For Hope in Trump’s America, I Read Sojourner Truth

I’ve been reading Sojourner Truth’s famous 1851 speech, “Ain’t I a Woman.”

“I could work as much and eat as much as a man, when I could get it, and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne 13 children and seen most of them sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”

.. When Truth asked the group of mostly white women in her audience whether she was a woman, she was not simply pointing to the hypocrisy of Western thought in which nations and “civilized” societies were built on the enslavement, murder and exploitation of women and children. Truth’s question was a provocation, a challenge to a racial structure built on the dehumanization of an entire group of human beings.

.. The barbarity of American slavery should be recalled more often, if only to truly understand the significance of its demise. It was

  • the grief of losing one’s child,
  • being raped,
  • beaten,
  • tortured and
  • separated from your own
  • language,
  • family and friends at a whim.

.. It was a system that normalized and codified its everyday brutality. It was life in constant fear and punishing, exacting labor. And it was completely legal.

.. Who successfully sued a white man to get back her son.

.. For example, Truth, in fact, had only five children, not 13 — an embellishment attributed to those who later transcribed the speech for the illiterate former slave.

.. I think of her standing in a courtroom to claim her child and I remind myself that this is what freedom means.

.. I participated in the Occupy movement, during which a crossracial coalition of people from New York to Honolulu protested income inequality, gentrification, police brutality and unjust incarceration. The movement had many successes, but in its immediate aftermath we saw widespread crackdowns in cities around the country on people’s ability to interact and exist in urban outdoor spaces — policies that have aided efforts to criminalize the nation’s homeless and pre-emptively arrest other vulnerable populations.

.. In order to have hope, I have to believe that, after the backlash, things — for black Americans and other oppressed people here and around the world — will change again.

.. For black Americans, the struggle of emancipation is riddled with its failures: sharecropping, lynching, segregation, disenfranchisement and brutal, unfair treatment by the criminal justice system.

.. John Lewis said in a recent tweet, “Do not get lost in a sea of despair.

Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime.”

 

Outrage Over Footage of Police Officer Beating a Black Man in North Carolina

The episode quickly escalates from there. Officer Chris Hickman, who was training Officer Ruggiero and wearing the body camera, orders Mr. Rush to put his hands behind his back. Mr. Rush runs, and the officers chase him, eventually tackling him to the ground.

During the arrest, Mr. Rush was shocked with a Taser, choked and beaten by Officer Hickman, according to police records.

At several points, while pinned to the ground, Mr. Rush cried, “I can’t breathe!”

The camera footage also shows Officer Hickman hitting Mr. Rush on the head over and over with a closed fist, and Mr. Rush crying out in pain as he is shocked with a Taser.

.. The administrative investigations revealed that Officer Hickman had used excessive force during the arrest and that he had engaged in “rude and discourteous behavior” on four other occasions with other members of the public

.. A supervisor who responded to the scene on the night of Mr. Rush’s arrest was disciplined for unsatisfactory performance after failing to immediately disclose all of the details gleaned from interviewing Mr. Hickman and Mr. Rush, and neglecting to view the body camera footage that day.

Mr. Rush told The Citizen Times that the supervisor accused him multiple times of lying.

“She kind of yelled a little bit, saying: ‘You’re lying. You’re lying. My officer is not going to do that,’” he said.

.. Last year, Chief Hooper faced protests after requesting $1 million to hire more officers to police the downtown area, which is near where Mr. Rush was tackled.