Where Are All the Black Non-Liberals?

It appears, they’re all somewhere on YouTube. If you’re a click hole fiend like me, your recommendations list has been populated with some interesting suggestions. Aba & Preach? Yes! Classically Abby? Not so much…

The times we’re living in has me consuming more socially and politically charged content, diverse opinions all along the spectrum, but my discoveries made one thing very apparent: if you are looking for conservative or moderate black representation on network TV, it’s slim pickings. Yes, there’s Juan Williams and Harris Faulkner, but that’s cable and even then, there’s only two. There’s something conspiratorial about the lack of right-leaning (or even middle of the road) black voices on major networks.

We know they exist, and perhaps, their presence would be especially helpful in debunking the myth that Black people are largely Democrats and liberal. It would be interesting to hear conversation about issues affecting minority communities from a minority who isn’t bleeding blue. The topics worthy of discussion are complicated and multi-faceted and would only benefit from varied perspectives.

But maybe there’s a reason why that’s not desirable on network TV…

‘Karen’ and the New Misogyny

What did you notice about the reporting in that video? How many people confronted the man? Two. How many people are being spoken about? One. Why?

There was Permit Patty, BBQ Becky, Cornerstone Caroline and then came the catch-all term to end all catch-all terms: ‘Karen.’ White, usually middle aged and certain that white-ness confers an authority that can be wielded freely on any unsuspecting black person (or POC). And ‘Karen,’ of course, is a woman. There’s Chad and Kyle or Earl, remember him? Come to think of it, we never heard from Earl again, which likely means he received a settlement to not sue his employer for wrongful termination and as a condition of the agreement, cannot speak on the incident. A favorable outcome not offered to the favorite villain of social media: the privileged white woman.

Twitter makes quick work: names and places of work were called out. A short while later, here come the apologies. Did you notice anything about their statements? Who actually called the police? Mr. Larkins, the other man in the viral video. Shouldn’t all the fiery accusations then be squarely on his shoulders? It’s not. Why not? Maybe it’s her appearance (a hideous picture, worthy of meme-ification) or her irritatingly sweet, condescending tone or maybe there’s something to be said for our culture’s comfort in destroying women in a way that we don’t men.

Sure, there’s ‘Chad’ and ‘Kyle’, but they don’t make front page news because ‘they’ run the newspapers, TV stations and networks. White people calling the police on POC isn’t new, so why is it news? Look at the year when Permit Patty, BBQ Becky, Hotel Earl and Cornerstone Caroline stories happened: all in 2018, an election year. And now, in 2020, we have a new crop of Karens: Lisa Alexander, Alison Roman and Amy Cooper (who’s behavior was more vitriolic, IMO). More destruction of women (disguised as social justice) and really, no men in sight. Are we to believe that white women are disproportionately more likely to call the police? Sure.

We think our outrage informs what gets covered, it doesn’t. It only gives us clues as to who’s actually controlling the narrative.

UPDATE: The Karina Vetrano Case

The Howard Beach jogger’s murder case is set for a re-trial.

Sometime ago, I wrote about Chanel Lewis, the accused killer of jogger, Karina Vetrano. The murder took place back in 2016 and about six months later, the NYPD arrested Lewis and charged him with murder and almost immediately, I was sure they didn’t have the right guy. Chief among my concerns was that neither physical evidence nor eyewitness testimony led the police to him, a suspicious cop did. That was my first red flag and now that the case ended in a mistrial and a new trial is set to begin later this month, I have a couple more to wave:

red flag

“This woman put up a ferocious fight, right to the end. She was beaten quite severely, which would suggest she put up a big fight,” 

– Chief of Detectives, Robert Boyce

The above description is based on the fact that when Ms. Vetrano’s body was found, she was covered in scratches, had broken teeth and was strangled with such force, that the killer’s hand print was marked into her neck. Contrast that description with the one in Mr. Lewis’ medical record, from a visit to the doctor the day after the murder: “Head atraumatic, neck supple. No other injury.” The injury to his hand, described as ‘superficial.’ This woman fought for her life and the accused has no markings to show for it? She was a frequent runner, in reasonably good shape. Whoever murdered and assaulted her would, at the very least, have some scratches and bruising; Mr. Lewis had nothing of the sort.

“The District Attorney’s case relies on three separate pieces of evidence tying Lewis to the crime (of which there were no known eyewitnesses). One of those pieces of evidence is the prosecution’s claim that Lewis’s DNA was found on Vetrano’s back and cell phone,”

The DNA evidence in this case has been categorized in a myriad of ways: as a ‘strong profile’, a ‘possible match’, a match and as an unproven part of a complex mixture of  several DNA. The lack of consistency in how the DNA is described suggests a fluid interpretation of the results which would likely lean in favor of prosecutors because it’s a good thing when you can’t definitively eliminate your key suspect from a pool of DNA, but it severely undercuts the premise that there was only one killer. And if you can’t definitively eliminate them, you can’t definitively ID them either. The two places where Lewis’ DNA shows up with certainty is on Vetrano’s back and cellphone, odd places considering how vicious the attack was and certainly not enough for a conviction.

“…the Queens DA’s office has been withholding crucial pieces of evidence from the media, including 911 calls and medical records,

So instead of honoring requests from the media to view integral pieces of evidence presented at trial, Judge Michael Aloise has elected to defer those appeals to the Queens DA’s public information office. He gave no reason for the shift which runs counter to the traditional practice of the trial judge being responsible for the release of such information. The DA’s office has thus far denied requests without explanation except for a presumed one: they have something to hide.

Um…that’s not Blackface

Thoughts on Megan Kelly and conversations about race

Full disclosure: years ago, I went as a white colleague of mine for Halloween and she had planned to go as me. The day of the party arrives and she can’t make it, but I decided to keep my costume intact. Some close friends of mine decided to go as ‘thugs’ and had taken some makeup of mine to darken their skin. I don’t remember exactly what I said to them at the time, but it was something along the lines of, ‘you don’t have to be dark to be a thug.’ They respectfully (and wisely) stopped with the makeup. I, however, when out in full pale makeup, wig, stuffed bra and overalls, looking like a life-size Raggedy Ann doll. And the reaction?…I won best costume. During my heartfelt acceptance speech, I thanked my absent colleague, and my touching words were met with a face full of silly string. I promptly took my seat. The lesson? It’s that serious and sometimes, it’s not.

Sometimes, It is

I recoiled when my friends tried to darken their skin to portray hoodlums because they were playing with a stereotype, the idea that baggy clothes and a tough guy pose is the sole province of dark skinned people. I couldn’t sit with that and when I expressed that to them, they respected it and stopped. So what made my get-up any less objectionable? Not much. It was in poor taste, as costumes typically are on Halloween, but I was a joke (not a stereotype) and the target was in on it.

And Sometimes, It’s Not

The term blackface and minstrelsy has been used more in the past couple of days since the implosion of Megan Kelly’s talk show. If you haven’t seen it, check it out below. “It” happens around the 4-minute mark. After watching though, I genuinely don’t think that Kelly was defending traditional blackface as being an acceptable costume when she was a kid and here’s why: the example she gives of Luann De Lesseps, and the flack she received for her Diana Ross costume on the Real Housewives of New York, which surprised and confused Kelly. And after seeing the picture, I think I was more offended by the hair (Diana Ross would never) than her skin.

Blackface and more specifically, Minstrelsy, was a popular form of entertainment starting in the 1830s. It was especially racist because of its reliance on popular stereotypes of African Americans and influential because it reinforced the worst assumptions that White Americans had, giving the perspective that theatregoers were getting accurate depictions of Black life. And even though minstrel shows would eventually be replaced in popularity by vaudeville and later on, motion pictures, many of its staple characters (Mammy, Sambo, Tom, etc) remained deeply entrenched, making their way to later mediums, including radio and television, forcing black actors to accept demeaning roles or unemployment.

Fast forward to the 21th century, minstrel shows are dead, but dressing up as another race…not so much:

 

The vast majority of the depictions above are from comedies (where the boundaries of good taste are…looser) and are, what I believe, Megan Kelly was referring to when she said ‘blackface’. The significant difference between these images and traditional blackface is obvious, but the most important one is time. It would be quite a stretch to say in 2018 that any one of those individuals greatly influenced the perceptions people had of the specific ethnic group they were imitating; I didn’t watch Ms. Swan on Mad TV (bottom left) and think, ‘So that’s what they’re really like!’ Those who claim that race based costumes are essentially the same as blackface in minstrelsy are themselves dressing their logic in the ill-fitting clothes and garish makeup of a time gone by and, are in effect, denying the successful work done to drain the once popular artform of its power.

Racism is often defined as having an element of power, and I would suggest the missing piece is not prejudice, but suffering. Black Americans suffered under the perpetuation of racial stereotypes popularize in Minstrelsy. Can we say that today? That Robert Downey Jr’s Oscar nominated performance in Tropic Thunder set us back a few years? That Megan Kelly’s genuine question about what qualifies as being racist has done tremendous harm to progress? I would be afraid to be a part of a movement where suffering is wielded as weapon against those who would be better served by mercy, and energies are focused on draining power from individuals rather than from the institutions.

There is a line. Let’s talk more about where it is and why and less about who’s crossing it.

 

Traitors in the White House: What the NY Times Op-Ed Really Means

“I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

This oath was taken by the author of the editorial written in the New York Times, two weeks ago (yes, I know I’m late to the party). So what does it mean when the same person who spoke allegiance to the Constitution chooses to undermine a democratically elected President whose administration s/he serves in? What should we think about a person: who anonymously (along with others) has ‘vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses’? Who praises the unsung, unknown heroes of the West Wing who work to isolate the rest of us from the commander in chief’s poor, erratic decisions? I have a word: coward.

We don’t know who this person is, but if accounts by Bob Woodruff and Michael Wolff are to be believed, backstabbing is a pastime in the White House. Perhaps this individual is jockeying for a more favorable position and, knowing the President’s anxieties, reached out to the Times and offered an op-ed in an attempt to give confirmation and false comfort to the general public, but primarily, to push the President to cut off competitors from within his inner circle.

I am not assuaged by self congratulatory statements about the ‘steady state’ and ‘adults being in the room’. This individual described a sitting President as being amoral, anti-democratic, and as having a leadership style that is petty, adversarial and ineffective, but to Trump’s face, likely says otherwise. What would we call someone in the real world who does that?

The author describes early talk of invoking the 25th Amendment, but claims ‘no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.’ And I get it, specifically, if by ‘constitutional crisis’, they mean precipitating certain career suicide. Who wants to risk self when you can maintain the status quo (with all its horrors) and double talk the President and the public into thinking you’re on their side?

It’s clear to me that this person is quite clever and manipulative. They might think that after enough time, they will be able to reveal themselves and be considered a hero of sorts, a truth teller in a time of alternative facts, but they are not deserving of such a title. True heroism requires sacrifice, something not embodied by taking papers off a desk. Furthermore, if you have to go that far and still choose to be a silent witness, then it’s not about sticking around to preserve the democratic institutions you claim to love or the Constitution you are sworn to uphold, it’s about self preservation and maintaining party dominance.

Removing Trump from office through impeachment or the 25th Amendment requires those ‘resisting’ in the shadows to make their truth publicly known. There will be backlash and shouts of ‘traitor,’ but I believe deeply that those voices will be silenced when they see a unified front of members of both parties and houses of Congress agree that their leader is incapable. The only way to get the Never Trumpers and the MAGA crowd to wake up from their blind allegiance/hatred toward the President is through an act of courage. Courage is truth in action and people respond to truth and that’s undeniable, no matter which way you lean.

(random thought: it’s not the 25th amendment or the Mueller investigation that’s going to end Trump’s presidency, it’s the emoluments clause of the Constitution.)

How to Make a Scapegoat: Chanel Lewis, Karina Vetrano’s accused killer

If you’re from New York City, you’ve heard the story of Karina Vetrano, the young woman who was found sexually assaulted and strangled in Spring Creek Park. Almost out of the blue, the NYPD have charged 20-year Chanel Lewis with her murder. The minute I looked at the young man, I knew something wasn’t right.

What kind of guilty person gives DNA and a confession without any legal counsel? It’s not clear if Mr. Lewis has any disabilities, but according to the New York Times, he attended a high school for students who, ‘struggle with internal and external factors beyond their control that have contributed to a failure to thrive in school.’ So at the very least, he had to deal with challenges that made attendance in a traditional high school not possible, and perhaps he’s graduation in 2015, remarkable. Since graduating, he wasn’t employed and lived with his mother; no criminal record or disciplinary record in school, so how did police make a connection? Through an anonymous tip? A witness who heard him say something incriminating? Nope. A cop remembered seeing him in the park and thought it was ‘suspicious’. Read the article.

In it, sources are quoted as saying that Lt. John Russo claimed to have seen Lewis back in May, called 911, but the man left before police arrived (so there’s no record that the man he saw was even Mr. Lewis). He alleges that he saw him the next day, and the police arrived in enough time to record the encounter, but nothing more as he was not charged with any wrongdoing. For those of you unfamiliar with being black in Howard Beach, the general rule is-don’t be. If you need evidence: Police recorded an encounter with someone doing NOTHING wrong except being ‘suspicious’ (i.e, black) in a white neighborhood.

Now, with his name in police record, someone calls 911 again and mentions Lewis by name saying that he looks like he was going to break into a Howard Beach home with a crowbar. This is not a neighborhood he lives in and yet the caller knew him by name? Now that is suspicious. Fast forward a couple of months and we now have a viable scapegoat: wrong place at the right time: check; issues of any kind: check; Black: check. What Lewis lacked, however, was criminality. So what happens? Reports of him making threats while in school are reported in the NY Post and the NY Times quotes, Chief Robert Boyce saying, that they found, ‘some things that disturbed us.‘ Ultimately, as the article mentions, the executive director of his school stated that they were no reports of him making threatening statements. Mmmmh…

After tracking him down, police get a DNA sample voluntarily from Lewis and found that his samples were “‘strong profiles’ that matched evidence from the victim’s body and her cellphone”. When DNA matches, you say it matches; when you say anything else, you’re playing semantics and when you’re playing semantics, you’re lying. Chief Boyce also says that Lewis gave ‘detailed incriminating statements,’ but not a confession. Lewis hasn’t entered a plea, but is being held without bail. He currently has legal representation and my hope is that they find evidence that he was somewhere else at the time, not because I want an alleged killer to ‘get away with it,’ but because I believe the evidence was cobbled together and pinned on a vulnerable person to appease people desperate for resolution. Peace of mind is a worthy cause, but at what cost?