Unitarian Universalists of Color Unite to support Baltimore

The world has been watching the story unfold in Baltimore.  We continue to feel the pain of this community…and all of the other communities that feel the sting of police brutality based on racial profiling.  My colleagues and I have issued a statement that sums up where we stand.  No one, let alone communities of faith, should be silent at this hour.

Please check out the following link to hear our collective voice in this ongoing struggle for justice:

UU Professionals of Color Statement on Baltimore

I See You Rekia Boyd…

rekia-boydI’ve just returned from an incredible, celebratory and relaxing time in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  I am not rich and nor do I have a glamorous lifestyle.  I had a little money on a credit card, some dear friends with a little room and a little imagination. And I realized that if I didn’t do something for my 50th birthday, I would regret it for the rest of my life.

But when I returned yesterday, I had a real wake up call.  I was struck by how invisible I felt.  Maybe it was the contrast of having been among such loving friends for a few days, but I could swear that no one met my eyes when I looked at them in San Diego airport; no one smiled back walking down the street in Hillcrest (touristy, white, gay neighborhood where I live); I was invisible.  And it made me feel raw.  It was such a contrast to how I felt in Mexico where people looked at me, spoke to me, smiled and even flirted with me.  I was alive and visible and I mattered.

But I don’t think its just that Mexicans are exceedingly friendly or that as a tourist, I was in high demand.  This is a United States problem.  As a black man, I am completely invisible much of the time, unless I’m perceived as a threat.  My black friends can attest to this. Every time I travel from or return to this country (and that is 5 passports worth), I get that reminder.  In fact, as I left for my weekend, I had my hair (dreadlocks) searched by TSA even though I was surrounded by white women with much more voluminous hair and easy-to-hide-things-in styles.  And when I questioned the agent (who was quite ironically a black man), he was honest and said “they don’t like the [dread]locks….”

And now I see the news of Rekia Boyd. It seems that no one was responsible for killing her.  No one was responsible for acting vigilante style while off duty. No one, mistook a cel phone for a gun; and no one fired that gun into a crowd putting a bullet in the back of her head. No one was reckless and no one was recklessly endangered.  No one did any of that, because no one sees Rekia Boyd. Like too many other black lives, male AND female, she is completely invisible in the eyes of the court, the media, education, health,…until, she is perceived to be a threat or a burden; then for as long as it takes a bullet to travel from the barrel of a gun, she becomes a haphazard target for a testosterone charged index finger that is trained to contract at the sight of black skin.

But you know what?  I see you Rekia Boyd…and God willing, many more of us see you too. And we are fighting to see more of you in headlines that don’t include the words “murder,” “victim” or “rape.”

I See You Rekia Boyd

I see you,
I see you Rekia Boyd
That night, thinking
“I’m alright”
That day, feeling
“I am loved.”

I see you…

I do not need to know you,
To see you,
Because once,
I was also 22
And just like you, I knew I was superhuman;
And funny wasn’t just funny
It was a riot…
And nights didn’t end
They became mornings…
And friends were forever,
And love was a weekend or two,
At least I hope that’s the way it was for you too…

But no worry,
I see you.

I see you,
Good choices and bad.
I see you,
In a crowd.
I see you,
Alone.
You’re alright,
You are loved,
And I pray
That others see you too.

I see you Rekia Boyd.

Gawker Article on Rekia Boyd Verdict

Black Lives Still Matter

IMG_0150Consider this:

The Dred Scott Decision, Plessy v. Ferguson, Woodrow Wilson’s segregationist policies within the Federal Government, all targeted in explicit language, the rights of blacks in the United States1. All state based anti-miscegenation laws included blacks whether or not they included other races or religions2. Throughout the history of the country, the gross majority of the time the federal government, or state or local governments have acted to restrict or exclude a race, it has largely been targeted at blacks or those with black blood in explicit language (albeit not exclusively, particularly in light of laws that restricted Chinese and Mexican immigration, interred Japanese citizens, etc.) The United States Census continued to use the term “Mulatto” until 1920 to protect whiteness in the population and vacillated between use of “color” or “race” until 19803; Even today, Black and White are still not broken down in the census except in their relationship to “Hispanic.”  Racism in the United States is built on the foundation of white superiority over black.

Now consider this:

The 15th Amendment speaks of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” even though its intent was to rectify a restriction that was aimed at blacks4; Executive Order 8802 (1941 desegregation of Federal Government) and 9981 (1948 desegregation of the armed forces) speak in general terms about “race, color, creed” even though they both only effected blacks and people of African descent (Native Americans were allowed to serve alongside whites as code breakers.)5 6 Brown v Board of Education was explicitly brought concerning blacks yet the ruling and the language of the decision speaks broadly to admit the plaintiffs to desegregated schools in the case on a “racially nondescriminatory” basis with all deliberate speed7. The voting rights act of 1965 although it was fought because of specific actions being taken against blacks includes the following broader less specific language:

“No voting qualifications or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”8

Time and again, the “solution” to specific discrimination aimed at blacks in the United States has not been specific to fixing that discrimination.  In 2005, 2008, 2009 Congress took baby steps toward acknowleding the government’s specific failure with blacks on this front by issuing first an apology for not passing anti lynching legislation9 and then issuing apologies for the United States’ role in the slave trade and the years of Jim Crow that followed the end of the Civil War.10  All of these congressional orders make specific reference to African Americans.  But this has been the exception to the rule.  Yet, when the Chinese Exclusion act was repealed in 1943 by the Magnuson act, the language was specific and spoke directly to people of Chinese decent11.  Somehow, whenever it comes time to fix something that is specifically aimed at blacks, white legislators get cold feet.  Even in addressing racism, black lives have not specifically mattered.

In medicine, one does not treat a sprained finger by putting someone in a body cast; One doesn’t remove the entire liver because someone has gall stones.  The goal in treating illness is always to be as specific and targeted as possible.  Rectifying the sickness of anti-black racism in the United States needs to be the same kind of specific surgery.  We cannot continue to speak or act in broad terms.  There is no shortcut, no blanket application to address black oppression because black oppression is unique; just as every other oppression that is experienced is unique.  What Black Lives Matter challenges us to do is address the specific issues surrounding black oppression without entering into the oppression olympics.  The movement tells us that we can look at the unique social location intersection that one group represents, whether that is race, color, nation of origin, sexual preference, gender identity, ability, or relationship status (or any combination thereof) and take the time to appreciate, uplift, uphold and defend each and every one of them.

Anti black racism is also not just going to “fade away.”  If the incidents at Sigma Alpha Epsilon in Oklahoma and North Carolina are any indication, young people are learning the language and action of racism just as their parents did before them12.  We are not “post racial;” If anything we are pre-racial for we have never been able to fully accept and explore concepts of identity with any sense of truth, honesty or equity.  We have only begun to explore who each of us really are.  Black Lives Matter is one step forward in that exploration.

#BlackLivesMatter

 

Footnotes

1. Dred Scott/ Plessy
2. List of Anti-Miscegenation Laws
3. United States Census Lists
4. Fifteenth Amendment
5. Executive Order 8802
6. Executive Order 9981
7. Brown v Board of Eduction Original Document
8. 1965 Voting Rights Act
9. US Government Apology for Lynching
10. US Government Apology for Slavery
11. 1943 Magnuson Act
12. SAE Under Fire