A small sign that things can change

I don’t know if things will get better for Black people in America, but I am absolutely certain that they can.

Why am I so certain?

Let me tell you a story…

My father taught me awareness and perseverance. He taught me how to read and write and play music. Any kind of forward momentum I have ever felt in my life has come from his initial push.

I have felt this way as long as I can remember and in case you couldn’t tell, I’m a daddy’s boy. Always have been. So, you can imagine my panic a few years ago when my father got sick. He had a series of strokes and was diagnosed with cancer.

I became very protective of him. I quit touring and stayed close to home. I would take him around to run errands and to his medical appointments. He preferred to be driven in his car, a big, black Ford with veteran’s vanity plates that, showing his pride of his service and heritage, read BLKVET (as in Black Veteran).

One afternoon we were driving down the highway back from one of his chemo treatments when I notice an SUV all the way on the other side of the highway about to merge.

Normally, I don’t notice cars merging three lanes over, but I did notice this particular SUV that happened to have its entire back windshield covered with a decal of the confederate flag. I actually noticed the decal second. The first thing I noticed was the actual, full-sized confederate flag that was flying from a pole attached to the side of the vehicle.

Yup. Two giant, confederate flags on the same fucking truck. I guess the guy really wanted to make a point.

Now, look. I’ve got a little bit of gray in my beard, a career and I’ve never been to jail. I’m an adult and I know how to navigate my life.

But here’s the thing. Like I said, I’m a daddy’s boy. And my daddy was 17 years old when Medgar Evers was murdered, shot in the back. He was 19 when Malcolm was murdered, shot in the chest. Twenty-two when Dr. King was murdered, shot in the head. And the same night Dr. King was murdered, my father was arrested in Ohio for being Black. Understand, while Blckness was not what he was officially charged with, my daddy was jammed into a cell shoulder-to-shoulder-full with only Black men and probably every Black man the authorities could find.

The good people of Whereverthefuckever, Ohio, were in fear of a violent revolution and so, along with spending a life under threat for being Black while using the wrong bathroom or water fountain or entrance or making too much money or eye contact or being in the wrong restaurant or grocery store or town, my daddy and the Black men around him were made to fear for their lives in a makeshift internment camp, you know, just in case. But my daddy survived that and countless other systemic and personal harassments, indignities and threats during his 70 years of life in this country. And for him, an elderly, dying man to have to suffer one more harassment, indignity and threat presented as the confederate flags of some no account, milquetoast motherfucker who isn’t worth the smell of shit on his own breath, well, it was more than this daddy’s boy could stand.

Now, before I go on, in case you didn’t know, when a white person calls a Black person a nigger, it’s much more than a nasty name. A white person calling a Black person nigger is celebrating the fact that our society views Black people as less than human. It’s cheering at the fact that to be Black in America means to face personal and systemic violence alone. A white person calling a Black person nigger is saying, “You could die screaming, devoured by the very beasts that protect and nurture me and for that I am glad.”

A white person flying the confederate flag has more than all of the intentions and implications of calling a Black person a nigger but lacking the necessary courage required in singling someone out or even just using one’s voice. That’s what the fuck the goddamned confederate flag has always meant to me and a whole lot of other Black people.

And this motherfucker has two of them.

So, even though I am an adult with a career and a little bit of gray in my beard, I cut across traffic and pull up next to this bigot. And I’m staring at him. And my father, who is definitely not happy I’m doing this, is also staring at him. And I can’t wait for this fucking fool to look over and see two Black men in a black car with Black plates just staring at him. I can’t wait for him to lose his goddamned mind over the very clear judgment in our faces. I can’t wait to see him flip us off. I can’t wait to see his foul, racist blood expose that vein in his forehead.

But, when he eventually looks over none of that happens. Instead he sees us and immediately breaks eye contact, looks down and away. And he does so in such a manner that what he’s feeling is as obvious as his racism.

Shame.

He was ashamed of himself and it was incredible to see. It was so striking that, if it wasn’t for the third confederate flag on his fucking hat, I would’ve thought he was just borrowing the vehicle from his racist uncle or whatever.

The whole thing was so crazy. I mean, I saw those flags telling my father and I that we were worth less. Then I cut across the highway and pulled up next to that racist motherfucker because I wanted to look him in his fucking eye and have him explain to my dying father and me who he thought was worth less. And he did. It was him.

And that made me realize that things can change. Because shame is a recognition of standards. It’s an acknowledgment that there are societal expectations that were not met. And if even this fucking idiot feels compelled to acknowledge those expectations, then those expectations exist for everyone.

But we have to make sure it stays that way.


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Photo by John Hain from Pixabay

So focused on teams we ignore the game

To all my white friends, I need you to question your team. Yes, I know I talked a lot about teams last time, but I just keep seeing their problems everywhere I look. It’s as though this country only thinks in absolutist, binary bullshit terms.

Like, we got the president over here talking shit about his attorney general. It could prove to be a big problem, but who do we root for? The racist who left to his own devices would absolutely ruin the country? Or the racist who left to his own devices would absolutely ruin the country? My money is on the racist who left to his own devices would absolutely ruin the country.

I mean, we’ve got the president in one corner and the Mueller investigation and the Comey book tour and the FBI in the other corner. While that may sound comforting to some of you and yes, the president is just an absolute piece of shit, Mueller is a Republican, Comey ain’t no homey, and the FBI is not now, nor has it ever been interested in defending my rights or any other citizen who looks even remotely like me.

And if you’re hoping to be saved by the blue wave, you might want to find out how many Dr. Mai Khanh Trans are out there running for office.

Answer: Both too many and not enough.

And I’m not just talking about political candidates either. Last week the entire country was either rooting for a racist comedian or a goddamn pharmaceutical company. More on that later, but seriously, WTF is happening in the world?

We’re so focused on the teams that we’re forgetting about the game. Also, we’re not really on the teams. Sure, we’ve got the jerseys and yes, some people came here together, shirtless with letters painted on their chests and yes, they’re on live TV drunk, standing in the wrong order and everyone watching at home sees “RUMPT” but they’re not really on the team. They just really love the concept of the team.

The problem with that is when your only priority is the concept of the team, the actual team can cease to exist. It’s not being evaluated. The people you were once rooting for eventually cease to matter and all that matters is the other team’s loss. And not even that so much as the other team’s perceived loss.

That’s how you end up with right wing TV like the Roseanne reboot, or Tim Allen’s dumb shit, or, ugh, goddamned Sinclair, while at the same time Black shows are getting censored.

As my white friends, you should know this because, though you may have heard otherwise, there are still racist problems with restrooms.

And restaurants.

And resting.

Where does it stop? Maybe they’ll reboot segregation.

The point is that if you don’t stop this binary bullshit thinking, we may get rid of our current president, but we will most certainly only be making an easier path for one much, much worse.

Yeah, right now he’s the fuckin’ worst. And, yeah, so are the Russians, but all they did was exploit the problems we already had.

And you know what else? It was easy. Our president isn’t smart and neither is Putin. All they did was poke at the country’s festering, unbandaged wound. A monkey could do that.

But, white friends, you’re still the majority.

You can tend to your wounds.

You can question your team.

You can start here.


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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Photo by Alex Sajan on Unsplash.

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?


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.