Tag Archives: racism

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.


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.