Eric Garner

My Own Incoherent Distress

Michelle Obama addresses the graduating class at King College Prep High School in Chicago on Tuesday, 10 June 2015. (Photo: Christian K Lee/Associated Press)

“That’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House, because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us―or it can change those myths.”

Michelle Obama

This is not, technically speaking, fair.

Then again, such is life. Michelle Obama stood before the graduating class of King College Prep High school in Chicago, yesterday, and delivered remarks that some have taken as a suggestion that the First Lady has officially entered the fight:

At a time of roiling debate over the issues of race and opportunity, punctuated by the events of Ferguson, Mo.; Staten Island; and Baltimore, the nation’s first African-American first lady has added her voice. It is not a new message for her, but one that has taken on special resonance and one delivered with bracing candor in recent speeches. Along the way, Mrs. Obama has opened a window into her own life, not just in Chicago but also in the White House.

By her telling, even living at the world’s most prominent address has not erased the sting of racial misunderstanding. In recent weeks, Mrs. Obama has talked of “insults and slights” directed at her husband and caricatures that have pained her. It all “used to really get to me,” she said, adding that she “had a lot of sleepless nights” until learning to ignore it. But she said she realized that she and her husband had a responsibility to rewrite the narrative for African-Americans.

“That’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House,” she told the graduating seniors of King College Prep High School on Tuesday, “because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us―or it can change those myths.”

(Baker)

Some of us might be pessimistic. After all, what signs have we that President Obama and the First Lady have changed any perceptions about dark skin? Indeed, if we measure by the headlines, we might suggest they have somehow managed to exacerbate race relations.

Then again, that would be a misperception, and this is the important part.

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A Hopeful Look Ahead to the Rest of 2015 … Or … Something

Detail of 'The K Chronicles', by Keith Knight, 3 February 2015 (via Daily Kos Comics)As much as we might look at our last tantrum and wish to open with, “In cheerier news …”, well, right. Like we’re gonna do that.

At right is a detail from The K Chronicles, by Keith Knight (via Daily Kos Comics, 3 February 2015).

Any questions?

No, seriously, if you need to be filled in at this point in the story, by all means stand up … you know, mostly so your neighbors can know who you are and look at you suspiciously like they never have before.

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Knight, Keith. “Your rights”. The K Chronicles. 3 February 2015.

An American Priority

Detail of cartoon by Matt Bors, 10 December 2014, via The Nib.Something about priorities goes here. And in our experience the underlying sentiment is not uncommon, yet many people do not like to admit it.

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Bors, Matt. “White People Problems”. The Nib. 10 December 2014.

Unfortunately Requisite

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Walking through the filth in the streets made me want to retch, but I hid it. Anyway, we all know Easterners are filthy, right? Look at how they live. Never mind that they can’t use sorcery to keep their neighborhoods clean the way Dragaerans do. If they want to use sorcery, they can become citizens of the Empire by moving into the country and becoming Teckla, or buying titles in the Jhereg. Don’t want to be serfs? They’re stubborn, too, aren’t they? Don’t have the money to buy titles? Of course not! Who’d give them a good job, seeing how filthy they are?

―Steven Brust, Yendi

Every once in a while, our friends show their (ahem!) “true colors”. Today it took the form of a post coming across a social media feed, one of those whining articles about, “Look! A black person committed a crime! And the victim was white! Where’s the racist Obama! What’s the matter with that racist Al Sharpton! Waaaaaaah!”

And no, we are not impressed. The following is a list of questions these people are skipping:

• Were the suspects arrested? (Yes.)

• Were the suspects charged with a crime? (Yes.)

• Were the suspects charged by a prosecutor directly or through grand jury indictment? (Prosecutor.)

• Why were the suspects not indicted by a grand jury?

• Why did the prosecutor not call them to testify on their own behalf at the grand jury investigation?

• Why did the prosecutor not call a string of witnesses with the intention of undermining his own case?

• Why did the prosecutor not falsely inform the jury of what the law says?

• Where are the lines of “law-abiding” people demanding due process for the accused?

And, certes, we might note that some questions can be answered according to the circumstance described in other answers. Why did the prosecutor not do this or that at the grand jury hearing? Because there was none. Why was there none? Because the prosecutor has the discretion to file charges on his own. Why did he do that? Because, under the circumstances, he could.

And, actually, that’s what it looks like for the vast majority of people accused of crimes, even those indicted by grand juries.

And that, in turn, is why the federal government is involved.

But wait … there’s more!

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Hope, Obscure, Refusing to Die

Detail of 'Animal Nuz #228' by Eric Lewis, 6 December 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.Sometimes amid the noise and bluster we might feel an angry impulse toward something that seems almost absurd by comparison. Yet it also seems inevitable that there is a lesson waiting to be learned. Eric Lewis reminds us of something very, very important that happened this week; the United States is moving back toward its very own manned space program.

But no. We can’t possibly pause to celebrate that, can we? Because we’re all too busy giving attention-hungry cops exactly the sort of sycophantic celebrity they’re after.

It is worth noting that controversial professor Leonard Jeffries used to denounce the space program as an effort by white people to spread their filth across the Universe. It’s only about a quarter-century later, and perhaps the most disgraceful thing about that rhetorical temper tantrum is the effort American society has devoted to proving it true.

Space exploration is something to be celebrated; getting the hell off its rock is one of the fundamental purposes of the living endeavor. This arrangement of matter and energy can last as long as the Universe itself allows, unless Life destroys itself first. Yet Lewis makes an important point: When the time comes, can we please leave the racism behind?

Everybody wins that way; the human endeavor can properly advance, and the hatemongers can finally start feeling like they’ve got a place to call home. And when they look around at the wreck of whatever is left, they can celebrate that they finally got what they wanted, the whole trash heap of human existence on planet Earth all to themselves.

Evolution is supposed to coincide with progress. Oh, you romantic American rebels, you.

A Perfectly Reasonable Request

Detail of cartoon by Randall Enos, 4 December 2014, via Cagle Post.

Over at Daily Kos, Dartagnan makes a perfectly reasonable request:

Considering the gravity of the circumstances and their potential impact on race relations in this country, it would seem prudent to hear from some actual police officers reacting to the non-indictment of one of their own for the “chokehold” death of Eric Garner. As has been pointed out repeatedly both here on this site (although those voices are decidedly in the minority) and in many other web-based forums, the job of a police officer entails a high degree of personal risk and stress often with very little in terms of reward. I think it’s incumbent on all of us to at least consider and try to appreciate some of their views so we can have a full understanding of the attitudes towards African-Americans in general of the officers to whom we have entrusted our safety and protection.

As Reported in The Week, several confirmed legitimate police have publicly weighed in on this tense and delicate debate on the website PoliceOne.com ....

With that kind of setup, certainly you have some idea of what comes next.

Call it what you want, but it is important to note that the one thing we shouldn’t call it is new.

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Dartagnan. “Wait A Minute—Let’s Hear From Some Actual Police Officers Before We Rush To Judgment”. Daily Kos. 4 December 2014.

Image credit: Detail of cartoon by Randall Enos, 4 December 2014, via Cagle Post.

Your United States of America

Detail of cartoon by Brian McFadden, 3 December 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.There are days when it absolutely sucks to be an American. Most days you can cheer yourself up by saying, “At least I’m not in Afghanistan!” Or Iraq. Or … well, yeah, that’s the thing, isn’t it?

Here’s the thing about that, the unspoken cheer-your-sorry-ass-up reality about life in the United States: Of course it could be worse. I could be black!

That ain’t gonna help our African-American neighbors cheer up, though. And, in truth, it shouldn’t cheer anyone, period.

A friend of mine noted, via Facebook, that now we’re going to see what a real riot looks like in the wake of a grand jury’s decision to not indict the blue-clad beast that killed Eric Garner. In truth, we should probably hope for a different approach; riots don’t seem to make the point. Then again, perhaps that is the point. The Huffington Post ran with the splash headline, “Strangler Cop Walks”, and perhaps there was a time when this would seem outrageous to suit-and-tie, church-going, patriotic Americans. That is to say, how dare anyone speak ill of the police, or something like that.

But the institutions of law have created extraordinary protection for homicidal law enforcement. Killer cops don’t really need an excuse. After all, as we learned in Missouri, being afraid of black people is a reason for a cop to shoot a black person.

Let us be blunt: When it’s two idiots calling themselves “New Black Panthers” plotting to hit the cops, or an ex-con gunning down badges in a coffee shop, it is easy for people to back even the worst of law enforcement officers. But just how much do our police officers think they can get away with before others decide it’s time to take up arms in defense against cops? And just how ugly do you think that will or won’t be?

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