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More video of the events that took place after the murder of 12 year old Tamir Rice finally got released today (1/9/15) and it’s even worse than I expected. After watching the behavior of the officers in the video I thought to myself, this is what happens when life is devalued because of race. To people like me this video is sickening and hard to comprehend how children could be treated this way. A little boy murdered by police while playing on a playground. His older sister tackled and wrestled to the ground, forced in handcuffs then tossed in the backseat of a police car while watching her little brother bleed to death only a few feet away while police officers offer the dying kid no medical help at all. No one calls an ambulance, no one tries cpr, no one tries to stop the bleeding for a full 8 minutes. You can see them walk very casually around the bleeding dying kid with no sense of urgency. It was like Tamir’s life didn’t matter at all to them. It was more important to tackle and arrest his 14 year old sister who only wanted to help her dying brother.
If you read the account given by the officer before he knew this tragic incident was all caught on video, you’ll notice some disturbing similarities to the statements given by other officers who were also involved in shooting an unarmed African American. In the cases where there is no video, most officials and non minorities tend to believe the account given by police. But in every case where there is video of the event, the video directly contradicts the story given by police. What’s even sadder is even when there is a video that proves the officer lied or misrepresented the events that took place, the officer still does not get charged. Apparently murder, conspiracy, reckless endangerment, and giving false statements aren’t crimes when the victim is African American and the perpetrator carries a badge.
By watching the initial video of the shooting we’ve been able to confirm 5 lies that the Cleveland police department and Officer Timothy Loehmann have told:
1. Police said that Tamir Rice was seated at a table with other people.
TRUTH: Tamir Rice was not seated at a table with other people.
2. Police said that as they pulled up, they saw Tamir Rice grab the gun and put it in his waistband.
TRUTH: Tamir Rice does not appear to grab the gun and put it in his waistband.
3. Police said they got out of the car and told Tamir Rice three times to put his hands up but he refused.
TRUTH: Police shot and killed Tamir in less than two seconds and could not have told him to put his hands up three times.
4. Police said that Tamir Rice then reached into his waistband and pulled out the gun, and was then shot and killed by Officer Timothy Loehmann.
TRUTH: Tamir Rice absolutely does not pull the toy gun out of his waistband and brandish it in any way. This fact is crucial.
5. The officer who shot and murdered Tamir Rice (Timothy Loehmann) was described as a rookie.
TRUTH: Timothy Loehmann was not a rookie, but had been an officer for over two years.
The CEO of a very successful hip hop record label just finished building himself the biggest house in South Florida. His name is Ronald Slim Williams and he’s worth an estimated 300 million. I read an article where he talks about his success and at the end of that article he says hard work does pay off and if people are willing to work hard they can have the same kind of wealth and success he has. I understand the need to inspire people, especially young African-Americans, but I take issue with the idea that his wealth (and anyone else at his level) is a result of hard work. The super wealthy are always dangling this proverbial carrot in front of the less fortunate even though they know it’s a lie. That kind of wealth has absolutely nothing to do with hard work. More than anything it’s a result of pure luck, being in the right place at the right time, or being born into a family with wealth. I’m sure he works hard and he seems to have a very good mind for business and I know he’s very well versed in the workings of the music industry. All of that is a talent and I recognize that, so I’m not saying this to take anything away from him. All I’m saying is there are a million other people with those same talents who has worked just as hard but all of that didn’t produce hundreds of millions of dollars for them.
The chances of someone becoming that wealthy is 1 in a billion. Less than 1% of this country holds this kind of wealth and over the last two decades the super wealthy have actively pushed legislation that makes sure no one else has opportunities to build wealth, and are currently blocking avenues for the poor to lift themselves out of poverty. I’m not saying that Slim is doing this but I look at it like this, if someone with his power, influence, and political access stays silent while benefiting from the system that creates wealth inequality, they are just as responsible as the people who are marshaling their resources to rig the system in their favor (Koch Brothers, Art Pope, Sheldon Adelson etc are money hoarding pros).
Here’s something that a lot of people don’t understand. For every person who’s worth 9 figures and up (100,000,000+), they aren’t doing anything with their money. 99% of what they spend is money from tax breaks, capital investments, and bank interest. They don’t have to touch a dime of their money because that’s the way the system they created works. Essentially they are hoarders of wealth. It sits in a bank making them richer with interest. Our financial system creates a finite amount of money. In order for mega millionaires and billionaires to exist, there has to be extreme poverty. Children have to starve. Families have to be homeless. To put it in simpler terms lets say I created my own world and named it “Socurb”. In Socurb I print out 100 dollars and that’s all the money in my fictitious world. Socurb has a population of 11 people (including myself). I can distribute that 100 dollars anyway I’d like. So let’s say I decide to keep 99 dollars for myself and let the other 10 inhabitants divide the rest among themselves.
As long I sit on my 99 dollars no one else has an opportunity to get anywhere close to my kind of wealth, and in order for me to keep my wealth I know some of the inhabitants will starve, some will decide to use force or violence to steal money from other inhabitants, and every other negative outcome that poverty produces will occur. My wealth will protect me because I can afford security and my house will be very far away from the poor people. So any crimes committed will most likely be poor people stealing from other poor people. If I see all of this going on as a result of my wealth hording and continue to hoard my wealth, what kind of person does that make me?
I believe we should look at wealth inequality as a moral issue because that’s exactly what it is. It’s completely amoral for anyone to aspire to be a billionaire. Every single person who obtains great wealth and parks it in a bank or somewhere offshore is without question amoral and is personally responsible for every child who goes to bed hungry every night, for every homeless person they pass on the street, for every death that occurs as a result of a treatable disease, every inner-city neighborhood where crime flourishes and hopelessness abounds, for every dehumanizing hoop we make the poor jump through to receive any kind of assistance. That is the cost of their wealth. So this blog is not about envy. I do not envy billionaires and I have no interest in obtaining that kind of wealth. I could not enjoy the perks of that lifestyle knowing that my money is drenched in blood. I couldn’t live with that on my conscience. Of course I’d love to be rich and I’m not knocking rich people at all. There’s a huge difference between rich and wealthy. 7 or 8 figures is rich and is a sign of a healthy meritorious financial system. Those who are creating new technology, or finding cures for disease deserve a bigger piece of the financial pie. But when a system creates consolidated wealth and distributes it to a few, that is the sign of a very unhealthy system. The larger that gap grows, the more instability and restlessness you’ll see among the 99%.
Proud supporter of Kay Hagan for North Carolina Senate. She represents the constituents of North Carolina with integrity and I believe she has earned another term in office.
Today I watched a segment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe where one of the show hosts (Mika) started a discussion about the NFL Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal. There were three other guests who took part in this discussion (Donnie Deutsch, an MSNBC contributor whose name I forgot, and a black man named Steve Stout). Mika started off the discussion with a news report saying the NFL decided to not use Rihanna’s song “Run This Town” during their game broadcast on CBS like they planned to do before the Ray Rice scandal broke out. Mika voiced her opinion that because Rihanna was assaulted by her boyfriend years ago and didn’t become a spokesperson for domestic violence, the NFL shouldn’t use her song. I think that’s pretty ridiculous and here are a few reasons why.
1. Rihanna did not choose to get assaulted by Chris Brown.
2. Rihanna’s song “Run This Town” has no controversial lyrics and it does not speak of abuse or violence.
3. Rihanna was the victim in her assault so she has every right to choose not to become a political spokes person for domestic violence. She’s an entertainer who loves to sing and perform. That is what she’s good at and we should not criticize a victim of domestic violence if they don’t want to talk about it, or if they don’t do what you want them to do.
4. The controversial song Mika was talking about was not the song the NFL was going to use, and it was not even Rihanna’s song. It was an Eminem song that featured Rihanna. It’s appalling that Mika would criticize Rihanna, a victim of domestic violence, for lyrics written by Eminem for a song that was Eminem’s. Not once did she say anything about Eminem. She decided to attack Rihanna instead.
5. In the middle of her attack against Rihanna they show a photo of Rihanna’s beaten and bruised face that was taken after her assault. This victim blaming and slut shaming has got to end. Mika should be ashamed for her behavior in that segment. I think she owe’s Rihanna and all abuse victims an apology.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Mika and the panel decided to connect hip hop with Ray Rice’s abusive behavior towards his wife. This pissed me off almost as much as their unfair treatment of Rihanna. Mika and Donnie Deutsch must think all young black men are connected and controlled by hip hop. Why else would they bring it into a discussion about Ray Rice? Many people who are not fans of hip hop think they know what the genre and the music is about. They think hip hop music is excessively violent, and promotes violence toward women. That is not what the genre or culture is about. Of course there are songs with violent lyrics, and some are derogatory toward women. But that isn’t a significant part of the music. Hip Hop is extremely diverse. There are rappers like Common, Outkast, Nas, The Roots, Black Eyed Peas, etc who are very popular and are known for their socially conscious lyrics. But Mika and Donnie aren’t listeners of the genre so they don’t have a clue. Just like some racist, they see a black man with baggy clothes and dread locks and immediately think criminal, or mistake normal everyday behavior by a black man as aggression. Like the black man who was walking around Wal-Mart talking on his cell phone while playing with a toy gun. The police are called and kill him before he could even explain the gun was a toy. It’s sad that we as black men are all painted with the same negative brush.
While discussing Ray Rice, Donnie Deutsch proclaims he’s going to end hip hop with lyrics he thinks are bad. He says Jay Z is responsible for young black men committing crimes. The music influences them to do it he says. But he has never called for Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino to stop making violent movies. This double standard is unfair and the racial implications are clear. I bet Donnie isn’t even aware that whites purchase more hip hop albums than all other races combined. Inner city crime has ZERO to do with hip hop music. Before silencing artist and trashing their 1st amendment rights, maybe we should do something about the lack of opportunity in those poor black neighborhoods. Maybe we should improve the schools in those neighborhoods. Maybe we should look at the over-policing of those neighborhoods, maybe we should stop giving tax cuts to people like Donnie and Mika and use that money to spark growth in those neighborhoods. Maybe we should stop locking up black people for things that white people get a pass on. They don’t understand that hip hop music reflects the current conditions in the artist neighborhood. Right now it’s the only outlet that gives them a platform to speak to the world. Killing the messenger will only make things worse.
My closing advice to Mika and Donnie,
1. I know young black men may scare you but every thing we do shouldn’t be viewed as aggression. Listen to some of the artist I referred to in my 2nd paragraph. Instead of watching a hip hop video, listen to the song and read the lyrics. That’s the only way you can dissociate the thug cliché you have in your head from the socially conscious artist who wrote the song.
2. Ray Rice is not a rapper. His skin color may throw you off a bit, but trust me. He’s an ex-football player who abuses women and should be in prison right now.
3. Hip Hop culture is not the same thing as black culture.
4. Hip Hop music is entertainment. Just like movies, tv, and other music genre’s, it’s an art form. Your network (MSNBC & NBC) programming depicts a lot more violence than hip hop music does. It’s incredibly hypocritical to chastise Jay Z and hip hop for its violence while being silent about the violence your network makes millions off of.
5. Football is a very violent sport. You praise them for pulling a Rihanna song because some other song she was on with another artist contained a lyric you thought was promoting violence. Your logic makes no sense and once again you’re BLAMING THE VICTIM. Stop it!
I hope my harsh critique adds some much-needed perspective so these mistakes and misrepresentations do not gain credibility. I’m actually a really big fan of Mika and she usually serves as the voice of reason on “Morning Joe”. I want everyone to understand that I am not calling Mika racist. Her misguided commentary definitely seemed out of character, so I won’t hold it against her. We all make mistakes.
The murder of unarmed 18 year old Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson Missouri has captured the attention of an entire nation. Officials with the Ferguson police department have released very few details as of yet, almost a full week later. The hoarding of investigation details in cases like this are unprecedented and against Missouri state “sunshine” laws. We do not have the initial police report. We do not have a statement from the shooting officer. We do not have his full history and background as an officer. We do not have the results of the autopsy which was concluded days ago. We do not know how many shots were fired. We do not know how many witnesses were interviewed. We do not know if the shooting officer was interviewed or interrogated following the shooting. In normal cases where a shooting leads to the death of the victim all of these facts are released to the public usually within 48 hours. Sometimes it takes longer for them to release the autopsy results but never 7 days after the death. When a police officer shoots an unarmed teen, and that same officer’s colleagues are tasked with investigating that shooting, there’s a clear conflict of interest. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for them to investigate fairly, but everyone is going to be skeptical of their findings. The people need to feel like they are being treated fairly. That is why any investigation should be as clear and transparent as possible to show that community that they can be trusted. But when you withhold evidence, findings, and reports without an explanation as to why, that can inflame tensions and breed further distrust. Everything the Ferguson police department has done so far clearly shows that they are not going to be fair with their investigation, and their goal is not about justice or presenting the truth. Their only goal is to protect the officer who shot and killed an unarmed teenager.
Whether or not Michael Brown’s family will see justice for the murder of their son remains to be seen. All of the evidence and details are not out yet. From everything I’ve heard so far it seems as though the officer was not in fear for his life, and he had no reason to take the life of Michael Brown. But that is my opinion, and not fact. It’s important to not rush to judgement in a case like this. So instead of blogging about whether the shooting was justified or not, I want to start a different conversation about perceptions vs reality and how perceptions get warped and manipulated over time and how perceptions can morph into reality both physically and even more interesting, mentally.
Right after news of this shooting started to become national, people were politicizing it. People felt like you had to take sides. We have such a juvenile simplistic way we go about looking at the world and everything in it. Everything has to be good or evil, hero’s or villains. The news media does this as well. I’m not sure if they are reflecting the public’s habit of doing this, or if they are the cause of this. I’m sure that’s a question that can’t be answered in just one blog post. But I do want to talk about our habit of doing this as individuals. Immediately following the shooting most news outlets presented the facts that were apparent. 1 – Unarmed black teenager gets shot multiple times by white police officer in broad daylight. 2 – Unarmed teen had both his hands up as the officer continued to shoot him until his body fell to the ground. 3 – Black citizens of Ferguson felt unfairly and disproportionately policed by local officers. 4 – Unarmed teen Michael Brown just graduated high school and had plans to start his first day of college the day after his death. 5 – Due to a long history of abuse at the hands of police, black people have an inherent distrust of them.
Those were the set of facts being presented at that time. We are programmed to find the hero and the villain in this situation (consciously or unconsciously). A majority of Americans would say Michael is the hero/victim so the cop must be the villain. Then there are those who are sympathetic to the (sometime) dangerous job of a police officer. They have this picture of what a young black male is. They see all of us as threatening, uneducated criminals. So after they hear the initial report they cast the officer as the hero and the unarmed teenager as the villain. As more details and information slowly leak out over the days following the shooting, people have already decided who’s the hero and who’s the villain. So every news story that reinforces their belief of who’s the hero and villain they believe it. Every news story that contradicts their hero villain pick gets ignored or rejected. This simplistic way of casting hero’s and villains have nothing to do with education. Right after the Zimmerman trial concluded I had a friend send me a link with a small note attached. He read my blog about the trial entitled “No Justice For Trayvon”. He wanted me to click the link and read some things about Trayvon Martin that I did not know. I clicked the link and ended up at a “News Of The World” page. They are a ridiculous internet tabloid who ran stories like President Obama gay, Michelle Obama is really a transgender man, and another story about lizard people infiltrating our government (just to name a few). So I read the Trayvon Martin piece they wrote. In it they said Trayvon was arrested 6 times, Trayvon raped a classmate of his, Trayvon was a drug dealer, Trayvon had guns, etc etc. Everything that defines the “thug” stereotype was in that bullshit article. Needless to say, none of it was true, and the source has serious credibility issues. But what shocked me more was the fact that my friend/acquaintance believed it all. He’s a very intelligent doctor but he still got duped by that website. YES, A DOCTOR. He got duped because he looked at Trayvon and saw a criminal. Trayvon fit the profile he had in his mind of someone capable of everything they claimed in that bs article. The story from that website reinforced who he already casted (in his mind) as the villain… Treyvon.
This hero villain casting started the moment you first heard about the Michael Brown shooting. Then a few days into the investigation Ferguson’s police chief decides to release a video tape that allegedly shows Michael Brown stealing some cigars from a convenience store. Some didn’t want to believe it was Michael, and others thought it verified what they already believed about young black males. If a police officer shot him, he must have done something wrong. For the people who cast him as the hero, it dulls the sense of injustice they first felt for Michael at the beginning. They won’t come out and say that outright, but you’ll notice a change in the level of their activism. They’ll stop talking about Michael’s shooting as much and pivot to a more generalized issue like police brutality, the militarization of police, or the relationship between the black community and the police. All of these are legitimate social ill’s that we need to be talking about and working to change, but what about Michael? Him being killed unarmed with his hands up in the air? The officer unloading his weapon shooting Michael Brown multiple times until he was dead and on the ground? The officers leaving his body in the middle of the street for four full hours as the blood drained from each bullet wound while the people of the neighborhood looked on in horror? What about all of that? How does a video tape of Michael stealing some cigars change your feelings about his life being taken needlessly? Michael was 18. Just beginning to enter adulthood. That video doesn’t define who he was, and it doesn’t define the man he would have grown up to be.
We are all human and every human being on this planet has made stupid mistakes at some point in their life. Especially as teenagers. I know 4 white girls who I went to school with got caught shoplifting in walmart. All 4 came from good families and did it just as a dare. They got caught but no charges were ever filed. They got to go home to their parents and I’m sure it scared them enough not to try it again. One of those girls is a dentist now. I’m sure that incident in Walmart has nothing to do with their character as adults. In that same Wal Mart two male black teenagers I knew through friends got caught shoplifting a few months after my classmates got caught. But this time it was a totally different story. They got arrested and lead away in handcuffs. They both spent the night in jail because their parents couldn’t get bail money. Both guys took a deal that included no jail time but records of their arrest will show up every time someone does a background check on them. That one stupid decision to steal something at 17 years old will haunt them for the rest of their lives. It will be harder for them to find employment, harder to lease an apartment, harder to buy a house or borrow money, and even take away their right to vote before they were old enough to vote. Michael Brown’s alleged crime does not define who he is, does not define who he was, and does not predict what kind of person he would have grown up to be. His youthful indiscretion and temporary lack of judgement does not make him a villain and it most certainly does not mean it’s ok for police to kill him for it.
*Michael Brown’s family is going through some pretty rough times right now. If you’re not able to join the protest or attend a rally, here’s another way to show your support. Donate some money to the Michael Brown Memorial Fund at http://www.gofundme.com/justiceformikebrown