Archives for category: blacklivesmatter

Arrested for Justice!

They explained what to do and what not to do. Everything seemed so “organized.” It all made sense. I thought I understood how it was supposed to go. But my heart still pounded and my throat had a lump. They warned us about prior convictions. My mind kept wondering if I had any convictions…or even had been arrested. I couldn’t remember whether or not I had. My deep-seated distrust in the criminal justice system as a black, gay, HIV-positive man was beginning to show. All the reassurances in the world could not soothe the butterflies fluttering in my stomach.

Prior to today my record was squeaky clean, besides the traffic tickets that keep being hailed as the example of “no big deal.” But reminded me of all the times I thought I might die from a traffic stop. And all the times I thought I might be criminalized because of my sexuality. And all the times my HIV status has been used to dehumanized my black body. Yet, I chose to be arrested.

I chose to be arrested alongside the Missouri state delegate. He is a white, straight, food service worker earning $9 per hour. He is forced to chose between child support payments and healthcare. Because 50% of his pay goes to child support. He is forced to live without healthcare. Our lives could not have been further apart, but we chose to be arrested together today.

It wasn’t that bad. We chanted. We sang. We were warned. We surrendered. What I had feared all my life and sworn to avoid, was not that bad. And maybe that’s the problem. Just maybe the fear of being arrested keeps us from doing the work of justice. Perhaps the system is set up to keep the people just complacent enough to do nothing.

As I sat there on the grassy Capital lawn, behind police tape and steel barricades with like-minded strangers for justice, I thought about those who have not organized, those who did not know what to do. As I looked down at my plastic handcuffs, relieved that they were not real, even though they were….it was difficult not to act out. The meekness of the police was provocative. Their soft spokenness, their generosity of spirit up juxtaposed to the violence of state sanctioned poverty made it difficult to comply. The violence suffered by the least of these, created a deep-seated rage, prompting me to cry out.

What do we want? Justice!

When do we want it? Now!

If we don’t get it? Shut it down!

If we don’t get it? Shut it down!

If we – don’t – get – it?

Shut it down!

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No! But the question is true. America is caught between a truth and a lie. The truth is: we are the land of the free, the home of the brave. The lie is: we are the land of the free, the home of the  brave. The truth is: we are a nation founded by slave trading barbarians who happened to be brilliant enough to enshrine their personal ambition to achieve ultimate freedom into the Constitution of the United States of America. The truth is: mortal lies were executed to secure said freedom and justified by the ends that such lies would achieve. The truth is: the American liberty enschrined in the Constitution was etched on the backs of more than 13 million blacks bodies. The lie is: truth must be sacrificed so that the sanctity of freedom and democracy might be preserved. The truth is: that same lie that brokered black bodies continues to undermine the Constitution that liberated those whom it never had in mind. The lie is: the truth must be suppressed so that the noble ideals of freedom and democracy can be achieved and experienced. The truth is: a land that is truly free is only free because it has told the truth. The lie is: those who have sworn by conscience to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth are betraying the ideals of freedom and liberty by doing so. The truth is: the freedom and liberty that has made America great has only come when such people have withstood the lies of tyranny, despotism, and nihilism…without compromise. Ironically, during an age when America is arguably in its freest state, black Americans are being asked to be true to America, by way of a lie. This lie says that the only way to be a true American is to stand in silent complicity to her crimes. The lie is: telling the truth through peaceful protest is unpatriotic. The lie is: black Americans are ungrateful to the America that rations her grace to only a few. But the truth is: every time black America tells the truth about America, America only becomes more true, be it abolition, Jim Crow, Ferguson, or Trump. Indeed, the very existence of a black America exposes the American lie and keeps her accountable to her many truths that have become self evident. Is America a lie? No. But the notion that telling the truth about America is un-American is the greatest lie ever told…and no lie can live forever.

Are they? Are they? Are the allies of rabid racists “Fine People?” Yes, according to our Fine President. Those cheering alongside racists, fascists, neo-Nazi, white supremacists, white nationalists, and the KKK are “Fine People.”

When he first said this, I was quite surprised. How could he say such a thing. Right there in the hallowed lobby of Trump Tower, in front of those gold-plated elevators, steps away from Fifth Avenue? I was aghast. Surely the President of the United States of America did not equate racists with anti-racists, fascists with anti-fascists, KKK with anti-KKK.

But why on earth am I surprised? This man has said and done the worst things. Worst than any publicly praised political figure in my lifetime. “Grab em by the pussy.” “Mexican rapists.” “Little Marco.” “Crooked Hillary.” Ever since the day he descended the escalators of that same lobby, Mr. Trump has said the most appalling things. Things that many would never say. Things that we all think and may say in the most intimate of spaces. Such things that haven’t been said out loud beyond the go-go bar nor HBO in a generation. Things that would make Sarah Silverman blush, he has dared to utter into the living rooms of the ever faithful American religious right wing conservative, and beyond.

But perhaps that’s why I’m quite surprised. It’s quite surprising to see such sedition in plain sight, with my very own eyes…and hear them with my very own ears. I’ve heard of them through the lips of many others, as they lamented the water hoses, the police dogs, the lynch mobs, the death camps. For generations “Fine People” have been committing evil atrocities, prompting equally “Fine People” to rise up against them.

The “Fine People” of the North, came down to fight the “Fine People” of the South in order to put an end to slavery. The “Fine People” of the Allied armies, joined forces to defeat the “Fine People” of Italy, Germany, and Japan. The “Fine People” of the Civil Rights Movement led a non-violent movement against the “Fine People” of the Jim Crow South, many of whom held many a fine picnic just beneath the lynching tree. The “Fine People” of the United States of America invaded the “Fine People” of Vietnam, and the “Fine People” of Saddam’s Iraq, and the “Fine People” of Bin Laden’s Taliban who weaponized a plane full of “Fine People” bringing down two towers filled with “Fine People” on September 11th, 2001. All very “Fine People.”

Everyday I live and work and worship with “Fine People,” living “Fine Lives” longing to hear the words, “Everything is just fine.” “You are doing everything well and right. You are in no way and by no means implicated in anything that is evil or undesirable or inhumane. You are powerless to do anything beyond the many good things you are already doing. You are fine. Everything is just fine. Or is it?

What’s most surprising about Trump’s charge that there were “Fine People” on both sides, is its brilliance. It’s brilliant because, as Americans, we all just wanna be “Fine People.” This has become the bar for all of western humanity. Mr. Trump himself was accused of having a family of “fine people” by the very opponent that he accused of paying off her husband’s rape victim. Many voted for President Trump, under the assumption that he was a “Fine Person” with “Fine Children.” In 2014, #BlackLivesMatter protested “fine white people” who deeply believe New York’s Finest are policing just fine, thank you very much, despite the unarmed death of the not-so-fine black body of Eric Gardner. Almost all of the policemen who committed these murders have been acquitted because they are “Fine Policemen” called to protect and serve “Fine White People.”

The problem with “Fine People” is that they are rarely fine, “bless they’re hearts.” “Fine People” are really restless, fearful people willing to do anything to reach the not-so-high bar of feeling just fine, thank you very much. “Fine People” are willing to forego just about anything to remain just fine. “Fine People” are only willing to tweet the bare minimum to insure that everything remains fine. “Fine People” are satisfied with waiting out the rage so that we can get on with the fine business of representative government. “Fine People” are only moved to action when the immediate luxuries of they’re “Fine Lives” are frightened and frustrated.

More than anything, “Fine people” want us all to believe that everything is fine so that those of who are far from fine, will do the least amount necessary to bring about any real  and lasting social change. For this reason, both the fascists and the Antifa were far from fine in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017. One side was evil, the other courageous, each committed to fulfilling its respective agenda: one, the complete annihilation of non-white races…the other, the full equality and inclusion of all people…both by any means necessary.

This is the view of the President of the United States regarding race in America. According to Mr. Trump, racism, bigotry, violence, and hate happens “on many sides, on many sides” as he reluctantly condemned the horrific events that took place on Saturday, August 12, 2017 after a self-avowed Nazi sympathizer plowed into a crowd of peaceful protesters. After years and months of actions and rhetoric aligned closely with white nationalism and white supremacy, the President of the United States was confronted with an opportunity to distance himself from such ideas. 

After a victorious campaign that capitalized on the notion that third millennia America is no longer great due to radical Islamic terrorism, Mexican rapists and carnage on the Black streets of Chicago, the president was gifted with the golden opportunity to denounce his deal with the devils of white supremacy. Their premeditated pep rally on the streets of Charlottesville on Friday, August 11th, their violent clash with nationally renowned clergy and activists, the vehicular homicide committed by a 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer who mowed down a mob of justice warriors were all gracious opportunities to give lip service to the lie that POTUS is not a violent hate monger. 

Instead of prolonging the pitiful charade of racist or nah, Mr. Trump put the nail in the coffin with these six simple words, “on many sides, on many sides.” This racist accusation of multi-faceted, many-sided racism, bigotry, and prejudice is not new to this not-so-new discourse on race in America. 

The notion that racism is polychromatic is what sustains the lie that #AllLivesMatter. The insistence that racism, bigotry, and prejudice happens on many sides, on many sides is what justifies the DOJ investigation into white college admissions. His belief that racial violence happens on many sides, on many sides inspired Mr. Trump to make it his mission to target the innocent Central Park 5 and delegitimize the citizenship of America’s only Black president. 

During the darkest hour of 2017, the President of the United States decided to equalize inequality by condemning all sides of American history. But just as an eye for any eye leaves everybody blind, so does the insidious retort, on many sides, on many sides. Condemning racism, bigotry, and prejudice on many sides, on many sides is worse than saying nothing at all. If everybody is guilty, then no one is. If every side is at fault, then all sides are justified in their actions. If racism is endemic on many sides, on many sides, then James Alex Fields, Jr’s Nazi activism is just as justified as Heather Heyer’s martyrdom for justice. 

On many sides, on many sides is the perfect way to keep an already divided nation evenly divided. On many sides, on many sides will do little to heal the wounds of the those hurt on August 12, 2017, but will do much to keep all sides angry enough for the Commander-in-Chief to consolidate just enough power in just the right places to keep himself in office. While this will never work for those fighting for justice, let’s just see if it works for him. 

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I could blog about Kathy Griffin…or the Paris climate agreement…or another attack in London…or not blog at all since I just blogged my first blog since February, earlier today. But then I heard on the news that HBO’s Bill Maher dropped the “N” bomb on Real Time. After rolling my eyes and opening my laptop, I was aghast. Amid a milieu of dog whistles, populism, white working class self-pity, religious white supremacy, and #alllivesmatter, a white liberal male celebrity “ally” jokingly uttered the phrase “House Nigger.”

So here we go. What to say? What to say? I could say nothing, but to do so would be to ignore the reality of whiteness in America. I’d rather say nothing, than to deal with the definite progressive revelation of liberal ignorance that will surely be revealed in the anticipated comments that will be posted by white “friends” on the Book of Faces once the blog is drops. So here goes nothing or EVERYTHING.

Most blacks understand the implications of existing in a civic reality in which white supremacy is pervasive. We know that whether our collar be white or blue, gold or platinum, we will always be black. In order do survive such a maddening fate, we have adopted coded terminologies that, when used amongst ourselves,  provide a sense of humor, healing, and hope in eager anticipation of that “great gittin up mornin,” that holy expectation of the “already, not yet.”

Co-opting the term “House Nigger,” which originated in the antibellum south, to use amongst ourselves was our way of expressing self-awareness and social consciousness. For whether I am Lebron or Tiger, Serena or Michael, Obama or OJ, white supremacy will always deem me a nigger, whether living in the White House, confined to the Big House, or subjugated to cleaning the Out House. Understanding this, for better or for worse, has always been the first step toward embracing black liberation.

But what about Bill Maher? Why can’t he say it? First of all, as a straight white alpha male liberal celebrity, he can say whatever he wants. He can rap, or nah. He can drop the “F” Bomb on his own show, or nah. He can shoot hoops, or nah. He can cackle with white supremacists, or nah. And he can say “house nigger,” or nah.

The problem with Bill Maher is not that he jokingly labeled himself a “House Nigger” vs. a “Field Nigger.” The problem is that in so doing, he revealed his own lack of self-consciousness and social awareness. And in so doing he revealed that his pseudo-woke liberal progressive socio-political caricature has not liberated him from his own deep-seated racism and white supremacy, which we with melanin already knew.

The for real, for real is that Bill Maher’s self-designation as “House Nigger” reveals that he is just that…a pseudo-woke liberal progressive socio-political caricature propped up by Massa to capitalize on the false notion that white supremacy only exists on Fox News. Any white liberal celebrity who presumes he/she/they are not is just that, a House Nigger.

 

moonight-oceanBeing a black gay boy was my worst nightmare. I knew that one day I would need to stand before my family and my world and confess my unpardonable sin. This was the cross that was mine to bear. This was the thorn in my flesh. This was the crimson stain that would never be washed away. And I hated it. I hated it with the wrath of thousand suns. I hated who I saw in the mirror. I hated the sissy who was mocked on the playground. I hated the sound of my voice. I hated my girlish ways which brought on the wanton whispers. I was gay and I hated it. I wanted to be someone else. Anyone else. Just not me. I did not want to be a black gay man. I did not want to be a black gay man because I did not know what that looked like. I did not know what it looked like to be me. I only knew what it felt like. And it felt like hell. It was a living nightmare.

Tonight’s Moonlight Best Picture WIN…is typical of my living nightmare. It’s that feeling deep deep down that knows that you are the best you can be, even if no one else does. It’s that abiding uncertainty of knowing you are better than the mediocrity that continuously passes you by. It’s that never ending nightmare that tosses you into hell, while knowing one day you’ll wake up in heaven. Moonlight is the movie of that life. Moonlight reveals to the world the hell that black gay boys go through. It shows the shame that is so deep that it forces you to absorb everyone else’s pain in order to cover up your own. Moonlight is that silent cry in the middle of the night, when everyone else is asleep. Moonlight is that deep deep need to be wanted, but too afraid to believe you are.

Tonight, when Moonlight won, black queerness won. Little black gay boys won. Boys bullied. Boys called faggot. Boys touched by men and told not to tell. Boys whose lifeless bodies lie dead in the grave because they were too ashamed to live, too afraid to love. Tonight, Moonlight exhumed those dead lives, those dead hopes, those dead dreams. Tomorrow, black gay boys can go to school a little less confused, a little less afraid, a little more emboldened to live the life that is theirs to live. A moonlit life shining in the darkness, just waiting to be lived.

For nearly two years I’ve been yelling, “OMG, I love Empire!” By “empire,” I didn’t necessarily mean the American empire, but the hit TV show, Empire. For months my televisional week revolved around Empire. I was obsessed with its characters. I was infatuated with Jamal. I was captivated by Cookie. I loved the terror exacted by Lucious the patriarch.  I loved the bougie hip hop #veryblack shade that was constantly being thrown as a #veryreal constant of the upward spiral of blackness in an empire defined by the demise of blackness. And because I love (big “e”) Empire, I’ve been wanting to write this post for quite some time.

The delay is due to my reluctance to critique the very things I love…and I do love the American empire (little “e”)  so very very much. Perhaps too much. So much so that I am guilty of hating the abuses of America more so because of how they besmirch the American ideal, and less so because of the abuses themselves.

But at the end of the day, America is an empire in the purest form. And anyone committed to justice for all has to question their love for the American empire. The great James Baldwin said it best when he said, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”  

But the problem is, empires are generally not open to criticism. To call into question the assertions of empire is to question the very premise of imperialism itself. The problem with empire is that the promises and guarantees, therein, require the execution of grave injustices and brutal atrocities. To question such executions is to threaten the empire that I am devoted to loving. Jamal and Cookie and Lucious are but figurative commodities depicting the imperial realities for which I aspire. A reality in which blackness and queerness and power personified is privileged are centered in imperial conquest.

But then, I am reminded that empire is not defined by diversity but dominance. A dominance that if spoken against is in itself an unspeakable betrayal. To speak against empire and live in opposition to empire is existential treason of the highest order. For this reason loving empire is dangerous. Loving empire endangers the marginalizations that are created by empire. Blackness, queerness, and liberty and justice for ALL do not coexist in empire. Freedom of speech that is prophetic and subversive is a threat to empire. To truly love empire is to love oppression, to love stratified power, to love armies, and homogeneity, and hegemony. To love empire is to love all the things that sustain empire. To love empire is to love all the things that denounce who I am. Loving the American empire is juxtaposed to black selflove, queer selflove, and the sacrificial love of the other.

As such, I love America more than any other country in this world, but because it is an empire I must persist on an internal self-critique of my complicity to the evil that sustains its imperial allegiance.