Terror on the Streets 

I had a dream last night about the urgency  of now and importance of addressing police officers terrorizing young men. In my dream, there was an image of my nephews walking in a world where police officers and young men are at war. Then I woke up.  It wasn’t a dream, that nightmare is real.  It is happening every day. Young men are killing each other faster than the officers are.  Why aren’t we talking about it.

I saw my 15 year old nephew’s Instagram page with the photo of a young up and coming rapper DC named Swipey who was killed a couple of days ago.  I didn’t know who he was.  But I was intrigued that my 13 year old niece and another fifteen year old nephew commented on the post.  Their comments read RIP with sad emoticons.

I felt instant sadness.  I held them not too long ago in my arms as babies and now as teenager their innocence has already been stripped away.  This young 18 year old was killed by possibly four or five young men who ambushed him with guns. Why? A robbery? An argument? Whatever it was, amounts to nothing important.   What is important, Swipey is gone. Where is the outrage about his death?  Had he been killed by the police, there would be outrage, marches and such.

A sense of urgency to call out the injustice and insensitivity of law enforcement is necessary.  Did you watch the video above of a ten year old chased by police who thought he was a twenty year old?

On my company, Party Politics US chalkboards, people have written that criminal justice, black lives matter, protecting all lives, race relations and racial stereotypes are things they want the next President to work on. I agree with them, do you?

If so, this means all of us no matter who wins the election have to work with the next President to address policemen who are terrorizing our young men.  It means, taking responsibility and having intolerance for the people on the streets carrying guns.  Killing one another on the street and even in church over a seat.

And it means calling this what it is, an American issue.  Power, entitlement and selfishness all a part of America, have brought about this epidemic. America has cultivated this since our inception. It’s not a game, it’s real life. But for some who have no feelings of remorse, whose hearts are so hardened and desensitized, this is like a video game.

A week after the Newtown shooting I said that Wayne LaPierre of the NRA made valid points in his press statement.  Many criticized me.  Looking back, the timing of my thoughts may have been hasty.  The wounds were too fresh.   You were right then. But I still stand by what I said then. We have to listen, doesn’t mean agree, with what he said.

The gun culture alone is not the problem. We are! In his remarks he said “there exists in this country a callous, corrupt shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people.” Before you disagree consider this.

Have you ever innocently bought your child a toy gun, water pistol or super soaker that looks like a gun?  If you are like my parents, you never did.  But somehow, my siblings and I figured out how to shape our hands into a gun and pretend to shoot at each other.

How about this?  Ever purchased video games like Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, Splatterhouse, or any war games?  Even played them yourself?  You may not have, but a neighbor or family member may have.  Somehow, no matter how hard you tried, your child learned about guns and the power to kill. Unless, you completely shield them from television, movies and school American culture has a way of putting guns in the minds of our children.  It has for a long time.

Even our politicians engage but there role is far greater.  Yet, it still sends a signal that guns and power permeate our society.  Consider that most members of Congress have never fought or served in the military.  Yet they have been empowered to send our young men and women off to war in places we have no business being in.  Then we see the names of loved ones, or those we have never known listed on the news and in newspapers.  In some cases, on the walls of memorials.  We create a police culture abroad with our military and here with our police. This isn’t something just created, it’s been developing a loooong time.

Here’s something else to consider.  Name a country that has had not one, but four Presidents that were killed by shooters since 1865?

Malcolm X said after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination that his assassination was a byproduct of hate, and “the chickens are coming home to roost.”  We have a precipitous environment of hate in America.  The wars abroad have taken out attention off the war at home between the hate between our police forces and the young men killing each other on the street.

Do you want to address this issue? Or do you want your child, nephew, grandson, to be traumatized like this 10 year old who was chased by police who were looking for a twenty year old? I want to address it. To achieve anything, means having some hard long conversations.  That means talking not yelling.

Hot heads don’t solve problem. Now is the time to open our hearts so that we can hear one another. Now is the time to sit down and let cooler heads prevail. If we don’t sit down and talk, nothing get accomplished.

In the video, did you see the young man’s mother talking to her son.  I am certain her heart was racing.  Anger boiling.  And yet she asks him, what are you feeling.  That is a mother’s love and relief that her son lived to tell the tale of what happened. But what about the next time?

We all know, the officers were wrong!  But yelling at them accomplishes what? That is no different than what we accuse our politicians on both sides of the aisle for doing.  The urgency of the moment calls on us to sit down to talk before more young men like this ten year old are traumatized.

Some of you may want to make it about race. I see it.  I see modern day slave catchers kidnapping free black men and selling them into slavery. Instead, today they see no value for their life so they are killing them.  These young men are expendable to them.  They use the excuse, I thought he had a gun.  Knowing that if it goes to court, like the white man that killed Emmitt Till, Medgar Evers and many others will walk out of court a free man.

Here’s the reality.  One stark difference from then and now.  Today, we can vote for people who can change policy.  Unfortunately, we don’t vote or we vote straight party without looking at the positions of all the candidates!  We all can be smarter in our approach and find that while we have differences, there may be some significant things we can work on together.

We can work together in ways we couldn’t just sixty years ago. We can’t do that if we remain trapped in an abyss of hole of despair. As a legislator told me, if you want to get out of the hole, stop digging!

Young men killing each other is digging us all into a deeper hole.  They don’t appear to put much value on their own lives.  How do we expect the police to value them.

I don’t know why those young men killed young Swipey. But my heart aches for him, his friends, girlfriend and my niece and nephews.

I don’t for the life of me understand why those police officers chased this ten year old.  My heart aches for him and his mother.  My heart is open.  But I can’t blame him if his heart hardens after this experience.  This is part of the narrative we aren’t talking about. The cause and effect.  That’s why many of these young men are killing each other.  Who has valued these children’s lives.  If you don’t see it in the video, trust me, that hurt will manifest itself soon into another hardened heart.  His innocence was just ripped from him, no differently than the young slave boy or girl who was pulled away at a young age to work in the fields instead of playing like little kids should.

If you’re still reading this now and you’re white, or Republican and conservative, close your eyes and imagine, what if this ten year old was your child.

To my young friends, disenchanted with the voting process. Don’t give up. To those who say #BernieOrBust let your voice be heard at the ballot box. There’s another election in two years and another presidential one in four.

If you think not voting is an option, don’t complain about the injustices that are happening. But if it is important to see change occur, remember that we have a checks and balance system in our federal, states and cities. President is not the end all. We need you to vote not just for president.

We need you to vote for congressional, state and local elected candidates who believe like you and me that policy must change. This election is about more than Clinton and Trump. It is about the people. It is about ensuring that we don’t have another fiscal cliff crisis. Or another threat of a government shutdown. It is about creating policy that protects us all from another housing, auto or banking collapse.

My dream last night was about the urgency of now. And the need for all of us, no matter what race, religion, sex or sexual orientation, to recognize that this election is a referendum on human values. Guns add nothing to that value. This election is about human dignity. It is about how we live with each other. How we treat one another. How we love one another. How we value one another.

Surely we can do better than what these officers did to this young man?  If you agree, please share it with your friends and family and talk about it. Join me and others on our Facebook group Chalkboard Conversations where we are having daily discussion.  Together we can make a change.

What do you think?

 

To read Wayne LaPierre full text statement after Newtown http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/full-text-nra-remarks-gun-control-debate-newtown-article-1.1225043

Video of Wayne LaPierre statement http://youtu.be/iusoultZYSs

Learn more about Party Politics US at http://www.partypoliticsus.com and/or join our daily conversations on Facebook in the group Chalkboard Conversations.

headshot Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR), founder of Party Politics US and Associate Producer on The Framing of OJ Simpson.  Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Atiba Madyun on Facebook.

Elegant and Sophisticated: Not This Tea Party

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Speaker John Boehner stepping down means the drama is heating up.

It started a few years ago when the Tea Party Republicans came to Washington.  Back then, actor, singer-songwriter and social activist Harry Belafonte said at the Congressional Black Caucus annual dinner, “Don’t worry about the Tea Party. You know what happens when you put a tea bag in water? (He paused)  It sinks!”

That’s exactly what happened with my party, The Republicans, it’s sunk.

The dysfunction in Washington has disgruntled voters in the party believing three political candidates Trump, Carson or Fiorina with no political experience can fix Washington!

Boehner’s resignation and the drama in DC is going to boil over and show Americans willing to watch, how bad the Tea Party is for America.

That’s what this resignation is about. Boehner wasn’t the problem, he was managing it.

The Tea Party are made up of Americans afraid of change and equal access for all Americans to have Healthcare, immigration reform, programs that help young people forge ahead in education, and women the right to choose what they can or cannot do with their bodies.

Tea Partiers this just in! America isn’t just for you.

Boehner tried to avoid shutting down the government and save you. Why? It isn’t a viable option for the country or the Party!

Tea Party extremists don’t know what Republican stands for. Nor are you what the founding fathers and those who fought for a representative form of government intended when creating Congress.

Republican used to represent the idea “preserving the Republic.” The Tea Party is destroying the Republic with its inflammatory tone, representating “I” not “We”.

Look at history and Abraham Lincoln for an example of a Republican who saved the Union.

Tea Party consider when you want to defund programs that protect women, or not paying employees during a government shutdown that your idea of taking back is grounded in fear. Fear that hit you in the face, when you lost the 2008 and 2012 presidential election that.  Your fear is that America is no longer just for you. And you’re right.

But that’s been the case a long time. The CHANGE was that millions of other Americans finally realized that America was also for them.  America changed long before that election.  It took a bit longer for all to recognize the power of doing it together. That all of us make America wealthier and stronger. This is a lesson now for you to learn.  Without all of us, America is far less wealthier America and not nearly as strong.

Take into consideration three American groups and their spending power, groups you often target.

First, according to Nielson, women contribute between $5 and $15 trillion a year.  In the next decade that is expected to grow to being two thirds of the consumer wealth in America!

Second and third Black/African Americans contribute 1.4 trillion and and Hispanic/Latino $1.6 trillion.

Together that’s $8-18 trillion annually that goes into the U.S. Economy!  Where would itbe without those you attack?  Think the recession last decade was bad? Imagine it without these Americans!

Tea Partiers if you want to defund something, defund oil, not healthcare or organizations targeting and helping women.

If you end oil company subsidies, you would save $16.4 billion a year.  In fact, it would be a smart divestment if you consider, last year in the second quarter, Exxon Mobil had $111.6 billion in revenue and $8.8 billion in profit. For one quarter! That’s half of what all US oil the companies get in subsidies!

On the other hand, Planned Parenthood received $528.4 million last year combined in federal, state and local dollars. It received another $303 million in outside government dollars. $254 million in private donations. And $54 million in other fees and services. The clincher is that because of federal law enacted in 1976, no federal dollars can be used for abortions which is what Congressional members say they’re aiming for to defund the organization! Private donor and foundation dollars do that.

Abortions account for only 3 percent of what the organization does or makes in dollars!  Did you know that?  Surely you didn’t if you want to take more than 50 percent of the organization’s to make a point!

Stop holding Americans hostage and threatening to shutdown the government!

Instead of taking America back and attacking organizations like Planned Parenthood, be the best example for the Nation and move us FORWARD together.

Be the faction of the Republican Party that increases the minimum wage so that more money goes into the U.S. Economy.  And we have stronger families because parents instead of working two, three and four jobs can spend quality time with their children.

Be the party that guarantees equal pay for equal work for women and all Americans!

Be the Party that protects all Americans and make our streets safer by creating policies that end unlawful killings of Americans by police officers.

Be the Party that instead of creating dysfunction, creates opportunities for all.

If the Tea Party does these things and invests in our greatest commodity Americans, instead of divesting and cutting, in twenty years our economy will be stronger for it.  And so will the Party!

If it invests in educational opportunities, it can in one generation lower crime.

Stop wasting time attacking the Affordable Care Act and find ways to invest in a healthier workforce so that we are the healthiest in the World.

More importantly, stay out of the life choices of women.  Stop “being the problem and become the leaders of implementing solutions!”  In other words stop sinking the Party and the country!

Let’s let the Tea Party go back to those who are elegant and sophisticated!

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP). Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.

Enough is Enough

Atiba

by Atiba Madyun

Very saddened to hear about the shooting in Charleston.  Unfortunately, it reminded me of the church bombing in Birmingham in 1963.

The gun culture in America has to be reformed.

America’s history is entwined so much in violence. Our country was created and founded in a document of war declaring our independence from England.

It took a war within to end the culture of slavery in our nation.

When we seek to level our playing fields ie. women’s right to vote and to end segregation it often came after a fight to end its oppression.

All of this including reading today that police officers (who carry guns) in Alabama with links to the KKK have been suspended.

The culture of hate in our nation is not spiraling, it is out of control. To those who believe every citizen has the right to bear arms I agree with you. But I don’t believe that every citizen or any citizen needs to own a gun. More and more, I believe most police officers should not be armed with a gun.

As a nation, we are at times respected and at times feared and at other times hated because of the power of our weaponry.

As a leader in the global community, it will take our citizens as we have many times before, coming together to end the gun culture as we know it.

It will take citizens coming together to champion for a society not predicated on violence, but one reformed by the recognition that if we don’t…..we will continue to have shootings like New Town, Connecticut where innocent little children and teachers were killed.

Or Arizona, where former Congresswoman Giffords was shot.

Or more Columbines and Virginia Techs. Or senseless killings in Chicago, DC and NY of innocent citizens and innocent police officers.

Or more shootings of young people like Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin or Walter Scott.

Or more shootings like the one last night in Charleston, SC…..

Enough is enough. Let’s not make this one about race even if it is!

Let’s make this about the billion dollar gun culture in America that makes people think they have power over someone else.

Let’s not make this about hate. Let’s make this about the serious mental illness we have in this country.

Let’s make this about something bigger than what we see on the surface.

Let’s make this about US. A nation seeking to become a more perfect Union.

May God Bless The United States of America!

#CharlestonShooting #AllLivesMatter #America #Guns

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group, a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP).  Follow on Twitter @atibamadyun or Like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.

We Cannot Move On Until…….

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I was as many others were, disappointed that a grand jury failed to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of unarmed Michael Brown.  But I wasn’t empathetic after seeing the convenience store surveillance footage taken minutes before his death, where he stole a $48 box of cigarillos.  Truthfully, I wasn’t empathetic because too often, I see young men like Michael and his friend give law enforcement, teachers and others in positions of authority a hard time.  I see them on the metro and in malls loud and disrespectful of others around them.

I am empathetic to this though, Michael was unarmed.  The grand jury’s failure to indict Wilson is an indictment of our lenient American law enforcement policies.  That is why today, we see another officer Daniel Pantaleo in New York City cleared for his role in the stranglehold death of unarmed Eric Garner.

Is this a trend?  It is reminiscent of stories of slaves who tried to escape the bondage of slavery, but when caught were hung from trees and murdered.  It brings forth the sad image of the lifeless young body of Emmitt Till lying in a casket after he was killed for whistling at a woman.  In far too many cases like these, their murderers go unpunished.

That is why today, an overdue conversation on American relations is at the forefront of discussion on media outlets here and abroad.  Michael and Eric aren’t the first young unarmed American men to be killed by police officers who weren’t indicted or convicted.  What about Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Kimani Gray, Kendrec McDade, Timothy Stansbury, Jr or Sean Bell?  That is why it was good to hear President Obama say today what many of us believe, “this is an American problem.”

I don’t agree with any of the violent protests or the yelling going on in Ferguson.  But I understand the root frustration of it.  Too often it takes this type of protest to get the empathy and support of others.  Today’s conversation is eerily too similar to video images from the civil rights era, where police officers and White men got away too often for killing unarmed young men because of the color of their skin.

It is sad that it takes instances like Ferguson to turn the tide of despair into hope.  History shows that empathy from fellow Americans didn’t come until they saw images of police officers turning fire hoses, dogs and guns on unarmed Americans marching for civil rights long denied them because of the color of their skin.

That is why we cannot move on until the conversation in Ferguson becomes about something more than race.  This is about America and how we treat one another as human beings.  It has to call into question why the behavior of our young men, makes it difficult for others to see their humanity.  Truly, why has friction grown so evident between our young men and police officers?  Is there an image problem?

My brothers and I talked about this over the weekend as we celebrated my brother Damani’s 40th birthday.   He said that Black men don’t have an image problem rather we have a branding problem.  I found this to be an interesting statement since I think they are one and the same?

Image is everything.  That is why I have never seen the dignity in wearing pants off the waste line down to the knees, or thick steel toed boots unless there is snow or it is cold, hoodies, huge gold chains or having unkempt hair and long beards.  While this is a personal choice, why would anyone want to dress or look like this?  In my opinion and siding with my brother on this, it is an image that has become a uniform and branded by some as “thuggish”.

On the other hand, police officers wearing uniforms are seen as threatening to these young men and the friction and fear on both sides has risen to a level of hostility that leads to senseless deaths.  That is why we should call it what it is “a war on American streets.”

How did our young men go from wearing saggy pants during slavery to suits and back to pants now falling around their knees?  If the conversation about Ferguson and young unarmed American men being killed is about race isn’t it important to look at how Americans put their best image or brand forward?  If this is true, then both young men who dress this way and police officers in uniform going to work every day, both have an image or branding problem.

The conversation about unarmed American men being killed by police officers requires introspection in order to move forward.  It is one that will be uncomfortable for everyone.  As my friend Chris Finan said responding to my post about the five St. Louis Rams players, who courageously put their hands up in solidarity with protestors in Ferguson just before their game this past Sunday,

“This is exactly the point. White privilege allows us white folks to decide not to have the discussion. We can walk away whenever we want and get along with our day. Those players for the Rams that made that statement were all black. They were in their uniforms so everyone loves them and cheers for them. However, let one of them be walking down the street in plain clothes and be dealt the same racism that happened in Ferguson. That’s why they did what they did and they had every right to do it. It was exactly the best platform for them to make that statement. Anyone who’s uncomfortable with that truly has no idea why everyone is so upset about what happened in Ferguson. It’s about the bigger issue. That’s why we need to have the discussion and not walk away when it feels uncomfortable.”

The issues in the American Black community are prevalent in other communities.  Far too many American families are led by single mothers.  While many single mothers are doing the best they can to raise their children and our hats go off to them, too many should not have to.  Too many of our young men are being raised without a father in the home.  Therefore too many, lack the guidance only a father can provide, no matter how hard the mother tries.  The American value system has lost respect for the traditional family.  If it hadn’t, more Americans would voice their outrage that programs like Housewives, Basketball Wives, Honey Boo Boo, and the Kardashians are doing nothing more than making these families wealthier, while too many of us watching are becoming poorer.

The issues of race, the division in politics and in communities near and far are a byproduct of our value system.  We see this in the lack of class exhibited by elected officials in Congress with their lack of respect for the President and even more for holding Americans hostage over their senseless debates and failure to come together to advance causes that benefit all Americans.  Our current value system divides us along party lines, race, religion and gender.

If the conversation in Ferguson is to yield anything of significant consequence, it will take level heads, moderators and leaders who can get us to take the high road.  Further they will elevate the conversation beyond Black and White and who is to blame and help us find solutions.

The conversation in Ferguson requires language that will unite us and bring us together as a nation.  It cannot be about another black man being killed.  The language has to be that another young MAN was killed and taken away from his parents when he was too young.  Making him just a black man diminishes that he was a man just like any other man, irrespective of color.  An officer who kills an unarmed young MAN is wrong and should go to jail!  Michael, Oscar, Sean, Eric and the countless other MEN who have been killed were someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s father, someone’s husband, someone’s friend.

Too many young MEN are being killed and their killers are not being punished.  We cannot move on until we address this as a human rights issue that transcend race.  It goes beyond the idea of civility.  In the end, when it is all said and done, do the lives of the victims and their families find the justice they deserve if we don’t call into question about how we treat one another with dignity.  Last, how will our lives be defined?  Will it be how we lived as Blacks, Whites, Asian, Hispanic, Muslim, Christian and Jew?  Or how we lived our lives “being human” to one another?

It is my belief that we cannot move forward until we accept that our humanity binds us in ways that the different colors of our skin cannot.  The lives of those who have been slain will again be in vain, if we don’t realize that.  Can we finally find a way to move on together?

What do you think?