GOOD

Dreaming of Walter Scott

…And Eric Harris, and Freddie Gray, whose videotaped deaths are feeding the nightmares of black Americans.

Technology has made it difficult for me not to be made aware of yet another black life snuffed out by a police officer who felt “threatened.” The endless timelines of social media forge impressions on my memory far more quickly and objectively than corporate media’s delayed and often biased take. When Michael Brown was killed, tweets from and about Ferguson’s peacefully protesting citizens facing an asymmetrical response from law enforcement served as counter-programming to CNN’s endless loop of the alleged Swisher Sweets heist that may have set his murder in motion. Over the last several months, I have had encounters with individuals for whom such “causes” justified such fatal, undignified “effects” for too many unarmed, black citizens. And in dealing with that insensitivity, my anger seems to render words inadequate.


Not long ago, I was told by a white acquaintance that I should use an instance of someone’s ignorant, racist bullshit as a “teachable moment.” But only in the mind of the privileged is it the responsibility of the oppressed to educate the hateful. One need only to pay attention, even in short spurts, to receive all the education necessary. White America required possibly the most clear-cut footage of a police execution of a black American to date, video of the Walter Scott shooting, to confirm in their minds what blacks have known for generations.

I’ve had trouble wiping the image of Scott’s lifeless body from my mind, the North Charleston man being handcuffed as killer-cop Michael Slager attempted to cover his tracks. In Scott, I cannot help but see my uncle, whose family lives in South Carolina. I imagine him running like Scott did, with everything he had, desperate for life, or at least for the fleeting last few seconds of it, not realizing that he is but moments from being plunged into oblivion. I often have dreams where I’m running, impossibly fast and far. And I’ve certainly been dream-chased by police, unsure of what my dream-self did exactly, like many who have died with their hands up or backs turned.

Not long after the video of Scott’s death came out in the press, Americans learned of another shooting, this time in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the surreal footage showing Eric Harris, with an officer’s knee on the back of his neck, fully restrained and having just been shot by a modern-day Keystone Cop, cry out “I can’t breathe!” The officer’s reply to a statement-turned-motto by Eric Garner’s similar ordeal could be heard faintly: “Fuck your breath!”

Team “Well, why’d he run if he was innocent?” cannot seem to acknowledge black humanity even in the face of police actions as egregious as these. And those with some decency and common sense can still seem less than sympathetic. Some of my white friends’ “Don’t worry, be happy” outlooks can be difficult for me to connect with after viewing another Twitter feed full of commentary on police brutality, or a televised interview with tearful, grieving parents. I know the answer is not to “stop looking at it,” as some have tried to persuade me to do. I feel as though that’s the worst thing I could do, to feign ignorance as a salve for the trauma of these 21st century lynchings.

Only the privileged can turn their backs on the crisis at hand, blame social media for blowing things out of proportion, or ask why people are protesting. I mostly take issue with how some white people in my life can continue to skate through their mundane lives, unfettered and unafraid, while I can’t get the image of Walter Scott running for his life out of my head. A lifelong fear of the police has been ratcheted up markedly in the last year alone. Silence, whether out of fear, ignorance, or simply the comfort of white privilege, is complicity. At this point, we don’t need allies. We need warriors.

And asking why he ran, or whether we’ve stopped to look at the victim’s criminal past, indicates nothing short of an endorsement of a law enforcement culture that finds the act of fleeing/driving/existing while black punishable by death. Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1985 (Tennessee v. Garner) that using deadly force in such instances was “unconstitutional insofar as it authorizes the use of deadly force against, as in this case, an apparently unarmed, nondangerous fleeing suspect...”

Most recently, in Baltimore, and then internationally, Freddie Gray’s name has rung out. Arrested by Baltimore police “without incident,” as the department was quick to note, for wielding a pocketknife, all signs point to a vicious beating at the hands of police in a van following that arrest as Gray’s cause of death a week later, sparking outrage that is all too familiar. Fellow Baltimorean Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs and Somebody’s Gotta Do It fame) has complained about Baltimore’s image, which he feels has been sullied by the “crack whores” and “drug dealers” depicted on The Wire. Yet Gray’s death is like a chilling subplot from the HBO drama, and its thin line between art and life is why I’ll recommend the series to my dying days. There are those who would love nothing more than for Baltimore (and cities like it) to be an endless expanse of bars, restaurants, and boutiques, with the supposed blight of blackness wiped out—save for those hired to cook and clean at these superior establishments. These types are usually white, and they are usually the ones asking why he/she ran.

In the short time since Gray’s passing, I have already had to “educate” someone who felt it necessary to justify police murder by way of a victim’s past. And I say to Rowe and his ilk, if Baltimore police hadn’t beaten Freddie Gray so badly that his spinal cord was left severed and his larynx crushed, the international media would not be talking about Baltimore this time, in this manner. If they’d granted him the medical care he requested repeatedly, another black body’s blood would not be on yet another police department’s hands, and our mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, would not have to wring her hands while urging calm and patience.

The “All Lives Matter” crowd jumps through hoops to defend the seemingly indefensible actions of police run amok, actions that make it quite clear that some lives do appear to matter much more than others in our current society. I can no longer be shocked when some white person, eager to get my take, asks why someone resisted, what I think really happened, whether the cops felt threatened, and all sorts of other bullshit that I’m done being polite about.

Days before Gray was arrested, I received news that my cousin had been locked up, again. Not even a month ago, I’d visited him in jail, had a heart-to-heart and related my own experiences and my willingness to help him get back on his feet. I’d thought that I’d made a real connection, but my expectations had gotten the best of me. That I could finally be of service to a kid who had looked up to me his whole life was genuinely fulfilling in a way I didn’t think possible.

Now I legitimately fear that my cousin will meet a fate like that of Freddie Gray—if not tomorrow, then maybe years down the line, possibly killed in police custody, with a local government short on answers and sympathy. The pain of having to digest too much death too quickly from a distance is surely nothing compared to the pain of losing a loved one to this quietly state-sanctioned violence. But the vehement refusal to acknowledge our voices and lived experiences, which are now at least given a broader platform via the internet, allows for the justification of cops killing unarmed black people and going scot-free, as Rekia Boyd’s killer, Detective Dante Servin, did this week. With familiar, hope-sapping phrases like “suspended officers” and “independent reviews” being bandied about in Baltimore, this can be a different sort of pain altogether, the layers of the soul still raw from the “last one.”

The fact that decisive action was taken in the South Carolina case after the video broke worldwide could be viewed as swift justice at first glance. But in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson, and the negative attention it brought to a city government steeped in racial bias, it could also be construed as a municipality’s preemptive measure to avoid igniting turmoil. The “riots” that took place in Ferguson this past summer were the last resort of a black populace haunted by the specter of state violence and institutionalized bullying. Bearing witness, even by way of a screen, to this procession of macabre, brutal videos has a lingering effect on the soul. There is nothing guaranteeing that someone I love isn’t next, that I’m not next. I haven’t had any white friends tell me about their dreams about the Walter Scott video. A number of my black friends have.

Articles
via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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Culture
via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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Politics
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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