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/

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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 

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.