Big Spenders & Wake County Commissioners. Like it’s new

Jeffrey Billman’s article about the big spenders and the Wake County Commissioners mirrors the social-media yelling from four of those incumbent candidates. Burns, Calabria, and Hutchinson were elected in 2014, largely on their promise for prioritizing public school funding. Portman would follow in 2016, rounding out the last of the Foursome. Together they would be responsible for creating a majority vote against the full budget request from the school board in June 2017. Together they would push a majority vote in favor of a lease-to-own option for the South Wake Park barely 5 months later,

That damn park.

South Wake Park (aka, Friends of Crooked Creek, rebranded) advocates insist that the history of how this land came became available for the purchase doesn’t matter.  I disagree.

On November 04, 2017, bodies filled the room to over capacity, their green “Park Please” t-shirts having replaced the crimson #Red4Ed t-shirts speakers had worn the previous June. Octavia Rainey and Ms Jacobs had not come to speak about the park, they had come to speak about why a working mother and lone caregiver for her 18-year-old special needs son could be arrested for animal endangerment because of the conditions of the house they lived in, a house with rent subsidized by the Wake County Housing Authority. For 7 days Ms Jacobs waited in jail as her son suffered stress-induced seizures over the sudden loss of both his service dog and his mother. She spoke about the struggle she had to keep the house warm in the winter, the lack of air conditioning in the summer, the lack of resources for her son while she was in jail for the conditions of a house she did not own.

Then began the stories of those who did speak for the park. The dozen or so parents who shared their hopes that the County would agree to buy the 150ish acres of failed golf course land. The founder of 3 Irish Jewels Farm, pledged a million dollars to help pay for the cost of buying the land —  please we only need 20 acres to build a working farm, a safe meaningful environment where adults on the autism spectrum can grow once their 18th birthday ages them out of other programs.

Despite the obvious racial and economic differences between them and Ms Jacobs, they all spoke with a similar fear — how to create safety for the children who will never live alone as adults.

But then the rest, face after-mostly-white- face, spoke about their need for this park. Health benefits. Conservation. Property values. Increased property taxes for the County to spend. Even more “park please” as if it’s the asking nicely that does the getting and not the person doing the asking.

I’d been the last name on the speaker sign-up sheet, but with each passing green t-shirt, the smiles of the Foursome grew, making it clear that the public comment period served no other purpose than as a backdrop for the picture of room full of cheering supporters.

Our room had been full of supporters for public education funding, we’d asked nicely, most of us wore red shirts — but that hadn’t mattered for us.

So many times in the last 18 months, I’ve been in rooms with people asking both nicely, and sometimes not ,  but the outcome has never once been us being handed our version of a park.

Wanda Hunter said after a City Council meeting a few months ago that it’s like playing a basketball game without knowing you have to score points to win. Running the court, dribbling, and passing the ball, but still losing because no one ever told you to shoot the ball through the basket.

No doubt the Foursome have taken a hit this cycle because of their decision to vote against the public school funding — the promise they made to get elected to begin with. The estimated total project cost according to County Park projections —$23.4 million dollars. It’s an amazing coincidence to suddenly need for a land purchase nearly exactly what they didn’t have for public schools.

Maybe the County won Powerball?

Beyond those two voting decisions, their behavior in defense of those votes went beyond terrible a month ago. Portman’s reality places women who put their money where their values are as merely “using the woman card”. When I called him out, he called me mean. For quoting him.

Burns replies to a facebook comment where I ask him to consider whose property and history earns the right for conservation and preservation (i.e., greenlining) by telling me to “take off my tin foil hat.” Even though the racial disparities are demonstrably true in the County’s current parks, through the land zoning restrictions, through gentrification.

Hutchinson replies to questions about public education funding with “I want teachers to find joy!” but he deleted my question about the restrictive land covenants on the land held by the Triangle Greenway Council (he was once President) which will prevent the Amherst and Brighton neighborhoods from actually crossing Middle Creek into their new County park. In fact, he’s deleted most of my comments on his page, except for the one where a white persons tells me I’m racist for pointing out white supremacy.

Calabria either can’t do math, or can’t handle being wrong — his refusal to understand that the County’s contribution to increasing local teacher supplements stopped at the 18.5% average increase they passed in 2015–16 led to him telling me I was deliberately spreading misinformation. I gave him charts and graphs — still, holding tight to his wrongness.

The personal careers of the four incumbents: two lawyers specializing in business and commercial litigation, one professional speaking and sales consultant, and a CEO — quadruple the rhetoric skills. Yet I think most of us are just absolutely done being with the white, mansplaining.

And that damn park.

The drama of Crooked Creek deserves its own television show, and the history of a neighborhood with enough money and time to develop a LLC (Friends of Crooked Creek) in response to bankrupt golf course’s closure. One that prevents the land from being sold for nearly three years, only to celebrate their legal losses with a park?

History matters.

Crooked Creek isn’t actually in Fuquay Varina. It’s north of the ‘Quay, but South of Wake Tech, tucked under Middle Creek, and hugged by two-line, sidewalk-less roads — Lake Wheeler Rd, Hilltop Needmore Rd, and Johnson Pond Rd. You know — accessible. Or not.

CC Partners built the 300-ish luxury homes to surround about a 160 acres of golf course. Regardless of why — Wither blames the recession, the Friends of Crooked Creek (FoCC) blame management neglect — the golf course failed to generate profit for several consecutive years, and in November 2014 — almost 3 years to the day later the Foursome will vote to preserve it as open space — a blog post on the FoCC website announces that the golf course will close “next summer.”

Crooked Creek residents didn’t take this news well. But when they found out in March 2015 that Wither intended to turn 90 of those 160 acres into luxury homes with luxury amenities, leaving only about 60 acres as open green space and natural trails, they did what many wealthy people do in times of personal injustice — they hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit.

In early July 2015, the trial court denies their declaratory judgment & injunctive relief, but the FoCC are not deterred — appeal, filed. On July 5, 2015, the golf course and clubhouse close, and by July 24, 2015 the News and Observer reports that all of the homeowners (number unknown) who supported CC Partners in the trial receive letters saying: “You are among some of the world’s most despicable traitors. Do you think you are going to be able to live in this neighborhood? Not many people liked you before, but with your aid to the enemy, you are truly despised.”

Nearly a year later, in April 2016, the Fuquay Varina planning board unanimously denies CC Partners’ rezoning petition despite FV planning staff’s recommended approval. This is where the parcel for the school shows up- about 20 acres. Remember 3 Irish Jewels? Now Burns talks workforce housing plus a school on that 20 acres. Turns out that the farm was a proposal, nothing is set in stone yet. Terrible.

Y’all- what kind of power and money rolls into these garages at night?

By August 2016, Superior Court Judge Abernathy denies the Friends of Crooked Creek’s injunction request, clearly noting that the language in the covenants does not prevent the future sale and development of the golf course land. CC Partners offers them a compromise in the form of a Letter of Intent to sell the land to The Conservation Fund, but only if FoCC agrees to drop any future appeals, even if the contract with Conservation Fund falls through. FoCC is like, naw, and back to court it goes.

July 2017, the Court of Appeals decides that the “Covenants clearly state the golf course land can be sold for future development.” But, again — time, money, and power, in August 2017, the Friends of Crooked Creek file a petition for Discretionary review with the NC Supreme Court.

November 1, 2017- The NC Supreme Court denies Crooked Creeks’ petition for discretionary review under G.S. 7A-31.Which doesn’t matter because on November 6th, the Foursome save the neighborhood from the overcrowding (their words, not mine).

And listen, I get it, I like parks and am strongly pro-conservation. In fact, my grass represents a mash-up green weed-like plants strong enough to survive without attention, water, or chemical intervention. But I also get what it means when certain people can stop development just near their homes for three years, while other people watch their homes bulldozed from the rear-view mirror of the u-hail. I also understand that the current level of land banking planned in Wake County will not support the freaking 65 people showing up here every day. So either we stop advertising this as the “place to be” or we build places for the people who have BEEN here to live.

Some of us can hold more than one truth at the same time. Some of us.

The whole time the Friends of Crooked Creek are tying the land up in a legal battle to preserve the golf course, they are also actively working option two — preserved green space — a park! The first change.org petition appears in 2015, with a link to a now defunct Friends of Crooked Creek website.

About a year ago, a new Facebook page appears and thus begins rebranding. August 14, 2017 the South Wake Park Project (aka Friends of Crooked Creek version 2.0) delivers their park presentation to the County Commissioners.

Which brings us back to the Foursome’s insistence that their opponents are condoning the spread of lies based on a mailer their campaigns did not authorize.

Burns is quoted in the N&O: “Ms. Vickie Adamson knows very well that the county is not bailing out a golf course.” He went on to say, “We will purchase almost 200 acres of open land in a fast-growing part of the county and open it to public use.”

Okay- I’ll allow that calling it a call “golf course bailout” isn’t precise. It’s more of a “golf course homeowner land protection bailout,” but that’s such a long hashtag. Though it just occurred to me — has anyone actually removed the putting greens from those sprawling green lawns? If not, I sure hope there are plans to remove them, lest we actually accidentally bail out the golf course.

But let’s explore the meat of why Burns thinks that Adamson is condoning falsehoods.

The claim is that purchasing the Crooked Creek golf course land is 200+ acres of park-ready land, the 4 million dollar purchase price is well below market value, and that the County has neglected recreational and environmental needs of Southern Wake County’s taxpayers.

For that claim to have merit, the following conditions must be proven true:

  1. Southern Wake County doesn’t have County park/open space land.
  2. The Conservation Fund is purchasing 200+ acres of land for 4 million dollars.
  3. The cost to the County for The Conservation Fund to buy and hold the Crooked Creek golf land will equal 4 million dollars.
  4. The cost of a County Park is equal to the cost of a land purchase.
  5. The per-acre value of the land purchased is less than 4 million dollar price tag.
  • In 2005, Wake County purchased 235+ acres of land 11 minutes away from Crooked Creek for a future SouthEast Wake park thus condition 1 is false.
  • The Conservation Fund purchased 151 acres, not 200+ for about 4 million, thus condition 2 is false.
  • The $4 million dollar price tag doesn’t include the holding costs, calculated annually (not fixed-rate) at an interest rate of prime + ½ percent for 4 years, thus condition 3 is false.
  • Consultant feedback estimates the projected cost of land purchase + facility repairs + infrastructure investments will equal 23.4 million dollars over the next 5 years, thus condition 4 is false.
  • According to Wake County Real estate website, the combined assessed value for the 10 parcels of land TCF purchased equals $3,784,771. The $3,950,500 sale price for those same parcels is $165,729 more than the assessed value. That said, market rate value is often higher than tax value, so it’s likely true the principal-only cost to buy the land is below market value, this condition 5 is maybe.
    The Foursome took to social media airwaves to demand that their challengers denounce the information posted on a website and a mailer (sponsored by the Wake Citizens for Good Government PAC, not approved by the candidates) as lies. But other than calling it a golf course bailout, there aren’t any lies. The Foursome and park advocates keep insisting that the park doesn’t cost 24 million dollars. But since it’s right here in the Revised Crooked Creek Final Summary Item Summary no one’s buying it.

Selling a car without tires and an engine, while constantly repeating that it’s “drive away ready” doesn’t make it true. Nor is it true this park will only cost 4 million  dollars. That’s not even true for *just* the land because they forgot the annual holding cost, which will be part of the cost of the land even if they do nothing at all with the park. Like the SouthEAST park the County bought in 2005.

The Foursome and their selective outrage over the use of rhetorical claims feels like taking a walk on a NC August afternoon in a heavy winter coat — sticky, gross, and unnecessary.

For example, dude knows very well that it’s a stretch to round the142.8 acres the Conservation Fund actually bought to “almost 200 acres.”

They also know that they didn’t raise the local average teacher supplement by 44%. They did increase the local teacher supplements in 2015–2016 to an average of 18.5%. But that’s it. I know I keep harping on this, but when I kept hearing the Foursome talk about their increase to teacher pay, it just didn’t make any sense. So I asked every teacher I knew, and when not a single one of them could confirm this increase, I started digging and thinking. It took me a really long time to work out the math and reasoning, DPI and the NCGA don’t really want anyone to think about it too much else we might notice that the current conditions are an actual milestone on Art Pope and friends’ “Destroy Free Public Education” timeline.

Like those optical illusion posters, once the hidden image appears, it’s easy to find it again. According to Calabria’s personal Facebook warriors (lawyer and law student, shocking), I’m “deliberately spreading misinformation to purposefully make the number smaller?”

Except I’m not– and I brought a spreadsheet to prove it.

Maybe they knew all along they were misrepresenting the inflated percentage and did it to sound better, so they could put “pro-education” on their mailer. I mean, folks are RIGHTFULLY pissed off that they didn’t fund public schools for nearly the *exact* same amount that they “found” to buy Crooked Creek land.

Or maybe they did not realize their error until I pointed it out to them, but they can’t handle being wrong. Neither option are attractive qualities in a public servant, especially not a “progressive” public servant.

Rhetoric. Smoke and mirrors. Disingenuous. The Foursome keep accusing their opponents of telling lies that aren’t actually lies, while are using rhetoric to sorta-almost-mostly-not-tell-the-truth. The bombast-ity.

It’s hard to really buy into their integrity, no matter how much they insist the have some. They claim that breaking their promise to public education proves they can’t be bought by those giant donations they got in 2014. But even so, what does broken promises say about a persons integrity.

And seriously, have we really decided that large donations in support of the public good, i.e, public schools, have the same meaning as large donations in support of private interest/industry? Because if we’re looking at the meaning behind sudden large donations, I have questions about John Kane’s new interest in progressive politics. And why do the owners of the Wake Stone Quarry donate so much money to the four of them? HNTB Ltd Holdings PAC — which spent 10k dollars to elect McCrory — why are they donating to these “progressive conservationists.” What’s up with all the lawyers and former newspaper owners and cable tv folks spending this much money on county commissioner races? What exactly has been going on in this county while I was at the NCGA working on public school funding because I just assumed that the all democrat county commissioners wouldn’t need as much supervision. HA!

If integrity becomes something reduced to campaign donation amounts, can we calculate the cash value of broken promises? As it turns out, yes it’s the exact amount that the “Big Spenders” in the 2018 primary subtracted from the Foursome’s campaign minus the amount that the “Big Spenders” donated to the Foursome earlier in 2017 before they demonstrated their integrity by breaking a promise. Note- as of today that donation money hadn’t been returned to Dean Debnam — so if Debnam’s money is buying an election, and you are the candidate supporting that accusation while simultaneously keeping Debnam’s money? Interesting. 15k worth of loans to their own campaigns, thousands of dollars from the Raleigh Mayor’s husband, Ron, who also plays in bluegrass in band full of current and former big wigs of the News and Observer- which might explain why I couldn’t get a LTE about the mayoral race published. Donation money from McGuire Woods partners, the firm Calabria worked at until recently. A Partner who just happens to own quite a nice chunk of land right at the edge of the Crooked Creek neighborhood. The legal assistant that has donated small bits of money, around the same time of the name rebranding and the start of South Wake Park Facebook group, which she admins. The independent newspaper owned by David Meeker, brother of former Raleigh Mayor, Charles Meeker. Charles Meeker who has also donated to their campaigns, hosted fundraisers.

What is the campaign dollar value of relationships during election season?

Saturday my household received a mailer, which unlike the one that caused Mr Burns such indignant outrage, was authorized by the Foursome’s campaigns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m confused as to how they’ve stood up to the reckless policies coming from Donald Trump and an extremist legislature?

Have they advised the Wake County sheriff’s department that they will refuse any increases to his budget until he cancels the 287g contract that makes the Wake County one of 6 counties with a partnership with ICE agents?

Did they “stand up to the extremist legislature” by demanding they fully fund public schools?

No, of course not.

Please- go vote, the last day is this Tuesday: Pierce, Adamson, Brown, West, and Evans.

 

 

 

 

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

why

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.

Active School Shooter Safety

Sometimes we can summarize the logic of a nation with a publicly shared picture on Facebook. An active school shooter safety plan that includes desk barricades and tennis balls? What could go wrong?

A rage-style 2 pane comic showing people seeking answers after another mass shooting on a school.

Will Oregon’s shooting accomplish what Sandy Hook did not? Doubtful.

I’d like to say that I leave my elementary-aged kids at their school, and never once consider that they might be shot and killed by an armed gunman. But I live in America, so I can’t say that. However, thanks to Mr. Compton’s timely advice on active school shooter safety after the events in Oregon–I know what to do.

Instead of worrying myself over gun permits, legal loopholes, a failing public and mental health system, I will shift my focus to a different kind of training. Starting tomorrow, I’ll instruct my (6- and 8-year-old) children that if an active school shooter shows up in their classroom, they should pummel him with balls. I’m gonna teach them to WIN instead of huddling in FEAR OF THEIR LIVES. This is the most obvious solution. I’m sad I didn’t think of it myself.

Sarcastic response to using desk barricades and tennis balls as an Active School Shooter Safety Plan.

Balls vs. Bullet. Be a WINNER!

White People Don’t Riot and Other Stupidity

I wrote a post about White Privilege, citing several examples of my past events where being white, and probably also female, did not result in my arrest.

Like Michael Brown, I stole something.  Unlike Michael Brown, I was not shot. According to the internet comments I’ve read lately, I deserve to be marked for death because I’m a thug. Except I’m a white female, so those rules don’t apply to me.

The events in Ferguson are multi-dimensional, they exist outside of the realm of simplicity. Similar to, you know, life.

Ferguson is about a black teenager, killed in the street, yes. Because there was a black teenager killed in the street. Whether that was a justified/unjustified shooting is still undetermined.

Ferguson is about Chief Tom Jackson’s response to the shooting. The considerable amount of dodging and weaving makes it hard to believe what he says. Jackson’s in charge, every decision he made after Wilson shot those bullets are his responsibility. Actually, even Wilson’s decision to shoot is Jackson’s responsibility. That’s what being in charge means.

This is a police chief that responded to media and citizen demands for the officer’s name by releasing the name, but no picture. In fact, there is only one picture available of Darren Wilson, in a country where very few 28 year old adults maintain digital media anonymity.

Instead of providing Darren Wilson’s picture in the article naming him as the shooter, Chief Jackson included surveillance video stills of Michael Brown allegedly committing a strong-armed robbery of a corner store. According to Jackson,  “we needed to release that at the same time we needed to release the name of the officer involved in the shooting.”  

What they needed was a tactic. A demonically brilliant plan that effectively molded the algorithm of the google image search results to present evidence of Michael Brown’s criminality, while simultaneously providing reasonable doubt for Wilson’s actions. That Officer Wilson did not know about the robbery when he stopped Brown doesn’t matter. Those pictures tattooed the Thug Life image onto the brains of the Americans that would cast all black men as criminals.

The Saturday after Darren Wilson’s name was released as Michael Brown’s shooter, a google image search for “Who Shot Michael Brown” returned page after page of the stills from the surveillance video, and not a single photo of Wilson.

In the days that followed, the search finally had a photo of Wilson, but not in the Top 10, Top 20, Top 30… you see my point?

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#Ferguson is about breaking news that had to trend on twitter before capturing national news media attention. Or rather, before it redirected national news attention from a few rioters to the other, non-rioting, citizens of Ferguson.

Before the night of the Great Twitter Scoop, this event ranked no higher than a brief mention of an officer-involved shooting of a black male and resulting riots. Pictures, if they existed, were of a half dozen black people wearing masks, and a burning gas station. No mention of the peaceful, law-abiding protesters being sprayed with rubber bullets and tear gas;  they didn’t exist in the national news.

Tell me again about this constitution we are all patriotically-honor-bound to protect with our guns? Where Freedom of Expression, including speech and assembly, are the very first of all of the rights?

Should the rioters and looters be arrested? Yes. Does the actions of 30 rioters/looters cancel the rights of 200 protesters? NO. It is not the fault of the responsible protesters that a few criminals are breaking the law. (This logic should be familiar to you, as it is the argument used by gun advocates at every opportunity.)

That’s not been blog-comment-opinions I’ve read at places I would consider “across the aisle”. Apparently Americans have become so accustomed to seeing large groups of black people as threatening that they can see nothing else.

I’ve also read enough essays and thoughts by people, of all races and genders, to believe that Ferguson will become more. That both the shooting and the resulting — ongoing– aftermath will not fade away.

Ferguson is about how digital media is spreading and breaking news. Without twitter and a few people refusing police order to stop taking pictures, what would we have known? Nothing.

That attempt to silence the journalists in, and the citizens of, Ferguson is the second most chilling example of police misconduct I’ve heard in a long time. Without those people standing up to an armored car, tear gas canisters, and snipers, none of us would have known. We wouldn’t have known.  

I like to consider myself an informed person, both by choice and degree (sociology). These past few weeks, reading the history behind the continued racism in this country? I knew a lot, but not as much as I thought.

I found the start of when all attempts toward creating social/racial equality became redefined as communism. Because back then the only thing scarier than black people were the commies.

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I’m trying to imagine how an 18 year old would feel about this level of attention. After all, Michael didn’t volunteer to be this generation’s Emmett Till. The St. Louis police department volunteered him for that by leaving his dead body in the middle of the street for several hours, most of those uncovered, in a lake of his own blood.   Nods, “crime scene” you say;  yes, of course.

Wonders though, if that had been a white woman lying in the middle of the street, would she have been covered? What about a murdered 7 year old? Covered? Not covered? Privacy of the dead respected in any way?

In the midst of my horror and, yes, even my embarrassment, because, really– white people? Seriously? Some of the stuff coming from your mouths, being typed from your fingers? I’m not like y’all, I don’t believe the way you believe, and yet I’m still horrified by the fact that you keep talking.

In the past week I’ve visited some “on the other side of the aisle” blogs. One of which (no I will not link to it; an awful person whose personal opus includes words like Dominate Male Group Theorem as a reason for why White Men get to be in charge) that I have–literally– had to shower to feel clean again. I’ve read comments. I’ve watched deniers of racial inequality poke themselves out from the holes they hide themselves in, announcing via their anonymous internet identity the full extent of their idiotic prophecies.

Some of my very favorite raging comments:

 “White don’t people steal and loot!”

History disagrees with you. Scandinavia, full of people that are about as white as white can get, basically invented pillaging and looting. They were called Vikings and unlike the How To Train Your Dragon movie they did not, in fact, ride dragons to other countries looking to liberate underprivileged dragons.

Leif_Ericson_on_the_shore_of_Vinland

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Or, if you need a more recent example of white people looting, here are some looting surfers from LA.  Because, you know– looting surfers. 

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“Well, white people don’t riot when they don’t get their way”.

I just… did y’all take a history class? Like, ever?

Wikipedia is not my favorite source, but look– a nice list of White American riots in the United States.

“There is no government conspiracy against black people!”  

Well, of course not. It’s not like the FBI wastes their time listening to illegal phone taps of civil rights leaders. That would be craz…  Wait. What?

“Pfft– JFK was a stupid, liberal democrat. You can’t offer up what HE did as evidence for a racial conspiracy. It’s not as if he was a COP in FERGUSON.”

Fair point. When a cop in Ferguson detains the wrong person on an arrest warrant instead of releasing him, they beat him up and then, because arresting the wrong man and beating him up isn’t quite bad enough, one of the cops presses property damage charges against the man. Why? Because the illegally detained, beaten man got blood on the officer’s uniform.

“Whatever– this is just your white guilt. You act like the KKK runs politics, or something.”

Or something. Add in the cleverly masked faces and it’s almost like you’d NEVER know that it was your Governor out there burning a cross on the lawn.

Between four million and seven million men and women belonged to the Klan in this era. It was active in every state. It found support in many northern and western cities and was particularly politically powerful in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, and Oregon, as well as the South. The Klan helped elect state and local officials and at least 20 governors and U.S. senators — from Maine to California. In Oregon, a Klan-dominated legislature passed an anti-Catholic school law, later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 1925), that required public school attendance. The Klan was deeply involved in politics, but it did not form its own political party. It was generally Democratic in the South and Republican in the North. It had no national platform. The Klan was a major issue at the 1924 Democratic Convention and the national election; in the 1928 presidential election, when New York Catholic Al Smith was the Democratic candidate, it helped the Republicans win.

“Racial inequality is over-rated. Why don’t black people just give it a rest? One time a black guy shot a white guy in my neighborhood.”

Yes. And that black guy will go to jail for a long, long time. Far longer than the white guy would have, had the shooter/victim been reversed.

One thing I have learned from the rather distasteful reading of several very excitable, pro-gun-rights forums is that bullets shot from a black person’s gun into a white person are much scarier and damaging than any other bullets. Those bullets are, I understand, 4 million times more likely to steal, shoot, and rape white women. In fact, because I am a white woman I should buy myself an assault rifle.  And then carry it with me everywhere I go to protect myself against violent criminals like John Crawford III. That guy? Just walking around walmart, in a legal open carry state, with a toy gunThe fucking nerve. 

He’s dead now. The cops shot him because people call 9-11 if you are black, carrying a gun. In a legal open carry state. And the NRA will say not a single word about how things would have been different had the black guy had a gun. Which, in light of CEO Wayne LaPierre‘s continued insistence that all people need guns to stop crime, feels, I don’t know, disingenuous. A bit like he’s a lying, liar pants.

“The problem with black people is their black excuses. How dare they sit there and complain.  The only time a cop stops me is when I’m speeding, ergo black people are committing more crimes because the cops mess with them more. It’s a fact.”

Did you know, my racist internet frenemy, that way back in 1870, during a time we like to call the Reconstruction, Hiram Revels became the first African American to serve in Congress? That black people had started enjoying all of the equality the constitution provided until the end of Reconstruction and the start of the Jim Crow laws? Those same laws that lasted all the way up to 1965?

I thought that was a pretty neat fact, and I just wondered if you, like, knew that.