The Problem is Systemic… and it Must Change.

Is there any DOUBT? After this week… how can anyone NOT see it?

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https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/more-bubbas-no-black-pastors-attorney-man-accused-killing-arbery-n1284089

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https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/03/us/ahmaud-arbery-jury-what-we-know/index.html

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https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/17/nyregion/malcolm-x-killing-exonerated.html

The problem is SYSTEMIC. It permeates the entire Judicial System. From the way LAWS are created to the way they are enforced, to the way Justice is carried out… how much more PROOF do we need?

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https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/18/nyregion/christopher-belter-rape-sentence.html

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https://www.kcur.org/news/2021-06-03/missouri-governor-does-not-pardon-kevin-strickland-who-prosecutor-says-is-wrongfully-imprisoned

On January 15, 2021, James Comey was on The Beat w/ Ari Melber, talking about possible charges being brought in connection with the January 6th insurrection. While speaking about potential investigatory strategies that might be pursued by the FBI, Dir. Comey spoke about “prosecutorial discretion”.

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I tried to find the footage from that interview but… apparently it has fallen down the memory hole.

As an example of the potential unwarranted collateral damage the FBI could cause simply by bringing charges and issuing warrants for arrest, Dir. Comey suggested a hypothetical case of two parents being charged with drug trafficking.

IF there were multiple children in the home, prosecutorial discretion could be used and charges might only be brought against ONE parent instead of BOTH… for the well-being of the children.

Prosecutorial Discretion… boy, if that’s not a euphemism then I don’t know what is.

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When I was seventeen, I think it was the winter before my senior year in high school, me and three buddies all piled into Jason’s 86 Buick Skylark… alcohol may have DEFINITELY been involved.

We stopped at a brand new gas station that had just recently opened. It was fully automated. Back in 1997, this was something we’d never seen before. As soon as we realized there were no gas station attendants on-site… we decided to trash the place.

Window squeegees tossed, paper towels all thrown out, gas pump handles unholstered… I don’t know why, male stupidity fueled by Mad Dog 20/20 I suppose. In the moment, all four of us thought it was a GOOD IDEA.

Three days later when the COPS showed up at Jason’s house, we realized we’d messed up… apparently we forgot surveillance cameras exist.

After school that day, Jason’s Dad told us what happened. Since we only caused superficial damage, the owners of the gas station decided not to press charges… the Officers just wanted to let him know it was his son’s CAR they saw on the footage.

We spent the next three Saturdays raking leaves and doing odd jobs to “pay off our debts”… instead of being arrested.

And that’s just ONE example.


My roommate and I threw a party one night when I was living in my first apartment. As more alcohol was consumed we got louder. Some time after midnight, my roommate challenged one of his friends to some Greco-Roman-style wrestling (as he was known to do) in the living room of our
second floor apartment… and shortly after that, the COPS arrived.

They confiscated some questionable paraphernalia and poured out the bottles that were on the kitchen counter. After a search of the apartment and a promise that none of us were driving anywhere the rest of the evening, they issued us a citation for Minor In Possession of Alcohol and left…

Ignoring the THREE OUNCES of MARIJUANA I had sitting out on a pizza pan, lying on top of a pile of dirty clothes on the floor of my closet.

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https://www.aclu.org/gallery/marijuana-arrests-numbers

My roommate and his buddies liked to drink… a lot. I liked to smoke pot like it was going extinct… all of us were amazed that no one was arrested that night.

At the time we chalked it up to the idea that they were just looking for something else… harder drugs, people with warrants, etc. I don’t think the idea that we were a bunch of WHITE KIDS ever crossed our minds, it may not have even crossed those Officers’ minds. But I can’t help but think… would that night have turned out differently if we were BLACK?

Every piece of evidence I’ve seen over the last twenty-some years since that night tells me, yes… it would have been different.

While I am grateful for having been given the gift of a second chance, I feel guilty about the way in which it was given. How many of us can point to a particular point in TIME where compassion was shown; where if it had not, our lives wouldn’t have turned out the same? Traffic stops, speeding tickets, random encounters…

How many of us cannot?

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driving_while_black

I was GUILTY of possessing a CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE… what crime did Philando Castile commit? What crime did Jacob Blake commit? Where is the BALANCE… the EQUITY in that?

I don’t want things to change because I believe more WHITE PEOPLE should be arrested and sent to jail. Things need to change because I believe EVERYONE should be treated with the same level of compassion and respect that I was shown…

Regardless of the color of your SKIN. Regardless of the clothes on your BACK. Regardless of the numbers in your BANK ACCOUNT.

It seems like a futile endeavor, attempting to establish EQUITY within a system that is inequitable at its heart. To ignore the fact that EQUALITY is absent and still continue to pursue EQUITY is like offering someone a BRIBE. A PAY-OFF… a SETTLEMENT.

Sorry the system screwed you and will continue to do so in the future… here’s some MONEY. Now we’re even.’

The system is UN-EQUAL. Why continue to work to lift up downtrodden parts of our society if the system continues to be UN-EQUAL in its operation? Without Equal Protection Under Law, any progress that is made will simply wash away with the passage of TIME… under a different Administration. During another chaotic period in time.

It seems like it would require more effort and resources to make an UN-EQUAL system more EQUITABLE, than it would if we were to simply ensure EQUALITY is what the system is based upon from the start. Once we’ve established a foundation of EQUALITY, then we can work to ensure it is equitable for EVERYONE.

The problem is SYSTEMIC and it must CHANGE. If it can happen to ONE of us… then it can happen to us ALL.

-JC

For Those Yet to Come

I’m not one of those well-polished types. I don’t easily fit into the holes like a good lil’ golf tee. Most days I feel a little oblong… a rough ashlar, cast amongst the other stones.

I like to wobble a little bit every now and then… keeps me on my toes. Challenges my way of thinking. Daring to see things through someone else’s eyes adds new perspective to how I see my own opinions. Understanding where I got things WRONG can help reinforce the things I got RIGHT… and it can help change the minds of those who disagree.

What good is having an opinion so WEAK it cannot stand up to open debate? No one acting in GOOD FAITH wants to be wrong. Hell, I know I don’t want to be wrong. But I also know we are ALL working toward the LIGHT… as we are all walking through shadows.

 

I am tired… but I am not defeated. 

 

Up ahead there’s a spot where we can pause and catch our breath, and take stock of how far we’ve come… but that time is not now. That rest, we have not earned. Not yet at least, but one day… we will. We must. Until then, we march. Onward.

And we will get there, if we only TRY… and we will stand UNITED. Side-by-side. If you cannot walk, then crawl… and if you cannot crawl, then I will carry you. As will seven others, as will seven more for each one of them. Because we already know, our Democracy is not secured at the POINT of a sword or down the SITE of a barrel.

Our Democracy is only secured once we’ve put those weapons DOWN. 

When we LISTEN instead of PROFESSING. When we SHARE instead of HIDING. Together, there’s more for everyone… that’s why we are the United States. We must remember who we are!

When we stand UNITED, viruses are eradicated. When we defend the rights of others, continents remain FREE. When we put aside our differences and embrace our COMMON GROUND, we visit the STARS in peace… for All Mankind.

For this, we will VOTE. THIS is why we continue to stand. For this, generations have lived and died, having never seen the balance be level… EQUALITY. As promised. Emblazoned upon the wall of Our Highest Court.

It’s the shape and color of the creation they envisioned, but it’s become HOLLOW at its core. What once was no longer exists, as it’s been AMENDED and changed throughout the years. What it will BE… that is ours to decide.

That’s the genius behind its design.

Yes, we can resort to REVOLUTION as our Founders once did. They witnessed the toll that comes from War, they lived the life of fighting city-by-city. Today, some have called for such a War, and I say… let them TALK. Let them SPEAK, so we can hear exactly what they have to say.

And then we will ask them, ‘After that war… what THEN? What would be NEXT? Who would LEAD such a war?’

And who do you suppose would WIN, a WAR… against the United States of America? We already know the answer to that question, let our SHARED HISTORY be our guide…

No one would win.

BOTH SIDES would lose, no matter who was declared victorious. It would throw this Nation into chaos, it would upend the economic stability of the entire world… and MILLIONS would die in the first year alone.

This would no longer be the New American Century. Four-score-and-seven years of toil and repentance would be the price… children yet unborn, shouldering the burdens of OUR FAILURES.

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https://www.ranker.com/list/colorized-photos-us-civil-war/kellen-perry 

No one wins a Civil War… except those who make bullets and bandages. Haven’t we had enough of that already.

 

For THIS, we march. In defense… against what may come.

 

-JC

Because There Is a Need

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This is what we get when we’re forced to vote against someone, instead of for them. When we vote against someone else, we are forced to take on all the baggage carried by the ‘lesser of two evils’… and decisions are made that are opposed to the Will of The People, because their positions stand opposed to the will of the candidate.

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I focus on is making sure others have something to eat. Then… it’s usually caffeine. IF everything goes to plan, after the kids… after the critters… if everything is in order, then I can find time for myself.

Sure, it might help if I wake up at 0430 every morning, but I’m a night person. In a busy household, that’s usually the best time to find some PEACE… when everyone else is asleep.

Priorities. ‘What is it that I’m trying to accomplish? What is the goal I’m trying to reach?’ There may only be 24 hours in a single day, but there are many more days to come after this one; and most goals worth attaining require multiple days… multiple years… to complete. It’s all about maximizing your time, as well as biding it.

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We are ALL created EQUAL. That is the foundation upon which our society was built. That is the goal the Framers had in mind when they set about constructing a Just form of Governance.

It was a DESTINATION to be reached. The outcome of this endeavor.

What is done to ONE of us is done to us ALL.

Because that is how we ensure it cannot happen to ME. It’s the most selfish and most honorable act anyone can engage in. When we defend the Rights of OTHERS… we defend those Rights for OURSELVES.

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Arizona rally for the Equal Rights Amendment, 2018.

Our history informs us. It gives our current situation CONTEXT. It frames the moment that surrounds us and gives us a glimpse of how things might be.

Our  history inspires us… because of the injustice that endures, our HEROES have been found. Out of the ashes have risen our Nation’s finest hours. In acts of COURAGE, undertaken as an act of defiance. Our history is defined by struggle. Toward what do we struggle… toward what do we strive. If we cannot NAME IT, then how can we expect to SOLVE IT? 

HALF of the citizens of this Nation do not have EQUAL STANDING under our Constitution. In Civil Rights. In Reproductive Rights. In Property Rights. In EQUAL PAY. Women are treated as second-class citizens, subject to the dictates of whomever holds office at the time…

If it can happen to ONE of us, then it can happen to us ALL.

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In September, 2010, when Justice Scalia shared his views on discrimination on the basis of sex, he said:

“Certainly the Constitution doesn’t require discrimination on the basis of sex, the only question is whether it prohibits it.

It doesn’t.

It demonstrated clearly what the opinion of the United States Supreme Court is on the issue of Equality:

Equality doesn’t exist.

Legal precedent. Dating all the way back to THE DOCUMENT itself. 

“No one ever voted for that.”

There is NO LAW restricting any of my Reproductive Rights. It should be the SAME for everyone… EQUALLY. If we allow the government to dictate to us when we can exercise our basic human rights, someday they will have legal precedent to tell us when we cannot.

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On account of sex… regardless of what that may be.

Only EQUAL. MEANS. EQUAL.

-JC

Four Hundred and Two

It is with a deep respect for the PAST that we fight amongst ourselves about the future. The past shapes this nation just as it does individual citizens, and physical scars are nothing compared to the toll taken by psychological trauma.

In this regard, the PAST is always with us, no matter how much TIME passes. Like a physical scar, the memory of that event can always haunt us, creating a defensive response. Instinctually… to avoid “breaking another LEG”.

That instinctual response never fully goes away. With TIME, it becomes a tool we use to ensure survival, instead of just a knee-jerk reaction. Over time we learn how to avoid being in those situations in the first place, so they can never happen again.

That process begins with knowledge. 

… 

How we remember something can impact us, too. 

For two years… the enslaved people of Galveston did not know, while their freedom was THEIRS. Two years! Babies were born. Mother’s died. None of them were told. They were FREE. 

Why did they not know. 

WHY did it take two YEARS for this Executive Order to be enforced? Was there some mixup at the Post Office? Were they just misinformed… no. 

For two years they held FREE MEN and WOMEN in chains against their will. Intentionally. Whomever controls the KNOWLEDGE sets the stage. By withholding critical information, they manipulated the lives of those slaves for their own financial benefit… even though they knew it was illegal. 

Selective censorship of the TRUTH kept those people enslaved. 

… 

Lies and deception by others can leave a major impression on us, but we must remember- our own MIND can deceive us as well. A perfect example of this would be “Childhood Amnesia”. Both of my kids, at about 12 years old or so, suddenly forgot important details from just a few years earlier… but that’s about right, if you stop and think about it. 

The same thing seems to happen to many people with the passage of TIME. Add about 30 or 40 years and suddenly, details of events seem to change. Maybe not so much as they’re forgotten, but they take on a ‘Nostalgic Tinge’. 

The faster an event is moving away from an observer, the more it shifts to the Rose-colored spectrum. 

But this is nothing new. The same thing happened to our parents. As I think back far enough, I can remember snippets of conversations between my Grandmother and Grandfather about their parents, and how they were dealing with the SAME THINGS as they struggled to care for an aging parent. 

Our imperfections are what make us uniquely special. We can endure harsh treatment and come out STRONGER on the other side. Because of our ability to ADAPT… because of our ability to REMEMBER. Because of our ability to FORGET. 

We embrace these qualities in others, acknowledging that we are ALL merely human. Now we must hold ourselves to the same standard that we would anyone else; and understand that every one of us is susceptible to fallacy and vice… even ourselves. 

Perfection is Of Divinity alone. The rest of us… we have to seek forgiveness whenever we’re wrong. 

IF we are, as the story goes, created in the image Of the Divine, is it not a violation of His Will if we do not use these gifts we have been given. In order to spread the WORDS to all who have the ability to listen… 

Knowledge is the message. Science is the language. 
This is how we understand… this is how we learn who we are. 

As people. As a nation. As a member of the Human Race. To honor those who’ve come before us. To ensure there will be more who will follow. 

In order to honor the memory of this day, we must fully embrace WHY it came to BE. Not to glorify it. Not to exact some price of revenge, but to have a clear message.  Something REAL and TRUE that we can point to and say ‘THIS is what we once were as a Nation, as a society… and now it is no more.’ 


It shows us WHY we are who we are. Why we cherish these values and STAND for these ideals… with conviction. Because we’ve been there before, and we choose not to go BACK.


It is with reverence and humility that I celebrate Juneteenth. Let our History and our ERRORS stand as a testament to the Righteousness, of the struggle for EQUALITY…


No matter how long it takes.

-JC

We need to Talk

To be honest, it’s a conversation I know nothing about… how could I? I am a white man. I don’t know what it’s like, nor will I ever. I’ve never feared Law Enforcement Officers… well, only when I knew I was in the wrong. But even then I never feared for my life. I was taught to follow the Law and respect those who enforce it. It’s their job to ‘Protect and Serve’ us… The People.

That’s not the same story for every American. 

… 

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https://slate.com/human-interest/2020/06/white-parents-the-talk-racism-police-brutality.html 

… 

Here in Kansas City, KS… I’m in the MINORITY.


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It’s not quite as stark as if I were living in The Bahamas, but it is quite obvious. And it becomes even more pronounced when I drive to one of the outlying suburbs, where there are no POC at the shopping centers… where there’s not a pawn shop on every other corner… where there are fresh veggies and sidewalks. 

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https://www.npr.org/2017/05/03/526655831/a-forgotten-history-of-how-the-u-s-government-segregated-america 

… 

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https://www.usinsourcing.com/kc-food-deserts-a-sign-of-economic-decline/ 

If you’ve ever lived in a part of town where the National Pizza Chains won’t deliver to your neighborhood… you’ve been the victim of racism. 

… 

About a month into the quarantine for COVID-19, our refrigerator stopped keeping things cold. It might have been something as simple as cleaning the coils or replacing an internal component, but I’ll never know. No service repair shop would send a technician into Wyandotte County. If I had lived somewhere else though, they were more than happy to help. But here… not so much. 

Instead of a $300 repair bill, we had to buy a brand new refrigerator… all because of a preconceived notion of the community in which I live. 

And where on the map was this ‘line’ drawn, between “Technicians are standing by” and “Sorry you’re outta luck”? I know from experience, the dividing line for a delivery area can end abruptly on ONE SIDE of the street, while the OTHER SIDE is deemed just too far away. 

Back in my day… we were told we should lock our doors when driving down a particular street or driving in a particular neighborhood. But turn a corner, and hook a left at the light… you’re suddenly in a neighborhood filled with fully restored 100 year old mansions. Literally, no less than THREE BLOCKS down the road. 

Who draws these lines? Who decides THIS neighborhood is ‘acceptable’ and THIS neighborhood is NOT… 

And what DATA are they basing those conclusions upon? 

… 

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https://www.axios.com/army-officer-lawsuit-police-afro-latino-virginia-f5aceedf-6efe-4a8f-b4ca-8d8b9c297ea1.html 

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There are no clear lines drawn within our communities. What effects ONE will effect us ALL… because we live SIDE-BY-SIDE. In our schools. In our grocery stores. At work and at home. If the numbers are SKEWED… if the DATA we’re basing our conclusions upon is WRONG… it effects our Laws, our priorities… our very perception of what is “right” and what is “wrong”.

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… 

 

Would it surprise anyone if we found a connecting thread that tied all these deadly encounters together? On the surface… sometimes these officers are white, sometimes they are black. There is no discrimination it seems, when it comes to the origin of the Use of Force… so what is it. 

 

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2017/02/14/a-day-with-killology-police-trainer-dave-grossman/ 

… 

 

Black men are taught from an early age to fear encounters with the police… as I would if I were the father of a black child. Therefore, they are fearful and paranoid when these encounters eventually happen.

It’s a natural, rational, completely understandable… and PREDICTABLE human response to a potentially life-threatening situation.


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Law Enforcement Officers are TRAINED to interpret those actions as a threat. ‘The subject is acting paranoid… they’re hiding something. They’re acting GUILTY.’ 

What FACTS would then flash through an officer’s head in that split-second decision making process… ALL SKEWED, by laws that are tainted with Racial Profiling and a Criminal Justice System that’s based on CASH. 

Did you know police can just take your stuff if they suspect it’s involved in a crime? They can! It’s a shady process called “civil asset forfeiture,” and it would make for a weird episode of Law and Order.

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“The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota said it had ‘deep concerns that police here appear to have used dangling air fresheners as an excuse for making a pretextual stop, something police do all too often to target Black people.’”

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/daunte-wright-was-stopped-expired-plates-driving-while-black-may-n1263878  

… 

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https://www.aclu.org/report/driving-while-black-racial-profiling-our-nations-highways 

… 

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I’ve tried to teach my kids that they are privileged, and that it’s wrong… and it’s on us to do the work to make things right. We cannot simply STAND SILENT. Use your little white boy shield and SPEAK OUT… someone’s LIFE may depend on it! 

I know it’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a 15 year old boy… but right now? Until we take the necessary steps toward ensuring Law Enforcement Officers protect the rights of every citizen in every State, EQUALLY… that’s all we’ve GOT

That needs to change. 

JC