to bring the child into the world is cruel.  That child may come into a life of abject poverty, or worse, be neglected or abused.  There are, on average, some 428,000 children in foster care on any given day in the U.S., with more than 600,000 spending time in the system at some point during the year. On average, 500 children are murdered by a parent each year in the U.S. And about three times that many die as a result of abuse or neglect at the hands of parents.  When parents are unprepared to be parents, the result is disastrous.  That foetus is much likely better off never being given life.  The argument about when life begins is better left to science that politics, but it is a slippery slope argument and who’s to say that the egg and the sperm weren’t already considered to be a life?  Where does one draw the line?

  1. Stomp on and burn the American flag – I find no evidence of any spate of recent flag burnings in the U.S., and since the Supreme Court ruled it legal as a form of free speech in 1989, it would be rather a moot point anyway. I have not heard either party call for flag burnings nor stompings en masse.

  1. Accept barbarity in the name of Islam – There are radicals within the religion of Islam, just as there are within Christianity. It is always a mistake to judge an entire group by the actions of a few.  Having a number of Muslim friends, I can tell you that Islam is every bit as much a peaceful and peace-loving religion as is Christianity, and it is more tolerant of those outside Islam than Christianity is of outsiders. The few radicals within Islam are the squeaky wheels that get the oil, the violent ones who act in the name of their religion, but not within its teachings.  As many Christians might say, “judge not, lest ye be judged”.

  1. Hugs, love and no borders will stop terrorism – Since 11 September 2001, nearly every terrorist act perpetrated within the U.S. has been committed by white U.S. citizens. Most Terrorists In The U.S. Since 9/11 Have Been American Citizens Or Legal Residents [Infographic]

  1. Protect the Sanctuary cities – see #2

  1. Black lives only matter – The acronym BLM stands for Black Lives Matter. The word ‘only’ is neither included nor implied.  White people in this nation have never had the need to question whether their lives mattered, but even post-Civil Rights era, black people are still treated as 2nd class citizens in many areas, including in law enforcement.  White supremacist groups, that have a growing following, have stated that they believe Hispanics and African-Americans are less intelligent than whites.  THIS is what prompted the BLM movement.  Blacks are not asking for anything more than to be treated as equals, which they are, and given equal opportunities.

  1. Coddle the lazy – Rather vague, but I am assuming this refers to social welfare programs for the poor. First, it is wrong to assume that poor = lazy, for that is not true in the majority of cases.  Poverty may be a result of many things, and we believe it is wrong to condemn people to homelessness and starvation simply because they are poor.  I have no problem at all paying taxes that help feed, shelter and clothe the poor.  Granted, some safeguards need to be built into the system to ensure that people are not taking advantage, using social welfare programs as a substitute for a job, but I would rather err on the side of humanity than to see a single child cold and hungry.

  1. Encourage hate crimes – Now I find this one quite interesting, for the Richard Spencers, Christopher Cantwells and Tom Metzgers, leaders of the Neo-Nazis, KKK and white supremacist groups are the ones inciting ‘hate crimes’ in the U.S. and to the best of my knowledge, every one of them are republicans. The point?

  1. Call for the assassination of our president – there has been no call for an assassination of Trump. There have been a few scattered threats by individuals, as there have been in every presidency since that of George Washington.  Assassination threats and plots against President Obama exceeded the norm, likely because of his skin colour, and some were even against his wife and daughters. I can find no evidence nor record of organized or politicized assassination threats against Trump, however.

  1. Talk of overthrowing our government – I am not aware of any such talk, nor can I find evidence of any. There is rumour of a republican-backed plan called the Overthrow Project, intended to radically shrink all three branches of the federal government, however I am not able to verify at this time, and I do not make a habit of speaking until I have verifiable facts.

  1. Burn businesses, attack innocent bystanders, destroy city property – This is not a practice that is condoned. Anybody who injures another human, intentionally damages property – public or private – is in violation of the law and should be treated accordingly.  Party affiliation is irrelevant in this case.  It happens … on both sides … and it shouldn’t.  I do not know of a single person, democrat or republican, who condones this behaviour.

  1. Call for, and try to incite a civil war – Every threat of a civil war that I have heard has come from the right. Jim Bakker and Roger Stone immediately come to mind, for in recent months, both have threatened that there would be civil war if efforts were made to impeach Trump.  These are both uber-conservatives.  Trump supporters and evangelical Christian leaders are the only ones from whom I have heard this threat.

  1. Refuse freedom of speech on others – This is one that requires more than a short answer. While I am a staunch supporter of freedom to speak, or the 1st Amendment, I am also a student of history, and the speeches by white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups frankly chill me to the bone.  I have studied Hitler’s speeches in the mid-to-late 1930s and the similarities are haunting.  I have an internal conflict here, as do many of my democratic friends.  I direct you to a recent post I wrote on this topic for a more in-depth analysis The Argument Between Me, Myself and I

These are my opinions alone, and if any readers would like to also respond to any or all of the points, please feel free to do so!  The more who engage in this conversation, the better.

Armed White Supremacists Protest the NAACP in Houston: Video

The following is a post from fellow-blogger Rob Goldstein. It sends a timely and relevant message about the culture of fear and hate that exists in ever-increasing amounts in our culture today, as a result, primarily, of the rhetoric of one man and his minions. This is an important post, very short, but very relevant. I hope that you will take a few minutes to read the post and leave a comment for Rob to share your thoughts with him.

Art by Rob Goldstein

I found this video of a white supremacist protest on the Bipartisan Report.

The protesters call themselves White Lives Matter.

The spokesperson is one of Donald Trump’s Second Amendment Types; he
claims the flying of the Confederate Flag is about Heritage.

The only people I know of who fly the Confederate Flag are white supremacists.

That’s why I used the term white supremacists in the title of this post.

This is who’s voting for Donald Trump.

Art by Rob Goldstein Found on Twitter via John Moffit

Art by Rob GoldsteinVote as if your life depended on it, because it does!

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Racism of the Everyday Variety

hijabYesterday, a friend of my neighbor was shopping in a local Kroger, shopping for food to feed her family, when she accidentally bumped her cart into that of another shopper.  She apologized, the other shopper said “no problem”, and the matter should have ended there.  However, as she moved on, she heard the other shopper say to her friend “ISIS”.  The friend of my neighbor, you see, was wearing her traditional hijab.


The picture below was taken in Florence, Kentucky on 09 July 2016.  blacks sign


A Hispanic friend walked into a fast food restaurant and waited to be served, but the employee continued doing busy-work around the store, cleaning up and pretending not to even see my friend. Then a white woman entered the store and the employee served that woman first, while my friend continued to wait.


When we think or speak of racism, we think of the big, glaring examples, like KKK rallies, Trump speeches, police shootings of unarmed blacks, anti-anything-but-Caucasian rallies and protests, but racism exists in everyday life.  You can find it, obviously, in the supermarket, on street corners, in schools and in nearly every church across the nation.  U.S. WASPs have darned near perfected the practice of everyday racism.

racism-8We, those of us who are socially and morally conscious of such things, try to combat racism in the U.S. through legal channels and by attacking the institutions that promote or tolerate such behaviour.  That, too, is necessary, but I wonder if perhaps we would be more effective by using what little voice we have to combat the smaller events like those listed above.  For example, had I been shopping and seen the incident between my neighbor’s friend and the other woman, I might have stepped in and explained to the woman that: a) the proper term is Daesh, not ISIS; b) the vast majority of Muslims are not affiliated with terrorist organizations like Daesh; and c) Islam is a religion of peace and love, not hate.  Frankly, by the time I finished with that lady, she probably would have parked her cart and went running out of the store, as you all know how I am once I step up onto my soapbox!  Or, had I been the woman who walked into the fast food place and was immediately waited on, I might have said, “No, she (the Hispanic woman) was here first … please take her order first.”  And I will not even speculate on what I might have done had I come upon the man holding the sign, other than to say I would be calling upon my friends to take up a collection for bail money instead of writing this blog post.

racism-6It is called ‘everyday racism’, and it is relatively small things like this that grow into full-blown racism of the type we see propagated by various organizations, particularly this year in the culture of fear, bigotry and multiple phobias that have been pushed forth by politicians, religious leaders and the media.  People are now afraid to use public restrooms, they are afraid of women wearing a hijab, they are afraid of people who look, speak and act differently than themselves.  We must bring common sense back to the streets.  We must be willing to stand up for our beliefs, the belief upon which this nation is based, that “All Men (and women) Are Created Equal”.  We must be willing to stand up to the bigot and the xenophobe.

For the most part, none of us will ever have the opportunity to destroy the KKK, to be instrumental in passing laws that provide safe haven for Muslims, or to bring dirty cops to justice.  But that does not mean we are powerless.  We have the power to apply our values, our convictions, if only we dig down within ourselves to find the courage to do so.  Certainly it is far easier to walk away, to turn our heads and pretend that we just do not see.  But I can tell you that when you put your head on your pillow tonight, whether you wish it or not, your conscience will either reward you for standing up for your beliefs, for your fellow human being, or will cause you to question why you did not.  Think about it.

The Blame Game …

Most of us were endowed at birth with ten fingers and for the most part we keep those throughout our lives.  The finger, in my opinion, is one of the most useful body parts we have.  They can grasp things, peck at the keyboard as I am doing now, hold a fork or a pair of chopsticks to help transport food into our mouths, they can pick up things, like a crying baby or a dropped spoon.  And they can point.  There certainly has been a lot of finger-pointing going on this past week, and frankly I am to the point of wanting to rip some people’s fingers out of their sockets.

It has been a horrible week here in the U.S., filled with far too many deaths, racial tension such as we have not experienced in decades, fear, anger and sadness.  And blame.  This post is not about the various tragedies of the past week per se, I will write about that later.  Rather today I speak of finger-pointing and misplaced blame that has come as a result of the weeks dramas.

  • Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick blamed Black Lives Matter and people who “have a big mouth” on social media for the shooting in Dallas. He is joined by Bill Zedler, a Texas State Representative, Representative Roger Williams, and others.  (Note:  it was during a peaceful protest by BlackLivesMatter that the gunman in Dallas began his shooting spree, though there are no known connections between #BLM and the gunman, and there was no violence by the protestors)
  • Steve King (R-Iowa) blamed Obama for Thursday’s Dallas shooting, as do America’s #1 Bimbo, Sarah Palin, Fox News commentator Sebastian Gorka, and many others. (Well, now, we all knew it would come around to blaming President Obama, didn’t we?  He gets blamed for everything from A to Z, including Aunt Sallie’s broken toe!)
  • Corey Stewart, Virginia state chair for Donald Trump’s campaign, is pointing one of his fingers at Hillary Clinton, and another at Virginia Lt. Governor Ralph Northam. (No surprise that a Trumpeter blames Hillary, but I am still scratching my head over Northam)
  • Donnie Trump, predictably, blames immigration. (Oh the irony … Sigh)

I am quite certain I can find more examples of such idiotic, inane and counter-productive finger-pointing, but you get the idea, right?  Some things went very, very wrong this week, and when something goes wrong, we immediately look around for somebody, anybody, to blame. So people take their fingers out of their pockets, aim them and POINT!

If you are waiting for me to play the blame game, don’t hold your breath.  There is no single individual or group that is responsible for the events of the week.  Certainly there are many who have played a role, including Donnie Trump, the NRA, specific individual police officers, specific individual citizens, and any persons or groups who have called for, or engaged in, violence.  But more to the point, those who would point fingers at one person or group and say “There – that is who is to blame”, can look much closer to home to find at least one of the guilty parties.  They need only go stand in front of a mirror.

There are two reasons I am not yet writing about this week’s tragedies.  First, not enough information is known, and by information I mean facts, not speculation.  Second, I have no illusions that it is over.  I think next week is likely to bring more of the same, and I am not sure where I think it will end.  I could speculate, and I likely will at a later date, but not today. I will also, in all likelihood, write a post addressing certain aspects of the various elements of the past week sometime next week, but I am still waiting for a few more edge pieces before starting the jigsaw puzzle.  So, I am amazed that people like those listed above feel they have enough information, enough cold hard facts to not only judge the people directly involved, but also to know exactly who is at fault.  Obviously those people are much smarter than I.

The blame game is human nature, but it is a dangerous game.  It only adds to the anger and angst that is already prevalent, but more importantly it keeps us from the soul-searching, the introspection that we all need to be doing right about now.  “Oh, it is the fault of the BlackLivesMatter movement?  Great, now I don’t have to wonder if somehow I own a share of the blame, the guilt!”

For you see, we are all guilty in one way or another.  Those who supported a madman who has spent 13 months spewing hatred to the masses:  you are guilty.  Those who have said that young black men like Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, and Trayvon Martin “brought it on themselves”:  you are guilty.  Those who are promoting blame and keeping the social media sites hot with one-sided memes and expressions:  guilty, guilty, guilty. Those who have turned away and pretended not to see the injustices against African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims:  you are guilty.  Those who have told or laughed at ethnic/racist jokes told in the office:  you are guilty.  Those who believe that police officers who arrest or assault African-Americans 3-4 times more often than Caucasians are right to do so:  guilty as charged.  And those who believe they have no share of the guilt, but find that the answer is to ask God to “fix this country”:  you are the guiltiest of all.  God g

There is no panacea for the racial divide that is driving the violence of this past week.  There are solutions, but they are multi-faceted and complex, and cannot possibly be accomplished in a day, a week, or even a year.  The starting point, of course, is open, honest communication among people who are intelligent enough to leave their hatred and anger at home.  I would personally opt for cutting off the fingers of those who play the blame game, and using a few drops of super-glue on the lips of those who spew hate, but I am told that I cannot do this.  Meanwhile, understand that there is plenty of guilt, plenty of blame to go around, but the finger-pointing needs to STOP NOW.  It serves no real purpose, but is a tool of the narcissists, the politicians, and the blow hards.  You who are pointing fingers are only making the situation worse.  Go home … look in the mirror. We all have a dog in this show, and we need to start being responsible for our own dog before we start judging others’.  Think about it.

Why Black Lives Matter

This post is longer than I usually write.  I considered breaking it into two separate posts, posting them on two separate days, but in all honesty, that would be unfair.  I struggled for many hours over it and it is only about a fourth as much as I could have written, and I know that I did not do it justice, but it is one post that literally pulled something from within me and left me near tears more than once.  I hope that you will read to the end, because I think that we all need to work a little harder to understand what I am saying.

I admit that until recently (yesterday, actually) I did not fully grasp the meaning of the BlackLivesMatter (BLM) movement.  Though I supported it, I did not fully “get” it.  Like many, I had a vague sense that it was a response to the many unjustified murders of black people in the last four years, starting with the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.  I knew that the African-American community was protesting against the needless deaths caused by the very people who we pay to protect us all, the police.  But BLM is so much more than that, and I had a lot to learn.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, there were many who did not understand the Civil Rights movement, also.  It did not necessarily mean they were bad people, but merely that they could not grasp what it meant to be forced to use a separate water fountain, a separate restroom, ride in the back of the bus.  They had never been sprayed with a water hose by a policeman or had their friends killed when their church was bombed.  They did not understand and they did not try to understand.  No, they were not necessarily bad people, merely ignorant.

Fast forward to the 21st century.  We have come a long way, right?  There are no “Whites Only” signs on restroom doors or restaurants, inter-racial couples are allowed to marry, white and black children attend the same schools (mostly), and blacks are given the same employment opportunities (theoretically).  February 26th, in Sanford, Florida, a 17-year-old African-American boy is leaving a convenience store and is fatally shot by a local neighborhood watchman.  The boy’s name was Trayvon Martin and his crime was simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time (a predominantly white neighborhood), being black, and wearing a hooded sweatshirt.  He carried no weapon and was a resident in that neighborhood.  The police supported the watchman’s right to shoot the boy and the court upheld that, judging the watchman “not guilty” the following year, despite his having lied about several details of that night.

The murder, for what else can it be called, of Trayvon Martin, is far from an isolated incident.  It neither began nor ended with Trayvon Martin, his was merely the first case that caught the attention of the public, the first time the public, white and black alike, became outraged in recent decades.  Consider, if you will, the following facts:

  • Police killed at least 102 unarmed black people in 2015, more than any other race.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 black people killed by police in 2015 were identified as unarmed, though the actual number is likely higher due to underreporting.
  • 37% of unarmed people killed by police were black in 2015 despite black people being only 13% of the U.S. population.
  • Unarmed black people were killed at 5 times the rate of unarmed whites in 2015.
  • Only 9 of the 102 cases resulted in officer(s) being charged with a crime.

After the murder of Trayvon Martin, I was outraged and expected no less of my friends, neighbors and fellow citizens, but I was to be disappointed.  Excuses were made, lies were told, believed and spread, and the upshot was that most people I talked to failed to see it as cold-blooded murder, but like the jurors in the case, believed it was a justifiable action.  This was the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, formed in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, though it did not gain widespread national recognition until 2014, after the murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City.

Black Lives Matter is not a continuation of the Civil Rights movement, though many see it as such.  We resolved some issues in the 1960’s as the Civil Rights movement wound down, but in the 50+ years hence, new issues have arisen.  Make no mistake … racism is alive and well in the U.S. today.  It has merely found a new home with different methods, different issues, a new veneer.  Black Lives Matter is not the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  There is no Martin Luther King, Jr. to direct us toward peaceful, non-violent solutions. It is a movement all its own based on police brutality against black citizens, the wealth gap, a failing system of public education that needs fixing, issues of housing equality and gentrification.  These are the issues that the BLM movement seeks to address in addition to police brutality and murders by police.

Black Lives Matter is not an anti-white movement though white supremacists argue that it is.  Now here is the part that I didn’t understand, and I am willing to bet that most people do not.  When you respond to Black Lives Matter with “All Lives Matter”, it is a slap in the face.  It is an insult.  No, BLM is not an anti-white movement. But it is a movement to remind us, to jostle our conscience, to let us know that blacks have been left out of much of what makes lives meaningful, and that frankly they are damned sick and tired of it.  I don’t blame them. When you say “All Lives Matter” in response to Black Lives Matter, you are putting yourself first, once again.

The best explanation I have come across is this:

Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!

The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.

That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.

Tell me, dear readers … when was the last time that you felt, really and truly felt, that your life did not matter?  I have, as you probably have, felt that way once or twice in my life, as a child, but never for more than a few hours or a few days at a time.  Can you imagine spending your whole life feeling that your life was worth no more than … say a single fish in a pond?

  • If you’ve ever been stopped by police and not feared for your life, you’ve mattered.
  • If you’ve walked down a street at night and not been looked at with fear or suspicion, you’ve mattered.
  • If you’ve participated in our legal process and assumed you’ve gotten fair treatment, you’ve mattered.
  • Until this is true for all of us, we have work to do.

One other issue is relevant here.  Recently I saw a white woman on the news who said that while she supported BLM, the blacks really had only themselves to blame, that if they “acted right” and “spoke properly”, they would be taken more seriously, respected more.  There are those, even within the black community, who believe that blacks have not risen in stature, do not garner respect, because of their own behavior.  Because they are not trying to “fit in”.  Because maybe they dress differently or speak differently.  Baloney!  Blacks do not get the respect they deserve because many of us still believe they are inferior based on their race, based on the colour of their skin.  Nothing more. All people should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of how one looks or speaks.  THIS is what Black Lives Matter is attempting to convey.  Another excellent explanation for the BLM is to be found here:  http://johnpavlovitz.com/2015/11/25/why-do-i-still-have-to-explain-blacklivesmatter-to-other-white-people/

The saying “Black Lives Mattef” should probably include the word “too” or “also”.  That is what the movement is really about.  Black Lives Matter Too.  Black Lives Matter as much as White Lives.  Black Lives Matter as much as ANY LIVES.  No, they do not matter more … nobody ever said they did … but they must matter as much.  They must.

One last question before I give my fingers, my mind and my heart a break:  would somebody please tell me what that damn # is for???

Another Monday Post …

I am working tonight … have been working most of the afternoon, in fact, on a post about the #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) movement.  This post is not that post.  I have researched and thought and researched some more, taken a few breaks, baked some homemade honey-wheat bread, took a shower, and I am still struggling to get that one just right.  Sometimes I write a post in an hour, and I am satisfied with it.  That one, however, I need to get just right.  It is a very serious topic and one that I have very strong thoughts and feelings about, one that deserves the extra time and attention to get it just right. So I will not post it until I am satisfied that I have done the best I can do.  Instead, I am doing this “fallback” post about my thoughts on writing this blog. A bit of a departure from my norm, but …

I began this blog in 2010.  I wrote one post that year, the first of my published 9/11 annual posts and a post that nobody read.  I must have forgotten about the blog in 2011, as I wrote nothing.  Then in 2012, I wrote four posts and had 17 visitors!  Moving up in the blogging world, I was!  I don’t recall why I started this blog, what my goals or intentions were, but apparently I mostly intended it to be another venue for the book reviews I write.  Interestingly, I rarely do book reviews anymore, except by request, if I receive an advance copy, or unless I read a book that stands far above the crowd.   At any rate, by 2015, this blog had evolved into something I took seriously, a venue, an outlet for the many issues inherent in the world today that evoke serious thoughts and emotions within me.  By the end of 2015, I was posting 4-5 days a week, had 80+ followers and was receiving an average of 200 visits per month, so I was pretty content with it.

Sometime during 2015, I began following a blog called Harsh Reality by Jason Cushman writing as AOpinionatedMan ( https://aopinionatedman.com ).  I’m not sure how many followers Jason has now, as he just switched from WordPress to self-hosting, but last I knew he had 55,000+ regular followers, myself included.   I am still not sure if that inspires or intimidates me!  Jason works very hard on his blog … far more than I have either the time or energy for, and that in spite of the fact that he has a full-time job, a wife, and children!  I admire him, but his level of commitment supersedes mine. Still, we are all different, are looking to get something different out of our writing experience and have different things to put into it, so I don’t worry about it too much.  Jason has been helpful and encouraging, giving my blog favorable reviews and honorable mention on his blog from time to time, which always results in additional views and a few new followers.  Many thanks, Opinionated Man!  One thing I learned from him is that if you want followers, you have to connect with other bloggers.  I never knew that before, and it came as a surprise, but I have found there is a great deal of truth in it.  I now have followers from around the globe … Ghana, The Netherlands, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Kenya and many from the U.S.  I try to respond to all comments, try to read as many of their posts as possible and leave comments when so inspired. I did a happy dance last week when I hit 100 regular followers.

So I ask myself the question:  what do I want from writing this blog? I know I do not write so that I can feed my ego by gaining a readership. I am in the preliminary stages of writing a  book about comparative education systems around the globe, am writing an autobiographical work, so why do I bother writing an 800-1,000-word blog post every day?  Well, I do it because this is my outlet, my venue for the things I see in the world that I want to change, or sometimes the things I see that are good and I want to give them a thumbs-up!  I like to believe that I am helping people see another side to some issues, like racism, bigotry, the environment, and yes, political issues as well.  I like to believe that … whether it is true or not, I do not know.  I rather doubt, but I keep on trying, and sometimes I just like making people laugh. I keep on writing, and why?  Because that is what I do … that is who I am.  I greatly appreciate it when people take a few minutes of their time to read what I write, but in the final analysis, I write for me, just as every serious writer does. But writing for oneself, writing what one believes in, and writing to gain readership do not need to be mutually exclusive.  It just takes some tweaking sometimes.

I am told that I think too much.  I am told that I “overthink” things.  Both of these are probably true, and that is where my writing becomes my salvation, my outlet.  I enjoy writing, love it, some days hate it, but I am always challenged to do better, and in the words of a dear friend, it is all about the journey, not the destination.