Stephen Miller is Your Smug, Gaslighting Tinder Date

Stephen Miller’s exchange with Jim Acosta on Wednesday was horrific, yet familiar.

Women know Stephen Miller. Stephen Miller is that asshole you meet on Tinder, who wants to send you a message so he can let you know your pictures from the Women’s March are really sexist against men. The kind of guy who says, “WELL ACTUALLY,” or, “let me play devil’s advocate here,” before blatantly insulting you and your intelligence. The one who says your name in a way you can almost see the your name in italics (and maybe all caps) coming out of his mouth — over and over. He’s the guy who walks up to you at a bar, hits on you in the most obnoxious manner possible, asks you questions, and proceeds to spin your basic beliefs into a web of bullshit. He’s the smug jerk who pretends to not understand phrases that are commonly used in the vernacular. Instead, he takes every comment you say completely literally, and suggests you are the dumb one for speaking like a human and not a robot. He’s the kind of racist asshole that he makes you out to be a racist monster — and all you said was, “Hey, I think that black lives matter.”

“Well, actually, Manda, it’s pretty racist that you even see race. Manda, why do you have to bring race into it? And that just shows me, Manda, that you are being racist against everyone who isn’t black, and you’re racist against black people, Manda, because you’re acting like they can’t take care of themselves and need a slogan. And, Manda, just to play devil’s advocate, but maybe cops kill black people more because more of them are criminals.” [insert self satisfied smirk]

Clearly, I’ve been tricked into a first date with a Stephen Miller or two. You live, you learn, you more obsessively Google first dates, swipe left more, and life goes on.

Except we can’t just swipe left or abandon our seat at the bar to get rid of him — because insufferable Stephen Miller is a top White House advisor. And life can’t go on for everyone — Miller might have pretended to not understand that Acosta was using hyperbole when he asked if the English requirement meant the US would only admit people from the UK or Australia, but don’t be fooled: that is Stephen Miller’s wet dream.

It’s truly remarkable how many interviews and statements given by or about members of this administration sound frighteningly similar to things sexual harassers or abusers say to women.  If only we had had some kind of clue, indicating how horrible a Trump presidency would be….

 

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Hey, White Women – We DID Vote For Trump!

Like many others, this past weekend I went to the Women’s March on Washington. During the two months of Facebook discussion leading up to the march, I watched as white feminists were introduced to intersectional feminism for the first time. I wasn’t sure how white feminism and intersectionality were going to mesh, but I think that the now viral “White Women Voted for Trump” sign carried around by Angela Peoples was perfect.

In an interview with The Root, Peoples described the response to her sign: “Most [people] were saying ‘Not this white woman,’ or ‘No one I know!'” And it was at that point anger and frustration bubbled up inside me, to the point that I had to take a break from reading for a minute.

“Not this white woman” and “no one I know” are such bullshit things to say. People were bussed in from all over the country to come this event! I live in the blue af DC metro area, and I know dozens of white women that voted for Trump. If no one you know voted for Trump, either people are afraid to be honest with you, or you live in a ridiculously homogenous bubble.

There’s no one weird sect of my white friends that chose Trump; they range from people I went to a small private elementary school with to former University of Maryland classmates. Almost my entire fucking family voted for him! I’m also one of the most vocally pro-BLM white people that I personally know, and I have been flooding my newsfeed with “hands up, don’t shoot” since Ferguson’s unrest, and a countdown to Trump’s reign starting from “Mexicans are rapists.” I’ve written for Cop Block, I write for liberal immigration lawyers, I have ripped apart both criticism of Baltimore’s uprising and praise of O’Malley on local and national platforms. I have lost work contracts and friends over my militantly pro-black, pro-woman opinions. And even with all of this, people still casually tell me they voted for Trump. Not only would it never cross my mind to give a negative response to a sign someone on my side is holding, but come on. If people tell me they voted for Trump, then I know they told other people. “Yup we sure did, and I know a fuck ton of them that I’m trying to work on,” is the most truthful response.

After Freddie Gray died, I gave up a travel heavy contract I had to write a book about the social, racial, and economic history of Baltimore and how these things culminated in the death of Freddie Gray. Because here is the thing: plenty of people who look like me would rather listen to me tell the history of the black experience in Baltimore instead of listening to, you know, black people. I am a white woman, and consequently I still benefit from white privilege.

So white women! Don’t step on people’s toes or put words in their mouth or act like you understand another’s struggle as though you’ve lived, but DO acknowledge that we benefit from the color of our skin. Take time to learn, and then act as a facilitator to help bridge communication between your fellow white feminists and the vast array of other types of feminists that exist. Don’t get distracted or bitter about signs pointing out that white women don’t show up to protest when black women are shot by the police, or by signs that show the actual statistics of who vote for Trump. Those things are accurate, and you don’t get to be salty with someone for delivering an accurate message.

I am here to share facts and data to help people begin to grasp the challenges faced by those who are less privileged than they are. I am NOT here to defend my fellow whites to communities already marginalized by white people. So what if someone thinks I might be a Trump voter because I’m white? Boo. Hoo. Hey, I’m gonna guess it fucking sucks more to have cops think you’re an armed threat just because you’re black.

Let’s not make #NotAllWhiteWomen the new #NotAllMen. White women benefit from white supremacy, and we need to acknowledge that. Otherwise we are just like the guys who think that sexism and the patriarchy are real, but THEY aren’t sexist so they aren’t part of the problem.

Maryland Police Reform: More Than Prosecuting Freddie Gray’s Killers

In the aftermath of the April protests, the Maryland General Assembly created the Public Safety and Policing Workgroup. The work group has been meeting since June, and the theme seems to be disconnect between government and people — whether it’s cops and citizens or delegates and constituents.

The MGA’s take place in Annapolis, MD – over 30 miles from Sandtown-Winchester. It’s a 40 minute drive or 2-3 hours on the extremely limited public transit that connect the two regions. During the first meeting, I heard some lip service about having meetings in different regions of the state, but the published schedule has always shown the meetings will all be in Annapolis.

The General Assembly’s reform group is composed entirely of lawmakers — a decision that, in my opinion, severely limits their capability of understanding of what’s going on. Senator Catherine Pugh responded to criticism that the group is made up entirely of lawmakers by saying, “this is not a commission. This is legislators looking at potential legislation we can put in place.” If a commission is what it takes for more citizen involvement, then maybe that’s exactly what the group should have been. 

During the course of the MGA’s dog and pony show, I have attended town hall meetings in Baltimore — for the death of Tyrone West, for the investigation the DOJ is conducting in the city. The faces I see at these meetings are not the same faces I see at the General Assembly. Where are these lawmakers who have been tasked with police reform? For reasons that cannot be explained, Delegate Jill Carter was left off the roster — yet she is the most active on the topic of reform. Delegate Carter has spent weekends running meetings that introduce citizens to the DOJ members tasked with auditing Baltimore. She is respected and recognized among those that most need to get their stories heard…yet she was not offered a spot in the group. Without her presence, it is hard for me take the work group seriously. 

Maryland is home to one of the most extreme Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights; it has a lot of provisions that protect cops when perhaps they shouldn’t be protected. For instance, the hearing board that determines if action should be taken against an officer is composed of fellow officers. One police representative informed us that police work is highly specialized and cops are highly trained. Because of this, the LEOBOR provision that police should be the ones to judge other police is acceptable. “Who should judge us? Plumbers? Electricians?” I guess his highly specialized training didn’t cover what a jury is.

During another police Q&A session, police from all over the state explained their hiring practices and requirements. In all jurisdictions, using marijuana more than five times over the age of 21 permanently disqualifies someone for police service. One delegate asked a young representative from the Maryland State Police if this was practical; the police say they would prefer to have college graduates on the force, and marijuana has been decriminalized in Maryland. The officer replied that “these disqualifying factors are disqualifying factors for good reason….they need to understand their actions do have consequences.” There you have it – the mindset is so strong in the police force that the public electing to decriminalize an activity cannot make the cops change their minds.

I saw a lot of people express confusion about the protests that happened last week in front of the courthouse as we waited to see what if Judge Williams would dismiss the charges against the officers who killed Freddie Gray. “Aren’t they getting what they want?” people asked. Well, yes and no. We have a very long way to go before we’re getting what we want — this is bigger than one case. As we move toward Thursday, understand we are worried about more than a change of venue. We’re worried about the system that has been put in place to “fix” the problems.

I guess as long as the MD State Troopers are giving out recruitment brochures when you're pulled over, we have problems.
I guess as long as the MD State Troopers are giving out recruitment brochures when you’re pulled over, we have problems.

Take Flight

I know I’ve been quiet lately, but it’s only because there has been a ton of work to do. I’ve been going to committee meetings for police accountability in Annapolis, Baltimore, Fairfax County; I’ve been reading and researching and planning out what the next step is. One really awesome thing I’ve done during my writing absence was go with my friends to film their music video in Baltimore. My friend Cory has been protesting with me (and even came and stood by thecamera during my CNN interview to support me!), and he was inspired to create this video. My shirt is from Bmore Love, and all proceeds from their shirts go to Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore. Video by Dexter Jason Delfin Visuals.

Ferguson Police Department: Probably a Bunch of Awesome Guys

If you search “Ferguson” in Google news, you’ll see journalists taking back the negative things they said about the FPD, numerous comparisons of Ferguson to Benghazi, and now an officer who says the stress of Ferguson protests caused him to drive drunk. What you won’t see much of is discussion of the DOJ report on the Ferguson Police Department.  To be fair, I found that the CIA torture report was an easier to get through (though much longer) read. The 105 page PDF took me an unusually long time to get through, but now that I have read it…well, I wish I could say it was shocking. It’s definitely some fucked up shit.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 4.30.45 PM

The FPD created  an environment in which the sole purpose of the police force was to make money for the city. If that sounds reasonable to you, please recall the purpose of the police is to protect and serve the citizens, not to rob your of your rights via your wallet. How does a $571 fine for tall grass or a $302 fine for manner of walking sound? To me, it sounds fucking absurd. To the FPD? Reasonable! Of course, I guess absurd crimes deserve absurd fines — after all, what is manner of walking? Since 95% of the people arrested for it were black, one can assume it’s for being black while walking.

In a city with a per capita income of $21,000, it doesn’t take a Mensa scholar to realize that forcing citizens to pay $571 for having weeds in the yard might be an impossible task. Fortunately, the city found a way to fix that: you can be arrested for not paying your fine in full and on time — many times people are given court dates within a week, so hopefully everyone in Ferguson just stockpiles all their extra pennies in case the police decide to fuck with them. Of course, police often incorrectly write the court dates or times on the citations, so even if you do have the money to pay…you might still get a warrant! Pretty messed up, huh?

But wait! There’s more! Let’s imagine you’ve been given a ridiculously high fine and you want to pay it, but you can’t afford to pay it all at once. So you send the court $20 or $50, with a letter explaining why.  Joke’s on you! Ferguson wants its money, and it wants its money NOW! The court has repeatedly rejected partial payments from citizens, claiming it can’t process them. Nothing says “we care about protecting the people we serve” like locking away old ladies for not mowing their lawns!

Oh, hold on! I’m wrong. I know what makes it clear you care about the citizens you serve: fuckin tasing them for no reason!

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 6.05.44 PMThe report repeatedly drives home the fact that the FPD uses their ECWs (Electronic Control Weapons) as the only option. While other police are trained to diffuse situations, the FPD fires their ECWs first and worries about consequences later — oh, wait. Just kidding. They don’t worry about the consequences, because there is no accountability. Almost no one bothers to fill out the reports when an ECW is used, and if they do it’s so poorly done they might as well not. Keep in mind there’s an easy way to track whether or not you fired your ECW: you have to replace the cartridge.

But it’s okay. I’m sure if the DOJ investigated other police departments, they’d be golden. I’m sure this is a one off situation that isn’t deserving of national attention. Those crazy race and class baiters should be ashamed of themselves!

Ah, yes. Totally reasonable.

Last Words: I Can’t Breathe / Why Did You Shoot Me / It’s Not Real / Mom, I’m Going to College

For as long as I can remember, I’ve campaigned to end the war on drugs. It’s caused increased violence, a loss of rights, and increased addiction. I’ve kept up on the “isolated incidents” resulting in the death of people and/or their pets, of the ruined lives. But yesterday both my heart and my faith in the American justice system shattered. It isn’t often I feel completely helpless. I’m so sorry for the family of Eric Garner; for all the families of those who have been killed by police. It’s obviously sad when anyone has their life come to an end, but to be killed by those we have chosen to protect is a tragic betrayal. If we’re supposed to trust the police to not harm us, why isn’t there the same level of accountability for them as there is for us?

At this point, whether or not Michael Brown’s hands were up has become irrelevant. The death of Brown has sparked a movement that is larger than one single action. So many people who are content with the status quo of militarized police operations are quick to point out that he was a thug, a criminal — and strong armed robbery means you deserve to be killed. If you believe that, nothing I can say or do can change your mind. That is part of who you fundamentally are. What I can teach you is that the issue is much larger than one incident. It is an American problem, and given racial and social prejudices, it is a problem that manifests itself in the black community.

If you’re uncomfortable talking about how this is a race problem, let’s start by talking about how this is a militarized police problem. This is nothing new.  Michelle Alexander wrote in The New Jim Crow:

According to the Cato Institute, in 1997 alone, the Pentagon handed over more than 1.2 million pieces of military equipment to local police departments. Similarly, the National Journal reported that between January 1997 and October 1999, the agency handled 3.4 million orders of Pentagon equipment from over eleven thousand domestic police agencies in all fifty states. Included in the bounty were “253 aircraft (including six- and seven-passenger airplanes, UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-1 Huey helicopters, 7,856 M-16 rifles, 181 grenade launchers, 8,131 bulletproof helmets, and 1,161 pairs of night-vision goggles.” A retired police chief in New Haven, Connecticut, told the New York Times, “I was offered tanks, bazookas, anything I wanted.”

Now let’s pretend for a moment that every non-indicted officer that killed a black civilian actually was within his or her rights. If officers are using their discretion and aiming to injure whites when they are also within their right to shoot to kill, then they are doing something wrong.

On the right is Dan Bilzerian. On the left is NOT Mike Brown. But that picture was used to convince people Brown was a thug. Hmm...
On the left is Dan Bilzerian. On the right is NOT Mike Brown. But that picture was used to convince people Brown was a thug. Hmm…

Michael Brown was not shot over stealing cigarillos,and it’s misrepresentative to say that the robbery led to the shooting (and this includes people on my side, saying life is worth more than cigarillos). Depressingly, I’ve heard many people say that if you don’t engage in strong armed robbery (or whatever crime it is when speaking of other individuals), you won’t have anything to worry about. I’ve read countless tweets, comments, etc from people: “I don’t commit robbery, so I don’t care about this issue.“ These people are most definitely saying that if the people who commit these crimes end up being shot, then whatever. Everyone that posted that stupid picture of Joda Cain holding a glock, with money in his mouth and liquor to his side, saying it was Brown and that he wasn’t really innocent, is guilty of this. People act like prior criminal acts make it a-ok when someone is shot. Hell, I’ve got a nolle prossed assault charge that could easily be found if the cops gunned me down. But one assault charge does not mean I deserve to die. 

I have read every single page of the grand jury documents. I cycled on this: first I was fully on Brown’s side, as evidence came out I was middle of the road, then when the docs were released I thought I might end up on Wilson’s side. Nope. After it was all said and done, thousands of pages later, I have questions. Maybe it was self defense, maybe it wasn’t. We will never know, and that is the problem. Sure, murder is a legal term and cannot be correctly applied without a trial — but in the vernacular, we use the term more loosely than in the court room. And I’m not buying an “accident.” Not for Eric Garner, not for Aiyana Jones, not for Oscar Grant. Careless, reckless endangerment of human life is a better way to say it than accident. You know what is fucking bull shit? Look at Cory Maye, who was home during a no knock raid on the duplex next door to his. Trying to protect his 2 year old daughter, he killed one of the cops that intruded into his home without announcing himself. HE was convicted of murder and sentenced to death row until, years later, the media got ahold of his story and drew attention to it. If the legal standard for murder is shooting an unannounced intruder in your home, then I think we’re safe to apply it pretty liberally when someone is laying face down on the ground without a weapon and gets shot through the lungs (Grant).

Even if it’s just that accidents are happening, it’s important to hold the police to the same letter of the law that we hold civilians. What message does it send to the community when a cop gets 11 months for shooting someone he knows isn’t armed on the BART platform, but a father exercising his 2nd amendment right and protecting his home gets sent to death row? What message is sent when a cop, 6 seconds after announcing his arrival for a raid, fires his gun into the lower level of the duplex he’s supposed to be raiding, and one of his shots lands in a child’s brain — and he’s simply charged with a misdemeanor? When the fucking MAYOR of Berwyn Heights has his dogs shot in front of him during a botched drug raid, and the PG County PD official response is “We’ve apologized for the incident, but we will never apologize for taking drugs off our streets. Quite frankly, we’d do it again. Tonight.” What message does it send when a cop throws a flash grenade into a baby’s playpen and isn’t charged with anything, while the child is forever disfigured?

CheyeCalvo
Berwyn Heights mayor Cheye Calvo

At the end of the day, human life is precious. There are certainly instances where force is justified, where it’s necessary. But it’s alarming to me that so many people seem to be okay with the notion that fatally shooting a civilian isn’t a last resort. We work to demonize the dead: you are not defined by your rap sheet, or by the ounce of pot found in your house during a drug raid that results in your own death, or by a photo of you holding stacks of hundreds. Even if you were, cops don’t get to play judge, jury, and executioner.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Share your protest stories in the comments. Title inspired by this video. 

The Most Offensive Thing About the Term Redskins? Everyone Pretending to be Offended

Newsflash: No one actually gives a shit about racism against Native Americans. People are jumping on the anti-Redskins bandwagon and crying about how offensive the term is, and then ignoring all of the other incredibly offensive things Americans do to Native Americans. If you’re actually offended by the term, you need to demonstrate that by doing more than hating an already largely hated sports team. It’s easy to dislike a football franchise from another city, but it’s more difficult to actually want to change things you like or policies that are inherently racist.

Remember when Etsy decided to ban everything Redskins? From their blog:

You may have been following the struggle of one ethnic group that has made a lot of headlines lately: Native Americans and their fight against the Washington, D.C. professional football team name and mascot, which they have long considered offensive, disparaging, and racist….We understand that fans wish to support their favorite football team, and we do not believe that fans who are attached to the mascot have any racist feeling or intent. We also understand that some fans view the name and mascot as an homage to Native Americans, and we do not doubt their noble intent, but the fact remains that Native Americans themselves find the term unacceptable.

Okay, cool.  If Native Americans find it offensive then it is offensive and should be removed. So…why can you still buy elaborate handmade headdresses on Etsy? Didn’t we decide that headdresses are offensive over and over and over again?

I find it incredibly hypocritical that the same people crying over the Redskins take the time to celebrate Thanksgiving every year.  Do you know how you feel about going around the table and saying what you’re thankful for? That nice fuzzy feeling of tradition and happiness? That’s what all of those Redskins fans feel 16 days a year. Do you protest Columbus Day as an official holiday on the calendar? If not, get your shit together before you start protesting FedEx and every other brand affiliated with the Skins.

I guess I can go to Redskins games when I’m home in DC, and then assuage my white guilt by gambling at WinStar when I’m home in Dallas.

Totally not offensive
Totally not offensive
Not offensive
Moderately offensive
Mega fucking offensive
Mega fucking offensive