Savages in this town and other thoughts

One of the best lines from Kevin Smith’s classic movie Clerks is when Randal says “Bunch of savages in this town”. Sadly after reading some of the recent coverage of the situation in Haiti, it seems that many Americans who are sitting in the comfort of their homes are thinking this about the folks in Haiti.

I am not the only Black blogger nor will I be the last to note that when a crisis hits an area where the victims are Black, that it never seems to fail, that at a certain point the media coverage will start to show the victims in a negative light. We saw it with the Katrina hurricane, after several days folks started getting a tad pissed and hungry that help was not coming in a timely fashion and well some folks decided to take matters into their own hands. The result was folks started to take what they needed and yes taking a big ass tv might be a dumb act but perhaps at the moment the thought is this tv might represent access to my basic needs being met.

There have been reports of looting in Haiti where its safe to say things are fucked up. After all, there is basically only one way to land the goods and its taking a while for food and water to actually get to the folks who need it.

I always wonder how come when tragedy hits and the victims are white, they aren’t looting? No, they scavenge or forage but never loot. See, foraging for your needs is a lot less scary sounding than folks who are looting.

However I wonder what would those same people talking shit do if they were in need and help was not getting to them? I don’t know about you but if my tummy was rumbling after several days and most certainly if my kids were hungry and thirsty, I would do any and everything to rectify that situation and laws and civility be damned. I suspect that most of us when faced with what seems like the likelihood of death due to a lack of basics such as food and water would do the same thing.

Yet because of the power of language its easy to paint those people in a negative light and blame it on bad genes…see those people are predisposed to bad shit. But when we do it, well its the right thing. Think about the would be bomber on that Christmas Day flight…he was thwarted by a big white man who not only leaped over several rows to put the fire out but I recall an interview with the “hero” who after making sure the suspect was not going to blow up the plane preceded to put the suspect in a headlock and dragged him to the front of the plane where the crew handcuffed him. Quite heroic but I wonder what would have happened if Jasper the hero would have been a Ray-Ray the black man from Detroit? See, where I am going with this?

Anyway one man’s savage is another man’s person striving to survive.

So what should we do?

Since learning of the earthquake that hit Haiti, I have noticed a curious thing.  Everyone seems saddened to see such a natural disaster hit, the response to what should be done seems to vary greatly depending on who you are talking to. Now as a Black woman, I have a great deal of Black friends some who have been personally affected as they have loved ones in Haiti. Thankfully their loved ones are safe. It seems within the Black community especially those of us online we are feeling the call to arms to help our brothers and sisters in the diaspora. On a quick personal note, my brother who is an architect is trying to gather a group to aid in future rebuilding efforts, so if you or someone you know is either an architect, engineer, or construction type person and wants to get involved, send me an email and I will connect you with my brother for details.

However I have noticed a bit of chill about what should be done that seems sadly to be breaking down along racial lines. I have tried to ignore it but after sitting in a diner and listening to an asshole chide President Obama for sending 100 million bucks, I need to say something that’s been on my mind.

Now when the tsunami hit several years ago, folks quickly mobilized to help, granted the US economy was in a better place but let’s be real compared to a place like Haiti most let me state that again most of even our poorest residents are still doing pretty well compared to what’s happening in Haiti. After all if you are reading this, its safe to say you have access to water and a place to shit and probably something to eat. Based off the images I have seen of the aftermath of Haiti its safe to say even the shittiest accommodations in the US would look pretty damn good to a folks dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake.

No, Haiti is not a pretty place in the minds of most Americans. It’s not an exotic locale to escape to, folks try to leave it and often get sent back. It’s real easy to say its the poorest nation in Western hemisphere without any thought to how it got to be that way. No discussion about how our policies years ago helped it become such a poor nation. No, just easier to say its a poor ass place and it sucks to be those people.

I wonder and maybe I am wrong but for many white folks I wonder how they would feel about this situation if it were a nation of white folks or a nation of pretty exotic people who live in a lush land that we like to visit. Yes, 100 million bucks in a time of economic crisis is a lot of money but at the same time it’s not. Yes it could help a lot of Americans but does that mean we should sit back and say sorry we are having issues we can’t do nothing for ya man!

How does the economic crisis that is largely of our own doing after all, a fair number of folks losing their homes lost them because they allowed common sense to go out the window. Hello! I have said it before but if you earn 50G’s a year what business did you have buying a half a million dollar home and then treating it like a fucking ATM supporting a lifestyle you could not afford. On the other hand there are plenty of folks who are dealing with loss of house and jobs who didn’t do anything wrong, but what does the tragedy in Haiti and the ongoing economic situation have to do with one another? Can we as a society not still stop to help our fellow-man in need?

It’s funny because I work with the poor daily and while there are a few folks that really piss me off on a regular basis I still see folks who in the midst of their own struggle with poverty can take the time to help someone else out. I see the call to arms to help Haiti as a similar situation. No, not everyone drinks pricy coffee or eats lunch out but most of us in this country have some small treat in our lives we could temporarily give up to help someone else out.

I like to think of helping others as good karma, insurance for when  our bad shit happens someone will be there for us. Yet I think for some Americans the core resistance to helping Haiti despite our economic woes is not about our finances but about the fact that deep down those people are not us, they are not attractive to us and while we have a temporary twinge for their plight at the end of the day they are just poor brown folks. We don’t see their humanity because we choose to see them as different than us. Oh, I know for some reading this you will say that’s not it at all but are you so sure? Maybe I am misreading the situation but when I see seemingly intelligent folks questioning our helping at this time, I am left to wonder why is that? I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter especially if you are someone who is unsure we can afford to help. It seems to me we are all on this planet together and the humane and kind thing to do is offer help but what the hell do I know?

Who You Calling Negro?

Thanks to enough stress in my personal life, I have intentionally been lying low when it comes to what’s going on in the world. However after hearing about the Census Bureau’s decision to add the seemingly outdated term Negro to the 2010 Census forms I feel the need to speak up. First off, I understand many younger folks are miffed about this, after all if you are under a certain age, Negro is a term you read about, not something you were called.

That said, there are still quite a few older Black folks who well never quite got the African-American thing…I know because I have several in my family. I am old enough to remember being Black, briefly Afro-American and later African-American. Personally I have always had a love/like/dislike feeling when it comes to the term African-American. As a Black woman who couldn’t tell you where in Africa my folks came from, the use of African-American never felt quite right. After all I have friends who I truly consider African-American, first and second generation immigrants from countries in Africa. I however, have folks who come from Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee.

My beloved Granny who passed four years ago, never called herself African-American, generally she stuck to Black or Negro or the occasional colored. From what the Census folks are saying it seems she was not the only one and to create an inclusive environment, the Census folks decided to add Negro. Inclusion happens in many forms.

Frankly I don’t have a problem with it and I hardly doubt the use of Negro is going to bring back terms such as Mulatto, Octoroon, etc. While we have made some progress racially in this country, I think we would be remiss to forget the past. Now if that form said Nigger, then I’d be the first one say oh hell to the naw. Instead it uses a term that is still used by a certain segment of the Black population, a population that felt so strongly about it that many of them wrote it into the last census form.

I think focusing on issues like whether Negro is outdated takes away from the larger issues. How many of the folks getting worked up about this are actually involved in the Black community? The Black community has a lot of issues we are facing, our unemployment rates are well above the national average. High percentage of single parent homes, our kids die younger, shit we die younger. So instead of getting worked up over the use of a word I say channel that energy into more positive avenues.