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

 

 

 

Obama the Most Divisive Ever

Sometimes, I get confused.

I think I understand something and then someone says something that makes me …confused.

I have listened with interest …and confusion …to people who say that President Barack Obama has been the most divisive president in modern history. They are talking about issues including race, and say that he has divided the country along racial and economic lines. (http://theweek.com/articles/599246/republicans-say-obama-been-historically-divisive-thats-revealing).

Former GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl) said continuously during his campaign that Obama was the most polarizing president in history, and a recent article in Newsmax concurred. (http://www.newsmax.com/Politics/Barack-Obama-Gallup-polarizing-president/2015/02/06/id/623299/).

The country  certainly is divided, but is it because of President Obama? Can it be said that those who vowed to oppose him on anything and everything he proposed to do have something to do with where we are today?

Certainly, the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) made people furious. While millions of people now have health insurance who did not have access to it before, those who opposed it when it was on its way to becoming law still oppose it, and if a Republican wins the White House, the GOP still plans to repeal it.

The fight over the president’s landmark legislation did, in fact, pit people against each other.

But how else has Mr. Obama’s presidency divided the country? He has done some really good things, like, for example, pulling the country out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. He has said he didn’t know how bad things were, how the issues of Wall Street were spreading to Main Street, until he took office …but he worked on the economy and saved the country from a total economic meltdown. A lot of people were negatively impacted, and many are still trying to recover, but the president took the problem on and did the best he could do.

He wanted to be a president who worked across the aisle, but even before his inauguration was over, there were Republicans meeting to make sure that he would do no such thing; they wanted to make sure he was a “one term president” and they worked on a plan on how to best obstruct any and everything he tried to do.

I hear the subtle and often unspoken charges levied against him that he made the racial divide in this country worse, but that simply is not true. Obama has stayed away from “things racial” for the most part. America’s bubbling and diseased underbelly simply began to erupt to the surface as angry white people could no longer hold their resentment about a black man being in the White House.

The fact that the country is not so lily-white anymore, and that there are fewer jobs now for the masses than there were before is not, again, Obama’s fault. There are factors that “the angry” don’t really deal with, like who it was that voted in trade agreements that have resulted in the United States losing manufacturing jobs. “The angry” don’t seem to remember when “outsourcing” was going on like crazy, resulting in America losing its source of employment for so many people, especially white men.

Obama has supported trade agreements, as has Secretary Clinton, but he didn’t initiate them, right?  He might have supported NAFTA, and he does in fact support the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), but has his support of those trade agreements been the reason America is so divided?

How about this: America has always been a divided nation. Romantic Constitutional rhetoric aside, America has always pitted the “haves” against the “have-nots,” and has not made it easy for the class differences it created to be overcome. Obama has had to deal with the normal antics of oppositional politics compounded by a Republican resolve to make him a “one term president.” (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/05/sorry-marco-rubio-obama-isnt-as-divisive-as-bush-lincoln-or-clinton/257483/) He has had his hands full, to say the least. America, in spite of its claim to be a democracy, is in fact an oligarchy and that system by definition divides people.

This is not to say that Obama should be pitied. He has found a way to get things done in spite of the cantankerous Congress with which he has had to work in a way that has made people spit-fire mad, but it feels like he did what he had to do because it was clear Congress was not going to take its foot off of his neck. He was elected to do some things and he worked hard to do just that.

He failed in unifying the nation, but really, who can? Donald Trump says he can do it, and all one can say to that claim is, “hardly.” Trump is dangerously divisive and everyone except his blind followers knows it.

In the end, all presidents cause some division because no president can please all of the people, but as I read it, Obama is no worse and no more divisive than some of the other presidents who have graced the White House. He has endured his time in office in spite of an openly and unreasonably stubborn Congress, and it feels like most of their opposition has been seeded in America’s garden of racism.

Nobody would ever openly admit that, though, just like few people are willing to admit that much of what Trump is doing is feeding that same garden, seeding it with pent-up resentment and anger. Trump’s divisiveness could throw this country into a downward spiral from which it might never recover.

It’s something to think about …and it is certainly a candid observation.