Category Archives: Race

Where Does the End Come

I just posted when I saw this on my feed:

DURHAM, North Carolina (WTVD) —
Protesters in Durham rushed and toppled a Confederate statue outside the courthouse on Monday evening.

The monument of a Confederate soldier holding a rifle was erected in 1924 and inscribed on it are the words “in memory of the boys who wore the gray.”

Nobody wants this to end.

Reason Absent

 

Charlottesville is a hot shitty mess.   And it’s been a long time in coming.

My thoughts, bullet list style:

  • America is not a racist nation
  • White nationalists are racist assholes
  • Black nationalists are racist assholes
  • The first amendment matters
  • The sixth commandment matters
  • Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist
  • If you are a racist, you likely voted for Trump
  • The Civil War was fought over slavery
  • Many MANY Confederate soldiers and officers were noble honorable warriors
  • Removing Confederate statues does not carry moral worth

 

My heart breaks as Charlottesville unfolds.  So much pain, so much tragedy, so much misplaced … misplaced ‘righteousness’.

Such bullshit.

What is it about human nature that we always see the ‘other’ in the other?  Why is it that we can’t see the common?  See that each of us, almost all of us, wants the same thing?  We wanna love, deeply, and then fall ever deeper in love.  We want a home safe from danger, to live with the front door unlocked, and wake up to sunshine and birds in the yard.

I have never known a neighbor that didn’t want their kids to play in the street, to go to a good school, then a good college and then a good job.  Marriage and kids of their own are next.  We all want that picket fence.  Why do we need to hate?  And hurt?  And be so afraid?

When did we all become so afraid?

Why are we so afraid of the way each lives his life?  Why do we care if he reads Asimov?  Or he reads Othello?  Or she plays chess or he Pokemon?  How can it determine the content if he enjoys listening to this style of music or she enjoys studying this war; this artist or this general?  How can that matter so SO much?

As I watch the news and listen to the radio and read the papers I am inundated.  Inundated with the horror, the rage, the vile nature of the worst example of us.

This is not us – this is not who we are.

Reject it.  Simply reject the premise and make your own way; shit, continue on the glorious noble way that you’ve already forged.  Do it with honor, do it boldly, do it with the same compassion and love that drove you to that place to begin with.

Because the alternative is simply impossible.  It is impossible to live in the world envisioned by those who perpetuate the divide.

For just one fuckin’ second, consider how we are the same and stop focusing on how we’re different.

Racists and Affirmative Action

What’s Wrong About the “What’s Wrong With America” Narrative

A black cop shot a white woman.

And there is something wrong with America.  Or so says this article from CNN.  My thoughts.

There’s a predictable pattern to the aftermath of too many deadly police shootings: Neighbors and anti-police brutality groups take to the streets. Groups supporting the officers stand up for them. Social media lights up over whether the victim “did something” to provoke the officer.

This hardly ever happens.  Cops kill hundreds of civilians every year and we see protests rarely.

But none of that holds true in the case of Justine Ruszczyk, a white Australian bride-to-be who was killed by Mohamed Noor, a Somali-American black police officer in Minneapolis.

All of that held true.  Protests happened and the chief was fired.

Because the race and nationality of the victim and police officer aren’t what has typically garnered headlines, people who normally speak up aren’t saying much.

The race of the victim is the race most often killed by cops.  As for who aren’t saying much – it’s because even though white people are most often shot by cops, white people don’t think cops are targeting white people.

New York Daily News writer Shaun King wrote a column in which he said “Police brutality jumped a racial fence.”

See above – most victims of shot by police are white.

Love theorizes a different group of people may take the lead in rallying for the victim in this case: “people who may not have emphathized with the victims (in police shootings in the past) because the victims have been mostly black.”

The lack of fact based reporting is staggering.  Most of the victims are not black – they are white.

Too often in cases involving unarmed black men, Chatelain says, information on the victim’s criminal history or prior arrests makes its way into stories — even when they are irrelevant to the case.

Criminal history ABSOLUTELY is relevant to interactions with the police.

So what does this say about America in 2017, where the race, gender or national identity of a victim or police officer can affect the public’s reaction to a shooting?

Uumm, the only, and I mean ONLY, time we have cared about the race of the victim is when that victim is black.

“We haven’t reckoned with our history,” Goff told CNN, “so it shouldn’t surprise us to see a different reaction.”

When the victim is black, we have seen mass protests and destruction.  When the victim is white we see muted reactions, if any at all.  What is Goff talking about?

 

 

Police Shooting – Minneapolis

By now I am sure that you have heard of the woman shot by police in Minneapolis.  The tragedy is drawing national attention because, let’s face it, the race of the officer and the victim is reversed from the more common narrative AND the fact that the victim is a woman only adds to the optics.

You would have to be in a coma not to be aware of the conversation regarding the shooting of black men by police forces across America.  The narrative is that cops are killing black men indiscriminately and “getting away” with it.  Most recently is the case regarding Philando Castile, in the Minneapolis-metro area, and the cop that shot him.

In the case involving this young woman, I’ll take the stance that I’ve taken with other such cases.  Wait until the investigation is concluded.  And, as in other cases, I have questions.  Such as:

  • Why would Ms. Ruszczyk walk over 100 yards to speak to officers, with their lights off and dark, if she suspected a violent crime was being committed?
  • Why would Ms. Ruszcyzk, after having called 911 twice, not change into clothes?  She was wearing her pajamas.
  • Why would the cop in the passenger seat have his weapon drawn INSIDE the car?
  • Why would she have taken her fiance’s name before they were married?
  • Why would a 22 year old man refer to his father’s soon to be wife as ‘my mom’?
  • Why would you, given that the cops are investigating a violent crime, allow yourself to approach a police vehicle by surprise?
  • Why, after ALL of this time, were the body cams not turned on?

The whole thing doesn’t make sense to me.  Which, I suppose, is not surprising when things go so wrong so fast.

In the end, as always, I hope that justice is done here.  The tragedy that is the death of this young woman is horrible enough.  To wrongfully convict, if indeed not guilty, or to allow to walk, if indeed guilty, would only compound that tragedy.

Jeronimo Yanez – Not Guilty

The verdict is in:

ST. PAUL — A Minnesota police officer, whose fatal shooting of a black motorist transfixed the nation when his girlfriend livestreamed the aftermath, was acquitted of all charges on Friday.

Tragic.

Insufficient words, to be sure, to describe the events that unfolded that day when Philandro Castile was shot and killed by Officer Yanez.  By all accounts, a fantastic example of a human being was lost that day.

I’ve watched this trial more closely than some of the others.  Part because it was another in a long chain of such tragedies, part because it was in Minnesota, part because I thought that the cop might have been wrong.

Additionally, I’ve been back and forth on my feelings  of guilt or not guilt.  It really seemed that Castile did all the right things.

In the end, before the verdict, I had come to the conclusion that I felt the verdict should have been as it is – Not Guilty.

Officer Yanez suspected Castile of being involved in a robbery, he knew he had a license to carry a gun.  And, by his account, felt that Castile didn’t follow directions.  In the moment, the officer felt his life was in danger and he had to protect himself.

I resonate.

I don’t know if Yanez acted illegally, or with undue force or out of bias.  I don’t.  But I do know that traffic stops are inherently dangerous to officers.  That suspects fire on cops often enough that cops are right to be worried.  It took the jury days to come to this decisions.  We’re asking cops to make that same decision in a split second.

Finally, the publicity of the case cannot be ignored.  This case received national attention due to the fact that Castile was black during a time when the Black Lives Matter movement was in the national discussion.  I don’t know how this verdict is going to be received by the community in St. Paul.  Or the nation.  However, I think that it is important to notice that many people of multiple races lost their lives in confrontations with police in 2014 and 2015.

None of those cases resulted in a conviction of the officer.

 

 

 

The Racial Makeup of Police Force

I’ve often wondered why it’s been accepted as fact that if the racial makeup of a police force doesn’t match the racial makeup of the citizenry, then something is wrong.

Now we have some data:

“What we find is evidence that [having] more black police officers probably doesn’t offer a direct solution to this problem,” Sean Nicholson-Crotty, a political scientist at Indiana University and one of the study’s authors, said. Indeed, the researchers concluded that as the ratio of black officers in police departments rose — up to a certain threshold — so did the number of fatal encounters between officers and black residents.

I have a theory.  As an organization looks at itself and finds a demographic under represented and then seeks to increase that representation, they will lower the barrier to entry.  Thus allowing less qualified individuals entrance into the group.

What Matters?

Question Mark

Some number of years ago my father passed away from a brain tumor – like the one Senator Kennedy had.  The type of tumor is called glioma.  During his treatment and for awhile after his passing I was involved in raising money for glioma specific research.  In fact, I even entered, trained and <strike>ran</strike> finished the Twin Cities Marathon under the banner bearing the brain tumor research colors.

During these years when I was most active in the cause I was often approached by other such organizations – by the dozen.  We all are.  Diabetes, breast cancer, HIV, cardiovascular and the list goes on and on.  All noble and valid causes in their own right.

AND.

And, when scrutinized closer, may have a greater claim to my resources than glioma research.  Maybe the death rate was higher than is for glioma.  Perhaps more people are claimed than are by glioma.  Perhaps research is making massive strides in this area but not in glioma and every cent could be the one that pushes the ball across the line.

But my passion was glioma.  And that didn’t mean I disregarded the importance and nobility and tragedy that came contained in all the other equally noble causes.

For me – glioma mattered.

I suspect that how I embraced my passion then is how some people have come to embrace Black Lives Matter today.  Right now, there is a segment of our population, my friends and my neighbors and my brothers who feel that the system is keeping them down.

They may be wrong!

But they may be right – and so now, their sense of feeling is valid.

It might be, after careful analysis, that our nation’s police are not seeing color – it might be that they are.  It might be that our education system doesn’t serve our communities of color – it might be that such communities don’t prioritize such education.  It might be that jobs are and are not given to people based on the tint of our skin.  It might be that government policy has served our population – or it might be that such policies are destructive to that population.

But for now – there are people who have this feeling and we are obligated to at least listen to their grievance.  And their solution.

I’ve thought a lot about those three words – Black Lives Matter.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that there are most likely two, possibly three, messages being given AND heard when read internally.  As below.

The first is the least likely interpretation :

black *lives* matter – this as opposed to liberty and say, property.  To me, this interpretation makes it sound as if the LIFE of someone who is black matters, but nothing else.  This reading of the phrase doesn’t ring true nor have I ever heard anyone speak as if this is the way they take it.

The second is how the right, for lack of a better word, takes it:

*black* lives matter – this as opposed to white lives or brown lives.  Or red or yellow.  This interpretation makes it sound as if ONLY black lives matter.  All other lives matter, well, less.

The third is how I think the sincere Black Lives Matter advocate means it to sound:

black lives *matter* – this as opposed to NOT mattering.  This reading makes the implicit case that right now, in our society, it feels like the lives of our black neighbors don’t matter.  That’s how I hear it.

Now – that’s a lot to unpack.  And if you’re with me so far, hold on.

This is NOT to say that the valid reading of the third example is grounds for the lawless behavior being demonstrated by the folks in the streets, and focused on in the media, that stoke and encourage violence and division.  Far from it.  Such behavior is not part of our culture and every effort should be made to eradicate it.  But my point is –

My point is this.  Just because someone has decided that they wanna “run the Twin Cities Marathon under the colors of BLM” doesn’t mean that they can’t simultaneously acknowledge other, perhaps more valid, ills that face our society.  For some reason, most likely highly personal, this individual has, in this moment, decided to pick up the flag and take his turn carrying it forward.

Maybe tomorrow, when the pain has passed, he’ll turn to his left and hand the banner to someone else to dedicate his resources somewhere else.  But not right now.  Because right now, RIGHT NOW, glioma lives matter.

But what I really wrote this post about is not so much what matters – not because it’s not important, it is – but because I wanna point out what is destructive:

Roughly 20 people showed up on Sunday, some with the red flag and assault rifles, others holding up a “White Lives Matter” banner, in a protest against the NAACP, according to local media reports.

White Lives Matter has formed as a directed response to the Black Lives Matter movement, a civil rights campaign stemming from 2012 that advocates against anti-black racism and is known for its involvement in protests against police killings of black men across the country. Some counter-protesters, using the phrase “White Lives Matter,” argue that the Black Lives Matter movement is anti-white …

Look, I have issues with many individuals inside BLM, but the idea, or my reading of it, of the movement is noble.  I am not so far gone that I can’t agree that agents of the state given permission to stop, search, frisk, arrest and use force can’t be corrupt at some point.  Such is the nature of The State.  I frown on the many examples of destruction carried out in the name of BLM in the same way that I frowned on the Occupy Wall Street jokers that carried on the way they did.

But bringing guns, the stars and bars and marching in front of the NAACP offices?  Pathetic.

Get up, grow up and go back home!

Racism – The Princess Bride Edition

Princess Bride

It’s famous : “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

For years I have found this to be true for society when discussing racism.  The term has lost its original meaning and morphed into a new and dangerous version.  All of this is better said by the Coyote:

I have come to the conclusion that the concept of original sin must be one of those that are quite appealing to humans.

For literally millennia, original sin has been a foundational part of much of Christianity.  We were all born with original sin, and so effectively started life with guilt.  It turns out that it is much easier to exercise power over the guilty than over people who consider themselves innocent.  The Catholic Church took advantage of this power by claiming that no individual could wipe away their original sin, their inherited guilt, without active engagement with the Church itself.  I will leave aside theological arguments** here, but conclude that the Church used the original sin doctrine in part to enhance its temporal power.

As Christianity fades somewhat as an active part of Western culture, the idea of Christian original sin seldom comes up much in any practical way.  But that does not mean the world has abandoned the concept of original sin – no indeed.  Racism is one of the classic examples of original sin – in it, someone born black, or Jewish, or whatever, is tainted with an original sin that they cannot wash away, and makes them somehow inferior to others.

Much of what social justice warriors say sounds racist to me, as they often offer negative generalizations of whole groups based on race, or gender, or sexual preference.  In my naive younger days I used to think that judging anyone based on their race rather than their individual actions and values was racism.    However, SJW’s have managed to change linguistics in their favor, conveniently redefining racism (or sexism) as only applying to those in historically more powerful groups  (e.g. white males).  By this definition, a black woman can never be a racist, no matter how much she negatively stereotypes other racial groups.

Well, OK then.  I am tired of fighting this definitional issue.  So I will just say that SJW’s frequently fall in the trap of believing in original sin.  Whites, males, heteros, successful people – they are all tainted in the SJW mind with original sin, so much that any utterance from any individual in these groups is deemed as having no value and therefore should be ignored or actively suppressed.  This is actually a radical version of original sin that goes way farther than the Catholic Church ever took it, though I would argue it is promulgated for roughly the same reason – to enhance one’s power.

 

** Speaking of original sin, in one of the great misconceptions that Christians have of their own religion, the immaculate conception was not Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus but rather her own birth without the taint of original sin.

White Privilege

White Priviledge

Before the whole San Bernadino incident, race and race relations were front and center in America.  We had incidents involving cops in Ferguson, Cleveland and Baltimore.  We had South Carolina.  We had Mizzou.  #BLM was a leading story in the news.  Since then the nation hasn’t continued the conversation with the same attention.

I was recently asked to read this article trying to describe the concept of white privilege to a white person.  It’s a good article – go read it.  I mean, this is the opening:

The phrase “white privilege” is one that rubs a lot of white people the wrong way. It can trigger something in them that shuts down conversation or at least makes them very defensive.

It’s tough to describe my feelings more accurately.

But, back to the article.

I know that it’s an analogy but I have to point to what I’m sure is a flaw – namely that the author can decide to stop riding a bike at any time.  This is, of course, a luxury not afforded to people of color.  That being said, the rest of the article mostly resonates with me.

Kinda.

I get that there are difficulties in every day life that my black friends and family have to deal with that I don’t.  I get that there are head winds.  And I even get that these head winds exist unbeknownst to my conscience self.  They just.

Are.

But my problem with the article, and with the conversation in the larger spectrum, is that we don’t wanna make the experience of the bike rider the same as the car driver – indeed, we want the bike riders to become car drivers.

My comments to a friend sometime ago sums it up: slightly edited.

I have little to no problem with the acknowledgment that I have it ‘easier’ because I have won almost all categories:

White, male, Christian, Protestant, educated, middle class

I get that you can drop me in nearly any city in America and I’ll be fine.

My problem isn’t the acknowledgement of the existence of the construct – it’s the weaponization.

I get the privilege – I resent being told, in a discussion, that I need to ‘check mine’.

I kinda resonate with the author when he says, ‘we are not people’ because it validates that ‘checking my white male privilege’ is bullshit. Just because I live in the construct doesn’t mean I live my life according to it.

And finally, there are things I still have to do. I actually had to go to school, to study and graduate. And then go to more school. I had to go to church and be part of a faith community.   I got a job when I was 10 – and have been earning a paycheck since then – 37 years!  I had to get a residence and keep it – clean, and kept and safe.

And now – I am engaged in my community. I belong to lodges, and teams, and neighborhood groups. I organize people and let myself be organized for reasons that do good.

I absolutely, every single time, calmly pull over, put both my hands on the steering wheel and calmly and slowly tell the officer that my wallet is in my hip pocket and that I’m going to reach for it now. And I teach my kids the same thing.

There is a construct, a ‘privilege’ but the dirty secret is that we don’t wanna keep people out – we want more people to live according to it.

Finally, the ending of the construct, the tearing down of white privilege has begun – begun but not yet completed.  That is obvious.  What might be lost, or forgotten due to the righteous injustice of it all, is that the end will resemble more a sunrise than a light switch.