Mayors and Affordable Housing, Part 1

In full disclosure — an earlier version of this piece leaned very pro-Francis. I stand by my criticisms of McFarlane’s record, but I won’t fully support Francis without digging into his potential relationship with anti-LGBTQIA+ legislators. In general, I am disgusted how capitalism stunts our opportunity to grow.

Voters will choose either incumbent, Nancy McFarlane or challenger, Charles Francis as Raleigh’s next mayor on November 7th. Mayor McFarlane, and the two local newspapers that endorsed her, fed heavily from the past year’s panic-buffet of blaming infighting in the Democratic Party for electing the 45th president. The Democratic Party’s judgment of internal competition as a condition too dangerous to contemplate lest we want more GOP seats rattles with the death notes of a political ideology wants For the People, but can’t because, $$$. For today, the options we have are what we have- so what’s their deal?

Upfront, I’m not impressed by Mayor McFarlane, and that’s before I even get to policy. I went to a Police Accountability Community Taskforce (PACT) action at a City Council meeting last year, and watched the Mayor’s facial expressions through a series of speakers — her eyebrow twitches when she’s angry. Beginning with Akiel Denkins’ mother, her sharp pain re-opening unhealed wounds, and with each new speaker’s spoken word, song, poem, or story about the pain and fear felt by black residents in Raleigh during encounters with police. I listened to them, but I watched her– lots of twitching. At the end, with a shaking voice, she responded to the intensity filling room — “I am offended…,” she began.

Last month, about a year later, I tried to navigate the 14+ day advance noticed needed before being approved to speak to my City Council — the county commissioners have a paper sign up right there at the door! But I managed only to watch Mayor McFarlane’s face stayed planted in her laptop screen during the public comment periods on topics of gentrification, revitalization and, again, a well-designed body camera policy. This, and her statement a few weeks ago, at the start of the run-off campaign says everything that most of us won’t hear.

Her attempt to work Charles Francis up to some sort of agent in a GOP sleeper cell, rather than pointing out his very-real role as the attorney for the Raleigh Housing Authority. Why not focus there instead of as Francis the provocateur using “misleading rhetoric” and “misstatements” to deceive voters into forgetting her vision of “a better, more sustainable, more vibrant Raleigh?” Francis agrees that Mayor McFarlane’s records speaks for itself — and Raleigh’s affluent citizens, but his record the RHA attorney speaks for protection of the state. What possible reason could she have not rebutting his promises for an affordable housing focus with the legal cases where he represented the Authority against residents? His position doesn’t earn her pro-column points, because not only does she avoid legitimate details about Francis, she does so while deflecting from the details of her own tenure as Mayor by demanding we focus on what she thinks matters the most — her. Her vision, her legacy, her interpretation of Raleigh’s future prosperity.

That’s the problem. This continued emphasis on the shiny image of Raleigh presented in the Top 10 Best of lists, rather than the unphotoshopped reality of half the citizens. The function of ego that will not allow her (or others) to see that building new neighborhoods from the ashes of urban decay both look good, and be bad for the original residents. We praise the economic improvements of the neighborhood after Hope VI paid to build Capitol Park as the replacement for Halifax Court. Except that only 150 of the 318 (90 reserved for senior citizens) public housing units returned.

For every word of praise spoken and written about downtown Raleigh’s new urban boom so too are there archived public comments and city council minutes clearly noting the citizens that have never agreed that what she and her Council have built is a better, sustainable, vibrant, or prosperous Raleigh. All of those criticisms began long before most of us knew a Charles Francis existed. More importantly — where are our demands for explicit definitions of what the City Council under her leadership means by “affordable housing?” Where are our questions about the HUD regulation differences for how we spend for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money versus Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area (NRSA)? And why aren’t we asking her to detail the selection criteria she used for her nominations to the Raleigh Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners, especially considering that the 9-person Board holds all the power?

“The City has no influence over the management, budget, or policies of the Authority. The Authority’s Board of Commissioners has the responsibility to significantly influence the Authority’s operations. This includes, but is not limited to, adoption of the budget, personnel management, sole title to, and residual interest in all assets (including facilities and properties), signing contracts, issuing bonds, and deciding which programs are to be provided.(1)”

Well, that probably explains why she never goes after Francis, the Raleigh Housing Authority’s attorney. Institutions protect themselves, even at the cost of elections.

To that end, many folks accepted her statements that $60 million dollars over 10 years tax bond funding represents an unprecedented effort. We accept so much from the politicians we decide are good people, don’t we? Looking at the silent efforts from the anti-war effort during the Obama years and judging us all with equal scorn. How many of us know the differences between public housing and housing choice vouchers, or the difference between tenant-based, or project-based rental assistance? How many of us know the fair market rent for Raleigh apartments? How many of us know that HUD allows local housing authorities to run home ownership programs where for a fixed number of years, the Section 8 voucher can be used toward a mortgage rather than rent? There are 9 people plus at least one attorney that knows why Raleigh doesn’t run that program.

White progressives and liberals take the little bits we knew about a few things we know something about — gentrification, housing, and the attempt to replace the Citizen Advisory Councils with a Community Engagement Board and we make entire decisions on the effectiveness of our local government based on surface-level information. We have to stop asking what, and start asking why.

A map of the Raleigh voting precincts, the majority on the left are shaded in brown, and are McFarlane victories. Those on the right (East Raleigh) are shaded tan and are Francis victories.

Source: Wake County Board of Elections 10/10/2017 Election Results Map

Why did Francis win all the precincts on the right? Why are all of the black-majority precincts clustered in East Raleigh? Why did the City suddenly start to care about preserving affordable housing in neighborhoods where houses could be bought for less than $70k right up until our attention caused property values to skyrocket? Why do we think the black residents of East/Southeast Raleigh are not actively participating in challenging development plans? When we decided to construct of I-40 in right down the middle of their backyards, do we really think that property owners didn’t fight it with the same energy as that of the white, North Raleigh neighborhoods? There’s a reason for a difference in the success rate that has nothing to do with citizen engagement; it’s called institutional racism.

Black and white neighborhoods? Raleigh’s population is totally diverse — look, someone painted it right there on the side of the building and printed on all these yard signs — Y’all means All! I mean, yes, we are diverse. We are so diverse that we have racially concentrated areas of poverty (RCAP), where 50% of the residents are minorities and the poverty rate exceeds 30% of individuals in a defined area. Of the several RCAPs in Wake County, all are located within the City of Raleigh(2).

Again, ask why the concentration of poverty and race exists in East Raleigh when the entire point of Housing Choice vouchers is to prevent that very thing. Though also understand that HUD’s efforts to deconcentrate poverty in public housing didn’t start until 1968’s Fair Housing Act forced integration of public housing projects.

When the answer to people actually living and dying without access to housing is “well, this is more than any other City Council has ever done” why aren’t we prioritizing the truth of the People over a politician’s statement?

Why do we continue to allow the private market to accumulate profit off families surviving on the significantly less-than side of the $80,200 area median income? Why do believe that developers and mortgage lenders lose money on building affordable housing? They do not.

If Y’all meant All, we would prioritize someones truth as fact over our personal assumptive perceptions. We choose ourselves because it’s easier to remain ignorant of how our complicity creates economic and racial inequity. This is not progressive.

Now, ask why it’s so easy to identify white supremacists carrying their message with flaming tiki torches, and so hard to see how white supremacy carries a similar message with municode and policy.

  1. Analysis and Audited Financial Statements, Year ended March 31, 2017



White People: Words you Should Read

I just stopped the post that should have published today, the other half of last week’s conversation why white parents need to talk about race.  I’m scraping the whole thing from this space. It’ll go in the book so I can attack without a hint of gentle politeness.

The links that follow aren’t my words, aren’t my experiences. As a woman I often see racism from the lens of my own vaginal inequality, forgetting the starring role of white women in the violent racist past and present. In fact, I forgot that in an online space, written by a woman of color, for people of color– and rightfully got my ass handed to me. Instead of doubling-down on myself, I shut up and listened. We should all do that more often.

For those of you that are neither ally, nor co-conspirator; suffer from colorblindness, deny privilege and/or intersectionality, or who had google-search the meaning of implicit bias during the presidential debate– please read.
I’d rather you read them all, but if not, just pick one story from this collection of experiences written by black women in just the past week. These stories have scrolled through my social media (again, much thanks to Danielle Slaughter, a mama/writer/academic that took her need to teach advocacy to her child and brought it to the rest of us her Raising an Advocate class).

Please. Just start somewhere.

Going to the store while black? When the white woman wants the items you are purchasing, and you say no– she’ll tell the store manager you stole them from her cart. Classy.

When black parents and teachers can’t tell children that it’s safe to go to the police when they need help. Criminal

When fingers share posts on social, but won’t step foot into the community, or risk being the only white person, or work a little harder to include a marginalized population? Those are the worst kind of racists. Delusional.

When the memory a woman shares about a conversation her child-self had with her grandmother, how black women are not allowed to stand up in any of the spaces white women take up by leaning in. Historical.

In truth, when white women forget all of the ways they’ve used their whiteness to be more than complicit if the continuation of racist ideology. Hint, another example popped up this week after a female cop shot herself and blamed it on a black man. In Georgia.

When college kids crash a Black Lives Matter rally in a gorilla hood, or post their messages of racial terrorism in an open facebook group for NC State students and alumni— that’s them publicly pulling the hood right on off our parenting. Don’t whine about how you didn’t raise them this way— y’all either taught this directly, or you allowed it to be learned by avoiding the conversation entirely.


I wonder– parents of daughters, how many of y’all wish that parents of boys would teach their sons not to be rapists, so you could stop teaching your girls how to not to be raped?

Parents of black children, how many of y’all wish parents of white children would teach their kids not to be racists, so you could stop teaching your kids how to not be murdered?


White people: we’ve had 50 years to fix the racial inequities in the US. We  have no one to blame but ourselves for the current problems.It’s time we stop blaming everyone else for our difficulties, and take responsibility for our actions.






Why White Parents Need to Talk About Race


Thursday-I took my children to school and came home to cook my breakfast, to drink a reheated cup of coffee, to write in the silent safety of my home. I spent Wednesday on keyboard advocacy and deliberately teaching my kids about race. I’m white, my sons, 9 and 7, are also white. This wasn’t the first time– we’ve been talking about race since the oldest was 4, but the way I talk about it changed after Michael Brown.

My hands shake almost too hard to type this. Why do white parents need to talk about race?  Because I can teach my sons to protest, I can take them to rallies, I can appreciate and approve of civil disobedience, encouraging them to do the same when so moved. They can participate in any of that, on any level, without me fearing for their life.  

A picture of a mom with her two sons holding protest signs at the end of Moral Monday March

Me with my sons, at the end of a Moral Monday March

That’s why I talk about everything despite the idea that I should protect their innocence. Protecting a child’s innocence by hiding violence? Do you do Easter? Hansel and Gretel? Rock-a-bye-baby? There’s violence all over what we teach our children, let’s not pretend that violence is the reason for why white parents don’t talk about race. The American reality is that being a black child– regardless of where they live– puts their life in more danger than either of my white children. That is not acceptable.

I’m a white, married, stay at home mom with a college degree, with a husband that generates enough income that I can work on writing my book rather than at a job. We’ve been broke, but not poor, and we’ve never experienced a financial catastrophe.Even if we had, both my husband and I have extended family able to provide financial assistance. I talk about the difference between my college experience—my working full-time versus roommates whose parents covered their living expenses. I tend to leave out the times when I needed quick cash loans from my parents. My husband didn’t work during the school year because he spent the summers, not at the beach or the pool, but scouting tobacco fields, or painting houses in the hot NC sun. Nevertheless, he kept all of that income, able to live with his parents who were financially able to absorb the expense of his room and board.

Even during the waves of jealousy for my friends and their spring break vacations, I quietly thought I was a better person because I worked and was high-level adulting, they were mere children. If anyone had asked me back then if I — financial-aid-receiving, independent-bill-paying, good-grade-getting— was equal to all students with those criteria, but without a parental safety net, I would have defended my answer of yes to the death.

I wouldn’t understand that simply being aware of my parents’ ability to provide financial assistance was a benefit to me regardless of whether I took advantage of it. I wouldn’t understand my own privilege until my junior year of college when, less than two months into my new position as a customer service manager of a grocery store, I tried to promote Beverly from office assistant to bookkeeper. After 4 years of being passed over because of scheduling restrictions, being promoted was a happy surprise to her. Her tears when I mentioned I put her in for a 25-cent per hour raise, an unpleasant surprise to me. She already knew that a quarter per hour would be just enough to push her over the top of the poverty line, eliminating her access to financial assistance. She did the math in her head, not only because was she intelligent, but also because she was an expert at down-to-the-penny-budgeting. To still pay rent and feed her children, to pay for the gas to and from work, without any state aid, she’d need a 35-cent raise. My corporate headquarters refused, they were already mad about the 25-cents. A dime– all that stood between her and the self-sufficiency demanded from single mothers by conservative political speeches.

Robbie worked all the departments and hours he was able–the poster boy for bootstrap pulling. He’d won a full tuition scholarship to ECU for the fall, but was joining the Marines instead. When he had applied, he didn’t know his foster parents planned to kick him out in May, because the checks stopped when he turned 18.  He’d lived with them for 5 years, and had, until that moment in March, considered them his family.

Michael, a straight A high school student with no plans for college, already on the deferred Navy enlistment for after graduation. He worked any shift I gave him, and several times a week would either take the bus, or catch a ride to the store during peak hours, just in case somebody called out sick. If there wasn’t a shift, he’d do his homework in the breakroom for a few hours then go home. He called out once—the first bus had been late, causing him to miss the next, and his brother wasn’t home to give him a ride. I insisted over his protests on picking him up, driving my new-to-me red mustang less than a mile past the sleek apartments where the medical school students lived turning into a neighborhood that I knew only by reputation. The cop that followed me into the neighborhood continued to do so until I pulled up to Michael’s house, where he then parked so close to my bumper that I could nearly read his name tag. After Michael got in the car and I pulled away so did the cop, and when I wondered why, Michael said, “he thinks you’re here to buy drugs.”

“Oh, because of the car”, only to startle at the harsh laugh coming from the typically cheerful man-child in my passenger seat, “no, it’s because you’re white.”

Growing up within the circle of a large military base means exposure to racial and cultural diversity. Not just from my classmates, but also the teachers. Teachers are a set of first authority figures for many children. I didn’t grow up with the idea that black men were scarier than white men—all Army dads were equally terrifying. My first taste of the deep racial divide hiding in that town wouldn’t come until the county had to desegregate my middle school by busing out black kids and busing in the white kids.

Our schools were across the street from each other.

Anne Chesnutt and Lewis Chapel. Middle Schools in Fayetteville NC

Anne Chesnutt and Lewis Chapel. Middle Schools in Fayetteville, NC

For all of the racial diversity from my teachers, my friends, and my neighborhood, the perspective I lacked– without even realizing it– wouldn’t come until those experiences with the Beverlys, the Robbies, and the Michaels in my early twenties. Race, when combined with a lack of economic opportunity in rural areas like Eastern North Carolina, results in a beast of inequity that can be nearly impossible to overcome. I knew this in theory, but that learned in class cannot replace truths lived in person.

Two boys walking home from school

Once I had kids, my world view changed yet again. The general attitude one of “Well, if it comes down to my kid or yours, I’m going to save mine” existed for all sorts of things–preschool, soccer, elementary school. It was never the saying of this that bothered me. It’s harsh, but that truth applies at some level to all parents. What bothered me was the unapologetic lack of regret in those attitudes, especially when the decision escalates from a spot on the soccer team to a body in the street.

Would I save my child’s life at the cost of another child—a stranger? How could any parent honestly give an answer that isn’t yes? Would having to make that kind of choice rip through my psyche and destroy my mental health for the remainder of my days on earth, even with the certainty and love I have for my own child’s life?  How can you claim humanity if it would not.

How could any person become a mother, immediately accept the intensity with which we will go to protect our children from true harm, and not understand that a mother-not-you feels the exact same way? The challenge for us lies not in the protection, but in the accurate identification of danger.  White parents have decided that it’s too dangerous for their children to play outside because they might be kidnapped. Black parents have to tell their children that it’s too dangerous for them to breathe deeply around a cop. This is not acceptable.

This will be where I lose 2/3rd of the ones that didn’t already ghost when I started talking race. Grown men– y’all are struggling. Between your letters excusing your sons of rape, your defense of a celebrity’s lifetime of sexual predation, your refusal to hear and understand the word no? I cannot today. Even though it will be hard to accept something not for you, I’m talking to the women.

Even women that disagree on everything else, can typically find some common ground against sexual violence. When one in five women will be raped in their lifetime and one in four girls will be sexually assaulted before turning 18— there’s too many of us sharing experiences. Do mothers of daughters, independent of race or ethnicity, see their child’s face on the body lying on the ground next to that dumpster? Do they see their daughter’s face anytime they read about a woman’s sexual assault? I see myself and my friend’s daughters in these stories.

Mothers of sons– we are racially divided by our individualized, specific fear for them, and until white women accept that they cannot remain colorblind about the difference in real and perceived risk, isolated we will remain. My sons are safer than my friend’s son– independent of any other factors– just because they are white. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

I don’t see my sons’ face in Tamir Rice, my husband in Philando Castile, or my brother in Terrence Crutcher. I’ve never created a checkpoint schedule to verify my husband’s safety when he drives somewhere. I can put a toy gun in either of my son’s hand and never worry they’ll be shot. I can take them to a firing range, hand them a real gun, and no one will fear them having a weapon. In truth, I’ll be praised for teaching them to protect themselves from criminals.

I don’t need to see my white men in the faces of dead black men to feel rage at their murders. Black men don’t need to be my son/husband/brother/father for their lives to have value to me. I don’t require proof of the “goodness” of their character to decide that cops shouldn’t be shooting them on the street. Think about that.

Until a few days ago, my children had never seen a police officer searching a person on the street. They’ve never seen a police officer searching their father. They’ve never been passengers in a car pulled over by a police officer for any reason. They can go weeks without seeing a patrol car driving down their street. They don’t have to know that any of that exists for anyone else. I don’t have to warn them about getting pulled over each time an officer was behind my registration-expired vehicle.

I didn’t have to explain that even though more white people are arrested, prosecutors and judges sentence black defendants for longer prison terms. I didn’t have to show them the mugshot pictures on our local news website, and point out how many times a black man’s charge list ends with something like “driving with a broken taillight.” I didn’t have to tell them when my childhood friend, a black man I’ve known since 1st grade, said in a message to me–  that, yes, he puts his hands a certain way when he’s pulled over by a cop.

When, not if.

Both of the previous paragraphs are the unearned benefit granted to them for having white skin and white skinned parents. This is privilege.

When my youngest son said last year, “it’s only the brown-skinned boys getting in fights in the lunchroom” and this year “the brown-skinned troublemaker kicks me when I try to play soccer” I’m left with thoughts of those mothers, of my friend, of the possibilities and futures bleeding to death in our streets.

I could have chosen any number of statements about why he’s seeing more brown boys fight–explanations that he’d accept without question– they are more violent, undisciplined. Despite the near constant reinforcement of that rhetoric in the media and tv, that explanation is not the truth.

I could have gone the white savior route, gently explaining how living in poverty is a tough environment for a child, based on my own assumption about where the child lives. White moms, please stop suggesting that the reason these black kids are getting in fights is because they are poor and probably don’t have a Daddy at home. Many poor, fatherless black and white kids don’t get in fights, and many rich, two-parent white kids do. Even if you suspect with near certainty that a traumatic home life, for whatever reason, is triggering a child into acting out, the violence is a symptom of the trauma, not of the race. You should talk about poverty, you should talk about racial inequity, you should talk about the many ways a person might express trauma, but those need to be separate from the conversations about violence with your 7-year-old.

“I don’t see color.”

White moms, this is not working. I’m not going to try to convince my kid that the three fights he saw with his own eyes weren’t actually fights. Or that the kids he saw fighting weren’t black. Or that he was probably absent the day the white kids fought. I’ve gone the poverty-explanation route in the past, and it was a mistake. Luckily, my 9-year-old was quick to point out that in 3rd grade, boys of all races fight, but at the playground where they won’t get caught.

Well-meaning white ally moms trip themselves in their rush to create an empathetic response to those Poor Black Kids– see where I’m going? Classic white savior complex.

What I realized after my 9 year old’s comment about the playground fighting, is that my quickness to create empathy for why black kids fight in the lunchroom, I almost missed the opportunity to focus on the root of the issue at this moment– what did he mean by troublemaker? I started remembering how often I’d reframed this language for both of them, bad behavior, not bad kid, and I realized how easily it is to go from bad kid versus good kid to criminal versus law-abiding. Boys are already perceived as more physical and harder to control than girls, adding racial factors becomes both the prediction and validation. A teacher already biased by the belief that kids from that neighborhood, or with that skin color will be troublemakers might monitor that child’s behavior under a microscope, each mistake magnified without end. Sociologists call this a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I understand how it happens, I do the something similar to both husband and children, which is why I am positive that using this method isn’t just a matter of “doesn’t work” it’s also a matter of “makes it worse.”

What if those teacher and adult biases that cause the close-monitoring of a black child’s behavior is also the reason why nobody notices the growth of the silent rage in white boys until after it erupts from guns with mass shootings of elementary schools, movie theaters, and churches?

What if we talked about race and anger? How many times has an adult told a child, “there’s no reason to be angry about that!” What if we stopped teaching kids that feeling angry, never mind expressing that anger, means someone is a bad person– a troublemaker. Because if anger is scary or taboo, then whatever feelings that feed it are ignored too.

Do you think that black children aren’t over-hearing the anger and fear in their community, or that they don’t  know that a black boy has higher chance of arrest, prison, or death? Do you honestly believe that all of these children have the same luxury of innocence as your white children?  Do you think black kids– no matter where they live– don’t have the right to be angry and afraid? My easy-going 9-year-old kicked the snot out of his younger brother last week after a single hard foul during a basketball game. Not because of that foul, but because of that foul, plus the ten hard fouls from day before. Children, no matter how “good” they are, have breaking points.

I’ve put myself in many situations that my fellow white people consider scary and dangerous. One of the few times my personal safety felt at risk was a Saturday, during the day, on a busy street, surrounded by white people. The source? A single white man who became very angry when I used my body to block the image of an aborted fetus on his sign while singing “Wheels on the Bus” over the filth he yelled at a car trying to pull out of a lot.

Anger is a boy thing, far more than it’s a race thing, they only merge because of the implicit bias adults have about black men. Don’t believe you have bias? Take the test.

White parents blind themselves, because anger is uncivilized, and talking about race is uncomfortable. Just know that my kid is going to ruin your kid’s innocence, and he’s going to do it with specificity of truthful language that your child might find upsetting.

Last summer, my oldest pulled a 1930s version of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer off my bookshelf. There were many unfamiliar words and phrases, so he would read them out loud when he didn’t understand. That would be the day I first had to define the word none of us say anymore, since, you know, he’d just said it. After I finished, I realized something. White people have replaced that word (and rightly so) when talking about racism, but our choice replacement– “n-word”– doesn’t adequately capture the historically violent symbolism. If I’m calling out a white person, who I also can verify as rip-roaring racist, I’m going to be specific. If I’m trying to express how it’s still used against black people, I used to name it for what it was– a racial slur. But today that naming doesn’t feel strong enough. Racial epithet? Racial terrorism?

Even though we’ve always talked about race did I want to define the meaning of the word for racial terrorism for the 9-year-old that asked and the 7-year-old that overheard it? No! I wanted to just snap– NEVER SAY THAT– and go about my day. But that’s been the chosen method of white people for decades, only to find ourselves shocked 1) when it’s used by a racist to terrorize, and 2) that not saying those words didn’t erase racism. Bless our hearts.

Not only did we fail to stop systemic racism, we changed the word making it easier to deny the existence of racism, while still writing racist laws and policies..

Let’s play a game. Every time you hear the word criminal, replace it with black.

NRA:"America needs guns to protect ourselves from the criminals.”

NRA:“America needs guns to protect ourselves from the blacks."

Just like that, it’s clear why the NRA never takes to the TV after a black person is shot saying, “this why black people need to make sure they protect themselves with a gun.” Have you heard them say that? I haven’t. Painting with the similar brush:

NRA: "Good guy with a gun." 

NRA: "White guy with a gun."

The most incredible part of this restructured wording is that it means almost all of mass shooting events have been the actions of a good guy, not a criminal.

We fear a black man with a book, but trust the white guy with a gun. 

NRA: "Criminals don't follow the law."
NRA: "Blacks don't follow the law."

Us: "The mass shooter was a white male..."
NRA:"A mentally ill white male shot..."

Words change, intent does not.

I’ve pointed out these differences in the media to both kids, and now the 9-year-old jumps up from reading Time magazine to show me examples.

Kids talk to each other, and they repeat what their parents say. My kid was the kindergartner ruining the happy version of Christopher Columbus, and I expect he’ll do the same for President’s Day. After all, the Founding Fathers story is America’s most famous piece of fiction. Do you feel the inspiration in your chest when you hear “all men are created equal”? Are you black, a female, or someone whose family does not have 400 years worth of wealth? Because if you answered yes to any of that—the founding fathers (whispers) weren’t talking about you, either.

White parents, if you find yourself wondering what you can do to end the cycle of racism in this country? Talk to your kids. Name it. Talk to your friends. Name it. And if you are afraid to talk about race with your kids or with other white people, imagine the fear felt by those living it.

A rally sign from a Black Lives Matter march reading, "End White Silence."

White people need to end white silence.

Mass Shootings. A Gun Story

San Bernardino. Mass Shootings. These events result in predictable reactions from all sides– it’s exhausting and, ultimately, pointless. Is there really any need for me to express my outrage? Or for the militia to defend their constitutional rights? Those methods aren’t working.

When a mass shooting happens, we immediately start sorting people into their baskets: mentally ill, terrorist, criminal. Then we begin to argue about how people are sorted into those baskets (hint, it’s a skin pigment thing). Next we argue about what the founding father’s meant when they wrote the 2nd Amendment (hint, there wasn’t a National Guard). We move on to the arguments about gun permits, background checks, and whether criminals give a shit about either one. And finally, when we’re a week or so out from the latest tragic event, we gather up our arguments and deflate back into our corners, ready and waiting for the next opportunity to bring it all out again. Because it’ll be the 689th time we say the same thing, but maybe this time the other side will finally get it.

It’s time we change the story.

And by we, I mean all the semi-sane people on both sides. Pro-gun folks, I’ve been in your forums– I know, and YOU know, that some of your tribe are one roll of aluminum foil away from the fluoride poisoning conspiracy

Sidenote: The government’s fluoride poisoning plan example was a real thread on a gun rights forum. I read all 22 pages– guess what? All of them would defend Tin Foil’s right to bear arms, because Amendments! And most of them typed long messages that, in summary, told Tin Foil that he was going a little too bat-shit about the water poisoning plan.

All of this to say that I understand that liking/owning/loving guns isn’t the piece that turns a person into a gun-nut. Just like I hope that sometimes the reverse is true, that they know, deep down inside, that you can be liberal without being a dirty hippie.

A meaningful conversation between our two groups has got to start somewhere. Here, I’ll go:

My name is Stephanie, I’m an Army Brat who spent her formative years on, or next to, a military base. My Army father did not keep guns in the house, because the animal hunting he preferred used worms, not bullets.

Mom– you should stop reading now. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to come back. 

That does not mean I have not held, loaded, or shot a gun. That does not mean I’ve never had a gun pointed at me. One of my favorite memories involves a trailer, a drunk guy, and a rifle. And I mean favorite in the, “phew, glad I didn’t die!” sort of way.

I’ve shot targets with a gun that was not mine, that was probably not legally the gun of the person that handed it to me.

I took a lot of unnecessary risks as a teenager/young adult. I came home late one night toward the end of my Senior Year of high school, finally afraid about the situations I had put myself in, and I asked my Dad why we didn’t have a gun for protection. He paused for so long, quietly finishing his who-knows-what-number can of PBR before he saying: “you only shoot a gun at someone if you mean to kill them. I don’t mean to kill anyone with a gun ever again.”  I never touched a gun after that night.

Mom, it’s safe again. 

Now I told y’all that stuff that’s going to get me in major trouble with my mother because I want you to understand that it’s not ignorance, or a lack of firearm’s experience that prompts my distaste for guns. No, it’s when y’all started wanting to take them everywhere, instead of leaving them in your damn house, that I got antsy.

How do you tell the difference between a legally carried firearm on a law-abiding citizen, and a legally carried firearm on a citizen seconds from their big psychotic break? You live to be horrified by seeing the first, and the details of your murder is reported live on the news by the other.

If I see you carrying a gun, I call 9-11.

Yes, I get tangled up in the symbology of shooting my son with a water gun, and yes, when my then-5 year old shot me dead center of the forehead during laser tag I struggled not to burst into tears. No, I will not play gun-games with my kids anymore, which was more their choice than mine. I ruin the fun by quoting gun injury and death statistics. I own my hypocrisy– sword play doesn’t bother me, and I’ve helped both kids make bows and arrows, so I obviously don’t have a problem with weapons.

But I do have a problem with guns. I have a problem with the constant push-back against background checks and waiting periods. I have a problem with the lack of a photo on NC’s concealed carry permits. I have a problem with the gun trust and dealer show loopholes. I have a problem with 4 white guys openly carrying loaded rifles in Target, and I have a real serious problem when John Crawford gets shot by police, in an open carry state, for carrying a toy gun while black.

I do. I have problems with all of those things. But I have other problems too. I have a problem believing that increased regulations will stop a criminal from purchasing or shooting a gun.

They won’t.

I have a problem with open-carry, but if given the choice between open or concealed? I’d rather see you coming, thankyouverymuch.

To give me time to call 9-11. 

I have a problem with the idiot adults that don’t secure their firearms, ending the lives of their children, the friends of their children, or even themselves when accidentally shot by those children.

Trigger locks could help there. Birth control would probably help even more.

Whenever we start talking accountability, we hyper-focus on the guns, the permits, the background checks, the gun safes, the criminals, the law-abiding. We talk and talk and talk, the 2nd-Amenders might say, “well, this guy bought the guns legally, then went nuts. No regulation would stop that, criminals gonna do what criminals gonna do.”

They have a point.

Non-Gunners want more regulations, because fuck, loose regulations resulted in twenty 1st Graders being murdered right there in the middle of the suburbs.
They also have a point.

Now, let’s talk about the people that are sitting verra still and quiet during these conversations. Let’s talk about the data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that no one on Reddit has ever read. Let’s start with the how a person becomes a dealer– by getting a Federal Firearm License (FFL). The regulations are specific, for example a FFL allows you to sell guns at a single address, so you can’t load up your car and sell guns door to door. One application, a $200 permit fee (for dealers, it gets more expensive for importing and manufacturing) and you now have a FFL. At the end of November 2015, there were  138,949 active FFLs in the United States. The key for number codes for each column header can be found here.

Okay. So there are a lot of dealers/pawnbrokers with federal licenses to sell firearms. With privilege comes responsibility, so the FFLs are supposed to maintain detailed records because sometimes an ATF agent will come inspect your facility. For example, by 2014’s year-end, out of more than 140,000 FFLs, the ATF had inspected 10,249. That’s a full 7%, y’all!

The FFLs are required to keep detailed records, including inventory listings, sales (transfers), thefts, and losses. These reports are made available to… wait. Losses? Why is that separate from theft? Why would that be…oh. Loss means missing, not stolen, inventory. 

So losses are missing inventory– just poof, vanished. Which is probably a small number, because firearm theft is the way that all criminals get their guns. Except the losses aren’t small. The total number of firearms stolen at the end of 2014- 5,719. The total number “lost” – 13,510.

Yeah. I think maybe we need to focus harder on those compliance inspections. The number of guns just lost? Why, it’s almost criminal.