Michael Brown, Ferguson, MO, and WTH Country is This?

I’ve been thinking long and hard about writing this blog—frankly, the idea exhausts me. I don’t know if I can find the words to express the feelings I have about what is happening in Ferguson, what I feel about our country and our president and our law enforcement, how I feel as the mother of two African American children, how I feel as I watched protesters and journalists tear gassed and confronted by militarized police officers. Just the thought of putting my feelings into words makes me want to go to bed and pull the covers over my head. I am tired. But my feelings and emotions are nothing compared to those of Michael Brown’s parents, to those of the citizens of Ferguson, to the citizens of Chicago and Florida and Texas and Los Angeles and New York City and everywhere else in this country where the lives of black men have no value except as firearm fodder.

Don’t argue with me—the statistics are out there, the video is out there, the reality is that young black men don’t have a chance in hell against our culture. Even if they do everything right, even if their parents stay married, raise them in the suburbs, send them to the best schools, shelter them away at night, even then their chances of being stopped by police, mistaken for criminals, shot in the back, put in a choke hold, arrested for minor offenses no white person would ever be arrested for are astronomically high relative to their population. At every turn they are discriminated against—they have been portrayed in the media as simple child-like creatures and as frightening monsters, vilified at every turn.

Oh, I hear you thinking—they just need to behave better, stick around to raise their kids, stop acting like gangsters, and stop looting. But that’s the media telling you lies. I’m not here to prove it to you—I’m here to rant about it and let you do your own goddamned research. For starters read Ronald Takaki’s amazing book A Different Mirror, then read this article: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/11-shocking-facts-about-americas-militarized-police-forces and then this one http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/14/opinion/charles-blow-michael-brown-and-black-men.html?smid=fb-share, and then watch Marlon Rigg’s video Ethnic Notions.

Then, I challenge you to raise two kids of color and watch how they are treated differently. Consider being stopped and searched every time you cross the border back from Canada into your own fucking country. Every time. Think about being owned. Lynched. Flogged. Assumed guilty/stupid/inferior because you have brown skin. Then think about living in a systemic state of oppression and discrimination for the past 300 years. Imagine living in a country where all men are decreed equal but not being able to vote, get a loan, buy a house, get into college, or even walk down the street without being harassed. Imagine your every accomplishment and achievement being questioned, being assumed that your success is due only to affirmative action or cheating. Imagine assuming that your children have more of a chance of going to prison than of going to college.

Imagine that every time your children leave home, you may not see them alive again. Imagine them lying dead in the street, shot by the police who have vowed to protect this country’s citizens, shot not because they did anything wrong, but because they are Black. Imagine that you have no redress, that the cops won’t be held accountable. That the president of the United States has been silent (until today) on the matter–we’ve sent troops to foreign countries for lesser acts of aggression. He needs to stop being so fucking conciliatory and send in the feds (and hope they do a better job).

NOW tell me that you will sit quietly in your living room and wait for justice, that you won’t protest in the streets, that you won’t demand something be done so this doesn’t happen again.

 

Tired of the Hate

Is it me or are we already done with the season of love and peace? The first two things I read online this morning have upset my delicate sensibilities, Dear Reader. First, a tweet from @JoeMyGod about a group of people who are boycotting the Rose Parade because a wedding float will feature a gay couple. The second, the comments section following an article on komonews.com about the Catholic school vice principal fired for his same sex marriage.
I clicked through to the Facebook link on the Rose Parade—evidently a gay couple won the Dreams Come True contest and the prize is getting married on the giant cake-shaped float in the venerated parade. More details can be found here. I found a page filled with hateful, ignorant comments about how witnessing two men getting married would irreparably harm children. I have to say I was stunned. I mean, yes, I know that not everyone is thrilled with same sex marriage, but I have been living in a bit of a bubble, I guess. The hate and fear and ignorance, the vitriol and anger shocked me. I posted a comment on the page, just a few words letting them know that I was sure Jesus would be so proud of their hate and bile. I think we all need to visit the site and show them that hate won’t win.
That small act made me feel a tiny bit better but for a moment I was beset by anxiety and dread, that feeling of futility that I often get spread across my chest. I then realized that my FB picture is of The Little Woman and me holding our marriage license and I had to smile. I fought back my urge to delete my comment, to not make waves.
I poured myself a cup of coffee and settled myself in front of the Pin Stripe Bowl, picked up my laptop and logged on to www.komonews.com to catch up on local news. My eyes caught the headline announcing that the vice principal of Eastside Catholic High School was fired and had not resigned as the church said last week. I clicked. Call me a sucker for the obvious. The article confirmed what I’d already suspected—Mark Zmuda had been forced out for marrying his male partner. The article was benign enough, but the comments section . . . why oh why did I feel the need to read the comments? More hate and ignorance.
I understand that Mr. Zmuda worked at a Catholic school and that his being gay flies in the face of some Catholic teachings, but the hypocrisy is killing me. How many Catholic school teachers live “in sin” with their heterosexual lovers? How many Catholic school teachers use birth control? How many Catholic school teachers have had abortions? How many of these teachers have been forced out of their jobs? And lets not forget the hundreds or thousands of priests who continued in their positions in spite of having sexually molested thousands of children. Mr. Zmuda’s being gay has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on his ability to do his job, to teach math. Mr. Zmuda did nothing wrong, he committed no crime. He simply let down his guard and maybe forgot that he worked for a homophobic organization. I can understand his mistake—lots of people who work for the church are decent folks. But the organization itself is not so benign (see my earlier blog here)
Let’s not forget that the Catholic church operates without paying any taxes. It does not pay into unemployment insurance, it does not pay any income tax. As an institution, it collects gazillions of dollars and not one cent of it (except what its employees pay in income tax) goes into the public coffers. Hundreds of non-Catholics and non-believers work for the church, and I’m guessing lots of those workers belong to the LGBTQ community. It seems to me, and call me crazy, that an institution that doesn’t pay taxes should have no right whatsoever to contradict the laws of the land. Same sex marriage is legal. Don’t like it? Tough shit.

We’ve (and by we I mean all LGBQT people) have lived too long in fear of god’s wrath, in fear of other people’s judgment, in fear that we will lose not just our jobs but our very lives. We’ve stood by and watched as heterosexuals celebrated their love in some of the gaudiest and most offensive ways imaginable. We have been marginalized by religious institutions, shunned by those that claim a loving Jesus and god as their masters. It’s a bit hyperbolic that these people believe a single float in the Rose Parade or the same sex marriage of a Catholic math teacher signal the end of civilization, don’t you think? On the other hand, maybe we need an end to this sort of civilization—maybe the end of civilization as we know it is not a bad thing at all.