The Black Politico

Orlando politics and more -- from a black perspective

From Columnist to Columnist

On last Friday, two of my friends and I, clicked the link to Scott Maxwell’s column about ’10 people in Orlando who are making the city a better place.’

I loved it.

My mouthy friend had already skimmed to the bottom of the article and said, ‘oh, is that the guy that called you and other women racist, woman-hating names?’ She was referring to a man who many of us know will slay women personally on social media with the most degrading and disgusting comments he can think of, if some disagree with his position. I read further, identified his name and said, “OMG yes!”

For the sake of this commentary, let’s refer to this person as “the guy.”
My friend said, ‘how in the hell is he making Orlando better when he can’t control his mouth, fires off racist and mysogynist remarks and has a history of assault on women?’ She was bending back her fingers one-by-one as if she was counting as she blurted out each “charge.” I agreed with her.

She was fire-hot-mad. Frankly, so was I. Yet, no part of me thought Maxwell knew about “the guy’s” rants and history.

So, I sent Maxwell a direct message on Facebook telling him I loved his column but there’s one name in there that makes me cringe and I cited why and sent proof. I guess I’ve read Maxwell’s columns enough to feel comfortable saying that. I was so wrong.

For the record, Maxwell did not cite him as one of the top 10 people, but he hinted at “the guy” being close to it, because he said some people had floated “the guy’s” name around as being a good candidate and that the Orlando Sentinel had covered some positive attempts at community issues or events in which “the guy” was involved.

Why am I ranting about all this? Stay with me. I’m getting there.

“The guy” I’m referring to used some of the worst names you can call a Black or Brown woman. To me, the name-calling he used was equivalent to calling a Black person the n-word and “the guy,” well, he’d pour salt in the wound by adding a touch of mysogynist verbiage to it to make sure those women, who didn’t agree with him, felt the sting.

For the record, the n-word and other remarks, including a word that degrades women, is what recently led to the resignation of Florida Senator, Frank Artiles further proving that words matter.

In addition, “the guy” has a history of physically abusing women, although the charges were dropped according to what Scott Maxwell wrote back.
When I put this in my direct message to Maxwell, we instantly started chatting back and forth, but it then led to a reaction I never saw coming.

He thanked me for my kind words about his column but immediately defended the abuser or “the guy” in this case, by saying they ran a background check after I sent him what I thought and that the alleged physical assault happened in 2005 and those charges were dropped. I didn’t know what year the assault happened but Maxwell checked me on it. However, the year still really didn’t matter to me; the assaults did.

Maxwell messaged me this: “I usually take issue with people who try to use dropped charges against candidates – or anyone really … especially as it is a tactic that disproportionately affects minorities and lower income folks. I understand you don’t care for him. And I appreciate background. But I’m also trying to live by standards i try to demand form (from) others.”

My jaw hit the floor. “Take issue?” I had a look on face as if I were a kid in the backseat of a car that had just passed by a sewage dump. My friend said, “what’d he say?” I said, “nothing.”

Scott Maxwell is one of my favorite columnists. He was a Jeopardy question for crying out loud. He’s a journalist’s hero or heroes.

Initially, I felt small, embarrassed and ashamed to have told him about “the guy,” yet, pissed that he played the race card in a discussion to defend the abuser and hadn’t stopped short once of defending the victim. Let me say that another way. He defended the abuser by questioning the victim because she had dropped the charges, all the while sitting with screenshots of “the guy” calling Black women “negro bed-wenches”.

Stick a fork in me, because I am so done.

This blame victims. I have to believe it’s often not intentional, but the damage can be huge whether someone is saying it intentionally or not.

With all my personality (good or bad) and passion, I felt small because I told him information that should have been known prior to writing a story on the 10 best people and sideways mentioning someone who we all whisper about but rarely shout out about. It’s the exact same thing we do, to defend offenders while making victims feel so much smaller.

This is wrong.

The mentality is something I may never understand.
I know people change their lives and try to become better, we all do, yet when an alleged crime happened by “the guy” in 2005 and women are still being attacked online by “the guy” just days ago, any reasonably sound person must ask themselves why highlight someone as a community leader who can’t control his emotions and feels this way about women?

But, Maxwell didn’t do that.

Instead, I got schooled on this happening to black people and middle income people.

My goal is not to bash Maxwell. My goal is to sound-off about what I’ve been writing about for weeks now. This is why so many victims don’t speak out. This is why victims drop charges against their abusers. This is why little things like words, matter.

How many people in Black & Brown communities drop charges on the abusers because they are afraid? Plenty do. How many remember Alex Zaldivar who was a witness to a crime and was set to testify and was murdered by the defendant? I’ve said this before and I’ll say it now, my first roommate in college was a victim. Her mother was murdered by a man she was dating and my roommate witnessed it, as a child. That man was incarcerated for a short time but then released because he had turned his life around.

My roommate would go back to her home city on the holidays and certain weekends and would run into her Mother’s killer in the grocery store, often. The damage that did to her family was immeasurable and I hope no one ever suffers like that. I am confident, many women who have been abused have dropped charges against their abuser at least once and I know I don’t need to remind you that some victims of domestic violence have been murdered.
The fact that my roommate’s Mother was a black woman makes me want to challenge the opposition that much more.

In the case of “the guy,” I don’t know if the victim dropped the charges or if the state dropped them, but the victim absolutely could have been terrified.

Let’s face it, in our politically correct world, no one really stands for victims. We give them the side-eye if they claim they’ve been wronged and I’ll never understand why many liberals are not standing up for the good, law-abiding, victims in the Central Florida community.

This exchange led me to think about the black man that was shot in the face by another black man on Easter Sunday. The murder was broadcasted live on Facebook. If that killer would have come out alive, many liberals would be fighting for him if he so much as said he’s changed his life for the better.

I understand we want to defend people who are black and have had run-ins with the law and claim to have changed their lives for the better. I get it. But, if they truly have changed, it should show in their behavior.

I challenge all of us to think about the victim on the receiving end of their actions, regardless of whether an attack physically happened in 2005 or just last week via an exchange of words on social media.

I figured, from columnist to columnist, Maxwell just didn’t know. There are issues in our communities we know must be addressed. We absolutely must recognize injustices and racial disparities. I don’t need that speech. Especially, not from a white guy. What I need is simple understanding of what the other side of the aisle thinks, feels, believes and knows to be truth.

Nina Simone once said, “I tell you what freedom is to me: no fear.” That’s what it means to me, too. I don’t want to fear a community that I love so deeply.

I’d rather raise-up those who are truly doing the best they can to respect and value us all. As Black women, we wear a lot of crowns and take a lot of crap from all sorts of people with all kinds of beliefs. The last thing we need is our own Brothers tearing us down and victims voices to be silent.

While some fight for offenders and offenders who have changed their lives, I am but one voice of many that will speak out also on behalf of victims to a point of no concern about whether it offends a violent offender. There are innocent people tied-up in our justice system and they should be the first group of people we fight to free. There are those who have non-violent offenses and we should fight for their freedom, too. I will, forever stand against those who are violent toward us, regardless of the color of their skin and with all due respect, I don’t need a lesson from a white man to teach me about the racial disparities that I know all too well.

Trump dominates the press while Democrats scramble to recover

In a recent campaign stop in Miami, Presidential hopeful Donald Trump challenged Hillary Clinton to “disarm her bodyguards and let’s see what happens then.” Whatever that means and for whatever reason he said it, it captured headlines.

It has nothing to do with poverty, crime, policing our streets, foreign policy, the national debt or any other issue in which a Presidential candidate should be focused.

On the other hand, Jimmy Fallon of NBC’s Tonight Show welcomed a recently sick Hillary Clinton right after he put a face mask over his nose and mouth pretending (or not) to be protecting himself from her recent bout with pneumonia.

In the press, neither candidate is strongly focused on the issues that should matter to Americans and Democrats don’t have enough collective intelligence to stop blaming Progressives to demand a race that is concentrated.

Many Democrats are “Clinton-Splaining” Hillary to many who support a progressive agenda. That discussion, all to often, seem to be a bloody battle leaving a long list of casualties in its path. Trying to instill fear in a millennial is like trying to move a sleeping rhinoceros from your pool deck. Die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters are unafraid of Donald Trump and they see both Presidential candidates as much of the same.

Stick with me here and trust me on this.

Many Progressives would rather see a Trump Presidency than a Clinton Presidency at this point. Here’s why.

In the eyes of many Berners, the nomination was like taking candy from a baby. Having Trump as President is payback for some who feel Bernie Sanders was cheated out of the nod from the Democratic Party and treated unfairly on the campaign trail. Many Berners also feel they were disenfranchised as well. So, largely, threats have not and are still not working.

The press surrounding the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington D.C. was less than exciting with the exception of former Orlando police chief and United States Candidate for Congress, Val Demings’ statement on Donald Trump’s announcement that President Barack Obama was born in the United States.

On MSNBC, Demings said, “Donald Trump is not the best that America has to offer. At a time when people are hurting, they’re struggling, they’re suffering, they’re afraid, instead of coming up with solutions that will make peoples’ lives better and improve the quality of life for Americans, Donald Trump is doing everything he can do divide. He’s a hater, he’s a bigot and he’s a racist.”
The press was also understandably overshadowed by the recent New York and New Jersey bombings.

Even without these urgent press events, the coverage surrounding the Congressional Black Caucus had no strong angle and no strong vocal communications to the press that would circumvent national news away from Trump except that of the President’s appearance and speech.

However, Donald Trump, is a master of manipulation and while the Congressional Black Caucus was kicking off, he managed to call a press conference, speak live on television, online and radio, for 20 minutes or more about his new hotel. Then he dropped the golden pinky-swear, that our POTUS actually was born in the United States after years of demanding President Obama show his birth certificate. Imagine that.

The press fell for it hook, line and sinker while Trump used earned media to get the attention of not only Republicans but Democrats as well.

This election is an embarrassment to our nation as a unit, to individuals who believe in democracy and to those who are too busy to be consumed by the details of politics on a daily basis while they entrust the democratic process to those who professionally and voluntarily lead it.

News outlets then leaned-in while Hillary Clinton called half of Trump’s supporters deplorable. Again, none of this has anything to do with the state of this country. It’s all ego-driven and seems more like a popularity contest than a campaign that should be designed to work best for the American people. It’s an insult.

Americans want to hear about things that will make our lives better, not just a rant or rave about how The Donald brushes his hair or what new girlfriend Bill Clinton has now.

Neither candidate has been strong on the issues and only one knows how to garner press and when he does, he parades his hotels and steaks in front of the camera and we, the press, shamefully, admire it, cover it and can’t get enough of it.

Even while Clinton was ill, the campaign handed Trump the press while they still allowed Clinton to do phone interviews from her sick bed. With all the excited Democrats down-ballot and the big one who’s elected at the top, the Hillary camp sat silent for 1.5 to two days after Hillary stumbled into that van while Orange Hitler, aka Donald Trump, (in the words of Bill Maher), took center stage and dominated the polls.

Finally, President Obama came out and stomped for Hillary telling the crowd how much he loves her. He said it like he was being forced to eat peas and if he said it loud enough and convincing enough, that he may just convey to the American people that he does like Hillary.

Let’s face it, this is a lackluster, pasty, election and we are all trying so hard to keep focused on who we need to vote for in November and most importantly, why we must vote for them. So far, we haven’t seen much of why we need to be so passionate in this election except the “fear” component, which seems to be the only backup plan each party is using to sway voters.
Again, on MSNBC, Bernie Sanders made an appeal to millennials, “Before you cast a protest vote, think hard about it.”

As a supervoter, I will listen to that appeal and as always, think hard about who I will vote for this election cycle and why even though my faith in the process fits the mold of many Progressives who are not consumed with fear from either party or candidate. Equally as important, I’m concerned with why the vacancy is still open on the Supreme Court of the United States and why we are not fighting as a party and as the press, to allow our sitting President to appoint someone to the seat(s) that remain vacant.

Going past Circus World meant the world to this kid

Photo courtesy of Rhetta Peoples

Photo courtesy of Rhetta Peoples

Photo courtesy of Rhetta Peoples

Photo courtesy of Rhetta Peoples

I would sit in the back of my Dad’s blue Dodge racing car that had a loud muffler as we drove from Tampa to Orlando every other weekend. My Dad, a big man who stood 6-feet, 5- inches tall and rarely smiled, affectionately named this car “hips,” which tickled me and my sister each time he said it in his deep voice. We traveled to Orlando via the interstate and religiously passed Circus World on I-4.

Circus World had a huge rollercoaster that I could see as we drove by and no matter what side of the car I was sitting on when we started the drive, I would end up on the closest side to Circus World. It was torture because all we could do was “look” at it as we passed by. At that time, we didn’t have enough money to go to a theme park like that. I was only about 5 or 6 years old and another attraction could have easily grabbed my attention too if it were close-by.

However, Circus World was the only place along the highway that was made for a kid. It stopped the slow drag of tree after tree and highway sign after highway sign. I could sense when we were getting near it. As we got closer, I would stretch my eyes even wider than they already are, as if that would help me see it faster than I realistically could. The rollercoaster looked to be a wooden style coaster that only a giant could have built. A coaster that I knew if I got anywhere near it, I would back-out at the last minute. It went way up as if it were in the clouds and then would drop down at an angle. If the windows were down in my Dad’s car and the muffler wasn’t too loud that day, we could hear the riders screaming in sheer delight as the coaster fell towards the bottom of that big hill they were sitting on.

I wanted to go to Circus World so badly, just to see what else was there that would peak my interest. I mean, if this roller coaster could entice me from the interstate then I just knew the entire “world” there would have me running from the parking lot to the entrance like the Griswold’s at Wally World.

During the drive past Circus World, I would hang my head out of the window like a puppy while hanging onto the glass of the window because my Dad would only let it down a little more than halfway. I could feel the hair bows on the ends of my twisted ponytails hit the sides of my face as the wind rushed in and my eyes were as big as quarters.

My sister would double-dog dare me saying, “I bet you won’t ride that rollercoaster.” Each time she said it, she would always whisper it to me as if it were some big secret. “Hey Rhetta, I bet you won’t ride that rollercoaster.” She would say it at least twice and as she held her half-dressed, Barbie doll in her hand, combing the dolls hair as she did so often. I was defensive, yelling back, “Oh yes I will,” trying hard to respond loud enough so that my Dad would hear it and discourage her from teasing me. He never did. But, when I shouted back I could see his eyes in the rear view mirror looking at us. His eyes looked like he had a smile on his face. I don’t know for sure. I don’t know if he wanted to take us and couldn’t afford it or he just wanted to hear the chatter of his kids that he had missed all week long.

I knew deep down in my heart, that if I were to ride that coaster, I would freak out once we got to the very tip-top of what looked like the peak of a mountain. But, I insisted to my sister that I would ride that rollercoaster like nobody’s business.

I would motion my hand in an upward position like it was the cart on the coaster and then drop it down right in my sister’s face making a swooshing sound, acting every bit of a 5-year old. I don’t remember ever going to Circus World with my Dad but I do remember the drive from Tampa to Orlando and back and the music that would play in the car. Since my parents were divorced at the time, Daddy would play the song, “Just the two of us” by Bill Withers and re-word the song making it “Just the three of us,” since our family would always be in sets of three now since the divorce, instead of the awesome four which obviously included my fantastic Mom.

I really didn’t need to ride the coaster. I just wanted to see it up close. Was it raggedy and worn? Did the seats in the cart have seat belts or was there some kind of lap bar? I needed to know details. I, at the very least, wanted to hear the voices of the riders up close.

What made that drive so much fun was that I had the chance to stick my head out of the window when I knew that wasn’t typically allowed when it was four of us. For some reason, Dad only allowed me to do that when we passed Circus World and I didn’t abuse the privilege. I did it only when I knew it was OK. We didn’t have to wait in any lines, have our height checked or pay any admission fees. Dad simply drove us past Circus World and that was exciting. I felt empowered enough to tell my sister exactly what I would do and how I would do it and going to Orlando seemed to give me an opportunity to show how bold I was to my big sister as we drove into town from Tampa to start a new chapter in our lives.

Circus World was my favorite part of Orlando even though I never physically experienced it. The imagination brought so much more. There were no long lines to wait in, no arguments about who’s riding what next and no long drive home. It was a 4-second glance that invited so much fun to this little girl each and every time we drove past.