Last night was the first time I walked out on a movie. I struggled watching “Detroit” in the theater. In part, not that it is a bad movie, but that it is too good. At one point in the movie, I became aware that my fist caused my hand to hurt; I felt my blood pressure elevating due to anger. A strange emotion had taken hold of my soul. Few movies have caused me any sense of real emotion; but this one did. “Detroit” is an indictment on the complicit nature of white people’s comfort, as many all but too often turn a blind eye to police brutality and the constant killing of unarmed Black men. Many talk about All Lives Matter as they sit and watch video recordings of cops murdering Us. Too many Americans make excuses for their privileges, while dismissing Our daily exertion. We did not make it through the movie. After a while I was just too mad. I checked out and drifted to a mental place of pure frustration and anger. After a while the only thing I saw was white Americans’ silence. I saw a white supremacist in the White House who speaks about Black and Brown folk in a condescending way. A man and his majority white supporters who support white nationalism over shared values and mutual means. “Detroit” was nothing but a trigger warning for me. I saw Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford, Emmet Till, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Andeson, and more.
I wrote this essay on the past and current struggles of the Black and white working class in the United States. I noted that:
Racism has long divided the working class, and today is no different. Many white working class people voted for Donald Trump. And much like 2008, race was a reason. While some will salute a strong economy, in truth, wages have flattened for the working class. Because of this, and because white workers have grown suspicious of the burgeoning black power call by Black Lives Matter, the search for solidarity continues to escape a racially divided country, as noted by the current political climate.
This essay was published by the Hampton Institute here.
My African American Studies students are reading Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy. Stevenson notes that 1 out 3 black kids will be incarcerated in the 21st century. I selected this work because this matter is the problem of the 21st century. It is a continuity of failed Reagan and Bill Clinton policies aimed at people of color. The Trump/Sessions admin pledged to declare war on drugs and to enforce harsher sentencing. They will go after Hispanics and Black people first.
I was fortunate to hear Stevenson deliver a talk at NAIS People of Color Conference last year; but I really came to know him from friends and colleagues doing great work in the state of Alabama. Above is a video of his talk; it is moving and well worth the 55 minutes.
Great class discussion that centered around this video clip here.
I am excited about chapel today. My friend and our school minister is sharing a thought — as well as our Black Student Union leaders, who have organized a talk on why Black Lives Matter. Listening to them rehearse was inspiring. Our black student leaders wrote:” [a]s Ralph Ellison noted in his Invisible Man, we have seen our invisibility — which is why we are seeking to be seen and heard.” We are a diverse community seeking to enhance the voice of those who are often marginalized.
Above: My show of solidarity
We all know Pastor Martin Niemöller‘s quote here…
First 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 for me.
I fond this rendition to to be noteworthy too:
First, they came for the Blacks. I did nothing, because #AllLivesMatter.
Then they came for the Muslims. I did nothing, because I ‘don’t want the terrorists to win’.
They came for the ‘illiegal’ immigrants. I did nothing, because are they not ‘criminals’?
They came for the Native Americans. I did nothing, because they’re ‘mascots’…not people.
Then they came for me. I was alone. There was no one left to stand up for me….There you stand in your hypocrisy, after making a mockery my friends and me.
Above: Detroit Race Riot, 1967
This video points to the myth of color blindness and American inequality.
Below are brief summaries of black riots due to police brutality, as reported here in The Riot Act.
- Chicago, 1919. On a hot July afternoon, a black teen-ager named Eugene Williams went swimming in a customarily “white” area of Lake Michigan. Angry white beach-goers pelted him with stones until he drowned. When police refused to apprehend the culprit and instead arrested a black onlooker, blacks, who had long considered the police to be insensitive to their concerns, attacked the officers. Whites retaliated, ushering in four days of brutal violence in which policemen at times abetted the white-on-black assaults.
- Harlem, 1935. On March 19, department-store employees apprehended a 16-year-old shoplifter and whisked him off to be beaten in the store’s basement. An outraged crowd massed on 125th Street, as rumors circulated that that police had broken the arms of a black woman who tried to help the boy—made plausible, again, because of the police’s record of hostility to Harlem’s blacks. Rioting ensued for the next day, resulting in two deaths.
- Watts, 1965. On Aug. 11, police stopped motorist Marquette Frye on Avalon Street in the Los Angeles ghetto. Frye resisted arrest, a crowd gathered, and more policemen came. When some of them roughly manhandled Frye’s mother, the story took hold that cops had kicked a pregnant woman in the belly, further angering the mob. Violence reigned for four days, with 34 people killed.
- Detroit, 1967. On July 23, police raided a black drinking and gambling club, arresting some 80 habitués. Hordes of neighborhood blacks massed outside the establishment, first taunting the policemen, then throwing stones. A swarm of police cruisers swooped in but made no serious effort to disperse the crowd. Spontaneous looting and arson followed, and five days later, 43 people lay dead, many killed by police or National Guardsmen.
- Miami, 1980. On May 17, a Tampa jury acquitted four Miami policemen in the killing of Arthur McDuffie, a black businessman, whom they had beaten to death after chasing his motorcycle—the latest in a series of cases of police brutality. Mayhem followed, with black mobs attacking whites and white policemen retaliating with deadly gunfire. Eighteen people lost their lives.
Since the Watts riot of 1965, racism and the growing economic disparity in L.A. contributed to levels of violence that came to a halt after police officers were acquitted for the brutal beating of an unarmed black man named Rodney KIng. As pictured above, the L.A. riot brought rival gangs together to protest community inequality. This riot reduced years of black-on-black violence in L.A., as the murder rate declined. The killing of Freddie Grey by cops launched the city of Baltimore into a riot, which brought in the Department of Justice, who concluded that years of targeted hostility toward black and brown people and economic inequality were systematic issues. As I noted above — riots can be good. Cities such as Chicago might need a riot to address gang violence, economic inequality, police brutality, and racism.