My staff and I spent the morning serving those in need at our local Rescue Mission. It was rewarding and eye-opening. Sometimes we get so comfortable in our bubbles that we forget the struggles of our fellow man. Bursting that bubble and touching another’s life can be a rewarding act. Live your life in high definition by giving back to make a difference in someone’s life this week.
The mood on the morning of Wednesday November 9, 2016 was not what I expected or hoped it would be. The results of the 2016 Presidential election brought immediate heartache; though the tossing and turning in the wee hours served as a harbinger of dark news.
The result brought about a profound depression that I won’t shake for sometime. A depression, not rooted in the flip side of contested ideology, but one rooted in the selection of what I believe to be a truly vile human being. A person who is not morally fit to hold the highest office in the land.
I’ve been on the downside of ideological contests before. Reagan and both Bushes have bested my guys in the past but the choice was always between differing political ideologies. You take your lumps and move on. But 2016 was very different. 2016 offered a referendum on good vs evil.
Donald Trump’s movement reached into the deepest crevasses, darkest corners, and jaded hearts to coalesce around fear, hate and ego.
Great disappointment comes when high expectations and delicately placed faith are not met. I put my faith in the American electorate. I believed that good people, fine Americans, when put to the test, would set aside party politics to prevent a misogynistic, petty and vindictive man from occupying our most sacred public office. The gut-punch on Wednesday morning was all too visceral.
Yes my friends, this one will linger for sometime. When your oldest daughter tells you that she cried on the subway, it alters your psyche. When your youngest daughter spends a sleepless night thinking that she will inherit the potential harmful impact of this presidency, your heart withers. These young women’s visceral fears have rocked my foundation.
This one will sting for a while. There are those that are celebrating the Trump victory. Celebrating like their team just won the Super Bowl. Only there won’t be parades down Main Street and championship rings to gawk at. It will be an oppressive Supreme Court, harmful immigration policies, and global isolationism sitting on a shelf in the championship case. And no checks and balances to protect any of us.
I’ve had to sever connections with people in my life, both real and virtual, who supported Trump. Men that I know with daughters. Men who put a “pussy-grabbing” mental midget and party politics before the interest of their own children. People who voted for a man who considers his daughter “a piece of ass.” Evangelicals who inked a deal with the devil. People, who with a single vote, invited racist hate to saunter from the shadows and into the light of day.
Most times, I am generally tolerant of the differing views of others. This just can’t be one of those times.
I don’t like this choice but I will abide by it out of respect for our democracy and the office of the President of the United States. I suspect, though, that this nauseous feeling will continue for four long years. I invite Mr Trump to prove me wrong.
I know that it’s been a while since I’ve written anything, but the subjects that have been on my mind were just too painful and too depressing to address. Only now am I able to mentally process the events of the last few weeks in a way that allows me to see through the fog of anger and hate.
The truculent killing of black American church goers by Dylann Roof can be credited with the decline of my own humanity. And this shames me a great deal. I cannot remember the last time I was filled with such hate. Those that know me know that I am not a turn-the-other-cheek kind of guy and I am devoid of forgiveness. My hate is omnipresent and directed at no one person or group of people in particular. I just feel hate. At the moment, my cup is overflowing with darkness and I am less human today than I was on June 16, 2015, the day before the shooting.
I refuse to include a picture of Roof in this post as I can’t bare to look at him. A palpable evil rises off of him like a lifting fog. Physically, his face reflects a dullness reminiscent of a lead-paint baby and a hopelessness that is beyond my comprehension. I can’t imagine what those eyes saw as he snuffed out the lives of God-fearing people celebrating life and love at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Did he see Susie Jackson’s 87 years unfold before him as he let loose the bullets? In that moment, did he hear any of 74 year-old Daniel Simmons sermons? Could he see visions of a 23 year-old Clementa C. Pinkney being sworn into service as the youngest African American elected as a South Carolina State legislator? Would he have pulled the trigger if he had known these people?
Weeks after the shooting, we find ourselves encircling a red herring in the form of a flag. This country is obsessed with symbolism and is lazy when it comes to addressing root cause. Businesses, politicians and major organizations call for the removal of the Confederate flag from shelves and flag poles citing its representation of hate and bigotry. People and businesses scurry with alacrity to disassociate themselves from Donald Trump for bigoted statements made in announcing his candidacy for POTUS. Same sex marriage is ruled legal in all states by the highest court in the land. And amid this national Kumbaya moment, black churches (6 as of this writing) have burned down to the frames and foundation in subsequent weeks. If the flag comes down en masse tomorrow, the hate in people’s hearts will continue.
I don’t have any answers to this deeply complicated and nuanced issue. I have to concentrate on surviving a world in which you can be shot dead worshiping a god. A world where you can be robbed of due process. Where you can be cheated out of watching your child grow to his/her full potential. A world that, at times, asks for far more than it gives. For the moment, what spark of light left in me will be focused on eliminating the hate that hate produced.
Thank you Rachel Dolezal for giving me something to write about! Whew! I was going through some serious writer’s block.
I had a bit of fun on Facebook by referencing my potato-salad-making, dance and, basketball skills as bona fide evidence of my blackness. For the record, I make one hell of a potato salad but I can’t dance or play basketball to save my life. Those aren’t the only black stereotypes that I don’t measure up to but I’ll stop there.
The inspiration for the post was not meant to make light of Dolezal’s situation but to poke fun at my near translucent skin tone and the constant questioning of my racial heritage. My friend Melanie (also a very light black American) commented on the post by saying that she was irritated by people tagging her in all of the Dolezal memes in obvious attempts to make fun of her hue. I am neither here to condemn or defend Rachel Dolezal, but to embrace a national intellectual conversation on the matter. I enjoyed the multiple conversations and reports that attempted to understand Dolezal’s position that she “identifies as black.”
Black folks’ struggle with skin tone, and to the same degree hair texture, has been family dirty laundry since slavery. And because of slavery and colonization around the globe, descendants of African people come in all flavors and colors. Just listen to my man Redd Foxx:
It is difficult these days to define “blackness” by skin tone alone. And if not skin tone, then what?
What it means to be black, and in particular a black American, has been captured by writers, poets, photographers, musicians and others for decades. It’s the pain in a fair-skinned Billie Holiday’s voice on “Strange Fruit”; the fiery speeches of a high-yellow Malcom X; and the crystal clear camera lens of a chocolatey Gordon Parks. They all captured parts of our cultural experience and the suffrage of our ancestors and communities.
I heard Allyson Hobbs, Assistant Professor of History at Stanford and author of “A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in America”, say on the public radio program The Takeaway that racial identification is indeed cultural. When asked if race was biological or cultural, she, without hesitation, answered “absolutely not biological, absolutely cultural. It’s a complete social construct.” Makes sense to me.
There is real anger out there for Dolezal and her perceived chicanery. Some say it is because she was deceitful; others say she stole a job rightfully belonging to someone more worthy. But it’s deeper than that. It’s about the culture. It’s about her not inheriting the culture. It’s about her not experiencing and inheriting the suffrage. And it’s about her not experiencing and inheriting the joys and pride of great accomplishment in the face of near annihilation. If Dolezal decided tomorrow that she no longer wished to “identify” as black, she could do so without skipping a beat. And that pisses people off. Her situation opens old wounds of cultural appropriation and, to many, she appears to be every bit the culture bandit. She has the safety net of “white privilege” to catch her, should she teeter, and that’s a privilege that black folk just don’t have. She hasn’t earned her “blackness”.
I am not angry a Dolezal. But I also don’t buy her explanation that she has always identified as black.. She simply lacks the bona fides. I believe that Navin R. Johnson, the fictional character Steve Martin played in the 1979 film The Jerk, was more black than Dolezal will ever be. He, after all, was raised black and she was not.
Despite my fair skin (damn near white in the deepness of winter), you can’t take away my experience as a black man. My bona fides run too deep both biologically and culturally.
The head of the local NAACP here in Syracuse said, in an interview with one of my reporters, that he was willing to accept Dolezal for who she says she is. “If the girl wanted to be a sister, then she’s a sister.” Son, you don’t even want to go there. What it means to be a sistuh, a black woman in America, is whole different ball of wax.
These past couple of difficult days in my beloved hometown of Baltimore, MD have caused me some agita. I am reminded of a 1963 speech by Malcolm X that analogized the assassination of President John F. Kennedy with ‘chickens coming home to roost.” That a climate of hate was ultimately responsible for the president’s death.
Baltimore’s chickens have come home to roost. Decades of neglect; aristocracy masquerading as democracy; executive forces brutalizing the underrepresented; and politicians feeding their own greedy ambitions have contributed. Ill-equipped parents; failing schools; devastating drug culture; the flight of wealth, family structure, and old-school character from the inner city have contributed. Gentrification; greedy churches; broken promises; capitalism; a polarized government; the war on drugs; and overwhelmed teachers. We are all complicit in every window broken, every body bruised, every exploding car and burning pharmacy.
The mob mentality has a firm grip on our communities from Ferguson to Baltimore and images of angry youth standing defiantly against police forces are sobering. The images demonstrate that power is just an illusion and there is no controlling the out-of-controlled. This lost generation, our spawn, will be a problem for years to come. The large numbers of unemployed, uneducated, apathetic young men and women are the result of a butterfly flapping its wings tens, maybe hundreds of years ago. Fractal patterns that have been looping all of my life. It won’t get fixed over night.
What’s happened to our town is wrong from all angles. There is no justification for it; nothing noble about it. It’s a great big shit pile and we are all wallowing in it.
Today, I weep for my city. I only hope that the work to rebuild the spirit, the goodwill, the character of Charm City, from all levels, starts in earnest.