A Prison Nurse’s look at Sandra Bland’s Death

Sandra Bland
by Paul Spector RN, EMT-P, CPT. U.S. ARMY Ret.

I worked as an RN in a California State Prison where staged “suicides” occurred regularly. I fought for my patients, know how the cover-up works and have some insights. In 2012, I was hit by a truck, so this paper is done with a lot of help, individuals risking jobs and lives.

Behind badges and Rank, Sociopaths lurk in American prisons. Cameras are their enemy.
With scant information, some of our conclusions will be proven wrong. As more is known, we feel there will be more lies, inconsistencies and abuse uncovered. With more data will come more clarity, but the Code of Silence must be penetrated.

Prison deaths from mistreatment are mislabeled “suicide”, allowing continued abuse and avoiding lawsuits. I’ve spent 8 years trying to stop the practice that killed Sandra Bland.

Sandra’s capture, abuse and lynching is a hate crime. Usually the facts are buried with the bodies, thousands of bodies, but this is Sandra Bland, Star of Sandy Speaks.

In prison, infliction of mental and physical agony on helpless captives provides sexual pleasure to sick individuals. No penetration is needed, violent predators value power and control more. Sandra’s treatment, particularly isolation, are techniques found in CIA prisons and Guantanamo Bay. They are unbearable and leave no marks. The UN calls it torture.

A big sociopathic thrill is causing the victim so much pain they kill themselves. At my prison, CMC, a sociopath’s playground, practiced professionals using drug overdoses combined with agony in a setting of strict isolation and neglect were used to induced “suicide”. Often the target is provided with a sharp object or a plastic bag. It’s still not suicide. Sometimes though, it’s a murder made to look like suicide.

From the beginning, your driving is fine. Officer Encinia, spots you and does a U turn. Driving his cruiser aggressively, you pull over, unaware he is a predator. His act is for the camera, smoothly creating and escalating a confrontation to disguise your kidnapping as an arrest. He plans to assault you, this is about power and control, not your driving or your cigarette.

Using threats and a weapon Sandra is forced from her car. Everything that follows is for the entertainment of her abductors and has nothing to do with lawful detention whatsoever. After stealing your phone and removing you from camera range the coward attacks. Wearing a sheet, he might be OK with video but he needed the uniform to trick Sandra into surrendering.

The attack is vicious. Serious pain from metal cuffs and a wrist twist forces her to pull away, a practiced technique, part of a take-down. Following you to the ground, straddling you with knee on your spine and neck is the stuff of bondage and humiliation pornography, as is his screaming at you to stop fighting as he inflicts the worst pain of your life.

This sick scenario is experienced primarily by sexual assault victims. I’ve treated these injuries in ER’s, they are consistent with gang rape. Like Sandra, not all such victims survive. Totally inappropriate here of course. Even without penetration, this is a savage, ultimately fatal, sexual assault.

He enslaves your body but not your spirit. That’s why he pounded your head into the ground. When terror and agony couldn’t break you, he went after your mind. A smart, strong Black Woman had no place in his world so he tried to kill you. He was afraid you would Speak.

Others joined in assaulting you off-camera, trusting the “code of silence” to protect them. You now need an ambulance. As an ER nurse and a paramedic, I’m angry your request is denied. Confused and injured, your booking photo reflects trauma, both physical and psychological.

Isolation is used in N. Korea to break POW’s. Victims like Michelle Knight say it’s worse than the beatings, rapes, and starvation. It causes brain damage. Forcing Sandra to endure this additional torture was as cruel and unusual a punishment as can be imagined. It was, in fact, a death sentence, no trial needed.

My patients were regularly poisoned with Gabapentin and other drugs. Your THC ingestion in jail is poisoning too, even if you took it willingly. Cavity searched, you take nothing in and eat what they give you or be force fed. Pot didn’t contribute to your death but may have made you easier to kill and pin your death on drugs. Blaming pot for your death indicates desperation.

The plastic bag, one of the few items in your cell, is too convenient and is not supposed to be there. Deadly as a gun or knife, don’t be fooled or misled, it’s not incompetence, not a mistake, it’s a weapon. It’s there for a reason. Everyone working in prison knows this. Suicided for a traffic ticket! This SCREAMS setup.

3 days and your wounds are still filled with dirt, infected. No TD shot? Pain or fever meds? Antibiotics? Neosporin? Ice? X-rays for your wrist’s, arm, shoulder, ribs and neck? A band-aid? Lab work? A CT after the bad man, happy you had epilepsy, pounded your head into the ground? Ariel Castro took better care of his victims, as, sadly, did most slave owners.

The intake forms with questions on depression, suicide. Who filled them out? It should have been done with medical staff, but they would have treated your wounds, seen you were too traumatized to sign, corrected discrepancies, set up 15 minute checks, a suicide watch and seizure precautions at the very least. Ignoring dozens of cuts? There is no possible excuse, this paperwork reflects not just incompetence but intentional deceit.

In death, your body appears to be dehydrated, probably from neglect, fever, and internal injuries. Video shows guards drinking bottled spring water in front of you! At CMC disabling the sink to force victims to use the toilet for drinking induced dehydration. Using physical and psychological abuse, they sickened and tortured you beyond human understanding.

Fellow prisoners were prevented from cleaning your wounds or God forbid, comforting you. Exchanging your pretty dress for ugly “pepto pink”, Officer Encinia gave your broken body to his co-workers, lying in his report. He doesn’t want you to Speak. Not ever.

An unbroken chain of cruelty striped you, a Champion of Freedom, of all Freedom. From smoking a cigarette to breathing air, no life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness for you. To these uncaring monsters it’s a fun sport, a prison lynching they fully expect to get away with.

Nothing to do with a traffic ticket or cowardly Officer Encinas’s “injuries”, these are the actions of sociopaths and racists. Armed, violent predators using badges as a weapon. Events during and after your killing are the result of planning. It is even possible you were targeted before the phony traffic stop as Officers can track plates.

Locking you in a room with a dead phone and a garbage bag was intentional. Effective in separating you from your loved ones and rescue. The nonworking phone also justifies taking you to other locations, supposedly out of “kindness” but it’s a ruse. If you were removed from camera view, I suspect the worst.

At CMC this would mean humiliation and “phone book” therapy – beatings with objects that leave no mark. Waterboarding and other airway obstruction techniques, like suffocation with a plastic bag are popular and also leave no marks. The rule is keep silent or it will happen again.

In California, Doctors incorrectly certifying “suicides” are paid by the State, Texas seems no different. The organization responsible for the racist Sheriff, Officer Encinia and the incredibly negligent prison staff is given every opportunity to do a through, professional job of tampering with the evidence.

The fact your body did not show signs of a violent struggle is meaningless. Drugged or unconscious, restrained or not, the captive is 100% helpless. Use of a plastic bag to make murder look like suicide is a known prison technique. As a suicide method it’s hard to do with 2 good arms, beyond her now limited physical abilities, not part of Sandra’s knowledge base.

No defensive wounds will be found if the killers are prison workers. A big part of the game is “proving” they are smarter than the law by getting away with it. The FBI teaches them evidence procedure. Gloves on, killing with a plastic bag is easy, no prints, no struggling, no evidence.

Filled with purpose Sandra, release at hand, about to start your dream job, be reunited with your loved ones, your mission and your camera phone, you had zero motive for suicide. For you, it’s party time. Your abusers have the problem. They can’t let you Speak, a potent motive for murder.

Your faith in God, your life’s mission to make Black Lives Matter, made you, like Joan of Arc, unbreakable, a Warrior of epic proportions. With over 30 years experience, including in a Forensic State Mental Hospital, I assure you this is not and, for numerous reasons, could not, be suicide. Her death is a setup, staged. Sandra was kidnapped, violently assaulted and killed. She did not take her own life with a planted garbage bag!

Prisons excel in cover-ups. False reports and coordinated lies now discredit Law Enforcement Nationwide. Black Lives continue to slip away as Grand Jury’s look away. Supported by tax dollars, teams of lawyers and military hardware, the carnage will not be stopped by bad publicity or wishful thinking – not in Waller County, Texas, State Prisons or anywhere else

Callsign: Hatred

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White on Black hatred (for the nuance-impaired)

Found a wonderful collection of hate-filled racist tweets from Saturday ranging from cheering Zimmerman and the awesomeness of the American Justice system to being glad someone was standing up for White people and putting niggers back in their place. (Bear with me. If you know my work, I never use that word lightly.) Part of this is the internet promoting anonymous ass-hattery, most of these were fake accounts created for inciting and promoting anger and frustration. I know this because I have used Twitter long enough to know how to recognize fake accounts when I see them.

But the sentiments they voice are still quite real. The hands on those keys in anonymous places are connected to real honest-to-God (I know) racists, bigots and culturally-deprived idiots. More than half, probably have never left their state, and a good percentage of them, the county in which they were born. Most have never broken bread with the object of their hatred, let alone known one unless they were beating him over the head with a tire iron or raping her before dumping her body in a bijou.

Now why did I go there? Because ultimately this is the end result of such hate-filled rhetoric promoted by the powers that be. Hatred is an infection, it is a disease and like any good disease it needs multiple vectors, multiple ways of being transmitted. When hatred reaches the perfect point of transmission, it can be transferred anonymously through the internet itself, no longer a need for human contact. Its virulence refined, it can take shape in the very words used to spew it across the screen.

You might think you are immune. Many of you may believe you are free of hatred, but you are probably still a carrier even if you don’t actively display any of the hate-filled symptoms.

White privilege, the ability to participate in society without fear of being stopped by the police, without fear of having a legally mandated officer of the law, kick down your door, and arrest everyone in your home, find out they are incorrect and release you 48 hours later without an apology and without fixing your door. White privilege means you won’t find yourself shot to death (with 40 rounds no less) while reaching for your wallet, while across town a White vigilante marksman who is shooting up a city council meeting manages to be taken alive without firing a shot.

Is there an incongruency? Discontinuity? I can name dozens of these events almost without effort; a veritable litany of undermining, disenfranchisement, devastation and death. Watch this all of your life, embed this into the fiber of your being, find a way to cope around the cancer that is your nothingness in a land of plenty.

Don’t tell me you feel my pain. No, you do not know how the other half lives. Not even close.

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Now for you people of color, your lesson is this: Hopefully, none of you are under the illusion that this is just a phase. This is a sampling of a greater problem in these United States. If you are a Black person who believes you are free, equal, or operate at the same level as the poorest white person in the land, YOU ARE MISTAKEN.

I know this is not what people want to hear. What they want is to experience is a cultural solidarity promised by the Statue of Liberty. We want to believe we are the poor and huddled masses yearning to be free. Well, we are partially right.

They keep us poor, deny us access to good and useful education, make us pay more for less education and use the education system to funnel us into the prison pipeline recreating the only legal form of slavery left. We are huddling, in our shacks, on the streets, in our cars, bereft of our homes, blackballed from work that is meaningful, that supports families, that builds legacies. So we have the poor and huddled parts just right.

Are you still yearning to be free? Damn right you are. Freedom from being shot in the street at will by any person who has a gun and the balls to use it. (Which today is just about everyone. There are states wanting to teach 5 year old children how to shoot a gun. WHY? have the playgrounds become a battlefield? Not yet.)

If you are black and male, chances are you are more likely to be killed by a registered member of a police department than by any other means in the United States. So the most dangerous thing to a young black man is… the police? What happened to protect and serve? Oh yes. That is a part of White privilege and we don’t have that.

Still yearning to be free? Yes, you are. Free to be able to name your children whatever you want and have them be able to get a job that does not screen them on the basis of whether they have good Christian names. How about getting a job based on their skills, not on whether they are potentially frightening because they happen to be a shade of brown darker than a paper bag? Can’t happen you say? There are states where the level of unemployment for Blacks is higher than 50%. This seems counter to the value placed on the unemployment level for white men at 6%.

Seems balanced, eh? Spare me the rhetoric of there being white unemployment at levels of 8-15% in various parts of the nation, because I know this already. In those same parts of the nation, Black unemployment is at 28-40% so I don’t feel your pain in the same way.

How many more young black men will the nation kill before you begin to realize this particular truth? The irony is I can say this and be considered angry and dangerous because I am Black but those racists, those self-styled defenders of American virtue right there will end up in positions of power through no particular merit other than their White skin and have the power to affect the lives of people of color, every day of their lives.

They won’t be as rude when they are older or in public, but it will not matter. They will still have the power to choose where people of color live, how they vote, the effectiveness of the employment, the quality of their juries, the state of schools in economically depressed areas, the quality of healthcare, the existence of government support programs.

And though the people they will harm when they manipulate those programs will mostly be poor whites, they are aiming their blow at Blacks. Their intent will be to harm Black and Brown people they have been conditioned to fear (and by proxy hate) their entire lives.

Is there an answer to counter this? Is there a solution? Honestly, I don’t know. I have spent fifty years trying to figure out why it is even this way in the first place, but I am done pretending THAT THERE IS NOTHING WRONG IN AMERICA, BECAUSE IT IS APPARENT TO ANYONE WITH EYES, THERE IS.

And contrary to popular belief it has less to do with me as a person of color than with the institutions which have made the marginalization of People of Color a national pastime with roots as old as the nation itself. You want to complain Black people are what wrong with this nation? I disagree. What’s wrong with this nation is the pathological hatred of everyone not white and its pernicious effects on laws, policies and behaviors that steal from EVERYONE in this nation by keeping other HUMAN BEINGS from having the same rights, education, opportunities as the most elite and powerful whites in this nation.

Yes, I said it. Deal with it.

Every individual who is starving on a street corner somewhere due to a policy that says we should have more guns and less healthcare is a blow against human dignity. It is a form of racism and classism and good old-fashion fear based hatred. Every time you vote for a politician who says we should put people back to work while he gets paid for shipping a job to another country is another form of hatred of individuals he does not respect. Because if he did, he would be trying to find ways to improve the nation and the opportunities of everyone, not just his pocketbook.

We can find money for war without batting an eye. We can find money to create destruction, we can find money to attack and kill brown people all over the planet. No industry moves with the speed and alacrity of the US military machine. No decisions get made in Congress with the clarity of going to war (except maybe during the sequester and they wanted to ensure they could get flight home).

Should we: Feed people? No. Build a bridge. No. Put a banker behind bars for engaging in what is clearly a fraudulent act. No. Investigate a series of banks accused of defrauding entire economies and bankrupting tens of millions. Okay. (And the punishment is to fine them the equivalent of an hour’s pay. They’re banks! THEY’RE MADE OF MONEY!)

Meanwhile people, not statistics wander without work, without homes, without food, without money, without hope. When unemployment was at 25% during the Depression it was a national tragedy and they moved heaven and Earth to fix the problem. When unemployment for Blacks was at 35%, did anyone even notice? (Answer is no…in case you were wondering.)

This is not about me as a person of color. Every person who IS a person, who believes we all have the right to be happy, working, comfortable, engaged in our society and free from huddling and being hungry should be standing up and marching in the streets today. This is not just about Trayvon Martin (though partially, it is) it is about all of us.

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A tent city in Sacramento, California

The hatred that killed Trayvon Martin is killing you too. You are just too numbed by Snookie, American Idol, Pacific Rim, ESPN, whiskey, sex, or just too fucking stupid to realize it yet. There shouldn’t be a street in this nation that isn’t overflowing with people protesting ALEC, the NRA and the state of Florida and it’s criminal police department for allowing this travesty to take place under the guise of law.

There shouldn’t ever be a point in history where an armed man follows another unarmed man, confronts and harasses that unarmed man, suddenly finds himself in duress and being prepared to claim self defense, gets to kill the man being followed. Without consequence. Without conscience. Except there was. Again. Once upon a time they had dogs and followed Black men to return them to plantations, or to kill them for ogling a white women, or because they were bored and didn’t have anything to do that afternoon. In other words business as usual in America.

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Except when it is…

Adding insult to injury Zimmerman and clan are found saying some of the most hateful and terrible things I can imagine, with a straight face, without apology, with his family co-signing his spite. A vitriol so bitter it’s like rubbing salt into a flesh-eating bacteria wound. Which part of a fallen empire are you people not seeing? Is it the bread or the circuses part? Not so much bread anymore but thanks to Faux News, circuses, aplenty.

I am a Black man. I am used to walking out of my house with the idea I may not make it home tonight, though I have done everything right, been a legal citizen, paid my taxes, loved my family, respected my fellow man, even if he didn’t deserve it. I bite my tongue and mince my words to keep my job even when someone disrespects me and calls me nigger to my face in a private office when its just he and I and no one will believe he could say such a thing because he is an upstanding citizen of his community.

I am reconciled to the fact my family may have no recourse if a policeman decides he doesn’t like the cut of my jib, or if a random white man decides for whatever reason he is willing to risk the justice system (such as it is) and kills me. THIS HAS BEEN MY REALITY ALL OF MY LIFE.

I have no such illusions about fairness or parity of American Life. I have no illusions that I am equal when I apply for work, because I see it in their eyes when I show up at the door for the interview. (Oh, shit. He’s Black.) I can feel it in the limp handshake (disrespectful). I can see it in the glazed look and the lackluster interest.

I can see it in the eyeballing of watches or clocks in the room, eager for the event to be over so they can get on with the next better, whiter candidate who is going to be better qualified because he is white and will fit in better with the social and cultural schema established by her office manager who has been told by her director, indirectly that we are seeking a better fit of our employees with the corporate culture who has been told by his VP that we are not looking for people who haven’t been to an ivy league school who has been told by the CEO we only want the “best people”.

Euphemisms, every one of them. I understand that I can never be the best people in your eyes.

But, I am still better than THAT.

I guess there aren’t enough White people having been made hungry by bad policy yet. Not enough on them on the street, not enough children being shot, not enough food stamps being cut, not enough children being imprisoned, or dying, or committing suicide. I guess when you’re feeling more like second-class citizens, you may decide to stand up for what’s right and not just for what’s white.

I’ll be over here huddling, yearning to be free while you make up your minds…

© Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved

Hatred-is-the-cowards-revenge-for

Don’t take my word for a damn thing, read it for yourself.

Man arrested for having a stroke while Black, left to die on jail floor, Daily Kos

Man convicted of shooting teenager, New York Times

Florida man shoots and kills 17-year-old teen after argument over loud music at gas station, Daily News

With Racial Roles Reversed, Three Self-Defense Cases That Went The Other Way, Think Progress

White people who kill black people in ‘Stand Your Ground’ states are 354% more likely to be cleared of murder, Daily Mail

Howard Morgan, Black Off-Duty Cop Shot 28 Times By White Chicago Officers – Black Cop, charged and sentenced to 40 years, Huffington Post 

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Watch Martin Bashir Sum Up The Trayvon Martin Travesty In Under 4 Minutes

Racism in America: The Scarlet Letter of a Nation

Racism in America

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Let me tell you a secret. White America’s issue with minorities is a simple one. Blacks in the US are the Scarlet Letter (look it up) on the face of what appears to be a prosperous and significant nation. A high-quality lie to the rest of the world that hard work leads to prosperity and America is prosperous because it works hard. This is a disingenuous truth.

When White America sees a minority face and most importantly a Black face, it is reminded that the wealth of this nation, the invisible labor (yes, the word no one can say) labor, not capital, is what made this country rich. The ability to, for four hundred years, give or take, burn human beings lives like kindling in the forge of what is now a great nation, is what America is built on.

White America is a very poor winner. They want to own the spoils of a war (the complete and total annihilation of an enemy, see: Native Americans) and pretend there were no wrong-doings committed. No smallpox blankets, no extermination orders, no routing of the natives, no Trail of Tears. America just spread its legs and said “come on in” we were waiting for your Manifest Destiny.

We are constantly reminded that Blacks sold other Blacks into slavery. We never question who was buying those slaves, what would happen to those slaves, how many of those slaves would become diseased by being carried like wood, how many of those slaves would die in the greatest human disaster ever (the Middle Passage) and would become part of the most monstrous human engine of progress and destruction called “The North America Project” started in 1492.

Blacks are the Scarlet Letter that says to every country, everywhere: America will eventually fuck you. Yes, we will promise you nice stuff in the beginning, (See: Black Slavers, Native Americans) but in the end, we will take everything you own, everything you believe in and replace it with our religion, everything you dream of, everything you ever held dear, we will grind it into the dust, turn you into labor and then pretend you are capital until we have taken every bit of value from you. Then and only then will we let you die, an ignoble death, bereft of any meaning, any cultural value, reduced to a cypher, reduced to a numerical statistical element, only fit for a ledger. You won’t even get a tombstone. It costs too much.

So when you hear the ranting of Conservative Party X or the mouth-breathings of Tea Bag on the Forehead member Y, you know now what this is really about. The truth of their rantings is found in their own discomfort with what they know to be truth. Their ancestors were not the stuff of heroic legend. Not at all. They were small men and women who despite writing history could not erase the far greater men and women who were destroyed so this nation could exist as a paragon of faux virtue to a world who holds them in high enough esteem to destroy itself trying to be them.

America is a land of wastrels, destroying its populace with mindless entertainment, pathetic blandishments of eternal beauty, sex past eighty, a mechanized fetishism bereft of satisfaction, little more than digital masturbation. Stroking, rubbing, playing with toys keeps the masses calm and quiet while the true monsters continue to promote left is right, right is wrong and freedom is not slavery, guns protect everyone, children should be armed, wealth is only for the rich, unions impoverish the poor, autism isn’t caused by environment, violence is caused by video games, global warming doesn’t exist and America is your friend.

Look through history and find America’s friends. None of them survived the experience. Ask yourself this question: Would White America be so unkind if just once they could imagine themselves in the roles of the victims they have destroyed over the centuries (yes, this means you Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, and any other country which participated in the slave trade).

Spare me the cultural relativism too, while you are at it. Every culture has had slavery in history. We are not talking about those cultures or those histories. We are talking about this history, this culture, this America where minorities, people of color, Blacks are still treated as second class citizens, not as part of a terrible wrong which could have been a right. If White America hadn’t spent and still spends so much of its time pretending didn’t happen, so much time trying to sanitize their evil from the pages of history (See: Kentucky, Slave Triangle). What if they had said: We have done a great wrong to the Natives, let’s make it right, truly right. Find a way to return their some of their land to them, give them sovereignty in this nation, show some measure of contriteness for our atrocities perpetrated by less civilized men. Let’s treat new members of our land with more deference than we had treated the natives who once lived here on land we have stolen from them.

No. That will never happen. Nor will any effort be made to assist the countries, the peoples, the nations, the histories of people destroyed by the social engine of Capitalism, promoted by White people as the ultimate expression of human development no matter how many people it grinds into the dust in the name of progress. Capitalism is the engine, humanity is the grain. Widgets are the bread.

Let those who survive the engine of capitalism, poor, huddled masses, quivering in the smoky darkness, awaiting the next dawn with dread and trepidation, waiting outside what was once their home, hoping for the kindness of a stranger but expecting the baton of the police or military, let those masses of tired, hungry and disfranchised masses remember, there are no other shores to go to. There are no other places where you can start over. There is nothing left out there which is not already owned by capitalists who have already tried to claim your water and will soon claim your very breath as their property. You now have no place on Earth where they cannot reach and do not want dominion over.

What will it take for you to fight back against the people who oppress you with their rhetoric of “too big to fail” and use your last dollars, your retirement, your opportunities to power their very wasteful existence. Or will you go quietly to the grave cursing your enemies while playing with your electronic toys, blissfully ignorant of your role in the Great Machine, not as the cog you were promised and the opportunity to exceed your humble station, but as the grist itself.

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“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.” — W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks

Robert Jensen: “The Color of the Race Problem is White”

Author of “The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege”

A video from a class held at the University of Texas at Austin.

http://youtu.be/8aH-WSqanyQ

“If you look at the data right from the immediate aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement, the late Sixties the early Seventies, look at that racialized gap between White and Black America then, and compare it to the gap today and what you will find on some of those measures on wealth and well-being, you find the gap is as wide today as it was forty years ago. On the measures where that gap is narrowing, it is narrowing at such a glacial pace that it will be decades or in some cases, even centuries before the gap is closed. Before we achieve parity, before we achieve a rough equality in this society.”

“The United States is the most affluent society in the history of the world. There has never been a society in the history of this planet that is as affluent and as wealthy as the United States.”

“If the United States wanted to close the racialized gap between White and Non-White Americans, could it do it? it certainly has the resources. It certainly has the belief in its ability to accomplish such things, yet it hasn’t closed that gap. What does that tell you? What it tells me is that it is still appropriate to call America a White Supremacist society in material terms.”

The Death of Diversity (in Comics)

Found an article near and dear to me by a writer named Dara Naraghi, who is both a writer and lover of the comic genre. After reading his article I knew I would have to share it again since it touched on issues of diversity in the DC Universe, a subject I have written on several times in the past, Superhero Diversity and Where are the powerful Black Superheroes, but bears sharing again. So without further ado, please welcome Dara Naraghi.

First, a bit of background for those of you who don’t follow superhero comics: a couple of weeks ago, DC Comic published Aquaman #7, written by Geoff Johns, one of the most prominent and popular writers in the superhero genre, and Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics. In it, he introduced a brand new superheroine to the DC universe by the name of Kahina the Seer.

Kahina the Seer, art by Joe Prado

On page 1 of the comic, we see her running for her life from Aquaman’s mortal enemy, Black Manta. She puts up a good fight, but by page 7, she is defeated.

Page 7, art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

On page 8, we find out that she’s Iranian.

Page 8, art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

And yes, she’s also killed off.

What follows is an open letter to Geoff Johns, adapted and slightly reworked from a similar note I sent to the book’s editor, Pat McCallum.

Dear Mr. Johns,

After reading Aquaman #7, I felt the need to share my thoughts on a topic close to my heart. To that end, allow me to very briefly share my background with you: I’m an Iranian-American writer, a lifelong fan of the medium of comics, and a big fan of the DC characters. I have over 10 years of published works to my credit, from self-published stories to comics and graphic novels from Dark Horse, Image, IDW, and DC Comics. My DC Comics contribution was a Spectre story set in Tehran, Iran, for the DC Universe Holiday Special 2010 #1, edited by Mike Carlin.

Needless to say, when I saw that a new superheroine introduced in Aquaman #7 was an Iranian woman, I was very excited. As far as I know, the only other Iranian character in the (pre-52) DCU was the villain Rustam (who, ironically, was named after the most famous and popular HERO from Iranian literature). So you can imagine my frustration and extreme disappointment when this new hero, Kahina, was summarily killed a mere 8 pages after being introduced!

Please understand, this is not one of those “DC Comics is racist/xenophobic” essays that you’ve undoubtedly encountered countless times in the recent past. I’ve been happy with, and supportive of, DC’s attempt at diversifying their universe with a sizable number of comics starring minority and female characters in the “New 52″ relaunch of books. But I just don’t understand the logic behind creating a new minority hero – one from a country and culture that’s often misrepresented in today’s media as “evil” – only to have her killed upon her first appearance. What purpose did her death serve, other than being a mere plot point?

In doing so, you deprived your readership of a character utterly unique by virtue of her ethnic background, a character different than the thousands of others in the DC universe. Imagine the new storytelling venues opened up to you and other DC writers, had this character been allowed to continue her adventures in your fictional universe. With Iran in the news cycle as of late, here was a chance to add an element of verisimilitude to DC Comics, and start something bold and unconventional.

I’m not asking that DC Comics create a plethora of Iranian characters, or that they should only be portrayed as heroes, or even that once created, they should never be killed. I understand narrative needs, primary characters and supporting ones, emotional beats and motivation. But when there are absolutely NO characters of a certain ethnic or cultural background in your stories, to casually kill off the ONLY example of one, after a mere 8 pages, seems very counterproductive to me. It’s a disservice to your audience, a step back in your strides towards diversity, and just reinforces the negative stereotypes about the stunted development of superhero comics.

I know that because of my background, I’m much closer to this situation than the majority of your readers, but I don’t feel that invalidates my thoughts on the matter. Embracing multiculturalism not only offers a wealth of new storytelling possibilities, but it also distinguishes them from the hundreds of other alternatives in the marketplace, and opens them up to a wider marketplace.

I hope that you will consider my thought on this topic in the spirit that they were written: not to condemn, but hopefully to illuminate.

Sincerely,
Dara Naraghi

After reading his letter, I was moved to respond and my response is an emotional one (emotional by my standards, your mileage may vary). If you find his letter moves you, you can leave a response at his blog. Trolls need not apply. We already know what you think.

Dara Naraghi,

I support your letter, plan to send it to everyone I know and ask them to say the same thing that you did. I was a long term fan of DC Comics (over 40 years buying them) and had intended to raise my son reading them, hoping to inspire him the same way they once inspired me to write. I am a science fiction and fantasy writer and think about our relationships to each other both racially (since race is just a concept used to oppress diverse groups I tend to ignore it) and culturally, since culture is more significant and often based around geography, it has a bit more relevance. The death of this character while seemingly insignificant to the writer could have major significance to a reader, like you, who identified with the character and felt painfully both the idea that she did not exist before now (and should have) and now does not exist again (seconds after she gave you hope of a new day dawning where her culture might be acknowledged as anything other than a bad thing).

I am a Black Man in America and no longer have the benefit of the illusion of parity in this culture. I know I will never see it. But I live for the day when I am not asking for anything that White writers and by proxy White superheroes don’t get by being White. I would like the same chance to develop as a person, with the expectation of being heard, of being considered a person with feelings, not a statistic to be killed when a convenient death is required.

There was no need to create Kahina the Seer if the only goal was to kill her. There was no reason to make her a person of color if your goal was to kill her. All that says to people of color (at the subconsciously level) is you matter less than the story I am telling, less than my promotion of stereotypes and mindsets of “White Superiority” and that in the end, you, as a “Person of Color or Culture Outside My Own”, don’t matter. Please don’t bother writing responses refuting this, all of you trolls who will read this. I will not be affected one way or the other. I am now beyond that. I wrote this letter for Mr. Dara Naraghi who expressed his concerns eloquently and should know despite the piss-poor support he has received in the comments of his letter, that he was heard by someone who understood his pain.

You would think with things in the US being as racially charged as they are in the last months (if you read this at a later date, today was the same day Mr. Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder of Trayvon Martin, but was unable to be arrested since he had been let go by the police department the same day as the alleged murder took place back in February 2012) and anyone publishing anything might consider what a statement this particular event in their books might take.

On the other hand, one of the benefits of White Privilege is never having to acknowledge anyone else’s culture but your own. And when you discount other cultures, you are right to do so, because only your ideals, your dreams, your people’s right to exist in all forms of media, matter. Everyone else is an extra on your stage to be discarded at will. So, as poignant and significant as your letter might be, I suspect it will fall upon deaf ears, used to hearing only how wonderful it is to be White in America and responsible to no one but themselves.

I salute you, Dara Naraghi. Anything you write, I will find and support. It is rare to be a person of conscience in an age of conceit and vanity.

If you have been insulted by what I’ve said, examine yourself. If you hate me because I speak the truth as I see it, know this: If you hate me because I am Black, know that I did not choose it, especially knowing how much this culture hates Black men, I would have chosen to be something, anything else.

But, and this is the more important point, I did not choose to be what I am, hating me is a choice YOU made. Continuing to hate me and people like me, is a choice you perpetuate. The true stigma in this is yours, not mine. I could not choose. You could. You chose poorly. You chose to vilify your fellow man about a thing he could not change. You perpetuate your hatred in your media, though you will not call it that. “I’m just telling my story,” is how you rationalize it. And that sir, is history. “His Story.”

An Incredible Injustice of Being

This is a rally in New York in solidarity with the family of Trayvon Martin. The Million Hoodie March.

Injustice

Trayvon Martin was a young black man who was killed unjustly in Florida. If you haven’t read any articles, I will point you at the New York Times. It has the view of the story I like the most. ThinkProgess.org keeps an updated chart of information. Go ahead, read them and then get right back. Then I read an article at the Good Men Project as it was talking about how Black men enjoy flying on Southwest Airlines because no one wants to sit next to them on a flight, giving them more leg room. However, this particular perk came with other questions. Do you experience other times when such isolation and covert racism can be a problem? I read the comments for the article (and while I know better than to read comments, I couldn’t help myself). And those comments irked me, a whole lot. I try not to let covert racism reach me in my heart. So I wrote:

Is this really news to anyone? Oh wait, it is if you are not a Black man. I have experienced this phenomenon my entire life. Whenever I ride any form of mass transit, the seat next to me will remain open unless the person is more infirm or potentially more threatening than I appear to be. On airplanes, unless seating is assigned, the seat next to me remains open. I have even tested the idea of walking down the street and not deviating from my flight plan. People walk around me and anyone I am walking with, even if I walk against the flow of traffic. This subtle act of fear, built around racism regarding Black Men, has turn me from being 5 feet 9 inches of a highly educated, well spoken, unassuming, non-threatening, well-dressed Black Man into the Most Dangerous Man Alive. It would amuse me if it wasn’t such a sad statement about our society. This trick works no matter where I lived in the country. This is such an isolating condition. Imagine what the workplace is like when this “untouchable” state is active. Corporate work is hell when you are an “untouchable.” (And before someone rants and tells me about the castes of untouchables in other cultures, I know they exist and that is why I mentioned it.)

Someone at the publication decided to move my comment to its own section and everyone wanted to give me their opinions on my experience. Their comments varied from mild to condescending. I was prepared to ignore them until I did more research into the death of Trayvon Martin. At this time, more news had become available and I was emotionally distraught. I have an eight year old son who look suspiciously like Trayvon did as a young child. I lost my composure and wrote what I was feeling. At first I had not planned to press send. I was writing to release it to the ether and planned on pressing delete. I realized that was just as much of the problem as anything else. I did not feel empowered to speak my mind. To hell with that!

“Being” While Black

Now in light of our recent tragedy of Trayvon Martin, anyone willing to look at me, yes, I am the guy that wrote the selected comment and tell me that “Being or Walking While Black” is not an obstacle in our current supposedly “post-racial” society is simply not paying attention.

If you were not aware, Trayvon Martin was a young Black man in Florida who was shot because “he looked suspicious.” If you were a White person who told me that I should yield to people coming down the street, or a Black person who told me I should work to be happier so that I mind the racism less, neither of those answers will address the reality that as I move down any street in at least fifteen states in the US who have similar “Stand Your Ground” laws, I could be accused of being aggressive, belligerent, or hell just being there is all it takes for me to find myself shot and my shooter walking away, as long as he said, he was “engaged in an act of self defense.”

Let’s add to that, the tendency of law enforcement to grab young Black men off the street, crime or not and harass them at will. I have dealt with that all of my life. “Driving while Black, Walking while Black” now I can add to it “Being while Black” as a reason to deprive me of my social rights, respect, or even my life without any consequences to any White person who can mouth the right legal words to escape. Does this make me angry? Hell, yes. And if it were happening to you or your sons, you would be livid. But it’s not so for most of you, you don’t give a damn.

Now all of you who would put words in my mouth about how I should do things in this society remember this: NONE of you have to walk in my shoes. You do not have to fear every time you walk out your door, it may be the last time, through no fault of your own but through the racial stigma associated with being a Black Man. I do not have to do anything. I simply have to exist for someone to decide that I might be a threat and that threat needs to be neutralized. Know that when the system has gathered the last Black Man from the streets, and put them in the prisons or the morgue, they will come for you next. This is not just about my Blackness. This is about power and control. This society needs a demon, a boogeyman for people to fear while they are being manipulated, led about and exploited as the natural resource they are. The next time you consider the phrase “human resources” it should give you a chill.

Turn your back on me and my travails, it is after all the American way. Black men are the most unemployed members of our society, even when their skills and training are comparable or superior, most imprisoned, no matter the type of crime, we are over-represented within the penal system, most under-educated, we are plucked out of the school system, called unteachable by the fourth grade and fast-tracked into the penal system. I challenge all of you snarky folk with something to say about “perceived racism” or my reaction to it, to work on the “actual racism” visibly inherent in society.

Otherwise when you see me coming down the street, get the hell out of my way. I am fighting the system because I have no choice. It is trying to kill me and everyone like me. I don’t have time for you and your petty fears, my life is on the line.

And more importantly, so is my son’s.

State of Black Science Fiction 2012 – Ouroboros Rising

The State of Black Science Fiction 2012 has been a web/bloghop series started by Alicia McCalla and the Black Science Fiction Society in an effort to bring more awareness to the existence of Black writers of science fiction and fantasy and our diverse reasons and experiences for reading, writing and creating it. This is week seven of our journey. (Yes, I owe you two articles but I have to write other things, too.)

I have enjoyed this explosion of creativity and it is setting me up for my favorite yearly challenge, 30 Short Stories in 30 Days in April. Be sure to tune in then. Perhaps I can get some of my compatriots to join me. If you write and you want to join me, send me an email or post a comment. It’s one of the best experiences of my writing life. Give it a try. I leave you with our writing prompt inspired for a lecture given by the Black Science Fiction Society at Georgia Tech. You can see the writers reading their stories on my post marked the Bracelet.

Ouroboros Rising

“Apprentice.”

“Yes, master.”

“It’s time.”

I help him up and walk him into his study. He is paper-thin, light like a bird, a wisp of the force I remember from my youth. I can feel the fire burning through him, my second sight, even shielded cannot block the visions of his power. I help him to his workbench, a central seat of his gift. It was only as we drew close could I sense it.

The bracelet. It shimmered in darkness the way his power glowed brightly. A cool black metal that flickered like glass, lit from within with a sinister madness. This was my last time to say no.

Once he sits, his palsy stops when he picks it up. His eyes harden like flint and his unspoken gaze beckons me to sit across from  him. The light from the power within him dims. “Once you put this on, you will enter our Order. There is no release, no resistance, no rest from Ouroboros, her power is complete and unending. Do you understand?”

Of course I did. This was what I trained for this last fifteen years. This decision would mark my journey to true power.

“I know that look, boy. You think, you are getting what you want. Do you think I don’t know what you’re feeling? I sat there once.”

“Master, I am just eager to begin our work.”

“Don’t be in such a rush to go out and subjugate the world.”

“Master…”

“Spare me. Your lust for power was why you were chosen. Ouroboros requires strong passion, better to harness your gift.”

“Harness my gift?”

“Give me your hand, child. This is not a toy, or just a tool. It is a weapon coupled with your intent. Fail to harness your intent and it will kill you.”


He rubs the bracelet and taps it on his stone workbench. He taps it again. And again. The flat sound echoes across my senses, first a ripple, then a tide. Then a crack appears in the surface of the stone. Ironwood, once was living, now a metallic stone, one of the hardest natural substances, cracks, splinters to dust, with a sound like the world ending.He grabs my hand and his grip was as strong as it was weak a moment ago. The bracelet had expanded and my hand slipped into it easily. Then all I could feel was the power. All that I thought I knew about power was now erased. My inner energy was as a candle compared to this burning sun. He was right. I had no idea. The things I would do.The metal burned my flesh as it began to close tightly on my wrist. As mine grew darker, I could suddenly see his. It was always there, you only saw it for a second whenever he would transit a window curtain and the light hit it just right. Now it was alive, visible and its energy flew toward me.

“Yes, you can feel the power of Ouroboros and you think, I can do anything. And you are right. But with light, comes the darkness. Ouroboros is between all things, so I now give unto you the other side of power. Responsibility. The chains that binds this power to your very soul. Each time you partake of her power, you are dying. You will do great things. But whenever you reach beyond what is yours, and ask her for power, your sacrifice will be your time left to live. And you have much to do.”

The black shadow fell on my bracelet and its light was diminished, flecked with shadows, nuances and shades of grey. My vision returned to normal. His grip loosened and he fell back into his chair, boneless and still. I rushed to him over the remnants of his work desk, its power drained into me.

He looked at me, then down to the bracelet. He smiled fiercely. “Chained you again. He’s a strong one. Your scourge will be contained, for a time.” He lifted his head, his eyes rheumy with age. “I’m sorry, Kal.” His whisper barely reached me.

He died slumping forward into my arms.

“He was a bitter, old man. We will do great things, you and I.”

I could feel her coiled around my heart. Squeezing and settling down like a snake. Making my power her own.

All that light. The radiance that dwarfed my own. Those were the lives of mages she’d claimed before me. I am insignificant to her. She thinks to use me up. I am no more than food to her. I may never be able to be free of her, but I certainly don’t have to give her what she wants. She will earn every meal.

“They all said that. All fell before me. Ambition is a hard taskmaster.” She paused to let me think on that. Then she continued. “We have time; there is no rush to get back to taking your world for my own. Let us get to know one other.”

We conspired deep into the night.

Ouroboros Rising © Thaddeus Howze 2012, All Rights Reserved

Thaddeus Howze, Author – is a veteran of the IT and Communications industry with over 26 years of experience retooling computers to best serve human needs. Unknown to humanity, our computers have another agenda. Thaddeus recently released his first collection of short stories, Hayward Reach. In a coded format, he has secretly informed Humanity of the impending computerized apocalypse. You can read parts of the code here: https://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.com. You can read excerpts and other short stories at Hub City Blues

Part of a series of essays on: The State of Black Science Fiction

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Check out the other members of this Online Black History Month Event

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer – is a Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all- genre anthology entitled – Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him: http://blakelyworks.blogspot.com/ or http://blakelyworkstudio.weebly.com/

L. M. Davis, Author – began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade.  Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog: http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website www.shiftersnovelseries.com.

Ja Ja (DjaDja) N Medjay, Author – DjaDja Medjay is the author of The Renpet Sci-Fi Series. Shiatsu Practitioner. Holistic AfroFuturistic Rising in Excellence. http://authordjadja.wordpress.com/ Transmissions from The Future Earth can be found at: www.renpetscifi.com  or on Facebook – www.facebook.com/RenpetSciFiNovel or on Twitter – https://twitter.com/#!/Khonsugo.

Milton Davis, Author – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: www.mvmediaatl.com and www.wagadu.ning.com.

Margaret Fieland, Author – lives and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines: http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/is available from Amazon.com  Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author – is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/

Alicia McCalla, Author – writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012. The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at: www.aliciamccalla.com

Carole McDonnell, Author – She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole: http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/ or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com/

Balogun Ojetade, Author – of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: TheChronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steampunk) and the feature film, “A Single Link”. Visit him: http://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/

Rasheedah Phillips, Author – is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog, AstroMythoLosophy.com.

Nicole Sconiers, Author – is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html

Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. – is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd