We Can No Longer Be Apathetic Towards Racism

I find it ironic and not at all surprising that many media outlets are pointing to drug reform (which isn’t a bad idea) in the wake of yet another mass shooting murderer who was on some sort of prescription drugs (as well as possibly some illegal ones) in a subtle attempt to make drugs some sort of scapegoat by pointing away from the indoctrinated hate that filled his heart and mind. Ironic and not surprising that when Trayvon Martin’s toxicology report turned up marijuana it wasn’t to weave a narrative of the need for drug reform, it was to prove he was a bad apple and a danger to civilized law abiding citizens. Ironic and not surprising that in less than 24 hours of his death pictures of Mike Brown playing cards, holding a wad of cash, gun on the table, and smoking marijuana wasn’t to weave a narrative of the need for drug reform. It was to prove he was bad apple and a danger to civilized law abiding citizens. Oh yeah, and it wasn’t even him in the picture it was someone else. When given the same circumstances or worse with white criminals of the most hate filled crimes (see Aurora and Newton) we find a way to somehow paint a picture of them being the victims of mental illness and poor FDA regulations.

You can accuse me of playing the race card. You can tell me you’re tired of all the talk about race its about people (to which I’d tell you to tell Dylann Roof that. Tell his friends who thought all his racial slurs and comments were merely jokes and hyperbole). You can tell me I’m just creating more division (which makes no logical sense because you don’t cause division by pointing to it, you just make people who are comfortable with it uncomfortable). You can tell me that now is the time to mourn for the 9 slain in Charleston, SC. I tell you this is part of the mourning. I mourn that our society and culture continues to weave a racist lite propaganda demonizing black people in the most subtle of ways and then is shocked and surprised when someone actually buys it and walks into a church and before unleashing Hell on earth tells nine people, among them a state Senator four reverends, a barber, a grandmother, “I have to do it. You rape our women and are taking over OUR country. You have to go.”

We, you and me (that’s right me too) are complicit in keeping racism alive and well as long as we continue to bury our heads in the sand about the evil and decay of even our subtle forms of racism in this country simply because it makes us uncomfortable. We are not uncomfortable enough and our mourning achieves little if we refuse to act.

A Culture of Fear Acquitted: A Rational Explanation Of Why Zimmerman’s Acquittal Is Bothersome

In the last 24 hours I’ve had two people, one in person and the other via facebook, ask me to explain my perspective on the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman case. As one of them put it, “You are using a rational approach to expressing the same thing I have seen expressed much less rationally but still do not understand.” I imagine there are others of you who are struggling to understand why people—in particular, black-Americans—are at the least disheartened and at the most enraged that George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder as well as the lesser charge of manslaughter.

First let me clarify that I totally understand why George Zimmerman was acquitted. In a case with no other witnesses aside from Zimmerman it is extremely difficult to provide substantial evidence that he was lying, omitting facts or details, or otherwise twisting the truth. The justice system worked the way it is supposed to. Zimmerman was innocent until proven guilty and the prosecution had very little to work with. I am not God nor do I presume to be. The problem I have is: in a way, someone or something else was acquitted right along with Zimmerman. In the minds of myself and many others racial profiling aimed at black men was excused as well.

It was bad enough that black men have had to be concerned about being profiled and pulled over by police or profiled by security in malls and stores. Now the outcome of this trial has now a green light for civilians to profile pursue and detain black men they deem suspicious. We know better than to get mouthy or defend ourselves against police officers and security personnel, even though we’ve done nothing wrong. The outcome of this trial means that in at least 25 states with Stand Your Ground Laws, we can no longer defend ourselves against civilians who would find us—as we say—“under the suspicion of being black” and attempt to question or even detain us. That is where we feel the justice system failed us. That is where we feel the sting of inequality.

There are some making genuine attempts to look at this case objectively who would balk at my assessment because it is rooted in my and others personal experiences of being profiled. Many would suspect us of playing the race card and allowing our paranoia of racism and prejudice to shape our interpretation of these events and experiences. Many don’t understand why we assume that the interaction between Zimmerman and Martin was racially motivated occurrence. However, it’s not just black people who are greatly concerned about what the verdict of this trial means for racial profiling. There is a growing generation of white-Americans who have skin in the game.

Here is a snippet of what a friend, who is white, posted as they tried to sort through their emotions, “Right now I’m teaching all four of my children to fight back, scream for help, bite, kick or whatever they need to do to resist an attacker. But one day, when they’re older, I need to tell two of them to do the opposite, and not defend themselves because it’s too dangerous. Two of my sons are black so I’ve been reading and listening for years to black parents—who’ve lived through profiling by police, store clerks and their neighbors—that I need to teach my twins as they mature NOT to resist or fight even if they’ve done nothing wrong because it’s too dangerous. They must completely submit lest someone decide to issue their own form of justice and end their lives because they look ‘suspicious’.”

Let me reiterate I am not God nor do I presume to be. I don’t know anymore than anyone else whether or not George Zimmerman’s account of what happened that night is completely true or a lie. Nor do I presume to know what the intentions of his heart were that day. In a lot of ways, this isn’t even about Zimmerman and Trayvon anymore. Our society has packaged sold and promoted an image of black men that is overwhelmingly negative and brews fear, mistrust and suspicion. I am sure of this because I have even found myself to be suspicious of black men for no other reason than they were black all in the name of being safe. It’s an awful feeling to realize that you would be suspicious of yourself if you saw you in a different part of town and dressed differently. Popular media such as music, movies, TV shows and especially the ten o’clock news anywhere near an urban area reinforces the message that black men are a menace to society. I had a sinking feeling about the verdict not because I was convinced that Zimmerman was guilty, but because I felt as though the justice system acquitted a culture that says I’m a menace and suspicious. I feel as though the justice system justified the people who stare and keep an eye on me when I’m out with my wife or out in public with students in my youth ministry (just about all of whom are white). And that is why many of us who are fathers, mothers, wives, sons and daughters, neighbors and co-workers of black men are concerned about what this verdict means. It justified the caricature of black men in pop culture that is one of the root causes of the suspicion people have about them.

Uh Oh Cheerios!!! Backlash No Surprise Here

I’m guessing that I’m not the only one who is just finding out about the stir that was caused by a Cheerios commercial on YouTube two weeks ago. It was actually my brother in law who lives in the south of England that asked my wife and I what we thought about it, and we had no idea what he was talking about. One quick Google search and we were up to date.

The commercial, a 31 second spot, depicts an interracial family. A cute little black-white mixed girl with Cheerios box in hand asks her white mother, who is sitting in the kitchen working on something, are cheerios good for your heart. The mom gives the answer we’d all expect about Cheerios being whole grain, low cholesterol, low blah blah blah, upon which the little girl promptly exits the kitchen. It then cuts to the black father who suddenly wakes up from his catnap on the couch to discover that the left side of his chest is covered in Cheerios.

The backlash in the comments section of YouTube apparently was so ugly that General Mills, requested that YouTube disable the comments section for their video. Of course there are plenty of videos of people sharing their disappointment with the commercial. White people and black people alike were upset, really upset. Most were upset that Cheerios would even present an interracial couple as being the normal American family at all. Some were accusing Cheerios as being racist not because the family was interracial but because the black father was depicted as being a lazy good for nothing sleeping on the couch, while the white mother was busy paying the bills and doing other responsible stuff. And of course there is backlash to the backlash. There are people who are surprised that there are people who still harbor such a racist worldview.

I’ve thought about sharing my perspective on this before, but honestly I just kind of put it off. I suppose this most recent event, even being two weeks behind the curve as I don’t watch much TV news these days, is a timely catalyst to share why none of it surprises. The fact that there are people who probably wouldn’t consider themselves racist (they are), but are nonetheless bothered, offended, or simply don’t like to see their race mixing with others, and yet are not part of a secret society on the basis of their hate for other races or supremacy of their own is no surprise to me at all.

I figured the best way to organize my thoughts is to address various different groups whom this may concern.

To the Cheerios brand and General Mills Company… Thank you! As an interracial family it is important to us that our daughter occasionally see some depictions in the media of families that look like her family. I notice when commercials and television shows depict interracial families cause it’s so rare. Especially depictions that aren’t wrapped up in the social commentary and implications of the difficulty of interracial marriage like the movies Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and it’s remake Guess Who I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that there is probably more “positive” depictions of homosexual couples on TV than there are of interracial families on TV. The most popular interracial couple on TV right now is, Scandal, which of course is an adulterous relationship (go figure). I can’t even get a Valentines Day card featuring an interracial couple, and if I could at a place like Hallmark or Target you’d likely have people complaining then too.

To the Haters aka Racists or Closet Racists… Thanks for making yourself known. I’ve always said I prefer the racist that let’s you know they don’t like you or approve, than the one who smiles in your face whilst wishing curses upon your head. A special group of closet racists happen to be Christians who have been taught and raised to believe that God doesn’t take too kindly to interracial relationships and mingling of the races beyond being cordial polite in the public arena (i.e. school, work, and recreation). Every instance in scripture of a command being given to not intermarry was an issue of idolatry not race. In the Old Testament (Numbers 25.1-3), God was concerned with Israel being tempted to follow after the gods of the foreign nations. Likewise in the New Testament (2nd Corinthians 6.14-17) Paul was concerned with those in the body of Christ becoming yoked to those who were outside of the body of Christ. If you don’t believe or agree with me then you may want to take a closer look at Numbers 12.1-8 and see God’s response to Aaron and Miriam giving Moses a hard time about his interracial marriage.

To Those Who Are Genuinely Surprised By The Negativity… I was speaking to my wife about this and we both agree, that the thing we’re most surprised by is that there is so many people who are surprised that so many people didn’t like the commercial because of their strong belief that the races shouldn’t mix.

Some friends of ours were kind enough to keep Isla overnight so Emma and I could get away. It was a white couple and of course Isla is darker than most mixed race children. They shared with us that they went out in public with her and received some disapproving and nasty looks from others. Didn’t surprise us at all cause it happens to us all the time. We never warned them that this could happen, they picked up on it themselves.

When Emma and I started dating I never gave her a heads up what to expect as in terms of people glaring at us in this manner. She being from Scotland knew about America’s racial history, however, she didn’t realize how big of an issue it still is. Early on in our dating life if we got the ugly looks I never said anything, I never pointed it out to see if she saw it. All on her own she picked up on it and knew exactly what it was, and asked me if I had noticed it. And yes we can distinguish fairly accurately between the inquisitive glare and the disapproving glare. Talk to anyone who is in an interracial relationship or have children of another race and they can tell you all about it. Typically it’s not as bad in cities, but once you get out into rural America, it can be thick.

I’ll never forget being in Georgia for a wedding, and Emma and I stopped into Target. Two black girls gave us the ugliest gawk and mumbled disapproval just loud enough to make sure we heard. I nearly snapped around and said to them, “Be mad if you want to but it was girls just like you who as a teenager ignored me because I wasn’t ‘black’ enough, ‘hard’ enough, or just plain good enough to give the time of day, because I had the gall to be myself and not worry about all the tired nonsense and stereotypes that would allow me to ‘keep it real’.”

The reality is that there are still many people who are raised to dislike, stay clear, be weary of people, or not mix with people of other races. In particular more white and black people have been taught these things in regards to one another from birth. Less than days gone by but enough for it to still be prevalent.

To Those Who Lost Faith In Humanity… Not to sound dismissive or arrogant but one of the reasons why I reject faith in humanity is because I think it is dismissive of how troubling and deep the selfishness of the human heart is and if unchecked the evil schemes it can and has devised over the course of history. That’s not to dismiss the fact that we are also capable of wondrous beauty, creativity, compassion, kindness, love, and ingenuity human beings are capable of. But we can’t just dismiss every evil plot of mankind away with mental illness and poor nurturing. At what point do we recognize that some of this nonsense is just in our nature, and is never going to be fully solved through human progress?

A Cornball Brother? I’ll Be That!!! (An Open Response to Rob Parker)

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I’ve often told people when asked about my experiences with racism that I have experienced as much if not more racism from my fellow black brethren as I have white people. Whether in candid conversation, in talks about my adolescent struggles with identity to the students of my youth ministry, or guest speaking to sociology classes at the university I was attending at the time, this comment has caught many off guard and by surprise. They often ask me to explain what I mean.

Well ladies and gentlemen I need not explain anymore. Look no further than sports journalist and ESPN personality Rob Parker and his comments or question about whether or not Washington Redskin Rookie Quarterback and 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is a “brutha”or is he a cornball brother”. His little “honest question” as he calls it is exhibit A of what I’ve had to put up with for a good portion of my life from “bruthas” who suspected or straight up tagged me as a cornball brother as he so eloquently put it. When I was in school they didn’t come up with, no pun intended, corny names that beat around the bush of what they were really getting at. They were very much to the point when they called me an ‘Oreo’—black on the outside and white on the inside. They didn’t hide their feelings when they called me a sellout. It’s ironic to see a man of his ilk, a black journalist that has had some good measure of success to stoop to such an ignorant assessment of the quality and character of a man. I wish I had the opportunity to see Rob Parker so I could give him a piece of my mind. I know exactly what I would tell him…

“I’LL BE THAT! If given the choice between being what you deem a brutha and being a cornball brother then I’ll take the latter. See I discovered something in the midst of the struggle to be more than okay with who I am, and who I was raised to be. If talking proper English brought my blackness into question, so be it. If wearing my pants on my waist and not half way down my butt brought my blackness into question, so be it. If attending an all-white church made me a sellout then so be it. If having mostly white friends made me an Oreo then so be it. So be it because I know who I am. If having a straight-laced image with clean cut hair as opposed to braids makes me unworthy of hanging out with you then so be it (even though I had cornrows for a few years). I AM so much more than the ignorant, shallow, close-minded, negative stereotypes spin-doctored into being a definition of blackness and keeping it real. And I feel sorry for you that even with all your success, education and accomplishments that you are still trapped in that pathetic mental prison, that ghetto of the mind, that says to be truly black you must conform to the following standards of life and living that boxes you into a life that has done little more than yield a life expectancy of no more than 60 years old for black males in America. You can have your brutha life and all the fruitless accolades it garners you and I’ll stick to my cornball brother life.

You see, cornball brothers like me and RGIII, don’t need bruthas like you to tell us where our true value lies. Cornball brothers like me and RGIII were raised by parents who didn’t wipe the tears from our eyes after another day of being ridiculed for not being black enough by you bruthas. They looked us dead in the eye, and told us that the world is bigger than where we are currently; our neighborhood, our school, and our town. The world is bigger than the world you ‘bruthas’ try to make it out to be. We eventually learned to have the courage to simply be who we are, and surround ourselves with people who accept us for who we are regardless of what they looked like. You may find it surprising that surrounding ourselves with people who accept us for who we are is a big part of the reason why we date and even marry white women. As it turns out there’s a lot of sistas out there who are stuck in the same mental prison as you bruthas and won’t give us cornball brothers the time of day.

But that’s all right though. I’m not mad, cause as I said I know who I am. If it wasn’t for ignorant bruthas like you Rob, who made me feel like I was nothing I might not have been pushed to the point of searching deep within to find my true identity and worth that you bruthas wouldn’t know a thing about, and that is why I feel sorry for you. So as you bruthas would say, “I’ma do me dawg! You do you!” I don’t need to be included in whatever your cause is, you don’t need to worry about hanging out with me. I’ll be busy getting my cornball on!