Stay Black. And Die.

photo(3)In the days that have passed since the Jordan Davis/Michael Dunn mistrial verdict on the count of murder in first degree, the following picture has been circulated frequently via social media. Put a pin in that, we’ll come back to it.

Before we go further, let me go ahead and say this upfront. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not even qualified to be a paralegal and I’ve never been to or seen an Everest College campus or student. So I’ll concede that my legal acumen is subpar, but I do have a really hard time understanding how you can be convicted of attempted murder for spraying a car but not be convicted of the success of your attempts.

While I don’t understand it, I see how it happened. While watching news coverage on Friday evening of the jury deliberations via the Jane Velez-Mitchell show on HLN, they were taking callers. One of the callers, clearly an older white male stated what I feel is an unfortunate but not surprising sentiment shared by many folks paying attention: why did the boys in the truck drive off then come back without taking him to the hospital? It is the belief of quite a few people that somehow, someway, those boys dumped of the gun that made this man feel scared for his life enough to dump 10 shots into a Durango at fairly close range. Somehow, this man (and a few other callers) seemed very disinterested in the psychopathic nature of Mr. Dunn, just the behavior of the youth that caused Mr. Dunn to fear for his life. Emphasis mine and intentional. Causation is a b*tch.

Which leads back to the picture and the message therein. Simply, white folks and Black folks have different “important” talks with their sons. This is true. It was true before the recent spate of high profile deaths by Black males at the hands of white people and it will be true if we never have another Black man die in the same fashion again.

To put it all on the table and go Captain Obvious, there has always been a different set of rules for Black people and white people. I remember my father teaching me the most important lesson of my even now to date. He sat me down and said to me quite clearly, “(Panama), your mother is white. You are not.” I never had any identity issues after that. But what followed was a string of conversations about what it meant to be a Black man in America. What was most interesting is that I didn’t even live in America while I was receiving these conversations. Near my home in Bad Homburg, Germany (right outside of Frankfurt) was this huge field. My father would tell me to come with him and we’d make the long walk to the field and walk around and he’d fill me in on life. Sometimes it was about the birds and the bees, but many times it was about what life looks like for people like us.

I imagine those conversations have been happening for 100s of years at this point. Because it’s always been different. Hell, my father STILL manages to drop those nuggets of information when its relevant. It’s why most Black males (and Black people) have such a healthy distrust of the police. Its also not just the police, either. It’s what happens AFTER the police do police things to us. It’s the knowledge that your freedom is pretty much like a car window. You can roll it up and lock your doors, but its just a piece of glass. If somebody wants to break into your car, it takes nothing to get into it. Your freedom is fragile and easy to destroy. And once its been tampered with, you realize that everybody else gets the opportunity to destroy you regardless of the facts. The numbers of people released due to the Innocence Project illustrates that very clearly. As a Black male, you spend your life doing your damnedest trying to NOT end up in the system at all. Well, most of us do. You figure if you just live your life right then you should be okay. And that probably is the situation.

But its when we’re robbed of the potential of the Black community that we’re reminded just how fragile that freedom is. Which is why we have to have those talks in the first place. Those talks wouldn’t have prevented that situation. In fact, the necessary talk in Florida is probably to tell all Black males to avoid all interaction with white men. But that’s just not realistic, is it?

photo(4)I also saw this other picture all over social media. I think this one is a bit unfair. Nobody is going to want to hear this but it’s not just “white vision” glasses that see this picture. While I’m happy that we can all rally in our community behind miscarriages of justice in the courtroom, and Black boys do matter, many Black people view certain Black males in the exact same fashion as white people do – sometimes for the same reasons, sometimes for different reasons. I get the point being made, and perhaps its unnecessary to even point out that Black folks are just as guilt of this stereotyping, but my point is that we have some work to do on our own. We’re mad that Black boys don’t matter, but to some degree, we’re just not pulling the trigger on them. That’s food for thought for that ass.

And I’ll be the first to admit how conflicted I can be. It’s like the scene in Crash where Ludacris’s character is going on about how unfair it is to be stereotyped as a thug who is about to commit a robbery…and then commits a robbery because he’s exactly who they think he is. It’s the justification for paranoia: If I’m right then I’m right; but if I’m wrong, I could have been right, so I’m still right because maybe I’m not wrong. While this doesn’t hold up in court (or at least shouldn’t), I know many people who not only live by this credo, they are married to it til death do they part. Interestingly, none of them feel Dunn was right in any way, shape, or form.

“I don’t have to do sh*t but stay Black and die.” I’ve heard this statement more times that I can count. Usually stated in some form of defiance after somebody attempts to tell another what to do. Rarely is it meant to be prophesy. It’s supposed to be dying on our own terms as God intends. Not at the hands of another who doesn’t respect your life or even acknowledge that it exists.

Stay Black and die. Okay. But we probably need to amend those talks not only to include the police and the justice system to “boy, you don’t have to do anything but stay Black and try not to die at the hands of white man who will not be held accountable by those police or that justice system I already told you about.”

Yeah. That.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST

Michael Dunn, Not Rap Music, Killed Jordan Davis

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***Damon’s latest at Complex on the (false) implication that rap music caused Jordan Davis’ murder***

Somewhere in America, a young Black male will be killed. Again. Maybe he’ll 16. Or 23. Or 11.

There will eventually be a trial about this murder. This trial will get some press coverage. And during the coverage, someone—maybe the defendant, or the defendant’s lawyer, or the district attorney, or the judge, or the family of the victim, or the family of the defendant, or a reporter, or a columnist, or a person leaving a message on the columnist’s column, or a popular blogger, or a TV pundit, or a Twitter personality—will find a way to connect rap music to the murder.

Maybe they’ll explicitly say “rap music killed him.” Maybe they’ll be dangerously (and lazily) racist, using terms like “thug music” and making sure that, when they refer to rap music, they always put “music” in quotes. Or maybe they’ll be more subtle, using terms like “helped cultivate a nihilistic environment” and “reinforced a culture of learned helplessness.” Maybe they’ll even appear to be conflicted about what they’re saying by beginning a piece with a paragraph letting everyone know they enjoy rap music too, and proving their rap cred by name-dropping J Dilla and Talib Kweli.

Maybe, as happened during Michael David Dunn’s trial for Jordan Davis’s murder, someone will imply that a rap song has any blame whatsoever for the cowardly, murderous intent that causes a man to shoot multiple times at a truck despite no reason to fear for his safety and also have such a callous disregard for life that he orders a pizza afterwards.

Anyway, it will happen again.

And when it does, when someone tries again to put rap music on trial instead of the actual murderer—or the justice system, or income inequality, or substandard schools, or the prison-industrial complex, or how “the irrelevance of black life has been drilled into this country since its infancy,” or anyone or anything else that may have had an actual, tangible influence on the crime—by asking or implying “Did rap music cause this murder?”, my answer then will be the same as it is now:

Fuck no.

***Read the rest at Complex***

Let’s Talk About Trayvon Martin Today

As the title suggests, I want to talk about Trayvon Martin today. I want to talk about his murder. I want to talk about the release of the 911 tapes. I want to talk about how I haven’t mustered the courage(?) to listen to them yet. I want to talk about how I begin to break down whenever I see his picture. I want to talk about the picture attached to this post, and how that baby-faced kid — a baby-faced kid who could have very easily been my little brother, my nephew, my cousin, my neighbor’s kid, my son, or, well, me — had no idea that he was going to be stalked, pursued, assaulted, and murdered before his 18th birthday just because he happened to be black at the wrong place in the wrong time. I want to talk about the fact that his murderer hasn’t been (and may never be) arrested. I want to talk about how, despite the fact that I know hate is wrong, I haven’t been able to think of a word strong enough to convey my hate for George Zimmerman. I want to talk about the effect this murder has had on his family, and how this unbelievably sad story has galvanized the nation.

When we’re done talking about Trayvon Martin, I want to talk about 19-year-old Anthony Scott and 6-year-old Aliyah Shell — the two youngest of the 10 people murdered in Chicago last weekend. Aliyah was killed in a drive-by shooting in broad daylight (3:30pm) as she sat on the porch with her mom. Anthony was called to a vehicle, and shot in the head as he approached it.

I’d also like to talk about 2-year-old Taizon Arin and 11-year-old Donovan McKee, two kids recently murdered by their mother’s boyfriends. Taizon died of blunt force trauma to the head. Donovan was ordered to get the sticks he was beat to death with, forced to clean up the bloody mess he made while his murderer took breaks from beating him to death, and eventually died after being beat over a nine hour span. 

If we have some time, I’d definitely like to say a few words about Kenneth Alford Jr, one of the dozen or so people I’ve personally known who’ve been murdered. It’s been almost six years since he was shot to death, and Kenneth — who was known as “Stubbo” by, well, everyone — was a friend of mine and a basketball rival I’d known since I was maybe 11 or 12.

It’s funny. I was a much better player than him — bigger, stronger, better shooter, better handle, just better — but he always got the better of me when we played against each other. As anyone who’s ever played ball will tell you, some guys just always have your number. Stubbo had mine, and it frustrated the hell out of me.

If he was still around he’d definitely be playing in one of the over-30 YMCA leagues I currently play in. He’s long gone, though — murdered because of mistaken identity — so I’m left to wonder if he’d still have my number.

Actually, I misspoke a couple paragraphs ago. When counting the dozen or so people I’ve known who have been murdered, I didn’t count former students — kids who sat in my classroom when I was an English teacher. If you add them to the list, that “dozen” number doubles.

I feel awful saying this, but I don’t remember each of their names. But, I do remember that I said a prayer for Chandler Thompson, Richiena Porter, Isaiah Talbott, and Stephen Tibbs every night for maybe three years straight.

It’s been a while since I’ve done that though, so maybe we can talk about them for (at least) a couple minutes today, for no other reasons then it’ll make me feel better about neglecting to pray for them and forgetting the names of the rest of their gunned down classmates.

Lastly, while I may be tempted to spark this discussion, we don’t have to talk about my 16-year-old and 19-year-old nieces. They were both shot at a Sweet 16 house party a few months ago, but they were both lucky enough to only suffer non-fatal wounds.

I don’t know where I’m going with any of this. I don’t know why I stopped praying for Chandler, Richiena, Isaiah, and Stephen. I don’t know what to do with all of this emotion, all of this feeling the murder of Trayvon Martin has left me with. I don’t know what do to. I do know, though, that any glance at the “Local News” section of any one of the 100(?) or so major American newspapers will sadly remind us that Trayvon Martin’s murder isn’t the only one we need to talk about today.

 —Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

no returns: the ten worst gifts you can give a woman

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ever since adam made the fateful mistake of buying eve a mammoth skin handbag for valentines day when she specifically asked for velociraptor, knowing what and what not to purchase a woman has been one of the toughest questions for a man to ponder

today, as a service from vsb.com, the champ has decided to share the ten worst gifts you can give a woman to hopefully ensure that you vsb’s out there don’t pull an adam and accidentally make your eve’s eden drier than paul mooney

1. your d*ck in the inbox

actually, this applies to all unsolicited pictures of yourself. randomly sharing those gphone cam pics you took in the mirror last week that show off your “perfect goatee” is one of the quickest ways to go from “he’s cool” to “he’s cool, but i think he likes nuts on his chest”

2. a new gym membership and any other out of the blue workout paraphernalia

while its perfectly ok to renew gym memberships or purchase track shoes and treadmills for your girl if she’s already a workout fanatic, bringing up even the faintest hint that she needs to hit the gym is a bad idea on par with “i think “keeping it up with the van gundy’s” would be a great p*rn series” and “wow. that raccoon is so cute. i wonder if it can fit in my mouth”

3. crabs

although herpes is the gift that keeps on giving, crabs creates a cruel and confusing conundrum because of the obvious permanent negative imagery it gives seafoodies.

basically, while the herpe might stall her horse riding and nude sailing days, the coochie crabs will ruin red lobster forever

barbie as rapunzel movie download

4. an anonymous drink from across the room the water horse legend of the deep online

***filed under: “bagging techniques that only work in beer commercials or if your last name happens to be elba, kodjoe, champ, clooney, or pitt”***

5. an abortion

hey capitán, when she asked you to be more considerate about sex, “hey, babe. after work lets head down to the abortion clinic. i heard they’re having a special this week, and there’s a chick-fil-a right around the corner” probably isn’t what she had in mind.

my advice: pearl necklace

6. clothes from any store with a “one-size for all” plastic bag.

thank-you-plastic-t-shirt-shopping-bag

lets put it this way: if you’re buying her a vsb baby-tee and the sales clerk stuffs it in the same six gallon garbage bag perps use to hide dead hookers on CSI, the thought still counts, but she probably won’t give a f*ck

7. candy from the p*rn store, even if they have a sale on snickers (her favorite)

***filed under: “sh*t the champ had to learn the hard way”***

8.  anything that’s breathing (unless she explicitly suggests it)

this includes, pets, exotic plants, big brothers, big sisters applications, and midgets

9. lotion or a new brand of deodorant

unless, of course, you’re training for a marathon and you’re intentionally aiming for three straight months of desert d*ck

10. anything she can use to efficiently plot your demise and/or murder

this includes guns, cutlery, account passwords, bleach, razors, pre-sharpened pencils, darts, the “dexter” box set, and nude pictures of your better looking ex

very smart brothas, sistas, and things named “blackberry molasses”, i know i’m forgetting a few. any suggestions?

—the champ