Sorry not sorry.

My heart is heavy, yet again.

I wasn’t going to post or write about this but I can’t not talk about it. The shooting in Charleston has left in me in tears. Tears for these people who have lost their lives because of hate. Tears for their families and loved ones. Tears of frustration at the sheer amount of people who are still refusing to admit that this was a hate crime, an act of terrorism. (Even though now it has come forward that he absolutely meant to start a civil war.)

There’s a lot I could say about this completely senseless massacre, but it’s everywhere. Everyone is talking about it. What I wanted to write about is the persistent narrative that I keep seeing on the internet of people trying to deny that this event had anything to do about race. That these 9 Black people, attending a Bible study class in a historic Black church, were murdered just because of some crazy guy. It’s infuriating, it’s insulting, and it’s wrong.

Here's a doodle I made of a stick figure being mad a computer. He's probably reading YouTube comments.
Here’s a doodle I made of a stick figure being mad a computer. He’s probably reading YouTube comments.

So naturally, I’ve been getting into internet debates with strangers, and I wanted to share two very different conversations I’ve just had.

1) Site: Facebook

A friend of mine posts the Jon Stewart video (that is so amazing and made me cry again) and here are the comments in their entirety, I didn’t even correct grammar or spelling issues. Obviously not using real names but the one labeled “T” is with whom I’m debating. I’m going to use colors to help break up blocks of text but also to make this a little less painful to read. Colors are fun, right?

T:  I think people need to learn the distinction between bigotry, racism, discrimination, prejudice and hatred. Then unlearn words like micro aggression and other PC era terms. acknowledge that people “profile” others all the time based on looks. Race. Age. Accent. Size. Scent. Hair. Clothes. Class. Speech etc.
People need to understand that being offended doesn’t make you a victim. That being an asshole doesn’t make you a criminal. People need to stop reducing racism to someone’s perception of what someone might have thought, and leave it for when it actually matters. People are way too sensitive and it’s a disservice to those who have suffered and actually suffer injustices now

A (original poster): I love to read your posts because, you always do such a compelling job of outlining a position I don’t fully agree with nor fully disagree with. So, yeah, I appreciate your post….Moving on, it’s difficult to have a meaningful conversation about a complex topic like racism, especially over Facebook. So I won’t attempt to prescribe a balance on sensitivity or take on your misconceptions about the power of perception, but I hope someone, who is ripe to confront themselves about this will see my post today. Thanks for reading.

(Super nice diplomatic response that should’ve ended the conversation but ooh no… not while I’m around!)

T: Well thanks 🙂 yeah I’m not sensitive. I’ve not a bone of guilt. I never get defensive. My conviction is my freedom. Being right or wrong or judged or labelled compels me personally to do nothing. I use my life experiences to determine my perspectives and I don’t expect everyone to agree with them and I surely don’t expect people, especially on Facebook as you say, to judge me simply for my character and not as a white or straight or male. That will never happen. So I may as well say what I feel since people will dismiss it anyways 🙂  let them be hypocrites and regurgitate whatever the college professors are spewing. It’s just like rap music every generation likes their voices and thinks the new/older ones are lame. Doesn’t matter if it’s flavors of Gatorade or brands of feminism. Nothing is more American than arguing about things with emotion and sentiment instead of logic or reason

A: That’s great for people to know when they consider your ideas and point of view.

(Oooh, gurl, the shade, the shade of it all. Go you.)

R (another commentator):
Logically speaking:
Racism is discrimination based on race, specifically occuring when that race has been historically discriminated against and demoralized and put in a position of oppression. (So logically those historically in a position of power cannot be discriminated against in this way).
Systemic racism is when that oppression and discrimination becomes ingrained into the very system something is built upon. So in the case of the US, that’s our constitution. Your freedom that you use as your conviction was built upon the oppression of others. I’m not dismissing your opinion. You have as much right to it as I do to mine. But I’m looking at facts. Your opinion is one that has been heard before. In fact, the majority have been saying this for longer than America existed. It doesn’t mean it is correct.
But then again logically those in a position of power will seek to keep that power. So yeah maybe it’s time emotion had its day because at least if we look at our emotions we might understand the place in which others find themselves.

T:  Emotion always has its day now. People get outraged all the time now. And like John (Editorial note: he means Jon Stewart) says. Nothing happens. My initial response was to A’s words about racism, if its inherent, what people need to do about it etc. my thoughts are that too many people try to make feelings reality. It’s not logical for society to enable that, but we do. If someone is offended, they’re offended, and they’re validated. No matter how much of a stretch it is. we’re obligated to respect their feelings no matter what now. I just call bullshit.
I don’t need to express my emotions publicly to empathize. And I don’t need to empathize publicly to show anyone I’m human, cool, forward thinking, progressive, liberal, warm, loving, etc. I know I am. This is the freedom I speak of. Don’t coopt the term for your own argument I’m. Not speaking of our 3/5ths men days of old, of slave times or suffrage. I’m talking of a personal freedom to speak my mind without fear of offending someone, or worrying about being judged. You proved my point for me. insinuating that I’m “in power” and my opinions are to be dismissed. You can believe that all you want. People have been labeling people to dismiss them before America existed. It’s time I show some emotion about it don’t you think?

(I don’t even know… most of that didn’t even make sense… where to begin… So naturally, I engaged.)

Me: Chiming in here because I don’t know you, so I can’t quite tell what is tongue-in-cheek and what is sincere in your comment, T, but it sounds like you’re being a bit dismissive and defensive towards R’s comment, which to me was very straight-forward and actually not emotional at all.

First of all: 1) You wrote, ” If someone is offended, they’re offended, and they’re validated. No matter how much of a stretch it is. we’re obligated to respect their feelings no matter what now. I just call bullshit.” But you’re missing the point. We’re not talking about the PC police or someone being offended over a Hollywood movie and posting about it on a blog, we’re talking about 9 people who were brutally murdered on Wed night because of the color of their skin. But as Jon Stewart said, this isn’t an isolated incident. This isn’t just the work of one lone wolf crazy person. This occurs all the time and it’s indicative of the systematic racism that this country is built upon. It’s everywhere. This isn’t a fluke, it’s a physical eruption of a hate culture that we live in. To dismiss it as people simply playing victim every time they’re offended because all people profile is incredibly insulting to those who live their daily lives being profiled every single day because of their race. And not just in a “oh that one guy doesn’t like me” kind of way, but the way where policemen shoot first and ask questions later, employers won’t hire you, store owners follow you – it’s systematic. Jon said, these people drive on roads named after Confederate leaders who fought to keep them in slavery. I insinuate from your earlier comments that you’re a white, straight, male. And you are entitled to your opinions, but the biggest point Jon was making is that we can’t deny that we are part of a racist society. People hate the term privilege because they react to it emotionally, but the actual meaning is that you have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be black in America (and neither do I), so check your privilege means stop telling black people to stop being so sensitive and listen to what they have to say about their experience.

2) And on that note, no, I’m sorry, you can’t have that “personal freedom to speak my mind without fear of offending someone, or worrying about being judged” – first of all, that’s called being human and everyone has that. You just don’t want to be challenged or debated. You don’t want to discuss. When I hear that, I hear, “don’t bother arguing with me because I’m right. I’m allowed to say whatever I want in a public sphere and I shouldn’t have to suffer any consequences for it.” And yet as soon as an opposing opinion is voiced, you shut it down with talks of freedom of speech. That’s fucking hypocritical. You can absolutely believe whatever you want. You can say whatever you want. You CAN’T then expect to not have to deal with the consequences. That’s being an adult. Be offensive but then stand by it. What’s wrong with saying, “Yeah, I am offensive.” I think A was speaking to that – we all need to say, “You know what? I am a little racist. I can be part of the problem. But I want to be part of the solution, so let’s talk.” That’s progress.

3) What is wrong with emotions? In intelligent debate, emotion is always dismissed as weak or feminine or useless, but all progress by humankind was made when emotion met intellect and skill. People were killed. People are still being killed. We are human beings, made of flesh, and emotions are what sets us apart as evolved beings. There’s nothing wrong with emotions. I’m sad that these people died. I’m sad that we live in this type of world still. I’m sad and angry that my black and brown friends have to deal with this every day. I’m sad and angry that my Asian brother is even profiled by authorities still. I’m sad that I’ve been made to feel like I wasn’t American, like I didn’t belong, and that I was a freak, constantly every single day of my life growing up and in ways that continues now. I’m angry and sad events like being called a “Chink” in 7th grade, to my Muslim friends being taken aside at airports, to the tragedy in Charleston are all indicative of a giant complex racist culture and history that is America. I’m sad that we still have to have these discussions. I’m worried that you’re not even going to read this. I’m embarrassed that I’m blowing up A’s wall with talk about politics and race and sociology. But I’m incensed to reply and keep talking and not being quiet. Because this is my experience, because their lives mattered. Because silence = death. Because we deserve the right to be fucking emotional. But what do I know? I’m just human.

T: I myself was never talking about the hate crime murders in the church. Also I don’t care what people think about some of my opinions. It’s not that I “shut them down” it’s that I simply don’t feel a need to get defensive nor appease people should they be offended by my opinions. (In a public forum) it’s a nice freedom, a luxury, a privilege even that most people don’t have, because they don’t want to offend anyone or be called sexist or racist etc etc even if theyre speaking the truth or have an unpopular Opinion.

(Editorial note: He then went back later and EDITED his reply and added:) Which was my point about people’s feelings being reality and how as a society we enable that. Being offended equates to being a victim now. Being an asshole equates to being criminal. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Even professors have to watch what they teach so they don’t offend one single student. Lest they complain. It’s an awful climate. The irony being that the enabled offended people tend to be the ones who won’t listen – their feelings are reality. It’s a slippery slope. I find people agree with things or don’t say anything just to avoid drama. It’s pathetic.

(You can tell he’s starting to flail now.)

Me: Okay… so… what’s your point? Then how do your comments add to the conversation that A started by posting this video that was about the hate crime murders? Are your comments completely non-sequitur? I don’t get it.
PS: This article (written by a white male with a Ph.D.) is exactly what I’m talking about.

Here is a soothing picture of a beach at sunset to help prevent rage stroke. Picture by https://www.flickr.com/photos/chiaralily/
Here is a soothing picture of a beach at sunset to help prevent rage stroke. Picture by https://www.flickr.com/photos/chiaralily/

T: And as for your personal anecdotes, welcome to the world. People can be mean and hateful and the easiest thing for lazy people to do is attack or judge someone by their appearance / race. What could society have done besides tell kids it’s not ok and punish them for racial slurs? Nothing. It will still happen. Even as adults. Everyone will handle it differently. Some will feel like victims others won’t give a shit. Being called names sure seems like child’s play compared to being killed or beat because you’re black or gay etc. but who am I to judge? I’m not even talking about racial slurs and things that are already illegal and or forbidden in schools or the workplace. I’m talking about misco aggressions and other bs. People are looking for ways to be offended it seems like. Do I call it a micro aggression when cars try to charge me more for a fare? Or when bodegas won’t sell me loosies because they assume I’m a cop? Both of those happen because of my race. Am I a victim? You will surely say no. Do I have a right to be upset? Sure. Are they doing anything illegal? Not really. Where do we draw the line.

Me: No, but that was my point, I’m in NO way saying being called (racial slurs) names as a child is equal to being shot – please be clear about that. It’s all symptomatic of a larger issue – you being charged more for a car or not being sold loosies DOES make you a victim of what is a racially divided and problematic system – slavery didn’t end that long ago. Jim Crow laws were just over 50 years ago. Our country is built on racism and we need to admit that. Then we can start trying to enact laws and measures to try to make it better. Mindfulness, like A was advocating, is the key. We can’t just say, “Oh well, people suck, that’s life.” That’s so defeatist. In this kind of society, we all suffer, regardless of our race.

T: Yes it is built on slavery. 100%. Indentured servitude too. Which continues to this day with student loans. (Oooookay… not touching that one.) Acknowledging it out loud doesn’t do any good. All we can do is live by example and fight for and speak for those that can’t themselves. To demand justice. Maybe people have a different idea of what that means. Maybe people have different expectations. I know this, insults based on race (or size, class, slut shaming, ginger (sorry ash) etc etc will exist forever. I know I’ll prepare my multi racial kids for it, what to do, how to handle it, not to do it etc. beyond that idk what more an individual can do. I just won’t respect when people cry wolf. Which goes full circle to what I posted earlier.

Me, trying to not let him derail the conversation: But who is crying wolf? And how is talking about crying wolf even helpful on a FB post that is absolutely about a hate crime where people died because of the color of their skin?

T: There are already enough laws and enough people losing jobs over bs. IMO. God forbid you offend someone. It’s not helping anyone it’s taking away from legitimate cases of discrimination etc etc like I said originally. If anything I think it’s polarizing people and creating divisiveness.

Me:  I guess I’m just confused why we’re even having this discussion. This has nothing to do with Ashley’s post then. And can you site real examples please? Of people losing their jobs over people being offended?

Me again: Whoa, also I just notice you added a whole new addendum to your earlier comment that was NOT there before (I quote that extra part mentioned earlier).
And while I do agree with you partially (I actually wrote a blog post about the PC police and how it hurts our cause) I don’t think that it’s a bad thing for us to look inward and see if we’re part of the problem and discuss these issues because as I said earlier, silence equals death.

T:  I speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves and try to silence those who try to coopt or steal from them. Like these memes out now comparing the white kids arrest to the five worst domestic assault/murders of Black men in the last year. No. Right message. Wrong day. Don’t exploit this for click bait. Don’t manipulate angry people. Don’t exploit actual victims and dead people to bring awareness (clicks and likes to your FB page) to the obvious fact that black people are sometimes mistreated by the cops. Don’t disrespect the men and women who caught this mass murderer by complaining that they didn’t beat shoot or sit on him like a teen age girl. I’m shocked how many people I know are sharing these dumb memes I’ve been up all night shaming them.

(I KNOW. I KNOW.)

Me: But I don’t think people are posting to just get clicks and likes, they’re showing the disparity between the way white people vs black people are treated in this country. Racism is racism is racism. It IS all related. We do need to talk about this. These issues are real and they are important. The senator did a lot of work to try and benefit the black community. If we’re not going to talk about these issues now, then when? How many more people have to die?

T: You can’t compare how local yokel cops abuse people with a multi agency intrastate manhunt. It’s beyond naive. There are thousands of people arrested daily without any incidents, also white people do get beat. We all know the disparities…. Still. Wrong place. Also The people who make those memes have like a million likes. They’re garbage pages like tmz. He’ll be sold for profit to a business.The only valid comparisons to this mass murderer are the last 4 black mass murderers. 3 of whom were taken peacefully while one was shot but not fatally. 

But who cares about logic! People are mad and they need to show it so they repost whatever manipulative meme comes their way. Ignoring the facts. As for the issues? I’ve been talking anouth Them since the 80’s. Nothing has changed. Idk I think people will continue to die until the government isn’t owned by the NRA and corporations. It is up to the individual states at the moment.

(He posts a picture of a young black man in a white bullet-proof vest.)

Oh look a young black mass murderer being treated just like yesterday’s white one! ^ but why remember this.. It doesn’t go with our memes.

Me: Yeah, these memes aren’t helpful ultimately, but people are angry, people are upset. I can’t blame them. It’s sparking discussions though, like this one, so it’s not all bad.

I think we actually agree on more points than not, I just think when you come out and comment on a video about 9 people being murdered as an act of terror talking about the world being too concerned with political correctness or offended parties calling themselves victims being bullshit, you can see how I would infer that you are trying to dismiss the fact that the Charleston killings were racially motivated and telling everyone to stop being so sensitive and making this about race. Because that’s what a lot of people on the internet are saying, and it makes me, as you say, “emotional.”

I’m going to stop responding now, not because I don’t want to keep debating, but I think we’re reached a pretty good impasse and we should give A’s wall a rest.

T: It’s as obvious as can be that those murders were hate crimes. Like John said. I was referring to A’s words about personal responsibility. (insert emoji of fingers in a peace sign.)

Mmhmm
Wish I could send back my own kind of peace sign, amirite

Ugh what a waste of a morning, right? We’re just talking in circles, which is usually how debates like this end up. Usually the guy (and it’s always a guy – but don’t worry, #notallmen) will at one point realize that my calm, rational points make sense and either concede but more likely, he will twist his original point while continuing to argue until I say, “Wait a minute, we are actually agreeing, why are we fighting?” And then he gets to not be the bad guy or lose, but rather it’s a “tie.” Seriously.

I’m sorry, I know that was probably painful to read and it’s okay if you skimmed.

BUT THEN I had this great exchange with another stranger. You can see it all on my Twitter but as we were using multiple tweets to reply, here it is all laid out for your reading pleasure. This is a good one. But I’ll use colors again because we already established that colors are fun.

2) Site: Twitter

kickasskmo (that’s me): Can we start calling the #CharlestonShooting an act of #terror now? He says it himself! Link.

gragonstout: @kickasskmo no for it to be an act of terrorism they have to be a political agenda you should know the definition of words before using

me: Did you even read the article? CNN reports: “To start a race war, Roof told investigators, according to one of the officials.”

me: Is a race war not a political agenda? Maybe you should check your facts before you tell me I’m not using my words correctly.

him: he is not a member of an organisation so it was not a formal act for terrorism it was one crazy guy

him: and its according to one office let the dust settle before you talk shit and stop race baiting crying voice white people bad

me: Was the OK City bombing not a terrorist act? He was also “one crazy guy”. I’m not “crying white people bad” it’s racism = bad.

me: Dictionary does not say that terrorism must be part of an organization anywhere. Your logic has holes.  Link.

him: my friends say I should do stand up toin the UK the scenes really big right now

him: because they are all one community the food is a mix of Spanish and Asian they do the best seafood what’s your stage name

Um what?

me: wait, what? That’s it? We were just discussing race and the Charleston shootings and now we’re talking food and comedy? Wha?

him:  to be honest you prove me wrong I didn’t know what else to say but do like food and comedy

#micdrop
#micdrop

me: oh my god, I am literally LOLing. Thank you for engaging with me, this has made my day. Def try stand-up! It’s scary & fun!

him: I was going to try the feminists and race baiting way of dealing with it being proved wrong letters I just couldn’t do it

me: well, good sir, I applaud you. I think discussion is so impt. Thank u for not being an arse. We need to promote love, not hate!

him: thanks you give me confidence now all I need is a time distance girlfriend

(ignoring that…)

him: thanks but do you have any of your work on YouTube

me:  I do, you can check out my webpage in my bio!

him: thanks for sharing video good luck in the future

me: Thanks!

Wow. Yeah. I don’t know what to think now. Just when I’m ready to go jump off a cliff, I actually get to have a meaningful intelligent conversation with a stranger who seems to be just a troll and change his mind.  You win some, you lose some. The internet, amirite?

ANYWAY.  Want to do more than just debate with strangers on the internet? Let’s end this on some important links:

Donate to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

Sign a petition to remove the Confederate Flag From All Government Places

Find out how you can have more constructive conversations about race. 

I am sending my thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims. In the end, people lost their lives to a senseless act of violence, and that will never make sense and no amount of debating can bring those lives back. But I maintain that it’s important to keep discussing, keep talking about it, and do what we can to try to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Don’t let them die in vain.

 

Black Lives Matter

This entry is full of links, so please view on your computer if they’re not showing up on your phone. 

I have become obsessive. Ever since Officer Pantaleo was not indicted for using a banned choke-hold which lead to the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner, I have taken to the internet and watched, read, and posted countless articles, videos, and blogs about this case, other cases like it, and the larger issues at hand. I cannot stop thinking about it. I cannot stop talking about it.

The deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, along with the non-indictment of both police officers responsible, has sparked a fury throughout the country. People from all walks of life and all racesteachers and students, celebrities, activists, politicians, and even some policemen – have voiced that they believe this isn’t right. As John Stewart so eloquently said, the facts of the Michael Brown case may have been hazy and witness accounts were conflicting, however most people seem to agree that Eric Garner was in no way resisting, and in no way was Officer Pantaleo’s use of the choke-hold justified. And still, regardless of all of any other point to this argument, there remains the fact that Pantaleo still should have been indicted – we all watched the video (in horror) and it was clear as day. Even if he did feel threatened or thought the force was justified, why not at the very least let this go to court? Why are we letting police officers use lethal force without any investigation or repercussions? This has sparked a larger debate throughout the nation – is the system broke? And if so, how do we fix it?

A lot of people are resisting this issue and disagree with the protesters. They believe that policemen and women are within their right to use lethal force if they feel threatened, and should not have to defend themselves, especially when their sole job is to defend their community. Some agree that Eric Garner’s case may be unjust, but rioting and looting in the streets is unacceptable. Others believe this isn’t a race issue at all, and since Garner was arrested for selling loose cigarettes in the past, he made his own choices that led to his demise. After all, Michael Brown was clearly a thug, he was an unarmed 18-year-old but when he had a scuffle with  armed Officer Darren Wilson (not on duty and not in uniform), he sealed his fate of being shot 4 times, including once in the head, while being 50 feet away from the policeman. You must always listen to a police officer and if you just complied, things like this wouldn’t happen. (I’m being sarcastic, by the way.)

Well, I’ve been talking about all of this for days, and quite frankly, I’m exhausted. My heart is heavy and I’m so incredibly sad and angry. So instead of going on and on here in this blog, I will just simply link to articles and videos that say it better than I can.

Before you go defend Officer Wilson and Officer Pantaleo and the fact that they were not indicted, please peruse the links below. And if you’re angry or confused about this issue, please do the same.

Everyone – educate yourself. Listen. Learn. I believe we are in the midst of a huge movement in this country – one that is way overdue. And while this situation is steeped in high emotions on both sides, I believe that intelligent discussion and facts can only serve us.

“I Don’t Want to Be Afraid of The Police” by Franchesca Ramsey. – Video

The Deaths of Black Men in America, MSNBC – Video

A Black Man is Killed Every 28 Hours in the U.S. by Police.

When the Media Treats White Suspects and Killers Better Than Black Victims. – HuffPost

In 179 fatalities involving on-duty NYPD cops in 15 years, only 3 cases led to indictments — and just 1 conviction – NY Daily News

12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed for playing with a toy gun in a park. Tamir Rice’s teen sister ‘tackled,’ handcuffed after his shooting, mom says – CNN

Unarmed Arizona man shot dead by Phoenix cop who mistook pill bottle for pistol. – NY Daily News

Officer Put on Modified Duty After Shooting, Killing Unarmed Man in Brooklyn Apartment Building Stairwell – NBC New York

Plain-clothes Philly cops shoot hoodie-wearing pizza man who thought he was being robbed – Raw Story

Black Teenager Taken Out Of School, Jailed For Month Without Probable Cause, Lawsuit Says – HuffPost

Cops shoot and kill man holding toy gun in Wal-Mart – MSNBC

Grand Jury Decides Not to Charge Officer Who Fatally Shot Unarmed Youth in Bronx – NY Times. Related aftermath: We Still Don’t Know What Happened To Ramarley Graham. – HuffPost

Knifeman shot dead by LAPD in front of scores of tourists ‘was street performer who dressed as Scream villain’ – UK Daily Mail

Ezell Ford: The mentally ill black man killed by the LAPD two days after Michael Brown’s death – Washington Post

But it’s not just Black men and boys who are targeted:

Cops Slam Unarmed Woman On The Pavement, Killing Her In Front of Family – Counter Current News.

Naked Brooklyn woman dragged from apartment by NYPD officers who say she beat 12-year-old daughter – NY Daily News

Pregnant woman apparently put in chokehold by NYPD cop during dispute over illegal grilling – NY Daily News

Did The NYPD Suffocate A Mentally Ill Woman To Death While Trying To Cuff Her? – Gothamist

And it’s not just Black adults, even little girls are guilty of being Black.

Manslaughter Charge Dropped For Police Officer Who Fatally Shot Sleeping 7-Year-Old – HuffPost

In fact, all little girls and boys of color are a threat.

SD Police Say Tasing 8-Year-Old Native Girl Was Justified, Family Sues.

Still not convinced? Here is an account from a former St. Louis police officer about racism and excessive force used by police.

The problem is not the individual police officers. I do not hate cops. We need the police. Many of them are upstanding and brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day. But we need accountability. We need to face the systematic racism that is rampant in this country. We need change.

So what is it that we propose? Here are our demands:

11 Demands for Accountability

Want to join in a protest? Find out where to peacefully march for justice near you.  The Millions March is tomorrow. See you then. Stay strong. Stay safe. Stay active.

It ends today.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. 

I can’t stop crying.

I finally watched the video of Eric Garner’s arrest and death and I can’t stop crying. Just like I had resisted reading about Bill Cosby’s rape allegations, I had resisted watching that video. I knew about it, I had read about it, but watching this man’s last moments was too much for me to handle. But we all must face the facts, no matter how unpleasant or upsetting. We owe Mr. Garner that much.

Yesterday, the grand jury refused to indict the NYPD officer who tried to subdue Eric Garner (unarmed) in an illegal choke-hold, then pushing his face into the sidewalk, all the while him repeating, “I can’t breathe.” He died while in custody moments later. Just two weeks ago, a grand jury in Ferguson, MO, refused to indict a police officer for shooting an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Just a few days ago, manslaughter charges were dropped against a police officer who mistakenly shot and killed a 7-year-old girl, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was sleeping on the couch. They were searching for a murder suspect. The officer now faces, at most, a misdemeanor charge for “accidental firing of a weapon resulting in death.”

Last month, a Cleveland police officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing with a toy gun in a park. We now know that the same police officer was recommended to be released from duty back in 2012 from a different town before he resigned and then was hired by the city of Cleveland.

All of these victims – these human beings – were of Black descent. All of the police officers are of White descent. These are just a few examples of excessive police brutality, but this is not new news. We are just all aware of it now because of social media and technology. But this has been going on for years.

I have resisted posting about this because I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said. The tensions are palpably high in this country. But I can’t be quiet about it anymore. I’ve been feeling such sadness about these events in the past few weeks, but now I’m angry.

This is about race. These police officers acted illegally and their crimes need to be punished.

I am not against police officers in general. I do not think the anarchist anger is helpful in this situation. But we need to do something about this. We need a system overhaul. We need accountability and we need to address the blatant racism that exists in our country.

From left to right, top to bottom: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Look at their faces. Remember their names.
From left to right, top to bottom: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Look at their faces. Remember their names.

I am not Black. But I see and acknowledge the centuries of systemic oppression and discrimination that this country was built on. I’m not sure which is worse, those supporting the officers and blaming the victims, those who are just out-rightly racist and believe the victims deserved their untimely deaths, or those (who are usually very young) saying they agree this is wrong, but they don’t see what it has to do with race.

The fact is, if you are not a Black American, then the most you can do is sympathize with the Black American experience while admitting that you do NOT know what it’s like. Because you don’t. And neither do I. But I see what my friends and fellow citizens go through everyday and it pains me. It goes way, way back – deep into the roots of this country. Do not discount 500 years of forced enslavement and treatment of an entire group of people as property. It was not that long ago. We still have a long way to go. Schools and public property were desegregated just about 40 years ago. My father was a teenager then.

I could go into the extensive sociological history of racism towards Black people in this country but to keep things brief and approachable, let’s just do an experiment.

I am not Black. But I am a woman of color. I live in New York City. Say, for example, I was in the exact position that Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, or Aiyana Stanley-Jones were in. I am willing to bet you a lot of money that I would have not been shot and killed in any of these situations. Even if I had acted exactly as they each had.

The universal frustration of the Black Man is evident in Eric Garner’s video. His speech before his death broke my heart. He said, “I’m not doing anything, I’m not selling nothing. You guys are always giving me trouble and I’m tired of it. It ends today.” And he’s right – the racial profiling of Black men (and women) as criminals and thugs is deeply ingrained. I see it everyday in New York City, as I walk by, unsuspected and not bothered – just an innocent-looking Asian female. I know we’d like to believe that he must have done something wrong to deserve the special attention. But in truth, what he did wrong was be born Black. Just like the victim-blaming that happens during a rape and sexual assault case, we are all terrified to believe that something terrible can happen to us for absolutely no reason or fault of our own. That loss of control is paralyzing, but it is a daily fear for many. And yes, it can happen to you. This may be a race issue, but it involves all of us.

It doesn’t matter what any of these victims were doing when the shooting occurred, they were all unarmed. The police officers only feared for their lives because of their fear of Black people. The Fear took over, they shot off their guns, and innocent people died. And when I say innocent, I don’t care if the toy gun didn’t have a red tip or if Michael supposedly bullied a store clerk. That does not justify their deaths. I mean that none of them had been convicted of a crime and sentenced to death by a judge and jury of their peers. None of them threatened the lives of those officers. Their deaths were unjust, illegal, and unconstitutional.

This is scary, people. We should be scared – and not because of possibly damage property during protests. We should be scared for the system, for our government, for our police, and what that means to us as citizens. What does that mean for our children?

We are upset, we are angry, we are sad, we are fed up. Not just because these people died. But because the law is letting policemen shoot and kill whomever they please without repercussions. There are other ways to detain a suspect that should not involve shooting to kill. Those who lecture about how to “just behave and avoid getting in situations like this” are blind and in severe denial. Wake up, everyone. You may find yourself someday in an unfortunate situation with a police officer. And even though you may be a law-abiding citizen and unarmed, what these non-indictments are saying is that, he or she can still shoot and kill you if he feels like it. And there’s nothing we can do about it.

Except be heard. So march. Protest. Peacefully – of course – I don’t believe that violence is the answer. But stand up. Speak out. Talk about this. That’s the least we can do for Eric, Michael, Tamir, and Aiyana. Where are you marching today?

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Martin Niemöller

I read about it somewhere, maybe it was the Times…

So I’m going to hold off on my previously planned blog post to address something that is a little more timely and quite frankly, pisses me off has me quite confuddled. (I just made up that word, it’s a mix between confused and befuddled. You’re welcome, and you may use it.)

If you haven’t checked your Facebook or other social media site yet, TIME magazine released a poll with a list of words to ban for 2015. On it, there are several obvious choices stemming from internet slang and memes, such as “YAAASS” or “Om Nom Nom Nom.” Most of these my friends would say, “Wait, what do these mean?” (Yes, I’m only friends with 80-year-old grandparents.) But to many people’s shock and dismay, they also have another hot-ticket word on the poll, nestled ever so delicately between “disrupt” and “I can’t even,”…

Feminism.

Yes, TIME magazine, ever so relevant and witty, is equating a civil rights movement that is just about 6 years shy of celebrating its centennial birthday, that happens to address gender and the social, political, and economic rights of half of America’s population.

Stay classy, TIME magazine.

I could go into a big, sarcastic, angry tirade, but I want to actually address something bigger – why they felt the need to add that word to their poll. It’s true, as a liberal, intelligent artist who lives in New York, the bulk of my Facebook feed nowadays tends to be posts addressing sociological or political injustices. My queer friends post about trans* phobia. My feminist friends post about slut-shaming. My friends of color post about racism, or exploitation of minorities in the media. A lot of my friends fall into multiple categories, as do I, and they are passionate, well-read, and well-intentioned. I’m very lucky to have such smart, relevant friends. But it can also be overwhelmingly depressing, as I scroll through my daily news source (yes, I’m still talking about Facebook), and see nothing but articles about the offensive, discriminatory, oppressive evil Man keeping us down.

Please be clear, I’m not saying that I disagree with all of these articles or points, but I think we’re all starting to “Devil’s Advocate” ourselves into the ground. In specifically addressing feminism, we are in danger of becoming like those ghosts on Portlandia, and we are going to confuse our movement to death, if we haven’t already. (Yes, the new season is on Netflix, and yes, it’s fine for you to finish reading this later after you go binge watch all of them now.)

Let’s just look at one example:

Recently, Hollaback released a video of a woman walking through the streets of NYC for 10 hours, and recorded secretly the various instances of “catcalling” she experienced. Yeah, you’ve seen it. If you do click on the video link above, don’t read the comments, I don’t want you to have a rage stroke. (Comment boards are where humanity goes to die, but that’s another topic.)

This video has over 35 million views, and countless follow-up parodies and articles dissecting the impact of this video. At its heart, Hollaback’s video had a simple message: women experience catcalling just walking down the street (while wearing plain black clothing) and here is proof. That is a valid point in and of itself. When it first hit the web, I even posted it on my own Facebook, I thought it was great (and I totally liked it before it was cool.)

Here's a stock photo of defiant fists in the air and for all you know, they are all different races, genders, sexualities, religions, and sizes, so you can't get offended you're not included.
Here’s a stock photo of defiant fists in the air and for all you know, they are all different races, genders, sexualities, religions, and sizes, so you can’t get offended you’re not included.

But now, the masses have spoken, and the video is racist and exclusionary and unfair and rigged. Slate writer Hanna Rosin released an article shortly after the video was released, stating, “the video also unintentionally makes another point: that harassers are mostly black and Latino, and hanging out on the streets in midday in clothes that suggest they are not on their lunch break.” While this is a valid point, it seems like the majority of people have latched on to this sentiment while ignoring a very important statement she makes just a paragraph later, “Activism is never perfectly executed. We can just conclude that they caught a small slice of catcallers, and lots of other men do it, too.” While she has a problem that this video does not address its target audience correctly (by excluding white upper/middle class men, they can feel exempt from any wrongdoing seen in this video), she is absolutely right.

Activism is never perfectly executed. Feminism has long been criticized as only for white women and exclusionary to women of color. And for the most part, in America, it is. Absolutely race should always be addressed. And class. And sizeism. And religion. And sexuality. And gender. Wait… wasn’t that what we were talking about?

The thing is, ALL of these issues are connected. You can’t talk about one without the other coming up. Because no one is Just a Girl. (Sorry, Gwen Stefani) And anytime you talk about major social topics, you run into a problematic er… problem. How do you address something so personal, but on a public level? My experience is unique only to myself. Something that offends me might not offend another of my “group” – but – and here’s my issue – something does offend someone, everywhere, all the time, always.

A human rights group posts a video or a blogger writes an article or a TV personality has a hit series – they address the lives and issues of a marginalized group and educate the masses in a way that hasn’t been done before. We all know their intentions are well-placed, and for the most part, they’re effective.

But then comes the concerned, hipster trolls. Well, this video is great, but it stars a White woman, what about Black women? What about Latino women? What about women from the South Pacific? What about Sikh women? What about trans* women? What about lesbians? What about bisexuals? What about Mormons? What about Amish women? What about fat women? You can’t say fat, that’s fat-shaming. No, you should say “fat”, it’s empowering!  Stop saying “fat”, you’re just skinny-shaming! This video is slut-shaming! It promotes rape culture! I’M ANGRY!

How the hell can we move forward and make progress as a human race if we keep holding ourselves back to make sure that we don’t step on anyone’s psychological toes? NO ACTIVIST ACT, VIDEO, ARTICLE, etc. is EVER GOING TO BE COMPLETELY INCLUSIVE and COVER ALL GROUND. I don’t mean to yell, but geez louise, we can’t ever win! Humanity and human rights is a complicated, sticky, giant area to discuss and no one thing is ever going to cover all of it. Don’t you see? We’re not helping ourselves by constantly picking each other apart – we’re supposed to be all on the same team! Remember who the real enemy is. (Yes, it’s President Snow.)

Of course, we should always be discussing these issues, it’s amazing that we do and can in the first place. But let’s stop dragging each other down through the politically incorrect muck when we are all trying to achieve the same thing. If you don’t see yourself represented, then YOU release a video, write another article, or whatever. I believe that life usually is better when you just follow the rule of Improv: “Yes, and…” As in, “YES, this addresses an important issue well, AND here’s another take on this issue that should also be discussed.”

And for the love of your god, can we please stop throwing around the “shaming” words? Calvin Klein released photos of their new model, who is gorgeous and a size 10, and now they’re being criticized because Elle (not CK) called the model plus-size  and she’s getting flack because she’s not big enough! Why not just celebrate the fact that CK hired a beautiful woman who isn’t a size 0-2? One step at a time, people. They may be fat-shaming, but keep in mind, they are fat-shaming considerably less than they used to with their size 0 models, right? It’s a small victory, right?

And people can criticize Kim Kardashian’s cover on Paper magazine without it being slut-shaming too, people. Yes, using the fact that she is now a mother as a point to why the photos are bad is unfair and frankly, completely beside the point. It’s just really um, gross. It’s distasteful on purely an artistic level (and of course, that’s just my opinion.) But I’m not a bad feminist for thinking so. I hesitate to say this, but not everything is sexist. EDIT: Further research into this Kim Kardashian photo spread (ugh, I know) actually brings up some really important information that I think is actually relevant and quite illuminating. It kind of makes me feel bad for her, poor girl most likely had no idea what she was doing…

As my good friend and writer Taylor Tobin said to me yesterday, “The egregious use of “slut-shaming” irritates me to no end. There is a DIFFERENCE between slut-shaming and saying that someone took a photograph that’s in poor taste. It’s like those high school girls who insist that their school dress codes are SLUT-SHAMING them. if the administration uses gendered terms to explain the dress code, that’s a problem. But if you’re not allowed to wear booty shorts and crop tops to school, SRY BITCHES, THAT’S LIFE.”

But Kate, you might say, how do I know what’s truly sexist and what’s not? Well, that’s complicated, but the magnificent and kickass Caitlin Moran breaks it down pretty well. Like Caitlin, I just ask myself, “Well, are boys doing it? Are men also being affected by this?” And if so, it’s probably just a human issue, not a sexist issue. I’m sure if Kanye West did a photo shoot like Kim did, we’d all be just as disgusted. And I’m sure the school administrations who ban crop tops and booty shorts are also banning boys from wearing them, as well as baggy jeans and wallet chains (we’re still in 1996, right?).

All I’m saying is, we need to keep our eyes on the prize, ladies, and gents, and others. We are letting ourselves get distracted from the real issues. We need to stop crying, “Discrimination!” every 5 seconds and really think – THINK before reacting to something. By saying every little thing is an oppressive injustice, we lessen the actual meaning of those words. They become cheap, overused, and subsequently ignored. Let’s get “feminism” off that stupid poll by using it intelligently. Let’s keep building each other up instead of knocking each other down. Let’s keep saying, “YES, AND!”