Who Are You? Part #2

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Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 8.48.19 PM.png(Photo Courtesy of Damon Mackin)

Thoughts from a white male. No introduction need because his thoughts were well received.

“Let me preface this with two things…thanks for valuing my opinion enough to even ask me this question and I am approaching this with black men in mind….I have no idea what it means to be a woman in this country, much less a black woman, so I’ll stick to the gender I am familiar with, my own.

I think I can sum the question up in one word…Pressure. And the Pressure is all encompassing. Every responsible adult has a certain amount of pressure upon them, especially if they have children. There’s the pressure to be responsible etc, but that’s all very normal. The Pressure that comes with race however is over and above what’s normal.
To be black in America means to know that a certain segment of society will see race first rather than the human being and in that instant, the first impression is one of race rather than human. A black child grows up with the ability to think, to learn, to love, to hate, to care, to sympathize, to empathize, just as any child does. But at some point in childhood the Pressure starts in. And what I mean by that is despite the individuals ability to think as a stand alone human being, that very thinking is beginning to be judged not just by whites, but by fellow blacks as well. Both races will now judge the individuals thinking based on their own worldview. If a black man thinks he needs to kneel during the national anthem, he’s judged as unpatriotic by whites because he’s suddenly thinking on his own, not following the whites transcript of American life. However if a black man stands up and says I disagree with kneeling during the anthem, it’s disrespectful of the flag, he’s also branded by his own race and being some sort of traitor to the race (Cam Newton took a lot of grief for not fully coming out in support of this very thing).
A black (man) in this country is expected to think a certain way by his racial peers (Pressure). It’s been stated that the black community is not a monolithic one, and that should certainly be true. But to think outside that “norm” gets that same black person derision and labels from a by gone era that in turn create more Pressure on the young, growing, maturing black person. That growing person doesn’t want that same derision from his/her peers because they do not participate in this massive “groupthink”. Some don’t care and forge their own path not necessarily in line with the prevailing patterns of racial thought.
Others however, buy into the “groupthink” without ever exercising their own individual ideas as to what life is about and how they want to conduct themselves as not black individuals, but rather HUMAN individuals. Some honestly believe in it and that’s fine, but my point is some are pressured into it rather than moving in that direction through any individual initiative of their own. The definition of peer pressure, only this time it’s based on race. And then the Pressure comes from the other, white side. They are labeled again, and again with labels perhaps of a by gone era and they are judged just as harshly.”
https://youtu.be/przRFn1eRCI
(I DO NOT OWN THE RIGHTS TO THIS SONG)
Hood Citations:
L. Trott – thoughts
Good Articles to Read:
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Who Are You? Part #1

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We are often plagued with winless fight to true equality because we think we should fight this fight on our own. Dr. King knew we could not win this alone and to this day we must understand we need others by our side; those who sympathize with us, understand what it means to be discriminated upon, those who are willing to risk their comfort to fight alongside the cause.

I have always understood the “fight” is not just ours – it’s about humanity. A friend of mine asked me a question once about ways she could help the plight and I could not give an answer because it’s difficult to ask someone to risk their level of comfortably for the lives of others however, it begged to question what does it mean to be “black.” Not the publicized tv series where rich people walk around with cameras to find those who are willing to give an answer just for the sake of an answer but from one common person to another common person – what does it mean to black to you?

(Photo courtesy of D.Mackin)

Answer from 30+yr old White Woman

“So, I don’t know that this truly answers your original question, but I sat down to write and this is what came out….

I am not black. I don’t know what it’s like to have ancestors who were enslaved by other people. I don’t know what it’s like to teach my children that unless they behave perfectly in interactions with police officers, they might be killed (and that even if they do behave perfectly, they might be killed anyway). I don’t know what it’s like to struggle to find Band-Aids in my skin tone. I don’t know what it’s like to have a museum dedicated to my heritage and culture finally open on the National Mall — 400 years after the first black people arrived in this nation. I don’t know what it’s like to be called exotic, or thug, or the n-word. There is a lot that I don’t know. There is a lot that I can’t know.

I am not black, but I am a human being. And being black in America is something I observe, if not experience, every day. I absolutely know that I cannot speak for black America — and I also know that there may be no such thing as one single black America, simply due to the incredible diversity within a community that’s often painted with one broad stroke of the brush. But I saw Dae’Anna Reynolds comfort her mother as Philando Castile bled out in the passenger seat. I saw a murderer successfully defend himself after shooting a black teenager carrying nothing but Skittles. Just today, I saw a black female doctor recount a story of being ignored on an airplane when the flight attendants called for medical assistance and she volunteered. I see the anguish and exhaustion of black Americans who have simply had enough — and yet it keeps on coming.

But lest you think that, like Donald Trump, I only see being black in America as something to be remedied — to be pitied — I also see joy, and community, and power. I saw Black Lives Matter come together and make its voice heard when its members were too frustrated and angry to continue living in silence. I saw #oscarssowhite become a trend when black Americans and their allies grew tired of black invisibility in film culture, and I saw Hamilton rocket to the top of the cultural zeitgeist for its portrayal of our founding fathers as black and Latino men. I see joy in the face of Zoe, the two-year-old black girl who became Internet famous when her mother posted her first-day-of-school picture on Twitter, her eyes alight and her tongue poking out of her mouth in a goofy grin.

I can’t experience it myself, so I can only see being black in America through these glimpses, and thousands and thousands of other glimpses like them, into other people’s lives. I know that my countrymen are struggling, and that I could be doing more to help. I don’t ask that they educate me in what I could be doing; I know that’s my responsibility to discover on my own. But I also know that black America has its successes and triumphs and happinesses, and I refuse to discount those. For now, I can continue to pay attention to the people and the culture around me — to Zoe, to the cultural significance of dreadlocks, to that female doctor on the airplane, to the black/white wage gap, to Philando Castile, to Michelle Obama, to the black man who panhandles on my street corner — to so much and so many who help make up the rich fabric of the world in which I live. And I can pay attention to, and learn from, the millions of Americans whose struggles and joys I cannot begin to truly understand, but with whom I nonetheless share the most important trait of all — humanity.”

-A.L.D 2016

Our Dream

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Throughout the years there have been the brave, the bold, the many; each willing to risk their lives for the African/Black American Community.  They fought for unity, they fought for respect; they fought to live, they fought for life – they fought for us.

From the dawn of Africans enslaved to now, we pay/should pay respect to those who have paved the way to make it possible for “equality.”  From Elizabeth Freeman, the first former slave to win a freedom suit; Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist, writer, activist; Harriett Tubman, a humanitarian and activist; Edgar Nixon, Montgomery Bus Boycott Organizer and activist; Bayard Rustin, civil rights, socialism and gay rights; Rosa Parks an activist and inspiration to Montgomery Bus Boycott; Malcolm X an activist; and W.E.D. DuBois founder of the NAACP.

Today, we pay our respects to a man who sacrificed his life for the plight of our community, for America, for the dream.  Today we pay respect to man who gave us hope that one day we could be equal.  We pay respect to a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, the former President of the SCLC.  We pay respect to a man who had a huge impact on the Civil and Voting Right Acts being passed.  We know him for his iconic, “I Have a Dream” speech.  This man brought all creeds, color, religions, and backgrounds together.  We pay respects to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

(Photo courtesy of businessinsider.com)

Over 13 years, he was the leader/face of the “American Civil Rights Movement.”  African Americans achieved more progress towards racial equality in America than the previous 350 years.  “Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s prominent advocate of non violence and one of the greatest non violent leaders in world history (The King Center).”  Drawing inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi he found alternative ways to protect/fight without violence.

  • E.D Nixon head of the local NAACP chapter met with Dr. King to plan a city wide bus boycott lasting 382 days (walking and carpooling to get to their destination) that led to the Supreme Court ruling to integrated public transportation in Montgomery.
  • He stood behind the college students who used non violent “sit – in’s” at segregated restaurants – leading  to a successful ending of segregation at lunch counters in 27 southern cities by August 1960.
  • Due to his increasing national notoriety he became a target for unjust harassment from “authority,” but that did not stop him giving up on us; it did not stop his dream.  “On August 20, 1963, the historic March on Washington drew more than 200,000 people in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial (bio.com),” when he gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • 1965, after the infamous “Bloody Sunday” and various obstacles placed in their way, he, once again led his follower cross the Pettis Bridge, kneeled to pray, then turned back with the support of President Johnson. The march from Selma to the capitol in Montgomery (over 250,000) – we shall overcome.  From this, President Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act. “He wanted to broaden his base by forming a multi race coalition to address economic and unemployment problems of all disadvantaged people. (bio.com)”

Dr. King’s life was ended too soon but his dream never faded.  He was that spark of hope for equality and justice for all.  Because of him, many have stepped up to fill his shoes; become another beacon of hope.  The gauntlet has been proverbially passed down.  While we are “equal,” we still have more to accomplish.  While we celebrate his day, his birthday, let’s also look to ourselves to ensure we think about others, share sympathy, find our path – whether it be standing up for someone you see being wronged to finding ways to provide knowledge/substance to the community.  Let’s channel our inner King.

Hood Citations:
https://www.biography.com/people/martin-luther-king-jr-9365086
http://www.thekingcenter.org/about-dr-king
Transcript – I Have a Dream Speech  courtesy of archives – https://www.archives.gov/files/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf
Audio – I Have a Dream Speech courtesy of npr.com -https://www.npr.org/2010/01/18/122701268/i-have-a-dream-speech-in-its-entirety

Conviction

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Conviction: a firmly held belief or opinion.
I guess you can say growing up I was not raised to see color; instead people’s actions are what constituted how you should act towards them. In high school I knew I was discriminated against but never fully comprehended it. When I began working, segregation was created in an unconventional way but in order to get your check, you dealt with the conditions you were in unless you lucked up in your position and found a group of coworkers who treated each other as equals and gave respect. In the meantime, you do what you have to do in order to get to where you want to be. It wasn’t until a few years ago I found my conviction, my beliefs, my voice, my passion, my purpose with caveats. Now, how do I hone in? Relay my truths? Affect the masses in a positive way? Reach the youth? Keep my sanity? Keep my mind clear? Stay balanced? Support my family? And be true…to me?
I wrote a while back that being an Aries is a tough job, because we want to succeed and accept any challenge life gives us. We want to take life’s lemons and create a wonderful lemonade to share with others but, it’s a tough/daunting process. And sometimes trying to reach that zen like feeling especially, when you have dual hats – family provider and a want to be the voice of the community becomes a struggle. How do you choose? Or, do you have to?
So, before I go so far off the beaten path that I lose you, let me explain. Over the last few weeks I have asked various people  “What it meant to be black in America?”  The further I did my research, it should come to no surprise that there are others who have sought this difficult and unyielding quest. I tried anyway because again, I like the challenge.  And while the answers received were somewhat no different then other answers or views I’ve read, I still found them to be unique. I realized this is an open ended question because, answers can change from one persons experience to the next. I also listened to several interviews to give me another way of looking at the reality; giving me another perspective. For that, my eyes have widened and my plate is now the size of a Thanksgiving dinner.
With that being said, over the next few weeks, I will be posting people’s opinions, questions and truths. Conduct more research in hopes that I can condense people’s truths, make it palatable, and the work towards figuring out how we as a
whole can come together and show those who do not believe in unity that unity is as not as bad as you think it is.
Something for you to think about, “What do you think it means to be ‘Black in America’?”