Category Archives: Politics

America’s Black Holocaust

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“Though the colored man is no longer subject to barter and sale, he is surrounded by an adverse settlement which fetters all his movements. In his downward course he meets with no resistance, but his course upward is resented and resisted at every step of his progress. If he comes in ignorance, rags, and wretchedness he conforms to the popular belief of his character, and in that character he is welcome; but if he shall come as a gentleman, a scholar, and a statesman, he is hailed as a contradiction to the national faith concerning his race, and his coming is resented as impudence. In one case he may provoke contempt and derision, but in the other he is an affront to the pride and provokes malice.” – Frederick Douglas

Racism was a core foundational element in the creation of the United States. The creation of race and the subsequent division of humans by color was mission critical to the economic progress that the United States enjoyed during the period of colonization; it was an essential part of the financial and social gains enjoyed by religious institutions, the Spanish and English monarchs, and ultimately, the landowners and those who were identified as White though poor.

America’s racial caste system and the implications this system has had on Black Americans  intersects all existing systems and structures.   The racial caste system in America is the equivalent of modern day enslavement, or as argued by Michelle Alexander, the New Jim Crow. The impact of this system is significant. Dr. Joy De Gruy argues that centuries of slavery in multiple forms in the United States coupled with systemic and structural racism and oppression have resulted in multi-generational behaviors that mimic survival strategies of victims who experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  As a result, these behaviors are passed on through generations because Black Americans are often indoctrinated into the same behaviors; Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome or PTSS is the psychological by-product resulting from prolonged systemic oppression, modern day lynchings as a result state sanction murder, and mass incarceration; the ongoing adaptation of Jim Crow laws in society impacts the psyche of African Americans.

Racial categorization has been used as the primary tool to support systemic White privilege. Blacks in return have continued to contend with ongoing violence, discrimination, and adaptions to new forms of enslavement without America acknowledging the impacts that past and current systems and structures have had on the psyche of Black people and African Americans in particular; America and Europe instituted a Black Holocaust and has yet to fully acknowledge how detrimental this has been on generations of Black s in this country.

As described by Sam E. Anderson, the holocaust visited on African people is just as real and as vicious as the Jewish Holocaust. It can be argued that the Black Holocaust is more detrimental because once slavery was abolished the cultural and ethnic sanitizing of enslaved Africans that began during enslavement, was further obliterated; Africans lost a sense of their nations, tribes, languages, and customs. In contrast, people of the Jewish nation and faith regrouped not only to prevent another such visitation on their people, but received land, compensation, and a re-establishment of their original nation and culture.

This is a critical component of understanding the Black experience in this country as opposed to that of a White immigrant group that has been able to assimilate or the Jewish Holocaust.

Most history text state that beginning in August 1619, approximately 20-40 million Africans were captured and enslaved. This figured only accounts for those Africans who survived capture, the holding pens, and the Middle Passage. According to Anderson, a more accurate count would be 50-80 million, which would include Africans who died over the total course of the Slave Trade; it is worth noting that this figure is inclusive of counts from the Asian, Arabic, and European slave trades. Africa is the only continent to be as savagely plundered as it was. North America could not have flourished without the slave trade. Huge profits were gained through the sale and back breaking labor of enslaved Africans as well as rum and cotton which went to support European economies.

Once captured, Africans were placed in slave “castles” which were known as baracoons (dungeons that were 10 x 15 feet and held 30-40 Africans. These baracoons were crowded and unsanitary. While waiting to be packed onto slave ships, Africans were then branded with the salve company’s emblem. This inhumane practice resulted in infections and sometimes death. On the slave ships, conditions were far worse. Africans were stocked on top of one another without the ability to move or relieve themselves properly. Rape of men, women, and children were used as a means of submission.

Slave ownership was a symbol of wealth as property ownership was a sign of one’s station in life and many plantation owners became wealthier as a result of slave labor. The length and type of labor that slaves were atrocious. Slaves were divided by skin color, gender, and age. Plantation owners used overseers to break in difficult slaves, emasculate and disempower male slaves in front of female slaves. They separated families. And treated lighter skinned slaves better than darker skinned slaves. Essentially, America established a clear system by which they dehumanized enslaved Africans and maintained control.

Even year after the Emancipation Proclamation, the enactment of Civil Rights Acts, the abolishment of Jim Crow, and the election of an African American president, Black Americans continue to face systemic oppression and institutionalized racism. While many European immigrant groups have had the capacity to assimilate and partake in the privileges extended to a White racial classification, Black Americans have continued to experience segregation in their schools and communities. There continues to be challenges in accessing health care, equity in wage, and brutality at the hands of law enforcement.

While Jews have received reparations, apologies, and international support for the creation of the Israeli state, Black Americans have continued to experience unyielding discrimination from a country that stole them from their land and culture of origin. African Americans continue to experience disparities in the achievement gap, wealth gap, and criminal justice system.

The Black Holocaust was and remains very real. And by naming it, we should not think that it deters from the progress that has been made in America or detract from the atrocities experienced by Jews. However, the Black Holocaust has not ceased in 2016 and THAT is an important distinction.

 

Race, Social Justice, and White Privilege in the U.S.

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Warning, this is long but you should read it anyway…

Everything is political. We would all be hard pressed to say differently but our personal politics is directly connected to our identities. Our respective identities make us who we are and deeply influence the lens by which we view the world, our race, class, culture, educational attainment, gender, orientation, etc… all are a part of our personal narrative, and create the context of our personal politics.

Recently, issues of race and social justice in the United States have experienced enough tension to once again bubble up from beneath the surface to become part of a broader dialogue within the dominant culture ( read White culture) in a way we have experienced before. And embedded in this conversation, the discomfort and feelings associated with this issue among all races have again surfaced.  While some of us assume that this is in large part a result of Donald Trump’s spewing of racist and fascist statements,  I would argue that the election of our first Black president in 2008 played a major role in this. Further, I believe that the rhetoric of the Tea Party movement and its popularity during 2008 presidential elections served as a catalyst to what we are seeing in the United States today.

Add to this, the increasing number of murders among unarmed Black people between 2008-2015 by the police with a less than 1% conviction rate among those officers results in Black and Brown people feeling that these are government sanction murders. This is not hate rhetoric, these are facts. Let the statistics speaks for themselves. According to Mother Jones, in New York City, between 2000-2011, the average number of people shot or killed by the NYPD overwhelming were categorized as Black or Hispanic wounded or killed at a significantly higher rate than Whites or Asians. In Oakland, California, between 2004-2008, 37 of 45 officer related shootings of citizens were of Black people with no White victims meaning the remaining 8 were of “other” racial classifications. In 2015, 102 unarmed Black people were killed by the police.  I would also assert that the lack of conviction of many of these officers in these cases, has moved some of us (people of color) from a place of fatigue and apathy to a place of anger… anger that has caused some of us to begin to push harder and more publicly on the issue of social justice and systemic racism. I’m not talking about riot anger, but that type of anger that begins in your gut when you look at the world your child has to inherit, when you consider what you experience day to day in the form of overt and covert racism and microaggressions, and thinking about its impact on your children and your children’s children. When your various identities (Black, Latina, female, chunky, Brooklynite, etc.) cause others to be labeled, judged, or otherwise create conditions that are uncomfortable for you to be, well, you.

Miriam Carey, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Yvette Smith, Shelly Frey, Darnisha Harris, Malissa Williams, Alesia Thomas, Shantel Davis, Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Shereese Francis, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Tarika Wilson, Kathryn Johnston, Alberta Spruill, Kendra James, Rumain Brisbon, Akai Gurley, Kajieme Powell, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, John Crawford, Tyree Woodson, Victor White III, Yvette Smith, McKenzie Conchran, Jordan Baker, Andy Lopez, Miriam Carey, Jonathan Ferrell, Carlos Alcis, Larry Eugene Jackson, Jr., Deoin Fludd, Kimani Gray, Johnie Kamahi Warren, Timothy Russell, Reynaldo Cuevas, Chavis Carter, Sharmel Edwards, Tamon Robinson, Ervin Jefferson, Kendrec McDade, Wendell Allen, Dante Price, Raymond Allen, Sgt. Manuel Loggins, Jr., Ramarley Graham, Kenneth Chamberlain, Alonzo Ashley, Kenneth Harding, Raheim Brown, Reginald Doucet, Derrick Jones, Danroy Henry, Aiyana Jones, Steven Eurgene Washington, Aaron Campbell, Kiwane Carrington, Victor Sheen, Shem Walker, Oscar Grant, DeAunta Terrel Farrow, Sean Bell, Henry Glover, Ronald Madison, James Brisette, Timothy Stansbury, Ousmane Zongo, Orlando Barlow, Timothy Thomas, Prince Jones, Ronald Beasley, Earl Murray, Patrick Dorismond, Malcolm Ferguson, Amadou Diallo, Jesus Huerta… I could go on, however, these are not just names, these are the names of people – Black and Hispanic/Latino human beings who were murdered by police. And this is by no means an indictment of all officers – its a hard job to be a cop and we should acknowledge that they are human beings who feel fear in certain situations. Nor should we assume innocence in the case of every one named because frankly, some (not the majority) of them were in fact criminals. But , one cannot help but question why unarmed Black people are killed by police at a rate that is 5x their White counterparts. Its an interesting question, not a simple one, but worth thinking and talking about. And one we do need to consider in the context of public safety, social justice, and race. And like all things, this issue, though steeped in our collective history, is also very much embedded in our politics. Race is politicize. Consider the 1990’s when Hillary Clinton referenced young Black men as “super predators” who needed to be brought to “heel”. She has since apologized for the statement but its as offensive as her recent stint on an urban radio show about having hot sauce in her bag… its racial politics, its stereotypical, she would not say that to a White southern audience, and its ignorant, But I digress.

Recently, actor and activist Jesse Williams used a national platform to give a powerful speech on Black Entertainment Television on why Black lives matter. He noted that we as Black people live in a system that was not created for us, not established for our well-being, not geared towards our success, not generated to keep us safe, and not made to support us in our own growth as a people. Williams discussed the casual nature that White artist and “celebrities” (yes, Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus come to mind) appropriate Black culture in music and other forms of artistic expression. And yet, they do not “give back” by speaking up against injustices that adversely affect our communities and their consumers. He blatantly called out those who benefit without giving back on the carpet. Unfortunately, Justin Timberlake aka Modern Day Elvis, responded in a condescending manner and was effectively shut down by Black Twitter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have Timberlake’s music, I have enjoyed his performances and videos. But if he wants to talk about this issue, on the real, he has to be very aware as to why he might be more successful than some Black R&B artist with the same style… Simply put, he is White, and has benefited tremendously from White privilege. It is this same privilege that enabled him to think he could come for Jesse… Why is this important? It’s the politics of race. Jesse was speaking to a largely Black audience, he was dropping some important gems and asking people to either wake up or #staywoke . He reminded us that we in fact MAGIC! And we need to hone, honor, and utilize that power. This represents a high level of consciousness. This represents a call to action to be more, do more, and do so with dignity and a level of personal awareness that we are not seeing with regularity in our communities. For more about White privilege from a White woman who could explain it better than I, consider reading Deborah Irving’s Waking Up White. It is an eye opening read when we consider that White people are truly raised differently from us to not see their own privilege and power. What has garnered less attention within the context of this speech is Jesse’s willingness to openly call out his own people. He did if you paid attention. “Now the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money – that alone isn’t gonna stop this.  Alright, now dedicating our lives, dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies, and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies.” Side note to Black “artists”:  This was directed at those of you watching and in the room who hold no consciousness, do no work, and make no attempt to elevate their own. He was calling ya’ll out too, so while you sat there clapping, I hope this speech brought you some awareness and a desire to elevate and educate yourselves too. Moving on…

Many of us mistakenly believed that the election of Obama would have resulted in an immediate change in America. We had hope. I had hope, however, as with anything, we can hope, but we also have to do. Obama cannot and will not end nearly 400 years of systemic racism – its just not something one can do in 8 years while running a country, he apologizes. In an era of access to all types of mediums that allow us to really be engaged about our history, about politics, about laws, and policies that impact us deeply, many of us have chosen to bury our heads in our collective and shallow sandboxes and focus on entertainment, sometimes of the worst kind. While many of us can tell you about the lives and struggles of our favorite “reality show characters” on Love and Hip Hop and Housewives  and the like, many of us cannot coherently talk about the contributions of Congressman John Lewis, Muhammad “GOAT” Ali, or Harry Belafonte to the Civil Rights movement; we don’t know our activists. Side note: I am ONLY using these three men as an example because they have all been in the media over the last 2 weeks so I hope some of us at least know who they are. If not, there’s Google.Moving on…

The disassociation from our collective selves to focus on hair, nails, trap music, Brazilian butt implants, and the like are part of the reason we are so marginalized – it has been done intentionally to take us off our collective goals as a people; its really part of the race politics. It’s part of the reason why the police can kill our Black and Brown babies, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons and not be convicted. We are not a force  because we have given up our power to consumerism, to getting money, to trying to emulate false god/desses, and not focus on our collective growth and achievement. Bearing in mind, some of us are. Some of us are working hard to try to reach across internal gaps, passed the blockades of things that have been established to divide us. And I thank you my tireless warriors who go hard every day to build our folks up. But we need more of us on that path. And our White allies are doing the work, they are working hard to educate themselves on their own Whiteness, I see it every day in big and little ways. They are calling out their White peers on microaggressions, they are being reflective of their privilege and how that contributes to systemic racism… They are doing so without being apologetic of their Whiteness (cause being White isn’t a bad thing, neither is being any other race), they are doing so without succumbing to the B.S. that is White guilt, but rather, they are engaged in this work with an eye towards creating social justice and a better world, because the fact is, we learn from each other when we are in fact conscious of each other. But this is all political because it is in fact revolutionary. And a revolution requires a turning point where we can respect our differences and move towards a similar goal, a shared agenda. But we have to start with ourselves, within our community. We have to be a force for change, we have to revolutionize ourselves first. We have to embody the change we want in this world, and we have to do it consciously, with intent, and strategically. We have to heed Jesse’s call to action which mimics that of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, Pedro Albizu Campos, Juan Antonio Corretjer, and so many others… To take the politics of race, social justice, and White privilege and change the conversation. Permanently.

Why Britain Left the EU… Really.

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It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. The way life happened, I just needed to take a break, from writing, social media, life, and just focus. I’m back, so thanks for sticking around, I have a ton of opinions… and love bantering.

So, I’ve been asked my thoughts on Britain leaving the EU. Why would Britain risk a self-imposed recession to leave the EU without a real transition plan in place? Why would those in favor of leaving the EU chant “Take Britain back!”?

Bear in mind, the countries that comprise of Britain are Scotland (which has voted to remain in the EU), England, Wales, and Northern Ireland… so in this regard, we are actually really talking about England but I’ll say British cause that’s what the media is going with – cool?

Between 1990 and 2015, Britain’s population has grown by 8 million, in a country that is roughly the size of Manhattan proper; that’s 57M to 65M people in 15 years – that’s a lot. This growth came about in part because of Britain’s participation in the EU which opened up immigration from other European countries… therefore the growth of the population was driving by immigration, not British people shagging more and having babies – the growth in of itself was not viewed as benefiting British-born folks. Why is that important? Because migration stresses services like schools, housing, hospitals, and other public subsidies. And wealthy migrants were able to outbid British citizens seeking property – so they were essentially seen as “taking England away”. In turn, more than 200,000 British born people have left the UK, often migrating to Australia and the U.S. (wonder if we in the U.S should be equally welcoming… just a question – I like my British folk) The fact is, an open global economy implies a mass migration of people… some might argue its required (I don’t necessarily agree, just providing context).

This vote represents a rebellion of sorts, similar to what America is seeing with Trump’s “Make America Great” rhetoric. Funny coincidence given the history between the two countries. Not something to be ignored in my opinion. So, my thoughts? An open global economy can be a great thing but we have to be willing to deal with, and address the migration impacts and ultimately the racism and discrimination that countries will experience as a result – in the case of the countries that are part of the EU, the migration groups tend to be Middle Eastern and North African people. This vote that was cast in England was about immigration policies and race. And the fact is that England is willing to create a level of economic instability for itself in order to stop folks from coming into their country… So, what do I think about it? I don’t, its just more of the same. Good luck England… Go save the Queen and all of that jazz.

Why I don’t support same-sex marriage…

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I don’t support same-sex marriage…  I also don’t support interracial marriage…  And shit, don’t even get me going about those damn heterosexual marriages… 

Seriously, I am pro-marriage. I support the notion that people should be able to fall in love, date, maybe get married (and statistically speaking possibly get divorced), find their connection, connect to their soul mate, have a kid… or two… or a tribe… and live their lives. I support the notion that anyone who decides to enter into a marriage should experience the daily grind and the less “sexy” part of the whole institution of marriage.

There is no reason why government should get in the way of that. The issue of marriage in any capacity is a matter of human rights. As human beings, we deserve the right to love and if desired, marry another human being. We deserve to share a life with someone we love legally in every sense of the word; which means being afforded the same protections as heterosexuals. This issue, of same-sex marriage is as ridiculous and inane as suggesting we revisit the legality of interracial marriage or a women’s right to vote in the United States. The reality is we should not be debating the issue.  The reality is, the issue of equal rights is a matter of human rights… You don’t have to agree, nor should you stand in the way.

So this week the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will convene on two related issues. The first, today, California’s prop 8 (the argument recap by Lyle Denniston can be found here) and the Defense of Marriage Act. It’s important to put this in perspective…

In 1967, the Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage in the United States. The Court determined that to deny a couple the right to marry regardless of race was anti-miscegenation and unconstitutional. Prior to this decision, many states had already decided to legalize interracial marriage; ergo, individual states were allowing interracial couples to marry while the federal government was not legally recognizing the marriage (sound familiar). In 1967, the Supreme Court determined the fate of marriage among the races in this country. Based on their own arguments, if the court held this to be the case in 1967, why should this argument not be applicable in 2013? Clarence Thomas might want to consider these facts when he looks at his white wife… It was only 46 years ago that the Court upon which he serves as judge legalized and formalized interracial marriage. He has an obligation to consider the weight of this argument.

If we really want to respect and protect the notion of marriage and family, then we have an obligation to legalize and recognize marriage among two consenting adults… We have an obligation to be pro-love and pro-marriage.

A culture of rape – Steubenville and beyond…

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“She got so raped…” A comment made “in jest” when a 16 year old girl was video taped being raped by high school football players.

We live in a culture of acceptability when it comes to rape. Don’t sit there shaking your head, we do. When you consider the number of little girls, teens, and women sexually assaulted in this country annually, it’s very clear to me that we do live in a culture of acceptability when it comes to rape. We are raising our children to be completely oblivious to it and our girls to be powerless in it.

Most recently, this played out in Steubenville, OH. For those with their heads in the sand, Steubenville, OH is the scene of the most recent rape of a 16 year old girl who was either drugged or drunk and passed out. While passed out, the victim was taped repeatedly raped and urinated on; the act was then subsequently disseminated among her classmates. While there is an ongoing investigation regarding how many other students were involved in the assault, this week we saw the conviction of two primary suspects, both age 16, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays. The boys were members of their high school football team and were clearly seen participating in the sexual assault of and dissemination of sexually explicit material of a minor.  They will have to go to jail and register as sex offenders. But its the media coverage of this has been telling.  From CNN to Fox News, the coverage has been slanted such that the victim in this case, continues to be victimized. There is a level of sympathy and protection afforded the rapists that does not extend to the victim.  In fact, about 9 hours ago, two teen girls from Steubenville were caught and charged with threatening and menacing the victim for reporting the rape.  This the culture of rape.

Recently, rape victim Lydia Cuomo took her case to the New York State legislature. In September, Ms. Cuomo was “brutalized” at gun point by a New York City police officer in an alley. The jury did not convict the officer of rape because of a lack of “credible evidence”.  That lack of evidence extended to the fact that Ms. Cuomo could not remember the color a a nearby car and was sodomized (raped anally) rather than being raped vaginally. Ms. Cuomo was then further victimized by New York State Senator Catherine Young who had agreed to to introduce legislation that would close the loophole to categorize forced anal sex as rape. Senator Young received some push back from legal lobbyist who were concerned the language would create more difficulty obtaining rape conviction, so at the 11th hour, without informing Ms. Cuomo, she changed the language in her bill. Kudos to Ms. Cuomo for going public with her story and shame on Ms. Young for actions. This is the culture of rape.

Last November, in Texas, an 11 year old girl was gang raped by 20 men and teens. The defense attorney for one of the defendants, Jared Len Cruse suggested at the trial that it was the girl’s fault for attracting these men to rape her.  How an 11-year-old could know enough to be a “temptress” for one much less 20 men unless she’s been repeatedly subjected to sexual abuse is one thing.  But to suggest it in defense of the man who set her to be rape up is beyond absurd.  Again, blame the victim; this is the culture of rape.

Yesterday, it was reported that a Swedish couple was attacked while biking in India; the man was beaten and tied up while his wife was gang raped. Local officials there are suggesting it was the woman’s fault (partially) for the attack; they were apparently guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and not alerting authorities to their presence in the province. While this part of India is known for being dangerous, this information is only known to locals; again, this is the culture of rape.

This was also the consensus in the Dehli gang rape case where a young woman was repeatedly beaten and raped on a bus by five men including the bus driver while traveling with a male companion; she subsequently died from her wounds. In Egypt, reporter, Lara Logan was repeatedly and brutally raped by men who were “celebrating” the resignation of Hosni Mubarak; she was ultimately saved by a group of women and 20 soldiers. It took over 20 people to intervene in her attack. This is the culture of rape.

The rape statistics in the United States alone are striking. According to the website, One in Four, 1 in 4 women in college have reported either surviving a rape or an attempted rape since their 14th birthday.  That means, on average between the ages of 14 and 22, 15% of females have been raped and 12% have survived an attempted rape. According the to Center for Disease Control, based on a sample of 5,000 respondents, 20% reported being forced to submit to sexual intercourse against their will and 42% of respondents never informed anyone of the rape. This means by the time your daughter, sister, cousin, wife, niece, friend, neighbor, etc.gets to college, she has a 1 in 4 chance of either having already been raped or will be raped.  And 42% of rape victims, she may not talk about it until years later.

For those who travel outside of the continental United States, a whopping 19%-28% of college age women report having been raped or having had a rape attempt take place in locations where they are typically they are treated much worse than here in America.

And unlike years past, where rape was a quiet thing to be covered up, where a victim might shower, cry, become depressed and withdrawn from the world while to cope and figure out how to make sense of something that feels like getting hit by mac truck, we now have social media and smart phones. In this way, young men are able to treat girls as less than human publicly and text, tweet, and invite public comment about it. And it’s become a joke, socially acceptable behavior among the teenage set and the victim gets to relive this over and over again. This also happened in Steubenville.

I recall dating a guy in my 20’s and we were talking about the notion of rape generally. His response was very a dismissive, “I know so many chicks that have been raped, sexually assaulted, or molested, what’s going on with y’all?”  I remember being struck by the ‘what’s going on with y’all’ because in my mind, I wondered what the hell was wrong with the men in our society.

I am not always quick to blame the media and music’s sexualization of women (Lil’ Kim, Kim Karshashian, Nicki Minaj), but there is a there, there. Most recently, Lil’ Wayne released a video called Love Me. In this video, the women who “love him” are in cages and contraptions that are indicative of a BDSM culture. Seriously? You put non-human things in cages, you put animals in cages…  The indication in this is that these women love him even while treated as sub-human, to be used sexually…  Like the aforementioned women. The inference is that they invite this, they like this, they want this… That’s the culture of rape and misogyny.

Something has happened in our society. Somehow, we’ve come to a place where the general population thinks it’s okay to go beyond objectifying women and straight up not even seeing women as human. Women aren’t being treated as soulful creatures, rather they are being drugged up, literally pissed on, and fucked in the the worst and most demeaning way imaginable. Something has happened where we have society that appears to lack a collective consciousness and women are people who should be debased and discarded like shit on the bottom of a shoe.

The other important factor here is that many rapists do not define what they do as rape. According to One in Four, 8% of men surveyed admit to engaging in acts that meet the legal definition of rape or attempted rape. And among these respondents, 84% said what they did was definitely not rape. This means that there is a clear disconnect between what constitutes rape and what men perceive as rape. One in five men have reported being so aroused that they felt they couldn’t stop themselves from having intercourse with a female, even though she did not consent and 35% of men said they would engage in some degree of rape if they could be assured that they would not get caught or punished. (Is it me or is anyone else having a “what the fuck” moment here?)

We can all point to a number of things that are taking place in our society starting with a general sense of soceital decay, but somewhere, somehow, our boys are getting the message that this behavior is okay. And in the cases identified, this time they got caught, so chances are they were pushing those limits and boundaries on some other girl before and no one was saying anything, whether the girls silenced themselves or were silenced by others.

We have to empower our daughters to speak up about being raped. We have to give our girls the skill set, support, and resources to be outspoken bout being raped.  We have to stop the stigma and the notion that somehow its the victims fault. We have to stop having pre-conceived notions of what a rape victim looks like, dresses like, or is like. We have to get angry, as men, as women, as parents, as lovers, as friends, as family members, as friends, as people who just give a damn about other human beings. We have to be present and mindful about comments are made in front of boys about females.  My 10 year-old-daughter has been verbally assaulted by boys who “say suck my dick” and refer to girls as bitches with enough confidence and regularity that it’s clear those boys are learning it in their home environment. We have to instill in our kids a basic level of respect for each other as human beings. And we need to address this “pack” mentality so that we aren’t just having to address one rapist, but the rapists that are engaging in this behavior.

Across America, there will always be those towns and cities that have the elite athletes who are protected and heralded as the second coming of the messiah… And that’s fine. But these kids need to know about respect, accountability, and bullying… yes, bullying. Because the strong should not take advantage of the weak. Because men do not treat women like that. Because no one should feel intimidated by their peer group to engage in a gang rape. Because this culture of rape as it has evolved is sick and twisted in the worst way possible and continually morphing unless we stop it.

And because in college, I  became part of that one in four club… and I will make damn sure it is not a club my daughter or nieces join.

“She got so raped…” That shit is not a fucking joke.

Race and Class in America… My story.

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Earlier this month I turned 40. Forty (for me) has brought about a number of things including a greater desire to engage in discussions that might be deemed controversial.  I find myself harking back to my college days where I liked to challenge people’s perceptions and ideas (mostly respectfully). Those who know me well, know I love to play Devil’s Advocate just to see where people sincerely are coming from. Recently, in celebration of my impeding 40th year, I was having drinks with several colleagues and associates and one of my long time acquaintances made some comment about my lifelong “privilege” (their words, not mine). Apparently, that “privilege” being my skin color (which I suppose is fairly light), light-ish brown eyes, and whatever features or hair type is deemed as “privileged”.  However, the truth is, any Caucasian from Brooklyn to Florida will look at me and know that I am NOT a white woman of European descent nor do I share that particular privilege.

On the flip side, African Americans will look at me and know that I am one of many multiple mixtures that exist among the various people of African descent, especially those who come from cultures and countries that have been colonized over the centuries. Latinos will look at me and…  well, that’s a really mixed bag. I say that only because of the recent acceptance of the term “Afro-Latina”. A term has more recntly come into the mainstream American consciousness thanks to actresses like Zoe Saldana and Rosario Dawson. 

But here’s my reality. I was born to a very brown first generation born Bajan (Barbados for those who don’t know) woman and a white looking (green eyes and all) Puerto Rican man. That makes me Caribbean American or a BajaRican.  During the 70’s and 80’s most people who saw my parents just assumed I was bi-racial but my father does not (let me repeat, DOES NOT) consider himself white, he considers himself Puerto Rican, pure Boricua, nothing else.  Papi’s (what I still call my father) consistent attitude over the last 75 years of his life has been he knows who and what he is, you don’t need to get it because it doesn’t matter, the ONLY thing you need to know  is that he is Puerto Rican. He only identifies culturally, and yes, as a Puerto Rican if you didn’t get it the first couple of times, he doesn’t do the race thing and won’t be baited to playing that game.

My mother grew up in the 60’s here in America and quickly assimilated into African American culture (Bajan’s weren’t a prevailing majority in Brooklyn) and so she was Bajan at home and “Black” when she was out in the world.  That means all the issues faced and bore by brown women during my mother’s formative years were her experiences. Ultimately, as many did in her generation, she felt her brown skin, full lips, curly hair were ugly. She grew to hate light skinned women (yes, careful what you hate, it has a habit of ending up RIGHT in your family and in my mother’s case, in her womb).  My mother attended Erasmus Hall HS here in Brooklyn, when the majority of students were White and Jewish (a la Barbara Streisand), and high achieving. In spite of that, she was encouraged by her guidance counselor to be a cleaning lady because she was told she would not achieve much else. Ultimately, to my mother’s credit, her confidence and encouragement to succeed came through joining the civil rights movement and owned her Blackness. She went on to obtain a BA, 2 Masters, and her Doctorate. (Just saying she’s pretty kick ass).

Why all this context?  Because this is where I come from, this is who I am, these are my people, this is my culture. These are the stories and realities that surrounded me as I was growing up as a culturally mixed girl in a pre- hipster, pre-Obama Brooklyn. Where bi-racial was sort of new and folks only identied as either/or. I was warmly welcomed by Black Americans and rejected by Latinos for not looking like a “typical” Latina. Nor did I “behave” like a typical Latina because my father did not raise me to wait on men, cater to men, or take care of men. I was raised to be an independent, opinionated, un-accented, and assertive woman. Not the qualities my Latinos were really big on during my adolescent years. Oh yeah, and I was “too dark”. Too dark to be a true Latina. Never mind that in Puerto Rico I saw A LOT of Boricua’s that looked like me. But the NuyoRican culture here, didn’t quite embrace it (yet). So, here in Nueva York, I didn’t quite the fit. But my lighter Puerto Rican cousins did. The overall result?. I stayed away from the Latino community for years dismissing my Puerto Rican side totally. My resentment and anger remains close to the surface with Latinos.  I have managed it better, I am learning to get over it, but I won’t lie, I still walk with it often.

Why is THIS important? Because these collectives experiences, while sometimes painful, never felt like a “privilege”, rather it served to help shape my view of race in America. Ultimately, once I entered undersgrad at Chatham College and joined the Black Student Union, I suddenly found myself dealing with African Americans women who were not New Yorkers and the issue of race relative to the light/dark dissent became more of an obvious issue in my world; while I came to realize that it was really someone else’s issue, the reality is that I had to bear a portion of someone else’s anger due to this social construct that we’ve agreed to abide by. 

This experience helped shape my views in identifying the real core issue here – race as a means to division will always keep people from observing and acting on class struggle. During the process of self identification, I sought to identify culturally, rather than racially. In doing so, I sought to challenge everyone rather than concede to the either/or notion – no one was exempt, my parents, friends, family, and strangers.  Ultimately, I found solace in those women of any race who had a shared socioeconomic class experience with me. While I still struggled around the “race” issue, I found that in spite of race, having a common concern as women, as women seeking education, as women who were seeking to define themselves as thinking beings rather than a mixed chick from Brooklyn, or a pretty Black girl from Maryland, or a White girl from Harrisburg, we were much stronger when we focused on shared issues, experiences, and concerns in our world. This led me to realize that coming together on matters related to class are much more dangerous to the status quo because it serves to unite people rather than divide.  

Race is no small thing in America. It’s a very hard and emotional thing for us because of the historical context by which we understand it. Truthfully, I think we love to talk about it, cling to it, talk around it, make inferences about, but ultimately, I am not convinced we can never address it to a satisfactory resolution. Race can be utilized temporarily to bring us together under tough circumstances but ultimately, the divisions continue to arise. Because every group here and abroad that has historically been colonized by Europeans has had the wonderful parting gift of being divided according that socially constructed idea of “race”.  Slave masters firmly established the concept of race into our collective psyches during the horrific period of slavery in America and it has remained since. The Spanish did it to the Taino Indians (which were the original inhabitants of Puerto Rico) after bring African slaves to the island of Borinquen creating divisions on color. The English did the same to the Arawaks and Caribs whom were the original inhabitants of Barbados… and so on… You see, we all carry this shit with us as part of a collective history if we come from any part of the world that has been colonized.  And I guess its real easy and simple to make assumptions by looking at me if you don’t look like me and figure that somehow, in all of this, I’ve inherited a “privileged” that I haven’t quite experienced personally. No one knows my scars just as no one knows the scars of my mother, my sisters, my father, my lighter and darker cousins, etc. 

However, with respect to race, we seem to like to talk about it… a lot…. still, with very little resolution… 

Prior to his death, Martin Luther King, Jr. began moving past the race issue and began to look at the issue of classism in this country. He was convinced that the class struggle in America was the ultimate equal rights issue in this country. Malcolm X also began to focus on this issue. The reason this is important is because I am more convinced today than I was 20 years ago, that classism that IS the real issue that needs to be addressed in this country.  

It’s the foundation of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit in New York State as a means of addressing the achievement gap in education and the means of providing appropriate resources in every public school classroom in New York State. The issue of class over race is now playing out with respect to college entrance and how schools will begin considering diversifying their student body – according to classnot race. Class struggle is the foundation of all human rights issues and something that is a worldwide concern.  It is also a harder issue for many of us to get into because it means that collectively, we would have to move past our own singular and exclusive issues involving race and think in a more broader and collaborative context. It can be done. I’ve seen this take shape with the group Mom’s Rising. A multicultural group of women who are committed as working mothers to educate, advocate, and lobby as mothers on behalf of their children – these issues range from battling childhood obesity to providing parenting resources to mothers.

We can live with and own our history, our scars, our anger, and continue focusing on a singular issue relative to racial equality. However, the reality is that race is a arbitrary social construct used to divide, subjugate, and indoctrinate – if the analogy is that religion is the opium of the masses and spirituality connects the individual to the Creator, then race is the method used to maintain a clear division while confronting class struggle brings cohesion and potentially real progress.  Realistically, we won’t all agree on the same measures by which we could make the “changes” we seek but we can work collectively on a shared goal or issue more easily.

It is worth noting that America is not a homogeneous society. And this is becoming more relevant with new ethnic groups coming into the country. Many countries outside of the U.S.find cohesiveness through a shared culture and ethnic identity; but we can no longer rely on race as a means of bringing us together on issues temporarily while engaging in infighting based on any number of variables that divide us. Many of us from the same socio-economic background whether pink, purple, green, or orange, understand certain fundamental realities about the world and can coalesce on that.  Moving past the issue of race, looking as how the civil rights movement  functioned, as a collective, with other races becoming involved AND openly supporting the cause AND dying for that shared cause is why that movement was successful.  We have to get over the race issue in this country. It’s an imperative.  And we have to get over the race thing because ultimately, if we don’t make it as important as we have made it, we will continue to see a clear distinction between the 1%, the 99%, and the 47% – issues brought front and center during the 2012 presidential race.

The number of bi-racial births in this country has grown from less than 5% to over 7% in the last year. That means that there will have to be a bridging of the race divide because we have a generation coming behind us that will have a different experience and outlook on race.  We cannot ask children of multi-ethnic and cultural backgrounds to “choose”, they are both. Obama is both. Culturally, I am both. And the conversation will have to change, it’s not a question of if, it’s an issue of when. The Republicans are just now gearing up to discuss race politics. Given how far behind the eight ball they are, maybe it’s time for the rest of us to move towards a more comprehensive discussion.

So yeah, ask me about my “privilege”. I will tell you that my “privilege” stems from the fact that I was fortunate enough to grow up in the borough of Brooklyn, in a culturally diverse household that discussed politics, civil rights, and human rights (ad nausea). I was forced to attend various protest that I did not want to go to but  it provided me with an educational experience in that I experienced other people’s pain in the world. I’ve met people from all walks of life from the poorest of the poor to those with some sick wealth. I’ve dated politicians, aspiring athletes, and regular joes from the hood most who have imparted some real wisdom and learning. My friends include people who were teen moms who barely got out of high school to folks who have completed post doctorate fellows in England, they are all good people and have their own struggles. I barely made it into college due to poor grades but ultimately received a Masters of Science in Urban Policy and Management (law school remains on my mental back burner). I have been on welfare and was ashamed about it. I’ve been hungry, I’ve been horrifically broke. I’ve come back from that too. My parents have been married 40 plus years and I did grow up in a two parent household – I was often the only person I knew who did. I married the first real man I ever met who accepted me warts (figuratively speaking) and all. Together we are raising a beautiful brown child of multicultural heritage, still in Brooklyn, in the neighborhood and apartment building where I was raised. 

That is my privilege, none of which has a damn thing to do with how I look and everything to do with my sense of reality. A reality that includes the understanding that poor people whether upstate in rural New York, or downstate urban Brooklyn, whether in Louisianna, Florida, Memphis, Tennesse, or Maryland… Whether in the favela’s of Brazil, the ghettos of Russia, or the streets of the Jiangxi province in China, the slums of Puerto Rico, or Kingston, Jamaica… Poor IS poor. Struggle IS struggle. Pain IS pain, doesn’t really matter the color of it. When it’s there, it’s there. A lack of access to quality healthcare, a decent home, the capacity to take care of oneself and one’s family is horribly demeaning and dangerous to communities. Communities are the foundation of healthy people. Unhealthy and fucked up communities create unhealthy and fucked up people. That’s not a race thing…

Republicans are listening… The Dems should pay attention too…

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Trey Radel is possibly the future of the Republican party. He is a conservative Congressman from Florida who is under 40 and therefore able to still able to evolve a bit with respect to his political stances.  He has the capacity to connect to a younger generation of voters. He’s a good looking guy and has no problem being appropriately aggressive with liberal reporters and has been an advocate of bipartisanship to get things done in Washington.  Congressman Radel is more comfortable with playful appropriate confrontation in the media in a cool frat boy sort of way and he’s only been in office all of 3 months. While he did engage in some questionable decision making during his run for office, he managed to pull through all of that and maintain the support of his party and obtain a respective majority of the vote. These are the things that most parties look for in future leaders and candidate, one either is or isn’t “that”.  Congressman Radel appears to be “that”.

Radel is the type of politician that Democrats need to watch. Careful. He is likable and unlike Marco Rubio, he seems more sincere when making quips about Lil’ Wayne and other mainstream musicians. Radel seems as comfortable talking to people of color as much as he does with his base constituency. He also is an early supporter of former Governor Jeb Bush for President in 2016 and Bush appreciates the support. This is significant because Bush has been clear in several recent speeches that if Republicans keeps losing presidential elections, the Republican agenda will be lost. He’s right. Neither men are interested in the fringe groups of the party, they are cultivating a new Republican identity. They will hold true to their conservative roots while playing moderate and center…

The Democrats should be mindful of this and respond accordingly. We do not have the next Obama in the Democratic party. And Democrats are pining their hopes on the current leadership – Hillary Clinton in 2016, but if she isn’t willing, who do the Dems have?  The Republicans took their whupping and now, they are retooling. The Democrats should pay attention, and plan accordingly.