Friday, April 27, 2018

Police Brutality: Believing Your Heart Over Your Eyes

The last few weeks have been incredibly stressful. I've seen a new video of police harassing, body slamming, and falsely arresting someone who looks like me almost everyday. These videos go viral; which, in return, forces local and national news producers to add them to the 6 o'clock and 11 o'clock shows. We are seeing more police brutality because everyone is walking around with a camera in their pocket.

Police brutality and racial disparities are constitutive parts of the American system of jurisprudence. People of color have been subjected to discriminatory policing since 1619. The intimidation tactics and the amount of force used in these videos serve as proof that protect and serve still doesn't apply equally across the board.

"The facts speak for themselves...There's not a single witness that says these young men were misbehaving in any way. And you can see and hear that on the video."  Stewart Cohen  

One has to work awful hard to not see this pattern. Sadly, there are too many "good" Americans committed to this task. These videos are chapters in an ongoing genealogy about life in America for people of color. When police brutality is on full display some Americans reflexively look for reasons to justify what they've witnessed. This defense mechanism breeds distrust.

People of color in general, and Black people in particular, are expected to keep these realities hidden. We are blamed for disrupting the peace when we point out what's happening to us. America doesn't love us. America doesn't respect us.

[African Americans] had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it.    

Chief Justice Roger Taney

I don't know what else to do. I have written and talked about this so much that it has become nauseating. In the last 10 days people who look like me have been arrested, detained, and/or forcibly removed from coffee houses, gyms, and golf courses. All of these people have retroactively been given apologies. As if a sorry after the fact can reduce or remove the trauma of a life or death situation.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Is The Band Steele Country Music's Next Big Thing?

Pictured from left to right: 
Sage Tanguay-host of The Morning Dew, Ben Rubino- Guitarist, Bo Steele-lead singer, and Me

Last week I was joined in the WCHG studio by The Band Steele. They were finishing up a three state radio tour promoting the song 195 from their album Moon in a Mason Jar, and their latest single Victory in Jesus. This was the Band's second visit to our station.

We had a great talk. They might be country music's next big thing. Click the link below to see if they have the goods.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

50 Years Later We Still Miss King's Point

If you haven't noticed, there are a ton of articles, blogs, and videos about the 50-year anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. A lot of people have worked really hard writing, editing, and producing content commemorating his life and legacy. If you get a chance you should engage as many of these works as possible. Critically and carefully examine the ideas expressed. After each piece, ask yourself: 1) What kind of person would produce this? 2) What kind of response are they trying to elicit? 3) What kind of work, if any, are they doing to support the causes important to Dr. King? 4) If someone doesn’t have a record of activism, why did they take time to participate in this conversation? Judge these works based on their merit, but also the actions of the author or producer who published them.

America celebrates Dr. King three times a year: his federal holiday on the third Monday in January, during Black History Month, and every April 4th. Sadly, these celebrations have displaced the reality of his life. Dr. King died a hated man. The overwhelming majority of white Americans had a poor view of him at the time of his death. His support inside the Black community was just above 50%. In the last years of his life Dr. King found himself on the outside of political and social circles he once was welcomed in.

Fifty years after his assassination, America has convinced three generations that he was the prototype for a social activist. His posthumous elevation from radical agent for social change to mythic figure is as American as apple pie. He went from hated to loved without a period of public reflection. The worst part about America’s love affair with Dr. King is the hypocrisy. Every time an activist engages in civil disobedience they are punished. America has never accepted criticism from marginalized communities.

No one in American history has had their legacy more purposefully distorted than Dr. King. Reactionaries and progressives alike use him to endorse a kind of respectability politics that lengthens the arc the moral universe has to travel before it gets to justice. Dr. King has been refashioned into a pacifist. His positions on physical violence overshadow the economic violence caused by the boycotts he championed. Because he possessed the ability to make people confront their own prejudices and shortcomings without attacking their character, he is viewed differently than some of his contemporaries who did the same thing with harsher language.  This isn’t the same as being conciliatory to white feelings.

America will never truly understand King’s dream until we are honest about the legacy of racism in America. We can celebrate the progress he helped usher in, but those celebrations do nothing to confront the ways race continues to affect people of color. Refusing to acknowledge race isn't a cure for racism.

Dr. King isn’t white America’s trophy civil rights activist and he’s not Black America’s principal. His legacy should be protected from all enemies both foreign and domestic. White people should check themselves before attempting to use him to quell social activism they are uncomfortable with and Black people with ulterior motives should check themselves before spreading fairy tales that defang his project of social change.

Here are a few things I think we should be mindful of as we reflect on this day.

  1. Be cautious around people who celebrate Dr. king while opposing every issue he advocated for. You can’t love Dr. King while hating someone like Colin Kaepernick and retain moral consistency. One of these men lead a protest that was much more violent than the other.

  1. Don’t sit idly by while people try to reappropriate King’s Dream. It’s impossible to remain silent about police brutality, mass incarceration, and the ways race still affects people of color and be a torch-bearer. Don't let people who have chastised protests movements over the same issues King was murdered for supporting convince you that he is their guy. Anyone who has publicly condemned protests over police brutality wouldn't have supported Dr. King.

  1. No one owns his legacy. I am very protective of Dr. King’s words, but the fact is he was heavily influenced by the religious and secular figures he read and came in contact with. His ability to weave secular and religious texts into a road map to a more equal future is something to be studied and shared. None of us own this legacy, but we should respect it.