This is the moment I asked myself, “Why did I vote for Barack Obama twice? Why are we being treated like this simply for demanding justice for our fallen brother?” I decided it is possible I’ll never vote for another American president for as long as I live. We live in America but we are clearly not included as Americans. Americans don’t unleash a completely militarized force upon other Americans. Americans don’t tear gas other Americans. Americans don’t drive tanks over the front yards of other Americans. By classical definition we are still poor black people who reside in America, but we are not considered equal to fellow American citizens and lawmakers. Our hopes and dreams are not valued or respected. Our worries and concerns often fall upon deaf ears.
During this time I’ve pulled children out of clouds of tear gas. I’ve witnessed white women who are members of the clergy collectively praying in front of tanks and armored vehicles. One of these women was mercilessly shot with a rubber bullet by the police while praying for peace. Our neighborhood was occupied by the police as if they were an invading army laying siege to their enemy and pillaging the remains. Our basic civil rights were stripped away as we were treated like cattle in the name of a sick, sadistic experiment in martial law. We assumed that our beloved, black president would come to our defense and speak about the perils of police brutality, racial profiling, and Mike Brown’s unfortunate demise. Instead we felt as if he co-signed this unfair treatment and endorsed the brutal show of force the police displayed towards us. We are our only allies. No one in the world will stand up with us against such tyranny.
We could mince words about the vast differences and expansive power of local governments in these matters, over against the apparently limited power of federal jurisdiction. But that’s kind of beside the point. Movements are as much about symbols as about substance. And Barack Obama is a broken symbol, a clanging cymbal, unable to say and do anything of use. His silence is the sound of imploding dreams, his words mere distractions and detours from the future we want.
He has become a prime example that being the leader of the free world in a Black body is still no match for entrenched, local, systemic, committed racism. It’s sad that it has come to this. But this is bigger than Barack Obama. Just like it was bigger than King and hisdream. We have awakened from sleep. We have been startled out of it by nearly 30 gunshots ringing out insistently from the heart of America. Jay-Z might call it “a moment of clarity.” In Obama’s place, Cornel West has re-emerged, the wise and fearless elder, the one who we tried not to listen to, as he screamed into the wind for six years, the one whose approach chafed my hide on more than a few occasions, the one who is — despite all of our collective quibbles and begrudgements – right.
This moment is about all of us. About what kind of America we want to be. About what kind of America we are willing to be, willing to fight for. About whether we will settle for being mediocre and therefore murderous to a whole group of citizens. About whether there are other versions of ourselves worth fighting for.
Don’t sleep. Millennials, it seems, are the ones we have been waiting for. Fearless and focused, the future they are fighting for is one I want. It is high time to awake out of sleep. Stay woke.
This Ferguson October, young people are on the ground dreaming new dreams, and in so doing, they are inspiring elders. They are creative, taking over public spaces, not only with signs, and chants, but with impromptu games of twister and double-dutch. From them we learn that play can be political, that there is joy in struggle, that there is no justice without pleasure.
They are lining up, linking arms, and being locked up for justice. They are listening to those who have something to say, and shutting down shit when forced to listen to anyone who doesn’t. They are choosing their leaders, their griots, their truth-tellers, their strategists, their elders. Showing up matters most. Putting one’s body on the line is the order of the day. They are undignified, improper, unabashed, impolitic, unapologetic, indefatigable.
This weekend they took over four Wal-Marts, in solidarity with John Crawford who was murdered in an Ohio Wal-Mart. There, prosecutors have cleared officers of wrongdoing. Protestors took signs to the St. Louis Rams game, and confronted angry fans who yelled, “I am Darren Wilson.” Two weeks ago, they disrupted the symphony. Exploding dreams cause disruptions. They should be expected to continue.
“Of course, many on Twitter, could not understand why disturbing the peace in a private business should be acceptable. The point is – we are no longer standing for business as usual. Lest we forget, racial segregation of old happened in “private” businesses, too, in stores like Woolworth’s and Hecht’s. That John Crawford could not step into a Beaver Creek, Ohio Wal-Mart, wander aimlessly, as so many of us have done on a casual shopping trip, and reasonably expect to come out alive, suggests that time is out for business as usual.”
— Writer Brittney Cooper says, “social justice in America is officially stunted.”
“The first thing is that, it is true that when there’s a drone attack, those–the terrorists are killed, it’s true, but 500 and 5,000 more people rise against it, and more terrorism occurs, and more bomb blasts occur. So for that reason, I think the best way to fight against terrorism is do it through peaceful way, not through war, because I believe that a war can never be ended by a war.”
— And the interviewer asked, “And you said that to President Obama?” Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said, “Yes, of course.”
“If Washington wants to do something about the Islamic State, it should send humanitarian aid to displaced civilians, restart talks to end Syria’s civil war, and condition all assistance to Baghdad on its willingness to improve conditions for Iraq’s Sunni minority. The last thing Obama should do is fight a war for allies who are losing a popularity contest to a group that beheads people.”
“There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.”
“Years of air strikes, drone-operated killings, and covert operations have brought neither peace nor safety to the region and its people. Estimates of the death toll from U.S. attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia alone range from 3,100 to 5,400, including 570-1,200 civilians. Precise figures are impossible to obtain since the strikes remain classified, and investigating drone attacks is difficult and dangerous work. Nor has the drone campaign halted the proliferation of groups seeking to link their — usually local — agendas to the idea of a global struggle represented by al-Qaeda. Indiscriminate killing — and the constant fear of death from above — has only destroyed communities and provided easy recruitment material for extremist groups.”