Tag Archive | Race Issues

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.

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Why Can’t We Get Along?

I love France

A lot’s been going on in the media during my hiatus but I’m going to weigh in on what’s going on in France.  Not the tragedy itself but rather the Black community’s callous response to it.  Since France was attacked by ISIS on Friday 11/13, the memes started popping up everywhere attacking Blacks who posted their condolences.  According to the angry masses, if you did so, you are a “coon” or –my favorite—a “Negropean”.  Also by doing that, we’re not being the “Kings and Queens” of our native Africa. There’s also a great deal of anger about the lack of meaningful coverage regarding the barbaric massacre in Kenya. Labels here, labels there, labels labels everywhere!

As a black person with a heart for the issues going on in our community, it should go without saying that I’m angry that the media continues to downplay the plight of blacks everywhere in the world.  But it’s beyond aggravating to me that African Americans have to prove their “Blackness” to other African Americans because they say “Pray for France”.  My question is, where is the compassion?

The beauty of my blackness means that I don’t have to put partitions around my heart.  My feelings of anguish and sorrow for another person isn’t “colored” by the color of their skin.  My heart ached for Kenya and it equally aches for France.  It equally ached for the United States on 9/11 (more so because this is home).  Did we check our “blackness” at the door on 9/11?  Did we say “Slaves entered the United States via Ellis Island, so screw New York”?  People died a horrifying death on all of these occasions. That is where my heart and thoughts are right now.

Being “enlightened” and knowing the truth of our Black History (in contrast to what we learned in school) does not mean that I am pro Black to the exclusion of all other human beings. What that means is I will speak out about issues that impact African Americans – racism/racists, educational inequality, and violence –particularly against children, etc. It also means that I will speak out and support or empathize with any form of suffering—regardless of color—period.

Racism exists everywhere in this world. France has racist people as well as Germany, England, Kenya, and a host of many more.  Find me a country that doesn’t hate blacks or any race that is not like them and I’ll move there immediately because that would be Utopia and Heaven on Earth.  The best that we can do as Blacks is continue to fight against it in our communities by putting pressure on the system that runs it–while maintaining our compassion and respect for life.  Unfortunately, its incidents like the attacks on France and Kenya that highlights the degree of separation in the Black diaspora.

Let’s put France and Kenya aside for a minute to highlight an example of that separation. What chills me right now is the thought that the people who put 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee on his knees in a Chicago alley and pumped 7 bullets into his body are still running lose (police are questioning “a person of interest”).  Someone knows who did it but they won’t “rat” them out because that is the code of twisted honor. Then, the same people complaining about Kenya’s lack of media coverage aren’t marching through the streets of Chicago, locking down traffic and demanding justice for Tyshawn. Where is the passionate anger for the gang violence that afforded us the nickname (and subsequent movie) Chiraq? Are we “coons” and “Negropeans” for committing the actual crimes or for doing nothing about it? What also disturbs me is the next time someone is gunned down by a police officer, chaos will erupt once again, someone’s name will become a hashtag, and there will still be no solution to the problems currently plaguing our community—right here in Chicago, IL, USA. The separation of our brothers and sisters is rife on a basic level.

Sadly, as these memes are going up, some people don’t realize that they are part of the problem (unbelievably, some people have said “thank you, ISIS” for attacking Paris as though the US isn’t on their radar).  They don’t truly support the black community but rather they cause separation within it.  The irony is amazing.  In the past we tried to counteract the labels put upon us during slavery by creating new (better) ones but we still use the “old” ones.

So we go from being niggers and coons to “nigga”—which is supposed to be positive (it is not).  We also went from being slaves to “Kings and Queens” – to remind us of our ancestry. But here’s the twist—blacks call us “coons” and “Negropeans” if we do/say something deemed non Black.  It’s mind boggling indeed.  But… if a white or other calls us those same labels there’s hell to pay! Did it ever occur to us that we do not need labels to define who we are?  Until we let go of the labeling, we will never truly know who we are and we will always be divided within the Black community based upon yet another label system. That, in my limited opinion, is the very nature of oppression because we spend so much time trying to convince each other how Black we really are that our community is suffering because of it.

What do we gain by spewing hatred toward France and enjoying its tragedy?  How is its history any different from the United States in terms of its treatment of slaves/blacks?  Ok, the media didn’t give Kenya enough coverage but does that mean we have to hate another suffering group of people?  I say not!

Personally, I love France.  I’ve always loved its ancient architecture, the culture, and the natural beauty of that country.  It’s on my bucket list of places I will visit in my lifetime—as too is Africa. So no, I don’t need to prove my blackness by not showing love for and compassion to France.  I’m not defined by anyone’s perception of who I am and therefore have nothing to prove. I don’t need to call myself a queen to feel like I’m a descendant of mother Africa.  We don’t need to be labeled Kings and Queens to feel a connection to our roots. We just have to know who we are.  My black is… beautiful, compassionate, loving, and… me.

Generational Slavery and Systemic Racism

Race Card

What most people don’t realize is that SLAVERY ended at the very least, 3 to 4 generations ago. My own grandfather was born just 7 YEARS AFTER slavery ended! He was 61 years old when my father was born.  That means my grandfather was immediately and deeply affected by systemic racism, the KKK, and Jim Crow laws because he was still treated as a slave while he and his parents (former slaves) “sharecropped” on some of the very plantations that enslaved them.  My grandfather experienced that…  Then, my parents had to drink out of “Blacks Only” fountains and had to use back doors, not be served at the restaurant counters, had to sit in the back of buses, etc. before the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964(the year I was born). This country can never move forward until it acknowledges that the generational effects of slavery still exists today.

It’s important to note that when Blacks—in present day America—continue to speak against atrocities we still suffer, it is because it has only – ONLY been 51 years since the CIVIL RIGHTS Act was signed. That’s barely a generation ago! We are still fighting to be treated like human beings and with dignity and respect. It took 100 years after slavery ended before our 15th Amendment Rights were upheld with the Voting Act of 1965.  Here we are 50 years later still fighting for the right to be treated as human beings during encounters with law enforcement.  We’re still fighting for promotions we worked hard for.  We are still trying to dump the “slave mentality” mindset among our people.  Systemic Racism is a generational stain on our civilized society.

Therefore, we ask that you please stop telling us we’re using the “Race Card” when we continue to point out the ways in which we are still being disenfranchised.  Don’t “remind” us that because we now have a Black President, it means we’ve “arrived” as a race and are being treated equally. There were MANY “successful Blacks” back in the days after slavery but at the end of the day, they were still less than human to racist whites and had no rights.  And… President Obama is still the most hated and disrespected President ever to be in office and the only one that is referenced in a derogatory way due to his skin color.

Please do not compare our struggle to the people who are crossing the Mexican border and fighting for US citizenship or, the LGBT community who are fighting for “equal rights.”  Mexicans came here by choice – they are not experiencing generational pain and suffering. They did not have children snatched from their arms and sold at auction.  Regardless of how life is for them in Mexico, they can still go back.  Their homeland is simply across a border.  The LGBT community are not forced to be who they are. Their fight to marry cannot be compared to a people who were transported over the ocean in rancid ships, put on display at auction, and brutalized for 400 years.  They are not a transplanted people still vilified because of something they cannot hide – their color.  If they did not say they were LGBT, chances are, no one would notice.  Color cannot be hidden. I am not downplaying their struggle but it is not the same as ours and the continued comparisons actually downplays what Blacks have suffered (and still suffer) in this country. The only group of people–in this country–who can truly have a voice by comparison are the Native Indian due to their annihilation in their own land. They were invaded and victimized and sent to reservations as this country went to Africa and brought us here. That is the harsh truth and hopefully one that we can overcome.

We ask that you stop “tone policing” us when we attempt to tell stories of our daily struggle as a Black person.  Tone Policing is when a non-Black (usually White) person tries to tell a story that has the appearance of a ‘struggle’ in an attempt to downplay our experience.  For example, if I tell you that I was the only Black in a classroom and was bullied by other kids, don’t tell me that you were bullied as well.  It is not the same thing.  Also, don’t tell us to not be angry in the face of blatant injustice. That is tone policing.

Understand that it is not a reflection on you as a person (unless, of course, you are racist).  It’s our life and something we cannot apologize for if it makes you uncomfortable.  Maybe we would like you to simply listen and realize that the pain is real and the anger is justified. Maybe we’d like to know that you have the character to stand up to anyone in your circle who is racist and doesn’t understand that we are people too. Maybe we’d like you to bring up the latest atrocity in the news and ask us how we feel about it. Or.. tell us how you feel about it. But whether you do this or not, we will continue to speak out and be our own advocates to the best of our abilities.

This must sink in…It took 100 YEARS before we got Civil Rights and were able to vote without taking a “test” or being killed and again, that was ONLY 51 years ago. Please don’t tell us to “get over it” because it’s not over yet… Systemic Racism, and its affects, are still very much alive in the United States. Blacks are still experiencing the GENERATIONAL RIPPLES within our communities.

Copyright 2015 Kim R Woods
all rights reserved

On The Issue of Race…

racismhands

This will probably not be the last time I post this particular blog because I believe it’s that important. I know that eventually there will be misconceptions about many of the stories, new clips, etc. that I post so I wanted to provide clarity for my readers:

  1. The goal is to not sweep the victims under a rug as just another news story. People are dying for no reason. They mattered because it could you or me tomorrow.
  2. The goal is to make us think about our individual roles in how we can make a difference to stop the violence as it pertains to our own close-knit circles and, what we can do to help change the tide. Let’s stop ignoring the signs we DO see.
  3. The goal is to put a spot light on law enforcement’s unnecessary violence and killing of our Black men– in terms of racial profiling.
  4. The goal is to stop denying that racism exists and acknowledge the “elephant in the room” that unfortunately, our white friends sometimes won’t admit.

That being said, this blog will NOT be a tool to tear down Blacks and paint Whites as racist.  Racism exists in this country and will probably be around beyond my lifetime.  I am a Black woman who cares about the plight of my people and who is tired of seeing anyone being brutalized and murdered.  I am a Black woman who has loving relationships with white friends.  I am a Black woman who spent 10 years of my life with—and married to—a White man.  I am a Black woman who has a Black son who has been the victim of police brutality and harassment, has been shot at, and actually shot by a child who didn’t know why he did it!  I am a woman who is Black. I am a woman who has experienced violence first hand and this blog is to say enough is enough. My logo is black, white, and red for a reason. Why?  It’s because we look different on the outside but the same red color courses through our veins.

The Civil rights act didn’t become successful until ALL people—regardless of color—stood up and said enough is enough.  This blog asks the question: is that you?