…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?

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Boyz In The Hoodies

It is becoming clear to me that we still live in a society where our boys must be taught how to survive an encounter with authorities that may irrationally hate or fear them. While we see our boys simply as boys; some folks see our boys themselves as deadly weapons. This very simple yet overwhelmingly complex observation means that there is no such thing to some folks as an unarmed black boy – not even your silly, giggly baby big-boy in college who still loves to cuddle with you and eat pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse when his friends aren’t around. We can protest this truism all day but we will be stepping over the dead bodies of our sons in order to do so.

Now, the truth is – we don’t yet know what really happened in that car. There is a possibility that the police officer did what he was supposed to do. Just because the young man was black and unarmed doesn’t necessarily mean that he didn’t pose a real, rather than perceived, threat and that the officer didn’t respond with the appropriate amount of force.

Like the rest of us, the overwhelming majority of police officers just want to go home at the end of their workday. Unlike the rest of us, they, on a daily basis, deal with an element that could prevent them from doing so.

So the flip side is that even in our outrage, we must also teach our children to respect. Respect our communities (c’mon…looting? sigh…) respect each other (Drake?  Chris Brown?  squash the beef…k?) respect the rules of fashion (no hoodies, please…) and please, in the name of all that is holy, respect authority.

If we don’t teach our own sons to respect authority – the police must…and will.

That’s all I got for now. I reserve further comment until the city, state and federal folks have finished their investigation. (Just outta curiousity…does anyone really believe I’ma be quiet until then?)

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

It’s Complicated: My Relationship With Beyonce

Would I throw her one?  Maybe after enough tequila…but that’s not what I was talking about.

Yesterday, I made a comment that I thought Beyonce and I might be dating after seeing her video for Partition.  That comment was misconstrued as sexual.  But in truth, the comment is about context, not sex.

So, let’s get started – can someone please tell me – how did we get from Pablo Neruda prowling and searching, silent and starving…and craving, don’t forget craving (Daaaamn! Ummm…he can get it, y’all)…to Twittered crotch shots and unimaginative descriptions that seem designed more to shock than titillate?

When I see Beyonce writhing and gyrating nearly naked it seems a little out of context for the very casual, dissociated nature of our relationship.  It seems to me that we should get to know each other a little better before she is spread eagled in front of me showing me her pancreas.  The hard way.  I mean…shouldn’t we reserve that kinda sharing for more private places or at least charge money for it like decent people?

I know the easy answer is “don’t like, don’t look.”  But, remember the good ole days?  Before we reduced each other to body parts and monosyllabic grunts.  Before we used our genitals to get to know each other.  Before it was passé to anticipate and imagine.  Before we came out of the starting block naked and ready to go.

I’m sad to think those days are gone.

Today, when I see a bunch of bulbous, silicone-stuffed girls and overly stimulated boys – I feel sorry for what they will miss.  I know, I sound like a hater.  Maybe if I had a few…um…protuberances of my own, I’d be less worried about what others were doing.  But still…these kids?  How will they ever know the fun of crushing on someone or playing a little game of chase if everything is so out there and in their faces all the time?  Without the buildup, it’s just biology.  It’s all just amoeba.

In our humanity, we can add a little something to it.  In the words of Darius Lovehall, “it’s about the possibility of a thing.”

Now…that’s sexy.  That and nerds.

A Different Kind Of Bucket List…

Confession:  I love to travel.  Above all else, my ass just likes to be somewhere else.  Now, I have to be creative because while I travel like a rock star, I earn the salary of an organ grinder monkey.

So, thanks to a hook up, I’m sitting in the restaurant at the InterContinental in Rome in the midst of a bunch of folk who don’t have to be nearly as creative as me.

I can tell because they are smiling while downing several €15 espressos (yeah, that’s $21 in the US.  No…not pesos…dollars) and choosing between the Dom P. and Moet as the sommelier walks around their table with a bottle of each in his hands.  They don’t have the same pained expression as me.  They didn’t ask the waiter, “Now…what now?” when they saw the price.  A gentleman one table over just raised his hand at the waiter and said, “We’ll take three lobsters, please…and the menus!”

Sometimes, you gotta get into some shit to know the truth about it.  To be in Italy, to have God’s record so closely juxtaposed to man’s opulence, I am finding, without fail, that material trappings truly lose the contest.  Rich or poor, we all have the exact same access to this city’s heart.  She woos us all equally.  Yes, my friends, Rome is a bit of a tramp.

But this new experience is just one more on the ever-growing list of things that reset what I understand about life.  Ten years ago, I always had to have the dope shit and be in the middle of shit and know the latest shit and be the hottest shit.  Well, all that shit is exhausting and certainly has an expiration date.  Slowly but surely, my old bucket list has morphed into my new f$#% it list…and I have a another opportunity to reshape what I value.

So, here’s what I confirmed about myself today in Italy.  I am, at heart, a cheap date.   Give me a nice breeze, a place to people watch (throw in a good zoo, if you’re tryna get lucky) and, maybe later, a sunset to remind me to return to Spirit and reflect.  (Ok, full disclosure – I AM going to be wearing some hot ass shoes while I do all that…)

But today, I am easily walking past the best designer boutiques in the world, some exclusive to Italy even, in order to light a candle in a church, walk a local neighborhood or play with children at a fountain (as long as they don’t touch me…baby steps, y’all)  This morning, I meditated in front of the Vatican.  I’d rather pound this city by foot, exploring every public sculpture and historical landmark than experience upscale places whose price of entry (sometimes monetary, but more often not) would prohibit my contact with every day Romans.  In other words, I’m certainly more interested in talking to the bartender than I am this well-heeled old-as-magma gentleman (using the term loosely here) who keeps staring over here, clearly titillated by the perceived prospect of working out some kinky slave girl fantasy.

Anyway, my point is — who knew I would have to cross an ocean to discover what I’ve carried inside of myself all along?  Wait…that doesn’t make sense anymore…it started out as my point but these words took on a life of their own.  Oops!

DISCLAIMER:  For the record, none of this means my ass is flying coach on my return trip.  I was a having a moment of growth, not insanity.

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.