The real conspiracies are worse than the wild conspiracy theories

To me, the difficult thing about writing is choosing what to write about. There’s just so much happening all the time. Do I write about the country’s racist history or policies or population? Do I write about our own Black history? Do I just write about the most recent time I got pulled over? What issue do I want to draw focus to in the moment? There’s a responsibility in that question that is clouded over by an ever-changing media landscape, peoples’ personal habits and now more than ever, conspiracy theories.

As a member of the media, a person with an audience and just as a person, the abundance of conspiracy theories in the public square is terrifying. It points to how few of us have to acknowledge the shared reality and I worry that it’s just going to get worse.

The thing that’s always bothered me about conspiracy theories is that generally, they are obviously and flatly false. For instance, I think a lot of people buy into the idea that there is a group of mysterious people who control all of the wealth and politicians and pull all of these strings from behind a secret curtain somewhere just out of sight.

I hate this idea so much for so many reasons. I hate it because believing it dismisses our own agency as a citizenry. I hate it because it’s an argument from ignorance. I especially hate it because the opposite is true and the truth is actually in our faces all the time.

Do the wealthy control everything? Absolutely. But are they hiding it? Fuck, no! They brag about that shit! It’s not a secret. They’re constantly shouting it from the rooftops, all of which they own.

Here’s how not-a-secret it is: 101 years ago Bertie Charles Forbes created Forbes magazine. Currently Bertie’s grandson, billionaire Steve Forbes, is the editor-in-chief. If you were to flip through the magazine you would quickly see that it is the voice of the wealthy publicly celebrating themselves as masters over all they see and imagine including the rest of us. And they’re so fucking ostentatiously proud of it they name the shit after themselves.

And, yes, I mean ostentatious.

If I were to tell you that the wealthy actually celebrate surging wealth inequality as a happy sign that life is becoming much more convenient, you might say, “Well, they probably think it and maybe they say some monstrous shit like that behind closed doors, maybe, but that’s not really something you can prove.”

And if that were to be your response, I would gladly direct you to a recent Forbes article, unironically titled, Surging Wealth Inequality is a Happy Sign that Life is Becoming Much More Convenient.

It’s the furthest thing from a conspiracy, though it is somehow believed to be.

That being said, things are different if you’re Black.

Very different.

That Forbes article begins with, “Two hundred years ago the American people were quite a bit more equal in terms of wealth…”

Just like my enslaved ancestors at the time, I know I wouldn’t have been considered any kind of equal two-hundred years ago. Or considered American. Or people. And that information, that the opening line conveniently leaves out is the shadow of a very tall tree with very real conspiracies for every branch, like nooses.

There are intimate conspiracies between individuals like the recent police frame job in Florida. There are more widely-spread conspiracies involving multiple institutions like red lining. There are even full-on, 40-year-long conspiracies of Nazi-style human experimentation perpetuated by the United States Government like the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.

Like I said, it’s a very tall tree.

I’m not saying there aren’t conspiracies based things aside from race. There definitely are. What I am saying is that there is a reality we can choose and a reality that is forced upon us and not understanding the difference can mean falling victim to both.

But understanding the difference can mean undoing both and making an objectively better world for everyone.


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If we don’t universally shun the hatred, little will change

It wasn’t until 1847 that anyone even suggested surgeons wash their hands. The idea was openly mocked by the medical community for the next 30 years and the doctor who suggested it was eventually killed by bacteria.

I think about that a lot. Fighting against an enemy that seems invisible to most, but the evidence of its destruction is everywhere you look…

From the moment that the very first enslaved African escaped bondage, there have been systems put in place to keep Black people wherever white people would prefer. The enslaved African escapes, so slave patrols are created.

Slavery ends, slave patrols become the Ku Klux Klan.

This type of reactionary attempt to re-marginalize Black people is a constant throughout American history. The white power movement was a reaction to the Black Power movement. No one bothered to interrupt us with “all lives matter” until we began explaining how Black Lives Matter.

Hate was attached to us when we were fully at the margins and no matter how far any of us have come since, this country has never put forth an honest effort to separate us from that hate. But the thing about hate that this country never seems to remember is that it ruins everything. It causes collapse. As a personal foundation, hate will ruin your health, and as a systemic foundation it can cause the entire system to collapse.

At the time of this writing there is a law in Florida that keeps former felons from voting. This law was originally written to specifically keep Black people from voting, but things changed. Now the majority of former felons in Florida are white. That hate wasn’t going exactly where it was intended anymore, so they’ve had to make adjustments along the way to keep focus on the intended target.

The electoral college was created out of racism as a means to help out slave owners. That’s the system that gave George W. Bush the presidency even though he lost the popular vote by 500,000. The next republican to become president is the one we have now and he lost the popular vote by 3,000,000. That’s six times as many votes as Bush. If that pattern holds it’ll be 18,000,000 next time.

Those are just two obvious, historical examples. I’m not even getting into the more subtle or personal ways in which hate is attached to us, but it is clear that as we move into the mainstream, this historically attached hate comes right along for the ride.

We point to the bad actors, like the president, and blame him. We point to the Richard Spencers and Gavin McInneses and blame them, but we never address the fact that hate itself is just culturally acceptable in this country.

We talk all the time about how much the president stokes hatred, but we don’t try to get rid of the actual hatred. No, I’m not talking about some kinda hippy-dippy, personal and emotional cleanse. And I’m not talking about making any kind of speech illegal, though I do have some thoughts about that.

I am just saying that there are things that are culturally acceptable and things that are not. For example, in absolutely no way is it culturally unacceptable to pick your nose in public. If you arrive at work tomorrow with your finger jammed into one of your nostrils, at first some may laugh, thinking you are deliberately being funny. Keep it up throughout the day and you will find yourself alienated and visiting HR for a mental health check.

Now imagine you acted like this after being told not pick your nose at work.

Have you ever been in a room full of people when someone coughs without covering their mouth? That person hears about it. Somebody says something every time. The cougher is often reminded that there are other people in the room and that they should not let something so toxic come out of their mouth, at the very least for the sake of everyone else. Sometimes the cougher is even told to leave and that they shouldn’t be around people until they become less toxic…

Unacceptable behavior is often deemed that way because of its effect on others and it doesn’t have to be legislated to be understood. But it does have to be recognized.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the same videos as you. And, yes, it’s nice to see all the Apartment Pattys getting theirs. But for me, it’s just not that much of a relief when all of the hate speech, all of the political assassination attempts, all of the internments of children, all of the church murders, all of the Nazis, klansmen, proud boys and fascists all come out of the same, affectionately titled Grand Old Party that is currently in charge of the entire government. And they are in charge of the government in a democracy even though they represent the minority of citizens.

Their hate and their methods are as old as abolition and they’ll either have their way or they won’t. We’ll either figure out how to separate the hate from a people or we will push those people back to the margins. One of those options I am hopeful for. The other the country has always found easier.

Always.


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Reclaiming my time; saying ‘yes’ to me

It ain’t easy being a Black woman. Never has been. But I guess I figured we wouldn’t have to still be working this hard just to stay behind, no matter how much education and how many skills we bring to so many tables.

For every dollar that a white man makes, a Black woman earns 63 cents (even lower than white women, who earn 80 cents to the manly dollar). A Black woman must work eight months longer to earn what a white man earns in a year. In other words, a Black woman, even coming to the work game with excellence, has to bust her ass to have what comes naturally and with much more modest effort to even the most mediocre of white men.

So after you bust your ass, what next? As a Black woman, you are at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. In fact, while the saying “Black don’t crack” is entrenched into our consciousness as a statement of fact, the reality for many of us is far more sobering. We might look good and we might look young, but the collective weight of navigating life as a Black woman creates an extreme stress that causes wear and tear on our internal organs which leads to higher rates of illness and earlier death.

As this 2010 National Institute of Health study pretty much lays it all out, there is a real cost to being a Black woman. Let’s be real: it’s stressful. From birth to death, we often beat the odds in so many ways.

But again: At what cost?

I have been asking myself these questions for the last several months. I started going to therapy and immediately it became clear that I am doing too much. There is my day job as the Executive Director of Community Change Inc. We are a small, scrappy anti-racism organization that receives little in the way of grant funding; we are 90% donor funded. I spend a lot of time convincing people to support our work. Since 2014, I have managed to financially stabilize the organization and grow our programming, this is no small feat considering the other things that have happened since 2014. My marriage ended and I moved out of the family home in fall of 2015. My son got married in 2016 and became a dad in 2017, thus making me a grandmother. I also worked to grow the readership of this blog.

Our readership now extends far beyond Maine and New England. Last month a patron made a gift from Australia. This year alone, I have had over a dozen speaking engagements across New England and my fall speaking calendar is 90% full. But I have had to hustle for all that harder and longer than have my professional peers who aren’t Black and female.

My youngest child just turned 13 and I spend 50% of my physical time with her, but in the last three years, I have spent no more than 12 consecutive days at my own home due to my travel schedule. And sometimes that means time spent with her is at the family home I left when the marriage ended, while I’m in-between travel and my real home. And as you can imagine, that can get awkward no matter how well my co-parent and I get along.

I am inundated with requests to speak/teach/show up and honestly it’s overwhelming. People are forever asking if I want to engage in social/racial justice work during my off time. I’m frequently asked to do work for free or for amounts so low they might as well be free when you factor in travel costs and time lost. Um, NO! Even when I state this clearly, people still think they are an exception and ask for XYZ. Clearly the idea that a Black woman might have boundaries is hard for people to grasp.

All this to say: I have been heading head-first into the wall of exhaustion. I spent months trying to decide if I should take the plunge and quit my day job and trust that it would work out. I started ramping up my No’s.  No is my new jam.

The thing is, my situation isn’t unique. It’s what many Black women face, we give so much of ourselves and rarely is anyone concerned with our personal well-being. Even in a Black Lives Matter climate, how often do we see the Black women in our lives and ask what can we do for them? Do we see them as individuals outside of their Blackness? Or do they remain a fixed modern day Mammy whose mission is serve us, teach us and guide us? I’ve seen so many pieces published on how Black women are saving the country in so many ways by making things happen and building awareness and getting out the vote, but why are they leaned on so heavily to do that? Where is most of everyone else?

After months of feeling stressed, I worked up the courage to ask my board of directors at the day job for a sabbatical. Long story short: I am off work until after Labor Day. No emails, texts, calls or meetings.  Last night I slept for eight hours. To wake up and not feel like I have to hit the ground running is a marvelous feeling, it’s damn near orgasmic to not have to do anything and to not have to worry if I can pay my rent since this is a paid sabbatical. The internal silence is a gift. (However, as you see right here, I still have to hustle to work on the website here and post blogs and monitor my social media and promote stuff, sabbatical or not.)

This post is a bit more personal than my usual these days but I wanted to be honest about where I am at this moment in my life. While I am not on a sabbatical from BGIM Media, I am taking it easy especially because I have enlisted the assistance of a podcast producer and we record our first episode next week. The podcast will launch right after Labor Day. Weekly postings will continue though we are looking at six posts this month rather than the usual eight.

For all of you who are there for Black women—I mean, really there—thank you. For those of you who haven’t been, please start stepping up because we can’t do so much alone and we damn sure can’t do it without some emotional, social and financial support for our efforts.


f 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 Jared Rice from Unsplash