Prose and Poetry · Psycho-spiritual

You Black, sing like you mean it.

The stream of all of it was there.

Flowing like a stream or perhaps the tears of my inner goddess, forbidden, cryptic, yet flowing with healing energy.

I ran naked through the woods.

Was I free?

Were there dogs barking? Was the crackling underneath my feet my own.

Or were they slave catchers?  Slave catchers.

 

Faces of eyes that smirk.  Terror jokes laughing at me, coming to get me, being thrown into the wind.

Could I be transported?  Where did I come from and where was I going?

 

I looked down and there it was the look on my face warped and twisted in its reflection.

My feet were cold and wet.

My body clothed and not naked.

My throat hurt as if I had been singing for 300 years.

Old negro spirituals or gospel songs that required pieces of my soul.

“Sing louder,” the choir director of my blackness shouted, “Sing like you mean it!”

“Goddammit, sing.”

“Sing muthafucka, sing. You black, sing like you mean it. Or go the fuck home because we need to bring the sick and shut in comfort, somebody is late on the mortgage.”

“Sing, damn it.  Sing.”

 

I sang.

Songs that had the folk saying, Uh huh. Amen. Speak to me. Go on.

Songs that wrung my heart with blood dripping down flowing through the pews and out into the street.

I wanted to shout, to fling my body so all of the pain would leave it.

My voice hurt.

 

I wanted the sun to come and save me.

Light saves don’t it. It is the center of everything and if this is true does this mean that sun rays will save me.

The rays break through the sky and wrap around the branches.

Sky is blue and comforting.

For one split second I forget that this is now.  They killing people like me.

“Sing, like you mean it.”

 

I stay in that stream for a long time because either side will hurt me.

The past to my right and the future to the left.

Plates of macaroni and cheese dipped in nihilism.  Cornbread dripping with Clinton butter.  Sweet potato pie with a Bern to it. A fallen branch upside my head that Trumps me.

Truth is…Hope is the thing that white people give us on Easter, Christmas and maybe on the last day of Black history month.

Oh I forgot Santa.

And if you were me what would you long for?

Would it be water?

Would it be sunlight?

Would it be a meditation room, a street, a twitter account, a wordpress blog?

What would you want?

“Sing, damn it!  Sing, like you mean it.

 

Free me. Transport me.

Kiss me into completeness.

But always remember, you too may have to choose either partial love or freedom.

I chose freedom.

 

Social Justice News

DoJ Lawsuit to Bring Constitutional Policing to Ferguson

Copy of the press release in its entirety. See original here – http://goo.gl/at0zoM Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at Press Conference Announcing Lawsuit to Bring Constitutional Policing to Ferguson, Missouri Washington, DC, United States ~Wednesday, February 10, 2016, Remarks as prepared for delivery Good afternoon and thank you all for being here.  I am joined by… Continue reading DoJ Lawsuit to Bring Constitutional Policing to Ferguson

Social Justice News

Someone Tried To Force Feed Me Their Whiteness

Some racist troll asked me “if I always wanted to be white”.  This is what I told him.

Nah, being white, in the way you describe, might be soul crushing.

I would have to …

-unlearn so many things, so many falsehoods.

-go back to when I accepted being white and all the messages I received about being white.

-undergo some form of transformation, some form of understanding that I am not at the center of everything and that even in my dreams I could be powerful and all knowing–and to realize that because I assumed whiteness and all of the privileges with it, that this acceptance might dehumanize me.

-admit that there are experiences outside of my own that might help me to learn about the world better.

-create a different narrative of how I understood history and the contributions of people of color.

-defend something that I poorly understood but had to pledge allegiance to.  Admonished, if I didn’t.

Then ended my comments with this:

Just don’t try to make me eat injustice and swallow it, and think that what you are feeding me is meant to nourish me.

–Dr. Brian L. Ragsdale

Creative Juices · Cultural Essays · Social Justice News

Feeling All Kind of Ways This Morning

I know how cold and warm it is, because I feel it.  I know the chill of white supremacy, and the warmth of compassion from those who treasure multicultural people.

To live within, without.  To watch, remember, and to know the spirit of colonization and to question if living in a colony is all I will ever know. At once my body moves back in time to my/our enslavement, and then in an instant it moves to today. Connected spaces woven through time.  I know it is not the harsh physical enslavement but the psychological pain is heavy.

We keep asking the same multi-centuried question, Why are you killing us?  The answer seems to be the same…you should have not provoked it. Caught in an existential mantra, a cycling wheel of violence and regret.  And is the only way to cope is to ignore it, smile through it, and to act as if Black Lives don’t matter?

And this feeling will stay with me, and please save me the platitudes of how hopeful I should feel when Sandra Bland’s head is smashed on a sidewalk by the police.  After that hung dead in a cell.  If you see a bright side to this, then let that brightness carry you away to that bright place.

In solidarity,I will stand as a witness to my people dying.

And I feel these losses deeply probably because I am an artist, one who feels his way through the world, and one who wants to see and feel beauty.  For in art I can experience gratitude, express and paint hope.  Do I paint the pain and does painting pain make it any better?  Or do I paint happy pictures hoping that these attempts will soften the trauma and pain of it all.

I have no answer, and maybe the best thing is to live each moment with as much joy as I can and ‘F” the rest.

Finding a balance when you watch a video of people spewing hatred because a confederate flag has to come down is hard to stomach. Have we no respect for souls who mourn?

How can I get to creating “happy” art when all I see and feel is burning rage.

Art for Art’s sake is what popped into my mind.  Just do art for art’s sake. So I became curious as to where this term originated, and that curiosity brought me to Wikipedia.

I found this gem.

“Contemporary postcolonial African writers such as Leopold Senghor and Chinua Achebe have criticised the slogan [Art for Art’s sake] as being a limited and Eurocentric view on art and creation. In “Black African Aesthetics”, Senghor argues that “art is functional” and that “in black Africa, ‘art for art’s sake’ does not exist.” Achebe is more scathing in his collection of essays and criticism entitled Morning Yet on Creation Day, where he asserts that “art for art’s sake is just another piece of deodorised dog shit” (sic).

That about captures it.

Reclining here in my bath of nihilism and hopelessness, and not feeling rosy at all.

And here is what fuels this rage and sadness.  It is the silence of white privilege, the abstracted ways my/our experience is rendered inconsequential, essentially reduced to meaningless.  To know that the capitalist machine will do what it does best and that is to commercialize the death of Brown and Black people.

And before you even think it, No, I don’t feel like sitting on a mat and meditating but rather I fancy a deep and cleansing scream.

If my screams are too loud? Do like they do and just excuse yourself from the room, escort us out of rooms when we demand answers about what you plan to do to dismantle structural racism.  Come after us, like some do, in social media with rationalizations and why not look at it this way until the white lettering on all of our keyboards dissolve.  Reject the intersectionality of our screams as we scream from being silenced for having to justify our multiple identities.

We got business to do, WE BE mourning our dead and making a way out of no way.

Feeling all kind of ways this morning.

 

Cultural Essays

Hunger and Tears

My heart is full of deep, unbridled, tender and forlorn sadness.  I feel an unfamiliar bone trembling when I think that an 87 year old, African American woman was shot in cold blood, for doing and being what Black women have been doing for centuries to save our collective souls.

Kind and loving hearts whose prayers lit our pathway to freedom.

I see his face but will not speak his name, but I know the petri dish and all of the elements that likely helped to “grow’ him.  Patriarchy, power, white supremacy, militant terror, scheming, and hatred.

The unthinkable and unimaginable has happened.  And here with me is a rising form of psychological hunger, a wanting of human kindness, compassion, and gentle understanding.

Tears that fall down my cheeks become like streams searching for a mother river.  I cry for all of the ways that we have tried to voice are pain, through words, through dance, through hymns, through protests, through silence, through carrying signs, through law suits, through chants, through the sweat of our bodies.

I will not sing hymns of heritage that are cloaked in lyrics of hate.

I ache for these lost lives, like dying grass aches for rainwater.

I want time to reverse itself.

 

Cultural Essays

Farts, Racist Funk, and Frat Boys

Here is the thing–I am really getting tired of being thrown into the centrifugal like ride, media circus about race relations and racism in this country….I don’t think it is news when the manager and the police chief in Ferguson resign…this is a time warp thing that I knew would eventually happen. It had too- because there was at least a 13 year problem with racial profiling in that community, and I know because I viewed the report.

The Ferguson problem is a national problem, the experience of people of color are routinely rejected, dismissed, marginalized, and devalued. We say left, they say right, we say we hurt, they say get over it, we cry, they say go cry on someone else’s shoulder. Don’t get me wrong we have allies but like any cheerleader group the pom poms get worn, people go back home and we are left in the darkened stadium, holding little bic lighter like candles singing something from the past. I don’t want you to think that I am completely full of bitterness because I think there is hope even though that flicker of hope is way way way on the distant horizon.

I have learned to keep getting up even when it seems that all hope is gone, this is the spirit of my enslaved ancestors. Things will get worse before they get better but they will.

And no I don’t want to hear apologies, particularly if they are used just to save face, and any last moment utterings they have as they leave their offices, well, they can just save them as the door hits them in the ___.

There are times when we must just start from scratch and I think this is the case in Ferguson. Poor folks in Ferguson have been bamboozled, trapped in a never ending cycle of abuse, and municipal laws aimed to keep a massive group of people in economic and thus psychological chains.

At every turn it seems we, as people of color face health, social, legal, and financial disparities and then on top of it all, some folks want us to explain every social phenomena that we encounter, and provide detailed analysis on the origins and scope of black on black crime, etc,. etc. etc.

Being Black in this country means that we have to become social scientists on the entire history of our enslavement, civil rights, and provide scholarly dissertations to every mom and pop who think their questions worthy to be answered. Black lives matter recognize that, and please hold your questions and comments, because maybe what you are asking for is not going to get you the answer you want. The media just keeps running the same old video, offering the same old tired, broke down analysis…commentaries that only seek to substantiate their view of minorities as deficit, immoral, people who care nothing about nothing. Some of them are guilty of sensationalizing and profiting from our trauma and pain. Advertisers are part of the game as well.

And while I am ka-vetching, letting it all out in writing—I am getting a little exhausted by all the folks on social media saying “Disgusting” in response to the frat boy bus chant. Don’t get me wrong I think it is disgusting too, but for over a year now I have been writing on my blog (BrianRagsdalewriter.com) about the racial, legal, economic problems in our country, starting off with the senseless murder of Justice for Renisha Mcbride. I have written about health disparities, racial profiling, stand your ground laws, voting rights, whiteness, racism, unequal sentencing, and on and on and on. I write because I would like for us to take a more serious look at the effects of structural and institutional racism. Interpersonal racism while reprehensible are just symptoms of a larger problem, one that many of us just do not want to face. These one- offs and cast away of bad racists, treating them like pariahs that we hang scarlet letters, seem to minimize the larger stench and funk about our racism problems.

President Obama has tried to restore some civility, even though during both of his Presidential addresses he has encountered racist interruptions and disrespect. Our President is routinely and systematically faced with blatant racism, but I don’t hear people saying how DISGUSTED they are with that treatment. I think, for some, it is easy to say that there is a funk but then turn a blind nose when people are farting all day long.

If you don’t like the funk, don’t feed the fart that causes the funk!

Creative Juices

My Creative Rights As A Black Artist?

View More: http://dmgrantphotography.pass.us/20141020-brian-ragsdalepaintingsI enjoy being a writer, researcher, cultural historian, educator, and I am also a visual artist.  I use my art, most of the times, as featured images here in my blog. For more of my art, please see it at brianragsdale.com, or on facebook, brianragsdalestudio.

Sarah

Art has been a consistent theme in my life, and I am so grateful for having this blessing and curse.  I say curse because people always wanted me to draw pictures of them when I was growing up, and people always ask me if my work is in a gallery.  My work is not in a gallery and I do not like drawing on request.  When people ask me about gallery representation, it sort of makes me feel that I am not good enough as an artist.  I feel blessed because whatever talent I have, I love to see the warmth and connection that exists between my creation and the viewer.  Something is holy and sacred in the acts of viewing and in the act of creating. Art has held me in ways that no person ever really could.

View More: http://dmgrantphotography.pass.us/20141020-brian-ragsdalepaintings

 

The life of a creative and sensitive person is very challenging at times. The world, always seems to come rushing in, and if I could I would live in a fabric store.  So many wonderful colors, textures, and historical images are there.  Creating art can become quite painful particularly in times of racial disharmony or distress, the past couple of years, Trayvon, Renisha, Eric, Michael, and on and on and on have shaken parts of me, quite deeply. I know that all lives matter, but something has to be done about the eradication of black life, killing poor folks, by police lethal force and extrajudicial murders.

I never know if my work is good enough–which I think all artists feel–and there is so much to still learn, even after doing this for 40 years off and on, about light, shadow, composition, meaning, and letting go in the creative process.  I go through creative spurts, sometimes it is art, other times it is writing, and other times it is, research. I have learned to live with these creative cycles, going with the flow so to speak.  Although I must say that my creative output in the first two years living in a new environment have been really productive.Three Women in Spring

2014_10_20 Brian  RagsdalePaintings-0017
I have found few creative support systems in my professional life as a psychologist, my colleagues barely mention my artistic endeavors, and most likely treat it more like a hobby (if they think of it at all).  I have also sensed, a form of reluctance, caution, or perhaps racial undertones, that this lack of support also has to do with me not being White.  I know I can’t change that but I raise this because even in Art –I confront discrimination, prejudice, and racism.  Or perhaps it is for some other reason that I can’t put my finger on, but there is something about people who work in career silos and those who become competitive in those silos; so in the art world it may be gallery representation or number of sales, and in the writing world it is haven written a book, and in the research world it is publishing papers and getting grants.  In each field there are hoops and metrics that determine success, but these are just not worth the time to really focus on them.  Awards and recognition are good, but nothing beats the work for the work’s sake. It is what it is.  And I no longer feel like a hamster on someone else’s hamster wheel.  Take me as I am or nothing at all–I think this is how Lisa Fisher sang it in “How Can I Ease The Pain”.

0-1-collage

Some people used to say that “I was a jack of all trades, but master of none” or something like this.  I had to get used to some remark that illustrated a non-spirited response, a backhanded dig, or confusing complimentary statement.  I spent many years hiding all of these parts of myself because people react all kinds of way once they learn you have (or think you have) creative talent.  But, for the most part, many people like my art and they seem to think of me, or look at me with compassionate eyes once I share my art with them.

I have a partner who supports my creative life, and never once ever tried to stop me from creating.  Our relationship has had highs and lows but whatever you may think about us, we survived many challenges.  My partner routinely hangs my art in his office, and he has done this over the past 20 years. He has spent many nights reassuring me and helping me to get over my creative slumps, hurdles, and always offering his encouragement.  He has held me in my tears and wanting.
The best advice I can give any artist is find one person who supports your creative life, and thank them in your dreams, when sipping tea, and when you feel lost and lonely.  Art only requires you and another loving heart.  That is what will sustain you.

2014_10_20 Brian  RagsdalePaintings-0014I obtained my degree in art in 1985 from Morgan State University, but completed all of my coursework in 1981.  I only needed  one credit (a dag gone swimming class) in order to get my B.S. in Fine Arts/Graphic Design, which is why my full degree was awarded in 1985.  I received the “Outstanding Student in Art” award, voted by the art faculty for the student who showed great promise.  I have been an artist, since I was 15, and so that means I marked my 40th year as an artist.

Repose JPEG

One of the questions posed to me as an artist is whether or not I, as a Black artist, should use the subject of my art to primarily uplift the lives of African Americans.  I balked at this idea, when the question was first posed to me in the early 80’s….I believed that my art did not have to express themes related to Black people, and I most certainly did not want the burden of sociopolitical representations to be at the center of my creative work. I wanted my creativity to be mine and not in, always, furthering Black causes.  But without the black causes and struggle I would probably not been inspired to be an artist.  Chicken or egg problem, and so the chicken and the egg must stay. I do portray Whites and Latinos, and so forth, but have gravitated to bringing more images of African Americans into art.

As I have matured as an artist, most of my subjects are African American topic themed.  I love representing black life.  My work will always represent black struggle, black joy, black questioning, even when I paint in abstract forms.  I have never talked to a White person about their artistic subject matter choice, so I don’t know if a White artist has ever been asked to represent his or her people in their art.  Though I am not burdened or confounded by subject choice anymore, and do feel ease in representing White subjects.

Slide5One day I will have a one-person show, and will be picked up by an art gallery.  If not, say-lah-vee.  In any event, all of my paintings, drawings, etc, and my collection of computer art, will go to my life partner.  I will also ask that some of my work be donated to Morgan State University, whose professors instilled in me such great hope and admiration for the creation of art, Pat McGuire, Kenneth (blanking on his last name, now), James Jones, and Lewis, and so many others whose names I have left off. Through their teachings and care, their belief in my abilities, the hope that their caring and teaching bought to me, continues to sustain.

Thank you, Morgan professors.

2014_10_20 Brian  RagsdalePaintings-0001
Psycho-spiritual · Social Justice News

Message To Scholars of Color

I hear you, and you are not alone. I know what it feels like to step into academe, to face students and faculty who don’t look like you and give you the vibe of “unwantedness.” (Sorry grammarly, I am not going to change this word because yes, I am saying unWANTEDness.   We are sometimes not wanted.

What we know and what some of them know may seem worlds apart.

Many of the institutions that we work in, were not built for us.  They were made for them, and perhaps for us to clean, to feel like a timid guest in them, but not like we could ever call it our home.

Knowledge knows no limitation.  There is no way for a sexist, racist, classist, white supremacist, fascist, or any other “ist” that can wrestle the knees of knowledge to the ground.  They have tried and knowledge, all forms of it, the kind that you bring into it, changes the molecular structure, it alters the educational DNA.

We write as scholars of color, and we sing songs when the pain is to great to bear.  We write even though the words first come out in scrambles, and we may trip over our words during our lectures, and feel great fear when facing the eyes with oppositional gazes.  We research topics that make some of them cringe.  We don’t fit in, and fitting in only lasts for a short while anyway.

My work has no tenure, no promotion, it is homage to the pain and determination of my ancestors.  It situates itself in a broader framework of freedom, my work claims a space of power in the face of oppression.

It stands on the breath of my enslaved ancestors, on my brothers and sisters who are native Americans whose land was stolen in day light.  It carries the arm of my Japanese sister who watched as her family was interned, thrown behind bars because of national fears.  It lifts the voice of my Latina and Latino whose language I may not speak but I honor their rights to belong and share in American Citizenship.  It lifts the hearts of transwomen of color whose lives are tortured, forgotten, and those who are fighting for gender freedoms.  It holds a space for invisible and visible disabilities and those whose life is cut short by illness, those who stand with you and me.

My work stands with all of those who feel not included by the callousness and judgment that may be in the harshness of the academic hallways, classrooms, and meeting spaces.

Knowledge in all its form can know no limitation.

I stand with you as a witness to the traumas, in my own experience as a feminist, artist, scholar, and human.

Many of us have been battered and bruised, but we chip away each day with all of the tools we have in front of us.

On somedays all I have is rage, tears of loneliness, and on other days, I celebrate how far we have come as a people.

You are not alone.

Being a scholar of color is hard, confronting sexism, racism, misogyny, violence, and invisibility, especially in the wretched treachery that comes with pockets of White supremacy.

I know these dark spaces and although it may feel that you are alone–there are spirits with you. Feel them, know them, let them in.

And know this too–your heart, soul, and teaching matters, the holes matter–some of them our generational, leftovers of what happened to our people.

Still, here.

 

Cultural Essays

To Thee I Will Sing: No Justice, No Peace. (2 of 4 postings)

November 29, 2014 – December 22, 2014.  (These are the start dates and finish dates for each essay in the “To Thee I Will Sing” essay series).

Round two.  Examining “national and historic narratives of race.”

In 1998, President Clinton developed a wide sweeping initiative to examine race related health disparities.   I am one of the cadre of researchers who have benefited from loan repayment programs to examine health disparity issues. I have been a health disparity scholar since 2002.

I started out wanting to explore health-related disparities specifically related to African Americans, earned my Masters (1998) and PhD in psychology (2001, both from the University of Rhode Island).

The lines between health disparities and other areas impacting Black life started to quickly fuse. I discovered an interconnected web of discrimination and prejudice that impacted African American lives across every major milestone in our/their life span and its development.  I learned that you couldn’t think and talk about African American health and not think of racism in hospitals –and you couldn’t talk about hospitals until you thought about how well people were educated about health –and then you couldn’t think about education unless you also thought about juvenile delinquency and ultimately landing on concepts related to prison industrial complex–and then I found myself right back at health again.

There is a national historical narrative of health that essentially captured the lifetime experiences of Whites and Blacks (as well as other people of color). A narrative that powerfully told the tale of American history in two parallel running stories, mainly divided by race, gender, and forms of privilege.

In any event, what I have learned over the past 15 years and more in my work as a health disparities scholar is the interconnectedness of health with everything.  Whether we point to the over-representation of people of color within these systems, examining poorly informed public and social policies or highlighting poor treatment by police, disparity statistics are clear and convincing.  Mostly every arena of our lives, educational, health, legal, voting rights (political engagement), social, religious and leisure activities, daily acts of living including driving and shopping, are impacted by implicit bias, discrimination, and prejudicial treatment.

The problem is that many people do not care about these statistics because they may not have enough empathy for African Americans, or they do not believe that racism is a connecting theme that support these statistics.  I long for a socially just world where we can move beyond debating the meaning of statistics, particularly when the statistics point out long standing patterns of racial bias.  When will we show compassion for the the statistics we have compiled and analyzed in the first place?

Long story short, over the next 15 years I learned as much as I could about Black families, much of my focus was on identity, stress, trauma, and exposure to violence.   More broadly, I became interested in how cultural groups think about, talk about, and conceptualize pain. My current research, teaching and practice oriented focus is on understanding existential forms of pain.  Both white supremacy and experience with racism, to the degree that these are psychological phenomena in addition to being parts of social structures, fall under existential forms of pain.

Historically, African American behavior is often seen as abnormal, deviant, or criminal.  Psychology, psychiatry, and other mental health fields have often treated African American psychological functioning using a deficient, abnormal lens.  These archaic views of deviance grew from earlier historical thoughts that justified enslavement and cruelty toward African Americans.  For example, in 1851, Drapetomania  was a mental illness diagnosis given to enslaved Africans who tried to run away from “their” White slave masters. Slaves who ran away from their masters were deemed mentally ill!

Conversely, white behavior is often viewed through a lens of moral purity, and reasonableness,  but certainly not as an indication of abnormality.   For example, White violence and protests are often viewed as an anomaly, an expected sport ritual (like rioting and destruction of property after a team wins or loses), or community sanctioned “healthy” celebratory expressions (e.g., pumpkinfest).  Paradoxically, when Blacks demonstrate the same behaviors they are viewed as substantiants of abnormality, criminality, or moral decrepitude.

Rejecting Deviant Lens

In more than 150 cities throughout the United States of America, there have been peaceful protests.   The protests were organized in response to non-indictment and rising discontent about racial profiling and the use of lethal force by police toward people of color, particularly unarmed African American men.  Racial profiling, which are captured in federally mandated statistics, involve police officers, irrespective of whether the officer is white or black, and their use of race as a potential deciding factor when investigating a purported crime.

For instance, a news report by US News and World Reports, examined racial profiling cases in Ferguson Missouri dating back from 2000 to the present, found that each and every year racial profiling of African Americans was higher than any other ethnic or non-ethnic group .  I bring up this latter point because what occurred in Ferguson has a historical context and may point to a larger potential problem in over 1,100 police departments.

The non-indictment by two different grand juries (one in Ferguson and the other in Staten Island, NY) can also be understood within this “historical and national context” relating to quality of life issues facing African Americans (and other oppressed groups).  Grand juries are made up of citizens who often share the thinking process that underlies racial divisive policies that impact the quality of life for people of color.  For example, stop and frisk laws, stand your ground laws, restrictive voting rights, and racial profiling all have been shown to have disparate impacts across white and non-white groups.

One of the unifying themes of these policies or laws is that they create a psychological climate that increase levels of  anxiety and frustration for people of color.  From a person of color’s point of view, especially POCs who live in densely populated urban areas, they often have to psychologically brace themselves before leaving their homes.  This daily life experience, the general sense of being watched, being followed, or being suspected of engaging in criminal activity because of one’s skin color is not a shared American experience, as many Whites have so vividly described across various social media outlets (e.g., #IWasNOAngelEither or #CrimingWhileWhite).

These laws support an overarching “national and historical narrative” of protecting an “anonymous” white populous.  White supremacy is centered in this narrative that often renders whites as purists, valuable, and crucial for society to grow and mature while simultaneously denigrating and devaluing the lives of people of color.

 

Creative Juices · Social Justice News

Triumph of Selma: Duvernay’s Cinematic Mastery of Blackness While Walking The Tight Wire of Whiteness

I saw the explosive, powerful, and touching movie, #Selma.

 

Selma is one of my all time favorite movies because of its touching portrayal of human complexity created within narrow psychological margins.  Selma also tries to correct the cinematic over-emphasis of the over-indulgence of seeing Black history through Black male experience. The movie recasts the lives of African Americans with a  more egalitarian perspective that seeks to connect the missing pieces of our collective struggle while promoting the lives of African American women.  Like watching someone walk a cinematic high wire, Ava Duvernay boldly presents a cinematic narrative that points to the major milestones of American black life: enslavement to civil rights to current extra-judicial and police violence. Duvernay reclaims an intertwined story of evolutionary blackness, although heterocentric in nature,  I won’t fault her for that.

 

I don’t mean strong representations of black women’s experience in the way that Julie Dash did in Daughters of the Dust but Selma is on the same cinematic pathway.  Duvernay reclaims the representational voice and experience of some American Black women, who all of us instinctively know, played a major role in our collective survival.  We need more movies about Black women, like the kind we saw in Spike Lee’s Crooklyn, where Alfre Woodard “got down’ and showed us Black multidimensionality as she cared for her family while battling cancer.

 

Selma ambitiously tackles the mythological surroundings many of us created when thinking about Dr. King.  Duvenay thrusts us into her subliminal view, recasts him in humanistic model as father, learning activist, minister, and husband.  By pulling us from our myths she wrangles the watered down White supremacist representation of King as powerful and mythological and reconnects his black struggle to our everyday experience of “Living While Black” in America. Duvernay does not shy away from his foils and shortcomings, a man whose infidelity could have altered his historical likability, instead she situates his struggle within its slimy, smothering, paranoiac context.

 

Like mimicry, she wisely uses on screen FBI wire tapping logs, showing us the depth of Hoover’s homoerotic federal surveillance on King and everyone around him.  Duvernay through impressive collaboration with the fantastical, imaginative, and masterful cinematographer, Bradford Young (who appears to be African American, but I do not know his ethnic heritage) —and employing a starry eyed soundtrack — also shapes our experience.

 

One of the most impressive cinematic navigation is the fine line of portraying White violence as a direct link to White privilege, and white supremacy in action.  White violence toward Blacks were done by White citizens and police officers who used it to assert Alabama state rights in support of White only voting.  If one critique would be offered it is that I would have liked to have seen other human dimensions of Whites who engaged in violence.  Instead we are presented a myopic view, perhaps a flaccid, objectified view of Whites as engaging in acts of hate with no exploration about their moral reasoning.

The performance of the actress, who portrayed Coretta Scott King, Carmen Ejogo is worthy of an Oscar nomination.  Through a tender and gentle portrayal, Corretta Scott King is captured in greater perplexity, although much more depth to her psyche was needed.  By far, and this is not to slight David Oyelowo’s masterful performance, Ejogo’s performance provided just the right amount of believability that serves as the glue to the movie.  Her acting brought a level of authencity, it breathed additional breaths of humanity into the movie.

Her performance is needed in the high wire act Duvernay so ambitiously aims to tackle, it was needed to re-calibrate or re-situate King from his historical pedestal.   Ejogo does what all great actresses and actors do, through the use of minute facial expression, body movements, timing and tone of language she communicates the fragility of human longing.  When movie critics and cinematic observers re-examine the mechanisms of this film, I will be surprised if her performance is not heralded as a triumphant cinematic piece.

Duvernay was hampered by her ability to use any of King’s actual speeches (due to former agreements, allegedly by the King family who may have loaned the intellectual rights to Spielberg) and further hampered by the unwillingness of the British screenwriter, Paul Webb to work with her.   Duvernay creates believable speeches that stand in for the original dynamic oratory.  Here, she does double and likely triple duty, shepherding her film, and believing in her ability to give the speeches metaphorical wings.  Like watching the old footage of the Wright Brothers as their makeshift plane successfully lifts off into flight, we wobble with the delivery of the earlier speeches by Oyelowo but marvel when we realize we are flying.  As a viewer we know that the speeches are not King but agree to sit on the plane of Duvernays’ creation.

Duvernay as a film-maker incorporates the characterological and historical greatness of many African American women, the ability to create sustaining caring environments with all of the items within their environments. In this regard, we witness not only Black women represented on the screen we also witness the creativity of a Black woman filmmaker whose own resourcefulness and creativity pulls her creation into light.  And may I remind you, on a shoestring budget of $20 million dollars. Go on with your bad self, Sister Duvernay.  Go on.

I am also aware of some of the chatter about the accuracy of the portrayal of LBJ.  Like Ava Duvernay, I too feel that these criticisms are misplaced. Directors, writers, and artists can use artistic license in advancing plot line and ensuring viewer engagement.  This is an artistic right not one that should be placed in a historical critical gaze, as it would if Duvernay had created a documentary.  These charges of inaccuracy seem unfair but not unexpected given the rejection of Black thought and life in America.

The problem, I gather, is that the White “leadership” viewpoint becomes inarticulated, nonredeemable, or perhaps circumlocutory in its portrayal of LBJ.  LBJ is not central to the action of African American protesters but critical for the viewer to understand the White to Black struggle in getting the Voting Rights passed.  I suspect the absence of a proscriptive White leader, one who can be idealized for showing benevolent intent for Blacks undermines the historical narrative.  Many of us would rather see American history portrayed with White certainty, when wrestling with complex moral decisions. Instead, we watch Dr. King and his advisory team master a political and social architecture around LBJ. This shift of emphasis away from LBJ destabilizes the White supremacist ideology embedded in the White historical narrative that often overvalues the value of White male thought.

Duvernay and company reveals a less powerful White president, who is pushed up against a moral window.  We watch a human struggle within LBJ who gets out of his own bag, to act not to impress his White political and social peers but looks into the future and guides our country into a moral trajectory that honors democracy. Can any LBJ supporter deny this observation?

This dislodging of White man’s ability (President Lyndon Johnson) and to watch him pressed -metaphorically-against a conceptual wall, outsmarted by a Black PhD, Dr. King, rejects the persistent stereotype of Black intellectual inferiority.  Through indirect use of cascading characters the County sheriff, Governor Wallace, and LBJ, Duvernay hints at the clear link between White masters united in thought about the enslavement of Africans/African American.  Like taking a flashlight into a funky dark White supremacist basement, Selma shines the light on the social fissures created by Black political and Black religious rejection of slavery as a viable economic solution. It rejects the implicit twisted religious use of its justification.  Through marching, Dr. King used the black body as a symbol, reflecting the interconnected ways our bodies had been used in political, social, and economic ways. Dr. King faced a real tight wire of his own, knowing well the historical propensity for White violence toward Blacks, and then risking Black lives by his stance of non-violent group action. Through the development of this social activist campaign, black protester’s adherence to non-violence as social resistance dethrones violence as a form of Black social control.  Non-violence and peaceful protests become tabula rasa (blank metaphorical canvases) and the potentate force of White hatred and use of terror becomes background to the foreground of Black innocence.

Black progress can not be stopped, as shown in the marchers progression across a symbolic bridge.  Literally we watch as African Americans face the potential of dying.  In this brave scenery, stripped of many cinematic devices, it becomes exclamatory, an act of affirmation of human rights played out on American streets.  Timed just perfectly within the movie, the initial scene of the bridge crossing becomes both the darkest day and the light of day, simultaneously. Black action is contextualized against a larger canvas of human right agentic behavior, rather then fitting neatly into a White to Black binary.  With nimble precision, Duvernay recasts the narrative of our Black experience as trauma victims, who were merely beat down, and reconstitutes a narrative that highlights our resiliency, steel resolve, social empowerment, and determination.  This view disrupts the previous narrative of African Americans as “institutionalized” into accepting violence, enslavement, concepts that are replete in many films.

In any respect, the movie detractors who raise the historical accuracy portrayal of LBJ, is squashed by Andrew Young who has countered these critics by saying outside of the protestation of the LBJ portrayal, everything else is accurate.

I wonder why no one has contested whether local and state police use bats to club African Americans who were peacefully protesting?

Why not?  Because all of us, on some level, have always known this singular truth; #Black Lives Matter.  We have watched similar acts of police brutality and twisted forms of politicized hate in Ferguson, Staten Island, and in the shooting of Tamir, a 12 year old black boy with a toy gun.  We can go far back in history to see it, we can go to the present day and see it, and we can go into the future and see it.  I am hopeful that in the future this violence will become laughable, satirical even, but for now we must struggle vehemently against it.  Selma works because we are all familiar with levels of hostility, indifference, hatred, and the acts of violence that are encountered by many African Americans–solely for being born with an immutable,  phenotype.

In the moment of viewing the marchers crossing the bridge, I wept openly because in their determined walking, I saw the faces and bodies of my own Black parents and relatives who “walked” through this time period.  Selma reclaimed a long lost personal memory, an action that I had known but was forced to revisit; I marvel at my family’s ability to have shielded me from these acts of White hatred and violence.  Certainly, having this knowledge would have undoubtedly affected many trajectories in my life.  I was born in 1959 and would have turned 6 years old in 1965.

Selma is not for the faint of heart but it is food for the collective American soul.

Creative Juices

My Review of The Movie Selma

Go See It.

Social Justice News

Why Are There No Black Women In The US Senate?

I recently read a fascinating article on the number of women in the United States Senate.  I was struck by the title of the article, The Secret History of Women in the Senate” and thought it should have been titled “The Secret History of White Women in the Senate.”

Why are black women political voices so silenced, rendered invisible, treated as an afterthought, given their longstanding history of political engagement in American society?

P.S.–Please see here for more information on State of African American women fact sheet

 

Psycho-spiritual · Social Justice News

Engaged Buddhism, Oprah Angel Network, and Renewed Spirits

I am sure that many of the protesters who may have financial challenges with making their bails and would be grateful for Oprah Angel network support, or some other financial foundation Oprah owns or supports that speaks to social justice and social change.

The protesters’ experience and willingness to protest injustice is as powerful for me as listening to Pema Chodron on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. I am learning, through witnessing these events, how to be an engaged Buddhist, learning how to meditate with my eyes open toward a world that honors justice and peace.

I think that Oprah is so busy with all of the business endeavors that too much may be given to her current beliefs and thoughts. People change across time, and I do not want to approach her current beliefs as if they will not change, or treat them as non-dynamic objects.

I think there is a real danger in engaging in this type of mummification of people’s thought, particularly when it is a person of color, given the extreme pressure many of us face coping with racism and oppression. But with that said I believe we still can interrogate them and analyze them, but to do so with a lens of elastic forgiveness or gentleness –as all of us struggle with this existential, historical, and sliminess of white supremacy.

The problem of white supremacy, racism, police brutality, heteronormativity, patriarchical rule, and militarization of police in working with communities of color is both a domestic and international issue. Thus we face the complexity of addressing a global problem, although we are articulating it in response to our African American and people of color experience. I include in my definition of these groups a collective vision honoring our rights to be, (transwomen of color, differently abled bodies, and to articulate our wishes for the future life experience of children of color).

What I have learned is that the problem, white supremacy/racism/capitalism is so pernicious, like a social cancer, that all forms of treatments have to be called upon in order to make the cancer remit. These treatments require the coordination of a team, not just one doctor per se. And further I never got the impression that the protesters lacked leadership. In fact, the mobilization of so many people in so many spaces across so many time zones at once weakens the perspective that there is some form of chaos, disorganization, non-intent, and misdirection, as implied.

I am so saddened that all of this is happening, but for every cloud there is a silver lining and also feel proud and hopeful because of all the voices, chants, and protests. I only wish that I could wrap my big brother arms and hug all of the protesters for what they have showed me in these past few months and years.

As if I was sleeping in some sort of general anesthesized state, my fog was lifted from hearing #blacklivesmatter, #nojusticenopeace, #ericgarner, and so much more. Whatever comes from the protest, they have given me as much or more than watching OWN and Super Soul Sunday, they have renewed a part of my spirit and heart that I had left limping in the basement of the soul.

I posted the above response to a post from http://theculture.forharriet.com/2015/01/oprah-on-ferguson-leadership-will-beget.html. 1/4/2014 at 12:05 pm.

 

The Drip-Drip Method Series

The Drip-Drip Method: I JUST CAN’T GIVE YOU MY FORGIVENESS -S1/E8

Previously on Episode 7: Miss Wilson tells ReeRee about ReeRee’s father, Becker.   This is what Miss Wilson said about the enslaved Black man that she loved–“I loved your father. You may never understand but having you near me all of these years has kept my love for him in my heart. I still remember the day when they killed your father, hung him from a tree. I loved your father, and the truth be told I will always love him no matter what.”

ReeRee stared for a long time at Miss Wilson. She swallowed the near vomit that seemed to be creeping up in her throat.

“I just can’t give you my forgiveness.” Miss Wilson says in a quiet and stoic way.

“Excuse me, maam,” ReeRee answered with a deferential but questioning tone.

“I know you want me to forgive you for being the bane of my existence, but I just can’t…But I did love your father and I thought that is what you should know.”

ReeRee stood in shock, rising from the bed with the heat of anger rising to her temple. She stood there looking around the room in seething anger, all the fine and wonderful things started to look like the toys of the devil.  The light that came into the room, no longer felt bright and caring but rather sinister and foreboding.  The room smelled of old dying things.

She stood there looking around the room in seething anger, all the fine and wonderful things started to look like the toys of the devil.  The light that came into the room, no longer felt bright and caring but rather sinister and foreboding.  The room smelled of old dying things.

“Yes, go on and say what you have to, and be gone afterward” Miss Wilson said raising her left shoulder up toward her chin.

“I do not need your forgiveness, pity, or anything else you think a mother should give a daughter.  I do not care that you loved him.  I do not care that his name was Becker.  Your love killed him and your hatred of me is what has kept me alive.  What do I need of White forgiveness. Nothing.  I do not see you as holy, only wanting like a dying grape on a sun dripped vine thirsts for water. Your words are like the threads of my dress, just things used to hold a grander cloth but nothing more than that.  Nothing more.  You all think that slavery makes us into animals but we have nobility in our life, we work the fields, we make things grow, and we do all of this under wretchedness.  We bow our heads and pray to the God that you gave us, we have faith in tomorrow.  What do you have, nothing that can fill up your evil soul.  Your lives are makeshift, incomplete, and full of violence.  The only way you know how to love is through being a captor.  Even then your soul shrinks just a little more because no one can love anything that hates for a living.  You children are cursed, your men are weak like willows, and you all die alone with people only wondering how much money you have left them.  You want our hearts to be broken, but our mothers told us things that keep us, things that yall will never know.  Never ever know.  So you think that I am nothing but some old Black woman, but I have people who truly love me for me.  And you, what do you have?  What do you have, even your own daughter laughs at you behind closed doors.  So you call me here to tell me that your love got my father hung from a tree.  I just do not care, Miss Wilson. What happened to you as a young woman is meaningless to me.  My heart is hard as a rock, beaten with every stick the overseer took to me.  Broken down like an old tired horse. Don’t need your forgiveness, as a matter of fact, I don’t need you or your daughter or the cheating husband either.  If you died of course, I would fix your clothes, mop the bed up from your last letting, and might cry a fake tear or two.  Would I miss you?  No, not at all.  I would slap the face of your ghost.  I wouldn’t even waste my spit on your grave.  What do we need with people who have no heart, whose soul tries to leave them with every passing breath.  You call me here to tell me what, that I came from you.  That was the best thing that ever came out of you.  And I may die after this telling but you Miss Wilson, will rot in hell.

“You nigger, bitch!”  Sethaline come and get this piece of trash out of my room.

The door swings open and Sethaline nearly pushes ReeRee out of the room.

ReeRee stops in the doorway, turns and smiles at Miss Wilson.

“Good day maam, good day

Post Date: January 31, 2015

The Drip-Drip Method Series

How To Read The Drip-Drip Method

Thank you for reading my TV series, Drip-Drip method.

Here is a helpful hint on how you might want to read them, if you like.

On the right hand navigation panel look for “The Drip Drip Method”, and then in the drop down menu, search for “The Drip Drip Method, and all of the series/essays will come up.  You can start reading the first episode by scrolling all the way down and read Episode 1, and then back up to read the later ones.

I make each of the series short (between 500-700 words), so you can read them on your mobile phone, while you are waiting at the doctor’s offices, waiting in your car before picking up a friend, or just sipping your drink during your lunch hour.  Bite sized forms of entertainment.

The Drip-Drip Method is a period piece, starting circa 1859. The story follows the life events of strong African American women who were enslaved.  This show will examine this dreadful chaotic moment in history from the resistance and triumphant point of view of Blacks.  How did they survive?  What were their resistance strategies?  How did they organize themselves behind closed doors? 

Although written in blog format, these brief episodes are the formative writing sketches for a one day TV series or feature film.  Thus after each title you will notice, S1 = season one, and E1 = episode one,  S1/E1.

Come back each week (approximately) for a new episode.  And please let me know what you like and don’t like about the series, as you would if this was one of your favorite TV shows.  Your comments will be helpful when I develop the final screenplay.  

Thanks for reading/watching.

With lots of gratitude,

Brian

Social Justice News

Professor Michelle Alexander on Tim Wise

The Drip-Drip Method Series

The Drip Drip Method: Sobbing Like There Is No Tomorrow S1/E7

Previously on Episode 6:  The group got all of Tim’s money and kept it at ReeRee’s house in a tin cup. ReeRee learns that she and Sethaline are bloodsisters, and that she is half white.  Lauren fixates on the new hired hand Melvin, who replaced Tim. 

ReeRee swooned her head up and down on the table while the women huddled around her as she wept, moaned, real deep, shoulder twitching, nose running, head throbbing, eyes blurry, ears ringing, legs aching, stomach heaving up and down like a row boat on a stormy sea, sobbing wet and soggy salty tears. “My mama is Miss. Wilson. The meanest women on earth.  Sethaline and I are sisters.  How can this be?  How can this be? How can this be?”

Cedric’s mom, pushed the pie away from her bobbing long grey hair, “Hush sweet darling, hush.”

“I just can’t believe that Miss Wilson is my mother.  I have a white mother.”

Sarah said, “I do too, but never met her,” pulling the quilt around ReeRee’s shoulder.

“We all mixed up, all of us is mixed one way or the other is how I see it.” Velvet added with an academic and resolute voice.

“Can you put more wood in the stove Lauren?” Cedric’s mom almost barked.

“Sethaline has been ranting about this all week.  Mister told her to calm down and shut up about it.  They had a real big fight yesterday evening.” Velvet shared.

ReeRee peeked up from the down position eager to hear the rest. “I’m alright yall, just in shock that is all.” She tried to shrug it off. She wiped her face smoothing the tears across her cheeks.

“Can I use this wood here, Ree.” Lauren asked as she saw some scattered wood in the corner of the room.

“Yeah.” ReeRee answered.

“Well the boys had to hold the father back, he started slapping Sethaline, front hand then back hand and one of the boys wrestled Mister to the floor. Sethaline was just a swinging back, closed fist and all, and she picked up a vase and smashed it over Mister’s head.  Bam.  Pieces scattered all across the bedroom floor, I’m still trying to clean up all the pieces.

“Peter said that, that new guy…what is his name again” Bird asked.

Lauren lifts up from placing the wood in the stove, “Melvin”

“Melvin” Cedric’s mom said in unison.

“Yeah right ,  Melvin. He was just lifting Miss Melanie into her carriage when the rumble started according to Peter.”

“Yeah, Melvin came in and Sethaline calmed down immediately, of course she was sobbing as he grabbed her off of him, and she kept stroking his arms as he led her out of the room.  Mister called her all kind of names and then yelled. “And you wonder why I spend so much time with Melanie…well now you know.  Now you know.”

ReeRee said, “I dont see what Melanie has anything to do with it.”

“Well” Velvet hesitated, because she thought that everyone knew about Melanie and Mister…she twisted her face quizzically at ReeRee.

Lauren chimed in trying to win points with everybody. “The day I first got here it was plain as day that the two of them were sleeping together.”

“Just stoke the fire, Lauren.  Just stoke the fire.” Sarah said sarcastically sucking her teeth.  ReeRee just moved around the room slow like, like she was in a fugue state, and then asked everyone if they could adjourn for the day and meet next week.

Post Date: December 19, 2014

Cultural Essays

Being an ally is understanding and validating the worldview of that group

I am pleased to have the permission of my dear friend, Tara Edwards to post this wonderful essay.  Tara is the first of many (I hope) guest writer/blogger on the Pancake Diaries.

As you know we are engaged in lots of peaceful protests and conversations about racism, oppression, power, and police brutality in our country.  This is a good thing, but as you know, action speaks louder than words…and POC can not fight racism and bigotry alone. I am holding onto my faith in my white sisters and brothers.

This response grew out of a discussion with a white ally (acquaintance) on one of my posts on Facebook about the non-indictment of the officer who choked and killed Eric Gardner.

The ally, and I am paraphrasing here- from what I could gleam from what they were saying–was upset, didn’t like the use of white and black racial categories, worked hard in the 60’s for civil rights not to be where we are today, perhaps I should look at the death from a different perspective,  reverse the role between the police officer and victim, can’t we all just get along, and Islamic extremists hate all Americans not just White americans, and so forth, and so on, herewith, therefore, ad infinitum, with all deliberate speed, reasonableness, and whitesplaining, and probable cause and all with a smidge of superior tone “We as African Americans need to…. “.

* * *

(Insert name of Ally), like you, I consider myself an ally and advocate for marginalized communities.

One of the most important elements of being an ally is understanding and validating the worldview of that group.

We already know that the dominant cultural narratives are strong and tend to drown out the voices of oppressed people. Social policy, laws, and institutional frameworks are then used to reinforce that dominant voice.

For example, we celebrate Columbus Day every year because the Native American people don’t have a strong enough platform or base of allies to have their story honored by this country. We also inappropriately use Native American’s sacred rituals and images for sports and entertainment, despite the fact that they have filed lawsuits. Corporations are able to use our legal institutions to justify inflicting emotional and cultural harm to this community. How would we feel if there were a sports team called the Christians and they used the Pope as a mascot walking around “fake praying” and dancing provocatively, while the cheerleaders were scantily dressed as the Virgin Mary?

Collectively mocking the cultural heritage and spiritual beliefs of any group of people is traumatic, and in this case it is even more egregious because it throws salt in the wounds of people whose genocide has yet to be accurately depicted in the global and domestic story of our country. This issue could be viewed as America’s insensitivity to religious groups as a whole; however, that would only reflect the tip of the iceberg. The reality is, in this country, more people would come to the defense of Christians being mocked and misrepresented, because that belief system holds value in American culture. Does that make sense? Native Americans as a group of people are disproportionately negatively impacted by our collective insensitivity to various cultures, because their spiritual history and worldview holds less value in our society than Christianity.

So in the case of Latino and African American people’s disproportionate amount of unjust encounters with police officers… it is safe to say that our police force is using excessive force towards Americans in general, while keeping in mind that marginalized groups receive that mistreatment at rates significantly higher than white Americans. Research has already thoroughly documented the effects of bias on the way our legal system operates. This includes lower sentences and higher acquittal rates for people who are physically attractive and/or hold high socioeconomic status in our country. Do your research so you can understand the data on how various institutions are biased against women, the LGBTQI community, Muslims, and various groups of marginalized people in this country.

Allies who refuse to acknowledge the gender/sex bias (sexism) in compensation rates and career mobility for women, or advocates who avoid discussing homophobia in fighting for LGBTQI marital rights aren’t taking a position of higher ground. They are actually reinforcing the dominant worldview and further marginalizing members of those communities.

(Insert name of ally), let me know your thoughts about this post.

Social Justice News

Essential Social Justice Readings – Volume 1, Dec 2014

Essential Social Justice Readings Volume 1, Dec 2014-curated by Dr. Brian L. Ragsdale, brianragsdalewriter.com.

From time to time I will bring you articles, videos, and other communications that relate to exploring oppression, culture, and social justice topics.  I am sending this out on December 4th, 2014, a dreary and somber day after the Eric Gardner non-indictment by the Staten Island grand jury. (Please click on all titles and it will take you right there).

Why do pain, sorrow, and anger come in one package?

If there are certain topics you would like to learn more about, please let me know.

Fighting for peace and justice, Brian

______________________________

Carol Anderson

Ferguson isn’t about black rage against cops. It’s white rage against progress.

Brittney Cooper

White America’s scary delusion: Why its sense of black humanity is so skewed: Many white folks aren’t violent. But here’s how ignorance and lack of empathy make life so unsafe for black people

Kiese Laymon

My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK

Angela Davis

The quest for emancipation of black people…

Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex

Tim Wise

Repetitive Motion Disorder: Black Reality and White Denial in America

Sally Kohn

What white people need to know, and do, after Ferguson: Benefiting from white privilege is automatic. Defending white privilege is a choice. 

 

The Drip-Drip Method Series

The Drip Drip Method: Wheels of Life S1/EP6

Previously on Episode 5:  Tim got jumped by the group for attacking Bird’s son, Peter. The group let him go free, ReeRee shot him just to let him know she was not playing. They gave Tim $50 and they kept $150 as their endowment fund. ReeRee slowly counted the money as the others watched, 148, 149,… Continue reading The Drip Drip Method: Wheels of Life S1/EP6

Social Justice News

To Thee I Will Sing: No Justice, No Peace.

Dear Friends and Readers,

I want to thank you for reading my blog over the past year. I started it in late Oct/November 2013 and I am quickly approaching 1,000 readers. I didn’t really know how many people would follow me so I am startled by the number of “my followers” and  every time I get a new one it raises a warm feeling inside.

As you might imagine trying to find a balance across all of my identities has its plusses and minuses.  One night my art calls me and I paint and draw, other night my writings call me, and I juggle all of this working a full time job. I always wanted to just be one thing, inspired by one true passion but I have had to let that dream ago so many years ago.  I know there are many people like me but we tend to hide in the closet because we get lots of flack from people around us with our multiple interests and passions.

I am what I am so I might as well love it and let it grow.

Like many of you, I have tried to make sense of what is happening in our country.  I awake on some mornings with tears, go to bed sometimes in sadness, and have fits of unexpected rage.  I am also full of gratitude for my partner and friends who stay with me and have stayed with me through ups and downs. Thank you for being there too, otherwise my words would be floating into silent spaces.

This is a four part series, “TO THEE I SING” where I explore much of what I have learned about racism, justice, and white privilege.  Please let me know how you are doing with all of this. Are you hopeful for change or skeptical? How do we make change within these systems?  I will respond to respectful and even intense dialog but will not respond to racist troll like comments. Once again, thank you. Please share my work with your friends and family.  Sincerely, Brian

As I wait for the #Ferguson grand jury indictment on November 18, 2014, the toll of waiting for the verdict, along with managing the cumulative effects of being a witness to how African Americans continue to face extreme levels of interpersonal, personal, and community violence, my identity of what it means to be an American has shifted.   Whatever the indictment, guilty or innocent, I realize in a deep and meaningful way that I will never be the same.   Whatever hope I had in the ability of many Whites to change, to reach across and the socially constructed but real “racial” divide, feels like it is melting away.

I too know the numbness, rage, detachment, and coping strategies, like those experienced by Ferguson Black residents and other oppressed people who live in urban and rural spaces.   The heart of the issue is police brutality, and excessive use of force.   Their voices, although registering on some level of my work may have become like muted horns in the symphonic backdrop of my middle class ascension.  While people of color dealt with physical threats I was engaged with disentangling my psyche from white supremacy, intolerance, and sometimes fatigue from earnest cooperative efforts with whites, while earning my masters and doctorate.   My work and interest is broad, I am interested in how white privilege functions, trauma, culture, and other social justice topics.

Governmental and local authority responses to African American collective trauma were not helpful and healing, and in some instances, in the Ferguson unfolding, incendiary.   Missouri and government officials sent into Ferguson militarized police, national guards, and tear gassed peaceful protestors.  Reports allege they gassed an African American woman who was distributing water to people who had gotten tear gas sprayed into their eyes.   The images were heartbreaking, and this one seemed to describe it all; an unarmed African American man with his hands up while a row of white police officers dressed in full riot gear aimed their higher powered rifles directly at him.  That was round one.

Social Justice News

Requiem for Another Lost Son

My heart is full with so much sadness. As an African American psychologist, as an american citizen, as a human being with a heart, we must show compassion and sympathy for families traumatized by violence.

Watch this video (see the video at the end of the post but please read on first) if you want to hear the contrasting viewpoint of the ABC news interview with Officer Wilson.  I will discuss my reaction to Office Wilson in another post but want to honor the loss of the family first.  Michael Brown’s mother, Mrs. Leslie McSpadden reports that no official from Ferguson has directly expressed their grief directly to her family.

Black pain is not treated, nor accorded the same respect and empathy as White pain and grief. I am sending out my direct condolences to this family. I know this comes so far away, and I am not an official–but I hear you and hold you with open loving arms as you mourn this tragic loss.

I agree that the media can not hold the family accountable for the riots, and some of the discussion needs to be directly with the Governor of Missouri. I admire this family and their leadership, fortitude, and their willingness to speak as they deal with the loss of their son.

Even in our pain, great existential historical pain and daily life pain, coping with racism, hostility, and devaluation, we as Black people as well as other people of color have to fight for our humanity to be recognized. I am so proud to be an African American. In the face of such hatred, discontent, and discouragement, we raise our voices for freedom.

We hold on to the faith and hopes of our enslaved ancestors. We did not make this unjust system but we will continue to work on making it just.

I will not spend a dime on Black Friday, and please don’t ask me what I plan to do after that, because I don’t know.

What I do know is that the police brutality and use of excessive force must stop and cease in communities of color. Every police officer needs to go through diversity training at regular intervals. The 1000 plus other police departments that show higher rates of black racial profiling, according to the USA Today study, should be addressed, one by one. I do know that we need to continue having conversations about what it feels like to live in a racist society.

I do know that love will triumph over evil, and will hold onto this belief until I move from this world over into the next.

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/michael-browns-parents-on-grand-jury-decision-violence-in-ferguson/

The Drip-Drip Method Series

The Drip Drip Method: You Got Two Choices S1/E5

Previously on Episode 4: Velvet shared with the group that Tim has sexually assaulted her. Lauren joined the group but not everyone liked her.  Tim attacks Bird’s son, Peter.

S1/Episode 5: You Got Two Choices

ReeRee was the first person to jump on Tim’s back as he tried hard to straddle me, using his knees to pin me down.  I was swinging for my life, arms failing like the legs of a wild goose as Tim shouted at me “Settle down”.  My mother was next after ReeRee swung her full body across his back, while my mother grabbed his leg, knocking him off of me.  Meanwhile, Lauren grabbed his arm.  Velvet stuffed an old dirty rag in his mouth, and Sarah grabbed the final leg.

In a moment he was off of me and subdued by all of the women.  He was sweating hard, twisting around trying to get away but the woman had overpowered him.

“This is the last time you bring harm to any of us.”. ReeRee commanded as her small body kneeled onto his chest. Tim mumbled something but it was inaudible. ReeRee drew her pistol from underneath her long brown woolen skirt and pistol whipped him.  Blood and spit flew out of his mouth like cranberry jelly. “Go in the house and get me that rope, Peter.”.

“Be quiet, Velvet said, kicking him in the gut. He further coughed, and by now had stopped struggling dazed from the pistol whipping and shocked how fast the women had apprehended him.

“This is how this is going to work.  You have two choices Tim, meet your maker today or leave from this place and never return.”  Tim’s eyes screeched in horror.  He slowly nodded his head.  Sarah and Cedric’s mom began tying him up in the robe. I wrapped the potato sack around his chest. Tim started mumbling something and ReeRee slowly took out the rag from his mouth.

“I have a tin can full of money for yall to have.  Can I please get some of it, and I will be on my way.” Tim said with blood drooling from his swollen face.

“Where is the can at? Velvet asked.

“In the last stall underneath the gate plate. An old red rusty tin buried about one foot down.”

Go get it, Ree Ree commanded Lauren and Cedric’s mom. The two women left.

“How much is in there? Velvet asked.

“200”

“We will give you 50 and then you be on your way” ReeRee told Tim…”And just so you know we are dead serious.  I am going to shoot you in the leg now, so bite down on this stick, cause it’s going to hurt mighty bad.”

Post Date: November 19

The Drip-Drip Method Series

The Drip Drip Method: His Breath Stank S1/E4

Previously on Episode 3: Cedric mentions new Indians at the Unity Farm.. Sethaline told the group her husband was having an affair with her sister and felt betrayed by the group.  Sethaline threatens to sick Tim onto the group.

S1/Episode 4: His Breath Stank

“His breath stank,” Velvet started sharing with the group, grimacing as she recounted the tale.  The event she was describing was a twisted prelude to the impending brutal rape of her by Tim.  “I was there in the bushes pulling the cotton from its crown.  Tim hops off of Bacon and then comes up to me, stares at me with those devil eyes.”

“Oh no.” My mother gasped.

Lauren bowed her head low to listen intently.  ReeRee sliced a piece of the pie.  Cedric mom continued her knitting.  Sarah breaks in, “Please pass me the pie.” (The camera now goes outdoors, right outside of the cabin and traces the unknown boot and footsteps of a man approaching the cabin.  It is Tim who is sneaking up on the women to listen to what they are saying).

Go on, Velvet…continue.” ReeRee said, getting up from the table and lighting another candle and placing it on the mantel.  My mother was over by the stove, stoking it and placing more wood underneath it in order to keep the boiling water hot for tea.  My eyes grew tired having to peek through the small wooden slits of space between the wooden cabin walls.

“ He got real close. Took my chin and raised it with his bourbon smelling fingers. I am going to have a real good time with you. Then he kissed my cheek and licked my ear.” Velvet said.

“That is when Bigfoot, threw a rock at Bacon scaring the horse and Tim got all flustered and ran after him.” My mother chimed in.

“So glad you are safe.” Lauren offered.  Sarah rolled her eyes.

“Never a day that don’t go by” Cedric’s mom offered as a global statement. “I hate everything about this place, everything.”

“Do you think Sethaline had anything to do with it.” ReeRee asked.

“More than likely.” Velvet responded with a sad and drawn expression. “She has been after me since I was 14.  I had no say over who finds me attractive….and unfortunately it seems that every ivory man does.  The women look at Velvet with compassion.

“Who is Sethaline?” Lauren asked.

“I know you are just visiting the group and we welcome you here Lauren, but we don’t discuss the Ivories in depth here.  Sorry you will have to listen and learn.”  Cedric’ mom almost snapped at the long haired indian.

“Oh, ok. Lauren answered. “Just trying to follow along.  Appreciate that.”

“I don’t like you Lauren”” Sarah interrupted staring at her.

At that moment, Tim yanked me up from my crouched position of me looking in between the wood slats. “You little spying bastard” he said wailing on me, slapping me and knocking me against the wall.

Post Date: November 15

 

The Drip-Drip Method Series

The Drip-Drip Method: Palms Facing Up S1/E3

Previously on The Drip-Drip Method: Sethaline threatens to shut the group down.  She also presents a threat to sick Tim on one of the group members. The group also struggles with the possibility of a mysterious new visitor.

S1/Episode 3-Palms Facing Up:

“Ok,” Sethaline continued tucking her long straggly hair behind her left ear, “I came here today to let you all know that HE has been sleeping with my sister. …And I never knew about it, and I don’t want yall to hate him”…In between her opening, Cedric’s mom mentioned to Sarah that her cousin over at the Unity Farm told her there were several injun women who arrived for the fields.

Several of the women begin to twist their faces, trying to hold back their laughter. ReeRee glanced sternly with open eyes at Velvet and Bird- the main ones having a hard time containing themselves.

“Yes, some of us knew” ReeRee shot the dagger to Sethaline’s heart.

Sethaline stared for a moment in disbelief, first in shock and then she went off.

“Yall knew and didn’t tell me. Fucking stank ass bitches…that is what you all are.  My husband is cheating on me with my sister and not one of you comes and tells me a damn thing.  I trusted you.  I will tell you all this, if I find out another secret that this group knows and doesn’t tell me this group will be no more.  I won’t be able to protect you from the men.  Sethaline says this protection line while staring directly at Velvet. “ Do you hear me. Do you hear me”. Then breaking down in near sobs, “Do you hear me”, she said in tears and then holding onto the corn cob and holding it into the air.

ReeRee moves closely to Sethaline and gently retrieves the corn cob from her raised hand. She stares at her with compassion and calculating what she was going to say next.

“We knew Miss Sethaline but we all was told by both of them that if we spilled a word of this to you, they would set Tim upon us.  We couldn’t tell you.  That is the truth.  We had to balance your broken heart without having complete chaos …and destruction.  Believe us Miss Sethaline.  Believe us.”

All of the women slowly stood up, in support of what ReeRee said.  They rose from where they were seated, stretched out their arms toward Sethaline and opened their hands with their palms facing upward.  In quiet voices, they began using another drip drip method, the kind form, and started to hum, “Om.”  Sethaline’s anger and hurt began to melt away.

The Drip-Drip Method Series

The Drip-Drip Method-Sethaline’s confession S1/E2

Previously on Episode 1 of The Drip-Drip Method.  Early Fall, 1859.  Velvet reported that Tim keeps spitting on the children. Tim slapped Sarah’s daughter which outraged the group. The group used Drip Drip method, classic form, to correct Tim’s behavior.  Tim bought Sarah’s daughter, Rhonda brand new shoes.  The committee never got to the issue of Sethaline.

Sethaline’s Confession, Episode 2

Rhonda danced around the small kitchen, as her new shoes click clacked loudly on the floor.  She was full with rock star joyful glee.

“Thank you, Ma.” She said as she hugged her mother, Sarah looking down at her shoes.  “Thank you, Miss ReeRee, Miss Velvet, Miss Cedric’s mom, Miss Bird.  The women smiled back and nodded with pride that their drip drip method had worked.

“Run along now child, we are about to start our meeting. “ Rhonda leaves skipping out of the doorway.

“This meeting is now called to order,” ReeRee said as she tapped the beaten corn cob firmly on the wooden table.

“We come to order.”  “Who has any new business?”

“I do,” said Cedric’s mom as she maneuvered her breasts into place, “Miss Sethaline informed me that she wanted to come to our group this morning.”

“What?” my mother Bird replied. The other women looked around the room with mistrust and suspicion.  One by one they all looked at ReeRee for her opinion on the subject matter.  Ivories were not allowed in these meetings.

ReeRee looked around the room, took a deep breath and processed the request in her mind. “I approve of it.  We have to listen to what she has to say, but I will make it known to her that this is a closed group.  Not sure how I am going to do it…but watch and then see.”

Cedric mom responded, “I will go and let her know. “

“Agreed” the women said in unison. “Pass the pie, please” my mother said cutting her third slice. “You put your foot in it Velvet.”  Velvet returned the compliment with a proud and grateful smile.

“Thank you for seeing me.  Well…um,” Sethaline began as she sat at the head of the table, extremely nervous from the solemn quietness and stares of the women.  “Um, I know that ya’ll meet regularly and just wanted to come to lend my support.”

The women stared back with disbelief but with respect because of her unearned position. Sethaline in their mind was a pawn in a dangerous game of survival, psychological warfare, and gathering information. Certainly she didn’t come to just thank them.

Next week’s episode, Wednesday Nov., 5th: Sethaline threatens to shut the group down.  She also presents a threat to sick Tim on one of the group members. The group also struggles with the possibility of a mysterious new visitor.

The Drip-Drip Method Series

The Drip-Drip Method: Called to Order S1/E1

The Drip-Drip Method is a period piece, starting circa 1859. The story follows the life events of strong African American women who were enslaved.  This show will examine this dreadful chaotic moment in history from the resistance and triumphant point of view of Blacks.  How did they survive?  What were their resistance strategies?  How did they organize themselves behind… Continue reading The Drip-Drip Method: Called to Order S1/E1

Creative Juices

Lather

If I had known I would have made more lather. Smell of ivory soap, clinical, clean, nothing extra. We grab these plastic things and push out the slippery stuff Sprinkles, then gushes of water. We mold it through our fingers, our longing. Clinching the lower palm, bumps on the top of our wrists We make… Continue reading Lather

Cultural Essays · Psycho-spiritual

How Many Walls In Your Teepee?

I woke from a wierd dream state while finishing up my ten-day assignment in Indianapolis.  I was staying at the JW Marriot for my university.  As my mind crawled out of its haze, this emerged; “How Many Walls In Your Teepee?”  I didn’t really know what this meant, pondered it for a minute or two,… Continue reading How Many Walls In Your Teepee?

Cultural Essays

Joy Beyond The Prison and Prism of Pain: Racial bias and legislative intent

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Although I don’t speak about it much I still think about Renisha McBride. I wonder how her family is doing. Renisha was the young woman who was shot in the face with a shotgun by Ted Wafer. According to reports he called 911 after he shot her, while she lay dead or dying on his doorstep.

Renisha was an African American woman who was murdered by a White man. The nature of her death rings a familiar historical tone of how quickly Black life can be eradicated. African Americans have the highest incarceration rates in the US, and in many ways, we have to face living in psychological prisons when coping with discrimination, and the possibility of experiencing a hate crime. “Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population.” See here for more information.

According to the FBI Hate crimes overview, “A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”

Would Ted Wafer have shot a drunk White woman in the face with a shotgun? If you answer, probably not, then this suggests that bias may have existed. Bias is “a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others that usually results in treating some people unfairly.”  Extreme forms of bias can lead to hatred. Hatred can then lead to violence.

Bias and Black to Black Murders

Before I go any further, I want to address the skeptic and recalcitrant who often cite Black to Black murder data when white to black murders are discussed. These arguments deflect the examination of white racial prejudice toward African Americans and other people of color. Both the murder of Renisha and the death of African American by the hands of other African Americans is related to how black life is dehumanized.  The underlying reason that Blacks kill other Blacks and Whites kill Blacks is because African Americans are continually dehumanized, devalued, and considered inconsequential to the overall positive functioning of our society. These dehumanization and devaluation processes are vivid in some media portrayal, textbooks, healthcare, and so forth.

Rationales for killing a black person might be viewed through a cause and effect psychosocial lens. One major cause of black dehumanization is white supremacy. The racist belief that whites are superior to other groups while simultaneously asserting black inferiority in legal, health, social, and educational realms.  Black murder rates than represent a crazy sort of psychological racial valuation chart, these charts operate in a similar way that corporate stocks fluctuate based on supply and demand, and perceived values. Whites represent a more valuable form of social stock, so to speak. This concept overvaluation and undervaluation when examining whites and blacks is also expressed in the Brown Eye and Blue eye experiment, that has more than 2 million views on You Tube , Whiteness as property law articles, White by Law books, and Peggy McIntosh’s, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.

All Deliberate Speed and the Inconsistency of Using Social Science Research in Legislative and Judicial Proceedings

I am not implying that one type of death is worse or better than the other. But, what I am arguing is for our courts to move with “all deliberate speed” in accepting legal arguments that might substantiate racial bias in black murder cases. We know for example that Blacks as a group are disproportionately subjected to hate crimes when compared to all other sociocultural groups in America, so the possibility that racial discrimination might be present in a white to black murder is not an imaginative stretch.  Although Ted Wafer was indicted for murder he was not charged with a hate crime. Wayne County prosecutor, Kym Worthy, who happens to be an African American woman rejected Wafer’s self defense claims and charged him with “second-degree murder, manslaughter and firearms violation” The additional charge of a hate crime was not part of the probable cause hearing.  Instead, Kym Worthy faced an untenable position, risking the possibility of her professional reputation by even remotely suggesting the possibility of a hate crime.

If a hate crime charge are added this would help to capture crime statistics in federal crime data, and may have offered further legal remedies for the McBride family. I am not an attorney and do not know if the family can bring a civil proceeding after the completion of a convicted murder trial, if he is found guilty. I have included both the hate crime (Appendix A) and second degree murder penal codes (Appendix B), at the end of the blog writing.

My main point is this: In a broader legal context, when hate crimes are left out of criminal charges it leaves out the possibility of exploring if racial bias played a role.  In this case, the sole determination of racial bias rests within the purview of one county prosecutor. If this murder was racially biased than our courts need to grapple with how racial bias may or may not have played in his decision making process to shoot Renisha.

How can we address racial bias if legislators and by extension the courts perceive racial bias as trivial factors that do not influence decision-making processes?  

Social science research continues to inform us that racial bias and gender bias does effect some decision-making processes.

The causal root factors of violence are wrong, no matter who holds the gun and why.  We should not be reluctant to consider social scientific data when examining these matters. State and federal courts used social science research in dismantling public educational systems, for example, Brown versus Board of Education case. Legislative bodies and courts should continue to include social scientific findings in a wide variety of court related matters that disproportionately affect people of color.

Through the absence of considering any racial bias research, legislators and by extension, courts seem to condone a social space that permits an American citizenry a free for all approach to sorting through long standing, racial issues. For example, Stand Your Ground Laws, while not the likely legislative intent, have become social proxies for enacting prejudice and racial discrimination. Stand your ground laws and other public policies that show a disparate impact on ethnic minorities need to be overhauled. African Americans, and others who may experience stigmatization, and those whose psychological welfare is not typically represented in our legal systems, should not be psychologically imprisoned by legislative cultural insensitivity and indifference.

Until legislators actively consider and include findings from racial and gender bias research, like the McBride family and other Black families who suffer from their loved ones being murdered by senseless acts, I too yearn for the space where joy can live beyond the prison and prisms of pain.

Appendix A
THE MICHIGAN PENAL CODE (EXCERPT)
Act 328 of 1931, 750.147b Ethnic intimidation.
Sec. 147b.

(1) A person is guilty of ethnic intimidation if that person maliciously, and with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, gender, or national origin, does any of the following:

(a) Causes physical contact with another person.

(b) Damages, destroys, or defaces any real or personal property of another person.

(c) Threatens, by word or act, to do an act described in subdivision (a) or (b), if there is reasonable cause to believe that an act described in subdivision (a) or (b) will occur.

(2) Ethnic intimidation is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or by a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.

(3) Regardless of the existence or outcome of any criminal prosecution, a person who suffers injury to his or her person or damage to his or her property as a result of ethnic intimidation may bring a civil cause of action against the person who commits the offense to secure an injunction, actual damages, including damages for emotional distress, or other appropriate relief. A plaintiff who prevails in a civil action brought pursuant to this section may recover both of the following:

(a) Damages in the amount of 3 times the actual damages described in this subsection or $2,000.00, whichever is greater.

(b) Reasonable attorney fees and costs.”

Appendix B- THE MICHIGAN PENAL CODE (EXCERPT) Act 328 of 1931, 750.317 Second degree murder; penalty. Sec. 317. Second degree murder—All other kinds of murder shall be murder of the second degree, and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life, or any term of years, in the discretion of the court trying the same.

Cultural Essays

See With Your Eyes But Listen With Your Heart

I watched her tears roll down her face as she described how unattractive she felt because of her skin color.  Her pain was deep. Oprah and Iyanla recently presented a “LIFECLASS” on the OWN network that explored colorism.  Colorism is a psycho-social effect of living in societies where skin color become associated with subjective factors.… Continue reading See With Your Eyes But Listen With Your Heart

Creative Juices

Kick Off Your Boots and Save The Cat

I read a lot. Usually a strange mix of things, like eating a spoonful of mac and cheese, followed by a nip of jellied cranberry, then a slight detour nip of buttered roll and a gulp of water to wash it all down. I can quickly move from reading a section of a book, reading… Continue reading Kick Off Your Boots and Save The Cat

Creative Juices

If You Dream It…

I don’t make New Year resolutions, not any more. So I spend a fair amount of my time dreaming. I dream of happiness for my friends. I dream that people all over the world have clear moments of peace. I dream that the person who feels they are unloved, will feel real love. I also… Continue reading If You Dream It…

Creative Juices

Friendship and Fillet of Fish

I am spending time with a dear friend of 20 or so years. He is visiting us and every time I look at him, I feel comforted. There is nothing like the love between old friends. While passing the time we went to McDonalds and I tried something different, the small egg nog shake. Quite… Continue reading Friendship and Fillet of Fish

Creative Juices

Five Tips for Being Creative

1. Time has nothing to do with it—spend as much time or as little time as you need to complete the project. If the project requires monotony, like drawing a line over and over before getting it right, or reworking a sentence like you are kneading bread, do it. If you want to know when… Continue reading Five Tips for Being Creative

Creative Juices

Happy Holidays and what to do with the lemons.

Thank you for being a viewer, reader, follower, and contributor. May the new year bring you all good things. If or when life gives you lemonade; make a lemon painting, take the lemon grinds and use them for soup, or use the lemon juice to wash your hair. Whatever life brings you, use it and… Continue reading Happy Holidays and what to do with the lemons.

Cultural Essays · Uncategorized

Policing the Black Mind and Body

In the past 10 years across every major city, there have been an increase of cameras watching us.  Go here to see a visual map for the real time traffic cameras in NYC, http://nyctmc.org/, or here for various spots in California, http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist1/d1tmc/1_cam.php?cam=4. Ok, so you don’t drive very much, how about McDonalds, Wal-Mart of K-Mart, yep, if you been in any of these, there are cameras there watching you and all of the customers.  The point is that all of us are being watched, and the reason for being watched vary; theft prevention, safety and security, or helping us to get home faster by avoiding pile ups or accidents.   There are videos in stores, at cross walks, toll booths, and a growing majority of us have a cell phone with built in cameras.

Since 9/11, we have increased the notion that moves us from just watching us to engaging us to surveil others in our efforts to keep people safe.  If you have traveled in any major airport, for example, you will be familiar with the “see something, say something” campaigns, whereby if you see a suspicious person report it, or if you see a lone bag on the floor, alert the authorities. This is a seemingly innocent campaign whose goals are to engage us to report suspicious behavior of fellow travelers.  We also have learned a color coded alert system.

Our lives are being policed in ways that our grandparents could not have imagined.

The problem with watching each other, particularly for suspicious behavior, is that we often have to make split decisions about what we believe is threatening or harmful to us.  This is where all of this gets a little more funky.

Irrespective of our ethnic, racial, or gender identity all of us show unconscious bias toward African Americans, and many other groups; women, gays, and people with visible disabilities.   For example, women may not be offered to relocate to another area to entertain a job promotion because it is assumed that she won’t want to relocate her children.  Essentially, we associate Black people with being bad, and white people with being good.  Unconscious bias is different than the KKK variety of racial hatred and blatant workplace varieties of racial discrimination.  Unconscious means just outside of our conscious awareness.

Unconscious biases and racist behaviors are reflected across various types of local and national data. From 2003 to 2012, in New York city, there have been approximately 5 million stop and frisk reports, almost 50% or 2.5 million of these have been aimed toward African Americans (http://www.nyclu.org/content/stop-and-frisk-data).  On average, each year there are approximately 532,000 stop and frisks. If we take half of these, 50% then roughly 266,000 African Americans in New York city are stopped in a given year.

Blacks only make up 26% (2 million) of the overall approximately 8.2 million New Yorkers. If I am doing the math correctly, that is 1 out of 13 African Americans will be frisked.

***

Dr. Payne, a psychology professor at the University of Ohio, showed students a picture of either a White or Black man, and then showed another picture of either a tool or a gun.  Students were more than likely to associate the tool as a gun when it followed a black man than a white man.  “The results show how unconscious bias against blacks may affect decision-making in cases of extreme time pressure”, Payne said. The reason, at least in these experiments, “has to do with failures to control bias under time  pressure, not distorted perceptions of what’s being seen.”http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/gunbias.htm

We often think of prejudice and discrimination as a one way phenomenon that is negatively aimed at Blacks.  Whites and Blacks associate black with bad things, but there is more to this phenomena than just the “Blacks are bad story”.   In this line of research, we can see how being black facilitates the idea of bad.  But curiously being white inhibits the association of being perceived as bad.

***

Let me conclude with words from a famous speech by Frederick Douglass (july 4, 1852), this sums up how I feel on this subject:

“At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would today pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.”

Thank you for reading my blog Pancake Diaries, at brianragsdalewriter.com.  This article is a blog post that you have my permission to forward to others under the creative common licensure agreement. Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Cultural Essays

Reflections on “12 years a slave” from a Black Psychologist

For many of us, how and when to talk about the enslavement of African Americans is “the elephant in the room.” In order for people to move forward in harmonious ways “elephants” must be taken out of the room. In my work as a psychologist, I have learned that if the elephant is not talked… Continue reading Reflections on “12 years a slave” from a Black Psychologist

Cultural Essays

Stoking the Racist Imagination: Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, and The Mammy Cookie Jar

My partner and I went for lunch at a New Hampshire diner. The town where the diner is located is 85% White. The diner’s décor is supposedly based on “the original 1952 Worcester Diner Car #837.” The walls are graced with Americana kitsch; Elvis Presley statue, mason jars, the Mr. Peanut Head statue, a Hawaiian… Continue reading Stoking the Racist Imagination: Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, and The Mammy Cookie Jar

Cultural Essays

Non Violence As Loving Action-Tales of Teaching Tolerance?

A teacher writes in Teaching Tolerance,  about teaching her youth about empathy following a fatal shooting in Oakland, Jill’s original article is in italic, and my response is below it, in regular font. The L.A. Riots Echo Loudly In My Classroom Submitted by Jill E. Thomas on November 11, 2010 My students are too young to remember the 1992 Los… Continue reading Non Violence As Loving Action-Tales of Teaching Tolerance?

Cultural Essays · Psycho-spiritual

The Assassination of Renisha McBride, Part 2: Let Us Mourn In Peace!

 As predictable as the sound of a choo-choo from a passing train, the media is trying to control how we mourn the loss of Renisha McBride.  The media is trying to riff off the popular stereotype that people of color are overly emotional and therefore, unstable.  That somehow our melanin correlates positively with emotional instability,… Continue reading The Assassination of Renisha McBride, Part 2: Let Us Mourn In Peace!

Cultural Essays · Psycho-spiritual · Uncategorized

My Grandmother’s Grandmother Was EnSlaved

Imagine that your great, great grandmother was born into slavery.  Mine was.  I had the honor and privilege to tape record an interview with my 99 year old great grandmother, Mary Jeffries.  Although our conversation was brief she shared these powerful memories of slavery before she passed away.  The interview you will hear happened in… Continue reading My Grandmother’s Grandmother Was EnSlaved

Cultural Essays

When White Fear Leads To Black Death: Is This What Happened To Renisha McBride?

As you can see from the original post date, this article was written in November 2013.   I still think about Renisha McBride, and now my mourning heart must widen and include so many other people of color who lost their life in similar ways over the year.  I will never accept this as normal,… Continue reading When White Fear Leads To Black Death: Is This What Happened To Renisha McBride?

Cultural Essays · Psycho-spiritual

The Assassination of Renisha McBride: A Brief Analysis of When Racial Profiling, Hate Crimes, and Stand Your Ground Laws Collide.

I went to a writer’s workshop yesterday. The workshop leader was teaching us how to write a good query letter. “To write a good query letter,” he said, “We have to write something that people care about.” I froze and then slid into a historical, existential form of African American sadness. Who cares about the… Continue reading The Assassination of Renisha McBride: A Brief Analysis of When Racial Profiling, Hate Crimes, and Stand Your Ground Laws Collide.

Psycho-spiritual

Someone To Watch Over Me

My older brother Keith died of AIDS in 1989.  He was two years older than me. He was addicted to drugs, heroin I think. The images of him slowly passing away as his body shriveled is still in here. All of us were too confused to really do anything. Not sure why I rarely speak… Continue reading Someone To Watch Over Me

Social Justice News

The Racialized Optics of Televised Sports: Examining Explicit and Implicit Racial Bias

I don’t watch football at all, and so when the hoopla happened around the protest of Colin, I became intrigued.  I get why many people who watch these types of sport can become numb or perhaps oblivious to the racial realities that players and their family members experience, once they step off of the field.  About 77% of NFL fans are white (http://opendorse.com/blog/2013-sports-fan-demographics/).  In a national survey by Gallup Polls, Whites and Black often dramatically differ in their experience of racial relations in America. Some Whites generally see societal systems as fair and equitable while some Blacks and other ethnic groups experience social systems as inequitable, unjust, and punitive.

After all I reasoned with only a cup full of knowledge about team sports, Colin is a quarterback and given that 69% of NFL players are African American men, his protest makes sense to me.  “The NFL is still struggling with the issue of race and African American leadership. Black starting quarterbacks as of August 15th are eight, an increase of one from the 2014 season. Also there is an increase of one in African American Head Coaches: former Defensive Coach Todd Bowles will lead the New York Jets in 2015.” (http://blackathlete.net/2015/08/nfl-black-quarterbacks-numbers-report-1/)

Here is how Colin sees it, and I agree. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” (http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000691077/article/colin-kaepernick-explains-why-he-sat-during-national-anthem). Many of these televised sports serve as visual representations of racial equity while obscuring vast social and economic inequities.

chalabi-sports-diversity-nfl2 chalabi-sports-diversity-nba1chalabi-sports-diversity-mlb-2These sports become innocuous “racialized” salves, whose purpose is to give a rosy picture of race relations through visual implication that racial equality exists from watching whites and blacks playing together on fields or courts. These “games” hide the operational background, historical racist legacies, and private investments that support racist adult play and adult male entertainment.  Watching these types of team sports, while clearly they are popular, meet some form of desire, or provide some form of psychological escape, and they are quite lucrative.  ” NFL games accounted for 34 of the 35 most-watched TV shows last fall [2013], according to TV by the Numbers. Football dominates the world of sports, and live sports dominates the world of television.”

 

 

Uncategorized

Can What Is Lost Be Reclaimed?

Kerry James Marshall – 30: 29

Blog-lyrication

Whitney singing Diana Ross….just a little sumthin, sumthin

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Uncategorized

Puerto Ricans are being used as medical guinea pigs… again

Originally posted on WAR AGAINST ALL PUERTO RICANS:
? Throughout the 20th century Puerto Ricans – particularly Puerto Rican women – were used as lab rats in “clinical trials,” with experimental drugs that harmed their health. The contraceptive pill was “tested” and “refined” in Puerto Rico. Over three decades nearly 200,000 women had their fallopian…

Psycho-spiritual · Social Justice News

I May Die Dreaming Of Black Freedom

I realize on a deep and cosmic level that I may die dreaming of Black freedom.

That will not be fine but I accept all that is, a world that is not safe but can be joyous, the racism, the struggle, and witnessing how so many Whites have remained stuck in honoring White supremacy. Those of you who remain blind to the cost of White privilege.

I know that the history of pain, execution, and torture experienced by my people is real.  That unarmed black and brown folk can be murdered on the street, on camera, and grand juries refuse to indict.  I live with the stench and this sadness.

 

Police should be held accountable for the use of excessive and deadly force.

***

I too know that the young people, those younger than my 56 years, are on fire, lit, and show the true meaning of courageous hearts.

Oh and they have been listening and reading and learning at our tables.

***

Our collective black experience has been internalized and our voices of revolution remain with them.

***

I watch as they chain themselves to poles, ladders, concrete barriers, with raised fists stopping traffic and taking over streets with bullhorns.

I don’t even see myself doing that at their age — so I sit in awe and quiet respectfulness of their courage.

 

***

We will be alright.

 

***

Know this too, that my spirit will live outside of my body, with these words, memories you have of me, and we will be free.

 

I may die dreaming of freedom but in the meantime while I am here, I am part of the collective that fights for human rights.

***

Be Free.

Be Free in all the ways you can be.

Be Free.

 

Social Justice News

EDITORIAL: What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege

Originally posted on GOOD BLACK NEWS:
by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Editor-in-Chief Yesterday I was tagged in a post by an old high school friend, asking me and a few others a very public, direct question about white privilege and racism.  I feel compelled not only to publish his query but also my response to it, as it may…

Social Justice News

How the Peck Peck Peck of Racism Kills Us

Philando Castile was stopped over 52 times for driving misdemeanors prior to his being shot and killed, while a 4 or 5 year old girl, and his girlfriend witnessed the execution. In essence, he was pecked, pecked, pecked to death by a system that engaged in blatant, socially sanctioned, discriminatory behavior. He was killed by… Continue reading How the Peck Peck Peck of Racism Kills Us