People Cite Trump as Reports of Hate Crimes Against Muslims and Gays Increase After Election

First came the stealthy knock, carried out under cover of darkness.

Then the sound of footsteps, running away from the house.

And then, the horrible message: “TRUMP is our president now. Get out of our neighborhood now FAGGOTS!!”

I hate that word. I refuse to utter it and hate to even type it. Or share it on social media, which I felt forced to do today.

Corey Hurley found the note, printed in black ink on a piece of plain notebook paper. It was lying at his feet when he opened the door after being awakened at 3 a.m. Thursday morning.
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“I was terrified,” Hurley said during a telephone interview. “I knew things were going to start getting a little crazy . . . but I didn’t know it was going to (happen here).”

When I first read the note, posted on a stranger’s Facebook page, I was carried back to 1992. To the day when I took time off work to visit the principal at Kingwood Elementary School, an hour away from Clarksburg – and begged administrators to stop the harassment and name calling. The same name as appeared on the paper found at Hurley’s feet, paper that any child in America might use to complete a homework assignment. The same word directed at my son, Zach, then age eight.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the last 24 hours have seen a significant increase in reports of hate speech and hate crimes around the country. Most have been directed at Muslims, but some in the gay community are being targeted, too.

Like happened to Hurley – and his partner, Kyle Chester.

And my son, who in didn’t know even what sex was at age eight. Much less sexual orientation. All he knew was that the boys in his class didn’t like him. And my visits to his school, and even later, a letter from my children’s therapist, did little to change that.

“This one that you sent me (that Hurley and Chester received) looks like one of the more aggressive that I’ve seen on the anti-gay front,” Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said.

That unit monitors hate crime traffic. Beirich said the Harrison County case is one of “many, many instances we’re hearing about across the country, where people are seemingly victims of what appear to be hate crimes and reference Trump.”
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This is the first time since 2008, when another President took office. “We haven’t seen an outbreak of what looks like hate incidents since Obama was elected,” Beirich said, “when something similar happened.”

But then, the SPLC saw a “rash of hate incidents (against) black people,” because some people were angry about having a black President.

It’s a different dynamic now, though. “In this case,” Beirich said, “people who look like they support Trump or have sympathies with Trump are attacking minorities.”

Numerous reports have been fielded, she said, of “Muslims having their headscarves pulled off and a ton of incidents in schools . . . there seems to be a rash of these incidents across the nation.”

By the time Zach was in high school, the situation was no better. “I always got threatened in high school. I didn’t tell you because you would have just made it worse.”

One day during a break from theatre practice, Zach was walking outside near the football field. The players were tossing a ball around when “one of them threw the ball at my head, and very narrowly missed me.” Zach threw the football “all the way across the football field so they had to go into the woods to get it.”

Some of the players approached Zach as he walked back into the school. One boy wanted to fight. “So I just stood up to them and let him get into my face and I wouldn’t back down.” The football player turned and walked away.

Hurley, a lifelong Harrison County, West Virginia, resident, has never experienced this kind of violence. “It’s always been more accepting,” he said. “I’ve never had any problems with my sexuality from people before, so I was kind of shocked to see that it happened here in Clarksburg.”

Frightened and shocked, Hurley woke up Chester, who took action. The Lexington, Kentucky, native made sure their home was secure – and then told Hurley they had to call the police.

They did. Chester spoke to Deputy Chief James Chamberlain, with the Clarksburg City Police Department. And patrol cars drove by “a couple of times” afterward, but that’s all. When Chester called later this morning, an administrative worker told him the police couldn’t do anything else. Not until, Chester said, they had “concrete evidence as to where it came from or who did it.”

It’s difficult to understand how police could gather concrete evidence when, 12 hours later, no officer had shown up to even begin the investigation. I tried to reach Chamberlain, but he did not return my call. However, not long after, Hurley and Chester did get a phone call. They were told to go to the Clarksburg police station and file an official report. A “very nice” officer collected the hateful note left at their door.

So now, the investigation into a potential hate crime has begun.

Beirich said it’s hard not to link this kind of hatred with the President-elect. “Trump is referenced in some way. If you’re going to use the word ‘Trump,’ you obviously think this is somehow connected to your support of the President-elect . . . Given Trump’s xenophobic, racist, and so on comments during the campaign,” she said, “it’s not surprising that some people would feel emboldened to do these things.”

While the SPLC doesn’t yet have a tally for how much hate speech, or how many hate crimes have occurred since Trump became President-elect, Beirich said it’s “several dozen.”

They don’t yet know how serious it is, but sadly, incidents like these are happening in America’s schools. At all grade levels. “We’re particularly concerned about stuff happening in schools, involving children,” Beirich said. Muslim students, especially, are being targeted. Being told to “get out of the country.”

The SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program has specific information available for teachers, to help them deal with the backlash.

“It’s tragic to see this happening,” Beirich said, while urging all victims to report such hatred to police, as well as the SPLC. And urging police to officially investigate.

“Any of those kids could have kicked my (butt),” Zach said. “I stood up to them – no, I didn’t back down from them. There’s a big difference.”

I asked him to clarify.

Zach did. “Standing up to someone is when you realize that something bad is happening and you actually confront them about it. Not backing down is just standing your ground if someone confronts you.”

I asked him if it worked.

“It definitely helped,” Zach said. “If I had acted in a different manner, maybe more submissive, they would have tried to do more. But if you let them know you’re not going to back down, they have a little more respect for you.”

Respect. That’s what this boils down to. It’s all Hurley and Chester really want, too. So they’re getting their friends involved, to help spread this message:

“We’re human beings, too, just like everybody else,” Chester said, “and we deserve the same rights and respect that anybody else does, in any neighborhood across the country.”

Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

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My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

Where the Open Road Leads Me

I haven’t quite gotten the hang of writing from the open road. You would think it would be so easy: just walk into your hotel room, open your laptop, and begin writing, right? Not so much. At least, not for me. I’ve struggled to find a balance between driving, interacting with people I meet up with, or on, my trip, and writing regularly. Hopefully, I’ll get into a regular rhythm soon. Until then, here are a few more nuggets from my journey.

In early September, I drove from West Virginia to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, my only companion an audiobook. The Lineup, edited by Otto Penzler, was the perfect read for a crime writer. Listening to accounts about other crime writers, like Alexander McCall Smith and Michael Connelly, I found tons of inspiration for my own work. Plus, it helped pass the hours spent behind the wheel.

After Myrtle Beach, the open road took me even further south, so I stopped in Savannah, Georgia, for a night. After wandering around in the intense heat and humidity the next day, all day, my energy was sapped and I didn’t make it to Pompano Beach, Florida, like I planned. Instead, I stopped for the night at a Wyndham hotel in St. Augustine, Florida. (Where a roach marched across my nightstand table as I was climbing into bed, while the lights were still on. Talk about setting the scene for a poor night’s sleep.)

The next day, after calling Israel (a fun first!) to conduct an interview for a feature article I’d been assigned, I complained to management, was given a $20 discount, and continued driving south on I-95. Munching on boiled peanuts and Cajun-coated pecans along the way, I went straight to the beach when I arrived in Pompano. It was 360-degrees of brilliant sunshine.

As the waves rolled in and back out again, I thought about some of the folks I’d met on my journey. Like Atlanta, who has worked at an ice cream parlor since she was 13. She’s 21 now, but still loves her job. Already a hard-working employee, one day she will be a successful business owner. Wait and see.

I thought, too, about those people I’d only seen in passing, like the fellow who was taking his children to a sports game over the weekend. We chatted only briefly at a coffee shop, after I commented on his shirt. He let me take a photo, which is shown here. Its message is something every parent can relate to.

Then there was the Florida Highway Patrol officer who blocked traffic with his police cruiser, crossing three of five lanes to toss two huge bags of what looked like clothes or bedding, obviously fallen from a vehicle, over the guardrail. He did that to help protect us from harm. From what could have been a very serious, multiple-vehicle pileup.

He and other emergency workers – police, fire, and rescue – provide a crucial service. In one way or another, they keep the peace. Protect us from anarchy. Even from death. In these turbulent times, we need to remember that the majority of police officers are decent humans, just like us. Who hate the actions of their incompetent and corrupt colleagues – who give the good guys a black eye – even more than we do.

I was reminded of this when I returned to Pompano and the apartment where, last March, I wrote about one such good, even great, police officer. That book, while a love story, also provides a powerful example of the fine work done by such men and women in blue. If all cops were like him, there would be no national news coverage of police shootings like the most recent ones in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina. In fact, if every police agency in America would model their teams after him, that coverage would drop dramatically.

If you’d like to read more about my trip of a lifetime, including my foray into the Florida Keys, where I visited Hemingway House and met many other amazing, gracious people, please tune in next time.

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My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller) and Pretty Little Killers , released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18, 2014, issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Ms. Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

BREAKING NEWS—Sexual Slavery Skyrockets After Trump Bans Journalists

June 2, 2018

By Anonymous Reporter

ANY CITY, U.S.A.—Under cover of darkness, a lone woman wearing a ski mask to hide her identity met me in an empty warehouse, far from the glow of the city lights. She was skittish, and kept glancing around as if afraid she was followed to our deserted meeting place.

Lily Clark (not her real name) was released from prison two months ago. When she reached out to me with accounts of female inmates being raped or, in some cases, forced into sexual slavery inside the prison where she was held for almost a year, I knew I had to get her to talk. It took some doing, though, because Lily was nothing if not terrified. She was afraid the feds would find out she squealed, and send her back to prison.

“Back to that living hell on earth,” as she called it.

Lily said the guards are actually encouraged to rape the women prisoners, who often end up being traded around among prison officials in a form of sexual slavery never before seen in this country. “They drew our names like it was some kind of sick lottery,” she said, “and then each of them took turns with us.” According to Lily, these actions are repeated daily, or as long as it takes to break the women, and get them to talk. To turn over the names of their menfolk.

Sadly, many of the women are innocent. They haven’t been charged or sentenced. None of them have even seen the inside of a courtroom. They are simply locked up, waiting for someone to tell them why they’re there. Or when they can go home. Lily says it’s a never-ending wait. Although no one in a position of authority will cite a reason, it’s a fact that the women were only thrown into prison after their husbands, fathers or brothers took to the street in demonstrations against President Donald Trump.

Under the current administration, which has targeted any citizen who speaks out against the federal government, these acts are seen as tantamount to torture. But they have only come to light recently, because most of America’s journalists are themselves behind bars. There, these once bold and courageous members of the Fourth Estate can do little to expose the gross wrongs that seem to grow in scope and number with each passing day.

President Trump quickly turned the American people against the media. Long before he ran for the highest office in the land, in fact, public outcry about “irresponsible journalism” was a common occurrence. Within months of moving into the White House, however, the President began a concerted campaign against journalists around the country, from reporters at prestigious, daily newspapers to pundits at Fox News, and every blogger around the country.

Now, though, as more and more people disappear, with family members relating how their loved ones were picked up in the middle of the night by military police, never to be seen again, some quarters are calling for a return to the days of an unrestricted media, when “freedom of the press” actually existed.

“I used to make fun of the reporters who called Trump a liar, and compared him to Kim Jong-un,” Lily said. “I mean, I know journalists are the lowest paid college graduates, and I thought they were just stupid windbags who were jealous that some rich guy was smart enough to get the American people to stand behind him.”

Lily glances again over her shoulder, before turning back to me and whispering something about a rumor that the next move is for the feds to take away citizens’ cell phones and Internet access.

“Now I know those reporters were right,” she said, shaking visibly from her fear. “But it’s too late. We’ve become North Korea.”

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog was written in the flavor of that satirical and popular publication, The Onion.

* * * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Effective June 2, 2016, Ms. Berry’s blog will begin appearing each Thursday, rather than Monday, as it has been. Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Listen, Learn and Love: My 2016 New Year’s Motto

It was almost midnight when she made her entrance, the beautiful, fair-skinned blonde with a red flower in her hair. Unlike most of the women I saw on the streets of Morgantown last night, she wore slacks. Not a sequined miniskirt.

Three men, possibly of Pakistani descent, in a nearby booth greeted her, and one of them stood out of what appeared to be a show of respect (perhaps they all did; I can’t recall), of chivalry, and to greet her with a kiss. That was when I knew: they were a couple.

I was at Gibbie’s eating a very late supper as I watched the people around me preparing to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. The trio drank water or soda, which could mean they are Muslim. I didn’t notice her drink, which doesn’t matter anyway. What I did see was the essence of happiness and, perhaps, a twinge of trepidation, before she showed up.

Morgantown is a melting pot, filled with people from around the world who swirl around each other like vegetables in a thick stew. Many, many of them have dark skin, but I’ve never thought a problem. I’m sure most people here don’t.

I hope not, anyway. Not when every interaction I’ve ever had, as a woman, has been positive and even uplifting. Has filled me with awe at the level of respect I encounter—respect I haven’t received from most the Caucasian men in my life. In my intimate life, not my everyday, professional one, where all the men who know me are the epitome of respect.

But I digress. I watched the trio of friends before the red-flowered blonde’s arrival, and couldn’t help but notice that none of them made eye contact with me. I don’t know if that’s “the new norm” for people of Middle Eastern descent during these recent tense days, but I hope not. Which is why I smiled, when one of the youth passed my booth. He did a double take, as if he wasn’t expecting such warmth, and shyly smiled in return.

That’s when I began thinking about what it must be like for Muslims and people who don’t practice that faith but who are nonetheless lumped together, because of the color of their skin. How hard it must be, as it often is for women who are mistreated at home and even in the workplace, simply because of our gender. Because we are different from middle-class, white males whose power and influence can extend well beyond ours.

When the clock struck 12 a.m., ringing in 2016, the four friends raised their glasses in a toast. I heard the handsome fellow who shyly responded to my smile say, “with water,” and laugh. Then, as the quartet took turns hugging each other, the beautiful blonde turned to her bearded beau and they kissed. And kissed. And kissed. As all around them, the world came to a stop. It was not an ephemeral scene. It was timeless.

And it made me wish I could trade places with her, or with any of the four people celebrating in that booth. In spite of their possible troubles, to have that sense of love and happiness—that is what I want in 2016.

For you, for me, for everyone. No matter their gender, their religion, or their flesh tone. Listen, learn, and love, and see all the beauty around you.

This is my New Year’s motto.

* * * *

My latest book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

I’m White, But I Wish I Had Been #momoftheyear

I am a white woman but I’ve wished more times than I can count that I had been #momoftheyear. That’s because Toya Graham, who can now add that hashtag to her bio—and my black female friends—disciplined their children in such a way that their offspring knew better than to misbehave. Or else. It wasn’t that their mamas meted out abuse; it was just that those black women didn’t take any sass from their kids. Had their children even tried, they would have found themselves on the receiving end of a smack across the mouth, their bare bottom bent over a knee, facing a whipping with a belt.

So why, I’ve asked myself, did I get so upset when I saw video footage of the now famous Baltimore mom smacking and swearing at her teenage son, Michael Singleton, earlier this week? I posted on Facebook that Michael probably wouldn’t have been involved in the riot if not for the violence he surely learned at home. Violence I thought Graham probably dished out even worse in private. But in the days since I posted that, and after seeing Graham’s interview on national TV, I’ve given it a lot of thought—and realize I was wrong.

It’s not something I would have done—but then, maybe I never would have needed to: my only son is white. So we never had “the talk,” that preventative, protective chat that black parents all around this country recite to their teenage sons when they come of age. I’m sure Toya and Michael had the talk years ago because for her, the fear that her black son could be killed by a police officer is very real. And I certainly have no idea what that fear feels like.

It’s a moot point whether Graham “lost it,” as she says, because she was afraid Michael would be killed for throwing a brick at a police officer, or because he could become a casualty at the hands of a fellow rioter. What is important is how she acted like a mother bear when she saw her son in harm’s way. The fact that he put himself there is irrelevant.

Or is it? Graham warned Michael not to get involved in the riot. Many mothers—white and black—commented on my Facebook thread, saying if their child disobeyed their orders to stay away from a riot, they would have done the same thing she did.

Their comments made me question my own views, and the way Toya parented her son in public. They took me back to 1990, shortly after I fled my abusive white husband. One day I was so frustrated by the fact that he continued to manipulate my children, just as he kept psychologically battering me, that I inflicted my own pain on my daughter, Jocelyn. She was nine, and threw such a fit that I took a switch to her backside. I left bruises. It is the only time I ever remember losing control like that.

My own actions that day hindered my ability to use corporal punishment on my children forever after. I tried to occasionally, but only if I knew I wasn’t angry, so I wouldn’t repeat that terrible mistake of 1990. But mostly I used time-outs, or made them write sentences, or took away their TV-watching privileges. By the time their father decided he wanted to try to be a real dad and sued me for custody, he had been sabotaging my own parenting for years. (His parenting experiment failed miserably, since Child Protective Services intervened in 1999 when he and his second wife abused two of my daughters so badly they were removed from his home.)

You see, long before my children became teenagers, the man who had punched holes in our walls and trashed our furniture told them if I tried to discipline them, they could call 911 for help. In so doing, he essentially handicapped me as a mother, and prevented me from disciplining them—all while he continued terrorizing them during their weekend visits to his home.

However, if I had been a black woman, I wouldn’t have let his attempts to undermine my parenting stop me from doing what I knew was best for my children—and I feel certain they would respect me more today, as a result.

Graham’s actions have certainly earned her respect from many other people, that’s for sure. Chuck Yocum, a Baltimore area parent and educator, was watching the riots unfold on TV not far from his home when he wondered where all the parents were.

“Then, there she was, doing what every parent watching said they’d do,” Yocum said. “She represented hope. Hope that other parents might do the same thing yes, but in a larger sense, hope that Baltimore may not be totally lost after all. There are still parents who care about their kids.”

Graham’s desire to save her son comes at a time when people are saying this country’s race riots are starting all over again. When, depending on what neighborhood you’re in, it’s dangerous to be a black man. Or a white cop. When police have become cynical about black men with rap sheets, and when they arrest first and ask questions later—as apparently happened with Freddie Gray.

I worked with law enforcement from 1991-96, writing police journals for the West Virginia Deputy Sheriff’s Association and the West Virginia Fraternal Order of Police. Most of the men and women I rubbed shoulders with were white. Most of them—but not all—were good officers, who would never intentionally harm anyone simply because of his race. Like my friend K.C. Bohrer, an officer whose conduct has always been unimpeachable and who can’t forget the murder of a West Virginia teenager. Who would like nothing more than to see that girl get justice, even though she’s been dead for more than thirty years.

Some of the officers I know have also worked in big cities where they see blacks killing blacks, and where they know that many black youth have no hope. Most of these (predominantly white) officers are just as saddened by that as are the parents of these black teens.

Whenever I think about the growing divide between white and black, I remember my friend Paul. He was black. When I was twelve, he gave me my first kiss. Two years my senior, Paul was going places. He was intelligent, handsome, and—even more important—he was from a law-abiding family who reared their black sons to treat women with kindness and respect. Who instilled in those sons a healthy fear of displeasing not only their parents but other authority figures.

Paul and his brothers were the kind of boys who grew into men who would never dream of calling me anything other than “Ms. Berry,” because they were so well trained. I know that, because every so often I gently chide them to use my first name. “My mama would throw a fit if I did,” they say, laughing.

And still, in spite of the stellar parental training my friend Paul received at home, something went wrong.

As childhood crushes go, ours lasted for all of a minute. But I never forgot him and I still remember the shock, anger and heartbreak I felt for Paul and his family, when I learned he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, when he witnessed a felony that landed him in jail after being charged as an accessory to a deadly crime.

I don’t know how or why Paul ended up rubbing shoulders with thugs, but while he was doing that, I was working with the cops. And every April my job took me to Washington, D.C., for National Police Week, where I interacted with dozens of officers and mingled with hundreds more.

That’s how I came to be in Alexandria, Virginia, one warm spring evening in 1994. As I hurried along the sidewalk to meet my friend Ruth, a young widow whose Hispanic husband was slain in the line of duty, I saw three older black teens coming toward me. They walked side by side, and showed no sign of moving over. So I moved, but apparently not enough. The teenager closest to me brushed my shoulder, jarring me. I kept walking. I didn’t look back.

That moment is etched in my memory to this day, because of what I saw in that boy’s eyes: it was anger. Or hate. Most likely because he saw only a white woman, and nothing else. Probably because he believed I was affluent, since Alexandria is home to the wealthy. Possibly because he had no hope of being able to ever eat at the restaurant where I was going to dine.

What he couldn’t know is that without the FOP picking up my tab, I couldn’t have paid for the gas to drive to D.C., much less a dinner there. As a single mother of four children, we had only recently given up our food stamps. And at that time my children still qualified for a medical card. That black teen could not have known this. The only thing he knew for sure was that I was white. In his mind, my skin color gave me privileges he would never have. It identified me as the enemy, along with the people who had enslaved his people. That was enough to make him angry.

The next morning at breakfast I told an officer I was having breakfast with what had happened, asking what it meant. “It’s a good thing you kept walking and didn’t make a fuss,” he said, and then implied I could have been killed. “Here in D.C., black boys know they have nothing to live for, that they’re most likely going to be dead by the time they reach eighteen.” At the time, he was talking about gangs.

Twenty years later, his words still haunt me. That sole conversation with a white police officer, borne from a single chilling encounter with three black teenagers, comes back to me every time I hear about another black teen being killed—whether his death came at the hands of a police officer or a gang banger.

Those words returned to me again yesterday, after reading them online. Except this time they were spoken by a black woman. “These kids have no hope,” Erica Garner said on CNN. (Garner is the daughter of Eric Garner, a New York man who died while in police custody.)

I’m a white woman and I agree: many blacks have no hope. They live in ghettos and other poor neighborhoods, like those in Baltimore, Md., and West Oakland, Calif., places where food deserts thrive. A food desert means the people of color living there have virtually no access to healthy food—but with more than 40 liquor stores in the West Oakland area, they do have access to alcohol and tobacco. And processed or junk food. This is just as true for some areas of Baltimore.

I lived in Oakland in 2009, where I gained an eye-opening education from my daughter, Jocelyn, who told me how hard it is for people of color to buy good food. That’s because there are few, if any, real grocery stores in many poor neighborhoods. In West Oakland, the average income is $21,124 per year, and 32-percent of the residents live below the poverty level. The lack of access to good food leads to other problems, such as health and behavioral issues. I learned this in my own home, when my children were preschool age or younger. They had never eaten sugar—until both sets of grandparents gave it to them. I noticed a direct correlation between the sugar-sweetened cereal my mother fed them and their behavior. I quickly learned to limit their sugar intake, which is one reason we rarely had soda pop or processed sweets in our home.

Years later, my daughter Jocelyn has made it her mission to help disadvantaged black families around the country, doing so in New Orleans (she sold her car and relocated to help Hurricane Katrina victims), Chicago (where she began a recycling program that’s still in place several years later), and Pittsburgh (where she discovered that many blacks cannot afford to buy the monthly bus passes necessary to gain a good education or employment), taught me why black youth are so hopeless. Much of it has nothing to do with the police but rather, with the lack of access to basic necessities that white people like me take for granted. Or like I used to—before working in and walking the streets nearby West Oakland.

Whether it’s danger from not having good food or from jaded, uncaring police officers, Toya Graham didn’t want her son to end up like my friend Paul—or worse. And she had the backbone to follow through, giving her son Michael a badly needed dose of tough love. It’s something I now believe many of us white mothers can learn from.

* * *
I have four books, and am currently writing my fifth, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Racism in West Virginia? Does the Pope wear Prada?

I think Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said it best, during the vice-presidential debate. “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” Palin told her opponent, Senator Joe Biden.
But I would direct those words to another Joe: Governor Joe Manchin, who is demanding a Hollywood apology for discrediting the state and its residents by inserting a racially-charged scene between WVU fans and the Syracuse team in the movie, “The Express.” In particular, a hateful audience portrayed as WVU fans in the movie called the black Orangemen “coons” and that other word, the “N” word, which I personally find outrageous and offensive.
Governor Manchin told Universal Studios it was “an unfair portrayal of West Virginians.” I like the governor but with all due respect, I think he’s wrong. That’s because I’ve done some informal polling since I learned about Manchin’s protests. Plus, I’ve seen racism here firsthand.

Continue reading “Racism in West Virginia? Does the Pope wear Prada?”