I Die a Little Bit Each Day

by Guest Contributor Aaron Goggans, originally published at The Well Examined Life

I can barely express the depth of the pain and the anger I feel right now. I feel so helpless and powerless and hated. I feel so constantly plagued by doubt. I am constantly being messaged that I am a problem that society has yet to find a solution for. This world seems so afraid of me and what I will do next…so why am I the one paralyzed by fear? Why I am I the one afraid to walk down the street at night? Why am I the one that nearly has a panic attack every time I see the police? How it is it possible that I am this powerful, haunting menace that America fears so deeply yet am so…powerless.

They tell me that I’m different. That my family made it. That my parents got out of the hood and moved to a white town and sent me to a good school. They are constantly messaging to me that I’m the epitome of the Black middle class success story. Young, no kids, no record, employed with benefits and a future. The cops have never thrown me up against the wall. I’ve never been stopped or frisked. I’ve never been shot at. I’ve never been seriously questioned by the police. It is supposed to make me feel safe. I’m supposed to understand the plight of the ghetto is not my plight. I’m supposed to feel pride that I’m not one of them. Yet I feel that all this messaging of success is a lie.

I remember the cops following me through campus at the University of Chicago. I remember them eying me as a group of white students walked towards me. They drove off when it was clear that I was not going to rob anybody. I get the sense, its imaginary I know, but I get this sense that the Black cop in the police car were surprised or disappointed or even anxious that I didn’t hurt anyone. As they drove off, I wondered if that cop wanted to prove he wasn’t one of them too? Continue reading

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#ThisStopsToday: Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision Adds More Fuel To Protests Nationwide

A day after a grand jury decided not to indict a New York City police officer in connection with the death of Eric Garner, protests calling for justice in his name — alongside that of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Tanisha Anderson and others — have been scheduled in cities around this country beginning on Thursday.

We’ve listed some of them below, per information from the Ferguson National Response Network. While the #ICantBreathe tag was used extensively for Wednesday night’s protests in New York City, organizers are using the tags #ThisStopsToday and #JusticeForEricGarner for this weekend’s actions. If you know of any in your area, you are encouraged to list it in the comments.

All Times Local

  • Detroit: Campus Maritius Park, 800 Woodward Ave., 12:03 p.m.
  • Durham: Duke University Chapel Lawn, 401 Chapel Dr., 1:45 p.m.
  • Washington, D.C.: Justice Department building, 950 Pennsylvania, Ave. NW, 4 p.m.
  • Houston: Houston Police Department, 1200 Travis St., 4:30 p.m.
  • Note: A separate action in Houston is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Sarah D. Roosevelt Park, on Houston between Forsyth and Christie.
  • Baltimore: McKeldin Square, intersection of Light St. and Pratt, 5 p.m.
  • Atlanta: Downtown Underground, 50 Upper Alabama St., 5:30 p.m.
  • Indianapolis: 1 Monument Circle, 5:30 p.m.
  • New York City: Foley Square, 111 Worth St., 5:30 p.m.
  • Boston: Boston Common, Park St. entrance, across from the Lowes movie theatre, 7 p.m.
  • Dallas: Dallas Police Department, 1400 S. Lamar St., 7:30 p.m.

The full listing can be found at the Ferguson National Response Network website.

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White Privilege in Spanish

By Guest Contributor Ray Heath

After hearing that a grand jury decided not to indict Mike Brown’s killer, I took some time to meditate, cry, be angry, and shake my fist at the sky. I thought I was okay. But this morning when I got up and did my morning meditation, the tears came back again. They wouldn’t stop. On my way to work, my steps felt heavy, weary. I kept seeing my grandmother’s face, my father’s face, my brothers… I kept thinking about all the Black lives that have been stolen over the years. By the time I got to work, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stay. Which brought on the next challenge of the day: how to explain to my white boss that I was going to need to take a personal day.

Let me explain. I live in Mexico. And while I read the news every morning to keep abreast of what is happening in my country, most people here are not so diligent. Many keep up on their local news and the national headlines, and occasionally the U.S. will make a decision that appears on that little ticker tape that runs at the bottom of the nightly news, but otherwise there’s not much talk of foreign affairs.

Add to that the fact that very few people have a context for the institutionalized racism that still perpetuates itself in the U.S. today, and you can begin to see the trouble a very emotional me faced in trying to explain why I was not going to be able to stay at work. You see this is the perfect environment to shed obligation. When in Mexico, be in Mexico. And I suppose some people will wonder why I even bother keeping up on the news, but my family still lives stateside. What happens in the news affects them, which means it affects me.
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Quoted: Chris Rock on Race and “Progress”

What would you do in Ferguson that a standard reporter wouldn’t?

I’d do a special on race, but I’d have no black people.

Well, that would be much more revealing.

Yes, that would be an event. Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.

Right. It’s ridiculous.

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

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The worst reactions to John Boyega’s appearance in the Star Wars Teaser

This story is best read with the appropriate musical accompanyment:

ONE YEAR BEFORE EPISODE SEVEN

It was a momentous occasion. The sight of John Boyega in the first moments of the teaser for “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” was a victory — a much-needed statement after the parade of racist caricatures that haunted the series’ three prequels, and a sign that director J.J. Abrams could really be on the right track toward blunting the memory of Jar-Jar Binks from fans’ minds.

But Boyega’s appearance also caused an ugliness to stir from within the Internet’s own hives of scum and villainy — comments sections and the most basic of Twitter accounts — from people who are apparently ready to believe in 7-foot wooly smugglers, diminutive green mystics and swords made of light that are drawn from a person’s connection to an all-encompassing universal essence, while being aghast at the thought that a member of a galactic military brigade can be Black.

As The Mary Sue reported, just seeing Boyega was enough to scare people. Consider these no-doubt well-adjusted individuals:

These bros are apparently freaking out because Boyega appears wearing Stormtrooper armor. This ignores the fact that Jango Fett, the bounty hunter who provided the blueprint for the original troopers, was played by Temuera Morrison, who is of Maori, Irish and Scottish descent. These “fans” also forgot that the actor who played the young Boba Fett, Daniel Logan, is also Maori.

As The Atlantic points out, there’s also an in-canon reason for Boyega to play a Stormtrooper (that is, unless his character is just posing as one):

Even if Morrison and Fett (and all of his clones) choose to pass as white, by the time of the events of “Episode IV: A New Hope,” the Empire has been recruiting from general populations for years. That’s why it makes sense that a young Luke Skywalker, lured by a galaxy larger than the humble moisture farm he calls home on Tatooine, dreams of enlisting in the Imperial Navy.

Luckily, Boyega himself is handling things just fine, going by this Instagram post over the weekend:

On the plus side, we now have an idea of how comments section racists are going to react whenever Lupita Nyong’o appears in any of the Episode VII trailers:

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Weekend Reads

Can Whole Foods Change the Way Poor People Eat? [Slate]

Where Robb went to Detroit to bridge the gap in food access between rich and poor, Detroit’s city planners saw Whole Foods as a way to not only serve its longstanding middle class, but to expand it. In short, they wanted the store to serve as a catalyst for gentrification. Whole Foods was more than a potential employer for the 15 percent of Detroiters who were unemployed (and the 46 percent who’d stopped looking for work entirely);⁠ and it was more than a new option for the Detroiters spending $200 million a year on groceries outside the city. It was, in the words of the city’s economic development head, a potential “game-changer” for the city.

“Gentrification brings in revenue. That’s the tax base that we need to pay for city services,” George Jackson, the president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, told me in the summer of 2013. (After a new mayor assumed office in January 2014, Jackson resigned.) For DEGC, a quasi-public agency in charge of overseeing economic strategy for the city, Whole Foods’ allure was less about groceries and more about development. A successful premium grocer would make Detroit more appealing to middle-class and upper-class professionals—and to executives looking for a viable place to do business—helping the city as a whole.

Telling My Son About Ferguson by Michelle Alexander [New York Times]

My son wants an answer. He is 10 years old, and he wants me to tell him that he doesn’t need to worry. He is a black boy, rather sheltered, and knows little of the world beyond our safe, quiet neighborhood. His eyes are wide and holding my gaze, silently begging me to say: No, sweetheart, you have no need to worry. Most officers are nothing like Officer Wilson. They would not shoot you — or anyone — while you’re unarmed, running away or even toward them.

I am stammering.

Teaching our sons to be afraid is not the answer to cops who shoot children by Latoya Peterson [Guardian]

But the amount of love we feel right now is tempered by fear that I might lose Gavin too soon – and not to an accident, or even to local violence, but rather to the bullets of law enforcement. Continue reading

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#WeAreAllNatives Parody Ad Skewers Cultural Appropriation

Comedy troupe Stupid Time Machine just released a great parody ad in time for Thanksgiving. In their words:

A Thanksgiving ad for Urban Outfiter’s new We Are All Natives collection – “Indian wear for the rest of us.” Filmed on spec by sketch comedy group Stupid Time Machine, the parody urges Urban – already famous for their controversial Kent State Massacre and The Holocaust Themed Apparel – to tap into something hipsters can’t get enough of: white people in headdresses.

(Thanks to CJ for the tip!)

Dear-White-People

The Producer and the Anarchist: Dear White People’s Critique and Vision of Film

by Guest Contributor Mario Fitzgerald

In one of the many footnotes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Yunior opines:

“Rushdie claims that tyrants and scribblers are natural antagonists, but I think that’s too simple; it lets writers off pretty easy. Dictators, in my opinion, just know competition when they see it. Same with writers. Like, after all, recognizes like.”

Through the mind of Yunior, Junot Diaz expresses a core truth about writing: Despite being a tool of dissent for justice and equality, writing is also a powerful and thoroughly successful method of erasure, revision, and domination.

Through his first feature film, Dear White People, director Justin Simien has demonstrated how film can similarly be a tool for either justice or domination. Through the characters of Helmut West, a reality television show producer and Sam White, an independent documentary filmmaker, Justin Simien dramatizes the different ways in which the film industry has responded to racism and white supremacy.

Helmut West drifts in and out of the film searching for “conflicts” on the campus of Winchester University from which he can create a reality television show. Despite the title of the film directing viewers’ attention towards the many documented micro-aggressions of White characters towards the film’s Black characters, West is a Black man.

His presence raises a critique against the constant search for anti-Black racist acts committed by White people rather than manifestations of White supremacist thinking which, as bell hooks has so eloquently written, operates within us all. Continue reading

Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World