“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
In the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict, it has been impressed upon me that now in order to survive, I must live in fear for my own safety and that of my family, particularly my son. There has been an outpouring of advice and commentary on the verdict from Black tv pundits, religious, political and social leaders, social media and the AfroSphere. Most shrouded in anger. Some in astonishment. Few provide a rational strategy/plan. All are based on a foundation of fear.
This fear is understandable. The history of people of African descent in the Americas is one founded on fear. This fear was born, nurtured and nourished by the terror of those with white skins against all others. The “curse” of our black skin is what makes us identifiable and justifiable to be the recipients of this terror, whether in our original homeland of Africa, or as captives/citizens in the Americas… or wherever we may be in this world.
This terror has always been more readily unleashed with a fury against those with black skins who resist or even question those with white skins. It matters not if this resistance (or questioning) is real or perceived. It matters not if it is by deed, appearance or by even a look in our eyes. It is not tolerated because it signifies that we no longer fear. It is not tolerated because like any virus, it has the potential to become an uncontrollable epidemic. The antidote is terror. Pursuit, capture, beatings, humiliation, rape, imprisonment, dismemberment, lynchings, murder, etc. Our history is full of these terrorist acts by those with white skins against those with black skins who show any hint of resistance. The message is that of the Borg: “Resistance Is Futile.”
Trayvon Martin is just another victim of this terror. As far as George Zimmerman, his lawyers, the prosecution, the judge, as well as the all white jury are concerned, he did commit a crime. He resisted. He fought back. They have implied legal precedence. On March 6th 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision regarding the Dred Scott vs. Sanford case, which clearly stated that all blacks were “so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” The Zimmerman verdict confirmed and re-enforced this ruling for the 21st century. Hence once more, the triumph of terrorism.
The desired effect: once again those with black skins are engulfed with fear. We are paralyzed and made irrational by this fear. I’ve been bombarded by messages by those with black skins that I’m to be afraid. I’m to fear the white man. I’m to fear the black man. I’m to fear the police. I’m to fear for my life. I’m to fear for my son’s life. I’m to fear how he dresses. I’m to fear where we go. I’m to fear walking down the street in my neighbourhood. I’m to fear all things real and imagined.
I read a Facebook post where a young black man praises his mother for raising him in a climate of fear for his own safety. He states: “And I say that to say that as scary as people think black males are, black males are conditioned to be ten times more afraid of everyone else. We’re conditioned to be afraid of going to certain parts of the country, afraid of people with certain political view, afraid of police officers, and sometimes even afraid of other black and latino males. The most sickening thing about this whole trial has been the deliberate campaign to rob Trayvon of his right to be afraid. I know I would have been.”
I saw this video with Melissa Harris-Perry where she tells viewers how she felt “relief” at her ultrasound when she found out she was giving birth to a daughter instead of a son. We even fear our own unborn black men.
What we fear, we hate. What we hate, we destroy. We fear… we hate… we destroy ourselves. Mission Accomplished.
Regardless, I do understand this fear. I don’t criticize nor condemn those who find some comfort, some solace and peace of mind… in a false sense of security. We all have a paramount desire for ourselves and our love ones to be safe. The terror is relentless. It confronts us every waking and sleeping hour… everywhere in society… blatantly and subtly.
However, I don’t have this fear… and I’m not raising my son and daughter to have this fear. I will be raising them to be aware of how those with white skins perceive their black skins and therefore be wary of them. I will as well provide them with the tools to make life affirming decisions. But to fear those with white skins… NO! To fear their black skins… NO! To fear other people with black skins… NO! I will teach them that it’s not resistance which is futile… it’s to be a fear-filled and docile negro. For this will not save you. It will only make it easier for them to take your life, for they have already killed your spirit.
I know there are those with black skins who will see me as a bad father. That I’m not being practical for the safety and security of my kids. That I should impart upon them, for their own survival, the words of the beaten and broken slave Kunta Kinte: “toby be good nigga fo’ masa”.
I am guilty as charged… for I will teach them the words of William Shakespeare: “a coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”
So I’ll charge them to resist when you must… and know the costs.
“You have no program because you have no power. Your program is rhetoric and rhetoric never won a revolution yet. Until we begin to use our brainpower to rattle this structure, they’re only going to laugh.”
“If you truly understood what power is, you would learn the weaknesses and strengths of what you’re fighting. You wouldn’t go out there and say: ‘I’m going after Whitey.’ You’re going after Whitey’s what? You can’t change the system or anything else unless you know what you’re about. You’re just wasting energy.”
I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. I’m in this zone right now where I’d rather be reading than writing… recharging my batteries. Just before I read this autobiography of Shirley Chisholm, I had just completed reading The Untold History of the United States by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick. It painted the “actual” political and social backdrop in the U.S. at the time of Shirley Chisholm… particularly the Nixon years. It provided me with a deeper understanding, respect and admiration for the accomplishments of this remarkable woman.
I had heard of Shirley Chisholm but never knew much about her, other than she was the first African-American woman elected to Congress in 1968 and she ran a campaign for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination in 1972. I have always had an interest in knowing about the lives of women of African descent who were just as important in the struggle for our freedom and empowerment as a people, as the efforts of men such as Marcus Garvey, MLK and Malcolm X. I have read biographies on the lives of Queen Nzingha, Sojouner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Angela Davis and Elaine Brown. My daughter’s middle name is Nzingha, after the African warrior queen. I have all these biographies to pass on to my daughter and son to read, so they can also have a knowledge, appreciation and be inspired by the struggles, sacrifices and accomplishments of these exceptional women, as well as instill in them a desire to learn about other women of African descent.
Shirley Chisholm’s life was remarkable. She was definitely a fighter, as a Black person and just as importantly… as a woman. She learnt to navigate and manipulate the political machine of her district to fight for her constituents: the poor… particularly women and children, all who were primarily Black. She made it to the New York State Legislature and to Washington as a Congresswoman, but never lost or sold out her convictions, nor her determination to work for what she believed in, i.e, to better the lives of the oppressed, disadvantaged and the displaced. Unbought and Unbossed, she transformed rhetoric into action.
A documentary of her presidential bid, Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed was made in 2004. It’s on my “must-see” list. This autobiography should be on your “must-read” list.
Meet John Barr; Ypsilanti Township, Mich racist.
I met John this past Tuesday (Nov 2) when I went to my polling location to vote.
Over the last few months, I had been debating how I would vote for Mich governor. I was or torn between voting for a republican whom I felt was competent and a needed change for the state or voting for the democratic option who reminded me of Rod Blagojevich that makes my skin crawl.
Tuesday: Day One
The day of the vote I kinda just said fuck it all. I can’t vote for any of these fools. Why does it always seem like we have to choose between two evils? With that said, I decided not to vote.
Yeah, I said I decided not to vote.
OK, so now, I’m leaving work headed home and I get near my polling place and did an about face and decided to vote.
I guess karma was on my side because the location was not super busy and I got a parking space right at the door.
As I’m getting out my car, I was approached by a man passing out literature for candidates that he was supporting. Then he took it a step further and said let’s get Virg Bernero (the democrat) in the governor’s office. I explained that there was no way that I was going to vote for him.
After I made my statement, his tone changed and he started acting like he was my real daddy or something breaking down how republicans are not for us, the greater good of Negro people, how he would be better for business blah blah blah!
Then he went on to tell me that he owns a liquor store and funeral home. I was like really? Then I asked if he laid to rest any of his alcoholic customers from his store. I was just being an asshole…
Minutes later, I’m in line to vote.
I hand over my ID and the person looks me up then she hands me my voter application to get my ballot.
I then move to the ballot line, which is where John Barr and I 1st made contact.
I approach John with my ID and voter application in hand and greeted him with a hello. He extends his hands to take my information and reciprocates my greeting.
As he was looking me up, he asked “how is your gangsta’ rap group going?” Taken aback, I said excuse me. He then repeated the question looking me dead in my eyes. I then asked John what made him think that I was in a gangsta’ rap group. He exclaimed “everyone with hair like that is a gangsta rapper!”
At this point, I shouted back “are you racially profiling me as I attempt to vote? Are you serious? Do you really mean to intimidate me at the voting poll in the year 2010?”
All I got back from my line of questioning was a dumb ass blank stare that only an imbecile could give.
I then demanded to see someone in charge!!!
Moments later, a very sweet woman approached me and I explained what happened. All the while she was in utter shock. At the end of my rant, she asked me to not leave so that she could process me personally as she dismissed John.
As she handed me a ballot, she requested that I not leave so that she could get me in touch with the township clerk.
So I now have my ballot and I’m in the booth PISSED off.
As I stated before, I was going to vote for the republican gubernatorial candidate but then I started having civil rights flashbacks and said fuck that, I can’t go that way.
After the ballot was completed, I handed it back to the sweet lady (she had be to in her 70s). She thanked me for my patience and told me that the township clerk; Karen Lovejoy Roe was waiting to see me at her nearby office.
As I was leaving, I spotted John pacing back and forth. I wanted to cuss him out but I kept it moving.
Now I’m at the clerk’s office and Karen walks right up to me, introduces herself and apologizes profusely as we walked to her office.
As we talked her office, I gave my accounting of events and she listened in disbelief. After I was done, she informed me that she spoke with John and he was like yeah, I said it. Then it went a step further by him telling her that I obviously wasn’t in management because people in management don’t look like me.
Really bitch? Are you serious?
I’m just done at this point….. I stayed composed although pissed off and was like so now what.
Karen informed me that she needed to call the state elections board to see what her next move should be and that she would be in touch to keep me posted.
She then explained that this has never happened before and assured me that John would never work for her again.
So as we wrap, she makes a pitch to recruit me as a poll worker and gives me two applications. She then stated that she always needs qualified poll workers who are computer savvy.
I took the applications but in the front, back and middle of my mind, I’m like are you serious. I was just assaulted/insulted and you’re trying to recruit me. Ummmm, no boo.
Wednesday – Next Day:
I get to my day job and tell a co-worker what jumped off and she was like you need to contact the NAACP with the quickness. Before she mentioned the antiquated group I was wondered what else I needed to do.
So now it’s 930am and I call my local office and I got no answer. I then call another nearby office and got no answer. I then call then the Detroit office and got no answer.
I kept called all three offices for the next 4 hours and got NO ANSWER, just a raggedy voicemail.
On my last try at the Detroit office, I finally got someone and explained my issue. The young man requested that I hold the line………. After holding briefly, I was transferred to a voicemail box. Great another roadblock. This time I decide to leave a message.
Thursday – Two Days Later:
I get a status update from Karen telling me that she is still waiting to hear back from the state about the issue and that she would get back with me ASAP. I appreciated her call.
And still no response from the NAACP
Friday – Three Days Later:
No follow up from Karen Lovejoy Roe at all. I’m disappointed. It has been 3 days…
Still no response from the NAACP and I again made repeated calls that all went unanswered.
At this point, I’m disappointed that I have not heard back from Karen but I’m pissed the fuck off over not hearing from the NAACP.
To deal with my pissed offness, I call the state bureau of elections my damn self. Wound up talking to some guy who told me that I could send in a complaint letter or send an email detailing my experience. He then stated that if I wanted a response back that I needed to indicate that in my correspondence.
Really? I have to tell you that I want a response back? No, really? Should you just fucking respond?
I hung up the phone frustrated and turned off.
Lastly, I posted this on the NAACP’s Facebook Page:
“I’ve been upset over the fact that I was racially profiled and intimidated at my polling location this past Tuesday by a poll worker. My frustration has been compounded after I called three local Detroit area NAACP offices whom all failed to return my call after leaving a message. Additionally, I have not been able to reach anyone in an office as the phones ring continually. This cannot be how you conduct business in 2010…”
I feel like I have no advocate, no attention etc. Just not cool!
Next election, I’m voting absentee.
For the record:
– Yeah, John did smile from me when I took the photo.
– I called the ACLU & Urban League & they were not into my issue.