I See Your Racism and I Raise You the Constitution by Venessa Bowers

Several months ago, I wrote the following blog in an attempt to unpack the racist undercurrent in our country. Today, the day after this nation voted a bigot, a racist, a misogynist, a hypocrite, a pedophile, a sexual assault offender, a liar, a cheat, a fraud, a sham, a joke, a petulant child, a xenophobe, a homophobe, a conspiracy theorist with the support of the Russian government, with his minion vice-presidential candidate into the highest offices of our land, and in fact, the free world, I’ve had to rework the piece. I’ve included the original at the end of this blog to show you where I was a few months ago when I firmly believed that love would win. I am left despondent and questioning exactly what the fuck is wrong with the American people.

Let me be frank, I am shocked and appalled that the very people who have been denigrated by this campaign: African Americans, Latinos, white college educated women, LBGTQ members and the people who love them, immigrants, the working class, the poor, the disenfranchised have voted en masse against their best interests. Do you really believe:

  1. That voting for a third party candidate who was even less aware of the world in which we live than the now President-elect was a smart choice? Sure, sure, we all want more options – lobby for that shit in the years between elections and find a candidate who is not a moron if you really want to change the system. DO NOT sit here and tell me your vote for this idiot, regardless of the damn state in which you live, didn’t hurt the democrats. Because, you, my friends, are just wrong. Look at the numbers. They do not lie.
  2. That the FBI releasing a “trumped” up story (and I mean that literally) about some emails was not a “rigging of the system?” Those emails have been under investigation since July and as it happens, had not a god damn thing to do with Hillary Clinton.
  3.  That tomorrow you will have health care that you can afford? That you will be able to get medication you need? That insurance companies all over the country are not, right now figuring out how they can deny your future claims?
  4. That the economy will not continue to tank? Look at the DOW!!!! You just bet the farm against your own future. And? Do not blame Obama for that. That’s on you.
  5. That there will be voting rights available to women and minorities that are not stripped of the basic tenant of the constitutional amendment granting those rights? Especially with the folks calling for the repeal of the 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote in 1920 you, ladies voted AGAINST maintaining a right for which people died. And you should know better.
  6. Ladies – how about having sovereignty over your own body? You have relegated yourselves to brood mares of the state. Your uterus is subjected to the government. Your right to chose how to live your life will now need approval from men in power. Don’t believe me – go talk to women in Indiana who just lived through governance by the stain that is masquerading as the Vice-President-Elect and actually woke the hell up.
    1. And while I’m on the subject of women – guard your p***ies because those are the dominion of men who seek to own you. What about sexual assault victims? What do we tell them now? Anyone who has ever lived through sexual assault knows, KNOWS, that there is no protection for them now. After all, its just locker room talk, right?
    2. Guard your daughters because a sex offender was just elected to the highest office there is and you signed that check. He is facing a civil trial in December on a child rape case.
  7. My African American friends who did not even bother to vote. Seriously? What does John Lewis think of you today? You forfeited your right to live in a country that even pretends to view you as human. It will now be open season in your communities. How will you reconcile what you’ve just done with the fact that so many died in the streets to get you the right to vote in 1965? You simply cannot.
  8. That the Marriage Equality act will stand when the speaker of the house, Republican, Paul Ryan has ALREADY written a bill to support the First Amendment that gives religious zealots the RIGHT to discriminate against you. Its on the docket right now. Just wait for it. And? How about that electro-shock conversion therapy that Pence is in favor of? There’s no safe harbor now.
  9. Veterans – do you honestly believe that you will NOT be called up to support wars against anyone who insults this idiot you elected? You thought 4 tours was tough. Well, strap up, pals.
  10. That the rust belt will EVER see manufacturing jobs again from a man who built his hotels from Chinese steel? They won’t because he will benefit from the cheap labor – ya’ll too expensive.
  11. Poor people – you think that a man who has made a fortune off your back is going to lift you to a standing position? When his minion VP has voted against living wage increases for his entire career? What, is the Lord going to swoop down and change this man’s heart? Ok. Go pray about that.
  12. Family values folks – y’all really just voted for someone who cheated on his wives (note PLURAL) and had 5 children with three different women. Who subjugates his own daughter’s body. Who told the mother of his last child to abort the pregnancy? If you believe he’s a changed man, you need to seek immediate treatment for your delusion. Do it now, while you still have health care coverage.

Is this a rant? You bet your ass it is. I have never, NEVER been more ashamed of the state of things in this country in my lifetime. I am from an immigrant family, a working class/working poor family, a values-driven place that in this great land of ours, believed we would never again bear the weight of the boot on our necks. Well, you … YOU just polished the boot. Inside that boot, hate lives. Fear lives. Faith died. Loved died. Compassion died in the stench of the vitriolic rhetoric of this campaign. You have no idea how many people I’ve seen cry today. How much fear I’ve see today. How many triggered people I’ve seen today. I have sat with victims all day. Children all day. THESE are not weak people. These are the people strong enough to stand up and show their RIGHT to think and feel some kind of way today. I held space for them all, ALL of whom are utterly confused about their place, their identity, their worth, because of the goddamn audacity of marginalization prorogated and perpetuated by this campaign.

Now all that said – read the following blog because I wrote it when I had faith in human decency. I wrote it when I believed that we, all of us, could make it better for all of us. Right now? It’s every p***y for herself. Don’t look over here when the bottom falls out of your shit – because to quote the brilliant Everlast “Rock bottom hurts when you hit it.” Keep your powder dry, though. Because we are on the brink of a cataclysm. I hope you’re ready because you invited the demon to the dinner table. Eat hearty. You won’t get a pass here.
The year is 2016. But it looks a lot more like 1816 in this country that I love. Every day, more and more reports of police using excessive force on unarmed African Americans grows. Since January 1, 2016, 790 people have died at the hands of police, 194 of those people were African Americans, and 33 of those African Americans were unarmed, according to The Counted, The Guardian’s tracker on police killings. The number of killings in general should bother us. The disproportion of African Americans, especially those who were unarmed, should stagger us.

And of those unarmed, they were shot for what? One was reading a book in the car, one was trying to fix a broken down car in the middle of a street, one occurred during a routine traffic stop, and the list continues grows.

Frankly, the people to whom I am referring have been shot BECAUSE they are African Americans. And how do we know? The smart phone in everyone’s hands has made the misdeeds of police a public issue. Day in and day out we get to watch murders occur in our living rooms, offices, schools, parks, and churches. And the best we can do is hashtag the names of the dead.

Here’s what happens: A shooting occurs, we see some outrage on social media, we hear that the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, there is “an investigation,” sometimes charges are brought, but far too often they are not. More often than not, even if charges are brought, the officer walks away from the incident. Why is that a problem? Because someone else CANNOT walk away from the incident.

We read the backlash against the social and political movement of #blacklivesmatter which has been labeled a terrorist and hate group by a portion of the population that clings to a sense of entitlement that they have simply not earned. They rage and storm because they do not like the fact that “this group” of people is using their constitutional right to protest injustice. Former Governor and now, Vice-President elect, Mike Pence railed against the implication by politicians that there is some “institutional or systemic bias” at work. Well Mr. Pence, it is not institutional or systemic bias – it is institutional and systemic racially motivated domestic terrorism. Your running mate is all about “calling it what it is,” so let’s just do that. It is racially motivated domestic terrorism that is sanctioned by the state. Let’s unpack that statement.

When is the last time we have heard the same excuses used when defending why a Black person was shot applied to a White person? We’ve NEVER hear that. When is the last time we heard that unarmed White people are shot by police because “they looked like they were on PCP?” We don’t. Damn it. We DON’T. How is it that the man who shot 15 African Americans inside a church was taken alive and given a meal? Or the Colorado movie theater shooter, taken alive. The Oklahoma City Bomber, taken alive? Notice that I do not use their names specifically because the victims are more important. In addition, notice that all of these people I refer to killed people and were white. So that explains the “racially motivated” portion of the statement.

It is domestic terrorism because it happens on American soil by Americans employed by the State (read government) on a daily basis. It terrorizes only one community because they are the community being targeted. I don’t fear the police. I don’t have to. I’m White and have the expectation that the laws of this land will protect me. African Americans have been shown, time and again, throughout history, that they cannot expect that the same is true for them.

The Bill of Rights of the constitution states that ALL American citizens can expect these specific protections under the law. I’m going to post those articles here because you, dear reader, need to KNOW the constitution so that you can KNOW when it is employed equally to all citizens and when it is not. These 12 articles of the Bill of Rights were completed and adopted on September 25, 1789. That was 227 years ago, almost to the date.

Article the first… After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

Article the second… No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

Article the third… 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.

Article the fourth… A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Article the fifth… No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Article the sixth… The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Article the seventh… No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Article the eighth… In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Article the ninth… In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Article the tenth… Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Article the eleventh… The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Article the twelfth… The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Please go back and read Articles 6-10. Are any of these things happening during these incidents? Of course not. Nowhere in the constitution was it written that a person could become judge, jury, and executioner on the life of another human being. NO where.

As we will see in the coming days, the lives of the dead will be trotted out to victim-blame them for any transgressions they have made during their breathing time. Any transgression. A speeding ticket. Drug use. Mental health challenges that were untreated. Selling cigarettes. Eating Skittles. “He had a gun!” Yes, in an open-carry state. A white person in an open-carry state is not shot, typically, just for “having a gun.” Which was found after he was killed. Trying to protect a client in one’s care. Even if these folks were guilty of breaking the law, they need to be prosecuted according to the Bill of Rights. Even if they were under the influence of drugs and alcohol, they need to be treated and THEN prosecuted. It does not stipulate that they are to be gunned down by the police who are expected to not only PROTECT them, but to SERVE them.

Let me ask my White folks out here a questions. Have you been shot for speeding? Have you been stopped and questioned for failing to signal? And if so, were you afraid you’d die? No, because the constitution protects you.

Let’s be clear. These are not “mistakes” made in the line of duty. These are murders. We’ve all watched the videos. They are murders. Any suggestion that law enforcement is “just doing their job” when these events take place is not only ludicrous, it is a tacit approval of the behavior. Further, help me understand how, in New York, a man who detonated bombs that injured 29 people and was prepared to detonate more, who shot at police, and was consider armed and dangerous, posing an imminent threat, was taken alive? Because those cops, “were doing their jobs.” And a great many cops do their jobs with insight and compassion, and caution. They de-escalate situations. So, when I take to task the cops killing African Americans, I am certainly not being anti-cop.

As a social worker, I can say that I have spent a lot of my time in the last few years listening to these topics come up in my classrooms and my private sessions. Frankly, I am tired of trying to help children cope with fear of police officers because they are black. Really tired of it because there is no comfort I can offer. I cannot honestly say that “it will be ok,” or “it won’t happen to you,” or “just use your manners.” I just can’t because I will not lie to a child. But also, as a social worker, my code of ethics mandates that my primary goal is to “help people in need and to address social problems” (National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics). It also states that must I respect the inherent dignity of the person in front of me, challenge social injustice, focus on the importance of human relationships, and that I value and practice in a culturally competent and socially diverse way.

But guess what? I’ve been physically and verbally threatened by clients and I didn’t shoot them. I have been afraid for my life and I didn’t shoot anyone. I’ve been so overworked that I didn’t know my own name, but instead of practicing unethically, I took time off. I do NOT want to hear those excuses from law enforcement. Ever. Again. Because as a law enforcement officer, you have chosen, just as I have chosen, to serve the public. And to do that well, you have to be trained, you have to care, you have to do self-care, and you have to CHECK YOUR BIAS at the door. Every day. Every time. No exceptions.

If I practice unethically, I will lose my license and that means I cannot no longer be a social worker. If I shoot and kill someone, I will stand trial and be convicted and sent to prison, especially if it is caught on camera. Why is the same standard that is applied to me, not applied to law enforcement? In so many ways, my profession is much more dangerous. Because we, as social workers, face crisis unarmed. Unarmed. Every. Day. So that means, I’ve got to use my brain to de-escalate a situation. I don’t get to tase someone. Or shoot someone because I’m afraid.

My code of ethics prohibits me from doing any harm to another person. More than the code of ethics though, the LAW prohibits me from doing harm to another person. And I believe in that, value that, practice that, and expect that from others serving the public.

Until African Americans can say that the law protects them, is my belief that the law protects me really valid? I’m not so sure. Because what happens when my groups are targeted by law enforcement? But see, even that question is ludicrous. I will never experience that. Because the law and constitution does protect, and has always, protected me.

So, as a white woman, a social worker, a human being, I am going to call what is happening right now (and has happened for centuries in this country) what it is: It is state sanctioned, racially motivated, domestic terrorism. And we need to read our governing documents to understand that. And we need to “take a knee,” or “take a stand,” or “raise our voices” to make change happen.

Because it has to change or we will see another civil war in this country. As White folk, we need to look within ourselves and find the corners where racism lurks. And we need to drag it into the light and deal with it. Head on. We have to be self-reflective. We have to be our brother’s keeper. We have to talk to other white people because they will listen to us. We have to educate.

We have to do these things now. People are dying in our collective streets. That has to matter to us, collectively. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Each time you want to say “well it’s not all white people,” or “it’s not all cops,” shut your mouth and listen to other people. Seriously. Shut your mouth for once. We do not need to dominate this discourse. We need to listen with our hearts and not hide behind our hastags.

Imagine how insulting it is for African Americans to see the hashtag #alllivesmatter. Can you even imagine what that feels like? It means to them: ONLY our lives matter (read white). Or how about #bluelivesmatter – like it’s an equivalent issue. Listen, a cop chooses to be a cop. No one wakes up one day and chooses to be African American. What if you were targeted and this is the response you got from people? Imagine what the heck that feels like? It’s isolating, it’s intolerant, it’s anti-intellectual, it’s anti-religious, and it’s anti-human. Be pro-something for once. Use your brains from more than video gaming and victim-blaming because it removes your from social responsibility. And if you cannot do these things. Get out of the way of the people who can.

Because if you come across me, I will see your racism and raise the constitution.

Every time.


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