Monday, September 10, 2012

Heritage and Hatred



The license plate read “Heritage Not Hate."
Right on the front of the pick-up truck it made me think. With a Confederate flag as its background it made me wonder: Does that heritage come without hate?
Who celebrates the antebellum South? 
It turns out lots of people do. They celebrate it with Confederate flags and Civil War re-enactments. They celebrate it by whistling Dixie and loving “Gone with the Wind.” They mourn it's passing by renovating elaborate monuments to human misery that once dotted the southern landscape. They call these monuments plantations and pledge their undying love for each other on the buildings' steps. That time is a time steeped in nostalgia, and if there is one thing people love, it is nostalgia.
But how do you divorce the heritage from the hatred? Do you ignore the backbone of the South, the soul-destroying practice of enslaving humans that made the entire shebang function so smoothly? Do you ignore the birth of the Klan, the rise of Jim Crow and the systematic attempts to recreate slavery without violating the Constitution? How many mint juleps must you consume to perform that level of mental gymnastics?
It is hard to respect someone who won’t acknowledge the obvious. It’s almost impossible to accept people who never want to pay the cost of the beliefs they espouse.
If you love that South, don’t try to pretend that it was something it wasn’t. Don’t try to sell us this dream that it was just good ol’ boys working hard and playing harder.
Own up to what that time really was about for your ancestors and mine. Admit what they tried to accomplish, and what you still resent that they failed to do. Otherwise, I refuse to take you seriously.
It is a heritage steeped in hatred. There is no separating the two, and it doesn’t matter how many bumper stickers and license plates say otherwise.
Have enough self-respect to refuse to accept the easy lie.






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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Black President Re-cap

If you haven't already you should really check out Ta-nehisi Coates latest piece in the Atlantic about President Obama. It touches on many of the topics we've discussed here at the blog over the years, and raises what some black folks see as the central debate about Obama's presidency.

Was it worth it?

Well, that's the way I read the piece at its core. Coates seems to be asking whether having a black president was worth the uptick in racism and the ridiculous attempts to downplay the effects of racism that have followed Obama's ascent. Moreover, Coates seems to be asking if it was worth all the hope and faith black folks invested in what Obama's presidency meant considering the fact that in order for him to be president he had to sacrifice or hide some of the very sentiments many black folks want a black president to express.

Let's be honest, most of us didn't expect Obama to be a revolutionary in the White House. Yet, deep in our hearts we likely hoped that at some point he would have a real talk with white folks. We hoped that eventually he would let white folks know exactly where the world stands and what part they played in getting it here. We knew this was unlikely and would probably be the end of his political career. But I'm willing to wager that most black folks expected that if we weren't going to get special treatment from the nation's first black president, we would at least get the unvarnished "Truth About White Folks" at some point.

That hasn't happened. I'm a big Obama fan and think the brother has done an admirable job in the face of ridiculous opposition. I'm proud to have voted for him. Unlike many, I know he's reformed the Justice Department and provided needed services to the poor. I know he's tried hard to undo the conservative evil wrought by Bush and his cronies. But, I also know that he's done all that while being extra careful to avoid offending the racial sensibilities of white folks.

Look, every black person who works for white folks or with white folks knows why that tact was necessary. There are very few other paths available to many of us. But I'd wager that most of us were hoping that Obama's seat at the big table would provide an opportunity for him to display righteous indignation at least some of the time. His indignation would have expressed the things we've always wanted to say, but often had to bite back because of other concerns. After all, being the Leader of the Free World should at least come with that perk, right?

Coates explores exactly why this hasn't happened and why it's unlikely to happen. He also discusses what that means for black folks in the long run, and whether Obama's success will have unintended consequences like the once heralded rush towards integration. Check out the brother's work when you get a chance.

Peace
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God Of The Poor

When was the last time you examined the Old Testament?

I understand that's not the most popular part of the Bible. All that "Thou shall not" seems to make people pretty uncomfortable. And while Americans and humans in general tend to love violence and sex in every other book, it feels a tad out of place to many folks in the holy word of God. I get that, really I do.

But, I've been spending some time in the Old Testament, just picking books at random and reading until I'm finished. In my studies I've discovered two very important things. One, the God of the Old Testament displays all of the same qualities as the Jesus of the New Testament. For those scoring at home, that means he has always been incredibly merciful and loving. The second thing is that human beings really, really don't change.

The first point will have to wait for another post, , but I do want to say now that I found it to be the most inspiring part of my reading.  The second point is the focus of this post, particularly how this truth was driven home in my mind. It wasn't the stories of rape, murder, lying and thieving that made me comprehend the immutable nature of humanity. Those things were simply the result of a larger problem. Basically, we humans are just incredibly and amazingly selfish.

Now some of you are shaking your heads, secure in the knowledge that you and those you know care about others and do good deeds whenever possible. You likely dislike Christianity's allegiance to the concept of a "fallen man" born into sin. I understand you, but I think you're missing the message. Just because humans often do good doesn't mean we're not selfish. And just because we behave unselfishly does not mean that selfishness isn't innate. Consider the fact that every parent must teach their children to share, not to hoard.

But I discuss our selfishness for another reason. Do you know what God spent most of his time chastising Israel about in the Old Testament? First on the list was their proclivity for embracing other gods simply because that was easier and more popular. And second, God was constantly angry because his people refused to care for the poor, injured and desperate in their midst. This refusal came despite his repeated orders, and despite their own desperate pleas for his mercy.

Quite simply, it is amazing how often God discusses poverty and our responsibility to help the poor. People assume that Jesus was preaching some radical gospel, but the reality is that his teachings were perfectly aligned with God had been telling Israel for thousands of years. Jesus was basically asking the Jews of his time "When are you going to start listening to me?"

Exactly how responsible Christians are to the poor has always been a sticking point. Remember Jesus at one point allowed a lavish sum of money to be spent on him and chastised those who questioned the decision by noting that the poor would always be around. Some have taken that admonishment as proof that God want's his children to live in opulence.

This is obvious in America where the mostly white political right has wrapped itself in the mantle of Christianity although white people on the left are far less comfortable with religion. (I use white people because black people and Latinos are way more likely to express strong religious beliefs and still vote for Democrats.) It seems those folks who identify most closely with God are the ones vehemently opposed to political policies that attempt to correct longstanding economic inequities. Honestly, that's just not biblical.

Did you know that God supported socialism? Not only did the early church practice a small scale form of socialism by selling all of their worldly goods to support each other, but God himself ordained wealth redistribution.

For more proof, do a Google search on the term "Year of Jubilee" and read about how God planned for all land acquired through honest and dishonest means to be returned to its original owners every 50 years to insure that poverty wouldn't last for generations. (There is no evidence that Israel ever practiced this God-ordained rule.) Look at God's views on eradicating slavery, and the use of predatory interest rates. The more you read the Bible, the more you realize that while God has definite standards related to personal behavior, he is most concerned about how you treat him and how you treat those in need.

But, humans aren't interested in that sort of God. It clashes with the feelings of those believers who prefer the bootstraps ethos to its extreme. It clashes with those non-believers who don't want anyone telling them how to live. Human beings want to do what they want to do, and they don't care who says anything different. There really is nothing new under the sun.





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Monday, August 20, 2012

A Brief Explanation


 It felt like it was time to go I'd said enough, and possibly said too much.. That's why I abruptly shutdown the blog. I'd become a casualty of the fickle economy, and in trying to position myself to find another job, I wondered if this blog was a positive. Sure, I post under a pseudonym, but it's not that hard to find out who I really am. How would it look in a job interview trying to explain exactly why I post my thoughts under the moniker of "Raving Black Lunatic"?

Turns out I was wrong.  I have plenty more to say, and if I have to explain why I write what I write, I'll do my best to make it plain.

There is still a need for lunatics, raving and black. So many things still bubble around inside the rusted cauldron that it is my brain, and I'll only make myself sick if I don't have a chance to express them. So I'm back, if anyone cares. And I will keep posting about race, religion and what being black means to me. I hope some of you will forgive my desertion and continue to check out what I have to say.





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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back

I thought it made sense to leave and discovered it made more sense to stay.


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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Obama, The Gays and Blacks

Read a story the other day about how black people are more "hostile" towards gay folks than any other racial group in America. That statement sort of surprised me.

The thesis was supported by statistics showing our resistance to gay marriage in larger numbers, and the fact that more of us go to church more often than any other group. That was the entirety of the proof provided for labeling black folks hostile to homosexuals. Seemed like a pretty flimsy connection to me, but it made me think.

Apparently,  in addition to be being hyper-sexual, violent beasts, black folks have now added "homophobic idiots" to their character traits according to Holy Bible of Public Opinion. The backlash against black folks has been harsh, just as it was in the wake of the passage of Proposition 8 in California, and that's unfortunate. It's unfortunate because as the conversation has devolved into a rash of "nigger" and "faggot" spewing, a chance to learn something has been lost.

The truth is both sides have compelling, flawed arguments. Take the homosexual stance that likens the struggle for their rights to that of black folks. Many of them are understandably disgusted by one marginalized group turning so vehemently on another. While this makes sense on an intellectual level, if actually fails the smell test.

After all, isn't the history of America littered with stories of marginalized groups turning on each other despite common interests. Don't we call that "divide and conquer"? Why would black people be held to higher standard simply because they have suffered so much? Isn't that a sneaky way of introducing the Magical Negro trope into the discussion, and denying black folks their humanity in yet another way?

In addition, when what you perceive to be bigotry in others spurs you to bigotry of your own, no one holds the moral high ground. This may sound strange coming from a man who has tossed around "Crackers' with the best of them, but it's true. You cannot justify your bigotry by pointing to the actions of others, and when slurs and stereotypes fly from your lips whenever black folks thwart your plans, well you have a serious problem. You might want to address that on your own.

Yet, the anger that homosexuals feels is understandable. After all, there are parallels between the two struggles. There is no equality in them, but they are connected. And it is hurtful to have someone you assumed would be a supporter turn into an enemy. (Although there is some question as to why black folks were assumed to be supporters. Have we ever assumed that homosexuals would support black people in their struggle, and criticized them when they did not? No we haven't)

Gay marriage has little impact on the lives of others. It has no more impact than rampant adultery or fornication and no one is lining up to outlaw those two sexual sins also mentioned by God in his holy word. That is the hypocrisy that angers gay folks. Particularly when it comes from group with an out of wedlock birthrate of like 70 percent, and the highest homicide rate of any race. As the popular song once said "Sweep around your own front door before you sweep around mine."

Unfortunately, black folks, and many white folks, see homosexuality as a special sin. There is very little Biblical justification for this stance, but it persists. As a "special" sin there is a belief, which I have witnessed firsthand, that providing a stamp of approval for anything associated with this sin will have greater consequences. How black people can make this argument with the rampant homosexuality in many black churches is confusing, but it is true. Moreover, many homosexuals seem hellbent on driving home the point that if you do not agree that there is nothing wrong with who they sleep with you are a terrible human being.

Neither side is willing to concede that sometimes you just have to let people be who they are without judgment. You have to let gay people marry in services they create because ultimately it won't impact you. You have to let black folks think homosexuality is a sin before God because ultimately it won't impact you. That simple belief has limited power. It's only when beliefs shape actions that a problem occurs. And preventing that particular problem is easily accomplished by using the law.

It's not that difficult to find a consensus if everyone stops demanding they be recognized as completely right.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Excuse Me As I Justify

As the attempts to discredit Trayvon Martin have grown in intensity and frequency since his death something has become obvious. It is not that George Zimmerman had no reason to fear for his life during his brief encounter with Trayvon because he might have truly been in danger. It is not that Al Sharpton's name is still an epithet to many white folks. That is beyond obvious.

What has become clear as pundits and amateur sleuths have tried to fine some way to slander Trayvon is that white people believe deeply that their fears are justified. They believe that their mistreatment of minorities is beyond reproach. They believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they and their ancestors have mostly made the right decisions.

That is why Trayvon's memory has been attacked. Though the rationale offered is about balancing sympathetic media coverage, or discovering the truth, that's a smokescreen. Martin's history wasn't known to Zimmerman as he walked through that neighborhood. There is no evidence that he was "high" or stealing. He was just walking. And that action, combined with all the "truths" known about black men, is what led him to be deemed suspicious.

Trayvon may have enjoyed marijuana. He may have postured like a gangsta with friends. He may have even stolen things on occasion. But George Zimmerman did not know that as he approached him on that rainy street. Besides his "gut" feeling that Trayvon was trouble and he had no other reason to deem the teen suspicious and initiate contact.. But, the truth is that many white people think that gut feeling was perfectly reasonable.

This was evident in the blatantly racist column written by John Derbyshire that outlined exactly how white children should handle black folks. It was obvious in the comments made by conservative pundits railing against the unfairness of the whole situation for George Zimmerman.

Behind the calls for truth and transparency is the belief that Trayvon deserved to be questioned and feared. Geraldo basically made that point when he ranted about hoodies. Despite statistics that show that most white people are victimized by other white people, certain folks believe that they know the face of crime, they've always known the face of crime and that face doesn't look like them.

That belief justifies certain "precautions". It justifies certain laws and practices. Racial profiling isn't racism, it's good police work. Discrimination isn't immoral, it's just nipping problems in the bud before they can truly blossom. Trayvon Martin's death may have been a tragedy, but you can't make an omelet without hurting Humpty Dumpty.

This mindset inflames and poisons racial discussions. It causes people to defend positions that are illogical and immoral. Ultimately, it just makes things worse. But the blame for that rarely falls on white folks, instead it gets placed on the backs of black people. White people are behaving sensibly, black people are behaving emotionally.

And that's how evil gets justified.


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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Just Say It

If a man treats women like second class citizens simply because they have a vagina, it's easy to call him a sexist. When someone fondles little boys or little girls, no one hesitates to use the word pedophile. Someone who practices domestic violence is an abuser. Someone who tells lies is a liar. And someone who steals is a thief.

But, a person who practices racism can't be labeled a racist unless you know exactly what's in their head the moment they do their dastardly deed. Without that knowledge of their "hearts" it's impossible to label them a racist.

Am I the only one confused?

There are few things I hate more in this world than the belief that it's unfair to call someone a racist simply because they behave like one. Few other activities receive this sort of blanket protection. In fact, I'm hardpressed to think of any. Everyone understands that the surest way to gain insight into someone's character is to assess their actions, except when you're trying to determine whether or not they racist. That's when you have to break out the telepathy.

The common practice of requiring mind reading to levy a claim of racism is asinine. It sets an impossible standard for discussing a serious and prevalent problem, and pretty much insures that racism will be allowed to flourish and grow. There is no way to confront racism because no one is a racist.

As I've said before in this space, this is a byproduct of our society's inability to apply critical thinking to discussions involving race. Moreover, it's more proof that when white people are uncomfortable, the world has to change. White people don't like the word racist, and now everybody in the world is skittish about using it because they want white people to pay attention. It's one of the most incredible examples of white privilege you'll ever run across.

The truth is, I don't care about what's in people's hearts. I'll never know what's in their hearts. I can only judge them based on the way they behave. And if they behave like racists, we need to be willing and able to call them racists. Otherwise, what's the point?





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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Things White People Say...

This is a list made in response to how some folks have handled Trayvon Martin's death. I present:


 Fifteen things white people say when they would rather say "Fuck Whining Niggers".


1. You know Arabs owned slaves right?

2. Black people did too.

3. If he wasn't guilty, why did he run?

4. Why not just let the police search you and your car if you're innocent?

5. Why don't black people march for black-on-black crimes?

6.  My ancestors didn't own slaves, I don't see why I can't get a job or go to school because of Affirmative Action.

7. Maybe if you didn't look so dangerous you wouldn't have so many problems

8. Of course racism is still kind of a problem, sort of.

9. I can't be racist, I have black friends.

10. Black people are more racist than any other race.

11. You don't hear the Asians and Mexicans whining about racism, they just go to work.

12. Why can't black people try to be colorblind like me and my friends?

13. Stereotypes are based on facts.

14. I don't have all the facts and I think it's unfair to make a decision without all the facts.

15. Look like a thug, die like a thug.

 


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Thursday, March 22, 2012

It Is All About Y'all

"Where are all the black leaders and marches when a black person kills another black person in the street?"

Human beings have a favorite response to information they dislike, distrust or that discomfits. It's called deflection. Visit any website where a mixed crowd of conservatives and liberals gathers, and you'll see tons of deflection in the largely anonymous comments posted at the end of stories.

Trayvon Martin's death has not changed that fact. While many black people believe the circumstances surrounding his death provide a perfect example of  how little value some people still attach to a black life, for other folks that's not even a consideration. As millions express outrage and disgust at the child's death and the police handling of the case, others quietly and loudly seethe at what they see as black America's myopic focus on race, and its impact on black lives. They just see us complaining again.

These complaints do not provoke introspection, but instead encourage avoidance. People want to avoid examining why they find it plausible that an unarmed black youth posed a life-threatening danger to an armed white man. They don't want to consider why the police have made the strange choices they've made.
Instead, many of them want to figure out exactly how this little black boy was responsible for his own death because that dovetails perfectly with their belief that this is true for most black men who die. More importantly, they are distraught that this single death has galvanized the black community and dominated the airwaves and Internet, and they grasp at straws to explain why this response is completely unjustified.

"If black people got this upset when these little thugs shot each other in the street, crime would disappear."  
There is persistent belief that black people like crime. We supposedly encourage and protect criminals and are always openly hostile to the kindly police just trying to do their jobs. We bring our misery upon ourselves, mainly because that's our natural state.

That belief is a part of most conversations about crime among white folks, particularly when they don't have to worry about being identified by black folks. Many of them loathe Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson only slightly more than they dislike the NAACP, so whenever Ministers INC descends upon an issue it is a clear sign that something shady is afoot. It's a clear sign that it's time to remove the benefit of the doubt.

 White people, and I use that term to refer to the group as a whole not to everyone within the group, believe that if black people really wanted things to change, they would. If we didn't want drug dealers spreading their poison, it would cease. They calmly ignore the fact that their children and peers are just as likely to be addicts as ours, more likely in fact according to several reports. They ignore this fact because those addictions do not create violence, which seems to be confined largely to the neighborhoods inhabited by black folks. Clearly, it's the black folks who are the problem, not the drugs and the poverty.

This persistent certainty that we encourage, foster and cherish violence is why so many people feel the irresistible urge to bring up black-on-black crime in a discussion about the violent shooting death of an unarmed child by a man violating police commands. It's why so many people cannot help but note that if black folks didn't do so many bad things they wouldn't get treated so poorly. It's why certain folks in certain places have tried their hardest to find reasons to impune Trayvon Martin's character.

This latest tragedy cannot be the fault of American racism and discrimination because black folks bring their problems upon themselves. White folks do not need to consider the larger ramifications of this death or what it says about American culture. They do not need to consider exactly how stereotypes and assumptions can be fatal. Black people are to blame. Period.

We always have been, and we always will be.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When Death Visited Sanford

Dead people are a regular part of my life.

I see them and the aftermath of their deaths quite frequently. My job requires that I'm there when people die violently, and I must sort through what gets left behind.

As I listened to the Trayvon Martin 911 calls it struck me that my life is not normal. The lives of the people who live in the neighborhoods where I see recurring violence are not normal. We do not have the same reaction to real violence that most Americans have, and that says something profound.

Those tapes show a neighborhood in distress. People are amazed, shocked and frightened that gunshots have disturbed their tranquil neighborhood and they understandably fear for their safety and the safety of their loved ones. It is clear as they talk to police that gunshots are not something they are used to.

This is a neighborhood more familiar with dog walking and the occasional property crime than murder. It is not a place of bodies and blood. One woman, who was several streets away from the shooting, was so distressed that police discussed possibly sending out a crime victim counselor to discuss the incident with her just to help her cope. And she never even saw Trayvon Martin.

Those tapes made me think how different life can be for different people. In the neighborhoods where gunshots are background noise, and dead bodies and makeshift memorials are the norm, people have much more subdued reactions to violence. Death becomes a spectacle, an event that gathers people together to interact. There is some sadness, particularly from distraught family members, but many of the people who gather whenever another young black man dies aren't deeply moved. Their lives are so closely intertwined with death that the departure of a soul from a body has become borderline blase.

But what does that do to a person? The people of Sanford were crying, wailing and shaking when a stranger died in the midst. Their reactions make sense when you consider the awesome finality and pain of death. But, do people have the luxury of such a visceral reaction when every day could bring another body? Can you allow death to sear your soul if it comes more frequently than the rain? You can't allow it because it would be impossible to function. But what do you lose by cauterizing that part of your soul? 

What do those of us who see death so regularly lose? How does it change the way we see the world and treat others? What type of world does it create? Why are some people, those who live in dangerous neighborhoods, forced to carry that burden?

Why?


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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trayvon Martin and Truth About America

There are certain hard, unpopular truths about America that rarely get discussed.

1. This country was never intended to be a meritocracy, has never operated as a meritocracy. Injustice is just as much a bedrock of this country as man's inalienable rights.

2. The law has typically been used to maintain the status quo.

It's important to note these unassailable facts because in the case of Trayvon Martin, these facts are not only what led to his death, but they have also allowed his murderer to walk the streets as a free man. It's not enough to decry Martin's death as an unspeakable tragedy and sympathize with his grieving family. No, it must be noted that his death is just the latest salvo in an ongoing war against the rights of minorities, and a recent incarnation of a longstanding meme that black and brown lives are worth less.

Those who think this country is truly concerned with justice and equality must examine those beliefs under the harsh glare of a case where an armed, adult white male accosts a smaller, unarmed, black teenager for no crime, but because he deemed the youth "suspicious." This man demands that this child "present his papers" and when the child takes offense, they scuffle. This man is somehow bested by a child he outweighs by more than 100 pounds, and decides that his life is so endangered that he's justified in killing the young man. That's right, the larger more aggressive suspect who accosted the innocent bystander kills him and then claims it was self defense.

And the police have accepted this explanation.

Clearly this is not the more common scenario that typically surrounds the slaying of an unarmed black man, where a police officer in a pressure-filled situation overreacts and points to the threat of potential death. This is not the case of a homeowner protecting his property, even under the most dubious claims..

No, in this incident, a man sought a fight, found a fight and then killed a child when the fight didn't go his way. And he did it all despite commands from law enforcement to stand down. That's what makes this incident such a prime example of the injustice that dominates America. This man's actions, and the response from authorities, is driven by the idea that a white man who kills a black man has an inherent right to take that action. More importantly, a black man who is killed, probably deserves it.

Honestly, this can't be surprising to people. A quick perusal of the evening news, or the pages of your local newspaper will show that black men are violently killed at an alarming rate, typically by other black men. It's impossible not to note how these deaths are often viewed as part of the status quo, while the deaths of non-blacks, particularly whites, are viewed as a sign of the coming Apocalypse. This media quirk, it is a business decision made based on the stark realities of life in this country. Black lives are worth less.

Trayvon Martin's murder, and it was a murder, has not captivated the nation's consciousness because on a certain level, his death is to be expected. As a black teenage male, he was living on borrowed time in this country where far too many of his peers still view reaching age 21 as an accomplishment and age 30 as a miracle. Any suffering he endures is almost always going to be believed to be his fault or the fault of those charged with caring for him. It's why so many folks have rushed to defend Zimmerman's actions by providing anecdotes about their own encounters with dangerous black youth. These reactions are driven by the conscious and unconscious belief that black people, particularly the males, are inherently dangerous and sometimes need to be put down. Mistakes will be made, but the end justifies the means.

That is what is so infuriating about the situation. It's as if black people can see this obvious reality, but we're constantly being told it's all in our minds. We know what it's like to be black, and about half of us know what's it's like to be black and male. We see the tightrope we walk, and we learn from youth the consequences of falling.

But too many other folks are caught up in the American myth..

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Racism killed Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin.

You may have heard the name already. If you haven't, it's the name of the latest victim of America's racism. Because while it may have been Neighborhood Watch Commando George Zimmerman who shot and killed Martin as the boy walked back to his father's Florida home, it was racism that was truly responsible. The racism that is so deeply embedded into the psyche of so many Americans that it makes it only smart for every black person to constantly keep their head on a swivel.

Martin died because black boys are suspicious. They are suspicious, they are dangerous, they are frightening, they are criminal, they are evil. That's what racism teaches us. Black boys in a neighborhood with white people are a clear sign that something is wrong. Black boys deserve to be questioned, they deserve to be confronted and ultimately, they deserve to die.

If you don't believe that, you haven't been paying attention. You haven't looked behind the thin veneer of proactive policing and "stop and frisk" to see the ugly truth. Just being black is probable cause. It is an indelible brand that marks you as a deviant. You have been identified, cataloged and eventually you will be put in your place. Trayvon Martin was put in his place for sure. He was killed on a sidewalk despite being unarmed, despite being in the neighborhood where his father lived, and despite having just as much right to American air as any other citizen. And the 25-year old man who shot and killed him in cold blood was set free by police.

I have two black boys. They're small now. Still in that cute stage where people of all races smile at them and want to pat their heads. But, one day that will change. One day they will be threats. And it won't just be people of other races who see them that way, it will be black people as well. I'm guilty. I'm guilty of seeing groups of black boys and girding up my loins. My wife is too. We're guilty of believing the hype.

Racism is that strong.

But, are we stronger? Are we strong enough as a nation to make an example out of Mr. Zimmerman. To make it abundantly clear that his actions are not acceptable. That he can't explain away the unjustified murder of a black boy using the same tired racial code words and lies. Will the American justice system do that to a white man? Will that message be sent? Or will black folks receive one more reminder of what our lives are worth, and what the lives of our children are worth?

Time will tell.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Affirmative Action will die

I  expect Affirmative Action to die.

Any other outcome seems completely unlikely. The program has been the whipping boy of white folks from all political vantage points for years, and increasingly even black folks have come to believe that it's outdated and unnecessary. People recoil at the mention of quotas and inferior candidates being offered positions they don't deserve. Affirmative Action has become a symbol of the mistakes inherent in trying to legislate fairness.

There is some truth to that viewpoint. No one who has studied or considered Affirmative Action can deny its failings. People implementing it have reserved spots for black folks and other disadvantage minorities, they have denied people who on the surface appear to be better candidates a spot at the table. It has been poorly implemented and horribly defended. On many levels, it has failed.

But, how many folks recognize its mission. If you talk to many people they think Affirmative Action programs were enacted to get black folks jobs they otherwise couldn't earn. Or get them into colleges that otherwise wouldn't give them a second look. They think the program was a free gift to black folks to make up for slavery and Jim Crow. It was our reparations.

Ignorance is such an ugly thing sometimes. Affirmative Action was not created to give black folks something, it was created to prevent white people from denying us those things that were rightfully ours as American citizens.The program wasn't created to give the unqualified jobs, but to stop white people from consistently denying black people the right to work in jobs they could do, and attend schools they could prosper act simply because of the color of our skin. It wasn't a program designed to make everything fair, it was designed to stop black folks from getting legally screwed.

Most folks don't get that. They don't understand exactly how unbalanced the system has been in this country for centuries. And if they do understand, they don't really want to acknowledge what that means to their lives today. No one wants to admit that their success is tied directly and indirectly to evil perpetuated by their ancestors. Hell, most folks don't want to admit that their ancestors were evil at all. But it's true, it's completely true.

The program has been thwarted by the complete unwillingness of most white people to ever admit that racism and discrimination cause serious problems until well after those serious problems have become entrenched and intractable.  White people have never, ever been interested in creating a society where they relinquished their position of authority, power and privilege, and they never will be. To believe otherwise is to ignored human history in totality.

Unfortunately that is not a part of life that most Americans will ever deal with. Instead, it's been swept under the rug of forgetfulness. Folks don't want to deal with the true legacy of racism and discrimination because some problems just aren't fun to fix. And they are tired of trying.

So Affirmative Action has to die.



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Friday, February 17, 2012

My First Mind

Momma taught me to go with my gut.

She didn't oppose thinking things through, and recommended that with every decision you consider the pros and cons. But, she said in the end, you trust your gut. Since Momma's a Christian just like me, she used terms like the "Spirit of Discernment."

When this birth control thing broke, my gut said this wasn't about people forcing a religion to do something it found immoral. My gut said it was about choice, and the need to limit choices. In my gut, I knew that when it comes to core issues like abortion or birth control or even divorce, the Catholic church isn't interested in compromise or allowing people to deal with God's consequences for their choices. No, the Catholic church has certain issues where compromise is impossible and birth control is one of them.

My gut told me that.

But, I wavered in that belief. I listened to folks who said it was just about a fear of government intrusion into religion, not a desire to limit people's choices. Those people thought that if the government could find a way to allow the Catholic Church to wash its hands, to make sure it wasn't required to directly pay for or provide certain services, things would be ok. Sadly, those people were wrong.

The White House has offered a compromise that would allow the Catholic Church to avoid directly paying for birth control, but that would still provide it for free to women who want it and work for Catholic business or attend Catholic schools. It placed the burden for payment on insurance companies, and while it's true that those companies might pass along those costs in higher premiums, it still means the Catholic Church wouldn't be paying for it directly. The church could reasonably claim its innocence.

 That plan has been rejected.

Some might see this as a principled stand. It might appear to be an example of the church refusing to allow practices that conflict with its beliefs, even indirectly. Those people must have forgotten that we're talking about the Catholic Church.

You know, the Catholic Church that turned a blind eye to a worldwide sexual abuse scandal that ruined the lives of thousands of young boys who were molested repeatedly by priests the church protected from prosecution or punishment. Men the church allowed to resume their duties and molest again. Abuse that continued for decades and still has not been properly revealed because of the church's attempts to first deny that it occurred and then to cover up its scope.

Yeah, that Catholic Church.

So the church's principled stand on birth control, much like its principled stand on abortion, feels false. Those stands seem like just the type of hypocritical tripe that people always accuse religious groups of wallowing in. The church is not in the business of standing up and speaking loudly against all sin or even most sin. It's in the business of focusing on certain sins that overwhelmingly impact the lives of women.

And my first mind tells me something ain't right there.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Trouble With Believers

You know, "believers" do the strangest things.

By believers, I mean Christians, but it can be applied to true believers of any religious bent or ideology. People who become completely and totally invested in something to the point that they sacrifice all vestiges of their God-given ability to critically process information can be quite interesting. I am a believer, but I'm not that sort of believer.

The reason for this observation lies in an issue currently taking up valuable space in our news cycle. Recently, President Obama has been lambasted for a requirement in his healthcare law that mandates that faith-based groups provide mandatory contraceptive coverage for their employees. The rule has driven Catholics insane because of their prohibitions on birth control, and the feeling that the government is forcing them to violate the tenets of their faith. I heard Mitt Romney appealing to that very sentiment at a recent rally, telling the crowd that they are under attack by people who don't share their belief in God.

Poppycock.

No one is forcing Catholics or any other religious person to take birth control. No one. People are not being forced to have abortions, or take the morning after pill, or fornicate or commit adultery or do any of the other sexual sins discussed or implied in the Bible. Nobody is infringing on First Amendment rights.

Instead, what's happening is that the government is telling religions they cannot reap the benefits of the government without following some of its rules. They are not forcing believers to violate their faith, they are saying that healthcare providers must provide certain levels of care to all people. Those people have the choice of whether they accept that care.

It's the choice that's the problem. Conservatives love to claim they want government out of their lives, but in reality what they really want is for government to stop guaranteeing other people rights that they would prefer to limit. See, abortion doesn't impact other people. It impacts the woman having the abortion and the child whose life is ended before it's begun. There is no impact on anyone else. Yet, other people would prefer to make that choice illegal for a woman because they don't agree with it, even as they get upset that the government would make it illegal for them to do the things they want to do. Blatant hypocrisy.

Too many religious people are afraid to give their converts choice. They want to take on a role that even God has rejected. God does not force us to make certain choices. There are options and there are consequences. We may not like the options and we may not agree with the consequences, but ultimately we have the freedom to make whatever choices we want to make. These social conservatives don't want that for people whose beliefs don't align with their tenets, and that bothers me deeply. The sort of hypocrisy that allows you to be comfortable with denying other people freedoms you yourself demand is the sort of hypocrisy that allows people to justify terrible atrocities.

That is what scares me about many conservatives. They can justify things that are not justifiable. They are willing to set aside their beliefs when those beliefs become too inconvenient. That spells trouble. Serious trouble.



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Monday, January 23, 2012

Important stuff

Hal Rounds, the Fayette County attorney and spokesman for the group, said during a recent news conference that there has been "an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.""The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn't existed, to everybody -- not all equally instantly -- and it was their progress that we need to look at," Rounds said, according to The Commercial Appeal.

 Excuse me while I barf. Hurl. Upchuck. Blow chunks.

That's all I can think about doing after reading that story on Huffington Post. We should all focus on how great the founding fathers were, not the fact that they were just fine with treating some people like property while others got rights.

As if that was really any different from a monarchy. Trust me, to the black folks being beaten and raped, it sure wasn't.

It's funny what certain types of white folks consider the "important stuff". Cherry trees and lighting = important. Human bondage = not so important..

At this point any black person who aligns themselves with the Tea Party  movement is a race traitor. Period.


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Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Line is There

At a certain point, it just becomes overkill.

By "it" I mean everything. there is nothing on this planet that cannot be done to excess. Sex, drugs, violence or love, it doesn't matter. There comes a point when the law of diminishing returns sets in. The problem is getting folks to recognize that point.

It would seem that our Republican primary candidates don't understand that logic.

Well, maybe not all of them. Uncle Mitt has been involved in political campaigns for decades so he understands clearly that he only needs to prime the racism pumpa few times before it will turn into a gusher all on its on. But people like Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and the now departed Rick Perry, seemed to have missed that memo. It's almost like they believe there is some sort of competition to see who can come up with the most outrageously racist comments everyday and they are determined to be that guy.

Overkill.

I don't know if these guys really believe the things they say about poverty or minorities, but I know they aren't backing away from them. They have staked claims on the vast plain of anti-political correctness, and they are desperately trying to erect a homestead. Even before Newt derided food stamps and Santorum said what many white people think about welfare, you had Bachmann, Perry and Cain leading the charge. There is power in appealing to those dirty little stereotypes people hold within their hearts, and it is the incredibly moral presidential candidate who turns down easily accessible power.

But, how many obviously racist comments can someone make before they stop being a viable presidential candidate? That depends largely on where collective opinion stands on what qualifies as racism. Gingrich and Santorum are banking on the fact that racism has been confined to such a small box in recent years that they can pretty much say anything and escape serious consequences. Hell, given the general tone people use to discuss the president and his family, that's a pretty safe bet.

Yet I believe that there is a line and both of them are dangerously close to crossing it completely with the majority of Americans. While Americans allow many forms of discrimination to exist unchallenged, they don't like to think of themselves or the people they like as racist. And while many comments that are racist to me are not considered racist by white people, stuff about food stamps and baby mamas generally gets the racist stamp. That's particularly true when those comments are coming from a party already branded as racist by non-members.

So I'm curious to see how this all works out for Newt and Rick. Will they be rewarded for their race to appeal to the bottom, or will it backfire on them? The outcome could very well decide how campaigns are run in the future.



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Monday, January 9, 2012

Check this out

I read this article and I thought you all might enjoy it as well. It is an interesting account of the different face of poverty in New Hampshire, and what different folks see as the root problem. We all have such varied views on how we got to where we are that it's going to be very difficult to create a solution that appeals to most people.
Then again, if it solves the problem, most people will fall in line automatically.



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Raving Black Lunatic