Friday, January 30, 2015

I Took My White Female Friends With Me

In an August blog entry,  I wrote of the arrest, jailing and charges against William Wingate, a 20 year Air Force veteran and retired Seattle Metro Bus Driver. So I will not rewrite the story.

We made a significant difference for this man, by bringing into play a different strategy than is usually applied in Seattle. No demonstrations, no attorneys, no major media attention. My reason for suggesting no media, is difficult to explain in an online blog. But what I can say is that the strategy included getting white women to help me address this incident steeped in racial bias.  Because it was a white female officer creating the incident, white women needed to help correct it and they did. White women struggled to get women on the police force, and this being Seattle, the majority of women who benefitted are white. So White women need to hold their sisters accountable. Women can and must make the equality difference. It means sharing and applying their privilege to change society. Once white women decide that their children will not receive an unequal share of what America has to offer justice will appear almost instantly.

I followed my gut and knew that if just African Americans set out to have the charges against Mr. Wingate dismissed, we would not get far.  I  shared my determination with several white women. My thinking traveled to the fact that African American women "helped" white women for centuries. The issues that mount up for African American women and their families are stressful and often overwhelming. So why not ask White women to help African American women in the ways that we helped them? That means help in the ways that we say we need the help, not based on the help they think Black women need.

There are both male and female European Americans who want to help African Americans. But they do not know where and when to enter, and when they do enter, too often they lack the tolerance neede to come to a sustained positive outcome. Among the women willing to help on this and helped to strategize, we determined that two of them would accompany me to the various negotiations with:

 East Precinct meeting with Capt. Pierre Davis and Asst. Chief Nick Metz
Seattle City Council Member Bruce Harrell
City Attorney Pete Holmes
Chief Kathy O'Toole and Asst. Chief Carmen Best

We found that every part of the Criminal Justice System failed to be just to Mr. Wingate. Every system failed to stop this injustice.  Each woman in her own way, did something to make a difference.

Why I Think The Apology and dismissal of Charges Was a Win

The Golf Putter Returns to Mr. Ackerman and Mr. Wingate with an Apology

The Blog describing in detail my view of the  William Wingate arrest was posted in August. You can read it.  The statement that we experienced a win has been questioned by some commenting in the media reports. I will try to explain why I think we had a win.

African Americans have come to this juncture as human beings, following 400 years of slavery and race based injustice and the same number of years of resistance to this oppression. If we do not count and speak to each win no matter how minute, we would by now have perished from the millions of traumas we collective suffer each day living as Black Americans.

I do not believe we will one day have some huge ultimate win and it will be over. If that was true having Barack Obama win and re-win his Presidency, the most powerful position in the world, would have been that ultimate, it is pretty huge. No, we are traveling a path to human, civil and equal paved with small and sustaining wins. I say sustaining because though we seem to take a few steps forward in America and then some steps back. But we will never return to the ultimate horror of human bondage and slavery. Our schools are not allowed to teach the reality of slavery and the ongoing resistance movement that is the history of African Americans.  Most of this part and many parts of American History is learned in front of televisions and in movie theaters.

I am the same age as Mr. Wingate and like most African Americans and others who struggle for justice, sustain hope and yes, sanity by counting small wins as wins.  A Police Chief making an apology to a Black man, born and raised in the Jim Crow south is a win and none can take that from him or from me or the several white women and one Black man who stepped up to this challenge.

So was the apology, the dismissal of charges the ultimate win African Americans have sought in Police relations? Of course not.  However, this photo of Mr. Wingate receiving his golf putter (it was not a club) is filled with many wins, that an unseeing eye and those who do not know Mr. Wingate personally would miss.

The other man in the photo is his best friend who gave him the putter. They are both retired Metro Drivers. This friend is my neighbor and when he told me of the incident, he had a very deep concern about his friend William who I had never met. So the putter was returned to the place of origin and by a young African American woman who had traveled up the ranks to Assistant Chief. The conversation among us was a good one. The apology sincere and as much an affectionate delivery as it was an official one. Chief Carmen Best saw in Mr. Wingate her grandfather. Unlike Officer Cynthia Whitlatch she did not see an aggressive, harassing black man.  Mr. Wingate, could not believe that this young Black woman had that many stars on her uniform.   He is a military veteran and stars have a value thus her personally bringing that beloved putter to him had a value greater than the act.

Yes, this counts as a win. Again, let me re-iterate it is not the ultimate win. The additional wins that others want will come when another will stand up and give of their privilege to Mr. Wingate. That is all that it took, this Black former State Representative who has public respect, and a posse of White Women Willing to do the Work (not just being nice and trying to understand the issues associated with being Black in America.) This got to where it got to by Black and White women taking a stand and lending to Mr Wingate our privilege. He never even participated in any of the negotiations that led to the putter being returned.

There are other wins to attain for Mr. Wingate and society in all of this.  Writing the article was a win.  There are other wins to be had in this that others will stand up and assure. Those who had a chance to be a bit more courageous and not go along with Officer Whitlach's delusions of fear of this man might learn from this. If everyone watching this video knew instantly that this officer was a bully and had race bias written across her uniform, the entire precinct needs training. What kind of bully is applied in the precincts around the nation, that disallows a  person to use their own good conscious? What kind of systems are in place that disallows any to say no, I am not going along with this charade. Cynthia, you were not in harms way with this man, not me, not today. We have had enough of you. She did not begin to look through a race biased lens on that street corner on July, 9, 2014.

None will know why the Mayor had the courage to make a stand on this one I know why, because he likewise believes that African Americans in Seattle will gain equity based on several wins, some small, some huge. Mayor Murray has not made secret that he will use the privilege of his being Mayor to turn around the stagnation of economics, education and equality for African Americans. Since there are still those who did not hear him or believe him he has turned up the volume.

What constitutes a win?

We applauded every game that the Seahawks won on the way to the Super Bowl, the ultimate win. I did not hear any say, they did not win the Superbowl yet, so this one game is not a win.  We even stand and cheer each field goal and remark on it even if the game was lost.

So it is arrogant for any to say that I, as an African American can not count wins where I see them without being questioned by those who did not walk to this juncture with me or with Mr. Wingate, or the women and one man who helped?  Do I have to explain to others why I count the apology, that I have never before heard of in my experience and Mr. Wingate had never heard of in his experience coming from a Police Chief to a Black man wronged by the police? Not really, but I thought that I would. Maybe those who do not walk in the path of African Americans might learn to listen, and not always wanting to make determinations based on their experience.

Those who did not grow up Black in America and especially in the Jim Crow south, may not understand any of how I experience life.  I walked to this point with Mr. Wingate and Mr. Wingate allowed it because we believed that it would help not just him but others. And yes, it will.

So, if I say we had a win, it will have to be accepted as my truth, because there is none who lives my life, or sees through my realities. Also, only those very close to me and how we got to this point in the aftermath of the arrest, knows what we were intent on winning. Actually, it was not the apology we did not ask for that, it was freely given. There are more wins to come. Stay posted.