Choosing sides

I can feel it. Every time I walk into a place and there are no other people of color, I can feel it all. I can feel the white paranoia. I can feel their dread. Sometimes I can feel their support. Sometimes I can even feel their indifference, which, you know, is ideal.

It didn’t used to be this way for me.

Of course, just being a Black man has always been a political statement in this country, but now it feels like that statement—that I’m not even deliberately making—is getting louder and louder.

Now, a long time ago people chose sides. One of those sides was pro-slavery. Then, as things began to change, it became pro-Jim Crow. Then pro-segregation. But, really it was just always anti-Black.

Along the way, as that side expanded, it also became anti-immigration and anti-women and anti-gay and on and on.

Now, look. I’m not saying that these ideas are exclusive to one side. They absolutely are not. But what I am saying is that one side has defined themselves by these ideas. These ideas are completely integral to the identity of people on that side.

And “our” side can’t be wrong.

And support the team like you’re on the team.

And you’re either with us or against us.

This means there are some people for whom my race and therefore my very existence challenges their chosen identity—but they don’t think of their identities as chosen. To them, their identities are deep and undeniable truths. They’re sacred and completely personal like a kind of spiritual DNA. For them, all it takes is one glance of my brown skin to see me as an enemy to all they hold dear.

And so, it’s true that if you’re black the authorities will be called on you for moving into your apartment or moving out of an Airbnb or golfing or barbecuing (which lead to the funniest thing on the internet ever, BTW, including my favorite.) or sitting at Starbucks or being at the gym or taking your child to the park or taking a fucking nap or just doing your goddamn job, but that’s nothing new.

We’ve all seen what happens when the authorities are called on a Black man selling CDs.

We’ve all seen what happens when the authorities are called on a Black man who man dares shop at Walmart.

We’ve all seen what happens when the authorities are called on a Black child who, like every single boy in this country, dares play with a toy gun.

We know what happens. We all know. Some of us like to think it’s getting better, but deep down we all know it’s only getting more complicated.

My father grew up in a time in which any white person in America could just kill any Black person and fully expect to get away with it. Nowadays, any white person in America can still kill any Black person and fully expect to get away with it. It just doesn’t immediately seem that way because they have to take the extra step of calling in the police to get it done. Sometimes.

I don’t want to overplay the idea that complexity is what is keeping us from moving forward. I don’t think that’s always the case. There are plenty of complexities that we all deal with every day and have absolutely no problem accepting.

The truth is, to many of us, the side we’ve chosen is vastly more important than anything else in our lives. Often we only point to the complexities as a means of playing dumb or as an excuse to stay on the side we’ve chosen.

It is understood that it doesn’t matter how moral many of us claim to be. It doesn’t matter what evil is done in our name. Some of us will proudly justify the most unspeakable crimes as long as they’ve been committed in the name of the team.

And right here, right now all the hate groups are on one team and that team is embracing them and the obvious thing is happening.

And I can feel it. Every time I walk into a place and there are no other people of color, I can feel it all. I can feel the white paranoia. I can feel their dread. Sometimes I can feel their support. Sometimes I can even feel their indifference.

Can you?


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The weakness of Kanye amidst the strength of Black people

(Note from BGIM: If for some reason you’ve managed to somehow not know what Kanye West has been up to lately praising Trump and blaming slaves for slavery, you might want to read this and/or this before taking in Sam’s piece below)


I’ve got one last thing to say about Kanye, but before I do…

The other day I was talking to a friend about genealogy. He’s really into tracing back his heritage. His father is from Bermuda and his mother is from Maine, so his journey is taking him all over the map.

Our conversation makes me think about all the things that have to happen to get us, as individuals, to where we are. All of the war and disease and natural disasters and various other apocalypses that created villages and tribes and states and pushed and pulled migration, all the while helping us to create in groups and out groups…

There’s a whole lot to consider in how we got here, but honestly, I’ve never really cared. I’m not saying it’s without value. Don’t get me wrong. I’m deep into my own heritage. I was raised that way. I grew up eating food made from recipes that were oral traditions because the originators weren’t even allowed to learn how to read and write. I grew up learning traditional dances that were passed down father to son for generations. I was taught to play traditional music that predates all audio recording technology. I am very much of my ancestors, but I just don’t think of my history how many Americans think of theirs.

I’ve said this before, but I see a lot of white Americans talk about being Irish or French or Italian and celebrating and identifying as such. It’s real weird to me. I mean, it’s just choosing to identify with a particular moment in time. Like, there were people who existed long before anyone ever titled land masses “Ireland” or “France” or “Italy,” but you don’t ever hear anyone bragging about being ¼ Visigoth.

“Well, my dad is a Gaul, so we’re big drinkers, but he’s from the Suessiones tribe, so, you know, I talk with my hands.”

You ain’t never heard that shit in your life.

As a Black American who is a descendant of enslaved peoples, my genealogical timeline is not that long. A white person may talk about their people originally coming from Ireland, but I can only say my people come from Texas. And I’m fine with that. It means that my heritage is uniquely American and I embrace that. I embrace the culture I was born into, as does most of the country. Just one look at the history of the banjo should tell you that Black culture is more influential than you probably thought. Unfortunately, it also exists within a context that the country has never really been ready for.

Black American artistic expression exists largely because we, as Black Americans were not allowed to express ourselves as citizens. In many ways, we’re still not, and that is where my personal emotions are connected to my ancestry.

The only problem I face with my ancestry is the way it is viewed by those who have power over me.

I mean, I guess it could be nice to find out I was related to an African king or whatever. It’s just that none of the cops that have ever pulled me over would have given a shit. Neither would any bank that continues to deny loans to POCs . Nor would any politician that will deny me my rights.

And that’s what brings me back to Kanye…

Almost. One more thing…

If you’re white, you may not know just how varied Black people are in this country. We are not just one group. We are not only urban. We are also suburban. We are also rural.

We are not only athletes and entertainers. We are also inventors and intellectuals. Sometimes we are all of the above.

We often agree on destinations and differ on routes. We are as complex as, if not more than any group in America. But the one thing we have in common is that this country has always found it necessary to separate us from our humanity, and therefore our rights.

It doesn’t matter if you live in New York or Mississippi, if you’re rich or poor, if you were born in 1650 or at this very moment. This country values Black people as less than any other group and it has never been secretive about it.

And so, here we are with Kanye, who is primarily three things: Black, egomaniacal, and rich. And he’s real rich. Like, private jet rich. And the thing about being rich is that the struggle can become invisible to you, especially if you are an egomaniac.

Kanye is not struggling. I don’t mean he doesn’t wrestle with inner demons. He clearly does; badly.

What I mean is that his personal drivers and security team see to it that he’s not pulled over for DWB or followed around a store for SWB. He doesn’t have to worry about not being hired because his name sounds a certain way. Predatory lending, red lining—these things do not affect him.

The thing is, though, plenty of Black men who are rich enough to avoid those struggles choose to face them head-on. They realize the power of their voice and understand their inherent responsibilities. And, most importantly, they have strength.

You are required to be strong to be Black in America. It takes strength to get out of bed every single day and carry around the knowledge that the state can legally murder you. It takes strength to attempt to navigate a world in which you are viewed with constant and irrational suspicion and fear. It even takes a certain amount of strength just to acknowledge those truths.

Kanye is weak. He’s as weak as a baby. He’s as weak as his baby-handed, racist-ass massa. It’s an especially pitiful kind of weakness, because unlike slavery, Kanye’s weakness is his choice.

So, in the end, am I saying that Kanye isn’t Black? That is a complex conversation to be had, but for now, I’ll direct you to this conversation, already in progress.


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Photo by Jessica Felicio on Unsplash

The literal baggage of racism

I want to take this opportunity to thank a couple of Black people, but first, let me start back a ways…

The problem with person-to-person racism is that it’s stupid. I know that’s obvious, but it still gets to me. Like, it’s people just not thinking their shit through. Then systemic racism allows the stupid people to just run the fuck amok and then it’s up to us to tell them they’re stupid. But, you know, they’re stupid, so they don’t believe us.

And what’s so gaht-dam infuriating about all of it, is that they don’t even have to be stupid! You can Google literally, any information about race in America but since it’s slightly easier not to, they don’t. So they’re lazy, too.

Here, let me give you an example.

Since the election of our…ugh…“president”…ugh…I have been on an airplane 15 times. Out of those 15 flights, I have been “randomly selected” 16 times. That’s right. I have been singled out to have my belongings searched on every single flight, and on one of them it happened twice.

In case you don’t know what I look like, I’m bearded, bald, just barely fail the paper bag test and get mistaken for Common (by white people) so often, I should honestly consider changing careers.

But not in airports. Not at all. In airports, I am overwhelmingly middle eastern, and that is my best example of how fucking dumb and lazy racism is. The systemic and individual racism directed at me in an airport is so stupid it can’t even get my race right.

These fools.

An aside, to all y’all who look so relieved when I get pulled out of line, who look on approvingly as my bags are searched, I see you. Also, you should know that TSA doesn’t do shit.

But let me get to those thank-yous.

The last time I flew out, it went a little differently. I mean, it started the same: A white TSA agent looked at me and pulled my bag out to be searched, but he didn’t do the actual searching. Nope. Instead he waved over a different agent to do the dirty work. He also walked away before the other agent even got there. The other agent arrived. He was Black. And from the look of it, he gets asked to search non-white bags a lot. I say this because he just stared in the other agent’s direction, slowly looked over to me and without breaking eye contact, put both hands on my bag, pushed it toward me, gave me the nod and exhaustedly said, “You’re all set.”

Wherever you are, brother, thank you. I feel for you. We both know that, aside from outrageous racism, the TSA seriously doesn’t do shit. You’re doing the Lord’s work. And rest assured, you’re not the only one.

On my flight home, the dum-dum searching my bag was especially thorough. Thorough in such a way she—a white woman—seemed certain she was going to find me out. She was on the case and she was gonna crack it! In fact, she was such a remarkable detective that she drew the attention of her supervisor—a Black woman—who came over to join the investigation.

Unfortunately for her, it turns out that her supervisor didn’t share her investigative spirit. The supervisor asked her pointedly about every single action she had taken and then, one by one, told her that she was wrong for doing each and every thing she had done.

“Why are you testing that? It’s a plastic bottle of aspirin and you can just open it and look inside. Do you know how to open a bottle of aspirin? And this right here? You know that’s a false-positive. Can’t you see this X-ray right here in front of you? Why are you wasting this man’s time?”…and on and on it went. It was amongst the most brutal and joyous things I have ever witnessed and I wish my every future TSA stop to be just like that. Even better, I just wish not to be stopped anymore, but I’ll take what I can get.

Anyway, thank you TSA supervisor. Not only did you save me from yet another invasion and whatever unknown potential danger that can come from the wrath of TSA (an organization that doesn’t do sheeeeeeeit!), but you have perhaps also saved the next few people of color behind me.

All in all, thank you, Black TSA.

I see you and I love you.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pixabay