What’s Going On?

Marvin GayeMany of you might be familiar with these famous lyrics:

“Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today…”

If so, you know they’re the lyrics of the late, great Marvin Gaye’s (1971) song. “What’s Going On?” These lyrics seem particularly appropriate today, as they were some decades ago when he first sang them. I share them here, because you, like me, might be asking this same question in reference to the latest police shooting, specifically of Black/African Americans or people of color, “What’s going on?”

The latest police shooting in Brooklyn, New York is a sad commentary on the state of the numbers of Black/African Americans or other people of color, dying as a result of police shootings. Is this form of dying replacing the old form of “lynching”? Mapping Police Violence (2018) tells us that Black/African Americans are more than 3 times likely to be killed by police than White/European Americans, those who live in Oklahoma are 7 times more likely to be killed than Black/African Americans who live in Georgia, and 13 of the 100 largest U.S. city police departments kill Black/African Americans at higher rates than the U.S. murder rates. The statistics mentioned here don’t include Black/African Americans who were “unarmed” when killed.

The Washington Post (2018) reported that:

Police fatally shot an unarmed man in Brooklyn on Wednesday after mistaking a metal pipe he was holding for a gun, authorities said. The death of Saheed Vassell (Jamaican) 34, provoked hours of emotionally charged protests and has prompted the New York state attorney general to open an investigation (para. 1).

It is my understanding that the person killed was holding a metal pipe like it was a gun and making gestures as if he were shooting with it, and presented this same behavior when police arrived. Community members shared:

Vassell lived just around the corner from where the shooting took place. Many of Vassell’s family members and neighbors told local reporters that he had bipolar disorder and was well known to the area’s police and shopkeepers, one of whom described the mentally ill man as “harmless” (para. 15).

It is understood that Vassell was exhibiting threatened behavior, and police are trained to subdue the threat. But, knowing that people with mental illness struggle immensely and this social issue is predominant in our communities, why don’t police training include learning about the dynamics of mental illness, and how to de-escalate situations of this nature? Going further, why is it not mandatory to have someone come to the scene with expertise in the dynamics of mental illness?  It certainly seems like, it’s easier to shoot and subdue the threat. It seems that in many cases we have normalized death, or more so murder, to the extent that, our responses may be downright outrage initially, but resolve shortly, to “That’s the way it is.”

It’s so much going on with Black/African American police shootings, leadership scandals, immigration, foreign affairs, and the like, it is often easier to blank out and ignore. Yet, as Martin Luther King, Jr. shared, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”, silence is not an option. At least not for those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s, when Black lives absolutely mattered, and across the nation, leaders in the movement had no issue about letting the world know this.

Today, Black/African American lives still absolutely matter, but so do the lives of men, women, children, youth, LGBTQ+, DREAMERS, people who are disabled, mentally ill, homeless or housed. Readers, we are talking about human beings. Tell me, compared to human life, what other condition matters more? In light of this, “What’s going on?”

In The Know




August 19, 2017

In the wake of the insidious incidents of protest by “white supremacists” and subsequent violence brought on by their display of hatred, bigotry and racist ideologies, that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Center for Educational Opportunities for Descendants of the African Diaspora (CEODAD) stand in solidarity with other Black/African Americans, Jewish citizens and other populations marginalized by the oppression systemic structures, historically prevalent, and which continue to rear its ugly head years after the Civil War.

We have long been aware that there has been a smoldering wick, a simmering fire of groups of white supremacists who have been waiting in the shadows, for what they deemed, an appropriate time to fan the flames of continued oppression and subjugation. It seems Charlottesville was that time. Yet, what they have no cognizance of, is that, those of us who may have been sleeping at one time, are today, wide awake. We know that we can lift our voices loud, in solidarity with others who stand on the side of justice, and publicly denounce any forms of racism, anti-Semitism, Jim Crow reenactment, and all other behavior against humanity that serves to harm.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr. (1965) who shared, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. As community psychologists, educators, researchers, community activists, dismantlers of walls of separation and hatred, and gatekeepers, we will not be silent about this, and any other situation that matters. Thus, we rise up, or sit down, which ever position is necessary to protest the atrocities that have been perpetrated against human beings based on skin color, religion or other diversity.

No, we will not be silent. Instead, we mourn, but also owe our gratitude for Heather Heyer, murdered in Charlottesville, and her parents for having the courage to publicly denounce the hatred of white supremacists, living out Heather’s desire for justice in America. We take their courage and place it on our backs, condemning the driver of that car. And, no matter whether the courts deemed that atrocious act, second-degree murder, we are prudent enough to know, it was really premediated, deliberate and the act of a coward.

Sadly, we do not have leaders in the highest office in America who stand for justice, and who unite, but instead push forward and uphold bigotry, racism, and most of all, hate. Yet, this is a platform that is doomed for failure, and is rapidly crumbling right before our eyes. To this end, CEODAD is within its legal right to call for a formal dismantling of a White House that divides our nation. As investors in this nation, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, whether some like it or not, we have a voice in its health and well-being. We use our voices here, to say, “Count us in.” Count us in as soldiers, and we come along side of those on the side of the oppressed and marginalized, and those treated as second-class citizens.

CEODAD encourages all community psychologists, community activists, educators, researchers, and all others siding for the unmitigated end to racism, violence and its kin, to use social media, practice, your classrooms, policymaking, conferences, and all other public platforms to push forward an agenda of love, introspection when needed, and lift your voices in solidarity. The time for action is here.

Nelson Mandala once spoke these words, “Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world.” Consider the world changed.

In solidarity with our allies,

Geraldine L. Palmer, Ph.D., Co-founder

Loraine R. Palmer Snead, Co-founder

On behalf of,

Center for Educational Opportunities for Descendants of the African Diaspora (CEODAD)