African Americans

Black People Are Magic

Hey y’all!

Last night, I went out to Cascade Skating Rink (you saw it in ATL, if you didn’t know it as a cultural landmark) to celebrate a great friend’s birthday.

Something about being in the skating rink watching people just show off how fly they are, hang with their friends, laugh and dance with their partners filled my heart with pride. The varying styles for voluminous Afros to wet and wavy weaves. The Brooks Brothers brothers to the Adidas track suits. There was this expansive representation of Blackness all on the floor skating to Barry White or Migos or Junior M.A.F.I.A. or Frankie Beverly. It was breathtaking.

One of the greatest things about aging has been my increased appreciation of Blackness in every aspect. My family, as wonderful as they are, has always played by the rules of respectability which guided a lot of my younger thoughts. I was prone to making grand statements about how this or that would set back the race. But as I’ve matured, I learned to see the uniqueness of my people and to treasure who we are and who I am.

Things like skating rinks and barber shops were cultural and social centers in the days of segregation. The distinct taste of the food we make and the techniques we use are products of perseverance and poverty. The way we dress, the way we move, and the way we express ourselves delights me. It’s distinctive.

That’s what makes our culture so appealing. We thrive in adversity. We celebrate when there is little reason to do so. We live our lives with a freedom that should be celebrated, not stifled.

In this time where we have to take to the streets just to ask for basic human rights and justice, I’m going to continue to champion Blackness in all of its forms. They may not all apply to me but I refuse to cherry pick which aspects I deem “acceptable” for people and a system that doesn’t give a fuck about us.

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Another Feelings Dump

What’s up y’all?  While I wouldn’t expect a return to regular posting just yet, I do have some stuff on my mind that I need to get out of my system.  So what better place?

This list is not at all in order of importance.

1) Coping (How to Fail at It) featuring Trash

You all have to know what’s going on in Ferguson, MO at this point.  I’m not here to recap it.  I’m not even here to argue the facts.

I don’t have the strength to point out how all of this is because Black people and their lives are denied value in America.

You should already know that no matter what you wear, no matter how many degrees you have, no matter how much you avoid being “stereotypical,” you’re still just another black person.  When the chips are down, you can be shot.  They will get away with it.

We all know that this teenager is going be criminalized and smeared in the media, because any minor discretion is just another reason his life didn’t matter.  You’re constantly going to be reminded that any fault in his character justified his murder.

We all know that clueless assholes are going to idiotic statements.  Newscasters will say to use “water cannons.” The killer will talk about how his life has ended too, even though he’s at home on paid leave.  New Blacks are going to talk about how Black on Black crime and rap music is the cause of all of this.

You’ve already seen someone on your social media try to make it about them with clueless statements, incorrect information, and a general ain’t-shit demeanor.

Truth is, I’m tired.  I’m trying to deal with all of my outrage, my inability to create meaningful change, my inability to protect people I love from the same fate.  There’s not a day where I don’t think, “I’m blessed to be alive.”  I haven’t done anything to deserve it.  But I am.  Instead of productively letting it out, I’m just stewing in my anger and hopelessness.  It’s making me feel ugly inside and preventing me from enjoying the day-to-day.  I don’t want to be around people because all I want to do is talk about it and be angry.  I don’t have the luxury of taking off and being alone until I’m able to face regular society again.  I’m trying to just plow through life in order to sit home in the dark and think about this situation.

There’s no comfort in knowing that no matter what I do, no matter what advice I give my nephew and niece, no matter how many books I read, and no matter how polite I am, my life means nothing if a White person so deems it.

2) Taylor Swift

I haven’t really raged against the Swift in recent moments because she doesn’t really have a song out and she hasn’t been publicly dating anyone.  Not so lucky for me and the rest of the world, she released “Shake It Off.”

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I’m not going to link because she’s not getting a single view on my behalf.

But this is tangent to the first point.  The root of my hatred of Taylor Swift (and Jennifer Aniston) is that for my money they represent peak whiteness. This isn’t a critique of every white person (again, I should not have to say this) but of the dominant American culture.  I’ll let Omarosa take over…

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Where a “wholesome” and “sweet” girl who are just “hassled” are given passes for complete mediocrity because of her perceived girl next door image.  It’s like “Ooh, she’s bland and I can sing better than her.  Give her all my money!” 

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Throw in some questionable appropriation moments and her absolute refusal to sing on key and it’s already terrible.

But this song has a message of “SUCK IT HATAZ” for critiquing her image.  So she’s shaking off any criticism of her bland, mediocre, white bread music and image that appeals to middle-of-the-road, “put-upon”, middle class America. The very same America that is notably quiet whenever an unarmed Black man is killed in cold blood.

For me, this song is the essence of “First World Problems.”  And this is not the day, the week, the month, nor the year for this shit.

Sure, that may seem like a reach for some readers, but think about it this way.  Think back to a time where you felt depressed or upset over something in your life.  Now somebody you don’t particularly like (a coworker or classmate) comes up gloating about their promotion when you know they do nothing or a great exam score on a test where they have cheated.  You wouldn’t have the time for it.

And that’s what this song is to me.  It’s Taylor Swift singing a song that say “nah nah ni boo boo” to all you minorities for not being White.

Fuck.  Her.

3) Reality TV Thoughts

On a lighter note, Project Runway and Top Chef Duels have come to television.  Since So You Think You Can Dance continues to be pretty terrible, I had high hopes for each of these shows.

Project Runway is about as average as any of the other later seasons with some confounding judging thrown in.  Three of first four episodes have handed out wins to questionable garments. Props to Tom & Lorenzo as the source of these photos.  Also, if you love celebrity fashion, Mad Men, Project Runway, or RuPaul’s Drag Race, it behooves you to frequent their site.  Also, read their book!

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The first two are from comeback contestant Amanda.  Fringe really shouldn’t be a thing.  The second two are from Sandhya.  I like the pink look with the metallic detail, but that poorly dyed, ripped shoulder, frayed edge abomination should have at least put her in the bottom.  No thanks.  That said, I do think that there’s some talent in the cast and the judges seem to be making good cuts.  I have hope that someday Michael Kors will come back.

Top Chef Duels is pretty good!  It’s a lot more low-key than your traditional Top Chef, but it brings back familiar faces and gives them space to be creative.  As a huge Gail Simmons fan, I’m glad she’s a part of the show.  I could live without Curtis Stone, but that’s not my decision.  I hope that the show does well and continues to bring back some great chefs.  (Although, go away Mike Isabella.)

Love & Hip Hop Atlanta is finally winding down after a particularly raggedy season.  When Karlie Redd is the source of your most entertaining moments, it’s time to take stock.  Seeing Rasheeda take Kirk back after complete and blatant disrespect for her, their child, his mother, their family, and her image (which is the family business) is not good television.  Seeing Erica and Scrappy be friends is nice for the sake of their daughter, they’ve been complete non-entities since we stopped seeing O’Shea Da Model and The Bambi.  Benzino continues to be neckless and ThiThi is the most obvious case of fame-hungry gold digger we’ve seen since Flavor of Love 3.  Stevie and Joseline’s soap opera relationship is not funny.  Joseline is best when talking shit about other girls, not crying about beefcake and her awful music.  Tammy & Waka are sweet but boring.  Karlie is trash on trash, but at least she gave us more terrible music and Yung Joc’s decision to air our her sexual habits.  Momma Dee & Deb are reliably fun though.

But let’s about Mimi again.  All of Mimi’s struggles, barring the death of her father, are her own doing based on her own choices.  Her absolute refusal to be told that she is wrong only serves to make her look like the weak-willed dingbat that she is. It’s painful to watch her get mad at people when she is forced to reveal her lies.  Like if you don’t want to hear what they have to say, stop going to them.  If you’re going to defend being wrong so vehemently, you’re going to continue to have to eat crow.

To be frank, I’d have cut her off when she accepted Stevie’s car.  Girl, you can’t be over him and accept things that aren’t child support.  Your dependency is showing.

But truth be told, she needs to leave the show.  Nothing has been good for her since it started and now the world knows her for being an idiot who is easily fooled and bought.  Sucks to be you.

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4) The Future Looks Bleak

If you haven’t gathered, I’m not in the happiest of places now.  As cliché and standard as it sounds, I’m used to telling myself that it will all work out. It will all be okay. But these two weeks have reminded me of the feeling of despair that I either ignored or suppressed as a part of the move.  It’s that I don’t know the future and not seeing much in the way of encouragement.  It’s not that I don’t believe God has a plan or that I believe I should have all the answers.  It just seems like I keep waking up to bad news. It’s like a nightmare. I want more than what this is for America and for my friends.  I don’t know how to tell them that, being someone who hates only tolerates melodrama/emotions.

That said, I’ll end this with simply.  I care.  I’m not great at letting people know that.  I may not ever say to your face.  But you’re cared about and I want what’s best for your mind, body, and soul.

Stay safe everyone and do your best to maintain positivity in your days.

Let’s Talk: Microaggression

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Source: haringtonskits.tumblr.com

This morning, I woke up and read an article I saw mentioned by @Chescaleigh on Twitter. It’s an article from the New York Times discussing the recent I Too…Am Harvard and the history surrounding the term “microagression” and what possible ramifications of its growth in usage means these days.

Here’s a link to the article so you can take a read.

Now as an African American man growing up in North Carolina, I encountered a lot of incredibly racist situations and remarks. In fact, I can make a laundry list of microaggressions of which I have been a subject. Enough to have to decide what “battle” am I going to fight today.

There are two sides to the argument:

1) Toughen up and stop taking offense to everything.

There have been plenty of times where I’ve listened to someone complain and my thoughts were, to quote Alyssa Edwards, “Get a grip, get a life, and get over it!”

It’s not because I don’t care or that I don’t understand the frustration. It’s that you’re wasting energy on something that in the long run doesn’t affect your future unless you let it.

The comments that I do my best to shake off are usually around non-serious issues.

If someone doesn’t believe I’m an Eagle Scout because of my race, that isn’t a microaggression for me.

If I’m asked where I’m from, I don’t take it is as a microaggression. I simply say that I’m from North Carolina. Perhaps if I was foreign born, this would sting more.

If someone is surprised that I listen to classical music or play the music, I don’t take any offense to it.

Again, these are a few examples that I try to shake off because I feel these types of comments are not intended to belittle me but merely an attempt at small talk.

2) Correct the tone deaf person because you’re offended.

The second argument means that I take the role as “spokesman” for all black people and try to teach and explain why things are this way and why what you said can hurt people. I’ve given up on being angry in how I discuss the issue because then I would be angry all the time.

Here are just a few examples:

I spent the past 2.5 years in public accounting. There is an internship program that takes African-American, Latino, and Native American freshmen and sophomores who meet the criteria for hire. I’ve worked closely with the program because I thought it was a fantastic opportunity for this group. I was asked by a coworker (in good faith) if I thought that this was fair to white or Asian students who wanted that opportunity. My initial thought was “hell yeah! Our team of 125 has 9 non-white team members including East and South Asians!” But I pointed out that these students meet the exact same criteria as their counterparts (high GPA, strong extracurricular activities, full interview process). This program simply increases the pipeline so that the firm can be more diverse, a stated goal of the company. He left the conversation saying that I had made a lot of sense and thanked me for helping him see the value in it.

But that’s just it. Until I took my time to clearly state why the program existed, he didn’t see any value in these kids and this program. I have
had co-workers dismiss my opinions and thoughts only to find out I was right. I have had clients straight up refuse to respond to me. It’s not that I automatically attribute this to my race, but I hope that it is clear that it can be hard not to when there truly are no other differences between me and anyone else.

Another example, I went to a PWI (predominantly white institution) for my undergraduate degree. I was a part of a Fellows program where 20 students were selected from 500 applicants to take advanced courses and be the face of this part of the university. Only 4 of those 20 received the scholarship. I was blessed enough to earn one of those scholarships. During the first few weeks of getting to know my fellow Fellows, (no pun intended) I felt completely out of place. I skipped events because I hated interacting with them. On one particular day, they all went around asking who “got the money.” Everyone was asked with the exception of me. For my money, it was no one’s business but this was a way to “rank” each of us. I remember being offended that no one thought I could have gotten the scholarship over them.

When someone finally did ask, it became “Do you think you got it because you were Black?”

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The thing about that situation is that I already felt excluded simply because I could not relate to the conversations. That sucks but there is no way to change that and they were not responsible for making me feel wanted. However, when the assumption was made that I won something over my counterparts due to my race, I took that to be offensive and it automatically pushed me to have my guard up at all times.

For me, the answer to dealing with these situations lie somewhere in between. That is why discussion around microaggressions are important. We do have to toughen up as a whole, but living your entire life with your armor on is exhausting. The more exhausted you are, the closer we get to snapping should a careless comment be thrown our way.

That means we have to ensure that what we say is what we mean. Advising someone to think before you speak is not “tone policing” and “reverse racism”. It simply is the mark of a mature adult who wants to connect with anyone.

With that said, I think some may confuse microaggressions with snide or insincere “compliments” that are, in fact, hurtful. People shouldn’t be called “exotic”. That’s a term for fruit and remote desert islands.

No one wants you touching their hair. NO ONE.

Asking an East Asian person, “What type of Chinese are you?” is out of line.

Remember, people are going to be offended at some point. No one is perfectly okay with every single thing that is said. But I think the ability to think critically and apologize for poor word choice are really what’s key. Learning about people who are different than we are is rewarding. I recently learned a lot more about Orthodox Judaism thanks to a car ride with a co-worker. It was fantastic and because we both asked questions in good faith, there was nothing impeding our exchange. add sentence…I’ve embedded Chescaleigh’s how to apologize video as a start.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think that everyone is looking for ways to be offended? Have you ever felt slighted? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter at @ClassNTrashShow.

When Will Being a Minority Stop Being a Crime?

Blatant acts of racism have got to stop. It’s time that we stop saying that it is just a coincidence.

So I’m sitting at work scrolling through blogs and the news when I come across this article:

https://news.yahoo.com/blogs/oddnews/man-blows-0-00-on-breathalyzer–gets-arrested-for-dwi-003450614.html

Now the reason I’m upset is because, once again, another black man is imprisoned for no damn reason. Did he break the law? Yup. That’s why you give him that traffic ticket like you should. He could have carried on with the night mad that he must pay a ticket. BUT TO LOCK HIM IN JAIL OVERNIGHT?! AFTER he passed the breathalyzer test?! I’ve had it.

I’VE HAD IT.

It is just so frustrating to be guilty of everything in life because of the color of your skin. The blessing is that with all of the technology, the unfair treatment is coming to light. The amount of videos that flood Twitter and Facebook of minorities being abused by police is sickening. The problem is that noise is being made and no one is listening. This unjust treatment continues and minorities are just supposed to bear it.

The writers of this blog are both successful, masters degree holding, law-abiding gentlemen that would like to exist without being bothered. We would like to listen to Partition as loud as possible. Sometimes, a late night craving for Taco Bell calls and we need to get a Chalupa. CAN WE DO SO WITHOUT RISKING ARREST?! No I’m not bashing the police by any means. There are some TERRIBLE people out there and without the police, we would not be protected. However, can they worry about finding those actual CRIMINALS and leave me and my late cravings ALONE?! Damn.