Looks like we’re having a “Selma” moment. While the entertainment industry awaits the much-anticipated historical film, directed by Ava DuVernay, the country is already up in arms, and marching about incidents that have taken place in the last 90 days. With recent historical films like “Selma,” and the critically-acclaimed “The Butler,” Millennials are getting a flashback to the Civil Rights Movement, and kind of scratching their heads, wondering “if this really happened in America.” Well, now the Millennials have awaken to a cause – that is, #BlackLivesMatter because police brutality and the beatings and killings, specifically of young, Black men, continue to make headline news: Oscar Grant. Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Tamar Rice.
Who needs #TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday) on television with uber-producer Shonda Rhimes, when you can just turn on MSNBC, CNN or network news to find out “How To Get Away With Murder.” It’s looks easy, if you’re wearing a badge: Illegal chokehold. Check. No grand jury indictment. Check. I call that a “Scandal!” Wanted: gladiators.
Last year, the industry was buzzing about the performance of award-winning actor Michael B. Jordan (“The Wire,” “Friday Night Lights”), and his portrayal of Oakland shooting victim Oscar Grant in the award-winning indie “Fruitvale Station. It opened a dialogue of conversation about police brutality and the gunning down of African Americans boys and men. Then, the Trayvon Martin case hit, and all hell broke loose. And thankfully, Black America hasn’t been the same since. No justice, no peace!
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I’m not one to pull out my African American Express race card, but today, I’m going to use it. It’s been a bad year for Black America. See, this whole police brutality and the illegal deadly use of force by law enforcement is not a Black-White issue, it’s an American issue. It’s the residue of slavery — the racist and White Supremacist attitudes that still permeate within our society. I think Georgetown University professor and MSNBC commentator Dr. Michael Eric Dyson refers to it as “institutional racism.” The images of police brutality that we see against Black motorists, specifically, young, Black men is just a manifestation of the deeply-rooted, racial-bias residue still left on the country’s hands. Well, the time has come for America to wash her hands. And guess who’s providing the soap of progress? The Millennials. Oh, they’re making us GenXers and Baby Boomers proud, turning a moment into a movement!
Millennials are marching in the streets, chanting, “I can’t breathe.” Well, I can’t either! And based on recent events in the news, here are my top five reasons why I. Can’t. Breathe:
I CAN’T BREATHE BECAUSE …
- The constant DISRESPECT of the First Family is abominable. It was bad enough when Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) broke congressional decorum and shouted “You lie!” during President Obama’s speech in 2009, but for a grown-a$$ woman to cyber bully the Obama daughters on Facebook is appalling! In DC, there’s an unwritten rule to leave the President’s kids out of the political fray. Apparently former GOP communications director Elizabeth Lauten didn’t get the memo, and went on a tear, bashing Sasha’s and Malia’s demeanor and attire at the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardoning ceremony with comments like “Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised, public events.’”So disrespectful, I can hardly speak. Oh, I could go on a rant about this particular incident because it really pissed me off, but luckily my BFF and Washington Post columnist Mary C. Curtis wrote a piece, and her words are so much more eloquent than mine. Read it here.
- Black-on-Black crime (namely in Chicago) does not justify the killing of innocent Black lives by police officers. Period. Police brutality and Black-on-Black crime are two separate issues affecting the same demographic – young, Black boys and men. Both issues are a problem. #BlackLivesMatter High five to writer Julia Craven who had this to say about Black-on-Black crime in the Huffington Post. Read it here.
- The Republicans swept the 2014 mid-term elections. I’ve asked myself this a hundred times: Who’s voting for these people? Life is so much easier when you live in a BLUE state! Do you really think Republicans care about healthcare, immigration, women and LGBT rights? No, but they do draw the line when it comes to torture for prisoners of war! It’s OK unless, like Arizona Senator John McCain, you know what it is to be tortured. If you feel like lawmakers are out of touch with the real world, that’s probably because most of them belong to the Millionaires Club. According to the New York Times, more than half the members of the House and Senate are millionaires. (Apparently, I’m in the wrong profession.)
2. The NFL truly not knowing a woman’s worth. Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his wife Janay Palmer Rice, became the poster children of domestic violence, especially in October, which happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Initially, Ray Rice received a slap on the wrist by the NFL for his off-field conduct, until the elevator video, showing him knocking out his then-future wife with a punch, surfaced. The NFL PR machine paraded the couple at a press conference, and encouraged Janay to apologize to Ray and her role in the situation. Really? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell refuses to resign, and still has his job! The Rice family drama is just one incident in a long history of NFL players putting hands on women and the league turning a black eye … I mean blind-eye to domestic violence. Pun intended. TMZ Sports first released the elevator video of Ray Rice and his then-fiance, Janay Palmer on September 8, 2014. It’s hard to watch.
- Despite the election of our 44th president, Barack Hussein Obama II, we are not in a post-racial society. We’ve made progress; but the struggle continues. We shall overcome … someday.
Honorable Mention: Harkening back to Jim Crow laws, Republican lawmakers became mighty creative in finding ways to suppress the vote with new voter ID laws and restrictive voter registration, which namely impacts low-income and African American voters. Shoot! In the most brazen attempts, names of minorities were purged from the voter rolls! My home state of North Carolina is one of the worst states cited when it comes to keeping folks from the ballot box. With a new voter suppression law in place, the Tarheel State eliminated same-day registration, shortened early voting , and expanded the ability to challenge voters at the polls among other things.
Well, that’s that. My African America Express race card has reached its limit today.
SHOUT OUTS & KUDOS
One final note, I want to give a shout out to this new generation of athletes who are following in the footsteps of Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Jesse Owens, using the playing field to activate their activism. Remember the Black Power salute by 1968 Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos. It’s still a powerful image today.
Kudos to LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and a slew of NBA players, wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts. Fist bump to the five NFL St. Louis Rams for their “Hands Up” tribute to Michael Brown. Plus, high five to entertainers like Nate Parker, Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union, Lena Dunham, Common, Tyrese, Katy Perry, Michelle Williams, Pharrell Williams, Macklemore, and Kevin Hart who are willing to speak out for the sake of social change. I don’t care what Charles Barkley says, you ARE role models.
*PLEASE NOTE: I also acknowledge the tough job of police officers and other law enforcement officials, committed to protecting and serving; but, that means protecting and serving everyone.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.