"This is no time for fine words, but a time to lift one’s voice against the savagery of a people who claim to be the dispensers of democracy."
— Marcus Garvey
Ferguson protesters pulled nearly two city blocks back from police as they demonstrated in song last night. They held their empty hands high, an action symbolic of the “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” chant which has come to embody the circumstances of Mike Brown’s unarmed death at the hands of Ferguson, MO police. Yet, despite the peacefulness of the crowd, in an episode of déjà vu reminiscent of the crackdown on the ‘60s Civil Rights Movement, Ferguson police closed-in on protesters in military fashion, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at unarmed civilians.
Indiscriminate violence against black communities has long been the norm for police departments across the U.S. In the wake of Mike Brown’s death, many people (read mostly white people) have consistently defended the actions of Ferguson police (and police in general).
The latest iteration of this defense has come on the heels of a burned-down gas station and reports of alleged looting. On Tuesday I received an anonymous message saying “They burned down a gas station, stop crying racism.” I received another today which read, “Those people shouldn’t be in the middle of the road doing anything. Imagine how many of them have guns. Look up how the are looting and robbing.”
This line of reasoning ignores totally the slaying of Mike Brown and the antagonisms of a militarized police presence at a community protest (mind you, Ferguson, MO is over 60% black while its police force is 95% white). It is victim blaming which says inanimate objects ought to become the center of discussion and outrage surrounding the death of a living, breathing, vibrant human being, and that never should we mention the white supremacist institution which murdered him or the cop(s) who pulled the trigger.
Context Always Matters
“Individuals do not create rebellions; conditions do.”
— Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown)
A while back I tweeted that the most powerful weapon to destroy a people’s resistance is to erase their history. For the phenomenon that is victim blaming, this is absolutely essential. If people (read mostly white people) can erase an oppressed population’s history, they effectively erase the oppression they themselves committed and make invisible the power they obtain from it.
“Looting” rhetoric is a method of erasing the previous violence and oppression visited upon Ferguson’s black community, specifically the killing of Mike Brown, but also even before it. This rhetoric conveniently rejects greater sociopolitical, economic, and historical context for the sake of bolstering itself and in doing so it can dismiss the continuation of white supremacy in contemporary institutions (like police departments).
St. Louis County, home to St. Louis and Ferguson, hardly has a good civil rights record. White supremacy has a long, strong history there.
“In May , three thousand white men gathered in downtown East St. Louis and attacks on blacks began. With mobs destroying buildings and beating people, the Illinois governor called in the National Guard to prevent further rioting. Although rumors circulated about organized retribution attacks from African Americans, conditions eased somewhat for a few weeks.
On July 2, a car occupied by white males drove through a black area of the city and fired several shots into a standing group. An hour later, a car containing four people, including a journalist and two police officers, Detective Sergeant Samuel Coppedge and Detective Frank Wadley, was passing through the same area. Black residents, possibly assuming they were the original suspects, opened fire on their car, killing one officer instantly and mortally wounding another.
Later that day, thousands of white spectators who assembled to view the detectives’ bloodstained automobile marched into the black section of town and started rioting [joined by the Guardsman called to stop it]. After cutting the water hoses of the fire department, the rioters burned entire sections of the city and shot inhabitants as they escaped the flames. Claiming that “Southern Negros deserve[d] a genuine lynching,” they lynched several blacks.”
In the aftermath conservative estimates put between 40-150 black Americans dead and nearly 6,000 homeless.
These events are telling. Throughout them we see the black community responding to white initiated violence, yet because whites held power, black people suffered. Recent events in Ferguson reflect the same relationship: Violence is wielded by the powerful while any retaliation by the oppressed is systematically and brutally repressed.
Ultimately, the role of “looting” rhetoric removes the context of these power dynamics, its history, and allows for a game of moral equivalence to be played — one where to white people property damage is just as bad, if not more heinous than killing a young man. Considering that for the majority of U.S. history black people literally have been treated like property, it is unsurprising this reasoning is so pervasive.
It’s Institutional Racism, Stupid
“As an officer of the law, I am committed to administering justice swiftly and even-handedly, regardless of whether the suspect has dark skin or really dark skin.”
— Fictional Police Officer Vincent Turner, as quoted in the Onion
America’s justice system is racist. There is no other way to put it. From its racist policing built on profiling, to its war on drugs which dis-proportionally incarcerates black (and brown) people, to its sentencing laws that increase in severity if you are black, to the fact that a black man is killed by cops or vigilantes every 28 hours. It’s murderous and racist to its core. So when “the law” is the instrument of oppression, this leaves little recourse for communities like Ferguson.
But the logic of oppression will always place the onus for civility on the victims of oppression, never itself. In Ferguson this means restricting protesters to a few normalized avenues of addressing their grievances, which almost always are prescribed and deemed reasonable and legitimate by the very same racist legal system which kills black youth. Even then, if black Americans effectively exercise their legal rights, this too is met with brutal repression.
Such has been the historical example of gun ownership and self-defense in the black American community:
“[On] May 2, 1967, 30 fully armed members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and their supporters were in the California State Capitol at Sacramento, California, protesting the infamous Mulford Act. The bill on its face was aimed at banning a U.S. citizen’s right to carry loaded weapons in public, so long as the weapons were “registered, not concealed, and not pointed in a threatening manner.”
In actuality the Mulford Act – or “the Panther Bill,” as it was tagged by the media – was designed to end the BPP Police Patrols that were organized against police brutality in the Afrikan community; as it was the Panther Party’s belief that “armed citizen patrols and the arming of the citizenry as guaranteed by the Constitution were the most effective deterrents to excessive use of police force.”
The alarmed and instantaneous reaction to the fully armed BPP in Sacramento further confirmed this, and then Gov. Ronald Reagan’s signing of the bill into law catapulted the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense into national prominence.
Three months prior to this, in March 1967, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had begun an “internal security” investigation of Huey Newton, prompting then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to announce, on Sept. 8, 1968, that the BPP was considered to be “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” At the time, the Black Panther Party was barely known outside of Oakland, Calif.”
—Bay View National Black Newspaper
In the following years the Hoover Administration meticulously and ruthlessly initiated campaigns to delegitimize and eviscerate the Black Panthers.
Here, yet again, we see the black community responding to white initiated violence, in particular the Black Panther declaration to halt police brutality in their neighborhoods. And, you guessed it, yet again, because whites held power, black people suffered.
Next time you see somebody trying to equivocate a burned-down gas station or a little looting with the violence perpetrated against black bodies, with Mike Brown’s death, stop them. Check them. Reframe the conversation again. Make them talk about the robbing of memories from marriage, kids, grandchildren, an infinite number of moments never lived because those years were fleeced from a young man with fire, gunpowder, and bullets.
Force them to talk about the theft of a system that denies Mike Brown’s family, and countless others, any effective recourse, let alone justice. Don’t be fooled into thinking a gas station burned somehow levels the field of brutality and injustice levied against the black community. Don’t play that game, because that’s what it is to them: A game where they can say “I’m right and you’re wrong,” a game that ignores the reality that they’re alive and black boys like Mike Brown are dead.
The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their ‘vital interests’ are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a [person] to death: these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the ‘sanctity’ of human life, or the ‘conscience’ of the civilized world.
— James Baldwin, The Devil Finds Work (via theeducatedfieldnegro)
“The Paradoxical Commandments
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.”
— Kent M. Keith (via kushandwizdom)
The Body is Not An Apology needs your help to build the world’s most comprehensive information, education, and community-building website for radical self-love!
Jessica Williams and Travon (one of the staff writers) do it again!
Healing is a choice. It is not an easy one because it takes work to turn around your habits. But keep making the choice and shifts will happen.
— Yehuda Berg (via onlinecounsellingcollege)
Here is some recent news coverage on the beginnings of gentrification coming to the northwest Bronx:
“That type of letter is not a renewed-lease-letter; it’s a put-people-out letter,” said Christian Ramos, the vice president of the Kingsbridge Road Merchants Association.
EXCLUSIVE: Amid Re-development of Kingsbridge Armory, Rents To Double For Some In August (Norwood News)
“It’s frustrating. You don’t know if you’re coming or going,” said Bass, who feels as though it’s a type of legal eviction. “That’s just giving us three weeks to increase our rent, make a decision, get out, stay. This is really horrible. And these are families trying to stay.”
The world’s largest ice rink complex is coming — but many local businesses likely won’t be there to see it.
WATCH: Kingsbridge Road shops face increased rent, possible closure amid building of ice skating center (News 12 The Bronx)
Tenants say a new landlord is starting to double their rents because the Kingsbridge Armory is reopening as a huge ice skating center in a few years, and property values are already starting to skyrocket.
This is what we’re doing to stop it: People Power Movement Fighting Gentrification in the Bronx
In standing in solidarity with groups in which one doesn’t inherently belong, one must comprehend that allyship isn’t spoken but acted upon, maintained, and nurtured. When a person screams “I’m an ally, I’m your friend,” that is usually the quickest way of knowing who is not an ally.
I’ve actually grown to dislike the word “ally” because those voices often trump those who face the same oppression people claim to dislike. I was reminded of this very concept when I read your piece “Dear Black Women: White Gays Are Your Allies, So Don’t Push Us Away” in TIME last week.
Your article is the epitome of a person not understanding how structural oppression works for those who exist at the intersection of multiple identities.
Your article also presumes that black women and white gay men are similar because they have both experienced some aspect of oppression for their marginalizations, and that neither is innately privileged.
But here’s the thing: Privilege is not necessarily about individual characteristics or attributes, but rather, institutional advantages that occur over a period of time. And although “checking your privilege” seems like a cliché catchphrase, it is the most realistic one we should keep in mind when writing articles about alleged allyship.
I am not a black woman or a white gay man, but two things are pretty clear: First, I am privileged by my manhood, and second, I am simultaneously oppressed by my sexuality. However, my sexuality does not create a privilege-free cloud around my manhood.
And, Steve, I recognize that being a man holds more weight than being a woman, and I also know that being white is more beneficial than being black—and yes I admit these are generalizations. This could only mean one thing: Being black and being a woman is doubly ostracizing.
You hated Sierra Mannie’s article, “Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture,” and I get it. It must have been difficult to stomach all 800 words of a person, a black woman no less, asking you to understand the difference between cultural appreciation and outright appropriation.
But, Steve, it is obvious that many black women don’t see you as their ally.
This may be hard to believe, but you can’t force your version of allyship onto someone. And you certainly are in no position to tell someone that you are their ally if they don’t feel you are. This is pretty counterintuitive, counterproductive, and gets solidarity all wrong.
The truth is that America is a country that operates on systems of racism in which we all participate, whether consciously or unconsciously, to our benefit or to our detriment, and that system allows white people to succeed. This system also creates barriers so that minorities, such as black people, have a much harder time being able to do things like vote and get houses and not have to deal with racists and stuff.
Even though, to some, this could read as Oppression Olympics, I see this as having an honest conversation about race, race-relations, and systematic oppression. But you, apparently, took this to mean that your oppression isn’t being taken seriously. Because like black women, you and your brethren have faced ostracism due to an immutable characteristic.
No, just no.
Let me be clear, Mannie’s article isn’t devoid of critique. I, too, found it bothersome to read that as a gay man, I could somehow hide my sexuality and not my race. That also deserves a “no, just no” for its failure to properly address intersectionality. But, Steve, something else I found troubling when reading your article, mainly as a person in the LGBT community, was your ironic ability to write in a heteronormative way, unless you were speaking about the struggle of white gay men.
No mention of black transgender women like Mia Henderson or Islan Nettles and their murders? No discussion of black lesbian women like Ashland Johnson or Kimya Afi Ayodele and their experiences of workplace discrimination because of their race and sexual orientation? Are they, too, “just like” white gay men? No nuance? No observation? No complexity? Just a one-dimensional conversation of forged relationships based on liking certain music selections? Now that’s just lazy writing based on hurt feelings. And I know you can do better, particularly if you want people to believe the solidarity is real between you, your brethren, and black women.
The problem here is not just “borrowing language,” like “hey, girlfriend!” The problem is borrowing that language, not admitting you didn’t discover it (Columbusing?), calling it “ghetto” or “hood” when black women say it, and then using and re-using it for profit. That is one of the core issues.
But beyond that, if black women could “push you away” for humbly offering their lived experiences so you can become a better person and ally, then, Steve, you obviously were not a very good ally in the first place.
You’re much stronger than you think you are
I’m never gonna pass off the chance to reblog this because hell, sometimes knowing that some one fictional will be there in times like there really does help.
This makes me love Superman even more.
I prefer Michael Straczynski take on a similar scene
Superman: A being capable of moving the heavens and Earth itself, will always take the time to let you just how important you really are
The campaign is real, let’s boost this….
Why august? Lol
It’s a hotter month, since we are technically a tropical people.
It’s a longer month then February, which is the shortest month.
Brief Historical Outline of “Black August”
A sampling of this month of “righteous rebellion” and “racist repression” includes:
The first Afrikans were brought to Jamestown as slaves in August of 1619.
Gabriel Prosser’s slave rebellion occurred on August 30th, 1800.
The “Prophet” Nat Turner planned and executed a slave rebellion that commenced on August 21, 1831.
In 1843, Henry Highland Garnett called a general slave strike on August 22.
The Underground Railroad was started on August 2, 1850.
The March on Washington occurred in August of 1963
The Watts rebellions were in August of 1965.
On August 18, 1971 the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) was raided by Mississippi police and FBI agents.
On August 8, 1978 Philadelphia police initiated a shootout against MOVE members
Further, August is a time of birth. Dr. Mutulu Shakur (New Afrikan prisoner of war), Pan-Africanist Leader Marcus Garvey, Maroon Russell Shoatz (political prisoner) and Chicago Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton were born in August. August is also a time of transition and rebirth. The great scholar and educator W.E.B. Dubois died in Ghana on August 27, 1963. So, August is a month during which New Afrikans can reflect on our current situation and our struggle for self-determination and freedom.
MALCOLM X GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT
AUGUST IT IS !!!!! PASS IT ON !!!!