Racism roadmap, or Let’s talk about it

I’ve been online a lot recently. Too much, really. I’m not gonna lie, this means I’ve been losing my temper a lot. We got a racist governor up here in Maine, we got the “president” and his whole klan. Oh, and until recently we had a Nazi as the town manager of Jackman, Maine. He was fired, so at least there’s that.

Still, when I start to think about how often the morally weakest among us are activating each other, my face gets hot. I’m gonna try to keep cool on this because I like to write concisely, but, you know, my face is hot.

Here we go.

Racism isn’t measured. It’s not even defined, nationally. When an attempt is made, it’s often by those who can’t actually experience it. Race itself is designed only to designate power. White on top, everyone else in a big pile on the very distant the bottom. This makes racism an incredibly complex system that includes us as individuals as well as our institutions. And since we as Americans are not great at learning from our history, it only gets more complex over time. 

As a Black person, I wince when I hear someone call me “colored.” It’s not that the person is racist, necessarily. It’s that the use of that word shows that the person’s understanding of race is so out of date, the amount of work needed to understand the current complexity of the issue is unlikely to get done. And, honestly, there’s probably a reason the work wasn’t done in the first place.

Understanding of race is like a map. It needs to be up to date. A map of your town from the 1800s would not help you find a thing today. Everything would be unrecognizable. Sure, the map is valuable in that it’s important to learn about where the roads were back then. They’re the basis for the roads we have now, but that old map would still leave you lost as hell the second you stepped out your door. And it wouldn’t matter how much you loved the map or the good ol’ days from whence it came. We all gotta live right now.

Now, more or less, we operate under the presumption that we all want to be on the right path. Even though we live that way, we know it’s not true. We know that some people want the path to themselves, or just don’t care where they’re going at all, but we carry out our day-to-day as though we all agree.

The problems come when we’re all in the car together and we start to get the feeling the driver isn’t really looking at the GPS.

Yeah, we can ask him if he’s lost, but if he says no, that’s kinda where the conversation ends.  

Luckily, our understanding of the situation is not reliant on his admission. Like, if you’re on hour-three of a trip that only was supposed to last 10 minutes, you don’t really have to ask to know the truth.

The driver should to pull over and ask for directions. He needs to find someone familiar with the area and ask what to do. In other words, he needs to find someone who’s been down this road before. In other words, he needs to defer to someone with experience that he does not have…I think you see where I’m going here.

Unfortunately, in a moment like this, the driver probably doesn’t really care about being on the right path. The important thing for the driver is to never admit that he’s a racist—um, I mean lost. The driver must never admit that he’s lost. He may not even know he’s lost, even if everyone else around him knows. But it doesn’t really matter if he knows or not. Everyone else is trying to get on the right path, so he’s either gotta get in the back and let someone else drive or get the right directions! Ain’t no one got time to wait for some damn fool to figure out how to use his moral compass!

In fact, no! You ain’t gonna get in the back! You gonna get out of the car and figure out your shit all by yourself. If and when you do figure out how not to be lost, you can catch a ride with the next car going this way. They pass by all the time.

OK. While those of us who have been down this racist-ass road before can easily recognize just how lost you are, maybe you aren’t sure. Maybe you really don’t know whether or not you are lost. If that’s the case, please consult the list below. Do you use any or all of the following phrases?

1: I’m not a racist, but…

2: You’re too sensitive.

3: You’re probably hearing/seeing/feeling/understanding it wrong.

4: I’m sure they didn’t mean it like that.

5: Black people are racist, too.

6: I have a Black friend.

7: You call each other that word.

8: I’ve been called honky.

9: That’s not real racism.

10: I’ve been pulled over, too.

11: All you have to do is obey the law.

12: You destroy your own neighborhoods.

13: I agree with you in theory.

14: That’s not how you get your point across.

15: Black-on-Black violence.

16: Slavery was a long time ago.

17: The Irish were slaves, too.

18: I never owned a slave.

19: Stop complaining.

20: I don’t know why there’s no white history month.

If so, you’re as lost as this motherfucker right here and you need a map. Luckily, many are available. Here, here and here are great places to begin your quest.

Good luck finding the place. We’ll leave the light on for you.


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How does the president get away with all this dumb sh*t?

This question is everywhere. I see it online, I hear it at the grocery store and I feel it in the air every time his name is spoken, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer it, but I’m gonna warn you right now, you ain’t gonna like it.

A long time ago Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and a bunch of other wealthy, white, male inheritors created a system that benefited them and everyone else of that description. This system assures that wealthy, white, male inheritors, born into positions of vast ownership, will see that ownership as well as their very identities afforded full representation and protection under the law.  Anybody not possessing those four traits has varying degrees less representation and protection.

This also means that there are two sides of the dollar. One side tells the dollar what to do. The other side gets told what to do by the dollar. Wealthy, white, male inheritors are on one side and the rest of us are on the other. They are free. The rest of us just have permission—and not as much as we think.

Now, just so we’re clear, you should know that when I talk about freedom, I’m not making claims on your feelings. Like everything else, this ain’t about your feelings. I hope you feel free as a muhfuckin bird, but please understand that if the president had to live your life for just one goddamn day, each second would feel as though he was serving a sentence of eternity in a space prison.

This is how free he is: Tomorrow he could get on his plane, fly to every continent and buy property on all of them.

This is how little permission you have: You probably couldn’t do even one part of that. Chances are you can’t afford property on every continent. You probably can’t afford property on just this continent. Chances are you don’t own your own plane. You probably couldn’t afford to be a passenger on a world tour, even in coach. He could do all that tomorrow and chances are you couldn’t even get permission to take the day off tomorrow.

But that’s not where their freedom stops. People on that side of the dollar are also free from our morality. For example, paying your bills. If you and I don’t pay our bills, we feel terrible and irresponsible and eventually we will ending up facing civil legal action or criminal charges (depending on what didn’t get paid and why). You know what happens when the president doesn’t pay his bills? He fuckin doesn’t pay his bills. It’s essentially theft, but the same holds true with actual theft. If you get caught stealing a $1 worth of candy from the corner store, you will go to jail. On the other side of the dollar you can get caught stealing billions and billions and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get to keep it. Back on this side of the dollar you couldn’t even steal millions, let alone billions because you don’t even have permission to know where that amount of money is located.

And it ain’t just morals that only exist on our side of the dollar. Intelligence, work ethic, self-esteem, talent… Every single thing that you think is necessary to reach success only counts on our side. This is because the actual level we are trying to reach is that of the wealthy, white, male inheritors. Those four traits are the standard by which we measure not only our success, but our actual worth as citizens.

So, intelligence, for example. The president is an imbecile. It’s obvious on its face. And on his face. I mean, he paints only most of his face and his “hair” various shades of very unhealthy urine. Somehow, some people look past that and think that he must be intelligent because the randomness of his tweets cause such chaos. Or maybe they think he’s made smart business moves or that he’s been clever with tax loopholes or various other actions that are actually taken by his lawyers. In the end, I guess people believe what they want to believe.

In this country, we want to believe that we can earn our way to the other side of the dollar, but you do not earn what you were born with. And no amount of talent or intelligence or self-esteem or work ethic can change the situation of your birth.

It goes the other way as well. I’ll say it again. If you are a wealthy, white, male inheritor, you are born into a position of vast ownership in which that ownership, as well as your very identity have full representation and protection under the law. You can be the most talentless, stupid, self-loathing, lazy, urine-colored muhfucka in the world, and none of that will change the situation of your birth either. Also, it’s not just money we’re talking about here. Family, community, connections, these things are all inherited as well. You can be broke as a joke, but if you’ve got family, community and connections it won’t even matter.

Back before he was the president, he bankrupted a casino, because he’s a stupid person. His dad tried to help bail him out by buying more than $3 million in chips. It turns out that that is illegal, so his dad got a fine of $65,000. I mean, they can call that a fine all they want, but really, that’s a fee.

I could go on and on and on…

So, that’s why he gets away with it. He is a wealthy, white, male inheritor who exists on the other side of the dollar, and don’t think for a second he’s the only one. They are everywhere. Look over to the UK and you’ll see current toast of the town Prince Harry saying all kinds of racist shit and dressing up like a Nazi (and that means something over there. Sure, it’s offensive here, but the UK fought WWII on their own land and it cost them almost 450,000 lives. It’s probably just about the funniest goddamned thing of all time for their own royalty to act like that shit is cute). His stupid-ass uncle was the same way. People on the other side of the dollar get away with it because, while they hold us to account, no one holds them to anything.

“Getting away with it” isn’t even the right phrase because it implies that we hold authority over them, when the opposite is true.

Anyway, the president will never be jailed. You’ll never see his kids jailed. There won’t be trials or charges or anything like that. I know some of you believe in fairness and karma and have faith in a system for which there is no existential evidence. So, if you’re still holding out hope that’s totally fine. In fact, I welcome you to argue your points at the public debates I’ll be holding tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 p.m. right outside the courtroom where all the other criminal, wealthy, white, male inheritors are usually put on trial.


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Everything in this country is about race

“Everything in this country is about race.”

Even though it’s a cliché at this point, you’ve probably heard that and said to yourself, “Well, not everything.”

Now, look, I’m obviously not going to itemize every single thing that’s racist. But to give you the single best example I can, to give you just a peek at how deep it goes, I’m to talk about something so basic, so omnipresent and so eternal that you would think it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with race.

But first, let me start at the beginning:

How we experience time is relative, but generally, we all have a similar sense of how it passes. Things start of as simple and as time goes on, they become more complex. Seeds, babies, ideas, technology all grow in complexity with the passing of time.

As an individual, being attached to a sense of time allows for growth and advancement and it defines expectations and practicalities. We’re taught this from the moment we learn to stand, as is evidenced by the children’s names and dates marked up and down our door frames.

As it works for the individual, so does it work for the society. In this country, there is a national sense of time to which we also attach ideas of growth and advancement as well as definitions of expectations and practicalities.

OK. Now, I’m going to need any old bigots reading this to get their CPT jokes (CPT is “colored people time” for the uninitiated or those living under rocks) out of the way because I’m about to explain how…

In the United States of America, even time is racist.

That’s right, white people are allowed to experience time in ways that Black people are not.

See, generally, white people experience time much in the way I just described. Things start off simple and become more complex as time passes. Black people, on the other hand, experience time in a much more disjointed and convoluted way.

When it comes to social problems, Black people generally live in the future—until white people catch up. Then Black people stay in the past while white people move ahead.

The opioid crisis is a current example of this. It’s hitting white people hard right now, and the solution that’s been presented is to treat addiction medically. I think that is the proper solution, but that is not how it went with the crack epidemic.

The crack epidemic was killing black people 30+ years before the opioid crisis arrived, and the solution presented was to treat addiction with prison sentences.

Black people live in the future, experiencing a social problem before white people and being punished for experiencing that problem. Once white people experience that problem, however, they are not punished. Instead a solution is presented that allows them to move ahead. This leaves black people stuck in the past with their future taken, and white people moving forward with a future protected.

The examples are everywhere. Just last week, a video was released showing Mesa, Arizona, police officer Philip Brailsford killing Daniel Shaver, a 26-year-old, unarmed, white man. Already, I am hearing new, white voices speak up that had been previously silent while Black Americans have had to relive the same moment countless times. While this has not played out yet, these new, white voices are much more likely to spark some sort of police reform, as the Black voices from the past remain unheard.

Too abstract? Well, so is time, so let’s keep going.

For white people, an effect of how they experience time is a fondness for the past. I see it constantly and am always puzzled by it, especially when they play that time machine fantasy game. You know the one:

“If you could go back to any era, which one would you pick?”

Professionally, I perform music inspired by Black American folk traditions, so “Wouldn’t it be great to go back to a time when this music was just starting out?” is how I am usually asked.

“Motherfucker, are you out of your goddamn mind?” is how I usually respond.

Would it be great to visit a time in which all white people were allowed to kill all the Black people in a neighborhood and burn the whole thing to the ground just because they felt like it?

No, I do not think that would not be great.

From kids playing cowboys & Indians to adults watching period-piece movies, so much of contemporary white culture tries to exist in the past. But that past is a fantasy in which, like so many real places in the actual past, people of color are just not allowed.

(By the way, seeing American kids playing cowboys & Indians should be just as disturbing as seeing German kids playing Nazis & Jews. But that’s a whole other conversation. But for now, let’s just talk about that cowboy…)

From John Wayne to Johnny Cash, the image of the cowboy is immeasurably important to American culture. The cowboy is America. He hearkens back to a time in which white nobility blanketed the countryside with the pleasant, stoic beauty of a winter’s first dusting of snow.

But there was no such time.

In reality John Wayne was an admitted white supremacist, one in four cowboys were Black and so was Johnny Cash’s first wife.

Black people are essentially erased from history, but it’s so much more than not having your story told, which is bad enough. No, being erased from history means not being allowed into the identity of a nation that would never have, and could not continue, to exist without you.

As a group, an effect of not being tethered to an historic past is that Black people create the cultural future. For example, look at all forms of popular music throughout American history. Blues, jazz, rock, funk, soul, R&B, rap, and yes, even country were created by Black people. Eventually white people catch up to us, at which point we create the next. On and on. This is evidenced by the fact that all of those forms of music are now primarily white. Except rap, but even that is changing in this very moment.

As an individual, an effect of being misplaced in time is that Black expectations and practicalities can be incomprehensible to white people.

For instance, the last presidential election…

Most of the Black people I know thought it would turn out how it did. And most of the white people I know are still baffled. This is because a Black expectation is that racism will continue to run this country, so it would only be practical to think that the loudest racist would win.

Now, I know that some white people still don’t believe that racism was why he won, so let me say this, plainly:

For five years, an obviously stupid man who was a known racist and admitted sexual predator got on TV at every opportunity, pointed to the Black president and talked that same, old, this-nigger-ain’t-from-around-here bullshit. Then, without any policy or experience, the obviously stupid, racist sexual predator attained the presidency by winning the white vote in every single category—including white women.

But, in the end it was the racist institution of the electoral college that gave us our common bigot of a president.

And most of the white people I know continue to be shocked at just how destructive he is. But that’s only because they’ve been living in Black peoples’ past. Black people have known the destruction caused by racist institutions and common bigots for a very long time, and I hate to tell you this, but, while it will certainly get more complex, it is not going to get any better.

Welcome to the future.


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.

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