Understanding the Mindset of Trump Voters

Ever since I read Darryl Davis’ book Klan-Destine Relationships (about a black man that began seeking out members of the KKK to understand why they hate), I’ve been convinced that the key to eliminating hate is open conversation. People on all sides need to break out of their protective bubbles and actually engage with someone that has had a vastly different experience in life instead of being completely dismissive. I would love to speak to a Trump supporter, but living in this bubble in the Northeast I can’t say that I know of any (or at least any that are open about supporting him). Luckily, someone did the work for me.

Yesterday the Times published Conversations on Race With White Trump Voters and it’s eye-opening, to say the least. The purpose of the article was as follows:

Here at Race/Related, though, we decided to narrow the focus – to reach out to white Trump supporters around the country to ask them to respond to the worries voiced by people of color as they look toward Inauguration Day.

The big lesson that the media and others have taken away from the election’s depressingly surprising results is that we (we being democrats, liberals, city folk, etc) underestimated how much Trump’s message actually resonated in rural areas. I can’t argue with that as it’s something I’m guilty of myself. On the flip side however, I’ll say that Trump supporters (referring to those that aren’t openly racist and sexist) have severely underestimated the impact that his election will have on people of color. I want to highlight a few direct quotes from Trump supporters and compare their understanding of our problems with Trump to what’s actually happening (all emphasis in quotes mine).


Charles Walker:

I believe some of it needs to be investigated. It may be that some people are infiltrating the Black Lives Matter group. Not all of them are bad people. There are people who calmly and peacefully have their protests, people who do good for people and do good for America. As long as you’re not the kind doing the wrong thing, I think everything will be ok.

The first red flag I see there is in the last line…who determines what is the right vs. the wrong thing? You can believe you’re fully in the right, you can do everything peacefully, but if someone in power disagrees with your method or message or any other aspect, then there’s no guarantee that “everything will be ok.”

I’ve heard about stop and frisk and if it helps lower crime and stops people shooting in the streets, what’s a few hurt feelings? That’s my opinion. It’s better than seeing people die.

12 years of data from New York City suggest stop-and-frisk wasn’t that effective

A federal judge ruled on Monday that the stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department violated the constitutional rights of minorities in the city

An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 5 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics.


Michael Tepedino

I work with people of all races and all colors. I would just say that there’s no need to fear the presidency of Donald Trump.


Black people who say they’re afraid of a Trump presidency, I think their fears are unfounded. I don’t have any reason to think Donald Trump is going to treat anyone differently because they’re black.

There have been reports that Trump is considering David Clarke to lead the Department of Homeland Security. If you aren’t familiar with Clarke, here are some key notes. He is overwhelmingly opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement, to the point of absurdity:

Remember above where I talked about how “the right thing” is subjective? It starts with things like referring to a protest as a riot (while using a picture from a protest against police shootings in 2011 and trying to pass it off as election-related?)…

…and then once you’ve established that these protests are riots, handling them accordingly:

Not to mention the fact that earlier this year an inmate died of thirst in Clarke’s jail:

According to inmates at the jail, they heard Thomas begging for water in the days leading up to his death. The water in Thomas’s cell had been cut off for six days. Guards told the inmates it was because of Thomas’s “erratic behavior”—he had been flooding a previous cell that he occupied.

Regardless of how you feel about the BLM movement, the Justice Department has found that discrimination exists in police departments in Baltimore and Ferguson. So despite any arguments you may see and hear stating otherwise, there is evidence that people of color are disproportionately targeted by the police. And i’m not even going to get into Trump’s own history of discrimination. But back to Michael.

It’s the campaign people, the fearmongers who are trying to instill fear in those people, saying if you vote for the Republicans, he’s going to give tax breaks to the white rich man.

But I think Trump is smarter than that. If he’s alienating half of the country, that is going to make life hard for him. He doesn’t want that. It will be advantageous to him to have a United States of America, not a divided states of America.

How Trump’s tax plan may impact your returns

If Trump were to get everything he has proposed from a Republican-controlled Congress, a taxpayer who makes between $48,000 to $83,000 a year would save about $1,000 under his plan, said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

People in the top 0.01%, making $3.7 million or more in a year, would receive $1 million in annual tax savings.

“He is proposing tax cuts for the very people he ran against in his campaign,” Gleckman said.


Julia McGath:

I’m concerned about all the entitlements. That’s the big deal for me. I’ve worked all my life, and with God’s help I’ve not taken any handouts. But there are so many people who live off that their whole life.

I would say (people of color are fearful now) because they’re not going to get their entitlements. They’re probably afraid they’re going to lose their green card, or whatever they have going to get a free load with.


(source for all charts)

If people are living right and not breaking the law and doing what they should be doing, there shouldn’t be any reason to worry. Honestly, if they just prayed more, they wouldn’t have to be worried.

I never heard about stop and frisk. I can’t imagine them stopping and frisking people for no reason at all. The cops have plenty to do without doing that. That sounds like harassment to me.

There’s that vague reference to living right and doing what you should be doing. Also, Julia should have a chat with Charles about stop and frisk.

Andrew Jones

He wants to be the president for everybody. We’re all Americans. We need to stop isolating ourselves and voting in blocks based on ethnicity. We need to become Americans and live the American dream. We all have the opportunity; we just need to take it.

But if they’re Muslim and they’re coming from Syria, we don’t want them here. If they’re Muslim and coming from Paris and they don’t have a clean record, we don’t want them here.

That speaks for itself.

I think it’s completely appropriate to have a registry for people who are here on visas. I don’t think he was talking about a registry for Muslim citizens. That would be against the Constitution.

From 2015:

NEWTON, Iowa — Donald Trump “would certainly implement” a database system tracking Muslims in the United States, the Republican front-runner told NBC News on Thursday night.

“I would certainly implement that. Absolutely,” Trump said in Newton, Iowa, in between campaign town halls.

“There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases,” he added. “We should have a lot of systems.”

When asked whether Muslims would be legally obligated to sign into the database, Trump responded, “They have to be — they have to be.”

I mean…

He says outrageous things sometimes. But if you take out the bombast and look at the substance of what he’s saying, he’s never wrong. He’s always right.

(A fact checker looked into 158 things Donald Trump said. 78 percent were false.)

It would be totally appropriate for the attorney general to look into Black Lives Matter. It’s against the law to incite riot and if you listen to their rhetoric, that’s what they’re doing. And if it is deemed constitutional, I would support stop and frisk. The police need that tool.

Lastly, I wanna end this with Charles’ closing.

I personally think they’re overthinking the things he was saying. I think, you know, things will work out for the best. Everybody will eventually come together and make things work.

It’s America. We’re all here for each other.

At least we’re supposed to be, right?

I admire the tepid optimism. Like I mentioned in my last post, here’s where the disconnect happen. The worst-case scenario is far worse for a person of color (among others obviously) than for a white Trump supporter. And while I sympathize with the genuine concerns of Trump supporters (jobs, poverty, etc), stating that the government underestimated the things you go through doesn’t hold as much weight when your reasons for electing this man underestimate and/or disregard the things that others go through. At best it’s hypocritical and lacking in empathy. At worst?

What accounts for the widespread support for Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential race? This experiment demonstrates that the changing racial demographics of America contribute to Trump’s success as a presidential candidate among White Americans whose race/ethnicity is central to their identity. Reminding White Americans high in ethnic identification that non-White racial groups will outnumber Whites in the United States by 2042 caused them to become more concerned about the declining status and influence of White Americans as a group (i.e., experience group status threat), and caused them to report increased support for Trump and anti-immigrant policies, as well as greater opposition to political correctness. Increased group status threat mediated the effects of the racial shift condition on candidate support, anti-immigrant policy support, and opposition to political correctness. Among Whites low in ethnic identification, in contrast, the racial shift condition had no effect on group status threat or support for anti-immigrant policies, but did cause decreased positivity toward Trump and decreased opposition to political correctness. Group status threat did not mediate these effects. Reminders of the changing racial demographics had comparable effects for Democrats and Republicans. Results illustrate the importance of changing racial demographics and White ethnic identification in voter preferences and how social psychological theory can illuminate voter preferences.


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If You Voted for Donald Trump…

Everyone else has one, so here’s my open letter to anyone that voted for Donald Trump in the election. I’m going to address two key demographics.

First, to those that are racist/sexist/etc and voted for him for that reason: great. There isn’t much to say to you because unlike others, you’re very upfront about why he has your support. Please form a single-file line to the left and proceed to fuck yourselves for all eternity.

There are many supporters that do not consider themselves to be racist/sexist/etc, and supported Trump for one of the reasons listed below, or something similar:

  • Want to see the ACA repealed, think that insurance is too expensive
  • Are in a higher tax bracket and believe that having a Republican in office is a better financial decision
  • Are convinced that a democratic administration is incapable of dealing with ISIL
  • Want to ensure that a Republican chooses the next Supreme Court Justice
  • Are dissatisfied with the government and think that an outsider can fix it
  • Are dissatisfied with the government and want Trump to fail and blow it all up
  • Don’t like Hillary Clinton because emails
  • Don’t like Hillary Clinton because Benghazi
  • Don’t like Hillary Clinton because she would abolish the second amendment

First things first: I don’t believe that you’re all racist (a significant portion, yes…but not all). That may be naive of me, but that’s what I’m going with. However, you have still tethered yourself to this man. You are supporting a vile, terrible, awful human being. The sad truth of it is that you don’t get to pick and choose…if you stand with Trump, then you’re taking the good (I use the term very, very loosely) with the bad. If/when he institutes policies that target minorities, women, Muslims, LGBTQ individuals, and others that he and his party have clearly marked with their hateful crosshairs, that’s on you. If he repeals ACA and those 23 million people lose their health insurance and some of them die, that’s on you. If his supporters, emboldened by the fact that America as a whole seems to endorse hate, commit acts of violence against any of the groups mentioned above, or anyone else, that blood is on your hands (do you think it’s unfair to be held responsible for the actions of a select few on the fringes? Have a seat at the table; minorities and Muslims have been here for some time).

You (and everyone else) heard his words, heard his ideals, knew his history, and spoke with your vote; you said “yes.” Your vote told him that you agree with what he says. You did not condemn him for his views, you did not punish him. One thing you’ve all made a point of saying throughout this campaign is that Donald Trump speaks his mind and doesn’t beat around the bush, so there’s no way you can say that he has left anything open to interpretation. You have to live with that. There can be no feigning surprise in a year or two, no statement of “Well yea I voted for him, but I didn’t want this to happen!” He’s made his plans very clear and your vote was an endorsement, an agreement, a clear-cut “I hear what you’re saying and I want you to be President and have the power to carry out these actions.”

You voted selfishly…which I realize is not something that’s limited to one party or one person. Most people tend to vote selfishly; you vote for the candidate or platform that will benefit you the most. In the past, the consequences of this have been minimal (at least in comparison to our current situation), but this was obviously no ordinary election or campaign.

You chose lower taxes at the expense of every Muslim that will be attacked or persecuted or deported.

You chose to repeal the ACA and save yourself some money at the expense of 23 million people that were previously unable to get health insurance because it’s an industry that puts profit at the top of their list and helping people somewhere around 47th.

You chose to allow him to choose a Supreme Court Justice with the hope that Roe v. Wade would be overturned at the expense of a woman’s right to make one of the most difficult decisions she can make for her own health and well-being.

You chose to allow him to deal with ISIL in whatever manner he chooses at the expense of the refugees trying to escape the very terror that you want exterminated.

Voting for the man but then claiming that you don’t agree with his views is akin to saying you’re not a murderer while supplying the killer with ammunition. This is the very definition of privilege. If you are white, especially a white male, the worst case scenario for you (which spoiler alert: is extremely likely) is that he ignores every promise and pledge he made during the campaign, and your lives remain the same, if not somewhat worse (reduced or eliminated Social Security and Medicare, no more accessible health insurance for those in need). To paraphrase the parasitic worm himself, you thought “What do I have to lose?” and filled in that bubble next to his name. You have little to lose. Others have so much more. But you put yourself first. If it takes spilled blood and rampant racism and violence and discrimination and islamophobia and sexism for you to gain your wish, so be it, right (and if you’re not a white male, or not even white, don’t get me started)?

So while you might sit there and list of the litany of reasons why you aren’t racist or sexist, you clearly decided that your comparatively miniscule needs outweigh the rights of other people that are not the same as you. Your problems are more important than the lives of those…others. Your vote stated, in no uncertain terms, that all of the groups mentioned above (and likely many more) do not matter to you.

“My taxes are more important than that Muslim that was attacked.”

“My desire to annihilate terrorists is more important than refugees trying to escape said terrorists.”

“My hatred for ACA is more important than allowing a woman the option of getting an abortion, even when medically necessary.”

You claim you aren’t racist, yet you voted that the problems of these others do not matter as much as yours. You voted against equality. You voted with the mindset that certain groups of people are inferior and unworthy of the same assistance and attention and respect. You want to make America great, but not for everyone.

So keep insisting you aren’t racist, that you don’t discriminate. But if it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck…


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Metal, hate, and hypocrisy

So back in April of last year, Metal Injection posted an article about Inquisition (which was inspired by this post by Jonsan van Johnson) implying that the band members are Nazis, based upon a story told by Daniel Gallant, a driver during one of their early tours. You can click on either link to view it, but I’ll post it here for the sake of simplicity:

“I was a white supremacist for many years. I have been out for twelve years. I drove the bus for an Inquisition tour. When I suspected they were white power, because I was driving for my friends band Gyibaaw, a First Nations band, I decided to prove it.

I pulled off my t shirt and there it was…my giant swastika for them all to see…they clapped and cheered…Inquisition (both Tom and Jason) were thrilled.

They boasted about their admiration for Hitler, how they loved the white power movement, and had many friends from South America and Everett, Washington…turns out we had mutual acquaintances. Tom used to hang out with the World Church of the Creator and still boasts his admiration for the church. Jason boldly stated he loves imagining living in the Nazi era and wished that would happen in America. They ranted until I shut them down.

The band Gyibaaw were grossly offended to the point of backing away from the black metal scene because of it.”

Now, I understand that this is one story from one man with no verification, and while I have my own opinions on the incident, I’m not here to talk about Inquisition specifically (although for those interested, Decibel conducted follow-up  interviews with Dagon of Inquisition and Daniel Gallant), but rather the all-too-common response given by some of those in the metal community.

Metal has always been something that’s existed on the fringes of public acceptance; from Black Sabbath to Judas Priest to Slayer, there’s always been a negative stigma attached to the genre in the mainstream. And to be fair, it’s certainly a reputation that metal bands and their fans have openly courted at times. Over the decades, artists have continued to push moral boundaries, adhering to the old adage of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Any external criticism is met with scorn; the idea being that metal was not created for the masses and does not seek nor require their approval. The more extreme and outlandish, the better.

But there is a line (albeit a blurry one) between singing about “dark” topics such as suicide and satanism, and openly espousing bigoted beliefs. Racism in metal is nothing new, and while there are bands that will openly share such outdated views, most (I hope) don’t subscribe to those ideals. But every once in a while someone will “accidentally” make a controversial statement that gets picked up by the blogosphere, leading to responses that mostly fit into one of two categories. See if you can guess which group I’m taking issue with:

  1. Really? That’s disgusting, to hell with this band
  2. Metal’s supposed to be about hatred, if you don’t like it don’t listen!!!

…Yea. This response, essentially saying “too bad if this offends you, I’m not offended so you’re wrong and I’m right,” is an internet epidemic and can be found anywhere, regardless of topic. And yes, you are completely entitled to your (ignorant) opinion, but it doesn’t make you any less of a mouth-breathing caveman. Especially in metal, where you’ll find some of the most thin-skinned people you’ll ever have the misfortune of coming across. A band changes its sound to something slightly more accessible? False metal! A metalhead admits to liking popular, non-metal music? Poser! But if someone points out that Malevolent Creation (over 248,000 fans on Facebook!) guitarist Phil Fasciana drops a stupid amount of n-bombs in an old interview, including this gem:

“You know I hate niggers. You know that’s the way the band is.  But you know, we got a lot of nigger fans… Even when we do make some racist slurs, we keep them pretty hidden…  I don’t dislike black people.  I’ve got a lot of black friends, but they’re not niggers.  There’s niggers, and then there’s black people.”

(The interview is conveniently explained by whoever edited the band’s Wikipedia page: “However, the context of the interview does leave little doubt that many of the comments in it weren’t meant to be taken seriously.” Oh, ok. In that case, carry on), or that the band end’s the track “They Breed” off of 1995’s Eternal with:

Always wanting, always taking
What was never yours
Someday you will feel the hate
You fucking niggers

then you’ll be told to mellow out, it was just a joke, metal’s all about pushing boundaries, quit being such a pussy, etc. Varg Vikernes, a convicted murderer and blatant white nationalist is revered within the black metal scene, despite using hate speech too blunt for even Donald Trump. Disma will complain about the fact that “Non metal PC bands got a “Death Metal” band kicked off a “Death Metal” fest, while ignoring that this happened because of an interview with their vocalist about his old band Sturmfuhrer (he claims that he no longer has those views, but was still autographing copies of the album as recently as a few years ago). “Metalheads will complain about the fact that society views them as outsiders, but will then turn around and exclude anyone that doesn’t disagree with them. (I shouldn’t have to clarify this, but this is the internet, with no shortage of those that struggle with reading comprehension: I’m not referring to all metalheads. Hell I’m not even referring to a majority; most of the people I’ve met at shows have been awesome, and I’ve never had a negative interaction with a band member). These people are more upset at Celtic Frost for putting out Cold Lake than they are at some brainless moron spouting off views that have no place in the current century.

But hey, maybe it’s easy for you to “chill out” and ignore the hate because it doesn’t affect you. To them, racism is simply traffic in the oncoming lane; something viewed in passing, paired with a brief thought of “sucks for them, glad I’m not dealing with that.” But some of us don’t have the good fortune to be able to just ignore it. You’ve never walked by guys at a local show with Totenkopf and SS badges on their vests. You’ve never seen the guy handing out flyers imploring people to save the white race. You’ve never seen the line of skinheads proudly Sieg Heiling at a Slayer show during “War Ensemble” and thought to yourself “Hmm, maybe I should move?” You’ve never heard the guy standing about a foot behind you dropping n-bombs as he tells his friends jokes, while they all laugh along with him. You’ve never known the feeling of always being on guard at a show, because this might be the one where someone does something more than just giving you a dirty look. Unfortunately, that’s a luxury that those of us born with the “wrong” skin color simply don’t have. It’s unfortunate that so many can’t wrap their heads around the simple concept of “just because something doesn’t offend you doesn’t mean it’s offensive.”

I say all of this as someone that loves metal. I’ve spent over half of my life as a fan of the genre, but it’s only recently that I’ve started to take a real hard look at things. Early on I wanted to be a part of this movement so much and feel included, but that feeling has dissipated over the years, due to my own evolving tastes in music, as well as seeing more of the ugliness that’s woven within the fanbase. For all the talk of unity and brotherhood, there’s this overwhelming feeling of exclusivity. Newcomers aren’t always welcomed; at best they’re shunned for whatever entry-level taste in music they have (as if anyone just jumps into the deep end). I wish the genre was more welcoming, because I’m certain that many others have come across the things I’ve written about and just abandoned it completely, which is a shame. If you see the hate within and the casual indifference in response to it, why would you want to be a part of this community?

I’ve struggled in the past with the question of art vs. artist, and I still don’t have a great answer. But there has to be a line somewhere, and everyone that feels otherwise is causing more harm than good to an art form that they claim to love. When it comes to hate, silence is approval and indifference is acceptance. Don’t tolerate it, don’t try to justify it, don’t minimize the impact. Speak the fuck up and hold these people accountable.

And to bring it back to the band that inspired this post, why does it matter if Inquisition is racist or not? What’s the big deal if band x is NS but keeps it out of their music? I don’t want to support that. Making good music doesn’t make up for being a horrible person, and it’s foolish to think otherwise. If you’re gonna go ahead and maintain these views, please, just own it. Don’t try to say that your words were misinterpreted, or that you were just joking (because we all know that you’re doing it for PR, not out of any genuine remorse), just be the asshole that you are. Make it that much easier for me to ignore you.

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Back at it

I’ve been meaning to write for so long. I carry around my little notebook, I jot down ideas and topics and questions all the time, telling myself “as soon as I get home…” and other conditional shit with which I never follow through. So I’m just gonna sit here and force myself to write, with no real topic in mind.

What am I listening to? Excellent question:

Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlists have changed my life. Pandora (along with Spotify’s radio stations) always gave me the vibe of “people that like x also like y,” which casts too wide a net for my liking. But these? I have no idea what specific criteria is used, but even beyond the above example with similar artists, this is introducing me to stuff I never woulda listened to otherwise. There was even a k-pop song about two weeks back that had it’s turn on the “repeat: 1” ride. Going against what I’ve been saying for years, I’m curious about sampling music, because I think it’d be a great learning experience (but I’m still not giving up on organic, homegrown beats). I’d never heard this track before, but I’d heard it sampled by Flatbush Zombies, and it’s always been a trip to me hearing a full track after being exposed to some warped version of it. I’ve got a couple of lists scattered around with my ideal sampling targets (ranging from songs to video game sounds to random noises), and hearing the transformation in a song like this kinda helps me sonically visualize what I’d like to do with some of em.

I love soul music, I love this old school sound. Basslines can lead a song, and the word “groove” is given a life it’s barely had since.

I might just have to do more of these random pop-ins to get myself re-accustomed with writing. Lord knows I’ve got a bunch to say on a bunch of stuff. But that can wait; right now, it’s all about the music.

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Thoughts of Thinking.

This is just gonna be some freeform shit, so if there are a bunch of errors or it gets too rambly, my bad.

  • I read the story that the relatives of the Charleston shooting victims have forgiven the killer. And I know that’s a religious thing, and more power to them (it takes a lot to reach that point), but he doesn’t deserve forgiveness. He doesn’t deserve pity, he doesn’t deserve to be humanized. If he ever gets to a point where he realizes the full impact of his actions, I don’t want him to be able to think “well…the families forgave me, so that helps.” Dude doesn’t deserve any help. He needs to wear that shame and guilt for the rest of his fucking life.
  • I don’t get racism. I mean, I know it exists, I know it continues to exist for no good reason, but I don’t get it. I’m reading a book by Daryl Davis called Klan-destine Relations, in which he becomes acquainted with several members of the KKK and essentially researches the organization. He continues to meet with members of higher and higher status, gaining access to people and places that most would spent an insane amount of effort to avoid. Why does he do it? He states that since he first experienced racism as a child, he was driven by the question “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” And that’s where I am, that’s the part that I don’t get. There’s no logic in having these preconceptions about a group of people based on things like race, gender, sexuality, etc. A person is a person; we’re all capable of amazing things as well as horrible acts. And the path we chose is based on the decisions we make in our lives…not where we came from, not what we look like, none of that irrelevant shit. Yet there are these massive clusters of people that believe otherwise.
  • You can lay out all the facts, arguments to every point a racist makes, and they may as well be written in hieroglyphics. They don’t see the hypocrisy in their words or actions, they don’t see the flaws in their lines of thinking, they only see the one truth that they believe with such devotion. It’s like a fucking cult, the way you can just have this insane level of selective hearing.
  • Trayvon Martin dying was a reflection of black culture and hoodies. That’s what he gets for looking suspicious to this jack-off on the neighborhood watch. Mike Brown dying was a reflection of black culture and crime. Stealing cigarillos? Sentenced to death. He shouldn’t have broken the law. Eric Garner, the nerve of that guy. Selling loose cigarettes is against the law and he got what was coming to him. It’s so typical of black people, always breaking the law and then complaining when the law strikes back. Walter Scott shouldn’t have run. Freddie Gray shouldn’t have run. Tamir Rice should’ve stayed home and played indoors. John Crawford shouldn’t have picked up the air rifle. But this douche in Charleston was misguided. He simply lost his way. He was a quiet kid, misunderstood. Etc. Etc. Etc. A mass murderer gets a more sympathetic portrayal in the media than victims do.
  • I used to say “don’t read the comments” because that stuff is trash. An internet comment section is literally a cesspool of alphabet soup, letters just floating around in sewage and mutating into disgustingly hateful compounds. But I’ve changed my tune. Everyone needs to know that these opinions exist; those comments belong to real people with real voting power that have the collective ability to influence the direction of this nation. We can’t underestimate this. Don’t be passive and ignore the very real threat that’s out there.
  • One thing I’ve learned reading this book is the power of conversation. Daryl Davis, solely through the act of holding a conversation with various Klansmen, is able to get some of them to reconsider their beliefs, or at least give the idea some thought. In an open and honest conversation, we can break the hate down to its source and then destroy it. All arguments can be toppled, all legends can be put to rest. We strip away the flesh, the hate, the love, the everything, and we’re all people. That’s all that remains, one and the same.
  • The Confederate Flag is a perfect example of what’s going on now. Defenders of the flag will fight so fervently to keep it flying, stating that it’s all about heritage and not racism. And most of us, what do we do? We sigh, roll our eyes, and move on. We know it’s not okay, but we just accept it as it is, which may as well be confirming the delusional beliefs of these flag-bearers. It’s a win for the “Ha! I told you it’s not racist!” crowd, and gives them the misguided notion that they might actually be right, as if we’ve forgotten what the flag represented and stood for (as well as the meaning it carries today). Racism doesn’t go away if we get tired of fighting it and look the other way. That’s only going to bolster the other side and give them the validation they’re so desperately seeking. If you see it, call it out. Let them know that there is opposition, let them know that they’re in the minority, let them feel unwelcome and know that they’re going to be ostracized often because of who they are. Let them feel that for a change.
  • Guns. I don’t even know how to reach the militant second amendmenters. If Columbine and Sandy Hook and Charleston and every other life taken by a bullet doesn’t convince you that we have a problem in this country, I don’t know what will. I honestly don’t know if they’re capable of seeing a tragedy as anything but a call for more guns. Every time there’s a shooting, we just go back into the archives and pull the same headlines out: “Politician decries tragedy, calls for strict gun laws” and “Guns-rights activists blast politician, declare that with more guns perpetrator could have been stopped sooner.” Then they start arguing back and forth, something else takes over the news cycle, and it’s all forgotten until next time. But those next times are increasing in frequency.
  • The most depressing thing about politics in this country is how little we actually matter. Come election season they’ll all sing songs of promise and optimism that only we can provide by choosing the right candidate. And once they’re in office, we get to watch the world’s longest running bitchfight commence as both parties combine their efforts to ensure that not a single productive thing is accomplished. Bills aren’t meant to get passed; they give them something to argue about, more ammunition for the next round of elections. And then oddly enough those promised changes will come up in the following cycle as well, still unsigned and teetering on the edge. If you asked Americans to list what they believe to be the biggest issues in the country today, the top results would likely relate to the economy, poverty, criminal justice, etc. But if you listen to what we’re being sold, you would think that we all cared about getting some religious freedom bills and preventing gay marriage. Remember; a politician is never concerned with old voters, but only seeks to attract new ones.
  • Republicans. Re:your presidential candidates…are you serious? That’s all you got?
  • #BlackLivesMatter because Fox News kept insisting that Charleston was a religiously-motivated attack on Christians, refusing to the acknowledge the racial aspect that the network so subtly encourages in its viewers.
  • Why do people welcome negativity into their lives? If it’s something internal, you gotta ask yourself why this thing, whatever it is, has such a grip on you. If it’s within your control to change it, then change it. If it’s something that you can’t change, then let it be. That’s an unnecessary emotional drain that accomplishes nothing positive. Focus on what you can change, and change it all for the better. Spread positivity like a contagious pathogen. If you’re negative, you will only see your negativity reflected in the world. Change your mindset and your life will change along with you.
  • I don’t support the death penalty. But there are times when I waver.
  • Racism is dead, but a Judge said “there are four kinds of people in this world: black people, white people, rednecks, and n******” in 2003 and was “reprimanded.” Then someone decided he should be assigned to the Charleston case. Then someone remembered “Oh yea, wasn’t he the guy that…” Yes, he was. The fact that a man subscribing to that line of thinking still serves as a judge 12 years after uttering that comment, and was allowed to rule on some ungodly number of cases with that lack of intellect should offend everyone.
  • I think that’s enough. Stay positive, remove negative people from your life, do what you love and have fun with it.
  • #FreeTomBrady #NoBradyNoBanner
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Why You Should Care About Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and the Criminal (In)justice System

That was Part I…Part II is me trying to address the most common questions/statements made in response to what’s going on. Obviously these words don’t represent anything but my own opinions and I welcome any and all viewpoints (but if you come at me with dumb shit, you’ll get a reaction worthy of your response).

  1. Why are people protesting?

Because they have to. Despite the recent explosion in coverage, police violence against civilians is nothing new. Prosecutors declining to charge officers when these crimes are committed are nothing new (and yes, I’m aware that it was the grand jury’s decision in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, but prosecutors/district attorneys could easily guide a grand jury towards pressing charges if they saw fit). What’s happened is that after years (decades, and even longer if you want to cast a wide net) of no accountability, people got fed up. As big as Ferguson is today, as much as everyone knows the name Michael Brown, there was very little media coverage when this first happened. I only knew about it because I was on twitter (likely during college football games), and started to see more and more mentions. However, it didn’t even make CNN or any other national news outlets until at least two days later, and that’s only because of the protests organized by Ferguson residents. If the media wasn’t going to care on their own, then actions would be taken to draw attention to the latest chapter in the ongoing epidemic of police brutality. Often, if something like this makes the news, they’ll run the story that’s given to them by the police department. History has shown us that what we’ve been told is often not the truth.

  1. What’s the big deal? Brown robbed a convenience store, struggled with a cop, smoked weed, and went for his gun.

Stealing cigarillos and smoking weed, while illegal in Ferguson, do not carry a death penalty. To say that either of those justifies his death is completely asinine. Regarding the actual interactions with Brown and Wilson, two people knew the full story and one of them is dead. The fact that there was so much conflicting information and testimony should absolutely result in a trial. Remove the badge and think of this scenario: Person A kills person B. Person A tells one story, witnesses tell another story. How often will a prosecutor believe Person A, the one who pulled the trigger, when there are multiple inconsistencies? I understand the difficult when there is no video evidence, and it led to the push to require all officers to wear body cameras. However…

  1. What about Garner?

I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I’ll say right now that Eric Garner’s death happened when I was in Portugal. I read about it, but I didn’t watch the video and I’ve only seen it up until the cop starts to apply the hold. I have no intention of watching that man die. Without getting into the NYPD’s history (which I admittedly don’t know much about, having spent a total of 3 days in NYC) and their “broken windows” policing style, all I know is that Garner was selling loose cigarettes on the street (which is a crime, but again, one that doesn’t carry a death penalty). Officers approached/surrounded him, and they considered the act of him pulling his hand away to be resisting arrest, so in the effort to take him down, one cop applied a chokehold (which the NYPD banned in 1993, but you wouldn’t know it from the countless chokehold complaints they receive every year). Said chokehold lead to his death, and the coroner backed that up and ruled his death a homicide. Despite that, and despite the entire thing being caught on video, a grand jury decided not to indict the officer.

  1. Why would the officer not be charged?

There isn’t nearly enough time or space here to explain the current state of the criminal justice system, but as mentioned in the article I linked a few days ago, it works exactly as it’s supposed to. You will rarely, rarely see a police officer charged with a crime, and if you want to know more, I recommend two books: Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces by Radley Balko, and The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. My theories (based on those books and other sources)? A DA will not charge a cop because that puts his or her job in jeopardy. Come election time, if the police union decides to back another candidate, the existing DA is more or less finished. We’ve all seen the power that (all) unions hold when it comes to elections.

  1. What do unions have to do with this?

All I’ll say on unions is that like the police force, it’s a well intentioned idea that’s been perverted and used for unsavory purposes. I understand why we need unions, but I’ve also seen plenty of instances that make me despise them.

  1. Why is it always about race? Why did no one care when [white guy] was killed a cop?

People did care, and people do care. The effort to reform the criminal justice system is not a new fad and does not pick and choose based upon race. Now, the question you’re really asking is why the media doesn’t cover any of those stores. The short answer is to ask the media. We know what their agendas are, and we also know that they cover what they want to cover. The longer answer, my longer answer, is to go back up and read question 1 about the initial protests in Ferguson and how they essentially forced the media to pay attention; they made it too big to be ignored. After that, I’ll ask you (or anyone asking this question) what did you do in that manner to draw attention to that cause? Do you personally care about the police brutality victims that aren’t being mentioned in the media? Then be active and do something about it. But if you don’t care, then are you just saying that you’re tired of constantly hearing about black victims? I’m not finishing that thought, but you should be able to put 2 and 2 together and see what that line of questioning implies. My philosophy is the following: If you aren’t doing anything to fix a problem, you don’t get to complain about it; obviously you’ve accepted the state of things as they are.

  1. What does blocking traffic and lying down in the street accomplish? If they want to change things they should be less disruptive.

Hanging back and waiting for the media or politicians or anyone else to give a shit didn’t work, as decades of murdered civilians will show you. The protests, whether you like them or not, are effective, and have brought attention to this ongoing issue that many people are trying so hard to ignore. The protests in Ferguson started in a small town of about 20,000 people and managed to raise awareness all across the globe. So whether you like them or not, they are affective. And as long as officers are brutalizing and killing civilians and getting away with it, they’re not going to stop, and they’re not going to go away. The die-ins (when the massive groups all simultaneously lay down in a town square or intersection or store) are forcing people to view what they’ve tried to avoid: all the dead bodies. Don’t expect sympathy because your commute was affected when people have lost their lives and loved ones have lost their family members.

The fact that there’s more outrage over a blocked intersection than over an unpunished murder caught on tape says it all about the current state of our society.

  1. What’s with all the “black lives matter” if this is something that happens to everyone? Don’t all lives matter?

Yes they do, but there’s a good portion of the population that thinks black lives don’t matter. I’m aware it’s an incredibly low hanging fruit, but a quick glance across twitter or any internet comment section or facebook group will show you that these ugly, unevolved opinions are still far more common than they should be in 2014.

  1. So what can be done?

I don’t know. At this point, I think we have to start small by just educating people and letting them know why they should care and why all of this matters. Maybe with enough support, pressure can be put on politicians to actually take this seriously and enact some changes, but outside of that, I’m clueless. This machine has been running since before I was born, and it’s going to take a Herculean effort to get past all the roadblocks and make any sort of change. But awareness is without a doubt the first step. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have been going so deep into this. My mind was in other places with other concerns, the familiar refrain of “it’s not affecting me” blocking out most of the world’s travesties. To see where I am from where I was? I’m convinced that everyone has this potential within themselves; they just need to have their eyes opened.

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Opposing Viewpoints and What We Can Learn From Them

Bill Clinton gave a speech last month at a gala for The New Republic. I think the entire thing is worth a read (click here), but I want to highlight a specific section of the transcript below, because I think Bill makes some excellent points that people are ignoring or dismissing (if they’re even aware of them):

  “You know, Americans have come so far since, let’s say, the era of Joe McCarthy. I mean, think about it. We’re less racist. We’re less sexist. We’re less homophobic than we used to be. We only have one remaining bigotry. We don’t want to be around anybody who disagrees with us. And if you look, actually residential patterns in America are changing. I mean, not just on by Congressional Districts. I mean fixed-line borders, like counties, the internal, social and political complexion of them are changing, and we also are siloing our information sources.

I read the other day that 47 percent of self-identified conservatives will only watch Fox News on television. That’s good for Fox News. I mean, it’s a good business model. My mother-in-law, who died a couple years ago at 91, and whom I love dearly and who lived with Hillary in our Washington home while she was secretary of state and senator, was the most liberal member of our family. She watched Fox News every day. I asked her if she was trying to give herself a heart attack. She said, “No, I’m just trying to keep my blood pumping.”

But then my—but then she seriously said—she said, first of all, Bill, I need to know what they’re saying so I have an answer and I need to know what they’re saying in case they’re right. She said, nobody’s wrong all the time. It’s like almost biologically impossible.”

That first comment, about how we avoid people with differing opinions is probably the biggest roadblock we’re facing today. I’m sure that if we all took a look at our social circles (myself included), we would find that a majority of people agree with us on issues that we consider important, whatever they might be. And that’s a very bad thing, because if you’re constantly having your opinions reinforced and rarely facing criticism or any opposing viewpoints, you’re going to be less likely to actually consider the possibility that you’re wrong and some dissenting voice on the other side has made a good point. I can sit here and rant and rave all day about injustice in the world, but if everyone in my audience already agrees with me and sees things the way I do, am I really accomplishing anything? I haven’t changed any opinions, I haven’t made any progress or done anything to change the current conditions; all I’ve done is pat myself on the back because no one called me out or found flaws in my arguments. That’s a false sense of accomplishment; it feels like I’ve done something, but that isn’t the case. It’s akin to running in place for 30 minutes. Sure, I’m exhausted and it seems like I’ve gone far, but I’m exactly where I was when I began.

This ties into the second point about Fox News. And I’m not trying to attack them right now, but the fact that almost half of conservatives get their news from one source and one source only should be troubling to everyone (and I’m aware that the same probably goes for the left and CNN/MSNBC/etc). It’s a dangerous decision to trust one source and never question the information you’ve been given, especially when the media (on all sides) is notorious for chasing controversy and ratings and appealing to their target audience instead of actually delivering honest news. When I’m posting on here about political or social topics, I’m not specifically talking to the people that agree with me. My hope is to initiate some sort of conversation with a person on the other side that feels differently, but is at least willing to engage in some sort of healthy dialogue. I welcome opposing viewpoints, because the best thing that we can do is learn from each other. I know for a fact that I’m not right all the time and I welcome anyone that wants to correct me, because no one person knows everything. There is always more knowledge out there, and these situations, never as black and white(no pun intended) as they seem, are constantly changing and evolving. It’s important to know what the opposing arguments are to a) disprove them with facts, or b) modify your own opinions based on new evidence.

This is my goal, and I hope that everyone reading this massive wall of text makes a commitment to do the same: Have as many (mature) conversations as you can with (reasonable) people that don’t agree with you. Even if neither side wavers, at least there’s an open path for the future. Maybe in a discussion weeks (or months or years) down the road, one of you will be more willing to listen to what the other has to say, and then we’ll actually be on the same page for a change, instead of just yelling at each other from across the aisle. Oh, and of course, take everying you see/read/hear in the news with a grain of salt. If someone says something, do your own research before you prop it up or shoot it down.

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