For a few days now, I’ve been trying to assemble my words into a coherent narrative to help make sense of the last few days. I still have nothing entirely complete (and certainly nothing profound). I have shards of thoughts — bits and pieces of emotions and ideas that rise to the surface and then recede. I’ve tried to grab a few of them to share here. Be gentle.
“We feel powerless.”
Something I’ve known for a long time (but never completely verbalized) finally cemented itself in my mind this past week. To be African-American in this country is to feel — and often to actually be — nearly powerless. In a recent piece Michael Eric Dyson summed up this feeling:
Day in and day out, we feel powerless to make our black lives matter. We feel powerless to make you believe that our black lives should matter. We feel powerless to keep you from killing black people in front of their loved ones. We feel powerless to keep you from shooting hate inside our muscles with well-choreographed white rage.
This powerlessness is nothing new. Throughout history, be it through police shootings, lynch mobs, the chain gang or the chains of slavery, black bodies have always been subject to the fear, anger and disgust of white people.
At all times we know that our achievements live under the ominous cloud of white supremacy. That despite our best efforts to build strong families, strong communities, viable businesses and stable wealth, when the rain comes — and the rain always comes — our works, our livelihoods, indeed our lives are at risk of being washed away. No umbrella has ever protected us, no amount of prayer or patience or respectability has spared us. There has only ever been the flood.
A while back we debunked the idea that demands for greater police accountability were undermining police work and putting more cops in harm’s way. To the contrary, despite politicized claims, on-duty officer deaths are dropping.
And now, a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice is tackling the other half of the ‘Ferguson effect,’ myth — that protests around the country have demoralized officers so severely, that crime is once again on the rise. They find no evidence of a Ferguson or ‘viral video’ effect (as FBI Director James Comey prefers to call it). Between 2014 and 2015 crime rates largely stayed level across the country’s 30 largest cities.
Here are some key takeaways from the Brennan report: (more…)
Ta-Nehisi Coates has a great piece up today on Bill Cosby and those in the black community who have defended him amidst rape allegations from over 50 women (I’ve written about Bill Cosby in the past here and here). Coates does a marvelous job of drawing the parallels between the language and power that’s habitually employed to harm, silence and dismiss victims of systemic racial violence and that being used by Cosby’s supporters in response to his victims and critics.
It’s also a great piece because it lifts up the idea that ‘victim’ and ‘oppressor’ are not constant titles, but rather shift from issue to issue. And that to demand justice for yourself without demanding it for others — is really nothing more than a demand to join the privileged class.
It is always particularly painful to see those who have been victimized by a habitual looking away to then turn around and do it themselves. But what it illustrates is that the line between victim and victimizer is largely circumstantial. There was always some number of black men who invoked Trayvon Martin’s name simply because he was a black male, simply because it could have been them. “It could be me” is a fine starting place for confronting the evils of the world, but a really poor conclusion. If no broader theory of sympathy and humanism emerges beyond one’s mean particularism, then all we really are left with are tribalism and power.
You can read the whole piece here.
If you haven’t heard, a group of armed angry anti-government militia-men – they call themselves the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom — are currently occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burn, Oregon. Here at the Civil Word, we try to make sense of it all. (more…)
In response to a Cleveland grand jury decision to not indict two white police officers in the murder of 12 year old Tamir Rice, some on social media have adopted the hashtag #NoJusticeNoLeBron. The hashtag represents a twitter campaign designed to encourage Cleveland Cavalier’s basketball megastar LeBron James to boycott NBA games in an attempt to pressure the Department of Justice “imprison the murderers of Tamir Rice”
Many see this as an action similar to the remarkably successful boycott undertaken by the University of Missouri football team — which resulted in the resignation of the university system President. In reality, the circumstances are vastly different — a boycott runs the risk of doing more harm than good and is ultimately unfair to LeBron James. (more…)