Today is the last day of Black History Month for 2008. If I hadn’t known it was Black History Month I would have totally missed it because there was practically nothing to help identify it or honor it. I must admit that I don’t watch a lot of network television. It’s usually limited to the local news and the evening network news. But neither of these sources was very helpful in promoting Black History Month. I watched a little PBS every now and then and again I have to say very little news advertising Black History Month.
On the other hand, I hear some people saying that Black History Month is unfair. Why do black people need a month to recognize their history? Based on what I’ve seen what difference does it make? It’s not like all the television shows featured black people or the broadcasters decided to make black specials. There is virtually no difference between Black History Month and the month of November. Despite the fact that it’s Black History Month the primary focus is business as usual. The only news was about the various presidential primaries. Black History Month is no threat to the status quo of white people painted everywhere while black people remain an afterthought.
Why isn’t there a white history month? All I can say is what month isn’t focused on white history? I saw a movie about Medgar Evers featuring Alec Baldwin and Whoopi Goldberg and the movie was more about the personal love life of the lawyer who pushed to try Bryon de la Beckwith a third time for Mr. Evers’ murder. A soldier in the struggle to obtain civil rights for the black community is murdered in cold blood and his family is denied justice by the racist judicial system of Alabama. But the movie focuses on the attorney who gets a conviction. Generally speaking black history takes a back seat to white interest.
The only black history that gets told promoted in this country is the black history that conforms to the dominant culture’s white mindset and traditional propaganda. Propaganda teaches that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. Black people everywhere are taught to love this man. But Mr. Lincoln was no friend of the black community. Abraham Lincoln is recorded as saying that he has no desire to make black people the equal of whites. In the perpetual struggle between the two races Mr. Lincoln wanted to assure white superiority and black oppression. But because the only black history we learn is the version publicized by the dominant community we are manipulated to celebrating the birthday of this racist.
What do some white people want to see in a month set aside for white history? I guess it’s not enough that every channel on television, with the possible exception of Black Entertainment Television, is overwhelmingly represented with white people, be they actors, news reporters, the focus of positive news stories, narrators, voices for cartoon characters, or anything else, with a percentage that far exceeds their approximate seventy percent of the total population.
Maybe some people want a white history month that has absolutely no black people on television, radio, or other venues of entertainment or information. That’s not a very tall order. In most popular television programs there would only be a single black person to let go if there are any at all. The number of programs that feature more than one obviously black person pales in comparison to the number of programs that feature no black people. And the number of shows that feature black characters that can serve as strong role models for black children and impressionable black adults seriously pales. If people wanted a month without seeing any black people on television I seriously doubt if they would notice the difference.
Black History Month is almost over. A few more hours and we can go back to the status quo of no interest in anything remotely considered black history. Black History Month is one of those things that sound a lot more impressive than its actual execution. As long as the black community has to depend on the dominant culture to provide the curriculum for our black history it will always be considered some kind of imposition that most would rather do without. The dominant community has nothing to gain from any focus on black history. Can they make it any clearer that the history of the black community doesn’t matter?
Salvatore Rivieri is in trouble. Mr. Rivieri was a police officer videotaped while using his position of authority against fourteen year old Eric Bush. It can be assumed from the video that Mr. Bush and his friends were skateboarding in an area that they shouldn’t have which was patrolled by Mr. Rivieri. Like most police officers who see kids doing something mischievous, Mr. Rivieri probably was trying to yell at the teens to stop. But Mr. Bush was wearing ear buds and listening to his MP3 player and could not hear Mr. Rivieri. Mr. Rivieri was not getting through and was upset that he actually had to get out of his patrol car to get Eric’s attention. One thing led to another and Mr. Rivieri lost control of himself. He got physical with the young Mr. Bush. Mr. Rivieri yelled something to the effect that Mr. Bush should not address him as “man” or “dude” but as officer. Mr. Rivieri lost his job because people felt that he was too unprofessional and too much of a loose cannon to abuse innocent children like that.
But really what’s the problem here? As a national collective we’ve already established that police officers have the authority to abuse black teenagers. When Fort Pierce, Florida police officer Dan Gilroy found fifteen years old Shelwanda Riley breaking a midnight to six in the morning curfew he went to arrest the young black girl. When she resisted officer Gilroy was obliged to punch the girl in the face and pepper sprayed her in the face at close range. When the news reporters saw the video they were appalled to see such behavior. How dare that young black girl have the audacity to give the police officer such a hard time.
A Florida jury has rendered its verdict and seven guards (Henry Dickens, Charles Enfinger, Patrick Garrett, Raymond Hauck, Charles Helms Jr., Henry McFadden Jr., and Joseph Walsh) and the nurse (Kristin Schmidt) who were caught on videotape abusing fourteen years old Martin Lee Anderson when his latent sickle cell trait kicked in. It was just a coincidence that the tape showed one of the guards had his baton pressed against Martin’s neck in a choke hold meant to cut off breathing while other guards were holding and punching on other parts of his body. The young man was convicted of taking his grandmother’s car without permission and was assigned to the Panama City, Florida boot camp as pittance. He died within the first two hours of his arrival. But the verdict was unanimously in favor of the wayward guards and nurse from the all white jury. No one was guilty even though the guards confessed that when Mr. Anderson’s body went limp and dropped to the ground someone stuffed ammonia tablets up the boy’s nose and held their hands over the boy’s mouth.
It’s not like Eric Bush was being charged for attempted murder for a school fight like the black teenagers in Jena, Louisiana. It’s not like he was facing seven years in a juvenile facility like fourteen years old Shaquanda Cotton who received such a sentence from the Texas Juvenile System for shoving a hall monitor at the local high school in Paris, Texas. It’s not like Eric Bush was facing a ten year sentence like seventeen years old Genarlow Wilson who was convicted for the heinous crime of having oral sex performed on him by a fifteen year old girl. In all these cases, and in way too many more, people have weighed in and we have said that police and similar authorities have the power to get physical with our children. So what’s the problem here?
Could it be that Eric Bush was white while the young people in the other examples given were black? The case in Jena, Louisiana is a prime opportunity to see how differently the establishment responded to young blacks and to young whites who skirt the boundaries of the law. White teens and young adults are often dismissed as pranksters or troubled youths in need of a little help and understanding. But black youths are perceived to be young criminals in the making with very few redeeming qualities and are hell bent on doing whatever for their own personal, selfish gain like just about everybody else in America. Black children are a blight on decent society’s existence. We need our community authorized posses to keep our younger black community members in check.
No one is saying that black children and black young adults are being treated differently from their white counterparts. The evidence says it all. No one is saying that Mr. Rivieri should not have been fired for manhandling Eric Bush. Of course he isn’t fit for wearing a badge to protect our streets. But neither is Dan Gilroy and all the other police officers, security guards, and bootcamp guards that have been given a thumbs up for dropping their hammers on black children. Nevertheless, a lot of people will pretend not to see the hypocrisy of how we treat our children. A lot of people will continue to deny what is as obvious as the difference between black and white.
A black woman and a black man got into a philosophical debate about the condition of our society and our willingness to let entire segments of our community to suffer an existence without hope. They were family. The woman was the man’s aunt. She was about fifty and he was about twenty. The sister is old school and very conservative. The brother is a young adult still trying to find his way and trying to get answer to some questions that are pressing on his conscience. The brother wants to know why in America, supposedly the greatest country in the world why we would let entire communities suffer with inadequate schooling, healthcare, employment, and other things that are important for establishing a standard a comfortable life while other communities are making money hand over fist? More pointedly, why are people in the black community more likely to suffer?
Sister girl didn’t have a problem with the condition of the black community. She lives in a beautiful upscale neighborhood in one of America’s top cities of opportunity for African Americans. All the years of struggle have paid off handsomely for her family. She and her husband, even their teenage son, drive Mercedes-Benz, although the boy’s is a bit older. There were a number of times when they needed help and could’ve lost their house. There was a time not too long ago when no one in the house had medical coverage. They were just an accident away from losing everything and falling into an irrecoverable pit of financial ruin.
But they were lucky. They had family that could help them when finances turned slim. They were able to avoid serious injury or sickness. The husband managed to land a job with a financing company. The woman landed employment. Even the son managed to get a part time job and alleviate some of the pressures of the house by taking care of his own needs without having to strain the parent’s pockets. They eeked through and now they’re sitting fairly pretty.
The brother came from a family where only the father worked. Mom stayed at home and raised this man and his sister. Times were tight. His father worked a manufacturing job and was laid off on a regular basis. Thanks to a strong union the family had some of the best medical coverage available in America despite the regular layoffs. But those layoffs took a toll on their savings. The children grew up and went to college. But because of finances they had to pay their own way as they stayed at home. The son started going to college. But working and school was a rather difficult combination. He dropped out of school after the first year. He’d like to go back but he isn’t sure what he’d like to go back for. He needs to do some searching to find out what it is he wants to do. His sister went on to get her degree, got married, and is doing fairly well.
To answer his questions the woman told him that in a society like ours somebody has got to fall through the cracks. People have to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and make sacrifice. But the brother responded by pointing out that the only reason the woman was able to avoid ruin was because she was lucky. She was lucky that her husband found a good job. She was lucky that her son didn’t get sick. She was lucky that she had family that could help her when she had money problems. Why are some people more lucky than others? Would you be willing to help someone else?
Luck was only part of it. The woman and her family had to work hard just like everyone else. It is true some people have it easier than others. But somebody in their family had to pay the dues that allowed them to have it easier. Her son is lucky that the woman and her husband paid their dues. Now, he can benefit from it. Our society allows people to do the things necessary for people to succeed. Unfortunately, our society is also setup so that some people will fail. Some people have to fall through the cracks. While some people are lucky some people are destined to be left behind and suffer. It’s all part of the way we choose to live.
But why does someone have to fall through the cracks? When we see someone fall aren’t we supposed to stop and help them up? Isn’t that what a community of people is for? Instead of helping each other most of us are actually pushing others into the cracks. Why don’t we stop and work together to fill the crack so nobody has to fall? Isn’t that the whole point of community? You would’ve fallen through the cracks if you didn’t have family to rely on. Doesn’t that ever bother you some time? Don’t you ever think how about how close you came to losing it all and then ending up in a position where you couldn’t start over because the hole you fell in was so deep?
But I didn’t fall through. Somebody else paid the dues necessary to help me. I will pay the dues necessary to help my son. Hopefully, when he has kids he’ll help them. It’s unfortunate that you don’t have the cushion of safety I have but that’s not society’s fault. That is just a condition of you and your family’s inability to do what’s necessary to make it. Why didn’t your mother go to work? Why didn’t your father find another job when he was laid off? If both of your parents had worked maybe you wouldn’t be asking these questions and be in the predicament you’re in right now. Somebody’s got to pay dues.
Well, we’re family. Since you’re my aunt why don’t you help me?
Help you do what? You don’t know what you want to do. But regardless I’m not responsible for you. Your parents are.
But not everybody who helped you was your parents. You got help from a lot of people when you needed it.
But we had to go and do what we could to pay all those people back. That was their choice to help us or not. If they didn’t want to help I just had to live with that. We’re still working to pay them back and we will. Right now they understand that we are doing what we can to pay them back. We can’t help you until we get out from under some of our debt. And then we have our son to take care of. It’s all about choices and making the right decisions.
But wouldn’t we all be more likely to make the right decisions if we weren’t so afraid that it would be the wrong decision. You make the wrong choice in this society and you will never recover. You don’t even have to make the wrong decision somebody will make a bad move and they’ll impact you. Somebody else will be drunk behind the wheel of their car, hit you, you end up in the hospital. They don’t have insurance, you don’t have insurance, and the next thing you know you’re losing everything. I didn’t make the wrong decision. But it’s like somebody is there just waiting to push me off the cliff into that crack. There’s got to be something better than this.
Somebody’s got to fall through the crack.
“Just a little comment on your slight against the McCains. How do you know their ancestors weren’t discriminated against in America? Do you know their ancestry? If the McCains are of Irish descent then they have a long history of discrimination in this country. Ever heard of ‘No Irish need apply’? Italians, Slavs, and East European Jews also faced virulent prejudice and discrimination. So stop thinking that Blacks have a monoply on victimhood in America or anywhere else. And if you think America is such a bad place to live for Blacks why don’t you leave? That’s a serious question, not a rhetorical one. And I’m Black, btw.” – Seane-Anne
It has finally happened! On the eleven month anniversary of me starting this blog, just one month short of my blog’s one year anniversary, a visitor to my blog suggested that I leave the country. Why? Because I wrote a stupid comment about Cindy McCain after she pounced on Michelle Obama for saying that she is proud to be an American for the first time in her adult life. Ms. McCain stood in front of a crowd of white Republicans and said something like, I don’t know about you but I’ve always been proud to be an American. Ms. McCain took a cheap shot and I took a cheap shot at Ms. McCain. And like the proverbial shit that rolls downhill, my visitor took a swipe at me.
I knew it was just a matter of time before some less than clever visitor would make the suggestion that I should leave the country if I find the behavior here so reprehensible. I have to admit that I did try to leave. But immigration is an expensive and time consuming process these days. I actually went to Toronto, Canada and talked to a few immigration lawyers about making the transition. It was my understanding that Canada was in need of information technology professionals and so I went there looking for a company to sponsor my application. Nobody wanted to hire me unless I had a visa. But I couldn’t get a visa until I found someone to work for. Canadian law had a provision that I could get my visa within days if I could find a job. I couldn’t find work mopping floors at a Tim Horton’s, Canada’s version of Wendy’s, or doing anything else without the equivalent of a Canadian social security number. I think it’s called a social insurance number. After four months and a steadily dwindling bank account I had to throw in the towel and come back to the United States. This was back in late 2005 through 2006.
I would be more than happy to leave the country. I think America is a country full of people who think nothing of telling black people that racism is dead and the perpetual state of black subjugation is nothing more than the result of black stereotypes. We look the other way when black children are murdered by boot camp guards and young black adults are thrown in jail for having sex. But let a black man kill a dog and people line up volunteering to pull the switch for the electric chair.
But like I said, legal immigration can be an expensive and time consuming process. And with a family to support the expenses grow exponentially. However I do hold on to hope that it will become doable. If this visitor, and other people who feel the same way, want to make a donation to the Brotherpeacemaker Immigration Transition Expense for Maximum Exodus fund. I like to call it BITE-ME for short. I will be more than happy to accept the help.
There was a time when I may have been shocked or even hurt to hear another black person make the suggestion for me to leave. But if my first eleven months have taught me anything is that there are black people who are more than happy to champion the supposed conservative, family oriented values wrapped around a focus on trickle down economics where tax breaks to the wealthy total four point three trillion dollars and average out to close to two hundred eighty thousand dollars for each of the fifteen million millionaires in the highest tax bracket. Consequently, the value this group of conservatives places on helping the fifteen million poor children with a three hundred million dollar aid package averages about to twenty dollars a child. Family values are important to this group as long as they apply to rich families. Poor people need to just suck it up.
Ms. McCain probably doesn’t deserve to be compared to the fictional Eva Von Aryan. My visitor is correct about the fact that I don’t know about Ms. McCain’s past. But Ms. McCain opened this can of worms up with her assertion that Ms. Obama should be proud to be an American regardless of her history. America’s treatment of black people has been, is, and from the looks of things, will always be, generally inauspicious and usually dysfunctional. America’s history is full of instances that black people would find woeful, uncomfortable, and downright upsetting if they just took a look. It isn’t difficult to understand why a black person would have reason not to be proud of America.
But Ms. McCain is proud of America and is proud of America’s history. The woman has no clue as to why black people wouldn’t be proud to be an American. Such a lack of compassion for black people shows her contempt for the black community. Ms. McCain wants to stand in front of her conservative, family values, predominantly white audience and ridicule this black woman for her soulful confession. I know people are trying to score political points. But Ms. McCain was callous and indifferent. Her attitude, combined with the blond hair slicked back into a tight bun in the back of her head, walking around with all the leather, and with the cold blue eyes, makes her the epitome of a Helga von Sprechensiedeutsch caricature. My comment may have been offensive to some. I’m sure it was offensive to the McCains. But I, along with many others for sure, find Ms. McCain and her kind offensive as well.
Why the black Ms. Seane-Anne is offended enough to tell me to leave America is truly troubling for me. I’m willing to bet she’d never make the suggestion that Cindy McCain should leave the country if she didn’t like Ms. Obama’s comment. Ms. Seane-Anne is totally one sided. But it is not unexpected at all. I would’ve bet that it would be a white person that would make the suggestion that I leave America. But the odds were good it would have been a black person who wishes to protect the status quo. I honestly wish all black people would open their conscience and ask themselves why they choose to become so offended when black people talk about white people who talk about black people. John McCain promises to do his best to stop abortions and such. And I’m sure that when poor black children are born, as our President Mr. McCain will make sure each of these children will receive their twenty dollars.
I guess Ms. Seane Anne is planning to become one of those fifteen million millionaires. She’s another one of those black people who thinks the American dream applies to the black community. A relative few blacks will make it. But the odds are long against her. It really doesn’t matter. Ms. Seane Anne has made the choice to expend her energy defending the McCains like a good little black conservative. Too bad she doesn’t make the choice to do anything to defend the black community.
I was royally disappointed. National Public Radio had scheduled a discussion on what makes a black person a sellout on the program Cityscape. Could it be that black people like Bill Cosby and Clarence Thomas are turncoats to the black community or are these people simply misunderstood independent thinkers? At the precise time I had my radio tuned. However, because of an ice storm that hit the Midwest hard the talk show guest was unable to keep the appointment. No word on when or if the discussion was to be rescheduled.
Although I was looking forward to the conversation I’ve never been impressed with these talks. The fact that we have to discuss such behavior of people in the black community gives legitimacy to their racial betrayal. Is it really wrong for black people to use their celebrity and/or position of authority in ways that would distance them from common black people? Should a black Supreme Court justice be void of any semblance of compassion for the black community? Is it truly okay for a black celebrity to stand in front of a room full of well to do white people and ridicule the poor black community for all the racial stereotypes that the dominant corporate culture slaps on black people?
The other day I was watching a show on the development of submarines in the Untied States and in the Soviet Union. The show indicated that America always had a technological advantage over its Soviet counterparts. But John Anthony Walker and his family compromised that advantage when they sold American secrets to the Soviets. Very few people in America would have any problem discerning whether or not Mr. Walker betrayed his country. Few here would dismiss him as an independent thinker. There is little doubt that Mr. Walker betrayed his country.
But ask the people in the Soviet Union about Mr. Walker’s decision to sell secrets and they would probably call him a hero. More than likely people in the former Soviet Union would call Mr. Walker an independent thinker willing to take great personal risk to keep balance in the arms race. If we lived in Russia and this question stayed at the forefront of national attention, propaganda would be tuned to promote Mr. Walker as a role model for other Americans to follow.
In the struggle between the black community and the dominant community, black people who turn their back on the black community in order to become part of the mainstream culture are rewarded for their devotion to the status quo of white privilege and black subjugation. Black people who focus on personal responsibility instead of trying to develop a sense of social responsibility to the black community will do very well. The fraction of the black population that does well is positive proof that there is no racism or prejudices that keep black people from succeed.
Propaganda will tell you that no one can keep you from what you want if want it bad enough. If a racist doesn’t want you to work at his or her company all you have to do is go to the next company and the next company and the next company until you find the one that is willing to hire you. The fact that the black candidate has to look harder and longer and settle for less than the white candidate is nothing that needs attention. Or if a racist doesn’t want to hire you all you have to do is roll over on your back, expose your belly, tuck your tail between your legs, and prove that you are no threat to their sense of racial superiority and would in fact be a good soldier in the war to protect the status quo.
However, such behavior will only camouflage racial disparity. Black children will still go to jail for exhibiting behavior that barely gains a nod from white counterparts. Black women will still go missing without any attention from mainstream media while white women who disappeared years ago will still grab our collective interest. Black men who try to exercise a little personal responsibility and protect their family and property from drunken white mobs will go to jail while white man who kill black people for burglarizing their neighbor’s house are hailed as a hero.
It is no that black people who support the status quo and defend the establishment will be defended by the establishment. In fact, the dominant culture looks for black people who will defend their interest. When the President is a staunch conservative who wants to replace a black Supreme Court justice with a liberal mindset and the President wants to keep the racial diversity of the high court, the President will look for a black justice with the same thought patterns regardless of merit.
If people want to make something abhorrent look benign a good place to start is by asking a question along the lines like “is this so bad?” It is a matter of perception. If people believe that they will benefit from abhorrent behavior it is more than just acceptable, it is in fact necessary. Murder may be a bad thing. But murder as an act of war on behalf of the country is generally perceived to be a positive thing.
The same thing can be said about being a racial traitor and committing racial espionage. The dominant community will always see black people who distance themselves from the black community as role models for black people to follow. Are they black sellouts? Are they black traitors? It really depends on your perspective. If you are somebody who thinks black people have nothing to complain about and should just submit to the status quo that favors white people without exception, then there is nothing wrong with black people who distance themselves from the black community. In fact, you are more than likely to be one of those people that would even promote such a mindset.
However, if you are a person who is looking at the disparity between the black community and other communities, when you see black people being scorned and treated with contempt from mainstream, when you see the constant propaganda that paints black people as criminals, unethical, morally inferior, unwilling to face real challenges, unimportant, expendable, uneducated, unsophisticated, and unqualified despite our qualifications, more than likely you see black people who distance themselves from the black community, who promote dominant culture values that oppress the black community, who reinforce every negative stereotype of black people, as traitors to the black community.
In the 1987 movie “The Believers” staring Martin Sheen as police psychiatrist Cal Jamison, there is scene that is probably one of the most violent scenes of destruction I’ve ever witnessed. Cal Jamison is a new bachelor whose wife recently passed. He hires a Spanish speaking housekeeper to help him look after his son Chris, played by Harley Cross. The woman is neck deep into the Santeria form of the ancient Yoruba practice. The housekeeper starts to pick up on some of the evil vibes in the house and starts to leave spiritual tokens around. Mr. Jamison is angry. He tells the housekeeper to keep her voodoo crap out of his house and away from his son.
But the woman has more compassion than she has sense. She sticks an Esu statue under the boy’s bed. Mr. Jamison finds it and takes it to the housekeeper. He’s furious. He physically grabs the woman and starts to throw her out of his house. He then takes the Esu, raises him high over his head, and throws him to the floor with all his furious might. I literally screamed when I saw it. My family and I were watching the movie off of a DVD when I had to tell them to stop it. I had to take a second to actually comprehend what I just saw. The Esu broke into pieces. It was not a pretty sight for any Ifa or Santeria devotee.
That movie helped me to come to terms with the reality of the Orisa we call Esu or Elegba. Esu is often referred to the trickster or in many respects, some people refer to him as the Lucifer that all of us with any experience in Christianity have been warned about. In fact, in the movie Crossroads featuring Ralph Macchio as Eugene Martone, Willie Brown, played by Joe Seneca, stood at the crossroads and demanded to see ‘Legba. The next thing he knew he was transported into a world of varying shades of black and bright reds, Esu’s colors. Eugene was about to go head to head with ‘Legba’s best guitarist in a contest where the winner takes all the souls on the table. Crossroads is a modern interpretation of the story of Robert Johnson who sold his soul to the devil in order to become the best blues guitarist in the world. Robert Johnson became the best. But in classic irony he was the best at the blues because he suffered so much pain in his life. A classic example of being careful of what you wish for. But the point I wanted to make is that this story is just propaganda. Baba Esu, Elegba, or ‘Legba, doesn’t collect souls.
In the Ifa spiritual tradition, Esu is the Orisa that opens the door to our spiritual path. He is the first step for spiritual enlightenment. Why would such an entity charged with such a responsibility work to lure us off our path to make us fall short of our spiritual goal? Like many aspects of spirituality that are handed down through the traditional processes of Ifa, it doesn’t make much sense.
While it is true that he is the first Orisa on our path he is far from being some trickster or some devil. Like all Orisas Baba Esu takes his job very seriously. He isn’t about to lead someone through the doorway that leads to their spiritual development only to lure people off that path later on. All he would be doing is making more work for himself. And trust me, Baba doesn’t need more work. There are so many people who are in so much desperate need to find their spirituality it’s ridiculous. All of the Orisas are here to help us in this struggle for enlightenment in this physical world. How Baba developed this reputation is beyond me. It might be beyond Baba himself.
Most Orisas are aspects of nature. Baba Sango is associated with thunder and lightening. Iya Oya is the Orisa of wind. Baba Olokun is the Orisa of the ocean depths while Iya Yemonja is the Orisa of the upper ocean. But Baba Esu is one of the Orisas that isn’t so easy to recognize in our natural environment. For lack of a better way of putting it, he’s more flexible in his physical manifestations in our level of existence. Baba has the ability to make an appearance in more ways than we can count. I seriously doubt if he’ll lead you off path. But Baba can surely make you regret going the wrong way if you do cross him. What will he do? The better question is what wouldn’t he do? Those minor accidents people suffer that cause really big headaches are a pretty good example of the mischief he could cause if he so desired. Good thing Baba isn’t here to cause mischief for mischief’s sake.
Baba Esu has a wonderful sense of humor. But it isn’t exactly devilish. He likes a good joke and can appreciate a good laugh just as much as anyone else. And Baba is the quintessential chocoholic. That part of his character that the tradition teaches is very true. He likes a variety in his chocolate. And things with caramel are a favorite. Snickers are cool, but he can appreciate a Twix and an Almond Joy every now and then. I’ve discovered what works best for Baba is to invest in one of those big bags with a variety of little chocolate bars. And Baba loves cigars as well. And it’s always cool to give Baba an ebo with rum.
You can never have too many Esu/Elegba statues. We have about a dozen in our house. One for each room, the car, and everybody has their own pocket Esu. Baba likes to get around. Baba is playful but he is also very respectful of others. He is not to be feared. I suggest you open your own dialog with Esu and learn for yourself what he is like. But do yourself a favor and leave all the baggage you may have already learned about him at the door. Baba doesn’t have time to sit around and make plans to lure the unsuspecting. People are more than capable of falling off their path without any interference from anyone else, especially an Orisa. If we fall off of our path it is only because when we were presented with an option of what path to take, most of us are more than willing to stray off path. Staying on path takes hard work and many of us don’t have the fortitude to do what’s right. No one has to be tricked into straying.
People blaming Baba for their own bad choices is just one of the ways we stray off path. When we take responsibility for our spirituality, the good and the bad, Baba, like all Orisas, will be there to help us. He doesn’t have time for tricks. Tricks are for kids.
In the United States black people with a strong, positive commitment to the black community are seen as an anathema. Black people who are constantly pro black community are ridiculed and picked apart by the mainstream. While their relevance as a positive force to the black community can be questionable at times, Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton are regularly caricatured for their pro black commitment. In Houston, Texas, Quasi X is doing his best to make a reputation for having the ability to bring national attention to matters impacting the black community. And when he succeeds the backlash from the dominating culture is swift and uniform. Many white people may not know who they’re going to vote for in the next presidential election, but they know they hate a pro black nigger when they see one.
Even the late venerable defense attorney Johnnie Cochrane caught the ire of the dominant community. His attack on the status quo of white privilege was unforgivable. Used to be a high profile black man facing prosecution for the murder of his wife was a slam dunk for the prosecution. Now here comes Mr. Cochrane with his uppity self and his legalese mumbo jumbo, nursery rhyming catch phrases and now white people got to work at railroading a black man into the penal system. Mr. Cochrane helped make O.J. Simpson the villain he is today. Mr. Simpson is one of the most hated men in the country not because people believe he was a man who just so happened to have killed his wife. Mr. Simpson is hated by mainstream America because he is a black man who is widely believed to have killed his white wife and gotten away with it.
Most black people who exist in a high profile fashion in the public’s eye profess strong commitments to the black community but then work hard to support the status quo that prevents the black community from ever achieving some level of true self determination. Bill Cosby says that black people need to become entrepreneurs and better parents. His book Come On People, written collaboratively with Dr. Alvin Poussaint, is supposed to be a manifesto for guiding the black community out of its doldrums. Black people can turn the black community around by engaging our children in conversations and putting wholesome food on the table.
Following these simple steps people in the black community will suddenly have employment and educational opportunities that will allow us to earn the money to continue putting that wholesome food on the table. Talking to our children about our day will suddenly give our children and the rest of our family members the healthcare that they need. And can anybody tell me how engaging black children in conversation is going to prepare the black community for doing business as entrepreneurs. But every black person should spend the twenty bucks or so plus shipping and handling to buy this book from Amazon because lord knows that there are no bookstores in the black community and the local library isn’t going to have enough copies for everybody.
It’s okay to for Mr. Cosby and Mr. Poussaint to make a buck off the assumption that financially poor black parents are detached from their black children. It helps perpetuate the stereotype that the black community is solely responsible for black people’s subjugation. And while it is true that Mr. Cosby provides scholarships for some in the black and white community, his benevolence only helps black people assimilate to the dominating corporate world. Where are the grants and other forms of financial assistance for the people in the black community to become the black entrepreneurs that Mr. Cosby says are so desperately needed? Mr. Cosby carries considerable influence but chooses instead to play his support for the black community close to his chest with suggestion that black people need to talk to their children. The establishment supports this because black people talking to black children distracts people from the status quo of the white privilege that will continue unabated and without serious threat.
Conversely, many people with a strong, commitment to keeping the status quo of white privilege and black subjugation, a formula rooted in propaganda labeled as traditional family values, are worshipped by the dominant culture as if they were modern day prophets of the almighty. Anyone who calls for the abolishment of any affirmative action program that might impede white privilege is a hero of American principles of personal responsibility, self determination, and hard work. These are the same people that would say black people should be more like Oprah Winfrey or Kobe Bryant or Tiger Woods or some other black person that has distanced themselves from the common black community and has made the conscious decision to become racially generic among the well to dos.
I have yet to meet a white person that would take offense at being called white and correct the adjective with a more accurate color reference like pink, off white, creamy peach, translucent pale, or something else more accurate but distances the white person from their white community. Even white people who have a bone to pick with other white people don’t have a problem calling themselves white. Nobody ever walks up to a white person and says something stupid like when I look at you I don’t see a white person.
But on the flipside, the number of people of obvious African descent that refuses to refer to themselves as black grows each and every day. Black people call themselves brown, tanned, chocolate, mocha, cocoa, shiny gold, or something else that has less to do with being proudly affiliated with the black community. While all of these colors may indeed be used to more accurately describe a skin tone of a black person, we should not forget that we are talking about black people. We come in a variety of skin colors that range from being able to pass for white all the way to skin tones so deeply colored that black is truly accurate. Instead of going coo-coo for being called cocoa more black people need to be proud to stand up and say that they are indeed part of the black community. It’s not a slogan, but a state of mind that could help to put pride back in the black community. It is a state of mind that could help influence others to make that strong, unmistakable commitment to being black.
I was listening to National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show the other day with John Edgar Wideman as the guest. The seventy plus years old Ms. Rehm was out getting a voice treatment and so her show was being hosted by Frank Sesno of CNN fame in her absence. A caller called asking the guest’s opinion on a strategy to combat racism by not focusing on the things the black community cannot change, such as the dominant culture controlled so well by the white mindset, but to turn our criticism inward towards the black community so that we could learn to adapt to an environment filled with racial disparity. I swear to you that I was listening to the answer, but for the life of me I can’t remember what was said. The question stuck with me and lodged itself into my conscience and kept repeating itself over and over again.
When I heard the caller’s question I immediately thought of a situation where black people simply give up the struggle for racial equality and conform to the fact that we exist in a perpetual condition of racial disparity in the areas where we are relegated. Black people and the non-blacks that support the black community cannot change the mindset of people who are intent to protect the status quo of white privilege. In fact, the message to black people is quit trying to change the conditions that have led to such disparity in the two communities and apply a little personal responsibility to help yourself. There is an attempt to program people in the black community who are able to succeed and who are able to do well to disassociate themselves from the rest of the black community when it comes to racial subjugation. In the black community, you can do well if you lose your sense of social responsibility to the black community.
Compared to the dominant culture the black community is very weak. And all too often when someone from the black community is able to develop a career path and is able to do well, they want to pack their bags and leave the black community behind for the bluer skies and greener pastures in the suburbs or in other more racially diverse areas. However, these areas slowly become more black over the years as the white mindset looks for even bluer skies and even greener pastures with a little less racial diversity. But that’s okay because as soon as black people are financially able, they will follow the white people to those more attractive areas as well.
As more and more black people learn to adapt to an environment of racial disparity the more we allow the racial disparity to keep more black people out of the work environment or the educational system. The dominant culture can point to the handful of black people who made it and say that they succeeded why can’t you? Over forty five million black people in this country and we all are supposed to be Michael Jordan or Will Smith. Forty five million black people are supposed to get a job in the NBA or on the big screen doing Men In Black and Wild, Wild West movies. And black people who do well, or who plan to do well, will support these arguments with the same fervor, if not more, as a house Negro back in the day who would protect the plantation owner’s family and their property as if it was the enslaved person’s very own. Black people with a sense of black community are not welcome.
So why would people in the black community work so hard to change something we could never change? Racism is here to stay. It was here long before the first person of African descent set foot on the Americas. What makes people think that the black community can abolish racism? Then again, what makes people think that black people are trying to abolish racism? If our history with the white mindset has taught us anything it is that there are a lot of people who don’t have a problem with white privilege and black subjugation. It has become the orthodox. Any attempt to change the racial disparity is an attack against the white community’s way of life. Therefore, people have to work harder to justify black subjugation.
If we fall into the routine of trying to convince the dominant culture to do the right thing when these people have time and time again demonstrated their commitment to racial disparity the black community will never gain any ground. The objective of the black community is not to convince racist to see black people as equals and to give up their racist ways. The objective of the black community is to nullify the power of the racists who are so committed to racial disparity from being able to contribute to the despair of the black community. The black community has a history of facing discouraging conditions from the dominant community. Jim Crow laws, the civil rights struggle, the right to vote, the abolishment of slavery, and etcetera. I’m sure we had an abundance of ancestors that were convinced that the black community could never affect change to its advantage. But for some reason or another we don’t remember them. Our collective admiration is for the ancestors who did work to make positive changes for the black community. These ancestors should have taught us that the black community does not have to settle for the crumbs that the dominant culture wants to give us.
But too many black people are way too ready to say that the black community is too weak to bend the ear of the dominant culture. Some black people say that the black community would do better to focus on coping within the parameters established by this culture of racial disparity. We need to just circle the wagons and start conforming to what the dominant culture wants us to be. I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel. We don’t have to change people who want to keep us in our role of oppression. We just have to remove their power over us and our insistence of being socially powerless. Power doesn’t come from submitting to people who are perceived to be more powerful. Power comes from resisting the oppressors. Power doesn’t come from listening to people who say shut up, quit complaining, and do what you are told and exercise personal responsibility.
Power comes from fighting the good fight and not from surrender. Power in the black community comes from having a strong sense of social responsibility. Power comes from directly confronting that which keeps us in a state of oppression. Black people have been distracted by the materialism of economic success. But financial success does not directly correlate to happiness or commitment or equality. John White had financial success. But when the mob of drunk white boys showed up at his house and he shot one of them while trying to defend his home and his family, his success evaporated and he became just another black thug in the dominant community’s eyes. Joe Horn comes out his house to shoot a couple of burglars over at his neighbor’s house, people who didn’t have anything to do with him, and he’s hailed as a hero. Mr. White exercised a little personal responsibility and now he’s on his way to jail.
A young white woman with a history of alcohol abuse and sexual abandon goes to Aruba and disappears. Every television news station in America paints her picture on our television sets every night for months. Her picture still comes up every now and then whenever there is breaking news in the investigation of her disappearance. We hear things like the man who last saw her was arrested or that one of her family members had a heart attack. But black women who disappear are lucky to even get an honorable mention from the local news. People are more likely that the black woman who disappeared had a baby a couple of years back. The implication is that the black woman, who was in school earning a degree and is trying to take personal responsibility, is too immoral and too ethically challenged to garner public sympathy.
Regardless of how we take personal responsibility the dominant culture will come down on us like a monsoon rainstorm when we have the audacity to step out of line. Let something happen to one of us where we need help from the dominant community and our history goes under the microscope until someone can find the spec of a reason why the public shouldn’t care about our welfare. This is the environment we are supposed to submit to in order to focus on our personal responsibility.
In all honesty I have to admit that when it comes to changing the perspective of the dominant culture the black community will never succeed. We will be perpetually considered inferior and the lessors. I’m not in this to try and change the minds of the dominants. However, black people need to open our eyes and learn to recognize this disparity enough where we can see that circling our wagons and just submitting to the status quo isn’t going to do anything to alleviate our oppression. Rich or poor we are all seen as inferior.
Earlier last week my mom took a tumble and had to be rushed to hospital. Thankfully her injuries turned out to be nothing serious. She had a sprain in her elbow and a split lip. The doctor instructed her to take it easy for a little while. Mom had been cooped up in her house for three days when Valentine’s Day rolled around. I felt bad for her. I thought I would cheer her up by giving her a Valentine’s Day card from her grandson. That may not sound like a big deal. But I have a personal canon not to indulge in the manufactured holidays that do little more but enrich the pocketbook of corporate America. Just because some jewelry company has a slogan saying, “If he cared he would give you a diamond”, I’m now supposed to go broke to buy a useless sliver of a pretty rock. I don’t think so. I don’t even want to be involved with a woman who would be so susceptible to such propaganda of marketing. Chocolate companies don’t make a dime off of me during Valentine’s Day. The florist can kiss my ass if he or she thinks I’d send a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day. I want my woman to know that I love her everyday and if she needs these high profile reassurances to massage her ego so that she can feel superior to another woman then chances are we’re not on the same page.
Unfortunately mom is different. She grew up with these traditions and values them totally. She knows that the cards, candies, flowers, and dinners are just propaganda. But she likes them nevertheless. So I wanted to buy my mom a Valentine’s Day card to help lift her spirits in her time of recovery. Off to the local chain of the nation wide pharmacy where I have to jockey for position in front of the card rack with about a dozen other people. The array of cards is dizzying but none of them are interesting. The first few samples I looked at were too sappy. The next are too stupid. Some try to be funny and fail miserably. Some try to be cute with about the same success. My personal philosophy is to avoid cards with white people on the cover, but cards featuring people of African descent are rather difficult to find. After about two hours of searching and sampling I found just the right card. It was a simple picture of a burgundy heart on top of some kind of golden fabric with white lace. It said something clever like “Happy Valentine’s Day Grandma”. You would think such a simple card would have be a dime a dozen.
I turned the card over and the price was nearly five dollars. I would’ve guess two dollars or maybe two fifty tops. I looked at some of the ugly cards and they were virtually the same price range. There was a separate display featuring some seriously ugly cards with rock bottom prices of just under two dollars. These were the types of cards that would have a grinning chimpanzee or an orangutan on the cover. After the “Any Which Way But Lose” movies with Clint Eastwood playing second fiddle to Clyde I didn’t think anyone bothered with these ugly primates any more. I stuck with my five dollar card. Mom is easily worth it but that’s not even the point. I’m paying good money for a product that I know I can do better on my own. Back in elementary school where we were programmed to participate in these holidays we used to get the red construction paper out, fold it in half and cut out a little heart shape, paste it to the white people, pull out the crayons, and bam! We’d all have a Valentine’s Day card for mom. It’s not rocket science.
These days, with so many images available off the internet and with my color printer, it shouldn’t be too hard to find something with a little more personality. I could even use an old family picture and do it up nice. That would be seriously nice. Or I could take a picture of baby boy smiling, print it off the color printer on some heavy high quality paper and stuff it in an envelope. That would make a nice card for mom. But that would have meant that I would have to spend time making the card with that personal touch and I was already pressed for time trying to make up for the day of pay lost when I had to take mom to hospital. I had to make up for the lost time by working every day for ten hours before the end of business Friday. That two hour difference really tore into my schedule. It was just so much easier to spend my hard earned money at the pharmacy on an impersonal card that I really didn’t even care for. Good thing grandma is the type of person that would appreciate even the ugliest of cards. She’d even appreciate a card with a grinning chimpanzee on the front.
While I may not be the world’s best my mom made sure that I was able to do my own laundry. Growing up in a large family we each had to take turns with a variety of chores. One of them was laundry. And with so many pieces of clothing to replace if something went wrong you had better get it right or there would have been hell to pay. Most of my clothing were hand me downs from my older brothers and, I’m embarrassed to say, some came from my older sisters. And once I outgrew them they would be passed to my brothers that came after me. So the clothes that I wore as a kid had to be laundered with the utmost of care. I was growing up in the seventies with clothes that looked like Ed Sullivan himself wore back in the fifties. While I may not have looked in style, the clothes looked good.
I was about ten when I learned the mechanics of good laundry. I learned how to sort, treat stains, read labels and follow directions when I was unsure, and select laundry settings such as agitation speed, water temperature, water level, when I could get away with the standard detergent and when to use something with a little oomph, bleaching with the liquid or with dry powder, when to use liquid fabric softener or when to just use a dryer sheet, starching, ironing, and when to just send it off to the cleaners. Laundry is an art form unto itself.
The habit of keeping clothes until they are beyond their fashionable lifespan is something that I still practice to this day. Every now and then accidents do happen. A few months ago a bright red washcloth ended up getting bleached and washed in hot water with an entire load of white clothes. The washcloth came out a dingy barely pink while the whites looked a lot like their original selves. A lot of the whites were already a little dull so other than one red washcloth it really wasn’t much of a loss. But pulling all of those clothes out of the clothes dryer another analogy popped into my psyche. When that bright red washcloth went into the laundry with all those whites they had an influence on each other. But there was just one colored washcloth working against an entire load of white clothes. And since the washcloth was exposed to the white’s washing environment, the liquid bleach and the hot water, it had to endure an environment more shocking to its nature that it was ever intended for. It is no surprise it came out looking much more like the whites than the other red washcloths in the linen closet.
So anybody who does laundry and wants to keep their clothes looking as vibrant as possible for as long as possible will follow the steps to find out what the laundering needs of each article of clothing and make sure they follow the directions carefully. And what’s sad is that more people are much more willing to give special consideration for their clothing’s individual washing needs than they would be likely to consider the individual needs of people or the needs of an entire community of people.
The general consensus of the dominant American society is that in order for people of obvious color to make it in the dominant culture’s world of business they must check their ethnicity at the door. It’s okay if some unavoidable or unchangeable remnant of your ethnicity remains fixed. For example not every black person is able to do the Michael Jackson and bleach their skin to the point that they glow like an illegal alien from Area 51. But when that black person opens their mouth they’d better be spewing the values of the dominant society like a pledge of allegiance. So many people want people of color to do their best to distance themselves from their colored past and prove beyond a shadow of doubt how much they want to embrace a racially generic “when I look at you I don’t see a black person” future.
Too often the ethnic minority job applicant must get the social equivalent of chlorine treatment in hot water and mix with a lot of whites in order to be accepted. Sadly, like the formerly red washcloth, we end up looking more like our whitewashed environment than we do our colored beginnings. And sometimes, when we run across another colored washcloth that has managed to keep true to its original color some of us discover that we’re more likely to identify with our new racially generic, but somehow always predominantly white, peers. Some of us will make the transition and then look back and tell the other coloreds that if you want to fit you have to submit to the whitewashing treatment so that you too can distance yourself from your colored past. A black person can only be free if they submit to the whitewashing.
I actually felt bad for my formerly red washcloth. It’s not exactly white and it definitely doesn’t belong with the other colored cloths anymore. It now serves duty as a washcloth for cleaning out the bathtub. I will do my best to keep my laundry separate so that my clothes retain their character as there were intended. It would be nice if people would only give other people the same consideration in order for all of us to remain true to our original design.