So, just kickin’ it in my Facebook feed when I see this: Read more
It’s been a treacherous two weeks. First Ronnie Shumpert in Mississippi (who it seems either people weren’t aware of or that they’ve already forgotten), then Alton Sterling in Louisianna, and the next day, the very next day, Philando Castile in Minnesota.
Then this happened.
I looked at the picture of the man that brought about the tragic deaths of 1 Black Lives Matter protestor and 5 Dallas police officers. I looked at his picture and two things struck me immediately: His skin color and what was covering his skin – an United States military uniform.
All of a sudden the tragic occurrence wasn’t so surprising to me. Tragic, yes. But not surprising.
Now, please don’t take what I’m about to say as being callous or unfeeling, but as with everything, there’s a context. Let’s get to it.
What Had Happened Was…
The history of Black people serving in the armed forces of the United States of America is long. Like, no, reeeeeeeeeeally long. Just as long as any contribution of folks with White skin as a matter of fact.
American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783)
Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 9, 1865)
Spanish-American War (April 1898 – August 1898)
World War I (July 28, 1914 – November 11, 1918)
(Click here to see more amazing photos of Black soldiers in WWI.)
World War II (September 1, 1939 – September 2, 1945)
Vietnam War (November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975)
So, let’s be clear. Black people been fightin’ since forever. And I must tell you, a knot filled my chest, tears that felt like they formed in my throat rose to my eyes as I looked through the photo archives of countless Black faces, the courage, the smiles, soldiers – they gave so much only to receive so very little, little to nothing from their country in return.
And anytime White veterans (unjustly) received nothing, the United States government made sure to give the Black veterans even less than that.
When Black American Revolutionary War soldiers were done shedding their blood for their country (and for themselves), their country still considered them to be sub-human, not human, not citizens – beasts of the nation. And they treated them as such. Slavery saw to that.
When Black Spanish-American War soldiers were done shedding their blood for their country, their country still considered them to be sub-human, not human, not citizens – beasts of the nation. And they treated them as such.
When Black Civil War soldiers were done shedding their blood for their country (and for themselves), some slaves even fighting for the Confederacy in the place of cowardly or ineligible/disabled White slave masters, their country still considered them to be sub-human, not human, not citizens – beasts of the nation. And they treated them as such.
They executed “gradual” emancipation in different states from North to South, doing things such as freeing some depending on age or keeping the children of the freed slave longer. With very limited economic freedom or rights to, you know, exist, many were left with no other choice but to become sharecroppers. (“Sharecropper” – more often than not, was essentially a fancy word for “slave”. Trust me). Over time, Black folks built some things out of nothing, but again, let’s be clear – America was not the land of the free for them. It just wasn’t.
Lynching Black bodies was commonplace. Well, actually it was more than commonplace. It was more like a White family past-time. They’d purchase postcards of burned alive castrated and dismembered Black bodies hanging from a tree or tied to a stake surrounded by sometimes smiling White children, women and men. The sadists would send these White terrorism post cards to their families and friends. “Wish you were here!”
As for the United States government? They made sure that the 13th Amendment excluded people in prison, made or changed the laws governing everyday Black life, made living while Black a criminal act, filled up the jails with Black bodies, and voila! Free forced labor! Otherwise known as slavery.*
(*But, of course, they didn’t call it that).
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” – The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution
When Black World War I & II soldiers were done shedding their blood for their country, their country still considered them to be sub-human, not human, not citizens – beasts of the nation. And they treated them as such.
They couldn’t so much as pee in a toilet freely. White veterans, however, received the Price Is Right grand prizes of WELFARE unlike anything the nation had ever seen before- government subsidized monies and loans out the whazoo from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The New Deal and the GI Bill gave White veterans/ White people everything from food to houses to college financing. Black folks? Not so much in policy or practice. Black veterans still had little to no functioning rights of citizenship equal to that of Whites, aaaand oh yeah – lynching was still very much a thing.
When Black Vietnam War soldiers were done shedding their blood for their country, their country still considered them sub-human, not human, not citizens – beasts of the nation. And they treated them as such: The criminalization of everyday Black life? Still a thing. Urban centers eventually built and Black folks forced into them procedurally helped construct ghettos. City planning (literally how they constructed town borders and where they decided to place highways) plus unjust anti-Black housing practices from the banks down to the real estate agents intentionally channeled Black life into high concentration population-dense poverty-stricken housing areas. (Thanks, Redlining!)
As Black people, they were restricted from most rights as veterans in practice if not in law. (No housing loans for you, Black vet!) Quality and access to education was still in the gutter, both before and after the integration of schools. (You want money for schools? Quality education fa ya kids? Getouttaheah!) Add to that Vietnam veteran drug addiction, the mental trauma of war and an all-out attack through discriminatory practices and over-policing in Black, minority, and low-income communities.
(Side Note: Funny how hard it is to continue a civil rights movement once a whole community/race of folks are in jail, in poverty, hypes, or struggling to hold it together with none of the resources that Whites had at their disposal from the last decade, generation, well, from the last forever. Coincidence? I think not.)
So, back to the present…
Notice the pattern, yet? Black man willingly serves his country. Black man returns from war for country. Country oppresses and tries to kill Black man…and Black woman…and his kids, too. Pretty much.
So is it any wonder, that a man in a military uniform who has been trained and socialized to carry a weapon and use it to eliminate threats to liberty, who gives his life for that country and countrymen, turns around and hunts his own countrymen when his countrymen threaten his liberty?
What exactly is surprising us about this tragedy when we know his country tells him in the presence of his countrymen…
that there has been a referendum on freedom? when through acquittal after acquittal, in no charges filed after no charges filed, this country tells Black veterans that the loss of Black life at the hands of men in uniforms will not be seen as murder by the system he swore to protect?
that his countrymen with guns and uniforms are free to threaten his liberty?
that the countrymen for whom he gave his life are now free to take his life?
that government protected liberty is not his reward for his service?
that, in fact, he has no liberty?
So, now Kids, can you see how the Groundhog Day of police murdering Black folks miiiiight trigger a negative and dangerous reaction in someone who fits the description of the victims?
PTSD? Perhaps. But if so, he likely didn’t acquire it solely on foreign soil. It is probable that his PTSD could have been just as much homegrown. Organic, even. With the recent years’ frequency and nature of police-on-Black crime, “hunted” is a horrifyingly accurate adjective for how Black women, men and children feel.
Do not misread. This is not a justification of his actions. Just an explanation for why I am not surprised. And you shouldn’t be either.
You see, this is why it’s so important that you reconstruct the crime scene, the context in which the murders took place. America is the scene of the crime.
America, you trained your son Micah to kill, abused him, and now you’re surprised that he came for you? You abandoned him, but you’re surprised he abandoned you? You charge him with murder as your fingertips drip with the blood of your victims. With the blood of those you so parasitically used. You taught – no, conditioned – him throughout the annals of history, through Fox News and White murderers off the hook, that blood and injustice is your currency of choice. It is the very language you speak.
In short, Captain America has been more Hydra than hero.
And considering that this country hasn’t behaved too much better in its treatment of citizens with mental illness and veterans in general, America has certainly put an awful lot of ammo in this gun they feel justified in saying shouldn’t go off.
Oh my dear America, you must take your finger off the trigger.
Black people have served and protected these United States since before they were united. Unfortunately, these United States have always failed abysmally to return the favor.
Last week, his name was #RonnieShumpert.
His body was treated in the manner of a long line of Black bodies. Without value. Without rights. Without humanity. Without regard to the living soul that inhabited it. Read more
On Tamir Rice, My Son and the Myth of White Respectability
Think Progress released this facebook post on Saturday, June 25th, 2016 – the 14th birthday of Tamir Rice.
Would have been 14 years old this year. 12 years old when he was murdered. Far too young to die. And at the hands of police gun violence no less – like countless others.
For this reason, I re-release this post today, because I haven’t forgotten your son, Ms. Rice. I haven’t forgotten.
I work in the field of behavior science. Simply put, I change people’s behavior for a living. I treat adults, but I specialize in treating children.
I specialize in treating aggressive behaviors and challenges of intellectual disabilities.
I have worked in many settings. When working in homes, my chief demographic is White middle to upper class families. What I do is not for the faint of heart. It requires unnatural levels of self-control and unemotional responding. While administering therapy, I have been bitten, spat on in the face, kicked, punched, called names, pinched, scratched, nails dug into my skin, things thrown at me, forcefully grabbed and more. One client I had – a preschooler – would get his toy gun, point it at my head and pretend to shoot it if he was angry. Even amongst the children without intellectual disabilities, I’ve frequently seen them engage in these behaviors and more. And this done mostly or entirely by beautiful White children.
Believe it or not, I do not say “beautiful” sarcastically one bit. These are children with difficulties of varying degrees, and I am there to help. It’s what I do, and I’m good at it. I’ve had the pleasure of serving over 100 children from preschool to the 8th grade across all socioeconomic levels, a myriad of races, ethnicities and cultures, including immigrant populations. And I have never failed to get results. God has gifted me with the education, in depth understanding of a complex science, skill, training, constitution, and spirit to do just that. White or otherwise, I love my clients and their families, and not in some way-off-in-the-distance way; I love them so much that compassion causes me to work through it all and even take a bit of a beating (temporarily) if the process requires it. And don’t you dare leave a comment about the parents – they love their children just like you do. Usually, by the time I’m brought in, that parent has tried everything they know and has been challenged to endure and deal with stuff from a child that would make the best of folks throw up their hands.
At times, I’ve spent so many hours in individual (White) family’s homes that I’ve felt like I lived with them. There before breakfast. Leave an hour or so after bedtime. And over time, an interesting thing happens: I don’t know if it happens because of the nature of the service I provide or because I’m in their personal space for so long and so often. Is it because I’m so personable? Or maybe it’s because of that inexplicable thing we all have that lets us know when someone sincerely loves us and poses no threat. Perhaps, they feel it, see that love when I’m in their presence. I don’t know the reason, but one thing is for sure about me in their homes – the longer I’m there, the more they forget that I’m there.
And so it goes, my beloved White people, I know your secrets…and they’re not all respectable. White folks (as a cultural whole) and mainstream American media have always done an awful lot of lecturing to Black folks and other minorities on how to conduct themselves to make themselves worthy of human rights and humanity. But I’ve been the fly on your wall. I heard your thoughts. I watched how you treat your wives. Listened to your children. Observed your morals and your lack thereof.
Which is why I must confess that when I hear some White folks (and some Black folks, too) try to justify the police/authority-figure/vigilante murder or assault of Black and brown children, women and men by saying that “their [Black] parents should have taught them some respect” and “it’s their [Black people’s] own fault”, there are little fibers of my being that want to scream: I KNOW YOU! I KNOW YOUR SECRETS! I WORK IN YOUR HOMES! I’VE SEEN YOUR CHILDREN BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, ON PLAYGROUNDS AND IN CLASSROOMS! I WATCHED THEM SPIT AT YOU, PHYSICALLY ATTACK YOU, AND CALL YOU “STUPID”. THEY ARE NOT ALL PARAGONS OF RESPECTABILITY.
THEY ARE NOT ALL PARAGONS OF RESPECTABILITY.
I NOT ONLY WORK WITH YOUR CHILDREN, BUT BECAUSE I GRADUATED FROM ONE OF THE TOP PRIVATE UNIVERSITIES IN THE WORLD, I LIVED WITH YOUR CHILDREN. I WATCHED THEM EN MASS DRINK THEMSELVES SICK, THROWING UP ON DORMITORY HALL FLOORS AND STREET CURBS. AND IT WASN’T A RARE OCCURRENCE. EVEN STUDIES SHOW THAT BLACK COLLEGE STUDENTS DON’T DRINK AS MUCH AS WHITE COLLEGE STUDENTS. YES, YOUR CHILDREN DRANK AND DRANK UNTIL THEY COULD HARDLY REMEMBER THEIR FIRST YEAR OF SCHOOL OR WHO THEY SLEPT WITH.
I WATCHED THEM ORDER AND DEGRADE THE ELDERLY BLACK CHEF LIKE HE WAS A CHILD. I’VE HEARD THEM CONFESS IN HUSHED TONES TO KNOWINGLY UNJUSTLY RECEIVING GRADES – As and Bs – FROM PROFESSORS. I WORKED ON COUNTLESS GROUP PROJECTS, THE ONLY PERSON OF COLOR IN THE GROUP…AND THE ONLY ONE WITH ANY QUALMS ABOUT LYING OR CHEATING ON THE PROJECT.
I’VE EVEN WATCHED THEM SPEAK TO PEOPLE IN AUTHORITY WITH UNRESTRAINED VITRIOL IF THAT AUTHORITY FIGURE DARED NOT BEND TO THEIR WILL.
UNEQUIVOCALLY, WHITE CHILDREN OF ALL AGES CAN BE AND ARE JUST AS VIOLENT, DISRESPECTFUL, UNRULY, UNKIND, DISOBEDIENT TO AUTHORITY AND SOCIALLY INAPPROPRIATE AS ANY CHILDREN OF ANY OTHER RACE.
…watched them speak to people in authority with unrestrained vitriol….
My body has born pain and bled from physical wounds inflicted by young beautiful White children. White children are not more respectful. They just aren’t punished in various environments for these behaviors in the same way.
You see, when White children do such things, they receive disapproving looks (maybe), and the authority figures in their lives tend to do things like call behavior analysts or give them the benefit of the doubt. They suspend, expel, murder and jail Black children for the same offenses (and that’s not my opinion – that’s facts from sheer number crunching; data). Matter of fact, this thing is so twisted that there are studies indicating that Whites, specifically teachers and police, often don’t even perceive Black children as children, consistently viewing them as adults or years older than they are.
With my own son, I’ve been blessed. He is gentle and sensitive. Always has been. It is his nature. Sometimes to my dismay, I’ve seen him receive some pretty rough treatment and wished he’d just get fed up and tell the kid to leave him be. But he doesn’t. He forgives and restores without wisdom or thought to himself. A blessing and a fault. He has no academic problems. In fact, he is two grade levels ahead. He’s not arrogant or proud about it, either.
5 Year Old Doing Advanced Math
5 Year Old Reading Above Level
5 Year Old Doing Advanced Math
5 Year Old Reading Above Level
He is careful and pragmatic. Typically, he doesn’t retaliate or even defend himself past a loud “Stop it!”. He has a very strong internal compass when it comes to right and wrong; He looooves Jesus, can expound on scripture with insight and wisdom, and actually has a desire to be a doer of the Word.
5 Year Old Expounding On Scripture
5 Year Old Expounding On Scripture
He’s a super happy-go-lucky 6 year old that adores reading chapter books, is passionate about animal life, and loves to love. He’s not perfect, but truly, that about sums him up.
So, when I read the news, there is something I can never ignore: I look at the children I’ve served, and I remember the rage I’ve seen in the faces of White children (and other races of children, too, but right now I’m just talking about the White ones which make up the majority of my in-home clients). I remember the preschool, kindergarten, first grade and on up aged children, the children with no intellectual disabilities and those with, hitting, punching, biting, cursing, kicking, destroying property, scratching, spitting, chronically refusing to follow parent instruction. I remember the countless times I’ve left work with a mark on my body, sweat on my brow, because I had to restrain (which I am certified to do) a child from causing physical harm to himself and others…a White child, on most days, engaging in behaviors that are literally against the law after a certain age (something I have sometimes struggled to make their parents understand).
And I can’t help but think, in fact my mind struggles to wrap itself around the fact, I’ve even cried out to God about it: HOW IS IT THAT MY SON – MY advanced reading, Jesus-loving, generally obedient, tender-hearted, passionate about animals, so gentle he won’t even defend himself half the time SON(!!) IS MORE LIKELY TO BE PERCEIVED AS A THREAT BY POLICE OFFICERS and society than the sons of my clients?!? My son who does not engage in threatening behaviors over sons who do…and for no other reason than his skin tone?!?
Full Disclosure? Sometimes, I look at this precious extraordinarily brilliant boy and tears fill my eyes, because-because HOW?? How can this be? How can this remarkable gentle child be seen as…anything other than what he is?! And why in the world does this colorblind-we’re-not-racist-nation see no problem with my son being perceived as a problem long before he is perceived as a person of possibilities? And if you really do see everyone as equal, why are you so comfortable with a country that is more competent at hunting down and providing privately owned prisons for whatever brown boys they don’t kill on sight than they are at providing them with quality education?
While others’ sons revel in their freedoms as Americans, toting guns like knapsacks, I must teach my son and daughter the fine print of freedom, written expressly in shades of Black and Brown, expertly hidden from White readers so that they will not recoil in disgust at their country, so that they will not recoil in disgust at themselves (in many cases), so they will perpetuate the myth of freedom for all, so Black and White can walk together in the mist, one never understanding or seeing why the other is crying out in the murk and darkness, doubled over in pain from fresh, bleeding 400 year old wounds.
And right now, my spirit is grieved. For my son and daughter. Grieved for those of us who have long accepted this truth of the world we live in. Grieved for those for whom this truth will never be self-evident…that all men are not treated as equal.
Think Progress recently reported, “This year marks the first presidential election in 50 years without a functioning Voting Rights Act — and it’s not going well. “
This is something everyone needs to have on their radar.
As I watched the Supreme Court effectively deconstruct the Voting Rights Act and leave it powerless a few years ago, I knew then that I was watching writing on the wall. It was writing punctuated by the absolution of accountability and acquittals of unquestionably guilty White murderers in the killing of unarmed Black citizens –
Citizens who were literally minding their own business, engaging in no criminal activity at their time of attack or murder.
Citizens like the young recent ex-college football player who got in a car accident (not even with another car), and as he attempted to wave down help, was shot and killed by the approaching officer.
Citizens like the group of Black kids who loaded up in their red Dodge Durango in a parking lot, music turned up loud when a White adult male saw them, hating their loud music (*cough* hating them), chose to spray the teenagers’ car with bullets, killing one of the children. And though he was tried and convicted for the killing of that child, he was never convicted for the attempted murder of the other three.
When Stand Your Ground laws were successfully invoked to protect some murderers, but used to imprison a Black woman who fired a warning shot in the middle of a domestic abuse episode, I knew then.
As I watched the Supreme Court effectively deconstruct the Voting Rights Act and leave it powerless a few years ago, I knew then that I was watching writing on the wall.
Several of these instances occurred around the same time as the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. I knew from my education and experience in the field of behavior analysis; It had taught me all too well what happens when a behavior occurs and an immediate consequence designed to decrease that behavior does not follow.
As each acquittal became the predictable downbeat to each publicized murder, the message was sent that it’s okay to murder Black bodies. That it’s hunting season, and White skin is all the permit you need. I remember expressing a sense of foreboding to a friend. I said then that Open Season on the freedoms, rights and liberties of Black citizens and POC had been given a new sanction to run amuck. That was 3 years ago. And the destruction of the Voting Rights Act was and still is a glaring part of that sanction.
…that it’s hunting season and White skin is all the permit you need.
This change in the Voting Rights Act affects us all – all races, every citizen, anybody who supports democracy. And each and every one of we-who-believe-in-freedom ought to be aware that this change will impact some people more negatively than others, that this change was not accidental but fully intended to disenfranchise entire segments of the population. We who believe in freedom ought to be aware that those segments were not selected accidentally, but rather have been selected over and over and over again throughout the history of this country. And yes, sometimes those segments include young people and college students and those who identify as democrats, but make no mistake about it – those segments have foundationally been and continually include Black people, brown people, Native people and the poor.
You need only to be a member of one of those targeted groups to know generationally, instinctively or experientially what it feels like to be without the consistent reliable protection of the law. What’s happened with the Voting Rights Act is, sadly, yet another sign o’ the times.
Ann Bauer recently published an article on Salon with the title, ““Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from“.
I don’t know you Ann Bauer, but I love you for writing for this. Read more
So this woman right here – this be the woman that borned me! 😀 heehee
So grateful for my mommy and for her grandmothering to my little ones. 🙂 This mother’s day, the thing I’m most grateful to her for is that she taught me how to SURVIVE and to survive on a certain level. Not just how to survive in terms of take care of your body and home, but how to survive in terms of anything under the sun that may happen to you. Correction – She didn’t just TEACH me how to survive. She CONDITIONED me to survive. Part of the reason why I can do the therapy I do now at an exceptional skill level is because of that CONDITIONING. *tears* I can hear her voice soft and stern in my ear, “Calm down, Alexis. You have got to calm down. Never lose control. Never let anything make you lose control.” She insisted that I respond to things thoughtfully, not knee-jerk or blindly or because I felt like it, but that I respond by watching, processing and never out of control. God took her conditioning and made it exceed even the limits of her imagination. It’s that conditioning (and God’s grace) that makes me able to walk in lion’s dens with severely aggressive children or give treatment to aggressive adults, have a shoe thrown at my back or spit in the face, but never fail to respond according to procedure and plan. (It’s one of the hardest skills to teach therapists I’ve observed or trained ’cause it gets real after several hours, everyday, every week, y’know?) I have been so conditioned in this manner that I’ve experienced people that can’t bring themselves to believe/can’t imagine that X happened in my life, but all I did was Y in response. I owe that to nobody but Jesus and His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit — but God has been using that conditioning to help keep my footing in the face of an enemy that has done more than I dare say to try to destroy me. “Don’t let yourself get out of control. Look, all you have to do is this…” “Look here, this what you do…but whatever you do, stay calm.”
Yeah, my mom made me MacGyver. (Minus the ability to make an electric saw from paper clips and dental floss. I have my dad to thank for that.)
She taught, required, demanded the skills, the knowledge, the wisdom and understanding necessary to survive. She taught me to do what you gotta do. That my feelings about whatever it is I “gotta do” are not to dictate whether or not I do it, whether or not I handle business. (Case in point? I’ve hated school since kindergarten. Yep. Kindergarten. Still was an A student for nearly the entirety of my life. Will get my Masters degree at the end of the summer. Still hate school. More than ever.)
Just from seeing most of this revolving door of babysitters I’ve hired or even from hearing the commentary of this one or that one, even when I went away to my fancy elite college and saw so many of the brightest minds in America unknowing of how to do basic things to care for themselves, it strikes me now more than ever that how to SURVIVE, the notion of doing whatever you’ve got to do/whatever you can to accomplish what must be accomplished, to handle your business (with integrity), and that whether or not you want to do that thing doesn’t alone dictate what you do, that emotions of anger, disappointment, shock, pain, panic cannot be permitted to control how you respond to whatever caused the distress, that a clear mind is life-saving and situation-containing, now more than ever it strikes me that a lot of people weren’t taught these things as children. It all just illuminates to me the magnitude of what my mom has done for me in this area of her parenting, how different certain things may have turned out if she had not done this….
There’s a children’s book by Eric Carle that my son love love loved called, Does A Kangaroo Have A Mother, Too? It goes through a swan, a dolphin, a lion, a bear and so on, asking the question, Does a (insert animal) have a mother, too?” And that question every time being answered on the next page with, “Yes! A (insert animal) has a mother. Just like me and you.” Then it gets to the last two pages – “And do animal mothers love their babies?…YES! YES! Of course they do. Animal mothers love their babies, just as yours loves you.” And you know what? It really is a funny thing – the lack of prevalence of what my mom taught me in the upbringing of children, because when it comes to just about every mammal in the animal kingdom, if the mother teaches her young nothing else, she teaches them how to survive.
*PS This is not to say that nothing has ever made me have a knee-jerk flipout reaction (sans cursing. I don’t curse). It does mean, however, that if you’re the one that inspired that reaction, you might have my mom and Jesus to thank for me not coming after you with my paper clip and dental floss electric saw. Your welcome. 🙂
Soooo, I figured this introduction should fall somewhere between a resume, a Tinder profile, and a Lifetime pitch for a bio pic. Like to hear it here it go! lol
Now this is what we need! A comic book about a Black, single mother raising her seven-year-old son who just so happens to have superpowers. YES THAT’S RIGHT! Raising Dion is a comic book about a widowed mother named Nicole who is trying to raise her son Dion and guide him to use his developing […]