Category Archives: Race/Gender

Was I Wrong About the Denver Police Department?

denver-pd

In 1998 I was semi-involved in something really unsettling, and I’m now wondering if I just badly misinterpreted what happened.

The story begins in graf 4. Here’s where it gets interesting:

While I’m waiting for the whites to dry there’s a small crash up the street – a fender-bender a block or two up. A few seconds later a guy, probably in his mid-20s, comes running past the front of the laundromat, looking back up the street at somebody. A few seconds later two more men come down the street after him, moving at a brisk walk. As they pass, we can all see clearly that one of the men is hiding a fairly large knife behind his back. They’re taunting the first man to come back to them.

I called 911. Five minutes later I had to call them again. Five more minutes and the cops finally arrived. Whereupon the dumbfucks ignored what I was saying about armed men chasing an unarmed man and headed back up the street to check out the mini-wreck.

I already had low expectations of the Denver PD but this was absurd even by their standards. And I drew a conclusion that has stayed with me to this day:

The police cannot protect me.

Recent events have me rethinking the whole episode, though. In the quoted piece above I omitted a couple of details. At the time I wrote the original post they seemed irrelevant, I guess, and now I’m feeling exceptionally naïve.

The guy running was black. The three men chasing him were Latino. And in an attempt to be as thorough as possible, I told this to the dispatcher.

The cops who turned up were white.

So, were the cops that day swamped and it just took a while to respond? Were they merely not very good at their jobs?

Or was the delay about racism?

If I hadn’t specified would the police have arrived sooner? What if I’d said the guy being chased was white? What if I’d said, in my perfectly white accent, that the Mexican guys were menacing a laundromat full of innocent people?

Did the cops take forever because they were incompetent or because they were okay with brown people carving up other brown people?

I don’t know and I never will, but I have all the evidence I need to suspect the worst, don’t I?

Hey Look – More Goodell Bullshit!

Goodell

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sat down with Emmanuel Acho for one of his Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. Acho asked Goodell what he would say to Colin Kaepernick by way of apology.

At which point … well, Commish gonna do what Commish do. Deflect. Dissemble. Misdirect. Distract.

This morning Mike Florio took Goodell apart like a hungover Gordon Ramsey breaking down a chicken with weak joints.

And I honestly don’t have a thing to add. I’m just linking it for the record.

All I’ll do is repeat the question I asked back in June: Mr. Commissioner, what team will Kaepernick be playing for this fall?

What conclusions would I draw about you if I didn’t know you?

George-Floyd

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? – Matthew 7:16

Let’s say I don’t know you personally. All I have are your social media feeds.

I start on Facebook and read everything you’ve posted since early May, along with your interactions in the comment threads.

I find zero posts about the Police killings of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. I find nothing at all expressing concern for the challenges facing any minority in our country, or even an awareness that they have challenges.

I find things encouraging me to support the Police, though.

I read further. As demonstrations sweep the country you express alarm over acts of vandalism. I find no mention at all of the times violent rioters are revealed to be white supremacists posing as demonstrators.

Oddly, I see no comment anywhere on the Boogaloo Bois, an organization that’s explicitly committed to killing cops and that has actually done so.

This is what I’d know of you…if I didn’t know you.

“You” aren’t one specific person, although you may recognize yourself in my words. I’m describing something that’s happening again and again and again. And I’m having a hard time with it. With you.

When you say things like “people dying is unfortunate, but this destruction of property is unacceptable” instead of “property damage is unfortunate, but the killing of innocent people is unacceptable…”

What conclusions would you draw about you if you didn’t know you?

Why Am I So Cynical About Mississippi? Consider Georgia.

Recently the Rev. Dickie and I devoted a little time to clowning Mississippi and its decision to remove the Confederate battle jack from its flag. It has since been suggested to me, privately, that I shouldn’t hassle people who are doing the right thing.

Maybe. I mean, better 150 years late than never, right?

But there are reasons to reserve judgment. Consider Mississippi’s friend and neighbor, Georgia. Read more

Donald Trump Belongs on Mt. Rushmore

Let’s have a look at the current residents of South Dakota’s most famous mountain.

The first was a rich white guy who owned more than 100 slaves, and wasn’t known as the best master, at that.

The second guy – also wealthy – owned more than 700 slaves during his life.

The third guy didn’t own slaves, but had this to say about those of African descent: Read more

George Floyd and the Soul of The Mission

I’m a big fan of Dan Ryan’s. He sees the streets and he loves the people he finds there. And in him they obviously recognize something they can trust.

As a result he’s able to capture a frankness, an honesty, a whimsy that I think the rest of us miss entirely. Maybe we can’t see it, or maybe we’re afraid to.

Dan recently took his camera to the George Floyd Matters rally in San Francisco’s Mission District and came away with a visual record of a tough community that has seen plenty, and has now seen enough. But not so much they’ll forsake their values.

Give it a look.

George Floyd Matters rally

What About the Monuments to America’s OTHER Slaveowners?

UPDATED 6.11, 6:55 MDT

George-Washington-University

It’s been a bad few days to be a statue of a figure associated with colonialism, slavery, or racism.

In London, witnesses say a statue of slave trader Edward Colston tripped and fell into the river, while one of “noted slaveholder Robert Milligan has been removed from outside the Museum of London Docklands.” Mayor Sadiq Khan has launched a review of “all of London’s statues and street names,” decreeing that those with links to slavery “should be taken down.” Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton, clearly agitated that the UK would honor slavers, said “All statues of racist men who made money from selling a human being should be torn down! Which one is next? I challenge government officials worldwide to make these changes and implement the peaceful removal of these racist symbols.” Read more

Here’s Why These Protests Are Different

George-Floyd-Houston-protests

I’ve heard people the past few days saying these protests feel different to them. Like, maybe this time we’ll get results? Like George Floyd’s murder was the straw that broke the camel’s back? Like this is the tipping point and justice will no longer be denied?

I’m long past betting that protesters can stay in for the long haul. America is a soft culture, pampered and affluent, with no history whatsoever of sacrifice. (Talking about the white folks here – Black America gets it, but real change is going to require allies willing to go the distance with them.) Bread? Circuses? We’re good. Traditionally we’ll raise hell a few days then give up. We treat civil disobedience like we might a music festival. Coachella. Bonnaroo. Cops-Murdered-a-Black-Guy-Palooza.

Nor is there any hope at all the establishment will change its mind in the absence of dire coercion.

But the protests outlasted the weekend and it’s absolutely not business as usual. So yes: maybe this time is different. Probably not, but maybe. If it is, here’s the why.

Cops killing black people for no reason isn’t new. Protests against such killing isn’t new. The rage keeps growing, but why would this case be the one? The video of Derek Chauvin calmly murdering George Floyd is certainly harrowing, and no doubt that’s a part of it (just like the Ray Rice video put the NFL in a spot where it could no longer hem and haw its way around its domestic violence problem). We saw what we saw.

I think the bigger reason is Coronavirus.

Consider:

  • For starters, America has a serious case of cabin fever. Quarantining – can’t see friends, can’t go out, and it isn’t just about being spoiled. The isolation has ramped up mental health problems in tangible ways, we’re learning. Isolation is perfect for roiling up frustration.
  • Yes, the anger has been building for some time, but now add to the fire the effect of seeing white privilege not only on parade as Karen and Chad demand haircuts, but also the surreal scenes of armed militias storming a state house. And getting away with it. And seeing these “very fine people” whipped into a lather by the President. It’s all been memed and documented and the juxtapositions are mortifying. This is all happening when we’re trapped inside and have fewer things to take our minds off it.
  • Past protests – even #Occupy – have all petered out. It takes energy to sustain the rage. Also, lots of protesters have to go to work. But thanks to COVID-19, lots of us are out of work. Dwindling cash. No prospects for it getting better anytime soon, if ever. So anxiety is high, and all of a sudden millions of people with severe, existential grievances don’t necessarily have any particular place they need to be tomorrow morning. In other words, the bread supply is in jeopardy.
  • With all the sports shut down there are fewer circuses, too. This is probably a much smaller issue, but functioning societies have release valves for the pressure that inherently builds up over the routine stresses of day-to-day life. And right now the powers that be could do with some playoffs.
  • The COVID crisis is occurring in a context where normal is dead, the rules are changing (and we don’t know what they are), and there’s more fear than hope about the coming “new normal,” which is certainly going to be a lot more new than normal. In other words, there’s less to lose in the now and absolutely no promise for the future.
  • There’s always been a general linkage between progressive issues, and as the heat rises the connections coalesce. It’s about George Floyd, it’s about the police, it’s about income inequality and neo-Feudal economics and poverty, it’s about climate, it’s about healthcare, it’s now about all of it.

George Floyd iceberg

This is what I think is happening on the people’s side. Some of the same kinds of dynamics may well be at work with the police – it’s a stressful time for everyone, one way or another. If so, what we have in the streets is a keg of dynamite with a gasoline-soaked fuse.

If, on top of it all, we start seeing record high temperatures (and a nasty COVID second wave)… Well, may the gods help us all.

Racist Ad From VW: HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

Another company has done something to offend a lot of people and, again, I don’t know how this keeps happening.

This time it’s VW.

The car giant Volkswagen has apologised for a ‘tasteless’ advert that appeared on social media following an online backlash that slammed its ‘racist’ undertones.

The ten-second advert posted on Instagram and Twitter shows a giant white hand pushing a black man away from a new, yellow Volkswagen Golf parked on the street.

The hand then flicks him to an open doorway and pushes him inside a French cafe.

A giant white hand appears on the right hand side of the screen and appears to push a black man out of the way of the car. The hand then picks the man up and moves him in front of a shop

Social media users noted that as slogan ‘Der Neue Golf’ – ‘The New Golf’ – fades into view, the jumbled letters appear to spell out the N-word in German.

Other eagle-eyed users spotted that the cafe’s name is Petit Colon, which in French literally translates as the ‘Little Colonist.’

VW-racist-ad

I can see how some enterprising bigot would conceive of this and maybe even how it gets produced, assuming the creative team is small and tight.

But how does it get approved? Do you have any idea how many people have to sign off on something like this before it’s live? The copy gets written and revised a million times. Storyboards are produced. Video and development crews execute it. Execs have to say yes at every level. And if something objectionable is happening, any person who touches the project in any way can pull the chain to halt the assembly line.

In my experience, I can’t imagine pulling something like this off even if you had an active conspiracy involving every C-level in the company. Somebody somewhere would blow the whistle.

If you want to argue that it isn’t offensive, that people are overreacting, that everybody’s a bunch of delicate librul snowflakes, go for it. Even if that were true the perception of the ad by the public is not only very real, it’s terrible for the brand. This causes people to buy cars from other companies.

I know there are racist assholes in the world. Plenty of them. I just can’t fathom how fucking nobody notices. I’d be grateful if you can ‘splain it to me.

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