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Opinion

Opinion: When They See Us – If You Can’t, Don’t.

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By now you know that Ava Duvernay‘s limited series ‘When They See Us’ premiered on Netflix last week.  When They See Us is a four-part mini-series that tells the story of the Central Park Five.
Yesterday, I text back and forth with 8 people that were not ready to watch #WhenTheySeeUs.    
 
I freed them.
I told them not to.
In fact, I told them never to.
Especially if they KNEW they couldn’t handle it.
 
This pain – the pain that we feel collectively, is real. It pierces. It wounds. It lingers. It lingers! Exclamation intended. It cuts deep. There is healing for this pain. The problem with that healing is that it most often comes from the same place of our pain. That isn’t just ridiculous, it’s dangerous. So, be cognizant. Everyone may not be like you. They may not have a tribe. A tribe of love and conversation needed to help them unpack the visuals of what is still a harsh truth in this country most of us pledge allegiance to.  We have to understand that it is okay for people to be in different places.  Culturally, that needs to be acceptable, despite the fact that it’s wildly unpopular to combat a trending series with ‘no, I’m not watching.’ Game of Thrones taught us that. 
I write this after concluding Part II. I, in so many ways, can’t help but feel a bit numb. I had been wrestling internally with whether or not I would watch since I heard about Ava making the film. The trailer was triggering. When it released last week, I deliberately avoided watching for fear that I’d unravel at some point over the weekend–a weekend in which I had planned to disconnect. I went across the country to catch up with some old friends and got a chance to see the living legend Anita Baker. I silenced my alerts and social media. I was not ready. I did not engage. I did not respond. I …wasn’t ready.

As my weekend came to an end, I thought it apropos to discuss the series with my west coast bros. At the mention, one of them-almost before the words could come out of my mouth-exerted a strong NO. I paused, because I already knew. He exclaimed that it wasn’t the cliche ‘I’m tired of seeing these stories about us when everything is still the same’ but the ‘I don’t want to take myself to that head space. I have to see these people at work tomorrow…’ Damn.
 
How real is that? How real is it that we share our stories and experiences over and over? We share them in safe spaces. We share them with our non-black ‘friends’. We share them in our ‘multi-cultural’ churches. We share them with our politicians. We share them without prompting. We share them with prompting. We share them through pain. We share. Nothing changes. Nothing fucking changes. But we share.
 
When They See Us is us sharing, yet again. My hope and desire is that we support this work, as it shines light on many disparities that have been detrimental to our community for decades. This detriment – specifically for the black community – is unacceptable, but it is the life that we know. If you can watch it, share it (hopefully with those of a different hue) and breathe, do so.
 
If you can’t, don’t. Don’t feel judged. Don’t feel bad.
 
You deserve.
We deserve.
Momma Dee was on to something when she said, I deserve.
Because, I do.
When They See Us is now streaming on Netflix. 

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black News Alerts and the host of Unmuted Nation on BossFM. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

Crime

The Myth And Reality Of “Black On Black” Crime

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Kenosha, Wisconsin demonstrators peacefully protesting.

Following the wrongful shooting of Jacob Blake, conversations regarding police brutality permeate social media, news cycles, and dinner tables. Routinely the idea of “Black on Black” crime always manages to enter these spaces of discussion. “Black on Black” crime is dually a myth and a reality, here is why.

What We Know:

  • “Black on Black” crime is a subset of the statistical data that quantifies crime as a whole. Therefore alongside “Black on Black” crime, there is “White on White” crime or even “Asian on Asian” crime. So statistically, “black on black” crime is a very real tool to measure crime.
  • According to The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2019, crime victimization statistics report those who commit violent acts tend to commit them against members of the same race as the offender. The report noted that 62% of violent incidents committed against white victims were perpetrated by white offenders and 70% of violent incidents committed against Black victims were perpetrated by Black offenders. The data from the BJS report shows that crime has more to do with proximity and likeness than any other variable.
  • A similar concept used to deflect from issues of police brutality and white supremacy is the idea that there is a disproportionate amount of crime perpetrated by Black people in comparison to any other race. While this trope carries weight, crime is more closely related to poverty than race. In order to break the cycles of violence within a given community, it is imperative to dismantle the systems of white supremacy that keep a community in poverty.
  • The emphasis of “Black on Black” crime is intentional. There is an agenda behind constantly reducing a community to being violent. The concept stirs conversations of police brutality away from white supremacy which is ultimately the most pressing enemy of Black people in America.
  • The narrative of “Black on Black” crime will continue to plague dialogue regarding race across America; however, unarmed Jacob Blake was shot in the back by Wisconsin law enforcement seven times in front of his children all under the age of 8-years-old for attempting to break up a fight. Whereas Kenosha shooter, Kyle Rittenhouse safely remains in custody after parading an assault-style weapon around a peaceful protest and ultimately murdering two Wisconsin protestors.

The treatment of White, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, in comparison to 29-year-old, African American Jacob Blake proves “Black on Black” crime is not the enemy of black people – law enforcement is.

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Opinion

Op-Ed: You Think the Rayshard Brooks Case is Different, You’re Wrong

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Friday night, we lost a Black man that we didn’t have to lose.  By all accounts, he was literally doing the one thing that wasn’t bothering anyone.  He was sleep.  Sleep inside of his car in a Wendy’s parking lot.  Allegedly inebriated.  Sleep nonetheless.  Now, he’s dead.  By now you’ve heard about the death of Rayshard Brooks and have likely no doubt made your mind up about how you feel. The initial news reporting surrounding this incident was horrible, but I’m not here to analyze that.  

We’re currently in the midst of one of the most powerful movements in American history.  For the first time, in my lifetime, people are paying attention.  I could analyze whether all of the attention towards Black life – and specifically Black death is genuine, but this isn’t the place for that either.  In all of the analysis of Black death at the hands of white vigilantes and police officers that use excessive force, the response to this most recent Black death has been interesting.  Similar to the way many in Black culture have decide “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t apply to ALL Black Lives (LGBTQ+, women, etc), many have decided that this movement and fight we’re in has nothing to do with Rayshard Brooks.  I’ve even heard ‘I believe the police need to be held accountable, but this  Rayshard case is different.’  It’s not different.  Rayshard’s story definitively shows us why we are where we are.

I think the problem with a number of people understanding this Rayshard Brooks story is:

1. You believe that Black people should just listen to the police and comply, without cause. You have been conditioned that we are more violent (all people of all races feel this way) — I say Black because white people (and everybody else) will mouth off, charge, disagree, yell and curse at them.

2. You have only seen one video. One perspective. Read one article. The police were talking to Rayshard for 28 minutes without incident. It’s not a crime to be sleep. As we’ve been telling you, it’s deterimental to call the police on Black people, especially when there’s no danger. When this is done, danger magically appears. You can still think what you think. Know that perspective enhances.

3. The sobriety test. The safest place for a person that is inebriated is a parked car, even if it’s in the way. Criminalization ensues when someone is tested without cause. While there are technicalities in anything, driving under the influence is what is dangerous. Lethal in many cases. This man should’ve moved his car and went back to sleep or called someone to come get him. He should’ve never been tested.

4. The scuffle. After being cordial and having a conversation for 28 minutes, taking a sobriety test and of course failing, the police move to make an arrest. Visibly flustered, it’s no surprise that he didn’t want to be arrested (as we now know additional details — based on his own YouTube videos) because he was on probation.

I believe that true rage entered both police officers when they attempted to tase him and he snatched it. I don’t know what I would do if somebody attempted to tase me, but if I knew, that drunk, I had the ability to stop it — I would have. He didn’t intend to harm the officers and even an attempt to tase an officer is a non-lethal response. Where most will feel (again, I believe this is conditioning) he was in the wrong — he “fled.”

I am not of the belief that he was wrong though. What lethal crime (because we all know public intoxication is enough for an arrest) did this man commit? Why shoot and not chase? Where was the threat? Often the response (for those that don’t follow police brutality cases closely) is that the officer “feared for their life” just standing next to a Black man. This one was running away. Drunk. To whom was he threatening? For why did the officer shoot?

This was unnecessary force. You know it. I know it. The city knows it. There wasn’t a weapon. This wasn’t a crime scene.

That is why Erika Shields resigned.
That is why APD is scrambling.
That is why the GBI is involved.

But you, still feel “he shouldn’t have ran.”
You feel like “he’d be alive.”
You are still biased. You believe the system was built to protect Black. But it wasn’t. It was never designed to serve and protect all. It was literally designed to police runaway property. It isn’t broken, it’s just wrong. Rayshard was shot because he’s still considered property. Like your Black body and mine. Your neighbors. Your Black child’s. There was nothing that justified this death.

Rayshard’s death iss the reason we’re protesting. History tells us, either way he was screwed.

RIP Rayshard Brooks.

I see you. 

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Headlines

Opinion: Mayor Bottoms, Atlanta demands action

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EDITORIAL NOTE: Black News Alerts is committed to advancing the culture and causes of Black people globally.  We feel that it is our innate responsibility to provide accurate, informative and vetted coverage to our readers, subscribers and viewers.  After an internal review of this content and unanimous agreement, we’ve agreed to publish this opinion and stand firm against any criticism.

Demands for an Embattled Mayor

Dr. Vonnetta L. West, Pastor, Our Neighbor’s House
I know the death of Rayshard Brooks is hitting hard right now. It is a devastating blow in the midst of mourning for and protests fueled by 400+ years of trauma and the taking of other Black lives.
Join me in putting a demand on Mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms.

We, the people of Atlanta, demand:

  1. Immediate disciplinary action and arrest of any officer who shoots an unarmed human being, beginning with the officers who shot Rayshard as he was fleeing.
  2. A clear peace plan for officers engaging people who are intoxicated, asleep, homeless, unarmed, mentally ill, etc.
  3. A strategic plan to reallocate an agreed upon percentage of APD funds to ensuring equity in education, housing, environmental health, etc.
  4. Funding for training communities on how to deescalate conflict and how to resolve grievances without police involvement
  5. Demilitarization of the Atlanta Police Department.
These are my thoughts based on conversations I’ve had and my understanding of what is preceding tragedy/police brutality against Black people.  If you agree with this list of demands, join us in signing this petition for the Mayor of Atlanta to respond to these demands by 2:00 pm ET on June 14, 2020.

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