Holding Our Breaths

The video taken of ex-Officer Michael Slater shooting Walter Scott in the back is bone-chilling, yet not surprising, at least to me.

In spite of the “majority population “pooh-poohing” claims by African-Americans that there is and has been widespread policy brutality waged against them, those who live in urban communities know that the cry has been valid. Over and over again black people have been shot – murdered, really – by police officers and those same officers have told a lie about what happened. The word of the police officers has been taken at will, the claim of the neighborhood witnesses that something horribly wrong has happened has been summarily dismissed, and the result is that way too many African-American deaths at the hand of police officers have gone without their families seeing justice.

“The law” has historically not been on the side of African-Americans. In an interview about the Civil Rights Movement, Diane Nash said that non-violence was the only way to fight. “Law enforcement was used against us. We couldn’t match what the police and sheriff and national guard had against us. Police power was used against us. Segregation was the law and police power was used to enforce segregation.”

Indeed, “the law” has been used to keep people in their place. Police, it seems, have been given carte blanche to do what they want to people, black people especially, it seems, and black people have not been heard or believed.

The culture has been successful in perpetrating the feeling that black people are bad and if they get shot and/or killed by police, it is because, frankly, they ARE bad.

So, when there have been cases of what appear to be obvious missteps by police, there have been short gasps of hope. When Rodney King was beaten I for one believed that now, “the world will see what we’re talking about.” The video seemed so clear …and yet, the officers were acquitted.

It was a continuation of what had always been the history of our interaction with “the law” in this land, no less painful than the acquittal of the white men who had lynched Emmett Till.

With the tragic death of Walter Scott, we have again what seems to be a sure-fire piece of evidence that shows that the officer was wrong, that what he did was nothing short of murder …but I find myself holding my breath as investigators search for more evidence. My fear is that something will be found that will minimize Mr. Scott’s death, that something will be found that will push investigators to rule that Mr. Slager’s use of force was “justifiable.”

While so many television news reporters and anchors seem genuinely surprised by the video showing what happened to Scott, people in African-American communities are not surprised at all. The question is being asked and answered, “What would have happened if there had been no video?” The answer in unfortunately too clear: the story given by the police officer about what happened would have been taken as true. An “investigation” would have been conducted while the officer was put on “paid administrative leave,” and in the end some higher authority, like a grand jury, would absolve the officer of all guilt.

It is maddening, this pattern of absolution of crimes rendered against black people by police officers.

Some news people, it seems, are nervous. They wonder what will happen if somehow the investigation concludes that the officer’s use of force was justified…or if a trial, if there is one, ends up acquitting Slager.

Only time will tell that.

It seems, though, that the country, our country, should wake up and take the frequency of these state-sanctioned killings seriously. It seems like by now, with all of the tragic killings by police of people, black people, largely unarmed, someone ought to understand that America has a serious problem.

The deaths of black people have never seemed to make much of a difference to the majority population as a whole. Black people have been so dehumanized and criminalized that their deaths at the hands of police are for the most part boring. They don’t want to hear the story of what happened; they seem unable or unwilling to consider that the families of these slain are mourning and weeping, not just because one of theirs has been taken away by one or a few who were supposed to protect them, but also because they know the assailant of their loved one will never be held accountable.

Sojourner Truth, noting the sexism in her day, made her very famous speech, asking the question, “ain’t I a woman?”

As we hold our breaths, I find myself asking, “ain’t we children of God? Ain’t we human, too?”

Unfortunately, it feels like too many in this country would answer “no” to both questions

So, this time things are a bit different. Slager has been fired from the police force, has been charged with murder, and is in jail. Thank goodness ..But…we are holding our breaths, and those who have been shot and put aside after shoddy “investigations” are shivering in their graves. This is not a new thing in this country, but it is every bit as tragic and toxic a phenomenon as it has always been.

A candid observation …

On “The Race Card”

It is singularly interesting and puzzling to me why people so quickly say one is “playing the race card” if he or she mentions the racial issues we deal with daily.

America is “the race card,” and everything, or nearly everything, she does, somehow circles back to the issue of race.

For instance, while people gathered in Selma to celebrate or remember the horrid day 50 years ago when peaceful protestors, wanting the right to vote in this nation, were beaten by Alabama law enforcement, we were and are concurrently dealing with a United States Supreme Court which is steadily dismantling the provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

To be Conservative seems to be, albeit an unspoken truth, one who decries funding for “entitlements,” which to many Conservatives means “hand-outs” for  black people. The racist emails uncovered in the Ferguson Police Department saying that President Obama would not last four years in the White House because “what black man holds a steady job for four years?” shows the putrid undergirding of the American thought. That type of sentiment is not just a “Ferguson” phenomenon. (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/mar/06/ferguson-police-officers-resign-racist-emails)

When President Obama, talking about the death of Trayvon Martin, said if he’d had a son, he’d look like Trayvon, the outcry of protest was immediate; the president, folks said, was playing “the race card.”

Poppycock. He was telling the truth.

If we talk about the racist history of this nation, we play “the race card.” If we mention the ongoing racial disparities in this country, we play “the race card.” If we point out that black people are disproportionately profiled by law enforcement, we play “the race card.” If we say mass incarceration of black people makes America hold the title of incarcerating more people than any other nation in the modern world, and if we say the “war on drugs” was targeted at black people, we play “the race card.”

That charge, in spite of the documented “Southern Strategy” which was designed to compromise the black vote.

So, today we are dealing with two racist acts. One, the ranting of the white kids in Oklahoma who chanted there would never be a n***** in SAE, their fraternity…and the Congress, which hates Obama being in the White House so much that they wrote a letter to America’s enemy, Iran, undercutting and undermining the president’s efforts to come to some sort of negotiated agreement to keep Iran from making a nuclear weapon.

Forty-seven Republican lawmakers participated in the unprecedented move. White people, angry. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/10/world/asia/white-house-faults-gop-senators-letter-to-irans-leaders.html?_r=0)

Say what you want about Congress, but what they did is not patriotic or American or wise. It was racist.

It seems that the racism of some people is bubbling so furiously that they cannot contain it. It has always “been there,” but the presence of the president makes it bubble over. His policies make it bubble over. And the biggest irony of all: the president really does not talk about “race” because if he says a mumbling word about anything which is racist, he gets pummeled, charged with playing “the race card.”

When Skip Gates was arrested for trying to get into his own house, we who are black shook our heads; we knew that it was the racism of the “neighbor” who saw Gates trying to get into his house that made her call and say she thought a burglar was breaking into that house, and that it was racism that made the white cops doubt that Gates really was the owner of the house. When President Obama intimated the same, the pummeling began.

The dismantling of the Voting Rights Act is racist. People in power are disturbed that people of color turned out to the polls in record numbers in the last two presidential elections and got Obama back into office…and one white talk show host said that it was the ignorance of black voters who were responsible for getting people like Obama into office. Andrea Shea King, angry because members of the Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the Congress the day Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke, said that they should be “hung from nooses.” (http://aattp.org/tea-party-radio-host-wants-black-democrats-hanging-from-a-noose-for-boycotting-netanyahu-speech-audio/) Part of what she said:

“[Most] of those members who are opting out of attending the speech are members of the Congressional Black Caucus,” she made sure to add.

“How do people like this get elected to represent us in Congress?” she continued. “Because there are stupid people out there in those congressional districts who are so ignorant that it’s dangerous. Because these people that they elect into Congress vote, and when they vote, their vote affects us.”
“Stupid, stupid people! Our lives are on the line and all they can think of is skin color. You know, all of us are going to turn black if we end up in a cage on fire!”

I guess she forgot about the numbers of black people actually put in cages and burned in this country.

It’s “the race card” being played  by an irate white person.

America is “the race card.” The resentment of blacks by so many whites has forever been a part of the quilt of American government and American life.

Why talk about race, people ask? Because it is the “seasoning” that is on everything America does. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away. Talking about it makes it come from its hiding place; talking about it exposes it for what it is: a horrible reality that keeps America from her best self.

“The race card” needs to be honored and played …so that reality replaces myth and makes denial of the same impossible. It would help America see herself for what she is …and thus be in position to be healed.

By the way, racism is not a uniquely American disease. It has metastasized throughout the world. But maybe if America would go on and play the race card and stop acting like it doesn’t exist, America’s healing would begin to spread all over the world as well.

Wishful thinking …but a thought nonetheless.

A candid observation …

 

 

By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them

I am trying not to be angry, but I am.

The Republicans have made a point of saying they want to appeal to all Americans, that they want to enlarge their base and show people that they “care” about those who are not Conservatives.

But today, as people gather in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate that awful Sunday in 1965 when black people were beaten as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge as they had to in order to reach Montgomery from Selma to demand the right to vote, Republican leadership is not there. Save one, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, there will be no Republicans in leadership there to commemorate, really, the working of democracy.

It is clear that there is not a lot of support for upholding the Voting Rights Act amongst Conservatives. The United States Supreme Court has done much to dismantle much of what the more than 25,000 people marched for on that day in 1965. It seems that Conservatives give much lip service to the concept of democracy, but in practice, they seem not to believe in it at all.

Their absence in Selma today says that they do not care …about a large number of American citizens …who happen to be people of color. It seems that they do not care that, as Americans fought the British for independence – and won  – that they do not care that people of color had to fight the white power structure for dignity and a basic American right …and won …in spite of being brutally beaten.

It was the goal of Alabama state law enforcement to impede black people from crossing that bridge and from demanding their right to vote. It was only after President Lyndon Johnson, at the behest of Civil Rights leaders, ordered protection for the marchers from the federal government …that the people had enough protection to …be Americans and to demand an American right.

The interference of the federal government in cases of racial inequality and injustice was the basis for the battle cry of “states’ rights” back then, a cry which is resurrecting today. Folks resented the federal government “telling them what to do.” It was the right of states, they believed, to treat their “nigras” like they wanted to. When the federal government intervened, they fumed …and are still fuming.

That’s why we are seeing such an erosion of the Voting Rights Act today.

I think of all those people who were beaten that day as they marched peacefully to claim their right to vote …and I weep inside, because it seems like, feels like, much of what they suffered for has been forgotten.

I remember when President George Bush, in his inauguration address, called for “1000 points of light” to help address and fix some of this nation’s problems.

Those lights either do not exist or have been blown out by the winds of racial injustice which have continued to blow in this great land of ours.

It would be great to look up and see that some of our Republican leaders swallowed their emotions and showed up today in Selma. It would be good to see Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell and John Boehner …and others …but they will not show up. House Republicans showed up to support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but have so little respect for African-Americans and people of color that they will not show up today.

I am angry about it; well, maybe “saddened” is the more apt adjective to use. It says volumes about this “land of the free and home of the brave.” It is not yet, “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Not yet.

A candid observation ….

Truth, Justice and the American Way

Much of the nation, it seems, is surprised at the findings of deep and embedded racism in the police department of Ferguson, Missouri …and I am wondering why.

The Department of Justice’s report found that there was a pattern of racist behavior on the part of not only police officers in Ferguson, but also in the court system there. Among other things, the report found that African Americans were more frequently arrested and jailed than white people, for the most trivial of “offenses,” including jay-walking and having a tail light out – and were subsequently charged fees and fines. In other words, they were arrested for profit gain of the police department. (http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/04/politics/ferguson-justice-report-shocking/index.html)

Then there was the harassment. Ever the harassment …Michael Brown and his buddy were harassed because they were walking in the street. That sort of harassment was not and is not uncommon, the report said.

African-Americans were the only citizens in Ferguson bitten by police dogs. There is so much more. The entire report is available for “us the people” to read. We need to do it.

The report, said one commentator, indicated not only racism, but a breaking of federal, state and local law. In other words, the report indicates that the police department broke the law.  Some of the Constitutional rights of the Ferguson were violated as well.

That’s the report. For us who live as African-Americans, the findings are not surprising.

Michael Brown’s shooting death was not the only death by police officers that bothered not only Ferguson but people all over the United States. Brown’s death was part of a pattern of abuse heaped upon people of color in this country for generations.

Black people have been saying it forever…I guess, though, that nobody really believed us? I guess they thought we were just whining …and that we should just shut up and get over it?

The Department of Justice report vindicates and affirms what black people have been dealing with for generations. Yes, yes, yes, there is black-on-black crime, but I repeat: most of the time, when a black person kills another black person, the offender is arrested, tried and jailed.

When police have killed black people, however, they have historically gotten away with it. There are a host of families in this nation, going back literally generations, who have never gotten justice for their loved ones killed by law enforcement and the justice system.

The question is, now that the report has been released and the numbers in the report indicate a serious problem …the question is, what do we do now? Not just in Ferguson, but all over this nation? Racism as a disease is not relegated only to Ferguson. Racism is an American illness. It is everywhere.

To add insult to injury, the Department of Justice report revealed racist emails sent on official police stationery by high ranking police officials which denigrated and disrespected President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. News anchors reporting on this seem genuinely surprised, and all I can say is, “seriously?”

Wasn’t it Superman who flew through the air in the quest for “truth, justice and the American way?”

Superman failed.

Clearly, there needs to be a new mechanism that forces Americans to get their heads out of the sand and admit to the racism which is part of the foundation of this nation. Denial hasn’t worked, meaning, denying racism has not made it disappear. Indeed, as in any untreated illness, denial has only made the disease worse.

The protests that erupted after Ferguson speak to a fatigue of people, frustrated about being ignored and pained that their (our) pain is never and has never been validated or acknowledged as real.

It is real.

How long can a nation ignore such heinous hatred? Not much longer, I don’t think.

Just my opinion.

A candid observation.

No Justice for Black Slain

Sybrina Fulton the mother of Trayvon Martin speaks at Peace Fest in Forest Park on August 24 2014 in St Louis Missouri Fulton's teenage son was shot...    Sybrina Fulton, the mother of the late Trayvon Martin, will not see or taste justice for the murder of her son.

Her last hope for justice was wiped out today when she got news that federal prosecutors will not charge George Zimmerman with a hate crime. The case is closed. There will be no justice for Trayvon.

The families of Chris Kyle, the man on whose life the movie “American Sniper” was based, and his friend, Chad Littlefield, were elated after Eddie Ray Routh was found guilty of their murders and was sentenced to life without parole.

They praised the system. They praised God. They praised the reality of justice.

But Sybrina cannot praise the system. She and the parents of so many African-American people who have been slain by police have not gotten justice.

Black people slain by other black people are usually found guilty of their crimes. When people talk about black-on-black crime, they lift up an important and sad reality, but they also miss the point of those who protest about their family members slain by police.

Blacks who kill other blacks …go to jail. Police, be they white or black, seldom do. In fact, their actions are found to be justified far too often. In the case of Trayvon, his killer was not a police officer; George Zimmerman was and is a wanna-be, a vigilante of the worst sort. The fact is, however, is that he didn’t pay for what he did to Trayvon. Darren Wilson didn’t pay for what he did to Michael Brown. Daniel Pantaleo did not pay for what he did to Eric Garner.

The list of unpunished crimes against black people is long.

And the result is a whole lot of families who are living not only with the pain of losing their loved ones, but also with the heartbreak of not having gotten justice.

Everyone wants justice. Every human being, every mother, every family member …wants justice when their loved one is taken away by an act of violence or negligence or barbaric cruelty. Theologian James Cone shared his inability to understand how black people, lynched by hate-filled whites, could have survived. Not only were black people killed by mobs, but law enforcement officers were often part of those same mobs, or they looked the other way while the victims of lynching endured horrible deaths.

There was no justice. Nobody had to answer for those who were lynched. There were mock trials of whites accused of killing black people, and they were almost never found guilty. If they were found guilty they received paltry sentences. The idea of there being a need for justice for the killing of black people was a joke, and those who were actually accused of lynchable offenses knew it.

Not even the killers of Emmett Till were found guilty, in spite of overwhelming evidence that they had committed that horrific crime.

So, back then, during the heyday of obvious lynching …and now, as we witness more subtle lynching …the families left behind have lived and do live with a yearning for justice that just did not happen and will not happen.

The lack of justice says that black lives do not matter. They never have, not in this country and not in the world. People all over the world with black skin are objects of hatred and brutality …and there is seldom justice when they are killed.

Can a nation survive forever with a whole population base besieged by unhealed grief and growing anger? Does anyone doubt that these parents and family members have real reason to be angry and bitter? They are often are not …angry and bitter …but they are sad. Their spirits are forever weighed down by the grief that comes with not only a loved one murdered …but also with the frustration and disappointment that comes when the murderers of their loved ones stay free, walking the streets, doing what they want.

That has to be an unbearable pain. I cannot imagine how I would exist if one of my children – or any family member – were killed by someone and the justice system didn’t hold him or her accountable. The doling out of justice would be my only source of peace – and that peace would be tenuous …but at least with a conviction of the one who had taken my loved one out I would be able to breathe.

I don’t think the mothers of Trayvon and Eric and Michael …can breathe, not easily.

No justice, no peace. An irritated white friend of mine once challenged me when I said that. “Are you an anarchist?” he asked. “Is that a threat?”

No, I said. It’s a statement of fact. When there is no justice …there is no peace.

A candid observation …

America’s Denial of Black History

Well, it’s the end of February. It’s the end of Black History Month. And for many people, white and black,
“the end” couldn’t have come sooner.

In fact, many wish there would be an end to even mentioning black history in this country at all.

“Why,” I hear irritated Americans ask, “why do you have to keep talking about “it?”

The “it” is, of course, America’s ignominious and wretched treatment of African-Americans in America.

The fact is, America does not want to talk about the horrors that Black people have endured, and the enormous contributions they (we) made to this country, in spite of the horrible treatment received here. When people have approached me asking why we don’t “let it alone” and “forget it,” I ask them, “Is the world supposed to forget the Holocaust? Would you want that?”

Of course not, they say quickly. How absurd to ask such a question.

Why then, I ask, do you think we should forget …or even learn …the history of African-Americans here? The horror for this race of people has been continuous, and nobody seems to care. It is easy and self-aggrandizing to talk about what the Muslims (ISIS) does to innocent people – and make no doubt: ISIS is a horrible organization.

But ISIS is no more cruel and mean and practitioners of barbaric behavior than were the Nazis under Hitler …and Americans under the shield of the U.S. Constitution and the Holy Bible.

The treatment of African-Americans in this history is the history of their holocaust. Denying it and ignoring it will not erase that reality.

In an article in the The New York Times Magazine on February 26, 2015, author David Amsden wrote a fascinating story of African American history in Louisiana …and about a white man who finally “got it” and built, with his own money, the first slavery museum in this nation. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/magazine/building-the-first-slave-museum-in-america.html?emc=edit_tnt_20150226&nlid=54450187&tntemail0=y&_r=1)

The white man’s name is John Cummings …and the slavery museum he has constructed is the Whitney Plantation. The museum, the article says, is located on land where “slaves worked for more than a century.” While I have always felt that what happened in America was comparable to what happened at Auschwitz, Amsden points out that when the museum opened in December, 2014, Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans, said out loud what I had felt for the longest time.

I once suggested to an irate white friend of mine that this country was built upon the backs of black slaves. The reason why is no different than is the reason corporations have taken work away from Americans and shipped it overseas…those who make money want to make it for as little money as possible. Slaves made the slavocracy wealthy, and the slave owners were the better for it. This nation flourished because of slave labor. And when slavery ended, a system called “convict leasing” was instituted in order to continue the building of America for pennies on the dollar.

It’s called capitalism.

Part of what Cummings includes in his slavery museum is history that is never talked about anywhere in this country. He is building a memorial which is sure to be provocative; he is dedicating it to the victims of the “German Coast Uprising.”  In 1811, “at least 125 slaves walked off their plantations and, dressed in makeshift military garb, began marching in revolt along River Road toward New Orleans.” The area was called the “German Coast” because there were a large number of German immigrants who lived there. The slaves, writes Amsden, were subdued after two days. Ninety-five of them died, “some during the fighting and some after the show trials that followed.”

But here’s the thing I didn’t know: “As a warning to other slaves, dozens were decapitated, their heads placed on spikes along River Road and in what is not Jackson Square in the French Quarter.”

Yes, America, that is what our “exceptional” country did. And yes, America, it was barbaric…

When I visited South Carolina, Charleston to be exact, I remember being at once fascinated by the gorgeous Southern mansions in the city …and angry that there was no mention of slavery at all. I knew that those homes had probably been built by slaves, but our guide, dressed in a Confederate uniform, seemed not to care. It wasn’t an issue. The tour allowed those who would to slip into the fantastic and romantic fairy tale called “The South,” ‘where beautiful young white women, all trying to be as alluring as the fictional Scarlett O’Hara,  were courted by handsome white men.

In that fairy tale, what is left out is that far too often, those handsome white men had violated, raped, black women in the slave quarters. They worried about their women being raped by black men, but the truth is, they were doing the raping and there was little to nothing black men could do about it.

In spite of the Declaration of Independence’s words that “all men are created equal,” America never intended to treat black people as “equal,” and for the most part, still does not. The belief that America is a “white man’s country” is a sentiment just underneath the craw of white people who would rather forget America’s holocaust. Amsden notes, as have other authors, that the White House and the Capitol were built largely by slaves. Nobody ever mentions it. Roads were built by black people; crops were planted and harvested by black people.  Every single gain black people have made has been made by the emission of blood, sweat and tears.

Every single gain.

So, Black History Month is ending and people will fall back into the arms of  denial, ever waiting to make this country feel better and to believe in its “exceptionalism.” The dratted mention of black people rising above racism will be stowed away for another year, although bits and pieces of the history of that racism will continue to fall out of storage and irritate people yet another day.

We cannot forget it.

We need the slavery museum, yes and an American Holocaust Museum as well.

I will visit this Whitney Slavery Museum…but I will also keep on trying to find what it is I can write that will make the hardened hearts of Americans get a tad softer and let Truth in. America is ill; racism is an illness, after all, and no serious illness goes away without treatment. The treatment for the denial which has covered America’s history is Truth.

Perhaps the Whitney Slavery Museum, built by a white man who “gets it,” will begin to make it so that denial is finally swept away and America can look at its history and not deny it, but embrace it and pull from it the strength that always comes after a serious illness has been beaten.

The voices of those who have died making America great, I am sure, cry out from their graves. I am hoping that more of us will cry out while we are yet alive …and put this history in its proper place within the story of America.

It will strengthen us and …make us truly exceptional.

A candid observation …

 

 

 

American Terrorism, Again

Last week, President Obama created quite a stir in some communities when he said that ISIS is not the only religious group which has done horrible and brutal things in the name of religion. He mentioned the Crusades and the Inquisition and…Jim Crow, here in the United States. He said that America ought not get on its high horse, given the history of violence meted out against black people, much of it justified by religious beliefs.

I listened to the complaints leveled against the president, and was bothered by the fact that much of white America does not and will not “own” this country’s horrible record, its terrorism, which went on for far too long. Some criticized the president for going so far back in history to mention the Crusades …but the violence that came from white supremacy was not – and is not – all that long ago. While everyone is celebrating the movie “Selma,” it is important to note that in Dallas County, Alabama, the county in which Selma sits, there were 19 recorded lynchings between 1892 and 1913. So many African-Americans, still alive and talking, recall stories of having been terrorized by white people, with crosses being burned on their front lawns, their windows blown out in the middle of the night, and worse. And yes, much of this violence was done in the name of Jesus, in the name of Christianity.

I thought about that as the sister of the young Muslim man shot to death this week by an angry white man who professed to be an atheist, did an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN. In a soft and trembling voice, the young woman spoke of her brother and the two young women now gone. “If it had been reversed,” she said, “if it had been a person of Arab descent who had shot three white people, it would have been called terrorism. I haven’t heard that term used,” she said, “but it was terrorism, and you ought to name it for what it is.”

Craig Hicks, 46, shot the three students, Deah Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19, on Tuesday at the Finely Forest condominiums in Chapel Hill. His attorney is saying it was not a hate crime …but it looks like one …and it smells like one, so much so that the FBI is launching an investigation into the murders to determine if they were in fact, hate crimes.

Advocates for Hicks say that the murders happened because of a dispute over a parking space. Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of the slain sisters, told reporters that the three students had run-ins with Hicks in the past, and the sister of the Deah Barakat said that the parking space in question had been deemed by apartment management to be free and open to anyone who wanted to use it. This was, the grieving father said, a hate crime.

The families of the slain students, and Muslim groups, not only here but all over the world are resolute as well in their belief that the crime was one of hate. They believe it was an act of hatred, part of the overall spirit of dislike for Muslims that is spreading all over the world like blue-black ink.

America is so hesitant to admit that it has a problem with terrorizing people who are not white and Protestant, and has always had that problem. America will not admit that too many of her citizens live in hatred and that our own government has been complicit in these acts of terror, with “law enforcement” sometimes …too many times …being right in the mix instead of trying to protect those being targeted because of their race, color, religion, sexual orientation or even, in the past, because of their being infected with the HIV/AIDS virus.

President Obama has weighed in on the murders of the three students, and Arabs from all over the world are demanding an investigation.  Will those investigating have the chutzpah and morality to admit that it was, in fact, an act of terror based on hatred of Muslims?

It’s not a guarantee. America has a track record of supporting or at least ignoring, acts of domestic terrorism.

America’s white supremacy, and the tendency, or worse, need, of so many to make another group, religious, racial or otherwise, the “bad guy” is going to come back to haunt her. Truth, crushed to the ground, will rise, and the truth is that domestic terrorism has been a problem in this country for a long, long time.

When the terror has been levied against black or gay or poor people in this country, nobody has wanted to hear, and people have in fact rejected even the suggestion that what was done was terrorism. Now, though, the act of terror has been committed against three young people who have support – strong support – from all over the world. America is on the hot seat.

Terrorism is terrorism. What was done to those three students was barbaric, just as what has been done to black people and Jewish people and any number of other people in this nation has been barbaric as well. America really cannot point a finger at what is being done by ISIS, horrible as it is, or we should not, because we as a nation have never owned our own terror tactics. Our cry of outrage appears to be hypocritical.

Terrorism is terrorism.

A candid observation…

 

Thou Shalt Not Lie

The police officer in St. Louis involved in the scuffle in a city council meeting …did not tell the truth.

If I heard him correctly, Jeff Roorda, who is the business manager of the city’s police union, said that he was wearing his “I am Darren Wilson” bracelet because he had the right, citing the First Amendment.

There is nothing wrong with that. If had the chutzpah to wear that bracelet as he sat in the midst of a roomful of frustrated and angry African-Americans who went to the meeting to begin discussion on forming a citizen’s review board which would monitor police, then so be it. The First Amendment allows him to do that.

But here is where he stepped over the line.  He said, ” “I have a right to freedom of speech, expression, just as violent protesters in Ferguson, who attempted to kill and maim police every night.” (http://kdvr.com/2015/01/29/ferguson-community-meeting-turns-to-scuffle-after-police-union-leader-tries-to-take-charge/)

That is not what the protesters did.

The few who were violent attempted to destroy property and they did, but it is not true that they tried to “kill and maim police every night.”

They protested. They walked. They shouted. They chanted. They did cry out: No justice, no peace! No racist police!” And there were some who chanted that they wanted to kill police. But that number was small.

Roorda misrepresented what the majority of the protesters were doing and saying

The protesters, in Ferguson and all over the country, are not anti-police. They are anti-bad-policing, and they are fed up with police being able to kill people and get away with it.

It is in the DNA of America that police have been able to brutalize, kill and destroy black people under the protection of the law. It really began after Reconstruction when white people had to find a way to get black people back on their farms and into their businesses to work. The labor of black people made this country, made the profits of the South and, in fact, of this nation.

Black people worked. White people and white businesses, reaped the results of their labor.

Black people were criminalized in order to justify them being thrown into situations where they would work for white people or corporations for years, unable to pay off their debt for the crimes they supposedly committed.

Under the convict-leasing system, black people could and would be arrested for the slightest thing – like not having a job, or walking outside too late at night…When they died, they were thrown into mass graves. If on their jobs they made the boss mad, they could be and were killed  by those bosses and again, tossed into mass graves.

The bosses, the law enforcement people, didn’t have to worry about being arrested or sent to jail.

So, police culture as it is today has been stoked and practiced for a long time, and it is that culture that black people, and concerned people of all races, are objecting to.

Black police have beaten black people too.

Roorda has a right to wear his bracelet. He has a right to stand up for Darren Wilson.

But he is out of line for misrepresenting what these painful protests have been about.

He didn’t tell the truth. Black people were not trying to kill and maim police officers.

They were trying to make police and “the system” to hear them.

A candid observation …

House Arrest No Deal

Marissa Alexander, the Florida woman who fired a gun into the air to ward off her abusive husband and who was arrested in spite of her claim that she was acting under the rubric of Florida’s “stand your ground laws” will be free today.

But not really.

Marissa has been in jail for three years. Florida prosecutor Angela Corey- the woman whose office could not and did not win the case against George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, decided that Marissa should have the book thrown at her for firing the warning shot. Her bullet hit nobody; nobody was injured.

But Corey went for blood and Marissa was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Twenty years! She fired a warning shot! She was in fear for her life! Nobody was hurt!

Marissa entered into a plea deal and walks out of prison today. That sounds like the plea deal must have been good, right?

Wrong.

The deal includes Marissa being on house arrest for two years. That means that for two years she will basically be confined to her home. She will wear an ankle bracelet. Her every move will be monitored. According to an article by Maya Schenwar in “Truthout,” she will have to pay the state of Florida $105 per week to pay for monitoring fees. As she is on house arrest, she will lose basic rights of privacy that most of us take for granted. Writes Schenwar: “In prison, the loss of one’s civil liberties is glaringly apparent. The strip search, the cell sweep, and the surveillance of letters, phone calls, and visits are givens. For those whose homes have been “prisonized,” however, basic constitutional rights also crumble. Probationers and monitorees are subject to warrantless searches and drug tests; probation officers have ready access to their homes. In fact, though seldom thought of this way, the ankle monitor is essentially a constant, warrantless search.” (https://wordpress.com/post/8280873/new/?optin)

She might as well remain in jail.

When I read Schenwar’s article it hit me that our “justice system” is little more, in too many cases, a hustle for funding for police departments and prison systems. Our police department depend upon us stepping outside of the law – or maybe not – in order to fill their coffers. I was floored when, not long ago, I read on the back of a police car in front of me that it had been purchased with proceeds from drug arrests.

“We the people” are the primary funding sources for our men and women in blue.

But it’s not just the police departments and justice system that benefit from our missteps. According to Schenwar’s article, private, for-profit companies benefit as well. Schenwar writes: “As Marissa Alexander discovered in Florida, private companies often exact fees from the people they’re imprisoning. They average around $10-$15 per day — in addition to installation costs and fees imposed for drug tests or other “services.” Those unable to pay may be re-incarcerated in a cycle that harkens back to debtor’s prison.

If one gets a ticket for speeding, even if that person was not in fact speeding, he or she can get out of it – once a hefty fee is paid.

“We the people” are cash cows for the police.

But back to house arrest: Marissa Alexander is out of jail as of today, or will be, but she will be confined to her house for two years. Schenwar writes that by the end of her house arrest, Alexander will have paid over $16,000 for being free; she will have paid for her monitoring and surveillance.

While she is on house arrest, officers or parole officers have the right to enter her home at any time, without a warrant. They can do drug tests at any time, and, of course, the cost of those tests will fall on Marissa.

This all seems not only wrong but immoral. Yet, it is our justice system, unfettered and unregulated.

Marissa is out of jail, but she is not free. House arrest…is really no deal at all.

A candid observation …

That is not freedom.

Only Some Quotas are Bad

In this nation, the word “quota” is …a bad word. That word has meant to many that governments and institutions give special treatment, hand-outs, preference – to black people as they have applied to schools and colleges. Affirmative Action was implemented to guide educational institutions on ways to get minorities within their walls.

From the beginning, opponents called “foul.” Affirmative Action, they said, was nothing more and nothing less than “reverse discrimination.” It was unfair to qualified whites, they said, to “bend the admission requirements” for less-qualified minorities. If black people couldn’t get into  school, it was because they simply were not smart enough. Never mind that rules were bent and have always been bent for children of alumni of schools; kids with horrible grades have been let into the most prestigious schools because an influential mama or daddy was pushing the admissions committee and offering to write a generous check in return for the school abiding by their wishes.

Nobody talks about that preferential treatment.

But ..setting quota goals to let minorities in has been bitterly fought on the basis of its inherent unfairness. Lawsuits by angry whites have been filed – and won – as whites have insisted that leveling the playing field so that more minorities can get an education is a sin, an affront against the Constitution and the rights of Americans

White Americans.

So, I have gotten used to dealing with my emotions when I’ve heard of these lawsuits being filed and the courts siding with the aggrieved white applicant. Quotas are bad …

EXCEPT when it comes to how blacks on the street are treated. Officer Adhyl Polanco, a member of the New York Police Department, moved here from the Dominican Republic when he was 10 years old. He grew up in a rough section of New York, and grew used to hearing the sound of gunfire, but he also became enamored with police when they would visit his school. He decided he wanted to …one of them.

He joined the force in 2005, and had the inside view of what happens in his police department. Much of what he saw and was commanded to do bothered him, but he had a deciding moment when he was told, along with other officers, that the police needed to meet a specific quota. The policy is called 20-5-1, which means officers are required to write out or issue 20 summons per month, make one arrest, and perform 5 “stop and frisk” stops.

Polanco was aghast.

His displeasure was deepened when, he said, he was told one evening to cuff a young man who was walking down a street with friends. “They were not doing anything,” Polanco said,. He said he asked his commanding officer, who made the request, why he was arresting them, and he said his CO said, “you don’t ask questions. Just cuff him,” When a person from the group asked the officer why he was cuffing the young man, the CO said, “cuff him, too.”

Polanco had young children and shuddered at the thought of them being so harassed. He had also been accosted by fellow officers when he’d been out of uniform, walking down the street with other friends, some of them likewise, cops who were not on duty at the time.

“I’ve had officers throw me against a wall,” Polanco said, “and when I’ve told them who I am, and they’ve found my ID and have seen that I was telling the truth, they’ve just walked away. They haven’t said “I’m sorry” or anything.”

Polanco said the pressure is on all officers to meet the quota set by the police department. “They want numbers,” Polanco said, “and if it looks like they are not going to meet the quota, they get creative.”

Polanco noted that “as soon as a person who is stopped asks, “why are you arresting me?” or says, “I didn’t do nothing (sic), he or she is going to be arrested for d-con -(disorderly conduct). “They’re going to be put in jail and will have to pay a fee…”

(The interview with Polanco can be heard at http://www.democracynow.org/2013/11/6/nypd_officer_risks_his_job_to)

Quotas.

So …fight like hell to keep the number of blacks in schools down …and work like hell to get the number of blacks in jail …up.

Letting kids in school is a bad thing; getting blacks off the streets, even when they have done nothing wrong, is a good thing. Letting them in school hurts the system and violates the Constitution, but putting as many of them as possible in jail helps the system. Never mind their right as Americans against unreasonable search and seizure.

Do I have this right?

I think so. And it

And it is a troubling … candid observation …

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