I MAY HAVE UNDERGONE 7 BRAIN SURGERIES AND STILL COGNITIVELY ALRIGHT FOR THE MOST PART, BUT I CANNOT COMPREHEND THE WORLD WE ARE LIVING IN RIGHT NOW
When I originally thought of this Post, I had a very basic outline in this lil ol’ brain of mine. Yet, as I began putting “paper to pen” shall we say, I never realized how many of my ideas tied-in together in such detail. So, what was intended to be a single Post became two and now three. There will be a Part Four, dedicated to our healthcare heroes and essential workers.
However, this topic deserves its own Post. Hence, here we are – Part 3.01. This is 3.01 because this issue is so critical right now, I’ll have to write a few sub-sections to the Post. OTHERWISE, anyone reading this would have to get through a whole bottle of wine before they finished reading. 😉
Although not necessary if you haven’t read my prior two Posts, it will give you a clearer perspective. Just click here: https://braincancerbabe.com
Briefly, Part One was a discussion of George Orwell’s incredible, dystopian novel 1984. I mentioned in Part Two, his books, particularly 1984, continue to resonate throughout the generations. I imagine he’s rolling over in his grave seeing the circumstances we’re currently living through. I personally feel like I’m living in a sci-fi novel most days! A worldwide pandemic coupled with a government here in the U.S. that very clearly chose not to properly warn and protect its citizens from a virus they not only knew about, but also knew could spread quickly through close human interaction. Instead of protecting us, members of our own government sold off millions of dollars in stocks, getting rich while people were daily dying by the hundreds just in the New York Metro area alone. Disgraceful doesn’t even describe how low that all is, but karma will get them. I do believe that!
I feel especially disgusted by this given that my own doctors and nurses were working 12-hour shifts in hazmat equipment desperately trying to save the lives of so many, yet so many passed away all alone on ventilators (if they were even lucky enough to get one). So, that is why Part Four will be dedicated to them.
Also in Part Two I detailed how similar these days in America are to the era I was born into in Northern Ireland, known as “The Troubles. Again, that era from the late 60’s all the way until 1998 was a horrific time in Northern Ireland. There was constant violence, a true “police state”, bombings, shootings, etc. Yet, it all began when the Catholic minority in N. Ireland came together to stage marches and demand an end to the systematic discrimination against them. Much like today, that resulted in vicious police brutality, innocent lives being taken, the British army occupying the area until 2007, and essentially what turned into the war zone I was born into in 1980.
THE “BLACK LIVES MATTER” MOVEMENT
I ended Part Two discussing how although I am a tiny, white Irish woman, given my background as well as my family’s background, I can understand the pain, fear, anger and sadness people of color are experiencing, and have experienced for much too long in the U.S.
No matter what age, race, color or creed, I believe we ALL must discuss this Movement.
Though it may be uncomfortable, there must be a dialogue about: discrimination and “white privilege”; police brutality, as well as those in law enforcement who stand with the protesters; and, the extreme violence minorities in the U.S. face.
THE BASIC STARTING POINT: WHAT IS THE MOVEMENT ABOUT?
Obviously, not being a person of color, I will not pretend to speak on behalf of the “Black Lives Matter” Movement.
What I will say is that those who seek to discredit the “Black Lives Matter” Movement do not even realize that it actually is NOT just about the color of one’s skin. The Movement also seeks equality for Black queer and trans individuals, the disabled, undocumented immigrants, and women. Additionally, the Movement seeks equality for people with criminal records. Thus, while it’s obviously a “Black liberation movement” it also seeks justice for those who have been marginalized within our society. Go to: https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/ to learn more.
Again, as a white girl, I cannot speak for the Movement. However, just from the most basic research, this is a call for people to rise up against:
- Racial injustice
- Police brutality
- Economic injustice
- Environmental injustice
- Voting rights and suppression
Further, this Movement seeks:
- Access to healthcare
- Access to quality education
- Criminal justice reform
- Immigration, LGBTQIA+ and human rights
Throughout history, beyond the confines of America, people have sought these basic rights.
Hell, the entire American Revolution was founded upon many similar ideals! Yet, we don’t question flying the American flag, celebrating the 4th of July, and draping yourself head-to-toe in ‘Merica gear. (Okay, I DO question those people wearing an American flag bandana, T-shirt and shorts). Also, just to throw it out there, quoting one of my favorite movies, Dazed and Confused :
“Hey, this summer when you’re being inundated with all this bi-centennial, fourth of July, broo-ha-ha just remember what you’re celebrating, and that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning aristocratic white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.”
WHITE PRIVILEGE: IT EXISTS, PEOPLE!
What I can absolutely speak to is “white privilege”. It is indeed very real, and NOT “fake news” or some “liberal fallacy”. I know it. I’ve seen it.
If you don’t believe it exists or that it is prevalent in every aspect of our society, just take a look at the amount of white Congressmen, state governors, and even City mayors. Now that’s just government representatives. If you really want to delve into it: look at the percentages of whites v. people of color in jail; look at the how many white CEOs of Fortunate 500 companies there are compared to how many are people of color; and, the list goes on and on.
Being an attorney, I know all too well how differently an individual is treated based on their race and/or gender in the eyes of the judicial system. I’ve studied the caselaw in-depth. I’ve seen how DNA evidence has exonerated so many black people, predominately men, not just from prison sentences, but from DEATH ROW! How do you give a man or woman back 30 years, 20 years, even 5 years of his/her life spent in jail, caged like an animal, for something he/she never did and was frankly only convicted because of the color of his/her skin? Answer: YOU CAN’T.
Yet, white preppy boys get a slap on the wrist for horrendous crimes.
Remember this gem?
Yeah, “Brock” (I mean, even I have to give an eyeroll to the name alone) was indeed convicted in March 2015 of the “intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person“. Prosecutors asked for 6 years. The Judge gave him 6 months. Why?
Well, despite the fact that he tried to rape the victim behind a dumpster and ONLY stopped because 2 bystanders saw him and intervened; despite the victim’s 12-page letter detailing her traumatic ordeal, not just by lil Brock’s actions but also having to undergo multiple hours of a rape exam plus an attack on her character during the trial thereby traumatizing her over and over; and, despite the fact that he was indeed convicted of 3 felonies…his daddy submitted a letter to the Judge asking him to “go easy on his son”. Oh daddy’s letter also stated that a long sentence would be “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 years of life“. He added that Brock was having trouble eating his favorite food — steak! Are you ——- kidding me?
Well, I guess not being able to eat steak really trumps attempted rape by a complete stranger behind a dumpster while unconscious. In his ruling the Judge stated, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him…. I think he will not be a danger to others.” (emphasis added)
It just so happens that Brock was a white male and star athlete at Stanford, a very prestigious university. Guess where the Judge had gone to school? Yep. Stanford.
Oh and he only served 3 months out of that 6 month sentence. Brock got to go home and eat his steak after only 3 months.
If you haven’t heard about this more recent case, well buckle up!
In New Jersey, judges are not elected like in many states. In this instance this particular judge retired in December 2012, but continued to work three days a week as a “recall” judge, occasionally filling-in due to a backlog of cases. Well, in my humble opinion, he should have stayed retired!
In 2018, this judge presided over the matter of an alleged rape at a pajama-themed party the previous year. Teens were drinking at the party. A group of boys sprayed the 16-year-old victim with Febreze and hit her so hard she found hand marks on her body the next day! Why Febreze? I have no idea… does that get you high, like when kids would sniff Scotchguard when I was a teen? Anyway…
To the point – after the Febreze and being hit by multiple boys, one 16-year-old boy took the girl off to a dark area, then filmed himself assaulting her from behind. He then sent the video around, which showed the girl clearly had “slurred speech and stumbled”. He captioned the video: “When your first time having sex was rape.” Just typing that makes me ill.
Well, this wonderful judge in determining whether to try the 16-year-old as an adult v. as a juvenile, stated on the record:
“This young man comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well…He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college. His scores for college entry were very high.” (emphasis added)New Jersey Judge James Troiano
The judge expressed doubt about whether the boy showed any “calculation or cruelty on his part, sophistication or a predatory nature”. THEN, he suggested the girl’s allegation did not meet the standard of rape. Why?
“There have been some, not many, but some cases of sexual assault involving juveniles which in my mind absolutely were the traditional case of rape, where there were generally two or more males involved, either at gunpoint or weapon, clearly manhandling a person into . . . an area where . . . there was nobody around, sometimes in an abandon[ed] house, sometimes in an abandon[ed] shed, shack, and just simply taking advantage of the person as well as beating the person, threatening the person.”New Jersey Judge James Troiano
So, a 16-year-old privileged white kid rapes an incoherent drunk girl, films it, sends the video around to his friends and captions it: “When your first time was rape”. However, he could “possibly” go to a good college, so we’ll just let it slide! AND apparently now rape can only happen by law if there’s 2 or more boys, or if it’s by gunpoint, or in some remote area where the girl is beaten or threatened…
Thus, the judge determined the 16-year-old would NOT be tried as an adult, but the case would remain within the juvenile system.
Sickening. Truly and utterly sickening. After the controversy over his decision, which only came to light because it was overturned by the Appeals Court, the judge stepped-down in 2019, yet kept his pension of $123,750 a year.
Now those are just two examples of how different white males are treated within the judicial system. Imagine if they had been black boys/men who committed these crimes? I can tell you, lil Brock wouldn’t be eating any steak after only serving 3 months if he were a man of color!
Remember the notorious “Central Park Five” case back in the late 1980’s? If you don’t know about it, I highly suggest reading up on it.
In short, a young, white woman was jogging in Central Park on the night of April 19, 1989. She was brutally beaten and raped. After she was found, she remained in a coma for 12 days. While police rounded up multiple people in the Park that night, 3 black and 2 Latino boys (under 18) were indicted on May 10th on charges of assault, robbery, riot, rape, sexual abuse, and attempted murder of the jogger. Even though they were minors, police questioned them without parental or guardian supervision, and without counsel. After hours of interrogation, all 5 defendants “confessed”. They recounted those confessions, pled not guilty, and refused plea deals on the rape and assault charges. None of the boys’ DNA matched the DNA found at the scene (Of note: the semen DNA collected matched that of only 1 person, and none of the 5 boys). Thus, there was no physical evidence that could connect any of the boys to the rape. Yet, each was convicted in 1990 of related assault and other charges. Four were tried as juvenile defendants and served 6–7 years each in juvenile detention centers.
Notably, the 16-year-old, Korey Wise, was tried and sentenced as an adult and served 13 years in adult prisons on counts of sexual abuse, assault and riot. First, he was placed in Rikers’ Island Prison in 1990 – a 16 year-old in Rikers! Then, he moved to Attica Correctional Facility in 1991, Wende State Penitentiary in 1993 and Auburn State Correctional Facility in 2001. By some divine intervention, while in Auburn Wise met Matias Reyes, the actual rapist. Reyes confessed as he was already serving a life sentence for serial rape, murder and robbery. They found that his DNA matched what police had collected at the scene, and Wise was released in 2002. However, Wise suffered so much violence in prison, he continuously asked to stay in isolation for extended periods and that is why he transferred to so many different facilities – upon his request because of the torment he had to undergo.
All 5 of the convictions were overturned and in 2014, the City of New York paid the men $41 million to settle a civil lawsuit. Although they sought an additional $52 million in damages, they received a settlement of just $3.9 million from the New York State Court of Claims in 2016.
Circling back to our current state of affairs… Donald Trump was always in the limelight in the 80’s and 90’s especially in New York City. Well, Trump was on the news, talkshows and in 1989, Trump placed full-page advertisements in four New York City newspapers, including The New York Times, regarding the case. This is what it stated:
Attorneys for the 5 men believe Trump’s advertisements helped “inflame public opinion about the case.” One of the defense attorneys, Michael W. Warren said, “I think Donald Trump at the very least owes a real apology to this community and to the young men and their families. Protests were held outside Trump Tower in October 2002.. Trump did not apologize. I will leave it there, as I have strong feelings about that fact. Yet, I WILL say, “Has he ever apologized for anything?”
Interestingly, this leads to my next issue/incident involving a white woman and black man in Central Park, which just occurred in May 2020.
Imagine heading out on Memorial Day weekend to Central Park while NYC is still pretty locked down over the pandemic. One white woman goes out to walk her dog. A gay, black man well-known in the Park as an avid birdwatcher, heads out to an area where he loves to watch the birds through a set of Swarovski binoculars (not a cheap item I imagine). Both are highly educated with very good jobs, living in Manhattan. We all know NYC is a pretty liberal place, where you’d expect these 2 people couldn’t possibly have serious beef, right? Nope. Their exchange is the perfect example demonstrating how racism is alive and well, even here in NYC in 2020.
In the particular area of the Park where Mr. Cooper was quietly watching his birds, dogs must be leashed. Ms. Cooper had her dog off-leash when she came across Mr. Cooper. She was loudly yelling out her dog’s name, as it came near to Mr. Cooper. He asked her to put the leash back on her dog, yet she refused. Some words were exchanged. As it so often must happen now, Mr. Cooper had to begin filming the incident on his phone. Ms. Cooper held her RESCUE DOG by its collar, at times so harshly the dog was lifted off the ground and flayling around, whimpering rather than simply following the rules and putting its leash on. She decided to tell Mr. Cooper she was calling the police! She proceeded to hold the dog up by its collar while speaking to 911 dispatch stating, “There is an African-American man threatening me and my dog.” As she continues to repeat herself, she finally leashes her dog.
You can watch the brief video here: https://nyti.ms/3hpStHH
I think I’ll just let my “friend in my head” John Oliver (seriously, if you know ANY WAY I can meet him, please contact me ) take this one:
“But it’s hard to overstate how clearly we’ve been reminded lately of the hostility of our existing order toward black people who’ve been killed by police on the street [George Floyd], killed by police in their own home [Breonna Taylor], killed by wannabe police in the street [Ahmaud Arbery], and threatened with state violence while literally birding [Christian Cooper]. And collectively, that has just got to be some brutality bingo right there.”Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Air Date: May 31, 2020
So, this is 2020. You’d think that by now we’d have progressed a bit further than calling the police on a black man while birdwatching! Also as John Oliver put it on Last Week Tonight, could there be anything LESS intimidating than a person birdwatching?
Despite Dr. Martin Luther King’s “dream”, we aren’t progressing but rather, it’s like we’re moving backwards in time these days.
Hell, it only became legal for an interracial couple to get married in this country 53 years ago. If you think about it, I’m 40 years old. Only 13 years before I was born, it was still illegal – meaning you could go to jail and considered a felon – for marrying someone you love simply because they were of a different race than you.
WORKING AS A YOUNG, FEMALE PROFESSIONAL IN THE “OLD BOYS’ CLUB”
In my personal life, working as a younger female in a very white, male-dominated, extremely “old boys’ club” profession, there were countless instances in which I was immediately judged and treated entirely differently than my male counterparts. And I’m white!
Directly out of law school, I clerked for a judge. I learned so much from him! He remains one of my greatest mentors. He treated everyone with respect, decorum and equality (even attorneys who frankly, I would not have been able to handle so well).
So, after clerking for one year, I went into civil practice. Throughout my career as a defense litigation attorney, I always looked much younger than my age. Not complaining about looking young – guess it’s the good Irish genes! Yet, attorneys and many judges believed I was fresh out of law school. Thus, they believed they could take advantage of me, push me around, talk down to me and outright demean me. Now I may be tiny (5’2 and about 100 lbs.) but I have never been one to step away from confrontation. I hold my ground. I push back! Boy, were those guys not expecting my Irish temper! One of my bosses actually told me that other attorneys said I was a “real hard ass”.
Treat me with respect. You will get respect in return, always. Try to disrespect me or demean me… well, just don’t.
Yet, when it came to judges, i.e., authority figures, that’s when I had to just sit there and take it. You couldn’t risk your client’s position, your firm’s reputation, or your own by pissing-off a judge. Thus, I hated every solitary second of it. I was utterly miserable. Once I got sick, I stopped practicing at just 35 years old. I always wanted a “way out” of being a lawyer. I just didn’t think it would be by getting brain cancer, twice!
As an attorney, in what was supposed to be a “professional” setting, I always had my guard up. I didn’t know if the judge or other attorneys were going to see that I was an experienced, capable, intelligent professional, and actually listen to my statements/arguments. Or if they’d simply see “some young girl” whom they assumed was fresh out of school and they’d “get one over on”. Now, none of these people were law enforcement, carrying guns prejudging me – they couldn’t kill me! Yet, all those negative experiences built up and affected me so much that EVERY DAY I walked into a courtroom or deposition expecting a confrontation. IT WAS SOUL CRUSHING TO LIVE THAT WAY.
WHY THESE PROTESTS ARE SO IMPORTANT
I cannot begin to imagine what a person of color immediately thinks and feels when approached by the police. However, I imagine especially in these times that it’s similar to what I experienced – they expect a confrontation, or at the very least, have to be prepared for one! Again, I had to deal with tons of B.S. Yet, it was not a matter of life or death.
Feeling afraid and frankly, scared for your life as a person of color dealing with the police is legitimately based upon decades and decades of police harassment, interrogation, corruption, brutality and the use of excessive force, racial profiling and racism in general, both individual and systematic. It also doesn’t help that the police now look more like Storm Troopers.
I never liked authority, even as a child. That’s just me. While I know, and will highlight police who are doing good and even joining in protests in my upcoming 3.02 Post, the fact remains:
“People of color face a higher likelihood of being killed by police than white men and women do, that risk peaks in young adulthood, and men of color face a nontrivial lifetime risk of being killed by police.”“Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race–ethnicity, and sex”; Edwards, Frank; Lee, Hedwig; Esposito, Michael (emphasis added)
REMEMBER THEIR NAMES
We likely have all seen the video footage, as Eric Garner was choked to death by NYPD officers in July 2014.
In August 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old, was shot multiple times by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer.
Also in August 2014, Ezell Ford, a man known by police to have a mental illness and a very low IQ (some described him as having “the mental capacity of an 8-year-old”) was shot and killed after 2 of the LAPD’s Newton Division got out of their cruiser while Ford walked down the street. Ford had no firearm on him and despite claims by the officers that they “believed” he had drugs on him” no drugs were ever found.
In November 2014, Tamir Rice, only 12 years old, was killed in Cleveland, Ohio by a police officer. Rice was carrying a replica toy “Airsoft gun“. He was shot almost immediately after the officer arrived at the scene. Notably, that officer had been deemed “an emotionally unstable recruit and unfit for duty” in his previous job as a police officer in a Cleveland suburb.
Just before Christmas in December 2014, Antonio Martin, 18 years old was shot and killed while running away from a Berkeley, Missouri police officer suspects. Although a gun was found at the scene and believed to be Martin’s, no shots had been fired from the gun.
In April 2015, Freddie Carlos Gray Jr., 25 years old was arrested by Baltimore police officers for possessing a knife. He went into a coma while being transported in a police van. He died on April 19, 2015 from injuries to his spinal cord. Eyewitnesses said the officers used unnecessary force against Gray during his arrest and then did not secure him inside the van while driving to the police station. His death was ruled a homicide.
Also in April 2015, Walter Scott, was stopped for a non-functioning brake light. He was unarmed, but fled on foot. While fleeing, the North Charleston police officer who stopped him shot, firing 8 rounds, 5 of which hit Scott and killed him. The murder was caught on video. That officer was actually sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In July 2015, Sandra Brown, an outspoken activist for the “Black Lives Matter” Movement, was literally pulled from her car by a Texas State Trooper during a “routine traffic stop” – what transpired was far from “routine”. She was pulled over for “failure to signal a lane change”, there was a heated exchange recorded between the 2, and after being ordered out of her vehicle the Trooper forcibly pulled her out of the car. She was forced onto the ground, and arrested. Held for 3 days in jail, she was found dead in her cell. Her death was ruled a suicide.
Also in July 2015, Samuel DuBose, unarmed, was pulled over by a University of Cincinnati police officer for a missing front license plate and a suspended driver’s license. After pulling over, DuBose started his car and the officer fatally shot him. The officer claimed that he was dragged because his arm was caught in the car. Yet, his own body cam footage refuted that.
Back in Part 2 of this Post, I referenced the murder of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old EMT, who was killed by Louisville Metro police officers on March 13, 2020, who were executing a “no-knock search warrant”. They shot her eight times in her own apartment. She was unarmed.
Then, On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, just 46 years old was killed by Minneapolis police, during his arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Derek Chauvin, one of the arresting officers knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd remained handcuffed and lying face down, begging for his life and repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”. Two other officers even further restrained Floyd, while a fourth prevented bystanders from intervening.
So currently, people of color, TOGETHER with all races, religions, etc. are protesting, gathering together to stand-up for black lives, basic civil rights and the rights of those still marginalized in our society decades after the original civil rights movement led by Dr. King, who of course was killed fighting for those rights.
TO ALL THOSE MARCHING, PROTESTING PEACEFULLY STAY SAFE!