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Black Lives Matter

The black people I come from were owned and raped by the white people I come from. Who dares to tell me to celebrate them?

 

By Caroline Randall Williams

NASHVILLE — I have rape-colored skin. My light-brown-blackness is a living testament to the rules, the practices, the causes of the Old South.

If there are those who want to remember the legacy of the Confederacy, if they want monuments, well, then, my body is a monument. My skin is a monument.

Dead Confederates are honored all over this country — with cartoonish private statues, solemn public monuments and even in the names of United States Army bases. It fortifies and heartens me to witness the protests against this practice and the growing clamor from serious, nonpartisan public servants to redress it. But there are still those — like President Trump and the Senate majority leader,Mitch McConnell — who cannot understand the difference between rewriting and reframing the past. I say it is not a matter of “airbrushing” history, but of adding a new perspective.

I am a black, Southern woman, and of my immediate white male ancestors, all of them were rapists. My very existence is a relic of slavery and Jim Crow.

According to the rule of hypodescent (the social and legal practice of assigning a genetically mixed-race person to the race with less social power) I am the daughter of two black people, the granddaughter of four black people, the great-granddaughter of eight black people. Go back one more generation and it gets less straightforward, and more sinister. As far as family history has always told, and as modern DNA testing has allowed me to confirm, I am the descendant of black women who were domestic servants and white men who raped their help.

It is an extraordinary truth of my life that I am biologically more than half white, and yet I have no white people in my genealogy in living memory. No. Voluntary. Whiteness. I am more than half white, and none of it was consensual. White Southern men — my ancestors — took what they wanted from women they did not love, over whom they had extraordinary power, and then failed to claim their children.

What is a monument but a standing memory? An artifact to make tangible the truth of the past. My body and blood are a tangible truth of the South and its past. The black people I come from were owned by the white people I come from. The white people I come from fought and died for their Lost Cause. And I ask you now, who dares to tell me to celebrate them? Who dares to ask me to accept their mounted pedestals?

You cannot dismiss me as someone who doesn’t understand. You cannot say it wasn’t my family members who fought and died. My blackness does not put me on the other side of anything. It puts me squarely at the heart of the debate. I don’t just come from the South. I come from Confederates. I’ve got rebel-gray blue blood coursing my veins. My great-grandfather Will was raised with the knowledge that Edmund Pettus was his father. Pettus, the storied Confederate general, the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, the man for whom Selma’s Bloody Sunday Bridge is named. So I am not an outsider who makes these demands. I am a great-great-granddaughter.

And here I’m called to say that there is much about the South that is precious to me. I do my best teaching and writing here. There is, however, a peculiar model of Southern pride that must now, at long last, be reckoned with.

This is not an ignorant pride but a defiant one. It is a pride that says, “Our history is rich, our causes are justified, our ancestors lie beyond reproach.” It is a pining for greatness, if you will, a wish again for a certain kind of American memory. A monument-worthy memory.

But here’s the thing: Our ancestors don’t deserve your unconditional pride. Yes, I am proud of every one of my black ancestors who survived slavery. They earned that pride, by any decent person’s reckoning. But I am not proud of the white ancestors whom I know, by virtue of my very existence, to be bad actors.

Among the apologists for the Southern cause and for its monuments, there are those who dismiss the hardships of the past. They imagine a world of benevolent masters, and speak with misty eyes of gentility and honor and the land. They deny plantation rape, or explain it away, or question the degree of frequency with which it occurred.

To those people it is my privilege to say, I am proof. I am proof that whatever else the South might have been, or might believe itself to be, it was and is a space whose prosperity and sense of romance and nostalgia were built upon the grievous exploitation of black life.

The dream version of the Old South never existed. Any manufactured monument to that time in that place tells half a truth at best. The ideas and ideals it purports to honor are not real. To those who have embraced these delusions: Now is the time to re-examine your position.

Either you have been blind to a truth that my body’s story forces you to see, or you really do mean to honor the oppressors at the expense of the oppressed, and you must at last acknowledge your emotional investment in a legacy of hate.

Either way, I say the monuments of stone and metal, the monuments of cloth and wood, all the man-made monuments, must come down. I defy any sentimental Southerner to defend our ancestors to me. I am quite literally made of the reasons to strip them of their laurels.

Caroline Randall Williams (@caroranwill) is the author of “Lucy Negro, Redux” and “Soul Food Love,” and a writer in residence at Vanderbilt University.

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Local Issues

Assembly Bill 1022: Police Use of Force: Duty to Intervene

Existing law requires each law enforcement agency, on or before January 1, 2021, to maintain a policy that provides a minimum standard on the use of force. Existing law requires that policy, among other things, to require that officers report potential excessive force to a superior officer when present and observing another officer using force that the officer believes to be unnecessary, and to require that officers intercede when present and observing another officer using force that is clearly beyond that which is necessary, as specified.
 
This bill would require those law enforcement policies to require those officers to immediately report potential excessive force, and to intercede when present and observing an officer using excessive force. The bill would define excessive force as a level of force that is not reasonably believed to be proportional to the seriousness of the suspected offense or the reasonably perceived level of actual or threatened resistance. The bill would additionally require those policies to, among other things, prohibit retaliation against officers that report violations of law or regulation of another officer to a supervisor, as specified, and to require that an officer who fails to intercede be disciplined in the same manner as the officer who used excessive force. By imposing additional duties on local agencies, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.
 
Existing law requires the law enforcement policies on use of force to include procedures for disclosing public records of peace officers, as specified, and to include procedures for the filing, investigation, and reporting of citizen complaints regarding use of force incidents.
 
This bill would require those law enforcement policies to also include an internet website that makes specified public records of peace officers available in a form searchable by each officer’s name, and to include an internet website that allows members of the public to file citizen complaints, as specified. By imposing additional duties on local agencies, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.
Existing law disqualifies specified persons from being a peace officer, including, among others, any person convicted of a felony.
 
This bill would also disqualify a person from being a peace officer if they have, on three separate occasions, been found by a law enforcement agency that employees them to have either used excessive force or to have failed to intercede as required by a law enforcement agency’s policies.
 
Existing law makes all persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense, or aid and abet in its commission, principals in that crime.
This bill would make a peace officer who is present and observes another peace officer using excessive force, and willfully fails to intercede as required by the policy of their employing law enforcement, a principal in any crime committed by the other officer during the use of excessive force. By creating a new crime, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that with regard to certain mandates no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
 
With regard to any other mandates, this bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs so mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.

Statement of Values

Black Lives Matter

We at Crossroads stand with the Black Lives Matter Movement. We acknowledge the unjustifiable loss of life suffered by George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Dominique Clayton, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and countless black human beings living their everyday lives. We further grieve with those communities whose survival is compromised daily by sanctioned violence. It is a lessening of life that is experienced through economic inequity, heightened rates of disease, increased surveillance, and imprisonment. Against these realities, Crossroads has built a community on the firm grounds of gender, racial, and economic justice since 1974. By providing hope and home for formerly incarcerated women, women are given the space to heal and the emotional tools needed to thrive. It is this deep sense of radical compassion that guides our work at Crossroads in pursuing restorative justice for all. We, the Board of Directors of Crossroads, pledge to actively engage in community, state, and federal efforts to affect criminal justice reform.

Share & Join the Conversation!

We don’t know what we don’t know, until we know it, and by then we can no longer ignore it, we must take action.

Resources to engage with Anti Racism

I invite you to join me in exploring this powerful set of resources to better understand the mechanisms of oppressive systems, better understand how to listen for what needs to be done, what needs to be said, and what needs to be understood. Join me in illuminating what actions we as individuals can take to be a part of a lasting change! I have gathered resources and linked to other resource lists that I have received to guide you in deepening your anti racist work. There are COUNTLESS of hands at work here; educators, authors, artists, activists, organizers, leaders, performers, magicians- all critical thinkers, and of course a long lineage of people who actively lived, studied, synthesized, and produced these works as resources for all of us to explore. I want to thank them all and everyone who is standing up now for equality in the rights and dignities for all human beings.

- Kaytee Fink, June 2020

This document is intended to serve as a resource to white people and parents to deepen our anti-racism work. If you haven’t engaged in anti-racism work in the past, start now. Feel free to circulate this document on social media and with your friends, family, and colleagues.”

I have incorporated helpful stages created by Scaffolded Anti Racist Resources to get you started along with several in depth resource lists below.

The First Thing to Do is Connect!

INTROSPECTION:  ACTIVITIES TO ENGAGE YOU
ACTIVATION:

There are really wonderful, ALREADY established, well organized groups in our area to work with in order to keep your motivation for change alive! Participation is key, and nothing can replace your active commitment to partnership! 

Black Lives Matter LA

JOIN SURJ

Showing Up for Racial Justice: SURJ moves white folks into accountable action as part of a multi-racial movement through community organizing, mobilizing, and education. SURJ has regional chapters that hold meetings and events.

Aware LA – White People for BLM

 

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

― Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon Tweet
Photo by Joan Villalon on Unsplash
OTHER CRIMINAL JUSTICE LINKS

The Marshall Project  | Nonprofit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sens of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system.

Witness LA | Nonprofit, nonpartisan source of criminal justice news in the public interest.

Civic Research Institute  | Independent publisher of reference and practice materials for professionals in law and government, behavioral health, banking and finance, taxation, education, and the social sciences.

CURB  | Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) is a statewide coalition of 70 grassroots organizations that is reducing the number of people in prisons and jails, shrinking the imprisonment system, and shifting public spending from corrections and policing to human services.

Shop LOCAL/ Support locally BIPOC owned business.

Consider Your Consumer Power! - Donate Your Dollars, Spend Wisely!

(This list was compiled in large part by Shauna Hamilton, and includes resources for farmers markets in the Bay Area)

To support large-scale systemic change, consider supporting the following groups:
To support Black-led groups in creating larger systemic change in their communities, these links will take you to other organizations in Minneapolis:
Websites with links and contact information to work for justice in the case of:
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MOTIVATION: TALKS TO WATCH

CONTINUING EDUCATION RESOURCES:

 

RESOURCES FOR WHITE PARENTS TO RAISE ANTI-RACIST CHILDREN: 

* The following resources were compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein in May 2020. 

Books:

Podcasts:

Articles:

The Conscious Kid: follow them on Instagram and consider signing up for their Patreon

Films and TV series to watch:

  • 13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
  • American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
  • Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 — Available to rent
  • Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada) — Hulu with Cinemax or available to rent
  • Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu) — Available to rent
  • Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix
  • Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent
  • I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu
  • Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to rent for free in June in the U.S.
  • King In The Wilderness  — HBO
  • See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol) — Netflix
  • Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent
  • The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Available to rent
  • The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
  • When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix

NEED A BREAK? HERE ARE A FEW PLAYLISTS:

LISTEN UP: Podcasts to subscribe to:

RECOMMENDED PODCAST EPISODES:

BOOKS: (Top ten also listed in NY Times Best Seller List as of June 2020):

PURCHASE BOOKS BY BIPOC AUTHORS:

Do you have a local resource or business to share? Show your support and let us know how we can help #BLM in our community.