Abuse, Ancestry, Color, Intersectionality, Prejudice

When People Are Saltier About Messages Than Burial Soil

Fresh from Fourth of July BBQs, family reunions, road trips, beach days and the like, many black people in the U.S. grieve another person, another black man, another father and partner gone too soon after a deadly encounter with police. The facts, opinions, anecdotes, and reports trickle in, including the announcement that the DeBLMpartment of Justice will conduct an investigation. As a culture we know how this tends to play out.

This experience of reeling from situations we would not know about but for the reels of cellular devices, and citizen journalists and good neighbors who use them, has become commonplace.

By now, most people have heard the name Alton Sterling. They know Baton Rouge police killed him in front of a convenience store, a store where he and the owner had cultivated a relationship in which Sterling had permission to sell CDs outside the establishment.

Many have seen continual video loops chronicling Sterling’s demise. Others decided to read the stories, but not watch the video because the collective trauma of state-sanctioned violence against black people has become too much to bear.

Police have killed 558 people this year in the U.S, according the Counted, a database hosted by the Guardian. The Washington Post reported that American police have killed 122 black people in the U.S. this year.

Late last week a Change.org petition was started against activist and actor Jesse Williams. Cyber signees called for Williams’ termination from Grey’s Anatomy after Williams used his humanitarian award speech at the BET Awards to lambast institutional racism. As I type this, more than 19,000 people have signed.

Williams’ speech was an opportunity to, as folks say, make it plain. He said that the award he received was not for him, but was for “the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.”

He continued. “It’s kind of basic mathematics – the more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.” Williams decried disparate treatment of black people and eerily-yet-predictably foreshadowed Sterling’s death.

“Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people every day,” Williams said. “So what’s going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours.”

It is frightening to think, and sobering to know, many people so resented Williams’ speech that they wanted his lucrative and prominent position taken. They were more disturbed that he had a safe space to speak at a BET show, a receptive audience, and that he struck a chord with millions than they were invested in uprooting the realities that motivated his speech. They were salty about the message, hating on the messenger and choose to rationalize the personhood politics and policies that keep America facing mounting black bodies.

One must ask whether the immutability of race will continue muting people in power. What of the capacity for justice? Or is it really just us?

Abuse, Freedom

It-gadgets and illegal trade

A Chinese news agency, Xinhua, broke the story of a teen whose decision to sell his kidney for about $3,500 last April, is now costing him his health.

The Chinese youngster is experiencing “renal insufficiency”, and his condition is worsening.

Five people were charged with illegal organ trading in connection to the case. Xinhua reported that the entire deal netted about $35,000. Of the five people charged, one is a surgeon.

The young man’s mother was alarmed when she noticed the iPAD and iPhone that he purchased. From there he told her about how he got the money for the items.

This case comes on the heels of controversy after an Apple audit revealed wage violations including unpaid hours, excessive overtime, and abysmal salaries for workers in China.

It is not about blaming Apple for the teen’s choice, but a matter of highlighting when products are put before people. This case highlights what many label increasing materialism in Communist China.

Through the Internet and its inherent global flattening via limitless communication and advertising, conspicuous consumerism cannot be isolated to certain regions.

But, as a young person can work with individuals reprehensible enough to help him sell  a vital organ for it-gadgets, many wonder about checks and balances.

How much of producing quality products involves exploitation? How does one arrive at materialistic pressure such that one decides to engage in a life altering black market?

This teen believed that he could do without his kidney, an organ that processes blood and separates waste, to benefit from his new toys. But, what about the adults who made the trade possible? Professional ethics? Humanity?

Teaching people to value themselves more than their belongings is a start.

Most people appreciate the conveniences afforded by modern technology, and in many instances, Apple is on the cutting edge with its products and services.

Because of advances made by the company, the world became more accessible to millions of people. Yet how does one juxtapose possession pressure with that which is priceless?

The Chinese Ministry of Health’s statistics report that more than 1 million people in China need transplants, although only about 10,000 annual transplants are performed. The resultant illegal market is troubling.

What’s your bargain for exchange?

Abuse, Journalism, Media responsibility, Prejudice

Putting the BIG in bigotry

A routine sufferer of insomnia and social media addiction, I perused my laptop and phone before stumbling across several online references to an op-ed from Louisiana Tech University’s newspaper, The Tech Talk.

Allow me to first say that I am unopposed to this publication. I do not harbor ill will toward Lousiana Tech as an institution or the multifaceted demographic it serves.

But, as a Grambling State University trained journalist and former editor-in-chief of The Gramblinite, the city and university newspaper, my spirit was profoundly disturbed by the piece “Putting the Hood in Hoodie”, written by Tech’s editor-in-chief, Rebecca Spence.

In the piece, Spence aligned Trayvon Martin’s choice of attire on a rainy Florida night with ownership of his untimely demise at the hands of self-appointed watchman George Zimmerman.

Spence made no mention of supremacy, persistent stereotypes or white privilege, a structure that survives on the oppression of the other, in this case, the black body occupied by Martin.

How else could a slim teenager, returning from a cornerstore be blamed for being observed, called a “f*cking coon” in a police call, shot and killed? What’s in a hooded sweatshirt?

A brown face.

She failed to acknowledge that anyone is entitled to shield him or herself from precipitation and walk freely, however the individual chooses to be dressed, and experience a safe trip.

Instead of addressing the shoot-first nature of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, a victim blaming and particularly troubling narrative that was too reminiscent of journalist Geraldo Rivera’s recent comments, was the premise of her article.

Rivera has since expressed remorse after his son told him that he went viral for the wrong reasons.

“Graffiti artists, rappers like 50 Cent, actors from the hood in movies and various gas station robbery videos have proven that hoodies are often associated with people who are up to no good,” Spence wrote.

Blondes are also presented as licentious and dim-witted. Should we assume that every flaxen haired maiden lacks cognition and plays hopscotch from bed to bed?

Should we assume that everyone in overalls who has a Southern drawl and sunburn is underexposed and incestuous? Do they live in trailers?

Southerners are familiar with race and subjugation in blatant ways that our counterparts from other regions often do not know.

As such, I was not surprised by the editorial decision to manipulate facts of this case and make the deceased victim the aggressor.

I was called the n-word by a white girl in the South. A white woman told her significant other to watch her purse when I was in a department store in the South. I have been pulled over for driving a big-body, old Cadillac in the South by white officers whose voices ratcheted up several octaves upon discovering that the brotha they hoped to pull over was, in fact, a sista.

While northern Louisiana, home to Louisiana Tech University and my alma mater, attracts minds from all over the world and different points on the ideological spectrum, the area is not noted as the apex of culture or a bastion of enlightenment.

As a result, Spence’s comments are troublesome, inflammatory and naive. But, again, hardly surprising.

As a journalist one must acknowledge not only the premise of an article, the very notion it supports, but also its headline, accompanying photos, and factual basis, or in this case lack thereof, in addition to the author’s voice.

Using the word “hood” as a pejorative term for marginalized communities and people is indicative of a lack of cultural competence and sensitivity.

This article is also erroneous. Trayvon Martin was unarmed, underage, 100-pounds slimmer–THE VICTIM. He was approached by Zimmerman, who ultimately shot and killed him.

Zimmerman vacated his vehicle to approach Martin, a pedestrian, after a law enforcement official asked Zimmerman not to do so.

Martin deserved to live regardless of what he wore, and the fact that he was murdered cannot be negated by recent allegations of marijuana possession or suspension from school.

To draw such conclusions is in poor taste.

Spence presented an alternate ending for the slain teen.

“If Martin was not wearing a hoodie with the hood on, his life could have been spared. Hoodies with the hood on have a bad connotation, like it or not.”

If writers, who shape much of society’s dialogue and countless archetypes, do not widen their lenses, they will remain myopic, like it or not.

Note: This post was shared several hundred times on Twitter & Facebook, and garnered thousands of views. When I changed my url to iamfaithspeaks.com the likes/shares were lost in translation. WordPress = hater. Also, after this piece went indie-viral, Louisiana Tech pulled the editorial from its website.

Abuse, Freedom

Learning from the Penn State allegations

Joe Paterno’s recent death caused many to wonder if he succumbed to lung cancer or stress stemming from the larger than life Penn State fall from grace.

When multiple sexual abuse allegations surfaced, many Eddie Robinson fans believed that Paterno’s record was invalidated by his inaction.

Regardless of where people stand on interrelated issues of  records, sports lore, abuse, victimization, brand building and power, sensitivity is important.

Communities want to keep their legacies. And while that is understandable, if the Penn State  debacle does not serve as a lesson, it was for nought.

Peace to all involved. Protect children. Check out my post on HBCU Digest on the subject.

http://www.hbcudigest.com/joe-paterno-and-eddie-robinson-reflections-on-character-and-action/

P.S. Why did Sandusky, the man charged, issue a statement? Errr. Does. Not. Compute.