I remember when I was a senior in high school. The first love I ever had was a black woman. And an immigrant. She was a grade lower than I was, but we did what high schoolers did. We held hands, walked each other to classes, kissed each other, and I also sneaked into her house many nights so we could have sex. You know. Normal teenage stuff.
One day in school we were walking to my fourth-period physics class. I hated the teacher, but I was excited about lunch and was excited to be with her.
We kissed goodbye.
Out of nowhere, I hear a white woman say, “that’s disgusting.” I looked over and saw her hickish sneer in our direction, and I was pissed. She was a cunt. There’s no alternative way of viewing this. Why was she a cunt?
Well, there’s the obvious stuff. She was entering and commentating on a situation that had no bearing on her miserable existence. That’s a big one.
The more important reason that she was a cunt is because of her overt display of racism.
I dated this woman in 2004. A mere 37 years before us living as fun loving horny teenagers, the last of the anti-miscegenation laws eroded in Loving v. Virginia.
Nineteen years before Nia and me, the Immorality Act and Population Registration Act in South Africa were repealed. These particular laws divided South Africa by race and forbade sexual relations between black and white people.
You might have been alive during these times.
And even more recently, like last year, the last school left to integrate finally integrated.
Long after Brown v. The Board of Education in 1954 and the federal order to integrate in 1965, it finally happened. In the 21st century. The 21st goddamn century.In the early 70s, my aunt married a Cuban man. They had two children. When they divorced, my aunt had a child with a black man.
And there’s where it begins for me. Coming from our Italian and redneck upbringing, having a black child forced the old school racists in my family to stop being racist. My cousin wasn’t raised by his mother. No, my grandmother and grandfather raised him. At my grandfather’s funeral, he said in no uncertain terms that our grandparents WERE his parents.
Our family dynamic was dysfunctional. But that happens in every family. One thing was certain: while the love was there, reactions from outsiders were mixed and sometimes not favorable. But there was never anything but love for the people of color in our family. From my cousins to their children, and beyond.
Black Lives Matter
Say “all lives matter” all you want. But if you’re white and the day comes that you have a clause that states that you count as 3/5 of a person, then it will be relevant and actually meaningful. Until then, black lives matter. And while the 3/5 compromise is no longer in effect, it set up two dangerous precedents in America:
- It started using minorities as political bargaining chips in elections and
- Set the stage for the Entr’acte we know as reconstruction right before Jim Crow took the stage.
The next time you say “all lives matter,” please provide the following translation: I lack empathy, sympathy, and refuse to open myself to the possibility that the plight of the disenfranchised matters.
And the fact that Becky told me I was disgusting, or the fact that the last school to integrate did so last year? Both should make you infuriated. Malcolm X said it best: “Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.” Even Glenn Fucking Beck changed his mind. So white men like me are in no position to do anything but try and understand. I will admit, it’s easier for me to come from a place of understanding given my family background. But I can’t know everything. In those instances where I don’t (and where you don’t) it’s best to shut the hell up and listen. Whichever side of the argument you’re on, you still need to listen. We’re dealing with real people, and the grievances aren’t imagined. They’re the byproduct of centuries of tumult that still slither their way into post-modernity.
The point of rhetoric, it seems, is to sway people. Sometimes, logic and rhetoric don’t go hand in hand. On the one hand, a great rhetorician can use logical fallacies to sway their target audience. Politicians do it. Lawyers do it. The shitty alternative media outlets do it. When a defense attorney paints a rape victim as a whore. When a right wing website paints a black man to be a criminal because of his rap sheet. When people attack the Food Babe, as opposed to her practices. These are attempts to discredit somebody’s character.
So when you see a website that lists the prior crimes of Terence Crutcher in an attempt to justify the homicide, they’re doing just that. Discrediting the character. To make it worse, the fact that he wasn’t engaged in a crime makes the discrediting sensational and pointless. And when we bring up Officer Shelby’s two excessive force complaints, it holds a bit more weight for obvious reasons—she’s acting in character—though nothing came of them. And it has to stop on both ends. Media needs to learn how to media, and let the courts do the lawyering.
And to add more hatred to the powder keg, detractors want to bring up certain facts. You know the ones I am talking about. The ones that state that police kill more white people than black people. And yes, this particular fact is correct. “But as data scientists and policing experts often note, comparing how many or how often white people are killed by police to how many or how often black people are killed by the police is statistically dubious unless you first adjust for population.” Emphasis from the WP quote is mine.
Moreover, from the previously linked article:
According to the most recent census data, there are nearly 160 million more white people in America than there are black people. White people make up roughly 62 percent of the U.S. population but only about 49 percent of those who are killed by police officers. African Americans, however, account for 24 percent of those fatally shot and killed by the police despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population. As The Post noted in a new analysis published last week, that means black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.
U.S. police officers have shot and killed the exact same number of unarmed white people as they have unarmed black people: 50 each. But because the white population is approximately five times larger than the black population, that means unarmed black Americans were five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer.
But I get it. Stats aren’t for everyone, and math is hard.
The Lucifer Effect
Philip Zimbardo conducted a sweet experiment. It was called the Stanford Prison Experiment. To sum it up, the experiment simulated a prison. The actors were either guards or inmates, and by the end, they were into their roles. Dehumanized, the prisoners gave up.
Drunk with power, the guards got sadistic, and Zimbardo called it off. In 2004, Zimbardo noted the similarities between his experiment and the horrific abuse within Abu Ghraib in Iraq. In both instances, you can see what Zimbardo calls the “Slippery Slope of Evil.” In his Ted Talk he lists:
1. Mindlessly taking the first small step
It starts with the little things. Like believing there is an enemy. From there, the progression of atrocity escalates. It starts with the “us against them” mentality, goes through the mob of people and the violence rises. In Nazi Germany, it led to genocide.
2.Dehumanization of others
In Apocalypse Now Mr. Clean (Laurence Fishburne) slaughters a group of Vietnamese on a boat for no reason. He tells a screaming woman to shut up and calls her a slope. Trying to save her puppy, she acts rashly, and Clean mows the entire family down.
3.De-individuation of self (anonymity)
Prisoner numbers and badge numbers accomplish this. In our history, the Klan wore masks for the same reason. In our modern day myths, anonymity becomes clear. Bruce Wayne could, with little effort, kick as much ass without the cape and cowl. As could Matt Murdock. The anonymity gives them more power. As it did with the Klan. As it does for us when we go out on Halloween in costume.
4.Diffusion of personal responsibility
When you witness a domestic dispute in public and assume someone else will take care of it or that it is not your business, you’re letting go of your obligation act right.
5.Blind Obedience to Authority
Adolf Eichmann “just following orders.”
6.Uncritical conformity to group norms
The soldiers at Abu Ghraib taking thousands of cell phone pictures with the practice going unchallenged for months.
7.Passive tolerance of evil through inaction or indifference
We have no doubt heard the Burke quote that evil triumphs when good men do nothing. Yet, that assessment is incorrect. If you do nothing, you cease to be good. Do you know what this means? It means that the authority figures who aren’t speaking out against their peers are fucking up. In their indifference, they are perpetuating evil and have thus ceased to be good. The indifference relegates the idea that “it’s a few bad eggs” into something much worse. The indifference shows that the root of the problem is systemic and not a one-off event. To say that is a one-off event with so many occurring would be erroneous.
This list encompasses the reason I don’t work security at nightclubs anymore. On the one hand, places where I interviewed would overlook people being violated for their own profit margins. A good example is when a club manager told me that if “Derek Jeter is going around smacking women in the ass, you don’t kick him out because he spends a lot of money.”
Or the dress codes at other clubs I had to enforce (but never did). The dress code rules state that black people were generally to be excluded from the club. It’s also worth mentioning that while I didn’t enforce the rules there, I never had a problem with anyone other than white frat boys and drunk cougars in all my time working at various clubs.
More to the point, after working at a job like that for such a long time my own anger would start to swell within. Aside from having to move people out of the facility every night, I would look for every little reason to be an asshole to a customer. Some of it was justifiable (like when some fuck stick touched my partner’s hair) but more often than not, I was just a surly guy becoming surlier by the second because of the nature of the job. With such rising forces inside me, I know I would never be fit to be a police officer. The power would corrupt me. I am thankful that I have a positive outlet for these particular feelings. The training helps out a lot. Not everyone has the degree of level-headedness I do, however. Often times people will take a job with a position of power and bring to it their worldview. Their fears, their biases, their prejudices, and everything that goes with it. And this takes the problem to heights far greater than “a few bad eggs in a bunch.”
Black Lives Matter
This preseason, a quarterback sat down during the American national anthem. What’s lost amongst the detractors is the fact that our soldiers fought for the right for him to do just that. They didn’t fight for any of us to uncritically accept everything as is in the name of blind patriotism. Had they fought for that, none of the social change we have experienced would have even occurred. We’d still have “colored” drinking fountains.
Many are quick to dismiss Kaepernick because “how can he be oppressed, he makes millions?” But again, that’s not seeing the forest from the trees. As a black man who is doing well for himself, it shows an incredible level of introspection to know that social issues still affect him. And it shows more gumption on his end to do it alone to bring awareness to a cause that he believes in. And like Peter Marshall said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
From a historical perspective in the US, sports were a step closer to being an equalizer amongst classes and races. While it was imperfect, it gave the marginalized men a chance to realize the opportunities afforded to us by being Americans. Immigrant families like the Dimaggios who came from blue-collar backgrounds to a player like Jackie Robinson who integrated Major League Baseball. His great baseball career, and his post-career aside, Jackie didn’t stand. He didn’t salute. And while we’re quick to write this off, there are a lot of brown children who look up to people they can identify with in the sports world. It let’s them know they can have an opinion. It also lets them know it’s going to be a struggle but that it is a winning one.
Symbolically, Black Lives Matter acknowledges that all lives do matter. But the disparity mentioned above makes it hard to see. So by making the presence felt by drawing attention to a noticeable absence, it stands to bring matters of justice to an equal footing. And it does not in any way discount the struggles of other people of color. John Leguizamo stated:
We’re not strangers to Black Lives Matter. How many people are being abused by border patrol? How much horrible abuse is not being filmed because people don’t have access to iPhones? There’s a lot of abuse going on and brown lives matter, too. And we’ve gotta do our part. We’ve gotta do our social media part, people need to protest, you need to call government officials, write letters. We’ve gotta do everything to help our black brothers and sisters, and also speak up for ourselves. Latin people are the most bullied people in this country right now. It’s the minority that’s the most bullied in schools, and there’s a huge amount of violence being perpetrated on our kids. And it’s a tragedy and it shouldn’t be happening, and it really hurts me as an American.
After Kaepernick knelt, others followed suit. The social world is publishing content daily bringing these issues to light. Whether they are positive or negative articles, there is a growing dialogue. And if this growing dialogue takes us to unity, that is a beautiful thing. An American thing. A human thing.
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