Stirring the Mind into Thought

With the verdict given yesterday in the Oscar Grant case in which the officer, Johannes Mershelee who shot Grant in the back while handcuffed, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, I felt compelled to write this.

When you hear rappers or bands (NWA, Dead Prez, Rage Against the Machine, Bone, Thugs-n-Harmony, J Dilla, Ice-T, etc.) say F*** the Police, there is a reason behind it. Black People, and even other people of color, have never had a positive relationship with the police. For some people who may live in a bubble, they think the police is there to serve and protect them, but for the majority of people of color, it is more of living in a police state where they treat us like criminals before we even do anything. In the eyes of the cops and even America, we are guilty until proven innocent. Police officers usually come at us in a very hostile manner first and we either comply or get hostile back. When it comes to us, the police are rarely reasonable; they see us as attacking them even if we are not. So, even if there are good cops out there or those who are trying to do the right thing, the rest of the bad bunch ruin it for them. What makes it even worse is that some of the so-called good cops will stand up for the bad cops or remain quiet in solidarity or fear even when an injustice has occurred. You know cause cops are there to “serve and protect.”

So let me give you a little historical background on our relationship with the police. During slavery, when slaves tried running away, they had dogs and slave owners chasing them. They were told that they had drapetomania because they could not see any reason why a slave would run away (rolls eyes). When slavery ended, the same white people who owned them need another way to control black people. This where localized police departments and forces come in. Before, there was no such thing as police departments, only national militias, but with giving black people their freedom meant fear of retaliation for white owners. So, coming up with the stereotypes of black criminality, black rage, and black hyper-sexuality to create a fear of black people in general led to local police departments, Jim Crow laws and even the rise of the KKK again. Just watch the movie, DW Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, to understand further (below).

watch?v=vPxRIF1c2fI and

Black Wall Street- Tulsa Riots- Gathering of Deputies and Black Wall Street- Tulsa Riots-Arrest and Confinement Videos

This combination of black fear and black criminality has been around for almost 150 years! As Beauty Nubian from twitter said in her blog post (thoughts-on-police-and-policing and her experience with a cop), for black people, some of the same people who had badges on by day, wore white robes (KKK) at night. While black people have suffered lynching, murders, assassinations, beatings, houses burned down and other horrendous acts, many of the police turned away and refused to arrest those involved. In fact, many times they were the ones involved. It has taken decades for many of these cases to be tried in court and by them many of the perpetrators are dead. Most of the cases still remain cold. To the justice system, a black life meant nothing, but if a black person murdered a white person, a death penalty was knocking at his or her door. These injustices were the norm and still continue today.

So, when I look at a story like the Seattle cop punching a teenage black girl, I am looking at it from a historical perspective. Yes, the girls should not have reacted in the way they did and our community need to learn how to react when police approach them for our own safety. However, I also know that the police have been known to attack us in a violent matter for no reason or a very little reason. They react in an irrational manner and with an irrational fear. Remember, these are teenage girls, not big strong men. The cop even later said that he was aggressive because he felt that he was going to be attacked by the crowd, but if you look at the video, the crowd was calm and trying to keep the incident from escalating. I felt as if he could have handled things a whole lot better, but he did not. If this was a teenage white female, I doubt he would have reacted in the same way and my knowledge of racism and media stereotypes of black people give me that feeling. If he was a regular guy on the street, he would have been charged with assaulting a female. However, since he is a cop, he should not get some sort of punishment (whether that is more police training or a few days without pay) or give an apology too for overreacting as the girl had too. This would show a sign of mutual respect.

He is one of many cops who feel as if their authority excuses them from punishment. Every time a cop does something like this, it is called a “justifiable homicide” or a “justifiable assault.” I am starting to hate those phrases because it implies that a police officer can do no wrong. A police officer is human too and not every time is he or she innocent or only a little bit guilty. And if you need more proof of how I feel, here is a list of incidents involving police brutality:

1)   Move Organization: In the 1970s, a commune including people who lived a back-to-nature lifestyle, were against technology and wore dreadlocks, were continuously harassed by cops. Their home was raided upon twice and the second time, cops tear-gassed it and dropped a bomb, killing 11 (including children). Over sixty other homes in the neighborhood were destroyed by the resulting fires. There still has been no retribution for what happened. Documentary: watch?v=PeTk2b96qE8&feature=related

2)   Anthony Kyser: He had allegedly shoplifted crayons and toothpaste and was kicked out of CVS. An employee followed him out and began choking him until he died. There was an on-duty sheriff, but he did absolutely nothing to stop what was happening. anthony-kyser-cvs-shoplif_n_575063.html

3)   Otto Zehm: He was a mentally challenged janitor who went to get a few items at a local store. Then he was handcuffed by cops, beaten and tasered. Zehm died two days later from injuries. remembering-otto-zehm

4) Jonny Gammage: He was driving his cousin’s car when the police stopped him and pulled him out the car. Then they proceeded in beating him and one stepped on his neck and chest, which suffocated him. He died right on the scene. fact-sheet-new.html

5) Kathryn Johnson: A 92-year-old was the victim of a drug raid and a no-knock arrest warrant. Although cops claimed they had the right house, in actuality they were wrong. Kathryn thought someone was breaking into her house, so she pulled out her weapon and cops began to shoot at her. They left her handcuffed bleeding to death. sentencing-for-cops-who-killed

6) Walter Harvin: He was an Iraq War Veteran and going to see his mother. He did not have a key, so the police handcuffed him. However, the police continuously beat him with a baton (at least 20 times) even after he was subdued. iraq-veteran-beating-tape_n_620853.html

7) Amadou Diallo: He was shot forty-one times by four plain-clothed cops. The cops claimed that he fit the profile of a rapist (who was later caught) and told him they were police. Diallo ran and one of the cops tripped, setting of a gun, as they chased after him. Diallo also had pulled out a wallet, which the cops mistook as a gun. One thing led to another and he was shot, nineteen bullets hitting and killing him. Officers were acquitted, but this case peaked the interest of racial profiling and police brutality and overreaction (contagious shooting in which one cop shoots and other follow him). nypd

8 ) Joshua Daniel Ortiz: In Florida, he was beaten in an elevator and then received a broken nose and a misdemeanor assault charge. Luckily, due to the video, the charges were dropped. MI114633

9) Jordan Miles: The honors students, arts student and violinists, was approached by three police and beaten up (including one of his dreadlocks being ripped out) as he was walking to his grandmother’s home at night. The police claimed that they mistook a bottle for a gun, but Miles said he did not have anything on him.jordan-miles-pittsburgh and jordan-miles-police-brutality

10) Reginald Latson: This teenager has Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism) and he likes to walk. So, early one morning, he went for a walk to the library and sat outside under a tree. Someone in a school nearby saw him and called the police saying there was a suspicious person outside the library and that he possibly had a gun (cause everyone knows that black people always have guns). Eight nearby schools were put on lockdown, while policed looked for Latson. Latson had already began walking away because he was tired of waiting for the library to open. When police approached him, Latson said he complied with the search but no gun was found and police say he attacked them. However, Latson says he was attacked first. He was arrested and is now facing charges. teen-with-aspergers-arres_b_610530.html

11) Aiyanna Jones: The 7-year-old was sleeping in her bed, when, as a result of a no-knock arrest, she was killed by a cop’s gun. The police were after a relative who had murdered a teenager a few days before. Also, on site was the A&E show 48 hours. Witnesses say the police overreacted because the cameras were there, throwing a flashbomb into the house and then firing shots, two of which hit Aiyanna in the head and neck killing her. The cop tried to say that his gun went off by accident, but proof shows that there is very little chance that the shot would have hit her by accident. There is a petition online to release the video of what happened from 48 hrs. 100601005 and petition: aiyanajones

12) Lt. Burge: After two decades of torturing hundreds of black men in Chicago, this cop was finally charged with it, even after the statues of limitations had passed. chicago-cop-goes-on-trial-for-torturing-black-men

13) New Orleans cops: Cops in New Orleans are know to be corrupt and have assaulted and murdered people. One such case is the one that happened post-Katrina, in which five cops shot and killed a man and burn his body. Finally, they were arrested and charged with his murder. wireStory?id=10891438

14) Brandon Johnson: The 15-year-old was beaten in Indianapolis after he was already subdued by other cops. He was repeatedly struck in the face and ended up with bruises and a black eye. police-gone-wild-15-year-old-catches.html

15) Melanie Williams: She was pregnant and started bleeding, so she called 911. Afraid she would lose the baby, she decided to drive herself to the hospital. In a hurry, she passed a red light and was stopped by a cop. Instead of escorting her to the hospital like a decent gentleman, he made her wait to get a ticket. Williams drove off and the cop followed her. He rushed in after her in the hospital, tackled her to the floor and stepped on her neck. Then he placed her in the cop car. Fortunately, she was able to get medical help and had the baby 10 days later. top_5_police_blunders_of_the_w_24.php

16) Usman Chaudhry: The 21-year old Pakistani was shot multiple times and killed for carrying a knife, but he was handcuffed when the coroner examined his body. The family was not told about his death until 21 days later.  72157605777928496 and 005273.html

17) Lona Varner: An 86-year-old grandma was tasered by the police in her bed and stepped on her oxygen hose after her grandson called 911 for medical assistance. The police officer claimed that she “took a more aggressive posture in her bed.” The officers even handcuffed her grandson when he told them to not taser his grandma. 28330.htm

18) Bernard Monroe: The 73 year-old was shot in front of his home in Louisiana. Monroe was voiceless due to cancer and witnesses said he had no weapon even though police claim he had one no-trial-for-white-cop-who-murdered.html

19) Alonzo Hayward: A mentally challenged man was shot at 59 times by police, 43 actually hitting his body. Alonzo was drinking beforehand and was suicidal holding a shotgun in his hand. In this situation, one would think that the cops knew how to handle a situation like that without killing the man. He did not need to be shot that many times to stop him. us_news-crime_and_courts

20) Oscar Grant: Last year, Oscar Grant along with his friends were subdued by cops in a subway station for involvement in a fight on New Years Eve. The cops had Oscar handcuffed and flat on the ground when Merhsellee came and decided to pull out a gun a shoot Oscar in the back. Oscar screamed “You Shot Me” and was pronounced dead the next morning. Merhselee claimed that he was confused between his “yellow” taser and “black” gun. However, if Oscar was already on the ground and handcuffed, there was no need to use either. Also, Mershellee was known to have a violent past with people he came in contact with (he beat a 41 year old just 6 weeks before), but that was left out of trials. Yesterday, he was found guilty, but only on criminal negligent involuntary manslaughter with possible gun enhancement charge. People all over are visibly angered by the decision of the jury, in which all the black people who were going to be on it were forced off because of some “bias”, while half of the jury had police members in their family. Video: watch?v=UXqGT74vBKk and photo of Mehserle holding the yellow taser taken by Oscar Grant mehs.jpg

Yes, some of these cases resulted in the officer(s) losing their jobs or getting convicted, but there are hundreds that do not get that attention and are not prosecuted. I still do not feel safe and am always suspicious of cops no matter what, and other black people I know feel the same. We are always watching our back thinking a cop will come upon us, just as Richard Pryor describes here (warning, foul language- watch?v=rr5FY-q8MVE&feature=related). I or anyone else like me can get killed or injured for “driving while black,” “walking while black,” and even “sitting while black.” Now I can be calm or innocent in the situation and still be attacked, but imagine for someone who has a hot temper or is guilty, as in those two girls. A lot of these cops are guilty of overkill and reacting without caution. In the end, it feels as if no matter what we do, police will disrespect us. Even worse, not only black people are attacked, people of color across the spectrum are attacked, from Latinos and Asians in immigration raids or hate crimes and Middle-Eastern/South Asians in hate crimes after 9/11 and other terrorism reports. The funny thing is that the some of the same people, who are quick to call people of color terrorists or dangerous criminals, are just as much terrorists and criminals to us too. How can I respect and trust your authority when you do not respect my humanity?

More info.: What Would You Do – Vandalism Part 1 and What Would You Do – Vandalism Part 2 – Watch the two different reactions and how someone called a cop on the black people sleeping in the car instead of the white kids vandalising the car. So, we can add “sleeping while black.”

Biased Role in Cop on Cop Shootings

James Baldwin- A Report From an Occupied Territory

John White Goes to Jail for Trying to Protect his Family

NY Times – A Few Blocks, 4 Years, 52,000 Police Stops

So, that is where I’m coming from….


All of Tyler Perry’s films.

Avatar (ok Avatar is not really a black film, but all of the non-white main actors were the Navi’s in the film).

What do these films have in common? They have received in general both commercial and critical praise.

What else do they have in common? They fit the formulaic and stereotypical formats of mainstream film and use of stock characters to draw audiences in. Also, they prove the lack of promotion for more diversity in Black (and other people of color) film.

Now, I am not saying that these movies should not have been made or that they should not be seen. All of these movies do have good elements to them. However, just as any other art, these works need to be watched with a conscious mind and parts of it should be criticized. No one watches anything with a blank mind and no one should have to either.

Also, when I talk about diversity, I do not mean only more positive images in contrast to negative images, but also less of the stereotypical images that Hollywood and audiences expect (there tends to be set ways in which both positive and negative images are shown, including ones involving race). It is more about thinking outside the box and breaking down limitations and expectations because that is the only way the world ever changes.

When Spike Lee said that Tyler Perry’s movies were “buffonery and coonery,” to a certain extent, I did agree with him. This is all of what he said:

“Each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavors but I still think there is a lot of stuff out today that is “coonery” and buffoonery. I know it’s making a lot of money and breaking records, but we can do better. … I am a huge basketball fan, and when I watch the games on TNT, I see these two ads for these two shows (Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne”) and I am scratching my head. … We got a Black president and we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep ‘n’ Eat?

We’ve had this discussion back and forth. When John Singleton [made “Boyz in the Hood”], people came out to see it. But when he did “Rosewood,” nobody showed up. So a lot of this is on us! You vote with your pocketbook, your wallet. You vote with your time sitting in front of the idiot box, and [Tyler Perry] has a huge audience. We shouldn’t think that Tyler Perry is going to make the same film that I am going to make, or that John Singleton or my cousin Malcolm Lee [would make]. As African Americans, we’re not one monolithic group so there is room for all of that. But at the same time, for me, the imaging is troubling and it harkens back to “Amos n’ Andy.””

He did make a point. The first time I saw Diary of Mad Black Woman, I actually loved the film, but, by the time I saw the shows, House of Payne and Meet the Browns, and the movie, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, I was tired of Tyler Perry and his films and shows. I felt as if I was being inundated with the same stock mammy and “Amos n Andy” character types and similar patriarchal stories of having “a knight in shining armor,” or “the perfect man” rescuing you. I just got bored.

Then Tyler Perry decided to try something different with producing Precious and once again I was not very interested. Yes, I could tell that it would be a moving and powerful story and that it needed to be told. But I feel like I have heard and saw that story already. Oh, look at the tragic lives of black people living in the ghetto! Some people even called it “poverty porn” (just look at all the hood movies produced that are very popular, even though there are some I like). As one of my former professors, Bridgett Davis, said “She’s a type. Rather than make her real, i.e., flawed, Sapphire made her someone who can elicit from us only two emotions on the same continuum –sympathy and pity.” Another stock character that lacks the sense of humanity that makes them relatable and feel authentic (though it tries), like some of Tyler Perry’s characters.

One of my favorite poets, Bassey Ikpi, also felt that the film only made the audience feel happy that you were not her, but did not give you any direction on where to go from there. It just dumps all this on you and leaves you hanging. Then the, as Professor Davis said, it gives you this easy “fairtytale redemption” (very typical) and audiences are surprised that a girl who looks like that can be lovable (even though some still made fun of the way she looked in the theatre). Everything always ends okay and fixed easily with a bow. Wrong!

Another problem I had with the film not showing the face of the father who was raping Precious and having the rape scene quickly inserted and pulled out (no pun intended) with no follow-up. That one scene felt unnecessary and failed to put a human face to the father, instead of just showing him as some monster type. Moreover, the inconsistency of Precious fantasies in which she dreams of her actual self in a Hollywood-type fashion versus the scene in which she sees a white woman in the mirror. Not only those, but also the failure to elaborate how Precious’ child, named Mongol, ended up light-skin if her father is Precious’ father and the failure to elaborate on the institutional failures of schools and social services (how, unfortunately, in reality someone like Precious would be an exception).

Even the people who “rescue” Precious are just as much as stock characters (when Ms. Rain tells Precious to write, it felt like a Freedom Writers moment). The extreme colorism in the film is obvious; I do not think it a coincidence the Paula Patton, Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz (all light-skinned black people) are the main heroes of the film, while Gabourey Sidibe, Monique and her father in the movie are dark-skinned, helpless and dysfunctional. In the original book, Push, Ms. Rain (who is played by Paula Patton) was actually darker-skinned with dredlocks (she would look more like me). Just listen to what the director Lee Daniels said about his prejudice of dark-skinned blacks: “‘Precious’ is so not P.C. What I learned from doing the film is that even though I am black, I’m prejudiced. I’m prejudiced against people who are darker than me. When I was young, I went to a church where the lighter-skinned you were, the closer you sat to the altar. Anybody that’s heavy like Precious — I thought they were dirty and not very smart. Making this movie changed my heart. I’ll never look at a fat girl walking down the street the same way again.” This tells me that he put some of that bias into his film.

The colorism in Precious reminds me of Avatar. Why? Well, the “White Hero” motif that is often widely promoted. I can list a lot of films that fall into the category; in fact I’ll do that now:

Blackboard Jungle, Dances with Wolves, Pochahantas, The Last Samurai, Enemy Mine, Dune, Freedom Writers, Dangerous Minds, Blindside, Invictus, Radio, Fern Gully, The last of the Mohicans, Mississippi Burning, The King of Scotland and the list goes on…..

These consist of three story types: White guy falls in love with a non-white (or alien) princess, White guy leads a group of non-white people (or magical or alien species *hint*) to fight against his own people and help non-white people protect their culture, or White teacher or coach goes into an inner-city school to help minority kids become successful…

But I cannot help but think if this can be told differently – non-white person goes into a white suburb and leads them into a new direction and no I am not talking about the “magic negro” in which he rescues the entire world or it is not a specific group (often Will Smith). Maybe, telling a story like Avatar from the point of view of the Navi’s and someone like Sully stands on the sideline. A non-white person rescuing the aliens or magical creatures. A non-white teacher or coach coming to the aid of white kids or minority kids.

In fact the last one has been done often with less promotion: Full Court Miracle, Coach Carter, Remember the Titans, Antwone Fisher, Akeelah and the Bee, The Great Debaters, Stand and Deliver, Lean On Me, The Marva Collins Story, Hotel Rwanda, Catch a Fire and much more. However, those do not get the same recognition as movies like Avatar and Blindside.

Some people may think that I am over-analyzing and seeing things, and might not believe me. But if they do not, I will give them another example. Recently, Danny Glover started creating a movie about the Haitian revolutionary, Toussaint Louverture, and when he tried to get funding for the film, he was asked if it was a black film and “where are the white heroes?” However, with a movie like this it is almost impossible to have a white hero, still they wanted one because the producers believed it would be more marketable. If that does not convince you, I do not know what will.

I am not saying that I do not want movies with the stereotypical characters to be created because I know they exist and I am not saying that I do not want movies with white heroes because I know that they exist, too (for example, Blindside is based on a true story). What I am saying is that the over-promotion of these stereotypical characters and reoccurring themes reinforce certain ideas, creates limitations, causes us to bypass some great films, causes us not to see the complexity of humanity and lets us ignore a portion of the humans that exist in the world because they do not fit into an expected box. Please open your mind!

Lee Daniels Quote from here:

Bridgett Davis article:

American Dream, Asian Hero post on Avatar:

Articles on Danny Glover’s Toussaint Louverture Movie:

January 14th, 2010 at 9:16 PM and tagged , , , , , , , , ,  | Comments Off on Spike Lee and Others Do Have a Point About Black Film | Permalink

…And a few actions and skin color does not define a person as a whole.

Kanye West and Taylor Swift Incident at VMAs
Serena Williams US Open outburst
After the incidents involving Kanye West and Taylor Swift at the VMAs and Serena Williams at the US Open, I have noticed how some people have called Kanye “the n-word” and said he should be lynched and how some have called Serena “an angry black woman.” Also, I read one comment that said how Kanye makes the rest of us (i.e. Black people) look bad. While I do agree that what both Kanye and Serena did were rude and inexcusable, but at the end of the day, they are human like everyone else. Some of the responses that I have seen as a result of these two events have been just as or even more despicable as the outbursts. Why can’t people just see this as isolated events in which two human beings were acting foolish instead of bringing race into it and once again stereotyping the black race.

The constant uses of the “n-word” to say how stupid Kanye was at the VMAs was ridiculous. Several people claimed that there is a difference between black people and n***ers. What? This is why I believe in the importance of studying history. The “n-word” was created as a word to describe black people in general as being stupid. It was not used as a word to say one black person is stupid, it was a word used against all black people. Now, it feels as if it is a behavior-based usage of the word, meaning that if a black person acts wrongly, he or she is a n***er, but if he or she behaves, he or she is black again. Why do you need to disrespect someone because he disrespected someone else. What made these comments worse were how some people said he needed to be lynched and even be lynched by the KKK. Seriously?! Those comments irked me because it reminded me of Emmett Till, who was rude in whistling at a white woman, but did he deserve to be beaten and murdered for it? No! I know what Kanye did was wrong, but people are acting as if they never did wrong in their life. Also, why do you have to resort to such drastic, violent and racially insensitive words for something that should be forgivable. Maybe Kanye is racist, I do not know, and he is annoying with this being his third outburst, but people have no right to stoop to his level and call him a n***ger if he is. Moreover, stop acting as if he committed the worst crime in the world!

This also applies to Serena Williams angry outburst at a judge during the US Open. Serena was inappropriate in that moment but people need to understand that this was a big game for her and she was under a lot of stress; in addition to that, the judge was wrong in his call. Basically, she just got heated in a tense moment and that was it. Her behavior that day does not define her as a person and anyone of any race would have been angry if the judge made the wrong call. Besides Serena was given a fine and did apologize for what she said. Why is it when a black person behaves in a certain way, the behavior represents the person as a whole or the race he or she is as if other races do not act like that sometimes too? Why is it that our behavior is so heavily looked down upon as if we are not human too? When Joe Wilson interrupted the President of the United States and called him a liar, there was not as big of an uproar and it took a longer before they decided to punish him for it. Wilson may not have jumped up on the podium where Obama was speaking or used profanity, but what he did was rude just the same. Some have called it passion, however, the same could have been said for Kanye and Serena (considering that a lot of people were thinking what they were thinking). As for Serena, how many athletes have had tirades during games (e.g. John Mcenroe). She was just another who momentarily lost her self-control. That is it! Yet I did not hear racial slurs and stereotypes used against others as I have heard with Kanye and Serena.

In the end, I have forgiven both Kanye and Serena (and even Joe Wilson), and when both of these incidents happened, I did not, nor did people I know, go to the extreme of using their race as a reason why they were acting like that or using their behavior in those two moments to decide if they are a n***ger or an “angry black woman.” Also, I do not see their behavior as a reflection on me. I should not have to feel embarrassed because Kanye and Serena are the same race as me. I am an individual and I expect to be seen as such just as I see everyone else like that. For example, most serial killers are white people and all of the members of the KKK are white, but that does not mean that I see all white people as murderers or racists. It would be stupid to think so. Therefore, I expect the same treatment by other people. Yes, what Kanye and Serena did were wrong and Taylor Swift and the judge did not deserve disrespect, but if anyone of them were of any other race, it would still have been just as wrong. Look past race and just see them as human beings who do make stupid mistakes just like everyone else. So, stop with the racial slurs and move on to more important issues!

September 19th, 2009 at 7:38 PM and tagged , , , , ,  | Comments Off on One Person Does Not Represent An Entire Race… | Permalink