A simple fact.
Welcome to Ice Cream Sunday! 🙂
Of course whenever I see the words “ice cream” I can’t help but smile and think of the song written by Tom Waits and re-interpreted by Jalacy “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins.
JUNETEENTH. It’s not a “federal” holiday but it is recognized in almost all of the states/territories of the United States – the exceptions (shamefully) are Hawaii and South Dakota. For people outside the United States, Juneteenth is the day the last slaves were freed 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Texas was the hold out and dared to keep slaves even though their freedom had been decreed years earlier. Next to Independence Day (July 4th) I can think of no better reason for a holiday than to celebrate the day when America ended the overt enslavement of it’s own citizens of color. My God, why is this not a National/Federal holiday already? But enough preaching.
Here is my Juneteenth playlist. Enjoy.
Let’s kick it off with Pharell Williams FREEDOM
A blast from the past Kool And The Gange – CELEBRATE
A classic; The Staple Singers – I’LL TAKE YOU THERE
Michael Franti – GOOD TO BE ALIVE TODAY
While African Americans formed the largest portion of slaves, it also included all people of color – including the various tribes of Indigenous Americans and hispanics. Buffy Saint Marie – CARRY IT ON
Redbone – COME AND GET YOUR LOVE
And even though we are in the midst of a cultural revolution – now is NOT the time to stop. Ozomatli – CAN’T STOP!
Shaun Martin – ONE BIG PARTY
Knowing the conversation that MUST continue to happen if we will move forward as a species. We must be fearless. The Neville Brothers – FEARLESS
A reminder of what it’s about and why we should celebrate – Cynthia Erivo – STAND UP from the movie HARRIET (based on the life of Harriet Tubman)
Bonus Track – reality check – We are still a long way from where we need to be in our evolution of humanity. There is still racism and bias. The revolution must continue.
Nina Simone – AIN’T GOT NO (from the musical HAIR)
“The kind of control you’re attempting, it’s not possible…
one thing the history of evolution has taught us is that life will not be contained;
life breaks free. It expands to new territories, crashes through barriers,
painfully, maybe even dangerously….
I’m simply saying, life finds a way.”
~ Jurassic Park (movie)
We Did It Our Way (6/14/2020)
For all those around the world
who have have been sickened and harmed by
into your lives, your governments, your countries
this legacy of self-interest
“I don’t think there are any Russians
and there ain’t no Yanks
Just corporate criminals
Playin’ with tanks”
“The child of hatred comes of age…
The sad neglect will surely take its toll…
For all those around the world
who have prayed
prayed in earnest and
“A plague upon America.”
“Death to America!”
or cried out “when will it end?”
God has heard you and
God has answered
I can tell you
with more coronavirus cases
than any other country in the world
with social unrest
caused by a pandemic, racism, inconsistent values,
police brutality and failed leadership
I can tell you
that you may feel confident
you did not have to lift a finger
you did not need to attack us
God has heard your prayers
and like the tower of Babel
Our “language” has become confused
like the walls of Jericho
all you had to do was blow your horns
we have come crashing down
the modern Rome is falling
you did not have to lift a finger
you did not need to attack us
let the ruin be a lesson
We did it our way
We did it to ourselves
* 2nd stanza quotes taken from The Call’s eerily prescient album MODERN ROMANS (1983)
Very few people around the world, and even fewer American’s know how far back the systemic racism goes in the United States – where attention spans limit any thorough reading of the US Constitution. For most American’s. Their knowledge of the Constitution Of The United States is a piece of yellowed paper with hard to read writing that is somehow supposed to be important.
But the United States Constitution is a very important part of our history and needs to be understood – and, I would suggest, needs updated. Because it has not been updated or understood it has allowed for any old jackass, like the president of the united states, to interpret it as he wishes and even use it as a weapon to justify his own racism.
Racism has existed in America before and ever since it became the United States of America. It is actually a part of the US Constitution. Don’t be shocked – slavery was part of the “national” economy when the Constitution was drafted. And I suppose that is where the trouble starts – when humans are viewed as products because of the color of their skin to be sold and traded at the will and whim of whites.
During the US Constitution Convention of 1783 – which was created to frame the government by creating constitutional guidelines. During the convention something happened that became known as the 3/5ths compromise. The article under debate was relating to taxation and representation. Many states wanted representation to be reflected by the number of people in each state and taxes determined by property (i.e. the more property the higher the taxes). While many southern states liked the idea of increased representation because of their slave population they objected to the notion of being taxed for their property since black and brown slaves were considered property which meant not only higher representation in congress but higher taxes also.
There arose what became known as the 3/5th compromise which allowed southern states to be taxed on only 3/5ths of their slave population. So this effectively denied humanity to 2/5ths of the slave population. That is like saying to every single black and brown person, “You’re not allowed to do ‘this’, or ‘that’ because you’re only 3/5ths of a human being. “You’re not even a complete human being”. That is outrageous!!!!!!
Thus the United States Constitution Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 states:
“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”
Now there was some good news to follow but it didn’t come until after the Civil War – and frankly, by then the damage had been done. Generations covering 80+ years had viewed people of color as “not entirely human”. The good news came in the form of the 14th amendment to the US Constitution which completely reverses the 3/5th compromise and states the “whole” number of people will be counted. So people of color were declared by law to be “whole” persons again.
Not that they needed white politicians to tell them that – but it did afford them the same protections as white people. So why do I say the damage was done? Well peoples minds were not that easily persuaded and by 1877 slave states started subverting the new law and actively sought ways to disenfranchise people of color. And that has been going on even into the modern era. Today people of color have been disenfranchised from property ownership, disenfranchised from voting because of all the voting district gerrymandering by politicians, Disenfranchised from education, career opportunities and economic success. There MUST be reparations. Reparation will be difficult for everyone. But putting it off because it will be difficult is not a sufficient excuse. The longer we wait the harder it will become. It will require a political will to change tax law, economic law, police law, credit law, and major criminal justice reform.
More than ever before we need to use the popular quote by John F Kennedy (which he stated about going to the moon) and apply it to reparations:
“We choose to …, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”
Where are our leaders with the political will to make this happen? It makes me angry to hear politicians deny the widespread systemic racism that exists. They are afraid – and they should be – because we live in a time of tyranny. And we must overthrow tyranny.
A great quote commonly misattributed to Thomas Jefferson (But no one knows for sure who first said it):
“When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”
Today I turn 60 and in light of what is happening here in America I wanted to examine my place in history and my experience with law enforcement and how it has informed my beliefs.
A short history: I am not black or brown. I am a white male of european descent. My ancestors emigrated from Switzerland to the United States in the mid 1870’s to escape religious persecution and enforced military service. Being of the Mennonite sect of Protestantism they were passionately pacifist and did not believe in, or support military actions. They were mostly farmers and craftsmen.
I have had a life of privilege. Growing up on a farm in a small community – not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. As a white man I have had many more opportunities than many people of color. I do not say that to brag or feel guilty about – but to simply acknowledge a fact. We owned the farm as it was handed down to the next generation. We insulated ourselves and kept to our own community – unless there were some few brave souls that would venture out through church missions in an effort to proselytize and convert others to our way of thinking and believing. The bottom line is – we always “had” – there was a sense of ownership and therefore entitlement. The vast majority of people of color have never had that and it is completely disingenuous to wonder, “why there are so many problems in communities of color?”
I have had job opportunities that a person of color would not have – I have had access to things that people of color do not have. I live a relatively comfortable life. So yes, I have white privilege.
I did not stay on the farm and since 1979 have lived in urban environments. my life is not without it’s “troubles” and my experiences with police from an early age have helped inform who I am today and my sympathies for communities of color as they struggle with police brutality, racism, oppression, suppression and a lack of opportunities economically (including business and land ownership).
Like many I have been appalled, enraged and deeply affected by the brutality of police that we have been seeing in America. Sadly, this is nothing new – what is new is that white people are also starting to protest and starting to experience the same injustices and crimes of law enforcement. While George Floyds brutal murder may have been the “straw the broke the camels back” law enforcement injustices have a long history. I’ve decided to look at my own history with law enforcement. I know not all cops are bad and maybe even the majority are good. But, there has been a long history of acceptance of bad police behavior, of officers who have been able to act with impunity. I have not been beaten, gassed or arrested for speaking my voice. I have however experienced police harassment which has impacted me forever.
I remember growing up – there was an image of a “friendly neighborhood cop” that was perpetuated in television, movies and the news. TV shows Like THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, MAYBERRY RFD, and many movies portrayed police whose primary function was as social responders. That image eroded over the 60’s and 70’s into a more aggressive function of law enforcement. And today the police have been militarized and have become a para-military organization viewing the communities they serve as war zones. And some wonder why people are afraid of and hate the police? I remember hearing one police officer say, “To catch a criminal, you have to think like a criminal”. And that type of thinking is part of the problem because that officer has streamlined his perception of his job and limited it to catching criminals. He was looking at every situation through that lens. That is a bias that will often lead down the wrong path. If you are only actively looking for criminal behavior you will start to, mistakenly, see any and all activity as potentially criminal activity. And eventually you will start making the jump (even involuntarily) to ” To catch a criminal, you must act as a criminal.”
My own distrust of law enforcement started soon after I started driving (1970’s). There is a small town called Smithville, Ohio that had a reputation for speed traps and police agressively ticketing people. One night at around 11PM I was driving my date home and our route went through Smithville. Knowing the reputation, I decided to drive 5 miles slower than the speed limit to be safe. However that did not stop the local police officer from pulling me over and harassing me and my date.
He asked for my drivers license and began to question me, why was I out driving around?, where was I going? etc. I asked him, “If I may, can I ask why you stopped us?” His response was both surprising and annoying. He said, “Because you were driving slower than the speed limit. Most people drive faster. I thought you might be intoxicated or up to something illegal.” I explained I was just driving my date home and was planning to go straight home after that. So he let us go. But my date and I were both annoyed because, FUCK!, you can’t even obey the law without getting stopped.
A few years later: (warning – white privilege alert!) I was driving north on Route 57 toward Rittman, OH I was doing 70MPH(Miles Per Hour) in a 55MPH zone. A highway patrol officer pulls me over. Very politely asks for my license and asks, “Do you know how fast you were going?” Of course I did, I was in a hurry to get home and had the cruise set at 70 since it was late at night and no traffic on the road. But I lied and said, “no”. He told me I was going 70MPH. I pretended to be surprised and sort of lied again saying, “I thought sure I had my cruise set at the speed limit (which was sort of true because the speed limit a few miles back was 65MPH to which 70MPH doesn’t seem so bad). He then noticed my last name and asked if my sister was so-and-so. Not sure where this was going and surprised by the question I said, “Yes, she’s my sister.” He went on to talk about how he used to have crush on my sister and had decided to let me go with a warning. He also said, “As long as you don’t go more than 5 miles over the speed limit we don’t stop people.” No ticket. Just a warning. It all felt weird and somehow not right. So even though I breathed a sigh of relief. I benefited from my white privilege in this instance but it still led to build my distrust of law enforcement. Because I knew it was wrong.
For many years after that I was able to stay away from law enforcement officers and situations. I already knew I didn’t want to have to deal with the harassment that comes with a run-in with law enforcement.
Then 9/11 happened. The HOMELAND SECURITY ACT was put into place and everyone became afraid. Americans became afraid of each other in ways that had never happened before. Law Enforcement, now a para-military force, was looking for anyone and anything that might be used in a crime. Camera’s became an item of threat.
I purchased my first camera in 2009. If you follow this blog you know that I love photography. You also know the nature of my photography and subject matter. Since then I have been stopped by law enforcement several times for taking pictures and in one instance was told that they had the right to confiscate my camera for any reason they might find suspicious.
On one occasion I was just walking down high street in Akron, literally just carrying my camera looking for anything that might grab my attention and a cop stopped me to question what I was doing and why.
In Cleveland, Transit police literally tracked down me and a friend who were taking urban photos and had photographed one of the transit trains. The train operator called police on us. They tracked us down several blocks from where we took the photos. There were three officers and they were ready for action. They even threatened to take away our cameras claiming it was illegal to take pictures of transit trains.
On another occasion a captain in the Akron police department emailed me to inquire about my activities at a location where my car was spotted. It was an abandoned auto garage and a passerby wrote down my license number and called it in because they thought I might be up to something “untoward”. I directed her to my blog – which she had already found before she emailed me – and she said I was okay and nothing would happen. So why the harassment? It’s because they want you to know they are watching you.
And one last time: My friend and I were at an abandoned observatory, car parked outside (no attempt to hide – obviously our big mistake). We had been there for maybe an hour. We happened to look out the window and saw a police car parked behind my car. We thought, “Oh crap, here we go again.” We went down and talked with the officer. He said he was just calling in backup because he saw a car with an out of town license plate and thought there might be a dead body on the property or some other “goings on”. We explained what we were doing; two crazy white guys taking pictures of abandoned places – and he let us go.
It’s such bullshit. Is it me or have cops taken this notion of “prevention” to unrealistic extremes? Anyway I’ve had it with cops. I don’t like them and don’t trust them. Brutality and harassment need to end. Period.
Now keep in mind. I was not ticketed, arrested or fined in any of these situations. And even though I experienced police harassment, if I was black it would have been a different story. So yes, I support Black Lives Matter and other protests against police brutality and unnecessary force. It’s way past time for a change!!!!!
An indirect situation/addendum: A couple of years ago I was called for jury duty. A black man had allegedly discharged a weapon at night and police chased him down and arrested him. All the evidence was circumstantial, police officers couldn’t even be sure he was the person who discharged a gun – but (in police thinking) because he ran he must be guilty – and it was the Akron Police VS. Defendant. As part of the questioning process to be on the jury we were asked what we felt about the only evidence being circumstantial (i.e. no direct evidence and no corroborating witnesses). I was against such evidence. They also questioned repeatedly about our opinions on police and police procedure. The attorney for the police was very aggressive and empirical as he tried to defend the police actions and use of insufficient and circumstantial evidence against this black man being tried. Well you can imagine my response to that based on my experience. Needless to say I was dismissed and did not have to serve on that jury for that poor man that was tried (I had already determined his innocence).
In closing, in part, when I look at the reasons my ancestors left Switzerland (persecution and enforced military service) maybe there are genetic markers of protest that, in addition to my experiences, have also informed my views. Feelings and ideas stretching back through my ancestors. And While I am physically unable to participate in marches/protests – I am there in spirit.
Welcome to America and the end of the world. Home of police terrorism.
The days of the “friendly neighborhood cop” are long gone.
I can’t believe I’m sayin’ this – but like N.W.A. says – FUK DA POLICE
They need to be held accountable for their crimes and stop hiding behind badges.