It Takes Two To Make A Thing Go Right, or Selective Outrage is Impotent

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe. – Frederick Douglass

Just a few thoughts regarding the latest in protest and violence in America post what strongly appears to be unchecked police brutality.

I’ve had conversations with friends, African-American friends in particular who voice either in word, social media and otherwise their frustrations and disdain for looters and folk who are burning buildings in Baltimore.  They’ve praised the mother who went Ronda Rousey on her son for participating in the riots.  They say, “I hate what I’m seeing on TV!  This is NOT the answer!”

What occurred to me was the history of the world, the history of this country.  Change from those in power to benefit those with less has rarely happened without violence and physical struggle.  I think of the Arab Springs in Syria, Egypt and Morocco to name a few over the last several years.  People had decided that they had enough of their oppressive and corrupt governments.  I think of the history of the civil rights movement during segregation and Jim Crow.  Hell, I think of the Boston Tea Party!  That struggle is glorified in history books.  My response to my friends has simply been to ask them, “Well what IS the answer?  What should they do?  Call the police?  (The same police who have one of THE worst documented reports of police brutality?) Write the police commissioner? What should they do to make the difference? None could give me any answers.  I sure as hell don’t have any either.

I saw President Obama this morning demonizing the looters.  But he can ‘miss me’ with that until he also demonizes the police who crushed a man’s spine and voice box while in their custody for simply running away from them.  Freddie Gray wasn’t wanted for any crime.  The knife he had in his pocket was of legal.  His downfall seems to be that he didn’t possess NFL first round wide receiver speed to escape his killers.  The President isn’t the only using all of his vitriol against those in rebellion.  Mass media and the direction or misdirection of narrative shaping is solely focused on the fallout from Gray’s death instead of the original sin of Gray’s death.  The truth of the matter is, I am not willing to listen to anyone who is not nuanced enough to have a real discussion regarding the cause and effect of what’s going on in Baltimore, what happened in New York, Ferguson and Oakland to facilitate community unrest.  I mean, how many times does this have to happen before there is a recognition of human nature; that if you keep putting a boot on people’s necks they are going to rise up?   It’s easy to tell people, “Keep on taking this ass whooping and burying your friends and kin to police brutality.  Organize and wait for the next election.  Have a church services, pray and forgive corrupt cops and the institutions that protect them.”  Historically that is not going to be a unified or sustained response.  Again, just check the history of anywhere in the world!  It ain’t gonna happen!

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Furthermore, I am past the point of apologizing for the looters. Looting is something I have never done nor would I.  I was in Ferguson and it never crossed my mind.  It’s not my thing.  But why should I have to own the onus of those that do when my counterparts don’t own the burden of unarmed black boys and men being murdered by police?  Am I the only one (as an activist) that needs to make concessions here and take ownership?  If they want to isolate and tell me that all the facts aren’t in, then I will say the same thing.  Dammit we don’t know who burned down the buildings.  You got a name?  Have all the facts been gathered yet?  Has there been an investigation of who exactly started the fires?  What accelerant was used? At what point in each building was the fatal match thrown? …and by WHOM exactly?  Sound ridiculous?  I don’t know… Cause sure as hell we had Eric Garner’s death from start to finish on VIDEO and we saw how THAT turned out!  Mr. Scarface said it best, “Black men are being hunted!”

I have always been an ambassador of sorts.  I bridge gaps and intermediate many potentially explosive situations.  I’ve done it all my life.  It’s natural for me.  I love peace.  Thus I am a fan of Dr. King’s non-violent work.  Yet I have always understood the need for an armed movement like The Black Panthers too.  I don’t own a gun.  I don’t desire to own one.  But I do recognize that with non-violence it’s easy for the one oppressing you to get a little too comfortable believing no retribution is possible.  Having the thought that in the back of one’s mind that he can catch some hurt if he stepped to the wrong person or set of people is just smart negotiating.  In other words, Rosa Parks is going to sit on that bus, but Nat Turner may take a shovel to your dome!

Is that not how our own government deal with other countries?  It goes like this: “If you don’t act right, we may use economic sanctions. Or we may bomb the shit outta you!”

Finally let me bring this point home.  If something goes down at my house where I need help, I’m calling the police.  I have several friends who are police officers.  One is a high ranking member.  If I see one of those guys driving behind me, it wouldn’t phase me a bit.  As a matter of fact, I may try to flag them down and start a conversation.  Equally true, is that because of my own experiences with bad police, I am scared as hell when one gets behind me who I don’t know.  *Especially if he is white*  I’m on the road almost every day going to someone’s basketball gym, football field or baseball diamond.  Sometimes I am some very remote areas where there are rarely is any folk who look like me.  And the reality is this; On any given day I could be the next Freddie Gray, Mike Brown, Eric Garner or Oscar Grant.  That ain’t hyperbole.  That’s real!  Look, I was on a field last week working a baseball game.  I saw two cops approach and started watching the game. I hadn’t done anything wrong, yet I was scared.  I wondered if they were there for me.  At the time there was a baseball game and a track meet going on right next to the diamond.  I didn’t see any faces of color anywhere.  My tensions didn’t subside till the police vacated the property.  And it’s not as if I am afraid of any man in isolation. But I expect danger and conflict from police who I know mostly operate with impunity.  But this is my life.  And the fact of the matter is, if it IS me, if I am the next to be murdered by police many detractors will believe that I somehow provoked it or deserved it.  Yes some of my white friends will say, “Well, he is a fiery guy!  You ever see his Facebook page?  He must have went off or took a swing at them…went for his gun.”  And this is how they will live with the lie that they tell themselves in NOT getting involved or using their own voices to promote an end to this bullshit!   If I’m lucky, others will rally for me as I have rallied for them.  I shouldn’t have to live with this conflict of having a cognitive dissidence of respecting police and their duties and yet fearing the one in the badge that is supposed to represent service and protection from REAL criminals.

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So no I don’t pretend to know what black folk should do in reaction every time this happens to us.  But I do know that when white folk decide that enough is enough, things will change , and change in a hurry.  Folk like Baltimore Oriole’s COO John Angelos who said;

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

Jeering at protesters is low hanging fruit.  Going after bad police, digging into the policies of oppression, mass incarceration and the roots of class warfare and suffering is HONEST!  OWN THAT and then we can talk.  Otherwise… See you after the next police led murder and cover up in a city near you.

 

 

 

 

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Remembering MLK

I am not one to drool over “The Dream” and the way the speech is pandered about during the King holiday.  It’s warmed over far too much in today’s way of remembrance.  King’s message was often hard and not so easily digestible as the way it’s made to seem.  As Michael Eric Dyson often says, one segment of America (mostly African-Americans) wants to deify King as if he were a god who had no flaws, while the other half (often white conservatives) seek to soften his message up into a little dream speech.  In reality King was a great and flawed leader, no more human than the rest of us… and yet he lived and died accomplishing more than most. 

I heard it said that Martin Luther King was the greatest American she has ever produced.  I agree wholeheartedly.  And with the inauguration of Barack Obama on tomorrow, I have to think he’s smiling a bit right about now.

Money, Greed, & The Desecration of the King Legacy

 

Where do I start?  Sigh!

Since the death of Coretta Scott King, the widow of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, many in the African-American community have stood by silently while King’s children have fought in public and in court over various money issues.  Most of us just shook our heads and hoped that they could get their stuff together.  I’m not saying it’s easy being a King’s kid all the time, but come on! 

Chief of the drama however seems to be Dexter King, the second son of the couple who for everything I have noticed, seems to love the high life as a Malibu “big baller” who spends all of the money from his father’s estate to finance his lavish lifestyle.  Initially, sister Bernice King and brother Martin III sued Dexter on behalf of Coretta’s estate alleging he improperly took funds from the estates of their parents.  I won’t spend time elaborating on that or placing blame.  But it’s obvious that there are some problems with the First Family of black folk. 

Now it seems that Coretta had some love letters “(and other “intimate correspondence”) from Martin that she kept in a suitcase under her bed till the day she died.   According to Lynn Cothren, Mrs. Kings special assistant for over two decades they were her most cherished possessions.  Bernice would like to keep those letters private in the hands of family.  Dexter, ever the opportunist would like to whore them out for a book deal he inked recently.

Dude, you are actually going to take your sister to court to get at your dead parent’s love letters so you can market them in a book? 

To quote a famous poet, “Dumb nigga, what you thinkin bout?”  

Here you have the descendants of the most well known African-American family in the history of the world.  The children of a Nobel Peace Prize winner.  A man who has arguably done more to help the entire race socially, legally, educationally, and financially, certainly in the 20th Century.   A man who helped to set the table for this historic moment and opportunity to elect a true child of the dream.   

 

I know there are two sides to every story, and perhaps if I knew the whole story (which I am not interested in) I would have cause to go after Bernice and Martin III.  But in this case, it’s all on Dexter.  What will this guy NOT do to bleed his given name for every dollar possible?  I am reminded of a line in the movie, “Crash,” where Terrance Howard’s character chided Ludacris’ car jacking character by telling him, “Look at me!  You embarrass me.  You embarrass yourself!”

Since these bickerings started, most African Americans with public forums have cautiously taken a pass at getting into their business.  There is so much respect for the King name and legacy.  We have inwardly wished that the family would put the public bickering to rest and not bring shame to themselves or our people.  I think the silence should cease.  And we should call for Dexter to call off this ridiculous pursuit of his parents intimate communications.  Here is my official notice:

Memo to Dex: Your father is arguably the greatest American the country has ever produced!  Have some dignity!  If there was something J. Edgar Hoover didn’t get his grubby and filthy hands on, then leave it be!  I am sure if Mrs. King wanted to post her husband’s personal sentiments to her she would have done so during the almost 40 years she survived him.  You have enough at your disposal already to allow you to gravy train your father’s legacy for the rest of your pitiful life.  If your mother and father were alive, they would both be ashamed of you.  Now back the hell up!

See… it’s that simple!

Commentary/Response

Readers, I came across this commentary on blackamericaweb.com.  Normally I wouldn’t blog a response to an article but this one is so beyond reproach to me in terms of it’s content, that I had to offer a rebuttle.

Commentary: We Talk About How Ministers’ Kids Tend To Be Wild-What About The Preachers Themselves?

Date: Thursday, July 17, 2008
By: Gregory Kane, BlackAmericaWeb.com

My stars, the words that come out of the mouths of some ministers!

You’ve all heard or read what Jesse Jackson — you’ll pardon me if I don’t put “reverend” in front of his name — said he’d like to do with two certain parts of Sen. Barack Obama’s anatomy. That may have surprised a lot of black folks. It didn’t surprise me. I’ve been writing for years that the man isn’t worth a tinker’s dam, only to have black folks whip out the Uncle Tom/Sambo card on me.

But while I expected such language from Jackson — Mumia Abu Jamal claims Jackson called black folks in Philadelphia’s MOVE organization “a bunch of nappy-headed niggers who don’t wash” — my concern isn’t about Jesse. It’s about the man Jesse once worked with.

I’m starting to wonder if we should re-evaluate Martin Luther King Jr. If there’s any truth to the adage “birds of a feather flock together,” maybe we should. King biographer Taylor Branch wrote in “Pillar of Fire” that FBI wiretaps revealed King saying something about a grieving Jackie Kennedy that was even more revolting than what Jackson said about Obama.

It was so revolting, in fact, that I can’t repeat it in this column. BlackAmericaWeb.com editors have too much class and dignity for that, so I won’t even bother to so much as let them edit the words out. But what King said about Jackie Kennedy as she knelt praying at President Kennedy’s coffin is on page 250 of the hardcover edition, if you care to have a look.

There’s more of King’s raunchy language of page 207 of “Pillar of Fire,” in which FBI tapes caught him in the sex act shouting “I’m having sex for God!” (Note: the sex wasn’t with his wife, Coretta.) But King didn’t say “having sex.” He actually dropped the old F-bomb. On the same tape, King is still engaged in a sexual act when he shouts “I’m not a Negro tonight!”

That line has prompted three questions from me since the first moment I read it.

1. What was this woman doing to King that made him forsake his race and ethnicity?
2. Who was she, exactly?
3. Most important, why can’t I ever find women like this?

King’s extra-marital affairs have been known for years. I got confirmation of them around 1970 from a guy who should have known: Rev. James Bevel, a former King aide.

My BlackAmericaWeb.com colleague wrote about Bevel a while back. He was recently convicted of having sex with his own daughters when they were underage. I saw that conviction coming almost 40 years ago.

Bevel arrived in Baltimore circa 1970 to, he claimed, start a new organization called MAN, an acronym for Making A Nation. It turns out Bevel needed a new organization because his old one, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, had fired him. I didn’t know the reason then, but I sure as heck have some inkling now.

Free love and nude encounter sessions were part of the MAN agenda. Bevel advocated that every man in MAN was free to have sex with any woman, and vice versa. I had a chance to join Bevel’s “organization.” I was 19, horny as a tomcat and, like any red-blooded heterosexual American male of that era, dying to get laid.

But not badly enough to join MAN. There were just some things a nice Catholic kid from West Baltimore didn’t do.

Bevel wasn’t just a basket case when it came to sex. I first saw him in action during a speech he gave in a classroom on the campus of Johns Hopkins University. Some white kid asked a perfectly innocuous question. Bevel grabbed a walking stick he carried, barreled through some desks, shot up to the white kid and grabbed him by the hair.

“I ought to beat you with this stick, you white boy you!”  Bevel snarled.

I sat there thinking, “This NUT was an aide to Martin Luther King?”

Indeed, he was. And, according to most histories of the civil rights movement, he was a very skilled and effective organizer. Jackson at one time showed promise as a leader and activist. King’s record of achievements in the civil rights field is almost without peer. But it’s clear now all three of these men had a side few ever knew.

There’s a theory that the children of ministers — preachers’ kids or “PK’s” — tend to be a bit on the wild side. But maybe it’s not the PK’s we need to keep an eye on.

Maybe it’s the preachers.

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Hmmmm… Ok let’s start with my first question.  What is the purpose of this commentary?  Is it to discuss PK’s or MLK’s sex life?  The latter seems to be the case as there is not an attempt to discuss the challenges and behaviors of PKs.  When the writer suggests that we re-evaluate the way we see Dr. King, I wonder what is it that he plans to re-evaluate.  I’ll return to that point shortly.

First of all it’s general information that Dr. King was not faithful to Coretta during their whole marriage.  I recall when Ralph Abernathy wrote his book back in the day and appeared on the Donahue show to talk about it.  In that book he discussed King’s affairs.  Michael Eric Dyson’s book, “I May Not Get There With You,” was written for the sole purpose of balancing the King legacy in terms of showing King to be fully human including the flaws who accomplished extraordinary things for the nation and black people in particular.  Dyson’s book dealt with how American whites generally want to turn King’s words and work into merely a dream speech – without tackling the meaty issues that he addressed that the nation didn’t want to hear then and do not want to hear now.  In short they want to make him a toothless lion.  For blacks we have tended to deify King to the point of making him like a Jr. God.  Branch, whom the writer references did several well researched scholarly books on the King years.  I would recommend them all.  King’s story is phenomenal.  And Branch touches on a history that is so detailed with facts and stories, it’s a biographical journey.  I blogged about these books recently.

But back to the writer again… What is he trying to say?  Because King came up short in his marriage vows and said some wild things in bed we need to re-evaluate his contributions?  What the….?  First of all let’s remember that the reason King was illegally wire tapped in the first place was because the head of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover was obsessed with ruining King’s life and bringing down the civil rights movement.  I would suggest the writer do some study on Hoover and all the callous work the FBI did especially during the 50’s and 60s.  Hoover had files on everyone in public life… Dick Gregory, John Lennon etc.  Anyone who represented independent though or had a following Hoover went after.  He even sent notes to King posing as Andrew Young to try to convince King to commit suicide.  Finally, I wonder if the writer knows that though Edgar was a fierce racist and homophobe, he was also a cross dresser himself.  Now with that said I wonder… who the hell makes a judgment on a man or tries to seriously examine words and phrases he says when he is engaged in sexual acts?  Sex involves reality and fantasy and therefore without speaking to King about it, it would be impossible if not silly and illogical to try to critically analyze it.  Second, if the FBI were to record the sexual acts and the words of the writer, would he feel it worthy of public critique?  It’s kind of a losing battle if you ask me.  If he says wild things from the outside it’s easy to ridicule the writer as he did King.  And yet if his language is simple and generic he’s gives the perception of being dull in bed at the very least.  I wonder if the writer really wants to go down that slippery slope. 

Finally I ask again… what is it to re-evaluate?  The accomplishment King and his supporters made for equal rights?  The fact that he personified the non-violent movement from the American perspective, and was jailed countless times for a people he loved and the justice he sought?  The fact that he is still arguably the best American we have ever produced?  Or the fact that he gave his life for what he believed in by being assassinated by his own government – the same government that tapped his phone, spied on him, sent black men to infiltrate his organizations?  The fact that the writer stands and judges this man with words that lack the reasoning of my soon to be 5th grader and can post it on BlackAmericaWeb is what we really need to re-evaluate.

BBG C-Notes

C-Span and Book TV did a wonderful interview with Author and Activist Alice Walker.  It was filmed from her home in Berkely, California and covered topics such as the books she has written, love, politics, Earth as divinity etc.  The interview was extensive one lasting almost three hours which included telephone questions and comments.  I have never read any of her books (though the movie The Color Purple is one of my favorites.)  I did find her to be an extrordinary thinker and posess a beautiful spirit.  I definitely plan to read her work!

http://inside.c-spanarchives.org:8080/cspan/cspan.csp?command=dprogram&record=560312243

On the book tip – Over the weekend I started reading a new book.  Well not new but new for me.  Its called “Parting The Waters”, America In The King Years 1954-63.  This is the first editition of a trio of work done to chronicle the life and times as they related to America and MLK during a span of 14 years.  The first book won The Pulitizer Prize and though it’s close to a thousand pages the information is the best work of a biography that I can ever recall seeing.   Certainly this is the most extensive work done to chronicle the life of Dr. King.  So far in just a few pages I learned the connection of Spellman and Moorhouse Colleges with the philanthropic efforts of John D. Rockefeller.  How MLK’s dad who was an adult with a 5th grade education when he met the future Mrs. King who was a student at Spellman – and because he had to be an educated man to even think of approaching her, (literally) he put himself through school to get his high school equivalency.  Furthermore, upon trying to attend college he miserably failed the college entry exam, but stormed into the president’s office and talked himself into getting admitted anyway.  He did all of this because he was interested in marrying the woman who would give birth to Dr. King.  The whole set up seems quite divine to me in the way it was “orchestrated.”  There is great detail to all the ins and outs, and it reads part like a commentary, part documentary and part scholarly dissertation.  I plan to purchase all three books as they provide a history and detail that I could not imagine let alone have seen before.  I have close to 100 films and documentaries regarding African-American history, but nothing has given me what I have seen so far in the pages of Mr. Branch’s work.  I would recommend these books to anyone who has an interest in the life of Dr. King and America from a perspective not seen or heard often enough.

Quick Bits

Wasn’t it sad to see that poor horse Eight Belles fall to the ground after breaking both legs and have to be euthanized on the spot? 

Tomorrow is the North Carolina and Indiana primaries.  I hope they put us closer to some finality in terms of the Democratic ticket for president. 

Mothers day is Sunday!  Don’t forget to honor the moms in your life.

One of my favorite scriptures: Proverbs 21:2 “All the ways of a man seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.”