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Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

I’m a firm believer that it’s especially important to ask the right questions of yourself and others when historic events are taking place. To that end, this list of questions for racial allies as black churches burn in the South.

1.) Why target black churches?

2.) What is the significance of using fire to destroy black churches?

3.) Is it a coincidence that these string of fires began in the immediate aftermath of national discussions, as well as state and federal actions, concerning gay marriage, domestic white terrorist, and the Confederate flag?

4.) If it is not a coincidence, what might be the message these arsonists are attempting to get across?

5.) Does witnessing black churches burn make you feel anything? If so, what? If what, why?

6.) Who might the perpetrators be?

7.) Why is the mainstream media not covering this story with the same veracity as they do high-profile police shootings of unarmed black men?

8.) Why does the mainstream media appear to enjoy picking apart the lives of dead black men and women who’ve been killed by police more than they do actually investigating the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, how’s and why’s of why the federal government hasn’t swiftly caught these arsonists burning black churches to the ground?

9.) Do you really believe these aren’t hate crimes?

(L-R) Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sit pensively after communicating with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy while they await protection from the gathered mob outside the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Paul Schutzer/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

(L-R) Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sit pensively after communicating with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy while they await protection from the gathered mob outside the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Paul Schutzer/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

10.) If you do, what might this say about your position on the spectrum of privilege?

11.) Where are ALL the white allies?

12.) (To my white allies) How might white skin privilege work to expedite not only the capture of these criminals, but the way the world views these stories?

13.) Why haven’t we seen white ministers with money publicly denouncing these crimes AND offering resources to aid these churches?

14.) Why haven’t we seen black ministers with money publicly denouncing these crimes AND offering resources to aid these churches?

15.) Does this absence of leadership and empathy (faith-based or otherwise) by white and black ministers represent true brotherhood one to another?

16.) If true brotherhood is not the actual practice of religious institutions, why should they matter?

17.) Do people of color enjoy equal protections under the law?

18.) How might this story be different if the targets were government buildings or mega-churches?

19.) Does it say anything about President Obama and his administration that he refuses to articulate the present racial condition of the country and what he plans to do about it?

20.) If so, what does it say?

21.) And what does it mean for you?

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 06:   Betty Phelps, daughter-in-law of pastor Fred Phelps and a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, demonstrates outside the Supreme Court while justices hear oral arguements in Snyder v. Phelps, which tests the limits of the First Amendment, October 6, 2010 in Washington, DC. Albert Snyder sued the Westboro Baptist Church after his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was killed in Iraq in 2006 and members of the church held signs and demonstrated outside his funeral. The church and its members preach that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are punishment for Americans' immorality, including tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – OCTOBER 06: Betty Phelps, daughter-in-law of pastor Fred Phelps and a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, demonstrates outside the Supreme Court while justices hear oral arguements in Snyder v. Phelps, which tests the limits of the First Amendment, October 6, 2010 in Washington, DC. Albert Snyder sued the Westboro Baptist Church after his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was killed in Iraq in 2006 and members of the church held signs and demonstrated outside his funeral. The church and its members preach that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are punishment for Americans’ immorality, including tolerance of homosexuality and abortion. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

I grew up in St. Louis, MO reared by a single mother after my father’s murder when I was four years old.

Like many Black and Latino youths living in poverty, hip-hop music spoke directly to my soul and provided chapters in a living testament to my pain. Through the lens of hip-hop I was able to bring into focus many of the world’s ills. Rap lyrics provided answers to why my stomach growled from hunger countless nights or why violence and drugs pervaded my neighborhood.

These songs caused me to begin to view the world as a collection of systems that provided sanctions and rewards depending on skin color and political power.

Although my father was a Pentecostal preacher for 15 years before his death, and despite the fact I attended church into my teenage years –thanks mom– my dad was one of the few ministers I’d ever heard willing to tackle social issues with a mix of biblical authority and cultural sensitivity, instead of the bigotry, dogma, and fundamentalism so many Christians accept as prophetic insight today.

So it is no surprise hip-hop artists appealed to my inquisitive mind more than most preachers ever could.

I’ve probably listened to “So much trouble in the world…can’t nobody feel your pain,” the lyrics by Big Syke (“All Eyez On Me,” 1996), an Oakland, CA rap artist and friend of the late Tupac Shakur, thousands of times. And from the first to the thousands of replays through cd Walkmans, cheap boom boxes, car stereos with detachable faces –you know you had one too!– and now, Ipads and tablets, the heart wrenching response remains the same as it did when I was 13 years old.

The feelings of being alone – in trouble and in pain – knowing no one is coming to rescue you, is debilitating. When we add to it the reasons why: racism, bigotry, political corruption, religious hypocrisy, violence; it becomes suffocating. Such conditions nurture hopelessness and hopelessness deprives human beings of their ability to speak. Voices are lost, often forever.

Reading recent news headlines one would find it incredibly difficult not to believe our nation is going backwards. Of course there’s been victories along the way. Last week the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in every state, this is progress. However, judging by the tidal wave of commentary following the Supreme Court’s ruling, by those who claim belief in a God of love, it’s clear, a large swath of this nation still can’t feel the LGBT community’s pain. I’m convinced after almost 32 years of living in a “Christian” nation that those who believe in heaven are hell-bent on keeping it as racially, culturally, and politically segregated as possible.

But there is other pain as well.

This past month much time and energy has been exerted vilifying an obviously mentally-disturbed White woman in blackface, arguing with the misinformed and bigoted over the meaning of a piece of fabric, and telling lies about racism disguised as mental illness to protect a hate-filled White youth who premeditated and committed, in a house of worship, one of the most heinous acts of domestic terrorism in recent history. Are we better for having engaged these stories in this way?

Has significant progress been made by the talking heads and political and cultural pundits? Has talking around real issues ever moved the ball forward in any area of American life? No.

Pain has been on display, but it remains unaddressed. For example, how can we even pretend to unpack a story like Rachel Dolezal if the Black community isn’t willing to admit and investigate their own internalized colorism? If Black citizens aren’t honest and forthright about how we devalue one another based purely on racist premises: dark skin vs. light skin; good hair vs. bad hair; even Black power, Black is beautiful, and Black nationalism vs. multiculturalism and pluralism. Then how will we ever extricate ourselves collectively from the mental chains of bondage bequeathed to us at birth?

All this denial as Black churches burn like it’s the 1960’s on repeat.

When will White so-called allies understand that it is their responsibility to eradicate White supremacist patriarchy and the religious murder cults fashioned by their ancestors hands, and of which they still benefit from even to this day?

It is not the duty of people of color nor is it within the realm of possibility for us to deconstruct the system of institutionalized racism in this country. Those who built the monster must also destroy him. If Whites lack the will and courage to do so, they are not allies, but cowards merely dilly-dallying in White guilt; straining crocodile tears for Black victims; believing dewy eyes rather than blood will cover their multitude of sins.

The denial of pain is an American trait, even an American value. So much of our identity is dependent on this kind of running away; we’ve perfected escapism at our own peril. The way manhood is defined in America, from the founding of this country to now, is nothing more than a preoccupation with denying pain and pretending as if one is indestructible and without emotion.

Could this be why effeminate gay Black men and transsexual men of color are the most despised and victimized of all, owing largely to unaddressed pain intersecting to plunder Black bodies? Americans have been taught to habitually protect fantasies while destroying reality.

Could this allegiance to controverting pain account for why the majority of domestic violence victims are women who endure years of blacked eyes, busted lips, and broken bones at the hands of intimate partners before reporting abuse? And some women never do.

Has dismissing pain become so much a part of our identity that parents justify instructing their own children to remain silent about rampant molestation within families and religious communities rather than protecting innocence? Is this learned desire to escape reality, to suffocate emotions and plunder others, responsible for why White Americans still find comfort in wrapping themselves in the blanket of indifference rather than using their privilege to shape a better world?

Until we come to terms with this enormous deficit of decency, fairness, and love, pain will remain the leading story on every news outlet for years to come.

But in America, dreams matter more than those who envision them. In America, can’t nobody feel your pain.

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Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

I was recently asked my opinion on the phenomena of flirting, in particular, flirting while faithful. In other words, the act of flirting with another person while in a committed relationship. I chuckled when it was brought up. Perhaps because I’ve been guilty of flirting while faithful myself, on numerous occasions, and I suppose I never really gave it much thought. But is flirting while faithful a harmless act of fleeting indiscretion or a violation of trust? Does flirting chip away at the foundation of an otherwise loving relationship? In fairness, there’s certainly degrees to flirtation, from the benign to the inappropriate, and I think everyone would have to admit, even those who are staunchly against such trifles of affection, that what is considered flirting is subjective; we’ll explore that later. But maybe serial flirters really should take a moment to consider whether their frivolous ways cause unrepairable damage to those they love.

As a man who enjoys a good flirt myself from time to time I admit there’s a certain thrill to publically admiring the beauty of a stranger. I have always admired the loveliness of a woman, even as a young boy. There’s something about a woman’s essence that is unique and refreshing. Like a pious older woman once told me while attending Sunday morning church service in Detroit, “It’s nice to be nice.” Isn’t flirting just a form of paying it forward? You happen to feel good, so you try to brighten a person’s day with a compliment. Ok, maybe I was flirtatiously inclined long before the sweet old lady offered her affirmation, but what’s the harm in it? Most women on the receiving end of my “sweeties,” “darlings,” staid eyes, sultry smirks, wetted lips, and slick tongue (not that perv!) react positively and reciprocate the gesture. Typically people experience a healthy share of humdrum during their day-to-day grind of work, family, and other obligations, receiving unexpected words of admiration can serve to temporarily interrupt the monotony, as well as provide a boost to the ego, sometimes when it’s most needed too. On numerous occasions women have responded to my “You look beautiful today,” with an incredulous smile followed by “Really? I feel like crap, but thanks for that. It’s not every day I hear I’m beautiful.” It’s a sad state of affairs if these admissions are true.

Nowadays we occupy a world of political correctness run amok. Every word that is said must be parsed irreparably before spoken as to not offend anyone, even compliments. But what does such society-imposed restraints do for the common person besides erect walls of fear between us? Political correctness definitely aides in silencing the most egregious rhetoric, but it does so at the expense of the sweethearted. As a result, people are not only less likely to receive compliments, they’ve nearly forgotten how to accept them with grace. There has been more than one occasion when I was harshly rebuffed by women simply for opening doors for them or holding eye contact a split-second beyond their comfort level. The reason I don’t overreact in these situations, like some men choose to do, is because street harassment of women by men is rampant in most cities. Street harassment crosses the line from flirting to, well, harassment. Shouting a woman down on a corner, following a woman down the street, cat-calling and spewing obscenities about her anatomy could hardly be characterized as flirting by any reasonable person. Indeed it is not.

Perhaps flirting wouldn’t be so complicated if it were only reserved for single folk, but husbands and wives, those in committed relationships, are not immune to the power of the flirt. I’m sure every guy has been out with his lady before, at a bar, a club, maybe a restaurant, when you see another woman; finer than a runway model and thicker than Serena Williams (if that’s your thing); walk in the room, and it requires you to summon the amount of focus usually reserved for the optometrists office to keep from watching her walk by. If your girl loves you, she’s making sure you don’t look too. It’s like women have radar in situations like this, the subtlest glance in the wrong direction will be instantly detected, and yes, you will be hearing about it at some point. Some women would have men believe we occupy this unevolved and undisciplined state alone, but I think women are just much better at flirting on the low than men. The same goes for cheating, but that’s a different article. Does glancing at an attractive woman, while with your lady, constitute disrespect? As with most things I tend to believe instances like this fall within a gray area. If a man’s head whips around like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner than yes, that’s inappropriate conduct. But merely recognizing another person’s presence, not so much. In fairness to the ladies though, men have fragile egos, and most men would react adversely to his lady breaking her neck to get a better view at another man too.

What is it about these situations, whether it’s your man offering a toothy grin and soft handshake to the party host with the miniskirt, an overly anxious introduction from your lady to one of her “old friends” who happens to be built like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a reciprocation of affection to the waitress with the overflowing cleavage who’s obviously flirting with you, that causes our spouses blood to boil? It’s simple, people are territorial about the ones they care for, and lethal about who they love. Flirting is a threat to what two loving adults have already established. To witness your love interest flirt with someone else feels like robbery in a way because we know this stranger hasn’t earned any of the free affection they’re garnering by personal sacrifice, care, thoughtfulness and faithfulness, not to mention longsuffering through all those ballgames and romantic movies. For him or her to swoop in and gain your lovers attention all willy-nilly makes one question the relationships legitimacy. It’s a matter of trust. I’ve heard a many a lady say “When my guy flirts with another woman it makes me question what he does when I’m not around,” or men bemoan “A woman who can’t control her eyes is probably sleeping around.” Both of these statements aren’t always true, sometimes they are, but the sentiment is clear. Being faithful requires a lot more than avoiding sexual intercourse with someone besides your spouse, it’s an emotional commitment not to betray their confidence in what the two of you are nurturing together.

Relationships are fragile because human beings are fragile, and it doesn’t take much to break a heart that’s in your hand. Flirting on its face is indeed a mere trifle, but when feelings are involved, and relationships are serious, it doesn’t take much to transition from trifle to trifling. Just a thought.

What’s your opinion? Is casual flirting harmful to a relationship?

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Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

People ask me all the time, usually white women for some reason, why I talk as if I know the minds of all white people. They tell me not all whites are the same, most are not racist at all, and that there are many whites who want institutionalized racism destroyed the same as people of color do. I usually just offer a wry smile because to unpack the truth in these situations would be a futile effort. I do however find myself wondering: “Where is this moral white majority hiding?”

I won’t claim to know the minds and hearts of all white people, obviously, but I surely will attest to understanding what the majority find comfort in, believe to be true, hold dear, and are willing to fight and die for – and it surely isn’t liberty and justice for all. The brutalizations visited upon blacks in America since its founding speaks to the tilt of white America’s moral compass. Much can be learned from observing how whites have chosen to run this country the last 400-plus years – in a fashion that isolates and targets black people for exploitation, brutality and murder – creating and protecting institutions designed to excuse these actions. Whites who claim complete innocence in such heinous race-based discrimination and state-sanctioned murder have never taken time to engage in real introspection about why America operates in the way it does.

There has never been a civil rights movement in America birthed due to whites’ disdain for racism nor has there ever been sustained organizing around social and economic justice for people of color by white citizens that encompassed a wide cross-section of whites of all economic levels, in a effort to mount an assault against the oppressive American system of institutionalized racism. But one does not have to kill an unarmed black teen with a police-issued handgun to participate in government-sanctioned murder; one need not sit on a judicial bench or argue cases in district court to participate in the mass incarceration of black and brown men and women for non-violent crimes; one doesn’t even have to give one dime to a corrupt politician nor be the town’s police chief or sheriff to engage in police misconduct and cover-up – all that is needed, all that is required, white America, is for you to do nothing in the face of this evidence, this is how you assist in oiling the machine of injustice.

And this is the heart of white America, a heart that lacks empathy, which is incapable of demonstrating remorse, that believes sincerity rather than moral intelligence is a virtue, and a people who are deluded into propagating ideas like “American exceptionalism,” i.e. white superiority, while simultaneously claiming ignorance to the systems that destroy those without white skin. I don’t need to survey all white people to know their hearts because individual feelings mean little when black fathers can be choked to death by white policeman, in front of cameras, in the largest city in the Unites States, without as much as a meeting of the minds of white people, and the formulation of a real plan, by and for white people, to ensure these massacres don’t persist. There are those, including the first black president, who get great pleasure from preaching to blacks about personal responsibility for their station in life, but where are the responsibility mantras shouted in the direction of white institutions which routinely kill black Americans? Conspicuously void.

So again, I’m forced to ask where is this moral white majority that despises racism? Where are they hiding? What can the rest of us do to liberate them from whatever system is suppressing their desires to transform America into the bastion of freedom and justice the Constitution promised to all? I have a lurking suspicion this “moral white majority” is merely the wet dream of unawakened minds, and simply more white sincerity when moral intelligence is what’s needed most.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

The no-indictment decision by the St. Louis County grand jury has sparked protest all over the country. Demonstrators in Oakland and Los Angeles, California marched on to highways backing up traffic for hours Monday night. Similar demonstrations were staged in St. Louis, New York City, Seattle, and Chicago. Numerous businesses in Ferguson, MO were looted and burned to the ground. The hopelessness inherent in the perspectives of those young people running into stores stealing merchandise and carrying it away was apparent, but so was the anger.

The oppressive conditions black citizens in Ferguson have been enduring for decades accounts for the tremendous frustration, and explains the destructive response which played out to a global audience two nights ago. But once all the smoke has cleared, and National Guard troops have left Ferguson, it’s hard not to believe the death of Michael Brown will recede into the back of most people’s minds in 6 months. Brown’s name will no longer appear in newspapers or be found in news blurbs running across the bottom of HD televisions. His death will not inspire such visceral reactions from the social media community as it has the past three months. In a word, Michael Brown Jr. will be: Forgotten; just like Trayvon Martin, just like Sean Bell, just like Eric Gardner, just like John Crawford, just like Renisha McBride, just like the next, and then the next, and then the next black man or woman, boy or girl killed by police in cold blood.

Black life is cheaper than Ramen noodles in America. Always has been, always will be.

A baseball cap and a portrait of Michael Brown is shown alongside his casket inside Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church before the start of funeral services in St. Louis, Missouri, August 25, 2014. Family, politicians and activists gathered for the funeral on Monday following weeks of unrest with at times violent protests spawning headlines around the world focusing attention on racial issues in the United States. REUTERS/Robert Cohen/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW SOCIETY CIVIL UNREST)

A baseball cap and a portrait of Michael Brown is shown alongside his casket inside Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church before the start of funeral services in St. Louis, Missouri, August 25, 2014. Family, politicians and activists gathered for the funeral on Monday following weeks of unrest with at times violent protests spawning headlines around the world focusing attention on racial issues in the United States. REUTERS/Robert Cohen/Pool (UNITED STATES – Tags: CRIME LAW SOCIETY CIVIL UNREST)

Blacks were dragged to this country, kidnapped, and thrown into the bowels of boats for the economic benefit of whites. The heinous atrocities inflicted upon persons of African descent by whites with power reads like the sickest horror story anyone would ever dare read. Mutilations and rape, defecating in the mouths of teenage girls, setting black fathers on fire after castrating their penises and the lips of black mother’s vaginas – all while white toddlers played nearby with the scorched bones of those who’d been lynched in the same spot weeks prior.

You think we’ve moved on from all that? You think the residue of that level of hatred has been washed pristine by evoking the name of Barack Obama or pointing to Oprah Winfrey’s bank account? Open your eyes. America is a land that has always eaten its babies for dollars and cents. This nation will cease to exist before it allows blacks full human rights.

The endless stream of blood in the streets, either through police violence against black citizens or by the extinguishing of one black life by another, due to self-hatred and for dollars which cannot be claimed legally from a mainstream economy that has excluded people of color through systemic racism, prejudice, and discrimination – racial equality remains an illusion set against the anguish of these harsh realities.

Whose life matters in America? How do you tell black children to dream big in a world working to render them unseen?

Twitter photo by @LorenadlaCuesta.

Twitter photo by @LorenadlaCuesta.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Saturday evening in downtown Ferguson, MO a man pushing a walker and carrying an “I am Darren Wilson” sign was arrested for allegedly assaulting a woman protesting Michael Brown’s death. The incident occurred around 7:30pm outside a local pizza parlor.

Eye- witness reports claim the unidentified man exited Faraci Pizza and began yelling at protesters before bumping into a woman. He was eventually separated from the crowd. Protesters shouted at officers to arrest the man for assault. Ferguson police finally led the man away in plastic handcuffs and placed him in the back of a squad car. A video recording which appears to show what took place after the alleged assault has since been posted to YouTube.

This latest incident isn’t the first time protesters have clashed with individuals connected to this restaurant. CCN spoke with two women involved in Saturday evening’s protest who alleged the owner of Faraci Pizza, early last week, pointed a handgun from the window of his Jeep toward a group of Michael Brown supporters standing outside the Ferguson Police Department.

The pizza establishment is only a few blocks away from the police station. On Saturday, protesters walked from the police station to Faraci’s after being told by patrol officers they had to stay in constant motion otherwise they’d be arrested.

Tensions continue to build in Ferguson between police and local residents. Later Saturday night, a Ferguson police officer was shot. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, police initially reported that the officer approached two suspects attempting to break into a business, one man pulled a gun and opened fire, striking the officer in the arm. The officer was treated and released from a hospital on Sunday.

This initial report has subsequently changed in the past two days. Police now say during a routine patrol the officer saw one man standing at the rear of the Ferguson Community Center, when the officer approached the man, he pulled out a pistol and shot the officer before running into the woods nearby. The discrepancy in the two reports about the number of alleged suspects involved hasn’t been explained by Ferguson police.

Shortly after Michael Brown was killed, Ferguson police mandated body cameras for all patrol officers. However, St. Louis County Police Sgt. Brian Schellman told the Post-Dispatch that the officer involved in this most recent shooting was wearing a body camera, but it was turned off. A police spokesperson was not able to explain why the officer had the body camera turned off.

In the wee hours of Sunday morning an off-duty police officer was allegedly shot at while sitting in his vehicle near westbound interstate-70. According to St. Louis County Police the officer was in the right lane when a passing vehicle began firing into the officer’s car. The officer was not shot, but was injured by broken glass. St. Louis County police did not have immediate answers as to why they believe the off-duty officer appeared to be targeted for a gang-style, drive-by shooting.

The absence of answers from police has been a recurring theme ever since Michael Brown was gunned down nearly two months ago. Police have still not provided reasonable justifications for why Michael Brown’s lifeless body was allowed to lie in the street for hours after his death; why Ferguson police released a video surveillance tape of Michael Brown allegedly robbing a convenience store despite there existing no formal request from the public for the tape – Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson actually stated the opposite during a press conference in the early days following Brown’s shooting; why cell phones were confiscated by police at the scene of Brown’s slaying without warrants; and most damning, why did Ferguson Police Department allow officer Darren Wilson to forego filing a police report detailing what transpired between Wilson and Brown before Brown was shot to death?

All these questions have yet to be answered, and it is this lack of transparency by police which has caused local residents to question whether St. Louis County and City police are working in concert to derail protester’s public outcry for justice by manufacturing incidents of violence.

CCN spoke with a female law student from St. Louis who stated she believed the two latest police shootings, along with two other previous incidents involving alleged mask men opening fire on innocent bystanders and motorist in St. Louis city – days before the scheduled highway shut-down of Interstate-70 by demonstrators – as coordinated attempts by police to sabotage community dissent about the Michael Brown shooting.

“It just seems fishy to me that these police shootings and random acts of violence keep happening whenever either a large demonstration is being organized, like the highway shutdown, or when citizens decide to make their collective voices heard when police are hoping things will die down, “ she said.

Despite the conspiratorial nature of these type of accusations, it isn’t surprising residents of Ferguson and St. Louis city would have a skeptical view of police when one considers the extensive history of police harassment, brutality, exploitation, and corruption facilitated by St. Louis City and County police departments over the past two decades.

According to Ferguson Police Department’s own data, in 2013 their officers made 5,384 stops and 611 searches. 86 percent of the stops and 92 percent of the searches were of black people. Only 67 percent of the town’s population is black.

UCLA’s Center of Policing Equity, a research consortium that conducts collaborative studies between law enforcement agencies and social scientist, discovered that despite the racial disparity in stops, the Ferguson police department was more likely to find “contraband” on the white people they stopped and searched than on the black ones.

All these stops result in a whopping $2.6 million dollars a year in fines and court fees, typically from traffic violations. And this type of economic exploitation of black residents doesn’t even begin to explain situations like Terry Robinson, a St. Louis man, who in March recorded with his cell phone two St. Louis city police officers black mailing him as he sat in the back of their patrol car. Robinson, who was on probation for a previous arrest, was repeatedly told to give the officers a name – any name – so that they could plant a gun on that person. If Robinson refused, the officers stated they would fabricate a story about him dropping a gun while running away from them.

Both what the research data and situations like Terry Robinson reveal is an environment of distrust and animosity predicated on very real incidents of police misconduct and subsequent failures of transparency. The stage has been set for confrontation for years between residents of St. Louis and the various police departments, but it was Michael Brown’s body lying face-down in Ferguson which pushed this toxic mixture of frustration, hatred, racial animus, and oppressive police power off the table permeating the hearts and souls of a global viewing public.

What will St. Louis look like when all is said in done in Ferguson? If the past few months is any indicator, it’s hard to imagine scenarios where the answer to that question is arrived at by peaceful means.

Ray Rice punches wife Janay Palmer in the face.

Ray Rice punches wife Janay Palmer in the face.

Mugshot of Adrian Peterson after he turned himself in to Montgomery County Sheriff's office.

Mugshot of Adrian Peterson after surrendering to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office.

Last week the gossip website TMZ released a video of NFL running back Ray Rice punching his then fiancé Janay Palmer while in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino. The controversial surveillance footage set off a firestorm of public outcry as the NFL scrambled to justify previously suspending the Baltimore Ravens star only two games.

More image problems surfaced for the NFL Friday morning when another star running back, Adrian Peterson, of the Minnesota Vikings was indicted in Montgomery County, Texas for reckless or negligent injury to a child for whipping his 4-year-old son. Official police photographs of the young boy’s injuries surfaced over the weekend which depict numerous lacerations and bruises to the child’s thighs, arms and back. In a text message sent by Peterson to the child’s mother he admits to accidentally striking his son in the scrotum during the altercation.

Police photos of Adrian Peterson's 4-year-old son's arms and legs after he was whipped.

Police photos of Adrian Peterson’s 4-year-old son’s arms and legs after he was whipped.

These two recent incidents highlight America’s culture of violence. Too often in America acts of violence are committed by men against those in the least position to protect themselves – women and children – making Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson’s actions a continuation of America’s long history of treating women and children as property rather than human beings.

Before 1839, when the Married Women’s Property Act was first enacted in Tennessee, women possessed no legal rights apart from their husbands. For all legal purposes, women were the chattel of husbands and fathers, and were disallowed from owning property, entering into contract or earning a salary. It would be another fifty-one years, 1920, before white women could vote in the United States, and a full forty-five years longer before African-Americans – men or women – could cast a vote without discriminatory practices nullifying their efforts. During this era of pre- women’s suffrage domestic violence abuse was commonplace. In the last 150-plus years women have experienced increased access to voting polls, corporate offices, and property rights, by virtue of this progress, one could assume women today occupy a world much safer from domestic violence than that of the past, but is it really?

According to data and statistics collected by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

• 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women.
• 83 percent of girls aged 12 to 16 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools.
• Nearly 7.8 million women have been raped by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.
• 11.8 percent of new HIV infections among women more than 20 years old during the previous year were attributed to intimate partner violence.
• Intimate partner violence accounts for between 40 and 70 percent of female murder victims.

These numbers are not surprising when we survey the culture boys are born into in America – one of misogyny, objectification and hyper-sexualization of women’s bodies for male-dominated financial enrichment. We witness this systematic devaluing of women in politics (see Sarah Palin), news media (see Fox news female anchors), and entertainment (See Popular music, professional sports, Hollywood movies and adult film industry). It is as American as firecrackers on the fourth of July.

Men rarely take time to pause and assess the damage done and how they contribute to it. Could this be why some men chose to decry the so-called domestic violence double standard rather than denounce Ray Rice for left hooking his wife in the face? Tortured “fairness” arguments fall flat when we take another look at the data which indicates men overwhelmingly commit acts of domestic violence against women, not the other way around. Could this be because men possess male privilege in a sexist world and are naturally stronger than women? I think so. It is a moral frailty for the strong to prey on the weak.

There exist no class of citizens who occupy a weaker position in society than that of a child, yet, corporal punishment (infliction of physical pain upon a person’s body as punishment for a crime or infraction) of children is legal in every state. Twenty states still allow corporal punishment in schools. Adrian Peterson, like many parents, continue to spank, whip, beat, whatever you wish to call it, their children despite mountains of research indicating the harm it causes. The fact that America, in 2014, still allows parents to legally abuse their children, while at the same time will prosecute dog owners for fighting pit bulls, illustrates a nation’s upside-down values.

According to Safe Help, a child abuse advocacy group, a case of child abuse is reported every ten seconds, and more than four children die every day as a result of child abuse. I can hear some people shouting already that these statistics only reflect the “real” cases of abuse not the “good” kind of spanking that was “done in love” by their parents, and their parents before them. Yeah…right. If we are honest, we will admit that those bruises, welts, and cuts caused many of us to fear our parents, not love them more; made us reticent to question authority even when that authority was wrong. For many of us these “spankings’’ resulted in increased anxiety and transformed our personalities in significant ways – often negative. The brutality inflicted upon us by those we trusted the most altered how we chose to trust others the rest of our lives.

If the best argument for whipping a child is that the same was done to you, we have immeasurably failed our children. When children witness men abuse the women in their lives, another misogynist, abuser, and tyrant is birthed. In 1993 hip-hop recording artist Tupac Shakur penned a warning within his song “Keep Ya Head Up,” which cautioned his listeners about the consequences of victimizing and abandoning women, and the devastating generational effects this abuse has on children:

“And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies…”

Sadly, I think we’ve confirmed Mr. Shakur’s worst fears.

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Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

Timothy Dwight Smith is the Editor-and Chief at ContraCritic News, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

The irony of 9/11 for black people, and others of color is perfectly embodied in the slogan countless Americans have commandeered to honor victims of the most significant act of terrorism ever perpetrated against the United States: Never Forget.

It’s a fitting catchphrase, short, somber, impactful.

All of us can probably remember where we were the day two planes, United Airlines Flight 11 and 175, were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center, killing thousands of innocents and destroying a nation’s sense of safety. The individuals who lost their lives that Tuesday morning deserve to be remembered with dignity and pride – their irrecoverable humanity sobering us all with the realization of just how fragile and precious life is.

We will never forget.

However, long memory isn’t exactly an American trait. At least not when it pertains to victims of American domestic terrorism, quite the contrary. America condones and perpetuates forgetfulness concerning the acts of violence committed against Africans, and other persons of color, by European settlers. Efforts to erase this record of subjugation from history books and our collective memories continue to this day.

A conservative estimate of the total number of African deaths during transport across the Atlantic ocean, in what is commonly referred to as the Middle Passage, is upwards of 2 MILLION people. This was terrorism in every sense of the word, but how often are Americans implored to “Never Forget” the lives of these innocent Africans? I’ve yet to hear these words assigned to the precious lives of my ancestors.

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Upon arriving in North America and the Caribbean, the survivors of the Middle Passage, and subsequent generations of Africans born into American slavery, suffered further brutalizations which resulted in the additional deaths of an estimated 4 MILLION Africans and African-Americans from 1610 to 1900.

But again, when have these lives ever been officially recognized and honored by the United States of America?

Instead of reverence, African-Americans are told to get over this bloody catalogue of oppression, to move on as if it never took place. America teaches its children to scorn anyone who dares mention this era of evil.

Imagine if this same level of indifference was afforded in kind to the families of those victims trapped in the north and south World Trade Center towers; victims who frantically telephoned their loved ones one final time before both towers collapsed on live television. Such callousness would be rightfully excoriated as an attempt to desecrate the memory of 9/11 victims.

Why then is America not held to similar standards for failing to treat the humanity of millions of innocent Africans – killed by oppressive American laws and practices – with decency?

Why are we taught to dismiss the lives of African people who were beaten, raped, murdered, debased and debauched, psychologically brutalized, and exploited through forced labor?

Why are the ancestors of African slaves frigidly commanded to “move on” and spoken to with derisive refrains of “It didn’t happen to you” when their family members (Africans) are mentioned at school or work, in political and private life?

Why are the nearly 3,000 victims of 9/11 honored annually while the 6-MILLION plus African and African-American victims of American chattel slavery and Jim Crow are discredited, and their ancestors ridiculed for demanding recognition as human beings worthy of full civil rights protections under American jurisprudence?

This type of hypocrisy nauseates me. It does not imbue me with pride for my country nor does it cause me to respect the lives of 9/11 victims more. This level of selective recognition based solely on skin color is repugnant to the human spirit and violates any sense of ethics and high morals.

I will never forget.

Author and human rights activist James Baldwin.

Author and human rights activist James Baldwin.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4cXGRgGCl58

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10152618726099869&id=609299868

The perspectives espoused by Andre TheGiant Poet in the above video links is indicative of how many black people feel right now, but everything that sounds reasonable isn’t.

He makes some good points, specifically when he talks about successful black millionaires and billionaires financing projects to create jobs and economic stability for other black people.

Where he goes off track though, where so many blacks go off track when having conversations like this, is when he attempts to cheapen the value of human life by claiming the lives of those who engage in ignorant or hyper-sexualized behavior are less valuable than those that don’t.

You can’t on one hand say you’re for black survival in a society which practices white supremacy, and then on the other assert only those who conform to white norms count, and those who don’t are complicit in the perpetuation of white supremacy and situations like ‪Michael Brown’s death.

That’s none sense. That’s house negro slave talk. If black life will only be valuable when Love and Hip-hop gets canceled or blacks stop liking Lil’ Wayne’s music, then it never was valuable to begin with. This is flawed logic.

Life is valuable because every person was created in the image of god. As long as one has breath in their lungs one has the ability to change and grow, and be better than they were yesterday.

Human worth has nothing to do with how a person acts or dresses or speaks. Or how many babies one has or doesn’t have. Or whether one is married or isn’t married. Or whether one listens to rap music or watches Love and Hip-hop. Or whether one attends Yale or Hampton. A human life is not devalued or enriched by conforming or violating these white norms of so-called respectability. When this type of logic is accelerated to it’s logically flawed conclusion what one ends up with is framing life worth based on how many country club memberships one has, Versace dresses in closets of million-dollar mansions, and Ferraris in six-car garages.

Racist institutions don’t ask the recipient of it’s hatred whether they listen to Jay-Z before tossing their job application in the garbage nor do racist white men survey the television taste of black women knocking on their door for help before blowing their heads off with shotguns.

Racism decides who it will target based on skin color alone not by respectability.

Before blacks, like the fellow in this video, and racist whites were using rap music and baggy jeans to justify institutions murdering and economically and politically disenfranchising black people, other equally weak excuses existed like afros, voting taxes, Black Codes, Jim Crow, and the Bell Curve. None of this is new.

You ever notice when white-on-white crime happens, for example white men going in movie theatres or schools with military-style weapons shooting men, women, and innocent babies or when white men commit terroristic acts like blowing up buildings, there’s never any accusations by other white people (or BLACK PEOPLE!!) that the tragedy was the result of whites watching way too much Jackass (pure ignorance) or pornography (both participating -huge over representation in comparison to other races- and purchasing) or listening to Marilyn Manson or tattooing their bodies? No. That is because white behavior in a society which practices white supremacy, no matter how heinous, is normative. The sins of SOME whites don’t stick to ALL whites do they? No matter how sickening the act of violence, it’s never pathological. Those who looked like Timothy McVeigh didn’t start getting profiled after the Oklahoma City bombing.

In contrast, those black people who choose to act a fool is supposed to be enough to somehow convince me the value of my life has been cheapened?

Really?

Such logic is just more racist reasoning. It sounds like something a Klu Klux Klan member would say as justification for lynching someone black. But yet these words too often come from the mouths of well-meaning black people. It speaks to the pervasiveness of racism in a racist society.

I recently wrote about this phenomena in an essay entitled, “Hands Up with Pants Down: Black Respectability and Racism,”* wherein I stated all my biggest heroes were murdered wearing suits by white men without them.

Black respectability doesn’t guarantee black citizens squat in a society which devalues us all based on skin color alone, not behavior.

I don’t condone ignorant behavior by any person black, white or other. Ignorance is ignorance. But claiming the ignorant behavior of some devalues the lives of the many is falling into the trap of believing the lies whites have told blacks for centuries. It is as James Baldwin wrote:

“The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority, but to their inhumanity and fear.”

So who’s the real nigger?

Those who maintain a society where the idea of the nigger is still necessary in order for it to function, that’s who the real nigger is.

*The essay mentioned above can be found at: http://contracritic.com/2014/09/03/hands-up-pants-down-black-respectability/

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rev. Melvin Louis Smith Jr.

Rev. Melvin Louis Smith Sr.

Emmett Till.

Emmett Till.

Megar Evers.

Medgar Evers.

This recent segment on CNN about pants sagging and racial profiling illustrates the divide not only in the black community, but the larger society, between those who offer black respectability as cure for racial profiling, and others who believe only holding systemic white supremacy accountable for targeting black and brown men for harassment, brutality, and arrest will result in less incidents like Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

First off let me say i’m against sagging as a fashion statement. This includes all men (or women) no matter the age or color of the person doing it. How one dresses does matter. Dress affects how one is perceived and those perceptions can result in positive or negative consequences. Most dramatically evidenced in one’s ability to obtain and maintain employment.

However, if we’re going to have a fair and balanced discussion about sagging I think it’s important that we also discuss misperceptions, because it is these misperceptions which lead to problems like racial profiling, and generalizing an entire race of people based off the sartorial choices of a segment of the global black community.

Malik’s pull-up-your-pants challenge is valid, but his premise for the challenge is flawed. He stated in the beginning of the video he believes black men sagging (he never mentioned white men, and this is important because it speaks to the double standard) contributes to racial profiling.

I disagree.

This logic is a misperception of reality, even a fallacy altogether. This thinking says police officers believe sagging is a mark of criminality, that’s why they profile black men. So if black men pulled up their pants they wouldn’t be profiled. But police do not believe this at all. If they did, black men would not be the only targets of their style profiling in racially mixed communities. Police patrol mixed communities (as well as inner cities which are mostly black) because that tends to be where the crime is, but all the racially diverse communities I’ve ever lived or visited whites appropriated black culture heavily. Certainly hip-hop culture. Go to any mall, bar or club, sporting event, etc., on a weekend in a racially diverse community and you will see white men sagging their pants. Not just a few either, many. Why then are white men (and women) not being targeted for arrest based on reasonable suspicion of criminality if police believe sagging to be a tell-tell sign of one’s propensity to commit a felony?

I think we all know the answer to that.

Furthermore, all of the crime in these communities aren’t being committed by black people, yet they are the most targeted for arrest. Research study after research study has shown that it is whites who commit the most non-violent offenses (arrest for non-violent offenses lead all other arrest nationwide), but are arrested the least for it – even when police catch whites with drugs and illegal firearms on their person. This speaks to the intentional targeting of black men not fair and impartial policing in diverse communities.

We must separate the truth from the myths to understand why a thing like black respectability won’t work to change the conditions for black people.

But if you believes blacks commit the most crime, this won’t make sense to you.

If you believe blacks use and sell the most drugs, this wont make sense to you.

If you believe that blacks commit the most murders irrespective of where they live, whether poor or affluent or everything in between, this wont make sense to you.

And if you still believe that more black men are going to prison rather than finishing high school, this won’t make sense to you.

All these stereotypes are myths, NOT REALITY.

And it is these myths which provide “justification” for cops racially profiling black men for sagging pants…or dreadlocks…or really dark skin.

Sagging one’s pants is not a criminal act, except in jurisdictions where they’ve passed ordinances which ticket such offenders. But more importantly, sagging is not an indicator of one’s propensity to commit a felony either. As Marc Lamont Hill stated, he sagged as a teenager, as did I, neither one of us have ever committed a felony. As haven’t the majority of black, white, Asian and Hispanic men and women who choose to not pull up their pants. Can anyone prove otherwise?

But lets get to the meat of the matter: Fear.

I understand why black mothers and fathers would be on board for “pull-up-your-damn-pants” challenges, i.e. black respectability politics, it is because whether they admit it or not, they know, due to lived experience, that a white cop doesn’t need a reason to harass a black person, and it is this fear for themselves and their children which contributes to some black adults suspending disbelief and assigning blame to the recipient of racial bias rather than the facilitator of it.

Black parents know better, they’ve lived through years of racial profiling, during an era when sagging wasn’t en vogue (when afros got one profiled rather than baggy pants. I wonder how many white men and women with afros during the 70’s were targeted for arrest?) but they earnestly still want to believe that it’s something a black child can do differently to help him from being victimized by racist police officers. But sadly, as too many women who’ve been victims of sexual assault understand, there’s NOTHING preventative which can be done to escape the clutches of a predator. Not wearing a longer skirt, not showing less cleavage, not watching your drink at the bar, a predator is a predator and unless someone steps in to help, one will be victimized.

Police prey on black men because they are easy targets. Black men by virtue of their tortured history and tenuous relationship with law enforcement possess no rights a cop is bound to respect. This goes for all black men, not just saggers. If I’m caught at night in a nice car cruising in an affluent neighborhood, my Brooks Brothers suit and Cole Haan brogues aren’t going to save me from being harassed and potentially brutalized – even if I happen to live in that community. (Check the Skip Gates case.)

So what are we left with? We’re left with the reality that racism is inescapable. And crying racism is not an excuse, it’s a plea for assistance. Racism is not a card to be played. Racism and systemic white supremacy is a reality all black people have to endure whether one believes it to be true or not. Racism cannot be bargained with or negotiated for a lower rate. It is destructive because it is unyielding to compromise. Hatred doesn’t require a reason. Which is why puling up one’s pants won’t lower the rates of black men being harassed by police officers given to racial stereotypes and bigotry.

How one chooses to dress surely may make the difference between being employed or unemployed; being broke or wealthy; being single or involved, even the difference between being looked down upon or respected. But dress doesn’t create or destroy racism nor does it decide how it is disseminated. The racist decides; the power structure decides.

All my biggest heroes were murdered wearing a suit by white men without them. Teaching children self-respect alone will save them from white supremacy is not only wrong, but cruel too.