19

Today would have been Trayvon Martin’s nineteenth birthday.  I wish I didn’t know that.  I wish there were no reason for me to know this information. I wish Trayvon Martin was some random guy in Florida that I would probably never have the pleasure of meeting, let alone wish a happy birthday.  But I do know about Trayvon Martin.  And I think about Trayvon Martin.  And I am grateful for Trayvon Martin.  Happy Birthday Trayvon Martin.

trayvon martin aviator

When the verdict was read, I felt it in the gut.  I’m usually not emotionally invested in trials.  I believe this was a first.  I didn’t even know I was invested until the “not guilty”.  I was stunned and disappointed and hurt.  And angry.  But mostly hurt I think.  Because Black men in America had just been given confirmation that their lives don’t matter.  Are not valued.  That’s the message I received.  You are not valuable.  And I guess that’s the message we’ve always received on some level.  Our country has relied on this notion of inferiority being taken for granted.  We don’t all believe it.  But we are working a system that is held together by it.

I’ve been meaning to start a series of “White Privilege is…”posts.  Both here and on the youtube.  So this is gonna be the first one:

White Privilege is going to the store for skittles wearing a hoodie and not being followed.  Or harassed. Or shot.  To death.

photo

the only ‘black’ kid

Speaking of my Oakland County days, a few months ago I came across this photo on Abagond’s blog:

abagond stunned

When I saw this photo I saw myself in it.  Kind of.  For me, I could have been that speck of color in a group photo of friends going to a high school dance as easily as in posing for a family reunion photo.  And I suppose that’s the difference.  I don’t think I look much more awkward than the typical teenager in the photo below.  Not that I don’t look awkward, good lord the dress, but I’ve got nothing on the guy in the picture above.

prom

Perhaps that’s because when (half the time) you’re the only “black” kid in your family as well, there’s less propensity to be so fraught with anxiety in similar social situations.

elkhart reunion

Maybe there’s an extra layer of ease that comes with the inner-knowing that, no matter who recognizes it or doesn’t, you belong.  Given, of course that one is able to hold on to the truth that she belongs amidst the many dissentient voices.

only black kid in class

1937-38 only black kidsonny-clark-class-1024x705can hardly imagine what it was like for this little dude in 1937

oakland county?

I’d have thought this story straight out of (august)Osage County.  But, nope.  This story comes from the county that I come from.  Oakland County, MI.  Honestly though…and on second thought… that’s no surprise…

Excuse me while I get real with myself for a minute… I think I just stumbled upon some version of reality that I concocted where I, an inherently integrated person, grew up in segregated communities, and in this version of reality of mine, even though I was usually the only “black” person wherever I was, those “conditions” never mattered.  Also, in this reality I like to believe that everyone was free of prejudice and just happened to live somewhere where almost everyone looked like them. As if it were a coincidence.  But that is not true.  Those conditions were a strategically planned.  Generations before.  Of course there were and are exceptions, like me, but I must admit that there is a palpable sense of “us vs. them” in Oakland County.  And by “us vs. them” I mean white vs. black. The funny thing is there’s that age old adage about the savage (see entire debate here)…

AFRICAN-AMERICAN 

Why are black people savages?

Click on an option to vote

  •  They just are
  •  They can’t help it
  •  Jungle syndrome

…and I gotta say when I watched The Butler and saw what the Freedom Riders went through, I thought which group played the role of savage there?  Or, Emmitt Till.  Did the 14 year old child behave in an undomesticated way, or was it the grown men who hunted him down?  This dogma, this ideology that we just kind of accept and play by the rules of…well, it’s just so twisted.  It is detrimental to all.  It is not in line with the Divine.  That’s really all I know to say about it right now.

woolworth counter freedom riders

Jackson Woolworth Lunch Counter Sit-in

Oh yeah, the article…I have much love for Oakland County (and many of it’s residents), btw. And I thank it for lending itself to my racial discourse.  In so many ways.

Michigan GOP official: ‘Herd all the Indians’ to Detroit, build a fence and throw in corn

By David Edwards
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 11:44 EST

A Republican county official in Michigan is in hot water after making racial comments about Detroit, including the idea that the city should be turned into a detention center for “all the Indians.”

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In a recent interview for a profile by The New Yorker titled “Drop Dead, Detroit!” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson admitted, “Anytime I talk about Detroit, it will not be positive. Therefore, I’m called a Detroit basher. The truth hurts, you know? Tough sh*t.”

Patterson recalled telling his children to “get in and get out” if they needed to go to Detroit.

“And, before you go to Detroit, you get your gas out here. You do not, do not, under any circumstances, stop in Detroit at a gas station! That’s just a call for a carjacking,” he said.

Patterson also proposed a fix to Detroit’s financial problems: Turn the city into a reservation for Native Americans.

“I made a prediction a long time ago, and it’s come to pass. I said, ‘What we’re gonna do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and the corn.’”

After Detroit officials and activists reacted with outrage, Patterson’s office released a statement accusing The New Yorker of having an “agenda.”

“It is clear Paige Williams had an agenda when she interviewed County Executive Patterson,” the statement said. “She cast him in a false light in order to fit her preconceived and outdated notions about the region.”

Activists with Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network had planned a news conference on Tuesday to call for Patterson to apologize.

National Action Network’s Michigan chapter president Rev. Charles Williams II said that the comments were “repulsive” because they were an insult to the city’s African-American population and “a direct slight to the American Indians who occupied the land before Detroit was Detroit, and Oakland County.”

In recent years, Patterson has also come under fire for comparing Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger to Hitler and for suggesting that Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano kill himself.

cherokee prayer whole human family

black (snl) history

Drake, I totally loved that isht the other night.  While I appreciated the black bar mitzvah skit immensely (it prompted this post after all), the Katt Williams! Oh my Jesus…. the Katt Williams.  Great night for SNL!88310f8ba419c42692e4dbd7d1019c0d.467x259x1

Saturday, Jan. 18 was a big night for Saturday Night Live. Not only did rapper Drake host and serve as a musical guest, but it was also new cast member Sasheer Zamata‘s first time on the show….The former Canadian actor-turned-rapper talked about having a Jewish mother and a black father in the skit where SNL cast member Vanessa Bayer (who is known for her recurring role as Bar Mitzvah Boy) played his mother and Jay Pharaoh played his father. Read more
drake-snl3

Ok. That hilariousness has been noted.  Now let’s take a look back in Black SNL history. We all know there’s not much of it, so this shouldn’t take too long. I like what Bond and Morris did.  I don’t like the fact that colorism is alive and well.

Julian Bond Regrets his 1977 ‘SNL’ Skit on Light Skin Vs. Dark Skin (Video)

via

With all of the talk surrounding “Saturday Night Live’s” new African American female cast member and writers, Julian Bond has come forward with a column in The Hollywood Reporter lamenting a skit he did during his hosting turn 37 years ago.

The civil rights leader was chairman of the NAACP board of directors from February 1998 to February 2010 and now is chairman emeritus.

Below is his column in its entirety, followed by a clip from the “SNL” sketch.

I hosted NBC’S Saturday Night Live back in April 1977, during its second season. I used to say that I was an SNL host when it was a comedy show, and people would laugh. More recently, I had taken to saying that I hosted SNL when it had black people on it. So as a former host, I was happy to read the news that an African-American woman (Sasheer Zamata) and two black female writers (LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones) were hired for the show because people of color, especially women, have been conspicuous by their absence.

I’m a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, so I’m delighted that Zamata is a UVA grad. But I’m also a civil rights activist, so I’m appalled that the circumstances of their hiring would lessen — in some viewers’ minds — the talent and skills they bring to the program.

There are sure to be those who think that their race, not their talent, won them their jobs. The women were hired after an explosion of outrage at SNL’s shameful record of minority employment. Before Zamata was hired, in the 39 years since SNL began in 1975, the show had 137 cast members. Only 14 of those were African-Americans, and only four of those were women. The tally for Latinos is even more negligible — only three in the show’s history, all of them men.

Looking back at the episode I hosted, I felt discomfort with a skit we did. Appearing as myself on a mock television interview show about black issues, I told Garrett Morris, one of SNL’s original “Not Ready for Prime Time Players,” that light-skinned blacks are smarter than dark-skinned blacks. Morris, who is darker skinned than I am, did a perfect double take. I felt squeamish then but did the skit anyway, and I feel uneasy about this joke even today. I believed it treaded dangerously on the fine line between comedy and poor taste.

But that always has been SNL’s fine point, the line delineating comedy — and especially satire — from tastelessness. I always have believed that a skillful comedian — or comedienne — can make a joke out of anything. No subject is immune. Comedy is crucial in our lives, especially political satire. The ability to make fun of life’s vagaries helps us deal with them. That may be why there are so many black and Jewish comedians and why their presence on the air is so important.

SNL used to be on the cutting edge. Let’s hope Ms. Zamata helps restore some of its sharpness.

and the most dangerous negro award goes to…

mlk hands

Every January, Martin Luther King, Jr. is universally honored as a national hero who preached a peaceful fight against racial injustice. This saintly image is quite a departure from the kind of attacks the reverend endured over his lifetime. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover famously called King “the most dangerous Negro” and “the most notorious liar in the country” while keeping him under close surveillance. Over the years, Dr. King’s more controversial edges have been smoothed over, burying his more radical teachings….

Read More of the  4 Ways Martin Luther King Was More Radical Than You Thought

I mean, that is quite an accomplishment, MLK.  The most dangerous negro!? Everyone knows all negroes are dangerous, so…

Why else would it be socially acceptable to make post-game interview commentary like these comments below?  Admitedly, the anger unleashed in Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman’s post-win interview falls into the category of unsavory.  But must we wonder why he might be so sensitive?  I know haters gone hate and all, but you try to let comments like these roll off your back. It’s not for the faint of heart and could understandably lead to a kind of hypervigilance pertaining to perceived disrespect.  I highly doubt this is the first time Mr. Sherman has been on the receiving end of jabs such as these.  Even without an angry interview as catalyst.  This happened yesterday. So very post-racial…note #noracismintended.

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Lol don’t mess with Richard Sherman, he will go bananas. Guys a fricken jungle monkey.

— Zack Grenon (@g_g_g_grenon71) January 20, 2014

Richard Sherman’s an ignorant ape

— GC (@TropicanaCEO_15) January 20, 2014

Someone put Richard Sherman in an animal hospital because he is a fucking gorilla #noracismintented

— Michael Mortellito (@mmortellito) January 20, 2014

Richard Sherman is a nigger, fuck that.

— Rob Falotico (@Robadob561) January 20, 2014

Richard Sherman deserves to get shot in the fucking head. Disrespectful nigger.

— Adam Costello (@AdamCostello128) January 20, 2014

Richard Sherman is a straight irrogant nigger. Manning is going to rip him apart

— Christian Parafati (@C_parafati_one3) January 20, 2014

You can read many more comments like this HERE

hatepotate

Happy Most Dangerous Negro Day to you!

85

Guess who would have celebrated 85 years today….

Martin Luther King, Jr. became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for doing work to end racial segregation and discrimination in 1964.

That was 50 years ago!! Imagine what he would have done if he had lived to be 85!

haven't learned to wald as brothers and sisters mlk

mlk-peace represents

two jrs

I heart New York!

I am so f’in excited about this that I can’t even organize my thoughts. But I’m gonna try.  So yesterday, just like the first time I voted for Obama, I ran to the school where I vote to mark my ballot for…

photo 1

deblasio ask anything

Now, I must admit that though I do like what little I know of his politics and am not shy about my democratic tendencies, I was really voting for…

deblasio fam

For the guy who prompted a good friend of mine to text, “Are those his kids!?” as de Blasio delivered his sagacious acceptance speech standing amidst his family.

b655fddd6ba04c25420f6a706700a622

I voted for the man who once made the bold choice to give up some of his white privilege to live the life he wanted with the woman he loved.  For the guy with kids that remind me of me.  For the family that looks like mine did once.

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photo 1

I voted for a future where people have learned to see this:

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and think “family.”  A friend of mine once wrote in a wonderful novel*, “What a family is should shouldn’t be so hard to see.  It should be the one thing people know just by looking at you.”  That is Truth. But for some of us it hasn’t been the truth of our experience.  And that doesn’t feel so good.

Now…maybe, soon… people will see this

New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio embraces his daughter Chiara during a campaign rally in Brooklyn, New York

or this 😉

photo 2

and think Father/Daughter, and not Age “Inappropriate” Interracial Couple?

I voted for the future I always wanted to be my present.  I left that school and I skipped up the block.  Just for, like, 17 seconds cuz I am 37 years old after all, but I just couldn’t contain the joy! I couldn’t have predicted that feeling either.  I think that even though we have the Obamas, it’s not quite the same and I figured it wouldn’t get any better than that.  It just did!   Thank you de Blasio Family and thank you New York City!  xo-Tiff

*The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

P.S. Here’s a fun, and totally non-political, article.  I love what Chiara says about seeing what other people have to go through.  She acknowledges her white privilege.  Yeah, we get a fraction of that too.

Chiara & Dante de Blasio: 5 Things To Know About New NYC Mayor’s Kids

Wed, November 6, 2013  by 

The newly elected NYC mayor’s teens are just about the coolest kids in politics — and their edgy fashion senses, trendy hairstyles, and enthusiastic participation in their dad’s campaign are just the beginning. Here’s what you need to know about Chiara and Dante!

Chiara de Blasio, 18, and Dante de Blasio, 16 are such stylish young adults that they nearly stole the spotlight away from their dad, Bill de Blasio, who was elected the new mayor of New York City on Nov. 4. Learn more about the new first kids of NYC!

5 Things To Know About NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Kids

1. Chiara and Dante are really smart! Dante is a high school junior at Brooklyn Tech, which one of the city’s elite public high schools. Chiara, is a sophomore in college at a private liberal arts school in northern California. She plans to major in environmental studies.

2. Dante’s afro is so cool that absolutely everyone is noticing! President Barack Obama even mentioned it at a Democratic Party Fundraiser in New York in Sept. 2013. He “has the same hairdo as I had in 1978,” Obama told the crowd before complimenting his look. “Although I have to confess my Afro was never that good. It was a little imbalanced.” Chiara loves switching up her own style, from sporting floral crown hair accessories to trying out dreads.

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3. Dante was featured in his dad’s campaign ads, and his videos quickly went viral. Chiara also expressed that she loved being part of her dad’s campaign process. “I like understanding what’s going on better. In every way I think that I’m lucky to live the life that I live,” Chiara told NY Mag. ”I don’t have a lot of the problems that other people have. It’s very important for me to see what other people go through.

4. Chiara’s fashion sense is completely new for a first daughter of New York City. She has ear gauges, an eyebrow piercing, and a nose piercing.

5. Chiara has publicly said that her dad is not “some boring white guy,” and that his cultural awareness comes from his global projects and his own multi-cultural family! Chiara and Dante’s dad, Bill comes from German and Italian American backgrounds and their mom, Chirlane McCray is African American. “A lot of people could look at him and just see the color of his skin, but it’s so much deeper than that,” Chiara told NY Mag.

i am who i am that is that

It’s been a good long while since someone has asked me outright, “What are you?”  This dawned on me as I read the article below.  At first I figured it’s just because I’m not that ethnically ambiguous, visually speaking.  I have never thought of myself that way, though, and regardless of my self-perception I have been What are you-ed many times.  When I got to the point in the article about nationality vs. ethnicity my confusion was cleared up.  I have this conversation on a weekly basis.  Unless I literally do not engage with any “new” people.  It goes like this:

  • new person:  So, where are you from?
  • me:  Michigan.
  • new person: (usually awkward giggle goes here) I mean what’s your nationality?
  • me:  American.
  • new person: (usually frustrated sigh goes here) Okaaaayyyy, well where are your parents from?
  • me:  Kentucky and West Virginia.
  • new person: either a) gives up or b) says, Well, what’s their background?

I usually give in here saying something like, “My mom is black and my dad is white, if that’s what you’re trying to get at.” Believe me my smart ass retorts could go on forever, but who has time for this kind of bullshit conversation?  It’s true: I am not a puzzle to solve. In the past I have allowed these questions to make me feel less than the whole being that I am.  Now, they irk me. Please don’t confuse my discontent with the content of these chats with me preferring that there be no discussion.  As I said in the last post, we have to talk about it.  But with the intent to understand and connect, not to separate, stereotype or pigeonhole.  The difference is palpable.  I can feel the intent behind the inquisitions and the stares.  I no longer take it personally either way, but the pigeonholers lead me to a place of righteous indignation inside of myself that is not an optimal space from which to raise the vibration of love on the planet. So help a sister out here.  Ask yourself why it is that you want to know so badly?  Why, why, why, why, why?  I beg you to get real with yourself on that one.  I believe this will lead you to questions that are actually worth asking.  And if you’re brave enough to truthfully answer them, those answers may begin to remove the blinders that keep us immersed in the illusions of society.  The “right” questions and the honest answers will lead you out of the false self into your truth, the truth of the universe.  I’m all for asking questions.  But quality questions, people.  Progressive questions.  Unifying questions.  Not bullshit ones. And if you really must ask because you couldn’t possibly go on living without knowing which box somebody “belongs” in, please follow the advice in this article.  Especially that thing about accept the answer you receive.  Sat Nam.

i am who i am

I’m Not a Puzzle to Solve: How to Speak to Ethnically Ambiguous People

September 9, 2013 | by Kat Lazo My father is Peruvian, and my mother is Colombian, which I guess makes me ethnically ambiguous. I say “I guess” because in my eyes, this seems to be a pretty boring combination. Yet, to many people, I seem to be a hard puzzle to solve. But unfortunately for them, I’m not a puzzle. I’m a human being. And that’s the problem when approaching ethnically (or racially) ambiguous people with questions about their backgrounds: Many of the approaches are dehumanizing. I’ve had complete strangers act nice to me only to find out they were trying to win a bet as to guessing what ethnicity I was. I’ve had people stop in their tracks and shout “What are you?” as if I were an alien. I’ve had men refer to me as an “exotic animal.” I’ve had people question how American I am. All of which made me feel less than the whole being that I am. I understand where the questions come from. I have almond-shaped eyes, light olive skin, Inca facial features, and straight black hair, a combination that is curious to some people. I understand how my appearance can be foreign and interesting to many people. But that doesn’t mean that my appearance is up for public discussion. Questioning someone about his or her appearance is rude, especially if you haven’t established a relationship with that individual to begin with. But if can’t control your curiosity and you really want to know that badly, here are a few things to keep in mind when approaching people about their ethnic background.

It’s How You Ask

Stopping a complete stranger on the street to interrogate them –whether it’s about the tattoos on their body or their ethnic background – isn’t always the best approach. Why? Because you’re a stranger. People don’t owe anyone an explanation for why they look the way they look,especially someone that they don’t know. That being said, if you still feel the need to ask, don’t bombard us with a thousand questions. It’s overwhelming and insensitive. There’s also something offensive about thinking that you are entitled to ask so many questions. It’s bothersome precisely because you’re not entitled to it. Please stop asking “What are you?” It’s not the right way to ask about someone’s ethnicity, and it’s rude. Though it may be a result of ignorance as to how to ask, it makes the other person feel like an object or less than whole. It’s as if you are insinuating that we are something less than human. i don't feel like a personThe best way to ask is to be genuinely interested in getting to know a person and not just a slice of information about them. If you have a genuine conversation, it’s even possible that the person will disclose information about their ethnicity before you even ask. And if they don’t – or if they decline to answer your questions – remember thatthat’s okay. They have every right not to divulge that information.

Accept the Answer That You Receive

If you’re going to be so bold as to interrupt someone to ask such a complicated question, than be prepared for a complicated answer. Not everyone’s response is going to be as simple as you may have assumed. Remember that ethnicity is complicated in itself. It’s pretty rare that anyone in the Western hemisphere is 100% anything these days. And once you get an answer, please don’t continue pushing for more information if the response didn’t suffice your curiosity. Continuing to question someone after they’ve given you an answer is disrespectful. The answer belongs to them and them alone. The answer is not validated on whether or not it pleases you. Also keep in mind that for some individuals, perhaps those that don’t know their biological parents, ethnic background may be something deeply personal for them. In my case, I’m a mestizo (a person of both indigenous and European descent). So my dearest apologizes that when I disclose my parents’ nationalities, it does not necessarily appease your curiosity as to from where my almond-shaped eyes derive. But deal with it. Once answered, don’t keep pushing.

Expectations

If you’re going to ask such a personal question, leave your biases and stereotypes at the door. Stereotypes are bad, even the positive ones. Making generalization about an entire group of people is problematic because it limits them to exactly that – a generalization. A stereotype not only limits an individual’s personal growth, but it limits you from genuinely getting to know them. If you want to really get to know someone, leave the stereotypes at the door. “I’m Mexican.” “Oh, wow. I thought Mexicans were all really short.” Or… “I’m Filipina.” “You’re a lot prettier than most Filipinas.” These types of remarks are rude. The people being questioned have opened themselves up to answer your question, and you respond by insulting the very people he or she is associated with? How could that be construed as not offensive?

Case-By-Case Basis

No two people are the same, and therefore, no two people will respond in the same manner. Some will welcome questions and curiosity, whereas others may not. Personally, I find that I respond to people differently depending on how they approach me and depending on the mood I’m in. Sometimes I’ll play dumb. “What am I? Oh, I’m a human.” Sometimes I’ll take the opportunity as a way to teach others about my background. “I’m not exactly sure where my eyes come from because my mother has naturally almond eyes and my father’s country, Peru, has had a history of an influx of Japanese immigrants.” Or sometimes I won’t answer back because—well—I just don’t feel like it. And that’s okay. It’s my body, and I have the right to answer in any manner that I feel comfortable with – not necessarily an answer that makes you comfortable. And one of my choices is not answering at all. Remember: No matter how someone answers the question, it’s always appropriate.

Learn the Difference Between Nationality and Ethnicity

Other than “What are you?” the most commonly asked and irritating question I get is “What nationality are you?” To which, I give the proper answer: American. One’s nationality is the nation in which a person was born or is a citizen of. Another way to think of it is: It’s what’s on your passport. Ethnicity, on the other hand, isn’t as easily defined, but for the most part, it’s determined by a couple of factors, including country of origin, shared language, and ancestry. Hispanic, for example, is an ethnicity, not a race. One can be a Black Hispanic, White Hispanic, or Asian Hispanic. Ethnicity may be a little complicated, but one thing we know is this: It’s not the same as nationality. Precision of language matters. i am not-rumi I don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why I look the way I look. And it’s my choice whether or not to disclose – and not yours to force it out of me. Understand that if you are curious about a person’s ethnic background, chances are that you aren’t the only one. There have likely been plenty before you who have asked the same questions. Having to answer the same questions over and over again can get tiresome – for anyone. And having so many people question your appearance can make one feel less-than. So ask yourself why you care so much. Revaluate how important it is to attain this information rather than caring about the person themselves. The truth is, it shouldn’t matter. Because just knowing someone’s background won’t tell you who they are. But a genuine interest might.