Guest Blog Post: Tory Kappel

On Febuary 14, 2014, a life was lost. A dad, a husband, a friend, and a man who just wanted to go out and watch a movie with his family. As police officers, maybe they did not intend on taking Luis Rodriguez’s life that night, but it sure was their actions that led to this unnecessary death. The questions at hand are: Why did it escalate? What did Luis do to deserve this treatment? Is it because he was a threat? What made him seem like a threat? These are all questions that I have asked myself, as my heart remains heavy for the family who is now missing the man of their lives. Luis is of Puerto-Rican descent, but passes much more for an African American male. Many people would disagree that there is not a significant race issue anymore, but I beg to differ. What if he would have been a white man? What if he would have been me; a blonde, white woman? If it had been me, the situation would not have escalated like it did. I would probably not have been approached, I would not have been restrained, and I sure as hell would not be dead.

You see, I am treated a certain way by the world. I have never been scrutinized when I walk into a mall, nor is it assumed that I will shoplift when I walk into a Dilliard’s. I have white privilege. I had no choice in having this white skin, but I am well aware of the benefits that come with it everyday of my life. I have the privilege of being seen as less of a threat in society as a whole. To be honest, I have only had good experiences with police officers. When I get pulled over, I get asked, “are you okay?” or “are you having a good day?” Then, I smile and flash this pale skin of mine and get a verbal warning. I do not see this as an advantage that I readily take advantage of. It actually puts me in an uncomfortable position, and it makes me angry of how unfair the justice system really is. Luis’s case, and many other police brutality cases such as Rodney King, Oscar Grant, and Pearl Pearson, affected me in a different way. It opened my eyes to my privilege and it also answered many questions that my own mother faced as I was growing up.

The thing is, I always considered myself a woman of color. My mother is half Hispanic and half Native American. My father is German, but Caucasian for the most part. Both of my parents, along with my two brothers, have dark hair, dark eyes, and brown skin. I, on the other hand, have white skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. I guess you could say I stick out like a sore thumb. Growing up, I hated my outer exterior. I wanted brown skin and dark hair like my family. I wanted to not have to validate myself as a woman of color and constantly be asked if I was adopted. If my family members were not around, I was pinned to be a “rich white girl.” No one knew I was mixed, and very few people even believed me when I said I was. I was constantly explaining my culture and myself. My mother’s side of the family came from Mexico and speaks fluent Spanish. I grew up going to a Spanish-speaking church and I have known diversity my whole life. Going to college was almost like culture shock to me. So many white people had never surrounded me in my life, and it almost made me feel like I did not belong. Although I blended in just fine, I could not quite make connections.

With that being said, I have had a front row seat in watching racial discrimination occur through and through. Not only against my peers and friends, but also to my family. I can remember times where I blatantly overheard white people talking bad about Mexicans, because they figured it was safe to say it around me. I have watched my brother be given the short end of the stick and talked to as though he was inferior. As I watched this, I felt as though I was invisible. I felt like I had this force field around me, protecting me from discrimination due to my white skin. To this day, my mother still tells me about the story of her getting pulled over for simply not wearing a seatbelt. The police officer automatically asked her if she had drugs or needles on her, and when she expressed that she felt she was being racially profiled, she was put in a jail cell. The police officer was rude, called her a “wetback,” and took her straight to jail when she expressed her thoughts. She was completely clean and had no reason being in jail in the first place.

Although I feel that, as a society, we have come a long way concerning the “race issue,” there is still a large segment of society who have not gotten past it. Sadly, it still exists to a great extent. Many of my white counterparts are unaware of this because they are not the people who experience it. A common trend that displays this is police brutality. Cruel beatings and unnecessary deaths, such as Luis’, have resulted from victims being racially profiled and ultimately dead in a coffin for minor issues. Luis refused to give identification, and for that, he was killed. The abuse of power and stereotyping must come to a halt before this society can move forward. Once again, I am the “majority.” Regardless of how poor I grew up, or the fact that my parents are mixed, I am still viewed as a white person. I am not a threat and I do not fit the stereotypes of a person who would commit a crime. I am passionate toward this issue and my privilege because I feel that I get off the hook, while my colored friends and family get treated as though they are criminals. I am choosing not to turn the blind eye or search for a reason to validate that what the cops did to Luis Rodriguez was okay. I will not make excuses, because even though I am white on the exterior, Luis is my “people”;  WAS my “people.”

Because of this, I would like to invite you to join the Making Herstory social media campaign on Saturday, April 12th, 2014 – what would-be Luis’ birthday. We ask that you upload a profile picture of yourself tomorrow, with the similar words written below:

Image

“Today Luis Rodriguez would have celebrated his birthday. . . #endpolicebrutality”

Use this hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc; let’s get this trending! #endpolicebrutality

-Tory Kappel

 

Guest Blog Post: Leona Thao

 

Image

Three years has passed since the unjust beating of a Hmong American man in Vinita, Oklahoma. It was on March 1, 2011 when Neng Yang was driving on a rural pathway to locate his uncle’s farm when he encountered dogs running in the road. He swerved in an attempt to miss running over any of the dogs but ended up running over one.  Immediately following the incident Mr. Yang stopped his vehicle and stepped out to apologize to Scott Osborn, the dog owner. Osborn (who is 6’1” and 250 pounds) “punched” Mr. Yang (who is 5’1” and 140 pounds) who was then knocked to the ground unconscious. After Mr. Yang came to, he repeatedly apologized to Osborn and offered to compensate for damages.

 

As shared in Mr. Yang’s statement, after he claimed consciousness, Osborn told him to stand up and put his hands on his head. He then proceeded to tell him (Mr. Yang) to shake hands, not to say anything, not do anything stupid and go. Nevertheless, in Osborn’s statement, he states that his son was inches away from the dog and yelled at Mr. Yang (who was still in the car) when the incident occurred. Mr. Yang then stopped his vehicle, got out and he threw his hands in the air. Osborn felted threatened and believed Mr. Yang was going to hit him and acted out of self-defense and hit Mr. Yang. Osborn claimed he hit Mr. Yang only once.      

 

However, as you can see from the photo shown above, Mr. Yang’s injuries did not happen from one punch. Mr. Yang was hospitalized for several days and suffered a concussion He also suffered shattered bones to the face, broken ribs and needed facial reconstructive surgery. In addition, he suffered from severe nerve damages to both of his eyes and will have tunnel vision as well as lose all sight of his blind spots. Damages done to Mr. Yang could have not come from one punch.

 

It took nearly a week for the police to investigate the incident and make an arrest for Osborn who was arrested on charges of assault and battery. He was arrested and released on the same day on a $15,000 bond. I may not be a lawyer but after reading the medical report of Mr. Yang’s injuries, Osborn should have been charged with attempted manslaughter.

 

A trial jury took place a year after the beating occurred and we learned that the maximum sentence Osborn would receive if he pleads guilty on charges of aggravated assault and battery is 5 years of imprisonment and a $500 fine. The charges were absurd and I believe certain measures should have been taken to ensure that there would be a fair trial.

 

The trial did take place over a course of a few days before there was a verdict. Osborn was found guilty of felony aggravated assault and battery and would spent one year in the Craig County Jail and be fined $500.

I am not pleased at all about the outcome of the verdict because no justice was done to Mr. Yang. Osborn was even get off with not having to pay restitution for medical expenses related to the injuries Mr. Yang sustained from the beating.    

I would have to agree with advocates of Mr. Yang that the nature of his beating would have constituted as a hate crime in many states, however, Oklahoma has no hate crime legislation.

But what is a hate crime? A hate crime is defined by federal or state statutes and is a crime that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, and disability. Some of the crimes include assault, battery, criminal damage to property, and criminal trespass to property. Hate crimes are difficult to prosecute because bias does not mean a hate crime occurred and the act must be shown to have been motivated, in full or in part, by the biased attitude. The state must also meet a probable-cause standard with a sufficient amount of indicators such as a victim, offender, community, crime-crime scene and victim-offender relationship. Furthermore, hate crimes are motivated by prejudice and bigotry and pose a unique danger to society because, while they often result in an attack on an individual, they can affect the fundamental rights and emotional well-being of entire communities by making them feel vulnerable and isolated. It causes tension, which may erupt into violence between members of different ethnic, religious or racial groups.

It makes it extremely difficult to make the case that Mr. Yang was a victim of a hate crime because Oklahoma does not have hate crime legislation. Furthermore, Mr. Yang would not be able to prove anyone with evidence of what happened to him during the time he fell unconscious.

 

The most difficult part of organizing a movement around getting justice for Mr. Yang was well, everything. Although there was much support from the community both locally and nationally (my apologies if I do not include your names), it was extremely difficult to get communities engaged in the effort. My co-organizing partner and great friend, Lasia Xiong, worked so hard alongside with me to organize a campaign that could break the silence of what was unjustly done. We worked incredibly hard to spread awareness about Mr. Yang’s case, outreach to communities and organizations to assist us with our organizing efforts, fundraise to provide some financial assistance for Mr. Yang’s expenses.

 

We lacked the knowledge and experience, resources, and community engagement to organize effectively. In part, expressing how communities and individuals can show their support became extremely challenging for us as well. In addition, we were two full-time students who also worked. Time and other commitments made it extremely difficult for us to mobile a more effective campaign.

 

Regardless of these difficulties, we knew one thing. We knew that something had to be done about this and that being silent was not the way. So I applaud and respect those who work tirelessly every day towards creating social change and to improve the lives of others.       

 

If there is anything that I learned from my community organizing experience in Oklahoma, it’s that you have to be prepared. You will have little to no resources to assist your efforts, capacity-building will be difficult, community engagement will be flaky and you will get discouraged and you will get burnt out. However, you shouldn’t give up. All it takes is one voice and one action.  

Image

These are the reasons I support Making Herstory in their social media campaign against police brutality; I realize that police brutality is a form of a hate crime in itself. I encourage you to post a picture of yourself with a paper saying, “Today Luis Rodriguez would have celebrated his birthday. . . #endpolicebrutality” on what would-be Luis’ birthday – this Saturday, April 12th, 2014.

Image

 

 

Guest Blog Post: Sache Primeaux-Shaw

23 years ago last month, society saw themselves in the worst way. Rodney King, a Black construction worker was beaten nearly to death by the LAPD. This was not a scene that was foreign to the world because Black men were being beaten and lynched for two centuries. What was different about Rodney King, many would ask. It was 1991 and the Civil Rights movement “ended” in the late 1960s. This type of crime was usually committed by someone affliated with a hate group, the Klan perhaps. Not our men in blue. Fast forward to the 21st century and it’s the same story with different faces but these cases have ended in death. Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant and many others met this fate and when the conversation about police brutality is prompted, the race card is pulled from the other side.
Bring the conversation to 2012 and lets make the victim Native American, a tribal member living in Custer County, Oklahoma. Lets name him Benjamin Whiteshield and make him a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, one of the most powerful and proud this side of the Plains. Whitesheild was killed as a result of police brutality and the same card is pulled only this time its Red. It’s a discussion that when gone untouched, is proven to be deadly for men of color because this only implies that their lives do not matter. “The Black community has spoken out loudly about Police brutality and the Native American community is starting to make waves. There needs to be more acceptance of this problem across the board and fellow police officers need to remind their fellow officers to “serve and protect with honor.”

-Sache Primeaux-Shaw

 

Use this hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc; let’s get this trending! #endpolicebrutality

Guest Blog Post: JP Phillips

      The date was June 2nd, 2011. I remember this specifically because my friends and I were on our way to watch game 2 of the NBA Finals at my friend Los’s uncle’s house. Los was ridding shotgun and is a young Mexican American male in his early twenties. My friend in the backseat’s name is Marco and like me is male of mixed ethnicities in his early twenties.. We all grew up on what is called the “southside” of Oklahoma City, an area known for its low income and primarily minority residents. Like most friends, we shared similar personalities and struggles. One of these troubles would present itself less than two blocks into our journey that day.

            Around a block into our journey we have already seen around ten police cars and three people pulled over in just the local neighborhood streets. I know we are probably going to be the next car pulled over. Sure enough, less than two blocks later I’m being pulled over. Before the officers that pulled me over stepped out of his vehicle, two more police cars arrived. When the officers walk up to my vehicle, everyone’s identification is required with no explanation as to why. Marco’s criticism of me is swift saying “ JP you should have asked what you got pulled over for?” My response is “You know why they pulled us over. We are three minorities in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are checking to see if we are wanted and when they see that we aren’t they will let us go.”  Los’s reply was “That doesn’t give them the right to pull you over though.” My reply is “ But if I question them, we will all be outside on the concrete or in county jail for resisting arrest in less than an hour.” Just as I finish one of the back up cars starts to pull off beside us. The officer in the passenger seat rolls down his window and yells with his tongue out “ OK THEN HOMIE G DOGGS” as the cop car pulls away. After brief silence in my car, the next words you hear are “that’s (cuss word) racist man.” After several minutes of angry silence, one of the officers tells me to get out of the vehicle. Apparently someone with my name has multiple warrants and they need to check if I have tattoos. After a brief show that I am tattoo free the officer hands me my driver’s license and drives off with his backup with no explanation of why I was ever pulled over.

            You would be hard pressed to find someone of minority decent that doesn’t have multiple stories like the one above. With these stories come fear and anger towards the police force with many minorities. The state of Oklahoma has seen two high profile police assaults on minorities in 2014 already. The two cases being the Pearl Pearson case, in which the police were acquitted of assaulting a 64-year-old deaf African American man for not responding to their commands and the death of Luis Rodriguez. The Luis Rodriguez case is drawing much more attention because of his wife’s video of his arrest. The video is graphic and stunning, Luis’s head being pushed to the ground with five men on top of him, the dialogue between his wife and the police officers, and how Luis looks once the police got off of him and hold him up. The police report stated Luis died in the hospital, but without a reason for his death. You will have a hard time watching the video and not thinking he was dead the second the police officers finally got off of him.

Whenever I watch the video and read of what happened leading up to Luis’s death, I can’t help but relate to him. I can imagine myself in his shoes, trying to break up and separate a domestic dispute between a mother and daughter in a public place. I can imagine myself trying to explain the situation when the officers came and what I can most relate to is how I would have felt the instant I realized they were racially profiling me and coming after me as the main cause of the domestic dispute. My thought wouldn’t have been quick let me show my identification, it would have been explain that I am not the cause of the problem and protect myself as much as possible as they slam me into the ground. We don’t know what happened leading up to the video, as the security cameras in the parking lot that night are being used in the investigation and have not been released, but we do know that Luis Rodriguez will never get the chance to tell his side of the story. For many people like myself, this looks like racially profiling and police brutality. A man killed because he didn’t show his I.D. and for resisting arrest. A man racially profiled for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Instants of racial profiling like these happen everywhere to minorities everyday in this country. That is where the fear and with it anger towards the police force comes from. The death of Luis Rodriguez should be a call to action for police forces, minority organizations and local, state, and national governments to work together to figure out a way to not only stop racially profiling, but to change the fear and anger towards police forces in this country.

I didn’t choose the story above because of what happened that day, but what happened after that shocked me. A year later Los, Marco, and me are once again at a family gathering for Los’s birthday. I bring up what happened that day I was pulled over to puzzled looks. Los says “ he doesn’t remember” and Marco says, ” That has happened to us more than a few times your going to have to be more specific.” What bothered me was not only that they didn’t remember, but also the nonchalant way they answered. It was like we had just grown accustomed to the injustice that had been plaguing us for so long. We need to change that, this Saturday, April 12th, would have been Luis Rodriguez’s birthday, Making Her Story will be posting a photo campaign to bring up the discussion of how to end police brutality. I welcome everyone reading to participate not just on this day, but everyday until this injustice is no more. 

Please join the photo campaign as I will be doing this Saturday, April 12th, 2014 – on what would-be Luis’ birthday.

Image

“Today Luis Rodriguez would have celebrated his birthday. . . #endpolicebrutality”

Use this hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc; let’s get this trending! #endpolicebrutality

 

 

Making Herstory Launches Police Brutality Social Media Campaign

As a facilitator in Making Herstory – a created safe space to discuss and learn about feminism, ethnic studies & personal narratives as a form of empowerment – I am constantly brainstorming/researching ways to introduce new topics to my group of committed students. After the beating of Pearl Pearson and death of Luis Rodriguez in Moore, Oklahoma, I had to tread with caution: what impact would a lesson on police brutality, in our community, have over high school students? Is it my place to introduce my students to topics that can dramatically & emotionally impact their lives?

In those times of self-doubt, I remind myself the truth can create a culture of liberation and needed dialogue for marginalized, oppressed, and silenced communities.  My students deserve to have a space to dialogue over these issues -> coming to their own conclusion through critical thinking, dialogue, and debates.

After creating a lesson over police brutality, I had my students ask me: “What can we do to help our community? How can we help Pearl Pearson and Luis Rodriguez? How can we help others learn about police brutality?” Because of their sheer dedication to the cause, we were able to raise $250 for the Luis Rodriguez family through a bubble tea fundraiser at The Hubbly Bubbly.

Image

With the date of what would-be Luis’ birthday on Saturday, April 12th, 2014, Making Herstory brainstormed potentially having a protest, rally, etc. But we asked: what is the most accessible way, at this moment in time, to create dialogue around police brutality in our community? My high school students decided to launch a social media campaign around police brutality.

How does this work?

1) On Saturday, April 12th, we ask that you upload a picture of yourself on facebook with a posterboard/paper exactly like the one below:

Image

POLICE BRUTALITY CAMPAIGN2

“Today Luis Rodriguez would have celebrated his birthday. . . #endpolicebrutality”

2) Use the hashtag #endpolicebrutality on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and tell us your thoughts on police brutality! Let’s get it trending!

3) Refer people to the Making Herstory facebook page so people know what this campaign is about.

4) SPREAD THE WORD! We want this social media campaign to spread through Oklahoma City. Students in Making Herstory are already organizing in our community. Can you share this with others and bring police brutality awareness?

Why? In a statement crafted by Making Herstory students: “This social media campaign is a way for us to begin dialogue around police brutality in our community, and create awareness around this issue in south OKC/Moore.”

When? Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Where? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blog posts, etc

The death of Luis Rodriguez and unjust beating of Pearl Pearson served as the catalyst for Making Herstory to begin organizing around police brutality.  This social media campaign serves as a way to begin dialogue around the issue of police brutality, and to put pressure on those in power to begin critically analyzing the way institutions can unjustly hurt our community.

Continue checking our blog/Facebook page – every day leading up to Saturday, April 12th, we will have a blog post from a community member in support of the Making Herstory police brutality campaign!

Please join us in Making Herstory!

In Solidarity,

Lena Khader

 

Cross The Line

Image
Last Thursday in the Making HERstory space, students participated in the activity called “Cross the Line.” Students all stood on one side of the room and were asked a series of questions pertaining to different areas of social and person life. If the questions pertained to their lives in any way, students could cross to the other side of the room, look back at the remaining students, and walk back. As a result, diversity awareness was obtained within the group. They learned more about eachother and even themselves by identifying cultural and self identity. Through personal narratives, students gained and offered their stories. Yadira Flores and Maritza Lopez reflected through poetry about their feelings after the activity:

“You tried to break me.
I would crawl and you would knock me over,
But I got up.
I began to walk and you pushed me,
But I got up.
I started to run but you tripped me,
But I got up.
I started to crawl, walk, then run.
Then I began to fly.
You can’t touch or reach me now.”

 -Yadira Flores

“Question: Why, why are we spit out into this world filled with demons. Why are we taught that our parents will ALWAYS understand? Society only tells us things that are not. Teachers only teach us the brainy stuff. Why don’t they teach us that love isn’t seen through rose colored glasses? Why don’t they tell us that we will go through hardships, through the unthinkable…someone should teach us, warn us. Not necessarily, the miseries we will have to face, because all of ours will be different. But, WHY did my friend have to be raped? Why did my sister in Chile have to bullied? Why was my brother in England judged for being gay? Because my sister was given a beautiful gift; her daughter. And my brothers were made that much stronger. That is why, because we are all meant to go through hardships to become exactly who we were meant to be all along.”

 -Maritza Lopez

Thank you to all the students who offered their stories and the understanding of their peers!