Token Confessions Entry 3 – Visiting a Place Where You Are “the Only One”

Imagine visiting a place where you are “the only one”. Being “the only one” is not out of the ordinary for you, because it is largely your daily experience. This is your daily experience and so reading certain non-verbal and social cues has become second nature. You have become very adept at reading a room when you are “the only one” because you’ve been doing it since before you could remember. Your intuition in these settings has been finely tuned over years of occupying spaces as “the only one”. You know when your presence is wanted or unwanted, noticed or unnoticed, familiar or a mystery, welcome or suspicious. This time is different though. It’s different because you can tell through the series of non-verbal cues, the hesitation of what to say, how to engage you, that for most in the majority you are “the first one”. The first one they are seeing, meeting, greeting, and engaging in the flesh.
 
Prior to you all of their interactions with people “like you” were limited to crossing paths. Some even admit to this. Perhaps a sporting event, a concert, or some other activity that involves going to “the city” where all kinds of people live and intersect. In the absence of proximity there has not been the opportunity to form relationship with someone “like you”. Therefore what most of those here from the majority know about people “like you” is limited to television, movies, music, history text books, and what they’ve been told by family and the community they’re from about people “like you”. You are familiar with what those sources often display and portray. You know the limitations and narrowness of those sources all too well. Those sources can often be a source of contention with your soul, your being, and the community of those “like you”. They are too often the bane of your existence, because they put people “like you” in a box. The box is too often toxic.
 
You are the first “them” or “they” that they are meeting in a space where you and them are also the same. You have both come for the same reason. So though you are “the only one”, you are also one of many. You knew this going in and you had hoped that what you had in common with everyone else would overshadow what singularly set you apart as “the only one”.
 
For some they are completely unfazed by you being “the only one” or perhaps even “the first one”. For some the fact that you are there for the same reason as them supersedes you being one of “them”. They interact engage and inquire of you the same as they do with everyone else. However, for many… for most in fact… they struggle awkwardly with the most basic of things. How to greet you. How to talk to you. What to say. Your presence as “the only one” overshadows that you are the same because amongst other things you are there for the same reason. You are a mystery that evokes an awkwardness that is not easily veiled. It’s not that they don’t like the “they” or “them” they’ve only ever watched on tv, heard on the radio or read about in history textbooks.
 
It’s as simple as they have never met one of “them” or “they” tclose enough to shake hands, and have a conversation further than ordering food from MacDonalds or paying for gas inside, because in that one city, that one time, where everyone had to prepay, because well it’s not as safe where a lot of “them” live. The fact that you aren’t from one of those places where a lot of “them” live comes as a surprise to the point that you have to keep reiterating that you aren’t from “there”. They’ve been hardwired to assume that everyone like you is from that one city, so you have to keep correcting them and reminding them that you are from somewhere else. Somewhere where you aren’t necessarily “the only one”, but you are in the minority. What makes it even more noticeable is that you have come to this place with two others who are not “one of them”, but are from where you’re from. In fact the three of you have all come together, even though you’re “the only one”. Yet invariably people you meet together, who aren’t use to seeing people “like you”, assume that you must be from that one city that has a lot of “them”, and not from the same place as the other two people you came with. Lastly there are those, just a few but enough to make an impression, that aren’t making the effort (reciprocate) to get to know you, because they already know everything they need to know about people “like you”. They have always been fine with being separate from people “like you”.
 
Your weekend at this place is mostly exhausting and draining. You imagine yourself potentially choosing to be there and how your existence in that space will just been a extension of that weekend visit. If you should choose to do life there, even for a time, you imagine you would perpetually feel exhausted and drained simply for being “the only one” and for many there you would be “the first one”. You are a month from being eighteen. Choosing here would be choosing the first place to be independent you, away from your parents and the support system you’ve had growing up. In that moment you become keenly aware that you are not ready to be, you do not want to be “the only one” here.

[At least that’s what I decided. Are you still imagining what it would’ve been like to be in my shoes? If so how did it make you feel? What would you have done? Thanks for considering and contemplating one of my memories of an experience I had as the “token black guy”.]

Token Confessions Entry 2: My Daughter Doesn’t Think She Looks Like A Princess

Many have a hard time accepting that White Supremacy exists in modern day America beyond the pockets of robe wearing hate groups, tiki torch carrying white nationalists, and other extremists who give the ideology of white supremacy agency. At it’s core the ideology of White Supremacy is not about hatred. It’s about who and what is inherently superior and therefore who and what is inherently inferior.

My seven year old daughter loves nothing more than wearing a pretty dress and being told she is beautiful. She’ll put it on underneath her bathrobe and come skipping up to me or her mother with that larger than life grin on her face, unveil the dress she has adorned herself in and ask the same question, “How do I look?”, hoping to be told she looks beautiful.

Just the other morning this routine unfolded. She first came to me in the den reading the mornings news. I paused for a moment to gaze into the eyes of my daughter and told her in my understated way, “You look beautiful”. She then proceeded to the office to present herself to her mother and ask the same question to which Emma said, “You look like a princess.” At this Isla replied…

“I can’t look like a princess mummy. Princesses don’t have brown skin like me. They have light skin like you mummy, and blonde hair like you.”

Emma was quick to not simply tell Isla that her brown skin doesn’t render her unworthy or unfit of being a princess, but to also go to google. She typed in “black princess” and scrolled through numerous images of princesses with brown skin and dark hair like Isla. One day Isla will truly be able to appreciate and understand how fortunate she is to have HER pale skinned Scottish mummy as HER mother. In the meanwhile she, freshly seven years old, has already received the message.

It is a message that no one told her. No one has had to articulate it to her. She knows little to nothing about racism nor the history of white supremacy in shaping her native land long before she was born. But she has received the message that white is right, and black is well… less than. Inferior.

My daughter’s response to being told she looks like a princess is an example of how white supremacy works in 2018.

No one told her that black is inferior.

No one told her that black isn’t beautiful.

No one told her that white skin or blonde hair is better than brown skin and thick black hair.

But simply by living in this culture and society she has received the message that whiteness is superior, and black is inferior. That white is the image of true beauty, beauty that she will never be able to attain.

No matter how extravagant the dress, it is on brown skin.

No matter how fabulous the hair is styled, it’s thick black and resting on a brown canvas.

And she has been seven years old for a month.

That is how white supremacy works in 2018.

It is so woven into the fabric of our society and culture. It was a core principle and driving factor fueling colonization and European Imperialism. Due to its central role in shaping the world for nearly six hundred years (see the Papal Bull Statement of 1452) it no longer requires personal agency to ensure its ideology, its tenets, its principles are passed on. It is a well oiled machine that has learned to adapt to new times and challenges.

In America we consistently make the mistake of thinking the Emancipation Proclamation abolished the idea of inherent white superiority. It only abolished slavery while leaving the ideology that birthed it intact. Unchecked and unquestioned it has enormous power to shape how we think without us being aware it has taken hold. Even with the recent increase in white nationalism white supremacy is most effective in and insidious in its subtle forms.

Token Confessions Entry 1 – On This the Six Year Anniversary of the Murder of Trayvon Martin

Six years ago today Trayvon Martin was murdered on his way home from the convenience store. His death and the subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman was the catalyst for the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Today I am reflecting on the past six years of this social movement against anti-Black racism in light of the present gun debate we are having.

Dylan Roof and Nikolas Cruz received more restraint and strict adherence to procedural protocol after killing 26 people between the two of them than…

Tamir Rice
Philando Castile
Alton Sterling
John Crawford III

In all four of those cases (two involving toy guns) I don’t recall any pro-gun advocates or the NRA being alarmed at how quickly these individuals were killed due to them possessing a firearm, and every intermediate step of de-escalation was bypassed in favor of just shooting and killing the individual. What about their…’

Gun Rights

Black victims had their whole lives excavated in order to find cause for victim blaming. Trayvon Martin? Smoked weed, Not just any weed but allegedly chemically enhanced weed that made him aggressive. Moreover, he had recently been suspended from school. Tamir Rice was “large for his age”, and “shouldn’t have been playing with a toy gun at a park”, in a city where white men flaunted their right to open carry inside of Target. Mike Brown was equated to wrestling legend Hulk Hogan or a demon, plus he had just stolen cigarillos. Philando should have just done what the officer asked. Eric Garner shouldn’t have questioned why they were messing with him over selling loose cigarettes. Nikolas Cruz and Dylan Roof on the other hand were simply…

Troubled
Suffering from Mental Illness

I’m grateful that the survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas are being given a national platform to air their grievances and concerns instead of tanks, militarized riot police, and tear gas. Moreover, I doubt high schoolers across the country will be met with much more than a suspension if they stage walk outs from school. I wish the same would have opportunity for constructive dialogue before lawmakers would have been given to the teenagers and citizens of…

Baltimore
Ferguson

I agree that there needs to be more resources education and awareness on mental illness. If for no other reason so we can make a distinction between mental illness and toxic unresolved anger that grows and festers if left in isolation. I wish there was a similar push for education of…

Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery not white supremacy
Generational Poverty
The High School to Prison Pipeline
The failure of the Mass Incarceration System

And how all those things have negatively affected communities of color.

I believe most gun owners are responsible law-abiding and knowledgeable about the rights afforded them under the Second Amendment. I understand their suspicion of a slippery slope that would lead to the dismantling of their rights under the second amendment. US prison population went from 350K to over 2 mil. A disproportionate amount of them black and brown largely because of the dismantling of the…

4th Amendment
14th Amendment

But I don’t think they have to worry too much even if gun laws became a little more strict. The origins of the Second Amendment was to defend against the possible invasion of the British trying to take back the continent, and against possible insurrection of the indigenous people’s of America and West African slaves. That’s why there were so many laws prohibiting free black men from bearing arms, because the Second Amendment functionally only defended the right to bear arms for…

Land Owners (colonizers)
White Men

Over 20 million Native Americans were killed leaving only a remnant left to live on reservations, slavery was reshaped into the mass incarceration system whilst America re-segregated itself, and the Brits are welcome as tourists and green card-carrying expats. It’s no wonder the gun debate is so contentious amongst, white America because the only ones they have left to bear arms against is…

One Another

When the murderer is Muslim, America responds with a travel ban. When the murderer is Hispanic, America responds with tougher immigration laws (for those seeking to cross our southern borders) and wants to build a wall. When the murderer is Black, America responds with more police and prisons. When the murderer is White, America responds with…

Thoughts and prayers