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Archive for the ‘Oppression’ Category

M.P. recently wrote me a sweetly ill-informed response to a guest article I penned for the Progressive Magazine.  (see February issue).  I thought I’d share my response in an open letter. We all might learn something.

Dear Mark:  Let me first thank you.  For without engagement, even if powerfully and aggressively half-educated, we will not move forward. You do advance a strong point…not around the issue of illegitimacy, as that in and of itself is non-causative. There has been no identified causal relationship between a child born out of wedlock, parents who choose not to marry, divorced parents, adoptive children, or children born to same-sex parents and what you so aptly term “the fate.” I recognize your word-choice “illegitimacy” and “impregnating” as a fevered attempt at inciting divisiveness. Again, I smile in acknowledgement.  Your use of those terms is “nice” but your argument lacks legitimacy. (I am using your own words – pretty cool eh!) What you allude to, and I agree with, is a too-early sexual maturing of many of our young men. This tends to be needs and environmentally-based.  Any environment lacking in adult, male influence and supervision will demonstrate this.  (please see,http://thesestonewalls.com/gordon-macrae/in-the-absence-of-fathers-a-story-of-elephants-and-men/)  Why this environment consistently lacks male adult presence, is socially and historically based. This is an issue that needs to be addressed.  One of your greatest challenges though Mark, is the stalled perception of singularity.  I would strongly encourage you to expand your readiness to learn on this issue, because we do need you as a partner in this change.

Thank you so much for sharing.

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Okay ~ so have you heard this one?  It just cracks me up.

A District Attorney (DA), a lawyer and a Social Scientist (SS) walk into a bar.  They pull up to the bar and each sits on a stool.  The DA sits on a stool in the middle of the two ladies. The SS is to his right.  The DA leans forward and orders a beer.  The SS calls for a whiskey on the rocks.  The lawyer’s wants a rum and coke.

Anyway, so the DA looks at the SS through the mirror at the back of the bar and says, “So what do you want me to do?  They commit the crime, they do the time! My DAs don’t come in to work every day saying – I wonder how many Black people I’m going to lock up today!  That’s not how it works people!  My job is to keep the public safe of these criminals.  I don’t want to be locking up people.  This is not something I like, but I have a job to do.  You lock them up and keep the public safe.  What they need is education. You can’t expect to get a job or hold a job with a sixth-grade education.  Fix the damn education system.  That’ll keep half of them out the system.”

Well, by this time the drinks arrive.  The DA takes a gulp of his beer.  He’s got foam all around his moustache.  He is pissed.  He swallows hard.  The SS dips her finger into her whiskey drowning one of the blocks of ice.  She is contemplative.  The lawyer draws hard on her straw.

One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand… You could feel the dead, tense air drawn into your nostril. 

The lawyer pulls the straw from her pursed lips, looks aimlessly straight ahead and says, “All I know is that we should be ashamed.  We look at this disparity in our jails, and we should be ashamed.  I am fed up with placing it on someone else.  It’s the parents.  It’s the children.  Where is your culpability?  How can you just sit there and defend this crap?  How can you do nothing?  This is painfully embarrassing.  We must be embarrassed! Every one of us should be embarrassed into action!”

The DA does not shift.  He looks into his drink and takes another gulp.  He looks down the counter at the bartender and knocks his half-emptied glass calling for a refill.  “I’ve got a job to do” he says under his breath.  “Give me an option.  I let them out, they hurt somebody…then what?”

Silence.   Deathly silence.

The SS holds her drink with both hands on the counter, turns toward the DA and says with the sweetest of tones.  She clearly wants to acknowledge his pain…if only having to sit between these two. She leans in, arms touching lightly and says; “You know, that’s actually not what the data says.  Honestly, if you control for education level…if you take education completely out of the mix, there is still a disproportional number of Blacks in jail.  It comes down only slightly, but it is a significant difference.  So there is something else happening here.”

The DA empties his glass and hands it over to be refilled.  The SS touches his arm ever so lightly.  He shudders. He doesn’t want to be touched – not now…not by her – not by either of them.

She continues; “And the way we’re doing it right now is not making the public safer either!  Which is weird.  You think you lock ‘em up and it’s all good, but it’s quite the reverse.  You lock ‘em up, there are three kids with no adult running around potentially getting in trouble.  All it does is ensure that the cycle is maintained.  It is actually the inverse. So public safety is not served at all.”

She pauses and continues:”Now – Building jails is good business.  You build jails and you fill them, you keep a lot of people employed and a lot of people disenfranchised. The jail system is a really good stock to invest in.”

Not another word is spoken.  The women finish their drinks, step down from their stools and exit the bar leaving the DA to warm his beer and cold his palms – angry.  Pissed off!  Determined! 

HE IS NOT GOING TO LOSE ANY VOTES AND ANY SLEEP ON THIS ISSUE.

Comment.

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What our brain takes in is very much determined by our environment.  The smells that we find favorable and unfavorable are determined by our environment.  The foods we find acceptable and flavorful, unacceptable and gross are very much determined by our environment.  Friend, foe, safe, unsafe…are taught to each of us by our environment. The cerebellum, to the hippocampus, to the cingulated cortex.  It gets locked in.  

What people don’t acknowledge is that this is all of us.  These learnings affect all of us.  It’s just what’s put in front of our plates and how it’s introduced to each of us. 

An example:  I was brought in a cultural environment where dogs are for protection…not for petting, and certainly not to be in your house!  Family and friends who visit are quite put-off, initially, when they see a beagle greet them at the front door.  The discomfort, the fear, the anxiety are palpable.  By the end of their 2-week visit, they are petting my dog.  They understand that this beagle is part of my family structure.  Do not, for one moment, think that they are going back home with a newly discovered urge to see dogs differently!  They are not.  But they are more open to the concept of a different way to see dogs.  There are different realities – and more so, these different realities exist in certain environments.  What does that mean?  It means that if they come to America and visit your home, they will ask you if your dog is friendly.  If they never had the experience of difference, they will never know difference.

Now let’s go back to our discussion.     

So let’s see – – – What have we been collectively taught about this population that we call Blacks?  What are these popular images? Do remember that these are images that bathe all of us!!!  No one is immune.

  1. We have the Black athlete.
  2. We have the Black as comedic relief…the fool…the jester.
  3. We have the Black as the over-do…the one that helps us to amplify and laugh at his own.
  4. Black as the pimp…the overly sexual Black.  The well-hung.  
  5. The Black as the entertainer.
  6. Oh!  How can we forget the Black as the criminal.
  7. The Black as the slave. 
  8. The Black as the distressed, the poor, the destitute.
  9. The Black as the thug.
  10. The Black as the lazy, can’t read, doesn’t read.
  11. And finally, there is the Black as the buffoon…the Black that, because he needs to be friends with Whites to be accepted, will play the buffoon.
  12. One more ~ the Black as the Brown Egg! 

The intellectual, the academic, the scientist, the entrepreneur, the tender, the engaging, the CEO – are rarely seen. 

What’s sad is that, many times, these roles (1 – 11) become the roles of ascendancy. 

You want to get ahead in life?  Play this role. 

You want to get paid?  Play this role. 

You want to be part of my social group?  Play this role.

You want to feed your family or live in this fancy house?  Play this role. 

Discuss this blog in light of everything we’ve seen and experienced and interpreted in our limited lives to this point.  

Let’s have a wonderful discussion.

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  • Share your thoughts on any aspect of the movie Crash…not on the movie as a whole.
  •  Site fragments of the movie to bolster your comment. 
  • Link your thoughts to something physical or emotional as evidenced in the movie.

Here are a few tag words to jar your writing.  POWER     INSENSITIVITY     TENDERNESS     FEAR   APPREHENSION     PAIN    IGNORANCE    BROKEN PEOPLE    DIGNITY    DESPAIR    REDEMPTION

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Listen ~ The Black color just pisses some people off!  It simply infuriates them.  It’s got nothing to do with why.  There’s no “why” to it.  They just shake and bubble with anger.  You can’t ask them “Why?”, ‘cause there’s no “Because!”  It’s an actual, physical bubble-up of pain, anger, resentment, “piss-off-ed-ness.” 

They would aggress against it if given space (freedom) and authority. Some environments offer that authority.  Some situations offer that space.

In some places, there is nothing you can do but cede that authority.  Education is one.

In some places they take that authority.  The Prison is one.   

It is always a holding pattern in some parts of this country. There is that tenuous balancing act – – – that tight-rope that you walk to keep yourself and your family safe.

Yes, this is 2011, but we’ve really not advanced the civilization much.  We’re good at clothing stuff – but we’re not particularly civilized.  But then, there is always next year.

Then for others the Black color increases anxiety. 

          “Look to your left.  There’s a Black one.”

          “Where? Where?”

          “To your left!  Right there!  You blind?”

          “Oh my gosh! Fuh real! He is Black.  What’s he doin’ here?”

That anxiety provokes unnecessary attention.  That’s when you get a personal escort around Wal-Mart, or Shopko, or Target – or cameras at Boston Store…or cops follow you out of town.

Now, that happens on the other side too. The difference is POWER.

POWER or access to it is the game.  Don’t get it twisted.

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