Looking at the photos and footage of Ferguson, MO., reminds me of a war zone — almost any war zone. Tanks, tear gas, smoke bombs …
I remember the uprising in Hungary of 1956. I was 4, but I remember the tanks rolling down the streets toward unarmed civilians. I remember my mother crying because the US wouldn’t intervene. It is one of my earliest memories.
In Ferguson, it started with the murder of an unarmed 18-year-old. Would he have been slain if he was white? I doubt it.
Police say he went for the officer and tried to take his gun; a witness said his hands were in the air when he was shot.
Michael Brown was two days away from starting college. He was not a thug.
When people came out to protest, they were met with police in riot gear, police who assumed they would be violent, and when people became combative, they were met with military force.
The mayor has refused to identify the police officer who shot Michael Brown, fearing for the officer’s safety. Well, what about the safety of our teenagers?
Oh well, it was a mistake. Why is everyone so upset?
It upsets me because of the frequency with which black men are shot, choked and beaten by white police officers.
It upsets me because the media always look for the least flattering photo of the person who was killed.
Oh look. He’s wearing a hoodie. Guilty!
It upsets me when people who knew and loved him become outraged and demonstrate against the police tactics and they are met with a full-on war machine.
This isn’t the billy clubs of the 1968 Democratic Convention; these are tactics used in combat.
The county’s police chief trained in anti-terrorist tactics in Israel in 2009. What he learned and what his happening is war waged against citizens.
According to reports, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets near a crew from the TV network Al Jazeera America. In a statement, the network said that “Al Jazeera is stunned by this egregious assault on freedom of the press that was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on our ability to cover this important story.”
Two reporters were arrested while they were in a McDonald’s. They later were released without charges being filed, but the police got what they wanted out of it: fewer reporters on the scene to witness and tell the world what’s happening.
I had the privilege to hear the Rev. Dr. James Cone speak a few weeks ago. Cone is the “father of Black Theology,” and he was speaking about his latest book, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.”
As I listened to Cone and as I read his words, I come to understand that lynchings are still going on in this country, and I have begun to call the deaths of unarmed black men just that.
As I participate in Moral Mondays and develop close friendships with people of color, I become more aware of racism in our society. I see how my friends are treated. I hear what people say.
I realize I have been insulated, even though I thought I was aware of the racism around me before this last year. I saw the institutional racism and the injustices in our “justice” system. But I know now it goes deeper than I ever imagined.
Old friends tell me I am being radical, but I disagree. Black men are shot, strangled and beaten by police at an astronomically higher rate than whites. A few months ago in Durham, NC, police claimed that a young black man who had been searched and was handcuffed in the back of a police car, had shot himself in the head. When people turned out to protest, they were met with police in militarized riot gear.
Last week, a middle-aged African-American man with asthma was choked to death when he tried to stop police from beating another man. I saw that one because somebody videoed it.
I saw video of police beating two men on private property because they were videoing the officers with their cell phones.
The police are supposed to be there to protect us, but now they are working to silence us and to hide their own actions.
I understand that police have to prevent violence from spreading, but maybe they could prevent it by not killing innocent black men and boys.
Maybe if police told the truth from the outset. “Yes, it appears an innocent person was shot and killed. The officer is under arrest.”
Would people be as quick to riot then?
Yesterday on Facebook, a white man commented on a thread that black people should understand that justice will prevail.
It’s nice to be white and believe that, but if you’re not white and/or wealthy, there is little justice for you. And if you protest, you will be met by military force.
The second Mountain Moral Monday was exhausting and energizing. We estimate a crowd of about 8,000, although the newspaper here estimated less than half that amount.
I see it as an effort to minimize the effect the Moral Movement is having across the state. Police estimated 5,000. Last year we had 10,000; the police estimated 8,000; the paper kept saying “more than 6,000.”
For a year they used that low-ball estimate of “more than 6,000″ — until yesterday, when they gave last year’s estimate as 10,000 and said the crowd was only 3,500 this year.
I wrote a letter to the editor to complain about the coverage:
“To the editor:
“I find it interesting that the paper used the “police estimate” of 3,500 for this year’s crowd, and then used others’ estimates of last year’s crowds of 10,000 for this year’s story.
“For the past year, the paper has used its estimate of 6,000. Apparently, when you can make the movement look smaller and less important, it’s OK to use everyone else’s estimate.
“The crowd was slightly smaller than last year, but well over 6,000, and no less enthusiastic. As Rev. Barber said, it isn’t about the numbers, but about the Movement.
Also offensive was the word ‘feisty’ when referring to Lindsay Kosmala Furst’s speech. You would never never have used that word to describe a man’s speech. The word to describe her speech is ‘impassioned.’”
I would only ask the paper to make sure its coverage is accurate and that someone read the copy looking for words that might be sexist, racist or otherwise offensive.
Had I been assigned the story, I would have made a call to the police at the end of the rally and asked for a crowd estimate. Then I would have called the organizers for their estimate and printed both.
In my nearly three decades as a reporter, I found police usually under-estimated the size of the crowd and organizers generally over-estimated. Rarely did they agree. I printed both numbers or I printed a number halfway between the two if the estimates were close.
Also, if you get an estimate at the beginning of the event, it will be low, since people continue to stream in for at least a half hour.
These are very simple reporting rules if you believe accuracy is your main goal. However, if your goal is to discredit a movement, you go ahead and use tricks like those used in this morning’s paper.
So, let’s giver the paper the benefit of the doubt and say this us unintentional. That would make it something less than competent journalism, and that is most disappointing.
Last night, I spoke at a rally for women’s rights. It was sponsored by the National Organization for Women, which I re-joined the day of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. It is time again for feminism.
When I was 18, I got engaged and went to the doctor for a prescription for the pill. He couldn’t give it to me unless it was within two months of my wedding.
It wasn’t his choice. In 1971, doctors in Massachusetts were forbidden by law to prescribe any contraception to unmarried women. It wasn’t against the law for women; it was illegal for doctors, since women weren’t to be trusted making those kinds of decisions about our own bodies.
Young women today don’t remember this and so were pretty much absent from yesterday’s rally.
It’s all done under the guise of protecting innocent babies, but it’s really about pushing women back under the thumbs of men. If we can’t control our own bodies, we can’t control much else about our lives.
Young women today don’t remember that women could be fired just for getting married. They don’t remember young women dying in desperate attempts at abortions after they were denied contraception.
As recently as the 1980s, insurance companies refused to cover contraception for women. I went to pick up an prescription for the Pill for medical purposes and the pharmacist told me I needed a note from my doctor. I waved the prescription and said, “This is a note from my doctor. This is hormone therapy and I expect it to be filled now.”
Well, the insurance company didn’t pay for contraception, so I would need a note from your doctor”
I started waving the prescription again when a man who had been standing nearby stepped up.
“Why is my testosterone replacement therapy not questioned?” he asked. “That’s just wrong. If I can get hormone therapy without question, she should be able to as well.”
He wasn’t an attorney, but his logic seemed frightening enough that the pharmacist called the insurance company and informed them he would fill prescriptions for hormones for everyone with no questions asked, and unless they wanted to fight an expensive lawsuit, they would pay.
Since lawsuits were working their way through the courts already, the insurance company agreed to fill my prescriptions without question.
Now the Hobby Lobby decision makes this same scenario possible. I can’t believe I still have to fight for this.
A young woman recently said to me, “If she opens her legs she should be ready to live with the consequences.”
Why is it acceptable for a young man to “sow his wold oats,” but not a woman? Where the hell is he supposed to sow those oats if women can’t have sex? And why isn’t he forced to suffer the consequences? Why isn’t he shamed?
I did teach my sons that sex was for creating babies and if they weren’t ready to parent, they weren’t ready for sex. I knew, however, that it was highly unlikely they would wait to have sex, so I taught them about contraception. Abstinence is the only foolproof method, and the Pill is a pretty close second. But I stressed again and again that they were as responsible for any consequences as their partners.
Secondly, when I was a young woman, it was legal for a man to forcibly rape his wife. If she wound up pregnant, that was supposed to be a blessing from God.
A woman could be forced to bring a new life into a violent home where its life would be endangered by an abusive father. A son would be likely to follow in his father’s footsteps and become abusive; a daughter would be likely to marry an abusive man.
But that didn’t matter to the white men in power; it still doesn’t.
I don’t remember the struggle for the right to vote; my grandmother’s generation fought that battle. But I remember enough about women’s struggle for equality to know we’re losing our precious rights, and I can’t sit still for that.
I thought we won these battles back in the 1960s and 70s, but our right to control our bodies is slipping away from us and we have to stand up and fight again.
We need young women in the fight, though. They take it for granted that they can get contraception, that they can go to a woman’s clinic for checkups and prescriptions. Women’s clinics are closing across the country as powerful old men claim they’re nothing more than abortion factories.
In truth, these clinics provide affordable care for millions of women. Until every state in the nation has expanded Medicaid, these clinics are the only access to care that low-income women have.
More than 85 percent of he services provided by women’s clinics have nothing to do with abortion, but women going in for checkups, contraception and cancer screenings are subjected to verbal, emotional and physical abuse. Even women seeking abortions deserve the respect of making this horrible decision without being screamed at, spit upon and hit.
If this abuse really was about the babies, there would be more help for women and children.
If you only support the fetus, you are not pro-life. You are anti-woman, and that is not acceptable.
We women are onto the effort to subjugate us again, and we’re not going. We will fight, and we will win.
If you don’t know history, you might think Rep. Louie Gohmert was just spewing harmless crap on Wednesday when he accused immigrants of coming into this country as sexual predators looking for white women to ravish.
While he was spewing crap, it was the same crap that white people spewed as an excuse to torture and kill innocent African-American men on lynching trees and lamp posts from the 1880 to the 1940s in this country.
More than 5,000 African-Americans were slaughtered during this killing spree, very often falsely accused of raping — or wanting to rape — white women.
On Aug. 24, 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was visiting relatives in Money, Miss. He was from Chicago, so he was unfamiliar withe he rules black men and boys were forced to live under in the Jim Crow South.
He and some cousins went into a store to buy some gum after a long day picking cotton, and it is believed Till had the audacity to flirt with or whistle at the store owner’s wife. No one knows for certain what the offense was, but it was punishable by death.
Three days later, a group of angry white men went to the house where young Emmett was staying, dragged him out and drove away with him.
He was beaten beyond recognition, shot in the head, tied with barbed wire and thrown in the Tallahatchie River. When his body was pulled out of the river three days later, the only way his relatives could identify him was by the signet ring his mother had given him before he left Chicago.
The Rev. James Cone, in his book The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” writes at length about the fear instilled in African-Americans by the lynching tree. You didn’t have to be related to anyone who was lynched, you only had to know how people were dragged from their homes, tortured — beaten, castrated, raised and lowered over a fire to prolong their suffering and then, finally, killed.
White people came out by the thousands to watch the terror because it was entertainment to see another human being tortured and killed. They took body parts as souvenirs. They had their pictures taken next to the corpse as it hung from the lynching tree. They bought post cards and sent them to family and friends.
Politicians ignored the horrors — in fact, some took part in the carnage. Still, the description of the perpetrators was always “persons unknown.”
The excuse more often than not was that black men were sexual predators and the whites were “protecting” their women.
So here, Rep. Gohmert accuses the president — an African-American man — of not protecting women from Latino men, using the same rhetoric that was used as an excuse for the terrorizing of African-Americans for generations.
Gohmert deserves to be driven out of Washington. He should be forced to hear the stories of people who were lynched, be forced to see the photos of Emmett Till’s mutilated body. And there are photos because Till’s mother insisted on an open casket so the world could see what had been done to her precious son.
This is not idle chatter Gohmert is spewing; it is terrorist rhetoric. He is deliberately inciting fear and anger and promoting the same thing that kept African-Americans subjugated in fear for 400 years in America.
I don’t support the death penalty for anyone, not even for hate-filled people like Gohmert. However, we must call him out on this. I planned to send him a lengthy e-mail, but he only accepts e-mails from his Texas First District constituents.
Gohmert is a coward in the first degree, and we need to let him know that’s what we think.
You can message him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Louie-Gohmert/50375006903.
Oh, and take a look at the photo on the page of Louie with an African-American child. Apparently, he is completely unaware of the irony.
I have seen a number of posts today on Facebook, claiming the Hobby Lobby decision is a victory for religious freedom. Actually, it’s not.
Although the owners of Hobby Lobby say they have religious objections to certain kinds of contraception, the company invests in corporations that manufacture the very kinds of birth control they claim to oppose, which reeks of hypocrisy.
This is about having the power to control other people, in this case, women.
Men can still have drugs for chemically induced erections, they can have penile pumps and they can have vasectomies. But women can’t have the contraception method of their choice.
It doesn’t matter that I may not share their beliefs; I have to live by them anyway. That’s what the separation of church and state was all about.
We know that if Muslims had brought this case it never would have been heard by the Supreme Court. Let’s not pretend it would be any other way.
If you want to talk about Bible, let’s do. I was raised in a church at least as far-right-wing as these folks.
We didn’t go to dances; we didn’t go to R-rated movies. We didn’t try to have them banned, we just didn’t go. If we didn’t like what was on TV, we watched something else or turned it off.
Would they have liked to control everything? Sure, but back then, they knew they couldn’t. Now they can.
So-called Christians have gotten bolder in their quest to impose their religion on the rest of us because they made a pact with Republicans, who gave them power in exchange for voting against their own best interests. Now they believe they’re persecuted if everyone isn’t forced to live by their beliefs.
I rejected the misogynistic, racist beliefs promoted by the church I was raised in when I was a teenager, and I don’t want to live by them today.
Jesus once was asked why anyone should pay taxes. He asked the person to show him a coin.
“Whose likeness is on that coin?” he asked.
“Caesar,” was the reply.
“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” he said.
In other words, government is not your religion. To follow God, you must be the one following and you don’t have the right to force others to practice your beliefs any more than they have the right to impose theirs on you. Government and God are two separate entities. If it wasn’t OK for the Romans to force their beliefs on and persecute Christians, it isn’t OK for Christians to do that to others.
This is about not trusting women to make our own choices about health care. To them, it’s about original sin. See, they believe Eve committed the first sin and therefore no woman can be trusted. Women are to be controlled at all times, in every way. If they have sex, they deserve to get pregnant.
That’s why it’s OK for men to have Viagra and penile implants. That’s why women so often are blamed for rape and domestic abuse. We were the original sinners in their eyes, so it’s always our fault when men abuse them. He’s only asserting his natural authority, after all.
Think about the first two questions that come to mind when a woman is raped: Where was she? What was she wearing?
If you think it’s anything less than this, I think you’re wrong. I grew up among people who thought like this, and I heard their “logic” for my entire childhood and adolescence.
I have re-joined the National Organization for Women. I will join Emily’s List.
I thought women won these battles two generations ago, but I see the fight isn’t over yet.
It appears we’re living under Scalia Law.
In the last week, the Supreme Court has ruled against women’s health and privacy in two shocking decisions.
In the first, they abolished the 35-foot buffer zone around women’s health clinics in Massachusetts, saying the zealots who verbally abuse patients, while waving pictures of dismembered fetuses in their faces, can go right ahead with their free speech. Apparently, their right to hate speech trumps my right to go into a clinic unmolested.
About 90 percent of women going into health clinics are there for reasons other than abortion. I got my primary care at a Planned Parenthood clinic in New York for several years when I was uninsured. I never had — or wanted — an abortion.
I also never had an unplanned pregnancy because I had access to low-cost contraception — which a second decision took away from women who work for corporations owned by Christian fundamentalists. I’ll bet the ruling would be different had the suit been brought by Muslims or Orthodox Jews.
Without the buffer zone, women who go into these clinics are subject to being filmed. So much for a right to privacy. Protesters sometimes grab them to prevent them from entering the clinic, never knowing whether the woman might just be there for a cancer screening or to renew a prescription. Some of the women going to these clinics are actually seeking help getting pregnant.
But the zealots don’t discriminate.
I saw a video not long ago of a woman whose infant had died in utero. She was at the clinic to have the dead fetus removed, and she fell apart when the zealots started screaming at her. Her husband explained why she was there in an effort to shame the zealots. But they’re so eager to stop one abortion, they don’t care who gets caught in the crossfire.
These are the people who the Supreme Court protected in its decision last week.
In today’s decision, the justices have said Christians — whose company invests in the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture contraceptives — can deny women insurance coverage for contraception.
This means Hobby Lobby’s low-wage workers will be faced with choosing between facing a raging crowd of zealots, who just might turn violent (c’mon, they have a history), just to get low-cost contraceptives, or dying at the hands of a butcher because they can’t run the gauntlet of zealots to get a legal abortion.
No mention was made in the decision of coverage for Viagra and testosterone replacement therapy, which will still be covered — because it’s for men, and obviously, men have more rights than women under Scalia Law.
I’m a bit confused about the rhetoric from the right lately. A few months ago, the president was un-American for leaving Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a prison in Afghanistan because “we don’t leave anyone behind.”
So, the president got him out and now he should be impeached for doing so, even though Richard Nixon got John McCain out of a Vietnamese prison the same way.
Until last week, the right was screaming that we needed to bring the Benghazi mastermind to justice, so when we capture him, they scream it was done to benefit Hillary Clinton’s book tour.
George Bush and company started an illegal war in Iraq and now that the result is a massive disruption, the right criticizes Obama for not going back in and risking more American lives for Bush’s folly.
The right blames President Obama for the fiasco at the VA, but it was Bush who started two wars with no plan to pay for them and then no way to care for the soldiers who were sent into combat four, five and six times.
Yes, Obama knew about the mess when he came into office, but he was thwarted by the GOP every time he asked for more money for the VA.
He was thwarted when he asked for more money to defend embassies and other diplomatic outposts around the world and then criticized when one of those outposts — in Benghazi, Libya — was attacked and four Americans were killed.
It’s obvious this president can do nothing to please the right wing, even when he meets their demands.
A couple weeks ago, a conservative legislator accused the Moral Mondays protesters of being hypocritical because we didn’t have these demonstrations when the Democrats were in power.
Not true, I told him. The NC NAACP has been doing HKonJ demonstrations in Raleigh every February since 2007. The difference was that the Democrats would meet with us and talk to us and listen to our concerns. The leadership now runs away from us.
Yes, my legislator, Tim Moffitt, will meet with me and treat me with respect, but the leadership is so arrogant, they refuse to talk to anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Then they lie about it, claiming we’re the ones who won’t sit down and talk.
Seriously, why don’t their pants really catch on fire?
George Will thinks that women who have been the victims of sexual violence have a special status and that we embrace it.
I would hardly classify the shame and guilt I experienced after being molested by a family member special. More than a half century later, I still live with it.
Embrace it? I spit on it. It took me years and some disastrous relationships to learn to function in a healthy relationship because of what happened to me as a child.
More often that not, victims of childhood sexual violence grow up to become victims of adult sexual violence. Because the victim of this crime is told by society to be ashamed, to feel unworthy of respect.
Things you think protect us actually do us more damage. Why shouldn’t my name be used? If I was beaten with a baseball bat, people wouldn’t even ask if I wanted my name withheld. But because I was the victim of sexual violence, I should feel ashamed to have my name used in public.
The inference is that I somehow caused my relative to molest me. Perhaps I cast a sultry 3-year-old glance in his direction. Maybe it was the short dresses I wore or the fact that I had the audacity to be alone in a room with him.
I can still see my chubby little fingers closing around the quarter he gave me — hush money. I can still remember feeling dirty and knowing I would be punished if I said anything. The abuse continued for years.
I didn’t say anything to anyone until I was in my 30s. My sister challenged me. He had tried it with her too, but she got away from him. She was saucy enough to tell his secret; I was not.
Once, a year or so after our conversation, my sister asked why I was being so open about it.
“Maybe you shouldn’t tell people,” she said.
I’ve spent many hours in front of a mirror telling myself I was the victim of a crime and I have nothing to be ashamed of. I still don’t always believe it.
Being a victim of sexual violence changes you. We are more likely to have depression, to overeat, to abuse alcohol and drugs, to have unsafe sex, and therefore to contract STDs, and to become victims of abuse.
When we report the sexual violence, we’re always asked why we were walking alone at night or why we wore those shoes or that dress, as though it’s our responsibility to quiet men’s “natural urges.”
In our rape culture, we blame the victim, while too many men go on thinking we’re here to fulfill their desires. If we resist their come-ons, we must be “frigid” or lesbians. There’s this sense of entitlement among some men that says we’re here just for them. If they desire us, they’re entitled to take what they want because we wore those shoes or that dress or we went into a bar alone.
Back when the Kennedy kid was accused of rape, the young woman was ostracized for taking off her pantyhose before a barefoot walk on a beach, while no one said a word about the young man taking off his socks. And it should be pointed out that taking off one’s socks is not the same as “Come hither.”
So, violence is done to us and we are blamed.
Breaking free from that is difficult at best. It takes an incredible amount of work on ourselves to begin to feel worthy of respect.
If you think that’s a special status, fine, as long as you understand the special thing is that we survived it.
If you think we embrace it, think again.
Perhaps if you had been raped your understanding would be different. But I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, Mr. Will, not even you.
We in the Moral Monday Movement had planned to walk through the General Assembly Building Monday afternoon and deliver letters to legislators asking them to reconsider the harmful laws they passed last year.
They knew we were coming, so they locked all the doors. Members of the House were in the building, but they didn’t want any contact with us, so we marched around the building.
Rev. William Barber said he saw legislators in the building and waved to them, but he got no response.
So the 100 or so people carrying letters asking the members of the legislature to expand Medicaid, force Duke Energy to clean up its coal ash mess and stop fracking tucked the letters into the door handles. We walked up the hill to the state house, but the governor wasn’t there, so 11 brave souls sat down to wait for him. After a couple hours, they were handcuffed, given citations and released.
Look, I’m not a fan of theatrics, but we need to show the people of this state that their elected representatives are unresponsive to the people.
I have tried repeatedly to meet with several leaders, but because I’m not in their districts, they dismiss my requests. Tim Moffitt, my representative, is the only Republican who will meet with me. I can’t sway him even a tiny bit, but at least he doesn’t run away when he sees me coming.
We in the Moral Mondays crowd only ask that leaders meet with us to discuss issues, and they have refused. They have run away from us, locked us up and locked us out. They have called us names and said insulting things about us.
We are not going to back down.
After we were locked out of the GA Building, and after the 11 were released, we marched around the state house seven times — our symbolic Jericho.
A couple hundred of us were back on Wednesday to talk to legislators about Medicaid Expansion.
My first stop was Tim Moffitt, who, as usual, welcomed me into his office. We always are civil, even though we disagree. He said he thought the liberals were being hypocritical by demonstrating now, since we didn’t do this while Democrats were in power.
I explained to him that HKonJ has been demonstrating on Jones Street for years — long before 2010 — but the Democrats were willing to meet with us and talk to us. Sometimes, we even managed to move them to action. So far, Speaker Thom Tillis has refused to talk to us and has in fact, run away from us. The governor won’t met with us. So far, all he has done is offer us cookies, as though we’re a bunch of preschoolers who don’t understand the issues.
If we could meet with these leaders, we certainly wouldn’t go to these lengths.
I don’t give a damn what party these people belong to; they have politicized things that should have nothing to do with politics.
This movement isn’t about right versus left; it’s about right versus wrong.
It’s wrong to deny access to health care for 500,000 people and to let some 2,400 of them die each year. It’s wrong to disenfranchise voters as the new law does. It’s wrong to cut Medicaid, to cut food stamps and unemployment. It’s wrong to allow big energy giants to poison our water, land and air.
Still, they lock us out, lock us up and run from us when we try to speak to them. They mock us, but there is fear in their voices and in their eyes.
We stand for economic and social justice and we will not back down.