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Walking while black can get you dead, or in jail

Commentary by Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver Velez

We've all heard the tragic news about Trayvon Martin.


There have been calls for justice and now the Justice Department and the FBI are stepping in.


But Trayvon is dead, justice won't bring back the dead, dry his families tears or wash away the pain.

Perhaps this tragic murder will raise awareness, and change the rules, and  prevent other deaths-but I'm not particularly hopeful.

That doesn't mean we should stop fighting against this crap. I'm just sad and angry.

This situation is not new.  

This situation is not about social class.

This is about racism.  

Racial profiling.

That's why members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Hispanic caucus have called for the Justice Department to step in.

They know this is not an isolated incident.

So do all of us who have ever been racially profiled, or have friends and family who've committed the "crime" of being the wrong color.

Ironically, though news reports keep referring to the "gated community" Trayvon was staying in-as if somehow his being black in a white (gated implies that) area was why George Zimmerman was "duly suspicious".  Anyone listening to the 911 tapes, finally released can hear that his suspicions were simply "black kid walking in the rain wearing a hoodie". See Meteor Blades diary about other things that a close listen to the tapes reveals.

But the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes isn't all white.

Census figures show Retreat at Twin Lakes is 49 percent white, non-Hispanic, 23 percent Hispanic, 20 percent African-American and 5 percent Asian.
Sanford Florida has a history of racial tension.

Population demographic for the zip code for Sanford  show:

Race in zip code 32771

White:    16,771 (55.00%)
Black:    12,137 (39.81%)
Hispanic:    1,751 (5.74%)
Asian:    237 (0.78%)
Native (American Indian, Alaska Native, Hawaiian Native, etc.):    138 (0.45%)
One Race, Other:    717 (2.35%)
Two or More Races:    491 (1.61%)

The town of Sanford is known for its racist past, it was founded by laborers in the late 19th century, and Goldsboro, once an active center of black life, became the second town in Florida incorporated by blacks.

But in 1911, Sanford stripped Goldsboro of its charter and took it over. The streets, named after its black pioneers, were immediately renamed.

Ulysees Cunningham, an 80-year-old retired contractor, has lived in Sanford for most of his life and remembers the days of segregation very well.

The Sanford police also has a checkered past. Scandals involving former police chiefs, along with shootings of other black victims have garnered questions about how the Sanford police conduct their investigations.

Zimmerman, the shooter, was not following Neighborhood Watch procedures
"There is no reason in the world to carry a gun for Neighborhood Watch," said Chris Tutko, a retired police chief who now directs Neighborhood Watch for the sheriffs' association. "It gets people more into trouble than out of it."

A manual published by the association for its "USAonWatch" program makes that very clear.

"It should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers and they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles," the manual states. "Members should never confront suspicious persons who could be armed and dangerous."

So, if I'm black, and male in an integrated neighborhood - I can still be shot in cold blood.

The Sanford Florida police, and other departments like them around this country (including NYC which has a horrific history of racial profiling and killings of unarmed people of color) need to be called on the carpet, investigated and changed.

This is an issue we must all take on.  

One of the most widely circulated cover stories from the Village Voice-over a decade ago was
Walking While Black: The Bill of Rights for Black Men.

Written by Bryonn Bain, who is now a prison activist and hip hop artist, Bain at the time was attending Harvard Law school taking a course called "Critical Perspectives on the Law." He submitted it for publication at the suggestion of his professor, Lani Guinier.

Bain tells the story of his unlawful arrest "armed only with sandwiches and Snapples".
Not Skittles, and lucky for Bain, the white bouncer from a club who grabbed him was not George Zimmerman.

***Note I am not going to edit the "N" word out of this piece and will leave it as it was published in the VV. I suggest that you read the full piece.  

Amendment I:
Congress can make no law altering the established fact that a black man is a nigger.

Amendment II:
The right of any white person to apprehend a nigger will not be infringed.

Amendment III:
No nigger shall, at any time, fail to obey any public authority figures—even when beyond the jurisdiction of their authority.

Amendment IV:
The fact that a Black man is a nigger is sufficient probable cause for him to be searched and seized.

Amendment V:
Any nigger accused of a crime is to be punished without any due process whatsoever.

Amendment VI:
In all prosecutions of niggers, their accuser shall enjoy the right of a speedy apprehension. While the accused nigger shall enjoy a dehumanizing and humiliating arrest.

Amendment VII:
Niggers must remain within the confines of their own neighborhoods. Those who do not are clearly looking for trouble.
Amendment VIII:
Wherever niggers are causing trouble, arresting any nigger at the scene of the crime is just as good as arresting the one actually guilty of the crime in question.

Amendment IX:
Niggers will never be treated like full citizens in America—no matter how hard they work to improve their circumstances.

Amendment X:
A nigger who has no arrest record just hasn't been caught yet.

So walking while black, or driving while black (or Latino or Native American or Muslim etc) can get you busted.

It can also be fatal.

We have a long list of those fatalities. Most of us will not forget murders by police.

In the late 1990s, three victims of police brutality made headlines around the country: Amadou Diallo, the young West African man whose killing sparked intense public protest; Anthony Baez, killed in an illegal choke-hold, and Gary (Gidone) Busch, a Hasidic Jew shot and killed outside his Brooklyn home. "Every Mother's Son" profiles three New York mothers who unexpectedly find themselves united to seek justice and transform their grief into an opportunity for profound social change. An Independent Television Service (ITVS) co-presentation. "Every Mother's Son" was recently honored with the Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival.
So once again we gather to mourn.

Another child, son, loved one dead.

Sweet Honey in the Rock sing it.

                                  News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor

Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the day civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin was born. It’s a milestone in and of itself, but little occasion’s needed to remember the visionary organizer and activist. ColorLines: Happy 100th Birthday to Bayard Rustin, “Resister Extraordinaire”

Rustin was a master strategist who all but created the model of post-World War II nonviolent social movements in the U.S. He championed nonviolent tactics and introduced the Gandhian protest tactics that would become one of the hallmarks of the Civil Rights Movement. He’s best known for organizing the March on Washington in 1963, after which he was anointed the title of “Socrates” of the Civil Rights Movement.

From the outset of his life, Rustin seemed destined for a life fighting inequity around him. He was raised with Quaker schooling by his grandmother Julia Rustin who also happened to be a founding member of the local Pennsylvania chapter of the NAACP. He was radicalized in the 1930s after the prosecution of the Scottsboro boys, nine black youth who had been falsely charged with raping a white woman in Alabama. Later, he’d join the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters to protest discrimination in the military and then went on to found the Congress of Racial Equality, challenging bus segregation with civil disobedience a full decade before Rosa Parks would be arrested for doing the same. He later resisted the draft as a conscientious objector, and was imprisoned for his commitment to pacifism.

As a black gay man, he was often sidelined, kept from having a larger public profile. Others worried his sexuality was a liability for the movement. It never kept him from being a tireless activist and organizer, and to this day, his writing and words offer many important lessons for the fight for justice in the 21st century.

A lack of diversity on TV and in Hollywood negatively affects racial minorities who are gay. The Root: More Representation for LGBT People of Color

Consider this: An analysis by the Pew Research Center found that of more than 67,000 news stories that appeared in newspapers or on cable and network television, radio and news websites, between February 2009 and February 2010, 1.9 percent related in a significant way to African Americans, 1.3 percent related to Latinos and only .2 percent related to Asian Americans.

In the world of entertainment, we see similar percentages play out in a slightly different way. The Los Angeles Times took an exhaustive look at the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences -- the voting body that decides what is, and perhaps more importantly what isn't, culturally legitimate film. The study found that of the 5,795-member body, 94 percent are white and 77 percent are male; only 2 percent are African-American and less than 2 percent are Latino. In other words, the industry is white and male.

When people look at the world through the lens of the media -- whether the news media or the world of entertainment -- what they're seeing is a world that is overwhelmingly white. A world that does not reflect the diversity of our world. The lack of visibility is also pronounced for an even smaller subset among people of color: those who also identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), and has a large impact.

While the media has made significant strides in telling the stories of LGBT people, those media images, whether in newspapers or on-screen, are just as monolithically white. These portrayals inaccurately promote a world in which it would appear that LGBT people of color do not exist, or that acceptance of LGBT people is exclusive to white populations. And because LGBT people of color are members of two groups who have historically faced discrimination, the effect of that invisibility is compounded.
If the media won't reflect the reality of these people's lives, and if injustice keeps them out of the mainstream of society, it creates a classic catch-22. How can the issues that affect LGBT people of color become more than just abstract in the minds of voters and politicians if the people impacted by those issues remain invisible?

                                                                       HBO; HBO; ABC

President Johnson made the case that the fight for voting rights was not just for black people. “Because it’s not just Negroes, but really it’s all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.” ColorLines: 47 Years Ago, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson Called for Voting Rights

On March 15, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson called on Congress to pass legislation allowing African Americans to vote and to “extend the rights of citizenship to every citizen of this land.” In making this declaration, President Johnson made the case that the fight for voting rights was not just for black people. “Because it’s not just Negroes, but really it’s all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.”

Read this archived New York Times article for more choice quotes from President Johnson on voting rights, including whether this issue is a constitutional, moral, or states’ rights issue. To LBJ, it was none of the above: “It is wrong — deadly wrong — to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote.”

In the speech, President Johnson refused to single out the South, where voting discrimination had turned violent as seen across TVs in the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. Instead, the president said voting discrimination was “an American problem. … In Buffalo as well as Birmingham, in Philadelphia as well as Selma.”

Fast forward 47 years ago today to Philadelphia as well as Selma. Pennsylvania’s Republican legislators passed a restrictive photo voter ID bill that was signed into law this week with glee by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, as the bill’s sponsor Rep. Daryl Metcalfe — one of Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Dirty Dozen” anti-immigrant state legislators — looked over his shoulder.

In Alabama, the state passed an immigration bill so strife with civil and human rights violations that Rev. Al Sharpton brought activists back to Selma to re-enact the 1965 march that precipitated President Johnson to demand voting rights legislation. Alabama also passed a voter ID bill, though not as restrictive as Pennsylvania’s, but it can’t be enforced until the federal government reviews it, per the Voting Rights Act.

These days Pennsylvania is looking a lot like the Alabama of 1965.

A visit between the countries' leaders brings to mind how both nations have wrestled with racism. The Root: The Other US-UK 'Special Relationship'

Nonwhite citizens in both countries have suffered discrimination. Activists in both countries have sought to force Britain and America to live up to their creeds of human rights and dignity for all people, regardless of color. And during the era of the civil rights movement in particular, the connections between activists across the Atlantic were strong, and influential.

This rather more grassroots version of the special relationship -- like the official version -- started in World War II. More than 100,000 American black American soldiers were stationed in Britain, swelling Britain's black population tenfold in the process.

The GIs arrived in segregated army units. Off-duty fights with their white American counterparts were common. But the British War Cabinet would not allow segregation off-base, and the British public mostly sided with the black GIs. The experience of equality abroad inspired many African-American veterans to fight Jim Crow upon their return.

By the 1960s the media revolution, and British fascination with all things American, meant that the civil rights movement dominated British headlines every bit as much as American ones. Ease of travel allowed regular visits by leaders. Malcolm X debated at Oxford University, Martin Luther King Jr. preached at St. Paul's Cathedral and Stokely Carmichael spoke at a London black power conference. Because of mass nonwhite immigration, starting in the 1950s, Britain had its own domestic struggle over the full rights of citizenship.

David Cameron with President Barack Obama (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Fact, while Republicans develop their younger branches, and conservatives funnel money into conservative youth programs, young Democrats—especially young Democrats of color—will also need a bit of help getting their own party to adapt to the changing demographic tide. ColorLines: The GOP Isn’t the Only Party That Must Face Younger, Browner Nation

When it’s time for liberals to criticize how the GOP operates—and, let’s be honest, the closer we get to November, it seems to always be that time—they often go to the same well: Demographics are changing, and Republicans must either rethink how they connect with voters, or perish.

A recent piece in New York magazine by Jonathan Chait followed this trend.

The glue holding together the contemporary Republican agenda - the fierce defense of entitlement spending on the elderly, the equally fierce opposition to welfare spending on the young, the backlash against illegal immigration, the nationalist foreign policy, the cultural traditionalism - is ethnocentrism. Republicans are defending the shared cultural prerogatives of a certain group of people. That is why I am arguing that the shifting demographic tides will require the GOP to undertake a major reorientation in order to maintain its competitiveness. There’s simply no way to transpose their sense of what is and what is not a legitimate government function onto a progressively younger, browner electorate.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this logic. Changing demographics do lead to shifts in priorities. And to an extent, it stands to reason that the GOP will be forced to rethink its strategy as the electorate becomes “progressively younger, browner.”

But the GOP isn’t the only party that needs to worry about this, some young Democrats say.

Students cheer as U.S. President Barack Obama appears at the University of Michigan January 27, 2012 Bill Pugliano/Getty Images


Voices and Soul


by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Poetry Editor

The murder of Trayvon Martin by an armed vigilante in a gated community in Florida has finally made the national press take notice; and as I put the finishing touches to this installment, news of a DOJ investigation is making the initial news wire chryons.

Martin's murder and the callous disregard for his Justice, echoes murders down through the violent history of this nation, murders which certain state and local school boards would prefer not be taught. One murder in particular; and the similar initial disregard for Justice, the murder of Emmett Till came immediately to mind.

Langston Hughes wrote two poems about Emmett Till. The following was included in his 1 October 1955 column in the Chicago Defender, “Langston Hughes Wonders Why No Lynchings Probes.” The poem as originally published was not transcribed correctly by the paper’s editors, and the errors were perpetuated in later reprints. The version that follows is the original as penned by Hughes.


(To the Memory of Emmett Till)

Oh what sorrow!
oh, what pity!
Oh, what pain
That tears and blood
Should mix like rain
And terror come again
To Mississippi.

Come again?
Where has terror been?
On vacation? Up North?
In some other section
Of the nation,
Lying low, unpublicized?
Masked—with only
Jaundiced eyes
Showing through the mask?

Oh, what sorrow,
Pity, pain,
That tears and blood
Should mix like rain
In Mississippi!
And terror, fetid hot,
Yet clammy cold

-- Langston Hughes

Welcome to the Front Porch


Originally posted to Black Kos on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 02:02 PM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges and Black Kos community.

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