Unfiltered Real Talk: Reparations or Repairing the Black Community

I became a Christian in college through the ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship after they planted a chapter for Black students at the University of Texas at Austin. Shortly after graduating, I came on staff with IV and began working to reach college students with the gospel. I used my education, experience, and ethnicity for IV as a bridge into the Black community. Over the years, however, one constant has remained:  I have never been fully funded. I have never had the ministry budget to dream big and create at the level of my heart’s desire. I have never been able to raise the budget to receive a paycheck comparable to my education and experience, primarily because my contacts, networks, and family do not have the financial flexibility to give away thousands of dollars annually.

Family and friends have often said I should leave, but my heart breaks for the campus and I know if I do leave, advocacy for Black students will not disappear but it will greatly diminish. To help with my funding, friends and co-workers of various ethnic backgrounds began introducing me to their networks. A few people began to partner with me through prayer, volunteering, and giving financially. Most, however, typically give the same response when I finish a presentation, “You are very articulate.”

Normally, that would be a complement, but when it is the majority of responses from cross-cultural conversations after you share about the needs of Black students, it eventually—and consistently—is insulting.

Because of a lack of funding, for two years I took a part-time job with another non-profit teaching character and relationship education in middle and high schools around Austin. When I would visit the suburbs, the affluent schools around Austin, I saw spotless marble floors. Students in every class had iPads and teachers had brand new Apple computers. Flats screens and HD projectors were in every room, hallway, and auditorium. In the teacher’s lounges, there were chocolate-covered strawberries and catered meals from four or five-star restaurants to show appreciation for their hard work, and parking lots filled with cars with German accents (i.e. Audi, BMW, Mercedes, etc.). Those cars belonged to both teachers and students.

When I visit schools in the inner city, however, I would see almost the exact opposite. Those cars don’t have German accents, but old American ones. The students weren’t driving luxury cars to school. They were walking or on the bus. There were no iPads in those schools. Actually, the old PCs the teachers were using barely worked. There were limited supplies for kids. The copy machines didn’t work. The teachers had to buy all of their supplies, including paper for the copy machine—which didn’t work. There were no chocolate-covered strawberries or catered meals in these schools, only exhausted teachers and systemically-abandoned Black and Hispanic kids. They are just like the elementary, middle, and high school I attended when I was their age. I recently went to visit my old high school. I stopped by the science lab, looked through the sink and could see the floor. It was like that when I was a student, too…just wanted to see if it had been fixed.

When I return home to South Union in Houston, Texas, I pass the same three pot holes right off of Highway 288 that have been there for over 10 years. I have to slow down, not just because it is a residential neighborhood, but because the road hasn’t been paved in some time. That’s probably why Black people are walking down the street, much like Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown. Being a pedestrian is part of the culture of the hood.

I go to visit my mom, who was in elementary when separate but equal was declared unconstitutional but was in college when integration was enforced by the National Guard. She still lives paycheck to paycheck—in the inner city. She wasn’t given opportunities for upward mobility and economic expansion—even with a Master’s degree. Her house, which is now hers since the passing of my step-father, is at least forty years old. There’s a crack in the foundation, so when it rains, the den floods which causes bacteria and mildew beneath the carpet. There’s an electrical short behind the wall in the kitchen so sometimes the lights work. Sometimes they don’t.

She has received numerous offers to sell the house. It’s a great location. It’s within ten minutes of downtown Houston, several colleges and universities, and a large Black church she has faithfully been a part of for almost fifty years. My mom knows if she sells the house, it is the opening banks and businesses are looking for to begin gentrification in the neighborhood– where whites move in, raise property taxes, and ultimately forces Blacks to leave and go God knows where.

I visited that same Black church in December. It has been an integral part of my mom’s life and mine as she raised me in it. I saw literally hundreds of Black people in the service that Sunday. The same Black people that businesses, multi-ethnic churches, and non-profits want to reach and hire. The same Black people that live in the surrounding neighborhoods, and even some who live in the suburbs but drive past all types of churches to come to this Black church because they long to be understood. (By the way, one of the points in the sermon that Sunday was “Black Lives Matter.”)

As a Black man working in a diverse context, I get to peek into both worlds. I live among the marginalized, the low-income, the borderline poor. I work with and fundraise from groups of people that are middle, upper-middle, and affluent classes. I see the hurting, the forgotten, the abandoned, and I see the financially stable, wealthy, and honestly—at times—clueless. In every city I visit, the gap between these groups is the size of the Grand Canyon…and it’s growing.

When race relations hit significant peaks like now, at some point people began to bring up reparations—monetary repayment to the descendants of slaves for the centuries of free labor slavery provided to build the foundation of the U.S. economy.

Reparations in the form of checks to every black person in the country is not the answer. For the same reasons NFL and NBA players are broke when their careers are done, for the same reasons lottery winners are worse off after winning the lottery, it is never a wise choice to give large the sums of money to anyone, or any group, who hasn’t developed the discipline to manage it. Reparations in that form will fail—not that it would ever happen in the US. (What was it once called? Oh yeah, our “40 acres and a mule”. Wasn’t given back then and I won’t hold my breath.) What is needed is not simply reparations but the repair of the Black community.

Schools need to be rebuilt. All the Black businesses that were destroyed by race riots in the 1890s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 1960s that were unable to be recovered because Blacks were not sold insurance, need to be restarted. Hopes of starting Black businesses that were destroyed because many banks refused to give loans to Blacks need to be restored.

This will not come from the government. It must come from the church.  The Gospel brings salvation and shalom—justice, honesty, peace, restoration, and equality.

actions

Within the US, now 60 years after segregation has ended, the church still functions as though that law still stands. Not only are our churches and businesses still segregated, but so are our hearts and minds.

If you want Black people to trust multi-ethic communities:

- Acknowledge the Troubled History of our people in this country. Stop waiting for us to tell you. Be proactive and discover it yourself, as you do with any other hobby or field of study.

- Recognize the Economic Disparities in the country are not just statistics, but people. They are ethnic minority staff working in majority institutions, students of color accepting loans to go to college. They are your friends checking their bank accounts before you go out to eat. They are…me, my mother, my grandparents. They are probably that one Black friend you have or that one Black person on your team. Not always, but much of the time.

- Become an Advocate.  Consider being a mentor, supporting a staff of color at a sacrificial level, sharing financial supporters long-term, partnering with a worthwhile but underfunded organization that seeks to promote the overall health of the under-privileged.

I am an advocate for strengthening the Black voice at the multi-ethnic table, but we must see the socio-economic disparities in this country cross color-lines. It just disproportionately affects Black and Latino communities.

Let’s stop pretending we don’t see it. Let’s stop pretending we don’t care. If you want to make sure Ferguson/Michael Brown, Eric Garner/NY, and all the other cases don’t continue to happen, then do something.

Put your mind, energy, time, prayers, money, and support where your mouth is.

We have a saying where I am from, “I am from Show Me, Texas. Don’t tell me. Show me.” James 2:18 says some people show their faith by what they say, others by what they actions.

What will you do?

-SMW

Eric Garner & Systemic Injustice: The Sequel We Hoped For

I was wrong. Last month, I wrote a blog post called, “Ferguson: The Sequel.” My entire premise was that sequels disappoint. No matter how good or captivating the first movie is, the sequel always disappoints. I wrote how Michael Brown and Ferguson—in many respects for this generation—is an ugly sequel in the narrative of Black people in America. I spoke of my 70 year-old mother who wasn’t surprised at the lack of indictment because, well, she’d seen this before…another bad sequel.

black lives matter

I read emails, text messages, Facebook posts, and other correspondence from friends and strangers around the country finally getting X-ray vision to see and hear in deep ways the painful perspective of Black people in America. We watched as people across the country rallied to defend and attack Michael Brown. Over 170 cities around the nation shouted, “Black Lives Matter!” They created a hashtag on Twitter. News reports labeled Brown a “thug.” Darren Wilson, in his $500,000 paid interview with Good Morning America, said Brown was practically “superhuman” because even though he shot him four times, Brown continued “to charge” him. News reports said there were conflicting eyewitness reports which led to the grand jury’s lack of indictment. The President of the United States called for legislation to equip body cameras on police officers to guarantee accurate accounts of future interactions with police and ordinary citizens.

Then, the one of the greatest gifts of all time was given: the Grand Jury in New York decided not to indict a police officer in the choke-hold death of Eric Garner.

While the country was still watching, it happened again. While we were still crying and in shock—and in less than two weeks—it happened again. This time the entire ordeal was caught on tape, and still nothing happened. Stereotypes about aggressive Black men and the need to use deadly force: dismissed. The argument for police with body cameras: irrelevant. Right there on tape, a single incident that affirmed Black tears and silenced the mobs calling Black fears unfounded.

Somehow, even though Eric Garner was killed first, the indictment decision for his case came after Michael Brown’s. All the critiques, doubts, and reasonable doubts in and around Brown were thrown out the window with Garner.

Some say, “These are isolated incidents.” Yes, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Jordan Davis, Larry Jackson, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Rumain Brisbon, Kimani Gray, Kendrec McDade, Amadou Diallo, Timothy Stansbury, Sean Bell, Orlando Barlow, Aaron Campbell, Alonzo Ashley, Victor Steen, Ramarley Graham, and Tamir Rice (he was twelve years old by the way) are all isolated incidents. They all just happen to take place across the U.S. on an annual—sometimes weekly—basis. By the way, there are several more unarmed Black men who have been killed by the police, and I haven’t even mentioned the Black women.

Eric Garner is different…but the results were still the same.

I have seen much correspondence the last few days asking questions like, “How do we move forward?” or “Where do we go from here?”

There is only move forward: addressing and ending systemic injustice in the US and ultimately the world.

changes

My friends, we will not go back to business as usual in 2015. Things will never go back “to normal.” Black men in America are in grave danger, myself included. The remedy for this is not talking, understanding, and/or building trust with police officers. All of those things are needed and important, but they are only one side of the conversation.

We cannot move forward until we heal.

Healing for the Black community means:

  • Confessing Systemic Injustice.
    There must be an acknowledgment by pastors and leaders of the unjust system that exists in the U.S. that benefits one group of people at the detrimental expense of another. There must be a confession by people who benefit from systemic injustice, and a confession of apathy towards it. Eric Garner isn’t the first unarmed Black man to die. It’s been happening. We need to confess it has been happening, it has been ignored, and that it has been acceptable in our society. Nehemiah confessed the sins of “his people and his household” (Nehemiah 1).
  • Creating a New System of Justice.
    Because our country is diverse, there will need to be practical steps of eliminating systemic injustice in our churches, organizations, and communities that will look differently. In Acts 6, when the early church recognized an ethnic group was being overlooked, they turned the entire system over to that group. That’s right: the first case for affirmative action is in the Bible, in the church, in the 1st century. We must call for the hiring, training, development, funding, and acceptance—not just of Black people—but of every ethnicity in the country. It can no longer be acceptable to cry out for diversity, invite diverse groups of people, and watch them starve in the midst of the prosperity of their peers.
  • Becoming Allergic to Poverty in Your City.
    The answer to poverty in the United States for decades has been more police. We spend more money as a nation on militarization than we do on poverty. This is not Christian. At all. Poverty ends when all people have adequate education, training, jobs, and salaries. Becoming allergic to poverty means your vote, your church, your business, and your money must look for programs that are, as Dr. King said, “anti-rat” not “anti-Black” or any ethnic group. Addressing poverty must be a practical response because poverty creates the economic disparities, maintaining the chasm between the rich and the poor. Gandalf, in J.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, was asked why a character made a really bad choice. He replied, “Because he was lost, in the dark, without hope, unable to go forward or backward.” That’s what poverty is. That’s what systemic injustice creates, and it must end.

This is a pregnant moment in our country. It is a Numbers 13 moment. We have toured the Promised Land. We have a vision of what the future can be, but there are giants. Not flesh and blood, but historic, systemic, generational ones. We have a choice. We can fight them head on and create a better world for ourselves and our children, or we can hide. We can sit in silence. We can give the apathetic answer, “It is systemic. Sorry.” I hope we chose the former, for if we choose the latter, we will continue to walk in circles, watching the same bad sequels.

Ferguson: The Sequel

Ferguson: The Sequel

I love movies. I have always been a fan of them because I love a good story. When a new movie comes out, we are excited as fans. We meet new characters, a new plot, new villains, and new problems to be solved…a brand new story to be told. Everything is fresh and exciting. The movie ends and, if it was good, we walk away saying to friends or to ourselves, “That was great!” Think about the first time you saw The Matrix, Indiana Jones, The Terminator or Superman…the list goes on. Eventually, however, great movies are ruined by sequels. It never fails. For every great movie, there is more often than not a mediocre sequel with bad acting, terrible plot holes, and we often leave the theatre asking those same friends or ourselves, “Did the director actually see the first one? What was that? I had such high hopes this would be as good as or better than the first. This was terrible.” Sequels can destroy a good movie.

And so here we are, again. November, 2014. Only, it’s not a movie. It’s real life. In the United States of America. And it is a sequel. Ferguson and Michael Brown are some two years after Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman gripped the nation and reminded the country we have not come as far as we think we have in racial reconciliation. Once again, this generation has seen lethal force used on an unarmed African-American pedestrian. Once again, many in the African-American community have screamed out in pain, anger, and disbelief. Once again, many within the dominant culture have had varying responses of equal outrage, confusion at our tears, defense of Officer Wilson, indictment on the African-American community for the violence within, and in some places a call from pastors to be “colorblind” and move forward together.

Once again, arguments ensue on social media, in the news, and across the racial divide that has existed since Abraham Lincoln told my ancestors they could leave the plantation…well, almost a year and a half after he said it because Texas didn’t get memo in January, 1863 but rather in June, 1865.

But here we are again. We have seen the story before. We have met the characters before. We have seen the outcome before. But this time it is worse. It feels worse. Perhaps because there have been ten unarmed African-American teens/young adults killed between Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Maybe it is worse because the rioting is so bad (never mind reports that people have driven to Ferguson to riot or what civil rights leaders have said for years, “rioting is the only response for people who do not have a voice”). Maybe it is worse because we have watched elected officials ask for more police to govern the low-income, poor communities rather than start brainstorming how to create economic opportunities for the poor and thus eliminate some of the injustice that perpetuates higher crime rates and hopelessness in urban areas around the country. Maybe it is worse because in these two years, we as a nation have invested more money our prisons and the militarization of the police than we have in our schools—essentially giving up on many black kids before they leave elementary.

Maybe it’s worse because we haven’t healed from Trayvon.

Maybe it is worse because we didn’t realize Ferguson wasn’t about Ferguson but rather what creates Fergusons across our country in the 21st century.

I arrived home in Houston for Thanksgiving to see my mom who will turn 70 on December 5th. She smiled when I walked in, was very calm, and peaceful—which I have not seen on or in any African-American I have been around since the lack of indictment announcement.

I asked, “Mom, have you kept up with Ferguson?”

She replied, “Yes. I watched a little.”

“Did you hear about the indictment?”

“Yes, that there wasn’t one.”

“Mom, you seem very calm about all this. Am I missing something?”

“Sean, I am about to be 70,” she said. “I knew he wouldn’t be indicted. You’re young. This is still new for you. I have been through this before. I have forgotten the names of the unarmed Black kids, men, and women who have been killed and no one is charged or indicted. There have been few arrests and far more pain. You’re 32. I am 70. I know what life in the United States is like for African-American people.”

You can draw a straight line from the racial tensions in this country from the year my mom was born (1944 if you’re not a numbers person), the year I was born (1982), the year my grandmother was born (1928), and so on to the racially charged events in Ferguson and around the country. Like I am witnessing now, they all saw and had their Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown moments—one was named Emmett Till. They have felt the pain I now feel in my chest every time I take a breath, every time I walk past the black hoodie in my closet I no longer feel safe to wear in public, every time the police pull behind me (I was stopped last month for a delayed turn signal), every time I am stared at when I meet with supervisor on the affluent side of Austin and I am the only African-American person in the building.

It doesn’t bother my mother anymore because as Dr. King said years ago, “We asked a generation to place their faith in a system that has proven to be unfaithful.”

If you’re wondering what that “good movie” was, so am I. There were good moments in history. Reconstruction, but the sequel was Jim Crow. Then there was the Civil Rights Movement, but the sequel or sequels, was the assassination of every leader in the Black community and every non-black leader that championed equality and justice. I don’t know if we ever got that “good movie,” but I know we have had some terrible sequels.

The saddest part for me is that in a few weeks, life will return to normal for most communities except the African-American community. People will forget names, details, events. Selfies will resume on social media. Pastors will start promoting their books, none of which addressing systemic issues, racial reconciliation, poverty, or justice. Diverse communities and campuses will start to lose some Black people and won’t understand why.

But African-American people, Christian or otherwise, will walk slower, with a little more fear, a little more sadness, and a little less hope.

You see, there is another sequel coming. It’s only a matter of time. When it does happen, the next racially charged incident involving lethal force, I will remember my mother’s smile and peaceful hopeless acceptance that our lives as African-American people in this country are less valuable. Our concerns, dismissed as nonsense.

Some sequels we leave sad, because we had such high hopes this time would be different. But it didn’t happen. We got an unarmed dead teen left in the street bleeding for four and a half hours, his vilified character portrayal in the media, an official doing his civic duty, dismissal of systemic issues and widespread coverage of the riots. We hoped it would be different but it wasn’t.

We just got a bad sequel.

If you’re looking for practical steps to respond:

  1. Read. Read The New Jim Crow by: Michelle Alexander
  2. Go. Immerse yourself in Black culture. Seek to listen and understand without critique.
  3. Pray. Pray for the healing of racial tension in the country. This isn’t a “move forward from here” time. We are moving backwards. We must heal first before we move forward.

- Sean M. Watkins

How Silence Destroys Cross-Cultural Trust

I will never forget it. My junior year of college was one of the most racially charged time periods in my life, much like what we are experiencing today across the United States.

Five events took place in one month at the University of Texas at Austin:

  • The Martin Luther King Statue was egged on MLK Day.
  • UT Police Department confirmed the surveillance camera for the statue wasn’t recording but was put in place to appease Black students.
  • A majority-white fraternity held a “ghetto” themed party. People dressed up in black face, wore several gold necklaces and shirts with hand-written notes saying “I love watermelon”.
  • Racist flyers were passed around campus by a non-UT affiliated group which read, “White women: Do not have sex with Black men. They all have AIDS.”
  • A Black student, who was my classmate and fraternity brother, was almost arrested for playing the piano on a public floor in a student union building. The police said he looked “furtive,” and after confirming he was a UT student, proceeded to check his driver’s license for any warrants.

All in one month. End of January to the end of February, 2003.

It was a tremendously rough time for us. Black students gathered at an InterVarsity Black Campus Ministry for bible study, and then it happened: the moment that forever changed my view of every culture, the kingdom of God, and what racial reconciliation can look like. Our campus minister, Corey Tabor, said, “I have a surprise for you,” and the over 150 students poured into our room.

Black students were surrounded by White, Asian, South Asian, and Latino students. They all had flowers in hand and several had tears in their eyes. Sabrina Chan, Corey Tabor, Fara Choi, and Eric Vogt, who were part of that diverse team of campus ministers, stood in aisles. David Hanke, the white former Austin Area Director who now pastors in Arlington, VA, came to the front of the room. I saw someone who was a prolific speaker stand in front of us with trembling hands and voice and an endless stream of tears.

David looked at us and said, “We are here tonight because we are your family. I want you to know I am so sorry this has happened to you. I want you to know we love you and you are welcomed here. We simply want to pray for you and give everyone a flower.”

We were all in tears. It spoke to wounds we have buried and forgotten we had. Wounds we live with everyday.

That was it. David, Sabrina, Corey, Eric, Heather, Lanee, Rebecca, Nathan, Fara and all the other staff there gave us a picture of racial reconciliation and one of the most transformative experiences of my life.

I wish we had more responses like that today. Sadly, we do not.

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-Silence-Quotes

Today, there is a tremendous cross-cultural misunderstanding that takes place whenever incidents occur as in the cases of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, John Crawford, Eric Garner…

Today, these incidents occur and there is tremendous silence in and outside of the church, and especially within too many multi-ethnic contexts, and people are starting to notice. I have White, Asian, Latino, South Asian friends who are starting to look at their own people and get angry at their silence.

I have Black friends who have wept saying, “So many people not Black challenge me about being diverse and engaging in multi-ethnic ministry, but when these events occur, they say nothing. How can they be opinionated about everything but this? I keep waiting for them to say something. I say something. They say nothing.”

I know some may find it difficult to speak to their friends on the topic. You may struggle to find the words to say. That makes sense, but that is not what is communicated.

Friends, let me share with you three things your silence communicates:

  1. You are unaware.
    1. The danger: It says you have not attempted to be incarnational, to walk in the shoes of a people group you want to do life with. Their culture and experience doesn’t matter. You just want them in the room.
  2. You don’t think your voice is needed.
    1. The danger: It says you are apathetic and would much rather wash your hands of the situation than be a bridge-builder and agent of healing.
  3. You don’t care.
    1. The danger: It says, “You, your people, don’t matter to me.”

I am quick to speak up about a South Asian Miss America or a Hispanic kid that sings the national anthem when they are ridiculed simply because of their ethnicity. I speak up because I care. I speak up because I have been there. I speak up because I know what silence communicates.

When we are silent:

  • It breaks trust cross-culturally.
  • It builds a tolerance for injustice.
  • It communicates to your friends, “If this happens to me, no one will say anything.”

So, I implore you…please…

Say something.

Black and White Truth

CNN has posted an article stating the events in Ferguson have re-energized a conversation black parents have with their children about race relations and police interaction.

Here’s the link for the article: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/15/living/parenting-black-sons-ferguson-missouri/index.html

It begs the question, “When does something become true?” When a black person says it, or when I white person says it or sees it?

This goes beyond racial tension. This is common American philosophy. Take Miley Cyrus for example. She twerked at the music awards. Suddenly, a new dance was revealed and a new word was added to the dictionary. Not that I affirm any of this, but black girls have been dancing like that since I was in middle school. The Yin Yang Twins made a rap about it over a decade ago, and nothing changed. Miley did one dance, and it is now truth.

Black families have never stopped talking to their children about race relations. We have never stopped warning our kids about the police. We never stopped saying we are disproportionately stopped, searched, arrested, convicted, killed, overlooked, underrepresented, misunderstood, and ignored.

The only difference this time is….people of all cultures finally listened.

The Tipping Point

Back in January 2001, an episode of Stargate SG-1 aired entitled “2010.” (I am a sci-fi fan and will attempt to dial down the “nerdiness” to communicate my point.) The episode featured the earth team meeting an alien race with advanced weapons, technology, and medicine they were willing to freely share and simply wanted to live among us. All of earth’s intergalactic enemies were defeated and life was peaceful. The new alien friends even offered medicine to extend our lifespan. It was 9 years later the people of earth started to realize something was wrong. People were living longer, but no one was having children. They discovered the medicine to help them live longer was also simultaneously making them sterile, and slowly killing the population. Their peaceful allies were wiping them out with a smile. One or two people had said over the years something was wrong, but their voices went unheard. The tipping point in the episode was the overwhelming reality that the “help” they were receiving was the cause of their undoing.

Today, we are once again dealing with race relations in the United States. African-Americans are outraged and hurt. News stories, politicians, police officers, and community leaders will tell us again “things are getting better” despite the killing of another unarmed pedestrian black teenager. The defense of these actions will be that Black-on-Black crime is high and never addressed—which is partially true but a deflection and excuse to not deal with the present situation. We have the same conversation when the same events happen every few months. What will be our tipping point? What will it take for us to wake up as a people and as a nation and realize just because you change the laws doesn’t mean you automatically change the people.

Perhaps it is time to accept the fact that integration failed. Our parents and grandparents marched for laws to change giving equality to all. Laws were changed. National integration was both made legal and encouraged. Yet, here we are in 2014, with a:

Lack in Education.

- Our HBCU’s are chronically underfunded. Many of them are across the street from major universities with overflowing budgets and multi-million dollar scrolling marquees purchased by alum who were admitted during a time when African-Americans weren’t, and made significant wealth through businesses endeavors African-Americans weren’t allowed to have.

- Our inner city schools are underfunded and underperforming. This crosses culture, but schools in predominately black neighborhoods do not have the resources to educate Black students at the level where they will be able to compete on state and national levels.

Lacking in Economics.

- Our Black businesses practically non-existent. Race riots of the early, mid, and late 20th century around the nation destroyed them and because of the lack of economic capital in the Black community, those businesses closed and were unable to rebuild. The few that exist, because of cross-cultural ignorance and fear, are not frequented by anyone. We aren’t trusted to do business with excellence, and even more, we don’t support our people. The NAACP reported, “Currently, a dollar circulates in Asian communities for a month, in Jewish communities approximately 20 days and white communities 17 days. How long does a dollar circulate in the black community? 6 hours.” In the non-profit world, Black businesses are grossly underfunded, and in majority white non-profits, most Black staff struggle with being underfunded their entire careers. The expectation to perform at the same—if not higher as you advocate for yourself and your people—levels while getting paid less is a problem we have been addressing since…the end of slavery.

Lacking in Equality under the Law.

- Our children are still policed by everyone with minimal legal response. Trayvon couldn’t walk down the sidewalk in the rain. Michael couldn’t walk down the street. Jordan couldn’t listen to music at a gas station. Eric’s size made the police believe he had to be subdued like a professional wrestler and not a civilian with Miranda rights. If we are stationary or moving, driving or walking, college-bound or headed home, we are not safe. Not always, but what has been the case lately, none of these Black teenagers broke the law. Yet, the media searches under every rock to find previous misbehavior and arrives at the conclusion, “If they weren’t guilty now, they were then and therefore it’s ok.” If you are rich, you can run over and kill four people, be arrested alive, and sent to counseling. You can shoot there president and be arrested alive, and found mentally incompetent. Our elders have said it before, but it bears repeating, “A Black life is not seen as valuable in the United States.” I would add “unless we have a ball or a microphone in our hands.”

Lacking in Diversity in majority white organizations.

- Google, Apple, and Twitter have all given recent reports their organizations are mostly White male and Asian. (We need a whole website to address and affirm the ladies.) Integration in businesses and our churches, looks like two—yes, two—Black people in the building. Sometimes, they are married…to each other. They are in every picture, staff meeting, and publication as “pictures of diversity.” The overwhelming majority of the time, we are not developed academically or professionally, and we are not hired. What will be the tipping point? The wake-up call that enough is enough? We need take seriously the issues within our own community like Black-on-Black crime, and the issues outside of community like seasonal murder of unarmed African-Americans?

Finally, I ask, what will be the tipping point for our non-Black brothers and sisters?
How many African-Americans have to be killed in news stories before we face the reality that the system is broken. We are quick to go to Iraq, Syria, and Russia (and rightly so) to fight injustice there, but still are dealing with Dr. King’s reality in Letters from a Birmingham Jail, where we are “more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice…prefer a negative peace which is the absence of tension [over] a positive piece which is the presence of justice.”

How many times will watch us be killed in streets, sidewalks, gas stations, and on the news? When will the encouragement to us that “things are getting better” stop and the advocacy of “treat them as you treat us” begin? When will I not be afraid for my friends, family, classmates? When will I stop being afraid for my mother? When will I stop fearing every time a police officer pulls behind me at a red light or on the highway? We need your voice, your advocacy, your support today. It is needed now, while the rest of us are still breathing.

I don’t believe Black people are supposed to run away from other cultures. Nor do I believe any other culture is the problem. Each culture adds unique value to all, and in order for European, Asian, African, African-American, Latino, and all cultures to be there best, we need every voice at the table. Every voice treated equally, respectfully, and justly.

That episode of Stargate SG-1…It ends with the remaining people on earth being wiped out. The main characters on the show used the classic sci-fi plot device: time-travel to undo the episode.

That’s not a luxury we have.

Unlike the show, this is reality. The past cannot be changed, but we must learn from it or it will continue to be repeated? What say you? Is this the tipping point, or do we need to discuss this again in a couple of months?

My fear is that one day there will be a remnant of other cultures that had positive experiences with other Black people and they will reminiscence about their Black friends that are no longer around. “What happened?” They will ask.

Only we won’t be around to answer.

 

SMW

I’m Tired of Unarmed Black People Being Killed

Normally, I would have a post written, but, after reading LZ Granderson’s CNN post (found here), I think I will let this man speak for me and my community. He says it best:

“I am tired.

Tired of our streets being peppered with dead, unarmed black people. Tired of listening to armed assailants describe how they feared for their lives. Tired of being told “this has nothing to do with race.”

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

I am tired of having to march to have murderers arrested. Tired of worrying about my 17-year-old being gunned down by some random white guy who thinks his music is too loud. Tired of knowing the same could happen to me.

I am tired of seeing a hashtag in front of a victim’s name on Twitter. Tired of seeing Al Sharpton speak on behalf of a family. Tired of waiting for verdicts and hoping for justice –as if hearing “guilty” can ease the anxiety of knowing a police officer shot and killed a 22-year-old black man while he was lying face down and with his hands behind his back.

I’m tired of the cynics who are quick to extend the benefit of the doubt to a gunman but hesitant to do the same for an unarmed teenage girl who had been shot in the face. I am tired of seeing images of police officers with snarling dogs threatening a crowd of black protesters and not knowing if it’s from the 1960s or last week.

In the case of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, it’s the latter. Witnesses said he was shot multiple times from 35 feet away after his hands were raised. Again, he was unarmed.

I am tired of the U.S. Department of Justice having to closely watch local authorities. I am tired of local authorities advocating for Stop and Frisk one minute and dismissing the notion of racial profiling the next. I am tired of the charlatans who chase the bodies of innocent victims the way sleazy lawyers chase ambulances. I hate black looters at peaceful rallies the way I hate the KKK.

I don’t want to get shot by a police officer.

I’m tired of unarmed dead black people being put on trial.

And I’m tired of thinking that each time one walks [drives] by.

I don’t begrudge anyone who has the luxury of not knowing what that kind of siege feels like. I just hope they have the decency not to characterize the socioeconomic disparity along racial lines as a card to be played but rather recognize it as a looming element of our cultural fiber.

For example, from 1934 to 1962, the federal government backed $120 billion of home loans. Because of an appraisal system that deemed integrated communities financial risks, less than 2% of those loans went to minorities.

When you consider that home ownership has long been the prerequisite for the average American to acquire wealth, there is little wonder why white Americans have 22 times more wealth than blacks. That is not a card being played. That is math. And I’m tired of having to explain that.

Just as I’m tired of watching the video of Eric Garner being placed in a chokehold by NYPD, listening to him say “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” and then watching him die minutes later.

But I need to keep watching because apathy is a clever hunter. It cloaks itself with FBI statistics and slips into the system between runs to Starbucks. Then one day as you’re sipping your grande decaf mocha, you see a headline about an unarmed black man being shot and killed by police and think nothing of it.

Or worse yet — assume he did something to deserve it.

I’m tired of unarmed dead black people being put on trial. I’m tired of politicians visiting our churches for votes but skipping out on these funerals

I’m tired of hearing mothers and fathers weep for children who did not have to die.

But most of all I’m tired of the people who are not tired like me.”