Month: November 2014

White and confused #Ferguson

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Days after the failed indictment of Darren Wilson I see many of my white friends are still confused on this issue. One can only assume that they are not listening.  The message is clear.  It’s unambiguous, and simple enough to be tweeted. Let’s start with the first thing protesters chanted over and over again.

#handsupdontshoot  What is confusing about this message?  An unarmed teen was shot by a police while surrendering.  If you can’t understand the tremendous grief and loss that this should provoke, then I weep for your lost humanity. True, accounts differ and if there was any justice in the world there should, at the barest minimum, have been a trial.  But there wasn’t one.  At the end of the day not only was there no justice (not even for Darren Wilson if he deserved it) but Michael Brown didn’t even get a voice.  It was silenced.  What happened to him was dragged through the media and social media and insane pundits, but not the courtroom.  What we saw was the every member of the police, investigators, medical professionals, and even the courtroom and prosecutors close ranks around Wilson and they treated this case with shocking callousness.  A kid died and they left his body in the streets for 4 1/2 hours.  There has been a miscarriage of justice and people are angry about it.  And folks have the gall to wonder why people are upset.

#Blacklivesmatter  Maybe you’re the kind of racist who doesn’t believe this.  Perhaps you’re the kind that “Doesn’t see race at all”.  Maybe you’re the kind of racist who genuinely believes this but are still wondering why black communities are so outraged.  What should be painfully obvious is that minority community feels that they’re lives don’t matter to the rest of our society.  That millions of people genuinely believe that they matter less because of what they look like.  So much so that they can be killed with impunity.  They’ve seen innocent people gunned down with shocking regularity simply because they were black.  Like the gentleman wandering around a toy store with a toy gun who was shot on sight by police. Or a 12 year old kid with a toy gun that was shot on sight, or a teenager out to get some candy at a convenience store that was hunted down and killed.  The stories go on and on.  Most never make it to the press.  These people are merely mourned in obscurity as the violence continues.  Never mind that white people wander around stores with real guns all the time, or the blatantly unconstitutional stop and frisk policies of major metropolitan police departments that have frisked more minorities than actually live in the city.  Or the fact that Darren Wilson had absolutely no reason to stop Michael Brown at all.  There was no probable cause here.  At the time Wilson didn’t know about the robbery.  He had absolutely no business going anywhere near another pedestrian.  Brown, assuming he said the things he allegedly said, was perfectly within his rights to do so.  Yet this is a frightfully common experience for people of color.  Black lives DO matter, but black people are tired of being treated as if they don’t.  I would assume that would have been obvious.

White people protest, black people riot  -“where they live”.  –even animals don’t foul their own lairs and these crazy thugs destroy their own town. —  As far as coded language goes that goes near the top of the list.  Yeah when people protest, they’re angry, they want justice.  When they riot, they’re angry beyond mere protesting.  But it’s not the inhabitants of Ferguson that are doing the looting and it certainly isn’t just people of color.  The violence, as is very often the case in poor communities, is being imported from outside.   Even if it wasn’t, to characterize the entire movement or an entire community as dangerous and violent is the height of racism.  Yes there are a few bad actors and they need to be arrested, but the vast majority of protesters are doing so peacefully.  There’s an incredible double standard that my white friends may or may not be aware of.  Feel free to google, “White people riot”.  Perhaps we should say, “White people white over sports games and black people riot over injustice”  But let’s not say anything.  This isn’t our crises.  Let’s simply stand with our friends and neighbors against the evils of this world.

Some kid in….  More coded language.  –No one really cares about white people, or that people of color don’t care about white people.   What this is, is reverse racism because white people are better than black people because when our children get killed needlessly we don’t throw a national hissy fit —  Are you seriously this dimwitted? Yes when some white kid gets killed by the cops, on a personal level it’s every bit the tragedy of Micheal Brown.  The parents grieve just the same, the friends and community are just as affected.  However, this isn’t about a single incident.  We’re talking about a system that discriminates against minorities.  We’re talking about the widespread violence against them that the white community is terribly ignorant about.   We’re talking about the fact that I can mouth off to the cops and my black friends will get shot for it.  Yes I’m saddened by the tragedies that befall other people, including white people but how self-involved to you have to be for this to make sense to you or be about you?  Do you really need to pick this moment to feel superior to a class of hurting people?

If you genuinely wish to understand the events in Furgeson or Florida or all over this country, simply listen to the people screaming at the top of their lungs.

#Ferguson Doesn’t Matter

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The country awaits the verdict of the grand jury of police officer Darren Wilson for shooting an unarmed black teenager. It has enflamed or at least revealed intense racial tensions in the town. And with just cause. There is no doubt that the minority communities in and around Saint Louis have been marginalized harassed and victimized by widespread police discrimination. The fear that minority communities have of law enforcement is duly heartbreaking and outrageous. And so people are justifiably outraged.

However, outrage is not enough. Perhaps one time it was. We’ve seen this outrage before and, in truth, it never went away. Once this nation was shook by rage and injustice. Men and women protested by the tens of thousands. They filled the streets. They held signs. Made speeches. They were attacked and assassinated and yet in many respects they emerged victorious. So much so that some laughably claim racism is dead or that we’re in a post racial society. We aren’t.

But the question remains, why do the marches and the protests and the speeches work anymore? Has America changed so much? Has it lost what little heart it once had?

The answer like most answers in the real world is complicated. Change has a language. Perhaps at one point the language of change may have been Justice. An appeal to fairness. But I do not see this language working any more. Look at the host of liberal leaning or minority centric causes. Which have been successful? Social justice, economic justice, has made precious little progress in the last few decades. It’s because we live in a fundamentally new age. An Information Age. As horrific and as outrageous as the story in Ferguson is, it is not a story about numbers. Data. This is what has sparked social movements more recently. At the end of the day Ferguson is just about the horrible tragedy that happened to just one family and the anger that echos in those suffering injustice, but it won’t change anything. Not by itself. The most interesting thing to come from this story are the numbers about the racial disparity on the police force, the way the city council makes it’s budget, the cost in lives and wealth for the unfair punitive and racially motivated penal system. The things to which we attach numbers.

The hard data about these things is often missing or incomplete. Until this changes, there will be no change in this country. Or rather it will change according to those with the biggest data set. That is the reality of the present age. Ferguson itself doesn’t matter and it will be quickly forgotten no matter what happens at the courthouse.

The Real American Holidays

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This year a few stores are beginning their Black Friday sales on Thursday. It’s been coming for a while. We had some near misses last year and this year the outraged among us are going to boycott the Black Friday sales of the offending stores.

Good luck with that.

Because I just don’t care anymore. The holidays have been on the long road to ruination for years. Let’s start with Thanksgiving. Oh Dear, Thanksgiving is being ruined by greedy corporations! First corporations are supposed to be greedy. This is the point of corporations, but you are not. When did a harvest festival become a tribute day to the American God of Gluttony? Oh yeah I see your 10 minutes of prayer and thanks. I also see a you fighting with strangers over the last turkey, fighting with relatives and the 2000-3000 calorie meal the left overs of which will last for weeks. But you spared an unused can of green beans for the food bank and put $20 in the collection plate. Yeah I see you really getting into the Spirit of things.

Take Christmas. You know. The holiday that’s successfully blitzkrieged Thanksgiving and is now encroaching on Halloween. What’s that about? Is it a religious holiday? A pagan one (hint: no), is about family? Presents? Another epic gluttonous feast? (Isn’t gluttony a sin in most religions?) not sure? Well then ask yourself what you spend the most time and money on during the Holidays? What do you look forward to the most. I think you have your answer. Our family spends about 30-60 minutes getting presents. People spend hours buying them. Black Friday and Cyber Monday (thank you internet) outstripped Christmas in importance years ago.

Corporations aren’t ruining the holidays there celebrating the only one we really care about.

Immigration investment

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Dear liberals and minority groups. Obama has never really embraced immigration reform. For most of his presidency he’s been deporting millions of people while advancing small scale solutions. It was in a vain hope of cooperating with GOPs who flagrantly lied about compromising on this issue if he toughened his stance. They’re promises were clearly worthless. But now he’s abandoned compromise and placed what little political capital he has left as a lame duck president to you guys. It’s a huge sacrifice. This will make it harder to craft trade deals, pass a budget, work on social justice issues. Forget income inequality, student loans or environmental causes. He’s making a stand on immigration.

Scratch that he’s making an investment in immigration. He has pushed his authority and the constitution to the breaking point here. And for what? Liberals and minorities betrayed the country when they failed to turn up at the polls earlier this month. They betrayed the countless who suffered and died to make suffrage truly universal. As a result there will be no grand immigration reform. You’ll have to wait until the next election. More than anything else Obama is making a case for why you need to vote. For why passivity is dangerous and counterproductive. The next election will decide which party has a mandate moving forward. If your causes are important to you, there is only one solution.