Time to Have a Serious Conversation About Race? What Exactly Does that Look Like & With Whom?

Davey-D-yellow-225-frameEver since President Obama gave his speech on Trayvon Martin and race, I’m been hearing pundit after pundit wax poetic about how now is the time to have ‘a serious conversation‘ on race…’

My question is..’What does that mean?’ Seriously, what does that serious conversation look like and who does it involve?

Do we have some sort of nationally televised panel discussion or is it Hearings on Capitol Hill?

Do we have a C-Span-like version of Tavis Smiley‘s now defunct State of the Black Union? and if so what do we talk about? Racial profiling? Affirmative Action? Attacks on President Obama? Who’s on the panel? Al Sharpton? Tavis? 50 Cent?

Does this serious discussion only involve Black folks, Are we including Asians, Latinos, Native Americans? Do we need to have a conversation on race with Blacks and Latinos?  Asians and Whites? Arabs and Latinos? Arabs and whites?  etc

Within our  respective communities we have a variety of political stripes, so does this serious conversation include Black conservatives?  Are we including Pan Africanists? Revolutionaries? Garveyites? Traditional Civil Rights types? Hip Hop generation folks? LGBT folks? Who are these folks breaking bread with? White radicals? Suburban housewives? Tea Party types? NRA folks? Wall Street bankers? Birthers?

Thomas Norman DeWolf & Sharon Leslie Morgan

Thomas Norman DeWolf & Sharon Leslie Morgan

As far as I’m concerned serious conversations about race have been going on for a very long time..There have long been forward thinking people who have engaged this conversation full time..For example, recently I did an interview with Thomas Norman DeWolf and Sharon Leslie Morgan who penned the book Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade. Does our serious conversation look like the work these two have been doing for the past few years where they been touring the country speaking about healing and reconciliation?

Does our serious conversation look like the unlearning Racism and white privilege workshops put on by folks like Tim Wise and author J-Love (Jennifer Calderon)?

Does it look like the work done by  Shakti Butler and the work she outlines in the film ‘Cracking the Codes ‘The System of Racial Inequity’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36XCiGr8muw

Howard PinderhughesOr does it look like the unlearning racism workshops that scholars like Dr Howard Pinderhughes was doing at UC Berkeley back in the early 1980s? Do we draw from the work covered in his book Race in the Hood: Conflict and Violence Among Urban Youth which was penned in 1997?

Do we look at the International Race Relations Roundtables that were done in New Zealand back in 2004 and build off those findings? or do we hark back to the Race Round Tables that were done in Michigan since 1942? Those serious discussions on race have been going on for decades, what has worked? What hasn’t worked? Is Michigan a model for us because after the riots in 1943 when mobs of whites came after Black folks? Those riots got everyone together to deal with the so-called Negro problem back then? 24 years later when Detroit exploded in riots in 1967 that ‘Negro Problem’ was addressed again by the Michigan roundtables with the attempts to bring about racial harmony. What can we draw from those attempts?

Do we look at the attempts made by places like Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland when they opened their doors to the Jewish community and Rabbi Michael Lerner to have a service focusing on improving race relations? It was called Solidarity Sunday.. Lerner’s remarks are HERE
End Racism

Does our serious discussions on race look like the work that was done at  World Conference on Racism. These conferences have been going on since 1978, with the first one addressing the issue of Apartheid in South Africa..In 2009, the World Conference on Racism was held in Geneva, Switzerland.. President Obama had promised folks before he was elected that he would attend.

He was well aware that President Bush’s delegation had walked out the conference in 2001 when it was held in Durban,  South Africa. At that time the US was upset that the global attendees had declared Zionism as a major form of racism and that the US legacy of slavery was something that needed to be seriously addressed. Our country felt this was unfair and bounced mid way through the conference.

Globally speaking all sorts of countries around the world were seriously upset about the US walking out, but before shyt hit the fan in a big way, our collective attention got diverted because of the 9-11 attacks which happened a day or two after the conference was over..

Obama got a game plan about this gun control stuff

Obama backed out of the 2009 World Race Conference after being pressured

President Obama noted that he was different then Bush and would have us at this conference, but after AIPAC and Israel got at dude and he decided not to attend at the 11th hour resulting in US and some of her key European allies pulling out.

I bring all this up to ask whether or not there be another World Conference on Racism and will Obama attend? We should also ask, if the World Conference which has been in existence for darn near 30 years, is the place to have that ‘serious conversation’ on race? Do we build upon the work there or start from scratch?

In the meantime, most of us may wanna start that serious conversation on race on our own and by keeping a few things in mind..

1-Learn to listen. Learning to listen and not getting caught up with what some dub ‘Oppression Olympic’ conversations where we compare atrocities and try to one up one another while invalidating the experiences of others. We should ideally be striving to listen with the understanding that racism has resulted in trauma.. It’s intergenerational. It’s personal. It’s systemic. A one time conversation won’t make things go away overnight..Healing is important and healing is defined differently by many.

Are we looking at the work people like Dr Joy DuGruy are doing around intergeneration trauma..Her book and lectures on post traumatic slave syndrome are informative. We see similar approaches toward healing in Native American communities.. This documentary called Journey to Forgiveness is one example worth peeping..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZwF9NnQbWM


2- Recognizing that there are all sorts of political, economic and social power dynamics at play when dealing with race..How the playing field gets leveled in those areas is important..Understanding how class factors in to all this is important.. In other words the conversation traditional Civil Rights leaders may have on race may be very different that the one we are having in our neighborhoods and amongst our family and friends. Some of this is related to age. Some of this is geographical.

Trayvon-Martin-brownFor example, when the when there was national discussions about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman being a vigilante, we often saw this couched by pundits as one a time occurrence vs something that was systemic.

Where I’m at in Oakland, California Zimmerman’s vigilantism was seen as part of larger climate of intolerance which also manifested itself in Brown communities with xenophobic Minutemen and ‘neighborhood border watchers’ using the name US Border Guard who were shooting and attacking Brown folks with impunity.

Investigations by both police and independent media outlets have revealed many of these vigilante border watchers are members of Neo-Nazi groups..peep that HERE . The case of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores who begged for her life before being shot along with her father by Minutemen vigilantes in Arizona who suspected they were in the country illegally is one prime example.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgcVMvl-k7A

In other circles, Trayvon’s murder was connected to the large numbers of police killings. In fact the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in the wake of Trayvon’s murder did an exhausted study which brought to life that every 28 hours a black person was killed by police, security or wannabe police.  In many circles Trayvon’s murder was rarely spoken without referencing the MXGM Report.. Watching numerous pundits not talk or write about border killings or the MXGM Report was an indication that folks have very different perspectives on addressing racially charged issues.

Race matters3-Allowing yourself to become culturally literate.. This means goings beyond memorizing a few dates, times and historical figures. It means knowing more than a few songs from genres outside your comfort zone.. It goes beyond dating outside your race and thinking that you’re an instant expert because of that..Ideally this may mean going out of our way to find ways to stay informed about other communities. Do we read publications of other ethnic groups? Do we watch documentaries dealing with other people’s issues?  Do we have list of websites to go that cover a wide breathof other communities. For example, I like to peep  websites like Colorlines and Racialicious.

4-Determining what justice looks like..Is it an apology? Is it people being punished? Is it people being compensated? We should also be clear as to what we are fighting. Are we fighting systems of oppression and institutionalized racism or are we dealing with day to day bias and prejudice?  Can and should we put both on the same plane? Yes, I have lots of white friends, but how has that ended or is working toward ending systemic racism?

Another way of looking at this is noting that I have friends who are police officers. How has that friendship ended police brutality? Does my friendship mean that we pull back or no longer address the systemic problems within police departments?

There’s the personal and there’s the systemic.. What are we really fighting?  Are we trying to bring awareness and end racism within our own circles? Its one thing to talk publicly about the need to end racism, while ignoring the bigotry and ignorance at home with family members and friends.

Along these lines are we putting into play ideas of how a society free of a system dominated by White Supremacy looks like?  Have we peeped scholars like Neely Fuller to understand what White supremacy is? As people of color are we deliberate or unwitting tools of white supremacy? Are white folks asking questions as to how they being used and enabling this system?

There’s no one size fits all model..For some it may mean exchanging books and having discussions. For others it may mean doing retreats and having purposeful discussions with a specific goal in mind. For others its simply means getting certain types of legislation passed. Still others feel having a healthy understanding of a variety of political and social philosophies that govern folks from particular backgrounds is a way to start making inroads into improving race relations.

Any that’s some food for thought..

-Davey D-

Advertisements

President Obama’s Surprise Press Conference Addresses the issue of Race & Trayvon Martin

President ObamaThis morning at a press conference, President Obama addressed the issues surrounding Trayvon Martin… Many seemed to be happy that he went more into depth about his feelings around this and he acknowledged that this case was about racial profiling.. He also noted that work must be done so trust in the system can be regained… He raised the question as to how the outcome would’ve been different if Trayvon Martin was white..Obama noted that he would’ve been Trayvon 35 years ago..

He wants to figure out ways young African-American men can made to feel as if they a part of society. He wants us all to do some soul searching.. He doesn’t think its productive when politicians try to lead conversations on race..He feels it leads to stilted conversations..He also thinks race relations are getting better

Your thoughts on Obama’s remarks? How do those remarks square away with the fact that he is praising NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly for his work in New York.. Kelly who is main proponent for Stop and Frisk is now being considered to lead Homeland Security. One has to wonder if Obama spoke to this issue because this Saturday there are protests scheduled in over 100 cities..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdPX2z_dDjY

Below is the full text of Obama’s remarks

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I wanted to come out here, first of all, to tell you that Jay is prepared for all your questions, and is very much looking forward to the session.

Second thing is, I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks, there are going to obviously be a whole range of issues – immigration, economics, et cetera. We’ll try to arrange a fuller press conference to address your questions.

The reason I actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue that’s obviously gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week, the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling.

I gave a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday, but watching the debate over the course of the last week, I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit.

First of all, I want to make sure that once again I send my thought and prayers, as well as Michelle’s, to the family of Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they’re going through and it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.

The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there are going to be a lot of arguments about the legal – the legal issues in the case. I’ll let all the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues.

The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries (sic) were properly instructed that in a – in a case such as this, reasonable doubt was relevant. And they rendered a verdict.

And once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works.

But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling.

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago.

And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a – and a history that – that doesn’t go away.

There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.

There are probably very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me – at least before I was a senator.

There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.
That happens often.

And, you know, I – I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.

And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.

The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws, everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.

Now, this isn’t to say that the African-American community is naive about the fact that African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they’re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It’s not to make excuses for that fact.

Although, black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context. They understand that, some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country. And that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.

And so, the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of Africa-American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuses given, “Well, there are these statistics out there that show that African-American boys are more violent,” using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.

I think the African-American community is also not naive in understanding that, statistically, somebody like Trayvon Martin was probably, statistically, more likely to be shot by a peer than he was
by somebody else.

So – so folks understand the challenges that exist for African-American boys. But they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it, or – and that context is being denied. And – and that all contributes, I think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.

Now, the question, for me, at least, and – and I think for a lot of folks is, “Where do we take this? How – how do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction?”

You know, I think it’s understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests and some of that is just going to have to work its way through as long as it remains nonviolent. If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family.

But beyond protests or vigils, the question is: Are there some concrete things that we might be able to do? I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government. The criminal code and law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.

That doesn’t mean, though, that as a nation, we can’t do some things that I think would be productive. So let me just give a couple of specifics that I’m still bouncing around with my staff, you know, so we’re not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could potentially focus.

Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it would be productive for the Justice Department, governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.

You know, when I was in Illinois, I passed racial profiling legislation, and it actually did just two simple things. One, it collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped, but the other things was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias, and ways to further professionalize what they were doing.

And, initially, the police departments across the state were resistant, but actually they came to recognize that if it was done in a fair, straightforward way that, it would allow them to do their jobs better and communities would have more confidence in them, and in turn be more helpful in – in applying the law. And, obviously, law enforcement’s got a very tough job.

So that’s one area where I think there are a lot of resources and best practices that could be brought to bear, if state and local governments are receptive, and I think a lot of them would be. And let’s figure out, are there ways for us to push out that kind of training.

Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and – and local laws to see if it – if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations.

I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case.

On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms, even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?

And for those who – who resist that idea, that we should think about something like these Stand Your Ground laws, I just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.

Number three – and this is a long-term project – we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys? And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them, and values them, and is willing to invest in them?

You know, I’m not naive about the prospects of some grand new federal program. I’m not sure that that’s what we’re talking about here. But I – I do recognize that, as president, I’ve got some convening power. And there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes and figure out, how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that – and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed? You know, I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was, obviously, a tragic situation. And we’re going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.

And then, finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. You know, there’s been talk about, should we convene a conversation on race? I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when, you know, politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.

On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s a possibility that people are a little bit more honest and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can? Am I judging people as much as I can based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.

And let me just leave you with – with the final thought that, as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn’t mean we’re in a post-racial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated.

But, you know, when I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are. They’re better than we were on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country. And so, you know, we have to be vigilant. And we have to work on these issues. And those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our – nature as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions.

But we should also have confidence that kids these days, I think, have more sense than we did back then and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did, and that along this long and difficult journey, you know, we’re becoming a more perfect union, not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.

All right?

Thank you, guys

The President Needs all that Data to Fight Terrorist-But Which Terrorist is He Fighting?

Brack Obama in San Jose President Obama is in San Jose this morning.. right smack dab in the heart of Silicon Valley which is home to many of the high-tech companies that have been collecting all this data and intel from millions of innocent people… Now I know he’s scheduled to speak on Healthcare today, and Lord knows, we need some decent healthcare with all the stress caused by us learning that a guy who campaigned on being opposite the man who preceded him (George Bush) has doubled down and went far and beyond where Bush has ever gone when it comes to surveillance and violation of our privacy.

We all need some nurturing and good healthcare to recover from this spying crap…but who knows, maybe while he’s here, our beloved President will  head on over to Google or Facebook and personally gather up the data they been collecting so he can continue his valiant, unwavering  fight on the war on terror.

In fighting the War on terror ya gotta wonder if President Obama is gonna look at all that data to fight corporate terrorism.  I know people get uncomfortable when you say things like corporate terrorism but wage theft, wage depressions, increased privatization of public goods, decreased benefits, unsafe and toxic work environments resulting in debt and deaths is something we can’t ignore..

In fighting this war on terror will president Obama look at the phone records of the CEOs of Wal-Mart, JC Penny, Target, Disney and other retailers who are responsible for turning a blind eye to unsafe conditions in factories in places like Bangladesh where they pay $38 dollars month to beleaguered workers while buildings catch fire or outright collapse resulting in hundreds getting killed?

Maybe while examining those phone records our President can find out if there has been any sort of illegal collusion amongst those companies to not pay a living wage and to bust up any attempts by workers to organize. Certainly President Obama, a former community organizer will be putting his best foot forward to fight economic terrorism being waged on people here at home..One out of seven Americans are in poverty.. One out of 4 kids are in poverty. Its a hard pill to swallow, but its true..

Koch Brothers

Maybe Obama will fight these economic terrorist the Koch Brothers

Will President Obama armed with this data crack down on unlawful, unethical and questionable business practices by the likes of  ‘evil’ corporate entities like the Koch Brothers, Monsanto, Wal-Mart, Wall Street banks and the Correction Corporation of America (CCA) who as Kanye West recently pointed out has teamed up with the DEA to make us their ‘new slaves’?

Maybe our President in fighting terrorism will look at the phone records and emails of shady lawmakers who teamed up insidious types to get harmful Stand Your Ground laws passed via ALEC…Or perhaps our President will be looking at those phone records to see what sort of off the book sinister dealings have been going on with the NRA members,  its leadership and gun runners who have flooded our community with cheap easy to get firearms,  while steadfastly refusing to pass gun control legislation, not even background checks..

Yes I’m certain Mr Obama is here in Silicon Valley collecting data to see who exactly is responsible for the sale of illegal guns which if resulting in a reign of terror that has far surpassed the loss of life than 9-11…Or wait.. perhaps our President is here in Silicon Valley to fight the war on terror in the form of Monsanto who has crippled so many with GMOs and has economically tanked lots of farmers in countries all over the world by patenting seeds and contaminating fields with their own trademark crops.. Will he be checking their phone records and see what mischief they and other agribusinesses have caused. Maybe its me but the use being flooded with GMOs is chemical warfare.. and last I checked chemical warfare is terrorism.. So maybe our President is hot on the trail to shut that down..

Or maybe, just maybe our President is here to fight environmental terrorism, like the one waged by Big Oil which have polluted our air resulting in unprecedented cases of asthma amongst our kids.. Now that’s terror for real.

Maybe Mr Obama will be checking to see just how much was known before hand, what warning signs were ignored and what sort of deliberate systemic neglect was going on prior and what our environment ravaged by corporate based disasters like the Gulf Coast oil spill caused by BP.

Maybe the data collected will reveal if there are any underhanded shenanigans going on around the Keystone XL Pipeline.. Y’all know that pipeline, that’s the same pipeline former Ambassador Susan Rice who he just put back in his cabinet has substantial investments in..On a side note,  I wonder if it rude of all those little  kids who came out to protest the president yesterday in Palo Alto.. They were mad at the Pipeline situation.. Those damn rude school kids.. but lets no digress.

Police spyRecently the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement updated their Report on police killings in the Black community.. Its now showing that every 26 Hours law enforcement officers kill a Black person in America. With police brutality at all time highs and the policeman’s bill of rights firmly inplace making it difficult for citizens to know the records of officers patrolling their streets, I wonder if Obama and those looking at the intel will reveal what sort of ugly things are really going on in those departments.

It wasn’t too long ago that pompous, holier than thou pundits were beating their chest yelling USA! USA! USA!, bragging about American Exceptionalism and crowing to the world that we would never ever be like China..But alas here we are, spying on folks, collecting data from millions, keeping people imprisoned indefinitely and turning a blind eye to our President declared the world a perpetual battlefield via NDAA , resulting in him justifying the making of his weekly Kill List..

Well anyway… Go Mr President.. Get that Data Mr President! Black Power Mr President..

-Davey D-