August 2016: Me & Make-up

 

My fiancé is a youth literacy and soccer coach for an innovative after-school program that targets kids in urban areas. During the summer, he works as a counselor for two camps affiliated with the program, coaching soccer and teaching poetry writing and performance.

Usually, he works with boys 8- to 11-years-old, but, last school year and this summer, he’s worked with an all-girl group and a co-ed group of kids 12- to 14-years-old. It’s been a struggle for him all around, but he’s complained about the girls way more than the boys.

This has, of course, aggravated my black feminist soul and caused us to have quite a few “discussions” about how offensive I find it that he calls teenage girls “terrible” to teach.

The last discussion we had was on our way to Kennywood a couple of weeks ago. We went with our daughter and his mother to celebrate Baby Girl’s 9th birthday. We drove, and, being the extremely verbal people that we are (he’s an educator, I’m an educator, Grandma is a librarian), we talked the whole way there and back.

At one point in the conversation, he complained, again, about the girls he had to work with at camp–how “mean” they are–and it got me heated.

I told him that he was being unfair to them, labeling them that way, and he was lacking in empathy for what they were going through.

Girls get thrust onto the sexual market, I told him, as soon as they and their male counterparts start to experience puberty. Whether they are emotionally or psychologically ready for it or not, they get forced into competing with other girls to be more attractive, and they get pressured into trying to win that competition, by whatever means available.

So, even if they don’t want to be viewed as sexual beings, in order to not be teased or ostracized, they usually start worrying with their hair and clothes, with make-up and perfume, with the size and shape of their body, so they can fit in or at least they don’t stick out as an “oddity” that doesn’t want or feel the need to be “pretty.”

It’s a lot of pressure–I told my fiancé. Because you don’t have any real control over the facial features you inherit, or how large or small your breasts, hips, or butt become naturally, or the natural texture of your hair, or even how much money your parents can afford to spend on clothes and hair and nail appointments for you. Yet, you’re treated as if the way you look is entirely mutable and within your control.

Failing to fit one of the oppressively small number of beauty ideals–I told him–which the majority of girls do–and especially black girls–will make you angry. It will frustrate you. It will make you lash out. I know firsthand.

You resent the boys that reinforce the idea that you are “ugly.” You resent the adults that don’t seem to understand how hard it is to be viewed as less than other girls. You resent the girls that are “prettier” than you, and you resent the girls that may be struggling with feeling “pretty,” like you, but won’t be honest about it or choose to bully or build up their self-esteem by acting out on you.

He nodded and said he understood. I suspect he just wanted me to calm down and be quiet, but I didn’t push the issue. I let it lie.

I told myself that there is only so much he could understand about being a teenage girl as an adult male, but I crossed my fingers that he had heard and would consider at least some of what I said.

I’ve carried that conversation with me since it happened. Because I realized that when I was talking about the hypothetical teenage girl struggling with her appearance and so-called “value” in the sexual marketplace, I was thinking of myself.

The timeline of the evolution of my feminism gets fuzzier and fuzzier as I get older, but I remember sometime before I got with my first serious boyfriend (at 14!) thinking that I wouldn’t fall into the trap of trying to be “pretty” for men.

I told myself that I would never wear make-up or dress a certain way to seem “sexy.”

I now know that I did that because I was afraid to fail at being “pretty” or seeming “sexy,” but, at the time, I told myself that I was opting out because it was “stupid” to want to be either of those things.

I told myself that I was an intellectual, an artist, and a rebel, and all I needed was for people to see me as those things and validate me for being smart, creative, strong, and unique.

I didn’t need to be “pretty” because there were more important things to be.

Then, I met my first serious boyfriend. I got the opportunity to feel what I secretly feared I would never feel: the thrill of being wanted.

It was so intoxicating after years of being bullied by the other, “prettier” and more popular girls–who I had assumed would always win over me in every arena other than academics–that I threw my nascent feminism to the fucking wind and did everything I could to keep First Boyfriend interested in me.

First Boyfriend told me that I’d look older and sexier with shorter hair, and so I begged and got my first short haircut.

First Boyfriend told me that I had nice legs, and so I started to wear tighter pants and skirts.

Then, First Boyfriend told me that I needed to wear make-up.

I bought my first lipstick–Revlon’s Blackberry–and a compact of pressed powder the very next.

That began it. Me and make-up.

I wore that lipstick and pressed powder every single fucking day of my life, and made careful, continual re-application into a behavioral tic about which my friends and family teased me, until I turned 25, and a friend put me on to MAC.

Then, I wore MAC every single fucking day of my life until my postpartum depression got so deeply entrenched that I couldn’t care anymore about make-up or anything much else outside of caring for my baby and keeping myself from falling totally apart.

I was about 32-years-old before I could make the deliberate decision to leave my house without make-up. Any time I did it before that, from age 15 until 32, I was either sick, in an extreme hurry, or tending to some sort of emergency.

And, if I did leave the house without make-up, I would flatly refuse to go to certain places and go utterly out of my way not to be seen by people that knew me or that I wanted to impress.

I had grown ashamed of my own face without even realizing it.

I had a similar thing going with my hair. I had relaxed, flawlessly coiffed hair. I was obsessive about maintaining it, too.

I wouldn’t work out, swim, or allow myself to get caught in the rain because water was its enemy.

I wouldn’t leave the house without it being perfectly styled, and I stayed checking myself in mirrors and windows, making sure not one hair was out of place.

I got it done every two weeks religiously. I wouldn’t allow anyone to touch it. I spent at least 45 minutes on it every morning. I spent copious amounts of money on it and countless hours in the salon, getting it done.

I mastered techniques for sleeping without losing my headscarf and messing it up at night; I learned to time my showers so the bathroom didn’t get humid enough to puff it out; I even figured out how to be on the bottom during sex and stop all the movement from messing up the nape of my neck or sweating out my edges; shit was that real.

Then, at 23, I realized that I was a prisoner to my hair. College had brought back my feminism with a vengeance, and I saw that I was being controlled by this idea that my hair had to be “flawless” in order for me to be “pretty.”

I started cutting it very short; that was as “rebellious” as I could stand to be at the time. I got the sides and back tapered, and I kept them ruthlessly low.

Then, I met a woman with a natural cut, and I became infatuated with the idea of cutting off my hair and going natural, too.

I thought she was brave because relaxed hair is a really rigid beauty standard in the black community, and I wanted to be that brave.

I wanted to believe in my beauty, and the power of my personality, enough that I didn’t “need” my relaxed hair.

And I cut it eventually. I went back-and-forth over the next few years between relaxing my hair and chopping it, wearing it straight and wearing it natural, but I didn’t stop grappling with the idea that I could–and should–accept my hair until I finally did.

Make-up has been tougher. Because a natural hair movement cropped up in the 15 years I struggled to accept my hair, but there hasn’t been a movement away from make-up, not of the same magnitude.

Even some of the staunchest feminists I know buy at least somewhat into the idea that women need to have perfect-looking skin, exotic-looking eyes, and full-looking lips.

And, for many of us, having perfect-looking skin or exotic-looking eyes or full-looking lips requires make-up.

With the exception of the lips, it requires me to wear a full face of make-up. That equals one foundation, four concealers, two blushes, a bronzer, three powders, mascara, eye liner, and no less than two lip pencils (I don’t wear lipstick or gloss because they wear off easier than pencil does).

Here’s the thing: I’m amazing at applying make-up. I have a very practiced hand. I learned from an actual MAC artist that taught me a new technique every time I made a $50 purchase.

I also have an impressive collection of high-end cosmetics. I have no problem paying $18 for a lipstick or $40 for a foundation because I believe that these things make me look better when I wear them than when I don’t.

What bothers me is that–the fact that I do believe I look better with make-up–the underlying belief that drives me to very meticulously paint a fake face over my real face any time that I do it.

That underlying belief is that my face, as it is, just isn’t fit for show.

Even as a feminist, and an adult, and a woman that has had boyfriends–an educated and rather evolved person–I believe that when  people see me without make-up, they don’t like my face or think that it is attractive or that I am attractive.

This may not be what compels other women to wear their cosmetics, but I know and I can admit that this is what compels me.

I take issue with it, too.

I’m real enough to acknowledge that I cannot love myself really if I can’t embrace the way that I look without any artifice or alterations.

I am also wise enough to know that if I am still being controlled by patriarchal concepts or other people’s concepts of what makes me “pretty,” then I am being controlled by other patriarchal or outside concepts of who or what I should be.

And I don’t want that.

I want to determine for myself who I am and what makes me a worthy human being.

I’m getting married in December, and, even though I’m excited to be joining with my fiancé, on our 15th anniversary, no less, I am deeply, deeply anxious about standing up in a room in front of an audience to say my vows.

I don’t enjoy people looking at me. Not that I must. Not that feeling “pretty” is a right or necessity. But I shouldn’t be afraid of it. Not at this age or stage of my life.

I also shouldn’t need to be wearing a silicone mask in order to be all right with it, either.

So I work at accepting the way I look. Every day. In spite of all the messages I still receive about how badly I need to look differently than I do.

I take selfies. I post them. Some with make-up, some without. I play with filters  and shadows. I try to capture moments and moods and not just “looks.” I try to see the art in my bones and muscles devoid of my make-up jobs.

I practice looking at these pics and thinking about what makes them appealing beyond how “pretty” I look in them.

I take pleasure in the fact that my features fit me into a chain of blood belonging to my beautiful mother and gorgeous daughter.

I try to treat wearing make-up as a choice and not a mandate, and I try to regard appreciating my face as a mandate and not a choice.

I started wearing make-up for a man. A wrong reason. And I will only continue to wear it if I can also be without it and still feel like I am decent-looking.

I don’t hate that man or make-up or my history with either, but I will not continue to have my concept of self-worth enmeshed with looking a certain way for another whole decade of my life.

I will be 40 in September, and I’m not blind to what I see in the mirror or naïve about it. Age is happening. Wrinkles are forming.

Those sharp lines are losing their acuity, and those discolorations and rough spots are growing more stubborn and prominent to the eye.

I know that in order to look less my age, I need make-up, but I’m determined not to be afraid to look my age. I’m determined to take pride in looking like a grown-ass woman.

I’m determined not to be afraid to look like me because I am not merely the sum of my face or physicality anyway.

I’m grateful to be able to say with some level of confidence now: I never was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monthly Column: Me &

Today, I’m starting a recurring column on the blog called “Me &.”

In it, I will step away from talking about feminism, politics, and culture and write about my personal experiences, inspirations, and ideas.

I’m looking at the column as a way of connecting with my readers on a deeper level and an opportunity to talk about “smaller,” but no less meaningful, subjects.

I’m really excited at the prospect of writing “Me &”–of stretching myself by thinking up interesting topics and sharing different facets of my personality.

I hope that you will log on every fourth Friday of the month to read and enjoy it.

Thanks to all of you that read and follow, for the attention and support you already give to The Bluest i.

MRS

 

You Have Nothing to Fear But Yourselves: A Retort to the GOP

Three days ago, at the end of the agonizing political shit show that was the 2016 RNC, Connie Schultz posted a really insightful analysis of the convention titled “RNC Message: Be Very Afraid.”

The gist of the convention, and Trump’s platform, are captured plainly and rather perfectly in the following lines from the article:

The Republican Party of Trump wants us to fear the other.

If we’re straight, we should fear the LGBT community.

If we’re working-class, we should fear the poor.

If we’re white, we should fear African-Americans.

If we speak English, we should fear anyone who speaks with a foreign accent, which is any accent that doesn’t sound like ours.

We should fear Muslims, all of them, always.

In Trump’s world, we should fear anyone who is not like us . . .

As you can see, Schultz writes from the first-person plural in her article (“we”); she writes as a white women speaking to other white people about this “problem” they’re experiencing–this presidential candidate whose disastrous ascendancy they have facilitated.

Under other circumstances this would be exclusionary, but, in this circumstance, it’s correct; she’s right to extrapolate from the point-of-view of the “average” white American.

Because the “average” white American is Trump’s target demographic. He’s not pitching a “restored” America to educated and affluent whites because they haven’t experienced any significant losses in jobs, wages, political power, or social position in the last 16 years. They don’t need to get back to a time when they could live more decent lives. They never stopped living decent lives, despite George W. Bush’s abysmal failures as President or Obama’s attempts to fix Bush’s mistakes (no matter what the GOP may say).

No, Trump is promising poor,  disprivileged whites that he will give them back the money and power they’ve lost over the last 16 years while at the same time convincing them that they lost this money and power to blacks and Mexicans and not the educated and affluent white men (like him) that actually run the country and make and move around the jobs and money.

Trump is distracting poor, disprivileged whites from the truth about the oppressive economic and class structure of America–from which he benefits just as much as any other member of the 2%–with wild, bigoted claims about blacks, Mexicans, and Muslims and their fanaticism, xenophobia, anti-whiteness, and criminality.

Not to mention his homophobic and misogynist rhetoric about how “progressives” are ruining the so-called moral fabric of this country, making it ripe for minorities, immigrants, and terrorists to “take over.”

Trump’s brand of bullshit works because the whites that he is targeting are afraid; they were already afraid, before he even began to campaign for President.

They heard experts predicting, throughout the aughts, the loss of their racial majority status by 2050; they witnessed 9-11 and the loss of America’s status as the ultimate superpower; they watched as a black man became President, and they panicked.

They became terrified of where they would end up in the hierarchy as the 21st century progressed past the paradigms of the 20th century.

The root of white people’s fear lies in the fundamental truth about race in America that all whites–and blacks, for that matter–understand, even if they equivocate about it like Trump and other leaders of the GOP:

Whiteness puts them at the top of the societal totem pole.

White people in America understand that the lives that they lead–which are scientifically proven to be more comfortable, more prosperous, healthier, freer, and safer than the lives that most minorities lead–are largely enabled by their whiteness. So threats to the hegemonic (ruling or dominant in a political or social context) status of whiteness make them afraid.

People exaggerating the tenuousness of their hold on hegemony are striking a very raw, newly exposed, nerve in their collective psyche, and people promising to preserve their hold on hegemony are saying exactly what they want to hear: their dominance (which was never really lost) can be restored.

Another reason that white people are cleaving to Trump and GOP conservatives and their vows to build walls and ban immigrants and blah, blah, blah is–due to their conditioning as part of the privileged class–they feel entitled.

They believe the Constitution, under the guise of “freedom,” guarantees them lives that are not marked by fear, which is why fear can have such a profoundly negative effect on them.

And this is where I want to enter the discussion–where Connie Schultz essentially ducks out. “A leader reminds us who we are — and inspires us to try harder” she says at the end of her article. She gives this mild rebuke, and then she’s done. “Try harder”–and that’s all.

She doesn’t say who exactly might be a more fit leader for Trump’s followers or define what it would mean for white people falling victim to Trump’s rhetoric to “try harder.”

So I will.

This is actually a perfect place for me–a black woman–to take up the conversation because I am a fucking expert in fear.

So here is what I have to say to  Trump, his followers, and all the other Rpublican fools that are letting fear lead them in a movement that just might occasion the toppling of our constitutional democracy, at least in terms of our civil liberties. About fear.

I wake up every day in the guest room of my parents’ suburban house. I don’t have my own place because there are only about four really good school systems in Northeast Ohio, and I can’t afford to live in any of them working as an adjunct English instructor. Now, I’m afraid of what I am teaching my daughter about dependency and the scope of her future as a black woman in America by living with my parents as a 40-year-old, but I am also afraid to live in a more affordable neighborhood where my daughter would go to lesser schools. I am afraid of what will happen to her when it’s time to apply for college–as a black female–without a high-quality grade school education and all of the extra opportunities that she receives as a part of an affluent school system. So I stay here. I contend with my fears.

I work two or three part-time jobs at a time to pay for my car, insurance, food, clothes, gas, and other expenditures. I don’t have a full-time job, not because I don’t want one, but because universities across the board have cut back on full-time teaching positions (it is cheaper for them to hire part-time, contingent instructors for which they don’t have to provide medical, life insurance, or disability coverage). This means that at the start of every semester I have to wait to see whether any of the colleges with which I am affiliated have classes for me to teach. Every semester, I am afraid that I will get no classes and make no money. I am afraid that if my parents, who are nearing 65, lose their jobs or die in the next few years (God forbid), my daughter and I will starve. I am especially afraid of the ramifications of my poverty now because of the GOP and all its promises to cut back on SNAP and other government benefits for disadvantaged people. But I contend with my fear.

I don’t deal passively with my employment situation, either; I look for full-time work, but as an English MA with more than 10 years of experience teaching, it’s all I’m really qualified to do. I already owe the government over $100,000 in loans for the education I’ve already obtained, so I don’t want to go back to school. I’m afraid to take out more loans, increase my debt, and face the same scarcity of jobs afterward. So I keep working as an adjunct and looking for full-time work in a tight market. I contend with my fears that I will always be living and working hand-to-mouth, and I will never experience the full benefit, in terms of my earnings, of the rigorous education I purchased for myself in my 20s.

Or pay back all those fucking loans I used to purchase said education.

I have a fiancé, father, future brother-in-law, and gang of black male friends whose safety I fear for daily. Northeast Ohio doesn’t have the best history when it comes to police harassment and brutality, and several of the men in my life have been victims of both. They are lucky to be alive, but their luck can give out at any time in dealing with law enforcement. I know this, yet I love them anyway. I contend with my fear for their lives.

I am a woman. I could be the victim of a sexual assault at any time. One in six women in America has been sexually assaulted. One in five black women in America has been sexually assaulted. This is my reality, yet I don’t lock myself in the house. I don’t own a gun (most people that own guns are killed by guns). I don’t hate men. I contend with my fear.

On top of all of this, I am an American. Anything that happens to America as a whole happens to me. If the stock market crashes, I am affected. If a pandemic breaks out, I could be infected just like anyone else. If there is a mass shooting, I could be shot or killed. If there is a massive terrorist attack, same thing. If there is a horrible natural disaster, I could lose everything I have, or be injured or killed as a result. Yet, I don’t commit suicide or move away from this crazy country I call home. I contend with my fear.

I am a consumer that doesn’t know whether the companies that sell my food, prescriptions, beauty products, shit, even my bottled water and moisturizing eye drops are telling me the truth about the “safety” of all these things or just lying to me so I will continue to buy from them until I finally do drop dead from toxicity. I am afraid, in a very vague way, of everything I put in and on my body. But I won’t starve or walk around naked or reeking. I contend with my fears. I eat, wear the underwire bras, and wash my ass and pray that I’m not poisoning myself any more than the pollution and unabated sun rays already do.

I am not a superhero. I am not a soldier. I am not exceptional in any way except perhaps my talent for writing (smile). I bleed blood like any other human being, and I cry tears, and I have an expiration date. I’m not a machine or animal. I’m not a queen or beast or boss or any of that other gimmicky shit people say.

I am a black woman, as I said, living in America. Trying to make a living in America. Trying to have a life.

I am not inherently better equipped to handle the exigencies of being a person just because there are a surplus of exigencies, as a black person, as a poor person, as a woman, for me to handle.

So handling these fears that I have–these logical, and, in a few cases, unavoidable, fears–is fundamentally a feat of strength, character, and integrity.

It’s a feat of spirituality, desire, forbearance, and attitude.

But I do it.

I don’t victimize or exploit other people to make up for the things I am missing. I don’t abuse people to feel better about myself and my situation. I don’t roll my shit downhill onto others.

I refuse to because I don’t want to–I want to be decent and contribute positively to the world and the lives of those around me–and, also, I am wise enough to know that even if I did displace my fears onto others, that wouldn’t actually remove any of the threats or uncertainties from my life.

The irony of white supremacy is that white people that believe in their supposed superiority are always touting their intellect, morality, facility, integrity–their bravery.

Yet, when they are put in situations where these characteristics should “kick in” and keep them from devolving into weakness, they rarely do.

I’m not going to be the asshole that says, well, if you’re so much better than everybody else, followers of Trump, then prove it. Get off the whole “fear” thing and cope like the rest of us.

But I will say this.

Everyone in America is afraid of what will happen to them as the century progresses. Everyone.

Only white people have their whiteness to cushion whatever fall they may take.

None of the rest of us have anything as powerful or dependable as that.

Yet, we contend with our fears.

You don’t see black people or Latinx people or LGBTQIA+ people or American Muslims talking about building walls.

Only cowards hole up in times of fear.

Leaders (right?) try harder.

Being afraid is debilitating. It clouds out joy and blocks pleasure. It leeches the meaning from life, and it can even ruin something as divine as love.

But if it’s good enough for all the rest of us, Trump followers, then it’s good enough for you.

You’re no more American than the rest of us. We’re in this thing together. This ship goes down, and we all sink.

So if you can’t fathom how you will survive, living in perpetual fear, just watch the rest of us.

Try harder.

Minorities in this country live in fear of people like you–that seek to thwart us in every possible way–every day, and we survive.

We come up with creative and edifying ways to convert and use our fear. We use it as fuel to make better lives despite all of the obstacles and hardships we face.

You can, too.

You can live with fear, and fight fear, without making an absolute mess of the country or continually scapegoating Others (the capital-O is intentional).

“It can feel easier to believe the worst about our world–and rely on someone else to save us–than to take charge of our own lives,” as Connie Schultz says,  but “anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do,” according to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Stop trying to hobble others to ensure that you remain in front.

Be braver than that.

Be better.

Accept that creating prosperity, safety, health, and freedom for all people will make the entire country more livable, and that will unpreventably include you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lesser of Two (D)Evils

There is a saying: “Better the devil you know . . .”

It’s an old saying, and older people tend to say it.

“Better the devil you know” than some unbeknownst evil.

Younger people, when they hear older people say this–when they’re issued this warning–hear complacency, not caution.

“Why any devil?” they demand to know.

“Why can’t we hold out for a savior?”

Young people almost always want revolution.

They tend to have more rigid ideals than older people.

They have more hope and energy.

They are infatuated with newness; they want a world to match their own.

This is evident in the way so many young people talk about this year’s Presidential election.

“I’m not voting for Trump or Hillary,” I keep hearing so many of the young people I know say.

Or rather I keep reading on their Facebook feeds.

And I get it.

I was young once, too. I wanted better choices for my generation so I could have a better life than my parents. I wanted a better world.

I still want a better world.

But age has given me two things to replace the hope and energy it’s robbed from me.

It’s given me perspective, and it’s given me candor.

It’s stripped away my tendency to talk mainly in terms of dreams and possibilities, and it’s impelling me to say:

The American political system can be revolutionized, but it won’t be, not by November.

The election will come, and a choice will have to be made within the context of the existent political framework.

And I think that for people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, immigrants, people with special needs, women, and poor people, that choice should be Hillary Clinton.

It pains me to say it, but a Republican in Democrat’s clothing is better than a borderline personality in Republican’s clothing.

Yes, I know: Hillary is Washington establishment.

She is a student of her husband and Obama, under which she served as Secretary of State. She is a game player, not a game changer.

She will probably continue with many of the programs Obama established, for bad as well as good. Others she’ll tweak and make more conservative.

His social initiatives, she’ll probably let fade into nonexistence.

She will probably allow the prison industry to keep growing, the NRA to keep calling legislative shots, and the public school system to descend further down below the nation’s expectations and closer to hell in that inequitable handbasket.

She’ll do little to nothing to stop mass shooting or racially-motivated police murders.

She’ll do nothing to change the way America squanders trillions on weapons.

She’ll do less than nothing to alter the class structure in any appreciable way.

She will more than likely continue to deport undeserving illegal immigrants in record numbers.

She will probably watch from atop Capitol Hill, ensconced in the safety of her job and wealth, as police forces grow more like military forces, as they use more robots to deploy more bombs on more civilian criminals.

She will probably order more American military forces to more foreign countries to fight terrorists that may or may not be a real threat to America.

She will probably pick someone disappointingly safe to fill the empty Supreme Court seat.

She won’t stop the southern states from making discriminatory laws against LGBTQIA+ citizens, and she won’t stop Republican governors from cutting off abortion rights.

She’ll give concerned speeches, and she may even make laws that seem to take on our concerns, but she won’t change the world or country.

She’ll be yet another US President, with the perennial baggage, but a woman.

This sounds terrible, too, right? Listed out like this. It sounds fatalistic or pessimistic, but what it really amounts to is a lot less dramatic: Hillary Clinton, if elected, will maintain the status quo.

Because as revolutionary as electing a black man to office may have been, it didn’t revolutionize government in the US.

Obama could’ve been any color, if we’re being honest.

His policies , when reviewed without bias, don’t reflect any allegiance to any particular minority or oppressed community or passion to alleviate any one issue troubling the nation.

Obama was not the One That Was Promised, to use Games of Thrones parlance.

He gave great optics, and he was, without a doubt, one of the most likable and morally upright leaders we’ve ever had.

He led with considerable intelligence and consistency. He gave great speeches, especially in times of tragedy, and he maintained a superlative level of dignity in the face of all the Republicans’ unwarranted, fallacious attacks.

He gave us a relatively improved healthcare system (for which I am personally and eternally grateful).

But Obama didn’t part the proverbial sea and lead us to the Promised Land.

Let’s be real.

So Hillary shouldn’t have to, either, I say, in order to obtain our votes.

It’s unfair, unsavory, and it’s damn disenchanting, but I think that all she really needs to be–in lieu of Trump–is not Trump.

That said, I think that we can want–and we can even start discussing and planning for–real and radical change in our political system, but, until we get something concrete on paper, or, better yet, in the works, we better vote in this election come November, and we better vote for Hillary Clinton. Or else.

I know this sounds horrible coming from a black feminist, but I can’t afford to be romantic or naïve about the importance of this election, and I don’t think anyone else with any of my financial or social concerns can afford it, either.

A lot of Americans opted out of the last midterm elections for the same reason they are thinking of opting out of November’s election–the lack of worthy candidates–and what happened?

We got a Republican Congress that couldn’t give a fuck about anyone that isn’t rich, white, cishet, “Christian,” male, and (not “or”) a born citizen of the US.

We got a Republican Congress that couldn’t give a fuck about honoring its President or political protocol when it came to doing their job, which is–and we seem to forget this just as readily as the members of this Republican Congress themselves–representing us.

We got a Republican Congress that couldn’t even produce a compelling enough presidential candidate to beat out Trump for the damned  candidacy–a Congress that helped create the political climate, with its racist propaganda and rhetoric, that made conditions ripe for Trump’s ascendency.

We can’t allow this Congress or its Frankensteinian monster to get any more powerful.

We can’t give Trump the White House to run into the ground like all of his previous business ventures.

We don’t want to be contestants on this reality TV show he’s producing for nothing more than ratings and revenue.

I don’t like Hillary any more than anyone else–because she won’t create any real change–but I’m also terrified of the changes that Trump would create–to our nation and the world.

So I’m going to vote for Hillary.

I’m not going to skip voting and increase the chance that Trump will win.

Not by the tiniest whit.

I’d rather have Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump in the White House.

Shit–I’d rather have Chelsea Clinton than Donald Trump in the White House.

Better the devil we know than the devil known for his violent unpredictability.

Better the devil that will singe than the one that will incinerate us.

 

 

 

Privilege & Privation

She is a pretty little girl, but that is probably part of the problem.

I’m not one that swoons over blond hair and blue eyes; I’m woke. I appreciate the attractiveness of African diasporic features just as much as I appreciate the attractiveness of European diasporic features.

Still, I recognize that this little girl is most people’s aesthetic wet dream, whether they’re white or black.

She has the blond, natural curls tumbling over her shoulders–the sort that literally bounce when she walks–and eyes that are a bright, not a watery, blue, like a crayon or square of bathroom tile.

She has cheeks that flush baby doll pink, a small, pink mouth, and just enough sun in her skin so that she doesn’t look sickly, but she doesn’t look burnt.

She is her mother’s only daughter–a cherished child–born and raised in this affluent suburb–cosseted like a flower in a hothouse.

Her mother and father are married; they live in the same house; they’re both gainfully employed. They take her to church every Sunday; they attend as a family. She has been horseback riding, and she takes paid swimming lessons. People compliment her on her confidence and singing–in that order–and she struts around like the little second-coming of Christina Aguilera.

She is in my daughter’s Brownie troop, and, at their last meeting, she stopped suddenly while playing with three other white girls, another black girl, and my little girl, and called a secret meeting.

She called two of the three other white girls by name to join her, stepped away from the lawn with them, wrapped her arms around their necks, and brought their faces down, close to hers so she could whisper to them.

Then, they took off–the three of them–across the parking lot to the woods out back of the church where the meetings are held.

The black girls watched as they met and ran off, then they followed, thinking that whatever business their “friends” needed to handle was done, and they could all start playing together again.

The last little white girl hung back. Intuitively, she knew what had just happened. She knew that a decision had been made to ostracize her.

She is an overweight little girl and already indoctrinated by society to believe that her body makes her ugly and unworthy; you can see it in the way she quietly, fearfully holds herself when she is sitting with the other girls.

She almost always wanders away, to the table of mothers at the back of the meeting room, when the other Brownies start playing, as if she’s doing their dirty work for them–kicking herself out of the game before someone else does.

Anyhow, back to the woods–

As the overweight white girl hangs back, and starts trying to figure out how to amuse herself, my daughter and her black friend run after the secret conspirators like silly little pups.

“Hey, you guys. We’re coming,” they call.

Before they can even arrive at the mouth of the woods, though, Curly–little Christina Aguilera–whips around and gives them this disgusted look.

“You’re not allowed in the woods,” she tells them. “I’m a member of this church, and you’re not members of this church. I can go into the woods, but you can’t.”

The girls are stunned. This is, of course, when I intervene.

“Let’s go,” I call to my daughter. “You, too,” I say to the other black girl.

I send the other girl back inside, where her mother is finishing up some field trip business with the leader, and I put my daughter into my car.

“Why did we have to leave?” she whines.

“Because I don’t like what was happening,” I tell her. “I don’t like what __________ was doing to you.”

I had been standing with another mother, watching the girls play–the mother of one of the conspirators–a quiet, brunette girl that is much more delicate and shy than Curly and so goes along with whatever she says–probably so Curly won’t hurt her feelings.

When this mother sees that I am gathering up my daughter, when she hears me explaining to my daughter, through the open windows of my car, that she should never beg for anyone’s acceptance because good people wouldn’t put her in the position to beg, this mother calls her daughter to the car, too. She puts her in the backseat and helps her with her seatbelt.

I don’t know what she tells her little girl, if she tells her anything. I only see them speed off. I see the dots of Curly and her other friend’s blonde heads against the blackish background of the trees in my rearview mirror

My daughter, asks, as we pull off of the parking lot, if Curly called those other girls over and took them into the woods with her because she’s white, and they’re white.

I reason it out with her. I ask if the other girls are members of the church; she says no. I ask whether the other black girl or she had been mean to Curly and her conspirators; she says no.

I ask whether she or any of the other black girls in the troop get to be a part of Curly’s “secret meetings” whenever she calls them (I make a guess this isn’t the first time she’s called a meeting, just the first time I’ve seen her), and she says no again, confirming that this behavior is a pattern–one that I wish I’d detected much earlier.

It’s only after this final “no” that I say to my daughter, yes, I think Curly did that because those girls are white like her, and you’re not.

I explain to her that they are heading into intermediate school and adolescence. Everyone is going to start feeling weird about themselves and their bodies. Some people are going to displace those feelings onto others; they’re going to make other people feel bad so they can feel better about themselves. So they can feel like they have more control over their lives than they really do at their age.

One of the ways that they will do this is by separating themselves. They’ll do it by color, income level, level of academic ability, level of athletic ability, all sorts of superficial things like that. A lot of people will start hanging in groups of people that look like them exclusively so they can pump each other up. Some might even start picking on people that don’t look like them so they can makes themselves look “better.”

Curly has discovered the worst kept secret of white America’s “success”–I tell my baby–that they can always use black people like pawns whenever they need to fake a win.

My daughter, the pragmatist, sighs and says, “Well, then, I’m glad my best friend is black.”

It’s sad, but I silently agree with her. I’d hate to see her get her heart broken by some girl she actually loves, treating her like Curly.

I’m still not sure it won’t happen at some point in the next few years.

I titled this post “Privilege & Privation” because I think this story is an interesting example of both.

Curly, to me, is nothing but a miniature of a certain type of white American. One that feels entitled to a high level of self-worth and resents the threat that people of color pose to that high level of self-worth.

She was raised privileged, and she wants to hang on to that privilege for the duration. It feels vitally necessary to her in order to function.

So much so that even as part of a Brownie troop in which six out of the 11 members are black (and two are Indian), she is determined that the tone of the interactions will be such that she gets to feel like the troop’s worthiest member.

Curly has clearly made up her mind to force her standards for worthiness–with her secret meetings and convoluted “codes”–onto everyone else before she is forced to measure herself according to the black girls’ standards and experience privation–a  lack of validation–for what would be the first time in her life.

Curly is no different than older white people that assert “All Lives Matter” when they hear people say “Black Lives Matter.” They are operating from the same impulse to preserve their privilege.

They are terrified that a movement that highlights the moral and ethical depravity of so many white police officers and lawmakers will really start to undermine the cultural myth of whites as superior and make it impossible for white people to position themselves as arbiters, i.e. the people that set the standards.

These white people understand that white privilege hinges on the hypothesis that white people are more worthy human beings than people of color.

They understand that in order for America to keep operating from the theory that whites deserve their privilege, they cannot allow this hypothesis to be proven incorrect.

So they say things like “He should’ve complied” when it comes to injustices like the murders of Eric Garner and Sandra Bland. Or they say “He was doing something illegal” when it comes to injustices like the murders of Mike Brown and Alton Sterling. Or they say “The cop feared for his life” when it comes to injustices like the murders of Alton Sterling and Tamir Rice.

They keep trying to make it seem as if these murders are justified, and legal, and they aren’t products of racism and bigotry.

They talk about black-on-black crime as if one atrocity somehow justifies another. They talk about the outrageous number of blacks in jail, ignoring the fact that the majority are in jail for nonviolent drug offenses and as a result of racist mandatory sentencing laws that target crimes to which blacks tend to gravitate (thank you, President Bill Clinton).

They say and do everything they can to discredit arguments that the victims of these murders are in fact victims, and they were murdered as much by bigoted perceptions of them as black men and women as by guns, so they can remain steeped in their privilege.

They are terrified of privation–the profound lack of respect, regard, rights, and refuge that blacks suffer across the board in American society.

They are doing just what Curly is attempting to do in my daughter’s Brownie troop– to make sure that the culture never becomes such that rewards and punishments–inclusion and acceptance–are doled out by non-white people on bases determined by non-white people.

I don’t know what it’s like to have an entire society slanted toward my survival or happiness. I don’t know what it’s like to be privileged. I am a black woman in America.

I have two degrees, but I am still underemployed. I have 10 years of experience in my field, but I am still underpaid. I have a blog that has received 31,000 views since January 8 (!), but I can’t even put this accomplishment on my resume because I know that the content of the blog, though extremely relevant to my life and life in America on the whole, can be construed as “anti-white.”

I live in a perpetual and edgeless state of black middle class privation.

Still, I am intelligent enough to understand why white people grasp so desperately at their privilege and honest enough to say that it makes perfect sense.

Which makes me overwhelmed when I try to think about what black people might do to get ourselves out of our institutionalized state of privation.

I am inclined to think that as long as such a large swath of the majority is acting like Curly–scared to exist in a space in which their exclusive survival is not the absolute and official priority–things will never get truly or substantially better for black people in America.

And I am angry that these adults that act like Curly get to go around pretending to be so supremely able to function in that sort of meritocracy when they clearly are not (privilege).

I am angry that Curly is how she is, and my daughter will have to deal with girls like her, doing the same sort of cruel things to her, for the rest of her life, just because my daughter is black.

She will have to fight so that her sense of herself isn’t chipped away, petty, hostile, unjustifiable interaction by petty, hostile, unjustifiable interaction.

And God forbid she run into a Curly that’s a cop. Someone that can take her desire to make my daughter feel puny and powerless and fire a gun with it. Legally.

See what I’m saying? Privation.

As a black American mother, I don’t have the privilege of pushing scenarios like this out of my head.

That they might actually happen is just too possible for people like me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuck Political Correctness

Nakia Jones, a police officer in Northeast Ohio (where I’m from), has gotten over 5 million views with a video she made in response to Alton Sterling’s murder by police in Baton Rouge on Wednesday.

In the video, Jones, a 20-year veteran of law enforcement, addresses fellow officers directly, saying–

How dare you stand next to me in the same uniform and murder somebody. How dare you. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. If you’re that officer and you know you have a God complex and you’re afraid of people who don’t look like you, you have no business wearing the uniform. Take it off.

I’m not an idealist or idiot; I know there is no way that hundreds or thousands of cops with biases against different races, ethnicities, or sexual orientations are going to resign from law enforcement in order to protect the safety of people they don’t even respect or regard as equals.

Law enforcement remains one of the few fields in which men and women that have not received bachelor’s degrees or trained in a highly skilled trade can make decent wages and receive workable insurance coverages and pensions, and people are not going to give up their “stuff” to save the lives of strangers. That’s just how people are.

Too, working in law enforcement confers power and preferential treatment onto people that would probably not get it otherwise–people that would be regarded as “average” if not for their badges and professional privileges.

Remaining on the force despite having psychological or psychiatric issues that get in the way of them doing their job effectively is just too tempting for too many officers, especially when breaking their oath and crossing the line of legality  with their behavior has little to no consequence in a court of law.

Still, I think Nakia Jones makes a salient point when she hits on the concept of disclosure in her video.

While I think an officer that is fearful shouldn’t be allowed to patrol the streets at all, an officer that prefers to patrol certain streets and not others should be allowed–and even encouraged–to impart his or her preferences to his or superiors.

Yes–I think police officers should be able to disclose their antipathies or animosities toward certain populations and/or communities, without losing their jobs, so they can work where they are most comfortable and won’t be impelled by bigotry or hatred to be unnecessarily  or unethically violent.

I think that Americans–as an entire nation–need to stop being delusional about our ability to tolerate racial differences and stop forcing people into these inauthentic moral and ethical poses and postures that they almost always betray, often times to the extreme detriment of the people around them.

You cannot force people to change their minds. You cannot force people to accept what they don’t want or open their hearts to something that they regard as harmful or hateful. You can’t make people act fairly or decently if they have no desire.

You can’t make people love or even like, and it takes more than PSAs and handbooks full of rules and regulations to stop them from being unfair or illogical in their thinking about others.

And while we can continue to try to reorient, reeducate, and recondition people’s beliefs and attitudes about racial and sexual differences, we need to buffer communities of color and LGBTQIA communities from things like police terrorism in the meantime.

Fuck political correctness. Black people need help. LGBTQIA people need help. And America owes it to us. Says its laws.

Political correctness and diversity have become the gold standards for professional conduct and hiring practices in this country. The media propagates this ideal of the “moral” person that exhibits his or her goodness by being tolerant of difference, and Americans, being the Puritans that we are–being so superficial, impractical, and pretentious–pretend like we want to live up to it.

When the truth is defining ourselves in hierarchical opposition to others makes us feel better about ourselves as we navigate in a world whose indifference to our so-called specialness makes us feel like fucking specks of nothing.

When the truth is most Americans draw great comfort from our bigotry, in whatever terrible form it takes.

Now, I can get on my soapbox about the stupidity of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia–how wrong they all are–how destructive they all are–but what I cannot do after the last 48 hours–in which police have unjustly murdered two black men–is wait for those messages to absorb on a large and meaningful scale.

To me, America needs solutions–workable steps that we can take to improve the ways that police officers’ biases play out in this nation’s streets.

And while we’re at it, we need to do something about the wide gaps in the way black students are treated in public schools in comparison to their white peers, and black patients are treated in hospitals in comparison to white patients.

So I say let employees in law enforcement, education, and medicine–in which people’s safety and well-being hinge on healthy (supportive and nurturing) interaction–select the specific circumstances in which they work, as much as they can do that.

Because police officers, doctors, and teachers are entrusted with the sacred responsibility of protecting people’s lives, so they need to be positioned where they can do their best and most beneficial work.

They need to be able to say, “I can’t put my beliefs about ______________ aside effectively enough to do my job the way it should be done,” so that job can be passed on to someone that can and will do it well.

At this point, I don’t care if that creates segregation within certain institutions. Until Americans become emotionally and psychologically mature and serious enough to handle the diversity we pretend to want, we need to stop dabbling in this dangerous throwing together of different, diametrically opposed people with weapons, instruments, unchecked power, ignorance, arrogance, and/or ill intentions.

It’s costing too many lives. Too many black lives. Too many LGBTQIA lives. Look at Louisiana. Look at Minnesota. Look at Florida.

Shit, look at Texas.

The cops ambushed by snipers in Dallas paid the price for what other cops in other cities did to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile–things they might not have done if they’d been dealing with white men.

I know how “bad” all of this probably seems to minds that have been primed since grade school by togetherness propaganda, but, until we get to the mythical, egalitarian “there” of interpersonal harmony imagined by activists and freedom fighters, I can’t help myself.

I can’t keep pretending like political correctness and forced efforts to create diversity are making things better for my people because they’re decidedly not.

The Declaration of Independence that we just celebrated on Monday says it is self-evident that all men are equal and endowed with certain rights to freedom. But the truth evidenced by the unforgivable violence of the last two days says  that I’m not equal, and I can’t expect equal treatment under law.

I can’t expect protection or justice from cops that are spurred to action by skewed training and racist opinions.

So, I say–change the personnel policies that force people to fake moral convictions. Allow cops to pick their patrols, doctors to pick their patients, and teachers to pick their students to ensure that they can do their jobs wholeheartedly and fairly.

I want America to be free and brave just like the next person, of course I do, but I also want to be here and breathing.

I want my people to be safe and sane. I want my family and friends to be whole and happy.

I want my blackness and body to be consecrated and loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blacks and Blue: About Alton Sterling and Avoiding Police Brutality

I don’t even know what to say. I honestly don’t know what I could say to adequately express how desperate Alton Sterling’s murder makes me feel as a black American.

Here is another black person shot by police that were not in any appreciable mortal danger. Police abusing their power, exploiting their power and the nation’s gaping lethal loopholes. Police betraying their oath of honor. Police playing with culpability like taking a life is a game.

I saw the video. Alton Sterling was not given enough time or space or warning to do something that would’ve de-escalated the conflict in which he found himself inadvertently locked with two police officers.

Like Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice and Freddie Grey and Eric Garner, and so many others, he was denied the right to due process and trial by jury; he was indicted, tried, convicted, and sentenced to execution by men that were not qualified, hired, or technically allowed to do anything other than arrest him.

Alton Sterling was killed for doing something that a white person would more than likely never even get arrested for doing. Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II stunned him, shoved him to the ground, put him in a hold, and then shot him multiple times in the head and back for selling pirated CDs and having a gun in his pocket.

Alton Sterling had a criminal history of battery and illegal possession of guns, yes, but he did not have a gun out and in his hand. He did not have a gun aimed at Salamoni and Lake when they attacked him.

It is uncertain, too, whether Salamoni and Lake even knew about his priors, though they will probably say they did after this to justify their actions.

The man that made the initial call to the police about Alton Sterling said Alton was selling CDs in front of the Triple S Food Mart on North Foster Drive (Baton Rouge, LA) and had threatened him with a gun. A very vague and convenient complaint to make about a strange black man.

In the video of his murder, Alton Sterling is armed, but he isn’t presenting any imminent danger. He isn’t shooting at Salamoni or Lake. He isn’t attempting to strike one or the other of them. He isn’t attempting to flee the scene. He isn’t even reacting in a verbally violent or confrontational way to the officers. Not that any of these things is punishable by death anyway.

Yet, one of these officers shot him. Salamoni or Lake–because he could–because he wanted to–shot and killed him.

Another black citizen. Another black father. Another black son. A man. A human. Reduced to a lifeless body. A statistic. An example. A headline in the news. A Twitter hashtag. And soon enough a year-old memory in millions of people’s Facebook feeds.

Alton Sterling’s death isn’t right. It isn’t justifiable. It shouldn’t be legal, and it shouldn’t be countenanced by the political establishment or American public, but we know that it will be.

People are already protesting the actions of the police in Baton Rouge–a federal investigation is underway–but the chances that Salamoni or Lake will be convicted for Alton Sterling’s murder are slim to none, and we all know it. We will all somehow accept it.

And I don’t know what I could write that would stop that. I don’t know what I could write that could assuage the ugliness of his murder or pain of his loss in any real way.

I am not some Pulitzer Prize winner. I am a single mother, living in suburban Ohio, trying to make meaning out of this life I’ve been given and cultural legacy I’ve inherited.

I write about things like this because writing is what I’ve always done to help me make sense of things. To help me to process difficult emotions. To make me feel like I have some modicum of power and influence over the world around me.

I write because I love it, but also because I feel like it’s important that people hear the thoughts, ideas, and emotions of a black woman embroiled in the politics of this nation.

As a black person, black feminist, and educator, I feel it’s important to speak up and out and answer oppression and the threat of annihilation with resistance and vitality.

Still, there’s nothing I can say about police murders like that of Alton Sterling that hasn’t already been said and said by people more eloquent and important than me. Except this. This one thing that I want to address not to this nation’s policemen, politicians, or even to the media, but rather to the average American that may be reading this on his or her screen–

I just want to ask you–white, black, or otherwise–to please, please stop calling the police on black people that are not truly–and I mean truly–threatening your life or someone else’s with their actions and/or an actual weapon.

In the ‘hood, it’s the code. Black people, for the most part, don’t involve the police in minor conflicts because they have generally brought a lot of unneeded and unwanted–unproductive–machinations into our communities.

Now, they bring a degree of lethal brutality that is so reminiscent of the Reconstruction era in American history, it’s scary.

So please do not create unnecessary opportunities for trigger-happy officers to murder innocent and/or unarmed people–devastate families and communities–destroy the fabric of public trust in law enforcement and faith in human goodness–and get away with it.

In a December 2014 article about the way American police are trained, a former officer named Seth Stoughton writes:

 . . . American police officers are among the best-trained in the world, but what they’re trained to do is part of the problem.

Police training starts in the academy, where the concept of officer safety is so heavily emphasized that it takes on almost religious significance. Rookie officers are taught what is widely known as the “first rule of law enforcement”: An officer’s overriding goal every day is to go home at the end of their shift. But cops live in a hostile world. They learn that every encounter, every individual is a potential threat. They always have to be on their guard because, as cops often say, “complacency kills.”

Officers aren’t just told about the risks they face. They are shown painfully vivid, heart-wrenching dash-cam footage of officers being beaten, disarmed, or gunned down after a moment of inattention or hesitation. They are told that the primary culprit isn’t the felon on the video, it is the officer’s lack of vigilance. And as they listen to the fallen officer’s last, desperate radio calls for help, every cop in the room is thinking exactly the same thing: “I won’t ever let that happen to me.” That’s the point of the training.

Stoughton goes on to say:

More pointed lessons come in the form of hands-on exercises . . . There are countless variations, but the lessons are the same: Hesitation can be fatal. So officers are trained to shoot before a threat is fully realized, to not wait until the last minute because the last minute may be too late.

But what about the consequences of a mistake? After all, that dark object in the suspect’s hands could be a wallet, not a gun. The occasional training scenario may even make that point. But officers are taught that the risks of mistake are less—far less—than the risks of hesitation. A common phrase among cops pretty much sums it up: “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.”

It’s important that we as Americans understand and accept this ugly truth: Police are not trained to put our safety first or even the so-called duties of the job in the forefront of their decisions and actions.

They are taught to do as much enforcing of the law as they can as they work as hard as they can to ensure that they are not hurt. They are trained, expected, and encouraged to put themselves before the people they protect and the communities they serve.

This is a drastically different concept of a police officer’s duties than the concept propagated in grade school classes, political public relations, and the media.

The Law Enforcement Oath of Honor states:

On my honor,
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the Constitution,
my community and the agency I serve.

According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, “courage” in the context of the oath means “having the strength to withstand unethical pressure, fear or danger.”

So a police officer that shoots before a threat is fully realized may be doing what he or she is trained to do–he or she may even be doing what most people would do–but he or she is also displacing his or her duty.

Police, when they take the oath to become officers, are essentially saying that they will attempt to be exceptional–helpful, ethical, brave, and responsible for the safety of others–for the sake of their profession.

If we know, though, that police officers on the whole do not take the oath as seriously as they take the principles of their training then we have to react to them like the posers and sometime sadists and opportunists that they are.

Stoughton writes:

In most police shootings, officers don’t shoot out of anger or frustration or hatred. They shoot because they are afraid. And they are afraid because they are constantly barraged with the message that that they should be afraid, that their survival depends on it. Not only do officers hear it in formal training, they also hear it informally from supervisors and older officers. They talk about it with their peers. They see it on police forums and law enforcement publications . . . Officers’ actions are grounded in their expectations, and they are taught to expect the worst.

And I say–so, too, should we as citizens when it comes to calling on police officers for help.

According to statistics, cops are assaulted in o.o9% of all interactions (63 million total) each year. Only 0.02% are injured and 0.00008% are killed.

Some might say this is because they are vigilant about protecting themselves, and, that may be true, but this reasoning goes against the purpose of law enforcement, which is, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the “prevention, detection, and investigation of crime and the apprehension of alleged offenders.”

I say–if cops are trained to prioritize themselves and not the job then we civilians should probably train ourselves, in direct and appropriate response, not to trust them.

We may even be safer, especially we black folk, if we commit on a wide scale to calling the police less often to apprehend people that are not posing a lethal threat.

That is since “officers use more force when they perceive a greater threat, [and] unconscious bias can lead officers to react more aggressively when confronting black men than they would when confronting others in otherwise identical situations.”

Either way, we need–Americans collectively–to acknowledge, for our own good, that many police officers are nothing but armed, narrowly skilled customer service workers that will only do what they must to keep their jobs.

We need to stop viewing them across the board as heroes that have learned to stop their emotions and biases from getting in the way of their work, and we need to stop relying on them to handle situations that are really just annoying or make us uncomfortable or intimidated but are not life-threatening.

The person that called the police on Tamir Rice told the dispatcher that Tamir was a minor, and he was probably playing with a toy gun. He or she probably felt uncomfortable with the imagery of the young black boy with the real-looking air rifle and wanted to “erase” it from his or her environment, but didn’t feel entitled or confident enough as an adult or member of the community to approach Tamir and tell him so.

Calling the police probably seemed logical to him or her because the police are supposed to handle nuisances. However, in the current climate, it might just have been better for the caller to find Tamir’s mother and talk with her about Tamir or even leave the park.

Calling the police drew a cop with a terrible record and obvious lack of interest in following procedure or keeping peace to the scene, where he shot and killed Tamir without even attempting to question or disarm him.

Mike Brown allegedly stole a couple packs of cigarillos from a convenience store, prompting the clerk to call the police on him.

No–Brown shouldn’t have been stealing, but there is actually such a thing as crime insurance which manages businesses’ loss exposures from criminal activities like thefts.

This means the owner of the convenience store could’ve gotten back the money for the shrink to which Mike contributed by filing a claim with his insurance company.

So the clerk didn’t have to call Darren Wilson to the scene of such a minor crime. He didn’t have to set Mike on the path to get 12 bullets fatally pumped into him.

The law stipulates the penalties for minor crimes like Alton’s and Mike’s, the Constitution stipulates the treatment they should receive as suspects, but police like Wilson and the officers in Cleveland and Baton Rouge ignore these stipulations.

Because they can, and there are no stiff or lingering consequences, they take the law into their own hands.

So maybe the most realistic solution to this problem is that we–the citizenry–take things into our own hands as well and try to address the problem of police brutality among ourselves.

And before you balk at what I’m asking–before you accuse me of asking too much or being completely unrealistic–please hear me out:

I’m not asking people to risk their safety in the face of plausible threats or drawn weapons. That wouldn’t make any sense.

I’m just asking that we start to think long and hard about how obsessive we are about our possessions and property and moralistic we are about other people’s behavior and how that translates into what we expect and want from police.

I think we can spend to take some time and think long and hard about the real reasons we call the police when we call them and whether we are placing more value on things or money than people if and when we do.

Human lives are more valuable than any commodities or material items we can buy or own, and we need to regard them that way, not as collateral damage in the war to amass wealth or campaign to prove our moral superiority.

In the interest of keeping ourselves and others safe from the dangerous consequences of police officers’ skewed training, perhaps we should only call the police when it’s absolutely necessary, especially if we are calling them to detain a person that isn’t posing a lethal threat to us.

Perhaps in doing this, we can decrease the chances of someone getting murdered by some cop not properly schooled in de-escalation, tactical withdrawal, or thinking beyond his or her gun belt.

It’s probably unreasonable to make this request of average American citizens, I acknowledge that.

The way I see it, though, we’re the only ones that seem to care about how murderous police procedures have become in this country.

So, I ask again: please stop calling the police on black people that are not truly threatening your life or someone else’s with their actions or a deadly weapon.

As a fellow citizen, and human, help take away some of law enforcement’s power to destroy black lives.

It may sound a bit anarchistic, turning away from the cops like this, but, if cops won’t uphold their oath, then I want to know: Why should we uphold the false image we have of them?

Why should we drag ourselves into collusion with them to needlessly take other people’s lives?

Why should we keep allowing them to get bolder and bolder until we mess round and one day become their victims?

If all lives matter then black lives are included in that, and people outside of the black community should want to fight for them just as hard as they fight for their own.