Thursday, April 15, 2021

Black Lives Matter, But Do Addicts Lives Matter too?


Black Lives Matter, But Do Addicts’ Lives Matter Too?


If Derek Chauvin Walks, It Won’t Be Because He Killed A Black man; It Will Be Because He Killed An Addict.

In his opening statement for the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, his defense attorney, Eric Nelson, said this: “There is no political or social cause in this courtroom.” Which I now understand to mean that instead of engaging in hand-to-hand combat on the subject of race, Nelson is taking a different and possibly more winnable tact.  He intends to portray the victim, George Floyd, as an out-of-control, threatening man who could only be subdued by force on May 25, 2020. He’s asked the jury to look past race and conclude that Floyd’s drug use (methamphetamines and fentanyl), along with his preexisting cardiovascular conditions, killed him. Not Chauvin’s knee on his neck for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds.

I am a Black woman who also identifies as a person in recovery (this summer, I will celebrate thirteen years of sobriety). Until last week, even I was only looking at this trial through the lens of race. “George Floyd’s murder is a black and white issue.” I thought, “or at the very least, a blue and black issue.”  I assumed that the prosecutors would want to put racism on the stand, detailing the centuries-long police brutality pattern perpetrated on Black men and women in this country.  I thought they would want to underscore how a seemingly unrepentant white police officer murdered yet another unarmed Black man.  I expected the defense to call rebuttal witnesses who would testify to Chauvin’s character and show the jury that Floyd’s death had nothing to do with his skin color.  

So I listened to Nelson as he questioned Christopher Martin, the Cup Foods store clerk who alerted his boss to the now infamous counterfeit twenty-dollar bill.  I paid attention as he cross-examined Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross.  To Martin, instead of asking him what he witnessed outside the store after the police arrived, Nelson pressed him to give an opinion about whether or not Floyd was “high” while still inside the store. And with Ross, Nelson focused almost solely on Floyd’s history with drugs, asking her to detail the five days that Floyd spent in the hospital after an overdose and the types of drugs she’d used with Floyd. It was then that I realized that I'd been looking through the wrong lens entirely.

Racism is not on trial here.  Addiction is. 

Which, I must say, is a brilliant strategy because no one cares about drug addicts. That’s not to say that no one cares about addicts as individuals. Indeed, on any given day, there are thousands of friends or family members rooting for or mourning the loss of the addict in their life. But no one is marching in outrage when an addict is mistreated or dies.  There has never been an “Addicts Matter” movement. There are no picket signs, logos, or t-shirts, calling attention to the lives and rights of drug addicts.  

I could not help being born Black or female (and let’s be clear, I don’t want to be anything else) And although it may come as a surprise to some people, being an addict wasn’t something I chose either. Addiction is still seen by many as a series of bad choices, with emphasis on the word choice. When an addict dies at the hands (or knee) of someone else, while it may be regarded as tragic, it is rarely viewed as shocking or outrageous.


In recent years, I’ve been blown away by the number of people willing to take time from their own families and careers to bring attention to my rights as a Black female American. People have gone to jail to help ensure I don’t become another sexual assault statistic or die under a police officer’s knee. I'm talking about allies, folks who use their privilege to spotlight the inequities that marginalized people in our country experience daily. Alcohol and illicit drug use kill more people each year than cancer, making addicts and alcoholics one of the world’s most stigmatized and marginalized groups -- and yet, no one is marching for us.

So, in conclusion, casting George Floyd in the role of the unsympathetic addict instead of a loving son, father, boyfriend, and family member is a wise strategy.  But if Darek Chauvin is acquitted because he killed an addict, it will be another travesty of justice.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Are Harris and Booker Running For Vice? And If So, Which White, Male Presidential Candidate Is The Conscious, Black, Female Democrat Supposed To Support?

             I’m not much of a gambler. 
However, Vegas is offering some pretty tempting odds for the 2020 presidential race.  Donald Trump is predicted to win. They’re giving him + 140 odds (meaning a bet of $14 will get you $140.00), Joe Biden is + 600, O’Rourke is + 700, Sanders + 800 and Harris is + 900 and so on. But I’m not trying to make a quick buck. I’m just tired of living in an America where I feel like I have a target on my back because I’m black.  Right now, we can’t as a nation, even agree that black lives matter. Which means that when my two sons or I get pulled over or pulled aside by anyone in this country, we’re literally scared for our lives.   
Steve Bannon was recently quoted saying that a Harris-O’Rourke ticket would be the Democrats best shot against Trump in 2020.  Although he’s suspect as a source, I was actually pretty excited about what felt like a free, helpful hint from Trump’s former BFF. So, I brought this intel to a black, female friend of mine who is also a long-time Washington insider.   
“So, I heard that a Harris-O’Rourke ticket might win?”   
I tried to tamp down the excitement in my voice, but it was too late. The truth was that the more I thought about it, the more I believed Steve Bannon to be right. We are talking about Harris, a career politician and sitting mixed-race female senator running with O’Rourke, the bilingual Texan who has been compared to a Kennedy.  I thought that a Harris-O’Rourke ticket might be the game changer that we wanted, but I needed my friend to co-sign this theory because she’s never been wrong.   
It was she who broke it down for me in 1996 when I thought that Dole might actually beat a post-Lewinski-scandalized, Bill Clinton.  It was she who knew that Obama would win by a landslide in 2008 and told me that he’d be reelected in 2012. And it was my friend who delivered the news to me in August of 2016, that Hillary Clinton would not win the upcoming election. 
“You don’t mean…” I’d faltered. 
“Yes,” she nodded gravely. 
“But all of the polls say…” 
“The polls are wrong.” Her voice was soothing, as though she were calming a child down after a temper tantrum. 
“You mean HE’s going to be…?” 
“President Trump,” she said without flinching.  She had already processed this unthinkable reality. 
So, this time, I sat in front of her expectantly, waiting for her verdict on Bannon’s prophetic offering. 
What say you, now soothsayer?
She looked up from salting her tofu scramble with a bored stare. 
“You know Harris and Booker aren’t running to win, right Laura? You understand that they’re just running for Vice.” 
Say what? 
“You can’t run for Vice President.” 
I was trying to fight the feeling of disappointment I felt rising in my chest. 
“Of course not,” she said impatiently.  “But Trump is a juggernaut, and neither Kamala Harris nor Cory Booker has the numbers to beat him in any scenario.  However, Vice is possible.  With Biden, Bernie or Beto, Vice is possible. 
Biden, Bernie, and Beto – OH MY!
“It’s far too soon to be talking about running mates.”  
This was said by Kamala Harris on the last Sunday in March.  It was the first 90-degree day of 2019, and there were about 50 of us gathered in the backyard of a close friend of mine to support Kamala in her bid for the 2020 Presidential nomination. However, her statement startled me because it felt a little like she was reading my mind.  Sure, I was listening for her position on policies and evidence of her passion and intelligence. But I was also trying to gather up any clues that might verify my friend’s frank, straight-forward conclusion.  I was close enough to make eye contact with her, so I gave Kamala my best plaintive look. 
Thank you, Kamala, for mentioning running mates.  Because if my friend is right, I’d really like to know now if you’re actually running for Vice President. Moreover, if you are, what’s the most helpful thing to do? Continue to support you or should I campaign for one of these white men running against you instead?  
If the money is on Biden, Bernie or Beto to beat Trump (and according to the Odds Shark-app, it is), then should I just cross my fingers that whoever gets the nod picks Kamala Harris as their running mate?  But there’s also an argument to be made that Senator Cory Booker might be a more attractive black running mate because he’s a man.  But perhaps Steve Buttigieg is a more attractive running mate than both of them, as he is a young, white, man who checks a box that Harris and Booker can’t – LGTBQ.
 I would love, love, love to see this enormously qualified, mixed-race, black, female being sworn in as President in January 2021, but I feel like I’m operating in a vacuum here in Los Angeles.   I have no idea whether or not America is ready to put a black woman in the oval.  And at the end of the day, the only thing I am really interested in is the most potentially successful combination – the one that can beat President Trump.  
Last year, the #Resistance movement celebrated when former Governor, Jerry Brown signed a bill to move California’s Presidential primary up to March 3. This date-move puts California on the first slate of Super Tuesday contests, which gives The Golden State an early chance to take down a hated president, but it also gives us Californians less time to decide.  For the first time in a long time, while our votes really do matter, we have less time to make sure that the candidate we support and believe in, is also the candidate that can win against Trump.  And if my friend is right, I might have to be willing to put aside my desire to see our first black female President take office next year, in order to bet on a sure thing.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Ten Reasons Why I Thought The Movie, “US” Was Trash (AKA Terrible)

WARNING: This week’s blog is FULL of spoilers

Let’s get this out of the way, I thought Get Out was a fantastic movie. Furthermore, I thought Jordan Peele was incredibly smart to make his directorial debut a horror film about racism.  Because let’s face it – racism is scary.

So it makes sense that I couldn’t wait to see US, the movie.  I found the trailer to be both thrilling and chilling (by the way, that trailer editor should win the Golden Trailer Award – yeah, that’s a real thing).  I bought my tickets online in January, making sure that my boyfriend, his daughter, my mother and I had our favorite seats at The Arclight Theater in Sherman Oaks. I kept checking the rating on Rotten Tomatoes every few days to make sure it was still 100 percent fresh.

Finally, the day had come.  It was time to see US.

The house was packed and buzzing with nervous/excited chattering.  I held onto my boyfriend’s arm as the lights went down and the opening scene-music began. Ten minutes in, I was utterly engrossed, trying frantically to play chess in my head with Peele, determined to figure out the plot-twist before he revealed it at the end of the film.  My heart raced when the red family suddenly appeared at the end of the driveway. Moments later as the red boy shimmied up a tree like a leopard, I heard myself emit a shriek with the rest of the audience. Out loud, I warned the family away from the windows for fear that they would be easy targets for the red family.  But as soon as the red family got inside and the “tethered” Adelaide started speaking, I felt my antennae go up.  It was the same feeling I had when I first heard the details of Jussie Smollett’s alleged hate-crime attack.

Hold up, something isn’t making sense here…

Okay, here are my top ten gripes about US:

1)    When the “Red” Adelaide enters the house for the first time and tells her long, distractingly tedious, “Once upon a time” story about being a shadow, not ONCE does she mention the fact that she is the original Adelaide, a child who was abducted and placed with clones underground, while her “shadow” assumed her life. Don’t you think that would have come up? I mean, wouldn’t that have been the first thing out of your mouth?

2)    This colony of clones or “tethered people”: 

She says the government made them and put them down there, right?  So was the government keeping them there all those years?  If so, how?  And why didn’t they provide actual food for them? Also, if they’ve only ever eaten raw rabbit meat, how are they so athletically superior to regular humans? 

3)    What’s the deal with Jeremiah 11:11? I looked up the Biblical verse, and it still doesn’t make sense.

4)    If the captured-as-a child-Adelaide could move around freely and organize all those clones into a whole Hands-Across-America thing, why the F*%k didn’t she go back above ground and run her little butt back home to her real family?

5)    And speaking of Hands Across America – what was the point of that?

6)    Were some of them ZOMBIE clones?  If not, then why didn’t the white-guy clone die after Gabe delivered a crowbar into his skull?

7)    Why did Peele decide to over-explain some things and not to explain other things AT ALL?

8)    Why did "Red" keep handcuffing or tying up Adelaide when she caught her? Why didn’t she just kill her like she said she wanted to over and over?  (I know, I know, we need "Adelaide" for the sequel, but then throw me some explanation as to why “Red” wants her alive please.)

9)    What was up with Jason and the magic trick? Wasn’t it just a ring made out of a lighter flint?

10)    My biggest gripe:

I was not scared. 

I’m not saying that I didn’t jump a couple of times at the pop-outs, I’m not made of stone.  But I’m saying that it just wasn’t scary. I’m talking about that kind of bone-chilling scary, scared-to-turn-the-lights-out-when-its-time-for-bed scary, scared-to-look-in-the-bathroom-mirror-for-fear-of-seeing-two-reflections scary. 

It just wasn’t scary.

But I do think some people were scared – the critics.  I feel like critics were too scared to pan Jordan Peele’s much-anticipated sophomore effort because Get Out was so innovative, fresh and intelligent. And yes, also because he is mixed-race-black (yeah, I said it) and they don’t want to be on the wrong side of history here.  It’s kind of like that old children’s fable, The Emperor’s New Clothes.  You know the one where the Emperor is fooled into paying for a whole, new invisible wardrobe and all of his subjects are too afraid to admit that they can’t see his outfit, so they praise it instead?

So, in conclusion, I think that the scariest thing about seeing US, the movie, might be admitting to your friends afterward that you just didn’t understand it.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Here’s Why Black Twitter Has Anointed House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi The Patron Saint of Shade

Shade:  Subtle sneering expression of contempt for or disgust with someone — sometimes verbal and sometimes not. Slang term for insult.

The clap back.

I know that even if you didn’t watch the State of The Union address (all 82 minutes of it) unless you’ve been on a complete social media fast this week, you had to have seen one of the thousands of memes of Nancy Pelosi sitting behind President Trump while he addressed the nation on Tuesday night. Nancy eye-rolling, Nancy busily fact-checking her copy of his speech and of course, Nancy Pelosi clapping.

I kind of held my breath when I turned on the State of The Union Tuesday night.  I feel like we as a nation, are so inundated with sketchy, biased news stories from the “far” sides of both major parties. So sometimes I try to clear my mind of prior prejudices and give this administration a chance to be better than the way they’ve been portrayed in the media.

But this time, like every time, I ended up getting the political equivalent of a gut punch.  It really hurt my feelings when that chamber full of white men in suits stood and cheered when our President described The Caravan as murderous, drug-dealing immigrants or when he used terms such as, “ripped from the womb” or “execute the baby” when describing late-term abortions. Side note: I know it’s controversial, but I still honestly don’t understand why ANY man gets a say on what a woman does with her body.  And why, when a woman makes the oftentimes painful decision to terminate a pregnancy, it’s a matter for the courts and not a medical professional.

So, now I’m feeling like, Oh MAN do I miss HIM (you know who I mean).  It was all so different, so much better when HE was delivering this address.  It was the safest and most taken care of, in a national sense, that I’ve ever felt...

Sorry, I’m back now.  I had to get a tissue.

So, Tuesday night I was sitting at my desk watching the State of The Union and feeling more and more distinctly unsettled.  And I almost turned it off because sometimes watching him speak fills me with so much fear and anger that I can’t shake it off for days at a time.  And I have to be really mindful of things that disturb me, as I’m in recovery and my emotional balance is everything. If I’m thrown into a continual state of disturbance, I could stand to lose the most important thing in my life — my sobriety.

But again, I digress.

Anyway, I’m about to turn it off, because I feel like there’s no respite from the barrage of hurtful things coming out of his mouth. And I think that of course, Nancy is like a hostage behind him, like she has to be the very picture of dignity up there, representing our nation.

I need another side moment here.  Until recently, I wasn’t a big fan of House Speaker Pelosi.  The irony of her being The Speaker was that her actual speaking voice irked me to the point where I would rush to lower the volume whenever she appeared on TV. Plus, I’ve always thought of her as frail, scattered and soft.  In fact, until this business with the shutdown and the wall, I was not-so-secretly disappointed that she hadn’t been voted out as Speaker.

But then I, along with the rest of the nation, watched as she and her BFF, Senator Chuck Schumer, bravely stood their ground during one of the riskiest, scariest games of chicken that America has ever seen.  By refusing to fund “The Wall" they subsequently forced our president to reopen the government without having to compromise a thing. Meanwhile, Nancy had already quietly canceled his January 23rd SOTU ("I'm writing to inform you that the House will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President's State of the Union address until the government has reopened"). And then even after he reopened it, she still made him sweat a little before rescheduling it.  In case you missed this in school (I did), the President cannot just show up to deliver the State of the Union - he or she must first wait for a written invitation from The Speaker of the House.

Okay? Mad respect.

And for the first time, I became aware of the real power she was concealing under that fluttery, fragile demeanor.

So anyway, back to Tuesday night, while it was hard not to be entirely captivated by those stunning female-lawmakers dressed in all white, it was really NP who was the star of the night.  With every set of eyes on her, she was Leonard Bernstein up there, conducting the whole dang event. We all watched her for the signals; when to dismiss, when to rise, when to groan and of course when to clap.

That clap.

I found myself watching to the end, fully engrossed in the “show behind the show.”  I needed an ally to view the event with even a modicum of safety, and that ally turned out to be, none other than, Speaker Pelosi and the funny little way she claps.

Nancy’s daughter, Christina Pelosi had this to say about her mother’s clapping.  A clapping style, which, by the way, has now earned her mother the internet equivalent of a standing ovation:

“Oh yes, that clap took me back to my teen years.  Frankly, it means that she’s disappointed that you thought this (whatever it was) could work — but here’s a clap.”

So, I gotta go with Black Twitter on this one. After this year’s State of The Union, House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi is indeed The Patron Saint of Shade.  And long may she reign.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Not Everybody Loved My Brave Magic Article Last Week – Here’s Why:


A person harmed, injured, or killed

Synonyms: Casuality, loss, loser, prey

Victimized: Singling out someone (or a group of people) for cruel and or unjust treatment.

Synonyms: To be persecuted, bullied, discriminated against, terrorized.

When we stop feeling sorry for victims it’s called Compassion Fatigue. 

Compassion fatigue is used mostly use to describe the phenomena of walking by homeless people and not breaking one’s stride or interrupting one’s cell phone conversation. It’s a numbing out, it’s also called desensitization. Many of us felt at one time or another, genuine compassion for these folks without homes.  But now because of the sheer number of homeless people, we as a society have wearily decided to turn a collective blind eye.  We no longer feel as though we have the resources or the wherewithal to continue to address the problem on a daily basis. 

Like: I hate to say it, but I’m just tired of dealing with this.

I wrote a story about an experience that I had last month about being the only black person at a 600-person retreat, called Brave Magic.  Five minutes after the story went live, comments started pouring in.  Most of the comments were positive and supportive.  Others were actual rebuttals to my essay and many of these “rebuttals” were aggressively negative.

I wrote:

“And it hadn’t even vaguely occurred to me that out of 600 people, I might be the only black one. I am more than just shocked, I am deeply saddened.”

A commenter wrote back: “This woman is playing her victim card by showing up to this event preoccupied with her race and she's complaining about having a lousy time?”

I wrote: “Really?! How is it that an event this big, in twenty fricken eighteen can be so incredibly homogenous?”

And another comment wrote: “So?  My wife and I were the only white people at an Eritrean wedding and we had a great time!”

I wrote: But in this age of “Hamilton” and inclusion riders, how could the organizers of a 600-person event have not even considered the optics and possibility of an all-white audience?

And this commenter wrote back: I’m sick of this victim mentality.  This writer is desperately seeking some way to blame racism and not just her own awkward feeling of being the only black person.”

Victim mentality?

Victim mentality: The feeling of being unfairly singled out for persecution.

At first these comments stung me.  I felt frustrated that my words and intended message were so misconstrued.  But then I read a little further and realized a deeper truth. These commenters were unable to read the words that I wrote as anything less than an indictment of the current culture of privilege in our society. It wouldn’t have mattered what I wrote in the article, because they had made up their minds that I was suffering from a “victim mentality” the moment they read the title:

I Was The Only Black Person At Elizabeth Gilbert’s And Cheryl Strayed’s Retreat

I think I get it now…

Slavery was hundreds of years ago, right?  The civil rights movement was what?  Decades ago now?  And affirmative action is currently charging colleges, universities and corporations to diversify their populations, right?  And they’re doing it, right?

They’re thinking: We’re ready to move on now, why aren’t they?

I understand that there were thousands who saw my article as a complaint, my observations as indictments.  They think that writing about being the only one who looks like me in a room of 600 people is tantamount to irresponsible whining. 

I write about what I’ve experienced and all they hear is “Oh poor me!” 

They do not know the difference between a victim and “victim mentality.”  They have not bothered to look up the definition of the word victimized.  In other words, they are ignorant (sorry, I know that word is harsh, but it’s actually quite accurate in this case).

A little education on this subject for those who don’t know or may have forgotten:  

Black people in this country have been victimized since Europeans decided that we were literally worth less than them (3/5 of a man?  Wasn’t that the math?)  -- this is a fact. Victimized, as I stated up top, means, discriminated against, bullied or terrorized. So, by this very definition, I and everyone who looks like me here in America is, in fact a victim.

But my Brave Magic piece was not written in “victimese.”

I did not write it as a victim.

I wrote it as a reporter.  I was simply reporting my observations to whoever cared to read about what was like to be me, Laura Cathcart Robbins, a black woman at an all-white event.

But I do think these comments are really just a sampling of the way so many American’s feel about all marginalized people in our country.  This whole “you guys need to just get over it” mentality has permeated our society from top to bottom.  The men and women who negged on my essay were really voicing their frustrations about having to deal with the realities of living in this “melting pot” that we call America.  They want us all to just shut up about the “past” and be grateful for where we are now (which is where exactly, by the way?). 

Well here’s something you may not know: We want to move on too.

With the exception of Kanye and a few others, most of the black people that I know don’t subscribe to the notion that America was ever great – for black people.  And we don’t have any interest at all in going back to any calendar period in American history. 

So why can’t we just forget about the past and move on?

Mainly because there are so many Americans who won’t let us.  We can’t move on because we’re still being disproportionately arrested.  We can’t move on because we’re still getting shot down in the streets and our murderers aren’t getting convicted.  We can’t move on because we are still being pulled over for driving while black, getting the police called on us for shopping, sleeping or babysitting while black. We can’t move on because our votes and voices are still being systematically suppressed.  We can’t move on because we’re still getting stared down when we enter a convenience store or asked to leave when we take too long to purchase something.

We can’t move on because in the eyes of a great many Americans, we are still worth less.

So, it’s not for lack of effort.  It’s not that we don’t want to “just move on” (believe me, we do).  But we can’t, not as long as these daily injustices continue to occur.

Anyway, I’m starting to go down a tangent hole, and I’d really like to (as my friend, Chariesse would say) “keep it classy” – so I’ll end here with this:

Victimized people do need somewhere to share their collective voices – we are all responsible for not only making sure that that space exists, but that it continues to get more expansive and inclusive.

For I believe it is then, and only then that compassion fatigue can slowly be replaced with compassion invigoration.  So, let’s keep this conversation going.  And let’s really make America great “again” – but this time for everyone.