Thursday, April 30, 2015

fear and rage in America

People don't seem to understand the difference between being poor and being oppressed. You can be poor without being oppressed. I have been poor at times in my life but I have never been oppressed and it was easy for me as a white person to find employment (although not as easy as if I were a man) in order to better my circumstances.

Poor means you don't have enough money to pay all your bills and buy food. Poor means the quality of food that you can afford to buy is poor. Poor means you may not own a car and definitely don't own a house. Poor means you work for a pittance and have to have two or three jobs just to make ends meet. Poor means you wear hand me down clothes that you get at the thrift store. Poor means you can't go to the doctor when you get sick and just forget about the dentist. Poor means that you go to schools with no resources. Poor means having to drop out of school so you can get a job to help support your family.

Oppressed means that once you reach middle school, police are stopping you on your way to school to search your backpack. Oppressed means that if you drive through certain neighborhoods, you get pulled over by police. Oppressed means that when the police stop you for no good reason whatsoever, they start being physically abusive so that when you try to protect yourself, they arrest you for resisting arrest and once in police custody they beat the shit out of you. Oppressed means that when you stand up for your rights, the police arrest you. Oppressed means that the police bust into your house on a raid, throw a flash bang into your son's crib burning him severely, terrorize the occupants before finally figuring out that they are at the wrong house and they get away scott-free from all the damage, pain, and medical expenses they caused. Oppressed is being homeless and being shot dead in the back by police. Oppressed is the police arresting you over and over for blown out of proportion offenses or no offense at all in order to create a rap sheet that prevents you from gainful employment. Oppressed is the police not responding to your calls for help or if they do, someone gets killed. Oppressed is having your 14 year old daughter walk to the mailbox to fetch the mail and have police stop and throw her to the ground and arrest her for prostitution. Oppressed is waiting at the bus stop on your way to work and being arrested for prostitution. Oppressed is all the opportunities never even offered to you not because you are not qualified but because your skin is the wrong color or your name sounds black. Oppressed is being called a thug for burning cars and breaking shop windows if you are black but just a college boy letting off steam if you are white. Oppressed is being sent to jail for the same crime that a white person gets away with. Oppressed is being singled out by the police for abuse. Oppressed is the city abandoning any repairs or improvements in your neighborhood. Oppressed is having a peaceful demonstration and the police show up in riot gear with tear gas and batons and start abusing and arresting people. Oppressed is six cops beating you in the head and kicking you as you lay helpless on the ground. Oppressed is having no hope and no future and nothing to lose. Oppressed is being demonized by the press which never shows the good you do. Oppressed is being unarmed and murdered by the police and having them go free to do it again. Oppressed is people being in fear of you or thinking you are a 'taker' just because of the color of your skin.  Oppressed is being judged without anyone taking the trouble to find out what your story is.

These people in Baltimore and Ferguson and LA way before that and in many other communities in this country, they aren't just poor. They are poor and oppressed. That's been their past and is their future. You don't have to condone violence to understand it. But you do have to understand it to fix it.  

And you have to understand that these people are not in this situation from lack of will or effort or because they are lazy or ignorant or because they want to be criminals. These people are in this situation because they were born into it and have been systematically prevented from rising above it.

You can't pull yourself up by your own bootstraps if you don't have any boots and sometimes the rage and frustration at the injustice erupts.

And still, the oppressed will do this.


  1. The police are way out of control...they use deadly force for no reason, cop camera's are not the answer as they just passed a bill here to put cameras on cops they have cameras on the cars it brings the actions to light but it does not STOP the violence-the answer is accountability! Each of those cases you mentioned should have prosecuted and the cop who did it should have gone to jail! That is the answer. As for Oppression I live in SC where the upper middle class rule... and I have lived in NYC, the police force is brought in from all over America...mostly the Midwest! The have low tolerance to people of color. I was part of a 1/2 million people march when the GOP was there with George Bush on his second term as we marched up 8th Ave police lined our path with barricades and they were dressed in full riot gear, and had automatic weapons in their hands! It was a peaceful march and few problems but it showed me they are prepared to always use deadly force!

  2. You said it exactly right. And our government just does not recognize nor represent the oppressed. And so it will never end.

  3. Obama hasn't been able to do much about this, and I can't really see how any coming president can/will. In that sense it's no strange that the poor and oppressed don't even bother to vote. Why should they? No politician is willing to fight for their rights.

    Regarding violence and shooting by the police, I think this is also a cultural thing. I always found the gun culture in the US scaring. A major problem in the USA is that there are too many guns around.
    There are other countries where the police is able to resolve situations without the use of guns. They just use other methods that don't involve shooting (black) people. In UK, 90% of the police force is unarmed. Our police force has never been carrying guns, except in very special situations.

    Cold As Heaven

  4. Somehow we've quite working to make society better. The we who go the polls. The generation that should have learned from Watts and Birmingham grew old and tired, or old and afraid. The old republicans, from Eisenhower on through Nixon believed in the middle class, believed a rising tide lifts all boats. The most of us out here now seem indifferent or hopeless. I truly do not know what can be done except what must be done by the majority--starting with law enforcement.

  5. History does seem to repeat, doesn't it? I am afraid that I have been right in thinking that my grandchildren will have to fight in a revolution. Our government is corrupt on every level and shit flows downhill, making it's way into our police force.

  6. What is different today is pictures. This stuff with the cops has been going on forever but no one could ever prove it and so couldn't share it. Now that there are pictures as these atrocities occur, the oppressed are beginning to stand up and as they stand up others begin to stand beside them. I sound like I'm advocating violence but is there an alternative? If there is no violence, people won't listen. I hate the idea of anarchy but things will not change without it I'm afraid. The thing is "things" could change for the worse. Hello Brave New World.

  7. Thanks for this powerful post. I read it twice. I don't think I've properly considered the distinction between poor and oppressed. This is a powerful reminder.

  8. Those are real men standing in that line.

    I found a design on the net for Bluebird houses that I make 8 for about 30 bucks.

  9. I don't know what else to say except, well said. I agree with every word.

  10. Such a powerful post, and you are so right. I don't think most light skinned Americans have a clue what this country feels like for those with darker skin. It's shameful, what is happening in our cities. I had a very uncomfortable conversation with a friend who used Freddie Gray's rap sheet as justification for what happened to him, as if anything justified his murder!
    Thank you for writing this post.


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