Tag Archives: oppression

On Me

unnamed

They say they like

what I wear and

The lips on my lipstick

And the way my hair

wears my head but

It wears on me

The moment my words leave my lips and

I put my foot down and my hands on my hips

It’s too confusing.

And it’s too hard

Be quiet

Be cute

Little black girl

Play

Your

Part

It wears on me

Like when I wear my super skinny jeans

And they say to me

they look so good on you

I say thanks, it’s because I’m running

Running every other day of the week

I’m running

Because it wears on me

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Black People Don’t Tip (2014)

tipforsite

Picture this:

You and some friends or family go out to eat for dinner. After waiting for a table for however long, your party is called for the next available one. You are finally seated. Your throat is parched and you and the people you’re with are all ready to put those drink orders in. You look around at the waiters and the waitresses scurrying about, wondering which one will be taking care of you for the evening.

Five minutes pass, you start to look at your watch. You have somewhere to be after dinner, but you’re certain this meal won’t interfere with your plans. Ten minutes go by, still no waitress or waiter and the people that came in after you already have drinks and are about to place their food orders.

More time passes without any service. “Did they forget about us?” you wonder, even amidst the here and again eye contact some of the wait staff makes with you and your party. And amidst the laughter and jovial atmosphere of the restaurant, a half-enthused waitress with a fake smile dishes out the fakest greeting to your table. She takes your drink orders and goes into the back.

Several minutes later, you get your drinks and as you ask questions about the menu, her artificial smiles starts to fade and her she-can-take-you-or-leave-you attitude sets in. You’re ready to tell her a thing or two (if you know what I mean), but you don’t want to get ghetto and loud in the restaurant. You look over to your right, and the family that came in 2 parties after you is finishing their meal.

“If this food don’t come in the next few minutes, I’m going to miss out on my plans,” you think to yourself. You look around and see the other waiters and waitresses engaging in conversation with customers at other tables, looking lively and happy to serve. Your waitress is one of them. You look up and your food is (finally) at your table.

You eat in a hurry, trying to stay on your schedule for the night. You notice your mashed potatoes are a little cold. The manager is going up to each table, asking customers about their food and their experience. You wonder if you’ll literally be able to voice your complaint about your cold food, because your mouth is so dry. After all, your waitress never gave you a refill on your drink.

The manager walks by, skips your table, and asks the next table about their dining experience. You hear glasses clanging from the refills of other tables and as you look down at the ice melting in your empty cup, and as you begin to realize that the establishment has not deemed you a priority, the check is dropped onto the table.

Now you tell me, what’s that tip supposed to look like?

Often, black people are assumed to be non-tippers and are treated accordingly before they even get to the table…heck, before they arrive at the restaurant — which often translates to no treatment at all.

Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole story.

(2014; from the TBTB archives)

When Oppression Roars like Cecil the Lion

When Oppression Roars like Cecil the Lion

cecil lion

Last week, I heard about the tragic death of Cecil, a lion living in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. He was lured out of his habitat, shot with a bow and arrow, then shot with a gun, then skinned and decapitated.

There is no doubt that this was an unwarranted slaying of an innocent animal. And quite naturally, people are up in arms about it, with much energy being directed toward animal rights and the prosecution of Cecil’s murderer, dentist Walter Palmer. Protests and demonstrations are happening all over the country and all over the world in response to the slaying of this animal.

Too bad humanity can’t empathize with people – brothers and sisters of color dying everyday at exponential rates at the hands of injustice – just as much as they can with the animals that roar and purr and scoot about in the world’s zoos.

You may be thinking – Cecil was lured out of his home, shot and left to die a slow death and mutilated, of course the oppression people of color face doesn’t evoke the same amount of concern and outrage.

But I ask you then, do people of color not experience the same grim fate…barely noticed…each and every day?

Lured

It always breaks my heart to hear of missing children. What’s even harder to accept than crimes against children is how some cases get more exposure than others. About 32 percent of the US population is of color – but only 14 percent of  television station staff members across the nation are non-white. This results in a lack of reporting of missing child cases involving children of color because journalists have the “ tendency to consciously or unconsciously cover communities that remind them of their own,” according to the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. This phenomenon is so pervasive and well-known, an additional missing child alert has been created in place of the widely known “Amber Alert.”  The “Rilya Alert” is only for children of color under age 17 who have been reported to the law as missing. (Journalism Center for Children and Families)

Children of color are lured out of their homes and away from their families each and every day; however, only a fraction of these cases show up on our TV screens, our cell phone news apps and our social media timelines. Maybe if our children were animals, they’d have a greater chance of being perceived as human.

 

Left to die

In a plethora of ways, people of color are left to die – in their own country, in their own homes. I know that people of color walk upright, on two legs instead of four and aren’t in zoos (anymore – know your history)…but nonetheless, keep reading —  maybe just maybe you’ll recognize their lives as just as important as those of animals.

Lack of medical insurance. Higher rates of high blood pressure and diabetes than other groups. Exponentially high HIV/AIDS rates combined with less access to life-saving medications. Less likely to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.  What do all these things have in common?

They’re all factors that end black lives on a daily basis.

To add, only about 8 percent of black families have a supermarket located in their census tract. To boot, physicians whose patients are mostly minorities tend to be less experienced and are less likely to be certified by a health board.  (Five Charts that Explain Why Black Americans are Still Dying Younger than White Americans, Think Progress)

Black folk are living in a country where they are more likely to be sick and unhealthy than any other racial/ethnic group. Ask yourself: have you protested or spoken on this fun fact lately?

Lynched and mutilated

The world was appalled (as it should have been) when news revealed that a dentist beheaded 13 year-old Cecil the Lion. But I’m sitting here wondering, does the “world” even know about Lennon Lacy, the 17 year old black teen who was found dead — his lifeless body dangling from a rope tied from the top of a swing set in a mobile home park in Bladenboro, North Carolina last year? Fast-forward to a few months ago and travel a little farther south to Port Gibson, Mississippi. In March of this year, did you know that 54 year old Otis Byrd was found dead, hanging from a tree? A dead black man, hanging from a tree. In Mississippi. Five months ago. (5 Horrific Modern-Day Lynchings of Blacks in America, RollingOut)

Animals aren’t the only ones mutilated. Would you believe me if I told you that sometimes, humans do this to other humans, and that racism kills and that these deaths should demand your attention, in addition to Cecil the Lion’s death?

Don’t forget

The people of Zimbabwe didn’t even know about Cecil’s death, until the world started its witch hunt for his murderer, Walter Palmer. “It is not an overstatement that almost 99,99 percent of Zimbabweans didn’t know about this animal until Monday. Now we have just learnt, thanks to the British media, that we had Africa’s most famous lion all along, an icon!” reported a few days ago in The Chronicle, A Zimbabwean newspaper. – Let that one marinate.

Cecil the Lion was named after Cecil Rhodes…the same guy who gave the Rhodes Scholarship and the African territory of Rhodesia, their namesakes. Cecil Rhodes is known for being a South African politician slash businessman slash imperialist, among other things, but he was also an avid racist. He wanted the white race to take over as much of Africa as possible, insisting that the more whites took over, the better the world would be. “I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimens of human beings what an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence,” stated Rhodes.

Let that one marinate, too.

Look, I know the world is upset. But can a girl be upset with the world for just a moment?

Til They Can’t Bleed No More

Til they Can’t Bleed No More

defeat pic edited

There’s a young black woman somewhere who will never exercise her right to vote because she has absolutely no want or (in her opinion) need to do so. She’s criticized for what most would call ignorance, but what she simply calls living her life. The masses put her down for the slap in the face she’s giving the trailblazers before her, the people who sacrificed themselves, both literally and figuratively for black voting rights. Yet and still, she knows no different, all she knows is that her vote and her voice are mute and moot. Spiritually spent, yet perfectly content.

Defeat is a way of life for her and many many others.

So many people are defeated. Down and out. Out for the count. And it’s easy to dismiss them. They’ve given up, you say. They’ve taken the L, you say. They’ve lost the fight without even trying to get a lick in, you say.

It’s significantly easier to label helplessness as weakness than to take the time to find out what exactly has torn down our brothers and sisters, and how and why they have been robbed of their thunder. The power of oppression, the long lasting effects of history and institutionalized degradation are all underestimated to the umpteenth degree on a daily basis.

The fight for equal voting rights for blacks was (and many will argue, still is) a long and arduous fight. Lives were snuffed out and voices were drowned out. People like Jimmie Lee Jackson were physically shut up – young Jimmie killed and his frail and elderly grandfather nearly beaten to death in 1965 – for rallying for equal voting rights in Selma, Alabama. With the close relationship between advocating for equal voting rights and punishment and even death, who is to question black apathy toward such an alleged natural right? And when this apathy transfers to the 21st century, it can turn into complete disassociation. You have a young woman with no interest to vote…because she never learned anything about it. Her mother never took her to the voting booth…because her parents never took her to the voting booths…because their parents were threatened with lynching if they even spoke of voting or the NAACP or anything related to forward thinking for blacks in the Jim Crow south.

It runs deep.

Some people’s spirits are intact while others have been broken, broken again and beaten, over and over again, ‘til they can’t bleed no more. I’m talking about the broken spirit. Treat it the same way as you would a wingless bird. A wingless bird — full of potential, but also, full of defeat. A defeat as heavy as a ton of bricks.

So next time you’re so quick to judge, chastise and turn your nose up to people you consider to be less progressive, or less conscious or less educated than you, tie a ton of bricks to your back and try to fly.

Teach the Babies

“Teach the Babies”

mehandsupEDIT

Mike Brown and countless other black boys, girls, men and women have been snuffed out of this world at the hands of injustice. The devaluing of black lives has been made precedent over and over and over again. It’s the world we live in, unfortunately. I have come to terms with this and I move around this world accordingly. But I worry about our children, and ultimately, the children I plan to bring into this world someday.

The sad reality of all this is the fact that we have to teach our sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and little cousins how to navigate within this oppressive society. And this very teaching tends to be oppressive within itself. In the most horrific way, oppression becomes a way of dying…and a way of living. Some children are taught to get home before dark, or to not hang with a large group of boys, or to not dress in clothes that are perceived as too baggy, in fear of police persecution. Others are taught to limit their aspirations and their dreams in order to fit what parents deem a safe and secure mold.

The answer to oppression is not oppression, but at the same time, keeping our children completely in the dark about the world can lead to some grim consequences.  As we fight the good fight, pushing for the valuation of black bodies, we must also find a way to fight for our children – not just following atrocities like the Mike Brown verdict or in the midst of protests and rallies – but also, daily, in our everyday lives.

Education

One can never be too educated. We gotta make sure the babies know this. Although many social circles may try to make education uncool, we must praise it, glorify it and promote. Read as much as you can and pass this knowledge to your family, your peers and the babies. It’s as simple as sharing an article on Facebook, telling your cousin about a great book you read or filling in the little boy around the way on an issue in the news. As minorities in this society, it’s on us to educate our children on black leaders and causes – from leaders in our neighborhood to people and events from hundreds of years ago. We have to educate our children so that when they face injustice, they know it for what it’s worth. We have to educate our children so they can attempt to use the same institutions intended to stifle us as pedestal for success. Education is power.

Pride

We live in a world that values black culture, but that doesn’t mean it values being black. Everyone wants fuller lips and t-shirts adorning their favorite black rappers, but black skin and black life isn’t exactly all the rage. Dr. Kenneth Clark’s famous Doll Test confirmed this notion in 1939 (most black children were found to associate themselves with negative traits in relation to baby dolls– and the results of the replication of this test in the present day assure us that similar attitudes still exist. Forget helping kids to like being black, they must love it. When I was little, I didn’t like the texture of my hair for a very short time. I looked through magazines with Caucasian women with straight hair and asked my mother to make my hair look like that. My mom told me that my hair wasn’t meant to do that, and that my hair was beautiful because I had hair like Jesus – as thick as lamb’s wool. When friends told me that I should try to look for light-skinned guys so that one day, I could have a light-skinned baby, I ignored it because I knew better, and grew up to date men not based on complexion, because all black is good black. Black is black, and black is beautiful. The sooner we own it, the sooner the babies will follow suit.

Code

This world can be quite uninviting, and to facilitate living within this unfortunate circumstance, there is code. Whether it’s working on a job with discriminatory policies, or encountering a racist store employee, code helps us all to most effectively address and circumnavigate particular bumps in the road on our journey. In a store where anger is provoked, even if we want to cuss, holler and punch, it may be more beneficial to tell off the aggressor and report him or her to his supervisor (making sure our grievances are made clear). When a bulwark impedes on an opportunity, we should either find another way to get to that opportunity (all while staying true to ourselves) or use the impediment as motivation for bigger and better. The later has happened to me a plethora of times, but a high school memory stands out. About 10 others students and I were pulled from an English class in high school – we were told that according to our grades, we qualified to test out of AP English for the following year. It was a huge opportunity and it also meant credits toward a college degree. A few days later I went to my teacher about it. After seeing who I was and confirming that I was on the list for the AP Test, she quickly came up with a reason for me not to test out – my spelling, although I had an A in the class and may have gotten a B on a spelling test maybe once. I knew what time it was and so did my family. I took a mental note of this teacher’s character and I used the experience as fodder for getting into my dream school (which I ultimately ended up attending and graduating from).  The code is the map on the path of life – and the way we set up this road map for the babies sets them up for life.

Solidarity

Sticking together is like the icing on top of a cake – it’s sweet, savory and needed for a complete product. Solidarity means education. Solidarity means pride. Solidarity is in the code. We need to buy from each other’s businesses, support each other’s art, be each other’s listening ears and shoulders to lean on. A win for one should be considered a win for all, just as a loss for one should be a shared loss. Stand together or fall apart. Mike Brown’s parents have asked us all respectably to seize from violence and looting – the fact that we are ignoring the wishes of this deceased baby’s parents rips my heart apart, while it has the perpetrators of our oppressive system rejoicing and basking in a mislead sense of self-righteousness – the same ugliness that keeps the status quo, the status quo. The kids must listen, love and learn from their brothers and sisters, and the only way we can instill such solidarity is to lead by example our own selves.

I must warn you. This is no fool-proof method. We live in a country where walking home with candy and a sweet tea can bring you to your demise. Being a child and playing with a toy can cost you a bullet. And in Mike Brown’s case, being black, college-bound, a loving brother and son, and an active member of the church on the wrong day can not only send you to your death, but it could also mean your lifeless body lying in the heat for not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 and a half hours, like road kill.

When the world gets too cold, too unbearably cold, don’t let their spirits become numb. Don’t let them oppress themselves. Teach the babies to love all, but most importantly, teach the babies to love themselves, for one day, it may be all that they have.

“It will be hard…but you come from sturdy peasant stock, men who picked cotton and dammed rivers and built railroads and in the teeth of the most terrifying odds achieved an unassailable and monumental dignity.” – James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

(For more pieces like this, check out the “Let’s Talk” section of the blog)