Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Next Step After Justice for Trayvon

We live in a complicated world. Because it’s so complicated incidents can get lumped together under common issues when they don’t have to be. Sometimes no one is wrong in how they look at something but because we are trying to handle everything together it causes debate where there shouldn’t be any. With that in mind I just want to say that the crusade to bring Trayvon Martin’s killer to justice is a valid cause. There’s no gray area to me.

Even if there was a group of kids committing crimes in that neighborhood it wouldn’t matter because Trayvon Martin wasn’t one of them. As a matter of fact even if he was he still shouldn’t have died that night. That’s why we have law enforcement and a justice system. I know there are times when someone feels threatened or their life is in danger and they must take action but that’s not what happened here. There’s not one shred of evidence to suggest there’s even a doubt that this young man was killed for no other reason than being profiled by a man who was dying to be a vigilante. That is totally unacceptable because I don’t have time to be wondering what someone is looking at when they see me in their neighborhood. I don’t want to be visiting a friend and end up in the morgue because I decided to wear jeans and a hoodie that day.

That’s the reason why I’m 100% behind George Zimmerman being arrested and prosecuted. It’s personal to me because I was Trayvon at a point in my life. I’ve been followed in stores. I’ve been pulled over by law enforcement just to ask me where I was going. I’ve been stopped with my friends while we were just walking up the street. The part that makes it difficult is that even after I made good grades, went to school, and got a job I was still profiled the same way. Any of us could have been Trayvon. That’s why it upsets me so much.

I’m upset but I don’t have blinders on. I see what’s going on in my community and I know that black men have a serious problem with criminal activity and how we treat one another. I don’t think there is no way to justify what George Zimmerman did but it’s frustrating to know that some young men give his supporters the evidence to validate his crime. I know there are a lot of kids running for help and it’s not from anyone that looks like Zimmerman. They are running from young men that look just like them. That problem is our Achilles Heel because it gives people who hate us reasons to question our humanity.

That’s why I am hoping that once the initial goal of justice being served in Trayvon’s case we take that same energy, turn it inward and figure out how to save his peers from the cemetery and the penitentiary. I know it’s been difficult for us to deal with our own issues but if we can’t find the energy now after a situation like this I don’t know when the time will come. A young man is dead because of his appearance and I can’t think of a better way to honor his memory by doing all we can to make sure that many of his peers live as long and productive lives as possible.

There’s been a lot of talk about race lately. If brothers really want to strike fear in the hearts of real racists they need to see us showing each other love and respect. They need see us taking care of our kids and respecting our women. They need to see us as we educate ourselves and improve our community. I have no doubt we could do this if we just stay focused. After you march for Trayvon Martin, put those hoodies back on and let’s try to save these kids.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Be Cautious And Watch Out For Everything

My baby brother just turned 21 years old. I worry about that young man all the time. I have been worried about that kid every day since he turned 12 and went to middle school. He’s a good kid. He goes to Memphis University. He wants to be a writer and even has a blog for a class assignment. He’s one of the coolest, most laid back kids you will ever meet. I don’t remember a time I have ever seen him angry. He’s got a lot of potential and I hope he lives a long life and get to see it blossom. There’s nothing worse than seeing young men leave the Earth no knowing what could be. Young men like my brother can appear to be both predator and prey for different people and both views put them in danger. That’s why the last few weeks have been so disheartening.

My brother could have easily been Ricky Summers of New Orleans who was killed behind an abandoned building on his way to tutoring one Saturday morning. I don’t how many times young men are in the wrong place at the wrong time and get caught up in some altercation that they can’t avoid at that moment. That happened to be once or twice. I remember when I was 18 and caught a ride to work from a childhood friend who decided to “make a stop right quick” and handle some drug business while I’m sitting downstairs in his car. I never accepted another ride again but that one time could have been the last time I had the chance to learn.

My brother could be Wendell Allen of New Orleans who was killed by a New Orleans Police Department while standing unarmed at the top of the stairwell of his home. Some police officers are scared of young black men. You have to be careful not to show any aggression or you could get shot or hurt really bad. When you are a young man like Mr. Allen or my brother you have to try and not make any sudden moves that give them any reason to act against you. The goal is just make it through the experience safely.

My brother could have been Trayvon Martin too but I am not sure how to avoid what happened to that young man. I could show him how to watch out for thugs or guys that may be up to no good. I could teach him how to handle himself when pulled over by police officers. I’m not sure how to handle being stalked in your dad’s neighborhood walking home from the store by a crazy man looking for trouble. He can kill you and claim self defense even though he was the one with the gun following you down the street. I can’t imagine what his parents are thinking. For what happened to their son they could have just lived in the hood and not a gated community. I guess the lesson to be learned is that even if your lifestyle doesn’t fit the profile you still fit the profile. That’s depressing, disheartening, disappointing and a hard dose of reality in the President Obama era of post racial talk.

I guess the best advice I can give my brother and all the young men around his age is to watch out for everything and never assume things can’t happen to you.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Discussions I'm Not Ready For

I dropped the babies off this morning with their innocence still intact. I was hoping that when I picked them up today I wouldn’t be put in a position to have a conversation that may take that away. In this city it’s best to stay as naïve as you can to the issues going on around you. Kids have to deal with things around here that even the most mature adult finds difficult to deal with all the time.

A kid was killed behind an abandoned building in Central City Saturday. He was supposed to be headed to tutoring at KIPP Central City Academy. That school shares the building with KIPP Central City Primary. It’s really one big school community. I see those kids all the time. I watched the older kids as they got off the bus this morning. It was hard to tell if they were really upset because they always look aggravated early in the morning. I was hoping they were okay and I knew there was probably counselors in the building. It’s probably not a lot of those kids first experience with having to deal with death of someone so young.

I was having a conversation the other night with a friend and we were comparing our generation with our parents’. We were thinking about all the things they had seen in their lifetime and how even though history makes it seem like the generations before us had to deal with some serious things we’ve had some real issues to deal with too.

It’s hard to explain being a teenager, looking around at guys your age and wondering how many of them wouldn’t be around anymore. Between drugs, violence, and incarceration I feel like we lost some of those years just to have fun and not care about anything. I think there’s a value to being young and staying naïve as long as you can because once you lose that and the adult part kicks in you can’t go in reverse. I’m trying to keep the kids around me as young and innocent for as long as possible.

Thank goodness I didn’t have to start the clock moving forward today. No one mentioned it and I didn’t ask about it. There will be time to explain these things. Hopefully nothing happens to anyone they know to move the timeline up sooner than I expected. When that time comes I hope I don’t have to answer the question of why in the hell we live in a city this crazy to begin with. That’s one of the questions I don’t always have a logical answer for.

Rest in peace Ricky Summers

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Blogging on a Breezy Saturday Night

After a week of what seemed like summertime weather today felt like colder than it probably was. I’m not going to complain about the weather because there are some people suffering after tornadoes yesterday. I always feel a connection to people who are victims of weather events. I want to send my condolences to those people and their families.

While I was out today I saw all the little girls selling those Girl Scout cookies. I didn’t realize how serious they took those cookies until I became a parent and had to come up with sales. The Girl Scouts don‘t play around with those cookies and you better not give your friend a box of thin mints without getting the money because they have every cookie counted to the exact penny.

I’m getting to the Saints bounty story in a minute………..

I am going to give Representative Austin Badon the benefit of the doubt and say I understand why he wants the National Guard to come in to police New Orleans. Everyone is tired of the crime rate and the police department has some challenges right now. I think his intentions are for the safety of the city. I’m sure there will be some people who feel safer if this happens but all I am going to feel is a sense of defeat. It will be like going back to January 2006 when I first came back. We might as well put X’s back on our houses and cut off all the lights past Franklin Avenue like the good old days. There’s no way Mayor Landrieu wants this to happen.

In many ways having the National Guard around would be fitting because I think the city is four years behind where it could have been now. Too many people blamed Ray Nagin for things that were far beyond his control to change. They refused to do anything because they had to make him look as bad as possible. Now Mayor Landrieu is in office and he has the same problems. Neither man could have fixed the problem by himself but we may be further along now if people were invested despite of Ray Nagin.

Rush Limbaugh learned a valuable lesson this week. You may get away with the comments about minorities because most companies don’t cater to us anyway. Child bearing women who want to have sex without getting pregnant spend a lot of money and there’s a problem when you talk about them. It shouldn’t have taken sponsors bailing out on his show for him to know he shouldn’t call that woman a slut.

Are we really at a point in our country where a 30 year old woman who likes to have sex can be seen as a negative for political gain? I can’t support any political group who thinks this is a negative.

I’m having a hard time coming to terms with the Saints bounty scandal. It’s not because I have an over romanticized view of the players on the team. It’s not because I am wondering if Tom Benson is going to fire everyone who didn’t stop it or the loss of draft picks. The thing I am having an issue with is that for how the Saints defense performed this entire scandal was a big waste of time. I would have had a real easy time accepting if the offense had a pool for how badly they could run up the score. That would have made sense to me. Maybe things were going on in the pile or off camera that I didn’t see but I can’t recall more than one or two times the Saints defense really delivered a serious hit on anyone.

The NFL picks on James Harrison from the Steelers but you can make a highlight reel of plays where he was trying to take someone out. I haven’t seen the visual evidence of the Saints doing anything yet. The media keeps bringing up the NFC Championship game against the Vikings because they lust behind Brett Favre and want to make it seem like dirty play cost the Vikings the game. If the Saints had collected the bounty that game he wouldn’t have been in the game late in the fourth quarter on the way down the field to win the game. Sacrificing the image of the franchise and being punished for a defense that played like the Saints did the last two years is like some fool getting 50 years for arm robbery when there was only 10 dollars in the register.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fighting Back Indifference and Pessimism

There are two feelings that I always seem to be fighting away. I struggle with them and they slow my progress down to a crawl. It’s like my entire life gets stuck in cement and I just can’t move. Those two feelings are indifference and pessimism.

Indifference is more of a coping mechanism than a real feeling. At some point your mind decides that you have invested enough in whatever the issue is and decides to shut down the section that makes you care. Whatever happens is just going to happen and I am not worried. As long as I don’t have to be involved in the circumstances it doesn’t bother me. I have my own life to worry about. My indifference is spread across personal relationships and the community at large. I find myself not making calls to stay connected to certain people like I used to. It doesn’t bother me if my phone doesn’t ring that much. I don’t read every news story with as much attention as I should. Some things I don’t read at all. A smart man told me today that after Katrina we had no choice but to be overly involved and he was right. These days I have more of a choice and I choose to ignore a lot of things.

The best thing about indifference is that it’s very curable. No matter how much you think you don‘t care there’s always something that can snap you back into consciousness. I act like I am not really concerned about some of the people in my life but if they called right now with something serious they needed me to help them take care of I would spring into action. Some people ignore the problems in their community but if the right event happens they take notice and get involved.

Pessimism is an entirely different animal for me. I find pessimism much more difficult to get over than indifference because when I am pessimistic about something there’s concrete evidence and experiences to back up why I feel the way I do. I don’t have a positive outlook on the violence in my city because I am living through my second decade of it. It’s not like this behavior just came out of nowhere. I am pessimistic about getting involved with parent groups at the school because whenever I go it’s the same old people. I don’t have much confidence that anyone else is going to be there and get involved.

The biggest challenge I have with being pessimistic is that I have never been able to ignore what I see and replace it with a thought that I have no proof of. I really want to feel like things are going to be better than they have been but it’s difficult. Maybe if we went a month without any shootings I would feel better. Maybe if we had a parent meeting at the school and there was standing room only that would do it. Maybe if no one called me in crisis looking for assistance and if at my job we didn’t have any new client records because there were no new homeless people are families in crisis I might be able to beat back the pessimistic part of my attitude. I don’t think any of these things will happen anytime soon. I don’t know how to not pay attention enough to not realize that nothing is changing. Since I can’t ignore I guess I have to engage myself and try to make things better. I’m just saying……some positive reinforcement wouldn’t be bad every now and then.

Now that I have gotten that off my chest we can return to regularly scheduled blogging.