deteriorating conversations: to protect and serve

Recently I’ve been pondering the attitudes that I’ve observed and absorbed about the police and the relationship between people of color and police.  Living where I live, I have very little contact with the police – unless the Mustang lulls me into speeding (and I get caught).  Even though my uncle is a policeman, and I’ve had friends on the force, I don’t generally trust cops.  I never really have.  The institution seems to perpetuate the subjugation of people of color, no matter the race of the officers.

There are stories upon stories of police brutality – even killings – and even though these stories really are a minority, harassment is common.  I know that a lot of people who end up in a life of crime have experienced disadvantages that increase the likelihood that they’ll choose that path, and I can sympathize with that in the abstract.  I’ve never really had to exit my abstractions since I haven’t been so closely touched by crime.  [Certainly, the recent theft of all my music was big to me, but in the grand scheme of things – itty bitty.]

Take the recent story of Aiyana Jones.  Awful police mistake ending in the loss of a 7 yr old.  There really wasn’t enough coverage of the story (surmise your own reasons why), but the coverage that I saw generally discussed Aiyana, the police, and/or the reality tv show that was filming the officers involved.  It was much more rare to run across an article that discussed the impetus for the investigation: the murder of a 17 yr old named Jerean Blake.  It seems the perp was in a relationship with Aiyana’s aunt who lived upstairs (in a separate unit).  Both killings were senseless.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been possible for the police to protect Jerean.  But shouldn’t they have?

And I certainly feel for Aiyana’s family, but what of the scum that chose to kill a kid for looking at him?  In a broader view, what of the kids who choose to join gangs and end up being perps and victims themselves?

Having been placed a lot closer to observing violence in the last couple weeks, I was starkly awakened to the fact that this type of crime [senseless killings] is just as much terrorism as anything mounted by Al Qaeda.  Not that we need completely militaristic methods for deterrents – I’m not even sure that works.

It’s complicated.  We need cops.  But what is it about the justice system that skews the serving and protecting to certain neighborhoods, and the arresting toward other neighborhoods?

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in support of belief

one moment: We have a black president, ya’ll.
That’s some serious stuff.  All by itself.

Moving on, I have to comment on the injustice that has been legistlated this week.  My mind is almost reeling, cuz I was sure that California [of all places] would be able to defeat a proposition recommending to limit the rights of a select group of people – gay people.  Living where I do, you kinda get the picture that Cali is one big gay sex orgy.  No joke.  So it’s crazy to me that they could scrounge up so much support for an article that restricts the civil rights of gay people.

But then there was a measure in Fl, and another in Az, for similar purposes.  Both passed.

Do people understand this is like saying, basically, “we don’t want gay people living in our state”?  That’s crazy.

smoking hot

smoking hot

Here, I’ll pause with a pic of Cap’n Jack Harkness: Torchwood hot boy who plays bi, but is totally gay.  I just love to look at him.  Good actor, too.

Ok, on to my point, the largest single reason that people give for being against civil rights – pretty much any civil rights, for any group – is religious belief.  God ordained these people to be downtrodden, for whatever reason.

And for some reason, this does not sound ludicrous in people’s heads before they say this stuff out loud.

But you know what?  I’m not just mad at folks for misrepresenting God’s character as someone who is a respecter of persons, I’m pissed cuz they seem to have totally forgotten what America stands for.

America: land of the free*, home of the brave.  This is the place settled by people looking to get out from under the thumb of religio-political rule.  The place where in the midst of truly horrible persecution of indigenous peoples [endorsed by the twisting of religious belief] people continued to seek freedom of and from religion.  Do we have a twisted past?  To quote Ms. Palin – You betcha.

But religion has often encouraged us to think bigger, live better, and bear up those who would otherwise be forgotten.  Our beliefs are wide and varied, but normally we al come back to the unifier for all US citizens.  The fact that we are safe from legislation based on religion that restricts the rights of a select group – when said group is not restricting the rights of others.  See, we restrict the rights of murderers because they eliminae the rights of others to live.  That is a clear demonstration of how our laws are supposed to work [according to the constitution].  Restricting the rights of people who live in pink houses, because someone has a religious belief that pink houses are an abomination?  Obviously foolish.

But two gay people getting married to the person they love infringes on my rights as much as people who live in pink houses.  Less so, even.  And yet here we are.

If people don’t have something/someone to believe in, they fall to themselves.  This tends to lead to situations best illustrated by William Golding, in The Lord of the Flies. The complete breakdown of civility towards those with less power is a human tendency.  America has a rich history of demonstrating it, but also a rich history of struggling to overcome it.

Belief is not inherently bad.  Religion is not inherently good.  But each one must reason for themselves.  The character of God can seem mysterious, but the foundations are evident in the best of everything we can see and do and be.  In simplicity, God is love, and we may live richer lives by basing them on this belief ahead of all others.

(*originally land of the free applied only to white men, then it was expanded to white women in some ways and black men in others, it has expanded futher to include pepole of all races, so long as their gender is clearly defined and their sexuality is strictly hetero.  Although, of course, free still doesn’t mean equal.)

in the black

I’m just now realizing how big the intersection between politics and race has become.  It’s like a volcano that’s been puffing for awhile, and is getting ready to blow up.  I knew that there were people out there who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a black man [whatever the personal cost to themselves], but I didn’t have the expectation that someone I work with would have the audacity to almost come out and say it – to me.

Yesterday, I and another black female coworker were verbally accosted with rumors of Obama being a terrorist.  This guy that we work with has always raised some red flags with me [TNTC, really, but most glaring were his backwards views about gays], but yesterday took the ever-lovin’ cake.  I had just heard about Palin’s accusation that Obama is friends with a terrorist (Bill Ayers) and hadn’t heard any actual facts about it.  So this guy swoops in on the convo and says that he heard they live next door to each other, and they’re friends, and that guy [Ayers] helped Obama get his house [in that neighborhood], and it’s all true.  Because – and I’m quoting here –

they couldn’t say it on TV if it wasn’t true.

::crickets::

Yeah.  For real.  Then he says to me, “You’ve gotta watch Fox News, see?  They’re the only ones that are actually fair.  They have a Republican and a Democrat on Hannity and Colmes.  See, otherwise, you’re just getting one side of the story.  You gotta watch Fox News!”

I thought he was joking.  Really, I did.  I’d never heard anyone say out loud [not even a Republican, and I’m surrounded by them here] that Fox News actually is fair.  And believe it.  I asked him if he was joking.  He wasn’t.

Then he just kept going – he doesn’t think that America’s ready for a black president.  He thinks that all the white people will just think he’s only going to help black people [I suppose this might be due in part, to the fact that most people expect others to be like themselves and then begin to project their own characteristics on others.  In this way, it can be inferred that those white people that assume Obama would only help blacks would – if they were in a similar position – only help whites.]  He was quick to remind me that he wouldn’t have a problem with a black president – but other people might would.

After I’d had all the nonsense I could take, I went back to my desk.  But our friend continued to pontificate, telling my female coworker that this whole financial meltdown happened because – wait for it – the terrorists helped Obama help black people get houses/mortgages they couldn’t afford, and now – since they’re not paying on them – we’ve got all these problems on Wall Street.

Yup.  I know someone who believes that ish.  Or at the very least, said it out loud.

I’m actually amazed at the lengths that some people will go to, to support their racism.  These folks are deluding themselves, choosing policies that will actually hurt them but they figure they can live with as long as a white guy is running the show.  Wow.  Tell me how much has changed?

I wanted to talk about the whole financial debacle in more depth but it’s getting late…I suppose my basic point was this: how can you possibly suggest/promote new programs, or increase funding for current programs, and discuss the raging deficit – and then say you’re not going to raise taxes?

Where the *hell* would the money come from???

To me, that is why McCain looked like a ninny tonight.  Sixteen years later: It’s still [or once again, actually] the economy, stupid.

getting exiled: MTV screws brats and their indigenous hosts

We’re all familiar with Sweet 16, right? Well, MTV has found a way to capitalize even more off of this sad franchise. Recycle the faux debs after their 18th birthdays, and thrust them upon some 3rd world folks that are eager for some o’ that Western money [though the dollar bill ain’t what it used to be].

Throw in a bunch of reruns of the shows for the lucky divas and divo (who could forget Bjorn?) and then clips from the respective parents who’ve decided that 18 is a perfect age to start parenting their children. Great! Add a slew of indigenous peoples around the world and well, there’s sure to be drama.

Here’s a bit of Mtv’s own take on this:

A few years after tossing the parties that made them stars in their schools and fueled rivalries among the rich kids, you’re going to see some of the Sweet 16-ers you loved to hate the most — Ava, Sierra, Amanda, Bjorn, Marissa, Chelsi, Meleny and Alex — shipped away from their plush homes and easy lives and Exiled to foreign locations such as the jungles of the Amazon, the tundra of the Arctic Circle, the Andes mountains and remote islands in the South Pacific where they’ll have to live like local commoners with none of the amenities of their normally privileged lives.

Yes, we are now inflicting our own badly unraised children on MORE of the international community. CLassic question from one of our lucky prizewinners: “Have they even seen people before?” Parental response: “They are people, hon.” Common people.

This has train wreck written all over it, so of course, I might have to watch. But my sentient mind will be protesting. The anthropologist in me will most likely die a slow, painful death.

How do I reconcile participating in this tripe? I have no idea. I might actually be morally superior enough to avoid the entire show. But I don’t know. Where’s Bjorn going?

in that hip-hop way

Seems like there’ve been a few conversations going on [for a while] about being black and what that means.  Or being biracial [specifically black and white, most frequently] and what that means.   Some of the hype might be because Obama’s got the [presumptive] nomination and everyone who’s not black is looking for a crash course.  Or it might be because of that whole 2007 being the year of the noose, thing.  Or maybe it’s cuz the veneer cracked a bit, and somebody was taping it.

I don’t know why black people are on the radar now – shoot – maybe they’re not and I just think they are.

But as a ‘mixed’ girl, living where I live, I mostly identify as black.  And I know what that means to me.  My life has been my life, typical of nothing.  I don’t really know who has the actual ‘typical’ life – I don’t think I’ve ever met them.  I know a few folks who lead a fairly stereotypical life – and that’s their choice.

I’ve had the privilege of being exposed to ignorant as well as enlightened people from multiple ethnic backgrounds, and I’ve gathered that we all are who we are.  Sure that’s general, and it really says nothing to distinguish one from another, but that’s kinda my point.  People choose their words, their clothes, their lifestyles, their careers based on a host of different factors.  I’m not a sociologist or a statistician, so I’ll leave them to their philosophizing and numbers.  What I know is that any one person, from any given group, may be as alike or different from any other person, from any other group.  You can’t really get more specific, because it’s all in the details.

Our brains love to box people up into one category or another – we love to find patterns.  Which is why the imagery we see, and hear about, affects our perceptions.  Beyond that, we have our own lives/experiences to color how we filter the material we’re exposed to.  Maybe I hung out with some ragamuffins and self-proclaimed hoodrats, but then I saw family and friends with a whole ‘nother approach to life.  They’re all black, and I couldn’t say any one wasn’t simply because they listened to baroque music and didn’t say the word “ain’t”.

So, uh, that’s why I’m kinda puzzled about Ms. Evin’s comments.

Didn’t grow up around many African Americans?  Me neither.  Private schools?  Check.  Assumption that I can’t relate to black people because I’ve been exposed to a couple knot-heads from the so-called [in my specific situation: wanna be] hood?  Naw.

Really?  You prefer not to speak “in that hip-hop way”.  Well, I think I discussed how I feel about Mr. Cosby’s diatribes about black folks, so you already know.  Can’t say I’m surprised – first comes the tree, then comes the apple – but when is it gonna stop?

BiA, BiA

I think that our stories are just as universal as anybody else’s. It’s been a struggle to prove that true.  That the stories of African Americans are universal, and therefore should not be ghetto-ized. [Spike Lee, CNN’s BiA celeb interviews]

I thought I was done.  But I just had to include this quote from Spike Lee.  Funny that his clip directly follows Soledad’s own, in which she says

I think we’re going to answer a lot of questions.  But also, by answering some, raise a lot of hard questions. It’s not the definitive answer.  It’s to really look at issues, and explore why things have turned out the way they’ve turned out for African Americans.  And I hope some people feel a little uncomfortable about things that they see.

And I think people will recognize themselves in a lot of the stories we’ll tell.  And I think people will see the joy of being in a big, connected family that’s struggled through a lot.  And I think people will be taken through the sorrows of people who’ve lost young people to violence.

It’s gonna make people think.  African Americans will get to see sort of where they’ve come from and also the opportunities that lie ahead.  And that many people have achieved. I think all of America will get a good picture of what it’s like to be black in this country.  For good and for bad. [Soledad O’brien]

Yep – that’s what she said.  “Why things have turned out the way they’ve turned out for African Americans” [emphasis mine].  Why is that?  I didn’t catch that part.  Although I was uncomfortable with some of what I saw…I’m not sure that kind of uncomfortable is what she was going for.

Maybe my biggest issue is that I didn’t see myself in the stories she told.  Perhaps the heart of it all is my own narcissism in wanting to be a part of the ‘Black in America’ story.

Maybe it’s the memory of wanting to be ‘black enough’ that got to me.  The stereotype that I was fed that told me that if I didn’t speak with a vocabulary full of slang, if I didn’t wear certain clothes, if I didn’t listen to certain music – I wasn’t black.  And now, this “good picture of what it’s like to be black in this country” has excluded my picture.  I’d say it struck a nerve.

Most of all, I though the piece missed the mark in regards to Spike Lee’s comment in the beginning.  The stories told were not necessarily universal stories [though there are indeed people of every race who can relate to being poor, or affected by violence, etc], but more like stereotypical stories.  ‘Ghetto-ized’.

the racism cliche

I’ve received word-of-mouth reminders and advertisements for CNN’s “Black in America” ‘Special Report’ [billed as the culmination of a year’s worth of research] for the last two months, at least.  Emails from black friends, family, and coworkers were filled with save-the-date type notices telling me to set my dvr for the special.  No one had seen it, but sadly, the intimation that it would be respectful got a whole lotta black people happy: (“We’re gonna be on tv! In a good way!”)  And then of course, the incessant commercials and teaser pieces that landed on CNN itself [which is mercilessly piped into my work cafeteria 24hrs a day].  So I set my dvr.

Then I didn’t watch it.

I guess I started out behind the 8-ball, in terms of being objective, because I tend to not be into email spam.  The host of email I received on the “Special Report” was just enough to belong in that category.  Then there were the commercials on CNN, which seemed to paint the piece as some kind of anthropological expose on an impossible to infiltrate tribe – a white people’s guide to ‘the black experience’, if you will.

Stephen Colbert's fave journalist

Stephen Colbert's fave journalist

A coworker watched a lead-in piece on education last wknd, and shared with me that for some reason, he was almost insulted that Soledad O’Brien was hosting the series.  I’ve never had strong feelings about her either way, and looked up her background to see for myself – and perhaps come to her defense.  Indeed, she is quite multicultural, but she is part black.  She’s even a member of the National Assn. for Black Journalists.  I told my coworker, but it seemed to make no real difference to him.  And yes – I did think about the fact that – other than her, and the Larry Smith guy who covers sports – I couldn’t think of any other black people on CNN.  I don’t watch it except when I’m on break/lunch at work – so I could be missing someone.  [Robin Meade looks sufficiently ambiguous, though.]

While avoiding work, I pulled up a lovely lil article on CNN.com ~ the link cleverly titled to get almost everyone to click on the link [especially my demographic]: The article wasn’t quite what I expected.  It turned out to be another piece on how there are so many single black women in America.  That I could’ve done without.  But I continued, forward – giving CNN the benefit of the doubt. Continue reading