Category Archives: #blacklivesmatter

I Am Not Color Blind, Are You?

Here in the United States there are some people who believe we live in a “post racist” society.  Apparently even some of my fiends on social media believe this to be true.  It always amazes me when I see comments such as “I am not racist, but…”  or “I believe this….but”, etc. That “but” says a lot about how you really feel inside, whether you know it or not.  While explicit racism is not as common as it once was, (although in the past 8 months it has become more common), implicit racism is very common.

So then “what is implicit racism?”  Let me explain. Explicit racism is overt, obvious……using the N word, talking openly about people who are not white, or Christian, or middle class as being “less than” or not as good as the person who is doing the speaking. Shouting Nazi slogans walking down a street in Virginia. Openly being a member of the KKK. These people are open about their dislike for non whites, or homosexuals, or Jews or Muslims. It is easy to see and hear their racist beliefs and we can choose to avoid them, if we don’t want to be exposed to that bullshit.

Implicit racism is not obvious, and are usualy thoughts or stereotypes or biases we believe and act on, whether we are aware of it or not.  Such as crossing the street if we see a black man walking on our side of the street, clutching our purse a little tighter, thinking poor people are “lazy”, or just don’t try “hard enough” to get themselves out of poverty. Thinking or speaking as if the world would be better if we all “just took Jesus Christ into or hearts”. Or that children would be better off in a heterosexual home.

I see another form of bias these days. Some people want to be seen as nonbiased, or NOT racist, so they say things like “I don’t see color when I look at people.”  Or “I am colorblind.” Let me tell you why I think this is a ridiculous statement.

Now before you get your undies in a bunch, and get mad at me for “callng people oyt”, let me say that I DO understand what they mean, but I think by saying they don’t “see color” they are actually devaluing diversity and differences.  There are cultural differences (in my humble opinion) between races.  They may be small, but they are there.  I think these differences should be celebrated, not done away with.  Cultural diversity (in fact ALL diversity) makes the tapestry of humanity more colorful and vibrant, it doesn’t detract from that.  Why would we want everyone to be the same??? What an incredibly boring world that would be!!

So I am going to say I DO see color when I see people.  I see all the beautiful shades of skin tone, and hair color and hair texture.  I see eye color, and body size, and fully-abled or less-abled bodies.  I see gender, whether male, or female or other.  I see age, and sometimes I can see wealth or poverty.  I see all of those things when I look at people.  That doesn’t make me a racist.  It makes me observant.

diversity

In my opinion, the problem is not in seeing our differences, but in assigning stereotypes and biases to the people we see based on what we see.  To assume when we see a black person that the color of their skin somehow tells us something about their character is the problem.  To see an Asian person and assume they are good at math is the problem. To see a brown person and assume they are not hard working is the problem.   To place stereotypes and bias on a person merely by looking at them IS THE PROBLEM!! This does not just apply to the color or “hue” of someone’s skin, but also their gender, their physical bodies, their mental abilities, their sexuality, age, religion, etc!

Think about it, we can’t even assume that a person with darker pigmented skin is “african”.  They may be of Caribbean, or African, or Middle Eastern, or indigenous heritage.  They may be biracial, or multiracial.  We can assume very little about someone based on external appearances.  Assumptions and assigning stereotypes is the enemy, NOT seeing their “color”.

I think if we do want to truly become a post racist society we really need to think about this, and start valuing all humans for their differences, not try to make all humans the same. Do you “see color” when you look at people?

Go ahead and “see” a person’s color, and celebrate it!  Move past bias and stereotypes and get to know the person,  no matter what they look like on the outside. Find something of value in them, and remove the stereotype! THEN maybe we can become the post racist society I dream of!

I Am Not Color Blind, Are You?

#lovenothate

The test for those who think they aren’t Privileged

So I have been talking about privilege for many years.  I have gotten into arguments on Facebook and Twitter about privilege.  People almost always come back with (particularly white heterosexual males): “I am not privileged.  I have had to struggle”
Ummmm, okay, so privilege is not about whether or not you have had to struggle in your life.  It is about how society in general perceives you and judges you with regards to things like your gender, sexual orientation, race and financial status.
Donald Trump is about to be inaugurated this morning, and I find it incredibly worrisome! I find his choices for Cabinet members worrisome. How did we get here? I think it is because of some people in White America who don’t understand how privileged they really are, even though they think they aren’t. So I think it is important for those of us who are white to take this privilege test so we can understand better exactly what privilege is for ourselves!
 So, How much Privilege do you really have?
Please feel free to share your number (if you are comfortable) in the comments on the blog so it becomes more apparent to all how privilege works.
privilege-definition
Give your self one point for every comment you can say yes to: (I added the stuff in Italics)
1.  I am white.
2.  I have never been discriminated against because of my skin color.
3.  I have never been the only person of my race in a room.
4.  I have never been mocked for my accent.
5.  I have never been told I am attractive “for my race.”
6.  I have never been a victim of violence because of my race.
7.  have never been called a racial slur.
8. I have never been told I “sound white.”
9.  A stranger has never asked to touch my hair, or asked if it is real.
10. I am heterosexual.
11. I have never lied about my sexuality.
12. I never had to “come out.”
13. I never doubted my parents’ acceptance of my sexuality.
14. I have never been called “fag.”
15. I have never been called “dyke.”
16. I have never been called a “fairy,” or any other derogatory slur for homosexuals.
17. I have never tried to hide my sexuality.
18. I am always comfortable with P.D.A. with my partner in public.
19. I have never pretended to be “just friends” with my significant other.
20. I have never been ostracized by my religion for my sexual orientation.
21. I have never been told I would “burn in hell” for my sexual orientation.
22. I have never been told that my sexuality is “just a phase.”
23. I have never been violently threatened because of my sexuality.
24. I am a man.
25. I feel comfortable in the gender I was born as.
26. I still identify as the gender I was born in.
27. I have never tried to change my gender.
28. I have never been denied an opportunity because of my gender.
29. I make more money than my professional counterparts of a different gender.
30. I have never felt unsafe because of my gender.
31. I have never been catcalled.
32. I have never been sexually harassed or assaulted.
33. I have never been raped.
34. I work in a salaried job.
35. My family and I have never lived below the poverty line.
36. I don’t have any student loans.
37. I have never gone to bed hungry.
38. I have never been homeless.
39. My parents (or someone else) pay some of my bills.
40. My parents (or someone else) pay all of my bills.
41. I don’t rely on public transportation.
42. I buy new clothes at least once a month.
43. I have never done my taxes myself.
44. I have never felt poor.
45. I have never had to worry about making rent.
46. I have never worked as a waiter, barista, bartender, or salesperson.
47. I have had an unpaid internship.
48. I have had multiple unpaid internships.
49. I went to summer camp.
50. I went to private school.
51. I graduated high school.
52. I went to an elite college.
53. I graduated college.
54. My parents (or someone else or the VA) paid (at least some of) my tuition.
55. I had a car in high school.
56. I’ve never had a roommate.
57. I’ve always had cable or Direct TV
58. I have traveled internationally.(not military service)
59. I travel internationally at least once a year.(again not for military service)
60. I studied abroad.
61. I’ve never skipped a meal to save money.
62. I don’t know what “Sallie Mae” is. (Or know what it is but have never had to use it)
63. I spent Spring Breaks abroad.
64. I have frequent flier miles.
65. My parents are heterosexual.
66. My parents are both alive.
67. My parents are still married. (or would be if they were alive)
68. I do not have any physical disabilities.
69. I do not have any social disabilities.
70. I do not have any learning disabilities.
71. I have never had an eating disorder.
72. I have never been depressed.
73. I have never considered suicide.
74. I have never attempted suicide.
75. I have never taken medication for my mental health.
76. I can afford medication if/when I need it.(and have a co-pay I CAN afford, even if I think it is too high)
77. I have never been told I’m overweight or “too skinny.”
78. I have never felt overweight or underweight or “too skinny.”
79. I have never been shamed for my body type.
80. I consider myself to be physically attractive.
81. I can afford a therapist.
82. I’ve used prescription drugs recreationally.
83. I have never had an addiction.
84. I have never been shamed for my religious beliefs.
85. I have never been violently threatened for my religious beliefs.
86. I have never been violently attacked for my religious beliefs.
87. There is a place of worship for my religion in my town.
88. I have never lied about my ethnicity as self-defense.
89. I have never lied about my religion as self-defense.
90. All my jobs have been accommodating of my religious practices.
91. I am not nervous in airport security lines.
92. I have never heard this statement: “You have been randomly selected for secondary passport control.”
93. I have never been called a terrorist.
94. Nobody has ever tried to “save” me for my religious beliefs, or my sexual orientation
95. I have never been cyber-bullied for any of my identities.
96. I was not bullied as a child for any of my identities.
97. I have never tried to distance myself from any of my identities.
98. I have never been self-conscious about any of my identities.
99. I have never questioned any of my identities.
100.  I feel privileged because of the identities I was born with
I originally thought I scored a 30, but I actually scored a 31.  Which is a bit better but not by much!
I believe my score is only 30 because as a JEWISH, WOMAN in a SAME GENDERED relationship who has also struggled financially as a SINGLE MOM, I cannot get as many points as if I could remove one of those labels.
This also brings up intersectionality.  Look how many words in the above sentence  are bold.  I could also add OVERWEIGHT to those categories……I have many “adjectives” that describe me…. that is what intersectionality is in a nut shell.  We are many things, not just one, and each one of those adjectives, (or intersections) forms how we view ourselves and how society as a whole views us.
Please feel free to comment about how this made you feel if you are comfortable.  Until we start having a discussion about privilege it will be more difficult to remove these labels that cause separation in our society.
#womenslives  #blacklivesmatter

Vietnam Vet shot and killed in his own home: we need more training for Police!!

One day a few months ago I was doing some research on local veterans for a piece I was writing. As I scrolled through local news stories, one in particular caught my eye!

I started reading and couldn’t stop crying. This was a story about a local Vietnam Veteran who suffered from mental illness (most probably induced from being in Vietnam), who was shot and killed while he stood in side his house. Now, to be completely fair, he did have a firearm, but you have to dig a little deeper to find out what really happened and what caused this mild mannered man (by all accounts) to be standing in his kitchen holding a firearm, and then being fatally wounded by local police.

marshallfranklin1Marshall Franklin of Portsmouth Virginia served his country and did two tours in Vietnam. According to his family (Marshall had 9 brothers and sisters), Marshall was a creative man and had a gift for painting and making crafts. But when he came back from Vietnam, they say he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

He didn’t like to take his medicine because he said it stifled his creativity, so he didn’t always take it according to Marshal’s sister Alberta. Having nearly three decades experience working with mental health patients, Alberta says she knew what should have happened. So when she found out Marshall wasn’t taking his meds, she called the community services board and was sure he would get the hep he needed. However, that is not at all what happened.

Before police officers surrounded the home of Marshall Franklin and a SWAT team moved in, all Franklin’s family could do was watch. The standoff ended with two officers shot and Franklin dead, a scenario, Franklin’s family says that could have been avoided. That is, if they ever got a chance to talk to him.

So when her brother Marshall – who’d been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress syndrome – wasn’t taking his meds, she called the community services board and was confident he’d get help.

However that wasn’t what happened.

According to a police summary of that day filed in court – “mental health was on scene” and told police the suspect “came at her with some type of sharp object.” It goes on to say officers saw Marshall with a “shank to his throat.” When police tried to take him into custody, they said Marshall lunged at them with the weapon. SWAT was called. More than 20 officers showed up at the home, and snipers were positioned on homes across from Marshall’s. Canine units were also called and arrived at the home. Seems a little excessive to me!

Marshall did not have a phone inside the house and Police were informed about this by the family.

franklinfamily

Interestingly, according to a deposition taken in May by a high ranking police lieutenant and training director, in this incident “mental health may not have even been on site yet.”  Also, the mental health worker said in her deposition in June 2015 that she never assessed Marshall, and that an officer and a deputy were already there when she arrived. In fact, she said it was police who told her Marshall had a knife.

Also, according to a lawsuit filed by the family, there is no definitive evidence that Marshall fired the shotgun found next to his body or that the shotgun shells are even from that gun. While he did have guns and ammunition in the house , his family says he and his brother who lived with him in the house were avid hunters, and that is what the shotguns were used for.

You can find the lawsuit filing here.

To make matters worse, dozens of police showed up and surrounded the house, yet the family was not allowed to talk with Marshall, or have any contact with him. “He was blocked off from every single thing that he knew,” said his sister, Tony Franklin Dixon, “the people who loved him, the people who he trusted. He was not allowed to talk with us at all.” According to Marshall’s son, “When I got there,I asked them to let me talk to my father. But they wouldn’t let me go in there at all.”  “He died thinking that his family neglected him, didn’t care about him, and he was alone,” added Juanita Ebron, one of his other sisters.

When SWAT showed up at the home, they threw a negotiation phone in the house to talk to him. His family says it would have only worsened his condition.

“If you’ve got a person dealing with paranoia and post-traumatic stress and you’ve got bomb squads and people are throwing phones through your window,” said his sister, “obviously you’re going to go into a combat mode. Wouldn’t you think? And that’s what happened.”

Training the Portsmouth police better could have avoided this situation from escalating to the point that a man was killed and two officers were wounded (likely from friendly fire). Police Chief Ed Hargis has been named in the suit. He has since “retired” from Portsmouth and is now the Police Chief in Frederick Maryland. Interestingly in Frederick he has implemented the very programs that could have saved Marshall’s life.

edhargis1

The family is suing for $1.5 million claiming the former Police Chief Ed Hargis and his officers are responsible for Marshall’s death and they were negligent in handling someone with mental illness. “I would like for them to admit that they were wrong and they didn’t follow policies or procedures in this matter,” Yvonne said.

It will be up to a jury to decide the final outcome.

Here is a statement from the family:

“First of all, we are thankful to God that the injuries of the two police officers were not life threatening.  However, this incident demonstrates the lack of training and knowledge that the police officers have with working with the mentally ill population and those individuals who suffer with issues of post-traumatic stress syndrome after serving in the Vietnam War and military forces.  A mental health evaluation was requested to seek assistance with getting our brother back on his medication.  This matter was taken from a mental health screening request to a criminal matter before any shots were fired or any officers were injured.  His rights were violated, because he was at his home and he entered his property, which was his right.  No petition had been filed with the magistrate at this time; therefore, the police should have left the scene until a family member could have invited mental health evaluators into the home to complete the assessment.  Officers would not permit family members, i.e., hisuncle who lives several houses down or his son who was on site at the time to talk with him to deescalate the matter.  Instead the Portsmouth Police Department called 55 additional police officers, swat team, snipers, bomb squad, and military to handle one 60 year old man (soon to be 61 had he reached his birthday on March 5) suffering with paranoia and post traumatic stress syndrome.  Police surrounded the home and invaded him causing him to go into a combat mode due to feeling the need to protect himself .  Even after his death, family members were not notified by the Portsmouth Police Department even though detectives were stationed outside of nearby family member’s home where family was gathered.  We were notified by the local news and family and friends calling to express condolences.  This indeed is a tragedy for our mental health system especially following the incidents that occurred at Virginia Tech when people did not respond to warning signs and the need for a mental health evaluation.  Mental illness and post traumatic stress syndrome affects many if not most families.  We pray that this incident will not prevent other families from seeking mental health evaluations for fear that it will result in the death of the family member.  He could have been your brother, father, uncle, nephew, grandfather or maybe just your neighbor.  He was a hunter, artist, skilled craftsmen, builder, and a member and usher of the Garden of Prayer Temple #4 in Portsmouth.  We plan to seek assistance from our Regional Mental Health Advocate and the Virginia Office of State Protection and Advocacy.  We are also seeking any attorney who will assist the family with resolving this matter.  We would like to thank the community for your prayers and your support during this difficult time.”

And finally this report done by Wavy 10, a local station here in Southeast Virginia.