Tonight, Nashville held another Black Lives Matter peaceful protest in front of the Mayor’s home with frustration on the fact that Officer Lippert had no charges pressed against him after the shooting and death of Jocques Clemmons on February 10. In a recent news report where interviews were released including different snippets from the interviews with Officer Lippert, Lippert and other members of the police force comments on how the Cayce public housing complex in East Nashville is more prone to violent crimes, and therefore has an increased presence in the area.

While this may be statistically accurate, this comment is just another example of how entrenched systemic racism and therefore justification is within our police force. IF the Cayce housing is more prone to violence and therefore there are more police in the area, that is only because we as a society have created a system in which this was encouraged to occur.

From 1934-1962 the government put forth millions in the backing of home loans, but only to Caucasian persons; excluding both African Americans and persons who lived near African Americans. This became known as Red Lining, and its affects are still costing us today, as it served to effectively force African Americans into poor urban centers; which are frequently referred to as “ghettos” and “the hood” today.

Property taxes also were funding (and continue to do so in most areas) schools, which means that if you are in a poor area, aka within the red lines of where money was denied allocation of mortgage opportunities, then the schools in those areas were automatically poorly funded. This affects educational opportunities through lack of funding and support in these neighborhoods (we created) and essentially eradicating the ability to provide a higher education also inhibits the persons attending these low income schools in low income neighborhoods from being able to even get a job in a higher income bracket. This forces many persons of lower socio-economic status and of African American descent into more manual labor jobs in the area. This makes it much harder to gain economic freedom and to be able to escape from the oppressive poverty mentality that already plagues lower income housing and educational areas.

Creating a prison system that is privatized as for profit organizations according to how fast we can fill our prison cells and make that money created an even more oppressive atmosphere. This was exacerbated when the “War on Drugs” became a catch phrase in 1971 with Nixon. He created a fear phenomenon while American soldiers were fighting in Vietnam and becoming addicted to heroin, then it becoming a problem in the United States, and sold marijuana as a hippie issue and heroin as an African American issue.

And yes, he did know what he was doing:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
John Ehrlichman, to Dan Baum for Harpers Magazine in 1994, about President Nixon’s war on drugs, declared in 1971.

This escalated with laws that Bush, Reagan, and Clinton all created and passed while they served their own terms in the Presidential seat- subjecting one-third of African American men to a form of imprisonment in their lifetime. The sentencing just got more creative throughout the years, expanding to create a further targeting of African American communities by making the sentencing for crack (typically distributed in low income areas) 100x more punitive that the sentencing for cocaine (a more pure form more often sold and consumed in wealthier neighborhoods).

This racial profiling, coupled with the already defined housing, banking, and educational opportunities blockading communities of color in a discriminatory way- provided legal standing for police communities to incorporate racial profiling into their practices. Protecting the police for what Lippert and the police community call “the need for more policing due to the increased violence in these areas” for increased traffic stops ending in unnecessary deaths as they are twice as likely to be pulled over in the first place (just as an example…) Our police forces are also being trained to be more “wary” of these areas and this can result in fear-based training that leaves our officers ill-equipped to be truly non-biased in the way they manage their emotions in the field, which greatly increases the option of police brutality in the first place.

So yes, Lippert, maybe there is an increased violence in the Cayce home district- but if there is, who is really to blame? Because we for damn sure need to stop saying our communities of color.

Postsecret

Saw this secret on Postsecret this week, and felt the type of empathy that only comes from experience. This took me back to when I was a graduate student at the University of Alabama and I made the (brave, hard, scary, intimidating) decision to report the supervisor who I was interning for regarding him being inappropriate towards me. It pains me soooo much to read this secret; because I too lost friends and was portrayed as the asshole, and not only did he get to keep his job while I was shuffled out in a quiet shame, but they replaced me with ANOTHER female intern(!). I am sad about this secret because the person who wrote it says coming forward wasn’t worth it, but I say IT WAS WORTH IT (all the while completely understanding why this person could come to the conclusion that it wasn’t).

Which completely SUCKS that this is still so true.

It sucks that a lot of these men get to keep their jobs, while we are pushed out and seen as “troublemakers” or are shunned for standing up for ourselves. Yet, this seems to happen again and again. It was worth it for so many reasons: because I BY FAR was not the only intern that was being sexually harassed, just the only one who reported it that year. Initially, a lot of other girls were inspired and they wanted to report their harassment too, but when they saw the way I was treated by the University and the place I was interning for, they saw the risk and chose not to come forward. It did give them the peace of mind and courage to speak to the person harassing them though, and many of them did and threatened to report if they didn’t stop. Some persons did stop, some didn’t, but many of the girls said “thank you for taking the first step” anyway.

This culture, esp. with the new President, is still not kind towards women who are trying to find safety in the workplace; but we MUST continue to stand up for ourselves and report when we are being harassed or threatened! Even if we are so backwards that we lose friends, we are seen as an “asshole” and “troublemaker” and any other number of unkind labels that are simply not true. Even when he gets to keep his job. Even when they tell you to leave the internship or the job under the guise of “being sick” or even being fired.

We have to keep reporting and defending ourselves, because we are worth it, and we must fight for change.

“I want to be known for championing people” is a thought I had tonight.

Then I realized, I don’t champion myself well.

I’ve had the worst self image these past two years than I have my whole life. I’m at my heaviest and I have let that consume my life and allowed my mouth to speak unspeakable things over it. Ugly, nasty things I would never say aloud to another person. I haven’t supported my own dreams or been positive. I haven’t been a fan on the sidelines of my own life.

How can I champion another well when I don’t know how to champion myself? And how can I champion myself when I have been hiding a part of myself in so many different ways and in so many different places?

I am my worst self at work. Like. The worst. (Which is hilarious even saying that, because that is also speaking ill of myself which was part of the point I was just making.) I act as if the God I love doesn’t exist on so many days. Like I haven’t seen people healed and people delivered from demons. Like I haven’t heard Gods voice as He tells me the future in my dreams and in my thoughts. Like I haven’t heard Him in the darkest times when nothing is working out and He hasn’t given me the hope that got me through it when nothing else could. I deny my heart and I become ugly on the inside so often when I am working.

I want to say I am sorry. I want to say it to myself first. I want to love even those ugly parts of me and of my life and of my shame and my embarrassment-which is really just pride in costume. I want to be vulnerable and real and be me, even when that feels silly.

I want to be known for championing others well, and I want to champion myself by being all of me.

I was listening to Sway in the Morning (per usual-as my goal is to become a citizen in the future) and they played Drake’s Summer Sixteen, which started a sarcastic; and significant, conversation.

Sway began by clapping for good music and lyrics and for people who excel in what they are good at and aren’t afraid to speak their truth, then Sway started singing things in a mumbling, unintelligible manner. His coworkers started laughing and asking what he was saying. He said that was the way music was made these days. You don’t even have to finish sentences, be intelligible, or make sense. Add a little “trap” to your music and people will listen. Forget about diction, forget about saying anything anymore- just trap it, don’t rap it!

Which is true of more than music.

Most of my favorite artists are rich in lyrics: Kendrick, Lupe, Biggie, Nas, Drake, Eminem, to name a few. They spit truth so real it hurts at times, and a part of me wonders if that is why trap music has become so popular. Because I can guarantee that I use Netflix and social media at times to just “dumb” down. To take time away from reality and the real world to just recuperate and check out for a little bit- recharge. So is this what is happening in an extent to our music? A chance to tune out, not have to engage,think, or form an opinion about something that matters?

To an extent- this really isn’t bad. But as an escape mechanism on a regular basis? Detrimental. There is REAL SHIT going on in this world and people can “trap” their way through it as much as they want, Trump being proof of that…but to sustain that type of mentality and to refuse to accept reality? Nah. We need real words. Diction. We need to SAY something every once in a while. Maybe hip hop isn’t your jam, maybe it isn’t human trafficking or helping children in need or helping people out of addiction, maybe it isn’t working against gang/violence and maybe it isn’t clothing the homeless or fighting for racial and gender equality- and maybe it is. But whatever IT is, whatever makes you feel something, gets you passionate, has you on a soap box before you even know you got there- talk about it. Be informed. Be aware. Stop slurring trap all the time and spit YOUR truth.

Free implies you can take it
without cost
but free isn’t free for
everybody
Free is free because of
sacrifice.
Free for you because of
something you didn’t do.
Salvation is free because of
human sacrifice,
so we don’t have to think twice before
we say we want it.
We take it
and break its
meaning time and
again and
disrespect our friends
and lie to our children
while salvation stays
intact-
no matter that we reenact sin
again and again
and don’t honor
the sacrifice that
made it happen.
Let’s make it simpler,
a sandwich can be free for me-
but someone had to
pick the grain to
make the bread
and kill the pig
to give me that
sweet slice of ham
that someone pre-
packaged and put
on a shelf that
someone bought and
paid for and put
it together for
me to eat
for free.
You see,
even the simplest
things
take labor and
time
so you can forget
it wasn’t
“mine”
to start with.
No,
Freedom takes
sacrifice.
Just like you can’t
experience joy
without sorrow
even when you think you
can borrow
happiness from another…
and it doesn’t work out.
Sometimes you have
to be sad before
you can experience
glad,
or at least
understand what it
means.
It seems
that freedom
can be the same.
Freedom feels more
free when it is
proceeded by bondage
and slavery.
Where you can
walk around
without having to ask
to pee or even
be
without someone else’s
permission.
I put into submission
that freedom like
joy may
not come til the
morning
while bondage and
sorrow came in the
night.
But rescued,
you’re out of
sight of the
dangers the
stranger who
controlled you
or sold you or
made you feel
so small,
you wondered if
you even existed
at all.
Freedom came from
the moment
that time became
yours again-
when you were
rescued by another
or even by
yourself.
When time became something
again not monitored on
a shelf of a
living room in some
monsoon of danger
and overwhelming
feelings of
fear.
Freedom came when
hope began to
reign and you
no longer had
to feign enjoyment
when joy was the
furthest thing from
your mind.
No, freedom is
time that is
your own.
Not sewn in the
garment of another
unsafe “mother”
sent to protect
you who only
objects you
instead.
No, freedom is
turning all that on
its head and telling
evil that it’s dead
and it can’t
hurt you
anymore
because you are
your own,
your body and
mind in a zone
of true safety
and comfort and
family who calls
you their own
and means it.
Freedom isn’t free.
It’s sacrifice.
It’s hope when
you’re at the end
of your rope.
It pulls you out
of the dope and
the night and the
fright
and then holds you
so tight in an
embrace you can
face because it tastes
so pure
that you’re sure
this is it.
It’s the sunrise on
a Sunday with
knowledge that
Monday will
also come and
you’ll still be free.
You’ll still be able
to see, not
through bars
or with scars
of the past
but with balm
of hope and
of joy that will
last for a lifetime
because this
freedom
you’ve earned.
You’ve learned the
hard way that
bondage may
break but when
rescued can’t
take
your freedom-
your hope-
away.
This is freedom,
but freedom
takes sacrifice.
Just like Kendrick,
I’ve gotta shtick
where between  the crips and the bloods
I’ve got nothin but love,
It’s not the gangs that bring violence
but the man behind the gun,
more real than that,
it goes back to his son.
His son and his son;
keep taking it back,
it’s generational lack
of family.
Of somebody who will stand
for me.
Can’t you see?
They’re looking for bonds,
for somebody to stay strong
for them:
these “gangsters” you’re so scared of in the streets,
while you stand b and allow them to be
beat
down.
And you frown and you say,
“every dog has his day!”
well what the fuck does that
mean when you’re
not even willing to
get on your knees
and pray?
For his soul.
Smoking bowl
on the ground
you don’t whisper
a sound
on his behalf,
yet…
you watch the news
and regret the
death of yet another
brother,
lost to the streets;
where we drive by with
our beats
up loud,
drowning out the crowd
of people broken on
the benches,
living life in the trenches
of poverty.
You say, who me?
Yes, I’m talking to you!
You, church, you.
That is who I am
talking to.
You say Wake Up!
Sitting soft on the pew,
the person beside crying
soft with tissue
about an issue
so small
sometimes
when poverty, illness,
violence
so tall!
outside.
But no, go ahead,
close your eyes
whisper sighs
of remorse
and continue to not change
your course
of action.
Leaving the fraction
of people that
most need His love
outside.
Go ahead!
Continue to ride
by the projects car
locked
in fear.
Another year
going by.
Violence on the streets
getting louder,
(children crying)
get prouder!
Build a high rise
amidst the drive-bys
with closed eyes,
don’t see.
Just keep building,
just keep building!
As Dora would sing,
placing bells you can
ring in
your big shiny doors
while just blocks
down the street
man still lays on the floor.
Don’t ignore
your neighbor
any longer.
Raise up!
because together
we are stronger-
and we can beat
this
racist mentality
down.
In the ground
6 feet below
suffocating where you
can’t even hear
its hello
trying to claw
out with
decades of practice.
Not this time.
Not today,
don’t just pray
but take action,
rising up in your faction
of privilege,
talking down from the
ledge
those who are dying
without even trying,
yelling for help from
a problem
that we have created
from hatred
from distain,
treating each other
like this life’s
just a game.
Change the name
of
gentrification
to
unification
and watch us stand tall,
no longer letting
others take the
fall
for our iniquity.

“Inmate and guard at Folsom Prison always say the same thing about the other: ‘I don’t want them to mistake my kindness for weakness.’ Sooner or later, we all discover that kindness is the only strength there is.”

-Greg Boyle “G” -Founder of Homeboy Industries

Kindness is so commonly seen as weakness in so many arenas of life, as the quote says, but it really is so incredibly powerful. I have had so many people say that I am “too soft” with people, and have been scolded more than once by supervisors who do not know me at all that say “if you give them and inch, they’ll take a mile” talking about if you are nice to others, they may expect too much from you and/or take it the wrong way. Yet, typically, if you choose to continue to be kind and treat others, well, HUMAN, they seem to be a lot more willing to work with you and to change.

At a previous job, I was criticized for being to “nice” to the kids and authority often had a problem with that, but over time (aka a period of years, if I am honest), these same people began to send me droves of kids because ‘they actually listen to you’. The ‘pansy’ kindness I was so often getting reprimanded for was the very thing that helped the kids to see that change was positive and that someone they trusted believed in them. I was able to tell them that they were engaging in behaviors that were harmful, and to call them out on negative thoughts and behaviors, because we had a good relationship first. My love wasn’t contingent upon them “doing good” or not. And THAT was the change. I recently got reprimanded for this same thing again, once again by an authority who does not know me, and I can say that kindness is still worth it.

Because kindness pays off in the end.

I just finished watching 12 Years a Slave.

I watched it and I felt sick and I was angered and I was confused and appalled.

I didn’t cry until the very end of the movie, when he was reunited with his family and I saw the years lost and the request for forgiveness, where it was assured forgiveness was not needed.

I didn’t cry until the end and I saw his loss and then I cried for everything.

For the whole time period. For the fact that there are still persons alive today who had directly experienced slavery. I cried because it is cruel and I cried because I am ashamed that we as humanity, esp. as white privileged, not only allowed this to happen, but profited off of it. I cry because in some ways, we are profiting still, as we allow racism and a corrupt system to continue. I cried because I was sad and am sad. I cried because my heart sought forgiveness in the deepest sense. Forgiveness for what the color of my skin has done to other colors and other persons of socio-economic status. Forgiveness for any racist comment I may have uttered or racist act I may have acted out, even in subconscious, even in judgment. Forgiveness for when I may see a racist act or recognize one and do not cry out for justice. For when I have been silent when I should have been loud, for when I should have loved and not stood to the side.

I have cried before, and I will cry again.

The beginning of pretty much all social work conventions, trainings, etc. begin with statements such as “We didn’t take this job because we want to make money, because we certainly won’t. We didn’t take this job because we are looking for a thank you, because we rarely get one. We didn’t take this job because it’s easy, because that couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

But they almost always end with a child, now adult, who says something to the effect of

image

*If you have not watched “The Longest Ride” or read the book, but would like to, then I suggest you do not read this blog post.

If you are still reading and the above is true for you, then it is your own fault I am about to ruin a part of the movie/book for you.

There is a part in the movie where two people fall in love. They desperately want a large family, but the man had to go to war and while he was there he was shot, and somehow lost his ability to have children. When he returned from the war, his soon-to-be wife thought it over and decided she loved him too much to not have a future with him, even if it meant they couldn’t have biological children. She becomes a teacher and she starts tutoring and taking care of a child in her class who has a less than glamorous home life, so she decides she wants to adopt him. She gets her husband to talk to the court and see if this is an option, and it isn’t, because he is already living with his next of kin. They don’t seem to care for him as much as an ideal family should, so she thinks that it shouldn’t matter that they are next of kin, she still wants to adopt him. Her husband talks with her about how this isn’t an option. She decides soon after that she is angry at him for not trying harder, and she can’t deal with not having children, so she leaves him. So let me break this down, the way I see it:

  1. They can’t have children biologically, she thought about this and decided to marry him anyway.
  2. She wants to adopt, but the boy she wants to adopt lives with a family. His life isn’t ideal, perhaps by anyone’s standards, but he has family who wants to keep him and she gets mad about this- with the family, with the court, and with her husband.
  3. She decides she can’t deal with not having kids, so she leaves her loving and doting husband.

There is an incredible amount wrong with this picture. It sucks that they can’t have their own biological children, that part is undeniable, and I won’t refute how badly that must hurt this family. However, that notwithstanding, there are options. Taking a child from a family that you love who is in your classroom because you think you are a better family for him is not one of those options. Sure, you can think you are a better family, you may be treating the child better and you may love him, but he STILL HAS A FAMILY WHO WANTS HIM. That is not your decision. You tried to see if you could gain custody through the court, and that is valiant, but it didn’t work. At this point, you don’t just get angry and decide you are going to leave your husband because he can’t give you a child and because you can’t just take a child out of their family that you want. You look at the actual options that you have presented before you. Obviously, this family understood that they could adopt, since that is what she suggested to gain custody of this boy, so why did the family not just, I don’t know, ADOPT? You know, legally? Because that was always an option, and yet somehow, they seemed to completely miss this in the movie. Also, sorry that his family didn’t necessarily care for this kid the way “they would” but there are a lot of other children in the world who are in a hell of a lot worst of a situation that are actually AVAILABLE for adoption, and yet, this movie didn’t even seem to acknowledge that fact. Which draws me to the point that actually pisses me off about this situation, which is real life.

Real life people can adopt, legally, if they would like a child. If you are attached to a child who is not available for adoption, you cannot just take that child, if you are lucky, you can maintain a relationship with that child and their family and continue to be a healthy part of that child’s life, sure, but you cannot adopt that child. But you can foster or adopt another child who is actually IN THE SYSTEM and needs that family support. But if you do decide this is something for you, then really think about it. Because children are what we call humans, and humans are alive and they have minds and hearts and emotions. They are not objects, but they can still be broken- but unlike an object, just because they are broken does not mean that you can just throw them away. Or pick “another one” because this one “isn’t working.” A child is a human. A child is not a lamp. A child is not a plate or a chair or a television or a car. A child is a human, just like you. So while adoption and fostering is an option, and while you really want to have a child, and while it would just be so peachy keen to be able to just pick a child in your class who you think you can “parent better” but has a family…just remember that what you are desiring is a person. So yes, for the love of all things holy, if you want to adopt or foster PLEASE DO, just keep in mind the facts before you begin the process.

And if you want to get political about it and you understand that a “fetus is a child too” so you don’t support abortion and you will picket to have that child be born- understand also that it is a child (to reiterate, human) that will indeed be born, and that child may need a family outside of the person who physically gave birth to them. That being said, you can also fight for anti-abortion (which I too support) but just remember that those children whom you are fighting for to be born may just need a family outside the one they are born into, and that needs to be taken into consideration.