Requiem for Sandra — July 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman August 1st, 2015

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Sandra Bland is dead.

While many are concentrating on “how” she died, we must also face the reality of “why” she died. All of the circumstances surrounding her death notwithstanding, Sandra is still dead. I cannot help but think that along the three-day period from her arrest to her final moments in that lonely and frightening jail cell, there were opportunities to rescue her from such a horrible experience and tragic end.

This is not a rehash of all the conversations, utterances, conjecture, and theories put forth after Sandra died. Rather, this is a simple critique of what we all saw on video and heard from Sandra herself when she called someone to let them know her current status having received a $5,000.00 bond. To say the least, she was totally frustrated by entire situation.
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Why Sandra Bland died is also obviously connected to who played a role in her death, whether directly or indirectly. Where were the intervention points by which Sandra’s three-days of horror could have been stopped? Was there any way, leading up to her demise, for her to have survived?

She should have never been arrested in the first place, but after she was, what could have been done? My initial inquiry would be directed toward the person who shot the cellphone video, the one to whom the cop said, “You need to leave.” The bystander replied, “Is this public property?” That person obviously had enough backbone to refuse to leave and even question the officer’s order; but did he make any attempt to see what happened to Sandra after she was taken away thanking him for recording the incident?
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In such a small town, where I am sure the news of Sandra’s arrest got around pretty fast, I wonder if anyone at her new employer, Prairie View A&M University, knew about the incident on the day it took place. If someone did know, did they follow up to check on Sandra and make an effort to help her?

Surely there are a couple of Black lawyers in Prairie View as well. I am not a lawyer, but I know there is something called “habeas corpus,” which directs a person, usually a prison warden or jailer, to produce the prisoner and justify the prisoner’s detention. If the prisoner argues successfully that the incarceration is in violation of a constitutional right, the court may order the prisoner’s release. Am I misinformed about that legality?

Finally, there was the $5,000.00 bond, which called for ten percent to be paid—a measly $500.00—for Sandra to be released. Does anyone believe that $500.00 was such an enormous amount of money that Black folks in Prairie View could not raise it to pay her bond? Even the full $5,000.00 could have been put up by a group of people until Sandra’s family was able to send it or bring it to the court. Now we have to live with the fact that a major reason this young lady died is the lack of $500.00! Surely her life was worth far more than that.
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To have allowed her to stay in a cell for three days with no one checking on her from the outside, no one pursuing legal avenues to see and speak to her, no one willing to put up the miniscule bond for her release is embarrassing, irresponsible, and unconscionable.

We let Sandra down by failing to rescue her. Every photo I found of her contained a beautifully brilliant smile. The only ones in which she is not smiling were taken after she was arrested. We helped take her smile away.
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Since mid-July 2015, according to an article written by April V. Taylor on Kulture Kritic, five Black women have died in police custody. They should not be treated as mere conversational fodder for talk/news shows. We have a responsibility to be more proactive when these issues arise and not wait for our brothers and sisters to lose their lives before we act appropriately.

We may not like it and we may not agree with it, but Black folks are part of the “why” Sandra Bland met her demise. There are practical things that could and should have been done, not only by Black folks but by anyone interested in the fate of that young woman. We must admit that, learn from it, and act before other tragedies occur.
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Now that Sandra Bland is dead, many are wringing their hands and saying, yet again, how outrageous this is, how they are fed up, how this must stop, and how things must change. A lot of good that’s doing for Sandra Bland now. We are always late when it comes to dealing with these kinds of issues. In this case we were three days late and one sister’s life short. Sandra2Sandra9

 

 

Change is “On Us” — July 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman July 27th, 2015

In light of the conversations about police abuse, unwarranted stops and arrests, and homicide cases involving Black people and police officers, many Black people get angry, maybe have a march, and then go home to await the next incident. Some of our organizations do their usual thing by making loud threatening statements and then get back in line until the next crisis hits. amos wilsonAmos Wilson said, “Until our behavior changes, the behavior of those who oppress and abuse us will not change.” In other words, the onus for change is on us.

Many of you may not know about the UNIFORM REPORTING LAW ENFORCEMENT IMPROVEMENT ACT (URLEIA), which is proposed legislation that calls for the creation of a National Office of Civilian Oversight that hosts meetings across the nation to garner citizen input. Law Enforcement agents, their spouses, and unions are not permitted to attend or participate in the Civilian Oversight Conferences. These conferences are essentially designed to create policy that governs policing. Police unions and associations are largely responsible for developing the policing approaches we see in effect today; URLEIA will change that practice.

This legislative proposal is provided by ONUS, Inc., and Black Communities United for Progress (BCUP) for presentation to members of the United States Congress and the President of the United States. Now that’s what I call proactive work that will have a direct and positive effect on Black people. This is not just rhetorical bombast; this is attacking the problem of police brutality from a practical, logical, and legal perspective.

Immediately after a White woman was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco, Bill O’Reilly called for what he titled “Kate’s Law” to be passed by Congress. Within days 600,000 signatures were collected and members of Congress went to work to get the proposed law passed. They held hearings and brought the family of Kathryn Steinle to Washington to testify. They got swift action.

So where is the Tamir Rice law against cops shooting 12-year olds in less than two seconds? Where is the Eric Garner law against police officers choking a man to death? Where is John Crawford’s law that punishes department store employees for lying to 911 and cops from killing a person for holding a BB gun that is on the shelf of that store? Where is Sandra Bland’s Law that would send a cop to jail for falsely arresting a young lady who questioned why she had to put her cigarette out while seated in her own car? sandra-bland

Why hasn’t O’Reilly’s TV news counterpart, Al Sharpton, gone to his good friend, Barack Obama, and all his friends in the Black Caucus and gotten them to hold hearings and write Sandra’s Law?

Instead of real action we see our vaunted politicians genuflecting before the powers-that-be and our “Black” organizations, the NAACP and Urban League, walking 860 miles and issuing an annual report that tells us how bad our situation is, respectively.

This is exactly why we need and must support ONUS, Inc. and its URLEIA legislation. Instead of symbolic gestures, “ONUS is calling upon Congressional leaders to sponsor, endorse and enact the provisions contained in URLEIA in order to stop law enforcement agents from wreaking havoc on Black Americans…” says Jerroll Sanders, ONUS, Inc. President and CEO. Jerroll

Sanders states, “The contents of the URLEIA legislative proposal stand in stark contrast to H.R. 2875—a bill titled the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act of 2015 that is currently making its way through Congress. While H.R. 2875 provides additional funding for grants and U.S. Department of Justice policing oversight activities and promotes the creation of national training, accreditation and operating standards, it provides few real solutions to adequately address America’s racist policing problem.

I would add that H.R. 2875 creates a National Task Force on law enforcement oversight composed of individuals appointed by the Attorney General from various DOJ bureaus. The AG’s task force will consult with professional law enforcement associations, labor organizations and “community-based organizations.” Along with a few other loosely worded recommendations, of course, the usual suspects, to and through which funds would be channeled are named outright, i.e. NAACP and Urban League.

“URLEIA, on the other hand, addresses the root cause of police brutality in black communities by holding law enforcement agents accountable for the actions and sealing loopholes that currently allow perpetrators of police brutality to walk free,” Ms. Sanders continues, “URLEIA is the type of tough legislation Black Americans have been demanding in order to bring a permanent end to centuries of police brutality and abuse.”

Please go to www.changeisonus.org and read the URLEIA legislation for yourself, and then support it by supporting ONUS. If all we do is say we need change, we will never obtain it. It takes work, and ONUS is doing that work. Get involved.

 

 

The “After-Math” — July 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman July 20th, 2015

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Now that the confederate flag has been taken down, complete with honor guard and pomp and circumstance, what are Black folks going to do now? Another question is, “what does the math of the aftermath look like?” Everything boils down to economics/business at some point, so let’s take a look at the past few weeks to see what has really taken place.

After all the bluster, the tears, the rallies, the sermons, the rhymes, and the confrontations between pro and anti-flag folks, the sales of confederate flags show an exponential increase. Like never before, folks are driving around with two and sometimes more flags attached to and unfurled on their vehicles.

Stores that sell the flags experienced Christmas in July when it came to their sales revenues. The flag was in high demand, and still is. Thus, the math connected to the aftermath of the flag controversy has already resulted in profits for those who sell it, Walmart and Amazon notwithstanding. Confederate flag hats, shirts, posters, underwear, etc. have suddenly experienced high demand as well. I am not mad at those folks for profiting from the flag. It’s simply part of the “After-Math” involved in protests and other collective strivings. I can hear the storeowners now saying, “Yee-Haaaah!” as they make their way to the bank.

Now let’s look at the “After-Math” for Black folks. First of all the discussion of the flag literally overshadowed the fact that nine Black folks had been killed by Dylann Roof. If that flag had not been in the photos of him, it would not have even come up as an issue and would probably still be flying on the state capitol grounds. It became the focus of our attention rather than the victims of that heinous crime, as if the flag made this guy go to that church and shoot these people. Heck, if the flag had that much power, there would be a lot more us dead from its mesmerizing allure and gravitational pull on mass murderers of Black people.
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Many Blacks are now left with a feeling of euphoric victory because the flag is down; they have called off a fifteen year boycott of the state and the NCAA announced it has lifted its ban on holding events there. Uh oh, here comes the money. What will South Carolina Black vendors and contractors get from that?

On several occasions I saw South Carolina State Senator, Marlon Kimpson, on CNN saying the most important thing for Black people in his state is economic empowerment. He warned that folks should never lose sight of that, even in the aftermath of such a tragedy. Of course, he is right, but will Black folks have seats on the money train coming through the state because the flag is gone?

I had the privilege to speak to a group of Black business owners in Columbia, SC on July 11, 2015, after which many of the attendees shared their feelings about the flag controversy. Their words were similar to Kimpson’s. They felt the flag was a distraction, a diversion to what is really important to Black people as we try to survive and thrive in the land of plenty. They know what time is it. I told them now’s the time to really test Governor Haley’s compassion and empathy for Black people.Haley I suggested they go to her and make demands for reciprocity for their tax dollars by opening up the channels for economic inclusion in government purchasing and development.

Now that the private sector has shown its willingness to capitulate to the pressure, go to them and demand they also capitulate to calls for equity in their construction, professional services, and supplier deals. In other words, Blacks in South Carolina should do the “After-Math” of the flag brouhaha and make sure their benefit is more than just a good feeling. And what about the University of South Carolina, which makes a tremendous amount of money from the participation by Black athletes in their various programs? How many Black companies have contracts with that school?

Black folks celebrated the unveiling of the MLK statue, but a Chinese man got the $10 million to sculpt it, and used stone not from Elberton, Georgia, but from China.mlk-memorial-statue Each year thousands of people go to Selma and stand on the bridge, crying and making speeches; from their vantage point they can see 40% poverty in the town they celebrate. What is the economic “After-Math” of fifty years of that?

The beat goes on with superfluous issues such as flags and now maybe even the carved images on Stone Mountain, but in the aftermath of these kinds of symbolic victories, Black folks must also take a very close look at the “After-Math.”

 

 

Putty People — July 2015

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman July 7th, 2015

Incidents over just the past two months have taken Black folks on the psychological ride of our lives. The White woman in Spokane, Washington, who passed as Black caught and held our attention; then there was the McKinney, Texas pool party incident; and then the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare, the confederate flag, and the passage of the gay marriage issue. Top that off with Walter Scott being shot down, Malissa Williams’ and Timothy Russell’s killers going unpunished for firing 137 bullets into their car, Tamir Rice being killed in less than two seconds after cops rolled up on him in a park, Freddie Gray, and the nine church members killed during Bible study.

It’s easy to see how Black folks can be so off balance and unfocused. And to think we haven’t even finished dealing with the Eric Garner case. (For some, the “I Can’t breathe” t-shirts worn by NBA players was enough in response to Garner’s death.) We are constantly bombarded with so many tangential issues that keep us from concentrating the important ones. Life is the most important thing we have, but we are so easily swayed from cases like Eric Garner’s, to superficial issues like flags.

We are such a pliable people, and dominant society knows that all too well. We will jump on any superfluous issue the media present to us and neglect the substantive ones. We are like putty in the hands of folks about whom we complain; they can shape us into anything they want us to be, and use us in any way that fits their agendas.

A media firestorm began when the President’s said “Nigger” in an interview. Many of us were steaming, others thought it was alright, and still others didn’t care at all. Nonetheless, our heads and our attention turned to that issue, and no sooner than we started to recover from the lack of oxygen caused by the White/Black NAACP branch president, we moved right into discussions and arguments about a word that the NAACP “buried” in 2007 at its convention in Detroit. There must have been a resurrection, huh?

Then, all of a sudden, after nine people are killed, the confederate flag becomes such a vicious symbol that it now has to come down. Private corporations called for its removal and stores took the flag off their shelves, quite obviously in an effort to get in front of the issue and show Black folks they really care about our feelings. Politicians did their usual thing by calling for the flag to be taken down; it seems the flag has become more important than the lives that were taken.
If the flag is so important now, it was just as important in 2000, when the boycott of South Carolina’s tourism industry was called. All they had to do back then was move the flag to another location. Reflecting on the tourism dollars lost, I am sure the folks in Charleston said, we had better do something quick before our money starts drying up again.

Another flag is also in the public scrutiny; it’s the gay pride flag. Black folks are arguing whether we should support or lambaste the Supremes for their actions, which were followed by the President calling the plaintiff to congratulate him and telling him he had changed this country, and then illuminating the White House with the rainbow colors of the gay pride flag.
Then there’s the real hook, line, and sinker for Black folks. The POTUS did his Black preacher thing and then broke out in song at the funeral of the nine murder victims. That did it for many of us. By the way, I wonder how many of us know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that the POTUS signed. “Don’t bother us with that stuff, Jim; we’re still hummin’ Amazin’ Grace—on the black keys.”

As we continue to major in the minors, constantly allowing ourselves to be dragged into nonsensical and nonproductive discussions, and held hostage by talking-head puppets on TV, the world is moving forward at a very fast pace. Our people are being killed at an alarming rate, not only by cops and fanatics but also by other Black folks. We are slipping further behind other groups in this nation when it comes to economic/political empowerment and education. We are gnashing our teeth about the disproportionately high incarceration of Black men and women. All of this, and much more, negatively affects Black people, yet we are kept off stride by what the President says rather than what he does, by confederate flags, and by other peripheral inanimate objects.

Like putty in the hands of disingenuous politicians, greedy retailers, pompous preachers posing as everything but real preachers, and surreptitious interlopers, Black people are molded into exactly what they want us to be, and we end up doing exactly what they want us to do, which includes even placing symbolism over our existential substance.