Guns and white supremacy: Regulating one won’t end the other

Right quick:

If you are looking to end white supremacy, regulating guns is not the answer. Yes, obviously, guns should be highly regulated, but white supremacy is not contingent on the legality of guns. If you could go back in time and erase guns from this country’s history, Black Wall Street would still be gone. Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Heather Heyer and countless victims before, in between and since would all still have been murdered. Hate will find a way.

Guns and white supremacy are intertwined, but two different issues. Just look at Switzerland. That country has a whole lot of guns, but nowhere near the level of gun violence that we have here in America. That’s because there is a deep cultural difference between Switzerland and the USA: white supremacy. I’m not saying that Switzerland doesn’t have racism. It absolutely does, but unlike the USA, white supremacy is not the foundation, cornerstone, and lead paint under the cheap vinyl siding of Switzerland. The Swiss essentially view themselves as one people. That view combined with their general sense of patriotism means that they look at their guns as a means to protect each other from outside forces, whereas we Americans look at our guns as a means to protect ourselves from each other—or most often as a means to protect whiteness from the rest of us.

What makes this so confusing is that white supremacy is the spider’s web that links almost every other social issue. For example, white supremacy was the means by which a private citizen unprecedentedly forced a sitting president to publicly display his birth certificate. It was white supremacy that (in one way and another) then appointed that white supremacist, private citizen to the presidency. Because of that white supremacist appointment, the rights of women and trans people and gay people and literally everyone (and I mean everyone) in the country are now being dismantled if not absolutely shredded.

That white supremacist web is growing, being weaved faster than ever as the president’s words inspire killings, his policies spread oppression, and his administration deliberately disregards white supremacy in its entirety. And it’s blocking even the most common-sense gun legislation.

So, again, if you are looking to end white supremacy, regulating guns is not the answer. But if you’re looking to stop the violence in this country, ending white supremacy will go a long way.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Photo by Max Kleinen on Unsplash

July 4th isn’t really the jam for Black folks

I saw a tweet recently that went something like, “We Black people celebrate the BBQ, the fireworks and the summer shorts. We don’t celebrate Independence Day.”

That isn’t true about all Black people but it’s pretty prevalent and, for the record, it isn’t about hating the country or being anti-American. Because, for better or worse, we’re Americans too.

But July 4th as Independence Day doesn’t sit well with a lot of us. You see, white people in the colonies got independence from Britain but that’s about it, and most of that independence was really for white landowners. It sure wasn’t for Indigenous or Black people.

For a lot of us, celebrating “independence” is a bit of a slap in the face when we can’t even enter or leave our own apartments and houses without neighbors calling the police on us for simply living. Or shop without being followed. Or go for a doctor-ordered walk hooked up to an IV drip without being arrested for “stealing” hospital equipment. Hell, even the BBQ thing, so appropriate a metaphor on July 4th, is the rallying point for us to complain about “BBQ Becky” types who call the police on us for no reason and thus put our freedom, health and even lives in danger.

One of my great joys during my time as executive director of the anti-racism organization Community Change Inc. has been to be a part of the annual reading in the Boston Common of the Frederick Douglass speech “What To the Slave is the Fourth of July.” (Note, the article I link to above totally got the title of the speech wrong in the headline AND in the article; maybe it will be corrected by the time you read this but boy does “What Is the Slave to the Fourth of July” change the meaning…). In any case, I would highly recommend reading the speech, which you can find here and many other places, too.

But if you don’t, at least take this part of the speech to heart:

“I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common—The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”

Douglass wrote and delivered that speech 76 years after the United States declared its independence. Now the nation is more than 240 years old and still we’ve got the same kinds of problems that Douglass talked about. We still aren’t equal. Black people still don’t enjoy full independence.

I don’t ask you to ignore July 4th because a lot of you have the day off and I feel you should be able to enjoy your BBQ food and fireworks just like many of us Black people do. I don’t expect you to shred your shirts and roll around in ashes like some Old Testament penitent.

But it would be nice if you would take a moment (or a few hundred of them) to remember that the United States has never fully made good on the promise of liberty and justice for all, and Black and Indigenous people just happen to be the most aggrieved folks. We ain’t alone.

I might suggest that it’s time to give Juneteenth a place as a national holiday, though. It would probably mean a lot more than Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to Black people who still don’t feel very free. Though to be fair we deserve both at this point, among a lot of other things. And I think starting next year, I might just resolve to stay inside on July 4th and celebrate Juneteenth instead—at least until it starts getting more love and attention like it deserves. Then maybe I’ll feel better about celebrating both.

So, as you enjoy your festivities, let us Black people and others enjoy our BBQs without police or other nasty interruptions. And if you see any BBQ Becky types headed toward us, kindly take their cell phones out of their hands and shoo them away.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Image by Nicolas Tissot from Unsplash

Will we settle for Trump’s world or fight for a more wonderful one?

“If you can believe it, Abraham Lincoln was treated supposedly very badly. But nobody’s been treated badly like me.” – Donald Trump (ABC NEWS, 2019)

“Life doesn’t work that way.” – Donald Trump (ABC NEWS, 2019)

“These white folk have newspapers, magazines, radios, spokesmen to get their ideas across. If they want to tell the world a lie, they can tell it so well that it becomes the truth; and if I tell them that you’re lying, they’ll tell the world even if you prove you’re telling the truth. Because it’s the kind of lie they want to hear…” – Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Recently the president gave 30 hours of interview access to the mainstream media. The resulting interview was chock full of Trumpian quote gold. One section of drivel that the “drive-by-media” mined for rich clickbait was Trump’s indignant confession that he would in fact accept dirt, intel, opposition research from a foreign actor or country. This admission was followed, as is customary, by plenty of outrage and disgust from the usual suspects (I think that’s us). They all focused on the first half of Trump’s verbal diarrhea—very few, if any, dug into the last line of that exchange. When asked if he would inform the FBI, when pressed about following the law, when the interviewer pointed out that Al Gore did in fact call the FBI when he was presented with “the dirt,” Mr. Trump responded:

“Give me a break; life doesn’t work that way.”

Trump acts with impunity not because all of a sudden he can but because that is who he has always been and he is that way because that is how his world has always worked. His life works that way. It is not impunity when it’s the truth. And it is the truth if your world works that way. And for once I’d like to give him credit for telling the truth.

Trump can count on several truths: the nastier he is the more his base (originally the New York print media, and now White rubes with million dollar dreams) loves and follows him. Other politicians can’t touch him—the truth is none of them can or are even willing to get down in the dirt like he is, and the truth is they also love it when he is a dick. Lastly, there is the truth that he is constantly shoving in our face every chance he gets: He IS the president, you are not, and more importantly there is nothing at all we, the losers, can do to change that. He won, we lost. He is the one in charge.

In that same ABC interview he scolded his interviewer: “I’m in charge of a very, very special gift. It’s this incredible country.”

These truths, along with the other Trump truths, when taken together, form the Teflon shell protecting that this moronic goon which he flaunts in all of our faces (yes, even you MAGA zombies out there). Coated in this Teflon (think of it as spray tanner) Trump can force himself on any situation, and force people to act in ways they would normally not behave. Kind of like rape (read: exactly like rape).

Trump has taken much from us and he will continue to take. In the process, he is depleting our morale, our energy, our ability to envision the future—and, in the end, he will have us questioning our own morals, our own red lines. And when this happens we will begin to question what is “just” and what are people “entitled to” and then we will engage in this because he will convince us that WE (you!) are the only one that matters. But it’s never been about what works for people in red states, those supposedly forgotten patriots. It’s never been about US. It is not about nationalism. It has always been about what works for Trump in order to keep his life and world intact, and if some suckers in MAGA hats get a win here and there that’s OK too!

This garbage of a human, this plague on our emotional wellbeing, this idiot con man, has proven over and over again that nothing matters except for his truth. Tax fraud (as detailed in the New York Times) = nope. Rape (literally detailed in a fucking book and a court case featuring one of his immigrant ex-wives) = nada. Lying in the face of literal evidence (responding “I did not say that” after literally being played a tape of his own voice saying his own words) = zip. The list goes on and on and these are just examples of what he did BEFORE he was in office. While in office he has doubled down and turnt it up on all three of those examples—more fraud, more rape, and of course more lying.

Keep in mind I have chosen to highlight only those three “categories of crime” if you will. I could just as easily chosen ANY other three other categories and it would be the same: Trump’s life “doesn’t work that way”

In Trump world these crimes are not crimes. He reminded us of this several times during the debates with Hillary Clinton. His actions are not crimes; they are in fact the actions of a “stable genius!”

Over the course of his life he has convinced literally millions of people that it’s OK because it IS how the world works, and he promises if you stick with him, you too can live in this world. This is the “frustrated millionaires” quote on steroids.

But I want to bring it back to OUR world. And remind us that it is not Trump we are up against in the fight for our future. It is the zealots who internalize his messages. It’s the folks who are involved in a transactional relationships with our Nazi-in-chief. It is your next-door neighbor who is starting to believe what he is hearing from his Dear Leader.

I think it’s important for us to keep in mind that many of the Trump zombies live in a world that does not value restorative practices and justice, human rights, protecting the weak, advocating for the abused—it’s about revenge and pain. Trump has somehow convinced these people that “owning the libs” is a better reward/return than having a not-boiling planet; it’s better to piss off a snowflake than having healthcare and social security.

“…He knows how to irritate people. He’s very intelligent. He knows how to get to them,” said Michelle Best, a Brandon, Fla., resident who traveled [to this] Trump rally, in a recent article. “Trump knows weaknesses, and he knows how to exploit them. Is he the nicest guy? Nice doesn’t get things done. I don’t want a nice president. I want a president that gets things done. And he’s getting things done.”

Best (oh the irony…) lives in a world where exploiting other’s weaknesses is a “good” thing. A world in which “nice” does not work.

That’s not the way my world works.

In my world people, are treated with dignity and respect. We fight for human rights. We stand up for those whose voice has been diminished. I am not interested in living in the world that Trump is trying to bring into focus. But I am worried that the onslaught is having a negative impact on my fellow social justice warriors. I am worried that the messages from Trump’s Upside Down are creeping into our normality.

Victor Small, Jr., a middle school administrator in Oakland, Calif., has been using restorative practices for several years and supports other teachers through his work with the Restorative Justice League chats. Victor says “Say you stole a car, Instead of you necessarily doing jail time, really what you would have to first do is make sure that you restore the situation to the person who you actually harmed, which would be the person whose car you stole, right? So you would have to restore that in some way. Either you’d have to get them their car back or get them a new car and apologize or something like that. Basically, the debt that you owe to society is to that person that you harmed.”

He also says “Everything that a kid does shouldn’t have to have a consequence … if a kid gets angry and says something to another kid, and that kid gets mad, do they need detention for that, or do they need to just fix the problem and not be mad at each other? Probably just fix the problem, not be mad at each other, and go on about their lives. If they didn’t do anything wrong to the class or the community and they just did something messed-up to another student, they can handle that between the two students. You could facilitate that. It teaches them, hey, you have to be accountable for your actions, because your actions do have impact on other students, without having them sit in detention, right?”

Most of the people in Trump’s Sunken Place believe that both of Small’s statements are ridiculous. In their life they have been taught that justice looks like payback and revenge. Both the student and the thief should be punished. They should be shown exactly how the world works.

I tend to work with mostly liberal folks, in what appear to be mostly liberal settings. I find that in these circles people have an easier time internalizing Small’s first statement than they do the second one. While I might get some pushback on the first statement, most people in my world will eventually agree we will get nowhere if we continue to just punish without restoring.

Here is where my worry comes into focus: when it comes to the second statement, I have heard teachers say “but something has to happen! How else will that student learn?” And then the inevitable “that’s not how the world works”

But what are we trying to teach about how the world works?

What are the connections we are trying to make? Which world do we want to live in? Either we reject the entirety of the Trumpian world view or not.

Opposing Trump is no longer the most important thing in my world. Fighting back the creeping advancing mentality that his actions are normal, while not losing our humanity, is what I am focused on. Maybe you’ve struggled with the idea of restorative justice, or immigration issues, or LGBQT rights in the past—it’s time to get yourself in order and figure out where you stand on these and the other issues that Trump is using to foment his worldview on our lives.

I hope that we can focus on maintaining a world that values truth, science, love, and redemption. I stand fast that our focus should be on solidarity, and that we invest in practices and structures that focus on raising and supporting empathetic youth.

If we do this we can change the way the world works for so many of our brothers and sisters. We can bring them out of Trump’s Sunken Place to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”

Moises “Mosart” Nunez is an educator, activist, and Ph.D. dropout with a master’s degree in education. Mo’s professional focus is on issues of teen violence, at-risk-youth intervention, the social-emotional education of teens, creating inclusive school environments for students with special needs, school redesign, community engagement, and dismantling racist practices in public education. Mo currently designs and leads community engagement based anti-racism and implicit bias workshops for district and school leadership across the country. Mo has taught English, social studies, and special education across the Northeast in public schools, alternative-education programs, private independent schools, and several universities. Mo has also designed and served as director for several successful at-risk-youth programs, most notably at New Beginnings in Rochester, N.Y.—an alternative education school that focuses on educating and reintegrating recently incarcerated youth. Mo has served as administrator, program director, and program manager for several alternative education, day treatment programs, and public schools in New England and the tri-state area. Mo recently won The Phoenix magazine’s Hip Hop DJ of the Year 2018, and released an album of original music under the name “mosart212.”

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.