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Parker was arrested a couple of weeks ago at the encampment for allegedly pulling a gun on protesters during an argument. According to the news reports, he pulled the gun after protesters challenged him for taking unauthorized video. One of the less emphasized elements of the news stories was that some of the protesters called him a racial slur.
In discussions with my editor, we both agreed something didn’t add up about the story. Why would someone pull a gun after he was told not to take video? For that matter, since when did a people’s protest make such a fuss about unauthorized video? Isn’t that what characterized the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and so many other countries?
The Skanner News Group decided to make an inquiry and the police report produced a much more disturbing account.
According to the police report, some protesters began arguing with Parker for taking video. They called him a racial slur and then pulled knives on him. In response, Parker, who is a concealed weapons holder, lifted his shirt to show them he was armed. Instead of arresting the protesters who threatened him, the police put Parker into custody.
He was released the next day and no charges were filed. However, his mugshot was posted online and the incident put a blemish on his otherwise, clean record.
In the midst of this “media war”, this incident was brushed under the rug by many on the left. Conversely, some right wing pundits used it as a way to prove the left is racist.
It is not the fault of Occupy Portland that this unfortunate incident happened or that there are some unsavory elements among the protesters. However, the refusal to fight for a black man who was the victim of injustice will leave a permanent stain on the movement.
Many have complained that occupiers aren’t giving enough attention to issues that face communities of color, even though they profess to be fighting for the “99 percent”. The Jason Parker incident validates the concerns and skepticism among communities of color and helps to explain why there is very little diversity at Occupy Portland.
While unity is an honorable goal, it has to go beyond words.
Communities of color will never accept the rhetoric of unity if well intentioned people choose to defend racists who threaten our people, all for the sake of winning a public relations battle.
The “99 percent” may be getting oppressed by the same powers that be but there are a number of divisions between us that can’t be patched up by words from unofficial spokespeople.
Asking communities of color to accept the racist elements while not challenging these racist elements to do the same and defending their flagrant violations of human decency is neither building unity nor upholding the fight for the world’s oppressed.
In the time I’ve spent at the Occupy Portland camp and my talks with occupiers, I’ve found that the vast majority are committed to making real positive change and standing up to power. They really believe in the power of unity and justice.
Thus, I urge occupiers to not let the wrong done to Jason Parker, or anyone else at Occupy Portland, to go by the wayside. True enemies of the movement would love nothing more than to use this incident to stop Occupy Portland and further their malicious agendas.
At the heart of standing up to power is the need to tell the truth.
Racist costumes have become a hallmark of Halloween, especially on college campuses. Not long ago, I even remember running across an “Crips and Bloods Party” in my Facebook news feed. Students at Ohio University have chosen to start a campaign with posters saying, “This is not who I am and it is not okay.” However, a friend of mine suggested it might be more educational if we invited real Crips and Bloods to one of these events.
In the spirit of peace and snark, I came up with another solution, white stereotype costumes. If some white people are having so much fun with stereotypes then why should people of color not get to have a little fun too?
All it takes is a little creativity and you can have your very own offensive white costume. Just get some whiteface makeup and let your imagination and/or historical references flow.
Here are some ideas:
Police officer: Slutty cops and the dude from Reno 911 are pretty cliche at this point. Why not make it a little more realistic. You can use the same cop outfit you would find at any Target or Value Village. Just grab a plastic bag of sugar and make a “How to Fry a Nigger Manual” book cover to carry around with you.
Missionary: Surprisingly, the missionary doesn’t get that much play during Halloween. It’s easy to do too. The clothes can be wide ranging. What’s really important is that you have a Bible and dirty blanket.
Catholic Priest: Keeping with religion, the priest is more common, although quite tame on Halloween. To liven things up, just get a baby doll, preferably male, and make it into a hand puppet.
Overseer: The classic plantation overseer is another relatively simple costume idea. Find a derby, a button down shirt, some slacks and get a whip. If you want to make it more realistic, get a black female blow-up doll and decorate it with black eyes and red paint on the panties.
“I’m not racist but” kid: Getting back to current times, you could dress up as that person everyone knows, who will preface every offensive statement with, “I’m not racist but *insert the most racist thing you’ve ever heard here*”. Simply get a white t-shirt and write “I’m not racist but” with an arrow pointing to the back under it. Then on the back, feel free to write the most foul thing you can think of.
Hipster: Some people might wonder how a hipster could be offensive. If you live around the Portland area, you’ve probably noticed them quietly flooding formerly black neighborhoods like it’s nothing. To portray this image simply get some skinny jeans and whatever other tacky clothes you can find. To accentuate your costume, get some fried chicken and Alberta Street (or whatever historically black neighborhood is near you) mortgage papers.
“That” white girl at the club: If you’ve been out to the bar, club, or wherever to get your night life on then you’ve seen this person. Just get some regular hoe attire, a bottle of any hard liquor and a summer sausage in a glass jar.
Skinhead: If you want to add an addition to “that white girl”, try being her angry white supremacist boyfriend. Just get an orange jumpsuit, paint your hair to match the whiteface makeup and draw some Nazi tattoos on your neck. Perhaps even add some self inflicted bullet wounds.
Klansman: No negative white stereotype costume list would be complete without a Klansman. Just get a bed sheet, a rope to tie into a noose, a toy pony and a Bible. If you want to go all out, you could have your own version of those “Crips and Bloods Parties”. Simply invite every white person you know, burn some crosses and string up a black doll with one of the nooses. I think there use to be a word for these parties but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Oh yeah, a lynching.
For extra points, you could go beyond stereotypes and impersonate some historical characters:
Thomas Jefferson: All you need is a powder wig, some Revolutionary War reenactment attire and the aforementioned black blow up doll with black eyes and bloody panties.
J. Edgar Hoover: Just get a suit and a Martin Luther King mask. Instead of putting the mask on yourself, put it on a mannequin head to carry around with you. This will require some extensive forehead makeup.
Oliver North: This costume might be a little difficult because it will require some type of military outfit. Preferably one that resembles a high ranking officer. After you acquire that, get the same bag of sugar from the aforementioned police costume and you’ll be set.
Rick Perry: Lastly, you could imitate current events. Simply find a hunting outfit and tape the words “Property of Niggerhead Ranch” on the back of your vest.
Author’s note: I originally wrote this following the killing of Osama bin Laden. Since, we’ve seen the assassinations of many others, including Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16 year old son and most recently Muammar Gaddafi. I find it interesting that so many in the US cheered on the images of Gaddafi’s bloody corpse not even a week after the dedication of a monument to Martin Luther King Jr., one of history’s greatest nonviolent advocates. However, judging by what I observed following the bin Laden killing, I can’t say any of this is a surprise.
Assassination and We Cheered
“USA is at it again, number one in the rankings of Killing Championships. Stealing the Gold in the Murder Olympics, and the crowd goes wild!”
-Chuck D via Twitter
The days following the killing of Osama bin Laden have been a microcosm of everything wrong with the US. President Obama announced US Special Forces assassinated bin Laden and people celebrated as if it was the Super Bowl. Anyone who dared ask questions was labeled a conspiracy nut while the corporate media fanned the flames of already tense relations between the US and Pakistan and asserted that torture deserved praise for the victory.
As I watched the celebrations I couldn’t help but notice something didn’t feel right.
My worries were confirmed by an Al Arabiya report, which said bin Laden’s daughter confirmed his death and said the SEALS captured him alive before shooting him in front of his family. Furthermore, according to the report, witnesses say no one in the house fired at the soldiers, challenging the US military’s account that there was a firefight.
This should set off a few red flags when we consider the “official” story delivered by the White House.
Obama said that following the killing, bin Laden was wrapped in a shroud, prayed over and thrown into the sea, in order to adhere to Muslim tradition. There’s one problem. This wasn’t exactly a Muslim tradition nor was it appropriate for bin Laden’s circumstances.
In fact, when do you remember the US treating the bodies of any combatants in the War on Terror with such respect?
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced that bin Laden was unarmed but “resisted” when he was shot in the eye. The following day, Obama said he would not release photos of the body as to not inflame tensions.
As a black man, it’s hard for me not to be skeptical when I hear an unarmed man was shot for “resisting arrest” because police throughout the country shoot unarmed black men every week.
According to the White House, this was a “capture or kill” mission. Why Navy SEALS couldn’t capture a 53-year-old unarmed man with kidney problems certainly raises some concerns. Furthermore, the hastiness in which the soldiers disposed of the body and the lie told to justify it make you wonder what the administration is trying to hide.
The allegations that releasing a picture of the body would allow followers to build a shrine or would inflame tensions among militants are dubious to say the least. Shrines can be built regardless and a gruesome picture of bin Laden’s corpse can’t be any more offensive than the photographs of the Afghanistan “Kill Team” released in Rolling Stone earlier this year or the illegal detentions, torture, raids and bombings of innocent civilians in the US’s wars and proxy wars in Muslim countries.
Government sponsored assassinations are illegal according to international law and the body certainly would have provided some evidence to what happened in the compound. As of now, the US news is only voicing the side of the US and Pakistan, which has agreed to a deal allowing the US military free reign over the country while the government publicly denies any knowledge.
In addition to evidence from the assassination, the public’s acceptance and celebration has created a frightening precedent for the abuse of presidential power.
Obama has also ordered the assassination of other militant figures like US born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in the past.
If a president is allowed to order hits on civilians then it opens the door for the White House to target anyone who opposes its policies.
People, even those as despicable as Osama bin Laden, deserve a fair trial where they can be held accountable for their crimes in a court of law. The only testimony we have from bin Laden is a set of videos whose validity has been called into question. Many of these grainy videos have bin Laden curiously operating right handed even though he’s a documented left-hander. This may be enough to satisfy the court of public opinion but it’s far from enough to hold up in a court of law.
Besides adhering to international law, this would also yield much more valuable intelligence. Since we killed him we’ll never know what motives and leads bin Laden could have personally divulged.
Public approval of the assassination has meshed with a corporate media all too willing to squash dissent and intimidate citizens from asking questions. Everyone from the White House to the cable news networks to liberal icon John Stewart have demonized, dismissed and labeled anyone asking questions as a conspiracy theorist.
As a journalist, I’ve been taught to ask questions and seek evidence regardless of the source. Thus, asking legitimate questions as to why we can’t see the body or why the SEALS chose to kill and not capture bin Laden shouldn’t be controversial. The US government has not exactly established enough credibility to have its word taken at face value.
During a debate I had earlier this week, someone went as far as to tell me Obama wouldn’t get on TV at 10:30 at night and lie to us.
Part of me cringed thinking back to the press conference where George W. Bush announced Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Posing tough questions is not necessarily asserting that bin Laden has been dead for years, as speculated since before 9/11, or that he is still alive. It’s an effort to seek evidence from an illegal operation.
Since the body was thrown in the sea there is no evidence of how or if bin Laden “resisted” despite being unarmed. All we have is the account of the SEALS vs. the recollection of witnesses.
While the media has given little time to critical thought, it has chosen to embrace two potentially harmful narratives: the untrustworthy nature of Pakistan and the effectiveness of torture in getting the intelligence that led to the killing of bin Laden.
The US has been conducting drone strikes in Pakistan for years and a 2009 Brookings Institute study found that they kill nine civilians for every insurgent. This and the murder of two Pakistani intelligence agents by CIA operative Raymond Davis, has caused serious tension between the two governments.
Despite the tensions, the US recently gave Pakistan 85 “Raven” drones, according to an Al-Jazeera report.
Keeping in mind that bin Laden came on the scene when the Carter and Reagan administrations chose to arm and train him as well as the rest of the muhajideen to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan in the late 70s and early 80s, this decision to give weapons to a potential enemy sets the table for history to repeat itself. This is all while debates persist over whether to arm rebels in Libya, another group of people who could potentially hold anti-American sentiments.
Reports say that bin Laden’s compound was housed near the Pakistani military academy, which has created more animosity amongst media personalities towards Pakistan for denying any knowledge of bin Laden’s whereabouts.
According to a report in The Nation, Pakistani President “Musharraf’s comments are ironic given that he personally made a deal with Gen. McChrystal to allow US Special Ops Forces to cross into Pakistan from Afghanistan to target bin Laden or other al Qaeda leaders. The so-called ‘hot pursuit’ agreement was predicated on Pakistan’s ability to deny it had given the US forces permission to enter Pakistan.”
The notion that the countries have any irreconcilable hostilities is overblown considering their mutual agreement, which has allowed for numerous civilian deaths and billions of dollars of US aid. Nonetheless, sowing the seeds for more tension doesn’t help the prospects of changing history.
Another disturbing development following the assassination has been conservatives’ praise of torture. Claims that torture led to the tips on bin Laden’s compound are unfounded and in fact, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Muhammad was reported to have only begun divulging information after the CIA decided to stop waterboarding him.
Torture in overseas prisons like Guantanamo Bay and Bagram gains mostly faulty intelligence because soldiers have imprisoned mostly innocent civilians, who will say anything when the pain gets to be too much.
For example, in Andy Worthington’s “The Guantanamo Files,” Muhmoud al-Muhajid, a Yemeni detainee says, “I never knew Osama bin Laden. When the interrogators kept bothering me with this question, I told them, ‘I saw him five times, three on al-Jazeera, and twice on Yemeni news.’ After this they kept after me really hard. I told them, ‘Ok, I know him, whatever you want. Just give me a break.’ ”
In addition to this, citizens were given incentive to falsely accuse others and sell them to Americans for the price of $5,000 to $10,000, according to Worthington.
To say that this system is efficient and is justified for whatever unfounded proof that it led to the killing of bin Laden is inherently irresponsible and cause for worry anywhere US soldiers are stationed. Such blatant war crimes are never justified and only cause more hostility among those oppressed by the powerful US military.
Amidst all these attempts to capitalize on the killing and the media’s persistence in shaping the narrative, we can’t overlook that the US continues its policy of murder with little discretion. Hundreds of thousands have died since the beginning of the War on Terror. It has bled over a trillion dollars from the US economy that will never go to schools or social services. Abroad, the war has created a system of secret prisons and a climate of fear and resistance. The rights of global citizens have been slowly eroded in the name of vengeance and there’s no end in sight.
Osama bin Laden’s death doesn’t mark the end of an era but the continuance of US blood lust. Our primal urge for revenge was on full display as few questioned the official story or the legality of the killing.
When Americans readily unify around murder one has to ask if we are any better than our supposed enemies. Have we really learned anything?
Protesters in the Occupy movement have chanted they are the “99%” but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the majority of protesters are white. Many wonder why more people of color aren’t showing up to the protests, considering the disproportionate effect the financial crisis has had on them.
In the case of Portland, look no further than gentrification and an understanding of history.
Bankers looking on Occupy Portland should consider themselves lucky. The supposed “99%” occupying downtown aren’t doing it nearly as forcefully as a certain 66 percent have done in Northeast Portland.
Thanks to overzealous police and predatory lenders, many of the same people you might see at Occupy Portland have taken advantage of black people getting pushed out of their homes.
People go to war over their property in other countries. In Portland, people are reluctant to even acknowledge gentrification is happening, much less that there’s something wrong with it.
The businesses that have replaced the black owned establishments stand as monuments to this passive aggression colonization.
For example, what was once a black owned barbecue restaurant, Doris’s, has been replaced by Russell Street Barbecue. Doris’s was one of the many black businesses that couldn’t get a full business loan and had to survive under capital. Not surprisingly, it didn’t last.
Russell Street Barbecue stepped in and gave Doris’s a white, yuppy makeover, complete with cheap, thrift store furniture and drastically smaller portions of all the same food. However, it didn’t even have the decency to pick a logo different from Doris’s. (At least the people that replaced Yam Yams, another black soul spot, had the decency to change it into a Mongolian Grill).
When I went there for the first (and last) time I couldn’t help but feel I was toasting to the white takeover of historically black Portland neighborhoods.
Russell Street Barbecue is just one of many establishments that have taken advantage of racist lending practices and shamelessly appropriated black culture to make more profit than their doomed black predecessors.
This is not to say that they were malicious in their intent. White privilege doesn’t require malice. It’s simply the ability to take advantage of opportunities denied to people of color.
This is what evokes suspicions about Occupy Portland, as well as the Occupy movement as a whole.
Do the people that are participating really care about the welfare of people of color? Where were all these people when it was time to protest ridiculous immigration laws or the prison industrial complex?
What’s stopping them from leaving the people of color they co-opted for their movement hanging out to dry when all is said and done? After all, this has been the motif of history.
Whether it was the Revolutionary War (and every one since) or the 60s counterculture, majority white movements have had a predictable penchant for using people of color to push their agendas without any real commitment to their concerns.
Terms like the “99%” sound nice but to many they sound a lot like “post-racial America”, meaning they take unity for granted without addressing wounds that have yet to be healed.
Being a progressive doesn’t exempt anyone from the legacy of colonization.
The one percent may have cleared people of color out of their communities, but that doesn’t excuse the 66 percent from settling there and appropriating black culture for profit.
Until we can have honest discussions about gentrification, don’t get upset when you don’t see faces like mine at Occupy Portland.
I like to think I started putting limitations on my dreams when I quit playing basketball before my senior year of high school. Truth be told, I built a ceiling for myself months earlier when I got Ds in both Physics and Pre-Calculus.
I wasn’t necessarily a superstar in math and science but I was a grade ahead in one and got mostly As in the other.
However, when junior year came around I faced an inspiration dilemma.
My Pre-Calculus teacher did everything he could to discourage me but that was no excuse to stop working hard. Likewise, my Physics teacher had a hard time keeping me engaged but that was no reason to think I was above putting effort into his class.
I coasted for the first part of the year and figured it would be a tough phase before I got back to my normal good grades.
After I got Ds, that all changed.
At the time I had no idea how many doors I was closing for myself.
Recently I talked with a professor from Portland Community College and I was surprised to find that specializing in math is one way to get on the fast track to becoming a dean and a six figure salary.
Compared to my prospects as a journalist (especially as one with a soul) that sounded very enticing.
Considering that test scores are going down across the board in the US, there are plenty of openings, especially for people of color who are underrepresented in these areas to begin with, in math and science related fields.
The term “revolution” often evokes thoughts of violence. However, what would be more revolutionary than blacks taking advantage of the gaping holes in math and science.
These fields power everything from health care to energy to war. Mastering them could yield both wealth and significant societal control.
For example, America’s infrastructure is in shambles. We need construction work but if you talk to people in the field, many young, aspiring construction workers aren’t qualified because they aren’t proficient enough in math.
My father always encouraged me to take an interest in construction but I figured my focus on writing was already way more than most expected of me as a black basketball player.
As the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20.” If I had known back in high school what I know now, I would never have succumbed to the limitations I put on myself.
Instead of wallowing in what could’ve been, it’s important people like me ask ourselves what we can do to make sure we don’t lose the next generation as well.
My parents didn’t fail for lack of trying. I was just stubborn, like many young adults.
Part of the solution is connecting math and science to history and a sense of self. After all, this is what elevated my love of reading and writing.
The American education system does a poor job of teaching about the African kingdoms before slavery. This history holds the key to relating technical fields to the lives of our people.
Ancient Greeks used to go to Kemet (Africa) to study under men like the “Father of Medicine” Imhotep, a black man, to learn math and science.
These ancient kingdoms produced many new innovations like the step pyramid, which utilized the Pythagorean Theorem formula that Pythagoras would allegedly “discover” thousands of years later.
The knowledge of math and science gave these kingdoms control over civilization because other ancient kingdoms were dependent on their wisdom.
It is much easier to steer black children away from these subjects when they don’t know this history. However, they’re much more likely to take an interest if they can see the footsteps they’re following in.
Not to mention, having considerable influence and control over society is a much more enticing reason to take interest in a subject versus the prospect of simply getting a stable job.
When I was young I wanted to be an engineer. I never really knew why but the history of my people suggests it was something that was always in me.
We must take all measures to reawaken this spirit in our children as well as continue to encourage our aspiring black scientists, mathematicians, engineers, etc. who don’t get nearly enough support from society.
As black people we can overcome all the odds as soon as we stop putting limitations on ourselves.
It says “In God We Trust” on the dollar (The phrase has been on coins since 1864 and paper money since 1957), which is appropriate since the people who control our currency try to play God.
They use pieces of paper with no real value to dictate our lives. We have no choice but to worship this money because it has given wealthy bankers a monopoly on trade. These people can pick and choose what they want to fund, usually for their own benefit, and tell the majority of people how they should act because they control how our money is spent.
Our monetary system works like a religion in many ways. Both are based on faith. In the case of religion, a person’s acts can be exchanged for faith that he/she will receive God’s grace. This faith based currency has been used to justify everything from charity to war.
Likewise, US currency is based on faith. Once upon a time we used to use the gold standard, which backed our money with something tangible in the form of gold. Now we print money out of thin air. We continue to borrow from countries like China with the understanding that we can be trusted to pay our bills. Although this causes inflation in the global market and makes the dollar virtually worthless in other countries, Americans depend on it.
Our deficit pays for schools, health care and social services. It also pays for our wars and subsidizes things like oil and farms.
As a result, we must continue to believe in the dollar.
Even if you strive to be self made you need sponsorships to fund your business. However, you can only get sponsorships if sponsors approve of your business.
Likewise, if you want to start a community based program you’ll need a grant. The only way you can get a grant is by competing with other programs, resulting in many important initiatives not getting the funding they need.
In a perfect world, our government would use it’s ability to print money out of thin air to fund all the programs that could empower communities, but like most religions, there is a hierarchy that manipulates the image of God to their advantage.
Our currency is controlled by the Federal Reserve, whose largest shareholders are private banks.
They have made a killing during the current economic crisis. When the economy collapsed, they bailed themselves out with taxpayer dollars. Since, they’ve done nothing to alleviate the pain of the people they victimized with schemes like subprime lending.
Judging by history, they have no reason to. The same thing happened during the Great Depression.
Uncertainty is good for stock traders, which is good for bankers. It’s also good for big business because it allows the wealthiest to buy struggling companies for pennies on the dollar.
Thus, the deficit has taken on prominence during the Obama Presidency even though we barely heard about it while Bush was in office. The same self appointed gods who gambled away our money are asking us to practice austerity.
Bankers and big business are using their control of the wealth to push for decreased funding for social services when people need them most.
Just like religion, they use the threat of a judgement day. We are threatened with the idea that countries like China will demand us to pay them back in full even though lending countries depend on our debt just as much as we depend on being able to borrow from them.
The politicians who bankers and big business use to push this message are well aware that a little research can dispel their myths. Thus, they use their money to broadcast their message through the media at a frequency that makes your common sense a victim of blunt force trauma.
We’re taught to acquire wealth so we have the power to fight against these forces on a more level playing field. However, as long as we trade in the bankers’ currency they’ve got us. No matter how much money we attain, the bankers will always have more and most likely we’ll depend on them to build our fortune in the first place.
There’s no way one percent should control the majority of the wealth and resources of the other 99 percent but control of currency allows just that to happen.
The solution is unclear because trading in different currency is not an option for most people. Most can’t go back to a time where we literally worked for food and shelter, rather than money to buy food and shelter.
However, if people were to unify and protest by trading in an alternative, tangible currency it would not just shake Wall Street, it would negate its only advantage over the masses.
In the meantime, we must educate people by destroying the illusion that causes so many to buy into this system.
This is what happened when one protester at Occupy Portland burned a false god for all to see.