#FeelTheBern Why We Bern Bright in the 2016 Election Cycle

Here we are – another presidential election season, with big choices to make. The battle is in full swing, with the candidates trying to build up support and solidify their positions. I am a #BlackBerner and I am with #Women4Bernie.

I sat down with the intention of writing a response to an article about why black people are not supporting Bernie.  But  I realized that what we really need is a conversation about how to engage in the political process this election season and beyond. Despite being a Black woman from a socially conscious family, I could not adequately articulate reasons for why Black people are reluctant to support someone whose platform coincides with many of the issues that have been long neglected in Black communities.  To me it is a no brainer. But everyone is different.  Like any other segement of the population we are not a monolithic group, following one supreme platform. While I have fully embraced being part of the growing grassroots movement to change the status quo, there are many people who aren’t “feeling” Bernie or they are “turned off” by his supporters. Others say he does not “know how to campaign” in Black communities.

That last one should be refreshing. It’s true,  Bernie isn’t well-versed in the practice of greasing palms, kissing rings, and invoking the black church pastor in his speeches. He is a straight shooter from Brooklyn. He pulls no punches when he talks, and doesn’t back down from speaking the truth not just what sounds good in that moment.

Some people find the incessant Bernie news, updates, and memes annoying; however, we have a message of change and progress, and it must be heard. Change is not easy, but it is absolutely necessary.

Gil Scott-Heron famously said, “the revolution will not be televised.” It also will not be published or recorded. This revolution is driven by the people and for the people, and with dollars from the people!

And it is not just Black voters who are wary or reluctant to #FeelTheBern.  Millions of people nationwide are discouraged. They see no reason to get politically active, let alone vote. Leaders in politics, business, and even some in the labor movement ignore the needs of the people and vote for their own interests. They have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.  Certain members of state and national “leadership” are deeply entrenched in the political elite in general, and in the Democratic Party establishment specifically. They are comfortable working within that system. It has benefited them and, to a lesser extent, their causes.

But we have to be real. Those leaders have failed Black, Brown, and poor communities nationwide on issues such as wage inequality, public school quality, infrastructure development, Social Security, unemployment, domestic violence, police brutality, high interest rates, and high foreclosure.

This election cycle, we must move beyond the rat race of the past 50 years. We must be more critical than ever and make choices differently from how we did in the past. Change is neccessary to sustain and maintain “progress.” As we have seen with the rollback of voting rights in several places, most notably in Alabama, we cannot rest on our laurels or the laws meant to protect us! Yes, people might sound good and talk a good game, but can they back it up? What have they done when faced with the opportunity to make a positive, lasting impact? Have they done what was politically safe? Or have they taken a stand for what is right? Be sure you know your candidate and not just the public face put forward.

I believe there are three basic things everyone should do this election season to be better informed in the voting process:

  1. Figure out why you are “feeling” or not “feeling” a particular candidate. It is ok to not like someone.  But you should be able to clearly articulate why you feel or think the way you do about that person.
  2. Move beyond the sound bites. Move beyond that one headline you read, or that one article you skimmed through. Check the sound bites and “promises” against voting records. Go to the candidates’ pages and read their plans and proposals. Go to neutral websites to see where candidates stand on issues that matter to you.  See who donates money to them.  Read what other people are saying about those plans. Also quick check social media posts to make sure it is even accurate. Far too often we post, share, and tweet information that sounds good but isn’t accurate.
  3.  Figure out where your personal/moral political philosophy is, and nurture.  Find groups and candidates that are consistent with where you stand.  Can’t find one? Be bold, start a new group and invite others to join you.  Tap into existing social networks to help find others in your area who may see things the way you do.

Some people have expressed stressful interactions with Bernie supporters.  It has been said that we are annoying and condescending among other things.  For the most part, grassroots volunteers for Bernie are tired of the needs of the people not being met.  We are tired of politics as usual and we’re pushing ahead against a huge political machine that would rather silence us then see us win.  We do not simply need change we believe in, or hope, we need to revitalize the working and middle class and provide meaningful opportunities for all and not just the super wealthy.  It can happen if people decide that is something worth fighting for.  All movements have growing pains, but we need to the take time to reflect and evaluate strategies and messaging as we are moving along in our work.   No matter how righteous our quest, there is always space to adjust approaches and tweak messaging.  We can be passionate and committed without being condescending and judgmental.

There is much at stake. Sometimes it is good to take a step back and see the big picture. We are running a marathon not a 100-m sprint.  Whether we like it or not, as members of a grassroots movement, we are de facto representatives of our candidate.  We need to make sure we are communicating in a manner that is consistent with the campaign’s overall goals and objectives.  Know your audience and adjust accordingly.  Even if you are not officially aligned with the campaign, modeling the behavior of the candidate we support will go a long way in terms of building goodwill with potential voters. Arrogant condescending commentary will not help our cause.  From the hood to the hollers, we have to put forth our best efforts in the fight for 2016 and beyond.

In order to have real, meaningful change in our communities, we must use our networks to develop and nurture talent at the local and state levels. This isn’t some corporate shill campaign with a multimillion-dollar war chest. This is a people-powered movement. We are about people. Feedback, criticism, and input from other supporters and undecided folks is crucial — but it’s got to be constructive. Vague comments help nobody. Mere naysaying, without concrete feedback, hinders progress.

In addition, we need to work hard to organize and mobilize voters from underrepresented populations. People power is essential to ensuring the promises of equality for all. Although certain candidates may be more admired, or folks are nostalgic for a time long past, we need practical solutions and a commitment to dramatic change.  We cannot discount the value of interacting with others and helping them actualize the full potential of their power. Contrary to popular belief, VOTING IS POWER.  To people sitting on the sidelines…get involved. Help shape the policy and initiatives you wish to see addressed. Demanding that candidates do x, y, and z is great, but discussing why those initiatives matter and helping to shape policy is even better.  Demanding changes, without specifics, will leave you even more unsatisfied than when you first engaged in the process.

How much more are we willing to take before we stop accepting business as usual? How do we reach people who have been cheated out of their vote? Every election cycle we hear people say, “vote for the lesser of two evils.” In every election cycle, we see candidates who appeal to the fears and prejudices cultivated by years of misinformation and underdevelopment.  In both scenarios, hardworking people lose out, while big business and friends keep blossoming.

It is well past time to take our country back from the top 1%. Together we can overcome every obstacle and dismantle corporate America’s stranglehold on the nation.

I am all in with #Bernie2016 — but I know many people who either are not “feeling him” or are on the fence. Still others happily support different candidates.

Regardless of whom you support, I hope we can continue to motivate and engage new and old voters alike. Voting is only one of many ways in which we can create sustainable, positive change in our communities and country. Electing a president with a progressive platform is a lofty goal, but it can become reality when the people fully embrace it.

We need to step outside of our comfort zones, listen to what other people need, and speak up when we must.

The DNC – “This Organization is Powered by You!”

Our country is at a crossroads.  We can either continue down this path of dismantling the backbone of our society (the working and middle class) or we can change course and rebuild opportunities for American families to thrive. As we exist in a two party system, both groups vie for the attention and support of the average American.  No matter how much certain special interest spend on votes they still need YOU to show up and vote.  Often people are heard saying they are voting for a lesser of two evils. But what if you didn’t have to? What if you could vote your conscience and not against your interest? The National Democratic Party positions itself as being of the people, for the people, by the people.  During a twitter exchange, I was pointed to a “preliminary report”[1] released in February 2015 by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that examined why Democrats were losing.  The report was authored by the Democratic Victory Taskforce, as group appointed by DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  Although primarily focused on mid-term election losses in 2014, the report looked at historical trends affecting voter motivation and participation.[2]

The national Democratic Party must never allow itself to become a party of Beltway consultants who routinely recommend cookie-cutter campaigns that are detached from the concerns of the people we hope to represent, at the city, state, and federal level. In order to consistently win on every level, we have to reconnect with the reason we want to win—and that reason is the people. The national party must work with and help grow state and local parties, to empower the people to participate in politics, while recruiting and training the next generation of office holders. Democrats must stand for the right of all eligible Americans to be able to register, to vote, and to have their vote counted fairly and accurately. The Democratic Party must field candidates everywhere to ensure our message is heard everywhere. The national party needs to strengthen our state and local affiliates, revitalize our grassroots allies and broaden our appeal to stakeholders and others who assist us in elections. Our focus is not just on the presidential election cycles, but also elections for the US House and Senate as well as state and local offices, including midterm and special elections.  We need to speak directly, in ways that make sense and move people to action, addressing the broad, diverse group of Americans that are receptive to the Democratic Party’s message of shared opportunity and prosperity for all Americans. We know that our message is powerful because our opponents are trying to steal it. Income inequality and the resulting middleclass economic stagnation have become so extreme that even the Republicans are giving lip service to economic fairness—even as they advocate policies that would undermine it.

So why am I talking about a six month old “preliminary report”? In the current dash to the nomination, it seems at times as if DNC leadership has already picked its tribute for the general election.  However, the issues and ideas developed in the “preliminary report” suggest the need for a completely different course of action than the one currently employed by DNC leadership.  The alleged values and political philosophy endorsed by the report’s authors, coincide with one of our current candidates for President.  And it isn’t the presumed frontrunner.  These people handpicked by Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz, wax on poetically about the need for strengthening grassroots activism and engaging a broad spectrum of constituents on multiple issues.  “We believe that both prosperity and political power thrive best when they grow organically from below instead of being imposed from above.” How can the party claim to want a bottom-top movement on the one hand, while seemingly dictating outcomes on the other? Two areas the Taskforce identified needing improvement were in the party’s ability to engage, motivate, and mobilize voters and in its ability to create an accessible and open party.  I don’t know if this plan has been completely scrapped and it’s still business as usual, or if people at the top really think they have made some changes.  What is clear is that there is a serious disconnect between the DNC elite and rank and file membership. People need to be motivated and engaged on a new level and the existing DNC structure seems incapable of doing so.

A primary example of the entrenched thinking within the DNC is the chairwoman’s refusal to address the issues and alleged biases in the established debate schedule. During the DNC summer meeting, the chairwoman said the debate schedule was within her sole purview and essentially there was no recourse for those who objected.  This combined with an exclusivity clause, thus preventing candidates from engaging in debates other than the sanctioned six limits the public’s exposure to other candidates that could be more appealing to the target voter base.  While I’m sure the chairwoman is content with her little Marie Antoinette moment, it does not sit well with average rank and file Americans the DNC needs to motivate.  Being told who to vote for, and who is “acceptable” only further alienates those core constituencies you are trying to energize.

“The circumstances that led to the series of devastating electoral losses did not develop overnight. Instead they have been building over decades as the political system has been irrevocably changed by the passage of McCain-Feingold and the Citizens United decision.”

Despite lofty statements to the contrary, the DNC is not operating as if it is a party of the people.  It does not operate as if it is a party concerned about the damage done by McCain-Feingold and the erroneous Citizens United decision.   The base is not galvanized nor inspired…at least not by traditional leadership and their handpicked choice for nominee.  Instead of worrying about individual political points and personal positions of authority, DNC leadership should be acting in service to the people it is supposedly set up to represent.

In order to win elections, the Democratic Party must reclaim voters that we’ve lost including white Southern voters, excite key constituencies such as African American women and Latinas, and mobilize the broadest coalition of voters possible to not only recapture state houses but also Congress. In order to better understand how to bring this large coalition together, the Task Force recommends – in tandem with the National Narrative Project – that the DNC’s research delve more deeply into the barriers that keep people from identifying with, and supporting, Democratic candidates. This also includes working to better understand drop off and independent voters

In this 50th year since the passage of the VRA we should not be looking for new ways to deny voters full participation in the process. By failing to have meaningful participation through debates and fair dealings with all candidates, the DNC under Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz is effectively suppressing the vote of millions of Americans before the polls even open.  There is nothing open or accessible about a party that disenfranchises those who it claims to fight for.  There is nothing open or accessible about a leader whose basic response is “my way or the highway.”  That is not how positive sustainable change occurs.  If we as a party are to reclaim what has been lost over prior elections, there needs to be a quick course correction regarding messaging and transparency.  Regardless of who we support for the Democratic nominee, we need to make sure our party is staying true to the meaning of its creed and not just being business as usual.  Stop being the supposed lesser of two evils, and start being a positive choice for the people.  Mean what you say.  If this is truly a party “powered by the people”, then listen to what those people are saying.  Being in charge, doesn’t make you automatically right.

I recently received a lovely offer from DNC HQ.  If I donated any amount, I would be entered in a sweepstakes to meet President Obama. Sounds nice enough right? My response was no. I will not donate any money to this entity because until we have real meaningful debates. Why should I donate money for you to turn around and support a candidate that isn’t of the people’s choosing? By failing to have meaningful debates prior to the start of primary voting, the DNC is effectively putting its need for entrenched power and maintenance of the status quo ahead of the people it claims to represent. This is voter suppression. “This organization is powered by you”? All I could think was really? Do you people not see the disconnect between your alleged message of greater inclusion and your actions? Yeah let’s placate the little people while we do whatever we want. No thank you.

Bottom line the alleged values of the DNC are completely out of alignment with the current actions being taken by leadership on a day to day basis.  We cannot hope to reclaim what was lost by continuing to say one thing while doing another. It’s time to come down off the lofty moral high ground the DNC allegedly occupies and get with the people to build a movement for change from the ground up.  Cream rises to the top…and so shall the best person for the position as Democratic Nominee and next President of the United States of America.

[1] http://thehill.com/sites/default/files/democratic_victory_task_force_preliminary_findings.pdf

[2] The report further indicates that a final report would be released in May 2015. It is unclear if the final report was completed or was postponed indefinitely.

REPOST: Activists Confront Hillary Clinton – The New York Times

Nice piece by Charles M. Blow. 

“”People from both sides of the aisle have cast poor black people to the wolves and averted their gaze from the ensuing carnage. But in a way, asking liberals to answer for their complicity is even more important than asking conservatives.

More than nine in 10 blacks vote Democratic. That level of fidelity should give black people some leverage, at the very least, to demand accountability

At one point in one of the videos, Clinton said:

“I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.”

But what if the same person saying that was partially responsible for changing the laws that allocated the resources that built up a system that operated as a tool of destruction?

These young activists, indeed all of us, should expect liberals to have more direct answers for their own actions — and inactions — than the one Clinton gave.

There can be no sacred cows when black people have been treated like sacrificial lambs.”

Activists Confront Hillary Clinton – The New York Times.

Repost: Univ. of California Academic Workers’ Union Calls on AFL-CIO To Terminate Police Union’s Membership – Working In These Times

Should Police Unions/Associations remain under the AFL-CIO umbrella?

“The letter charges that police associations operate in ways that are antithetical to the mission statement of the AFL-CIO, particularly its stated goal “to fulfill the yearning of the human spirit for liberty, justice and community; to advance individual and associational freedom; [and] to vanquish oppression, privation and cruelty in all their forms.”

It provides historical evidence to its allegations, saying, “Police unions in particular emerge out of a long history of police intervention in labor politics and its complicity in racial violence,” before referencing deadly disputes with activist workers in the 19th century, the defense of Jim Crow segregation, the lobbying that enabled the circumstances of Freddie Gray’s death and the crackdown on the Occupy movement across the country as examples of American police acting as a ‘violent supressive force.'”

 

Univ. of California Academic Workers’ Union Calls on AFL-CIO To Terminate Police Union’s Membership – Working In These Times.

Nothin New Under the Sun: Truth, Reconciliation, and State Sanctioned Killings

Today is the born day of Ida B. Wells.  There’s even a google doodle in her honor.  This amazing woman fought tirelessly against racial and gender oppression.  She is the grandmother of intersectionality.  Born into slavery in Mississippi, she advocated around issues ranging from lynchings to women’s suffrage.  Ida B. Wells is one of my personal heroes.  She never backed down and always spoke her mind.   As I think about the legacy of our ancestors, and their tireless battle against state sanctioned killings of Black people I think of Sandra Bland.  By now many are aware that Sandra Bland died in police custody in Waller County, Texas.  She was allegedly arrested after a “routine” traffic stop.  While the “investigation” is underway there are many questions that must be answered.

My mom used to say there ain’t nothing new under the sun.  Sadly, in the case of people of color dying in police custody that is true. Reading about the death of Sandy Bland, like many others I am appalled.  How does one go from an alleged “traffic stop” to lying dead in a jail cell three days later? The suicide while in custody line has been used over and over again, in this country and abroad.  Most notably the Apartheid era police would give some lame excuse for people dying in custody such as suicide or “hunger strikes.”  From the little information we have so far, the circumstances surrounding Sandra Bland’s death do not add up. How does a young woman, ecstatic about starting a new job at her college alma mater, end up taking her own life? And what roll, if any, did the use of force during her arrest play in her untimely death.  From the video, Sandra is questioning the use of force during her arrest.  Did she receive medical treatment for any possible injuries? Was there head trauma from having her head slammed on the ground? Do we really believe that just before being release she decided to hang herself with a plastic bag?

Police disproportionately treat people of color with a brutality and disdain generally displayed by those who abuse animals. In fact if they were abusing animals, there would be harsh penalties. Now some people may say well these people must be doing something wrong, or they shouldn’t have talked back.  Here’s the thing. Police do not have the right (constitutional or otherwise) to use any force they see fit just because they are police.  That’s not the standard. We admonish people for mistreating animals but it is ok for police officers to maim, beat, and kill people of color with no evaluation of appropriateness of anger, intimidation, and force.

As a person of color, interactions with police often are anything but “routine.”  Not to say that other people do not also have issues in encounters with police (if you are aware of them you should speak up), but Black and Latino people disproportionately have interactions that result in severe bodily injury or death.  Black and Brown lives are not valued and we are systematically treated as if we are not worthy of basic considerations afforded to our white counterparts.  How many videos must we watch of white arrestees mouthing off, being belligerent, or even using force against officers who are detained without severe bodily harm or death? In many encounters police do whatever they want without concern for the life and liberty of people of color taken into custody.

Americans have a disconnect in the way they view the treatment of people of color today, and historical accounts of brutality during the American Jim Crow era and Apartheid South Africa.  We cannot continue to rest on the accomplishments of the ancestors decades before us.  There are still persisting issues and disparities in the treatment of people of color at various points in the criminal justice system.  Sandra Bland is another name for us hold up as we continue to demand system wide change.  We need local, state, and national accountability.  Local District Attorneys and police departments are too eager to discount violence against Black and Latino people as routine police activity against those who “deserved” what they got.  They are also too close to the police involved to have an objective view point.  Force is not always necessary, and the use of force in arrests and seemingly benign encounters needs to looked at more closely.

We cannot keep standing by while new names are added to the list of those taken by excessive and egregious police action.  Ida B. Wells said “the way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”  The present is always the time for addressing injustice. As state and local governments prove themselves to be unable to properly investigate these killings, the DOJ needs to ramp up its presence. We need more than just sound bites and politicians showing up for memorials or speaking at funerals. We demand real, sustainable change.

Supreme Court Breakdown Part I: SCOTUS Procedure

One of the things I have noticed when major SCOTUS cases come down, is that many people misunderstand how a case gets to SCOTUS. Keep in mind, there is a difference between the establishment of a right, and regulating how that right is accessed by the public. In separate posts I will explain how to read or dissect a SCOTUS decision and the some FAQs regarding Obergefell v. Hodges aka the “marriage equality” case.

Before a case can get to the Supreme Court (except in very rare circumstances), a lawsuit has to be filed in a State or Federal Court alleging some issue.  Depending on whether you are in the State or Federal Court system, and whether it is a criminal or civil matter, litigants (people who sue) may appeal to the appellate court.  Many state court systems have an appeals court and then a State Supreme Court.   On the federal side, there are Federal Trial Courts, Federal Courts of Appeal, and then SCOTUS. SCOTUS receives thousands of request for review a year and only hears a very small amount of such requests. In order to have a case heard by SCOTUS, a litigant has to appeal the case. Generally SCOTUS hears cases upon appeal from lower federal courts.  When a party is appealing to SCOTUS, they will file a petition for writ of certiorari. If SCOTUS agrees to hear the case, it will generally schedule the case for oral arguments. Some issues are decided without hearing oral arguments from the parties’ attorneys. In certain situations, outside groups or interested intervals not a party to the proceedings can file amicus curiae (friends of the court) briefs. These briefs are intended to offer additional information that bears on the outcome of a case.

In some cases, SCOTUS will hear cases upon appeal from a State Supreme Court.  In other cases, SCOTUS will hear cases upon appeal from a Federal Court of Appeal.   Pursuant to Art. III §2 of the United State Constitution, SCOTUS has jurisdiction in disputes involving

all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;-to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;-to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;-to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;-to Controversies between two or more States;—between a State and Citizens of another State;-between Citizens of different States;—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

There are a few very specific circumstances where SCOTUS will have “original” jurisdiction, meaning it is the first court of consideration.

In the most basic sense SCOTUS has the power to overrule or “invalidate legislation or executive actions which, in the Court’s considered judgment, conflict with the Constitution. This power of ‘judicial review’ has given the Court a crucial responsibility in assuring individual rights, as well as in maintaining a ‘living Constitution’ whose broad provisions are continually applied to complicated new situations.” (http://www.supremecourt.gov/about/constitutional.aspx).

What is judicial review you may ask? Well judicial review is the ability of the SCOTUS to review “actions of the executive and legislative branches of government are subject to review and possible invalidation by the judicial branch. Judicial review allows the Supreme Court to take an active role in ensuring that the other branches of government abide by the constitution.” (https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/judicial_review).  The concept of judicial review was firmly established over 212 years ago in the seminal case Marbury v. Madison.

After hearing oral arguments, the Justices will have a meeting to vote on how to decide the case. In general majority rules! Decisions will include the majority reasoning and ruling, and where relevant a dissenting opinion.  The dissenting opinion is the reasoning of the minority position on a case.

Essentially, a Supreme Court ruling is final. The only ways to overturn a SCOTUS ruling is by way of constitutional amendment (which requires ratification by 3/4 of the states) or a subsequent SCOTUS decision. When SCOTUS interprets a statute, Congress can take new legislative action.

 For a more detailed explanation see Supreme Court Procedure : SCOTUSblog.

America’s Simple-Minded Obsession With the Confederate Flag – The Atlantic

By the 1940s, however, the flag could be seen at University of Mississippi football games and other popular events, ushering in what historian John Coski has called a “flag fad.” That fad eventually extended to the far reaches of the nation, and the flag can now be seen on every kind of trinket and tchotchke imaginable.

However, the flag’s most lasting legacy — and the source of much of the controversy today — can be traced to its use as a symbol of “Massive Resistance” by the Dixiecrats beginning in 1948 and continuing through the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. During that period, the flag became the standard for those committed to defending classrooms, bus depots, and other public spaces (now battlefields themselves) from black encroachment.

In fact, the flag’s use throughout the 20th century covered a time span significantly longer than its presence on Civil War battlefields. Its placement atop southern statehouses like South Carolina ultimately reinforced the flag’s connection to segregation and racism.

via America’s Simple-Minded Obsession With the Confederate Flag – The Atlantic.

Tell it Like It is: Reframing White Supremacy, the Mentally Unstable “Lone Wolf”, and Domestic Terrorism

Over 24 hours since the horrific attack on Emanuel AME Church, also known as “Mother Emanuel”, we continue to piece together information and find the words to express our range of emotions in the aftermath.  The loss of life, history, teachings, and future potential is overwhelming.  Nine people  sat, prayed, and worshipped as they believed to be just and true.

facebook_1434690048127Among them a stranger sat and prayed, allowing a false sense of calm and trust to develop before he attacked.  A child hid silently in the shadows.  We need to break the pattern of denial and excuses when incidences such as this occur.  This was not a mentally unstable person.  This was not a random senseless act.  The terror attack which took place Wednesday night, the murderous rampage aimed at crushing the spirit of a people, was not some confusing conundrum of a mentally disturbed mind.

America has a history, a legacy, of minimizing the affronts to full access to equality, justice, and liberty by non-white people.  Despite how much people (particularly the mainstream media and certain political leadership) want to pretend this is some random, unknown occurrence, there is a very clear rhetoric and history rooted in homegrown white terrorism.  Even with the clearest declaration of racist animus and terror, many people have a head in the sand syndrome.  There is an ugly underbelly of American Society that has never been addressed.  We cannot merely continue to sweep things under the proverbial rug as if it will just go away.  The seed of hate has been sown deep and fertilized on tales of “taking our country back” and the “good ol days.”  A country that promised the descendants of freed slaves equality, liberty, and freedom has languished in delivering on that promise.  Whether conscious or not, categorizing terror attacks such as the murder of nine Americans as merely the work of a mentally unstable lone wolf only further subjugates the legacy of racialized terror and oppression.

It is long past time to tackle the bull by the horns and call this what it is.  This incident was an act of terror motivated by textbook white supremacist rhetoric.  Contrary to what has been reported by mainstream media, the killing of predominantly black women under the guise of vindicating the rape of “our women” is not a sign of insanity.  Retribution for alleged rape of white women and upholding southern virtue has long been touted as a reason for destroying black lives.  The charge of rape of a white woman by a black man was beyond inflammatory.  It was used to justify the destruction of progress, faith, and life.  Such an allegation served as the “cause célèbre” for the KKK and other groups who ascribed to white supremacist ideology.

11406583_10152960724609677_9042531641164985921_n
Shared from the Zinn Education Project on Facebook #CharlestonShooting As Ashley C. Ford said, “When people don’t know the history of racist violence, every act is a one-time-thing. The ‘system’ in systemic racism becomes invisible.” The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee faced this same challenge during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. They compiled a 19 page “Chronology of Violence and Intimidation in Mississippi” to show that each “individual” act was part of a system of oppression. Here is the document: http://bit.ly/1IReGr5 (Learn more about SNCC here: http://onevotesncc.org/)

The perpetrator of this heinous terror attack was at the minimum a wannabe white supremacist lackey trying to prove himself for the cause.  At most he was a member of an active community bent on “reclaiming” the south.  Either way, ignoring the presence of such extremism fosters an environment of hatred, intolerance, and terror.  We cannot stamp out the last vestiges of hate by hiding behind false logic.  The long history of terror inflicted on Southern Black communities, and notably churches, warrants a keen look at this incident.  This must be labeled appropriately as an act of domestic terrorism.  On August 5, 2012 a terrorist with white supremacist affiliations entered a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and killed six people, wounding several others. Both cases have clear indications of deliberate, methodical actors with only one intention…terrorizing an entire community.  Although many will attempt to label this as an act carried out by a “lone wolf”, “mentally unstable” “boy”, such attempts try to distance mainstream white thought from the white supremacist and fascist undertones that permeate throughout our society.  The inability to rationalize something does not make it insane.  The inability to rationalize something, is merely a failure to recognize and accept the plain truth.  An “American” citizen proudly displaying the flags of Rhodesia, Apartheid era South Africa, and Civil War era Confederacy is a clear and deliberate message regarding hate and intolerance.  You cannot continue to live in a universe that allegedly removed itself from the ugliness and hatred running through the veins of America, all while ignoring blatantly instances of racially charged activity. Your silence is tacit acceptance and perpetuation of this cycle of ignorance and hate.

Part of breaking the cycle is consistency in how we categorize and label events and their perpetrators.  Consistency in legal terminology and treatment aides in progressive forward movement. Consistency in media coverage helps inform dialogue going forward.  There are clear definitions for terms such as terror, terrorism, and terrorists.  A lot of people are talkers.  They talk a good game. They pay lip service to the cause. But they will not lay it on the line for progress.  The masters of spin will try to convince you that somehow this is really about religious liberty, or just a random actor who was off his meds.  If nothing else is clear, it should be that this was a deliberate act of terror and Dylann Roof is a terrorist.  The friends and family who sat by and let this happen are equally culpable.

It’s time to tell it like it is.