Why Nobody Wins After Ferguson

 

 

Ferguson-Cover

 

I remember exactly where I was, and how I felt, on October 3, 1995.  I was a freshman in High School.  That afternoon, me and several of my classmates piled into the basement of my dormitory (I went to Board School) and anxiously awaited the verdict in the OJ Simpson murder trial.  This day was a pivotal moment for me because it was the first time I realized that our justice system was flawed.  I left that basement a slightly different version of myself then when I first sat down to hear the verdict.  Naive 15 year old Cappuccino Queen had begun that day thinking, ‘I don’t know why everyone is making such a big deal about this….surely he is going to be convicted of this.  Everyone knows he did that shit.’

After hearing that OJ Simpson would walk free after it seems obvious that he had killed two innocent people, I was rocked to the core.  This was the first time that I realized that the law doesn’t apply to everyone the same way.  Money is power, and that power allowed Simpson to get away with murdering two people.

Though I had learned this important lesson about power, there was still some innocence left and I still felt a sense of safety in our system.  Since 2011, however, I have learned that the Simpson trial was more of a rule than the exception that I had hoped it was.  As an adult, I continue to have emotions of sadness, anger, and fear when I hear stories where justice has clearly been failed.

You have to have been living under a rock if by now you haven’t heard the name Darren Wilson.  In the event that you have been living under a rock, I will briefly explain.  Darren Wilson is the police officer who shot an unarmed 18 year old man named Michael Brown.  Brown’s murder (yes, I still consider it murder even if the officer says he felt threatened) has caused a huge uproar in this country with many people splitting their opinion along racial lines.  In light of what I have learned since my own trust in our system was lost, I want to comment on what I think this incident means for our society.

Not Every American Citizen Is Equal:  Police officers take an oath to “protect and serve”.  This oath, however, doesn’t also mean that you are able to “try, convict, and sentence.”  If a common citizen shot an unarmed man, there would be a trial to determine whether or not the shooter acted in self defense.  Wilson had months to work with his attorney to prepare his chain of events.  Though Brown laid in the street dead for four hours, nobody was able to take pictures of the scene or measure the distance between the officer’s car and Brown’s dead body.  There was, however, enough time (and a working camera) to snap a shot of the small bruise on Wilson’s cheek.

Darren Wilson was not treated as an equal citizen in this situation.  After reading through the testimony that the State chose to release from the Grand Jury (which by the way is not like the open trial a normal citizen would get), Wilson’s story didn’t make sense.  If Wilson had been forced to have a real trial (where the prosecutor was actually representing the victim), he would have been cross examined after making statements like, “When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding Hulk Hogan…that’s just how big he felt and how small I felt from grasping his arm.”  (Note:  Darren Wilson is 6’4″ tall and 210 pounds.  That is a big ass five year old.)

The day that the Grand Jury came to it’s decision, the State sat on the information for hours while they figured out how to best present this information to the public in a way that didn’t appear as an obvious insult to Justice.  They knew that in a normal trial, all the witnesses would have been able to testify.  Brown would have had character witnesses at a trial who could have testified as to whether he was the type of person to do the things Wilson was accusing him of.  Instead, the Grand Jury was given Wilson’s remorseless version of events.

I am not certain Wilson would have been convicted if he had gone through a trial.  Maybe a jury would still have believed that 6 bullets into an unarmed man wasn’t excessive force.  That said, we will never know because our system killed the opportunity for true justice.

Nobody Wins:  Yesterday I had a long conversation with a police officer that I respect.  While we have very different perspectives on this case, she said something that I think is extremely important when thinking about what this case means for us all.  She said, “it is much easier to put on a stamp, than to take it off.”  She talked about how hard it was for good officers to overcome the image of the bad ones.  Wilson’s decision to use this level of force colored the police force in a way that will negatively impact officers across the country for some time.  His decision killed his career, and it also put his fellow officer’s lives at risk.  It should be of no surprise to anyone when black men (in particular) behave with an extreme fear of police.  Riots have broken out in areas all over the country.  These riots seem to muffle the peaceful protests of those like myself who simply want answers.

 

On January 25, 2012, my ex was arrested for the murder of my son Prince.  If the police officer’s who arrived to arrest him had decided to shoot him that day, I would have been the first person to breath a sigh of relieve and pop the champagne.  That said, I am rational enough to understand that this wouldn’t have brought real justice to my son.  As law abiding citizens, we count on the police to behave with integrity.  We count on the police to respect their role in the process of justice.

Darren Wilson, I don’t believe you.  I don’t believe you didn’t have another option than to kill an unarmed man.  If you joined the police force as a patriot, then you should be ashamed.  You should have remorse for taking the life of a man you could have possibly saved.  Whether or not you believe Brown was a thug should be of no consequence.  If you one day go on to have children, I pray that in those precious moments that you are able to hold your child – that you also have the emotional capacity to think about the Brown’s child, whom you took from this earth.  In that moment, maybe you will finally be able to understand even a fraction of the pain you have caused.

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Cosby: When Justice Catches Up With A Celebrity

 

Beverly Hills Hotel 100th Anniversary Weekend - Bill Cosby Hosts Evening Of Comedy And Jazz

 

Indulge me while I bring you back to one average evening in the McLeod household circa 1985. Actually, I can say with relative confidence that it was February 6, 1985. I was four years old, and I had an epic meltdown that night. Many of you are probably shocked that I can remember the exact day I had this meltdown, but I was able to narrow into the date because it was the night former President Ronald Regan gave his State of the Union address that year.

 

Normally, four year olds have meltdowns about regular four year old things like not getting that piece of candy they wanted, not wanting to go to bed, etc. Four- year old Cappuccino Queen, however, was having a meltdown because the Cosby Show was being bumped from Primetime lineup because of this State of the Union Address. When I realized that no amount of crying and screaming could bring Bill Cosby back to my screen, I sat imagining that President Regan could see the terrible stink eye I was giving him.

 

I know this is a long- winded intro, but I can’t really begin to describe how much I loved the Cosby Show. To a four -year old brown girl, who lived in a neighborhood and went to a school where she was the only person of color, I loved watching a black family on television. I loved that Mr. Bill Cosby looked like my Dad (well, only in color really), and that Rudy was roughly my age. The Cosby show was the one show that everyone in my family seemed to enjoy, and we would all gather to watch it.

 

Fast- forward nearly 31 years, and these are the headlines that I am seeing come across my news feed:

 Audio of Bill Cosby Joking About Drugging Women Resurfaces

Bill Cosby’s Silence on Rape Allegations Makes Huge Noise

Internet Rage Pushes ‘America’s Dad’ Bill Cosby off His Pedestal

After reading these most recent allegations that Cosby sexually assaulted over 14 women, that rosy childhood image that I had of him wilted on the spot.  It felt similar to the time I was told that Santa Claus didn’t really exist, but much worse because it tarnished what was a positive image of the black family.  Sure, I know the character in the show wasn’t really the man in real life, but I still wanted to believe that this man who played such an important character for the times was also a good man in real life.

After reading through some of the stories and comments from Cosby’s victims, I felt continued disgust for our flawed legal system.  I also felt a connection with these women who have been fighting against a system that doesn’t want to believe that some men (especially financially powerful ones) are capable of rape.  One of the most high-profile accusers, Barbara Bowman, a married mother of two, claims Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her beginning in 1985 when she was a 17-year old aspiring actress.  She has continued to tell her story over and over for the last decade.  The Washington Post published an essay by Bowman with the explosive headline: “Bill Cosby raped me. Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my story?”

Bowman wrote that she was emboldened to tell her story after Constand went public with her accusations:

“When Constand brought her lawsuit, I found renewed confidence. I was determined to not be silent any more. In 2006, I was interviewed by Robert Huber for Philadelphia Magazine, and Alycia Lane for KYW-TV news in Philadelphia. A reporter wrote about my experience in the December 2006 issue of People Magazine. And last February, Katie Baker interviewed me for Newsweek. Bloggers and columnists wrote about that story for several months after it was published. Still, my complaint didn’t seem to take hold.

“Only after a man, Hannibal Buress, called Bill Cosby a rapist in a comedy act last month did the public outcry begin in earnest. The original video of Buress’s performance went viral. This week, Twitter turned against him, too, with a meme that emblazoned rape scenarios across pictures of his face.”

While Cosby maintains that he is innocent, and claims that he has never been in trouble with the law, these countless allegations seem to paint a different picture.  To me, one of the most disturbing parts of this story is the fact that this allegedly began over 30 years ago, yet Cosby remains a free man never having had to account for his behavior.  Only now, is he really receiving any amount of public shame.  I speak a lot about how our justice system has a way of failing its victims, but this is a very clear example of how when prosecutors turn their backs on these types of cases, it only emboldens criminals into continuing to commit vile acts.

If someone had listened to Bowman 30 years ago, how many women could have been sparred the emotional and physical scars?  It is high time that we (as Americans) start taking a stand against this type of behavior.  Women and men need to start taking this more seriously.  14 women shouldn’t have to come forward pointing their finger at a high profile celebrity before people start to believe that he could be a vile rapist.

Despite the realization that Cosby is not the man 4-year old Cappuccino Queen wanted him to be, I am still thankful for the producers who chose to show a black family during those times.  That said, I will no longer show my support for a man who is clearly not deserving of the pedestal that so many of us placed him on.

Mr. Bill Cosby, I am ashamed of you.  I hope and pray that you get exactly what you deserve, and that justice finally catches up with you.



 

 

 

 

Things My Children Have Taught Me

Stelapig

 

Just over a year ago, I gave birth to my daughter.  Those of you who follow my page regularly also know that just over two years ago, my son Prince was murdered.  While this blog is certainly not a Mommy blog, this week I would like to take some time to reflect on what being a parent has taught me.  In the three and a half years since I became a parent, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined.  Both of my children have taught me things that I couldn’t have learned had they not chosen me as their mother.  I hope this post helps you to reflect on what the children in your life have taught you – whether you are a parent, an older sibling, a grandparent, an aunt/uncle, or a friend.

Unconditional And Limitless Love:  From the moment I felt Prince kick me, I knew that my life would never be the same.  I fell in love with him before I even met him, and my love for him seemed to just grow as the days passed.  Before I got pregnant with my daughter, I wondered if I would be able to love that way again, especially after such a terrible loss.  My son taught me how a child can deepen how you love, and my daughter taught me there are no limits to how much you can love someone.

Tolerance For Nasty:  When I was a kid, I thought I would want to be a doctor.  This thought was rooted purely in my desire to help people, and I had not considered the nasty factor.  As I got older, I realized that other people vomiting in front of me would make me sick and blood freaked me out.  In my 20′s, after a coworker threw up in my car after a party, I realized that I was never meant to deal with that level of nasty.  Then, I had children.  Both of my children have gotten me over my fear of nasty by forcing me to handle snot, explosive poop, spit up, and vomit on a near regular basis.  When your child is sick, there is no time to freak out about them pooping on you.

The Power of Dance:  In the interest of full disclosure, I am a terrible dancer.  To make matter worse, I had to grow up as a half-black girl whom everyone assumed must be able to dance because I was brown.  I felt like an asian person who was bad at math.  Because I was never good at dancing, I stopped doing it for fear of the extreme judgement I would get when it was clear that I had not gotten the rhythm gene. Then, I had children.  Both of my kids love to dance.  Prince would break out into what I called his “monkey dance” any time he heard music, and sometimes even when the music was just playing in his own head.  His sister Stela is equally as infatuated with dancing.  The two of them has taught me that regardless of how ridiculous you look when you dance, dancing brings happiness.

Appreciation of The Little Things:  Before kids, I didn’t fully appreciate the value of a warm cup of coffee.  Sure, I loved coffee before kids; however, there is nothing like the feeling you get when you have the time to enjoy your coffee while it’s still warm.  I have also learned to appreciate moments of quiet, or the rare afternoon nap that I actually get to take with my daughter (usually this is the time when I am cleaning up after her or rushing to get other things done).  Not having as much time to yourself makes you truly appreciate things like enjoying a nice meal, or drinking coffee in peace.

You Don’t Need As Much Sleep As You Think:  When I was in college, I would frequently complain about sleep deprivation.  I didn’t realize, though, that what I felt back then was just the tip of the iceberg.  After pulling an all nighter for that chemistry exam, I could come back to my dorm and pass out for hours before I needed to be anywhere.  Now, after being kept awake all night with the baby, there is no opportunity to just sleep until my next exam.  You can’t skip class on your baby.

Life Is Full Of Magic:  Having children makes everything seem a bit more magical.  One of my favorite things about being a parent is watching my children experience something for the first time.  The joy they both got when they took their first steps, smelled a flower for the first time, or had a taste of a sour lemon.  Children live life to the fullest.  If people never lost the ability to do this, there would be so much more joy in the world.  Having children, has allowed me to experience that magic again.

Faith:  I saved this one for last because it is one of the most powerful lessons I have learned from my children.  I didn’t get a chance to see my son grow up.  He didn’t have as many firsts as he should have because he didn’t even live long enough to have a second birthday.  That said, that child showed me that everyone has a purpose.  I truly believe that he came on a mission, and he chose me as his mother.  After having my daughter, there are moments when I see her do things that make it seem as though she had long discussions with Prince in heaven before coming here.

I talk a lot on my blog about my vehement disgust for those who abuse children.  It is hard for me to understand why someone would treat someone who is able to bring so much joy – so poorly.  Being a parent is not easy.  Loving someone so deeply can be terrifying, and many people are put in a position (as I was) where they are not legally allowed to protect their children.  Though it hasn’t been easy, I wouldn’t change it for the world.  Knowing Prince for even 15 months made me a better person, and a better mother.  Getting the chance to raise his sister has made me the happiest version of myself I have ever known.

I have two children – one is my angel in heaven, and the other is my angel here on earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

False Pretenses And The Dangers Of Online Dating

 

online dating

This past Monday, Luc was charged with another felony – False Pretenses.  While this charge was related to falsifying information on the life insurance application he took out on my son, I couldn’t help but think that Luc’s entire life has really been based on many False Pretenses.  In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I met Luc via match.com.  At the time, I was pushing 30 and ready to settle down.  I had just relocated to the DC area, and was interested in meeting people outside of my current circle.  While on some level I had heard negative reviews of online dating, I had decided that I was going to be all in and remain optimistic.  ‘I will know if someone is lying to me once I meet them,’ I thought confidently.  ‘It will be so obvious if something is wrong with them from the first date,’ I said to myself naively.

While Luc never wanted to admit we met via Match.com (possibly because he had used it in the past to target women), I have no shame in admitting that is how I met him.  In fact, I think online dating is one of the most dangerous ways to meet someone.  Sure, there are tons of normal people who have met their current partner via a dating site, but there are also all sorts of predators online.  The Internet is a scary place full of all sorts of smoke and clouds.  It is very easy for someone to completely reinvent themselves, and hide behind the virtual curtain long enough to be dangerous.

So this week, I wanted to lay out some reasons why I will never on-line date again.  For those of you who want to try it out, keep in mind the below when you are meeting people so that you can go into this arrangement with your eyes completely open.

1)  The Profile Trap:  On just about every dating site, the dater is encouraged to write something about themselves.  People will write what they want others to know about them, and dishonest people can use their profile to lay the groundwork for a complete sham.  After reading someones profile, you might get the false impression that you know that person, even before you meet.  Much of the information that people put on their profile cannot be vetted, nor is it common for people to vet information before the first date anyway.

2)  Connections Prior To Face To Face:  A lot of people feel more comfortable speaking to someone on the phone or talking to them online well before they meet them.  While in some ways, this might make sense.  This practice ended up being dangerous for me.  After speaking to Luc on the phone, and through emails, I felt as though I had already invested some emotions before I was able to see him in person.  I remember the moment I laid eyes on Luc.  As soon as I saw him, I got an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that made me want to run screaming.  He didn’t look anything like the picture he had given me, and something felt wrong.  That said, I had spent so much time talking to him, I felt invested enough to continue the date.  If I hadn’t felt this sort of investment, I wouldn’t have thought twice about just ditching out on the date and never contacting him again.

3)  Degrees of Separation:  One of the things that drew me to online dating was the fact that I wanted to meet people outside of my circle.  That said, it would have been much safer had I stayed in my circle.  Meeting people through friends gives you a natural vetting mechanism.  Luc, on the other hand, would never have run in my circles.  He would never have worked with anyone I knew (because he didn’t work), he never would have gone to school with anyone I knew (because he was a high school drop out from out of state), and he never would have met any of my friends through any hobbies (because he played video games all day).  Because we didn’t have anyone in common, I was completely reliant on “vetting” him through the people he presented to me (see number 4).

4)  Third Party Deceit:  I remember explaining to a friend how comfortable I was with online dating.  One of the things I was comfortable with was the idea that after meeting someone, I could always insist on meeting their family and friends.  Surely, if you meet family and friends (all of whom rave about how great the person is), that has to say something right?  WRONG.  Luc presented an entire fake family to me.  I went to their home, and they claimed to be his aunts, uncles, and cousins.  They told me stories that backed up what Luc said he did for a living.  After I left Luc, I came to learn that these people had no relation to Luc and currently don’t have any contact with him.  In addition to a fake family, Luc introduced me to several attorneys.  These attorneys claimed that they were his business attorneys.  This helped him uphold the story of being gainfully employed.  None of this was actually true.

 

Most dating sites don’t do anything to verify the information that someone puts in their profile.  While you can meet a psychopath anywhere, before you enter the online dating world you should understand the risks associated with this venue.  You should also know that many dangerous people use internet dating to troll for new victims.  If you meet someone in person who has clearly misrepresented themselves (i.e. put someone else’s picture online, etc), don’t feel bad just walking away.  And if you ever get the impression that their story doesn’t seem to match up, it is probably because they are not telling you the truth.

I understand my story is one of the more extreme stories.  The man I met online was a walking false pretense.  Before I met him, however, I was one of the people who believed I would never end up being that girl from that terrible lifetime movie.  Now, I realize the only difference between me and that girl is that my story hasn’t been on Lifetime yet.