Sunday Reflections: With High Emotions, Logic Runs Low

Black Pain

The picture above was the focus of a snarky Tweet yesterday during the #BlackFair event, hosted by #BlackLivesMatter, at the Minnesota State Fair.  (Update: Via Denise VB, this is a picture of Dorian Johnson, the young man with Michael Brown in Ferguson last year.)

It’s easy enough to get caught up in the bitter back and forth that happens on social media around this topic, especially when people like Deray McKesson and Shaun King are the visible leaders of the movement. And the anger that comes with news of the assassination of a Texas Sheriff Deputy (in the county I spent my first 10 formative years, no less) for no apparent reason is understandable. I felt it. Police are indispensable to a civilized nation. They don’t deserve to be targeted and killed in the streets for their chosen profession, which is noble. And the purpose of #BLM does not seem to be to address the plight of young black people at risk on the streets of their own neighborhoods. It seems rather to be the disruption of society as a whole for the sake of electoral politics.

A gentleman in the neighborhood in which the killer of the deputy lived had this to say in a local interview:

When emotion is running that high, logic runs low.

And this, too, made me think…well, let me just unwind my thoughts for you. You may not agree, but I think it’s important that we talk instead of react.

I’ve taught what used to be called remedial English for several years at a local community college. Now they call it Skills Advancement. These are classes in reading and writing for students who either didn’t get the level of instruction needed in high school to prepare them for college-level academic work, or because their own life circumstances prohibited them from engaging sufficiently to acquire these skills.

My classrooms are diverse without exception. They are a metropolitan mix of black, white, Hispanic, mixed-race, young, old, and immigrant students. At least 95% of them come from or are currently in a lower socioeconomic class. In a classroom like mine, cultural differences stand out to a startling degree. Surprisingly, socioeconomic status is not the most visually pronounced among these differences. Almost everyone has a smart phone and at least one piece of jewelry.

Yet young people tend to have more tattoos, while older people and immigrants are generally more appropriately dressed for the academic setting. White students with the common Anglo-Midwestern accent come early and prepared for class, regardless of gender. White young men who have adapted to the racial diversity of their neighborhoods, who dress and talk like young black men, sit at the front of the class and tend to be loud and gregarious; their black counterparts generally sit at the back and hunker down in their chairs, sullen and reluctant to engage. The young black men who sit at the front of my classroom and answer my general questions to the class are, almost to the person, raised by grandmothers instead of mothers. These observations might lead one to make certain judgments, but then essay assignments come due, and the view changes.

The immigrant students often write about their journey to America, or the dire circumstances in their own countries that compelled them to pursue a passage to safety. The young black women in my class write narratives about the tattoos they have that mark the lives of two, five, or ten people they’ve known who have died, their grief over these deaths so profound they felt a permanent marker on their bodies was necessary. The children raised by grandparents will write an ode to that grandparent or grandparents, where relief and gratitude for the lives they’ve led are etched into descriptive techniques I teach them. Without fail, a young white girl will tell me she doesn’t have anything to write about, because nothing has happened to her yet.

Older students will write about how much of their lives they sacrificed to give a proper home to their children, or how that sacrifice did not prevent the consequences of a life of poverty. Prison narratives are common, as are arrest narratives, but they differ. Prison narrative are told where the significance of accountability is almost always pronounced. With arrest narratives, the significance tends to be the surprise that comes with having fun disrupted by the presence of police, and even though a confession of wrong-doing may be made in the essay, accountability is rare. Race is not a factor in the presentation of these essays, but it usually is in the likelihood of topic choice.

America means something different to each of these groups of students. The opinions and heart-felt beliefs they express are of a staggering magnitude. They are often in conflict with each other.

It’s the narratives of these diverse students and the pictures like the one at the top of this post that make me rethink my own harsh critique the Black Lives Matter movement. With #BLM, it’s not the topic choice I oppose; it’s the presentation. I know from personal experience, both from having lived a life of poverty as a child, and as a teacher now to students who, like me once upon a time, are seeking a way out, that poverty and police intersect frequently. I know that young people die on the streets of America’s poor neighborhoods, both as collateral to rampant crime and as a police reaction to that crime. I also know that as a country, we do have an ethic of human worth and dignity, but that ethic gets lost somewhere on the way to Cabrini Green, or Lincoln Park, or 42nd & Post, to use my own city as example.  It’s not that the ethic doesn’t trickle down; it’s that it increases as a result of having something to lose.

The young man in the picture has pain; it is evident in the scrunch of his face and the earnest, pleading look in his eye. A few months ago his expression was likely one of anger, but the Black Lives Matter movement has managed to unlock the grief in his heart that informed that anger.  They have done that by front-paging the deaths of many young black people, some (not all) of whom made choices that contributed to their own deaths. (Yes, that will anger some people who agree with #BLM, but it is nonetheless true.) But they have also done this through a callous organizing by activists who were trained to pull at the heartache of disadvantaged people and to provoke them with highly emotional incidents and subsequent gatherings that heighten that emotional state.

In this emotional state, logic abilities are not as accessible. The truth of the matter is that the young man’s anger and grief are not likely the result of his daily interactions with white America—they are likely the result of his daily interactions with black America. If statistics are any indication, he is likely not from an intact family. His extended family is likely vast and fractured. His educational experience has not prepared him for success in our culture. His economic experience is likely fraught with desperation.  His lack of opportunity, likely born of choices his elders made, is the source of his frustration. These dynamics may have driven him to take chances you or I would never consider, let alone take. And yet it is not the elders or the people in his community who have failed him that he blames; it is you or me, or the police officers in his neighborhood who are just trying to make a living and drew his neighborhood as the luck of their draw.

This is where my own harsh critique of #BLM comes into play. And maybe it’s not my own critique that has changed, but my presentation of it. I’ve been angry, but it occurs to me that anger is not a helpful response.

I’m stuck in the middle. I’m a white American—previously poor, now of lower middle class. I’m not the target audience for either side. I’m watching this back and forth like a backgammon game, and my own thoughts and emotions are also being slowly ratcheted up. I’m of certain demographic classes—whether that be classified by gender, race, or socioeconomic class—that will certainly suffer as the war that both sides now openly talk about heats up. My life intersects with other demographic classes far more than the factions on either side of this war.

My jobs (I have two) as an educator and social worker are to 1) teach diverse Americans in a community college setting, and to 2) police the fractured family structures that must be dragged before the family courts in the name of child safety. This puts me in a perilous position, and I admit, I am very afraid.

I see firsthand day in and day out the complete dysfunction inherent in isolated, segregated communities. These communities are not segregated by race, but by socioeconomic status–almost the opposite of my experience in the classroom. It is within these socioeconomically segregated communities that people self-segregate by race or life-style. They keep to their own and in doing so, reinforce negative habits and poor choices.

Everyday I come face-to-face with what could have been my own fate if I had not had one critical person who was able to put their own needs and wants aside to address the needs and wants of my childhood. That’s all it takes—one person. So many of the people I encounter don’t have that one person. They may be loved by the people in their lives, but love is not enough. Sacrifice is also required. A socio-political movement cannot be a substitute for that one person.

That’s the truth I know, and that’s what leads to me where I am today. I’m not angry today. I am afraid today and I am sad. We’re not moving in a direction where change is likely to happen. We’re just mad at each other all the time, and blaming, without accountability for ourselves and our actions. We shoot off at the mouth or the gun and we just keep making things worse. Not you in particular, but all of us, or most of us. We need to be able to address these issues calmly, but the leading parties are only interested in disruption or reaction. There is no room for logic in that cycle. We can’t even have a dialogue in a state of crisis like this.

About Woke Lola

Bitch, please.
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72 Responses to Sunday Reflections: With High Emotions, Logic Runs Low

  1. votermom says:

    What a great post, Lola.
    Thank you for all that you do in RL, and ((hugs)) and stay safe.

  2. DandyTIger says:

    Brilliant. It is all sad. I’m still angry at the politicization and “leaders” of what’s happening here because helping people is the last thing they want to do.

    • Thanks. You have a right to be angry too. Here’s Deray in the same article I linked at the top of the post:

      Deray McKesson, a leader of the Black Lives Matters movement, responded to Hickman’s criticisms by saying: “I grieve for the victims of violence. It is unfortunate that Sheriff Hickman has chosen to politicize this tragedy and to attribute the officer’s death to a movement that seeks to end violence.”

      Ironic in the extreme. His rhetoric is how you can tell he’s a hypocrite and/or a useful idiot.

  3. lyn says:

    Double brilliant … you have the pulse of your community and our country, Lola.

  4. I’ll be back in a while. Grocery & errands call.

  5. 1539days says:

    The pain is real and unfortunately misdirected. I can’t give quarter to someone who follows the wrong loudmouth because they are the one who is most passionate. This kind of goes in with my belief that libertarianism can’t be a real thing because too many people need to be led. We do what we can to take down the Shaun Kings and other moronic leaders of these movements, but they are given life by the followers, even if they don’t understand what’s reall going on.

    In other words, my give a damn’s busted.

  6. mothy67 says:

    As with radical Islam where are the sane voices of the AA community? Maybe when they get involved I’ll get me a give damn checked?

  7. DeniseVB says:

    Beautiful post Lola, I absolutely agree and thank you for making our illogical world a better place with writing your thoughts and through your work. However, you may want to update the photo 😉

    I thought that photo looked familiar, he’s the “Father of Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”, Dorian Johnson, Michael Brown’s friend, here he is explaining to the media what had happened. I may add to pain and grief, lie and deceit.

    • DandyTIger says:

      Good point. This is the actual guy who created and perpetuated the lie about hands up. Though a criminal, and partner with Brown in his various crimes, and though he helped create a false narrative partly to save his own ass, it doesn’t mean he isn’t messed up, sad, and broken. But he’s destructive and partly to blame for injuries and deaths that resulted from all this. And least in some small part.

      • Myiq2xu says:

        How much sympathy should we have when the grief, pain and anger are based on lies, self-inflicted, and/or stoked by the leaders of the black community?

        • But I don’t think anyone is suggesting that we have sympathy for the leaders. The sympathy is for the people in the streets who are so easily persuaded by the illogical rhetoric of the leaders’ arguments. It’s a direct product of lack of education and a lack of family support / leadership. We need to fix those issues, but those are long term problem.

          • Myiq2xu says:

            If BLM wants to really make a difference they need to turn inward. Instead of demanding a bunch of vague/impossible changes, they need to focus on what they can do for themselves regarding crime, illiteracy, drugs, thug culture, violence, unwed mothers, welfare dependency, etc.

            There is no government solution to those problems.

          • I 100% agree. #BLM isn’t going to propose those solutions, because they do’t want to solve those problems. They want to herd people for political ideological purposes. I don’t think they have revealed their ultimate political purpose yet, btw.

            Even if someone proposed those solutions, though, I don’t’ think it would stop what’s coming in the coming year. #BLM is a kind of checkmate to the system. The problems require long-term solutions, but the movement is agitating for a short term one.

      • Myiq2xu says:

        Imagine how different things might be if Dorian Johnson had told the truth.

    • Thanks for the heads up. I took it for granted the tweet was an image from the event yesterday. I’m not going to replace it, because I do think his expression is genuine and the effect it had on me was also genuine. “Hands up” may have been a lie, but he’s likely had similar experiences to the ones my students write about, and his grief at the loss of a friend is real. There may also be other issues informing his expression, of course.

      Anyway, I stand behind what I wrote. #BLM is affecting urban youth today in a way that other movements haven’t, and the misdirection of the inflamed rhetoric is a problem. Shit is getting real real fast these days.

      Edit: I did edit the post to correct the mistake and gave you credit for noting it. Thanks again!

  8. Myiq2xu says:

    This is from yesterday’s protest:


    That’s a lot of white people.

  9. DeniseVB says:

    Lola, this is a better photo for your essay !

    • That is a good picture. And I get it. I’ve seen the grief in numerous pictures and videos since this whole thing started. You can see and hear it in the expression and trembling voice of that protester at the Bernie rally in Seattle as she screamed “My life matters!” That’s at about the 2:20 mark in the video below. She breaks up when she says that because she doesn’t believe her life matter because of her own experience. And life doesn’t matter in these neighborhoods where the bodies are piling high from crime, drug overdose, child abuse, domestic violence, abortion, you name it. The message she sees everyday is that her life doesn’t matter. Her problem is that it’s not white America saying it, it’s her own community.

      My point is just that this visual of grief is different than the typical visions of anger we get from black communities. It says something about the connection being made on the individual level.

  10. DeniseVB says:

    Nice NYT article on the current Newark Mayor (the anti-Cory Booker and wasn’t supported by the Dem Machine). He’s doing great things to unite his city, should be a role model for other mayors with high tension.

  11. helenk3 says:

    this is one of the most thought provoking articles I have read iin a long time. Thank you for making me look at a serious problem in a new way.

  12. Myiq2xu says:

    The reason for the rise of Donald Trump: Newton’s Third Law

  13. foxyladi14 says:

    Thank you Lola,
    This is a powerful post. ❤

  14. Myiq2xu says:


  15. leslie says:

    Lola, Thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I try most often to be that person I have been throughout my life: to understand people and to be non-judgmental about what might move people to act the way they do. I confess I have become reactive rather than thoughtfully aware. Your post has been a reminder that I can do better. And I can do it even though I am angry about the way things are and the dangerous ways people are being led to blame others for their actions even as they create the chaos that is a reflection of what they know.
    Your students are fortunate to have you and your clients, who may or may not appreciate what you do are fortunate as well. Stay safe.

  16. On a much lighter note, this NFL 10th Anniversary of Sunday Night Football video was hilarious.

  17. Venus says:

    Just FYI –this is angienc.
    I changed my wordpress account.

  18. dm says:

    Lovely post…thought provoking and inspiring. I’m so jaded at this point, however, that I can’t help but believe if the organizers were really concerned about black lives that they would take their protests and demonstrations where the majority of black lives are lost…I can think of a couple of neighborhoods in Baltimore for instance. Yes, they get a lot of attention at the State Fair but the folks they are supposedly most concerned about aren’t there. Go where you are needed most…where countless black lives are taken every day. But that would definitely eff up their narrative, as most black lives are lost at the hands of other blacks.

    • DeniseVB says:

      Or blocking highways ? Some black lives need to get to work. Sure it gets them attention, but still can’t figure out what they want with black on black killings far surpassing white cop on black shootings.

  19. Dora says:


    Another Gas Station Shooting for “No Apparent Reason” – Father Shot At Gas Station In Front of Kids….

    • DeniseVB says:

      The shooter and the victim were black so I’m sure it doesn’t fit the SJW ragey-rage. Nobody shed a tear over the Ferguson 9 yr old girl shot on her bed either. Still sad 😦

  20. Kathy says:

    Lola–I couldn’t stop reading. Your post reminded me of my time teaching in a predominantly black high school. Nearly thirty years ago and now it feels like a much more innocent time. Even so, after two years I was distraught every day. I managed a transfer after my favorite and most promising student was killed. The ‘class clown but very bright type’ shaved soap, put it in baggies and thought it would be fun to sell it as some kind of dope. He was shot after it was found out.

    • Oh wow, what a story, Kathy. Thanks for sharing it. It’s so sad what some of these kids go through. And what we folks in the field have to watch. So much trauma and secondary trauma. To think we’ll have to take risks with our lives too? It’s too much, all the way around, for everyone.

    • elliesmom says:

      I taught in a “diverse” high school with over 2400 students. We had black gangs and Brazilian gangs and kids who wanted to succeed but it was “too white” to do well in school. We had very bright young women who refused to let the world know how bright they were because it branded them culturally and not in a good way. We had armed policemen patrolling the school. I cared deeply about all of my students and found it very hard to not let it rule my thoughts every waking and sleeping moment. Then I was singled out and offered a job in a charter school that was supposed to reach students who were not engaged in school. I did truly feel honored to be recognized as someone who cared deeply about her students, but when I weighed the effort required vs the results achieved, I decided I had paid my dues. I turned down the offer but still quit my job and took a position in the middle school in the town where I live. Where I could see positive outcomes from caring every waking and every sleeping minute of every day. I don’t regret the years I spent teaching in that high school, but I can see how my efforts spent in a school where the students, although still diverse, were not culturally trained to view failure in school as success reaped better results. When you stop banging your head against the wall, it really does feel better. While I certainly reached a few of my students in the big city high school, my primary training is as an engineer, not as a teacher. Knowing when you’ve reached the definition of insanity is part of the training all good engineers receive. I couldn’t breach the culture that demonizes being educated, and I doubt most teachers, no matter the color of their skin, can. We value what we’re taught to value, and that’s ingrained for most kids before they ever enter the marketplace known as school.

  21. swanspirit says:

    Fantastic post Lola!! I wrote this yesterday, on a thread on Afrocity’s page about the anger she witnessed when a ” homeless man hit a white man three times for not giving him any change while he was panhandling.
    I have seen this homeless man before and normally he is in a good mood. Something must have set him off.”

    I have to wonder about all this anger. Having a background in child development, I know children that suffered from a lack of parenting sometimes are angry children; not all ,but some. Especially when the anger seems to stem from a feeling of “not enough being done for me” or some feeling of lack, I have to wonder whether a lot of the anger is displaced anger. Anger at missing fathers, displaced onto society. I am not discounting real lack, as in poverty, lack of jobs, and other life circumstances that are extremely difficult, neither am I saying there is no racism. But to encourage violence as a reaction to circumstances, is to exploit people at the lowest level; especially when there could be real solutions, for all of us.

    Also, I checked out the BLM web site, and I don’t know where DeRay is getting his statistics; but they don’t appear to match reality. Neither do some of his solutions for the police.

  22. Dora says:

    OT Sorry. But it looks like Elizabeth Warren filled out her form.

    So it appears that Elizabeth Warren is running for President…

  23. Myiq2xu says:

  24. DandyTIger says:

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