When Despair Wins

There is a community of young, black activists in Columbus, Ohio, which is mourning today.

They are mourning and they are in shock because one of their foot-soldiers, MarShawn McCarrel, apparently killed himself yesterday. The report say that he killed himself on the steps of the Ohio State House, a location from which many marches have begun.

MarShawn was a poet and an activist, who was fierce about fighting for the dignity of black people. Up close, he was shy and unassuming, polite and well-mannered. To think that he is gone is almost too much to bear.

As I listen to GOP politicians talk about Americans being angry, I am angered because in their dialogues about anger, they do not consider the anger and frustration and sense of despair of black people. Many older black people have learned to manage their hopelessness, but the young people, those in the streets and in the malls and in the courthouses demanding dignity and justice…have not.

Not a single GOP candidate has bothered to mention that the despair of black people is valid. It is a despair with which we have lived for generations. Not Trump, not Rubio, not Cruz, not Christie…none of them seem to give a horse’s ass about what black people go through because of white supremacy.

Not a one of them (of the ones I mentioned) have voiced concern and/or outrage over the lead-filled water given to people in Flint, Michigan, but I would bet that all of them will, in the future, be on some bandwagon to do something with black kids who have behavior problems – forgetting that lead affects people in horrific ways for years. Lead poisoning affects everything from IQ to the ability to have a healthy body. Not a one of these candidates, and too many white people – care about that. They say that they are pro-life, but they only want life for unborn fetuses and for white people.

They want their country back, a country marked by racism, sexism, homophobia and an economy which puts way too many people on the bottom, without thought of what poverty does to people.

They don’t think about what black and brown kids feel when they go into schools that are shoddy and broken, where heat doesn’t work in the winter and air conditioning doesn’t work in the summer. They don’t think about or care about what it must feel like for little black children to see their white counterparts with fine, fancy schools and they are given the worst facilities imaginable.

They don’t care that in many urban schools, the toilets don’t work, the windows are broken, and the books are old. They don’t think that these little children have feelings, and grow up believing they are inferior because they are treated as though they are inferior, like they do not matter.

The kids, the young people, who have taken to the streets, are tired and angry. They are tired of being ignored. Tired of being marginalized. Tired of being shot down or shot at. Tired of being labeled. Tired of getting second best. But none of the GOP candidates talk about that anger. It is only the anger of white people who feel like perhaps they are losing control of their grip on America that seems to matter.

My heart is breaking today because this young man is said to have committed suicide. He fought until he couldn’t fight any longer. His anger turned inward, where it morphed into depression and finally into despair. He went to the place where unjust laws are made, and he killed himself.

Those running for president should care about the despair about all people, not just their base. White anger is no more sacred than is black anger. And black anger in America has a history grounded in the policies and practices meted out because of white supremacy.

In the Bible it says that God will turn our mourning into dancing. I guess God didn’t get to MarShawn soon enough.

A candid observation…

 

 

When Nobody Cares About Your Tears

This is the day before Thanksgiving, and I can’t help thinking about the parents of slain children …whose Thanksgiving tables will be sprinkled with tears.

Some of us in this nation are wresting with the shooting death of LaQuan McDonald by a white police officer. I will not lift his name up; he seems not to deserve as much. The video released on LaQuan’s shooting has shaken me to my core. (http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/25/us/laquan-mcdonald-chicago-shooting-main/)

But I am resonating with the parents of LaQuan, as I have been resonating with the parents of all of the young, unarmed black people who have been shot and killed by police officers, mostly white, and who have not been held accountable.

I began mourning in earnest with these parents and family members when Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. When Zimmerman was acquitted, I wept. Sybrina Fulton was a tower of grace and strength, but her heart as a mother had to have been in tatters. Mine was, and Trayvon was not my son.

With every death of black people by police officers, mostly white, where those officers have been let off, my tears have increased. I keep thinking of Rev. Martin Luther King’s sermon where he asked, “How long? Not long!” Dr. King said the arc of the universe was (is) long but it bends toward justice.

The arc is very, very long.

What is bothersome is that only the tears of some people seem to matter. The tears of the Parisians, in reaction to the terror attack, seem to matter, but the tears of the people in Beirut and Africa, where terrorist attacks also took place, the one in Beirut only the day before the Paris debacle,  were not so covered.

It was like their tears…didn’t matter.

It seems that the tears of black and brown people really seem not to matter as much as do the tears of white people.  It feels that way. A parent is a parent; a mother is a mother; a woman who carries a baby goes through the same painful labor no matter her race or ethnicity. Yet …only the tears of the white mothers, the white survivors of terror, seem to matter.

Is that the result of the dehumanization and criminalization of black and brown people? One woman on my Facebook page said it was natural that the coverage of the terror in Paris was as it has been because “those people are people with whom we share values.” Or some such …But her statement floored me. Isn’t the pain of human beings, all human beings, worthy of respect?

Today, the families of so many young black people are mourning, but I am not sure that their tears matter, and that is an issue.

What happens when nobody cares about your tears? Langston Hughes asked what happens to a dream, deferred? There are consequences. Painful and often explosive consequences.

A painful, candid observation

In Fear For Their Lives

I watched, astonished, as reports came in that fugitive Eric Frein had been taken into custody. At the time of his capture, he supposedly was not armed. Reports say that when confronted, he knelt and put his hands up. He was arrested, reports said, “without incident.” (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/10/31/eric-frein-suspect-in-pennsylvania-trooper-ambush-taken-into-custody/)

Police were not “in fear for their lives” in his arrest.

Eric Frein was taken into custody; he had a cut on his nose (nobody has said yet how he got that. Did he have a confrontation with police?) but other than that, he looked pretty good. He was driven away and put into jail; he will have a trial. Justice will be served. Prosecutors are said to be ready to ask for the death penalty.

I kept thinking that had Frein been black, he would have been shot on sight.  He would not have been given a chance to put his hands up. Any movement he made would have been interpreted as menacing and threatening. Police would have shot him and probably killed him, and only after life left his body would they have found that at that moment, he wasn’t armed.

It wouldn’t have made a difference, though, not to the police and not to the American public. The fact that he had been known to be armed and that he had shot a police officer would have been justification for their shooting him dead.

I didn’t want to, but my thoughts went to the shooting of John Crawford, who was killed in a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, Ohio, as he carried an air rifle. Someone called police and said there was a man carrying a gun and that he was pointing it at people. None of that was true, but it didn’t matter. Police entered that store, which, by the way, is a facility where an open carry policy exists. Reports said police told him to drop his weapon but apparently he didn’t do it quickly enough. as he fell, he was heard to say, “it’s not real,” but it didn’t matter. He was shot dead, and police and much of the American public think his killing was justified.

Seriously?

Yes, seriously…John Crawford didn’t get a ride to the police station to be accused of wrongdoing, if he was in fact wrong. Police did not give him the benefit of the doubt. He was a black man and he had a gun. Police were “in fear for their lives.”

It seems to me that police would have been “in fear for their lives” with Frein. Yes, he dropped to his knees …but he had been reported to be heavily armed. Why isn’t it they were not afraid of him?

Can someone help me here?

Were they not afraid because he was white, clean-shaven, and, well, harmless-looking? They KNEW he was a murderer but they were not afraid.

Frein will get his day in court. The family of the officer he killed will get justice. And that is good. I guess taxpayer money will be used for his trial and imprisonment. If he is convicted and gets the death penalty, chances are tax payer money will be used for years to keep him in prison as he goes through the appeal process. The family of the slain officer, though, will get justice. Rightly so.

But the families of slain black people will not get justice. They will be left to grapple with the fact that in America, black lives are disposable waste and society for the most part does not feel that police are wrong when they kill an African-American. They will get no justice; the killers of their loved ones will go free and be allowed to keep on living their lives because they only killed because they were “in fear for their lives.”

There is the sound of Rachel, wailing…because her children are no more ..

And too few in American society, in white American society, hear her or care to hear her.

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 …