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Posts Tagged ‘Racism’

Beware what you put out there on social media. Through my jet lag fog I witnessed a battle royal last night on Facebook, one my sweet LA niece had no reason to be embroiled in, and I thought how a Shakespearian tragedy can unfold in real time with absolutely no effort. This semantic sparring had something to do, well everything really, with our President Elect (who shall forever be named Mr T to me). Just as our local political news is indirectly related to a newly discovered free/for/all/climate of intimidation and fear in the wake of last month’s election.

A young Black man, an activist who moved to Cville about the same time we did, is being vilified in the local press over some Twitter comments he made years ago. Wes Bellamy was a high school history teacher and the Vice Mayor of the Cville City Council – two positions I just learned he either voluntarily left or was asked to leave yesterday. I first met him at the Paramount when he was introducing a petition to remove General Robert E Lee’s statue from Lee Park. It was before the Confederate Flag issue had raised its ugly head in parts of the South. He struck me as sincere, and fired up about social justice.

But because a local blogger found a few 8 year old Tweets where Bellamy said some repugnant things, statements others have concluded were racist and sexist including, wait for it, “…beanpole body white women in these sundresses”…thank you for that sir since my beanpole days are far behind me, Bellamy issued this apology on Facebook:

“In the course of trying to mature and find my way I came to some false conclusions about the world around me and made them known,” Bellamy wrote. “Since then, I’ve furthered my education and gotten married. I’m raising daughters. I have and continue to strive to be a better man, community leader, educator, public servant and overall person. I work every day to become a better version of myself.” 

What surprises me is that Mr T has gotten away with saying and Twittering much worse. But I guess this is what male White privilege is all about. Cville Weekly calls our attention to an Albemarle County Supervisor, Chris Dumler, who was accused of raping a woman and continued to do his job while in jail and he had no intention of leaving his position! I was always loathe to use the term ” high tech lynching for uppity Blacks,” a la Clarence Thomas for you young’uns, but in this case it would actually seem to fit the bill. http://www.c-ville.com/tweetstorm-bellamy-apologizes-inappropriate-posts/#.WEBfjRRaHlI

So in the spirit of the season let me call your attention to an article my friend’s son ironically posted on Facebook from the NY Times, an essay on why social media may not just be an uncivilized wasteland and vortex of your precious time, but may also be detrimental to your overall health and career:  “There are many issues with social media, from its corrosion of civic life to its cultural shallowness, but the argument I want to make here is more pragmatic: You should quit social media because it can hurt your career.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/jobs/quit-social-media-your-career-may-depend-on-it.html?mwrsm=Facebook&_r=0

As my dear late Sister-in-Law Anita would say, this is all “STUPID!” She had a way of seeing through the fog of problems, and getting directly to a point. She would tell our lovely niece to cut all ties with people who hate people and spread nasty comments all over her Facebook feed. I’ve lost a few friends and family myself this past year, and I’m honored to be in her company.

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” or woman.  the Bard   This is the long view from our LA AirBnB. img_5664

 

 

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Yesterday we went out to a favorite Cville bagel joint for brunch. You can’t order steak and eggs with a Bloody Mary while reading the Sunday NY Times a la my good ole days – before marriage, before children, before leaving the NY metropolitan area – but you can get a good approximation of a NY bagel. I ordered smoked turkey on an everything bagel, with vegetable cream cheese and sprouts. It was always the Bride’s go-to choice, if it wasn’t going to be lox.

What I didn’t order up was a side of racism.

Because our local news had a story about how some of Bodo’s Bagels customers had been openly hostile this post-election week. Granted, we’ve been hearing reports about an increase in bullying all over the country; but when I read that someone didn’t want one of “those people” making their bagel, well I have to admit I did get a little pissed!

A popular Charlottesville restaurant chain claims its employees have become the targets of prejudice-related harassment following Tuesday’s election. Bodo’s Bagels is taking to social media to tell people who promote hate to stay away from its shops.

Scott Smith wants Bodo’s to be an inclusive place

“The business is conceived as being inclusive really from the ground up both on the customer and employee side,” Smith said.                        http://www.nbc29.com/story/33695338/bodos-owner-speaks-out-following-harassment-toward-workers

Bodo’s is the kind of place Democrats love. You have to stand in line to order, in fact the lines are often long. You can weave around the front of the store and feel like you’re in a Disney line for Space Mountain. When you finally get to a cashier to place and pay for your order, you are standing right in front of the kitchen and you can see everything that’s going on. You are given a ticket with a number on it. No names like Panera or Starbucks, just a number.

Then you mingle with a hungry crowd waiting for their number to be called. Chances are you meet somebody you know or make a new friend on the spot!

Yesterday the line went out the door, and stayed out there the whole time we were eating brunch. The parking lot was every man and woman for themselves…all colors, all ages, we all knew why we came there yesterday, some of us after church, some before heading out to a matinee. I wondered aloud if the owner would hit the best Sunday sales record ever, if they would run out of food.

Hate is a fascinating subject, it feeds on prejudice. After moving South, I remember distinctly the first time I heard a woman tell me she went to a smaller hospital in the area because she didn’t want “those darkies” taking care of her. I remember a friend telling me her mother would not go to Red Lobster for the same reason. Every time I drive into town, I have to pass a big Confederate flag waving at me, as if it’s saying, “Look at me, you will never be rid of me.”

I asked Bob if there was a way to tally up how many fender benders there were last week, because I’m not the only one feeling like I’m sleep-walking through this post-election apocalypse. Can we keep a tally of the number of hate crimes? Is saying aloud you don’t want to walk up to “that” cash register a crime? Is hate speech saying you don’t want “that” person making your bagel? Has this President Elect unleashed the underlying hate and angst of the blue-collar White population and made it OK for them to voice their disdain for the “Others.” Since when did the party of the worker, of the underdog, of the Unions, become the party of elites?

I can’t listen to the pundits anymore, they are obviously clueless. And I’d like the few Republican friends I have left on Facebook to give it a rest. I know you are not racist, and I know you care, it is the extreme Right of your party that has prevailed. We are protesting because it’s our God-given-RIGHT to protest! People are telling me they feel like they did after Kennedy was shot. They feel like they did after 9/11. One person is moving so he can build a bomb shelter! WTF

Maybe I will wake up tomorrow and feel better? More determined to fight another day? To march in the Million Women’s March on Washington January 21st, the day after the Inauguration. Great Grandma Ada wants to go, and so does my niece Lucia from California who accompanied me on another similar march years ago.  http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/12/politics/womens-march-on-washington-planned/

Until then, let’s give to the ACLU, the International Rescue Committee, to Planned Parenthood. Let’s open our hands and our hearts to our fellow Americans, whatever color their skin or sexual identity they have, or head gear they choose to wear. Let’s say something when we hear hate speech, it is not acceptable. Let’s all order everything bagels at Bodo’s! And wear a safety pin like the Bride has been wearing, because #LoveTrumpsHate.   15094843_10210220151522257_1749270517854516976_n

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“We are now so interdependent that it is in our own interest to take the whole of humanity into account.” Dalai Lama

This week was enough to make all of us cry. First in Baton Rouge, a man selling CDs on a sidewalk named Alton Sterling was thrown to the ground and shot point blank by a policeman. His crime? Carrying a gun while Black. It is all on YouTube thanks to a cell phone video. Then in my brothers’ home state of MN, another Black man was killed by a cop, and another cell phone video went live, so people on Facebook could watch Philandro Castile take his last breath while his girlfriend tells the officer, “You shot four bullets into him sir!” His crime was a broken tail light, and the audacity to tell the police he was licensed to carry a gun, while reaching for his wallet.

When a Black sniper in Dallas, an Army veteran,  decided to take vengeance into his own hands, we all thought this is it. Something has got to give, we cannot sustain our country by buying guns and living behind gates, by living in fear of the “Other.” And for a split second it did seem as if the Red and Blue was weaving itself back together again. But it didn’t last.

When I met a woman from Dallas at a memorial service on Friday, we touched on the troubles. I was truly grieving, so much senseless loss. And she said, “What about Black on Black crime?” and her daughter took her elbow, cautioning her to be careful what she said….I wasn’t sure where she was going. But from the younger woman’s reaction I knew it would be bad.

When White people talk about “Black on Black crime,” it’s like saying all Mexicans are rapists. It’s code for an underlying bigotry; don’t trust them, they’re gangsta. When I taught Head Start in the projects of Jersey City, I remember people calling it a ghetto. The word ghetto actually comes from the pogroms in Russia – it is Yiddish and means: an organized persecution or extermination of an ethnic group, esp of Jews.

When White people say, “Castile was doing everything right,” what that means is he was licensed to carry a gun, he had a good job, he wasn’t selling cigarettes or CDs on the street. He bought the American Dream, he didn’t have to hustle, he worked at a Montessori school for f-sake. And he had a fiancee and a baby girl in the back seat. He lived in a fairly progressive part of the country, but that couldn’t save him from a terrified cop with a gun. And the underlying message?

Since Castile was doing right, all those other unarmed Black men must have been doing something wrong!

safe_image.phpWhen the President compared the Black Dallas shooter to the Neo-Nazi White shooter in Charleston he was making a valid point. There is not much we can do to predict which mentally ill young man will wake up one day and decide to take out a number of people based on race or ridiculous ideology. Why is the gunman of one crime a lone wolf, while another morphs into a terrorist?

Today, social media is turning the tide around these issues. We can no longer ignore a militarized police force. We must witness the mass murder of police in the middle of a non-violent protest march. We are teaching our children to shelter in closets in our schools, because the right to bear arms is so precious to us.

We will always have a few bad cops. And we will always have the mentally ill. The flint to this combustible mixture is the gun, and God help us, if our legislators cannot regulate guns in this country, we may run out of hope. Because racism can be cured; racism needs to be taught, and we as a people can decide to stop teaching hate to our children.

The whole world is watching.IMG_4812

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Don’t talk to me about your religious freedom. Mississippi and North Carolina, you will not get my vote, my money, or my sympathy. In fact, I can’t believe I must still fly into Charlotte in order to get anywhere from Central VA. I will purposely book flights through Atlanta in the future; at least Georgia’s governor had the decency to reject yet another “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.”

Let’s start with the whole public restroom issue. You want to be able to pee in a private stall? Great. You don’t want your daughter in the same bathroom with a transgender woman, what?

Believe me, a person who is born male, and feels like God played a trick on them because inside, in their soul, they feel female, that person is not going to violate your daughter’s bathroom stall. Remember, even in the men’s room there are separate stalls, with locks, so we can ostensibly sit on the pot. She (or he if you prefer, though whether or not they have gone through any surgery will hopefully NOT be a prerequisite for choosing a bathroom) will have spent most of their life being harassed and humiliated – unless it’s Caitlyn Jenner.

Wait, is that what you want at the women’s bathroom doors of Charlotte Airport – morality police? Like Iran, someone to make sure we women are acting and dressing accordingly; that we were born women? How will you check our femaleness? Maybe we should make transgender women wear a big “T” on their chest?

I have a revolutionary idea. Why not do what the rest of Europe has been doing for ages – put a big “WC” on every bathroom, short for “water closet,” and let the chips fall where they may! If you grew up female in the NY/NJ metro area, you never let a “Men’s Room” sign stop you from using it, since there was always a line to the Ladies! Yes, we Northeners are infidels aren’t we.

And marriage equality, still? Extreme religious groups are trying to pass bills in every state to chip away at the HUMAN rights of the LGBT community. Like the right to have an abortion if we so choose; first we saw TRAP laws to limit access to health care clinics that provide abortions, then “personhood bills.” Well guess what, the Supreme Court answered   that sticky question about abortion years ago, and the one about marriage equality? That happened last summer.

But hey, now it’s your religious right to not hire a gay person in MS because of HB1523, or sell condoms in your gas station, or use a bathroom without worrying who’s peeping through the stall! “Churches, religious charities and private business can use the law to legally not serve people whose lifestyles they disagree with. Governments must still provide services, but individual government employees can use the law to opt out.”  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35971038

Yes it is, only it’s not OK to pass a law saying we ALL have to agree with your religious beliefs, because in fact we don’t. The Law of the Land says we don’t!! You see your freedom is just another word for bigotry.

Once upon a time, women didn’t have the vote, and Black folk couldn’t sit wherever they wanted in theaters, buses, or public parks. Let’s remember that our country was founded on religious freedom – the freedom to NOT have any one specific religion make public policy – that is worth repeating since even Thomas Jefferson got this part, he built a LIBRARY in the middle of his academical village, and not a church!

We Americans have the freedom to NOT have any one specific religion make public policy ie we like to keep our church and state separate. Some of us don’t even go to church! This is not the New South I’ve come to love. Here is a picture I took at Cville’s Lee Park after the bill to relocate General Robert E Lee’s statue and rename the park was introduced. It’s time to pick sides America. IMG_4143

 

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Last night, as part of the VA Festival of the Book, Bob and I attended a program at the Paramount Theatre; a gorgeous art-deco building that once had African Americans sitting in the balcony, a la To Kill a Mockingbird. We were there to hear Bryan Stevenson speak about his book, Just Mercy, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/books/review/just-mercy-by-bryan-stevenson.html?_r=0 …and about the injustice of the criminal justice system in our country.

Stevenson graduated from Harvard Law, lives modestly, and runs the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama. He has been called America’s Nelson Mandela, and last night I was a witness in a very spiritual way to his testimony.

The statistics tell only a fraction of the story, but they are a good place to start. In 1970 America imprisoned 300,000 of its citizens. Now it imprisons 2.3 million people. A quarter of a million children have been sent to adult American jails in that time, including 3,000 sentenced to life without parole. One in every three black male babies born today can expect to be incarcerated (for the white population it is one in 15). In some states, including Alabama, a criminal record means disenfranchisement for life. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/01/bryan-stevenson-americas-mandela

He said some pretty provocative things. For instance, he told us that today Germany is placing memorial stones at the places where Jews once lived; Stevenson would like to see us place stones under the trees where Blacks were lynched. The problem is that we have erased, or denied so much of our Jim Crow history, we just don’t even know where all these killings happened.

Did you know that in Alabama MLK day is officially recognized – probably because it is now a national holiday, mandated by law – and called  “Martin Luther King/Robert E Lee Day?” What if Germany decided to have a holiday and call it “Dietrich Bonhoeffer/Joseph Goebbels Day?” Think about that – a dissenting theologian and a Nazi general.

I have likened our privatized prison system to apartheid before, but Stevenson thinks we can actually change things. By changing our war on drug policy to a public health model, by not privatizing our prisons, by ending capital punishment and appointing, not electing judges…and more. I wasn’t taking notes like a good journalist, because I was actually listening to every word.

As a country, he said, we haven’t gone through a Civil Rights era “truth and reconciliation” period, like Rwanda and South Africa, as evidenced by the fight over the Confederate flag. Many Southern White people see that flag as a symbol of their heritage. All Black and Brown people see it as sign of bigotry and hate. We need to confront the awful truth of enslavement and institutionalized segregation and racism in order to heal as a country.

Listen carefully next week while the Charlottesville City Council fights to remove the statue of Robert E Lee in one of our most beautiful parks, Lee Park. “Robert E Lee never came to Charlottesville and was never part of our local history. This statue was erected for the sole purpose of celebrating the Confederacy and establishing the supremacy of its cause. It has no place in our community.”

Stevenson has gone into the belly of the beast in Alabama, and he is still fighting for social justice. How can we treat children as adults in our courts? He has to be “brave, brave, brave,” as King’s widow once told him.

“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.”   Photo: Caleb Chancey-Tireless-advocate--Bryan-010

 

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I’ve resisted writing about Ferguson. Mostly because 12 days later we still don’t have all the facts about the shooting death of Michael Brown. Was he gunned down with his hands raised in surrender, or had he fought over the officer’s gun and charged him in the street? I heard an NPR reporter ask an ex-police detective what exactly are police taught about pulling their guns; when is it OK to shoot a suspect? He dodged a little, then he said if he/she feels there is the threat of imminent harm to them or the public.

According to a Jewish African American food writer and historian, Michael Twitty, yesterday was “…the 395th year after “twenty and of odd Negroes” were brought from Angola by way of multiple stops to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. Bought to raise tobacco, they were the genesis community of Black life…and slavery…in mainland British North America. Many were Christian–before they left Angola– some became freedmen with servants and land, but within a generation all rights gained were permanently lost.” 10580102_719753931430543_3376970479745154356_n

So that’s where it started, slavery right here in VA in 1619. I had no idea. But where will it end? When will black boys not be followed in stores, when will they stop hearing car locks as soon as they cross a street?

Because I am white, I cannot speak with authority on black life here and now, but I did work in the black projects on Fremont Street in Jersey City when I was younger. I was a Head Start teacher and I knew that the moms I spoke with wanted only the best education for their children. And that they didn’t trust the police. If the cops were ever called, they would not even show up, or if they did it would be hours later. Which made me think of that boy’s body lying in the street for hours under a sheet with its river of blood.

I do however believe in the power of non-violence to create social change, in Gandhi and Dr King. And I believe in the power of words, and the the way an education, one that can lead to meaningful work, can transform a life.

We are at a tipping point. Do we whites just sit back and watch the dismal graduation rates of our “urban” high schools? Do we complain about the militarization of our police forces and cross the street when we see a bunch of black boys approaching us in black hoodies? I wish we had seen St Louis white people marching or better yet sitting in for social justice. It would be so easy today, a Tweet from the right celebrity, or maybe the right white church or synagogue could organize a group.

We don’t really know yet what happened when that police officer approached Michael Brown who was blocking traffic, holding some cigars in his hand. What we do know is this secondary reconstruction isn’t working in Ferguson, or in most of our cities. 395 years and a black President later, and we’re still uncomfortable talking about race.

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I laughed out loud while watching the White House Correspondent’s Dinner last night. The whole “Orange is the new black” about Speaker Boehner; and “Mecare” getting young people into doctor’s offices so they can see what a magazine is really like. And the bit about CNN still searching for their table… I’ll tell you one thing, this news junkie is fed up with CNN. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel started speaking in German at the Rose Garden conference the other day on CNN, and kept speaking in German without any translation, I switched to MSNBC and I’m not looking back. If you missed any of last night’s joke fest, here it is http://www.c-span.org/video/?318916-1/white-house-correspondents-dinner

But the abhorrent act of kidnapping 300 young Nigerian girls from their school by Boko Haram terrorists was not a joking matter, and the fact that Western news outlets took their time getting around to the story only doubles the crime.

International outrage has been slow to build, but it’s coming now – the story has been covered extensively in the media, and girls’ education proponent and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Malala Yousafzai spoke out against the abductions. Nigerians are marching in the streets demanding the girls be brought home alive. #BringBackOurGirls is trending on Twitter.

On the surface, these kidnappings follow a theme we’ve seen across the globe: religious extremists don’t want to see girls getting the kind of education that will allow them to enter the workforce, because they correctly understand that education sets girls on a path to economic independence and self-reliance. Education also makes girls (and women) less dependent on men, less subservient to authority and less acquiescent to the social and religious strictures that don’t serve girls’ overall interests – educated women are more likely to refuse practices like female genital cutting, for instance, better able to resist domestic violence, and less tolerant of discrimination at home and in society.http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/02/kidnapped-nigeria-school-girls-boko-haram-education

Ah religion, I just can’t say enough about it. But here we see again, how black girls in another part of the world are not valued by Westerners in the same way white girls are perceived. We saw it in the time lapse of our response to Rwanda, as opposed to Bosnia. Genocide by blacks or by whites, one trumped the other. Time and again we’ve seen Amber Alerts for white girls, but the black child’s family is left waiting for some time period to pass because somehow that child must be complicit. Imagine what would have happened if 300 school girls outside of Paris had been kidnapped?

The trial of Alexis Murphy’s kidnapper and murderer, a local girl I wrote about before, is getting started this week. Without a body, it will be a hard case to win.

Our media outlets would rather cover a missing Malaysian plane, or a racist rancher’s rant. Sparring with Putin is at least newsworthy! But time has passed for these Nigerian girls who have most likely been sold into slavery. If we can do one thing, it would be to pressure our legislators to demand more resources be used in helping to find these girls. We can also write to the Nigerian embassy in DC.http://www.nigeriaembassyusa.org/index.php?page=contact-us

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