Thursday, April 28, 2011

Birth of an 'ism

There was a child.

He was a demon child. Filed with spite and cruelty the boy wreaked havoc on any who dared tread in his path. He had no sympathy, no morality, no kindness. Hatred and anger, lust and greed were all that beat within the putrid confines of his festering heart.

The child's parents knew of his evil, but they blithely ignored it, or downplayed its consequences
"He is improving, look at all the progress he's made," they would say when noting how he moved from maiming human babies to only torturing small animals. They would blame his violent streak on the video games and movies that dominated the media landscape, noting that their baby boy was only a product of his time.

The other children on the street feared the boy.

He did not respect their humanity. They were objects to him, only fit to be manipulated, used or destroyed. If they had something he wanted, he took it. If they lacked something he had, he sneered at their lack.

Yet, the boy's parents remained oblivious. They refused to consider that anything serious was wrong with their little man. Even when they acknowledged his most heinous flaws, they excused them and chastised others for being so negative. They claimed he was the victim of a smear campaign, and that it was no longer safe for a good, honest boy to grow up in America.

Amazingly, they called on every other parent in the neighborhood to solve their son's problems even as they undermined those efforts.

When the other children fought back, they were accused of torturing the little tyrant, and told to practice forgiveness. When other parents scolded him, they were reminded that their own children were not perfect so they needed to be less critical.

The boy's parents said that his problems were too large for them to handle alone, yet any solutions not proposed by them were immediately met with disdain. It was if the parents wanted workers, not partners in their fight to change their son.

Over the years, relations between the boy's parents and everyone else devolved. Common ground was scarce. It seemed that the boy's evil fed and sustained him, and in some ways provided comfort and succor to his parents. They benefited from the money the boy generated through his heinous actions, they basked in the sense of pride they felt when he accomplished great deeds through nefarious means

After a time, the boy's parents were no longer concerned about reigning the boy in, in fact they brushed off most attempts to discuss his actions. He was their son, for better or for worse, and nothing would ever change that fact.

Nothing at all.



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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Abandon All Hope

First off, fuck Donald Trump as a man, politician and a motherfucking crew. And if you down with Donald Trump, fuck you too...

Sorry, I was channeling Tupac right there. I apologize for that outburst. But I was listening to Baratunde go off on Donald Trump, and I felt like I needed to get gangsta after that joint.

Sigh, what else is there to say about the Donald after his victory? I'm saddened that he won, saddened that he can preen and pose like he's a serious person. I'm disappointed that Obama caved, even as I understand why it had to happen.

But, what I'm really, really feeling is validation. I'm feeling validation of my overarching pessimism about the state of race relations in this country, and my long-held belief that this thing is far more serious than most white folks realize.

See, Obama is it. He is the fully-formed realization of all the wet dreams of integrationists across this nation. He is the embodiment of post-racial America. The son of a mixed couple, a product of the best education, a former attorney, and a black man who loathes discussing race. He doesn't blame white folks, hell he loves his mother and grandparents. He isn't interested in righting past wrongs, he just wants to make the future better.

Simply put, if Obama can't make white folks comfortable, the rest of us Negroes, at least those of us with a fully functioning backbone, don't have a shot. With all of our accumulated anger and frustration, we don't have a snowball's chance in hell. There is no way we can ever, ever achieve American success and still not alienate the vast majority of the white population. Sorry, it can't happen.

Thanks for driving that point home Donald.


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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shoes

Momma used to say "Walk a mile in another man's shoes before you try to tell him about the fit."

Well, actually, my momma never said that, but it sounds like something she would have said given her penchant for useful mantras. What she did say was "One man's tea is another man's poison," which has some of the same key elements.

Basically, we need to really understand that people are different, and it's impossible to comprehend their difference until we start thinking a little like them.

This is a familiar topic around these parts, one I enjoy discussing from an intellectual perspective and a spiritual one. After all, when Jesus exhorted his followers to love their neighbors as they love themselves, what is implicit in that command is the idea that you have to take some time to think about what is the best way to show your neighbor love

For the most part, we're all pretty familiar with our own needs and wants. We live inside our heads, after all. But, with everybody else in the world, we're only guessing about what they need, how they feel and what they want. In order to get a clearer picture of our fellow man, we have to spend some time walking his path.

The problem is that most of us suck at thinking like someone else. Oh, we claim that we're putting other people's needs first, but in reality we're just putting our ideas into their bodies. We're not actually considering their past slights, their fears, their worries, their loves. We're basically saying "If that was me, this is how I would take it."

That is not good enough.

Whether it's talking about race, or dealing with any other relationship, the only path that ends in true enlightenment involves sacrificing a little of ourselves and our interests to see the world from another perspective. That means while black folks have some very justified anger and frustration at the actions of many of our white brethren, we need to understand that their world is so much easier than our own that it is only natural that they would reject changing it.

How many of us can honestly say that if we were able to partake in all the glorious excesses of whiteness that we ourselves would not be loathe to sacrifice our privilege for some nebulous concept of fairness? Would we look at ourselves with disdain for that choice, or just chalk it up to the way the world works?

Conversely, to the few brave white souls who still frequent this site, you all need to stop expecting that all black folks who want to see the world change will be patient and kind when discussing the realities of race and racism, or that we will make a point to acknowledge our white allies at every turn.

Quite honestly, if we were really friends you wouldn't need us to soften every blow to your ego with a pat on the back. Now, it is true that a spoonful sugar does ease the passage of medicine, but there are times when the continual toll of life as a black person in America makes it impossible to really care how ANY white people feel. There is time when the casualness with which white folks reinforce and dismiss their privilege only stirs anger. Deep, dark, violent anger and all we black folks can do is barely suppress that seething which leaves us strength left to play nice with our friends.

Walking in someone's shoes means you acknowledge these realities, and, sometimes, you give other folks a pass. You don't hold them accountable to a lofty standard because you understand just how difficult the climb is to that perch.

You disagree and correct with love because you recognize their humanity just as you understand your own.












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Friday, April 22, 2011

Walk The Line

I had one of those conversations recently.

Those talks that involve carefully placing each word behind the other, balancing your need to stay true to your feelings without alienating the listener. A conversation where you're always one poorly chosen word away from a serious incident.

A tightrope conversation.

Honestly, I don't have many tightrope conversations about race anymore. Most of the tightrope conversations I have these days involve explaining my worldview to my wife while trying not to piss her off.. All the married men understand what I'm saying.

But, every so often, I find myself trying to explain to a white person a simple fact of black life without using the brash, blunt style I so often employ here on the site. After all, what's cool when talking to your folks, doesn't exactly fly when interacting with The Man, and his representatives. I might not be keeping it revolutionary, but I am keeping it real.

Those tightrope conversations always leave me second guessing myself, and more convinced that certain divides will never be bridged. After all, there are many people that just don't believe in the pervasive nature of racism, whether it be in education, healthcare or law enforcement. And, since they've already made up their minds, they filter all new information through their existing reality. Of course, we're all guilty of that flaw, but in this case, it results in beliefs that quickly diverge from easily verifiable facts.

It would be easier if the folks who hold these sort of beliefs were ignorant ogres, but they're not. Many of them are well-intentioned, respectful and nice people. Yet, they align themselves with viewpoints and talking heads that I find odious to the utmost degree. I'm often struck while talking to folks as part of my job, how the simple realities of being me--a fairly young black male--are so foreign to a huge chunk of the population that they have almost no chance of relating to my worldview.

But, I still see value in walking that tightrope, if only for the chance to see the other side. It is impossible to truly appreciate other folks unless you do your best to put yourself in their shoes, and try to take a few steps. Walking the tightrope makes people comfortable enough to share their true thoughts. It may be frustrating, but it does have its rewards.

As long as you don't fall.




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Monday, April 18, 2011

The Blacks


Setting: A dimly lit, smoke filled room. Pictures of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and assorted revolutionary types dot the walls. There is a tiny incense coffin on a round table in the center of the room with several rickety chairs around it. Near the walls are ragged leather couches with stuffing poking out of the arms. Rolling papers, playing cards, and shot glasse are visble on the table. An older model television rests on a rickety stand, and several black men lounge on the sofa and sit around the table.

Angry Black is watching the television with his lips curled in disgust: Is this cracka Trump serious? First, the bankruptcy loving, television star had the nerve to start up with the birth certificate bullshit again, and now he pulls this? He got the nerve to say "the blacks" love him, like we even care about his dumbass. Man, I'll slap him bald if I catch him the street.

Mr. Black looks up from the card game at Angry Black: A. B., why don't you change the channel and go get some air? Trump is only counting his money, while you over here about to blow a vessel. Why you let a white man like Trump irritate you so much?

Old Black: Yeah Youngblood, you need to, uh, what y'all youngsters say: Take a chill pill.That there man is rich, and rich folks is gonna say what they please. Don't you go worrying about it.

Conservative Black slams downs his cards with a loud sigh of exasperation: Are we going to play, or are you Negroes going to continue to let your ridiculous love for that idiot in the White House blind you to the value of Trump's campaign to protect this country's interests? And no, I'm not talking about birth certificates, you idiots.

Angry Black: What did you say you Duke-loving, Romney-worshipping Uncle Tom? Did you just call me an idiot? Somebody please tell me that Clarence Thomas over here called me an idiot so I can bust his egg-shaped head!

Conservative Black: I'm saying somebody needs to get in power who recognizes that this country was not built on welfare and debt. All you Negroes thought Obama was going to be your lord and savior. How's that hope treating you?

Angry Black: You a coon nigga.

Conservative Black: And you're a nigger, nigger.

Angry Black gets up off the sofa and Conservative Black rises from his chair.

Old Black: Both of y'all niggas need to sit down. Neither of you could bust a grape in a fruit fight, and y'all getting all puffed up. What y'all mad about, both of you telling the truth.
This fake revolutionary over here sounds like an idiot every time he starts a rant about The Man and the Illumnati ruining his life. Nigga, the only thing ruining your life is the fact that you can't iron and don't work.
And Brooks Brothers, you are a Tom. Nigga, you know that. All you do is smile and shuffle for these here white folks. Nigga, I'm surprised you don't have on penny loafers and a glitter glove the way you wanna be white. Everything a white man says is the word of God, while ain't a single black person with good sense in the world, let you tell it...

Mr. Black: O.B.

Old Black: What nigga? What?

Mr. Black: Calm down before you stroke out. You have made thise about the many failings of our flawed friends, but it should be about whether Trump has the right to label himself a friend of "the blacks." We sitting here fighting amongst ourselves, while Trump is running around telling the world about his black friends. Figures.

Angry Black: What you mean it figures? You always think you know something, but you damn near as much of a Tom as Alan Keyes over there. You just hide it better.

Mr. Black: Son, you sound stupider than Jalen Rose at 18. Everybody who doesn't agree with you is a Tom. Anybody who can function in white society is a Tom.
You're sitting here in skinny jeans made by a white man, watching a television show produced by white people, and you live in a studio apartment owned by a white man. How the hell you plan on calling anybody out for being a Tom when you're the one paying all their damn bills!

Conservative Black: Ha, that's telling the fake Huey Newton. How about you get some bonds instead of paying bond?

Mr. Black: Shut up Con. You're just the flip side of the same coin and you don't even see it... Anyway, what right does Trump have to call himself our friend? What has he done for black folks? Hell, didn't he put Omarosa on Kwame's team? Sounds like he is well versed in creating black strife to me.
Trump suffers from delusions of grandeur and a lack of conscience. No man with morals could have hair like that.

Y'all in here fighting and insulting each other when you need to thinking about why so many white folks feel comfortable claiming to love "the blacks," but can't produce proof the first of that love?

Y'all need to be considering what is going to happen when every white person thinks they have done their part, and they begin to wonder when they can stop listening to black folks completely. Basically, y'all need to be wondering what the popularity of a man who looks and sounds like Donald Trump means for black folks.
And y'all can start thinking right after we finish this spades game. Young Black, get over here and catch this beating.










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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Five Fingers, Meet Face

Man, some people are just rude.

Like cops in White Plains, New York, for example.

Bad enough this cop kills a high school kid.  But, for the benevolent association to go ahead and name him "Officer of the Year" after the killing is just beyond the pale. And I don't care how impressed the group was with the wayhe carried himself through the Mickey Mouse investigation by his superiors, the award sends a very sad message.

Basically, killing young Negroes gets you an A+.

Well, that's the message I received, along with the message that the police will ALWAYS close ranks around one of their own as long as the officer isn't accused of snitching. Murder, rape, theft, are worthy of protection even after conviction. For some reason, when regular people get arrested, the police automatically assume they are guilty, but when police officers get arrested, that same confidence in the legal system disappears. It's why some folks describe the police as the nation's largest and most powerful gang. Think about it.

Clearly, this benevolent group wanted to send a message to the rest of the world that they didn't care what anybody said or thought abotu that shooting.  They believed this officer was worthy of congratulations for taking another life under strange circumstances. A panel of his peers had cleared him, so of course there was nothing to be concerned about. Of course.

It's just another brick in the massive wall between most black folks and law enforcement. There is very little trust on either side, and that lack of trust began because of the actiosn by folks with badges.

That wall isn't coming down any time soon.





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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Equality For All

In the "Parable of the Laborers" Jesus uses a story about the daily operations of a farm to discuss God's sovereign nature and mankind's unworthiness when it comes to eternal salvation. The parable is not one of the more popular earthly examples of God's thought process, but it is one of my favorite and one of the more thought provoking. Not only does Jesus talk about the mechanics of eternal life, but he does so in a way that explains other truths about human beings.

Mainly, the fact that we really don't like equality.

Sure, we claim to love equality. "All men are created equal" and all that jazz. Yet, over the course of human history, ALL human history, that concept has been exposed as a lie. Most of us like feeling superior to someone, and any attempts to "raise" the inferior into a better position will be fiercely fought.

The parable notes that when the workers learned that they were going to be paid onlythe price they agreed upon for work, and not receive a huge bonus, they became angry and questioned why the master would elevate men beneath them to their position. After all, the master was paying those who had worked for an hour, the same as men who toiled for 12 hours. Those workers hired later in the day had been repeatedly ignored because they were clearly "undesirable." To put them on the same pay scale as the workers hired first, who negotiated their own wage, was saying they were just as worthy as their "betters." These people weren't upset because they were being paid unfairly or cheated, they were upset because their sense of superiority had been dashed.

Doesn't that sound like people you know?

How many people get upset when their pedestal is destroyed? In times past, it was said that the only thing a poor white person could take confidence in was that at least he wasn't a nigger. No matter how much a black man acquired, he would always be a nigger, and therefore equality would always be denied him. That gave some folks comfort. And I don't want to pick on white folks because all folks have these sorts of ideas. They may stem from race, or class or profession, but everybody likes to maintain a gulf between themselves and the "undesirables."  Hell, even the "undesirables" have their own ranking systems.

Yet, as prevalent as this attitude may be, it's not divinely ordained nor supported. It's not just the way things have to be, it's the way we want them to be. Equality doesn't just mean treating people nice. It means actively supporting the dismantling of systems that create false superiority. It means being willing to sacrifice personal comfort for a nebulous ideal.

Who is equal to that task?




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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Does This Mean the Justice System Is Working?

Someone shared this story with me, and I just had to pass it along. If you're wondering whether you should click on the link, let me give you a teaser:


Juror No. 799, an Asian woman in her 20s who said she works in the garment industry, was up for jury duty in the death penalty trial of Bonanno crime boss Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano.
It didn't take long for her to start looking worse than the defendant.
Asked to name three people she least admired, she wrote on her questionnaire: "African-Americans, Hispanics and Haitians."
When the judge asked why she answered the question that way, she replied, "You always hear about them in the news doing something."









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Monday, April 4, 2011

Me, Me, Me

Emotional reactions.

I have them. You have them. They have them. We all have them.

Moving past the emotion, and seeing the real issue is difficult. For example, I typically have a negative emotional reaction when women discuss "street harassment."

Some men might not know that term. It's the way some women describe the aggressive sexual advances made by men in public. It can range from the simple "Hey, baby you looking good" to "Bitch, you think you better than me?"

Most men pay very little attention to this behavior, and even when we do, we don't deem it harassment. I know I haven't. It was only after listening to women describe the fear and pain these type of encounters brought them that I even considered the term. Sure, I knew that some cats crossed the line and disrespected girls, but I never understood exactly how often it happens, and the way the mere threat of it happening can impact the lives of women. Hearing some of the stories told by women was an eye opener, to say the least.

But, even with my eyes opened, my heart still hasn't changed enough. See, I feel terrible that women feel scared, unsafe and objectified. I don't want men to behave like that. Yet, when I hear women call it harassment, I get defensive. I get angry, and find myself, inside my head, trying to figure out ways to minimize the stories these women are telling. I downplay the threat of violence, I rationalize the disrespect. It all happens in my head, but it still happens.

And I've finally figured out why.

It's about me. I am a man. I objectify women. Since I'm married, I don't try to pick up strangers on the street, but I still examine their body parts with interest. I assess them for sexual attractiveness, and enjoy appreciating their shape. I see this as normal acceptable behavior. I see men trying to get close to them and their shapes as normal, acceptable behavior. While I disagree with the methods, I don't disagree with the mindset.

It makes sense to me.

When I came to this realization, it was easy for me to see why I get defensive. Even though I don't approach women, when I see condemnations of that behavior, I take them as condemnations of me. Even though I can see the larger problem I still get upset at what I consider a condemnation of me because it conflicts with my belief that I'm a "good guy." I know that the women who are sharing their stories are justifiably angry, but since I don't think I deserve their anger, I resent them for it.

I make it all about me.

But, it's not. I only understood this when I substituted "racial harassment" for "street harassment" and began to consider the issue from that angle. I thought about the attitudes of police officers, business owners and regular folks when they see a young black male.

I made it about me, but this time I put myself in the shoes of a group that's been mistreated and disrespected and I asked myself "How would you feel? Would you be kind? Would you be sweet? Would you care about finding terms that make things nicer for folks who look like your oppressor?"

Or would I just want to express my rage, my disgust and my frustration? Would I expect those people who really want to help me to be able to see past those inarticulate emotions to the truth behind them?

How can I have those expectations of others, and not expect them to have those same expectations of me?



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Raving Black Lunatic