Posted in C-Haze

DNA, Ancestry and Native Americans

I recently did one of those Ancestry DNA kits. It took me a really long time to get up the nerve to do it. I am very comfortable in my skin as a bi-racial woman, but it was a rough road getting here. Adopted as a kid, I was told at varying times that yes, I was mixed, but no one was 100% what I was mixed with. My biological mother named a black man as my father on my birth certificate, but it was anybody’s guess whether or not he was actually the father.

My (very limited) non-identifiable adoption records stated that my biological mother is white; biological father mixed with black and Native American.

Every time I looked in the mirror, I could see the Native American shine through, but not much else. I always had this secret fear that the man named as my father isn’t really him, and that as a result, I probably didn’t truly know what race I am. I worried that if I ever did get a DNA test done, it would come back showing me as something I had never identified as- like Middle Eastern- and that all the work I’d done as a child and as an adult to embrace my blackness would be for nothing.

Well, I finally did it.

The biggest surprise is that I am not Native American. At all. 0.00% Native American. I am more than 70% white – meaning my mother is white, and my father has at least some white in him as well. I’m 20-something percent African, which is awesome. This means all the work I did to get comfortable, to love and embrace the black woman in me wasn’t for nothing.

I was a little disappointed to see that I don’t have anywhere near the amount of African ancestry as I’d always believed, but was relieved that nothing I’d never even considered part of my heritage – like Middle Eastern or Italian – wasn’t predominant.

My ancestors – both white and black – showed up in Eastern North Carolina back in the 1700s. My people have been here for hundreds of years, which explains my unbelievable attachment – it’s in my soul – to this area of the country. All of the years I didn’t live here, I knew I would eventually come back.

Last year I did just that.

Feels even more appropriate than it did before, somehow.

Posted in Arson, Current Events, News, Race, Racism, St. Louis

St. Louis, Arsons and Churches

A suspect has been arrested in the St. Louis church fires.

These fires were long seen as a sign of the racial turmoil in the St. Louis area, as the churches were burned in predominantly black neighborhoods.

With that in mind, I wonder how many are surprised to learn the suspect is a black male.

I have long worried that people against peace in our city will stoop to such lows as to manufacture racial disparity in an effort to spearhead some sort of revolution. Not just black people, either.

The facts are still a long way from being sorted out. Maybe this guy did it, maybe he didn’t. We don’t know much yet, other than he’s been arrested.

Our city needs peace.

Posted in Race, Racism, St. Louis, Uncategorized

Al Sharpton, and the Uncomfortable Race Baiter

In the wake of the tragic death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, a lot of things have been happening. Lots of celebrities and activists have descended upon our fair city, with few as controversial as the Rev. Al Sharpton.

First, let me say that I am not on the Al Sharpton bandwagon. I don’t dislike him, but I don’t love him either.

He annoyed the hell out of me when he came to St. Louis to speak to the media on behalf of the Brown family, but didn’t bother actually going to Ferguson. I was not happy, watching him on the courthouse steps in the city of St. Louis (which is decidedly not Ferguson, nor is it even in the same county), flanked by St. Louis city officials, without a single Ferguson official in sight.

I mean, could he not have done just a little research on the area before gracing us with his presence?

I get it, he’s busy.

However, hearing him speak at Brown’s funeral two weeks later made me forget that little geography snafu with a quickness. I mean, wow. What powerful, moving words. He nailed it, and just when I thought he couldn’t possibly say anything better than what he’d already said, he nailed it again…

… And again.

I loved every second of it.

What I do not love, is some of the backlash I’ve heard about him since then. Most of it on social media, people are especially fond of dismissing The Rev as a “race baiter”. What never- and I mean, never– follows that accusation is anything specific, like why these folks believe him to be said “race baiter”.

Hold on- I take that back. One lady did give a specific example as to why she felt that way. She said that while speaking at Mike Brown’s funeral, he accused white people of murdering the young man, and then called the Black Panthers to action.

Do I need to actually tell you how patently, completely false that is? I mean, 100% pile of straight-up horse shit. I have no idea what that lady was watching, but it was not Al Sharpton giving the eulogy at Mike Brown’s funeral service.

Regardless, what I’ve come to believe is that the term “race baiter”, spit out in accusatory tones, really just means  “makes me feel uncomfortable”. Try it, like this:

Al Sharpton is a race baiter makes me feel uncomfortable.

See? It works!

Al Sharpton is like a recovering alcoholic, and the people that think he’s a race baiter are full-fledged, off-the-wagon drunks. No drunk wants to go out to the bar with a recovering alcoholic, because that recovered addict makes the drunk uncomfortable. Why? Because the drunk is forced to look inside, and look at his/her own drinking habits. That’s no fun, which is why drunks don’t like to do it.

Al Sharpton makes people who have race issues uncomfortable, because he forces them to look at their own issues. He shines a spotlight on racial disparity, and then dares people to make a change, prove him wrong, make a difference. Lots of people just aren’t ready to do that yet, which is fine- it just isn’t Al’s fault.

My plea: stop with the Shapton-bashing, and let’s all work towards a better world; a bigger, brighter future for our babies.

Posted in Race, Racism, St. Louis

Mike Brown, Cops, and a View on Society

I used to tell my husband that while some white people may be prejudiced against black people, most do not realize their prejudices. It’s just ingrained in them somehow… they’re victims of a system that was built to slyly discount us.

I never believed it was this conscious, purposeful thing, until now.

Mke Brown was an 18 year old, scheduled to start college two days after he was killed by an officer in Ferguson, MO. He was unarmed, and he was shot 6 times. The case has caused an uproar, particularly in my hometown of St. Louis, a city in which Ferguson is a suburb of.

Many of my “friends” on social media are white people. I associate with all kinds of people, and the diversity, for the most part, is wonderful. Most of my friends, regardless of race, are amazing people.

In the wake of the emotionally charged aftermath of Mike Brown’s killing, I noticed something strange…

… and heartbreaking.

While not the majority, a quite substantial number of white “friends” had horrible, insensitive, flat-out racist things to say about Mike Brown, about Ferguson, about black people in general. As a whole, we were called animals, criminals and thugs. We were referred to as gangsters, and some of my “friends”- people who know me, and know my black husband, our two black daughters- called black people the most vile and hateful of things.

These vicious attacks against people of color came after reports of a small crowd of looters and rioters posing as protesters in Ferguson late at night. I won’t sugar coat the damage they did. It was substantial, but these were not Ferguson residents, and the number of people looting compared to the thousands of people protesting was negligible.

Even though the majority of the protests were peaceful, these “friends” of mine didn’t focus on any of that. They didn’t care that the United Way was doing drop-ins to provide food and water to the protesters. They didn’t care that residents of the town came out at sunrise to clean up their streets from the activity of the night before, or that booths had been set up to register people to vote.

Rather than pay attention to the reality of what was unfolding in front of our very eyes- we were witnessing the historic moment in which a generation of black boys became activists- they chose instead to focus solely on the violence perpetuated by a criminal few.

These same people chose to completely ignore the shocking and heartbreaking terror being committed against peaceful people by our own law enforcements officers. They cheered when police officers began pointing military weapons at unarmed 90-year old women, they watched with excitement as these officers began kicking the media out of Ferguson, arresting reporters at McDonalds, bringing in tanks and tear gas.

They wildly cheered when police began firing rubber bullets on unarmed citizens, who did nothing more than exercise their constitutional rights to stand in their community and protest the death of yet another unarmed black boy.

So you see, it isn’t violence they hate.

It’s us. It’s me. My daughters, my husband.

They ignored the violence that killed Mike Brown, choosing instead to criminalize him. They circulated a (fake) picture of Brown, showing him drinking alcohol, smoking weed and holding a gun. Even when they learned the picture depicted someone else, someone wholly unrelated to Mike Brown, they continued.

These “friends” knowingly perpetuated a lie against a dead black boy.

They circulated a picture of State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, a Kappa from college, posing with a fellow Kappa, a frat brother, claiming the Captain (a black man) was “throwing up gang signs” in the streets he was charged with protecting.

As support for the police officer that killed Mike Brown began to grow, these “friends” began to label those protesting on the officer’s behalf as “supporters”. Those who rallied in support of Mike Brown’s family, in contrast, with their black skin, were labeled an “angry mob”. This, in spite of the fact that Mike Brown supporters chanted, “Hands up, Don’t shoot!”, while Wilson’s supporters chanted, “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!”

I realized, as I watched all of this unfold, that the hatefulness, the ugliness of my “friends”- yes, the racism- they showed, couldn’t possibly be an accident. It was purposeful, and they are not the unsuspecting victims of some backwards societal norm that slights black people.

They want it this way. They want to hate my family and me.

The people I’m referring to don’t actually know any “thugs” firsthand. They hide behind their computer screens and act tough, but would honestly rather die than spend five seconds in the ‘hood, with or without thugs present.

No, the black people they know are gainfully employed, educated and family oriented. The black people they know do not fit the stereotypes these so-called “friends” of mine are so intent on perpetuating. The black people they know look just like my husband and I do, like our beautiful children. Our children who get straight As in school, who play the piano, like to swim, and volunteer for charity. The black people they know look like my husband, the college educated sports official who mentors kids of all ages for a living. They look like me- a woman who was educated at a private university, has a degree, and is successful in her field. A family that loves each other, demands excellence from each other, and loves the world around us.

That’s how I know this prejudice, this racism, is purposeful.

Even when their own experiences with black people are the complete opposite of what the stereotypes portray us as, they still choose- yes, actively choose– to market negative, false stereotypes about us, putting ugly, hurtful and downright horrific labels on our shoulders.

They know we are not what they say we are, and yet, they persist.

I finally understood that these people are not victims of a racist society.These people are what makes our society racist. 

Posted in Gay Marriage, Gay Rights, God, Hate, KKK, Politics, Racism, Religion

Gay Rights, Equality and Black People

Obama supports gay rights- specifically gay marriage- and lots of African Americans are not happy about it.

When people imagine those most staunchly against gay rights, they tend to think first of Catholics and Evangelical Christians; white people on the far right. Yet for years, black people have played a huge role in the suppression of gay rights, defending the belief that gay people do not deserve the same rights that blacks have fought to enjoy.

The justification used to support these views is the same as that used by the KKK and other racists throughout the history of this nation, and lies squarely in scripture. When it comes to hatred and the denial of rights, the Old Testament has always provided direction, in the name of the Almighty God, to go forth and hate, murder, torture and enslave. In any other conversation about Christianity, we will point to the New Testament, to Jesus Christ as our leader, we will claim to love all people, and we will state unequivocally that we don’t judge others, lest we be judged.

Oh, but when it comes to gay people, the gloves come off. We look to the same book that also encourages us to sell our daughters into slavery, that says the consumption of shell fish is an abomination, and tells us not to approach the alter of the Lord if our eyesight is not perfect- and we use that book of Leviticus as justification to advocate the denial of equal rights for others.

When radical Muslims bastardize the Koran, twisting its words into a commandment to conduct honor killings and suicide bombings, we call them extremists. When Hitler quoted the Bible in his effort to exterminate the jews, we said he was nuts. When the KKK twisted the same book to hang black people from trees and drag them behind trucks, we were sick with fear.

Those passages were used to justify our ancestors’ mass enslavement, rape, torture and murder. Yet just a few short generations later, we- the direct descendants of slaves- use the same words from the same book to deny rights to others- rights that were fought and died for on our behalf.

Just who do we think we are?

Do we monopolize and define struggle and strife in America?

Who decided that black people get to determine who does and does not qualify to live under the umbrella of equality? Certainly not those who came before us.

Some people point to that which our ancestors went through, believing that because homosexuals have not been murdered by the millions as we once were, they do not have the right to draw comparisons between our struggle and theirs.

There is no similarity.

Right?

Wrong.

The similarity lies in the motivations behind those that actively support the discrimination of others. The similarity has a name, and it is Bigotry.

Bigotry motivated the KKK.

Bigotry motivated Hitler.

Bigotry motivates the anti-gay movement.

As a supporter of gay marriage, I fully expect that those who disagree will continue to disagree; however, one’s personal opinion of another should not have the power to eliminate the rights of an entire group of people. As black Americans, we have the responsibility- put on us by the blood of our ancestors, given so that we may have a brighter future- to fight to ensure all citizens of this country enjoy equality.

The Constitution makes no distinction, it does not grant rights to those we agree with, and deny rights to those we don’t. As black people and as Americans, we have the responsibility to fight to ensure that no one else is ever again discriminated against, as we have been.

My views are not popular, but I know this:

I refuse to applaud one group’s struggles at the expense of another’s.

If there is a God who resembles the entity described by traditional Christianity, I will stand tall when the time comes for us to meet, knowing I loved all people equally.

Posted in C-Haze, Herman Cain, News, Politics, Presidential Campaign, Race, Racial Profiling, Racism, Republicans

Cain denies proposing racial profiling

Cain is in hot water… again.

He wants voters to believe his “targeted identification” policy proposal is not the same thing as racial profiling.

Here, in his own words, Cain tells us what the term really means, as it relates to the TSA using this approach in airports:

Targeted identification is a deliberate approach to figure out patterns associated with people who have tried to kill us…I’m simply saying we should not be afraid to identify those characteristics that have basically been consistent in people who have tried to hurt this country.

In contrast, here’s the definition of Racial Profiling:

Racial profiling is a form of discrimination by which law enforcement uses a person’s race or cultural background as the primary reason to suspect that the individual has broken the law.

See? Totally different!

Or not.

Go ahead and pull those Muslims aside, get to the business of robbing them of their civil and Constitutional rights, all in the name of “targeted identification”.

In the spirit of Herman Cain and his supporters, I have been motivated to propose my own “targeted identification” plan. Moving forward, black people should be allowed to violate the rights of white conservatives. This is appropriate because people who look exactly like they do have been actively harming minority Americans for generations.

Carry on!

Posted in Economy, Georgia, News, Obama, Politics, President, Race, Racism, Uncategorized

Bill Looman, Georgia Business Owner, Draws Fire For ‘Not Hiring Until Obama Is Gone’

We will not hire until Obama is gone

Sadly, it doesn’t surprise me that this business owner is unwilling to hire anyone while the President is still in office. He’s in good company, and the only thing that makes this particular man unique is his willingnes­s to be upfront about it.

There are many people on the right- including a lot of the elected politician­s- who do not want America to thrive in any way while President Obama is in office. If we, as a country, fail on his watch, they get to blame Obama without having to confront their personal racism against him.

Those same people will claim racism is dead in the US, pointing to our black Commander in Chief as proof, while simultaneo­usly hijacking our country to all-but guarantee his failure.

Posted in Alabama, Prison, Prison Reform, Race, Racism, Rocrast Mack, Uncategorized

Rocrast Mack’s Murder At Alabama Prison Followed Trail Of Violence By Guards

A 24 year old man is brutally attacked, beaten and murdered while serving a 20-year sentence in an Alabama Prison for selling $10 worth of crack-cocaine to an undercover officer. Upon investigation, it is determined the young man was brutally killed by six corrections officers at the prison.

On the night in question, the inmate was suspected- yes, merely suspected- of masturbating under his sheets while a female guard was present.

The ranking guard has been charged with intentional murder.

Two other guards were brought up on federal charges for violating the prisoner’s civil rights, and covering up the assault. They have entered guilty pleas.

A commentor at the end of the article writes that “pris­ons are full of animals who prey on the weaker”- hopefully this person sees the irony of their words. This statement obviously holds true for the guards as well, and not just the inmates, as is implied.

While I support the intentional murder charge against the ranking officer, I think all six of the guards should have been charged as well.

Many people state that an inmate’s propensity towards exaggeration when making allegations of brutality against officers hinders the state’s ability to properly investigate the claims.

While I do understand that some inmates will exaggerate abuse allegations, that has no bearing on the fact that when an inmate is murdered by six officers, there’s no question about what occured. There is no question about what a heinous and violent act it was.

A man is dead, killed at the hands of six men, all of which had a duty to uphold the law.

Clearly there was no exaggeration here.

That this inmate was forced to pay the ultimate price for doing something so comparitiv­ely minor makes me wonder if the female guard in question was a white woman. Seems like there was some overkill involved in this beating.

Whatever the motivation, it was personal, and not merely six men “just doing their jobs”.

Posted in Fred Shuttlesworth, Civil Rights, Birmingham, Alabama, Segregation, Integration

The Ultimate Measure of a Man: Fred Shuttlesworth

Recently, I had the opportunity to be a part of history.

More importantly, I had the opportunity to plop my daughters, my so-called “Beautiful-Black-Women-in-Training” into the center of history.

Their history.

A nation’s history.

Earlier this month, on October 5, 2011, the country lost an icon. Many people- too many- have no idea who Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth even was.

Shameful, given the fact that every single American has benefited from his tireless- and often dangerous- work.

Fred Shuttlesworth was born Freddie Lee Robinson on March 18, 1922 in Mount Miegs, AL. Raised by his mother, he took the last name of his step-father, William Nathan Shuttlesworth, a farmer.

His life started as unremarkable. His family was not well-off, and after graduating from high school, Shuttlesworth married and became a truck driver and auto-mechanic. He was a religious man, and after prodding by a minister friend, enrolled in Bible College.

He was licensed and ordained in 1948, obtaining degrees from both Selma University and Alabama State College.

Dedicated to civil rights from a young age, Shuttlesworth was, in 1953, the pastor of Bethel Baptish Church in Birmingham, AL and Membership Chair of the Alabama chapter of the NAACP, when legislation was passed to outlaw the group. Showing his stubborn dedication to the movement, Shuttlesworth responded to the law by co-founding the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Later, with the help of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Ralph Abernathy, Reverend Joseph Lowery and others, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Its mission was to end racism through non-violence.

Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed.

Despite his commitment to peace, Shuttlesworth had no misconceptions regarding the explosive violence of the Civil Rights Movement. He knew the danger he faced, and he knew those that did not believe in racial integration had no qualms about using violence to keep the deep south the way it had always been.

This did not lessen his commitment to the cause, and Shuttlesworth made a personal promise to himself and others, proclaiming that his mission was to either “kill segregation or be killed by it”.

Again and again, he proved he meant what he said.

The battle was not an easy one. His home was bombed with 16 pieces of dynamite on Christmas Day in 1956. While his entire family was present, everyone survived without major injury. Shuttlesworth’s determination was perfectly articulated when, after the bombing, as he was emerging from the ruins of his home, a police officer (and Klan-member) said, “If I were you, I’d get out of town as quick as I could”.

Rev. Shuttlesworth scoffed at the notion.

God didn’t save me to run.

It didn’t end there.

The following year, Shuttlesworth was beaten mercilessly with chains and brass knuckles, and his wife was stabbed when the couple attempted to enrolled their children in the previously all-white public school system in Birmingham. Remembering the experience years later, his children recall their father, while still in the hospital, teaching them to forgive their aggressors (one of which was Bobby Frank Cherry, a man who helped orchestrate the famous bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church, which killed four little girls). The integration attempt, unfortunately, was not successful.

Unsuccessful in killing the man on their own, the KKK ultimately offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could finally do Fred Shuttlesworth in.

The assassination attempts were many; Still, he prevailed.

Systematically, step by step, Fred Shuttlesworth and his supporters- regular, everyday people known as Foot Soldiers- slowly, peacefully, dismantled segregation in the south. They staged sit-ins at diners, organized the now-famous Freedom Rides, and integrated the school system. They were in constant danger, but fear never stopped them.

Beyond the physical violence, Shuttlesworth was jailed more than 24 times. As a result, his name has been on litigation involving the First Amendment, argued in front of the Supreme Court more than any other human in history.

Never once did he waver.

It all paid off.

Humans, in general, throughout the nation are a little more tolerant of each other. We embrace diversity more than ever before. There were many tangible victories- Shuttlesworth and company saw the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the south is now integrated, and segregation is becoming a thing of the past.

But is it over?

It was with this- the victories, but also the conscious understanding that we still have work to do- that caused our family to pack our bags, load the car, and head 600 miles away to Birmingham when we learned that Shuttlesworth had died. Moved by the death of an icon, spurred forward by the ghosts of not only Fred Shuttlesworth, but of Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy and all the rest…

We simply had to pay our respects, we found ourselves with no choice but to answer the call to come. It was time to educate our children, and expose them to a living, breathing history that is so much larger than we are.

Arriving eight hours later- in the wee hours of the morning, bleary eyed- our children, our little girls, our black-women-in-training saw a sight they had never before seen:

They saw where they had come from, and for the first time they saw who they are; more importantly, they saw all the reasons why they must do great things.

I drink deeply from a well I did not help dig.

Those are the words of  Congresswoman Terri Sewell, the first black woman to represent Alabama in the U.S. House of Representatives, spoken at Rev. Shuttlesworth’s funeral.

How simply brilliant; how magnificently true.

Hearing the greatest of the greats within the Civil Rights Movement speak in honor of Fred Shuttlesworth- Dr. Joseph Lowery, Dick Gregory, Martin Luther King, III, Juanita Abernathy, Donnie McClurkin, Dr. Raphael Wornock (pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church- Dr. King’ church in Atlanta, GA), Otis Moss, Jr., and so many others- was life changing.

Even more, it was a call to action.

I witnessed my 13 year old, previously occupied with boys and her social status in middle school, with tears in her eyes. She cried, with the rest of us, over the loss of lives before, during, after and because of the Movement.

She cried for the indignities people of color have suffered throughout history, and she emerged changed, somehow.

Different…

… Aware.

She understands that yes, she too drinks deeply from a well she did not help dig. What she also realizes is that it is not just her privilege to drink deeply from the well, it is her responsibility. She, thanks to the sacrifices of many, does not have to suffer the daily indignities that were so common a few short years ago. She owes it to her ancestors to make an impact, to fight against injustice, just as injustice was fought against before she was born.

After we arrived back home, my daughter immediately got to work. Together we downloaded all the pictures we had taken in Birmingham, both at the funeral and throughout the city, and began to create a slide show.

Choosing the most touching among them, she put an entire presentation together.

I asked if she was doing this for extra-credit at school.

She shook her head, saying she was doing it for a more important reason:

I’m doing it because they need to know.

Indeed.