Last week while on Twitter I saw a link to a Salon.com article written by Danielle Small about being black yet being uncomfortable around black people.
It happened. I failed the “black” test. My hair stylist and I were chatting while she was taking a break from retightening my locs. I made a funny quip, and she extended her palm so that we could partake in the standard Black American handshake. In what was most likely the longest three seconds in the universe, I stared at her hand in befuddlement, trying to figure out what she was doing. By the time I realized that this was the handshake, it was too late. I tried to recover with some weird amalgamation of a fist bump and a high five, but the damage had been done. I had revealed myself to be the Carlton to her Fresh Prince.
I replayed the scene over and over in my head during my walk to the train. How could I have been so oblivious to an obvious cultural norm? This set off a mini existential crisis where I came to one of my greatest philosophical epiphanies: I’m uncomfortable around black people. This is a peculiar realization being that I am also a black person.
I had no idea there was a certain handshake among black women.
Where does this discomfort come from? And why do I think of Blackness as a test I am doomed to fail?
Like most psychological problems, it all began in my childhood, specifically the eight years I spent living in all white towns in rural Wisconsin. If there was one phrase I heard more than “nigger,” it was “You’re not black.” Talk about irony.
Sometimes it was phrased as a “compliment,” meaning you’re one of the good black people. But other times it was meant so white people, whose sole interaction with black culture came through the distorted lens of racist media, could assert their own twisted version of blackness over me.
Years and years ago when I was working part time while in high school a white co-worker was bitching about the white manager she had crush on who loved black music. Apparently she couldn’t stand black music. She called it n-word music to another white co-worker. I turned around and looked at her and she said she didn’t consider me the n-word since I was one of the “good black people”. I just rolled my eyes and kept moving. When my best friend from high school got a part time job at the same place months later I warned her about the white co-worker and her n-word usage.
In the foreword for the book “Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness,” Henry Louis Gates, Jr. writes: “There are 40 million black people in this country, and there are 40 million ways to be black … I do not mean to suggest that we are all of us in our own separate boxes, that one black life bears no relation to another. Of course not. We are not a monolith, but we are a community.”
There is no set way to be black. And it’s certainly not written in stone. Just because we’re black doesn’t mean we all have the same upbringing and personality types. You have black folks who grew up in the hood, those who grew up in rural areas and those who grew up in the suburbs. Some of us grew up in all black neighborhoods, some in mixed neighborhoods and some in all white neighborhoods. Some of us grew up in two parent homes, some in single parent homes. Some of us were raised by grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. Believe it or not some blacks can’t stand rap music. And some of us love rock music. You have black folks that love classical. Nothing wrong with that. There is no set rule that says black folks are only suppose to like music by black folks. There are some black folks who can’t sing even though they swear they’re the next Aretha or Luther, lol. You have black folks who dance like Carlton Banks and some who dance like they’re having a Soul Train flashback. Some of us are loud and boisterous and some of us are quiet and reserved. Blacks are cool, nerdy and everything in between. Some of us attended HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) and some of us attended PWI’s (Predominantly White Institutions). Attending a PWI doesn’t make you less black. There are 40 million black folks in this country and we all have our own unique personalities, likes, quirks, beliefs, etc. Despite these differences in black community we still have to be on guard when it comes to racism and the fact that in the United States we are not living in a post racial society.
Check out Salon.com to read Danielle Small’s entire column.
Back in June I blogged about what black folks can’t do since we can’t do squat without someone calling the police.
Well the latest thing we can’t do is laughing while black. Really? Now we can’t laugh without someone feeling threatened or upset?
A group of black women who belong to the Sisters On The Reading Edge book club were kicked off the Napa Valley Wine Train this past Saturday. The group consists of eleven women including an 83 year old grandmother.
Apparently a white woman complained that the book club women were too loud. Cause you know black woman just aren’t allowed to laugh and have a good time like white women. When we laugh and have a good time it’s a threat. When white women laugh and have a good time it’s okay and downright normal.
In a statement Sunday, Napa Valley Wine Train spokeswoman Kira Devitt said the company “received complaints from several parties in the same car and after three attempts from staff, requesting that the group keep the noise to an acceptable level, they were removed from the train and offered transportation back to the station in Napa.”
The incident began when Johnson and her book club, the Sisters on the Reading Edge, embarked around 11 a.m. for their annual trip through wine country — an adventure they had been planning since November.
Johnson, a self-described social media fanatic, posted pictures on Facebook, documenting the entire episode as it unfolded.
The women — all wearing matching T-shirts — were all seated in the same car in adjacent tables and seats, laughing and having a good time. They and the other passengers on the sold-out train were ordering tastings and glasses of wine as they rode the 18-mile stretch from Napa to St. Helena through California’s most famous and picturesque vineyards and wineries.
And while the group — which included an 83-year-old grandmother — may at times have been “rambunctious,” they were not “obnoxious or intoxicated,” Johnson said.
Several passengers, she said, even came up to them to take pictures, and asked about the romance novel they were reading for their club.
The group were eventually escorted off the train when they reached another station.
What came next, she said, was the worst part of the afternoon. When the train pulled into the St. Helena station, the group had to do the “walk of shame” as they were escorted past passengers on the six other cars, Johnson said. At the station, the group was met by officers from the Napa Valley Railroad and St. Helena police departments.
“People were looking at us,” Johnson said. “To get escorted into the hands of waiting police officers. That’s the humiliating part.”
But Chief Jeff Hullquist of the Napa Valley Railroad Police Department said there “was no police action taken” at the station.
After the incident someone from the Napa Valley Wine Train Company posted on Facebook that the book club group were verbally and physically abusive towards the other train passengers. Check out the Facebook link here to see the post that Ms. Johnson screen grabbed.
Meanwhile the Napa Valley Wine Train is getting blasted on Yelp. Not surprised by this.
So black folks lets go over the rules again. No swimming, running, driving, playing, biking, walking, partying, shopping and add laughing to the list. Anything else we need to add to the list? Will it be talking while black? No breathing or sighing while black? Or no standing while black. Oh let’s not forget no fishing while black. Damn, we can’t do shit 😦
We’ve all heard of the term driving while black (dwb). Or walking while black (wwb). How about running while black (rwb)? Well damn just being black period will cause your white neighbors to call the police. I read this article in the Washington Post about the police getting phone calls from neighborhood profilers. You know white folks who see a suspicious looking black person in their neighborhood. When the police get there, the suspicious person turns out to be a neighbor, a worker or just a black person minding their own business. Black folks can’t get a break even if they live in the neighborhood.
That’s the opening of a discussion in “ProtectAndServe,” reddit’s community of law enforcement officers. The poster, who goes by the handle “sf7” and has been verified as a law enforcement officer by the forum’s moderators, goes on:
So I’m working last week and get dispatched to a call of ‘Suspicious Activity.’ Ya’ll wanna know what the suspicious activity was? Someone walking around in the dark with a flashlight and crow bar? Nope. Someone walking into a bank with a full face mask on? Nope.
It was two black males who were jump starting a car at 930 in the morning. That was it. Nothing else. Someone called it in.
People. People. People. If you’re going to be a racist, stereotypical jerk…keep it to yourself.
Don’t be a middle age black man fishing in your own community. You might scare your white neighbor to the point where they have to call the police.
Other forum users sympathize. One tells a story about someone asking the cops to investigate a middle-aged black man fishing in his own community.
Let’s talk about gentrified neighborhoods. We’ve seen plenty of predominantly black neighborhoods in large cities become gentrified all over the country. So what happens when a white person who has never lived in an urban community sees what he feels is a suspicious looking black person walking through an alley? And the so called suspicious black person has walked through this alley numerous times without any problems. Said white person calls the police.
This issue can be particularly acute in gentrifying communities. According to local D.C. news site HillNow.com, in the H Street region of Washington D.C. last year, police held a community forum to discuss concerns about racial profiling. “You have a lot of people here who haven’t lived in an urban neighborhood who are calling police for a lot of new things,” police chief Cathy Lanier said.
One of the community residents agreed. “A couple of guys walk through an alley like they’ve done their whole lives, and the newly arrived neighbors think something untoward is happening,” he said.
Why would a white person move into a predominantly black neighborhood and yet be suspicious of his black neighbors?
I remember the recent case of the grandfather from India, Sureshbhai Patel, visiting his son in Alabama. He was staying with his son’s family to help with his grandson who was born prematurely. Mr. Patel was walking around the neighborhood when a neighbor called the police about a suspicious looking person peering into garages.
At about 9 a.m. on Friday in Madison, Ala., just days into his visit, Patel was strolling through his family’s neighborhood when he was approached by police. A neighbor had called authorities and told them a man who looked “suspicious” was peering into garages, according to the Huntsville Times. That man, police determined, was Patel.
Within minutes, the 57-year-old grandfather was face down on the ground with a severe neck injury that left him partially paralyzed.
You can see the video of the interaction at the Washington Post.
Mr. Patel may not be able to walk again. Since that February 2015 encounter the Alabama policeman has been indicted by a federal grand jury.
A federal grand jury indicted the Alabama police officer who slammed a 57-year-old man from India to the ground, leaving him partially paralyzed, the Justice Department announced Friday.
Footage of the Feb. 6 encounter, captured on two dashboard cameras, sparked widespread outrage and condemnation from Indian government officials. It also led to a slew of donations for 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel, who had just arrived in the United States to help care for his prematurely born grandson.
So it’s not just black people who get profiled. But it’s black people who are considered the most suspicious.
You know I laughed when news analysts were saying that we are living in a post racial society after President Barack Obama was first elected in 2008. The majority of voters elected a black president twice. But this country still has a long way to go when it comes to race relations and looking at others with suspicion based on skin color.
Or are we dealing with lazy parenting? That’s the question some black folks in Tennessee are asking especially after a violent disburbance in a movie theater parking lot in East Memphis last weekend. A promotional flyer from a local radio station encouraged youngsters to see two R rated movies that opened recently. Many of the young folks were under age for R rated movies and they were dropped off by their parents. When the young folks were turned away they had no where to go except to hang out in the parking lot and you know what that led to.
By Hank Dudding
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Shantique Brady saw the potential for trouble in the way parents offload teens outside the Malco Paradiso on weekend nights.
“It’s like we’re at a parade of minivans, with kids coming out of every door,” said Brady, who manages the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor nearby.
The gathering of youths reached critical mass Saturday night when brawls broke out among hundreds of people gathered in the theater’s parking lot at 584 S. Mendenhall.
Memphis police detained 10 people ranging in age from 12 to 18 for disorderly conduct, issuing misdemeanor citations to some and taking others to Juvenile Court.
“I wish there was a camera so everyone could see how chaotic it was,” said Brady, 29, who closed her store early that night. “It was really crazy.”
Nearly two dozen Memphis police cars responded to the scene. Officers blocked cars from entering the parking lot while vehicles inside were allowed to leave.
The department plans to increase patrols around the theater this weekend, said spokeswoman Karen Rudolph, who encouraged citizens to call police if they see problems.
“We’re hoping it was a one-time thing, and we’re not going to have to deal with it again,” she said.
Malco executive vice president Jimmy Tashie blamed the chaos on underage kids who were dropped off for the R-rated scream flicks “The Final Destination” and “Halloween 2.”
When the teens were turned away, they had no place to go but the parking lot, he said.
“We’re going to let parents know that they can’t drop their kids off … and expect them to go into an R-rated movie,” he said. The Paradiso’s Web site now includes an advisory warning parents that minors will not be admitted to R-rated films.
Memphis Commercial Appeal columnist Jerome Wright states that many of the parents are to blame.
By Jerome Wright,
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Given that this is Memphis, where bringing up race can be like stepping on a land mine, the local media, police and Malco officials have avoided saying that most of the teens involved in the Aug. 29 brawls outside the Paradiso movie theater were African-American.
But that fact hasn’t been lost on talk radio shows and in the community.
The chaos that Saturday night outside Malco’s flagship theater once again has left many African-Americans asking why our teens have to act like knuckleheads when they gather in large numbers without direct supervision. Anecdotal news reports of fights and shootings, some fatal, at these kinds of gatherings feed that perception.
Many people believe that roving groups of loud, cussing and N-word-using African-American teens helped kill the Mall of Memphis, Peabody Place shopping mall and the movie theater in Peabody Place.
Some African-Americans reading this are seething about now. How can an African-American write such things? And some whites are probably saying “Tell it like it is, brother!”
You all need a reality check.
Teens, black and white, like to hang out in large groups, whether it’s at a movie theater or shopping center parking lot after hours. They do things they normally wouldn’t do within sight or earshot of their parents or teachers, such as illegally swigging alcohol, smoking and cussing. African-American kids, however, generally are louder and more demonstrative, and that feeds into all the usual racial stereotypes.
I don’t go to the movies on Friday or Saturday nights anymore because there is too much hubbub inside and outside the theater. I cringe when I hear African-American teens loudly calling each other the N-word, especially in front of whites. Inside the theater, some kids are constantly moving around and talking. Teens and adults alike hold long-running cell phone conversations during the movie. Catching a flick on a weekend afternoon is a lot calmer.
You hate to read that young black folks are the cause of shopping centers or movie theaters shutting down. But what normal, law abiding person wants to shop or go to the movies where rowdy, unsupervised young kids are running wild? That’s why you hear some black folks say that they don’t shop at such and such shopping center or mall. Or they avoid going to certain movie theaters or only go the movies during a certain day or time. No one wants to deal with those headaches.
Check out the following articles for more info about the East Memphis incident:
The Root has an interesting article about how the mainstream media tends to stick to the same tired themes when it comes to covering black folks
in the news:
Overcoming adversity, committing violent crime, engaging in secret elitism, complaining of real or imagined victimization by The Man, allowing the family unit to disintegrate, and so on—these are the types of Black people stories we’ve come to know and love.
So The Root decided to list the black folks who don’t fall into those categories:
Before anyone pipes up with a reference to The Cosby Show, try to remember that it ended more than 15 years ago. And the Obamas don’t count either—there’s nothing “middle class” about being the President of the United States. So what we’re ultimately left with is a case study in the coverage of extremes. CNN’s Black in America 2 offered a prime example of this in its choices of subjects: They showed the obligatory uplifting story of poor inner-city children being inspired to achieve their dreams, and later shifted gears to offer a peek into the world of the Black elite—mansions and debutante balls for all. Black families that fall squarely in between these two ends of the spectrum remain invisible.
GAY BLACK PEOPLE
Did you hear? Bible-thumping, Obama-loving, and gay-hating blacks put the nail in the coffin of gay marriage in California. Yes sirree, according to coverage of Proposition 8 in several mainstream media outlets, all these black folks are very socially conservative and don’t hold with that same-sex relationship nonsense. Oh, unless they’re closeted gangsters on the down low or something, creeping behind the backs of their wives. Other than that, nope—no healthy, happy, non-dysfunctional gay or lesbian relationships among African-Americans. Move it along folks, nothing to see here.
MISSING PERSONS WHO AREN’T WHITE AND FEMALE
Because only little white girls disappear, apparently. If you’re male, or a person of color—or to be honest, even just a brunette—and you have the misfortune of being kidnapped or otherwise going missing, good luck ever being seen or heard from again.
NON-CHRISTIAN BLACK PEOPLE
To hear the mainstream media tell it, black people are all just a-wavin’ our fans and catchin’ the Holy Ghost in the pews, like extras in a Tyler Perry movie. That’s why any politician who wants the black vote must give adequate attention to The Black Church by showing up at a Christian service or two. There are, of course, Black adherents to other faiths, not to mention (horrors!) Black atheists and agnostics. In fact, a CBS survey found that at least one-third of American Muslims are Black! But as usual, the compulsion to paint Black people as a monolith, combined with a dash of historical nostalgia—(The Civil Rights movement was centered in churches! Their strong faith in Jesus carried them through slavery!)—keeps coverage of Black people and religion safely insulated from such nuance.
EDUCATED, MARRIED BLACK WOMEN
If the constant hysterical repetition of the scary statistics is to be believed, you’re about as likely to run into a happily married, educated Black woman with children as you are to be handed a pot of tax-free gold by a leprechaun riding on the back of a unicorn. The most recent incarnation of the “Black women with degrees are condemned to spinsterhood” article appeared on MSNBC earlier this month. It helpfully explained that “many” Black women with advanced degrees remain unmarried—no specific number, just the ominous “many.” The piece then went on to tell that 38 percent of highly educated Black women born between 1961 to 1970 are childless. The other way to say that statistic, of course, is that 62 percent of those highly educated Black women do have children. But I’m guessing a headline like “A Solid Majority Of Highly Educated Black Women Will Marry and Have Children” just wouldn’t get as many clicks, or be as fun to recycle and reprint several times a year.
AFRICANS WHO ARE NOT POOR, STARVING AND LIVING IN SMALL VILLAGES
Did you know that nearly 40 percent of people on the African continent live in urban areas? That means cities, like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. No? Of course you didn’t. How could you, when most American news coverage of African countries looks like a bunch of extended “Save the Children” commercials?
BLACK POLICE OFFICERS
No surprise here—the existence of black police officers is simply inconvenient, from a narrative standpoint. How else but by ignoring the existence of minority law enforcement officials could media outlets continue to crank out new spins on the old classic “Black Folks Have Historically Fraught Relationship With The (Racist) Cops” story? Don’t believe me? Take a look at this photo, from the recent racial dust-up surrounding the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Your eyes are not deceiving you. That is, in fact, a black man wearing a police uniform in the bottom right corner of the photo. But the mainstream media pulled a Beyonce and directed everyone’s attention to the left, to the left, so that they could continue with their regularly scheduled programming.
Maybe someday the mainstream media will catch on and start covering these groups in a meaningful way. But until then, keep an eye out for these characters lurking in the background of the usual stories, hoping to be heard. Because seemingly imaginary people are people too.
Forbes Magazine has created it’s first list of the wealthiest black americans. Not surprisingly Oprah Winfrey lands in the top spot. She’s also the only billionaire on the list. The list seems to be dominated by entertainers and sports stars but there are others who made their money in other fields including real estate, investments, CEO executive and the restaurant business. The top ten include the following:
Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr.
William Henry Cosby, Jr.
Berry Gordy, Jr.
Quintin Primo III
The Wealthiest Black Americans
Oprah Winfrey tops the inaugural Forbes list of the Wealthiest Black Americans, as recession cuts into the fortunes of others.
Oprah Winfrey is one of the most lucrative brands in the world. Today The Oprah Winfrey Show airs in 144 countries, drawing 44 million U.S. viewers each week. Her Harpo Productions helped create the likes of Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray. She’s produced Broadway shows and has her own satellite radio channel. For all of this, she consistently earns more than $200 million a year.
And unlike many others on our list, her business is weathering the recession well. Winfrey continues to entice viewers with money-saving tips, celebrity interviews and relationship advice. She’s debuting a new show this fall, which will be hosted by frequent guest Dr. Oz, and is planning to launch The Oprah Winfrey Network early next year.
With a net worth of $2.7 billion, Winfrey tops the inaugural Forbes list of the Wealthiest Black Americans. She is the only billionaire on the list of 20 tycoons, all of whom are self-made. The group built their fortunes across a spectrum of industries spanning athletics and entertainment, media, investments, real estate, construction and restaurants.
Like our signature rich lists, The World’s Billionaires and Forbes 400, the Wealthiest Black Americans list is a compilation of net worth–not income.
I saw this interesting item at Clutch Magazine.com written by Sky Obercam:
All too many people make the mistake of assuming that we are limited in scope from our lifestyles to our personal interests. Despite popular belief, Black women epitomize multiplicity in a vast array of forms, which continually defy long held stereotypes. Here’s a look of some of the many factors that blow some of those archaic labels right out of the water.
* We can’t enjoy music that plays on non-Black radio stations.
* Issues of animal rights or environmental preservation aren’t of paramount interest to us.
* We don’t watch shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm or Arrested Development and the Colbert Report.
* We can’t be outdoorsy types.
* One should assume that we are unwed with children.
* We don’t engage in extreme or winter weather sports.
* We don’t love cats.
* Don’t embrace religions other than Islam or Christianity.
* Independent films are our favorites.
* That we don’t find men from other nationalities sexy.
* That we’re not interested in traveling to far away places like Fiji, Vietnam, or Bali.
* We are angry, or aggressive, or loose cannons.
* We can’t have rare or arbitrary tastes in fashion, art or music.
* That we are obligated to adore Beyonce.
* We aren’t vegetarians or vegans.
* We don’t have an interest in the fields of technology, science or engineering.
You can check out it here and read all the responses.
Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy has an excellent column today about a young man named Tyrone Harrison.
Tyrone is nineteen years old and is spending his summer as a mosquito control technician for the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Like Courtland states in his column you just don’t hear about young black men like Tyrone. The media loves to talk about young black men in trouble. They ignore the young black men who are going about their business, going to school and staying out of trouble.
By Courtland Milloy
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tyrone Harrison works a summer job as a mosquito control technician for the Maryland Department of Agriculture. For eight hours a day, he searches out stagnant water in woods and along roadsides where mosquitoes are likely to breed, notes the locations and eradicates the pests.
“I had applied for a job at a supermarket and was scheduled for an interview when I saw an ad for a larvae sighter,” said Harrison, 19, who studies computer engineering at Prince George’s Community College. “I thought, ‘This is different.’ ”
What’s really different, though, is not the job; it’s Harrison. You don’t hear much about guys like him: normal, everyday young black men, quietly going about the business of growing up and becoming productive members of society.
Even I was taken aback when I saw Harrison trudging through my neighborhood, taking water samples in a long-handled ladle and sprinkling pesticide pellets from a shoulder bag. Who was this guy?
“When people see me hanging around their back yards, they do want to know what I’m doing,” Harrison said. He explains the nature of his work in scientific terms, then delights in the surprised looks on the faces of those who seemed to have stereotyped him as being up to no good.
“They suddenly become fascinated with mosquito control, and some even go into the woods to watch me work,” Harrison said.
If your view of young black men is based on images that tend to dominate the media — athletes, entertainers, politicians and, all too often, criminals — you might not even know that people like Harrison exist. Yet, he represents the vast majority of young African American men, those who work instead of hang out on corners; who are in school, not jail; who belong to civic organizations, not gangs.
Man, do you know how refreshing it was to read Courtland’s column today? I had to read it twice. This young man did not kick someone to death, beat someone to death in front of Borders, kill a police officer with a stolen truck, try to carjack an off duty Secret Service agent or go on a shooting spree at Pizzeria Uno’s killing three people. Tyrone is going to college, working and staying out of trouble.
Check out the entire column here and try not to go into shock from reading a positive story. Thank you Courtland Milloy for a wonderful column.
CNN has a couple of 2 hour specials on Black in America. Last night’s show was about black women. I recorded it on my dvr so I haven’t seen it yet. But from what I’ve heard, many folks weren’t impressed. I will check it out for myself. Tonight’s show is about black men.
CNN.com has a section on Black in America. There are numerous articles and videos you can check out. In the section about The Black Woman & Family articles include Black and single: Is marriage really for white people?, Black & Shopping in America, Why It Matters How Black Women Wear Their Hair, Beating poverty, heading for her Ph.D. and DNA provides clues to family’s African heritage.