We are here.

So Ferguson happened.

The pictures say a lot, don’t they? What they say depends on who’s doing the looking. To me, it says dangerous times are ahead.

If you recall, I wrote about this very thing many months ago. In that piece, the militarization of America’s police departments was discussed. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we know that Ferguson has been a forward moving train..gathering steam..barrelling toward us at a speed sure to cause massive damage when it finally made impact. Armored vehicles and military grade weapons are not new. SWAT teams are not new. Abuse of authority is not new. So, I won’t go into all that again. This begs the question: Are we truly surprised? Or are we simply expert reactionary Facebook/Twitter/Instagram protesters?

If, indeed, you are truly surprised..or if you really don’t understand why minorities, all across the nation, are angry..or if you find it impossible to fathom the type of desperation, frustration, and hopelessness that causes you to destroy your own communities…

“Hence I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people, and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight.”

“I was going through the hardest thing, also the greatest thing, for any human being to do; to accept that which is already within you, and around you.” –Malcolm X

We are here.

Remember when I said it depended on who was doing the looking? Yeah, well, African-Americans have always been here. This type of drama plays out on the stages of our communities Every. Single. Day.

America has done this. America – with her high handedness, her conceit, her total lack of will to right her wrongs – has done this. America is masterful at “breaking” a subset of people, at burdening them until they collapse to their knees, then punishing them for not standing up straight. (Bootstraps, anyone?) Systemic racism is like kudzu in the foundation of this nation. It has sprung up around -and intertwined itself with- every aspect of life. So much so, that far too many can’t recognize what a privilege it is to not be black in America. America wants to keep us in check with The Dream. (That they began waking us up from before we got too deeply involved in it.)

Americans have allowed it. (And by Americans, I mean ALL of us. Hang on, black folk, I’ll get to you in a minute.) There has been silence where there should have been shouting. Heads have been turned when we should have faced issues head on. Apathy has replaced action. The face we show to the world has got to be flawless, but our inner workings are as ugly as homemade sin. That ugliness fuels riots and rebellion. Unfortunately, when a people is left without power, they react in ways those without such experiences can not possibly relate to.

But, here is the thing…you don’t need to relate. You need to acknowledge. So, you’ve heard of Michael Brown. And Trayvon Martin. You posted about how sad it was for their families. You posted about the senseless waste of life. You may have even found a local march in an attempt to show your support. And then, you moved on with your life. Life does go on, right?

Not for Ousmane Zongo, Timothy Russell, Aaron Campbell, Victor Steen, Alonzo Ashley, Wendell Allen, Oscar Grant, Ramarley Graham, Manuel Loggins, Ezell Ford, Kimani Gray, Amadou Diallo, Timothy Stansbury, Jr., Sean Bell, Orlando Barlow, Steven Washington, Ronald Madison, James Brissette, Travares McGill, John Crawford III, or Eric Garner. To name a few.

The constitution was meaningless for these young men and thousands of others like them. But, guess what? That means that the constitution is meaningless for you, too. Today, your kids are pretty safe from lying in a pool of their own blood for hours in the middle of the street. What of tomorrow? Don’t think for a moment it can’t happen. It has already happened. For years, disgruntled blacks complaining of police brutality, harassment, and use of excessive force were ignored. Remember? We had it coming. We deserved it. We were whiners. While you were giving the “birds and bees” talk to your kids, we were giving the “statistics show that you will probably have an encounter with police, so this is how to avoid being shot” speech. Then one day, a funny thing happened. Your neighborhood cops became overzealous. They demanded respect without being bothered to return it. They began bursting into your homes, with or without warrants. Just like that, our problem became your problem. Welcome. You are here. What are you going to do about it? Point guns at officers of the law? You just might get away with it, but black people….

“America’s greatest crime against the black man was not slavery or lynching, but that he was taught to wear a mask of self-hate and self-doubt.”
“So early in my life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.”
― Malcolm X

….know they would be shot down. Immediately. So what do we do? March and sing? Riot and loot?

No.  Plan our lives!  We must give up on the notion that America cares. Still waiting for forty acres and a mule? Ha! Hell, we can’t even eat skittles or jaywalk! The first step is to know your worth. Self hatred, doubt, and lack of pride are the greatest enemies we face. Stop allowing this country to dictate your value. We must be present. Present in our homes and in the lives of our children. Present in our communities and programs that lift one another up. Present in our classrooms where we learn how to play the game.  Present in our children’s classrooms to ensure they are well prepared to face the world. And, like my Grandma always said, “America ain’t giving away nothing. Money talks, bullshit walks.”  Therefore, we must purchase our equality with the only currency power accepts – ballots and dollar bills. These are our weapons; we must wield them well. The logo on your foot, the name on your rear, nor the initials on your purse are more important than the number on your bank balance. Finally, speaking of walking, high step it to the voting booth. You can’t expect to be heard when you don’t speak!

“We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.” —
Malcolm X

So, yes, we are here. But we don’t have to remain here. Stand for something.

 

Further Reading

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/08/police-shootings-michael-brown-ferguson-black-men

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/07/26/wealth-gaps-rise-to-record-highs-between-whites-blacks-hispanics/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/14/police-killings-data/14060357/

http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/Modern-Parenthood/2014/0815/If-They-Gunned-Me-Down-on-Tumblr-Pressing-parents-to-take-a-second-look

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/michael-brown-shooting-us-cannot-lecture-others-on-human-rights-amnesty-says-9677800.html

 

What’s goin’ on?

Things we’ve been reading:

First, a friend of mine shared this.

I lightly broke it down (do read it) with this response:

1. Referring to yourself and/or group of friends as “bro” seriously might as well be a sign you’re a douchcanoe.
2. “Midnight or after, if you have been talking for awhile and they’ve had a couple drinks, ask if they want to dance. If you see an untalked to group or a solo girl, go up to her and ask if she wants anything to drink. If she says yes, get her a drink and then ask if she wants to dance. If she says no, ask her to dance. DANCING IS FUN!!!!! Always try to dance. If she does not want to dance and is with friends, say “aw thats no fun” (or something like that) and then ask one of her friends.”
I thought the stereotype was that guys don’t like to dance, which made the all caps insistence DANCING IS FUN massively humorous. But is DANCING FUN with creepy guys who call each other “bro?”
He really does need to learn about the body though. There’s a lot in between “just under the boob” and “fingering her.”  Just sayin’.
3. “If she starts putting her hair over her ear, THAT MEANS SHE WANTS A KISS.”
I had no idea this was part of the mating ritual of humans. I’m sure my husband is stewing “That feminist bitch I married never puts her hair over my ear, dammit.”
WTF is he talking about? Well, he sure is fond OF ALL CAPS.
4. ” 6. Ejaculate (should also be self explanatory) ”
No, I’m sorry, I don’t follow, care to explain? Preferably in ALL CAPS, AMIRITE BROS? How many women do you think this “bro” *shudder* has so cleverly used this MASSIVELY AWESOME ADVICE ON, [name of friend]? Success rates count.

Also, why are people so stupid to think emails won’t be leaked, etc? Geez.

In other news:

Crawling

Friends of the Everblog, I am certain we are all gearing up for the Labor Day Weekend, right?  If you are anything like me, the grilling, laughter, and (perhaps, more than one) beer are well and truly anticipated.  I’ll just use my soapbox to share with you a few pieces of what I think are good news events.  Nothing too heavy, I promise.

Keeping in mind what Labor Day is all about, I found this to be rather encouraging.

On Thursday, the protests involved workers at nearly 1,000 restaurants in more than 50 cities, organizers said, spreading to areas of the South and West including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Raleigh, N.C.

Workers have garnered the courage to strike.  Now the only question is will we – consumers – support them in spirit…  And in choices?

************

This past week, we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  It was a wonderful opportunity for all to ponder and pontificate on exactly what his words meant to each of us.  And (our resident Pinhead)  Bill O’Reilly told us what he thought.  What is possibly good about this?  After having made such a ruckus about conservatives being excluded, he admitted he was “Wrong“.

Last night during my discussion with James Carville about the Martin Luther King commemoration I said there were no Republican speakers invited. Wrong. Was wrong. Some Republicans were asked to speak. They declined. And that was a mistake. They should have spoken.

************

Meanwhile, down in Florida…Republican, David Simmons (an author of the state’s Stand Your Ground law), would like to tweak the controversial legislation.  Especially where cases of Neighborhood Watch programs are involved.

…something that would affect the ability to go ahead and follow somebody else, for example, and confront them. That’s generally believed to be outside the parameters of anyone who’s participating in neighborhood watch and this is something that I think needs to be debated.

Would that this could have occurred sooner, but it is happening  now.  In all fairness, this is the second time Simmons has filed this particular bill.  He hopes it will actually receive a hearing this year.  And, what do you know?  I agree with a republican.

************

Even though I don’t “light up”, I think the Department of Justice was correct in its decision to not tell me I can’t.

The Justice Department said it would refocus marijuana enforcement nationwide by bringing criminal charges only in eight defined areas – such as distribution to minors – and giving breathing room to users, growers and related businesses that have feared prosecution.

This balanced approach to handling marijuana usage just may work.  States (Colorado and Washington) are given authority to handle the situation, with an assurance that the federal government will only step in if it is proven that they are not up to the task.  I know, I know..it’s the DoJ.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed anyway.

************

Allow me to leave you with this:

progress

The past fifteen years, we have been doing a hell of a lot of crawling.  But crawling is moving forward.

Support those union workers.

Accept (or gloat) when someone who is wrong…admits it.

Continue to speak out, loudly and proudly, against dangerous legislation.

Remember that there is a delicate balance between individualism and collectivism.

We won’t be crawling forever.   As long as we all have a dream…or two.

Be safe and enjoy!!

Weekend Round-Up

What we’ve been reading:

Shared Suffering

Anyone who took the time to read my last post, may be a little surprised at what I say next.

Beneath all of the sadness and hiding behind all of the outrage…was pride.  Yes, you heard me, Pride!

Why?  What on Earth was there to be proud of??

martin 1

US!!

Not just the above us, but…

martin 5

THIS US!!

The us that stood together –  shoulder to shoulder, our voices mingling – to protest our displeasure.  Displeasure with a culture that hasn’t yet gotten over its biases.  Displeasure at how cases, involving our children, are handled.  Displeasure at how our laws are written.  Displeasure at how our justice system works.

A large number of Americans – all across the nation – came together for a common cause.   No matter our respective “colors”.  How’s that for tasting the rainbow?  You’re proud, too, right?

(Feel the but coming?)

But with that being said, many of us know that we are not headed for the pot of gold.  We know that our (individual) voices are often marginalized, if not silenced.

And as much pride as I have in what we did above, I fear that we won’t use that momentum going forward. 

That is because each of us is guilty.  We are guilty of paying especially rapt attention to the hot-button issues that touch us on a personal level.  And..we are ALL guilty of not paying (as much) attention to the suffering of others.  Sure, we are quick to jump to the defense of someone who has been blatantly wronged and gets enough media coverage (which seems to be up to fate).  But, then what?  We have a tendency to return to our respective corner, lick our wounds, and rest up for the next assault against our rights.

I, as a non-wealthy, cisgendered, black woman, have my own problems.  (You do, too.  Am I right?)  Sometimes it is difficult to step out of my shoes and into someone else’s.  Further, it is extremely easy to focus on what matters to me, to the exclusion of all else. 

I was as guilty as anyone else.  I spoke out against an injustice, here or there.  I volunteered for a campaign or two.  And I was proud of it.  But, I have come to realize that is not enough.  Not by a country mile.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.  – MLK

We must combine our grievances to fight for the common good.  We can not afford to become so encapsulated in our little bubbles, that we forget about the gay couple who asks only the freedom to marry.  We can not focus all of our energy on the plight of the woman when our oceans are becoming more acidic by the day.  It would be a mistake to disregard the plight of the immigrant, in favor of the black struggle.

Let’s be perfectly honest.  Any politician who does not believe that a woman is a fully cognitive being, capable of making her own decisions..probably won’t believe that poor people are not making a concerted effort to remain in poverty.  If any politician is able to look in your face and deny climate change, that politician is equally likely to think ‘drill, baby, drill” has no impact on the environment and that “education mills” have got it all wrong.  Any politician that doesn’t recognize the ingrained cultural biases in society..probably won’t understand why “the gays” are making such a fuss.  A future leader who will snatch your right to vote..will snatch your right to marry.  If he or she wants to pay for prisons and not schools..chances are he or she will not be too worried about the uninsured.  If a politician can’t value the unions..how much does he value the worker?

Consider this…

Those who have no problem stepping all over our rights have a plan.  They have a view of the world that we do not share.  Say what you will about them, they are tenacious.  They are determined and they are fighting with all they have.  They are investing millions and millions of dollars into their efforts.  They are buying the kind of country they want.  And have absolutely no guilt over it.  In fact, when we are hesitant to get with their program, we are labeled as lazy.  Or takers.  Or, sometimes, traitors.

And what are we doing?  We’re waiting..

Well, we can not afford to rest up for the next assault on our rights any longer.  We simply can not.  When we fight for the rights of the poor, the worker, the children –  we are fighting for our rights.  When we battle for the rights of our fellow citizens, we win the battle for ourselves.

As long as justice and injustice exist, human beings must be willing to do battle for the one against the other.

 – John Stuart Mill

Liberty and Justice for All

To the Parents of Trayvon Martin:

I am so sorry.  So very sorry.

As a mother, I am tempted to say something insensitive like I feel your pain.  Perhaps even I can imagine how you must feel.  But, both are lies.  I can not feel your pain, nor can I even begin to fathom how badly this must hurt.  My brain can not wrap around the excruciating, soul-wrenching pain you must be in.  So, I am left with…I’m sorry.

I, like millions of others, am sorry that you will never again hug or kiss your boy.  We are saddened that his life ended in such a senseless, tragic, and  preventable way.  It breaks our hearts that it took nothing more than traversing the street – in a hooded shirt – for Trayvon to become a “suspicious” person.  To be thought of as “up to no good”.  To be stalked, and murdered.

Those millions and I are further sorry that our justice system failed you. We were shocked that your son had barely been retrieved from the ground before his killer was home.  Home.  We were upset that it took national flash mobs to ensure an investigation.   We were angry that his character was attacked and his named maligned.  We were livid at the notion that somehow Trayvon has less of a right to be on that street than his attacker.  We were determined to stand with you, and all who loved your son, while the wheels of justice turned.

We were stunned and outraged that, after all was said and done, George Zimmerman was convicted of nothing.

While we may not know how you feel, we did feel.  We do feel.

We feel that it is shameful, in America, that the way your son was dressed garnered suspicion and began this entire train wreck of events.   We know that the pervasive racism in this country continues to give credence to ridiculous stereotypes like the one your son came face to face with.  And that is wrong.

We feel that it is completely and totally unacceptable that our children are being stalked and killed due to someone else’s irrational fears.  We know that, in this country, the acts of rogue vigilantes should be discouraged.

We feel that if Stand Your Ground is a right of some, it is a right for all – Trayvon included.  He had just as much right to be where he was that night as his shooter did.

We try to imagine the confusion and fear your son must have felt that night.  We teach our children wonderful lessons about America.  We continually remind them that they can be anything they so desire, if they try hard enough.  We recount the horror stories of the past in order for them to appreciate the freedom and equality they enjoy now.  We tell them that their clothes, their hair styles, their shoes don’t matter.  Because what matters is on the inside.

I am certain Trayvon learned differently that night.  I am sure he didn’t have the foggiest idea why he was being pursued.  How could he?  His pursuer only knew he “looked off”.  He learned what hundreds of thousands of young, black males already know.  He learned that, for some, fitting a profile is deadly.  He learned that stereotypes can get you killed.  He learned that, sometimes, adults are wrong.  Sometimes, you don’t have to look for trouble, because trouble looks for you.

And that is the hardest thing to admit.  We were wrong.  We failed him.

Regardless of how hard we wish it, we will never be able to change the horrible events of that sad night.  But there are things that we can do.  We can’t give you back the child of your heart.  But we can work so that his dying was not in vain.  We can’t give you justice for his death.  But we can fight to change laws, removing them if necessary.  We can’t get rid of every irrational person.  But we can fight for a society that does not condone irrational actions.  We can’t heal you.  But we can stand with you.

We can stand with you in our communities and states.  We can stand with you in our jails and courthouses.  We can stand with you in the voting booths.

Our sympathy is a start, but we can do more.  We will do more.

Because liberty and justice for all is more than a slogan.

Our hearts, heavy and broken, are with you.

Sincerely,

America

The dangers of disregarding science: Plan B

(Note: The morning-after-pill (aka, “MAP”, aka “Plan B”) is not the so-called “abortion pill,” though the media—including NPR—has been confusing these two very different medications. The morning-after-pill IS emergency contraception.)

How is Obama like his predecessor, Bush?

Sure, there are several ways. We (progressives) don’t like to admit this; it hurts our progressive hearts.

But if we don’t address such issues, we can’t make progress.

Since 2006 or 2007, I’ve been active in a movement to make the morning-after-pill more readily available. A lawsuit has been ongoing for years, and the plaintiffs—? Well, I’m proud to call them my friends.

District Court Judge E. Korman noted the sorry similarity between the Bush administration and the Obama administration when he said,

It turns out that the same policies that President Bush followed were followed by President Obama.” Morning After Pill

[You can read the decision here.]

A few weeks ago, the morning after pill was available over the counter, but behind the counter. And only with ID proving you were over 17.

Confusing, right? And it really makes no sense.

If a condom broke during sex and you wanted to prevent pregnancy, you had to shuffle to the pharmacy, go to the counter, and request the medicine.

And, of course, hope that your pharmacist wasn’t making faces at you, judging you as a slut, and wouldn’t pull the “consciousness clause”, claiming it violated their religious beliefs because it causes an abortion (which, as noted above, it doesn’t.)

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine support making Plan B available over-the-counter without restrictions.

Got that? Without. Restrictions.

In December 2011, Obama and his administration disappointed many by ignoring the science and scientific opinions when the administration decided to limit access to emergency contraception. By limiting access to emergency contraception, the Obama administration went against the recommendations of medical professionals and researchers who had dedicated years studying this exact issue. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg remarked:

The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, the data supported a finding that adolescent females could use Plan B One-Step properly without the intervention of a healthcare provider.

In March of this year, Judge Korman agreed with the science. He ruled that the morning-after-pill should be available over-the-counter, and without any restrictions.

The Obama Administration responded by agreeing emergency contraception can be over the counter (next to condoms, etc.), but there will be an age limit of 15, ID requirements to prove you’re old enough, etc.

What? Why? This is a holdover. Our government doesn’t trust women to make decisions about their own health.

In 2012, Obama came out and said he supported the limitation (ignoring the scientific studies) because . . .  he’d want his daughter’s to come to him should they need this.

At this point, I start rambling with how damn condescending and paternalistic that remark and worldview is. As a parent, yes, I understand that sentiment–sort of. I would love for my kids to feel comfortable enough to come to me, to confide in me.

But as a parent, and as someone who survived being a teenager, I realize that even with the most supportive, loving, accepting parents in the world; there’s a fear of telling parents, and also the feeling of “But it’s not really their business.” I also realize not every parent is supportive, and that–it’s not my decision. It’s my daughter’s. It’s her body. Taking the morning-after-pill is responsible on her part, and my knowledge of her doing so is irrelevant.

The sentiment of “It’s not really their business” may seem oh-so-adolescent, but it’s right.

This personal matter is political. The Obama administration has stated it will appeal Judge Korman’s wise decision, thus dragging out an already long court battle.

We aren’t giving in or giving up. President Obama and his administration are sending dangerous messages with this appeal: they don’t trust women, and they don’t respect science.

This is very simple science, and it’s science that helps numerous women from all walks of life.

“You’re disadvantaging young people, African-Americans, the poor… that’s the policy of the Obama administration?” –Judge Korman

But this simple, basic science and medicine has been so wrapped up in politics because it deals with women’s basic bodily autonomy, and that is sadly still a political issue.

Because of this terrible mix, women continue to pay the price.