For Alton. For Philando. For All. — Stacia L. Brown

1. He had a grin made of gold. Veneers once considered as hip as the compact discs he was selling. Remember the ’90s, when yellow gold was preferable to platinum and the cassette tape had yet to become entirely passé, but if you were still playing those when CDs were all the rage, you were […]

via For Alton. For Philando. For All. — Stacia L. Brown

Advertisements

Look Within & Use Your Voice

It’s  a sunny Saturday morning in July and I’m awake unusually early. Normally I set my alarm for 7 am, quite optimistically, and then promptly smack the snooze button until around 9. And then every night, before bed, I announce to John, “I’m gonna get up early tomorrow and run!”

trololololol. Sure.

But today I woke up and stayed awake, in part because I stupidly reached for my phone and started scrolling through Facebook. And amidst all the cute baby pictures and adorable dog videos (which honestly make the day more bearable), I keep seeing this one annoying meme that makes me want to tear my hair out.

It goes like this (and there’s usually a sepia-toned photo of a black guy in the background, you know, for diversity):

“Not all cops are bad.

Not all black people are criminals.

Not all Hispanics are illegal immigrants (????).

Not all white people are racist.

But ignorance comes in all colors.”

And it makes my blood boil. Because of course, it’s logically true. The “not all” statement is unquestionably accurate.

The reason it upsets me is because it completely skews the true problem. It’s one of those “we’re all one human family” bullshit statements which is technically true, but still manages to ignore the plight of people of color, particularly Black people, by attempting to silence or invalidate their concerns.

It’s along the same lines of women speaking up about sexual assault and harassment and some dude posting a meme that says, “Not all women are whores. Not all men are sexist pigs. But ignorance comes in both* genders.”

So you’re basically saying that yes, some women ARE whores… so we should abolish this movement! Not ALL men are sexist pigs!!!! So there’s no need for you to complain!!!!

This is what this toxic meme is saying, in my interpretation. It throws in some people of other races to try and dilute what it really wants to say: “I’M WHITE, AND I’M NOT RACIST.”

You know this wasn’t made by a Black person (probably), because the fact is that most Black people are not criminals, and Black people committing crimes in the U.S. is not a widespread, systematic problem. Is Black people being arrested more frequently and punished more severely for the same crimes white people commit a problem? Undoubtedly, yes. Are some Hispanic and Latinx folks undocumented? Of course. Most of them, however, are not. This is another harmful stereotype that holds much less weight than the idea that white people could be racist. The reason I point this out is that throwing in these useless ideas reinforce systematic racism — and place outdated and harmful stereotypes on the same level as facts.

I am going to say something that may upset you. I am talking to my beloved white relatives here, who may have grown up in a time when it was okay to use racial slurs and deny people of color, especially Black people, fundamental human rights. Some of you may not see a problem, but I can promise you that there is one. And we need you to help solve it. 

All white people, to some degree, have been indoctrinated with racist prejudices and beliefs from the time we were small. I can admit it; you should be able to as well. If we as white people look at our thoughts, our actions, the subtle ways we saw people of color talked about and treated when we were kids, then we will see that yes… all white people have internalized racist thoughts and ideas because it’s what we heard growing up. And we have benefited from a system here in the U.S. that has largely been designed to keep Black people and other people of color at a distinct disadvantage.

And it is not our fault.

But do you know what is? Continuously denying that we, individually, are part of the problem; that it’s other white people. Never us. We’re not racist, and we’re willing to make subtle Internet memes that undermine the dignity of Black and Hispanic people to prove it. 

Are all white people racist? Of course not. But racism in America was initiated and perpetuated by white people when we came here and built a system that benefited us at the expense of everyone else. Because of that, we were born into racial privilege. Dudes were born into penis privilege. The wealthy were born into class privilege. It is a simple concept that costs us nothing to admit. Only when we admit it can we begin to change.

There is one final part of this annoying meme that I have to address. “Not all cops are bad.”

Well, no shit. Cops protect people every day. They give their lives every day. They sacrifice every day. They deserve respect and accolades for what they do.

But can we look at the events of the last few years and possibly admit that perhaps there is a problem the the legal and criminal justice system? Absolutely. And we can do that without hating police officers. We can ask them to change the systems that disproportionately harm people of color and poor people. We can ask them to reassess what they’re doing to keep everyone safe. The fact is that enough police-related events have ended in destruction, death, and mayhem that it warrants examination.

Right?

So this meme basically tries to silence a few voices:

  1. Black voices, which we all need to be hearing & listening to right now
  2. Hispanic and Latinx voices
  3. The voices of law enforcement officers who can see that something is wrong
  4. The voices of any and all people who are standing up to try and fight for change.

Don’t let things like this silence you. Don’t let what you see on the Internet make you upset (I am guilty of this every day, hence the overload of cute videos on my page). Instead, write about it. Create a thoughtful, nuanced response. Stop sharing memes and pictures and actually come up with your own ideas. Do research. Look at CDC and DOJ statistics. Find fair and unbiased sources if you can. I am talking specifically to white people here, especially those who are having a hard time admitting that racism in the justice system, and in American life in general, is still hurting this country. 

As a final note, there’s an update to the letter I shared in my previous post. The Chief of Police actually got back to me really quickly (which I was not expecting!) and wants to meet with me to answer my questions, which are in the email.

I’ll be meeting with him on Thursday, 7/14. I want to write about the meeting, our discussion, and hopefully his plans to create a safer community by reevaluating police protocols. So, I’ll let you know how it goes!

With all of that said… I woke up really upset this morning. I know this day will get better. Gonna go blow off some steam at the gym.

 

❤ Stand up for what is right. I love you all!

Our Collective Problem

Before you get mad, this is not meant to be a political post.

I am just really, really sad, you guys. I am sad and I’m angry. I don’t want to get into a lot of data today; I just kind of want to stream my feelings here.

I’ve also just recently learned that W.E.B DuBois fought really hard to get more writers to capitalize “Black” in their work while he was alive. It was something he really strove for and felt was really important, so I am going to try using it here.

Two Black men are dead in two days after being shot to death by police. Both were legally carrying guns, neither was behaving in a violent or threatening manner. One was legally selling CDs outside a convenience store; the other was pulled over for a broken taillight. They died senselessly and in cold blood. My heart is broken, as are the hearts of those people who knew these men.

I am sadder, though, at the idea that maybe our extremely divided two-party system is preventing us from making real changes to save people’s lives.

Conservatives likely feel a lot of pressure to respond in a socially acceptable way to these types of crises. I think some of them feel socially obligated to respond in a manner that pleases their fellow conservatives: he got himself killed. He shouldn’t have done x, y, or z, and he’d still be alive. This puts liberals on the defensive, ready to strike back. I think many conservatives are really very kind and compassionate people, but the social pressure of their affiliated party makes it difficult for them to show it.

God forbid they say something that isn’t 100% pro-gun, or maybe they say something that makes them sound like a Black Lives Matter ally. That could honestly be social suicide for many social conservatives. I think both parties have knee-jerk reactions that prevent us from being our fully loving, compassionate, problem-solving selves.

Liberals have the same issue. Our knee-jerk, instinctual reaction is to demand justice, to lay into conservative ideology and try to turn it back in their faces. We have to appear vigilant, as though we are always on guard for the next injustice. We get aggressive, sarcastic, and pump out memes like it’s our job. It doesn’t help anyone, and it puts conservatives on the defensive — ready to strike back.

So while we fight with one another, guess what? The criminal justice system does not change. Police protocols do not change, or they change very little. They fail to address systematic racism and classism while we keep fighting with the other party. We need to fight for justice for these Black men and women who have died, because their deaths are indicative of a larger systemic problem that affects all of us. 

I absolutely love and admire police officers. I personally feel safer as soon as I see an officer in the mall, at a festival, when I’m alone in a big city. But I am a diminutive, middle-class, educated white woman. The fact that I see police officers this way is indicative of the very privilege that is not afforded to these slaughtered men. (White people die at the hands of cops, too, of course. Just not at the frequency that Black people do)

What can we do to make sure every citizen feels safe around police officers? What can we do to reorganize the police systems so that the first instinct is not to draw a gun and shoot? This is a problem that must be solved. It is taking Black lives and destroying Black families. Guess what? If you’re white, Hispanic, Latino, or Asian, it can destroy your family too. End your marriage, leave your kids without a dad or mom, leave your parents without a child. Mixed marriages and families are a thing. This police brutality epidemic is everyone’s problem.

We need both Democrats and Republicans in order to make change. Republicans, we seriously need you. Few people are more tenacious than most of the conservatives I know. They are staunch and unmoving and if they were to commit to this cause, you bet your ass we’d get shit done! Democrats, we need you! You’re called “bleeding heart liberals” for a reason, for God’s sake. People are dying who were not threats to anyone. People are dying because they were Black or poor or both. This is not okay. We are so focused on arguing with each other, arguing ideology, that we are failing to turn around and scrutinize the systems that govern us.

Attached is a Letter to police department, IAPD, that I sent this morning. It’s very respectful and hopefully invites open dialogue. I’ve attached it to this blog if you want to edit it and send it to your local PD. I highly encourage this, as it allows you to reach out to any police department in your area – or even in the country.

This is not a Democrat problem or a Republican problem. It is our collective problem. Please, look inside your hearts. Try to see beyond the partisan ideologies. Try to see the compassion that you know resides there. See the righteous anger that is sparked within your veins. Write to or call your local police station. Ask them what they’re doing to prevent more senseless deaths. As always, be the change.

 

P.S. While I’m here, let’s please do a better job of recognizing the terror and carnage that non-white, non-Christian countries go through. Middle Eastern cultures are different than ours. That is OK. Their lost lives still deserve all the mourning and grief in the world. It is okay to pray for Muslims if you’re not Muslim. I’m not saying pray for them to convert to Christianity, either. I’m saying you can pray for them to be safe and have a place to rest, and that wherever they go for refuge, they won’t be targets of hate or violence. Muslims go through that every day and it’s simply not okay. You can pray for all of this. Trust me, you won’t be smoted by the Lord. Smited? Smote? Eh, you get the point.