The Souls of Half Black Folk

a blog about social and political issues. as i see it. and sports too.

Month: August, 2014

Maybe its Time for Me to Die

If they gunned me down

Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis.

Too few people have paid attention. Too little change has been made.

Maybe it’s time for me to die.

In order for real progress, real change to be made, people, MUST pay attention and they’re not. Research has shown that there is a stark divide on just how important the execution of Michael Brown in Ferguson is to race relations in America.

pew research             pew research rayvon martin

So maybe it’s time for me to go.

I’m a 26 year old bi-racial man with a college degree, never been in trouble with the law, work experience in the United States Senate and headed to graduate school.

How would America feel if my white mother held a press conference about her son’s unlawful murder?

How would it look to America if the predominantly white community that I come from cried out and called for a change?

What would America see if the predominantly white college I attended held a candle light vigil to remember me?

How would America react if my former staffer colleagues on the Hill stood in solidarity against violence against skin with a darker hue?

I bet that would get people’s attention.

The fundamental flaw with American race relations is a failure to empathize with those that don’t look like you (this is not limited to white communities- this is applicable to ALL communities). Too many Americans view what’s happening in Ferguson as something that is happening to someone else, a foreign community, to someone that is not “like” them.

Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were not just murdered in the physical sense; their characters were also assassinated- which only adds to the anguish. They were depicted as “thugs”, “criminals”, “bullies”, “gangsters”- no one wants to identify with any of those “types” of people. But as those words are slowly and subtly associated with these murder victims, the people that need to identify with them the most simply won’t.

No one wants to see these men as brothers, husbands, fathers, sons and friends because that would hurt too much. So they become something else and they we ultimately end up a statistic.

Its easy for mainstream America to not connect with someone that “fits the description;” someone they may not recognize, that may listen to a different type of music, celebrate a different culture or enjoy a different type of food- but that does not mean they are less of a person. That doesn’t mean they should be treated differently or sentenced to death because of the color of their skin. But that’s what is happening.

Liberty and Justice for All*

It has an asterisk, because it doesn’t yet exist in America.

True justice for these men will be when EVERYONE acknowledges that our mindset on race hasn’t evolved all that much over the past few hundred years and we pledge that it stops here, it stops now.

I can’t be the change for anyone else- change starts with you, from within.

But if I was cut down in the street walking home from the store and my story was told maybe you would pay attention… or am I just another number?

Maybe its time for me to die so we can find out.

How Should a Black (or Half Black) Man Deal with the Police?

police

I recently read Stay Alive, Black Men, Stay Alive by television personality, T.J. Holmes.

It was a passionate plea to black men that really hit home- a guide for how to survive an encounter with police.

In the article, Holmes recounts a time he was unjustly pulled over for what amounted to being guilty of DWB or Driving While Black.

As Black men, we can’t actually PROVE why we get stopped but I, like Holmes and too many other Black men that have been pulled over know why.

Holmes described his interaction with the police:

I put the car in park, roll down both front windows fully, turn off the engine, take the keys out of the ignition and dangle them high in the air out the driver’s side window before placing them on the roof of the car.

Next, I cross my arms at the wrist, spread my fingers and display my empty hands out of the window and wait for the officer to come to the door to give me instructions. When the officer asks for my license and registration, I explain that they are in my pocket and my glove compartment, and I ask if it’s all right to move my hands in order to retrieve them. I don’t make any movement without first getting the officer’s blessing to do so.

 

Holmes knew he had done nothing wrong but he knew he had to suppress his anger and frustration in order to survive this encounter without going to jail or even keeping his life.

I’m on board with that- we both understand that an interaction with the cops is NOT the time to “keep it real.” It will go wrong.

My issue with Holmes’ actions is the extra (in my opinion, excessive) measures taken to convince this cop he was not a threat. Its one thing to remain calm, show no aggression and comply with the officer’s requests, but its completely another to take those extra steps to ensure that someone that is harassing you is completely comfortable as they methodically strip you of your personhood.

It’s a validation that behavior by a rogue racist is okay.

Holmes went on to report the incident and was told that the officer in the wrong and other officers were retrained- a victory. But is it?

To the racist officer, Holmes was at first the compliant, perhaps even the affable Negro that he pulled over. Made him feel in power and control in the situation, which is what racial profiling is really all about. But then Holmes reported the incident and I’m confident the officer didn’t say: “Aw shucks, I shouldn’t have done that.” He probably at some point thought, “That snitch nigger.”

Now obviously no one can prove that, but I cannot imagine that this one instance did a whole lot more than create an inconvenience for this officer and one he likely blamed on… a Black man.

I would hate to be the next guy.

I would hate to be the next guy pulled over and didn’t take the key out of my ignition, show excessive manners and politeness while asking for confirmation that I can access the proper documentation requested.

I would hate to be just a regular guy handling the situation like any regular guy would.

To an extent, Holmes is completely right with his advice:

Stay calm. Breathe. Don’t get animated. Don’t get loud. Don’t be a smart-ass. Don’t even move. Don’t do anything.

To that effect, he is 100% correct.

I just can’t get on board with the excess.

I will comply and be respectful but I absolutely refuse in an instance like this to go the extra mile to prove to some racist cop that I’m one of the “good ones.”

With recent events, in Ferguson, Missouri perhaps not going the extra mile would make me a martyr or worse- a statistic. But if we continue to go farther to prove we’re “nice” or “good” to an established bigot what does do besides give a racist cop the figurative ammo to use the real stuff on just a regular guy?

The reason we continue the struggle is so that we can be ourselves in whatever form we choose to be. By creating a veil- a false sense of who we really are, we showcase the wrong reality to those who need to see our truth the most.

Perhaps I’m wrong in my stance here. Perhaps Holmes is on to something and we have to put on an act to survive in America.

But I’m going to fight like hell until I’m right. The next guy needs me to.

 

The Point.

image (12)

At what point will I not fit the description?

 

At what point will I not be labeled a thug?

 

At what point will I not be assumed poor and uneducated?

 

At what point will I not be held to a different standard?

 

At what point will I not be followed in a store?

 

At what point will I not have to do “better” to be equal?

 

At what point will I stop fearing becoming a statistic?

 

At what point will I wear a hoodie without thinking twice?

 

At what point does it stop?

 

Violence against black men is real.

 

Think. What’s the point?

I’m Still Waiting for MY Movie to be Made

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I can’t say I’m a movie buff. Not by a longshot, but I certainly enjoy them. I like a range of movies covering a wide spectrum of cinematography (real film gurus may be inclined to disagree, that’s fine). My Netflix queue might as well be a random collection of movies. I thought City of God was incredible and despite poor reviews I have thoroughly enjoyed every Transformers flick put out by Michael Bay. Inception made me wish that dreaming with in a dream within a dream was actually possible and I probably reference Black Dynamite at least three times a day. But with the thousands and thousands of movies that have been put out- I’m still waiting for MY movie to be made.

Black dynamite

When I say “my” movie, I’m not talking about the story of my life (though, if anyone’s compelled to make that I’m happy to chat) but I’m talking about how movies that share a human experience have failed time and time again to even come close to telling my story.

Complex magazine ranked the movie Soul Food as one of the 25 Best Black Movies of the Past 25 Years. Cool (the list also has some films like Malcolm X and Coming to America which are high on my list also). It was a solid film but as I watch it and films that it “inspired” (am I the only one that thinks that This Christmas is the EXACT same movie with new characters and set during a holiday?) I have developed a problem. My issue with Soul Food and movies like it (read: all Tyler Perry Movies) is that people look at it as representative of the Black Experience in America. It is not.

-Big Mama

-The crazy/ inappropriate Aunt or Uncle

-Big family

-Church-centered family

-25 cousins

-The one relative who went to an Ivy League school and then turned his/ her back on the Black community

-Cornbread, collard greens, ham hocks, mac & cheese

-From the south

-… andddd the one relative who catches “shade” for bringing home a white person.

Zero.

Webster

As I kid and even now I can actually connect to exactly zero of these aspects of the “Black Experience.”

My mom absolutely REFUSES to be called mama, my aunts and uncles are pretty normal people, I don’t have a big family (my family is really, REALLY spread out), I was in youth group but certainly did not attend church very often, okay- maybe I do have that many cousins but most are scattered over Europe and Africa and I haven’t met many of them. I don’t have that one relative that “made it big” and forgot the rest of us. I love soul food- it’s delicious but it certainly was not part of my upbringing. I’m from upstate New York- a long ways from the south and my mom is white- I can honestly (and thankfully) say my parents and the rest of my family care absolutely zilch what shade of woman I bring home.

The problem is not the movies per se- they all have a level (some vastly more than others) of entertainment value. The problem is that they enter mainstream consciousness and become the narrative of what authenticity is.

People THINK that is what the Black Experience SHOULD be when in fact, that’s so far from the truth.

I’m willing to bet that when I was in high school if people didn’t think that’s the way it “should” be, I would have faced far less ridicule for “acting white” or being the “whitest black person” someone “knows.” I am willing to say that if diversity within my community was shown, people wouldn’t see someone like me as “different.” I’m not different, my story just hasn’t been told…yet.

Is there hope?

Recently, I saw the trailer for a film that gives me a tremendous amount of optimism for the future of Black film.

Dear White People.

What the trailer shows (and what I truly hope is in the film) is what lacks in other movies. Diversity within the Black community.

We are not all the same; we do not all share the same experiences and values and it’s so important to showcase this as a Black experience and that there are many, MANY shades of an experience.

I truly and sincerely hope this changes my outlook and the way people view Black cinema.

Maybe this is my movie I’ve been waiting for? I’m waiting.

Kanye

An Open Letter to the Racist on the Street

Continue the march- one step, one mind at a time.

This past Christmas, I was out with some friends hitting the bar scene in my hometown.

As the night was winding down, I said my goodnights and left the bar. Obviously, I had every intention to grab a hot slice down the street to help keep warm on that frigid December night-I mean who doesn’t love a slice after a night out?

Eating my pizza, I was savoring the livelihood of the street with the sounds, sights and smells of my home one last time before I headed back to my life in Washington, D.C.

I walked past a small group of strangers- guys I had never seen, never met, never spoken to before.

Dipping my shoulder to avoid bumping into one of them on the crowded sidewalk, I overheard him say to his friend “Look at that nigger eatin’ his pizza.”

I wasn’t sure how to act or feel. I was angry- I wanted to have a conversation with my hands- my right was particularly eager to share it’s insightful thoughts on the matter but I paused- thought about it.

What would it look like when a young black (or half black) man on the street was physically the aggressor towards another?

I would be yet another statistic. Another reason for people to “fear” someone like- another excuse to “stand their ground” if they felt “threatened” . Besides, I was the only one who heard the pungent words that sloppily slid out of the mouth of this drunken jester.

I opted to talk to this person- I wanted to teach him something despite his conscience floating in a pool of cheap light beer.

Upon confrontation, the man seem shocked that I approached him and through slurred, barely audible mumbling he said he didn’t realized he had said something “racial.”

 

He stopped short of an apology.

 

I went on to try to explain how his words are hurtful- something I genuinely doubt was able to shift his drunken and bigoted mentality.

I walked to my car. I went home.

When I got into my living room and sat. In the cold, lonely silence of the early morning I felt deflated, angry, powerless. The Kanye West line repeated itself over and over in my mind:

 

Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe

 Even. If. You. In. A. Benz. You. Still. A. Nigga. In. A. Coupe.

 Even. If. You. In. A. Benz. You. Still. A. Nigga. In. A. Coupe.

 

It felt like no matter where I go in life, no matter what I do in life, no matter this, no matter that, no matter anything- Race is always going to be an issue, a never ending climb up the steep slope to the Mountain Top.

I searched for the answer on the turbulent sea of raw emotion as tears began to leak from my eyes. I felt anger, frustration, sadness, powerlessness… hate.

I ran the scenario over and over again through my mind. I didn’t do what I wanted to do in the heat of the moment- but I did what I HAD to do, what I NEEDED to do.

What is the solution?

Compassion, Love, Power. The willingness to share my expereice- to bring light to a the dark corner of ignorance. To empower others so that the future will not be stripped down of its vibrant diversity to the bare bones of cowardice and weakeness to judge one based on appearance.

 

We need to take the baton and continue the uphill journey to the Mountain Top.

 

I am willing to make this climb.

 

I sat at my computer and just began to write. Raw emotion flowed from my fingertips. I wanted somehow for this person to feel my pain, to walk in my shoes, to appreciate my experience, my struggle.

I immediately posted what I wrote to Facebook not to share what happened with my friends and family for some sort of sympathy.

I did it with the hope that this guy was a “friend” of a “friend” and the message would be delivered.

 

I doubt it reached him.

 

I did get something back, however.

What I got in return was an unprecedented and unexpected amount of love from those that truly stand on the side of equality and inclusion.

 

I heard from people I hadn’t heard from in years and I felt like it brought to light a discussion that needed to be had- a discussion that needs to be had.

I want to share my letter with you in the hopes that it can reach even further- and attitudes can be shifted.

 

Real change is made one mind at a time.

 

Continue the climb.

 

Here is my letter:

 

 

To the Waste of Flesh that referred to me as a “NIGGER eating pizza” tonight:

I take a fierce amount of pride in where I come from. I am fiercely proud of my heritage and my home. You are proof that ignorance is alive and well and that WE still have work to do. As I told you tonight, I should have decked you in the face and left you unconscious with a black eye, however that would accomplish nothing and I am BETTER than that. But I hope that you took something away from our encounter, hope that you one day come to understand the true meaning of what you really said. You see, when I confronted you, your true cowardice was revealed- you understood you were wrong and acknowledged the fact, however your words displayed that you hold a hate within. You proved that you are filth, the worst of what humans have to offer. I am thoroughly embarrassed that you call my hometown home but you motivate me to march Forward to work to eradicate the mindless ignorance that plagues our society to this day. 

The quest for true equality is so far from over and you are evidence that there is a tremendous amount of work yet to be done. You revealed a deep seeded pain that has been rooted in the shadows of history that has not yet been put to rest. I pledge my life- my EVERYTHING to ensuring that you and people who think the way you do will be extinct in the next generation, the disease you have in your mind will be one day eradicated from the earth and although I may never live to see it, I look forward to that day with a smile on my face. 

I wear a wristband on my right arm that reads “Leave your mark to endure forever” and I swear by that. The mark will be left and you will be forgotten- you will blow away in the wind like the dirt that you are. I wanted to hit you, wanted you to feel the pain of your attempt to sully my being on the left side of your face, but what would that do? Leave you with a bruise and a story that a Black man assaulted you. You would win that way. We are playing on my terms and when playing on my terms, I WILL NOT LOSE.

I’m sorry for you and those like you and take pity on you for not knowing better. I hope you truly took something away from our interaction and know that in the end, love and understanding will triumph over the darkness of hate and ignorance. The mark will be left to endure FOREVER and I will use my being as a vehicle to make sure that this Dream will become realized.

If you have any questions comments or concerns, I am willing to talk and I’m not hard to find.

With the Utmost Sincerity,

Peter Haviland-Eduah

 

 

Comin’ From Where I’m From

Just. Do. You.

In 1903, W.E.B. DuBois coined a mantra that brought to light a perspective into black social thought previously undiscussed here in the United States. The double consciousness he wrote was a “sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” He put in to words the black experience at the turn of the 20th century but perhaps unknown to him, someone like myself may interpret that in my own way.

I grew up in suburban upstate, New York (something that I am fiercely proud of), an only child to a white American mother and a Ghanaian father. I’m a product of the public school system and lived a pretty typical suburban middle-class lifestyle. We didn’t always have everything we wanted, but always had everything we needed. We cut coupons and I had no issues getting my swag on the TJ Maxx clearance rack or sales at Macy’s. I was a happy kid and still consider myself a happy person, glad to be who I am and grateful to be where I’m from.

Oh yeah, my hometown has a population of 1.7% black, which I supposes plays an important role in this story.

I distinctly remember as a kid growing up not really having a concept of race (like ALL kids before outside forces impose views on race upon them) – I was the only black kid in all my classes and frankly I didn’t really notice. I had plenty friends (many of whom are still great friends), played sports and race wasn’t an issue (or at least it wasn’t a concern of mine). That changed when I was in about first grade.

Our teacher marched us down the hallway to the bathroom when an older kid (he was in 2nd or 3rd grade at the time) asked me “Are you white or black?” It was very innocent and matter of fact- he was curious and I was caught off guard. I responded “Uh, I don’t know.” An answer he accepted at face value as he turned and walked away; the moment however stuck with me and I can honestly say it was the first time I had thought about race.

As I grew older in this predominantly white community, which I must say was for the most part cosmopolitan and open-minded (although not without some closed minded individuals and incidents along the way) I naturally began to develop my own identity based on my life, my surroundings and my circumstance. Race most certainly wasn’t the only factor in my search of self but for the framework of this blog, it’s the perspective that I am choosing to present my views.

I credit my mother with more love and admiration than I can possibly put in to words. She herself is a white woman who raised a black child in a predominantly white community. She shielded me from what I later learned were hideous verbal smears but she also gave me the dexterity to develop an arsenal of love and serenity to combat the ignorance and intolerance I would face coming of age. She encouraged me to discover my OWN place within any community I chose to be a part of, whether it be athletes, cellists, or the black community.

I am a black man.

I look like a black man, I am seen as a black man. I’ve been called a nigger on numerous occasions, been followed in stores, I get vastly different reactions from people when I walk down the street wearing a suit versus when I toss on a pair of sweats and a hoody despite being a college graduate. I’ve faced just about everything else that every other black man in America has to face.

I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am proud of who I am, proud of where I’m from and proud of where I’m going.

But my perspective is one that often goes overlooked.

Recently, President Obama brought up the subject of “acting white.” It brought up old wounds of countless points throughout my life (which continue to this day) where I’ve been accused of “being white” because I did well (not always by my parents standards) in the classroom or chose to wear a polo to school in the pre-Kanye era. I was “white” because I play tennis, “white” because I love skiing and “white” because I was able to get a good job after graduating from a good (predominantly “white”) college.

I guess what always bothered me most was the fact that in a community with so few blacks, growing up- I took some of the most vicious verbal assaults regarding race from other black kids. Don’t get me wrong it came from all other races which was sad by itself but I had always imagined a greater sense of solidarity. I thought we’d refrain from attacking one another and that’s where I can connect with the Double Consciousness. I think DuBois imagined it as being literally black and white, but in my case I think there many shades of gray, but really brown.

There were times I felt like I was on an island.

I didn’t really know how my perspective fit in to the black narrative and how that melted into the larger American narrative. It really wasn’t until high school until I really came to terms with how I wanted to fit it- I want to do me.

The double consciousness is something that is very real. I think it is still sadly quite relevant but I think that it’s a brown issue, not black and white. There are many shades to this and this blog will serve as my shade, my perspective on issues that concern me.

I encourage everyone, black, white, brown, whatever to carve their own path, spread love, respect all- but most importantly:

Just. Do. You. Whatever consciousness you may have.