Following the news that New York City officer Daniel Pantaleo, who held unarmed Eric Garner in an against-policy chokehold resulting in his death, would not be indicted, protests broke out around the country in what many called “another total miss” by a grand jury. But what resulted after the outcome of the trial was even more surprising. Scores of White Americans took to Twitter in what may be the largest admission of “White privilege” on record.
White privilege (or White skin privilege) is defined as societal privileges that benefit White people in Western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by the non-White population under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. It has been a widely understood and accepted idea in minority communities that White privilege exists. Minority students are reportedly punished more frequently and more harshly at school than their White counterparts even with no major disparity in behavior. White persons have been known to pull out cell phones, wallets, and etc. from their pockets during encounters with law enforcement without incident. And overall, White Americans are typically not judged or perceived negatively based on their race in their day-to-day encounters.
The issue, however, is that most Whites, through no direct fault of their own, are said to be oblivious to their privilege, just as most men are oblivious to male privilege. As Marilyn Frye explains it in “The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory,” one of the privileges of being “normal” and “ordinary” is a certain unconsciousness. When one is that which is taken as the norm in one’s social environment, one does not have to think about it. If one is marginalized, one does not have the privilege of not noticing what one is. This is what makes what happened on Twitter so progressive. In an effort to stand in solidarity with those in protest of the lack of criminal trial for Pantaleo, Whites on Twitter coined the #CrimingWhileWhite handle, which spoke to their encounters with law enforcement, and acknowledged how their skin color played in their favor. It instantly became the most talked about (highest trending) topic among Twitter’s more than 232 million active users. Here’s some of what was said:
@Cecilyk: At 13 I stole a car with my friends & drove it 2wks before we got busted. Only one charged was black. #CrimingWhileWhite
@cardsgirl1972: When I was 20, I stole a pack of cigs, cop prayed with me & made me promise I wouldn’t do it again. #crimingwhilewhite
@basedlightskin: Ethan Couch killed four people while drunk driving and got off because he suffered from being rich #CrimingWhileWhite
@clayaiken: At 16, I got in a wreck, gave a fake number & left. Cops found me, told me it was a felony & “don’t do it again” #CrimingWhileWhite
@allisonbrown: Tonight, black protester & I both ignore barricade & walk in street. 4 cops pounce on him; I’m told to get in the pen. #Crimingwhilewhite
@professorBLove: Pulled over w my mom. People think she’s White, she was driving. Cops asked for my ID and license “for her protection.” #crimingwhilewhite #alivewhileblack
The list goes on and the crimes committed ranged from child’s play to some pretty serious infractions without reprimand. The discussion brought the conversation of White privilege to the forefront on a platform where it hadn’t existed on such a wide open scale.
The anecdotes are backed by evidence that suggests racial disparities in American law enforcement are very real.
Studies show that for an identical crime, Black teenagers are more likely to be arrested or jailed than White teenagers. Black people are around four times as likely to get arrested for marijuana possession, despite surveys showing Black people use marijuana less than White people, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
In Ferguson, where protests have continued over the shooting death of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown, official reports show black people being pulled over, searched, and arrested at disproportionately high rates compared to their share of the population. An ACLU study found a similar imbalance in Boston, where two-thirds of police stops involved Black residents—despite Black people making up just one-quarter of the city’s population.
Even after being convicted of a crime, being White may still hold advantages. A Princeton University study examined hundreds of American employers’ hiring and found that White people with felony convictions were preferred as much as Black people with clean backgrounds.
Black boys do matter
Moms of color, National Bar Association organize peaceful protest of Ferguson Grand Jury results
In response to the Ferguson, Mo. grand jury’s failure to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed teen, Michael Brown, Mocha Moms Inc. organized a #blackboysmatter social media campaign to combat the negative stereotypes of Black and Brown boys. So far, the social media campaign has exceeded 10-million impressions in less than two weeks.
“It was a spontaneous reaction from moms who were frustrated and wanted to do more than protest and march,” said Danae Jones Aicher, Mocha Moms spokesperson.
Moms of color from across the country submitted photos of their sons in an effort to put real faces to, and humanize Black and Brown boys in America.
“What these shootings in the last couple of years have shown us is that, for too much of America, Black boys are threatening,” commented LaShaun Phillips-Martin, national social media director for Mocha Moms Inc. “We can’t change the grand jury decision, but we can change the way America sees our boys. So we took to social media with positive images of our sons and the hashtag #blackboysmatter.”
Shortly after the grand jury decision was announced, Mocha Moms Inc. issued the following statement, which read in part: “While we are disappointed, few of us are surprised. We respect the process of justice we have in this country. However, we will never accept the culture of preconceived notions and stereotypes that drives our sons unfairly and disproportionately into that process. We are so tired of our boys being killed. We are so tired of courts failing to recognize the value of our children’s lives.We will continue to teach our children to be respectful. We will continue to teach our children to value themselves and others. The only way America can truly become the great society we claim ourselves to be is if Americans commit to doing the same, and stop marginalizing and criminalizing our Black and Brown children.”
Aicher said this is a way for moms to show the countless number of Black and Brown boys “who do not fit the stereotype’ that has been painted each time an incident occurs of our boys as “thugs.’”
The organization will soon hold a strategic planning meeting to clarify additional steps to take.
Mocha Moms Inc. is a support group for mothers of color who have chosen to alter their career paths, either temporarily or permanently, to devote more time to their families and communities. While many of our members have eliminated employment altogether, others work part-time, flex-time, night shifts, have home-based businesses, consult or freelance from home or have chosen alternative, less demanding career paths so they are more available to their families. Mocha Moms Inc. supports the decisions made their members. Mocha Moms Inc. will never pass judgment on mothers who choose to make or are forced to make different decisions for their families.
Mocha Moms, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender or socio-economic level, education, or religion. Anyone who supports the mission and purpose of Mocha Moms, Inc. is welcome to join.
The organization is essential because historically, mothers of color, particularly African American mothers, have not had the opportunity to devote the majority of their time to caring for their own families. Mocha Moms Inc. serves as an advocate for those mothers and encourages the spirit of community activism within its membership.
The National Bar Association President, Pamela J. Meanes along with members of the National Bar Association; Pastor Gregg L. Greer, founder of Freedom First International and committee member of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Cornel West, Ph.D., activist and author; Pastor Chantel Renee Wright, founder of Songs of Solomon and Bernard Butler, founder, Urban Diary TV continue to demand justice for Brown and offer a number ways those interested can protest.
The association is deeply concerned whether under the current legal standard a victim of excessive and/or deadly force by the hands of a police officer in America can receive fair and equal justice. Among the changes the NBA is seeking are:
Demanding the United States Department of Justice indict Darren Wilson and encourage people to send their demand by mail: U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20530-0001; by phone at (202) 514-2000 (main wwitchboard, (202) 353-1555 (comment line) or by email: email@example.com.
The National Bar Association filed an action seeking to revoke Wilson’s license to be a police officer.
Conformity is the new Black
Calvin Corecy has, in his own words, conformed to the “Po-Po.” The 58-year-old African American admits as he sits inside a bird cage filled with cooing pigeons that like individuals in society come in different colors and shapes. And as he talks, Corecy points out the similarities in the behavior of his pigeons and humans.
Like people, the birds come with different looks—some have feathered feet while some have geometric shaped feathers on top of their heads. Their large cage is impressive and features plywood floors covered with hay and sawdust. The floor covering added a special ambiance to the cage. Corecy estimates the cage is capable of housing his 400 pigeons and at least four adults comfortably.
Corecy and his family have had problems with the Los Angeles Police Department since the early 1970s. So much so that he knows if he is stopped today and his name is run through the computer by a LAPD officer, he is likely to face several key questions.
“I will immediately be asked if I am a felon first, and then I will be questioned about my brothers, nephews and cousins who have been arrested and are gang affiliated. Afterwards, the vehicle I am in will be searched due to my own ex-felon status, said Corecy, who recounts how a familial connection kept his niece out of a job with the LAPD.
The last time Corecy interacted with police was during a trip to an autobody shop. He laughs and describes how he was pulled over by two retired motorcycle cops going to a movie shoot who recognized him and pulled him over on 106th and Avalon.
“I knew I could have argued the point, however it was not worth it. I answered all their questions with ‘yes sir.’ Once they released me, they laughed and responded with, ‘you sir,’ take it easy, mimicking me.”
As we sat in the cage, Corecy asked me a question: “We are here for a reason! What do you see surrounding us?”
“A bunch of pigeons,” I responded. But his answer was different. “Unlike you, I see a society of birds that can easily represent the social dynamics of South Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Department. I see order. And do you know who controls this order? Me!”
“I have a group of larger male birds isolated to the left of us,” pointed out Corecy. “They are the breeders, and as you see they are larger in comparison to the other birds. They look like super pigeons on steroids. I have to have them separated because they aggressively mate and are violent. They are the alpha male. I keep them away from the females until I want to breed them. They are also kept away from the other males to prevent stress in the cage. This is due to their prowess. These are the superhumans and this is how society has painted you and I, as African American males—superhumans. I once observed a fellow pigeon fancier shoot pellets the size of a pea into a breeder that had infiltrated his flock as they were resting on a power line. The breeder’s body absorbed four slugs at a distance of 120 feet before he’d succumbed to the wounds. Sound familiar?” Corecy asked me.
After a moment of thought, I believe Corecy may be referring to how African American males are viewed in the media. In a recent news article written immediately after Michael Brown was shot dead in August, his mother, Leslie McSpadden, said, “My son was sweet. He didn’t mean any harm to anybody. He was a gentle giant,” she said.
However during the grand jury injunction, officer Darren Wilson reminiscing about firing the shot that ended Brown’s life was quoted as saying, “I felt like a 5 year old holding onto Hulk Hogan. That’s just how big he felt and how small I felt.”
Wilson said “the only way” he could describe Brown’s “intense aggressive face” was that it looked like ‘a demon.’
Wilson went on to say he “feared for his life.”
Immediately after Corecy’s description of the breeders, I understood he was referring to them as Black men.”
Academicians Kelly Hoffman, Sophie Trawalter, and Adam Waltz recently conducted research that involved statistical equations as opposed to daily observation and the interaction of birds. What they discovered was that both humans and domesticated birds have similar dynamics. Their research entitled “A Super Humanization Bias in Whites’ Perceptions of Blacks,” published in the Journal Social Psychological and Personality Science provides the first systematic empirical investigation into super humanization of African Americans, the concept of attributing supernatural, extrasensory, and magical mental and physical qualities to humans of African descent. Five additional studies support their hypothesis that White Americans super humanize Black people.
One part of their study specifically shows that super humanization of Blacks occurs when White physicians deny pain medication to Black patients more often than Whites.
Together, these studies demonstrate a novel and potentially detrimental process through which Whites perceive Blacks as superhumans.
When I mentioned this research to Corecy, his response was, “It is my job to protect these pigeons from the breeders. The police feel it is their job to protect society from Black males.”
Corecy goes on to say “now imagine breeders and regular male birds having equal access to the same areas of the cage. Do you understand where I am going with this? It can not be allowed to happen; the regular males will suffer stress and the breeders will take over. LAPD patrolling inner cities are thinking just like me, however I am dealing with pigeon, and they are dealing with people.
Corecy gives some real life examples.
“Immediately after the riots of 1992, there was a time period the LAPD stood down and did not confront African Americans. There were no traffic stops, no arrests. I saw it first hand. I remember because then I was in the dope game and it was easy to sell dope and move it. We were not confronted by the police. They were scared; they failed to rescue Reginald Denny, due to the civil unrest. I guarantee those days are over,” said Corecy.
“Cops are taught to be aggressive and proactive in detaining Blacks, and we must understand that in order to survive, if you are arrested you have no choice but to acquiesce to that arrest because they can kill you and get away with it.
“I have a lot of youngsters that come by to see my birds fly, and I instruct them on the way cops can control you if you get caught in the system—by gang injunctions and falsifying reports. I also tell them, if you are questioned comply with the requests, because they can kill you and get away with it.”
Corecy acknowledges that when the young people talk to him, there is always someone in the group, who will respond with ‘f#*k that ! I am going to shoot if they F with me.’
“These are what we older gangsters consider as brain dead individuals; and they do exist.”
Corecy reverts to another bird analogy to emphasize the point. He goes on to explain how his birds are all rollers and tumblers once they are in flight. This is an inherited biological escape mechanism controlled by a gene. Thousands of years ago a pigeon would form a ball and drop five or six feet in flight to escape a predatory bird. He explained that the gene for rolling has been deactivated in the modern species, however he can control it by breeding to reactivate that gene.
“Do you see those small cages on the floor with birds that look like they are drugged? Those are called parlor rollers; they are brain dead. I have to keep them locked up because they can kill themselves by rolling on the floor. This uncontrollable action will lead to a broken neck.
“These group of birds represent the youngsters that are killers and will shoot at cops. In a gang of 30 youngsters you will have one that will kill a cop. Was Michael Brown a parlor roller? We will never know.
“Michael Brown and Garner could have been living today, if they would have listened and obeyed simple demands given by cops.”
Corecy describes being a cop as someone in a position of authority, and those types of careers will always attract the types who are thirsty for power and control.
“How do you prove that you have that power? By confronting a African American male whenever the opportunity allows. The African American male is seen as the superhuman, according to the research you mentioned earlier, a trophy for the big game hunter. How many short cops have you observed at the court buildings?”
“Some people seek out law enforcement employment opportunities mainly for the sense of power that comes with the position. It’s a position of authority, and those types of careers will always attract the types who are thirsty for power and control. Hell they are no different than gangbangers or breeders.”