Category Archives: Politics

Déjà vu

The most recent tragic events with victims Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas shooting are reminding me of what we previously, in our slumber, thought were the “dark ages” (no pun intended) of slavery…”loooooong ago”. The accounts indicate that when we (black people) were plucked and trafficked to this stolen land from our African roots, we were perceived as “troublemakers”…”wild” and “untamed” (as if we were savage animals). So, wait a minute…you mean to tell ME that those who were manipulated, trapped, captured, sold and tortured were the ones who were the beasts??? Aw okay. So if that is how truth gets spun, then let’s spin it. IF, now since these hostages have been locked up, beaten, pissed and defecated on (by themselves), they DID exhibit beast-like behavior…who made that happen? Whose black magic transformed those warriors and builders of productive societies into maniacal menaces? They didn’t ASK to come here. They didn’t sign up to be the foundational cargo of the “founding” sociopaths who needed their creativity, expertise and strength to create this so-called “great” nation we now live in. They were DRAGGED into the “system” literally kicking and screaming.

But alas, they get here. The “taming” of the descendants of previous warriors had already happened. They had been “broken in”. They had witnessed enough consistent and persistent beatings, lynchings, rapes, and murders of their sons, daughters, wives, and husbands that they’d chosen to LIVE rather than continue to fight the new reality they were thrown into. Remembering the ways of their native land was dangerous, could cost them their life, and cause pain beyond the humiliation, degradation and denigration of the daily burdens they were forced to bear…so they eventually chose to forget. And when the “new blood” came in, that group was attacked from BOTH, the sociopaths who needed them to find their “place” and settle into it, AND from the black slaves who needed them to basically sit the hell down and NOT make trouble for the rest of them while being broken in.

Now fast forward to the FIRST civil rights era. We managed to unite our factions of blackness to self-advocate. Some of us learned how to “play nice” and “ask politely” (peacefully/non-violently) for those “inalienable rights” which had ALWAYS been “alienated” (literally “made alien” and absolutely unattainable) for us. Others were militant and didn’t give a damn about how they were perceived. At times these groups sabotaged each other out of fear that the other’s process (whether “too meek” or “too forward”) was causing us unnecessary suffering. But somehow we eventually got our rights…so we thought. We finally had the approval to be HUMAN. To sit among other humans. To drink out of the same fountains as other humans (…even if it did eventually get RE-segregrated underground and our portion pumped full of lead). And go to school with other humans. I mean, it was written that we got them…kinda like being told we were “free”, while really just contorting and constructing new ways to fashion the chains to let us know that the oppressor wasn’t readily giving up the possessions that we had become…basically putting into place a new “leash” for the beasts they originally created.

Leap forward to today. We are called “thugs” instead of “savages” or “beasts”. Raped, as our men and women are hypersexualized, and our style and culture is appropriated. We are disproportionately locked up, beaten, proverbially pissed on in the workplace (i.e., wage inequality), and defecated on (BY OURSELVES – i.e., colorism, socioeconomic judgment)…and those who don’t live in our skin wonder why we’re so pissed off. So “hostile”. So unable to “cooperate” or “comply”. So suffocated and unable to breathe. So on edge. So quick to play the “race card”…that’s the f*ckin deck we were DEALT! Every damn card in that b*tch is a JOKER…perceived to have no rank. [UNLESS, of course, you’re playing Spades…in that case, a takeover of those holding “normal” cards is imminent. But I digress…]

The ground is swelling from the insane burial rate of black bodies…and distended from the lack of justice. And to add insult to injury, we fight each other about our process for seeking it, while the Establishment is only too happy to continue to withhold it while we figure the sh*t out amongst ourselves…throwing distractions (“All Lives Matter”) in for good measure. Meanwhile, another black life is snuffed out. And just as we grow enraged about how the victim is portrayed; about the killer(s) not being indicted, let alone seeing the inside of a prison; about another daughter/son losing a dad; about another brother, husband, uncle, cousin, mentor, etc. is assassinated…yet ANOTHER black body gets added to the toll count and hashtagged.

I’m over knowing “my place”. I’m over being polite. I’ve over not calling a thing exactly what it is. I’m over having to bridle, tame, and explain myself. The writing is on the wall, and it’s written in blood: Let’s be honest…black lives have NEVER mattered in this country. That’s why people get so up in arms (LITERALLY) about those who declare they do. Those who are content in the privilege of perceived dominance have waged all-out war on black lives and character…physically, economically, and psychologically. Slaves aren’t bought…they’re made. The challenge we have now is to NOT get “slaughtered” into compliance again. The power structure is threatened. And what’s happening now is a last-ditch effort to restore its security. We can’t yield to the shenanigans.

They’re TRYING to push us into primal survival mode…because THEN their accusations appear to be accurate, and open season becomes sanctioned and justified.   Yeah-NAW. They’ve sabotaged themselves by their own greed. Too much, too often…and it’s triggered allies and co-authors in rewriting this narrative to wake up, speak up, and stand up in ways they never have before.  And HEAR ME when I say this: As MUCH as my humanity wants to point a physical finger at a physical person/group of people, it’s really not a “person” or group of people I’m referring to when I say “they” – although white privilege IS real…but at this point, it’s beyond any person.  This system has been FIRMLY established, and the white people of today are just the beneficiaries of the original intricate setup…whether they like it or not.  But it’s only a matter of time before the whole thing implodes on itself…and now warriors (black and otherwise) have been mobilized to accelerate the process. I hope I live to see the day it utterly falls.   #STAYAWAKE #endofanera


Oh, no you DI-N’T…!

In a recent intercultural development and training workshop, I learned about the concept of “Oops, Ouch, and Educate”.  I don’t know who came up with it, or if that’s even the exact title, but the spirit of it is this: if someone says or does something that is offensive to you (“Oops!”), you tell them.  It might sting or being uncomfortable (“Ouch!”), but then you educate them on why it was offensive AND share with them what might be a better way to be in communication with you going forward.  So in the spirit of that, I’m writing this post to offer support and encouragement to a very special group of people that I’ve encountered throughout my life.  If you see yourself or someone you know in these words, feel free to ‘fess up and/or share!  No judgment past admission…we are ALL works in progress…!

 

As much as I can appreciate the attempt to “relate”…it baffles me when a non-black person automatically assumes that I speak “homegirl”…then commences with the “mmmhmm”s, “girlfriend”s, soul food/music references, neck rolling, lip twisting, or (THE WORST) COMPLETELY UNRELATED references to their mixed children or black [WHATEVER; i.e., boy/girlfriend, spouse, best friend, college roommate, grocer…you get the point].   While I’m glad to know that you are “down for the cause”…you’re going about it ALL WRONG, and further widening our gap of communication.  Not to mention, really annoying the sh*t outta me.  Because NOW I’m in my head, trying to figure out what the hell in our interaction (besides my skin color) made you break out into this alter ego that was non-existent in your communications with other people groups.  And I’m also wondering if you think you’re somehow mirroring me…which is the subject of an altogether different rant.  But for now, I want to encourage people of color the world over (and “white” IS a color…for those who seem to have missed that memo; so YES, this is for you too…ESPECIALLY, actually): the best way for you to relate to ME, is to let me see YOU…the REAL you, not the “my friend’s grandma’s fried chicken” you.  Nkay, pumpkin? K. Thaaaaanks.


Chasing Bad Guys

Police-sirens-and-lights

I’ve come to realize that “chasing bad guys” is EXHAUSTING!  Not in the sense of being a police officer (although I have been called that a time or two…THOUSAND), nor in the sense of being the chick that likes the so-called “bad boy” type. I’m talking about the temptation of general suspicion that follows a “fall”, if you will, of a personality or institution that was once held in high regard, or to a standard that all but ensured CERTAIN failure…no matter how long it took to become evident.

It’s so easy to become cynical (or even sinister) in the face of major disappointment…but what good does that do? It becomes a toxin that seeps into every fiber of one’s being and eats away at the very soul. Life becomes a moot point, and everyone becomes a potential enemy or betrayer.  Just thinking about such an existence, I can feel the very cellular makeup in my body changing and the energy becoming stale…

This is not to imply that one should necessarily go through life with rose-colored glasses and blinders on to the very real evils and lack of integrity and noble character that in fact DO EXIST. However, to suspect EVERYONE of such “possible” failure, or live in such a way that infers a defensive offense is the perfect way to make it through life having merely “existed” or “done time” on the earth.  One can’t possibly fully experience life’s beauty, wonder, Love, and divine exchange while being engrossed in such a dreary outlook.

I particularly appreciate Max Ehrmann’s encouragement in his 1927 poem Desiderata to “…exercise caution…but let this not blind you to what virtue there is…” This has been true from the beginning of time, but as the media relishes in glorifying and sensationalizing every negative happening, it is even more critical that we become aware of the air of light that is all around us!

We only notice the negative so prominently because it is NOT NORMAL.  Think about it… The air we breathe in is most commonly good.  Yet the only time we “notice” it is when something foul comes along and we go into maniac mode (at least I do) to try to get rid of whatever “not normal” stench is disturbing the norm. The same can be said of crime, disease (whether physical, emotional, or spiritual), and any other “evil” we perceive.

To be honest, I believe that conspiracies do exist. I believe we live and function in so many broken systems that it would drive us to literal insanity were we to REALLY know what goes on behind the scenes.  But I also believe in the inherent good that IS THE NORM. It is the air we breathe. I believe in the ultimate triumph of good over evil, and that our being here is somehow part of the solution to whatever ails the nations.

So instead of spending my energy chasing bad buys and “confirming” my (and the rest of the world’s) suspicions, I’m choosing to learn how to become aware of these rarities…while desperately fighting to strengthen my link in the chain of healing.  I believe this is the most productive use of my life.


Truth Hurts: Trayvon Martin Commentary

Trayvon Martin Hoodie

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a very sensitive and passionate person.  But even without that knowledge, it should not be a surprise that my heart is deeply grieving for the outcome of the Zimmerman case.

Unlike many in our country, I wasn’t glued to my t.v. screen nor was I following various feeds online as the case was unfolding.  I don’t watch or follow the news like that…that kind of energy is just too much for me to ingest on a regular basis.  But knowing what I DO know about the situation, I am hurt beyond adequate words about what the Zimmerman verdict implies about the [lack of] sanctity of African-American life in our country.  But, sadly, I’m not shocked.

There has been much talk these days about race and just how “real” racism and/or racial disparity is and continues to persist.  And many of our Caucasian counterparts are challenged by the sudden “in-your-face-ness” of our frustration, disappointment, and even anger in response to the outcome.  And while I’m only going to say this for context (and probably piss off some in the process), I believe that the African-American community now understands the disgust that rose up when the O.J. Simpson verdict came down.  Different situation, but similar context…racial tensions at their height, very emotionally charged cases, and seemingly clear-cut would-be outcomes.  But both were turned on their ears, in shocking upsets.

And while the Zimmerman trial wasn’t as dynamic a circus as the Simpson trial, it is important to note that both outcomes were made possible by the way our justice system is set up…each defendant has a right to a trial by a jury OF HIS/HER PEERS – NOT the peers of the victim(s).  Because in both cases, had the jury consisted of the peers of the deceased, both cases would have produced quite different outcomes.

It’s also important to note that in both cases, it was disgusting and absolutely ridiculous the lengths that the defense went to in order to try to smear the name and character of the deceased in order to “fight” for their client.  And while I’d like to tread very lightly here, I’m going to throw in the possibility that the guilt of the defense attorney of the 1st case led to his ultimate undoing.  I can only imagine how the same (guilt) might carry out for the defense in the 2nd case eventually.  I don’t wish it, but karma is a mother bitch…especially when you KNOW better.  A paycheck or “job” to do doesn’t negate the power of the seed being sown.

Nevertheless, my heart goes out to the family and loved ones of Trayvon Martin, and I can only imagine how disheartened they must feel.  First, they lost their son to a senseless slaying, and THEN to pour salt into that wound OUR justice system pretty much called it a truce…AFTER dragging Trayvon’s name and character through the mud.  It really is shameful.

It’s shameful that our justice system is SO marred that this type of major public travesty can happen at least TWICE without there being SOME kind of revision to such racially tense cases.  I’m not a politician, and have no desire to be one.  Nor am I an attorney or legislator, and what I’m about to suggest may be as “kindergarten” as it comes…  But the issue of race ABSOLUTELY needs to be WRITTEN INTO the way these cases are handled.  It’s not as simple as trying one man for the murder of another…because the man who was killed, in cases such as this, wasn’t even viewed as a man – he was essentially hunted prey.  And I’m not just talking in the case where the deceased is a black man…it works the other way as well.  Once the elements of the case are introduced and the subject of race is broached, everything relating to the case needs to be dealt with through that context as it is now highly probable as a motive.  Again, maybe I’m looking at it too simply.  But all the “technicalities” have allowed MANY a guilty party to walk, and MANY MORE innocent ones to pay for the crimes of those walking free.

Personally, I’m just exhausted of it all.  I really do understand Rodney King’s infamous “can’t we all just get along?” question.  And unfortunately, there is a simple answer immediately available: NO.  As long as different cultures exist, and there are those who come from and are taught (aka “programmed”) by descendants of ignorance, this kind of madness will continue.  We’ll never all “just get along”.  That’s not being pessimistic…that’s acknowledging fact.

Do you think George Zimmerman would have given Trayvon Martin so much as a second glance had he been regularly exposed to NEUTRAL and UNBIASED experiences with African-Americans growing up?  Do you think it would have entered his mind to shoot and kill that young man had he been taught to have a healthy respect for the urban culture that dressed Trayvon…even if it wasn’t his own personal preference?  Lemme TRULY take it back to kindergarten and ask this…  Do you think he would have been following Trayvon had he learned the simple courtesy of personal space???  (Following a stranger…no, PURSUING a stranger…is a DEFINITE violation of personal space.)  He certainly wouldn’t have gotten to the point of murdering that young man had he learned about the sanctity of life and valuing others who don’t look, act, or live like him.  There’s much more to say here, but you get my point, I hope.

It used to be that African-Americans moved from certain undesirable conditions to try to escape the typical dramas of living in such conditions – namely violent acts.  But this case demonstrates that moving to a “better” community can be just as (if not MORE) dangerous as (than) staying put because if our sons don’t look like they “belong” there and we don’t dress ’em up to “look the part” it’s pretty much okay to gun them down because some ignorant ass is playing neighborhood watch vigilante.  Shame on Trayvon’s parents for not teaching him the “dangers” of BEING a young black man.  Are you SERIOUS???

But as disgusting and frustrating as this all is, we shouldn’t let it end in disgust and frustration…because it only breeds more of the same.  And no, we’re not going to change the world, our county, or even our home overnight.  But we can start.  We can start with truly sitting with whatever we’re feeling surrounding the way things existing as they do right now.  Feeling all of what we feel…then allowing it to pass, so we can move into productive expression and forward movement.  BE pissed off.  BE hurt.  BE angry.  BUT don’t stay there.  Those things are toxic if we let them stay long enough…and they poison our OWN system.  The saying “[harboring negative emotions] is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die” is always good to internalize and is a great reminder.

So how do we move forward?  I think it’s important to call a spade a spade, and work within the framework of whatever exists AS it exists today…WHILE working toward what truly IS possible.  And ALL things are possible.  It is TOTALLY possible for us all to live in harmony and peace with one another, in a perfect world.  But, as we all know, our world is not perfect…nor will it ever be.  Again, not being pessimistic…just stating fact.  But, just as our President mentioned in his response to the Zimmerman trial, we can absolutely work toward a “MORE” perfect world…and it starts right here within our own borders.

Working toward a more perfect world means teaching respect, encouraging dialogue, providing a safe space to get understanding, and not taking ourselves so damned seriously.  NONE of us have ALL of the answers.  And we all NEED each other.  Not to sound like an after-school special or corny “world” song, but it’s true.  And we can’t teach it to the world – not even within our borders – if we don’t first teach it at home.

Dr. King’s dream may be in a choke hold right now…but it still lives.  I would even go so far as to say it’s no longer his dream – it should be ours.  We’re still here.  We have been given the divine gift of life, just as those who transitioned before us and who once actively walked and breathed and had the power to “do” in this realm.  We can still make change happen.  We can still impact the generations with whom we’ve been entrusted.  I’ll take it a step further, and say that we shouldn’t give up on ourselves and our own generations (whatever age we are) because life itself is evidence that change is possible…we can always choose a new direction, even if our old habit has been undesirable.  When we know better, we can do better.

When we lose a loved one, we often hear “don’t let their death have been in vain”.  And while that’s a noble idea, unless their death directly and immediately causes a possible change event, those quite honestly are just words said to try to draw a silver lining around a painful situation.  The more accurate encouragement is that we not let our own LIVES be in vain.

I have one friend who was so moved that she started a community page on Facebook that JUST honors and celebrates sons. (http://www.facebook.com/pages/I-Have-a-Son) Others will begin awareness and/or empowerment campaigns within their own communities, or choose to get involved in mentoring programs that already exist.

What will YOU do to begin to be and create the change you want to see in the world…?  Because unless this IS your perfect world, “nothing” is not a viable option.


Teaching Freedom

I had the opportunity to take my 8-year-old nephew to the citywide parade honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., yesterday.  And as we drove on the way to the parade, I asked him if he knew who Dr. King was, to which he of course replied yes and told me “he died”.  Mmmmkay…  So I asked him if he knew what he did BEFORE he died, and not surprisingly he did not.

Then I started thinking…many of us adults don’t really know what Dr. King did before he died.  We just enjoy the day off…IF our jobs are among the few that actually take off to honor the day set aside to do so.  But how would I explain this to my nephew?  How would I share this important part of American history with him, and share with him what it means to live and lead a life of significance?  It wasn’t quite as easy as I thought it would be.

How do I teach an 8-year-old concepts of freedom, justice, and equality that we as adults still don’t seem to really understand or follow?  We still discriminate not only against other ethnicities outside of our own, but WITHIN it…especially within the African-American community.  From skin hue to hair texture to facial structure, on up to the more widespread separators of education and financial status.

How do I drive home the idea that we are “finally free” when, at 8, he sees a police car and already has learned to be anxious about whether we might get pulled over and there be an adverse outcome affecting that freedom?  I won’t start lying by making up statistics on African-American arrest and incarceration rates, but we know it’s significantly higher than any other ethnicity in this country…multiplied a few times.  And yes, there are other factors that affect these rates, but generally speaking it’s still almost as if being born black is a sexually transmitted disease and predisposes those affected by it to certain socioeconomic conditions…even if nothing more than being forced to overcome the “basic” negative stereotypes.

Why is it such an “achievement” for a black man to go to actually graduate high school, go on to graduate college, find and work in his passion, create a family in his own time, and live his life…WITHOUT having done a stint in jail, or have 8 kids by 7 different women…whereas this is just “normal” for his white counterpart?  Why is the average rite of passage for the black male some kind of tragedy (jail, getting shot, knocking up his 8th or 9th grade piece of ass – because that’s how he’s been taught to view her, up to that point – or the death of a loved one)?

We’ve come a long way, but we still have so far to go.  So what DID Dr. King do?  Because this was NOT the dream he had in mind.  He took a stand.  He spoke out, but in a way that was so full of conviction, passion, and certainty that it inspired others to stand (or sit or march) for what they knew was right.  He wasn’t content “just getting by” with what he was told he was allowed to have during that time.  He didn’t conform to his allotted corner and just hope for the best.  He honored what was RIGHT, not just what would let him live a “safe” life.  Because truth be told, even if he HADN’T taken the stand that he did, his life still wouldn’t have been safe and certainly not comfortable.

Perhaps that’s part of the “stagnation limitation” that we’re experiencing as a nation now.  All of the tension, turmoil, turbulence, and friction that it took to get us to this point was actually what was called for in order for it to be so uncomfortable and obviously unreasonable that something HAD to happen.  Today, much of the blatant discrimination and ideologies have faded into the background and they’re much more subtle.  So subtle that it’s difficult to call it outright injustice.  And the mentalities have seeped so deep and settled into generation after generation that we almost don’t even recognize them or know any better, and we’re perpetuating our own demise.

So where do we even start?  We start by telling what we know.  We know that “once upon a time”, racial injustice wouldn’t even have allowed us the freedom of having the conversation.  Once, the little black kids and the little white kids wouldn’t have been allowed to learn, play, or eat together.  Once, multi-racial homes and neighborhoods were illegal.  Once, not only did children have a curfew but even black adults had to be in before the sun went down and the street lights came on…or they risked not only their freedom but their very lives.  These only seem “basic” to us right now because they fought so hard for them back then.

Today, we’re confronted with a far more dangerous type of injustice…because today’s injustices don’t hang a sign that say “back to the trees, boogies”.  No memo on the job application that indicates “black folks make 25% less than their white counterparts”.  There’s no demarcated neighborhood that says “these kids will grow up knowing only impoverished thinking and habits”.  No written rule that notes “black girls make the easiest targets for teenage pregnancy, promiscuity, and domestic violence”.  Nah…this is an enemy that has partnered with an internal champion.  No march on this one.  No bus to ride on this one.  This sly alliance is likely why Dr. King died the death that he did.

So what did I tell my nephew?  I told him what I knew.  That Martin Luther King was a man of vision, and that he saw some very special things.  He saw how special EVERYONE is, and that everyone should be treated fairly.  That we all deserve to be allowed to be our best…no matter how we are born, or how we look.  That it’s wrong to be mean to someone just because they are different from us.  And I told him that we all need to make sure we do what we know is right, no matter how hard it may seem at the time.  That not everyone will like us for it, but that by doing the right thing we live the life we are meant to live.

I doubt he understood most of what I said, but that is where leading by example comes in.  I can show him better than I can tell him.  And you best believe I intend to show him everything I know for as long as I’m able…and pray that he has something far more powerful grow within him.  It starts with one seed…


Strapping In For the Ride

As a writer, I’ve thought about a number of different writing ideas and projects.  The bulk of the ideas are fantastic.  No, I’m not being narcissistic or egotistical…I mean many of the ideas are grounded in various fantasies of experiences I’ve never had.  For example, I’ve wanted to write about the different “holy moments” in life, such as birth (well, I’ve experienced it myself obviously, but haven’t had the opportunity to witness it), death (GLAD to be in the dark on that one on a first-hand basis), “seeing” someone for the first time (not just visibly, but having the experience of being able to embrace their very essence), and so on…  All of these and several others I’ve dreamed about and imagined what it would be like to be in such a moment, but still I’m clueless.  I’ve also had several ideas surrounding the whole phenomenon of falling in love…again, not something I’m sure I’ve experienced.  I’ve had crushes, sexual flings, and been infatuated with the “idea” of people…but the experience of being baptized in the holy warmth of a whole love with someone who’s right there in the baptismal with me is something that has escaped me.  But the one thing I have working for me is my imagination.  

Even with that, I have yet to allow myself to tap into all of the recesses of myself without judgment.  For example, an incredibly dynamic writer that I’ve grown to appreciate is Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal).  But some of the ideas she comes up with are from places that I’d be afraid to fully venture into.  Although if I did, I believe I’d surprise myself.  I have enough dark places inside me that “Hollywood” would probably welcome me with open arms, but I haven’t quite released the idea of emotional safety (probably another reason why I’ve never been exposed to that baptism I referred to earlier…because being in love is not “safe”.  It’s the riskiest thing we ever do.  But I’ll write about that another time.)  But I know that those “safe” story lines are the corny predictable stories that don’t go anywhere beyond superficial pleasantries.  And the truth of the matter is that I’m not a “safe” thinker.

For as long as I can remember, my imagination has tended to lean in the direction of the worst possible scenario.  Fear and uncertainty were groomed in me by the unexpected experiences of my childhood…more stories that I can’t write about because they’re not just my stories, and would expose things about other people that they haven’t revealed yet.  And I don’t have the energy to change all of those scenarios and facts to protect them…might as well just make up a new story altogether – which is where that vivid (albeit dark) imagination of mine comes in.  It starts in truth, but then spins off into layers of details and complexities that turn it into something completely different than how it started.  I’ve done this in my life a number of times.

The thing that has preserved me through this darkness is an uncommon optimism that things will actually work out in the best possible way.  Not necessarily in a cliche “happily ever after” fashion, but in a peaceful and joyful resolution that leaves all parties whole.  Huhn…guess that is happily ever after.  Whatever the case, the point is it doesn’t end in my dark imagination.  There is always hope.  And hope always prevails.

These two can be kinda maddening at times, but rather than condemn and/or try to “fix” the two ideas, I’m taking them as a gift.  And with that gift, I intend to allow it to work for its best purpose…one that I won’t try to define.  It will define itself, and I’ll work within it.  

So I’m strapping in for the ride…