It’s not getting worse. It’s been there all along.

I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. State capitol of the bayous of Louisiana. Home of the Louisiana State University Tigers. Land where streets of stately southern homes are lined by rows of oak trees as old as the country itself. City where Mardi Gras beads hang from power lines year round. Home to crawfish and gumbo, beignets, and daiquiris in go cups.

And also home to the Jaguars of Southern University & the Human Jukebox & the Dancing Dolls. The location of the first bus boycott of the civil rights era, in 1953, organized by the Rev. T.J. Jemison & Mr. Willis Reed, Sr.* Home of the longest desegregation case in the United States, settled in 2003. Where nearly a third of children live under the poverty level. Where blacks and whites are still separated by our own Mason Dixon line that we call Florida Blvd. The city Alton Sterling called home until July 5th.

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2010 Census Data. I’m gonna assume you can figure out where Florida Blvd runs.

My husband and I both grew up in South Carolina. We’re more than well aware that racism still exists in this country, 60+ years after the civil rights movement. It took the slaughter of 9 people with brown skin in their own church at Emmanuel AME in Charleston to convince people that perhaps the Confederate flag had no business being on the grounds of the South Carolina State House, though people still seem unconvinced the white murderer was not just “mentally ill” and was, perhaps, a racist fueled by hate. The state prosecutor there is prepping for that case while also prepping for the murder case against a North Charleston police officer accused of murdering motorist Walter Scott during a stop there in the weeks before the Charleston church massacre.

We moved to Baton Rouge 4 years ago. We’d spent 2 years in Reno, Nevada for my husband’s job when we decided to take a move again and head back south. I missed the food, the people, the football, and was tired of the snow and wind. We didn’t have much time to find a rental and get things in order to get there a month after school started in Baton Rouge. We quickly realized rent prices were much higher in the areas of town we’d been told to look, so finding a place we could afford was stressful. We’d been warned the schools left a bit to be desired in Baton Rouge, but I underestimated the severity of the situation. I had no idea the eye opening experience we had unwittingly signed up for when we agreed to move to Baton Rouge.

It was 2012 and my daughter was the only white kid in her entire class of over 25 kids. And we lived in a neighborhood surrounded by nothing but white people and white children. It didn’t make sense. After her first few days passed, my daughter mentioned the kids were “petting” her. They told her they’d never seen a person with “hair like hers” or “spots on their face like hers”. These children had never been around white kids, even though the school was just a couple miles from our home. I noticed quickly the school felt far more like a prison than it did a school. The kids were never allowed to speak to each other unless they were outside on the square pavement where they had “recess” for 15 minutes a day. No talking in the bathrooms, no talking in the cafeteria, no group work together, no talking in car pool while they waited on their parents to pick them up. They seemed to spend most of the year coloring, while teachers barked orders and commands at them. Later that year, after my daughter started coming up with reasons not to go to school, we found out at least two kindergarten teachers were beating kids in the classroom, with one screaming so loud my daughter reported she had to plug her ears and rock in her chair. Every time I visited the classroom, where I didn’t exactly feel welcomed by the teacher, I was warmly welcomed by a whole classroom full of incredibly exuberant children who just wanted to tell me anything and everything about their life. They wanted to talk. They wanted to laugh. They wanted someone to hear them. They wanted to be kids and it was being squashed out of them in the name of compliance inside of a crumbling building masquerading as a school. As much as I wanted to support the idea of keeping my child in a neighborhood school, I simply couldn’t leave her there. I made the decision she’d either get a spot in one of the magnet programs (which she did) or I’d homeschool her. Because I have the luxury of that choice.

It didn’t take long for me to make a statement to my mom about how I never thought I’d see a city this segregated in my lifetime. Watching Ferguson unfold I remember mentioning specifically that I feared it would only take a small incident similar to Mike Brown’s killing to cause major unrest here because there are basically two cities within Baton Rouge, white and black. The public school system is 80% black kids, and that includes schools like my child’s magnet school, where the breakdown is closer to 50/50. In the heart of 70805, the racial breakdown in schools moves to 98-99% black children. The district parcels around the white children it has, putting special programs like gifted and talented services, in the neighborhood schools where they need white bodies. An area of South Baton Rouge, which just happened to consist of mostly (80%) white people and newer schools, attempted to create their own city in the last few years, like several other areas have successfully done, though they failed to gain enough valid signatures to form. The proposed new city, St. George, was the subject of a PBS Frontline special called “Separate and Unequal”. St. George proponents insisted it was not about race, and things “that happened 20-30 years ago” aren’t their fault.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? It’s not our fault. We weren’t there. We didn’t make anyone pick cotton, we didn’t make Rosa sit at the back of the bus, we didn’t sic dogs on people, we weren’t holding the fire hoses, we didn’t draw neighborhood borders, we didn’t deny people mortgages based on the color of their skin, we never lynched a black man. So, I mean…it’s not our fault.

Except we’ve let it continue. Don’t give me this “everything is equal” mess. It’s not. It’s not even close. My nonprofit, The Loveabulls Project, which I started 2 years ago with some of my dearest friends, puts me in 70805 frequently. There’s a lack of pet resources up there, just like everything else the area lacks, so my organization is the bridge between loving pet owners and the care and supplies they can’t reach on “their” side of town. I have met some of the most hard working, determined, fierce, and loving people on the “other side” of Florida Blvd. These are people who pay taxes, who go to parent/teacher conferences, who work multiple jobs to get food on the table for their children. People who wake up early to catch the bus or a ride with their neighbor to a job across town. People who spend half their life battling red tape for services and assistance that so many are concerned with people abusing for kicks. People who are just as tired of hearing gunshots and seeing drugs on their streets as you think you are. People who are trying to do the absolute best they can with what they’ve got to work with and what they’ve got to work with is a short hand of cards. I’ve gotten to know people, heard stories that would be hard for people to believe, hard for me even, until I kept hearing the same themes repeated in many people’s stories. Because they aren’t just stories. These experiences are their life. Their existence. These moments are them.

The people of North Baton Rouge are growing up in neighborhoods surrounded by despair, being treated like criminals in schools from 4 years old until they either graduate or drop out (EBR’s graduation rate is climbing, but graduation rates in North Baton Rouge neighborhoods linger in the 50-60% range)…they see how their neighborhoods are portrayed in the media, they see businesses flocking to South Baton Rouge, they see the investment put into areas that are not theirs. They watched their hospital close, then watched the only other emergency room that was easily and quickly accessible shut down due to funding, and residents of North Baton Rouge now face a 20+ minute ambulance ride to the closest ER in South Baton Rouge. They’re watching their families and friends ripped apart by a justice system that is determined to break the disadvantaged. Mandatory minimum sentences exist for drug charges, you can get life in Angola for non violent crimes under Louisiana’s habitual offender laws, and yet no minimum sentences exist for actual violent crimes like manslaughter, assault with a firearm, or simple rape (Check out this article by Steven Rosenfield for interesting information). The United States incarcerates more people than anywhere in the world. Louisiana incarcerates it’s citizens at a rate higher than any other state in the country. Prisoners are shuffled around private prisons with dollar signs on them and exit prison with a record, harder to employ, with less skills and relationship bonds. It should come as no shock people turn to hustling as a way of making money to keep food in their stomachs. More hustling, more police involvement thanks in part to a departure from community policing and a move toward the “broken windows” approach. And so the cycle continues to feed itself.

triple s balloons
Triple S convenience store on N. Foster in Baton Rouge. Site of Alton Sterling’s death.

What seems so hard for white people to grasp is this isn’t just about black people versus police. The issues with police are the flame points of a deeper, even heavier, even darker problem. We are a city, a country doused in lighter fluid and the men and boys and women killed at the hands of those paid to protect and serve all of us are the points where the fire is catching. This country was built on the backs of the same people we have spent our entire history excluding. You cannot deny this. People aren’t asking for special treatment. They’re asking for help breaking the cycles. They’re asking for people to stand with them while people attempt to change the systems that don’t better us all. When people scream “black lives matter” it’s not discrediting the value of your own white life. It’s a furious, panicked reminder to us that they matter, too. We live in a white washed world where it’s easier to picture a black man as a gang banger than it is a pharmacist or doctor or college professor. We devalue people’s existences without even realizing we’re doing it. When you reach for that door lock on your car at the sight of a black man in a hoodie, you’re doing it. When you refer to the “bad side of town”, you’re doing it. When you want to talk more about dead black men’s criminal records than their life that was lost, you’re doing it. Take a stand against it.

But don’t get it twisted – – black people don’t need our approval or our white advice on how to go about this. They’ve been fighting this fight a long time. Stand up, link arms with your neighbors, tell them you see them. Speak out against injustice when you see it, speak out against racism when you see it or hear it. The causes of the disadvantaged in our world are rarely popular. Stand up anyway. The craziest voices often are the loudest ones in discussions. We must be louder. Too often when bad things arise, the good moves away from it instead of standing amidst it and saying ‘no’. Stand up. Start discussions, but more importantly LISTEN to discussions. Start acknowledging and challenging your own prejudices, your own level of privilege. You want peace? Stand up with other people who want peace. And for the record, “peace” is not the same as “quiet”, so if you’re wanting a city, a country, where people stop protesting, then help them gain the peace on the issues that they feel the need to stand on street corners and outside buildings chanting about. Stand with them for peace.

together sidewalk art
We covered a downtown Baton Rouge sidewalk in a lot of chalky love last week, with messages of unity, before a prayer and worship service led by two churches, one predominantly black, one predominantly white, and we sang and prayed. Together.

We aren’t living in a world that’s going backwards in race relations…we’ve been stagnant, sitting right here the whole time. Sure we made progress, but a lot of it was just the execution of a good cover up job that made people feel better about themselves. Help people pull the curtains back. Expose the systems and the mindsets and the people that are consistently holding down poor, predominantly minority communities.

And for the love of all that is holy, stop shouting that “ALL LIVES MATTER!” We know. That’s the point. Right now it feels like some matter a bit less. No one fusses about March of Dimes raising awareness for premature babies. No one tells them “But ALL babies matter!” No one yells at the “Save the whales!” people, talking about how dolphins and sharks and seahorses also matter. I mean, come on, we had a hashtag for a gorilla. We created online petitions for a gorilla. I’m not saying he wasn’t important, but for some reason, having people with brown skin try to bring to light issues that affect them is not appropriate. “Black Lives Matter” is a rallying cry for people who want to bring attention to the very real issues that face the communities and people of color.

Just do your piece. Do your piece to make your community and your country better as a whole. However you can contribute. Step outside your comfort zone and have conversations with new people. Make new friends. Bridge communities, knock down barriers of race and economic status. Find your courage and stand tall. Keep talking. And more importantly, keep listening.

“You should be angry,
you must not be bitter.
Bitterness is like cancer.
It eats upon the host.
It doesn’t do anything to the object of it’s displeasure.
USE that anger, yes.
You WRITE it, you PAINT it, you DANCE it
You MARCH it, you VOTE it.
YOU TALK IT.
NEVER stop talking it.
-Maya Angelou

baton rouge protest maya angelou

 

*added Mr. Willis Reed, Sr’s name 7/19/16, with sincere apologies for originally leaving him out.

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255 thoughts on “It’s not getting worse. It’s been there all along.

  1. I’m from Pennsylvania myself, born and raised. Much of my life was spent in Philadelphia but I’ve lived in a handful of cities across the state, Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre…to name a couple. I have surprisingly progressive minded parents for the time and the neighborhoods they grew up in…my own Aunt and Unlce…I remember one day when I was around 9…said “Welp…there goes the neighborhood”…when they saw the first black family move in up the block. I grew up under the poverty limit, and still actually make only about 70% of the poverty guidelines set forth for government assistance.

    I myself was always raised and taught by my parents to look at people as people…not as their religion or their color….but I know that that mindset they instilled upon me was…and still is…rare to truly hold. I’m not saying we don’t tout it about like candy at a Halloween parade…people say those things all the time…but many fail to really hold true to the essence of it. I’ve had friends of mine get stopped in stores at the mall because they were “suspicious”…a gentle means of telling them that they were colored and dressed like thugs. In truth they didn’t even dress like “thugs”, so much as were well dressed in moderately expensive clothing fit to the current fashion trends…worn PROPERLY…pants around their waist, with a belt…clothes a bit baggy but loose is comfortable. One had a nice watch, the other some nice studs in his ear….not Thuggish at all, although in my experience a black person who dresses nicely, as any other person of their age might…is called thuggish. It’s not a business suit, you’re not dressed like a professional…so your nice clothes must mean you’re a thug or gang-banger. I’ve had friends stopped by cops, and even at times assaulted right before my own eyes…for no better reason than they were suspicious…walking down the street of a nice neighborhood with mostly white residents. Even in cities where neighborhoods aren’t predominantly of one race or another….they were still segregated by the sheer mindset of people. Hell…I even had a friend one time in Williamsport get arrested in front of his own home…for “casing it”. Meaning he was loitering in the neighborhood and being overly curious about the homes there. It wasn’t until his parents showed up at the police station with proof of residence that it was indeed his own home…as he tried to tell the cop while standing at the end of the sidewalk leading up to his own porch….that they let him go. No apology, no “we’re sorry for the confusion”…just released him wordlessly to his justifiably irate parents.
    We may have hidden the racism well…well enough that some segments of society, up until recent vents of late where techonology has advanced far enough to provide means by which to announce the truth, undeniably, to the world….have either no understanding…or no capacity to believe that these things still happen, or worse. But until we stop categorizing our citizens into races and ethnicities…we will never truly be rid of it. Someone will always wonder “Why do you call them a black person?” or “Why do you say that man is Mexican? he has a Virginian accent….”….and someone else will always have to explain the bigoted thought process that causes us to. And therin the cycle continues…viciously and never-ending.

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  2. My post dropped in to outer space so here goes again. I lived in the painful days of segregation. I lived a hundred fifty miles from Little Rock when Central High School made headlines.
    I checked groceries for Safeway my senior year; I need money for clothing for senior trip and prom. My parents didn’t have it. I scurried next door to the lunch counter on my break. Two well dressed handsome young black men approached and sat down. Mr. Simmons was immediately at their side. “We don’t serve coloreds here,” he whispered. They left without speaking. I was stunned. Why did I not leave too? I dunno. That’s just how it was in 1962.
    We had an union organization meeting at the Sands motel. Benny, the only black in our employ came and sat down. The hotel manager was there before Benny could reach the glass of water. “You can’t stay. Please leave,” he intoned. Benny left. We had our meeting, but it was tainted.
    Even today, when one attends the Perot Theater in Texarkana, if they sit in the balcony, the exit stairway goes past the box office where the coloreds bought tickets and climbed to the nosebleed section. I, for one welcome the change. We are all God’s creatures. Let us remember that and live it.

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    • OK I have much to do today, but will take time to say: the solution, as I see it, is to get right with God and then get educated. Ignorance leads only to apathy which engenders hatred which makes for a continuing downward spiral. The country needs leadership–real leadership to unite us and not further divide us. Many of you are too young to remember Nikita Kreuschev. He said Russia would not have to invade the USA–that we would fall like a ripe plum into their hands. That was 1960, I was a sophomore in high school.

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  3. Thank you for posting about your experiences, which many of us in America have never seen. I have always lived in the northern climes, though I have seen some racism on an individual basis, it has always been, for the most part, something “out there” to me. Some people deny that there is still racism, but it can’t be denied. However, acknowledging it is only the first step. Thank you for asking for people to reach out on an individual level. I truly think that is one of the most powerful things that can be done to fight racism.
    You identified systemic problems that are keeping the destructive cycle going. The question we’re all asking, I think, is whether there is a systemic solution we can implement to stop it. A policy that the politicians, if they just got it right, could enact that would level the playing field for everyone. Well, I am starting to think that that is only like putting a fiver in the hands of a homeless beggar… it alleviates the conscience but perpetuates the problem. I believe that policies that continue to differentiate people based on race, such as affirmative action, only serve to perpetuate racism. I have several friends who resent being labeled an oppressor or the like and told they have to take the back seat just because of their “privileged” race or gender. That’s not right either. Two injustices don’t make justice.
    I can speak from personal experience as a woman in the military that even subtle affirmative action-type things actually made me feel less valuable, and feel that I wasn’t actually earning any of my advancements. It made me feel like the stereotypes of the past were right, and that I couldn’t hold my own, on my own.
    I also think that one of the biggest problems in ANY culture that will cause a lot of destruction is the breakdown of the family structure. Children need both parents, and Fathers are so critical in a child’s life. Even the unity of parents has a big effect on the children. I know this because my parents divorced when I was 13. Statistics show that two-parent households are much less likely to live below the poverty line. Children with fathers in their lives are much more successful overall. Fathers who are married and have children earn 11% more than single men, and 6% more than cohabiting men with children (these statistics hold regardless of race).
    I think that when people like me start to see the struggles that many black people are facing, we will be enabled to act toward them with compassion and more understanding, rather than fear. We should realize that other communities of minorities are undergoing the same things and reach out to them too. We should work to stop unfair governmental practices that penalize black communities and schools, and we should work to restore families of all cultures to strengthen our society.
    “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” -Jesus (John 8:32)

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  4. I thought your post was well written and very revealing for this day and age. Reading it reminded me of the couple trips I had made through the Deep South on the way to Florida with my folks back in the early 1960’s. I am white, raised in an all white section of Chicago and went to all white schools. You can’t get any more whiter. Seeing black people was scarce (no such thing as Hispanic folks in those days), unless you drove into the Inner City. Given my folks were members of The Greatest Generation and had been raised in an environment of Victorian moralism, religious bias (generally against Catholics), and racist ignorance, they raised me and my sis in an extraordinarily progressive way during the 50’s and 60’s. My folks never uttered racist epithets, were never dismissive in attempting to explain matters of life because of our age, and mother especially encouraged independent thought. Both were education nuts. Yet they themselves were just average middle class for the day; mom stayed at home like most mothers did back then… and dad worked as a purchasing agent for a couple of firms, and fixed TVs and radios on the side.

    Why is all this bleach-white narrative important here? Two reasons…

    1. When we took those trips into the South I was horrified at what I saw. Traveling through town after town of segregated life.. “colored only” signs for everything; “No Negros” signs on businesses. Very poor and shabbily dressed black folks.. and their kids… as young as me. My parents told me how the life in the South was different for “negros” than it was up north. “But, mom, I thought Lincoln freed the slaves and the Constitution says everyone is equal?” Stupid me was taught “white people’s history” apparently. Mom did her best to explain. But the images seared in my brain for my entire life. The Civil Rights Movement came and things changed… a lot of things. But as you have nicely posted, not everything has changed and I fully agree. Yet while many Black Americans still suffer the economic and social inequalities, many do not. Many have managed to “escape” the prisons of their economically challenged neighborhoods and moved on to higher education, careers, and many times great personal achievement (ala our current President). Seems to me maybe some time should be spent trying to determine the formula that has made many Black Americans strive in middle class and beyond just as well as us white contemporaries, and pass that formula to those less fortunate… rather than trying to get the world to take notice in yet another rendition of “poor us”.

    2. The second reason for this post… is my being white bothering Black Americans from poor neighborhoods? I don’t recall having oppressed anyone. As you wrote, Maggie, I don’t recall making anyone pick cotton either. Hell, I don’t consider myself a racist although I am white so I guess that’s questionable to some. I went on to live life in a manner of my choosing based on the various environments and events that made up my life. Ok, I was born white and if that gave me some entitlement advantage over black folks to reach the point of where I am.. a damn security guard because society says I am too old for anything else.. then I am guilty for my “success” in life compared to black folks. The fact that somehow I am short-changing poor black communities by not realizing the economic struggles they might be having that defines their desperate struggle to survive and do illegal things offends me.

    But.. having ranted a bit.. you wrote a good post. This is a subject I’ve posted before on my blog. No easy solutions by any means. Although I do have a few suggestions (like everyone). 

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    • Rants can be good–they clear the air. My first husband’s cardiologist was a black man. Bill said he didn’t even notice. I just wanna say there is poor white trash, for that matter, every nationality has its trash. Does anyone out there remember the description of the mother-in-law’s home in Tehran, Iran in the book NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER.?

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    • I am a Texan, living now in another state. Let me take you back briefly to when my Dad was a child. He remembered his grandmother had slaves. They were treated as family members. Daddy was born in 1919.

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  5. watching all of this from the UK it seems to me that the United States is still a very young country which creates dissonance with your industrial advancement. I’m horrified by the Black Lives Matter slogans etc. Yes, there is some racism in the UK but such a minority and it’s soon taken to task. End of!

    It’s going to take time for you to catch up / grow up / reach maturity with your discussions on race but I hope you keep the dialogue going. As a black british person it never occurs to me that someone might be afraid of me because of the colour of my skin; it never occurs to me that I can’t achieve what I want to achieve; it never occurs to me that there’s some sort of glass ceiling. (And I’m a woman too lol!)

    Some people who happen to have black skin in the UK achieve much better grades than their white counterparts. We still have positive discrimination enshrined in our statutes (special treatment) for people with protected characteristics because we don’t yet have a level playing field–the emphasis being on equal opportunities as opposed to merely equality.

    I’m concerned because as a nation you usually have a fair amount of influence. So I do hope you do truly manage to create a Land of the Free in the States and one day can be a shining example to the rest of the world.

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    • I’m hopeful we can figure out positive ways to address this, but I do think you’re right. We’re a young country and we’re not far removed from our rather bloody and unfortunate beginnings. We’ve a long way to go.

      Thanks for stopping by and joining this discussion!

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  6. Very well written. I liked how you touched on how the perception of black people is a problem. I think It gives lawmakers, officers ,and judges justification for them to treat blacks as less humane and as future prisoners. That perception is what fuels police brutality.

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  7. Baton Rouge is home… more specifically, south Baton Rouge is home. While I have lived much of my life oblivious to the reality of what your blog dissects, I think you “get it” and I can’t disagree with anything you have said. Thank you for your insights. More than that, thank you for caring.

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  8. I comented on this video I saw on facebook, https://www.facebook.com/urbanintellectuals/videos/vb.187873189365/10153848430889366 I think it also applies here:

    I noticed some parallels between your history and ours.

    I understand that you were considered a resource, that shifted from being slaves during the time of plantations to being cheap workers during your industrial revolution. Your ancestors were kidnapped from Africa, and even after slavery was abolished, some wanted to stop blacks from gaining upward mobility in society I guess to keep you part of that pool of cheap labor and to keep themselves privileged.

    I’m from the Philippines and we were invaded because some capitalists there (who were most likely white) needed a market for their surplus products, a source of cheap raw materials and a good location for Military bases to get to China which was an even bigger market and probably had more natural resources than we did. We had just won our freedom from the Spanish colonizers, and whoever sent those troops here wanted subservient people, and reinstated the social structures that the revolutionaries intended to end.

    Our revolution happened because the native Filipinos were fed up of being treated as second class citizens. The Catholic priests and the Spaniards were living luxuriously–literally getting fat sitting on their asses–off of the labor of my ancestors who barely had enough to eat. When the Americans took over, land that the new government would have redistributed to my people were returned to the Church and to the rich landowners. We got our freedom on paper, but life didn’t really get better for the majority of natives.

    You guys are taught history from the white point of view. The American colonial government imposed set up our school system so that we are taught (white) American culture is better than our own. Even to this day, our standards of decency, even physical beauty mimic white American standards. They really messed us up that way.

    To justify invading us, a bunch of tribesmen were brought over there and made to look as though they represented most Filipinos, and we were presented as a bunch of unchristianized savages, even though 1. we’ve been mostly Catholic for hundreds of years and 2. There is absolutely wrong with those of us who don’t belong to the mainstream culture. To justify their harsh treatment of you, your men were and still are presented as thugs and gangsters, and in the case of this video and a few other stories I’ve read, rapists.

    American soldiers considered our lives worthless, too when they were still here. There was often no justice for Filipino victims when the perpetrator of the crime was American.

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  9. I accidentally pressed send before I was done with my previous comment, but this was pure validation and it’s nice to see when people get it. I lived in Lafayette, LA for a year and when I first moved there I remember my coworkers telling me which cities and parts of cities to stay out of as a black woman in Louisiana. I came from Alabama so I knew racism still existed but I had this image of Louisiana that they were more of a progressive state and it was disheartening to see otherwise and then to see police brutality make the national news from there. So thank you for this read.

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  10. This is a wonderful post. Thank you for this and for highlighting your own experience in Baton Rouge. It was touching, heartfelt, powerful, the right amount of everything. Thank

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  11. Then there’s the perpetually outraged and offended to contend with. http://www.torontosun.com/2016/07/20/black-olives-matter-nm-restaurant-in-hot-water-over-offensive-billboard – ‘Black Olives Matter’: N.M. restaurant in hot water over ‘offensive’ billboard – Wednesday, July 20, 2016 12:07 PM EDT

    An Italian restaurant in New Mexico took down its “Black Olives Matter, Try Our Tapenade” billboard after the joke fell flat amid nationwide outcry over the recent fatal shootings of black men by police officers.

    “We put up what we thought was a cute play on words, which we do commonly here at the restaurant,” Rick Camuglia, the owner of Paisano’s in Albuquerque, told NBC affiliate KOB.

    People on the restaurant’s Facebook page called it “offensive,” “tacky and hideous” and “in very bad taste.”

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    • Thanks to them for taking it down. However, I cringe at all the political correctness. We are so afraid of offending, we bend over backward until we hurt ourselves. We need to wake up and admit we are all human. I am reminded of a song from Sunday School more than sixty-five years ago. Mama probably sang it around the house. “Red or yellow, black or white. They are precious in His sight.” Let us remember that and live it.

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  12. African Americans weren’t the only people who picked cotton. My grandmother, father and his siblings picked cotton and though it was hard work they were happy to have food on the table. Where is the shame in picking cotton? It’s always been touted as a punishment. I get that my family was paid a paltry sum and other than the sharecroppers there were those who were forced to pick cotton for their keep. I think the generalizing is part of the problem. I agree that prejudice in the Deep South is very much alive. I also can’t help mentioning that Louisiana is well known for its legal and moral corruption. A state that allows a strip club complete with exotic animals in a family oriented shopping center, well it’s not to my liking. It was leased under the guise of a bar and grill. Judge would not issue an eviction order.

    Not all African Americans are bad nor all whites nor all police. I don’t recall the actual statistics but law enforcement does that show the reason more African Americans are arrested is because they commit more crimes based on their population. I only bring this up because I think most people pick and choose what they stand behind in order to be politically correct, myself included though mine is based in fear.

    Your post was very well written. Having lived all my life in the south, I would like for someone to present the other side. I tried and a friend quickly let me know that I might hurt feelings so I deleted it.

    I have been bullied, accused of being a party to favoritism, glared at, put up with rudeness, had my personal property taken, had my clothing torn, and had a friend beat with a baseball bat by a group of African American students. I also worked for a police department in the south. I am just saying that people will speak out for African Americans as a race but there is more to the story in the south. Yes, I have been guilty of feeling fear about both men and women African Americans though it has gotten better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If we only take statistics at face value though, it’s not telling the whole story. The entire system feeds itself. African Americans were forced into less desirable areas of town, with less resources, forced to find other means to survive and as my mom always said “desperate people do desperate things”. We’ve got a whooooole lotta people serving time for ridiculous charges and then they get out and go right back to an impoverished area with even less assistance than before because now they’ve got a criminal record. Once you’ve got to check that “felony” box, you’ve now got even less opportunity afforded to you. And now you’re more desperate and you’ve got a record and your next sentence is longer and then people use those arrests as reasons to police your areas more and it all just…keeps…going.

      I’ve had hateful things said to me because I’m a white, straight woman and have black friends, gay friends, whatever friends, and just because you’re a minority doesn’t mean you can’t also be hateful towards people different than you. I do think a lot of the mistrust of white people that a lot of people of color have though is fed by a history that doesn’t do much to say we’re invested in their wellbeing.

      Also, interesting tidbit, in these cities where these protests pop up and tensions are high between black residents and the police, the communists show up to stoke the flames. It sounds like an urban legend or something, but they come in with the intention to keep fanning the flames and making people angrier and feeding the fire. Because unrest leads to chaos and that apparently somewhere hopefully leads to some sort of revolution. I don’t know. But anyway, I’d be real suspect of a white person off the bat because that’s nothing most of the Black Lives Matter people want to deal with.

      Thanks for stopping by, reading, and adding to this discussion. Appreciate your comments!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hello Maggie, I think I heard recently that some applications no longer have the felony box. I believe in giving everyone a chance. I do not judge anyone by skin color, gender, or sexual orientation. The Bible tells us,”Judge not lest ye be judged…”. I concur with you. I, too, am a white woman with gay and lesbian friends. How do I, as a Christian, deal with them? My evangelist friend stayed online with me until after 11 p.m. to tell me to accept them as they are–to love them, but hate the sin. He explained that Jesus dealt with sinners, and did not distance Himself from them. That’s why He came, is it not?
        I shared that yesterday with one of my best friends. He and his partner have been together eighteen years and married since it became legal. I do not understand or condone. But I love them with God’s pure love. They are my brothers. His reaction? He nearly cried. He admitted they are married, a fact not even his parents know. He does not want to worry them. There is desperate illness in the family, and he does not wish to cause additional stress..
        All these protests are generated by hate mongers. I have a daughter in Dallas who was on the fringe of that trouble where the police officers were killed. “Oh Mama, I was so scared.” she said. “I was just trying to get home and the sky was full of helicopters–I was surrounded by police cars! People were running screaming and crying past me! Mama, I was so scared.”
        Those who hate accomplish their goals by making us fearful. Look around. We are in a constant of fear. Michael Creighton wrote a sobering book about a government generated state of fear that keeps us on edge. Adrenaline makes us jump. Fight or flight mentality is real! Wake up America! Wake up before it’s too late! Let’s fall to our knees, confess our sins, then He will hear from heaven and heal our land.
        Please, please go to a movie theater and seee Hillary’s Nation. It is an eye opener. I thought I knew about slavery and all that it entails. It is the most painful gut wrenching thing I have EVER seen. Yet it ends on a positive tear inducing sequence. God bless America. God bless the USA.

        Like

      • See the movie Hillary’s Nation! Please, please– for our sake and for our nation’s sake. We gotta wake up, America!

        Like

    • Patricia, Thank you, thank you for a most excellent and profound post! My Dad died three years ago. He was two months shy of 94. He worked from dawn to dusk in the cotton fields of central Texas. When he was not picking cotton, he was slopping hogs, weeding the gardens, and scrounging for food in the woods—squirrel, ‘possum, anything that crawled, crept or flew appeared on the dinner table.
      All this took place in the intense heat, humidity, and brilliant glaring sunlight. Well, guess what? Daddy began losing his vision thirty to forty years before he passed. It was not too long before he was totally blind; He was also nearly deaf. Hearing aids were troublesome. The batteries did not last long–he could not see to change them anyway!
      Macular degeneration is a sneaky and insidious disease. It creeps in on “little cat’s feet” to quote Carl Sandberg. It edges in so slowly, it is often undiagnosed. Dad had ordered new eyeglasses. By the time they arrived, he could not see with them. It was already nearly too late!
      Daddy was a survivor. He was a fighter. He told me once that,”Yes, I can see just a blur of you sitting there (that was eventually lost), but my memories are in clear and brilliant color!” I used that quote as basis for a column in my college newspaper. I enlarged it at my workplace. He pinned it to the wall and could read one or two letters at a time with a magnifying glass. (Again, even that was lost.)
      Mama passed away eight years ago. Daddy, the independent soul, continued to live alone. He would ask none of us three children for anything except maybe transportation. Even then, he would tell me where to turn and point out which telephone poles on which he had worked. Again in the bright sunlight of Texas.
      Obie was a veteran Of WWII. I was born while he was on a troop train bound for California. He was about to ship out to the Pacific. The war ended and he came home and went to work in the dangerous oil fields of far west Texas. There’s that sunlight thing again.
      The VA set Obie up with a computer armed with JAWS. It talked to him! He kept urging me to get a computer. I dragged my feet. I told him I hated computers–had all I wanted when I was with a newspaper in Arkansas. “You need a computer,” he insisted. OK. I got a computer. He was tickled beyond belief. He coached me daily to type in this or that and would call the next day to see what I learned.
      Thanks to Daddy, I earned my last degree online–a bachelors in Sports and Recreation Management. I was sportswriter at that newspaper.
      I say all that to say this. Daddy picked cotton. They were sharecroppers and moved from place to place. They were working for the privilege of a roof over the head. He walked barefoot to school for miles. Sometimes it was uphill both ways. It was a tough, unforgiving existence. But it made him strong. That, in turn, made my brother and me strong. We were taught early on that hard work plus faith in God was gonna get us through.
      It works! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Obie Lee!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much for sharing your dad’s story. It helped me feel my Texas roots once again. My dad had such a good work ethic. He would do anything to provide for his family. He would work shift on top of shift at a can production company, catching short naps on the concrete floor. It felt good to read the other side of the story. Your dad was awesome, never stopped teaching you valuable lessons.😍

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    • Well, Patricia, feelings get hurt whether we mean to or not. If we, as individuals or as a group, go around with feelings spread about in a huge puddle around our feet, we’re gonna get ’em walked on. We need to not be so touchy. We need to communicate. We need to educate. We need to STOP harping everyone should go to college. Not everyone is college material. Let us do as they do in England. Go to school until grade eight then take a test. Those who pass go on to further classroom time. Those who score less go to vocational school. We need carpenters, electricians and plumbers. All the degrees in the world won’t help if the toilet won’t flush.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s great to see someone finally speaking out. Racism has been an issue for centuries, and it isn’t going to go away unless we stop backing away from it and instead confront it and make a conscious effort to stop it. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I grew up in North Baton Rouge and have lived here all my life. I am white and absolutely agree that there are beliefs, ideas, etc… that need to be discussed among backs and whites so that we can all have a better understanding of one another, the struggles people face, and the things that need to be changed. In my heart I believe that we are more alike than we are different, but we will never find that out without communicating.

    But to make progress, there must be raw honesty on both sides. We all need to acknowledge and accept the ugly truths that exist within our racial biases and communities. There will be little progress made if we cannot both agree and work jointly on the problems we face. If there is only one positive that comes out of the events of this month, it is that our counciousness has been raised to a level that demands our attention. We are better than this.

    In terms of Black Lives Matter, I feel that the push back on it is due to different messages being sent out from it’s own constituents. Some say that it is meant to include the word “TOO,” while others within the group imply that “ONLY” BLM and are shouting hatred like, “kill all the white babies.” And yes, I saw this with my own eyes. The leaders say that it is a peaceful, non-violent group, while others chant “what do we want? Dead cops; when do we want them, now!”. The lack of cohesiveness in the message is what’s causing so much push back. By nature, people remember the negative more than the positive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely agree on those points and it’s definitely a great point of contention with the people I have spoken with. In my own eyes, it seems we are very much at a Malcolm X/MLK divide in this.

      The reality of it is, the current system and lack of progress on issues is fueling hate. The number of black separatists groups is rising and will only continue to rise as we ignore the issues and apply band aids on things. You can only oppress people for so long before they become hardened and bitter and hate infects them as their own response.

      We have to have some tough conversations. I’m happy to see many in my own neighborhood starting to realize this and trying to reach out and discuss things with people who don’t look like them or live like them. We have to let THAT fire catch.

      thanks for stopping by and reading and adding to the conversation!

      Like

    • Your last paragraph is a good point…I swear I remember the Tea Party starting as a reasonable group but the fringe element completely took it over. I hope this doesn’t happen to BLM.

      Like

  15. Hi Maggie,
    You did a great job writing this post. I think I’ve probably re-read it about 3 times total. I neglected to tell you that in creating my comment post the other day. Thank you! It certainly caught my attention. Good writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I think America tried to forget that slavery happened, to ignore its effects. We became colorblind before we could heal. African Americans aren’t blaming white people for slavery. We’re asking them to stand with us against the institutions that continue to imprison us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely. We went through a period where I think people really thought “colorblind” was better and would heal things. But it doesn’t. We have to be able to own our differences, celebrate our differences, but give people equal opportunities to be different. That’s America.

      Thanks for reading & adding to the conversation.

      Like

  17. When 8 out of 10 of these children are born into single-parent impoverished households….you have a cultural problem. It’s not white people’s fault that there is a culture which accepts having numerous children that the mother cant afford to properly care for, where Pappa is a rollin’ stone. So take your “white -privilege”, PC bullshit and shove it up your ass. The men and women who do this don’t care about their kids. Free school, free breakfast, free lunch, food stamps, free health care, free housing for these “victims”. Victims of their own behavior. The sins of the father (and mother) are visited upon the children. You cant “help” people who make no effort to help themselves. PERIOD. FYI Im a white male who voted for Obama twice.

    Liked by 1 person

      • “michael” may have posted an obnoxious comment, however, it does have merit. How long, how many generations does this need to continue? Will something akin to the genocides in post-colonial Africa be required… a bloodletting then can we move forward?

        As an earlier commenter indicated, the city leadership is black but things still aren’t working out how the residents hoped, thus one should not judge a book by its cover.

        Seems like somebody, a Reverend w/a PhD often spoke/lectured, rallied to the tune of judging based on “the content of their character.

        I would/could not pretend to know what life was like for former generations of black Americans…

        I do know discrimination, hate, & the look of utter disgust, & cruelty. For the past 13 yrs I’ve had always worsening health problems, I hurt like hell all the time & am mostly bedridden. I can tell you there extends a systemic dehumanization within the healthcare industry. Worse still it continues right down to blood relatives.

        I believe our problems help define us, the help mold us & with the right sense we are better for them. I have discovered, for example, how can I be compassionate to another who is suffering w/o knowing what it is to suffer. How can I truly know patience, endurance w/o being in a situation that requires me to be @ peace as best I can.

        The anger but not bitter thing… that’s a pretty fine line. Anger is not meant to be a long held on to emotion. It is an important one & serves it’s need. But not letting go of anger frankly seems like bitterness. All that I’ve seen seems an awful lot like holding a grudge. Not forgetting… No that doesn’t end up working either.

        On either sides of whatever issue/s there are, if we have the grace to grant forgiveness &/or the grace to seek forgiveness. Now that is a way forward.

        The base humanistic need for revenge such as has been occurring in S. Africa seems to be more desired.

        I wish you well. I pray you can know love, love enough to recognize really terrible things are going to happen b/c it’s in our nature to do so but love all the more.

        PS: You know the UN is neck deep in human trafficking, i.e. slavery even today. If you haven’t just for grin’s look @ the dominant voting blocs that control the UN. Okay. Best wishes.

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  18. I thought it was a beautifully written & well articulated article…

    I differ slightly in persoective though where you indicated that ” no one is asking for ‘ special treatment'”.

    Unfortunately that ” observation” is on fact too diluted of a statement.

    There is a whole generation out there in specifically the BLM movement on both sides ( white & black), that are definitely looking g for ” special treatment”…why?????
    Bc they’ve watched us segregate & show ” favoritism” to different pockets of our nation’s population (black, white, conservative, liberal, LGTB, heterosexual, legal citizebs, illegal aliens,etc) & every single one of them has watched us to see & learn how we ( as a society in our own nation) handle/ react to the ideas, efforts, and attempt to ” segregate” & ” favor” such segments of society.
    So….there IS a whole generation of citizens that IS in fact looking for “special treatment” from the masses bc the masses have proved themselves Willing to comply to such demands.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe “no one” was a broad statement. There’s always people looking for special treatment. There’s always someone yelling for a manager, 😉 But just to add to this discussion, can you reference where we’ve given “special treatment” to anyone other than wealthy white people and businesses? People as a whole usually are just asking for some freedoms that the mainstream already have, like marriage equality or a bathroom they feel comfortable in. I’d be interested to hear examples of what might be thought of as “special treatment”.

      Thanks for reading and adding to this discussion!

      Like

  19. Maggie your comments about EBR public schools ring so true. They echo my own observations and conclusions, which I also wrote out of frustration, in a long letter which I sent to a community group which pre-dated “Together Baton Rouge”. We made the hard decision to remove our then 2nd grader from a nearby public school and place him, and then later, our daughter, in parochial and private schools. We found some public school teachers and administrators—one in particular who I still run into and was very fond of—- valiantly struggling to do a wonderful job, but in our final analysis, they could not overcome a broken system. The negatives in our son’s public elementary school, sadly outweighed the positives, at least until their high school years, when, again, there were better public school choices. But we had the resources to make alternative choices in the interim! Even so, it cost us a small fortune. We considered moving out of state. Again….we could have, unlike many without financial resources who just try to bear up despite knowing their precious children are subjected to a school situation like the one you described above, and they have no choice. That is a heavy burden to bear, and is but one burden among many for many of my fellow Baton Rougeans. Plus….many of my white friends and family don’t understand that when a person enters the criminal/judicial/corrections system nowadays, in many ways, it’s like getting caught in a sticky trap. At every turn, there’s another obstacle to leaving it, and “going straight”, not the least of which is the growing and obscene “prison-for-profit” industry which thrives on filling jail cells and the growing practice of supporting police and judicial systems via extensive and onerous fines and fees which must be paid upon penalty of arrest and incarceration, which amount to debtors’ prisons. We must all educate ourselves about this and fix this, because this broken system is being conducted in our name, as citizens. And a lot of it has nothing to do with educating children or public safety. Thank you for writing this letter.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes. Yes, yes, yes. I have several friends whose children attend private schools, because you’re so right. The system itself is so broken. We are SO lucky to have my daughter in the magnet program she’s in and we love her school, but there are still flaws within the system.

      I have heard horror stories of the prison system. We’re sadly not as far from slave trading as people would like to think, in my opinion. People are bodies with dollar signs attached.

      Thank you for reading and adding to this discussion 🙂

      Like

  20. Wow!! Beautifully written & so thought provoking! My family and I moved back to the south (Louisiana) 17 years ago, after living in the northeast for about 5 years. My husband & I were both raised in Texas. We were not prepared for the amount of racial divide that we witnessed in our new state. We were happy that our small town had really great schools that were multicultural & multiracial,with great teachers of both races. But again, the racial divide across the state was just sad. We’ve since relocated, but my two oldest children still live in Baton Rouge and have been active in support of the Black Lives Matter movement through protests. Part of me wants them closer to me… But the other part thinks maybe they are where they are supposed to be, and hopes that this generation of children will be better at closing that divide.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Maybe I’ve run into your kids out here. I’ve been out and about, around town with the crew and they are truly some wonderful people. Your kids are around good people, I assure you that. Passionate, articulate, level headed people with a thirst for real change and justice.

      I was actually out at the Shell the other night, on Airline, and one of the guys who is out there nightly feeding people said he’s got a lot of hope because “people under 35 seem to get it, mostly. They understand what we’re saying. But over 35 there’s more roadblocks.” The younger generations are going to be so instrumental in getting things done, and I’m honestly excited to see the leaders that can emerge from this time in our history, though it feels dark & scary at times. There will be great good that comes of this, I’m sure of it, as long as the good keep fighting.

      Thanks for reading & stopping by to add to this chat. 🙂

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    • Um…yes. It is. Which actually makes it even more frustrating for people here, because they feel COMPLETELY abandoned in the name of what’s better for politics.

      Our mayor, and I quote, called allegations of police misconduct here “bullshit”. Instead of responding like a leader and saying “that’s something we should take seriously and we should look into.” Even if he doesn’t believe it, calling a large number of people liars is a bit rough.

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  21. You are BEAUTIFUL! This was wonderful to listen to on google translate. The way I view America is so radical that people would hunt me down. 😀 Peace, love, understanding, accepting of things harmless to us, and simply allowing all to have a healthy, wealthy life where we worry for nothing and teach our kids how to have positive character and treat each other like equals. A dreamer I know, but so long as good-minded people like you, the people here, and I keep on trying and teaching our young the right things to be good people, in time, we may win the war. I wish in our lifetimes. Wish. Thank you for the post. Thank you very much. I’m unorthodox in my thinking. Going on this country… you are, too. WELCOME! *hugs*

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Im going to have my girlfriend read this and send it in to worldstarhiphop… All copyrights to you. This is crazy how well written and how you got the point across like that. Were up to something here! Lets make a change.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. There’s a way to fix race problems. It isn’t going to be done by someone else, but by you. Start there. Be a good person, stay out of trouble and work hard at your job, whatever it is. By doing that you/ we can better ourselves. Nothing is given that does any good. We have to want to live well. Don’t protest by burning down our neighborhood, or better yet, by burning down neighborhoods that don’t belong to us. Don’t resist arrest by fighting back, chances are if it goes that far you’ve done something wrong. Best advice I can give for improving race relations is to stop watching fucking television. Most likely our own backyard is fucked up enough to keep us busy.

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    • Wow! You didn’t get anything from reading this at all. Just because you used the generalized “you” in your respond you are not resolved from being seen guilty as a racist. Sounds like you need to stop watching TV, and get to know your neighbors of color better. Your response is the generic white washed solution to a problem that in your heart of hearts doesn’t concern you other than an annoyance. I didn’t have to look at your picture to know you are a middle class white man. Your solution is how YOU would solve the problem AS a white man. The problem is that people find it to difficult to put them in other people’s shoes, so when they think they are they are doing it half-heartedly. Upper class whites don’t speak in verbal racial terms, because they sit in positions of power to make subtle adjustments here and there that continues their dominance. They are not in contact with the issues, merely annoyed. Middle class whites use more racial terms than the upper class. They like to pride themselves on taking care of the lower class and people of color, constantly nagging about what black people should do to better themselves while never considering to forces built into them system to oppress them. Now, the lower class whites use the most racial terms. They are pitted against minorities as competition for work and welfare. But they still want to be seen as better than black people. This is the same system that has worked for 150 yrs. Until we, whites, realize that this is a system we perpetuate, whether intentional or not, we can not get to the core of the race problem. Should we be responsible for their own actions? Yes. But, we are also products of our environment. Slavery in Louisiana started in 1719. Black people have been slaves in American history longer than freed. We need to address these issues instead of trying to sweep the cat under the rug.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for these comments, David. We have to address issues, including our own roles, to move forward. That is clearly hard for people and the idea of “work hard, get farther in life” is just…not always true. It sounds nice, but it’s not true.

        Like

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