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 …

What America Values

At first, it didn’t hit me.

It was the holiday season; Christmas was fast approaching, and retailers wanted profits.

So, three or four days before Christmas, some of them announced that they would keep their doors open, extend their hours, to accommodate shoppers. Kohl’s would be open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Macy’s would be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Stores opened on Thanksgiving to give shoppers a head start.

They wanted to be sure to please their patrons. On the surface, if one was a shopper, that seemed like a nice gesture.

But then it hit me. States all over this nation sought to restrict the days and hours during the day that people could vote in the mid-term elections in 2014.

We are important enough, in other words, to accommodate when business wants our money, but we are not important enough to accommodate when we try to exercise the right we have as Americas to vote.

For shopping, there is some understanding that people might find it hard to get to the stores because of their busy schedules.

For voting, no such understanding is given. The sentiment is, or seems to be, “if you want to vote, you will find a way to get there in these proscribed hours and on these proscribed days.”

The movie Selma is released tomorrow. The fight in Selma was about the fight to get the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed …but since then, there has been serious, organized opposition to that law, which has resulted in the slow dismantling of all that that law made possible.

Americans are free to spend their money; this nation will help Americans spend their money, but this nation will NOT help people exercise their right to vote.

Shop until you drop …but go sit down somewhere and don’t complain if you can’t get to the polls on the limited days and times which the government has made possible.

How come some Americans don’t see anything wrong with this picture? How come some …or, I might say, many …Americans scoff at the notion that some people really do need more days and times to vote than others? How come it’s OK to go overboard to get people to spend their money, but not OK to provide more days and times to vote?

All of the voter suppression we have seen is the result of the vast numbers of African-Americans and other marginalized groups having been able to vote in 2008 and 2012. The lives of the marginalized were considered and honored; people who had never voted before finally got the opportunity.

It was glorious. It was democracy, right? It was evidence that “all men are created equal.”  It was about a level playing field. Parity. Equity. Democracy exercised generations after Jefferson et al drew up our Constitution.

But the glory has faded and continues to do so. The powers that be didn’t like marginalized people showing up en masse, causing this country to lean toward true democracy. So, they have worked to dismantle nearly all of the gains made in the Civil Rights movement …while simultaneously making it easier for people to shop using money they do not have so that the rich can get richer and the marginalized can remain marginalized.

At first, it went past me. I missed it. It didn’t hit me.

But I get it now, and it makes me sigh.

Democracy is an ideal and an idea that looks good on paper.

But when the task of making and maintaining democracy is thrown to the people, it might as well be thrown to the wolves.

People don’t want democracy. They want power and money and will do anything they must to obtain it.

I get it now …and I am not impressed. My concept of democracy, where “the least of these” are considered as human and are treated as such, is not real. It never has been.

A candid observation …

 

 

 

 

A Short Conversation with God

God, what were you thinking?

You are the creator of all of us humans. YOU created us. Black and white, Native American, African and Irish, Palestinian, Jewish and Christian and Muslim and Buddhist, male and female.

And I presume that You made us on purpose; I presume you assumed we would get along and make this earth, this world a better place in which to live. I presume that you thought we would help “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” our reality.

Well, you were wrong.

We don’t get along, not any of us.

How in the world did you create a people who would and could be sexist, racist, imperialistic, materialistic, homophobic. What did you put into the creative process that made us critters with sorely schizophrenic spirits – saying we love You in one breath and hating everything and everyone You created with another?

What were You thinking when you wired us such that we could kill each other because we just could and because we didn’t like who You made someone else to be? Why is it that you made it easy for white people to kill black people physically, spiritually and emotionally …not just in the United States, but all over the world? Why is it that You made us so that we actually work to extinguish each other. The Turks joined with the Kurds to get rid of the Armenians. Jews have been “cleansed” from Spain, France, Lithuania, Hungary, Cracow, Portugal and England, for starters. Protestants have sought to get rid of Catholics, Christians have sought to get rid of Muslims and visa versa, the Tutsis sought to exterminate the Hutus …

We don’t get along.

If the Bible is to believed, the ethnic cleansing …the extreme of not getting along – went on even “back in the day” when people were closer to You in terms of the time of Creation. Tiglath –  Pileser III, an Assyrian leader we read about in the Bible, practiced ethnic cleansing ; he made forced resettlement a state policy. Why in the world did You allow that? And why do You allow us to carry on as we do today?

I am writing this because I am sad. I don’t think racism is going to go away. Have You listened to Bill O’Reilly or David Duke or Rush Limbaugh?  Have You seen the racial injustice that has been the norm in this country …from our beginning? Do You hear the racially coded language politicians use on a regular basis? Do You hear people plotting against each other, ready and eager to take the other “out?”

During the Christmas season, all of the lovely songs say that Jesus came to bring peace to the world. I don’t know what lovely lyrics Jewish and Muslim and other religions use …but I would bet that almost all of the religions intimate that You …want peace and harmony in this world?

So, why did You make us apparently unable to bring peace and harmony in this world?

I am deeply bothered. I keep asking myself what You were thinking when You put us in this world. Why would you ask us to pray for “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” when humans, as you have made us, seem completely unable (or unwilling) to do that?

What were You thinking? Something is very, very wrong.

A candid observation …

 

The South Is Still Running the Spirit of America

I have been quiet on this, my blog, as I have watched and participated in all that is going on relative to the shootings of unarmed black men by white police. I have been quiet as I have watched and listened to the cries of anger and pain of young people who are tired of being treated like objects, while the police have literally gotten away with murder in too many cases.

But something welled up in me yesterday as I watched the funeral of fallen police officer Wenjian Liu. What first welled up was a profound sadness for his family, as they are left to live on this earth with a giant hole standing ready to swallow them up in their grief. Liu’s murder, as well as that of his partner, Rafael Ramos, was senseless. The deranged killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, sounds like he should have been in a treatment facility. (http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/cops-shot-brooklyn-sources-article-1.2051941)

But the other thing that welled up was the continual suggestion and sometimes, outright accusation, that it was the protests of people in New York and across the country and in the world, against police brutality, that caused the officers’ deaths.

I’d been angry at what I had been hearing for a while. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said that there had been four months of propaganda, starting with the president, that everyone should hate the police.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/21/giuliani-new-york-police-obama_n_6362724.html).

Pat Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, said that the protests were really “violence under the guise of protests,” and he said the blood of Officers Ramos and Liu. He said the blood of those officers were on the hands of Mayor Bill de Blasio:(http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/12/20/police-unions-others-blast-de-blasio-after-shooting-deaths-of-2-nypd-cops/).

What I am hearing, though, is racism and resentment that the voices of black people are being allowed to be heard, voices that laws and policies in this nation have worked to still, erase and negate, since Reconstruction. An anchor on CNN yesterday said outright that the protesters were being supported by City Hall, and suggested that City Hall was helping them plan their protests. The police have been deified as the protesters have been demonized to a despicably inhumane level.

And I think, as I listen to this, that the South is rearing its head, as it has been doing for decades.

The South, angry that it had lost the Civil War and that its source of labor had been taken away, began to methodically dismantle the rights that were put in place for black people. They found ways to criminalize black people so that they could be captured as criminals and be made to work. Black people were captured and arrested for things that white people did, and less, and were portrayed as criminals and America ate it up. The South was bound and determined to find ways to keep black people controlled, just as they had been during slavery, and its attitude spread from its lush mountains and red dirt throughout the United States. As black people moved from the South into the North and were forced into ghettos because the “progressive” Northerners didn’t want them in their neighborhoods, all of the attendant problems that come with overcrowded and inadequate living conditions spawned by poverty and a lack of jobs, reared their heads. Black people continued to be demonized, and too many police officers became partners not in protection but in persecution of an already demoralized people.

But the South, it seems, has never given up its quest to keep black people under control. Felons in some states, but especially in southern black states cannot vote. The number of black people who cannot vote because they are felons is astronomically high because of the “war on drugs,” a tactic that was put into place when Richard Nixon was running for president because, he said, “the problem is the blacks.” He said, in a cabinet meeting, “The problem is the Blacks and we have to devise a solution that does not acknowledge that is what we are dealing with.’ (http://revcom.us/a/272/cornel-west-and-carl-dix-at-university-of-chicago-en.html) His solution to deal with “the problem” was to launch the war on crime and the war on drugs.

Lee Atwater, who was the political strategist, recognized that race and black people were at the center of any discussion of successful political power. He said that in 1954, you could say “nigger, nigger, nigger, but recognized that as times would not allow such blatant racist speech, strategists and politicians had to use different language …to deal with race. Atwater was trying to teach politicians how to win the votes of racists. By 1968, you couldn’t say “nigger,” but you could say things like “forced busing,” “states rights,” …and you’re getting so abstract …that blacks get hurt more than whites.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_8E3ENrKrQ)

It was called “the Southern Strategy,” and it is still operative because the South … is still running the spirit and the trajectory of America.

Reagan and all politicians wanted to woo the South …which was still angry that it had lost the Civil War. Atwater had proven that race was always at the center of American politics and the formation of American policy. He said, outright, “race is at the center” of everything. Politicians launched the Southern Strategy to get Southerners on their side, not only when it came to race, but on other issues as well. The whole Southern Strategy, he said, was “based on coded racism.” (http://www.thenation.com/article/170841/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy)

As the police have spewed their anger and resentment at the protesters, what I hear is a cacophony of racial protest in a spirit that was begun by Southerners beginning in Reconstruction. That spirit held blacks as objects, not people, as demons and criminals in order to control them. That masses of black people (and whites as well) have taken, largely peacefully, to protest the racism that the black community has long suffered at the hands of some police has riled some white people as much as has Barack Obama, a black man, being in the White House.

That Pat Lynch and others can be incensed because Mayor de Blasio said he has to talk to his biracial son about how to act with police reveals an arrogance and insensitivity that white people who deny the presence and centrality of racism have fallen into from time immemorial.  America was founded on principles of white supremacy, and although it feels like whites all over the country have fought against civil and human rights for black people, the fact is that far too many people are still kowtowing to the South.

The dismantling of key components of the Voting Rights Act, reversals of affirmative action policies …and other, more subtle policy changes across the country, show that the South has never given up on its desire to enslave and control blacks.

Call it the race card if you want. That’s what it is …and it is what the South has been playing and distributing wherever it can …in the name of an America which never intended for black people to be equal in any shape, way or form.

A candid observation …

A Young Black Man Weeps

I have been trying to figure out what to write, what to say, and how to say it.

I have been to Ferguson three times since Mike Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, the last time being just this week. Each time I have gone, I have been, my spirit has been …jostled, shaken from its place of comfortable berthing. Seeing the site where that young boy lay for four and a half hours in the hot sun literally made me sick. It made me sick in August when I saw it, and it made me sick again when I saw it this week. In August I went and stood at the site; this time I could not do that. It felt like a breach of sacred space, an intrusion. I could not do it…

My two prior visits were before the grand jury absolved Wilson of all guilt. This time, the visit was after that ignominious decision…and before the decision made by another grand jury in Staten Island, New York, involving a police officer who choked Eric Garner.

This visit was one where I was a part of a group of 40 faith leaders from around the country. We were trying to figure out how to respond theologically to what has happened. What, in the name of God, do we do?

We listened to young people who have been on the front lines of protest for 117 days – from the beginning until now,  share with us how they have committed their lives to the cause of justice. They have left school, quit jobs, sacrificed so much …because they are tired of injustice being the rule of the land for African-Americans. They challenged us. What were we going to do? What were we willing to do? Their passion and their pain were palpable, and their words were piercing. We left, or at least I left, deep in thought and prayer.

A new movement for justice was and is upon us. What do we, older folks, and theologians at that, do as parents weep all over this nation for their children, who are no more –  like Rachel is described as doing in the book of Jeremiah: the sound of Rachel: A voice is heard in Ramah (Ferguson, Beavercreek, Ohio, Staten Island, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, Portland, Oregon …and on and on and on), mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15)

We were, or at least I was, wrestling with what had been put before us, when, the next day, as we continued our theological responsibilities, we heard that the grand jury in Staten Island had refused to indict the officer who choked Eric Garner to death.

This, despite a video that showed the murder happening, and a coroner who ruled Garner’s death a homicide.

Again.

Injustice, again.

A slap in the face …again.

We continued to try to work, but something had shifted. We tried to push through …

And then, there was a wailing.

I looked up to see a young African-American man walking out of the work room in which we all sat. He was weeping …and then, once outside the room, he wailed.

“Why?” he asked, his body shaking. “Why? There was a video. The coroner said it was a homicide…and still, nothing. NOTHING!” As he wailed, the people who had by now gathered around him began to weep; we were the harmony to his doleful melody.

He sobbed. His body shook. His head was hung…and then it was looking up, imploring God to give an answer. “How long?” he shrieked again. Some of the faith leaders began to have the courage to ask the same question. This was no time for religious platitudes. How long?

“How can I bring a child into this world when I am pretty sure he or she can or will be shot by police? How can I do that? How can I bring a seed into this world?”

I thought of the smug and arrogant white people who have said, and who frequently say, that if black people are killed by police, they deserve it. I thought of them categorizing black people as thugs who want hand outs. I thought of how they have not ever been able to believe that black people are human beings with the full range of emotions as have white people. They could not see this young man. They would not want to.

In our group of faith leaders were white people as well as black and Hispanic. A look around that pained circle that had by now surrounded this young man revealed tears streaming down nearly everyone’s face. This was injustice, painful, repetitive injustice, and it hurt

Some white person on my Twitter account wrote today, when I said there was and is no justice for black people in America, that perhaps I could lead black people back to Africa where there are no white people. I thought for a moment; I didn’t respond to her crass indifference, but I did think that it would be better if someone could lead white people to Africa …where there are no white people…

The sound of that young man’s weeping and wailing will not leave my spirit. The voices of the young people the night before will not stop dancing around in my heart and spirit, either.

Now, what to do with the weeping and wailing. For that young man, for black men and women all over this nation who are weeping, and being insulted by being called thugs…what do I, we, do with the weeping?

As I weep, I am searching for how to help us turn our mourning into dancing, how to turn injustice and a giant evil system into a system which, as Obery Hendrick says, “treats the needs of the people as holy.”

For black people, that has never been done.

But the wailing says that it is past time to make that become a reality.

A candid observation …

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