Tag Archives: Black Lives Matter

“Strange Fruit” – and the Election of 2020

May 29, 2020

In the final two years of Barack Obama’s second term as President, the accelerated increase in unjustifiable police violence and brutality against the African-American population intertwined itself with right-wing, festering resentment at Obama’s success as a mainstream politician. In retrospect, it seems all too obvious that the deaths of Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown and Philando Castile presaged the popularity of Trump as a candidate: “Not everyone who voted for Trump in November, 2016 was a racist; but every racist who voted on that first Tuesday cast his or her ballot for Trump.”

But let us consider that the hanging of President Obama in effigy at a major college football game in 2016 was just the culmination of a long sequence of outright disdain for him by racist operatives. Ask yourself: how many death threats did Obama receive in the first two years of his first term? How many death threats did Donald Trump receive in his first two years? The disparity in the numbers of threats leads to a fairly obvious conclusion: the hostility towards African-Americans evident in the recent deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery is simply a continuation of a pattern of violence and intimidation that shows no sign of letting up.

I don’t believe that Floyd’s and Arbery’s deaths and the growing likelihood that a white man (Donald Trump) and his coterie might lose their grip on power are merely a coincidence. The deaths of Floyd and Artery reflect the anxiety of white supremacist power caught in the crossfire of historical change. These same people are terrified that the next President is someone who is considering an African-American woman to be vice-president. Just the thought that an African-American woman — let’s hear it for Stacey Abrams! — might become vice-President is enough to send these people into a frenzy. Among many other matters, they rightly fear that an accounting will be demanded for how the Pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color and how that report might lead to radical changes in the health care system.

This is the “context” for the deaths of Floyd and Arbery.

While the recorded videos of their deaths gain the most traction in social media, I would urge us to pay even closer attention to the voices of the day-to-day struggle for dignity in the African-American community:

“For those of you who are tired of reading about racism, trust me when I say this — I’m tired of writing about it.” — LZ GRANDERSON

“Strange Fruit” …. and counting

George Floyd — May 25, 2020
Ahmaud Marquez Arbery — February 23, 2020

*. *. *. *. *

Alton Sterling — July 5, 2016
Philando Castile — July 6, 2016
Gregory Gunn, 58 — February 25, 2016
Samuel DuBose, 43 — July, 2015
Brendon Glenn, 29 — May, 2015
Freddie Gray, 25 — April, 2015
Natasha McKenna, 37 — February, 2015
Walter Scott, 50 — April, 2015
Christian Taylor, 19 — August, 2015
Michael Brown Jr., 18 — August, 2014
Ezell Ford, 25 – August, 2014
Eric Garner, 43 — July 17, 2014
Akai Gurley, 28 — February 11, 2014
Laquan McDonald, 17 — October 20, 2014
Tamir Rice, 12 — Nov. 22, 2014
Yvette Smith, 47 — Feb. 16, 2014
Jamar Clark, 24 — November 2013
Rekia Boyd, 22 — March 21, 2012
Shereese Francis, 29 — March 15, 2012
Ramarly Graham, 18 — Feb. 2, 2012
Manuel Loggins Jr., 31 — February 7, 2012

*. *. *. *. *

FURTHER READING:

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-death-of-george-floyd-in-context

Jelani Cobb is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of “The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress.”

The Death of George Floyd, in Context by Jelani Cobb. May 28, 2020

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-death-of-george-floyd-in-context

In this article, it should be noted that Mr. Cobb cites another death at the hands of police officers that deserves our scrutiny:
“Breonna Taylor, a twenty-six-year-old African-American E.M.T., was shot to death in her apartment by officers who were conducting a drug raid at what her family said was the wrong address.” This kind of thing happens in Los Angeles, too.

*. *. *. *. *. *

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/george-floyd-ministry-houston-third-ward-church.html?fbclid=IwAR0UogXbfxBtzroR2MHaezKwQVo_TbMCR3Vo3U2oOgyq3M82xIj79xUOiKY

https://theundefeated.com/features/george-floyds-death-mother-was-not-there-but-he-used-her-as-a-sacred-invocation/

*. *. *. *. *

Just in case anyone wonders whether the right-wing think tanks and their associated publications have not been engaged in a not-so-covert operation that attempts to rebut the critiques of the predatory surveillance of African-Americans, here’s a very recent example of their efforts. If only someone had the legal authority to force Ms. Mac Donald to watch — non-stop – a tape loop of George Floyd’s death! Four straight hours! Then a lunch break, and four more hours. I doubt it would change her mind about anything, but if she were allowed to invite friends over to watch with her, it might be interesting to have a documentary film crew on hand to record the conversation.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/07/white-cops-dont-commit-more-shootings/

There Is No Epidemic of Racist Police Shootings
Heather Mac Donald July 31, 2019 1:54 PM
HEATHER MAC DONALD is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of THE DIVERSITY DELUSION.

White Privilege and Black Rage

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

White Privilege and Black Rage: The Cases of Michael Slager and Dylann Roof

In late July, the columnist Charles Blow posted an article entitled “Incandescent with Rage.” As I read it, I recollected an article written by the late poet Wanda Coleman in which she recounted her youthful sojourn into the fringes of African-American radical resistance, and how she resisted that temptation and went on to become a major voice in American poetry. Of her many literary contributions, one of the foremost would be her critique of the fault line of racial identity in American social life. In registering the daily seismic twitching and convulsions of white privilege’s arrogance, Coleman challenged the complacency of much of the apolitical lyricism of mainstream verse. As a poet and cultural worker, I remain very grateful that Wanda Coleman made the choice she did, though her account of youthful desperation continues to haunt me.

The degree to which white privilege feels itself entitled to a pass for its transgressions can be seen in the reaction to First Lady Michelle Obama’s recent comment at the Democratic National Convention on the use of slave labor to build the White House. White privilege is inherently defensive about its unearned status, or rather should I say that its status derives from the appropriated earnings of others. Let it never be forgotten that the phrase “self-made man” was coined by a man who owned slaves.

One could take Michelle Obama’s reminder a bit further, though. Not only did the construction of the White House involve the use of slave labor, but one of the alcoholic beverages served over the decades in the White House has turned out to contain a pedigree of exploited human life, too. I call your attention to an exceptionally interesting account of the history of whiskey in the United States, and of the brand Jack Daniels, in particular, that appeared in the NY Times. (Unfortunately, I cannot seem to create a viable link to the article, but if you type “Nearis Green” and “Jack Daniels” and “Clay Risen” along with the date June 25, 2016, you should be able to locate the article.

The erasure of enslaved labor from the narrative of this country’s liquidity is a long-standing grievance that will always need the vigilance of annotators to redress. With enough reminders, it is possible that in a half century a more respectful history will be familiar to the grandchildren of the millennial generation. It is not enough, however, to simply acknowledge the contribution of African-American labor to American prosperity in books and academic articles. Justice will only be attained when the casual knowledge of citizens is comprehensive enough to have that knowledge at immediate recall.

Is it unjust to have to wait so long to have one’s place in a narrative properly recognized and honored? Yes, it is unjust, and to forestall that reckoning mocks the dignity that should be bestowed on all our forebears who empowered the commonwealth; but that injustice is nothing compared to the life-and-death crisis now reaching the full height of absurdity. The ever increasing degree to which African-Americans are being targeted by police is pulverizing social life in this nation, and immediate requital is urgently needed.

When Charles Blow wrote “I am at the screaming place” in his article, “Incandescent with Rage,” I marveled that he was able to keep the volume of his voice to that level. At what other level should his voice be when one considers that the police officer who was videotaped shooting Walter Scott on April 4, 2015 has still not gone to trial? Your eyes are not deceiving you: today is August 23, 2016. A videotape of police officer Michael Slager shooting Walter Scott in the back, as Scott ran away from Slager, was recorded over 16 months ago, and yet Mr. Slager’s trial has yet to start. (Mr. Scott is said to have been pulled over for a non-functioning brake light.) But that delay is not the screaming point. Rather, consider that Mr. Slager is now out on bail and enjoying the creature comforts of his home. How is that possible, you might ask?

And this is the point at which this pandemic has its most caustic instance of irony.

It appears to be the case that Mr. Slager’s trial has been delayed because the state has an even more egregious case to bring to trial, that of Dylann Roof for the cold-blooded slaughter of nine African-American men and women with whom he had first joined in a prayer service at a church. The reports I have read indicate that Mr. Slager’s lawyers have been able to argue that Mr. Roof’s trial has caused Mr. Slager to be unfairly detained for an unreasonable amount of time while waiting for his trial, and this appeal has been successful.

None of us can change the outcome of Mr. Slager’s appeal, but we can ask questions that provide a larger context for this case. Let us consider the reverse of this case. Let us imagine that Mr. Scott had killed the police officer after being stopped for a minor vehicle infraction, and let us also posit that another African-American had recently committed an egregious set of crimes. For the sake of argument, let us cite the infamous Richmond, Virginia spree murders of Ray Dandridge, Ricky Ray, and Ashley Baskerville. Suppose the trial of Dandridge and Ray required a prolong preparation that forestalled any other major trial? Does anyone – and I mean anyone at all – even for a second really believe that Mr. Scott would be granted bail and be allowed to savor the comforts of home because it was taking too long to bring his case to court? You can imagine the furor, and it would make the demonization of Willie Horton in 1988 look like an ad campaign for a truth and reconciliation panel. “Cop Killer Goes Home Free,” would no doubt be the mildest of the headlines. Everybody with the least knowledge of electoral politics knows that any judge who granted Mr. Scott that kind of leniency would almost certainly be subjected to a recall petition. It would be career suicide. No such outcry has fallen on the judge who granted bail to Mr. Slager.

Instead, it is the case that Mr. Slager is at home while he awaits trial, a luxury he is afforded because of the heinous attack of another white man on the African-American community. Mr. Scott’s family, on the other hand, also waits at home, instead of already having sat in court and watched the man who shot Mr. Scott in the back forced to come to terms with what was videotaped. The wait that Mr. Scott’s family must endure is nowhere mentioned in these news accounts.

The imposition of justice delayed on Mr. Scott’s family combined with Mr. Slager’s current residential status is what is meant by white privilege – smug, complacent, self-entitled privilege that does not pause to question its ideological sources – and why Charles Blow’s scream has yet to hit its most embattled timbre.

Why Lift One’s Arms? They’ll Shoot You Anyway — The Election Cycle: 2016’s Home Stretch

Friday, July 22, 2016
Why Lift One’s Arms: They’ll Shoot You Anyway —
THE ELECTION CYCLE: 2016’s Home Stretch

Part One: “not merely a party with little future, but one without any past, either”

The line-up of speakers at next week’s Democratic National Convention is unusually remarkable for its two-term presidential presence. Compared to the just completed RNC, the DNC verges on superfluity. When was the last time that a national political convention had a current two-term president addressing party activists and donors as well as a two-term former president? The GOP has had no such back-to-back figures in its convention’s confabulations for well nigh a century. A combination of scandalous or dismal Republican presidencies in the past half-century led up to the current convention, in which no one who significantly contributed to any of that parties successful campaigns for the White House has had any role. It would seem to be not merely a party with little future, but one without any past, either.

The absence of President George W. Bush from this convention is even more striking than the token role he was consigned to four years ago in Tampa, Florida. For a two-term president to have his nationally broadcast endorsement speech in 2012 limited to a videotaped infomercial is the political equivalent of having to drive an ice cream truck in a neighborhood of the very elderly and having to watch what little ice cream is purchased melt in their hands because they can’t remember what they just bought. Bush had to have felt humiliated. Deservedly so, but still a stinging slight.

George W.’s decision to skip the coronation in Cleveland, therefore, probably has as much to do with his desire to even the score for the 2012 putdown as it does with his distaste for Trump. Jeb Bush cannot, of course, be blamed for absenting himself, either. His father, the former President George H.W. Bush, and his mother, are nearing the end of their lives, and who in either political party would prefer to have your nose rubbed in your rejection by a wealthy, smug prevaricator instead of sharing quiet recollections with your parents?

In contrast, the Democratic Party has a line-up that would be nothing short of the shining envy of political operatives at any point in this perishing republic’s history:

Monday: First Lady Michelle Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders
Tuesday: Former President Bill Clinton
Wednesday: Current President Barack Obama
Thursday: Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton

On oratorical skill and charisma alone, the first three nights will be worth intermittently taking in, and it’s hard to believe that Hillary won’t experience some slight bounce. She will need it: despite having a huge lead in fundraising, HRC is not so much mired in distaste as disbelief. She is without doubt the most experienced and qualified politician running for President right now, and if elected, she will most likely soldier on in the same stolid manner that President Obama has done. Obamacare will continue to have its quirks resolves; abortion rights will be upheld; gay marriage will remain viable; and climate change will receive at least token attention. But the keywords are qualified politician. She is a brilliant bureaucrat with a background as a lawyer, but she sees social problems as being primarily legitimation narratives for her right to power. The problem is that the following questions under her administration have no other outcome than an emphatic negative: Will my life as an aging person significantly change for the better? Will my students really find that their post-degree lives suddenly have more entry-level options? Will I be able to worry less that each time I say hello and goodbye to an African-American acquaintance or friend that this is the last time I will see them alive? She has no actual plan to improve matters on the ground.

The last question, by the way, is not hyperbole. Yes, it has gotten that bad. The open season on African-Americans has reached the point where even a man flat on his back on the ground, completely motionless, with his arms up in the air, fingers like talons of powerlessness spread tautly wide open, is shot by a police officer. With his arms up, I might add, longer than I would be able to hold my arms up.

If voters’ hands are up, raised high in despondency, it is because “power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” and the secret Second Amendment reads: “the rights of a well-regulated police review board shall not be infringed upon by those whose neighborhoods are subject to police assault.” If Clinton wanted to show leadership, she would directly address the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement in her acceptance speech.

Trust me, though, with the following exercise: if you hold up your arms up long enough during her speech this coming week, you’ll not only hear the words better, but the unctuous tepidity of her vision will become slow motion torture, the syllables elongated by her neoliberal blandness. Yes, you should vote for her in November, and I intend to do so. But my heart will be as heavy as my hopelessly lifted arms.

(to be continued on as needed basis)