Friday, August 26, 2016

Plea bargain raises questions regarding justice

The sobs in the room said more than any statement could make. There’s no way to restore faith in a system that offers a maximum sentence of 44 years for the deaths of four young men.

“How do you sleep at night,” Lennis Harris Sr asked Rodrick Vernard Duncan, 36, with deep pauses aimed at fighting back the tears. “I don’t understand how a man can shoot people that they know, that they grew up with, that you laughed and played with as children, how can you lay them down, look them in the eye and shoot them in the head.”

Duncan pleaded guilty to the execution-style shootings of Lennis Harris, Jr.,24, Lajuan Coleman, 27, Jonathan Skinner, 26, and Jamel Holloway, 27. The frustration in the room intensified when the details of the murders were read.

It’s not enough, members of the families moaned after the plea agreement was announced -36-44 years in prison. The deep breaths could be felt when the district attorney said second degree murder. Not first degree, but something that felt like a devaluing of worth.

Was this the justice the family needed to end the torment that began in 2005?
“I don’t know how to sleep at night,” Stacey Harris, Lennis’ sister and Jonathan Skinner’s cousin said. She talked about the challenges of dating with no brother to talk about men.  “It’s hard for me to trust because of what you did.”

It’s been difficult for the family to move on since that day. Lennis Harris Sr told Duncan he would have been the fifth victim if not for the traffic following a fireworks display at Southpoint Mall.
“You missed one,” Harris said. “I wish I had been there so I wouldn’t have to deal with this.”

Duncan nodded as he listened to the grief he caused. I strained my eyes in search of tears or a body trembling to denote remorse deep enough to help soothe the families pain.
Is it ever enough?

How much does it take to help ease the pain?

Marsha Harris talked about love and forgiveness. She asked Duncan to become an example in prison. She said God has given her the strength to love Duncan.

“I can’t do that,” Lennis Harris Sr said as his wife Donnamaria robbed his back and I handed him another tissue to wipe the tears. “Not now, I can’t do it now.”

Was this the justice the family prayed for when they marched around the police headquarters? Was this enough to balance the rage stirred by years of waiting? Why did it take so long to arrest the three men who interpreted a video game match to kill sons, nephews and cousins that day? What happened to the others involved?

The left side of the room was stacked with members of the family. A few reporters took notes and recorded imagines for the evening newscast. On the right side of the room, a handful of family friends and legal professionals took up a few seats.

“We are in mourning because our sons black lives did not matter enough for the community to protest, rally, demand justice and give up the killers,” Donnamaria Harris, Lennis Sr’s wife, wrote in a text message sent the next day. “We are mourning because the black community only demands justice when a white officer kills a person of color.”

Harris asked a series of important questions.

Where are the marches and protest when black men kill black men? Why does the community fall silent, deaf and blind when they know the identities of those who kill black men?

“Why can’t black lives matter enough for people to turn in the criminals who live among us,” Harris writes.

We departed the room with an emptiness roused by a plea bargain that cheapened the lives taken. How much is the life of a black man worth? Why did it take so long, and why this conclusion?
Is it ever enough?

How much does it take to make the tears go away – 50 years, 100 years, six life sentences? What does it take to make the nightmare go away?

The walk from the eighth floor courtroom to the parking deck was dreamlike movement that hoped for answers in between each step. Each of us wondered what would come next. The conclusion bonded those confused by the sentence.

The nightmare hasn’t ended. The pain we carried into court will follow us the rest of our lives. There will be no march begging for justice. There will be no speeches about the cruelty of a system that attached 44 years as punishment for the death of four men.

It’s never enough.

It’s never enough because black lives matter.

Lennis Harris Jr., Lajuan Coleman, Jonathan Skinner, Jamel Holloway – say their names.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

In search of the North Star: Looking for a place to call home

It may be un-American to consider running in the direction of the North Star to a land on the other side of the border. But, why not? As long as a wall hasn’t been built keeping disgruntled Americans out of Canada, why not consider life on the other side of American white privilege?

Running away from death and an unequal standard of living isn’t new for black people living in America. For as far back as we can trace history away from Africa, black people have grappled to find a safe place to plant seeds for the future. We know the stories of trips along the “Underground Railroad” and the numerous “Slave Rebellions” led by men and women who were sick and tired of lashes on their backs.

Black people ran North before and after two world wars because of the common sight of lynching’s and burning crosses. It happened due to black people fighting for their fair share of that American Dream. Running away from death and subjugation is part of the American saga that adds to the divide between Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream and Malcolm X’s nightmare.

Black people have endured being caught in the middle of being nice and getting killed. For as long as most can remember, learning how to address white people with guns and a badge is added to the curriculum of elementary school education. The lessons of the post-slavery era prepared black people for survival among people fuming because Mr. Lincoln said let those people go.

Contending with the “what if” seemingly never vanishes. “What if” the police stop you in the middle of the night? “What if” you find yourself vulnerable because the person with the gun lacks the patience to hear the rest of your story.

I hear grandma singing “I feel like running my last mile home”.

The worst part of not running are the emotions that come with staying. Those who don’t get “it” assume all is well among those stuck in pondering the “what if”. People not forced to contemplate those questions envision a world filled with the type of “milk and honey” promised long ago to those lingering in the wilderness. Listening to them tell your story leads to the conclusion the Promised Land was entered between 1970 and last week.

That’s hard to accept when running remains a viable option for those tired of listening to commentary regarding how it’s all a figment of the imagination.

I feel like running whenever a person calls me racist for saying “Black Lives Matter” versus “All Lives Matter”. I feel like running whenever a person questions my version of Christianity because I’m sick of black folks having to forgive while white people continue to poke fun at my interpretation of inclusion.  I feel like running whenever I watch a video of a black person taking a bullet. I want to hide and scream after a white person tells me there’s no justifiable reason to prosecute the police officer who pulled the trigger or pushed Freddie in the back of a van.

I feel like running when being black is justification for murder and the courts don’t care.

It’s mentally draining listening to others define your reality.

Where can you run when stupid shows up everywhere you look? Forest Gump told us “stupid is what stupid does,” and stupid shows up often in America.

Doing stupid isn’t new, but a good part of the recent stupid is targeted at black people. Maybe it’s because Obama is running the show. Maybe it’s because black people refuse to continue to bow to the stupid assumptions white people make. Or, maybe stupid has always been there to keep eyes pointed in the direction of the North Star.

Stupid shows up in a variety of ways and places. Shucks, some claim I’m the ambassador of stupidity due to my analysis of faith in public space. I’ll own that. Maybe it takes stupid to know stupid. If that’s true, most of us are caught in the web of doing stupid things.

We’re trapped with nowhere to go.

How far North can you run before it gets too cold to run anymore?

Canada seems like a logical place to run if Trump wins the election due to the stupid Republicans and Democrats intent on running the show. Between the Republicans who want to make “America Great Again” and the progressives who refuse to vote for Hilary, we’re just a few steps away from stupid controlling the whole show.

None of this is new to black folks. It is mind-blowing that it follows the election of the first black President. Like the release of the Kracken in the “Clash of the Titans”, electing Obama was the can of whip ass America needed to expose the deep-rooted stupidity they hid during the day.

Between the stupidity of “Bernie or Bust” and the cruelty of “Build the wall, build the wall!” black and brown people are left glaring like the emperor lost his clothes and thinks it’s a fashion statement. Well, stupidity is not fashionable, it’s simply stupid.

Bags packed and ready to go.

Darn it! There’s nowhere to go.

I’m still searching for a nation I can call home.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Stacy Dash lives in a place called "clueless"

Stacy Dash wasn’t among the many who became instant Jesse Williams fans after his speech at the BET Awards.

"That chip on the shoulders of people like you will weigh you down and keep you from flying free," Dash wrote in a blog post. "But true freedom is never free. You have to know how to fly. If anyone is making you feel this way it's you. Living in a psychological prison of your own making. If anyone is GHETTO-IZING anyone, it’s people like you letting the BETs and other media outlets portray us in stereotypes."

It is another example of Dash making comments that match the television show that made her a celebrity. Some say she’s clueless.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: BET is keeping racism and segregation alive and this past Sunday's awards show proves it," the 49 -year-old said of Williams’ speech. "Particularly the speech given by Grey's Anatomy star Jesse Williams, whose tirade after receiving the 2016 BET Humanitarian Award for his black activism was nothing short of an attack on white people."

Dash has a way of standing on the right side of the conservative right. It’s hard to believe Damon Dash’s cousin has resorted to promoting Donald Trump and attacking any black person who screams “Black Lives Matter”. OMG, what about the white people?

This coming from a woman who began her career as the superfine model in Carl Thomas’ and Kayne West’s music videos. Hate saying it, but we liked her better when she showed more and said less. Slap me for the sexist remark, but can someone remind Dash that she personified what objectification looks like?

"You’ve just seen the perfect example of a HOLLYWOOD plantation slave!" Dash continues. "Sorry, Mr. Williams. But the fact that you were standing on that stage at THOSE awards tells people you really don’t know what your [sic] talking about. Just spewing hate and anger."

Insert the image of white people offering a standing ovation. You go girl! Where do we send the check? There’s more. Dash claims Williams is the one getting paid.

"You my man are just like everyone else hustling to get money," Dash writes. "But your cognitive dissidents has you getting it from THAT BYSTANDER whom YOU DON'T NEED. Yes. BLACK ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION is WHITE OWNED."

Dash was responding to one of the more powerful lines in Williams’ speech.

"The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That's not our job, all right? Stop with all that," Williams said. "If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest -- if you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down."

That was the moment that shifted the stage into a pulpit and landed everyone in the crowd on their feet. It was that transcendent occurrence that black Americans have been waiting for since BET sold-out to imagines of women showing their goodies to lyrics about their being bitches and a ATM machine.

It was a come to Jesus moment that reminded black people that stuff is happening in places like Ferguson.  It happened after we saw stuff burning on the stage while rappers spitted lyrics that require a few double-takes to understand.

Bump that! Yo, it’s time to get past the cognitive dissonance regarding the deaths of black people. Williams was talking to those in the room. In doing so, he whipped their ass for failing to move beyond the conflicting messages reflected in some of their music. He challenged them to consider the madness caused by the disparity many of them represent.

Yo, what you gonna do with your success? What does it mean for you to show up, get your 40 acres and two mules while black folks are getting shot down like it’s target practice at the OK Chorale? Excuse the grammar lapse, because that ain’t OK.

Williams was making a statement about the music we make and the distance created by those who refuse to show up when the body count rises. He was reminding us of the radicalism that took place back in the day when people, with all shades of black, were denied what they deserved to be paid. He was reminding all of us that we have a right not to be killed.

There’s nothing to debate when it comes to what Williams said. Right?

Surprise, surprise. Leave it up to confused black people to find a reason to dispute a common sense moment. Let’s make a list.

Williams is not black enough. I mean, look at his mama. Oh, why does it take a light skinned, almost white negro to get folks to listen? You know, he has to be light-skinned to assert credibility. It’s the old argument regarding shades of credibility, or this black person means more than the other.

Bruh, this ain’t Sesame Street. When it comes to racism, all of these things belong with the other. Proving blackness based on the concentration of melanin a person carries fails to acknowledge a simple truth. Racist don’t apply the brown bag test. It only takes one drop of black blood to end up on the wrong side of privilege.

Maybe Dash failed to get the memo. You know, the one signed by all the people who said “Nigger” behind her back. That memo that list all the times doors were locked when she showed up in search of an opportunity.  Or, maybe her curves and good looks were enough, in the minds of some, to create space for her to walk in places denied the women who didn’t fit he G-string.

OMG, stop talking about white people! Really. I mean, really though!  

There must be a special place reserved for black people who condemn other blacks for doing the heavy lifting.

I call it clueless.

Friday, May 27, 2016

When the watchdog becomes a pussycat

Journalism isn’t what it used to be. Some will argue the press has always been rife with a one-sided approach to the news. It’s hard to argue against the contention.

I was taught as a journalism student we are the watch dogs of government.  We are to remain outside the lure of the powerful. We are to escape the temptation of allowing our personal agendas to rise to the surface in a way that questions the integrity of what we report.

Over the years, I’ve been driven to protect John Stuart Mills views related to the “market place of ideas”. In “On Liberty”, Mills challenged people to think about protecting the rights of others to speak as a way to enhance the way we all think. His views are reflected in our nation’s Constitution. We all have the freedom to speak. The press is free to use that speech to protect democracy.

It all works to advance the will of every citizen. Of course, anyone who has studied history knows the Constitution was designed to protect the rights of white men.

I became a journalist because I believe in the truth. I know there are different version of the truth based on how culture and context mold the interpretation. When writing for the Durham Herald-Sun, the paper gave me the tag “Kenney, the voice of many” as a way to emphasize my propensity to piss everyone off at some point along the way.

It was, and is, my passion for the truth that keeps me off the invite list of those enamored with political games. Put another way, I’m not looking for friends. I want to expose the truth.

This has become my problem with the press. I tend to write columns that display the stories others have failed to address. I’m acutely aware of the bias that often shows up. It’s there due to the minimal voices of people who look and think like me. The media has a way of discounting the angles of those committed to the other side of the marketplace of ideas.

Which leads me to my frustration. Again, journalism ain’t what it used to be. Excuse the bad grammar, but I have to say it like the folks on the other side of the street.

The press isn’t acting like a watch dog. They taking on the behavior of a pussycat.

The truth has long been lost due to the work of people like Hanna Giles, James O’Keefe, Peter Schweizer and David Daleiden. These are yellow journalist who thrive on the stupidity of American readers. They hide behind the façade of journalism to create stories aimed at destroying the reputations of politicians and organizations.

Their victims include Planned Parenthood, the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN) and Hilary Clinton. These folks don’t quit. They have a mission and that mission is to undermine the advances of the liberal agenda.

Who can forget the video released of ACORN employee’s helping a client engage in underage sex trade and prostitution. James O’Keefe released the video to Fox News in 2009. It happened after ACORN successfully registered more than 100,000 voters and attacked predatory lending. The organization folded after losing their federal funding.

It was later determined the video was heavily edited. The exchange between the client and the ACORN employee was staged for the camera. The organization committed no wrong doing. People lost their jobs and an organization doing great work was forced to disband.

This is the new age of journalism.

A similar strategy was used to destabilize Planned Parenthood. David Daleiden claimed the organization profited from fetal tissue. Again, no wrongdoing was committed. It was later determined the video used as evidence was heavily edited.

By then, the damage was done.

Falsehoods and half-truths are used to mold public opinion. The most popular target is Hilary Clinton. Although Clinton has no halo to signify perfection, most of what the public believes is based on deceptive reporting. Peter Schweizer’s book “Clinton Cash” is dedicated to destroying the potential Democratic Party nominee.

The book is crammed with falsehoods and half-truths. Schweizer alleges Clinton used her power to benefit financial donors. The need for reform within the Clinton foundation was used to fuel the opinion now prevalent among many Americans. Although Schweizer admits a lack of evidence to support his claims regarding Clinton, the opinions are part of Clintons’ shameful legacy.

The media has failed to debunk these claims. The lies and half-truths show up in debates and during campaign rallies. All it takes is time to investigate the validity of these accusations. The media has forgotten their role as the watch dog of government. We are obligated to hold people accountable for disseminating information proven wrong after a simple fact-check. 

The same lies and half-truth are recycled like Seinfeld reruns. The “circular reporting” of these lies and half-truths, in time, become the fabric of public opinion.

I’m enraged by this due to the source of most of the reporting. It’s coming from the conservative machinery consumed with destroying the progressive political agenda. Some of it comes from the Koch Brothers. Most of it is coming from companies funded by conservatives.

In America, it doesn’t have to be real because the watch dog has become a pussy.

So, to all my progressive minded friends who promote the anti-Clinton agenda, dig deeper before promoting the views of the conservative fake press. Tell the truth when the facts warrant the criticism. Say what needs to be said when everything checks out as legitimate news.

But, as one committed to the truth, there’s a load of manure packed in the middle of what you think is truth.

Like they said in Dragnet (an old TV show), just the facts ma’am.

You may now return to your lie infested programing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Reflections on "You did it my nigga"

No he didn’t!

Larry Wilmore ended his comedy routine with “Barry, you did it my nigga.”

My first reaction may surprise you. I cheered on the inside. You know, I couldn’t be to loud with my shout because I knew the nigga police might be listening.  

They wouldn’t understand my inner praise.

I knew white people would condemn the moment because it’s something they can’t say.  They are fully aware of what happens when they say what black folks nurtured in the culture that affirms “you my nigga” say freely.  They know not to cross that boundary, no matter how much they know about life on the black side.

Dread locs, a T-shit with Malcolm X on the front, and a swag that screams hip-hop, fails to secure permission. Nigga please. Don’t go there and don’t even think about it!

But, disdain for that dreadful word isn’t limited to white people. Those old enough to remember being called that word are quick to remind people what hearing it conjures. Those memories are too deep to use the forbidden word. Nope. Not even when it avows a bond between two brothers who understand each other just because they understand each other.

It’s one of those things that many just can’t understand. It’s code for I got your back my nigga. It’s used to assert a love that’s deeper than everything that stands in the way.

It’s a language built from the context of the black experience. Yes, it comes with a troubling past, but it says something that no other word conveys. It defies logic. We shouldn’t use it. It’s disgusting due to how it is used by white people. It’s a reminder of over yonder in Dixie land when black folks dangled from trees like strange fruit.

There’s so many reason not to say it.

But, my nigga says something deep among those who have endured close to eight years of contempt of our nigga the President. That’s right, he’s legitimate black. Through and through like gold that has traveled through the fire. That word suggests enduring without compromise. Wilmore was saying we see you bruh. We know who you are, and we got you. You one of us, and, yeah, you did it my nigga.

You haven’t been tainted by your Ivy league education. No, we don’t agree with all your policy decisions. We have issues with your inability to impact change for black folks. We wish you would have done more, but we see you bruh. We know you may have wanted to do more, but we understand the pressures that comes with having to satisfy white people who can’t get past the fact that you are one of us.

“You did it my nigga,” wasn’t meant for the white folks in the room angry because of what they can’t say. It wasn’t meant for the people with ears plugged after failing to bury the word for the past 20 years. It wasn’t used to disrespect the office. I heard it as a statement regarding a level of respect that comes with witnessing Obama endure all of it.

Yes, all of it.

Yes, every bit of the attacks that come due to not being able to do enough. You did it my nigga even with a Congress and Senate committed to obstruct your agenda. You did it within a culture were hate is intensifying because of racism. Yes, my nigga, you did it even with vicious attacks from black people who want you to lead a charge promoting a pro-black agenda.

You are not perfect. Many are angry that you placed Sister Assata Shakur on the “Most Wanted List”. We deplore your use of drones to murder men and women around the world. I’m disgusted at how you have censured the press in ways that are the worse we have ever seen in America.  We wanted more to reduce black incarceration.

Oh, we want you to pardon our brother – Mumia Abul-Jamal. Get on that one before you leave office. Come on, keep it real Brother Obama.

Many despise how you attack young people in that paternalistic fashion that millennials can’t stand. These emerging leaders hate it when old folks tell them how to think and act. Your arms too short to box with God. Chill bruh.

You did it my nigga is a collective sigh. This thing is about to come to an end. It’s time to affirm what it all has meant for those who didn’t believe they would live to see a black President. We watched them post memes of you as a monkey. We listened to people compare you to Hitler. We listen as people call you the worse President in the history of the United States.

And, we’ve watched hate fuel the nomination of the man who started the birther movement. Are you kidding?

There’s more.

We read stories with comments attacking your daughters. All of this has happened, and we are sick of it. Brother Barack, we see you. We feel you. More than all of that, we are proud of you for enduring all of it with class.

You a bad man. You and Michelle have made us proud. No one has done it better.

How does one convey how it feels to have witnessed you serve our country? You’ve endured the deaths of Trayvon, Mike, Sandra, Freddie and, and there are too many to name. You had to take all of the corruption in police departments and the anger of white people trapped in the evil world of cognitive dissonance.

We see all of it.

So, how do we say it? How do we say it in a way that goes deeper – deeper than many can understand.

Let me think.

Yeah, you did it my nigga.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why black voters pass on the Bernie-olution

What is it about Bernie Sanders that hasn’t translated into widespread support among black voters?

Bernie supporters contend black voters don’t know enough to make a calculated decision. Bernie blamed it on the extreme conservatism in the deep South. Black enthusiasts of the Bernie-olution say supporters of Hilary have been brainwashed by the Democratic Party. In other words, the house Negroes are unwilling to unite with the Negroes in the field.

The language used to expound on the counter-Bernie-olution is divisive and problematic for reasons beyond the common rhetoric intended to explain black voters lack of passion related to Bernie’s message. There is much more in this pot of gumbo. The fixings in this tub aren’t about black stupidity, Uncle Tom and Aunt Tamisha being brainwashed or black folks dancing to the Clinton bullstank because of some deal made long ago.

Black voters aren’t getting burned by the Bernie juice for reasons that can’t be supplanted by the damage of the 1994 Crime Bill. It doesn’t help when a few black intellectuals and celebrities scream like doomsday is coming if we pull the lever for Hilary. It doesn’t help when Bernie supporters throw Michelle Alexanders book “The New Jim Crow” at black folks like it’s the word of God in flesh.

There’s a condescending pitch that feels like white privilege condemning black people for being too dumb to get it. It’s time out for all of that. Let’s get down with the get down.

Bernie assumed his message was enough

As powerful as the messages of Wall Street greed and corruption, the loss of American jobs after the passage of NAFTA and the need to replace Obamacare with a one payer option may be, policy statements and promises aren’t a replacement for the building of authentic relationships.

Bernie waited too long in building the type of soul ties that inspires black voters.  It’s not enough to talk that talk. It’s hard enough for black voters to trust an old white man from Vermont who promises to elevate America beyond the Obama years. It’s painful when he shows up with a platform that reads like a bad review of the first black President’s administration.

It sounded like a dis that needed to be checked.

But there’s more. There was insignificant relationship building connected to those revolutionary claims. Bernie stepped into the black Kool-Aid with an agenda to change the tune of the inner city blues. That’s business as usual in the hood. White folks are known for walking in black space with a formula for change.

This is when you better ask somebody. Before telling black people what they need, spend some time listening to what black people have to say.

Bernie failed to consider the divide between millennials and old school black activist

So, the response to my previous argument is the Bernie camp listened to the concerns of representatives from “Black Lives Matter”. Yes, Bernie added the groups concerns to his platform statement. Good move, but don’t drink that Kool-Aid.

You need to do some homework before signing on that dotted line. In other words, get in there and ask about the dirty laundry. There are some messy dynamics that require pondering before jumping in like “Black Lives Matter” is reflective of the common voice of black people.

Not so.

The truth is there is major tension between some of the millennials in the ‘Black Lives Matter” movement and old school activist. That tension relates to the perception that millennials refuse to listen to and learn from older activist.  In many cases, older black activists are asked to leave the room.

This isn’t new drama. It’s the same type of generational battle that caused tension between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and members of Black Power movement. Back then, young people felt tremendous disdain for those old school ways. They pressed for a new type of revolution that rejected going to jail without fighting back.

Bernie’s support among black millennials was a critical decision that put him at odds with black leaders who feel rejected and disrespected by young leaders.

Bernie failed to frame economic disparity within the context of slavery

“No, I don’t think so. First of all, its likelihood of getting through Congress is nil,” Sanders responded to a reporter with Nando Vila involving his position on reparations. “Second of all, I think it would be very divisive. The real issue is when we look at the poverty rate among the African American community, when we look at the high unemployment rate within the African American community, we have a lot of work to do.”

Sander’s response raised the ire of Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist with the Atlantic, wrote a critical response in “Why precisely is Bernie Sanders against reparations?”

“But judged by his platform, Sanders should be directly confronted and asked why his political imagination is so active against plutocracy, but so limited against white supremacy,” Coates writes. “Jim Crow and its legacy were not merely problems of disproportionate poverty. Why should black voters support a candidate who does not recognize this?”

Sanders has been unable to communicate the extent of systemic racism beyond its impact on economic disparity

Sanders has a strong message for poor black people. It is true that the economic disparity between blacks and whites leaves one wondering if slavery has returned in America. The low wages some earn, coupled with the free labor of the men and women in prison, is a challenge to understand.

The problem is with the assumptions Bernie makes about race.

“When you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto and to be poor,” Bernie responded during a debate when asked what he has learned about racism.  “You don’t know what it’s like to be hassled when you walk down the street or get dragged out of a car. I believe as a nation in the year 2016, we must be firm in making it clear: We will end institutional racism and reform a broken criminal justice system.”

It was a great answer to a complex question. It was honest, heartfelt and comforting. It also left many black people confronted with other questions. Primary on the list is does Bernie understand the black people who don’t live in the ghetto? Oh, why did he use that word?

What is the message for black people beyond Wall Street reform, socialized healthcare and education? What reforms are proposed for black people who confront racism beyond their pocketbooks and the consequences of mass incarceration.

What is the lesson?

The jury is still out regarding the meaning of it all. What is clear is a real revolution demands significant participation from black people.  A band of disgusted black millennials is not enough to bargain for radical change. As much as young people have reason to be outraged by the world we have created for them, there is a level of brokenness carried by their parents that shows up in places that require a sit down and long talk about what it meant back then.

Those stories may be more than most white people can handle during this season of change. Yes, stuff is unravelling before our eyes.  All it takes is a quick glance at the Trump-olution to feel the rage. One has to ask what’s behind the resistance toward old school politics.

For many black people, it has something to do with the brother in the White House. Is America resisting because there’s too much black to feel comfortable. Or, is it a combination of policies that make it impossible to accept business as usual.

Another thing is clear. It all feels like microaggression when confronted about perceived ignorance related to voting.

“Hey dummy, can’t you see you’re voting against your own interest?”, sounds like “Hey, why don’t you take your black ass back to Africa.”

I’m just saying.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Why "Bern or Bust" is hard for black people to concede

I understand the “Bern or Bust” movement.

It’s a challenge voting for the other candidate after believing in the revolution.  It’s especially difficult when the other candidate represents everything you fought to defeat. How can you legitimately cast your vote for a person married to Wall Street while willing to bomb a foreign country just to prove who carries the biggest stick?

Those millennials fighting on behalf of change aren’t crazy for refusing to jump on the Hillary bandwagon. They have real concerns that make it difficult to distinguish between Trump and Hilary as the lesser of two evils. They need valid reasons to accept the call for party unity.

Many will refuse to vote. Check your Facebook newsfeed. Articles are circulating that justify handing this election over to the Republicans while building the base for the 2020 election.

That argument works for white voters who don’t carry the legacy of black people who fought for and died for the right to vote.  The willingness to give up is rooted in the type of privilege that fails to concede the hardships taken to get the right to vote.  They don’t have to listen to grandmothers and grandfathers who stood on the other side of police brutality while marching just to obtain the right to vote.

Not voting is a position engrained from a culture shaped in assumptions of power.  Black folks have always compromised when it comes to making these types of decisions. There is something to be said about having the privilege to forfeit an election for the sake of something better in four years. While some millennials are willing to lose to make a point later, black people can’t afford to lose.

Those who fight for “Bern or Bust” fail to consider the loses black people potentially face with each election. There are few safe bets among the people blacks support to become President of the United States.

How can blacks trust the Bern enough to not vote?

The majority of blacks aren’t down with the revolution. Black millennials insist older blacks have failed them, and have sold out to the Democratic Party in a way that jeopardizes the future of the black community.

Those older black voters say they have no reason to trust the Bern. They lack enough evidence to forfeit the election. They ask, what has Bernie done, prior to his bid for President, to give black voters reason to not to vote?

Those older black voters say too much has been invested to justify not voting. Why should black people commit to not voting after the Obama years? What resistance will be established to shield them from the white people fuming after the Obama Administration? The post-Obama years may witness the type of backlash that stirs America back to the days before the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

That message has already been spewed. We are witnessing a rise in white hate groups. Some argue that the deaths of unarmed black men, women and children by police, is proof of implicit bias and systemic racism that results in mass incarceration and a disregard of black lives. What will it mean over the next four years to have a president that fails to consider the implications of these matters as it relates to public policy?

Black people have always voted for the lesser of evils. 

There has never been an election, prior to Obama, were blacks felt confident the person chosen understood and honored the concerns of black people. Sadly, many are left troubled by how race and racism impeded Obama’s ability to press forward on an agenda that addressed many of those concerns.

If the first black President wasn’t able to push a national black agenda, why should blacks trust a white President to achieve that goal? Those who feel the Bern believe the difference is Bernie’s socialist perspective. They say his focus on Wall Street, universal healthcare and free college tuition is enough to wait on the revolution.

But, what happens as we wait?

Who gets appointed to the Supreme Court in a Trump administration? What wars will we be left to fight and what will happen to the bond built with Cuba? Will the push to build the wall negatively impact relationships with Mexico and will Trump’s rhetoric regarding the Islamic community impede the way we think about diversity and inclusion?

Will we witness a rise in laws that limit the number of black people who vote? Will a Trump presidency influence advances toward equal pay for women? What happens to reproductive rights and efforts to increase the minimum wage? What can we expect related to protecting the rights of members of the LGBTQ community? What about efforts to grant Christians the right to discriminate against members of other faith traditions?

There’s too much to be lost within the space of four years. This is a point that black voters know by experience. The election isn’t always about supporting the person you believe in the most. It’s often about blocking the person you fear the most.

Black voters know the consequences of electing a President that refuses to acknowledge the power of black voters.

Black people watched Regan kick-off his 1980 presidential campaign in Neshoba, Mississippi, a stone’s throw away from where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. Reagan pledged to undermine civil rights. Regan called the Voting Rights Act of 1964 “humiliating to the South” and implied he wouldn’t support it when it came up for renewal in 1982.

Reagan lashed out against affirmative action. He told reporters “I’m old enough to remember when quotas in America existed for the sake of discrimination, and I don’t want to see that again.” He gutted the Civil Rights Commission, slashed federally funded jobs programs and called welfare recipients “queens”

During hearings to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by naming a holiday after him, Reagan said the jury was still out on whether King was a communist sympathizer.

Black people know the damage that can be done in four years. They’ve seen opportunities taken away by legislative action and executive orders. 

Not voting is not an option for black people. The management of black lives doesn’t afford black people the choice of waiting four more years for the revolution to start. Black people have been fighting a revolution since 1619.

People with privilege might be willing to wait for the candidate of the choosing, but black people have been conditioned to select the lesser of evils.

After Obama, it’s back to business as usual.