If No More Race Cards, Then No More Racism. Right.

Even Michelle Obama pulls the Black card with a smile.

Even Michelle Obama pulls the Black card with a smile.

Do you know what I legitimately hate? I hate it when people (namely white people, not all obviously considering my, ahem, pedigree) imply that if Black people stopped making race an issue, then race would cease to be an issue. As if every Black person refrained from assuming that racism existed and stopped making any associations between the color of our skin and the conditions that exist in America (and/or globally) then things would magically be…okay. Not even better, but okay.

Are there times when some Black folks run the race card unnecessarily? (And for this post I will basically be using race card and Black card interchangeably since 95 percent of al race card mentions are really just Black cards. And yes, Virginia, I made up that stat.) Yes. Just yesterday I accused the unexplainable weather patterns of being racist in nature. I’m pretty sure that race has nothing to do with it, but there’s still about a 2 percent chance that it’s personal. Because I’m Black.

Real talk though, I honestly don’t get it – hence why I hate it since I’m afraid of things I don’t understand. Actually, let me not tell that lie. I do get it. I get it because if I wanted somebody to get over something I’d probably tell them the same thing. Hey, I ran you over with my car but I’m over it you should get over it too. And since so many white people do indeed think that racism is a thing of the past, especially considering Obama’s coloredness, then it stands to reason that the only reason that racism would NOW exist is because Black folks won’t let it go. Nevermind that a solid HALF of the country did not vote for him.

Which is interesting if you think about. A conservative white person will likely opine that racism cannot still be an issue because our country managed to put a Black man into the highest office in the land. This falls apart for so many reasons if you would take the time to look at the people who voted him into office. Yet and still, a person who did not vote for him would still make the argument that his ascendance is proof positive of a new day. Which it is, symbolically. It’s a win for the history books. It’s a win for what it represented. It didn’t represent the end of racism; it represented the possibility that racism could end. One day. Eventually. Long after anybody reading this site is dead and gone.

The other reason I get is because I’m not sure the vast majority of white people actually believe in institutional racism. Like Richard Pryor stated in his infamous, “those people are resisting arrest” routine, the view is that all actions occur in a vacuum. There’s no correlation to many white people. Even many poor white people might struggle with the idea that redlining took place. Or the most poignant test of all time in my opinion where you submit resumes with ethnic names vs “normalized” names and see who gets called back. I remember having a conversation with some white friends of mine in grad school about that and despite accepting it as fact – they couldn’t deny the numbers placed before them – they still struggled with it being true. I mean, come on, not in America where everybody wins!

Which probably explains why so many think that if you stop saying “Black this, Black that…” the issues go away because from the outside looking in there are no issues. Stop and frisk is a preventative measure, not profiling. And catching one person justifies the 99 that were profiled unnecessarily.

Or you get people who say stupid sh*t like this:

It is striking that during what many had hoped would be a post-racial America, racial division has been amplified, owing not least to sustained media attention. Then again, maybe we’re experiencing the final death rattle of our racist past. Perhaps all those suppressed thoughts and feelings of anger, hurt and frustration had to rise to the surface before they finally could be eradicated.

I tend to be one of those people who does believe that its darkest before the dawn. I truly do. Despite my less than stellar church record, much of that is rooted in my belief in God. It’s no wonder so many Black folks are religious, you need SOMETHING to keep you holding on. But I also can be realistic and to to listen to some non-sensical woman basically chide Black folks for playing the race card against other Black folks is irony that I’m not even equipped to handle. Then to even surmise that all of the alleged race-baiting happening nowadays is perhaps going to bring us out of our racist heritage (and it is a heritage)? If I could tell this woman “N*GGA please” I would. You can’t kill racism by hoping Black folks just let it go UNLESS white people acknowledge that racism is still a problem and in effect attempt to change it. It’s the same argument with rape culture…victims can’t fix the problem, it has to come from the folks who are rapin’ everybody out here.

Basically, the ones who perpetuate the problem by being the problem in the first place are the ones who have to do the heavy lifting.

But I’m sleep.

So for now, I’m like the combination of Capitol One and American Express. What’s in my wallet? My race card. I don’t leave home without it.

Not for nothing and I hate to be pessimistic AND end this on such a loaded statement, but I don’t actually think America will ever truly make it to post-racial.

Until the aliens show up.

Love 40.

-VSB P aka MR. 39 OUNCES OF LOVE aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

No Church In The Wild

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My mornings usually begin the same way. I’ll wake up at 7:30, immediately pick up my laptop, and spend a half hour reading emails, checking VSB, and doing EBONY-related work. I’ll also pray. By this time, my fiancee is usually awake too, so I’ll lay back down with her for a couple minutes. By 8:15-8:20, I’ll get out of bed again and make my way the bedroom upstairs, my de facto office. Sometimes I’ll stop in the kitchen and grab some orange juice or a granola bar before heading up. From then until approximately 9:15, I’ll work exclusively on EBONY stuff.

While upstairs, I’ll hear my fiancee get up. This usually happens around 8:45. Within five minutes, the shower will begin to run. 15 to 20 minutes later, I’ll hear her:

“Morning babe. I need to be at work at 9:30. I’ll be ready in 15.”  

Sometimes it’ll be this instead:

“Morning babe. I need to be at work at 10. What do you want for breakfast?”

(These are my favorite mornings)

If it’s one of those “9:30″ mornings, I’ll stop working, put on whatever sweats and sneakers are near, and come down stairs. The dog — who usually sleeps upstairs — will follow me. I’ll put food and water in his bowl. He’ll ignore it — for now — and I’ll take him to the backyard to pee and shit. If it’s cold, I’ll throw on my parka.

If you looked out our front window then, you’d see a collection of well-manicured brownstones. You’d also see (mostly Black) families and various young professionals doing their morning routines (Taking the kids to school, going to work, walking dogs, jogging, etc).

The back of our house is a different story. Behind our backyard is an alley. Behind that alley is a group of three dilapidated row houses. And behind those houses is where the “hood” part of our neighborhood begins.

One of these houses is boarded up. One houses an interracial couple (Black man, White woman) who used to argue so loudly that it would wake us up. (They haven’t argued in months. Maybe they went on Marriage Boot Camp or something.) And one houses a drug dealer who sees light traffic throughout the day.

The drug dealer guy and I are usually cordial. If our eyes happen to meet, we’ll nod at each other. Sometimes you might even get a “Hey. What’s good?” out of both of us. His friends and customers, on the other hand, aren’t as friendly. They’re usually not out there. But when they are…let’s just say I pay very close attention to my surroundings then.

I’ll go back inside. If it’s a “10:00″ morning, we’ll sit down and eat breakfast together. Usually some combination of eggs, bacon, and fruit. If it’s a “9:30″ morning, she’ll be in the kitchen making and packing her lunch, getting ready to go.

We’ll leave five minutes later. She only works five minutes away, but in that short time we’ll use our shorthand to share a half hour’s worth of information with each other. I’ll drop her off, we’ll kiss, and I’ll head back home.

My route back home takes me through the hood part of the neighborhood. Sometimes there will be cops circling around. I do not consider the police to be an antagonistic entity. But I do not feel safe around them. I don’t necessarily feel unsafe either. I guess the best word to describe how I feel is aware.

They’re just doing their jobs, I’ll say to myself. Don’t pay them any mind, and get back home so you can finish your work.

But there are also times when I notice them paying me more attention than I’m comfortable with. I might even get followed for a block. And then, at that point, I realize nothing matters. I’m a popular published author and professional writer with a fiancee. A fiancee with multiple degrees. We’re renting a brownstone with hardwood floors throughout and 12 foot ceilings. We’re getting married in July. We go to gallery crawls and board meetings. I own t-shirts proclaiming my love for Bougie Black People. We have four corkscrews, collected over time from the parties we throw and attend. I have a morning routine. And a dog.

But, in that moment, I’m a Black man in a sketchy neighborhood wearing a parka, sweats, and sneakers, and driving a Charger. To them, I am a potential suspect. Or, even worse, a potential threat. One awkward move or one overzealous officer could end everything for me.

I’ll eventually make it home and I’ll finish working. Maybe I’ll moderate comments on VSB. Or, maybe I’ll make some edits to something I’m writing for Complex. I’ll forget about the morning. And I’ll forget that, between the people across the alley and the cops on my way home, I’ve had to be on guard every moment I was out the house. Because I’m Black in America. And when you’re Black in America, there really are no safe spaces, no recluse from potential danger, no time when you can be certain that what you do and who you are will not cease to matter because someone considers you to be a threat. Nowhere I can relax without reservation. Nowhere where I can be me and not worry.

But I will forget about all of this. Because it’s everyday. And when something happens everyday, it becomes forgettable. Mundane, even. I’ll relax in my chair, play with our dog, and moderate comments on my blog. It’s just another day.

  —Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

The One Where We Talk About the Best Racial Stereotypes EVER!

Racist-Dog-Granny-CartoonDo you remember how Sanka (ya dead?) was feeling very Olympic one day during Cool Runnings? Well, I’m feeling very racist today. Let’s waaaaaaaaaaade in the waaaaaaaaaters. <—racist

So the other day I was stuck in a basement, sittin’ on a tricycle. I remember at that very moment thinking, “stereotypes suck!” I almost started a Down With Stereotypes Movement (it would have been epic) but then a few things dawned on me like Palmolive (see what I did there?).

1. I actually really like stereotypes. I try to be at least 3 stereotypes per day. For instance, today, I ate some Popeye’s chicken while robbing a woman and yelled out, “I’m drankin’ watermelon watermelon.” I did all this with drugs in my pocket. YAWKYAWKYAWKYAWK.

2. While stereotypes are generally considered bad, some ACTUALLY work in your favor. Like really work. But like everything else there are levels to this. So with that in mind, I decided to run down a list of some of the BEST.STEREOTYPES.EVER. and a bit of analysis.

Who the F*CK WANT WHAT?!!?! And yes, Virginia, everyone’s a little bit racist? Have you seen Avenue Q? I totes want to see it. Who’s gonna take me? And for the record, pretty hurts.

So, class…I’ll hit a nae-nae (and even recite the periodic table) for the person who can tell me the most beneficial and bestest racial stereotype ever!

You, the white woman draggin’ that wagon!

Her: Black men don’t marry Black women! *sucks teeth at Black women trying to figure out how she got picked first*

Nope! No nae-nae for you! Pad thai maybe, call me…if you need a friend.

The most beneficial (and therefore best) racial stereotype ever is that Black men have the biggest wangs. 

Nothing new there. We all have heard this. But here’s some analysis, since as Meek Mills teaches us, there are indeed levels to this sh*t. I think this is where colorism comes into play. Let me ask you a question: Morris Chestnutt or Shemar Moore? Who would you guess is stereotypically packing the larger dong?

Class?

Morris. Because he’s the real mandingo in the family? Nobody looks at light skint men and thinks, lawdy, he’s prolly gon’ rip me to pieces. In fact, I’m sure a light skint dude with a large dong gets the “I wasn’t expecting all that.” Dark skinted dude with tiny peen? Tears of a clown. However, he’s already naked at that point so he kind of wins anyway. Bong bong. Let’s move on, shall we? We shall.

Asians are smarter than everybody else. 

Moment of Truth here: I’m not Asian. Now that we got that out of the way, many moons ago (was that racist?) while in grad school while talking to a friend of Asian descent – I literally have no idea what descent that is, by the way – told me how much it sucked that people think she’s smart. Which only sucks if you ain’t. Granted, that’s a lot of pressure, but I told her that I’d rather be considered smart than a criminal. She said she hadn’t thought about that before, presumably because nobody has ever asked her to help them commit a felony…which has happened to me. Recently. No lie no lie no lieeeeeieieieieeie. Which says something. To others, all Black men probably do look alike, which means to other races I might look like I’m the real mandingo in the family even if my sisters are like, nope. Black women. Terrible.

Jewish people are all rich.

Or as Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) said, “tall Israelis are runnin’ this rap sh*t”. (Notice other stereotypes aren’t stereotypically sexist in nature, they’re actually postive in, like, life and sh*t). Can I be real with y’all for a momento? Or uno momento? OR something. I know that Jewish people are a big thing up north (racist much?), but down South I’m sure there around but I never really paid attention. So that whole Jewish people are rich thing was new to me when I got to be around actual Jewish people. I just felt like sharing. Plus I didn’t want to share that other thing Jewish people are famous for. You know the one.

Mexicans are the hardest workers ever. 

I only personally know like 3 Mexicans. Two of them are actually lazy as f*ck and the other has a Ph.D.. But that doesn’t stop this from being one of those backhanded complimentary best stereotypes ever! Because when you need work done? Who do you to seek out at Home Depot! Mexicans! You ain’t looking for Jamal. He might rob you RIGHT after he moves your television into your house and you can’t pay him in Corona. I’m sorry, that was racist.

This should be enough to get the ball rolling, which was my point. Because Black man…balls.

Ya know, sports. RACISM!

So what are the best racial stereotypes you can think of?? It’s Friday. Race on, my peole. We do this for la raza.

(I’m actually excited to see what ads pop up for a post like this. Because I’m racist.)

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka TANGLE JIG P aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

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

Circling The Wagons With Marcus Smart

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Last summer, I got pulled into a conversation about President Obama, crime, and George Zimmerman that I totally did not want to have. Well, let me rephrase that. I did not want to have that conversation at that time. I was at a bar with some friends, and I was in “get a couple drinks, and talk shit about Yeezus and YouTube strippers” mode, not “get a couple drinks, and discuss racially sensitive issues with this conservative White guy I’m cool with” mode. But, it happened, and I wrote about it. 

During this conversation, he matter-of-factly said that “Black people never criticize Obama”, and he cited a few polls and anecdotes as proof. When done making his point, I corrected him. Take a trip to any Black gathering, whether it’s a popular barbershop or a NSBE happy hour, and you’ll hear all types of things said about the president…and his wife. (The kids remain off-limits.) Most opinions shared will be positive, but even the lauds are often wrapped in snark. It’s not that we don’t criticize or even curse him. We just don’t do it in front of White people like you.

I mean, yes. If you’re criticizing President Obama’s stance and/or activity on an issue that has nothing to do with his Blackness (gay marriage, perhaps), then yeah. We shouldn’t have much problem agreeing. But if you’re criticizing his competency or attitude or intelligence — basically, anything where your opinion may have some race-related influence — then no. Even if we actually agree with what you’re saying, we’re not agreeing with you.

Anyway, before writing this, I watched the footage of Marcus Smart pushing Jeff Orr, again. I actually saw it live while at a bar Saturday night. Between then and now I’ve probably seen it a couple dozen times.

My feelings about it have remained the same. Regardless of what Orr said, Smart was in the wrong. This doesn’t absolve Orr of any wrong. Shit, it doesn’t even make him less wrong than Smart. But, while what Smart did was understandable — anyone who’s ever played ball in front of that many antagonistic people has had that urge before — you can’t retaliate like that. There are situations when a physical confrontation is necessary. Just not then. (And no, it doesn’t matter what he actually said to him.)

So yeah, Marcus Smart was in the wrong. As was Richard Sherman when he offered that fake-as-an-eight-dollar-bill-ass handshake to Michael Crabtree, then talked shit about him on national TV. Oh, and Kanye is a f*cking asshole, Obama has been disappointing, Drunk in Love is the only track off Beyonce worth a damn, and OJ did it.

All topics I have no problem discussing with other Black people. Or people I trust enough to get it. But once you leave the nest and start hearing criticisms caked in coded language (i.e.: “he’s a thug”, “her music isn’t really art”, “he’s acting like a child”, etc), you circle the wagons. And sometimes you circle even when you know you’re defending something or someone you don’t actually agree with.

If I bring up the Marcus Smart incident with Panama or my dad — or even one of my White teammates from college — I’ll be honest. Because I know the conversation will not occur in a context-less vacuum. It’ll be nuanced, raw, and real. If random White bar guy wants to talk about it, and he includes “…just like those NBA guys” or “he acted like an animal“, he’s not getting completely honest me. My feelings about and connection to the macro issue — his feelings about Black athletes and Black people — will overshadow my feelings about the micro.

Later this evening, I’m going to attend the third session of the pre-marriage counseling class we’re taking. As I mentioned before, nothing I’ve heard so far has been new or surprising. But there’s been one theme repeated ad nauseam. Probably to drive home exactly how important it is to a healthy marriage.

(Paraphrasing) “You and your partner need to be a united front. Regardless of the disagreements you might personally have with each other, when facing the rest of the world, you need to have each other’s back.”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)