Week of January 18, 2015: Equality

This week we reached out to people of all colors, all races, all religions and genders to talk to them about equality. Are all people really created (and treated) equally? Their answers may surprise you. Being equal doesn’t mean that we must all be the same. While equality on the large scale means that we are all treated the same in the eyes of the law, with fairness and with faith, if we’re ever to truly bridge the gap of our differences, and live together as equals, maybe the time has come to stop trying to force everyone to fit into one box, to all be the same. Perhaps the time has come to embrace our differences and use them to build up instead of tear down, to unite rather than to divide… to unify.
We must learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools.~ Martin Luther King Jr.

January 24, 2015

The Power of Equality…One Perspective.

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HAVE YOU ALWAYS PRACTICED ISLAM?
“No.”

WHEN DID YOU CONVERT TO ISLAM?
“Probably 2008.”

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO CONVERT?
“Islam’s beliefs were in conformity with what I believed as opposed to the religions I was raised under.”

HOW IS ISLAM DIFFERENT FROM THE RELIGIONS YOU WERE EXPOSED TO GROWING UP?
“Mainly, the model t-ism. The oneness of the supreme creator.”

HOW WERE YOU EXPOSED TO THAT FAITH?
“My friends were Muslim.”

HOW DID YOUR FAMILY REACT THEN YOU CONVERTED?
“They were fine. They had some questions at first. I wouldn’t say they were shocked, but they were surprised. More curiosity than anything. They had questions and I was able to answer them. And everything’s fine.”

DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE YOU’RE WRONGLY JUDGED FOR PRACTICING ISLAM?
“Not so much. There have been times where I felt like I’ve been judged because of the fact that I was Muslim, mainly because I was a white Muslim. Where I was at, the location of where I was. Other than that, no.”

MANY PEOPLE THAT ARE MUSLIM, HAVE STEREOTYPICAL PHYSICAL APPEARANCES, WHETHER IT BE THEIR CLOTHING OR A BEARD, AS YOU DO. DO YOU EVER NOTICE THAT YOU GET LOOKED AT DIFFERENTLY OR HAVE THINGS SAID TO YOU BECAUSE OF THAT?
“Yeah. I’ve had maybe one or two things, over the past few years, that at the end of the day are insignificant. I had a guy riding passed me one time say “Oh, you’re a white Muslim? A fucking white Muslim? I can’t believe this.” He kept going. I just laughed about it BEcause of his ignorance. I found it amusing.”

SOME PEOPLE WOULD HAVE A HARD TIME LAUGHING THAT OFF.
“There’s no sense in getting upset about it.”

AS I’M SURE YOU’RE AWARE, THERE ARE SOME VERY PROMINENT PREJUDICES IN THIS WORLD ABOUT MUSLIMS BECAUSE OF THE HORRIFIC THINGS THAT HAVE GONE ON IN THE WORLD AT THE HANDS OF RADICAL MUSLIMS? DOES THAT EVER BOTHER YOU? DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE REACT THAT WAY?
“I do understand it, and it does bother me, because you look at people like the guy that walked into an abortion clinic and shot the abortion clinic up with a shotgun because of his Christian belief that abortion is wrong, so he killed the abortion doctor and everyone in there because of his religious views, but they don’t call him a Christian terrorist. Then the guy who blew up the federal building, Timothy McVeigh, in the 90’s, because of his religious beliefs, but nobody labels him a Christian terrorist.
It’s not so much that it’s just Islam who have these radical groups. Yeah, you’re being propagated more in the media. But you have people in the midwest or the west coast, where you have these religious compounds in the big open land, where the governments not allowed, police aren’t allowed inside. Guys are having sex with and impregnating little kids, all because they say they’re a prophet or God chose them. It’s no different than that, it’s just not being put under a spotlight.”

WHAT HAS THE RELIGION DONE FOR YOU?
“It’s helped open my eyes to a few things. It’s helped me find inner peace. Partially given me a sense of direction in life. And helped give me a better sense of principles to live by.”

BEFORE PEOPLE MAKE A JUDGEMENT ON PEOPLE THAT PRACTICE ISLAM, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO SAY TO THEM?
“I don’t think anyone should be stereotyped whether they practice Islam, Christianity or Buddhism. I think they should be judged on their character and their actions as opposed to the way they look or dress or what they choose to believe in.”

January 23, 2015

Power of Equality…One Perspective.

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Photos courtesy of Sandy Griver Wright

HOW WERE YOU INVOLVED IN THE WOMAN’S RIGHTS MOVEMENT DURING THE 60’S AND 70’S?
“I joined National Organization of Women in the late 60’s. But I was most active in the 70’s. In 1964 the Equal Pay Act passed, but for some reason the employers still only paid about $ .55 for every $1.00 a man made. A man was brought into my department for me to train that made $100.00 more than me a week. When I approached my male boss about this, back then bosses were always male, I was told it was because he had a family. That was the only reason given. So I filed a lawsuit against the company. My lawyer was Alice Ballard, a feminist that just finished a racial discrimination case against US Steel and won. It was an amazing education to watch her work her craft. After a few months, the lawsuit was settled and I received 2 raises within 6 months. Also the company brought up every woman’s wages to that of the men in her department. Due to me working in personnel, I had access to everyone’s salary and was so proud that this occurred. I felt like I played a small part in the movement. On a side note, I was laid off shortly after this case, so I again sued for retaliation and won that case also.”

THAT’S AMAZING THAT YOU ACCOMPLISHED THAT. IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE THEY COULD JUSTIFY DOING THAT THOUGH.
“Back then when you went for a job interview, the first question that a woman got asked was if you were married. If you were, you might have children, so that worked against you. Even though it was illegal to ask, they still did and because you were alone in the room with your interviewer, you had no proof.”

SO MUCH FOR WOMAN’S RIGHTS. SO DURING THE TIME YOU WERE ACTIVE IN THE MOVEMENT, DID YOU EVER PARTICIPATE IN ANY MARCHES OR DEMONSTRATIONS?
“In 1986, my husband Jon and I marched for women’s rights and for reproductive rights in Washington DC. This was called the March for Woman’s Lives. Attendance was approximately 500,000. It was really incredible to be with so many people that held the same views as we did. Then in April 1995, Jon and I did front stage security for a march against domestic violence in DC. We were chosen for this because we were escorts at a clinic that provided abortions in Philadelphia. Since we had the most out of control and violent protesters, the march recruited our escorts to provide the security. I met and saw some remarkable women at this march, including Nicole Simpson’s sister, Denise Brown (Nicole was murdered at her Brentwood home and OJ Simpson was charged but not convicted), rocker Joan Jett and Eleanor Smeal, the founder of the Feminist Majority. They had the clothesline project displayed at the mall, where each shirt had writing on it and each color of the shirt had a meaning. Yellow represented battered women…red were survivors of rape…blue was incest and sexual abuse…purple were attacks because of sexual orientation…white was for death by abuse. Also in 1995, we participated in a large rally in New Jersey for the 75th anniversary of the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote, where we ended up being guests at the Alice Paul house, who was one of the original suffragettes.
There were also many marches we were in against domestic violence in Doylestown and many times in Philadelphia we stood on street corners holding signs supporting reproductive rights.”
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THAT IS AN INCREDIBLE RESUME! PRIOR TO WHEN ALL OF THIS STARTED, WHAT DO YOU FEEL WERE THE BIGGEST AREAS OF INEQUALITY FOR WOMEN?
“Everything. A woman’s job before the movement was to cook and clean and serve her man. Most women did not work outside the home. Women in the workplace were second class citizens. Most jobs were secretaries and dusting their boss’ desks. All the decisions of the home were made by the man. Woman had to always wear skirts no pants. I remember in junior high school you got in trouble even if you wore culottes (which were pants that looked like a skirt). If you went to center city (downtown Philadelphia), you got dressed up with high heel shoes and a dress. When I was about 16, I travelled to center city to meet with friends at a restaurant and I decided to wear slacks, my mother was not happy but I did it anyway.

WOMEN HAD LIVED WITH THESE BOUNDARIES DEFINED BY SOCIETY FOR A VERY LONG TIME. WHAT DO YOU THINK WAS THE TIPPING POINT FOR WOMEN? WHAT DO YOU THINK MADE THEM FINALLY SAY THEY’D HAD ENOUGH OF THE LIMITATIONS PUT UPON THEM?
“Most women were unhappy with their lives at home. They had no say. The tipping point for me was hearing women like Betty Friedan, who was the first president of NOW, and Eleanor Smeal, a woman I later met at a rally in Allentown and was able to personally thank her for how she changed my life. Also a big influence on me was Shirley Chisholm, who was the first black woman to run for president, even though she did not have any chance to win, she ran anyway, an amazing woman. The time was right for them and women listened when they spoke. It was a wonderful time to be alive and you could feel things were changing.”

NOT ALL WOMEN INITIALLY SUPPORTED EQUALITY. PERHAPS IT WAS OUT OF FEAR OR MAYBE THEY FELT THEY DIDNT DESERVE IT, OR THEY WERE JUST USED TO THE STATUS QUO. SO WHAT DO YOU THINK SET YOU AND OTHERS LIKE YOU APART. WHY DO YOU THINK YOU SUPPORTED EQUALITY?
“My parents taught us at a very young age that we should be activists and fight for what we believed in. We were never afraid to express our opinions. You could achieve anything you wanted. There is a picture somewhere of my sister Ileen around age 4 with a sandwich sign on, protesting the builders that built our home, because the basements leaked. My parents also would show up at the clinic to show their support for women’s reproductive rights. We always did volunteer work, from a very young age. News was always discussed at the dinner table with no topic off limits.
My entire family was made up of extreme liberals. My grandfather was one of the gentlemen that started the Milkman’s union, and my mother would tell us stories of how red paint was thrown on their porch to represent blood as a threat. My dad’s sister and her husband were at Tiananmen Square protesting with the students. This is where the famous picture of the man that stopped the tanks by just standing in front of them is from. My Great Grandmother, on my mother’s side, came from Poland around 1898, and could not read or write but could do math. She opened a grocery store when she came to Philadelphia, which was unheard of for women to do. My Grandmother, my mother’s mom, opened a hair salon and ran the business by herself. My grandmotheron my father’s side opened a real estate business when she came here from England around 1907, another thing women did not do. With all these feminists and activists in the family, my sister and I had to turn out the way we did.”

DESPITE ALL OF THE OBVIOUS STRIDES THAT YOUR GENERATION MADE FOR WOMEN’S EQUALITY, DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE IS STILL ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
“It is a constant fight for women’s reproductive rights, due to the Pro Life legislation that has been passed and that they keep trying to pass. Pro Choice individuals have to be mindful of the fact that the rights you enjoy today, can be taken away. I grew up when it was illegal and many women died from illegal abortions. Please do not take this right for granted.
Also as far as politics, there are now 20 women in the Senate out of 100 and in the House there are 83 women out of 441. As of 2009 there were 158.6 million females and 151.4 million males. So the women outnumbered the men. Even the numbers have increased through the years, YES, there is major room for improvement.”

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January 22, 2015

The Power of Equality…One. Perspective.

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AS A JEWISH PERSON LIVING HERE IN THE UNITED STATES, ARE THERE ANY AREAS WHERE YOU PERCEIVE INEQUALITIES BASED ON YOUR FAITH (COMPARED TO YOUR PEOPLE OF OTHER FAITHS)?
“ I think that growing up Jewish, anti-semitism was something that I definitely had experience with as a kid. I grew up in a neighborhood with a pretty decent sized Jewish population and yet there were still instances of anti-semitism present. While I was growing up there were swastikas painted around my neighborhood at one point, there was a (Jewish owned) bakery that was targeted at one point, so I definitely saw anti-semitism growing up. In terms of my day to day experience, I think we as Jews have done a pretty good job of integrating into American society and so while I wouldn’t say we are immune to discrimination or inequality, I do think it’s far less prevalent here than it has been throughout our history in other places.”

SOME MIGHT SAY THAT AS A JEW YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE TO FACE THE SAME KIND OF DISCRIMINATION THAT SAY AN AFRICAN AMERICAN OR A LATINO WOULD BECAUSE YOU CAN MORE EASILY INTEGRATE YOURSELVES INTO A WHITE MAINSTREAM SOCIETY. PEOPLE CAN’T SIMPLY LOOK AT SOMEONE AND SEE THAT THEY’RE JEWISH AN THEREFORE DISCRIMINATE AGAINST THEM ON SIGHT. DO YOU THINK THAT’S A FAIR STATEMENT?
“It’s a fair statement but I guess it kind of cuts both ways. You may have people who are closeted racists. They may not, by virtue of seeing that someone is black, make certain statements or remarks around someone whom they see as black. Conversely, if your Jewish, and maybe someone doesn’t realize you’re Jewish or you don’t have a last name that sounds Jewish, people may make a comment that is offensive and not even realize who they are offending when they said it.”

HAS THAT HAPPENED TO YOU?
“I’ve experienced that. I’ve been around people and had them say “oh, he Jewed me down”, or “that Jew over there…” in my presence. And I have had to kind of step back and say something a long the lines of, “oh you never know who you’re offending when you say things like that.”

DO YOU THINK THAT PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO HEAR THAT JEWISH PEOPLE FEEL THAT THEY ARE TREATED UNEQUALLY IN SOME CASES, THAT THERE ARE STILL JEWS WHO FEEL DISCRIMINATED AGAINST OR FEEL THAT THEY ARE AT A DISADVANTAGE SIMPLY BY BEING JEWISH HERE IN THE UNITED STATES IN 2015?
“I think it goes without saying that discrimination still exists in the United States. It may not be as prevalent as it was in the past. I don’t want to speak for the entire Jewish population of course, but I wouldn’t say that we feel we are at a disadvantage per se, but I think that when we go outside of the few pockets where we live in the United States that it is definitely evident that we are a minority, and we feel like a minority.”

THERE’S A PERCEPTION, A THEORY AMONG MANY IN OUR SOCIETY, THAT ALL JEWS ARE DOCTORS, OR LAWYERS, OR BANKERS- THAT JEWISH PEOPLE RUN HOLLYWOOD, THAT THEY CONTROL ALL OF THE MAJOR MEDIA OUTLETS. WITH THAT COMES THE PERCEPTION THAT ALL JEWS MUST BE DOING VERY WELL. SO HOW CAN THEY CLAIM THEY ARE UNFAIRLY TREATED OR DISCRIMINATED AGAINST? CAN YOU SPEAK TO THAT AT ALL?
“Well I think along those lines something people may be surprised to hear is that there is a lot of poverty within the Jewish community. In fact an organization that I volunteer for called The Mitzvah Food Project provides food to people that are insecure around the holidays. You can look them up and actually see what they do (visit them here), but one of the holidays they provide food for is Passover. There are plenty of Jews in and around Philadelphia who are actually food insecure, and they may surprise a lot of people.”
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A LOT OF TALK THIS WEEK WILL FOCUS ON EQUALITY, PARTICULARLY WITH REGARD TO THE AFRICAN AMERICAN POPULATION, BOTH ON HOW FAR WE (SOCIETY) HAVE COME AND ON HOW FAR WE MAY STILL HAVE TO GO. DO YOU FEEL THAT JEWS HAVE ADVANCED IN THIS COUNTRY IN TERMS OF HOW THEY ARE PERCEIVED, AND HOW THEY ARE TREATED?
“I think we’ve been able to find a great amount of success as a people, as a whole, but I think it’s also important to note that I don’t think Jews have ever forgotten where they have come from. Our history of oppression, I think, has given us a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning in terms of wanting to help others who are disenfranchised. I think that has always been a part of our history. Whether we are talking about the civil rights movement, or fighting for equality with gay marriage, I think you will always find Jews who, in some capacity, are participating in the fight or the struggle for equality. I think it’s engrained in who we are.”

AS AN ADULT I CAME TO DISCOVER THAT THERE WERE A LOT OF VERY STRANGE STEREOTYPES ABOUT JEWS THAT I HAD NO IDEA EXISTED IN THIS DAY AND AGE (JEWS HAVING HORNS UNDER THEIR HAIR BEING ONE). HAVING GROWN UP IN A NEIGHBORHOOD WITH A LARGE JEWISH POPULATION I WAS COMPLETELY OBLIVIOUS TO THESE. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST INACCURATE OR STRANGEST STEREOTYPE YOU HAVE EVER HEARD OR FACED AS A JEWISH PERSON?
“There are all types of negative stereotypes out there that exist for every single group of people. I think that the craziest one personally is that Jews have horns, of course, or that the Jews were behind 9/11. That one was being perpetuated a lot right after the attacks on the World Trade Center. Your first reaction is to cringe and then your second reaction is “oh boy I really hope this doesn’t catch on”. And I think your third reaction is to find out how prevalent is this idea, because I think there is also an inherent paranoia that whenever you hear of an act of anti-semitism, you want to get a sense of just how wide spread it is. Then you think, what can I do to combat this right away? Jews, if they have one phrase they are associated with saying, and this pertains to the Holocaust, it is “never again”. We are never going to allow what happened to us during World War II to ever happen again. So I think immediately when we hear an act of anti-semitism taking place, our radar is alerted. I think we try right away to kind of take note and ascertain how serious it actually is.”

DO YOU THINK THAT THERE IS ANY REALISTIC AND EFFECTIVE WAY TO RID OUR SOCIETY OF THESE STEREOTYPES AND PREJUDICES ONCE AND FOR ALL (NOT JUST WITH JEWS BUT WITH ALL GROUPS OF PEOPLE)?
“I think that stereotypes and prejudices unfortunately will be around no matter what. Though there definitely is more that can be done to try and combat these different stereotypes and hatred around the world. There’s something in Judaism called tikkun olam which in Hebrew literally translates to ‘healing and repairing the world’. I think a lot of Jews take tikkun olam very seriously and try to engage in activities that help make the world a better place. Whether it’s environmental consciousness, helping the homeless, helping the disenfranchised, the less fortunate, by conducting acts that are considered to be virtuous, not only are you helping someone else but maybe along the way by virtue of the fact that we are such a small portion of the population, someone who may have had a negative impression of Jews before may see them engaging in a positive role or activity and it may help combat that negativity. So I think that this healing or repairing the world, for Jews specifically, can not only be an example of where we can give, but it can also be a place where we can get back. By being perceived as doing these wonderful acts, maybe some people’s perceptions can change.”

January 21, 2015

The Power of Equality…One Perspective.

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WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT DISCRIMINATION AND EQUALITY IN THE UNITED STATES TODAY?
“I think that we still have a long way to go before certain groups of people have what I would consider to be true “equality”.

DO YOU THINK THAT WE HAVE MADE ANY SIGNIFICANT ADVANCEMENTS IN RECENT YEARS? I MEAN LOOK AT DR. KING AND THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, OR ERA AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS. THAT HAS TO COUNT FOR SOMETHING, RIGHT?
“Oh absolutely. I mean, no we’re not seeing lynchings anymore, and women don’t have to be barefoot and pregnant unless they choose to be- for the most part anyway, but there is still no way that people can say that all groups of people are existing right now in a time of total equality.”

AND HOW DO YOU THINK THAT YOU, AS A GAY WOMAN, FIT IN TO THAT?
“Well for starters, I was with my wife for 13 years before we could be legally married. We watched heterosexual couples, friends, neighbors, married and divorced, some multiple times, while we stayed together. But, because of the inequities that exist for same-sex couples, we couldn’t be married. Now here we are married and still together. But, let’s not forget, gay couples are immoral and detrimental to the true definition of what marriage is all about (laughter).

DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU ARE STRUGGLING WITH INEQUALITY TWICE AS MUCH- BEING A WOMAN AND BEING GAY?
“You know there’s two different sets of inequality there. As a woman I struggle with the fact that men can still advance further and faster in their career than I can, even if I am better at the job. As a women, my commitment and dedication to our daughter is questioned because I work full time outside of the home. When a man works full time outside the home, no one questions his dedication to his family. he is touted as a good provider, just doing what he has to do. As far as being gay, that’s more legal inequalities, rather than societal views. Not being able to be married, not being able to put my partner on my health insurance, not being able to get information when she was in the emergency room (that was many years ago though). Being gay, the inequality that I feel, I feel comes from the laws of the land. I don’t usually feel discriminated against as a “gay” woman.”

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
“Probably because I don’t really associate with too many people that would behave in that way. My friends, neighbors, colleagues, are all fine with my sexual orientation. I don’t go to places where I know there’s going to be a lot of homophobic types of people.”

BUT CAN YOU REALLY KNOW WHO IS HOMOPHOBIC- WHO IS LIKELY TO DISCRIMINATE AGAINST YOU OR OSTRACIZE YOU?
“Well I don’t have a detector in my pocket or anything, but I have a general idea. If we go out, we tend to go out with other gay couples. We frequent businesses owned by gay people or in gay communities. Sure I go to Whole Foods and there may be a woman picking out apples across from me that thinks that dykes are scary and manly and wants to protect her daughters from the likes of us (laughter), but I don’t really consider her actions discrimination. For her or people like her, it’s just ugly behavior. It’s just unjustified prejudice and hatred. But she has no control over me, over my life. She doesn’t pay my mortgage. She doesn’t sign my paycheck. She doesn’t determine my placement in my classes. So what she thinks of me is irrelevant.”

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO DO- THE PEOPLE WHO SIGN YOUR PAYCHECK OR DETERMINE YOUR COLLEGE PLACEMENT. DO YOU FEEL AS A GAY WOMAN YOU ARE TREATED EQUALLY IN THAT REGARD. DOES YOUR STATUS CREATE AN INEQUALITY?
“Yes and no. I mean, there are certain laws in place to prevent that type of discrimination. I’m not talking about with gay people, but just anti-discrimination laws in general. Obviously my boss knows I’m gay, but I certainly could hide it if I chose to. I’m not likely going to be discriminated against by people who meet me once or who cross my path routinely, the receptionist at the DMV or the guy changing my tire at Pep Boys. Because they don’t have time to even determine a reason to discriminate. I don’t wear a sign. They can speculate, but that’s about it. Now as a women, if someone doesn’t like women, or wants to try to discriminate against me for that, well that can’t really be helped”

SO ARE YOU SAYING THAT YOU MAY NOT FACE AS MUCH DISCRIMINATION FOR BEING GAY AS YOU WOULD FACE AS A WOMAN, OR IF YOU WERE SAY AFRICAN AMERICAN OR ASIAN, BECAUSE “GAY” IS NOT SOMETHING THAT IS DETERMINED BY YOUR APPEARANCE? IN OTHER WORDS, YOU CAN HIDE GAY, BUT YOU CANT HIDE BLACK, IS THAT RIGHT?
“Yes! I mean, I’m not saying that I do that. I’m just saying that I’m not going to get pulled over driving through a nice neighborhood because I’m gay, you know what I mean? And that is part of the continued inequity of society. Judging a book by it’s cover. Judging one person based on the preconceived notions you have about an entire race or ethnicity or judging an entire race or ethnicity based on your experience with one person.”

SO WOULD YOU SAY WE STILL HAVE ROOM FOR PROGRESS WHERE EQUALITY IS CONCERNED?
“As a gay woman, yes. Gay people still need and desire equality on many fronts, including the ability to marry, which is still denied in many places. And women are still struggling to get fair and equal pay and treatment in the workplace even after all of the years of hard work on the part of women who worked for the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment). People who really believe that all people are created equal are living in a fairy tale. Either that or they are probably old, white, Republican, men (laughter.)”

AND WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE LGBT COMMUNITY?
“I can only speak from what I know, but I’d venture to say that in terms of straight up inequality, the LGBT community has it the worst. I mean as far as discrimination, prejudices, one can argue that there are minority groups that have it really bad, and that is true. But there is so much wiggle room within the law based on sexual orientation. If you are African American and you go for a job, you can’t be prevented from obtaining that job, if you are qualified, based solely on your race. In some cases, quotas and such, minorities are even offered jobs based on their minority status. When was the last time you heard the head of a company say, you know, we haven’t met out bisexual quota for staffing yet. Or, we really need to get someone who is transgender in here to be eligible for that big grant. Yes, they’ve added is “or sexual orientation” to many discrimination laws that used to read only “based on race, religion, gender…” but the truth is if you’re a company or organization that has conservative practices, or that has a CEO or COO who is a very strict conservative individual, sure if they had their druthers they’d like to hire a white male. But if they’ve got a choice between hiring an African American, a Latino, or a post-op transsexual, I’m telling you they’ll be last every single time. Too much misunderstanding, too much stigma still attached to it. People are afraid to make equal what does not appear just like them. The funny thing is that people who engage in this racism, this sexism, ageism, classism, if they could looks beyond their own tiny box for a minute, they’d see that once you get past the exterior, people are way more alike than you realize.”

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January 20, 2015

The Power of Equality…One Perspective.

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WHAT IS YOUR ETHNICITY?
“Hispanic/Puerto Rican.”

AS A HISPANIC WOMAN (LATINA), DO YOU FEEL THERE IS EQUALITY IN AMERICA?
“I guess not necessarily as a Latina, but basically in general. It’s hard to describe how I feel about this issue. For me, I don’t see it hindering me too much because when I want to go for something, I just kind of go for it. In all aspects, as far as the business that I’m in, because I am Hispanic and I’m lighter skinned and don’t have the traditional, stereotypical features, I don’t think I’m stereotyped too much. But I can see it differently when my mom would walk into a room. I do see that. A lot is how people view you by what they SEE.”

DO YOU HAVE AN EXAMPLE?
“Walking into a supermarket, my mother who can be the most humblest looking person, is going through the checkout aisles looking for the sugar free gum. As she’s moving through the aisle, this white lady grabs her purse as though my mom was gonna jump her. And I could see that as I was standing back. It’s quite common. For me, sometimes I feel I’m the hidden person. People might feel more comfortable to slight Hispanics because they don’t think I am or I don’t look it. I’ve gotten “You don’t look like them”. I’m like, “What does it matter? I’m still Hispanic. My parents are.” They may be a couple shades darker than I am, have more the traditional looking traits of Hispanic people, but you definitely see it. It’s almost a shame to say, cause I kind of stand a little in the background cause I don’t meet the criteria. But it’s funny how people can pick up a little bit of an accent or that you do have an ethnic look and they get uncomfortable cause they want to ask and they have a need to know. But then try to dance around a question.”

WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE HAVE SUCH A NEED TO KNOW WHAT SOMEONES BACKGROUND IS?
“Sometimes I think people are just interested in the culture because they want to visit the country or they know other people, they have a neighbor just like you. Sometimes, people are just uncomfortable and want to know for sure before they put their foot in their mouth.”

HAVING VISITED PUERTO RICO, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE CULTURE IS DIFFERENT AS FAR AS EQUALITY OR RACISM GOES? DO THEY REACT TO PEOPLE THAT AREN’T PUERTO RICAN THE WAY PEOPLE HERE REACT TO PEOPLE THAT ARE?
“I don’t think it’s an equality issue there, they’re honestly intrigued. We’re referred to as outsiders and bring a touch of a different world the to them. At least the ones that have not gotten off the island. For example, they can tell the difference between a Hispanic black and an American black. We took our friends there and, even when I walk in, being light skinned, they know you’re not from the area. They’re curious about where you’re coming from. I think it’s also a need to know type of nature. I think Hispanics tend to be more warm about wanting to know who you are. I call it the “noosey” factor. (laughter). I remember when I was visiting a friend, and she was on the highest peak of a mountain and you think you’re in a hillbilly town of Puerto Rico. You think nobody’s paying attention and you’re walking around. Let me tell ya, they knew I was there. I was trying to search for my grandmother’s ex-husband. He was in the same town. Easy to locate for people. Give nicknames, descriptions. They don’t know streets but they can tell you people. So I said I would try to visit him. It was getting dark, he ended up leaving his house, half blind, giving descriptions to what I said I looked like. People said they saw me in the neighborhood. People directed him to where they saw a newcomer from outside. They pay attention.
My husband would travel there, and he was kind of uncomfortable. With American men (like her husband), you can walk down the street and if they’re interested they won’t gawk, they’ll just look out of the corner of their eye, and then if you looked their way, they’d turn around. In Puerto Rico, they’ll just look at you up and down, keep looking and basically unclothe you. I had to tell him that’s just the way it is there. So it’s not really a difference in equality, but more so culture.
I think people just don’t know how to close down the barrier of ignorance and just open up the mind to just accepting the differences in people. Culture wise, religion wise, you know it’s there. You may not agree with it, then fine, just don’t associate. Don’t hang out. I don’t feel I need to bash anyone for that. I can’t understand it. You may not have the same traits or interests but you shouldn’t look at someone differently because of it. (It’s that way with religions too. If you don’t believe everything they do, you don’t fit in.) The way I look at it is if it’s not hurting me and not hurting you personally, if you don’t like it, walk away. They’re not killing people. But they are “killing” people and are behaving badly towards them and bashing, just because they have something that sparks them differently. That’s what makes them happy. They should be unhappy to make you happy?”

TEACHING KIDS TOLERANCE AT HOME IS WHAT WILL MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.
“I’ll tell you something that just happened, something along the lines of equality with law enforcement or anti-law enforcement. There were two 13 year old kids at my kids school that walked up to my son and said “Hey, I just remembered, isn’t your father a police officer?” His response was “Yeah, he was but hasn’t been for the last three years. What of it?” They said “Well, your dad is on our list. My brother was arrested in September for selling drugs, so all cops are on our list. I’ll be the one next to shoot a cop.”

OH MY GOD! I HOPE YOU REPORTED IT!
“It just happened this morning but I’m going to. And that goes to inequality. So, because his dad is a cop he gets targeted because your brother, the drug dealer, got arrested?”

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN AFFECTED BY INEQUALITY AS A WOMAN?
“In my business, a predominantly male environment (air duct cleaning), sometimes I am discriminated against more by women than men. I think they also think I should be dressed more butchy, like a man too. I get a call for a job, I report to the call, my guys are on the job. They answer their door and they’re like “You? I have a problem with my system.” I say “Yes, I’m here to help with that.” They look past me and say “Where’s the guy?” “I am your guy.” You get that. I’ve had times where I’ve found problems with someone’s system and told them but I’m not credible enough because I’m a woman. This one lady was so adamantly saying no, that I was wrong. I told her to hire another person to come out and then we’d discuss it.”

DO YOU THINK THERE WILL EVER BE FULL EQUALITY?
“No, unfortunately. If you just treat people like people it would help. But as far as equal: that’s like say, building a robot and making us all the same. That would get boring. There’s good people and bad people. The laws are made to protect the good. This is why laws are made. Like needing your ID for things. (Then you hear) I don’t carry my ID everywhere. Ok, then we’ll just take any Joe Schmo that says who they are. There’s changes and we have to adjust to that.
As far as equal rights: I’m Hispanic but I have sisters that are black. I try to break that barrier with my kids. As kids, I didn’t bring them up with prejudice, sometimes kids just see (by appearances). You just have to squash the negativity for things to be good.
I personally feel the most racist people are black people. You have white people that are straight up rude and stuff. But then you have the same with even the younger generation thinking they grew up with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., like they lived it. If you just (accept) that “alright, there are prejudices. People don’t like you for certain reasons.” Is it well known that it can be just for the color of your skin? Move on, do what works for you. Between sisters and friends that are black, they all say, yeah you kind of see it, they cough it up that they’re ignorant. Some other people are like “I just go along with my business. I have a good job, go to school and make it. I don’t let that negativity bring me down.” So half the time that whole “I don’t fit in”, if you stop and sit and argue the topic and say people are not being fair to me and this is a whole conspiracy to me, you’re the only one bringing yourself down and will stay on that hamster wheel not moving forward. You’re gonna lose. Move forward. You want something better, move on.”

January 19, 2015

The Power of Equality…One Perspective.

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AS AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN, DO YOU FEEL THERE’S BEEN A POSITIVE CHANGE, A REAL DIFFERENCE, IN EQUALITY SINCE THE TIME OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR (THE ERA OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT)?
“I guess my answer would’ve been different if I hadn’t seen “Selma”. I watched “Selma” last week with Senator Hughes and his wife and a bunch of other people and we had a panel discussion about what we were going to see. I just finished writing a piece about this. Let me tell you what my point of view is: it’s unconscionable to me that people died, were beaten and humiliated and treated like dirt under someone’s feet and that you had a government that was fighting the President of the United States at the time, to make sure that we did not have the right to vote. To 2015 where we have the right to vote and we just completely ignore it. So in one sense, I feel like we’ve come a long way, in another sense I feel like we’ve kicked ourselves and pushed our own selves back. Because if we were taking voting responsibly, showing up at the polls when we needed to, instead of 10-15% after all our ancestors had done to get us this right, then we wouldn’t be having Fergusons and what’s going on in New York City and what’s going on a around the country. We would have people in office that would take our demands seriously because they would see that we were clientele, that we’re coming out to vote and they would take our words responsibly. I am from another place, so my perspective has always been one of where I was born and raised, and for me, education is completely important. That you give back, community is completely important. For me, I’m frustrated. I’m completely frustrated by what I see on many levels. I see disenfranchisement for people of color, but I also see it for people who are poor, for people who are marginalized because they may have autism. If you don’t fit into that tiny space, in that tiny window of normalcy, or that crowd, or whatever it is that they deemed appropriate to fit into that window, then 95% of us are just sitting on the peripheral waiting and hoping for goodness to come our way. This is probably a bad day to be talking to me about this because I have been thinking about it.”

MAYBE IT’S A GOOD DAY THEN.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot. For instance, we have our social media pages and I wish we would use them more responsibly. Everything I put on my page is intentional. Everything. Down to the potpourri of “mister” (the love of her life). Because in a sense, there’s people on my page that believe people of color don’t have normal families; That our sons are jail birds; That we’re not married; That we’re not educated; So everything I post is about the normalcy that happens in a regular, everyday family, except that we happen to be black. People are dying to meet “mister” because they’ve had this entire visual of this wonderful man who is an educator, he has five degrees, he’s smart, he’s funny, he gets on my nerves, all of it. I want people to see the human before they see “mister”. It may seem like I’m just posting, but I’m very intentional. Do you know how hard it is to raise children of color in this country?”

I DON’T.
“We’re told that if our children pull their pants up; that if we take them to pre-school and teach them all the words that they need to know by the time they get to kindergarten; we’re told that if we keep them out of trouble and that we’ve done all the right things, that America will be just fine with them. That is just not true. I’ve done all of those things and then some. Both of my children came out of school with no detentions or suspensions. Neither one of them sagged their pants. And yet they’re still targeted. They’re targeted by teachers who don’t believe they can do well. They’re targeted by people outside in our authority that look at them and see the color of their skin instead of the beautiful, wonderful souls that they are. And it is now my charge, as a mother, and I tell them this all the time, “Don’t be bitter. Get better.” Every time someone targets you, in some (negative) way, do not take that and turn it into (bitterness). Turn it into “now how am I gonna turn this into something better for my life and those around me?” That’s what I have to teach my kids every day. I worry about my kids everyday. As long as things stay the way they are in this country, then there’s always this fear that we walk around with. It’s unfair, but it’s our lives. So what do we do?”

HOW HAVE YOUR CHILDREN BEEN TARGETED?
“My 22 year old had his hand broken by a cop when he was 15. Called a nigger. And then when we fought it, cause they met the wrong mother, when I filed the formal complaints against the police department, they called over here (the township) to where I live to find out what they had on this kid, but my kid had never been in trouble. We finally got to court, they wanted to take it to the youth aid panel, which they give to first time offenders. But I was like “No thank you. He didn’t offend anybody. He didn’t do anything. He asked you a question and you called him a nigger and threw him to the ground and broke his hand.” For him, I just said to him “You just continue to do well in school. We will fight your battle for you.” It took a year. But when that cop got into court the first time, he said that my son threw a bottle at a little white girl, he was careful to say a little white, blonde hair, blue eyed girl who was under two and that he could’ve damaged her and given her a concussion. The people that were in the courtroom who were there, not only (did they say) nobody was near the trashcan (where the bottle was tossed), but that everybody was on the other side. (It was at June fete). And so my kid turned around and said to me “Mom, can they get away with that?” And that was the first time he realized that the system was not fair. I told him not to worry. The judge, when my son got up on the stand, looked at him and said “I’m dismissing one charge. You’re going to have to go to the higher court for the other charge.” So I said ok. So we went up there, same thing happened. Judge looked at the cop and was like “it’s not computing. Here’s a kid that has never been in trouble. His grades are good. And he’s in the honors program at school.” So the judge found him not guilty. But it took a year of being in the system. The cop walked up with his head down, he knew he was lying. But he knew the odds were in his favor that they would believe him and not my child. Our children have to live almost perfect in the system. When my son was ready to drive at 16, he was afraid to get behind the wheel of a car because he was afraid of being targeted. He went up to Penn State, they stopped him every 15 minutes! He drove a 10 year old Mercedes. They wanted to know where he got the car from. If they broke his taillight, they could take his car from him. Drove him nuts. He’s 22 now. He had to learn how to manage that. He had to learn how to not have heart palpations every time there was a police officer behind him. C’mon man. As his parents, we have done everything to give them the best lives; to make sure that they weren’t in trouble. We didn’t spoil them. We didn’t coddle them. We didn’t do any of those things. Everyday and everything was a lesson for our children. Because we don’t want them to just survive, we want them to thrive.”

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WHAT ANY PARENT WOULD WANT.
“Absolutely! To hear someone say, “Well, if the cop locked him up, it must’ve been something he did.” And that’s why with Eric Gardner and Trayvon Martin, as a parent of a child of color, we get it. And that’s why we keep saying to them you have to stay out of trouble because anytime anything happens, your entire history follows you. If you went to the store and you stole cigarettes…you understand what I’m saying. It all follows you. The other part of it is that black children are usually much bigger than their counterparts and then they get the descriptions like “he looked like a monster to me”. In the collective minds of this country, it’s “oh, I can imagine!”. Remember, media shows you what they want to. So it’s not far fetched that they would believe that this kid was a monster, running towards a cop who was shooting bullets at him. Can you imagine!?”

I CAN’T IMAGINE BEING IN YOUR POSITION, YOUR CHILDS POSITION OR A COPS POSITION.
“I took a lot of flack, about three days after Ferguson, I decided that I’d like to have a conversation with the cops and white allies and young people. Black folks were calling “why didn’t you come to us first and come through our organization?” I’m thinking, are we not supposed to find common ground? Are we not supposed to do what we’re supposed to do? Why can’t I be upset that this happened to my child but still appreciate the thousands of other cops? Why does it have to be either/or? And if I don’t fall in the either/or category then why do I have to walk around with your hate? I’m not carrying hate in my heart. It’s that kind of stuff that people have to understand. You can be upset, but it doesn’t preclude you from also understanding what they have to go through cause there’s some craziness going on out here on the streets. And it’s hard to be a cop. It is completely difficult to be a cop.”

NOBODY WANTS TO BE STEREOTYPED. I EVEN THINK A LOT OF WHITE PEOPLE ARE STEREOTYPED AND AUTOMATICALLY LOOKED AT AS RACIST.
“Let me say this to you: there are some people that feel like all white people are racist. And I can’t imagine how you would feel. I do culture sensitivity training for educators around the country. It takes a certain skill level to have that conversation. When you start to open it up, you can see the faces drop. We all come with “stuff” from our background. The thing with education, is when you’re working with young people, you’ve got to kind of figure out what you’re bringing to the table, how that affects the young people that you’re working with and how you can manage that, in and out of the classroom. Because you can’t turn on and off. So, I can’t imagine, how being white, one would feel. It’s hard to have this conversation. It makes me feel guilty. No one wants to have it with me in a way that I can be open and honest and have the dialogue about what is in your head. That is what my work does and that’s why it’s been so popular because I want people to be their complete selves but without judgement. If you’re coming to the table with judgement before they even open their mouths, who’s gonna wanna open their mouths and talk to you? We recognize that. We’ve got a group, we can talk about that history and learn how to work through it. The key to it is communication, we’re trying to understand one another. This journey has been a very interesting one because often times, we want people to understand us, but we don’t wanna try to be understanding. What’s the purpose? I have to keep reminding people, that a lot of white folks were lynched on trees just like black folks were during the civil rights movement. There was a lot of white folks out there marching. The same way you don’t want everybody to lump us in the same category, don’t lump all white folks in the same category. It’s rude because it’s divisive.”
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO SAY IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT THAT PEOPLE WERE ENSLAVED OVER 200 YEARS AGO? THAT IT DOESN’T MEAN THAT WHITE PEOPLE ARE RACIST?
“I think we need to separate racism from white privilege. I think we lump those two things together. It is a fact that if you live in this country, and you are Caucasian, that there are certain privileges opened up to you just because, just for your very existence. It’s not a bad thing.”

BUT IT’S NOT A FAIR THING?
“Exactly. There ya go. There’s no equity there. And so you want people to see that for what it is, look at it in that perspective. I think we throw out the “R” word too much. I think we throw out “racism” too much. I think there’s a lot of discrimination. I think there’s inequality, lots and lots of it. And quite frankly, when we look at the data, the people that are most supported by white privilege, white men, find themselves in positions where there’s discriminatory practices going on, even white women at times. Imagine being a woman and black! Double entendre girl. Craziness. (Laughter) And so if we figure out that piece and work through it… of white privilege…. And I think we have to figure out another word for that. I think when we use the words white privilege, although my black friends would probably say “oh my god, you’re sugar coating stuff to make them feel better?”, but that’s why I’m like, why do we always have to fight about this stuff? Why?!”

BUT AREN’T THEY JUST WORDS?
“But words can heal or wound. What is it that we wanna do with our words? Are we trying to be effective or cause the distance? What are we doing with our words?
All I know, is that in my lifetime, the goal is to be the best Andrea I know how to be. To touch the lives that I can touch in ways small and large. And to leave here hoping that I made a difference. Period.”

I SEE YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE AND AM ALWAYS INTRIGUED BY YOUR POSTS, THE WORK YOU’RE DOING, BUT I MAY NOT ALWAYS UNDERSTAND HOW TO TAKE SOME THINGS YOU POST.
“Feel free to have the conversation. You can always inbox me and say, “what do you mean by that?” You know how many people inbox me? See, when we talk about it, then we can move on. We don’t always have to agree. Doesn’t mean that we don’t still like each other. We just don’t always have to agree.”

January 18, 2015

The Power of Equality…One Perspective.
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AS A WHITE MAN, THAT IS ALSO A RETIRED POLICE OFFICER, DO YOU FEEL RACISM IS STILL A PREDOMINANT ISSUE?
“I think the world has changed a great deal in my lifetime. Even more so than in your lifetime (early 40’s). I think in my lifetime the world’s gone through some very, very drastic and dramatic changes in the way of race relations. I can remember the world of the 1960’s. I can remember what blacks and whites perceived themselves as in the 60’s. There was a different feel in the 60’s and even in the 70’s. I think it was a period of time in America where young Americans of my generation, fooled themselves into believing that they were gonna make a drastic change in the world. In a lot of ways they did and in a lot of ways they didn’t. And I think a lot of it’s for the better and some of it is for the worse. There are forces working in this nation to constantly drive a wedge between whites, blacks, brown, Asians. etc. There’s definitely a movement within this country that involves the media and the government, which actually works against race relations. And I think this President is a fine example of what you DON’T wanna do. I really thought that when Obama came in, he would be more of a calming force in American society. But I actually think he’s a diversionary force. I think he’s put more division between blacks and whites than any other president in office in the last 100 years.”

WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL THAT WAY?
“Well, I feel a lot of times he’s very biased, he makes a lot of biased statements. Sometimes he acts stupid, especially in regards to some of the things that went on this year in Ferguson and New York. I don’t just lay it at his feet though. It isn’t just him. It’s bigger than him. A lot of what has to do with race relations in this country is being driven by the political parties in this country. Neither party is without sin. I don’t like it. I think when you take political office, you should put your bias aside. Nobody can be totally bias free, but when you take office, you should try to put as much of your biased thinking to the side. Try to be as much middle of the road as possible, but without giving up your principles. If you believe in something strongly enough then please believe it, don’t be wishy-washy, but at the same time, don’t be so pig-headed that you can’t come to a middle ground. That’s what bothers me.
On a personal level, I don’t have a problem with race. I don’t like all white people and I don’t like all black people. At the same time, I like a lot of black people and I like a lot of white people. I have some really good friends that are white and some really good friends that are black. And I have some really good friends that are Hispanic and one or two friends that are Asian.”

YOU MENTIONED EARLIER THAT IN THE 60’s, SOME CHANGES WERE GOOD AND SOME WEREN’T. CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THAT A BIT MORE?
“Here’s some of the things that I don’t think are good: in America, at the turn of the twentieth century, blacks were coming out of slavery. But, blacks were a group, just like every other minority group, every minority group that came into this country, through the American process. That includes a person like me. I’m an Italian that came to America. I CHOSE to be an American. Maybe I was young, but I had opportunities in my life and I didn’t have to stay in America. When I was 18, I could’ve gone back to Italy. I was invited back to Italy by the Italian government (to join the Italian army). I was drafted into the Italian army. And (by not doing that) I had to give up returning to Italy or visiting Italy. But I decided to give up my Italian citizenship and stay here in the states. I was always had full American citizenship though, because of my mother. At the turn of the century, all minority groups had gone through a phase where they kind of assimilated into society and blacks were also assimilating into society. Somewhere in the late sixties, with the death of Martin Luther King Jr., with the formation of the Black Panthers, with the radicalization of racism, not on the part of whites (there’s always been part of whites that have been radicalized too. You know who I’m talking about… the guys who are burning crosses, wearing hoods and have little swastikas on their sleeves and shit. They’re radical whites). But there’s also radical blacks. There’s Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton. In my opinion, they justify racism on the black part of America. They’re not doing anything for the betterment of society. They are driving wedges between groups of people. Another thing is, it’s very difficult, whether you’re black, white, purple, green, Martian, Venetian, Romulen or whatever, (I don’t give a shit what the fuck you are), it’s very hard to try try to stay positive- to try not to resent another group. Especially when groups become radicalized. Prime example is radical Islam. It’s really hard for any human to try to be understanding of everybody’s differences. This is the thing that I think happened in the sixties. Blacks were fed a line of crap by their own leaders to make them think that they would never be assimilated into America. Unfortunately I have bad news, they ARE going to be assimilated into America. The future of America is a homogenized group of people. They don’t call this country a melting pot for no reason. I see it in the future. Unless there’s an enormous effort made by individuals in this country that wanna keep us separated, America is gonna homogenize.”
SO YOU’RE SAYING WE SHOULD EMBRACE EACH OTHERS DIFFERENCES INSTEAD OF TRYING TO MAKE EVERYBODY THE SAME?
“Absolutely. There’s nothing wrong with having some cultural differences. You celebrate Christmas a certain way, holidays a certain way, you have your own religious beliefs. But you really don’t need behavior like what went on in Ferguson and New York over the sensationalism that’s created by the media over an incident that you could calmly sit down and talk about. You know darn well that there’s no policeman on this earth, and this is speaking from my experience in life, unless he’s some kind of individual that has a mental problem, I’ve never met a policeman that’s gotten ready for work, putting his equipment together to go out on patrol and said to himself “Hey, ya know what? I think I’m gonna go out and shoot some guy. I’m gonna go out and shoot some kid. I’m gonna shoot a black kid. I’m gonna shoot somebody just because I just feel like shooting them. Because I want my life to be totally discombobulated because of that act.” Put yourself in the shoes of that officer that killed that kid (Michael) Brown. His life is done. His career is done. Right or wrong his (professional) life is done. He might as well go to Australia and become a sheep farmer. So do you think that guy consciously said to himself “I think I’m gonna shoot this kid”?”

PLAYING DEVILS ADVOCATE, DO YOU THINK IT’S POSSIBLE THAT THERE COULD BE A SITUATION WHERE A POLICE OFFICER DOES ACT WITH MALICE AND FIGURES THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH IT?
“Here’s what I think: a lot of people who have never walked the walk, who have never worked in law enforcement, their perception of what law enforcement is, is what they see on TV. And what they see on tv is excitement, excitement, excitement. There’s no moment of doldrum on television police drama. Police work can be one of the most boring jobs you’ve ever had in your life. It can be so dull that it numbs your senses. If you think it’s really exciting to be sitting there waiting for somebody to commit a crime, it isn’t. There are nights where you’re fighting to stay awake. And then, in a moment, a fraction of time, you go from personally nodding off to a point where your life is danger and you have to make a life or death decision in the fraction of a second. You go from absolute boredom to high intensity, reactive time. Most police officers, who I know that are good police officers (I always thought I was a good police officer), they temper themselves and their behavior. They try to be reasonable. Even at the height of an incident. They try to think clearly. But sometimes those decisions have to be made in micro seconds. In the case of Eric Gardner, I can tell you right now, that guy wasn’t choked. You can’t say “I can’t breathe” if you can’t breathe. If you’re not getting any air, you can’t speak. You distinctly hear that man saying “I can’t breathe”. He was overweight, laying on his chest with his hands behind his back and they had a hold of his neck. But there’s an easy way to avoid all that: don’t resist arrest. But the media turns it into a bigger deal by showing it over and over and over again. It was like Rodney King all over again. What people don’t realize is that an incident like Rodney King cost close to 60 people their lives because the riots in L.A. caused a lot of people their lives. And who caused that? The media caused that. The constant airing of the officers hitting Rodney. But they don’t show what happened before Rodney took the ass kicking that he took. They don’t show what he did to get that ass kicking. They don’t show him dropping his pants and mooning the female officer. You can’t hear Rodney telling the officers to go fuck themselves. Rodney was no little boy, God rest his soul. But because of what the media did with his story, close to 60 people and untold billions of dollars were lost in Los Angeles. That’s the ugly side of what America has become. All they’re interested in is selling soap. And I have a problem with the media over that.
Just like this incident in France. I have a problem with the way the media’s portraying France. I hate to say this but, the French didn’t lose almost 3,000 people. The United States did. They keep trying to water down the number of people that were killed on 9/11. But the fact of the matter is (almost) 3,000 people died that day. It’s a big difference between 3,000 and 15. You didn’t see the world come behind America and march down the street, a million and a half strong, did ya? A whole lot more lives were affected by that though. Another thing is that France has the largest population of Islamic people. They brought in those Islamic people for cheap labor. But then they force them to live in ghettos. They are ostracized by the majority of people in France. So that breeds bad feelings amongst these people and it breeds terrorists. Now I’m not justifying their actions, I’m just saying inequality, whether it’s perceived or factual, is always gonna breed a negative response from those that feel they’re not being treated fairly. The other thing is this: I would like the mayor of Paris to change the name of the street that they decided to name after Mumia Abu-Jamal, our famous police murderer of Philadelphia. He’s a convicted police killer. He killed Danny Faulkner. Been convicted of it numerous times. He’s exhausted all of his appeals. He’s guilty. Yet, the French think of him as a political prisoner. At the same time, they want Americans to say “oh, look at what these Muslims did that killed these police officers.” Yes, they killed police officers. The last time I checked Mumia is a Muslim name, yet they made him a political prisoner. But their Muslims are terrorists for killing their police officers. If you’re gonna paint the wall with color, make sure there’s an even coat all the way around.
I have a friend that is very spiritual and very religious. So much so, aside from already being a deacon, he’s completed his studies to where he can be considered a reverend. I stayed with him in September since I had a reunion to attend and I needed a place to stay and keep my bike. All we did was talk. We talk about this stuff all the time. He’s a pretty even keeled individual but even he says it’s very hard to turn an unbiased eye to the way that you feel. No matter how religious you might think you are. No matter how much you’re trying to live the righteous life, on a personal level, it’s very very hard to be unbiased. And I admire that cause it takes a lot to have the courage to say “I’m biased about certain things”. He isn’t blind to the fact that he’s looking at things from a black perspective, and I’m looking at it from a white perspective. He’s a devout democrat and I’m a devout republican. We are opposites, so there is no reason we should be sitting and breaking bread over a table talking and laughing and having a good time, should there? We see a lot of each other’s points. Here’s the interesting thing: he does not perceive you as right just because you are black and I don’t perceive you as right just because you’re white. That’s the common view that him and I have: wrong is wrong and right is right. It is not right to deny somebody something just because of their religious beliefs, because of their racial background. What I feel America needs to do is understand that everyone is not going to agree with you. You are not constantly going to be able to preach to the choir. And there’s no point in preaching to the choir cause there’s no satisfaction in it. But you sure do hope that when you DO have a conversation with someone, that at least they’re open minded enough that they don’t shut you completely off.”
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