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Jussie Smollett and white certainty of guilt.

I’m not debating what consequences should be assigned to a Black man who has not been proven anything one way or another when I’m trying to express my anger about the lack of consequences assigned to a group of men who MURDER innocent Black people while the politicians who uphold that system are pretending that a staged crime is more serious than a dead body.

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This is my last post about Jussie Smollett because — like I said — I don’t really care about this anymore, but I just want white gays to take a beat and see what their Definitely Guilty stance looks like to people like me who have listened to White America decide over and over that Black kids are “definitely guilty of something” whenever the police tell us they are. 

This case stinks and at this point, I think it’s impossible to get everyone (or the majority of people) on the same page because of the way the case was handled from the beginning. What I do know is that so many of y’all are vehemently proclaiming Jussie’s guilt because the cops say he’s guilty, yet I’ve seen you chime in over the years in support of Black activists championing investigations into police conduct when unarmed Black people are murdered and the official cop position is “I feared for my life because…” or “We had no choice because they were a criminal.” 

Where’s that support and skepticism of the police now?

The city of Chicago has paid more money to the victims of police shootings than any other city in the country, yet their cops don’t end up in prison. We’ve seen them lie repeatedly about the sequence of events leading up to the murder of another Black person…and then the tapes are released and they have to change their story. This police department leaked SO MUCH INFORMATION to the press, held so many press conferences about new “evidence” during an ongoing investigation to a degree that I have never seen before, seemingly to sway public opinion to their side.

And, I guess it worked because you same folks who meet our skepticism of the police with head nods of agreement have thrown all that away now that the alleged crime affects the perception of *your* LGBT community.  We have a criminal justice system in this country, and for all its flaws, the basic premise is still “innocent until proven guilty” not “innocent until the cops show the public the evidence they want us to see, the same cops who show us evidence in many cases where they are eventually proven wrong, sued, and have to fork over a few million dollars to the victims.” 

If Jussie lied, it’s terrible that Trump & His MAGAts have a new lightning rod to use at rallies…but they’ve also been chanting “lock her up” for three whole years now…so who cares?  It’s terrible that the next (undisputed) victim of a hate crime will have Conservatives question the veracity of the story with “but Jussie lied!”…but they already question the veracity of every hate crime…so what has changed? Jussie Smollett lying about a hate crime wouldn’t set back LGBT victims any more than it set back Black victims (please stop ignoring that there was a noose; the erasure of race by gay white men starts at ignoring the racial aspect to the alleged crime and ends with ignoring the voices of Black people telling you to hold your pitchforks for a moment and THINK!). 

If there was a way to prove he lied (and there isn’t, at this point, thanks to how poorly Chicago PD handled this case) I wouldn’t spit on him if he was on fire. There’s too much division in the country, too much violence, too many lives at stake for a privileged brat looking for a bigger paycheck to trivialize the real dangers regular people face and to exploit the fears of two communities that have supported your career for years. If there was a way to prove he lied (and there isn’t, at this point, thanks to how poorly Chicago PD handled this case) he should never be able to work in Hollywood again — he should be blackballed straight out of the industry.  If there was a way to prove he lied (and there isn’t, at this point, thanks to how poorly Chicago PD handled this case), he should absolutely be punished by the legal system and serve time for not only diverting attention to himself at the expense of other victims in Chicago but also for causing Black people, LGBT people, and Black LGBT people (hello! I’m right here!) extra stress in an era of MAGAts always looking for a “gotcha!”

And even still, even if we could prove he lied and got away with it, the parade of white men in government and law enforcement pretending they care about crime, pretending they care about lying to the legal system, and pretending they care about the credibility of marginalized communities telling their stories would still enrage me far more than any staged crime Jussie came up with. That is the discussion I was having with other Black people and that is the discussion I brought to the floor on *my* wall. I don’t need to discuss the repercussions of a crime we can’t even agree happened. I don’t want to go back and forth about the appropriate punishment of a man who may or may not have committed a crime. I don’t want to watch gay white (and white-passing) men proclaim the guilt of a Black man based solely on the word of police and tell ME how angry I should be about it and how I should hold my torch and my pitchfork when the man in question isn’t even being prosecuted due to lack of evidence!! I don’t need to have Facebook debates about someone who hasn’t been proven guilty or innocent (because he’s not going to trial) when I do have guilty white men in my face shedding crocodile tears for this terrible “miscarriage of justice” when they can’t even muster a thought or a prayer for dead Black people at the hands of a system they operate! 

It’s not that hard y’all! I’m not debating what consequences should be assigned to a Black man who has not been proven anything one way or another when I’m trying to express my anger about the lack of consequences assigned to a group of men who MURDER innocent Black people while the politicians who uphold that system are pretending that a staged crime is more serious than a dead body.

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History

Take this Jim Crow era literacy test for Black people.

I have a master’s degree, and I failed on the first question.

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I know what a literacy test is, but sadly, I’d never looked one up to see what the questions were like. During Jim Crow, they were used to keep Black people from voting. Some poor and illiterate whites got caught in the net as well, and that makes sense for a country who, when founded, only gave voting rights to landowning whites, but the purpose was to keep Black people from being heard. Former congressional candidate Gary Chambers Jr. posted a literacy test today, and you can’t pass it. I can’t pass it. No one can pass it.

This particular test from Louisiana in 1964 was to be administered to anyone who could not prove they had finished 5th grade or higher, which would overwhelmingly apply to more Black people. We had less access to education and were more likely to quit school in order to work the land and help our parents keep a meager roof over the family’s head back when so many Black people were sharecroppers.

And there’s no uniform key for this test. The white registrar reads the answers and decides whether you answered correctly or not. I’m sure this test, on the rare occasion it was given to white people at all, was graded more leniently when the hand turning it in wasn’t colored.

So. Take it and see if you would be able to vote in Louisiana in 1964, less than 60 years ago.

Ten minutes to complete 30 questions is about twenty seconds per question, and you have to get every single one correct. If this was an actual literacy test, I would pass with flying colors, because I can read well enough to know that some of these questions are unanswerable, but it’s not about literacy. It’s about creating a standard that no one can meet and then applying it unfairly to Black people. It’s giving Black people additional burdens to be perfect that white people don’t have. It’s disparaging Michelle Obama for showing her arms in her White House portrait even though Melania has nude photoshoots online. It’s arresting Black people for marijuana at 3 times the rate of white people, even though the same percentage of Black people smoke weed as white people. (x) It’s Black college students being just as likely to find employment as white people who didn’t even finish high school. (x) It’s cops shooting unarmed Black people and taking a white mass shooter to Burger King. (x)

A lot of Black kids heard this refrain from our parents growing up: You have to be twice as good as the white folks to get half as far. However. When the judge and jury of your achievement is White America, you can still fail the test they never even have to take.

 

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Race

A moment for Gwen Berry

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It’s so funny to me that Conservatives think we care what they have to say about Gwen Berry being unpatriotic when those same people don’t care that the Capitol was stormed and vandalized.

One of these is a protest.

The other is a crime.

**Black lady turns away from the flag.**

WHAT A DISGRACE TO AMERICA!

**White people break into the Capitol and erect a gallows to hang elected officials.**

awwww economic anxiety 🥺🥺🥺🥺

 

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Race

France is giving the United States another Statue of Liberty.

Another symbol of liberty to a country that’s still oppressing its people.

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NYC has another Statue of Liberty on the way. France is sending us a smaller version to be placed on Ellis Island just across the water from Liberty Island where the original stands as a beacon to freedom…or something.

This new bronze statue, nicknamed the “little sister,” is one-sixteenth the size of the world-famous one that stands on Liberty Island.

“The statue symbolizes freedom and the light around all the world,” said Olivier Faron, general administrator of the CNAM [National Museum of Arts and Crafts]. “We want to send a very simple message: Our friendship with the United States is very important, particularly at this moment. We have to conserve and defend our friendship.”

(cont. CNN)

If you want to put a symbol of “freedom and light” anywhere, it shouldn’t be in the United States.

If you want to give the Statue of Liberty to the United States all over again anyway, give it in the spirit with which it was originally intended in the first place — as a gift to celebrate Black Americans.

I grew up with the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of hope and freedom for immigrants. “Give us your tired, your poor…” and all that, but Lady Liberty had been there for twenty years before those lines by Emma Lazarus were inscribed onto a plaque and installed at the pedestal. The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of immigration (the voluntary kind, not the shackled and chained way most Black people got here) for two reasons. One, immigrants latched onto the massive sculpture, which is understandable because she was the first image of New York for most European immigrants arriving by boat on the way to be processed at nearby Ellis Island. Two, the creator, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, pitched the idea to raise funding from Americans in the most general terms of “liberty” without specifically referencing Black Americans. His plan worked since the United States did indeed agree to pay for the pedestal if France paid for the actual statue, but it was a pivot away from the original idea.

Édouard de Laboulaye was a French abolitionist and it was he, along with his social circle of abolitionists, who conceived of a massive gift to present to the United States after the Civil War — once slavery was outlawed. The proposal of Lady Liberty initially held broken and shackles to signify the broken chains of slavery instead of the tablet she holds today. The chains eventually made their way into the final version down around her feet, the original significance lost to most people and barely noticed.

The years immediately following the Civil War were filled with promise for Black Americans and de Laboulaye wanted to recognize that. We made great strides in education, civic engagement, and politics, but the South regained its footing and struck a compromise in the 1876 Presidential Election that saw federal troops removed from the Old Confederacy. Black people were back in chains, invisible shackles placed on our communities through coalitions built between lawmakers and law enforcement, private businesses and private citizens. When Bartholdi finished Lady Liberty, there was no way to “sell” the idea to the United States as a celebration of slavery’s end. Black America hated the idea, because we were being oppressed, terrorized, and murdered, and White America would’ve scoffed, because they were doing the terrorizing. She was pitched as a symbol of liberty, immigrants saw her as the first welcoming image of the United States, and then the government solidified that feeling by using words from Emma Lazarus.

Today, it’s more important than ever to remember why the Statue of Liberty was conceived in the first place, not a symbol of general liberty and freedom, but as a symbol of Black liberty and freedom. We are still fighting to have our history accurately taught in schools. We are still fighting to be the country de Laboulaye thought we were becoming when slavery ended. And we are still fighting to live up to the promise Lady Liberty has symbolized to millions of immigrants. This little sister will probably be all over the news as we get closer to July 4th, so whenever you see her, make sure you remind somebody that the Statue of Liberty was supposed to be a gift to celebrate the end of slavery, but the US put Black people back in chains too quickly for her to actually symbolize liberty and freedom for us.

 

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