Sunday, March 25, 2007

So You're Talking Revolution. . .

So guess what I’ve spent my week doing?

Battling a bad cold (hence no new posts!), feeling miserable, listening to talk radio, keeping my chin up, and . . . . pondering on the nature of “armchair revolutionaries.”

MY GOODNESS, there are SO MANY “armchair revolutionaries” calling in to talk radio shows, have you noticed?

Theorizing and proselytizing from the comfort of their easy chairs, talking about what everyone else could do and should do without actually taking any action themselves.

Sound familiar, right? Because face it, most of us are “Armchair Revolutionaries,” criticizing others taking action while never getting in the game ourselves and it is time for that to stop!

“Changing the system” begins in your own home and on your own block. It begins with first changing ourselves and living the way we are supposed to be living (i.e. as in the way we tell others they should be living!). It proceeds with encouraging and enabling those around us to a better way. And those actions take root and blossom as we make the progression to really seeing –- really seeing –- what goes on around us with new eyes. Not critical ones ever ready to tear down someone else, but compassionate ones ever ready to build up.

Build up and reach out in action by helping those individuals and organizations that are on the front lines trying to make a positive difference. And you can take action in many ways:

• give a financial, direct service, or material contribution to a grassroots nonprofit organization who needs it

• answer a “call to action” and write your congressman, senator, and/or your state representative to give support to a piece of legislation that will help the community

• sponsor a child going to summer camp or an enrichment class

• mentor a child

• help clean up your community

• report drug activity on your block

• educate yourself on this country’s history and the resulting, continuing effects of institutionalized racism and oppression (hey, I’m sick, not amnesic. . .you didn’t seriously believe I’d leave that out, did you? [smile])

• take a good, hard look in the mirror. Critique yourself with as much honesty and detail as you critique others. Then heal yourself – and get assistance in healing yourself -- so that you can encourage and enable others to heal

We so often believe that we must do something really big for an action to have meaning. But it is those small actions that we commit to each day that make the most difference.

So, while you are waiting for the “big” action, the “revolution [that] won’t be televised,” start with these smaller ones. Baby steps, right?

And you can begin, “Armchair Revolutionaries,” just by getting out of that chair.

Moving Forward,


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Black Man's (and Woman's) Burden: Making White People Comfortable in Discussions on Race (Part 2)

African Americans are a big part of the “issue” (read: problem) in discussions about race.

There are definitely times when we are our own worst enemies.

Below are the three primary ways in which we collude in the “plantation dynamics” that oftentimes occur in interactions between African Americans and whites . . . especially as they relate to conversations about race.

• Being the defenders of “our” white people when other African Americans or people of color challenge them on manifesting white privilege.

African Americans (and other people of color) oftentimes jump to the ready to defend those white people they consider friends and family from other African Americans who challenge them. No matter how obvious the manifestation of white privilege –- verbal or behavioral –- they will play the role of defender, battling any other person of color who dares challenge their white friend, with all the passion and activism they never exhibit in the fight for racial justice and for the interest of their people.

Sadly, instead of the white person then having the opportunity to honestly engage and grow through the exchange, they are content “hiding” behind their friendship with the person of color who is championing them, and the focus deflects from the white offender’s comment/action to the two African Americans (or other people of color) engaging in a verbal display that does nothing to enlighten anyone or resolve the original issue and everything to validate the white person who initiated it.

And this is different from the “enslaver/enslaved” relationship how? The only difference I see is that now it is voluntary.

• Discounting history when building relationships with whites in Amerikkka.

As quiet as it is kept, there have always been relationships between African Americans and whites, even during times of enslavement, Black Codes, Jim Crow -- all the way up to James Crow Esq. “Friendships” between African Americans and whites are nothing new.

What IS new is the way African Americans have developed a collective amnesia -–the flip side of the kind that whites have developed -– about racial history. At every other time in this country’s history Africans and their descendants have understood the context in which their “friendships” developed -- i.e., that everything between Africans/African Americans and whites was within the parameters of a white supremacist structure that left them in unequal and vulnerable positions. Yet today we buy into the myth that “friendships” between African Americans and whites are “equal” because the chains resulting from the unequal power dynamic are not as obvious as they once were. (If you are unclear what I mean, just take your white buddy and try to catch a cab . . . separately. . .and see who gets picked up. Or drive two expensive cars while dressed in workout clothes . . . separately . . . and see who is stopped by police. Or flip through magazines and see whose image is held up as being the height of beauty. For example.)

During the last 40+ years, Black/white “buddy” movies have moved to the center of public consciousness, fostering the myth that “racism is no longer an issue” and that we can “all just get along.” And African Americans have assimilated into a white world view to the point they are willing to focus on the individual to the exclusion of the larger context in which we all live -– one that advantages whites and disadvantages African Americans and other people of color.

There is much talk from many white people –- and many African Americans -- about racism being individual “hate” that would dissipate if only we could “change hearts.” And while waiting another 100 – 400 years for that change might be acceptable for those who hold privilege, for those who don’t –- and for their children and children’s children and children’s children’s children -- that is a mighty long time to wait.

Again, African Americans: if your focus is on judging people by only their individual identity while ignoring their place in the larger group identity power structure and Amerikkkan context -- which many white people and some African Americans promote -- and if you believe that people should only be held accountable for their individual actions while ignoring their role in the larger Amerikkkan context -– which many white people and some African Americans promote -- then a reasonable question for each of us to ask our white friends and family is:

“If you love me as you say you do and if I am your friend as you say I am, then look at my reality and ask yourself: what are you doing to advance racial justice for me and mine so that we can have the unearned advantages that you and yours have and have always had in this country?”

And if the answer is nothing more tangible or weighty than “I read the speeches of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and I celebrate Kwanzaa and I listen to rap and hip-hop music and I have Black friends” -- or some version thereof -- then maybe you need to reevaluate the relationship and the role you have chosen to play in it.

And maybe even hold “your” white people accountable for their actions and speech instead of letting them hide behind their friendship with you. After all, accountability is a two-way street. African Americans are always being urged to be “accountable” for the problems we have in our community. I’m all for that . . . and for others understanding that many of the problems currently in our communities result from generations of institutional racial oppression and it is incumbent upon us to hold this country –- and those who continue to benefit economically, socially, educationally, etc. -- accountable, too.

And that includes our white friends and family.

Moving on, let’s talk about the following:

• Being “too heavenly bound to do any earthly good.”

The Black church was the vanguard of social activism/racial justice efforts up until the 1960s – 1970s.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen now that we hide behind our religion and use spirituality as an excuse to retreat from the fight for justice -– now that we are more materially and physically comfortable than our predecessors.

We buy into the “mainstream” concept that “forgiveness” and “racial reconciliation” are the ultimate goals that will usher in a colorblind society of true brotherhood/sisterhood and that a call for anything else –- either as significant as the justice of reparations or as innocuous as an apology for past and current racial oppression -- is “un-Christian” and “racially divisive.”

Forgiveness is great and something that we all need, but repeatedly “forgiving” in the face of the same continuing oppression without working to change it and to obtain justice is just . . . well, you supply the word.

But the one thing it does not strike me as is spiritual.

And while I assume that all of us want to be “heavenly bound,” while we are on Earth, let us do some “earthly good.” It is not just about us, but about those who come after us.

Are you satisfied with where we are on issues of race and racial oppression? If not, we’ve all got some work to do.

Stop hiding behind spirituality to give our white friends and family a free pass in conversations about racism/white supremacy and the ways in which they are manifesting that and/or their white privilege.

Stop taking on those other African Americans and people of color when they question the actions/behavior of your white friends and family. Sometimes it feels like we are more comfortable and feel freer to fight among ourselves than to fight together for a justice that would benefit us all.

Let’s hold white friends and family as accountable for their actions and let’s be as quick to “jump in their Kool-Aid” with as much fervor and passion as we demonstrate in criticizing and correcting each other.

Accountability is part of being spiritual and righteous. And accountability is not just “a Black thang” to be dragged out when talking about our own and tucked away like we’d be whupped if we demand it of others.

If our Ancestors did that, we’d still be in chains.

Sometimes, My Beloved People, the hearts and minds we first have to change are our own.

Moving Forward,


Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Black Man's (and Woman's) Burden: Making White People Comfortable in Discussions on Race (Part 1)

Tell me, when are we going to be able to put our burden down? Because it is HEAVY carrying white people in discussions of race.

And the "fault" for that is not all on one side; no, we all bear a little bit of that burden. However, as in most comparisons in this country using racial indicators, African Americans -– as usual –- end up carrying a disproportionate load. Below are some of the primary reasons why:

· White people in this country do not see the breadth and depth of their generational privilege, if they see it at all (and most do not).

Just as most of us take for granted on a day-to-day basis the very air we breathe to live, white people seem not to be willing or able to see the day-to-day white privilege -– the concrete benefits of access to resources and social rewards and the (group) power to shape the norms and values of society which whites receive, unconsciously or consciously, by virtue of their skin color in a racist society -- that smoothes and soothes life's rough edges for them in so many instances.

The "merit" mythology that has been an Amerikkkan justification through generations of enslavement; Black Codes; Jim Crow; and now James Crow, Esq., has been firmly entrenched in the hearts, minds, and spirits of most whites (and many African Americans, for that matter).

To deny that most basic of Amerikkkan beliefs –- that if you work hard enough and "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" you can succeed -- and the corresponding racist view that African Americans are in the "situation" they are in because they have not -– is to, apparently, have your world shaken to the core.

So oftentimes when stating the reality of white privilege, African Americans hear these "comebacks" from whites: "but what about Oprah Winfrey? And Bob Johnson? And all those Black sports millionaires? What about them? And now you have 'a Black' running for president! What more do you people want?"

Alas, "justice" seems too hard a concept to grasp when you're talking about the reality and manifestation of white privilege.

· White people in this country see themselves as "good people" who have nothing to do with oppression.

One way in which this country dismisses and denigrates its institutional –- federal, state, locally, and commercially sanctioned oppression of Africans and their descendants -- culpability regarding the Amerikkkan Apartheid under which whites as a group flourished is to associate oppression with "fringe groups" like the KKK while maintaining a willful blindness to the ways in which the dominant group's acceptance of this country's philosophical "norms" enable and promote racist philosophy and resulting institutional manifestations.

For example, most people, white or other, have never heard of the "Black Tax" (that extra amount of money African Americans pay when making major purchases such as cars, houses, etc., and which is apparent in indicators such as health, among others) the "Black Tax" still exists today and economists -- such as former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Andrew Brimmer -- estimate that "Black Tax" "soft" discrimination costs African Americans more than $10 billion yearly (through the wage gap, reduced social security and other government benefits, etc.). Other economists put losses resulting from the "Black Tax" in the trillions annually.

Thus institutional racism is allowed to flourish -– and is seen as "business as usual" and "normal" -- while the citizenry who want to remain willfully ignorant are supported and rewarded in doing so.

And while African American and white groups can both choose to be willfully ignorant, the impact of that decision is different for each of the two groups: whites continue to benefit and African Americans continue to bear the cost.

· White people do not recognize their group identity.

White people see themselves as "individuals" only and accuse African Americans and others of practicing "group identity politics" while ignoring their own and the ways in which they practice it.

For example, by promoting and advancing racism/white supremacy as individual "hate" and "ignorance" while downplaying and whitewashing the hundreds of years of institutional Amerikkkan Apartheid, individual white people in this country are allowed and encouraged to maintain the fiction that racial oppression has nothing to do with them . . . that they should be seen as individuals, not members of a dominant group whose parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and children have/will have unearned privilege by being a part of that group at the expense of African Americans and other people of color who are not accorded "honorary white" status in this society.

· White people are afraid of African American "anger" and of being "called out" regarding their role in the racial politics of oppression practiced by their racial group.

Time and time again, white people want to be kept "comfortable" in discussions of race. They want to be assured that they will not be "attacked" (read: questioned, challenged, and made uncomfortable). And any visible sign of anger from African Americans often shuts down discussions as most white people react to that anger by making it -- and their own discomfort and hurt feelings -– "the issue" as opposed to examining the root cause of the anger being expressed.

In other words, they fall back into a fear of an "angry Black man" or an "angry Black woman."

No one would question the appropriateness of a rape victim's anger; no one would question the appropriateness of the anger of someone who was a victim of a violent crime; no one would question the appropriateness of anger people may have at senseless life tragedies.

Yet the anger of African Americans is seen as whining, having a "victim mentality," making excuses, or being "stuck in the past."

The anger of African Americans is never seen as being a valid response to multigenerational grievous crimes against humanity but as a stubborn obstacle to a goal that many white people see as critical to "race relations moving forward": forgiveness.

Witness the reason why the great Nelson Mandela is lauded in the West: because he "forgave" his jailers and focused on reconciliation instead of justice. Witness the way that this country holds up one speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while ignoring just about everything else he has said on racial justice, oppression, and white Amerikkka's -– including liberal white Amerikkka's -– role in perpetrating oppression and the plantation dynamic (in which whites are seen as the major "actors" and leaders and African Americans are seen as the good lieutenants or in an "assistant leader" role). Witness the way Malcolm X -– if he is mentioned at all by white Amerikkka -– is compartmentalized as the unacceptable, "pre-Mecca Malcolm" and the "post-Mecca Malcolm," who is acceptable because he is seen as being more open to engaging whites as "individuals" (having seen white Muslims for whom the practice of Islamic religion was more important than the practice of white supremacy) instead of primarily by their group identity as racial oppressors.

Forgiveness, reconciliation, and "healing" become the holy trinity for race relations in Amerikkkan society for whites as a group as they -- and some African Americans and other people of color -- practice collective amnesia regarding the critical factor that precedes the three: Justice.

Moving Forward,


Next Post: The Black Man's (and Woman's) Burden: Making White People Comfortable in Discussions on Race -- African American Collusion (Part 2)

*Thanks to my BARN/WARN network for the definition!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Makes Me Wanna Holla...The Language of White Supremacy

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Okay, here we go....

Now I know you've heard about Al Sharpton's familial ancestors being "owned" by Strom Thurmond's. And about Barack Obama's (white)mother's family "owning" "slaves."

Now tell me what is wrong with this picture...or are you so used to this language that it seems "normal" and "right"?

Well, two things are for sure: in this society, this kind of language IS both "normal" and "white (supremacist)."

But it ain't right, okay, and we must stop believing that it is.

Words matter and all "mainstream" (and you know I mean white-owned) media who use terms like "owned" and "slave" to describe the circumstance of those HUMAN BEINGS (hello!!) who were ENSLAVED are standing in symbolic solidarity of racial oppression by using the language of Amerikkkan enslavers, who spoke of "owning" "slaves" in a successful multi-generational, systemic, and institutional dehumanization campaign against Afrikans and their descendants.

And when we -- African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved -- join white Amerikkka in using this kind of language, we are colluding in our own oppression by willingly using the terms used to describe the oppression of our Ancestors.

We are also validating white Amerikkka's view of enslavement and the worth of our Ancestors when we accept their chosen language in describing as "normal" what our Ancestors had to endure in one of the largest scale and longest running crimes against humanity ever perpetrated upon a people.

Okay, I hear you saying "it was long ago. Why does it matter now?"

These words matter because to speak of "owning" other human beings is to employ a gentler euphemism that does not convey either the horror or the accuracy of the word "enslaved."

These words matter because to speak of "slaves" is to deny that those who were enslaved were human beings with lives, families, and aspirations, all of which were taken away or aborted from birth by their enslavement in this " of the free."

These words matter because the enslavement and apartheid of countless millions of Afrikans and multiple generations of their descendants remain a permanent stain on the soul of this country.

These words matter because they constantly appear in all media and we are going to be hearing them even more with Barack Obama's run for the presidency and with more individuals pursuing DNA analysis and genealogical research which will end up identifying a whole bunch of enslaver families!

And -- from a social justice perspective -- to continue to use language which in any form negates the horror of enslavement and consigns the enslaved as being no more than their enslaved status ("slave") just rubs salt in the wound and reveals that this country is still not ready to come to full and accurate terms regarding its crime against humanity.

And -- from a common sense and "respect for your family" perspective -- for African Americans to continue to use these terms shows how far we have gone in turning our backs on those upon whose shoulders we stand -- our Ancestors -- and how we have assimilated white supremacist thought to the point that we will allow any and every disrespect to their struggles and to their memories as we engage in a mad rush to be the first to fully embrace as "normal" both their oppression and our validation of the demeaning and dismissive language still used to describe their bondage.

And, again, to those of you who say "it is in the past, let it go, it doesn't matter," I'll leave you with this: if you believe that, be consistent. Stop acknowledging / celebrating Fourth of July, which commemorates "Amerikkkan Independence."

Stop acknowledging / celebrating Veteran's Day, which focuses on those who served in past and current wars.

Stop acknowledging / celebrating Thanksgiving, President's Day, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

Stop acknowledging 9/11 -- at six years out, that is in the past, too -- and bring our troops home.

And in addition, start reflecting on why you choose to acknowledge and validate aspects of Amerikkkan history important to and celebrated by "mainstream" society while denying, denigrating, and dismissing those aspects of Amerikkkan history in which your Ancestors were the main players...

Truth hurts sometimes, doesn't it? But believe me, it's all about the love...and about the knowledge we need to fight, grow, and thrive with hearts and minds free of chains...with strong spirits...because we must be the shoulders upon which future generations can stand.

Next entry: The Black Man's (and Woman's) Burden...Making White People Comfortable in Discussions on Race...

Until then...

Moving Forward,



Sunday, March 04, 2007

First we must agree that racism/white supremacy is the mother's milk of this country. Any thorough reading of history will support that contention.

Next we must agree on definitions...not the popular definition of racism which is now being advanced by "mainstream" media, culture, and political thought that supports the notion that racism is individual acts of "hate","ignorance" and prejudice -- which we all can have -- or even discrimination -- which is a behavior manifesting the prejudice.

No, we must wrap our minds around the accurate definition of racism: racial and cultural prejudice and discrimination, supported intentionally or unintentionally by institutional power and authority, used to the advantage of one race and the disadvantage of other races.

The critical element which differentiates racism from prejudice and discrimination is the use of institutional power and authority to support prejudices and enforce discriminatory behaviors in systemic ways with far-reaching outcomes and effects.

Now, I know that you've heard, as we all have -- mostly from defensive whites and from others of all races who are usually defending whites -- that "African Americans can be racists, too!"

In other societies where they hold far-reaching institutional power and authority that can and does impact and control the lives of other -- yes.

BUT IN AMERIKKKA where they have yet to hold institutional power and authority with far-reaching power that impacts upon the day to day lives of whites living in this country in most or all indicators of life?

Even in those instances where African Americans hold power in existing institutional structures, either in reality (i.e. they are the majority in leadership positions, bear the reins of institutional power, have an organizational culture that is racially reflective, and are not controlled by others of different races holding the funding reins) or as the "organizational face" (i.e. they are the public face of the organization but do not have institutional control of the organization), they still do not have the power or reach to affect the lives of whites either legally, socially, economically, or by any indicator with which we measure power, authority, and control.

By contrast, whites in Amerikkka have historically been and remain over-represented in all institutions -- the White House, Congress, industry, the legal system, etc. -- that have far-reaching power and authority to control the lives of all Americans.

And historically, that power has been used in this society to support white supremacist philosophy and to develop and implement laws, customs, and practices which systematicallyreflect and produce racial inequalities in Amerikkkan society.

Which brings us to institutional racism -- those established laws, customs, and practices which systematically reflect and produce racial inequalities in Amerikkkan society, whether or not the individuals maintaining these practices have racist intentions. Institutional racism is often discrimination without prejudice. Individuals can unintentionally discriminate by applying policies and practices that perpetuate past inequalities. And while their attitudes may be unbiased -- devoid of "hate' or "ignorance" -- their behavior enforces the philosophy as well as the practice of racism.

And -- as we see so many times in every day life, right? -- the advantages created for whites by these systems and structures are often invisible to them, or are considered "rights" available to everyone as opposed to "privileges" awarded to only some individuals and groups.

So, does this mean that African Americans are powerless in the face of racism/white supremacy? NO!

We have a long, vibrant, active, and varied history of resistance to racial and other oppression beginning with the Afrikans forced upon these shores. But unfortunately, this history of Afrikan and African American resistance is not one taught in schools or even often passed down through oral histories in our families.

I know you've heard of the Civil Rights Movement...right? But have you heard of the Moors?

You've heard of The Underground Railroad. But have you heard of the many acts of resistance in plantations across the South?

You've heard propoganda about the Black Panthers Party. But do you know the true story?

And do you know about the active resistance to oppression going on in different communities in your own backyard?

That is the purpose of "Blogging Amerikkka." We will be highlighting and profiling those in the arts community, the social justice community, the poetic community, in grassroots resistance movements, and others.

Whether working from the inside of institutions or on the outside of those social structures, we will be making connections to help you find your place and role -- if you want one.

Just as importantly, a focus of "Blogging Amerikkka" will be deconstructing and analyzing how racism/white supremacy rears its head and impacts upon day-to-day life...popular culture, "mainstream" media, TV, music, personal interactions, etc.

Because often times, we do not see the subtle "brainwashing" which keeps us in chains because we do not have the tools to deconstruct and analyze the racist pull the hood off the underlying racial assumptions that fuel the exchanges.

Finally, "Blogging Amerikkka" will address the issue of internalized oppression -- the acceptance and incorporation of the negative images of one's own group that are fostered by the dominant group regarding looks, culture, ability, etc. These negative messages -- when absorbed, believed, internalized, and acted upon -- often in ways detrimental to the oppressed group -- represent internalized oppression.

Because don't think I'm going to forget the "issues" that we as oppressed folk bring to the table and the ways in which we collude -- yes, collude, I said it! -- in maintaining systems of oppression because we internalize the false belief that the system is correct AND as a means of survival.

But you know what? I'm also going to talk about ways in which we can heal ourselves and free our minds, hearts, and souls. And in doing so, we can re-build our families and our communities.

So stay with me and follow the flow...

And bring the hip boots, 'cause it's going to get deep up in here...

Moving Forward,


*Thanks to my BARN/WARN network for the definitions!