Archives

The Survival of a Cop Killer

police-1537106_1280A cop has died.  On Monday night (Oct. 9), a 19-year-old Texas student was taken into custody. While being processed, he pulled out a gun and shot the officer in the head, fatally wounding him.  The young man, identified as Hollis Daniels, fled the station on foot.  After a lock-down of the station and pursuit of the suspect, Hollis was finally apprehended.  As horrifying and sad as the officer’s death has been, something else occurred that is tragically and glaringly obvious… Daniels is still alive.

That sounds like a harsh statement but truth of the matter is, it hurts my soul. Because this, without question, represents the cornerstone of everything Colin Kaepernick kneeled for and blacks won’t shut up about! Right here… again- an armed violent white person commits a heinous crime and walks away with a beating heart.

It’s becoming uncomfortable to try ignoring what no longer can be ignored: Black people are endangered in this country. The reason is simple… black skin equals clear and present danger. It’s akin to standing in the middle of a busy expressway. Black skin incites fear, violence, and death and appears to produce an instant discomfort that seems to put others on high alert.  I’ll pause here to state the obvious: of course, not all non-blacks/whites feel it, but deep down, most cannot pretend it’s not there. It needs to be discussed because people are dying for no reason. Encounters with police appear to be detrimental to black health. Yet, police encounters with whites appear to be harmful to their own well-being.

Eliza Wasni is a 16-year-old who managed to openly steal a knife and a machete from a Walmart store in Skokie, IL and use it to murder 34-year-old Uber driver, Grant Nelson. After waving the weapons at officers, Wasni was taken into custody after she was tasered by police. Laquan McDonald wasn’t so lucky.  The 17-year-old was shot sixteen times while wielding a knife and moving away from officers.  Last year a Brooklyn resident Robert Crumb, killed his wife, stabbed his daughter, and after crashing his car into a gas station, he then attacked the officer whose gun was drawn and pointing directly at Crumb’s chest. Crumb continued to advance, threw the officer to the ground, and was eventually pulled off by other cops.  Yet we watched in horror as police shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice within two seconds of officers stopping their vehicle.  Tamir had a toy gun. Can we say it again: Black Lives Matter.

Before I go into BLM vs Black-on-Black crime, let’s talk about the problem of white privilege and the dirty little secret of the police department that neither they nor the media wants to discuss. In 2016 there was a huge increase in police killed on the job- a whopping 59% increase.  Of those killed, 71% were by the hands of whites.  Yet, as Shaun King states, the media has been silent.  This is clearly an uptick from an earlier study that was posted in Newsweek in 2015 which states “In 2013, 44 percent of cop killers were white, 37 percent were black and 11 percent were Hispanic. Last year, 54 percent were white, 26 percent were black and 18 percent were Hispanic.”  What’s wrong with this picture?

The conclusion I draw is that police are not threatened by white skin and because of that, they are dying on the job. Because they move around in this world with a privilege not enjoyed by others, they automatically extend it to the white criminals they encounter on the job.  Even Dylan Roof was fed a meal on his way to jail after he shot up a black church and murdered 9 people.  That’s privilege, plain, simple, and painful.

Inevitably, whenever one says Black Lives Matter, people want to compare it to the blue unicorn called “Black-on-black” crime.  That is because they don’t understand what SYSTEMIC racism is and that it exists in EVERY FACET of Black and brown Lives. It’s NOT just about police-on-black crime!! It’s about the educational system, the grade school-to-prison pipeline, the Criminal Justice system, and a myriad of other issues plaguing the black/brown communities within that “System”. A system, mind you, that is a living, breathing, and ever-churning machine of corruption. Black-on-black crime is a separate issue, so crunching numbers to dismiss #BLM is an irrelevant comparison. Studies in 2016 show that roughly 84% of Whites are killed by Whites and about 90% of Blacks are killed by Blacks- which makes sense because crimes are usually committed by the group we’re in the closest proximity to.  It’s safe to say that this is a crime problem – not a systemic and criminal justice problem.  I’ve never seen a blue unicorn so it’s safe to say Black-on-Black crime doesn’t exist in the form that the average racist would like to claim as a bullet point against BLM. Not unless, of course, you mention White-on-White crime in the same breath.

Hollis Daniels was brought in because he had drugs and drug paraphernalia in his room.  He evidently received treatment so respectful and compassionate that they did not even frisk him.  Then, he managed to pull out the weapon (was he even handcuffed?), shoot an officer and escape because no one could restrain him. This would never have occurred had he been black. If he managed to escape the frisk, there’s no way he would’ve made it out of that police station alive. That’s the ugly truth.

The good news is that people are slowly waking up to the fact that we can no longer live within the bubbles of our lives and ignore the festering injustices swarming around us.  Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem and the country went berserk. But there is a problem because police are brutalizing and killing Black people and police, in turn, are being murdered by Whites. We tell drug addicts that unless they admit there’s a problem, they can’t even begin to fix it. Well, it’s time to apply that same analogy to this problem- which for officers- appears to be getting worse. They can start by treating their encounters with all races equally and stop giving Whites the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, just maybe we’ll all make it home alive.

Advertisements

When Community Bands Together: The Rise and Fall Thereof

protest-1567028_1920

On Sept 10, 2017, 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins was found frozen to death inside the freezer of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, Il following a party she attended there.  As devastating as her death has been, it occurred under the most bizarre circumstances we’ve seen in quite a while.  Although there has been much speculation about what happened to her (which won’t be covered today), the purpose of this article is to highlight the most extraordinary display of unity as people came together for a common cause – to seek answers.

Oftentimes, when blacks are reported in the media, it’s because they were killed by either law enforcement, gang violence, or other means. But this story wasn’t of much media interest because in the days after Kenneka Jenkin’s death, people came together to support her mother, Teresa Martin.  Ms. Martin’s attempts to find out what happened to her daughter were initially met with indifference.  She was eventually offered a viewing of videos that showed her daughter staggering (apparently intoxicated) down a hallway, then off an elevator, and finally into a kitchen.  What the videos did not show was her child entering the freezer.  She asked for that video and was again met with silence.

Several Chicago activists (Sheena M. James, Lamon Reccord, Jedidiah Brown, and Natorah El) stepped in to aid the grieving mother.  As each day passed, the crowds became a little bigger—30 became a hundred, and so on. Facebook Live views for these activists were in the double-digits as thousands of people around the country (and the world) responded and tuned in.  Monday through Thursday I tuned into various Facebook Live feeds of the protests.  They chanted “No justice no peace, this hotel won’t get no sleep’, ‘Justice for Kenneka’, ’21 hours and a coverup’, ‘If we don’t get it (tapes), SHUT IT DOWN’, etc. They blew whistles and banged on pots and pans. They were there to stay.

It was organized and efficient. After viewing the live feeds each day, it was hard not to see the camaraderie and cohesiveness of the protesters gain momentum.  Each day they began with a pre-protest update of the previous night’s events and let people know what was accomplished as well as the problems that arose.  In the evening, several people recorded live feeds of the protest in front of the Crowne Plaza Hotel.  Eventually (as with many protests) people were arrested. A “jail fund” was set up to aid them which, led to the last daily update taking place at the police station as they informed us who had been arrested (staying there until they bailed them out). The comments and encouragement sparked a movement- whose togetherness morphed into an event unlike anything I’ve seen before. It was the passion and commitment to the mother that literally moved people all over the country to action.

Facebook consistently shut down some of the feeds and suspended Ms. Martin’s (the mother) and Mr. Brown’s access to their pages (Ms. Martin’s was later restored).  Each night, the protests were peaceful and orderly. To keep streets clear and traffic flowing, arrests were made of anyone who stepped onto the street.  As the group of supporters sat in the Rosemont Police Department, they said that their motto was “We’re not leaving anyone behind.”  On one of those nights an elderly white man named Jack was bailed out. The police injured Jack’s arm and he was taken to the hospital before the group could bail him out.  When asked why he was there he said, “I’ve been doing this for over 50 years and I’ll never stop.” Then he said, “I’ll be back tomorrow.” Jack was there the next day- to the delight of the viewers who wrote in large letters “WE LOVE YOU JACK!!” Throughout all of this, the media was silent. I found it strange that hundreds of people protesting in upscale suburban Rosemont and against an upscale hotel was met with complete silence from the media. Black people weren’t looting and burning things so I guess it was a slow night. There was, however, a documentary photographer there (Jon Lowenstein) to capture events as they unfolded.

Toward the middle of the week Jedidiah Brown announced that on Friday they expected a large group – people coming from around the country- to support Ms. Martin’s quest for the complete videos of her daughter entering the freezer.  Friday arrived and something amazing happened — people from all over the country really did gather in Rosemont Illinois.  People of every race, age, and religion came to support Teresa Martin.

Ethan (a tall white gentle giant (who was later arrested) took a Greyhound bus from Georgia. There were people from Joliet, IL, Wisconsin, Indiana, Mississippi, New York, Boston, and California.  Among the crowd was a woman of short stature with her hair in a short afro wearing a purple tee-shirt with face of Kenneka Jenkins.  She was giving a hug to every person she came in contact with- thanking them for coming.  Teresa Martin has been a bulwark during her personal tragic loss.  Having just undergone a double-mastectomy just days before her daughter Kenneka went missing, she has consistently been in Rosemont daily demanding the full and complete video footage of her daughter’s last minutes of life.

Also, on Friday as massive crowds of people (1800+) arrived and took to the streets, law enforcement became aggressive and violent. One protester was violently thrown to the ground and arrested.  Activists went to the police station to check on his condition and to ask that the young man receive medical care. The officers -once polite/helpful – were now belligerent and aggressive and threatened Mr. Brown and the other activists with arrest for disturbing the peace.

To say the source of my initial unease (regarding Friday’s expected crowd) became a self-fulfilling prophesy is an understatement.  I say that because anyone who knows that when massive amounts of money, power, and privilege are at stake, the outcomes for the average person is shaky at best. This was a different kind of ‘protest’.  It wasn’t about race.  It wasn’t an obvious murder (it’s officially a death investigation).  It wasn’t even local(located in a Chicago suburb).  This was about a Chicago mother whose daughter died in a sadly disturbing and as yet, unanswered way – and people all over the country responded by physically showing up.  They donated time, air fare, places to stay, rides, food/drink, and their voices.

Sadly, whenever a demonstration moves to the highest (and peaceful) degree and, whenever there is such a strong, true/genuine cohesiveness of ‘the people’ (meaning ALL people), destruction is never far behind.  It would take a book to go deep into the events that unfolded within the Martin camp but allegations were made against the activists by the mother via Facebook about the funds, the mother pulled away from their aid -leaving in her wake devastated men and women who stood with her just hours before.  Why?  Because within activism are pockets of division and within the black community itself breads negativity. To read the comments in some of these feeds was disheartening to say the least. Apparently another activist (who was not associated with this group) was responsible for creating the division that brought the movement to an end.

Friday was a pivotal day for Chicago and the country.  People proved that it is possible to come together for a common cause. They went to Rosemont and shut it down- not an easy feat by any means.  But sadly, by Saturday, there were clearly signs that something poisonous had entered the mix and by Sunday, it fell completely apart. All unfolding like a made-for-TV series on Facebook Live.

My heart breaks for the Teresa Martin’s unimaginable loss and it’s important to note that she has yet to bury her child and truly grieve. She did state that no one told her about the ‘jail fund” but in fairness I heard several activists mention it several times and they always stated that she personally OK’d it. It is said that whenever money involved, bad things can happen and in this case, it certainly did.  At any rate, the allegations have left everyone with questions and confusion and, has caused a cavernous rift within the community of activists.

The movement is over and in it’s place is a standard protest (Jedidiah Brown and the others are no longer present).  I checked Facebook today and there are only a handful of people there- seemingly less than the crowd last week when protests first began.  It’s a huge step backwards.

I had no intention of writing about Kenneka Jenkins until all the facts were in.  Yet, after seeing how the amazing cohesiveness of the protests evolved on Friday, I decided to write “When Community Bands Together, Amazing Things Happen” but by Sunday, I revised it to “When Community Bands Together (The Rise and Fall Thereof).” That was disappointing…

But the real question we should be asking is “Why did this happen on the day when the most true power of the movement was present?”

But like this case, we will have to wait and see what unfolds in the days ahead. Hopefully we’ll get a picture of what really happened to destroy what was becoming a movement representative of the strength, respect, love, support, and a quest for truth by ALL the people. How ironic is that?

****The mother chose a large venue for her daughter’s funeral so she could thank everyone for supporting her.  Funeral arrangements as quoted by Teresa Martin’s Facebook page:

“HOUSE OF HOPE
KENNEKA JENKINS FUNERAL
9/30/17
Saturday
THE COLORS ARE PURPLE AND WHITE
Rev T Meeks
752 E 114th st, Chicago, IL 60628 (correct address 😇)
11am-12pm wake
12pm-1pm Funeral
ALL ARE WELCOME
IF YOU COME IN PEACE SO DEVIL YOUR NOT WELCOME HERE”

Remember British Oppression of America?

flag-2544494_1920The powers that be want this country divided- that’s by design of the one percent elites. Because divided we can’t stand together and demand that this country be run in a way that truly benefits all of us. The healthcare crisis, the Putin controversy, lack of immediate aid to Puerto Rico, DACA, and runaway taxing are prime examples of how American rights will eventually erode. We’d like to believe those issues are irrelevant… We fought each other over a man who is unfit to lead this country (the MOST divisive president ever in my lifetime), and now we’re fighting over… the flag.

I love the flag and our National Anthem -those words resonate deeply with me both as a writer and an American. But now, it’s difficult to connect those words to myself as a Black person when there is constant and overwhelming proof in the criminal justice system that this country does not respect black life. How can it when innocent and unarmed people are shot dead and rogue officers consistently walk? All the president did was throw gasoline on an already precarious situation(as he’s been doing since day one). We must come together as a nation and speak truth to power.

Kaepernick understands this and has thrown himself on his sword to prove it. This protest is not about direspecting our troops. It’s about the fact that this is proving to not be a land that is free for all. It’s to signify that something is broken in our land and it can no longer be ignored. It needs to be fixed. When the president made his comments to “fire those SOBS”, he finally struck a chord with their fellow teammates and as a result they ALL kneeled. That sent a loud message that something is broken in America, let’s fix it together. They are not disrespecting the flag.  Our soldiers who originally fought and died for this country did so because this country was OPPRESSED by the British. Oppression of a people is hazardous to the health of any nation. That is one of the reasons our troops are deployed all over the world.

Let’s face a harsh reality check that most people DON’T know- the original Anthem has racist verses in it therfore it, and the flag, was never intended to represent the “least” of us in America. America fought oppression against the British and won (all while oppressing slaves). Then slaves were freed but were still oppressed under Jim Crow. Now, we’re no longer considered oppressed (on the surface). Now we exist as a nation that is supposed to be representative of the diverse souls who live here.

Injustice against ‘one’ American is an injustice against all Americans. “Justice for all” is an ongoing homework assignment for all of us and we must do it together. So, as long as we remain divided on the most basic and critical of issues, we (ALL RACES) will never achieve the greatness that our flag symbolizes.

I Dare You

Powerfully profound..

By Nannette Banks

Dare to love somebody

Not just those you know

but those yet born and all who stand in between

it’s not easy once you have experienced the

force of the brute, the hate of the bigot and the blow of the batterer

Dare to love somebody until it feels abnormal not to, love

dare to love in the moment when that’s all you have to offer because you’re left

speechless, you don’t

have the physical strength to carry on and your fleshy heart is waiting to break

free

give love, hope love, risk love, dare to love somebody even yourself without limits or

restrictions

without borders that seal you in and keep others out…

It’s a process

some have lived it even when little to no love was returned

as stones were being thrown,

fire hoses aimed at full blast

dogs tearing at human flesh

they  dared…

View original post 260 more words

Call to Action: Drain the SWAMP

Drain the Swamp

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility. Provide for the common defense. Promote the general welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Prosperity do ordain, and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”

These powerful words used to give me chills and fill me with pride. They are supposed to represent the binding glue of the United States and yet, they have failed to do so for every citizen. The truth of the matter is that this country was “formed” by white people and for white people and, black and brown citizens were deemed collateral damage because they were never meant to reap the benefits of citizenship. History has a way of repeating itself and the truth is that there is an underbelly of power that feeds the beast of systemic racism, classism, and greed in this country. It was established for the 1 percenters. Because of that, it is time for a CALL TO ACTION.

Black people have been sleep in this country for so long that, now that they are ‘waking up’, they are focusing on all the wrong things. We’ve had the “black and proud” movements already. We know that we come from kings and queens. We know we’re not lazy and looking for handouts. We know that we once had a ‘Black Wall Street’. Name it and I guarantee you, we’ve lauded it all over social media. But… we are still ‘sleep’ because we are NOT focusing on the real issues. We are still ‘sleep’ because we have been lulled into a sense of complacency. We have block upon block of vacant lots— businesses, apartments, and homes just… GONE. We have “food deserts” (no grocery stores within a ½ mile-1 mile). Trains are parking their guns in our neighborhoods. Those are just the tip of the iceberg. We don’t truly believe we can rise above our circumstances as a people because we still feel the weight of Jim Crow’s boot upon our necks. It’s time to wake up and send the loudest clap-back America has ever seen or heard. The ONLY way we can do that is DRAIN THE POLITICAL SWAMP as much as humanly possible. How?

1. Remove dead weight from office. This includes aldermen, judges, mayors, governors, state representative, senators, and anyone else who has power and influence over our welfare. We have major elections (including gubernatorial) coming up in 2018 and a mayoral race in 2019. It is CRITICAL that we are prepared to hit the polls.
2. REGISTER AND VOTE. Too many of us have thrown in the towel because we think the system is rigged. Of course, it is!! But guess what… it won’t stand a chance of being fixed if we refuse to vote. You are part of the problem, believe it or not.
3. Educate ourselves by:

    a. creating a coalition that is geared toward identifying EACH elected official (a great example of this is Chicago’s http://takebackchicago.org/)
    b. Finding out what their jobs are
    c. Discovering what their track record in office is (legislation, voting records, etc.)
    d. Distribute that information within the black/brown communities. This can be done via social media, flyers, mail, email, schools, workplace, etc.

4. Rinse and repeat 2 and 3 throughout the country
5. Create ‘Petitions of Intent’ to put our political officers on notice that future elections will no longer be ‘status quo’. We will no longer toe the line to ANY party line. We will examine their track records and determine whether or not they are worthy to be re-elected. We will no longer except the cronyism that has plagued our governments (local, city, state, & federal). They will be put on notice that the black vote is no longer a ‘sure thing’ within the Democratic party and that does NOT guarantee the Republicans a vote either. When they began receiving these petitions, they will finally understand how serious we are. If they are progressively doing a great job we let them know that too. Either way, they will know that someone is watching them. We DO HAVE POWER. WE DO HAVE RIGHTS.
6. Stop marginalizing ourselves to a specific party i.e., the Democratic Party. It has truly done nothing for us. Democratic nominees understand that blacks are heavily Democratic and therefore, they have very little work to do in convincing us to vote for them. No more. We must look at both parties equally and weigh what is being offered. We must be willing to vote Independent if we must. It is better to vote your conscious and lose than to continue to vote blindly to one party out of loyalty. If we are consistent, one of three things will happen:

    a. Either GOP or Dems will step up and get things done- benefiting ALL
    b. The Independent Party will grow stronger with a new support base (black/browns) or,
    c. A new party will be created

7. STOP SPREADING FAKE NEWS. There is nothing worse than sharing information that you have NOT vetted. Because reliable media outlets already have a credibility issue, we make it worse by not verifying what we share. Not only that, you are actively supporting (and allowing to spread) fake news. This is damaging to the wrongs we are trying to correct, it’s distracting because it incites conversations about things that AREN’T EVEN TRUE (a total WASTE of time), and it also makes us look ignorant, lazy, and uninformed. As soon as you state, “I don’t know if this is true but I’m posting anyway”, you have already created a credibility problem for yourself.
8. BOYCOTT and MEAN IT. We are WEAK MINDED when it comes to exercising the power of our dollars. Do you think it was ‘COMFORTABLE’ for Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, etc. to WALK MILES to and from work or to march on Washington? They car-pooled, picked up weary travelers, they made it work!!! But, tell someone today to BOYCOTT NFL FROM THE COMFORT OF THEIR HOMES and the responses are a myriad of shameful ignorance. It REALLY IS that serious what happened to Kaepernick. They chopped that young man off at the knees as he exercised his Freedom and we sat on our hands and allowed it to happen. It REALLY IS that serious how Missha Beauty supply (and many other Korean suppliers) treat us with total disrespect. Therefore:

    a. Locate websites and links that are actively boycotting or petitioning against a company and centralize the distribution of this information
    b. Locate black-owned businesses and websites and centralize the distribution of this information

9. Teach our children NOW about finances and the importance of saving, building businesses, and creating wealth.
10. We must create more businesses for ourselves.
11. We must support black-owned businesses
12. We must not take our black businesses/customers for granted. Accomplish this by:

    a. Not expecting/haggling lower prices from business owners. We don’t do that at Nieman Marcus or Zales
    b. Respecting our customers- open on time, say please/thank you, do quality work, don’t overbook

13. We must become financially responsible- we’re making liquor stores, dance clubs, fashion labels, and entertainers incredibly rich and that money is not coming back into the black community.
14. We must actively begin to move liquor stores OUT of our neighborhoods. There are 2-3 stores on every major block in our communities- it’s heartbreaking. You will NOT find that in white or Asian neighborhoods. If you want alcohol in those areas, you will need to go to a Binny’s or a grocery store. These liquor stores are NOT even owned by blacks. Why do we allow them to pepper our blocks with them?
15. Same with beauty supply stores or any business that doesn’t respect us as a people
16. We must bring the Village back. This country is depending upon us to no longer be supportive of each other.
17. Build the bridge of cooperation with our white brothers and sisters. This is not only a race problem, it is a class problem as well. There IS enough prosperity for every citizen in this country. But make no mistake, black/browns are still behind the eight ball. We must all work together to drain the swamp.
18. Get out of la-la land: let’s stop pretending that our lives are so good that these issues can’t possibly be affecting us. We can no longer afford to be passive bystanders to our own demise. The sooner we realize the system is imploding upon us, the sooner we’ll feel liberated in taking decisive action- together!

Donald Trump’s half-hearted reading of his ‘statement’ a few days ago regarding the riots in Charlottesville, VA and, his subsequent statement at the infrastructure news conference, was a clear message that he doesn’t care about the violence nor the state of racial relationships in this country. David Duke’s attack on Trump confirms that he is complicit in fanning the racist ideologies of the people who put him in the White House. Everything he says or does from this point forward is meaningless and has no bearing on the pressure that we, the black people, must put on every thread of government to ensure our rights are protected, our children are safe, and our livelihoods thrive as well as anyone else’s in this country. You want to be ‘woke’? Then it’s time for us to roll up our collective sleeves and get to work.

We the black people of the United States, in order to form a cohesive Existence, enforce True Justice, ensure peace within our communities. Collaborate our own defenses. Build enduring Security and guard our Blessings vigorously, sustain Freedom for ourselves and our Prosperity, do ordain and reestablish our rights under the Constitution for United States of America *

*NOT intended to replace the preamble of the United States Constitution. These are suggestions to begin the conversation in a constructive manner.
hate speech will not be tolerated.

August 2017
Whowillspeak.com

Whatever Happened to Officer Friendly?

Officer Friendly3I remember when I was in the 3rd grade, “Officer Friendly” came to our classroom.  He was a tall White man wearing a uniform and hat.  Talk about exciting! We “ohh’ed and ahh’ed” because we were awestruck with his uniform, shiny badge, gun, and of course – the coloring book!  He was polite and indeed friendly and we felt secure with him in our classroom.  I got to shake his hand and I never forgot the encounter—I couldn’t wait to tell my parents about it.  I remember adding police officer to the list of things I wanted to be because of that visit–he caught bad guys and kept people safe after all so, how cool is that! Fast forward to 2016.  Officer Friendly no longer exists. In his place is extreme distrust, dead bodies, and unending news bites. Gone are the days of yesteryear…

I recently came across a post (meme) on a social media page sponsored by the Chicago Police Department.  It asked parents “please stop telling your children that we will haul them off to jail if they are bad.  We want them to run to us if they are scared…  Not be scared of us.  Thank you.”  I agree with that statement. They are, after all, paid to serve and protect the public and the last thing we need is for our children to be afraid of them if they should ever need them.  We absolutely don’t want parents scaring a child into discipline and submission (that is abusive).  But that request raises a more serious question. The question is… How do we raise Black and Brown children to have a healthy “relationship” with law enforcement? How do we teach them to trust and then protect themselves against them should the time present itself?

It’s a burning question because I remember teaching my son that police are “friendly and they help people.”  I taught him to respect the police, go to them if he ever needs help, and call them if he sees someone else in trouble.  He believed me– at first.  That wide-eyed, trusting face believed what mommy said about the helpful police.  Then he grew older and you wouldn’t believe the disagreements we used to have when he became a teen!  He started calling them “pigs” and said he hated them.  Hate is a strong word and I was appalled because this is the opposite of what I’d taught him.  I asked him why he felt that way and he said all they do is stop and harass him and other people.   Of course, trying to be helpful (and parental), I thought I had an answer for every scenario—including “they only harass people who are making trouble. So, stay away from trouble.”  It seemed simple enough to me.  Eventually, I realized that he simply didn’t trust or respect any form of law enforcement –and sadly, with good reason.

Police have never been popular but there was still a somewhat respectful ‘truce’ between them and black residents in the mid-70s and early 80s. Then the War on Drugs began to heat up and there was a total shift in the way blacks were being treated.  Incarcerations and jail overcrowding increased as did the construction of private prisons.  I remember the stories about inmates sleeping on jail floors because the cells were so packed.  As this ‘war’ evolved, it became evident who the real ‘enemy’ was – the black and brown people.  It didn’t matter whether they were behind the wheel of a car or on foot.  They were stopped – and stopped often. Then the brutality increased.  Had it not been for the advent of the cellular phone, no one would’ve believed the level of brutality Rodney King suffered during a beating in 1991.  Nor would we have witnessed the recent horror of Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times- most of which occurred while he was lying in the street dying.  Officer Friendly, indeed.

Two years ago, my son was on his way home and as he crossed the street at 63rd and Cottage Grove, an unmarked car stopped him (for ‘jaywalking’ at 2am).  He politely asked them why they detained him and they put him in the car.  He then became angry and demanded to know why they stopped him.  He was told to shut up before they dropped him off in an area that was notorious for shooting strangers.  Then, one of them told him they were about to ‘inconvenience’ his weekend.  They took him to a lockup downtown.  The following morning, without a word or paperwork, he was released and told to pick up his property at a station in Maywood.  Not finding his items there, he asked me for a ride to another police station.  That particular day, he, my nephew and I drove to 4 stations (2 of them twice) –crisscrossing the city– until we were able to retrieve his wallet and backpack (which was in Maywood).  His cell phone and belt, however, were gone.  We filed a complaint.  My son eventually gave up on the follow up process (which was disappointing to me) so there was no positive outcome.  He simply wanted no more encounters with them. Honestly, I didn’t blame him.  No crime was committed by him.  He wasn’t even ‘arrested’.  Just inconvenienced– along with my nephew and I.  Officer Friendly, indeed.

How do we teach our children to safely interact with law enforcement when their first priority appears to be harassment and humiliation of its Black citizens?  How does one navigate what can easily escalate into a life-threatening encounter when there is overwhelming proof they may not even survive it?  Parents used to dread having “the talk” with their children about sex.  Now we have to teach them that the friendly and helpful policeman (we taught them to obey) might not only haul them off to jail after all, but could possibly maim or kill them and because of that, there’s a whole set of rules they have to follow should they ever become detained by one. Similar to ‘stop, drop, and roll’ during a fire, we have to teach them to ‘shut up‘(to avoid escalation), ‘hands up’ (to avoid being shot), and ‘curl up’ (if punched or kicked).  Not only that, we have to determine at what age to teach them. Sadly, twelve-year-old Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and Laquan McDonald are only a few who’ve lost their lives during what should’ve been a routine interaction with an officer.  What do we teach them to counteract the very real and violent imagery of the news showing clips of police beating and shooting people?  Officer Friendly, indeed.

Black and Brown people on average are detained, arrested, brutalized, and killed (in the street or while in custody) at higher rates than White and others.  They are the direct target of the ‘kindergarten to prison’ pipeline constructed during the War against Drugs.  We don’t want our children to be frightened of law enforcement but the truth of the matter is, they need to be prepared and aware.

Slogans Displayed on Police Vehicles

 

 

  • Portland:  Sworn to protect:  Dedicated to Serve
  • Chicago: We Serve and Protect
  • New York:  Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect
  • Ferguson: No motto displayed

 

 

Two days ago.  A relative called to tell me that an officer just moments ago had stopped and handcuffed him at a bus terminal in Harvey, IL.  He was smoking (not illegal).  The officer attempted to “push his buttons” verbally to escalate the situation but the young man, to his credit, was not moved.   Eventually he was released and advised “I don’t want to see you here for the rest of the week.” He was on his way to pick up a prescription.  While on the bus, he also discovered money was missing from his wallet. He’s not a criminal. Nor is he a gang-banger, drug dealer, or a thug.  Just a man running errands. He was illegally told not to come back to a public place (a bus stop).  Officer Friendly, indeed.

Make no mistake, I am not anti-police but rather pro-life.  All I can offer are events that I’ve witnessed for myself as well as what we have seen in the news and all around us.  There is a serious problem that runs deep within any individual that decides for his (or her) self, that Blacks are less than human and should be treated as such.  There’s a problem when officers have no true accountability for their actions. It spreads like a cancer and needs to be addressed by our mayors, Superintendents, and the Department of Justice.  We must continue to fight until we find a way to bridge the chasm between black human beings and the people who abuse the power of their uniform.  Until then, we must teach our children to be wary because while police will help them, there may come a time when that helping hand becomes a boot in the back.

A Matter of Respect: I am… Woman –Changing the Language in the Community

Respect

Aretha Franklin said it best– “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.  Find out what it means to me…”  For the African American woman, the opposite often rings true.  We are constantly called every name in the book and dehumanized at every opportunity.  Sadly, we’ve been brain-washed along the way to accept the abuse and consider it to be a societal norm (a compliment) when in reality, we are slowly being stripped of our womanhood in the eyes of our men. Lingo such as “female”(used out of context) and “bitch” should be abolished from the vocabulary of the African American community.

In order for us to understand the significance of the term “female”, let’s define it:
     1.   of, relating to, or being the sex that bears young or produces eggs 
     2.   composed of members of the female sex <the female population> (2) characteristic of girls or women <composed for female voices> <a female name> (Webster dictionary)

And for chuckles let’s throw in “bitch”:
      1    the female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals
      2 a.a lewd or immoral woman
         b a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman —sometimes used as a generalized term of abuse

Just as the bible says “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to realize that what we hear affects us.  Now is the time for someone to proclaim “we shouldn’t be worrying about what other people say about or think of us.” I will take this time to say that I concur!  The deeper problem, however, is that we used to (rightly so) be offended by being referenced as a “bitch”.  The reason is because it is, first and foremost, the definition of a female dog.  Now, we embrace the term as if it is the epitome of womanhood—a clarion call of “fierceness”.  Now, we hear terms and phrases such as “that’s right, I’m a bitch-recognize it!”, “I’m (or you are) a bad bitch”, and a myriad of others combinations that tells us it’s okay to be such because it’s acceptable slang.  I’m guessing the same to be true for the “N-word”.

Over the years, Black women have been depicted with callous degradation in music videos, movies, and the media.   The late 80s and early 90s brought rump shaking and half naked images “dancing” in rap videos—bringing us the “video vixen”.  As a result, we’ve come to accept and own the fact that our men see us as a means to an end and nothing more.  The term “bitch” has been so ingrained into our psyches that we feel proud to identify as one. The late Dr. Frances Cress Welsing quoted “We’re the only people on this entire planet who have been taught to sing and praise our demeanment. ‘I’m a bitch. I’m a hoe. I’m a gangster. I’m a thug. I’m a dog.’ If you can train people to demean and degrade themselves, you can oppress them forever. You can even program them to kill themselves and they won’t even understand what happened.”  It’s a safe bet to say that the seed has been successfully planted.

Some of our African American men (and women) have slowly stripped away our identity as women.  Perhaps, in their effort to wax intelligence and coolness, they began referring to the Black woman as “female”.  What this has done is remove yet another layer of our womanhood and further created an atmosphere for them to continue to disrespect us.  So, we’ve divagated from being a woman –or “lady” (or even “babe”)—to bitch “female dog” (an animal), to now simply “female”.  Female being the definition of anything that can give birth – a dog/cat, elephant, or a cockroach. There is no identity to referring to black women as females.  It’s one thing to use it as a true descriptor –i.e. “the candidate is female”, “a female officer”—and quite another to use it as a substitute to describe a female person when the sex is already known—i.e. woman or lady.

How can our community rise and bridge a cohesive unified existence when it continues to strip away our identity?  Sure, there’s a “King and Queen” movement going on in the Hotep community.  Its purpose is to remind us that we are descendants of kings and queens.  But the truth of the matter is, that is not enough.  Not all people of African descent were royalty so that is an unrealistic terminology.  Not only that, but there is still no respect because our “kings” are still referring to us as “females”.  We are not being treated with the respect that one would expect as a queen.  We seem to relish in titles and labels that serve no purpose other than to cause more division in the community. It overshadows our basic identities as human beings.  That is, for women of color it does. We must change the language and steer towards a more respectful conversation.

The relationship between Black men and women must be repaired so we can effectively raise strong and healthy children.  I feel that our language regarding one another must change so we can reverse the ever-widening chasm between us.  As black women, we must stop accepting mediocre treatment and reject language that denigrates us.  We are not “females”.  We are women.