Wednesday, March 11, 2015

All Together Random, Yet Connected, Thoughts on Ferguson, Selma's 50, Race, Equity, and Lattes

This has definitely been the week that race made.

The weekend before this was the children's march for black lives, in memory of those murdered under age 18, and led by those under age 18.

That was followed by the report of the Department of Justice confirming what the activists and protesters had been saying all along - the City of Ferguson was using the police to enforce a race-based policy of extortion on black people because the white people who lived there didn't want to pay the proper taxes to run their city.  Since this report came out just before the weekend, there was a release of some racist email exchanged by city employees - they have been fired. The body count has been increasing with more and more demands for true accountability so two judges have resigned and just today, the city manager has been terminated. Progress.

This past weekend, the same weekend that thousands descended upon Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that 50 mile march, a few white people and a sprinkling of black, met in a church in Kirkwood, Missouri to talk about race. A white theologian, a woman preacher activist, made some of them squirm in their seat when she challenged their idolatry and clinging to racism. She named statistics of cop stops in Kirkwood, Webster, LaDue, and Clayton, all tony, quiet, and mostly white upper income suburbs untouched by the ravages of Ferguson, or so they think.

Sunday, International Women's Day, found three women and a man, all active in the movement, sitting in the front of a cathedral, facing a mostly white audience, discussing why they protest. The four, two of them Ferguson Commission Members, openly answered questions from the moderator and a few from the audience. One of the biggest points was made when one of the same-gender-loving protesters said that when she wakes up, she is in a protest, the simple fact of being married to a woman, making good grades on her college exams, coming home to make dinner for her wife, and  hang out with their daughter, is an act of protest.

The afternoon ended with some of the audience members, mostly young and white, carrying signs that said "black lives matter" along with signs about women, down the sunlit streets of downtown St. Louis. It was an interesting sight, a moment to just be in sabbath while someone else picked up the mantle.

Rest was not long, though, because this conversation is longer than my jubilee years. As long as there is fear of the other and continued otherizing anyone who is not white, male, protestant, and middle class. There was a MOnday morning and while the television news hasn't beat through the walls of this townhouse, twitter, facebook, and online news is tripping over itself to run every story they sat on about race.

There was a story about the forced confessions of black children.

Another one about the disparate treatment in education.

One about the Afro-Latinas, in celebration of International Women's Day. I share this heritage and joked that I should change applications to check all the boxes except white, since my heritage is black and Latina and Caribbean and Creole.

There was a moment of brief joy with the snow melting and the sun being welcomed back with short sleeves and tossed coats. There was a moment when Al Jazeera stopped by to have a pre-Selma interview when we just talked about New York pizza and my daughters and I just wanted to dial back three years.

Yet pain continued to invade the living spaces.

A black man, barely nineteen, was gunned down by police, in his home in Madison, Wisconsin.

A black man, naked as a jay bird, mentally ill, probably suffering from PTSD, a veteran, was gunned down by police in Atlanta, Georgia.

A white fraternity was videotaped singing the most racist song, they have now been removed from the university and the president expelled some of the members. The wait continues for strong action from the SAE national office, however, like the KAs, another white fraternity known for their fervent racism, the wait continues.

My daughter, budding activist, said she didn't want to have to deal with all this when she is may age and was trying to figure out how she could nip this in the bud now. She pondered the reasons behind it and what could be done. We chatted, I listened, She already made history, there is more for her to do and in my secret heart, I hope she is not dealing with this at my age.

It seems impossible that the simple dignity of living as human beings, fully actualized in the divinely appointed gifts, is so much of a threat to someone that they go out of their way to destroy. This is the existence of Ferguson residents and of so many black people who are in protest just by breathing, by achieving, like the Oakland senior with a 2100 SAT and 5.0 GPA, and is dark with long locs. The people who wake up every day, in the face of so much opposition to their presence, that they square their shoulders and walk sternly over the bridges that try to separate them from their purpose.

The white flag waving and peace offerings seem to be a little too convenient, a little too late. Peace is meant to calm down the masses, meant to quiet things, meant to put it back to "normal." Without justice, there can be no peace.

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