Posts tagged with "george floyd"

Troubled Waters: Misdirected Energy In Our 21st Century Awakening

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

Are Americans truly free? The simple answer is no because freedom is not free, and oppressors will never be free until all men are free.

The world is changing. George Floyd’s heinous murder was the latest violent incident that forced people from the comforts of their homes to the streets to protest police brutality and an unequal world that is steadily tilting toward normalcy of all kinds of injustices committed against Black people, including harsh economic inequalities that continue to divide us as a nation. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that our president gave a hefty goodie bag to the wealthiest Americans with the Republican crafted Tax Cuts And Jobs Act of 2017, despite the cost—now and in the future—to already struggling Americans. Thanks to him and the elites he serves, poor people and their children for generations to come are saddled with paying the cost of their wealthy lifestyles. They get to keep raking in the dough by paying fewer taxes, while we sink deeper into debt and poverty. The inhumanity staining these political maneuvers helped pave the road to what’s happening all across America today. 

Make no mistake. This is a nation’s awakening. And, it’s about time that Americans agree that despite our cultural differences, the emperor and his rich crew of servants and benefactors of our miseries are behaving like descendants of colonial enslavers. “To be a slave is not to be able to determine your own destiny,” said Historian and Pan-Africanist Dr. John Henrik Clarke in his speech, Freedom’s Not Free. He explains that until we control our communities and our destiny, we don’t have sovereignty and no true freedom. That’s the blaring truth this nation is facing in this awakening.

Health care, low paying jobs, housing, the cost of education, including the steady pollution of our environment, especially our waters, have yet to compel those in positions to make a difference to do so and reverse the trend of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Why is this? Are the numbers not clear enough? Are Americans not poor enough, sick enough? Is the brutality inflicted on Black people since the birth of our nation not been heinous enough? Evidently not, just look at what’s happening in Kentucky today. People are banging on polling station doors to be let in to vote. It’s reminiscent of the days Black people were beaten and terrorized with dogs and fire hoses when they tried to vote.

These are ever changing times Aretha Franklin sang, and man is that evident these days.  Those with disproportionate power, Mitch McConnell and the GOP, are muzzling voters left and right by closing polling stations, rejecting the option for mail-in ballots, and fear mongering to continue their blatant oppression and power grab, despite the need and loud demand for change. McConnell, determined to honor his lineage of oppressors like those with a death grip on the confederate flag, is no different than the terrorists Fannie Lou Hamer faced during the Mississippi voting rights movement. When Hamer testified before a credentials committee about the brutality she faced in August 1962, President Lyndon B. Johnson, determined to silence her, held an impromptu press conference to note the 9 month anniversary of JFK’s assassination and the wounding of Texas Governor John Connally at the same time she was testifying, knowing he would command the country’s attention at that pivotal moment. He silenced her then but her powerful words and testimony remain, just like her fighting spirit that lives in so many that have taken to the street in protest. Hamer left us with a powerful legacy and a story that matters today. Stories that will help lead us to the mountain top Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned for all Black, Brown and poor people, unless we lose this powerful momentum with misdirected energy fighting each other. The oppressive tactic President Johnson used to silence Hamer is part of the GOP’s playbook. And it’s still being used today to maintain their choke-hold on true freedom and democracy. 

Let’s talk about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. How is one man able to hold so much power over a nation that prides itself as a beacon of freedom and hope for mankind? How can one man, part of a nation of millions, single-handedly gag debate and votes on crucial legislation aimed at enacting the change the people are demanding? Police brutality is rampant but Congress can’t vote on matters like Qualified Immunity, or The Bipartisan Background Checks Act, The American Dream and Promise Act, The Equality Act and Securing America’s Federal Elections Act because one man, leading the Senate GOP, refuses to allow it. Our living document, the Constitution, meant to guide us into a civilizing nation is being used to preserve a dying breed of white men who never expected their power would be threatened by the people they govern, including their own children. They didn’t foresee this moment of mass unrest, so McConnell and the GOP are choosing to weaponize democracy and use it like the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper against us: We the People. McConnell already showed us how capable he is in blocking crucial legislation during the Obama administration. So, do not be deceived, he will continue to put party over country if Kentuckians don’t show him the door this November. And, how spiritual and healing it would be if he’s replaced by Charles Booker, Kentucky’s youngest Black state lawmaker who’s predicted to face him in November.

These are trying times. Many of those protesting in our streets, taking down monuments and forcing changes we never thought we’d see, didn’t live through the Jim Crow era. And they weren’t alive during the civil rights movement either. But it’s beautifully evident they grew up holding dear to the ideals of American democracy instilled in them. As we acknowledge this new dawning, they’re right to be angry and demand change from the top of our forefathers heads to the bottom of the feet of those who continue to blindly carry out their exclusive will and vision for America.

“I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it. And I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it,” James Baldwin wrote in his book, The Fire Next Time. These words, like howling ghosts, are echoing across the land as these protests continue and statues tumble down. Two years ago cities across the country were tiptoeing on the issue of these confederate statues. Today, they’re working overtime to take them down or face the protesters who will tear them down, burn them and throw them in rivers. In many ways, the elders have taught their children well. Who knew they were listening and willing to battle for our nation’s true freedom.

Unfortunately, and like all Black leaders have warned since the abolitionists movement, we are facing a serious threat in these changing times. And that’s the misdirected energy taking place beneath the surface of this just fight. Black writers, civil rights leaders and other influencers are bickering and openly attacking each other on social media. Civil rights lawyers S. Lee Merritt and Ben Crump have been mercilessly attacked for their White House visit for the signing of an executive order calling for more police training to reduce violent incidents, by the likes of Roland S. Martin and even the NAACP in Georgia who went so far to try to untie our fragile Black bond by saying Merritt, who represents the family of Ahmaud Arbery was an, “out-of-state lawyer who does not have deep relationships with our civil rights community.” How petty. This infighting and airing of dirty laundry is the misdirected energy that will undoubtedly derail this opportunity to enact concrete changes and end long standing injustices and structural racism.

Shaun King, a well-known biracial activist, is also being mocked and attacked by other prominent Black writers and influencers. And, according to his recent article, he’s being targeted for assassination by a group of retired law enforcement officials. Just take a trip on Twitter to see how some Black people are treating each other. Michael Harriot and Yvette Nicole Brown and many others are retweeting, sharing and posting about the measure of King’s blackness. The criticism is not new. King has come under scrutiny before and rightfully so. He should be held accountable for his civil rights work, but there’s a difference here and it’s no longer about accountability. It’s about being deserving of his post and the color of his skin, which makes no sense when other light skin figures like Rock Newman and Tom Joyner are easily accepted as Black people in society. It’s a sensitive issue that has always divided Black people. There’s the paper bag test, the good hair measure, and many more divisors that only serves to misdirect us away from what should be a common goal: economic sovereignty and social freedom.

So, it’s not just apathy we must worry about, but the lack of unity among Black people. And, the gap among poor people and other people of color who suffer trauma from racism and white supremacy should also be closed in an all out effort to finally create a world where we all feel good in, not just white people. It’s time to deliberately work toward our collective humanity and fight to end global white supremacy.

Historians have proven time and time again that history is cyclical. And yet, we still don’t learn. If we want to finally come out of this spinning cylinder of repeated events, we have to change our ways. We have to stop fighting each other because it only serves to detract us. It is misdirected energy that is crucially needed in this fight. These protests are real demands for tangible changes in our nation. Change in how the police operate, how American wealth is distributed, how education is achieved, change in housing, access to health care, equality in the workforce, equal pay for equal work, equality for the LGBTQ community, humane immigration policies, and environmental changes. We cannot afford to be distracted by the nonsense of how black King is or whether or not Merritt and Crump belong in certain parts of our country or deserving of the tragic cases they take on. We can’t afford these distractions!

We are at a critical time in our history and the concept of state vs. nation must be considered. Black people have been living in the concept of a state for far too long, and not as part of a nation. If we were part of this nation we wouldn’t need civil rights to be part of American society. This is also about culture continuity and building our economic base. And for that to happen we have to start trusting each other, as Dr. Clarke advised. He said struggle is the highest form of education. Black, brown and poor people must learn through their common struggle. And in that spirit, it’s time to ask the right question. And that is: where do we go from here?

Protests And Policy Is Key Toward Justice In America

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

George Floyd’s little girl is right, he did change the world.

It’s been nearly a week since America started putting out riot fires ignited by an emotional tsunami when Floyd’s callous murder sent shock waves, still rippling, across the globe. The wails of agony and blind rage at the officers responsible, the racism that fueled his death, the oppressive law enforcement system and discriminatory government structure behind it all, is well known by all marginalized people. Especially Black people. And that’s evident in the different responses and reactions to these protests. Some are expressing themselves with violence, while others are taking a more peaceful and measured approach to address the long festering wounds of racism, police brutality, social and economic inequality. The devastating reality of bigotry and discrimination in America has finally come to a head like a boil ready for lancing.

And Floyd’s tragic death is bringing a broad coalition of protesters together to change the state of American society. Unfortunately, there’s no blueprint or manual for a people fed up to adequately respond to a Military obsessed government, putting protesters at risk of losing focus with infighting and disagreements on how to effectively carry out these demonstrations calling for change. Historians, in discussing the leadership styles of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. frequently talk about the lather not having a cohesive strategy to follow through, a collective plan B, if the civil rights marches and protests didn’t prove effective. Gandhi, on the other hand, was effective in uniting Indians on a common course for autonomy from British Rule and were ready to raise the stakes with a plan B, changing their clothes, in other words, using their collective economic powers to fight their oppressor. If Americans want the outcome of these protests to be fruitful beyond the capital B in the new Black, we will need a similar strategy to address institutionalized racism and reform policing.

The momentum created by these protests must energize grassroots campaigns targeting the specific issues highlighted during former President Obama’s town hall meeting on Wednesday. From stopping the practice of choke-holds, deescalation tactics, to implicit bias training. These policies are already in place for law enforcement communities to implement. A recent article in The Atlantic highlights the groups and independent commissions that have provided specific solutions to address police misconduct in America. “Prior tragedies have resulted in a string of independent, blue-ribbon commissions—Wickersham (1929), Kerner (1967), Knapp (1970), Overtown (1980), Christopher (1991), Kolts (1991), Mollen (1992), and the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (2014)—to make recommendations for meaningful change that could address police misconduct. These groups have developed well-reasoned conclusions and pointed suggestions that are widely discussed and enthusiastically implemented—but only for a time. As public attention shifts, politics moves on and police-reform efforts wane. The cycle continues unbroken.” The solution, like the Ten Commandments has been written, but the resolve of politicians to act is still MIA because they can count on protesters losing their way and their will to keep fighting. It’s become the standard of American uprisings. Or, maybe, the fire next time, as laid out by James Baldwin, is here.

Despite the uniqueness of the global protests sparked by Floyd’s death, the risk of apathy and lack of persistence remains a real threat to real change that’s desperately needed. In addition to police accountability, community action at every level addressing systemic racism, through fostering diverse relationships that lead to creating policies based on real-world experiences is sorely needed. Therefore, change must include a more diverse Congress, as well as state and local leaderships. Marginalized folks, especially Black people, have to run for local offices and community boards, just like Black leaders during the early part of the civil rights movement have urged us to do. Moreover, it’s incumbent on all of us to hold those in power accountable to meet a changing nation’s demand for a better country, because it’s going to take a society-wide approach to address our structural challenges rooted in racism.

“It was absolutely clear that the police would whip you and take you in as long as they could get away with it, and that everyone else—housewives, taxi-drivers, elevator boys, dishwashers, bartenders, lawyers, judges, doctors, and grocers—would never, by the operation of any generous human feeling, cease to use you as an outlet for his frustrations and hostilities. Neither civilized reason nor Christian love would cause any of those people to treat you as they presumably wanted to be treated; only the fear of your power to retaliate would cause them to do that, or seem to do it, which was (and is) good enough,” wrote James Baldwin in, The Fire Next Time.

(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Black people are the CEO’s of enough is enough dot com. We’ve been in this sunken place for far too long. The difference of this moment in time, is that finally, the housewives, taxi-drivers, elevator boys, dishwashers, bartenders, lawyers, judges, doctors, and grocers have had enough, too. And not just here in the U.S., but across the world. It is our collective belief in American culture and humanity, at least the promise of it, that is forcing this broad coalition of protesters together this time, some with the need to speak with violence. And that is to be expected when our common understanding of right and wrong, our written and unwritten rules of how we treat one another, our human contract, is continuously violated by those with the most power. The 400 year old violation of our humanity has been vicious and egregious, so much so, that our president saw fit to pepper spray his way through peaceful protesters chanting, “Black Lives Matter” to hold up a bible he doesn’t respect for a photo-op he doesn’t need in front of a boarded up church closed to parishioners. Tragic can’t sufficiently capture this posturing.

The only thing that can passably contextualize his strange movements is this passage in The Insane World Of Adolf Hitler by Chandler Brossard, “It is not in the least surprising that Hitler, who, incidentally, had been born a Roman Catholic, had a highly confusing and contradictory relationship with churches and Christian concepts in general. His actions and words denied the existence of a God, yet the fact that he constantly referred to himself as being “guided by Providence,” and “chosen from on high,” indicates that at least in some ritualistic—or opportunistic part of his mind he really did believe in the divinity. Clearly, this motivated his famous assertion, in the late thirties, before a screaming, chanting wild-eyed Munich audience of thousands, “I go the way that Providence dictates with the assurance of a sleepwalker.” Donald Trump surrounds himself with sleepwalkers, steadily building casual racist pressure under the guise of religion, similar to how Hitler used and abused religion to turn his fellow countrymen against each other, leading to the Jewish Holocaust and WWII. We can’t let that happen again.

Malcolm X said Americans must speak the same language in order for us to understand each other. Thus, it’s time to speak with our protests, money, and our votes, similar to what Gandhi did for Indians and what Rosa Parks did for African Americans with the Montgomery bus boycott. Major companies taking bold actions to fight racism by firing bad employees, ending police contracts with private businesses, firing and charging offending officers, creating opportunities for more minority upward mobility, making strong public statements, and following through with measured transformation, are the changes we need to see. The strong anti-racism reaction from Ben & Jerry’s is the modern leadership this moment needs. Calling for the dismantling of the culture of white supremacy is powerful and refreshingly honest. It recognizes long standing Black pain and suffering. And Citigroup, Netflix and Microsoft making strong statements against racism and discrimination, including the global protests in solidarity against Black oppression in America has been deeply inspiring. A hopeful sign that the winds of change are finally blowing again.

This transformational change will build if marginalized people and their allies continue this fight against a common enemy: racism, police brutality, and growing inequality. Senseless violence doesn’t always discriminate or give rise to passionate protests. Even so, little Black girls like Gianna Floyd are the chief victims left behind when Black fathers are murdered by the police, and Black mothers like Wanda Cooper continue to dominate the fields of grief with the disproportionate loss of their Black boys, like Ahmaud Arbery, to racial violence. Black women like Breonna Taylor still fit perfectly into a certain dimension, an unholy space poignantly expressed by Malcolm X when he said, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman, the most neglected person in America is the Black women.” This has to be reversed, too. These sacrifices are changing the world, but it falls on all of us, rooted in a common belief in humanity, to ensure their deaths, and all those who have met similar fates, are not in vain.

And because the media plays a significant role in narrating our human story, a call for sincere adaptable action on their part, must be part of the restructuring of a more balanced and just America. We can start with condemning the Philadelphia Inquirer recent offensive headline, “Buildings Matter, Too.” George Floyd changed the world, his little girl said. Although he didn’t intent to, through these protests and call for racial equality and policy changes, may the goodness and mercy that comes from his tragic death finally make way for all people to dwell in a better world forever.

What Does A Better America Look Like To You?

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

America is under construction. A job mostly taken up by our young people determined to fix an evil system constructed for the set back of an entire group; black folk. We are in the eye of the storm of these protests raging across the country. Unfortunately, the despair of the streets is at risk of turning a just cause—racial justice, social and economic equality, ending police brutality—into a fight for the preservation of white supremacy and the protection of all the worldly possessions of the out of touch elites. Even though economic inequality and racism are the main reasons we’re here.

While our “president” can only call out for more violence against the oppressed from his chicken bunker, rather than lead in a time of crisis, America’s young people are fighting for the world they want to see beyond their phone and television screens and social media. This generation is demanding change rather than accept the obligation to swallow the illusions of America so many of us have for so long. There is no magic cure to end racism. America won’t flip like a pancake. But, these protests and the people showing up for them, is the hope we need to see rise like dough left over night. Because we have bread to break people; with each other. We need a solid strategy and effective policies with T-Rex teeth ready to bite anything that comes between Americans desperate for change and a more just and equal country. And unfortunately, we can’t depend on Donald Trump or his entire losing team to set the table to address the real threat of racism, social and economic inequalities, police brutality and blatant discrimination that has created a zest pool for the drunk rich and ignorant poor that benefit from these societal ills. That includes all the rich and powerful people, CNN’s Don Lemon called out, who can afford to look away as if America isn’t burning in their backyard, too.

“White people gained the world but lost something. And that’s their ability to love their children,” James Baldwin said. The fire next time is upon us. Just like he said it would be without addressing racial inequality. Many of the young people burning and looting are the children of these white people who chose to gain the world by oppressing black people over loving their children and teaching them to love the world and their fellow man. The price tag for greed is humanity’s highest cost. Nonetheless, change is upon us. And it’s up to each and every one of us to work to push our country toward a better trajectory. And what does that look like? We asked.

What does a better America look like to you? 

In Part 1, we spoke to Nura from Eritrea. During our interview she was accosted by a lone MAGA supported holding a large American flag in front of the White House. The man yelled, “go back to your country!” You can see the exchange in the video below.

Part 2 of the George Floyd protests in DC shows protesters at the White House. Those we spoke to were asked the same question. What does a better America look like to you?

Part 3 starts when an agitator, the man in a grey t-shirt riding away on his bike, after allegedly telling protesters, “go home little girls.” The video shows him clearly making a get-away after spewing his disdain for the marchers. They gave chase but he was able to get away, but not before passing our camera and saying, mischievously, “I don’t know what they’re angry about.” He knew exactly what they were angry about.

Part 4 are the photos taken at the White House protest.

Police Brutality And “Karens” Weapon Of Black Destruction

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

It shakes me to my core when I see these videos. The one of Amy Cooper in New York’s Ramble Park blatantly lying with faux hysteria on the phone with police about being threatened by a black man who simply asked her to leash her dog, and the one of George Floyd being cruelly murdered by a gutless police officer who thought so less of the handcuffed man under his knee, face mushed on asphalt, that he kept his hands in his pocket while crushing his windpipe. When Colin Kaepernick knelt in defense of black people and to stop this type of police brutality he was demonized by many, including the president, and even lost his NFL career for it. And to add more injury to his cause, Jay-Z partnered with the NFL, taking the side of gluttonous greed and wealth over his own people’s fight to end racism and discrimination. He should never be forgiven for making light of the real impact of police brutality. In many ways, he’s a co-signer of Floyd’s murder by abandoning Kaepernick when enough NFL money was put on his table. This is the same reason why Africa lost its attempt to unify as a black continent back in the late 60s and early 70s. Because there’s always a Jay-Z to turn against all for self. Jay-Z wants his money to last multiple lifetimes. Karma will ensure his legacy of greed and following the footsteps of Judas will last longer.

I have to consistently remind myself to avoid the three temptations W.E.B. Du Bois talks about in his book, The Souls of Black Folk. And those three temptations are: 1. the temptation to hate, because hating racist people and white supremacists won’t solve the deadly grip of American racism despite how tempting and easy it can be to answer hate with hate. 2. The temptation to despair, especially when we continue to see black people suffer like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd did. We’ve come too far to not continue our trajectory toward the ideals of America, albeit an arrogant and hypocritical country still reassured by its delusions of grandeur and superiority, despite all the evidence to the contrary. 3. The temptation to doubt. As black people we can’t doubt the dreams of our ancestors. Even though we never got our 40 acres and a mule, doubt is simply not worth entertaining despite how we’re still treated in a country built on the backs of our people. We have too much to lose even though we continue to pay the highest price for the myths of America.

And it’s incredibly hard not to indulge in these 3 temptations as we continue to bear witness to the black Holocaust at our feet. Our brutality hasn’t stopped, despite the many camera angles of it the world witnesses over and over again. It’s easy to become desensitized to it all. Since the founding of American law enforcement, it’s been an endless loop of police brutality inflicted on black people. Day after day, we see black people die by the hands of police, protected by a justice system that backs the violence they inflict on our bodies. Time after time, we’re reminded of the fear black people instill in white society, despite being the victims of their white rage and racism. Season after season we are burdened by the likes of Amy Cooper who use our race as a weapon of black destruction. Cooper is no different than Carolyn Bryant who confessed on her death bed that she lied about Emmett Till accosting her. She’s no different than Susan Smith who callously murdered her own children and blamed it on two black men. Cooper comes from a long line of “Karens” who have weaponized their being. To be a certain white woman in American society, is to cry wolf in sheep clothing, play the victim, blame black people for all their problems, stereotype black men as the boogie man, all while being Rosy the Riveter. Schizophrenic doesn’t even begin to describe the state of America’s Karens. And, unlike black women, they’re protected, allowing them to continue to be…well, Karens.

Although it’s right for Cooper’s victim, Christian Cooper, to speak out against the death threats Cooper is receiving, his opinion that he doesn’t know if she’s racist is a clear example of a man who has lost his black mind. Malcom X spoke of this, too. Christian Cooper may soon be asking Amy Cooper for a hug and forgiveness for exposing her on social media. He clearly knows his place in American society. Despite the stance he took to have her follow the park rules, he’s now coming to her defense. Falling into the long line to protect white women, no matter what. This is how our society functions. Karens can throw stones and then cry that it hurt her arm to do it, making her the victim in the trouble she started. If the world, including NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, can call racism, racism … why can’t Christian Cooper? Unfortunately, we can’t count on this bird watcher to address racism honestly.

Perhaps change needs to happen internally, first, in the African American community for the change we desperately need to see in American society. To end racism is to face it head on. Calling it exactly what it is, unapologetically. We can’t wish it away. We can’t hide behind or take academic positions and pretend that it’s not real, or that it’s similar to flatulence; you smell it but don’t know who passed it. We all know what the Amy Cooper’s and her ilk consistently do. And, we can’t be polite about it. Racism is an ugly American truth and legacy. Recognizing this does not signal the end of our American story. And addressing it justly behind the blue wall can only lead to positive change among police and communities. Our delusion of racism is what poses a mortal threat. Acknowledgement of racism and inequality will open our door, fully, to allow real and lasting change to breeze through. Tackling racism honestly is the master key to understanding the American state craft, as even great powers have limitations.