Here is the link to the full transcript of the speech.
I read this piece by Questlove today and can’t get it out of my mind.
I recognized the honesty of Questlove’s story because it mirrors so many stories told by African American’s across the socio-economic spectrum…for those who have the courage to listen.
Also? As a 6’2 African American female, I have lived a portion of his truth. Many people are jarred when they first see me as they take in my height. Most of these people are White. Some shrink away from me, some don’t answer doors when I make business calls, and some are just rude and dismissive.
Their dislike, fueled by racism, and real or imaginary stereotypes, is hard enough to bear. But to see fear on someone else’s face because of your race and physicality is always deeply disturbing. It always blows your mind and creates cognitive dissonance. Especially, if like Amir describes, you have diligently worked to craft your demeanor, speech, or appearance so as to be less “threatening”…to no avail.
Like I did, for years, slumping in attempt to hide myself and diminish my stature. As if that was possible. Or, crafting my speech to not sound “ghetto” as if I could separate myself from the shadows of neo-racism. Or, most telling and shamefully, the years that I closed myself off from Black friends because of self hate that I failed to recognize and worked hard to overcome.
Disturbing psychological ramifications are manifold…
– The feeling that you will not be judged as individual no matter what you do.
– The knowledge that to some “people” you will never be “right” (or worthy of human consideration) because they have shrunk your human possibility and potential to fit in with what they’ve been told, taught, or see on some stupid ass reality show.
– The fact that you must find a way of coping with this injustice and work around the people and systems who uphold it in order to survive.
…is a pretty fucking horrible feeling.
I feel Questlove and honestly, I doubt there is a single African American who read this story that did not. I applaud him for the courage to speak on this deeply personal subject, in direct contradiction to his famed persona, and reveal his very human, vulnerability and pain.
No one knows the shoes you walk in.
We love to say that but sadly it’s not always true. Some parts of the human experience are not individual but collective.
And when the Zimmerman verdict was announced, the pain, the rage, the shame, the horror and the sadness seemed collectively shared by Black America. You could read it on social media and hear it on TV, all before the search for equality and justice took us to the streets again.
I have no children but if I did this is not the reality that I would wish them to grow up with. Pain, that they did not ask for or deserve. Realities that they must learn to cope with our be broken by. The psychological scars of racism that ‘post racial’ America would like to pretend does not exist, in order for some to assuage their guilt and for others to perpetuate the system which their forefathers created.
I learned of the verdict on Sunday and spent most of it in a black cloud.
It was NOT just another day…for millions of Americans.
I sobbed inconsolably for the Martin family and my people. Some unlucky person tried conversing with me on Twitter about Black on Black crime and how things would not change until we treated ourselves better. So great was my rage and pain that I nearly imploded. before I could combust I blocked her instead.
My overriding thought was how insane it is that my pain must be the lowest possible denomination of what my ancestors must have felt, in the 60’s, in the 50’s, in the 40’s, in the 30’s…going back to the 18th century.
But America has changed, yes?
It has not changed enough and we must demand for future generations that it does.
So, let me start off by saying that I believe in the two party system. Even in the throes of my disgust with what the party has become, I stand by that belief. Why? Because the two party system should ensure a balanced and measured approach to policy making. In a pluralistic society, differing approaches/ideals are needed to inform political, economic, social and judicial policy which is representative of the masses.
At my core, I respect differing ideologies/opinions and the dynamics of compromise. In, and of itself, compromise has value in all areas of life. Congress has forgotten this in their thirst for power as they become fat with the corrupting influence of money in politics.
I get hives when I envision unilateralism. We have examples of these systems and how they work, think the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, or the People’s Republic of China. It can be a dangerous path on the road to fascism.
Theoretical models aside, the ineptitude of the current Congress challenges this belief to my very bones. But let’s be fair, that’s pretty much a direct result of my Bush hangover and the GOP field today. Their platform has been poisoned by inaction, divisiveness and destructive race/hatemongering. When I hear about Republicans like George Romney, Mitt’s father, I am stymied as to how we got where we are today and wonder why Mitt falls so far outside the spectrum of his father’s values and life lessons.
The bigger question might be, based on the last two years, why the party seems to have moved to the extreme right and by doing so, have they made themselves defunct? Surely, they embody devolution at it’s best and a hearkening back to days gone by. How will they make their way back? Is that even possible?
But I digress…
All this is to say that my motivation for the following question is not because I think the Republican party is unnecessary but a genuine quest for what seems to be a glaring contradiction.
“What’s up with African American Republicans?”
It’s Black History month and an election year to boot, so I want to get down to the bottom of this. Why do they exist? Their very existence is anathema to me and makes me itch.
It should be said that even at 19, I was a Democrat. I align with their world view, you see. My blood pumps liberal and always has. They are the party of conscience. The party which cares for the people, not just an elitist, rich and privileged few. They are critically important, especially now.
So speaks a child born in 1968, post Civil Rights era.
When my grandmother told me she was a Republican, I looked at her like she had two heads. Interestingly enough, my mother is a Democrat. I grew up listening to the likes of Sonia Sanchez “Refuse & Resist” and since I was 12 have been blessed to have multiracial friends embodying the full socio-economic spectrum. This gave me an experience of cultural norms outside the African American community. This made my my world view nothing if not pluralistic. I think that knowledge and experience is germane to my fundamental beliefs.
Only now, after learning of the Hip Hop Republicans (again I thank you Twitter) have I been moved to do some research in an attempt to understand the question.
Did you know?
Those are the facts and we can argue about the why of it, which many have said was spurned by less than altruistic motives, another time. But now, I get it! I understand that past is prologue. See, what you don’t know is just as important than what you think you know!
This has spawned a second question, “What has happened to the Republican party?”
Yes, more research is in order lol. Nonetheless, the current GOP field, think Allan West, Herman Cain, and their ilk, are so far removed from previous generations of Republicans that it is nothing short of scary. In fact, I don’t think they know their history. The rhetoric they spout underscores this in a MAJOR way.
I understand loyalty but I do not understand blind loyalty and so my original question remains. Why, in today’s environment, would any African American, especially those whom care about progress and the plight of their people today, continue to be loyal to the Republican party? It flies in the face of the evidence and facts. You can add to that the growing list of embattled groups, women, LGBT, immigrants, the poor, the college educated etc.
I have a scary vision of them converging on the ballot box which, God help me, keeps me up at night. 😉 I won’t be happy until 11/7/12 or thereabouts…
4..3..2..1. The countdown to African American History month has begun. February denotes the celebration of historical African Americans, their lives and achievements. I will be contributing a slew of posts to the Blogosphere in homage. While it is important every year, this year is particularly special, in my opinion, to combat the rising tide of racist messages that are infesting the media.
I’ve been trying to figure out a way to feature Guest Authors on my blog for some time and this seems like an ideal occasion. Since I have elicited such a wonderful following of impassioned and talented writers, I would like to invite y’all to participate with me.
Guidelines are as follows:
Educate, Inform, Encourage and Inspire.
**Some of us ARE talking. I found this wonderful post and blogger called Beverly Diehl. She has sponsored a blogfest on racism commemorating MLK. Check it out.**
Sometime in December, I was on Twitter raving about the racism reported in the media that has become a daily onslaught. I was enraged by the the unholy triumvirate of Newt Gingrich’s ideas on the poor and his brilliant solutions; Gene Mark’s article on Poor Black Kids and Rihanna being called a Nigga Bi*** in a Dutch magazine.
Imagine my surprise, when one of my soon to be ex-followers sent me a tweet implying that the reason for all this blatant evidence of racism was just that it was an election year. Coincidentally, he was White.
My head spun. Truly. I think sparks flew out of my head.
Distilled to 140 characters, I sent back one, or two, irate (but respectful) tweets, stating that as a Black person he would never get me to agree with that synopsis. Indeed, the evidence of what we are seeing has widespread implications.
Silence. No response. He’d gone off to resume drinking and sending out drunken tweets. Speaks volumes, yes?
I guess the complexity of the subject was too much, or *gasp* I was coming across as yet another angry black woman. No matter, I’m in good company :). If you’re not angry in the face of the soul-stealing evil being sold to you under the guise of truth, you’re too far gone for help in my book.
It’s a secret that many Americans continue to vehemently deny, racism is alive and well and *gasp* it’s pervasive roots spread beyond the Grand Old Party. The GOP, who, in my opinion, merely reflect back an ugly, and not so silent, reality.
The hypocrisy of Americans and their ongoing refusal to discuss racism, past and present, is sickening. Silence is, rarely, if ever, your friend. The cry that talk of race is divisive is so insulting that it leaves me speechless. An intelligent, mindful, open person recognizes the need for discussion, acknowledgement and adjustment. Curse me for my thoughts of a truly mutually beneficial resolution.
A great starting point, for such as he, would be to understand that it is easy for White people not to be concerned about race. It’s a wonderful offshoot of white privilege.
When your daily life isn’t riddled with attacks on your race, in the media; from the mouths of the would be leaders of our country; from the police who you pay taxes for protection but routinely fail to protect you; from the stranger on the corner who shifts away from you to safeguard their valuables; neighbors who watch you out of the corners of their eyes waiting for the “other shoe” to drop; every moron who is visibly surprised at the success of a Black person who is not a rapper, drug dealer, comedian, or athlete, or, even from so called well meaning friends of other races whose speech is riddled with insulting stereotypical questions, and jokes, then you have the luxury NOT to be concerned about race.
For The Clueless
Here’s an idea, instead of asking Black people to stop talking about race…
Think about it in a deeper fashion. Showing respect for the feelings and thoughts of others beyond how the world effects you personally is a giant step. Getting the money out of politics and financial reform are not the only ills of America.
Perhaps, for just one moment you might also consider that the construct of race was not invented by overly sensitive African Americans, but White colonialists/imperialists who used, and continue to use race, as a method of divisiveness.
Much of the Black defensiveness and anger you see, is a result of the overt racism and microaggressions that we deal with and internalize. Ask yourself how you would feel if your so called non-Black allies, who weren’t racist, actively engaged in attempting to get you to (a) contribute to the cover-up that says we live in a post-racial society, or (b) move “past” racism to some utopian society which is clearly out of reach. How exactly would that help you?
Then, perhaps, you might contemplate that not every Black person who brings up the issue of race is pulling the race card but has a legitimate gripe.
In the same way, that I acknowledge and am happy that many White people, and non-Blacks, are not clueless and insensitive to these facts and are intelligent and empathetic enough to seek to change.
In the same way, that I listen to Jewish people when they speak about anti-Semitism, or the Holocaust. Experience informs their narratives and trumps any supposition I may have.
Dismissiveness is insulting and disrespectful. We understand that it’s easy to walk around in your own head but please, please, please don’t articulate your one-sided BS opinions and not open your ears to listen. The veils have been ripped asunder and we are clever enough to see this for the deep down, self serving ignorance it actually is, despite what you may believe. If you can’t stand hearing about it, imagine how it would be to live with it.
We all have our issues but I do my best to listen to, validate, and accept all people because the width and breadth of the human experience is not only mine to claim and I know others have something to teach me. It is a conscious choice that we all have the option to make.
I’m happy to say that I have followed The Occupy Wall Street Movement from the beginning of the occupation. Like many of their followers, I found them on Twitter and have watched, cheered, donated and tweeted my days away in slavish fervor in keeping with my commitment and admiration.
I believe wholeheartedly in what they are doing, civil disobedience is our constitutional and human right. Anyone with eyes can see that the government has become less and less effective, reaching a state where one is tempted to call politicians mere titular heads. I agree with many who say that party alignment is irrelevant as there is definitely “Something rotten in Denmark.” It is painfully obvious that government is failing to safeguard and enact the will of the electorate which is their primary function. Nowhere was this more evident than the bailout of the financial sector and the complete lack of accountability for their actions which has affected the nation and it continues to snowball.
The question I kept asking as I watched uprisings around the world unfold was, “When will Americans wake up and take a stand?”
Finally, they have! Do I see issues within the movement? Absolutely. Yet, I take heart that this anger can be fueled for positive change in a world careening towards disaster and that any issues, glaring as they are, will be addressed. The movement is taking shape and needs our help.
There has been a lot of talk about organizational, communication and goal oriented results and demands which are key factors to the success of any movement. Yet the issue which bothers me the most is the seemingly minimal involvement by people of color (POC). The term POC is all encompassing: African Americans, Hispanics, Indigenous Peoples and so on. In this dialogue that has started, “Of the People, By the People and for the People”, our faces are glaringly in the minority. The question is WHY?
The question must be asked because the movement is supposed to stand for the 99%. It does not purport to be about one class, one race or one state. It is now, unbelievably, GLOBAL. Why? Because we all have the same basic human concerns: safety, housing, education, a fair wage, a political system that is representative and corporations which are accountable and do not stampede over us in their unending pursuit of profit.
If the movement fails to incorporate all people, other valid issues which are directly tied to economic policies like social justice and institutional racism will not be addressed and that would be a crying shame.
I’ve been doing my homework, monitoring Tweets, reading articles which have begun to spring up espousing the idea that the 99% is really 99% White, and talking to my circle for the last two weeks. As soon as that was articulated, a dull rumbling began. Smart folks are wary since divisveness is a tool that has historically been used to conquer people and it WORKS. We must work together to unify and so the discussion can’t be truncated to those subjects that are easy to discuss. Who exactly would that help?
I have compiled a short list of issues below that I feel bear discussing, failing all else I hope to raise consciousness.
Disclaimer: The issues listed below are NOT all inclusive. Breathe. However, I do belive it speaks directly to the reluctance of POC to become more actively involved.
1. They have never cared about us or stood up for our concerns.
This, of course, is a generalization as there are White Americans who have stood up and fought side by side with POC to achieve their goals. However, it would be fair to say that those who have are in the minority. America has been since it’s inception a racist country which White Americans, over many generations, have profited from, directly or indirectly. In spite of what some would like to believe with the election of President Obama, we are NOT in a Post-Racial society.
The facts and statistics, excluding the electoral shift, simply do not support this notion of Post Racism, grand as it is. Ask a POC how their life has changed since 2008. You will hear crickets or get cursed out for your pains.
African Americans, Hispanics and other POC still suffer disproportionately in America and anyone who denies this is delusional. Anyone who says this is our fault is at best ignorant of history, societal norms and the deeply embedded stereotypes of racial superiority. At worst, they are bigots.
We are plagued by high rates of unemployment which affects housing, education, incarceration rates and our quality of life. From an African American perspective, there has never been a movement, not started by an African American, to address the fundamental inequalities they face. Worse, their is a history of lies and betrayal has a long memory. So it’s understandable why POC do not trust that this time is different and “colorblind.”
2. A sense of separation pervades our minds.
Many seem to believe that the concerns of Occupy Wall Street are not our concerns. They see White faces on TV, they see Hippies, Intellectuals, Activists and the most of them are White. Therein, lies a disconnect. We need to see someone we identify with in order to feel comfortable. Which can be said of most human beings. For example, feminists don’t want MEN to speak for them because, as well meaning as they might be, it’s accurate to say that they lack something as they have no experience in this arena. Understanding and empathy, while laudable, is not experience. POC have lived with the injustices of the system long before 2008.
The fact that the movement’s concerns are universal is hard to overcome when you are burdened by anger and have felt separate for so long. Be honest, many of us do not leave our Hoods. Our friends, in many cases, are the same race with the same concerns and are the same class. Of course, there are exceptions but I’m talking about the norm. Denying the class divisions, or the justifiable anger of POC, will not make it go away. In fact, the lack of acknowledgement merely makes it worse.
3. Law enforcement does not treat us the same.
Nope, it doesn’t. For those of us that wish to join, we wonder how it will go down, if and when, things get hectic.
We don’t believe that if we turn up in force that we will be treated equally by the nice officers. Say the names Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Rodney King to yourself if you don’t believe that’s a valid concern. Many of us, thanks to the industrialized racism of law enforcement and prisons have records as well. How easy will it be to get us released, or get bail money?
The negative experiences that many of us have had add historical precedence and experience to the mix. The memory of dogs, hoses, plastic bullets, billy clubs and police brutality would cause many to deem that it is simply not worth the risk.
4. NO ONE ASKED US
Because of all the issues above, it is understandable that POC would want to feel included. It is not a question of an engraved invitation, as I originally raved, but the feeling that our input is valued and required.
Understand, that sadly, many of us do not believe that anything we do will matter. That’s the duck down mentality which I don’t agree with but that makes it no less significant.
Historically, the organizers of any movement must make an effort to spread their message and invite others to join. NAACP? Community Colleges? Radio? Schools? Brooklyn? Harlem? Uptown? Any Hood? We have neither seen, nor heard, from anyone other than the distorted messages that are being broadcast by mainstream media. Social media is just the start. Whatever misguided reasons served as the base for this decision it is actively being addressed.
The truth is that there are many people throughout the world who have suffered at the hands of colonization and capitalism. Just looking at the issues above makes my head ache :). Most of us have baggage, no doubt.
The effects of racism and social injustice can not be remedied overnight but if we seek to make a better future we have a lot of work to do. I am hopeful that joining together to fight a common enemy will result in the beginning of a desperately needed national conversation. I believe that it can begin to heal wounds and CHANGE the future.
Silence will not save you.
STAND UP AND LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD. SPEARD THE WORD. WE ARE THE 99%.
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