Much remains the same since I wrote this post back in 2014, and some are actually worse. One thing that is better (and worse) is a new Tamir Rice Safety Handbook created by the ACLU of Ohio in collaboration with Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice.

The better is that Samaria Rice can help publicize a tool that may keep other children from being killed. The worse is that we need a guide for black and brown children to navigate interactions with law enforcement.

My version of the old “two steps forward, one step back” is to think of social progress like a spiral. I can’t always see how the twists and turns move us forward but I believe in the value of the outcome and so I keep on keepin’ on.

And I hope you do too.

ORIGINAL POST: Now What?, November 25, 2014

I knew the Ferguson grand jury would not indict officer Wilson. I’m not cynical, just familiar with history.

I knew I would feel like shit hearing the outcome, but I wouldn’t have predicted the sadness. I naturally lean toward anger & outrage in the face of our ongoing social & political injustice.

Closer to home, Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy from my old neighborhood who was killed by a police officer on November 22 for having a toy gun, deepens my sadness and amplifies the questions.

  • How will we change the value we place on black lives in this country?
  • How will we change the perception that black skin is to be feared – the assumption that drives and justifies a violent response from police?
  • How will we grant black teenagers the benefit of youthful stupidity – a privilege widely enjoyed by white teenagers?

The biggest question, the one that is currently making me sad is – what do we do now?

I just taught a workshop the other day about dealing with difficult situations by recognizing your habitual responses and learning about different potential choices. Deciding how to respond rather than just reacting.

So how will we respond to our deeply flawed and biased society? What do we address first? The legal system? Gun culture? Institutional racism? The fact that citizens are brainwashed into thinking that they have no power to change the system?

If I had my druthers I’d start with eliminating folks feelings of collective helplessness so we can get to collective action.

We need to do more.

I need to do more.

The neighborhood I grew up in appears desolate and broken. Ten miles from where I live, its at least ten years since I’ve driven down those streets.

I made the long trip back recently for a very specific reason. To participate in a protest for Tamir Rice, the 12-year old boy shot by police outside of Cudell Recreation Center on Cleveland’s westside.

The rec center next to my elementary school, two blocks from my childhood home. The rec center where my friends and I spent countless summers swimming, playing tennis and goofing around by the clock tower.

The protest was attended by people who had traveled by bus from Ferguson, Missouri to stand in solidarity with the Cleveland protestors. I thought if they could ride a bus all night I could at least drive 25 minutes across town.

It was a hard thing to witness in a place so familiar that now no longer belongs to me.

Afterward, on the way home, I drove past my mother’s house, and was struck by how very tiny it was. (Eight people in 900 sq. feet & one bathroom – no kidding.)  I was unprepared for the unrelenting poverty.

Used to be lots of homes like my moms with overly groomed miniscule yards, flower beds and American flags flying. Now there is very little evidence of that kind of effort.

Looking the past in the face makes me pay attention to what I’m doing in the present to make a better future. How am I acting in my daily life, what am I contributing in my community, what is in my head and coming out my mouth that reduces racial injustice? Some days probably not so much.

Tomorrow I am participating in a facilitator training for the YWCA “It’s Time To Talk: Forums on Race” series. If they choose to use me as a facilitator I can help myself and other people have safe, meaningful discussions about race. Even if they choose not to use me I call spending six hours in social justice training “checking my head” a good day.

How do you check your head?

Mavis will see you out.

100_0320
Cudell Rec Center has a beautiful glass wall on the front and a sliding glass wall on the pool patio. I loved to swim in the winter and watch it snow through the steamy windows.

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: November 25, 2019

Much remains the same since I wrote this post back in 2014, and some are actually worse. One thing that is better (and worse) is a new Tamir Rice Safety Handbook created by the ACLU of Ohio in collaboration with Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice.

The better is that Samaria Rice can help publicize a tool that may keep other children from being killed. The worse is that we need a guide for black and brown children to navigate interactions with law enforcement.

 

ORIGINAL POST: November 25, 2014

I knew the Ferguson grand jury would not indict officer Wilson. I’m not cynical, just familiar with history.

I knew I would feel like shit hearing the outcome, but I wouldn’t have predicted the sadness. I naturally lean toward anger & outrage in the face of our ongoing social & political injustice.

Closer to home, Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy from my old neighborhood who was killed by a police officer on November 22 for having a toy gun, deepens my sadness and amplifies the questions.

  • How will we change the value we place on black lives in this country?
  • How will we change the perception that black skin is to be feared – the assumption that drives and justifies a violent response from police?
  • How will we grant black teenagers the benefit of youthful stupidity – a privilege widely enjoyed by white teenagers?

The biggest question, the one that is currently making me sad is – what do we do now?

I just taught a workshop the other day about dealing with difficult situations by recognizing your habitual responses and learning about different potential choices. Deciding how to respond rather than just reacting.

So how will we respond to our deeply flawed and biased society? What do we address first? The legal system? Gun culture? Institutional racism? The fact that citizens are brainwashed into thinking that they have no power to change the system?

If I had my druthers I’d start with eliminating folks feelings of collective helplessness so we can get to collective action.

We need to do more.

I need to do more.

Cudell Recreation Center where Tamir Rice was killed

I’m working with one of my coaching clients  – I’ll call her Sally because I don’t know anyone called Sally – on strategies to manage a couple of her problematic team members.

The guys Sally is dealing with have been bad apples for years. They have toxic personalities that affect everyone. Consistently rude in emails, nasty, demeaning comments to colleagues in meetings, a whole gamut of objectionable, rogue behavior that we’ve been teasing apart so she can address it layer by layer.

It may seem shocking that this behavior is tolerated in a workplace, or maybe you recognize this kinda guys and try to avoid them every day, either way Sally’s problem exists because other folks chose to kick the can down the road.

Former team leaders decided, for whatever reason, that they were not going to confront these guys about their behavior. “Not worth it”, “bigger fish to fry”, “that’s just how they are”, is what I’d probably hear if I asked prior team leaders why they didn’t step up.

When Sally first approached me last year about coaching her she explained that she felt she needed help figuring out what to do about the problem “because it’s the right thing to do for my group.” She felt obligated by her position as team leader to confront the issue.

I pointed out that confront at its essence means “to face”, not “to fight”, in my mind this is turning your face toward the work that needs to be done, and I agreed to coach her.

Yesterday while discussing a thorny obstacle I reminded Sally that my job as her coach isn’t to get these guys to change their behavior. My job is to support her to so she can grow her skills, confront the problem and not feel compromised. Despite how much she (and other clients) want to credit me with “giving advice” my coaching provides a frame, resources and guidance, but the work is all hers.

This morning I watched a video talking about Ferguson and I thought of Sally because she clearly knows herself as the person who is obligated to address a problem. That’s worth more than solving the problem in my book.  Because she knows who she is.

Ferguson has been on my mind and tongue lately as it has with a lot of people. “What should be done?”, “What can be done?”, “Who should do it?”, “Where are the leaders?” – are all questions pinging around in “the national discussion.” The man in the video linked below eloquently reminded me this morning that in all situations we need to know who we are before we can know what to do.

Or recognize the fact that we are the ones who should do it. Watch and tell me what you think.

 What No One Wants to Say About Ferguson

photoVideo courtesy of PRINCE EA – Richard Williams, better known by his stage name Prince EA, is an American rapper, music video director and rights activist from St Louis, Missouri.

Thank god for cell phones.

The images of the protests and police reaction in Ferguson, Missouri over the past week are grotesquely similar to images from the civil rights confrontations from the 1960’s. One difference being the real-time broadcast to the world of events that seem like they should be taking place in another country.

A country at war.

Maybe its the litany of names that is making it hard to ignore the truth but it seems like attention is finally being paid to the institutional racism that is fact in the USA.

I watched a video blogger this morning reading and reacting to a HuffPost story about how white suspects are treated better than black victims. What struck me about it wasn’t his outrage, but the fact that institutional bias and subtle racism are still news.

A lot of people still don’t believe – no matter what evidence is presented – that we live in and have created a country of unequal treatment, unequal opportunity and unequal justice under the law.

People of the American “Cis-majority” – people assigned to white privilege at birth – need to understand the magnitude of difference in how they experience the world and how African-Americans experience the world.

The concept of white privilege seems to have stopped shocking people the way it once did. Maybe a concept of “Cis-majority” can rattle the cages of those who do not count themselves among the culpable.

We are all culpable. Everyone operates from unconscious bias. I do. You do, no exceptions. All of us have power to do harm.

Some of us just happen to have the power to do grievous harm when choices are informed by unchecked unconscious bias and institutional structures that aid and abet racist outcomes.

Some of us just happen to jump to the conclusion that a black man, by his very existence, is dangerous. Some of those jumping to conclusions carry guns.

All of us, no matter the degree of our “Cis-majority”, can at minimum shut up and believe black people when they say they are experiencing discrimination, racial profiling, disproportionate arrest and wildly disproportionate incarceration.

Black people standing in the streets in Ferguson are not “complaining”, “defying the rule of law”, or “being disrespectful to police”, they are protesting. Exercising a right that’s supposed to belong to all American citizens.

Oh wait, we’re not comfortable with “them” exercising that right because it makes “us” uncomfortable what with “them” being so prone to violence and all. It just goes on and on and on and on.

Heres a hope. When he gets back from vacation maybe President Obama can work with the slogan “Shut up and believe” since he can’t seem to get behind “Hands up, don’t shoot!”

Something has gotta change. Now.

Read the Huff Post article here.

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man