Friday, February 14, 2020

Show love by voting on Valentine's Day

What better way to say I love you than to vote on Valentine’s Day?

That was my first thought upon awaking this morning at 4:30 a.m.  I don’t know why? I’m strange like that sometimes. Thoughts come to me from divergent places. Get it. Voting. Love. I know, you don’t get it.

It took considerable time for me to process the significance of correlating voting with the day created to give men a chance to recuperate after a year of endless mistakes. What better way to say you’re sorry for being a worthless example of simmering testosterone than with a box of chocolate and a dozen roses.

It never helps when a man beats his chest while exclaiming, “I’m a good man, woman!” It’s best to get the chocolate and roses, no matter how little time was spent sleeping on the couch while eating dog biscuits. Staying out of the doghouse is a major accomplishment, but, in most cases, forgetting Valentine’s Day will lead to a temporary suspension.

Voting isn’t a romantic activity. Right? Did I miss something since the last Presidential election? Have the rules shifted? Wait! That’s it.

I’ve sensed deep barrenness since Trump defeated Clinton. The way people talk – both to themselves and to each other – has radically changed. Everyone seems more antsy than before. I’ve witnessed more rolling of eyes, snapped fingers and hands on the hips. There is a devoid in patience occupied by limited listening, partial understanding and no trust.

Things are more tense than before. Politics has morphed into a game mimicking mortal combat. Words are weapons thrust on the battlefield with an intent to destroy the ideology of anyone standing in the way. T-shirts and baseball caps are the new age uniforms of soldiers shoved into battle by conflicting beliefs. Political statements are everywhere, MAGA, CNN FAKE NEWS, MAKE AMERICA THINK AGAIN and shirts that make a joke to keep people from crying -” the problem with political jokes is sometimes they get elected”.

Insensitivity has replaced common decency. Making a point translates into I don’t care what you think.  The workplace is often a warzone and churches are places to rally the troops.

What’s love got to do with it?

Maybe it’s something in my dreams. Maybe it’s something I heard in a song, a prayer, a thought or a moment of weakness. Maybe that moment of weakness is the thing granting me strength and hope to believe.

In what? What is left to believe? Love? A world where we can love again?

The best way to show love, to be the embodiment of love, is to vote on Valentine’s Day. In voting there is hope we can fix it. All of it. By voting we have an opportunity to elevate our local communities, our state and national government beyond the chaos eating at our souls. By electing people determined to restore sanity into a nation inundated with a desire to fight, we can find love again.

Some will argue we never had it. Love, some say, is no more than an emotion familiar within the context of tribalism. I’ll love my family; you love your own, defines what we have always been. For some, it is all we will ever be. It’s sad to think that might be true. If it is, what we have now is an amplification of what has always been true.

God knows I hope that’s not true. I pray we can do better than this.

I show love on Valentine’s Day with my vote. My vote reflects my love for America. It’s a statement regarding the world I envision for myself, my children and all the little children of the world. My vote is an expression of the life I want for all of us – united, one nation, under God. For those who don’t believe in God, one nation under the God of your own understanding.

 My vote is a prayer for unity infused with a bunch of love.

 America, I do love you.

 Now, shut up and kiss me.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Race Matters: Who will get my vote for President?

I don’t know who’s getting my vote for President.

That statement troubles me. Early voting starts today. Bernie Sanders will be in town tomorrow. I’m interested to see how that plays out.

This is complicated.

The pundits say Joe Biden still leads with Black voters. I struggle with that. It’s hard to dismiss his contribution in passing the Crime Bill. It doesn’t help that Bernie also voted in support of the legislation responsible for increased Black incarceration.

I’m still angry about Bernie’s rapid dismissal of reparations for “being too hard to pass.” Of all people. You can’t talk to me about things being too hard.

Everyone is dirty. People in South Bend, Indiana say former Mayor Pete Buttigieg has a problem with Black People. He did well to shuck it off with an apology after a hullabaloo regarding the termination of the Black chief of police. It takes more than talk to convince Black people.

Mike Bloomberg is showing up as a potential pick for Black voters. How does that happen given his policy of “stop and frisk” when he was Mayor of York City? Claims of racial profiling must not hold the same contempt as back in the day when it felt like people were being stopped for chewing gum while walking down the street.

Speaking of the police and the criminal justice system, how can a Black person justify voting for Amy Klobuchar after reports that she failed to prosecute any of the officer in Minnesota who shot unarmed Black people. Not one. That’s the type of record from of an Attorney General that forces deep pondering regarding motives laced in white supremacy. I’ll pass.

I like Elizabeth Warren, but her affection for plans makes we wonder if she has the ability to follow through. How many of us know a person who has all the solutions while lacking the capacity to get it done? Back home, we call that walking the walk more than talking the talk. Besides, I need to see more Black people.

As for Tom Steyer. I’ll stop there because I heard the collective gasp – who?

I’m almost convinced Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian plant to further destroy America’s democracy. Nothing left to say about that.

My frustration is elevated by the graveyard of Black candidates dismissed by mostly white progressives for failing the radical left litmus test. Duval Patrick is out less than 90 days after jumping in the race. That’s not even a good sprint.

Kamala Harris and Cory Booker represented Black folks hoping for another Black President. Harris was blasted for being too tough on Black crime and Booker was challenged for dancing too much with big shots on Wall Street.

It begs the question, what will it take for another Black person to get a shot? It’s hard not to feel the lesson of fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Is this white America’s answer to never being fooled again? Please holla no.

Maybe I’m struggling to get motivated because of how we got here. We gained some things during the Obama years, but access is not one of them. It feels like back to business as usual with a Democratic Party that talks about race with no real dialogue with Black people. Don’t get me started on how Black women continue to be taken for granted.

The politics of galvanizing white undecided voters leaves me stumbling to find words to address the agony of the taken for granted Black voter. It doesn’t feel good being taken for granted. Is that what Biden is doing?

I can see it now – people blaming Black people, again, for Trump winning the election. I can hear them, in my imagination, talk about low Black turnout. Dang. I get sick of Black people getting blamed for everything.

Sigh. I have to go vote in the primary, but I don’t have a candidate for President. None of them represents me. Not one. Should I vote for the person who can best defeat Trump? If so, what does that say about me. Strike that. What does that say about life and politics in America?

Go to the back of the bus, please. Well, they did say please.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Durham teachers organization makes assumptions rooted in white supremacist powerplay

A recent Facebook message questioning the leadership of Alexandra Valladares, candidate for Durham Public School Board, uncovers how white supremacy works.

The implementation of a white supremacist strategy is not limited to the work of white people. Colonialism infuses, in the minds of some Black people, deep-seeded internalized racism. It is easy to find cases where Black and Brown people cooperate with white people in constructing  a white supremacist agenda. 

It's important to get that out before you start looking at the black people in the room.

This is one of those cases. It's an example of how teachers, within a school system with an overwhelming majority of white teachers (78%), refuse to concede the interest and needs of Black and Brown students and their parents. Their statement indicates their advocacy for their own interest as puppets in a white supremacist system.

A strategy of white supremacy is to cancel the leadership of Black and Brown people. It’s done by delegitimizing people for not playing well with white people.

A person who dedicates their life as an advocate for Black and Brown families is questioned for failing to cooperate with people working to maintain the system. White supremacy plays by a set of rules. Collaborating with controlling parties is viewed as a measure of effective leadership. White supremacy attacks people who refuse to succomb to their mandate. It punishes people for not doing what they want, how they want and when they want it done.

Advocates are called lone rangers. They are labeled ineffective because they function outside the established system. Their personality becomes the subject of disdain. They’re called a scalawag for their consistent focus on the problem versus a willingness to compromise within the existing system.
White supremacy has it's own agenda. It attempts to strip advocates of their integrity by punishing anyone for failing to bow and kiss the ring. The advocacy of Black and Brown students and parents, in the example of the Facebook mischaraterization of Alexandra, takes backseat to bowing down to the whims of an organizations agenda. It is a cruel hypocricy that makes voting for a block of perferred candidates more relevant that advocacy.

White privilege assumes the problem is the person when it’s the system. In this case, the problem is a gang of teachers desirious of manipulating the political process at the expense of Black and Brown children.

Their aim is to credential leaders who affirm their position with limited critique of structures from within. Organizations aren’t established to be examined from within. I call foul play. The power of an endorsement plays out as a weapon margainilizing Black and Brown advocacy. The system is a monster in need of review. All of it. From a gang of teachers dismissive of Black and Brown advocacy, to an endorsement process that makes who a person voted for the purity test. When teachers place politics outside the classromm above the needs of students within the classrom, it's time for those teachers to reconsider what they do for a living.

The attack against Alexandra Valladares is a case study regarding how the quest to maintain white dominance plays out in real time. Reactions divulge the rage of white fragility. We are witnessing how support for diversity and inclusion plays out when conversations shift to the demand for equity.

We’re observing how conversations regarding race shift after racial and cultural competency minimizes the power of white people in Black and Brown spaces. The savior complex is uncovered with massive assumptions and hypocrisy. The matter of representation moves beyond the dynamics of diversity and inclusion to an attack on the character of the Black and Brown people fighting for equitable participation.

This is where the work is attacked. The effort that goes into advocating on behalf of Black & Brown parents and children becomes the subject of contention. All of that work to be heard and understood is translated into a litmus test for credible leadership.

The white person plays by the rules. That person works well with others. That Black or Brown person stands alone. These are massive assumptions rooted and maintained by the constructs of white supremacy. The decision to select and fight for the white person unravels how white supremacy hinders the work of Black and Brown engagement. They say - we can work with him, he’s one of us, he understands us, he plays by our rules.

White supremacy seeks to own the terms of legitimacy. Rather than conceding a need to listen and learn from advocates, people leading the work are challenged for questioning disparity.

The assumptions that follow are preposterous. Given the white person works better with the people within the system – that person is better qualified to serve Black and Brown students.  Given the Black person is attacking the system – we have reason to believe the white person is better qualified to work within our system. Given Alexandra isn't working with us, she must be working alone. 
Implying Alexandra is working alone negates all the students and parents she represents. Not working to endorse a white supremacist system is not the same as working alone. Not working with a gang of teachers, and the candidates they decided to endorse, is not a reflection of standing alone. It reflect not standing with them in Alexandra's desire to stand with the students and parents she represents.

Determining who to vote for is a personal decision. Each of us has the right to decide on our own. In reflecting on what that means, it helps to minimize language constructed from a white supremacist agenda. I’m not blaming people for not understanding. Not knowing is one of the consequences of centuries of institutionalized racism.

I do question people who continue using language rooted in white supremacist powerplay after hearing why that’s not okay. I also blame teachers for using their role as teachers to play political games at the expense of Black and Brown children.
Shame on all of you!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Gayle King's question reveals the story of Kobe becoming a better man

People are outraged by the line of questioning in Gayle King’s interview with Lisa Leslie.
It was too soon. The family is still grieving. She hasn’t applied the same standard in interviewing white men. Gayle, and sidekick Oprah, are engaged in a plan to undermine the integrity of Black men.
We’ve heard it all. King blasted back with criticism of CBS’s decision to release the clip. She says it’s valid to slam her when viewing the clip out of context. Snoop Dogg called her a bitch. It’s a media circus distracting from the mourning of Kobe Bean Bryant, who died with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers in that horrific helicopter crash.
The grieving of Kobe’s death has been hard for all of us to endure. It’s one of those rare moments in which the world stops to take notice. It happened when Michael Jackson died. It happened when Prince and Whitney died. It happened when John Lennon was killed and when Elvis was found dead on a toilet.
Gayle’s controversial question forces a critical gaze related to how we ponder legacy. What do we do with the legacy of James Brown’s history of domestic violence? How does the press tell the story of Prince’s death without stepping on shaky ground? Is it the obligation of the press to cuddle the emotions of grieving family and fans, or is there more to the story that deserves to be told?
This is the essence of journalism. It’s not what we write, it’s how we write what we write that distinguished good reporting and storytelling from amateur journalism. There are layers to each story lurking beneath the desire to heal. How we tell the story challenges our desire to pander to the impulses of our readers. What the public desires should never take precedent over a story with a meaningful lesson.
I defend King’s right to ask the question. I do so because the question reveals the story of Kobe’s legacy. As people fume over the validity of the question, lost is the power of Kobe’s life lesson. Fearing the question hinders our ability to hear him speak from the grave.
Gayle’s question is about legacy. What is Kobe’s legacy? It’s easy to point to his accomplishments on the basketball court. Those are the feats we celebrate in life. The broader question for journalist to ask is what the lessons are we learn in death.
Kobe’s life gives us that answer, a person is best judged by how they deal with their worst mistake.
That’s a lesson for our children. It’s the story within the story that helps us build upon Kobe’s lifelong commitment of learning from his mistakes.
It happened after he was accused of rape. Listen to the lesson in the public statement after the dismissal of the case.
First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year. Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure. I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colorado.
I also want to make it clear that I do not question the motives of this young woman. No money has been paid to this woman. She has agreed that this statement will not be used against me in the civil case. Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.
I issue this statement today fully aware that while one part of this case ends today, another remains. I understand that the civil case against me will go forward. That part of this case will be decided by and between the parties directly involved in the incident and will no longer be a financial or emotional drain on the citizens of the state of Colorado
It's certain the apology was part of a legal strategy. We shouldn’t overthink the apology. It’s what followed that informs the lesson regarding legacy. It’s how he owned it. It’s how he built what appears to be a better marriage. He learned to play piano to convince Vanessa, his wife, not to divorce him. He took his legendary focus on the court and applied it to his marriage.
That’s a lesson involving legacy. It takes questions to build a case for judging Kobe based on how he dealt with his biggest mistake.
There are other mistakes. Most people aren’t limited to one in a lifetime.
Two years after being fined by the NBA for using a homophobic slur toward a referee, Kobe admonished two Twitter users for using homophobic language.
"Just letting you know @pacsmoove @pookeo9 that using 'your gay' as a way to put someone down ain't ok! #notcool delete that out ur vocab."
Bryant was responding to a message from Twitter user @pookeo9, a 16-year-old Canadian.
The first tweet was directed to the @kobebryant handle and read, "Let's make out in bed Kobe."
@Pacsmove re tweeted that message, adding "you're gay" to the beginning.
Kobe acknowledged his past issues with using homophobic language.
"Exactly, that wasn't cool and was ignorant on my part. I own it and learn from it and expect the same from others."
These are questions regarding legacy. Life after death doesn’t mean much if we limit legacy to what happened on the basketball court. Pressing the question regarding legacy helps in the reporting of the story of the man hidden from public view. Some may say that’s too personal. It’s none of our business. I say it matters when the lesson inspires change.
Knowing what I know about Kobe from what I’ve read and witnessed, I believe Kobe would be okay with the question. His legacy is about improving on the basketball court. I’m convinced the same applied to his life off the court. Becoming a better man, a better husband, a great father and friend was his commitment after he walked away from the game of basketball. On the court he learned from his mistakes. Off the court, he did the same.
Journalist are obligated to tell that story. Kobe worked to hard to tell it, and we should press questions to help tell his story.
The question is a gift because of the answer. Fearing the shame impedes the witness of change.
That’s why you ask the question.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Confession of a grumpy black man

I’m not proud of the person I’ve become since Donald J. Trump dubbed himself America’s Fűhrer. That statement alone is enough to make my case. I have lost patience for anyone pleading a point undermining my ability to refrain from slapping a fool.
Restraint is out the door. The ability to concede alternatives truths is out the door. My will to be guided and influenced by the utopic notion of a beloved community has faded with the termination of government with checks and balances.
It’s not all Trump’s fault. Some of the culpability belongs to white dudes waving symbols of the Confederacy. It feels like a statement regarding my staying in what they perceive as my proper place. It’s taken copious inhales followed by exhales, followed by clinched fist and internalized reminders not to go Django on their ass.
It’s complicated.
I partially blame the assumptions of theological claims. What it means for me to assert being a Christian is masked by the ongoing pursuit to define what that means. My Jesus is not the same as that Jesus. He prays and spends time away from the masses to relight passion after the critics come to steal joy. My Jesus goes to big mama to mediate and engage in some critical cussing after folks show up on a mission to block blessings.
My Jesus is a big black dude with the attitude of many clouds of witnesses who have travelled through the valley of discrimination and death. My Jesus doesn’t bow to the whims of white supremacy and all the cousins of disparity. My Jesus is an empowering messiah with a heart for the least of these.
My theology hasn’t changed much over the years. I’ve always viewed the work of salvation being about more than leading Black folks to the streets paved with gold. It didn’t take long for me to discover the irrelevance of pimping truth about life on the other side of death devoid of some blessing during this life.
My theology has always been fueled by a rage in disparity between the gifts of white folk after creating hell for Black folks on earth juxtaposed by the burden of Black folks in forgiving all the trouble they’ve seen.  There has to be more than hope for better days in the sweet by and by.
The privilege of whiteness is in embracing life on earth without regard for death. My theology challenges notions of blessings versus the curse of blackness. It’s what stirs the fever of my preaching. The words declared with each sermon I preach defies the assumptions of theological claims. Don’t just pray about it. Take what belongs to you with the zeal of a radical Jesus guiding your footsteps.
All of that is true, but this is different. There’s a sickness in the air which feels like brewing fever. It’s hot in here. It’s too hot to calm the weariness alone. This is worse than ever before due to the absence of allies willing to concede their participation in the problem.
The advocates and allies of Black liberation have morphed into the wardens of continued incarceration. That’s how it feels. The massive whitesplaining. Delineating what Black people need. Forcing Black silence in exchange for their continued right to rule. Containing spaces to expand dominance for the sake of additional profit. Renaming gentrification to justify white privilege. Enforcing rules to manage diversity, inclusion and equity when it rationalizes their interest.
What I feel extends beyond the blatant racism of alt-right movements. My rage transcends the overt intentions of conservative party manipulation and games played to control Black voters. It’s what progressive, so-called good white people, are often incapable of seeing.
It’s not the fault of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The privilege wedged in the belly of progressive thinking people has always been there. It’s not new. Their presence may have been to resolve guilt. Or, it may be out of a desire to repair the forces hindering Black people.
Don’t Black people need a savior?
It could be about that.
These are the obvious ramifications of life in Trump’s American nightmare. Most of that may be true. Some of it may be a perception. All of it feels real.
It’s the perception part that leaves me hating what has happened to me – the lack of patience, the hardening of a heart, the lack of sensitivity for those outside the Black experience.
There are good white people in this world. I know that’s true, but it’s hard to believe it’s true given this current American dilemma.
I’m becoming a grumpy old man.