Rudy Kelly                          Aboriginal writer         

About writing and stories of Aboriginal people on the North Coast of British Columbia

Welcome to Rudy Kelly, Aboriginal Writer, my home for my blog and my projects, including my first novel, ALL NATIVE. To start, I will present excerpts of my novel and write about the process of writing it and, of writing, in general. I'm quite opinionated, so, occasionally, there will be an opinion piece! I hope you enjoy it.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared an article on my Facebook page titled “The Inevitable Whitelash Against Racial Justice Has Started.” It was about how white allies of Black Lives Matter are softening due to protest fatigue and “evidence” that some of the black people who were shot were, apparently, bad guys. I thought it would be useful if I reframed the topic a bit.

The main point that needs to made is that just because some people have done bad things, let alone MAY have done bad things, it doesn’t mean they deserve to have serious harm brought on them or be, essentially, executed. It’s ridiculous that this even needs to be said, yet, here we are. It seems that a lot of white Americans (and Canadians, judging by recent Facebook activity) need to see a black guy’s boy scout badges and nation’s flag hanging in his bedroom before they deem his shot ass worth fighting for.

Just think about it on a personal level, with something we all have felt about someone, at one time or another:

We all know someone who is an asshole. He’s a big mouth, has terrible manners and says ignorant shit all the time. When he pisses us off, do we punch him in the head? Lay the boots to him? As tempting as those actions sometimes are, the answer for most of us is no. Because it’s illegal and morally wrong. That is the rule, even though we know he’s an asshole.

Now, take that same person and change the situation to you simply heard he was an asshole. Makes beating him up even more wrong, doesn’t it?

Thankfully, it also didn’t take long for real reporters (yes, they still exist) to uncover the truth and that was that Blake is indeed facing a sexual assault charge, but it does not involve a minor. The incident was with his ex-girlfriend – which, of course, is still bad but doesn’t push the same buttons that a child-related crime does. Oh, and there’s the little fact that he hasn’t even been before a judge on the matter yet. But, hey, let’s play psychic racist and pretend that Blake is an awful human being and is guilty of the charge. Let’s even add stuff, like he sells drugs, beats people up, steals bingo money from little old ladies, and rips the tags off of furniture. Guess what? Blake still gets his day in court.

It's called due process. THAT is the law, that he must be proven guilty, that he must be allowed to defend himself in court.

Shooting him in the back seven times because he’s leaning into his car and might be reaching for a knife is not the law. We don’t know for sure if he was reaching for a knife and the cop saw it but, again, shooting him seven times seems unreasonable; just like killing an innocent woman whose apartment you broke into unannounced does, and kneeling on a guy’s neck as he repeatedly says he can’t breathe does.

Oh, I know; new video shows George Floyd was high on drugs and resisted arrest. A lot of people are posting it as some kind of vindication for the policemen involved. But officer Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost 10 minutes even though Floyd was pleading for him to get off, saying that he couldn’t breathe. They held back paramedics who saw he was in distress. He had no weapon. And where the hell was he going to go, with all those cops around him??

Meanwhile, Kyle Rittenhouse, a white guy, walks towards a row of police cars holding a rifle and is politely asked to get off the street, even after he initially didn’t obey. They even tossed him a bottle of water and said they appreciated him and other militia types for being there. He couldn’t even get arrested when he was trying to give himself up after killing two people! If that had been a black guy, he’d not only certainly be dead, he’d be called a dead “thug” and not a “hero” which, incredibly, some people are calling Rittenhouse.

Let’s call this what it really is, this whole thing where killing black people is justified because they either did or are suspected of committing a crime: lynching. It was popular in the old west and in the U.S. south not all that long ago. No trial. Just a “he kind of fits the description, in that his skin is black, which also suggests he is a bad guy. String him up.”

But – seizing upon another opportunity for you to back out of the room – you ask, what about the protests and all of the violence?

The shootings last night that seriously injured two police officers in the protest sparked by the Breonna Taylor announcement is heinous and the suspected perpetrator is being dealt with accordingly – meaning he was arrested and charged and his fate will be decided in a courtroom, not on the street, as it should be.

Yes, it is terrible that people have looted and burned buildings but there will always be opportunists. It’s hard to know what is really happening in those cities because media coverage is so polarized but, for what it’s worth, I have a friend who lives in Portland and says you can walk through most of it and not know there are riots; that there is basically a dedicated block. What is clear is that there are violent indiscretions on both sides. For every window smashed, fire set, and bag of soup thrown, there is a mom tear-gassed, veteran beaten, and person shot in the head with a rubber bullet for holding a sign.

Don’t get confused by the smoke. Wave it away and you will see that behind every bad guy who “had it coming,” there are countless instances of racism and abuse of power which have led to beatings, lynching and framing. Just click on one of those Facebook videos, of police abusing their power, tonight. After it’s done, it will scroll up to another video of the same. And to another. And another. I can watch about 10 minutes before I’m too sickened and also realize I simply don’t have the time to watch them all. I don’t need to. I get it. And so should you.

You may have noticed that I listed “framing” people. For some reason, that issue has been lost, even though it is huge. A recent study by the U.S. National registry of Exonerations showed that over half of the wrongful prosecutions in the U.S. were due to misconduct (such as evidence tampering), either by the police or prosecutor offices. Blacks are decidedly overrepresented in the areas of wrongful murder and drug charges. Meanwhile, less than 20 per cent of the corrupt police and prosecutors are disciplined for it.

I know that what you are being asked to do isn’t easy. You are being asked to pick a side, to support big changes. You might be discovering that some of your friends and family are racists, or you already had an idea they were but thought you might get through life without having to deal with it. It’s going to be messy but it will be worth it.

I’ll close with this excerpt from an Adrienne Rich poem (taken from a friend’s Facebook page):

What would it mean to live in a city

Whose people were changing each other’s despair into hope? –

You yourself must change it. –

What would it feel like to know your country was changing? –

You yourself must change it. –

Though your life felt arduous

New and unmapped and strange

What would it mean to stand on the first page on the edge of despair?

Remember, Billy Joel singing, ‘We were only having fun. Never hurting anyone. And we all enjoyed some madness for awhile?’ That kind of summarizes what many of us thought when we were in our 20s.

Oh, sure, some were responsible. Some didn’t even drink and, if they did, it was in moderation but they were in the minority. We called them nerds. Boring. The last thing most of us wanted to be. Well, how’s that looking for us now?

What I recall of my 20s is that there were often times that I couldn’t recall much of anything. Friday and Saturday nights were occasionally a blur. But, unless something heinous happened, it didn’t matter. We were bulletproof. No, I don’t do that stuff. Well, I guess it can’t kill me. Drunk driving? Nah, I’ve only had a few and I’m going straight home. Condoms? Yep, no exceptions. Well, maybe just this one time. I mean, the odds are huge …

When you were in our 20s, the world was your oyster. If you weren’t in college or university, you were making good money. You played sports (usually followed by a few beers). You had lots of crazy friends. You travelled and went to hockey games and concerts. You celebrated a post-secondary graduation. Now try and imagine the 20-something you in this coronavirus world.

Yee-ah.

I am not saying the kids should be given a pass, but let’s not judge them too harshly when it is so much easier for us middle-agers to kick back, read a book, watch TV, or go for a walk, than it is for them.

And, to be fair, the rules have been a little misleading. Restaurants, bars and clubs are open but you still have to keep your distance? And how much of this is the lack of diligence on the part of staff at these places? The mask message has been fairly casual and we’ll soon be sending our kids back to school.

What I’m saying is, let’s try a little empathy before finger-waving, stern glares and harsh words. They are losing a lot. And it doesn’t help to tell them it’s “just a ceremony,” or “just a game,” or “just a trip” and “you’ll have other opportunities to (fill in the blank),” because we don’t really know if they will, do we? It’s just like how we shouldn’t tell kids who scrape their knees or lose a toy that it’s “not a big deal.” It is to them, and that’s what matters.

So, yeah, let’s tell our 20-somethings to be more careful, to abide by the regulations, to think about who it could really affect (specifically, the elderly, their grandparents).

But let’s also tell them that we understand their frustration, that we know the regulations leash feels tighter on them than it does on anyone else because we were 20-somethings once and, uh … had some good times but, uh, well, if we had this happen back then, we would have totally followed the guidelines. To a “T.” Absolutely.

And remember that the first two suggestions in Dr. Henry’s catchphrase are just as important as the third (being safe): be kind and be calm.

Extreme ways are back again,

Extreme places I didn’t know,

I broke everything new again, Everything I had owned,

I threw it out the window, came long,

Extreme ways I know move apart the colors of my sea …

- Moby


Extreme ways are indeed back again and, as awful as it has been in some respects, it is necessary if we are going to see change for the better. Revolution is upon us and the U.S. of A, the “greatest country in the world,” is the appropriate epicentre.

I’m not just talking about the huge protests that have taken a confrontational, chaotic turn in Portland (and coming soon to other cities that President Trump has deemed in need of federal soldiers’ intervention). That storm, arising from systemic racism and violence, is just one face of a two-headed monster.

The other extreme ways that are back again also deals with racism, at least partly, in that it speaks to systemic inequality. But it also speaks to the larger issues of global warming and the environment. That’s right, I’m talking about (cue the cool 70s TV cop show music) … The Squad!

The Squad is the nickname for a group of four Democrat U.S. congress representatives, all women, who have simultaneously excited and pissed off a lot of people. You may have heard about a recent incident where one of them, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka, AOC) was accosted in the halls of congress by Republican congressman, Ted Yoho, and called disgusting and a “f-king bitch” because of her opinion on crime and policing.

AOC is noted for her eloquence and she was in top form in reviewing the disrespect that women regularly endure from men and responding to Yoho’s non-apology, in which he didn’t even admit to what he said. He didn’t even mention her by name, and then added that he wouldn’t apologize for his love of “my God, my family, and my country.”

I know. Don’t bother trying to make sense of it that last part, a limp-wristed red herring. Yoho also offered the fact that he had a wife and daughter as proof that he respects women. For good measure, he might as well have added that he has dark-skinned friends.

I’m sure that there were male Democrats who have said much worse things than AOC said, that pissed Yoho off, but he didn’t feel compelled to accost them in the hallway and call them assholes. It was sexist at the least. I suspect racism factored in as well. After all, his boss, Trump, previously said that AOC and her fellow Squad members should “go back to where they came from,” even though all but one was born in the U.S. And it’s not just vitriol they face but death threats as well.

The other Squad members are Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib. And they don’t just stand for women. They stand for social justice and equality. They call for changes to a capitalist system that has created a massive wealth gap, where you have a few super wealthy vs widespread poverty in the richest nation in the world.

The Squad has made a bold proposal, a “Green New Deal” that calls for big changes that spook even members of their own party because it has tenets of (quickly glancing both ways, and in a hushed voice) socialism. I’ll let you Google it for more info, but the basics of the Green New Deal are: renewable energy, believing in and reacting to climate change, making buildings, infrastructure, and transportation systems more energy efficient, guaranteed work, some public ownership, free higher education for all, honoring treaties and requiring consent from indigenous people, and Medicare for all.

Absolutely bonkers, right?

The Green New Deal is radical. A friend of mine on Facebook called it “stupid” and “out to lunch.” Well … for the U.S., yes, it is extreme, but some of the Deal’s proposals are being suggested or have already taken hold in many developed countries.

Virtually all Scandinavian countries, led by Social Democratic governments, have strong economies while consistently placing at the top of Standard of Living/Best Countries to Live In lists. But not business-friendly, right? Guess again. Forbes Magazine ranked Denmark as the top country for business in the world for the second straight year.

Canada’s system falls somewhere between Denmark and the U.S. It has many social programs and our most famous socialist, Tommy Douglas (voted top Canadian of all time in a CBC poll), is responsible for us having national Medicare and the charter of rights. You can still get rich in these places. They just take better care of those who aren’t – and they care more about the environment.

Many are portraying the Green New Deal as a bogeyman agenda that will bring ruin and communism to America. Let’s be serious. This is the U.S. we’re talking about, the world flag-bearer of capitalism. It fought a cold war against communists and demonized socialism to the point where there is no way all of the Green New Deal gets accepted. Anyone who thinks that is the true goal of the Deal’s advocates, haven’t written a proposal or negotiated before. I have written proposals, and I always added some goodies that the funder I was applying to could reject.

And the Democrats are capitalists too. For the same reason that there was no need to fear a Bernie Sanders presidency because his plans would all be watered down, Americans shouldn’t lose sleep thinking that a Biden win will mean the Squad and their followers will get carte blanche.

People should be thankful for the Squad, and groups like them. Without them and those that came before them, our world would be an even bigger shit show. Extreme ways have always been needed to stop us from destroying ourselves. Unions. Human rights activists. Greenpeace. PETA. They have all done some “crazy” things and, as a result, they got our attention and at least some good things got done.

If the Squad just asked for universal health care and free post-secondary education, it probably wouldn’t happen. But, by swinging for the fences, they can settle for a double and still improve life for a lot of people and make the U.S. a more responsible world citizen. That would be quite an achievement.

And the fact that it is a group of women leading the cause makes it that much better. The time is long overdue for men to move over, to share the reins, and stop reacting angrily to strong women who assert themselves. I mean, really, it’s hard to imagine women screwing things up more.

When asked about the "team," member Ayanna Presley said that “anyone who is dedicated to building a more equitable and just world is a member of The Squad.” Sounds like a pretty cool club to me.

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Product

All Native

The debut novel for Aboriginal author Rudy Kelly.

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