Privilege, Starbucks, Neighborhood Watch – and the pervasive crime of white apathy

Things White Folks Don’t Knowmsa q

The hardest thing for me to reconcile in my life today,  is that I have children I love and would give my life for whom I know hear about white people in ways that do not describe me. Yet still, they do describe white America. Words that are not false, are not overstated, but in fact are proven out over and over in the daily life of us all.   It brought me to my choice – my choice of voice or silence – marching or watching from the sidelines.

I am a family friend of a Black American family, and I get the perks of outings with the children. I am that uncle that loves to spoil them – loves to hear them – loves to be in touch with the amazing world of brilliant and aspiring children. Any adult in this role knows what I am talking about. We are reminded how smart they are – we are reminded how vital and essential their exposure to and experience of the world. And we know that the wonder we once had for the world and life – returns to us gazing through their eyes.

When one child gets up to go to the bathroom at a restaurant, I stand between the door and the ones remaining at the table – equal distance so I can see the bathroom door entered and those at the table undisturbed. I do this because they are children and because they are in my care.  But I do it more in ways that no one knows because they are children of color – Black children – that do not carry or share my privilege. No one will touch them, speak to them or reach them in any disparaging way – not when they are in my charge. The intolerable reality is, I do have to watch and I do have to be more vigilant. And that tells me things all of white America needs to know.

Leaving the theater as we approached the down elevator to parking,  a white man stepped away from a Black woman in a manner I have honed my sight to recognize. It isn’t difficult, and it isn’t a mistake when noticing the airs of a supremacist, a bigot or racist. One more Black person came toward the elevator and I saw him grappling with his position. I stepped back from the children and put my hand on his arm – leaned in and whispered “this car is not for you.” He knew and acknowledged what I was talking about. His disapproval now directed at me – he stepped back to wait for another car.  I will not allow him near them, or an utterance under his breath to reach their ears.

My rage was subdued by my insistence on normalcy for the children and disruption of our outing. This subject is above my pay grade and is to be reserved for parents and their children. They need no input from me. Though subdued on my face and in my demeanor, my rage was beyond anything I have ever felt. I wanted to hurt him but they were there. They were not subjected to a thread of it. It’s not the only time or only thing I’ve experienced while in the company of these three exquisite young girls.  I looked toward the man with a boundaried nod, shuffling this laughter-occupied group of girls into the elevator.  No one but me and the Black woman who arrived behind us knew a thing. She was the mass-tilting reason he paused about entry. She knew it. Black people know. They have had to be hyperaware for generations. She gazed into my eyes on the three floor trip down, in a way I have considered over and over as to all that her look had held. It was one of understanding and compassion – but also carried a glimpse of fear and admonishment that perhaps I might not be endowed with such clarity and vigilance in the future. I am white, and I have the privilege of forgetting what others endure.

Two Black men were put into handcuffs for sitting while black in a Starbucks. They refused to leave and were arrested. They were asked to leave because they are Black. This is confirmed by white customers who occupy tables with no purchase yet made – waiting for the rest of their party. The many tweets and comments by white people saying “there must be more to the story” are mistaken or racist bias or both. The police who arrested them are wrong. Everything is wrong with this event.

A dear friend of mine asks these questions that no white person can answer – not without  the glaring face of complicity or self-indulgent denial.

“How can I or my children tell the difference between a white person who will shoot us and a white person who won’t?
How do we ask the police for help when we don’t know what KIND of officer will show up—100% compliance will still get you killed, ask Mesa PD ‘bout that. Don’t tell me if I follow orders I’ll be safe, because I will NOT be safe. Miss me with all of THAT bullshit.
Which Starbucks can I wait in for my client, how do I know which door to knock on in my community when I need help?
Are we at the point where white folks have to put HUGE safety pins on their door posts? Businesses have to hang POC welcome signs in their windows?

Until we face ourselves if we are white – we have not faced the truth. The truth is, this is our responsibility – even if you believe it is a construct in which you had no participation. You are participating today – and in so doing you stand on one side or the other. silence is the selection of a position. It is the selection of truth or denial- and it is the selection for racism or equality. Which do you choose?

Things White Folks Don’t Know

s-l640Racial Bias From Neighborhood Watch to Doctor Visits – Black Folks are Dying & White Folks are Sighing Dismissals.

A near tragedy that sits alongside so many others, once again brought to mind the injustices to which I am party. White people like me don’t like to hear it but we are so often complicit in tragedies that seem to have no end in sight. It’s a rickety soap box I stand on because this type of complicity is hard for Black people to forgive – and white people can’t stand other white people who face the responsibility and point out that “you should too.” But I’ve seen the Amber Alerts go viral and so have you. I’ll bet you know someone who reposted over and over or who asked around even though the child missing was counties or even states away.  I can promise you this – there would not have been a Jada or Aaliyah Alert and you damn well know it. Will this article by a guy with zero platform an unremarkable story,  average talent or contribution ever reach anyone or change anything? I doubt it. But I can’t live with not trying.

Another near tragedy. A fourteen year old boy who is lost goes to a door marked Neighborhood Watch. He is lost and needs directions home. What he meets with is white violence and racism that nearly cost him his life.

Neighborhood “Watch Out For Black Kids !”

If you grew up in my time, you remember The Black Panthers. In 1966 when they formed I was only seven years old. By 1982 when Huey Percy Newton fled to Cuba, I was twenty three. I recall the news, the allegations, the horrific criminal profiles of Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, the inextricable influence of Angela Davis and many others. My dad would rail at the television with the riots and the fear mongering that went on about these radical criminals. But who were the criminals … we never learned until later … not if we’re white we didn’t. Most still don’t know, and for the sake of comfort probably never will.

Why is all this relevant to a near tragedy involving this fourteen year old child? It is directly related and it is related to every opinion of every white American alive today that is old enough to have grown children. I was thirty before I began any interest in the reconciliation of my American heritage to the truth. The truth is today and was then that Black men, boys, women and girls have been vilified and dehumanized since the days of Black enslavement – and it is still being done today. If you are white and you are less angry about this than any other child – or Trayvon Martin less than a whiter kid with Skittles, or Tamir Rice or any of the others – if you are white and this doesn’t affect you the same as it would a white kid – you are doing it too.

When this woman opened the door, her fear and response to that fear was the driving force that enlisted her husband to get a gun. Stepping back to the Black Panthers once again, their original intent was to protect Black communities that not only had no protection as white communities did – but also were subject to the biases that drove the mistreatment of their community’s citizens, just as it does with police officers today. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was established because what we see going on today was going on then. Soon, there is going to be an uprising, and candidly I know which side I’ll stand on. White people have to gain an understanding of what is going on with regard to racial inequality – and even legal murder of Black people.

There is no Edgar J Hoover today to conspire and vilify an entire race of people to justify racist attacks by law enforcement and enlist the American public’s white support. We support it on our own through privilege. Yes privilege – that slippery thing that white people like to argue they do not have. I can help you out with your confusion. Privilege is what the white kid has in the kindness of the white woman who hung a Neighborhood Watch sign in case he felt unsafe. That is privilege. Privilege isn’t just in what we get that others don’t. It is what others endure that we don’t have to. Black people face battles we don’t have to. White people don’t face the same battles – because we don’t face ourselves.

There are many white doctors who think Black people feel less pain and under, or incorrectly treat them. Medical Students in today’s educational system, presently taking their final exams believe this myth. You can read this study and many others proving what and why we subconsciously believe these impossible myths.

PNAS (Proceedings of ) National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America Racial Bias In Pain Assessment and Treatment

Still, with all we can prove we cannot pull ourselves collectively from this de facto consciousness that has us not respond to horrors and tragedy we’d never allow happen to white people. Are you white and angry about angry Black people? Answer this. Why aren’t you angry with them?

 

Portraits In Black Speak Truth To White Adults And Children Of Color

Michele Obama presented these personal thoughts at the unveiling of her portrait by Amy Sherald;

“I’m also thinking about all the young people, particularly girls and girls of color, who in years ahead will come to this place and they will look up, and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution.”

unveiling

Of course her words are true. It is profoundly important also that white America see these portraits hung in this great American institution. That we hear and find the extraordinary introspection within ourselves that the Obama’s inspired for America as a collective of human beings. They did, you know – model the virtuous act of introspection. Search for a statement made by either President or Mrs. Obama directed to this nation that did not include a vital look inward. You won’t be able to find one. Such altitudes of clarity are often lost to lowlands of privilege we white folks cannot recognize even within the dispensaries of all that milk and honey. White people as a body of citizens seldom if ever look inward collectively as to who America is – and more, what we might become.

The white-American-collective-social-consciousness is an extrospective view. It is an assembly of assertions rather than biding assessments tempered by recollections and pauses for self-examination. Ours are moth-balled insights in dire lack for our attention, as to who we are and where have been – what we have led – and least of all, what to do now.

This is America now. Whether it is present in our consciousness or not, the broadest view – the aerial view – the Blackest view – of our human landscape is and will increasingly become the height of contemporary American wisdom. It already is the fulcrum for a tipping point still teetering in the ambivalence of white-mindedness. White suffering is a phantom we try to wallow in as our objections reveal themselves to be mere holograms – substanceless and devoid of redemptive cause. It’s a shooting pain, blindingly white, but take comfort – it will ultimately pass, though for some it could deservedly linger. This is fact in our human condition, despite what we may be conditioned to believe. No amount of white denial will shoo this reality away.

White people are no longer the purveyors of societal wisdom, as so many hover to guard a withered dynasty. There is a newer and truer wisdom. One many of us are ready to embrace. Whether instruction for this wisdom comes from women of color, as they bear their burdens a second and third time trying to educate white feminists to the depths and reach of amassing intersectionality – or as men of color reflect what love of country actually looks like – where the preservation of human dignity is not encapsulated in a recruitment poster or the waving of a flag emblematic only of the cost of conquest, incognizant of the blood of the conquered. His is offered to us gently and on one knee. Still though, in our fragility it remains too unthinkable to bear. It is here however – make no mistake of self-deception. It is calling, and it beckons for open and wide celebration.

Swing low sweet chariot coming for to carry me home. It is time for supremacy to die – to rest among its many unmarked graves. Time to take down the homage to a lie we no longer have to live. We can either wither or enlighten, that’s entirely up to us. Perhaps Barack Obama said it best, and even prophetically as to the evolution and enlightenment of governing power. It is tucked away neatly in his summation of artist Kehinde Wiley’s angular view.

“But, what I was always struck by whenever I saw his portraits, was the degree to which they challenged our conventional views of power, wealth, privilege and the way that he would take extraordinary care and precision and vision in recognizing the beauty and the grace and the dignity of people who are so often invisible in our lives, and put them on a grand stage,” he said. “The people in our families, people who built this country, built this capital, served food, took out the garbage.

Thank you President & Mrs. Obama. Thank you to those who have long suffered for this moment in time. It is almost bigger than the presidency and the occupancy of a White House for eight years graced by the Obama’s. This vital historic landing is forever immortalized in these halls, and stands like a lighthouse illuminating the jagged coast of a transatlantic heritage rising to the glory of its own.

 

F * * k The Red Cross

I’ll never forget Hurricane Andrew. My father decided to weather it out in Homestead Florida where he had a condo with an add-on room. When my dad built something, it pretty much stood. He had an affinity for 4X4 pressure treated posts (even for studs) – nothing went in less than four feet, and nothing that went underground had less than eight inches of concrete around it. He always believed that quadrupling everything was the calculable equivalent to certified P.E. stamped engineering. 2” X 12” pressure treated planks were the usual structural compliment for almost anything else he constructed – including decking.

He filled a sanitized tub in the add-on bathroom with fresh water – covered the windows (one assumes with 2X12 remnants) and hunkered down for the duration. Homestead Florida was the location where the category five hurricane known as Andrew first made landfall. It literally swept right through Homestead proper, leaving nothing but concrete foundations for almost everything in its path. When all was over, there was almost nothing left except his add-on, the opening where the adjacent original wall had been – and the closet next to the tub that kept him from the fate of the surrounding buildings that were once the senior addresses of his over fifty community.

It was days of worry, days of trying to get through while also not tying up lines every moment. Praying and hoping that we could just get word on his survival. The devastation reported was hopeless and all but certain in Homestead.  Cleiborn Usry Booker had been reported dead before however, and this wasn’t the only situation he’d been in that experts said no one could survive. On the fourth day, a call rang through to my sister’s phone. I picked up the call, and on the other end was my father. It was him, and his absolute matter-of-fact directness that intonated every instruction and every reprimand of my youth, with one additional affectation – his deliberate and often inappropriate humor. That honeyed flat tone and cliff hanger delivery just begging for me to pitch him the line on which his first and next punch lines hinged.

How are you, Dad?  “’bout dead, thank you.” “We’ve been trying to reach you for days. We’ve all been worried sick,” I told him. “Yeah, sorry to cause so much trouble – thoughtless of me. Maybe I can make it up to you after I get the fuck out of here.” I left you kids a home in my will, Johnny. Afraid I made it – most of that house is in a bag on my dash board. I’d like to bring it to you personally if you don’t mind wading through a few more of my problems … before we discuss the strain this put you all under.”

He has me in stitches again – already. Sarcasm of this kind was the earmark of a favorable mood. At least for this usually-in-pain serious senior WWII POW veteran than didn’t engage mush or sentiment without a death in the family. And even then, it was an alternate form of “gubment issue” southern sarcasm. He had been through a lot over the years. Floods to prepare for at my childhood home. A fire that burned him nearly 65 percent of his body – a condition he was not initially expected to survive. Then there was WWII – shot down over Germany, operated on without anesthesia to remove shrapnel from his body – followed by an eighteen month internment at the infamous Stalag 17 American POW and Jewish concentration camp. And last but not least, one California earthquake and one Florida category five hurricane.

“Tell me son, any wildfires out your way?” No Dad. “Aairraids?” No sir. “Mud slides, flooding, earth quakes – any river on the rise – twister weather – loud music – anything like that out your way?” No Dad – everything is calm and peaceful here. “You sure?” he asks me. “Yes Dad.”  Then I’d like you to rent me an apartment. Clean, serviceable, away from any aqua ducts or shooting ranges – nice quiet and not too much over $1000.00 or so. Can you do that for me son?”  “Yes Dad – we can get on that right away.”

We used to watch Hogan’s Heroes,  Johnny Carson, Carol Burnett, All in the Family and a Christmas special or two. Those were the things that we all seemed to do together in full agreement. Outside of that, there were quite a few gaps we assigned to the disconnect of our respective generations. The Red Cross was something my father had always given to charitably. Pulling money you earned working for him was a negotiation within itself. red crossGetting him to give you money – a feat for a magician. But he did give to Red Cross. “The care packages” he said, “never made it to us. We never received the candy bars or cigarettes intended for POW’s. Even the first aid and reading material ended up in black markets or on sale to officers only” he used to recollect. Often times when Hogan was bribing Schulz with a Hershey bar, he would say … “so that’s where those went” with a smile and a rock in his chair – as though we’d never heard him comment before. Still, he revered the Red Cross  – “it wasn’t their fault – though they might have done something about it” he’d conclude. Those envelopes went out after every fundraising campaign. And the unsolicited phone call didn’t just hang up if it was the Red Cross. He spoke politely, and thanked them for the opportunity to do his part – his Red Cross duty.

“So Dad, how did you get out of Homestead. The Red Cross get our messages to you? When did they finally get you out?”

f rc“No, Johnny, he continued “it was my insurance company that came and rescued me. Actually, they came and rescued people that didn’t even have a policy with them. No, it wasn’t Red Cross. They were handing out shoes somewhere near the shopping center.”

“Allstate pulled up in a four wheel drive. They’re the ones that came out into the mess of things – had a list of names. When I gave mine to them, they handed me an envelope with $1000.00 cash in it – had me sign a receipt, then took  a few of us out to the bus station heading for Jacksonville airport.”

 “Fuck the Red Cross” he uttered in a modulated and gravely sincere tone. “I’ll be giving my money to Allstate from now on.”

Collusion & The Rise of ChristiaNationalist Morality

Each day I hear someone ask the question “what is the stepping off point for the Republican Party?” How long will they look the other way as Trump lies, violates the rule of law and ignores the constitution? How do they continue while evidence of collusion by our president looms in the public’s collective view? How, during this all-consuming event, is the offender against American democracy – one of the worlds most prolific human rights criminals elevated by our president to a normalized status while simultaneously degrading the very office of his presidency. “How do they let it continue?”

Putin is a murderer. An assassin of journalists, dissidents, human rights activists, human rights lawyers, whistle blowers, political opponents – and anyone with aim to interfere with his power and personal profit. “How far will they let this president go, and for how long will they let him continue.?”  “How do Republicans and our president continue to provide aid to this sociopath while systematically poisoning the trust in American law enforcement, judiciary, media and democratic processes?” These are the questions of Democrats and the Democratic Party.

The question of “how far and for how long” is itself an intended reaction within a
formulaic ruse. It sends us on a search for reason based in a morality that the Republican Party does not embrace. A morality that has divided this nation since its inception. The premise of the question “how far” has no relevance. The Republican

Party is not looking the other way. They are looking straight ahead – with decisive and collaborative determination. This party and the religious right – nationalist right – and a
collective of mutually served ideologies have and are colluding to a specific end. The entire lot are colluding with Putin. American Christianity is colluding with Putin and we’re asking why the party they own is looking the other way? Together they represent the intention and the instrument of an anti-democratic movement and we’re playing into their hands by playing by the rules that they’ve abandoned long, long ago.

putin

The Christian Right and the Republican Party have sought and are achieving the very vision that animates and empowers the Trump presidency. This is not a surprise, and the silence isn’t an uncomfortable shame pressing against a morality that’s soon to bear its limits. This is a calculated design. The Republican Party has become a terrorist organization. It has become an authoritarian regime, bent on eliminating the rights of all people not in lock step with the Religious Right – Nationalist – Corporatist – Oligarcichal America that garners it’s profit on top of wars and its labor upon the oppressed.

We continue to approach this crisis as though it’s a partisan stumble made by a few too blind to see the coming fall. We, the enlightened are waiting for the slow-to-see to arrive at a come-to-Jesus moment and they said goodbye to Jesus a long time ago – and it is we, not them who refuse to see. They are not blind, and this fall of theirs …. It is no accident.
GodsRubeGoldbergMachineOne of the problems we face – any of us who wish to make a case for the kind of collusion that actually exists – find ourselves trying to articulate the workings of a Rube Goldberg contraption. The goal is not complex and the aim is nowhere near above board. There are more moving parts than are necessary to the end, and the number of systems in play contradict the reasonability for claim that a system is working to any specific end at all. But that is the beauty of the Rube Goldberg design.  We remain hypnotized by all its moving parts. It in itself is the distraction obscuring its aim. The only certainty is the outcome. The anvil will drop out of the sky and land precisely on its target – while onlookers are mesmerized by the unlikelihood the contraption has any determinative function at all.

So who loves Vladimir Putin? The Religious Right – White Nationalists – The NRA – Anti-Gay factions – Anti-Democratic Authoritarians – and the list continues. Big oil loves Putin, and so does White Supremacist America. The private prison complex and Christian evangelical leadership. Christianity has used Christ to take whatever it wants from whomever it wants since the Jacobean era. And the methods used and means employed look a lot more like Putin’s ascension, than any that have ever been attributed to Jesus. Who loves Putin? More importantly – who is it that shares his values?

This ain’t no slip, kids. This is a plan. As a matter of fact – they’re calling it “God’s Plan.”