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Race

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 in Riker’s because he was locked up indefinitely 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

Young white murderers are little boys. Young Black victims are grown men.

Racism, the assumptions around Black people, and the perceptions of Black children are all baked into the fabric of this country, and Conservative White America keeps that oven turned up every single day. 

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Kyle Rittenhouse is a 17-year-old wannabe policeman who carried an AR-15 across state lines to feel masculine, patriotic, and important, and he ultimately killed two people and injured another. Former Attorney General of Florida Pam Bondi says he’s just a little boy who was protecting his community.

He wasn’t protecting his community — he lives half an hour away. He had to have his mother drive him there.

He’s not a little kid — he’ll be 18 in December, old enough to vote and go to war.

He’s not a victim — protesters wouldn’t have been chasing him if he hadn’t shown up from out of town carrying a rifle that he legally wasn’t supposed to have anyway.

This is what Conservative White America watches all day, celebrations and exaltations of white murderers contrasted with demonizations and vilifications of Black victims. And when the murderer is young, Conservative White America rallies around them to magnify their youth and exaggerate their innocence. Kyle Rittenhouse is a murderer who gets to be a “little boy” and Dylann Roof is a murderer who gets to be a “sweet kid” but our young victims don’t have that luxury.

Michael Brown was 18 years old.

His murderer, who is the same height as Michael Brown, said he wasn’t a boy — he was a demon — and it was like wrestling with Hulk Hogan. (x)

Trayvon Martin was 17 years old.

He was walking home from the store when his murderer decided to stalk him, confront him, and then kill him because he was afraid of a child. (x)

Tamir Rice was 12 years old.

He and Kyle Rittenhouse are similar in that they were both carrying guns. Of course, Tamir’s was a toy and he was shot seconds after officers saw it, because what they thought they saw was a grown man carrying a deadly weapon. Officers on the scene said he was “maybe 20.” (x)

Law enforcement starts to see Black children as older than white children starting around 10 years old. After that, Black children have an extra four years tacked on to their age (on average), and when that Black child is accused of a crime, he’s more likely to be assumed guilty.

“Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection. Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent,” said author Phillip Atiba Goff, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles. The study was published online in APA’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology®.

(cont. American Psychological Association)

We talk about defunding the police in the context of unlawful police shootings and racially motivated police brutality, and the counterarguments focus on reforming the police instead: They just need more training. They just need to learn more de-escalation strategies. There’s no training that will change 400 years of racially charged propaganda that has painted Black people, males especially, as aggressive, criminal, brutes. There’s no training that will suddenly make police officers see Black children as Black children when 400 years of media and history has painted Black kids as older and more dangerous than they are because Black people in general are framed as more dangerous and more aggressive than white people. Racism, the assumptions around Black people, and the perceptions of Black children are all baked into the fabric of this country, and Conservative White America keeps that oven turned up every single day.

 

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Race

Black people cannot sway an election.

Handwringing by Embarrassed Whites over the Black vote has to die. Y’all lost the 2016 election because you didn’t do enough to convince your families and social circles that Trump would destroy the country.

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There’s a white lady on Twitter with a very long thread about the 2016 election that I am absolutely not going to read, because all I needed was this:

In case she deletes the tweet, because sometimes people do that online when they’re getting dragged, Claire Berlinski said Donald Trump would not be President if Black people who voted for Obama had turned out in the same numbers for Hillary. I see variations of that all the time, trying to shift the blame for Trump onto Black people instead of examining it where it lay, with racist whites. White people blaming us for the election are embarrassed to be associated with them, so they deflect, but Black people don’t exist in large enough numbers to have the kind of impact these Embarrassed Whites want to imagine. Very very simple math proves this, so let’s just get it out of the way up top.

In 2016, 11% of Black people who had voted for Obama didn’t vote at all. 12% of white people who had voted for Obama voted for Trump. The US population is 63.4% white and 13.4% Black. There are almost five times as many white people in this country as Black people, so let’s apply that to the graph she posted.

2016

For simpler math, say the top bar shows 100 white people, which would mean the bottom bar would show 21 Black people, because that’s our ratio in this country. You see where this is going already I’m sure. This means 12 white Obama voters voted for Trump while TWO Black Obama voters didn’t vote at all. Embarrassed Whites want to shift blame from 12 white people to 2 Black people because it makes them feel better about not addressing politics with their relatives and acquaintances.

That part is factual — the original graph is from an article on the Washington Post. What I’m about to say next is more conjecture based on common knowledge that’s already out there because I don’t have the research background (time, really) to pull the numbers on all of this. Take what you know about gerrymandering, about housing discrimination, and about redlining, and apply that to the numbers. We don’t have a 1 person = 1 vote system. We have an electoral system where 100 people are consolidated into 1 vote based on who the majority of that 100 wanted.

51 people vote A. 49 people vote B. A wins.
51 people vote A. 49 people vote B. A wins again.
10 people vote A. 90 people vote B. B wins.

The votes are 112 to 188, but A wins the whole shebang because A won twice.  (That’s how Trump won.) Because of the aforementioned gerrymandering, housing discrimination, and redlining, most of the Black people are sitting in the 90 person block of people who voted for B. Every Black person in America could have voted in 2016, and it would not have had the effect on the election that Embarrassed Whites like to pretend it would have because the US electoral system has consolidated our voting power into tiny blocs cordoned off from the rest of the population.

Harlem is going to vote Democrat. The equivalent of Harlem in Dallas or Birmingham or Memphis is going to vote Democrat. You can convince another few thousand Black people to go vote for your candidate in the Harlems across the country, and it didn’t do anything to tip the balance of the election because Candidate A has still won two contests. It’s only increasing the margin of victory for Candidate B in one result. There aren’t enough Black people in these 95% white voting districts (dotted all across the country in red states with more cows than people) to say, “well if Black people voted we wouldn’t be here.” You’ll have one extra Black vote in Montana for every 20 extra Black votes in Harlem.

Handwringing by Embarrassed Whites over the Black vote has to die. Y’all lost the 2016 election because you didn’t do enough to convince your families and social circles that Trump would destroy the country. You are going to lose the 2020 election for that same reason if you keep worrying about what we are doing over here. Spend less time focusing on Black turnout and more time convincing your communities that they need to go vote. Ours has been taken advantage of, disappointed enough, and blamed so many times that we have honestly earned the right to say “screw this, y’all fix it, I’m tired.”

 

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Race

Appreciation vs. Appropriation, featuring Adele

She’s that awkward white girl sitting at the Black girl table getting her hair braided at lunch.

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Adele in 2015: Hello….

hello

Adele in 2020: Watagwan!

adele carnival

I have a few words for Adele, but I want to throw some examples of previous discussions to remind y’all that this conversation ain’t new.

Miley Cyrus – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Miley Cyrus is the whitest of white child stars with absolutely no connection to Black culture whatsoever. That’s not an automatic barrier, but it’s a big hurdle to climb, and to do it, you need to prove your worth. She didn’t. She wore her grills and hobnobbed with rappers and “twerked” at awards shows, taking the most visible parts of Black entertainment culture and putting them on like a costume for headlines. And she got them…for awhile. When the shtick wore out, she took it off and gave interviews about “outgrowing” all of the trappings she had adopted when she wanted attention via shock and notoriety.

Appropriation, on the grounds of “oooh Black people are ‘dangerous’ so I’ll dabble in the culture to show how grown up and shocking I am now.”

Iggy Azalea – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Amethyst Amelia Kelly is a white woman from the backwoods of Australia who used Black culture to catapult herself to superstardom. She threw on a Southern hip-hop Blackcent that in no way resembled how she spoke or where she came from. Hip-hop is about authenticity. Give me an Australian twang and a kangaroo joke, not a Decatur drawl and a runaway slave master punchline. When she was called out on it, her answer was basically fuck y’all I do what I want you’re just jealous. She managed to set female rap milestones because the world loves Black culture in a white package and she used that to her advantage while she disrespected us the entire time.

Appropriation, on the grounds of “I’m just using y’all to make a buck.”

Kim Kardashian – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Kim Kardashian is a white woman who rode Black dick to fame and never got off. Everything about her is a manufactured bastardized approximation of Blackness made more palatable to the masses on a white woman. She DGAF about Black people, Black culture, Black lives, or her Black ass husband.

Appropriation, on the grounds of….duh.

Teena Marie – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Teena Marie loved us and we loved her back. Every Black household owned a record that had Teena Marie on it and we never doubted if she was coming from a good place. She is universally accepted as our White Soul Sister because she respected the culture and the art and it was evident in everything she did.

Appreciation, on the grounds of “You respect my shit, I’ll respect your shit.”

Eminem – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Eminem is one of the best rappers of all time, as he should be. If you are going to be white and venture into hip-hop, take it seriously. Study your craft. Be the best rapper you can possibly be. Don’t make it into a joke, don’t make it into a cash grab, and give it your all. Every Black kid learns that to make it into America you have to try twice as hard to get half as far. When a white kid decides to go into rap music, they need to try twice as hard (to get twice as far tbh, because white people love Black culture in white packages, but still…)

Appreciation, on the grounds of “I worked hard for this.”

Madonna – Appreciation or Appropriation?

“Vogue” is one of the biggest singles of all time and it brought ballroom out of the shadows and into the light in a way nothing had been able to do before, because the biggest white pop star on the planet was holding the lantern. Madonna cut her teeth in the East Village and Lower East Side with Black and Latino performers. Her first single didn’t have her face on it because it was sent to Black radio, and DJs didn’t necessarily know she was white. A few albums and mega singles later, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Madonna would put “Vogue” out there because she wasn’t a stranger to the community — it’s where she started. Still, this cis straight white woman was reaping the benefits of an artform created for and by the Black & Brown queer community. She used a culture she was only loosely familiar with and made millions while the people who lived the life were left behind.

Appropriation & Appreciation, on the grounds of “Sometimes you love it so you participate in it but you don’t do enough to support the people who made it.”

So, Adele wearing Bantu knots…

Adele ain’t stupid and I’m sure Adele was prepared to be dragged and she did it anyway because Adele loves Black art and entertainment, generally minds her business, and shows her stan card for every Black woman in the industry. If Adele decided to release a rap single and throw some Bantu knots in there for the video, I’m upset. That’s appropriation. She, in her whiteness, is stepping into a highly competitive arena that does not belong to her and she’s putting on Blackness for capital gain. Adele doing rap music would shove her to the forefront of the genre because white buyers love when white women do hip-hop, whether it’s good or not. That’s appropriation. Adele participating in a celebration of Blackness (because she literally celebrates Blackness publicly and regularly) is appreciation, regardless of how awkward it is.

It’s not “look at my new style.” It’s “look at this style I’m wearing in appreciation for this event taking place.”

It’s not “Kim Culture Vulture Kardashian inventing cornrows on a Tuesday for Instagram likes.” It’s “Adele Mildy Awkward Akinds celebrating Carnival to the fullest.”

I’m not mad. She’s that awkward white girl sitting at the Black girl table getting her hair braided at lunch.

Appreciation, on the grounds of “It’s just a white lady celebrating us who does so regularly.”

 

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