The Souls of Half Black Folk

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

Category: Diversity

#BlackLivesMatter Defined by Me

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Since the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner (among a growing list of others) over the past few months, race has been at the epicenter of the news cycle- which has permeated into the “water cooler” jargon at work, at school and inevitably, on social media.

As someone that comes from a predominantly white community, attended predominantly white college, entered a predominantly white “white collar” workforce and currently pursuing a graduate degree at a predominantly white university, its interesting for me to see some of the posts via Facebook and Twitter and other platforms from people that I know.

More interestingly however, is observing the reaction of folks to my thoughts, actions and beliefs surrounding what’s been going on. Some have been supportive- without a doubt, I’ve received much love from so many people both publically and privately but I’ve also been made keenly aware of is that what I have to say makes people uncomfortable- and if I can be frank, my response to that is: “Good.”

Race in the American consciousness is one that we keep trying to push to the side, something we wish to leave in the past and simply ignore as it festers on the fringes of society.

 

Well- that’s what got us here.

 

Dominating social media has been the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, a rallying cry that is coming to define the dawn of the New Civil Rights Movement that we are watching unfold before our very eyes. I’ve used the slogan again and again and what I’m discovering is that people are simply not understanding what that means, so let me define it for you:

Black Lives Matter is a mantra that grabs attention and may be off-putting but it delivers a message that is so imperative to what this country needs to hear.

All lives matter. Black lives, White Lives, Brown lives, Men’s lives, Women’s lives, Police Lives, all matter, period.

What Black Lives Matter means is that Black people are not valued, not appreciated, not recognized as a real equal despite what people may say. And I’m willing to sacrifice any and everything until that becomes something truly of the past.

This isn’t an ask for reparations or for 40 acres and a mule. But it is a DEMAND for equality, and not some fake “post-racial America” BS- This is about the real thing.

The past few months have given insight into the Black life experience and have allowed the rest of America to have a small window in to what we as Black Americans go through on a day-to-day basis- and people seem to not be comfortable with that. If that’s the case ask yourself “why?”

Walking in someone else’s shoes is never easy, but when it comes time to, then please do it with an open mind.

I’m happy to discuss my experience with you so that we can have a better dialogue and instead of assumptions we can move to understandings which is a difficult, yet powerful transition.

It’s easy to claim that we’re all equal, easy to say that race doesn’t matter.

It unfortunately does.

This Movement is about changing mindsets, this Movement is about making Black lives matter- on par with everyone, this Movement SHOULD make you uncomfortable- because we’re not there yet.

So instead of making assumptions, lets make a dialogue so that we can move forward, together.

 

Peace.

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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.

I’m Still Waiting for MY Movie to be Made

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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