When Black People Don’t Vote

The other day, I was going into a library and as I approached the door, a young man with a clipboard approached me, asking if my voter registration was up to date. As I assured him it was, my ears perked up when the other gentleman with a clipboard asked an African-American woman the same question I had been asked, and she snapped, “Yeah. Naw. I don’t vote!” And at that, she stormed into the library. I followed her and she grumbled to a child who was with her, who may have been her grandchild, “how dare them ask me if my registration is up to date! They don’t question me! If I want to vote, I’ll vote.”

I didn’t know if that meant she had a voter registration card and was just miffed that someone asked her if her information was up to date, or if she really planned not to vote. I don’t have the answer to my own question, but this I do know: it does something to me when I hear black people say they are going to vote.

Last year, I visited Selma. I walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. As I walked, I remembered reading what happened on that bridge, how black and white people were beaten back by white police officers who beat them, injuring many, including Congressman John Lewis, who was a young man at the time.

As we walked across that bridge, I remembered thinking how chaotic and scary that day or that project had to have been. The bridge is not large; it is not long and it is not wide, and yet, thousands of people, tired of having to take literacy tests given, many times, by people who could not read themselves. I thought about how those people kept hitting against the Evil called white supremacy, being beaten, imprisoned, having their houses burned down by white people, many of who were law enforcement officers…I thought about how people stayed the course and risked their lives and much more, just to get black people the right to vote.

And yet, some people say they will not vote.

I have heard young people say voting doesn’t matter, or, more specifically, that their vote does not matter. I have heard other people blame God, or give God credit, for their not voting. One woman, when I was registering people before the 2008 election, said God told her not to vote, that the only One she had to answer to, was God. No, she said, she would not be voting.

Her statement confused me and bothered me, just as this woman the other day at the library confused and bothered me, and, frankly, made me angry.

I remember growing up, when we kids would do something wrong that made us look like the selfish kids we were, my mother saying, “I’ve done (and she could list the things she had worked and sacrificed for) for you …and this is the thanks I get?

Those words gripped me as I grappled with this woman’s reaction to the question about being up to date with her voter registration information, and her declaration that, “no,” she would not be voting.

How can anyone of African American descent say that?

For many, there is disappointment that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive nominee. They are disappointed because they feel her message was supported by the media, though they feel that her message and candidacy was supported at the expense of Bernie Sanders. Others are angry at her because she supported policies of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, that were responsible for many black people being in prison today for either petty crimes, or crimes they did not commit.

To be honest, I am not wild about Hillary being in the White House, either. I don’t think she is any worse than any other candidate, but I am just not inspired by her campaign promises and rhetoric.

But though I am unimpressed by what she is saying, I cannot choose to skip this election and my by absence, give more votes to Donald Trump. Trump and the Republicans represent the racism, overt racism, that our ancestors fought to be rid of. Trump is a bully,and a narcissistic racist who is appealing to the guy wrenching fear and anger of a group of people who want him to “make America great again.”  I don’t think we as black people understand fully about how being present in the political arena and exercising our right to vote is about the best way to make sure white supremacy is held at bay.

I am hoping black people who are planning not to vote will rethink their plans. Black people don’t win by withholding, or rejecting  their privilege to vote. We have got to be present, in the middle of the cocktail party, so to speak, to make our voices heard and to not let the poison of white supremacy spread across these United States like a toppled jar of non-washable ink. Our ancestors, I keep thinking, must be weeping in their divine sleep, screaming screams that cannot be heard, saying, “No!”

We have come too far, but the powers that be are working to undo those changes, slowly, persistently, and financially. If we don’t vote, we contribute to Trump’s victory. But listen up: We needed the right to vote.  Even if you hate Hillary Clinton, there is or will be more chances to perhaps get people in high places so that the gains we’ve made will not be completely eroded by a group of people who “want their country back.” I don’t know what all that means, but it feels like something that will be designed to break our backs. They are gearing up for the victory of a man who thinks of no one but himself; if we let him in, we suffer; the gains we’ve made will be done away with.

And our ancestors will weep again.

A candid observation..

 

When the Women Rise Up

In light of the tragedy of the past week, one thing is standing out.

It’s the women. Women, aching, crying, concerned and committed, are standing up and speaking up and speaking out.

Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of Philando Castile, had the presence of mind to record the interaction between herself and a gun-holding police officer, doing a “live” recording that people could see immediately. It was phenomenal to watch. That she had the presence of mind to do that spoke volumes about her strength. As her boyfriend lay dying, as her four-year-old daughter sat in the back seat of the car, terrified, at times crying, and finally trying to comfort her mother, Diamond forged ahead, through her pain and terror, to tell a story she knew needed to be told.

Then there is the African American female cop who lives in Warrensville, Ohio who watched the video of Alton Sterling, a video in which she saw Sterling shot multiple times at point blank range, and this woman, a police officer, a woman, a mother …and an African American, spoke out. (http://www.ajc.com/news/news/national/how-dare-you-ohio-police-officer-nakia-jones-voice/nrtMG/)

Watching them, my mind went back to when Emmet Till was murdered – lynched – in Money, Mississippi after he  allegedly flirted with a white woman. He was visiting relatives and didn’t know …and was young and arrogant enough to disregard …the “Southern” way of life, which included the prohibition of a black man to pay attention or to “disrespect” a white woman. What that “disrespect” was was left entirely up to the white people, primarily white men, who made the call.

Emmett, only 14 years old at the time, was dragged from his uncle’s house in the middle of the night by relatives of the white woman who made the accusation against Till. His murderers beat him nearly to death; they gouged out one of his eyes, shot him in the head, and then used barb wire to tie his body to a cotton gin fan and threw his body into a river.

It was a horrific death, but those kinds of murders of black people were common in the South, and hardly anyone ever went to jail or prison – or even got charged, for that matter. It was the intent of the good ol’ boys that the narrative be that Emmet had just disappeared. But three days after his murder, his body washed up and was discovered. The authorities reportedly just wanted to hurriedly bury Emmet, but his mother, Mamie Till, who by now had been contacted about the disappearance and now the death of her son, refused to let them bury him. She headed from Chicago to Money, Mississippi, Emmet’s body lying in a funeral home waiting to be identified. He had decomposed so much that it was difficult to identify him, and the stench from his decaying body was so bad that Mamie could smell him when she got off of the train. But she went to that funeral home and demanded to see her son. She was able to positively identify him by a ring he had on his finger. She decided she would take her boy home, as expected, but what people didn’t expect was for her to insist that his coffin remain open so that the “world could see what they had done to her boy.”

Her decision was bold. It was courageous …and it was an action that stirred the complacency of people – white especially, but black as well – to sit up and notice an evil that was so much a part of American life that it was nearly taken for granted. There was some personal risk, one might assume, for Mamie, but danger to her was not her concern. She was tired. She had had enough. She hated racism and white supremacy. She had raised a good boy in a difficult time …and now, racists had killed her boy and wanted to cover it up and act like it was no big thing.

It wasn’t going to happen.

Her spirit was one of fire. Her spirit, like the spirits of Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Coleman and Mary McLeod Bethune, and Rosa Parks …and so many women we usually mention but don’t give enough credit to, became a driving force in the continuing effort to take the covers off the shenanigans practiced by racist people who took stock and had confidence in their ability to mess over black people and get away with it. In these last few years of horrific police violence against black people, it has been women who have stood up and spoken up, saying, in essence, “no!” Sabrina Fulton, mother of Trayon Martin,  stood up. Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis, stood up. The mother of Henry Green in Columbus, Ohio, Adrienne Hood, is standing up. There are more, and their impact cannot be underrated.

Mamie said, “no.” She said no, as did the women named here and so many others. Men in African American culture have done some amazing things, but it is the women who are standing out for me. And now, it is women, again, who are standing up. Nakia Jones, a police officer, could lose her job for standing up and saying that police who have race issues should not be cops. She said it and she said it with passion. She said that what she saw in the shooting of Alton Sterling was wrong,  and she said it boldly.  Diamond Reynolds said …no. If her boyfriend was going to die, she was determined that the world would know how it happened.  They said no and because of their courage, the world is having to look at things they have tried to run and hide from for decades.

I think there should be an award, a “Mamie Till Award” given to women who stand up and speak up with little regard to the risk to their own comfort.  While few people have any confidence at all that the police officers who killed Sterling and Castile, there is one thing most people have to admit: that because of the courage of women,  this world is a little bit more aware today than it was at the beginning of the week.

A candid observation …

 

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-death-of-emmett-till

 

 

 

Defining Racism

 

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan must have been thinking about that definition when he said this week that Donald Trump’s comments about the capacity of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel to be fair in the case involving Donald Trump’s Trump University. Trump, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, said as much when he said that Curiel “is a Mexican. I’m building a wall.” (<a href=”http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/06/03/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-judge-jake-tapper-full-interview-lead.cnn&#8221; target=”_hplink”>http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/06/03/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-judge-jake-tapper-full-interview-lead.cnn</a&gt;)

There was an immediate backlash from Republicans and Democrats alike. Speaker Ryan said, “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like a textbook definition of a racist comment.” (<a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/07/politics/paul-ryan-donald-trump-racist-comment/&#8221; target=”_hplink”>http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/07/politics/paul-ryan-donald-trump-racist-comment/</a&gt;)

But New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Trump surrogate Jeffrey Lord, a Trump supporter, protested the claim that Trump is a racist. Both men…and many of the television Trump-supporting pundits, insist that Trump is not a racist. Lord went so far as to say that Ryan’s comments were racist. “Speaker Ryan has apparently switched positions and is not supporting identity politics, which is racist,” Lord said.(<a href=”http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/06/08/donald-trump-judge-mexican-van-jones-jeffrey-lord-sot-ac.cnn&#8221; target=”_hplink”>http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/06/08/donald-trump-judge-mexican-van-jones-jeffrey-lord-sot-ac.cnn</a&gt;

All the pushback against being called a “racist” has always amazed me …and it leads me to wonder aloud, “<em>Do the masses of white people understand what racism is? Do they understand how what they think about people who are not white colors every single decision and belief they have about non-white people?”</em>

The Eugenics Movement was all about racism, about establishing the “master race.” In his book. <em>War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race</em>,” author Edwin Black explains how it was America’s study of race. The goal of eugenecists was to create a master race – which was thought to be blonde and blue-eyed. The idea of a Nordic master race was created right here in the United States. The eugenics movement created the belief that it was necessary to get rid of anyone who didn’t fit the Nordic stereotype. Anyone who was not this Nordic prototype was deemed to be inferior.

The “unfit” were not only people who did not have Nordic features; people who were ill or who had different physical maladies were deemed to be unfit as well – and worthy of extinction. The Nazis got their ideas about “the Master race” and about exterminating the Jewish people, who clearly did not have the desired features, from the United States. The concept of the superior Nordic race was a reality decades before Hitler came to power.

The story of the eugenics movement, and the attitude of superiority it afforded white people here and around the world is too much for this article, but it is singularly amazing that apparently intelligent people like Gov. Christie and Jeffrey Lord – can say, with straight faces, that Trump is not a racist. He is spewing the racist rhetoric spawned by the eugenics movement, and know this: he and many others think that way. Historically and in real time, many white people have thought, believed in and practiced racist rhetoric and practices. From telling prima ballerina Misty Copeland early on that she didn’t have the right features to be a classical ballerina, to keeping talented African Americans from being quarterbacks because they were thought not to be intelligent enough, to not allocating money enough to urban public schools so that little brown and black children can get a fair and decent education, the belief that blacks (and browns, and anyone who is not white) are inferior white supremacy – aka racism – has been a mainstay of American culture.

Just because one doesn’t don a white hood and set fire to crosses does not mean one is not a racist. The racism is in the souls of people all over the world, because it has been taught and reinforced by governments, churches, organizations and other institutions.

If people would just admit that they are racist, that they do believe in the innate inferiority of anyone who is not white, perhaps this nation, and ultimately, the world, could move past the racism which has destroyed the lives of so many people. Too many white people, though, will not own it. It’s rather like a person who is addicted to prescription medicines not admitting that he or she is an addict. Whether the drug of choice be Percocet or crack cocaine, addiction is addiction; an addict is an addict…

And just like an addict cannot shake the addiction until he or she admits there’s a problem, so will the slew of Americans who are racist remain stuck in that sick state of mind and being unless and until they admit it.

Mr. Trump is a racist. His attitude and his statements have been, as Speaker Paul Ryan said, “classic textbook.” But here’s the thing: many of our legislators think just like Trump; they just haven’t said it out loud.

Perhaps in the midst of Donald Trump’s sickening presence there can be a blessing. Perhaps more people will look at themselves, and realize that what he is saying, they have always felt.

A candid observation…

Floating Like a Butterfly

“The Greatest” went home yesterday.

Muhammad Ali went to a spiritual space not dominated and controlled by one particular religion, sex, ethnicity, or cult, but to a space open to all people, a space which is not only a community but, as Dr. King said we must work to create globally, a neighborhood.

Ali, truly “The Greatest,” understood what so few people understand, and sadly, so few religious people understand, and that is, that all people count.

He made himself count to a world and to an American society which thought nothing of stashing people like him to the back rooms of second class-ness, to be pulled out when needed or wanted. He rejected and spit out what he called his “slave name,” Cassius Clay, and took a name he wanted. He rejected Christianity, which has done way too little to thwart the evil called white supremacy, and became a member of the Nation of Islam.

He let the world, and the powers that run this world, that at the end of the day, it wasn’t their world to decide who was worthy of respect and who was not. He shouted out loud that he was “The Greatest,” and he made the world deal with it.

He refused to go to the Vietnam War, pointing out the hypocrisy of a Christian nation that thought nothing of sending hundreds of thousands of men (only men at that time) to the front lines of a foreign country to kill innocent people. There was no need to be there on any level, and Ali knew that, but even if the United States decided that there was a reason, he was free to reject that reason and the nation’s desire to use him to further what he considered be immoral gain.

So, the black man who changed his name and rejected America’s dominant religion, planted his feet and said, in essence, “I ain’t going.”  He said, “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong!” The power structure was aghast; how dare this black man defy them? They had a political and social temper tantrum; they convicted him of draft evasion, fined him $10,000, stripped him of his heavyweight title and banned him from boxing for three years.

He did not care. He was willing to go to prison for his principles, which were both moral and religious. His Muslim religion prohibited him from engaging in that war, he said, and was going to choose the will of God over the will of man. Period.

He was “the greatest.”

It is ironic that Ali died the week the remake of ROOTS was shown, the story of how one particular African American family came to be in this country…but the center of the story was one Kunta Kinte …who, like Ali, refused to be subsumed by a culture which wanted only to control him. Kunta Kinte was told by his father and the elders of his village that his name was his spirit and his shield. Kinte Kinte held onto his name in spite of being beaten nearly to death by an overseer who demanded that Kinte say the name, own the name, that white people had given him. He did not …and he never did. Even when those around him called him “Toby,” in his spirit, he was clear…and that clarity gave him strength. His name was Kunta Kinte, and nobody was ever going to take that away from him. Though he was brutally oppressed by the system of chattel slavery, he never descended to a pit of despair. Holding onto his name gave him the strength to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” as Muhammad Ali said, staying ahead and on top of white supremacy. He had chains around his wrists and feet at different times, but this mind and spirit here were never  chained.

Muhammad Ali, the African American Muslim, rejected his slave name, took on a name that he wanted, and never looked back. He taught Muslim principles – the same principles by which he lived – to his children and to people who looked up to him. He continued to look for deeper meaning in his spiritual life. He never let go of his strong tie and relationship with Allah and he just kept boxing the racism that he hated so much.

Ali was deeply rooted in his faith, and it kept him grounded in spite of the storms of his life, including his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. When GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump announced his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States, Ali, flying like a butterfly, said, ““Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.”

He said, in that same statement, ““I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world…  True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.” (https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/dec/09/muhammad-ali-responds-to-trumps-muslim-ban-plan)

Now the world, so much of which  has denigrated and castigated Muslims, wants to give homage to this man, which he richly deserves, but the homage is tainted by a veil of religious bigotry which has caused so many to suffer unnecessarily.

Would that Ali’s life and death, and his words and actions, would be used to wipe out the racism and bigotry that is swallowing this nation and this world.

Only those who have the courage to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” will be able transcend the spiritual illnesses of this world, which Ali refused to let knock him out.

A candid observation.

Best Friends, Gone

Three weeks ago, I did the funeral for my best friend. She had been ill for a while; she had checked out of life twice in the past three years and had been revived.  Though she had been sick, I thought she’d beat this last bout of a stubborn heart, wanting to give up and give out. She did not beat it this time, and Death claimed her.

I was angry about it. Anger is a part of grief that we don’t talk about much. It’s almost as though it’s a sin to be angry at someone who died. Their death was enough; their death is a ticket to grieve, but in an acceptable way. Sadness. Tears. A feeling of loss…

I felt all of that, but in addition, I felt anger. The anger started the moment I got to her hospital room literally a minute after she died. I hit my leg in anger and stomped my foot. She couldn’t be gone, I thought. But of course, she was. I stood next to her lifeless body, still warm, talking to her because I was sure she could still hear. I told her I was going to miss her, that I was missing her already.

I didn’t tell her I was angry that she had left me. Yes, she had left others, too, but honestly, all I could deal with at that moment was my reality. As a clergy person, you’re supposed to know how to handle death, and you’re supposed to handle your own emotions. I get that and I do that pretty well. But for a moment, before the “pastor” thing kicked in, I was just her best friend, left behind, and I was mad.

That anger was enough, but then, yesterday, I had to put my beloved dog down. She was 17 years old and could not walk, could not get up or stay up after being hoisted. She was still clear-minded and still had the amazing sparkle in her eyes that she’d always had, but she could not stand up, get up, or stay up. She was incontinent. She ate, but had gotten to the point where she had to eat while lying down, and when she was lying down, she twisted her body into a shape which I called “the question mark.”

I watched her and ached for her and for me. She was a proud, beautiful dog, a Siberian Husky. All her life she had been spirited and stubborn, and those parts of her personality had not been decreased or affected by age. But she was sick. I remember thinking that she was in a place where I as a human would not want to be; if I were so sick that my life had been maintained by machines, and I could not function, I would want to die.

Surely, a dog not being able to get up, stand up or stay up…must be analogous to being on life support.

She was my other best friend. She stuck with me no matter what. She laid by my bed for all those years; she actually slept on my bed when she had been able to jump onto it. She was the gentlest soul, and she was always there for me, but now, she was sick.

She fought to live, but I knew it wasn’t good for her so, I decided I had to put her down. It was what was right for her. I gave her the “death-prep” pill my veterinarian prescribed for her; I was to give it to her two hours before “the procedure.” I gave her the pill and then gave her a rib bone. It was her final treat. I normally didn’t give her bones because bones are bad for dogs’ teeth, I’d been told. But on this day, it didn’t matter anymore. She ate that bone with the excitement with which she had always eaten “treats,” and then she put her head on the grass still moist with dew, and went to sleep.

I went to get her a couple of hours later. Her body was completely limp, because of the pre-procedure pill. I took her to the car, already crying, and laid her on the blanket I had put on the back seat for her. My other dog jumped in and gave her a sniff and sat watch at the car window which her sleeping sister had always taken…

We got to the veterinarian’s office and were led to a room. I cradled my “other best friend” in my arms, on my lap, while my other dog pranced nervously about, sensing that something was terribly wrong, or at least different, and then the doctor came in.

She was crying, too. This dog was so lovable; she was kind and patient …and pliant, yet on the other side, she was equally as stubborn and strong.  As we put my limp dog on the table, it was hard to figure out who was crying more, me or the doctor.

The procedure went quickly, me holding my dog until she was gone. It only took minutes, and as life left her, I buried my head in her fur which would have made her, had she not been dead, give me one of her long, slow dog kisses. She was gone.

And I was mad.

I am still mad. My two best friends are gone and I am quite at a loss as to how to handle it. I know death is a part of life; God knows I have preached that truth enough.

But it doesn’t help, knowing death is part of life. Right now, it feels like death slapped me twice in three weeks. And it hurts. There is no easy way to meet grief and to get through grief,  whether it comes because you’ve lost a human friend or a furry friend.

Grief is grief.

A candid observation …

The Cost of Self-Hatred

One of the most tragic consequences in America of racism and sexism is that they have resulted in a huge swath of people – women of all colors and black and to a lesser extent, brown people – who hate themselves.

There is an obsession with Eurocentrism in this world; anything white or Nordic-looking is deemed to be better and superior, and the world bought into it generations ago. Hitler, in his racist craziness, was looking to create a “master race,” but the concept of that master race being white, blue-eyed and blonde didn’t originate with Hitler. It came right from these United States.

Racism was written into the Constitution with black people being relegated to being on 3/5 of a person. The framers of the United States Constitution made it clear that this nation’s foundational document meant fully to exclude slaves, women, Indians and even white indentured servants. White men were written up and held up as “the fittest,” and in later years, the Eugenics movement in this country sought to wipe away individuals who were designated as being “inferior.” The only people the Eugenics movement sought to perverse, according to Edwin Black, author of War Against the Weak, were those who confirmed to Nordic stereotypes.

That belief undergirded national policies, including segregation and forced sterilization. Black says that upwards of 60,000 Americans were forcibly sterilized. Major corporations, including the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation, funded the work of the “scientists” who did work to “prove” the superiority of Nordic-looking Caucasians, and some of this country’s most elite universities, including Yale, Harvard and Princeton, produced scientists who offered their intellect and time to prove that the Nordic race was, in fact, superior.

The history of all of that is too much to go into here, but the result of the spreading of the lie that Europeans, specifically Nordic whites, were superior, has had a devastating effect on black and brown people, and on women, too. Black people have been so demoralized by being designated as ugly and intellectually inferior that many have tried to get as far away from their heritage as possible. White people as well, who did not fit the Nordic prototype, have struggled with feeling inferior; when I was in high school and college, I saw many white women ironing their hair and dyeing it blonde, in order to fit into the accepted definition of beauty.

The disregard of anything and anyone which does not fit the Nordic model is part of the pathology which undergirds the treatment of black people by whites, and specifically the treatment of blacks by white police officers and by other blacks. We tend to see ourselves through the lenses of other people; the lens of white America sees or portrays black people as being brutish and and criminal. That lens despises black skin, black hair and black body types. A black person, then, is a thing, the personification of the 3/5 designation given by the United States Constitution, and is to be feared rather than protected.

Both white and black people look through the same lens. White people hate black people, but too many black people hate themselves and therefore each other. White people objectify black people, but black people objectify each other as well. In spite of great gains made that have made the African American population accept itself more than it has historically, there is still a great gulf between self-love and self-acceptance and the bigoted image and prejudiced view which has been the American reality.

White people are still hyper-critical of how black people look. Consider the horrid things which whites have said about Michelle Obama, who is a beauty in her own right. It is a tribute to her inner strength that she has endured the racist criticisms and put-downs that have come her way, but many African Americans, especially young girls, do not have that strength and they struggle with who they are and how they look – still, in this, the 21st century – wanting desperately to be anything other than black.

Black people still talk about “good” and “bad” hair, bad being, of course, their hair. Relaxers made to straighten out the kinky locks of black women have in fact done so much damage to black hair that it will take years to reverse. What is sad is that there are still too many black mothers who put these toxic and dangerous relaxers on their hair of their little girls, whose hair is way too delicate to handle the chemicals. Too many black people are still concerned with the fullness of their lips, even as white women get injections to make their lips bigger. In essence, what this means is that while many young African American women have a much more healthy self-image than did even their mothers, there are still too many little black girls and young black women wanting to be white.

There are a lot of consequences of not liking oneself, but one of the biggest is that when one is consumed with self hatred, he or she cannot bloom in his or her own fullness. The refusal of legislators to allocate money for schools in urban areas, themselves filled with contempt for black people,  is depriving this nation of incredible intellect and talent sitting in those schools, cultural and societal barriers to the same notwithstanding. It would help if advertisers could get away from their own biases, still holding up the Nordic look as the standard of beauty. Little black girls see white women with long, blonde flowing hair, and they want to be like that. The media does the most damage to the possibility for the image of beauty to move away from being lily white, but the media also helps keep little black girls captive to a standard of beauty which keeps them bound and incapable of realizing their highest potential, a fact which ultimately weakens this nation.

It’s not just the way the media portrays the standard of beauty which is problematic; it is its refusal to correct the misconceptions about how black people function in this world. The media still portrays “the bad people” as being primarily black. Black on black crime is held up as proof that black people are not viable, valuable American citizens. We hear little about the very real phenomenon of white on white crime – which doesexist. According to the US Department of Justice statistics, 84 percent of white people killed every year are killed by other whites. In an article which appeared in the Huffington Post, the author pointed out that in 2011, “there were more cases of whites killed whites than there were of blacks killing blacks.” That same article said that from 1980 to 2008, “a majority (53.3 percent) of gang-related murders were committed by white people. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kerry-coddett/white-on-white-crime-an-u_b_6771878.html)

The tragedy is that the media doesn’t pick up and carry those stories but stays instead in the place of myth, pushing the myth that only black people kill black people, not whites, and that that “fact” again proves that black people are not good people, good citizens. White people get a pass while black people struggle to love and respect themselves even as the society goads whites here and all over the world, to hate and despise them.

Black people have climbed over the lies and deliberate attempts to vilify and denigrate them, their looks and their intellectual capacity, for generations. That climbing reveals an inner strength that blacks too seldom celebrate. The curse of racism is a perpetual cloud which hangs over everything in this country, and that cloud, which contains the condensation of racial hatred that is bred and cultivated on American soil, has traveled all over the world.

We, as black people in this nation, have got to look at phenomenon of self-hatred square the face and renounce it, and the white people in this nation who rest arrogantly in the false image of white supremacy need to understand that the supremacy is a myth.As the myth is continuously revealed, with all of its holes and weaknesses, those who have hidden under it will be sorely affected, but that affectation must come.

It is time for the foolishness, wrongness and  amorality of white supremacy to end, and it is past time for African Americans and people of African descent all over the world to stop living in a desire to be something they will never be. It is time for African Americans to walk forward and proudly, no matter their hair or body type.

In fact, it is past time.

A candid observation …

 

The Arrogance of White Supremacy

Today, presumptive GOP nominee for president Donald Trump released a list of potential people he would nominate to the United States Supreme Court.

And I seethed.

I seethed because he released the list in the face of President Obama, whose nominee for the High Court, Judge Merrick Garland, is being completely ignored by the Republican-led Senate.

Trump’s list is full of people who are, by media accounts, “extremely Conservative.” They are primarily white men. They are young. They will work to keep white supremacy alive.

Democrats are powerless to do anything against the obstruction put in place and supported by Sen. Mitch McConnell and the others. In a Politico article, Seung Min Kim wrote that there were nine Senate Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee listening to witnesses “shower praise” on Judge Garland …but the GOP side of the dais …was completely empty.

The GOP has been touting that it is aghast at the violation of the Constitution; they have professed that they believe in law and order, except, it seems, when following the law and maintaining order applies to this president.

“Let the people decide who the next Supreme Court justice will be,” they say, calling Mr. Obama a “lame duck president,” when, in fact, that is not true. Their actions are clear and simply obstructionism based on racial politics. And it is sickening.

This latest action by Mr. Trump, the “chief bully” of this nation, underscores the fact that the core of this nation seems to be filled with rot. Mr. Trump is sickening, with his name-calling and bullying of anyone who disagrees with him, but it is the support of the white American electorate which is more disturbing. Filled with resentment and reeling from an economic downturn that has blown them out of lives that have been at least comfortable, the American electorate wants things to be the way they used to be when there were enough jobs in this nation to allow a fair number of people to live decent lives. They were a part of the middle class. Never mind that many of the privileges they had were denied to black and brown people. What they know is that their lives were comfortable and now they are not.

They believe Donald Trump when he says he will bring jobs back to America. They rejoice at the thought that a wall will be built to keep Mexicans out of the nation, people, they will say disingenuously, who are taking their jobs.

They are doing no such thing. They are doing the work that few if any American would be willing to do, at wages that are inhumanely low. There are stories circulating where immigrants, some legal and some not, are hired out, who do the work, and then are sent away or threatened with being deported without being paid.

Business people want profits, and they want it with as little outlay of their own money as possible. Donald Trump is not going to be able to change things so that the way things “were” will be “again.” Yesterday’s economy is not coming back.

But the American electorate is so desperate for jobs, and so subliminally racist, that they cannot see the forest for the trees. Mr. Trump is acting like an arrogant, spoiled rich fraternity kid and the public is loving it. They are all trying to “be his friend,” like kids tried to cosy up to bullies when I was in school. They must know that Mr. Trump does not care about them and their lives, that Mr. Trump only wants to satisfy Mr. Trump. And what will satisfy Mr. Trump is to win the presidency and be the most powerful man in the world.

They don’t care that he doesn’t have a foreign policy or an economic plan for this nation that will bring “liberty and justice for all.”

Oh, wait. They don’t want liberty and justice for all. They want liberty and justice …and white privilege…as they have always had it. And Mr. Trump knows that and is feeding their souls.

Sad. But true.

A candid observation…

 

 

In Honor of Mothers, Forgotten

This is Mother’s Day and most families will be celebrating – giving mothers flowers, candy, cards, gifts, taking them out to dinner or cooking for them. It is a day when all mothers are clumped into one idealized bundle.

In the bundle there are mostly female, married women with children. The bundle draws attention primarily to the women who have “made the cut” according to society’s definition of what a mother, and a good mother at that, is.

But the truth of the matter is that there are a lot of mothers who should be acknowledged as well, even if they have not made the cut. There are the grandmothers who are acting as mothers for their grandchildren. There are the men, some widowed, some divorced, and some in same-gender loving relationships, who are mothers.

And then there are the forgotten mothers, the women who gave birth to babies but who were strung out on drugs or who for some reason are homeless, their children having been taken away. Nobody ever mentions them or thinks about them…but they exist.

And today, I stop to wonder how they are doing.

There are the women who, by virtue of having given birth, are mothers, but who, either years ago or maybe just this week, have given their newborns away because for some reason, they cannot keep them.

I wonder how they are doing.

There are mothers who are working two, three  jobs to make sure their children are taken care of. Because they are single mothers,  some black and brown, but not all, society spits on them and castigates them. Society blames all of its ills on single mothers.

I was a single mother, and I resent the categorization of single mothers as being somehow deficient.

How are those mothers doing, mothers who are so tired they can hardly hold their eyes open, but who are determined to do so because they love their children just as much as do married women with children?

Today I’m going to do something different. I am going to visit some of the forgotten mothers. I am going to sit with them and talk with them and let them know that they matter. The mothers may be female or they may be men who have stepped into the role of mother. It doesn’t matter their sex. What matters is their love for children.

There are too many forgotten mothers doing extraordinary jobs at being mothers, and there are too many forgotten mothers, sitting in places of despair because they feel unworthy or guilty or ashamed …or maybe all of those things. Some are sitting in homeless shelters, some may be on the streets, trying to make money so they can feed their children or perhaps make enough money to buy medicine for those children. Some may not have access to computers so they can put a nice tribute to their mothers online.

Some may be sitting in church with big hats, trying to forget their pain.

There are women who are mothers who have not been very good at it, women who were abused growing up and who abuse their children as well. There are some people who were just not cut out to be mothers. Just because you can have a child does not mean you are meant to be a mother.

But there are many others who had their babies and who are struggling to make ends meet, or struggling to get past their demons, or who are caught in places because of life. Everyone isn’t taught that life ain’t been no crystal stair. When bad things happen, they think it’s because of them, because of some deficiency in them. They don’t know that trials and challenges are non-discriminatory.

Mother’s Day indeed. This one, for me, will be different. All mothers count. Today, I think I need to remember that there are too many people called “mother” or who are in the role of mother, who have been forgotten. That seems, somehow, not right.

A candid observation …

 

Tamar Rice’s Life Reduced to Money

When the news report told the world that the family of Tamir Rice, the unarmed, 12-year-old African American boy who was shot to death by police officers, had been awarded $6 million by the city of Cleveland, I was sick. And angry. (http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/25/us/tamir-rice-settlement/)

I was sick because once again, a family received money but not justice. The officers who killed Tamir Rice were not charged with his murder. Although they rode up on this young boy, who was holding a toy pellet gun, probably scaring him half to death, and shot him within seconds, they were able to give the standard “I was in fear for my life” line and they got off.  Timothy Loehmann, the officer who fired the fatal shot is still on the police force, still on the streets.

Under the terms of the settlement, the city of Cleveland admits no wrong and the family has agreed to drop criminal charges against the two officers involved in the tragedy. (http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/35793-tamir-rice-s-family-gets-6-million-settlement-for-police-killing-of-12-year-old)

The whole scenario, one which is repeated over and over in this country, makes me sick.

But I was angry because there is a disconnect between the cry of what “taxpayers” complain about and what they are willing to spend millions of dollars for. “Taxpayers,” which seems to be code for “white” taxpayers, are willing to pay millions of dollars to families of victims of police violence and brutality, and they are also willing to pay millions to keep people, too many of whom are black, poor …and innocent of violent crime – in prison. They are willing to pay millions of dollars to build prisons but not willing to put that same amount of money into building quality schools in urban neighborhoods. They are willing to pay millions of dollars to families of murdered children, but not willing to pay millions to expand Medicaid so that poor people can have access to health care.

It is sickening.

If it were my child who had been murdered as had been Tamir Rice or John Crawford, or Mike Brown …no amount of money would be enough. I would not want money. In the absence of my child, killed unjustly, I would want justice.  I would want some court, somewhere, to make the police pay for what they had done. I would want a movement started that would demand all police departments go through some kind of training, something , to make it so they would have to stop killing unarmed black people. I would want it and I would want it bad.

I wouldn’t care about the money. The hell with the money.

Whenever a loved one is murdered, the ones left behind want justice. It is a normal human reaction and need, but it seems that this society doesn’t understand that the continued lack of justice for families of victims  shot by police only creates more anger, anguish and pain for survivors.

This society doesn’t understand and doesn’t care. That is the nucleus, the center of the pain that the African American community carries and has carried for literally generations. From the time when whites could hunt down and kill escaped slaves legally, to the countless times when blacks were tried by white judges in front of all-white juries, many times for crimes the judge and jury knew they hadn’t committed, this travesty and absence of justice has been a reason for a deep-seated anger and pain for African-Americans.

To add insult to injury, the head of the Cleveland police union, Steve Loomis, had the audacity to suggest that perhaps the family of Tamir Rice would use a part of the money they receive to “educate” children on the dangers of mishandling either toy or real guns. Loomis said he wants something positive to come out of Tamir’s death.

Seriously. The police department of Cleveland, which murdered Tamir Rice, now wants to dictate how the family of this child should spend money they received?

White supremacy, which has deluded white people into thinking that they are superior and that if a black person is shot by police, he or she deserved it, is a sickness. It is a mental illness, and those afflicted, need help and treatment. To think that any family would be satisfied with money after losing a child, is the height of arrogance and racism.

It is insulting and is, frankly, a troubling …candid observation.

Prince

It’s funny how we believe some people will just …be around forever.

Prince died today and one of the comments I heard over and over as I walked on the streets of New York City was “he wasn’t supposed to die.”

The death of the 57-year-old musical genius stunned just about everyone. He did a concert last week in Atlanta. A friend of mine went and called; said he was “the bomb.” My friend was exhilarated, excited, inspired and filled. She said she was ready to face the world.

She called me this evening. “How did this happen?” she asked. “I mean, not how, but why …I mean…what happened?”

I of course had no answers, but his death gave me pause. We take being alive for granted. We take being alive and being healthy …for granted. And we take it for granted that the people we love will be around for as long as we need for them to be. We will not venture into the reality of life – meaning, that if one lives, one will surely die, and nobody knows when. We act rather like little kids in many ways, who cannot see past their own selves.

With our celebrities, the people who make us smile at their humor, or weep because of their music, make us try harder because we honor their success and their talent, we kind of forget that they are human, and are subject to the part of life called death. We cannot bear it, really, so we ignore it. We absorb their gifts to us, always wanting more.

When Michael Jackson died, and Whitney Houston, we…well, I …was sad because they were gone, yes, but also because they would not be alive to make any more of the music I loved so much.

And now, Prince.

The passing of Prince makes me understand  how we take for granted the lives of those to whom we are close, and our own lives as well. It is not promised that we will see tomorrow,  or live through the day.

Maybe Prince’s death should jostle us and make us understand that he gave a lot in his life and that we should perhaps, even as we mourn, work on giving as much of ourselves and our gifts as we can, while we can.

Maybe that would be the best way to honor …the artist formerly known as ..and then was again …Prince.

A candid observation.

 

 

 

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