tressiemc

some of us are brave

It Is Hard To Write While I’m Crying

It is hard to write while I am crying so this will be short. Plus, everybody else has already written All The Things. I just want to park a short reflection about Freddie Gray, Baltimore and our state of things more broadly.

I spent the day yesterday arguing with, well, everybody (it felt like) about rioting being a LEGITIMATE civic activity in a majority rule corporatocracy. I got lit up, to put it mildly. But I believe what I believe and I’m working on courage so I stand by it. I believe that we don’t get this today — this, the State acknowledging the value of a black human life — without a burned CVS and, yes, even a senior citizen community. Some people think that the cost isn’t worth it. Those people are alive so maybe they wouldn’t. But I believe it is worth it because I think life is more valuable than property and that, indeed, property depends upon life (not the other way around). Civil cases put a sticker price on dead bodies, reducing black people especially to an accounting scheme that reinscribes structural discounting of black life chances onto our very graves. We are worth X amount of dollars because of racism so our full value can never be counted by racist institutions. Actuarial science is not justice. Defending black life in the criminal justice system says we are more than a dollar amount pay-out even if it too can never fully count our costs. I think that matters.

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15 comments on “It Is Hard To Write While I’m Crying

  1. Stuart Chignell
    June 11, 2015

    I’ve haven’t kept pace with the comments in this thread so forgive me if this point has been made.

    I generally would condemn rioting as a form of demonstration because often in using violence you abandon the moral high ground and it tend to galvanise opposition. Also its not nice to hit people.

    However, I was reading this post the other day:

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-ways-powerful-people-trick-you-into-hating-underdogs/

    Violence does has its place. Some times a threat warrants a violent response but the picture of Jesus tipping over tables in the temple and whipping the merchants with his whip is a particularly image to use to demonstrate that sometimes violence is warranted.

  2. CStanford
    May 6, 2015

    Stick to your guns. Human life is infinitely more valuable than property. “Respect for property,” “respect for law and order” are too easily made masks to hide contempt for human life. Stand by your convictions.

  3. stephen matlock
    May 5, 2015

    Great interview with Grace Lee Boggs (whom, I must confess, I knew nothing about before this). She has the gimlet eye to see right into the heart of the matter.

  4. For rsmit3: First, MLK is not God–he was a human being, not an angel sent with The Truth from on high (or wherever). Second, we need to be careful when we presume to know what MLK (or anyone) would say, when we have been brainwashed into accepting the major media image of his beliefs and values. Check out these statements he actually made on “rioting”: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/riot-language-unheard-9-mlk-quotes-mainstream-media-wont-cite

    As for the wider picture, the complexity is immense. After 50+ years of listening, reading, researching social values, I just today learned about the evidently common practice of a police “rough ride” and the 6-8 or more times the City of Baltimore has had to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars to victims–one a man thrown into the Police van for urinating in pubic, who, after the “rough ride,” was left a quadruplegic, and died. But, as an anthropologist, I was at least taught to recognize this as an in-house “culture” of policing, in line with many other secret or semi-hidden “cultures” of unethical, even downright evil, business practices. Seems even our chimp cousins will dissemble to run off with more bananas.

    As for people who say “How can you burn down your city?” Note: CVS, The Gap, Whole Foods, Exxon, et al. are NOT local or minority businesses, but huge national or multi-national corporations that install “self-serve” machines instead of hiring local clerks, to serve their investors by extracting wealth from poor communities. This is the same reason young white men with no cause other than Sports Fever, can get drunk, pee & vomit in the streets, overturn cars & trash-cans, and vandalize buildings–they are in downtown Detroit (or wherever), not “their” suburbs.

    • rsmit3
      May 2, 2015

      First, I read the King comments you referenced. He condemns rioting, at the same time condemning the conditions that precipitated them. Not exactly a full-throated endorsement. But, he did get legislation passed, his methods worked. We can only speculate as to what more he might of accomplished had he lived.

      Second, the “rough ride” is despicable. Those guilty of this practice should be…I’m having trouble thinking of something bad enough to do to them. Suffice to say, they should be fired and prosecuted.

      Third, White rioters are no better than Black rioters.

      Fourth, I condemn the practice of big corporations coming into neighborhoods, driving out small business, and often leaving when their profits are not high enough. That said, capital for business will find a hard time making its way into neighborhoods that explode into violence.

      Finally, the policemen have been charged and will make their way through the justice system. What will happen if they are acquitted? Gray’s parents have already said “we got them all”. Did they? Not yet. I don’t have a lot of certainty that there will be convictions, and if there are, they may well be minor. I fear that the deck is stacked. What happens then?

    • rsmit3
      May 2, 2015

      The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
      begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
      Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
      Through violence you may murder the liar,
      but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
      Through violence you may murder the hater,
      but you do not murder hate.
      In fact, violence merely increases hate.
      So it goes.
      Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
      adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
      Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
      only light can do that.
      Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

      Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  5. rsmit3
    May 1, 2015

    By rioting, the Black community rejects the teaching of Martin King. That may or may not be the intent, but that is the effect. As a White person, I cannot expect to know the anguish of Blacks as they fight the justice system, and I fully accept the notion that there is institutional racism in police depts, but rioting sets back your cause. It just does. Businesses move out of Black neighborhoods, experienced teachers won’t go to Black schools, people won’t visit attractions near Black areas. That’s not racism, it’s self-preservation. Nobody wants to get involved in riot. Nobody wants their business looted and burned. Nobody wants to risk the lives of their families in an area that might explode into violence. Black citizens pay a premium for everything because the cost of doing business in a Black neighborhood is perceived as higher. Check cashing services abound, not banks. Groceries are are more expensive because they must been purchased at convenience stores instead of groceries stores.

    I don’t believe that there is more racism now than before. I believe that we find out about it more. 25 years ago, Freddie Gray’s death would have gone unmentioned, unnoticed. Today, social media has effectively removed the notion of privacy, for good or ill. The policemen involved in Gray’s death have been charged, so that’s start.

    I’m sorry you’re crying, but you are not alone.

    • katherinejlegry
      May 2, 2015

      Forgive me for this excerpt being so dang long, but it’s best to go long-view on this so that you don’t badger Tressie…
      The interview is from 2007.

      BILL MOYERS: Let me take you back to that terrible summer of 1967, when Detroit erupted into that awful riot out there.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I ask you to think about your calling it a riot.

      BILL MOYERS: What would you call it?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: We in Detroit called it the rebellion.

      BILL MOYERS: The rebellion?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: And because we understand that there was a righteousness about the young people rising up — it was a rising up, it was a standing up, by young people.

      BILL MOYERS: Against?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Against both the police, which they considered an occupation army, and against what they sensed had become their expendability because of high-tech. That what black people had been valued for, for hundreds of years, only for their labor, was now being taken away from them.

      BILL MOYERS: And you think that this question of work was at the heart of what happened– or it was part of what happened in Detroit that summer?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don’t think it’s that they were conscious of it, but I thought– what I saw happen was that young people who recognized that working in the factory was what had allowed their parents to buy a house, to raise a family, to get married, to send their kids to school, that was eroding. They felt that– no one cares anymore.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: And what we tried to do is explain that a rebellion is righteous, because it’s the protest by a people against injustice, because of unrighteous situation, but it’s not enough. You have to go beyond rebellion. And it was amazing, a turning point in my life, because until that time, I had not made a distinction between a rebellion and revolution. And it forced us to begin thinking, what does a revolution mean? How does it relate to evolution?

      BILL MOYERS: The violence in Detroit brought some new thinking about a strategy for change. After seeing how anger and frustration could turn so quickly into chaos, Boggs began to take a closer look at the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr.

      She had been slow to appreciate King’s spiritual journey or his belief in non-violence. But now she discovered that King, too, was wrestling with how to go beyond the civil rights movement to a profound transformation of society.

      By this point, King had realized it wasn’t enough just to end racial segregation in the south. In the spring of 1967, he came to New York’s historic Riverside Church to challenge inequality throughout America — and to link conditions at home to the nation’s war in Southeast Asia.

      MARTIN LUTHER KING: I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam… The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

      BILL MOYERS: The conundrum for me is this; The war in Vietnam continued another seven years after Martin Luther King’s great speech at Riverside here in New York City on April 4th, 1967. His moral argument did not take hold with the powers-that-be.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don’t expect moral arguments to take hold with the powers-that-be. They are in their positions of power. They are part of the system. They are part of the problem.

      BILL MOYERS: Then do moral arguments have any force if they–

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Of course they do.

      BILL MOYERS: If they can be so heedlessly ignored?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think because we depend too much on the government to do it. I think we’re not looking sufficiently at what is happening at the grassroots in the country. We have not emphasized sufficiently the cultural revolution that we have to make among ourselves in order to force the government to do differently. Things do not start with governments–

      BILL MOYERS: But wars do.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: There’s big changes–

      BILL MOYERS: Wars do. Wars do.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Wars do. But positive changes leaps forward in the evolution of human kind, do not start with governments. I think that’s what the Civil Rights Movement taught us.

      BILL MOYERS: But Martin Luther King was ignored then on the war. In fact, the last few years of his life, as he was moving beyond the protest in the South, and the end of official segregation, he was largely ignored if not ridiculed for his position on economic equality. Upon doing something about poverty. And, in fact, many civil rights leaders, as you remember, Grace, condemned him for mixing foreign policy with civil rights. They said; That’s not what we should be about.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: But see, what I hear in what you’re saying is a separation of the anti-war speech of the peace trajectory, from the other things that Martin said. He was talking about a radical revolution of values. And that radical revolution of values has not been pursued in the last forty years. The consumerism, and materialism, has gotten worse. The militarism has continued, while people are going around, you know just using their credit cards. All that’s been taking place. And so, would he have continued to challenge those? I think he would. But on the whole, our society has not been challenging those, except in small pockets.

      BILL MOYERS: He said that the three triplets of society in America were; Racism, consumerism or materialism and militarism. And you’re saying those haven’t changed.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I’m saying that not only have those not changed, but people have isolated the struggles against each of these from the other. They have not seen that they’re part of one whole of a radical revolution of values that we all must undergo.

      BILL MOYERS: Whose failing is that?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I’m not sure I would use the word ‘failing.’ I would say that people who have engaged in one struggle tend to be locked into that struggle.

      BILL MOYERS: When you look back, who do you think was closer to the truth? Karl Marx or Martin Luther King? The truth about human society.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: King was an extraordinary thinker. He understood — he read Marx. He was serious about reading Marx. He was also serious about reading Hegel, about reading Gandhi, about the Bible, Jesus Christ and Christianity. So Marx belongs to a particular period. I think that the anti-Marxist King was not an anti-Marxist. He was a man of his time.

      BILL MOYERS: I’ve often wondered, Grace, if Martin Luther King would have been more effective, if he’d been slightly more radical.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: First of all, I find it difficult to understand what “more radical” means.

      BILL MOYERS: If he had challenged the system more, the interlocking relationship between power, both in the economy and power in Washington.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: You know, Bill, to develop your ideas to meet the crisis that you’re faced with, takes time. King, from ’65 August to April 1968, only had three years, and he was moving very fast. It takes time. what we need to do is not to fault him for not having done in the few years that he had. What we need to do now, we need to build on what he did. That’s what the movement’s about, building on what you learned from the past.

      BILL MOYERS: Yes, but where is the sign of the movement today?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I believe that we are at the point now, in the United States, where a movement is beginning to emerge. I think that the calamity, the quagmire of the Iraq war, the outsourcing of jobs, the drop-out of young people from the education system, the monstrous growth of the prison-industrial complex, the planetary emergency, which we are engulfed at the present moment, is demanding that instead of just complaining about these things, instead of just protesting about these things, we begin to look for, and hope for, another way of living. And I think that’s where the movement — I see a movement beginning to emerge, ’cause I see hope beginning to trump despair.

      BILL MOYERS: Where do you see the signs of it?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I see the signs in the various small groups that are emerging all over the place to try and regain our humanity in very practical ways. For example in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Will Allen, who is a former basketball player has purchased two and a half acres of land, with five greenhouses on it, and he is beginning to grow food, healthy food for his community. And communities are growing up around that idea. I mean, that’s a huge change in the way that we think of the city. I mean, the things we have to restore are so elemental. Not just food, and not just healthy food, but a different way of relating to time and history and to the earth.

      BILL MOYERS: And a garden does that for you?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes. A garden does all sorts of things. It helps young people to relate to the Earth in a different way. It helps them to relate to their elders in a different way. It helps them to think of time in a different way.

      BILL MOYERS: How so?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, if we just press a button, and you think that’s the key to reality, you’re in a hell of a mess of a human being.

      BILL MOYERS: So it is that this woman who marched and agitated and argued in mass movements and social protests for over 70 years…has come full circle…to find seeds of hope in small places where people work quietly and patiently on every imaginable front.

      Man # 1: We work on trying to change policies for homeless people.

      Man # 2: I think information is power

      BILL MOYERS: They get little public attention….although they’re concerned with the most basic human needs…

      Man # 3: We want jobs that actually empower us, you know, and make it so that you actually have a say in what happens at your workplace.

      BILL MOYERS: These days, Boggs works through what’s known as the Beloved Community Initiative to encourage people like this in cities across the country to see themselves as crucial to how democracy works. And for whom.

      BILL MOYERS: You know, you didn’t have to come here this past weekend. You’re 91 years old. Why did you come?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Because I think the initiative that I am part of, the beloved communities initiative, is identifying and helping to bring together small groups who are making this cultural revolution that we so urgently need in our country.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: And I see this as part of a pilgrimage which human beings have been embarked on for thousands and tens of thousands of years. People think of evolution mainly in terms of anatomical changes. I think that we have to think of evolution in terms of very elemental human changes. And so, we’re evolving both through our knowledge and through our experiences to another a stage of humankind. So, revolution and evolution are no longer so separate.

      BILL MOYERS: But the economic system doesn’t reflect this evolution. Outsourcing of jobs, the flight of capital, the power of capital over workers. All of that has– the system isn’t catching up this.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, just don’t expect the system to catch up, the system is part of the system! What I think is that, not since the 30s have American– have the American people, the ordinary Americans faced such uncertainty with regard to the economic system. In the 30s, what we did, was we confronted management and were able, thereby to gain many advantages, particularly to gain a respect for the dignity of labor. That’s no longer possible today, because of the ability of corporations to fly all over the place and begin setting up– all this outsourcing. So, we’re gonna have – people are finding other ways to regain control over the way they make their living.

      BILL MOYERS: You know, a lot of young people out there would agree with your analysis. With your diagnosis. And then they will say; What can I do that’s practical? How do I make the difference that Grace Lee Boggs is taking about. What would you be doing?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I would say do something local. Do something real, however, small. And don’t diss the political things, but understand their limitations.

      BILL MOYERS: Don’t ‘diss’ them?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Disrespect them.

      BILL MOYERS: Disrespect them?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Understand their limitations. Politics — there was a time when we believed that if we just achieved political power it would solve all our problems. And I think what we learned from experiences of the Russian Revolution, all those revolutions, that those who become– who try to get power in the state, become part of the state. They become locked in to the practices. And we have to begin creating new practices.

      BILL MOYERS: What will it take for this next round of change that you see as promising? What would it take?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: It takes discussions like this. I mean, it takes a whole lot of things. It takes people doing things. It takes people talking about things. It takes dialogue. It takes changing the whole lot of ways by which we think.

      BILL MOYERS: Do you see any leaders who are advocating that change? I mean, people that we would all recognize, anybody we’d all recognize?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don’t see any leaders, and I think we have to rethink the concept of “leader.” ‘Cause “leader” implies “follower.” And, so many– not so many, but I think we need to appropriate, embrace the idea that we are the leaders we’ve been looking for.

      BILL MOYERS: Grace Lee Boggs, thank you very much.

      • rsmit3
        May 2, 2015

        This is very good. 2 questions, though. 1, if the rebellion is against the police, an occupying army, does she advocate the police just getting out of the neighborhood and leaving them to their own devices? 2, did it work?

        • katherinejlegry
          May 3, 2015

          Educate yourself. You’re not asking the right questions. Read this book:

          to read Michelle Alexander’s book free online you can click on the following link: http://communitysuccess.org/sites/default/files/u9/Alexander-The%20New%20Jim%20Crow.PDF

        • katherinejlegry
          May 3, 2015

          the book recommendation for Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Massive Incarceration in the age of colorblindness, is in reply to rsmit3 incase that wasn’t a clear thread.

      • VanessaVaile
        May 8, 2015

        Thank you, Katherine, for laying what I have been remembering and was about to write on without as much back up ~ just comments from that time to the effect that shooting looters proves the establishment values property over life.

        • katherinejlegry
          May 8, 2015

          Thank you too Vanessa. I think this author is very courageous writing from a place of rebellion and truth.

          Certainly it’s bringing to light a lot of fear and hate because people don’t like the “punishment” they see in reaction to the establishment, which is the patriarchal white supremacist military industrial massive incarceration establishment. Meanwhile presidential candidates politicians are dropping the right memes while still supporting military funding as well as militarizing our police force. They are using the “black lives matters” cause to insist on controlled forms of protest in order to pacify and appease which is another form of policing.

          I’m not an advocate for violence and I do want peace… but that’s a simplistic view in the face of what’s happening at home and abroad. Our entire economy is a debtor not a lender and so we enforce our power through the military. we get money from war and prisons. So… politics are local and we need to keep talking.

          Hope you have a beautiful day… we all need to keep our spirits up and goals in mind. 🙂

  6. priyanka
    May 1, 2015

    Every human being matters. Every life matters .

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