Separating families through border prisons or African drones — how US policies can make parts of the world unsafe for children

mexican immigrant detention trump

The 16-year old son of a suspected terrorist who made the US government’s assassination target list was killed by a US drone strike one evening — two weeks subsequent to an American missile tearing apart his father’s body.

The boy — up to the the point where he was enjoying a outdoor, roadside meal by an open fire seconds before his own assassination — wasn’t on any target kill list that we know of.

The boy never made a threat to America.

And the boy was not aware of his father’s recent death.

The US Press Secretary’s response to direct media inquiries about the assassination of a minor is heartless:

I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.

Mind you, the boy committed no crime.

Except, assuming you extend the Press Secretary’s logic, the young teen made a lousy choice in role models. Or the lousy role model chose the boy.

The assassination and government response occurred in 2012, during the President Barack Obama years. The Press Secretary was Robert Gibbs.

The dead boy was an American citizen named Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the son of Anwar al-Awlaki.

The younger al-Awlaki’s eight-year old sister, Nawar, was shot in the neck and killed in 2017 during a US Navy SEAL raid in Yemen.

I thought about this unnerving story after witnessing the justifiable outrage over The Trump Administration’s practice of separating migrant families at the southern US border — and then positioning this cruel policy as a bargaining lever to get funding for his border wall.

As much as I think Trump has neither the intellectual curiosity nor the emotional stability to serve as US President, I still won’t forget the selective outrage concerning the drone assassination of a boy.

I wish we all demonstrate consistent outrage towards dead children in US-led wars in the Middle East and Africa.

Depending on the report you read, at least 500,000 civilians have been killed in US wars since 2001, with many in that number representing children.

Wars that have been managed by Presidents Bush the Second (two times), Obama (ditto) and now Trump.

And let’s not forget how US warplanes created fertile ground for Libyan killing fields in 2011, helping to remove President Muammar Gaddafi from power and creating a state of bloody chaos that includes an ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign. Serving as the air force to insurgents aligned with jihadist organizations added even more kids to the global violent death toll and worsened the refugee crisis in Europe.

US missiles, refueling planes and intelligence gathering have collaborated to kill innocent children in Yemen and spark a deadly cholera outbreak.

If you ever want to read the disturbing details of these deaths, go to AirWars‘ site.

Based on the past 17 years of US-led warfare, we may see two more decades of brown and olive children killed in similar wars abroad.

So while you’re resisting this new level of low exhibited by Team Trump — and you should — don’t let the media take your attention away from children being killed by US policies of aggression elsewhere …

song currently stuck in my head: “a new day” – louie vega feat. caron wheeler

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Why a Trump-Kim Meeting Won’t Matter

Some of you act as if US President Donald Trump’s negotiations with North Korea President Kim Jong Un — in progress as I write — will matter.

It won’t.

And neither will a mythological new deal Trump wants to craft with Iran, nor the spectre of diplomatic brilliance commonly associated with the current nuclear arrangement that was forged by a previous presidential administration who played themselves.

I write in real time and just decided to cover Iran in a future piece, likely the next one or right after that. Soon, I’m sure.

So, I’ll come back to North Korea.

Have you ever considered that throwing down is what a not-so-trivial number of American leaders, regardless of political party affiliation, want all along?

This is why I’m not the least bit surprised there are some Democratic members of Congress who are shedding the anti-warhawk disguise to sound like hard-liner Republicans when discussing the upcoming talks.

Empires spend an equal amount of violent energy between overthrowing regimes they don’t like and supporting the ones they do.

It’s been that way for centuries.

The long-standing evidence of the US’s desire to mack North Korea is so scriptural that the only question left to be answered is either [1] does the US wish to fight concurrent wars with North Korea AND Iran; or [2] which war does the US want first.

Leave aside — for a moment — that no rational President looking to avoid the conversion of brown, olive and yellow nations into Pol-Pot workshops would ever put a Project for a New American Century alum and North Korea regime change advocate like John Bolton on their team. You can also check this mainstream media site for more info on PNAC’s influence in Washington.

You can still uncover America’s intent by digging into one source whose axiomatic waft has influenced the policy patterns of red, blue and purple White House administrations over the years: The Global Chessboard, written by late National Security Advisor and decades-long White House consigliere Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Written in 1996, The Global Chessboard reads like an American manifesto for pimping everything short of the universe.

I rapped about the book a few months ago, and left you with this Brzezinski quote that explains everything you need to know about America’s military presence on the Korean Peninsula:

… [T]he retention of the American presence in South Korea becomes especially important. Without it, it is difficult to envisage the American-Japanese defense arrangement continuing in its present form, for Japan would have to become militarily more self-sufficient. But any movement toward Korean reunification is likely to disturb the basis for the continued U.S. military presence in South Korea. A reunified Korea may choose not to perpetuate American military protection; that indeed, could be the price exacted by China for throwing its decisive weight behind the reunification of the peninsula.

Any close relationship between the two Koreas would immediately question the point of America’s presence in the region.

A conservative estimate of the number of US troops in Japan and South Korea would be 70,000.

Think about the defense contractor revenue associated with supporting those troops, including the procurement and maintenance of bases, weapons systems and other infrastructure.

What corporation, whose target market is the US Department of Defense, wants to see that kind of hit to their stock price?

So … it’s not all about North Korea.

Never was.

It’s more about the US maintaining its influence in Northeast Asia.

It’s also about the US maintaining a footprint in the developing regional economy called the New Silk Road. I wrote about that topic last September.

And if there’s any truth to the story that North Korea is sitting on the largest deposit of rare earths in the world, we may now know why Trump made a reference to North Korea’s prosperity.

So perhaps the Kim regime has a lifeline — assuming there’s a willingness on North Korea’s part to go further than denuclearization by providing unprecedented US access to a lopsided trade agreement.

I don’t believe North Korea, which really wants money more than anything else, is that dumb. Trump’s recent unilateral nullification of the Iran nuclear deal means Kim will want America to make extraordinary concessions to win his confidence.

Good luck to that hopeful convergence of plans, Trump and Kim …

song currently stuck in my head: “al ver sus campos” – ray barretto

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Unstable mixtures and missing chapters — Chekesia Clemons’ beef about plastic forks at Waffle House ends with being stripped and arrested by Alabama police

chekesia clemons alabama arrested mental unrest

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson’s arrests at the Philadelphia Starbucks and the story I just read about the Black woman who was choked, stripped and arrested by Alabama police officers — more on that in a moment — reminds me of a late-night encounter I saw in a downtown New York City diner from the sidewalk, where a Latino man stood in the middle of the dining room screaming his lungs out.

I’m talking about veins popping, eyes bulging, blood pressure likely tripling — the whole act. He never harmed anyone; just did a lot of random yelling.

The police never arrived because they were never called, even though the few people who witnessed the dude’s meltdown knew he needed some form of evaluation and help.

My takeaway is that no one called 911 because they didn’t want to see him killed.

And this is how many people view interactions between people of color and police officers. They always seem like reading books with missing chapters.

The stories either go from a routine beginning to a quick and outrageously deadly conclusion, or from an odd opener to a a fast and spectacularly sad epilogue.

And sometimes the stories have routine, odd and spectacular elements mixed together, but the takeaway is always one where the drama meter goes from 1 to 11 in almost no time at all.

How does a Black man, (allegedly) selling loose cigarettes, end up choked out by a cop and then dead?

How does a routine traffic stop turn into an argument about whether or not a driver or color can smoke in her car, and then transition to the scene where her cold, dead body hangs from a jail cell?

How does a Black man holding a BB gun in a place that sells BB guns end with the scene where he’s shot dead by police officers?

How does a street football game end with one of the Latino players killed?

How can a scene that features two Black men do what everyone in a Starbucks coffee shop does — sit down, socialize and probably not buy anything — get arrested in the next scene?

How does a “suspicious vehicle tip” involving an unarmed African-American driver and passengers end with the driver dead and the car catching nearly three dozen bullets?

How does a scene involving an erratic-driving, 86-year old Black man with dementia leap to the chapter where he’s tazed, causing him to hit his on the hard street? He’s now dead too.

Like Chekesia Clemons, the Black Alabamian woman who was just roughed up, strangled, stripped topless and then arrested by Saraland, Alabama police officers, I object to the idea of the Waffle House (c’mon, the Waffle House!) charging an extra fee for plastic utensils.

But how does that dispute lead to restaurant employees calling the police, who then roughs up, strangles, strips topless and then arrests Clemons?

You can watch the graphic video (with partial nudity) here — especially since Facebook keeps removing the content from their site.

The same energy cops spent wrestling Clemons to the floor could’ve been used to carry her out of the restaurant and to her car. She didn’t appear to be violent at all.

Or the cops, assuming they wanted to use common sense, could’ve dipped into their own pockets to pay Waffle House for the utensils — a move that would’ve underscored how dumb the Waffle House employees are.

There seems to be a toxicity risk when mixing people of color in the same space with police officers.

And then the pages turn too fast, leaving everyone too confused to comprehend what just happened …

song currently stuck in my head: “tonight at noon” – charles mingus

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Starbucks, racist Holly Hylton and magic training

holly hylton starbucks racism

Do you think we’re anywhere near through discussing this racist, Central City Philadelphia Starbucks incident that resulted in the coffee shop’s manager, Holly Hylton, siccing police officers on two African descendants — Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson — for sitting in the café for just two minutes without buying anything?

Hell. Naw. Starbucks could repeat its planned shutdown of their 8,000+ stores and corporate offices for one more day to conduct a second round of magical “be nice to cull’rd folks” training, and get its storybook-we-shall-overcome meeting between Hylton, Nelson and Robinson, and the fact that Starbucks has a systemic business problem will remain standing while naked. And the racism porn of Hylton stands right next to that.

Let’s talk business first — go to Starbucks’ website to read the company’s core values.

The first value says: “Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.”

“Everyone who’s White,” I guess.

My palate has forbidden me from patronizing Starbucks long before the reign of Hylton, but I pass by the stores often enough to see people hanging out there as if it’s their living room as they binge-watch either Netflix or the street.

How is getting two Black men arrested for sitting in a Starbucks for two minutes a “culture of warmth and belonging”?

The company needs to prove their core values are not digital debris disguised as window dressing, and own the bad hiring decision that led to Hylton joining the team. She violated at least one of those values, and the fact that her departure from Starbucks was a “mutual decision” makes me wonder if company CEO Kevin Johnson really gets it.

The best-run organizations connect their hiring, compensation and job appraisal processes to core values.

Which means there shouldn’t be any room for a narrative that says Hilton and Starbucks “mutually parted ways” for her violation of those values.

CEO Johnson should’ve said “Starbucks will only tolerate a culture of warmth and belonging, as our company values indicate. Therefore, we have terminated store manager Holly Hylton’s employment, effective immediately.”

Johnson should then make sure all human resources policies and and leadership behaviors are aligned with those values.

For instance, what were the district manager and regional vice president thinking when they hired Hylton? What assessment did they use to determine if Hylton had a sufficiently-high diversity IQ? Did they assess Hylton’s competencies according to the company’s values?

Christopher Norris gave us reason to believe that Hylton was at least inconsistent, and probably a racist. But former Starbucks employee Ieshaa Cash gave us full-on confirmation that Hylton is a racist who mistreated employees and customers. Did everyone else at Starbucks miss or endorse this behavior?

This intense level of core values review and alignment may not create better human beings, but it can completely change employee behavior — and do so more effectively than any magic workshop ever can.

Instead, we saw Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz talk about how Hylton is “suffering in her own way” and he didn’t think she intended for the police to arrest Nelson and Robinson.

I covered this in an earlier piece that probably sounded like a tutorial for people who ever consider calling the police to deal with a problem concerning a Black person.

But that wasn’t my intention. Shouldn’t everyone in 2018 know what can happen … ?

I’m waiting to hear Hylton say she thought the police were going to take the two men out to see a Phillies game so I can call her a liar …

song currently stuck in my head: “another day” – ray, goodman and brown

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Happy Wrecka Stow Day — this post is probably not what you think

About the title of this piece — we’ll deal with that in a moment.

I own records — and still buy them — but I don’t celebrate Record Store Day.

Record stores — particularly when taking into account what they’ve been through — are only Barney Fife’ng themselves by selling high-priced releases on the day they could invest time explorung other approaches that will encourage more people to support record stores on a more consistent basis.

You won’t hear this often, but there was a time when record stores were the original Starbucks — sans the caffeinated hipster delusions of culture and race.

Friends and strangers would spend hours in a store bonding, listening to music and buying what they heard.

There was also a symbiosis of sorts formed when the record store experience connected with nightclub culture to support established and emerging musicians. Venues, retailers, creatives and consumers benefited from this alchemy.

I don’t see how pushing limited releases at jacked-up prices helps to revive much of anything.

Today also marks two years and a day since beloved Prince left us.

Prince was all about wrecka stows.

And that’s something I can get with.

Therefore, happy Wrecka Stow Day, y’all …

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Something to think about when the sight of two Black guys sitting in Starbucks makes you call the police

starbucks, black

Unless you really dislike Black people, the video shared by author Melissa DePino of two African descendants being arrested by Philadelphia police officers for simply sitting in a Starbucks in advance of a business meeting should be uncomfortable to watch.

But perhaps you don’t like Black people, but feel uncomfortable when presented with visual evidence that the post-racial-America phantom that was somehow activated on November 4, 2008 never actually walked among us after all.

Or who knows — you may be one of those “wait-the-facts-surrounding-the-arrests-are-not-yet-in” people.

I guess your position on the incident doesn’t really matter when you consider these probabilities: when you call the police to address some matter concerning an African descendant, there’s a relatively high likelihood that the subsequent encounter will end in the Black person getting arrested (5.6x more likely than Whites), physically assaulted (3.6x) or even killed (3.5x).

86-year old Black man who had early signs of dementia? Tased by police. He eventually died.

Homeless Black woman begging for money? This:

Black man suspected of driving a stolen car — it was actually his vehicle — and the caller never saw the man steal the car? Beaten and then arrested:

So, when you decide to call the police because you see Black people sitting in a tree talking to birds, or chilling on a park bench while wearing hoodies and enjoying a moment of spring like everyone else, ask yourself how far are you willing to take the outcome.

Do you want to see them dead?

Beat down?

Or simply hauled away to the nearest jail so that your perfectly-monochromed life can feel comfortable again?

Mind you — the outcome you want is never certain …

song currently stuck in my head: “the wad” – vels trio

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“Where are our leaders today?” you ask.

mlk beyond vietnam speech

It’s been 50 years and three days after Dr. Martin Luther king Jr.’s assassination, and people still ask “Where are our leaders today?”

Which makes me think of Americans’ funny attitudes about leaders.

By 1964, a Gallup poll reported that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the fourth most admired person in America, even beating Robert Kennedy and Pope Paul VI. King became Time Magazine’s person of the year.

But by 1966, about two years before a sniper’s bullet ended MLK’s life, nearly two-thirds of Americans surveyed disapproved of him.

Even the majority of Black folks weren’t down with King’s views, according to Gallup.

Perhaps we should rephrase the question: “Where are our POPULAR leaders today?”

Or, “Where are our ACCEPTABLE-BY-THE-MEDIA leaders?”

Because as much as everyone claimed to have loved King, he clearly became unacceptable to much of America during his final days.

You can always tell the difference between acceptable leaders and just leaders.

You won’t hear about leaders.

And when you do, the news about them arrives wrapped in derision — in case you need some coaching to view them as less acceptable.

Before MLK fell off the US admiration pop charts, he was considered President Lyndon Johnson’s inside person on race relations — as long as King worried about integrating lunch counters and boycotting busses, apparently.

King’s expanding view of social justice in 1965 began to make others uncomfortable — it shows in the Gallup poll numbers— but he officially earned mainstream vitriol after April 4, 1967.

That’s when he made a speech (YouTube, transcript) at New York City’s Riverside Church where he spoke out against America’s intervention in the Vietnam War and called the US government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

But King did more than oppose the war.

He talked about the Vietnamese civilians and their homeland ripped apart by American bombs in the name of “liberty.”

He also felt that America should redirect financial resources from Vietnam to eliminate poverty at home.

Suddenly, King became an unacceptable leader.

The New York Times said that King did a disservice to the antiwar cause and the racial injustice he fought against.

The Washington Post and dozens of other newspapers dissed King in a similar way.

So did some Black leaders.

Northern White Liberal support — once a mainstay in the fight against Jim Crow in the South — began to disappear.

But … it took a bullet to rip apart King’s body in order for Liberals and Conservatives alike to love him.

So … while some of you may wonder where the new leaders are, perhaps it’s a good time think of the leaders you may have ignored lately.

LIke Rev. Dr. William Barber, who’s been quietly remixing MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign — one of the latter’s final major initiatives before his assassination.

Attorney and activist Lee Merritt, whose been a warrior in and out of the courtroom as he pursues justice for victims of racial violence, police brutality and predatory incarceration. He’s been leading a campaign to get more social justice-oriented candidates on local District Attorney ballots.

David Hogg, survivor of the Parkland Florida mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School. He’s been blowing up Twitter these days.

Truthseekers with a digital bullhorn, like Tanya Free.

The Color of Change team whose online distributed leadership model is influencing grassroots awareness.

Independent journalist Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!

I could list hundreds of leaders. And I still won’t know all of them.

That’s because my lack of awareness is not a glitch, but a feature.

Leaders capable of change are not presented to you on TV as “The people who will lead you out of the wilderness.”

MLK was never presented that way, and neither will anyone after him …

song currently stuck in my head: “everybody’s broke” – herbie hancock

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Trump, Russia and MLK’s Assassination — I don’t see it

mlk assassination donald trump

I perfectly understand that we’ll see more online Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. references as we move closer to the 50th anniversary of his assassination, but folks should stop recklessly making parallels where none should exist.

Consortium News and writer Bob Katz stand guilty at the moment, after they paired the investigation of MLK’s death with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry of President Donald Trump and Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

Allow me to first give mad props Consortium News for their long-standing track record of sharing the uncomfortable truths about certain world events that cable news journalists would never go near.

But I’m specifically not down with Katz’ idea that Capitol Hill’s House Select Committee on Assassinations, which published a 1979 report of MLK’s death and suspected shooter James Earl Ray’s role in it, is the definitive voice for what really happened on April 4, 1968:

[The House Select Committee on Assassinations’ report] is the single most authoritative interpretation of the case, and the closest thing we have to a definitive last word.

Definitive last word?

Not true. At. All.

However … I completely get Katz’ idea about how Mueller’s investigation may not map to the way Americans expect stories to flow:

All available box office evidence suggests that Americans crave political dramas that are sharply plotted, easy to follow and seamlessly resolved. The ambiguous kind? Not so much. The truth, in the long run, may not be an ideal vehicle for maximizing audience share.

Perhaps I’m encroaching on a topic that deserves a separate written piece, but Mueller’s investigation team is loaded with attorneys who’ve earned the skulls on their helmets from smashing money launderers.

And while I’m 100 percent chill with Mueller’s next wave of indictments completely changing my mind, the moves he’s made so far make me think shady financial transactions or obstruction of justiceor both — are his focus points with respect to Team Trump.

But the head water of this investigation — Trump’s supposed collusion with the Russian government to rig the 2016 race — doesn’t appear to be one of those areas of prosecutorial focus at the moment.

Which brings me to another major point Katz made, and requires no MLK analogy:

If in the end Mueller demonstrates only that vile crimes were perpetrated with craven or treasonous intent by despicable actors plausibly though not provably affiliated with the White House, what will be the popular understanding of the Trump-Russia-election saga ten years, twenty years from now? Especially when a far less complicated account – NO COLLUSION! – gets blasted from the loudest megaphone known to humankind.

I sometimes wonder about the same thing.

Money and influence have complicated and longstanding lives in Washington — alchemical conditions for survival well beyond Mueller’s magnifying glass …

song currently stuck in my head: “that house groove” – phil weeks

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As if tasing an 86-year old man is a tonic: a sad update about Albert Chatfield

albert chatfield 86 year old man tazed by police south carolina

Remember that horrifying story about 86-year old Albert Chatfield?

The unarmed dementia sufferer was tased by a Kingstree, South Carolina police officer last October, after a brief car chase and subsequent verbal exchange. Chatfield’s injuries prompted the attending hospital to put him in a medically-induced coma in order to save his life.

Here’s a sad update: Chatfield passed away about 10 days ago.

The news found its way to me after a curiosity-spawned Google search. My heart sank after reading a funeral home’s death notification.

I then received confirmation from Chatfield’s son, through a Facebook post.

albert chatfield tased dead

Do you recall why the older Chatfield was tased?

According to the police’s version of the story, Chatfield was walking backwards into oncoming traffic.

An officer tased Chatfield to stop the octogenarian from getting hit by a car.

Here’s a video of the officers’ diligent efforts to save Chatfield’s life:

I don’t know for certain what caused Chatfield to give up the ghost. No medical assessment was immediately available to me while writing this piece.

But tasing an 86-year old into an intensive care unit with a bleeding brain dang sure ain’t tonic.

Police officers were 12 feet away from a troubled 86-year old man and couldn’t build enough of a human connection with him to prevent exploding his organ tissue with thousands of electricity volts.

The incident once again causes me to wonder about how much respect some law enforcement personnel have for elders, youth, pregnant women and even the whole idea of life.

I also wonder if there’s any discernible awareness of the responsibility connected to instruments that can finalize real-time life and death decisions.

Remember the mentally-disturbed New York man who stood atop a storefront gate’s ledge, and a police lieutenant decided that tasing the man was the solution for bringing the man down?

The officer was mind-blowingly right — the man fell off the awning and died from head injuries.

How much reverence for anything — other than whatever fiat praise officers gave to the taser — do you see in these stories?

By the way, the City of Kingstree settled the taser case with Chatfield for $900,000 back in November …

song currently stuck in my head: “come sunday” – mahalia jackson and duke ellington

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Stephon Clark — Killed for Daring to Be Human

stephon clark shooting sacramento mental unrest

I feared for my safety and the well-being of my fellow officers.”

I feared for my life.”

And in the shooting of Stephon “Zoe” Clark, the officers who shot the unarmed man were “fearing for their safety.”

I’ve repeatedly written about how the killings of unarmed people of color by law enforcement personnel are almost invariably resolved with a stay-out-of-jail-free card called “fear.”

The card is deadly. Reusable. An animated foretoken of moral hazard.

And damn-near indestructible. A fear card was drawn even after a police officer accidentally shot his own partner while attempting to arrest a suspect. Both officers subsequently shot the unarmed man to death in succession at point-blank range, called the deceased a crazed “gang member” who shot a cop, and got away with playing the “fear” hustle while earning hero honors — until an annoying-azzed citizen camera phone video surfaced with the high-definition truth.

It still didn’t matter. The cops saw no jail time. Fear card remains intact and ready for redeployment.

For all this fear dealing that extends well beyond the distribution points of police and news reports, society seems to pretend that the dead counterparties in these transactions have no right to feel fear.

How many of you can think clearly with a loaded gun pointed at you?

Isn’t fear a human, if not primal, emotion?

When someone draws a gun on you — whether or not you lack the means to manage the outcome of such a potentially violent engagement —- fear can quickly take over your decisions and actions.

For many humans, the response moves beyond fear and into the zone of panic.

And whether the response is fear, panic, or a combination of the two, the actions become food for the fear claimed by the armed officer or self-deputized civilian.

The results of these converging fears can be deadly.

I think of the times I’ve been stopped at gunpoint by police officers — or civilians — and wondered how I managed to survive those encounters.

My guess is that — besides God’s grace — I have a very unnatural ability to remain calm, regardless of the circumstances.

“Unnatural” is the most important term here.

Put a different way, I had to become less-than human in order to stay alive.

But at any point, a police officer could have simply claimed fear, a natural human reaction, to justify killing me.

Clark’s price for claiming his humanity — expressed through running for his life — is a funeral.

While the reward for the Sacramento police officers claiming their humanity is life.

Or at worst, should history perform as an accurate gauge here, a few days of paid administrative leave.

And that points to another sad reality: even in the face of death — up to the second before a cop decides whether or not to render an extrajudicial death penalty — people of color have to cancel their right to be human …

song currently stuck in my head: “donna lee” – jaco pastorious & rashied ali

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