breaking news

Loretta Lynch Sworn In As First African American Woman Attorney General, First To Hold Position

Attorney General Loretta Lynch

(Photo : Mark Wilson Getty Images News) January 28, 2015
Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch Testifies At Senate…
People:Loretta Lynch
By:Mark Wilson
Getty Images News

Despite bipartisan bickering on the Senate floor, Loretta Lynch was confirmed as the 83rd attorney general by the US Senate.

The moment will be etched in history as a the first time an African American woman will hold the position. Loretta Lynch, US Attorney General was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden on Monday.

Like Us on Facebook

After Loretta Lynch’s swearing ceremony, VP Biden, who is a potential Democratic candidate for the 2016 presidency vote, said that it’s about time that Lynch became attorney general.

The newly appointed Attorney General is also the second woman and the 83rd appointment to the post.

The objections from the Republicans were from Lynch’s support of an immigration issue favored by President Barack Obama -“support of the president’s use of executive action on immigration policies.”

The move backed by the President would allow undocumented immigrants to undergo deferred deportation. But the President exchanged harsh comments with the Republicans until the consent finally came.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was one of those who voted to confirm Loretta Lynch in a tight 56-43 votes vote that just edged a landmark nomination by President Obama to go through in the Senate.

In a press release Senator Johnson explained why he voted for Loretta Lynch:

“Ms. Lynch has extensive experience both as a private practitioner and as a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. According to all reports and evidence, she has performed her duties in those positions capably and in a professional manner.”

“Although I share the concerns many of my colleagues have expressed over portions of her testimony during confirmation hearings, elections matter and the president has the right to select members of his cabinet. As a result, I voted to confirm Ms. Lynch as attorney general.”

Lynch was quoted in a Time.com report as saying, “It would be an understatement to say my heart is full, but it is.”

“If a little girl from North Carolina who used to tell her grandfather in the fields to lift her up on the back of his mule … ‘way up high, granddaddy,’ can grow up to become the Attorney General of the United States of America,” she said, “We can do anything,” Lynch said in her speech.

#BlackLifeMatters: Just Ask the Director of the Museum of African American History and Culture

screen_shot_20150427_at_5.49.29_pm
Drawing of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is due to open in 2016

Smithsonian Institution

Sometimes it’s hard to know which events today might have historical relevance tomorrow. It’s easier in some cases than in others. Loretta Lynch’s appointment as the first black woman to serve as attorney general? That’s something worth noting. An essay written by one seemingly scorned African-American intellectual about the alleged hypocrisy of another seemingly scorned African-American intellectual? Maybe not.

Luckily for most, deciding which current events are significant enough to record for posterity’s sake isn’t a concern. That responsibility falls to historians like Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., which is scheduled to open in 2016.

Bunch and his team of curators and scholars don’t just collect artifacts from yesteryear—the NMAAHC team has to continually consider the future and what people 50 years from now will want to know about today’s black culture.

“Our job is both to look back and to look ahead. I meet with curators and say, ‘What’s important over the last year that we should be collecting?’ We begin to collect things on Ferguson[, Mo.,] and things on #BlackLifeMatters that will be important for curators down the road. We will have collected that material. Part of our job is to anticipate,” he told The Root.

screen_shot_20150427_at_5.48.42_pm
Lonnie Bunch

Smithsonian Institution

The museum isn’t just quietly observing and taking notes. On Saturday the NMAAHC hosted a daylong symposium about policing in black communities. Hundreds of people attended to hear film director Ava DuVernay; journalists Jeff Johnson, Juan Williams and Mychal Denzel Smith; and activist Opal Tometi of Black Lives Matter and others discuss ways to improve the relationship between law-enforcement officers and African-American citizens.

“It’s our job to give people voice that have been voiceless and make visible those that have been invisible,” said Bunch, addressing why the NMAAHC decided to host a symposium on such a controversial topic. “This must be a museum that helps America remember its past to better understand its present,” he said.

While considering which current events might be relevant decades from now, Bunch is also busy locating objects that chronicle the past, including the experience of Africans before slavery.

“The museum begins in Africa. It helps us understand a life before enslavement. One of the most important things we want to do is to help people rethink slavery,” said Bunch, who acknowledged that some blacks would rather forget that painful past and look to the future. He noted, however, that there are lessons to be learned from those who endured and survived.

“I wish we were today as strong as our enslaved ancestors. I wish we knew how to keep family and soul together at an unbelievably horrific time, as our ancestors did,” he said. “I am not trying to celebrate slavery, but I want people to understand that one should not be embarrassed by the fact that some of our ancestors spent time in a horrible institution, but they refused to let the institution crush them.”

Although the history of Africans in America dates back centuries, Bunch said that he’s had success tracking down artifacts that adequately tell the African-American story. The museum’s curators have sought out relics, and many treasured remnants have been offered to the institution, such as Nat Turner’s Bible, which was donated by a descendant of people attacked during that historic slave revolt.

As for those items offered to the museum, Bunch explained that curators look for specific artifacts that tell significant stories. In other words, they’re not accepting just any old thing. “You don’t just pick objects willy-nilly,” he explained. “You look at scholarship to say, ‘What are important stories, like slave insurrections?’ So you want to find Nat Turner, or ‘What do you want to find that tells you about the military experience?’

“Once you have an idea of what you look for, then there are certain ways to do this,” he continued. “Our assumption has been that all of the 20th century and most of the 19th century is still in the basement trunks and attics of people. Part of our goal was to let people know, ‘Open your trunks for us. Let us look at what you have … ’ That’s how we found a lot of things.” Bunch also said that he had contacted collectors of black memorabilia.

Although Bunch acknowledged that he doesn’t necessarily have every historical item he’d like, he assured future visitors to the museum that there will be enough artifacts to tell every story that’s significant to the black experience. “There’s nothing I can think of that we don’t have. There’s nothing we don’t have that won’t allow us to tell a rich, nuanced and amazing story,” he said.

With more than 30 years as a historian and curator, there’s likely little that surprises Bunch about the African-American journey; however, he did say that he’s come across objects that caused an emotional reaction.

“There have been artifacts that … have moved us in profound ways. We were given a freedom paper by a man … who was enslaved in Virginia and got his freedom … in the 1860s,” Bunch said. “He had a piece of paper that documented his freedom. He knew how important that piece of paper was to his freedom and the freedom of his family. He created a ‘tin wallet’ by hand. He hammered out this tin container. He would put his freedom paper back in that tin container to make sure it wouldn’t be lost or damaged.

“That spoke volumes about the power of freedom and also how tenuous freedom was,” Bunch added. “If he lost that paper, he could be resold into bondage. Those kind of things I didn’t know we’d find have shocked me, have moved me, have made us cry,” he said.

Tracy L. Scott is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and editor who has contributed to the Washington Post, Essence, Think Positive magazine and Uptown magazine, where she writes on a variety of topics from arts and culture to current events. Follow her on Twitter.

Megyn Kelly And Mark Fuhrman Use Baltimore Riots To Smear African American Community As A …

mark fuhrmanFuhrman_Baltimore.png

Megyn Kelly trotted out racist Mark Fuhrman and pretended he was just a regular retired detective commenting on the riots in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. And surprise! The two of them used the segment to smear African Americans in general.

Kelly frequently turns to Fuhrman in racially sensitive matters. She hosted him to discuss the Trayvon Martin case and repeatedly turned to him for Ferguson commentary. Not once did Kelly reveal Fuhrman’s animosity toward African Americans that came to light during the O.J. Simpson trial. Nor did she in this segment.

Yet Kelly listened unquestioningly as Fuhrman suggested there is something intrinsically wrong with African Americans. Fuhrman sounded more like a psychologist than a police commenter as he “analyzed” Baltimore’s black rioters.

FURHMAN: There’s something here that’s deeper. 99% of these people don’t know Freddie Gray and they couldn’t pick him out of a crowd of three people. They don’t know who he is. This is an opportunity to act out the disappointment of their own life, the disappointment of their lack of whatever they want, which seems to be going into a liquor store and getting alcohol, getting a new TV, getting a microwave, taking a check cashing facility where they cash their check and destroying that. Destroying a store or pharmacy. It goes on and on. There’s absolutely no reason for it.

If you’re going to use “oppression” as a word, you have to ask yourself… are we this upset about gang members and gangs on every corner and drug dealers? It doesn’t appear that the community is that upset about that.

Kelly helped amplify the point by suggesting that African American complaints are just an excuse to behave more badly than usual.

KELLY: In Ferguson, Missouri, we were told that at the heart of that problem which, obviously, Officer Wilson was exonerated in that case, but the police department was condemned widely after that DOJ report. And what we were told was that that police force was not reflective of the community and that that was a main thing that needed to be done – there were too many whites on the police force given the racial makeup of the city of Ferguson. …Well, look at the situation here. I mean, it doesn’t seem any better.

In reality, the Department of Justice report cited increased diversity as the 11th out of 13 recommendations to improve Ferguson police practices. And Kelly’s misleading summary conveniently left out the shocking racial abuses that were uncovered by the DOJ and which led to those recommendations.

The other guest, liberal African American Richard Fowler, argued pretty fiercely. At one point, he declared to Kelly and Furhman, “I really think you live in an alternate universe.”

But Fowler never called out the blatant race baiting going on right under his nose.

Watch it below, from the April 27 The Kelly File.

A Right To Speak: Black Lives and Black Voices Matter

I’m not the best at debate. In fact, I’m not good at debating at all. I don’t use a lot of college-level words in my articles. I base my entries on events that are going on and use my own judgment based on a little research that doesn’t take a lot to do. To be honest, I don’t have the time to do extensive research like I want to, nor do I have a scholarly mind. And lets be real, there are more important places for such writings to be than on a simple blog such as mine.

So, where am I going with this? Well, this is in response to certain commenters who, in literally so many words, have taken the time to express how wrong I am whenever an issue dealing that reflects who I am as a black person takes center stage and I write about it. I express my thoughts and emotions, but there are those who will not approve and will find something wrong with that. And I strongly believe that it’s because I’m a person of color who dares to talk about racism.

I don’t mind being told I’m wrong, but it gets on my nerves when the reasons why are mundane and weightless. And when I explain myself, it’s like talking to a broken record that repeats the same responses over and over. It’s like being told that my thoughts are worthless compared to the other person’s and that is the core of these isms and phobias against certain people that we have to deal with all the time.

I’ve dealt with people, some claiming to be people of color, who told me that my focus is on a subject they felt was not important enough to mention. I was told that racism wasn’t a big deal in this country, at least today. I was told that black-on-black crime was the real issue. I was told that black people were “out of control”. I was told this and that from those who seemed to can’t stand the subject of racism enough to want to virtually troll around and even derail topics.

Being told how wrong you are when you are a person of color discussing racism helps to kill the topic for seemingly personal and immoral reasons. Racism is a realistic subject that is just as important today as it was 40 years ago. When you have unarmed black people getting killed left and right by (mostly) white police, for instance, racism becomes a possibility when it’s happening by the hundreds each year. I’ve yet to hear about unarmed white citizens murdered by black cops at the exact same frequency. Until that happens, it’s quite understandable, like it or not, that racism is a factor.

The subject of racism is so heavy and complex that it tires a soul out, a soul who’s aware that it exists. But it’s even more exhausting trying to convince naysayers that it’s still going on, and they don’t believe you no matter how hard to try to prove it. The truth is you can’t ‘prove’ racism to them, because they are stuck in denial. It’s as if they are willingly blind and ignorant to the obvious. Nothing can make them consider otherwise.

black-lives-matterHowever, the other truth is that there is no argument when it’s open and plain for anyone to see. There is no “other side” to consider when certain groups of people are being demonized and dehumanized daily. But they exhaust themselves trying to convince me and others that the issue of racism is a minor topic compared to whatever they think is considered more important.

That is why I end up banning them from my den. In the end, they’re trying to tell me that my thoughts don’t matter, and that my feelings are insignificant. In other words, I’m not supposed to get upset or scared whenever another black person is killed by a crazed cop. I’m not supposed to get angry that more and more young black folks are streaming to prison in record numbers for the most minor offenses. I’m supposed to keep quiet when my people are constantly misrepresented in the media 24 hours a day. And I’m supposed to shut up when people bring up stupid reasons why people shouldn’t stand up against that and other forms of racism.

We can not agree on the same thing. But when people start seeing that racism is not only real but terrible, maybe, just maybe there will be some progress. Then again, not everyone is down with progress, and that is part of the problem.


 

The post A Right To Speak: Black Lives and Black Voices Matter appeared first on Madness & Reality.

The Murder of Walter Scott and the Boogeyman of Whiteness

I went on a Twitter rant in the following hours of the release of the bystander camera phone video of the death of Walter Scott of North Charleston, South Carolina.  By now, most have seen or at least heard of the incident where a white police office, Michael Slager, shoots his service arm eight times and a reported five of them land on the body of Walter Scott–namely in his back.  The police reports alleged that the officer feared for his life, the video shows a man running away, presumably resisting arrest, but certainly not posing a mortal threat to the officer.  Summarily, Michael Slager was charged with murder.   My social media rant lamented the very simple fact that Walter Scott’s name has to not only be added to the litany of slain black and brown folk by the police, but that I will have to muster up the energy and emotional fortitude to remember yet one more name.

I am fatigued.

Ron Heifeitz, the leadership guru, simplifies the gist of my fatigue when he illuminates what it means to have technical and adaptive challenges.  For example, if the heat in your office isn’t working, you approach simply as a technical challenge: you call someone and they fix it.  It becomes an adaptive challenge when you’re told that no one can fix the heat and you therefore find innovative ways to keep warm: wear layers, buy a space heater, install weather stripping around the door etc.  The fatigue comes when you call for an HVAC technician who tells you the heat is working and the thermometer in the office during winter is a chilly 55º with no warmth in sight because you’ve spent energy vacillating between an adaptive challenge and a technical challenge.

Black folk in this country exist in a perpetual state of this fatigue.  Many of us find ourselves always tired.  It is existentially draining.  This fatigue manifests itself in fits of anger and even rage.  It can carry itself out on a national stage like the riotous behaviour following the no-bill issue of Darren Wilson, or in the personal relationships (or lack thereof) of individuals with boots on the ground.  Sleepless nights, weight gain, weight loss, general mood disorder, hair loss, alcoholism, drug use can all be a direct cause of being perpetually angry, fatigued and enraged.  It’s a wholly unhealthy state of being.

I felt that the court of black public opinion summarily took the likes of Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart to task when he took the public opportunity to pillory those who hung their social justice Super(wo)man capes on the hook of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” in the early days of protest following the death of Mike Brown.  Capehart’s column formed the triad of Common’s apologetic approach to racism that black folk should just be more loving, and the awful image of black elected and civic leaders standing around Levi Petit of the Oklahoma University fraternity of ill-gotten fame, and willingly accepting his apology.  Capehart’s article functioned as a liberal blackface for impassioned whites who either lived in a white bubble of liberalism that operates from defensiveness or self-exoneration or for the white conservative ilk who simply think the only racists in the world are Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.  Ronald Kuykendall in a recent article aptly entitled “The Logic of Whiteness” says that the nature of whiteness is antidialogical.  He asserts that “antidialogue is a means of dominance which disposses the other of their testimony and their expressiveness.  It is an indispensable tool in the preservation of dominance and oppression, and consequently the preservation of whiteness.”  Capehart’s column performs whiteness by devaluing the testimony of protesters behind “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and measuring the standard of truth against a DOJ report.  The death of Walter Scott changes all of this.

For generations whenever a case of police brutality manifested itself, where the existence of racism and racial bias had an immediate and lethal component, black folk were gaslighted into believing that their perception wasn’t real, that in fact there was a boogeyman who was making us believe this.  Performed whiteness shuffled responsibility from themselves as a group and as individuals and it played out in complex forms of victim blaming and pathologizing anything from poverty to drug-use to welfare abuse.  Ever since the Moynihan report this tactic has been a staple in addressing the problem of racism.  However, approaching the conversation from this angle, as Kuykendall says, is antidialogical.  This boogeyman often, not always, had a white face that had a near perfect clearance rate as far as the police officer either not facing charges, or ultimately facing acquittal.  The death of Walter Scott, so far, is proof that this boogeyman exists and that the boogeyman is a murderer with a white face.

As the use of body cameras is still debated, and even in what many see as an open and shut case with the death of Eric Garner, it is clear and present that a video tape doesn’t mean anything.  Just ask Rodney King.  However, with an immediate charge of murder against Michael Slager, bypassing the grandstanding and prosecutorial brinksmanship surrounding Darren Wilson, for me, it vindicates the position of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”  With the Department of Justice (DOJ) finding no fault against Darren Wilson, yet finding reasons to lay into the Ferguson Police Department, for many, myself included, the two findings just didn’t line up.  How could the finding of a police department so corrupt with racial bias, ergo racism, somehow find Darren Wilson as the shining exemplar free and clear from the muck the rest of his comrades were now so deeply mired?  Capehart’s column was this finger-wagging tale toward the black community that took his plea almost to the edge stopping short of requiring those black protesters to apologize to white America.  The DOJ’s finding gave legitimate legal support to the cries of white Americans that the boogeyman of bad policemen really didn’t exist.   Capehart is entitled to his opinion, that’s his right, but I hope he and his supporters can see the ways in which that point of view rests on a power systems that favors those already in the position of power.  The power of facts and of what is perceived as a singular truth literally rests in the hands of the ones who have both a gun and who can legally put you to death.

The standard of truth, unfortunately, is determined by who has the power.  “Never the twain shall meet” is a refrain often echoed by those who are torchbearers of the marginalized truth in the face of tyrannical power.  Part of the narrative surrounding the Bill Cosby rape allegations and why it has proven to be such a divisive issue is rooted in the fact that the standard of truth does not rest with the word of the women.  The knee-jerk reaction is that the word of the women can only be substantiated by some form of perceived truth.  The same is the case in many police brutality cases, or cases where the police officer actually kills the alleged perpetrator.  Unfortunately, it becomes a one-sided story because the other story is now locked behind the eternal and immutable veil of deadness.  Dead people tell no tales.

Power brokers dictate the narrative of truth over those whom they hold power.  But, these power brokers are a boogeyman of sorts.  It’s never just one person.  Take the Ferguson Police Department for instance.  While the police chief may have resigned, doing so doesn’t automatically mitigate the situation to being fair and just.  The boogeyman of whiteness is everyone and no one all at the same time, it can present itself as a technical problem–forcing a police chief to resign who oversaw a department rife with racism, but also an adaptive problem–addressing diversity hiring on the force, racial bias, police stops, arrest rates for blacks versus that of whites.  This boogeyman of whiteness is a non-specific but very real embodiment of fear.  The fear exists in the intangible systemic realm that a black man would not receive a fair trial in the criminal justice system to a black parent’s fear about their child’s classroom behavior being seen in a criminal light.  The acquittal of George Zimmerman and the failure to return a bill of indictment by a St. Louis grand jury all embody this fear and send a signal that the boogeyman is real.  Students in Meridian, Mississippi that were sent to the juvenile detention center over tardies, and failure to notify a teacher to go to the bathroom are all real-life incidents that tell everyone in black America that the boogeyman is real.

Those are current realities for many whose phenotype tells the world that they are black.  The statistics along the gender lines for the ways in which black women or black men, boys or girls suffer any given horror is a burden that no demographic singularity should have to face.  The reason why “the Man” always existed in American Negro folklore because it was always understood that not all white people, as individuals, are bad, but that the evilness of racism can permeate through any and everything all at once.  When black folk would get a so-called “good job” they were working for “the Man” was a existential gut check that freedom was relative and that they understood the ways in which they were a small, albeit real, part of the larger system that was not always kind to them.  While “the Man” exists beyond racial boundaries, within the Black experience, we’ve always been clear that the faceless boogeyman that terrorized our existence was always white, and always male.

The cruel paradox that the boogeyman presents is that is a tool that parents (power holders) use to get their children to behave a certain way.  This basic fear tactic that exists in many forms across global cultures presents the standard of behavior that blacks are expected to perform based on whiteness, to not live up to these standards will invoke the wrath of the boogeyman.  This dynamic produced the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 restricting the movement of runaway slaves and threatening the lives of free persons of color, the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws.  The extralegal occurrence of lynching was the way in which the boogeyman was unleashed on people who failed to “act” a certain way and perform forwhiteness in a way that was acceptable.  In the 20th century, we saw this played out through restrictive housing covenants and for blacks to break those so-called rules could result in the boogeyman enacting property vandalism and other terrorist-like attempts to force the family out of the neighborhood.

walter-scottThe boogeyman exists for two reasons: fear and the unwavering fact that no one believes it exists.  There is a legitimate fear of police officers within the black community.  Many black men know the knot of dread that forms in their stomach when they see blue lights in their rearview mirror, or that ever so slightly leery look one may give a police officer passing by the street simply because you know that the power rests in their hands and they may decide to stop and frisk you simply because.  The boogeyman, however, is able to exist mostly because no one ever believe that it exists, much like a parent telling their child that the boogeyman isn’t real.  For the lives of black folks in this country, American life has been one continual horror story in which no one in power ever believes what we are saying.

The parent-child dynamic is important to understand in this case.  In the folklore about the boogeyman, it is completely dependent on the child insisting and searching fervently for proof to show their parent that the boogeyman is real and parents either simply not believing their children or parents willfully ignoring the signs.  There’s also the power play that is extremely crucial to understanding why this boogeyman is the transmogrified personification of evil–white people have the power (some may say privilege) to ignore the signs.  While no, white people aren’t some parental force over the child-like black people of this country, they do occupy the positions of power to enforce rules and mete out their truths.  For them, their truth does not include the existence of the boogeyman.

The truth of white America is overwhelmingly interpreted through that lens of self-exoneration and defensiveness that allows individual whites to say “I’m part of the problem, but I’m also not part of the problem.”  It also allows whites to peer through rose-colored glasses and often dismiss black claims of racist sentiments and institutional racism as being hypersensitive.  Because for them, the boogeyman simply does not exist, so why entertain any discussion in which that is real.  To admit that complexities of racism permeate not just institutions but daily life, even police departments, would almost naturally connect the need for reparations.  For many whites, that is seen as a slippery slope no one wants to explore.

To admit something exists in the intangible is something that most people don’t do well–except when it comes to faith and spirituality.  That is to say, white Americans have not been required to do much work when it comes to deconstructing their framework of reality; they have not been required to adopt multiple consciousnesses for the sake of weaving in and out of the intricacies and levels of societies that exist here in America.  Black folk have been required to have that “double consciousness” because our actual lives depended on it.  That vacillation has been trying to thread the needle between appealing to white sensibilities and trying to preserve our own life.  The results have not always ended well.  To risk upsetting white sensibilities, or white fragilities, can in fact be perilous in and of itself.  Walking down the street dressed with baggy jeans and hands in your pocket seems to be enough to be stopped by cops, or enough to warrant neighbors to call the police, or even for a rabid citizen to follow a young unarmed teenager, shoot and kill him and be acquitted.

As the family of Walter Scott prepared for a funeral, the story of Eric Harris emerged in the last week, yet another name to the seemingly endless list of unarmed black men killed by over-zealous white cops, evidence emerged that the boogeyman exists.  As the law enforcement officer shot Harris in the back, and Harris mustered the words that he couldn’t catch his breath, the ancient devilment of a racist past rose up in Robert Bates as he said “Fuck your breath” displaying the cold-blooded, heartless and evil sentiments the comprise the boogeyman.

[Originally posted at The Uppity Negro Network]


 

The post The Murder of Walter Scott and the Boogeyman of Whiteness appeared first on Madness & Reality.

Rekia Boyd and the Myth of Black Male Exceptionalism

The burden of carrying about blackness in this country is one that seems to compound exponentially as times goes on if you let it.  The state of being “in a rage all the time” as James Baldwin said is something that comes with a tax; there is a price to pay.  Relationships suffer, isolation sets in.  Or in my case, at least tonight, sleep is a journeyman a long way off in the distant horizon probably to arrive as the sun lights a new day, creeping into my bedroom windows like thief in the night.  However I write to tell a different story.

A familiar and recent refrain is that we, the black community, are not standing for our black women and girls the way we have for the black men and boys.  In light of the almost immediate community reactions from the very recent surrounding Freddie Gray and Walter Scott all the way to the oft-repeated catalog of names such as Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, why have we, the black community, not done so for the deaths of black women.  The knee jerk response has been quick to point out ways of black male privilege gone rampant and to point out ways in which black maleness has obscured the existence of black women.

First and foremost, the acknowledgement that this has happened historically needs to happen.  We need not sweep away the androcentricity of the tone of the past.  Much of what was discussed hung black men on the barometric needle to determine how well the black community was doing without any regard for black women.  It happened, we need to acknowledge it happened so that we don’t do it again.  Black feminism is such a school of thought that has done its level best to try and prevent it.  However, as a field of study, and one that engages in contemporary culture–a culture that seems to change with each new media cycle–holding the black community accountable for the slain women such as Rekia Boyd, Shantel Davis or even the young Detroit girl Aiyanna Stanley-Jones is unfair.

Part of the reason this argument resurfaced was because Rekia Boyd’s murderer, an off duty Chicago cop, was acquitted on all charges, and in New York a crowd of 100 or less (depending on reports) showed up.  The blogospheric theory was that this was because Rekia was a woman.  Implying that had she been a black male, then allegedly there would have been a protest.  My opposing critique offers a simpler explanation: Rekia’s death occurred in 2012 prior to the groundswell of a #BlackLivesMatter campaign.

Personally, I remember the death of Aiyanna Stanley-Jones in 2010 simply because she was a seven year old that became collateral damage in an intangible war of police officers and citizens with very tangible and lethal casualties.  I remember wondering why hasn’t Detroit risen up against this.  With hindsight being 20/20, I can only imagine that in a city that at the time was falling deeper and deeper into the throes of bankruptcy, city services falling by the wayside like dominoes lined up to fall, and abandoned buildings serving as ghetto mortuaries where killers did their dirty work and the streets ran warm with the blood of citizen inflicted violence, sadly the death of Aiyanna could have been seen as just one more wound on an already bloodied and bruised city trying not to die the death of 1,000 cuts.

Wendell Allen, a 20-year-old black man, was shot in his own home by New Orleans police in 2012.  The officer actually was charged with manslaughter, pleaded guilty and is serving a four year sentence.  There was no large city march in New Orleans at the time of his death, nor in the days and weeks following leading to an arrest and indictment agains the officer who killed him.  By the logic asserted that we, the black community, only cares about the death of black males at the hands of police, this was a picture perfect case, yet the nation did not shed a collective tear over this young man.  I would theorize that it was for the same reason that the groundswell reaction for the acquittal of Rekia Boyd’s killer was rather muted, simply because the actual incident took place before the arc of this trying-to-be-movement was underway.

The drive-by sensationalism of the “For Harriet” article on Rekia Boyd entitled “No One Showed Up to March for Rekia Bride Last Night” pays no attention to this fact and overshadows a legitimate argument about the ways in which black male-centered conversations have been dismissive of a black female voice and perspective.  What “For Harriet” does is indicative of a pro-longed post-Ferguson moment that continues to insist that it is a movement.  Movements have relatively uniform and consistent statements; that even if factions choose to go off topic a bit there’s still a unifying cause, and beyond the existential war-cry that black lives do matter, there has yet to be a codified understanding of what the intended actionable outcomes are.

Rekia Boyd

Rekia Boyd

It’s unfair to hold the current cultural sentiment hostage for that of the cultural climate two years ago.   A stronger critique would be to show how in the years of 2010 and 2012 respectively how the lives of black females were suppressed by means of black male privilege and patriarchy, but it would also have to acknowledge that this same black community wasn’t at all moved to protest when the lives of other black men such as Chavis Carter or Danroy Henry are largely unknown as well.  The charges leveled about black male privilege seem to ring hollow when black men are on the business end of a gun and a police officer is holding it.   It also bears knowing that in some of these cases, actions were taken against the cops and charges were filed relatively swiftly therefore preempting the causal need for a protest.

Part of this is due to the way that narratives are created and shaped and more importantly, how they are conflated.  The media shapes one, black intellectual thought creates another and blogospheric theorems pop up every hour depending on the tenor of Black Twitter.  Whether background stories on the victim or the perpetrator are released, how they are released, what pictures and images are available and to what use they are put all play a role in this.  Also, as it needs to be noted that the circumstances surround the deaths of the people vary widely.  The story of Shantel Davis is fraught with many questions versus the story of Aiyanna Jones is pretty straightforward.  The complexities or the simplicities of these narratives are all pokers of increasing or waning power to stoke and fan the flames of community protest.

If that is where the black male privilege allegedly lies, in the shaping of narratives then it needs to be said so directly.  The passive subversive language the is being put out currently is engaging in the trope of Oppression Olympics: telling one oppressed group that their oppression is more severe than the other; that it’s levels to this and therefore one group needs to be at the front of the line.  Has just the grand state of “being in a rage all the time” found a way to actually privilege levels of oppression?  It certainly seems that way at times.

It would be an unsubstantiated claim to say that the alleged privilege lies within the narrative.  At the close of 2014, Gawker famously named 76 unarmed people killed by police officers beginning with Amadou Diallou in 1999.  Nearly all of them are black and only eight of them are black women.  The narrative shows that in this case, black men have no privilege that keeps them from being killed.  Part of this has to do with the ways in which black men interact with police in this country.  The story of Michael Brown’s death showed that.  After Darren Wilson’s grand jury statements went so far as to paint Brown as some non-human monster, it’s clear that armed police officers view black males differently than that of black females.

While I am able to entertain the notion of black male exceptionalism as something that exists, in the case of the deaths of unarmed citizens being killed by police, this exceptionalism is null and void.  The protest response to the would-be movement of black lives mattering makes that clear.  Rekia Boyd’s story matters, but not for the reasons people are alleging. Moreover, people not showing up to protest in New York is not a result of black male exceptionalism thought at play.

For anyone who does work in education, be it in primary grades all the way through the collegiate level, one can easily trace the data that shows that black males somehow disappear from the classrooms.  Standing on any college quadrangle, the number of males who identify as black is abysmally low.  Even at HBCUs, the ratio of female to male is frequently higher than 10 to 1. With numbers like that, it makes the notion of black male exceptionalism questionable.   The New York Times just the week released a report that showed how black men are literally missing.  Perhaps this is exactly the type of androcentric study that proves black male exceptionalism.  Maybe.  But in the ways in which that may perform exceptionalist thinking, the stunningly obvious question is what are then, the next steps.

Labeling it “black male exceptionalism” is a dubious namesake that wasn’t missed on me.  Exceptionalism as a philosophical notion has been reduced to a political football when liberals use it to describe specifically “American exceptionalism” which is an amalgamation of the patriarchal, imperialist and capitalist values that support an American thought combined with near jingoistic frenzy.  Attaching black males to exceptionalism is an old trope from black feminist thought that used to make the assertion that black men merely mimicked white patriarchal standards or power on to black women.  The othering of ourselves amongst ourselves is a soul-rendering experience that leaves the parts severed from the whole, making re-membering almost impossible.

While normally I don’t hold articles at “For Harriet” to a relatively high critical standard, they do serve a purpose of telling the story of black women in a sea of media outlets that don’t target that demographic.  However, as a public voice they are worthy of criticism aimed at them, and that particular article asking why no one showed up for Rekia Boyd in New York borders on the laughable.  I would scarcely expect people in New York to march for an incident that took place in Chicago.  Again, by that reasoning, I could have shown up in Daley Plaza in Chicago and asked why no one showed up for an Oscar Grant march.  This article is of importance because of the wide community in which “For Harriet” holds sway and the ways in which I see it contributing to a narrative of intersection that chooses to see itself as morally superior to those who choose not to enter it the way they deem.  Granted, that’s part of what any form of intersectionality does, but part of what public intellectual work aims to do is have those conversations out in public with the intent of invitingcriticism so that “iron sharpens iron” for a larger intended goal of applicable praxis.

I’ve said it before, and it bears saying again with a bit more urgency, this response is also the result of a fragmented prolonged moment.  Ontological statements do not make movements, but are the outgrowth thereof.  The famous “I AM A MAN” posters iconized from the modern civil rights movement were birthed out of a movement demanding voting rights; an intangible revelation linked with a tangible proclamation.  We (myself included) have produced an innumerable amount of words contributing to blogospheric theories, deconstructing sound bytes and all of us, again myself included, have fallen far short of a non-existent finish line in which we can hand the baton to the next group to run the race.  We, this same black community, lack constructive theory while majoring in deconstructive thought that often times comes off as simply destructive.  While I’m not waiting for a singular leader to emerge, I am waiting for a singular narrative to arrest the mind and soul of those who are ready for a change to come.

As the morning light steals the darkness from my bedroom with creeping pace of kudzu vine seen from the back roads of Mississippi, I reflect painfully that black men need a space to address our black masculinities amongst ourselves.  Historically we have done that, but did so without inviting the panoply of black men to the table.  Times have changed, sensibilities have thankfully changed, and there’s no time like the present to redress those historical wrongs.


 

The post Rekia Boyd and the Myth of Black Male Exceptionalism appeared first on Madness & Reality.

Isaiah Washington and the Broken Negro

Freedom is natural and fundamental. It is our birthright. Human beings and even animals have an innate desire to be free. Oppression and bondage are unnatural states of being. If a man is mentally free, he will do everything in his power to fight and resist oppression and captivity. If a hunter attempts to capture a lion, the lion will attack or flee. The same is true for a wild horse or any other wild animal. If captured, the mentally free man will constantly attempt to escape.

To deal with such a man, the captor or oppressor must either break that man or kill that man. To break such a man, as Dr. Amos Wilson has stated, the oppressor conditions the captive through a reward and punishment system. Submissive and obedient behavior is rewarded. Defiance is severely punished. Eventually, the oppressed man succumbs. He gradually begins to embrace and accept his condition of oppression. He adapts to his new hostile environment and becomes subservient. The situation is similar to how a ferocious and powerful lion is tamed and trained to be an obedient, amusing and entertaining circus animal. Another example is a wild horse being broken and transformed into a beast of burden, a vehicle to transport men.

Sadly, this is what happens to people like actor Isaiah Washington. They are broken Negroes. His frightening and humiliating encounters with the police have forced him to adapt. Apparently, he felt compelled to adapt in order to protect his family and himself.

isaiah-washinhgtonRather than driving around in an expensive Mercedes Benz, he drives around in Prius to avoid being racially profiled and stopped for driving while black. Instead of standing up to racial profiling, he has submitted to it. In fact, he encouraged comedian Chris Rock to adapt to it as well. The broken Negro thinks that if he is a good boy maybe Mr. Charlie will leave him alone.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Driving a less expensive car will not save you. The police will still stop, harass and beat you. They will stop and harass you whether you are driving a fancy BMW or rundown jalopy. They will brutalize you regardless if your an honor student at UVA or a brother in hood selling loose cigarettes. You can say, “I go to UVA! I go to UVA!” hundred times.  The police do not give a damn.  It does not matter whether you are wearing saggy jeans or a suit. You can still end of being the next police brutality victim, the next Twitter hash tag. It does not matter whether you are a prominent Harvard professor trying to enter your home or if you an African immigrant returning home from a meal. The police will still harass you or even kill you. In their eyes, you’re just another nigger.

In America, black people are born suspects. Driving while black, walking while black, shopping while black, and hell, even breathing while black are crimes. We cannot afford to adapt. We must resist. We must fight. We should never surrender our human dignity to placate racists.

[Originally posted at New Possibilities]

 

The post Isaiah Washington and the Broken Negro appeared first on Madness & Reality.

#WalterScott: Misjudging A Book By It’s Cover

The murder of Walter Scott which most of you have viewed via video taken by one incredibly brave individual speaks to so many things but strikes at the heart of a long held societal belief that has framed not only the way that people view each other but also has shaped the American justice system.

It is a long held belief that a person who is defined as good is one who has a “good” job, has a family (is married), goes to church regularly, and gives back to his community via actual work or donations to charity.

To dial down deeper, a person who is a “professional” ie a lawyer, doctor, CEO, or anything on that level is considered by society at large and more relevant our justice system to be above reproach. This plays out in our courts every day. A person accused of a crime who falls into one of those categories is not treated the same way as a person who is unemployed, on public assistance, or even works at what society deems a menial job. Bail may be denied, probation may be withheld simply because an individual is not deemed a “productive member of society” via a construct that on its face does not take into consideration whether it is a viable definition for everyone to ascribe to or be measured by. In worse case scenarios, entire municipalities may feel justified in generating revenue by aggressively targeting their own residents by targeting them by law enforcement with punitive and discriminatory application of existing laws that result in fines that can never be fully paid off and or jail time that in and of itself impairs the ability of the individual to ascend into that “productive member of society” status.The belief that somehow a person who has not followed a certain approved “path” in their life makes them somehow worth less than others who have managed to travel a different path for whatever reason is stock in trade and allows for the branding of an underclass of people much to the detriment of society as a whole. Introducing racism into this construct exacerbates the situation and brings us to the murder of Walter Scott and others like him. The stop and frisk, and racial profiling that is endemic in many municipalities in this country speak to the worst case scenario where an entire RACE of people are viewed as “less than” because of a long held social construct that by its very nature is not applicable across the board and does not allow for equal application of the law.

The belief that somehow a person who has not followed a certain approved “path” in their life makes them somehow worth less than others who have managed to travel a different path for whatever reason is stock in trade and allows for the branding of an underclass of people much to the detriment of society as a whole. Introducing racism into this construct exacerbates the situation and brings us to the murder of Walter Scott and others like him. The stop and frisk, and racial profiling that is endemic in many municipalities in this country speak to the worst case scenario where an entire RACE of people are viewed as “less than” because of a long held social construct that by its very nature is not applicable across the board and does not allow for equal application of the law.

walter-scott-dead_640xThe belief that a person who has made mistakes or bad choices in their lives at some point in time – allows for them to be treated as anything other than a human being is what drives the actions of people like Michael Slager. Feeling justified in actions that result all too often with the death of an individual because they were “no good” to begin with.  This drives the need to dredge up the background of a victim to somehow “justify” actions that would never even be condoned in any other situation. There is a long held belief and perception that good people don’t make mistakes that their lives are a reflection of that. The things that they are able to acquire, a home, new car, material things somehow make them BETTER, whereas those who have not been able to obtain outward signs of achievement, who have not risen to the level of a professional, who may be unemployed, or even who may have at one time in their lives been in carcerated, are automatically less than human, less deserving of compassion or understanding. In the case of Walter Scott and too many to name lately, were not deserving of living another day. These beliefs and the individuals that are allowed to act on them with impunity and the support of society at large will, if left unchecked be the undoing of this country and its so-called freedoms;

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator, certain unalienable rights, That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness –

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the GOVERNED, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends,

It is the right of the People to Alter or Abolish it and to institute New Government.”

The Charters of FreedomThe Declaration of Independence

Watch, and learn……



 

The post #WalterScott: Misjudging A Book By It’s Cover appeared first on Madness & Reality.

Byron Allen Brings Discrimination Suit Against Time Warner & Comcast

So there is a lawsuit afoot that is seeking to bring to light something that has been going on for years and has been swept under the rug by those who claim to fight injustice. The suit being brought by Byron Allen on behalf of his media company Entertainment Studios, is suing Time Warner and Comcast and also names Al Sharpton, the NAACP and The National Urban League. The suit is being brought as a discrimination claim and is naming Al Sharpton, NAACP and others as co-conspirators in that they received monies from Time Warner and Comcast to “maintain” the current structure which does not allow for a 100% minority owned and run organization to get picked up by the major cable operators and in effect shuts them out from broadcasting primarily.

The suit basically contends that no matter what stipulations put to them by Comcast and Time Warner they complied and were still denied access. They also contend that there was an i ndustry practice established that paid certain individuals and their organizations monies in the attempt to illustrate diversity which in reality never materialized in allowing for truly minority run entities to access and have carriage on the cable franchises.

This will be an interesting fight in that those that should be fighting have been named as being in collusion with the cable companies. Money has been changing hands and always does in cases like this. Selling out folks is as old as the bible. Just ask Judas…

 

In the meantime you can read the actual complaint here