#BlackLivesMatter

browns

When people claim National Anthem protests are disrespectful to the military they are simply using servicemen and women as a cover for their own bigotry. Since Colin Kaepernick began his protest last year critics have embraced the, “this is disrespectful to the military” talking point. Few have stopped to ask who is actually in that military. Black people serve at a higher rate than whites and generally always have. It is obvious that critics, like Trump, are not thinking of the black men and women who’ve served for generations and that oversight is a cruel reminder that for many, black lives do not matter. Using the military as a cover for anti-black sentiment is shameful and must be challenged.

Those who condemn black NFL players for protesting due to an alleged sensitivity of the military couldn’t be thinking of my great-uncle, who served in the Army during the Korean War. After returning to the US he was, in his words, “treated like shit.” Defenders of the flag and military personnel have mentally whitewashed the armed forces, seemingly unaware that racial and ethnic minority groups make up 40% of active-duty military. Black men and women make up roughly 17% of active-duty military, although we are only 13% of all adults between 18 and 44. I doubt that any of the protest critics are thinking of these individuals when they seek to defend the honor of veterans and active military personnel. Don’t they count?

The anti-Kaepernick crowd cannot see that the freedoms they hold so dear are guarded, significantly, by people of color. Their hatred of black people and resentment of black protest produces, in their minds, a whitewashed patriotism that will not acknowledge our military as it is. In this world of whites-only patriotism the actual history of the armed forces vanishes, also. During the Civil War some 179,000 blacks fought for the Union. The irony is there were only 226,152 free blacks living in all the Northern states. During the conflict in Vietnam blacks both served and died disproportionately. Indeed, in 1965 alone black accounted for 25% of all casualties and since that time have comprised over 20% of the Army, while never representing even 15% of the general population. Trump and his followers are not mindful of these men and women and they certainly have not bothered to ask them about their feelings. They simply do not exist, to so many.

I have two grandfathers that served — one in the Air Force and the other in the Navy. They, like the black men and women who serve today, are largely ignored in the debate over the anthem protests. Somehow, white men who’ve never served in the military have managed to own and speak for it. They have no rightful authority to do so. They have no right to whitewash the armed forces. They have no right to use the military as a tool for the perpetuation of white dominance over black lives. All these white men are entitled to do is answer the one outstanding question in this drama and that is, how are they are more offended by a perceived disrespect for the flag than direct atrocities committed against the people for whom it stands?

charlottesville

Explaining why Charlottesville happened requires me to do something I haven’t in years — go to church. There is a big, hairy demon that possesses the soul of America and it is white supremacy. White supremacy begot racism in America and ultimately, the evil and irrational nature of it has no logical explanation other than it must be a demon. It is too diabolic, non-sensical and potent to originate from any other place but hell. As whiteness slowly depletes its privilege we are seeing an exorcism in real time; this demon is coming out but not without a fight.

Charlottesville happened now, during the Trump age. It is an age that can best be understood through a passage in the New Testament — Mark chapter 9, versus 14-29. In the story a father brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus in hopes of deliverance. The demon would often take control of the boy’s body and cause him to do crazy shit, basically. When the demon saw Jesus, it threw the boy to the ground and began convulsing, rolling around and foaming at the mouth. Essentially, the demon began to “act up” rather than go quietly. The demon, feeling threatened, lashed out rather than humbly submit to its fate. That is where a sizable faction of white America is today. White people run America and maintain privilege but there are discernible cracks in the foundation of white supremacy. Indeed, white power structures still frame the day to day existence of us all and yet there is a sense that white power is being threatened, a sense which energized the candidacy of Donald Trump and gives rise to groups like the “Alt Right.” Charlottesville is but the latest convulsion in an ongoing exorcism. This demon feels threatened.

Drug overdoses, liver disease and suicide are driving a peculiar trend among whites. Of late, their life expectancy is not increasing but decreasing. That is according to Elizabeth Arias, the statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics. Based on federal data of deaths recorded nationwide, black men actually had the greatest gain in life expectancy in 2014 of any group. White supremacy is under attack. Babies of color now outnumber non-Hispanic white babies. 2014-2015 was the first year in which minorities were more populous than white students in America’s public schools. America will be a majority-minority nation soon, led by individuals who more closely resemble Barack Obama, Kamala Harris and Luis Gutierrez than Mitch McConnell. The world that has always been will simply not be anymore. For those conditioned by generations of privilege, that is a scary proposition.

A big demon is being exorcised, slowly. It senses its demise and in response shrieks, convulses and lashes out, even irrationally. And Charlottesville was irrational. The rally was initially a protest against removing a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, a slaveowner who fought vehemently to uphold slavery during the Civil War. Removing the statue is not an attempt to erase whites from the American tapestry. Objecting to its removal, however, suggests a commitment to the ideals of Lee and ultimately that is what this demon is fighting for. The critical question now is what we will do as this demon continues to lash out.

In the biblical text Jesus responded quite curiously to the demon’s little sideshow. As the boy rolled on the ground convulsing and foaming at the mouth, Jesus calmly turned to his father and asked him, “how long has he been like this?” It was as if Jesus was saying, “I refuse to get caught up in this show. I will not pay attention to you lashing out and I certainly will not be intimidated. I will simply pretend that you do not exist as I go about the work of overpowering you.” The father explained that the boy had been that way from his youth. He pleaded with Jesus, “but if you can do anything for us please help us.” Jesus, perhaps almost offended replied, “If!?!? Bruh…all things are possible if you believe. Ain’t no if to this!” Jesus exorcised the demon and went about his business. I choose to ignore the noise and the shrieks. I choose to go about the work of black power, even in this age of Trump.

 

 

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.

body-cam

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.

police-shooting-louis_chic-5

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.