I’m Black and I’m…Quiet?

It’s weird…I didn’t see any police being attacked by Beyonce albums today. Could this be because Beyonce’s halftime show was not just about inciting violence against police officers?

No, that’s crazy.

Beyonce’s halftime show was big and energetic, with crazy costumes and gravity itself tripping on Beyonce’s dance moves.  But it was the theme of her halftime show that was the most talked about. The outfits that paid homage to the black panther movement. The word negro sung repeatedly in front of a stadium full of people. And the main song of her act, “Formation” connected to a music video that depicts a New Orleans cop car underwater. Many critics put the pieces together and drew their own conclusions.

Since I believe in the freedom of speech, I’m highlighting my favorite comments, and adding my own commentary:

From Former Mayor Giuliani,

“I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive,” – Giuliani

(Because Negro is a secret code word for attack, obviously)

To Facebook commenters:
“Rise above and stay above the strife. For a girl who grew up in a privileged, wealthy family, she has no business pandering to those who didn’t.”-facebook commenter

(If you have money, you can’t comment on society. That’s just how it goes.)

And as of now, there’s even  petition to ban Beyonce from performing:

In Beyonce’s newest music video which was just released, she is shown drowning a police car. Her video is disgraceful. Why should she be able to perform on the same field as the great men of the New York Mets?

(The first thing I think of when I see A New Orleans cop car underwater is Hurricane Katrina for some reason. But I can see why you would confuse that with drowning.

P.S. And I’m a huge Mets fan from Queens but I’ve never heard anyone refer to them as great men. Thanks!)

 

Overall, I love that this is such a big topic. Because every article, good or bad, about Beyonce’s performance has the potential to bring more attention to issues affecting the black community. But the thing is-none of the above critiques were ABOUT her performance-just the content of the performance. Which is troubling. If kids of any race, creed, or orientation are seeing that an international celeb is being criticized and potentially boycotting for trying to make a statement, they may become more fearful of expressing their own strong opinions. What’s the point if people are going to shut it out?

Fortunately, I have no doubt Beyonce will take this all in stride. She’s Beyonce. But it bothers me tonight. Will I get attacked for making a Facebook status about blacklivesmatter? Could a tweet about the black panthers get a police officer angry at me?Will this article get me banned from my local Trader Joe’s? The fact is: at the end of the day, I”m going to say what’s really on my mind.

If I’m quiet…who’s going to make jokes about the Mets?

(And commentary about blacks in society.)

 

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Carson’s Answer About Race: Big Applause for a Small Answer

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At the beginning, I was enjoying the circus that was the Republican debate last night. But as the jabs at Hillary and uncomfortable comments about women’s rights to their bodies mounted up, it became less funny by the minute. All of a sudden, a question about the #blacklivesmatter movement was asked and it got…one answer. Then straight to commercial. And that commercial? A Straight Outta Compton trailer. I thought that this was the most angry I’d get last night.

I was wrong.

Later on in the debate, Ben Carson was asked what he would do to help the racial divide in the country. (yes, they asked the black candidate about this issue, a whole other thing in itself). Ben’s answer specifically to what he would do was:
“The skin…The hair doesn’t make them who they are. And it’s time for us to move beyond that. Our strength comes from our unity. We are the United States of America, not the divided states. Those who want to destroy us are trying to divide us, and we shouldn’t let them do it.”

Now, on the surface this sounds like a well-constructed and great message. Carson points out that we should evaluate people on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We can succeed if we unify ourselves and become one. And we shouldn’t let people divide us by racial lines. It all sounds nice, but as Jon Stewart said in his closing monologue (Daily show!), you’ve gotta pay attention to the bullshit.

The speech that Ben Carson gave not only avoided the question completely by being so hopelessly general, but is essentially a remix of the I Have A Dream speech. Carson wants us to look inside and overcome! This is a nice sentiment, but the fact is, we need a much more substantial answer than that. At least Scott Walker, when given less than a minute to answer the #blacklivesmatter question, mentioned specifically that police officers should be better trained for these crises. Ben Carson’s answer didn’t contain any concrete answers. This is not to take anything from Dr. King’s powerful and moving messages years ago. His words were exactly what we needed for the time, and King clearly backed that up with non-violent protests. Carson’s response are nothing more than words, air that is sure to dissapate if he ever achieved the high office.

It’s sad, because to some point, I agree with Carson. I want a nation where we look beyond skin, hair, gender, sexuality, ability and all other lines that divide us to unite us all. However, when Carson makes statements like, “I don’t talk about race because I’m a neurologist”, I lose all hope that he actually has a plan to get to the vision of that nation. I’m no stranger to politicians not living up to their promises. Every politician makes at least one promise they can’t keep. But when a black man does not have a solid answer for a problem in the black community that has become so prevalent in the last few years-I’m disappointed, to say the least.

The debate last night showed me a side of the political spectrum that I’m used to putting aside simply because I don’t like to listen. But last night showed me that I should start. Yes, it’s likely at this point that we’ll have a Democratic house in 2016. On paper, both parties still have a 50/50 shot at power. We can hope for Bernie Sanders and other independents, but history has shown that they are usually distractions for the main candidates. As both the Republicans and Democrats still have a strong chance for office, I can’t ignore the statements they made about race last night.

“#blacklives matter for less than two minutes of the debate. Let’s direct the question to the black candidate to put the pressure on him to deliver. Smile as he says nice words with no substance.

Now let’s make fun of Hillary Clinton again.” -Fox News.

What Do I say to my niece?

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A Loss In Words

What do I say to my niece?
This endless violence won’t cease.
My only hope that it will decrease
Before I am deceased.
At night I’m supposed to sleep
But I can only weep
Over the lives that could not keep
The souls that death chose to reap
Do I tell her that this all about race
That the color of face
Determines her place
In society’s good grace.
No tv tells me that’s not true
This violence can happen to me or you
Yet the only deaths in my view
Leave a distinctly colored residue
I don’t want another excuse!
It’s past time to introduce
The definitive way to reduce
This pattern of abuse.
You want help? I’ll be the first to volunteer
Just don’t be insincere
Or even worse, disappear
From our quest due to fear.
It’s gonna take all of us to make this change
Though at first it may be strange
Great ideas we will exchange
Monumental plans we will arrange.
We will succeed because our goals are right
And it all won’t happen overnight
But you tend to have to fight
To remove a society’s blight.
Every night I dream of this peace
For the bloody news to cease
Giving me an increase
In good news for my niece.

You can’t sit with us! Thoughts on Rachel Dolezal

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In order to talk about the Rachel Dolezal story, I’m going to put a few things aside right at the beginning. I’m not going to make this an article about being “transracial” (whatever that is) or make any comparisons to Caitlin Jenner’s situation. I’m just going to get to the bottom of why this is such a big issue in the first place. because, in reality, despite expert analysis and feedback, it’s all very simple.

Let’s pretend that you formed a group with friends at school. The group started because you have this similarity: you each have heterochromia in your eyes, meaning that none of you have the same eye color for both eyes. For example, Jill has a blue eye and brown eye, and your friend James Bond (the name is quite common) has a green eye and a hazel eye. Not everyone with heterochromia sits with your group at lunch every day, but a lot of them stick together. You like a lot of the same movies, a lot of the same artists and hang out in a lot of the similar place. One day, one member of your group, who we will call, “Rach” is eating her pudding when something flies out of her eye.

CONTACTS!

This entire time she was eating with your group and advocating for its awareness, she was lying-both her eyes are baby blue. They are quite nice eyes now that you see them…but that’s beyond the point. Rach has been lying to you for months. She pretended to be something she wasn’t. Now we wonder, what else was “Rach” lying about?

Trust is what this whole national issue is about. That’s what we should be upset about most in this story. So why do most arguments center around Rachel’s “pretending to be black”? It comes down to appropriation vs. assimilation.

When you arrive in a new environment, work environment, school environment, etc., you are likely to pick up certain work habits. For example, if everyone starts using the word “ZANTHEPE” to refer to an unruly customer, you’ll probably start saying it or at least start thinking about it. As time goes on, you may consciously pick up certain work habits while consciously rejecting all others. This is the process of assimilation into the new culture. You do it actively and passively so that you can survive and thrive in the company. By contrast, let’s say your roommate that works at Burger King starts using your work lingo and slang. One day, they come to the company Kwanzaa party and talk and act as if they worked there and had their experiences. This is seen as appropriation, because this person is pretending to be a part of the culture without having a direct connection.

This is an important distinction that is often missed. Any person of color in America that has been accused of “acting/talking white” knows this. Because they have chosen to take aspects of other cultures in the diverse American melting pot into themselves, they are seen as outsiders in their own respective cultures. Yes, there are some people who take it a bit too far but the large majority are just living the way they want to. There is nothing wrong for a person who does not identify as black to wait for the newest Kendrick Lamar mixtape to drop. In fact, they just have a great taste in music.

Crossing cultural lines and divides is a beautiful thing that we get to do in America. Unfortunately, that decision is not always supported by culture you were born into. That’s why some people are willing to go to extremes to avoid the transition. If you just take on the new culture wholesale by putting in those contacts or changing your skin color, you get to skip all those questioning looks from your culture that say, “Why are going over to that lunch table? You already have us.” It doesn’t make it right. You should be who you want to be despite judgments and criticism. But we all know that the world is not that kind and accepting…yet.

Rachel, you went about this the wrong way. Instead of embracing your identity and black culture simultaneously, you sacrificed one for the other. That lie you held for so long is going to take a while for us to get over. You’re not a bad person…we think. You did all of this because of your love of black culture…we think. You didn’t mean to make light of the culture by appropriating a false identity…we think.
You know…it’s hard to say.

We’ve never met you, Rachel.

Expendablacks-Why is the black dude always the first to go?

(Spoilers for Walking Dead Season 5 to follow. You have been warned)

Walking Dead had a strong second half of the season, elevating season 5 of the zombie drama to one of its best. But despite my enjoyment of the characters, story direction and mounting tension, one thing still bothered me:

The black guys kept dying.

I’m not exaggerating. In the first half of the season, we lose Bob to cannibalism. Then we lose Tyreese to two silmulantaneous walker bites+blood loss from a severed arm (in an attempt to stop the infection). Lastly, we lose Noah, (a character that has been a part of the main group for less than half the season) to a horde of zombies devouring him in one of the most gruesome deaths of the series. That’s three in one season. As a point of comparison, the “Main group” has only lost one other member that was not a black male this entire season (if you don’t know by now, I’ll let you figure it out).

Even if you take into account that Chad Coleman (who plays Tyreese) may have been looking to get off the show for another one, that still doesn’t get the Walking Dead off the hook. In previous seasons, we’ve had multiple black men die, only to be quickly replaced by another one. It’s a joke among fans of the show, but it’s not an exaggeration. The writers seem to keep killing off the black male character as a sacrificial lamb and then adding a new lamb to join the flock…only be to slaughtered later.

Is it also a coincidence that their deaths have been some of the most disturbing in the series? While Tyreese’s is somewhat standard for a zombie show, Bob is not only bitten, but has his leg cut off and has to watch people eat it in front of him. We then watch Noah as he is literally torn apart by a crowd of zombies. To make sure that we catch every detail, they even use a puppet that makes it look more realistic. In comparison, the fourth character that dies this season got a gunshot to the head. Brutal, yes, but only a few moments’ pain at most. All the black male characters suffered this season before they died. Was the suffering really necessary?

I picked a lot of the Walking Dead because I believe they are a byproduct of a longer trend. Let’s be honest, when you watch a horror movie, do you expect any of the minorities to make it out alive? Isn’t it a surprise where the black characters make it to the end? Sure, I’ll say if the movie stars Will Smith or Denzel, you’re not expecting a funeral at the end. But short of being a prolific actor, your life is not guaranteed. Is Hollywood saying that you have to be so beloved that people would riot if you were killed in order to survive? That’s what I’m getting from all of this.

Art is often a reflection of the society in which it was created. And lately it’s felt like the “black dude dies first” trend is more prevalent than ever. I’ve written about them before, but again, Michael Brown. Trayvon Martin. Unarmed black teens shot by officers out of a combination of fear and rushed decisions. And both are only a couple examples in an unfortunately long history. In the news media, they are seen as victims, but often will be criticized for rumored gang involvements or “looking suspicious”. In the movies, the black characters are still often stereotypes and not always portrayed sympathetically. I will give the point to Walking Dead here: at least they depict their black males in a positive light (if you don’t count the black priest. Seriously, no one likes him). But there is still an overwhelming amount of stereotypes lingering out there for black community, Hispanic community, lbgt community and more.

I’ll close with one of my first points: The Walking Dead (and other media) is not completely ruined for me by watching the black males die constantly. But the fact of the matter is that the show, like all art, can help provide an escape from reality. Yes, the Walking Dead is a bleak drama where people die all the time. But do those people have to be the same people that we see dying on our news channels time and time again? I want to stop being surprised that the black male gets to live a good and lengthy life.

There’s enough of that in real life.