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Posts Tagged ‘Racism’

I’m lucky if I can remember where I left my phone.

And I admit I sometimes have trouble finding my car in a bustling parking lot. Once I couldn’t understand why my hand didn’t immediately unlock my car, until I looked inside and realized it wasn’t mine… it was my make, color and model Subaru and it was parked right next to mine! I know, you are supposed to worry when you forget how a thing works, not what it is called, but I’m more worried about our collective memory, and what our children are taught about history in school.

All of a sudden school board meetings are ending in chaos in one of the toniest districts in Northern Virginia. So being an ex-school board member, I wanted to dig deeper into “Critical Race Theory” CRT, to understand the current climate. Is it just another rube from the GOP to get our heads turned that way, instead of noticing all their cute little voter suppression laws? Inquiring minds…

CRT is a graduate level thesis that originated with Columbia law School Professor Kimberly Crenshaw:

“Critical Race Theory asks why discrimination did not end with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and recommends critical scrutiny of laws focusing on their consequences rather than upon the avowed intentions of their authors.”

This sounds like a “Law 101” course – just because one didn’t intend to murder someone, doesn’t mean it’s not murder. Critical thinking skills are always part of a school’s curriculum, unless you went to Catholic school like I did – back then memorizing and repeating dogma was (and may still be) a good strategy.

The 1619 Project, first published in The New York Times just two years ago, helped to explain how racism was endemic from the very beginning in our country, and that angered certain Republicans. So they published their very own, white-washed, slavery-wasn’t-so-bad version of history called the 1776 Report:

“The 1776 Report fixates upon the related scourge of “identity politics” — a “creed” by which “supposed oppressors” must “atone and even be punished in perpetuity for their sins and those of their ancestors.” These ideas received more attention in the 1776 Report than slavery did.” Which actually has very little to do with critical race theory!

Hmmm, so the Right would rather teach about sins in public school! So far five states have passed laws trying to direct or restrict what is taught in the classroom – Idaho, Iowa, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, and soon to be followed by Florida of course. And there are more states gearing up for this fight; it’s like a modern day Scopes Monkey Trial. The problem with government re-writing history to fit their own narrative is nothing new, the Soviet Union has been passing what are colloquially called “memory laws” since WWII.

A Revisionist in Russia is someone who openly criticizes Stalin; in America, Revisionism usually refers to race. Holocaust deniers are just as revisionist as Southern White “heritage” nationalists. Today, the General Robert E Lee statue was escorted out of a public park in Historic Downtown Charlottesville, VA and I’m proud to say I was there in 2016 when a whole bunch of White people at the Paramount Theatre were informed by Bryan Stevenson that Black people didn’t really like that General Lee statue! https://mountainmornings.net/2016/03/20/being-brave/

“But the most common feature among the laws, and the one most familiar to a student of repressive memory laws elsewhere in the world, is their attention to feelings. Four of five of them, in almost identical language, proscribe any curricular activities that would give rise to “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/29/magazine/memory-laws.html

As an ex-school board member, I hate to inform everyone but keeping our children pleasantly uninformed so that they feel good about themselves is not our job in a free democracy. Protecting children from thoughts they might find uncomfortable reminds me of Orwell’s 1984. Our schools need to continue to teach critical thinking skills along with reading, writing and math. I certainly learned nothing about our treatment of Native tribes in Sacred Heart School. And it wasn’t until college in the 60s that I was exposed to anyone of another race!

So yes, run for school board if you like. Print out posters and pins! But if our voting and civil rights are continually challenged, state by state incrementally, what kind of country will be left for our children? Here are a couple of future scientists.

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Baron de Coubertin was a French aristocrat born to a strict Catholic Jesuit family, who grew up in the world of the French Third Republic, when the purpose of an aristocrat was no longer clear. He was a man searching for a mission. In the emerging sport cultures of North America and Britain, he comes across the contribution of sport to the transformation of nations and humanity. Above all, what he finds there is the idea of the “gentleman sporting amateur aristocrat.” When he came up with the idea of reinventing the ancient games of Olympia in a modern guise, his vision was to create a display of manly virtue—an incredible phrase, but that’s how he described it [Laughs]—in which the moral, athletic, and physical brilliance of amateur sporting gentlemen would provide not only the esprit de corps and energy they required to go on and rule their various empires, but an elevating example to the rest of us.”

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/olympic-games-history-rio-david-goldblatt?loggedin=true

In 1894, de Coubertin used every bit of leverage and financing he could muster to reinvent the modern Olympic Games. Athens was the first site for the games in 1896, and the Baron became the second IOC President. It’s important to note that this was mostly a man’s playing field; it wasn’t until 1968 that women were allowed to compete in any Track and Field event longer than 200 meters. We were thought to be too delicate!

But this morning something smells rotten in Tokyo, and it’s not just so many volunteers quitting over Covid.

We women, who were supposed to politely clap for male athletes, now make up 45% of all the Olympic teams around the globe! And there was an orange-hair super star about to make track and field history who was suspended yesterday for failing a drug test.

Sha’Carrie Richardson, a 21 year old African American woman, was favored to bring back gold this summer. Unfortunately, she used marijuana back in the states – in a weed-legal state – to help her cope with the news of her biological mother’s death. Her time in the Olympic trials for the 100 meter sprint was 10.86 SECONDS.

Back before Title IX, I used to win the 50 yd dash at camp, which is about half that distance, high on Pepsi, followed by a whole pizza!

Still, I get it. Look at Michael Phelps. Phelps was suspended for a short time simply because a picture of him with a bong at a party surfaced. He never tested positive for THC. But his suspension came in between Olympic trials, so of course he went on to win a gazillion gold medals.

Would someone please explain to me how smoking weed would increase your desire to run or swim faster?

Let’s add some insult to another Olympic trial. The International Swimming Federation has ruled it illegal for Black athletes to wear “Soul Caps.” I’d never heard of these swim caps, specially designed by a Black-owned business to hold a lot of hair!

“The original swimming cap, designed by Speedo 50, was created to prevent Caucasian hair from flowing into the face when swimming. Danielle Obe (a member of the Black Swimming Association) said the caps did not work for afro hair, which “grows up and defies gravity… We need the space and the volume which products like the Soul Caps allow for. Inclusivity is realising that no one head shape is ‘normal.'”

Again, how would stuffing a lot of hair into a larger swim cap improve your performance? Don’t male swimmers shave their whole bodies just to cut milliseconds off of their times?

The days of the “gentleman amateur” athlete may be over, but the modern Olympics have survived bouts of corruption within the ranks and racially insensitive, weird “tribal games” in St Louis in 1904. The Berlin Games of 1936 proved a watershed moment for democracy and diversity. But today, more and more cities are reluctant to bid for the games because of its enormous cost; not just financial but also the social cost of displacing mostly poor, inner-city residents.

I’ll be staying home this Fourth of July weekend, playing Super Big Boggle with Bob, eating hot dogs with the Grands, watching fireworks from a parking lot, and trying to improve my time doing rehab exercises. A 50 yard dash in a pool may be doable?

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Like a first kiss, everyone can remember the very first time they voted.

I am still proud of my first presidential vote for George McGovern in 1972 over Richard Nixon. I was just 24 years old, and was pretty depressed with the results – the ONLY state McGovern won was the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts! He was an anti-war Democrat when Americans were becoming tired of Vietnam; a Senator from South Dakota with an impeccable reputation. But Nixon managed his huge victory through lies and innuendo, with Watergate looming on the horizon.

At least Nixon lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 in 1970 – ’cause if you can be drafted to die in Vietnam, you might as well be able to vote.

I remember my foster parents voting. It was the only time they would leave me alone in the house; they would get dressed up for the occasion, Nell would wear powder and lipstick, Jim would don a tie. They would never say who they voted for, but somehow I knew it was a straight-line Blue ticket. After all, Democrats were the party of working people, of unions, and even the Catholic Church! This was FDR and JFK’s legacy, they were like saints to us.

And then in 1965, LBJ signed into law the Voting Rights Act to end racial discrimination at the ballot box.

“Black people attempting to vote were often told by election officials that they gotten the date, time or polling place wrong, that the officials were late or absent, that they possessed insufficient literacy skills or had filled out an application incorrectly. Often African Americans, whose population suffered a high rate of illiteracy due to centuries of oppression and poverty, would be forced to take literacy tests, which they inevitably failed. Johnson also told Congress that voting officials, primarily in southern states, had been known to force black voters to “recite the entire constitution or explain the most complex provisions of state laws”–a task most white voters would have been hard-pressed to accomplish. In some cases, even Black people with college degrees were turned away from the polls.”

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/johnson-signs-voting-rights-act

But as we know, so often passing a law and enforcing it are two different things. In the South, Republicans managed to continue to suppress the Black vote in covert ways. Outlawing a poll tax for example can be replaced by fewer and minimally staffed polling places in urban Black neighborhoods. Where there is a White Supremacist will, they will find a way – just as legislators are doing now in Georgia.

One of the most egregious changes Gov Kemp signed into law last week was cutting by half the number of days a person can request an absentee ballot. Due to Covid, in the last election about a quarter of the GA electorate voted absentee. And almost 65% of those voting absentee were for Joe Biden.

The first time I voted absentee was in VA. We were planning a trip over an upcoming November election, so we had to present ourselves to City Hall and state the reason we needed to vote early. You needed a reason, like a child getting a note from a doctor in order to return to school. Then after presenting our photo IDs, we sat down right there and voted with paper and pen.

This last election we requested absentee ballots, because… we’re old. TN Republicans didn’t think a global pandemic was a good enough reason to vote absentee. Bob thought it was funny that we didn’t need to prove who we were to anybody, just make the request online, and wait for it to be delivered. And wait, and wait. Then vote and seal it. I mean, who would hack a government agency? We hand-delivered our ballots, along with Ada and Hudson’s, to the official ballot box at Nashville’s historic US Post Office! Of course, sealing it “the right way” was tricky but we managed.

I wonder what my Nana would say because she was denied her right to vote over a century ago, after the 19th Amendment was passed. She had married an “Alien,” aka an Irish born citizen. What would my foster mom Nell think if she saw me in a face mask, voting at a post office? Would she wonder why Republicans are making it harder to vote than it is to buy a gun? I’d like to ask her out on our porch, while she was sipping an ice cold Royal Crown cola. I’ll have a Pepsi myself.

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Sleep has been eluding me lately because these days are hard to fathom. Mr T used his soapbox to preach conspiracy falsehoods and push an angry mob to desecrate our Nation’s Capitol. More and more video has surfaced since Wednesday. An Air Force veteran came from California, a QAnon believer, only to be shot in the neck. A Capitol policeman was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. Another was crushed between doors. Blood was shed.

And blood is on the hands of every single Republican who ever supported this mad president, and thought it might be a good idea to stage an insurrection last week.

Usually reading before bed is a calming ritual. “The Cold Millions,” by Jess Walter has been my escape from our current political dystopia. The book was delivered to my front door, like most things these days, human contact unnecessary. The author’s previous novel, “Beautiful Ruins,” is a favorite so I couldn’t wait to dig in; instead of flirting with the good ‘ole days of Hollywood, Walter aimed his pen at the wild west – Spokane, Washington in 1909. It was a formative time for labor unions.

I like to think my Great Great Grandmother hosted many a union organizing dinner in her Scranton, Pennsylvania dining room. Grandma Mullen was born in Ireland in 1844 and raised 23 children! She lost a few husbands along the way to the coal mines. Over the years, I’d heard that she ran a boardinghouse for miners, and she would feed them IF they would read her the newspaper. I wonder if my ancestor, on the Flapper’s side, could have imagined the future me, writing for newspapers?

In “the Cold Millions,” two dirt poor brothers, Ryan and Gig, are pitted against the emerging upper class of industrial/publishing/judicial elites. And because they stand on a soapbox in the middle of a union rally for the “Industrial Workers of the World,” they are hauled off to jail. It’s not hard to think of a juvenile in an adult jail, our country still manages to make such arrangements.

But peaceful rallying in the street is nothing new. Walter’s fictional characters are based on real life union organizers at the beginning of the last century sick of being swindled by job brokers, their heads beaten with clubs. Over the years, our family has been known to take to the streets. Bob protested the Vietnam War in Washington. I’ve traveled to DC a few times to rally for Reproductive Rights. I was in DC at the 2017 Women’s March and passed many buses filled with our National Guard at the ready… just in case.

Where were they last Wednesday? And why were they late to arrive after Pence and Pelosi summoned them?

All of the action in the book takes place before and after a free speech rally. And this morning I find myself wondering about free speech, feeling self-righteous because I believe in the freedom of the press and glad that Twitter has finally silenced the Toddler-in-Chief. Don’t get me wrong, our liberty hinges on this First Amendment right, but I never thought our government should be run by Tweets! Mr T has been coddled and allowed to spew his lies long enough, I’m just sorry it took so long to silence him.

Yes, sometimes peaceful protests can turn violent when night falls. But these Capitol rioters were signaled by Mr T to turn their anger against the very people who are our legislators. They were chanting “Hang Mike Pence” because our VP refused to overturn an election. The very same people who were carrying “Blue Lives Matter” flags were raging against the police. The same mind-set that led some to attend Black Lives Matter protests, to supposedly protect federal property, were destroying our nation’s artifacts.

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, the Capitol mob had the trappings of a war they had been deluded into following. Men wore body armor, some carried weapons. Free speech is fine and dandy, so long as no one gets hurt. Facebook and Twitter give everyone a soapbox, but can their algorithms keep us safe from this fire?

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Can you remember what you were like at 15? Great Grandma Ada’s mother, Ettie, was preparing to set sail for America from Russia, alone. My sister Kay was taking care of her invalid mother and her brothers; she had accompanied me to my foster parents house in NJ. She hated to leave me there, but school was about to start. The Flapper still couldn’t walk.

At 15 I was so full of myself. Kay was a glamorous stewardess and my brothers were in college. I already had a boyfriend, and a part in the school play. The guidance counselor hadn’t yet told me my “B” average wasn’t good enough for college. I could walk downtown after school with friends and get a cheeseburger and fries at White’s Drugstore any day of the week. The worst thing I ever did was to tell my history teacher I didn’t like history. He actually looked pained.

Today, a 15 year old Black girl named Grace is sitting in a juvenile detention facility in Detroit. It’s a long story of entanglement with social services and her single mom, but the reason why she’s being held? She didn’t do her online homework after her school shut down because of the coronavirus! Her story was published on Pro Publica:

Across the country, teachers, parents and students have struggled with the upheaval caused by months long school closures. School districts have documented tens of thousands of students who failed to log in or complete their schoolwork: 15,000 high school students in Los Angeles, one-third of the students in Minneapolis Public Schools and about a quarter of Chicago Public Schools students.

Students with special needs are especially vulnerable without the face-to-face guidance from teachers, social workers and others. Grace, who has ADHD, said she felt unmotivated and overwhelmed when online learning began April 15, about a month after schools closed. Without much live instruction or structure, she got easily distracted and had difficulty keeping herself on track, she said.”

https://www.propublica.org/article/a-teenager-didnt-do-her-online-schoolwork-so-a-judge-sent-her-to-juvenile-detention

We thought the Rocker might have ADHD at that age, we even tried a few months course of medication. When I asked him if he noticed any difference in school, he said he wasn’t looking at the clock as much. 

He wasn’t looking at the clock waiting for a class to be over; he wasn’t counting down the minutes. In other words, as Bob likes to say, his environment wasn’t sufficiently stimulating! We stopped the meds. All he wanted to do was play guitar with his band buddies. In middle school he was making websites for his friends – he could focus for hours on a task IF he wanted to do.

Very much like his father, who had to sit alone in a diner one day to finish a year’s worth of homework! His teacher called him on it – she told him he would stay behind a year if he didn’t hand in his missed homework. Bob was that kid everybody hated, he never had to study. Learning came easy, too easy. Good for Ada, for not bailing him out of that school situation.

I wonder if Grace’s teacher gave her a chance to hand in her homework late? She had violated her probation in April over a Zoom juvenile court hearing, by not getting up for online classes and not doing her homework. Just like many other children of all different colors who were not on probation. I wonder if she were White, would she still be sitting in a detention cell? Would her mother have had the resources she needed to help her daughter?

Try to imagine what two months in jail would do for your fifteen year old self. Now add in a pandemic.

This virus has so many crippling effects on our children. Marginalized kids, who were barely hanging on in school, who may not have a computer in the home, or decent WiFi, or parents with the time and energy to supervise home schooling because they are essential workers, will be suffering if schools don’t reopen. And looking at the statistics in Israel, it would be completely insane to reopen schools as virus cases are rising. https://www.wsj.com/articles/israelis-fear-schools-reopened-too-soon-as-covid-19-cases-climb-11594760001

I live in a leaderless country, with states that decided to put opening bars ahead of opening schools. Mayors who are asking parents to choose between face-to-face and online schooling. Our lives have become a balancing act.

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Yesterday was a day for the record books. In a 6 to 3 ruling, the SCOTUS ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, passed when I was a junior in high school, also covers gay and transgender rights. Now, along with the rest of us, the LGBTQ community cannot be discriminated against in the workplace. ANY workplace. HALLELUJAH!

It was a glimmer of light in a desolate spring. Americans have been staying at home, making and wearing masks to protect the must vulnerable among us, giving up our freedom to assemble, to go to restaurants and beauty parlors, and hug our loved ones.

We have witnessed the murder of unarmed, African Americans by a police force operating with impunity for decades. Risking infection from a novel virus, we have marched and protested, demanding change. Americans of all colors and all religious beliefs have said enough is enough. Black people have not had the freedom to drive or walk… without the underlying fear of being attacked.

So now that Title VII is the law of the land, what do evangelical Christians think? Elizabeth Dias writes in the New York Times:

“No question it is going to make it harder to defend our religious freedom, as far as an organization being able to hire people of like mind,” said Franklin Graham, who leads Samaritan’s Purse, a large evangelical relief group.

“I find this to be a very sad day,” he said. “I don’t know how this is going to protect us.”

They want to be able to hire people of, “like mind.” Their “religious freedom” is at stake! I wonder, was this what Norman Rockwell meant when he painted the Four Freedoms? Tucking your child in at night, free of fear? Or was it the profiles of white faces deep in prayer?

Because Black parents today must have “the Talk” with their children about the police. Because White parents today must explain systemic racism to their children. Parents today are buying bullet-proof backpacks in anticipation of schools re-opening in the fall. Because a small number of Americans cannot see fit to give up their “freedom” to own assault rifles. Because some even marched into a statehouse, guns strapped to their backs, because these same “Freedom Loving” people didn’t like wearing masks!

Their freedom was at stake because of a cloth covering their nose and mouth.

Yesterday, the light did shine through a very big crack in our society. Bigger than the Liberty Bell. Maybe the intersection of gun violence and racism will finally be addressed by legislators saying NO to the NRA. Maybe the majority of Americans will be able to stop living in fear, and will practice their religion where it belongs – in a church, mosque, temple or their home.

Today is not a sad day. In fact, today is Great Grandma Ada’s 96th birthday and we will celebrate her as best we can, through the glass in the vestibule.

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Calls for racial justice and defunding of the police are a constant across our country. Old, arthritic knees of legislators knelt on marble floors in our Capitol for nearly nine minutes yesterday. Eight minutes and forty-six seconds, the exact amount of time Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd. If only restructuring and dismantling militarized police departments could fix hundreds of years of racism – in real estate, in schools, in medicine, in the very fabric of our existence.

No, it can’t, But it’s a start, and we’ve got to start somewhere. Read “Just Mercy; a Story of Justice and Redemption,” by Bryan Stevenson.  https://justmercy.eji.org/  And maybe watch the film, with Jamie Fox. It’s streaming free this month https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/stream-just-mercy-free-june-180975044/

I first met Stevenson back in Charlottesville, VA in 2016. His lecture introduced the idea of taking down a Robert E Lee statue near the courthouse – the same supposed reason a bunch of neo-Nazi, “Unite the Right” zealots decided to march on Cville the following year.  A mostly White audience wasn’t buying it; in fact, that statue is still standing. He warned us, “We will ultimately not be judged by our technology, we won’t be judged by our design, we won’t be judged by our intellect and reason. Ultimately, you judge the character of a society . . . by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated.”  https://mountainmornings.net/2016/03/20/being-brave/

This is what Stevenson had to say in a recent interview about police brutality:

“Now, the police are an extension of our larger society, and, when we try to disconnect them from the justice system and the lawmakers and the policymakers, we don’t accurately get at it. The history of this country, when it comes to racial justice and social justice, unlike what we do in other areas, is, like, O.K., it’s 1865, we won’t enslave you and traffic you anymore, and they were forced to make that agreement. And then, after a half century of mob lynching, it’s, like, O.K., we won’t allow the mobs to pull you out of the jail and lynch you anymore. And that came after pressure. And then it was, O.K., we won’t legally block you from voting, and legally prevent you from going into restaurants and public accommodations.

But at no point was there an acknowledgement that we were wrong and we are sorry. It was always compelled, by the Union Army, by international pressure, by the federal courts, and that dynamic has meant that there is no more remorse or regret or consciousness of wrongdoing. The police don’t think they did anything wrong over the past fifty or sixty years. And so, in that respect, we have created a culture that allows our police departments to see themselves as agents of control, and that culture has to shift. And this goes beyond the dynamics of race. We have created a culture where police officers think of themselves as warriors, not guardians.”    https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/bryan-stevenson-on-the-frustration-behind-the-george-floyd-protests

IF we can transform a police culture from warrior mode into guardian mode, what else could we do? Can we spend the same amount of money on a student’s education, no matter where they live? Some towns see nearly half their budgets go toward policing, and they argue over school budgets. This is truly a function of what we value as a society. Do we want every child in America to reach their full potential, or only the rich and well connected? Should every town have a tank and a SWAT team?

I feel like we are in the midst of a great constellation of events. 2020 went like:

  • I wanted to work to elect gun sense politicians, and evict Mr T from the White House. But we got slammed by a tornado, our neighborhood was torn apart.
  • Then we came under the spell of a deadly virus, a pandemic the likes of which we’ve never seen. We became hermits. Bob started baking bread, we both started making masks.
  • And now George Floyd and his killer cop have changed the narrative, having an almost nine minute video of a murder in broad daylight brought racial injustice home. People of all shades of color did not, could not turn away.

Yes our gun culture intersects with racism. Both are real public health emergencies, capable of killing so many Americans, just like a virus. A virus, as it turns out, will seize the opportunity to infect more poor people. More African Americans, more Latinos. People without the means to stay isolated, people who must work delivering box upon box to the rich people.

A virus likes nothing better than a population that can forget, people with short-term memory loss. It can easily spread its tentacles, just like gun violence, killing without remorse. Imagine voting down a gun sense bill, an assault weapon ban, after 20 children were slaughtered at Sandy Hook.

We cannot defeat a virus or change our gun culture without addressing racism. And our racist president would like us to think it’s all about “law and order.” But it’s about our history. Our tortured history of Jim Crow and Reconstruction, it’s about red-lining voting districts and voter suppression laws, and so much more.

Racism would like us to forget our history, but in fact, we must confront it.

This is our chance, this intersection of public health emergencies, to create a more just and peaceful society. What will you do, which side of history will you be on? Don’t turn away.

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Last night, on the tenth day of protests in our country, three young girls got together on Twitter to organize a march for justice in Nashville. “Know justice, Know peace.” I had slipped out of my cocoon to visit Whole Foods in the afternoon, and was surprised to follow almost ten state police cruisers back home. Since I’m not a teenager, I was left out of that Twitter loop. But I heard the helicopters overhead as I was creating dinner with leftover chicken and chickpeas, so I tuned into the local news.

Last night, for the first time in a long while, tears started rolling down my cheeks. I don’t cry easily, but something about a big, burly Black police officer taking off his vest and kneeling down on the ground with a young girl just got to me. After dinner, we noticed a young woman with two kids in her car had a flat tire at the end of our street. Bob, of course, came to her rescue and we supplied juice boxes and snacks – it was near 90 degrees yesterday in the shade. Does it matter that they were an African American family? I wanted to hug that woman, but we kept our social distance.

I started to think about some of the Black women I’ve known over the years. The beautiful girls in my college dorm room from Atlanta who told me that the problem was precisely that I’d NEVER known any Black people before. Because I grew up in a White suburb, and all the schools and camps I’d gone to were lily white.

My Black supervisor at Head Start in Jersey City. My first real job as a preschool teacher, and she laughed at me when I wanted to pick up all the broken glass outside the school in the middle of the projects. She told me my students had to learn to play among the broken glass.

And my older Black aide who told me the children had to learn that when a building burned down, the people in charge would put up a fence around the rubble and do nothing. And all the time I wanted to fight that belief system, a system that seemed cruel and unfair.

My younger Black aide who told me they NEVER call the police, they only bring trouble. My privileged White brain didn’t understand this at first. My step-father was a judge, the cops in our town were good people. This was almost 50 years ago!

Today is Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday. She was an EMT asleep in her bed when a SWAT team of police with a “no knock” warrant killed her. Is this called “friendly fire?” To add insult to this heinous murder, the real drug-dealing person of interest the cops were looking for was already in custody. Was it a clerical error? At first the news called her a suspect! She was doing everything right, working grueling hours during a pandemic. A family member said, if they can kill Bre, they can kill anybody. https://www.npr.org/2020/06/04/869930040/as-the-nation-chants-her-name-breonna-taylors-family-grieves-a-life-robbed

My phone is reminding me to wear orange today – to take a stand against gun violence. Really? I mean, I am still concerned about the NRA in the pockets of the GOP, but I’m more concerned about police brutality and racially motivated modern-day lynchings. I’m listening and learning about racism and implicit bias. For instance, when the Mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, mentioned getting rid of “cash bail bondmen” I had to do some research. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/11/nyregion/how-does-bail-work-and-why-do-people-want-to-get-rid-of-it.html

“The most fundamental criticism of the bail system is that it needlessly imprisons poor people. In 2010, when he was 16, Kalief Browder was accused of stealing a backpack and released on $3,000 bail, which his family could not afford. Mr. Browder spent nearly three years in jail on Rikers Island waiting for trial before the charges against him were dismissed. In 2015, he committed suicide.” Harvey Weinstein had his lawyer fork over a million dollar check.

It made me think about Sandra Bland, who filmed her own arrest in Texas because she failed to signal a lane change. A traffic stop turned ugly. She was moving to Texas for a new job at her old college, and because she couldn’t afford bail, she went to jail. She was just 28 years old and was found hanging in her cell three days later.

Here is a quote by Toni Morrison at the lynching memorial in Montgomery. “They do not love your neck unnoosed… Love your heart, for this is the prize.”  #SayTheirNames

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Last evening in America’s Capitol, peaceful protesters were tear gassed so that our toddler-in-chief could take a photo-op in front of a church, holding a Bible. Was Mr T concerned about police brutality, the seeds of systemic racism or the death of George Floyd? No, he is obsessed with his numbers, specifically his Evangelical numbers. Just like MAGA loves “the Blacks,” Mr T loves his Christians.

This morning, as I scrolled through page after page of Instagram black screens for #BlackoutTuesday, I came across a quote by Elie Wiesel: “When human lives are endangered, When human dignity is in jeopardy, Wherever men or woman are persecuted, Because of their race, religion or political views, that place must – at that moment – become

The Center of the Universe.  

This morning I saw a picture of Hitler holding a book, surrounded by adoring crowds. It was probably his book, but still, it was juxtaposed next to Mr T’s bible/holding/church picture… standing all alone. Ts weekends of golf have been interrupted; he’s been scolding governors over the phone and threatening to release the Army to do his bidding. Like a coward, he hides in the White House bunker and turns out the White House lights.

This morning the sun is out and birds are still singing. Summer heat is about to descend on Nashville. My phone began buzzing, alerting me – tonight will be another 8pm curfew per Mayor Cooper. Nashville PD has arrested a suspected white supremacist, 25 year old Wesley Somers, for setting fires in our historic courthouse. I had heard that something was fishy about the rioting and looting, but I didn’t know what or who to believe. Our country has seen seven days of protests; this is the 12th week of quarantine for our family.

This morning, the Bride called on her way to the hospital. I had ordered her a long cowl that can be used to cover her hair under her PPE. She said it works great, it even keeps her N95 mask from slipping. The number of Covid deaths is going down in Nashville, but I still dream about too many people gathering together. I feel sick when I think about George Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe.” Is that why Mr T and most of his followers refuse to wear masks, because they can’t breathe? Or is it that they care less about other people and more about their vanity?

This morning I found Somers’ sister’s Facebook page. She’s starting a GoFundMe account for her brother who, she says, used to be into hard drugs, but turned his life around. He just got in with the “wrong crowd.” Only 25 years old with multiple arrests, including one for domestic abuse. Our city has been ravaged by a tornado, a virus, and now this, peaceful protests turning violent.

This morning I’m wondering if our democracy will hold, I’m worrying about the center of the universe. I’m thinking about the sculpture garden documenting the history of racial terror lynchings in Montgomery, Alabama at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. We were just there before the country closed down. Educate yourselves, and go there if you are White, to the Black experience. What if your son, or grandson was Black when the police stopped him for a broken tail pipe?  Read, listen and organize if you can – https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234

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The rioting we are seeing now in Minneapolis – a city I’ve loved ever since the Flapper and my two brothers adopted it as their own – isn’t just about a policeman’s knee on the throat of George Floyd. Breaking his neck, cutting off his airway, murdering him on the street in broad daylight just a few days ago. It’s about Philando Castile shot by police at a traffic stop. It’s about Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell and Eric Garner in New York. It’s about Michael Brown in Missouri.

I’m not surprised the state police arrested a Black CNN reporter. Are you? I am surprised Amy Klobuchar declined to prosecute police accused of racial brutality. She used to be my gal, not anymore even though I’m sorry her husband caught Covid.

Americans seem surprised whenever bigotry rears its ugly head. Like somehow the KKK only exists in the deep South; we fought a Civil War and now everything’s supposed to be good, real good. That is until two people named Cooper, one Black and one White, met up in NY’s Central Park this month. Luckily, the bird-watching Black Cooper began filming the White dog walker’s tirade, and her threats to call the police. She lost her dog, that she appeared to be strangling, and she lost her job.

And we wonder, if there were no film in the woods that day, would he have lost his life? Intelligent people say #alllivesmatter, but do they really believe it?

It was almost 30 years ago when my family witnessed, in real time, the police in LA beating up Rodney King. For 15 minutes, a bystander filmed the brutal attack that left King with broken bones and brain damage. The Bride was around 9 or 10 and the Rocker 5; I’m pretty sure that TV footage burned itself into their memory banks.

But it wasn’t until the 4 police officers charged with “excessive use of force” were acquitted that the riots began. Everyone was incredulous at the verdict.

“One of the most astounding things about the 1992 Los Angeles riots was the response of the LAPD, which is to say no response at all,” says author Joe Domanick, who has studied and written about the riots, in an interview with Grigsby Bates.

That night, Gates went to speak at a fundraiser in West Los Angeles and reportedly ordered cops to retreat. Police did not respond to incidents of looting and violence around the city until almost three hours after the original rioting broke out.” https://www.npr.org/2017/04/26/524744989/when-la-erupted-in-anger-a-look-back-at-the-rodney-king-riots

It lasted for 5 days and fifty people died, including 10 who were murdered by the LAPD. King himself made a plea on TV, “…can we all get along?”

After 9/11 we all DID get along. Firefighters drove from the heartland to help fight the smoldering remains at Ground Zero, a fire that burned for more than 100 days. Women knit booties for rescue dogs. We were united against a common enemy – farmers and hedge fund brokers could be friends. But we are now more divided than ever, with a president who says – by Tweet – that Democrats belong in coffins and our police officers should start shooting when rioting begins.

What do most police shootings/killings/lynchings of unarmed Black men have in common? The officers are exonerated, and there’s the problem that eats at social justice from the inside out. This is our apartheid moment, and we need to fix it. https://www.cnn.com/2015/04/05/us/controversial-police-encounters-fast-facts/index.html

Racism is systemic in our country. It doesn’t need to carry tiki torches or guns or wear Hawaiian shirts. It’s not endemic to one part of our country, or even to one party. It starts with where you are born and educated, and ends with where and how you die. Only now, in this climate, it can be filmed and viewed by millions almost instantly. Ca Suffit.

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