Edgar exercise: slavery, BLM, Obama

black people are not a monolith

All the black people in your life are tiredFor my last Times Union blog post this month, even after my goodbye piece, I reposted the first part of my February 5  piece from this blog, about asking three different people (living or dead, famous or not) ONE question.

Edgar, a contrarian who most TU bloggers became familiar with, wrote:

I’d ask Antonio Johnson how it felt to be an African American AND the first American owner of a slave (John Casor).

This actually did happen. “John Casor, a servant in Northampton County in the Virginia Colony, in 1655 became the first person of African descent in the Thirteen Colonies to be declared as a slave for life as a result of a civil suit.”

This predated the large-scale codification of slavery in the future United States by race, in the 1670s and later. Would Johnson’s singular act cause him distress over what became mass enslavement of black people in the years to come? Interesting question and of course unanswerable.

I’d ask Republican President Lincoln how it felt to free Democrats slaves.

Since formerly enslaved people had not yet received the right to suffrage, I don’t know what “Democratic slaves” means. That said, I’ve been recently helping my daughter with American history. It’s clear that Lincoln wanted the states of the Confederacy to rejoin the Union as soon as was feasible. His second Vice-President, Andrew Johnson, WAS a Democrat.

Black Lives Matter

I’d ask Martin Luther King if he approved of the violence perpetrated by members of the “some lives matter, depending on skin color” movement which has abandoned his highly effective peaceful protests against racism.

As is his wont, Edgar has twisted the meaning of Black Lives Matter. That said, he asks a legitimate question about tactics. Yes, there were non-violent actions on the part of demonstrators back in the 1950s and 1960s. The other side – i.e., law enforcement – was often not as pleasant. See Selma, March 7, 1965, e.g. And when America saw the actions of Southern police, the nation was outraged.

“Some 2,000 people set out from Selma on March 21, protected by U.S. Army troops and Alabama National Guard forces that [Lyndon] Johnson had ordered under federal control.’

The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1956 took over a year, and it involved legal maneuvering. The Little Rock Nine integrated the high school in 1957 with the help of federal troops. In other words, the force of law and/or people with weapons.

MLK’s nonviolent campaign was much less successful when he moved North. And he died by violence.

Black Lives Matter started in 2013 and was largely ignored. It wasn’t until America could finally be ready to see for itself a black man being murdered by a white cop that people seriously started saying, “Oh, THAT’S what they’ve been talking about!” A whole lot of people of various races demonstrated for BLM in 2020. Most of them were peaceful.

Some folks were not. They may have calculated that it was 65 years since Rosa refused to give up her seat, and over half a century since Martin was murdered. How long, and by which tactics, will we be free?

King said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” What do you do when you keep saying it, and they’re still not hearing it? I suspect MLK would understand, even if he disapproved of the tactic.

Barack

And of you, I’d ask, do you think that, in your lifetime, we’ll have had a black president… as a bonus question.

When Barack Obama walked the streets of Chicago, people saw a black man. From the NIH:  “African Americans in the US typically carry segments of DNA shaped by contributions from peoples of Europe, Africa, and the Americas.” Obama’s racial profile is different from most black Americans. But to suggest he isn’t black is disingenuous. And a boringly divisive trope.

It’s been my theory that some thought that he, as a child of a white mother, wouldn’t be too black. But he kept disappointing them by doing “black” things such as singing Al Green and promoting Hamilton, a musical with a mostly black cast.

Know that many white parents – Halle Berry’s white mom, for one – made sure their children would know how to negotiate this country as black persons, if only because that’s how they’d be perceived in America anyway.

Ibram X. Kendi said recently on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah that black people are not a monolith. We have a diversity of experiences. Barack Obama’s is one experience. And Edgar doubting his “legitimacy” as a black person does not make it less so.

The year 2020: “This hand is a foot”

Where’s my damn mask?

hand is a footUsually, I do this wrapup of the previous year. But the previous year was 2020. Like my grandfather, McKinley Green would say when we played gin rummy together, “This hand is a foot.” Meaning, “What the heck?” Or possibly something more graphic. So this going to take a while.

Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

1/1/2020 was way too long ago. I don’t remember.

And after 2020, I sure don’t intend to make plans for 2021, because do you know what plans do? They LAUGH! They mock! Then they say, “You have no control over these things!”

That said, I will finish the Raoul Vezina Wikipedia page. Unless I’m attacked by wild bears. Or oxen. Which I do not dismiss happening out of hand.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

I don’t believe so.

Did you attend any weddings?

I didn’t attend much of ANYTHING after mid-March, so no.

Did anyone close to you die?

My good friend from church Keith Barber. He beat cancer, only to succumb to some sort of respiratory infection. Since it was January, no one was looking for COVID in upstate New York. So I wonder…

My father-in-law Richard Powell, who died from lymphoma – NOT COVID – on Earth Day. I finally started watching some baseball in late October. There were some plays I knew we would have talked about, such as when the Atlanta Braves ran themselves out of Game 7 of the NLCS. And I missed sharing this with him.

Incidentally, while he was cremated, there still hasn’t been either a proper obituary or a service. Maybe in May 2021, on what would have been his birthday? Who knows?

What countries did you visit?

I might have visited Canada if they would have let us in. Heck, every time I went to a doctor’s office, they ask me if I’ve left the state. NYS was requiring people from many states to quarantine for a fortnight.

My passport expired in August 2020, which probably wouldn’t have happened in a NORMAL year. I do have the enhanced DMV thing, which is good for a few more years.

What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?

[Respondent laughs uncontrollably.] I would like to be able to leave the house without thinking about whether I have a mask with me. I’d like to be able to go to church, and especially go to choir rehearsal. Going to the movies, concerts, and out to eat. Generally speaking, going to REAL events rather than ZOOM/YouTube/Facebook events.

Not seeing the body count of COVID victims anymore. Knowing the rules at the grocery store regarding the use of bags, which changed a half dozen times this year.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Working the Census, I expect. Figuring out how to be a Zoom host.

Actually, it was probably calling people on the telephone. Two people per day, every day, from the spring equinox to the summer solstice, then one/day until mid-August when I started working the Census.

What was your biggest failure?

No doubt falling behind on a volunteer project. Then when I got Mr. Dithered, and I was Dagwood Bumstead, I just shut down altogether.

What was the best thing you bought?

Medical supplies. A thermometer, which my wife ended up needing to use every day. I’m oddly fond of taking my blood pressure because it requires me to sit quietly for five minutes every day. Oh, and a Delxo 3 Step Ladder, which we use a lot.

Whose behavior merited celebration?

Of course, a whole bunch of doctors, nurses, technicians, janitors, grocery store clerks, et al. working through a pandemic
People protesting, demanding justice. That would include my daughter.
The artists, writers who have documented this time.

Anthony Fauci
Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris
Alexander S. Vindman, Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill
John Oliver, Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers
Randy Rainbow, The Vlogbrothers
Kelly Sedinger, Arthur Schenck
Stacey Abrams, Greta Thunberg, Jane Fonda
Rebecca Jade, Alexandria Green

John Lewis (RIP), Katie Porter, AOC, Paul Tonko, Pramila Jayapal, Lucy McBath

Ruth Bader Ginsberg (RIP)

The Lincoln Project
Amy Roeder 

Those groups of people who figured out how to take food to restaurants, feed hungry people, and keep some businesses afloat
Firefighters, especially those battling the infernos in the western US
Isabel Wilkerson, Ibram Kendi, Bryan Stevenson, Alicia Garza, The Anti-Racism Task Force at my church
The National Basketball Association – the “bubble” worked!

I’m sure there are others

Enough of this. Well, until tomorrow.

June rambling: And They Lynched Him

1600 Black Lives Plaza

goofus and galliantMia Birdsong is the host of More Than Enough, a Nation podcast that uses the concept of universal basic income to start a conversation about dignity, deservedness, and the country America can and should be.

UMBERTO ECO: a practical guide for identifying fascists.

In Memoriam: Duane Ivan Todman.

Sudan: Anatomy of an internet shutdown.

People Who Tried New Quarantine Hobbies Tell Us How That All Worked Out.

Deciphering appliance error codes for washers, dryers, dishwashers, and ranges.

A Stroll Along State Street in Albany, New York, a stretch of road I know extremely well.

Kurt Thomas, U.S. gymnastics’ first world champion, dies at 64.

Triangles vs. Rectangles: What’s the Better Way to Cut a Sandwich? (it involves math)

She Gets Calls And Texts Meant For Elon Musk. Some Are Pretty Weird.

Ain’t it the troooth.

If you can’t find self-rising flour, just add 1.5 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt per cup of all-purpose flour.

Why Is It ‘Eleven, Twelve’ Instead of ‘Oneteen, Twoteen’?

Race in America

George Floyd’s Autopsy and the Structural Gaslighting of America.

The cascade of crises in black America.

The Mimetic Power of D.C.’s Black Lives Matter Mural.

Why The Small Protests In Small Towns Across America Matter.

The protests bring on a Me-Too reckoning and media reckoning on race.

This Is How It Feels To Be Racially Profiled.

From 2018, and still unfortunately relevant: Before You Call the Cops – The Tyler Merritt Project.

The Schomburg Center’s Black Liberation Reading List and Anti-racism books (NYT).

CNN/Sesame Street town hall on racism.

Lots of resources here and here.

What You Should Keep In Mind About COVID-19 If You’re Protesting.

Fox News apologizes for segment linking stock market gains to the deaths of unarmed Black men.

vlogbrothers.

Iowa Republicans Vote Out Rep. Steve King, the most overtly racist member of Congress.

Ella Jones Elected to Serve as Ferguson’s First Black Mayor.

The myth of the kindly General Lee.

#IMPOTUS

Blessed are the poorIf He Goes Even Lower, We’d Better Be Prepared.

The Regime Is Beginning to Topple.

History Will Judge the Complicit Why have Republican leaders abandoned their principles in support of an immoral and dangerous president.

Cockwomble (noun) – A person, usually male, prone to making outrageously stupid statements and/or inappropriate behavior while generally having a very high opinion of his own wisdom and importance.

This is your America.

NYTimes Op-ed warns of a ‘vaccine’ October Surprise.

The unemployment rate is really 3% higher than claimed.

Lincoln Project ads: Leadership and Steps and Mattis.

An idea: buy a postcard, send it to Temporary Occupant, 1600 Black Lives Plaza, Washington, DC 20500 (ZIP Code should get it there), and send your message of disdain. (Postage is 35 cents, but hey, spend 20 cents more, slap that first-class stamp on it, and support the USPS.)

The Bunker Boy – Randy Rainbow.

Now I Know

The American Civil War of World War II and Giving a Word a Different Spin and They Called it “Massive Resistance” and A Step Too Far? and Cherries, Helicopters, and Hair Dryers and High Altitude Flatus Expulsion and It Doesn’t Stand for “Eradicating Dangerous Mosquitoes”.

MUSIC

And They Lynched Him On A Tree by William Grant Still.

Lift Every Voice, Karen Briggs violin rendition.

Rise Up – Andra Day.

EK Ellington, W Marsalis, O Wilson.

No One – Kevin Flournoy ft. Rebecca Jade.

Jungle Love – Morris Day and The Time.

People Get Ready.

Lizzo.

Coverville 1311: Cover Stories for Outkast, Lauryn Hill, and Jack Johnson.

Took The Children Away – Archie Roach.

Flivver Ten Million by Frederick Shepherd Converse, performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Let The Sunshine In from HAIR Virtual Corona Version | 2020.

Sound of Silence – Dana Winner.

21st Century Schizoid Man – Toyah & The Humans, A tribute to Bill Rieflin.

Smile – Voctave A Cappella Cover.

Once in a Lifetime – Kermit the Frog.

Mr. Ed Theme Song, in German.

Ringo Starr and “peace and love”

Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence,

spiderThe birthday of Ringo Starr is July 7. And for his birthday, Ringo wants us all to flash the peace sign and say the words “peace and love” at noon in whatever time zone you’re in.

In 2005, on that date, there were the horrific London bombings.

In 2016, on that date, there was the horrific shooting of police in Dallas, TX apparently by a lone gunman, an Army veteran.

OBVIOUSLY, this “peace and love” stuff is not working.  It’s NOT working. Does this mean we stop trying? Hell, no.

Scott Pelley of CBS News noted, in his live interview with the Texas Attorney General, the irony of the specific mass attack, since the Dallas Police Department has been a model for confronting police brutality. He misspoke in a cringeworthy moment, but yes, we DO get it. Dallas officer-involved shootings HAVE rapidly declined in recent years. DPD should get props for trying to do the right thing. Why were THEY targeted?

Just like Philando Castile was trying to do the right thing when he was shot by a police officer at a traffic stop, so this “right way to deal with cops at traffic stops” would not have helped. Why was HE targeted?

It’s our difficult duty to shut out the noise, that “race-baiting” Elizabeth Warren is to blame for the death of Dallas cops, or a former Congressman (!) calling for revenge against President Obama and Black Lives Matter. Escalation of rhetoric is NOT the remedy.

I’ve been reading a book – more about that when I’ve finished it – that suggests that certain segments of society see information very differently. This explanation of Black Lives Matter may be useful to some; I do hope so. And if not, well, I’m trying.

Regardless, we may be ultimately stuck with Ringo Starr and “peace and love.” We drag out hoary Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes, appreciative that his words have outlived him. And, given, the means of his death, hope that he is, or will be, correct.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction … The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

Elie Wiesel, Jesse Williams, JEOPARDY!

“…trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”

elie wieselSaturday, I was watching the previous Monday’s game show JEOPARDY! while checking my email on my tablet – and they say I can’t multitask! – when I read that Elie Wiesel had died. I believed his powerful witness to our inhumanity to each other was a necessary reminder of our need for addressing persecution, wherever it may take place.

I mentioned aloud the news of his passing, and someone asked who he was. I was about to try to assemble my thoughts when this JEOPARDY! showed up on the TV screen: “‘Night’ is this author’s autobiographical work about a 12-year-old enduring Nazi camps.” I paused the DVR recording to say, “THAT’S who Elia Wiesel was.”

One of my favorite quotes of his was this: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Also this: “When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.”

It was a bit startling how that TV clue about Elie Wiesel popped up nearly simultaneously with that news item.

jesse williamsAs you may know, Jesse Williams, who has been on the long-running ABC-TV nighttime medical soap opera Grey’s Anatomy since 2009, gave an impassioned speech at the BET awards last month. Williams has been involved in Black Lives Matter, as well as other activism, a fact I wasn’t aware of until recently and was receiving BET’s Humanitarian Award.

The latter part of the address:

“We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”

Lots of comments on social media, pro, and con. From the latter, someone started an online petition “to fire Jesse Williams from Grey’s Anatomy for racist rant,” which early on, had about 10,000 signatures, In response, another person devised a counter-petition, “Don’t let the racists win! ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, don’t fire Jesse Williams,” which had over 20,000 signatures, including mine. In fact, there were at least 10 other petitions in support of Jesse, with anywhere from a dozen to about 1,000 signatures.

Interestingly (to me), there was a question, with a photo, on the TV game show JEOPARDY! on May 5, 2016: “Seen here, former Philly high school teacher Jesse Williams as Dr. Jackson Avery on this TV drama.” NO one got the question correct, or even rang in. I suspect that would be different now.