Black Lives Matter – Not So Much

Featured Image -- 2275

It hit me not long ago, as I listened to more than one television pundit say that the Black Lives Matter movement is a hate movement, specifically against, police officers, that they do not understand the concept of perhaps the most important word in the BLM moniker: “matter.”

The Black Lives Matter movement didn’t erupt after a police shooting of an unarmed black man. It erupted after a civilian, a vigilante in the person of George Zimmerman, stalked, shot and killed 17-year-old Trayon Martin, who was unarmed. The angst and anger of much of the black community rose as Zimmerman spun the tale that he was “in fear for his life,” though the only things Martin was carrying were a can of iced tea and a package of Skittles.

The anger continued to rise as the police and the community seemed not to care that Zimmerman had stalked Martin …though being advised to stop doing it by local police, and had confronted the young man, who I am sure was quite worried about this unknown person following him.

Zimmerman’s encounter with Martin ended up with Martin being shot dead and Zimmerman showing some minor injuries from their tussle. Martin had done what any person being followed at night would have done: he defended himself – and yet, nobody seemed to care. His life did not matter. His humanness – meaning, his drive to protect and defend himself against a man with a gun – did not matter. He was effectively blamed for his own death.

And then, to add insult to injury, the jury went with Zimmerman and he was acquitted of any wrongdoing.

That’s when all hell broke loose.

Yes, there have been lots of extrajudicial killings of black people by law enforcement. That has been a historical reality in this country, and black people have been wrestling with it for literally generations. There have been too many trials to mention where all-white juries have convicted a black person of a crime which the judge, jury and officers knew he or she probably had not committed. That, too, has been a part of the African American search for justice and full American citizenship in this country.

But the Black Lives Matter movement erupted because in spite of what was clearly a case of an armed wanna-be police officer stalking an unarmed black kid – because he “looked suspicious,” the killer got off. One more time, the killer got off.

Are there some in the Black Lives matter movement who say “kill the pigs?” Yes. But the bulk of the protesters in the streets are not calling for the murder of police. They are calling for the end of judicial injustice.  Judicial injustice has said to black people for far too long that our lives have no value, and neither do our cries for justice.

I watch with interest as the rise in opioid addiction by white kids is getting more and more attention, with politicians and media and police doing all they can to save these kids from lives that will only go downhill if they do not shake their addictions. There was no such push to save the lives of black kids becoming addicted to crack cocaine. While white kids are being said to be suffering from the “sickness” of drug addiction, black kids were rounded up and thrown into jail for small amounts of marijuana. I watched with interest as   Brock Turner was treated with compassion after having raped an unconscious woman, the court not wanting to ruin his life by giving him a lengthy – and appropriate sentence –  for his crime. I  watch lawmakers in Flint dancing around what they need to do in order to make water safe for little black kids who have been drinking lead-tainted water for some time now.

Black kids, suffering, do not matter. Their lives do not matter. Their futures do not matter.

That’s what the Black Lives Matter movement is about, as much as it is about getting rogue, racist, ultra-violent police off the streets.

Just thought I’d share a personal and very painful …candid observation.

 

Emmett, Trayvon and Michael

It is a notable fact that in our country, major racial strife and a subsequent movement followed the lynching of young, black men.

That is not to say that black women have not been lynched. In fact, black women’s bodies have been brutalized by whites in this country in a way nobody likes to talk about. It is a great irony that while white men were lynching black men to protect their women from “the black beast,” which they considered black men to be, they were in fact raping black women with abandon. Because white people did not consider black people to be human, what white men did to black women was discarded and considered as a right they had in doing what they wanted to their property.

That’s another piece altogether.

But in thinking about what is going on now in this nation’s Black Lives Matter movement, it is clear that it has been the brutalization, the lynching, of young black men which has periodically set the country on fire. Not only have the murders of the black men been a catalyst for social upheaval, but also the lack of justice in their murders has stoked the fires of resentment and pain carried by black people in this country.

The protest today is centered around the police killings of young black men, but in the cases of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, it has been white vigilantes who have done the killing. In both cases, the murderers were tried and acquitted of wrongdoing. Their lives did not matter; the pain of their parents and loved ones did not matter, either. Emmett Till was killed on August 28, 1955 in Money, Mississippi, yanked from his uncle’s house in Mississippi as he slept because he allegedly winked at a white woman. He was beaten beyond recognition and his body was thrown into the Tallahatchie River. Emmett’s murderers had a trial but were acquitted after only an hour’s deliberation by the all-white, all-male jury.

We all remember that George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin and Officer Darren Wilson was not even bound over for trial in the killing of Michael Brown.

What struck me as I thought about these three young men was that they were all lynched. No, not in the classic “rope hanging from a tree” sense, but in the sense that their killings were done by white people who believe it is their duty, almost, to rid the world of those whom they deem to be unworthy of living. While Emmett was thrown into the Tallahatchie River, Michael Brown was allowed to lie on the hot pavement of a city street while officers in Ferguson built a case around his not being “a saint.” The murderers of Till tried to hide his body; the murderers of Brown left his body exposed so that the world could see what happened to people who messed with police.  Trayvon was not hidden or left lying exposed like Emmett or Michael, but his body did lie in a morgue for three days, listed as a “John Doe,” though he was killed feet from his father’s residence in a gated community in Florida. Tracy Martin, his father, had been looking for his son since the night he was killed; the morning after he didn’t come home, Martin called the police, looking for Trayvon. It was only then that he found out that his son had lain in the morgue for three days.

Three young men, one 14 years old, one 17 years old and another, 18 years old, were killed because they were black; being black made them “suspect,” and worthy of being brutalized.

None of these young men were treated …like they matter. From being stalked and “looking suspicious” as was the case with Trayvon, to engaging in a youthful flirt with a white woman in the case of Emmett, to refusing to treat a police officer, Darren Wilson, with appropriate deference, these young men lost their lives.

And too few people in the white community care about it.

If it had been my son, gunned down and then left in the street for hours, I would be furious now, just as I would be furious had my son been gunned down because he “looked suspicious.” I would be even more furious, deeply hurt, and probably inconsolable if my son’s killers were acquitted of any crime.

This nation has a plethora of mothers (and fathers) who are carrying the deepest of hurts and grief …and measured fury. The parents and loved ones of Jordan Davis, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, and literally hundreds more black people …are carrying hurt, grief …and fury. Their sadness is part of the fabric of this nation; it is an ever-deepening undercurrent of America.

The presidential candidates have, so far, all but ignored the Black Lives Matter movement. The participants in the movement are being cast off as “troublemakers.” They are. There needs to be trouble when injustice keeps on happening. If there is no trouble, nobody will listen.

Mamie Till started this wave of trouble-making when she would not permit the white people who killed her son to keep his death a secret. They thought it was over when they threw him in the river, but Mamie made them look for her son. They thought it was over when they said they would bury her son in Mississippi, but Mamie refused to let them. She took her son home to Chicago and had his horribly destroyed body photographed so that the whole world would see what the white people had done to her son.

Sybrina Martin, Trayvon’s mother, and Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr, the parents of Michael, sought justice for their sons and were deeply disappointed as the justice system refused them. Not only did the lives of their sons not matter, but neither did their lives matter, apparently, as parents seeking justice.

These three young men, robbed of life, clearly did not matter to the men who shot and killed them; they are mentioned here only because their parents  refused to remain silent.  The parents of others robbed of life in this way …are refusing to remain silent. The young people who are marching and chanting and demanding to be heard are marching because they know their own lives are in danger. They know they do not matter much, either. They also know that the only way anyone will listen …is for them to be “troublemakers.”

I think Emmett, Trayvon and Michael …and all of the others who have been gunned down largely because they were black people in America …would like that. I think their deaths ..deserve that. Their lives, and the lives of all the others …mattered.

A candid observation …

No Justice for Black Slain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The list of unpunished crimes against black people is long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A candid observation …

Stand Your Ground Only If You’re White?

So, Marissa Alexander still faces 60 years in prison for shooting a warning shot into the air to ward off her abusive husband.

Meanwhile, while she is awaiting a new trial, George Zimmerman is walking free. Alexander faces three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Prosecutor Angela Corey, who failed to gain convictions in the Zimmerman case and, for all intents and purposes, in the case of Jordan Davis, is going for blood.

Both Alexander and Zimmerman  “stood their ground.” Zimmerman is free. Alexander may wind up in prison for a long, long time.

Where is the justice? Put another way, “where is justice, period, for black, brown and poor people?”

The historical narrative for black people being incarcerated, or, even worse, just being denied justice, is sad. One in three black males, reports say, can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetime. http://http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/04/racial-disparities-criminal-justice_n_4045144.html.

Black people are still objects, deserving of the bad things that come their way, seems to be the prevailing attitude. Marissa Alexander is not a frightened woman, a mother tired of being beaten by a crazed man. She is an object who shouldn’t have fired a gun. Prosecutor Corey doesn’t see her as a woman in distress, but, rather, an object which she can use to bolster her conviction record. Prosecutors are famous for going not for justice …but for convictions….because they are elected and need to be seen as “tough on crime.”

Their lack of willingness to seek justice for black, brown and poor people …and for women …is a crime in and of itself.

Hopefully, there will be a ground-swell of support for Marissa, although the justice system doesn’t often listen to or respect ground-swell when it comes to people accused of crimes. Nor does the justice system move quickly to admit mistakes it makes in order to free people who have been wrongly accused, convicted and incarcerated. People sit in prisons for years while the justice system lulls over new evidence that it very often disregards and deems insufficient.

Marissa Alexander’s attorneys sought to get her a new “stand your ground” hearing, based on revision of the controversial law which is used in at least 26 states. The judge ruled it didn’t prevail in her case. She, a black woman, who shot nobody, is facing up to 60 years in prison for firing a warning shot in the air to scare off her abusive husband. George Zimmerman, a white man (though some say he is not) is walking free, and Michael Dunn, who murdered Jordan Davis, would have been free had he not tried to kill three other black youths.

The man who shot Renisha McBride, Theodore Wafer, is on trial now. I am holding my breath, hoping to God he is convicted, but not all that optimistic about that hope becoming a reality.

It’s the dehumanization of black people, which began at the dawn of the creation of this country, which has aided prejudice, bigotry and been the basis and justification for the type of injustice black, brown and poor people have gotten in the courts.

Justice, it seems, is evasive if you don’t have the right skin color.

A candid observation …

 

 

“Boys Will Be Boys”…

It has occurred to me that only some boys are “allowed” to be boys, according to the common adage.

When I think of what happened to Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, what I think is that these were two young men …being boys. Teens tend to do dumb things in general; teen boys, no matter their color or ethnicity, do even more dumb things…It is part of growing up. Some of us get out of our teens safely, meaning we don’t get killed or injured or wind up in “the system,” but many of us, unfortunately, do not.

Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, said on Saturday that “all of us are sinners, and all of us are criminals.” What an incredibly simple yet profound statement. All of us, surely, have done something that puts us in both those categories…yet it seems to be black and brown males who seem to end up in prison or dead for …just doing “dumb boy stuff.”

I remember hearing the story of a young black teen who lived in Chicago, who, with his friends, took up a dare that they could all outrun an oncoming train. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb …but that was the challenge of the day. There were about six boys in the group. All of them made it…except for one, who tripped and fell, and before he could get up, the rambling train had run over his legs, amputating them both.

I hear stories about this all of the time, as I am sure many do, but what bothers me, again, is that black and brown boys don’t really have the luxury of being …boys. And what’s worse, it feels like the white police officers know exactly the mind set they are dealing with. They know what boys will try, what they will smoke or when they will fight …because these police officers have done the same “dumb boy” stuff themselves. They have done what they are chasing down these black and brown boys for r, and have gotten away. Now, they are in positions of power.  It feels like they have never been too fond of black or brown people; it feels like they have totally bought into the opinion that black and brown people are bad, stupid and lazy, and they use their power to reign these young men in for doing exactly as some of these police officers have done in their lives …if not worse.

When it is suggested that police officers take some diversity training, or get some kind of training that will help them deal with the communities in which they immerse themselves, there is pushback; they are miffed, it seems, that anyone would suggest that they need training to deal with …common criminals…and yet, they do need something . These police officers go into black and brown communities armed with guns and misguided and misinformed perceptions. They go in believing that the black and brown people with whom they deal are inherently bad as opposed to being humans who need help and protection like everyone else.

These white officers know that kids use drugs. My son used to tell me that at his high school, a very good high school in the suburbs, was full of drugs. Chances are these police officers have used or are using marijuana …and they know how boys get together and smoke to “have fun,” and yet they round these boys up and herd them into the system. The huge numbers of black and brown people in jail and prison, especially black males, for non-violent drug offenses, supports my observation.

What to do? How do black and brown parents raise their sons? They certainly are not allowed to “be boys” as the white boys are allowed to be. So …what does a parent share? When my son was a teen, I gave him “the talk” on how to act in public, what to say, do, not say and not do, if he were ever stopped by police. He got through…but so many of our boys do not.

When I think of Trayvon and Jordan, I think of boys …being boys …defending their manhood, standing up for themselves, in the wake of being challenged by other men who challenged them …just because they could. I believe Trayvon was frightened by being followed by George Zimmerman and decided to “stand his ground” and protect himself…and I believe Jordan decided that no white man was going to tell him how loud he could play his music and he challenged Michael Dunn’s demand that they turn the music down in their car. Boys. Being boys. The white men against whom they came against took up the challenge. It was a pissing contest … as men will often engage in …but both Trayvon and Jordan …and so many more young black and brown men …lost. I mean they lost the ultimate – their lives.

Yeah, “boys will be boys,” but black and brown boys and youth are highly at risk when they do that. And unfortunately, as the white boys and men whom they confront do the “boy thing” too, it is the black and brown kids who too often end up with the short end of the stick.

A candid observation …