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

 

 

 

Cliven Isn’t the Only One

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has caused  a stir, talking all that racist stuff.

But the “outrage” expressed by his Republican buddies seems a bit disingenuous, and their distancing themselves from him publicly is nothing more than politics at its best … or worst …depending on who you are talking with and in what venue.

Cliven Bundy wonders if black people were not better off being slaves.  He said, “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom,” he was quoted as saying. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/24/politics/bundy-and-race/)

And everybody is in a tizzy. For what? Because of what he said, or because he said it OUT LOUD, exposing the way many white people probably talk in private?

I have had so many white people talk to me, with hushed voices, about how bad the racism is, about how many white people hate President Obama, and about how so many white people are anxious to “take the country back” from …black people.

According to these folks with whom I have talked, many of these people are obsessed with “saving” America from the influence of being governed by a black man. They are worried that Mr. Obama’s foreign policy has made him come off as weak, thereby plunging the country into morbid danger. They believe that the rise in Americans receiving food stamps, due to the break of the American economy, speaks to the president’s deficits and the danger of “big government,” although it was the economic policies of the previous, Republican administration that drove our country nearly to the depths of economic despair.

“All they want,” one white woman said to me, “is to get that black man out of the White House. They can’t see the good he’s done for the simple reason their vision is clouded by their hatred of him, just because he’s black. They’re afraid that he’s done too much for ‘the blacks,” and not enough for white people.”

Enter Mr. Bundy. Say what you want, Bundy might very well have spilled the conversation content of many a cocktail party attended by the very rich. “Big government” seems to be a government which attends to the needs of the underclass, and rich people seem to resent that, like poor people are getting something for nothing, and off their backs.

I guess they don’t see how it is the labor of the poor people who have propelled their corporations into economic bliss, even while the poor people become poorer.

Bundy said, “maybe I sinned.” But, he quickly added, he said what he meant. It’s in his heart, this opinion about what “the Negro” is like, and how blacks are lazy and how they abort their children and will not work…And …he added that if “those people” cannot take hearing what is his truth (I am paraphrasing), then Martin Luther King hasn’t done his work.

Huh?

Racism and white supremacy and the desire to hold onto it smolders right under the surface of the American psyche.  Every now and then somebody messes up and says out loud what is often said in private.

That’s what happened with good ol’ Mr. Bundy.

He’ll smart a little, but white Conservatives will never leave him. He’s a rich white man with a lot of resources. They might smack him on the wrists, and their strategists are probably telling them to distance themselves from  Bundy for the sake of the upcoming mid-term elections – not for the sake of the people he offended.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bundy will continue to be a welfare rancher, letting his cattle feed on land owned by the federal government. He has a subsidized ranch, seems to me, and it’s no less a drain on the federal coffers than is public housing or food stamps.

Thing is, he can afford to eat. He hasn’t paid for that land in years and owes millions. He won’t go to jail, or probably even get a fine. That, while blacks who have committed non-violent drug crimes are languishing in prison …making even more white people rich via the Prison Industrial Complex.

So, I’m not surprised at what Bundy said. He is giving voice to a lot of people who have wanted to say just that for a long time.

People get uptight if anyone says anything about racial inequality and injustice in this nation. As soon as anyone says anything about those phenomenon, describing how some policies absolutely work against black people,  we are playing “the race card.”

He played it like a champ. I suppose he is. And he’s not going to change and he’s not sorry. Neither are the Republicans who are voicing outrage.

Please.

Republicans, your outrage rings hallow because of your actions and policies. You have been so interested in making Mr. Obama a one-term president that you have felt free, in fact, compelled, to talk in private about how you feel about this race thing.

Damn Bundy! You let the cat out of the bag, in this, our post-racial society.

Who’s going to get it back in? The cat is running freely…

A candid observation…