Tag Archives: Racism

A New Toni Morrison Story…

Is on the horizon and I’m besides myself with anticipation. I love Ms. Morrison, she uses fiction to explore truth in a way no one else does. Her perspectives are always insightful, peerless and masterpieces that excavate and explore the human heart in all it’s complexity. No mean feat.

Here’s an excerpt from her upcoming book, God Help The Child, courtesy of the New Yorker:

It’s not my fault. So you can’t blame me. I didn’t do it and have no idea how it happened. It didn’t take more than an hour after they pulled her out from between my legs for me to realize something was wrong. Really wrong. She was so black she scared me. Midnight black, Sudanese black. I’m light-skinned, with good hair, what we call high yellow, and so is Lula Ann’s father. Ain’t nobody in my family anywhere near that color. Tar is the closest I can think of, yet her hair don’t go with the skin. It’s different—straight but curly, like the hair on those naked tribes in Australia. You might think she’s a throwback, but a throwback to what? You should’ve seen my grandmother; she passed for white, married a white man, and never said another word to any one of her children. Any letter she got from my mother or my aunts she sent right back, unopened. Finally they got the message of no message and let her be. Almost all mulatto types and quadroons did that back in the day—if they had the right kind of hair, that is. Can you imagine how many white folks have Negro blood hiding in their veins? Guess. Twenty per cent, I heard. My own mother, Lula Mae, could have passed easy, but she chose not to. She told me the price she paid for that decision. When she and my father went to the courthouse to get married, there were two Bibles, and they had to put their hands on the one reserved for Negroes. The other one was for white people’s hands. The Bible! Can you beat it? My mother was a housekeeper for a rich white couple. They ate every meal she cooked and insisted she scrub their backs while they sat in the tub, and God knows what other intimate things they made her do, but no touching of the same Bible.

For full text click here. You’re Welcome.

Great precursor to my upcoming piece on Colorism….

The Race Card

I hate that expression. Don’t you?

I have never once heard it posited with honest, intellectual inquiry.  It is always uttered with an attendant scorn and a slight sneer that implies the argument has already been won.

It is the equivalent of dropping an F-bomb in the middle of a Sunday sermon. It’s always successful in it’s aim, to cast aspersion and suspicion. The accusation strikes at the heart of motivation, implying that justice and equality aren’t the driving factors of your grievance but instead self-aggrandizement.

Sadly, it has certainly become de rigeur in contemporary racism discussions. Certainly, it is lobbed at African Americans with increasing frequency, without understanding of the insult or implications.

Do people really believe…

That utilizing the pain of the racism and it’s attendant scars are somehow a badge of honor?

That there is something worthwhile in admitting one’s dehumanization?

That the alienation which results from marginalization is an easy thing to unearth an share with others?

I’m not saying that race baiters don’t exist but to imply that they are a majority seems at best facetious, at worst intellectually and morally reductive.

I also find it highly suspect that the charge is only leveled at select groups. I’ve never heard anyone say it in response to anti-semitism, or to Native American Indians when they discuss their continued discrimination.

I’ve been blessed to have a diverse set of friends and have never questioned anyone’s experience of racism, sexism, homophobia etc. I would consider it supremely arrogant and ignorant to deny their experiences because I haven’t shared them. Yet many people do just that.

The “race card” attempts to delegitimize concerns about racism and imply that it’s no longer an issue. It is a strategic attempt to derail the conversation and turn the tables to point the finger at the one leveling the charge of racism. That’s probably why it’s so popular with Right Wing media and those who insist we’re living in a post-racial society.

If racism doesn’t exist then there is no need to heed the cries of those who claim to suffer from systemic racial oppression, police brutality, poverty, educational inequality and the like.We can easily dismiss them as the strivings of people who want free stuff, who want a pass, who desire unearned privilege in a meritocratic society that claims to reward those who work the hardest.

See how that works?

The problem with that is that is that the present doesn’t uphold the myth of meritocracy or post-racism. Neither do polls, or statistics, pesky things. Americans are working harder with less to show for it at any other time in history. Racial inequality and tensions are clearly on the rise. People taking to the streets by the thousands is definitely an indication that utopia is still not in reach. I’m just saying.

Call the “race card” what it is, a false, cowardly assertion that serves as a strategic impediment to avoid discussion and bar efforts to attain racial equality since it would mean less for those who benefit from the privileges accorded by White supremacy and racism.

One of the central reasons that discussions of inequality are so difficult to have is because the oppressed expect to be met by skepticism by those who are dissimilar. Imagine what would happen if we turned that supposition on it’s head? If we honored those who had the courage to speak out exposing their scars and crying out for justice? Gave equal weight to the words of those who are so clearly marginalized, empowering them. Hearing them.

Instead of leaving them to discuss their grievances in the dark, choke upon our indifference, or violently act out their rage at their subjugation.


If we truly want societal progress, we must first open our minds and hearts to listen to those who are not like us.

*Check out The Race Card Project turning suppositions on it’s head and having a much needed dialogue on race.

Shattering Silence…

Happy New Year!

A new year, the same me with a renewed focus. I’ve been mulling over what I wanted to write because there is so much clattering about in my brain. There is a great deal that I wish to express, or expel as it were, and all of it deserves equal air time.

But often our stumbling block to success begins at the starting line and there we hover for an untold amount of time lost in contemplation. Contemplation leads to hesitation and so we wait for our inner voice to tell us that we are ready, when the truth is we ARE ready but fear has won the battle.

This is a lesson that I’ve learned very well and so these days I tend to…JUMP and trust in self that my steps will be ordered.


Motivation breeds momentum which propels us to progress.

I don’t like the alternative, you see.

The alternative is silence, white noise, and every writer’s nightmare – the dreaded blank page.

This is not a time for silence.

The world does not need our silence.

The world needs our voices, raised in collective, unifying dissent.

Dissent against the status quo and those who would languish in the comfort of their ignorance and privilege while others die beneath the weight of racism, patriarchy,  poverty, White supremacy, homophobia, class war, misogyny, gun violence, militarization of our police force and the massive prison industrial complex.

The status quo thrives off our silence and complacency.

It is the unified voice, fueled by outrage, compassion and our internal moral compass that searches for truth and justice, which propels humanity forward.


So, you can look forward to hearing more from me this year.  I am interested in being part of the unfolding conversation on the difficulties that we face in this country. I am compelled by the young men and women of Ferguson who, cloaked only in their anger, outrage, sadness and courage, have fearlessly given rise to a national movement, #BlackLivesMatter.

The conversation they’ve begun challenges much of what we accept, exposes the racism, corruption and machinations of government exploitation of citizens, the injustice of our judicial system and the lack of police accountability which has taken the lives of countless African Americans. Sadly, it is not a new conversation but it now has urgency and weft behind it, and it is forcing us to peel back the layers of institutional and structural inequality which is as American as apple pie.

It is an uprising against injustice whose time has come.

As I write, I look forward to feed back from each of you to have a much needed conversation on race and a myriad of topics. Some of it will be difficult to discuss, as difficult as it is for me to write about. We all have bias and operate from a place of privilege, cemented by our gender, socio-economic status, education and race – long before we even know that any of that matters. What we do about them, how we examine them, and attempt to connect with others in spite of them, as we move through our world – matters.

The willingness to engage and shatter silence, on an individual level – matters.

Conversations bring to light that which is hidden and encourage us to examine our beliefs. From our beliefs arise action and change will happen, one conversation and conscious decision at a time.

Wishing you peace, courage, consciousness and joy.




A Poem: Between the World and Me – Richard Wright

A few weeks ago, during the height of the heartbreaking events in Ferguson, Jelani Cobb tweeted the poem below. In my younger days, I’ve been privileged to read Richard Wright’s work. I believe that Native Son is required reading on college syllabus’ in the US. However, I did not know that he was also a poet…and what a poet.

I am the victim of a haunting. Recent events have wedded themselves with this poem and it has stayed with me ever since. So perfectly does it do it’s job of taking you to the scene of a crime, injecting you, and immolating you.

I gasped with grief when I was done…as I did when I imagined the blood draining and pooling around the body of Michael Brown as his family stood near by in what must surely have been paroxyms of grief – for HOURS. Or, Trayvon Martin….Oscar Grant….Ramarley Graham….a list that keeps growing.

Just wandering along about my business only to be bludgeoned senseless with evidence of hate. On a page, from a screen, screaming at me from a headline, or the eyes of some stranger.

Hate, too, can be a coursing highway that ends in death.

Hatred, a living palpable thing, a gift that is mine from the hands of strangers who neither know, nor care, anything about me…or anyone who looks like me.

Black like me.

I close my eyes and the words disappear but they are seared in my memory. My mind plays tricks on me and invokes their imagery when yet another name is added to what has become a whispered litany.

I carry that with me and yet so many around me say this is a thing of my imagining, defying history, evidence, reason and all human feeling.

I count myself lucky that while I imagine, I have at least not been called to witness…. Or have I?


Between the World and Me
Richard Wright

And one morning while in the woods I stumbled
    suddenly upon the thing,
Stumbled upon it in a grassy clearing guarded by scaly
    oaks and elms
And the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting
    themselves between the world and me….

There was a design of white bones slumbering forgottenly
    upon a cushion of ashes.
There was a charred stump of a sapling pointing a blunt
    finger accusingly at the sky.
There were torn tree limbs, tiny veins of burnt leaves, and
    a scorched coil of greasy hemp;
A vacant shoe, an empty tie, a ripped shirt, a lonely hat,
    and a pair of trousers stiff with black blood.
And upon the trampled grass were buttons, dead matches,
    butt-ends of cigars and cigarettes, peanut shells, a
    drained gin-flask, and a whore’s lipstick;
Scattered traces of tar, restless arrays of feathers, and the
    lingering smell of gasoline.
And through the morning air the sun poured yellow
    surprise into the eye sockets of the stony skull….

And while I stood my mind was frozen within cold pity
    for the life that was gone.
The ground gripped my feet and my heart was circled by
    icy walls of fear–
The sun died in the sky; a night wind muttered in the
    grass and fumbled the leaves in the trees; the woods
    poured forth the hungry yelping of hounds; the
    darkness screamed with thirsty voices; and the witnesses rose and lived:
The dry bones stirred, rattled, lifted, melting themselves
    into my bones.
The grey ashes formed flesh firm and black, entering into
    my flesh.

The gin-flask passed from mouth to mouth, cigars and
    cigarettes glowed, the whore smeared lipstick red
    upon her lips,
And a thousand faces swirled around me, clamoring that
    my life be burned….

And then they had me, stripped me, battering my teeth
    into my throat till I swallowed my own blood.
My voice was drowned in the roar of their voices, and my
    black wet body slipped and rolled in their hands as
    they bound me to the sapling.
And my skin clung to the bubbling hot tar, falling from
    me in limp patches.
And the down and quills of the white feathers sank into
    my raw flesh, and I moaned in my agony.
Then my blood was cooled mercifully, cooled by a
    baptism of gasoline.
And in a blaze of red I leaped to the sky as pain rose like water, boiling my limbs
Panting, begging I clutched childlike, clutched to the hot
    sides of death.
Now I am dry bones and my face a stony skull staring in
    yellow surprise at the sun….





Obama Speaks Out on Zimmerman Verdict

Obama Speaks Out on Zimmerman Verdict


Here is the link to the full transcript of the speech.

We Are Not Trayvon Martin…

For months, I’ve seen African Americans lead the charge on Twitter in an attempt to school White liberals (et al) on White privilege. Sometimes they get it, sometimes they scream BS and you’re pulling the race card and run tweeting in the other direction.

“Denial is the most predictable of human responses.” – The Matrix.


It is also the most shameful when truth is staring you in the face – if you would just remove your blinders to see it.

It changes the entire dynamic when you open your mind and listen with an open heart. It validates the other and comes from an honest place which allows for building and coalitions.

That has awesome all over it, yes?

Because, let’s face it, the racism that infects our country’s institutions, spawns racist laws and has poisoned so many minds, can’t be fixed by POC alone. Just as it was in the 60’s, we need a broad coalition to address the egregious wrongs that are being perpetrated on POC.

That’s why it did my heart good to see the diverse crowds that have been protesting against the Zimmerman verdict. And, the Youtube video below that went viral after the verdict. (Not the only one but I believe that it’s the first.)

I just found out about wearenottrayvonmartin and it blew my mind. It’s a compilation of perspectives by (mostly) White people on White privilege. Most importantly, it asks, “What will you do to change this country?”

Great article here.

Is this a sign of the beginning of a much needed dialogue on race that America needs to have? Of the change many of us would like to see? It may just be that we are witnessing an important moment.

We can only hope. *fingers crossed*


I white’d out my profile pics on Facebook and Twitter. I did this to align myself with white power – not to laud it, but to acknowledge this sad reality that me and all white people share. We who were born white are heirs to white privilege – at least here in the USA. One very important thing this means is if I’m walking in my own neighborhood at night, I’m far less likely to be deemed suspicious and then gunned down than my black male counterparts taking the same walk.

I decided to white out my Facebook and Twitter profiles today to align myself with white power not to laud it, but to acknowledge it as my unwanted, undeserved inheritance. I see this as a first step all white people must face as our part in ending racism in America and preventing any more Trayvon Martin tragedies.

We didn’t make these rules, but they’re here and serve us quite well if you ask me. What’s more, these inherited rules also mean that if I gun down an unarmed black man who I deem suspicious, the criminal justice system will provide me every benefit of doubt the deadly privilege of being white affords me. Not a bad deal for us whites and certainly a good one for George Zimmerman. Not only was he acquitted, he gets to have his gun back – yes the exact one he used to shoot Trayvon Martin in the chest! What really bothers me about all this is the burden I feel I carry of being, as I perceive, one of a few white people who get and readily admit my undeserved privilege. I’m sick because it seems way too easy for far too many white people to feel excused from facing who they really are because: “I’m not racist” – as if non-racist white people have never racially profiled an innocent black person as suspicious. Holding this revelation, admittedly, leaves me feeling isolated and vulnerable. I’m tired with worry over being ostracized for sharing my opinions about white privilege.

But there’s another idea that tires me even more: Racism.

I’m tired of how it’s used as a wedge issue to divide us politically. I’m broken over the dehumanization of black skin by everyone from the media who want to sell ads, to politicians who want to win votes, to all my unconscious white friends and family who want to deny their privilege just to avoid feeling guilty. I’m indignant with white people who know better but do nothing out of fear of alienating their friends, family and neighbors. I’m aghast at the horrifying results of this white privilege, this white negligence where ideas like “we’re all part of the human race” are used to shield us from taking responsibility for our inherited place of privilege. Yes, we should be a color-blind society by now, but a gunned-down, unarmed, hoodie-donning black teen named Trayvon and his acquitted white killer named George tell us we’re not.

Until we are truly color-blind, until we live in a world where it’s safe for black parents to allow their black teens to be pedestrians in their own neighborhoods, I am raising my white flag to acknowledge my own ugly, inheritance and how little I deserve it. I’m raising my flag to tell the world that I understand that I hold this oppressive power by simply being born and that I’ve often obliviously exercised it over my black brothers and sisters, to my shame. I’m raising my flag against the implicit violence of media who report black crime while failing to cover the poverty that often causes it. I’m raising my flag against politicians who violently lie to divide us with race-baiting, pitting ideas like gov’t assistance recipients as lazy, greedy, and black. I’m putting these elected leaders on notice that I’m white and know the truth that the majority demographic who receives gov’t assistance are white women. I’m raising my white flag because I’m tired of the many of the white people I know, people who are friends on Facebook, getting so defensive at the slightest indication that they’re more privileged, safer, looked at more favorably in America than black people. I’m raising my flag to point out that a white person with a hoodie walking through George Zimmerman’s neighborhod watch would not have been suspicious, would not have been pursued, would not have been provoked to “stand his ground,” and would not have been killed with a concealed weapon. I’m raising my flag at all the white people who share their obscene memes, their insensitive flippant remarks, their simple-minded ideas about the trial and it’s verdict so they can shield themselves from their own responsibility in this tragedy. I’m raising my flag to make all my white friends aware of just how white I am, just how white they are, and how dangerously that idea divides, how tragically it dehumanizes. I’m raising my flag because, whether we asked to be white or not, even though we didn’t create the notion – we inherited it. I’m raising my flag to call on all fellow white people to shake their obliviousness and finally own the high status our white privilege affords us in the USA. I’m raising my flag in hopes that fellow white people will join me in finally settling the sordid accounts of our forefathers so we can end this violent, dehumanizing power of white-skin privilege once and for all!!

We Want Justice…Now.


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.

50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Pirate Jenny is My Grandmother by Black Amazon

Nina Simone

I’m on Tumblr now. 🙂 Yes, I’m rapidly becoming a proud, social media addict. I enjoy it for the cool people I meet and the exposure to myriad subjects from great minds.

I’m digging the poem below, Pirate Jenny is My Grandmother by Black Amazon. It’s intelligence, unabashed veracity, power, complexity and anger resonated with me. The author is 28, which to me, gives the piece a different articulation and a too rarely expressed perspective.

It was written, amongst other things, in response to a news report being about a 12 year old girl who was beaten up by two grown women. It makes absolutely no sense to me that they are not being prosecuted for hate crimes since the video clearly substantiates that charge.


But I read the news about women’s rights / health struggles and go “Good”

Because a 12 year old girl can catch a broken limb beating from TWO thirty year olds

that ” activism” of the past what 100+ years hasn’t changed any of that

And with FEW exceptions folks don’t care

Because a 12 year old girl can catch a broken limb beating from TWO thirty year olds

and no one gets arrested till it makes the Internet.

But folks think we’re too angry

It’s no one’s fault.

She “get’s her arm broken”

You see these things just “happen” to girls of color

Nobody means it so no one should be held accountable

It’s a nebulous society and forces of which no one is complicit, no one is culpable

Until a 12 year old gets used to being called nigger and “only” breaks her arm.

And if no one is doing it to us?

Then we must be doing it to ourselves…

Read full poem here

**Artwork: Art Imitating Life: Rabbit by Citruquinz. Visit site**

MLK & Racial Inequality: State of the Dream

I cried three times yesterday.

Once, at historic nature of President Obama’s second inaugural address. Listening to him, I was seized by an enormous feeling of pride. Proud at the collective struggle required and achieved, all bound up in his re-election, pride in his personal achievements, as this battle has been hard fought. I can only applaud his perseverance, strength and determination, it is nothing short of inspirational considering the forces working against him.

My pride was multi-dimensional, for as I looked at him, I felt strongly that his place in the world is a shining example of what change times has wrought. I could feel a heavenly chorus of my ancestors applauding him, for he is the living embodiment of a long line of bloody human sacrifices, strife and struggle.

I do not have to invoke the names of Martin Luther, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, Sojourner Truth, or Nat Turner, all of whom are a drop in the ocean of humanity that made this moment possible. But I invoke them anyway because to say their names fills me with love, respect and power. They’d probably be the first to say that they were but the righteous arm of justice… Of progress.

So yesterday, my heart could not help but remember the nameless slaves who died waiting for salvation; those who were beaten bloody as they fought for freedom, my Great Grandmother included, and those who had the strength of character to continue standing long after their spirits should have been broken. The Everyman and woman without whom I would not be who I am today.

And just as I grappled with the largeness of those thoughts, Richard Blanco read his inaugural poem, One Today, which echoed many of my thoughts. We are, no matter our own individual strivings, the culmination of ancestral hopes, dreams and efforts, which brought on a second wave of happy tears.

I am truly happy that this moment occurred in my lifetime.

Many hours later, watching a special on MLK, I wept a final time in recognition of all that remains to be done.

President Obama, as I continually point out to all whom will listen, is not a civil rights leader. He wears the mantle of president and works well in the confines and dictates of his office. He’s been accused of not taking up the mantle for the poor and not speaking directly to the issues of African Americans which is largely true.

However, that truth sits inside another one. You can’t voice that without recognition of his position. I believe that his silence is not a falling of conscience, but mostly due to the politicization and polarization that still surrounds race in America. His seeming unwillingness to confront the myriad issues head on underscore the limitations of his reach as an American president. “Past is Prologue.”

You might be thinking, African Americans no longer need a civil rights leader. After all the progress that has been made, what for? I know you’re probably a bootstrap-believer-type. If so, you probably think we don’t need Affirmative Action anymore either. Look at Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L. Jackson and Tiger Woods, to name a few. There is a long list of highly, visible celebrities who are…

NOT in the least bit indicative of the average African American.

In matters of racism, it’s best to rely on facts and barring that, the personal experience of those who fall victim to it. Opinions are not facts and if you are thinking some version of the above, you should know the statistics do NOT bear you out.

These days, people love to argue about why African Americans still talk about slavery and racism. *sigh* Frequently, we are accused of “race baiting” when we, or anyone else armed with a few facts, dares to mention the R word.

Ponder if you will the following statistics:

– The African American unemployment rate is 13.2%, higher than any other ethnic group. It has been twice that of Whites for the last 60 years. Check out this video by the Coalition for Change.
– Of the 2.3 million incarcerated Americans, approx. 1 million are African American incarcerated. . Statistically speaking, every minority in America is more likely to be incarcerated than their White counterparts.
– African American home ownership is 44.8%, at it’s lowest level in 16 years, compared to Whites at 74.1%. Home ownership is one of the single biggest indicators of the middle class.

See the following link for The State of the Dream 2013 by United for a Fair Economy.

The statistics speak of a systemic inequality that can’t be overcome on a strictly, individual level. It is illustrative of institutional racism. It may even speak to ongoing, pervasive feeling of devaluation by African Americans. The one thing most people seem most unwilling to grapple with is the psychological effects of racism, yet they are absolutely germane to discussions on race.

The statistics show that while inequality has, arguably, changed on it’s face, it is still alive and well. To fight that on myriad fronts, we need a leader outside the constraints of politics, who will serve as a marshaling force, inspire a movement. A movement that will wake us up and bring us together collectively to fight for changes that are sorely needed, within and without. More progress. More action. More eradication of injustice. Only then will the majority be able to reach for a dream that is full of their God-given potential as human beings. Then, our ancestors could truly be at peace. #happythankyoumoreplease

“It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

Opinion: Black Americans Must Embrace True Colors

Professor Tiya Miles, University of MichiganExcellent piece on colorism and African American culture and identity. Good enough to earn my favorite accolade, “It speaks volumes” 🙂

In America

Editor’s note: Historian and author Tiya Miles is a professor at the University of Michigan’s Afroamerican and African Studies department and a 2011 MacArthur genius award recipient.

By Tiya Miles, Special to CNN

(CNN) — In the documentary film “Black Indians,” a man who appears to be African-American recounts his delight at eliciting shocked looks from strangers when he launches into a conversation with his wife in the Cherokee language.

The man who tells this story is Cherokee as well as black and a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. His is just one among thousands of examples that show diversity has always been a core aspect of African-American identity.

That diversity has been rich — from the moment when Africans from different tribes, cultures and language groups were captured as slaves and transported to North America to the present day, when African-Americans live in various regions and intermarry with…

View original post 910 more words

Inconvenient Truths: Fear of a Black President by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The news cycle is such these days that it’s an effort to keep up with it. Hence, the reason I am reading this piece in it’s entirety, a month later. Fear of a Black President made a tremendous noise when it’s was published and I heard the reverberations. My first thought was, oh how clever, since the title must’ve been inspired by Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy.

Conveniently, stealthily, I left it at that, until today. Today, my natural proclivity towards curiosity and intellectual challenge drove me to read it. I am not sorry that I did although it left me in tears. I’ve finally learned to accept that not everything worth hearing leaves you smiling, that life’s deepest truths often leave you reeling. It is a measure of your character whether or not you can absorb ugly truths and find a way to deal with them…so, I soldier on.

First, I should say that the title alone made me afraid to read it, strange, but true. I knew, of course, that it would deal with race and, as typical of Ta-Nehisi’s work, evince a deeper, oft unexpressed truth. Ta-Nehisi Coates is more than an excellent, learned writer, he is adept at stripping away varnish and ferreting out truth. These days, it seems to be a rare talent.

In what I can only construe as irony, I rarely spoke about race until about ten years ago. It is not that I never thought about it, it just seemed easier not to discuss the undercurrents of it unless something brazenly racial assaulted me. Many of my childhood friends are White and liberal, open-minded though they may be, I always surmised that they would not understand my rage. I’ve tested it and just as I thought very few can handle any expression of anger over racial injustice, they don’t even understand the need for it.

What rage?

The rage that I’ve had to own because it was eating me up on the inside.

The rage that drove me to say if I ever had a son that he would never serve in the military because too many Black people have died for this country.

The rage that drove me on to marry a African man, aware as I was underneath, that I was attempting to not only reinforce my Blackness but spit in the face of anyone who would suggest that he, by virtue of his birth, was not good enough.

The rage, that I often suppressed during my career in corporate America, as I was passed over for promotion by White men, often less talented, or dedicated. Knowing, all the while, that my salary was significantly less than theirs and that gender was only one of the biases that I faced.

That same rage and horror, which subsumed me after visiting a White colleague’s house. His house, valued at 2 million dollars, sitting on an acre of land in upstate NY. He took me there to show off, I knew. He was kinda courting me in between women. His wealth isn’t what threw me. It was his presumption that it would be enough, for a Black girl, when weighed against his misanthropy, misogyny, alcoholism and sense of privilege and entitlement. Only when I got back to work, and found myself crying uncontrollably in the bathroom because I couldn’t escape the thought, that no matter how hard I worked, I would never have a life like that. The odds are against me, you see, and for some reason my subconscious took the reigns to remind me that by virtue of my birth my possibilities were limited.

Had you asked me that question, or even implied, that I believed such a limit existed, I would have denied it vehemently. Yet, there it was, beating palpably beneath my skin where it has undoubtedly sat for most of my life…a silent judgement on my own self-worth, indelibly ingrained by virtue of being an African American.

I struggle with that. Once a voice speaks up that loudly you in you, it’s impossible to quell. I don’t wish to quell it, as it opens the door to a deeper awareness of self. It is through that prism, that I came to understand that many of my motivations, in my career life, my educational choices, where to live, what to wear, as a few examples, have been an ongoing attempt to defy the racial stereotypes which dog African Americans. I speak about it now, because I would not be complicit in my silence and it is the only way to truly be free.

This piece reminds me profoundly of my own struggle and it forces me to acknowledge some of my own behavior. Reading this blog, you might believe that I think Obama can do no wrong. I have given ample time and verbiage to why I support him, while never speaking on what I disagree with, the horror with which he has wielded military might; the use of drones; the lack of any concerted attempt to address issues which assail the Black community, most prevalently.

Why my silence?

Because Black people know in their hearts that to speak out against our Black president is to empower his enemies who are working overtime to assail him. His ascendancy makes that a given. I guarantee you there is not one amongst us who is surprised at the covert and overt racial animus and seemingly new “polarization” which has gripped the country since 2008. We might hope for better but we expect the worst.

Don’t misunderstand me, I still believe he is the best man for the job without question. My respect for him is not diluted by my areas of dissatisfaction. I am just truly saddened that there isn’t an honest critique of the President, by people of color, without these considerations that bind us together in a sort of racial dysfunction. I am saddened that America’s history and racial animus, engendered by fear, has limited his effectiveness for all citizens. Mostly, I am saddened that he has clearly chosen to work within the dynamics of the game, rather than breaking down the dynamic by facing it head on.

But if he did that, he might not be here for a second term. Which was another unspoken fear that I shared with my Brothers and Sisters. After all, everyone of our great leader’s who attempted to make significant changes which address racism and inequality …were assassinated.

Read Ta-Nahesi’s piece. It is brilliant, in it’s veracity…and very human pain.

As Goldie Taylor would say, “Truth Matters”

On the Death of Rodney King…

Yesterday, Rodney King died. I caught the news as I scanned my Twitter feed and sat, mouth agape, for a long drawn out moments. I thought perhaps that it was a mistake. At least, I hoped so, but as the reports began pouring in from so many sources I could only accept the sad and wrenching truth.

Rodney King, whose name will forever be synonymous with the L.A. Riots of 1991. Rodney King, who I saw on The Ed Show a few, short months ago discussing his forthcoming book, The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption. I had not seen him for at least 15 years and the sight of him was like a mental punch. He had aged wonderfully, becoming a handsome and striking man. Yet, you could see the scars on his hands and deduce from his speech, both in pattern and cadence, that he’d suffered brain damage and unseen scars from his beating at the hands of the LAPD. Seeing his hurt and how his life had been impacted undid me.

I thought that was bad but yesterday was much worse. Shock gave way to unexpected grief and anger as if someone had torn a band aid off a wound that had never quite healed. The fact that he was 47 years old and way too young is lamentable. What happened to him is so very tragic and unjust that it is hard to articulate my sadness and rage. He could have been my brother. His story brings to mind a long list of African American males, some faceless and some famous, from Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin. As negative as it seems, I could only think that the LAPD and the forces which empower them murdered a part of him that day and that they are inextricably linked to his early demise.

I missed a teachable moment today when one of my best friend’s asked me why I was so upset about his death.

“I mean it’s sad and all… but that happened like 20 years ago.” That was her well meaning response.

And indeed, I am sure that will be a lot of people’s response. People, notably, who are unaware of his story or who are not Black, is my guess. I gave her a cursory reply because I was tired and didn’t have the heart to have a deep discussion but I realize that was the wrong response.

The honest response would’ve been something like this…

“The reason his death disturbs me so much is because it is emblematic of the racism that is an embedded part of America. African American men are so routinely abused and killed by law enforcement that it’s almost a given. Certainly, in the African American community, we consider it a given.  You think of a few famous cases and I think of all the nameless faces of people I know who have suffered at the hands of the police and the historical trajectory. I think of the way my people have been criminalized and how such beliefs are such an entrenched part of the American belief system that it continues to guide and shape policy, think NY Stop and Frisk, George Zimmerman and Stand Your Ground. I think of all the Black men who have died at the hands of this country, from slavery to the criminal system, and I am devastated anew at what their loss means to the African American community, their families and the loss of human potential.”

I hear Malcolm X in my head when he said, “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us..”

I see Alice Walker discussing Trayvon Martin, and the grief and rage in her beautiful face as she says “It’s a symptom of our illness. We are a very sick country.” All her life, this fight for justice has raged and it is still not done.

I see Rep. John Lewis and Rev. Al Sharpton discuss their lifelong struggles for equality and justice and I wonder, “Will we ever have justice?”

I feel their pain and am inspired by their strength and I work harder to master unacknowledged fears.

How many more lifetimes before justice is done, racism is the anomaly and my people are truly free? At a very minimum, free of the yoke of institutionalized racism masking itself under the guise of the law.

What she sees as a singular event, I see as causality, as contributory to a long line of injustice. I don’t blame her for her lack of understanding, empathetic though she is. After all, it is not her reality and she has not heard similar stories from the last three generations of her family. She does not walk in my skin.

I cry my tears out, some in ink, and then I brace myself to continue the struggle because someday, I pray, justice will be done.

Peace and blessings to the King family. Pray that Rodney’s spirit is finally at rest.

You can catch up on some great articles about Rodney King and his story in the Daily Beast. “What Rodney King’s Death Symbolized for the Black Community” by James Peterson resonated with me.


Warning – Derailment Ahead

So, y’all know I am obsessed with politics. I have no shame lol. It’s important and besides that it has become strangely…comedic.

Comedic, that is, if you don’t pull out your hair at the other end of the spectrum.

But momentarily, let us dwell on hilarity because it is always a nice place to visit. Check out this segment on Micheal Coffman from the Ed Show. He is a snake oil salesman in motion.

My God, I really did come to tears after seeing this. Is it not Un-friggin-believable? What made him think this would FLY? He released a written statement which I did not bother to read. One can write anything but when faced with truth what do you STAND for? Looking at that video, the answer is nothing good.

Prior to this, I had no familiarity with Congressman Michael Coffman. Nor, am I sure that my life has in anyway been enriched by his presence. In point of fact, I am sure it has not. I pray to God that the man serves what remains of his term and disappears into the land of ignominy that he so richly deserves.

Here’s the thing though. Doesn’t his statement sound eerily familiar? Have a gander.

Right! So there’s your primer for the lack of leadership, ineptitude, dishonesty, disgracefulness and all around spinelessness that is pervading American politics. It defies the imagination that our politicians are jumping on the bandwagon of extremist rhetoric and when called out for their idiocy do not have the grace, intelligence, or strength of character to come correct. It makes me sick, honestly.

The whole Birther movement phenomenon is disgusting to behold. It reminds me of some of the most shameful times in our history. Think Communism, Salem Witch Trials, McCarthyism.Uncomfortable yet? Yes, you should be.

Many people dismiss the Tea Party as a lunatic fringe and the Birthers as a trivial “minority”. I am not one of them. After laughing at the complete ludicrousness of outlandish sound bytes, I am transfixed with skin creeping disgust. What year is THIS? Are these our choices? Why does jarringly hateful rhetoric seem to be on the rise? How on earth could so many people be fooled into thinking that these people will represent their interests in office? They cry govermental cuts and a return to personal responsibility while passing contracts to corporations and taking money from them at the expense of the people. These are the sadly regrettable facts.

Apparently, even SCOTUS is suspect. Corporations are NOT people.

When you dissect the Birther arguments, all that remains is eerie, rabid  irrationality which even in the face of FACTS, will not be silenced. Pesky little things, facts. No one can convince me that fear, racism and greed are not at it’s root.

From a political standpoint, we know unequivocally that expanding the sphere of money and power are at the root of the political shenanigans we’re seeing. I do so want to read Draper’s book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do”this book.

But what pray tell could be driving ordinary citizens to such extreme positions? Are people really this narrow minded and stupid uniformed?

I have many theories but all too few answers and in the end it merely leaves me uneasy and ashamed. Yep, ashamed.

The next time you hear a politician begin a statement with, “I Stand By”, be very wary. Talk is getting cheaper by the second. You may not think this is the most important election of your lifetime but it is definitely in the top three. I am looking for a flashing sign that reads “Warning – Derailment Ahead”.

Searching For Justice

Yesterday, state prosecutor Angela Corey announced the arrest of George Zimmerman on the charge of second degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Like many others, I was glued to my TV watching the 6pm news conference. By all accounts, Angela Corey performed admirably under pressure, displaying graciousness, professionalism and high ethical standards. That coupled with the feeling that the wheels of justice have finally begun to turn inspired, in most of us, a renewal of faith in the justice system.

But not all of us. There are many people, African Americans in particular, who feel that justice delayed is justice denied. After all, it took fourty five days for the arrest to occur.

Fourty five days. in which the national outcry became incredibly LOUD, in both cyberspace, in the media and on the streets. That’s what it took to get the state of Florida and federal authorities to do their job.

That, in and of itself, is terribly disheartening.

No sane person could possibly think that the Sanford PD’s handling of this case was anything but inept and biased. The Stand Your Ground law enables vigilantism and fosters institutional bias. It must be abolished in all the states where it masquerades as justice.

People can fool themselves by opining that this is an isolated incident but its not.

Just last week, the killers of Sean Bell were finally brought to “justice”. We should be grateful, it only took 2 yrs. The Diallo family never saw justice for the loss of their son, Amadou Diallo.

Since it’s taken me so long to publish this, the 20 yr anniversary of the LA riots incited by the assault on Rodney King has just passed. In his interview on The Last Word, he spoke of how he recognized and understood the “death screams” of Trayvon Martin and how disturbing that was. The sound of a human being minutes from death, fighting for their life.

I broke down and cried.

The details of these cases undoubtedly differ but the end result is the same, innocent, young African American males lost their lives in confrontations exacerbated by deeply embedded racial stereotypes. In a word, the criminalization of African Americans.

It’s heartbreaking, unjust and enraging that such gross
miscarriages of justice have become commonplace. Particularly, because the criminal justice system is charged with the protection of all citizenry.

Is this not a flagrant violation of our constitutional rights?

The social contract that exists between government and citizenry is unspoken, yet it is the very wheels upon which everything works. We agree to submit to the authority of our elected officials and perform our roles as citizens in exchange for protection, freedom, security and dignity which should be accorded to all human beings.

For far too long, these basic rights continue to be constrained by personal, social and institutional biases. But why quibble about such a minor thing?

Because, as so beautifully illustrated by the power of our collective voices crying for justice for the Martin family, if we do not injustice continues to be commonplace.

Video of The Week #8: President Obama, Melissa Harris Perry, Citizens United, Racism & The GOP (Updated)

1. “Today, President Obama will participate in the first completely virtual interview from the White House to talk about his State of the Union Address. During the live interview, which will be held through a Google+ Hangout, the President will answer questions submitted by people from across the country. In fact, more than 227,000 people have participated already, submitting over 133,000 questions and casting more than 1.6 million votes on the questions they would like to hear President Obama address. In the Hangout, the President will be joined by a selection of citizens who will engage in the conversation live.

Don’t miss your chance to Hangout with the President. Watch live at 5:30 EST on Monday, January 30, 2012. Your interview with President Obama will be streamed live on WhiteHouse.gov, YouTube.com/WhiteHouse and on the White House Google+ page.”

2. I found this video compiled by Think Progress in an article entitled, “The GOP’s Racial Politics“. The video does a great job of underscoring how much Race still matters in America. In particular, how racism is used as a tactic to appeal to bigots to drum up Republican support. Some have opined that this is just a “bad” election year but as I’ve said before it’s implications are much deeper than that. The fact that such behavior is a historic tool of the GOP makes me wonder why any person of color, or conscience, would ever align themselves with the Republican party.

You may also find this interesting, a letter from Catholic leaders taking the GOP candidates to task for their racialized messages.

3. This video, Democracy For Billionaires,  is an excerpt from 1/28, Up with Chris Hayes on MSNBC. It’s about Newt Gingrich, Sheldon Adelson and Citizens United. It’s excellent and a must watch. If you would like more information on Sheldon, click here. Take a stand…

4. And finally, the fantastic Melissa Harris Perry in a Q&A session on her book Sister Citizen.

BONUS: The fight for democracy, equality and integrity continues. MHP’s new show starts this weekend  on 2/18/12 and I’m expecting big things 🙂 Enjoy!

“In addition to her role at MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry is also columnist for The Nation magazine, and will continue to write her monthly column, titled Sister Citizen. Harris-Perry is also a Professor of Political Science at Tulane University, where she will continue to teach, and is the Founding Director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South, housed at the university’s Newcomb College Institute. A celebrated author, Harris-Perry recently published her second book, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America (Yale 2011), which examines the effects of persistent harmful stereotypes on black women’s politics. Her first book, Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, won the 2005 W. E. B. Du Bois Book Award and 2005 Best Book Award from the Race and Ethnic Politics Section of the American Political Science Association.

In 2009, Harris-Perry became the youngest scholar to deliver the W.E.B. Du Bois Lectures at Harvard University, as well as the youngest woman ever to deliver the prestigious Ware Lecture. Harris-Perry received her B.A. in English from Wake Forest University, her Ph.D. in political science from Duke University and an honorary doctorate from Meadville Lombard Theological School.”  – Excerpt from http://www.MSNBC.com

The Archives – The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change

What a fantastic find! I just had to share it because the principles of MLK day should be thought of for more than one day…

DigIn' the Humanities!

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. , here is a link to a digital archive of letters and documents associated with Dr. King. This is a fascinating trove!

The Archive | The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.


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Videos of the Week #7: A Day In History

Ah, yesterday. Isn’t it amazing that a date can shift with meaning based on historical events?

Just think, on January 21, 2011, Newt Gingrich won the Republican South Carolina Primary. On the very same day in 1997, he was fined $300,000 for ethical misconduct. The first Speaker in history to earn that umm distinction. Amazing!

Does yesterday’s vote indicate the collective amnesia of our citizenry, the corrosive effects of time, or the amazing propensity of humans ability to forgive? *Arched eyebrow* Inquiring minds want to know.


In the very strange hallways of my mind, the following cartoon has leapt to prominence as a result of yesterday’s election. Three guesses on who The Brain represents and who’s Pinky ;)…

Well, you have to give Newt one thing, he sure is quick on his feet when it comes to slinging mud and tapping into the lizard-like mindset of bigotry and anger that infects many Americans.

Debunking the Ron Paul Myth…..

If you too have been wondering WHY people, most incredibly so-called Progressives and Liberals, have been advocating Ron Paul’s candidacy, you MUST read the following piece, “Of Broken Clocks, Presidential Candidates, and the confusion of certain White Liberals” by Tim Wise. It is a thing of beauty.

It’s veracity, logic and historical references leave no room for argument. He strips away the false equivalencies that have been used as tools in the criticism of President Obama and underscores why the 2012 GOP narrative is so morally objectionable. Including “noteworthy”, and I use that term loosely, Glenn Greenwald of Salon.

I clapped so hard that my hands hurt. The brain really is the sexiest organ,  just in case you were wondering.

This is an excerpt from the article:

When you support or give credence to a candidate, you indirectly empower that candidate’s worldview and others who hold fast to it. So when you support or even substantively praise Ron Paul, you are empowering libertarianism, and its offshoots like Ayn Rand’s “greed is good” objectivism, and all those who believe in it. You are empowering the fans of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, in which books they learn that altruism is immoral, and that only the self matters. You are empowering the reactionary, white supremacist, Social Darwinists of this culture, who believe — as does Ron Paul — that that Greensboro Woolworth’s was right, and that the police who dragged sit-in protesters off soda fountain stools for trespassing on a white man’s property were justified in doing so, and that the freedom of department store owners to refuse to let black people try on clothes in their dressing rooms was more sacrosanct than the right of black people to be treated like human beings.

See, believe it or not, judgment matters. If a man believes there is a straight line of unbroken tyranny betwixt the torture and indefinite detention of suspected terrorists on the one hand, and anti-discrimination laws that seek to extend to all persons equal opportunity, on the other, that man is a lunatic. Worse than a lunatic, that man is a person of such extraordinarily obtuse philosophical and moral discernment as to call into real question whether he should even be allowed to go through life absent the protective and custodial assistance of a straightjacket, let alone hold office. That one might believe in unicorns would still allow one to profess a level of sagacity and synaptic activity in one’s brain several measures beyond that of the man who thinks liberty is equally imperiled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as by the CIA.

That any liberal, progressive or leftist could waste so much as a kind word about someone as this is mind-boggling. There are not many litmus tests for being a progressive in good standing in this country, but one would think, if there were, that surely to God, civil rights would be one of them. It is one thing to disagree about the proper level of taxation, either on the wealthy or corporations: honest people can disagree about that, and for reasons that would still permit one to claim the mantle of liberalism or progressivism; so too with defense spending, drug policy, trade, education reform, energy policy, and any number of other things. But the notion that one can be a progressive, even merely liberal, while praising someone who believes that companies should be allowed to post “No Blacks Need Apply” signs if they wish, and that only the market should determine whether that kind of bigotry will stand, is so stupefying that it should render even the most cynical of us utterly bereft of words. It is, or should be, a deal-breaker among decent people.

I’m STILL clapping 🙂

Mr. Jules Manson: “Assassinate the fucken nigger and his monkey children”

***So, I’ve had to come back and revise my comments since they were truly made in a flash of rage. Justifiable and understandable as it might be, rage is dangerous my friends. It is also dangerous to check the Net in the middle of the night because all kinds of insanity is lurking out there.


After reading this post, I am doing everything I can NOT to curse and throw things. People keep saying that we are living in post-race America and use the election of President Obama to underscore their point. That is complete and utter BS.

It’s a delusional denial by people who don’t have to deal with racism everyday. It’s convenient to WISH that race is not such a big issue but reality simply doesn’t bear this out. People want to know why African Americans spend so much time talking about racism as if we can divorce ourselves from the reality of unseen, and sometimes outright, palpable hatred. When they are living in my skin, they can talk that crap.

As an African-American, I can tell you that the election of Obama was a shining moment in history for the descendants of slavery. Unfortunately, it’s aftermath has brought to the forefront the unreasonable, vitriolic hatred and bigotry. It is shameful, disgusting and inexcusable behavior and it is ALIVE and WELL.

I hope they lock Jules Manson, who as I understand it now is 1/4 Latina, under the jail. That honestly makes it no better in my book and in many ways makes it worse but I guess you don’t get to choose who hates you.



Videos of The Week #3

I have chosen Ebony Towers Documentary: The New Black Intelligentsia by David Olusoga comparing the state of Black Academia in the US and with us here in the UK for my video picks of the week. It seems especially germane to the national conversation about civil injustice in America. There are 6 parts, I’ve included the first three here.

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” James Baldwin

MUSICAL BONUS – A Night in Tunisia Chaka Khan