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What I’ve learned as a Black man.

There’s a heavy weight that comes along with being Black in America, and a lot of us are tired all the time.

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The first time I realized white people could do things I can’t, I was about 8 or 9 years old. I grew up in the rural South and it wasn’t uncommon for my mom to tell me to run into a store and grab something while the car idled at the entrance. I loved it; I was a big boy. She sent me into K-Mart to buy something (I don’t remember what it was anymore), and on my way out, the theft detection sensor went off. A white woman was leaving at the same time I was, but the greeter stopped me, called a security guard on me, told me to stay put while he waved the white woman on and told her to have a nice day. I wasn’t in the security office for very long before my mom, who sensed I’d been gone too long, rescued me and took me home.

I learned to wait until the doorway is clear before I leave a store, so someone else’s theft doesn’t land me in handcuffs one day.

I was a very independent 16 year old. My parents gave me a lot of leash growing up, and I had gone away to boarding school. One summer I went to visit a white friend and stayed longer than I meant to. We had gone to the movies, had dinner, and just loafed around his house for hours when I realized it was dark and very late. I got in my car and left. Maybe a mile after I left his gated community, I saw flashing blue lights in my rear view mirror. I pulled over, waited for the cop to tell me a taillight was out or something, but I hadn’t done anything wrong. He just wanted to find out where I had been, where I was going, why was I out so late, and whose car I was driving.

I learned not to stay out past dark in rich white people neighborhoods.

I grew up on the internet spending hours on “social media” before it was a thing — freeopendiary, xanga, livejournal, etc. — and I’ve made a lot of really good friends through these keyboards. One of my best online friends is a DJ with a big heart and a helpful spirit. She’s also a Black woman. A white friend of hers asked if she could give another guy a ride, a white man she didn’t know, but who was friends with her friend. She did. When the cops pulled them over, he deposited his drugs under the seat of her car, and the police accused her of being a drug dealer and a prostitute. They told him to have a nice night while they took her to jail.

I learned not to let strange white people in your car.

I’ve had many brushes with the NYPD in the decade since I moved to NYC and each one taught me something different.

I was fumbling with my keys one night to get into my building and two police officers stopped me, questioned me, and frisked me. I told them that’s where I lived, but I still had a South Carolina’s driver’s license. I told them to watch me open the door with my key — it opened, obviously — and they still weren’t convinced. They came upstairs with me while I got a bill with my name and address on it.

I learned to have my keys out and ready before I get to my door.

I was walking in the West Village blasting Sade in my headphones (as much as one could “blast” Sade anyway) on my way to a bar I hadn’t been to before. The West Village is confusing and when I realized I was on the wrong street, I turned around and walked back the way I came. I didn’t hear the police until they were about a foot behind me yelling at me to freeze. I took my headphones off and they pushed me up against the wall to frisk me, telling me I was behaving suspiciously because I saw their cop car and immediately turned to go the other way, and I ignored their commands. I told them I didn’t hear them because I had music playing and I went the other way because I was trying to find a bar I’d never been to.

I learned to turn my music down at night on deserted streets.

I was walking along 125th Street one night when four policemen came out of nowhere and told me to put my hands up because I fit the description of a robbery suspect in the area. This was around the time Kalief Browder had committed suicide after being released from Rikers because he had been locked up for three years for the crime of fitting a description. I thought that would be me. One of the cops slammed me up against a wall face first, which is what saved me. I had been wearing a baseball cap and a hoodie, like this.

When he pushed my face into the wall, the cap was knocked off and my hair came tumbling out. I have a lot of hair.

The frisking stopped and one cop put their hands in my head to see if it was a wig that could be taken off. They were looking for a bald Black man and clearly that wasn’t me.

I almost never wear a baseball cap and hoodie anymore, and I never do at night.

A few years ago, I took a steak to work. I’d gone to Texas Roadhouse and ate way too much bread before the food came, so I only finished about half my meal. It really hit the spot for lunch that day, even though it made me sleepy and I think I only finished half of whatever else I was supposed to do. After my commute home, I was stopped by police officers doing random bag checks. They went through my things and pulled out a knife. I had taken a steak knife to work to cut my steak. They asked me where the container was and I told them I threw it away. They asked me what other weapons I had and I told them it wasn’t a weapon, it was a steak knife. For steak. They asked me where my fork was and I told them the office has forks, but they only have butter knives, which won’t cut a reheated steak. They ran my license to see if I had any warrants and 20 minutes later I was allowed to leave the station.

I learned to cut up my food before I take it to work.

I’m on the Internet a lot. I used to make a living here. I still use the internet to disconnect from my own (non-race related) life struggles because I can push my issues to the side and look at videos of babies eating lemons for the first time or look up new recipes to try or make gifs of Teresa Giudice. The Internet has also become the frontline in the war for justice against police brutality. Social media is littered with videos of Black bodies suffering at the hands of the state.

I learned not to go on the Internet when I’m emotionally fragile.

There’s no revelation at the end of this or wise reflection on life. I just wanted to share my story to let others — especially white people — in on what it’s like to be Black in America and why some of us are angry all the time. My patience for white whining is low. My empathy for white frustration is almost non-existent. My attitude toward white people is malleable and ever changing in relation to white people’s interactions toward ME.

There’s a heavy weight that comes along with being Black in America, and a lot of us are tired all the time. Constantly checking our tone so white people don’t feel threatened, constantly checking our actions so you don’t look suspicious, constantly checking our attire so we don’t look like criminals, constantly checking our white friends’ lackadaisical attitudes toward our own safety when they want to do things you know you would end up in jail or dead for. It’s very tiresome, and on top of that, I’m jealous. My best friend is white. I’m jealous sometimes that he can just…be. When he goes online, there aren’t timelines filled with the latest murder of someone who looks like him. The police have never stopped him. He’s never been turned down for a job because he’s white. He doesn’t have to think about whether his outfit is safe enough for the time of day and neighborhood he’s going to. The President isn’t telling the National Guard to shoot him.

When I was in kindergarten, playing House was my favorite thing in the world. Anybody who knows me will probably say it still is — I love to bake and clean and take care of people and crochet. I was playing with three white kids, two girls and a boy, and I wanted to be the husband. I was told I couldn’t because I’m Black and Black people have Black babies. I didn’t know what “Black” was yet. I thought people just came in different shades like hamsters. Some came out lighter, some darker, some with spots. I told her I wasn’t “Black” because I was brown and she told me it still had to be a white mommy and daddy and a white baby, but I could be the dog if I wanted to play with them. I said okay, but I didn’t get to play much because they said I was an outside dog and they just tied a string to my wrist, said it was a leash, and tied the other end to the leg of a table.

As I grew up I learned that some white people will always want you to be the dog.

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Race

Gen Z slang is all AAVE.

Are there any Black people working at Vanity Fair???

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Watch this video please. Some white child I have never heard of has been tasked by Vanity Fair to explain “Gen Z slang” and almost every word is just African American Vernacular English aka Ebonics aka How Most Black People In America Talk With Their Friends And Family. None of these words are new…because I’ve been saying them for twenty years with other Black people.

Bop – AAVE
This is the newest AAVE word on the list because we weren’t really saying bop when I was in elementary school. I think that came about in the early 00s.

Clown – AAVE
Clown/Clowning, at least 30 years in the game on that one.

Shook – Unclear
Shook is not a word I heard in real life until after I started seeing it on the internet. It quickly made its way from social media out into the real world, but I didn’t know that was a Gen Z thing. I thought it was Millennial Gays.

Stan – Millennials
To the best of my knowledge, Eminem did not take stan (a stalker fan) from us, because I didn’t hear it until his song came out. Still, this little boy has mentioned neither Eminem nor the song, because these children apparently think they made everything up?

Doin the Most – AAVE
You play too much, you do too much, she do so much, they always do the most, etc. We’ve had this since the 80s.

Facts – AAVE
Facts is so old it might even belong to Gen X. Definitely spread from the New York area throughout the country with hip-hop.

Hit Different – AAVE
Rule of thumb: if your slang phrase drops an S on the verb,  you can probably assume it was taken from us, because that’s a grammar rule in AAVE. Also, his example where he likes Taco Bell more than the Mexican restaurants on Sunset? Throw this child AWAY.

Deadass – AAVE
Another word from the NYC area that spread with hip-hop. Headass didn’t catch on because white kids weren’t smart enough or creative enough to actually understand how to use that one.

Highkey – AAVE
This one belongs to the Millennial Blacks born in the 90s. They drove the popularity of this one.

Snack – AAVE
Older than dirt. Gen X was definitely using this one. Baby Boomers might’ve even had it. Snack is SO OLD.

Slaps – AAVE
I don’t remember saying slaps until the mid 2000s, so I don’t know how old it is, but I know a white toddler didn’t teach it to me, which is what this child would have been at that time.

Put Someone On – AAVE
I honestly didn’t even know white people said this. I didn’t know this one had reached critical mass in popularity for the white kids to not only say it with regularity but say it so much they claimed it for themselves.

Rona – Internet Slang
It could be a product of who I follow on social media, but I thought the Millennial Gays were the ones that made Rona popular because they were calling it Miss Rona all the way last spring.

Say Less – AAVE
I want this child to say less. I know a 19-year-old white kid who actually says this a lot. I need to ask him where he thinks it comes from…

Extra – AAVE
Maya Wilkes on Girlfriends loved to say extra and that was 20 years ago. Please stop playing in my face.

Fire – AAVE
Old. My daddy damn is well over 70 and says fire.

Bet – AAVE
It’s just getting silly at this point. Bet is so versatile and so popular it’s not even slang anymore.

Lowkey – AAVE
Lowkey doesn’t mean you just want to do it a little bit. It means you want to do it but you shouldn’t, or you want to do it but don’t judge me, or you want to do it but you’re conflicted. I hate when nuance is taken out of our culture.

Receipts – AAVE/Gay AAVE
Every Black woman on reality television says receipts and they got it from their gay glam squads. I don’t know if that’s a fact. I’m just throwing it out there because it is so widely popular for that segment of the population and has been for at least 15 years.

Whole Meal – AAVE adjacent?
It’s obviously related to snack, which is ours, but I’ve never actually heard it.

Yikes – They can have that one. Nobody says yikes anymore.

Anyway.

Vanity Fair. Please hire some Black people. The way y’all just committed this unforced error on a pleasant Wednesday is just ridiculous and confusing. Nobody asked for this and nobody was having this conversation, but y’all bust through Youtube like the Kool Aid Man for absolutely no reason, and now y’all will be dragged for the rest of the week.

Also, Black people over 30 — if you have anything to add, let me know and I’ll add your clarifications in an edit. I mean, obviously I’m brilliant, but I don’t know every word in the world, so correct me where I’m wrong while we discuss this as a family.

This is just another example of how Black people drive culture in this country. What we do is hot and everybody else falls in line behind us. White kids on social media have picked up “slang” from Black Millennials on social media. Then they do their little tiktoks and talk to their friends who aren’t following us on social media, and suddenly a whole bunch of white kids are passing around slang to each other that originally came from us….because they haven’t created anything themselves. It’s the same reason white white kids in Montecito will randomly have a light Southern accent on some of their words.

If it’s hot and you can’t pinpoint where it came from? It’s probably Black people.

 

EDIT: Looks like the video is now private. I guess they did get dragged, just like I thought they would.

 

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I love Black people.

Why does that offend so many white people?

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I’ve randomly said “I love Black people!” on many social media platforms over the years and never really thought twice about it. Something will happen, I’ll post it, other Black people will comment in agreement, and that’s that. Some white people will even like the post because whatever I’m referring to is something they appreciated reading or seeing or experiencing with us.

There’s this white guy in my comments today asking why certain things are okay for Black people to say, but not for white people. For example, if we say “I love Black people!” it’s fine, but if white people say “I love white people!” there’s automatic blowback. He seemed genuine enough, though young and a little misguided, so I engaged. I used to engage all the time when I did that kind of thing to pay my rent, but now I rarely expend mental energy online trying to teach white people I don’t know (for free!). This got me thinking because it just hasn’t come up in conversation before.

First of all, Black people and white people move through society completely differently. Different rules apply in how we are allowed to communicate because different rules were created for how we are treated. If you are a white person who purports to be on the side of progress, be less concerned about why Black people can say things white people can’t, and be more concerned with creating an equitable society where we wouldn’t even want or need to.

Alongside that, I’m just so curious where that impulse comes from to even question it.

When I say “I love Black people!” it’s because I felt something that I knew a lot of other Black people were feeling at the exact same time. Some shared cultural experience across a wide swath of the community made me laugh, or I felt bonded by a hardship we can all relate to because we’re Black in America.

When I say “I love Black people!” I feel proud of us for overcoming and achieving something, or I’m in awe of us for finding joy in the face of everything this country has thrown at us.

When I say “I love Black people!” I’m not saying I don’t love other people. I’m having a moment within myself and with my community where I feel a kinship in struggle or excitement or some combination of emotions that I know a lot of other Black people are also feeling.

So when white people ask why they can’t say “I love white people!” it’s not that I mind that they love white people, I’m just curious about what particular instance made you want to say it? What happened that made you feel so connected in a shared experience with White America? I’m not white, so I don’t know for sure, (and if any white people have any comments that are especially insightful, I’ll edit them into the end of this post), but I don’t see a “white community” bonded together by anything in this country other than a shared history of oppressing everybody else. That’s not a read, that’s just me looking from the outside and observing how white people relate to the “white community” at large. When you are the dominant force in a society, everything is just yours in a way, so you don’t need to fight to hold on to anything. Black people have had to fight together against….well, the “white community” for the past four centuries. We are bonded by everything that fight has entailed and the legacy it has left us. What do white people have?

If you are a white person reading this and you have had the urge to say “I love white people!” I would like to know what happened and what the feeling was like. I’ll give you some examples.

When I saw Nia Dennis’s very Black floor routine for the UCLA gymnastics team, I said “I love Black people!”

When I saw this old video of a group of Black men watching Whitney Houston sing the National Anthem and how they were going so hard for her, I said “I love Black people!”

When I see Black Twitter laughing at Shay Moore’s videos of life in the South, I say “I love Black people!”

White people, if any of you have these moments where you feel so proud to be white that you want to exclaim “I love white people!” for other white people to read/hear and join in, let me know. That’s not a set-up. I’m just genuinely curious how people whose history isn’t defined by oppression relate to the rest of their skinfolk with a sense of pride, and how a need to affirm each other in a country that continually questions their worth would manifest itself in statements of love and appreciation.

(Okay…my question does sound like a set-up to get dragged now, but I just kept typing and the words kept coming.)

 

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Hank Aaron’s Guinness World Record

His record isn’t for what you think it is.

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Baseball great Hank Aaron passed away today and I went into a quick dive into his life after reading this excellent write up by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

A Hall of Famer, Atlanta’s first professional sports star, and, in a soft-spoken way, an agent of change in the post-Jim Crow South, Aaron came to embody the city as he embodied the Braves.

Baseball’s all-time home run king died Friday at the age of 86, according to Channel 2 Action News and several reports. The Braves have not confirmed Aaron’s death.

“I don’t think too many people got a chance to know me through the years, and that was something that was my own doing, because I’m actually kind of a loner, a guy that has stayed to himself,” Aaron said in a 2006 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “A lot of people thought they knew me, but they really didn’t.

“They pretend that they know me, but I travel alone. I do just about everything alone. I have associates, but I don’t have many friends. I would just want to be remembered as somebody who just tried to be fair with people.”

(cont. AJC)

I grew up in a basketball and football household, but my dad kept up with baseball and I went to a handful of Braves games growing up. Hank Aaron was just kind of a vague figure in the back of my mind, someone I knew had a lot of home runs, but that’s about all I knew about the man. The AJC paints a vivid picture of a soft-spoken Black man in the Deep South navigating his way through baseball during the Civil Rights Era, and it’s an engaging read from top to bottom. This particular section jumped out at me:

Aaron had eight seasons with 40 or more home runs, the last coming in 1973, when he finished the year with 713 homers and an estimated 930,000 pieces of mail. Much of it was racist. There also were enough death threats for the FBI to get involved. Aaron received personal protection through the off-season.

That’s like 3,000 pieces of mail a day! I did a quick dive into it so let’s set the scene.

Babe Ruth played baseball from 1914 to 1935, and interestingly enough, while I most associate him with the NY Yankees, he started and ended his career in Boston. He set numerous baseball records (two of which still stand today) and in 1936, he was one of the inaugural five members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s one of the greatest sports heroes of all time, Trump gave him a Medal of Freedom in 2018, and the official candy bar of Major League Baseball bears his name (even though it wasn’t created for him, it became inextricably associated with him during the height of his fame). He also hit 714 home runs in his career, a record which stood for almost four decades until Hank Aaron came along.

By the early 70s, Hank Aaron had been quietly chipping away at Babe Ruth’s home run record for twenty years, first with the Milwaukee Braves and then in Atlanta when the team moved to Georgia in 1965. At the end of the 1972 season, Hank had 673 home runs, and for a player who already had eight seasons where he hit 40 or more home runs, it was assumed he would indeed break Babe Ruth’s record of 714 in the very near future. Baseball fans follow the game, so baseball fans were aware of Hank’s hitting stats. Racist America follows notable Black people, and this Black man putting himself within striking distance of a white man’s achievement made the country take note. The amount of hate mail spiked once non fans became aware of Hank’s threat to a record they didn’t even really care about until it was in danger of being broken by a Black player.

On July 21st of 1973, Hank Aaron hit #700 and he was receiving about 3,000 pieces of mail a day. The Braves hired a secretary just to handle Hank’s mail, and team management forbid him from opening his own letters to shield him from the vitriol.

The volume was so great that the Braves assigned secretary Carla Koplin to handle Aaron’s mail. That freed up his time but also shielded the legendary slugger from some of the vile remarks and death threats aimed at him. There were also some congratulatory letters and words of encouragement, but the negative comments heavily outweighed the positive and the Braves gave Aaron his own security detail.

“I was forbidden to open mail for two and a half years. I had a secretary that had to open all my mail and when the games were over with, I had to go out of the back of the baseball parks.”

(cont. Sportscasting)

When the season ended in October, Hank had 713 home runs, one shy of the record. The next six months gave racist America ample time to seethe and write. Hate mail turned to death threats and anyone remotely supportive of Hank was a target.

Lewis Grizzard, then sports editor of the Atlanta Journal, reported receiving numerous phone calls calling journalists “nigger lovers” for covering Aaron’s chase. While preparing the massive coverage of the home run record, he quietly had an obituary written, afraid that Aaron might be murdered.

(cont. Hank Aaron)

Hank Aaron made it to the 1974 season and broke Babe Ruth’s record in Atlanta on April 8th. Between July 1973 and June 1974, Hank Aaron received over 930,000 pieces of mail, the most ever for a private citizen, and a record that still stands today. When I saw that Hank Aaron had a Guinness World Record, I assumed it was for home runs, but his record was broken by Barry Bonds in 2007. Hank has a world record not for baseball, but for racism — America’s other great pastime.

 

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