Author: Charles Dickey

Stop Glorifying Ignorance: ‘American Sniper’ in the Context of Mass Media

I’m not going to watch American Sniper. The name is enough to keep me away. Reading the synopsis in this Atlantic article praising it as “complex” leads me to register my disagreement.

This is a movie based on the autobiography of a self-described “redneck” who embraced an us vs. them worldview after the 1998 embassy bombings and enlisted in the Navy, where he was trained to kill people at a distance with a rifle. He discovered that he was good at it. And that he liked doing it. So he kept doing it; after 9/11, he had plenty of opportunities to pick people off in the battlefield. By some estimates, according to the Atlantic, he killed as many as 225 people over four tours of duty.

I’m not going to read Chris Kyle’s book, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. History, on which the movie is based. The few words that I read in the Atlantic are more than enough. Chris Kyle wrote, “I love war.” He wrote, “I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis.” He wrote, “I hate the damn savages.” He wrote that he finds killing “fun”.

I wish I couldn’t give a flying fuck about Chris Kyle. But here’s the thing: Chris Kyle is in the popular imagination of America because America lacks the imagination and will to be peaceful. This is no easy task, to be peaceful, given history, given mass media, given the glorification of the military in America. But to be peaceful is a necessary task. It always has been, though it’s been neglected in favor of the lazier task of belligerence.

Chris Kyle would not have been empowered to kill from a distance, he would not have been given a book deal in which to glorify his ignorance, and he would not be the subject of an Oscar-nominated film if America had the courage and imagination to actualize a just society.

Captured tweets illustrate how 'American Sniper' perpetuates white supremacy. via @LeslieK_nope

Captured tweets illustrate how ‘American Sniper’ perpetuates white supremacy. via @LeslieK_nope

The questions we should be asking ourselves as a society don’t have to do with the moral ambiguities of war. Let’s go back. The United States has the most advanced military in the history of the planet. On September 11th, 2001, two airplanes slammed into the World Trade Center, causing the collapse of the twin towers and the death of 2,997 people, leaving aside the 19 hijackers. The American government and media served the interests of the military-industrial complex by overwhelming public consciousness with fear and initiating the War on Terror. For more than 13 years, American military forces have been engaged in foreign operations. Overnight, American public life transformed from a dream of vanity and ignorance into a nightmare of fear, xenophobia, and ignorant patriotism. Since the beginning of the War on Terror in 2001, over 350,000 people have been killed, including approximately 220,000 civilians, according to the Costs of War report.

One of the salient features of American life in the age of mass media is ignorance. The ubiquity of television and the 24-hour news cycle pioneered by CNN in the 1980s has created a culture where people are fed opinions. CNN provided constant coverage of the first Gulf War. The phenomenon of corporate media news streaming into homes and public spaces has been continually ratcheted up over the past three decades. Immediately after 9/11, that corporate media infrastructure deployed an immense campaign to instate fear in the American public consciousness. That fear was twofold. On the ostensible level, the coverage and lack of analysis served to stoke fears of further terrorist attacks on American soil. On a more subtle level, the coverage and lack of analysis made clear that a paradigm hostile to public inquiry and dissent had swiftly taken dominance in the American public consciousness.

Rather than promoting free inquiry, objective analysis, and encouraging civic engagement, the corporate mass media, especially television–a technology that 87% of Americans turn to for news throughout the day–serves short bursts of stories and sound bites to deliver a narrative of news, an interpretation of events; in short, to deliver an opinion of the news to viewers.

And this is the context in which we’ve been sold the War on Terror, and in which the stunted life of a miseducated Texan bronco rodeo rider turned professional killer is celebrated as “complex”. Chris Kyle was not very complex. Tragic, I’ll allow; yet the tragedy is not solely his. The tragedy belongs to America.

How did we arrive here, in a dystopian 21st century where we’ve spent trillions on the War on Terror, where we criminalize people based on color, yet become indignant or tepid about prioritizing public healthcare? This is a deeply ill society that we live in, not a paragon of freedom, equality, or justice. The prominence of a story like American Sniper is just a minor symptom of the illness that pervades American society.

America Needs a Radical Revolution of Values

American society suffers from a profound clash of professed values and actual practices. We profess the value of education, but criminalize our children with a school-to-prison pipeline. We profess a love of liberty, but imprison unprecedented numbers of people, most for non-violent drug offenses, and the majority of those we imprison are people of color. We profess equality and security, yet our police departments operate as judge, jury, and executioner in the most disadvantaged communities–the ones that most need police officers to serve and protect. Those communities also need social services, yet social services are routinely cut in favor of corporate profits and privatization, and so the professed rights to life and the pursuit of happiness are compromised.

Chicago activists protesting criminalization of black youth at Cook County Detention Center on January 15, 2015 (photo by @MinkuMedia)

Chicago activists protesting criminalization of black youth at Cook County Detention Center on January 15, 2015 (photo by @MinkuMedia) Click image to read “Willing to Live for Our People”, about the young students who led the Chicago action

The roots of this clash grow from a contradiction at the core of our nation. The “unalienable rights” asserted in the Declaration of Independence have been denied, in some way or another, to African-Americans for the entire history of our nation. Unalienable rights, denied: a contradiction between the professed philosophy of the nation and its lived experience, its history.

This lived contradiction is similar to the notion of cognitive dissonance, the stress experienced by an individual who holds two contradictory beliefs. America professes equality, but practices inequality; this mismatch creates stress in America’s image of itself and in our public discourse.

American practices violate American ideals in the realm of foreign intervention, as well. Throughout American history, the nation has violated the sovereign rights of other nations: Cuba, the Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq, to name a few. While many apparently find it easy to dismiss military interventions as irrelevant to the unalienable rights of U.S. citizens, the professed philosophy of the Declaration of Independence is violated by foreign interventions that aim to subjugate populations to American interests.

Speaking on April 4, 1967, about his opposition to the Vietnam War, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that America had chosen to:

make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

In 21st century America, King’s recommended revolution of values has never occurred. From the perspective of militarization and violent foreign intervention, our practices have changed little, and arguably worsened, since Vietnam. Our media is complicit. The propaganda drilled into the American people after 9/11 had a profound effect, obliterating the security that many Americans felt during the 1990s and replacing it with a climate of fear. The violation of reason, the lack of debate and a measured response perpetuated by the military-industrial complex after 9/11 created a climate hostile to democracy in America. The 21st century would be a very different time if, rather than rushing to war, the American people had been able to muster the political consciousness and will to approach the attacks with objective analysis, rather than reactionary patriotism. Questions could have been asked, foreign policy analyzed and revised; America could have wrestled with the contradictions inherent in a nation that has never been at peace with its professed values of equality and liberty.

In a country where King’s “giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism” have never been conquered, and at a time when the reasons he cited for their continued tyranny are equally, if not more applicable than when he gave his speech, our ability to see the roots of our stress and discontent is obscured. In the pursuit of justice both at home and abroad, America must renounce an economics of consumption for a life of engagement. We must engage in a critical assessment of the ongoing national failure to actualize the ideals of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” that we declared on July 4th, 1776. We must undergo, as King declared, “a radical revolution of values” in order to engage in a correction of course that is long overdue.

We Must Abolish White Supremacy

“Is it racist to be proud of your own heritage? Is it racist to want to keep your own heritage pure? Racist is when you hate somebody so much that you want to destroy them.” Those are the words of Roan Garcia-Quintana, a national board member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which the Institution for Research & Education on Human Rights describes as a “white nationalist” organization. I think most people would agree that it’s not racist to be proud of your own heritage. When you begin advocating for keeping heritage pure, and your “heritage” has consistently oppressed people for centuries, you begin to seem like a racist.

If we take his questions and their implications at face value, Garcia-Quintana may not want to “destroy” other races, but the Ku Klux Klan explicitly does, and they are recruiting, as documented in “The Fourth Wave of the Ku Klux Klan,” a three-part video series published by Vice. Steven Howard, the Imperial Wizard of the North Mississippi White Knights, who appears also to be active in the National Socialist Movement, describes his White Knights as “Christian extremists” and draws parallels between his group and “Islamic extremists”. “They’re fighting a holy war and so are we,” Howard states in his interview with Vice. The series highlights the violent, explicitly white supremacist ideology of the Mississippi chapter as well as its tactic of recruiting veterans traumatized by war.

As “The Fourth Wave” suggests, writing off the KKK as a ridiculous relic of southern American culture may be foolhardy. On April 14, 2014, Frazier Glenn Miller was arrested in Kansas City after shooting at five and killing three people. Miller, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, was instrumental in two white supremacist organizations, the Carolina KKK and the White Patriot Party.

Miller’s history with the criminal justice system highlights questions of sentencing disparities in the criminal justice system. The Sentencing Project has found “excessive imprisonment and racial disparities throughout the criminal justice system.” The New Jim Crow highlights the racially biased nature of the War on Drugs and how its policies, including mandatory minimum sentences of five or ten years for federal drug convictions, disproportionately target African-Americans. The point to be made here is that the mandatory minimum sentence of five years for first-time non-violent drug offenders contrasts starkly against the six-month sentence that Miller served for founding the White Patriot Party, his second hate group.

This illustrates more than misplaced priorities; seen in the larger context of the American criminal justice system, the disparity between Miller’s sentence and non-violent drug offenders illustrates white supremacy at work. Miller, an avowed white supremacist, later took a plea deal for “plotting to obtain stolen military weapons, and for planning robberies and the assassination of SPLC founder Morris Dees,” and served only three years of a five-year sentence. Contrast this to the systemic injustice of African-Americans being coerced into plea bargains, sometimes for crimes they did not commit. According to Human Rights Watch, “Federal drug offenders convicted after trial receive sentences on average three times as long as those who accept a plea bargain,” and “97 percent of them decide to plead guilty,” since “drug defendants rarely prevail at trial.” Human Rights Watch cites the case of Sandra Avery, one among hundreds reviewed, who refused a plea bargain. At trial, she was found guilty of “possessing 50 grams of crack with intent to deliver” and sentenced to life without parole. Writing about Avery’s case, Jamie Fellner described it as a “misuse of power.” The European court of human rights has ruled that life without parole constitutes “inhuman and degrading treatment“.

Beyond the disparity of white supremacist terror contrasted to non-violent drug offenses, the recent plea deal taken by Marissa Alexander is worth examining. She rejected the offered plea bargain of three years’ imprisonment and maintained her right to defend her life against her estranged husband, invoking Florida’s stand-your-ground law — the same law that Florida police cited as the reason for not initially charging George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin. In consequence of rejecting the plea bargain, State Prosecutor Angela Corey sought a 20 year sentence, “in part due to the state’s mandatory sentencing laws.” The jury deliberated for 12 minutes and convicted Alexander on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with no intent to harm. Alexander appealed that conviction and the guilty verdict was overturned. She was then presented with an amplification of the plea deal: she could accept three years of detention, including time served, plus an additional two years of probation while wearing a surveillance monitor, or face charges again, with a mandatory sentence this time of 60 years. As Michelle Alexander has documented in The New Jim Crow, coercive plea deals such as this are routinely used by prosecutors against non-violent drug offenders.

The case of Assata Shakur is also worth review in considering the role of white supremacy in the routine operation of the criminal justice system. Shakur was unsuccessfully prosecuted nine times before she was convicted of a murder charge and six assault charges in the state of New Jersey in 1977. She was sentenced to life in prison.

Angela Davis has written incisively about how the “racist state of America persists“, stating that police killings of African-Americans “represent an unbroken stream of racist violence, both official and extra-legal, from slave patrols and the Ku Klux Klan, to contemporary profiling practices and present-day vigilantes.” Like Davis, Assata Shakur was active in the 1970s in the struggle for black liberation. Like Davis, she was targeted by government agencies and imprisoned. Davis gained her release from prison through the legal system; Shakur escaped to Cuba, where she was granted political asylum.

Some may point to Shakur’s escape, which involved Black Liberation Army members holding prison guards hostage, and cite violence. Those who do are missing the larger context of the violence of America. There was a reason that Malcolm X called for freedom and justice “by any means necessary.” That reason was white supremacy.

Some may point out that in his speech, Malcolm X called for “black nationalism”, and make a fallacious argument that we must condemn black nationalism if we condemn white nationalism. But again, context; oppression is exercised by groups with power over groups without power. When a society’s history, legal system, and culture oppress a group, morality compels us to condemn the oppression; hence, white nationalism needs to be condemned. When an oppressed people struggle against oppression, morality compels us to support the struggle. Black nationalism, like other aspects of black unrest, can perhaps best be viewed as a response against oppression.

The current wave of black unrest bears striking similarities to the mass movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Many white people feel threatened by black unrest. They must realize that black unrest is a product of white supremacy, and the only way to calm black unrest is to abolish white supremacy. This is the task before America.

White People

for Amiri Baraka

White people don’t wanna hear about struggle.
White people don’t want you to think. White people
don’t want you to think about struggle.
White people don’t want you to struggle.
White people don’t wanna hear about depression.
White people don’t wanna hear about revolution
unless it happened, mythically, in 1776,
unless it happened in a galaxy far far away.
White people wanna watch Star Wars.
White people wanna listen to Imagine Dragons.
White people wanna vote, don’t wanna hear about
Black people dying to vote, Black people
getting killed trying to exercise their right
to vote. White people wanna listen
to the blues, to jazz, to hip hop, to gangsta rap.
White people don’t wanna listen to Black people.
White people don’t wanna hear about Black people,
about history, about slavery, about white supremacy.
White people don’t wanna hear about it.
White people wanna watch CNN, MSNBC, Fox News.
White people wanna watch TV. White people don’t hafta
sing the blues. But they do, they might. To get paid.
White people want the money. They don’t wanna hear about
money, about inequality, about the lack of money.
White people don’t wanna hear about it.

White people don’t wanna think about the bombs we drop.
White people don’t wanna think about the wars we make.
White people don’t wanna think about the wars we make
to keep up business as usual, the status quo,
to keep the oil flowing, the fat pig greased.
White people wanna eat that barbeque.
White people wanna pay for that barbeque
with the money they make working 9-5 capitalism
in the capital of the War on Terror. White people
don’t wanna see the terror inherent in capitalism.
White people don’t wanna read these words.
White people don’t wanna see that shit.
White people wanna look the other way.
White people wanna turn on that TV.
White people don’t wanna hear about poverty.

No one wants to be in poverty.
No one should be impoverished.
Could we change that? White people been exporting poverty
and death for five hundred years.
Can’t change that. Can we change the future?

White people gotta turn it around.
White people need more than a heart.
White people get your head out of your ass.
White people look me in the eye.
White people see the world tremble in your terror,
see the blood, the bombs, the tears, the terror,
White people see the resolution, the spine, the humanity
unflinching in the face of 500 years of terror.
White people, don’t pass the buck.
White people, the buck stops with you.
White people, read some books written by Black people.
Read some books. Read some books written by some people
who are not cushioned by the system that you aspire to,
that keeps you comfortable, that pats you on the head
and tells you you are white, you are ok, the world is just.
White people, wake your asses up. Stay woke.
White people, white people, white people you are shameful.
White people, come out of the American Dream.
It is a dream.
White people,
Reality can be much more beautiful
than that damned dream.

Here’s the Thing, Mainstream America: Toward Understanding Depression, Situated in Context

I have suffered from depression for over 20 years, since I was a teenager. Sometimes, it’s difficult for me to recall a time when my perceptions were not colored by depression. Medication and a successful marriage have helped; meditation has helped, although I currently view it as a sort of opiate. I feel the need to situate my depression in the context of the larger culture. I feel that its roots are not simply personal and biological–although my brain predisposes me to depression, it seems reasonable to me that social factors are responsible as well.

We live in a society that puts a premium on activity and minimizes rest and reflection. My constitution is such that I need more rest and reflection than the average person. I am highly introspective, highly creative, highly intuitive, and highly receptive to sense impressions. These are all positive qualities, but in a society that puts a premium on activity and business, they become liabilities. Situated in the context of culture, my assets become liabilities.

Without silence, I wither. Media stimulation such as television, music, radio, even reading, consumes me. I need silence in order to concentrate on reading. Television commands my attention. Music is similar. While I can process conversation and media stimulation at the same time, it takes a concentrated effort.

I know that I am not alone in these qualities. They are the qualities of introverts, and research suggests that anywhere from a third to almost half of the American population is introverted. As an introvert, I spend more time thinking and analyzing than an extrovert. I am a critical thinker, and when I look deeply at American society, I am disturbed. I see an economics of exploitation, I see systemic racism, I see ignorance that fuels war. And I tend to ruminate on these issues, and ruminative thinking has been linked to depression.

I need to look at these issues; they are close to my heart. But they are deep and seemingly intractable, and there is little that an individual can do about them; yet to throw up my hands and turn away seems a betrayal of morals and of my heart. To analyze these issues can fuel a sense of injustice and begin a cycle of rumination; I need to act, but how? Writing is the best answer I have.

But here’s the thing, Mainstream America: you brag about justice and freedom while prosecuting wars and criminalizing poverty. You drive and consume and play the stock market and hypnotize yourself with the vanity of TV. You hold up your Constitution and Declaration of Independence while violating human rights and demanding dependence. I see that. Seeing that, I feel angry. Living within that collective poverty of soul, I ruminate. Navigating an economics of consumption for survival, I become depressed.

So it’s not me, Mainstream America. It’s you. It’s hypocrisy and usury. It’s your parasitic obesity that I see in the mirror, and that, yes, is very fucking depressing. I cannot escape your image, as I was created in it. I was born into this culture of high rhetoric and low practices regarding freedom. And I don’t feel free. I feel emotionally constrained within the walls of your mass media. I feel physically restrained by your profit-seeking. I feel ill, force-fed your consumer economy. I feel intellectually stunted by your non-participatory version of democracy. And I don’t know what to do, which is how you like me. I don’t know what to do, but I’m learning.

I, too, am working on getting free. I’m a middle-aged white man, and I, too, have been cheated of my freedom. It’s not obvious to you, Mainstream America. It’s not obvious to you, Extroverted Ideal Male. It’s not obvious, but my alienation is real.

I don’t know what to do, but I do know that love and anger can exist together, because they are both within me. I love many things: the sky on a clear night with all the stars showing me the infinite nature that is within each of us; the innocence of children, the wonder of youth; the wellspring of goodness that resides within the human heart and compels us toward justice. And it is because of love, because of a need for justice, because I believe we are all entitled to human rights, that we deserve to live and thrive as individuals and as a collective–because of love, I feel anger. When I see injustice, I feel anger. When I see selfishness, greed, I feel anger. When I watch my country do the exact opposite of what it professes that it does, when I see it suppress freedom and advocate profit over people, when I’ve watched it deliver death to foreign populations in the name of freedom and liberty since I was a teenager, I feel angry.

I don’t want to be depressed. I shouldn’t; I have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In order to heal this depression, I need to face this anger. I need to use it to construct something better than what I’ve been offered. This anger is a face of love; I know that now, and knowing that, I can move forward.

Head Against Wall: Notes on Loneliness, Immorality, and Despair

The loneliness comes from despair and not having anyone share that despair. It is in the despair–over the cruelty of a communal life lived without justice, without morals, without substance; all of which strips life of meaning–that I feel so alone.

It’s incredibly difficult to share depression with anyone. People don’t want to hear it. It’s too burdensome; there is no acceptable way to express that despair. People do not want to be honest with each other, except in the most exceptional of relationships. Our social structure is based on superficiality and ignorance of self and others. This is a terrible environment in which to be human.

And I guess this is why people write, why I write–because it is a form of communication free from the conventional rules of social etiquette. Writing allows me to escape the bonds of social conformity, to bypass the borders that keep me from communicating what I need to communicate–anguish.

It is anguish to live daily in a society that is based on economic expediency, where economic relationships supersede all others. This is a profoundly inhuman way to live, with the necessities of human beings subordinated to economics. The immorality of such a system is self-evident, which makes existing inside of it so agonizing. The system is sacrosanct. It cannot be deconstructed, because to dismantle the system means the disintegration of the environment–not the natural environment, but the economic and social environment that supports all the biological functions of the human animal, but none of the intellectual and spiritual functions. The environment is a base materialism, an ethic of consumption.

There’s Something Happenin Here

Marcus Garvey

The United States of America was founded on racism  and does not practice the values that it preaches. Writers are writing that. Racism infects all of us. Preachers are preaching and confessing that. Bearing witness.

The city of Chicago spent $20 million defending John Burge and his cohort; Burge is the police officer responsible for the torture of over 100 African-Americans between the years of 1972 and 1991. That’s nineteen years. Twenty-three years later, the United Nations Committee Against Torture has “called on the U.S. Government to provide redress to the Burge torture survivors”. The Ordinance seeking Reparations for the Chicago Torture Survivors is gaining the support of more alderpeople today as a result of on-the-ground and social media action publicizing this atrocity. This is one example of a shift in consciousness and intent that is occurring throughout the nation, being led by grassroots organizations. This movement, like the Occupy movement before it, is an incarnation of direct democracy. While direct democracy tactics may have limits on the national stage, we are witnessing a groundswell of activity that intends to challenge those limits.

Speaking of her time with the Black Panther Party, Assata Shakur has said: “Criticism and self-criticism were not encouraged.” Let me note that she left the party for this reason; however, I bring out the quote to apply it to mainstream America, not the Black Panthers. In America, despite our rhetoric of freedom of speech, individualism, and justice, criticism and self-criticism are not cultural values. This needs to change.

In the climate of state-sanctioned torture, the United States government has branded Assata Shakur a terrorist. And in the face of that, black youth are proudly wearing hoodies proclaiming ASSATA TAUGHT ME. There will be various interpretations of this choice of clothing. It appears to me an act of courage against overwhelming forces. Inside a nation where Assata Shakur has noted, “It was obvious I didn’t have one chance in a million of receiving any kind of justice” due to the color of her skin and the history of terror directed at people with that color of skin, and due to the biases of the legal system; in a nation which was founded and endures on white supremacy, these young activists are standing up, proclaiming themselves ready to “get free”, and not backing down. America owes them an immense debt for that.

But we don’t need to be running up any more moral debts in America. We are beyond morally bankrupt, and it is beyond time for those of us with white privilege and moral conscience to act as well. As Deray McKesson has stated, “Everybody has a role to play in the fight for social justice.”

That Just Doesn’t Make Any Sense at All: American Exceptionalism and White Supremacy are Incompatible with Justice

For anyone who still believes that police departments are not infected by racism, this on-the-ground account of the divergent experiences of two men–one white, one black–over the weekend at a protest in New York City may be helpful in getting a clear view. For anyone unfamiliar with excessive force and police corruption, watching this six-minute news clip about the beating of a suspected Latino drug dealer and the undocumented police action against the citizen that filmed the encounter should be informative. Please do note that the news clip is violent and includes police violence against a pregnant woman; those who may be disturbed by the video are advised to read the story instead. And for elucidation of the problems that the African American community has faced and continues to face from the non-African American community, I recommend this video of Angela Davis (prison interview footage starts at about 1:00 in).

Because of the way this society’s organized, because of the violence that exists on the surface everywhere, you have to expect that there are going to be such explosions. You have to expect things like that as reactions. If you are a black person and live in the black community all your life, and walk out on the street every day, seeing white policemen surrounding you… …when you live under a situation like that constantly… um, and then you ask me whether I approve of violence. I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense at all.

Those are the words of Angela Davis from over forty years ago. Yet, despite any advances that may be cited regarding civil and human rights in this country, they apply to our contemporary situation. Let me be clear: none of this is to condone violence. Violence exists. The state is violent. America is violent. Our society has always been violent. That we have been able to overcome the prejudice that we have, that we have been able to make any social progress at all through non-violent means situated in a historical and systemic matrix of violence attests to the power of non-violence.

Yet we have Dick Cheney telling media, “I’d do it again in a minute,” in regards to torture, which has once again been brought into the media spotlight with the release of a redacted version of the Senate’s 6,000 page torture report. This is the doctrine of American exceptionalism, the notion that, because we are America, we do not have to play by the rules. There is no room for justice in that doctrine. There is no room for dissent, which makes it an extremely poor doctrine for a nation founded on dissent and revolution. It boils down to the simple words of George W. Bush, “Either you are with us… or you are with the enemy.”

As calls for police accountability continue across the nation in the form of protests and non-violent #ShutItDown actions, I notice that mainstream white culture remains silent. I stopped paying attention to mainstream media a long time ago, so I’m unable to say definitively whether mainstream media continues with business as usual, though I have my impressions. There is a large segment of white America that simply doesn’t get it; “it” being the entrenched, historic, systemic violence against people of color, especially black people.

What will it take for America to become the just and free nation that it aggressively advertises itself to be? I humbly suggest less posturing, less defensiveness, less violence, the cultivation of empathy and the ability to listen, the demotion of individualism as a cultural value. More to the point: less American exceptionalism, less white supremacy.

An Open Letter of Love to Black Students

I love this. I learned from it. I’m saddened by it. I’m strengthened by it.

Black Space

IMG_5465 Black students and professors, Beaumont Tower, Michigan State University, December 6, 2014. photo by Darryl Quinton Evans

We are Black professors.

We are daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, godchildren, grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, and mothers.

We’re writing to tell you we see you and hear you.

We know the stories of dolls hanging by nooses, nigger written on dry erase boards and walls, stories of nigger said casually at parties by White students too drunk to know their own names but who know their place well enough to know nothing will happen if they call you out your name, stories of nigger said stone sober, stories of them calling you nigger using every other word except what they really mean to call you, stories of you having to explain your experience in classrooms—your language, your dress, your hair, your music, your skin—yourself, of you having to fight for all…

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