Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Mistrial in Cincinnati

You likely missed the story because it was drowned out by post-election coverage, but there was a mistrial in Cincinnati in the case of the officer who shot an unarmed man, for no apparent reason. Yes it was a white officer, yes the victim was a black man, yes it was caught on video, yes the officer initially lied about what happened and yes the outcome was the same as it always is: no consequences for the officer. 

A  man interviewed by the local news station said something along the lines of, "We're trying to remain peaceful, but if we keep being peaceful and this keeps happening, there's only so much we can take."

I heard his pain. His words are one of my greatest fears. Retribution will solve nothing, yet I wonder how long people will be satisfied with simply pressing charges or with protesting if nothing changes? Being a policeman is a dangerous job. No one should dispute that, but let's be real. Being a policeman isn't the most dangerous job in America. In fact, it isn't even top 5. But that isn't the issue either. The issue is that our police seem to be trigger happy and there are few, if any, consequences associated with causing the unnecessary death of another person. This isn't a black/white issue. Police are killing people of all races, granted minorities are statistically their favorite targets, but their aim is not limited to minorities.

I live in an open carry state, and I have contemplated purchasing a fire arm and learning how to use it, but I always talk myself out of it for two reasons: 1) guns scare me and I don't want to be near them and 2) there is an unspoken code that black people are not allowed to own guns. Yes, black people are legally allowed to own guns, but it's in their best interest if they don't because the police have the right to shoot first and ask questions later, even in an open carry state (see John Crawford III) or have a permit to carry your gun (see Philandro Castile). 

I can tell you right now, that I already know how the scenario will play out if I owned a gun: I'll be in my car one day. I'll have my gun in a lock box in the trunk. The gun will be unloaded. I'll get pulled over by a policeman who is having a bad day. Maybe I'll make a sudden move towards my wallet or my glove compartment and the color of my skin will make the policeman more likely to shoot. If he kills me, the headline will be "Gun Recovered from the Scene" and there will be only a small footnote that explains that the gun was unloaded, stored in a lock box and all the way in the trunk. People will ignore the footnote because I'm black and therefore, I am a walking super human threat. It's possible that I might have somehow ripped off my seat belt, magically transported myself to the back of the car, grabbed the gun, unlocked the box, loaded the bullets then taken a shot at the officer before he had a chance to react. I say this because I remember the story of a black guy who was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, but somehow managed to reach the secret gun that the police missed then shoot himself in the back with it. 

Now I have to say that I believe most police are good people and even many of the police officers who have shot unarmed people are good people who reacted badly to a situation. That said, police should not be above the law. I'm all for them getting less time than a regular citizen, but I'm certainly not on board with them getting no time at all when their actions have result in what appears to be an unnecessary loss of life. I think that better training, more body cams and more community based policing will reduce the number of negative interactions, but there are quite a few cases that are proving that body cams or other video evidence means next to nothing in cases involving policemen. 

How many more people have to die before we call for true reform?

I Voted Against My Best Interest: Post-Election Ramblings

I voted for Hillary Clinton. Truth be told, I would have voted for just about anyone other than Trump. I didn't think that a man who spent years disrespecting the current president should win, but I wasn't surprised when he did. After all, this is America. 

There are those of us who look beyond ourselves and those of us who don't. I don't say that in a judgmental way, because I believe that everyone is entitled to live their life however they choose, as long as it's legal. I say that as an acknowledgement that not everyone thinks the way I do. That doesn't make them wrong or me right. It just makes us different. 

The truth is that I will likely benefit from Trump's proposed tax cuts. My pockets will probably thank him for years to come; however, I didn't vote for the person who was better for my pockets. I voted for the person who shared my vision of America. 

All of Trump's supporters are not racist. That is a statement of fact. I know some of his supporters and besides their choice of candidate, we really don't have any issues. The unfortunate part is that there is a faction of his supporters that are extremely racist and that faction views his victory as carte blanche to spit their vitriol in public. This faction is one of the many reasons why I voted against Trump. I didn't want the racists and/or anti-Semitic groups to think that they were winning in America.

I don't know if Trump is racist (and before you say it, having black friends or hiring black people or once having dated a black woman does not mean that you can't be racist. There are some black people who are racist against other black people). Truthfully, I don't care if he is or he isn't. I care about what his words have done to people. Whether he actually builds the wall, bans Muslims, sends illegal immigrants back, ends DACA, installs judges who vote against Roe v. Wade and marriage equality is a moot discussion. The danger of his presidency is that these "policies" won over enough people for him to win the electoral vote. It doesn't matter that he lost the popular vote. In years to come, Clinton's popular vote win will be nothing more than a footnote in history. Just ask Gore. 

How will Trump's presidency effect me? Well, not much. I have healthcare through my job. I'm not planning to get married. I won't be having an abortion. I'm not here illegally and neither are my parents. I'm not Muslim. I live in a mostly democratic area, so I likely will not be called the n-word to my face (because they do that in private), and if Trump defaults on our debt and the value of the dollar plunges, I still have at least 20 to 25 years to recover before I retire. I know that I will likely not suffer any of the potentially negative consequences of a Trump presidency, and yet, I voted against him.

Now let's get to Hillary. I've followed her ever since she emerged on the national scene and the media and America bullied her to change her name from Hillary Rodham to Hillary Rodham Clinton, because, well, Heaven forbid a married woman keep her maiden name. Hillary has been harassed on the national scene ever since. She was demonized for standing by her husband and attacking the women who accused her husband of wrongdoing. She was blamed for Benghazi, even though it was a group clusterf**k. Congress didn't approve funding for better protection and Hillary and the state department reacted too late to the situation. It's sad that Americans lost their lives, but the blame doesn't belong to one person. Her next scandal, the now infamous emails, shouldn't have been a scandal at all. Anyone who has looked in to emails during that time and before, will find that Hillary's email use was not an anomaly. They didn't have the rules back then, that they have now. I firmly believe that Hillary wasn't prosecuted because so many members of congress and other top level officials (the president included) sent and received emails from Hillary's personal email address. You shouldn't take her down without taking all of them, too. Although, I don't say any of this to make excuses for Hillary. She lost the electoral college. Period. Hillary didn't lose because of the Republicans smear campaigns, Wikileaks, the Russians, the FBI or bitter Berners. Hillary lost because she didn't convince enough people that she was the right candidate. I know that some ardent Hillary supporters will argue that she was the best qualified candidate and I can't argue against them, but I can remind them that in America, women and minorities should all know quite well that being the best qualified doesn't make you the automatic winner.

I know a few black people who voted for Trump because they wanted "change." The irony is that change is indeed what they will receive. Obama was a president who at least pretended to care about all Americans, Trump will not bother to pretend. 

Going forward, I am interested to see if the Republicans approve Trump's infrastructure plan. Obama and the Democrats have been begging for an infrastructure plan and Republicans have denied them each time. To approve one now would mean that Republicans were fine with sacrificing American jobs as long as it made the Democrats and Obama look bad. I look forward to seeing what the Republicans actually do now that they have complete control of Congress and can no longer use the Democrats or Obama as scapegoats. 

I hope that the Democrats will not become the party of "no" simply because it worked for the Republicans. I hope that the Democrats will work with Trump when they can and fight against him when they must. I don't want Trump to be treated the same way as Obama, where even his good ideas are shot down simply because they came from him.

I'm not sure what the next 4 years will bring, but I'm not worried about it either. I did my part. Now I'm going to sit back and find a way to enjoy the ride.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

My Initial Reaction to the Orlando Shooting

I usually try to wait and calm down before I write about major news stories. I try to gather the facts and carefully construct my argument, but now is not the time to be careful. 

Yesterday, I awoke to the new American norm: 20 people had been killed in a mass shooting. I thought it was sad but I didn't cry because 20 people dying in a mass shooting is no longer a shocking event. Later in the morning, I watched a press conference and it was announced that at least 50 people had died and 53 people were injured. I cried as I listened to the rest of the press conference. I was angry and confused. What type of person kills 50 people? Why was 20 just another news story, but 50 was a punch in the gut?

I found myself praying to a God that I only sometimes believe in and I also found myself waiting to see how far the different sides would go to blame each other. This act of terror was not the fault of the democrats or the fault of the republicans or the fault of religion, or worse, the fault of every Muslim person in the world. This act of terror was the fault of a single gunman who was filled with hate. A gunman, who despite being an American citizen, was willing to terrorize his own people on behalf of ISIS. Make no mistakes, we are his people and whether we like it or not, he was our brother. The worst mass shooting in modern America was not carried out by some foreign born terrorist, but rather, by one of us, and yet, we spent most of Sunday pointing fingers and arguing over semantics. We can blame radical Islam and call him a Muslim terrorist, an anchor baby, the son of Afghan parents, a Jihadist, an ISIS inspired terrorist and whatever other name we can think of to make him different from us, but the fact remains that until 2:00am on Sunday morning, this hate filled man was one of us. Do not mistake this for me blaming society because we are not to blame. He is to blame. We can't teach our children personal responsibility then blame everyone but them when they do something wrong. 

What I'm trying to say is that we were too busy focusing on things that didn't matter. 50 people were killed. That's what mattered. 50 people will never go home again, 53 will always have the scars, hundreds will suffer with knowing that they survived and the rest of us are left to try to imagine the unimaginable. That's what matters. Yesterday, I didn't care that he was registered as a democrat or that everyone wasn't saying "radical Islam" or that we needed to ban semi-automatic assault weapons or that Trump said something stupid or that Hillary's comments were more "presidential." I didn't care about any of that garbage. I cared about the families and the victims. How can anyone view 50 dead people as an opportunity to take jabs at the other side in order to earn more votes? How have we, as a society, reached this point?

Yes, in the big picture, the reactions of our presidential nominees matter, but I wish that we could have been united yesterday and that politics could have taken a 24 hour break. For just one day, I wished that the talking points focused more on those who were hurting and less on the commentary of people hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of miles away. I wished that we could all stand up and denounce the gunman and ISIS while keeping our fingers in our pockets unless we were extending our arms to offer hugs or a helping hand. I wished that we could all cry as a nation for our loss. I wished that we could all care about the victims and their families. I wished that we didn't minimize their suffering by immediately making it about our personal politics. 

Some of us spent Sunday in mourning. Some of us rushed to donate blood and money and to send flowers and organize vigils and other tributes. But far too many of us spent the day fighting among ourselves and taking figurative shots at the "other side" as if 50 people had not just been killed. To be honest, I'm not surprised because that's what many of us do as Americans. Many of us make every tragedy about us and our movement and our agenda. Many of us don't care that people are hurting or that families spent the entire day in that awful gray area of fearing the worst but praying for the best. Our news coverage of this tragedy is a sad testament to the state of our country.

In the age of sensationalism and sound bites, I fear that we are slowly, but surely, losing our humanity.