Cowardly New World

What follows is my most recent column from the Portland Phoenix May 28 issue, enjoy!

I know that the ancient Mayan calendar indicated the world may go and end in 2012, but I doubt it. Instead, let me illustrate how bad it might get, starting in that year.

Tucson, Arizona — April 7, 2012, 7:18 p.m.

 “Excuse me, sir, what’s your name?”

“Carl Alvarado, officer.”

“Yeah, right. Well, Carlos, show me your papers.”

“Papers? I’m a citizen. I live about 12 blocks…”

“Show me your ID, then, Carlos.”

“It’s Carl. I didn’t figure I needed an ID for a walk, sir.”

“Shut your damn mouth, you fucking wetback. You can rethink your story in the immigration service lockup.”

“Officer, we could just go to my house and…”

“Resisting arrest? Cool. We can play it that way.”

“Officer? Shit! Put away the taser, man!”

Dallas, Texas — November 10, 2021

A student of melanin level 8 was expelled from high school today after referring to “slavery” and “the slave trade” several times during a history class discussion, despite repeated warnings from the teacher.

“For 10 years now, we’ve had the mandated term ‘Atlantic triangular trade’ in schools, and for good reason,” said Principal Eric Davis. “It’s been shown time and again that terms like ‘slavery’ and ‘African-American’ and ‘racism’ are divisive and counter-American. I won’t stand for a student of any color throwing the word ‘slavery’ around when we’re trying to intelligently discuss the issue of imposed human resources practices of the past.”

District Superintendent Marge Whitney added, “You let a student get away with that, and the next thing you know, they’ll be bringing back those divisive ethnic studies classes that we in this great state and the state of Arizona have fought so hard to rid ourselves of.”

Washington, D.C. — June 4, 2026

Tea Party members celebrated their biggest victory yet since gaining the White House when President Rand Paul signed into law today the Civil Choice Realignment Act of 2026, giving private businesses the right to deny service to potential patrons, clients, customers or visitors based on religious, ethnic, sexual or philosophical grounds.

In Kentucky, where Mr. Paul had previously served as one of the state’s U.S. senators, Razorback Grill restaurant owner Gil Downey proudly placed up a sign in his front window, minutes after the signing of the law, reading “Whites Only — No Homos” and told reporters, “It’s about damn time we finally got government out of the business of telling us who we have to be around.”

Maybe those vignettes would seem more fanciful, and wouldn’t make my blood run cold writing them, if they weren’t based on recent news stories. Because Arizona’s draconian new laws regarding immigration pretty much give the police the power to demand “papers” from anyone they want to consider suspect in terms of legally being here, any time they have a valid reason to interact with a person on the street.

Because the Texas Board of Education does want to refer to the slave trade as the “Atlantic triangular trade,” a term that makes the act just seem like some simple innocent piece of historical commerce, as if slaves were comfortably stowed on ships along with textile and spices, instead of crammed in like sardines in the hopes that most would survive the journey across the ocean to become chattel and be stripped of all rights and dignity.

Because Rand Paul really does think that the Civil Rights Act really only intended to prevent governmental and “public” forms of discrimination, and that private businesses should be allowed to deny people services based on things like race.

The moves are already being made, and all it takes is enough people to not notice, or not care, or to rabidly support such nonsense, and we begin to have a nation that’s a lot less inclusive, much shorter on the concept of fairness and justice, ripe for more strife and violence, and a whole lot less diverse.

ETA: Just a few days ago in Chicago a Puerto Rican man was almost deported to Mexico since apparently the local cops thought he was here illegally despite the fact his mother showed proof that he was indeed born in Puerto Rico. Thankfully they realized after holding this fellow for several days that Puerto Ricans are indeed US citizens and have been since 1917. In this brave new world sadly I see plenty of Americans possibly being shipped off to countries they have no connection to because they don’t look American, oops make that white.

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.

Um….is that really news?

So it seems genealogists have unearthed the fact that Michelle Obama better known these days as the First Lady of the United States does indeed have a direct family link to slavery. In case you missed the NY Times piece, her great great great Grandma was in fact a slave. Now as I read the piece, I thought it was pretty cool that Michelle’s lineage was able to be traced but I was stunned at how stunned commenters were about the fact that not only was there a direct slave connection in her family but also interracial mingling since her great  great great great Grandma bore at that time what was called a mulatto child which today would be a biracial child.

Um…is this really news? In fact the more I thought about this piece in fact as I write this piece right now I am listening to NPR cover this story and once again hearing how amazing it is that someone whose ancestors were slaves is now the First Lady, the more I wonder maybe there is a reason we don’t have great race relations in this country.

For starters, why is this news? Um…most Black folks who are American born with American born relatives, if given the chance to trace our lineage, could almost certainly trace our roots to ancestors who had been slaves. No, I am not saying all American Blacks had relatives who were slaves. In fact living in Maine, I have come to learn that for many Maine Blacks who have roots over several generations in Maine, that their paths were often different. But for many Blacks who currently live in large urban areas like oh Chicago, if we had relatives who came to the city during the great migration which started around 1910, well as you can see it wouldn’t be hard to not have had a great great great grandparent who had been a slave.

This is not news to most Black folks, hell we are shaking our hands wondering why is this news to White folks. Hell, I know there is a good chance that my ancestors at least on my Dad’s side had involvement in slavery and that is without doing a complete check of my background, after all my grandparents were sharecroppers in rural Arkansas. It’s not a great stretch in my mind to figure out that my great great great Grandparents were most likely slaves since my own grandparents were sharecroppers and my own Dad has told me enough stories that the world he grew up in was only a step or two removed from the days of slavery in Arkansas.

No, its great that this information is being discovered though it sounds like Michelle Obama didn’t quite give her blessing on this project since she had no comment when questioned by the NY Times. Though that’s a whole other post, I mean maybe one might want to be sensitive when digging around in someone’s personal history. Of course in our society it seems the lives of Black women are considered to be an open book, but that really is another post.

The fact that this is even newsworthy actually bugs me on one level because it’s once again a reminder that perhaps we as a society really don’t get each other and on some level we don’t try to get each other. To hear amazement that there was a white ancestor in her bloodline is also stunning…um, many hundreds of thousands of Black women during slavery were put into situations where they had relationships with white men. I will stop short at saying all were raped but my guess is the great majority of Black women who bore biracial children during slavery were not involved in mutually consensual relationships with the slave master. I mean lets keep it real, if my choice was getting fucked or getting killed or beaten or having my existing children sold off…what choice do I really have? Yeah, not really a choice.

In order for us to have real race relations in this country, it might help if we had a basic understanding of where we come from and our collective shared history. Maybe if Black History was not relegated to the shortest month of the year where we focus too much of on a few individuals instead we might not be amazed at the fact that the First Lady is descended from slaves because we would already know that. The longer we continue to not have open honest dialogues on the history and issues of race in this country, the more we continue to never advance as a people and as a society.