Thursday, March 5, 2015

The DOJ Ferguson Report: WHAT NOW?

Listen, is there really anything in the report that we DIDN'T know? Anything that residents HAVE NOT been saying for years?

The Ferguson report sheds light on the specifics and details, sure, but the essence of the report -- that the Ferguson police department willfully, systematically, and deliberately targeted for abuse African Americans under the color of city and state authority -- remains consistent with what we have heard from residents, and what residents have been mischaracterized as liars, police-haters, thugs -- and worse -- for saying.

So that, we know . . .

The big question remaining is "What Now?"

And an even larger question is "How serious are we about that question?"

Because if we were truly serious about a "What Now?" we would admit and examine our high comfort level and threshold for police abuse of American residents . . . scratch that . . . our high comfort level and threshold for police abuse of residents who are African American.

If we were serious about a "What Now?" we would muster some measure of grace and offer a collective national apology not only to Ferguson African American residents but to African American residents in Baltimore, in New York, in Chicago, in Ohio, in Georgia, in California, in South Carolina, in Florida -- in America, period -- because for African Americans, virtually every place IS Ferguson.

We would offer apology for our race-based blindness and amnesia about our history and our continuing anti-Blackness, which is a very specific manifestation of our overall national problem of racism/white supremacy.  We would examine why we would rather believe self-serving character assassinations of countless African American residents across the country who complain about conditions of systemic oppression than the data and statistics that clearly detail oppressive racial disproportionalities in American systems.  We would examine the ways in which they have been victimized and humiliated by individual police and apologize for and work to rectify the systems that support and protect those police.  And we would examine our media and the ways in which they frame stories for public consumption in the most stereotypically racialized ways, true or not.  And we would examine our easy consumption and belief of those stories.

If we were serious about a "What Now?" we would be real about virulently racist citizen comments calling African Americans who had been victimized by a corrupt "justice" system everything BUT Children of God.  We wouldn't try to soft-sell their racism by calling those comments "ignorant", "unfortunate", "misguided", or by pretending that they are from a marginalized fringe.  We would call those comments what they are: mainstream.

And we would also need those "well-meaning", "color-blind", "anti-racist" citizens who, in their quest to be "fair and objective", upheld the existing anti-Black system to understand that the problem was not between individuals operating on a level playing field but with a system that supported individuals acting with power and state/city authority over individuals targeted because they were African American.  There is a huge difference.  And if we were serious about a "What Now?" moment, we would need those folk to sit down and do some serious reflection about that fact.

A "What Now?" moment would require us to deliberate about what this all says about the character of this nation.  It would require us to examine and own our role in stripping away a sense of safety that should be afforded every American resident and is not . . . is decidedly not.


If we were really, truly, honestly serious about "What Now?" we would talk about repair -- yes, economic reparations; reimbursements -- for Ferguson residents who have been victimized by years of color-coded, economic shakedowns by the criminal "justice" system.  We would be advocating for and supportive of a plan for addressing -- for making "whole" -- those citizens who, in fact, were robbed by the "justice" system.  There is undisputed documentation of that, and of the dollar amounts collected through the periods of those shake-downs.

There is no credible "What Now?" without addressing this fact.


The big question remaining is "What Now?"

And an even larger question is "How serious are we about that question?"

Moving Forward,


Sunday, February 1, 2015


Another Black History Month. . .not that there's anything wrong with that.

But after all these years -- 45, to be exact, and if we are also counting the years of Black History Week, we are looking at a grand total of 89 years of segregating the achievements of Africans and their descendants -- isn't it time that white privilege relinquishes its stronghold on the other 11 months of the year and invites us in?

As I'm sure you know, Black History Week was established by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926. He chose the 2nd week of February, so the story goes, because the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were in this month.  Now the end-game was not to have a Black History Week into perpetuity, but to incorporate teaching of the accomplishments of enslaved and formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants, African Americans, in America's public school curriculum.  And -- sadly -- as this did NOT happen during the 44 years of its existence, in 1970, leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University proposed the expansion of the week to a Black History MONTH. Six years later, the U.S. government officially recognized this expansion and in the ensuing 39 years, apparently our country is STILL more comfortable with allotting one month of half-baked treatment of African American accomplishments and history rather than another 11 months of fully-realized curriculum expanded from the same old white-washed -- and I do mean that literally -- de-contextualized stories parroted ad nauseam from year to year.

This year, the movie "Selma" is probably the closest thing this country will have to a more nuanced, contextualized, pivotal slice of history told from an African American point of view -- for what its worth (and hey, I loved the film!).

But -- as a friend of mine said -- the fact that the words "white supremacy" and "COINTELPRO" were never uttered during the film -- not once -- says so much about where we are as A People in America: that we, African Americans, STILL feel so buffeted by white supremacy, so afraid even in our own spaces, that we STILL would rather soft-sell and provide a light sugar-coating to Truth so as not to offend or turn-off others in the marketplace . . . even in the midst of what we consider truth-telling.

Sadly, it says so much about where we STILL are as a country: that Truth about the history and ongoing impact of racism in America, in its ugly, unvarnished form, STILL needs to be spoon-fed, in small doses, to people who would STILL rather believe that "race" has little to nothing to do with Black People being gunned down by police; or racialized economic inequities; or the daily micro-aggressions that African Descendants are continually told to "get over."

And maybe it also says -- more than anything else could -- why we are STILL "celebrating," 89 years after its inception, ONE month for "Black History" as opposed to honestly and unflinchingly incorporating it into the other 11.

Moving Forward,