As Americans, we love to say that we’re a nation of laws. There’s an implication in that idea that we innately understand what’s right and what’s wrong and that we will do what’s right even and especially when it’s easier to do wrong. Except ...
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Black Girl in Maine - 5 new articles



Law and order aren’t the same thing

As Americans, we love to say that we’re a nation of laws. There’s an implication in that idea that we innately understand what’s right and what’s wrong and that we will do what’s right even and especially when it’s easier to do wrong.

Except we’re not a nation of laws. We’re a nation of order. Social order, specifically. And we will do whatever is necessary to enforce that order, especially if it’s wrong. We will behave in whatever corrupt, heinous and inhuman ways required to maintain that order. This order knows no political bounds. The order I’m talking about is the one white liberal Amy Cooper attempted to enforce when confronted with her own breaking of the law.

This order is why white men can arm themselves, become terrorists and storm legislatures in broad daylight and in front of police without incident. And it’s why police are free to randomly assault those protesting for Black rights.

It’s why the police will arrest a Black journalist on live TV in the middle of his broadcast, not bother a white journalist in the same area and then brazenly lie about it after the fact. It’s why the president of the United States can see those armed white terrorists and tweet “LIBERATE MINNESOTA” while invoking a segregationist and threatening to shoot those protesting for Black rights.

It’s why those who are silent about murder yet whine endlessly about the destruction of property are also silent about the mass destruction caused by white people after winning or losing sporting events. They also, coincidentally, celebrate the Boston Tea Party, the destruction of property that began this country, etching this social order in stone.

But this is an unnatural order and stones can be broken.

This is plain to see if you are willing to look. You can see it when bus drivers in New York and Minneapolis refuse to transport arrested protestors to jail. You can see it when a Minneapolis restaurant catches fire and the owner says, “Let my building burn. Justice needs to be served, put those officers in jail.” You can see it in the confused and terrified eyes of this cop as he’s being protected by the very people he’s geared up to harm.

Some people will always support this unnatural order because it makes them feel safe. They will be deceitful and brutal for that truly false feeling of safety. They themselves will cause destruction and disorder just to claim victimhood and justification. They will deliberately shoot journalists with pepper balls during a live broadcast. This is likely just the beginning as they are capable of much worse.

But all that forced order cannot stop the truth. And the truth is that a system of violence will inevitably be retaliated against. People are generally peaceful unless we’re provoked. If we’re provoked we will defend ourselves, especially from a forced, unnatural order. The low-tech innovative protest techniques in Hong Kong are one example of how that can go. But it can also go another way. Like conflict journalist Robert Evans said, “Every single American now knows that police stations can be taken, captured, and burned.”

Stay safe out there.


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Image by Randy Colas via Unsplash

 

A rising chorus but one that sings a song of death

The chorus grows louder across the United States for things to return to normal, aided no doubt by the inept, morally bankrupt rube that we call the president. Sadly, this Memorial Day weekend, article after article showed Americans across the country enjoying the unofficial kick-off to summer by doing all their normal long weekend, warm weather kinds of things—gathering in large groups, close together, wearing not a mask among them in so many cases.

Doing their normal routines of the past to return us to “normal” again.

But COVID-19 is still with us and normal is gone. Forcing a return to normal is just going to infect more people and create a new wave and kill many of those people—both the ones that keep striving for that illusion of going back to normal and those who know better and are trying to create a new normal and adapt to change.

The voices that sing of personal liberty above the greater good sang good and loud, and people are following that tune to our mutual detriment.

I’ve been chided for writing too much here and on social media lately about COVID-19. But the fact is that as I write this, we are quickly closing in 100,000 Americans dead from this disease in a matter of mere months, with no national calls for mourning or even a leader that expresses remorse at the significant loss of life. That tells me Americans in general aren’t talking enough about the toll of this virus—and many of those who are talking about it are doing nothing but complaining about the inconveniences of masks and sheltering in place and businesses having to temporarily close or drastically change the way they operate.

Apparently in the “need” to return to “normal” (which was already going downhill fast under the current presidency) the death of 100,000 citizens and no outrage. Instead, growing numbers are incensed that they can’t have back their old lives as quickly as they want, or that they may have to make some lasting changes going forward.

Am I the only one who remembers when nearly 3,000 Americans were killed on American soil by terrorists?

I know I’m not, because many of the same people demanding the right not to wear masks still talk about those deaths. In fact, we are still performing security theater at airports across the country, every time we remove our shoes and belts and make sure we aren’t carrying too much liquid on our persons. So many memorials and remembrances for those 3,000 lost lives. So much change from “normal” to prevent it happening again.

The reality is that anyone capable of critical thought has started to realize that normal has left the building. Given how this virus spreads, how does one return to their normal activities any time soon?

I don’t know about you, but the idea of enjoying eggs and bacon at the counter of the local diner, feels like a risky proposition. Sure, we will have six feet between us and in theory that sounds doable but raising and lowering my mask between sips of coffee and bites of food sounds tiring, not to mention the fact I’m removing my protection. The fact that it’s only for a moment is irrelevant if those moments are frequent. You don’t take the condom on and off repeatedly during sex if you’re trying to avoid STIs.

Now that waiting rooms have been canceled, even the most mundane of what used to be normal now requires standing around or waiting in your car to be called in.

Something resembling the old normal might return, but going back to it 100% probably isn’t likely at all, much less soon.

My own aesthetician contacted me to say that she would be reopening soon, as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is reopening, and did I want to schedule an appointment? I would only need to wear a mask and gloves. How does one remove the hair from my chin and upper lip if I am wearing a mask? Just asking because I can’t quite figure that one out. I’d have to remove my mask, which then becomes even riskier for both of us.

It’s becoming clear to me that as things reopen across the country, normal has died; normal left the building.

But still I hear that chorus of “me first” that sees massive numbers of death—I mean, seriously, COVID-19 is now either the first, second or third leading cause of death in the country depending on whose numbers you look at—and they don’t even blink, much less stop their singing about personal liberty over public health.

Partly it comes from people—overwhelmingly white ones—who saw news stories that people of color, especially the brown ones, were dying at higher rates. Instead of thinking about why that is (more of them being in these “essential” services positions that expose them to the virus being just one). These people have assumed that their whiteness protects them. Forget the fact that plenty of white people are dying too or facing lifelong health problems as a result of COVID—as long as the percentage among white people is lower too many of them will insist that it’s all a hoax (yeah, a worldwide hoax to dupe Americans…riiiiggght) or that it’s overblown.

I’ve had to accept that normal left the building. I don’t directly know many people who have had to deal with COVID itself, but I know enough and I see the truth all around me in what will soon be more than 100,000 deaths. I’ve had to sit tight while my father’s health deteriorated for non-COVID reasons half a country away from me because traveling and being there in person wasn’t safe. And now that his life is coming to a close, and there is no choice but to go, I know that I travel at risk to myself. But I will most certainly be doing my part to protect myself and others around me.

I refuse to listen to a song sung by a chorus that celebrates haircuts and dine-in over acknowledging a nationwide failure through inaction that’s cost 100,000 lives.

Most of what passes for normal in America is a performance. And the song the chorus sings is to make many of us dance for our humanity. We are dehumanized and deemed expendable so that the majority with the greater privilege and power can have its conveniences and liberty for the individual over freedom for the whole. COVID has stripped us down and even more strongly revealed this country for so many of its worst sins and failings.

Those who demand to return to normal have made their choice. Mass death is OK, as long as people they don’t care about are the ones dying, and as long as it’s a virus doing the killing and not some terrorists who had the temerity to be non-white while doing their terrorism.


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Image by Diego via Unsplash

 

The sheer whiteness of the response to COVID

We were supposed to stay home until the number of new COVID-related deaths declined for two weeks. During that two weeks, the federal government was supposed to enact a plan that would keep the people afloat and minimize economic damage. This could be done following one of the myriad plans available from various experts or just by copying what other, similar countries have done. Instead, somehow, two months after declaring a national emergency, the White House still hasn’t released a plan, no state has met the 14-day standard and the country is just gonna go right on ahead and open up anyway.

As with other countries, the choice was not supposed to be stay inside forever or go outside and die. With our current leadership, the eventuality of this choice being forced on us seems inevitable. Realistically, there was never any chance that a man like our president—who has spent his life as a frail, self-indulgent imbecile—was going to suddenly understand leadership or delegation. I am not saying this to call him names, but to point out that he is simply not capable. A thimble cannot hold a gallon, let alone be used to bail us out of the 100-year storm we are currently weathering.

To me, the most frustrating part of this is the whiteness of the entire response. I’m not making fun or being sarcastic. I’m genuinely shocked at the whiteness of the whole thing. Some of it is silly, like Rhode Island protesters’ slogan of “Knock it off, Gina!” Some responses have been such suicidal accidental self-parody, it’s hard to believe I’m not asleep somewhere dreaming this entire thing. For instance, there’s the protesters in Florida (I know) doing push-ups and squats in front of a courthouse in a completely irony-free attempt to get gyms reopened. And there’s a Utah mayor who is defying the state’s stay-at-home order so there can be a country music protest concert in her town.

Again, it’s not just the fatuousness of whiteness that is the problem. COVID didn’t get dropped into a vacuum. On the contrary, it got dropped into a country defined for many of us by its vast and deliberate inequities, which this virus has exacerbated.

Whiteness has truly protected some from COVID-19 for now, but the returns are diminishing.

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When it is decided that a group of people will be allowed only limited participation in a society, an experiential truth is created that only members of that group can know. For example, Black people in America are required to wear our hair in a way that blends in with or is inoffensive to white people. That is to say that we are required to disguise and/or hide the biological nature of our physical bodies for the comfort of white people. If we do not meet this requirement, educational opportunities and employment are often withheld from us. This requirement is not in the form of a law, but it is so commonly understood and widespread that last year New York City and California passed anti-discrimination laws specifically addressing the consequences of our natural hair.

White people cannot know what it is to live with this truth. It is an experience they cannot have. White people are not required to change their physical appearance for the sake of Black comfort. There are no Black power structures that can withhold education and/or employment from white people if they refuse to disguise their specific biological nature.

Imagine a white man with a regular white-man haircut walking into a job interview. Now imagine the interviewer is a Black man with an afro. He takes one look at the white man’s hair and immediately ends the interview, saying something about not fitting in with their corporate culture, but thanks for coming in anyway. As the white man leaves he sees the only white employee has permed his hair into an afro.

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When it is decided that only a specific group of people will have to face a truth, it is also being decided that another group of will be protected from that truth. But truth exists regardless of your relationship to it. You can throw a ball in the air and turn your back before it hits the ground. You can walk away believing that the ball is still floating in the air, but neither the ball nor the ground care what you believe. If that ball rolls under your foot as you are walking down the stairs there isn’t a social structure in the world that can protect you.

Whiteness does not carry a cultural memory of how brutal and deadly a neglectful government can be. Whiteness, amongst other things is a protection from that neglect. Black people are made to understand that our minds, bodies, rights, past, present and futures have not, are not and will not be protected by a government without long-term sustained efforts and sacrifices. Whiteness does not require this and cannot understand this.

Right now there is an attempt to hold onto the seemingly inane frivolity of whiteness in the forms of vacation and nightlife and grooming. It is easy to judge that as better than the anger and fear from whiteness in the forms of conspiracy theorists and armed protesters and feeble-minded leaders. COVID-19 will continue to see no difference at all and it will likely be with us until we collectively understand why.


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“Personal liberty” will be the death of a lot of us

The idea of personal liberty in the United States is held tight by a whole bunch of folks, many of whom are way too proud of their guns and, ironically for such liberty-lovers, way too into controlling what other people do with their bodies and way too eager to lock people up in cages.

But the fact is that liberty is going to be the death of us. Of a lot of us, anyway.

And that liberty could also signal the end of the United States having any kind of future of prosperity, influence or honor for that matter.

Now, don’t twist it up—I’m not saying I’m against liberty or freedom. I like both very much. But nothing in life comes without limitations.

Freedom of religion? Cool. I’m Christian. Love it. Love that freedom on behalf of all my agnostic, atheist, pagan, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, etc. friends and acquaintances. But would you say that someone sacrificing humans should be protected because of Freedom of religion? Didn’t think so.

Freedom of speech? Great. I don’t want to be persecuted or punished by the government for speaking my mind about something or sharing an unpopular opinion. But at the same time, if I falsely accuse someone of a crime and get caught doing it, I will be punished and rightly so.

Right now there are people screaming for the economy to reopen and many of them are doing it while being heavily armed and confrontational. They are demanding their haircuts and their ability to be seated to eat at Red Lobster and their freedom to buy crap on sale at the LocalMart.

They are screaming that having to have limitations that temporarily mean they can’t dine in is an attack on their freedom. They are screaming that not being able to get their hair or nails done or go to the gym is denying their liberty. They are screaming that wearing masks in public is an affront to their autonomy.

They are full of crap.

I’m sure y’all have seen the “No shirt, no shoes, no service” signs before, right? Those aren’t jokes, unless maybe they’re posted at a beachside business. They are literal. Come in here without shoes and you will be shown the door. It’s because in a place like a restaurant that’s gross and unsanitary.

Plenty of these “personal liberty” people have gone to bars where the rule is no hats, no hoodies, and no gang colors. They aren’t protesting that. They never have. Because to them, that’s protecting them from some probably just imagined threat. They are fine with having someone else’s personal liberty limited—or even their own—if they get what they see as a benefit.

Well look here: Not having an entire infected nation and maybe not ending up with 100,000 or maybe even 300,000 deaths in a matter of months (and maybe multiple millions total by the end if we don’t watch out) from this new virus is a benefit.

Wear your masks. Stay home where you can. We aren’t past this thing yet.

Stop crying out that your “personal liberty” wins out over the collective health and safety of an entire nation. We can’t all have unlimited “personal liberty.” That’s basically having a nation of spoiled toddlers who are handed every toy and snack and whatever they demand. That’s called madness and chaos. And I know that a lot of the “personal liberty” folks out there don’t let their kids get away with much of anything without a beating. Those kids don’t get to say, “You’re messing with my personal liberty.” They get told to do what’s right for the family or the parent or what is within the family rules.

If we all just look out for our own wants and don’t think about the needs of the others around us, we aren’t about personal liberty. We’re just about supporting oppression and abuse from small numbers of highly vocal and unrestrained people. Oh, and also the uber-capitalist overlords and billionaires who are herding them as their personal infantry in the war to convince us that rampant consumption and working tirelessly for a rich person are what make us truly American.


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Intentions mean little when the impact hurts people

Ever since our phones became video recording devices, we have seen images of Black people being beaten up and murdered. In the name of “awareness,” people—especially those of us who are white—continue sharing these videos across social media. People need to stop. Now.

Why must we stop, you might wonder? When you click that “share” button and express your horror and outrage, maybe your intentions are good. Maybe you just want your friends and family to “get it” that racism is real and people are dying. Maybe you want to educate people who don’t already know. Or, maybe you want to process your own response to the violence the videos show.

Those intentions may be good—we white people should be educating each other, and we also should be processing the trauma in our bodies from generations of white supremacy—but the impact is bad.

I’ll be honest. I want to scream and yell at people who share these videos. YES! This is horrible beyond words. But there are so many reasons we should not share the videos. Here are just a few, with links to the Black and brown-bodied people who are telling us to STOP SHARING THE VIDEOS:

  1. These videos are “fodder for a sick sort of voyeurism,” April Reign wrote in the Washington Post. (Reading the reasons in her op-ed would probably be a better use of your time than reading my words.) Here are a couple key points:
    • It harms the family of the victims and survivors—imagine your loved one in the place of the victim/survivor? How would it feel to you?
    • It will not change people’s minds—people who don’t believe racism is a systemic system of oppression will not begin seeing the truth because they watch someone being beaten or killed.
  2. Sharing the videos allows us, white people, to “engage in some performative concern over the death,” writes Elie Mystal in The Nation. Or, what Latham Thomas (founder of the site Mama Glow) calls “optical allyship.” Regardless of our intentions, sharing the videos and our responses to it does nothing to help dismantle white supremacy and it will likely feed our addiction to whiteness; in other words, we might feel a little “better” because we’ve “done something” when we feel helpless. It changes nothing but our feelings, if that.
  3. It can make us numb, writes Roxane Gay, in her New York Times op-ed: “I don’t think we could have imagined that video of police brutality would not translate into justice, and I don’t think we could have imagined how easy it is to see too much, to become numb. And now, here we are.” This “numbness,” can lead us white people to turn away from anti-racism work in our lives, returning us to apathy.
  4. Perhaps the most important reason to STOP SHARING THESE VIDEOS is it hurts Black people, especially. Anyone with a heart feels pain and sadness when viewing these videos. But Black people are telling us that the videos being shared this way is traumatic for them. They are telling us over and over again. This article shares just a few examples.

We White people have a long history of watching the torturing and killing of Black people (warning: this link has images of lynching). They were sometimes set up as entertaining events, with picnics and music. They were not all hidden in the dark by bad men in white hoods. This is a truth all White people need to wrestle with. Anti-lynching bills are important, but we need to refuse NOW to attend these public viewings. If you like to imagine you would not have attended a lynching in the past, then you should not share these videos today.


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.

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