We Were Wrong About The Revolution

I can’t keep still. Or quiet.

While I feel a deep sympathy for the families of Brown and Garner, I can’t help but view the lack of state indictments as symptomatic of a much more insidious disease.

What we are witnessing goes beyond police reform. Rather it is the overall collapse of the relationship between Blacks in America and our government. Like every failed relationship, reconciliation must begin with renewed trust in a mutually beneficial objective. We don’t have that today. As an African American, I’m hard pressed to believe that I am respected and valued by my own government.

But neither do I believe I am powerless against them. Nor have I ever.

The civil unrest that we are facing today provides us the opportunity to agree finally and unequivocally that America has a systemic and festering problem with racial equality that is now playing out for all the world to see. This showing weakens our standing amongst both our allies and those states that seek to harm us. If that’s too strong a statement, our civility is certainly in question and our credibility undermined as our allies send war correspondents to our cities to cover the protests. In other words, our race issues, often called crimes by other nations, have now become an issue of national security, homeland or otherwise.

These protests, while uncomfortable, are beneficial because we cannot begin a dialogue on solutions until we have agreed on the problem.

Our federal government must indict on the possible civil rights violations that were left unaddressed by state and local governments. Failure to do so, at this point, is a nonstarter of the healing process and true dialogue cannot begin.

#WeWereWrongAboutTheRevolution #ThatMofoIsCertainlyBeingTelevised #AndTweeted #BlackLivesMatter #AllLivesMatter #GodSaveUsAll

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…And One More Thing About Ferguson! (Then I’m Back To Shutting Up)

Let’s be clear. Arresting the officer who killed Michael Brown is not justice. Sure, it’s a pound of flesh…but you gotta rip that flesh from an 800-kb gorilla.

There is no such thing as justice for the family of Michael Brown. Prosecuting the officer who shot him is a necessary but arguably punitive measure that may bring about satisfaction or a sense of fairness but should certainly not be mistaken for justice because justice presupposes a sense of moral rightness. And in a place like Ferguson, MO…that just ain’t gonna be possible for everybody just by arresting one trigger happy cop.

 The 1990 census reports that blacks made up 25% of the population of Ferguson. By 2010, just 30 years later, that demographic grew to 67%. Yet, all the powers-that-be in Ferguson remain white. The mayor’s white, the chief of police is white, six out of seven city council members are white (that other one is Latino,) 6 outta 7 school board members are white (the other one IS black…so make a wish!) and all but three members of 53-member police department are white.

The last time I saw that much white, I was at a snow-covered ski resort in Liechtenstein on a polar bear rug eating mayonnaise on Wonder Bread with the NFL Wives’ Club. Oh yeah…or apartheid. I also saw it in apartheid. [uncomfortable silence]

The cop in question is a pawn in an entire system that oppresses black folks in Ferguson. And black folks have been playing along. The power structure will try to close ranks around him but make no mistake, he is nothing but a speed bump on the road to pacifying a people who contribute the majority of the economic base yet do not exercise or have the ability to exercise  (the jury is still out…but the jury is prolly all white, too) a voice in how they are governed and who will govern them.

 Black folks in Ferguson, and many towns across America that look like Ferguson, have been living under this 800-lb gorilla for the last 30 years. And by “living with” I mean, “oppressed by.”  And truthfully, oppression is as a deadly as a gun.  Certainly, the criminal act of murder must be prosecuted and punished. But sitting that cop in jail and returning to business as usual is not justice.  Justice for the community of Ferguson requires an insistence by the people that they be governed and policed by qualified people who look like them AND have as an agenda the best interest of a diversified community.  Otherwise, that community risks becoming a killing field for anyone…ANYONE…who is feared or misunderstood.  Death by gunshot, death by missed opportunity, death by lack of resources, death by an unsuitable education.  (Damn…ok, that’s kinda dramatic…but I’ma leave it in cuz I kinda need this point made)

 Without this change at this point, there can simply never be justice for the people of Ferguson.

Got that, Al Sharpton?

Much Ado About Nothing

I made a decision.

Several weeks ago, I had an opportunity to do something but I passed on it because it didn’t meet the standard that I have worked very hard and been very fortunate to enjoy over the years.  I was confident that something more suitable would come along.

As I’ve spent time since then looking for that more suitable opportunity, I had begun to have second thoughts about passing on opportunity in the first place.  Last night, for the first time, those thoughts kept me awake.  Tossing and turning, I replayed every negative consequence, every bad scenario over again in mind until I was sure that the decision to pass on the opportunity would in fact be the one defining moment that triggered a downward spiral into the depths of despair and poverty, my complete and utter destruction.  Yes, I used those words.  I used those words because I’m not new at this.

When I finally got of bed in the wee hours without the balm of a good or even mediocre night’s sleep, the anxiety from the previous eight hours sent me straight into fix-it mode.  Is it to late to fix it?  Can I call them back and see if I still have a chance?  In that early morning panic, it never occurred to me that there still existed a possibility that in this entire world there may be another opportunity, one that met my standard and didn’t require me to compromise what I needed for myself at this point in my life.  Not…one…time.

But thank God that wisdom sometimes runs on auto-pilot.  Something held me back from that fear-induced attempt to settle for the good enough opportunity.  As I sat at the kitchen table and panicked, sleep finally tugged at my eyelids.  Excited as at the prospect of reuniting with a long lost friend, I ran upstairs and got back into bed quickly before the feeling passed.  In that two hour respite from my racing emotions, I had a very simple dream.  In my dream, I am staring at a post.  A friend is staring from the other side of the post and we are arguing about the color.  We see two different colors.

Then I wake up.  The realization comes slowly, too much clarity can often knock me on my ass.

I’ve only looked at one side of the passed opportunity.  But on the other side, the passed opportunity could be making me available to the opportunity of a lifetime, the stuff dreams are made of and songs are written about and wars are fought over.  That could be the color that I see…simply by looking at it from the other side.  Passing on the opportunity is just a neutral calculation.  The actual facts are completely objective and unchanging.  Whether the outcome is good or the outcome is bad, the decision itself remains exactly the same. I am the one assigning all of these feelings to it.  And then having feelings about those feelings.  In reality, it’s just a simple decision and I can choose to decide how to feel about it just as simply.

So, with that, I made another decision today.

 

IGNORE THIS PART, PLEASE — **Writing 101 Challenge – Day 1 – Daily Prompt: Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write

Dreams Of My Father’s Kid

Born to very practical parents at a very inconvenient time, I was a kid more focused on chores than dreams. My younger sister born years later after our family stabilized, however, decided at 7 years old that she wanted to be a ninja.

By the time she announced her plans to become a ninja, I was a chubby, awkward teenager in tension with my lithe, self-possessed schoolmates who always knew the right thing to say or do. The thought of rising above the social fray and, more importantly, wearing the very slimming, pajama-like uniform made becoming a ninja sound like a pretty darn good way to solve many of the problems that had begun to surface as I advanced into enemy territory – high school. And so became my stolen dream.

Today, as a mature adult, I look back at that childish dream and know instantly that it had about as much chance to survive as the seam down the back of a Kardashian’s pants…Rob included.

First, being a ninja requires silence. I’ve never been good at silence. In fact, if I was better at silence, I wouldn’t be having the problems that I was seeking to solve by entering the ninjahood in the first place. Well, except for the chubby problem.  I did close my mouth long and often enough to chew plenty of cake.

Secondly, being a ninja requires some level of fighting skill. Anyone who has seen me walk knows that fighting, with its well-established requirement for coordination, would be just out of my range.

Lastly, being a ninja requires discipline. Now, I’m not saying that I’m not disciplined but I am the skinniest person you will ever find with a thin layer of blubber that could be dissolved by simply walking somewhere other than from the living room to the kitchen.

So when I look back on this set of skills – can’t shut up, gets my ass handed to me a lot, somewhat undisciplined (but totally willing and completely adorable) – it occurs to me that all of this time, I should have been a writer.

I’m glad it’s not too late.  I am still my father’s kid.

IGNORE THIS PART, PLEASE — **Writing 101 Challenge – Daily Prompt: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How close or far are you from that vision?**

 

#Writing101 #BigKidsDreamToo

Teaching Moments And Life Lessons At Register 9

My local grocery hires people of differing levels of ability and gives them an opportunity to earn a living wage during the day when the store is not busy. I appreciate that.

So, I had to pick up a few items today and went a bit out of my way to shop there and support them.  They weren’t that busy so each register had just two or three people in line and because I was in a rush to get back to work, I passed 8 registers until I came upon one that had only one person in line.  (Y’all, my ass has NO patience!)

The guy working Register 9 used to bag the groceries but he hung in there and tried his best every time he came to work and now he’s a cashier. I know this because he told me.

He was a good bagger but he likes being a cashier better because you get to talk to all of the nice people because you have to talk to people to get to know who they are and that’s a part of his job – customer service.  I know this because he effin’ told me this, too.

Only problem is he’s not that good at talking to customers and ringing up groceries at the same time…but he’s working on it. I know this because despite my hurried attempts to rush him along, he stopped ringing out my shit to tell me that, too.

So after 10 minutes in line and another 15 minutes to ring up my THREE items, including a pack of gum that I nonchalantly tossed on the belt at the last minute, I left the market frustrated but strangely also encouraged that I was indeed smart enough to figure out the iOS 7 download because he did it and now he can play games on his phone.  And if he can do it, I can do it, too, if I don’t give up.  I know this because this is yet another thing he told me….today…while I was in line…waiting for my three items…including the pack of gum…for 25 minutes…total.

As I stood there trying to keep my whole head from exploding, somehow I heard a little voice (no, not THAT one…the good one) tell me to shut the hell up and LOOK at this man who, in just 25 minutes, somehow managed to exemplify tenacity, commitment, vulnerability, kindness, encouragement and mindfulness – qualities that I struggle with every day.  But more importantly, I caught a glimpse of someone who learned to value what really matters above all this other b.s. in our daily lives – our connectedness as human beings – and is paying it forward every chance he gets.

Next time I’m there, I’ll ask for him by name.

A Blues For Trayvon…

This is nothing new.

I remember, as a student at Trenton State College twenty plus years ago, male classmates teaching the local high school boys in Trenton how to survive a routine traffic stop.  Yes, survive a traffic stop.

Listen, I know there were countless incidents before and since where we had to teach our boys, our sons, how to survive.  How to not stand up fully in his own power and presence in front of people who did not look like him for fear he would frighten those around him who did not understand him.

Our challenge still is to teach our boys to navigate a life where they are hunted and still find joy, still see beauty, still know love.   Indeed, to experience the fullness of life.  But more importantly, our challenge is to disabuse the notion that young, black life is disposable so that our sons value each other more than they value a larger society that seeks to destroy them.

Right after I heard the verdict last night, I heard story after story on the local news of our sons victimizing one another.

What are we teaching them?

We must teach our sons the value of the person they see in the mirror and others that look like him in spite of what this country and this culture say.  C’mon, get real.  Zimmerman is a bumbling idiot.  He is not scary, he is lucky. What is scary is generation of black boys who have been taught that young black life has no value. And the senseless killing within our own community will get worse.

Genocide by suicide.  That’s what really frightens me.  All of this young, black brilliance turned inward to eviscerate and destroy rather than to build and preside.

So…let’s do this for Trayvon.  And Raheem.  And Percy (that’s right…don’t forget our West Indian brothers)

We gave birth…now let’s give life.

Just A Thought And Other Things Not Related To Politics

The human brain has no sense of real or make-believe so therefore cannot distinguish between the two.

I heard that somewhere.  Never confirmed it.  But it makes sense to me.

In the right hands, this inability to distinguish fact from fiction becomes less a delusion and more a powerful tool for actuation.

But it also makes toys, games and other seemingly childish matters serious business.

What should we let our children pretend to be?

Even in their play, our children have become increasingly exposed and overexposed to images, sounds and implements of violence and domination.  We won’t even touch on the exposure that ties that same violence and domination to sex.   Set that notion aside for now because it complicates things – not that it’s not important – it just unnecessarily polemicizes a problem whose resolution requires unity and collective reasoning.

At what cost does a kid pick up a toy gun and pretend to shoot someone?  Cheering with glee as his target falls to the ground – no blood, no mess, no crying widow, no fatherless children, no dreams deferred – just a fun game.  Winning!

But if his tender little psyche truly can’t tell the difference between real and make-believe – then the question becomes – what is the psychological impact of being a killer?  Ok, ok.  I’ll dial it back a bit.  It’s an extreme thought – to the point of ridiculousness even…unless the opening statement is true.

And then…in some form or fashion…it could explain some things.

Listen, we can make laws that are designed to control guns.  We can increase security at every public event.  We can lock away all the crazy people.  But make sure you also build hospitals, funeral homes and jails as well because unless we address the fact that we are a society whose littlest citizens are becoming desensitized to violence and all its underlying horror – the slaughter will continue.

It’s only entertainment, right?  It’s only a movie where someone is slashed to pieces, blood gushing, organs hanging.  It was hard to look at first but with each gory movie, the scenes are easier to watch.  It’s easier because it’s not real…again, unless the opening statement is true.

And then…in some form or fashion…it could explain some things.

Like how a child can build a bomb designed to blow up a crowded event or fire a weapon into a Mother’s Day parade or dismember a schoolmate or kill someone because they are bored.

With each tragic event, we look into the eyes of younger and younger perpetrators to find hatred or fear or confusion or maybe even regret…but always, always shock.  Because despite the repeated practice afforded by violent movies and games, it’s as if the consequences of their actions are registering for the very first time.

All I’m asking is…what if the increase in violence in our lives is linked, not to our weapons of choice, but rather to our exposure of choice?  What if we think the exposure is harmless but it’s really not?

At the end of the day, the horror that the perpetrators create can’t be wrapped up neatly in a two-hour movie.  There is no hero that walks off into the sunset having killed all of his enemies.  There is no parade that welcomes home the ruthless mercenary who avenges his buddy’s death.

There are only mothers who have lost their sons and daughters to violent acts that splatter blood everywhere.  If we look closely enough, we may find some on our own hands.