Squeaky Wheel

There’s an old saying: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

Baltimore Uprising
Baltimore Uprising

In light of what happened in the aftermath of the homicide of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and the subsequent uprising, which brought on all the media attention and national debate, one thing is clear the residents of Baltimore ‘squeaked’ and now folks all over the country are paying attention.

It shouldn’t take an uprising over the obvious problems that the police department has when dealing with it’s “black” residents, note the millions of dollars that have been paid out to settle claims of police abuse of the citizenry that it is sworn to “protect and serve.” And we know from all of the many recent incidents of unarmed “black” folks shot down and treated worse that dogs, this is a national epidemic.

This situation is nothing new. Black folks have been ill treated and dying at the hands of representatives of the power structure since before America was America. No one has more claim to be an American than its “black” citizens. Yet time after time their voices aren’t heard until their righteous anger explodes in some form of “riot.”

Yet we know that “white” folks riot all time for something as innocuous and inconsequential as their favorite team winning or losing a game. And as Time Wise states in his article posted on Salon, “it is undeniably true that when it comes to our political anger and frustration (as contrasted with that brought on by alcohol and athletics) we white folks are pretty good at not torching our own communities. This is mostly because we are too busy eviscerating the communities of others—those against whom our anger is aimed. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Panama, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Manila, and on down the line.”

I would add to that, “whites” really have no reason to have “righteous” anger or “rage against the machine” because by and large “the system” political, economic, social, cultural inures to their benefit. It has been that way since the very beginning of the Republic.

Despite America’s many failings and shortcomings for the most part still as another old saying goes: “If you’re white your’re right.”  So why ‘squeak’ at all because despite how bad the situation may be or how corrupt, unequal or unjust the society is, at least you’re not “black.” Damn, thank heaven for small favors.

However, if in the future we really want to stop so many Baltimores from repeating itself over, and over again, like Watts in ’65 or some other city 50 years hence, America will truly have to be transformed from bottom to top. And that means “white” folks are going to have to give up their privilege.  That is going to be painful indeed. White folks have been “white” for so long ( read How The Irish Became White or Buying Whiteness), it may take burning down Main Street, rather than The Ghetto, before people get the message.

For America to finally live up to its motto: E Pluribus Unum will require sacrifice from all concerned, not just those named Freddie Gray or Emmett Till or Medgar, Martin, Malcolm, or communities like Tulsa, Rosewood, Watts, or East Baltimore.

Sins of the Fathers

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, Marian Robinson, John Lewis, Amelia Boynton Robinson
Obama Leading March in Selma

“Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” – Exodus 34:7

The Bible in many places talks about sin. America’s original sin isn’t slavery as many would argue. Slavery is the economic and cultural by product of a mind-set. America’s original sin is “white supremacy.” The notion that one group of people should have dominance over another because of skin color or what became codified in the aggregate as “race.”

On the 50th Anniversary of the crossing of the Edmond Pettus Bridge, the beating, biting, hosing of Americans of African descent who dared to challenge “white” privilege and the structural inequities of the American political and economic system it’s worth noting how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.

“Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said he agreed with Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder that found the VRA had achieved its purpose and that voting discrimination was largely a thing of the past. Congress can consider some new changes, he said, but not a whole new VRA.

“I don’t think that the Supreme Court ruling has damaged voting rights in any real way,” Sessions said, as reported in a post by Edward-Isaac Dovere in Politco titled Selma highlights hypocrisy on voting rights, Democrats say.”

“An absolute disgrace for Republicans in the year 2015 to work overtime to deny people the basic right to vote,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), quoted in the same article. America is changing. Demographically America will become a minority-majority country. That’s a scary proposition when the lens through which you gage you own self-worth either individually or collectively is a racial one.

We’ve had Civil Rights Acts and Voting Rights Acts, but Acts as we can see from the decision in Shelby get reversed, bad decisions based upon faulty reasoning and the continuation of “white” privilege keeps us from achieving that elusive more perfect union. Colorphobia and racism and “white” fears of having to compete in a world where their skin color means nothing remains the biggest challenge faced by Western Civilization.

In Christianity, certainly in the Baptist tradition in order to be “re-born” one must wash away “the sins of the fathers” through a literal dunking under water replicating the “baptizing” ritual performed by John the Baptist on Jesus the Christ.

For America, the current iteration of the “white” supremacist legacy, when will it ever experience the rebirth necessary to expiate that original sin, 50, 100, 200 years? Only time will tell. May be there are people alive today who will be around when the day comes.

Obama in his remarks during the Selma commemoration this past weekend as quoted in an article in The Huffington Post by Igor Bobic said, “You are America. Unconstrained by habits and convention. Unencumbered by what is, and ready to seize what ought to be,” speaking to the young folks gathered. “For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, and new ground to cover, and bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.”

Slavery is gone. But the “white” gaze remains. That is the constant. And America will never be free of its original sin until “white” folks stop being “white.” The notion of “white” supremacy/superiority/privilege must be cast into the bowels of Hell where it belongs.

Above The Law

Steven Segal in Above The Law
Steven Segal in Above The Law

A former Special Operations Vietnam vet works as a Chicago cop and uncovers CIA wrongdoing. -From IMDb Description

“Today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) failed to indict Officer Darren Wilson for racially profiling and brutally killing Michael Brown.1 While the DOJ found Ferguson and St. Louis police guilty of widespread abuse, racial profiling, and brutal misconduct, it’s not enough.

Darren Wilson should have been indicted and made to see a day in court for his brutal action. After all, a young man was killed for being Black. The DOJ’s failure to do so highlights deep-seated structural problems that must be fixed in order to keep our families safe.2 And the reality is Ferguson is America and President Obama must be held accountable. He must do everything in his power — more than speeches and commissions — to stop unjust killings by police, increase police accountability, and expand community control over policing nationwide.”

The above quote is from an email blast from the organization Color of Change. And what the findings of the DOJ’s Civil Rights probe into policing practices in the city of Ferguson, MO bring into stark relief, unlike Hollywood’s fictional characters, for “black” folks (young men in particular), it’s the ordinary “cop on the beat,” who’s “above-the-law” mentality and worldview provides the greatest threat to life and limb.

The DOJ found that The Ferguson Police Department has a pattern and practice of:

  • Conducting stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
  • Interfering with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment; and
  • Using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

and of;

  • Focusing on revenue over public safety, leading to court practices that violate the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection requirements.
  • Court practices exacerbating the harm of Ferguson’s unconstitutional police practices and imposing particular hardship upon Ferguson’s most vulnerable residents, especially upon those living in or near poverty.Minor offenses can generate crippling debts, result in jail time because of an inability to pay and result in the loss of a driver’s license, employment, or housing.

In addition the DOJ also found racial bias in both the police department and the municipal court system:

  • The harms of Ferguson’s police and court practices are borne disproportionately by African Americans and that this disproportionate impact is avoidable.
  • Ferguson’s harmful court and police practices are due, at least in part, to intentional discrimination, as demonstrated by direct evidence of racial bias and stereotyping about African Americans by certain Ferguson police and municipal court officials.

Despite these findings Michael Brown’s killer is walking free, above the law. You don’t swim in a sewer and not get covered in shit. Atmosphere, attitude and behavior matters, particularly when it comes to the use of deadly force by an officer of the law against and unarmed citizen.

The DOJ findings demonstrate why ALL shootings by police of unarmed “black” folks need to be brought to trial and adjudicated by juries who can look at the situation and deliver justice. Laws themselves can be and are unjust in many circumstances since they are enacted within and by a corrupt political “law-making” system. In the end it is only WE THE PEOPLE who can deliver justice, “by any means necessary.”