Tag Archives: racism

Men Are the Fucking Worst

8 Nov

Sorry, guys. It’s true. Men are the fucking worst. White men, I am mostly talking to you. But before you all roll your eyes, shut the browser window and grumble about women and feminism, and #notallmen and whatever, please hear me out. I feel like you owe us that much. Or don’t. And just reinforce my theory that men are the fucking worst.

Here’s the thing. There are plenty of individual men who are not, on their own, the fucking worst. I am, in fact, dating one such person and in my opinion, which of course is biased, he is pretty great. So let’s not get all crazy here. There are lots of men who, when they are on their own, I like very much. It is men as a group that I have a problem with. And also some men that are part of that group and absolutely refuse to engage with their own privilege, their own behavior, and the ways in which those things negatively impact those around them. Those men are individually pretty shitty. As a white person, I can understand the frustration with being lumped in with a bunch of other people who just happen to share a characteristic with me and then being blamed for their bad behavior. Or for the bad behavior of the group as a whole in which I am a member. Did I choose to be part of the oppressive class? No. But I am. And much in the way that men are the fucking worst, white people are also the fucking worst. Seriously, we suck. I am Jewish and do you know who tried to kill all the Jews? White people. People who look like me actively tried to wipe people who also look like me off the face of the earth and for what reason? Some bullshit, that’s what. And I am still lumped in with white people even though if it was up to white people I wouldn’t even exist anymore. And even still I am like, well, you know what? I benefit from the way that I look and even though I might not have been around at the inception of racism, I benefit from the persistence of it whether I like it or not and whether I want to admit it or not. But what does not admitting it get me? Nothing except that it makes me even more of the fucking worst. It is my job to be better.

So in my mind the same thing applies to men. I get it. Men get mad that women blame them for all the bad treatment and shit like that. And women do, in fact, blame men for historical things that current men might not have even been alive for. I understand that is frustrating. But take a second and ask yourself, really ask yourself, do you receive benefits in your daily life solely from being male. Let me give you some direction here. The answer is YES, yes you fucking do. And that isn’t your fault, necessarily, but it does need to be acknowledged and challenged and much as white people shouldn’t task people of color with undoing racism and educating us about how our behavior negatively impacts their lived experience, women should not be tasked with constantly calling men out on their shit. And that is part of the reason why the #metoo movement pissed me off. Women were tasked with reliving their horror for the benefit of men. This has been going on for fucking ever, it is the year 2017 for crying out loud, and this is all just coming out now. And it doesn’t just take one woman to make it happen. It takes tens of thousands. Millions, even. And I still don’t see us really having large discussions about the systemic reasons why this is the case.

Part of me feels compelled to go into all those systemic things that I wish we were talking about. A lot of me wants to address the issue that, in this rare moment when women are actually being listened to, there are only some women, very few women, with a platform to speak and with a voice that people are willing to hear. Those women are mostly famous, mostly wealthy, and mostly white. And, in my personal opinion, they still aren’t really being heard. They are the most privileged among us and still they are being dismissed in many corners. They are being given this moment but I can already see the moment fading away. See people wondering why we are still talking about this. People getting frustrated. But just think about all the women that have had these experiences who are not speaking up because, for myriad reasons, they cannot. The voices coming from Hollywood might be expressing experiences that most of us have had, but they are not loud enough to drown out the silence of millions more. And they are not powerful enough to stop all of the sexual assaults and sexual mistreatment that has happened since these scandals hit the mainstream, and they cannot stop those which will happen going forward.

I don’t know how to even begin to fix that other than to tell men to listen to the women in your lives. Don’t mock us when we express fear that, to you, might seem unfounded. We have been trained to sense danger in even the most unexpected places. Don’t call us crazy when we tell you that the way you are talking to us is condescending. Don’t get into bed with us when we are too drunk to consent and then tell us our behavior was confusing or that it is our fault that you misunderstood or that we wanted it.  Don’t tell us our lived experiences are not valid. Don’t speak over us. And also, pay attention. Don’t make us do all the work. Open your eyes and see what is right in front of you. See what you, yes you, do on a daily basis that undermines women’s feelings of self worth. It is not your fault that you grew up in this system. We all did. But it is your job to work to be better and to challenge it.

So, men, I am telling you that as a group you are the fucking worst and I don’t really like you. As a group, you make my life worse, more difficult. As a group, you make me feel less valuable, less valued, less human. So as individuals, try to be better. And in an effort to help, because I am feeling charitable today, I am going to start doing something. I am going to take my power back. Because what I have come to realize is that I don’t care if you like me or not. Did you hear that, men? I, Rebekah Frank, do not care whether you like me or think I am the biggest bitch in the entire world. I spent a lot of time caring. A lot of time protecting your feelings where you didn’t protect mine. A lot of time dressing a certain way, acting a certain way and doing certain things I didn’t want to do to make you like me but I am done with all that. In fact, I am going to do you a favor. When I don’t like what you’re doing, I’m going to tell you. And I might not be nice about it. And I hope you are man enough to take a step back and realize that what I am addressing did not happen in a vacuum, it has the full power of history behind it. And that history might not be your fault, personally, but you benefit from it so it is up to you to fight against its persistence. Just try and be a little bit less the worst. It won’t be easy and you won’t always get it right, but we’ll all be better because of it.

It is up to every man, just like it is up to every white person, to be less of the worst. So let’s get to it, shall we?

I’m Still on About Nazis! AKA Our President.

16 Aug

I might be stupid for putting this out on the Internet but whatever, if the National Security Agency is really reading our communications then it has seen me say way worse than what I am about to share here. So here it is: every single time a New York Times alert goes off on my phone there is a small (and ever growing) part of my brain that is hoping it is alerting me to the death of Donald J. Trump.

There, I said it.

I am not saying that I want someone to kill him, necessarily. Or that I want him to die in a car crash, or a fire, or of some extremely slow-moving but massively painful terminal illness. I haven’t really thought about it in that amount of depth. I just want him, as I have said over many easily monitored modes of communication, to take a long walk off a short pier and leave us to get along with the business of actually making this country great because these last few months, and specifically these last few days? They have not been great at all. At least not for any of us who believe that racism is a scourge and that all those horrible men (and the few women) who marched this past Friday with their tiki torches were inherently violent. Because here’s the thing: you don’t need to physically assault another person to be violent. Marching through a city carrying the flags of the oppressors, the enslavers, the genocidal and chanting, among other things, “Jews will not replace us” is in itself an act of violence. A permit for that sort of abhorrent behavior simply should not exist. Not on paper, and not in the words of the President of the United States of America. Because that is what Trump did yesterday. He gave a nod to the white supremacists and said, without equivocation,

Yes, this is okay on my watch.

And they fucking celebrated. Of course they did. They can finally rip off their hoods of shame and wear their racism proudly on their sleeves. They can mow down counter protestors,* beat an unarmed black man in a parking garage, vandalize the Holocaust Memorial in Boston for the second time this summer and plan to blow up a building in Oklahoma City. They can finally show us all how fucking oppressed they really are. It feels like open season here in the United States and Trump just threw his support solidly on the side of evil. And his propaganda machine simply continues churning out articles to be sure that they can control the narrative and keep people thinking that those pedaling hate and those protesting that hate are one in the same. And this is what I have to say to them:

Open your goddamn eyes, white people. OPEN THEM.

We are the fucking norm. WE ARE THE NORM.**

Turn on the TV and who do you see?
Walk into almost any board room, who do you see?
Look at any list of millionaires and billionaires, who do you mostly see?
Look at the photographs of our 45 presidents and, barring one single person in that entire list, who do you see?
Look at our Senate and House, who do you mostly see?

I could keep on going but I think I made my point alright and if I didn’t, then whatever, I am not going to waste my time. Because here’s the thing: loss of privilege is not synonymous with oppression no matter how you slice it. What is happening in America is simply an attempt, one moving at a glacial pace it feels like, to even the playing field and afford others the same opportunities that white people luck into at birth. Because that’s what it is: luck. God didn’t smile down on you and bless you with the ability to have a boss that looks like you, a name that doesn’t get your application thrown in the garbage can or the ability to leave an interaction with a police officer alive and uninjured. You happened to be born into a system that values something as inconsequential as the color of your skin and then just hands you things. And you have the fucking nerve to harken back to a time when you were guaranteed that privilege because people that looked like you and thought like you literally owned the competition. They bought them and sold them and bred them and worked them to fucking death and we are still entirely incapable as a nation to engage with that history in a way that gives it due credit for the fucked up systems we continue to recreate and reinforce. Well, fuck you. Seriously. Fuck you.

And fuck Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is a farce. He is a sorry excuse for a human being who only cares about you as long as you remain blindly faithful to him and when you lose the faith? Well, then he will use his applauded “straight talk” to eviscerate you on Twitter in much the same vein as a bully on the playground. And if you think for even a second that Donald Trump is seeing any sort of loss of privilege, that he is being oppressed in any way, think again. Because the only thing more protective than being a white man is being a filthy rich white man with absolutely no concern for the well being of any body else.

So, yeah, I wish Donald Trump would go the fuck away. If that means he dies, so be it. If it means he somehow gets stranded on an island somewhere with no access to Twitter or the presidential lectern, that’s okay too. Because as much as I have heard people mumbling that maybe it’s better that these bigots are out in the open because at least we know who they are, I have to disagree. They are using this as a way to fanaticize more people, to normalize their beliefs and to come at  us bigger next time. There is nothing good about that. There is nothing good about violently bigoted people, some of whom are armed to the gills with all manner of weaponry, feeling safe en masse in public spaces. This isn’t about free speech, because this version of free speech that keeps getting touted around values the rights of the oppressors over the rights of the oppressed. And the oppressors are doing just fine as far as rights go, in my opinion anyway.

So I say chase them back to where the fuck they came from. Identify them, humiliate them, let them cower in their basements. Kick their websites off servers and report them to social media. And then when social media does nothing about it, take social media to task. It’s enough already. These people don’t deserve access. They are disgusting. And so is the man that currently emboldens them.

So yeah, Trump can go. I don’t care where and I don’t care how, but I hope it isn’t pleasant.

*One of the recommended advanced searches when I looked for an article to link to regarding the death of Heather Heyer was for video of the attack put to music. This is America.

**As a Jewish person who sometimes passes as white and sometimes does not, I will include myself in this because I also benefit from white privilege. That being said, this is a particularly uncomfortable time to be a Jew, to say the very least.

These are scary, scary times

10 Nov

Friends. As many of you already know, today I am embarking on a journey. Today I leave, my trunk full of clothing and books, my heart heavy, and head down to New Orleans for a short but important new chapter. A time when I can reflect on who I am and who I want to be in this world. I time when I can just sit back, far away from family and many of my friends, far away from where I have called home for my entire adult life, and start building. I want to start building a me that makes active choices and decisions for where I want my life to go and becomes a more vocal person within my community, where ever that community may be. This is more important now than ever.

I thought that I, along with one of my closest friends, would be driving South in a different America than the one we find ourselves in today. I thought we would be driving in the spirit of celebration and safety, not feeling as though we are in a high-speed train, breaks failing, hurtling into the darkness. Clearly we, along with millions of others, were out of touch with the degree to which people are hurting all over this country, to the degree that people feel ignored and left behind, to the degree so many disdain the cities and the people that live within them. And I get it. Shit is hard. And I am sure I am going to be seeing a lot of hard shit on this ride – a different kind of poverty and destitution than I see day after day in my beloved New York City. And that is unfair. I truly believe we all deserve opportunity, that we should all feel as though we matter. But more than anything else, I feel as though we should all feel safe and at home here in our America. In our beautiful, diverse, America. And so, in keeping with my post from yesterday, albeit with slightly less swearing, I have just a few things to say.

I am having so many feelings right now. I am angry, I am shocked, I am saddened, but more than anything I am afraid. I spoke on the phone with my father last night and he who lived through America during the Vietnam War, through the assassinations of JFK, RFK, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, through the on-air killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, through the resignation of Richard Nixon, the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the horrors of the Cold War and September 11th and everything that has come before, in between and after, he told me that he has never felt so unsure or afraid for and about the future of our country. These are scary, scary times. Scarier than ever before. And I remember speaking to my mother in the days and weeks following the 2001 attack on our country, myself in tears and her with a strength she always manages to find, and having her assure me that there are always these moments, always these times, that give us uncertainty but that we must have resolve and move forward and know there is more good than evil out in the world. That although things will never be the same, we will adjust and we will learn and we will get better. When I spoke with her at 10pm on election night, as we were understanding the reality of where we stood, her voice cracked. These are scary, scary times.

And in the past few days since Donald Trump’s election, things have become clear: we are living in a moment where people are angry and this outcome has, for some though certainly not for all, legitimized their feelings of closed-mindedness and has emboldened them to behave in ways that openly threaten those around them. My friend Ashlie shared this story:

Tonight we were at a bar, celebrating Leon’s fantastic film screening. A man came up to our table behind my seated friend and proceeded to, without greeting or warning or any words at all, put his arms around her, hug her, and kiss her cheek. We all assumed it was an old friend, and she squirmed around to see who it was, and it was a complete stranger! I said, “Do you know him?” and she said “no! Not at all!!!” We all started telling him in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t get to do that, just touch and kiss anyone whenever he feels like it, and he responded, “but Trump just won the Presidential Race.”
I am not kidding, lying, or being even the slightest bit hyperbolic. That is what happened, and that is how he defended his actions. So, know that.

Reading through the comments on her post revealed to me that there were many women who had the same exact experiences. Men walking up to them and touching them, grabbing them, kissing them and saying that because now that we have a President Elect Trump it is within their rights to do so. And then, of course, there was the one man, the one white man, who called all these women liars. These are scary, scary times.

And my younger sister, a graduate of Wellesley University, shared with me a story recounted by Sydney Robertson:

Today, Wellesley women, like a lot of America, were in mourning.

Edward Tomasso and Parker Rander-Riccardi, two students at Babson College, decided to drive around our beautiful campus with a Trump flag in a pick up truck. They laughed, screamed and sped around campus. Then, they parked in front of the house for students of African decent, and jeered at them, screaming Trump and Make America Great Again. When one student asked them to leave, they spit in her direction.

This is not my America, this is Trump’s America filled with hatred and bigotry. This is what he has provoked. Please help us get these faces out there, they cannot get away with this.

And this is just the tip of the ice burg. There are women afraid to leave the house in the hijab; women making appointments at Planned Parenthoods to get IUDs before our access to birth control, and our rights to choose, are further threatened; one member of the North Carolina LGBTQ community woke up to find a note on his car that read “Can’t wait until your ‘marriage’ is overturned by a real president. Gay families = burn in hell. Trump 2016.” And this is just the beginning. This is just 36-hours in. These are scary, scary times.

And so I head south. Away from a New York that no longer feels safe and into the unknown. I’m sure I will be fine but still, the nervous butterflies in my stomach are a little more active than the were just 2 days ago. Things seem less certain, more foreboding, and just, I don’t know, more treacherous. We all need to be more careful because a dragon has been awoken and that dragon has found his and her voice within mainstream media and our government, on the streets of our cities and our towns, and things will be a lot less safe for all of us. Every single one. Because if there is a Trump supporter who is reading this blog, and if that Trump supporter happens to be a white female (as so many maddeningly were) or a person of color, let me just tell you this:

Your vote will not save you. You cannot wear your vote as a badge of honor or protection as you move through your life. You might feel as though you are one of them but you are not. You are not part of their America. You are not equal. You are not free. And you are not safe. And so, though I might be angry and though I might not be ready to try to love you and embrace you in order to move forward, I hope that this horror blows over soon for all of us. Although honestly I doubt it will. We have a long uphill battle. And though on November 8th and the days immediately after you never thought you would be walking alongside us, you will be. Your pussies are just as grabable, your ethnicity and patriotism just as questionable, your skin color just as threatening.

I know that not all Trump supporters are awful or full of hate or voted for anyone else but who they believed would be the best person for the job. But the loudest ones, the ones in the corners of the internet, the ones touching women and threatening people of color, they are full of hate. Those are the bad ones. And so for those who voted not from a place of hate but from a place of fear and hurt, a fear and hurt that so many of us have been experiencing, you know what? We will be here. We will be here waiting for you because no one, no one deserves to be treated as lesser than. And we are, truly, stronger together.

So I’ll be seeing you, New York. Stay safe out there everyone. No matter where, or who, you are.

Donald Trump is kind of our fault

5 Oct

I have actually written about Donald Trump on this blog not once, but twice. The first time was right after he tweeted that Kate Middleton shouldn’t be sunbathing in the nude and that she only had herself to blame” for the photos that spread like wildfire on the internet. What he forget to mention, of course, was the fact that she and Prince William were at some super secluded chalet somewhere in the woods and some asshole paparazzi with a crazy telephoto lens took her photograph from so far away that she would have appeared more like a spot in the distance to the unaided eye rather than someone flaunting her nudity for the world to see. That’s basically the same thing as if a Peeping Tom who took a woman’s photo while she was in the shower through her curtains using some sort of crazy perv camera and then saying that maybe if that woman had purchased curtains that were impenetrable by x-ray beams then she wouldn’t have had her photo taken and so basically it was her fault. Not the dude who bought the camera. No, of course not. But the woman who did not protect herself from every potential breach of privacy regardless the likelihood. I also would like to say for the record that women, and men for that matter, should be able to sunbathe nude with the reasonable expectation that no one photographs them and then distributes said photographs to “news” organizations. Also, to take it one step further, and I know this is going to sound crazy, but if these organizations would stop being dicks and refuse to purchase nonconsensual nude photos then maybe assholes like the photographer in this story wouldn’t purchase cameras with telephoto lenses, or whatever they are called, to steal images of people. A girl can dream.

The second post I wrote was 2 days later on the same topic only this time Trump made it worse.  He was able to make it worse because Fox “News” invited him onto “Fox and Friends” to elaborate on his tweet because obviously 140 characters worth of misogyny was not nearly enough. He made sure to tell people that obviously he liked Kate Middleton (which I am sure made her feel oodles better because anyone who is anyone wants Donald Trump to think favorably of them) but went on to say that exposing yourself when famous is just asking for trouble because if someone stands to make money off of your nudity then of course that’s precisely what they should do. Not, you know, be a decent human being. And then to make matters worse he commented on how someone had posted a picture of Prince Harry’s dick online and rather than be consistent and be like “well it’s his own fault for exposing himself” he said that Harry’s security detail fucked up. Photos of a naked female? The woman’s fault. Photos of a naked man? His security detail.

So anyway, when I wrote about Donald Trump the other two times it was like, ugh, why won’t this clown shut the fuck up?! And now? A few years later? Dude is leading in the presidential polls! Where are we living? Opposite land?! And it’s like, I really don’t want to give him any more credibility by taking him seriously enough to even write about him (even though not many people read this blog but whatever) but I am just so dumbfounded. Like, for real. This shit is bonkers.

So I just got back from traveling through Vietnam, Laos and Thailand with my friend Carrie and during our trip numerous people, finding out that I am American, asked me what the deal was with Donald Trump. And I mean, how do you even answer a question like that? Because what IS the deal? So far what he has done is insult practically everyone, make a mockery of our political system and reawaken all the rabidly racist, sexist, antisemitic groups in this country all while taking absolutely zero responsibility for the impacts of his words. I mean, seriously, the person leading the polls is someone who refers to himself as The Donald. THE DONALD! WHAT IS THAT?! It’s like, fuck! We have this guy who is all on about his money and whatever and he has filed for bankruptcy like 100 times. And he makes duck face always. And his hair is stupid. And he is still angry about something (entirely accurate) that Rosie O’Donnell said in 2006. I mean, imagine this dude as president. Actually, maybe don’t because I just did and it made me really sad. Also, angry.

I just don’t understand how this dude has said and done all the fucked up shit that he has said and done and he is still relevant. Actually relevant! He released both Lindsey Graham and Jorge Ramos’ private cell phone numbers; he said John McCain is not a war hero; he made lame ass comments about Megyn Kelly’s period; and, just, his hair. And while I am on about his hair, I am just going to copy/paste this quote from Vanity Fair here:

“In this 2002 photograph, Trump has changed his hair color to ‘Burnt-Cheetos Auburn.’ As well, the conventional hairsprays and salon products of years past appear to have given way to rubber cement and snot.”

I don’t know. I know that for a time, and maybe even still right now, some people thought this whole thing was funny. But it wasn’t funny, it isn’t funny, and it won’t even be funny when a few years in the future we look back and say, “hey, remember that time that poor excuse for a human being ran for president and actually led the polls for kind of a while?” Cuz the way I see it, this is just emblematic of the fact that our country is very sick. Very, very sick. I mean, look at what is happening. We have people shooting up schools, churches, parking lots and movie theaters damned near every day. We can’t pass meaningful gun control policy after a bunch of kindergardeners were murdered and a racist fuck opened fire in a church during worship. We have a somewhat sizeable portion of the population that still believes, despite the presence of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that our president was not born here. We have a bunch of overpaid white dudes trying to defund a woman’s health organization because they want to legislate what happens inside of our bodies and they simultaneously want government to mind its own business. We have some asshole raising the price on AIDS medication because his personal enrichment matters more than the lives of millions of people worldwide. I could continue but it’s just too damn early and shit is too damn fucked up.

Shit is bad. People keep saying that we will reach some sort of breaking point but I just don’t even know. We refuse to deal with the institutionalized problems within our country that keep the status quo. And we refuse to acknowledge that the American Dream is becoming less and less real and trying to “Make America Great Again,” as fucking Donald Trump says, is going to do absolute shit if all we care about is money and keeping the disempowered where they are. Donald Trump’s ascension, and his staying power, is significantly less surprising when we take the state of our country into account and realize that our population is kept intentionally ignorant about the reality of our political situation and that the lives of anyone other than the rich and famous are simply unimportant. It is all a game of being the coolest kid on the block and, unfortunately, some dude who regularly launches ad hominem attacks from his Twitter account is in the lead. This isn’t funny. It’s fucked.

Representative Peter King Blamed Garner’s Death on his Obesity

4 Dec

I am really angry. The decision to not so much as indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner is the most obvious case of institutionalized racism I think I have ever seen. It is unbelievable. Hearing the decision yesterday made me physically ill. I am so disgusted, saddened, disillusioned, embarrassed by our “justice” system that I can’t even put my feelings about the whole thing into words. So instead I am going to direct all my anger at Republican Congressman Peter King from Long Island. My mom once told me that sometimes it is good to have a hate object and well, Congressman King is my hate object. So, in over 3000 words, I transcribed the majority of an interview King gave to Wolf Blitzer of CNN interspersed with my largely unbridled rage. There is a lot of swearing. I hope I got it right but please, tell me if I didn’t.

Wolf Blitzer: What’s your reaction to the grand jury decision today?

Rep. Peter King (hereafter RPK): First of all the death was tragic and…uh…and our hearts have to go out to…uh…the Garner family. Having said that, I do not believe, I feel strongly that the police officer should not have been indicted. I’ve been following this case from the start. He had a 350-pound person who was resisting arrest.

They were arresting him for selling loosies. And although he did resist being handcuffed, which I would imagine happens quite often, Garner neither attacked any of the 5 officers who surrounded him nor did he attempt to flee. His being 350-pounds does not by definition make him a threat.

RPK: The police were trying to bring him down as quickly as possible.

Using a chokehold. The use of chokeholds, according to the New York Law Journal, was limited in some form since at least 1985, when police commissioner Benjamin Ward issued this order:

1. Effective immediately, choke holds, which are potentially lethal and unnecessary, WILL NOT be routinely used by members of the New York City Police Department.

2. Choke holds will ONLY be used if the officer’s life is in danger or some other person’s life is in danger and the choke hold is the least dangerous alternative method of restraint available to the police officer.

We can all agree, since we have seen the motherfucking video of Eric Garner dying in broad daylight while pleading for his life, that at no point in time were the lives of any of the officers in danger at all. There is no grey area here, there are no inconsistencies. Eric Garner was murdered, plain and simple. On August 1st the fucking medical examiner reported that Garner’s death was due to compressions of the neck and “prone position during physical restraint by the police.” It was ruled a homicide.

Also important to note, because the ban on chokeholds has been in effect for so long, New York City police officers are not actually trained to execute the move properly, increasing the risk of injury or death significantly.

RPK: If he had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese almost definitely he would not have died from this.

Apparently Representative King thinks the appropriate course of action here is to blame Eric Garner, and his pre-existing health conditions, for his own death. According to Rory I. Lancman and Daniel Pearlstein of the New York Law Journal, “What makes a chokehold so dangerous is how quickly it can kill, depending on a number of essentially unpredictable (and even unknowable) variables, including the underlying physical and mental health of the person being restrained and the skill of the officer applying the hold.” So, yea, Garner’s health was a contributing factor to his death (according to the coroner’s office) but do you know what the actual factor was? The chokehold. A chokehold which was likely improperly executed because, as per NYPD regulations, Officer Daniel Pantaleo was not properly trained to use the move. And the thing is that if he had not used it, improperly and unnecessarily, Eric Garner, despite his being asthmatic, despite his being overweight, and despite his having a heart condition would almost certainly still be alive right now. In the words of Representative King, “almost definitely he would not have died.” But let us continue.

RPK: The police had no reason to know that he was in serious condition. I know that people were saying that he said 11 times or 7 times I can’t breath? Well the fact is if you can’t breath you can’t talk.

Fuck you you mother fucking piece of shit. Do you know why people are saying he said “I can’t breath” 11 times? Because he did. And you know how we know that? Because we saw the video. Eric Garner was being strangled, he was forcibly put on the ground, face first, and held there by the weight of more than one police officer. He died as result of compressions to the neck and the position he was placed in by police officers during his arrest. He could not breath. He died because he could not breath. And that is the fault of the arresting officers. Not his preexisting health condition. He died because Officer Daniel Pantaleo murdered him.

RPK: And if you’ve ever seen anyone locked up resisting arrest, and I’ve seen it, and it’s been white guys, and they’re always saying ‘you’re breaking my arm,’ you’re choking me,’ ‘you’re doing this,’ so police hear that all the time. They…uh…in this case…uh… a chokehold is not illegal, it is against department regulations, but if you look carefully I don’t think there was an intent to put him in a chokehold because he does move the baton as he brings him down.

So according to King because the police apparently hear all kinds of people whining about being hurt or, you know, strangled and because sometimes those people whining are White guys then the police couldn’t possibly be expected to take the whining of this man, who just happened to be Black, seriously. But the point of a chokehold is to cut off airflow, to keep someone from breathing. And it has a history of killing people. It was banned in LA because it was the cause of death of 16 people being arrested between the years of 1977 and 1982. And if our knowledge of (the lack of) police accountability means anything, I would venture to guess the actual number is higher. Also, Representative King, does the name Anthony Baez ring a bell? Because the Eric Garner case is hauntingly similar. Anthony Baez died from asphyxiation after being subjected to a police chokehold and subsequently suffering an asthma attack in 1994. The officer was acquitted. Twenty years, no fucking difference.

RPK: Also people are saying very casually that this was done out of racial motives, or a violation of civil rights. There’s not a hint there that anyone used any racial epithet and also what’s not mentioned is the senior officer on the squad that was there on the location was an African American female sergeant. So I don’t knot where the racial angle comes in. I have no doubt that if that was a 350-pound White guy he would have been treated the same.

I don’t actually think that anyone is saying anything casually. I think people are saying this with all the seriousness and with all the gravity that they can muster. I think people are saying this based on a history of institutionalized racism that dates back over 200 years. I don’t think there is anything casual about hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets across the country, across the entire world, to say this is not okay, that this is not justice, that Black lives DO matter and that all of us of all races and religions and backgrounds see that. There is nothing casual about the Lincoln tunnel being shut down, about die-ins, about the millions of tweets, about the pain that so many people are feeling, about the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and Anthony Baez and Sean Bell and Tamir Rice and Amadou Diallo and all the others. There is nothing casual about any of it because we are sick and tired of the consistent valuation of people based off their skin color. And the police officers don’t have to actually say anything racist for their actions to be racially motivated. They were not afraid of Garner because he was huge, they were afraid of Garner because he was huge while being Black. And they acted the way they acted because the risk involved was so low because the odds are they wouldn’t be held accountable for their actions because usually they aren’t. Because in our society, in our police forces, in our justice system Black lives don’t matter. This case is an example of that reality and there is nothing casual about it. It is fucking disgusting.

And the fact that the person in charge was “an African American female sergeant?” That’s like when people say they aren’t racist because they have Black friends. There being a Black person present does not take the element of racism out of the equation and that the person was female makes this statement absolutely laughable. We live in a culture that not only exhibits institutionalized racism but also institutionalized misogyny. And just as racism seems to flourish in organizations such as police departments, so too does misogyny. But I wouldn’t expect someone as unexamined, as willfully ignorant as Representative Peter King to be able to understand something like that.

Rep. King then goes on a minute long explanation of the police officers’ presence in the neighborhood, saying that it was at the request of the people “in that minority community” that they were there because Garner was “constantly selling cigarettes outside their establishments.” So obviously since people of color allegedly had a problem with Garner selling loosies then the police presence, and their subsequent actions, was not only justified but also completely without racial undertones. Oh, okay, I get it now.

Wolf: Chokeholds, I’m told, are banned by the New York City Police Department, Congressman, so I guess a lot of the question is why isn’t the police officer, in this particular case Daniel Pantaleo, being held accountable if in fact he did engage in that chokehold?

RPK: First of all it’s not illegal it’s against departmental policy so that has nothing to do with committing a crime. Secondly there is a real debate as to whether or not that was a chokehold because he did not seem to sustain the baton at the Adam’s apple…

A debate in your head, and amongst your racist friends, does not actually count as a real debate, sir. And when you are capable of watching a man murdered on tape and come out the other side saying only “he did not seem to sustain the baton at the Adam’s apple,” I just, you have not a human bone in your body. You have no emotion, no empathy, no sense of right and wrong. You are so blinded, so controlled, by the societal norms that you claim don’t exist. You actually make me sick.

RPK:…and again I don’t think there’s any indication either they intended to choke him…when you have a 350-pound guy that’s resisting and he’s almost 6 to 7 inches taller than you (and he’s black) you try to grab him where you can and bring him down. And when he was on the ground, I heard someone before say they beat him, nobody punched him, nobody kicked him.

But again the autopsy showed that the pressure on his body during the attempt to handcuff Garner was a contributing factor in his death. They didn’t need to punch him or kick him. They just needed to forcefully push him into the ground and ignore him as he begged for his life, which they did. That they had the sense to not punch or kick him does not make this justifiable, it does not make them any less wrong and it doesn’t make this any less racist.

RPK:...and remember, they didn’t know this was being video-ed. And yet there is no indication of any racial remarks, or attempt to kick him or punch him while he was down.

So what, is a congratulations in order? Can I remind you, Representative King, that the sergeant in charge was a Black woman? And while I think that, as I said before, given the misogyny present in society and, in an even more pronounced ways within police departments, while her presence is not enough to make the argument that there were not incredibly clear racial elements to this entire event, I do think that her presence is enough to keep those under her from using racial epithets. And just because someone doesn’t speak like a racist, doesn’t mean they don’t act like one. And it certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t one.

Wolf: Because the uh, the allegation is that he was, what, selling cigarettes without tax. That’s relatively, that’s a pretty minor crime so the question is was it excessive force to go ahead and try to apprehend him with all these police officers surrounding him and using that kind of force?

RPK: First of all he wasn’t gonna go. Once the police come to arrest someone and he resisted you have to arrest him. You can’t have the community see someone be able to walk away from an arrest.

Well it seems as though the responding officers, through their use of unnecessary and yes, excessive force, made it pretty clear that Eric Garner wasn’t going to walk away from the arrest. But on a more nuanced level, the community already does not trust the police. The community does not respect the police. Our own mayor made a speech in which he discussed how he and his wife had to “train” their son Dante to be especially careful if he had an interaction with the police because the odds of it turning violent, or of Dante getting arrested without good reason, are higher because he is a person of color. The mayor of New York City essentially called the police department out on its racism and, in my mind, he was absolutely accurate in doing so.

RPK: The cops have to establish themselves….they were there serving the purpose of the local community… and again he was resisting arrest…I don’t think there’s any evidence at all, any indication that they wanted to choke him, or they wanted to kill him or cause any severe harm at all.

Wolf: Is it appropriate that Eric Holder, the attorney general of the United States is about to formally announce a federal justice department investigation into what happened?

RPK: I don’t see how there’s any civil rights violation.

Of course you don’t and that is because clearly you don’t have an accurate understanding of civil rights or simply do not believe that civil rights apply to Black people in America. You know who else thinks there was no violation of civil rights? And who actually called Mayor De Blasio a racist? Rudy Fucking Giuliani. And we all know what that asshole is all about. Actually, let me just highlight what that asshole is all about because I cannot stop myself through the rage. He actually said the following thing about De Blasio:

“If he wants to train young black men in how to avoid being killed in this city, he can talk about police. Police should never kill anybody unjustifiably. But you should spend 90% of your time talking about the way they’re actually probably going to get killed, which is by another black. To avoid that fact, I think is racist.”

OH MY GOD WHAT THE EVER LIVING FUCK?! Seriously! So now not only do we have fucking King talking about how the fact that Eric Garner was overweight caused his death, but we have Giuliani blabbering on about how De Blasio should “stop being a racist” and therefore focus on black-on-black crime while literally the entire country, or at least the portion of the country that isn’t mind-bogglingly racist or living under a goddamn rock, is up in arms about the deep-seeded problems inherent in policing in this country and by extension the justice system and society at large.  At least King, in the part I didn’t transcribe here, where he talked about the decreasing violence  in New York had the good fucking sense to not explicitly bring up black-on-black crime although anyone with half a brain could read through the lines. Also, Giuliani? This killing was unjustified and unjustifiable, but Eric Garner won’t see justice. And THAT is what people are talking about.

RPK: And I think it should also be kept in mind, Wolf, that no one has done more to save the lives of young African Americans than the NYPD.You know thousands of young African Americans are alive today because white and black police officers put their lives on the line every day going into the toughest neighborhoods to protect them…and if President Obama is serious about bringing racial peace to this country the last thing he should be doing is having Al Sharpton sit in The White House. When he says that people in the African American community don’t trust the police one of the reasons is because agitators like Al Sharpton are constantly criticizing and denouncing the police before he has any idea what the facts are.

The reason the Black community doesn’t trust the police is not because of Al Sharpton. It is because the police have been incarcerating and killing Black people at significantly higher rates than white people for decades. And that is a fact. Al Sharpton knows it, the Black community knows it, the rest of society knows it. It is just you and your racist friends that seem to be willfully ignorant of this fact. It is not a coincidence, it is not because of some ridiculous and untrue notion that Black people are more violent by nature than people of other races. It is because our system, from top to bottom, is racist as fuck. And people like you work to keep it that way.

And, just to add insult to injury (and to make all of this even more infuriating), here is the outtro:

Wolf: Alright Peter King the Congressman from New York, the son of a police officer, himself grew up in New York City so its obviously a subject that hits right at home to this United States Congressman.

So now I am going to provide a link to Jon Stewart’s bit from last night. He was, as many of us were, completely without words. He managed this, though,

“If comedy is tragedy plus time, I need more fucking time. But I would really settle for less fucking tragedy to be honest with you.”

And I wish he could look Representative King, and Rudy Giuliani, and Robert McCulloch and all the other assholes who are using every ounce of strength and power they possess to simultaneously deny and reinforce the racism in this country and say what he said last night:

“I think what is so utterly depressing is that none of the ambiguities that existed in the Ferguson case exist in the Staten Island case. And yet the outcome is exactly the same. No crime, no trial, all harm, no foul.”

Racism is real. Quo erat demonstrandum, mother fuckers.

We’re All on About Paula Deen, But What About the Blackhawks?

25 Jun

This whole thing with Paula Deen is a total mess.  Previously, the most outwardly offensive thing about Deen was her overuse of butter and heavy cream.  In fact, one of my favorite games to play back in the day was “predict when Paula Deen is going to add more butter/heavy cream.”  Turns out no matter when you said “butter!” or “heavy cream!” you were right more often than not.  It got old fast but it sure was funny the first few times.  So anyway, Deen has been all over the news and rightfully so.  However, there are many people who have rushed to her defense.  One of those people was a commenter on the New York Times website by the name of Sandy who said,

“I am Paula’s age and live in the South. Whom among us hasn’t laughed at a joke or said something about another race and yet not been racist. (Um, Sandy, you are obviously racist.) I for one believe Paula is like me. We grew up in the 1960’s and definitely know about civil rights and honor them. To fire her for some off hand remarks is a knee jerk reaction by the Food Network who has made a lot of money off of her show. She was sued for the money and now dropped by the Food Network for fear it’s watchers would revolt against her and the Network. Shame on you!”

This attitude was repeated by Deen herself as well as her sons, Jamie and Bobby, who both spoke to Chris Cuomo of CNN in defense of their mother.  I would love to pull the whole interview apart, but I fear I could not do even close to the job done by Alyssa Rosenburg of Think Progress so I encourage you to read her piece entitled “What Paula Deen and her Sons Tell us About the Four Ways Racists Defend Themselves.”  It’s super well written and gets at some of the things a lot of us have been trying to articulate over the past few days but have struggled with.  Anyway, all of this is actually not the point of this blog post because, honestly, I have not been reading up on this Deen-bacle enough to really be able to express my feelings about it in a way that I could get behind.  Perhaps that will come sometime in the future.  The point of this blog, instead, is to point out something that has sort of been boggling my mind over the past few days which is the fact that while we are all talking about Paula Deen, and while people are criticizing her and defending her with equal fervor, we watched with fascination and excitement an incredible Stanley Cup final.  One of the two teams in the final wears a jersey featuring the face of a Native American (worn, may I point out, by a team made up overwhelming of white men). Why aren’t we outraged about this?

As pointed out in an article in The Native Press from 2003, there have been lawsuits brought against many professional sports teams, most notably the Washington Redskins, for their use of racist and derogatory names and imagery.  The term “redskins,” according to Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the non-profit Morning Star Institute and an advocate for American Indian rights, “is the most derogatory term for Native Peoples in the English language.”  And yet in 2013, the Washington Redskins still retain their name.  And then of course there is the Atlanta Braves and their infamous tomahawk chop, which is shared b the Florida State Seminoles, a team that also features offensive imagery on its jerseys.  As pointed out in a recent article on Policymic.com by Sarah Dropek, the Blackhawks were criticized most recently in 2010 for the “the racist nature of the name, emblem, and mascot of the team.”  To the people who claim that “political correctness” has no place in hockey, Dropek declares that

“the problem with decrying political correctness as a reason to throwout a legitimate discussion of racism is that it claims the racism is frivolous, that it is not worth upsetting the fandom or the team dynamic. The suggestion that the racism is not worth arguing against is a claim that it has no real negative impact in our world, that it is not worth bothering about in light of other issues.”

This, I think, is exactly the point. And Dopek does not stop there.  She then says,

“The objectification, commodification, and logo-ization of a group of people (a very real, live, and living people) is cause enough for change. The continuation of racist stereotypes of Native Americans based on these logos is reason enough for change. The majority of sports team logos and names center around animals, much like the Boston Bruins (bears). When you slap a stereotypical image of a Native American on a jersey you are equating them to these nameless, carbon-copy animals that populate other team’s locker rooms. They are no longer a people with agency, history, and future like anyone else, they are a thing to be harnessed however the individual in charge decides. “

For those who then point out that teams such as the Blackhawks compensate tribes for the use of their images as a way to let themselves off the hook for blatantly racist and dehumanizing actions, I say you are missing the point.  No amount of money can undo the damage of commodifying an entire group of people.  If there was a professional, or collegiate, sports team called “The Kikes” that pictured a shifty-looking guy with a big nose on the jerseys I think we would have a lot to say about that.  So why is it that in a country willing and able to have a conversation about Paula Deen’s blatant racism, we are so incapable of being critical of the even more obvious racism presently featured in the sports world?  Are Native Americans so invisible to us that we don’t even notice anymore? Or are we just so attached to these names and chants that we simply can’t bear to change them.



This Week Sort of Felt Like the World was Ending

20 Apr

Important!  This piece is me working out some of my conflicting thoughts about what has transpired over the last week.  I hope in reading this, people understand that I feel relieved that the suspects have both been taken off the streets, although I do regret that one of them was killed.  I feel relieved, but I do not feel happy, or celebratory.  What they are accused of having done was undoubtedly horrific.  But I am worried that, once again, we as a society are going to miss a very crucial moment in political time to ask hard questions about why this has happened.  Please keep that in mind as you read.

This has been a really awful and confusing week and I feel, to put it simply, quite conflicted.  When those bombs went off in Boston on Monday I, along with everyone else, was totally shocked.  I had come home from a run to text messages from friends asking me if I knew and if I was alright – some people thought it possible that I was there.  I spent the next two hours in my sweaty running clothes glued to a live stream, hungering for any information at all that would give a clue of who could have done something so horrible, and why.  I know I was not alone.  This week has seen me scouring news sources, reading every single update about the explosion, the victims, the hunt for clues as to the identities of the perpetrators.  I knew that, in a busy shopping district dotted with high-end stores, there would undoubtedly be images captured on video, it was only a matter of time.  And then the time came.

To see the images of these men who were suspected to have out carried out this gruesome attack was mixed.  I was glad that some headway had been made, that there were suspects in mind but at the same time I was sad.  I knew that the attack had happened, I knew that nothing I could think or say could take us back to Monday morning, to a time when these men could have been thwarted or changed their minds.  But seeing them and knowing full well that if they were caught alive their lives would be ruined, along with the lives of so many that were ruined on Monday, made me think:  another two casualties.  Intellectually, I knew it was too late and they would face justice, as they should.  But as a human being, I couldn’t help but think about what it was that inspired them, and specifically, what flipped the younger brother who, by all accounts, had always seemed a good kid.  I felt sad that we, the inhabitants of the world, lost him to this evil.

Thursday was a particularly hard night for all of us, I think.  Information was coming out, but haltingly.  Barely anyone was covering the shooting at MIT.  No one was saying whether or not it was connected to the Monday bombing.  It really felt like, combined with the failure of the background check bill in the Senate and the plant explosion in Texas, the world was ending.  Nothing made any sense.  Everything, everywhere seemed completely out of control.  I waited with baited breath for the next thing to happen, for the next report to come out, for it to be in New York, or DC, for it to be something big.  Thankfully, the thing I was waiting for never happened, it never came.

And then Friday. I spent the day glancing at my Twitter feed, checking the New York Times website, looking up at CNN at work until the second brother, a 19-year-old kid, was found hiding in a boat in someones backyard.  The whole city had been shut down, militarized, and there he was, in a boat on the grass.  And now we’re safe.

But I wonder, are we really? When I wrote my thoughts about Boston on Tuesday, I wondered, among other things, about what sort of security implications the bombing would have for marathons, the spectators and the runners, going forward.  Now that one bother is dead and the other is in custody, now that the imminent threat is gone, I am more worried than ever before.  We have a moment right now where everyone is listening, both domestically and internationally.  We have a moment, right now, where we can have a really serious conversation about why this happened and I don’t just mean why the brothers decided to do what they did I mean why, in a bigger context, what sort of social, economic, political, racial, historical factors might have played a role.  President Obama, in his statement after the younger brother was captured, asked

“Why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?”

It’s a good question.  It’s a big question, and important one.  Probably bigger and more important than most people think at first.  What is it that makes people like the Tsarnaev brothers, like Major Nidal Malik Hasan of Ford Hood, like Najibullah Zazi who planned the failed 2009 attack on the New York City subway system go from seemingly normal, adjusted people to not? At some point we have to stop pointing the finger at them, at Islam, at whatever.  At some point we have to turn the mirror on ourselves.

Think about Sunil Tripathi, the missing Brown student, who was at first thought to be one of the bombers, largely thanks to Reddit.  And then think of Salah Eddine Barhoum who was questioned soon after the bombings.  I can’t imagine the kind of impact it must have on a young person’s life to have their face wrongly associated with such an awful event.  And the impact it has on other young people of color who see this unfolding before their eyes and realize that could have been them, they could have been accused.  I doubt it makes a lot of people feel terribly American.  I doubt it makes them happy or feel safe.

And then there’s this increased use of the suspension of Miranda rights, thanks in large part to the Obama administration, that has been supported by many of the same senators who voted no on the background check bill.

So as I said, I feel conflicted.  I want to know why these brothers did what they did, too.  I want to have some answers.  But I also want to have some harder conversations and I’m really afraid that, once again, we will miss the boat.