Tag Archives: racial profiling

Conspiracy Theories, Freedom, Mirrors: What Reality Are We Running From?

12 May

A couple of years ago I was dating a man. A man who, in the dating world, would be considered “good on paper.” An engineer with a good job, healthy, kind, intelligent. He lived in a beautiful mid-century modern home fitted with all of its original built-in fixtures and furniture. My girlfriends and family can probably attest to the fact that I have pretty much ignored those “good on paper” facts throughout my romantic life. That it’s always been heart over head. And since my divorce eight years ago, I have added something to the “look away from practicality and reason” factor when searching for a mate. I now also possess the need to find something wrong with someone to prove to myself that I shouldn’t like this person, thereby saving me from being seen, and letting someone inside my soul, inside my heart. To do that, would mean I would have to look in the mirror and see myself, my desire to love and be loved, to see myself in all of my flaws and vulnerabilities, to not hide, the good, the bad and the ugly. I’d have to love myself, before I could say, hey you, will you please love me, and I will love you back?

In the case of the engineer, aside from me realizing there was somewhat of a lack of chemistry–you know, the kind that wears off after the first few dates where you think maybe it was the wine at dinner that made it seem like you two really hit it off–I found out he believed in several conspiracy theories. I don’t remember the details exactly, but something to do with the government, and tracking us, as most conspiracy theories revolve around. Looking for a reason not to like, or allow myself to be liked, I asked one of the approachable psychiatrists on the inpatient psych unit I work on, what he thought about people who believed in conspiracy theories. I prefaced my question by saying this was someone I knew, and not a patient.

His response was that he didn’t feel concerned about people who believed in them, that people have their own views of reality, and that he in fact has, as time goes on, questioned his own thoughts and the reality, or validity of them. I understood what he meant. In the eight years I have worked as an Activities Therapist in a psychiatric hospital, and the many years before that working with homeless adults with mental illness, many living with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, I have had conversations with people who have shared their intricately detailed realities with me, which has opened up my own view of what “reality” and “normal” means, and has made me feel, at times, that my own view of reality is quite limited, dull, or predictable.

My excuse to break up with the engineer for believing in conspiracy theories dashed, I had to just break up with him for some other reason, which I did, at least proving to myself, I wasn’t going to hold onto him for the comfortability of his economic situation, and that super cool house which I was sad to not see again. In a way, I was being true to myself, able to look in the mirror and say material comfort doesn’t matter nearly as much to me, as real love.

Living in the age of the coronavirus there are new conspiracy theories swirling around. These include ideas that the virus is a hoax, or its impact grossly overstated, and that our government in this country is using the virus, the shutting down of our economy, the placating of the masses through stimulus and unemployment checks, the restriction of our ability to move freely in open spaces, all as a means to take away our freedom and impose martial law.

In the video, Plandemic, which surfaced and then was removed from Youtube, and which I only watched a little bit of, but read about, these theories are expanded upon, and include a bid to discredit Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as a controlling, research grant money-grubbing scientist, who held back information during the HIV/AIDS crisis which put off the development of life-saving drugs to combat the illness.

I have a hard time understanding the belief of the coronavirus conspiracy theories when there is scientific data shared about the toll the virus is taking in this country and world-wide, and facts shared discrediting the story of the scientist making claims in the Plandemic video. People believe what they believe, and I should not judge, lest I be judged myself. But what troubles me regarding the virus conspiracy theories, is how believing these theories, impacts people.

There is data that shows how the virus, and living under quarantine has impacted Black and brown communities. We now know, as I shared in my most recent post, Let Us Not Forget Racism In The Time Of Covid-19, that the death toll has been higher for Black and brown people in this country. This is because of racist policies and laws which created health and economic disparities, and inequity in access to quality healthcare, which led to Black and brown people possessing more underlying health issues, making them more susceptible to having complications, or succumbing to the coronavirus. We also know in the hardest hit areas, our urban centers, it is Black and brown people who are the majority essential workers who have had to keep working, who have had to be in spaces with many people, thereby exposing themselves to a much greater possibility of getting the virus, and/or exposing their families and communities to it.

We can say, let people, and I am going to say, us white people, believe what we want to believe, even though I know people of all races and ethnicities are prone to believing in certain conspiracy theories, but when those beliefs put Black and brown people in even more danger, like the coronavirus conspiracy theories are, I question the will of the person who is investing their energy in an ideal that harms others. I wonder with all the energy it takes to get to this truth about the man and what they are trying to do to us, with all of this running to get to the truth, what is the truth my fellow white people are running away from?

When I hear white people, and not even the obvious state house-stampeding, gun-toting, confederate flag-waving, swastika-wearing, I Want A Haircut sign-holding, white people, saying their freedoms are being impeded upon, the virus isn’t so bad, and we should reopen the economy pronto, I hear white supremacist self-interest. I hear hypocrisy.

Yes, I know that many people are hurting economically. Yet, with the phased, or no-holds barred re-openings of states, it will be the low-paying service jobs in restaurants, retail, and factories, that get called back first. The people who are economically disadvantaged and living in densely populated areas, and who will be majority Black and brown people will be putting themselves at greater risk. If they refuse to go back to work, whether it is due to wishes to maintain their health if they or their family members are health or immuno-compromised, or simply fear risk of exposure or spread of virus, their employer can fire them, and they will have their unemployment benefits cut off. The freedom of choice you wish to have about whether you wear a mask or can sit in a restaurant, is one that not everyone has.

I have heard people worry about the right to assemble and protest being taken away during this time, another sign of the government taking away our liberties. When I hear this, I remember the same people complaining that the Black Lives Matter protest several years ago that blocked the highway, was inconvenient. I remember when you said Colin Kaepernick taking a knee was unpatriotic and disrespected our military, ignoring the fact that Kaepernick said, time and again, he was protesting the racial profiling and killings of unarmed Black men, boys, and women by police officers. I remember you saying this isn’t the place for protest. I remember you saying if only Black people didn’t riot, if only Black people didn’t run, if only Black people complied. But now, you are saying it is un-American that we are not allowed to “protest” our right to use our voice, to claim our freedom to get our nails done.

When I heard Black people, Black people I work with, Black people I talked with on the phone, Black people I see posting on social media, Black person after Black person saying they are so tired, so exhausted of the murders, the lynchings, of Black people, at the hands of white people, when I heard Black people asking, “Why?” “Why do they hate us?” I know it is not enough for me to be sad, to be enraged. I know I, I know we must do something. Yet I am enraged when instead of more white people around me speaking about being sad or enraged and doing something–and certainly there were many that were–there were still the voices who did not speak the name Ahmaud Arbery, but instead used their breath to wonder about re-opening.

When I hear us white people question this video and flip the question this time, asking, why didn’t he run, I want to shake us. In the past, it’s been, why did he run, why didn’t he just do what the officer said, why did he fight back, why did she talk back? Now you want to ask, why didn’t he run! Has our consciousness not been raised by witnessing, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Korryn Gaines, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Amodou Diallo, Sean Bell, John Crawford, Philando Castile, Ashton Sterling, Stephon Clark, Freddie Gray, Rekia Boyd, Jordan Davis, and on, and on?

Are we white people spending our time chasing the reality we want to believe so we don’t have to, as James Baldwin has said, look in the mirror and truly see ourselves, and the horror of our reality–the brutalizing of Black, brown and Indigenous people for over four hundred years? Is it we don’t want to make ourselves vulnerable to that? To surrender to our good, our bad and our ugly? Would we rather look to make someone else the ogre, like the government taking away our rights? Is it easier to make the Black person, the one who did something wrong, by taking a jog in his neighborhood in broad daylight, or by placing one of his knees on the ground?

It is, right? It is easier to do that than it is to accept the white supremacist ideas ingrained in the fabric of our souls, easier to do that than to implicate ourselves, to implicate our whiteness, which leads to white violence.

Some might say I am doing some chasing myself. That I am tying together threads that don’t belong together–like dating a conspiracy theorist, one’s right to freedom, and the killing of a 25 year-old Black man out jogging, to justify my reality that in this time in history, the belief in coronavirus conspiracy theories is harmful and fueled by white-supremacist values.

Some might say when will Wendy stop trying to make everything about race? My answer to that will always be: when we are all truly free.

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Photo credit: ksltv.com

In Disappointing News, Providence City Council Postpones Voting On The Community Safety Act

28 Apr

CSA 042717

Providence City Council Meeting Community Safety ActLast week there was excitement from Providence, Rhode Island community members over the fact that the City Council, in a preliminary vote, voted yes to pass The Community Safety Act (CSA), an act designed by community members to protect communities of color, and individuals, from acts of police racial profiling, and use of excessive force. Three years in the making, the CSA, had the backing of Mayor Jorge Elorza, who said he would sign the bill into action once passed by the City Council.  Last night, in what angered, and deeply upset those in support of the CSA, was the hedging of City Council members, believed to be both intimidated and pressured by the Police Department, and the Attorney General, who do not want to see the bill passed. The City Council voted to table the bill until June so that it can be reviewed once more.

Please read the RI Future post for it’s excellent coverage of the City Council meeting.  I am not surprised by the […]

Trinity Repertory Company Performs Every 28 Hours, A One-Minute Play Festival

29 Oct

One-Minute Play Festival, Every 28 Hours

Every 28 Hours

I witnessed a historic theatrical event Monday night–the world premiere of the One-Minute Play Festival’s Every 28 Hours at Trinity Repertory Company here in Providence.

The One-Minute Play Festival is a theater company out of New York City that produces one-minute plays which aim to tell a neighborhood’s story through community engagement.  Every 28 Hours is the current festival theme, and is based on the events surrounding the killing of Michael Brown, a black teenager, by a white police officer in the summer of 2014 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Every 28 Hours stands for […]

A Vigil for Michael Brown…And All The Other Young, Black People Whose Lives Were Wrongfully Taken

15 Aug

Michael Brown vigil

 

Michael Brown Vigil

Providence, RI Vigil For Michael Brown

I never considered myself political, and I’m not sure I do now–I don’t really understand how politics work, and I haven’t spent time going to political rallies or protesting (except for in the early 90’s I went to my first and only one–to protect the Roe vs. Wade law in Washington D.C.).  I haven’t been a part of organizing against anything,  and don’t even venture into political discussions.  I tell myself, if anything, I’m a humanist, which I’m not sure I even know what people would say is the definition of that is.  My definition is  that I care about all human beings and their right to live a respected, dignified life, with equality and fairness for all people.

Yet, last night I found myself at my first vigil.  It was a vigil to honor […]

Interview: Alex Ishmael Wiggins

28 Aug

Alex, or Ish as he’s often called, reached out to me through Facebook messaging, after my piece, If You’re White Get It Right: Wendy Jane’s Primer For White People On Talking About Race was posted in early August.  We shared some snippets of conversation about how he feels trapped in a nice prison while living in Florida. His reflections recalled the letter Root’s drummer extraordinaire, Questlove shared on Facebook right after the Trayvon Martin verdict.

Questlove, aka Ahmir Thompson, spoke of refusing invitations to swanky parties where he thought his presence as a husky, 6′ black man with a giant afro would make white people uncomfortable. It was painful to read about what he felt he had to do to make white people not feel threatened by his presence, including a tense moment in the elevator of his own residence. A young, white woman wouldn’t tell him her floor number, because, he suspects, she thought he might follow and accost her.

When Ish and I had our fb message encounter that echoed Questlove’s much too closely, I knew I had to write about Ish’s experience. I am grateful that Ish agreed. […]

Wendy Jane Catches Wendy Jane Racially Profiling! Wait, That’s Me!

16 Jan

I’m going to tell this straight. It’s my goal in 2013 to not write about something I thought or did, and then back pedal and analyze, feel guilty, wondering aloud if the thing I thought or did was racist. I will not tippy-toe around in circles cleaning up my thoughts so as to appear perfectly, politically correct.

With that said, here is my story on how I caught myself doing some racial profiling last month at a local shoe store I frequent. […]

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake First 2013 Stories Coming Soon!

7 Jan

Happy New Year to everyone!

I hope you all enjoyed, or at least, survived the holidays, and are ready to hit the streets with renewed vigor, like we all try to do in January, right?

And, that means I have to get my blog writing self back into gear after a brief holiday break that included, yes, you guessed it,  several delightful MJ gifts!  My older sister, Sarah, gifted me with a Michael Jackson hologram poster, and my sister-in-law, Paula, gave me some new MJ earrings.  How many of you can say that you have two pairs of MJ earrings in your jewelry box?  All right, maybe some of you don’t want to have two pair of MJ earrings, or one even for that matter, but you’re happy for me, right?

I hope I can make all of you happy with this new year’s first WJSS post.  The next post to launch will be […]

Anti-White Bias? Racial Profiling For Whites? Read on!

15 Aug

You have to read these two blog posts from one of my new favoritest (that’s a word–so what if spell-check doesn’t think so) blogs on race and racism, Race Files by Scot Nakagawa.

In this first post, Scot poses the question, Why Don’t We Racially Profile Whites, since we have been so at the ready to racially profile blacks and other people of color.  He, and anti-racist educator/speaker/author, Tim Wise, have some very wise (yes, I just used the word wise again:) thoughts regarding the creation, or lack thereof, of a profile for persons who commit school, and other mass shootings.  Be sure to also check out Scot’s follow-up post, written after he gave some thought to a commentator’s point-of-view on the original post:  More On Racially Profiling Whites.

Finally, I happened to see a twitter link to an article on a Tufts University website TuftsNow, titled, Whites Believe They Are Victims of Racism More Often Than Blacks.

The article, which was written in May of 2011, reveals results from a study conducted by researchers at Tufts and Harvard.  I feel this article relates to the Race Files posts, which trace the history of white supremacy born out of a strong desire (understatement) to control just that–that whites stay on top, and that black people, who were seen as sub-human by groups like the KKK, were kept at bay, and couldn’t infringe on all the opportunities that should be had only by white people–economic independence, quality education, and social justice.

While the article doesn’t give specifics, I wonder if the people that believe in anti-white bias, are the same people who wish to do away with affirmative action in the areas of employment and admission to higher education institutions.  Or even the same people, who in Tim Wise’s book, White Like Me, complain that their children were passed over on sports teams in favor of black children who were simply assumed to be better in sports because of their skin color.

What say you?

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SOURCES:  www.racefiles.wordpress.com, Why Don’t We Racially Profile Whites, Scot Nakagawa, August 10, 2012  and, More On Racially Profiling Whites, August 14, 2012

www.now.tufts.edu, Whites Believe They are Victims of Racism More Often Than Blacks, Sam Sommers, May 23, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Shared from GlobalGrind.com – Michael Skolnick’s Essay: White People, You Will Never Look Suspicious Like Trayvon Martin

20 Mar

It’s been heartbreaking thinking about what happened to Trayvon Martin, a young, beautiful, innocent boy out for a walk in his father’s gated community neighborhood.  Please read Michael Skolnik’s essay, written for GlobalGrind.com

I will never look suspicious to you. Even if I have a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and white sneakers on…in fact, that is what I wore yesterday…I still will never look suspicious. No matter how much the hoodie covers my face or how baggie my jeans are, I will never look out of place to you.  I will never watch a taxi cab pass me by to pick someone else up. I will never witness someone clutch their purse tightly against their body as they walk by me.  I won’t have to worry about a police car following me for two miles, so they can “run my plates.”  I will never have to pay before I eat. And I certainly will never get “stopped and frisked.”  I will never look suspicious to you, because of one thing and one thing only.  The color of my skin.  I am white.

I was born white.  It was the card I was dealt.  No choice in the matter.  Just the card handed out by the dealer. I have lived my whole life privileged. Privileged to be born without a glass ceiling. Privileged to grow up in the richest country in the world.  Privileged to never look suspicious.  I have no guilt for the color of my skin or the privilege that I have.  Remember, it was just the next card that came out of the deck.  But, I have choices.  I got choices on how I play the hand I was dealt.  I got a lot of options.  The ball is in my court.

So, today I decided to hit the ball.  Making a choice.  A choice to stand up for Trayvon Martin. 17 years old. black. innocent. murdered with a bag of skittles and a bottle of ice tea in his hands. “Suspicious.” that is what the guy who killed him said he looked like cause he had on a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and white sneakers.  But, remember I had on that same outfit yesterday.  And yes my Air Force Ones were “brand-new” clean.  After all, I was raised in hip-hop…part of our dress code.  I digress.  Back to Trayvon and the gated community in Sanford, Florida, where he was visiting his father.

I got a lot of emails about Trayvon.  I have read a lot of articles.  I have seen a lot of television segments.  The message is consistent.  Most of the commentators, writers, op-ed pages agree.  Something went wrong.  Trayvon was murdered.  Racially profiled. Race. America’s elephant that never seems to leave the room. But, the part that doesn’t sit well with me is that all of the messengers of this message are all black too.  I mean, it was only two weeks ago when almost every white person I knew was tweeting about stopping a brutal African warlord from killing more innocent children.  And they even took thirty minutes out of their busy schedules to watch a movie about dude.  They bought t-shirts.  Some bracelets. Even tweeted at Rihanna to take a stance.  But, a 17 year old American kid is followed and then ultimately killed by a neighborhood vigilante who happens to be carrying a semi-automatic weapon and my white friends are quiet.  Eerily quiet. Not even a trending topic for the young man.

We’ve heard the 911 calls. We seen the 13 year old witness.  We’ve read the letter from the alleged killer’s father.  We listened to the anger of the family’s attorney.  We’ve felt the pain of Trayvon’s mother.  For heaven’s sake, for 24 hours he was a deceased John Doe at the hospital because even the police couldn’t believe that maybe he LIVES in the community.   There are still some facts to figure out. There are still some questions to be answered.  But, let’s be clear.  Let’s be very, very clear. Before the neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, started following him against the better judgement of the 911 dispatcher.  Before any altercation.  Before any self-defense claim.  Before Travyon’s cries for help were heard on the 911 tapes.  Before the bullet hit him dead in the chest.  Before all of this.  He was suspicious.  He was suspicious. suspicious. And you know, like I know, it wasn’t because of the hoodie or the jeans or the sneakers.  Cause I had on that same outfit yesterday and no one called 911 saying I was just wandering around their neighborhood.  It was because of one thing and one thing only.  Trayvon is black.

So I’ve made the choice today to tell my white friends that the rights I take for granted are only valid if I fight to give those same rights to others.  The taxi cab. The purse. The meal. The police car. The police. These are all things I’ve taken for granted.

So, I fight for Trayvon Martin.  I fight for Amadou Diallo.  I fight for Rodney King.  I fight for every young black man who looks “suspicious” to someone who thinks they have the right to take away their freedom to walk through their own neighborhood.  I fight against my own stereotypes and my own suspicions. I fight for people whose ancestors built this country, literally, and who are still treated like second class citizens.  Being quiet is not an option, for we have been too quiet for too long.

-Michael Skolnik

Michael Skolnik is the Editor-In-Chief of GlobalGrind.com and the political director to Russell Simmons. Prior to this, Michael was an award-winning filmmaker. Follow him on twitter @MichaelSkolnik