Tag Archives: POTUS

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.