The 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.
Marco Proano, the Chicago Police officer who fired 16 shots into a car full of unarmed teens, was found guilty of two federal civil rights violations -using unreasonable force and causing bodily injury. Though it is a small step of victory for supporters of criminal justice reform, it was not a clean victory nor was it without it’s shadows of impropriety.
A vehicle carrying 6 teens was pulled over at 95th and LaSalle by 2 other officers. Dash cam footage shows Proano arriving minutes later to the scene. Proano, upon exiting his vehicle, quickly withdrew his weapon (pointing it sideways into the teen’s stolen vehicle) and firing as the driver reverses away from him. The December 2013 shooting left two teens shot and another otherwise injured but no one was killed.
In the aftermath of the shooting, supporters of Proano claimed that it was a ‘split-second’ decision and that his actions were justified although I can’t imagine anyone watching the video believing that he felt there was an immediate danger. This incident didn’t fall through the cracks because the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) launched an investigation into the shooting. Initially, they barely investigated because, ironically, IPRA is just another cog in the rusty wheel of the criminal justice system.
IPRA was created in 2007 when complaints about how investigations against police officers were being conducted became unavoidable. Comprised of independent investigators, it replaced the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) which, was basically a group of police “investigating” police. IPRA was tasked to deliver unbiased and unfiltered investigations of complaints lodged against officers. It was not a secret, however, that OPS investigators simply moved over to IPRA. So much for transparency and accountability.
Ex-FBI Special Agent Larissa Camancho testified in court that in 2015 IPRA was contemplating clearing Proano in the shooting. After speaking with the investigator on the case, she went to the head of IPRA and told him she believed that the officer should be investigated. Not surprising because it’s been found that because IPRA has a less than 2% sustainability of complaints against officers, it was not as independent as the public was led to believe and moving forward, in September 2017, they will be replaced by a more rigorously independent agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).
When black people say the criminal justice system is broken and skewed heavily away from the rights of blacks, it is not an understatement. We’ve seen proof of this when IPRA tried to clear officer Jason Van Dyke who, about a year after Proano’s crime, heinously shot and killed 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald. It wasn’t until that video was released that Van Dyke was charged with murder.
Marco Proano faces up to 20 years in prison for his crime. I will wait to see, with bated breath, how many years he’ll receive. In the meantime we will celebrate because today there is one less volatile officer on the street slaughtering black people with impunity. This conviction sends at the very least a whisper that the status quo is no longer going to fly.
Not many will agree, but this is bigger than Colin Kaepernick. We cannot be fearful of exercising our rights for fear of backlash.
“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.
I 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.
It saddens me that another yet another high-profile racial storm is brewing in the United States. This one’s in Ferguson, MO. over the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson. While I would love to say that racism doesn’t exist, I can’t because I’ve experienced it blatantly and have seen others deal with it first-hand. While traveling, I’ve experienced someone leave a restaurant, just white patrons present, after we sat down (he literally left his meal on the table). I’ve had someone “pinch” money from my hand and then place the change on the counter. The list is unfortunately long enough. This poem describes some of those experiences as well as the frustration of being Black in America.
Black, Hispanic, Caucasian, and Asian
We are all members of the Human Race
America has so many colors and hues
And yet equality for all remains an issue
“They” will not admit that Blacks still have it bad
Because nothing has changed since we were brought to this land
We were chained, shackled, and treated like animals
Stripped of our dignity, we fought for our survival
Now we are “free” men and most still cannot accept it
After 130 plus years “they” think we just got off the ship
We have come too far now and enough is enough
We are flesh and blood, we breathe and we love
This country was built on our blood and tears
Gone are the days of shackles and fear
We had to fight for our rights in the midst of despair
Now we stand strong to declare: We are not going anywhere
Still we are hated for the color of our skin
So united we must stand and fight to the end
Our forefathers were brought here against their will
To be treated like animals and used for their skills
When they tried to run they were brought back and whipped
They were traded and sold like cattle to the highest bidder
Our men were beaten like dogs and DEmasculinized
And our women were lusted after and raped until they died
Yet to this very day “they” cannot see
We are all “family” – born of the same seed
They hate us because they envy the power of our minds
So they keep us in poverty pinching pennies and dimes
Schools are so bad they wouldn’t send their dogs to them
They pumped drugs into our communities to create a culture of hoodlums
But guess what? Some of us still slipped through the cracks
To fight against oppression and take our land back
So there is something we need to make very clear
We are here to stay—we are not going anywhere
Our skin is Black and our pride is fierce
And our spirit is stronger than their hate can pierce
They think we are monkeys falling out of trees?
We are the original race and they are our seed
As long as they hate us we will continue to fight
And as long as they fear us we will remain united
We remember our people came over here on ships
They rotted in those vessels –dying in feces and vomit
Our people built their homes and sweated on fields of sugar cane
We picked their cotton and nursed their babies
We fought in their wars to gain the constitution
And died for a country they stole from Native Indians
Now after 300 years they expect us to go back
We will not leave and they can accept that as fact
It they think we will revert back to living in chains
They had better get sober and think again
In grand ole’ America we have too much invested
Hate us if they must but they still owe us a check
We will not settle for ten acres and a mule
And their hatred just gives our determination more fuel
Because the debt America owes us they can never repay
So they treat us like dirt and try to wish us away
Now the problem is theirs and they must get over it
If they did not want Blacks here they should not have put us on the ship
We want our fair and equal chance to retain wealth
And we will not be ignored or stored on a shelf
Their fear and resentment will never kill our tenacity
Because just like them we have the right to remain free
So they can leave the restaurant if the cannot eat around us
And clutch their bags when our Brothers get on the bus
And sit our change on the counter because they cannot touch our hands
And stare at us as though we do not belong in this land
Just let them know this message is very loud
We are Black, Beautiful, Mighty, and Proud
We cannot—and will not go back to “yesteryear”
So get used to it because we are not going anywhere
©June 2003 Kim R Woods
All rights reserved