These memes offer a glimpse into the psyche of those who invest in them. It's easy to share a catchy meme, but much harder to come to grips with the evil in our world. The free will we exercise to worship (or not worship) is the same free will that allows someone to open fire on children. It's not easy accepting the terrors of life. There's a season for everything and this too shall pass, but until then I will do my best to fight what I perceive to be the dumbing down of God's people by overly simplistic social media memes.
23 years after Rodney King was beaten(on camera)we watched Eric Garner get murdered by a N.Y.P.D officer using a prohibited choke hold. We were told by a grand jury(ipso facto)that the coroner was wrong in ruling his death a homicide, and that there was nothing to see here. It's a struggle to calmly articulate what I feel is the state sanctioned killing of black people over the last few years. I'm saddened that 6 kids will be raised without their father. Law enforcement officers were able to capture the shooter in Aurora, Colorado alive after he killed 12 people, but the guy selling smokes had to die. We live in a country where black athletes and entertainers are revered for their talents, but lesser known blacks need to know their role.
I'm what's commonly referred to as a 'race hustler' I hold the scandalous world view that we still have a serious race problem. I look at public schools in black communities, the empirical data on unemployment and underemployment, and the disparity in the criminal justice system as evidence for my claim. I'm a race hustler because I point out the reality many in our country don't know or would rather ignore. If you're tired of reading this type of critique: block me from all forms of social media and never read my blog.
I intend to use my corner of cyberspace to stand up for the dignity of people (even black people). Being black is not a degenerative condition. If you treat anyone like an animal long enough they'll act like an animal. I don't apologize or make excuses for people when they're wrong, but I don't vilify a group of people based on the actions of a few. I reject the notion that blackness is inferior.
I could be naive, and I'm willing to admit my intellectual limitations, but saying all cops aren't racist is akin to saying all black people aren't criminals. No serious person disputes this sort of claim. As a nation we suffer from a severe lack of critical thinking. In my opinion, the biggest outward sign of this lack is our collective inability to look at situations and recognize the gray areas contained in them.
We continually fall into the trap of declaring 100% allegiance for or against a proposition without looking for any overlap. America is either the greatest nation on earth or the worst; instead of a more realistic view that America has done a lot of good things, yet she has her share of dirty secrets as well. We're forced to make choices in which all of our proverbial eggs are in one basket. I reject the notion that I have to be left-wing or right-wing, up or down, in or out. Situations like Ferguson, Missouri have the tendency to bring out the worst in our country when it comes to in-group out-group distinctions.
Race is such a sensitive issue that important questions related to the topic are trivialized. For example: why is the unemployment rate for black veterans almost twice that of white veterans? That's a legitimate question, but if I ask it I'm a"race hustler". We(as a nation)are almost to childish to have adult conversations.
Over last few years I have donated money and supported several groups that peaceful protest and fight against laws I feel are unfair I.E. stop-and-frisk, but my support isn't an indictment against all of the individuals in law enforcement, but a critique of the system itself. I'll always stand with black people fighting for equality and dignity, but I'll never (voluntarily) live in the hood again. I know that gang violence is a problem, but I reject the notion that every black kid is in a gang or a threat. It's funny, the majority of pedophiles in this country are white, yet when I see a white person I don't automatically assume they molest children, nor do I fear that they will shoot up a school or movie theater.
It seems odd that when someone of color stands up for our people controversy ensues. I have stood in solidarity with gays and lesbians in their fight for equal treatment under the law without my motives or patriotism being questioned. It's like I have to choose between being a black man or being an American. That's a choice I won't make for anyone.
I've been blessed to study with many people who hold a variety of religious and non religious beliefs. I have a friend, Wilfredo, who converted to Islam; another friend, Andrew, who is devout to his Jewish heritage and religion. I've studied with Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, and a number of people who have lesser known religious beliefs. What became clear to me was the way faith and reason functioned inside these systems of belief.
The three dominant western religions all have scriptures that can be used for the justification of slavery. When you add religious approval to in-group out-group bias, you have a moral slip n slide in which the use of humans as tools for production is acceptable.
This explains the subjugation of people, but does nothing to deal with the question of someone being a "born slave". I'm comfortable knowing there's no serious conversation about moving our culture back to a place where people, who have a predisposition for servitude, could be easily exploited by individuals or market factors. We should strive for a society in which we actively prevent the exploitation of people, even those who may even want it.
The free press and the right of the people to dissent without fear of criminal prosecution is a constitutive part of our continuing attempt to perfect our union. I look forward to reading the comments section on blogs and the editorials in my local newspaper. The passion that some of our fellow citizens write with is palpable. We share space with some interesting people.
Over the last few years I've noticed a recurring theme among several of the comments and editorials of different publications: the quest to, "take back our country". This America that my fellow citizens long for seems like a fascinating place. When I close my eyes I picture Mayberry. The only problem with that is Aunt Bee and Opie were fictional characters. From 1960-68 (the years the Andy Griffith Show ran). Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated (in that order), the Vietnam war had started under false pretenses (we admitted the Gulf of Tonkin incident didn't happen) and the National Guard had to be sent to the south numerous times to enforce the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Topeka, Kansas decision (ending segregation in public schools). In 1961 there were over 60 churches burnt to the ground by American terrorists.
I'm leary of a trip much further back than that. We live in a country that has overcome great obstacles, but we were never a perfect union. If we push that fairytale out of our mind, and look at how far we've come I think we can appreciate the journey even more.
Mayberry seems like a great place to live, but the reality is: just as The Andy Griffith Show was taping their first episodes students were risking their lives in organized sit-ins less than 100 miles away. Often times the further we get from something the better it looks, but historical context and empirical data have a way of removing the thick clouds we can find ourselves viewing the past through. I long for the day that the promises of citizenship apply to everyone, until then I'll think long thoughts and write letters.
This movement has been organized and promoted with virtually no help from the traditional media. As the month progresses and the protests can't be ignored any further the organizers and participants will undoubtedly be demonized. Don't fall for this; the people making the arguments are secondary to the arguments they're making. Stop-and-Frisk is a direct violation of the 4th amendment.
I'm "amazed" that our 2nd amendment "patriots" haven't been more vocal against stop-and-frisk. The sad truth is that many of them are more concerned with the majorities 2nd amendment rights than the 4th amendment rights of minorities. It's tragicomic how a society (any society) just assumes the humanity and dignity of some of its citizens, while others have to constantly prove their right to be treated as a person. Johnny Carson once asked Malcolm X what does the black man want. Malcolm's response was perfect. "Johnny, I'm the same man you think you are. I want to fall in love. I want my family to be safe. I'm the same man you think you are. What do you want?"
The messengers and fighters for equality have been historically vilified. Dr. King was called an outside instigator by several prominent clergy members in the south. Don't allow some talking head to distract you from the arguments being made. The inadequacies in our judicial system aren't imagined. Yes, we've made great progress on the racial front, but we still have work to do. I pray for the day that we make overtly racist policies not only illegal, but so stigmatized no one would want to be associated with them. As citizens we have the power to put enough pressure on the power structure that we can make a fundamental change to the elements of our justice system that aren't working.
It's been my experience that faith rooted in cautious optimism and a smidgen of doubt is less likely to devolve into dogmatism. Having beliefs, whether they be religious or secular (grounded in faith or empirical data) is something all of us have in common. All of us believe something: especially those trapped in nihilism who profess they don't believe anything. The amount of certainty we place in our worldview coupled with an inability to accept or even process new information factor heavily in our dogmas slide into a combative one sized fits all belief system.
One sufficient, but not necessary, symptom of being overly dogmatic is the inability to consider ideas that don't originate from people who share your worldview. We're all fallible; all of us posess the human propensity for error. Our quest[s] for ultimate truth will all fall short and end in the grave, but the closing of our minds to information or empirical data is a flashing sign that points to a childish mentality grounded in low intellect and/or weak faith.
We are splintered as a nation along every possible dividing line. Even agreement has suffered because of our "pure" ideologies. We can agree with each other on 90% of an issue and allow the 10% to get in the way of progress. Just remember: because you hear two sides of an issue doesn't mean you've heard every side of an issue. The certainty we cling to is often an illusion.
|The body of unarmed teenager Mike Brown|
four hours after he was shot 10 times
by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer.
I'm not going to write about the murder of #MikeBrown in #Ferguson Missouri. The truth is: my Facebook "friends" and the people in my community don't care about arbitrary rule of law, police brutality or mass incarceration. A large portion of them will immediately ask: what was he doing? As if shooting an unarmed teenager 10 times could be explained. I live a peaceful life tucked away in a rural suburb away from the "others". An unarmed kid getting shot 10 times by the police is of no consequence to my peer group.
I hope all of my Christian friends are comfortable today as they give thanks to Jesus for shedding his blood on Calvary. I'm naive enough to believe that blood was the same blood that inspired the 25th chapter of Matthew: 35-46. It's funny: Jesus starts with the least of these, yet we often avoid the very ones he called us to serve. We're passionate about the conflicts in the Middle east, yet ignore the genocide in our streets. This is the point in my rant where people stop reading and classify me as an angry black man. Well for the first time in my life I'm going to embrace that title. I'm mad as hell. I'm tired of watching the news and seeing kids killed by those who swore to protect and serve. This is where someone mentions violence in the inner cities. Well guess what: I hate that too. It's possible to do more than one thing at a time.
This October there will be hundreds of functions around the country in solidarity with the stop mass incarceration and end police brutality movements. I have donated time and money for this cause, and will wear orange on the 30th as a show of my solidarity with this movement. I'm glad I don't have any children. How could I teach a child to respect and bow down to an authority figure who doesn't even respect their humanity? I know all cops aren't bad; likewise, I know all black kids aren't angels, but I also know that if black cops were killing white teenagers at the same rate we would have solved that problem a long time ago. Why do you think we don't have an epidemic of black cops killing suburban and rural teens? It's not that black cops are better or more moral, it's because they know it won't be tolerated by greater society. Until we change the system it will stay the same.
Where's our righteous indignation? Jesus flipped out in the temple, that's the kind of Holy anger we should have about injustice in our time. I thank God for Christians like John Brown and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They weren't afraid of cutting against the grain. That blood shed on Calvary meant something to them. This rant is why I have very few friends. I would rather be by myself than buck dance and try to assimilate into a normative gaze that views me as other. I pray for the family of Mike Brown and all of the kids who will lose their lives in similar fashion.
If you go to any church in the black community you'll see black women doing much of the work to keep the doors open. Black women disproportionately fund the missionary and teach the bible school and Sunday school lessons. It's black women who raise the children when daddy decides he's had enough, yet with all they do for our community we (collectively) don't value them. There's a reason society won't respect our women and we've given it to them.
J. Edgar Hoover called Dr. King a "notorious liar"; he also labeled him the most dangerous man in America. In his official C.I.A. file Dr. King's code name was Zorro. Every April 4th we observe the life and death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but the reality is that he died a hated man. Dr. King and the other civil rights leaders of his day lived with constant death threats and alienation from many of their own people. The revisionist history associated with the civil rights leaders of the 60's is typical of the way we (as a nation) deal with uncomfortable subjects.
After Martin's death James Baldwin left the United States. He said he couldn't take it anymore; Medgar, Malcolm, and Martin were his friends. He felt that he was the last one left. Almost 50 years after his death we have political parties fighting over who is the rightful heir to the King legacy; when in reality, he had sharp criticisms for both parties. His stance on the Vietnam war was seen as treasonous. Now, in our hyper patriotic culture the pastors and spiritual leaders actively support the war efforts as they play golf with the president. We've fallen a long way. Dr. King use to say, "I'm a cross bearer before I'm a flag waver." He felt every flag was subordinate to the cross.
I salute Dr. King for his courage and humility. Dr. King, like Gandhi and Oscar Romero, was a prophetic voice who paid the ultimate price for standing up against the mendacity and evil of the system they lived under. I too have a dream; one day, I will awaken and our spiritual leaders will embrace their inner Moses and push back against Pharaoh. One day our preachers will be more like Jeremiah and less like Peter.
I'll close with my favorite passage from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Further justification is based on the number of African-Americans and Latinos currently inside the criminal justice system. A closer look at the data reveals that racial profiling isn't validated by the racial makeup of the penitentiary, but a constitutive reason for it. 62% of America's prison population are soft drug offenders. Almost 90% of stops result in no legal action and only 2.5% result in finding guns.
We are a culture ducking and hiding from our feelings. Most of the people I know are on some sort of drug, whether it’s a legal prescription pharmaceutical, an illegal substance or good old fashioned alcohol. Many choose to ignore or run from the problems in life. When you are a black man in a community like this there is no hiding. There’s no amount of denial that can change the reality of the situation. So, yes, I choose to make trouble for all of the old teachers I had that think I’m obsessed with race or the leaders of religious flocks that find the fight for equality a laughing matter.
The major theme of my writing has been ideology and the role ideology plays in our lives. The ramifications of many of our interactions aren't tangible, but in our hearts we know how real they are. Everyday we have interactions that are shaped by the way "the other" views the world and our position in that world. Even if we (on a personal level) are able to overcome the prevailing ideologies of our time, we still have to deal with their effects on those around us.
I'm going to focus on negative Ideology, and the power stereotypes and expectations have on our psyche. I'll introduce some language and ideas, and then attempt to relate them to our time. This being black history month I feel it's fitting to start with W.E.B. Du Bois and his notion of Double-Consciousness. Then, I'll move to Jean-Paul Sartre. I want to finish with the role men have played in forcing the notion of ideal beauty onto women.
Here's a quote from Du Bois:
Jean-Paul Sartre developed a concept he called "Bad Faith". This concept is rooted in the idea that not only are we often classified by our Job, religion, race, sex, and other socioeconomic identifiers, but that some of us actually start living out stereotypical traits associated with the existence we've been associated with. Sartre felt we had to break out of the roles society put us in; if we didn't, we could never separate our humanity from our social functions.
If we don't draw a distinction from our social functions and classifications we will never find our authentic self. We can overcome the way others make us feel, but we can't negate the original phenomenological exchange in which we were subject to those presuppositions. In other words we can't change the ideology of another, so the goal should be to accept the shortcomings in people and work around them. This isn't a default position; of course on an individual basis we can alter the way some people think about us, but every new encounter places us back in the gaze of the other.
Here's a passage from Sartre:
The idea of the "gaze" is something Sartre, Jacques Lacan, and Cornel West have written about. They weren't alone. Many feminist have talked about the male "gaze" We can't escape the constant judgment of those around us. Am I tall enough? Am I thin enough? How am I being received by the other? This line of questioning is more commonly found among women- especially young women who may still be unsure of their place in the world.
Men have created and sold women our fantasies about beauty. We've imposed this ideology on our women starting at a young age. I'm not sure, (and don't feel like researching it) but I bet a man decided how Barbie should be shaped. Men are somewhat responsible for the eating disorders in our women. We've been complicit in the destruction of the female psyche. I know women are capable of making their own decisions, but how can we expect young girls to overcome the images that fill their smart phones and iPads? If society tells you beauty consists of blond hair, long legs, and big breasts, how do we make the women who don't possess these attributes understand that these traits are a type of beauty, but not constitutive for the presence of beauty?
All of us are susceptible to snap judgments. We can acknowledge them or avoid them, but either way they are still there. Many societal problems can be linked to the power we place on the gaze of the other. I know people who are in debt for the sole reason of living up to an unreasonable expectation placed on their life. We all know people who live in paralysis because they find themselves on the outside of societies normative gaze. (A phrase coined by Dr. Cornel West) The sooner we overcome ideology, the sooner we start living the life inside of our life.
- If we made an income pyramid out of a child's blocks, with each layer portraying $1,000 of income, the peak would be far higher than the Eiffel Tower, but almost all of us would be within a yard of the ground.Paul Samuelson
The attacks on people of low income has turned into a competitive sport for many public figures, politicians, and citizens. We've declared a socially acceptable war on the least of these. If the attacks against the poor were leveled against any other minority group, we would have taken to the streets and called this behavior out for what it is: hatred.
We've created a straw man to beat up and blame all of society's ills on. This straw man is a composite of every negative stereotype about poor people. If we believe all of our economic woes are caused by welfare queens and meth addicts on food stamps, then we don't have to ask the real questions related to the military-industrial complex or our broken financial system.
An ideological war is being waged against the working class. In one corner we have the working poor and in the other corner we have the working two missed paychecks from being the working poor. The saddest thing about this war is that it's a shadow war in which the ruling elite are forming alliances with members of the "47%" in order to bash their contemporaries.
To get to the crux of the original question: who benefits from what we think? Why are so many people against raising the minimum wage if there's no empirical data to support the claim that doing so hurts the economy? Why do we blindly accept partisan talking points as facts? All of these questions have real answers; sadly, too few of us will even engage in the pursuit of these answers.
The quote from Paul Samuelson is often dismissed as class warfare. The structural problems of global capitalism go unresolved as we focus on the plight of those closest to us- instead of looking at the circumstances that caused them. Yes, there are welfare cheats. There's corruption in every avenue of life; some people will always take advantage of a situation.
I've never understood how people get so outraged over someone in their community getting over on the system, but keep quite about a fashion designer using child labor in the developing world or some company polluting the water because it's easier to dump chemicals than to responsibly dispose of them. There's a segment of our society who view the 4% of our country who are investors as mythical and magical. We get upset about the Affordable Care Act, but keep quite about a tax code so full of holes that anyone with a decent accountant can pay a lower tax rate than the average citizen.
I'll close with a few points to ponder: first, the Federal Reserve is a private bank. It's not part of our government. Second, globally there's about 3 trillion dollars in circulation, but we have over 50 trillion dollars of debt. Last, If you work for a living: you are working class. There's no shame in this.
Rick Roderick once offered an empirical test for anyone unsure of where they stand. He said quit your job for eight years, and if at the end of that period really bad things happened to you: you were working class. The growing income gap has the ability to affect your life more than what your neighbor is doing. The majority of us are one catastrophic accident or illness from being on public assistance.