Writing about mass shootings got old a long time ago, but not nearly as old as our canned response to them. These tragedies have happened so often that they have become part of our life. This is the new normal and our responses have become ritualized. America's inability to respond legislatively after Sandy Hook broke my spirit, and I know I'm not the only one. I mourn those who are lost and sympathize with the people tasked with rebuilding shattered lives, but I am numb. I think a lot of us are numb. We offer our thoughts and prayers and then split into our respective corners and debate. We talk because talking is easier than acting. Talking allows us to defend ourselves and our political ideologies. Talking is our coping mechanism.
Instead of talking maybe we should address high occupancy magazines and semiautomatic weapons that can easily be modified? We look for reasons not to do this. If the killer is African-American their actions are chalked up to their "upbringing" or black people's "knack for committing crimes". If the shooter is Latino we can avoid gun control legislation all together by talking about building walls and banishing people. Muslim shooter's are terrorists who hate "real Americans". If the killer is white their actions said to be the result of a mental health issue; we're told it's too soon to politicize a tragedy and in a few weeks we pretend it didn't happen. All of these excuses fall short of dealing with the real issue and none of them protect us from being the victims of or affected by the next tragedy.
We have to come to grips with the fact that sending our thoughts and prayers isn't solving this problem. This doesn't keep happening because we aren't praying hard enough. Too many Christians are praying for cake, but refuse to use the eggs, flowers, oil and milk God placed in front of them. There is nothing wrong with praying, but we have to pray and then act. It's that simple. No, we can't prevent an evil person from committing murder, but we can limit the methods and tools they use to carry out their deeds.
Playing politics with mass shootings makes us look smaller than we are. We choose to be powerless. We choose to avoid the tough work of making these killings harder to pull off. We choose to be accessories to these crimes. America is governed by laws that can be amended. We can amend laws that put us in danger, but we don't have the moral conviction to do so. We are not passengers: we are holding the wheels of justice, but they won't turn themselves.
2. There's nothing wrong with being uncomfortable.
4. There's nothing wrong with admitting a mistake.
As a nation, we have never been comfortable talking about controversial issues; however, as individuals, we can work on this, but it will take deep dialogue and a lot of self reflection.
I get a few dozen messages every week from decent people hurt by things I write. This is troubling. I don't use profanity and I don't attack people- even when they attack me, but I'm still inflicting wounds on people I care about.
If I wrote an 800 word article condemning sexism it wouldn't offend people who aren't in denial about the role gender plays in society, but the same article about race has the ability to offend people. We have to get past defending ourselves when institutional practices are called into question. This defense mechanism refocuses conversations. It isn't helpful and diverts time and energy.
When the subject of toxic masculinity and rape culture come up men don't have to reflexively defend themselves from the indictments leveled at our society. Indictments against patriarchy are justified. This also applies to racism and white supremacy. Systemic racism is real; pointing this out shouldn't trigger anyone, but if you feel triggered ask yourself why? What is it about this subject that causes feelings of anxiety or annoyance?
I write about the world we inherited. I write about the gap between our beliefs and our practices. I write about things most would rather avoid. I don't lie in my writing, and any claim I make can be grounded by empirical data. You might not like the conclusions I draw, and if that's the case let's talk about it. This isn't about being right; it's about dialogue. If people who know each other can't talk how can we expect a stranger to understand us?
We have to do better. This includes me.
No one made him try to destroy the lives of 5 innocent black kids. No one made him knowingly lie about President Obama's birth certificate. No one made him call Mexicans rapists and murders. No one made him open his mouth and spew his anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred. No one made him find the good in the self professed white supremacists who terrorized Charlottesville. No one made him pardon the virulent racist Joe Arpaio. Donald Trump alone chose to do all of these things.
I stand 100% behind Jemele Hill. For 8 years "real Americans" and "Evangelicals" believed (and spread) every ignorant conspiracy theory about Barack Obama. None of them were led to FEMA camps. None of them had their guns taken. None of them were forced to convert to Islam. These lies were spread by racists at Fox news and other conservative media outlets and accepted as facts.
Jemele Hill judged Donald Trump by his actions. He has no one to blame but himself. This time last year "real Americans" loved brash outspoken speech, hated the P.C. culture and weren't snowflakes. What happened?
Jemele Hill was reprimanded for calling a spade a spade. She was hired to give her opinion, and now that her personal opinions don't sync up with the powers that be at ESPN she is in jeopardy. This is a prime example of why people of color need their own platforms. "Real Americans" elected a confessed pu$$y grabbing reprobate to the most powerful office in the world, but are ready to kick an opinion journalist out of her job for tweets she made on her own time.
"Real Americans" wonder why athletes are refusing to stand for this hypocrisy. #BlackOpinionsMatter
These articles get published every few weeks anywhere leftist ideas are disseminated. The theoretical underpinnings of these "progressive" screeds hinge on the faulty notion that the Democratic party could abandon issues of importance to minority communities and maintain the same level of electoral support from these constituencies. This is a fallacy. The moment the Democratic party becomes indistinguishable from the Republican party on social issues apathy and disenchantment with the political process will reduce minority voter turnout.
Just like every family has secrets, political parties also push hard truths to the side. There are progressives asking people of color and members of the LGBTQIA community to ignore systemic racism and bigotry. These allies are asking us to place their economic program ahead of our existence in America. This approach centers white feelings. No one would tolerate a doctor telling them that ignoring their pneumonia is a viable treatment for it, yet this is how some on the left seek to treat discrimination.
Dr. King's speech was a mix of the Bible, America’s founding documents and some of his earlier sermons. His words were seamlessly woven into a message that condemned the status quo while simultaneously offering a prophetic vision of a better day. Dr. King talked about the hope that came with the end of slavery and the heartbreak that followed when Emancipation turned into a 100-year nightmare sponsored by Black Codes, Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan. His words aren’t the problem; the willful distortion of those words and his legacy undermine the events of that day.
Reactionaries use Dr. King to shame those involved in protests they don’t support. This is a reflexive response. Black people are bombarded with images of MLK anytime the nation is forced to talk about race.This method of deflection does nothing to address the issues at the center of a particular conflict. Almost fifty years after his assassination there are Americans who believe Dr. King didn’t cause the kind of racial discomfort they feel about Black Lives Matter or American Flag protests.
America has an uncomfortable relationship with black activism. There appears to be two acceptable forms of civil engagement: passive or past tense. Passive activists are America’s darlings.Their soft shoeing approach to race doesn’t ruffle any feathers. Often they place white feelings ahead of justice. This isn’t who Dr. King was. His indictments against the America he inherited were damning. Some of his tactics were just as violent as bricks crashing through plate glass. The yearlong bus boycott he helped lead caused just as much economic damage to the bus lines and businesses in Montgomery, Alabama as a riot.
Dr. King’s murder made him eligible for America’s posthumous resurrection program. When an activist dies their message is edited and made more palatable for future generations. Their critiques of America and white supremacy are replaced by a message that asks future generations of black activists to suffer in silence or follow a set of protest requirements that assure nothing changes. In other words, you can live and be ineffective or die and have your message appropriated.
The same people who chastise Black Lives Matter for not being more like Dr. King moved the goalposts of acceptable nonviolent protest far enough to exclude kneeling in silence. There is no acceptable way to draw attention to the continuing racial disparities in America. When we boycott businesses that discriminate against us we are called economic terrorists, when we write or talk about discrimination we are called race hustlers, and when black athletes refuse to pledge their allegiance they get blacklisted. America writ large has never endorsed any protest that forces us to look in a mirror.
There is a lot to be learned from the sermonizing and writing of Dr. King. His ability to weave secular and religious texts into road maps for the future was pure genius. The hope contained in that speech will live forever. The March on Washington is an immutable part of American history. That event can’t be scrubbed from history, but it is being distorted. If Martin's dream is to be realized the myths associated with his life need to be as violently assassinated as he was.
Will Cleveland Lead The way for honoring the free speech rights of their players?
by Danny Cardwell During a Monday, August 21, preseason game against the New York Giants, 11 Cleveland Browns players kneeled in a prayer circle during the National Anthem. They were flanked by another five players who placed their hands on their teammates' shoulders in a show of solidarity. The players who participated in this act of…
This past Monday Pat Robertson offered his Christian Broadcast Network audience a conspiracy theory, as a legitimate response, to Fox News contributor Eric Bolling’s suspension from the network for allegedly sending unsolicited nude photos to at least three female coworkers. Robertson said:
The NFL is a meritocracy as long as you don't hurt the bottom line. Kaepernick would have been better off had he beaten up a pregnant white woman. Rapist and domestic abusers are welcomed back to the NFL because their crimes don't cost the league revenue or challenge its authority. When a player, irrespective of race, beats a woman, she's the victim. Colin's protest caused a public outcry that victimized the league. NFL owners don't suffer losses well and aren't willing to face economic backlash for signing an unrepentant Kaepernick. No one knows this better than Michael Vick.
Michael Vick gave Colin Kaepernick the kind of practical advice any public relations expert or image consultant would give him, but he did it in the company of a toxic sports personality. Jason Whitlock is less popular in the black community than Diabetes. Every few weeks he gives #BlackTwitter a reason to hate him. Vick's statements, if made to someone whose commitment to the black community is unquestionable, wouldn't have been so controversial. Vick never condemned Kaepernick for his protest. He acknowledged the reason for his protest and thanked him for doing it. Vick's advice, however pragmatic, calls for Colin's Submission. If Colin crawls back and begs for forgiveness he could make a lot of money, but that money will cost him his integrity.
White America is in no way negatively impacted by black only spaces. Contrary to popular belief, black only spaces aren’t a form of segregation. When an assembly ends the participants go back into a world shaped by the idea that their skin color is problematic. Simply put, black only spaces are places where black identity and intellect is affirmed. These aren’t “safe spaces”, if you make a weak argument or derail a discussion your feelings won’t be spared. Black only spaces aren’t about running from conflict; at their best, they’re about engaging conflict with people who’ve been negatively affected by the subject matter being discussed.
When America is forced to deal with race the conversations have no thematic unity. There are too many people in positions of power defending the status quo while those suffering its affects are questioning it. There are people so invested in the flag and the myth of America that they willfully ignore or disconnect the historical context events happen in. There is no gap between Jimmie Lee Jackson and Philando Castile.
America’s need to reflexively point to past achievements in race relations is a form of generational absolution. Admitting things were worse does nothing to dismantle the racism in our midst. I’m not dismissing the progress we’ve made, but the truth is: we are still as sick as the ghosts of our pasts.
After an officer is acquitted for killing an unarmed person of color social media and the blogosphere explode with new articles chronicling the pain endured by the victim’s family, and the distrust between the community and the police. Brilliant thinkers and writers parse the nuances of the latest case versus the last case in an effort to show how juries keep getting it wrong, but nothing changes. Nothing changes because predominantly white juries often go out of their way to give an officer every benefit of the doubt.
Too many Americans have a Spaghetti Western view of the world where the cowboys are all good guys and the Indians are all bad. Even when a murder is captured on video jurors find a way to sympathize with the fear of an officer (with the gun) instead of the humanity of the man or woman on the other end of it.
We are in desperate need of more cure and less diagnosis. Anyone who cares about these issues understands what’s wrong. Better training and body cameras may limit the number of people shot, but they can’t pick fair-minded juries or assure that prosecuting attorneys will put the best case forward.
America’s race problems are exasperated by a litany of false equivalences and illogical positions. Too many Americans, irrespective of race, uncritically accept (either-or) propositions that further divide us. It’s possible to say BLACK LIVES MATTER as a close ended declaration. The call to end police brutality and mass incarceration isn’t the same thing as wanting police officers harmed.
Calls for justice are not provocations, yet pointing out systemic failures has the effect of gaslighting some reactionaries. This is the minefield racial dialog takes place in. Too often people of color understand white silence as tacit approval of the behavior they see instead of a lack of courage or necessary vocabulary to engage in the conversation. This never-ending cycle breeds distrust.
Marching for justice and writing about justice will never produce enough justice. It can take decades for a society to even agree that a particular form of evil is wrong- much less work to fix it. There were enough Americans outraged by the images they saw in the 1960’s to register a dissent and force a change. I’m not advocating for another dose of “We Shall Overcome”. Those days are over, but we have to put more pressure on the District and Commonwealth Attorneys, and the juries who continue to fail us. We have to create an atmosphere so full of commonsense and righteous morality that the injustices we see can’t be explained away by people wanting to maintain their credibility.
Liberal and conservative pundits have written hundreds of articles about black voter participation since the 2016 election. Liberals tend to write these articles as a way of scapegoating black voters for the election of Donald Trump; while conservatives write them to deflect the impact voter suppression has had in Republican led states. Federal courts have written opinion after opinion overturning Republican sponsored legislation designed to make voting harder for blacks, but somehow this fact gets overlooked in many of these articles.
Political commentators on the right willfully downplay or ignore the effects of voter suppression. Since the 2010 mid-term elections people of color have had a number of obstacles placed in front of them by Republican led state legislatures. There’s enough Prima Facie evidence to support the claim that some of the declines since 2010 could be attributed to Republican efforts to restrict early voting while simultaneously cutting the number of voting precincts in minority districts. It’s not a coincidence that the overwhelming majority of federal cases concerning voter disenfranchisement have been filed against Republican governors and legislatures. This doesn’t explain voter decline in states that haven’t had to deal with this type of electoral malfeasance, but it shouldn’t be ignored in states like Georgia, North Carolina, and Wisconsin where the right to vote has been under constant assault.
Omission is a powerful tool. If Ruffini willfully ignored the almost decade long war waged by Republicans in Georgia against black voters he’s part of the problem. It’s disingenuous for anyone to rest the result of the June 20th special election solely at the feet of black voters. Blacks are 13.4% of a district with a population close to 700,000, but If Jon Ossoff loses to Karen Handel the story will be centered around what percentage of the black population voted.
The last three national election cycles have been defined by Republicans making voting harder for black people and Democrats blaming us for their electoral failures. Both groups are acting out of fear. Republicans are afraid of the demographic shifts that place them in electoral peril, and the Democrats are afraid of addressing their failures with uneducated white women. For all of the misogyny Hillary Clinton faced from the left this same group ignores the fact that their mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, and cousins voted for Donald Trump in 2016 by a margin of 62% to 38%. There are more uneducated white women in America than black people as a whole, but this demographic remains free from any serious critique.
On November 2nd, 2016, I published an article titled "We Don't Owe The Democrats Our Vote!" In it I wrote:
There are people in the Black community who are ready to concede the 2016 election in lieu of more political capital in 2020. The Democrats have blackmailed us for so long with the threat of horrible Republican policies that many have stopped listening. Maybe, the best way to leverage our political power moving forward is to sit out 2016? This isn’t that crazy of a thought to someone living through hell. How much worse can life get for someone trapped in a failing neighborhood, in a failing city under a Trump Administration? I don’t subscribe to this line of thinking, but I know some very smart people of color who do. Some live in solidly blue states and some live in deep red states, but there are some in battleground states who have decided they will vote Jill Stein or avoid the long lines and stay home.
I was excoriated by many of my colleagues for introducing them to this line of thinking. The same people who’ve written dozens of articles blaming black voters for supporting Hillary over Bernie, or for not showing up in high enough numbers during the general election have avoided the real 800lb electoral gorilla in the room. No matter what happens on June 20th black voters will either be ignored or blamed. The right is more than happy to continue ignoring our needs, and the left is more than happy to blame marginal drops in black voter participation for their failures. We are damned if we do and damned if we do.