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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
Before i begin this blog post i feel i need to preface it with some important factors to keep in mind while reading it. I am a very proud and vocal member of the Democratic party and even though I’m about to share some harsh critiques about my party and some of its representatives, I feel even at their worst they are still miles ahead of any republican at their best. Now, i felt I had to say that because it was needed to put things in the proper context.
The country-wide debate of New York’s “Stop and Frisk” policy that unfairly targets African American and Latino males has uncovered something surprising about my fellow liberals. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the Trayvon Martin shooting and racial profiling titled “No Justice For Trayvon”. In that blog I highlighted how some whites perceptions of young African American males are based on a subconscious irrational fear that makes them see those males as potential criminals. This is true for both conservative and liberal whites although that perception may be slightly more common among conservatives. After a court ruled that NY’s “Stop and Frisk” policy was unconstitutional and a violation of American civil rights it sparked a huge national debate about the ruling and NY mayor Michael Bloomberg’s defense of the program. Those who supported the policy pointed to the low crime rate in the city which they attributed to Stop and Frisk. To me and a lot of African Americans it sounded like they were saying it’s ok to violate a young black male’s civil rights if it makes whites feel less fearful. That was a huge insult unto itself but what came after that was even more insulting. They tried to spin it in the media by saying the policy is in place to protect African American’s living in poor neighborhoods. African American’s translated this to mean they were racially profiling and violating our rights for our own good. Like a parent punishing a petulant child. To me that insult was beyond disgusting because segregationist used the exact same language in the 1950’s to defend Jim Crow. I felt it necessary to write this blog because there were some very important points that were never articulated in the media and among pundits. Watching panel discussions on MSNBC and CNN became tortuous for me. I found myself screaming my points to the tv like they could hear me. Since I’m not a cable tv news political pundit or host, my blog will have to suffice (lol).
The first and most important point I want to make is about those who think Stop and Frisk is necessary. In order to support stop and frisk you have to believe that race determines behavior. How else can you believe that stopping and searching African American’s and Latino’s almost exclusively is acceptable and necessary to prevent crime. This is a hard truth but it needs to be addressed so we can fix it and move on. I’m sure stop and frisk supporters do not want to ask themselves that question. Especially liberals and cable news pundits like those on MSNBC. Don’t get me wrong I love watching MSNBC because I like their reporting of political news and I’ve come to respect the on-air talent. One of my favorites is Chris Matthews the host of Hardball. He’s a moderate democrat with an astute political mind. His views usually mirror my own, but his coverage and views of Stop and Frisk has been very disappointing. Watching him interview pundits has exposed his support for the policy. Time after time he’s expressed fear of New York returning to the violent city it was in the 1970’s and 80’s. When one of his guest presented the idea of stopping more than just blacks and Latino’s Chris likened it to searching grandma at the airport for explosives. When Michael Smirconish guest hosted Chris’s Hardball he was a lot more vocal in his support for the policy. I naively thought progressives would see this Stop and Frisk policy for what it was. Racial profiling, unconstitutional, a severe violation of civil rights, a throw-back to Jim Crow, and just plain wrong. If equality, your personal ethics, and basic human fairness weren’t enough to convince you that this law is racist and unjust, take a look at the stats and ask yourself is this an effective use of police time and resources. According to a study done by the Center For Constitutional Rights during the year 2011 NYPD officers stopped and frisked a total of 636,288 people. Out of those 636,288 stops, 574,483 were African American and Latino. That’s a shocking 87%. Out of those 574,483 minorities only 2% were found to have contraband. TWO PERCENT!!!!!! Under any other circumstances this program would have been rejected years ago due to it’s ineffectiveness.
When you take an objective look at the overwhelming evidence against Stop and Frisk you have to ask yourself why is mayor Bloomberg fighting so hard to keep this in place and why are some white liberals like Chris Matthews and Michael Smirconish vocally supporting the policy or at the very least why aren’t they vocally advocating for its demise. I think the answer can be found in my Trayvon Martin blog titled “No Justice For Trayvon”. They see all young black males as potential criminals, and Stop and Frisk placates this irrational fear. I’m not saying these people are intentional racist. I believe they’ve been conditioned to think about young black males in that way. Their subconscious has made this connection and every crime committed by a young black male reinforces that belief. It’s very disappointing to see so many of my fellow democrats quietly supporting this vile version of institutionalized racism knowing it dehumanizes an entire race of people. Extremely disappointing. Unfortunately this race behavior linkage is perpetuated by the language we use when talking about inner city crime and violence. When we use terms like “the black community” it lumps all blacks together. Even the president has made this mistake. He said we need to address the crime and violence problem within the black community. But this problem mainly exist in the inner city. So instead of lumping all blacks together, he should have said we need to address the crime and violence happening in the inner city. I do not live in the inner city and I have never been involved in any crime. I’m a college educated law abiding citizen who lives on the coast of North Carolina. I have absolutely nothing in common with a violent gang member hundreds of miles away in Detroit. But since we share the same skin color I’m treated like a suspected criminal and I’m supposed to accept that. It’s ridiculous and extremely frustrating.
I’d like to share one more observation that no one else has brought up. The Stop and Frisk policy was built on a supreme court ruling that relaxed the rules for search and seizure when an officer believes a suspect may have a gun. Before this ruling law enforcement could not stop and search random citizens without a clear and articulatable reason. But Bloomberg found a way around the 4th amendment by using that supreme court case. He argued that NY police could stop and search anyone they wanted to and justify it by saying they thought the person had a firearm. My question is why aren’t the NRA (National Rifle Association) out lobbing to end Stop and Frisk? It goes against the very rights they say they are protecting. The right to own a firearm and the right to carry a firearm without being searched by police hoping to find and confiscate a legally owned firearm. The lack of action from their organization shows an obvious racial prejudice in the way they choose issues to speak out against. I sent this question to the head of the NRA but got no response in return. The lack of response makes me think my suspicions are valid.
As a result of discriminatory policing practices like stop and frisk, New Yorkers feel as if their communities are under siege. To learn more about the human impact of these practices, visit www.stopandfrisk.org.
A few weeks after I published this blog post I got the chance to ask MSNBC show host Chris Matthews where he stands on Stop and Frisk. In my blog post I stated that he seemed to support Stop and Frisk. It was very easy to draw this conclusion because he never condemned the policy and never once called it unconstitutional. Instead he would share his fear of New York’s crime rate returning to the very high levels the city had in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Here’s a link to read his response: http://sociallyurban.com/reply-headlines/chris-matthews-response/
When will conservatives stop listening to conservative media (Fox News & Limbaugh) and conservative politicians? How many times do they have to be wrong before their base starts to question their credibility? I know most liberals are well aware of the many conservative media lies that show up frequently in their reporting, but for those who watch conservative media exclusively I’m not so sure they know when they are being lied to. In recent history Fox News and their pundits have been proven wrong on a number of issues, and proven wrong in a big public way. First let’s start with the 2012 presidential election. All of conservative media which includes Fox, bloggers, columnist, radio personalities, religious leaders etc told their audience over and over again that Mitt Romney was going to win in a huge landslide. Even though every single poll projected President Obama as the winner. They duped their audience into ignoring the polls by telling them that all the polls were rigged by the liberal media to favor President Obama. Then on election night Obama wins with a very comfortable lead and Fox’s viewers were in shock because they all had their trust in a news network that was supposed to be “fair and balanced” as their slogan proclaims. You’d think a gaff that big would at least warrant some kind of apology… but surprisingly none were offered. For several months leading up to the election all of conservative media trotted out a number of big company ceo’s from across the nation to warn voters of the grave consequences that awaited them if President Obama won reelection. All of the ceo’s said the stock market would take a huge dive, they would have to lay off thousands of employees, they would have to close plants, interest rates would skyrocket, etc etc etc. These guys weren’t saying these things may happen, they were saying emphatically these things will happen. Now that we’re almost one year into President Obama’s second term we saw none of those doom and gloom predictions materialize. In fact quite the opposite. The stock market is surging at an all time high. Company’s are reporting record breaking profits. Unemployment has seen a slow but steady decline, but still no apology from any of those who made the misleading comments… not even an explanation as to why they got things wrong. I’m not even going to get into the many many many lies they’ve reported about Obamacare. For that I’d need at least 3 or 4 blog entries to properly address it. Fox has a habit of reporting misinformation to manipulate their viewers and sadly they continue to do this.
Watching the way conservative media has covered the murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman has been an eye opening experience for me. I have never seen the murderer of a teenager get embraced by a political party, a television network, and major radio personalities before. George Zimmerman was hailed as a hero to these sick minds. The Trayvon Martin shooting brought out the absolute worst in conservative media. Normally they would dance around race and use euphemisms and code words to keep plausible deniability just in case someone tried to call them out on it. But during the Zimmerman trial they threw caution to the wind and flew their confederate flag high. Bill O’Riley, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh all warned their viewers that if Zimmerman got acquitted African American’s would riot. They all reported this over and over again for a whole week. But hearing them say that made me realize they actually believe the racist crap they report. They believe every black man is a suspect and should be treated as such. They saw the whole black community in the same way that George Zimmerman saw Trayvon Martin… as a criminal. I knew there weren’t going to be any riots, and so did every other black person, but those who buy into ugly racist stereotypes talked about it like it was a forgone conclusion. Then the verdict came and surprise surprise NO RIOTS. There were plenty of civil protest but no riots. You’d think after being wrong about that they would stop warning their audience about scary black riots… right? No, of course that didn’t stop them. Truth and facts never gets in the way of reporting at Fox News. Over the weekend Reverend Al Sharpton and the parents of Trayvon organized rally’s in major cities all over the country. Sean Hannity again predicted violence and anti-white demonstrations. He even went as far as to warn his audience to expect a race riot if these Trayvon rallies continue. And again he was proven wrong. Thousands of black and white people gathered together all over the country for rallies and speeches and not one incident of violence of any kind. This is the second time Fox has promised racial violence and were 100% wrong. When are their viewers going to hold them accountable? When are conservatives going to demand the truth from the people they support. How many times do they have to be proven wrong before people start to see them as tired outdated racist clichés who are always part of the problem instead of being part of the solution?
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” – Albert Einstein
TO FIND MORE CONSERVATIVE MEDIA LIES DEBUNKED VISIT THIS SITE: http://mythopedia.mediamatters.org/
I’ve noticed something very strange and troubling going on in African American social media and entertainment blogs. I’ve watched it grow over the past year hoping it would die down and people would come to their senses but surprisingly it has only grown bigger and it’s beginning to cross over into mainstream media. I’m talking about the myth of the Illuminati. Somehow rumors began to spread online that certain famous, powerful and wealthy African American’s all were a part of and owed their success to the Illuminati. Some nutcase African American bloggers began to analyze lyrics by people like Jay Z, Kayne West, Beyonce, 50 Cent, and P Diddy (among others) and use random words and lines from their songs as proof of their affiliation with the occult, and a lot of their African American readers fell for it. They’ve come up with all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories about Oprah, Sam Jackson, and Lebron James which in a way robs them of their success. It feeds into a long-held racist notion that successful African Americans aren’t responsible for their success. Not their intelligence, nor their talent or hard work. Those pathways to success are never questioned with whites. I challenge readers to do a quick google search for any famous or successful African American and attach the word “illuminati” behind it. You’ll have pages and pages of nonsensical conspiracy theories about all of them (please hold all searches until after you’ve finished reading my blog lol).
Here’s why this frustrates me so much. We have enough obstacles & real issues to deal with. There’s no need to add an imaginary one to that list. The Illuminati and satan aren’t the one’s making laws that are designed to lock up as many Black men as possible. They aren’t trying to disenfranchise minority voters to keep them from the polls. They aren’t keeping your wages low while rewarding a few at the top with the profit from your blood sweat & tears. They aren’t destroying our neighborhoods with liquor stores & fast food joints at every corner. They aren’t killing our youth for wearing hoodies & racially profiling them because of race. The people doing all this are real. When we’re not focused on reality the real life villain’s get away while injustice not only survives, it flourishes. People like Roger Ailes, Charles & David Koch, Michael Bloomberg, Art Pope, Rush Limbaugh are real people causing unimaginable problems for our community. Not satan Not the Illuminati. It’s time to be adults and stop believing in the boogie man. So the next time you hear one of your friends repeating some dumb rumor about the illuminati being involved in the struggles in the African American community, please please please try to educate them. Can you imagine what might happen if the entire community started to focus their attention on something real?… exactly, so WAKE UP!!!
The verdict for the George Zimmerman trial is in and a jury of his peers has found him not guilty of murder 2 as well as not guilty of manslaughter. Although I am saddened and deeply disappointed in this verdict, if you look at how the law is written and the instructions given to this jury I do not think they had any other choice. I know there’s a lot of people who will find fault with the jury, some will find fault with the presentation of the prosecution’s case, some will find fault with the strategy used by the defense and there are legitimate arguments for all of those points, but the real injustice of this case and verdict has nothing to do with any of those. The real injustice of the Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman case occurred when racial profiling intersected with legal self defense… here’s what I mean: All that is needed to convert a cold blooded murder into a justifiable homicide when evoking self defense is a reasonable fear that your life is in eminent danger. Whether that fear was real or imagined does not matter and whether you initiated the confrontation does not matter. Legally all that matters is your fear. There’s no refuting the fact that Trayvon was racially profiled by George Zimmerman. It’s disgusting, it’s horrible it’s morally wrong but believe it or not racial profiling is 100% legal. Racial profiling is openly used by law enforcement every single day. In this country racial stereotypes and assumptions are ingrained and reinforced in the psyche and subconscious of most Americans and rarely even challenged because they are presented as fact. Here are a few examples. If you ask most people (both African American and white) who they think benefits more from government assistance and food stamps, almost all of them would say African Americans benefit the most. But that is not true at all. According to the 2010 US Census 33% of whites were receiving government assistance via food stamps while 22% of African Americans received them (http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0572.pdf). Another example of this racial perception vs reality shows up when people are asked about drug abuse. Again, the public perception would have you believe that African American’s are more likely to be drug users than whites. And again, this is not true. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/NSDUH-M9-Youth-Apps-2012.pdf), researchers found that 9% of white young adults struggled with drug abuse while only 5% of African American young adults had substance abuse problems . I’m not pointing this data out to say white people are bad and African Americans are good or maybe not as bad. In fact I’m sure I could find studies and research that will show African American’s in a much harsher light in other areas when compared to whites. But when we use racial profiling and let racial stereotypes stand unchallenged, we create a situation where African American youth are arrested for drug crimes at a rate ten times higher than that of whites despite proven research that says they abuse drugs much less. We get right-wing media and politicians telling their base that African Americans are dependent on food stamps which implies African Americans are the only recipients despite facts that says otherwise. We get people like George Zimmerman shooting and killing an unarmed teenager without having to serve a single day in prison. I can’t say whether or not Mr Zimmerman is a racist because I do not know this man. It’s very possible that he was unaware of his racial profiling of Trayvon. Something in his subconscious labeled Trayvon as a criminal the moment he laid eyes on him and in that very moment George Zimmerman decided he was going to catch a criminal and be the hero of the neighborhood.
I’ve heard a lot of different opinions from friends and family since this case became a national story. I’ve argued in forums, I’ve read countless news stories, and I’ve watch pundit after pundit comment and editorialize. Anyone who says this case isn’t about race is extremely naive or horribly uninformed. Race was evident in almost every discussion I took part in. Almost all African Americans were saying Zimmerman was guilty, but most whites did not share that opinion. This puzzled me for a while because some of my white friends also thought Zimmerman should be found not guilty. Maybe if I didn’t know them I could chalk their opinion up to racism and dismiss it, but these were people who I knew were not racist at all. Not even close to being racist. So there had to be some other explanation as to why the opinions about George Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence usually divided straight down racial lines. This became very clear during the last day of the trial when I watched the defense give their closing. At the end of his speech to the jury, defense attorney Mark O’Mara held up a picture of Trayvon Martin. It was a picture of Trayvon shirtless with a baseball cap. Mr O’Mara held up that picture and said to an almost all white jury this is who George Zimmerman encountered that night. At that very moment I knew what the verdict would be. I knew what Mr O’Mara hoped to do with that picture. He wanted the jury to put themselves in George Zimmerman’s shoes that night. And that’s exactly what the jury did. I bet every single woman on that jury would be scared to death if they encountered an African American male in the dark of night alone. The scary big black criminal rapist is the image they have been taught to fear their whole lives. That fear is in the subconscious of every white woman in this country whether they know it or not. As an African American man I have witnessed countless examples of this irrational fear. I’m 5’6” 125lbs always impeccably dressed and I’ve had white women that would not get on the elevator in my doctors office when they see me in it. I’ve seen white women rush back to their unattended handbags in their shopping carts when they see me coming down the aisle at the grocery store. I’ve heard car doors lock as I pass them in a parking lot. A majority of these women are most likely not racist at all. They have been conditioned to fear black men. When African American’s see the pictures of Trayvon they see their brother, or their cousin, or their son, but when most white people look at pictures of Trayvon they see a thug, a criminal, a drug user, or a drug dealer which is further evidence of their conditioning.
The thing that scares me and should scare a lot of other young African American males is now this acquittal of George Zimmerman says to America that your irrational fear of African American men is enough to justify cold blooded murder no matter the circumstances. The precedent has been set. Take racial profiling, add irrational fear, plus self defense and you got a legal way to kill as many black men as you want. What a fucked up reality in which we live.