What Color Is Your Parachute: Part 2

The Equal Justice Initiative works to protect basic human rights, to challenge economic and racial injustice, and to end mass incarceration in the United States. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, it was founded in 1989 by public interest lawyer and bestselling author, Bryan Stevenson. It is a private, nonprofit organization that provides re-entry assistance to individuals who were previously incarcerated, challenges the death penalty, and provides legal representation to individuals who have been illegally convicted or unfairly sentenced in state jails and prisons.
When I was white, there were some very specific things I believed about myself and very specific things I believed about other people.
1. I believed that I was an individual and that my actions spoke for myself.
2. I believed that I succeeded or failed by own merit.
3. I believed that I was special and that I had something to significant to share.
4. I believed that I was important.
The specific things I believed about other people were extensions of the beliefs I had of myself. I believed that others succeeded or failed by their own merit, just like me. If you weren’t successful, it was because you didn’t want to be.
This afternoon I found one of EJI’s calendars which provides comprehensive information and facts about racial injustice and intolerance. Facts are provided on each day of every week of every month throughout the entire calendar. Here are a few gems:
 1830- The Indian Removal Act was signed by President Andrew Jackson. It required tribes to exchange land east of the Mississippi River for territory in the west. Those who resisted were forcibly removed.
1832– The General Assembly of Alabama enacted a law that criminalized the customs of Creek and Cherokee nations. It forbade tribal leaders from meeting together, and forbade Creeks and Cherokees from testifying against white Americans in court.
1834– The legislature of Alabama passed a law that, effectively, banned any free black person from living in the entire state of Alabama.
1847– Missouri banned free black people from immigrating to the entire state. It also outlawed black people from receiving an education.
1857– In Dred Scott vs. Sandford, the United States Supreme Court ruled that individuals of African descent could not be U.S. citizens, were not protected by the Constitution, and had no standing to sue in federal court.
1865– Kentucky refused to ratify the 13th Amendment, which abolishes slavery. Kentucky ratified this amendment in 1976, approximately 41 years ago.
1883– The United States refused to allow Congress to criminalize the acts of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist, terrorist group (U.S. vs. Harris).
1895– Nineteen Hopi leaders were imprisoned on Alcatraz Island. They allegedly opposed government assimilation efforts and were confined to specific areas for their farming. Hopi children were forced to enroll in boarding schools.
1942– More than 1,000 white Americans rioted outside of a public housing project in Detroit, Michigan to prevent African-American families from moving into the neighborhood.
1947– Bayard Rustin, civil rights activist, was arrested for sitting with a white man on a public bus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He spent 22 days on a prison chain gang for this offense.
1957– Members of the Ku Klux Klan forced an African-American resident of Montgomery, Alabama, Willie Edwards Jr., to jump to his death from a bridge over the Alabama River. None of the klan members faced prosecution for his murder.
1960– Governor Ernest Vandiver Jr. of Georgia threatened to withhold state funding from any public school that attempted to integrate (by allowing black and white students to attend the same school).
1995– The Mississippi legislature ratified the 13th Amendment, which abolishes slavery. They rejected this amendment in 1865.
1965– Viola Liuzzo was shot and killed after driving voting rights activists to Selma, Alabama from Detroit, Michigan.
1995– Alabama brought back chain gangs for state prisoners, which prompted other states to do the same.
1999– In New York City, NYPD officers shot and killed an unarmed African-American male, Amadou Diallo, 41 times.
2010– In Tucson, Arizona schools were barred from teaching Mexican American Studies when the governor banned all ethnic studies courses.
2012– In Sanford, Florida, a seventeen-year-old, African-American boy was shot and killed. Murderer George Zimmerman was arrested only after national outcry.
2013– An Alabama resident was sentenced to jail for consensual sex with his male partner.
What color is your parachute?

What Color Is Your Parachute?

I don’t actually like talking about race, and I don’t actually like thinking about it. If I sit too long in that space I find myself growing angry.
I’m not uncomfortable having the conversations—and unless you know me well you might not even perceive my anger—but when race is brought to my attention, or when I’m in a situation where I’m forced to consider it, I get angry.
Part of my anger stems from the lack of understanding, agreement, and acknowledgment of others’ experiences. Part of my anger stems from the nature of the conversations themselves: much of the dialogue we have about race is neither civil nor helpful. And if by some magical turn of events it IS both civil and helpful, very little is done afterwards in response.
I have an interest in talking about race and thinking about race, even though I don’t enjoy the conversation, because I think there are misconceptions, missed opportunities, and violence.
Today (because tomorrow this may change), I am naïve enough to believe that if more of us understood our own identity, we wouldn’t feel the need to attack the identity of others. We wouldn’t let our insecurities about who we are and who our ancestors were cause us to deny others’ humanity.
When I was young I was a white, evangelical Christian (more on that later). I was white longer than I was evangelical and longer than I was Christian, but at different points I’ve definitely been all three. I mean this in the least disrespectful way possible.
When I was white, there were some very specific things I believed about myself and very specific things I believed about other people.
1. I believed that I was an individual and that my actions spoke for myself.
2. I believed that I succeeded or failed by own merit.
3. I believed that I was special and that I had something to share that was significant.
4. I believed that I was important.
The specific things I believed about other people were extensions of the beliefs about myself.
I believed that others succeeded or failed by their own merit, just like my own. If you weren’t successful, it was because you didn’t want to be.
Because I believed I had something to share, I believed there was something people needed to learn from me.
When I was white, it didn’t occur to me that I was white. I didn’t know that my perspective came from a place of privilege. More than that, I didn’t believe that privilege existed.
And because I always had to work for everything that came to me, and because things were not easy, and because I felt like I was never given anything, I wasn’t willing to entertain a conversation about why some had more and others had very little.
Race is socially constructed, which means that it was made up. But now that it’s been created, I argue that it has become real.
Because I’ve been white in the way that others have been white (meaning: A. I didn’t know that I was white. B. Once I discovered that whiteness can be perceived as wrong, I was both defensive and instantly ashamed. Defensive, ashamed, and indignant: I hadn’t done anything. I hadn’t done anything wrong! I wasn’t racist. I didn’t understand why I would be blamed for actions of others who shared a superficial characteristic with me—a characteristic such as skin color.), I’m empathetic. Because I’ve been white in the way others have been white, I remain empathetic.
I wasn’t white because I idealized whiteness or because I hated myself (arguably). I woke up like this. I was white because it was in the Kool-Aid, and I drank it because I was thirsty.
I was white because my friends were, because my classmates were, because my teammates were, and because my friends in the neighborhood were. I was white because it was easier, and I’ve always been lazy.
Now that I’m older (although not necessarily because I am older), I feel like I was delivered from an unhealthy racial identity to what I consider a healthy one. One that gives me life and gives me meaning. A racial identity I recognize as equal to others—not better than or less than, but equal.
I’m naïve enough to believe that because I have been delivered, others can be too.
I don’t know if this is a paternalistic idea, but it is where I sit for now.
What color is your parachute? 

Texas Senate Bill 4: On Pride & Prejudice

SB4, Texas Senate Bill 4, passed on May 7, 2017 and will go into effect on September 1, 2017. Champions of SB4 claim that it will increase public safety by requiring the state to enforce laws already put in place by the federal government. Its opponents claim that it will create more racial profiling and more harm, not put citizens at ease.
In effect, SB4 bans the existence of “sanctuary cities,” those cities that provide support and protection for undocumented immigrants. Texas Senator Charles Perry who authored the bill claimed, “Banning sanctuary cities is about stopping officials who have sworn to enforce the law from helping people who commit terrible crimes evade immigration detainers. Senate Bill 4 protects all Texans through uniform application of the law without prejudice.”
Who:

  • Authored by Charles Perry, current Texas Senator. Perry is one of the 31 members of the Texas Senate, each representing a different district within the state. You can learn more about the Texas Senate here.
  • It affects law enforcement and state officials who are now charged with identifying undocumented immigrants (and who will face punitive consequences for failure to comply with the law).

What:

  • Under SB4 local and state law enforcement can now question the immigration status of its residents. To read the actual text of the law, visit here.
  • Considered a “show me your papers” law and a ban on sanctuary cities.
  • As an Immigration Enforcement Law it compels officers, while making an arrest, to detain anyone suspected of being undocumented.

When:

  • Passed on May 7, 2017. Effective September 1, 2017.

Where:

  • Texas, but similar to recent Arizona Policy Senate Bill 1070. Under Senate Bill 1070 police were forced to ask about the immigration status of those pulled over during routine traffic stops. The lawsuit against SB1070 reached the U.S. Supreme Court, but many of its components were upheld.

Why:

How:

  • Officials who fail to detain an individual who may be undocumented could face the following consequences: 1) charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year of jail time, b) a $4,000 fine (or both the charge & the fine), and c) a civil penalty of $25,500 per day and removal from his/her elected or appointed office.

Additional Notes
Opponents argue that it violates the 1st amendment, as now officials who’ve been outspoken in their support for immigrants could face criminal charges if they are PERCEIVED as failing to comply.
Others argue that it is an unfunded mandate, one that would improperly and irresponsibly divert critical resources that could be used to address MAJOR CRIMES such as murder and sexual assault.
Still others believe that it will heighten the sense of fear and distrust that many already feel towards the police due to recent, very public deaths of people of color.
Others fear that there will be a decrease in the number of reported crimes, but not in actual crimes committed.
There may be an increase of instances in which cities and counties sue the state due to overreach.