Monday, September 24, 2018

Call to Arms



Today, I awoke at some ungodly hour in the morning with the grim realization that the state of  American politics is somehow askew and the implications for its citizens is dire.  The urgency ran deep; like a calm wide stream with a current racing just beneath the surface.

I thought for a moment that no one would listen to me; that no one would take me seriously or that my lone voice would not matter.  I kept thinking that it is very possible that my lone voice would not be heard; that no one would want to hear what I have to say because I am not writing for a major publication.
And all of this is true…I don’t have the backing of a major publication.  But I do have my voice.  And it is with that voice that I will tell anyone that chooses to listen that we are in the middle of a crisis.  It is a crisis that will impact ever single citizen of the United States.  And unless we act, we will lose the institutions that we have come to love and live by.

We cannot afford to wait until the institutions are eroded and then subsequently lost.  We cannot afford to look back and shake our heads sadly and lament over the good ole days because we allowed the current administration to turn our democracy into the realization of a dictator’s dream.

We, as American’s cannot afford to let this happen.  We cannot sit on the sidelines and say that we don’t have a voice.  Yes, our elections will be attacked by a foreign adversary.  Yes, the person that is supposed to lead the American people will attack our institutions including the right of the free press.  He will continue to say that the press is the enemy of the American people simply because the press reports each misstep; whether that misstep is deliberate or a mistake.  He will continue to attack our judicial processes and rules of law because he believes that he is above the law.  We are holding ringside seats to the GOP who controls the House and the Senate become something that we don’t recognize.  They have become the party of Trump instead of the conservative party that at one time had been conservative for the American People.

We have one opportunity and we must get this right; because if we don’t, we will be looking at an America that we will not be able to recognize. 

Our civil liberties are at stake.  Our rights and privileges are on the line.  Right now, the far right is waging a war on the citizens of this country.

We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and let this administration take away the American Dream that so many of us have worked so hard to obtain.

We have a civic responsibility to do what is right and to take back our democracy.  We must go out and vote in our November election.

We must do this because our democracy and very livelihood depends upon it.
~ J.L. Whitehead



Thursday, September 20, 2018

Why We Kneel




As a people, we fight the good fight every day.  We are fighting to reclaim our democracy.  We are fighting to keep our institutions of fairness and equality intact.  It seems like we are at war and every day we are struggling to hold onto a way of life that we have cherished for generations; and yet, those institutions seem to be steadily eroded by the current administration.

The president has a habit of attacking his enemies, whether they are fictional or otherwise.  And right now, one of his perceived enemies seem to be the NFL players that are currently exercising their first amendment rights to protest the killing and unconstitutional jailing of black and brown people.  

African American men, women and children are being shot at an alarming rate by the very people that have taken an oath to serve and protect us.  And for some, those percentages aren’t alarming at all.  In fact, those percentages may even be viewed as deserving or self-inflicted.

But the truth of the matter is that the African American communities experience of the police force is somewhat different than that of white people.  With law enforcement, we know that we are deemed as “other” and somehow, we are perceived as guilty before proven innocent.  The likelihood of a simple stop is three times more likely to escalate to confrontation with a person of color than it is for our white counterparts.


1.     “Black Americans were incarcerated in state prisons at an average rate of 5.1 times that of white Americans, the report said, and in some states that rate was 10 times or more. The US is 63.7% non-Hispanic white, 12.2% black, 8.7% Hispanic white and 0.4% Hispanic black, according to the most recent census.”

Black men are perceived as a threat.  We are somehow viewed as someone that would commit a crime before we are allowed to speak.  We are viewed as “foreign” and that we are not deserving of fairness and equal treatment.

This is not to say that white people are not inappropriately stopped or that a white man may not have had his life taken by a trigger-happy police officer.  This is also not to say that all police officers are trigger happy.

But we are living in a new era.  We have a president that attacks the very men that are kneeling in silent protests to the killings of unarmed black men, women and children because of a perception that they are somehow dangerous.  Rather than address the concerns of these men, he deems it more appropriate to attack them.  And it is in this action that he conveys a message that our lives are not as important as everyone else's.

This is why we kneel.

Our silent protest is shedding light on an issue that has sat on the sidelines for far too long.  When a police officer kills a person of color and is subsequently released because the officer states that he or she was in fear for their life, it creates a narrative that somehow, the life that was taken had little or no value. That person would simply be deemed a casualty of the war between right and wrong.
The problem with that ideology is that the killing of black men, women and children is disproportionate to the killings of white men, women and children.

Too many of my Caucasian brothers and sisters will say why we as people of color continue to harp on this issue.  They are tired of hearing about the perceived injustices perpetrated on people of color.  And the simple answer is that we don’t like talking about it.  We really don’t.  But we have to bring it up again and again because nothing has changed.  In short, we will stop bringing up this topic and will be more than happy to leave it alone once things change.

This is why we kneel.

I have nephews, nieces, brothers, cousins and friends.  I silently fear for them.  It is not overt, and it doesn’t occupy every moment of my day.  But I think about them.

Several years ago, I was driving home from a trip to New York with my husband and another couple.  I had just purchased a brand-new car that still had the temporary tags on it.  As I was driving through Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a police officer drove up very quickly behind me, pulled me over and demanded to see my driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance card.  I rolled down my window and handed him the documents that he requested.  He peered into the car and saw my husband and passengers who were white, gave pause, and then handed me my documents.  He said that I was speeding in a residential neighborhood and let me off with a warning.  I took a deep breath as I pulled off in silence.  My passengers asked me what that was about and they couldn’t figure out why we were stopped.  They didn’t know…but I knew.

This is why we kneel.

People of color don’t like being assumed that we are somehow criminals before the fact.  We don’t like being prejudged that somehow, because of where we are physically located, we were somehow up to no-good, especially if that neighborhood is predominately white.


"The flag is supposed to cover all the citizens of this country.  It is supposed to protect us…and yet, the flag doesn’t do that.  Until we get that protection…until people of color are viewed as contributing members of society instead of being deemed as “other”, we will continue to kneel and we will continue to protest.  ~ J.L. Whitehead"


Black parents are tired of having to have the conversation with their sons and daughters about what to do when you encounter the police just to ensure that they will come home alive.

This is why we kneel.

It’s the high-profile killings that seem to have struck a sour chord within the black community and resonates a sense of outrage…but it is in our outrage and no one outside of us seems to care.  We have a president who refuses to entertain the notion that a large demographic of this country is tired of having their men and women killed senselessly.  Instead, he continues to create a narrative that somehow, the athletes that choose to kneel is disrespecting the American Flag.  And he rails his base over and over creating a false narrative that we don’t care about this nation or its citizens.

This is why we kneel.

2.     Stephon Clark, Alton Sterling, Terrance Crutcher, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, Eric Harris, Tony Robinson, Rumain Brisbon, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown Jr. and Eric Garner are all men and children who have lost their lives.  Only half of their killers were brought to justice.

This is why we kneel.

The flag is supposed to cover all the citizens of this country.  It is supposed to protect us…and yet, the flag doesn’t do that.  Until we get that protection…until people of color are viewed as contributing members of society instead of being deemed as “other”, we will continue to kneel and we will continue to protest.

Our kneeling is nothing different than the peaceful protests of the civil rights era of the sixties.    It is no different than Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat.  Although it is true that some of those peaceful marches ended in violence, we did not create that violence.  We are simply standing up for what we believe in because under the constitution, we have the right to do this.

But some of you don’t think so.

~ J.L. Whitehead

Sources:

  1.      https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/18/mass-incarceration-black-americans-higher-rates-disparities-report 
  2.    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/03/29/police-killings-black-men-us-and-what-happened-officers/469467002/

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Why Your Vote Counts!!!


Our current political climate is in a state that we in our wildest dreams could never have imagined.  We have a president and subsequently an administration whose policies don’t help the average American people.

We have an administration that initiates policies that are masked with language like “patriotism” and “America First” that hurt and divide the American People.  We see this on a constant basis at the president’s rallies where he constantly puts forth messages that reflect anger and hatred.  At the rallies, his supporters still shout, “Build the Wall” and “Lock her Up” as if he were still campaigning for the presidency instead of talking about his plans for making their lives better.

Something has gone wrong with our government.  We have been polarized dramatically.  We have been pitted against one another.  Where we never had enemies before, we now have them.  The relationship between Democrats and Republicans have been made out to be adversarial; and the people that belong to these parties respectively are now defining themselves like the “Hatfields and the McCoys” as opposed to people that have differing political viewpoints.  We are angry at one another.  Trump supporters accuse Democrats of being hostile, angry and violent while ignoring the fact that they are hostile, angry and perhaps violent.

Neither side wants to listen to one another.  We put down the other’s view point without lending any validity to what the other is saying.  

Personally, I stopped engaging Trump Supporters because the encounter would become combative.  In speaking my truth to them, the encounter always wound up with accusations of what news outlets I watch, how Obama was so awful, how awful a liberal I am and that my viewpoint doesn’t matter.
I stopped talking to them because I realized that nothing good could come from our conversations.  I would be more than happy to talk to them if I thought remotely that my viewpoint would be acknowledged.


"Neither side wants to listen to one another.  We put down the other’s view point without lending any validity to what the other is saying.  ~ J.L. Whitehead" 


But the problem is that we have been polarized so much to the point that anyone who has a different viewpoint than you are branded as the enemy.  In many ways, you must be for them or against them.  If you are for them then you are loyal and therefore a friend, but if your opinion differs from them, then you are deemed a foe.

Sound familiar?

Now, I am sure that there are Democratic supporters that can be rude and will blast Trump Supporters with the same viciousness that they received in the past and will be just as unwavering in their views.

As a result, this is what I have to say to our Democrats, Progressives and Independents:
It is up to us to stop the anger that is resonating with thirty per cent of the country.  We must normalize our government.  We must reclaim our democracy and vote for candidates that will be willing to work with the Republicans so that we will have the right balance of liberal and conservative ideas and policies.

We must end the greed that is resonating in this current administration and reclaim our democracy so that everyone can have a fair say in policies that will directly impact their lives.  I am not asking for perfection and I am sure that you aren’t either.

We must take a stand for putting a stop to the corruption that seems to have over taken our government.  We know that Russia interfered with our 2016 presidential election.  We know that our current president is aware of the offense and even admitted that they did.

So what do we do?

We vote.  We vote as if our lives depend on it.  We vote to take back what was wrongfully taken from us.

We deserve to have a government which places the American People first and the desire for wealth and corporate interests secondary.

We deserve to have a senate that will make decisions that will make positive decisions that will benefit the majority of Americans instead of the interests of the current administration.

Every vote counts.  You deserve to have your voice to be heard.  You deserve to have an administration that performs better than what we have now.

So get out and vote!

Your vote counts!

~ J.L. Whitehead