Point of View Columns

The Secret Danger of Living While Black

In just a week we have seen the madness that is the Trump Era played out for all the world to see. Multiple mail bombs sent to designated Trump “enemies” including two former presidents, Trump’s opponent in the last presidential campaign and a major media Trump critic sounds like a plot from some the fevered hate swamp in some mythical third world country. Instead it is the America that Trump promised to make great again. And this is what greatness looks like in Trump World.

And the day after 11 Jewish worshipers were shot down in a Pittsburgh synagogue, two innocent black citizens are shot dead in Kentucky by a self-avowed white supremacist. And as we view the news with trepidation and horror, we can be assured that as long as Donald Trump is president there is more to come. But while we are revolted by this new wave of domestic terror, we are distracted from an ongoing terror, the terror visited upon those who have discovered the all too prevalent everyday danger of Living While Black.

While it should be self-evident that the potentially fatal condition of Living While Black (or LWB) is a condition that only affects black Americans, there are a growing number of mutations that seem to be proliferating across the United States, creating an epidemic that is reminiscent of the 19th (or even the 18th) century. The news over the past few years has chronicled the progression of this peculiar American epidemic:

  • HWB (Hooded While Black) – Trayvon Martin
  • SCWB (Selling Cigarettes While Black) – Eric Garner
  • BWB (Belligerent While Black) – Michael Brown

But now there are new iterations. Recent news reports from Detroit indicate that GWB (Gardening While Black) is a condition that can result from offended white women calling the police because they don’t appreciate the community garden on a vacant lot tended to by a black man by the name of Marc Peeples. In Dallas, SWB (Sleeping While Black) turned out to be a fatal condition for Botham Jean who was shot to death by a white policewoman who mistakenly entered his apartment thinking that it was hers. And then there was an outbreak of GHWB (Going Home While Black) in St. Louis when D’Arreion Toles was challenged by a white woman while trying to lawfully enter the building in which his apartment was located.

Sad to say, these are not isolated events. Driving While Black (DWB) has been a common malady for many years. And all of these events can have life-threatening consequences depending upon the mood (and color) of the police officers responding to calls for assistance from white faux damsels in distress. And, sad to say, there has yet to be any consequences visited upon the instigators, even though false or baseless calls for police assistance constitute a criminal act in many jurisdictions across this country.

The point is that even with the madness of the mail bombings, synagogue massacres and white supremacist rampages, it is important to remember that there are other insidious, but just as repellent outrages that part of daily life in America.

These are behaviors that endanger the lives of black Americans every day – behaviors that are no less vicious due to the lack of concern for the potential consequences. And it is so very sad that in this Trump Era, the standards for decent and humane conduct have been degraded to the point that Living While Black is fraught with dangers, dangers that every black American must risk every day.

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Point of View Columns

Clear Vision v. Impaired Vision

The past few weeks have offered a stark contrast between clear vision and impaired vision. This unlikely illustration began with the train wreck of a Meeting of the Megalomaniacs when Donald Trump and Kanye West met in the Oval Office to discuss Everything That Is Important to Trump and Ye. And a few days later a stunning, riveting and immediately historic film “The Hate You Give” was shown in theaters across the country and the truth of life in black America was on the wide screen once more.

First the White House Circus Maximus – for reasons best known to his fans and celebrity addicts, what Kanye West thinks and says seems to be important to some people. The art of his music is an acquired taste for some and the answer to the meaning of life for others. However, there is no reason to believe that there is anything that has prepared him to be remotely aware or informed about the major issues of the day – domestic, international or intergalactic.

Yet, however unhinged from reality Kanye West may be, he turned out to be more than a match for Donald Trump who somehow thought that it would be a good idea to meet with a black celebrity so that he could fake-brag about his connection to, and concern for, black Americans. The only thing that was more amazing than Ye’s rant and rampage through the wilderness of his mind, was the fact that he was able to get Trump to shut up for more than ten minutes. If for only those brief moments of peace on earth Kanye West should get some kind of award.

The tragic aspect to this meeting is that as football legend Jim Brown sat in bemused silence while Trump and West went through this imaginary conversation, the White House sound machine tried to portray this as a serious meeting to discuss serious issues in the black community. And with that Trump has added further insult to the daily injuries that he is inflicting on the national black community. But due to their impaired vision of reality, Trump and Kanye really believe that their meeting was a matter of positive importance.

But speaking of vision, “The Hate You Give” has turned out to be one of those motion pictures that does more than entertain. The film is certainly entertaining but director George Tillman, Jr. goes much further than that. With a seriously outstanding cast of black and white actors, “The Hate” informs viewers about the tragic hypocrisy and the seemingly eternal chasm between the American dream and black America. The clear-eyed and unblinking vision of a country that discriminates, demeans, degrades and kills its citizens because of their race is simply undeniable.

There will be very few black viewers of “The Hate You Give” who will not relate to the experiences of the black characters. And there will be too few white viewers of “The Hate” (if they even take the time to skip “A Star is Born” and “The Wife”) who will be able to relate to the experiences of the black or white characters. And it is that racial divide that tells us all how far this country has to go to even begin to be something like a truly United States of America.

But there is no doubt that as murky as the vision of the Trump-West summit might have been, the vision presented by “The Hate You Give” is that clear and undeniable.

And finally, George Tillman, Jr., screenwriter Audrey Wells and lead actress Amandla Stenberg must win Oscars for Best Director, Best Screenwriter and Best Actress if there is even a scintilla of justice to be had in the 2019 Academy Awards.

As always, we shall see.

 

 

 

 

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Point of View Columns

Battling for Tomorrow Today

By now there should be no doubt that the extreme conservative/regressive movement in this country has assumed the upper hand in all matters political in this country. The Supreme Court, the United States Congress and the Presidency are all in the hands of those who would turn back the hands of time. And there is a very good reason why the right wing of the right wing is in the ascendancy – it is because they have planned for the future and, for American regressives, the future is now.

It is hard to remember, and for some Americans of a certain age it is almost impossible to realize, that a few decades ago issues such a woman’s right to privacy, basic affirmative action measures to insure equity in education and in the work place were not on the verge of evaporating into the neoconservative atmosphere.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Republican and Democratic presidential administrations may have differed over the extent to which government should assist those Americans who needed assistance but certainly it was a settled fact that the environment – air, land and water – needed to be protected and preserved since they belong to everyone.

This is not an ode to days gone past. For there was a time not too long ago when the criminal justice system was hell bent on sending as many black and Latino men to prison hell. Mass incarceration was seen as the antidote to urban crime and the predicate to urban renewal which was the precursor of the national gentrification phenomenon. And there was a time not too long ago that invading countries from Iraq to Grenada to Panama to Afghanistan also seemed like really good ideas.

But while many were concerned with the big picture or just a few pixels of the little pictures, there were men and women, many of them possessed of great wealth, who wished to impose their vision of America into the lives of all Americans, whether they were persuaded of that vision or not. And so, the right wing of the right wing focused on boring stuff like school board elections, and city council and state legislative elections.

While many watched presidential debates spellbound as if they were all that really mattered, the right wing of the right wing focused on local and state elections because ultimately that is how the Electoral College can be a tool for electing the unelectable (see George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump, for example). And of course, the right wing of the right wing focused on the Supreme Court of the United States where 5 to 6 judges with lifetime appointments can decide the future of a nation for decades to come.

There can only be a few progressives left who will argue that it is better to have a proto-conservative Congress and President in order to highlight the hypocrisy that pervades so much of chasm between American ideals and American reality. And, of course, it is that kind of thinking that left Hillary Clinton in a heap of electoral ashes and elevated Donald Trump into the fulfillment of all of his crazed megalomaniacal dreams.

As November 2018 elections approach it is going to be critical that progressives and proponents of positive change in America vote – certainly. But it is also important that these same progressives start battling for tomorrow, today. That means not only focusing on the bright shiny objects of a few high profile elections. It also means focusing on the long term journey to reclaim the high ground in American politics and to cease adopting an eternally defensive stance.

For example, if that means that if the Democrats retake the House of Representatives impeaching Brett Kavanaugh for perjury as being possessed of a demeanor and temperament that makes him unfit for the position of Supreme Court justice, then that course of action should be pursued.

Trump and his enablers cannot spell “moderation” or “compromise” and progressives should finally recognize that we are in a battle for tomorrow today and that there is no longer any time left to find a middle ground with men and women who believe that their way is not only the right way, but that it is the only way.

One more march is not the answer. One more rally will not bring about change. Petitions will not change the mind of a single right wing ideologue. The only answer to this daytime nightmare is direct action, resistance and the focus on a long term vision.

And of these, the long term vision is the most important.

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Point of View Columns

I Am White Man – Hear Me Roar

Having watched the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings last week some facts can be gleaned from the Circus Maximus-like event. First, and probably foremost, the vociferous supporters of Brett Kavanaugh said that he was “bold” and “passionate” and “courageous” in his boisterous, bellicose and belligerent attack on the Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. And it is a fact that if Ellen Kagan or Sonia Sotomayor had trotted out heir angry white man imitation they would have been castigated for being hysterical, unhinged and certainly unfit to hold a lifetime seat on the United States Supreme Court.

However, given the fact that the Senate Judiciary Committee is dominated by white males who seem to have stumbled out of some antediluvian American nightmare, there is very little chance of Kavanaugh being sanctioned and the chance of him not being confirmed by the Teapublican-led Senate is microscopic at best.

Nevertheless, it is useful to consider what the nation witnessed when Kavanaugh went into his epic rant last week. Somehow, some way, someone convinced him that going ballistic was a useful strategy for someone who was ostensibly in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee as a presidential nominee for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States. Instead, he came across as being unqualified to even serve on a kangaroo court or as a backup to Judge Judy and raised real questions as to what the hell he was doing serving a federal judge on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals of the United States in the first place.

What the world witnessed was the primal scream of the privileged and entitled American White Male. The frustration that Kavanaugh expressed was clear – he clearly stated that he had checked all the White Male boxes – he went to Yale (twice, no less), he went to Georgetown Prep, he played sports, he “busted his tail” and was a husband and a father. Whatever missteps in his behavior that might have taken place were beside the point, “a joke” as Kavanaugh so eloquently stated.

What the world also witnessed is the very obvious revelation of who Brett Kavanaugh is. It is axiomatic that everyone is likeable, poised and engaging when they are being praised. Response to praise and privilege is not a useful indication of the person. We truly find out who we are in times of adversity – when we are not being praised, when we are being closely questioned or even attacked. The man or woman who can keep their poise during trying times is the person with inner strength and fortitude. Brett Kavanaugh showed himself to be sorely lacking when it comes to these qualities, that much is clear.

What is also clear, as evidenced by the unconditional support that has been expressed by most Teapublican members of the Senate is that sense of entitlement and privilege is supposed to make the American White Male invulnerable and untouchable when it comes to questioning his behavior, deportment or character. The #MeToo movement has made a dent in his ivory armor, but there should be no doubt that the era of the Angry White Male is upon us – just look at the 2016 presidential election, just look at the Trump “base”, just look at Brett Kavanaugh.

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