Reflections

Stop calling American terrorist Nazis

Once again, citizens across the country are forced to mourn because of the hateful actions of a backwards few. In our attempts to cope, process, and heal many of us have rallied behind the call of fighting Nazism. While I admire the fervor and stand in solidarity with anyone condemning hate, I challenge these Nazi fighting patriots to be more thoughtful and frankly more truthful about what took place this weekend. It is 2017. This is not 1942. The Nazis are dead. Charlottesville was not overrun by Nazis this weekend; it was overtaken by racist fascist Americans.

Let’s be clear. Nazis were born out of Germany’s dark past, and defeated by a coalition of countries who would later go on to form NATO. What we saw this weekend had nothing to do with Germany, Hitler, nor Nazis. This weekend was the product of home grown, American hatred. If you really want to “call them what they are,” than do so. They are American born terrorist. They are the embodiment of American racism, a spirit and entity that has existed on this continent since 1492 and codified in US law since 1790.

To label these domestic terrorists Nazis is to let this country off the hook. We no longer have to look ourselves in the mirror because the evil doers are not Americans, no, they’re Nazis. We label them “other” so that we don’t have to face the hard cold truth that they are in fact one of us. I’m sure if you asked any of them how they identify, surely they would proudly and without hesitation proclaim their American heritage. But this of course does not sit well with your average American liberal. This weekend doesn’t fit in the narrative of the land of the free, the refuge of the huddled masses the world over. It forces the allied liberal to think, “How can ‘I’ and ‘them’ both be American? “What guilt, what blood might be on my hands if they are as much of an American as I?”

I’m not here to answer those questions for anyone, and would never assert the authority to do so. Do not look for me, my brothers, or my sisters to wipe the tears from your cheeks because we ourselves have our own cause for grieving. This weekend hurt all of us who care. Instead, let me evoke the words of Dr. King, and afford you the chance to “get the language right” in the cause for social justice in America. In that spirit here are three suggestions on how we should articulate the current moment in American society.

1. Stop viewing history in a vacuum- I teach what the world would consider American history to middle schoolers, but I would never tell you I teach a history. Instead, I will tell you that I teach social justice narratives throughout history and current affairs. Far too often we as Americans like to act as if history is merely a list of things that started and ended sometime in the past. We focus more on chronology than causation, which is why we see history repeat itself time and time again, and this is especially true when dealing with race in this country. We fail to talk about how our reality is shaped by the events of the pasts. We cannot move forward until we can deal with brutal honestly about our past and its implications on our lives today. This racist, fascist riot did not spring out of nowhere nor did its ripple-effect stop when Americans turned off the new to prepare for another case of the Monday blues.
2. You cannot cherry pick the narrative- if we are going to have these tough conversations we don’t get to pick and choose which parts of our history we want to deal and which parts we rather leave unsaid. No one wants to talk about the reason Robert E. Lee’s statue is being removed from Virginia state property. Yes, he was a great military mind, but more notably he was traitor to the Union and fought to protect the South’s right enslave Africans. The image of the righteous general is a myth. I’ve also noticed how shocked folks are that hate has come out of the shadows, seemingly out of the blue. This same breed of hate emboldened by the election of a man who encouraged violence at campaign rallies. This hate is supported by a man joking tells police officers to rough up the citizens they are sworn to protect with due process of the law. Let us not forget that this name made a political name for himself by doing everything in his power to invalid that first black president. Trump and his agenda of hate won the presidential election of 2016 and if you take a look at the numbers Trump didn’t win the minority vote. Nor do we see the Congressional Black Caucus aligning with the values of the Tea Party. We have to come to terms with all of this. We cannot be serious about having conversations about justice with half-truths and incomplete narratives.
3. It is nothing new- This is not a new phenomenon. American hate is an American as apple pie. If you trace the history of American you will see the themes of hatred repeated through eras of racism, nativism, and xenophobia. American values would be in name only had it not been for the sacrifices of brave citizens who fought explicitly against the above evils and called this country to a higher consciousness. The cause of the marginalized has always been the voice of inclusion and equity in America.

We have to get the language right if want to talk seriously about perfecting this far from perfect union. Contrary to how it might feel it is actually among the highest forms of patriotism. James Baldwin once said, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” For those familiar with Christian tradition, when dispelling demons Christ called the evil spirit by its name. We too must be forthright and unrelenting. We must speak in the full truth if we are to speak truth to power. White supremacy has had its moment in the sunlight this weekend and we, the woke, can do one of two things. We can label them “other” and allow racist to retreat back to their sunken place until emboldened again. Or we can acknowledge them for what they are, racist Americans and domestic terrorists. When we take the latter approach we can begin to reflect truthfully on the complicit actions and systems that breed this brand of American hate. Only then, only when we are able to look our collective self in the mirror, can we remove the safe havens that allow hate to grow in our American society. Remember, the enemy is not the Nazi, the enemy is American systemic racism.

-Wallace Weaver

Wallace is an educator, writer, and activist based in Philadelphia. As a Seton Hall graduate, Wallace began his teaching career in Newark, NJ before coming back to his hometown. In addition to his work in the classroom, he has community organizing background stemming from national campaigns to local educational justice initiatives.
IG @Mister_Weaver & TW @WallaceQ41

 

White People, Speak Up

Friends, enemies, colleagues, I implore you. This week, talk to another white person. Tell them white supremacy is terrorism.

How does one go about their daily life without acknowledging what is happening in the world around them? How does one socially interact with human beings each day, and not engage in discourse around many of the social issues of which we are currently plagued? I ask because, this oblivion must be nice. This privilege of not having to worry about your general safety and human rights is a privilege I would love to have and live.

I wish my days could be carefree, but they aren’t. As long as there are folks who walk the Earth believing that “White” and “Black” are ethnicities, I will never be carefree. As long as folks call me militant or make jokes about being conscious, I will never be carefree. As long as white men are in power, I will never be carefree. Call me pessimistic. Call me negative. Call me hype or too serious. Tell me I am doing too much. I don’t really care.

Society has moved forward because of people who did too much. Malcolm X did too much. MLK did too much. Fred Hampton did too much. Harriet Tubman did too much, and Nat Turner, a personal fave, definitely did too much as well. I can’t think of any better shoes to follow behind.

Each headline that concerns a marginalized group is a headline that matters to me… I can sit on a beach with a good book and relax, but you better believe that book is going to push my thinking as another resource to build my knowledge base. Knowledge is power, and it is the only power I can somewhat safely obtain. I am hungry for knowledge, and I am hungry for the power to have true dominion over my body.

Each day I do not learn something new about the pursuit of true liberation is a day that was wasted. Whether the discipline be spirituality, education, politics, the arts, etc. The medium does not matter. What matters is that with each word, and every discussion I am one step closer to mental freedom. 

I admit, many days I am discouraged. It can feel like a burden to see the world we live in for what it truly is… man has turned a place of peace and beauty into a place of violence and disarray. Yet, even on my worst day, I am thankful to know and see the truth. I woke up four years ago when Michael Brown was gunned down in the streets. That was the beginning of a journey that I feel will never end. It is my hope that the events of the past few days will wake up my white counterparts.

Friends, enemies, colleagues, I implore you. This week, talk to another white person. Tell them white supremacy is terrorism. Don’t let micro-aggressions slide, speak up. Discard your fragility. Work through the guilt. Give a damn about the millions of people in this world that don’t have the power that you do without asking. Reflect on this fact everyday. Then maybe, you may understand a tenth of what marginalized groups feel on a daily basis.

Julia

Freedom to Agitate

Happy Birthday U.S.A. and blessings and honor to the Black ancestors who birthed you.

As our nation’s birthday arrives I am forced to focus on it’s development overtime, and it’s history of colonization and appropriation. I am angered by the irony of celebrating freedom in a nation where freedom is elusive. This isn’t speculation. This is just facts.

It’s 2017 and I feel we are no closer to the true freedom marginalized groups seek. Plantation slavery has morphed into the financial slavery of school loans; the prison system; and the world of media and sports entertainment. Major corporations have taken the place of plantation owners, but the one thing thing that remains constant is the people at the top. The group is small, male, and white.

Julia, what about Beyonce and Jay Z, or Oprah? My response, what about them? They have accomplished a lot, amassed a lot, and given back a lot. But please do not be fooled. When the men at the top wake up and say “no more”, then they too can fall victim to bad press and negative headlines. Just ask Dave Chapelle, Martin Lawrence, and dare I say Bill Cosby?

I’m wondering, tomorrow as fireworks blast off across the nation, how many folks will be proud to be an American? Even at my worst, I could find something to cling to as a citizen of this country. But at the moment, I am very very stuck. So much is happening around us, and yes it always has been…but this feels different to me. What about you? Do you feel like you can’t breathe sometimes when you read or watch the news. Another Black man shot; another presidential tweet; another war threat… and now, he wants our personal identification information. Why? A registry? Further policing?

I live in fear, but it fuels me. Sometimes I just want to stay in bed and ignore the world, but most days I want to fight. So, tomorrow I am celebrating the freedom to fight and agitate. I fight for true liberation of minds, hearts, and bodies. One day at a time.

Happy Birthday U.S.A. and blessings and honor to the Black ancestors who birthed you.

Julia

 

Coping…

The trauma of being black and a woman in this country is real, and sometimes I need a break from speaking, thinking, and educating. 

I know we have been quiet, but I can only speak for myself when I say it was necessary. I have been struggling to find the motivation to fight in the face of the constant assault on the character and lives of people of color in this country. Not to mention the emotional roller coaster our current administration has taken us all on.

Sometimes, after a long day at work, all I want to do is cry, or curl up with a good book and take my mind far away. The trauma of being black and a woman in this country is real, and sometimes I need a break from speaking, thinking, and educating. 

Sometimes I just need to revel in the fact that I am beautiful, intelligent, and creative individual. I must reset and recharge on a consistent basis in order to rebound from the micro aggressions I encounter each day. Whether it is because I am a woman, black, an educator, or college educated; there are always a set of assumptions people have of me. These assumptions are a symptom of the normative whiteness this society is built upon.

Intended or unintended, constant attacks on your identity are taxing. I would feel guilty at times for being quiet. I didn’t think I had the right to take time for myself if needed. I realize that, this is the only way I know how to cope for now. I am working on finding other ways to self-care on a regular basis.

As my distant family and fellow members of the resistance, please allow for grace as we continue our journey and share our thoughts with you.

Julia

Black Educators At Work

It’s still hard for our kids to understand that the identities we embrace can be mutually inclusive!

I demand that we create spaces for our kids that show intelligence, ingenuity and creativity combined with Blackness as Dopeness!

As a black woman and black educator I find that I often have to prove my blackness to the children I teach. #blackwomenatwork 

I’m a firm believer that black children need black teachers. It’s what keeps me going on the hardest of days. It’s what keeps me patient in what can sometimes be a sea of (controlled. . . always controlled) chaos. It’s what keeps me sane when the lesson – be it social or academic – is just not sinking in.

All too often – kids simply forget that I am more like them than not.

It’s as if one can’t be smart and black.

It’s baffling to me because after having passed the ever changing five year average teacher hump – I find it really easy to connect with kids, especially the ones that look like me and grow up similar to how I grew up.  And, I thought that they’d feel the same way.

Sometimes, adults that look like you and live how you live just get it.

But, that’s not always the case – I’ve found.

Though kids often say to me –

“You sound like my mama,” or “you remind me of my [x, y, z].”

They also say things like –

“I didn’t think somebody like you listened to our kind of music.” Or, “Oh, you know that song?”

“I thought you only shopped at Whole Foods”

And, “You know what this [what some people, not me, would call slang] word means?”

 

Well, yes, black child. Yes, I do. 

Yes because I am black, like you. 

That is why I take every opportunity to remind the students that I teach that I’m just like them.

It is why codeswitching is so important to me.

It’s why laughing, playing AND learning together are one in the same. 

Yesterday I told an 8 year old that the song he was singing (so passionately as he wrote his acrostic poem about pride), was about selling drugs.

He literally said, “Oh my God, what?! How do you know that song? I thought you only knew like Gospel songs or something like that.”

Cute.

But, no.

It’s still hard for our kids to understand that the identities we embrace can be mutually inclusive!

Though I do listen to Gospel music (which the same child also sings allllll the time), I also like Andra Day, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Maybe a little older than their taste of Migos, but, I can still keep up. 

And in the same breath, I also know trigonometry and love alliterations – and neither of those things should be wow factors. 

It’s disheartening that the idea of a black man or woman in many instances is the exception and not the given to the rule.

It’s our media, it’s our language and it’s our actions.

 “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” 

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Seeing black magic as exceptions to the rules written by the white forefathers of the constitution is another form of oppression. 

I demand that we create spaces for our kids that show intelligence, ingenuity and creativity combined with Blackness as Dopeness! 

 

Be Black and hardworking.

Be Black and inquisitive

Be Black and love to write.

Be Black and sing and dance and play from your heart.

Be Black and be the smartest person in the room.

Be Black . . . Be Proud.

Be Black, be proud and know that you, Black child, can be anything you want to be.

 

-Shamira

Two Swat Cars

It’s 4:53 pm and I am seated around the table at a discipline meeting for a middle school student. As we start the meeting, the introductions are drowned out by the sounds of sirens ringing outside. We all glance out and we see 2 police cars, followed by a paddy wagon, and two swat cars. TWO SWAT CARS.

My colleague made some reference to it being just another day in Philly. I disagreed…

Just another day in any hood, in any city were people of  color live their daily lives.

My hope is that when I watch the news later, it will tell of snipers or mass hysteria that required a swat team. But I know that wont be the case. I am certain that the swat cars were for no more than two unidentified black males. I have no idea what they have done. I have no idea why police are needed. But I am certain that a swat team is excessive.

Why are our streets considered war zones? Why is such force necessary. Why must the extreme be the norm when dealing with people of color?

For example, Philadelphia celebrates the hell out of St. Patrick’s day. On parade day you can find hundred of drunk white people on the streets, with not so much as a second look by law enforcement. On the other hand, during events when large crowds of black folk come together, the cops are on constant rotation.

This how it feels.

TWO SWAT CARS…

This is what it look likes.

It’s  a constant reminder that justice is not for all, and that the police are not here to protect us from harm. They view us as the harm. That’s the message we receive, whether we talk about it or not. That’s the message we are sending the youth of all backgrounds and colors. And that is how the cycle continues. That message spreads like a disease. That lie festers and rots, and pollutes our already broken institutions.

My prayers and thoughts go out to all of the families affected by what happened today.

I wish we could all vibrate higher.

Julia

 

Always Cloudy

Where we’re from it’s always cloudy without the social, economic and political advantages of white privilege.

The things that bring us the most happiness also bring us the most pain.

Little black boys are rays of sunshine and little black girls are breaths of fresh air.

Such joy I get from their laughter.

And, torment from their cries.

Where we’re from it’s always cloudy without the social, economic and political advantages of white privilege. Rain is just over the mountain, always on its way.

This week when I looked into the eyes of our children, I saw rain.

Underneath their laughter, I saw pain.

It was the reflection of my eyes, in theirs, looking back at me.

 

 

I’d heard about our missing girls and boys from DC early on in the week. And, every single day as I looked at a student, I wondered what it’d be like to no longer hear their voice.

I can’t compare the love of a child that I’ve conceived to the love of the children that I’ve taught, as I’ve not participated in the miracle of the former. But, I’d hope to think that they’d be about the same.

The power of the media is unprecedented. And, many of the numbers of reported girls and boys missing are (allegedly) false.

Whatever the rhetoric, whether the number of missing children is that of the past week or the past decade – the fact remains:

 

Black bodies have been stolen for hundreds of years and during slavery black babies were removed from the care of their enslaved mothers as early as 12 months.  

 

Here we are, 2017 – still enslaved, and still having our bodies and those of our children snatched.

Like crabs in a barrel, Julia says, we’re struggling trying to keep up. Fighting and fussing over each other trying to make due.

So, on my happiest days, I’m still weary.

Sometimes when everyone is laughing, I pause and think about the clouds.

 

Until the systemic barriers that we face on a regular basis are dismantled, it’ll always be cloudy.

 

On the bright side, I’m so happy to have hundreds of rays of sunshine and hundreds of breaths of fresh air.

 

-Shamira