The Things They Say When Words and Pictures Ain’t Enough to Prove Your Pain

This post originally appeared on The Good Ole Boys Radio Network.

 

“Well, we don’t believe you, you need more people”
——Shawn Corey Carter
Beyoncé’s husband dropped those nine words in 2001 as one shell fired in a much larger barrage aimed at his various enemies on the Kanye West produced classic “Takeover”. In a song full of memorable bars this one has remained more relevant than any other words uttered during “Takeover” or the entire Blueprint album of which it was included. When not pointed squarely at the heads of Mobb Deep this particular evolved into something else. Something much more lasting than a rap beef, “Well, we don’t believe you, you need more people” was released into the wild as one thing but found its way into an entirely new habitat, the Internet, where it became a meme, mainstay in a comment section of your favorite black blogs, and finally an immediate rebuttal to a perceived falsehood.

Perceived falsehoods -The world is filled with them. Within the new found, mostly black and brown environment in which Mr. Carter’s famous barb learned to thrive and grow the nine words have been used to rebut every untruth from “My cousin fucked Michelle Leslie Brown from 225th” to “I locked A.J. Green down my junior year of high school.” In all the phrase is harmless, silly, and when coupled with another phrase that found a strong footing on the Internet, “Pic(tures) or it didn’t happen” which served as nail to hammer that is “Well, we don’t believe you…”  which finally seals the coffin to any silly-ass on or offline debate.  This tag team was a final dismissal to your opponents’ utter bullshit. The Hawk and Animal that pins your friend’s poorly thought out lies in a cage match at Starrcade ’87.

The unfortunate aspect of the phrases is that in real, like actual fucking real life it or phrases with similar sentiments have found a footing as crucial tools in the disparagement of those of us who feel or have felt that they suffered any form or injustice or those who try to illustrate that same injustice to a larger group that we do not belong.

Recently Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman and outspoken advocate civil rights, Michael Bennett posted an open letter on Twitter detailing him being detained by law enforcement in Las Vegas on August 26, 2017, while fleeing what sounded like gunshots in a club. Within the letter, Bennett detailed how he was ordered to lay prone on the ground while one officer placed a gun to his head, telling him that he would “blow my fucking head off” while another officer jammed his knee into Bennett’s back. After being detained for no valid reason and then released, Bennett felt like many black and brown men have felt after dealing with the police; violated. Upon the posting of the letter on Twitter hundreds of thousands of retweets spread the news of the incident America, leaving many angry, shocked, or dismissive of what happened.

It’s the dismissiveness of many, most of whom were not people of color that has me here right now. From the time there have been men with guns and badges to now black and brown people have had stories of run-ins with law enforcement. From that same time to now black men have told their sons of the dangers of a bad interaction with law enforcement, official or de facto and how to hopefully survive that interaction. Also, from the same time to know there have been groups of white folks waiting to hit the griots telling these stories with what amounts to “Well, we don’t believe you, you need more people”.

Seldom in those specific words but the idea that the black or brown person telling the story either did something criminal, to begin with, did not comply with the officers they were interacting with, or both. There have always been those who simply will not believe me, Michael Bennett, or any other black man if they tell that story. WE NEED MORE PEOPLE!!! Bennett like many others before him was met with a chorus of denial, “gotta hear both sides”, whataboutery, well actually, and of course “pictures or it didn’t happen”. All being focused into a weak, yet very frustrating laser designed to cut through his experience at the hands of law enforcement.
“They Don’t Think It Be Like It Is, But It Do”
—–Oscar Gamble

Oscar Gamble played for the New York Yankees during the 1976 season and was asked about the state of the ball club’s terrible front office and responded with the quote above. His response is as eloquent as it is grammatically incorrect. It’s a simply perfect response to those who will not believe their own eyes or take a moment to listen to what is being said.

Not long after Bennett’s open-letter went live TMZ posted a video of the incident. So Bennett’s detractors were given their much sought after pictures but in lieu of admitting it happened, they only responded with caveats and possible scenarios. Most of which had Bennett doing something to deserve his treatment. Again making Oscar Gamble’s prophetic declaration apply too much more than shoddy baseball management and again reminding those often on the receiving end of abuse that you are in fact burdened by your truth of just simply existing.

The truth of just simply existing as a black or brown person is a pretty heavy notion considering the alternatives would require one to exist in either a constant state of passiveness, which does not guarantee a life free of abuse by law enforcement or to simply not exist. I cannot speak for anyone else but I’m not built for the first option and the latter isn’t even on the table.

So I have to ask, what should we do about the burden of the truth of existing while black, brown, or other when no matter what you will not be believed? No matter how many pictures, essays, light-hearted retellings, blogs, or sermons the fact that your truth will need receipts, backed up with notarized visual documentation, and a glimmer of hope that enough people who don’t look like you or check the same boxes that you do will step up and say “We should hear them out.”

Even then you would have to hope that their number is substantive enough not to be shouted down or dismissed so that something resembling a difference could be made on your behalf.  Unfortunately, I’m not at all hopeful that will happen because America has a terrible history of “knockin’ me back down on my knees.”

At some point another question will have to be asked, does anyone from the other side even care? I’m starting to think not. One thing I know about America change, positive or negative, will occur if that’s what wanted. That said, I’m starting to think America is what it is because the onus that falls on those who would believe the Michael Bennett’s of the world operate with the mindset of “That can’t possibly be true because that’s never happened to me.”

If that’s the case we’ll never have enough people to believe us, there will be no amount of sufficient visual footage, and they will never think it be like it is.

Vaya con Dios

 

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Sorry, Neo-Confederates You Don’t Get to Be More Southern Than Me or Anyone Else

 

This post originally appears on The Good Ole Boys Radio Network.

Anyone paying any attention to the domestic news this week has become aware of the horrendous events stemming from the large gathering in Charlottesville, VA of college boy ultra-right wingers, tearful Hitler Humpers, they took our jobs types, and America’s oldest batch of terrorists. Under the guise of protesting a pending removal of a statue or Robert E. Lee by the city of Charlottesville, the defenders of whiteness road into town to protest what they perceived to be an attack on their “culture” by liberals, black and brown folks, and all of the unsavory progressive types whom they think took their country from them.

So what happens when large groups of Alt-Right activists and Nazis show up somewhere carrying rifles, wearing riot gear, while chanting about “blood and soil” and not being replaced by Jewish folks? They are of course met by large groups of people who loathe everything they believe.

Protesters and counter-protesters would skirmish for hours on Saturday, August 12th. Until a young woman, Heather Heyer was run down in the street in an act of vehicular homicide by gutless, fascist man-child whose name I will not waste keystrokes typing.

Members of the nation would then watch our president flail and try to equivocate counter-protesters to a large hoard of fascists who helped propel him to the White House. Yes, this is his base, his hateful, paranoid, off-kilter base. A few days later we would watch or hear our president appear to call out white supremacists that were actually legally protesting in Charlottesville but illegal assaulting counter-protesters and allegedly murdering Heather Heyer. We would then see our president hold a press-conference, seemingly recanting his prior condemnation of the Alt-Right, and again comparing the counter-protesters to those, who he will not condemn.  He would keep the hits coming and speak out about the erasure of history that occurs when Confederate monuments are removed, invoking a possible slippery slope of the removal of the Confederacies “heroes” by asking if monuments honoring the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would be next.

Washington and Jefferson are by no means saints. (You won’t find any of those in any history books, though.) Washington and Jefferson were also not seditious towards the United States of America. To the English crown yes, but not to the nation they founded.

Do you know who was actually seditious to the United States? Men like Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson-the men who the president compared to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as a justification for his position being against monument removal.

I’m not here to write about the president. I’m here to write about being a proud black southerner who lives in a region that has more than many monuments to a group of men who sought to keep my ancestors as chattel and were willing to rip the nation apart to do so. If you live in the southern United States you probably have seen shirts or bumper stickers that read “Heritage, Not Hate” emblazed over an image of the Confederate battle flag, the same flag that arose to prominence decades after the American Civil War as a symbol of southern resistance against the removal of Jim Crow laws and the invoking of equal rights for people of color across the American south.

I’m here to write about the ideal of southern heritage being tied to the image of the long-dead Confederate States of America. I’ve written about the conflict of being a proud southerner and a black man before but I must assert this again.

Just because your great-great-great whatever’s, who probably owned nary a slave was duped or conscripted into a cause fighting an armed act of treason does not make you anymore southern, proud or otherwise, than me. While your great-great-great whatever’s was dodging mini-balls and cannon fire in some peach orchard or wheat field somewhere my great-great-great whatever’s had their backs bent in a cotton field somewhere in South Carolina praying they live to see the guys wearing blue win. Praying for that long-wanted freedom from those who abused, worked them nearly to death, raped, and fed scraps until they were used up and sold off to someone else who would try to find a way to work a little more of their souls out of them.

My family and my friend’s family are all mostly southern and black and we simply do not find anything close to Neo-Confederatism enduring or anything to be proud of.

You simply don’t get to be anymore southern than me and the folks I hold dear. We’re descended from those who, after your ancestor’s ill-conceived attempt at maintaining slavery, somehow eked-out a life chopping logs, picking cotton, harvesting turpentine, laying rail, raising the children of others while neglecting their own, walking behind mules, and cooking for those who looked down upon them. What you worship is nothing but vestigial remains of an era that sought to control my ancestors’ actions well after the notion of owning a man had passed.

Nothing about the south, heritage-wise or geographical is solely yours. It never was. It could never be. From the food you love, the rhythms you dance to, the everyday lexicon, to some of the songs you sing while you worship on Sunday morning-it’s all a mixture of my heritage. A heritage which we managed to scrape out the sandy dirt of South Carolina, the red clay of Georgia, and the other open landscapes of the south that were cleared and worked by those who had no say in the matter.

Seeing that I’m a big advocate of historical preservation I would not want many of these statues destroyed. They can find their rightful place in historical museums that would allow people to truly understand the entire context of what occurred at the hands of those who fought for the Confederacy. Robert E. Lee himself was seemingly against the notion of monumental worship of the Confederacy and the American Civil War asserting that “not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”

Lee, unlike many of his devoted modern followers, seemed to get the point of moving on. Hell, he and Stonewall Jackson’s descendants seem to agree fully. So why can’t many neo-Confederates do the same? As a figure in American history, I compare Lee to Erwin Rommel. He’s a talented soldier who fought for an abhorrent cause that sought to continue the oppression of many. Sure he can be tactically celebrated but this has to be done while delving into the whole person including the nasty parts, especially the nasty parts.

These nasty parts have a place, a place in state museums in cities and towns like Columbia, Atlanta, Raleigh, and Nashville. Not in the face of those trying to move on and embrace the South’s whole past and not just a horrid part of it.

So why cling to that part of your heritage? Why wallow in a long-ago defeat that you cannot change or undo? Why tie yourself to that aspect of a larger whole? All it does is keep bad wounds open. That’s simply not healthy for you, your community, or the south you claim to love. Because I love the south just as much as you do but I realize one key fact- the part of the south that you love is dragging you down while mine is lifting me up.

Vaya con Dios.

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Luke Cage, Bad Dudes, and Not Being Bulletproof

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Quipped a Tulsa, Oklahoma law enforcement officer hovering above a local street just moments before Terence Crutcher was murdered by the state in the form of Officer Betty Shelby. Crutcher, like many before him fell prey to a combination of racism, a heavy-handed culture of law enforcement, fear, and what Claude Brown referred to as looking like “bad nigger” in “Manchild in the Promised Land.” As harsh of a descriptor as it sounds “Bad nigger” like “bad motherfucker” has particular connotations to many of us. Continue reading

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On Speaking Ill of the Recently Departed, the Need for Sainthood, and the Impossible Standards used When it Comes Time to Mourn Dead Black Boys

Earlier this morning I came across an article from the New York Times entitled “A Teenager Grappling With Problems and Promise” penned by John Eligon. The teenager in question is Michael Brown who was murdered by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. There’s no need to recap the actions and goings on surrounding Brown’s death and if you’re not familiar with it then you’re either a corpse or purposely keeping yourself ignorant of current events. Continue reading

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Random News/Ain’t it Thoughts about football.

It’s Friday but not Friday at Five o’clock. Yes, this is a problem but in my head I’m an amateur sniper so I can wait. Until then let’s talk about football.   I have some good news—there are 27 days … Continue reading

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Random News/Ain’t it Thoughts (For today, Ninja!)

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    Soooo, I’m black to blogging for the day. (On some use it or lose it, sh*t.)[i] I’ve got some boo boo on my brain that I need to get out for the sake of my sanity and my … Continue reading

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Random Questions– I Don’t Even Know, Man

During the aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial I find myself dumbfounded and laden with questions. As a black man, an American, and somewhat responsible citizen I find myself with nothing but questions about my existence and other things that many just either take for granted or are not aware of in the first place. As my friend O, says “It’s still very real in the field.” Continue reading

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The Talk I Hope That I Never Want To Have

Ray Charles — It Ain’t Easy Being Green   This of a repost of something I did back in March of 2012. I never repost but I felt it was important due to Saturday’s events…yeah. As a black man that … Continue reading

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Random Happenings With Me and Your Mama

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To say that the last seven or so months of my life have been somewhat interesting would be an understatement. Within that time I’ve lost both parents, gotten engaged, and toppled two third world governments. Yeah, I’ve been a little occupied with things and my thoughts are as random as ever. Continue reading

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Emotional Triggers, Baseball & Festus Hagen

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We’re in the heart baseball season and sadly I cannot watch a single pitch.

You see, my Daddy, Stephen. Sr. passed a month ago Tuesday and baseball was one of the things my Daddy and I could easily talk about. It’s not that we weren’t close but we were just two extremely terse men of different times (He was born in 1932 and I was born in 1979 and baseball was one of the things that we both loved to watch.)
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