On Mike Brown, Urban Militarization and the Value of Life

I’m going to start this blog in a weird place. But, try and stay with me, y’all.

Okay, so I walk outside of my little apartment in BFE Kansas one Spring morning, and there are police in Kevlar armor with helmets driving an armored Hummer H3 up the sidewalk in an (apparent) drug raid on the apartments across the street. 

What the hell, man?

Now, the apartments in question had recently been purchased. The new owners were trying to clean up the building and make improvements (read: increase the value of the building before possible sale, thereby increasing the potential property taxes). And, the police had been cracking down (quite possibly harassing) the tenants that congregated on the steps and stoops of the building, often talking, fighting and generally hanging out. While most areas of the town I live in are lily white, this particular area is inhabited by mostly black and brown residents. And, this pair of buildings in particular, was known to be a place where people who had drug felonies and were ineligible for public housing could go to find affordable housing to live in. I had been a case worker, and gotten several of my clients apartments there, when previous lifestyle choices had made it difficult to secure housing. It’s not the best place in the world to live, but you could do worse, too. 

In all fairness to the police, if you’ve seen The Wire the scenes down in the projects, with the couch, would be the good mental image to get in your head. Quite possibly, the young men who created the set up had seen The Wire, too. If not, it was an uncanny coincidence. I didn’t ask, or read the paper to surmise that they were there for a drug raid, it was fairly obvious. 

But, why did they need military force to execute a warrant? And, why wasn’t the potential for civilian casualties, like me strolling out of my apartment that morning, considered before they escalated the situation that much? If the risk from executing the arrest warrant was so high that they needed the officers standing behind my trash dumpster, across the street from the target in the building, to be wearing body armor and helmets, why would they execute it, in that setting, when there have to be about 20 children in my apartment complex, walking to school through their staging process? (Not to mention those walking through the neighborhood to school.) Then, there are folks like me, just trying to get to work on time.

It’s simple, the “war” on drugs was more important than the lives, or quality of life, for any one of us that morning. They had protected themselves, and we all had to be treated as the enemy, as potential informants, as potential threats, in order for them to accomplish their job. Maybe they would execute a search in Beverly Hills, or the Upper West Side of NYC where they have “poor entrances” the same way, but I’m inclined to think that they would not. Just like a white man in a business suit carrying a briefcase is less likely to be stopped and frisked than a young black man, wearing a hoodie and carrying a backpack. 

What does that mentality, that these people marked by their cultural and racial difference, are the enemy do to a police officer, over time? 

Fast forward to Mike Brown, in Saint Louis.

By all accounts, he had purchased items from a local convenience mart and when confronted by police, offered no resistance. By all accounts, he had his hands in the air, the universal signal for surrender.

Yet, he was executed in the middle of the street. And, when the black and brown community that loved him took to the streets in peaceful protest and mourning, how do the police respond? With a show of military force. Armoured vehicles, assault rifles, dogs. 

Let’s be real. You don’t fight inanimate objects, or philosophies. They offer no resistance. You fight people. And, in this case, those people happen to be black and brown. Let that sink in. These aren’t combatants, behind battle lines, wearing distinctive uniforms. These are men, women and children. All of them have been portrayed as a potential threat. 

I shouldn’t call this war. There are rules to war. And, there would be penalties for killing a solider attempting to surrender. There are no such rules governing this. 

 

#TimeTitles

Twitter has a life of it’s own. You may remember the twitter fun that was had with Paula Deen. Well, this time it’s back, and Time Magazine is the target. You can
read all about the origins of the twitter tag,here.
But, today, I’m just sharing a few of my favorite #TimeTitles with y’all. Enjoy!

#timetitles Fix Ya Face: an in depth look at the use of plastic surgery within the African-American community. @Msfeesosweet @Trevthorne — Maisha (My-E-sha) (@Maisha_D) July 24, 2014

 

 

TEARS RT @GeorgeFoster72: Let’s Straighten It Out: The History Of The Al Sharpton Perm #TimeTitles pic.twitter.com/AL8XCxdLTI — DJ ALMA (@SydneyA) July 24, 2014

Girl Bye! : How Dismissive Behavior Towards Unpleasant Situations May Lower Stress Levels #TIMETitles — trill scott-heron (@baeElectronica) July 24, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Discussion of Political Rhetoric

They Don't Speak English, But They Understand Hate

Image from FreeSpeech TV. Full text of the article is available here: https://www.freespeech.org/video/radical-anti-immigration-protesters-show-worst-american-spirit

I’m going to say this: conservative Americans in the 1950s and 1960s understood one thing, scenes like this make great recruitment propoganda for your enemies. They weren’t right, they had some serious issues. But, they understood the power of a good visual, and a strong message. Hell, why do you think the government pilfered ad execs from companies like Coca-Cola and Proctor and Gamble for some of their political campaigns of the era? Conservatives today do NOT get this, at all.

If you really believe that America has enemies that are out actively recruiting, what do you think they do with newsreels like this? Remember this fact: all good political propoganda is 90% true. It’s verifiable through several sources, it appeals to the intellect of the intended population. If you think that America has enemies, then you have to know that they are interviewing the people on that bus, and translating it into as many languages as they can for media saturation outside of this country, and some spaces within it. If you are set on a mission to convince people that America will never accept people that look like them, that speak with an accent, that have different cultural values and the only solution is to exterminate Americans, what would you do with a reel like this? No matter who steps to the mic after this, they will not be able to refute the message, or the imagery. It’s available through too many sources. This image will be just like those water hose images of Bull Connor from the 1960s. 

I’m not conservative. I’m not a Republican. But, if they paid me to advise them, I would tell them: get this crap out of the media, as quickly as possible.

I Stand With Jada

So, this happened:

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Can I be honest? When I was this child’s age, I was horribly judgmental. I would have had a dozen reasons why it was her fault that she was raped. From drinking at a friends house, to what she was wearing, and a million other things. But, time has a way of changing your mind on somethings. And, thank God that I know better.

Her peers are learning. And, they have heard all sorts of judgmental things coming out of the mouths of grown folks around them about rape and the survivors of rape. I can’t fix what they say. But, what I am going to do is this: I’m going to be an adult that says it wasn’t her fault. And, her rape, no rape, is ever funny. 

Ironically, I’m not scared for Jada. It takes a lot of courage to come forward and say what happened. The fact that she is willing to say, “I have nothing to lose. I’m a survivor,” means that she has what it takes to overcome this and more. She’s a brave and honorable young woman. She’s put her name out there, when even her parents won’t. She’s taking a stand and not accepting the shame that people want to put on her. I believe that she will come out of this with dignity. 

Now, this is going to be messed up, but heres the truth: I’m scared for her rapist. I’m scared for that young man because he’s unable to stand on his own two, thus far, and he’s reaching out to his friends and his cronies for support. Unfortunately, none of those people who are giving him daps, now are going to be with him in the jail cell that he may go to. I’m scared for this young man because he doesn’t understand consent. That means he’s out there having sex without understanding some very, very, fundamental basics. What does this mean he knows about protection? What does this mean he knows about the resources to get treatment for STIs? I’m scared for this young man because he published a felony to social media, and thought he would get away with it. I’m scared for this young man because he’s going to be thrown in a jail system that doesn’t care about what’s best for him or rehabilitating him into someone that could do good in his community, and if he’s prosecuted he’s going to be in the most efficient and effective voc/rehab program known to modern man – prison. 

Share, re-blog, and start talking to the young people you have access to. Start talking about how rape isn’t a joke. Start talking to young women about how there is no shame in living to fight another day. There is no shame in surviving. Start talking to young men about consent. Tell them about making good choices. Start talking loudly, you don’t know who needs to hear you. 

Karma Is Only A Bitch If You Are

This is going to be an interesting post because it deals with the law of reaping/sowing, but it deals with it in a very raw, unchurchy way. I don’t define profane in the same way a lot of my brothers and sisters in Christ might, and y’all should know by now that I say what I want to say. So, you’ve been warned.

So, I watched a video on YouTube, and I have to say that I love this sister because she drops science bombs. Here is the link to the video, so that you can go watch it, if you would like some context. 

But, her comments/vlog made me flash back to a statement that I read on the comments on a news story, “Karma is only a bitch if you are.” And, it’s so true. If you deal with people from a place of loving, honoring intention, you have nothing to fear from karma. What you should expect to receive, in abundance, is loving, honoring intention from others. 

Why should you expect it? You should expect it because it is a spiritual law. Whether you know it as “you reap what you sow”, karma, the law of attraction, reciprocity . . . . this is a spiritual law that reverberates over and over again, through generation through generation.

But, do you give like this is a spiritual law? When’s the last time you thought to yourself? Hmmm . . . . I need a little money, let me give to this gofundme? Or, hmmm, I could use a promotion, let me mentor some kids, or a young co-worker and sow that seed right quick? 

That’s the test of what you really believe. How you act when the pressure is on, and the stakes are high. Don’t tell me that you believe that you will reap what you sow when you gossip about your friends. (Side note: Don’t get mad when it turns out that the one you were gossiping with is gossiping about you.) Don’t tell me that you believe that you will reap what you sow when you’re cheating with someone on their spouse. Don’t tell me that you believe that you will reap what you sow when you sit back and determine who is worthy of your gift. No, you don’t. Because if you did, you would sow a better seed more often than you do. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m talking to myself, first. If it helps somebody else, then great.)

If you truly believe that you reap what you sow would you be quick to laugh at, or make fun of, someone else’s misfortune? If you truly believe that you reap what you sow, who would you pray for differently? Who would you be praying for like, “Lord, help them to sow a better seed because if they keep doing like they’re doing . . . . ?” What do you do now that you might have to pass up, if you really believe that you reap what you sow.

My girl’s word on that video, though! I’m telling you now, I have things to pray about y’all. But, I’m going to leave you with a positive note: what have you forgotten about that you should be expecting a harvest for? I was taught that God gives richly to all without finding fault. So, why do we not go boldly to God expecting that He will replenish us on our journey because we have sown some good seed somewhere? 

Let me tell you a true story that still blesses my socks off.

I was walking downtown in my little piece of the rock one winter morning, and there was a man with a guitar case open playing for change. Now, you have to understand that in my town there are homeless people that perform for money, there are students that perform for money and then there are folks with a day job that perform for money. It’s a cottage industry here. In this case, this guy was homeless. But, I had money in my purse. I rarely carry cash, and I had just come out of a period in my life where I would have needed every last cent, for something. As a matter of fact, the fact that I hadn’t counted it, nor had a plan for the money was a testament to where I had come from. But, on this morning, it just struck me that I wanted to give to this guy. I up-ended the coins from my wallet into his case. His first question to me was, “So, what church do you go to?” I was a little taken aback by his question. But, we talked for a little bit. I told him about how I was coming out of a rough patch, and that my sole motivation for giving was that it felt good to be able to give. That it just felt good to not be stressed about that money and what I needed it for. He congratulated me and he thanked me and I went on my way down the street. )He actually was a nice guy.) The next store I went into I was looking at perfume. (I have a thing about scents. Honestly.) To keep the story short, the salesgirl bought me a bottle of Chanel perfume. Not Eau de Toilette . . . . Parfum. Do I think the two things are related? Yes. Absolutely. I can’t prove it. But, I believe in my soul it is true. 

So, my lovelies, give like you believe that you will reap what you sow.

VIDEO WITH TRANSCRIPT :: Every 28 Hours 2012 Report: Extrajudicial Killings of 313 Black People by Police, Security Guards, and Vigilantes

“. . . . . roughly about 40 percent if you add it all up, were folks whose basically family members or they themselves were in some form of distress and called the police seeking aid for someone who was disturbed, off their medication, dealing with some health issues or health-related crisis.”

Book Review :: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

When I was in graduate school, I pretty much quit reading for pleasure. There was so much mandatory reading that I had to do, that I had no interesting in reading for reading sake. As a matter of fact, in what spare time I had, I would rather do anything but reading. Which is exceedingly sad because I grew up a reader. I loved reading and writing.

It isn’t that I haven’t read before now. It’s just that I stuck too a type of literature that I affectionately christened, “Brain Candy”. The sort of thing that you may enjoy, but that isn’t going to win any book awards. Quite frankly, I tend to not like a lot of book award fodder. 

Then, Americanah happened . . . .

It is critically acclaimed, it’s by a very “on-trend” author, and it’s all the things that, on paper, should equal strong dislike for me.

But, Adichie wins you over by the plain spoken, straight forwardness of her style. It’s not that she’s not descriptive – the book is absolutely lush with description. But, the style comes across as a plain spoken candor that helped me settle in and really develop a rapport with the characters. Personally, I identified very strongly with the novel’s protagonist, Ifemelu. This, in spite of her story starting continents away, in cities that I’ve never seen and in a culture that is very different. Adichie writes Ifemelu in ways that make her easily relatable. 

If you have read, and liked Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, the love story between Obinze and Ifemelu will tug at a lot of the same heart strings. Don’t get me wrong, their story is very different. And, in some ways, it make me question my idealism about romantic life. But, for me, just like the story of Tea Cake and Janie made me smile, and made me idealize Tea Cake, the story of Ifemelu and Obinze made me idealize and admire Obinze. In my estimation, Ifemelu is his one vice. 

Adichie also tackles race, more specifically, how she feels that as a non-American black people navigate within and outside of the American construct of race. What it is like to be “other”, to have an accent, to be, as some might put it, skinfolk but not kinfolk. Americanah doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, or any answers for that matter, but Ifemelu is quite frank in her observations. And, often the observations are astute enough to make you stop and think about why things are a certain way. 

I’m now in a mad search for more books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I will let you know what I find. However, in the meantime, pick up this book and read it with friends. It would be an awesome book club book. Hope you enjoy.