Guest Commentary: End the Dying of Black America

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Gloria Partida

By Gloria Partida

As we hunker down in our Covid-19 mandated shelter in place, we have the false sense that the world has slowed, become safer, more sustainable. While we look for ways to maintain order and keep ourselves occupied, it is easy to forget that, for some, the safety of the world has not changed. As in any other crisis, people who are marginalized are at greater risk and take the brunt of the blow and never stop dealing with the oppression they are born into. The videos of Ahmaud Arbrey’s and George Floyd’s murders are difficult to watch. The video of a New York birder’s harassment is infuriating. The news reports that Black Americans are dying from Covid-19 at higher rates and receive less testing and care for it are equally infuriating. The oppression has not slowed for Black America. There is no opportunity to be gained in this time of Covid-19 for people who are marginalized.

Since the time of Michael Brown’s death, the demand for police accountability, trainings and change in police culture has exploded. In that time, trainings have happened. Conversations about culture change have happened, yet Black Americans are still murdered in broad daylight in front of rolling video cameras.

As always, we are appalled and sick with despair about the injustice. Fingers are ready to point out the deep roots of racism, the flawed police state, the white privilege. Then, it’s too much, too deep, too ugly, too hopeless and we return to the shelter in place we have lived for ages. Black America returns to bear the brunt of the crisis. This is the problem. This is not an epidemic that is won from social distancing. This is not an illness that is fought by masking. This is something we must all risk exposure to. We must sit in the discomfort of the knowing that the darker a person is the more we are threatened and uncomfortable. The knowing that we are willing to dehumanize our neighbors in our need to be comfortable. The knowing that our goodness is complicit in Black America’s death when we volunteer at food kitchens but refuse to live next door to them. The knowing that just saying “we are all in this together” does not make it so.

Yes, policing is difficult. Yes, poverty and trauma produce people that are at odds with society. Yes, it is complicated and no it is not. After these instances there are many articles on what White America can do to be good allies. All good, and the number one thing we can all do to change our culture is to be honest and to teach that honesty to children. At some point children become uncomfortable with those who are different than themselves. How quickly that happens is a little bit of biology and a lot of our projection. Children are watching as we are the ones who call the police and we are the ones who size people up before they have even opened their mouths. The many that are obviously other, darker, who cannot pass, know the feeling of being assessed, labeled and filed away in the instant it takes to extend a hand and say hello. For Black America that instant can end in a knee on a neck.

As the board of the Davis Phoenix Coalition whose mission it is to promote a world where all people are safe, respected and free from violence, we vehemently condemn the deaths of Ahmaud Arbrey and George Floyd and the injustices born out of institutionalized racism against Black America. We are asking for people to chalk the names of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbrey and light a candle, when safe, in front of their houses on June 1st.

Gloria Partida is the Mayor Pro Tem of Davis and the founder of the Davis Phoenix Coalition


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12 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: End the Dying of Black America”

  1. Bill Marshall

    This is something we must all risk exposure to. We must sit in the discomfort of the knowing that the darker a person is the more we are threatened and uncomfortable. The knowing that we are willing to dehumanize our neighbors in our need to be comfortable.

    Wow… I must have grown up on another planet.  Have never had those feelings… I feel sorry for those who have…

  2. Alan Miller

    I must have grown up on another planet.  Have never had those feelings… I feel sorry for those who have…

    WM, agree with you on that.

    I pretty much agree with this piece except the same part WM cited.  I was wondering who this “we” was that GP was referring to.  Speaking for myself, I willingly “risk exposure” to dark skin on a regular basis, without thinking about it . . . until I read a sentence like that.  I only bring this up because throwing in sentences like those with an unreferenced “we”–  into an otherwise thoughtful article — feels blamey to me — cuz “we” ain’t the “we”.  Perhaps I’m taking the intent wrong, but as worded it doesn’t make me want to ally with the cause, and makes me feel unwanted as an ally due to the color of my skin.

    Then again, if you don’t want me as an ally because I’m a bit of a pr*ck, I can totally understand that.

    As far as “The knowing that we are willing to dehumanize our neighbors in our need to be comfortable,” I fully admit to that.  Some in town tell us our so-called homeless are our “neighbors”.  So, yes, I have dehumanized my “neighbors”.  Y’know why? . . . because they have dehumanized themselves.  I’m not speaking about those down-on-their-luck or severely mentally ill, I’m talking about the meth-addicts / bike-part hoarders.  When one is in active addiction, they have de-humanized themselves.  Sure, some of my housed neighbors may also have dehumanized themselves, but none have a yard piled-high in bike parts and stay up all night twitching.

    [I fully admit] that the darker more twitchy and disheveled a person is the more we are threatened and uncomfortable.

    That ain’t racism.  That’s hearing the deep call our of our animal instincts.

    Unless “twitchy” is now a skin color.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Wow!… Alan M and Keith O agreeing with me… if not another planet, I must have strayed into the Twilight Zone… hope Rod Serling has changed, as I am allergic (literally) to cigarette smoke…

      Too many assumptions made about a ‘class’/race/belief system/political affiliations metric.

      I grew up in a ‘Wonder bread’ world, but never was concerned about ‘color’… neither was my spouse, or our offspring… I took/take people as they are, but do have problems with certain behaviors… if someone approaches me with a visible 6 inch blade knife (sheathed or otherwise), ranting threats, I care not about skin tone, etc.  I’m thinking whether fight or flight is the best option… or, just waiting, but being very vigilant… that has happened a few times in my life, but the ethnicity and/or the ‘color’ of the person wasn’t a factor… it was the behavior… I find that 95+% of the people I’ve interacted with are ‘cool’… the others have crossed all the color/race spectrums… as have the 95+% …

      But I may be an outlier, as my Grandfather and namesake was literally born in Mars (PA, near Pittsburgh)… so, might be an alien (sometimes I feel like a Stranger in a Strange Land, due to some folk’s world view)… yet I am really tired of being lumped in with “crackers”, bigots, misogynists, homophobes, intolerant/insensitive folk, just because I am a white, catholic (note lower case c), male.

      I’m me, for better or worse… am not ‘perfect’, but from time to time, I work on that… I hope and trust others are doing the same.

      1. Alan Miller

        … yet I am really tired of being lumped in with “crackers”, bigots, misogynists, homophobes, intolerant/insensitive folk, just because I am a white, catholic (note lower case c), male.

        Welcome to 2020:  White?  “Guilty, as charged!”;  Male?  “Guilty, as charged!”

  3. Tia Will

    Alan,

    Once again, I feel the need to point out a difference based on more current medical thought. Addiction, be it to alcohol, tobacco, heroin, or meth. is now considered by most doctors to be a disease. True it is one that for most begins with a deliberate action ( taking the drug), but the subsequent effects are no longer voluntary. Addiction of the type you are describing is a mental and physical illness. To try to separate out the worthy homeless from the unworthy is to ignore current medical thought. To me, this would be very like trying to deny the coronavirus is dangerous or to insist it is gone when the medical evidence indicates otherwise.

    1. Alan Miller

      I don’t disagree that it is a disease; this has been the thinking for many decades.  It’s also not about worthiness.  And yes, the subsequent effects are no longer voluntary – also true.

      The problem is in believing that an addicted person can be helped when they don’t want help (at any given moment, most do not); the other issue is in excusing criminal behavior by first labeling someone as ‘homeless’.  I’m not saying the mere act of using should be criminal behavior – but not enforcing law because someone is labeled ‘homeless’ (evoking compassion in some) is an invitation for sanctioned lawlessness.

      To try to separate out the worthy homeless from the unworthy is to ignore current medical thought.

      I don’t understand that statement.  I will use this analogy:  to forgive the criminal behavior of a meth addict because they are deemed ‘homeless’ is like letting a drunk driver continuing to drive because they are deemed ‘alcoholic’.

    2. Bill Marshall

      Could it be that focusing on others’ perceived prejudices (as a ‘group’, individuals can demonstrate that it exists with them) is also a ‘disease’, or ‘addiction’?

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