Tag Archives: black

Jay Smooth on “Black Respectability” commentary from Don Lemon

Jay Smooth of illdoctrine.com “Black Respectability” from August 2013.  He’s replying to commentary from pundit Don Lemon on the issue of “black respectability”, you know the trope that all that black men need to do is present a more respectable appearance and attitude to the public (that is what pleases white middle class culture) and everything will be perfect.  Even though this video is now almost two years old, the issue still burns.  Also, Bill Cosby, before he hit his own wall on respectability, used to love to trot this out while waving is finger at “young black men”.

Its victim blaming.  Its also what women do to each other as well, or American Indian folks or any other group that experiences oppression.  Some folks of any of those given groups will decide for whatever reason, to take on the role of the moral superior one.  These folks have opted to climb up the hierarchical ladder of oppression to get a little further up the line and in the process step on their own people’s heads.  Its victim blaming and it needs to be called out again and again and again just as Jay Smooth does here to Don Lemon, enjoy:

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Manchester Marches for Mike Brown

Folks in the city of Manchester and surrounding areas disgusted with the grand jury verdict have decided to make their voices heard.

 Michael Brown is seen on a tie worn by his father during the funeral

Photo from Reuters news service, mourners at Micheal Brown’s funeral.

 

On Saturday at 1:00 pm people will meet at Veteran’s Park to possibly do a small march and some sharing as well about their thoughts about the murder of Mike Brown and the fact that his murderer has been set free.

Veteran’s Park is located downtown on Elm Street between Central and Merrimack Streets. There will be plenty of parking around on Elm, Central and Merrimack Street.

Bring your friends, bring signs that express your outrage and be ready to express your outrage at this latest injustice against innocent citizens in this country.

For more information please see the Facebook event page at:

Manchester Marches for Mike Brown

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Injustice in Missouri

Paul of Adequately Outraged weighs in briefly on the events in Missouri and tells it very well.

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Injustice in Missouri

Mike Brown was shot dead. The man who pulled the trigger won’t face trial. Darren Wilson collected a small fortune of donations, some from white supremacist organizations. America has now invented crowdfunded murder.
The injustice landed tonight is a continued denial of Michael Brown’s humanity. Regardless of the skirmish that may have initially happened, the odds are that Brown was a good distance from Officer Wilson at the time of the shooting and unarmed. Wilson shot Brown 6 times and the body was left in the street for hours like carrion.
Trayvon Martin, John Crawford, Michael Brown and countless other young black men are tragic statistics of multiple problems’ confluence. Institutional and plantation racisms, police militarization, classism and overall economic inequality all factor into deadly circumstances. These are all causes that can be improved with community outreach and partnership building. The struggle faced by those in regressive areas of the land needs to be aided in all ways possible by allies.

I express solidarity with those protesting the travesty of justice in Ferguson, Missouri. Until Darren Wilson is brought to trial for the murder of Michael Brown, as would occur for any other fatal shooting, there is reason to suspect the system. I’m not worried about the protesters, I’m worried for them.

Good luck brothers and sisters. Keep safe. Hold your rage tight; do not forget it. Remember, though: this is for those we love.

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Senator Mary Landrieu Reminds Southerners of that Peculiar Institution

Yesterday an NBC reporter asked Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu why Obama’s approval ratings in the south were consistently so low.  Without hesitation Senator Landrieu (Democrat) responded after noting that while the south has strong economic ties to the oil and gas industry, there’s something else, “I’ll be very, very honest with you. the South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”

No kidding.  The degree of vitriol, blaming and shaming that has been directed at Obama has surpassed anything in history, besides possibly presidents that deserved such treatment such as Franklin Pierce or Richard Nixon.  Couple that with the resurrection of Jim Crow type threats, such as hanging nooses in front yards to using racist stereotypes to demean and degrade the president, one has to wonder sometimes what century people are living in.

No doubt the Republicans don’t like being called ignorant bigots, but look at their policies and the statements of many politicians and especially the expressions that burst on the public scene within Tea Party rallies.  Someone called the dog whistles so loud they all came running out of the pen.  Now here we are with Obama having served two terms and experiencing obstructionism unlike any other president, save possibly prior to the civil war when the south drew together in opposition to the threat of abolition.  But this is 2014 isn’t it?  Why do southerners and conservatives draw back and bare their teeth when anyone dare mention the ‘R’ word: Racist!  The attacks on Landrieu for her comments contain all the predictable smear.

Being called out can get pretty uncomfortable, especially when its true and you’ve got no possible way to evade the obvious.  Hence the “conservative” who supports policies that deny the existence of racism in this country, that want everyone who suffers from racism or inequality to just “get over it”.  Sure, but why can’t conservatives just “get over it” with being called out for denying history? (Oh wait, there’s more recent evidence of Republicans not being racists! Check out this from Alternet!) Possibly because getting over it would mean then addressing issues that persist that relate directly to the construct of division of people and communities by skin color in order to keep bondage and general oppression in place.

slave bracelets

America will be forever chained to its past until it deals with it and heals the wounds.

Considering that Africans, although kidnapped and held against their will, managed to build the south and provide much of the profit for the northern merchant class as well for at least a good 200 years, you’d think the south might have a wee bit of gratitude.  If one adds to that the period after emancipation when black folks still experienced a system that locked them into a state of servitude by skin color separation and social ghettos one would wonder why anyone would even dare to deny that a system of race based oppression grew in this country.   The mansions and plantation houses from Virginia to Mississippi visited by people all over the country are usually fawned upon for their splendor and architectural beauty.  Does anyone recognize or attempt to understand the pain and suffering that went on at those places? The unpaid hands who built them?

There are so many questions that must be asked if justice will ever be reached on the damage caused by slavery and the social system derived specifically to keep it in place and everyone in their place; including poor white folks.  Instead,  when any mention of the former “Peculiar Institution” and its relationship to the south occurs, an unprecedented howl of righteous fervor rises from below.america be like

Unlike most other accusations of racism directed at the south or conservatives in general, Landrieu’s cannot be shunned as mere criticism from uppity northerners or carpet-baggers, because she is actually one of their own.  Landrieu has had the audacity to break the unwritten code of the south wherein public figures shy away from public discussion relating to that Peculiar Institution and Reconstruction.  You can talk all day and the rest of your life about the “The War of Northern Aggression” and how President Andrew Johnson’s quick work turned Reconstruction into Deconstruction and put former rebel officers (treasoners) back into political positions and returned a defacto culture of slavery to the south.  But never ever mention that the south had anything to do with forcing an entire mass of people into bondage and hard labor to build the original American aristocracy, both north and south.

There’s too much at stake as everyone knows, as every white southerner has always known.  As every white southerner who ever inherited any wealth derived from the antebellum period knows, admission of guilt is only the beginning to opening the floodgates of justice.  As always, those who beat their chests the loudest about something usually have the most to hide. In this instance, the so-called “pro-liberty” and “pro freedom” party would rather keep the rate at which liberty and freedom are meted out, under their sole control.

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Undressing the N-Word

Moving In, by Norman Rockwell, inspired by integration efforts in Park Forest, Illinois.  How would the utterance of that word effect the potential relationship illustrated?

Moving In, by Norman Rockwell, inspired by integration efforts in Park Forest, Illinois. How would the utterance of that word effect the potential relationship illustrated?

Ran across a well written commentary by writer H. Lewis Smith on why no one should use the N-word in any context in the English language.  While this commentary is addressed to African-American folks most specifically, its range should not be restricted to just that audience.

People of European heritage, that is who have light-colored skin and identify as ‘white’ (a racist construct itself), often express confusion about the use of the N-word.  For some reason they seem to feel that if they hear someone of color use this term to refer to themselves or their peers, then they have a free license to use the word. Why of course, anyone would want to use such a disgusting word in any context is perplexing, but for want of understanding, many do.

Firstly, as Mr. Smith so eloquently lays out and anyone with any understanding of history should know, the N-word embodied the rationalization that allowed the mass brutalization of an entire people by another.

Those of European ancestry who live in America have reaped the fruits of the hard work of those who once were enslaved and often reap the fruits of systemic racism that still exists today.  Statistics and even basic observation shows quite plainly that inequality exists today nearly as grossly as fifty or more years ago.  Those statistics also show that such inequality, while most often economic also derives from social inequality put in place and held in place by old, yet firmly held beliefs, traditions and behaviors of those who have the power to make change where they can.

Recently a poll of ‘white’ folks showed that many have little empathy for or desire to understand the struggle of African-Americans for justice.  Racist language and attitudes don’t touch people of non-African heritage yet surprisingly, many of these same people feel they have a right to pass judgment on when, how and to what degree African-American people should express outrage at their own oppression.  The attitude of prejudice comes from ignorance, the ignorance remains in place due to a social construct that legitimizes one group’s experience while dismissing another’s, called privilege.  In the context of the American social frame, it is known as “white privilege”.

This seems shocking, but its a symptom of the culture; a culture where the dominance of one group over another runs deep.  It runs so deep that non-African people feel they have the right to arbitrate on and decide on the degree to which another group is oppressed.  Privilege is exactly that — having the power to decide right and wrong and where responsibility lies and most importantly, who is allowed to suffer.  What is the difference between this hypocrisy and that of the slave holder of old, who tightly holds the key to the shackles while laughing that his property enjoys their enslavement?

Like Mr. Smith, people take a minute to think agree that use of the N-word trivializes the suffering of those who came before us and built this country with no pay, no credit, not even a thanks.  Use of the N-word excuses injustice and the dehumanization of racism, the N-word grants the lynch mob tacit approval, gives a nod to those who say that racism doesn’t exist and allows it to perpetuate.  Use of the N-word by people of non-African descent, most importantly, practices the same oppression, the same brutalization by repeating and aping the very practice of those who held the slave system in place by their participation in it or obedience to it.

Mr. Smith says that all people of colored skin came from the same place.  Let’s correct that: all humans came from the same place.  Africa is in fact the genetic motherland of all of us.  Science has shown that homo sapiens began in the rich lands of Africa and migrated over thousands of years to different locations as continental plates moved and shifted.  Also, science has now shown that light colored hair shafts (blonde, red) and light colored skin, the hallmarks of people from regions with less sunlit days, were no doubt an evolutionary adaptation to survive.  Light skin and light hair allowed the essential vitamin D to be absorbed into the body, the sun being the only source (until modern chemistry has made it possible as an additive) for this vitamin.  While the development of other features such as nose shape in some folks seems still a debated topic, we should be long beyond any idea that human difference is more than skin deep.

Kwanzaa, the celebration of African unity and pride ended yesterday and in that evening Nelson Mandela passed away.  This seems a fitting time for everyone to consider how their actions, even what seems the smallest, such as word choice can move us forward as a people or keep us all enslaved in ignorance and hate.

Column: “Undressing The N-Word”

By H. Lewis Smith

Nationwide (December 3, 2013) — Over the past year or so, many events have been occurring in the Black Community at the hand of the Black Community that continues to bring continual shame and degradation to the honorable memories, sacred struggle and sacrifice of African-American ascendants. Some may argue against it, but these acts continue to adversely affect the growth, development, and progression of the Black community, on a whole, to this very day. For instance, in November 2013, former NBA greats Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and ESPN commentator Michael Wilborn bowed down to and pledged their allegiance to a word that dehumanized, stigmatized and objectified their ancestors on national TV. That word is the n-word (n**ga).

It is this sort of pervasive 18th century slave mentality, blindness to such behaviors, and misuse of influential power – much-made possible by the blood and sacrifices of their own ancestors, that prompted writing the book Undressing of the N-word: Revealing the Naked Truth About Lies, Deceit and Mind Games. It is high time that Black America stop the antics, halt the selfish mentality of “I got mines”, and really use all resources they have to demand respect for the entire race within and without the community. Ignorance is no longer acceptable or the calling card to bring attention to Black America; rather, Black America must take the time to educate themselves, and in so doing, reality will be made clear.

The following are excerpts from one of the chapters in my soon-to-be released book entitled, Undressing The N-word: Revealing the Naked Truth About Lies, Deceit and Mind Games.

Forbiddingly, you learn today that your mother was brutally and unmercifully bludgeoned to death with a hammer. Now close your eyes and think about this for a moment: think about the heinousness in the act; see your mother screaming for her life and doing everything in her power to defend against and fight off her unrelenting attackers; think about all of the pain and anguish she endured as blow upon blow of the hammer welled down on her, before the final bit of life was unrightfully snatched with that last thud. Can you see it? Can you see the multiple plugs imprinted into whatever part of her body the hammer unforgivingly fell upon? Can you empathize with that dreadful moment in time?

Click to continue reading H. Lewis Smith

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And No One Gives a Damn About Glenn Grothman

Grothman wearing his tribal chieftan hat.

Grothman wearing his tribal chieftan hat.

Demonstrating once again the awesome level of stupid that seems a prerequisite for serving in any state legislature across the country, Wisconsin State Senator (R, West Bend), as according to a report in Huffington Post, has now made his thoughts known on Kwanzaa.

Somehow Grothman doesn’t get the irony of a patently racist white guy railing at ‘white’ lefties for apparently paying too much attention to holidays invented by African-American folks for African-America folks.  We can understand how that might get under the skin of someone like Grothman who actually lives in the invented binary world of ‘white’ and ‘black’ invented in fact, by the kind of racism people like Grothman like to say doesn’t exist.   We can understand that it probably rocks his world a little bit when his so called “white” brethren go all out and support some non-‘white’ sanctioned and approved holidays.  Sort of like running to close too the horizon; there’s a real fear that possibly you just might fall off the edge.

But really, first off anyone who knows anything about Kwanzaa, or knows how to use a computer (or has a six year grandchild who might teach them) and the Great Google Machine can learn in about three seconds what Kwanzaa represents, who started it and who celebrates it.

Secondly, if Grothman had any clue of American history he’d know that his ancestors (we’ll say his since he likes to use “white” as his identifier which lumps him in the group of the slaver) profited from, supported and used slavery and the associated social construct of racism for his and his ancestor’s own social advancement.  So, considering such we can understand how people like Grothman might get a little prickly when they see the people they’re used to walking all over and feeling on top of go and have the temerity to assert themselves as a people and assert that they have a right to their own customs and traditions, even going so far as to make new ones to match their own unique struggles and history in this country (that Grothman again wishes to not remember).

We can see how people like Grothman also might have a hard time understanding that their opinion of what people do with, about, on, or around Kwanzaa is really none of his damn business.  Contrary to what a lot of “white” guys like him think, the people who celebrate Kwanzaa didn’t ask his permission to celebrate it, don’t need his permission nor will they most likely ever care to have it.

Likewise, many of us left-wingers of European, Asian, African, Middle Eastern, American Indian or (name another ethnicity — see how complicated thinking gets?) origin don’t really feel that Grothman has any business lumping us all in his group of “white” folks.  Since many of us on the left feel its time to recognize all traditions and allow those whose traditions were stolen so many centuries ago, to have them back or make new ones, we’re fine with Kwanzaa or whatever else African-American folks want to celebrate; we want to celebrate with them and support them, not criticize, belittle or dismiss like Grothman, because really unlike Grothman and his ilk, we realize we have no right to do so and thus we’d prefer to keep our mouths shut, which is something Grothman might do well to practice as his first step to recovery from ignorance.

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Examining the Drug War and Prison-Industrial Complex – “The New Jim Crow” Book Discussion

The New Jim Crow coverOn Sunday, January 20th, activists Brenda and Woullard Lett will be hosting a discussion on the Michelle Alexander book “The New Jim Crow”.

The event is free and will be at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 669 Union Street in Manchester at 11:45 am.  The event will be informal with a potluck lunch (please bring something to share).  Please RSVP by registering for the event here.

Michelle Alexander has opened up the discussion about how racism has continued to permeate our criminal justice system and other areas of our society, effectively keeping in place a system similar to the southern Jim Crow racist laws of the past.

This issue and awareness of Michelle Alexander’s book is a must-have for all of those concerned about the current movement to privatize prisons across the United States and the troubling elements of denial of justice that comes from that.

This interview gives an excellent overview of the topics covered in her book:

This is an open discussion to begin to explore ways in which can work to undo these oppressive cultural systems and free all of us finally from the tragic past of race-based oppression and move into a more just future. Excellent summary of Jim Crow and the new prison industrial complex:

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Damn Well About Time: UN Groups to Monitor Elections

Its damn well about time.  The ACLU and the NAACP have requested that election monitoring groups from the UN come in and monitor areas where minority vote suppression has been witnessed.  Of course the wingnuttia is having the predictable hissy fit about it, stamping their feet claiming that the UN can’t watch them because well, because they aren’t American.

Which is the point.  We want objective, fair and reasonable observation which can only come from a group completely removed from the rampant corruption coming out of the conservative even some of the moderate sides of the political landscape here.

You’d think that after all their crying and whining about ‘rampant’ election fraud, they’d welcome an outside source to monitor for such activities.  But no, apparently the wingnuts don’t like others looking over their shoulders.  I’d suggest they calm down because the best way oftentimes to find guilt is to find the one that resists the light of day the most.

 

 International monitors at US polling spots draw criticism from voter fraud groups

Liberal-leaning civil rights groups met with representatives from the OSCE this week to raise their fears about what they say are systematic efforts to suppress minority voters likely to vote for President Obama.

For more reading look here.  Thanks Daily Kos for sending out the clarion call about this.

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So Tell Me Again Racism Doesn’t Exist

So I was at the Valley Street Stop and Shop in Manchester; the one that in the phone book is on Lincoln Street. Anyway, I’m there shopping with my little carpenter friend and suddenly, as I hunted around I heard African voices speaking, not uncommon in Manchester. Always curious about new sounds and languages I look up and see a mom and her two kids shopping.  Nothing new, so I return my gaze and concentration to answer the burning question, steel cut oats or organic? quick cooking or old fashioned? I make my selection and move down the aisle.

Then suddenly I hear some talking from a loud man, as I move closer to the end of the aisle, I saw a plump white man moving along with a carriage and his mouth moving along with him.  Then I hear quite clearly, “You like America uh?” My mind had to register for a minute if that this was not a friendly exchange. Bellowed at the top of the man’s voice, everyone in that part of the store had to have heard it.  Other people I noticed moved along quietly and said nothing. I turned the corner of the aisle and passed the mom and her children to whom I was certain the shouting was directed.

You know communication is universal and one of the most fascinating elements of communication is how, without words we humans often can pick up the subtle nuances of emotion and state of mind.  I passed the mom and noticed her son, probably a pre-teen talking quickly in his native tongue and his mother scolding him back.  The exchange continued with mom interrupting son.  I imagined the conversation as something the boy spouting off in frustration, answering the rude man’s racist jest and mother telling him to be quiet and move on.

The man’s voice echoed in my mind, the tone of mom and son’s speech and I had a hunch, I turned from my carriage and faced the mother and asked out loud, “Did that man just say what I thought he said?”  The mother answered, “Yes!” with a look of disbelief and frustration.  I told her I wish I had been there and spouted off about what a horrible thing and what an ass, she said he just started talking to her and yelling at her.  We vented together, me allowing her, I hope, the permission to be angry; to know that not all ‘white’ people agree with the ignorance of that man.

But whatever I could do as a ‘white’ person far outnumbers the violence and offensiveness of the racists.  Often I feel as if I am fighting a losing battle and I never have the opportunity enough times, nor enough support from my white peers to fight this problem.

More than likely I can’t find enough ‘white’ to stand up to this, because there are too many telling each other that racism doesn’t exist anymore.  They say that conversations and verbal assaults like what I witnessed today are rare, if happening ever at all and certainly not in our community!

Well there it is, in your community and this isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed this or had to sit and listen to an endlessly ignorant and arrogant white person tell me how they know all about people of color.  Come again?

I know it exists, I know it happens. I don’t have to be the witness every minute to verify the experiences of people of color when they tell me stories they tell me in confidence. I don’t want to walk away and pretend I don’t notice when incidents like the above happen, in fact I wish I had caught on sooner and had been in closer proximity to what was going on today; I would have been happy to provide an example of a white person standing up to a racist.

I don’t have to have dark skin to know that racism is wrong. I don’t have to count on my fingers the number of dark skinned friends I have to figure out whether I’m qualified to speak out against racism.  I don’t need someone to tell me that as a white person I have privilege when nearly once a week, maybe everyday depending on where I am, I hear a white person justify to me, why they think their white skin makes them better than and different than someone without white skin.  I hear it, I hear their ignorant words and their ignorant ideas. I hear white people say to me about “that part of town”.  I hear white people say to me, “Well he’s black.” I hear white people say to me, “I don’t rent to Mexicans.” I hear white people say to me, “Black people are lazy, spanish people are noisy.” Should I go on white folks or do you know what I am saying?

So don’t tell me there’s no racism.  See: 10 Conversations I’m sick of Having with White People

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In Our Pupils – Poem by Antonia Lassar about Africa

Told about this poem by Matthew Richards,  a local poet who saw her perform it in person.

Antonia Lassar

In Our Pupils

My heart has started to stamp like the herds.
I breathe this air,
But my eyes open like passports.
The cover says America,
but has Africa stamped on every page.
My mother escaped South African Apartheid
before I was even an idea,
so in elementary school when pictures of Africa didn’t look like me,
I couldn’t understand
why African American and black had to mean the same thing.
So last year I moved back to my mother’s continent
and now my DNA is woven
in strings of African beads.
But I can’t escape the first-look-only comparisons
from kids and the adults who act like them
that I don’t look African.
And I have to ask what they mean by African.
If they mean my skin won’t burn,
then I’m wearing sunscreen, not African.
If they want to see a Masai warrior,
a child soldier,
an elephant
then I expect all Americans
should look like Rosie O’Donnell.
But if they mean black, they’re right.
Africa isn’t a skin color—it’s black.
Africa is our pupils,
the way they will always open to the world,
no matter how much dust the wind blows at them.
Being African is like sweat on a glass of water;
it doesn’t depend on the color of the cup
but on the temperature of what’s inside.
Too often newspapers spell the word Africa
and assume one culture, one language, one problem.
The biggest problem facing Africa
is people thinking it really is like our pupils,
just empty space.
I am Africa. You can see me.
And sometimes I will sound like drums,
and sometimes like Sebeqabele gpi thapha nguqo ngqothwane
but sometimes you can barely hear me over the rain,
and we both fear that I may be washed away.
I mold my hands
into the shape of my continent
not to keep you from my borders,
but to show you how much like clay we all are.
Don’t worry about the Africans,
love the humans.
When the first human was born,
it didn’t know enough to call itself African,
but it hasn’t stopped crying ever since.
And you can blame it on famine, or war, or the fallout of capitalism
but Africa isn’t suffering,
it’s reminding you what your birth sounded like.

– Antonia Lassar

Antonia Lassar hails from Boston, MA and South Africa, and has toured both the US and South Africa with her poetry. She is proud to be a recent graduate of the Boston University School of Theatre. This summer, Antonia traveled to North Carolina as a first time member of the Cantab Lounge National Poetry Slam Team. She is currently touring her one-woman show The God Box around the Northeast.

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