Powerless in the Face of White Supremacy and a Gun


While out shopping in Georgia at my favorite bookstore, the same day theEmanuel AME Church reopened its doors after the mass shooting, a white man in camouflage entered the store openly carrying a gun on his hip.

In my home state, we recently allowed licensed individuals to bring their guns into bars, churches, and college campuses, all for the sake of “safety.” Yet, in this moment, at the bookstore, I realized that such gun control laws only ensure certain people feel safe, while others who do not wish to own a gun are left feeling powerless. opencarry

This tense moment was still too soon. Too soon after Charleston, after the deaths of Eric Garner and Rekia Boyd—and even too soon after Emmett Till. Too soon after cops in Georgia attacked Kenya Harris until she miscarried.

Too soon because I haven’t processed the constant surveillance and prosecution I experience as a dark-skinned Black person navigating a society where I can be tried and executed in the streets without jury.

The gun-toting man had a wide-shouldered build and was probably shorter than me once he took off his combat boots. Looking back, I probably could have taken him on in a fair fight. Lord knows, I’ve fought men bigger than him before.

The bookstore employee, who will go down in history as my favorite bookstore employee ever, immediately said to the man, “Woah, that’s a gun! That makes me uncomfortable.”

Anywhere you stood in the store you could hear his reply: “Well, it shouldn’t be a problem so long as I don’t feel threatened.” The way his voice trailed off as his eyes panned the room froze me temporarily. I tucked myself behind a bookshelf where I could still see and hear what was happening. He also said he has an open carry licenseas if that would make us feel safe.

And then to change the subject, as if carrying a gun in a bookstore is no big deal, he shared that he had been scoping out the bookstore for some time, but only just decided to come in. I popped my head over a bookshelf to lock eyes with the bookstore employee. We widened our gaze and raised our eyebrows at each other to non-verbally confirm that this situation was indeed absurd.

But what troubled me most about the situation as it was happening was the realization that our legislative system was working as intended in that moment.

Long before I walked in to buy a copy of Octavia’s Brood, so that I could think about a world where my body is free through activism-driven science fiction, the system set things up with discriminatory gun control laws.

The idea of openly carrying a gun to protect myself has never been a realistic option—only when I’m imagining myself as Storm from X-Men dismantling oppressive systems with Black feminist thunderstorms and a small silver glock just in case. In reality, if the cops saw me with a gun, a bag of Skittles, or even a loosey cigarette, they would probably shoot me and ask questions about my permit later. As a Jamaican-American whose parents had to navigate the country’s unjust immigration system, I’ve almost always known that papers and permits don’t save dark-skinned people.

And so now, Georgia’s open carry policy, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the whole foundation of America’s justice system works as it was always intended: allowing certain people to feel safe at the expense of others existing in fear. I was without arms and face-to-face with a man who may or may not have wanted to kill meand a man who had the freedom to make that decision without repercussions.

As he approached me in a corner of the store, my heart raced as I thought about the families of the victims and the nine people who were being put to rest in Charleston. I kept thinking ofTywanza Sanders jumping to defend his aunt Susie Jackson. I wondered if I could drum up that courage. I wondered if Cynthia Hurd was as frozen as I was. I wondered if Ethel Lancefelt as caught off-guard. I thanked the employee, a fellow woman of color, repeatedly in my head for maintaining calm in that moment of uncertainty. The man and I stood for a moment side-by-side browsing titles like Does Your Mama Know. It was a split second. Then I darted away to the middle of the store in three wide steps.

After he burrowed his nose into every corner of the bookstore, all he bought were two button pins with probably the most unpolitical messaging on them. I didn’t get to see them, but I know the store carries some very alluring pins of cats. Maybe he got those? At the counter, he showed the employee his Harry Potter tattoo. He made uncomfortable comments about how the tattoo reminds him of seeking truth and justice against liars, loud enough for all of us to hear. He talked about his “no good” ex. He said “open carry” ensures that his son respects him.

“Do you need a bag,” the bookstore employee interrupted, making it clear it was time for him to go.

Once he left, the rest of us still in the store let out a communal, belly-deep sigh. One customer noticed that subconsciously all the books they had collected to purchase were about men and violence. “They take up so much space,” the customer said with regard to the man who just left and the bundle of books in their arms.

Oppression can preoccupy our safe spaces, even in our minds.

My fellow customer’s comment allowed all of us in the store to laugh and begin the process of grasping what had just happened.

I don’t know why he came in armed. I don’t know what his intentions were. I don’t want to know. I want to know a world where I don’t have to be caught up in fear in the first place. I want a world where none of us feel the need to carry a gun. A world where the Confederate flag and a CVS aren’t more important to our political leaders than seven burning churches, the countless dead at the hands of militarized police, and those empowered with the false hubris of white supremacy.

People like me, and hopefully you, are trying to make that world a reality in the here and now. Bree Newsome, for example, took the Confederate flag down from the South Carolina statehouse with her bare hands. Emanuel AME Church reopened its doors when I’m sure domestic terrorists and other right-wing extremist groups were hoping they’d stayed closed. Not only are these activists not giving in to the pressure, but they’re reminding all of us that the world we’re fighting for uses love to overpower violence. Sanders’ 5-year-old niece, just by virtue of surviving the shooting by playing dead, is proof of Audre Lorde’s prophesizing.

No, we were never meant to survive, Lorde, and so whenever we end up doing so, we are being revolutionary, perhaps even futuristic.

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Abby Dawson’s bad day got worse


First there was this

Ms. Dawson an advisor at Kennesaw State University literally redefined harassment when she told kevinbrucestudent, Kevin Bruce of the University that his sitting and waiting to talk someone about his classes was harassment. If you watched the video you heard her say that.  She didn’t make the claim that the student was talking to anyone, catcalling, whistling, disrupting office work any of that, his merely sitting in office supplied furniture and waiting to see an available employee of the University was intimidating to Ms. Dawson.  Kudos to Mr. Bruce who despite the dynamics, he a black male and Ms. Dawson a white female in the South never claimed it was about race but rather about an employee who acted unprofessionally.

KSU saw it Bruce’s way

KSU says it is suspending Abby Dawson from her advising responsibilities at the Department of Exercise Science and Sports Management.

“It’s something that needed to be done,” said one senior, who said she also had Dawson as an adviser.

Dawson will be reassigned, and not permitted to advise students unless she completes new training.

“We have made it very clear to Ms. Dawson and her supervisors that the behavior she demonstrated on the video will not be tolerated; and while we have apologized to the student directly, we also want to publicly apologize for her behavior, which is not representative of KSU’s student-centered culture,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Ken Harmon.

Harmon says they plan to reorganize their advising system and add more advisers to increase the adviser to student ratio.

“While we in no way condone Ms. Dawson’s actions, we also acknowledge that we need to make some changes in our advising structure to provide more training and support for our staff so that they are better equipped to help our students navigate their college experience,” said Harmon.

I applaud both Mr. Bruce and KSU for handling a delicate situation delicately.  I hope Ms. Dawson gets the help she so clearly needs.

 

Not many terrorists left in Gitmo Bay


We’ve talked a lot about the non-existent threat of Islamic terrorists on the main land because of the absence of any Muslim terrorists here, except for those dredged up by the federal authorities whenever they need to distract America’s attention away from more pressing issues like the economy or the encroachment on our human and civil rights and focus it instead on the latest boogey man story of the day.  Well it’s looking like there aren’t many terrorists in Guantanamo Bay either, not that there ever were.

We’ve spent an inordinate amount of money housing people we picked up in various places all over the world, and it’s starting to look like a lot of them are completely innocent.  The latest batch from Algeria turned out that way.  El Houari Abar, in his forties, and Ahmed El Abed, aged over 50 were detained at Gitmo Bay for six years and charged with being members of a terrorist organization.  One was captured in Afghanistan and the other in Georgia.  They were released to their country, Algeria in 2008 which only  acquitted them of the charge and are now free.  Six other Algerians held by the US military in Gitmo have also been similarly cleared of charges in Algerian courts, which says something about the importance of a transparent legal system and being brought to trial.  These two have been denied their freedom for the last 10 years ostensibly for something they didn’t do.  For too long America has been dispensing old style western justice where the military arm of the government was the police, the judge, jury and executioner, most likely of a lot of innocent people.  The two mentioned in this story have no legal redress with the government that captured them and took six years from their lives unfortunately and that taints our image all the more within  the international community.

If you think black people can’t be racist, look no farther than Herman Cain to dispel that notion


A 66 year old black man from the state of Georgia had this to say about Muslims.

You have peaceful Muslims, then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us…I was thinking about the ones that were trying to kill us.

I guess he forgot about the history of lynchings of people like him in his home state of Georgia by terrorists. Perhaps Mr. Cain doesn’t know the history of these terrorists whose tactics sound strikingly familiar to ones being used by members of Mr. Cain’s party today!

William J. Simmons renewed the KKK at a Stone Mountain, Georgia, ceremony in 1915. Later, Christian fundamentalist ministers aided recruitment as the Klan portrayed itself as the protector of traditional values during the Jazz Age.

As its membership grew into the millions in the 1920s, the Klan exerted considerable political influence, helping to elect sympathetic candidates to state and national offices. The group was strong not only in southern states such as Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, but also in Oklahoma, California, Oregon, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. Strongly opposed to non–Anglo-Saxon immigration, the Klan helped secure the passage of strict quotas on immigration. In addition to being racist, the group also espoused hatred of Jews, Catholics, socialists, and unions.

No doubt, Mr. Cain probably believes that black citizens of America wanted to be kept as slaves, so shallow and misguided is his understanding of his own history and that of his country, but what he says sounds good enough to enough Americans to be considered a serious contender to the Republican Party’s nomination!  And you thought we didn’t have a race problem in this country!

Hijab allowed in Georgia Courtrooms


hijab-demo-17jan04-741Any form of religious expression which is incontrovertibly linked to a religion should be classified as free speech in America and therefore the bearer or wearer should be allowed to go wherever need be.  It was disgraceful for personnel in a Georgia court room to cite a Muslim woman for contempt of court and sentence her to 10 days in prison for the “offense” of wearing her religiously mandated scarf to court.  She wasn’t scheduled to testify, she wasn’t a defendant or lawyer in court, she was merely accompanying a relative and was met at the door with the State’s infringement on her right to freedom of religion.  That has now changed, for the Muslim citizens of Georgia.

Georgia courtrooms will allow religious headgear after last year’s arrest of a Muslim woman who refused to remove her headscarf in a west Georgia courthouse.The Judicial Council of Georgia voted unanimously this week to allow religious and medical headgear into Georgia courtrooms. It also allows a person to request a private inspection if a security officer wants to conduct a search.

“If this had been a nun, no one would have required her to remove her habit,” said Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, who heads the Judicial Council. “I think this is a good rule, and I think it’s clear.”

The policy shift stems from the December 2008 arrest of Lisa Valentine, who was ordered to serve 10 days in jail for contempt of court after she refused to remove her hijab at a courtroom in Douglasville, a town of about 20,000 people west of Atlanta. She was released in less than a day.

Muslim rights activists were infuriated by the incident, pressing the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the incident and organizing a protest. The city also said its employees would take sensitivity training classes.

City officials at the time said they were trying to follow courtroom rules that restricted headgear, but the city said the officer who detained Valentine should have sought a solution that “would preserve the spirit of the law.”

Valentine, who did not immediately return phone messages Friday, said she was accompanying her nephew to a hearing when officials stopped her at the metal detector and told her she couldn’t enter the courtroom with the headscarf, known as a hijab.

She said she was stopped by officers when she objected and turned to leave, and that she was later brought before a municipal court judge who ordered her held for contempt of court.

City officials did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment, but Douglasville Police Chief Joe Whisenant characterized the incident at the time as a miscommunication.

The police department said in a news release that Valentine was found in contempt for fighting with one of the officers, not for wearing a scarf. The city said she was released after it was determined there had not been a fight.

Muslims are just as much a part of the American fabric as any other ethnic group and their rights as citizens cannot and should not be abridged because of personal dislikes or community wide prejudices.  Personal likes and dislikes have no place in determining what is legal and illegal.  The Constitution, and particularly the 1st amendment  says in clear language that the legislative body of this Republic cannot make any law prohibiting the free exercise of any religion.  In this regard we are different and better than our European cousins who bend the rules to satisfy contemporary societal mores usually directed towards those they deem distasteful.  Whether we like it or not, we have become a pluralistic society that is home to people of faiths, colors, creeds that span the entire breath of human existence; we must live under this umbrella of law that has been developed throughout the lifetime of America, sometimes carefully and deliberately, and at other times impulsively yet judiciously.  To do otherwise would make us criminals before the law and before our Creator.

Police and Taser Guns: A Bad Combination


taserTwo stories of police abuse/use of stun guns to share make me wonder whether an armed and polite society is better off without police.  Both cases should end up with all the law enforcement officers being charged with assault with a deadly weapon and removal from the force.  What do you think?

A Waffle House employee is suing the Gwinnett County Police Department over what he says was an unprovoked encounter with an officer who stunned him with a Taser.

The department’s internal investigation records reveal that the officer used the weapon like a toy with tacit approval from two superior officers.

Daniel Wilson, the 22-year-old waiter, spoke publicly about the encounter Wednesday at his attorney’s office in Snellville. The incident has already resulted in the arrest of Cpl. Gary Miles, 33, and the resignations of Sgt. Christopher Parry and Sgt. Joey Parkerson. None of the officers could be reached for comment this week because their phone numbers are unlisted.

Wilson said the officers often pointed the red laser from their Taser at him playfully. They would do so when Wilson picked a song they didn’t like on the jukebox or when telling him not to mess up their order, Wilson said.

“It was uncomfortable, but they are my customers and they tip pretty well,” Wilson said. “I just thought they were being foolish.”

Then on Feb. 16, Wilson was chatting with Parry and Parkerson when Miles sidled up behind him. Without saying a word, Miles zapped him with the Taser, Wilson said.

“I remember feeling the pulse go through my body,” Wilson said. “It hurt.”

Taser stun guns deliver a 50,000-volt electrical current capable of incapacitating a person. The weapon can fire barbed probes a distance of up to 35 feet, or it can be used in “drive stun mode” when pressed directly against a suspect. Gwinnett police checked the data recording from Miles’ Taser and found it was fired for one second at 2:48 a.m. on Feb. 16.

Miles told investigators that he only “spark tested” the Taser near the employee’s back “just to scare him a little bit,” according to the internal investigation file.

Parry, 41, and Parkerson, 39, witnessed the employee being shocked but did not report it. They laughed along with Miles, Wilson said. The sergeants later told investigators they didn’t realize the Taser made contact with Wilson’s body.

Wilson said he remembers telling Miles in the presence of the other officers, “Hey, you actually tased me.”

Wilson again sought an apology from Miles a few days later for accidentally stunning him. He said Miles replied, “Who says I did it by accident?”

This second story is even worse!

A 14-year-old Tucumcari girl is recovering at an Albuquerque hospital after being shot in the head with a Taser dart by Tucucmari Police Chief Roger Hatcher.

Now, her parents say they want the police department to review its policies for using the Taser.

The girl was hit in the head Thursday by one of two darts fired simultaneously as she was fleeing, Hatcher said.

The other dart lodged in her hip.

Hatcher said be believed he had no other option.

“There’s a lot of issues,” Hatcher said. “She committed a delinquent act. She was running from police across traffic without looking.”

Hatcher said he chased her, ordered her to stop and “then did what I had to do.”

Her mother, Stacy Akin, said her daughter underwent surgery Friday morning at University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque.

“One of the darts entered her skull,” said Akin, interviewed by telephone.

After a CAT scan, a hospital resident told her the dart was “in her brain a little bit, but not much,” Akin said.

She was in pediatric intensive care following the surgery, Akin said. “She seems OK, but she she’s in a lot of pain. Her head is hurting her real bad.”

Police were trying help Akin because she and her daughter had been fighting, Akin said.

Akin said while she could understand the use of a Taser on an adult, it shouldn’t be used on a child.

“She’s only 14, why?” Aikin asked.

Akin also said her daughter has epilepsy.

When law officers act like imbeciles they shouldn’t be police officers, and when they resort to tasers to stop a fleeing 14 year old girl who has epilepsy, they should get into a physical training class or give up their badge.   Is anyone else tired of these cliched expressions to justify criminal behavior.  “I did what I had to do”??!!  What kind of nonsense is that?  The lame excuses policemen and women use when they get caught are unbelievably stupid.  All four policeman in the two stories above should take their turns in the witness chair to explain their actions before doing time in their local prisons.   Oh, hat tip to Jonathan Turley’s blog.