Black in America

I have kept my mouth shut on a lot of issues pertaining to black people, who are in turn my people. There’s been a plethora of these issues that have risen to the surface over the past few years. Some of it has been heinous – innocent black women, men, and children have been slain in their homes, cars, and public streets, and in the wakes of their deaths the media has smeared the reputations of these people to paint a landscape that we blacks are the enemy, the nuisance, and we deserve whatever mistreatment we receive.

Why have I been so quiet? Because it’s pretty hard to speak up about any of this without being brutally criticized, bastardized, othered, or shut down. This is doubly true if you dare to speak on black issues and you are black. Many white folks figure that if they don’t see the racism, it doesn’t exist – “Why can’t you just get over it/let it go?” is what I often hear from folks who claim to have compassion for all people, but can’t seem to be compassionate when the mistreatment of a group of people with darker skin is brought to light. Meanwhile, in the black community, many are so busy trying to tally you up on a mental scorecard to determine your level of blackness that they get distracted by trivial, ancillary details instead of listening to your message. If you’re married to someone who is not black, as I am, then you’re a traitor, a bedwench, a poisonous snake, and “you ain’t down.” If you are a black male, you are constantly under criticism from black females as not doing enough, not stepping up, not having their/our backs. And then there’s some of us who are very misled, who act in obnoxious ways because it’s what’s been shown to us on television, and this often draws the wrong kind of attention, and these show boaters aren’t even really sure what it is they’re fighting for or why, thus contributing to the uphill plight we – blacks everywhere – are fighting to just find justice, be treated fairly, and be taken seriously.

Catching heat from other blacks is nothing new to me; I grew up middle class, I got good grades, and I wasn’t into rap/hip hop culture much. Growing up, I listened to Pac and Biggie, but I also listened to Depeche Mode and No Doubt. I could dance and sing, but I also participated in poetry slams and speech and debate events. I wasn’t, am not, and probably never will be hood. I can speak two sentences and most people catch that. I have not ever been black enough to most blacks, I’m often a token to whites, and none of it is ever good enough.

It’s okay. I’ve stopped being sad or angry about these things.

I’m not even mad at anybody…

I used to be. I used to feel hatred for myself for being the way that I am. I used to reflect on my childhood with resentment because of how my parents raised me. I used to distance myself from other blacks because I saw them as the problem. I used to hate white people because I thought it was all their fault.

But not anymore. If there are any other blacks out there reading this who have experienced similar emotions, please know that it really is okay, and you are fine. If you have conflicting feelings about your identity, understand that there isn’t anything wrong with you. It’s not necessarily the fault of our people, either, because most blacks have been led astray by consuming messages that were meant to tear the black community apart. Images of what we are supposed to be are splashed all over the media, and these images are poor.  In the 1990s, it was talk shows like Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones, Ricki Lake, etc. that portrayed black women as promiscuous, and black men as irresponsible. Music videos didn’t do many other favors in objectifying black women and making black men seem like thugs. In the new millennium, reality television shows have replaced talk shows as the express vehicle of poisonous delivery. At the same time, social media has roared in existence, just providing more ways for this negative imagery to become accessible. Trying to be an individual, be yourself, and figure out who you are amidst a sea of this propaganda is enough to take anyone in a variety of directions. It’s enough to make anyone question who they are. You are not to blame if you stumbled a few times while navigating through all of this. You cannot achieve any progress as long as you’re punishing yourself over mistakes you’ve made. We all make mistakes.

But here are some mistakes you shouldn’t make (and if you’ve made them before, strive not to make them again): Do not ever make apologies for your blackness. Do not let anyone tell you what your blackness has to be – YOU define that – not the establishment, not whites, not other blacks. Do not expect others who are non-black to understand – they can’t. If they’ve never faced injustice because of something about them that they were born with and cannot change (and I will hear no comments from LGBTQ folks, because regardless of the teary speeches you gave in pursuit of marriage equality, you are NOT like us) they have no capacity to identify with you, and that’s okay too. It doesn’t give anyone a pass, but it’s what you need to understand in order to not go crazy. Non-blacks can empathize, they can stand beside you in your fight, but they will not ever know what you face, so don’t expect them to understand.

I had to get clear on these items, too, before I could feel comfortable enough speaking from my place in society. Black people, my people, have been torn apart savagely, often at the hands of others who look like us but choose to act in ways that serve the interests of other groups. This is the reason a black man like Michael Vick – who not long ago was demonized, blackballed, and humiliated out of a job in the NFL for participation in a dog fighting operation – can state on Fox Sports that Colin Kaepernick can’t get a job in the NFL because of his afro, advising him to cut his hair off, and in essence, cut his blackness off. Why do I use Vick as an example? Because 1) most white people still want him dead for that dog fighting mess, but those same folks couldn’t care less about innocent black HUMANS being killed or abused, 2) Vick knows Kaepernick’s free agent status has nothing to do with his hair, but more to do with his political views, 3) once again we have black men in the media criticizing each other, even though the arena through which Vick is dissing Kap is the same one that dehumanized, emasculated, and shunned Vick years ago. This sets a precedent to white viewers that says it’s okay to attack these men, and that only perpetuates more of this vicious cycle I mentioned before.

As blacks, we say and do awful things to each other that make my stomach turn. We turn on each other, we call each other out for everything that’s wrong, and we can’t seem to unite as a race of people to look out for one another. Before anyone jumps to the comment section to speak out against black people uniting, please keep in mind that many other demographics do this beautifully: Asians stick up for other Asians, as was seen after that Asian man was bludgeoned on a United Airlines flight. He was in the wrong, ultimately, but his people had his back. Jewish people stick up for other Jews, Mexicans stick up for other Mexicans, and whites look out for other whites. Is this wrong? Hell no! Looking out for your own is a GOOD thing…but too often, that doesn’t seem to be the case in the black community. We can’t seem to defend Bill Cosby, a man whose contributions have paved the way for blacks in television and cinema. A man whose major lasting impression should be reshaping the image of the black household and family through the 1980s and 1990s. A man whose charitable contributions have benefitted black schools and colleges. A man WHO HAS STILL NOT BEEN FOUND GUILTY OF ANYTHING in a court of law in a case built on a blatant lack of evidence, propped up by faulty, shaky testimony, recounting events of over 30 years ago by opportunist people who can barely even remember what happened to them last week, and want to reset their clocks for 15 more minutes of fame at the expense of one man’s legacy. However, we certainly do love us some R. Kelly – a documented sexual predator who married a 15 year old girl by encouraging her to lie about her age on court documents, who was videotaped and positively identified as performing lewd sexual acts on a minor, and who is now denying that a cult of underage women stayed with him against their will. He’s our hero, and Cosby is a villain. It’s disgusting.

And with bass ackwardness such as this, is it any surprise our communities are in disarray? We fork over our money hand over fist for wigs, weaves, nails, gold chains, alcohol, and expensive cars, but often can’t keep the lights on at our low-income housing establishments, won’t demand better funding for the schools we send our children to, and won’t dare lend our dollars to help black entrepreneurs get off the ground. We hail the filth of women such as Amber Rose or Angela White (aka Blac Chyna) as heroes but pay no attention to the immoral standards these women perpetuate with their slut walks, side chick glorification, distasteful social media tirades, and trashy images. And if it’s not overconsumption of the trash that’s put in front of our faces that’s the problem, it’s infighting that is doing us in. Many of us are so quick to snatch away another person’s blackness because of who they date, where they work, how they speak, etc. and this is probably the angle I’m most tired of. At the end of the day, I can behave as “whitewashed” as black activists want to claim, but I promise you the cops don’t see me as white, the CEO on my job doesn’t see me as white, and even our 45th president doesn’t want to give me any passes. More importantly: I do not see myself as white. All that this criticism is successfully accomplishing is a disconnect within our community when we need more connection.

But all of this is stupid stuff. Get over it, Antoinette. Stop crying about race related issues when they don’t exist. You’re not black enough to speak on black issues, so just go back to your instructional designing and plucking the strings of your guitar. –Sincerely, America.

 

 

Election.

The United States will receive word on who the next POTUS will be tomorrow. Many are fearful for this outcome, some are too apathetic to care, others are highly invested. I’m not sure exactly what you’d call where I stand. I was once very passionate about this, but as time has moved on this year, I’ve come to learn that my emotions don’t have much impact on the outcomes of this country. There is a lot here that I do not care for, but I feel powerless to change any of it. I can write fiery words on this blog for the sake of clearing my own attitude bank, but injustice will still happen, oppression will still exist, and life will still be unfair. Perhaps now because I am expecting, my biggest focus has been on trying to just stay in a calm place so as not to throw myself into a tizzy and harm my unborn child.

This isn’t to say I don’t want to change the world somehow. One of my closest friends described me as a “creator” the other day, and it was a fitting label to receive. I tend to only find joy in the things that allow me to customize, make mine, or put my own spin on them somehow. Hence why I love curriculum. Hence why I’ve been going hard on the interior decorating lately. Hence why Thirty, Reimagined even exists. I’m sort of at a loss now for how to effect that change.

The truth is: I don’t feel confident about any of the possible outcomes for tomorrow. I’m not with her, I’m not with him, I’m not with any of “them.” Certain measures that I’d love to see go away, such as the Affordable Care Act, won’t. My county will likely appoint leaders who will enforce unfair tax increases, cut funding to schools, and lie about all of it to the public. The War in Iraq will not end. I can’t allow myself to become overwhelmed by all that isn’t going as I wish, but often a withdrawal from being heated about politics is a sign to others that you don’t care. I care…I guess I’m just rationing my care.

I used to say that if Trump were elected, I’d be shocked. I truly won’t be surprised at any outcome tomorrow. Lots has shocked and stunned me about this country this year, to the point that I’m a bit desensitized. Our justice system is biased, violence in the streets, especially among police officers and civilians (in both directions) is a norm, and the unspeakable lows our culture continually sinks to have all let me down enough. No, America is not great…but none of the folks proposed to make it better show any promise of making it such.

But one thing I can control is what my mind concentrates on, and as of right now that is my faith, my family, and rocking my little part of the world. Peace.

I’m With Colin.

Santa Clara 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (yeah, I said it – THEY DON’T PLAY IN SAN FRANCISCO, FOLKS.) abstained from standing during the national anthem during a preseason game a few days ago. Typically, when the anthem is played or performed, as citizens of this country we rise to show respect for our land and those who have fought for it. However, Colin said he didn’t want to stand. His exact words were, I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

golden gate

My beloved Golden Gate. If you didn’t already know, the Bay is where I’m originally from.

As a Bay Area girl, I have never wanted a Niners jersey more than I do now.

And many will say, “This is disrespectful.”

“We must respect the flag.”

“People died for this country.”

“Colin is a disgrace.”

All of that is fine. It’s blatant that a piece of cloth is more important to some people than the dead bodies of people who have been innocently killed by the very force that is tasked with protecting our country. A song, written about the glory of our nation’s spirit, is given more respect than a race of people by most who walk the soil of this great land.

Before you crucify me for being a bad American, let me assure you, I AM A TRUE AMERICAN.

This is my country too. And because of that fact, I demand that me and people like me be treated with respect and dignity. Liberty and justice for all…not just those with money. Not just those with light skin. Not just those in uniform. NOT just those with the guns.

My country has failed me. It has failed Colin. It failed Tamir Rice. It failed Sandra Bland. It failed Trayvon…

And until my country gets it right, I also cannot stand up and pledge allegiance to the very flag my grandfather, uncles, and friends fought for. Do not point your fingers of accusatory disrespect at me when there are plenty of other people who have disrespected the legacy of our country with ignorant, bigoted actions. As long as George Zimmerman is allowed to walk free and brag about slaying an unarmed teenager, Colin Kaepernick, and anyone else who feels moved, is allowed to express themselves how they want to over our national anthem and flag.

 

#IAMWITHHIM