#Race

The Interesting Case of Marissa Alexander

On May 10,, 2012 31-year-old mother of two, Marissa Alexander, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for “Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon.” For what reason? Firing two warning shots into the roof of her ceiling while her admittedly abusive husband attempted to attack her once again. No one was shot, no one was hurt, yet the judge sentenced Alexander to 20 years in prison.

Facts of the case, her estranged  husband admitted, in a sworn deposition, that he did beat her that day and even threatened to have her killed. HE ADMITTED THIS! Let’s not forget, this all happened nine days after Alexander prematurely gave birth to one of her children. Not only did her estranged husband admit to beating her and threatening her, but he also admitted to beating other women he was previously in relationships with. Yet and still, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing warning shoots.

The trial of Alexander and her case drew immediate comparisons to the famed George Zimmerman trial. Not only were they both in Florida, but they both also sought to use the “Stand Your Grand” law as their defense.A defense that, worked for one, but not the other.

Experts argued that if Alexander would have shot at her husband and killed him, instead of firing warning shots, then she more than likely would have been protected under the “Stand Your Ground” law. Which is absurd and a miscarriage of justice if you ask me, on both accounts.

Funny enough, in a thought-provoking way, not a “hahaha” kind of way, the same prosecutor was used for both the Zimmerman trial and the Alexander trial; Angela Corey. Many shamed protesters attempted to get Corey off of the case citing her using this black woman as a way to get reelection. Playing on the racist undertones of her constituents. The Congresswoman, Corrine Brown, for Corey’s district even argued that she had overcharged Alexander due to long-held institutional racism.

Some have even gone as far as to equate her to Jim Crow era bigots.

“[Angela Corey is] a throwback to those Jim Crow era prosecutors and legal authorities – where there were instances of black people needing justice and they could not count on their local government official” – National Organization for Women

Thankfully, Alexander remains free at the moment as she awaits her retrial after an appellate court struck down her sentencing by the district court. Citing incorrect application of the jury process to the jurors. Hopefully this time Alexander will be freed for attempting to protect herself and the man who had abused her for so long. She could have killed him, but she chose not to. She had more regard for his life than he did for hers, and clearly more than the justice system has for the lives of black people across this country.

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The Problematic Nature of Raven Symoné

Raven

Huffington Post

Former “The Cosby Show” cast member and popular Disney Channel television series, “That’s So Raven”, star Raven Symoné made headlines over her comments on Oprah Winfrey’s “Where are They Now.” The episode sparked controversy because of Symoné’s comments regarding race and labels.

“I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American, I’m an American…I’m an American, and that’s a colorless person.” – Raven Symoné, “Where Are They Now”

Ironically adhering to the label of “American” while claiming “African-American” as a burdensome label she’s tired of. Illustrating, she clearly didn’t think this whole thing through. The fact of the matter is she’s only tired of labels because of the stereotypes and bigotry that comes with the labels that she particularly falls under. No one ever says “I’m tired of being labelled as wealthy” or “I’m tired of being labelled as powerful,” it’s always someone saying they’re tired of being labelled as gay or black or transgender or some kind of identifier that has historically been diminished and discriminated against. Which only furthers the discrimination and disenfranchisement. Instead of rallying against the problematic views of people and using this as a educational opportunity, they seek to abandon the label because they don’t want to be compared with “those” people.

Raven attempted to double-down and clarify her statements during an interview with TheGrio where she stated,

“I never said I wasn’t black… I want to make that very clear. I said, I am not African-American. I never expected my personal beliefs and comments to spark such emotion in people. I think it is only positive when we can openly discuss race and being labeled in America”

Here we see a more nuanced explanation of Symoné’s comments on “Where Are They Now,” however, there is still something that she is missing. While I’m glad she clarified that she didn’t mean she wasn’t a black person, which I think is a reason for a lot of the backlash, there is one thing she’s missing and one thing she has a legitimate point on.

First, she’s missing the nuance to African-American labelling. It is a source of pride for those of us descendant of a stolen people who were stripped of their culture, their language, their religion and their names. She was right when she said we don’t know where we come from, however, the label seeks to connect us with where we come from! The label seeks to show that though you tried to disenfranchise us, we’re still here and we’re still connecting with our people. Even if we don’t know where specifically we’re from, we know we’re from the motherland and we seek to connect ourselves with a culture and a people who we’ve been distanced from. That’s the point and legacy of the “African-American” label.

Now, where she had a legitimate point. Yes, it is very true that European-Americans, seemingly, do not have to use a hyphenated form like the rest of us. Which does, in a way, “other” everyone else. Americans, for a lot of people, equal white people. Everyone else has to be hyphenated; African-American, Asian-American, Latin-American, etc. Meanwhile, we’re all just as much American as the people of European descendant. In fact, I’d argue more so. The overwhelming majority of African-Americans in America are descendants of slaves. A very significant, nigh majority, minority of European-Americans are descendants of the immigrants that migrated to America during the Industrial Revolution which started in the mid-late 1800s.

Overall, we’re all Americans. Yes. But we all must also find solace and community and power in the labels that describe us. Don’t fight against your label, fight for it. Better the opportunity of your people, better the views about your people, better the perspective and admonish the stereotypes. That’s what you do Raven. That’s what we do.

If you haven’t seen it, check out the video on the OWN Youtube channel here.

#FergusonOctober and a disturbing report on police homicide and race

Over the weekend, October 10-13, Ferguson October was in full affect. A weekend of protests, demonstrations and even concerts were scheduled, advocating change in police departments while remembering the life of slain teen Michael Brown. Headlined by many high profile thinkers, clergymen and even rappers, these events focused on racial disparity and discrimination and saw over 1000 people come out in full support. Some of the more awesomely shocking support came from people who traveled all the way from Palestine to show solidarity with their black counterparts in America.

Ferguson October comes perfectly, almsot as if planned, on the heels of a recent ProPublica 32-year analysis of police homicides as reported by the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report. In their analysis of the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports ranging from 1980-2012, ProPublica solidifies the fear, apprehension and cynicism many black Americans feel towards police officials.  One of the more disturbing parts of the in-depth analysis was the finding that black boys were 21 times more likely than their white counterparts to be slain by police officers from 2010-2012, the three most recent years of available data. Yes, that wasn’t a typo. 21 TIMES more likely to be killed by police officers!

Of course, many of these officers I’m sure had justified reasons for killing some of these boys.  However, what was telling when reading the report was that after the 1985 Supreme Court decision which said deadly force can only be justified if the suspect posed a threat to the officer and others, almost immediately police homicides increased. Not only did the number of people killed by police increase, but the “officer under attack” defense increased as well. Before 1985, the “officer under attack” defense was used in  33 percent of the police homicides. Now looking at recent data from 2005-2009, note that all crime has drastically decreased over the decades, “officer under attack” was cited in 62 percent of police killings. I find this to be very telling.

While a said truth has been solidified by the reporters over at ProPublica, there always exist a silver-lining. These demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri sought to rally against the seemingly sanctioned killing of  black people, men and boys most egregiously. The recent happenings in Ferguson has sparked a national debate and hopefully, this time, it bodes well. Hopefully, this time, we get actual reform. No more killing officers, these kids just want to live like everyone else