Several months ago, I wrote the following blog in an attempt to unpack the racist undercurrent in our country. Today, the day after this nation voted a bigot, a racist, a misogynist, a hypocrite, a pedophile, a sexual assault offender, a liar, a cheat, a fraud, a sham, a joke, a petulant child, a xenophobe, a homophobe, a conspiracy theorist with the support of the Russian government, with his minion vice-presidential candidate into the highest offices of our land, and in fact, the free world, I’ve had to rework the piece. I’ve included the original at the end of this blog to show you where I was a few months ago when I firmly believed that love would win. I am left despondent and questioning exactly what the fuck is wrong with the American people.
Let me be frank, I am shocked and appalled that the very people who have been denigrated by this campaign: African Americans, Latinos, white college educated women, LBGTQ members and the people who love them, immigrants, the working class, the poor, the disenfranchised have voted en masse against their best interests. Do you really believe:
- That voting for a third party candidate who was even less aware of the world in which we live than the now President-elect was a smart choice? Sure, sure, we all want more options – lobby for that shit in the years between elections and find a candidate who is not a moron if you really want to change the system. DO NOT sit here and tell me your vote for this idiot, regardless of the damn state in which you live, didn’t hurt the democrats. Because, you, my friends, are just wrong. Look at the numbers. They do not lie.
- That the FBI releasing a “trumped” up story (and I mean that literally) about some emails was not a “rigging of the system?” Those emails have been under investigation since July and as it happens, had not a god damn thing to do with Hillary Clinton.
- That tomorrow you will have health care that you can afford? That you will be able to get medication you need? That insurance companies all over the country are not, right now figuring out how they can deny your future claims?
- That the economy will not continue to tank? Look at the DOW!!!! You just bet the farm against your own future. And? Do not blame Obama for that. That’s on you.
- That there will be voting rights available to women and minorities that are not stripped of the basic tenant of the constitutional amendment granting those rights? Especially with the folks calling for the repeal of the 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote in 1920 you, ladies voted AGAINST maintaining a right for which people died. And you should know better.
- Ladies – how about having sovereignty over your own body? You have relegated yourselves to brood mares of the state. Your uterus is subjected to the government. Your right to chose how to live your life will now need approval from men in power. Don’t believe me – go talk to women in Indiana who just lived through governance by the stain that is masquerading as the Vice-President-Elect and actually woke the hell up.
- And while I’m on the subject of women – guard your p***ies because those are the dominion of men who seek to own you. What about sexual assault victims? What do we tell them now? Anyone who has ever lived through sexual assault knows, KNOWS, that there is no protection for them now. After all, its just locker room talk, right?
- Guard your daughters because a sex offender was just elected to the highest office there is and you signed that check. He is facing a civil trial in December on a child rape case.
- My African American friends who did not even bother to vote. Seriously? What does John Lewis think of you today? You forfeited your right to live in a country that even pretends to view you as human. It will now be open season in your communities. How will you reconcile what you’ve just done with the fact that so many died in the streets to get you the right to vote in 1965? You simply cannot.
- That the Marriage Equality act will stand when the speaker of the house, Republican, Paul Ryan has ALREADY written a bill to support the First Amendment that gives religious zealots the RIGHT to discriminate against you. Its on the docket right now. Just wait for it. And? How about that electro-shock conversion therapy that Pence is in favor of? There’s no safe harbor now.
- Veterans – do you honestly believe that you will NOT be called up to support wars against anyone who insults this idiot you elected? You thought 4 tours was tough. Well, strap up, pals.
- That the rust belt will EVER see manufacturing jobs again from a man who built his hotels from Chinese steel? They won’t because he will benefit from the cheap labor – ya’ll too expensive.
- Poor people – you think that a man who has made a fortune off your back is going to lift you to a standing position? When his minion VP has voted against living wage increases for his entire career? What, is the Lord going to swoop down and change this man’s heart? Ok. Go pray about that.
- Family values folks – y’all really just voted for someone who cheated on his wives (note PLURAL) and had 5 children with three different women. Who subjugates his own daughter’s body. Who told the mother of his last child to abort the pregnancy? If you believe he’s a changed man, you need to seek immediate treatment for your delusion. Do it now, while you still have health care coverage.
Is this a rant? You bet your ass it is. I have never, NEVER been more ashamed of the state of things in this country in my lifetime. I am from an immigrant family, a working class/working poor family, a values-driven place that in this great land of ours, believed we would never again bear the weight of the boot on our necks. Well, you … YOU just polished the boot. Inside that boot, hate lives. Fear lives. Faith died. Loved died. Compassion died in the stench of the vitriolic rhetoric of this campaign. You have no idea how many people I’ve seen cry today. How much fear I’ve see today. How many triggered people I’ve seen today. I have sat with victims all day. Children all day. THESE are not weak people. These are the people strong enough to stand up and show their RIGHT to think and feel some kind of way today. I held space for them all, ALL of whom are utterly confused about their place, their identity, their worth, because of the goddamn audacity of marginalization prorogated and perpetuated by this campaign.
Now all that said – read the following blog because I wrote it when I had faith in human decency. I wrote it when I believed that we, all of us, could make it better for all of us. Right now? It’s every p***y for herself. Don’t look over here when the bottom falls out of your shit – because to quote the brilliant Everlast “Rock bottom hurts when you hit it.” Keep your powder dry, though. Because we are on the brink of a cataclysm. I hope you’re ready because you invited the demon to the dinner table. Eat hearty. You won’t get a pass here.
The year is 2016. But it looks a lot more like 1816 in this country that I love. Every day, more and more reports of police using excessive force on unarmed African Americans grows. Since January 1, 2016, 790 people have died at the hands of police, 194 of those people were African Americans, and 33 of those African Americans were unarmed, according to The Counted, The Guardian’s tracker on police killings. The number of killings in general should bother us. The disproportion of African Americans, especially those who were unarmed, should stagger us.
And of those unarmed, they were shot for what? One was reading a book in the car, one was trying to fix a broken down car in the middle of a street, one occurred during a routine traffic stop, and the list continues grows.
Frankly, the people to whom I am referring have been shot BECAUSE they are African Americans. And how do we know? The smart phone in everyone’s hands has made the misdeeds of police a public issue. Day in and day out we get to watch murders occur in our living rooms, offices, schools, parks, and churches. And the best we can do is hashtag the names of the dead.
Here’s what happens: A shooting occurs, we see some outrage on social media, we hear that the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, there is “an investigation,” sometimes charges are brought, but far too often they are not. More often than not, even if charges are brought, the officer walks away from the incident. Why is that a problem? Because someone else CANNOT walk away from the incident.
We read the backlash against the social and political movement of #blacklivesmatter which has been labeled a terrorist and hate group by a portion of the population that clings to a sense of entitlement that they have simply not earned. They rage and storm because they do not like the fact that “this group” of people is using their constitutional right to protest injustice. Former Governor and now, Vice-President elect, Mike Pence railed against the implication by politicians that there is some “institutional or systemic bias” at work. Well Mr. Pence, it is not institutional or systemic bias – it is institutional and systemic racially motivated domestic terrorism. Your running mate is all about “calling it what it is,” so let’s just do that. It is racially motivated domestic terrorism that is sanctioned by the state. Let’s unpack that statement.
When is the last time we have heard the same excuses used when defending why a Black person was shot applied to a White person? We’ve NEVER hear that. When is the last time we heard that unarmed White people are shot by police because “they looked like they were on PCP?” We don’t. Damn it. We DON’T. How is it that the man who shot 15 African Americans inside a church was taken alive and given a meal? Or the Colorado movie theater shooter, taken alive. The Oklahoma City Bomber, taken alive? Notice that I do not use their names specifically because the victims are more important. In addition, notice that all of these people I refer to killed people and were white. So that explains the “racially motivated” portion of the statement.
It is domestic terrorism because it happens on American soil by Americans employed by the State (read government) on a daily basis. It terrorizes only one community because they are the community being targeted. I don’t fear the police. I don’t have to. I’m White and have the expectation that the laws of this land will protect me. African Americans have been shown, time and again, throughout history, that they cannot expect that the same is true for them.
The Bill of Rights of the constitution states that ALL American citizens can expect these specific protections under the law. I’m going to post those articles here because you, dear reader, need to KNOW the constitution so that you can KNOW when it is employed equally to all citizens and when it is not. These 12 articles of the Bill of Rights were completed and adopted on September 25, 1789. That was 227 years ago, almost to the date.
Article the first… After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.
Article the second… No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
Article the third… Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Article the fourth… A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Article the fifth… No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Article the sixth… The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Article the seventh… No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Article the eighth… In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Article the ninth… In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Article the tenth… Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Article the eleventh… The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Article the twelfth… The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Please go back and read Articles 6-10. Are any of these things happening during these incidents? Of course not. Nowhere in the constitution was it written that a person could become judge, jury, and executioner on the life of another human being. NO where.
As we will see in the coming days, the lives of the dead will be trotted out to victim-blame them for any transgressions they have made during their breathing time. Any transgression. A speeding ticket. Drug use. Mental health challenges that were untreated. Selling cigarettes. Eating Skittles. “He had a gun!” Yes, in an open-carry state. A white person in an open-carry state is not shot, typically, just for “having a gun.” Which was found after he was killed. Trying to protect a client in one’s care. Even if these folks were guilty of breaking the law, they need to be prosecuted according to the Bill of Rights. Even if they were under the influence of drugs and alcohol, they need to be treated and THEN prosecuted. It does not stipulate that they are to be gunned down by the police who are expected to not only PROTECT them, but to SERVE them.
Let me ask my White folks out here a questions. Have you been shot for speeding? Have you been stopped and questioned for failing to signal? And if so, were you afraid you’d die? No, because the constitution protects you.
Let’s be clear. These are not “mistakes” made in the line of duty. These are murders. We’ve all watched the videos. They are murders. Any suggestion that law enforcement is “just doing their job” when these events take place is not only ludicrous, it is a tacit approval of the behavior. Further, help me understand how, in New York, a man who detonated bombs that injured 29 people and was prepared to detonate more, who shot at police, and was consider armed and dangerous, posing an imminent threat, was taken alive? Because those cops, “were doing their jobs.” And a great many cops do their jobs with insight and compassion, and caution. They de-escalate situations. So, when I take to task the cops killing African Americans, I am certainly not being anti-cop.
As a social worker, I can say that I have spent a lot of my time in the last few years listening to these topics come up in my classrooms and my private sessions. Frankly, I am tired of trying to help children cope with fear of police officers because they are black. Really tired of it because there is no comfort I can offer. I cannot honestly say that “it will be ok,” or “it won’t happen to you,” or “just use your manners.” I just can’t because I will not lie to a child. But also, as a social worker, my code of ethics mandates that my primary goal is to “help people in need and to address social problems” (National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics). It also states that must I respect the inherent dignity of the person in front of me, challenge social injustice, focus on the importance of human relationships, and that I value and practice in a culturally competent and socially diverse way.
But guess what? I’ve been physically and verbally threatened by clients and I didn’t shoot them. I have been afraid for my life and I didn’t shoot anyone. I’ve been so overworked that I didn’t know my own name, but instead of practicing unethically, I took time off. I do NOT want to hear those excuses from law enforcement. Ever. Again. Because as a law enforcement officer, you have chosen, just as I have chosen, to serve the public. And to do that well, you have to be trained, you have to care, you have to do self-care, and you have to CHECK YOUR BIAS at the door. Every day. Every time. No exceptions.
If I practice unethically, I will lose my license and that means I cannot no longer be a social worker. If I shoot and kill someone, I will stand trial and be convicted and sent to prison, especially if it is caught on camera. Why is the same standard that is applied to me, not applied to law enforcement? In so many ways, my profession is much more dangerous. Because we, as social workers, face crisis unarmed. Unarmed. Every. Day. So that means, I’ve got to use my brain to de-escalate a situation. I don’t get to tase someone. Or shoot someone because I’m afraid.
My code of ethics prohibits me from doing any harm to another person. More than the code of ethics though, the LAW prohibits me from doing harm to another person. And I believe in that, value that, practice that, and expect that from others serving the public.
Until African Americans can say that the law protects them, is my belief that the law protects me really valid? I’m not so sure. Because what happens when my groups are targeted by law enforcement? But see, even that question is ludicrous. I will never experience that. Because the law and constitution does protect, and has always, protected me.
So, as a white woman, a social worker, a human being, I am going to call what is happening right now (and has happened for centuries in this country) what it is: It is state sanctioned, racially motivated, domestic terrorism. And we need to read our governing documents to understand that. And we need to “take a knee,” or “take a stand,” or “raise our voices” to make change happen.
Because it has to change or we will see another civil war in this country. As White folk, we need to look within ourselves and find the corners where racism lurks. And we need to drag it into the light and deal with it. Head on. We have to be self-reflective. We have to be our brother’s keeper. We have to talk to other white people because they will listen to us. We have to educate.
We have to do these things now. People are dying in our collective streets. That has to matter to us, collectively. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Each time you want to say “well it’s not all white people,” or “it’s not all cops,” shut your mouth and listen to other people. Seriously. Shut your mouth for once. We do not need to dominate this discourse. We need to listen with our hearts and not hide behind our hastags.
Imagine how insulting it is for African Americans to see the hashtag #alllivesmatter. Can you even imagine what that feels like? It means to them: ONLY our lives matter (read white). Or how about #bluelivesmatter – like it’s an equivalent issue. Listen, a cop chooses to be a cop. No one wakes up one day and chooses to be African American. What if you were targeted and this is the response you got from people? Imagine what the heck that feels like? It’s isolating, it’s intolerant, it’s anti-intellectual, it’s anti-religious, and it’s anti-human. Be pro-something for once. Use your brains from more than video gaming and victim-blaming because it removes your from social responsibility. And if you cannot do these things. Get out of the way of the people who can.
Because if you come across me, I will see your racism and raise the constitution.
Maybe, just maybe things will work out.
Maybe things won’t be as bad as we think they will be.
Think about it. When things get down to the nitty gritty we come together to make change. We didn’t come together on this one. These results will force us to work together. Both sides.
And like I said before it’s REALLY not about Republicans vs Democrats, it’s about people not wanting #Trump or #Clinton We have four years to get it right…meaning better candidates on both sides.
Yesterday in bible study we talked about how Joseph had favor and was still blessed even in his darkest hours. He went from being hated by his brothers and thrown in a pit to becoming second in command under Pharaoh. America, we can be like Joseph if we adopt his mindset and not get discouraged when things don’t go our way, be good stewards over what we already have and over our voting practices. If we do what God wants us to do instead of what we want to do ALL of us will be better for it.
It won’t all be bad, we don’t live in a dictatorship, we live in a democracy. We can’t be sore losers either, we just need to take action. Vote from the local government consistently, EVERY TIME! Don’t be complacent and think that it’s just going to go the way it should go. Don’t assume that your voice doesn’t count, and most importantly, be mindful of our thoughts. The law of attraction is real my friends.
What I know is this, ALL things work together for His glory. He has a bigger plan.
Instead of being distraught when I told my younger children the results this morning, I used it as an opportunity to encourage and teach that this is why it’s important for everyone who is legally able to vote, every time and that it will be ok. Trumps victory song said it best, “You can’t always get what you want.” We still have to be good sports.
Stay in prayer for our country. Don’t go out there and act crazy because we need God and each other more than ever right now.
Recently I was reminded of a quote by former Secretary of State, Madeliene Albright when she said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I’ve been thinking about it a lot in several contexts, but one in particular is pressing on American women: Should I vote for the person who has come the closest to being the first female president of the United States. According to the New York Times article dated February 7, 2016, Albright admonished young women voters who were supporting Bernie Sanders and repeated the original quote in relation to the boarder fight for women’s equality that is underway with this campaign: “We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done. It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”
Now…hold on just a second. When I read the first quote, I totally get it. Truly. And I think about the women who actively blocked my progress as I entered the workforce 25 years ago. I can agree that there at least should be a special place in hell for those women. However, as a woman who believes that “hell” is a social construction that we create ourselves in this life, that doesn’t hold much water for me. I read and interpret the original quote as this: women who have climbed the ladder should not kick it out from other women trying to get a foothold. Young women are trying to get a foothold and older women who rebuke, admonish, shame, and “mother them” into thinking the way THEY think are simply not helping this younger generation.
To be sure, Albright is not wrong when she says women need to understand that the fight for equal rights is not over. It may not be over during the lifetimes of the young women she addressed. But where she is, in my humble opinion, incorrect, is in saying that young women don’t get that there is a fight. They certainly do get it. Go talk to them. And more importantly? Go LISTEN to them. As women of a certain age, and Ms. Albright has me beat there, we must seek to understand the perspectives of younger women and educate and nurture them to a place of critical thinking and that must include a critical examination of the first female candidate for president. In this educational construct, we too must learn from the voices of other women. We build this reality together.
For the sake of transparency, I’m a feminist. Believe that. I am on the ground daily working with women to uplift, make space for, educate, honor, and support them. That’s doesn’t make me wonderful. It simply means I remember. I remember what it was like to be 18 years old. I know what I needed and didn’t get so I make a daily commitment to not do to other women what was done to me. That said, I am not huge fan of Mrs. Clinton. Here’s why: Her personal life is way too political – while I agree that any woman has the right to stay in a marriage, it is not necessarily a good example to stay in the marriage for political reasons. I’ll tell you this, if I had her education, privilege, and money, even in the 1990s, I’d have stood up tall and walked away from a man that could not keep his marriage vows and cared little about what his indiscretions could do to me emotionally. As a matter of fact, if that happened to me today and I certainly still don’t have what she has, there would be divorce papers on the dining room table. Why? Because commitment matters. Trust matters. Open humiliation is abusive and guess what – women have had enough of that mess!
Next, Ms. Clinton certainly does not speak for me. She doesn’t have the same priorities as I do and that’s ok. I don’t have to support everything about her. I appreciate her fight for equal pay, health care reform, children, and the myriad of other causes she has championed. But I do not like her. I do not have the same kind of hope in her that I had when Barak Obama was running for president eight years ago. She does not inspire me. Also, I believe that had Mr. Sanders not bungled the communication on his democratic socialist position, he’d have beaten her out of the nomination. His vision is much more inline with my own. To me, that he’s a man wasn’t the point. That he shared my goals is certainly the point.
But I digress. Firmly, I believe that the special place in hell that Albright references is more aptly applied to women who have power over other women and continue to marginalize them. It’s great to tell me to get out the vote for Clinton as my “duty” because she has the same body parts as I do. And that, my friends is simply bullsh!t. That is a position no different that the white male faction of our country denigrating her to the same damn body parts. Now come on. We don’t like it when men marginalize us, we cannot use the same tool to try to uplift us. How is that feminism?
The brilliant, late poet Audre Lorde once said “that master’s tools will never (emphasis mine) dismantle the master’s house.” Think about that. If women want to unite, and (wo)man, do we ever need to unite, we cannot use the same rhetorical shifts that have been used since the founding of our country. This position plays right into the hands of the republican nominee and allows space for him to say things like Clinton can play the “woman” card. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been issued the “woman card” and this is certainly not a damn poker game. This is about people’s lives. And as voters, we need to take that seriously.
Here’s why I am voting for Clinton – I cannot live in a country in which Donald Trump could be president. He has demonstrated time and again his bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, isolationism, racisms, violent rhetoric, sexual assault and exploitation of women, and plain stupidity about how the world works for real folk who didn’t inherit a fortune. While Clinton doesn’t speak for me; Trump would seek to marginalize me back to the 1950s. For me, the choice is clear. I may not gain anything from a Clinton presidency, but I certainly won’t lose my right to dignity because of it.
So, older women, stop trying to talk younger women out of their own thinking because it scares you. Seriously make some space for them in this dialogue – and it MUST be a dialogue. Middle aged women (like me) bridge the gap between these feminist waves. Reach back and forward to get your arms around these women who are different than you and love them fiercely. Young women, read, watch, stand up. Ask your questions. Challenge us old ladies. Stand your ground until YOU decide to bend. And all women, listen a little more closely to the voices of our sisters. WE need to stand together on principle rather than personality. We need to have each other’s sixes. We cannot abandon each other because of socially constructed differences. The price of a Trump presidency is far too great for any of us to pay.
Now is the time. Get to the polls and honor the women who fought to get us a right that we’ve not even had for a century (19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women the right to vote occurred in 1920). This matters. Now, maybe more than ever, your voice MUST be raised. Because unless you agree that a man like the Republican nominee has the right to “grab us by the p***y” simply because he has power, your choice is clear. If you can’t wrap your head around voting FOR her, at least get around voting AGAINST him.
Let’s do this. For each other.
I visited St. Louis over the Independence holiday. My family resides literally around the corner from Ferguson. I asked my cousin to take me through the neighborhood that was engulfed in flames about two years ago.
As she drove through the streets, I saw emptiness. I saw a shell of a place that was teetering on the brinks of poverty. I saw Mom and Pop stores that once serviced the neighborhood, and I saw some still striving.
Something stirred in me as we drove to the place where it happened…where he was shot.
There was no mark on this site. There was no memorial. There wasn’t a trace of Michael Brown. But there was an aura…a hanging loneliness marked by life taken too soon. A wave of despair as I visualized that day for him. My heart pained for his parents. My soul searched for words that I couldn’t say. I felt an eerie chill go up my spine. I was there.
I envisioned what I saw on the TV during the days of the riots. My cousin pointed out the places that were in flames, she showed me where they marched on the police station. She showed me empty lots where businesses once stood, proud to be a part of the economy.
Remnants of seething anger were left behind. I saw it all. And I felt empty. Hollow. Missing. The uproar happened…and it left the TV screen. People went back to living as they were, although the undercurrent of the event is still there. The aftermath is still there. People lost a lot those days: a mother and father lost a son. Some people lost their jobs. Business owners lost their businesses.
And yet, after all of that, the killings of unarmed Black people still continue. As I write this, a 37-year-old father was killed in Baton Rouge, LA. By cops. On video. Plain as day. And a 32-year-old man was shot for a traffic stop. Eleven Dallas cops were shot and five died.
These stories permeate our timelines on social media. We speak behind keyboards about our rage, how saddening this is, and how we pray for their families. Empty #RIP hashtags don our newsfeeds. Tears fall. We say not another one. We say how can this continue to happen. We say let’s fight against this. Then we have those that say well, you only get angry when it’s a cop murdering unarmed Black people, and talk about Black on Black crime.
The Black on Black crime stance always rubs me the wrong way. There are so many people that say if our young Black men would stop killing each other, then the police would stop killing our sons and daughters. This line of thinking is backwards. Here’s why:
Black lives never mattered to the powers that be. If they did, slavery would not have existed to the brutal level that it did. Reconstruction would have leveled the playing field by really giving the freed slaves their forty-acres and a mule to get a jump-start instead of the mess of sharecropping. Actually help with the bootstraps to pull up. It would not have been against the law for slaves to read or write. Jim Crow would have never existed. The Civil Rights Movement would not have been necessary.
The only way that Black lives mattered were when our ancestors worked the fields in toil to build empires. When Black women were raped and used as sexual slaves for the master…to procreate and increase the property value of the master. And most of all, introduce a religion, use a religion, to keep the slaves scared and in “their place.” When you consistently and constantly show a group of people that their lives don’t matter, when you show nothing but contempt and hate, it becomes internalized. They hate their skin…and the skin of their peers. Take dads from the home; remove the foundation, and you have this so-called Black-on-Black crime.
As with any crime, we victimized what we know, who we know. More than likely, that looks just like us. This goes for every race. Black on Black crime has been sensationalized to somehow be worse than any other race. But I’m sure one will find that White-on-White or Hispanic-on-Hispanic or Asian-on-Asian, or Native American-on-Native American crime has probably the same amount of crime per capita simply because people tend to live in the same neighborhoods where your neighbors look a lot like them.
Michael Brown was headed to college. Sandra Bland was headed to her Alma mater. Freddie Gray was headed home…just like Trayvon, Oscar, Akai. Eric and Alton tried to make a little money to support a family. Rekia was laughing with friends. Jordan was listening to music with his friends. Tamir was playing in the park with a BB gun – something that many kids play with. John Crawford was in Wal-Mart walking around on the phone. Tanisha, Donte, and Ezell had mental illnesses. LaQuan crossed the street. Philandro followed orders.
Yet Dylann can murder nine people in a church in cold blood, and be escorted out in a bulletproof vest. George Zimmerman is still free. Darren Wilson is in jail for assaulting his wife. Countless videos of non-minority people who hit, spit, have weapons such as hatchets or knives show how these particular people manage to be subdued without a gun…or they are let go. The shooters of Alton and Philandro are on paid administrative leave (AKA vacation).
We drove away from the scene. I took everything in. My heart fluttered and felt pain when we turned around. I left the city of Ferguson behind, but the streets, the uproar, the feelings of anger brewed under my skin. The things I saw are forever etched in my memory. I leave this blog with a few quotes:
If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it. ~ Zora Neale Hurston
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible. ~ Maya Angelou
Black power can be clearly defined for those who do not attach the fears of white America to their questions about it. ~ Stokely Carmichael
There’re two people in the world that are not likeable: a master and a slave. ~ Nikki Giovanni
Acceptance of prevailing standards often means we have no standards of our own. ~ Jean Toomer
When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses. ~ Shirley Chisholm
You don’t fight racism with racism, the best way to fight racism is with solidarity. ~ Bobby Seale
Is it a crime, to fight, for what is mine? ~ Tupac Shakur
I am no religious scholar. In fact, there are many times when I question the existence of a higher power at all. This is one of those times. As I stood in my kitchen on Sunday, June 12, 2016, and watched the breaking news of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, I thought to myself, “where is God in all of this?” I did not then, and still do not now, have an answer to that question.
What I watched unfold in the next several hours in the mainstream media, as well as its social cousin, was the vitriolic rhetoric of fear. What was at one point, murder became in the next, a call to arms against “Islamic radicalism.” While a community mourned the senselessness of this crime, another community screamed for retribution against members of the shooter’s religion. While one community struggled to embrace and comfort each other, another incited fear of the “other.”
I listened to Christians, and some of those folks who claim Christianity but do not demonstrate, by their behavior or words, that they have lifted the sacred text much less learned its teaching; proclaim that the president of our nation is complicit in this murder. Some so-called Christians bragged about the political position of intolerance which they believe is justified by the actions of a murder. Some, as expected, offered prayer and condolences for the fallen. They did not, however, offer comfort, empathy or compassion. But their silence was deafening.
I listened deeply to members of the Muslim community beg for people to understand the truth about their faith. They went unheard.
I read the words of Jews who all too easily identified with the fallen based on the historical events that have targeted them for centuries. They were ignored.
I listened to the cries of my LGBT brothers and sisters as they came to understand that this horrific event could have happened to any of them. I thought of the people who have loved me best, those same brothers and sisters, and my heart bled even while my mind rejoiced that I would not have to bury someone I love because someone else turned hatred into death. At least this time.
In our recent, collective past, we have seen several mass shootings: in communities, in churches, in schools, at colleges and universities. And we think, “well maybe we should do something about guns…” and then we hear all about the Second Amendment granting us the right to bear arms and are chastised because any talk about gun ownership is the talk of the unpatriotic and amounts to the tacit approval of the government’s fictions attempt to confiscate people’s guns and leave them vulnerable. Critical thinking and questioning is positioned as weakness.
We’ve seen an uptick in hate-filled, fear-based rhetoric in the public sphere. And each day, we become more divided, more afraid, more intolerant, more alone. Until we take to the social media feeds and propagate more of the same divisiveness, fear, intolerance, and loneliness. And as I reflect on this, I admit, I still don’t see where God is in all of this noise.
So, I went looking for God and I found that in all of the religions of the world, somewhere in their teaching, is the notion of peace and tolerance. It’s written down. It’s pretty clear even to someone like me who is not a religious scholar and claims no allegiance to any one spiritual teaching. They all say to love one another. They all say to court peace. They all say to forgive. So why do the faithful refuse this teaching?
Why are the loudest people using fear rhetoric in this country supposedly Christian? Let’s be honest – the struggle for LBGT rights is long and devastating. It has been bloody and most often, just plain unfair. There have always been people who want to punish this group for their “sin” and because of this desire to exact “penance” from this community, we see the rage and hatred directed toward the LGBT community and we actively ignore the implicit consequences of that intolerance.
We hear religious leaders telling people to shoot transgender women in the ladies room. We watch people deny this group their basic human rights, AND the rights guaranteed to them under the same constitution they claim to love. We watch as leaders remove the LGBT community from a massacre that was directed AT them, to make this about radical theology. It is not about that. It is about fear and believing one has the right to judge and punish another for simply living differently. This is not really homophobia because, in my opinion, folks aren’t really afraid of people in the LGBT community. This is shaming hatred that is propagated in our political rhetoric, in our communities, in our churches, in our laws, in our justice system. We hate and shame what we choose not to understand. And we feel righteous in this behavior.
In many ways, this has been more about the shooter and not at all about the victims. We focus on the shooter because, “he must be mentally ill,” after all. Even that statement marginalizes another vulnerable group of people.
Why can’t we see how much our fear divides us from each other? Why do we focus on the shooter? Didn’t those people who died have families, friends, goals, aspirations, and dreams that were silenced in terror because of another’s intolerance? Why isn’t that the important thing to talk about? The victims were people, just like you and me who wanted the very same things you and I want: love, acceptance, compassion, freedom, safety, and support. That’s really not so much to ask for, in my opinion. Why is that lost in the rhetoric?
Well, because for the most part, in politics especially, events like this provide platforms for fear rhetoric. Fear rhetoric is used as a method to control people and to encourage them to act in fear-based ways. Historically speaking, we know what Hermann Goering said at the Nierenberg Trials, and I think, just to draw this more clearly, it is necessary to state it again here:
…Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.
Is it just me, or is this happening again?
It is not only about fear, it is also about power and the power to use fear to drive behaviors. If we follow the money, which is a major form of power in our society, we see that the people we elected to lead us as a nation have been bought off by the gun lobby and support the right for anyone to buy an assault weapon because of our “second amendment rights.” Politicians have the power to change this rhetoric and legislation however, they do nothing because it is not in their best political interests (read money and power) to stand up to a lobby that finances their positions. They have control of the airwaves and use it to incite fear and hatred. But make no mistake, they are guided by self-interest NOT their moral obligation to protect the citizenry and instead, they’ve sold their soul by contributing to the pyre of the increasing number of gun-related deaths occurring every day. That is not innuendo or hyperbole. That’s fact. And it certainly has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. It is about profiting from people living in fear and attempting to normalize it to hide that profit. Take a look at the numbers: https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/. Statistics don’t lie. These aren’t ‘juked’ numbers.
So…ok. Fear and power; power and fear wrapped in intolerance based on religion. Where does that leave us? I felt lost so I continued my search for God.
If we go back to the notion of the faith-community’s basic understanding of society, we see that Jesus asked a very important question: “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” And I wonder. I wonder what these people will say to their Almighty. How will they answer? How can they answer?
On my search for God, I looked to the religious teachings from around the world and time and again, we are instructed to work for peace. The Dalai Lama said “World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not the absence of violence; it is the manifestation of human compassion.” The Qur’an tells us “…whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosever saves the life of one, it shall be as if had saved the life of all mankind” (Qur’an 5:32). The Buddha tells us “Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” Can you hear that? Stop a minute and think about those directives.
The Muslim scholar, Rumi taught that “Your task is not to seek for love, but to merely seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Jesus commanded us to “Love one another,” The Old Testament or The Torah tells us to “turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it, (Psalms 34.14), and The Shenandoah Native American tribal teaching instructs us that “It is no longer good enough to cry peace, we must act peace, live peace and live in peace.” Can we do that? Can we step aside from our desire to be “right” at any cost? Can we put fear to rest?
Because, here’s the thing: all of these religions (there are far too many for me to provide to the reader here) speak about the benefit of seeking and pursing peace. However, we are human and we tend to bow to our more base needs. For example, Maslow studied the motivations of people and provides us a Hierarchy of Needs. In it, he says that needs fall into five categories:
- Biological and Physiological needs: air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, and sleep.
- Safety needs: protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, and freedom from fear.
- Love and belongingness needs: friendship, intimacy, affection and love.
- Esteem needs: achievement, independence, self-respect, and respect from others.
- Self-Actualization needs: realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, and seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
If, for example, we are stuck at category one or two, and I believe that we are, we cannot seek peace, pursue love, show compassion and empathy, or live humanely because we think we do not have what we need to be secure in mind and body. Please do not misunderstand me, many people in our country legitimately do not have their basic needs met; but these are not the people of whom I am speaking. I’m speaking about the people with power who propagate a sense of lost safety in their words and deeds, every hour of every day. Week after week; month after month; year after year. “BE AFRAID” our headlines shout. And the shouting shuts off our rational brain.
Consider this: in the richest country in the world, the one that touts its progressiveness in freedom, rights, and dignity, as a society, we are still stuck on safety needs. I mean, seriously think about this. Why would anyone need an assault weapon to protect him/herself? They don’t. That’s fear talking. Why would anyone feel threatened by someone else’s expression of love for another human being? They don’t have to. That’s fear yelling. Why would anyone believe that another’s religion is the root cause of all negative behavior of a few people? That it is the very nature of their “faith” to be destructive? They don’t really believe that but the fear is screaming louder than reason. Why are we so divided and angry all the time? Because the fear we hear, the fear we see, the fear we feel, rightly or wrongly, directly affects the way in which we see and act in the world. If I know nothing about you, your faith, your values, your morals, your hopes and dreams, how can I not fear you? You are different than me. And that scares me. Because fear drives us.
So, after my search for God in the religions, for truth and fairness in the rhetoric, for understanding of the multitude of fear-based murders from psychological perspectives, and just to find plain human kindness, I am left exhausted. I do not choose to live in fear. I choose to love. To seek peace. To offer peace. To lead with empathy and compassion. I do this because as the Talmud tells us, “Who can protest and does not, is an accomplice in the act.” I will not be an accomplice in this murder of innocents. I will not sit in my living room and allow fear to consume me. I will not let political spin cloud my judgment. I will not let bigotry and hatred stand. And I will protest in love. I will protest in peace. Because maybe? Just maybe if we all did a little of this, things would change for everyone. We all want the same things. Love, safety, security, peace. We get it for ourselves by providing those things to each other. This is not naiveté; it is hope. Hope in a world that is so violent, strange, unforgiving, and brutal. I choose hope.
Peacefully and lovingly, I hope you join me in mourning for all the victims of gun violence, intolerance, and hatred in our society. Peacefully and lovingly, I hope you join me in a protest of compassion and empathy to take a positive stand against fear. It starts, and it ends, with each of us. And this? This is on all of us.
There’s been some conversations and debates about the remake of Alex Haley’s Roots. I’ve done a live Facebook video discussing some of my thoughts, but I wanted to address it here as well.
For the record, just in case you were wondering, I’m not an angry Black woman, I’ve just been informed and enlightened and once you’ve experienced a change such as this, you simply just can’t let it go or turn back.
Some argue that Roots is, just another movie about slavery. Let’s talk about that. Are there really that many RECENT movies about slavery? It used to be that the only roles that Black people could get were those of slaves or in a domesticated role. We are still lacking in a lot of the lead roles in Hollywood, but we have come a long way from where we were. Other than Underground, 12 Years a Slave and the remake of Roots I can’t think of any recent movies or TV shows that are out (excluding documentaries). There’s a few points to make here:
If these are the only recent shows the younger generation is not likely to watch the older movies. I’ll come back to more about the younger generation later.
Even if there were an over saturation of slave movies, what’s wrong with one more, especially one that’s based off of a true story? But if we’re being honest, there’s an over saturation of everything BUT the truth about our people. Sports, not so reality – reality shows, politics, crime, religion, homosexuality, scandals, Lauryn Hill being late and Beyonce getting in Formation with hot sauce in her bag!
I agree, there needs to me more positive shows about Black people and with Black people in the leading roles. But let me ask you this, do you faithfully go out and support independent and big screen films written by or staring Black people? If not, instead of complaining start there. Money follows the demand. If we aren’t supporting what’s already out there the majors won’t be willing to put up the money for these productions or others. (If you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem).
Why is it even a discussion? Why are so many people so upset or vocal about this? We should be honored that we can grab ahold to a little bit of truth even if it may not be from our direct blood line. We should be happy that even though they tried to hush us Kunta’s story, our story keeps living on.
Some argue that it’s more of the same thing that they already knew. To that I say this, when you read your Bible, do you not learn something different? This version of Roots was totally different than the others. They kept a lot of certain “popular” scenes, but there was a lot more historical content about Kunta, his tribe in Africa as well as more in depth facts about things that were going on in America like the war, free slaves. Even if you know a lot about Black history, American history, your history, you can always learn more. Doctors, lawyers and teachers are always learning more, and a reminder or refresher is good. It’s not to dwell on the past, it’s so we never forget, don’t get too comfortable, and remember how far we have to go. You never get tired of hearing I love you over and over, you should feel the same way about your history. We should watch it so that we won’t go back and not let it happen to others. The world, Americans and especially African American’s are still living through and suffering from the residual effects of slavery. I’m not sure if we will ever catch up.
This Roots made me feel so connected and in tuned with my ancestors – just like the original one. Yes some of the scenes were graphic, very graphic, like rape, beatings and hangings, but how else would you give the story justice without visually showing the truth? There’s inappropriate content in everyday radio and television that can be uncomfortable to see or hear, especially in front of our children.
When I was in school I got the watered down version of slavery and Black history. I can only imagine what they are getting now. This generation needs a “new” perspective so they can also hold a version of the truth. I did not let my 8 and 10 year old watch, mostly because of the rape scenes. I will and do discuss parts of our history with them and I go more in depth the more that I feel that they are able to effectively absorb.
Plants need roots in order to grow and flourish. A relationship without roots will not last. You need roots when you’re networking roots. Roots are essential to our survival as people. And if you don’t know where you’ve been, then you definitely don’t know where you’re going.
I am thankful for Roots for many reasons, but the biggest one is that rather you watched it or not, it sparked a conversation. That’s EXACTLY what we need. More conversations.
Share your thoughts with me. Let’s talk.
When one thinks of childhood, they think of school, school plays, kickball, teachers, bratty brothers, long summers outside, chores, barbecues, and an early bedtime. It’s a time where we all couldn’t wait to be adults because we had to follow so many rules that simply were not fair. (And many of us adults would like to go back to that time when things were much more simple.)
We also think of the music. What we didn’t understand was that the records that Momma and Daddy played on the stereo, or the tapes they played in the cassette player were setting a stage of memories for us to carry with us throughout our lives. And as we grew, as new artists burst into music, we added their sounds with the sounds already placed in our hearts. These tidbits of melodies etched themselves into our histories to the point where if we hear a song now, it takes us back to that moment where we fell in love with it. Don’t believe me?
Where were you when you first heard Thriller?
I was sitting in front of the stereo. My dad brought the record through the door and played the entire album. I held on to the cover. Michael was so beautiful in his white suit. I was enamored. It was 1982. I was 6.
Where were you when you first heard You Give Good Love?
I was at my house. My cousin, AJ, came down for the summer to watch my brothers and I while my mother worked. She played that song out, but it was BEAUTIFUL. I didn’t know whose voice that was at first. But then I saw the video. Whitney was so tiny, yet her voice was huge. It was 1985. I was 9.
Where were you when you first heard Purple Rain?
I was at home. Again. Dad brought this album in. I knew there was a movie for it. My friends had gone to see it. I hadn’t seen it yet though. I heard the song Purple Rain, and the guitar solo at the end caught my attention, and instantly became my favorite part of the song. It was 1984. I was 8.
These songs effect me that same way…over 30 years later. When I hear “Until the end of time, I’ll be there for you,” I’m taken back to Turrell, Arkansas, at my cousin’s house where it stayed on repeat, and it touched my heart. “Oh I wanna dance with somebody, I wanna feel the heat with somebody” brings me to my first summer in Indianapolis. “Hey pretty baby with them high heels on” takes me back to my uncle who loved that song, and made a howl every time it came on.
And as I type this, I smile.
Of course there is an astronomical list of artists that moved me at different periods of my life which includes:
Patti – If Only You Knew. Chaka – I’m Every Woman. Aretha – Pink Cadillac. Frankie Beverly – Before I let Go. Kool and the Gang – Celebration. Mtume – Juicy Fruit. Madonna – Like A Virgin. Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time. Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing. Diana Ross – Upside Down. Stevie Wonder – Ribbon in the Sky. B. B. King – Lucille. The Gap Band – Party Train. ConFunkShun – Love’s Train. Isley Jasper Isley – Caravan of Love. Janet Jackson – Control. Luther Vandross – Never Too Much. Teena Marie – Lovergirl. Rick James – Mary Jane.
And that’s not even touching the surface….
When we lose these people who contributed so much to our lives, it leaves a hole…a gaping hole…a crater in our souls. We feel hurt. Lost. And what’s really funny…I wonder if our icons really know how much they affect their fans with the words they sing. With the arrangements they make…
Prince guided me into and out of heartbreak. Whitney helped me understand heartbreak. And Michael, well, Michael gave me life after heartbreak.
Prince made me dance. Whitney made me wanna dance with somebody. Michael made me wanna dance like him.
Without these melodies, these beats, this rhythm…my childhood would be vastly different. What would trigger a great memory if it were not for our soundtracks?
Behind Whitney, Michael, Luther, Gerald, Marvin, Teena, Rick…we lost Prince too. And man…that hurts. It really hurts.
All of them played a huge part in my soundtrack….my childhood. But Prince? He gave me one of my favorite songs in the world….Adore. The lyrics mean so much more now…
“Until the end of time, I’ll be there for you. You own my heart and mind…”
I truly Adore you.
You were such an instrumental part of my childhood. Of my life. Rest Easy, Purple One.
Life is after conception…AND after the womb…
Let me start this with a disclaimer. I know that many will disagree with me on this topic. I am open to discussions, and I respect the point of view and opinions that others have. You believe what you believe. I only ask that you respect my views as well.
The Pro-Live/Pro-Choice debate has carried through generations. One side believes that abortions are an abomination and the government should make it illegal. One side believes that the government should have no say so about this medical procedure that affects women more than it does men. For the record, I am a Pro-Choice person, and I believe that a man cannot tell a woman when and where to create a baby, nor should he be able to dictate whether or not she should deliver the baby, especially in cases of rape, incest, or where having the baby endangers the woman’s life…
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It seems as if women’s rights are consistently being violated…
First it’s abortion. Then it’s changing the meaning and penalties of rape. Now it’s attacking women’s health by denying contraceptives. Enough is enough. I need men to stop trying to regulate what I can, or any woman for that matter, do what we want to with our uteruses. When is it ok for a man to tell you what you can and can’t do with your own body? Isn’t that rape? Tupac said it best, “Since a man can’t make one, he has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one.”
The draconian laws of some organized religions failed to change with the times. Am I knocking religion? No. I list my religion as a Christian. I do have a problem when religion is used to control what someone does when it comes to their health. If a woman is raped, why wouldn’t the morning after…
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Are you a groupie?
Merriam-Webster says a groupie is a noun that means a fan of a music group who follows the group on concert tours.
Urban dictionary says a groupie is a young woman, often under age, who seeks to achieve status by having sex with rock musicians, roadies, security, and other band-related guys.
Does that describe anyone you know?
I heard the song Groupie Love by an indie artist Young Mac about a year ago. (Check the photo.) The more I listened to it, the more I really get it. Although the title would have you thinking otherwise, it’s obvious that the woman being described in the song is a hurting woman.
“I can tell it’s groupie love cause she aiming to get rich.”
Listening to the lyrics on the surface would have you think the narrator is talking about the typical groupie – backstage at all the shows. Heels on point. Body a ten. Making sure she gets chosen. But a deeper listening reveals that this “groupie” isn’t typical…she has the “aim” to get rich…but the “rich” isn’t the rich that one thinks of when they speak of rich.
In this aspect, rich means love. She wants to be rich…in love… jumping from body to body in search of this elusive love…the love that every girl dreams of. Yearns for. And when that love isn’t there, then substitutes are there to take the place…money…attention…sex. Selling herself short for the illusion of desire. She’s broken. And the narrator tells her, “I can feel your pressure.”
How much pressure are we under to find love? For us single ladies that are 35 and up, how much pressure do we bear when we wake up next to pillows every morning? When you just wanna hug and hear a deep masculine voice say it’s gonna be alright? I know…Momma never said there would be days like that….because Momma never let it show that there ARE days like that.
Navigating the world of relationships is real tricky. Mainly because everyone has baggage to unload, and everyone wants to remain selfish….when love has nothing to do with selfishness…it’s so selfless. You willingly give your all because love is about growing the other person, not what you can get out of them or from them. You have to make sure that person has your best interest at heart…But you can’t wait too late or you’ll end up broken and bitter.
Self-love is the key to deflating the pressures of being single. No one can love you if you don’t love you, and if you don’t love you, you can’t possibly love anyone else. So for the groupies in the world….take a pause…love you…Nothing will give you more satisfaction until you realize that love you seek is right there in you…
“Go ‘head and show that groupie love…go ‘head, you know that groupie love….”