The lies of racism

Clergy from around NC and other parts of the country led a peaceful protest in Charlotte Thursday night. No none was violent and no one was injured.

Clergy from around NC and other parts of the country led a peaceful protest in Charlotte Thursday night. No none was violent and no one was injured.

Why do so many people, comfortable in their middle-class homes and neighborhoods, buy into the rhetoric that black people hate whites?

Why do so many insist that black people bring all their troubles on themselves?

Did black people buy tickets to sail from Africa to America during the Middle Passage?

Did they voluntarily submit to being bought and sold and used as livestock?

Did mothers voluntarily offer their children up for sale?

Scientific studies have shown that these kinds of trauma are written into the DNA of humans and can have an effect for generations.

So, after slavery ended, did black people volunteer to be arrested off the street and placed in prison camps where they labored for free?

Did they offer themselves up for lynching?

Did they freely choose to live in abject poverty because they couldn’t get a decent education in segregated schools so all that was left to them was sharecropping so white people could profit?

Were segregated and inadequate schools the ones they wanted for their children?

Did my friends in the 1950s and ’60s choose to be relegated to the backs of buses and back doors of restaurants and balconies of theaters — if they were allowed in at all?

Did they not dream for better lives for their children?

And today, as schools have been re-segregated, and black children trapped in crumbling school buildings with lead pipes and mold contamination, schools with far fewer computers and not enough textbooks, why are black children cruelly held to the same standards as the children in wealthy districts, where there are no school-to-prison pipelines?

Did you know that for-profit prisons calculate future “inventory” based on fourth-grade reading scores in mostly black neighborhoods? Doesn’t that sound like black children are being set up to fail so they can make profits for somebody?

When black people are trapped in poor neighborhoods with no banks, no grocery stores and lousy public transportation, are they supposed to look at the lack of opportunity and be OK with it?

Don’t talk to me about how people can rise out of poverty because a few have been fortunate enough to be able to do it. Before you can pull yourself up by the bootstraps, you have to have boots.

I was raised in a white town. We weren’t wealthy. In fact, when I was young, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, we were downright poor. But we were white. Doors were open to us that weren’t open to black families.

We attended excellent schools, even though we lived in a house that once was servant’s quarters on an apple farm in Massachusetts. We didn’t have central heat or hot water, but we did have access to great schools.

I had — and still have — a healthy dose of white privilege. Cops don’t see me or my husband or my son as a threat just because we exist and walk into their field of vision.

I have been accused of being driven by “white guilt,” the racist term for people who care about what is happening to our black brothers and sisters.

I am not guilty of anything more than having that privilege I described. It’s what I do with that privilege that matters. Do I sit in my living room and watch events unfold in Charlotte, or do I go there and stand in peace and love with fellow human beings who are being oppressed and try to protest the blatant racism of our public policy?

Do I try to understand the pain that is inherent in their existence or do I pound my fist on the arm of my sofa and wonder why they want to destroy everything “we” built?

Do I criticize every effort oppressed people make to be heard as “inappropriate,” even when it’s peaceful, or do I stand (or sit) with them?

I choose to be part of the protest.

I choose to stop waiting patiently for change and to demand it begin now, with the release of the police video of the execution of Keith Lamont Scott.

I choose to stand with my brothers and sisters in peaceful protest of systemic racism.

I choose to get angry when people judge the violence that breaks out when militarized police forces show up in riot gear and begin pushing people back and using tear gas and billy clubs if people don’t want to move.

I have been in such situations and I can tell you, I feel furious when it happens. It feels as though our valid concerns are being invalidated by people who have all the power and care nothing for our lives.

For some people the only answer is to fight back. When nonviolent protests are met with violence, some people will become violent. I’m not excusing it; I’m saying it happens, and it might not happen if there was any evidence people in power would listen to the grievances of the protesters.

And don’t talk to me about “proper channels” because those have been closed off. I have been arrested twice for trying to exercise my Constitutional right to talk to lawmakers.

It began with the death of my child, but it continues with the deaths of other people’s children because I know the pain of losing a child to injustice, and I know it happens more often to people of color, and I know that’s wrong.




We the people mean business

This was taken May 13, the night I got arrested.

This was taken May 13, the night I got arrested.

Moral Monday is rolling around again, and I plan to go to Raleigh to support those people who are volunteering to be arrested.

I was arrested on May 13 and I am banned from Legislature property until my case is resolved. I go to court on July 1.

My friend, Sarah Skinner, and I are going and there’s room for two or three more people in my car. If we get enough people we can rent a 12-passenger van for the trip.

Sarah has been my traveling companion on several trips, including two to Washington for rallies and another two for the Occupy movement and one to Charlotte to take part in the Planned Parenthood demonstration during the Democratic National Convention.

We are fellow unreconstructed hippies.

Because Sarah is a breast cancer survivor, she started dying her hair pink during October for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Now she calls the pink hair her “war paint,” so you’ll be able to spot us on Monday by her shocking pink mop-top.

We need more people to go to Raleigh and tell the General Assembly they work for us, and we are not happy. They may think we’re a nuisance, but they’re about to find out we’re much more than that — we are a movement.

So far, 157 people have been arrested for second-degree trespass, which is a misdemeanor. I doubt we’ll be placed on the no-fly list or locked up for an extended period.

I spent three hours in the jailhouse — some of the early protesters who were arrested have spent as much as eight or nine hours being processed. I think the processing is streamlined now that they know we’re going to be there in ever-increasing numbers.

I went to protest the refusal to expand Medicaid and the proposal to privatize it; others were there to protest the laws that harm unemployed people, students, workers, the environment, voters and low-income people.

There are so many reasons to protest it’s hard to pick just one. I have never seen anything like this group of legislators, and I’ve been aware of government abuses of power for 50 years.

When I have tried talking to these legislators, I get the brush-off or I get excuses filled with half-truths and out-and-out lies. When you call them on their lies, they change the subject or move on to another talking point. They aren’t listening.

They were elected to serve us, not corporate overlords, and yet they are serving the wealthiest and most powerful at our expense.

Sen. Tom Apodaca said we should know how he feels and he isn’t about to change his mind, no matter what the people think.

I don’t know what it will take to change the minds of some legislators, but we only need to reach a few to stop them from having a super-majority. Then we can work to throw the bums out in 2014.

As I said, Sarah and I are going. Anyone want to join us?

If you’re don’t stand up to protest injustice, you become part of it.

Wrong again, Mittens

I couldn’t stay away from the Civic Center yesterday. Mitt Romney was coming to speak and I had to be there to counter his “the emergency room works fine” lie.

See, Mitt believes people can get the care they need at the emergency room and that they won’t get a bill.

Wrong and wrong, Mitt.

My son’s story is proof.

Mike was born with a birth defect that left him vulnerable to colon cancer — a pre-existing condition. Since no company would sell him health insurance at any price, he was left to fend for himself. It wasn’t a matter of wrong choices as those on the Right would like to believe; it was a matter of no choices for him.

He tried the emergency room four times. But they don’t have to find the cause of your problems, they only have to address the symptoms, in Mike’s case, pain and constipation. So Mike was sent home with the wrong medications and a bill four times. By the time anyone was willing to do anything for him, the cancer had spread and it was too late to save his life.

People need to know Mitt Romney is wrong, especially since he’s been repeating the emergency room lie a lot lately.

So, I stood with other protesters across from the line of people waiting to get in. One man jeeringly asked me what emergency room had turned my son away, so I told him. It was Memorial Health Center in Savannah, Ga. He sneered at me and turned away, so I went closer to the line. A police officer started to step in front of me and I told him I had no plans to cause trouble.

“Excuse me,” I said to the man. “I see you have a son. You need to know that the emergency room only has to stabilize someone. It’s not a solution.”

He sneered at me again and turned away.

“I do what I do so your child won’t die the way mine did,” I said as he walked away.

One woman read my sign and looked me in the eye.

“Do you have children?” I asked.

“I do,” she said. “But I take care of them.”

Does she really think my son died because I failed to take care of him? I wanted to tell her how desperately I tried to get help for him and how deep into debt I went doing it. I wanted to tell her how much I loved him and how pissed off I was when his heart stopped and mine didn’t. I wanted to tell her how I still cry almost every day because my heart is still so shattered.

But I just stood there, shocked at her answer, as she walked away.

Several people laughed at me. They looked at my sign and laughed. I asked a few of them why they would laugh.

“What about this is funny?” I asked. But they walked away.

A reporter asked me how I felt as he watched it happen.

“It comes from fear, I think,” I said.

Very few of the people in line yesterday are more than six months away from poverty. What if they lost their jobs and could only find part-time work that didn’t have health benefits? Then what would happen if they got sick? If it’s true that the emergency room isn’t the solution, then what happens to them?

So, as a self-defense mechanism, they have to believe it can only happen to people who make “wrong choices.” Looking at my son’s photo and hearing his story bursts that bubble unless you dismiss it with a nervous laugh and walk away.

Then there was the woman who caused me to lose my cool.

“You need to read your Bible,” she hollered, pointing at me.

“I do read it,” I said.

“You’re a liar!” she jeered.

I snapped.

“Who would Jesus deny?” I yelled back. The police officer in front of me stepped away as though he was hoping I’d slap her miserable face.

“Do you think God let him die because I didn’t pray enough?” I yelled. “Tell me! Who would Jesus deny?”

I took a deep breath and stepped back in among the protesters, ashamed that I had allowed someone to get to me like that.

Getting angry at mean, spiteful, self-righteous, ignorant people doesn’t do the cause of health care for everyone and justice.

But she got to me. How dare she think that I didn’t care enough about my son to do all I could? How dare she judge my level of religious faith?

Looking back on it, though, I have to believe she is one scared, ignorant and helpless-feeling human being. I don’t believe anyone can be that mean without some fear and helplessness mixed in.



Dr. Margaret Flowers confronts Wall Street robber barons

What they say vs. what I saw

Security guards pepper-sprayed protesters as we tried to enter the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

I was with the protesters at the Air & Space Museum today. We had marched there from Freedom Square, probably a mile or so, hundreds of us, chanting and waving. We got to the museum and I was pertty close to the front, perhaps 10 feet back, when I saw people in front of me start to fall down and others running away. My eyes, nose and throat started stinging, but my journalistic instincts kicked in and I ran toward the door with my camera.

I was close enough to the front to know there was no warning. No one asked us to move back in a voice loud enough to hear 10 feet away.
Someone might have pushed a guard although I didn’t see it. I did see guards knock over an older man who was carrying a camera. He was pushed with enough force to fall down and lose his glasses.
We had planned to go into the museum to the drone exhibit and have a “die-in,” meaning some of us would lie down under the exhibit. When we were told to move, only a few of us would remain (the ones willing to be arrested to bring more attention to the use of unmanned drones, which kill civilians).
The guards claimed at first that we were the ones who used chemicals first, but that wasn’t true. No one had any chemical spray of any kind. I heard no one tell us to move back; I only saw people in front of me dropping or running, covering their faces and coughing.
We did not perpetrate any violence. In fact, we all signed a pledge of nonviolence and several of us calmed frightened protesters who were cursing at the guards.
I think the guards themselves were frightened. I’m certain they haven’t had to deal with hundreds of protesters asking to come in.
The Smithsonian spokesperson told the media that we had sprayed first and that they closed the museum because there had been a bomb threat. The truth? They closed the museum because so much pepper spray had been used that you couldn’t get near the door without feeling it.
Hours later I can still taste it, although it no longer stings.
The crowd did NOT disperse, contrary to what the spokesperson said. We sat down and waited for word of the three people who had been detained. We talked to each other, sang, did some improv puppet theater and waited. Some chanted, “Whose museum?” “Our museum!”
When we heard the 19-year-old who had been detained had been taken to jail, a couple dozen of us walked the two miles to the jail and sat on the lawn outside, waiting for her release, which we were told would be within two hours.
When she came out, we decided to take the Metro back to Freedom Square rather than walk. Most of us were pretty tired.
As we waited in the train station, we sang again, and as the train approached, we chanted, “Whose train?” Our train!” The other passengers were supportive, waving, giving us the thumbs-up or peace sign. At our stop, we chanted, “Whose stop?” Our stop!” as the other passengers laughed.
We marched back to the plaza, chanting, “We are the 99 percent!” and arrived to a cheering crowd.
During all our marches, we have been met with enthusiastic support. I think the American people are frustrated with a government that ignores their needs and their wishes just to kiss the butt of corporate donors.
The three days here have felt like something really historic is happening. The crowd has grown each day and people are enthusiastic and positive.
I hate to head home tomorrow.
But I will hook up with the Asheville occupation once I get home. This is just the beginning.

The revolution will be tweeted

At the kickoff of Occupy Wall Street Asheville. The event started with a memorial to Troy Davis, who was executed in Georgia despite doubts about the fairness of his trial.

I’m heading up to Washington tomorrow with a couple of friends and I plan to stay for the first four days of the October 2011 Movement’s occupation of Freedom Square. When I get back, I’ll hook up with the Asheville crowd.

I’ve said for years that we need to take to the streets, and now, finally, we’re doing just that. We’re telling the 1 percent that we, the 99 percent, aren’t going to roll over and allow ourselves to be abused any longer.

The beauty of this movement is that it’s nonviolent — at least on our part.

The Right has been saying we have no cohesive message, but we do. The problem is, our message won’t fit onto a bumper sticker because there are so many things wrong now.

For years, those in power have managed to keep people apart by attacking different parts of society: education, health care, wages, the social safety net and more. They have risked our national well being with dangerous and illegal wars and other adventures.

But we who want reform are finding ways to work together now, and we have coalesced into one huge group. We have united and we are working together.

At first they tried to ignore us with a virtual media blackout. A friend of mine who works for a newspaper has told me no stories moved from The Associated Press for the first two weeks except for a couple of short briefs.

The New York Times changed an online photo caption after 700 protesters were herded onto the Brooklyn Bridge by police and then arrested for blocking traffic. The first caption told the truth; 20 minutes later, the caption said only that 700 protesters were arrested for blocking traffic.

The media are owned by huge corporations and they have a stake in the failure of this movement. Fortunately, we have social media. There have been attempts to stop tweets and Facebook posts, but enough of us are getting through.

I will tweet from Freedom Square and I will blog from a hotel in the evenings, unless I get arrested, which is entirely possible.

Corporate personhood must be abolished, Wall Street must answer for its crimes and we the people must re-take the reins of government.


Michael Moore does Wisconsin

Michael Moore brings it to wanker in his own backyard.

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