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The Renisha McBride Case and Avoidance of Race

Renisha McBride

Renisha McBride

According to a November 15, 2013 article on TheGrio.com, Renisha McBride’s family does not want race to be a factor in the prosecution of her killer. Renisha McBride is the 19-year-old Black woman who was shot in the face by a White man after she knocked on the front door of his house in Dearborn Heights, Michigan.  Ms. McBride was apparently seeking help after a car accident.

Renisha McBride’s killer, 54-year-old Theodore Wafer, said he thought McBride was trying to break into his house and that his gun went off accidently. Unfortunately, this has become an all too familiar scenario – a young Black person is gunned down after being “mistaken” for a “criminal.” The cases of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell in North Carolina and 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida provide just two recent examples of similar incidents. Yet, in spite of this pattern, Renisha McBride’s parents have rejected even the possibility that their daughter could have been a victim of racial profiling.

According to TheGrio.com, “The parents want the public to imagine that McBride could have been anyone’s loved one, not a woman who was shot for being black.” And further, “Preferring to refer to McBride’s death as a ‘case of human profiling,’ [McBride’s father] asked the public to ‘think about the fact that any 19-year-old girl might be in a similar situation.’”

I pose a question to all who read this BlackAngryWomen blog.  Do the parents of ‘Black’ Renisha McBride want so much to believe in White acceptance of us (Blacks) that, even in the deeply tragic and personal circumstance of the killing of their own daughter, they have denied even the possibility that race could be a factor? This is deep, y’all.

I state, unequivocally, that the Renisha McBride case is racial. We cannot extricate Renisha McBride’s killing from the many other cases of young Blacks being shot dead due to racist perceptions of perceived ‘Black’ criminality. Nor should we want to.

We Blacks cannot ignore or deny racism out of existence. We will only experience racial justice when we call, and call out, racism by its name. Similarly, because race is still salient in this country, the public (and, by extension, potential trial jurors) will view this case through a racial lens no matter how many appeals McBride’s family makes to do otherwise.  The implications of the Renisha McBride case go beyond Renisha McBride. Again, this case falls within an all-too-familiar pattern of young Blacks being killed by Whites or “White-minded” individuals (George Zimmerman).

The outcome of the Renisha McBride case may affect the course of future cases. Even more, the McBride case could serve as a rallying point for people to fight or continue fighting for racial justice. That the parents and their lawyers have declared the case ‘non-racial’ is unfortunate; however, it should not dampen any of our efforts to mobilize.

We saw what happened in the George Zimmerman trial when the prosecution declined to bring up a racial motive in the case. Instead, the defense lawyers brought up race, to the benefit of George Zimmerman. The defense seized on the “creepy-ass cracka” comment that Trayvon Martin reportedly made in reference to Zimmerman, to show that Martin was the one doing the racial profiling. The defense created the impression that Martin pursued and “attacked” Zimmerman for his race instead of the other way around.  The defense also had several White residents of the neighborhood where Martin was killed testify that young Black males had been responsible for previous break-ins in the area and that they were terrified of potential future break-ins. Thus, the inference was that Zimmerman had a right to be suspicious of ‘Black’ Trayvon Martin.

Remember that Zimmerman was acquitted.

With Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy already stating that race will not be a factor in the prosecution of Theodore Wafer’s killing of Renisha McBride, I worry that his trial will go the way of the Zimmerman trial. If and when Wafer is acquitted, many of us will cry out in frustration and wonder how such an outcome could have happened, just as we did with Zimmerman. However, maybe we should start by looking at ourselves.

Racism is real.  We need to acknowledge and fight against it 24/7.

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Vanport and Black Genocide in Oregon

Vanport and Black Genocide in Oregon

As an infant, I surmise that life was relatively simple for yours truly.  Growing in conscious awareness, however, I quickly saw the difference between Black folk and White folk.  And, as I survived the racist nature of Whites in Oregon, I gained firsthand insight into the ugliness of racism.

The Black community in Oregon was rich in culture, knowledge, wisdom, survival skills, watchfulness, and love.  Our elders were so very gifted and – in spite of the horrors many were privy to and subjected to – those who survived maintained their humanity.

Life was not easy for Black people in a racist Oregon.  The 1940s had brought a relatively high number of Black men and Black women and their families to the Oregon area.  We had been recruited and encouraged to move to Oregon to work in the Shipyards.  The government had helped in financing the building of a manmade city (think of ‘White’ Edgar F. Kaiser and today’s Kaiser Permanente) for us to live in.  Blacks were given verbal assurances by White officials that we would be safe and secure living in the manmade city named Vanport.

Following the ‘war’ years, however, the Black adults who remained in Vanport knew that we had lost our wartime usefulness to the Whites of Oregon.  Meetings were held and we Blacks were again repeatedly promised by White officials that we would be safe remaining in Vanport.  We were told that Vanport was secure and that we did not need to worry about the city flooding or anything else.

In short time, the White man’s word proved to be worthless and the city of Vanport flooded in 1948.

The Black adults who survived the 1948 Vanport flood often reminisced and – sometimes mulled over — the events and timeliness of the Vanport flood.  They expressed that the flood was an intentional racist attempt to eliminate their Black presence in Oregon.  And, although I was but a child at the time of the Vanport flood, I was always allowed to be present during adult talk and discussions.

In spite of the accepted ‘official’ government counts, the Black men and women who lived in Vanport knew firsthand that the number of Blacks who died in the flood was far greater than recorded in ‘official’ records.

I am a ‘Black’ survivor of Vanport.  My account of events is non-negotiable!  And, by the way, my Black family never received a dime in compensation for our losses nor did we receive any government assistance.  Likewise, we did not receive any help or even an apology from ‘White’ Edgar F. Kaiser who so richly profited as a result of Vanport.

Nuff’ said.

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But I Don’t Want To Be White!

But I don’t want to be White!

While I was a young child, my mother was approached and she agreed to allow our family home to be used for the training of ‘selected’ Black females in the Portland, Oregon area.  The ‘trainers’ were Black women who knew the ways, dress, styles, etc. of White women as a result of working in the homes of White folk.  The training provided was to make us young Black females ‘White like’ in our ways, tastes, and more.

The Black women who provided the training sessions were ‘pillars’ of Portland’s Black community.  The young Black females who had been ‘selected’ for such trainings were carefully hand-selected by the trainers.  These identified young Black females were expected to grow in refinement, etc. so as to enhance the uplifting of Blacks specifically in the Portland area.  I, the youngest of all, was expected to be included in the sessions only because the sessions were to take place in our family’s relatively large and spacious home located in the Irvington district of northeast Portland.

The day of the first session at our home soon arrived – as did the ladies and the ‘selected’ young Black females.  The ladies wore hats and long gloves signifying refinement and culture and the seriousness and importance of the sessions.  We, the trainees, were ushered to our seats around my family’s long dining room table.  My mother – a fabulous cook by heart — had prepared a meal for all to indulge in following the session.

The ladies proceeded to explain to us the reasons for the trainings and what they expected our futures to look like.  My mother stood by and listened with appreciative anticipation.  She felt privileged that her home had been chosen for the sessions. Mom had never been a part of the Black social scene or so-called upper-crust happenings in Black Portland, therefore, to have been asked for the use of our home was a privilege in her eyes.

Following the talk session, the actual training began.  As I listened and observed the training routines, I knew that what was happening was not something I wanted to be a part of.  I was directed to stand up and began; however, I refused to get up from my chair at the table.  A couple of the women inquired as to whether I felt ill; I responded with a simple “no”.  My mother appeared puzzled and stepped forth as she asked me what was wrong.  In panic mode I responded with “But I don’t want to be White”.

The ladies laughed and chuckled before imploring me, again, to do the routines the other young Black females before me had done.  Again, I responded with the words “But I don’t want to be White”.  The ladies looked back and forth at each other and then back and forth at me.  They again expressed that it was important that I and the other young Black females learn to be White-like in order to uplift ourselves in the eyes of White folk.  They again explained that our futures would be greatly enhanced because we would be acting like White women….

In my young mind, although I knew why the Black women felt such a need, the why did not override my refusal.  I repeated my infamous words “But I don’t want to be White”.

Finally, my mother – who was very angry as a result of my refusal to participate — ordered me to get up from the table and to sit on the floor.  My mother explained that the seats at the table were for the young women who were participating in the training.

Even though I wanted to leave the dining area, my mother said that I would sit on the floor during each and every session unless I agreed to participate in the training.  I sat my buns on the floor and leaned my back against the French doors which separated the dining area from the entry-waiting area in our home.  As I sat there, I listened and observed while thinking thoughts that I dare not put to print in this blog.

A couple of the women implored my mother to not be angry with me.  They told my mother that I was probably too young to fully understand….’  One of the ladies continued to look back and forth at me as she spoke lovingly about ‘Little Lulu’s stubbornness’.  My mother, however, was quite upset with me and I knew that I would be in ‘real’ trouble once the ladies and the other young Black females left our house.

To my mother’s angst, I repeatedly sat on the floor in the dining area and I consistently refused to participate each and every time the training sessions were held at our house.  Always, the ladies gave me opportunity to participate and always I responded with the words “But I don’t want to be White”.

Many years later, I learned that my ‘young’ refusal to participate and my words “But I don’t want to be White” became the never-ending ‘talk’ amongst our Black adults of the time.  And, I was accorded special respect and admiration and made privy to much as a result of my wisdom and refusal to become White-like….

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A Black Journey in Portland, Oregon

A Black Journey in Portland, Oregon

Another post on BlackAngryWomen.com

My father was a Black man who wore his Blackness both outwardly and inwardly.  Daddy took great pleasure and satisfaction in being Black and he actively supported and worked towards the betterment of Black people throughout the diaspora.  Daddy did not waste time in conversation with Whites regarding racism.  Daddy simply stated a fact and ‘allowed’ Whites to determine whether or not the racial ‘issue’ had to go to a physical level….

A ‘good’ example of my father’s racial character (c.1950s) came shortly after he went to play golf on a previously all-White golf course in Portland, Oregon.  When confronted on the course by a mob-mentality group of White men intent on doing my father physical harm, Daddy stood his ground and refused to leave.  And, when the ‘mob’ moved to advance on my ‘Black’ father, Daddy swiftly pulled an iron from his golf bag and swung it around his head as he exclaimed to all that the ‘first one in is dead….’  Needless to say, the mob quickly dispersed and Daddy continued his game of golf without further interruption.

As a result of my father’s refusal to barter his freedom to ‘enjoy’ his game of golf, that previously all-White Rose City Golf Course became my father’s ‘second home’.  Daddy continued to regularly play golf on that course.  And, Daddy introduced other Blacks to the game and the course and the money that could be made there.

My father was always ‘aware’ of race.  He knew firsthand that White folk posed a never-ending danger to Black folk and Daddy schooled me – and other Blacks — accordingly.

If there ever was a hero on earth, it was my father.  Daddy did not kowtow to White folk nor did my father ‘allow’ Whites to joke about race or racial issues in his presence.

Amongst my fondest memories, as a child, was my daddy reciting the poetry of ‘Black’ Paul Laurence Dunbar in our home – a practice I continued with my own children and others.  I also remember both the respect and the sadness my father expressed when he spoke in ‘private’ detail relative to ‘Black’ Paul Robeson….

My father was a man of many many talents.  Along with speaking Creek, Latin, Spanish, and English, my father built his own printing press for use in the multiple businesses he started.  Daddy was an adept accountant, mover, electrician, plumber, painter, writer, golfer, and more.

Daddy’s morning routine included running a distance of 10+ miles, exercising outside our house, a cold shower, preparing breakfast for our family, singing, and often playing our family piano.  Daddy regularly managed all of the above before going to work or before going to play an AM round of golf on the golf course we nicknamed Daddy’s “second home” – Rose City Golf Course in Portland, Oregon.

My ‘Black’ father was a man who especially enjoyed the cold.  He played golf all year round — ice and snow did not deter him or his enthusiasm.  In fact, Daddy took great pleasure in playing golf during the winter weather when few, if any, White golfers were on the course.  In relatively short time, Daddy developed and established an annual golf tournament which he named the “Iceberg Open” at Rose City Golf Course in Portland, Oregon.

Under my father’s direction, I handled much of the advertising end (including write-ups and more).   All of the ‘Iceberg Open’ details – including rules, names, categories, scoring, payouts, etc. came from my father’s mind and creativity.   Following the c.3 day event, Daddy and I collaborated in writing up and printing the results and news pieces for the media.  As expected by my dad, the annual ‘Iceberg Open’ Golf Tournament was a fun and challenging success.

Integration at Portland’s Rose City Golf Course was not a smooth process for my father or the other Blacks he soon brought with him to the course.  Before steering other Blacks towards Rose City and the game of golf, Daddy schooled many on the reality of racism.  Daddy admonished all of us to be aware and prepared.  Daddy exclaimed that ‘a Black man knows better than to call the police in a dispute with a White man.  A Black man knows to handle the problem himself….’

There were many instances of racism at Rose City Golf Course, however, we Blacks handled the problems swiftly and effectively for the most part.  And, there was a silent agreement amongst all of the golfers that ‘what happens at Rose City Golf Course, stays in-house’.  I am reminded of an incident that required a Black golfer to pull a machete from his golf bag.  The Black golfer was playing golf with three White golfers and the Black golfer was ‘winning’.  Following the machete incident, that game of golf continued and the Black golfer won.  That was just one of the many racial incidents that occurred on the course at Rose City Golf Course.

Daddy never really ‘liked’ working under the control of others who dictated commands.  Accordingly, Daddy quickly began his own business which incorporated a variety of ventures.  Daddy, with overstanding and without restraint, provided jobs to Black folk.  Under my father’s tutelage, I learned such skills as writing, accounting, scheduling, organizing, management, typing, language, carpentry, pricing, racial and human relations, and more.  Daddy also advised that it is often better for me to do something than to walk away wishing that I had done something….

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