Category: Government

“We Are All Oscar Grant”

Today I went to go see Fruitvale Station. Unfortunately, it wasn’t playing in a theater near me so I had to travel a little ways to see it, and I am so glad that I did.

If you’re not aware of this film, here’s the back story: Twenty-two year old African American Oscar Grant, III was brutally shot & killed in Oakland on New Year’s Day in 2009 by an overzealous White transit cop named Johannes Mehserle. Johannes was sentenced to 2 years but ended up serving only 11 months in prison. That’s right – 11 months in jail for murdering an unarmed young man.

Not knowing much about the story of Oscar Grant, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I walked into the theater. But 2 minutes into the movie, I was enraged! The movie started off with the live shooting of Oscar Grant (what I’ve attached here) and sets the tone for the rest of the film. This movie shows the kind of man that Oscar was – an imperfect one, but a seemingly good father and completely innocent young man. His whole objective that night was to celebrate New Year’s with his friends and get home safely by taking the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) instead of driving. But he never made it home. Transit cop Mehserle claims that he was reaching for his taser to calm Oscar down but instead grabbed his gun and shot Oscar in the back while he was lying on the ground defenseless.

Riots & protests ensued in the days following Oscar Grant’s murder, some peaceful and some violent. I can only imagine the heartache that Ms. Wanda Johnson felt in losing her son Oscar considering that he was unarmed & not dangerous. Barely old enough to drink, he simply wanted to ring in the New Year without any trouble. There can’t be any worse way to start off your New Year than to learn that your son’s life was unexpectedly & unjustifiably taken. But through it all, she still fights for hope in our justice system and redemption for her son’s execution.

I did feel as though the movie was incomplete. Before the end credits rolled there was a status update letting us know what happened to Oscar’s family & the transit cop that killed him. However, the battle shouldn’t end with his death. Connect with the Oscar Grant Foundation, whose mission is in part to “Provide comfort, needs assessment, emergency counseling and resource referral information to assist the family through the initial aftermath of a traumatic event caused by violence and treatment for the emotional injuries sustained at the hands of law enforcement officers.”

Fruitvale Station won two awards in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival: the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature & the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film. This film stars Academy Award® winner Octavia Spencer and is playing nationwide in a theater near you.

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Will White People Ever Be Labeled As Terrorists?

In light of the bombings in Boston, an article was brought to my attention that talked about race & how that impacts the way Americans view terrorism. The article talks about how “White privilege is knowing that even if the Boston Marathon bomber turns out to be white, his or her identity will not result in white folks generally being singled out for suspicion by law enforcement, or the TSA, or the FBI.”

In other words, if you’re White you won’t be labeled as a terrorist. That title seems to only apply to people with Brown or Black skin. There have been many White men who have either blown up buildings or  responsible for mass murders – think Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City bomber responsible for over 160 murders), Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber who killed 3 people), James Holmes (mass shooting at the Colorado movie theater last year killing 12 people), the 2 White students who killed 15 people at Columbine, and who could forget Jeffrey Dahmer who killed 17 people back in the 1980’s. Society seems to deem these “incidents” as exceptions and proof that our government would never racially profile White people. Even Ted Kazczynski was only thought of as “militant” but not a terrorist.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Boston bombing situation plays out.

Read the article below –

Terrorism and Privilege: Understanding the Power of Whiteness by Tim Wise

As the nation weeps for the victims of the horrific bombing in Boston yesterday, one searches for lessons amid the carnage, and finds few. That violence is unacceptable stands out as one, sure. That hatred — for humanity, for life, or whatever else might have animated the bomber or bombers — is never the source of constructive human action seems like a reasonably close second.

But I dare say there is more; a much less obvious and far more uncomfortable lesson, which many are loathe to learn, but which an event such as this makes readily apparent, and which we must acknowledge, no matter how painful.

It is a lesson about race, about whiteness, and specifically, about white privilege.

I know you don’t want to hear it. But I don’t much care. So here goes.

White privilege is knowing that even if the Boston Marathon bomber turns out to be white, his or her identity will not result in white folks generally being singled out for suspicion by law enforcement, or the TSA, or the FBI.

White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for whites to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening, or threatened with deportation.

White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph and Joe Stack and George Metesky and Byron De La Beckwith and Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton and Herman Frank Cash and Robert Chambliss and James von Brunn and Robert Mathews and David Lane and Michael F. Griffin and Paul Hill and John Salvi and James Kopp and Luke Helder and James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder and Shelley Shannon and Dennis Mahon and Wade Michael Page and Byron Williams and Kevin Harpham and William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus and Raymond Kirk Dillard and Adam Lynn Cunningham and Bonnell Hughes and Randall Garrett Cole and James Ray McElroy and Michael Gorbey and Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman and Frederick Thomas and Paul Ross Evans and Matt Goldsby and Jimmy Simmons and Kathy Simmons and Kaye Wiggins and Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe and David McMenemy and Bobby Joe Rogers and Francis Grady and Demetrius Van Crocker and Floyd Raymond Looker and Derek Mathew Shrout, among the pantheon of white people who engage in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize and kill, but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.

And white privilege is being able to know nothing about the crimes committed by most of the terrorists listed above — indeed, never to have so much as heard most of their names — let alone to make assumptions about the role that their racial or ethnic identity may have played in their crimes.

White privilege is knowing that if the Boston bomber turns out to be white, we  will not be asked to denounce him or her, so as to prove our own loyalties to the common national good. It is knowing that the next time a cop sees one of us standing on the sidewalk cheering on runners in a marathon, that cop will say exactly nothing to us as a result.

White privilege is knowing that if you are a white student from Nebraska — as opposed to, say, a student from Saudi Arabia — that no one, and I mean no one would think it important to detain and question you in the wake of a bombing such as the one at the Boston Marathon.

And white privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas. And if he turns out to be a member of the Irish Republican Army we won’t bomb Belfast. And if he’s an Italian American Catholic we won’t bomb the Vatican.

In short, white privilege is the thing that allows you (if you’re white) — and me — to view tragic events like this as merely horrific, and from the perspective of pure and innocent victims, rather than having to wonder, and to look over one’s shoulder, and to ask even if only in hushed tones, whether those we pass on the street might think that somehow we were involved.

It is the source of our unearned innocence and the cause of others’ unjustified oppression.

That is all. And it matters.

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The article can be found here: http://www.timwise.org

Why Major In A Field That Has No Jobs Available?

So I came across an article about how there were too many K-5 teachers & not enough teaching positions and the question arose in my mind: Why study something that you know will not pay off?

I remember when I was applying to college (many moons ago) my father always warned me to not major in underwater basket weaving. Yes, because it’s not a real major but also because it’s a profession that isn’t highly valued in this society. So in the same respect if you know that philosophy isn’t a highly valued field why major in it?

Yes, there are plenty of majors that were popular 20-30 years ago that may not be as relevant now (think archaeology, library science, etc.) but back then people knew that there would a job waiting for them. Right now the unemployment/under-employment rate for fresh college graduates is over 50%. I mean, let’s face it – the economy has been in the toilet since at least 2008. And everyone knows that bad economies don’t just turn around overnight. So those who are just now graduating (who entered college around 2008) must have known that when they graduate they might not have a job waiting for them in their field. And those who entered college after 2008 have had time to change majors to something more relevant. Of course no can tell the future or when the job market will pick up. But until it does, wouldn’t it be fair to say you should secure your future by majoring in something more mainstream instead?

Sure, it’s great to follow your passion but if your passion can’t pay the bills when you graduate, then maybe you should consider pursuing something that will instead.

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Balancing Motherhood & Your Career – Is Working Part Time The Best Move To Make In This Economy?

A woman I know recently decided to go from working full time to part time so that she could stay home & spend more time with her family. Not wanting to completely be a stay-at-home mom, she decided that the only way to sustain her career would be to keep one foot in the working world and one foot at home. I’m sure her husband is glad to have her around the house more & her children will benefit from increased attention, but where does that leave her career?

Currently, the unemployment rate is hovering right around 8%. Depending on what part of the country you live in that percentage may be significantly higher. After working long & hard to build a solid career and then starting a family, you are now willing to possibly through that away? It’s one thing to start working part-time after not working at all, because of a company mandate, or if you have special circumstances (disability, spouse is deployed to another country, etc.). But to purposely cut back your working hours and your household income right when you might need it the most? Some of the women who do this are the same women who complain about not moving up in their careers. Of course, returning to full time employment is always an option but they should be glad to even have a job, given that so many people (with families) are still looking for work.

Family should always come first, but is it worth sacrificing your career as a woman? Especially in such an unstable economy? People are being laid off left & right and pink slips are becoming more popular than pay slips, so why risk providing less for your family, or at the very least why risk not being able to provide at all?

It’s so ironic to me that decades & decades after women fighting to work outside the home and earn equal pay (although we’re still not quite there), we now have women who are fighting to stay at home and NOT work at all. I can’t say that I agree with this woman’s decision. I think that she should continue to work full time and raise her family at the same time.

I’m not saying it will be easy but if she doesn’t really want her job someone else will.

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Black History Month: African American Soldiers

I was looking up my student loan and came across this article. In honor of Black History Month, the U.S. Department of Education has dedicated teaching materials on their homepage about African Americans soldiers. Read below –

The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War

Background

“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”

Frederick Douglass

The issues of emancipation and military service were intertwined from the onset of the Civil War. News from Fort Sumter set off a rush by free black men to enlist in U.S. military units. They were turned away, however, because a Federal law dating from 1792 barred Negroes from bearing arms for the U.S. army (although they had served in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812). In Boston disappointed would-be volunteers met and passed a resolution requesting that the Government modify its laws to permit their enlistment.

The Lincoln administration wrestled with the idea of authorizing the recruitment of black troops, concerned that such a move would prompt the border states to secede. When Gen. John C. Frémont (photo citation: 111-B-3756) in Missouri and Gen. David Hunter (photo citation: 111-B-3580) in South Carolina issued proclamations that emancipated slaves in their military regions and permitted them to enlist, their superiors sternly revoked their orders. By mid-1862, however, the escalating number of former slaves (contrabands), the declining number of white volunteers, and the increasingly pressing personnel needs of the Union Army pushed the Government into reconsidering the ban.

As a result, on July 17, 1862, Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act, freeing slaves who had masters in the Confederate Army. Two days later, slavery was abolished in the territories of the United States, and on July 22 President Lincoln (photo citation: 111-B-2323) presented the preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet. After the Union Army turned back Lee’s first invasion of the North at Antietam, MD, and the Emancipation Proclamation was subsequently announced, black recruitment was pursued in earnest. Volunteers from South Carolina, Tennessee, and Massachusetts filled the first authorized black regiments. Recruitment was slow until black leaders such as Frederick Douglass (photo citation: 200-FL-22) encouraged black men to become soldiers to ensure eventual full citizenship. (Two of Douglass’s own sons contributed to the war effort.) Volunteers began to respond, and in May 1863 the Government established the Bureau of Colored Troops to manage the burgeoning numbers of black soldiers.

By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of the war—30,000 of infection or disease. Black soldiers served in artillery and infantry and performed all noncombat support functions that sustain an army, as well. Black carpenters, chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots, surgeons, and teamsters also contributed to the war cause. There were nearly 80 black commissioned officers. Black women, who could not formally join the Army, nonetheless served as nurses, spies, and scouts, the most famous being Harriet Tubman (photo citation: 200-HN-PIO-1), who scouted for the 2d South Carolina Volunteers.

Because of prejudice against them, black units were not used in combat as extensively as they might have been. Nevertheless, the soldiers served with distinction in a number of battles. Black infantrymen fought gallantly at Milliken’s Bend, LA; Port Hudson, LA; Petersburg, VA; and Nashville, TN. The July 1863 assault on Fort Wagner, SC, in which the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers lost two-thirds of their officers and half of their troops, was memorably dramatized in the film Glory. By war’s end, 16 black soldiers had been awarded the Medal of Honor for their valor.

In addition to the perils of war faced by all Civil War soldiers, black soldiers faced additional problems stemming from racial prejudice. Racial discrimination was prevalent even in the North, and discriminatory practices permeated the U.S. military. Segregated units were formed with black enlisted men and typically commanded by white officers and black noncommissioned officers. The 54th Massachusetts was commanded by Robert Shaw and the 1st South Carolina by Thomas Wentworth Higginson—both white. Black soldiers were initially paid $10 per month from which $3 was automatically deducted for clothing, resulting in a net pay of $7. In contrast, white soldiers received $13 per month from which no clothing allowance was drawn. In June 1864 Congress granted equal pay to the U.S. Colored Troops and made the action retroactive. Black soldiers received the same rations and supplies. In addition, they received comparable medical care.

The black troops, however, faced greater peril than white troops when captured by the Confederate Army. In 1863 the Confederate Congress threatened to punish severely officers of black troops and to enslave black soldiers. As a result, President Lincoln issued General Order 233, threatening reprisal on Confederate prisoners of war (POWs) for any mistreatment of black troops. Although the threat generally restrained the Confederates, black captives were typically treated more harshly than white captives. In perhaps the most heinous known example of abuse, Confederate soldiers shot to death black Union soldiers captured at the Fort Pillow, TN, engagement of 1864. Confederate General Nathan B. Forrest witnessed the massacre and did nothing to stop it.

The document featured with this article is a recruiting poster directed at black men during the Civil War. It refers to efforts by the Lincoln administration to provide equal pay for black soldiers and equal protection for black POWs. The original poster is located in the Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s–1917, Record Group 94.

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Article Citation

Freeman, Elsie, Wynell Burroughs Schamel, and Jean West. “The Fight for Equal Rights: A Recruiting Poster for Black Soldiers in the Civil War.” Social Education 56, 2 (February 1992): 118-120. [Revised and updated in 1999 by Budge Weidman.]

My Ode To The Importance Of Black History Month

Black History Month is upon us so I will be dedicating some of my posts towards its significance and the achievements of African Americans in this country. Everyone needs to be enlightened about the contributions (some of which were voluntary, some were involuntary) of African Americans in this society.

Most people in this country know that February is Black History Month, but they may not know the origin. Why February? Why an entire month? So, I’ll start with the basics…

The idea to set apart a special time of year to celebrate the achievements of African Americans was conceived in the early twentieth century by the father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson. Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard educated man, was intent on raising awareness of African American contributions in American society. Originally called “Negro History Week”, Woodson chose the month of February because it was the birth month of Frederick Douglas & Abraham Lincoln, both of whom had contributed greatly to the advancement of African Americans.

Following the Civil Rights movements of the 1960’s the consciousness of Black history greatly developed. In honor of the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, the celebration was expanded to the entire month of February. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Since then each American president has issued Black History Month proclamations and people all around the country continue to promote Black History Month.

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