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Thursday, June 28, 2018

War on the LGBTQ Community


It’s been two years since the horrific shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Florida; two years since we woke up on Sunday morning and turned on the news to watch “Meet the Press” and was greeted with images of chaos…people being sent to hospitals because a madman decided to come into a club and open fire on the LGBTQ community, killing 49 people.
In the time since this massacre, we have become an activist.  We didn’t willingly sign up for the job.  Instead, it fell into our lap.  We didn’t ask for it.  It just happened and it occurred in a way that we didn’t expect.
We have become acutely aware of the freedoms of our community; freedoms that others would like to take away.  We are living in an era where war has been declared on people of color, people of Muslim faith and the LGBTQ community.  Our rights are slowly being stripped away in the guise of patriotism.  People are being imprisoned under the guise of Homeland Security.  And before it’s all said and done, our rights to love who we want to love will be brought into question…it’s just a matter of time.
Everything that is happening now is no different than what happened that fateful evening two years ago.
Actually, let me correct myself; it is different in the aspect that the outcome will be slow…moving like a cancer.  It will eat away at our core, claiming and eroding from the inside out.  Rights will be questioned, then challenged and then finally removed.  All of this done in the name of making a country great; even if the country was great to begin with.
There was a time when I wasn’t always proud to belong to the LGBTQ community.  At one point in time, being of this community was considered a curse; an anomaly that went against the commandments of God and society.  It was the greatest insult you could hurl at a man…and people would hurl those insults as a means of demeaning an individual; perhaps making them feel as if they didn’t belong or that society had no place for them.
I wrestled with this ideology for years…and then I woke up.  I realized that loving someone is important, but so is loving myself.  I understand that shame only works if you truly feel as if there is something to be ashamed of.  And I believe with everything within me, that there is no reason to hold my head down to anyone or anything. 

We understand that once you hold your head down, you are giving that person power over you.  And I can’t do that…not anymore.
There are certain demographics within this country that will come for our rights and liberties in the guise of proclaiming that they are better than me because of how they worship, what they believe or what political viewpoints they hold.
Our rights will be questioned as they are right now at this very moment.  Our standing within society will be challenged as is what is currently happening with our transgender community.
And lastly, legislation will be drafted to take away the rights that we have fought for and currently enjoy.  It hasn’t happened yet…but it may be on the not too distant horizon because this is where we are.
We have to remain vigilant as a people.  We have value and we will not be dismissed because some people don’t understand who or why we love.
We belong to the LGBTQ community; and we should be prepared to fight for this community because beside the fact that these men and women are our family; we have earned the right to be here and no one has the right to push us back into the proverbial closet.
It’s been two years since the shooting in Florida.  But the assault continues and until we all stand up in unison and fight for the right to be, we will be dismissed as another group of people that does not or will not contribute to a society that somehow defines itself as great by imposing its will on another group of people.
We have value.  We have merit…and we should be willing to fight for that merit!
~ J.L Whitehead

Monday, June 4, 2018

The ideology behind white supremacy




Where did we go wrong?  It’s a question that I ask myself repeatedly from time to time.   And before I get too far along in this editorial, I have to preface it by saying that certain paragraphs are going to come off as politically incorrect…perhaps even racist.

In re-reading this publication, I may come away with that same impression even though I believe with every fiber of my being that I don’t have a racist bone in my body.

But things have changed.  Racism has returned to the surface full force and it’s an issue that must be dealt with.  We are not afforded the luxury of saying that it doesn’t exist even when we know it does.  We are seeing more evidence of blatant racism now than ever before.

It is said that the more things change, the more they remain the same…and never has this been more apparent than in 2018.  But racism has morphed (or is in the process of morphing) into something else.  People of color are not being lynched from trees the way that we were one hundred years ago.  We are not being arrested for vagrancy because we don’t have money, property or jobs to go to as they did freely in the Jim Crowe era.  We are not being incarcerated at an alarming rate under the guise of declaring a war on drugs when it really was a war on people of color.

Instead, our institutions are being steadily eroded to the point where right is wrong and wrong is consistently being made right all in the name of an ideology that somehow, white people have been forgotten and in that left behind.  It doesn’t matter that this has been the experience of people of color for entire lifetimes and generations.

It doesn’t matter that in every major corporation that I have ever worked for, the ratio of people of color in managerial/supervisory roles were disproportionate to the people working in roles that would be considered subordinate.

It doesn’t matter that what is important to me and my well being is considered to be inconsequential to people that don’t look like me.  I say this with honesty as this has been my experience foremost of my adult life.

In the era that we are living in now, the institutions that have been put in place to protect us have been turned into weapons.  Some white people have been emboldened to use the words nigger, chink and wetback in an effort to demean and belittle; as if the target of these words were somehow not capable of feeling…or even worse, that they deserved to be called it in the first place.  

We are living in an era where people of color are looked at with more disdain and mistrust than ever.  We are watched with suspicion in stores, told where we can and cannot be and labeled as drug dealers all in the name of an ideology that somehow, the forgotten white people…white people that feel as if they have been left behind is right and justified in their feelings and that everyone else is wrong.

It is the same demographic of white people who feel as if they are having their rights infringed upon  which coincidentally are often the same ones that will call the police because they feel as if a person of color isn’t accepting or acknowledging that somehow, they are superior and how dare we forget that.

They frequently use terminologies that would label themselves as patriots and that somehow, most people of color don’t get that concept because we did not originate from here.  Or we don’t know or understand the concept of sacrifice when we have, in fact, making sacrifices all our lives.  They tell people that don’t look like them that they need to get out of “their” country and go back to where they belong; as if somehow they are the only ones that have the right to lay claim to this country.

After all, the term “black/brown” flight does not exist.  But you can look up the definition of “white flight” in the Mirriam Webster dictionary and it is there for you to see:

Definition of white flight
: The departure of whites from places (such as urban neighborhoods or schools) increasingly or predominantly populated by minorities

This issue goes much farther and deeper than the subject of where some people choose to live.  It is a reason why they make those decisions in the first place.  It is not just the desire of wanting to live among their own kind.  After all, that would be tribalism.  The real question is the reasoning or “whys” of white flight in the first place.  And one of the simplest reasons for this is the word, “equality.”

Some white people have no desire to learn anything about anyone else’s culture, traditions, needs or wants.  The farther away the better because if they get too close, they may be forced to reckon with the fact that people of color are just like them.  That we feel…just like them.  That we love…just like them.  That we care for our children…just like them.

That indeed, we are no different than them.

But some of them are clinging to a notion that they are better.  They are holding on to the ideology that equality can exist as long as they get the best and first fruits of this country and everyone else gets what’s left over.  And the sad part about that thought process is that it is this concept is not equality at all.  It’s like saying I don’t mind getting old just as long as I look the same.
And yet, some have murdered, maimed, tortured, raped and imprisoned in the name of a superiority that never existed.

But when you put the paint to the wall, how superior are you really if you have to maim, torture, rape, murder and imprison to prove to yourself and countless others that you really are superior?  It’s ironic that truly superior people don’t have to infringe on other people’s livelihood to substantiate their value.  Superiority is a concept made up by man to present to his fellow man’s role as being one of servitude.

I am not a radical.  I am a realist.  I’ve always been a person that disagrees with every fiber of my being that one race is not greater than another.  I believe that everyone has value.  I’ve believe that everyone is entitled to that positive sense of self-worth and that it does not belong to one race of people to withhold or deny.

I’m not a racist.  But given our current political and social climate, I can see the inclination, although it will never be directed at the white men and women that love me for everything I am as well as everything that I am not.

I am angry at the ones that see me as somehow being “less than” and “less deserving.”  I am angry at the ones that look at equality, not as a tool to give everyone equal say in our society but one of oppression.  

It annoys me that you can’t acknowledge me when I nod my head to acknowledge you in passing; that your way of acknowledgement is to not acknowledge me at all by looking past me as if I didn’t exist.  And I cannot tell you how much it bothers me that these same people will say that they aren’t racist when in fact, they are.

Perhaps, what is the most disturbing is the reference to people of color being animals.  That immigrants seeking safety from persecution on our shores are being referred to as people that aren’t even human at all; and therefore deserving of any punishment they receive.  Because it’s not that they are breaking the law.  A defined path should be outlined and made available.

Men of color have been deemed a societal threat since we were freed as slaves.  We are viewed as the main perpetrators of violent crimes when statistically; this isn’t the case at all. 

1.

I enjoy a very close, tightly knit circle of friends from various racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.  I have revealed things to these people because I know that what we have supersedes anything that society says we should have and be.  These people have laughed with me; cried with me; rejoiced with me, leaned on me and I in turn have leaned on them because we have something that is so powerful and beautiful in its simplicity that it is very much worth sharing…we love one another.

But in order to have this, it really is time for us to stop seeing our differences and instead see our similarities.  We need to figure out ways to stop the senseless hatred and instill peace in our lives.  People aren’t born to hate.  Hatred is taught.  But it takes effort to hate.  It takes a concerted effort for people to not see others as human beings.  

Because at the end of the day, every single life has value and every single life matters.

~ J.L. Whitehead

Resources:
2.      History of white supremacy:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_supremacy



Sunday, April 22, 2018

What Goes On In The Mind Of A Battered Woman?



 NOTE - This is a reproduction of an interview that took place 7 years ago

Several years ago, The Examiner reviewed RadiKal Publications, “Twisted Pleasures” by author Shirelle “Diamond” Hogans.  The book told the story of five women who were all the victims of domestic abuse.  Today, I sits down with four of the five women who will tell their story in detail, providing answers to questions that some of you may have.  How did she get into her situation?  Why did she stay?  If she went back, what was the reasoning?  And most importantly, how did she summon the strength and courage to finally leave and start her life anew?
            Today, author Shirelle “Diamond” Hogans and contributors Tanisha, Jenelle and Shivice will tell their stories as only they know how in an effort to prevent their experiences from being repeated.  This will be the first of three installments.  Now more than ever, their stories bear repeating.  Consider the sobering statistics below:
  1. One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.
  2. Between 600,000 and 6 million women are victims of domestic violence each year.
  3. Women of all races are about equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate partner.
  4. Intimate partner violence affects people regardless of income.However, people with lower annual income (below $25K) are at a 3-times higher risk of intimate partner violence than people with higher annual income (above $50K)
JL:  Can you briefly describe what your life is like now?  How are you doing and would you mind telling us your current relationship status?

Shirelle
SHIRELLE:  My life now is a happy one. I never thought I would be "here". My relationship status is "drama free".  I'm single. I've been single now for the longest period in my life.   I was always with someone in the past.  The past few years of discovering me almost drove me crazy, but I'd rather be alone than be unhappy.

SHIVICE:  My life is good.  I am now an author of a book called "Rape... The Ultimate Forgiveness" scheduled for release this summer. I am currently working on a poetry album. I am currently single and am still aware of some of my past issues. I don't let my past control my future. 

TANISHA: My life has lots of ups and downs.  It's been a struggle for me since 2008 when I lost my job. I am a graphic design student and I try my best to keep busy! I recently secured a position so now I'll be working a full time traditional job while doing my photography and taking a lighter load for the school fall 2011 semester.  I am now divorced. Currently I am single BUT I am a good thang waiting to be found!   (Smile)  I would like to be in a relationship eventually. The wait is rough, but I definitely don't want to botch it up like the last time so I ask the Lord to get me ready and get him ready. Preparation is indeed necessary. A premature anything is risky!

JENELLE:  My life is great. I am happily married with 2 boys (one from a previous marriage).  I am working in ministry with my husband. I never thought I would be married to a pastor but I wouldn’t change it for anything.  I am also modeling and acting.  I’m currently filming a pilot for a TV series call End Game Dark Pawn. I can honestly say I am truly happy.
Shivice
 JL:  What were some of your previous relationships like?

SHIRELLE:  Very unhealthy.  Looking back, I can’t recall ever feeling loved.  Tolerated…yes. Strongly liked… yes, but not loved. Even with my ex-fianc├ęs…we were just playing house until something better came along.  I am a giver...and that seemed to be a magnet to people who were takers.  I'm not bashing any of them.  It’s just that we were young and trying to discover what love was...only to conclude we knew what love WASNT.

SHIVICE:  I struggled in my relationships. I had trust issues. I was emotionally unattached and used men at their emotional expense.  My method was to hurt them before they could hurt me… even if their intention wasn’t to hurt me. If I felt anyone getting too close or if I thought they were starting to have some type of feelings for me, I would push them away.

TANISHA:  Before I got married my previous relationships were just sex. It seemed like I was the only one putting forth any effort. I wanted so badly to be LOVED. I always ended up choosing men that were takers. They took the sex and that was it. They weren't interested in committing, and I know now that I allowed that. There were no wine and dine experiences, movies, walks on the beach, trips, NOTHING! Back in the day I remember paging dudes and waiting on them to call back.  Man, that was the worst! They dealt with you when they wanted to. I gave them too much control and didn't exercise putting my foot down or cutting them off. My ex-husband was actually my first "real" relationship.
Jenelle
JENELLE:  Some of my previous relationships were controlling and manipulative. It was controlling in the aspect that I had to maintain a certain level of beauty in order to stay in a relationship with some of the men I dated.  If I gained weight, I would get dumped.  If I wasn’t looking perfect at all times, I got called names such as ugly. My kindness was taken advantage of by a lot of guys I dated.  I had money stolen from me several times.  I was used because I had my own car and my own place.

JL:  What were some of the characteristics that you were looking for in a partner at that time?  What are you looking for in a partner now?
SHIRELLE:  Back then I was looking for fun and comfort from a lifetime of pain…Someone to protect me from the "boogey-man" so to speak. They had to have some height and be physically strong.  Back then, I didn’t have a laundry list of requirements. I wanted to be safe and I wanted to laugh, and I did anything to get it. My list of things I wanted in a man began to grow after every bad relationship.  I eventually crossed off the "thuggish" type of man and replaced it with a man that has strength and character. Now, I am waiting to meet the man that can caress my heart with his words and ease my mind with his actions. I am awaiting someone who knows and values my worth as I have fought to discover.  What I'm looking for now is someone confident about who they are and doesn’t make jump through hoops like I'm a circus act for their love and affection.  I guess I want someone that will never make me cry (unless it’s because of something good).

SHIVICE:  Because my father wasn't around, I was looking for a father figure…someone to guide me, love me and hopefully take the pain away. But the simple reality was that always became the fairytale dream…unrealized.
Tanisha
TANISHA:  You know what?  I use to want to date hustlers. And I LOVED me a thug! Timberland boots, saggy jeans, nice ride with rims, loud music and of course money! This is what attracted me! I was so materialistic. Money outweighed the looks too. I would date an ugly man if he had money.  So sad but true.

JENELLE:  At the time, I was looking for someone who was honest and truthful.  I was looking for someone who truly cared about me and didn’t use me for money or for material possessions.  I wanted someone who liked me just the way I was and didn’t try to change me in any way.

JL: Did any of you experience any emotional, sexual or psychological trauma at an early age?

SHIRELLE:   Yes.  I experienced all the above…past emotional/physical/sexual abuse -abandonment issues with my father, estranged relationship with my mother even though she raised me and we lived in the same house most of my childhood.  I was molested by family members and "extended" family members. I was raped by a man I thought was my blood uncle, and I am just discovering now that he's not who I thought he was.  All of this and some insecurity and self-worth issues played a part in my choice of men in my life.

SHIVICE:  Yes.  I was molested at the age of 9.  I was raped at the age of 13 and then at the age of 17 I was raped in the custody of my foster parent.

TANISHA:  For me, my father not being around was emotional. I was so angry! I was mean and did not have even the slightest residue of love in my heart for anyone! I always said, "I don't have a daddy." I was hurt because his family didn't know about me…that he only came around a few times a year and my mom struggled to take care of us and he barely gave her anything to assist. Like she made me on her own! Don't get me started… LOL! There was no LOVE...he never told me he LOVED me, showed me he cared. I don't remember hugs, spending ANY time with him outside the house. Like who are you? So I really felt like that played a huge part in what I was seeking from men.

JENELLE:  No I never experienced anything like that at an early age. Well let me say I don’t remember.  After my rape when I was 17, I learned to block a lot of things out of my memory.

            There are so many reasons why our women make the choices that they make; and by “our” women, I mean all of our mothers, aunts, daughters, sisters, cousins and nieces regardless of race or ethnicity.  Some of what the women that agreed to participate in this interview has to say are graphic and to the point.  They make no apologies for it nor should they.  It is intended for you to see what goes on in the minds and hearts of women all over the world who have been in this situation.  If you have any comments, please feel free to post them at the appropriate section of this page.  Also, please join us for the second installment of this eye opening interview.  If one woman can be spared the pain that the participants in this discussion experienced, then it will be worth it.

J.L. Whitehead

RESOURCES:

 Domestic Violence Resource Center – www.dvrc-or.org
  1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Institute of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, July     2000. The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, 1999
  2. Rennison, C. (2003, Feb).  Intimate partner violence.  Us. Dpt. of Justice/Office of Justice Programs.  NXJ 197838.
    Straus, M. & Gelles, R. (1990).  Physical violence in American families.  New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers.
    Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000).  Extent, nature, and consequences of intimate partner violence.  National Institute of Justice, NCJ 181867.
  3. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey, August 1995.
  4. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.