Response to “Types of White People Who Comment on Black Experience and Pain”…

August 19, 2014

I thought I would take a minute to comment on some feedback I have received on the “White America’s Response to the Killing of Mike Brown” piece I wrote.

First off, thank you to those who have read it and offered kind words, constructive criticism, feedback, and insight. I truly appreciate it. As we know, the killing of Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, (the list, unfortunately, goes on), are not isolated incidents, but rather symptoms of a much bigger, older, uglier systemic problem. If we can’t have productive conversations that lead to appropriate action, I’m afraid things will never change.

I do, however, know that these are not easy conversations to have. So, it’s great to see those who are committed to attempting to seeing the best in each other, dedicated to having really difficult, honest conversations about “us.”

Below I will clarify/answer/respond to some misunderstandings/questions/comments―from various corners of the Internet―that I have received (exclusively from white people) about the piece.

1. The author is racist (I assume towards white people?) and this article is ridiculous.

The piece was ridiculously long, though I know that is not what you were referring to.

Calling out systemic racism and white supremacy is not racism. I love many, many white people―the vast majority of my family is white, I have many white friends, I myself am white. These institutionalized systems of dominance have been around since way before any of us even existed. I absolutely hate the systems, but I (try my hardest to) love the people caught up in them.

I think some readers had issues with my “categories of white people,” which I will address later.

It’s really difficult to write and speak about racism without offending someone, because, though it’s a systemic issue, it is also a social ill that is perpetuated by individuals, negatively affecting other individuals. It is often a charged topic that sparks heavy emotions for most people involved. Incidents like the killing of a black teenager by an older white male often send these dialogues about race and racism into a downward spiral of destruction, leaving the polarities further polarized, and everybody more angry and (feeling) unheard. It makes me so sad. I don’t want that, but I was aware that some readers would be angered by this piece.

With that said, in the piece, I did explicitly say that, in response to people speaking out in situations like Mike Brown’s killing (and, I will add, against racism in general), some common responses from certain white people are:

YOU’RE the racist one!”

“You hate white people!”

And that happened again. So, that’s interesting.

In the piece, I also spoke about how dehumanization is necessary for the perpetuation of racism. With this idea in mind, it was interesting to see some people’s responses to what I wrote. People who know me personally, who know my heart, who know my intentions in writing pieces like this, who know I was not writing with hate or malice, those people were able to hear my heart, they could probably literally hear my voice in their heads. Even some of those people expressed that what I wrote “challenged” them, but they did not feel attacked because they know me. On the other hand, when it came to some strangers, I realize they don’t know me at all, which allows for dehumanization and misunderstanding of my “voice.” Even the way many of these readers spoke about me personally, it felt like they really couldn’t stand me―like, some of them really seem to hate my guts. And that’s ok.

2. By making “categories of white people,” I am “being racist,” “generalizing and doing the same thing to white people that I am accusing white people of doing to black people,” “an idiot,” “confining all white people to four small categories and being unfair,” and “leaving out other groups of white people.”

First, I think it’s important for me to say that these “categories” are archetypal representations, specifically of white people who comment on black experience and pain. That is a very specific thing. Not white people in general. Not all white people. And not four categories of white people that all white people must fit into. Rather, just, types of white people who comment on black experience and pain. It would be like if I were able to take all of the different tweets white people have tweeted about Ferguson and Mike Brown, put them in some fancy machine coming from an 80’s movie’s idea of the future, and asked it to create four general archetypal descriptions of common types of white people who comment on black experience and pain, this is what it would spit out.

Though they are admittedly not all-encompassing, I also did not just randomly pull them out of thin air. These are categories based on behaviors and patterns I have witnessed over many, many years.

My anti-racism work did not begin when Mike Brown was shot by Darren Wilson. I grew up in small town, Tennessee. I was confronted with my own racism-demons and battles with white supremacy from early on. Later, I lived in Cape Town, South Africa for ten-years (Apartheid had only ended five-years prior to me moving there), working with youth and communities who were directly, negatively impacted by racism and the legacy of systemic racism, white supremacy and oppression from Apartheid. I organically got involved in anti-racist work in Cape Town out of necessity, because those issues of systemic racism and white supremacy were intrinsically linked to other social justice issues I was dealing with, working with the demographic of youth I worked with. I now live in East Flatbush, Brooklyn and am daily confronted with issues of systemic racism and white supremacy here, too. I have been dedicated to this fight for a while.

And no thanks, I do not want a cookie (as one internet troll so kindly offered).

These “categories” are merely my observations of different representations of white people’s responses to black experience and black pain that I have seen each and every single time one of these tragic events occur, even when I was living over in South Africa. I mentioned in the piece that these categories are “neither an exhaustive list of every representation of white people who comment on black pain and experience, nor are they static, as some people fluidly move in and out of categories, and some categories share characteristics. They are merely my observations in watching white America’s spectrum of different responses to the killings of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Emmett Till, and the list unfortunately goes on.”

They are archetypes, like sibling archetypes of oldest, middle, and youngest child―though we know certain qualities that we have pinned on certain siblings, every “oldest child” might not have all of the stereotypical qualities of an oldest child, or any, at all. But, often, if you are an oldest, middle, or youngest child, when speaking with others who find themselves in the same position of sibling hierarchy, it is often possible to find commonalities.

The categories are like the major pit-stops on the spectrum of racism―with groupings of qualities―that I have observed people possess, at each stop. Some white people “find themselves” be in between “stops,” or not on the map at all.

Again, every white person does not have to fit into one of those categories.

If you don’t “find yourself” in one, that’s ok. If you did “find yourself” in some of the descriptions of the different qualities I described and that angers you, or you suddenly feel defensive, I would ask you why it makes you feel that way. This was not meant to be a personal attack on you.

3. [Do you] think beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mr Brown was gunned down while just standing there? The cop’s injuries, gunshot locations, and robbery video all suggest that the officer’s story is accurate. If there is evidence to prove otherwise, then they should indeed fry the officer. If not, then rallying behind a violent criminal while rioting, looting, and throwing Molotov cocktails at police is crazy.

We don’t know all of the facts. That does not stop many people who are responding to my piece from enacting a narrative that boasts the presumption of guilt for Mike Brown, and an automatic biased assumption of innocence of Darren Wilson.

I think it is unfortunate that Mike Brown―like Trayvon Martin and others before him―is not here to give his testimony. A picture of Darren Wilson’s injuries have not been released, if this claim is even true. As a matter of fact, though he admittedly shot Mike Brown, he has still not been booked or charged, and continues to be on paid administration leave. The autopsy, and gunshot locations, corroborated with witness accounts, one bullet entering the top of his head, meaning his head was bowed, and others on the inside of his arms, confirming he had his hands up in surrender when he received those shots. But many people are quick to dismiss the multiple witness accounts because of politics of respectability and racism that speaks to the bigger picture of the context we are living in.

The robbery video has nothing to do with the shooting. It was an unjust, convoluted, unprofessional thing for the police chief to release that video on the same morning he released Darren Wilson’s name for the first time, after six days of keeping everyone in suspense. The police chief (later that same day) admitted that Officer Wilson did not know Mike Brown was an alleged suspect in the robbery at the time he stopped him, and that Brown was stopped for “walking in the street.” Now, even in responses to my piece, many white people are justifying the killing of Mike Brown using that information―it’s obvious to see how effectively they have tainted the jury pool before the real suspect of the killing has even been arrested. Even if Darren Wilson had known he was an alleged suspect in a robbery, on-site street execution of an unarmed suspect is not protocol or due process for the theft of cigars.

Another larger problem, linked to systemic racism and white supremacy, is the media’s criminalization of young black victims and canonization of white suspects and killers. This article When The Media Treats White Suspects And Killers Better Than Black Victims deals with this occurrence. We also see an unfair and disproportionate policing and incidents of police brutality towards black people compared to white people. We’ve got white people running up into schools and movie theaters with automatic assault rifles, shooting people up, then given due process. We’ve got white serial killers―self-admitted, guilty―sitting in jail and you’re telling me street execution over stolen cigars is justified? Here is a story of a man who was wanted for burglary, and the police were actually actively looking for him. When they finally found him, he resisted arrest and assaulted a police officer. He was not shot 6 times, or even once. He “was arrested and is facing charges of felony assault and trespassing.” He is white. And yes, that matters.

When a white man kills a young black person in America…

Presumptions of guilt of the young black victims are immediately assumed and accepted, whilst presumptions of innocence of their white male killers are also assumed and accepted.

Though deceased, and unjustly unable to give their accounts, young black victims are “guilty until proven innocent,” despite the fact that they were already dealt the predetermined and final sentence of on-site execution.

In the days that follow their deaths, the young black victims’ names are ruthlessly and disparagingly drug through the mud, “incriminating” pictures and background information are dug-up, and the justification of their deaths through politics of respectability ensue, whilst efforts to canonize the white male murderers materialize in simultaneity.

After that, during the trials of their killers (if the trials ever happen), most of these young black victims are found guilty of their own deaths, while their murderers are found innocent―even to the extent that we see incidents like the George Zimmerman Trial being called the “Trayvon Martin Trial.” 

From start to finish, from the devastating murder of the young black victim to the final outcome of the murderer’s court case, we see how the dehumanization of the victim, systemic racism, and white supremacy play major roles in the course of events. It is sickening. It makes an already horrendous and tragic event even more devastating, heartbreaking, and infuriating.

As for the “looters” and “rioters,” I don’t think the mainstream media has portrayed what’s going on fairly, as is often the case. I know this, because I have been watching every day and night on Twitter, people on the ground in Ferguson, tweeting what is actually going on through firsthand accounts, pictures, videos, and live streams. There has definitely been looting. But there are also masses of people who merely want to practice their First Amendment Right to organize and protest for justice for Mike Brown. Militarized police have shot rubber bullets at, teargassed, and arrested innocent, peaceful protesters. Also, there are positive stories that are not being widely shared, that I have seen are more the norm than the atrocities the media likes to focus on, like when protesters tried to stop looters from getting into stores (they have done this on several nights).

4. The author leaves out a category: White people who don’t think America is post-racial, but who do believe that it’s getting better.

As I said, the categories were not meant to cover every type of white person. And for what reason would that person not fit in the Conscious White People category?

5. Some people had problems with this line, “Gladly admitting the danger in rash generalizations, I can generally determine the approximate quantity and quality of relationships with people of color a white person has based on their reactions to incidents like Michael Brown’s killing.”

This, of course, is an insane sentence when taken out of context. However, my point in saying it is, almost every single time a white person I know has denied racism or white privilege, it was a person who does not have quality relationships outside their homogeneous race group. Likewise, the white people I have actual personal, relationships with and know, who say the most racist and ridiculous things in response to situations like the killing of Mike Brown, just so happen to not have any friends outside of their race group. And yes, I think this does play a part in their opinions, experiences, and responses to racialized media stories. Racism thrives off of dehumanization of “the other” and generalizations of “the other” based in that dehumanization, and yes, I know it’s problematic to generalize and that I did it with this sentence, but I did start the sentence with, “Gladly admitting the danger in rash generalizations…”

The point is, no matter who “the other” is, when we have authentic, loving, personal relationships with people of that group, we are more likely to empathize with their plight and understand their situation and pain. It is a totally “normal” occurrence for people to be unsympathetic to something they don’t understand. It also also normal to hear a white person who has few quality relationships with black people say things like, “All black people look alike.” Black people with few quality relationships with white people say the same thing, “All white people look alike.” Without personal relationship, it’s easy to clump everyone together in one big group, which make dehumanization even easier.  But true understanding comes from personal experience, when we no longer dehumanize “the other.” Take the example of a homophobic parent who learns his child is gay, and because he knows and loves his child, suddenly his thoughts and opinions on homosexuality change. It is not as easy for him to generalize or hate because the plight of “the other” is no longer “the other,” but his son, who he knows and loves.

6. GOVT vs AMERICANS….skin color has nothing to do with it…but it helps divide the AMERICANS don’t it?

Well, we can just agree to disagree on this one.

I will say though, the only people I have ever heard say, “Skin has nothing to do with it,” were white people.

7. I know I fit into the white-ignorant-people who comment box somewhere, but where does compassion fit in?

I mean, I don’t think this person even read the piece. I think she just saw “Types of White People Who Comment on Black Experience and Pain” and jumped to conclusions.

I would ask where is the compassion for Mike Brown, though.

8. Your face looks stupid.

There’s nothing I can do about that.

 

Here are some other perspectives about whiteness related to Mike Brown’s killing:

Why are white people scared of black people’s rage at Mike Brown’s death?

12 things white people can do now because Ferguson

A MOTHER’S WHITE PRIVILEGE

EXPLAINING WHITE PRIVILEGE TO A BROKE WHITE PERSON…

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White America’s Response to the Killing of Mike Brown…

August 17, 2014

Last night, I made the abominable mistake of reading the comments under Fox News’ Facebook page’s post of the alleged Mike Brown “strong-arm robbery” video. What I read was altogether infuriating and heartbreaking, yet I could not stop reading. Many of the comments, by what appeared to be “average white Americans,” were seething, sarcastic, racist, and steeped in hate. They called Mike Brown a “thug” and spoke about his killing in a bizarre celebratory way―some implicitly and others explicitly expressing how the video justifies his murder. Some of the comments even unnecessarily brought up Trayvon Martin, also speaking about him in the most derogatory and disparagingly of ways. These white Facebook users were so quick to dehumanize, demonize, generalize, speak hatefully, and justify the death of a young black man―in rhetoric oozing with racism, white supremacy, and white privilege―that I began to wonder if they were able to acknowledge that Mike Brown was a human. How and why do they hate him so much?

It made me sick to my stomach.

I think the part that was most troubling to me was the fact that most of these white people making these horrendous comments were not the anonymous, faceless, cowardly, racist internet trolls that I often encounter on Twitter―though enraging, I can somehow shrug them off as “fake.” These people had faces, rather. These folks were seemingly real people, behind seemingly real Facebook accounts―some of their profile pictures were family pictures or pictures of them with their kids, even lovingly embracing them. I imagine they are people who have authentic, caring relationships with individuals who they choose to love deeply―friends, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins, grandmothers, grandfathers. But the hatred they verbally spewed for a dead black teenager they do not even know, and the dehumanizing nature of their discourse, led me to begin to see them void of humanity―their dehumanization of Mike Brown was the cause of my dehumanization of them. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s truly ugly.

Of course, those types of comments aren’t representative of the feelings of every white American, yet, at the same time, those types of comments are not unique to that one Facebook post―I am, unfortunately, confronted by them more often than not. Racist, right-wing, conservative, white Americans’ responses to incidents like the murder of Mike Brown, others like him, and all related events, can be overwhelmingly disheartening, but at the same time, they serve as an important reminder. Those types of racist responses to tragic situations like this are perfect examples of the racism and implicit bias within individuals that ends up causing these very situations to happen in the very first place. And in the aftermath of these tragic events, instead of acknowledging the role that white supremacy, implicit bias, and systemic racism played, those people opposingly retort with the attempted denial of those systems and come with other biased comments intended to detract from the reality of the situation.

Ferguson-Fallout-Riots-school-cancellations-and-unrest-in-wake-of-police-shooting

“What about Chicago? Why aren’t you angry about that?”

“What about black-on-black violence?”

“We have a black president! We live in Post-racial America.”

“Speaking about racism is what perpetuates racism.”

“This is not about race. I’ve been a victim of police brutality too.”

“Black, white, brown, purple, green, blue, yellow―I don’t see color. We all bleed red.”

“Well, he shouldn’t have fought with a police officer if he didn’t want to die.”

“He shouldn’t have [dressed that way, walked that way, talked that way, listened to that music]!”

“White people are murder victims too!”

“Black people kill white people!”

YOU’RE the racist one!” 

“You hate white people!”

Now, these also are certainly not the only types of responses of white Americans, but they do, in fact, tend to fall into two of the four theoretical, generalized categories I created of “Types of White People Who Comment on Black Experience and Pain.” 

But before I get into that, I feel it is important to explain what I mean when I reference “white supremacy.”

Many people see white supremacy as something that is exclusive to white extremist groups like the KKK and Skinheads, but it is much more than that. White supremacy is defined as “the belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society.” Some people are conscious of this belief, whilst others are unaware that it subconsciously guides their interactions with others and the world at large. White supremacy is an institutionalized system of domination, and America was founded on its principles. It is weaved into the very fabric of American society―it’s as American as apple pie. White supremacy still greatly controls much of the way our country works, both inwardly and outwardly, in thoughts, attitudes, biases, prejudices, and policies, and in societal structures, social interactions, hierarchies, speech, and action.

Many white people become defensive and angered when I say that, but this is not up for dispute. It is a fact that America, as we know it, was established on the slaughter of indigenous people, and built on the backs of black slaves―both groups who were, by definition of the law, not seen as equal, not seen as human. Neither the deep-rooted indoctrination of white supremacy―within all races of people―nor the social ills connected to white supremacist structures, laws, policies, geographic communities, poverty, inequalities and other injustices have been completely eradicated. They most definitely did not “end with slavery,” as some would like to believe. Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, speaks about the legacy of slavery and the connection to current social injustices and inequalities,

“The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Much of that has been achieved through targeted prosecutions of people of color. The Bureau of Justice reports that 1 in 3 black male babies born in 2001 are expected to go to jail or prison. There are states and communities where 50, 60% of young men of color are in jail, in prison, on probation, or parole. Many of these young people have not committed violent crimes or done anything serious. They’re there for drug crimes or for property crimes. And many are innocent there because of what I call this ‘presumption of guilt.’

And I think we have to understand that these phenomena reflect a larger failure in American society to deal with the history of racial inequality and racial injustice. I mean, this country is burdened with the legacy of slavery―we enslaved Africans for over two centuries. From the end of Reconstruction to World War II, we terrorized and traumatized black people in America with lynchings and violence and racial hatred. Then we legalized racial subordination through our laws and created Jim Crow―segregation that was deeply humiliating and demonizing. And because we never told the truth about all of those problems and all of the difficulties that created, we’ve never had the moment of truth and reconciliation that every country requires if it is going to deal with decades of human rights abuses.”

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man

Some white people are aware of white supremacy and its impacts on us individually and socially. They can see that we do not live in isolation―from each other or our shared history. However, there are other white people who seem to not feel any sense of responsibility for the atrocities that happened in the past, even if those very atrocities are what have afforded them the privilege in which they now live. The latter group continues to deny systemic racism and the role it plays in the black American experience; which brings me back to the four categories of “Types of White People Who Comment on Black Experience and Pain.” These four categories are: Overtly Racist White People, White-Privilege Apologists, “Well-Meaning” White People, and Conscious White People. These categories are neither an exhaustive list of every representation of white people who comment on black pain and experience, nor are they static, as some people fluidly move in and out of categories, and some categories share characteristics. They are merely my observations in watching white America’s spectrum of different responses to the killings of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Emmett Till, and the list unfortunately goes on.

“Types of White People Who Comment on Black Experience and Pain.”

Overtly Racist White People are, at the very least, the easiest to deal with, in the sense that they are completely transparent and upfront about their racism―you know exactly where they stand. These white people range from members of openly racist extremist groups like the KKK, to “average” individuals who say and act in explicit racism. In situations like the death of Mike Brown, Overtly Racist White People are known to use blatantly racist rhetoric (including, but not limited to the use of race-based derogatory terminology and racial slurs), speak about the death in a way that seems celebratory, speak hatefully about the black victim and black people in general, speak with an heir of superiority, possess the idea that they truly are better than black people and people of other races, deny that racism played a role in his death or that racism even exists, and/or claim “reverse racism” (which shows white supremacist indoctrination with the ignorant insinuation, embedded within the term, that white people have the monopoly on racism, and racism is white against another race by default), among other terrible things. Some of the more cowardly individuals of this group―known as Internet trolls―hide behind the anonymity of fake social media accounts, harassing, baiting, and insulting people opposed to their white supremacist beliefs.

White-Privilege Apologists seem less aware of their racism and white supremacist indoctrination, and, unlike Overtly Racist White People, they rarely own-up to their racist beliefs and actions. They would not consider themselves racist. When I say, “White-Privilege Apologists,” I’m referring to people who epitomize and embody white privilege whilst denying that it exists, and therefore, in turn, they unintentionally defend and perpetuate its very existence. These individuals are so blinded by their own privilege, they find it difficult to see or hear the experience, pain, and plight of people from other races. They are known to use the phrase, “I’m not racist, but…” prefacing an extremely racist statement, and to tell racist jokes when they find themselves within racially homogeneous groups, which is very often. In situations like the death of Mike Brown, White-Privilege Apologists are some of the first to mention Chicago, “black-on-black violence,” and the fact that “we have a black president” (though Overtly Racist White People also use that rhetoric), they refuse to admit racism played a role in his death, they express ideals of “colorblindness” and a pseudo-equality (“we are all the same”) discourse that is far-removed from reality, and they often become defensive when racism is mentioned, whether on the broader societal level or narrower individual level. Though they might not openly say it, it seems that this category of white people see themselves as superior to people of color, whether it is on a conscious or subconscious level.

“Well-Meaning” White People have seemingly good intentions and try very hard to be “down.” This, unfortunately, often comes off as awkward and they are unaware of the covert, and sometimes overt, racism that they display. Most “Well-Meaning” White People will admit that racism and white privilege exists and is a problem, but maybe aren’t fully aware of how to address the topic or reality. One cause of the disconnect might be because this category of white people often get their information about black people and the black experience through books, music, movies, television shows, and stereotypes, rather than from genuine relationships with people of color that go beyond tokenism―not including a black acquaintance, coworker, employee,  or someone who works in their home. They are known to gawkily force evidence of their “knowledge of black culture” into conversations with black people and reference “my black friend.” Some of these individuals feel it is acceptable for them to use the n-word, “ebonics” (now referred to as American Black English), and other words and phrases popular in the black colloquial vernacular.

Some “Well-Meaning” White People embody what Teju Cole termed the White Savior Industrial Complex, which, whether intentional or not, positions them in the place to be the “savior” of (often poor) black people (this is frequently found in and amongst the white church, missionaries, some white teachers in “urban” schools, etc). In situations like the death of Mike Brown, “Well-Meaning” White People usually try to speak out against the injustice but sometimes overstep their bounds, they speak as “experts on black experience” without the actual experience, they awkwardly share times when they were confronted with police brutality as an effort of solidarity (unable to see how their stories do not compare with the consistent, and disproportionate number of accounts of police brutality experienced by people of color, not to mention other forms and experiences of discrimination they face on a daily basis), and sometimes they (possibly unintentionally) hijack the narratives of people of color and voice them as their own experiences and/or thoughts. It would seem that the intentions of “Well-Meaning” White People are good, but their execution is often suspect and inappropriate.

Conscious White People actually “get it,” as much as a white person is able to. They are aware of the various degrees of white supremacy and racism within us all, and within our society. They have committed to going through the continuous process of acknowledging their own privilege (and, for some, intersections of it), checking their own prejudices and biases, and are dedicated to fighting white supremacy within and around them. Most of this category’s knowledge of the black experience is based in authentic, loving relationships with people of color, spending their time listening to and learning from the actual voices living the black experience―also aware that no one individual represents an entire race of people. Conscious White People usually know when to listen, and when to speak. Though they might not fully understand the experience and pain of people of color, they, at the very least, try to. In situations like the death of Mike Brown, Conscious White People are committed to seeking justice, actively call out systemic racism, white supremacy, and white privilege, value and validate (in a way that is not patronizing) the voices of people of color and allow them to determine the trajectory of the narrative, realize that white-on-black racism is not a “black problem” but rather it is a white problem and see responsibility in combating it, and commit to calling out racism and white supremacy in other white people around them. These white people are, of course, not perfect, but they are also usually open to the constructive criticism and feedback of others.

At various points in life, I have been in and out of several of those categories. If you find yourself becoming angry about “finding yourself” in a category you feel is unfair, I ask you to take a step back and really challenge why it bothers you. Is it because it’s true?

Moving Forward

Gladly admitting the danger in rash generalizations, I can generally determine the approximate quantity and quality of relationships with people of color a white person has based on their reactions to incidents like Michael Brown’s killing. And I’m referring to relationships that go beyond tokenism―not “my black friend,” or a coworker, or a domestic worker. Despite the fact that it is 2014, we still live extremely, racially segregated―both geographically and socially―for the most part. This segregation allows the perpetuation of racism and othering. Author, feminist, and activist bell hooks pointed out, “The world we grew up in has changed little when it comes to race. Segregation is still the norm in social relationships.” How can we truly understand the experience of other races of we don’t move outside of our homogeneous racial groups? This might not be the will of some who seek more diversity in their social relationships, but often they merely surrender to the lack of heterogeneity in their circles, and succumb to what bell hooks refers to as the “accident of circumstances,” of everyone around them looking the exact same.

Racial segregation in our geographic residential areas and social relationships enables the perpetuation of ignorant views of “the other.” Racial segregation in our geographic residential areas and social relationships enables the dehumanization that is necessary for racism. The average white people I have seen who deny the existence of white privilege or racism in America move exclusively in racially homogeneous circles. It is easy to deny something that in no way, shape, or form inconveniences your life. However, when we build quality relationships with people from another race, they can no longer be a generalized stereotype of a race. They are human, a human we care about deeply. The moment an issue negatively affects someone we care about, someone we truly love, that is when we are fully throttled into activism to seek change. 

Unfortunately, there will be more Mike Browns, and there will be more Darren Wilsons. This is not an isolated incident―it’s a systemic problem. We can’t run and stop these individual tragedies from happening, but we can do our part to be aware and begin to affect broader social change. We have to find out where we fit into the equation, how we are either fighting against it or enabling it. White supremacy, white privilege, and systemic racism have led to the dehumanization of black people in America. Dehumanization allows a young black man to be a “suspect” or “thug” by default. Dehumanization allows a young black victim to be the cause of his or her own death. Dehumanization allows a group of―predominantly black―peaceful protesters to be seen as an “angry mob” or “rioters.” Dehumanization does not allow authentic, loving relationships to form. It’s time we see genuine, interracial relationship-building as a form of activism. It’s time we recognize the humanity within one another. And as it has been said, yes, we all bleed red, but it’s important to note whose blood is being spilled on the streets. 

Rest in Peace, Mike Brown.


My Consolidated Tweets About #MikeBrown #Ferguson ― August 9-16, 2014

August 17, 2014

Trayvon Martin Smear Campaign…

March 27, 2012

I was really hoping it wouldn’t happen, but I can’t say I haven’t been uneasily awaiting the impending inevitability of a smear campaign against Trayvon Martin. I saw its conception, as whispers began about the theories for Trayvon’s “mysterious” school suspension. And then it began to take shape as people’s racist rhetoric and pictures flooded my Facebook newsfeed and Twitter timeline; “he shouldn’t have been dressed like a thug”, a picture of Trayvon wearing a gold grill on his bottom teeth, a picture of “Trayvon” (that was not actually even him, but just another random black kid) giving the camera the middle finger with his shirt off, and videos and articles with ridiculous comments made by Right Wing leaders and commentators.

And suddenly, the ugly beast was birthed in full effect, and the real smear campaign commenced. Zimmerman, painting himself as the victim, reported that Trayvon was the aggressor and attacked him. The Sanford Police Station unjustifiably leaked information about Trayvon’s school suspension (he was caught with a trace-amount of marijuana), as if that had anything to do with this case. There have even been ridiculous, erroneous claims that Trayvon was a drug dealer. And in general, Trayvon has begun to be painted as the “typical thugged-out, blinged-up, gang-affiliated, violent, drugged-up” stereotype of black man, ostensibly “justifying” his murder for White America. It is devastating, and sad, and sick. It makes me weak.

His mother said, “They’ve killed my son and now they’re trying to kill his reputation.”

I don’t know what is more heinous in my eyes, how the media is unashamedly ripping apart the character of a voiceless murder victim, or how certain people are so quick to jump on the smear bandwagon with their, “See! I told you so,” posts and attitudes. What I do know, is Trayvon’s suspension for trace-amounts of marijuna has nothing to do with this case, except for the fact that Trayvon probably would not have been there on that dreaded night, had he not been suspended by the “Zero Tolerance” policies of the school, because he was visiting his father during his suspension. I also know that in the United States it is statistically proven that though white kids are more likely to use drugs, black kids (making up 70% of all youth reported to authorities by schools but only 18% of the school population in the U.S.) are more likely than their white peers to be suspended from school for drugs.

Speaking of white kids’ drug use, I smoked weed in high school. And I smoked way more than trace amounts. Does that mean that it would have been okay for some self-proclaimed neighborhood watch vigilante to gun me down? Nope. But come on, are you really trying to say that the possibility of Trayvon smoking weed at some point, and getting suspended from school vindicates his murder? Please! That makes about as much sense as the picture of the random black kid who is not even Trayvon providing reason for his death.

This is one of my actual Facebook pictures from 2011. Maybe if I am murdered it will be used to determine that I deserved it.

As for Zimmerman’s reports that Trayvon attacked him, I think he’s lying. And yes, I am entitled to my own opinion. Sure, I definitely believe they probably got into a scuffle when Zimmerman confronted Trayvon, which would explain the scrapes Zimmerman received on his face. Trayvon might have even gotten in a few good punches, because he felt threatened by the strange man who had followed and then confronted him. But no, I do not believe Trayvon turned around, chased Zimmerman down, and beat him to the ground, as Zimmerman is trying to claim.

I am not professing to know what happened that evening. The truth is, the only two people who know exactly what happened are George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Most unfortunately, one of them was killed by the other one and is therefore unable to give his account. We may never know all the details of what really went down. I am not trying to paint Trayvon Martin as a perfect angel, nor George Zimmerman as an evil demon. I am merely trying to say that it is ludicrous to get caught up in the media’s smear campaign aimed at a dead child.

We don’t know all the facts, but here are some important things to remember:

It is more than a month after the murder took place. Of course Zimmerman has had plenty of time to speak with his lawyer and anyone else, working up a solid story that would protect him under the Stand Your Ground law. Let us also remember that police did not check Zimmerman for toxicity on the evening. If he had been under the influence of a substance, which he very well may have been, it could have given explanation as to why he was hyped up enough to kill someone, why his judgement was clouded, or why his recollections of the events may not be accurate.

Zimmerman was renowned for both habitually calling 911, and racially profiling young black men. In Zimmerman’s 911 call we see that he has already labelled Trayvon as “up to know good” and classed him in the category of those who “always get away”. You can hear when he begins walking fast or even jogs as he follows Trayvon and breathes heavily into the phone. The dispatcher told him they don’t need him to do that. He says ok, but you can hear that he does not stop, and continues moving swiftly and breathing heavily.

Now, the media says there is about a minute after this call where we “don’t know what happened”. That’s actually not true because Trayvon was speaking on the phone with a friend. His friend recounts, “He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he lost the man. I asked Trayvon to run, and he said he was going to walk fast. I told him to run, but he said he was not going to run.” His friend said he eventually began to run, and thought he had managed to escape, but suddenly said the “strange man” was back, which concerned Trayvon. “Trayvon said, ‘What are you following me for,’ and the man said, ‘What are you doing here.’ Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the head set just fell. I called him again, and he didn’t answer the phone.” And then the line went dead. That does not fit with the “Now you’ve got a problem!!” kind of threat that Zimmerman is claiming.

Then, of course, we have the horrible 911 call from the neighbor, where you don’t have to be a voice recognition specialist to hear that the screams, cries and pleas for help are not Zimmerman’s. A couple of the witnesses (who only heard what was going on or saw vague figures) on the night have reported that they were told by police to say the screams came from Zimmerman, when they were not even sure what was going on. They have come back and retracted those statements.

As I’ve said, I wasn’t there on the evening, so I don’t know. But from the evidence we have, it seems to me that Zimmerman was the aggressor from the beginning, not Trayvon.


Trayvon Martin, White Denial and “Post-Racial America”…

March 26, 2012

It happened again. Another tragedy-turned-headline sparked a torrent of racial debates. I saw this happen time and time again in South Africa, as it often does here in America; people don’t want to talk about the existence of racism, they say it’s not a problem, and then a race-based crime makes headlines and the racial battle rages. The problem is, these battles often leave us further polarized in our views of reality, no real healing or resolve is brought, and after the headline disappears from our TV and computer screens, the average person retreats back into silence about the matter.

What is most troubling to me, during both the media hype and the lull, is there are people who genuinely seem to believe that racism is not a problem. Most of those people I come in contact with are white people, too blinded by their own privilege to see any other alternatives. They are quick to tell you “racism is not a problem anymore”, and “cases like these have nothing to do with race”, but they are even quicker to tell you how, if anything, they are discriminated against. There are even those amongst that group of white people who try to invalidate the experiences of discrimination people of color face on a daily basis, experiences told by the only experts on the matter: the very people who experience them!

I guess it makes sense that people completely unaffected by discrimination could never really understand it. They have never felt what it’s like to be the outside of their privilege-enabled protection. They have never felt what it’s like to have paranoid, watchful eyes on them in almost every store they’ve ever gone in. They have never been stopped by the police for merely being “black and walking.” They have never felt the sting of a fake smile matched with a pair of eyes, that have predetermined they are superior, looking down on them. They have probably never been called a racial slur. They have not had to deal with the tragic ramifications that systemic racism plays on their day-to-day life. If they are reading this, they are probably rolling their eyes right now. They are untouched. Their privilege blinds them, and their denial protects them as they live on in blissful ignorance.

These people will also try to tell you that speaking about racism only perpetuates the problem. They say that we are only “making the problem worse by trying to make this about racism”. I won’t even beg to differ. I will just differ. Racism is the problem. Not speaking about racism perpetuates it. Not intentionally acting against racism is unpardonable. If we ignore racism, it will not “just go away”. We are not dealing with an imaginary Boogie Man fabricated by the mind of a frightened child. Racism is real, and it negatively impacts the lives of millions of people in America. In one of his lectures, Tim Wise said there is no other social ill we take this “talking about it only perpetuates the problem” stance with. Imagine if we told our kids, “If you just ignore AIDS it will go away,” or, “As long as you don’t talk about drug abuse, drug addiction amongst teens will stop.” Absurd!

No matter how you look at it, George Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon Martin, seeing him as “suspicious” because he was black, and that is what began the tragic series of events that led to the murder of an innocent child. Period. Now, more than a month later, the killer remains armed and free, sending the message, whether intentional or not, that young black men’s lives in America are completely disposable. But somehow the truth gets muddied by people not wanting to call a spade a spade. And like the magician’s hand, waving around in the air, concealing the trick he’s doing in his other hand, we get distracted and caught up in arguments over Zimmerman’s race, Trayvon’s articles of clothing being the “real killer”, and the young black victim’s past.

People try to disprove a killer’s discriminatory motives by saying, “Zimmerman is only half white, and he’s half Hispanic,” as if other races are not capable of racism. Geraldo Rivera tries to say the hoodie is just as much responsible for Trayvon’s death as Zimmerman is, as if thousands of children don’t wear hoodies every day without getting murdered. Right Wing leaders try to draw attention to the fact that Trayvon had been suspended from school, suggesting he was a “troublemaker”, as though it is perfectly alright to gun down random troublemakers in the streets. Normal, everyday, loving white parents of white children say Trayvon “should not have ran, fought, or tried to get away from Zimmerman”, as if they would tell their child not to run, or do anything to get away from a strange grown man, stalking them on their way home from buying candy from a store on a dark, rainy night.

Does he look suspicious?

Zimmerman’s race doesn’t matter if his reason for noticing Trayvon was because of Trayvon’s race. What Trayvon was wearing doesn’t matter if white children wearing the same thing don’t get killed for the alleged “fashion faux pas”. Whatever might have happened in Trayvon’s life before that dreadful night doesn’t matter if all he was doing that night was walking home from the store, talking to a girlfriend on his cellphone, armed only with a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Tea. Trayvon was “suspicious” because he was black, and that is the root of the problem. His killer remains free and that only complicates the problem further. What will indeed perpetuate this problem is if we are not dedicated to the continuation of this racial dialogue met with appropriate action, even after sweet Trayvon has left the peripheral of our sight.

Racism is a problem in America, and we should be just as vigilant at fighting it as we are with any other social ill. And for those who boast that we live in a “Post-Racial America” and say that racism is not a problem…I cannot believe that anyone has honestly convinced themselves of this, unless they have truly deceived themselves into believing that hundreds of years of oppression, inequality and injustice dealt out by the hands of a racist system have magically “fixed themselves” and the direct manifestations birthed by that very system, in less than a quarter of the time it took to create this mess. I would go as far to say that if that connection is not being made, the person unable to make the connection is more unwilling to make it than unable. Why bring attention to the injustices and inequalities of a system that benefits you? It’s called denial.


Suffer Not…

October 21, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot about suffering lately. It cruised into my head a few days ago, parked and decided to stay a while; not actual suffering, but rather thoughts in and around the topic. And in my ponderings I have thought things that are in no way new to me. These reflections, however, seem to be hitting me in a fresh new way. I am really starting to wonder why on earth suffering exists on the level of regularity it does.

Yeah, yeah, I can hear the rebuttals already, “We live in a fallen world,” and “Suffering is necessary to grow character,” and so on and so forth. I agree. And I am even thankful for the suffering that I have been through in my life because, for the most part, it was used to form me into a stronger, more insightful and empathetic person; for the most part I said. But even in acknowledging these facts about the presence of suffering in the world, I still cannot grasp, at this point in time, how on earth we as humans allow others to live in the daily suffering a vast majority of people live in. Lately I’m finding it cruel, and inhumane. How can this be?

Maybe it starts with us not wanting to take responsibility for others’ sufferings. “We’ve got our own problems,” right? And if we don’t, we don’t want them! We also often tend to shift the blame or responsibility to a Higher Power. “God got us into this mess, and it’s His responsibility to get us out,” or acting as though all that can be offered for another’s suffering are prayers from afar, because a mere mortal is not capable of such a divine intervention. Some Believers would even say it’s blasphemous for us to be “arrogant enough” to say or think we could do anything to relieve the suffering of another; “that’s God’s job”. But what keeps hitting me over, and over, and over again is the realization that we humans have the capacity to end the suffering of others.

Like, I am literally talking about completely abolishing the majority of suffering on the earth. It is totally possible! In the same way humans are responsible for causing so much suffering, in the form of injustice, inequality, oppression, hate and selfishness, they can be equally responsible for removing it through seeking justice, repatriation, leading others to liberation, love and selflessness. Some famous dude once said something to the extent of, “Suffering only exists because good people allow it to” (at least I think someone said that, because I can’t believe I made that up). That’s what I’m talking about!

Poverty in the world could be eradicated by evenly distributing the wealth of the world. Hungry people could be fed with the excess of food glutinous people indulge in on a daily basis. One person’s bad day could be completely turned around by a random act of kindness from a stranger, or even a friend. An ear could be offered to someone “suffering in silence”, so at the very least, that individual is no longer trapped in that prison of silence. Suffering, for the most part, is really just the lack of relief from an unpleasant experience. And the pungent thing is, we all have the power within us to offer that very needed relief, in most situations, in one form or another. And all it takes is for good people to act.

Don’t get me wrong! I am in no way making light of the suffering that people go through. When I look at some of the situations people live in I am deeply saddened, and even appalled at times. But what is even more appalling to me is the thought that someone’s suffering could be ended, or at least toned down, by a selfless act of another, and yet good people rather keep to themselves, in turn holding back that much needed relief. And you know what? It does not matter what your situation is, or how “bad off” you think you may be, there is always someone in a worse off situation. So, something positive from your perceived “bad off” situation, could be used for the good to totally uplift someone in a “worse off” situation; the value of mere camaraderie at the very least.

Evil reigns when good people don’t intervene. Hate is really just the lack of love. Injustice occurs when we decide to turn a blind eye. Suffering exists when those with the capacity to offer relief from that suffering choose not to act, or at least don’t choose to act. I have decided to become more aware of this, not just in the situations of those who I have invited into my life, but also with those who just pass in and out, who may remain nameless. For this season, my question for the day, whether on a macro or micro level, is, “What can I do to end the suffering of another?”. And I’m looking for answers.