July 29, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 136

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Nicki Minaj, Sandra Bland, Misogynoir; No Child Left Behind, Illegal Immigration, Prison Reform. People: Bill, Kelley, De Ana, and Guest Maria. Produced: July 26th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Why it’s ok to talk about both Nicki Minaj and Sandra Bland in the same week (and how the two stories relate to each other).
– What Pres. Obama is doing on prison reform. Can Congress find a compromise on No Child Left Behind? Texas isn’t handling illegal immigration very well.

Episode 136 (52 min):
AFD 136

Related Links

AFD: De Ana: Policing Black Women’s Emotions and Opinions
AFD: Maria: What Happened to Sandra Bland?
AFD: Bill: Utah’s Homicide by Police Epidemic
AFD: Kelley: President Obama stands up for second chances
AFD: Kelley: 8 years late, Congress ready to revisit No Child Left Behind
AFD: Kelley: 3 Dem Senators say NCLB reforms don’t go far enough
AFD: Kelley: Texas abandons the 14th Amendment
AFD: Kelley: Mass graves of immigrants in Texas elicit little response

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iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

What Happened to Sandra Bland?

Sandra Bland’s life ended when she met a wall of misogynistic racism centuries in the making. Guest post by Maria Jackson.

Sandra Bland was making her way through Texas, having just accepted a position at her Alma Mater, Prairie View A&M University, when she was pulled over, supposedly for changing lanes without signaling. Detecting that she was less than pleased, Trooper Encinia asked Bland what was “wrong”. After Bland responded in a very clear manner, Encinia described Bland as “combative and uncooperative”.

As if Bland should have greeted his traffic stop with smiles and handshakes. As if being irritable and not prostrate is a crime. When she declined to extinguish her cigarette and leave her vehicle, Encinia threatened to pull her out of the car and “light [her] up” with his taser.
After making a phone call and eventually being able to post bail, Bland was found dead in her cell.

What happened to Sandra Bland is something that has been happening for a long time, continues to happen, and will happen again.

However, this is more than a matter of the long history of suspicious deaths and sketchy police stops. There’s another context that makes it easy to get away with doing those things — especially to Black women in America.

It takes bricks to build a wall. Dozens and dozens of hardened clay pieces fitting together precisely. These bricks don’t mean much independently, but when affixed to another the walls they build can protect, defend, or deter. These walls can stand — impenetrable — for multiple generations, through hundreds of years, in near permanence.

Sandra Bland was, in part, the victim of a culture that, brick by brick, had assembled stereotypes of Black women as angry, aggressive, threatening — something to be contained forcibly. It is that wall, part of the foundation underlying Anti-Blackness, that continues to dominate our daily lives — and daily deaths.

Each week, in the news, even in “pop culture,” you can see the bricks being laid and the wall growing ever higher, even in a supposedly post-racial society.

When actress Amandla Stenberg was accused of “attacking” Kylie Jenner and being an “angry black woman”, that was a recent brick. Another brick was set in place when Nicki Minaj correctly called out the racist preferences of MTV and the VMAs but various media outlets instead depicted her as an angry, ungrateful, attacking bully (see AFD essay➚).

There are so many bricks being produced to support American racism and misogynoir against Black women, that there are even some left over to hurl. Like all stonings, those bricks are meant to silence. Ever since Sandra Bland’s murder, the same old bricks have been thrown at her corpse, attempting to bruise and sully her name to make her humanity unrecognizable.

Yesterday, Bland’s death was ruled ‘suicide by hanging’. The announcement of these findings were coupled with toxicology reports of marijuana found in her blood. However, without results that speak to how long ago Bland smoked or ingested the drug, Warren Diepraam, the first assistant district attorney of Waller County, felt free to hypothesize (rather implausibly) that it was “possible that it could have been smoked in the jail.”

Brick, flung.

Like me, Bland was searching for meaning. Like me, Bland had reportedly suffered from joblessness. Like me, Bland was was sick and tired institutional and systemic racism. Like me, Bland was a Black American Millennial. She was connected to a community of like minds who support #BlackLivesMatter. Bland made videos expressing her frustration with racism and gave voice to the movement.

The bricks that build the walls that divide us, crush us. Bland and I used the same hashtags and technology to talk about the sorrow and rage felt at the deaths of black men and women at the hands of those (supposedly) sworn to serve and protect. No one wakes up expecting to become a hashtag at the end of the day, but now we #SayHerName too: Sandra Bland.

Guest essayist Maria Jackson is a thirty-something, 4th generation Georgia Peach who writes for Shakefire.com and can be heard trading opinions and laughter on the Nerdgasm Noire podcast, with Arsenal For Democracy columnist De Ana and others. Co-owner and full time fatshionista for luvfattax.com.

Op-Ed | On McKinney, Cosby, and Misogynoir

The following essay appears in full at HoodFeminism.com. It was made possible in part by Arsenal For Democracy.

Weeks ago in McKinney, Texas the police were called about a disturbance at a neighborhood pool party. In one of the many viral videos, there’s an officer running around cursing at teenagers – mostly Teens of Color. In the video you distinctly hear them ask why they were being detained and why they were being told to leave a party to which they’d been invited. Notably, they were asking politely. A bikini-clad girl looking for one of her friends is told to leave with another group of girls; as they leave, the officer becomes upset and grabs the girl, slamming her to the ground multiple times, while her friends ask why she’s being arrested. When her friends attempt to help her, the officer pulls a gun on the group.

Aside from the obvious racism, it’s important to pay attention to the racialized misogyny (misogynoir) that also takes place. Looking at the videos, it’s clear to see that the officer, David Eric Casebolt, was being excessive in his attack on the girl, Dajerria Becton. It’s scary to see a grown man be so violent towards any small, bikini-clad 14 year old girl – the officer treats Miss Becton as if she were a much bigger, much stronger person. It’s even more alarming when you realize that Casebolt was specifically targeting teens of color.

If that girl hadn’t already learned before — if any of those teens hadn’t already learned before — they learned that day that being Black in public is considered a threat to the police. Even if you’re doing nothing wrong. Even if you’re only 14. Even if you obviously have no weapon. Even if you are polite.

If a group of teens can have the police called on them for being at a pool party they were invited to, the problem isn’t them — it’s the belief that simply because they are there they are causing trouble. This is especially true for Black girls, who have to live at the intersection of racism and sexism that denies them their girlhood. As is evident from the altercation that got police called to the neighborhood in the first place.

Continue Reading at HoodFeminism.com

May 6, 2015 – Arsenal for Democracy 126 Baltimore

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.
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ArsenalForDemocracy.com contributors join host Bill to debate the Baltimore riots and whether peaceful protest can even achieve change in America anymore. Panel: Bill, De Ana, Greg, and Nate. Produced: May 3rd, 2015.

Episode 126 (52 min):
AFD 126

Related Links

“After Baltimore: In defense of riots” by De Ana
“After Ferguson: In defense of non-peaceful resistance” by Bill
“Non-violence has cost at least 2.7 million Black US lives” by Bill

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RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

After Baltimore: In defense of riots

Since last August, the list of the names of Black people who have been murdered by the cops has multiplied. It’s said that every 28 hours a Black person is killed by the police. It’s also said that in 2015 alone over 300 people, mostly Black, have been murdered by the police – and we’re not even a full 6 months into the year.

Many would say that this information seems incorrect. They imagine that there couldn’t possibly be that many people killed within a year by the Police, who are supposed to protect and serve the rest of us who aren’t in uniform. I would call those people naive. But since there isn’t a formal record of just how many people are killed by the police each year, there’s no evidence to present to non-Black people to illustrate the distrust and fear many of us have of law enforcement.

Unfortunately, because we live in a society that doesn’t believe the lived experiences of Black people, that lack of physical evidence allows most to ignore or remain completely oblivious to something that has been going for generations.

Over the past year, there was a fleeting hope that if people could see the harm we went through, there would be a greater push to stop these extrajudicial murders. There were many campaigns to require law enforcement all over to wear body cameras to record their interactions with people.

Even without this, more and more civilians have been quick to pull out their camera phones to record and upload onto the internet violent interactions between themselves or others and the police. Almost weekly there have been videos of one victim after another being shot, suffocated, or otherwise killed.

Instead of having its intended effect of forcing people to see and empathize with the victims, it seems to have rapidly desensitized people to the sight of Black people dying.

This has been happening for generations. By the time most Black children are in their pre-teens they’re already taught by their parents – or trained by interaction – on how to behave around the police to lower their chances of being beaten, sexually abused, or killed. However, this self-preserving, precautionary relationship Black people have toward the police is largely ignored by White people. They would rather assume that some bad behavior in a Black person’s past is what caused them to be harassed by officers.

There’s a breaking point. After years, decades, generations of abuse, there comes a point where people cannot take it anymore. All that negativity cannot be bottled up forever, all of that abuse cannot be received without boiling over.
Read more

Film the Police

When Mike Brown was murdered on August 9th, 2014, something that the US has been trying to hide for decades erupted. In the town of Ferguson MO, years and years of living under oppressive circumstances was brought to a head in the months after the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old teenager who was walking with his friends. There were what seemed like endless and dangerous marches, where protesters bravely stared down armored vehicles and assault rifles, armed with nothing but signs imploring anyone who could read them to recognize the humanity of Black people. All across the country Black people, as well as other People of Color, began to speak louder to get their message across. Despite efforts, it seems as if nothing is changing. In fact things are getting worse, as more and more are being added to the list of hashtagged names of victims of the police’s extrajudicial killings.

Last Saturday, in North Charleston, South Carolina, a Coast Guard veteran named Walter Scott was killed by a police officer who shot him eight times in the back, but claims to have “feared for his life” — a phrase commonly used in these killings. Someone nearby managed to get a video of the shooting, which shows the police officer not only shooting Walter Scott from a distance, but also apparently planting what people believe is the stun gun that the officer claims Mr. Scott had tried to take from him.

Walter L. Scott was killed on April 4, 2015 in North Charleston, S.C. (Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard.)

Walter L. Scott was killed on April 4, 2015 in North Charleston, S.C. (Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard.)

Another video was also released this week of a shooting in Miami FL. In this video, the shooting of Lavell Hall is documented. The police state they shot for fear of Mr. Hall attacking them with a broomstick. In a disturbingly familiar turn of events, Hall’s mother had called the police in the first place because he was schizophrenic, and she was hoping they would take him to a mental health facility. In the video, there’s no broomstick seen, and Mr. Hall is running away from the police.

In a break from the normal course of events, after Walter Scott’s death — or at least after the subsequent release of the video of his murder — North Charleston’s police department has taken quick action, something that is rare in police-involved shootings where the officer is the shooter. After release of the video on Tuesday, Officer Michael Slager was arrested and charged with the murder of Mr. Scott. Whether or not he will be put in jail for the crime is another story, but it doesn’t seem as if Officer Slager will be able to get much help, as a crowdfunding attempt for him was already rejected by GoFundMe.

With more and more people willing and able to pull out cameras and record police brutality, you would think that would mean less frequent incidents of police brutality, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Many people during the Ferguson protests, as well as at other protests for victims like Eric Garner, had their phones confiscated from them during confrontations with the police. Eric Orta, the man who managed to get film of the police harassing and ultimately killing Eric Garner, was arrested shortly after the video was released. The police solution seems to be suppressing the exposure, not ending the problem.

Despite the efforts of so many people, it seems that these murders, arrests, trials and even news coverage of these events are only making baby steps towards progress. Many people, specifically people of color and especially Black people, are left to wonder when will it end. With every passing week and every added name to the long list of those unjustly killed by police, what exactly is needed to convince police departments across the country that there needs to be a sweeping change in the way they handle confrontations? Things like routine traffic stops, as occurred with Walter Scott and so many others, shouldn’t end in the death of unarmed people. Whether their hands are in the air, or they’re running for their life, a Black person’s mere presence shouldn’t be considered life-threatening to an officer with a gun.