A letter to James Baldwin because I have some questions about the love thing

by Janelle Hanchett

Dear James,

You’re dead, but I’m going to write to you anyway, because I’m lost as hell and I have a few questions about your love theory.

In 1962, you wrote a letter to your nephew because he was “born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity” that he was a “worthless human being” and James it’s 2016 now, and this week, I’ve listened to and read the words of black mothers talking about their sons, because they were born into a country that has “destroyed and is destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and does not know it and does not want to know it.”

They asked us to know it.

They asked us to know it, but I think we won’t.

In 1962 you told your nephew it’s because white people “don’t know he exists” because they “cannot see” and here’s what I want to know, Mr. Baldwin, how do we make people see?

You talked of the conditions in Harlem, 1962, and how white people said: “No! This is not true! How bitter you are!” and “You exaggerate” and now in 2016 they say “ALL LIVES MATTER” and “if he weren’t a criminal he wouldn’t be dead” and they bring up traffic violations to justify the killing of a school cafeteria manager, who was reaching for his wallet, as instructed, with a toddler in the backseat of a car.

He bled and died anyway.

In 1962 you wrote that on the day your nephew was born, his family “trembled” because “it looked bad that day” (for black people in America) and you said, “We have not stopped trembling yet,” and James, in 2016, they have not stopped trembling yet.

The mothers and fathers and grandfathers and uncles and aunts have not stopped trembling and James I want to know when all people who look like me will care more about the trembling.


Because I thought when people with love and hearts and souls are shown facts and shown the suffering of people, James, that they will see because they are human and even though they don’t HAVE to care, they will.

Because they are human.

But James, I think I’m wrong.

In 1962, you told your nephew, “You were born where you were born, and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason.”

And that was Harlem. And he was expected to “make peace with mediocrity” and was told where to go and how to act and how to be and that’s still here, in 2016, in the narratives surrounding “inner city ghettos” and “black on black crime,” and it’s here through the prison pipeline and racial profiling and economic inequality and the media. Yet it seems almost nobody looks to explore what we’ve done to create, reinforce and secure the failure of people trying to survive in a place “intended for them to perish.”

Intended for them to perish.

They’re still perishing, James.


You wrote of “inhumanity and fear” and that’s what I see when I look around at most of my white brothers and sisters and I don’t know if I want to scream or ignore them or get on my knees and beg them, and that’s why I’m writing to you.

You said we are “trapped in a history which [we] do not understand; and until [we] understand it…cannot be released from it,” but they teach and nobody listens.

People don’t BELIEVE what they’re hearing. Why?

“They have had to believe for so many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men.” This is true. I know this because I grew up white. I know what it feels like to learn from unidentified sources, from the air you breathe, from something, somehow, some way, that your race is just a little better but you are for sure not racist because “racist” is slurs and not hiring someone because of the color of their skin and you would never do that! You have black friends.

And if people would just act like “normal (white) people,” everything would be fine for them.

And the people “set down in Harlem,” you see, they don’t act white. And so they don’t count. They don’t matter.

And when people insist they matter, white people don’t have to see. They don’t have to listen. They don’t even have to be vaguely curious. They sit back with a sigh and a “fuck you” and they don’t even hear, James.

This is my worry. This is my worry with your love theory.


I feel the silence in my bones of the people around me and the ones doing mental gymnastics to justify police brutality and I wonder if they know in their guts they’re wrong.

You say many “know better” but “find it difficult to act on what they know” because “to act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their identity.”

Of course they know better. I’m done pretending they don’t. They know. But it’s easier to PRETEND than admit you’re wrong, especially when all that power is at stake.

I knew better when I learned I had been lied to. When we know better, we do better, right? Isn’t that the way it works?


Most of the time, I see no way in.


“Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shining and all the stars aflame…[it] is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations.”

And in 2016 I want to ask you, is this what it feels like? Is this the shaking of the foundations and the dislodging of a star until it comes crashing to our side? Is this it, James?

Because I’m not so sure, and I don’t feel much hope, and you say that love will fix it but I’m not sure, because what good is love if the recipient feels it as VIOLENCE?

An attack on their personhood.

A violation of who they are.

I want to tell them they’re better than this, James. I want to beg them. I want to punch them in their faces.



You say “these men are your brothers—your lost, younger brothers… and…that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it.”

I wonder if that’s so, James. I wonder if we will ALL ever cease fleeing from reality. I wonder if we need them anyway. I wonder if anything will change, other than some of us dying out, to become stars fixed forever on the wrong side of history.

James you promise there’s a transformative love, a powerful one, a love that shakes foundations and sets stars aflame, but it’s hard to believe such power exists.

I’m kinda tired of “love.” I hear a lot about it but don’t see much action. I’m tired of anything that doesn’t make us USE OUR ACTUAL BODIES to dismantle our place, a place that was never actually ours, a place that was stolen, ripped off, burned and murdered for.

You say love IS what makes our feet move.

You say this is how you make change, and you said do not be afraid. I know you weren’t talking to me. I’m not black and I’m not your nephew.

But I am afraid.

Because I wonder when all white people will feel this pain as their pain and this perishing as their perishing and stand up and set the stars aflame themselves, shake the earth themselves, become an immovable pillar in the fight for the moment when, as you say, the “dungeon shook, and the chains fell off.”

So I’ll keep fighting, in love, I guess.

And hope to god you’re right.


Note to fellow white people interested in dismantling white supremacy: ALL THE LOVE IN THE FUCKING WORLD IS USELESS IF IT’S NOT BACKED BY ACTION.

We know what to do. “Be an accomplice, not an ally.” The time for talking and feeling super bad at dinner is over. It’s time to move our bodies and use our voices to join the new Civil Rights Movement. Suggestions to begin are here, here, and here

37 Comments | Posted in politics | July 11, 2016
  • jnl

    start calling people out when they say bigoted things. we have ignored it too long, so they think its acceptable. if they are constantly under attack for saying the wrong things, maybe they will clue in that what they are saying is wrong. so any time someone says “all lives matter”, call them out. or when they bring up a case of a black person doing something bad to a white person, call them out. trying to change the topic from the bad things happening to black people to anything else is racism. sooooo many people have no idea they are racist. if you are not fighting the system that keeps minorities down (or gays, or the poor), then you are part of the problem. everyone who sees bad things happen without saying something is saying that its ok and perpetuating the bigotry.

  • Josh

    More than anything I think this movement represents a way for the black community to unite. Although that’s great, it is happening at the expense of reason and rational thought. Alot of people just want to be part of something bigger than themselves and will justify that unity through seeing things that don’t exist and twisting things that do to completely match our views. I think another reason this movement had begun to take place is that some people would loved to have lived in the 60s, through the civil rights movement. This is not the same. We had real issues that were easy to pinpoint then. Segregation and complete disrespect. So I think alot of people want to recreate that in the hopes that they will get to be a part of something. Ten years ago we thought it was a post-racial society. There was peace, and although there were still incidents of racism, for the most part it was. I’ve heard black people say that white people can’t see their white privelage. That’s a dangerous thing to say. We point and say you are something that is negative, but you can’t see that thing, but you should have faith it exists because we day it does. White people can’t feel bad as individuals about racism and neither can black people or any other race for that matter. Everyone is slightly racist at minimum, blacks, whites, Mexicans, who ever. It is the problem of a group, and maybe a few individuals in it. I know alot of extremely racist black people, that hate whites, and join in supporting extreme groups like the new black panthers. Although I’m sure it’s different in other areas outside of Cleveland, I’m yet to ever actually meet any white supremists. It could also be a lack of interaction with white people as my area is mostly blacks. Most normal people just want to get on with our lives. We segregate ourselves now. A black culture, black music, and even black tv. We need to encourage unity and diversity, not by division and demanding that others see things our way. When I was in the army, I felt like there was no color. We ate together, suffered together, and got shot at together – without discrimination of our skin color, but because we were Americans in the same uniform. Not because we segregated into groups, but because we found our similarities. This movement is one that has a few good ideas but twists many others and bends truths to fit what we need it to. I think the movement needs real leadership and then may be able to make a dent. Not violent leadership, with overcharged emotions. But real and competent leadership. Then we may start to see some change.

    • jnl

      spoken like a white person who cant see past their white white privilege.

    • jnl

      there are just soooo many things wrong with your post.

      its not about the black community uniting. its about people standing up for the black community. and that is EVERYONE, not just the blacks.

      it is NOT “happening at the expense of reason and rational thought”.

      you are in the “its not perfect so lets scrap it” camp? thats fucking stupid.

      “Alot of people just want to be part of something bigger than themselves and will justify that unity through seeing things that don’t exist and twisting things that do to completely match our views.” fuck, you are so fucking clueless.

      “We had real issues that were easy to pinpoint then”. Are you fucking kidding me?!?! we have real issues that are very easy to pinpoint. if you cant see that, you have a mental disability or are a huge bigot.

      “Ten years ago we thought it was a post-racial society.” Only bigots and people with their heads up their ass have ever thought that.

      “There was peace, and although there were still incidents of racism, for the most part it was.” There has never been peace for some communities. Just because you werent paying attention doesnt mean it didnt happen.

      “I’ve heard black people say that white people can’t see their white privelage. That’s a dangerous thing to say.” fucking absurd. its not dangerous to point out the truth. it is NECESSARY if we ever want to fix the issues. maybe you’ve heard people say that because you have your head so far up your white privileged ass you cant see anything buy your own white ass.

      “Everyone is slightly racist at minimum”. spoken like a true racist. its not at all true. there are plenty of people who are not racist at all.

      black panthers, as far as I know, did NOT hate whites and was NOT about being anti-white. they just stood up for themselves no matter the cost.

      you are blind if you think you have never met a white supremacist. white supremacy is not just the KKK in their silly outfits. its any white person who thinks they are superior to other races. they are everywhere.

      “We segregate ourselves now. A black culture, black music, and even black tv.” uhh….thats not segregation. segregation is when black students are not allowed to attend certain schools. there is some self segregation, but its not what you are thinking.

      “This movement is one that has a few good ideas but twists many others and bends truths to fit what we need it to”. so blame and negate a whole movement just because you dont agree with an individual who is part of the movement?! it does not need leaders. thats exactly what would be bad. The point is for everyone to rise up and stand up for themselves and for what THEY need. It will be different for different people. But the point is to stand up and speak out and support each others causes.

      dude, you really need to check your white privilege, cause you are blind.

      the LAST thing we need is to “keep sweet”.

      • Kristol

        I want to hug this comment, again and again and again and again. As the mother of a beautiful black child. Who is filled with rage, but who has made a choice to proactively channel that rage into fighting against the unjust political system that got us here in the first place, I am so happy you get it.

        I am not participating because I am so sad I wasn’t alive during the civil rights movement. I am participating because although the civil rights movement was a giant step forward in the history of this country, the country has been stuck in the proverbial mud ever since. See, we let you sit at the lunch counters now! It’s over! While black men and boys are systematically treated as less than and inherently dangerous by the system that is meant to serve and protect. But, you know, I can bring my little boy to a fine dining establishment without being spit on, so progress my friend.

        Let me explain it to you as simply as I can, person who is convinced this movement doesn’t matter. I, as the wife of a black man, spend nights at home unable to sleep and completely overcome with worry when he goes to play BASKETBALL on open gym nights at church. I am terrified he will get pulled over for being a big black man in a big truck, and never come home. Until you live with that fear, that sense of worry, you will always find it hard to understand.

      • Kate

        JNL, bomb…you are bomb. Your comment was amazing and very well put. I think it’s incredible that people don’t see these issues. Hopefully, Josh is intelligent enough to read these comments and make a change in his life. Thank you again for your response…on point.

    • Daphne

      You’ve never met a white supremist? Take a look in the mirror. There is one staring right back at you, but couched in so-called reason and bullshit logic.

    • Larissa

      What Kristol and JNH said. Oh, and Josh, “alot” is not a word. It is spelled “a lot”. You lost me at “alot”….

  • Mae McDonnell

    Preach it.

    I am so done with anyone who denies that we have a problem. I am so done with feeling all the weight of the guilt of a racist infrastructure that is not my creation and it’s not yours, but is still our responsibility to dismantle or accept that it is our failures that allow it to exist.

    Much hope –

  • Lucy

    The epitomy of privilege is believing an issue is “not that bad” simply because it does not affect you.

    Unpack your white backpack and stay awhile. This is real. This is true. This is not ok.

    Fight. Advocate. Speak out loud. Do not simply stand by and justify why blatant racism is ok because of some idiotic statistic you read on line. #blacklivesmatter every fucking day.

    • jnl


  • Eliza

    I don’t even know how to start this comment. The last 10 days have left me emotionally raw. I look at my son and wonder how I will honestly, and tactfully, explain to him WHY bad things happen when he’s old enough to ask me those questions.

    I also do not want to cause a firestorm with what I am about to say and please do not attack. I have anxiety just posting this because I do not want my words to be misconstrued.

    Racism is real. Police brutality is even more real and these attacks on the black community have been occurring for decades. Social media has given the once silent a voice. I completely understand why those who have witnessed police brutality in their communities for so long have had ENOUGH. I also understand why if you have been a witness to such atrocities, why you would never inherently trust law enforcement. Yes there are obviously people who serve to protect us who are not racist or abuse their power, but that doesn’t help people who have been victimized over and over again.

    However, I dont feel SOLELY an issue of race in this country. I am frustrated when White Appalachia is consistently (and conveniently for those with an agenda…) left out of the dialogue when police brutality is discussed. The NYTimes called Clay County, KY “the hardest place to live in the US” in 2014. Eastern KY comprises the poorest counties in the country and have collectively had more investigations of police brutality by the FBI than anywhere else in the nation.

    Yes, we have a serious problem with racism in this country. We also have a serious problem with not helping low-income communities. I wonder if when we look at the bigger picture, and since mainstream media never seems to acknowledge the perils of living in Appalachia (with jobs increasingly becoming scarce…) Why are we forgetting those who are on the bottom when it comes to socioeconomic status? Inner cities and very rural areas have horrible schools, yet the current administration has pledged 100M to schools in Morocco? Really?

    I wholeheartedly understand the BLM movement. Awareness is the first step and action from all of us is needed. I just feel that we have a serious issue with class in this country. I have a problem with any violence that is racially motivated but we may need to ask ourselves, is this also an issue of treating those who have nothing like they ARE nothing?

  • Eliza

    Sorry typo, I don’t feel like we solely have an issue with race in this country* (in terms of police brutality…)

  • jnl

    police brutality is a MAJOR problem. not just for blacks but for everyone. tho black men get by far the biggest brunt of the problem. here in western canada where there are hardly any black people we have a problem with police brutality too. an 18 year old white male who was arrested for being drunk in public was shot in the back of the head while handcuffed inside the police station. and there were ZERO consequences for the cop that murdered him. the mentally ill are another group who are routinely targeted for abuse and murder by cops.

    those in power want us to hate and fight each other so we dont realize that its the ones with the power who are making our lives worse. once we realize who the real problem is, we could easily overthrow them. so they distract us with promoting hatred, keep us stupid by destroying education, keep us sick by feeding us garbage and denying proper healthcare, and keep us from speaking out by militarizing the police and taking away our rights.

    • Eliza

      YES YES YES. I was worried someone would think I was trying to demean BLM which I am not, but I have just been thinking about the deeper issue here.

      Your last paragraph especially sounds like what my husband and I have been saying for the past few months. I live in the US and will spare you my thoughts on our current government but you are absolutely right re: distracting us and wanting us to fight.

      • jnl

        just dont vote for the “lesser of 2 evils”. thats what they want you to do. reject the whole system. refuse to play within their rigged rules.

  • tamara

    Just when I was starting to feel a bit emotionally stable. Maybe. This was the text that I sent to my ex-husband, my 18yr old son and my 17yr old and asked my ex to tell his stepsons. “I pray for your safety everyday. Please be careful. Please comply if you ever have to. Your one job is to get back home safely. I’m in tears knowing that this is how you have to live your life. I love you all.” My 18 yr old just graduated high school and moved out wanting to be his own person. My 17yr old just moved 9 hrs away to live with my ex-husband. I also have a 14yr old daughter. I woke up to what happened in Baton Rouge and then the next day in Minnesota. I was such an emotional wreck that I couldn’t even focus at work because no matter what which I still had to go to because no matter what, we still have to try and survive. My heart aches to think that my boys will be going to work or to school or doing anything that a white teenage boy can do, and could possibly be stopped by the police and not make it out alive. I want to keep them close to me and not let them out of the house. But that’s not how I raised them. I worry that they won’t get the chance to show their goodness, their greatness. That they won’t have the chance to give their gifts to the world. They are respectable, conscientious young men, but that may not matter if they ever come across the wrong cop. One of my best friends is a white cop, but I’ve had to tell them that everyone isn’t like him. That the country they love and my #2 wants to to fight for, wasn’t made for us. The constitution and the benefits that it provides don’t readily apply to us. That when it was written, we were still considered as property. How does a black man, woman or child have hope when they constantly live on edge of what might happen while just trying to live everyday life?

  • Anna Haynes

    As the whitish mom of 3 non-white children I keep reading this poem over and over again. The world is breaking my heart right now.

    Good Bones
    Maggie Smith

    Life is short, though I keep this from my children.

    Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine

    in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,

    a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways

    I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least

    fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative

    estimate, though I keep this from my children.

    For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.

    For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,

    sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world

    is at least half terrible, and for every kind

    stranger, there is one who would break you,

    though I keep this from my children. I am trying

    to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,

    walking you through a real shithole, chirps on

    about good bones: This place could be beautiful,

    right? You could make this place beautiful.

  • Lainey

    Great piece Janelle.

    I took from Josh’s post that he is black…

    • Larissa

      me too.

  • Mark Goodson

    I love James Baldwin. This is such a wondrful tribute to him and a great post for people to read in these American times. I teach African-American literature and I like to use his “A talk to teachers.” In it, he makes the point that proper, balanced, fair teaching of American history is beneficial for white children as it is beneficial to black. Because we are all children of one nation. Great post.

  • Rea

    I love this blog and this community but an unwilling to subscribe to or support an ideology that Americans should be exempt from ‘police brutality’. In other countries, officers are allowed to enforce respect by very physical means. Their societies accept it because when whole groups of people lose respect for authority in any form (in schools, for police, laws) it degrades the future of their community.

    It is not law abiding, educated people (of any race) who should change. Their communities are not wrought with crime and death, they are not wasting their time protesting. It is the group (of any race) who has taught their youth to be disrespectful, entitled and accepting of unintelligence that should change.

    If it is possible for people to turn out en mass to demand change, use that same enthusiasm to be the change. Gather together for purpose! Clean up your communities. Volunteer in schools. Be more engaged in your children’s life. I think we’d all find this country a better place if we stopped demanding change and just did it our damn selves. The laws are not the problem, the people are.

    I’m an accepting, loving person. Who only wishes the best for everyone and is truly saddened by all of the violence and loss. But I am also married to a police officer. I’m not justifying anyone’s specific actions of late. I just think not enough is being said about how this situation is affecting our police. I don’t believe people become officers to target people. People who become officers deeply care for others and are willing to risk their lives for them. These officers who have killed did not do it lightly, it changes them. Forever.

    Now, the people we have entrusted to protect our communities are not going to be able to act on our behalf. Just because a handful of officers had to protect themselves from a few armed people who were unwilling to comply. I imagine in the near future, as fewer people aspire to become police officers that, as a country, we will be sorry to have made a civil service profession so difficult to survive.

    • Cait

      Rea, I’m going to go ahead and make the assumption that you are white (as am I). It’s really easy for us white people to say, “why don’t you take all this good energy and use it to improve your communities, teach your kids respect, etc etc” because we don’t actually have to worry that a moment of miscommunication between our child and a police officer could end with us attending our child’s funeral. Could it happen? Of course. Is it likely? Not for those of us who are white. This is the crux of the whole issue.

      The fact that although there are many wonderful police officers, and many of them have honest, good intentions, many of them also have a deep seated fear of people of color (especially men of color) and it causes them to respond inappropriately in situations when they should be their best selves. They didn’t walk onto the police force thinking “hey, i’m racist, and i’m going to kill some people who don’t look like me”. Absolutely not, many of them want to serve their communities. Some of them love the idea of having power and shooting a gun. Just like in any group of people, there are good ones, there are bad ones, there are many who are both.

      But, WE HAVE to talk about the fact that a deep-seated fear of people of color is causing many police officers to behave in completely irrational, inappropriate, and ultimately deadly ways. As a mother, I cannot imagine having to fear that a walk to the corner store for a soda and past a cop car could be the end of my child’s life, for no other reason than the color of their skin. And we don’t just have to talk about it, we have to end it. Yes, it’s uncomfortable for white people to hear, because truthfully, our lives are pretty fucking comfortable. That’s not an excuse to deny that our brothers and sisters, our fellow countrymen are living in fear of those who are meant to protect them. We have to stand up and say “enough”, they MATTER to us. We weep with those who weep, and we raise our voices with those that need to be heard.

      • Rea

        I appreciate your comment Cait.

        I wonder though.. Does it matter my race? Or how comfortable my life may or may not be? Does my opinion not matter if I am not black, living in a unstable community?

        I am also a mother. It is morbid to say, but if my son’s poor decisions/actions were to lead to his demise

        I imagine, in grief it is easier to blame anyone else, than it would be to hold oneself responsible for letting our children down.

        I think it’s outlandish to say officers “love the idea of having power and shooting a gun.”
        It’s America, if you like to shoot guns you may absolutely do so without committing oneself to civil service. Every officer I know wants to end their shift without such confrontation. It’s that kind of mindset that contributes to the hatred that has brought about this situation!

        I don’t believe that officers are acting out of ‘fear’. Statistically, people in the communities that are upset by ‘police brutality’ are more likely to commit crimes, and show violence towards police. It is out of understanding these facts that officers may react more quickly to hostile interactions.

        Years from now, after we disallow officers to do their jobs thoroughly, I wonder if people in other communities will want reform to protect them from the violence seeping into their communities from places that were once ravaged by ‘police brutality’.

        All I ask people to think about is:
        -should we ask officers to not react; possibly getting murdered themselves, or allowing innocents to be injured?
        – or do we allow them to do their job?

        • Tamara

          The fact that you’re looking at it as people in the black community are inherently doing something wrong and that all they need to do is “act right”, says a lot about your way of thinking. Nevermind the fact that it’s never ok to rule over a people with police brutality. I don’t care what nation, community or people. Signing up to be a police officer is signing up for whatever you may come across in the community in which you serve. You don’t get to pick and choose what you may come across as much as you don’t get to choose to treat every situation with brute force. Even I as a black person can understand that there will be situations in which force may have to be used. I get that and don’t have a problem with it. But when you use force to rule over a community and to treat everyone in that community as if they’re already in the wrong, then that’s where as a police officer, you’ve messed up. I shouldn’t have to worry about my sons and daughter out doing everyday things that can possibly get them killed just because they may come across the wrong cop that day. Should I tell them, just “act right” and you’ll be ok? What about Philando Castile? Was he not “acting right”? You sound as one of those who as long as it’s not in your neighborhood and bothering your life then how it’s handled is how it’s handled.

          • Rea

            Tamara, I have no intention of upsetting you (or anyone else) with my comments.

            I didn’t not say at all that everyone in the black community are doing the wrong thing. My posts were carefully worded as to not make them racial at all. There are people in communities of all races, who do the wrong thing and illicit use of force from officers. And I certainly don’t believe that everyone deserves to be treated brutally. I was just expressing that in areas of high crime and violence towards police, that officers take that into consideration when starting their patrol. Why ask officers to ignore all that information? Would you make changes at your job or parent your child a different way if you had information that could change your life or someone else’s?

            I am not denying that there are people who are officers that should not be. This debate goes both ways. There are people who are treated wrongly by police that don’t deserve to be, but there are situations that the officers were reacting appropriately and lose their livelihoods. Where do we draw the line? I do not endorce brutality in any way, I wish every interaction officers have could be peaceful! But I am a realist, and understand that will never occur. I am completely against the disrespect of authority in these situations. It doesn’t make any sense to ask for protection, but only when it involves restricting the lives of everyone else.

            In my previous comments I feel like what I have mentioned does not remove me at all from these circumstances. I am married to a police officer. I voiced that I feel these issues will continue and will spill into other communities of this isn’t handled correctly. So I think I’ve already expressed my concern in that regard and that I don’t consider my life unaltered by these occurrences. I also expressed that my opinions do not justify anyone’s specific actions. I was just asking for people to think of both sides of the story..

            The video taken of Philando Castile was taken after his interaction with the officer. So no one can really accurately say whether his actions were correct or not. His girlfriend’s view of the situation would obviously be biased. My interpretation of what happened to Castile is that he informed the officer of the presence of the firearm and proceeded to move around inside the vehicle against the officer’s direction. If I did the same thing, I would expect to be shot as well! I legally conceal carry myself, almost daily. For those who are unfamiliar with the responsibility legally carrying concealed, I’d like to express that the very first thing I was taught regarding interacting with police while carrying is that your hands should remain seen and still until otherwise instructed by the officer.

            I am not saying Castile was a bad person, he sounds lovely actually. I’m broken-hearted for his family and community, especially the students he influenced. I’m only trying to impart through my interpretation, is that he may have acted inappropriately while interacting with the officer that day. Deserving of death, in my opinion no, but people make mistakes. And in this case the officer felt threatened and reacted, rather than become a target. It’s easy to put yourself in the passamger’s shoes, with her child in the back seat. But what if Philando wasn’t as benign as we all perceive him as, and we were morning the officer’s death instead? Would it be okay then?

  • Kerry

    I hope that every parent everywhere is talking to their kids about this. There is a way no matter how old the child is. The words we hear when we’re young do shape how we see the world. I was raised in a religious household that loved its white privilege. It wasn’t obvious because my parents were kind to everyone. They treated everyone nicely. But there were the little comments behind closed doors. The justifications. The wish that people would act a certain way to just get along. I’m 39 years old and some of those old ghosts still whisper in my brain sometimes and it’s hard to work toss them out. Logical, “loving” comments from people living in privilege make sense to me sometimes. I have to spend a lot of time really thinking; really getting to the meat of what’s meant but not being said. Anyway, please talk to your kids. Be true and real and say what needs to be said. Give them ghosts that whisper truth to them, not hate and fear concealed as love.

  • jnl

    I just heard this MLK quote for the first time on TYT.

    “First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”” ~ MLK

    • renegademama

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and direct and patient input, JNL. Thank you.

      • DD

        Wait, Renegademama,
        Aren’t you actually JNL?
        I’d like to reply to JNL’s comment that
        “those in power want us to hate and fight each other so we dont realize that its the ones with the power who are making our lives worse. once we realize who the real problem is, we could easily overthrow them. so they distract us with promoting hatred, keep us stupid by destroying education, keep us sick by feeding us garbage and denying proper healthcare, and keep us from speaking out by militarizing the police and taking away our rights.”
        If only there were one big conspiracy to blame, that would mean that we could just disable “them” and get our lives back. As a privileged white lady, I want to say this: don’t underestimate the power of incompetence! “Know your enemy,” for me means knowing who is really responsible for all the small and huge injustices perpetrated by those of us responsible for reporting the news, educating people, enforcing laws and everyone in all levels of the food system could be acting alone while suffering from a lack of education, a misunderstanding of the laws, exhaustion, paranoia, bad reflexes, etc. etc., and not necessarily associated with any conspiracy, although there are lunatics out there who really believe that only their race matters.
        “Big candy” and farm subsidies for instance started “feeding us garbage” to get cheap calorie rich food to the poor to hedge starvation before we had good nutrition well understood. So much incompetence is out there and only a small fraction is in any way coordinated.
        This justifies nothing, of course, I just wanted to point out that making a “them” out of all the perpetrators of injustice together might alienate people who want to get behind the movement but can’t get behind the coordinated nature of “them,” the enemy.

        Look, I know there is bias! I am a lady working with farmers who are mostly white and male and ageist and sexist, and I have zero cred. That’s how it is. I see my relative suffer when interacting with police because of her mental illness and though she is sometimes threatening, I do not worry that police will use force with her, because she is a white lady. I get the sense that the officers who’ve had to deal with her act out of a sense of duty to their community, exhibiting more patience and restraint than I would exhibit with her myself. Maybe they have more training in de-escalating situations in my town, or maybe they identify with her whiteness. I can’t say for sure, but I am grateful either way and unpack my white privilege right now like a big birthday present because I know that they may not be aware of why they are at the moment not being incompetent, but I know that at least some officers are trying to be actual peace officers, and some are following societal pressure to make use of their bully talent that they learned in the schoolyard.
        My 2 cents: The more the police force is made up of people from the communities they serve, though, the less incompetent they are likely to be, and training probably helps too, and community watch by the people for the people is the best thing ever, i think.
        Look, we live in a country that is still surprised, shocked and angered when police corruption occurs, whereas there are other countries where the drug mafia bankrolls the police and there is no distinction between them. Now that would be a “them” conspiracy that absolutely removes all trust in their law enforcement personnel. Here I think we still have a chance of fixing what’s broken because police are subject to the law and also for the most part are being told their incompetence will be scrutinized by the public who actually cares and actually pays their salaries.

        • renegademama

          No, I am not JNL. I would not hide my name.

  • Natalie

    I’m impressed w how you can- I can’t even think of the right word because I’ve been half brain dead for at least, uh the six years since my six year old was born- but your ability to put into words what is percolating in my brain about current fucked up events. And other stuff, but this is spot on. Uh, I feel I am part of the problem. I’m so white ,and my family and the small community where I grew up and my siblings and parents live is still so fucked up and racist. And they insist on their ‘I’m not racist buuut…’ racist remarks that Fox delusional news corroborates for them so I don’t even try to argue because them I’m just sooo ‘PC’ and elitist and un- American. I feel there’s no way to win. I have always supoorted what I see as the message and action of BLM. I probably won’t join. Because I’m afraid I’ll fuck it up, embarrass myself, because I’m part of the problem. And a chicken. And that shit runs so deep inside when you’ve been hearing it since as long as you can remember, it’s like this no matter how enlightened I believe I am. But thanks. For the awesome. XO

  • Heather J.

    I don’t even know where to start. I try to keep myself on a “low information diet” (i.e., not watch/read the news) because it’s just too damn much for my anxiety-ridden, depression-addled brain to handle. Between the racial injustice, economic injustice, police brutality, worldwide upheaval and terror, and Trump, I’m left shaking my head in disbelief and hopelessness.

    I’m white, I’m a mother, and I live in Albuquerque – a racially diverse city with a serious police brutality problem. I don’t have a son, but if I did, he would be racially-mixed, and one of the worst off minorities in this country, statistically speaking. I am so heartbroken for the mothers who have to worry everyday about whether a civil servant may shoot their unarmed child in the back. I can’t even wrap my head around that kind of fear – a very real fear.

    What am I going to tell my daughter when she’s old enough to start asking me what the hell is wrong with this world? I don’t know the answer. There are so many factors that commingle to create the problems we have in this country – and this world – that I don’t even know where to start.

    I want to help, but I feel so helpless. I want it to change, but I feel so ineffective. I just literally shut down because the rage I feel is too much. I have to not pay attention, because I will take this shit out on the guy who cuts me off in traffic.

    But I know that I need to pay attention. I need to know what’s happening to my fellow city-dwellers, my fellow Americans, my fellow humans. I don’t know what I need to do about it, but I know that I need to know about it.

    Thank you, Janelle, for reminding me to pull my head out of the sand (or my ass, as the case may be) and giving me some guidance on what to do next. You’re the only blogger I follow who has spoken out about this issue, and I am grateful that you said it in such a powerful way.

    • JDub

      I too live in a news-devoid space of my personal choosing for the same reason. I know that bad things go on in my country. But in the end, in this age of information overload and sensational journalism-driven news, I don’t think anyone wanting to just live in their own little world is a bad thing. I have my own community and friends, and we are positive people, some more crunchy/granola than others. We help out around our community.

      I read this blog for a dash of humor about mothering and wifeing (yes I made up one of those words), as well as humor about how to balance – or rather unbalance – it all. However I personally didn’t enjoy this blog post. I think that no matter what anyone says in the comments, unless it is “oh how right” that it is going to get slammed by people who want to scream white privilege and racism. Doing their part. Avoiding white guilt (assumption) or wanting to speak their piece about racism. What a heavy topic.

      As if one can simply call someone’s whole collected experiences in life & the lives they touch, “white.” Does the word black or Spanish sum up a whole person? All the ways they embrace culture & their friends? What they think like? Of course not. Are we supposed to know all about them by a racial characterization? Are we reading so much into this that we are GUESSING who is white, indian, black, or pacific islander in these comments? Does a racial characterization really matter?

      What if we went so far as to characterize “whites” by ethnicity? Irish, Jews, Polish, etc., and blacks by ethnicity, Jamacians, people from Botswana,etc. Then can we assume to know someone’s entire way of life? I think not. I think it cheapens any discussion to claim someone is acting out of white privilege in the ways I see it thrown around here, so quickly and condescendingly. To immediately shut down what could have been a learning moment for many readers, including the o.p. with who knows what viewpoints. What experiences they could have shared or began healing. So dismissive.

      I think the best way to deal with anything lately, my 2 cents, is to deal with it locally. On a local level, what is a problem that a person sees every day? How would one small thing a person could do go about fixing this? It doesn’t have to be about racism per say. Just anything. Real face-to-face kindness. No matter how small. If one needs more action, how about homelessness? How about the fact that children are still hungry in our own country? How about reverse racism? How about seniors in need of services or companionship? None of us are helpless to do something locally every damn day. Some days small, maybe other months, something large for a few hours.

      We are all too busy, too stressed, too much on our plates, too much information, as a society. However, if anyone could just try to make their own little world and community a better place, that would be such a start. Peacefully. By listening and peacefully standing up for the down-trodden, poor, and hopeless. It doesn’t have to be so negative around here. Goodness gracious. I just stopped by for a little fun. We all know what a shit-storm it is in the country at large. But how about your own little community? How about trying to be mindful of others. Don’t be a dick while driving? Help if help is asked for. Pay if forward. Go help in your own community, either ethnic community or just local friends & neighbors, peacefully, and be willing to listen to others WITHOUT shutting them down. Nothing said here – yes, my opinion – was so horrendously heinous to deserve the ass-chewings they got.

      I did appreciate the well thought out comments & obvious deep thoughts about this subject of Renegade Mama in the original post, however, Janelle, in slamming readers (yes, I know, to be expected of you) and shutting them down so quickly, in what I believe YOU started out to be a more deep and meaningful post, I have to say I am….pretty disgusted.

      • renegademama

        I slammed readers? I simply thanked somebody for their comments. How is that slamming?

  • Trackbacks

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