Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Catching up, buffer and crabmat

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’m filled with so much rage.  Part of that reflection involves pondering if this is new versus some old undealt with issues in need of a therapist and a soft couch to solve.

It could be the upshot of social media. All the time spent on Facebook leads to an unhappy Carl. The thoughts of people I assumed to be my friends shows up on my page often forcing my fingers to press the block button. Viewing how people really feel makes it harder to trust.

The lessons I’ve learned involve pain so deep it takes my dead ancestors ample time to explain. It’s angst in my soul conjured by memories beyond my life experience. I’m connected to these encounters by virtue of burdens black people are still grappling to overcome.

Catching Up

This one came to me in a dream. I was the anchor on a relay team. Four other teams were ahead of me. I took the baton to run the final 400 meters. I was more than 50 meters behind. Although I was the fastest person running the race, I didn’t have enough to catch the leader. I passed the others, but a didn’t have enough strength to win the race.

I watched as the winning team celebrated – four white men jubilant because the last leg began long before I received the baton. My frustration mounted as all the white men from the other teams looked at me with a venom that exposed feelings of my taking something from them. Although they began ahead of me, they felt I didn’t deserve to pass them. Their ominous glowering felt like a warning of things to come the next time I passed in my attempt to win a race.

That’s it!

That’s how it feels when I take a little walk through Facebook. It’s what I feel when I apply for work. It’s how I feel after showing up intent on winning this race called life. Whenever that happens, I’m starting far behind most of the white people with the advantages of white privilege.

The Buffer

This one is more about dropping the baton. It’s about rules changing during the race or not having enough to finish.

Why does it feel like I don’t have enough to buffer mistakes? That’s it! I’ve never had enough to protect me from seasons of massive lack. What happens when you get sick with no benefits or savings to carry you through the valley?

The lack of buffer is a concern for most Americans. It is true that most are just half a paycheck away from a more painful experience. This is not a construct limited to the black experience, but it is more likely the experience of black people due to the overwhelming dearth of generational wealth.

When a parent dies, there’s little left behind to help buffer the next generation – no home, no business, not enough insurance to pave the way for the children and grandchildren to exist without liability. The buffer is related to catching up. There’s no room to make mistakes.


This is the hardest to talk about. It’s easier, in most cases, to address the maddening emotions stirred by white supremacy, power and manipulation. This one is about what black people do to each other to prevent movement toward dreams.

Within the culture, we call it crabs in the barrel. It’s the image of a barrel filled with crabs all seeking escape. None are able to escape due to the others grabbing and pulling them back into that miserable barrel. None escape the inevitability of becoming crabmeat.

If I can’t make it, no one will. If I can’t make it, all of us should remain trapped in a life of unfulfilled freedom.

I witnessed black people drag another black man down recently during a Durham City Council meeting. His plan to own and build a multi-usage complex was set to revolutionize black economic development in the city. With more than 30% black ownership, it was an example of equity for black people in economic development.

The crabs pulled him down.

The competing company located a group of influential crabs to pull him down. It was painful to witness black men and women support the competing proposal.

Black members of the city council voted against a black man born in the city. Like crabs in a barrel, they sided with a company incapable of providing evidence of black ownership in a multimillion-dollar development.

How should a person feel after being offered as crabmeat?

It was an opportunity for solidarity.

Catching up, buffer and crabmeat.

Yeah, that’s how I feel.