The arc of justice is long

Dean Alford

Earlier this afternoon the Atlanta Journal Constitution sent out a news alert concerning the resignation of Dean Alford, a member of the Georgia University System’s  Board of Regents. Alford was recently reappointed to the Board by Governor Brian Kemp.

The newspaper details that the Georgia  Attorney General and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation issued arrest warrants for Alford for creating a fraudulent invoice submitted to the state, and for forging the signature of a university employee.

What did Alford do?

The paper’s coverage includes, “Alford is accused of creating a fraudulent invoice acknowledgement form, dated Sept. 24, to submit to a company called Versant, state officials said. The document is alleged to have falsely asserted that the University of Georgia would pay Versant $487,982.88 to satisfy a debt owed to Alford’s own company, Allied Energy Services, LLC, located in Rockdale County.”

That’s not the biggest amount of money, according to the AJC. The article continues with, “He’s also suspected of transmitting fraudulent documents to Versant to make the company believe he had legitimate purchase agreements and accounts receivable with various entities, state officials said. Alford was attempting to sell such accounts receivable to Versant in exchange for $1,798,327.06, investigators said. ”

Alford purchased Allied Energy Services for pennies on the dollar when a judge ordered Cobb Energy holdings, a private shareholding company spun off from the nonprofit Cobb EMC, to be dissolved. Alford’s “haul” at Cobb EMC, the electric membership co-op in the north Atlanta suburbs, was close to $18Million according to 2015 news coverage.

But there’s more. Much more.

Allied Energy Services was awarded a no-bid contract to develop Plant Washington, a $6Billion proposed coal plant that soaked up millions of dollars from EMCs in Georgia under the umbrella of Power for Georgians. The electric co-op in Washington County, Washington EMC, sunk $1Million of member-owner dollars into the boondoggle plant, slated to be built just miles from my home, and the homes of a small group of local citizens who became the Fall-Line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE). Alford never secured financing, power purchase agreements, or customers. FACE has never wavered in its grassroots committment to protecting our natural resources and the health of our families and friends.

January 25, 2012

The adventures of FACE, and those of others in Washington County, have been detailed on this blog since Plant Washington was proposed in January 2008. The saga involves seeing fellow citizens for who they truly are, or are not. FACE leaders earned the rights to our story through hard work and selfless determination.

I’ll close here by adding that FACE and our partners have waited years to throw the biggest celebration to ever happen in Washington County. We’ve got a party to plan and invitations to send to those who stood with us.

How We Have Failed Since September 11, Redux

First posted here on September 10, 2014

How We Have Failed since September 11

Tonight President Obama will address the nation about ISIS and any actions that we may take in response to the horrific murders of Americans and innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.

Tomorrow there will be an observance in my community, and many others, to honor the thousands of lives lost to hate and terrorism, and to support the families and friends who knew someone they loved would never return home again.

Since September 11, 2001 we as a country have talked a lot about being kinder to one another and being a better country. Yet 13 years later this is what consumes us as a country:

  • fighting about allowing two consenting adults of the same-sex to legally marry each
  • failing to take care of the thousands of veterans who have defended our country, many of whom returned with horrible wounds from the Middle East since September 2001
  • allowing private corporations to decided which forms of legal birth control they will cover for employees through company based health insurance because some corporations should have the same privileges as churches
  • granting corporations the same rights as citizens so businesses can pour money into elections and our representatives’ pockets
  • making it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote
  • subsidizing corporations with huge tax breaks while their employees working full-time never earn enough to break the poverty barrier
  • denying the hard facts of science because profits should come before cleaning up the mess we’ve made of the entire planet
  • deporting children
  • complaining about failing schools while slashing teacher pay and testing our children to death
  • sitting by silently while racism and sexism are displayed proudly
  • being sure we can take our assault rifles into the grocery store
  • we pay for and support violence on playing fields, in the movies we watch, video games we buy, music we listen to, and television shows we watch, but we react with horror when students are sprayed with bullets in their classrooms, women are drug from elevators by their hair, students are bullied, children and women are raped as well as being forced into prostitution
  • too many among us are convinced that their brand of faith should be followed above all others, and if necessary the rights of other citizens should be denied because they choose to worship differently, or not at all

We absolutely should remember and honor the victims of September 11th’s violence. I’m just not convinced we are a country that is a better reflection of the democratic values and freedoms which terrorists intended to destroy 13 years ago.

 

McConnell finds his voice

After weeks of political laryngitis on the government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) found the will to say that fellow Republican Rep Steve King (R-Iowa) should “find another line of work.”

During a recent interview lasting almost an hour, King said he doesn’t understand how white nationalist, pro Western civilization, and white supremacist language are offensive. Trump says he “hasn’t been following” the fallout over King’s most recent statements. Perhaps Trump’s lack of interest, or outrage, reflect his own comfort with King’s views?

Steve King
(Congressional photo)

In the mean time, King has been stripped of committee appointments by his own party. Without  committee assignments to craft and vote on bills as they are developed, King’s ability to robustly represent Iowa’s only Republican district in Congress has shrunk to hoping he can find anyone in his party to lobby for his district as bills move towards the House floor. James Clyburn, (D-South Carolina) will introduce a call to censure King in the House.

King has announced 39 district town hall meetings this year. I’m not sure those meetings, due to certain protests and counter-protests, will even happen. The country, and the world, will be watching.

Two things about this election

There are two things I’ve thought before the election and remain committed to as we wait for more votes to be counted.

1. Georgia needs to change our Constitution to require a Secretary of State to resign if running for a different office. Changing the Constitution shouldn’t be the path to solving every problem, but it is the only way to address the less than above-board election this year, and protect future contests.

2. Yes, Nancy Pelosi has raised lots of money for Democrats, and yes, she corralled Democrats during difficult issues (Democrats say Pelosi has eyes in the back of her head, knows who is in the room, and how they will vote at any given moment). When do we make room for a new leader like this if not now? Could Pelosi be an interim Speaker with a transition plan to pass the gavel, as suggested by my friend and former Congressional candidate Carol Miller of New Mexico? With a wave of newly elected “firsts” across the country, it is time to pass the role of Speaker to someone with solid knowledge of the House and Congress. There is a role for Pelosi, but it shouldn’t be as Speaker of the House.

Hear the candidates with your own ears!

Early voting is underway across Georgia with hotly contested races for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Insurance Commissioner, and of course Congressional districts. Being an informed voter requires doing the homework, and one of the best ways to do that is to listen to the candidates themselves. I love political pundits and editorial columns more than most people, but someone else’s coverage of what a candidate says isn’t the same as hearing them yourself (or reading their policy positions on their web sites).

Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta Press Club are hosting multiple candidate debates that are free and easy for the public to access online. Watch live or find them later on demand, or do both to go back and make sure you are clear on what was said, or just as important, what wasn’t said.

Whether you’ve made up your mind or not, these debates are good opportunities to learn more about the candidates. Time consuming? Sure.

But Georgia state senate and house members, and US House members, have a total of 17,520 hours on the clock during the two years as your representative. Four year representatives are in for 35,040 hours. Invest a little of your time over the next few days to know the candidates better.

 

The new generation of leaders

The Friday Photo

Decatur High School, Decatur, GA

Students walked out or took a knee on Wednesday because #enoughisenough. I stood with them and for them.

What I’m reading about last night

What I’m reading about last night (link to the address is below from the New York Times):

WAPo: “In describing his bleak vision of a ruined United States exploited by foreigners, Mr. Trump wrote a series of checks he almost certainly cannot cash.”

The ugliest moment in the 60-minute address came when Mr. Trump announced the formation of an office on “Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement,” and then introduced families of people allegedly murdered by illegal immigrants. It was an appeal to raw prejudice and fear that will do nothing to promote the national unity he claims to be seeking. (emphasis added)

WAPO: Fact checking demonstrates that Trump continues to take credit for things he didn’t do, including the sourcing for DAPL pipeline materials

WaPo: Why any glow from last night won’t last very long

WaPo: The word you didn’t hear last night

NYT: Video of the address to Congress and NYT Washington correspondents comments and analysis during the speech and the Democratic response

NYT: Did Bannon and Miller talk Trump away from a pivot on immigration during lunch yesterday?

NYT: Five takeaways from last night’s speech

Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal Constitution on pouring money into the military,
“In short, this is not a carefully thought-out strategy from the Trump administration, based on consultation with the experts and our allies. Instead, the man who took five draft deferments to avoid fighting in Vietnam, the man who says that he knows better than the generals how to defeat ISIS and who claims he understands the military because he attended a military-themed boarding school, is offering a military strategy fueled largely by his own deep personal insecurities.”

Being Present Redux

I thought the hardest day of 2016 was going to be the morning of November 9th. My eight year old grandson, who said a woman ought to have a chance at being president, called to ask me who won the election. I couldn’t choke back my tears. I guessed the worst thing I would do in 2016 was tell him that I was seeing a world I didn’t want for him.

I was wrong.

Less than a month later my 10 week old grandson, Brayer, suddenly stopped breathing, and his 26-year-old parents made the hard decision to remove him from life support.

Brayer
Brayer (the morning after waking his parents up every hour during the night)

There aren’t many hours left in 2016, but after putting part of  Christmas dinner in the oven on Sunday and walking down to the cemetery to find my daughter and son-in-law sitting by their infant son’s grave, well, 2016, I don’t have anything more to give, and those two young parents don’t either.

As November’s disappointments settled in, and the month of December has crept along, I find myself returning to a commitment I made in 2012, which was a promise to myself, and others, to Be Present in 2013.

As the election season sped up this year, I knew there would be lots of work ahead.  I didn’t think the work would be bare-knuckled battles against the Twitter-length ideas of a man with a really bad comb-over, scary illusions of his abilities, the temperament of a tired three-year old, and a failure to understand that facts are facts, regardless of whether they go along with what you believe or want for yourself.

My calendar has dates marked for Being Present. Events are easy because they require setting time aside in advance. The bigger challenge for me is Being Present in some capacity every day. It means living my values every day, and holding businesses, community leaders. elected officials, and their supporters, responsible for theirs. This is not the time to look away from hate, racism, intolerance, violence, and so many isms.

On November 9th I told my grandson Chase I will do my best to build a better world for his generation. I have to Be Present every day in 2017 to do that work. And in doing so, my hope is that the ragged edges of my heart will begin to mend too.

 

Van Jones put his finger on it last night

Last Thursday I drove to Hendersonville, North Carolina for an annual event called Life Is A Verb Camp. On the way home Sunday afternoon I opted for less interstate and more two lane roads.

In addition to the fall-colored leaves I saw lots of Trump/Pence signs, which really didn’t surprise me as a fellow Southern rural citizen. What had been floating around in the back of mind for a long time began to move more to the front of my thoughts; how are the polls capturing the rural voter? Are they getting to us at all? Am I underestimating the urban turnout?

Last week Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight polling and punditry kept setting aside the poll numbers at a certain point in his figuring, which dogged me about who people say they will vote for and what they will do in the privacy of the voting booth.

Last night Van Jones put his finger on what I was thinking: white-lash. It has been a large and unspoken element in the room on top of the anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Semitic, anti-woman, my version of Christianity is the only one, anti-choice, denying access to affordable health care, putting profits before our natural resources, loosening gun control laws, and the list goes on and on.

I live among the voters who showed up in force at the polls and elected Donald Trump and Mike Pence; white rural Americans.

It should not be a surprise to readers of Rural and Progressive that I write from a perspective that there are two Americas, an urban and a rural America. Many rural Americans harbor some level of racism. I’ve heard it and seen it. For some people that has been the unspoken driver behind opposition to all-things Obama. And it brought people out in force to elect a TV personality whose favorite line is, “You’re fired.”

Yesterday white rural America told Donald Trump and Mike Pence, “You’re hired.”

I may live in rural America, but the not so subtle racism and divisive values espoused by Trump and Pence are not my values. And they aren’t the values of every rural American.

I’m no less proud of being a Hillary supporter today than I was yesterday, because I believe in a country where diversity is valued and celebrated. That’s the country I will continue to help build.

Last night’s greatest hits

As a historian, I am a believer in hearing things for yourself and reading primary documents. Ezra Klein has excerpts from last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Ford Motor Company had to fact check Trump on September 15th (below),
followed by some of the greatest hits from the debate:

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-51-12-am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-9-15-29-am

 

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-29-17-am

 

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-44-28-am

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-30-00-am

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-44-01-am

 

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-9-25-04-am

And perhaps my favorite

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-9-03-58-am

 

 

 

 

The Truth About Interracial Marriage in 2016

Reposted with permission from Grace Kelley. The original post appeared on Tuesday, September 13, 2016 on The Millennial Falcon, All the list-icles that are fit to print.

The Truth About Interracial Marriage in 2016

Yesterday, when the shooting of Terence Crutcher started going viral, I posted this as my Facebook status:

“All my Facebook memories are about how [husband] and I were going to get married in a week this time last year, or how we were about to celebrate our one-year anniversary six years ago, but all I can think about is how I’ll have to hold him a little tighter tonight.”

I was hoping to give people a little glimpse into my reality, but I’m not sure everyone got it. So let me spell it out for you: I have to hug my husband a little tighter because he’s Black.

***
I have admittedly not been in an intra-racial marriage but I am constantly trying to show people that my marriage and theirs are not terribly different. My husband and I bicker about the normal things: chores, his front seat driving, whose responsibility dinner was on that particular day. We were asked about our biggest, most recent fight in pre-marital counseling and my husband said, truthfully, that it was about Sansa Stark’s character growth, or lack thereof, on Game of Thrones.

But the differences are pointed—notice how I said “front seat” driving earlier? That’s because I drive us everywhere. On paper he is the better driver; I have a few fender-benders on my record, and my husband will tell you that he has witnessed us almost get into many fender benders in the duration of our relationship. The short answer for why I drive everywhere is because he has terrible car anxiety. The long answer is I have terrible car anxiety, for him.

We are fortunate enough to say that we only have one sour experience with law enforcement. When we were sophomores in college, my husband was pulled over. We were running late for a play because the local Chinese restaurant had taken an hour and a half to make our food for pickup. He legally passed someone on the dotted yellow line, not going above the speed limit to pass. (And this was a small state road, so the speed limit was 35. For my husband to pass someone while still managing to go that slowly means the person he passed was going REALLY slowly.) We drove to outside the theater on the college campus, he put his hazards on, and I dashed back to my dorm room to get the tickets to the play.

When I got back, there was a cop car with blue lights flashing. The cop and my husband were arguing, benignly but bitterly, that my husband had been speeding. I sat down in the passenger’s seat and in my sweetest, most innocent Southern belle voice said, “What seems to be the problem, Officer?”

The officer said that my husband had been speeding. I said I was there and I had not seen the speedometer go above 35. The officer looked between us and let my husband go with a warning dripping with racist contempt, even using the word “boy.”

Some people I tell this story to ask me with dramatic wonder if I think my presence saved my husband’s life that night. It’s one of those questions that reveals more about the asker than the answerer. I’m his wife, not his white savior, but I digress. I don’t think it would have come to that, but a dark voice in the recess of my mind says, “So did all the victims of recent police shootings. They didn’t think stopping their car on the side of the road because it broke down or reading a book while waiting for someone would ‘come to that’ either.”

And that’s what makes my bones feel like concrete when these stories come out. My husband and I got the same degree from the same prestigious university. We were both on the dean’s list. We got the same academic awards. He was an RA all four years in school—yes, even as a freshman—and former bosses, from Taco Bell in high school to his current position, consistently say he’s the best employee they’ve ever had. He is a son, a brother, an uncle, a husband, a human being. He loves video games. He is an excellent, inventive cook. He sings as frequently as you or I might breathe. He’s not even aware he’s doing it most of the time. Where there is air, he must fill it with song.

But if the wrong cop feels the wrong sort of way, all of that won’t matter, and my husband could answer for it with his life. All that we have worked for and will work for could be gone in an instant. Marriages that don’t end in divorce end by one of the partners dying before the other, and I am frankly tired of feeling like my days with him are numbered.

It hurts to see friends and family champion “family values” and then go on to use the hashtag “#BlueLivesMatter” or “#AllLivesMatter.” They write about how police officers have spouses and children who worry that their loved one might not make it home tonight, and I want to scream that I have the SAME EXACT FEAR for my family, but no, my fear is “unfounded paranoia” despite hours upon hours of cell phone footage that says otherwise, I and my husband have nothing to be afraid of if we really haven’t done anything wrong.

It’s not that I don’t respect and admire cops. Far from it. I’d say 90% of my interactions with them have been positive despite the fact that cops, like doctors, often see people during the worst moments of their lives. It’s just that people bristle when I demand that cops treat me and my family with the same respect and that seems . . . off.

It would save us all a lot of time if these “family values” people would just come out and admit that my little fledgling family doesn’t have value to them.

***
On Saturday, my husband and I leave for our honeymoon. I will drive. We are visiting relatives in Selma, where the Edmund Pettus Bridge is, and then we will get to the beach. We’ll agree that he should stay in the car if I have to get gas in rural south Alabama. He doesn’t need me to “save” him like the person I wrote about before seems to think, but my white bullshit-tolerance is higher than his.

A couple of months ago, I had a dream about our son. We don’t have kids yet but there was no mistaking that this child was half mine, half his. He had dark ringlets the size of pencils. Big brown eyes that will just make you melt. A dimple in his left cheek like his father and I both have.

I woke up in pain, not normal-stiffness but those concrete bones. Something has to change before we meet this kid. Something.

Black men aren’t the problem

Last night I went to bed knowing that an unarmed black man was shot in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This morning I woke up to a news report of yet another black man killed by police in my hometown, Charlotte, North Carolina. Police say Keith Lamont Scott, age 43, wasn’t the suspect they were looking for in a search near UNC Charlotte. Right now the police say he had a gun, and his daughter says she didn’t.

Black men are being shot by police officers whether they are armed or not. Standing by a broken down car, waiting for a child to get off a school bus, or simply waking up as a black man, is a danger to that man’s safety every day.

It is life-threatening to wake up as a black man in the United States.

But, f you are a young privileged white man like former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, you can wake up, get crazy drunk one night, rape an unconscious woman, and then blame your actions on the party culture of Stanford University, where you were enrolled on a sports scholarship. The judge who hears your case, Aaron Persky, will sentence you for a scant six months because,”A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said. “I think he will not be a danger to others.” And then you’ll get to go home after serving half of your “sentence.”

Brock Turner’s cakewalk with the justice system is one reason #blacklivesmatter is a very real issue in our country. It has been a long time coming. If you are a white person who feels threathened by what is happening in our country, imagine how it feels to wake up as a black man every day.

Newton County woman too cowardly to claim her own words

The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s coverage of yesterday’s public hearing in Covington, Georgia, about a building permit request for a new mosque in Newton County, brought out the worst in many local citizens, according to an article by Meris Lutz.

Lutz quotes a woman who said, “To say we wish to disallow this project based on religious discrimination … is ludicrous and hypocritical,… They are discriminating against us by calling us infidels who do not believe in their religion.”

Lutz includes that the woman did not give her name.

Think about that- an adult woman took time to go down to the county’s public hearing on a building permit, she said that Muslims discriminate against “us,” but she refused to tell the reporter what her name is.

In today’s America, and especially in the South, when people show up like this over anything to do with a mosque, I’m confident that the “us” she’s talking about are right-wing Conservative Christians. They qualify as one of America’s most paranoid groups.

What I find curious, is that if you aren’t willing to put your name on your convictions, then what are your beliefs and convictions worth anyway?

Baton Rouge is a microcosm of our country

The Friday Photo
July 15, 2016

I don’t have a photo this week, instead I am sharing a video circulating on the web that I made myself watch last night.

When police wearing militarized gear charge peaceful protestors on private property, I see a community consumed with racist fueled hate. Baton Rouge is a microcosm of our country.

White people like me, privileged simply by the color of our skin, cannot look away, or excuse away, what is happening. If you say nothing when someone defends militarized police actions like this, you are part of the problem too.

A few words borrowed from Rob

This is reposted from a new blog, by Ellen Oltman Kellner, Ellen is Okay.

In follow-up to yesterday’s post:

My son’s experience yesterday in Baton Rouge, and thoughts following. The militarization of our local police departments terrifies me. -Ellen Oltman Kellner

A few words borrowed from Rob
July 11, 2016

Rob Kellner
Rob Kellner

I don’t tend to post long statuses, but I find it hard to stay silent after what I saw in Baton Rouge. This post is intended to urge white people (myself included) to participate more fully in the movement against racism on all levels. I do hope you take the time to read this.

Yesterday, I saw dozens of police officers clad in riot gear and armed with assault rifles violently suppress a nonviolent protest calling for police accountability, peace, and justice in Baton Rouge. Despite the fact that the protestors were acting within their constitutional rights to assemble peacefully, the police arbitrarily determined that it was no longer a peaceful protest and forcibly removed people from the sidewalks and even from the home of someone kind enough to open her space to the demonstration. The police treated the protestors like they were violent criminals ready to riot when in actuality, the only thing that threatened violence was the militarized and aggressive police force.

It is this kind of confrontation, out in the open, that makes it so clear to me that the police (and I don’t necessarily mean individual officers, but rather the overall nature, culture, and function of modern American police) really does not protect and serve the American people so much as the status quo – which means, of course, that it protects and serves white people’s interests over the interests of black people. This is such an obvious and visceral fact to any person of color, but as a white person, it’s easy to avoid. I never even faced the threat of police brutality until I participated in this protest, and even then, I was significantly less a target than any black person was and I would have been subject to significantly less violence. Moreover, as a white person, this conflict could have been entirely out of sight and mind had I just stayed home and chosen not to think about it. For black America, there is no such choice.

I have also been reflecting on the nature of organized oppression and racism in America today and how it is not confined to police brutality, let alone such obvious confrontations with the police. Racism is supported by our criminal justice system, our educational systems, our health care systems, local housing policies, corporate hiring procedures, macroeconomic policies, and individual consumer decisions, to name just a few. In general, there are endless opportunities to confront racism in American society. And for white America, it is just as easy to avoid these confrontations in everyday life as it is to stay at home from a protest.

So white people, let’s not “stay home” – let’s confront the ways that racism impacts our interpersonal relationships, our workplaces, and our communities. Let’s support local leadership and vote to bring about change. Let’s focus on transforming the systems of oppression in a constructive and lasting way. Perhaps most importantly, let’s address and correct the ways in which our actions (or inaction) serve to uphold systems of racism. If we struggle to find any such opportunities, we aren’t looking hard enough.

I also write this in the hopes that you all will hold me accountable to do the same.

I leave you with this: as many leaders have said before, we cannot fully be free until we liberate ourselves from the role of the oppressor and inextricably tie our freedom to that of the oppressed.

Thanks for reading.

Henchmen in the Trump campaign

It isn’t hard to deconstruct the rantings of someone who uses the vocabulary of a third grade bully. Presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump has surrounded himself by people of the same mindset. A Tweet by King Robbo,  @realkingrobbo, who identifies himself as a lobbyist and “Donald’s General of Memetic Warfare” calls for bringing back one of the very worst elements of Jim Crow days, “disappearing” of black people.

Thank goodness for screen shots that capture the incredible amount of hate being spewed by Trump and his band of thugs. @realkingrobbo Tweeted this, but later deleted it:

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 10.33.42 AM

#BlackLivesMatter leader DeRay McKesson was arrested in Baton Rouge, LA Saturday night during a peaceful protest. The march was held in response to Alton Sterling’s death Tuesday night when Baton Rouge police officers shot him multiple times, after tackling him to the ground.

How does “Donald’s General of Memetic Warfare” respond to McKesson’s arrest? He calls for Baton Rouge police to, “Come on boys, be HEROES!” by hoping @deray gets “disappeared.”

If you’re wondering what kind of police state Donald Trump and his henchmen would try to impose on the United States, or at least on people of color and any other groups Trump hates, this is a stunning example.

This is not an election where Trump supporters each of us may know can be excused away for supporting this vile person. When it comes to hate and discrimination, there really isn’t any room for dividing up the pluses and minuses of a candidate. Votes cast for Trump are votes cast for “disappearing” black men under police custody.

 

Changing the legacy of white violence

The Friday Photo
July 8, 2016

photo from Form Follows Function
photo from Form Follows Function

Deafening Silence: White Silence and Alton Sterling
Ryan Williams Virden, Form Follows Function

I want to start by being very specific about who I am talking to; this post is meant for people who look like me, those of us with white skin.

Many of you woke up this morning and heard the news about Alton Sterling, the 37 year old man who was shot and killed by the police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The sickening feeling in your stomach probably hit you hard as you watched the cell phone footage of a police officer charging and tackling Sterling to the ground. You knew what was coming next. And, within seconds you saw it: the police officer mounts Sterling like a UFC fighter. There is no confrontation. No struggle. Sterling is subdued and then another officer yells “Gun. Gun.” The officer on top of Sterling pulls his gun and within seconds fires multiple rounds killing Alton Sterling.

This morning my Facebook feed is full of yet another hashtag, #AltonSterling. So many of the Black and Brown people I’m connected to have no need to see the video. They say as much. They already know what happened, and, sadly, how this will play out. There is outrage; there is disgust; there will be calls for patience and to let the system work; what there won’t be is justice. And this is where I find myself this morning. Pondering my role in justice. What I’ve come to is overwhelming in its simplicity and crushing in it’s complexity. We are responsible for justice.

I don’t mean we in the vague and generalized sense that it is often used. I mean we, me and you, people with white skin. The reason this genocide against people of color continues is because far too many of us remain complicit in our silence. I thought about not writing this this morning. I thought about just retreating in my feelings of disgust, outrage, and grief. But that is not my job. Every time I, or anyone of you, retreats into silence we breath life into the killing machine. downloadEvery time we urge restraint or make apologies, or rationalize this brutality we are degrading our own spirit. And make no mistake this is a spiritual endeavor. Our souls are being crushed under the weight of whiteness. How much longer can we take it? How much longer can we acknowledge how broken our world is and ignore the weapon used to break it?

I also don’t mean justice as in jail time for the police. Though that would be something, I think. I mean justice as in creating a world that truly values the lives of Black, Brown, Asian, and Native people. I mean a justice that leaves no need for an Ethnic studies curriculum because truth-telling is already the curriculum. I mean a world where #BlackLivesMatter and Native Lives and Latinx Lives and Asian Lives. I mean a world where Donald Trump would be embarrassed to show his face, and my students wouldn’t chuckle at the idea of not having to struggle. I mean that kind of justice. We are responsible for ushering that world into existence.

The first step to creating this justice is to understand how it was sidelined in the first place. We must understand the way that whiteness — fitting into the Anglo-Saxon archetype –has been valued historically via formal avenues such as legislation and school curriculum as well as informal ones such as social customs,traditions and practices. Because much of this is passed down through generations, or happens away from public scrutiny, or is largely implicit it is necessary to learn and then unlearn this sordid history and way of being. Once we can come to grips with the ways whiteness keeps us from our own humanity and strangles our souls there is no other choice then to struggle for this justice. We won’t struggle because we are trying to help anyone else, or feel bad for them; we will struggle because our own freedom, our own humanity, is tied up with everyone else’s. As we continue to bear witness to whiteness destroying communities of color while cannibalistically devouring those of us with white skin this unlearning is the only choice we have if we ever hope for peace.

This last week a petition went around calling for the firing of Jesse Williams because his speech at the BET Awards was “racist.” When Shonda Rhimes heard about it she shut it down quickly, this is positional power, and it’s a real thing. Well, white folks have positional power in society. Once we have unlearned whiteness (and even before that) we need to be using this power not to simply name our privilege and then cower behind guilt, that is about as weak as weak gets; we need to use it to stand up and demand fundamental, radical, structural changes. To fail to do this is to betray humanity, it is to betray ourselves. There must be no compromise here. There is no compromise with the humanity of our brethren. This is especially true on days like today, days when whiteness has taken another life. Left another family fatherless. Left another community in mourning trying to survive loss. These are the days when our voices need to be the loudest, they must be clarion voices calling for the dismantling of whiteness.

The silence is deafening and it must be broken. Lives, ours included, depend on it.

Photo unavailable

The Friday Photo
December 11, 2015

I couldn’t manage a photo of what I saw this week, but it bears describing.

At an office supply store I watched an elderly man getting information for some type of technology problem he couldn’t solve. The young man at the service counter very patiently repeated what needed to be done, and assured the customer that if he brought the item in, the problem could be solved. The customer left to go get the item out of of his car.

The elderly man was wearing Confederate flag suspenders and a replica Confederate battle cap. The polite young man at the counter was black.

The irony was almost more than I could stand.