It’s getting rough out there. During the first of three presidential debates, the president showed that he has no respect for the country or its democratic process…again. When asked what he’d do to help calm the country while the votes were ...
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Black Girl in Maine - 5 new articles



First debate shows the president for exactly what he is…an apocalyptic villain

It’s getting rough out there. During the first of three presidential debates, the president showed that he has no respect for the country or its democratic process…again. When asked what he’d do to help calm the country while the votes were counted, he responded by urging his supporters to engage in voter intimidation. When asked to denounce white supremacy, he froze, stumbled and then told white supremacists to “stand by.” You’re shocked. And you should be. It should be completely shocking that the president of the United States of America in 2020 would behave in this way.

But he does not behave like the president of the United States. As David Frum put it, he’s President of the White People of the Red States of America, and he’s never really pretended to be anything else. If anything, we’re the ones pretending he’s someone he’s not.

The shock is so severe we pretend that he’s capable or interested in coming around or figuring it out. We pretend he just doesn’t know better, as if the problem is some kind of careless cluelessness and not his deliberate version of “better.” Some of us have even gone so far as to say “not my president” as if a crisis could be symbolically ignored.

It should not be shocking that a man who rose to power without the popular vote—against the will of the people—would only ever work to bend, break or extinguish the will of the people. It should not be shocking that an avowed eugenicist with a 50-year-long, thoroughly documented history of overt public racism would continue to be overtly and publicly racist.

It should however, be shocking that the leader of a democracy would so openly despise it. We should continue to be shocked by this. We should not accept any part of it as normal, but the dissonance keeps our hopes up. The aspirational nature of the presidency implies that the president would in some way aspire. When he instead sinks toward seemingly bottomless depths, we take on that aspiration. Through those expectations of the office we tie ourselves to its sinking occupant, but we have to cut that tie if we are to survive this moment. Because honestly, what’s needed is more than our survival. This is a moment we must rise to meet.

During the debate the president not only said he would refuse to accept the results if he lost, but he urged his supporters to refuse them as well. If that tells you anything, it should be that we are beyond the point at which voting alone can be the solution.

We’ve been beyond that point at least since the electoral college failed to account for the will of more than 3 million people. We moved even further beyond that point when the impeachment was stopped by a senate currently designed to disregard the will of more than 15 million people.

When asked about the possibility of a peaceful transition of power, after a disjointed, sputtering rant, the president told the truth. He said, “This will not end well,” and he meant it. He meant violence and a lot of it.

Hate crimes and violence spiked when Obama got elected, spiked again during the last presidential election and it’s been spiking higher and higher ever since. White supremacists have been embraced by law enforcement nationwide and as Biden pointed out during the debate, even the president’s own FBI director says that white supremacist groups are a top threat to national security. Yes, those very same white supremacist groups that the president is commanding from the stage of a presidential debate.

It may be written down that the president’s term ends in January, but nothing is written anywhere about what happens if—as indicated by all available evidence—he, his attorney general, his party, his Supreme Court and his militias all decide otherwise.

So, yeah. Be angry. Be scared. Be shocked, but be ready to bring all of that out into the streets because what happens next is up to us.


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Image by Jared Murray via Unsplash

 

Vote for our survival, not lofty principles

I would tell y’all that you need to vote this November as if your lives depend on it—and they very well might—but honestly a lot of people out there don’t seem to care much about their lives based on how they are talking about voting (or not voting). Would it help (or change your mind) if I asked you to vote like our lives depend on it? Indigenous lives, Black lives, trans lives, women’s lives and so on.

If that doesn’t help, how about voting like the life of the cutest and most adorable human you can imagine is on the line?

Voting anything except Joe Biden/Kamala Harris right now is, in my opinion, just wanton endangerment. You might as well say that you really just don’t care about—well, about anyone or anything anymore. Embrace your inner nihilist and just tell us that you want us all to suck up the apocalypse and stop worrying and just suffer.

I have made no secret online or in my offline interactions that I am voting Biden/Harris. I’ve also been very clear that that isn’t my dream ticket. When it comes to Biden in particular, he wasn’t my first choice. Or second. Or third. Or fourth.  C’mon, you get the idea, right? But I’m not voting out of love for the candidate but for survival. We all told you, and by “we” I mean lots of “we” folks but especially Black folk and particularly especially Black women, that Trump was poison. We said y’all need to vote Hillary Clinton or we would all be screwed. We told you this man in the White House right now was dangerous and would destroy everything.

And we were right. In fact, Trump has proven to be even worse than most of our predictions, which were already horrific. Maybe if all the people who voted third-party candidates last time had not done so, maybe the breakdown of state elections would have been different. Maybe Clinton would have won the electoral vote in addition to the popular one.

And no, Hillary Clinton would not have been “just as bad.” Not even close, bless your heart. And Biden won’t be just as bad as Trump, either, if we get him elected president.

I know Biden’s record isn’t great. I know he’s not fantastic for non-white people. He’s a cheerleader for the police in the midst of overwhelming police violence even more than Barack Obama was. He’s a moderate who will try to reach across the aisle to the crazy-ass GOP. Yes. He will not bring us universal healthcare. He will not push back hard against corporations and billionaires.

We know this. But we also know he would restore many of the good and the mediocre-but-still-useful things that Obama put in place and Trump took out. We know he won’t be advocating for the public to do violence against his detractors. Biden won’t be routinely ignoring his duties for golfing and cable news binges. Biden will a spectacularly mediocre president, but at least he won’t be doing an impersonation of the antichrist.

If you vote for Trump, you are just rotten to the core. You just don’t care about anything but white supremacy and terroristic evangelists and America over everything else. Maybe you care about “owning the libs” even if it means screwing over yourself. Congrats. You would rather lick the heels of Nazi enforcers than stand for anything positive.

If you vote third party, you are essentially helping and enabling Trump. Tell me all you want about how you shouldn’t have to settle for the lesser of two evils. Tell me how you’re standing for principles. Tell me how you’re sending a message. No, you’ll probably be helping to send Trump to another four years and perhaps more than four more.

If you vote Biden, it may leave a sour taste in your throat, but many medicines do. It’s not the greatest and most effective medicine and it’s not the tastiest. But it’s necessary.

Simple fact is that the United States was already shaky and in less than four years Trump turned it into a complete disaster. We are bleeding heavily and we need to stop that bleeding long enough to recover and possible salvage something. Possibly move forward with actual progressive policies one day. Possibly still have the freedom to change the systems we have without all-out civil war. We are bleeding to death. Biden is a dirty, soiled shirt to staunch that bleeding. Not ideal, but necessary. Trump is just a set of razor blades to stuff into that bleeding wound and sandpaper and superglue to seal them in.


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A lesson from Breonna’s death: Black lives are not valued, but the status quo is

Instead of being able to continue to live herself and to help preserve life as an ER technician, Breonna Taylor became yet another Black person murdered by police. I need not go into the details of her life and death—nor the way police tried to portray her as a villain as they do so often in these cases. If you need a refresher on what happened, Wikipedia provides a good synopsis.

What I do want to talk about quickly are my troubled thoughts as we come to the point in the story where none of the three cops were indicted for her killing and the one officer who was indicted was done so for three counts of “wanton endangerment” because his bullets went through a wall into an adjoining apartment. Interesting that the only officer indicted for anything was the one who had already been fired. Wouldn’t want to put those other two officers out of work, now would we, grand jury?

Her death had already sparked protests, much like George Floyd and so many other Black victims before her—and this latest set of events is sparking them even more, as well it should.

This is yet another in the seemingly endless parade of stories of Black people harmed by police—too often killed, in fact—but where there is no satisfactory resolution.

Yes, the city of Louisville indefinitely suspended “no-knock” warrants after the incident. So what? The warrant for Breonna Taylor had been changed to a “knock and announce” one before they invaded her home—that didn’t stop them from killing her. And if you’re asleep and someone knocks on the door when you aren’t expecting anyone and then crashes in, are you going to assume it’s the police? No, you will probably try to defend yourself, as Breonna’s partner Kenneth Walker did—himself being charged with first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer for doing what anyone would be rightly expected to do in a state with a “stand your ground law.” Police often don’t announce themselves in these cases, or do so in a way that no human could possibly respond in time. So, a change in what warrants are allowed and whether the cops have to knock won’t change anything. Police always spin tales after they do something shady.

But what I really want to talk about is not so much my disgust at the really predictable outcome of no real accountability for the police—though I have plenty of that boiling in me—but rather the settlement from the city and what it tells us about what police (and in a broader sense white America) really value when it comes to this kind of thing.

The city of Louisville agreed to pay $12 million to Breonna Taylor’s family and to reform police practices.

As far as the second part, police “reform” almost always amounts to nothing, or so little that it might as well be nothing. The profiling and the abuse stay around regardless. The practice of policing continues to be oppressive and violent and aimed mostly at Black and brown bodies. Defunding police so that they aren’t so massively overstaffed with gun-toting bullies and giving most of that money to services that really promote community wellness and safety is the only reform I want.

But let’s get to that first part: $12 million.

Some would say that’s a kind of justice, but it isn’t.

Police do not value Black lives. America mostly does not value Black lives. And this is proof of that. First off, you can’t put a value on a life anyway. It could be $12 billion and that’s still not gonna bring Breonna back or fill the void left by her death.

Many white people in particular would say that $12 million is a lot and that that shows they are willing to pay a price and that somehow that is valuing Black lives since they could have simply fought such a settlement tooth and nail if they really wanted to.

No. That $12 million wasn’t an expression of the value of Breonna’s life or the cost to her loved ones. It was an expression of the value of those police officers’ lives. It was an expression of the value of keeping a status quo of police as armed enforcers of their idea of law and order—which may have the backing of the law and may keep order the way they want, but it sure lacks fairness or justice.

You see, Louisville was willing to pay $12 million to make it seem like they care, so that they can let the two police officers still on the force continue to do their thing. And maybe the one that got fired gets to do his thing as a cop again one day. They paid blood money so that they can clean their conscience and get back to business as usual.

Just like so many police departments have done and will keep doing.

They will keep demanding big budgets to over-arm themselves and over-staff themselves while under-training officers and doing nothing to actually reduce crime or deal with the real root causes. They will keep raking in the money to pay the kinds of settlements like these that will sometimes be unavoidable.

They paid because they value and believe in the system that is there right now. They don’t want to substantially change it. They don’t value Black lives, including Breonna Taylor’s. They paid for the right to get a lot of people (mostly white ones) to be able to say with clean consciences that the city “did the right thing” and “all that it could do.” They paid to help get that support and buy-in from people who think money is enough and also maybe to get sympathy from their supporters who actively root for police to kick asses and kill Black people.

Breonna Taylor’s family can’t bring her back with $12 million, but the police and the city sure can buy a lot of goodwill and more time to keep harming Black people with it. And they’ll do it again when they need to.


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The ‘uterus collector’ is an infuriating product of our history

I’m so mad. My anger has overflowed.

Learning this week that women in the ICE detention centers have been given unauthorized and unwarranted hysterectomies has us overcome with anger, guilt, grief.

Women.

Having their wombs taken away.

Having the ability to continue their families, culture, traditions, heritage.

Mothers.

Taking away a woman’s right.

Taking away a woman’s future to choose for herself.

We know what happened in Germany during WW2. We know what Hitler did to the Jewish people. We have seen this before, many times. We are letting this happen again.

The uterus collector. They have given this person a special name because this has happened so. fucking. much. The history of gynecology in the United State is appalling and has routinely been carried out on women of color, particularly Black women. Forced sterilization was so popular in the United States from the 1900s to the 1970s against WOC that they became known as Mississippi Appendectomies. Low-income WOC were told that they need to be sterilized or lose their assistance benefits. Coercive sterilization it was called. Using the system that folx rely on against them. One-third of Puerto Rican women between the 1930s and 1970s were sterilized and it became the highest rate in the world.

The body is political.

A Black woman has alerted us, Dawn Wooten. She proclaimed that as an American and a nurse “I became a whistleblower but now I’m a target, but I’ll take a target any day to do what’s just and right.” She is doing what’s right and needed in our country at this time. She did something that people need to be doing: listening to women. Wooten has endangered her life in a time when Black folx are targeted for much less.

She has five children of her own.

This year has sobered many of you.

The curtain has been pulled away once and for all.

For some—this is the first time you’ve seen this happen.

For some—they have seen this happen and said nothing.

For some—this has happened to them.

We need to fucking stop, listen, learn, and help.

We’re so often told that we shouldn’t talk about politics at work—but when you work in a place like an ICE detention center and have women routinely tell you that they have had a procedure they know nothing about, that takes away their right to bear children. Our lives are inherently political; we have no privileges with the law Yet we shy away from using it to see the systemic issues that are present. The push and pull found with this argument creates an infinity loop: there is always another question—and nothing moves forward.

The personal is political. Women have no autonomy over our bodies as long as laws exist and practices are carried out on us under the umbrella of authority.

Anger swells.

My body isn’t made for this.

I feel helpless and guilty that I feel helpless.

These women.

Women.

Having their wombs taken away. Having the ability to continue their culture, traditions, heritage. Erasure.

Mothers.

Taking away a woman’s right.

You’re taking away a woman’s future to choose for herself.

There is a mourning of what could have been.

The life that could have been.


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It’s on us: We are the change

It’s safe to say that 2020 has not gone as planned for the vast majority of us. In fact, every day seems to be a slap in the face followed by a punch in the gut followed by a beating with baseball bat as if to tell us, “You’re complaining? Let me show me how much worse I can hurt you.” Here in the United States, while our systems have long been broken and unjust for much of the population, there was a false belief that we were immune from the challenges that have long faced many other countries and delayed, destroyed or derailed their democratic systems. For Americans, the belief in American exceptionalism kept us blinded to the reality that we have been living on borrowed time for a very long while now. 

Until this year, the largest atrocity that many Americans have ever seen committed on our own soil was 9/11. The idea that we would become a country under siege—being attacked from the inside—was simply unfathomable to all, except those who have studied the collapse of other countries or who have lived through a country collapsing. They started warning us a while ago; many of the rest of us not so schooled in history or first-hand experience started warning everyone very loudly as soon as Trump got the GOP nomination to run in the 2016 election. But a lot of you didn’t listen.

Even when the “unthinkable” occurred (though many of us had already figured out it was going to happen) in 2016 and Trump was elected and installed as our 45th president, there was this almost childlike belief that our system of checks and balances would keep things from getting too bad. Though to be fair, many white Americans were also more than willing to sacrifice the comfort of their fellow citizens of color and marginalized Americans to keep the ruse going that America was a democracy and a land of milk and honey. 

Since Trump was installed, America has been slipping into the abyss of fascism and authoritarianism. Writers such as Sarah Kendzior and Umair Haque have been sounding the alarm all along, but as long as the masses were still getting paid, could get a biweekly manicure, and drink cold beer and eat chicken wings at the local Applebees—well, things weren’t too bad then after all for them. I mean sure, there were Americans who were being left behind and who were not surviving, but for most of us it didn’t seem like our problem. Until 2020. 

It was somehow still easy for many to look the other way when children were being put in cages and our fellow Americans’ rights were being threatened and Congress wouldn’t impeach a man who had earned multiple reasons for impeachment within the first six months of his presidency…until a pesky virus arrived and suddenly, everyone’s life was being turned upside down. 

As of this writing, 200,000 Americans have lost their lives due to COVID-19. 

200,000 Americans are dead and our government isn’t doing anything—worse, it seems to want to actively promote spread of the virus for “herd immunity” that, if we even got it, would cost literally multiple millions of lives to achieve. The Trump administration knew at the beginning of the year the threat that COVID posed and instead, encouraged us to go live our lives. They wouldn’t even tell us to wear masks to stay safe until the body count began to grow. The administration fumbled the messaging so badly, that a public health crisis has become a will of political beliefs. 

Since COVID turned our lives upside down in March, almost no day has passed that the Trump administration has not told us who they are: a wanna-be authoritarian regime where soon the only people who might still have some rights are the good white people who are “patriotic.”

Yet for many, we are so overwhelmed by the rigors of living through a pandemic and trying to survive (while homeschooling our kids and securing bleach wipes and toilet paper) that we have clung to the fantasy that our national nightmare will end and there will be a return to normalcy, if only we can vote this guy out. 

We also clung to the hope that if an 87-year-old cancer survivor could stay alive long enough for us to vote this dictator out, that our rights would be protected and again, we might return to “normal.” 

The thing about life though, is that it happens when you are busy making other plans, and as I learned this year with my own dad’s untimely death, death doesn’t get a damn about the plans. Death does not consult us and it sure as hell doesn’t work on our calendars. 

Which is why the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is viewed as a tragedy. For starters, yes, her passing is sad, but she led an extraordinary life and was blessed with longevity of years. She was not a perfect woman, and no doubt she made some missteps on race, but overall, she was an inspiration and a true heroine. However, the fact that democracy and our very future was being placed on her shoulders should give us all pause. It has been reported that she told her granddaughter that her wish was that her replacement would not be selected until after the next president was installed. 

A dying 87-year-old woman should not have had to carry that weight. Her last days should have been reserved for her loved ones, not us. 

Ginsberg’s passing is the clarion call for many, who now realize we are on the road to being fucked and not a good fucking either. The thing is, we have been on this road for a long time. Every time we laughed about Trump’s ignorance or assumed that some invisible “system” other than the very obviously broken existing one would save us, we empowered this man to kick things up another notch. 

Now we sit, less than two months away from an election that will determine our collective future and still there is no consensus on how to proceed. The current system is awful, let’s face that—things should not be allowed to return to “normal.” But a second Trump term will only move us closer to an authoritarian state and once we reach that point, there is no turning back short of some serious bloodshed and other myriad kinds of suffering for years or decades or maybe even generations to come.

As we have seen already in recent months, Trump will use the military and police to carry out his plans. Just a few days ago, Trump announced that the teaching of our real history as it relates to race in this country (and other less-than-pleasant truths) is not something he will allow. Sure the federal government doesn’t set school curriculum but let’s be honest, who exactly is going to stop him? He can’t directly ban Tik Tok either or even block it from the internet, but he got the folks who run the app stores to take the app off their list, didn’t he?

In less than four months, Trump has changed the narrative on the George Floyd protests and as much as it pains me to say, it is working. The data show that white support for the Black Lives Matter movement is decreasing, after reaching an all-time high at the beginning of the summer. Despite the vast majority of national protests being peaceful, Trump was able to change the narrative because the one thing he understands is white supremacy and the white mindset. In a country founded on white supremacy, to underestimate his reach borders on the delusional. 

The uncomfortable truth is that while it’s easy to say let this raggedy-ass country burn, I don’t think most of us are prepared for that reality. Especially as we ourselves have become the shithole country that Trump has accused so many other nations of being, and we are not welcomed in most other countries at this time…so leaving isn’t even an option. 

That means the only sane and healthy option is to get this man out of office; however, between previous gerrymandering, a highly infectious disease and attempts to make voting difficult for many, just voting alone isn’t going to be an option. It means we need a multi-prong approach which will include (among other things) direct action, bodies on the line, voting and mutual aid. 

We will need to find a strength that, frankly, given the way this year has gone already, is going to be hard. And for many Americans, it is a strength we are not accustomed to, but we have to accept that no one is going to rescue us. We are the cavalry. No more kicking the can down the road. We are all we have and we have to act now. We have to save ourselves despite working, homeschooling and trying to survive during a pandemic—which has all of us exhausted. Frankly, for white-bodied people with material resources, for whom struggle is new, this is your chance to follow the lead of the BIPOC folks and groups who have been working for liberation and move from learning to action. This is action time. 

As Americans, this is our adulting moment, America is broken and problematic but unless we come together and work together, nothing is going to get better. I would be remiss to not mention the state of our planet: Climate change is real and the climate change crisis that we have been warned about is here and honestly has been for a while. No longer a future event, the fires raging on the West Coast are proof of how real the changes are and that alone combined with Trump’s blatant disregard of science should terrify you. Again, our very survival on this planet requires someone capable of understanding science and not scoffing at it. 

Joe Biden may not be the change-maker we want, but I feel confident that a Biden/Harris administration will staunch the hemorrhaging and stabilize things enough that we can catch our breaths and get serious about dismantling this system while we aren’t on fire. You can’t rehab and remodel a house when the structure is literally burning. When dealing with a demagogue such as Trump, we can’t even be assured that there will be be a plot of land to rebuild on after he is gone. Because if he puts another justice on the supreme court, combined with all his lower court appointments, his presence will be felt. He will have a very important branch of government almost entirely at his beck and call. And he already has the other “checks and balances” branch, Congress, more than halfway under his thumb. America will be turned into the picture-perfect white Christian cishet male-controlled “utopia” the GOP and its supporters desire.

In this moment, I am reminded of the words my father said to me, when telling me that my mother had died. “Have a good cry tonight and tomorrow we will regroup.” I shared similar words to my family upon announcing my father’s death. I share them with you: Rage, cry, do whatever you need to do in this moment. But afterwards, we have work to do. There is plenty of it, but if we all do something, we can be the change. 

As for Ruth Bader Ginsberg, thank you for your service to our country, thank you for being a trailblazer, and may your memory be a blessing to all who loved you. 


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Image by Miguel Bruna via Unsplash