book banner

Skin color is not a costume

I receive a weekly email from the New York Times that is a roundup of race-related issues called, you guessed it: "Race/Related."

I highly recommend that anyone wishing to understand race better subscribe to this. A skim of the headlines alone will be informative, and typically there are several items that I just have to read through.

This week, articles by Annie Correal and Saleem Reshamwala talked about Halloween costumes and why white people should pause and think through their choice of dressing up as a black person or character. The newsletter editor says:

Every year, it seems, people need to be reminded that skin color is not a costume; or as, Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance at the Southern Poverty Law Center, recently put it: "You can't take symbols or practices that are hurtful in the past and expect for your particular purposes that history disappears."

"Race/Related," The Times

In other words, history, like black lives, matters. Just because you are engaged in make believe doesn't mean you're acting without any historical context. Reasonable people can argue this issue from all sides, but the questions I would put to anyone are:

  • Do you think your depiction is likely to offend others?
  • If so, why would you want to proceed and be offensive?
  • Are you able to look at your actions from the perspective of those you offend?
  • Are you willing to look at yourself and understand what motivates you?

We live in times where giving racial offense is abundant. Overwhelmingly, the offense given is by whites, the offense taken is by non-whites. The history of racism is what's boiling up to the surface, and it cannot be ignored.

Yes, let's be glad that a white person can identify with a black character and want to emulate them. If I wanted to "be" Michelle Obama for Halloween, I'd be challenged to create a costume that didn't include blackface, because I'm aware of the racist underpinnings of blackface and minstrelsy in our history. I know the pain it has caused. And why would I want cause pain through caricature, when my intent is to celebrate a female superhero?

Recent Comments
Mary Neighbour
Aaaach! On the brighter side, one of the good things about kids moving from small towns to cities is that it's hard to avoid hav... Read More
Monday, 31 October 2016 22:34
  5581 Hits

Changing Colors

I've been traveling in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, joyfully soaking up the changing colors of autumn and the company of family. At my brother and sister-in-law's house, I met a neighbor who is an AT&T project manager, and we had a great conversation about a recent video of AT&T's CEO, Randall Stephenson, speaking to a large group of employee resource managers.

Mr. Stephenson's speech is a powerful and personal account of an epiphany. He described his moment of revelation when he abruptly understood how important race was to Chris, a dear friend who is black—and Stephenson was incredulous that he and his friend of many years had never had a conversation about race

After expressing a newfound understanding for the value of the Black Lives Matter movement, he concludes his talk with an exhortation to the AT&T employees to go out and begin the difficult discussions of race, telling them:

Do not tolerate each other. Work hard. Move into uncomfortable territory and understand each other. . . . Start the discussion with WHY, why does my colleague feel this way; and then we can discover what needs to be done.

Randall Stephenson, AT&T CEO

Please watch this exciting, important speech here.

Not surprisingly, an AT&T company slogan is "Every voice matters," and DiversityInc recently ranked AT&T as #4 on its list of Top 50 Companies for Diversity. Can an international conglomerate really have an impact on how we feel about and address race in our country? I believe it can; it can change the color of these conversations from black-and-white to a vast palette of hues, tones, and vibrancy. My brother in NC reminded me that Charlotte emerged from the 1960s Civil Rights Movement as a leader among Southern states in correcting Jim Crow laws and traditions--and that Charlotte's thriving business community set the stage for this advancement by not tolerating workplace segregation and anti-black hiring practices. Now AT&T is urging its employees to move beyond tolerance--mere tolerance is for cowards, says Stephenson--and blaze new trails of understanding and respect through dialogue.

Because "Every voice matters" has so much in common with the purpose of this Speak Right On blog, I plan in upcoming weeks to reach out to Mr. Stephenson and propose workshops designed to facilitate those difficult discussions of race. ​I want to begin by inviting Mr. Stephenson and his friend to read chapters 8 and 9 in Speak Right On: Conjuring the Slave Narrative of Dred Scott. Those of you who have read my novel will remember that these two chapters depict a relationship between Dred Scott and Nat Turner: two slave boys who chose vastly different approaches to freedom: one through speaking out in the courts and the other through bloody rebellion.

Recent Comments
Mary Neighbour
Glad you liked the video. I think with enough follow-through we're likely to see a giant leap forward in race relations!
Sunday, 23 October 2016 20:04
Super User
"Every voice matters" is wonderful. Last night I re-watched the movie Invictus about Nelson Mandela. It occurred to me how silly i... Read More
Monday, 24 October 2016 17:50
  5574 Hits

Are you wearing blinders?

All photos (c) Andrew Neighbour

In a blog on HuffPost this week, Ann Girdharry wrote about a lack of diversity in published books--something I spoke about in my August 13 blog, "Don't be afraid." I hesitate to write again so soon on the issue, but it occurs to me that there are several aspects to the topic:

    • What we find in publishing reflects the lack of diversity in our culture
    • Many people are afraid to speak about matters of race
    • Many people are downright resistant to acknowledging that race matters and inequity is prevalent
    • Many people just don't "see" that a problem exists

Girdharry says: 

"It's an unconscious bias and we tend not to think about it. But we should. . . . Why can't we have more black heroines? More main characters who are people of colour? Can you even think of a book you've read with a diverse main character? Asian? Chinese? A character with a different mind-set to the usual tropes? With a different world view?"

I find it easy to agree with Girdharry, and I suspect many of my readers here do, too. However, on the HuffPost site, the comments about this article were overwhelmingly negative; here's a sampling:

  • Write a real article about stuff that matters :-/
  • Get more black people writing books then! no ones stopping them!
  • My god get a life love and stop trying to devide nationalities so you can write another book
  • Stop the PC insanity. You are a pathetic news source.
  • Now I've heard everything. This is totally unbelievable.
  • I can only think this blogger hasn't really tried . . . she clearly hasn't looked
  • Oh get a bloody grip! I get sick and tired of these politically correct whinge pieces.
  • Perhaps you're reading too much into your .......reads?
  • You want more books with non-white protagonists? Write some.
  • Darn evil whiteys writing about whiteys.

I was astounded by the number of these reactions—but I shouldn't be. Any time you confront people with elements from the unconscious, expect a backlash. Girdharry speaks to "an unconscious bias" toward all things white being the default position, being the norm, as well as to a resistance toward accepting more diversity in our lives. I'm reminded of the song lyrics: 

"If you're white, you're alright; if you're brown, stick around; if you're black get back."

We have racial segregation in many aspects of our societies—keeping blinders on only deepens and prolongs the inequalities. I encourage you to open your eyes—and your heart: where in your life do you see or experience inequality?

  • Are you stopped frequently by the police when you're not doing anything wrong?
  • Are you insulted because of your skin color?
  • Are you treated as being invisible when waiting in line?
  • Do people stare at you or surreptitiously watch your conduct when you're in a store?
  • Do you hear car doors lock as you walk through a parking lot?

If you answered no to most of these questions, I'm willing to bet you're white. That's the problem with white bias—it most frequently occurs as a negation of something, an absence of a slight or a wrong—and that makes it very difficult for white people to "see" it. But have no doubt: it's real.

Just look around.

  5998 Hits

I'm discouraged

That whites and blacks have vastly different cultural experiences of being American is well established, with blacks generally getting the worst of the bargain. Significantly, our differences remain caged off. Opportunities for experiencing anything outside the cage are locked away, precisely because we are all conditioned to react to skin color; we can't not react to this otherwise meaningless factor.

In this blog, I have tried various approaches to stimulating conversations on race, looking for keys that will open our cages. Starting with Speak Right On, I've tried to point out how Dred Scott remains relevant today, and why.

I have posted comments to online articles and then reported on those "conversations"—a nice word for what amounts to, in most cases, people barking from behind a metal grill that blocks broader perceptions and understanding (me included).

I have reiterated news reports and statistics, because we need to know the facts before we engage in meaningful talk.

And I have tried to understand some of the emotional and psychological underpinnings of what works and what doesn't.

But I get discouraged. News on this topic is typically depressing, horrifying—and it's overwhelming in its frequency and magnitude.

In any given week, I read articles from a variety of sources that report (progressively and conservatively) on racial issues. I watch documentaries and "town hall" meetings when they're aired. I buy books, like Keeanga-Tamahtta Taylor's From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation (which I recommend). And I often have discussions with others in my personal circle.

This week, I watched President Obama on ABC answering questions directly pertaining to recent killings of black citizens and white police officers. He seemed a bit overwhelmed himself. I guess he was trying to be balanced, trying to avoid stoking emotions that are tender and volatile. But he seemed vague and evasive, and I felt disappointed by the absence of two things I've often admired in him—leadership and inspiration.

I'm left feeling, today, at this point in time, that maybe words and talking just aren't a strong enough tool for the job. Worse, I don't know that there is a tool that can do the job of creating more unity and less divisiveness when it comes to race.

Thankfully, I'm pretty confident this mood will lift; I've been down this rabbit hole before. 

Part of me realizes that this bleak perspective also belongs to the conversation. . . .

And as soon as I accept this thought and this feeling, room is made for more creative thoughts: imagine how often black people have felt this way, exhausted from the effort of trying to make the world accept that they matter?

I mean it: try to imagine just that. 

Recent Comments
Mary Neighbour
Ah, the support and the wisdom of the Dalai Lama are very uplifting. I am grateful. And this morning, like a prairie dog, I am pok... Read More
Sunday, 17 July 2016 16:51
Mary Neighbour
Hi Jeannette, I just went to the Journal's website and read that article you mentioned. Thanks for sharing that. I respect the per... Read More
Sunday, 17 July 2016 19:47
Mary Neighbour
Oh my, Jan, you raise a number of good points. It is heartening to learn how others deal with racism constructively. And you're ri... Read More
Sunday, 17 July 2016 20:43
  6235 Hits

Do small moments of micro-aggression build to mass murder?

This has been a faith-shattering week. The aggressions have been major and overwhelming. Another murdered black man in Louisiana. Another murdered black man in Minnesota. Another peaceful protest turned into a bloody slaughter—this time of police officers: 5 dead, 2 injured, as well as 2 civilians injured.

What has led up to this? Well, in the week preceding the murders in Dallas, there was quite a bit of everyday bloodshed:

  • July 6: Philando Castile in Minnesota
  • July 5: Alton Sterling in Louisiana
  • July 4: Delrawn Small in New York
  • July 2: Jai Williams in North Carolina
  • June 30:Kawme Patrick in Ohio

And these are just the black men killed by police in the week of June 30 – July 6. The Guardian reports that 24 men and women were killed by officers during these 7 days.

Yeah, yeah: many more whites are killed than blacks. But when you factor in those killed per million, then you see that the ratio of black-skinned citizens to white-skinned citizens is more than double:

  • 3.40 Native American
  • 3.25 Black
  • 1.59 Hispanic/Latino
  • 1.41 White
  • 0.56 Asian/Pacific Islander

And if you're anyone whose skin isn't white, you're nearly six times as likely to be killed by a police officer than a white person.

How have things gotten this bad? I used the phrase "faith-shattering" above not because I have faith in a god (I don't) but because I have faith in our human ability to overcome our innate destructiveness. But this week's events, playing out under the big top of our presidential campaign, makes that faith falter. I despair. Is there anything I—or any single person—can do against this flood of racial violence?

Then today a friend shared a poem with me.

Poet Claudia Rankine has made it her mission to point out the many small moments of aggression that go unchallenged—the racial slur, treating someone as if they were invisible, applauding bigots—and to challenge them. The following is from her book Citizen, an excerpt from "You are in the dark, in the car . . .":

Poet Claudia Rankine; photo by John Lucas

You are in the dark, in the car, watching the black-tarred street being swallowed by speed; he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.

You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted or you have done something that communicates this is an okay conversation to be having.

Why do you feel okay saying this to me? You wish the light would turn red or a police siren would go off so you could slam on the brakes, slam into the car ahead of you, be propelled forward so quickly both your faces would suddenly be exposed to the wind.

As usual you drive straight through the moment with the expected backing off of what was previously said. It is not only that confrontation is headache producing; it is also that you have a destination that doesn't include acting like this moment isn't inhabitable, hasn't happened before, and the before isn't part of the now as the night darkens and the time shortens between where we are and where we are going.

by Claudia Rankine
Time indeed "shortens between where we are and where we are going," and each of us better step on the brake to slow things down.

Taking a lesson from Ms. Rankine, the next time you hear someone express a racial slur, stand firm and ask, "Why do you feel okay saying that to me?"

Just try it. Stay calm. Be firm. Keep your voice level.

If the other person sneers or attacks verbally, you can conclude the confrontation by saying, "It's not okay to say that to me. I want you to know that. Goodbye."

If you think they might listen to your views, take it one step further: "Your complaint about being obliged to hire a minority insinuates that a person of color would underperform and be of lesser value than a white person. Is that how you really feel?"

If they back-peddle, retract the statement, try to explain that of course they are not prejudiced, you can point out that many reasonable people would hear their comment the way you have. Tell them that words matter. Ask them to articulate their thoughts more carefully.

And if you're really brave, admit that you, too, have had to examine your own values. You, too, have let racial stereotypes enter into your thoughts and words.
  • There was that time you went to a new dentist, and he was black, and you know that your eyes immediately registered surprise. And you saw that he saw it.

  • There was a time when you told a joke that was disrespectful of Native Americans.

  • There was a time when you were rear-ended by a Mexican and before you could stop it, the thought flashed through your mind: oh god, I hope he's insured.

So I think this is what I can do: I can resist the urge to "drive straight through the moment with the expected backing off of what was previously said." I can slow down and contemplate "where we are and where we are going." And I can choose to change direction.

So can you. Take the bull--you know what I mean--by the horns.

Recent Comments
Mary Neighbour
Jeannette, I so appreciate your attention and contribution to these blogs. Your words, "in a kind and caring way," deserve to be h... Read More
Sunday, 10 July 2016 17:53
Mary Neighbour
Welcome back, Maxine, and thanks for raising the point about gun control, the lack of which is a major contributing factor to this... Read More
Sunday, 10 July 2016 18:33
Lloyd Carter
Thank you, Mary, for once again sharing your wise and inspiring words on your Speak Right On blog. The poem by Claudia Rankine an... Read More
Monday, 11 July 2016 18:06
  5386 Hits

I was wrong

It's so difficult to say the words I was wrong—and mean them, feel them. Partly it must be rooted in childhood, when a parent says, "Bad girl!" Whatever the roots of this aversion, it seems to me that it's universal: we humans don't like harboring negative feelings about ourselves.

So, yes, it's difficult. But it's also sometimes necessary to say "I was wrong"; otherwise, the damage done by the wrong is imprisoned, barring any chance for real, true contact with others. This applies to interpersonal relationships and to our relationships with leaders and politicians, though it seems nearly impossible for politicians to utter this phrase. And I think this accounts for a lot of the falseness in political life and is partly why politicians so often don't seem like "real people." Our political leaders are guilty of, among other things, the mass incarceration of harms done. These are locked away, apparently on death row, never again to see the light of day. 

There are millions of examples of this throughout our American history, but most recently, in this presidential campaign season, Bill and Hillary Clinton come to mind. During the Clinton presidency of the 1990s, Bill Clinton's "three-strikes" policy led to the mass incarceration of young black men. And Hillary used that phrase super-predators in the mid-1990s to refer to some youthful black criminals. Some Black Lives Matter activists have paroled that particular harm, and in February 2016, a young woman disrupted a fundraising talk by Hillary Clinton, demanding an apology on behalf of youth of color. Watch the video on YouTube.

Clinton's response to the disrupting woman starts out reasonably enough: "We'll talk about it." But as the woman continues to press for an apology, Clinton moves from being dismissive to being combative, until the young woman is escorted from the room. Once the woman is gone, Clinton returns to being dismissive. 

In a follow-up video, the young woman explained that she wanted Clinton to take responsibility for the ways in which she (Clinton) has been complicit in contributing to the problems of mass incarceration and contemptuous racial stereotypes.

The dynamic on display in these two videos is familiar to all of us. I'm sure we've each been in the position of pressing for an apology as well as the position of defensively sidestepping accountability.

Further, Kevin E. Hooks argues that blaming the Clintons today for policies of the 1990s ignores important context:

[O]ur rear-view vision is clouded as we blindly reach back for historical liability that scapegoats two individuals while disregarding those of us who either stood by and did nothing or begged for crime reduction....

I continuously say "we," because we wanted change, we wanted solutions and we wanted a president to lead the change and be tough on crime. And now that the pain and urgency we felt has dulled, we want to make Hillary Clinton culpable for everything that went wrong....

If we focus our energy and efforts on assigning blame rather than forcing long-term systemic change, we do a disservice to the poor, the black and the brown who still languish unnecessarily in the hundreds of for-profit correctional facilities. Of greater importance, we fail to recognize a valuable teaching moment. One that begins with honest self-reflection.

Kevin E. Hooks

While I do agree with Mr. Hooks, I also think the teaching moment can be extended. If we can find the courage to step out from behind our defenses, then we have the opportunity for real, true connection with others. If we hide behind our defenses and lock away our empathy to another's sense of wrong, the connection never happens, and the hurt never heals.

Paring down these complex issues to just the single instance of Hillary Clinton calling black youths "super-predators," I have to ask: Does she acknowledge that her words caused harm by inflating racial stereotypes? And if she doesn't, why not? Is it because she can't tolerate the feeling of being wrong, or does she have some justification to offer? And even if she has a justification, can't she acknowledge this young woman's sense of being wronged? Where is Clinton's empathy? 

I doubt Clinton will ever answer any of these questions, but I've got a suggestion: maybe Clinton could work up to I was wrong by saying something less uncomfortable, like: "I have learned more since then. Then, my focus was on decreasing rates of crime and violence. Now, my focus is broader, and I understand more about the fallout that occurred in the wake of our efforts to curb crime. I didn't anticipate that my words would fuel racist action and racist policies. I regret that my words were used that way, and I do apologize to black youth who have been harmed by the incendiary phrase super-predator

It comes down to, among other things, taking responsibility for one's thoughts, feelings, actions, and speech . . . and it includes saying I'm sorry to those we've hurt—even when the hurt is entirely unintentional.

Recent Comments
Mary Neighbour
I'm curious, Jeannette: are women more likely or better equipped to ferret out truth ? I know you have studied and written on gend... Read More
Sunday, 01 May 2016 20:13
  6879 Hits


stereoscope |ˈsterēəˌskōp|   noun

a device by which two photographs of the same object taken at slightly different angles are viewed together, creating an impression of depth and solidity.

My husband, Andrew, did a series of juxtaposed images like the one at right. Instead of a stereoscopic pair of separate images depicting left- and right-eye views of the same scene, he placed similar but different images side by side. This one shows the ruins of an ancient cave dwelling at Bandelier, in New Mexico (left), and the ruins of an inner-city building in Brooklyn, NY (right).

We don't see the same thing that other people see, even when we're looking at the same thing. We all know this, but it's not a bad idea to remind yourself every now and then. That's one take-away of these conversations I'm having online. 

This week's conversation followed an NPR story about the Black Lives Matter presence at the US Conference of Mayors, held last Wednesday in Washington, DC (hosted by Robert Siegel, with a byline from Cheryl Corly).  City leaders were set to discuss policing and safe communities, one of BLM's primary areas of protest. 

I think that it would irresponsible for me not to show up here and say that this is some fantasy world that they live while the thousands and millions of people in their cities are experiencing something totally different.

April Goggins, representing Black Lives Matter

Here are the comments following the story:

Charles Tudor

The best way to avoid getting shot by a cop is to obey their orders. The police represent society. If there is misconduct on the part of a cop, it can be brought to the attention of the people that oversee and investigate the cops, but to get that done, you have to remain alive.

Mary Neighbour to Charles Tudor
Yes, the police do represent society. In many towns and cities the police are the only--or at least the most frequent--representatives of government that residents see and interact with. How horrifying, then, when residents see their unarmed neighbors shot and killed in such great numbers. The statistics speak incredibly loud: see In 2014, Canada law enforcement killed 78 people; in England, from 2010 to 2014, police killed 4 people; in Germany, no one was killed by law enforcement in 2013 or 2014; and in China, with a population 4.5x greater than ours, police killed 12 people in 2014. And us/US? In 2014 police killed over 900; in 2015, police killed over 1,000. Our society has something seriously wrong.

Charles Tudor to Mary Neighbour
Being "unarmed" is drummed loudly, but the fact remains that people who cooperate with the police do not get shot, usually. Seeing cops as adversarial is part of local culture.

Ng to Mary Neighbour
Correct! We have many more violent criminals.

Mary Neighbour to Ng
And we have even more people dying from cancer. What's one problem got to do with the other? You speak about violent criminals as if that eclipses the problem of police using excessive and deadly force--it doesn't. They are two discrete issues.

teslavroom to Charles Tudor
Listen to the lady dude.
Try telling that to the family of AKAI GURLY
I mean are you even following this stuff or do you get your news from the precinct press releases.

Charles Tudor to teslavroom
I read major news sources. The NY Times had a major article showing over a dozen such events.

GrandmaCool43 to Charles Tudor
Reply to Charles Tudor: Remember that the older woman who was shot by police (in Chicago) was shot the moment she opened her door, before a word was spoken by either party. She had no opportunity to obey their orders. The small boy who was playing with a toy gun was the same. He was not ordered to put down the gun. He was just shot to death before he could kill a cop with his toy gun. If you read the stories about police shootings of civilians in Chicago, you will see that many of them read this way. One officer was freed because they said that he did not have enough time to verify whether or not the person was armed. In that case, the person did not have enough time to hear, much less obey the cops orders. Doesn't this bother you ? Do you really think that so many of these stories can be made up? The anguish in the daughter's voice when she spoke of her mother's being shot the minute she opened the door was heart wrenching and sure didn't sound like a political comment to me. Her crime was living next door to a possible suspect.

Marshall Ney to GrandmaCool43
This may have something to do with the issue (source Department of Justice):
Blacks were disproportionately represented as both homicide
victims and off enders. Th e victimization rate for blacks (27.8
per 100,000) was 6 times higher than the rate for whites (4.5 per
100,000). Th e off ending rate for blacks (34.4 per 100,000) was almost
8 times higher than the rate for whites (4.5 per 100,000) (table 1).

InheritTheWindow to GrandmaCool43
Don't forget the dude at the gas station who, when asked by police to get his license, reached back into his car for it and was shot because "we thought he was going for a weapon."

Charles Tudor to GrandmaCool43
Maybe we should start including a required course in middle school that shows people how to behave when cops arrive so that they don't get shot.

InheritTheWindow to Charles Tudor
The lengths you will go to blame victims is astonishing.

Charles Tudor to InheritTheWindow
What's astonishing is the level of endorsement of the concept of indelible Victimhood and Persecution as the cause of all these incidents. People are losing their lives because of their exploitation by people who are pretending to be their Rescuers. When people begin to behave correctly when police are involved then these tragic incidents will no longer occur.

Ng to GrandmaCool43
"Small Boy", hardly! Please! He was 5'-7" and weighted as much as a grown man. It was still a tragedy of the highest order, but that does not make it a crime.

Mary Neighbour to Ng
It is interesting to read "tragedy" and "crime" juxtaposed in your last sentence. "Tragedy" makes these victims' deaths sound like a natural disaster befell them; "crime" implies human action and responsibility. Who is responsible for the deaths of Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, and so many others? To start with, the rookie (or otherwise) cops who fired the lethal bullets, closely followed by their police departments and trainers, and then you don't have to travel too to far identify mayors and governors. But don't stop there--this is a fatal (literally) flaw in our society; we each have a civic responsibility to try to address and correct the situation: speak out, vote, protest.

  7715 Hits

My learning curve begins

These online conversations are messy--every bit as messy as in-person conversations can be. Sometimes we talk at each other instead of to each other; sometimes we can't get our point across; sometimes we don't listen well to the other person's perspective. The conversations copied below followed an article from The Atlantic, "A Year of Black Lives Matter," by Clare Foran. Posted on December 31, 2015, it reviewed the Black Lives Matter movement in 2015. The time stamps are meaningless at this point, but please read the back-and-forth arguments, and please add your voice and views to these ideas. 

This Week's Conversation:

Mary Neighbouran hour ago

"There's an absurd quality to the idea of people telling you to be calm and controlled in your pain." Does anyone deny that there is immense pain fueling the BLM movement? Sure, it's easier to ignore or reject or denigrate someone else's pain, but haven't you been helped at some time in your life with a pain that you couldn't resolve alone?

Deus ex iguana Mary Neighbouran hour ago
Yes, I do deny it. The Missouri student who went on a hunger strike was the member of an extremely wealthy family. Virtually all of the incidents of racism at Missouri were fabricated and even if they had been real, they were hardly painful. A "poop swastika" on a bathroom stall door (seen by no one) is offensive to Jews, if anyone. It was certainly a prank left by some idiot. This is the pain point? Who in their right mind would take that seriously?

Mary Neighbour Deus ex iguana16 minutes ago

I'll refer in reply to another article today, in the Chicago Tribune, "Dunbar slayings prompt a rethinking of Black Lives Matter," by William Lee. Among other things, he writes about a high school where 3 students were killed this past year, and he asks what are the odds of 3 classmates being murdered within days of each other. He researched the odds with the CDC: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 2010 and 2012, on an annual basis only one in every 40,000 white Americans was a homicide victim, while the number was one in 5,000 for African-Americans." If that's not a painful reality, I don't know what is. If I grew up knowing and feeling this reality, I'd feel pain, fear, anxiety--and yes--anger.

Deus ex iguana4 minutes ago
I think we are in agreement. I fully support any movement, BLM or whatever, that wants to stop the senseless murder going on in the black community. I will join the movement myself.

Will Yum Mary Neighbour34 minutes ago

Wow Mary,

So you think BLM is dealing with criminal violence in the black community? If so, please give links.

Mary Neighbour Will Yum8 minutes ago
I agree with the author: "The challenge, for the movement, is to stem the tide of violence against black men and women while working to fix what activists believe is a fragmented and broken society. It's an ambition that won't be easily achieved. But as the movement evolves and expands, it has forced change."
This whole article is a review of the BLM's growth and impact, with prescriptions for its ongoing growth. BLM is not centrally organized; as they become more organized, new priorities--like addressing all violence in black communities--will likely be added. I think your argument, Will, is a mirror image of the debate over black lives matter vs. all lives matter. BLM has a legitimate focus. It's narrow for a legitimate reason, and it's to be expected that it will become more broad as the movement expands.

Moonchalk Mary Neighbour6 hours ago

I deny it as whites have the same "pain" as statistically proven by the data from Holder's Dept. of Justice. Thus, there is no "problem" as the BLM paints it (racism heavily against blacks by LEOs). If one is bereft of the ability to use logic to analyse these situations one is apt to fall for the false rhetoric of a group like BLM.

Mary Neighbour Moonchalka minute ago
I'm new to these types of conversations, so please bear with me. I don't know what statistics you're talking about that show whites have the same pain. I'd like know about that data.
About blacks being unfairly and unequally handled by law enforcement, both the Washington Post ("A Year of Reckoning") and the Guardian ("The Counted: people killed by police in the US) have the most recent data--more recent that the FBI or the Justice Dept.-- which substantiate that unarmed blacks are indeed more likely than unarmed whites to be killed by police.

  • 2ndRules Mary Neighbour16 hours ago
    "the tide of violence against black men and women" is from other blacks. until you address that, no one will take it seriously.

Mary Neighbour 2ndRules4 minutes ago
No one denies the reality of the problem of black-against-black violence. But why can't BLM have the objectives of--(1) bringing awareness to the higher rates of black deaths at the hands of police and (2) eradicating that risk in their lives--without addressing other objectives? Your priority is not their priority--but does that delegitimize their position?

2ndRules Mary Neighbouran hour ago

"(1) bringing awareness to the higher rates of black deaths at the hands of police" That number is tiny compared to the real problem.

"(2) eradicating that risk in their lives" You do that by not running from cops, not robbing liquor stores, not allowing a cultural acceptance of violent behavior

Mary Neighbour 2ndRulesa few seconds ago
Your perspective is valid: you perceive violence in black communities to be the main issue. I'm making the point that other perspectives also are valid, especially the expectation that a black man or woman should be safe from police brutality.
The bigger problem I perceive with conflating these two perspectives is that your position implies that police brutality against blacks is somehow justified (or at a minimum, should be ignored) because blacks are violent themselves. You wouldn't, I think, say that all blacks are violent, would you?
Tamir Rice was not violent; Freddie Gray was not violent; Bettie Jones was not violent; Jamar Clark was not violent; Felix Kumi was not violent; and on and on--and none of these were armed.

2ndRules Mary Neighbour3 hours ago

You are opining purely on emotion, I am talking hard numbers. More than the people you mentioned are killed every weekend in any one major city 52 weekends a year, by other blacks. The numbers speak for themselves, inarguable.

Mary Neighbour 2ndRules2 hours ago
We are talking issues and facts. In support of my position, I presented five instances where unarmed blacks were killed by police. Please check "The Counted," database of police killings in 2015; you can find it at You have not given any numbers or references to support your argument that black-on-black crime justifies police killings of blacks.
I can only conclude that you are saying that police can kill unarmed blacks because, after all, blacks kill other blacks. That's not an emotional argument, but it lacks logic.

2ndRules Mary Neighbouran hour ago
I never said it "justified" anything, the two aren't connected, what I said there is selective outrage bases upon a political narrative.2015 in Chicago alone:
2986 shootings
Since 1/1/16: 29 shootings
This far exceeds any police shootings, but you will never hear about it, because it would force him to admit the abject failure of Ron Emmanuel, a political ally.

Mary Neighbour 2ndRules35 minutes ago
Good, so we agree: the two issues (cops killing blacks and blacks killing blacks) are not connected. So, why do you focus only on the second, and use that focus to dismiss the first?

2ndRules Mary Neighbour30 minutes ago
I'm not focusing on either, I don't have a dog in the fight. I'm saying that the outrage is a false political one.If he was so concerned, he would send in the National Guard to quell the problem. But he won't because of political ties and his disdain of anything Military. His gained political capital would not be worth the cost.

Mary Neighbour 2ndRules2 minutes ago
You've lost me. You've responded 5 times in this thread, and now you say you're not focusing on the topic? And in the last two you interject an unidentified "he." I can't follow your thoughts.

2ndRules Mary Neighbour15 minutes ago

The unidentified "he" is his majesty obama, and when I say I'm not focusing, I'm just commenting. I honestly don't care about either type of shooting, cop or thug

Mary Neighbour 2ndRulesa few seconds ago
Okay, thanks for being engaged.

Recent Comments
Mary Neighbour
Hi Ann, Welcome back and best wishes for the new year. Your conclusion in the first paragraph is certainly supported by this week... Read More
Monday, 11 January 2016 15:00
Mary Neighbour
Jeannette, your comparison to the '60s is a good reminder that America's collective learning curve is not very long, nor is it con... Read More
Wednesday, 13 January 2016 14:22
  8884 Hits

Speaking out . . . on a limb

I decided to make a change in this blog: in 2016 I want to submit my comments on other sites, and then I'll report back here on the conversations I engage in.

I wrote my initial comment this morning on an article by Clare Foran in The Atlantic that reviewed the Black Lives Matter movement in 2015. And I'm feeling vulnerable. You see, I used my own picture and my own name. Have I just painted a target on my back? There's a lot of vitriol out there.

Most commenters on sites that I've visited do not use their picture or their real name, and I think that's partly because many commenters are sarcastic, rude, and/or disrespectful. But it's also likely that many don't use their real name and picture because, well, it's uncomfortably personal.

"We're at a breaking point in this country right now," Yates said. [Ashley Yates, a Black Lives Matter activist who helped plan and carry out a protest at Netroots Nation, a conference where Sanders and O'Malley were slated to speak in July.] "We got to this moment with people sacrificing and putting their lives on the line and we have to support each other through that. It sounds easy to remember, but sometimes it's hard."

Continue reading
  7070 Hits

Not so silent night

The lovely story of "Silent Night" is that the world changed—was saved—by the birth of Christ during a silent and holy night. Millions have been soothed and reassured by the carol's peaceful, hopeful message and harmonies.

But isn't it interesting that in order for the song to have effect, voices must be raised—silence must be disturbed?

Continue reading
  7510 Hits

Yeah, it's cold out there

I've begun seeing this three-word slogan among the many signposts waved at Black Lives Matter protests. I interpret it as a pithier variation on "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem" and similar sentiments.

I subscribe to the notion that we cannot be silent in the face of injustice, and I like the emphasis on white silence. If white voices are not raised against racism, then inequality is strengthened. We need unity across racial lines to combat racism.

Protestors of all skin hues are out in Seattle, Chicago, San Diego, Cincinnati, and elsewhere, marching in the cold, crying out against discrimination and intolerance—expressed through our institutions of justice, law enforcement, education, housing, finance, health, and government—and calling on all of us to speak with them.

I know it's cold out there, and something deep inside says hibernate. But resist it. Stick your head out. If enough of us come together out in that cold world, we can keep each other warm. 

  5977 Hits

Getting the facts straight

It's not always easy to get the facts, no less get them straight. Few of us are engaged in original research, so most of us rely upon other sources for our information, particularly for current news. If you're like me, you don't have to look far before you encounter conflicting reports on a single event, and it's easier sometimes to just throw up my hands and be cynical.

Case in point: the much-mentioned "war on cops" and the frequent conclusion that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is advocating such a war. This time, I didn't throw up my hands; I dug around for some different views, delivered up by various news sources. I've read/watched/listened to numerous articles on this topic, as I'm sure you have.

I wanted to know:

  • Are there groups and citizens advocating attacks on cops?
  • Does Black Lives Matter support this?
  • What incidents/facts are cited to substantiate something as widespread and coordinated as a "war"?
Continue reading
Recent Comments
Mary Neighbour
Very thought-provoking, Jeannette—always a good and welcome thing. Thank you. I’ve seen the video you’re referring to, and the ch... Read More
Wednesday, 11 November 2015 15:43
Mary Neighbour
Hi Ann, and thanks for your comment. Who do you turn to for "ethical and responsible" journalism. I could always use another good ... Read More
Monday, 09 November 2015 19:37
  7225 Hits

Let's talk

Former Attorney General Eric Holder is doing it. FBI Director James Comey is doing it. President Obama is doing it. Many in communities across the nation are doing it too. So I'm in good company when I say: let's talk about race.

I recently blogged about Obama and the Black Lives Matter movement. Today I read about Holder referring to a 2009 comment he made—that we are a nation of cowards, and he said the country remains afraid of race discussions:

"Talking about racial things, especially given this nation's history when it comes to racial matters, is a very, very difficult thing to do from both sides. We've become quite adept at finding ways not to deal with racial issues, and I think that is to the detriment of our country and our ability to make progress."

Continue reading
  7153 Hits

Obama Speaks-Right-On about Black Lives Matter

"[T]here is a specific problem that's happening in the African-American community that's not happening in other communities.… We, as a society, particularly given our history, have to take this seriously."

Barack Obama

I read this quote in Newsweek, which favorably covered President Obama's remarks about the controversy surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. The article was cogent and uplifting, plainly stating realities of history, race relations, and current affairs that have been said by others and need to be repeated by those with influence, like Obama. It wasn't, in my opinion, a "roadmap" for Democrats (as the headline suggested), but it was a clear affirmation many could embrace.

And then I read the commentaries. I thought: how does anyone reach people whose views are cast in cement? My first reaction was to shut down my browser, erase the offending page and hateful words. I hesitated.

Are my views equally etched in cement?

Obama went on to recommend that we avoid "the politics" and "just [step] back for a second and understanding that the African-American community is not just making this up."

Step back: What do you know about African Americans? If you descend from Africans, do you know the history of Africans in this country and how they became citizens? If you descend from Europeans, do you know the history of Africans in this country and how they became citizens? If you descend from aboriginal peoples, do you know how your history has intertwined with descendants of Africans and Europeans?

I think most of us don't care about how we all got here, in this place, this time. I think too many of us are focused on what-I-have—materially, historically, and conceptually. I think too many of us never asked or talked, heart-to-heart, with someone on a different side of our conceptual views.

I'll have more to say on this topic. For today, I want to hypothesize what Dred Scott would say. I think he might say, as he did say:

"My ancestors were free people of Africa."

Dred Scott
  5337 Hits

Million Man March celebrates 20th anniversary in Washington, DC

I'm wondering how many whites reading this article will stop and reflect, trying to imagine what it would be like if we were surrounded each day by people of a different skin color--a people, taken as a whole, with a long history of hating us and killing us because of our skin color?

This article expresses the wonder of black men united, surrounded by other black men, expressing joy in being together. Let it affect you . . . 

(To return to this blog page after reading the article, click the back arrow at the top left of your screen.)
  4805 Hits

The Million Man March: Its effect may be debatable. Its significance is not.

One question hanging over the rally is how the youthful Black Lives Matter movement, which presents itself as leaderless, will jibe with the ...
  4252 Hits

'Life Is Not A White Privilege' T-Shirt Makes Racial Inequality More Visible

According to Imani, the idea for the statement on the shirts was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. "I've noticed that a lot of people really ...
  4141 Hits

Harry Belafonte on activism, unrest and the importance of making people squirm

We discussed emerging African American leaders, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the value of getting people out of their comfort zone.
  4367 Hits