8 anti-racism actions to take now

These eight action steps are written by Catrice M. Jackson and published in Bazaar on June, 8, 2020.

“1. Resist the urge to withdraw, lash out, and become defensive or emotionally brittle when black people speak the unfiltered truth about racism.
2. Refuse to be a co-conspirator with white terrorism by breaking the intergenerational legacy of white silence and complacency.
3. Recommit in every moment to be extremely uncomfortable and uncertain while on your anti-racism journey.
4. Stop being afraid to talk openly and directly about racism in general and your own racism in particular. White people always think it is “those other white people” who are the problem.
5. Grab a seat, sit down, and be quiet. White people are not the experts on racism. Listen much more than you speak.
6. Listen to black women, and if they’re willing to teach you, pay them for their labour.
7. Accept that there are no exceptional white people, but there are white people who do good things.
8. Understand that there is no perfect formula for becoming anti-racist, and that the work ends only when you take your last breath. Learn what the Weapons of Whiteness are, discover which ones are your go-to weapons, and be ready and willing to disarm yourself.”

Immorality of Soldiers and Police

Soldiers and police (I’ll just call them “militants” because it’s hard to distinguish when they are in combat gear) who were “just following orders” to side with this criminal federal government regime against the majority of the American people have a serious moral issue to deal with, and maybe more. In the worst cases police and soldiers committed atrocities against peaceful unarmed citizens carrying it their civic responsibilities this week. There are many well documented cases of unprovoked attacks on citizens and journalists. It is unacceptable and these people must be held accountable.

Protesting criminal government is a moral civic responsibility. Protecting the status quo of social inequality is not. No justice, no peace. These militants are on the wrong side of the moral divide.

Militants ironically stand between protesters and a well known symbol of our democratic system of government.

Actions have consequences. These militants are too young to remember society’s reaction against what was politicized as “baby killers” returning from Vietnam. Soldiers were shunned, couldn’t be hired, and faced social condemnation for at least a decade of the 1970s. “Just following orders” carriers even less respect today.

Militants reportedly attacked peaceful protesters and clergy on church grounds in Washington DC.

“First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me”

~ Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller Lutheran Pastor.

We must speak out. We must take action. And we will always seek justice.

Police policy: what works, what does not

In the midst of horrible an reprehensible behavior by some police officers this week gassing, beating, arresting and shooting peaceful citizens elsewhere, I want to acknowledge that our Millville police walked peacefully with the community over the weekend and yesterday a New Jersey State Police officer from Port Norris stopped at my rural home and Baysave business just to ask if everything was OK. I really appreciated it. Thank you to all those officers! My family member in law enforcement are embarrassed and horrified by the aggressive actions by some police against peaceful protesters. Some police chiefs ‘get it’ and others just do not. The days of tough guy law and order mentality of “dominate the streets” being touted publicly by the president will just not work anymore. I appreciate president Obama’s statement yesterday that police policy happens at the local level, not by national policy. But why is it that some police chiefs ‘get it’ while others do not? Why is it that some understand the underlying the massively powerful force of resentment against government and others think they can maintain a ‘business as usual’ approach to law enforcement?

I didn’t know much about the topic of policing until my son was in law school focusing on criminal law and policing policies. (He won the school’s recognition award for exceptional performance in that area and had several great criminal law internships). In addition to conversations with the young lawyers, At first I was surprised that young lawyers are so opposed to traditional policing and criminal law tactics. Then I read a few books and resources on the topic to get a real education. I learned that we’ve been handling our policing and criminal law wrong for a very long time. It’s just like learning that spanking our kids was wrong and ineffective for all those generations. Unfortunately it is not reasonable to expect that the average person will educate themselves. The belief in outdated and ineffective policing persists in the minds of the majority of undereducated population (and especially politicians who think they know better). We are well familiar with “The Myth of the Rational Voter” concept as explained by author Bryan Caplan that a democratic process cannot be relied on for good public policy.

Those of us who study social policy and effective policing know that looting and rioting is an inevitable result of the decades of the widening gap in economic and social policies that are enforced by our government. Ultimately, we can’t fix police policy until we begin to address these other inequities. But no matter what, the policing policies of the past are wrong and ineffective and will only lead to more bad results.

Miami riots

It’s been 40 years to the month since the City of Miami race riots in May of 1980. Public Safety Officers chased, beat and murdered a black man in public. The 33 year old black man, a former marine, was illegally operating a motorcycle but not involved in any other crimes. Police crushed his skull and he died of multiple skull fractures. A total of 8 police officers were charged with crimes ranging from evidence tampering to manslaughter. Prosecutors tried four officers on charges of manslaughter, evidence tampering and other charges. The officers were acquitted at trial. Public outrage led to riots including looting, arson, a sniper and murder.

Now my son Josh is a public prosecutor in Miami. I’ve met his friends who are also Miami prosecutors. We hear in the news and otherwise about bad acts by both the police and the public.

Yesterday new riots were ripping the city apart. Tense times will follow. All we can do now is pray for all.


Post script: A friend reminded me tonight about reading ‘Huckleberry Finn’ aloud to Josh and his sister Arielle when they were young. It was such a meaningful experience that I still have that copy of the book in my nightstand today, more than 20 years later. It was tough for me to say the word “nigger” aloud so many times in those bedtime readings. I struggled with it. I struggled with the resulting conversations about racism with my children while discussing the book. But we all learned. My attitudes about racism evolved and matured and continues to evolve and mature. But the book wasn’t just about racism, of course, and neither are the issues we face today. I hope these lessons from childhood so many years ago will help guide Josh in his difficult official duties now.

Riot

Riots are not the result of protest of the killing of one black man. Riots are not just about killings. Riots are not just about blacks. Riots are the expression of the unheard over decades. The sooner that the media and the public realize this, the better off we will be to deal with the current crisis.

Many police chiefs across the country will come to regret decisions they made in the early stages of these riots. They just don’t know better but will come to understand that they chose bad strategy that made matters worse.

“If we are to ever transform our outrage into meaningful social change, we have to do more than take to the streets with cellphones. We have to organize rallies, not riots. We have to use the pen and our voices before the sword and the stone. And we need leaders who rise from the flames of civil unrest to navigate us arm in arm, both literally and figuratively, away from purposeless violence toward purposeful progress in civil rights and social justice that began more than half a century ago.” – Joe Pierre MD, Psychology Today, May 30, 2020

In respect for the life of Ahmaud Arbery

A true story: On a dark and stormy spring night 17 years ago (May 2003) I was chased down and tackled in my own neighborhood of Ocean City by undercover police officers who were following me in an unmarked car. I lived alone then as a divorced bachelor and walked two blocks around midnight from my house to Wawa to get milk and cookies after watching a violent gangster movie on TV. So I was already in a fearful mindset from the movie. When I saw them following me slowly in a black sedan with windows rolled down in the rain, I ran as fast as I could. In those days I was still pretty athletic. I would have outrun them but I tripped over landscaping near my house and came down hard on the pavement. If I had not landed on top on the gallon of milk and the box of cookies then I might have been injured by the hard fall.

The two men caught up and jumped on top of me a couple of seconds later. I was terrified since they looked and acted like mobsters. It was pretty well known in that community back then that I was one of the accountants providing evidence in the local business owners’ fraud prosecution cases against Donald Trump, who was reportedly mob connected. I had good reason to be scared.

I made them show me a police badge (which was odd that I even had to ask for proof) and then I calmed down. They said I looked like a burglar who was reported in the neighborhood. That was odd because I was one of the few white people living in that neighborhood of 4th And West Avenue. (I moved there to the modest working class neighborhood after being forced to sell our beach block house after divorce and it turned out to be an amazing blessing). I said “Really!? I wouldn’t think that a report of a 40 year old short white stocky Jewish accountant house burglar is all that common!”

Anyway, today I remember that story because if I was black, I might have been shot and not be alive today.

This post is written with respect for Ahmaud Arbery, just 25 years old, who was hunted down and killed while jogging in his own neighborhood in Georgia. Despite the existence of shocking 911 audio and video, neither of his white killers has been arrested or charged. Everyone deserves justice under the law. Ahmaud’s life matters.

Writing this blog post made me think of my former neighbor, Antwan McClellan, a neighborhood kid then who is now our state senator. He lived a few houses away. It was my interactions with the strong black community activists in this specific neighborhood, more than any other life experience, that led me to the activist roles I pursue today.

(The photo is my last Ocean City house that I loved, torn down for redevelopment a few years later).

#blacklivesmatter

Thanks Miley Cyrus

Thanks for the haunting performance on SNL of “Wish You Were Here”

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange
A walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Blink Review: “The Un-Trumping of America: A plan to make America a democracy again” by Dan Pfeiffer

This is a review of the Blinkist text and audio of “The Un-Trumping of America: A plan to make America a democracy again” by Dan Pfeiffer. This is the summary excerpt:

“Despite everything that Donald Trump has done during his time in the White House, he’s not the biggest threat to American democracy. Dan Pfeiffer believes that the Republican party as a whole – now thoroughly shot through with “Trumpism” – is a much greater and longer-term threat. The Democratic party needs to respond to this threat with fresh energy and ambitious, visionary plans.

Actionable advice: 

Get involved in politics.

It’s tempting to feel disillusioned by politics – or that you’re too insignificant to make a difference. Well, now is frankly not the time to feel like that. There are all sorts of steps you can do to support change in the political process, from proudly expressing your political affiliations online to donating money. Don’t forget – the presidency isn’t the only show in town. So much politics happens on a smaller scale than that: there’s always something to get involved with. Could you even run for office yourself?”

One of the author’s strongest positions is that the damage done to the Supreme Court by denying Justice Garland will cause a loss of public respect and support by Americans for decades to come. He feels this requires a retaliatory and corrective action. He lists possible corrections for this and the other damaging actions to ensure that this cannot ever happen to us again.

I am now clear that my most effective contribution is offering accounting and governance services to organizations that can make a difference. I helped launch a handful of new nonprofit groups this past year, also launched a political action committee and acted as campaign treasurer to three candidates. I’ve ruled out running as a candidate myself. The projects I’m most concerned about focus on educating and registering voters for mail-in balloting. I’ve distanced myself from Trump supporters and would not knowingly support, serve, hire or allow a Trump supporter as a guest in my home or businesses.

Making sure that my Republican Party can never allow this to happen again by registering and enrolling more voters in mail-in voting options is the best thing I can do as the first step on this long road to recovery.

An opportunity to change the community conversation

Recent news has rocked our world. We don’t know where it is headed. We don’t know how it will affect our future. We don’t know when it will end. We simply know that this is not normal. Yet, even right now, I see at least one clear possibility for channeling this into positive energy. Yes, this crisis is an opportunity. Right now we have an opportunity to change the public conversation, we have a rare opportunity to come together in our communities in a unified voice, to show our true human strengths, and seize this a unique opportunity for progressive change toward our shared goals.

My business focuses on sustainable business redevelopment in a rural community at the New Jersey bayshore. This field is typically divisive and partisan. I have regrettably become notorious as a divisive force for progressive change over several decades. I’ve made plenty of conservative enemies. My community activism even triggered death threats that snowballed into an attempted political assassination fourteen years ago. Recovery from those injuries cost me many years in recovery. The risks of political fighting within the community are all too real for me. My family and I certainly have good cause to fear politics and activism.

Yet despite this bitter experience, six years after the attack we were forced to learn an entirely new lesson. Superstorm Sandy wiped out my home and business in late 2012. In that time of community crisis, we all set down our weapons and come together for our own survival. Partisan bickering disappeared. We worked side by side to pull ourselves out of the mud and gradually rebuild out community. Our community of Money Island eventually rebuilt from within with virtually no support from government, even in the face of obvious FEMA fraud and maligned government forces working against us.

Over the past few days, I see signs that we will repeat many of the same social patterns. Even our normally impotent in Washington DC proved this weekend that people can come together for the common good. Rahm Emanuel is credited for saying “You never let a serious crisis go to waste”. The line gained notoriety. But over time we have learned that the ‘crisis management approach’ to community action has proven to be the most effective method we have available to unify our diverse communities. Those who can see this opportunity hold the keys to moving our communities forward. I urge each person reading this to recognize the opportunity, to take a lead role, and be a positive force in leadership through the crisis.

Someday this crisis will be over. But we have good reason to believe that positive measures adapted in an emergency become part of the mainstream of our lives going forward afterwards. Namaste.

Refuze Bees Wing

“I was nineteen when I came to town
They called in the Summer of Love
They were burningbabies, burning flags
The Hawks against the DovesI took a job in the STeamie
Down on Cauldrum Street
I fell in love with a laundry girl
Was working next to meShe was a rare thing
Fine as a beeswing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child
She was running wild, she said
As long as there’s no price on love, I’ll stay
And you wouldn’t want me any other wayBrown hair zig-zag round her face
And a look of half-surprise
Like a fox caught in the headlights
There was an animal in her eyesShe said, young man, O can’t you see
I’m not the factory kind
If you don’t take me out of here
I’ll surely lose my miindShe was a rare thing
Fine as a beeswing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child
She was running wild, she said
As long as there’s no price on love, I’ll stay
And you wouldn’t want me any other wayWe busked around the market towns
And picked fruit down in Kent
And we could tinker lamps and pots
And knives wherever we wentAnd I said that we might settle down
Get a few acres dug
Fire burning in the hearth
And babies on the rugShe said O man, you foolish man
It surely sounds like hell
You might be lord of half the world
You’ll not own me as wellShe was a rare thing
Fine as a beeswing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child
She was running wild, she said
As long as there’s no price on love, I’ll stay
And you wouldn’t want me any other wayWe was camping down the Gower one time
The work was pretty good
She thought we shouldn’t wait for frost
And I thought maybe we shouldWe were drinking more in those days
And tempers reached a pitch
Like a fool I let her run
With the rambling itchLast I hear she’s sleeping out
Back on Derby beat
White Horse in her hip pocket
And a wolfhound at her feetAnd they say she even marriend once
A man named Romany Brown
But even a Gypsy caravan
Was too much settliing downAnd they say her flower is faded now
Hard weather and hard booze
But maybe that’s just the price you pay
For the chains you refuseShe was a rare thing
Fine as a beeswing
And I missher more than ever words could say
If I could just taste
All of her wildness now
If I could hold her in my arms today
Then I wouldn’t want her any other way”

  • Richard Thompson performed this at Philadelphia Folk Festival. I don’t remember what year.