UPDATES

So I haven’t written anything since the police killings a few weeks back, mostly because my laptop broke and I haven’t gotten a new one yet. That should be changing in a week or two here, and it’s given me some time to plot and plan what I want to write about going forward. That being said, I’m going to start writing something every two weeks, every week if time permits, about the events in the news political and social and how they relate to history. History is what I study in school and what I hope to teach, and it’s easily what I’m most knowledgable in. 

I hear that history is doomed to repeat itself all the time, and as a student of history I see it all the time. Repeating mistakes is part of being a human. But we don’t have to repeat every mistake. The more history we learn and understand the more progress we make, the easier it is to skip the fallacies and evasion tactics in our discourses. We say we want solutions, but we only address the fruit coming from the tree and not the tree itself creating social problems.

So that’s the plan going forward. Whenever my laptop comes in I’ll get to writing. 
-Dashaun 

“How many souls do you touch a day? How many hoes do you fuck a day? How many flows do your thoughts convey? How many know you can’t walk away? Depending on the way I feel I might kill everybody around me, might heal everybody around me, how the wind blow.”

-Kendrick Lamar, Wat’s Wrong

We Wear The Masc

Don’t cry. Toughen up. Be a man.

What does that mean? Sincerely, what does that mean? I’m sure you’re running over a list of rules and regulations about what men do, and probably more of what they don’t do, inspired by family, media and whoever coached your (insert sport here) team. To the men, what insults would you fight over? Honestly. “Stupid”. “Ugly”. Not fighting words yet. “Asshole”. “Douchebag”. Probably not yet fighting, hell I revel in being called an asshole. Let’s take it up a notch. “Bitch”. *fists clench* “Pussy”. *What did you say?* “Faggot.” *Square up!*

Let’s keep it real. The most insulting thing a man called be called is a woman. To be denied his manhood and demeaned, degraded to womanhood. Men are probably nodding their heads in agreement, but what does that say about our view of men in relation to women and our roles. A lot of the talk of the day is about redefining gender roles, and I am completely for it. Women have voices that need to be heard and acknowledged and they have the right to decide what being a woman means. I leave that to them. But when we say redefining gender roles, how often do we talk about redefining manhood? Short answer, never. Why? A much longer answer for another week. For now, let’s stay on the what. 

The roles as they’re set up are toxic, not just to women as we ingrain sexism and homophobia to each new generation, but to us as well. I love being a man. Don’t mistake me. I don’t love all of the rules however. Most of what the things men are supposed to be are rooted in what we are not. We are not women; thus we are not frail. We are not emotional, so we have a society of men who struggle with emotional expression and thus are most likely to express those emotions via violent crime and abuse. We are not women so our sexuality is about conquering and bragging rights, not expression or emotion. In such a culture we see rape happen to at least 20% of our women (probably higher because of unreported abuse), because we excuse men’s sexuality being out of control. We are not gay men. Point blank. So young men are afraid to ask questions, gay teenagers and young adults are at an increased risk of suicide because a literal feeling inside of them (that’s as best I can define why I like women, so I imagine it feels the same for them but pointed in the opposite direction) tells them not to like what we tell them they are supposed to like. If boys go against these rule then we bully and beat them until we break them. If you’re not stringently straight and hyper-masculine, then you’re gay. We operate in absolutes. Most of the time we write things off to boys are boys and men are men. Good old testosterone, right? Or is that just the copout? 

As best I can tell, masculinity is an ego-driven social construct that teaches boys young to prove they are masculine, that is to say not feminine (not a woman, and not gay). We’re socialized young. The difference in my talking about the oppressive nature of manhood as compared to whiteness is that I am complicit. I partake. I enforce these roles. As men, we hold societal power because of the systems that be. Thus we hold the power to unpack and redefine manhood whenever we decide. Change starts at the top.

Maybe everything above is stupid. Maybe I’m spouting off silly hypotheticals because “well I know somebody who doesn’t do that somanhood is fine”. I can say I honestly don’t know. This is my writing out an answer to my own question. This is my trail of logic as I venture into adulthood as a man, and out to define my masculinity for myself. 

What I do know, is living in constant fear of “looking gay” (as if being gay is an insult) or “acting like a bitch” (because women are lesser than us or something) tiptoeing around nonsense rules of what it means to be a man is tiring and I don’t plan to commit to this version of manhood for 60 more years.

*Homework before I write the next part of this, go on Netflix and watch “The Mask You Live In”.

“We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,— This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, And mouth with myriad subtleties.”

-Paul Laurence Dunbar, We Wear the Mask

Queen Bey and the BPP

With all of the stir caused by Beyoncé, her song Formation and the subsequent Super Bowl performance, I figured this would be a good time to do a history lesson on the Black Panther Party (BPP). Given the recent comparisons of the BPP to the KKK, nw seems as good a time as ever. I will not dive into how amazing the performance was, there are plenty of black women who have written about it from the most credible perspectives. Today we’re doing the Black Panther Party.

No, having acronymns and wearing mostly one color doesn’t make them the same. I won’t do a rundown of the KKK. They’ve murdered thousands of black people and allies in their various forms since the end of the Civil War. Their tactics brutal and their message hate. America’s homegrown terrorists. The BPP is NOT that. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was not the first nor the last black organization formed out of resistance and exclusion (shoutout to Stacy Dash for thinking we shouldn’t have things like that i.e. NAACP, BET).

*I would like to add a brief disclaimer here, I personally have much more to learn and study, however this will cover the basics so we can settle these discussions with facts not misinformation*

 

Over 5,000 full time party workers, 45 chapters nationwide, and 250,000 papers sold weekly at their height. The Black Panther Party was founded in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. Both were members of activist groups in college in Oakland, California. Their ideology was farther left than many of their contemporaries (black nationalists like Malcolm X): they believed that there was a difference between racist whites and non-racist whites, they believed black capitalists were included amongst exploiters and oppressors, and that overthrowing the capitalist system was crucial. Bobby Seale said:

“We do not fight racism with racism. We fight racism with solidarity. We do not fight exploitive capitalism with Black capitalism. We fight capitalism with basic socialism.”

Yes. These Black Panthers, these pro-black revolutionaries that have been likened to the racist terrorist organization the Klu Klux Klan, believed in the same fundamental economic principle as 2016’s heralded savior, Bernie Sanders. They understood that capitalism at its root, is an oppressive system, and in order to free ALL Black peoples, they must work towards the destruction of such an oppressive system. They also opposed some of the segregation-based Black Nationalist views of the day that believed in the evil of all whites (“white devils”).

Their methods were brash, sometimes offensive and intimidating. But they worked towards economic achievement for their community and focused on educating children who otherwise would not have learned their history. I won’t list everything the group has done since 1966, some I agree with others I do not. The Party still exists today, but we know the argument being made is against the BPP peak, the berets and afros of 1966-1973 or so. Without listing every individual’s biography and rap sheet (as volumes can be and have been written on Bobby Seale and Huey Newton alone), the BPP can be summarized in one anecdote:

The BPP started the Free Breakfast for School Children Program in 1969 in Oakland, California. The program grew, and spread across their other chapters. Thousands of young children from impoverished, still unofficially segregated, black children from Oakland to Harlem were being fed breakfast before school each day. Alongside feeding the children, they also provided education, health care etc at their centers. Teaching students about their own history in a way their local schools would not (and still do not, pickup your younger sibling’s history book and see how these stories are framed). This program led to Head of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover to say the following:

Consequently, the BCP represents the best and most influential activity going for the BPP, and, as such, is potentially the greatest threat to efforts by authorities… to neutralize the BPP and destroy what it stands for.

Among other programs, the BPP opened health clinics, a free ambulance service, a free food program (specifically healthy food) and black student alliances on college campuses. This Party needed toe be neutralized? Maybe it was what they stood for that Hoover thought needed to be destroyed:

 

Freedom. Their goals aren’t too different from the fight happening today, their message of power for themselves and their people not too different from Beyonce’s declaration of souther pride. The reception hasn’t been too different either.

“Always stay gracious best revenge is your paper.”

-Beyonce, Formation

“Five-star dishes, food for thought bithces. I mean this shit is, Bobby Seale making meals, you can’t resist.

-Kendrick Lamar,

MLK Day

I have a few short thoughts today. No 1000 word dissertations on nonsense I’ve seen:

1) Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) was a socialist
2) MLK was not a passive, color-blind reverend from the south
3) He was an activist. He made demands.
4) He spoke out against the Vietnam War. Vehemently.
5) He was assassinated by the U.S. Government.
6) He would support BLM today. I believe that.
7) He would not say “All Lives Matter”.
8) He had much more to say than “I have a dream…”
9) Quoting that small portion of his speech to use for your agenda is disingenuous and ahistorical.
10) Even if he was a soft spoken weak pacifist, all of his beliefs are not universally bestowed on all black people. He isn’t our Jesus.
11) Happy Belated Birthday to an important figure in my and our history as Americans.

“No apology, I walk with a boulder on my shoulder, it’s a Cold War – I’m a colder soldier, hold the same fight that made Martin Luther the King.”
-Common, I Have a Dream

Dr. William H. Cosby Part 1

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but life. Dr. William H. Cosby has been charged with aggravated indecent assault in relation to sexual assault allegations from Andrea Constand*.  These recent allegations have been a point of dissention, as many are conflicted as to whether or not they are true. Various rumors have surfaced as to why these allegations are being made now. Some argue it is to destroy Cosby’s legacy, to tear down a hero of sorts in the black community. Others say it was to stop him from making a bid to purchase NBC** and others believe he committed the crimes.

When I first heard about this, I was shocked and defensive like we all were. I loved A Different World. The Cosby Show meant a lot to many (personally, I was more of a Fresh Prince, Bernie Mac, My Wife and Kids fan in regards to black family sitcoms). However, I was asked a few tough questions in regards to why I was defending him. Why did I want him to be innocent? Did the evidence defend or condemn him? Who is Bill Cosby, aside from his art?

Think about those questions, adequately research them. The answers weren’t pretty for me.

Why do I want Bill Cosby to be innocent?

I wanted Bill Cosby to be innocent because he was the creator of so much important art, an innovator in comedy and an important figure to the generation above me. Because Dr. Cliff Huxtable was a doctor on television, and Dr. Bill Cosby was a doctor in real life, which meant I could be one too. Because Bill Cosby created a space for black people on television where previously they only made shows to mock us. It may not have all been realistic, but neither was anything else on TV, so why not get to see people who look like me (although not like my family lol) exist in a fantasy world like everybody else.

I wanted Bill Cosby to be innocent because they can’t have him. They can’t tear down another black man with accusations of being a monster, a rapist (see Kobe Bryant, Michael Jackson, etc), a narrative that has been used to do a lot of evil historically. But, historical narrative aside, sometimes black people can do evil too. Sometimes the criminal justice system is right and sometimes its wrong. I don’t believe Kobe did it, but I think (know) R. Kelly did. Michael is innocent, but OJ was not. I don’t trust the American justice system to adequately accuse and charge minorities in this country, so I don’t look to its verdicts to make my judgement. Every accusation against a black man isn’t true, but each isn’t a lie either.

His legacy is being tarnished, conviction or not he is a rapist in the minds of many to this point. He never will be to others. But his legacy does not determine whether or not his art was important and a display of Black Excellence. The art stands for itself. But the art and artist have to be separated, most of our favorite musicians, actors, artists etc. have done bad, terrible, and sometimes evil things. They’re human like us. Their art still stands.

What about the women? Why now?

In a culture like ours, where women’s sexuality is treated like it’s not rooted in their own choices, coming forward about rape is difficult. Statistics say many rapes go unreported, followed up with questions of were you drinking?” and “what were you wearing? Did you lead him on?” as we look to absolve men of sex without consent, because consent is debatable (its not, consent is very clear but our culture denies it). I have never experienced such a pain, but that doesn’t mean I can flippantly dismiss those who have. If you know anybody who is comfortable talking about a sexual assault experience, let me know because most are damaged from it, those who do speak about their experiences will cite how hard it was to acknowledge it. As we all debate and discuss why they were drinking with him if they didn’t have sexual intentions, some even calling a few of the women “un-rapeable” (ignoring the fact that rape is often about power, not physical attraction), calling these women sluts and liars and whores and all kinds of terrible things, it becomes painfully evident why they didn’t come forward before. Why it took one women to open those floodgates. If they’re being attacked and dismissed now, imagine in the 70’s and 80’s.

To be objective in this case, Bill Cosby cannot be placed on a pedestal, nor these women placed in the mud. Bill Cosby stands accused. Money and legacy aside, he stand accused. These women are his accusers, race, color and narrative aside, their experiences count. Now that both sides are addressed and have been given even playing field, let’s look at the evidence.

 

 

*As of the time I am writing this, there has been a hearing set for February 2nd to dismiss the charges due to a deal made in 2005 with the District Attorney.

**I have yet to find any documentation that this is true. If you have anything with cited sources let me know.

 

 

How I learned not to love my blackness. And yours.

They say to talk about what you know. So for my first venture into public writing, I’ll write about what I learned. I’m not saying if it’s right or not. Just something I learned.

Black people make up less than 20% of America’s population, just by the numbers it’s more likely I will interact with people who don’t look like me, far more than my white peers will interact with somebody who doesn’t look like them.

Sitting in eighth grade U.S. History class. There’s only three other black students in the Gifted/Pre-IB program. Your group, in which nobody else is black, gets assigned Virginia for your colonies project. Immediately your group mate suggests “Well we HAVE Dashaun, we can use him as a model slave.”

 What do you do?

Most people say they would fight him. Some tell me they would tell a teacher or their parents. But if you’re one of less than a handful of black kids in the program, you know how it plays out. You tell. Student gives a nonsense apology. Other student merges back into the group of students. No harm done to his reputation. However you, you are now that kid. You’re the kid who can’t take a joke. Can’t handle a little poking and prodding. So you say nothing. You uncomfortably laugh as your blackness becomes the base of the joke again.

“Watermelon flavor for you right Dashaun?”

“I know what Dashaun wants, fried chicken I bet.”

“What do chicken and waffles taste like Dashaun?”

“So you’re Black and Puerto Rican? You must be like a spic-a-nigger then?”

“Ewww, no I don’t like you, you’re black.”

“Black guys just aren’t cute.”

“Why do you wear sneakers? Keeping them clean looks stupid. What a stupid waste of money.”

“Hip hop is just about drugs and sex. How shallow.”

These might sound harmless. Or maybe they sound appalling. Depends on your perspective. To me, they’re just middle school and high school. But they also set a premise. Became the foundation of most of my interactions up into college, just learn to take the joke. Laugh at it. At least if you laugh you fit in. Never mind the clear and distinct mocking of your culture, ethnic socioeconomic trends and your BLACKNESS in general. But at 13, you just take notes. You learn that blackness is bad. It’s to be mocked. Let them have their fun because it’s better to blend in then stand up and fight back. Yeah I’m black, but that doesn’t mean I can’t laugh too right?

So you learn to do things in a way that people don’t perceive as being “too black”. Blackness is scary. Blackness is ghetto. And once they’ve decided you’re ghetto, it’s over*.

Pick Vans over Jordan’s at the store, never mind that you enjoy sneaker culture, that’s too ghetto. Learn to be passive, back down at every opportunity, you don’t want to be the angry black guy. When asked, you’re Puerto Rican first, Black second. If it’s your turn to pick the music, play country or maybe a rapper from the radio. Don’t want to play ghetto music.

                Blackness is living every day knowing that you are one of two things in the minds of your peers. You are a ghetto thug. Or you’re a “white black guy”. Never mind that you like the new Kobe’s AND the new TOMS. Regardless of if you enjoy comic books or Kanye West. You get to be one. So pick. The options are not as simple as a Disney Channel lesson about being yourself. Yourself is black. And black isn’t good. The worst thing a black man can be in the eyes of his white peers is ghetto. That is a label that will follow you no differently than if you were the smelly kid on the bus. It takes years to undo, or at best a change of scenery. So you learn to revel in being “white”, or maybe you learn to revel in not being labeled as “black”.

“Yeah you’re black, but you talk white.”

“You dress so white.”

“Dashaun is black isn’t he? Yeah, but he’s basically white.”

I would revel in these “compliments”. My greatest honor came in having white people count me among them. And I certainly swung as far right as possible. Republican. Conservative. I went as deep as I could, believing all of the oppression black people face to not apply to me because they saw me as respectable**. I centered myself around the things I was in spite of being black. Around the things I had in common with my peers, while trying to push down all the things that made us different.

But those things that made us similar, those would save me from the harassment by police, except that time a cop followed me home and then questioned me in my own neighborhood because there had been some break-ins.

Those things would save me from stereotyping, except when a girl’s dad called me a spic, and referred to me as that “black kid”, but never by name.

Those things would save me from being dehumanized, except when my hair became the thing to pet every day.

Those things made me different.

Right?

*understand any perspective expressed is that of a young 13 year old boy

**see “Respectability Politics”