The Pain of Ignored Mothers

One of the things that bothers me – and which has bothered me for a while – is that in this nation, where police brutality and racially-motivated crimes result in the death of a young African American person, few people seem to care about the pain of the mothers – and fathers as well – but for purposes of this piece – the pain of the mothers.

Everybody who is human has a craving and a right for justice. For so long however, in this country, there has been no justice when people of African descent have been killed – by police or by deranged people who live in racism. My thoughts keep going back to Mamie Till, the mother of Emmett Till – who demanded that the mangled and destroyed body of her son be displayed in an open casket so that the world could see what “they,” meaning hateful racists – had done to her son.

Mamie’s courage, strength  and tenacity were exemplary. When she traveled to Money, Mississippi to claim the body of her son, stories say that the stench of his rotting body filled her nostrils as she stepped off of the train. The undertakers in Money had wanted to bury Emmett quickly, but Mamie refused. She wanted to see her son, and could only identify him by the ring he had on his finger, which had belonged to his father. She held up somehow, and got him back to Chicago for the funeral, indeed inviting the press to take pictures of him so that “the world could see.”

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Then, this remarkable woman went back to Money for the trial of the two white men accused and on trial for his murder. She endured horrible treatment from local whites, but she would not be deterred. She wanted justice.

She probably knew that justice would allude her, because she was, after all, a black woman, as had been her son, and the two men accused of lynching him – J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant – were white, and so she probably was not surprised when, after about an hour the all-white jury brought back a verdict of “not guilty.”

But her heart had to have been broken. She had no son and she had no justice for his murder.

Every time a young black person is killed by “law enforcement,” and grand jury refuses to indict the accused officer, or the jury – still usually all-white – refuses to convict them, my heart aches for the mothers. My heart has ached for them all – from Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown to Jordan Davis to Ty’re King to Henry Green to Eric Garner …the list seems endless. I have been in the presence of some of the families when verdicts of “not guilty” have been delivered, or when a grand jury, led by system-infused prosecutors have led the members of the grand jury to free the accused officer – has done just that.

I have heard the wails and seen the tears, and I have lost many tears myself. The depth of this injustice, based so deeply on white supremacy and racist actions which white supremacy spawns, is almost too deep to fathom. Yes, the families of the deceased get settlements from their respective cities, but those awards always seem bitter to me.

No amount of money can assuage the spirit of a parent who has lost a child.

The fact that so many white people do not understand how awful it must be to carry two suitcases – one containing the reality of the unjust death of a child and the other containing the pain of not having been able to get justice for that child – is troubling. Why can’t this society, which boasts of being “Christian,”  see and hear the cries of the mothers, the ignored mothers who must somehow find a way to keep living in spite of such intense loss?

I am only speaking now as a mother; the fathers of these lost children suffer deeply as well. I have seen interviews of the fathers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and Jordan Davis. These grown men break down and weep – and there is nothing adequate to wipe those tears – but more importantly that pain – away.

Every day, these parents have to get up and keep living, though they want to die.

Mamie Till held her own. She had that funeral. She showed the world what “they” had done to her son. She kept on living. She kept on working with people, trying to get them to not be afraid of working for justice.

But her heart never recovered. She lived with that heaviness that all mothers, all parents, must live with and carry every day, knowing that in spite of God, the hatred of white supremacy continued to reign in this country, ripping young lives away from life and throwing them away – and acting like it’s all OK because those lives just do not matter.

On this day, I think of ignored mothers, and know that some way, some how, this madness has to stopA 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

 

 

 

ISIS at Home

It just doesn’t stop.

While the media has gone crazy nuts, covering the terrorist attack in Brussels, which was, for sure, horrific, America’s own terrorism against people of color, specifically and especially against black men, continues with hardly a whisper.

I was shocked, then saddened, and then …angry…when I read about New York police officers who handcuffed an African-American mail carrier in Brooklyn because…well, because they could.

According to the article about the incident which appeared in the New York Times, Glen Grays, 27, yelled at a car which came careening around a corner, coming dangerously close to him and his mail truck. He was afraid he was going to be sideswiped.

When Grays yelled, the car was put into reverse and the driver said to Grays, “I have the right of way because I am law enforcement.” Inside the car were three other officers, all plainclothes. They all approached Grays and ended up handcuffing him, telling him to “stop resisting,” although a video taken at the scene doesn’t show him resisting at all, except to say, “I didn’t do anything!” He was handcuffed nonetheless, taken down to the police station, his mail truck left unattended. He was charged with disorderly conduct, and was released. He is going to have to appear in court to answer the charges. (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/27/nyregion/glen-grays-the-mailman-cuffed-in-brooklyn.html?_r=0&login=google)

When will this craziness end? And when will the media take seriously the cry that black lives do  matter, a cry which has come from generations of black lives being denigrated and destroyed by law enforcement? When will law enforcement stop whining about finally being called out on its behavior, a behavior with which it has gotten away with for generations, perhaps more so since the issuance of the Fugitive Slave Laws? When will this nation admit that, based on how its agencies charged with protecting American citizens, it has shown that black lives really do not matter?

The criminalization of black people has destroyed families and communities. It has caused little black children to be at risk..of being kids …kids who do things that all of us as kids have done. This week, a six-year old child was handcuffed in Chicago for taking candy off a teacher’s desk. (https://www.rawstory.com/2016/03/crying-6-year-old-put-in-handcuffs-under-schools-stairs-for-taking-candy-off-teachers-desk/) She was six years old. Perhaps being put in a corner would have been a suitable response, or being put in “time out,” but being handcuffed?”

It’s really hard to listen to the outrage expressed over terrorist attacks on cities like Brussels and Paris while equally or worse attacks are carried out in Nigeria and Turkey and Somalia and Palestine with little to no mention. I despise terrorism, but I despise more the selective reporting of terrorism.

But I am also incensed by America’s refusal to own her own brand of “ISIS.” Law enforcement officers in this nation, as well as the courts and entire justice system, have terrorized and demonized and in effect, killed the spirits of literally hundreds of thousands of African-Americans just because they could. The justice system has played with the lives of black people accused and of offenses which they often did not do, by putting them in mock courts with white prosecutors, white judges and all-white juries, basically condemning them and forcing them to second and third rate citizenship in this country which prides itself on having the best justice system in the world.

While the media is bleeding over what happened in San Bernadino, Brussels and in Paris, it has showed little stomach or empathy  for the injustice and damage done on this side of the pond to African-Americans, surely, but also to brown people, and Native Americans. All day long the media has been talking abut Brussels and the ineptitude of law enforcement there. Isn’t there a lot of ineptitude here that the media ought to be lifting up? How in the world can America show horror at what ISIS did in Brussels without coming to terms what our justice system, America’s ISIS, did to Kalief Browder? If you remember, Kalief was a high school student when he was accused of stealing someone’s book bag – which he had not done. He was arrested and was in prison for three years without a trial. When he was finally released, after trying to reconnect with society and get his life back, he gave up  and committed suicide. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/09/nyregion/kalief-browder-held-at-rikers-island-for-3-years-without-trial-commits-suicide.html)

Where is the outrage of the media, of the people running for president? While some white people try to steer the conversation away from the complaint about how black people are treated in this nation, urging the slogan to be “ALL lives matter,” the fact of the matter is that white power treats black lives as though they are nothing, like they are disposable income, so to speak.

Thinking about this young mail carrier, arrested and charged because he yelled at an unmarked police car that scared him, just makes my anger grow deeper and deeper. I need for America to stop talking so much about international terrorism and deal with the terrorism which is right in front of us all, on America’s Main Streets.

A candid observation …

 

 

 

White Anger, Black Anger

When Newt Gingrich did his “Contract with America” in 1994, it was said to be the result of the anger of Republicans. They were angry at the way government was going; because of big government, the supporters of the contract said, the “American Dream” was out of reach of too many families. The movement was propelled along by white men who were angry; their reasons were their own.

In the Atlantic Constitution in July of this year, there was an article about angry white men; the reporter of the story, Clete Wetli, wrote that “America is finally realizing the true damage caused by far right religious conservatives and the Republican Party who have spent decades fueling and manipulating the hatred of angry white men.” Wetli writes:
They are angry they lost the “War of Northern Aggression”. They are angry that some people get help from the government. They are angry that ‘Mericuh has a black President. They are angry that people have sex for recreation instead of procreation. They are angry that gays are ruining their third marriage. Heck, they are angry that lawn darts were recalled and that women think they should be paid the same as men… in the army! (http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/06/the_rise_and_fall_of_the_angry.html)

In that article, Wetli writes that white men are angry because “they have to be politically correct and they don’t really know what that means.”

Michael Kimmel, in his book Angry White Men, delves into the reasons white men are angry, noting that much mass violence comes from white men. They feel like history has blindsided them, Kimmel says, and writes:
Today’s Angry White Men look backward, nostalgically at the world they have lost. Some organize politically to restore “their” country; some descend into madness; others lash out violently at a host of scapegoats. Theirs is a fight to restore, to reclaim more than just what they feel entitled to socially or economically — it’s also to restore their sense of manhood, to reclaim that sense of dominance and power to which they also feel entitled. They don’t get mad, they want to get even — but with whom? (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-kimmel/americas-angry-white-men_b_4182486.html)

Much has been written about the anger of white men, and in some ways, their anger is given support and the systems in place which have caused and supported white supremacy lend a sympathetic ear, for the most part.

So, yes, we know that white men are angry, even if we do not understand why, given the fact that in this society, and perhaps in this world, they are the most privileged of all people.

But what about the anger of black people?

Nobody likes to talk about that anger; indeed, it is looked upon as a weakness, or worse, to be angry if you are black. President Obama has been careful not to appear “angry;” Michelle Obama was at one point early in the Obama administration characterized as “angry.” Black anger is deemed to be wrong, unreasonable, misplaced and misguided. Anger at having endured oppression sanctioned by the government has been flicked off, and black people have been told to “just get over it.”

But how can black people not be angry?

The latest assault to the soul of Black America came just yesterday with the Grand Jury in Cleveland refusing to indict the police officers who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Within seconds, that child, holding a toy gun, was gunned down by trigger happy (perhaps angry) white police officers. He lay on the ground and his sister, who wanted to go to his aid, was roughed up and handcuffed by those same officers.
He was a child, for goodness’ sake, holding a toy gun in an open carry state. The police shot first and asked questions later.

And this has been the history of black people and law enforcement in this country for decades.

Why in the world would anyone think black people should not be angry?

Anthony Ray Hinton, falsely accused and convicted of murder and who spent 30 years in solitary confinement on Death Row, said that when he was arrested, the officer told him he would be convicted, even though he, the police officer admitted that Hinton had “probably not” committed the crime of which he was accused. Why would he be convicted? Hinton said the officer said, “because you are being accused by a white man, because the prosecutor is white, because the judge will be white, because the jury will be white, and because your court-appointed attorney will be white.”

Most black people do not get that kind of up-front, in-your-face admission of white oppression, but it has existed for decades. Black people have endured being treated like objects in this country blacks built – free labor given at the behest of white people – and have endured never being given credit for that same work. Black parents have pushed through and found ways for their children to get a decent education in spite of despicable public schools in their neighborhoods. Black people have endured the humiliation of being sought to fight for this country and being denied basic rights once their service to this country was completed.

Why in the world would black people not be angry?

It is one of the biggest ironies in this nation that angry white people rebelled against their British oppressors because they hated being oppressed, but those same angry white people have not been able to understand or appreciate the anger of black people who are likewise tired of being oppressed.

Is it that black people are still seen as being sub-human, with no capacity to feel pain?

The mother and family of Tamir Rice were already devastated by the fact that he was killed by police …for just being black but being in the wrong place at the wrong time, looked upon as a beast and not a child…but now they have to endure, as have so many black parents, the indignity of this system saying that his death was the result of justifiable force rendered by police. It’s the same song black parents have heard for decades.

This government has not ever protected black people; it in fact participated in thousands of lynchings over the years. It has passed laws that protect the right of white people to oppress black people.

So, why is it a problem that black people are angry?

Could any of the angry white men survive a nanosecond under the kind of oppression that white America has rendered to black people, with government support?

I think not.

Maybe it’s white men …who should get over it.

A candid observation ….