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Saturday, May 12, 2018

I Wish Sibling Death Were More Sympathy-Worthy

Antigone and The Body of Her Brother, Polynices. Lytras Nikiforos
Source

I wish sibling death were more sympathy-worthy. I've been wishing this for forty-three years.

After I got the news of Phil's death, I went across the street to the home of the person I thought of as my best friend, Alice Gilabert. Her parents said she wasn't home. I went to Alice's room, the same room in the house as my room – all of our houses had the same floor plan. I curled up in Alice's bed and cried, alone. Alice never came home. She told me later that when she heard that my brother had been killed, she left town, because she knew I'd be crushed, and she knew I'd need her, and she felt she didn't have anything to offer.

Mike died while I was in Nepal. I got the news over long distance telephone in the Peace Corps office in Kathmandu. There were a couple of other volunteers in the office. As soon as I heard, I started crying. One of the Peace Corps volunteers, within earshot of me, criticized me to my bosses. She felt it was not the behavior worthy of a Peace Corps volunteer to cry in the Peace Corps office. PCVs are supposed to be noble and tough and above-it-all. I wish I could remember her name, so I could relay it here.

At the time I was dating a Scottish physician I had met at a remote and dusty border crossing between India and Nepal. He was very cute, very idealistic, and a birdwatcher like me. He later felt compelled to confess to me that he had distanced himself after Mike died because he couldn't handle my grief.

My fellow volunteers had never experienced the death of a loved one, and they just didn't want to be around me if I began to talk about it. They wanted me to fake it, to be my entertaining self. Nepalis couldn't grok the news at all. They couldn't believe that a healthy young American man, husband and father, would die. They thought we had cures for these things. I had nightmares. I had to talk myself through it. There was no one else around to talk to me about it. I had to remind myself: Mike is dead. Mike is dead. Mike is dead.

Antoinette was a wife and a mother so of course everyone's focus was on her daughters and her husband.

Joe was much older than I, and a male, and a different kind of guy. I'm not supposed to feel as sad as I do now.

I'm avoiding Facebook. I like and value Facebook for what it is. Part of what it is, all too often, is a place where some percentage of your friends are people who are living out fantasy selves, thus the term "Fakebook." Wow – spellcheck didn't even flag that. "Fakebook," evidently, is an actual word.

One fantasy self that some like to promote is "I'm really caring." If you talk about a death on Facebook, people will publicly post sympathy, but only a tiny fraction of the folks who engage in that public show of sympathy will ever send you a private message. One woman – I woman I like and value and am glad to have as a Facebook friend – posted on my page, "I am so sorry for your looks." She meant "loss" of course. She had not waited till my brother's death to remind me that I'm not pretty. But I need to avoid that level of insincerity right now. Death nails you to what is true.

Another thing I really couldn't handle reading. The – small minority of – folks who say, "I support you." I want to say to them, "Really? You support me? And all this time I thought it was me supporting me. That's why I've been going to work. I guess your checks have been getting lost in the mail."

One more gripe. The folks who wait till you are hurt and vulnerable to snipe, take swipes, settle scores. One woman made some comment about how she thinks I don't listen well so she didn't want to post condolences because I wouldn't "hear" them. Good grief.

No, two more gripes. The unsolicited advice. The poster who left instructions on how to grieve. Seriously? *Seriously*? Maybe I should leave her some instructions on how to communicate.

With most folks, I expect nothing. I recognize that our connections are ephemeral and shallow.

Some connections are not so ephemeral. I've known one Facebook friend, through the internet, for twenty-four years. We've been in touch regularly throughout that time. From her? Nothing. But she is a member of a religious cult that reassures her that she is righteous and the rest of us are damned. Why waste a condolence card on the damned?

Liberal atheists are not necessarily any better. I've known two liberal, atheist men for as long as I've known the above-mentioned woman. Neither has breathed a word to me. Or typed a word. Eff 'em. Seriously.

I don't always sound this bitter.

What would I prefer?

Kindness.

Send a card. Catholic? – Not you. The person who is mourning? Send a mass card. It's easy. It's not expensive. See here. You fill out an online form, donate $7.00 to Maryknoll missionaries who are doing great work, and a priest says a mass for the diseased.

Is that too much to ask?

Guess so.

Do I send mass cards?

Is the pope Catholic?

Or bring a casserole. Grief kills the appetite. Or you eat too much. I had vodka for breakfast day before yesterday. Today I had a Snickers bar that has been sitting in my refrigerator ever since it was leftover by some students playing a game who offered Snickers bars as prizes. Live far away? Send a ShopRite gift certificate.  

Or send flowers. Flowers represent beauty, life, and caring.

Just please don't post on my Facebook page, "I wish I could come over." The woman who posted that COULD COME OVER. But she didn't. Sheesh.

So, yes, avoiding Facebook. Soon enough I will regain the necessary rhino defenses. Not right now.

Last night I hit "I can't take it anymore" mode and "I need some human contact" mode. I knew I wouldn't be getting any of that so I watched endless puppy videos on YouTube.

I've said it before; I'm saying it again. If I survive this, I'm getting a dog.



A Rich, White Man


A rich white man.

And whom you can rely on in a foxhole.

My beloved brother, Joseph Goska, just died, God rest his soul. His death is a shock and a heartache.

At the same time, I am facing a legal problem. A legal problem so scary it might mean no more healthcare, no more roof.

It's hard to mourn your brother, almost your entire family, at this point, and, at the same time, confront the possible loss of healthcare and roof, especially when you yourself are still being treated for the same disease that killed your brother ... and your sister ... and your mother ... and your other brother.

I've been on the phone, on the internet, in person, asking / begging / pleading.

I need information. That's really all I need. Information.

I turned to a Catholic deacon. I cried in front of a banker. I interrogated my apartment manager, whom I had to chase to find -- it took three visits to her office just to collar her. I phoned and then visited the office of my Democratic congressman. I importuned legal aide.

Legal aide said they would not help till I was evicted. I said, "You would actually wait for someone with my health issues to be living on the street before you would help?"

They said yes, and they said "We are very proud of what we do."

The deacon never responded. The banker wasn't sure. My congressman's office hadn't a clue.

It's been ten days, and I've been on this one question every day.

Not taking breaks to cry. Not taking breaks to reminisce.

In desperation, I asked a rich, white man. His name comes up in local media.

The rich, white man responded to my email. He suggested something.

I told him that I had already tried that and it didn't work. That's all I said. I didn't cry or beg. I just said, "Thank you. I tried that. It didn't work."

I thought I'd never hear from him again.

But, without telling me this, the rich, white man had kept digging. He did original research. He contacted a government office it never occurred to me, or anyone I've told about this, to contact.

And he helped me.

The rich, white man. Helped me, a complete stranger, who can do nothing for him.

I'm not in the clear yet. He got some preliminary information, and he told me that I needed to contact so and so and provide more information, before they can guide me through the briar patch I now inhabit.

But he did something that it never occurred to me to do, or anyone else I've asked.

Believe me. You do not know whom you will be able to rely on in a foxhole. Those who publicly self-advertise as helping the poor and the needy may come to your aid, or they may bail at the first crackle of enemy fire.

And it may just be a "selfish" "white" "capitalist" "male" who saves your bacon.


PS: I already posted this on Facebook. Posting twice for anyone who reads here but not there. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Goatsucker at Garret Mountain

Chuck Will's Widow photo by Lilibirds / David Speiser
It was one heck of a cold, dark, long winter on Garret Mountain. 

I was out in all of it. There were days when I had to remove my glove for a moment to tie my shoe, and I really thought I was risking permanent damage. When I would get inside again, and the agony that reduced my hands to throbbing, icy stumps retreated and I could flutter my fingers again, clap, pick my nose, I rejoiced. 

I do envy Facebook friends who can afford tropical vacations. 

But being up at Garret several times a week, and watching spring arrive ever so slowly and coyly, deepened my relationship to that basalt carbuncle, rising bluntly from over-paved and over-populated Passaic County earth. I felt more connected to every new forsythia blossom, splashing yellow against white snow, to every crack in the ice, to every onrush of snow-melt. I felt as if every palm warbler, pumping its yellow tail against a newly blue sky, was punching out to me personally a Morse code announcement: it's spring. It's spring. It's spring.

Miracle is the only word. Really. When you've been up there when it's dark at midday and you are the only warm-bloodied thing in view, and you return and see that same landscape suddenly polychromatic and pulsing with life, miracle is the only word. 


Migrating warblers move through Garret in May. Birders come from far and wide to view them. They usually arrive early in the a.m., before their workdays begin, and station themselves on the red, grassy igneous ridge facing the sunrise and the Manhattan skyline, and count, in company with other, temporarily-allied birders, multiple species. 

My mornings demand heavier focus these days. Death, if nothing else, involves much, and scary, paperwork. Paper wet with tears; paper punched in rage. "Why didn't you tell me? I would have helped. I would have had time to prepare emotionally. It would kill Mommy, if she were not already dead, to know that you died without a blood relative present." 

You can't turn back the clock. And who would want to? January, when he received his diagnosis, so I've been told, was a gray and frozen month that promised nothing but rest for the future burgeoning.

So, since I am not at Garret in the a.m, I miss the biggest crowds, and the high species counts. 


I have been going later in the day, and stationing myself in a cubby corner of the park. 

There is a chain link fence, mud, moss, the trickle of water, low-slung, concrete rectangles that seem to have outlived any man-made plan or purpose, pines, sycamores, moldering logs, gnats, the occasional bit of trash, the occasional walked pooch, and the sound of nearby traffic. It's not exactly Yellowstone. 

But as I stood there the other day, I was mere feet away from jewel-like black-and-white warblers, black-throated blue warblers, redstarts, parulas, myrtles, kinglets, nuthatches, gnatcatchers, cardinals ... all dancing before my eyes, so close I didn't need my binoculars, 

I felt myself smile for the first time since I got the news about Joe. 

I *felt* that smile. I registered that smile. Keeping it in the archives. 

I also wrapped my fingers around the chain link fence, leaned into it, and cried for all I was worth. There was no one around to see or complain. That felt as part of it all as the smile. 

Recently a better birder than I spotted a chuck-will's-widow nearby "my" "private" park cubby. I was lost in my flock of warblers, feeling as if one of them, although rejecting insects for dinner, when I realized that people in white-collar work clothes and shiny shoes with utterly impractical soles were marching past me, stopping, and craning their necks. I followed.

A chuck-will's-widow is a goatsucker. Their scientific name, caprimulgidae refers to their goat-sucking habit. 


What, you didn't know this? That you are surrounded by birds like chuck-will's-widows and whiporwills that suck on goats' teats? 

How do people live at that lack of awareness? 

Of course I'm kidding. Goatsuckers are nocturnal, and they have large mouths for catching insect prey. Humans are weird and suspicious, and they made up this idea that goatsuckers come to their farms at night and exploit their goats' milk. Just like Hillary Clinton ran a child sex slavery ring from a DC pizza parlor basement. 

Anyway. Chuck-will's-widows are an uncommon bird for this neck of the woods, so the other day streams of birders were reporting to this little, anonymous corner of West Paterson to achieve "darshan," a Hindu word for the benefit you get from seeing something or someone holy. Probably most birders don't use the word "darshan" but I lived in the Indian subcontinent and I can't get the lingo out of my head. 

It was exciting and fun. Again, it was fun to see people in office attire, people who had received the internet alert of the goatsucker's presence, left their cubicles, and rushed to Paterson, not a place many well-to-do people rush to, in normal hours. 

One woman asked me what they sound like. I did my best imitation of a chuck-will's-widow call. You can hear the real deal here. Another pilgrim, astoundingly, didn't know what a chuck-will's-widow looks like. I found it very impressive that she rushed here to see a bird she couldn't even envision. I had my Roger Tory Peterson field guide with me and showed her the picture. Chuck-will's-widows, like whiporwills, are nocturnal birds who must be safe in daytime, so they look like dead leaves. They are, God bless them, no match for the brilliant full palette displayed by the warblers I had left. The woman to whom I showed the picture was suitably disappointed. 

I knew I was surrounded by birders better than I and I liked it that I could offer some info to newbies. I like teaching, in any venue. 

As I was leaving, more and yet more birders were approaching. They were carrying giant lenses that could possible photograph a zit on the nose of the old man in the moon. They asked me, "Is the chuck still showing? Are birders on it?" Yes, I said, in answer to both questions. Many of the birders had accents. This was truly an international event. 

When I was younger, I wanted to go everywhere, and I almost did; Africa, Asia, Europe, North America. Not the Amazon, but the Ganges, three times, and if I had to pick one or the other, it would be the Ganges every time. 

Jesus said to Peter, when you are younger, you went where you wanted. When you are older, you will no longer have such freedom (paraphrase.) 

True for me. I stopped traveling long ago and a walk to Garret Mountain is my vacation. Being so pinned to one spot has taught me something, something I can't hope to get onto this page, that being so mobile never taught me. 

I was pleased and excited to rub elbows with folks who follow alerts to rare birds, just as storm chasers follow alerts to photogenic tornadoes, as butterflies follow the wind's message to patches of rampant flowering abundance. These folks contribute something that I can't; they know something that I don't. But I couldn't help but think that seeing Garret Mountain only during this lush, furious spring, and not knowing Garret Mountain as I do, in the depths of a winter so severe I thought I might lose my hands if I needed to blow my nose, that I know something that they don't know. 

And I hate to say this, but the metaphor here is obvious. We must walk through the frightening, life-sucking, obliterating void of losing those we love if we are to know life at all. 


Monday, May 7, 2018

Grieving Joseph Goska, My Brother



May 1, 2018, 7:36 p.m. It had been a long day. End of the semester. Much going on at work, with my writing, and the warblers were moving through Garret Mountain. 

Dinner was cooked, and much awaited. Rice, lentils, and vegetables. A standard. A favorite. I glanced at my email before walking into the kitchen to spoon everything onto plates. 

I saw an incoming email from an unknown sender. I saw the subject line, "Joseph Goska." I said, oh, effing no, not again, I cannot do this again. 

Phil. Mike. Antoinette. Now Joe? 

I just knew from the subject line. But I read the email. 

"Hi Diane...
My name is ____ _____ and I am a friend of your brother, Joe.
I'm very sorry to inform you that he has passed away this past
Friday, April 27.
Please contact me at your earliest convenience.
973-___-____"

I've been crying a bit every day since. 

I've been reliving every memory I have of my brother Joe. Frankly I did not know I had that many. 

I've been living, at moments, in my childhood home every day since. The close, fragrant, and humid kitchen. The upstairs bedrooms with the slanting walls festooned with Raquel Welch in a fur bikini, cubby-hole-bookcases full of paperback sci-fi. The backyard where Tramp, holy medicine dog, keeps secrets and keeps watch. The stoop on a summer night, katy-dids, lacewings, and frogs. The languages, the songs, the stories, the Slovak, the Polish, the poppy seeds.  

Antoinette, present, palpable and real as any Paterson street dweller, is making sharp-tongued comments, scolding me not to be such an emotional dyslexic feather-head, and urging me to get on the stick and take care of concrete, real-world, white-collar type things that need taking care of. She's reminding me of my tears at Phil's funeral, and she's saying that crying was stupid and didn't help then, and it's not helping, now. 

Mike is dynamic and annoying. He's making some point about the universe, while simultaneously trying to pick up some girl. 

Daddy is harrumphing while reading his newspaper. 

My mother's heart is utterly broken that no one Joe was related to was with him at the end. 

I wish Joe's friend had told me sooner. I cared about Joe. Aunt Madeline cared about Joe. Sister-in-law Annie cared about Joe. Cousin Margie, aka Marcus, cared about Joe. Niece Amanda cared about Joe. Amanda and I went to the house a couple of years back and left a note. Joe, what's up? We care about you. Get in touch. 

My childhood friends, lived down the block, Joanne and Elaine, cared about Joe. 

Elaine emailed me Thursday: "Danushha, just got off the phone with my sister Joanne. She told me that your brother Joe is home under Hospice Care. Didn't know if you were aware of this or not.Thought you needed to know. God bless and keep you in this time of suffering." 

I am coping as best I can. At moments I feel totally sengue. (Sengue -- a word from CAR. It means "empty" or "naked" and also "I do not have malaria at this moment and I am not peeing blood so really I have nothing to complain about.") 

At other moments I cry. 

I just had one of those moments and so I am posting this now, sending it out into the void my brother now inhabits and where I too will soon go. 

I am grateful to a couple of friends who have sent me emails asking me questions like, "Are you eating?" 

Believe it or not even a food-a-holic like me loses her appetite at moments like this. That dinner of rice and lentils and vegetables ended up in the trash. 

Joe is holding me in his lap in this photo of Phil, Mike, me, Joe, and Antoinette. I'm the only one left from this photo. God has not allowed any of my siblings, so far, to live to the Biblical three score and ten, ages that our parents reached and surpassed.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Black and White on Campus: A Viral Video, the N-Word, Liberal and Conservative Responses

Restless Mind by Robin Rhode



A Viral Video Featuring the N-Word 
Sparks Calls for More Black Campus Hires
Black Conservative Authors Suggest a Different Response


On April 22, 2018, Miki Cammarata, the Vice President for Student Development at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, released an email. Cammarata condemned a social media video featuring a William Paterson student, Jasmine Barkley. Cammarata called Barkley’s comments “abhorrent and racially charged.” “We are disgusted,” Cammarata wrote. Barkley’s statement “does not reflect our values.” “University staff are investigating.”

In the video, Jasmine Barkley asks, “Is it appropriate for me to say the word n-----, if it is in the lyrics of a song and I’m singing the lyrics, or is it not appropriate for me to say n-----? Let me know.” Barkley’s video is eleven seconds long.

A Twitter user who self-identifies as “Seun the Activist, Son of the Most High,” aka Seun Babalola, tweeted the video at 8:57 a.m. on April 22. Cammarata’s response appeared three hours later. Also on April 22, Nicole DeFeo, International Executive Director of Delta Phi Epsilon, Barkley’s sorority, promised “swift, decisive action.” In 1984-style language, Barkley was “disaffiliated immediately.”

On Monday, April 23, the Beacon, the William Paterson school newspaper, posted an open letter from Barkley. “I am not a racist. I believe in equality … I posed a controversial question.” Barkley quoted TV personality Lenard McKelvey, aka Charlamagne Tha God.

McKelvey, in a 2013 interview, said, “Until we stop using the word n-----, we can’t get mad at nobody else for using the word … If something’s bad, it’s bad, period. It can’t be good when I do it and bad when you do it … If you really want to make a stand against the n-word, stop using it. Teach people how to treat you. People are going to treat you how you treat yourself.” Protesting when whites use the n-word is hypocritical, he said. If Malcolm X or Martin Luther King returned, they would not be shocked at whites using the n-word; they’d be shocked at blacks using the n-word. “Is this what we died and marched for? Is this what we got beat with sticks and had dogs sicced and got sprayed with hoses for y’all to be walking around and carrying yourselves like this?”

Freaky Friday,” the song Barkley’s friend was singing along to, does indeed contain the n-word, repeated eleven times. “Freaky Friday,” as do many popular rap and hip hop songs, refers to women as “bitch,” including the singer’s mother, and “hos,” or whores. It also refers to “pussies.” In the video, nearly naked white women advertise the black singer’s worth by writhing against him. “Freaky Friday” includes graphic references to male anatomy, for example, “his dick staying perched up on his balls.” The f-word is repeated ten times.

“Freaky Friday” depicts a nerdy Jewish man desperately wishing that he could be changed into a cool, sexy, powerful black man. “Freaky Friday’s” creator, Lil Dicky, was born David Andrew Burd. Burd telegraphs his acknowledgement of his whiteness and inadequacy through his stage name, a reference to his miniature, white penis. An accommodating Chinese man – a stereotypical “inscrutable Oriental” – transforms Lil Dicky into his desired ideal: a black rap star. In his song, Burd specifically chooses to become Chris Brown, notorious for beating Rhianna. 

After his magical transformation, Burd is able to dance and play basketball. He suddenly owns a gun and he beats people. When he is white, Burd looks into his pants and is disappointed. After he becomes black, he sings, “It’s my dream dick.” He takes a picture. “Snap a flick of my junk. My dick is trending on Twitter.”

Burd / Brown certifies his triumphant assumption of black identity by being permitted to use the n-word, just as black people frequently do, both in real life and in the lyrics of songs. Burd’s use of the word is the seal of his assumption of superior, black identity. Everyone knows that whites are forbidden to use the word.

“Freaky Friday” is not the only recent cultural product to depict inferior whites craving to inhabit superior black bodies. The Academy-Award-winning film “Get Out” features the same theme.

“Freaky Friday” exemplifies the curse that haunts black youth, as described by Orlando Patterson, the John Cowles Professor of Sociology at Harvard. Some whites want blacks to be violent, hypersexual, and good at dancing and sports, so that whites may vicariously live out their anti-social fantasies through black proxies. In his 2006 New York Times op-ed “A Poverty of Mind,” and his subsequent book, The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth, Patterson argues persuasively that black youth perform social dysfunction at least partly to gain approval from white “patrons.” These white patrons may buy drugs or applaud the “cool pose.” Patterson writes that the cool pose culture is “almost like a drug, hanging out on the street after school, shopping and dressing sharply, sexual conquests, party drugs, hip-hop music and culture, the fact that almost all the superstar athletes and a great many of the nation's best entertainers were black. Not only was living this subculture immensely fulfilling it also [provides] a great deal of respect from white youths.” “Freaky Friday” is just the latest manifestation of the toxic “cool pose” incarnation of minstrelsy. The Urban Dictionary defines a “wigger” as “A male Caucasian, usually born and raised in the suburbs, who displays a strong desire to emulate African American Hip Hop culture and style through … thug life.”

Seun the Activist, William Paterson University, and an internet boiling over with mutually stoked, huffy outrage didn’t protest “Freaky Friday”’s repeated use of the n-word, nor its depiction of blacks, whites, women and Chinese people as grotesque caricatures. The insta-mob targeted their pitchforks and torches at a girl who dared to ask why it isn’t okay to sing along with a song that has received almost 200,000,000 YouTube views since it was posted on March 15, 2018. Those prosecuting the show trial of Jasmine Barkley know what Chris Brown knew. It’s easier to take out your frustrations on one, lone girl.

On Friday, April 27, William Paterson University hosted a public forum addressing Barkley’s eleven-second video. April 27 was a rainy day in final exam and graduation season. The temperature barely broke fifty degrees. Even so, the forum was standing room only. About three hundred attended, most students, most African American. William Paterson administrators, three white, one black, occupied a table and podium in front of the room. About two dozen students spoke.

Anyone hoping for a provocative, nuanced debate on the value of the First Amendment, or an impassioned sermon on a community’s duty to avoid the scapegoating of one member, would be disappointed. Rather, what one heard was an outpouring of raw pain. Many shook as they spoke. Not a few sobbed openly. One insisted several times that she was suicidal.

“My black body is not safe,” they said. “How can they protect me when they’ve never lived like me?” they asked. One student said that someone had pointed a laser in her face, and the Residence Assistant to whom she reported this event declined to do anything because he did not witness it. A professor said she was stalked by a white student.

“I don’t know if you know anything about Newark,” said one student. After the 1967 Newark Riots, Newark lost much of its largely Jewish and Italian middle class. In 1996, Money magazine ranked Newark "The Most Dangerous City in the Nation.” It remains high crime. “Newark is unlike Wayne, NJ,” said the student. Wayne is almost 90% white. Street crime is not an issue. In Newark, the student insisted, “White cops constantly harass you. Your brothers might stab you in the back. I’m part of that life, but I came here for change. I didn’t want to be in the streets. It’s not something you choose.”

One student complained that when she told an advisor she wanted to major in black studies, the advisor warned her that that major might not provide post-graduation economic opportunity. “My passion doesn’t belong,” she said. Only black faculty, she insisted, have the necessary passion to guide her. Black faculty “provide the feeling we can’t find anywhere else.”

Another said, “I’m not supposed to make it past the age of 25 because of the society I live in.” Most black men die before age 25, he insisted. “Their skin gets them incarcerated or killed. A white person who makes it past the age of 25 might not have half as much to offer as someone black who was killed at 24. I truly don’t believe that you will do anything for us.”

An Asian-American student sobbed. She said that she had been well-treated by the counseling center, and it broke her heart to hear that black students receive inferior counseling.

Other comments included the following: “As a black woman on campus my dreams don’t feel safe.” “I feel stuck.” “White professors degrade me.” “To this day I am afraid to eat.” “This university dilutes my cultural experiences and expressions.” “People ask me why I’m an Asian studies major. I shouldn’t be faced with those questions.” “I’m afraid of white people.” “Free speech? Are you serious? You’ve got to be kidding me.” “People who are not of color simply cannot understand people of color. They cannot.” One student wanted Barkley’s former sorority expelled from campus. “I’ve been fooled. I see the game.” The Barkley video was “an atrocity.” Another called the Barkley video a “debacle.” “Without students of color, William Paterson would be only a community college.” “I think it’s real cute how you have the black woman advisor appear for you.” This statement, a reference to the African American administrator who chaired the meeting, was met with a standing ovation. “You are exploiting people of color.”

Student demands included black psychologists, black faculty, black administrators, and a new building dedicated to black concerns.

The college president said that listening to the students was very painful. One administrator said he exemplified white male privilege. Another administrator said, “I feel responsible.” The students who responded to these administrators were unmoved. “We don’t believe you,” they said. “What will you do?” They demanded. “It’s blatantly obvious that you care only about PR!” one accused.

Three points are uncontestable.

First, these young people were howling from the depths of their being. Any compassionate person, and any patriotic person hoping for a strong America, would want to contribute to the alleviation of their pain.

Second, these students represent a national tragedy. A 2017 National Student Clearinghouse Research Center study indicates that white and Asian-American students are twenty percent more likely to earn a college credential than black and Hispanic students. Black and Hispanic students are more likely to attend high schools with low academic performance. In Paterson, a city close to William Paterson University, in 2014, only nineteen students, out of 594 who took the SAT, were deemed “college-ready.” Just a few miles away, in majority-white Wayne, NJ, high school students score in the top 27.9% of New Jersey high schools. Nationwide, the achievement gap is all too real. African American students still lag behind in standardized test scores.

Third, these students’ comments painted a picture of powerlessness and pathos, of black students utterly vanquished by all-powerful, hostile, white opponents. They were imploring, almost begging, the three white and one black administrator to rescue them. At the same time, they were voicing no hope that rescue was forthcoming.

Anyone with eyes and ears would agree that these students are in pain. The question becomes, are they correct in their assessment of what caused their pain, and in prescribing identity-politics, liberal solutions? Conservative authors offer different, conservative, diagnoses and prescriptions.

In his book, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, Shelby Steele describes a small moment that changed his life. He was a young, angry black man who had grown up under Jim Crow. He was leading just one of the 1960s protests that transformed America. He entered the office of Dr. McCabe, college president. Steele was smoking a cigarette. He couldn’t find an ashtray. His ashes fell to the president’s plush carpet. McCabe rose from his chair, as if to reprimand Steele. But Steele saw awareness, like a sunrise, cross McCabe’s face. If McCabe reprimanded Steele, McCabe would risk being called a racist. And he, McCabe, would lose status. So he did not reprimand Steele. Steele realized – from now on, white liberals will hold blacks to a lesser standard, not for the good of blacks, but for the good of white liberals. Dr. McCabe was in CYA mode. He would lower himself before Steele, but only temporarily. And his performance of self-abnegation was merely a facade to retain his hold on power. Perversely and counter-intuitively, white liberal guilt was just another way to maintain white power.

McCabe could have said to Steele what he would have said to any white student who behaved in an inappropriate manner in his office. “Don’t drop your ashes on my expensive carpet.” That would be a good message to hear. Dropping ashes on other people’s carpeting is not a good thing to do if you want to get ahead in life.

William Paterson administrators could have spoken as frankly to black students as they would have to white ones. “You are in pain and we care. You have made serious allegations. We will investigate.

“But let’s get real. You claim we can only oppress you. Within three hours of the video receiving any attention, we condemned it. We did not focus on the white student suffering demonization, or on why free speech is a value on university campuses, or on the merit of the question posed. We focused on you. That’s why we called this unprecedented meeting. You are not powerless. You are powerful. Acknowledge our commitment and don’t shut us out. Doing so denies reality and insults us.”

“I am the embodiment of white privilege” may be the right thing to say when one is in CYA mode, but powerful people assuming CYA mode does not help black students. What does? The same thing that helps white students. Fulfilling the teacher’s promise – “I will train you in the skills and disciplines you will use to conquer your roadblocks.” That message requires one to believe in oneself as a leader, regardless of one’s skin color, and to believe in standards as having universal value, regardless of the skin color of the student. That message requires the speaker to be willing to be disliked, even hated. A real teacher sometimes asks a student to confront truths from which the student would prefer to hide. That message requires an institution to have standards to judge a teacher. Is the teacher a prima donna, a bully, an aloof snob? A wind-vane who will contort to conform to popular trends and to receive positive student evaluations and uninterrupted paychecks? Or a true educator whose student will remember, ten years down the road, as some morsel of life is rendered easier, “I learned this skill from my professor”? When a university, inspired by leftist ideology, including identity politics, abandons standards, it abandons any hope of identifying real teachers or real student progress.  

Students insisted that only black hires meet the needs of black students, yet they were contemptuous of the one black administrator there, suggesting that she was an Uncle Tom. Students should beware of unintended consequences. The mirror image of their position is that only white hires can meet white students’ needs. Heroes gave their lives to defeat racial separatism, manifest in Jim Crow and plummeting to diabolical depths in Nazism. We sacrifice too much to return to the premise that there are essential differences between us, and that only our own “volk” can meet our needs.

Manhattan Institute Fellow and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason L. Riley points up another weakness in the argument that only black faces in positions of power can alter the experience of black students. In his 2017 book, False Black Power, Riley takes on “ethnic identity politics and” the prioritization of “the integration of political institutions.” Appointing more black elites won’t solve root issues, Riley argues. Instead, African Americans would be better served through a push for cultural change. “The key to black economic advancement today is overcoming cultural handicaps, not attaining more political power.” “Political power can’t compensate for what is missing culturally.”

Riley quotes average people he interviewed in Harlem the day after Trump won the presidency. Most, Riley said, agreed that the skin color of the president wouldn’t change a thing. “A woman getting her hair done in a beauty salon” said to Riley, “‘I don’t think Trump is really thinking about black people’s problems … Even if he was, he can’t solve them. Obama couldn’t solve them even though he really wanted to, so Trump certainly can’t.’” In another encounter, “A minister sitting in front of his storefront church weighed in on the prevalence of inner-city street violence but concluded that ‘we know the president can’t do much about crime. It has to start at home with the families, the parents, the fathers.’” This is what Riley means by cultural rather than political change. The answer to the black students’ pain can’t be found through exclusive focus on the skin color of this or that power-holder; rather, they would be better served through focus on what’s happening around the dinner table. Obama’s presidency, Riley wrote, proved that “political power can’t compensate for what is missing culturally.”

Some will insist that African Americans can’t achieve because of what Riley calls a “white villainy” that disempowers blacks. Thus, an eleven-second video of a white girl asking about use of the n-word prompted two hours of black students talking about feeling afraid. Riley answers such protests with a slew of statistics. Riley writes about the astounding advance African Americans made in post-Civil-War America. He argues that this advance was superior to that of European peasants freed from serfdom under the czars in 1861, that is, close in time to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. “The very people who lived” under Jim Crow “would be baffled at the consensus among their descendants that whites’ biases rend us powerless to shape our destinies for the better.” Riley argues that the idea that blacks are paralyzed by white racism and that blacks require white liberals to rescue them from that racism is proven wrong by black accomplishments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Riley quotes Thomas Sowell, who argues that blacks rose faster before the Civil Rights Movement and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs than they did afterwards. “Despite a widespread tendency to see the rise of blacks out of poverty as due to the civil rights movement and government social programs of the 1960s, in reality the rise of blacks out of poverty was greater in the two decades preceding 1960 than the decades that followed.” This history of achievement, Riley argues, is suppressed. “Black people hear plenty about what they can’t achieve due to racism and very little about what they have achieved in the past notwithstanding brutal and sometimes lethal bigotry.” In other words, blacks have proven that they don’t require white liberals to rescue them. Blacks can rescue themselves. The history of black achievement before the onset of big-government, white-liberal rescue programs, Riley suggests, is suppressed because that history of black achievement lowers the heroic profile of the white liberal rescuer. Sowell suggests another reason why this history of pre-1960s black achievement is obscured. Sowell writes that white liberals’ lowering of standards for blacks, their “euphoria of liberal non-judgmental notions,” and their “toxic message of victimhood” demonstrably hurt, not helped, black people. After the onset of mass government rescue programs under LBJ, murder rates went up and marriage rates went down.

The students are on a campus where all students are required to take courses in Diversity and Justice and Global Awareness. Most professors are liberal. The faculty, administration, and staff are diverse. The question is not whether or not these students are in pain; clearly they are. The question is whether white supremacy is the cause of their pain, and whether or not powerful campus officials telling them that they feel sorry or guilty or privileged will alleviate student pain.

Is it not possible that underperforming high schools’ failure adequately to prepare these young people for college-level academics and for future success is one source of pain? And is the solution not public mea culpas, but rather for the university to redouble its efforts to do what universities were invented to do: rigorously to train and educate all students in objective and universally applicable canons of knowledge, values, and disciplines? Classical rhetoric offers values and practices necessary for universities to do the work they were created to do: free speech, dialogue, even with those whose ideas one assesses as abhorrent, and open debate of controversial matters. Ideas are not boogeymen that must be shoved under the mattress in order for bedtime to feel cozy. Wouldn’t the university better serve its students by inviting debate on the question posed in the eleven-second social media post? The ability to defeat, with knowledge and skilled rhetoric, what one reviles, if imparted to the sobbing students, would empower them for the rest of their lives. The university, at its best, would not demand of poor and minority students that they achieve their ends by displaying their wounds and reducing college presidents to tears. It would not rewrite the narrative synopsized by Riley and Sowell, a dynamic in which beneficent white liberals lower standards in order to “rescue” pathetic blacks. The university, at its best, would not demand that students be victims. The university, at its best, would arm students to be victors.

But, some will protest. You propose a model of the university that ignores students’ tears. No, I do not. Rather, it is other approaches that respond unhelpfully to students’ pain. The “Freaky Friday” video, the students’ complaints and demands, and white liberalism all practice the same essentialism. In all these products, blacks are essentially different. “Freaky Friday” features cool-pose blacks. Whites can be cool only after turning black. In the students’ demands, black students can never be served by white teachers. In essentialist pedagogy, black students are such tragic creatures that they can’t be expected to master the same subject matter as white and Asian students. All these essentialisms lie, cripple, and imprison.  

As I listened to the students’ tales of woe, I recollected parallel stories. I thought of a professor who had been stalked by a threatening student. That professor’s boss was unmoved and unhelpful. I thought of a haughty professor who mocked a student in class because she is a Christian. She complained; nothing was done; she dropped the class and sacrificed her tuition dollars. I thought of a young man who hated the university because it forced him to take a course that denigrated his manhood, suggesting that all men are potential rapists. He told me that all he learned at school was how to fake it while seething in silent resentment. I thought of harried, overworked advisors who failed to tell students which classes they needed to take. These students found out after they thought they had graduated that they would receive no degree. I thought of one of my former students, tall, handsome, gifted, who died of a heroin overdose. I thought of an adjunct professor who was told by her boss, “Your evaluations are fantastic and I’d like to hire you full time but I can’t because my dean wants someone who is not of your ethnicity.” 

I thought of those suicides for whom I pray: two of my mentors, one of whom worked at William Paterson, and several of my fellow adjunct professors, one of whom committed suicide just days before, on Tuesday, April 24, in Barbour’s Pond in West Paterson, NJ, hours before I arrived to hike around it.

Every parallel story I mention above features no black characters. White cops sometimes bully white students. White professors sometimes belittle white students. White counselors sometimes betray white students. The Ivory Tower sometimes destroys those with ivory skin. It would help, not hurt, the students at this gathering to realize that not all bad things that happen happen because of white supremacy. Universities are the factories where truth is manufactured. That manufacture is a blood sport. Competitions are ferocious, no less so because they are twisted and hidden. No skin color provides a Vibranium shield. Color provides no map to predator and prey, friend or foe. A student may not realize till decades later that that dreamy-eyed professor who insisted she was a tragic ethnic poster child, a powerless victim of history whose only hope lay in some future people’s revolution, was her worst enemy. Similarly, she may only later realize that the old fuddy duddy who insisted that she pronounce a-s-k as “ask” not “aks,” who barked at her for making excuses after skipping class or handing in late work, was her best friend. Addressing these truths tips too many sacred cows. So much easier to tar and feather a twenty-year-old who asks a question that lays bare too much hypocrisy, too many students sacrificed to too much expedient cowardice.

The university can best respond to human pain through universal, not particular, values: decency, respect, reliability, professionalism, compassion. It takes courage for a professor – of any skin color – to point out to a student – of any skin color – that a habit that works at home – from daisy dukes to sagged pants – won’t benefit their professional futures. It takes courage to say, “I’m older than you, and I know more about the world, and it will benefit you to listen to me on this one.” Insisting that standards, academic and moral, are colorblind, doesn’t mean that racism doesn’t exist. As Jason L. Riley has documented, black people can not only survive, but thrive, in spite of racism. That’s because black people are not powerless, and they don’t need white liberals in CYA mode to rescue them. The university can equip students to confront racism just as it can equip any student to deal with any roadblock: through resilience, compartmentalizing, humility, flexibility, determination, strategizing, and carefully chosen allies. The people of Poland, though white, are no strangers to hostile environments. Poles say “trzymaj sie.” Mavis Staples repeats those very words – “hold on” – fifty-one times in a Civil Rights song inspired by a Christian story about a Jewish man. Anyone, from any race, will benefit from remembering the song’s title: “Keep your eyes on the prize.”

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete and Bieganski, the Brute Polak Stereotype. Her book God through Binoculars will be out later this year.  

This piece first appeared at FrontPageMag here

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Why Some Lives Matter and Some Don't: Black Children, White Women, and Selective Outrage



Why Some Lives Matter and Some Don’t:
Black Children, White Women, and Selective Outrage

Our wintry spring has impinged on my work life. Hustling through one nor’easter after another, I’ve not attended to news as much as I usually do. In spite of my relative inattention, two news stories resonated. National Public Radio sounded a familiar drumbeat: “Police shoot unarmed black man, father of two, in his grandmother’s backyard.” I heard those words, all carefully selected, repeated several times throughout the day, with the shrill, persistent urgency of a tornado warning. Tornado warnings demand that you abandon what you are doing and move to a shelter. “Police kill unarmed black man” demands that you abandon your idea of your nation and yourself and move to a new cognitive dwelling, one your betters have constructed for you.

The other news story was not a drumbeat but rather the “ping” of an appliance alerting the user to some minor emergency. I heard this headline three times only. An SUV had plunged over a cliff in northern California. The van’s eight inhabitants were all presumed dead. It was a mystery. This report did not require me to readjust my relationship to the world. I could waltz right past it, and not be inconvenienced by so much as a flicker of sadness for any of the eight departed fellow humans.

I did not stop doing laundry or watching “bomb cyclone” weather reports to turn up the volume and focus my attention. Even though I was using only the cells in my brain devoted to background awareness, those cells determined the following: “The media is lying to me in order to comply with the dictates of Political Correctness. Understanding those dictates, I can fill in the blanks.” Propaganda is so pervasive that my brain, on autopilot, concludes such things. Realizing that gave me an Orwellian feeling.

Powerful people want me to believe that a black man was relaxing in the spring sun, playing on the swing set of that most sacred geography, grandma’s house, when a white policeman drove by, and, aroused to murderous frenzy by his victim’s skin color alone, shot the young father dead in front of his sons. NPR was obsessively repeating the skin color of the dead man: black. NPR did not mention the skin color of the police officer. I concluded that the accused officer was black as well. Had he been white, NPR would have repeated the words “white police officer” as obsessively as it was repeating “black victim.” I also decided that the black man in question was not shot in the daylight, but probably at night, and that he was located in his grandmother’s backyard not as part of a social call, but somehow in relation to an alleged crime.

The fallen death van, at first, seemed unconnected to the shooting headline. I realized, the very first time I heard this headline, that there was nothing mysterious about the death van. Someone had driven that van over the cliff on purpose. What would cause police officers to be so cagey in accounts that they provided to the media, or the media’s handling of such accounts? The person who drove the van, and his or her relationship to the deceased, was protected by political correctness. I wondered if we’d ever learn the truth about that one.

The death van story is probably easier to tell. Jennifer and Sarah Hart were a white, lesbian, married couple who owned a home in Woodland, Washington, close to Portland. In photos, Jennifer and Sarah appear young and attractive, with long hair and high-wattage smiles. One can see them with their six black and brown adopted children, holding signs saying “Free Hugs,” “Embrace the Revolution,” “Love is Always Beautiful,” and wearing eight, matching, Bernie Sanders t-shirts at a Sanders rally. The Associated Press described them as “the Hart Tribe, a free-spirited family of two women and their six adopted children who raised their own food, took spontaneous road trips and traveled to festivals and other events, offering free hugs and promoting unity.” Friends described them “as loving, inspiring parents who promoted social justice and exposed their ‘remarkable children’ to art, music and nature.” Another friend said “They are beautiful examples of opening arms to strangers, helping youth, supporting racial equality … They brought so much joy to the world. They represented a legacy of love." Investigators of their van’s deadly plunge at first said that there was “no evidence and no reason to believe that this was an intentional act.”

News sources now acknowledge that the Harts abused and starved their adopted children. CNN provides a timeline including numerous complaints going back ten years. On March 23, 2018, officials visited the Hart home. The van was discovered on March 26. The Harts responded to notification of this new investigation, evidently, through murder-suicide. Three of the adoptees were found dead in the van; three of the children have still not been found. Devonte Hart is among the missing. Devonte gained international attention when he was photographed at a 2014 Black Lives Matter rally hugging a while police officer. Given what we know now, it is hard to look at this photo and not guess that Devonte might have wished that this white police officer would take him home and rescue him from his abusive parents.

The murder of six black and brown children by white adoptive parents: no one sees anything in this to protest. This may not keep you up at night, but it keeps me up at night. According to the National Children’s Alliance, in one recent year, “an estimated 1,750 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States … Nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S annually.” I wonder when abused kids lives’ will matter. I wonder when abused kids will get their march, their turn in the spotlight. I wonder if the blind eye we too often turn to abused children tells us something about Black Lives Matter. Sadness over the victim’s death, it appears, is not the spark for protests. Protesters take to the streets not because they love the victim so much, but because they hate the alleged victimizer.

No one wants to protest murderous hippie lesbians. Imagine a white, heterosexual, Evangelical Christian couple from Alabama. Imagine that that couple had adopted six black and brown children, dressed them in matching “Make America Great Again” t-shirts and drove them around the country to Trump rallies. Imagine that that couple escaped the consequences of accusations of child abuse for ten years, and then drove those children off a cliff to their deaths. Do you think NPR would cover that story? Do you think that protesters would hit the streets over that? We know the answer. The children’s abuse and death would suddenly matter, not because they were different children, but because they had different victimizers, victimizers protesters were more primed to hate. Some black lives matter more than others.

I cannot assess whether or not the police officers who shot Stephon Clark on March 18, 2018 made the right decision. If I could turn back time and control behavior, both Clark and the police would make different decisions, and Clark would still be alive. Rather, this essay protests the dishonesty in accounts of Clarks’ death, and the selective outrage that focuses on deaths caused by hated others – white police officers – and ignores deaths caused by protected perpetrators.

This paraphrased NPR headline, “Police shoot unarmed black father of two in his grandmother’s back yard,” is merely a truncated version of a much larger narrative, like a flashcard a college student might study before an exam. It triggers a lengthy narrative, one that has become scripture and cannot be questioned. The police have shot another black man. This shooting is merely part of a larger epidemic of white cops shooting black men. This proves that America is white supremacist, and has always been. This proves that American soldiers dying to end slavery, that the Civil Rights Movement, that the election, twice, of a black president, are all unworthy of note. This proves that whites are racist and cannot resist the urge to destroy black lives. This proves that whites enjoy unearned privilege. This proves that blacks, no matter what they do, can never get ahead. That blacks who attempt self-advancement through working hard and playing by the rules are dupes, rubes, suckers. That their only sensible strategy is to wait for rich, white liberals to rescue them through generous social programs. That society must be overturned, root and branch. That any white person feeling any personal pride or patriotism must abandon such inappropriate emotions and hang his head in shame and newly commit to reparations, wealth redistribution, affirmative action, and perpetual white guilt. That police must exercise restraint in majority-minority neighborhoods. That anyone witnessing what they think is a crime committed by a black person must jettison that thought. This shooting proves all that.

One can see something like the above narrative in the April 1 New York Times Rhythms of Tragedy” column by Charles M. Blow. “The system … is operating as designed” when cops shoot innocent black men. Blacks are “abused and betrayed in a country that sees them as expendable.” It’s a “true American tragedy.” America is guilty of “racially skewed cruelty and brutality.” Clark is “a casualty of American moral paucity, race-hostile policies and corrosive jurisprudence. The sound of his body falling to the ground became just another beat in America’s rhythm of state-sanctioned tragedy.” The Times chooses reader comments to highlight. Highlighted reader comments included, “society says it's ok that a police officer can shoot me in the back because of my black skin” and “gentle, responsible brown-skinned men are cannon fodder in police wars.”

I cannot argue, in this essay, using statistics, that the white-cops-shooting-black-men-epidemic narrative is false. I don’t have to. Scholars like Harvard’s Roland G. Fryer and the Manhattan Institute’s Heather MacDonald have already established this point, using statistics. These scholars argue, convincingly, that there is no epidemic of white cops disproportionally shooting black men.

NPR and other media outlets enshrine the above-summarized narrative, not through reference to statistics, but through selective outrage. A Google search turns up two NPR stories that mention alleged child abusers and murderers Jennifer and Sarah Hart in the past month. A similar search turns up more stories about Stephon Clark than I can easily count. The murder of six black and brown children stirs far less outrage at NPR than the police killing of Stephon Clark.

Selective mourning is not the only manipulative strategy at work. NPR and other outlets jigger when they mention identities. I could not find any NPR stories that refer to Nasim Aghdam, the YouTube shooter, as “The Iranian-American shooter” or as “The Bahai shooter.” Stephon Clark’s blackness has been mentioned in every NPR account of that shooting that I have heard. The black skin of one of the police officers who shot Clark has not been mentioned in any NPR broadcast I have heard.

Identity continues to trump objective truth as American Muslims, including Linda Sarsour, claim Stephon Clark as one of their own. In one twitter video, entitled “getting turnt,” meaning “getting drunk,” Clark and his girlfriend dance, party, and drink alcohol, a libation forbidden to Muslims. No matter. Clark is Muslim, activists like Linda Sarsour insist, so the cops killed him because of his Muslim identity. “If he wasn’t Muslim you wouldn’t care, huh?” asked one suspicious twitter user of Muslims claiming Clark, and outrage over Clark’s death, as belonging to them.

Sarsour sniffles melodramatically in a Facebook video exploiting the Clark shooting to undermine America. The title of her Facebook video is “Punish a Muslim Day.” Apparently the police, equipped with Muslim-detection-gear, were able to sniff out a Muslim and shoot him for no other reason than because he is a Muslim. British Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan of The Intercept also rushed, like a blowfly to carrion, to the Clark story. Hasan interviewed the woman Clark called his “baby momma.” Hasan translated “baby momma” to “fiancĂ©e.” Hasan skillfully guided Salena Manni, in her grief, to support his, Hasan’s agenda, namely, “To change the legal systems. To change all the laws that they have within the police department, sheriff’s department. We just need change, you know?” We need change because, as Mehdi puts it, “Black Lives Still Don’t Matter.” Mehdi anathematizes any facts, and dismisses any corpses, that don’t advance his agenda. “You always hear this nonsense about black-on-black killings, which is a completely made-up concept … there’s no such thing as a black-on-black killing.” Statistics do not support Mehdi’s dismissal of black lives that do not matter to him, because those black lives were lost at the hands of black killers of blacks.

That Clark referred to the single mother of his children as a “baby momma” is not important to us as any assessment of the dead man. That he was, apparently, a dead-beat dad is not our business, and this information can’t be used to assess whether the shooting was justified or not. It is true that black journalist Larry Elder, and former president of the NAACP, Kweisi Mfume, have both stated that the absence of black fathers is a greater threat to African Americans than white racism. But what matters here is this: liberal media is lying to us. One fact after another is exiled from news accounts, or manipulated. Rarely mentioned is the fact that the police were guided by helicopter images to their suspect, and that those images do not show race. That this all occurred at night, as part of a chase on foot. We are told that Clark loved his children, but not that he didn’t bother, apparently, to marry, live with, or support his children’s mother. Why would a journalist tell us that a dead man loved his children? What is the agenda here? Why are we not told that the officers involved loved their family members? Because the media is manipulating us, using something as sacred as parental love to lubricate a difficult-to-swallow formula: the death of Stephon Clark proves that America, is, root and branch, evil, and it must be replaced with whatever Linda Sarsour and Mehdi Hasan dictate replace it. Have either Mehdi Hasan or Linda Sarsour ever approached an obscure unknown like the mother of Stephon Clark’s children and said to that person, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” without following that nostrum up with, “But your loss just proves how corrupt America is, and how utterly America must change before it becomes acceptable”?

Some identities are clearly more equal than others at NPR. Heather MacDonald points out that white Americans who are shot to death are much more likely to have been shot to death by a police officer than black Americans who are shot to death. In other words, NPR has no reason to bang, over and over, on the “unarmed black man” drum. A Google search could not turn up any NPR discussions of Heather MacDonald’s work in relation to coverage of officer-involved shootings.

Black Lives Matter propaganda is not innocent. It claims victims as surely as bullets do. As Heather MacDonald points out, the demonization of police as racist murderers causes police to hesitate to do their jobs in the very neighborhoods that need police. Further, the insistence that no matter what they do, black people in America are doomed, paralyzes the blacks who believe it.

The L.A. Times reported that Stephon Clark, “had a criminal history, four cases in four years that included charges of robbery, pimping, and domestic abuse. Sacramento County court files show he pleaded no contest to reduced charges, spent time on a sheriff's work detail and was on probation for the 2014 robbery when he was killed.” A Facebook friend asked me, “What difference does it make?” Clark’s crimes made a big difference to those whom he pimped, robbed, and beat, all of whom were probably black. In Clark’s twitter feed, he acknowledged stealing. “I know for a fact y'all know a few people i robbed lol … I respect a nigga that will rob a nigga before they steal. Take it from a nigga in his face … You make a dollar off 100 packs and was stealing.... That's a broke Nigga.... Being greedy just makes you a broke nigga with cheese.” He joked about his treatment of women: “I'll be a horrible magician, cause I'll f--- a trick up.” Trick = woman. And he said he wanted nothing to do with black women. “I don’t want nothin black but a Xbox, dark bitches bring dark days.”

No one is arguing that Clark deserved to die. Rather, I am arguing that the media is lying when it announces “Unarmed black man, father of two, shot by cops in his grandmother’s back yard.” It’s the media’s job to report pertinent facts, and those facts include the following: the police had ample reason to conclude that they were protecting black citizens from an active home invader and thief – as helicopter images and phone calls to the police indicated. Those pertinent facts include that Clark had a history of breaking the law in a way that victimized his own black neighbors. No, Clark did not deserve to die. His twitter feed includes ugliness, like video of what looks like a black man beating a white man. But Clark’s twitter feed also includes beauty: “The look on my sons face when he seen me is so irreplaceable,” and “God was showing off his works when he created my son.” Clark was a young man whose love for his children and the woman he himself referred to as their “baby momma” might have turned him around. Watching videos of him getting high and repeating the n-word over and over, what one wishes most for Stephon Clark is parents, the kind of parents – a mother and a father – who know Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

The night Clark was shot, all agree, he was engaging in behavior – running through a series of backyards after possibly being seen breaking into cars and one home – that made it more likely that he would have a deadly encounter with police. That simple fact, if more widely reported, might actually help to protect young black men from making the choices Clark made, and dying the death Clark died.

That whirring sound you hear is a can opener lifting the top on a package of canned excuses. “You just want police to escape from the consequences of their choices.” No, I don’t. I welcome the inevitable inquiry into whether the police acted correctly here. If no inquiry were scheduled, I would demand one. “You just hate black people.” Facts are race neutral, and the truth helps, not hurts. I want to grab those pushing the murderous, racist cop narrative and shake them. I want to demand, “What will save more black men’s lives? Demonizing police or urging black men to be more circumspect in their behavior, to avoid drugs, breaking the law, and non-compliance with police if stopped? Look, I’ll let you keep your hatred for whitey, for America, for the police, if you’ll give me this. Let’s start talking to black men about behavior around police. That will save lives. Demonizing cops won’t.”

More canned excuses: “You don’t care about Clark because police don’t kill white women like you. If your skin color were the same as Clark’s, you’d be hating on cops and demanding revolution, too.” The facts refute every canned excuse.

YouTube personality Michelle, aka Honestly Speaking, was born to a drug-addicted prostitute. She has no idea who her father was. She became a drug dealer herself, and did prison time. She tells her story in this video. Michelle addresses what she calls “Black Lives Matter Bulls---” in this video. Michelle says,

“The media says ‘White cop shoots black person. White cop shoots black person. White cop shoots black person.’ I’m so sick of it. … I’d like to understand why it is always racism. … If your black ass is not breaking the law, you don’t have to worry about the cops. … We do all these protests for all these guys supposedly shot by racist cops. … I have not seen one march for a little girl who was murdered in her bedroom while she did her homework. Nine out of ten times she was murdered by a random black kid. Drive-by shooting. No march for her. Black America, why do you fight so hard for criminals, and don’t even fight for children? Why do you fight so hard for these assholes, who break the law, who kill each other, who might even kill you? Why do all of us always have to follow behind the worst? I hope you women stop degrading yourselves just to be down.

“When I first started on my journey from being an asshole, a thug, people told me you’re never going to get anywhere. The white man won’t let you get anywhere. You ain’t never gonna be nuthin but a nigger in the white man’s eyes. Black lives matter for thugs, but what about for kids? What about the kids that got shot this year by the thugs you want to protest for? You don’t protest for college students. You won’t protest for babies murdered in their homes by their mom’s boyfriends.

“Black people, wake the f--- up. Can’t nobody stop your life but you, and you’re doing a great job of it … When are you going to realize that the only life that the Black Lives Matter campaign cares about is not yours?”

Some African Americans did not beatify Stephon Clark because, as they put it, he and his girlfriend tweeted anti-black and misogynist material. That discussion is here. One woman was uncompromising in her refusal to join the bandwagon: “I’m a black woman and to me he got what he deserved! He put bigotry and hate into the world and that’s what he got back! He literally was the definition of division and hate and now we as black women are supposed to put ourselves in harms way for a black man that would have mocked our death! Not me, I’m tired of black men let Asian women protest I’m sitting this one out!”

To the canned comment that I’m saying what I’m saying here because I’m a white woman, and white women are not murdered by cops.

On July 15, 2017, Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old Australian-born veterinarian and meditation and yoga coach, phoned police to report a possible rape. After police arrived, Damond met them. She was unarmed and wearing pajamas. Officer Mohamed Noor, allegedly without provocation, shot Damond to death. There were no riots. Linda Sarsour did not cry on camera. Mehdi Hasan did not interview Damond’s surviving loved ones. NPR did not offer wall-to-wall coverage. No national figure implied that race or religion played a role in Noor’s shooting of Damond. There were no calls for major changes in policy.

In one of the few easily accessible records of the short life of Mary Hawkes, a one-minute, forty-second YouTube video, Hawkes recites a poem. The video is accompanied by a photo of an ethereally beautiful child snuggling with an obviously beloved dog. Hawkes may be telling us about her own life, and what she tells us is hard to hear. She wrote the poem in jail. She is, she says, “from a cave of darkness, where happiness is only a dream … where drugs are the only escape … the only light to guide me is at the tip of the joint.” She dreams that “someday” she might “find a place to belong.” Meanwhile, she is “poked by mom’s own needles … she doesn’t know when to stop hitting … I can’t hit back cause she’s my mom.”

Mary Hawkes was shot to death by a police officer on April 21, 2014. She was 19 years old. The shooting was questionable enough that the officer who shot her was fired and, in 2018, four years after this shooting of this white girl, her survivors received a five million settlement. There were no riots. There was no wall-to-wall coverage. Linda Sarsour did not cry on camera. Mehdi Hasan did not draw any historic lessons about fundamental changes necessary to make America an acceptable country. My search turned up only one NPR story covering her death, and only two New York Times news accounts. There were no tear-jerking, breast-beating editorials by Charles M. Blow or anyone else. Mary Hawkes was a white trash, abused girl. Her life did not matter.

The Albuquerque Journal, a local paper, covered the Hawkes shooting. A poster, a female, like Hawkes, white, like Hawkes, raked Hawkes over the coals, blamed her for her own death, and praised the police. This tough-as-nails post is the most “liked” comment on the girl’s death. Theresa Schmitz wrote, in part, “While I find it sad that a 19 year old should die so young, this article is crap. They want to make APD [The Albuquerque Police Department] look like they killed this great person because APD is so horrible. It's getting old already. Sadly, good people make stupid choices and every choice has a consequence. Unfortunately, she made that choice and was shot. This article is a nice attempt at sugar coating a troubled teen. It doesn't matter what your intentions are, if you don't follow rules, there are consequences … They want to paint this picture of APD killing an educated, puppy loving, little girl when the fact of the matter is she wad (sic) a troubled teen now adult at the age of 19 who made three bad decisions … Its all about accountability and that happens years before APD gets involved in a person's life. In fact, APD would never be around if parents did a better job at disciplining, courts did a better job at sentencing, mentors food a better job at mentoring ... APD is the last resort because the rest of that failed. See it for what it is.”

When white people live confused lives and end up dead, other white people often chastise them. This is a very different societal response than that of Black Lives Matter activists.

One thing is clear. Mary Hawkes and Justine Ruszczyk Damand, the Hart children and the black victims of gun violence in Chicago, like that prototypical black girl shot at home while doing her own homework invoked in Michelle’s YouTube video, are every bit as dead as Stephon Clark. Powerful people decided that one death mattered, and that the others didn't.

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete and Bieganski, the Brute Polak Stereotype. Her book God through Binoculars will be out later this year.


This piece first appeared at Front Page Magazine here.