Archive for the ‘Police Brutality’ Tag

Independence Day Reality by Angenita Williams

20160704_144416

Picture taken in St. Louis, MO.

I visited St. Louis over the Independence holiday. My family resides literally around the corner from Ferguson. I asked my cousin to take me through the neighborhood that was engulfed in flames about two years ago.

As she drove through the streets, I saw emptiness. I saw a shell of a place that was teetering on the brinks of poverty. I saw Mom and Pop stores that once serviced the neighborhood, and I saw some still striving.

Something stirred in me as we drove to the place where it happened…where he was shot.

There was no mark on this site. There was no memorial. There wasn’t a trace of Michael Brown. But there was an aura…a hanging loneliness marked by life taken too soon. A wave of despair as I visualized that day for him. My heart pained for his parents. My soul searched for words that I couldn’t say. I felt an eerie chill go up my spine. I was there.

I envisioned what I saw on the TV during the days of the riots. My cousin pointed out the places that were in flames, she showed me where they marched on the police station. She showed me empty lots where businesses once stood, proud to be a part of the economy.

Remnants of seething anger were left behind. I saw it all. And I felt empty. Hollow. Missing. The uproar happened…and it left the TV screen. People went back to living as they were, although the undercurrent of the event is still there. The aftermath is still there. People lost a lot those days: a mother and father lost a son. Some people lost their jobs. Business owners lost their businesses.

And yet, after all of that, the killings of unarmed Black people still continue. As I write this, a 37-year-old father was killed in Baton Rouge, LA. By cops. On video. Plain as day. And a 32-year-old man was shot for a traffic stop. Eleven Dallas cops were shot and five died.

These stories permeate our timelines on social media. We speak behind keyboards about our rage, how saddening this is, and how we pray for their families. Empty #RIP hashtags don our newsfeeds. Tears fall. We say not another one. We say how can this continue to happen. We say let’s fight against this. Then we have those that say well, you only get angry when it’s a cop murdering unarmed Black people, and talk about Black on Black crime.

The Black on Black crime stance always rubs me the wrong way. There are so many people that say if our young Black men would stop killing each other, then the police would stop killing our sons and daughters. This line of thinking is backwards. Here’s why:

Black lives never mattered to the powers that be. If they did, slavery would not have existed to the brutal level that it did. Reconstruction would have leveled the playing field by really giving the freed slaves their forty-acres and a mule to get a jump-start instead of the mess of sharecropping.  Actually help with the bootstraps to pull up. It would not have been against the law for slaves to read or write. Jim Crow would have never existed. The Civil Rights Movement would not have been necessary.

The only way that Black lives mattered were when our ancestors worked the fields in toil to build empires. When Black women were raped and used as sexual slaves for the master…to procreate and increase the property value of the master.  And most of all, introduce a religion, use a religion, to keep the slaves scared and in “their place.” When you consistently and constantly show a group of people that their lives don’t matter, when you show nothing but contempt and hate, it becomes internalized. They hate their skin…and the skin of their peers. Take dads from the home; remove the foundation, and you have this so-called Black-on-Black crime.

As with any crime, we victimized what we know, who we know. More than likely, that looks just like us. This goes for every race. Black on Black crime has been sensationalized to somehow be worse than any other race. But I’m sure one will find that White-on-White or Hispanic-on-Hispanic or Asian-on-Asian, or Native American-on-Native American crime has probably the same amount of crime per capita simply because people tend to  live in the same neighborhoods where your neighbors look a lot like them.

Michael Brown was headed to college. Sandra Bland was headed to her Alma mater. Freddie Gray was headed home…just like Trayvon, Oscar, Akai. Eric and Alton tried to make a little money to support a family. Rekia was laughing with friends. Jordan was listening to music with his friends. Tamir was playing in the park with a BB gun – something that many kids play with. John Crawford was in Wal-Mart walking around on the phone.  Tanisha, Donte, and Ezell had mental illnesses. LaQuan crossed the street. Philandro followed orders.

Yet Dylann can murder nine people in a church in cold blood, and be escorted out in a bulletproof vest. George Zimmerman is still free. Darren Wilson is in jail for assaulting his wife. Countless videos of non-minority people  who hit, spit, have weapons such as hatchets or knives show how these particular people manage to be subdued without a gun…or they are let go. The shooters of Alton and Philandro are on paid administrative leave (AKA vacation).

We drove away from the scene. I took everything in. My heart fluttered and felt pain when we turned around. I left the city of Ferguson behind, but the streets, the uproar, the feelings of anger brewed under my skin. The things I saw are forever etched in my memory. I leave this blog with a few quotes:

If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it. ~ Zora Neale Hurston

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible. ~ Maya Angelou

Black power can be clearly defined for those who do not attach the fears of white America to their questions about it. ~ Stokely Carmichael

There’re two people in the world that are not likeable: a master and a slave. ~ Nikki Giovanni

Acceptance of prevailing standards often means we have no standards of our own. ~ Jean Toomer

When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses. ~ Shirley Chisholm

You don’t fight racism with racism, the best way to fight racism is with solidarity. ~ Bobby Seale

Is it a crime, to fight, for what is mine? ~ Tupac Shakur

 

Advertisements

On Being Black in America by Angenita Williams

I know it’s been a minute…

These past few weeks have been torment for me.

I’ve sat quietly watching as news story after news story after blog after blog spills the details about another mistreatment of people of color.

I’ve been silent. Trying to figure out exactly what I want to say that hasn’t already been regurgitated through media.

And then the Charleston Nine happened. The actual thought of removing the Confederate flag happened. On my drive home, I figured out what I wanted to say – a checklist of sorts. I’m only going to list three, or this blog will be a hundred pages long.

  1. On Being a Black Woman

I am a Black Woman. That means that royalty flows through my veins. My foremothers were Queens. My foremothers were dignified women. I wear my crown straight. Slave blood runs through my veins as well as the strength of my ancestors. My shoulders sometimes struggle for carrying the world is heavy. My back is arched, my head is held high. Just like Maya said, “Phenomenal woman, that is me.” My piercing stares are full of determination and tenacity. My tresses are strong. I love me.

And it took me almost 40 years to do that.

With what society says I should look like. All my images of “real” beauty came in the form of Barbie. Brooke Shields. Susan Lucci. Farrah Fawcett. And when I got a little older, Claire Huxtable and Dianne Carroll. I was a victim of the paper bag. My blackness always questioned because my skin is a tad paler.

But I was still Black. I hated my kinky hair. I hated my name because it was so unique. It always seemed like if I was a white girl named Tina with long brown hair, and pale blue eyes, I would be so much happier. Why? Because Tina had things that looked like her. That resembled her. That were her…

And I was grown before I could truly love everything that being a Black woman is, does, and strives to do. Before I learned the true strength of where I come from – the fields of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Before I understood that my beauty comes from the strength I innately possess. Before I realized that beauty is truly beyond this skin I’m in.

  1. On Being a Mother of Black Children

I worry every time my children leave my sight. They are of strong mind and strong will. My son, a Black man. My daughter, a Black teen.

I am bombarded with images of unarmed children being gunned down because the officers don’t understand that they too are innocent. They have an innocence about them just like his kids do. But he is threatened by their melanin. By there sheer ability to have the nerve to WANT to do things outside the home. To DESIRE to be something other than…*insert typical Black stereotype*.

Not too long ago, a Facebook friend posted a picture of the White Charleston Nine shooter next to the picture of the fourteen-year-old Black girl with a cop’s knee in her back. The caption compared the dignified way he was captured against the violent way a CHILD was thrown to the ground. A woman who was white said the picture was misleading and that the bikini clad young lady was being aggressive. A child who had no idea what was going on and begged for her mother versus a cold-blooded killer who was afforded a bulletproof vest and a sandwich.

I responded with – she is a CHILD.

The lady responded with a long response to which she ended with “I will teach my children to treat everyone well, and I hope they teach their kids the same.”

My long response ended with “be thankful you can teach your kids that. Be thankful that you don’t have to worry about your kids not coming home – not because they are bad kids, because they are not. It’s because they are Black.”

As a mother, this is heartbreaking. And the list just keeps growing. I pray my children’s names are never on that list. I pray my nephews and nieces will never make that list. I pray my brothers, uncles, cousins and friends never make that list.

  1. On Being Black, Woman, Near 40, and Single

It truly seems like the older I get, the worse dating gets. Seriously. One would think that with age comes maturity. This isn’t so in a lot of cases. And it’s frustrating. Maybe it’s because I expect so much. Like a job. And decent conversation. And thoughtfulness. And a date or two or three. In my teens and 20’s, I accepted pretty much whatever just to be recognized by a man. Just to have one in my presence. Just to have one be there…even if it was temporary. Just to feel “love.” And I got two kids to raise pretty much alone (my loves!), a broken marriage (not truly getting what marriage entails), a few broken hearts, an ocean of tears, fears of rejection and pain, a steel fortified fortress built around my heart, and a different view on love. Dating isn’t fun – it is a tiring assortment of role specifics and game playing. I am over playing the game. And many older men that approach me want to play it.

There are way more things to speak on – finances, education, awareness, growth. I’ll save that for another time…

I’m baaaaacccckkkk

Tragedy and Travesty of Violence by Angenita Williams

 

stock-vector-red-and-black-poster-with-bomb-and-the-globe-92784286

 

We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us.

~ Jean-Paul Sartre

I cried when the Trayvon Martin verdict was read….I cried when I learned that Jordan Davis’ killer didn’t get convicted of his murder, but of attempted murder of his friends…I was in dismay and utter disbelief when Eric Garner’s death was ruled a homicide, yet it doesn’t appear an arrest has been made…and angered at how long it took to even get a name of the police officer that shot Michael Brown…

I’m left with the questions of how can my son, grandsons, and nephews trust the police to protect and serve them when they are viewed threats and unworthy of living? How can the community not be in a state of fear and depression when oppressors are all around them? How do these actions and circumstances differ from a 1960’s state of America? Isn’t this modern-day lynching? When is that change gone come? How is it gonna come?

Our men are accustomed to being the last rung on the ladder when it comes to this country. They are put down as nothing; regarded to animals. A professor by the name of Charles Carroll details this in his book “The Negro A Beast” or “In the Image of God” published in 1900. And something from so long ago still resonates in our country. It’s also worthy to note, the Bible is also used in this book to justify that Black people are not human, and according to page 138 of that text, scientific research demonstrates that “no wooly-haired nation has ever had an important history.”

It doesn’t help that Black America cannot unite unless some tragedy occurs; nor does it help that our youth of today buck authority, and just don’t care. But how can they when they are resorted to being shot like raging beasts when all they try to do is surrender, break up a fight, or lay face down and follow orders? Can one even imagine how depressing living in that manner is? It’s a wonder that we still have some strong men left in our community.

The stereotype of Black America will always supersede the accomplishments of Black America, and that alone makes for a bleak existence in this country. What is extremely disheartening is that many folks in the community either believe the stereotype completely or perpetuate it. Look at those who leave the ‘hood never to return, and snub their noses at where they came from. What about those who don’t reach back to the ‘hood to help those in need? What about those who refer to their own people as “useless, unkempt, and unnecessary?” Whatever the case, though, stereotypes should never, ever equal death. Books should never be judged by their cover, and when it comes to our men, the covering of their skin is justifiable homicide…simply because of America’s belief that black men are simply unworthy and animalistic. Men who were once deemed as kings are resorted to being less important that mistreated dogs. (See Michael Vick.)

The protests happening in Missouri attempt to thwart the notion that we can be peaceful. But it’s kinda hard to do when you have armored tanks, weapons, and tear gas descending upon you when all you want is justice. It’s hard to turn a cheek when you are being bullied by the powers that be. It’s really difficult when your questions have no answers. Peace is extremely hard to attain when there are a few indignant people causing mayhem. At this stage, no one will remember the good about the situation (peaceful protestors protecting businesses), but the bad that is being done out there right now.

My favorite author, Maya Angelou said it best: “If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” The best way to get our respect – is to LOVE each other, and stand together to not only right the wrongs of the forces that are upon us, but to also dismantle the killing of our own people by our own people. The youth of today have generations of worthlessness upon them. I’ve said it before, and I will keep saying it – fathers need to return to the home. The trends of the downfall of Black America can be directly correlated to the absence of a real dad. And when I say return to the home, I mean DO SOMETHING. Parent, participate, love, discipline, listen, and respect your kids. Because in all honesty, if we cannot come together and show that we are worthy, there are going to be many more Mike Browns, Eric Garners, Oscar Grants, Ezell Fords, Sean Bells, Trayvon Martins, Jordan Davis’s, Ramarley Grahams, etc…and justice will simply refuse to prevail.

%d bloggers like this: