Or Does It Explode?

I can see my personal quest for inner calm is in direct defiance of my continual reading of news regarding the lack of a grand jury indictment in Ferguson, MO.

When I first read about the verdict I literally threw up my hands in frustration. That action immediately put to mind the classic Marvin Gaye song “Inner City Blues” which I posted to my Facebook.

ferguson

I wake up this morning to the snippets of the evidence presented at trial all over the news and social media. If what has thus far ben released to the public as a way to substantiate the grand jury’s correctness in their decision, it has backfired greatly my eyes.

I’ve seen some of the photo evidence of Office Wilson’s “injuries”. They range from what looks like razor burn or heat rash to a simple scratch. I’ve marred myself more popping a pimple.

And as I angrily posted this morning upon seeing the above picture:

ferguson2

That was his personal evidence? THAT was worth someone’s life? NO!

I know. I KNOW, I was not at the trial. I have not perused all the evidence that was presented to the grand jury – now released to the public. I have seen several snippets that have thus far been posted to news and social media. Those alone, at least to me, make it worthy of a trial.

All I can think right now is: Has the value of black lives, which were always of questionable value in this country historically once we stopped being chattel in the country anyway, lowered so far down the scale that the death of one in such fashion is not even worth a damn trial?

Last night’s outbreaks of violence in the aftermath of the verdict, reminds me very much of what happened after Rodney King. And to be honest, while I understood the anger that drove it, I did not understand the point of the LA riots in 1992 any more than I understand these outbreaks in Ferguson now. Being afraid to step foot in or out of the door of your local business because your own neighbor may have a Molotov at the ready, does nothing to help the situation. I’ve lived just long enough to see that while the details change, it still all feels a harsh ring of deja vu with history repeating itself.

Here we Americans stand some two hundred and thirty plus years of freedom from England. We blacks stand some one hundred and fifty years free from slavery, but sometimes I feel like we’re still bound. The Civil Rights Movement has done much for the outer trappings, yet we are still such a long way from the inner heart of the dream of Rev. Dr. King. And it seems every generation or so, a match gets lit to a powder keg to remind of us of just how far we have left to go before that dream comes true. In the interim, it still remains a dream deferred and Langston Hughes best explained the possible ramifications of such…

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

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It’s a pretty pissed off Raivenne slicing here – come see how others are slicing it up today:

Slice of Life - Two Writing Teachers

Slice of Life Weekly Writing Challenge | Two Writing Teachers

It’s All Just A Little Bit Of History Repeating…

I haven wanted to write commentary on the racial unrest that happening in this country (again). I feel like I should be writing something. I just find it so hard to do without getting angry. So I ask for a little tolerance as I just spill it out as I think it.

I know there are millions of out there in this country where we never will know each other, billions who will never have a direct impact on my life. Yet there are so many who do and will impact my life in a positive way and I do not want wash all white people and cops with that oh so broad, us versus them, paint brush. Because yes, I do have friends who are officers and I know them to be the good guys we were taught to believe in as tykes watching Sesame Street and that they do exist now that I am well into my adulthood. And yes, I really do have friends who are white, who have jumped to offer succor when I was going through a rough patch in my life, as I have in theirs. I know they are not the bad guys because I have gotten to know them. They know I am not they bad guy, because they in turn have come to know me.

Regrettably, it is of little balm when at the beginning of this summer I am on the street attempting to hail a taxi and the driver slows in my direction only to blatantly pass me by to pick up the white couple maybe 30 feet further down from me. When that same couple who knew I was there before them looked at me, shrugged, opened the door to the cab and got in anyway. It is of no balm when I have to force myself to stay positive when I learn a month ago my son, who walks dogs part time, was detained by an officer because “some random citizen called the cops” while he was walking a client’s dog. Never mind that he had a key to the building to have access to the dog. Never mind that the dog clearly knew my son, he is accused of stealing said dog. Why? In the predominantly white neighborhood of his client, my son did not look like any of the tenants. Because clearly my child, yes he’s a thirty year old adult male, but as all mamas understand he will always be my child, as a black man could not possibly live in that neighborhood and own such a dog in his own right, right? Riiiight. My son is stuck explaining himself to the unbelieving officers until a neighbor of the dog’s owner happened by and vouched for him. It was something very simple that ended well, no harm perhaps, but very foul. Still as a mother, I could not help but be cognizant, yet very grateful, that this confrontation did not go in a very different direction. I am also very cognizant and very pissed that this event came to fruition solely because he was literally walking a dog while black. It is of little balm to the litany of racial acts subtle, such as the taxi and dog incidents mentioned above, or more overt as so recently demonstrated in the news, that is a constant part of my existence as a person of color in this country.

A few years ago I was once told by an erstwhile friend that I see race in nearly everything and that’s just not the way it is. I in turn accused him of blatantly choosing to see race in nothing and that’s just not the way it is. How does the saying go? Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. Names like Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Stewart, Yusef Hawkins, Anthony Baez, Rodney King, Patrick Dorismond, Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo and James Byrd Jr., come far too easily to my mind’s history. Yet each new flare-up – Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Marlene Pinnock, Eric Garner and now Michael Brown, proves even knowing the history does little stop it from repeating. It is as though there has become this unspoken understanding that murdering blacks and calling it self-defense, or justifiable/in the line of duty is supposed to somehow dissolve the racial hierarchy in this country. So who has the right of it?

Is any of this anything new in history, the realities of living black specifically? Honestly, no. As a culture, the majority of us have lived with this as a sub routine of sorts in our consciousness on the daily for a couple of centuries now. When it was one person’s word versus another, most of such news was quickly buried under the burden of no real proof. Until it was something so bad, that it made national headlines. Can you say Emmitt Till? The advent of so many with smart phones now, able to immediately capture and then upload images/videos has helped. And social media, for all its foibles makes each occurrence captured readily available to the general public and national headlines sooner. Yet for all that we hear about, we all know that there are so many others whose names will never be listed.

I hope that this is that stage in history repeating itself, that this is the worst that it will get, and things are soonish going change for the better. I want to have hope, I really do. Because not to hope means that more names will be added to that ever growing list. So even as I hope, please understand as I pray in the interim that the names of my loved ones and I are not to be among them.

Not The Same As…

Someone recently wrote:

Saying “I don’t date fat people” is the thing same as saying “I don’t date black people”.

No. No. No. And just no.

First let me state the following is how it looks from MY experiences, others may be similar, but mileage will vary. Every person has a right to date, or not date, within her/his own racial preferences. This is not about that. This is about the apple/oranges comparing/pitting one set of struggles against another. This is about how as a fat woman of color deep in the midst of both struggles, being able to say how and why they are not the same and how it affects me.

For most of history, if you dated/married fat, it was mostly just a descriptive. Yes, being fat has always had its own stereotypes, but until semi-recent times these were based more on the physical aspects of being fat, than on the intellectual or psychological state of the fat person. A simpleminded person was deemed so because of his or her behavior, regardless of size. Nowadays some will determine a person’s intelligence, or presumed lack thereof, solely based on the person being corpulent. It is as insidious as incorrect as the presumption that all overweight people are unhealthy based solely on their appearance. And all of this is regardless of race.

So let’s not ignore the elephant in the room from where a lot of this black/white nonsense springs. Regardless of corpulence, historically here in America, it was not droves of fat white people shipped over to pick cotton, tobacco etc. With our history, white dating color, but black in particular has always been fraught with issues. Some of these issues still persist, on both sides, to this day.

A few years ago, a white guy expressed his understanding of why blacks would want to date/marry white because it is “stepping up”. Conversely implying that we [blacks]-were somehow *lesser than* and should be grateful. He was not grateful for my response.

  • Is saying “I don’t date fat people” the thing same as saying “I don’t date blondes”? No, because a fat person can become blonde.
  • Is saying “I don’t date fat people” the thing same as saying “I don’t date people who wear glasses”? No, because a fat person can get contacts.
  • Is saying “I don’t date fat people” the thing same as saying “I don’t date (insert religion) or people with piercings”? No, because again these are things that can be (granted, not easily) changed, should a person so choose to make that change.

Let’s try saying “I’ll drink Cherry Kool Aid” but “I won’t drink water”. One maybe be somewhat malleable to change, the other is not. As a fat black woman I can, to a certain extent, change my flavor (my weight, my hair color, my hair, and as a person of a certain level of melanin, to some degree my complexion – my l Kool-Aid if you will). However, whether I am a glass or a pitcher, none of that changes the fact that no matter what flavors I choose, at the core I am still Black (water).

When I read someone does not want to date black people, it is a dismissal not just of the outer layer of our physical being; it also dismisses the core of who we are as a culture and as individuals. I don’t mean just the blacks the follow the Hip-Hop/Urban/R&B culture. I know blacks born and raised here in New York City who would recognize the music of Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser of the “Two Cellos”, but if shown pictures would have to guess the difference between T-Pain and Li’l Wayne. Neither of which would matter; to those who would not date them, simply because they are black and therefore will be immediately dismissed. Regardless of where we as blacks are on the socio/ economic/class line, it diminishes our individual experiences, our hearts, our souls, our humanity on top of what makes us black, what makes us – us.

So yes saying “I don’t date fat people” is the thing same as saying “I don’t date black people” is flippant, dismissive and frankly out right insulting.

“I may date a different race or color, it doesn’t mean I don’t like my strong black brother”
“Before you can read me, you have to learn how to see me”
/En Vogue – Free Your Mind

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Slice of Life - Two Writing Teachers

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge – Two Writing Teachers

The “A” Word

Friday night/Saturday morning, I am on my way home on from hanging out with friends. I hear the train I need pulling into the station as I’m paying my fare at the upper level. Normally, I do not run for trains, but it is 3:30 in the morning and I am well aware that  if I miss this one, there will not be another train for at least twenty minutes. A woman racing down an adjacent set of stairs and I curse simultaneously as the train we want pulls out of the station without us on board. We give each other the “Oh you too, huh?” empathic smile that all mass transit users know so well and strike up a conversation. I am a born and bred New York City; she is a transplant from upstate, living here for less than two years.  We touch on BBC television and learn that we are both Cumberbitches, not Cumberbabes – either you know or you don’t, I am not explaining the phenomenon that is Benedict Cumberbatch, just know it is very real.  We a good few minutes on classic books version Hollywood interpretations and that’s when it happened…

She shakes her head knowingly, “That explains it.”
“What explains what?” I ask.
“You read a lot. Good books, not just trash novels, it’s why you’re so artic…”

I am going to gather she stopped short at that point, less because her brain kicked in and more because I’m sure my expression went from amicable to apoplectic by the second syllable of the classic “A” word used with well-spoken blacks: Articulate.

Was it because I did not interject “like” and/or “you know” every fifth word or so? Perhaps it was my lack of “neck roll”? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I popped a capillary in my efforts to restrain my disbelief at hearing this.

Worse, I am hearing it from someone less than 30 years of age who damn sure should know better considering this nation has been led by a black president these past five years.  Political party differences aside, our nation is not in the habit of electing those who cannot properly conjugate a verb. Clearly, Barack Obama is an ethic fluke, as this is not the same English spoken by the majority of educated people in this country.

“I mean, I mean….” She starts the familiar back-peddle seen often when people are caught hoisted on their own petard.

“Oh, I know what it is you meant.” I stop the peddling in its tracks. “I don’t know what you were exposed to in (name of city redacted to not paint all of its denizens with the broad brush of cultural ignorance), that gave you such preconceived notions, but for the record, it is not a compliment to be somewhat surprised that a person of color can speak well as though it is such a foreign concept. And, it is incredibly condescending  and patronizing for you to think we should feel complimented that it’s noticed and meets your unasked for approval. This conversation is over.”

It is amazing that this still requires clarification, but here it is: we (black people) get a little pissed-off when white people call us “articulate.”

It perpetrates the stereotypes that blacks speak mostly in slang, in Ebonics, in anything other than standardized English. It is divisive, separating us into an “us” and “them”.  It is the stereotype is perpetrated within less affluent black communities every time a well-spoken black person is accused of “talking white”.  The stereotype that equates articulate styles of speech as belonging to “white” rather than belonging to “intelligence”, as though one was still the exclusive dominion of the other.  Blacks do not assume every white person has a major in English, why is it still a thing of note to some when encountering those of us who have proper command of diction and enunciation?

Here we were in 2014 Anno Domini and yes, this is still a conversation that needs to be had.

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Check out more of today’s slices of conversation at Two Writing Teachers.
I’m starting three days of days late, so you’re not too late to join in yourself. Come on in, the slicing’s fine!

Slice of Life - Two Writing Teachers