Tag Archives: Justice

This is America

America

Every time I fly out of Austin, I park my car in the extended lot, it’s not too expensive (yet). Parking at this spot requires me to ride on a shuttle to and from the airport. Now, I travel enough to notice, that unless I sit next to someone or a person of color sits next to me, a white person never sits next to me on the bus ride back. I have noticed this for 3 years. On the way into the airport, I may have had a handful sit next to me, but on the flight home and shuttle bus back to my car, a white person never sits next to me. Every single time they take every other seat available, even by some questionable people, before they dare sit next to me. But I have had enough experiences to let this roll off my back until a trip back from Kentucky after my favorite Uncle’s funeral just two months ago. It was late, and I was tired, and dealing with my uncle’s funeral was draining emotionally. As I got on the shuttle, I sat in my usual seat, and it began to fill in. All but one seat was available, that seat was next to me or so we thought. The driver was about to close the door when another person jumped on the bus, a middle aged white man, got on and put his stuff up. I told myself, he’s going to stand. The only clear seat available was next to me. The bus driver pointed in my direction, and told him that he had to have a seat. And the next thing that happened was completely unexpected.

An older, white-haired man was covering two seats and it was hardly noticeable, but this man found it. He made the older gentleman quite uncomfortable and sat next to him and another lady, and was squeezed very tightly. Then I felt a number of people’s eyes on me. Especially, the old white man who was completely uncomfortable. I couldn’t tell if his eyes were supposed to comfort me, if he was ashamed, or if he had the same thoughts as the man who refused to sit next to me, that he wouldn’t come sit next to me either. I like to think that his look was of regret that he didn’t choose to come sit next to me in the first place. I luckily was the first stop and got off the bus quickly, and I walked to my car, threw my luggage inside, and I began to weep.

That even when I am tired, I mean I was really tired, and sad, and all of the things I was going through with family members and the bullshit at work that at that very moment, I had to be reminded that I am black and there are people who think less of me, who are afraid of me, who’d rather be uncomfortable than sit next to me. This is my life as a black person in America. This is my life as a black person in one of the most “liberal” places in America. No matter if it’s a good day or a bad day, these experiences happen regularly for no good reason. I know that life isn’t fair, but if we can talk about struggles with our weight and body issues or other insecurities that to some extent we might have control over, but I can’t talk about this. Then we might as well be living in 1776.

I wish that the white people who are in power, who are at the table and have the money to make decisions that affect my black life can be like the white people I know and love, like my best friend, and the best two roommates I have ever had, my favorite teacher, my favorite mentor besides my mother and my Aunts. I wonder why can’t all white people look through their lens, and see me as a human being.

I am sure there will be someone reading this and think maybe he sat there, because it was closer. That it couldn’t be about race. You have been conditioned, as have I, by the ills of this country that I cannot talk about my race too much. Even though, because I live in America, I am often forced to think about it almost every day. But you know what…. I have decided to not feel sorry about it. I’ve been wanting to share this story even though it makes me angry, and it would make me even angrier that people might not understand or misinterpret my purpose and meaning. I’ve decided that I do not care.

Because I will remind you, this happens, every single time I ride this bus. It is not a one time deal. It isn’t a coincidence. This my friends is America.

Wake up and realize it.

Unfortunately, the only person who has is running for President of America.

M/P

The Vicious Cycle of Power: The Real Problem in America Right Now

xDrAUUJ

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” – John Acton

The killing of innocent lives is never good, whether the lives are lost here or abroad and whoever the victims are, the loss of innocent lives is never good. The killing of innocent lives that distract from fixing the current problem with policing in our communities is even worse. The last thing that we needed to happen were more innocent black men killed and innocent policeman shot in cold blood, and most of America and the world, had to sit and watch. Some wept, some were confused, mystified, and others were mad. I couldn’t help but think about what the continual root cause of the problem.

Whose hands are truly stained with blood? I can give you a little hint, but it’s not just the Police, and it’s definitely not the innocent people who continue to die simply for the color of their skin.

It’s power. Power corrupts. The duty to protect and serve is a power, and if abused, can be a matter of life or death. Sometimes power corrupts a good police officer. Sometimes it makes a bad police officer worse, but this power is nothing compared to the truly powerful people who aren’t doing anything to fix a broken system. A system that has been broken for years, decades. In fact, it seems to me that they prefer to allow the viscous cycle of power to churn out the same story and it’s getting worse.

Police officers are given a certain of lever of power in their jobs, because they are asked to enforce the law. Crime and violence does occur in many urban communities across the country, and the law needs to be enforced. But power corrupts. We all see this in any workplace where bad managers and directors mistreat employees simply because they can.

Often times, people of color experience this “power” of the law by the hand of police, when police are simply doing their job. Whether it’s because they are getting evicted, parents are being arrested for petty or serious crimes or kids are being removed from their home because of abuse or neglect. Other times they experience this “power” so unjustly by being racially profiled for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Rarely are any of these interactions positive.

So if Police are given the power to monitor communities, and are often above reproach, what about the ones who are corrupted by power? That is why we see police brutality. Daniel Holtzclaw, the Oklahoma City police officer, who was sentenced to 263 years in prison for raping women of color abused the power of his badge.

I am saying the blame on the police and the violence/crime in these communities of color, at times, is unfair, because the system has been built to create vulnerable citizens, first, who then have to live and die by the hands of ill-trained and sometimes underfunded police departments.

The famous quote by Thomas Moore says it best:

“For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”

The lack of good education, the inability to make a decent wage or to find gainful employment (convicted felons), you cannot help but expect some people to turn to crime. These actions stem from the difficulty to reach the “American Dream”. We then ask police officers to enforce laws against those who have been rejected and hurt by the system.  And now, many police departments have lowered their standards for police officers to ensure that they have enough officers on the force. Thus creating a problem of police officers who are too young and ill-trained. Seems to me that the police and the people in the communities of color are stuck in a deadly hamster reel.

The logical next step is to think who gives the power of the law. The police do not give this power to themselves. And more over, who has the power to improve the minimum wage, improve our educational system or the justice system and to create better programs for our convicted felons.

Politicians. Elected officials. “Leaders”.

America has stacked the cards against the most vulnerable, and asked police officers to enforce the laws against them, no matter the cost. We know that the prison system in this country is a billion dollar industry. This is not a conspiracy. This is the reality of the cycle of power that we have allowed to take place. When they talk about making America “great” again, we will never be able to move forward as nation, if we continue down this road.

So what can be done? Pay attention to what’s going on in your community, and not just the Presidential election. Who are your local politicians, what’s going on in state and local politics, who serves on your school boards and are you paying attention to where the money is going? We must hold them accountable. Like actually, pay attention and hold them accountable. People with the time and/or the aptitude to do something, must act. We cannot expect our most vulnerable to have the time or the capacity to fight.

So am I saying it is our responsibility to do something?

Yes I am.

We are not talking about giving handouts or throwing money at a problem. I am talking about making sure our laws are just, and the people that we elect into our offices have our best interests in mind. People like to joke that the Founding Fathers were slave owners among other things, but there are positive legacies that they left behind. They created a system of laws and separation of powers, and a place for people to be heard. But we are not using our voices effectively. Especially those who are in a position to do more. Because we must remember, the difference between ourselves and the most vulnerable, is that we were just dealt different cards. We should be thankful, and make a difference in their lives.

M/P