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Thursday, January 16, 2014

One Day Shy

 

I have planned these blogs for months now. It’s the kind of thing that you always know that you must write someday but now that the day is here, where do you start? I guess the easiest thing would be to explain the title. One day shy refers to my journey really since leaving the Marine Corps. A lot of my friends and associates will be surprised to learn that as of yesterday, January 14, 2014, it will be exactly 10 years since I was released from the Indiana Department of Correction. That, in and of itself, is not all that uncommon. People are released from prison every day. What is extraordinary is the length of time it took for me to get to that release. To begin I have to go back, waaaayy back, to 1984. Specifically October 23, 1984. That was the day I was sentenced to 44 years in prison. The particulars are not that important, many of my friends and a few of my classmates went to prison that same year. Oh, yes, you did read that correctly, 44 years which in Indiana means that a convict serves 50% of his sentence. That’s 22 years for those that are slow counters. Needless to say, that relatively short statement (44 years incarceration) had a profound effect on my life and the man that I became. I was released a few months early for good behavior as well as earning my degree so I was released after 19 years 364 days. In other words, one day shy of 20 years.

Many of my friends always ask me why I know so much about prison/jail related issues as well as criminal justice in general. I just smile and tell them I read a lot. The truth is, I know so much because I lived it. I watch theatrical representations of prison. I watch “reality” shows about prison. I read, listen to podcasts, watch news stories about prison and think to myself, “if only they knew.” A lot of what you see on television is sanitized, it’s a caricature of what incarceration is, and only begins to scratch the surface of what a long term bit is like. When I went in 1984 prison was different than today. Now prison is sectioned off into pods. In the early eighties, prisons were “wide open,” a term that meant that inside of the forty foot wall I was behind, convicts ran everything. Convicts were responsible for everything from race relations to prisoner movement.  Convicts controlled what you ate, when you went to the doctor and even what particular religion you practiced.  If you ask many of my friends, prisons were better then.  I use the word “better” very loosely as prison is never good, its just a matter of being marginally “better” one day than the last.

That being said, I went to prison at 22 years of age.  That is considered young by many prison standards.  Due to the seriousness of my crime I was sent to a maximum security prison in southern Indiana.  The Indiana State Reformatory was designed to hold only prisoners with sentences in excess of 30 years.  It was also where the “young bucks” went as opposed to the Indiana State Prison which incarcerated older, more seasoned convicts.  An ongoing shell game existed in the DOC whereby the administration would transfer prisoners between the two to control their influence and to break up what would become lifetime bits.  You’ll read the term “bit” a lot in this work as it means to serve a sentence.  A sentence is a bit, and doing time is considered “bittin.”  To say I was subject to culture shock doesn’t even begin to do justice to what was to become every waking day of the next almost, one day shy, twenty years of my life.  One of the common misconceptions the uninitiated have about prison is the time worn vision of getting off the bus and walking between two lines of degenerate, homosexual rapists just waiting to prey on the first-time prisoners.  Nope. Didn’t happen, doesn’t happen.  Most people, and I think I’m qualified to say most, who go to prison know someone there.  It can be a friend from the block, a cousin, an uncle and sadly in many, many cases your father.  I’ll touch later on how many fathers and sons I was locked up with. I’ll even tell you about a real good friend of mine who saw his son join him AND his father in prison.  (Before you profile them, this was not a question of a bad family dynamic where there was no guidance, it was a case of really, really, really bad luck.)  Their story was atypical.

I will also mention many people but I’ll change their names, one for their protection/privacy, two due to the disheartening fact that, hell, I just don’t remember.  I also don’t want my writing to make one think that I’m looking for sympathy.  I did what I did, I did my time for it.  I learned more than one can expect from a fucked up situation and I became a better man for it.  My main reason for sharing, and in some cases oversharing, is to enlighten the uneducated.  I’m not special, everything that I’ll describe is happening as we speak to some other ex-convict.  I hope that my writing will help some of you understand what your brother, uncle, cousin, father, son and increasingly, sister, aunt, cousin, mother and daughter is going through trying to reconnect with this crazy world we live in.

I encourage you to share my story.  Comment on my blog, suggest it to others.  Oh, and click on an ad so Google will pay me my measly pittance for using Blogger as opposed to WordPress or one of the other blogging sites.  Also look out for the collected works to be published later on this year.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The N-Word

I have told myself time and time again that I would write something about the argument that is going on within our nation about the term nigger/nigga. I have went back and forth with myself about whether or not it is ever okay to use this word, whether in casual conversation with the fellas or heaven forbid with a white guy.

I believe that we as elder brothers/sisters in the struggle have lost sight of the reality of the situation. Realistically speaking, language is dynamic. A broader conversation could be had about profanity in general but for now let’s just talk about the so-called n-word. First and foremost, we need to stop calling it the “n-word.” When we say that, we may as well say nigga/nigger. When we hear that we don’t think nasty, we don’t think Neptune, we don’t even think narcissistic. We know what is being implied. To me, this gives others license to use the term but be protected by linguistic work around. The argument will be “well I didn’t say nigga/nigger, so see, I’m not a racist. I would much prefer the word not exist but I’m not retarded, I don’t live in a vacuum. I live in the real world.

That being said, there is a primary, undeniable reason today’s generation throws nigga/nigger around with no seeming sense of the word’s power and unfortunate history. It has nothing to do with a lack of grounding in our history. It has very little to do with the constant bombardment of the word through popular media. It is simply the FACT that unless you are at least 35 year old for the most part, you have no personal connection to the word. I, at 50+ years old, still remember “going down south” in the sixties, early seventies. I remember the stern warnings from the Great-Grandmother, Aunts, Uncles and cousins. I remember being told that I was from Gary, Indiana and that was a wholly different world for Blacks than Port Gibson, Mississippi or Chattanooga, Tennessee. There were things that you could get away with up north that would get you hurt in the south. Most of today’s generation didn’t have that experience. They, for the most part, have NEVER been called a nigga/nigger in anger. At least that’s the way they take it. No white person has ever looked at them and with venom dripping from their voice told them “nigger.” So there is no emotional connection to the word.

That’s why they are so comfortable with their friends and even white acquaintances using the word. It has become just another part of the common lexicon like bitch, hoe, ratchet, ghetto, etc. Although these words can be used to describe anyone in our society, they have become part and parcel used more often than not to describe us. Due to this overuse of these phrases we have come to be desensitized by their use. A nigga is my boy, “that’s my nigga.” “Bitch please,” how we argue with our queens. It’s all just culture now, a culture that we can rail against but eventually we have to accept our ineffectiveness and move on. We have to quit trying to go against the tide of cultural Amerikkka. Our battle cannot be fought in blogs; we’re outgunned by videos, YouTube, Facebook, twitter, etc. We are also in pitched battle with other mature “adults” who also use the word cavalierly in normal conversation. I’ll even admit I use it. I try not to, but when in Rome . . . As a casual aside, I actually went over 10 years without using it during my exploration of Black consciousness. Then culture changed and everything was nigga this, nigga that, bitch this, ratchet ass hoe that. Additionally, thousands of times a day on radio, thru Pandora, I-heart-radio etc., we hear the word. Record companies appear to reward our people for how many times they use the most degrading terms, as well as other exhortations to conspicuous consumption. It is exceedingly hard to combat this trend. As distasteful as it may be to us, what I and the conscious brothers/sisters I rotate with call the “lumpenproletariat” (look it up if you’re lacking in your 19th century Karl Marx) don’t see it that way. To make them understand the true nature of the term would require tearing down almost everything they think they know and instilling in them their true nature. Does anyone have time for that? Is that more important than teaching them how to respect their mates, or how to stop killing each other for little or no reason? Is that more important than teaching them how to avoid the pitfalls in life that will either kill them or incarcerate them? I think that we have bigger fish to fry, as the old folks used to say. Call me whatever you’d like but just don’t shoot me.
So the question was asked, is there any such thing as honorary black, or is it ever acceptable for white guys/gals to call you, or me, a nigga? Although it pains my heart to say it, I would say it depends. It depends on the situation. I’ve had young white guys who didn’t know me approach me like “what’s up my nigga?” (Suffice it to say they never did it again) They did it because their contemporaries never checked them. They did it because where they are from its acceptable behavior. They don’t see the world as polarized as we do. Some of them have true love for their ”niggaz.” They grew up in the hood and they know no more than their friends what the word truly means. Honorary blackness is out of the question as they’ll undoubtedly learn as they grow into their parents and are accepted by the society as a whole. I’ll bet money that Eminem probably used the word when he was young and running with D12 but when he became more attuned to the nuances of civilized behavior he realized that everything ain’t for everybody. He realized, like many before and many since, that everybody ain’t your guy and some people will tear your head off for the use of that term. In other words, he grew up. He became more mature. As long as we as a society accept their use of the term, endearment or not, they will use it with impunity. Usually, all it takes is for one brother to threaten, or perpetrate, violence due to their use of the word for them to realize that it is a no-no. What cannot be done is remove the word from the English language as a whole. It’s like Pandora’s Box, once its contents have escaped, they can never be returned to the box.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Solving Black on Black Violence

Where I think that we must begin is by acknowledging the fact that there has always been and will always be interethnic violence. One only need look at Africa to see that we fight each other, sometimes for reasons that make absolutely no sense to an outside observer. That being said, we must also realize that economics drive violence. This is because economics drive the underlying roots of violence, be it alcoholism, drug use, joblessness, despair and hopelessness. If we don’t think that violence is rooted in economics, look at more prosperous neighborhoods. When you have a job, you usually don’t drink or use drugs to excess. You don’t have time for it. When you have a job, you usually don’t have time to be in the streets 24/7. When you have money in your pocket that you earned, you usually don’t spend it on frivolous pursuits. Of course there are those that defy this description, both white and black, but the stats indicate that most people arrested for crimes that can be described as “black on black,” are unemployed.

We must also not look at our situation as somehow different than other ethnic groups. Most Caucasians are killed by Caucasians, Asians by Asians, Hispanics by Hispanics, Pacific Islanders by PI’s, etc. Ours is the most dramatic due to the fact that the media has a narrative about us that it needs to support so the murder in the hood is covered more extensively than the murder in the burbs. Yeah, we kill each other, but so does everyone else. Ours is more important to us because it is us.
But as I always say, we pundits, commentators, bloggers and two-centers are exceedingly good at describing the problem or symptoms of the problem but we SUUUUUCCCCKKKK at putting forth solutions. That being said, these are mine.

1. Forget our mindless rush to be accepted by the dominant culture. If the last 4 to 6 hundred years have not taught you anything, it should have shown you that you will never be accepted. We have to begin to accept each other in all our flaws. From the talented tenth to the sagging brother on the corner, we must believe that we are all in the same boat. That means instead of disparaging the so-called “sell-out brother” or castigating the so-called “thug,” we must understand that in the eyes of the dominant culture, they are the same. Look at how many of our successful people have gotten their “nigger wake up call” in the last few months/years. When we stop being scared of going to the hood, we will find out that not too long ago, we were in the hood.

2. We must also start adopting schools. I live in the burbs, not because I enjoy being around white people rather than my people (I have yet to go to or even be invited to the clich├ęd barbeque or superbowl party with my white neighbors and I’m not trippin), but instead because my genius ass kid can go to a school that caters to his smart ass in ways that the inner-city can’t. It sounds hypocritical because my kid goes to school out here but if ALL of us were to descend on the schools en mass, we could then influence the quality of what our children are taught. The one thing that I do respect about the citizens out here is that they are invested in their children’s schools. You can tell the difference between the exemplary schools and the academically acceptable schools. In the better schools the parents are in the schools everyday, EVERYDAY. Not the same parents but different ones. Some with jobs, many stay at home moms. The fathers all contribute time and skills to make all the pageants, plays, carnivals and get-togethers possible. (Oh and yes there are many, many white single moms out here too, so let’s leave out the deadbeat dad issue, we’ll deal with that at a later date) You’d be surprised at how having parents in the school cuts down on a lot of the petty conflicts that children get into. It also serves as a check on the gang activity, kinda hard to recruit a kid for the GD’s if his mom is with him, she’ll usually veto that membership offer.

3. We have to start investing in our neighborhoods. We have well over a trillion dollars in buying power spread out amongst us, however, we choose to donate those funds to businesses owned by those that don’t look like us. For example, in almost every major city in the U.S. you have Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Havana, Greektown, virtually every major ethnic group has a defined area that services their needs, up to and including Indians (from India), Pakistanis, Jews, etc. Where is our defined area? The Hood? The projects? Where are our mini-marts, our bodegas, our bowling alleys, our clothing stores? Is it because we don’t have the expertise to operate these types of businesses. No its because of our destructive mentality that “his” ice is colder. Their products are cheaper and of better value. Its because we believe that all we have to offer is entertainment. We can ball, we can rhyme but heaven forbid we decide that finding a cure for breast cancer (which kills more of our women than any other group) is worth going to school to learn to do. We begin our children’s lives, especially males, with a ball in their crib with hopes that he will be the next Jordan or the next Vick. What about the next George Washington Carver, the next Elijah McCoy, or Madame C.J. Walker? Their impact on this world will be felt long after Michael Jordan becomes Chuck Cooper. (Who???? The first Black NBA player for those who don’t read) So it’s the usual refrain, spend money with those who look like you. Employ those who look like you. Its not wrong, at least its no more wrong than what American businesses have been doing for decades. Which is essence the same thing. They’ll be those that will scream that its not that simple, why isn’t it that simple. We’ve entirely missed the boat on this new thing called crowdsourcing. There are numerous websites that allow someone with a good idea to ask the general public for funding. There is also microlending wherein those in a particular community provide small loans for those seeking to establish businesses in a general area. We need to take advantage of those tools.

4. Educated, influential black men need to educate our young black men that the dope game is over, its done, its prison waiting to happen. Just like we have billboards all over the hood advertising malt liquor and cigarettes or pastor chicken wing’s Sunday church service, we need to construct the largest, brightest, high-definition sound playing billboards we can build that sets out in plain language just how much time these dummies will get if they continue to do the dumb shit they do. Unfortunately, they don’t find that out until they get to jail, kinda like barring the door after you’ve been burglarized. Don’t believe the notion that they don’t read or can’t comprehend. Before the police get them, go down there and tell them what the deal is. Black lawyers need to hold open houses at community centers, in parks, on corners and explain how the massive incarceration of black men and women is the NEW slavery. (Read the 13th Amendment kids)

5. Lastly we need to start suing media companies for the damaging messages that are continuously broadcast in our communities. Yes, we will destroy the income of many an aspiring rapper but so what? They spending their money in Caucasian businesses anyway, jewelers, car dealerships, clothing stores, etc. I used to be of the mind that it was “just entertainment.” As I’ve grown older, I’ve witnessed the damage that these negative images put forth by those who look like us have on our communities. If you tell a developing brain day after day that they need to “move weight” to be successful, that anyone that’s not from your crew is a “hater” or an “enemy” that needs to be dealt with extreme prejudice that’s what they will grow to believe. They’ll find that its harder and harder to separate fantasy from reality. Every time some child gets killed as the result of a Facebook post, sue Facebook. We may never win a single case but we can put enough pressure on media entities that they’ll begin to change their practices.

My ideas may not seem very plausible. Who knows, they may be a total failure but at least it’s a start. At least I’m not wasting your time telling you things you already know. I’m not describing a community that you have no experience with. Again, we need to stop outlining the problem and think about, no matter how farfetched, solutions. Like the old adage, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Trayvon Martin The Aftermath Part Two: The Blackout

Blackout

As I’m quite sure many of us have done over the last few days, I have sat down and thought about what I think would be an adequate response to the TM verdict handed down in Florida. I won’t go into a long description about what happened, as unless you’ve been in a coma or otherwise off planet we all have heard from multiple sources who did what and how. The only unifying theme is still no one knows exactly what happened, and that’s not an issue. We believe we’ve been wronged and that’s enough.

We as Africans in this country have volumes of evidence that support that belief but that is not the thrust of this article. I am not here to describe what anyone with a third grade capacity to read can go to the library and research. I’m here to talk about what we do next if we are really dissatisfied with how we are treated in this country. I hope my readers will excuse me but I have a thing for preambles. I’m a big believer in the setup.

Our problem with a noteworthy response is two-fold. One, the response must be big enough to make our intended audience take note and two it must not in any way lead to us harming others or being harmed by others in ignorance/fear.

Let me first explain what won’t work. Pictures, however artfully done, won’t solve the problem. Facebook posts with Jesus’ (Jesus’s?) arm around TM are useless as they migrate slowly off the page, replaced by pics in Ghetto or Ghetto Fabulous or Vine or some other momentary pastime. Long, passionate blog posts, articles or YouTube rants, (with the exception of mine of course) aren’t effective as the only ones of us with a readership/viewership large enough are long on descriptions of the problem and short on solutions.

The true problem with forming and executing an effective, meaningful response is our respective level of dissatisfaction. I’ll admit I heard this from a late brother of mine Mahdi Nu’man who described us as Africans in America in a khutbah at Jum’mah services some years ago. See my friends/loved ones/haters as well, any response to what Africans in America now claim to be the latest “last straw” or the “I’m fed up and I ain’t gon take it no mo” moment in our history in the country is largely dependent on to what degree one participates. (Damn, I guess I’m the king of the run on sentence as well) There are some of us who are 10 percent dissatisfied and there are those of us who are 100 percent dissatisfied. The biggest difference between now and the civil rights era was that back then, they were 100% dissatisfied. Things couldn’t get any worse than they already were without going back to slavery. We have made great strides since then and now there are many of us who have something to lose. We identify/sympathize/empathize with what happens to us around the country but only to a point. Not to the point where we will jeopardize what we have worked for to get where we are.

Before you begin the requisite howling, raising of pitchforks and lighting of torches, let me explain that I’m not in the hood envious of those who are more fortunate than I. I live in a upscale gated community in a suburb north of Dallas. I don’t live here because I’m scared of or any way ashamed of my people. I’m here because they have the best schools in the area. Unfortunately, where we are forced to live for economic reasons, for the most part, have horrible school systems. (I’ll talk about tax based school systems in another article) But I digress. I have African friends who are PhDs, and who possess MBAs. I myself am simply lazy, I am maybe two or three classes away from my MA, having already graduated with a BS. I also have close friends that are a bit less . . . what’s the word, uhhh, safe. I have close friends that I wouldn’t want to be caught in a dark alley with. (Their lower self may get the better or them) I love them both as they are both reflections of the same person. The point is that my more erudite, accomplished friends may not be 100% dissatisfied with what it may take for this culture to respect us. My niggas from the hood though, down for whatever.

THE FINAL SOLUTION

Believe it or not, my plan won’t take much beyond a bit of sacrifice; it will though take us ALL, each and every last one of us. My plan will involve everyone from our illustrious President to that brother doing life, or its equivalent, in all of the jails and prisons in America. Whether you are a teacher, a judge, a policeman, criminal, inmate, or a fireman, I’m talking about you. Whether you host a nationally televised talk show, a weblog, or stand on a box in the middle of a vacant lot like Lawrence Fishburne in Boyz N Da Hood. My plan doesn’t involve boycotting any business as that has shown to be somewhat limited in scope. I read a rumor that the Koch brothers financed GZ’s defense so we should boycott Charmin or Bounty or something. Any plan must be bigger than that due to the fact that many of us (most) use the store brand of paper products anyway. I don’t want us to march on the statehouse in any state or city hall in any city; we’ve been marching so long our feet should fall off. We are not going to esign a petition to any lawmaker or write a letter to our congressman. All of these solutions have been tried and they have all failed.

What we need to do is indicate to the rest of this country just how important we are to its EVERYDAY function. We need for those who claim that we need to quit whining about slavery, and making everything a race issue to see just how integral we are to EVERYTHING that goes on in this country. We need a national BLACKOUT. We need every last one of us to take a week off from work beginning say . . . Trayvon Martin’s birthday. Whatever your industry is, get sick for a week. For those of us with job security, just don’t show up. For those of us with bills to pay and need our little bitty job (most), call in sick with MERS or EBOLA or West Nile Fever. Now when I say BLACKOUT, that’s what I mean. I mean everyone. No nurses, no doctors. No air traffic controllers (are any of them African?). No entertainers. No athletes. No home health aides. No pharmacists, no drug dealers. Whatever you are, whatever you do. If you own a business, close for a week. No haircuts, no tease and flips. No soul food. (It’s fattening anyway) We don’t need leaders either, so the good Revs can stay home and take the week off too. We don’t even need your job to be done. Hopefully President Obama will come home to the Chi and spend some time in the hood where he’s from. (Hmmm, though under my plan his African Secret Service agents will be home too, well we’ll work on that one)

Now that’s part one. Part two is while you’re off for that week; rediscover your family, your community. Talk to your neighbors; make amends with that guy from down the street that you argued with at the last HOA meeting. Talk about how to make our communities safe without arming everyone to the teeth. Talk with those gangbangers who everyone is afraid to make eye contact with. No spending of our dollars. I mean none. No gas station visits. Stay home or walk, we need to walk more. No Wal-Mart, no Target, Dollar General/City/Family, nothing. Keep your money in your pocket. Drop your cable or satellite plan down to local channels for a week. Change your cell phone plan down to the basic plan for one week. Turn your lights off, go by candlelight if possible. Oh, and no church, no tithing, no mosques, no zakat. If the powers that be see we’re not even going to church they’ll know we’re doubly serious. This society needs to see that this country cannot function without us. We are more than just a subset of society that can be overlooked whenever something happens that we don’t agree with. My plan will cost this economy billions in lost revenue, lost profits and lost productivity. That is exactly my goal. The only thing that America respects is that which has the capacity to cost it money.

Of course they’ll be those of other ethnicities that are married to us, have children by us or share children with us. We are not exclusive, if you want to join, be our guest. Just know that this is not about you, it’s about US. No disrespect, love you to death, appreciate your support but this is a black thang. It’s okay for us to have a thang too. Like St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo.

Of course they’ll be those of US who disagree with everything I’ve said and that’s fine as well. Of course, there will be pain. There will be those who lose their jobs, but look at it as the impetus for us to build businesses. Put yourself in the shoes of the employer who fired someone for participating in the blackout. They can't fire us all. Who will want to face the backlash of losing all of the black dollars we spend with their company. We’ll see who is 100% dissatisfied and to whom our treatment is a problem but “just not that deep.”

(Next Post: Going back down south)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon Aftermath 7/14/2013

Okay readers, where do I start. I guess I’ll start with a sigh. I told you so just don’t quite convey the frustration that many of us who call ourselves conscious feel right now. Our collective frustration is not with who many think it is however. We have long railed against the utter laziness of our people, from those “talking heads” who predominate our public, social and media presence, to those hyperemotional citizens who stick their heads in front of microphones when the news trucks make their runs through the “hood” to see how the “common” man thinks about one subject or another.

Before you stop reading and chalk my latest rant up to me being another apologist for the powers-that-be or the culture at large. I mean the term laziness in terms of being largely uninformed about the laws and regulations that are used to “police” your communities every day. We have degenerated to a people of bandwagon jumpers. We are largely silent day to day until the next “national tragedy” befalls one of our communities. We were outraged and violent when Rodney King was beaten, we were outraged and less violent when Sean Bell was gunned down, we were outraged when Oscar Grant was killed ON VIDEO, now we are outraged because we absolutely refuse to see that the system did exactly what it was designed to do, protect the dominant culture from legal assault.

To use a phrase from one of my favorite movies, Will Smith said in IRobot, “Somehow, I told you so, just doesn’t cut it.” I have been saying for over a year now, look back at some of my Facebook posts, that we should not be surprised if GZ was found not guilty. Why and how did I come to this conclusion? Simple, I read and I have experience with how the system truly works, how it’s designed and more importantly who it is directed towards. There is a difference my uninformed friends between not guilty and factually innocent you can be one and not the other. Was George Zimmerman factually innocent, of course not, was he not guilty . . . the way the case was constructed by the prosecution, yes he was.

To use the title of a popular film in theaters now, let me explain. A criminal charge in Amerikkka is just what it is, a charge. It is not more meaningful than someone calling you a nigger. It’s just a name, a concept that, under our laws, must be proven. In a criminal sense it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, in a civil case it is judged by a preponderance of the evidence. That is how poor old O.J. was found not guilty in a criminal case but guilty in his civil trial. That much lower standard of justice is very important. Criminally, a prosecution must show that there was absolutely no other way the circumstances that happened could have happened any other way. Even the most vociferous Trayvon supporter has to admit, you weren’t there so you don’t know what happened. We can have a pretty good idea, but guess what, UNLESS THE DEFENDANT IS OF COLOR OR POOR pretty good ideas are not evidence. If the situation was reversed, say for sake of argument Trayvon would have wrestled his gun away from him and shot him a “pretty good idea” would probably lead to at the very least a very long prison sentence.

My point is, there was no way in hell Zimmerman was going to be found guilty because the criminal justice system is not moved by FB posts, Twitter feeds, ridiculous or photo shopped images of Trayvon eating Skittles and drinking Arizona tea with Jesus. The criminal justice system doesn’t care about Lebron James and the Heat all wearing hoodies and looking menacing. It really doesn’t even care about our President proclaiming that if he had a son he would “look just like Trayvon.” The system was here before any of that bullshit existed and will be here long after its moved on to the new novelty. The criminal justice system is designed to protect the life and property of the dominant culture, not the rights and sensibilities of all citizens. All you have to do is open your eyes and look around you. Do you really think it’s an accident that we make up less than 13% of the population but well over 50% of the prison population? Do you think it’s an accident that at the same time the system and mainstream/social media (which is rapidly becoming the same two headed monster) was obsessively masturbating over this white guy (more on that later) a black woman was getting sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot in the general direction of a man she had a protective order against. Trayvon Martins happen every hour of every day in Amerikkka. The tragic thing is that most of them happen at the hands of other Trayvons waiting to happen. In some poor white neighborhoods George Zimmerman is killing another George Zimmerman; most people murdered in Amerikkka are killed by perpetrators of their own race. So this is beyond race, this is about privilege. If you noticed, the Judge in this case, as well as the prosecution and the defense took pains to take race out of this trial. We didn’t hear much about the “coon” statement GZ supposedly made, we didn’t hear much about the “some cracker” remark by Trayvon. The one thing we did hear about, not in the trial but in the foreplay before the collective sexual assault that poor people took during this trial was that it was made plain that Zimmerman was a “white Hispanic.” Wait. A what? What the hell is that? Zimmerman was given the opportunity to play the race card in the beginning. He was able to nimbly skip between the dominant culture and the oppressed culture. He couldn’t be a racist he’s Hispanic (whatever that means, ask some of your Latin, Spanish, Mexican friends what it means to them), however, he can also claim “hey white people, I’m one of you, after all, it was our shit I was protecting.”

Which brings me to my underlying point which is the system will never change from within. It doesn’t matter who the Judge is, the system is bigger than any Judge (SCOTUS included . . . If I have to break down what SCOTUS is, you should go back to reading Zane novels and watching Tyler Perry movies and let the grown folks talk), its bigger than who we elect and its definitely bigger than a few “no justice, no peace” signs and concurrent “marches” for this or that. Don’t believe it, ask the Occupy movement (if you don’t know who they were and what happened to them, than you really need to read more)

I think I have the answer or at least a starting point. Want to know what it is, keep up with my blog. Save it, ask to be notified when I post a new one. Like it on FB, Twitter, Google+, Flipboard, Reddit or whatever your thing is. If you really know me, call me I’ll tell you. If you have a group that you head or are a part of, progressive or conservative, invite me to speak. In the meantime, shake it off; the system will give you something else to be hot as fish grease about in a few days/weeks/months.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Open Letter to The Honorable Barack Obama, President of the United States

I watched your State of Union address as well as the response from the Republican Party. Your message inspired me to compose this letter to identify and resolve what I think is the problem with political reform in America.

I listened to a friend of mine, The JRil Show on Blogtalkradio and he vowed to not watch what he termed the “monday morning quarterbacking” that going on with pundits who have never ran anything in their lives that ever compares to the size and scope of your responsibilities try to tell you how to do your job. He also railed against, and I agree, the notion that the leadership of the GOP could brazenly complain about your inability to rescue in a year a disaster that it took 8 years of their leadership to create.

Along that end I honestly believe that in order for you to go down in history as one of greatest Chief Executives to ever hold the office of the Presidency, you must make the remaining three years of your first term about poverty. Not crime, not even Terrorism, but poverty. If Katrina and now Haiti did not teach us anything it should have illustrated the abject poverty that exists even in the developed world. Haiti may have been the poorest country in the western hemisphere but people fail to acknowledge that according to the International Monetary Fund, Haiti is number 132 in Gross Domestic Product. Meaning it has a larger GDP than such countries as Nicaragua, Kyrgyzstan and Laos. In fact, among the world's poorest countries, Haiti is relatively nice. There are people in Africa that would swim the ocean to get to Haiti, at least Haitians have water.

I believe that a partnership forged between you, and not necessarily every Democrat, and poor people would guarantee you a second term. What must be sacraficed is a message about how safe we are. The only real threat against U.S. interests either here or abroad comes from lone individuals slipping through the inevitable cracks in our security protocols. That will happen no matter who is in the White House. Remember, 9/11 happened to the Honorable George W. Bush and he was no slouch in inhibiting personal freedoms for security purposes. He was about as vigilant as could be and his Administration totally missed it. You can say this though, that was a one trick pony, that will never happen again. Not to that degree at least.

Here's the thing though, a mistake has been made in our conviction that Terrorism is at its heart a religious movement. There is a common misconception among the populace, even if to be politically correct most won't say it aloud, that Terrorist are forged in the fire of religious indoctrination. This is true to an extent, but what can't be diminished is the effect of abysmal poverty on his worldview. This country did a curious thing beginning after World War II we began in earnest the virtual support of many a country's food suppy. We dropped metric ton after metric ton of aid upon developing countries. What we also dropped was a free market economy along with the tools to reach that economy, i.e. cell phones, televisions, satellite transmissions, etc.) We showed the poor of the world exactly what life in the first world is like. We showed people who almost never see or eat fresh produce whole stores brimming with it. We show them life with more than one pair of shoes and they all match. We show a man who supports his family on $21.00 a month how to renovate their bathroom for a mere $50,000.00 when this man doesn't have indoor plumbing. We show a shower with 8 full body showerheads to a village with no running water not even to drink.

We, in effect, show the people of the world the life that they can never have, no matter how inventive, no matter how persistent. We assist poor people in their belief that we care little for those who are not like us. We provide poor people with the same access to information that we have and wonder what the recruitment tools are that terrorist groups use to influence the young. People all over the world know that the U.S. wastes over 100 Million pounds of food each year. We leave more food on our plates each day than the average poor child eats in a week. We televise this madness to people all over the world each day.

Poverty and our response to poverty will be Issue #1 for this decade. Not just the poverty that exists in the developing world but the poverty to be found within the borders of this country. Before we can lead the rest of the world, we must deal with our own shortcomings. In America 35.9 million persons live below the poverty line of which 12.9 million were children. 3% of America's children experience hunger every day in the richest country on the planet. Therein lies the real issue, its always been that way for poor people in America and by that I mean minorities. What is happening in America now is that more and more of the majority are being trapped in this whirlpool of credit debt, crushing mortgages, job loss and lost confidence in our elected leadership no matter the party. That's your new audience. The households that live paycheck to paycheck. Those individuals who in a spate of coincidental events can be the face of the new homeless. Just as some surmise that the wing flap of a butterfly can produce a hurricane a world away, some families are a car wreck, a bad infection, a sick child or parent, a plant closing or a house fire away from financial ruin, even with insurance.

If you reach out to those people and try to be the first President to address the inequities that exist right here in America, you create a peculiar political environment. You in effect say to your opponents that a vote against you is a vote against poor people whether working or not. There are more people in America that are on the borderline between lower middle class and upper lower class than is realized in the political discussion. This potential voting block can go to the leader who listens to their plight and responds in ways that actually helps them not just talks about it. Doubling the Child Care Tax Credit is a good example of this. It puts money in their hand that hopefully they'll save but also a portion of it will be put back into the economy necessitating the need to expand the business that provides the products they want to buy, which incidentally does a little thing like create jobs.

Respectfully

Kenneth Pitts
kenneth.pitts@rocketmail.com

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Health Care Reform

I had a dream. No not a MLK type dream but a dream about the health care debate. Don't ask me why but the debate was set up like an episode of JAG. There were three representatives on each team. The for and against teams. The debate lasted all of thirty seconds, the “for” team stood up and asked “how could you not be for health care reform, premiums are too high, co-pays are ridiculous, you can be denied for preexisting conditions or for no reason at all. We want to change that.” The “against” team responded, “socialism, the government should not be involved in your medical care.”

I woke up and thought to myself, that for the most part is how simplistic this “debate” has become. We went to sleep one night last spring and the health care debate that began when Democrats took over the Federal government became politicized. The Democrats ran on the promise of changing the health care system to a form more fair and effective for everyday Americans. The Republicans almost overnight became the part of “no.” Not no because health care did not need reform but no because if the 'crats were successful, then they would not be relevant in the coming years.

We must remember that like anyone else in society, politicians are interested in self-preservation. They don't want to lose their jobs any more than any other worker in America. So their every decision is calculated toward the effect it may have on their chances of retaining their jobs in two to four years. Democrats do the same thing. Even though according to their own polling numbers that show that even the majority of their constituencies want reform, as a body politic, they believe that their only option is to oppose the party in power. Is that what we elected to represent us? A party that just says no for no other reason than to oppose?
Lets be real and talk real. Most of us that are not considered upper middle class or wealthy in America are one really bad injury or sickness away from bankruptcy. Sure we have health insurance, usually provided by our employers but what happens if that company drops our policy. What if our only option is a high deductible plan. What if we don't have $5000 to pay for the deductible, or even $500? Sure, in some cases we can get the treatment but how do we pay back the debt? What has been proposed is a public option to compete against the private companies. The party of no immediately responded with attack ads indicating that this option would lead to socialized health care. We should ask them “and???” What exactly is wrong with so-called socialized health care. Other countries have had it for years and it seems to work. Sure there are problems, but is private health care so much better?

What must be realized is that there has been “socialized” health care in this country for decades, its called Medicaid and Medicare. It seems to work fairly well. Yes there are issues with the two, yet there are literally thousands of Americans that would literally be dead without it. What is amazing is that the observer cannot see why there is opposition to the public option. The party of no could care less about their constituents that have reservations about it. They do, however, care that lobbyists and special interests in the insurance industries do not want it.
Ostensibly the argument against the option centers around cost, and taxpayer support. Keep it real, according the to nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, enactment of health care reform will actually reduce the deficit as opposed to increasing it. What that means is that our “grandchildren” will not be paying for this reform and even if they did, they will be paying for Bushes wars for decades to come, so at least they will get something out of health care reform. What will they get out of the “war on terror,” that's right, protection against terror. You know what terrorizes me, to need an appendectomy and not have the money to pay for it. I'm terrified that my son will need braces in a few years and they cost as much as a new car. It terrorizes me that I have only a few options, options that cost too much and are totally dependent upon decisions made by others to maximize profits.

We need to resist the urge to be blinded by statistics and opinions, mine included as my personal reality differs from everyone else's. We need to look at the debate realistically. Will reform improve my situation or harm my situation. Do I need someone to tell me what is best for me or can I simply go to my mailbox and remove the past due bills from the specialist that my PCP referred me to that happened to be “out of network?” We are a smart, intuitive people, why don't we act like it?

I'll tell you why and continue the thought in my next blog. Because we have a President that happens to be African-American and some of us are naturally resistant to anything he may suggest.