Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My “New” Blogging Home



Since April or so, I’ve been cross-posting just about everything I write here and at This Week in Blackness. In the interest of consistency, and because I really appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given over there, I’m going to transition to posting my work primarily over there for the duration. My posts at TWiB are (and will be) collected here, but I encourage you to check out the podcasts and other bloggers who post there. It’s a great community and an important independent media outlet. I expect great things to come from my association there.
Thanks for all your support over the past couple of years. I look forward to “seeing” you at TWiB.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Death of Trayvon Martin and Learning How to Listen


Garland Jeffreys, “Racial Repertoire,” from Don’t Call Me Buckwheat (1992)
I’m still trying to collect my thoughts on the George Zimmerman verdict, so I haven’t posted anything substantive for the past couple days. I spent some time listening to TWiB.FM yesterday and today. They’ve dedicated several hours to addressing the case and various reactions to it. Mostly what I’ve come away with is this: If you’re a middle-aged white guy like me, right now is probably a good time to listen to people of color, rather than to lecture … well … anybody about the trial itself or the underlying incident.
Listen.
That’s a skill that’s hard to learn, especially, I think, for white guys who are used to thinking of themselves as The World’s Foremost Experts On Everything. It’s especially hard for me, I think, because as the youngest child in a very large family, I spent my childhood feeling as though I couldn’t ever get a word in edgewise – so when I reached adulthood, I more or less started talking and never stopped.
But we – all of us, collectively: black, white, brown – have until the end of time to parse and analyze and rehash every detail, every subtle nuance of the case. Right now, what’s more important than all that rational, careful, scientific analysis, is to listen. There’s a huge segment of our population who are hurting right now. People of color feel strongly that the criminal justice system is stacked against them; that the outcome of the Zimmerman case, although expected, confirms a long-held belief that their lives are worth less than ours.
People are hurt and angry. People feel as though they are targets because of their race. People feel as though their children aren’t safe on account of their race. So, yeah, I think those of us who aren’t in that position should stop and listen. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
If you’re looking for a place to start, I recommend my friends at This Week In Blackness. In addition to the podcasts, there are several posts on the Zimmerman trial and related matters. Another good starting point is this piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic. And if you’re not following Wieland (@lawscribe) on Twitter, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.
The point isn’t that you have listen to or read what these folks have to say and simply agree with them. The point is, everybody keeps saying they want a “dialogue.” Well, sometimes the only way to have a dialogue is to let the other person speak first.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

“You Can Get Killed Just For Living In Your American Skin …”




41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots

41 shots
41 shots

41 shots ...
and well take that ride

’cross this bloody river
to the other side
41 shots ... cut through the night

You’re kneeling over his body in the vestibule

Praying for his life

Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life

It ain’t no secret

It ain’t no secret

No secret my friend

You can get killed just for living
In your American skin


41 shots

Lena gets her son ready for school

She says “on these streets, Charles

You’ve got to understand the rules

If an officer stops you
Promise you'll always be polite,

that you’ll never ever run away

Promise Mama you’ll keep your hands in sight”


Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life

It ain’t no secret
It ain’t no secret

No secret my friend

You can get killed just for living

In your American skin


Is it a gun, is it a knife

Is it in your heart, is it in your eyes

It ain’t no secret


41 shots ... and we’ll take that ride

’Cross this bloody river

To the other side

41 shots ... got my boots caked in this mud

We’re baptized in these waters and in each other’s blood


Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life

It ain’t no secret

It ain’t no secret

No secret my friend

You can get killed just for living

In your American skin

Friday, July 12, 2013

Your Friday Clash Song: Summon Up The Mas!



No, it’s not that “Let’s Go Crazy”; it’s a calypso-inspired jam from what might be the most eclectic album ever released.
The voice-over at the beginning and the end of the song refers to the riots that erupted at the end of the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival in London. The notes to this brief YouTube documentary explain:
The final hours of the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival in London, England, erupted in a violent and overdue settling of accounts between a racially biased and repressive British police force and young West Indian youth. The sound and fury and chaos of that clash was captured on vinyl in December 1980 by the only band that mattered.
Well, the subject matter may be depressing, but the song is fantastic. So …
Turn. It. Up.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why I Didn’t Watch The George Zimmerman Trial



Thursday morning, as Judge Debra S. Nelson decided whether the jury in the George Zimmerman murder trial would be allowed to consider “lesser included offenses” like manslaughter, my 17 year old son lay stretched out on the living room couch, one eye on a television show and one eye on the screen of his mobile phone, scanning text messages from his friends. A short time later, he showered and headed off to his part time summer job in the information services department at the local high school.
My biggest concern was whether he left his dirty clothes in a pile on the bathroom floor. He did not.
Later in the day, he meandered home from work. As he often does, he caught up with one of his friends on the way home, and so his path from there to here was circuitous. He stopped at a convenience store to get a snack along the way.
My biggest concern was whether he would make in home in time for dinner. He did.
He’s a good kid. His grades aren’t great, but he’s smart and funny and has an enormous heart. He’ll get ahead in life because he likes people, he knows how to communicate, and he has a good attitude.
He’s going to be a high school senior in the fall.
After that, of course, my biggest concern will be how to pay for college.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

DOMA Update: The Fallout Begins



Well, it’s not exactly dogs and cats living together, but the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision in  United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307 (U.S. Sup. Ct., June 26, 2013) (.pdf), which struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, are being felt out here on the prairie. Wednesday, the ACLU of Illinois and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., announced that they’ve filed a motion for summary judgment, based, in part, on the Windsor case, in two consolidated lawsuits pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, challenging state laws that prevent same sex couples from marrying.
The cases, known as Darby v. Orr and Lazaro v. Orr, were filed in 2012 by same-sex couples against Cook County Clerk David Orr, the local public official who issues marriage licenses, asserting that Illinois’ ban on same-sex marriage violates the guarantees of due process, privacy, and equal protection of the laws found in Article I, Sections 2, 6, and 18 of the Illinois Constitution, and the guarantee against “special legislation” found in Article I, Section 13. As an aside, David Orr, who’s kind of a badass, agrees with the plaintiffs and has refused to defend the state laws under attack, as a consequence of which two downstate county clerks were given permission to intervene. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez have likewise filed pleadings in support of the plaintiffs. So, yeah, I kind of love Cook County right now.
But, I digress.