Lending My White Privilege

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I was eleven years old and it was the first night of Chanukah.  I wanted to run back into the burning house to get my presents.  I remember with such clarity the last night I spent at 7041 E. First Ave in Gary, Indiana.  

The heat from the flames that engulfed our home kept me warm until there were only embers.  I stood alone, grateful for the heat.  I only had the blanket from my bed.  I’m Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me.

We lived in a more affluent part of Gary, Indiana called Miller Beach.  They said it was arson, a crime seldom seen in our part of the city.  Most of us were white and we were privileged.  Unlike most of my African American friends, I sat in class with and played with after school, I went home to a nice home, a safe home and my parents didn’t worry about making the rent or putting food on our table.

All that changed prior to the night of the fire.  It changed when my mom decided to be a Co-Chair of the Richard Gordon Hatcher campaign for Mayor.  It changed when some of our neighbors decided to support him too.  Suddenly, my dad’s business was threatened and he spent late night’s sitting in his office with a shotgun in his arms.  There were the death threats, the graffiti and the flat tires.  And then came the fire.

The election was so contentious that the FBI was at every polling location until it was over.  Hatcher became Mayor of Gary and the first African American mayor of a major metropolitan city.  I was so proud of my mom.  I was so happy for my friends.  It was 1968 and it took another 40 years before we elected the first African American President.  And in those 40 years and since, as white people we still enjoy our privilege while others live in less than nice homes, unsafe conditions to play and live, sometimes with only a blanket to keep them warm just because of the color of their skin.

I am a white man with privilege.  Although I have worked hard all of these many years, I have benefitted as a result of conscious acts and historic inequities toward people of color.  I have benefitted because of systemic racism in our government, our businesses, our schools and in law enforcement.

I have come to recognize and understand white privilege in relation to race.  I cannot remain silent any longer.  I must lend my white privilege to people of color until there is no more white privilege.  When I see harassment by law enforcement or bigotry directed toward individuals because of the color of their skin, I cannot remain silent.  

I’m Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me.

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I Just Pray For Her Soul

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“I hope you and your family get shots!” I yelled across the McCoart Building Parking Lot to two people I know.  It’s August already and flu season is almost upon us.  It’s going to be a terrible fall and winter with first the corona virus, and then the flu, so many people out of work.

I’m not going to let all of that bother me right now.  Right now I’m a little paranoid though because a couple weeks ago, there was a big bru ha ha out here in front of the McCoart building.  A whole lotta police were out in front of the building and they arrested four people of color and there are probably a whole bunch of them still.  One old white guy wearing a ball cap started it all and although they might be looking out for him, you know (old white guy with a ball cap on) we all look alike.

Wow.  Not even one cop out here.  Or in the front of the building.  Nothing.  I wonder why there were so many out in front that day.  I know it was a defund the police rally and all but still.  I’m not a defund the police person.  I’m more like a “All police funds matter when scrutiny of how police funds are spent and used matter,” person.

I’m Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me.

Today, I am here with my friend and co-founder Aeshah Sheikh to accept a proclamation for UMAH, Unity March Against Hate.  We got endorsements from every faith, and diverse organizations like Mom’s Demand Action and the American Legion.  A special shout out to Supervisor Kenny Boddye who sponsored the Proclamation declaring August 9-15 as Unity March Against Hate Week.   Most importantly the proclamation declares Prince William County a Hate Free and Bigot Free Zone.  Can you believe 3 County Supervisors didn’t vote to support it?  They abstained.  I guess that means that they think that bigots who hate should live here or they just don’t care.  I know that Supervisor Lawson believes bigots who hate should live here.  Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, recently voted against changes in county and state laws giving equal rights to LGBTQ individuals because the change is “discriminatory” toward her.  

Lawson recently said “I’m one of many, many people that feel we are now being discriminated for our Christian views, our Biblical views.  She got elected to be the Brentsville Supervisor but I don’t recall her getting a majority of world-wide Christian votes .  Delusions of grandeur perhaps?

I want to make it clear I don’t hate Jeanine Lawson.  I just pray for her soul.

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They Go Up,They Come Down

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Last week, I was hanging out with Aiden, my daughter Sarah’s best friend and service animal dog.  It was just before 8 a.m. and we were outside the James John McCoart Building looking for a place to pee.  Aiden I mean.

We had just walked past the Liberty Memorial, between the Prince William Parkway and Marine Corp. Major James John McCoart Building.  You may not recall but the Liberty Memorial was constructed to remember those who died on 9/11.  It’s a very beautiful, calming memorial. Although it reminds us of a sad part of our history, it also serves as a reminder that our country can come together during the most troubling of times.  I was really needing this walk.  I’m Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me.

Sometimes statues go up and sometimes they come down.  Last week, the City of Chicago took down the statue of Columbus in Grant Park.  I read many remarks online about this and the one that struck me the most was the one that simply said “Are they going to say that Christopher Columbus didn’t discover America?”  I don’t know all of the reasons that the people who run the Windy City have for its removal, but I do know one thing.  Columbus did not discover America.  The Native Americans lived here long before others arrived on boats.  

Memorials and statues and monuments, to remember or honor people, events should not be hate filled but instead should embody the values we can be proud of as a society like the Statue of Liberty in New York’s harbor. It’s supposed to represent the ideals of liberty and openness to the world that are cherished by many Americans.

I have a few suggestions that should not draw the ire of others.  

How about Lieutenant John Hutchins, the owner of The King’s Arms Coffeehouse in New York, who in 1696 served the first cup of coffee in America.  Bless you, John!  

How about George Crum, the inventor of the potato chip in 1853.  Crum was a Native American/African American.

How about Delegate Hala Ayala, who sponsored the Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia, the last and final state needed to adopt it.  Or Era, our daughter who is named after it.  You shouldn’t have to be dead to get a statue erected after you.  

How about my cousin Bennett Miller, who I slugged in my backyard in Miller, Indiana for eating ketchup with his scrambled eggs. It could be a peace memorial.

I’m Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me!

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Like being in a James Bond movie

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I am participating in a project I think you will be interested in.  I am collecting the names of all of the neo-fascists, the alt righters, the KKK members and the Nazi’s in Prince William County.  I want to thank all of those who provided me with their names last week by writing into my podcast and making such disparaging and dehumanizing comments about me and people of color and allies of the BLM movement-just like Mr. Knight from Prince William County’s Coles District did at the beginning of last week’s podcast. You remember, pointing his finger at the young lady, he said “I hope your family gets shot!”  

I’m Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me.

We rename places and things all the time – Opal Fruits became Starburst, Adam’s Chunk Stuffers became Nestle’s Hot Pockets and Dannon Yogurt is now Activia.          

That is why I think it’s odd that people object to renaming our military bases from the names of Confederate soldiers – traitors to this country – to the names of people we can all be proud of.  How about Fort Colin Powell, Christa McCauliffe Air Force Base or the USS John Glenn. Can these people have a problem with that?

It seems strange to me that many of these same people that cling to one of the ugliest parts of our nation’s history claim the moral high ground when it comes to the pandemic.  As if morals – not science – should have anything to do with it.  The anti-maskers claim that “We have the constitutional right to wear or not wear a mask anywhere we choose.”  Will you give that same “right to choose” to a woman over her own body?  Heck No!

Speaking of choices, the dehumanizing language and tactics directed against women and people of color at the hands of right wing and violent racists continues in this country.  Not every cop is a killer and not every African American male is a thug.  But every young African American male is nine times more likely to be arrested because they are profiled and our country has deployed federal militarized law enforcement squads using excessive force, tear gassing mayors and kidnapping civilians off the street and pulling them into unmarked vans.  This is still America, right? It’s like being in a James Bond movie!

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#4 – The Prince William County Board of County Supervisors, Part III

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“I hope you and your family get shot!”  I served during Vietnam and Afghanistan and I never was greeted this way once.  This man was using “fighting words” language as defined by Martilla v. City of Lynchburg so I’m not just making this stuff up.  My name is Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me.

This same man, a white man, was allowed to walk up through a crowd of protesters by police, allowed into a public building to exercise his civil rights and attend a hearing of the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors while the crowd of protesters, largely of color, were denied theirs.  Instead, four of the protesters were threatened with criminal prosecution, threatened with pepper spray, falsely arrested for assault and battery. One by one the four individuals, people of color, were brought into the courthouse, handcuffed and locked up. 

Ironically, while the police were clearly abusing their power outside, they were being heaped with praise by the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors inside.  That’s right.  Praise which included the words “for their steadfast commitment to fairly and impartially enforcing the law, and for faithfully honoring the constitutional rights of all.”  

This is the 50th Anniversary of the Prince William County Police Department.  A police department with a long history of anti-black racism. A police force which only weeks ago used chemical agents and rubber bullets to disperse protesters.  A police force which disproportionately targets minorities by police stops using bias based profiling.  A police force notorious for using excessive force and denial of medical care.  A police force, when nobody is looking, is still choosing to divide a community, not unite one.

The last thing, if I were a county supervisor in Prince William County, that I would want to do is heap praise on a police force that has a culture of corruption and racism-especially if I was elected to make a change. I’m not for defunding the police, just changing the culture.  

In service to America, I worked with the Afghan National Police, Afghan Border Police and other local and regional police forces in that country and it wasn’t any better and it wasn’t much worse.  And for the same reason.  It’s the culture.  Or maybe it’s just because the cops in Prince William County who are anti-black racists have been allowed to run their department with no oversight by people who aren’t.  It’s time for new supervision, it’s time for senior leadership changes starting with the County Executive and working our way down the chain of command.

Either way, I’m Jamie Beletz, It’s not about me.  

The Prince William County Board of County Supervisors, Part II

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When five democrats were elected to the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors, democrats thought they were going to see a “New Normal”, not the normal reminiscent of the days of Confederate, Alt Right and Anti-Semitic Corey Stewart.  A “New Normal” free of administrators who support conversion therapy or the policies of the Alt Right, Anti-Semitic and Anti-Immigration who were hired by former County Chairman Corey Stewart. 

Hello, this is Jamie Beletz, It’s not about me. 

We learned from President “bone spurs” Donald Trump that passing legislation isn’t enough, but it is whether or not that legislation is implemented.  It isn’t enough to budget dollars to those in need, but whether or not those same dollars get to those in need in time to help them.  Even on the defense side, Trump managed to divert billions of dollars meant to support our troops and instead used them to build his wall.  

We know that if enough people fail to take action, Donald Trump will keep doing things just like he is doing – both now and for four more years.  If good people fail to take action on the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors, the Confederate administrators appointed by Corey Stewart will keep their jobs and nothing will change.

Confederate flags, Confederate high school names and Confederate monuments are not the only things in Prince William County that need to be removed.  So do the Confederates at the top of the food chain we call County Administration.

Hello, this is Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me and I will see you next time.

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The Prince William County Board of County Supervisors, Part 1

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Okay, it’s true.  I did ask our 19 year old daughter Sarah and her friends to get into our chlorinated hot tub before they came into our house.  Yes, it was to kill the COVID 19 virus.  Yes, I asked them to gargle too.  It’s not like I asked them to drink chlorine straight out of the bottle.  Hi.  My name is Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me…

Our President says that chlorine, bleach, disinfectant….pick your preference, these are  sure fire way to kill the virus!” he says.  

Speaking about our own Jefferson Davis, President “bone spurs” is the leader of the Confederate Party Nationally!  That is unless you include Vladimir Putin.  Again, he is threatening the security of our nation by threatening the defense authorization bill if Congress removes the names of Confederate soldiers from military bases, soldiers who took up arms against America, soldiers who fought for the right to enslave people, soldiers who fought for the right to be racist and bigots.  

So who is the leader of the Confederate Party in Prince William County?  Hands down it has got to be Brentsville County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson.  The good news is that after 150 years, the Klu Klux Klan has made great gains in gender equality and racism!  Congratulations Jeanine on becoming the leader of a traditionally all male organization.  And ditto to County Supervisor Yesli Vega who becomes the first openly racist Latino American female to be welcomed into the KKK.  Bravo! Brava!  I don’t want to be sexist.

#1-Prince William County

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Nestled in the cradle of Northern Virginia between the Potomac River and the rolling-hilled farms and wineries to the West, lies Prince William County.  The county was home to some of the most important areas during the American Civil War to both the Confederacy and the Union.  Located some thirty miles from the Union Capital of Washington DC and 100 miles from the Confederate Capital of Richmond, Prince William County was a strategic point each side of the war hoped to control.  The battles at Manassas and Bull Run are studied by nearly every young child who attends public school, no matter where they live in this country.

My name is Jamie Beletz and I live in Prince William County, but this feature story is not about me – it’s about Prince William County.  In the 150 years since the American Civil War ended, it has been known by many other names.  The War of Southern Independence, the War of Northern Aggression, the Freedom War, War Between the States, the War of Secession are just a few names that have been bestowed on this war.   If you are from around these parts, you will choose the name that best reflects the side your family was on – Confederate, Union or Slave – and if you aren’t from around here like me, you are best to just call it civil.  But let me tell you right here and now that this war still rages on 150 years later in Prince William County and it is anything but civil.

More than half of the 500,000 people that live in Prince William County are members of a minority.  Prince William County is an enclave of diversity: African-American, Latino-American, Asian American and others.  Sikh, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Evangelical, Catholic, Unitarian, Bahai.  Prince William County has a significant LGBTQ community.  Any way you slice it, Prince William County is a “minorities in the majority” county and it is a bell weather of civil discord and civil unrest.

Let’s not forget for one minute that the people who made up the Confederacy were not and are not Americans.  They ceased to be Americans when they opted for the enslavement of human beings.  They ceased to be Americans when they opted for violent bigotry and grotesque racism.  They ceased to be Americans when they declared war on America.

Today, the battle between the red, white and blue Americans and the ill-bred, the white and the blue who make up the Confederacy rages on in Prince William County.  However, the political landscape looks much different than it has for decades.  Ironically, while Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the electoral college, Clinton soundly trounced Donald Trump by 20 percentage points in Prince William County.  First came the self-destruction of Alt Right Confederate leader Corey Stewart along with his “Unite the Right” supporters after 16 years of Stewart tyranny.

Suddenly, the hot sparks of victory still fresh in the hearts and minds of the Americans on Election Day 2019, the Confederacy of Prince William County came a tumblin’ down like a hot knife through butter as America came away with a 5-3 majority led by four African American leaders.  Justice prevails.  But does it?

I’m Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me and next time its’ about….


#2 – The Prince William County Board of County Supervisors

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It’s about Make America Hate Again

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The presidency of Donald Trump has created a hybrid fascism in America.  America’s smiley-face-fascism, as comedian George Carlin once put it, one mixed with politeness and protaganism, has evolved into a two-headed hydra.  The second face is cloaked in populism and is filled with antagonism and aggression toward people of color, jews, muslims, LGBTQ, people with disabilities and people who disagree with Trump’s policies. 
This two-headed hydra now occupies the White House, the Halls of Congress, the Supreme Court and fills other places of formal and informal power.  Remarkably, it looks, sounds and twitters just like Donald Trump. One face voices concern for the hate and violence while doing nothing to quell it.  The other inspires hate and violence in our streets, at our schools and college campuses, in our houses of worship and in the very fabric of our culture.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, following the election of Donald Trump in 2016, acts of violence toward Jewish communities in America spiked 57 percent. “Anti-Semitism has become normalized and harassment is a daily occurrence,” says a report by the group. 
“The harassment, deeply rooted in age-old conspiracies such as the New World Order,” the group says, “which alleges that an evil cabal of Jewish people have taken autocratic control of the globe, and Holocaust imagery – faces placed inside Nazi concentration camp ovens or stretched on lampshades – shows no signs of abating.”  This is Donald Trump’s America.  These are Donald Trump’s people. 
In Donald Trump’s America, Republican candidates for Congress are like Trump-endorsed Steve West of Missouri, who says that Adolf Hitler was right about what was taking place in Germany before World War II and that Jews were “a remnant of the tribe of Judah that rejected Christ.”  He goes on further to say that what Hitler did during WWII was justified. There are many more Trump endorsed candidates like West running for elected office and Trump is crisscrossing America at public expense to make certain they win.
In Donald Trump’s America, he defends racist and anti-semitic demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying that demonstrators on both sides were to blame for fatalities and that the movement to take down Confederate monuments around the country was an effort to “change history” and “change culture.”  Trump views preserving hate filled vestiges of a sad period in our nations history and protecting freedom of speech for hatemongers only for demonstrators who believe like himself as “Making America Great Again.” 
In Donald Trump’s America, a caravan of 8000 children, women and men head north to America from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to escape persecution much like the Jews on ships like Exodus and MS St. Louis.  Again, history repeats itself with thousands of people being denied safe harbor in America due to Trump’s immigration policies based on domestic political realities, rather than humanitarian grounds.  And just like then, Trump accuses spy infiltration by Al-Qaida just as some accused Nazi spy infiltration amongst the Jews as a reason to deny entry.
In Donald Trump’s America, much like Hitler did, when Jews were killed for being Jews, he blamed the victims just like Hitler did.  He said after the recent attack on a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, “They had a maniac walk in and they didn’t have any protection and that is so sad to see,” Trump said at Joint Base Andrews before he departed for a campaign swing in the Midwest. “If you take a look at it, if they had protection inside the results would have been far better,” Trump goes on to say. 
Blaming the victims of hate and violence.  Giving those who spew hate and commit violence permission to do great evil. This is our President.  These are our leaders in Congress.  This is Donald Trump’s vision of America.  We cannot sit idly by any more and watch this two-headed hydra continue to Make America Great Again by Making America Hate Again.
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It’s about Steve Bannon and Friends

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I walked through my neighborhood last Sunday and noticed that some of my neighbors had disappeared. Maybe The Rapture predicted to happen last Saturday did happen! But if all the people “who believe were raised up, and all who doubt were left behind,” than why are my friends, children and grandchildren still here? I understand why I’m still here.

Where do you get your news about what is going on in the world?  In case you missed it, we have moved into a new era of news media. For many of us, our sources for news has moved from a few media outlets where journalists reported the news to talking heads, producers, public relation firms and consultants who become the news.  And for others, who are younger, we get it from social media outlets like Snapchat, Facebook, and a whole host of others too numerous to list here.

Yes, that is correct. In all three era’s, the news has been and continues to be prepared before presented to the public whenever possible. However, the difference between the three eras is the manipulation of the news and the motivations behind manipulating it. No longer is influence peddling a commodity for just the rich and famous.  Anybody can do it.

And, of course, there is the fake news and the alternative facts.  There is more fake news and alternative facts than ever these days.  More people are falling prey to character assassinations by other individuals or news organizations protected by freedom of the press and speech than ever before.  Not that some of these people don’t deserve it.  Before, there was a level of responsibility, accountability and even best practices that went along with most of the reporting.  Now, with the playing field much more level and with greater access for the populous comes no censorship, no editors, no fact checking at all.  So which is better?

Frankly, if we could eliminate all of the bullshit that comes with it, I prefer what is happening now over the past.  Even with the Steve Bannon’s of the world out there delivering the fake news and alternative facts, it is far better that we, as a free society, are able to know what is going on in the world in real time without censorship.

“Fuck Censorship!”

Remember when that phrase was shocking to hear or see in print?

 So maybe The Rapture didn’t happen last Saturday after all.  And maybe I shouldn’t believe everything I read or hear on social media.  And maybe I will have to pay back all of the money I charged on my credit cards last week just before “it” didn’t happen.  But then, it’s not about me.












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