It takes courage to stand up by remaining seated

Unless you're doing something to bring injustice into the light and protest it, you need to be quiet about Colin Kaepernick's protest.

Unless you’re doing something to bring injustice into the light and protest it, you need to be quiet about Colin Kaepernick’s protest.

Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem the other day in protest to the injustices suffered every day in this country by people of color.

A lot of Americans are pretty pissed about that, but those same Americans will ignore or excuse the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of cops.

They say nothing as dozens of veterans commit suicide every day because they can’t get the care they need after four, five or six deployments to war zones.

They remain silent as the maternal and infant death rates go up because access to women’s health care is shut down by people who call themselves “pro-life.”

When the courts find that the new voter “protection” laws actually were written to make it harder for black and brown people, students and the elderly to vote, these same people claim those laws are fine. “Surgical precision” was the way the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals phrased it. The people who wrote North Carolina’s voter law actually requested and reviewed statistics on black people’s voting habits and wrote the law to maximize the hurt. I know because I was in the courtroom when the state’s lawyer reluctantly admitted it.

When transgender people are singled out for discrimination in “bathroom” laws, these same people who hate Colin Kaepernick turn the other way because it doesn’t affect them.

We complain about people “taking” from the government. “Something for nothing,” we call it. But at the same time, we refuse to pay people a living wage for 40 hours of work.

“Get off your lazy ass and work,” we say to people who hold down two and three part-time jobs because huge corporations don’t want to help people get health care, so they only hire part-time workers to avoid offering health care, sick time and other benefits.

But when a football player — someone they love because he provides them with entertainment — has the temerity to bring these injustices to their attention, they just hate him.

“He’s a coward,” they say.

Really? He’s willing to sacrifice all he has to make this statement.

The national anthem is a song, a symbol; the people Colin Kaepernick stood up for by staying seated are very real, as are the injustices they face every day in our society.

In my book, whether I agree with his action or not, he has courage.

#AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile. Say their names; weep for them

#AltonStirling

#AltonSterling

#PhilandoCastile

#PhilandoCastile

Negroes
Sweet and docile,
Meek, humble, and kind
Beware the day
They change their mind

– Langston Hughes

As the bodies of black and brown men and women continue to pile up like casualties in a terror attack, I am forced to relive, again and again, the death of my own child from injustice.

My son died from negligent homicide, killed by doctors who knew he was gravely ill and who refused to treat him because he was low-income and had no insurance.

He died at home with me holding his hand. If I have anything to be grateful for, it is that I got to say goodbye. I got to tell him one last time that I loved him and that life without him would be so, so hard.

In the last two days, I have watched video of the blatant injustice of two executions of black men who had committed no crime other than being black men in the path of violent, power-mad cops.

I watched as the widow of Alton Sterling talked to the press and their son lost his composure and wept. I did the same. I’m still weeping after watching the video of the execution of 32-year-old Philando Castile in Minnesota last night.

I weep for his mother and his girlfriend and for the little girl who was traumatized by witnessing his murder and the abuse of her mother. Imagine a 4-year-old feeling compelled to tell her mother she’s there for her after such an atrocity.

I weep for all of the families and friends of people who are executed summarily with no trial, without reason, without respect for the fact that they are human beings.

These victims of violent racism are my children. They are my brothers and sisters. They deserve justice, although their families are unlikely to see it.

One by one, Freddie Gray’s killers have been let off. No one is guilty, even though a young man is dead with no trial. The cops were his judge, jury and executioners, and that, apparently is OK in our society.

Yes, I know cops face danger every day, but if they can’t see the difference between real danger and racism-fueled perception of danger, they need to be off the force.

If they think they have the authority to shoot someone whose only offense is driving with a broken tail light (and I know first-hand of cases where an officer broke a tail light after a stop so he could claim justification for the stop), they need to be in jail.

Selfishly, I am grateful that my surviving child is white. But his granddaughter is biracial, and her skin is dark and her hair black and curly. She is beautiful and smart and funny, and as she grows up, she will be in danger because she isn’t white.

This is unacceptable to me, as it has been since well before my great-granddaughter was born. We can not continue to allow this. We must stand up and demand justice. When cops walk away unscathed, we have to demand federal civil rights charges be brought.

We have to wake up to the injustice here because there are still people who believe these murdering cops are justified.

When a black person is summarily executed, we see his record all over social media within hours; when a white person murders someone, we learn about his church activities or that he was just a troubled young man and we should all be upset that he didn’t get the mental health care he needed.

We live in a racist culture, and if you can’t see it, you are part of the problem.

Stand up and be heard. If you’re a cop, speak out against this violence.

I stand with my brothers and sisters, my children, my beloved fellow human beings. I will do all I can to defend you. I will try to protect you. I will speak out for you.

Tell me where I am needed and I will be there.

I love you.

 

 

 

 

 

Old habits die hard

blmsmall

When my son died seven years ago from lack of access to health care, I set about telling people that his life mattered. It mattered to me and to my family. It mattered to his friends and to the people whose lives he saved through his work in addiction recovery.

His life mattered. I used that phrase a lot when I spoke in public about his life and death, and I couldn’t think of a phrase that said it better or more succinctly.

So, a couple years ago, when the phrase “Black lives matter,” began popping up, I really, really understood the meaning.

But as much as I got it, I began to realize I would have to give up that phrasing when it came to my son and others who die from lack of care. Yes, their lives matter, and it wasn’t without a tinge of resentment that I realized the phrase now belongs to a civil rights movement that doesn’t necessarily include my son.

Breaking the habit of using it in reference to health care is a hard thing to do. That’s because my son’s life did matter; I just have to find another way to say that because I have great respect for the Black Lives Matter movement, and I fully understand the need to specify that black lives matter.

My son died from lack of access to health care. That happens to people in poverty, and more people of color are trapped in poverty than are white people. More people of color are denied care. More people of color die, and each of those lives matters to me.

What’s worse is that more black people die at the hands of law enforcement; more unarmed black people, in fact. It happens far more often that a person who might have committed a minor offense if slain by police if that person is black.

I understand this. I have internalized this. I have sat at a table with three African-American women and learned that all of them have lost sons to gunfire. I, on the other hand, got to say goodbye to my son. At least I have that.

So, I know I shouldn’t use the “… lives matter” phrasing, but the habit creeps in and it’s done before I realize I have done it.

Recently I used it on a Facebook event page and faced a shitstorm of criticism. I was on the road, traveling to my stepbrother’s funeral and didn’t have a chance to change it immediately, which only made people angrier.

I apologize. Really. I will try not to use that phrasing again. But if I do, please do as one of my friends did and private message me gently. I’m trying to break the habit. It can be difficult for me to remember that I need to find another way to phrase what my son;s life meat, but I am willing to do that.

I know all lives matter, but we must specify until people really understand that black lives matter every bit as much as mine or my son’s.

I understand. I get it. I will break the habit. Just, please, don’t call me names — especially racist.

A united front is dangerous to the enemy

We must stand together if we are to defeat the corporate forces.

We must stand together if we are to defeat the repressive corporate forces in this country.

A few days ago, a young woman saying she was with the Black Lives Matter Movement interrupted Bernie Sanders during an appearance in Seattle.

Turns out she was a provocateur — a self-described “radical Christian” and a Sarah Palin follower.

I won’t go into her choices here — they’re hers to make — but I will question people’s reaction to her action.

Several of my older white friends have said they no longer will support the Black Lives Matter Movement because of this one woman’s actions. I find that short-sighted and, quite frankly, deeply offensive.

The Black Lives Matter Movement came together in reaction to the deaths of unarmed young men. I lost a child to injustice and I can tell you, this movement is more than justified. I stand with these young people because we all need to stand together.

Whether or not this woman was affiliated with BLM isn’t the point here. The point is that her actions shouldn’t drive away those of us who believe in what Blacks Lives Matter is doing. I will continue to stand with Black Lives Matter.

The right-wingers in this country are more than pleased that we seem to be able to be split apart into smaller, less effective groups.

Even more important than that, who are we to tell our youth how to run a justice movement? The worst thing we can do as elders is to tell others “we’ve always done it this way, so you need to listen to us.” Remember, racism and other injustices are still with us, so we weren’t as right as we would like to think we were.

We had our youthful movement, and it did accomplish a lot. But we still have young, mostly black men and women being enslaved by a prison system that captures them right out of school. Private prison companies predict how many people they will have by assessing third-grade reading scores.

States run by old white men are restricting voting rights with laws that they know will affect blacks, poor people, elders and college students.

I recently was criticized for a comment on a Black Lives Matter page on Facebook and asked to take my comments to a White Allies page. In other words, let’s stay separate. We’ll keep the black people on one page and whites on another. How the hell does that help anyone? If what I say offends you, tell me why. How else are we going to unite and defeat the real enemy? Let’s have a discussion.

At the Proctor Institute in Clinton, Tenn., a few weeks ago, young people from the Black Lives Matter Movement reached out to us elders because they want to learn from us — and we eagerly met with them because we, too, have much to learn.

Look, I’m an old white woman. I know that. But I am most definitely affected by injustice toward anyone. I lost a son to an unjust health care system that deliberately neglected him for no reason other than he couldn’t afford to pay for his care. I sat by his side and held his hand as he breathed his last. Every time an unarmed young black man is shot and killed, I weep for the mother who didn’t even get to say goodbye to her child. I can’t know what it us to be black, but I do know what it is to lose a child to injustice, and if you haven’t been through that, you can’t know how it feels. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a passionate advocate. And I am grateful for every advocate for justice.

I am deeply, deeply invested in the justice movement. I am more than eager to learn from young people, from black and brown people, from anyone who will work toward a more just world with me.

This isn’t the 1960s. We didn’t have Facebook and Twitter. We didn’t have cell phones that could capture injustice in action; we had to rely on television cameras for that. Times have changed, but injustice hasn’t.

I have no right to tell anyone today that they should fight injustice the way we did 50 years ago. After all, we didn’t end war or racism or sexism. This generation has new ideas. I look forward to working with them.

 

 

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