Debunking An Oft-Used Term: Black on Black Crime

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Sorry to get serious, but sometimes I need to get these thoughts out there so that they stop spinning around in my head. In this case, I also want to preserve some data from a valuable post at Demos from last summer:

Black on Black Crime Facts

Additionally – in MOST cases, crimes are committed inTRAracially. Folks naturally gravitate to people of their own culture. Sure, we mix it up here and there in some urban centers and at work but LARGELY people spend their off hours within their own race/cultural background. Therefore, the opportunity for crimes happens within our own spaces. White on white, black on black, Hispanic on Hispanic, Asian on Asian etc.

When someone brings up the “black on black crime” topic, what they are doing is perpetuating the MYTH of “scary black people” and also DERAILING (often successfully) any constructive conversations that are attempted on race relations.

Don’t fall for it.

Own Your White Privilege

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Since I wrote this post: Dear Trayvon last year, you knew I had to react to the verdict after the trial of George Zimmerman.  Let me share with you some things I’ve learned over the last year and a half.

I HONESTLY had NEVER heard of, or at least, internalized the concept of White Privilege before last year. That post in reaction to Trayvon’s murder was me expressing myself rather passionately after truly coming face to face with what it meant. That it means my sons can walk around without worrying about HALF of things that non-white people have to worry about.

Yes, I say “non-white” not just black because that is the reality in America.

I think back to over a decade ago when my Chinese American boyfriend described to me how he was profiled on the streets of the house he had purchased. A neighborhood of over half million dollar homes back then. He was driving a bit of a “beater” car as he called it since he used to have two jobs and his second job was in food delivery. He wasn’t going to risk the wear and tear, and food smells in a nice car when he did that job. He was questioned outside his new home twice as the homes were under construction. Once by a security cop tasked with keeping an eye on the newly framed homes, and once by a policeman patrolling the area. On one occasion there was another soon to be neighbor – white – also checking out his new property who was not approached. White privilege on display.

Now I need to introduce you to some folks who have exposed me to the continuing concept of it that has made me more deeply aware of how it is all around me, all the time.

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Elon James White, Aaron Rand Freeman and Dacia Mitchell aka Team Blackness from the ThisWeekInBlackness podcast.  I’ve been listening to all their shows since before Trayvon, but no voices have been more clear and reasonable on the topic than theirs. This pic is from NN13 in San Jose when I was lucky to sit in front of them as they broadcast from there. I’m not getting into that here, that will be a post on my other site as I continue my NN13 write up…BUT…last night after the verdict came in, they jumped online at the spur of the moment and started broadcasting live and taking phone calls. Three hours last night, and another three this morning. Just letting people vent. And no, not all black people.

In fact, one of the first calls that really stuck in my mind was a white teacher from the midwest teaching mostly black children who wanted to know what he could do for his students. He wanted to make sure he knew the right way to let them talk and direct and hopefully ease their anger and anxieties. Allies like him are golden.

But then there were many moms and dads calling in. Expressing fears and anger similar to my first post. How their children cannot walk through their days in the same way that white children can. A mom talking about how her 13 year old cried upon learning of the verdict and expressed how the results sent him the message that he was expendable.

That was a really hard message to hear. But, I get it. There is a constant message out there that (as Jasiri X wrote in his song about Trayvon) “Only white life is protected in America.” I never thought about that, and of course I don’t want to believe that it is ALWAYS that way 100% of the time, but I am certainly completely aware that it IS that way a vast majority of the time.

I get why the callers expressed feelings of still not being completely valued as 100% American citizens in their own country. Look at the recent ruling about the Voting Rights Act. There are some deeply felt opinions – amongst the straight white males seeped neck deep in their privilege – that racism is not a problem anymore. Oh, they are so wrong.

It is different to be sure, but it is not GONE.

Aaron called in and expressed his sadness at learning that a good friend – a “brother” who he loves, but who is white – displayed his white privilege last night in reaction to the verdict. He referred to Trayvon as a troublemaker. A thug, just as the defense had so effectively argued. In other words, as Aaron said, his friend thought Trayvon was “shootable”. You could hear the hurt in Aaron’s voice. Some people don’t get that it had NO bearing on the case what Trayvon had done before. He was not expendable. not shootable. Not a valid target for arbitrary elimination. There are white people who think that they are not racist, and they probably are not 100% of the time. But like Aaron’s friend, they also have bought into some narratives about black men that influences their opinions on their value. This friend really does NOT understand, or empathize, with the reality of Aaron’s daily life in New York when he can be stopped and frisked for no earthly reason. He doesn’t GET that they could be walking together, and Aaron would be stopped, and he would not and the worst part is, he probably doesn’t think that would be a problem. Well, he would think it was unfair if it happens to Aaron because he knows Aaron isn’t a “thug”, but he doesn’t think it would be a problem for most other black men.

White privilege AND unconscious racism right there.

I think the one that struck me the deepest though was the last call of the night. A fourth generation military veteran. Black. Who cried talking about how he still isn’t free in his own country. He makes sure he has a veteran tag on his license plate so that WHEN (not if) he is pulled over the cops will see he served his country and maybe not hassle him too much. The same country that looks at him with wary eyes. That clutches its purse tighter and walks over to the other side of the street of slides further away on the park bench or bus. Because he is *never* seen primarily as one of US, but as one of THEM. A scary black man. Though he has done nothing to deserve that. He wept talking about how he LOVED that when he was in Germany, if he was harassed, he knew it was for being an AMERICAN. And only that. When he comes home, he is harassed for being black. He still doesn’t feel like he belongs.

Whites have privilege. My older son has had multiple run ins with the law. But I never feared for his life or safety. When he approached the many judges he did, I never felt he wouldn’t get a fair shake. He was hampered and delayed in clearing up his court issues due to his own lack of responsibility and money. But, he is done now. He’s cleared all his cases and debts and will have his driver’s license back next week. I have a hard time believing that if he were black, it would not have been much worse.

Here is the message that I took away from the conversations as I wondered what I could do:

Talk and listen to people not like you. Empathize with their situation. Be an ally.

Recognize and own your white privilege. Because every time one of us does that, it loses a little of its power.

#JusticeForTrayvon

Cancer is not a game, and neither is sports anymore

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This has been eviction week #2 which meant outpatient surgery to remove two perfectly round 2cm sized fibroids that were benign but excruciatingly annoying as hell for the last few months. While it was a very easy procedure, it does mean that I am spending a lot of time just lounging around and reading a lot.

As a result, I’m sharing some of the articles that I found the most compelling. One stands alone and then others all follow a theme.

Just call me Arianna Jr as I curate my way to a decent post for the week!

The first is by a lady who I recently started following on twitter and who has already enlightened me so so much about what it means to be living with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. She is @AdamsLisa on twitter and her post is:

Breast cancer is not a Facebook status game

Here’s an excerpt:

Anyone who has breast cancer and uses your FB status update as an indicator of whether you support their cause is not very enlightened. When I rank “how to help those of us with cancer,” sharing one of these paragraphs as a status update is the lowest possible method of showing support. There are endless ways to do that. I think it actually is the opposite; sharing these status updates makes people feel they are doing something real for breast cancer causes when they aren’t.

Those status updates have ALWAYS rubbed me the wrong way but there was a part of me that pulled away from criticizing them because I didn’t want to seem callous or to offend anyone who might actually have cancer who appreciated those sentiments. Finding out that someone with cancer viewed these status games the same way I do means that I will be saving this link to post in those comment threads should they show up in my timeline again.

And now – on to sports! Which is supposed to be a game, but also isn’t so much anymore. In all of these stories, the themes are this (In My Humble Opinion anyway)

1) The media – with the exception of the people writing these articles – is AS MUCH to blame for the spreading of lies as the person actually telling them. Sports writers are interconnected with the leagues and teams they cover to the detriment of actual journalism. They don’t double check anything that might shed a less than heroic light on the players/coaches/programs/teams/leagues that essentially pay their salaries. Fans want feel good stories, owners want the same and so on and so on.

2) Heroes should be people you know, not people you know of.

First a story from last week – the Baseball Hall of Fame non-vote – this will be the first of a few from David Zirin (@EdgeofSports on twitter) who has been speaking my exact opinion on many sports topics recently.

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s Epic Fail

My favorite lines:

The Hall of Fame voters of the Baseball Writers Association of America have made what’s being called “a powerful statement.” That statement was, “we are a collection of sanctimonious, hypocritical muttonheads.”

..while Mike Piazza’s only connection to steroids seems to be that he suffers from back acne. If only he had a better dermatologist, he might be celebrating today.

So yeah, obviously my deep Piazza love means I was outraged that he was passed up when by all accounts he should be a first ballot hall of famer. But, the larger point to Zirin’s post is pretty much mine – the same baseball writers who ignored every sign of steroid use and who wrote of the glorious exploits of these players during the 90’s are now sitting there judging these same players and declaring them not worthy of the Hall due to cheating that THEY refused to investigate!!

Then there is the Manti Te’o tale of an invisible dead girlfriend that again – was aided and abetted by the traditional sports media and was finally exposed in a brilliant investigative report by Timothy Burke & Jack Dickey of the Deadspin blog:

Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax

Lennay Kekua’s death resonated across the college football landscape—especially at Notre Dame, where the community immediately embraced her as a fallen sister. Charity funds were started, and donations poured into foundations dedicated to leukemia research. More than $3,000 has been pledged in one IndieGogo campaign raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

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Te’o’s story moved beyond the world of sports. On the day of the BCS championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama, CBS This Morning ran a three-minute story that featured a direct quote from Lennay Kekua:

Babe, if anything happens to me, you promise that you’ll stay there and you’ll play and you’ll honor me through the way you play.

Of course, the bottom line is that there never was a Lennay Kekau. She was fake. It’s a long, well documented post that is worth following to see just how deep the hoax goes – and to see just how easily these Deadspin writers were able to unravel it. All those other “news” outlets – the South Bend Times, CBS, etc – they ALL just took the story at face value and never checked anything out.

Worse still, as we go back to David Zirin – is that there has been a deeper tale of problems at Notre Dame that no local media is writing about:

Crying for Manti Te’o

(Athletic Director Jack) Swarbrick revealed that a private outside firm had been hired to investigate just who had perpetrated this “cruel game.” The athletic director even cried. His behavior only raises more important questions than anything Te’o will face tomorrow. Why hasn’t there been any kind of privately funded, outside investigation into the alleged sexual assaults committed by members of the football team? Why was there no private, outside investigation into Coach Brian Kelly’s role in the death of team videographer Declan Sullivan? It says so much that Te’o’s bizarre soap opera has moved Swarbrick to openly weeping but he hasn’t spared one tear, let alone held one press conference, for Lizzy Seeberg, the young woman who took her own life after coming forward with allegations that a member of the team sexually assaulted her.

Oh yay – a college football program (and local media surrounding it) that is all OVER this FAKE dead girl, but couldn’t lift a finger to properly document two REAL deaths connected to the team. Lovely.

Finally – how could I ignore the biggest liar of all? Lance Armstrong – who, at this point, may be sending some money to Manti to thank him for taking away some of the heat from HIS story this week!

For this, I turn to another sports writer who I have often enjoyed, but who has also often been accused of being duped too frequently by the people he covers (yet he was brutal on Barry Bonds)…Rick Reilly:

It’s all about the lies

It’s partially my fault. I let myself admire him. Let myself admire what he’d done with his life, admire the way he’d not only beaten his own cancer but was trying to help others beat it. When my sister was diagnosed, she read his book and got inspired. And I felt some pride in that. I let it get personal. And now I know he was living a lie and I was helping him live it.

Yup – as I stated from the beginning – point #1 – the media has a huge role in all of these stories. While their purpose is to BE journalists like the Deadspin reporters, they unfortunately end up nearly always becoming part of the story as they let things get too personal, get too financially wrapped up or just love to bask in the same glory of the superstars they are covering.

Which again takes me back to my last point:

Heroes should be people you know, not people you know of.

I’m talking about it

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We interrupt the December theme of ornaments and recipes for this dark shot of reality.

It’s political, but it shouldn’t be, so I have to get my thoughts out here.

Friday’s tragedy in Newtown Connecticut was devastating. The nation has reacted in sadness and with empathy for the families who have suffered and unimaginable amount of pain. So it has been on everyone’s mind in some form.

Yesterday while driving past an elementary school on the way to our Sunday morning trail run, just the sight of the school gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes. I have no connection to that school, know no one there, but just seeing a place that is supposed to be filled with innocence and learning and knowing how one was shattered just a few days before shook me deeply.

This morning I received a message from the high school principal where 16 attends school. He was re-assuring the parents about all the precautionary steps they take to keep our kids safe.

It was a stark reminder that our children have never known a time when they didn’t have to go through lock down drills to guard against school shootings.

I never endured those. I had fire drills and earthquake drills, but I was blessed to go to school AFTER the nuclear drill scares and BEFORE the school shootings started.

For whatever reason the drills I did go through didn’t particularly frighten me. Mostly because there was a sense that the cause was “natural” (I put that in quotes since obviously fires can be started by humans but I think you get the gist of it, right?). What we were training for were things not under human control. It wasn’t that HUMANS were trying to harm us, it was the weather or nature or basically non-human related events.

In this child’s mind anyway. Those drills didn’t teach me to fear random humans. But those lock down drills sure do.

It’s domestic terrorism. Plain and simple. But there is no cause they are fighting for. No specific group we can target to guard against. Nope, it’s just random acts of terror simply because a violently inclined disturbed mind has easy access to weapons that can kill more and more people more accurately and faster than ever. It can be a mall, a church, a school, a workplace, a community gathering, a movie theater, a beauty salon, etc etc etc. Any place where people gather as they go about their regular day.

It’s infuriating and as the President said last night at the memorial service in Newtown – it has GOT to stop.

So, let’s talk about what everyone says we shouldn’t talk about yet, but that which if we do not talk about NOW, will never get talked about because there will be yet another shooting resetting the “you can’t talk about this yet!” clock.

(did ya get that? yeah, I didn’t either but that’s kind of the point)

Here’s my personal take on guns: They should not be easier to obtain than a driver’s license and a car.

I am not the first one to say this and I know there have already been people writing about how the desire to own a military style weapon is just like the desire to own a Ferrari. It’s just a high end gun/car! Why should that be banned?

Well, because cars are not guns, that’s why (apples..oranges…ya know)

Cars are not built TO KILL. Yes, when not operated properly, they DO kill…but…that is not their primary purpose. The car I drive has been on the road for over 10 years and 140,000 miles and hasn’t harmed a soul. Ok, perhaps a bug or two and that one lizard (ick) but you get the drift. Yes, I know many gun owners will say that the guns in their locked cabinets have not harmed anyone either. I know that. But WHY were they even built? What is their main purpose? To cause harm.

So why is it easier to get a gun than a car?

I have just helped my 16 year old through the process of obtaining his driver’s license. First an online training course that took many hours and a test before he could get behind the wheel. Then 6 hours of professional training and several dozens of hours practicing in between. Then another test. Now he has his license, but he is still not driving. Why? No car yet. He needs insurance which is expensive as any parent knows. And there is the matter of buying a car and having the money to put gas in it, etc etc.

Now, I fully support the right to bear arms. But a RIGHT does not translate to NO REGULATION. There are still some conditions that I believe should be met in order for my neighbors and I to possess weapons designed solely to cause harm. Conditions and training and yes, LIMITS to the types of weapons and ammunition you can own.

After all, there are vehicles that are not street legal. There are vehicles that are only driven by law enforcement or the military.

Look, I know many responsible gun owner’s. They love their guns. One person is a collector. It’s her primary issue that she be able to keep what she owns. But guess what? They don’t have military grade weapons and ammunition clips or enough ammunition to BE their own army. Guns are locked over THERE and bullets over HERE. Responsible. Exercising their right to bear arms as it should be.

I fully support being able to keep things that way.

But I do NOT support keeping things as they are now with little to no consistent regulation on who can purchase a gun, where and what kind. The same applies to ammunition.

We cannot watch yet another senseless tragedy go by without an honest conversation about what we can do to prevent these. And then we must translate the conversations to action.

I think, I HOPE, that the world just sent a message to the President and Congress about what this next term of theirs should be focusing on. And I hope they stay focused, and stop letting lobbyists rule their votes. They represent the people, the children, of this country. And it is time they show it.

May 9th – Leadership

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It’s funny because I was going to post something on my political site about the one issue that has disappointed me with this President in terms of lack of courage and leadership.

No need for that post anymore 🙂

Really – is there anything else to say about the day? Being the political junkie that I am it pretty much dominated my world in the hours leading up to the announcement. Reading reactions after just solidified to me why this needed to happen. So many heart warming from people whose lives were touched so positively by hearing a sitting President state his support for them. Sure, I worked. I went out to dinner with the boyfriend. I had the usual tussle with 15 over how he is preparing  for his AP exam. But all of that happened somehow in the background. The boyfriend and I walked about this and how it is such a no brainer to us but then, we live in So Cal. Even though voters in our state made a huge mess of things in ’08, in our experience personally this is no big deal.

In fact, we’ve come so far that at one point last night I saw a tweet go by that pretty much summed it up (wish I could remember who it was but they were flying so fast & furious it was impossible to keep track:

“Openly gay Congressman Barney Frank is talking to openly gay TV host Rachel Maddow about POTUS supporting marriage equality. LOVE”

 

 

Dear Constitution

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Sigh – here we go misinterpreting you again! Yet another public figure says something incredibly stupid, his/her employer punishes him/her and people react by yelling about the First Amendment and the rights to free speech.

Uh – WRONG!

When did people start confusing the rights of CONGRESS to enact laws with the rights of EMPLOYERS to discipline employees? Let’s look at the particular paragraph in question shall we?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

See the emphasis that I put up there on those words? CONGRESS and THE GOVERNMENT. Not – Your Employer..or Your Sponsor..or even Your Mom! No – all that means is that you cannot be put into jail or fined by the state for the crap that flows outta your mouth (or onto a blog post even) unless you are making threats against a public official.

But, Ozzie Guillen voicing his respect for Fidel Castro? Not illegal. Nope, not one bit. And guess what?! No one has arrested him! He hasn’t been given a ticket  by the state of Florida. His rights to free speech have, indeed, NOT been violated.

His employer suspending him for 5 games? Totally legit. You see, his employer has no obligation to allow Ozzie – as a representative of that company – to say whatever he wants to say. (I know some will argue the merits of whether his statements were offensive or not and whether 5 games was enough or too much or whatever. That’s well and good, but remember it is just NOT a violation of free speech so don’t even bring that up!)

The Baseball Nerd covered this point nicely as well.

To expand this further, remember that radio & TV stations can suspend DJs/hosts for saying dumb/offensive things. It’s the same employee/employer relationship. You can still SAY those things all you want, just not into their microphones. Again – not being ticketed, not being put in jail – just being told by your employer quite legally to shut the hell up.  That’s NOT a violation of free speech rights by any stretch.

Yes, this is obviously a sore spot for me. Nothing bugs me more than people not quite grasping such a basic concept. Or, trying to hide behind it when they do blow it. It’s even worse when media talking heads feed into the ignorance.

So anyway, I just wanted to say that I am sorry. Some of us still understand you Constitution. Unfortunately our platforms don’t tend to be as loud as those who get it wrong :-/

With respect, me.

 

Dear Trayvon

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Dear Trayvon,

Where do I begin? I heard your name for the first time thanks to a tweet in my timeline and read your story. I was immediately outraged but ever skeptical of biting into a quick read/react cycle I held back on re-tweeting anything or signing any petitions. I added your name to my Google News home page to keep up with the case.

No matter what came of it though, I kept on getting stuck on one detail – you were simply walking home from the store. It was raining, so you had your hood up from your hoodie to cover your head.

Of course you wore a hoodie! The vast majority of male (and even female) teens do. I know mine has told me more than once that the hoodie only comes off when he’s at home – maybe – and for PE or football practice. Otherwise..well…look at the photo I posted from his learner’s permit:


Black hoodie – down off his head for the photo, but there nonetheless. Really, how much different does he look from you?


Two teenaged boys. Wearing hoodies. Mine has walked to and from school and the store before. He’s walked home at night before. I would not even question allowing him to walk to the Baskin Robbins on the corner for some ice cream. He has his own money and a cell phone. He’ll be fine! Right? In fact, I am 100% confident that had he been walking through your apartment complex that night he would have been fine. Completely and totally fine.

You should have been fine Trayvon. You should have been able to walk home without hassle. You were doing NOTHING WRONG. NOTHING. Walking. Talking on the phone. With your hoodie up. That’s IT. There was absolutely no logical reason for a guard, or policeman, or neighborhood watchman to ask you what you were doing. None.

But see, there is a big difference there. I’m parenting a son who doesn’t ever have to be aware of how the color of his skin – or his general racial background – might be threatening to the people he walks past. I don’t have to warn him about doing his best to appear as harmless as possible. I don’t have to carry around that extra layer of fear in my heart that he could be detained by police or confronted by someone simply because of the color of his skin.

We don’t talk about “Driving while white.”

We don’t talk about “Walking while white.”

And Trayvon, when an adult neighborhood watchman did confront you? Of course you were scared! Of course you were probably confused beyond belief. Because all you were doing was walking home. With Skittles and an iced tea. Talking on your phone. YOU felt threatened. YOU were the one who was not safe. YOU were the one who screamed for help out of fear for your life. Of course you fought back! YOU were the one attacked when you should not have been. They say your attacker is free thanks to a self defense oriented Stand Your Ground Law in Florida. How about YOUR right to Stand Your Ground? All you had was your fists. No match against a much larger adult and his gun confronting you for NO LOGICAL REASON.

As all the details come out about how those last minutes of your life were spent, as it becomes more and more clear how WRONG it is that the man who pulled the trigger is not in jail, something I read yesterday made flame spit out my ears:

“We are taking a beating over this,” said (Sanford Police Chief Bill) Lee, who defends the investigation. “This is all very unsettling. I’m sure if George Zimmerman had the opportunity to relive Sunday, Feb. 26, he’d probably do things differently. I’m sure Trayvon would, too.”

Trayvon, there is not one damn thing you could have done differently because you did nothing wrong. Nothing. Blaming you in any way for what happened is like blaming a rape victim for wearing provocative clothes and “asking for it”. Why the hell our society feels the need to shame victims in order to somehow lessen the guilt for the damage done by their attackers is beyond me.

I sure don’t. Society didn’t fail George Zimmerman.

Society failed YOU Travyon.

Because YOU should be FINE.

You. Should. Be Fine. You should be safe, and ALIVE and home and fine.

I hope, at least, that you can feel the love from all of us.

Love,Me.