The Villain in Black

van heusenWith utter incredulity, I intently listened to a guest on CNN, unabashed and absent shame, posit a theory that perhaps since Eric Garner could articulate the fact that he could not breathe, that he could in fact, breathe. And with that level of doubt in place, the officer reasonably could surmise that Mr. Garner was being untruthful, and therefore the threat had to be neutralized despite impassioned pleas to the contrary. So, if I am grasping this line of thinking correctly, if I ever encounter an individual in physical distress, perhaps experiencing shortness of breath or tightness in the chest; if said person can communicate that distress, then obviously they must not be in that much distress to begin with. Commonsense really isn’t all that common nowadays. Eric Garner died on July 17th, 2014 in Staten Island, New York after being placed in a choke-hold and being forcibly restrained face down on the concrete as he pleaded he could not breathe. He was accused of selling loose cigarettes.

In the United States, it has been an enduring practice to denigrate, vilify, and cloak the black male in villainy. This is not opinion, this is historical fact; please Google Black Americana if you reside in the camp of the unbelieving. We have been assigned the caricature of Brute – savage, animalistic, destructive, and criminal. And just because this historical fact is ugly does preclude it from being fact. Seriously, research the subject. The brute caricature has been methodically and systematically embedded into the American psyche for decades. And because of this racial indoctrination, it has unsurprisingly birthed a hyper-response from people who feel the brute must be rendered powerless, usually through violent means.

Now, contemporary times have witnessed a discreet application of this prejudiced practice, but make no mistake, whether the disgusting caricature is perpetuated by media, various companies, or even our own people within the African-American community; the lens through which some Americans view black men has become so distorted, even the most irrational acts of mistreatment and violence are made rational with conjecture and conflation. Look no further than the increasingly all too common incidents of unarmed black men being killed by law enforcement.

Now, I carry and conduct myself in a respectable, gentlemanly, and upright manner. And if you know me personally, you will understand that to be fairly accurate. During my lifetime, I can count at least four encounters with police – all minor traffic stops. None of them resulted in tickets, and apparently, none of those encounters resulted in my death. However, I fully recognize that I have experienced good fortune. I have not had any encounters with an officer, maybe on edge, with visions of Nino Brown, O-Dog, or maybe the last unsavory black guy he had dealt with driving his actions. As potent as any mind-altering substance, medicinal or otherwise, perception can negatively augment a person’s opinion of reality if the atmosphere is right.

Despite meaningful advances in race relations here in the United States, we cannot ignore the existing cruel irony that our country remains largely in part racially segregated. And unfortunately that segregation isolates the African-American experience from certain groups in our nation, thus leaving them to formulate a racial ideology that relies heavily on antiquated stereotypes and prejudices that dictate judgment, all from a perspective of privilege and general societal acceptance. At best, this line of thinking can result in uncomfortable, clumsy conversation; or at worst – a fatal encounter. The power of perception cannot be underestimated.

So, let’s begin an honest dialogue. I have had numerous conversations, mostly entirely with coworkers, where the proverbial foot became lodged in someone’s mouth due to racial indifference or ignorance. The conversations were sometimes brutal, always frank and always candid. Nonetheless, a mutual understanding was accomplished. And that understanding: My narrative should not be scripted by a media bias that traffics fear and misinformation. My narrative should not written by some indiscriminate black male that is not conducting himself with integrity, righteousness, and virtue. Most of all, my narrative should not be written by an institution of racism that marginalizes, reviles, and disparages my character.

Are all people in America driven by racial fear? Of course not. But there are enough people driving the subconscious commentary that black men such as myself are to be feared – until we prove otherwise. Denial or ambivalence to this problem is but tacit complicity to the problem itself. Years ago, I recall leaving work, broad daylight mind you, when I walk outside and find a coworker was standing by the door. She turned around, looked at me, and let loose the most primal, blood-curdling scream one could ever hear. She was scared – hell – that scream scared me too. I am not exaggerating, she let loose a continuous scream that lasted for about 3-4 seconds.

Now, everyone has been startled at one point in time in their life. But how many of you actually screamed like someone was trying to murder you? Seriously, all I did was step outside the door. Did I mention this was in broad daylight at a public building and we were coworkers? Well, I was obviously the Invisible Man because as I had seen her around the lab, my presence undoubtedly went unnoticed. I am fortunate that 1) She didn’t have a Glock 19 9mm and shot me because she feared for her life. 2) There weren’t police in the area that swooped in guns blazing because they feared for her life. 3) There weren’t some overzealous good Samaritans that swooped in guns blazing because they feared for her life.

The common thread – fear. Am I being hyperbolic? Well, it only took a Cleveland officer 2 seconds to assess a police situation, and then  fatally shoot 12 year Tamir Rice. Described as a 20 year old black male when the officer radioed in the shooting, Rice was brandishing a pellet gun. I am not a brute. I am a man – a black man. My life matters. There is a troubling racial disconnect afoot. It has been for a long time, but it’s an ugly topic few want to discuss. So, let’s talk.

Black Thought

booker t 2“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”

-Booker T. Washington

Sure, it would be easy enough to become enamored by the seemingly authoritative, accomplished status of a wildly successful individual. The mere presence of seductive visuals such as expensive status symbols have tremendous influence as they elicit, sometimes, misguided deference from the admirer. However, I challenge the reader to momentarily ignore such material objects. Instead, please divert your attention to the process that granted such accomplishment possible. What did that individual experience during their journey to success? Trust this: The strength of a gentleman’s character is forged on the anvil of adversity. Through weathering distress or difficulty, prosperity is procured by he who believes a challenge is an opportunity. An opportunity to steel your will and seize achievement despite any obstacles you might encounter. Don’t be impressed by person’s materialistic results. Those are nice and fine to look at. Nevertheless, be more impressed with the vanquished adversity that withered in the face of impending success. And then go forth and forge your own.

Black Thought

maejemison“Failure to recognize possibilities is the most dangerous and common mistake one can make.”

-Mae Jemison

We must recognize the possibility. In the absence of possibility, we run the great risk of aborting our own aspirations. We must realize that through Him, our Lord and Savior, that no goal in accordance to His divine plan is unattainable. Now is the time to stop reciting the word can’t. Self defeating attitudes act only as obstacles erected by our own fears. We cannot make the mistake and believe we can’t accomplish whatever task that we bring into mental focus. Your dreams do not have to lie prone on the bed of dreams deferred and goals deterred. I implore you to stir yourself from your current state of self hindrance. Sometimes in life, we as people can be our own greatest brick wall. The moment is now to scale that wall and introduce yourself to the possibility that awaits you on the other side. Talk to you later.

Black Thought

Frederick Douglas“Believe in yourself; take advantage of every opportunity; and use the power of spoken and written language to effect positive change for society and yourself.”

-Frederick Douglass

The most wonderful thing about authoring a blog is it allows an individual to project a voice that otherwise may not be heard or recognized. I blog because I strongly feel that I have something constructive, positive to share; and I also enjoy writing and interacting with the reading audience. Now, let us be perfectly candid, there is a bevy of warm garbage circulating around on the Internet right now. Some of these individuals who write need their laptops and computers immediately confiscated and discarded into the nearest incinerator. Words should have a meaning. Words should have a purpose. Instead of adding to the gluttony of mindless, destructive Internet banter; choose to use your voice as an instrument that imparts wisdom, uplifts the spirit, and encourages thoughtful dialogue. And you can certainly have fun doing so. Right now, the landscape is wide open, anyone can create a website nowadays. If you just happen to be that one, just ensure that you add something positive to the conversation. We have more than enough trash out there, please don’t add to the pile.

Black Thought

carter-g-woodson-2“Real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to live with life as they find it and make it better.”

- Carter G. Woodson

To be absolutely sure, a gentleman’s life earns new significance when he not only identifies his purpose, but he also cultivates that purpose into something tangible that benefits other individuals. It is tragically irresponsible when an accomplished gentleman attains a certain degree of success, only to be miserly and penurious with his blessings. For the blessed gentleman that enjoys prosperity and favor, it is critical that he utilizes his influence to encourage, empower, and educate the under-served, often neglected sects of our society. When benevolence and compassion no longer exists in the hearts and minds of men, the quality of life for both the fortunate and less fortunate gradually diminish. And the best quality of life is something we should all strive to achieve – for everyone. So, operating within your domain of achievement, I urge the gentleman to re-purpose his purpose and seek to promote excellence and success in the lives those whom are underprivileged. And going forward, hopefully, they will perform the same charitable act for someone else.

 

Black Thought

WEB DuBois“Let us realize too that even we disenfranchised have our duties.”

-W.E.B. Du Bois

Responsibility. Every gentleman owns a select portion of this in his community. Regardless of his limiting socioeconomic circumstances, a gentleman must deliver the very best of his talents for the improvement of his neighborhood. I definitely understand that this may be difficult for some gentlemen. One may feel that their status in society does not meet acceptable or suitable standards. However, I say to those individuals who may feel as if life has dealt a cruel poker hand; you still have much to offer. Do not sit idle and allow your gifts to waste and rot. Your community patiently awaits your arrival. Waiting for the “right” time when everything is correct in the world is not an option. What if the “right” time never arrives? The only right time is right now. Do not hesitate. Do not second guess. You are stronger, more intelligent, and more talented than you might realize; it is your duty to improve the environment around you. You possess the necessary tools to make a difference. Act now!

Black Thought

esq-james-meredith-0113-lg“What any human being can do in life depends upon the foundation laid between birth and age five.”

 James Meredith

We are teachers – in some form or another. Now, perhaps a majority of the reading audience are devoid of the appropriate formal certification, but we are indeed teachers nonetheless. Knowingly or unknowingly instructing through our behavior, language, and actions; we shape and mold young, virginal, and formless minds. That cannot be taken for granted. We are, first and foremost, the foreman of fashioning intellectual promise, building emotional stability, and framing principled character. During those early formative years, our guidance and instruction is needed – no – it is desperately crucial to a child’s development. Their future hinges on what we teach them in the present. And that is where we should be – present; never absent from their growth and maturation. It is time for us to lead by example. We are the models of morality. We are the cultivators of character. We are the installers of integrity. We enable enthusiasm for education, and we advocate the accrual of astounding accomplishments. The foundation is ready to be laid. Let’s not wait any longer.

Black Thought

paul-robeson“Having been given, I must give.”

-Paul Robeson

Sometimes, when sequestered within moments of quiet solitude, thoughtful ruminations reveal how incredibly fortunate I am. Fortunate, not in regards to monetary value, rather, fortunate in regards to the many blessings I have reaped tremendous benefit. Yes, I have been given much. Now, I understand that some individuals hold fast to the belief that they earn everything with no, if not minimal, assistance required. Well, sometimes success acts as a vanity whose reflection never grows tiresome to the person looking at it. Look, one cannot be merciless, yet expect mercy. One cannot embrace avarice, yet expect generosity. One cannot espouse hate, yet expect love. Only speaking for myself, I have been granted favor and opportunity. I have been afforded mercy and forgiveness. I have been given love and grace. And because of those realities, it is of the utmost importance that I give back. Giving back – it could arrive in the form of your time, an inspirational word, a much needed hug, or an important professional opportunity. No one ever truly does it on their own. Someone, right now, needs you. And you may need someone. Go ahead, give of yourself and surely you will be given.

Black Thought

booker t washington“Never get to the point where you will be ashamed to ask anybody for information. The ignorant man will always be ignorant if he fears that by asking another for information he will display ignorance. Better once display your ignorance of a certain subject than always know nothing of it.”

-Booker T. Washington

Well, as the expression goes: there is no such thing as a dumb question. So true. As sometimes stubborn gentlemen, we retain this idea within our thick skulls that we know everything. Nothing could be further removed from reality-we simply don’t know everything. Yet, some gentlemen live their existence as if they do. When faced with subject matter that bewilders the mind, they occasionally conjure up imaginary facts and present them as truth. Listen, there is absolutely nothing incorrect about asking questions and increasing one’s knowledge. Better to look the fool once than be a fool forever right? Set aside the arrogance. Put away the pride. We all can benefit from the blessings of another with greater knowledge than our own. Weary are the legs of the gentleman supporting the weight of his own hubris. We don’t know everything. It’s wise to cease acting like it.

Black Thought

Booker T Washington & Family“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”

-Booker T. Washington

Sure, it would be easy enough to become enamored by the seemingly authoritative, accomplished status of a wildly successful individual. The mere presence of seductive visuals such as expensive status symbols have tremendous influence as they elicit, sometimes, misguided deference from the admirer. However, I challenge the reader to momentarily ignore such material objects. Instead, please divert your attention to the process that granted such accomplishment possible. What did that individual experience during their journey to success? Trust this: The strength of a gentleman’s character is forged on the anvil of adversity. Through weathering distress or difficulty, prosperity is procured by he who believes a challenge is an opportunity. An opportunity to steel your will and seize achievement despite any obstacles you might encounter. Don’t be impressed by person’s materialistic results. Those are nice and fine to look at. Nevertheless, be more impressed with the vanquished adversity that withered in the face of impending success. And then go forth and forge your own.

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