Stop Lying On the Black Dollar

The most common solution I see presented for the woes of the African-American community is an investment in black businesses and the development of a black self-sustaining economy similar to that of the Jewish, Chinese, Indian etc. peoples who have immigrated to this country. For a number of reasons this solution is destined to fail if our purpose is to see economic and social freedom for all black people. As a historian, I cannot help but think about the history of free black people dating as far back as the American colonies long before the revolution. There have always been black people with some money, although their number has been tiny, they have existed. Today we have black CEOs, a former black president and a bevy of black entertainers and athletes all with enough wealth to invest in black communities and create thriving economies. Why don’t they? How far do millions actually go? And are their investments equating to a change in the black condition? Recent numbers on the racial wealth gap show black people quite literally centuries behind their white counterparts in terms of median household wealth.* Why is community investment and buying black not enough? What’s stopping us from being the Jewish or Chinese communities?

Racism. Were you expecting more?

Yes, other communities have faced racism as well, and some continue to face racism, but there’s will never be the brute force of anitblackness because there’s is a residual racism, determined by their proximity to whiteness, both literally and culturally. Many have assimilated into whiteness over time (see Italians, Irish and White Latinos today *stares angrily at Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz*) or used antiblackness as a way to get ahead themselves (see all the Asian owned property in the ghetto and look into the amount of Jewish people run major industries that still discriminate against black people). See, the issue at play here is capitalism is inherently exploitive. Capitalism preaches that if one works hard enough they too can achieve and rise through to the upper class. Trends show us social mobility in the United States is incredibly difficult** and there is a finite amount of dollars and property to be had in this country, and certain groups got a two to three hundred year headstart on the landgrab (after destroying Indigenous communities whose land it was). Wealth primarily transfers from generation to generation. Black people could spend the next two hundred years investing in our own communities and “buying back the block” and still not see a dramatic shift in those trends. The deck is stacked against us.

Capitalism requires a group to exploit for labor. The United States of America became an economic superpower during the 19th century on the backs of FREE African-American labor. Over time the capitalists (those who own the means of production, not people who support capitalism) have resisted raises in wages and the rights of workers so they can pay as little as possible for labor. Fair and equal payment for labor would leave capitalists with little profit, or at least little excess, and that contradicts the nature of capitalism, a system fueled by human greed and exploitation. In the United States, the very foundation of our system is the African-Americans as the mules. We can fight our way into the system, but somebody has to be exploited. How much time would it take for black people to be so fully represented in all aspects of American society that they are no longer the assumed group to be exploited? And what would happen then? We would exploit the less qualified, unlucky and those born into poverty the way white capitalists do the poor white people now, in what we PERCEIVE as a just meritocracy instead of discrimination and abusive cycles of poverty used to fatten our pockets. I don’t believe true meritocracy can exist because humans are flawed. We are biased from the day we begin socializing, we see groups as “us” and “them” and we will translate those biases into any system we create. What’s the end goal of black capitalism? It cannot by the very nature of capitalism be the economic and social freedom of ALL black people. It has not been and will not be. The black American capitalist of old sold or transported his fellow black people as the exploited group then and they will exploit the labor of their fellow black people today.  Power in capitalism is not a righteous power, it exploits and destroys and to chase that power as a people group only ensures we’ll discriminate if everything went right for us and we could even hold that power. Capitalism requires somebody have poverty inflicted on them. Poverty is violence. 

As a historian in the making, I refuse to repeat failed propositions to free black people. History tells us what works and what doesn’t work. It shows us failed attempts, where systems are weak and where they are strong, and most importantly how incredibly adaptable the American system of racism is. We fight for a seat at a table that is constantly being moved, rearranged, taken apart and rebuilt whenever we figure out its location. It’s a game we cannot win. History tells me so. Activists and revolutionaries of old tell me so.

“We got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.”

-Fred Hampton, leader of the Chicago Black Panther chapter

Working class people of all colors must unite against the exploitative, oppressive ruling class. Let me emphasize again — we believe our fight is a class struggle, not a race struggle.”

-Bobby Seale, Black Panther co-founder

 

Now I will add to Bobby Seale’s statement that although the larger struggle is a class struggle, racism is still possible even if capitalism was done away with and needs to be done away simultaneously or not at all. However it is evident that those who studied and fought for freedom in the most visibly radical way ever seen in American History, knew black capitalism was not the solution. They knew their enemy was not just the rich or poor white racist, but the white capitalist manipulating the white racist to enjoy his social status over black people more than he despises the poverty he’ll never escape. There is a history of African-American leftism in the United States that predates World War II. And a history of communal living in certain African and Indigenous groups that predates the very term “socialism”. It, like much of American leftism, has been scrubbed from our history books. It would be a disservice to the freedom fighters of old (dating back to before the Red Scare that forced the Civil Rights movement to go nonviolent and Christian, i.e. MLK) to disregard the labor they put into analyzing the black struggle and drawing conclusions for us to spout made up meme facts about black buying power and fight for black capitalism, a system we have been shown and told will fail.

I don’t think I have the answers. I have no idea how to achieve the goals set by activists of old. But I know what will not work when held side by side with history. For now I resolve to study works by black ideologues, activists and revolutionaries. If we want solutions, we would do well to start from where they left off rather than repeating their path only to arrive at their same conclusions a decade late because we didn’t trust their labor and analysis enough. Or didn’t care to read it.

 

“Sorry ‘merica, but I will not be your soldier. Obama just wasn’t enough, I need some more closure.”

– Joey Bada$$, Land of the Free

“If you put crabs in a barrel to insure your survival you gon end up pullin down niggas that look just like you..”

-Ironically the black capitalist himself in a song where he advocates black economic excellence lol, Jay-Z, Murder to Excellence

*http://www.epi.org/blog/the-racial-wealth-gap-how-african-americans-have-been-shortchanged-out-of-the-materials-to-build-wealth/

**https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/02_economic_mobility_sawhill_ch3.pdf

Be Humble Black Man

Kendrick Lamar released a new song and accompanying video last night. Naturally it set the internet ablaze. The song was a combination of aggressively arrogant lyrics over a booming Mike Will Made-It beat, the video a barrage of imagery that deserves hours of analysis. I don’t want to do any of that analysis. Quite simply I don’t have the range. It deserves advanced depicting.

I do want to discuss one particular scene from the video, the only scene not repeated throughout the video. At the 2:16 mark Kendrick Lamar is seen from the outside of his bedroom window, aggressively rapping lyrics and gesturing at police with flashing lights and most importantly, roughly 22 red lights pointed at him as the police take their aim. What struck me wasn’t the police presumably aiming their guns at a rapping Kendrick Lamar, we know police kill black people, it was the attitude with which Kendrick responded. Leading into and during the 6 second scene Kendrick raps “Watch my soul speak, you let the meds talk, aye. If I kill a nigga it won’t be the alcohol, aye. I’m the realest nigga after all. Bitch be humble.” As he raps he does two motions every black man recognizes, he grabs his nuts and he beats his chest while staring down 22 scopes. This image has stuck with me.

image_6483441

As a 24 year old black man guns are a constant threat. The most likely cause of death for black men 15-34 is homicide.* Black men’s homicide victimization rate is a little over 7 times the national average.** Police murder black people at a higher rate than white people.*** The ways in which a gun can end my life are numerous. It could be at the party because the wrong nigga got mad and I bobbed when I should have weaved getting out, could be on the car ride home because the police officer who pulled me over for speeding is one of the white people who finds my skin threatening**** or one of the white supremacists who has infiltrated local police (about 100 years too late on this one Feds)***** and after I dodge the fear of death by hands of my brother or my overseer, it still could be the trigger-happy emasculated white man who mistakes me for a threat as I walk home from the corner store because I was craving an Arizona, word to Trayvon Martin,  murdered in Sanford, FL ten minutes down the road from where I grew up. I haven’t walked to the gas station the same since…you get the point. I’m always aware, especially in the South, that guns are ever present. And for the possibility of being shot by a white man, badged or not, the fear is laced with anger at their perceived right to my body. The wrong act of pride or expression of culture by me can be perceived as a threat by them.

That’s why the image of Kendrick grabbing his nuts as he refuses to be humble and stares down a barrage of barrels held by the overseers is powerful. It’s fearless. It refuses to be silenced. Kendrick raps that he’ll let his soul speak and won’t blame his actions on the alcohol because he is the realest nigga. He owns his words and doesn’t need to explain or excuse them. He said what he said. He will not suppress himself for them, even with their ultimate threat at the ready. When I see Kendrick aggressively spit his soul in the form of bars at the police, an institution historically hellbent on silencing him, it makes me feel like I can do the same. I won’t give them sovereignty over my body as they’ve traditionally taken. If they take it by force, then they won’t have my psyche. I won’t fear their force. 

I recently was asked to discuss then write about what is “art”.  The best answer I could surmise was anything you experience with your senses that makes you feel something. That 6 second clip, the still image I made my wallpaper, that symbolic “fuck you” indeed made me feel something. All these thoughts and feelings of rage and pride flooding me as  I take in the image.  
image_6483441 (1)

“Ah yeah, fuck the judge. I made it past 25 and there I was, a little nappy-headed nigga with the world behind him.” – Kendrick Lamar, King Kunta

“Grown man never should bite they tongue unless you eating on p***** that smell like its a stale plum.” – Kendrick Lamar,

(Crazy. As I’m writing this somebody fired shots at the basketball court on campus around the corner from where I’m sitting in my bed. Wonder if the target was a black man?)

*https://www.cdc.gov/men/lcod/2014/black/index.htm

**http://www.huffingtonpost.com/josh-sugarmann/the-gun-violence-epidemic_b_9540258.html

***https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/arent-more-white-people-than-black-people-killed-by-police-yes-but-no/?utm_term=.c5ea941657c7

****https://massappeal.com/study-black-males-size-overestimated-whites-view-threatening/

*****http://www.salon.com/2017/01/31/fbi-investigating-white-supremacists-infiltrating-law-enforcement-agencies-report/

Can You Hear Us?

The Democrats are running Hillary Clinton today. We all expect and hope Trump loses, I guess. If Clinton loses, Trump has four years to fuck up the country. *shrug* I don’t have any particular enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton’s campaigning, despite her best attempts to nae-nae into my heart. Having Beyonce, Jay-Z and Chance the Rapper endorse her didn’t move me. Seeing her pull hot sauce out of her purse almost got me, if nothing else for the laugh. A narrative is being spread that minorities, young black people specifically, will not turn out for Clinton in the same numbers as for President Obama. To that I say, DUH. At least with Obama there was symbolic victory. Clinton brings that as well (if not more so for white women). Not actually speaking to black issues has been the liberal jig for decades. Pander to us, and hopefully we turn out to vote, and when they pass social and economic reforms the rising tide will raise all ships. By default we can only benefit from their victories, right? The problem is slow-moving progress isn’t working for us. Especially not the young. Can you blame us, we grew up on broadband. Student debt is mounting, police are shooting down men and women who look like us at disproportionate and alarming rates, the prisons are running over with people who look like us and jobs are scarce for people who look like us. But as usual the GOP has nominated a racist, this time more open and dramatic, but as usual they don’t want our vote and won’t get it (see Trump’s 0% polling numbers with African-Americans). We can vote third-party to keep it interesting, but the likely result is Clinton is our next president. The American left (the real world’s middle) will do what it can to drag their feet to progress, and hopefully none of us will get shot, evicted or fired in the meantime.

America’s liberal politicians have a history of assuming they can figure out what black people need instead of just asking us. Then we tell them, and they still decide to work it out on their own. I opted not to include the dramatic conservative setbacks we received, as we expect them to worsen our condition in this country. However, those who claim to fight for us have also done little. This is a brief and vague history of our requests and their actions over time. Our history is deep and rich and I encourage any reader to do some Googles and look deeper into our role in this country’s political landscape. 

1776-1865: FREE US

Black People’s Actions: Running away from plantations via underground networks, inciting violent rebellions, purposefully destroying property/equipment, creating a culture of resistance.

Black People’s Words:

I’ve heard Uncle Tom’s Cabin read, and I tell you Mrs. Stowe’s pen hasn’t begun to paint what slavery is as I have seen it at the far South. I’ve seen de real thing, and I don’t want to see it on no stage or in no theater.” – Harriet Tubman

“The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery”. – Frederick Douglas

White Liberal Political Responses:

-Missouri Compromise in 1820 allows only slavery in the south

-1860 Republican Platform: No slavery in any new states (leads to Civil War)

-Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (this one is fun) tells the Confederacy they have 100 days to cease rebelling OR their slaves will be freed. Yes, Lincoln tried to levy our freedom for an end to the war, save the union sacrifice the slaves.

-Then finally as a war tactic, Lincoln signs the final Emancipation Proclamation, which only really counts if the Union wins because the Confederacy sees themselves as a separate country with their own president anyway.

Former slave Felix Haywood said “The War didn’t change nothin’. Sometimes you didn’t knowed it was goin’ on. It was the endin’ of it that made the difference.”

We ask for freedom for centuries, the liberals of the day fall into it by accident.

1865-1877: Have Our Backs

Black People’s Actions: Political participation, found organizations dedicated to social and economic advancement, sharecropping, wealth accumulation and cultural progress despite legalized racism

Black People’s Words:

“I stand today on this floor to appeal for the protection from the strong-arm of the government for her loyal children, irrespective of color and race, who are citizens of southern states, and particularly in the State of Georgia.” -Hiram Rhodes Revels, first African-American senator

White Liberal Political Responses:

13th, 14th and 15th Amendments outlaw slavery (except in prison labor, THE JIG), grant black people citizenship and given African-American men the right to vote. Most of these are not fully granted or imposed by the federal government because of:

-The Election of 1876, in which the (at the time liberal) Republican Party, the party of Lincoln that “freed” us, sold black people out for the presidency. There was dispute over the election, and the Republicans struck a deal to pull the military out of the south (black people’s only line of defense) in order for Hayes to take office. A century of lynchings, violence (Google Black Wall Street in your spare time) and economic disenfranchisement would follow.

We are promised equality under the law and citizenship, the Republicans sell us out and abandon us in the Deep South to fight for ourselves.

1877-1964: Stop Your Citizens from Lynching Us, Stop Giving Us Second Hand Education, Resources and Political Power

Black People’s Actions: Developed our own community and culture out of segregation, invented jazz and rock and roll, created our own Black Wall Street, got college degrees, established black schools and universities, served in the WWII, tried to buy homes, still denied access to full rights as Americans, spend two decades protesting (Civil Rights Movement) to end housing, workplace and academic discrimination

Black People’s Words:

“The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” – W.E.B. Dubois

“Knowledge is the prime need of the hour” – Mary McLeod Bethune

“Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people.” – Marcus Garvey

White Liberal Political Response:

-The federal government didn’t intervene in lynchings for decades because murder was already illegal. Multiple bills were presented and not passed. For context: From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people who were lynched 3,446 were black.

-1954 Brown vs. Board of Ed SCOTUS decision outlaws segregation in public education. Equal funding was not (and is still not) allocated to schools in majority black areas, instead bussing moves students out of their school zones to schools in other single-race dominated neighborhoods.

-Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 outlaw discrimination in employment and housing, respectively

We spend a century being lynched, excluded and denied our rights.

After decades of vocal and visible protest, we are given federal intervention to outlaw Jim Crow laws.

1964-?: Stop Using the Police to Kill Us, Still Stop Economically Disenfranchising Us

Black People’s Actions: Greater political action following death of MLK, found multiple organizations including Black Panther Party for Self Defense,

Black People’s Words:

“America preaches integration and practices segregation.” – Malcolm X

“In a sense the quest for the emancipation of black people in the U.S. has always been a quest for economic liberation” – Angela Davis

“And still [police] have been killing people at higher rates than even last year, for example. July was literally the deadliest month of 2015. And that’s a problem.” – Johnetta Elzie (2015)

“We should not have to protest.” – Deray Mckesson (2016)

White Liberal Political Response:

Nixon drags his feet on desegregation and uses busing to send some black students to white schools rather than providing equal funding and resources for black schools

-The federal government starts Cointelpro via the FBI to infiltrate and destroy black power movements, particularly the Black Panthers

-Bill Clinton passes ’95 Crime Bill, arresting black and brown people at historic rates for non-violent offences

-The police continue to kill unarmed black men and women

-Our first black president, Barack Obama signs into law a Blue Alert bill (albeit it has no teeth to this point)

Statistics show black people receive fewer opportunities for employment, harsher sentences in the judicial system, have less access to quality education and continue to have their culture socially stigmatized by the white majority. Same shit different decade. We ask for our rights as citizens under the law, and our black president tells us to respect the police. His successor in Clinton opts to (attempt to) culturally relate rather than promising to fix the issues plaguing our communities.

Now, another generation of young black people are still demanding the same rights our white counterparts have had since America’s founding. Some of us will begrudgingly vote for Hillary out of fear of Trump. Others of us will withhold votes or vote third-party in rebellion of the usual two-party system. What we will do enthusiastically is protest for equality under the law or look for other options as our rights promised to us by the Constitution continue to be violated on the local, state and federal level. It took months for Clinton to say Black Lives Matter. Why? Because she, like every other liberal politician in this country’s history has a fundamental misunderstanding of what we need and want, despite our best efforts to vocalize them. Be angry if we don’t vote as expected, but don’t you dare fix your mouth to ask us why.

“The black experience is black and serious. Cause being black, my experience is no one hearin’ us. White kids get to wear whatever hat they want. When it comes to black kids one size fits all.”

-Childish Gambino, Hold You Down

What now? 

A young man sent me a DM. He is 17. His white friend, his teammate, took me on regarding Black Lives Matter on Twitter.I didn’t entertain him (I don’t debate trolls or kids, block and go).  But I watched them converse. I watched him call his friend out. Then watched his friend backpedal and stumble over his words. He messaged me confused and sad. His white friends, the ones he believed cared about him, keep outing themselves. They keep showing him they don’t see the humanity of black people, they were down to be friends until his blackness was on the table. I didn’t know what to tell him. What do you do when at 17 the illusion breaks down in front of you? That young man is a stranger to me, but I can relate to his experience. We all can. Every young black person is seeing people taking sides and watching a lot of people they believed to care pick the other side. We’re angry. Hurt. Sad. The lights came on when George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, and more people than we could imagine were pointing at Trayvon instead of Zimmerman.  

This election season, mixed with the racially charged conversations can’t be undone. PC Culture isn’t going away. Women, the LGBTQ community and racial minorities are upset. The spirit of the 1960’s has found a place in 2016, fueled by the Internet to hit a speed never before seen. Last time the movement was killed by the murder of leaders and the infection of crack and heroin in poor communities. I don’t see that happening again. Young black kids wanting equality aren’t going away. Angry white people demanding they be quiet aren’t going away. We’re watching a car crash, but the pile up won’t stop. We keep looking to the election to put a halt on the carnage. 

When the votes come out in November, do we all take a breather and forget? What do we do when the smoke clears and Hillary is our leader (I dare not speak into existence the idea of Trump winning). Does she mend these deep wounds? Can she? I don’t see it. Those Facebook statuses and tweets can’t be undone. The Trump stickers and signs can’t be unseen. And the “what about black on black crime” and “cops do have it hard” can’t be taken back. These cuts hurt. I know I’ll rebound, and so will that young man. But rebounding isn’t forgetting. Cuts leave scars, and scars usually come with lessons. Racial innocence can’t be restored, and a generation (from 13 to 30) just had the glass shattered.

Don’t ask me for solutions. I don’t have them. I’m still mourning our post-racial illusion. 

“Visions of Martin Luther starin at me. If I see it how he seen it that would make my parents happy. Sorry mama I can’t turn the other cheek. They wanna knock me off the edge like a fucking widow’s peak.”

-Kendrick Lamar, HiiiPower 

“Dreams of reality’s peace, blow steam in the face of the beast. The sky can fall down, the wind can cry now, the strong in me I still smile. I love myself.”

-Kendrick Lamar, i

We Matter! Checking In: July 7, 2016.

I’ve sifted through a lot of thoughts, reading, I’ve talked to various people, and tweeted through a lot of frustrations. I don’t have an eloquent vocalizing of my feelings. They’re too scattered, loud and angry. Here’s what I’ve worked out though:

*Black people feel free to skip 1 and 2. Or don’t, you’re already here*

1. If your goal is to derail conversations about the oppression of people of color, black people specifically, to shout All Lives Matter or explain to me the “other side” (which I’ve heard 1000 times, trust me you’re not special or unique, sorry) go away. I have no energy left to explain why the agents of the state should stop lynching us, nor how we got here. Use Google. Bring it to me, and that block button is swift. 

2. Read something. Honestly, listen to black people. We have 400 years of black people explaining our oppression. “What about black on black crime?” isn’t original. It is rhetoric. It dates back to our emancipation. Read. Learn. Go listen to a black person, seriously. Don’t defend yourself or center the white experience, listen and believe us because our humanity should be enough for our voices and feelings to matter. We matter. 

3. The timing of these 3 deaths is significant. Context always matters. Shortly after Jesse Williams delivered a powerful speech on how tired we are of being abused, 3 black men, 3 black fathers are taken. 2 in front of their children. Context matters.

4. I’m angry. I’m also scared, and sad. It’s complex. Remember we are all complex people and thus our feelings are complex. I have a right to feel. Nobody can tell me I can’t cry. Nobody can tell me I can’t be angry at the police. They don’t get to do that. We all have a right to feel and grieve. Contrary to the American narrative, it is not our job to forgive anything or anybody. If somebody chooses to, that’s their right as well. 

5. This doesn’t feel like freedom. The demonization of black people for things people don’t deem respectable is played and boring. We didn’t deserve nor ask for this. It isn’t on the oppressed to comfort our oppressor to paraphrase Jesse. We don’t have to explain black on black crime. Nor are we obligated to pull up our pants, stop dancing or turn down our music. We are Americans like everybody else, probably more so, regardless of if blackness is respectable. Keep yourself safe, we all know the rules. Don’t be reckless to be reckless, but don’t apologize either. 

6. We are not the crazy ones. Don’t let the derailing, the backlash and the bullshit make you believe this is anything but oppression by an oppressor. We are not crazy for demanding equality, they are crazy for not seeing our humanity. 

“How we still slaves in 2016?”

-Jay-Z, We Got the Keys
“Somebody tell these motherfuckers keep their hands off me. I ain’t a motherfuckin slave keep your chains off me.”

-Vic Mensa, 16 Shots 

More Malcolm, than Martin

ASIDE *I’ve been wanting to write this for about four weeks. But quizzes, papers and finals happened and true to the student life, emotional expression ranks below my GPA. Finals are done now. That being said, I feel a need to explain something in detail via a blog. Once. Hopefully once is sufficient.*

I don’t hate white people.

I know, that should be fairly obvious. But recently, more than one person has suggested or outright asked if I do. I was taken aback. Then I thought about it more and I wasn’t. Over the course of less than eighteen months I went from Uncle Ruckus Lite to Huey* and that was a lot for people to take in. I found a pride in myself, then mixed that with three different classes in one school year on American History, two specifically from the perspectives of minority groups (African-Americans and Native Americans). I took in a lot of information and mixed it with a lot of information I had compartmentalized and defined as “yeah, but not me” over the years.

It’s been a lot. I see things in my life growing up and things now through a different lens. Things that bothered me before but I decided I could ignore aren’t so easy to ignore anymore.

 

One of the most important terms I learned in school this year was “double-consciousness”. I learned there’s a word for what every single minority I know has done their entire lives. There’s a sociological term (dating back over a century) for “don’t be acting up in front of these white people.” I was shocked. I almost wanted to cry. I felt less ashamed of the years I spent trying to ask for a place in mainstream culture and for ignoring offensive things for the sake of fitting in. We have all done it, so much so that W.E.B. Dubois coined a term for it in 1903.

I could never unlearn it. I could never stop seeing myself acting different in white spaces. Like a flashback in a movie, twenty-two years of memories flooded my mind. I didn’t feel ashamed. I just acknowledged them. But with acknowledgement came transition. A phrase I’ve seen thrown around a lot recently.** “Unapologetic Blackness.” My African-American History professor said it when she told us about the first activist to say “Black Power” (Stokely Carmicahel). About the afros and bright colors of the 1970s. The boldness to be black in front of white people (an era I believe we are cycling back to Harlem Renaissance, Black Power, whatever they inevitably name my generation). It made me beam with pride. Generations past have decided they don’t want to apologize for the cultural differences we didn’t’ ask for or create, but they would wear them proudly.

That comes with a price. When you inhabit mainly white spaces for the majority of your week, not laughing when somebody mocks patois comes off as an assault, acknowledging that there are cultural differences between you and those around you, and not wanting to be part of their culture is firing shots on Fort Sumter***. The right to be offensive in “their” spaces (which is most of the academic/career/social spaces in the United States) free of guilt has been challenged. You also learn to not correct or try to educate everybody around you. That’s not my role unless addressed or asked. So to simply ignore those things which offend you and revel with the one other worker who looks like you over how amazing Lemonade was is seen as social violence. But, none of those perceived slights are my problem.

I’m not sorry. It doesn’t mean I hate white people, or have some deep bitterness against anybody. People build relationships with those they have things in common with. I don’t care what color or background you have, if you fuck with Kendrick and Beyoncé, we have something to talk about. But don’t demand I learn to like what you like to appease you. I’d sooner not be your friend. The interests that connect people (music, sports, politics, hobbies) are valid for anybody of any background. If the people who believe Ultralight Beam was gospel, that crazy dunks require equally wild responses, that Black Lives do Matter, and also like to freestyle, roast each other and look at sneakers for fun happen to be the same color isn’t racism. They are cultural differences created BY racism. Created by a history of being excluded from mainstream culture and being forced into segregated neighborhoods, schools and workplaces.

America STILL is one of the most segregated places in the world****. Even I, growing up in predominantly white spaces (special shoutout to the other 3 black kids who by dice roll might end up in one of my classes) had one best friend over everybody else, and he was black. We would hang out and do all the things other black teenagers did: marvel over beats in hip hop songs, debate Chris Brown’s place in R&B and dance greatness, watch movies where the main character looked like us, Stomp the Yard still being a favorite etc, and then turn it off when it was time to go back to our respective schools on Monday.

Double consciousness is a burden to bear. I will not anymore. Just know it isn’t racism. Racism is about hating others. In this case, it would be centering whiteness. I would be acting with white people in mind. But I’m acting with me in mind. Centering my experiences and my race for once. If you can’t wrap your mind around that, I’m probably not going to be a fun friend in the first place.

Know that not every black person feels the same as me. Martin Luther King, Jr. was just as important as Malcolm X. Both views were necessary, as we are not a monolith. I speak for me. I’ve been told this isn’t a progressive way to view the world, but I disagree. It centers on perception and what we’re trying to progress towards.

 

“Channel 9 News tell me I’m movin’ backwards. Eight blocks left, death is around the corner. Seven misleadin’ statements ‘bout my persona.”

“But mama, don’t cry for me, ride for me, try for me, live for me, breathe for me, sing for me, honesty gudin’ me, I could be more than I gotta be. Stole from me, lied to me, nation hypocrisy.”

“Yeah, open our mind as we cast away oppression. Yeah, open the streets and watch our beliefs.”

-Kendrick Lamar, feature on Beyonce’s Freedom

 

 

*Go on Netflix and watch The Boondocks.

**Mainly online spaces such as Twitter, BuzzFeed, Washington Post etc.

***The Confederacy fired shots on Union soldiers at Fort Sumter, unofficially beginning the Civil War

****http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/150625-data-points-racial-dot-maps/

Whitesplaining 101

In Speech class we were tasked with writing a persuasive speech. At my PWI (Predominantly White Institution), I decided to be soft. I wrote my speech about football concussions because this wasn’t a good forum for me to spout my sometimes controversial persuasive opinions. HOWEVER, a girl decided to do her 7 minute speech on police brutality (she’s white, obviously). 

It was about how police brutality affects…COPS, aka her daddy. How it affects morale and how people are starting to not trust the police because of the media attention on “this new issue of police brutality”. Now, that was expected. I had some questions obviously because I expect white people to not understand the view points of minorities and marginalized groups. Why would they? These issues don’t affect them. My issue was with one statement she made in regards to being part of a cop’s family:

“Most people don’t know what it’s like to fear for their family member’s life every time they step outside.”

When white people say “people” they mean white people. 

Most people don’t know. Every time I leave the house my parents both say be careful infinite times because they know how quick-triggered cops can be with a smart mouthed young black man. Most people don’t know. I’m scared for my brother every day because he’s already got a record and that’s the only excuse they need. Most people don’t know. A young black boy was murdered 15 minutes from my house because he liked Skittles and Arizona (RIP Trayvon Martin). Most people don’t know. I’ve been asked if I was selling drugs in my neighborhood. Most people don’t know. My best friend has been strip searched on a dark road driving home from Bible college. Most people don’t know. I pray my sisters never talk back to the wrong cop (RIP Sandra Bland). Most people don’t know. I hope my sisters never run into a cop with an affinity for black women (Prayers to the victims of Daniel Holtzclaw). Most people don’t know. My mom has told me having black sons makes her scared for us. Most people don’t know. 

The trauma of decades of police brutality have shaped my view of police since I was a child. In my family police were never a friend. Most people don’t know. 

No. YOU don’t know. If we only view the world through our own experiences, we’ll never believe anything beyond what we’ve seen. Stop trying to understand issues that don’t affect you, through your own lens. Ask somebody who doesn’t look like you how they feel about (insert issue here). 

“Yea, it makes me wanna holler, and throw up both my hands. Crime is increasing, trigger happy policing. Panic is spreading.  God know where we’re heading.”

-Marvin Gaye, Inner-City Blues (1971)

“Fuck the police coming straight from the underground, young nigga got it bad cuz I’m brown. And not the other color so police think they have the authority to kill a minority.”

-NWA, Fuck the Police (1988) 

“Cops keep firing in my environment. Leave you slumped over then they drive home far from the hood.”

-Nas, Classic (2007)*

*Super unrelated, Classic is a fire combo about Air Force Ones byNas, KRS-One, Rakim and Kanye. Go to YouTube now. 



The New Slur

Privilege.

Privilege.

Privilege. Privilege. Privilege. Okay, got that out of the way. A few people will have closed the page already because they hate this word, so I figured I would just give them an easy exit now. People see privilege as more offensive than any of the actually offensive slurs used so flippantly. The irony though is that I don’t want to talk about privilege. Well sort of. If you go on BuzzFeed, Hufington Post, Twitter or any other site whose readership is made up primarily of millennials, you’ll see articles, studies, data, thinkpieces, mathematical equations, soliloquies and limericks explaining privilege and what it is. If you’re not sure, please refer to Google for a relatively free education. We can all agree (if you’re still here and not on Google) that in American society certain groups succeed at a higher rate than others. It’s easier to be: white than of color, straight than LGBTQ, a man than a woman, rich than poor, cisgendered than transgendered; and if any of those things intersect, even worse. And so on and so forth. Marginalized communities have been very vocal in recent years in explaining what America is like for them. So we all keep talking about privilege. We are generally learning what it means. Why are people afraid of it?. When you mention privilege, the immediate deterrent is

“well maybe some white people have it, but not me. My family struggled.”

“being a man is hard too though.”

“…” Actually, you get the point.

People rush to defend themselves when you credit their success to privilege. This seems deterring or obnoxious, until you put it into the context of the American Dream. The narrative of being an American is to build. To own something. The value of a name (see Donald Trump). To come from nothing like their forefathers and build a new country out of “nothing”. To overcome, to triumph. So when you accuse somebody of having an unfair advantage built into the system, their only response can be to defend because your accusation of privilege is an attack on their narrative, on their tale of triumph. It’s not actually that hard to understand. It’s a built in mechanism to defend your privilege.

American history is largely taught from the perspective of us, as Americans, overcoming. The tale opens with pilgrims escaping religious persecution. Then skip past a little bit of theft and genocide, we get to the tale of persecuted colonists being unfairly treated by their government in the British monarchy (African-American slaves roll their eyes), so they declare independence, fight a war and are now a free people. Then over the next one hundred years, American innovation and ingenuity developed technological advances that tamed the wilderness that was North America. Venturing into the wilderness to the west, the bold and brave Americans created the economic powerhouse that is the United States of America (again African-American slaves and the Indigenous peoples who remain after acts of genocide roll their eyes).

Then Civil War and Rec…wait we don’t talk about that. Then Civil War because of some stuff, and then the Roaring Twenties because to be honest most people I’ve interacted with have no idea what happened in America from 1866 until about 1917 when we joined World War I (see Google for labor union assaults, Jim Crow, the lynch mobs, women’s suffrage battles etc.). So, America comes to the aid of Europe and helps end WWI. Then due to all of our greatness, the Roaring Twenties. Then the Great Depression. In the midst of one of the great lows in American History, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. So to defend our honor we skip to WWII and America is bailing out Europe (after using socialist programs and the profits from WWII to end the Great Depression) again. The Make America Great Again era follows where Mr. and Mrs. Smith built the suburbs and created the greatest and most moral era of American history (eye rolls from everybody). Then the liberals (see communists, hippies, minorities and women) destroyed America up to the present day. Pause for Reagan attempting to fix it for those eight years. Bill Clinton caught cheating on his wife. 9/11 by B…during the Bush administration, and now we’re here.

That summarizes how a large portion of the American population views American History. It’s mostly “our” forefathers building this country off of blood, sweat and tears (just not theirs), then minorities, the LGBTQ community, women etc started asking for rights and tearing everything “we” had built. If you click around this blog a few times you’ll see some historical evidence to the contrary, but that doesn’t matter. The narrative of the American Dream requires oppression. It requires overcoming to build. So even when there is virtually nothing to overcome, the default reaction to being told you had advantages is to deny at the cost of what you believe to be the American Dream being deferred. We can’t work towards dismantling oppressive systems if we each our afraid to acknowledge that some of those BuzzFeed and Huffington Posts lists include us. If each of us continues to view the world through only our own experiences, we can’t work towards something that allows an equal playing field.

P.S. For the various members of marginalized groups who may read this: There’s levels to this. It’s not just on white people to acknowledge their advantages. It’s also on men, straight people, cisgendered people etc. It’s on black men to acknowledge that black women are running with ankle weights and a backpack. That gay minorities run with the backpack and have to jump hurdles. That intersectionality matters. We’re not in a race to see who can take power and oppress others next. But to see that we all get free.

 

 

“Inter century anthems based off inner city tantrums based off the way we was branded. Face it, Jerome gets more time than Brandon.”

     -Kanye West, Gorgeous

“Every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a ho trying to make a sister feel low, you know all that gots to go”

     -Queen Latifah, U.N.I.T.Y.

“Walk outside, he whole world hate me. Nervous stares at the thoroughfare, surveilance cameras, police tracing. Poor so hard, this shit weird, we be home and still be scared.”

     -Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Niggas in Protest

“When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless, rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen. I might not be the same, but that’s not important. No freedom ‘til we’re equal, damn right I support it.”

     -Macklemore, Same Love

My President is Trump

With all of the mayhem surrounding Donald Trump and his bid to represent the Republican Party in 2016, there’s been this rush to denounce Trump by the faces on news stations, celebrities on Twitter etc. The phrase is familiar, “I just cannot believe in 2016 we’ve let Trump get this far. That this would be accepted in America in this day and age.” Pretty standard. How in this great land of freedom and equality can a candidate run on a platform of white nationalism, with a smidge of sexism and homophobia? As a student of history, this questioned is a little stupid. How is this not MORE common? Trump has been the President of the United States of America multiple times.  When people cite America’s history with (insert group that isn’t straight, white males), we avoid the pieces of legislation that encouraged violence and hate. The individuals who were in charge. The Donald Trumps.

 

  1. Andrew Jackson, POTUS 1829-1837.

Andrew Jackson was a jackass. He is easily one of the most racist commanders this country has ever had. The fame that led him to the presidency can be found in his time destroying Seminole and runaway slave villages in Florida, and illegally seizing Spanish territory (occupied mainly by women and children) in Pensacola. What a hero huh?  He can be credited with signing into law the Indian Removal Act, one of America’s many, many racial blunders. This act essentially gave President Jackson the power to grant “unsettled lands west of the Mississippi” (WHICH DID NOT BELONG TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT) to tribes in exchange for their lands in American territory. Unsettled land assumes nobody lived west of the Mississippi. The hundreds of Plains tribes living in those “unsettled lands” would disagree, and would showcase their disagreement by warring with tribes that were placed on their lands.

In attempting to remove tribes, Jackson would famously, and publicly, disregard a Supreme Court ruling (Worcester v. Georgia) dealing with the Cherokee Indians. Gold was found on Cherokee land in Georgia. The Cherokees refused to move, but had Americans come on their land and fight/kill for the gold. The Supreme Court sided with the Cherokee Indians. Jackson said their decision would fall “stillborn” because he had no intention of enforcing it. Instead, he would have representatives sign an illegal treaty with an unelected group of Cherokees signing away their land. When the Cherokees leader sent a petition with 16,000 signatures stating this treaty was illegal and was not representative of their government, the federal government ignored them. The Trail of Tears would follow.

  1. Andrew Johnson, POTUS 1865-1869

When the Civil War ended, and slavery was abolished, it would have made sense to see multiple generations of former slaves be granted rights over time. Equality shouldn’t take but a generation or two to phase in right? WRONG. Because we had Andrew Johnson. Johnson should have never been President. He was only Vice President because Lincoln wanted a southerner on his ticket to make sure he would win the 1864 election. Then he was assassinated. So Reconstruction, the period where America would try to repair itself after the Civil War was left to a southern man who had previously owned slaves. If the mountains of irony are not apparent, let me spell it out for you. By 1866, Andrew Johnson had pardoned 7,000 Confederate soldiers and officers and returned all of their property. Seven. Thousand. Pardons. Half of the country committed treason and waged war with the federal government. Former governors and congressmen leading Confederate troops against the United States. We blow up countries just for thinking about warring with the U.S. These men who had just attempted to create their own country and destroy the United States, had just been put back in power by Andrew Johnson. Very few of them saw trial for their treason.

Let that sink in. A series of events would lead to former slaves being lynched and burned, former slaves who, per the Constitution, were American citizens as was their birthright. This series of events begins with Johnson’s presidency. Many former Confederate officers and soldiers would go on to form hate groups targeting black politicians in the South. The Klu Klux Klan was one of many. What better way to mobilize a group of racist white men in the south than to pardon them and their former Confederate leaders. Now military bands could change their name from Confederate Army to Klu Klux Klan, the Red Shirts, White Knights of the Camellia etc. and so forth.

  1. Woodrow Wilson, POTUS 1913-1921

How did we go from freeing the slaves in 1863 to not having basic civil rights promised by the Constitution until 1957? For this one, we can look to the famously religious man that was President Wilson. Under Wilson, the federal government would copy southern policy and enact segregation in many of its departments, including in Washington D.C. Jim Crow had spread to the capital. The government in the land where all men are created equal was reinforcing the racial hierarchy.

Wilson had met with many black activists during his run for presidency, and was thought to be an ally to the black community. Many activists were now being called traitors to their people as Wilson not only did not help black Americans, but made their situation worse. Now, the blame could be spread around and Wilson may not even be labeled a racist by historians had he pleaded ignorance. But, when meeting with civil rights activist William Monroe Trotter, Wilson famously told Trotter that segregation was best for everybody. It kept white people happy, and black people safe. Wait, pick your jaw up. He’s not done. He also told Trotter that the humiliation black people felt at being treated as second class citizens was up to them, they didn’t have to take it as embarrassing. Yes. Yes he did, and no this is not conspiracy. It was plastered on the front pages of newspapers nationwide. While black bodies were being mutilated and economic advancement was being made impossible, Wilson told a group of Americans to suck it up because he didn’t want to make white people mad.

  1. Roanald Reagan, 1981-1988

Reagan. Reagan strikes a chord with most minorities and poor people (see “welfare queen”). Conspiracies run rampant, some even believe he was the Anti-Christ or the Devil. But, none of those have stable enough ground for me to argue without mountains of research, obviously. No, Reagan’s Trump-like move would actually be against a different subset of American society, the LGBTQ community.

HIV/AIDS struck like a plague in the late 1970s. Researchers rushing to figure out what was killing off men and women, and looking frantically for a cure. When a disease begins to spread globally, America has often sent help or offered support. When that disease touches American soil however, we have historically done all that is needed to keep our citizens’ safe (see Bird Flu, Ebola etc in the last decade). HIV/AIDS was treated a little bit differently. Actually a lot bit differently. Think back to how many Americans had Ebola before a cure was discovered. 2, maybe 3? 16,301 Americans had died, not just been diagnosed, but died from complications related to HIV/AIDS by the end of 1986. Reagan’s first time ever saying the word AIDS in a public forum was in February of 1986 to Congress (as part of a greater speech, not the main topic), it wouldn’t be until April of 1987 that Reagan would address the American people regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A plague was spreading amongst the LGBTQ community, not that the disease was exclusive to them but they were hit the hardest. Now people will argue for ignorance on Reagan’s part, that he wasn’t ignoring them. But how much leeway does he get? People knew about AIDS, not much, but they knew it existed. Organizatons for research and funding were popping up nationwide to save American lives. A damn play was written about AIDS. All before Reagan would ever mention the disease. An accident? Maybe, but this is the same man who said American society could not condone the gay lifestyle. The same man who’s communications director said AIDS was “nature’s revenge on gay men”. In 1983. In the New York Post. Reagan knew about AIDS and what it was doing, he didn’t care.

 

 

Now, with the exception of Andrew Jackson (who also owned slaves), each of these presidents either targeted, or ignored certain sects of American society. That’s what we usually lose in the shuffle. The LGBTQ community inside our borders, are all Americans. Former slaves after the Civil War, all Americans. Black people seeking protection by their Constitution from Jim Crow and the lynch mob, all Americans. The President of the United States is the President of ALL Americans.

Take any of these situations and insert Donald Trump as president, would you expect him to do anything different? Could he have done anything worse? Trump’s rhetoric has inspired a fervor of white nationalism. Making America great again right? Let’s go back to the days when a president could tell black people that their bodies don’t matter or could play ignorant to the cries for help by gay men. Let’s turn the clock back, and make sure everybody knows their place, that the hierarchy is as it was before we had a President who culturally resonated with a group that wasn’t white dudes. That is what I hear from Donald Trump when he speaks. President Obama seemed to be a turning point for us as a country, hopefully the first of many to right the centuries of wrongs done by this country to its own citizens and those tribes with whom we share this land. Donald Trump is asking to be put in the lineage of men who have done the opposite. He isn’t the first, in fact he’s probably the 20th or 30th if we start doing our Googles. Any member of a marginalized community in America will tell you that Trump is only reflecting the hate American society has for them. He is only a shock to those who believe in the “post-racial society” and those who don’t know he has run this country for most of its history.

“Our history, black history, no president ever did shit for me”

-Nas, My President (By Young Jeezy)

 

The Father of Rock and Roll

Of course, it’s Black History Month. History is my favorite subject. It’s what I major in. It’s what I plan to teach, and it’s my nerdy pleasure. So to celebrate BHM, I’m going to write a feature in Black American History each week (UPDATE: haven’t had Wi-Fi for a few days, so this first one will be Wednesday, the rest on Monday). We all learned in school about George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, MLK and Malcolm X. Although many of their stories have been whitewashed and made safe for elementary age children, they’re important figures nonetheless. But I want to focus on contributions people don’t always expect. Moments in history black people are not often given credit for, or that are more complex than on the surface:

Most will credit black people with Jazz, Blues, R&B, and of course Hip Hop. Innovative genres that all played into the next, a mirror of our history so to speak. Of course certain genres are acknowledged to be founded by other cultures in America. Nobody is rushing to credit us with Country music, although we are represented in that space in modern times. Most casual music fans chalk up the start of Rock N’ Roll to the wave begun by Elvis Presley in the 1950’s and 60’s. The logical end to the swing and miscellaneous dance crazes of the WWII generation spurred out of the Roaring Twenties. Music evolves with the times, so Elvis was just the next logical step for that genre, birthing Rock and Roll.

But that isn’t the whole story. Rock and Roll started before Elvis graced stages and melted the hearts of women. Before Elvis, was the inventor the duckwalk, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Member, and the first to put Rock music on wax, so to speak, Chuck Berry.

Charles Anderson Edward Berry was born in St. Louis in 1926. He served three years in prison from age 18-21. He was a father of four. He had a college educated mother, and a self-reliant carpenter for a father. Chuck Berry lived in a highly segregated community, in the south, in one of the most oppressive times in American History. These are the quick highlights. The facts you can find on Wikipedia really quickly. Down to the real story. How we ended up with Rock N’ Roll.

Playing jazz songs by guitar in the Sir John’s Trio in 1953, a band started by a high school friend, Jonnie Johnson. Playing in local nightclubs, Chuck gained a reputation for his lively performances and showmanship, while also mixing in upbeat country songs along with their jazz and pop set. This style of music, a black man performing traditionally white songs and putting on a show, attracted an increasingly segregated audience. With growing popularity, Chuck Berry began making trips to Chicago in order to attract the attention of record labels and eventually sign a contract. After meeting blues performer Muddy Waters, he was directed towards Chess Records. He presented the record label with his song Maybellene, signed a contract and recorded his eventual #1 hit on May 21, 1955. The first rock song was recorded and distributed.

Chuck Berry would go on to put out 18 studio albums, 45 singles (only one went #1, although many spent weeks on the charts), and was still performing as recently as 2014, at the age of 87. As described by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “he played western guitar licks over a base of rhythm and blues. The distorted sound of Berry’s guitar captured the rough, untamed spirit of rock and roll.” While tame compared to today’s rock stars, without Berry’s foundation, The Rolling Stones and Beatles might have been singing bluegrass. A genre not often associated with the history of black people in this country, but an important figure in musical, and our history nonetheless.

 

 

*Duckwalk can be seen at 1:15 mark of video

“Elvis Presley ain’t got no soul, Chuck Berry is rock n’ roll, you may dig on the Rolling Stones but they ain’t come up with that style on their own.”

-Mos Def, Rock N’ Roll

 

**I own none of the photographs or videos linked in this post