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.


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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.


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 Jessica Felicio on Unsplash