#BlackLivesMatter

womensmarch

No one cares if your car needs an oil change. No one but you, that is. A few mechanics might show some interest but only because they can benefit financially. You are the one person on the planet truly concerned about your engine oil. This simple truth helps us understand the white women who turned out in record numbers to march the day after the inauguration. Friends asked me why those same women did not turn out for Sandra Bland and frankly, the question is a silly one. For the millions of white women who marched after Trump’s election, the death of a black woman in the custody of police had no personal impact. Waiting for them to care is like waiting for me to come change your oil. Self determination must be the goal, this is but a reminder.

More than 2 million women across the world marched in direct response to Trump’s election. Trump represents a step backward in women’s rights and as such, they marched. Did Sandra Bland’s killing–and that of the many black women who have died at the hands of police–not represent a step backward? Not for the majority of the white women who participated in the March. Those killings did not register as their problem. This could have been predicted. We should remember that Trump was not regarded as universally disgusting to women (read white women) when he launched his campaign, regularly insulting Muslims and Mexicans. It was only after Trump was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault against white women that the “women’s vote” was assumed to be out of his reach. Muslims and Mexicans, your oil change, all the same.

You could argue that I should care about your oil change. Perhaps I will need a ride from you in the near future. If your engine fails while driving, I might end up in a fatal car accident with you. I should care about your oil change but I just don’t. Rather than wasting time trying to convince me to care about your car, you simply take the initiative to get your oil changed. This is precisely what black people must continue to do, daily. Allies are great but we should waste no time trying to convince people to care. Nothing in American history indicates that millions of white women would, collectively, turn out for a black woman who died at the hands of police. The challenges of black people–and black women in particular–have always been met with indifference and that will not change tomorrow. Therefore, we must commit to work toward self determination, today.

It is unfortunate that black women cannot count on their white counterparts to be consistent allies but I would be inconsistent if I did not point out that black men have also failed the ally test. If we are completely honest, we cannot fathom an entire movement being launched by the deaths of black women at the hands of police. That Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were men certainly helped other black men become active in the Black Lives Matter movement (which was largely launched by black women). As a black man, I struggle with the implications of this. Should we be lumped into the category of people black women cannot trust as true allies? This is the question black men must wrestle with and immediately answer. Until now, the question had scarcely been raised.

walmart

Rejecting blatant racism does not make you an “ally” to black people seeking power to determine their own fate in America. The true test of an ally is whether they believe our quest for self-determination is legitimate and truly support it. WalMart does not pass the test. A recent article on Breitbart complained that WalMart no longer sold items displaying the Confederate Flag, yet featured shirts with messaging supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement on the company’s website. WalMart caved and in doing so, legitimized a twisted logic that views the struggle for black self determination and freedom as equally offensive as the southern rebels’ treasonous devotion to slavery. This system of thought delegitimizes the pursuit of black power and WalMart catered to it. In the era of Walter Scott and Michael Brown, black people must carefully consider whether we can allow these small seeds of hostility to harvest into blood.

walter-scott

In my lifetime I have killed hundreds of roaches. It never bothered me. Those critters are beneath me so I never saw a problem with killing them or felt that I should face consequences when I did so. This is precisely what is happening with the Walter Scott case today. Walter Scott was killed by a policeman who fired eight shots at him as he was running away from the officer. It was all caught on camera. Still, the jury will not convict the murderer–who is White–because it bothers the hell out of some people to think that the life of a Black man is on par with a White man. To the White supremacist, killing a roach and killing a “nigger” are not too far different. That is what this trial is about.

brandon-marshall

Denver’s Brandon Marshall kicked off the NFL season Thursday by kneeling before the Anthem in protest. Marshall said that he “prayed long and hard about it” and he “felt it was the right thing to do.” His prayers did not stop him from losing an endorsement deal with Air Academy Federal Credit Union (AAFCU). Marshall knelt to protest injustice and police brutality in particular but AAFCU made it clear they didn’t give a damn about that. This is what happens when you protest but don’t own anything–your fate is always in the hands of someone else. We can stay angry about it or actually correct the issue at the root.

megan

“Is this the nigger right here?” My grandfather was in his 20’s but if that white woman said “yes” his life was over. “No, he’s too tall,” she answered the policeman. Having grown up in Mississippi grandpa knew that encounter could have been fatal. Indeed, he knew a long history of black men who were lynched based on the mere (false) allegation of a white woman–no criminal trial needed. U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe chose to take a knee Sunday during the National Anthem in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick; now the 49ers quarterback is learning what my grandfather did years ago in Mississippi. White women have long possessed a unique value in mitigating black suffering and legitimizing black pain to a white world.

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18-year-old Paul O’Neal was shot in the back and killed while fleeing from police in Chicago recently– yes, shot in the back while running away. Chicago police have released video of the incident but conveniently, that little part of the actual shooting isn’t available because the camera belonging to the officer who fired the shot was off. All too often the cameras are off or “malfunctioning” during these critical moments and yes, we think it’s intentional. Every. Single. Time. Last year in Oklahoma a cop was was caught on a body camera saying to his colleagues, “turn it off” before they commenced beating a suspect who stole from a Dollar General. Yes, Dollar General. We believe every instance is just as shady. Why wouldn’t we? Our history with law enforcement leaves us no other choice.

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Philando Castile was shot dead not long after Alton Sterling. I’m angry but not towards white people or the millions that will (predictably) justify murdering these two men. I’m angry because black people are not angry enough to make a change. Our anger is sufficient to vent on social media and perhaps protest, although deep down we know it won’t change a damn thing. But are we angry enough to sacrifice and radically alter our lives for freedom? Are we angry enough that every move we make and dollar we spend will be toward black power? If not, shut the hell up and go back to watching Hulu.

November 6, 2014 - Tuscaloosa, AL:  Portrait of Central High offensive lineman Lester Cotton.  He's a top recruit for the University of Alabama.

credit:  Marcus Smith

Hillary, before I give myself to you I need to know if you’ll still love me tomorrow. When evaluating politicians I first look for core convictions. That is, what is it that you’re absolutely committed to, no matter what? It matters. Things change and fashions change. Since criminal justice reform is en vouge today I’m sure you may cater to this issue I care so much about. However, what if it goes out of style tomorrow, as it did during the 90’s? Will you still be on my side? Please understand, Ms. Clinton, that the discussion of criminal justice reform is a bare minimum.

Sanford police officer Timothy Smith holds up the gun that was used to kill Trayvon Martin, while testifying in the 15th day of the George Zimmerman trial, in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla., Friday, June 28, 2013. Zimmerman is accused in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.

George Zimmerman’s gun auction should make clear what value America places on black life. It isn’t just that we don’t value it but that we place monetary value on ending it. This has been true for a long time. It was true in 1955 when Emmitt Till’s killers were paid $4,000 for telling their tale of cold-blooded murder to Look magazine just four months after their acquittal. That acquittal by an all-white jury took only 67 minutes; one juror even said, “If we hadn’t stopped to drink pop, it wouldn’t have taken that long.” George Zimmerman’s trial at least had the appearance of legitimacy but the aftermath is eerily similar and every bit as painful as the Emmitt Till ordeal. Zimmerman is set to make hundreds of thousands from the sell of the gun he used to kill Martin, much like Till’s killers were paid for their story. Different decades, similar results– that should terrify us enough to act.

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This piece is explicitly for black America. We have remained on the bottom of just about every social indicator since we were brought to America, for many reasons. I’ve given up on America giving us our just due, but even so, we can solve many of the issues that ail us in the next thirty years. Seriously. With the emergence of “Black Lives Matter” many of us are becoming more conscious or ‘woke’ but just maybe we haven’t been fully informed on what it will take to eradicate black oppression or the level of sacrifice it will require. To be truly ‘woke’ requires more than tweeting.