Why Did Kajuan Raye Run If He Was Not Guilty?

CHICAGO SUN TIMES
Kajuan Raye

This is the question that white people love to ask. Because surely if Kajuan was innocent he would’ve just stood there, explained he did nothing wrong, the police would’ve realized he did nothing wrong, and then all parties would’ve gone peacefully on their merry ways. Unfortunately, this is not the way the system of policing works for many people of color.

When I was in high school, my bored friends and I would frequently do dumb things to pass the time. One of the dumbest things we enjoyed doing was running from the cops. We were fit 17 and 18-year-old kids full of boredom, white privilege, and a strong sense of invincibility.

A group of us went to a local park, called the police from a pay phone and told the dispatcher that there was a fight in the park. To ensure a sense of urgency during the phone call we would yell and smash glass bottles in the background. We would then wait the short amount of time that it would take to see a cop car pulling up before taking off running. We knew the area well and also believed we could not be caught and we never were.

Now is this the reason Kajuan Raye ran? Maybe, but it’s not likely

Having taught in Chicago Public Schools for ten years, I’ve heard many, many stories from my students about the police harassing them, far too often, for no reason. In my first year teaching, one of my students came to my 1st period class crying. This 15-year-old kid told me how the police came speeding up on him while he was walking to school. They urgently got out of their cars cursing with their guns drawn. They made him lay in the snow before eventually realizing he was not who they were looking for. He was simply walking to school.

So did Kajuan run out of fear of police harassment? Maybe.

Maybe he ran because he was aware that Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray died while in police custody. Maybe he ran because Chicago still operates Homan Square, a secret detention site used to torture our own citizens and he was in fear of being taken to a place like that.

Or maybe he ran because he was aware that in Chicago alone, Rekia Boyd was murdered by a cop for no reason other than being outside at night, Bettie Jones was murdered by a cop for no other reason than opening her door and Joshua Beal was murdered by a cop because he was blocking a fire lane.

Maybe these are the reasons he ran.

Regardless of why he ran, we know that the police were called because of reports of a battery that happened relatively close to where Kajuan Raye happened to be waiting for the bus. Kajuan ran. A cop said Kajuan pointed a gun at him, twice. The cop shot him in the back and killed him.

Yet no gun has been found.

So instead of asking why he ran, instead of digging through a teenager’s Facebook profile to imply that he deserved to die, maybe ask why did the police shoot a kid for running? Why did the officer lie about the gun? What is the name of the officer who did this?

These are the questions we should be asking.

But because Kajuan is Black and was killed by the police, we instead look for any and every possible way to justify his death.

Thankfully I’m not dead from running from the police when I was younger. Kajuan Raye who did less than I did, should not be dead either.

View this piece on the Huffington Post by clicking here.

What Mount Greenwood’s Reaction To Joshua Beal’s Death Says About White Chicago

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 Chicago Sun-Times
Joshua Beal who was in Chicago for a funeral, was killed Saturday by an off duty Chicago Police Officer. The reason an off duty police officer felt the need to start waving his gun around and pointing it at a lot of different people is baffling. To see the video click here.

I, however, don’t want to focus on the killing itself ― I want to focus on the reaction of white people. Specifically in Mount Greenwood where the incident occurred. Last night, hours after his death, while people gathered to support Josh’s family, some residents of Mount Greenwood came out of their homes with Blue Lives Matter flags to apparently show that Black people are not welcome in Mount Greenwood. Instead of letting people grieve the loss of a life, these white residents thought it appropriate to call them names and tell them to leave “their” neighborhood. To see this video click here.
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Photo courtesy of Black Lives Matter Chicago
It would be easy to write that group of flag waving people off as not representative of the Mount Greenwood neighborhood, but unfortunately that neighborhood has a very long history of trying to stay white while keeping black people out.

It was a common saying for Black Chicagoans who lived in the Morgan Park, Beverly, and Roseland areas in the ‘90s to say, “Don’t go west of Western,” because you would be venturing into Mount Greenwood.

While White Chicago likes to try to cover up our racism, Mount Greenwood has historically been a neighborhood that flaunts racism more openly.

Are all White people in Mount Greenwood blatantly racist? Hopefully not, but because of its past, not being racist in Mount Greenwood is difficult. It is tough to not be racist as a white person in America, period, but some places like Mount Greenwood make it harder than others.

Here is a brief history of Mount Greenwood’s racist past:
In 1968, the Chicago Tribune published an article about how 11 Black elementary students wanted to attend an elementary school in Mount Greenwood. White parents protested the fact that Black students would be going to “their” school.

In 1992 the New York Times wrote an article about the feeling the White residents of Mount Greenwod had about Black people. One of the quotes among many that stuck out was, “’I don’t mind them, but I don’t want them living next to me,’ said Peggy O’Connor, a waitress and wife of a police officer. ‘I don’t want to be too close to them. I think they’ve been whining too long, and I’m sick of it.’”

Also in 1992 the Chicago Reader wrote about how the residents of Mount Greenwood did not want a new magnet high school built in their community. Some of the reasons that people cited of why they didn’t want students from other schools to come to this new school is because, “’You have felons in that school’ referring to the schools in other communities, and we don’t want, ‘more noisy, littering, grass-stomping students.’” The residents perpetuated stereotypes of Black people being lazy, criminal, loud and messy.

In 2008, seven of the Black students who had integrated that Mount Greenwood elementary school in 1968 returned for their 40th elementary reunion. They were greeted with a Swastika on the door of the school and people across the street telling them to “Go back to your old school”.

In 2010 on a community blog someone described a scene in which a group of white teenagers on a summer evening started chasing people and yelling, “all sp*cs and ni**ers out of the fu**ing park!”.

In 2014 at McNally’s, a bar in Mount Greenwood a Police offIcer could be heard saying, “There are too many Black people in here”.

Also in 2014 racist graffiti was found in 6 different locations in the area including the N-word being spray painted onto vehicles.

The reason for this history lesson is because as a white person I know that we love to try to pretend that racism does not exist or it is something that is over with. The tragic murder of another Black person by an off duty officer and the reactions of the community to the death, show us once again that racism is alive and well.

The options are simple as white people. We can work to change the system of policing by admitting there is a problem with it. Once we admit the system of policing has a problem we can then work to fix it. This option would benefit our whole society. People of color wouldn’t need to fear the police, the police would feel safer, and then white people wouldn’t have to hear as much about racism.

The other option is we can get defensive, chant “Blue Lives Matter,” wave the American flag when someone is killed, call Black people names, wear Confederate flag shirts, and just continue the systems that let policing and white supremacy operate unchecked in our city and country.

Clearly by these videos, video 1 and video 2, far too many people are choosing my second option…

To view this article on the Huffington Post please click here.

Why Should We Believe You? The Inner Workings of White America

I discussed the term emotional trigger with my students today before having a discussion on police brutality.  I shared with them that every autumn, especially when leaves are falling it triggers the day that my wife and I found out that we lost what would’ve been our second child.

I told them how every time I hear of someone getting killed by violence it makes me think of Trevell and Lawrence, two former students I taught, both lives cut short by violence.

I chose to discuss these very personal things with my students because news of, or actual experiences with police brutality combined with all the violence in our society is triggering emotions in my students that they might not even be aware of.

How can you feel safe in a society when you are afraid of the police?

How can you feel safe when white people criticize you for speaking up, protesting peacefully, and/or becoming upset?

It seems as if many white people only care when property is damaged, a knee is taken, a fist is raised or if someone happens to mention white privilege, but don’t give a damn if a Black person is killed.

We white people deflect accusations of police brutality with, “what about ‘black on black’ crime”?

We actually don’t care about “black on black crime”, it just sounds scary to us. No matter that white on white crime is a thing. No matter that every race due to governmental segregation policies lives primarily by people who look like them, so violence is almost always against people who like them.

We deflect accusations of police brutality with, “Colin Kaepernick’s actions are unAmerican and offensive.”

Even though protests are part of Democracy, we don’t care. Women vote because of protests, many people have a 40 hour work week because of protests, that doesn’t matter. Just don’t protest while Black.

We  deflect anything having to do with race with, “Martin Luther King wouldn’t support the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Our history classes sucked in high school in terms of teaching about Black and Brown people. We spent some time in February learning the mess out of the white washed de-radicalized version of King and we can quote “I Have a Dream” all day.

As a white person who is trying to be anti-racist I have a responsibility to speak up. I promised myself if someone responds to me on Facebook or Twitter I will respond to them no matter what.

It’s hard.

It’s tiring.

I don’t know if it’s worth it.

But,

Racism exists because me and every other white person allows it to.

And that pisses me off.

I refuse to raise my sons to be racist.

But it’s hard.

Racist ideology envelopes us.

It’s constant.

This country was founded on racist ideology. It has passed from generation to generation because white people are so fragile we can’t handle mentioning racism. When racism is mentioned, we immediately get so uncomfortable that we get tired of hearing about it and then try to silence the people talking about it because speaking about racism seems so divisive to us: just let things be, everything is good, we are white.

We don’t worry about the police, they won’t kill our children, friends, relatives, neighbors or people who look like us out of fear. So why should we believe that they would do that to another race.

Don’t talk about whiteness.

Don’t talk about privilege.

Don’t talk about race.

Just be white.

Err, just be Italian (insert other European ancestry) American.

Even better, just be American.

Just be white but don’t refer to ourselves as white.

Just wave the flag, don’t question, be proud, be American.

View this piece on Huffington Post

 

Double Standards: Crime In White America

CITY-DATA.COM Chelsea, MI the town I grew up in.

When I was a senior in high school I was at a party and the police showed up to break it up. Instead of waiting around to get in trouble, a group of friends and I took off running. We heard the police yell, “Stop”, but there was no way that we were going to allow ourselves to get caught by the police. We ran and a few police officers chased us, but being athletic 17-18 year olds, we got away from the police after an extended foot chase. We were not caught and our identities were never found out.

Were my friends and I making poor choices at that party? Of course. Were we immature and full of cockiness? Most definitely.

But not for one second did we think that running from the cops would ever end in our physical harm, let alone our death, by the hands of the police.

Many white people who grew up in white America at some point in their lives have made similar poor judgments.

In another instance of extremely poor choices when I was a teenager, a group of friends and I decided that it would be a good idea to go into a building that we knew had alcohol stored in it and take it. We broke in, took what we wanted, and proceeded to have a great night. We all woke up the next morning to the terrible realization of what we had done. We made a pact to not say anything to anyone about what had happened, hoping that we would not get caught.

The police quickly figured out what had happened, the party we had been at was near to where the burglary took place. The police then started talking to every person at the party.

When the police called my house to say they were coming to talk to me, I told my parents about the police being on their way and that I had nothing to do with the break-in the officer was talking about on the phone. When the cop arrived and started asking me questions, I looked at that cop straight in the eye and lied. I told him I knew nothing and had no idea what burglary he was talking about. The officer did know that I was there since someone had already told him the actual story. The cop said to me calmly, “Tell me the truth of what happened because if you tell me another lie again, I am taking you to the police station.” So I told him what had happened.

My parents cried because of what I had done and that I had lied to them. The gossip train got rolling pretty quickly and the news of what we had done was somewhat of a big deal, for the town of about 10,000 people that I grew up in. We were high school athletes and many of us had parents who were respected in the community.

But you know what sentences we received for theft and breaking and entering? Nothing. No charges were pressed. No criminal records ever got attached to our names. We were able to apologize to the owners of the building that we had robbed. The owners agreed to not press charges in exchange that we serve community service to them for a set period of time. Our high school suspended us from athletic competition for 1 month.

We were not arrested, we never feared for our lives.

We were white in white America.

We made poor choices.

I am fortunate enough based on my various privileges that my life has not been significantly more difficult.

People who are not white do not get the privileges that I received.

People who are not white would’ve been killed for running from the police and then many in the general public would’ve tried to justify their death, saying things like, “well if they wouldn’t have run they would still be alive.”

That statement, besides being sick, is also not true since there arecountless examples of Black people just going about their day-to-day lives who were killed by the police.

But let’s imagine that my friends or I were killed for running from the police.

That’s the thing, you actually can’t imagine it, because it nearly never happens.

White people do not regularly get killed for doing stupid crimes or for just being, this is a privilege we have.

Dylann Roof murders 9 black people in a church and comes out unhurt, wearing a bullet proof vest, and is bought fast food all by thepolice. Dylann Roof is a famous example of how the police treat white people accused of crimes, but his treatment is not an anomaly. Here are ten other examples of police disarming and not killing violent white people. White privilege protects white people from the police, here are twenty examples of how it works.

Korryn Gaines is killed for an outstanding warrant for disorderly conduct, John Crawford for shopping at Walmart while talking on the phone, Tamir Rice for playing, Rekia Boyd for standing in a group,Betty Jones for being in her house, Alton Sterling and Eric Garner for selling things, Philando CastileSandra Bland, and Corey Jones for driving. I selected just a few of the names of black people who have been killed recently by the police. The list grows. Meanwhile, unarmed Black men are seven times as likely as unarmed white men to die from police gunfire.

Imagine if my friends and I had been black when we broke in and stole that alcohol. We would now all have criminal records, which would’ve made every aspect of our lives immensely more difficult if not nearly impossible. Instead of having a criminal record, I went to college, found apartments to live in, became a teacher, got married, got my Masters degree, have good credit, can financially support my children, and am working to become a National Board certified teacher.

All of these things would not have happened if charges were pressed against my friends and I.

I was young, arrogant, bored, and stupid. The vast majority of the teenagers I teach or have taught are smarter than I was at their age. Yet, if they ever make a much simpler mistake than I made, they pay for their mistakes with their actual lives and people try to justify their death. Or they become so caught up in the criminal justice system that no matter the offense, their life trajectory is now nowhere near where it was before their mistake.

If you are a parent you can look at my poor choices and say to yourself, “my kid will never make any mistakes like you made”. I hope you are right, but I also know in white America kids do stupid stuff all the time. The difference is when white kids do it people say, “its just kids being kids” or “they will learn from their mistakes”.

But when kids of color make those same poor teenage filled choices they are labeled as thugs and are given harsh penalties (i.e. jail) to “alter” their lifestyle.

The extremely lenient penalty that I received still scared the mess out of me and taught me a lesson that has forever altered my life. Leniency and educating kids on their mistakes will work with the vast majority of kids who make poor choices.

The only reason I was afforded those privileges is because I grew up white, in white America.

To view this piece on Huffington Post click here.

White Culture’s Attempt to De-Radicalize Martin Luther King

Since the Black Lives Matter Movement started it has been labeled as being too radical, using offensive language and being racist. Critics claim that the Civil Rights Movement, specifically Martin Luther King Jr., would not even support the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Has our white culture attempted to whiten MLK’s legacy so much that many no longer consider King controversial?

Lets be clear, if you are white and do not support the Black Lives Matter Movement today, then the overwhelming odds are that no matter if you would have lived in the North or South in the 50s and 60s you would not have supported the Civil Rights Movement then.

The same criticisms of Black Lives Matter today were issued about King and the countless others involved in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950’s and 1960’s. King was blamed for riots, for hatred between the races, and for being racist against white people.

Many of us know about the actions the Civil Rights Movement had in the South such as sit-ins, marches, boycotts, and Freedom Rides. These events only had limited support from white people and even worse is that the majority of white Americans actually believed actions such as these were hurting the chances of racial integration.

In 1966 King came to Chicago to try to end poverty and “…to help eradicate a viscous system which seeks to further colonize thousands of negroes within a slum environment.” After spending time in Chicago and leading actions around the city King said, “I’ve been in many demonstrations all across the south, but I can say that I have never seen – even in Mississippi and Alabama – mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I’ve seen here in Chicago.”

Based on King’s own observations, white people in the North were just as racist as white people in the South during this time period. Except, because the majority of the movement happened in the South the north was able to hide it’s racism.

Not only was King criticized by regular white Americans he was also criticized by white religious leaders for his actions being “unwise and untimely”. As a reverend this criticism lead him to write his eloquent response, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. In the letter he includes “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens’ Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice […] who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.’”

So to be clear, MLK said, it was not the KKK who was the greatest roadblock to freedom, it was the typical white American.

Even after King was murdered, just getting MLK Day to be a national holiday was a struggle for those involved. It took 9 years for DC politicians to approve it. Once it was approved it still took an additional 17 years to get all 50 states to celebrate the day.

Further proof of how radical King was emerged when his family took the U.S. Government to trial because of evidence they believed that they had obtained that showed that King was not killed by James Earl Ray, but instead he was killed by the U.S. Government.

During nearly the entire Civil Rights Movement the U.S. Government, specifically the FBI, monitored, harassed, murdered, and/or tried to stop the movement by any means necessary. The FBI went so far with King to stop the Movement specifically that they threatened they would make public his extra marital affairs and also sent him letters suggesting he commit suicide.

I get it, we white people do not want to be considered racist. But we have come to the point where we took a radical figure like King, ignored nearly every radical speech, action, and statement made by him and now just use him to try to quiet Black people anytime that they are upset. White people will post quotes from King on MLK day, but are only quoting the King that they want him to be not the radical King that he was. We ignore his quotes against the military, against moderate whites, and his promotion of black pride.

Black Lives Matter is inclusive like King, is pro-Black like King, and is controversial like King…

So before another person like the Atlanta Mayor says MLK would not have shut down a highway, which we know he did, or someone like Bill O’Reilly says that, “Dr. King would not participate in a Black Lives Matter protest”. King not only would have participated, but it is in part because of his leadership that Black Lives Matter operates.

So anytime anyone says King was not a radical or says King would not support Black Lives Matter ask for proof and then ask for which King they are talking about.

The real King or the lightened un-radicalized King that they can put up on their wall by their white Jesus.

 

View this piece on the Huffington Post by clicking here.

Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter. This statement should not be controversial or scary. It should just be truth. It should not require addendums and edits to make people feel more at ease. When one group of people has continually been and continues to be targeted/killed we should just accept this simple statement and actively work to make sure that Black life does matter, everyday, all the time.

Published in the Chicago Tribune on Monday July 18, 2006 to view it click here.

#BlackLivesMatter

If Only He/She Would’ve: A White Person’s Justification for Police Brutality

If only Alton Sterling would’ve done what the police asked then he would be alive. While this statement may seem logical in the experiences of many white people, this statement is a fallacy to nearly every other race of people as they interact with the police throughout history in our country.

I heard this same statement uttered when Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Eric Garner were murdered and after nearly every other Black person who was killed by the police.

I’m a white teacher that has taught in schools that are nearly all Black on the South Side of Chicago since 2007. During my 1st year of teaching, a 9th grade male student showed up late to my 1st period class crying. This was abnormal behavior for him, after a conversation with him I found out that two police officers had held him at gun point on his way to school, made him get on the ground, and called him names until they realized he wasn’t who they thought he was. If only he would’ve not been walking while Black…

This was the first story that made me think that the experiences that I had with the police, as a white person, were not the same experiences shared by my students.

Now entering my 10th year of teaching in Chicago I have learned that interacting with the police while being Black in America is vastly different than being white.

The law has always worked against Black people and for white people. A historical example that helped me come to this realization is the murder of Emmett Till. Emmett a 13 year old Black kid from Chicago was murdered by two white men in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Emmett’s actions were so “heinous” that he was beaten, mutilated, and then his dead body was thrown in a river. If only Emmett would’ve not whistled….

The two white men were found innocent. Emmett’s mother Ms. Mobley decided to have an open casket so the world could see what had been done to her son. The rest of the world saw what happened and Black people in America took action because of his murder.

But what did many white Americans do? Likely the same thing that most do today; react with shock, blame the victim, have sadness, and maybe have empathy for a little while then go about their life. These were not privileges that Black Americans had. They could not go back to their “normal” lives, because normal for them meant at all times they were in danger.

Unlike the 1950’s when anyone could kill a Black person and get away with it, today primarily the police are the only ones who can kill Black Americans and legally get away with it, time after time.

It’s far too easy as a white person to just say, “if only he/she would’ve” then they would be alive. Why is it that we white people look for any way possible to blame Black people for their own death?

There are countless examples throughout history to the present of the police killing Black people for no reason, planting guns on them, and disappearing them.

But we ignore all of this and instead continually blame the victim time after time.

The police are here to “serve and protect” whom they are trained to protect. They are trained to protect people of my complexion. They are trained to hunt everyone else.

It has been hard to grasp that while I am told that the police exist to protect me they harm so many others.

So many white people are deathly afraid of being labeled a racist but our collective white inaction continues to allow racism to exist and operate. Unless you are actively resisting racism as a white person you continue to allow it to happen.

As white people we must:

1) Educate ourselves on race. Since our country is so segregated by race your actual interactions with people of other races may be extremely limited. So education becomes key. Here are some ways how to begin the education.

2) Start having possibly uncomfortable conversations with our white family, friends, and coworkers. The idea that you shouldn’t talk religion and politics with family just allows racism to continue because white people won’t talk about it. Here’s some helpful tips on how to get the conversation going.

3) We must use social media to bring attention to these issues then take some form of direct action to help end the cycle. For ideas click here.

As a history teacher I know that my race has been and continues to be responsible for the vast majority of terrible things that have/continue to happen in the world.

I also believe that to end racism we white people must educate ourselves, other white people and not be afraid to speak up. We must do this to dismantle the privilege that allows us to view the police as  protectors while Black people have always and continue to view the police as threats to their very existence.

So next time you hear someone say, “If only he/she would’ve….”, challenge it.

View this piece on HuffingtonPost.com by clicking here.