Are you wondering if you're a black feminist or an ally?
I recently had a chat with a close friend who is also a young black female, studying theatre and the like. She told me a story that I will never forget. Sitting in Theatre History, she recounts the very heated discussion about feminism and how it has operated in the theatre throughout time. Because theatre represents the masses and the zeitgeist of a civilization, social issues make their way into a theatre classroom. Most people in her class identified as feminists. However, during that discussion, a blue-eyed blonde girl with a burning question raised her hand. “If I am a feminist because I believe in the principles of feminism, does that mean I can be a black feminist because I believe in the principles of black feminism?”
I thought this story was a joke.
You can’t tell that you are NOT a black feminist? But before I unleash my wrath, I should consider where she was coming from. She's not anti black feminism, she's pro black feminism. Her heart is in the right place, but where does she fit?
If you're wondering whether or not you're a black feminist, look no further! To start, I'll begin with this super easy, yet fundamental checklist:
You are a feminist
You believe that equality should be extended to women of all colors and are determined to fight against “racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression” (Combahee River Collective, 30).
You are black
Didn't quite make it on the list for #3? That's okay. If you identify as a feminist and you believe in the crusade of black feminism but you yourself aren't black, you might be an ally. Black feminism makes a lot of the great points that standard feminism makes. However, it acknowledges that there is an undeniable intersection between race and womanhood that specifically affects black women. The Combahee River Collective, founded in the early 1970s, whose mission specifically adheres to black women and black feminist politics, states in the article A Black Feminist Statement that it is “difficult to separate race from class from sex oppression because in our lives they are most often experienced simultaneously.” (31).
Along with the women of the Combahee River Collective, other trailblazers in the black feminism community include scholars, thinkers and activists such as Audre Lorde, Angela Davis and bell hooks.
Interesting articles of theirs that you should check out include: A Black Feminist Statement (Combahee River Collective), Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women in Feminism, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, & The Oppositional Gaze (hooks), The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power (Lorde).
We all know what male privilege is, right? It is the direct product of a patriarchal society. It rears its ugly head most in professional, political, classroom, and sometimes settings. Male privilege is blatantly evident in our language, i.e. “History” and “Mankind.” “The Male Privilege Checklist” was born from Peggy McIntosh’s article called White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (1990).
As a bonus, it would greatly benefit you to read The Black Male Privileges Checklist by Jewel Woods. Woods describes how there is not only a discrepancy in how men and women operate in daily life, but also a discrepancy in how black men operate differently from black women in daily life, due to their male privilege. This list includes very accurate points such as...
“11. I have the ability to define black women's beauty by European standards in terms of skin tone, hair, and body size. In comparison, black women rarely define me by European standards of beauty in terms of skin tone, hair, or body size.” (Woods, 27)
“29. I can rest assured that most of the women that appear in hip-hop videos are there solely to please men.” (Woods, 28)
“47. My financial success or popularity as a professional athlete will not be associated with my looks.” (Woods, 28)
If any of this information is enlightening to you and it interests you but you aren't black, you might be an ally to black feminists. The point of these articles is to further illustrate the struggle that your neighbor might be facing. These articles serve to open another door that leads to a room of healthy conversation.There is not only one type of feminist or even two types of feminists. However, the one true quality of a feminist should be that of inclusivity, which stems from understanding your neighbor’s struggle.
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The fight for social justice continues. With the recent police shooting of Tyree King, voices are starting to crop up again in an effort to get the point across. The latest voice is Atlanta rapper T.I., who released his song "Warzone" at the end of August. He recently released a video for the track.
The song covers the injustice that black people are dealing with and have been dealing with well...forever. T.I. turned the concept on its head with the music video. The video switches the roles of the situations it comments on, portraying black victims as white, while the cops are black. It depicts situations strikingly similar to the very real deaths we've seen in past years, including Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and Philando Castile. The video might be jarring to some, but it’s a needed perspective during these times.
What do you think of the "Warzone" video? Let us know in the comments below!
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With the official start of another academic year here for college students, I am reminded of how the last couple of years began. I proudly serve as the director of the Black Cultural Center at a predominantly white institution, supporting student organizations and activities while also helping students navigate campus and craft individualized success plans to meet their varying aspirations.
In August of 2014, rather than the usual welcome back routine, I was working with a coalition of student leaders and facilitating a town hall on Ferguson. In 2015, we critically questioned all of the details surrounding Sandra Bland’s death while in police custody, wondering why, if she was changing lanes to get out of a police car’s way, would that officer escalate the situation, violate protocol and later lie about it. This year, we return to campus with the names Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Korryn Gaines and Paul O’Neal on our minds, haunted by deeply troubling images of injustice.
Students on my campus, like so many others across the country, have taken up this cause for numerous important reasons. Some hail from communities where the presence and practices of police are far from comforting. Some have personal stories of being detained without probable cause and being dehumanized in that process. Students fear for their safety and that of relatives and loved ones and friends who are simply trying to get to tomorrow in a world producing an ever-growing list of things you can’t do while being black.
This mirrors sentiments students often have in response to their experiences on campus. When students feel marginalized, excluded, ignored and othered, they understand that the Black Lives Matter hashtag isn't just about life and death, but every lived experience that can be reduced and devalued. This reality multiplies at the intersections; today's black LGBTQ communities, black women, black Muslims, and black undocumented populations, among others, face significant daily challenges.
The Frederick Douglas quote reminds us that without struggle there is no progress, but one has to wonder how challenging it must be to mobilize around #BlackLivesMatter when you have an exam the next day. And although some campus-based activism has been multicultural, and some students have stood up as allies and supporters, it's often the case that black students grapple with the dual dismissal of marching alone while being told from the sidelines that “all lives matter.” That’s the well-meaning feedback. Other trolling comments in campus-based online periodicals and social media sites move out of the bounds of micro-aggression and into the realm of good ol’ American racism.
So what can you do to not only get through the semester, but achieve all of the success and experiences that you imagined, while also fighting for freedom and justice? Here are five suggestions:
1. Revisit Jesse Williams every few days or so.
I posted on Facebook after his BET Awards speech that if anyone wants to speak with me about race, they’ll have to read the transcript first. I meant this. I have it printed on the wall in my office.
2. Have your graphics ready. Share them freely, because the receipts don’t lie.
3. Assemble your crew.
Have people in your circle and places you can go where you don’t have to explain yourself. (If you can get Dave in your crew, you’re more than good.)
4. Connect to the broader coalition work.
You and your campus are not alone in the struggle. Review, share and join efforts such as Campaign Zero and A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom, and Justice.
5. Change the narrative.
Ask your potential allies how the #AllLivesMatter movement is working out for them, and if they really feel like they are making a difference. Challenge them to come up with a list of five things they can do to play a bigger role. (May I suggest, starting with the Jesse Williams transcript, which includes (spoiler alert!) the following: “If you have a critique for the resistance—for our resistance—then you’d better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest… If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”)
In closing, prioritize balance, self-care and #BlackExcellence. Invest in your brilliance, using all of the resources and opportunities available to you. When possible, connect your activism to the classroom, incorporating policy analyses, transformative program proposals and other social-justice-based research. This can cover economics and business, healthcare, education, global development, politics, apps and coding, literature, history, language, genetics, philosophy, theater arts… basically any and everything in your course catalog. Own your experience, get your degree and be the change!
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I never gave much thought to police, that is, until the day I would be forced to think differently about them.
As a youngin', I grew up on the motto that police were to protect and serve. In an emergency, they were the first people to dial. Our safety was their top concern. In elementary school, a police officer gave a presentation on the D.A.R.E program, which stood for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, a program to prevent the use and abuse of controlled drugs. Students signed a pledge promising not to use drugs or to join a gang.
From then on, I began to identify police officers with the program. I spotted D.A.R.E. stickers on the bumper of passing police vehicles. The branding of police officers as crime stoppers, heroes and good people invoked trust. I trusted these officers, black or white, to do their job and to do it justly. My innocent view of these service men changed at the age of 12 when my mother was arrested for a traffic violation by the Chicago Police Department.
Until I was 16, I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, two blocks east of Ashland. Some people considered it the Beverly area, a community home to a large portion of American/Catholic and Irish establishments and where the demographic consisted of mostly whites (58 percent). Because my block and surrounding blocks were 99 percent black and I lived within walking distance of public schools, it was in every sense black. South Winston Ave stretched for two long blocks and both blocks were one-way streets.
The second block on which I lived was a T-intersection. As a shortcut to our home, we’d turn left from the intersection and onto the one-way street and quickly into our driveway. The length from the intersection to our home was about 100 to 200 feet or the equivalent of two houses. On a day when we were eager to get home, it beat driving down lengthy Winston.
It was a summer night when my mother was arrested for violating the one-way traffic sign. She was eager to make it home to me after my sister left out for work. I had not been alone for more than 10 minutes when my mother pulled into the driveway. In her rearview mirror, red and blue lights flickered. The police pulled behind my mother into our property. A white woman with a hard exterior stepped out of the marked vehicle.
“Whose car are you driving?” the officer asked first. My mother drove an s80 Volvo. It was a typical car driven by white middle class families, and we didn’t live in a white middle class area, so in other words, she implied that my mother had no business driving such a car. My mother responded “Whose car you think?” and that reply, though plausible, did not sit well with the officer.
The officer told my mother to step out of the car while she ran her license, and as a shock to my mother, the officer reported her license suspended. The officer attempted to put my mother in custody by telling her to get in the back of the police car. My mother refused. At this time, the officer called for back up. Three squad cars approached the house, their sirens sounding off in unison. The police attempted to arrest my mother.
For a while, they tussled on the lawn. More squad cars were called to the scene. Left and right next-door neighbors sprawl from their homes. The officers told the neighbors if they didn't go back inside, they would make this a felony. One officer took out a Ziploc bag with what likely consisted of drugs. The others put on gloves following suit. They were setting the scene for a crime. Without probable cause or a warrant, the car was searched and detained. Clearly, I remember reaching my small hand into the Volvo. An officer stretched out his arm before me, saying, “If you touch anything, I’ll plant drugs.”
When they were done searching, they drove the car off the property and to the 111th precinct in Morgan Park. The officers took away my mother in handcuffs and without concern for my well-being, abandoned me on the front lawn. At the department, my mother was chained to a pipe while the officers involved joked about the arrest. Upon release, she was given four tickets: (1) resisting arrest, (2) no proof of license (the license was in the car but could not be obtained at time of search), (3) no proof of insurance (also in car but could not be obtained at time of search), and (4) violating the road sign. All of this for a minor traffic violation. And had my mother been white, at the most a warning would have ensued.
In court, the judge immediately dismissed the case. The tickets were thrown out and she was given back her license. The license that was never suspended.
At 12-years-old I stopped holding the police in high regard. My respect for the authority figures throughout my teenage years waned. These were the same people who stressed the importance of abstaining from drugs through the D.A.R.E. program in grade school, but misused their power in an attempt to make my family out to be drug consumers. These were the same people to whom I made a vow not to join a gang, but who worked together to nearly organize a crime against me.
My mother made a mistake that night going down the street in the wrong direction, and by law she was held accountable. But when police officers commit wrongdoing, especially in the eyes of children, they are slapped on the wrist.
Thirteen years later, I still have anxiety at the mere sight of an officer. Their power and influence is enough to instill fear in the defenseless.
Just as my trust in officers was weakened at a young age, likely the same can be said for the children of Alton Sterling who witnessed their father die a senseless death at the hands of policemen. Police officers then wonder why, when we mature, we run the minute an officer makes eye contact. From youth, we have been conditioned through their actions to not trust police to protect and serve.
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The U.S. Justice Department announced last week that it will end the use of private prisons because *shocker* they are less safe and less effective.
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said in a release, “They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department's Office of lnspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.”
Stocks of private prisons have since dropped significantly and opponents of these instiutions have rejoiced in the step towards ending what seemed like an endless prison industrial complex.
However, it is important to note that Yates is only talking about a very small fraction of inmates. Federal inmates housed in private prisons total about 22,000 individuals as according to a report by The Washington Post. Furthermore, a majority of inmates held in private prisons and private immigration detention centers, are happening at the state level.
So what happens next? Is it possible that Yates' statement and the Office of Inspector General's memo will create a nationwide trend in reevaluating the use of private prisons? Although the politics of each state differs with regards to how much lobbying power and influence the Correction Corporation of America holds, the DOJ is making a very loud symbolic statement with this decision.
By acknowledging the inefficiencies and detrimental impacts of the private prison industry on our society, the Justice Department just might actually be listening. The Office of Inspector General's memo acknowledged that the federal government wasted spent $639 million on private prison contracts. This number is significant because of the recent rise in a demand to divest from the private prison industry.
A recent Movement for Black Lives policy platform titled, "Invest-Divest" outlines how a misallocation of funds can lead to more harm than safety:
"There is no evidence that the massive spending on incarceration reduces crime rates or keeps communities safer. Studies do show that jobs and education make communities stronger and keep them safer. Investments in community based drug and mental health treatment, education, universal pre-K, and other social institutions can make communities safer while improving life outcomes for all. Children who do not participate in the preschool programs are 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18. And youth who participate in summer job programs in Chicago saw a 43 percent decrease in arrests over a 16-month period. Studies show that jobs and education do not just make communities stronger — they make them safer."
Maybe the Justice Department is ready to acknowledge and set a precedent that private prisons and high incarceration rates are a facade for safety and a blatant misuse of federal funds. I'm reaching deep inside myself for some optimism right now but maybe, just maybe, states like California and Texas, who are besties with the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO will take these federal "findings" into account and realize that no amount of contracts or increase in incarceration spending will lead to the overall safety of their states. Maybe this federal stance coupled with the increased organizing around the prison industrial complex will compel states to accept the facts and realize they can no longer turn a blind eye to the harm they are inflicting.
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On September 20, 2015, Edward “Prohaize” Minta began running and cycling from the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to Liberty Island in New York City. This journey, known as the Justice Trail, became the mission of the Justice Trail team to discuss how an increased implementation of police body cameras can facilitate greater transparency between police officers and civilians. You can watch the documentary here, which follows Prohaize through this taxing, yet rewarding journey.
Almost a year later, police brutality is still a prevalent issue, and body cameras are still being discussed as a possible way to increase police accountability. Blavity sat down with Prohaize to talk more about Justice Trail, his motivations and more. Read the interview below.
Blavity: Tell us more about why body cameras were the piece of legislation that motivated you to start Justice Trail?
Prohaize: Justice Trail is focusing on body cameras because video footage provides visual and audio detail into how police officers interact with civilians. According to Campaign Zero, "nearly every case where a police officer has been charged with a crime for killing a civilian this year has relied on video evidence showing the officer's actions." This greatly motivated our campaign. There is agreement on both sides that body cameras can help facilitate concrete changes within the American Justice system. Other equally important legislation that must be instituted includes demilitarization, independent investigations/prosecutions and non-deadly de-escalation training.
B: At a certain point in the documentary, you state that body cameras are an unbiased 3rd party that hold everyone accountable. However, despite numerous brutality videos being caught on tape, we still aren't seeing very many cops being held accountable. What are your thoughts?
P: Our Justice system is severely flawed. In the past, it was the officer's word against the account of suspect and witnesses. This led to insufficient evidence and a failure to charge the officers that acted outside the boundaries of law. Today, video footage aids in indicting police officers as seen in the cases of Laquan McDonald, Anthony Hill, Walter Scott, and Samuel DuBose. These indictments show that there's progress, but there's much more work to be done. Police body cameras are a part of a more encompassing approach to changing the system. Groups like the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force focus on video release policies, de-escalation, community and police relations, early intervention, personnel and legal oversight and accountability. When these solutions are fully implemented, they will work hand in hand to improve how police officers interact with civilians within a fair and effective system of accountability.
B: Something I was blown away by while watching your film was how consistently positive and dedicated you were. What kept you so motivated throughout the trail?
P: Being born in Ghana meant spending my early years in impoverished areas. Even though we never had much, people were always grateful for life and made the best out of nothing. Experiencing this had instilled within me a strong mindset and good character before I moved to Atlanta at the age of 9. There were times during the Justice Trail run where my body felt broken down and we had to find the nearest motel or checkpoint to rest. Giving up was not far from my mind, but unconditional support from the Justice Trail team and community helped me maintain my drive and focus. It was extremely tough, but I was thankful to be able to continue every day for the Justice Trail cause. Additionally, my family and I pray often so that greatly helps my motivation.
B: Justice Trail's tactics have been really innovative. The interactive map on your website, the documentary and the great photography are all very impressive. Talk about the ways in which your team used tech to further your mission.
P: Technology has allowed Justice Trail to share its campaign with the world. Social media tools including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have allowed us to spread information about the journey, our mission, and the continued efforts to progress the Justice Trail campaign objectives. Creating high quality, powerful images and videos have helped strengthen our message and how people view and interact with our efforts. The interactive map is great way for us to educate, encourage engagement and promote action. We plan to continue implementing technology to make our campaign’s message as accessible as possible.
B: What's next for Justice Trail? How will you and your team continue to fight against police brutality?
P: Next, we plan on optimizing our website to improve the tools that people can use to influence the implementation of police body cameras. At the same time, we will collaborate with local community leaders and activism groups on events within our communities to discuss how we, as everyday people, can act to create a more fair, transparent and effective justice system.
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I live somewhere in the space between optimist and cynic. I've accumulated enough life experience to understand the rules by which society operates and still have sufficient hopefulness to really believe in our collective ability to change those rules if they aren't working. The only thing that validates social norms at any given moment is the willingness of the majority to participate.
Think about this — amongst a whole host of other antiquated absurdities, spousal abuse was totally acceptable just a few decades ago. Of course patriarchy is still real and domestic abuse still happens today, but not with the same wink and "atta boy" nod that it once had. What changed? A critical mass of the population changed their way of thinking. Once this happened, laws, attitudes and social agendas soon followed. Today, most people abhor the idea of domestic abuse, and I am confident that one day society will feign similar contempt over the blatant racial injustices so prevalent today.
Culture is constantly shifting, but never without the persistent nudge of courageous individuals who are bold enough to challenge the existing state of things. I am grateful for the Alicia Garzas, Jose Antonio Vargas, and Deray McKessons of the world. The movement requires work at every level.
Some people were raised to be socially conscious and others are just stepping into their awareness. Some have the fortitude to push from within established structures while others are best equipped to apply pressure from the outside. There are levels to this, but no matter where you fall on the activist spectrum, you have the capacity to effect change within your realm of influence.
If you feel that you are being nudged toward the work of social activism, here are a few things you can expect as you take your first baby steps down this path:
The wake-up call
1.You're really REALLY bothered
The first indication that you may be on the path toward activism is a keen sensitivity to the injustices all around you. No one enjoys oppression, but some people are able to deal with it or ignore it. You're not one of them. No matter how hard you try to adjust and accommodate the reality of pervasive injustice, you can't seem to wrap your head around quietly accepting social inferiority as your birth right.
2. You're tired
Keep your head down, focus on yourself and never, under any circumstances, mention race. You've been black your whole life, you know the rules. You understand that assimilation is your best chance at survival, but you've become increasingly weary of playing by these rules. You're starting to realize that the game is rigged.
3. You've had enough
Enough is enough! The injustice is so flagrant, so in-your-face disrespectful, you have to do something. At this point, the inner torment of being passive has officially outweighed the social consequence of working toward change.
4. The social bullying
So, let me get this straight...I can mourn terrorist attacks in Paris and be outraged about the inhumane treatment of animals, but if I express any level of discomfort regarding matters of racial injustice, it's a problem? This twisted logic is maddening and certifiably insane. Racism is real and the stiff societal consequences for demanding social justice is designed to intimidate you into inaction. Let no one convince you that advocating for justice is somehow wrong.
5. The opposition from within
The nature of oppression is so insidious that the oppressed are often its greatest defenders. Sometimes the most resistance will come from within. Whether or not everyone is in agreement with your activism, they will still enjoy the benefits of the progress for which you are pushing.
6. Internal conflict
You are going to go through periods of fatigue. The consequence of consciousness is real, but understand that whether you're advocating, marching, mentoring or using your art, progress is being made.
Set your strategy
7. Collect data
You don't need a case study to tell you what discrimination feels like, but institutions do. Trust your gut but gather your evidence.
8. Stick to the point
When it comes to presenting your case for change, be strategic in your approach. Don't be swayed by non-related arguments or diversionary tactics. Stick to the issue at hand.
9. Maintain perspective
With so much of your time and energy focused on what's wrong in the world, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and even depressed. The fact is that even with all the societal ills we're faced with, 80 percent of the worlds population would gladly switch places with you. Be sure to set aside dedicated time to count your blessings and focus on all the good in your life.
Although the concept of being woke and socially conscious is sexy at the moment, the actual work is far from glamorous. If you're feeling compelled to take action, don't be afraid to take baby steps and start where you are.
The transition into adulthood isn’t an easy one. Navigating relationships, managing workplace politics, hitting those milestones on schedule— don’t be fooled, no one knows what they’re doing. There will be all kinds of fumbles, blunders and awkward missteps along the way. If you’re constantly wondering to yourself, “Am I doing this right?” Welcome. This is just the place for you.
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The death of Alton Sterling shook up not only the City of Baton Rouge, but a nation. As Mr. Sterling stood outside of a Baton Rouge convenience store selling CDs to make ends meet, he was shot and killed by police. Once again, we were reminded of the continued police involved shootings of black men. Wednesday, outside of the same convenience store where his father was killed, 15-year-old Cameron Sterling, asked for people to come together and not be apart.
Cameron shared his thoughts on his father with the crowd, saying, "I truly feel that my father was a good man, and he will always be a good man." He thanked supporters and protestors, asking them to remain peaceful.
After all Cameron has endured in the past week, he stood tall and composed asking people to protest in peace. The attorney for Cameron and his mother Quinyetta McMillon, also spoke and told reporters. "All Cameron is looking for is change, progress and justice," she said.
Cameron closed with a final call: "We want justice. We want an indictment."
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How far do we have to be pushed until we leave the comfort of our computers to actively pursue change? Have we, as millennials, become part of the problem that plagues this country?
Thursday morning, a video surfaced of yet another black body being slain by the hands of a white man. Not to belittle the life or the legacy of the man at hand, but this piece is directed toward those of us who are currently still breathing, living, thinking and reading this on a translucent screen. Nearly 600 people have been killed by police in 2016, and the year is only half over. We have people in power, cops specifically, harassing and taking the lives our peers and elders EVERY DAY around the country.
The question is — and will remain — 'What do we do now?'
Quite honestly, I’m tired of internet activism. It has served its purpose and it’s time to move on. #BlackLivesMatter, too, has served its purpose but has become a cliché, diluted hashtag that political pundits reference when trying to gain “urban” votes. The internet does an amazing job connecting people of color around the country and even around the world, but it has yet to result in mass mobilization and concrete institutional change. Ironically, I have a problem writing this piece, as it is hypocritical for that same purpose.
We, as millennials, are selfish. There have been multiple studies saying the same, but most importantly, when introspective, we can acknowledge that we have all made decisions to strictly propel our own selfish agendas. We care about other people when it’s convenient and give more standing to our gained, worldly goods than to the thought of a better life for our children and ourselves. Our ancestors fought and died so we could have an equal chance at a better life. Sadly, we don’t realize that our apathy and lack of physical action is the culmination of years of slavery. With companies holding our employment over our heads at the expense of protest and universities threatening expulsion for the same, they’re controlling us and systematically stopping us from speaking out.
We will never gain anything if we’re not willing to lose something, and I think as millennials, very few of us (if any) are actually willing to lose anything we’ve “earned.”
What will we be leaving for our offspring? A culmination of hashtags and bragging about how we marched down [Insert Token City Main Street Name]? Well, marching doesn’t work anymore and neither does typing. As black people, there are many voices in positions of power who tend to take the role as representatives for our communities and our feelings. Hashtags have reduced black people to one, monolithic voice, typically used on the same platforms. This monotonous and gratuitous outcry of injustice makes it easy for those who want to ignore us to do just that.
As a Religion major in college, I valued my education because I always knew that Religion played a big role in the enslavement, entrapment, and colonization of people of color. Unfortunately, nothing has changed. When elders continually tell us that “things could be worse,” all we’re doing is perpetuating the same mentality. We were taught to look to the heavens and prepare for an afterlife to deter us from fighting for a better life while we’re living. Ironically, when you read The Bible, it keenly speaks of free will, the notion that human beings have the right to do as they please while they’re on Earth. It also speaks of divine intervention. The same book that tells us that “the meek shall inherit the Earth” also says that God will NOT intervene in earthly matters. Guess what? God has left us here to do what needs to be done.
We have to fight for a better life for ourselves today, tomorrow, next month, and the coming years.
I’m frustrated, as I’m sure we all are, with the current state of the United States of America. but it doesn’t come as a surprise. This is the same country that has raped and pillaged cultures throughout the world and continues to do so now, by way of the same pale bodies that grace your monthly magazines. This country was built off free labor from all of our ancestors and has left us out to dry while continually being told to pull ourselves up “by our bootstraps.” So, as most of us struggle to find or maintain work, accompanied by the visuals of our brothers and sisters being slain in the streets with no justice to avail, we’re expected to accept the fact that this country will never see us as equal and that our lives are disposable. America will no longer, continually, show us that our lives mean nothing. We “with” the voices and those “without” need to step away from our computers and do SOMETHING.
I admit, I don’t have an answer. But what I do know is that using hashtags, marching, looking to the heavens and having groups of pretentious “influencers” gather together isn't cutting it.
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Alton Sterling. The 500-and-something-ith person killed by the police in 2016.
Here I am again, sitting at work on the heels of another highly publicized assassination of the beauty that is black human life. I walked into the office somberly though still carrying a corporate grin, and was, as usual, greeted by many of those that look nothing like me.
“Happy Wednesday!” - They
“What did you have for dinner last night?” - They
“Any plans this weekend?” - They
I sarcastically said in my head, “trying to stay alive,” but somehow it escaped my lips as, “Happy Wednesday, no major plans.” As we all fail to acknowledge what covered our media outlets as we prepared for our day.
Now please digest this fully – the aforementioned folks that look nothing like me are not bad people, at all. But police brutality falls into the bucket as “tough conversations to have in the workplace,” so my expectation of acknowledging this news is always too high. For me, ignoring social injustices seems to only be the icing on top of the socially unjust cake.
*takes a deep breath*
Alton Sterling. A 37-year-old father of five.
Corporate America is often a challenging place to be black *sigh,* especially after overt inequity and public execution covers our social media like an unkempt cover. One minute I’m being told to update a pivot table, the next minute I’m perusing articles highlighting how my freedom is still only three-fifths of what it ought to be. Balancing the rigor of the work day with the rigor of organizing my thoughts is and has always been a struggle – and a cubicle is the last place I want to do it in.
In the break room, we comfortability talk about the egregious NBA contracts and the audacity of Kanye West to display the nude replica bodies of modern celebrities in his art. Though neither NBA offseason nor Ye’s video production affect our cash flow, we are disastrously uncomfortable talking about topics that affect our existence.
Alton Sterling. Six shots later.
In order to understand the value of black human life, must we equate the slaughtered potential to the dollars being passed around in NBA contracts or padding the pockets of entertainers?
In order to appreciate the artistry that is black human life, must we broadcast these ill attempts to ruin us on the sides of buildings in the night like the latest music videos?
If marching on the streets won't end this genocide, then what will? Because our feet are callused from marching.
If hashtags flooding the internet won't bring awareness, then what will? Because our thoughts are drowning in retweets.
*One more deep breath*
It’s easy to get worked up, to be uncomfortable — hell, to be angry. To protect the power, solidarity and beauty of our blackness it is integral that we decompress, acknowledge the realness of the world we're in, voice our opinion and be intentional.
Though your coworkers might not want to talk to you about this topic: Talk, tweet, write, vent or do whatever you need to do to protect your mental health. Our psyche has been repetitively stricken with images and rhetoric that we are not important, that we are not valuable, and that we don’t matter — it's important to know that we do.
Understand that this is real.
I accidentally watched the Alton Sterling video this morning; not knowing the specifics of the altercation and only seeing the hashtag covering my Instagram feed. I wasn't ready, but that is when I again realized — this is not a drill, this is real. The dichotomy of the anguish of witnessing an unjust death coupled with truly understanding the realness of the situation is difficult, but real.
Have an opinion.
I live right around the corner from an airport. I used to hear planes roar over my apartment every 30 minutes, but weeks later I no longer hear them. How can something so loud, be so quiet?
Although social media quickly brings awareness to issues that would often be swept under the rug, it also has a way of deafening the issues due to lost souls turning into mere hashtags. We see hashtag after hashtag after hashtag, and the reality of life lost is reduced to tweets and texts. The easiest way to keep this issue loud is to keep the conversation going and having an opinion.What you do with your opinion is up to you, just have one and be intentional with it.
To Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Walter Scott and all the black gold that has been buried — you will forever be treasured.
To all of you — be blessed, be safe, protect each other and protect your health.
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The video above shows how the second amendment is not applicable to black people.
Two different men, one white and one black, embrace the second amendment. The outcomes are different. An officer approaches the white man very respectfully. He simply asked him why he was carrying his gun. The black man had a gun pulled on him.
People were not happy about the implicit bias shown by the police officers in the video.
@DierkHeintz Notice the white guy was respectfully approached and asked questions. Black guy did not receive the same courtesy— I Steal Followers (@YoWifeysFavDJ) July 7, 2016
@shanijamilah @damnnearkilldem just face it . We still live in Amerikkka— ✨ ENJEL♒️ (@enjelnecol_) July 7, 2016
Systemic racism is real. Studies have shown that black drivers are more likely to be pulled over by police despite the higher likelihood of white drivers to have more illegal objects in their car.
Recent tragedies in Louisiana and Minnesota have once again brought to the forefront the need for safety for black lives. Click here to find out what you can do in response to the police shootings.
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This past Wednesday, 23-year-old Mohamedtaha Omar, 20-year-old Adam Kamel Mekki and 17-year-old Muhannad Adam Tairab were found dead in an abandoned home in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The three young Muslim Americans were reportedly shot "execution style" by more than one person.
Public Safety Director Rusty York has emphasized that there is “no reason to believe this is any type of hate crime...because of their religion or nationality," also noting that they do not believe the murders were connected to any gang violence. The unclear motive presents the murders to be somewhat of what of a mystery, raising many questions around gun violence and the surge in Islamophobic hate crimes across the country.
Although many are questioning the feasibility of ruling out Islamophobia as a motive, many are also failing to acknowledge that two of the victims (Omar and Tairab) were both Muslim and black. Their intersectional identities only further the likelihood of being dismissed by the media, but also illustrate the lack of urgency in the Muslim community to rally around their deaths.
As Muna Mira eloquently states in Towards a Black Muslim Ontology of Resistance, "The hypervisibility of Blackness makes one’s identity as a Muslim impossible precisely because Blackness precludes Muslimness in the cultural imaginary. So to occupy both subject positions is to experience the downward thrust of cognitive dissonance: you will always be too Black to be a true Muslim, but you must live with all of the pain that America inflicts on both Black people and Muslims."
Many have used Twitter has a way of expressing outrage and pain about the dismissal of Omar, Mekki, and Tairab's deaths via the hashtag #ourthreeboys. The hashtag is being used to garner support around signing a petition which calls for the Fort Wayne Police Department to conduct a full investigation of the murders.
The hashtag is also in reference to #ourthreewinners, which arose from the deaths of three Arab Muslim Americans, Deah, Yusor and Razan, whose deaths in Chapel Hill arguably gained widespread support from the Muslim community.
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*A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that all three victims were...