Sunday, November 1, 2020

The only way that racism can be abolished is if white people come to grips with their history


 

I was always aware of racism in some way, whether it be in the realms of housing (ghettos), the police, teachers, co-workers, store clerks and supervisors.  African Americans have learned about racism in direct ways such as the institution of policies that were designed to keep people of color in their place, respectively.  We knew that we had been relegated to second class citizenship when we were watched in stores as we shopped, questioned by police with an air of suspicion and regarded with skepticism when it came to the validity of our schoolwork.  We learned how to deal with the role of second-class citizenship by hiding it under the pride of our blackness.  We ignored the poverty by wrapping them in the memories that encompassed the traditions that reflected the love of our families and friends.  The holidays were exclusively ours even if our existence was overlooked by the folks that had no idea that we were capable of loving and feeling…just like them.

I do not speak these words as an angry black man as much as am laying bare the realities of what me and people that looked like me had to endure over the years.  We knew that society as we know was built on the backs of slaves and yet we remained locked away from the first fruits of this land, almost as if we had nothing to do with its fruition.  To make matters worse, we were blamed for our inability to climb the social and economic ladder, as if we had any control over our circulation in social circles that did not want any part of us.

I learned these lessons in elementary school as a young catholic boy that had been taught the sacraments yet knew that the final word was made by a deity that did not look anything like me.

I learned that society had no place for me in a suburban catholic high school where some of the white students called me ugly for no other reason than because I was black.  I knew better than to try out for the lead role in every school play, and still remember vividly when a teacher stopped me from entering the auditorium to enjoy the high school dance because I did not have on a sports jacket; something that they neglected to state as a criterion for accessing the festivities.

I was told more times that I can remember that my writings were subpar and that I would never amount to anything.  I had no idea that this happened to millions of teens that looked like me.  We somehow had the audacity to believe in the mantra of every school that we were judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin; never mind that all of us, black students as well as white contributed to the success of every high school across the country. 

 After graduating from high school, I learned that being gay did not mean that I was entering a society that had any use for me.  To the contrary, I found that my place in this new group that I found myself immersed in placed value on me if I had a large penis.  Most interactions that I had did not value my content of character.  It only mattered how many orgasms I could make you have.  I learned quickly that I was regarded as a “snow queen” if I dated white boys.  Black boys were regarded as “dinge”, and the terminology was used not in the bright daylight of the sun.  Instead, it was whispered, never to my face but behind my back.

I further learned of how I did not fit into the working world as nothing more than moving hands and where my value was measured in how many calls I could take and adhere to a scale that only the best could meet.  It did not escape me that African Americans were relegated to staff meetings while others were included in board meetings.

I realized that white privilege had been a guiding factor throughout my life, and that what made this worse was that white people will never admit that this was the truth, most times because of something that they had said or done.

Racism is alive and well in this country.  We see it in the hateful rhetoric of the president. We feel it in cheers of his supporters.  It is not forgotten that these same people will also believe that they are the only true patriots in this country and that everyone that does not look like them are not.

Racism will never be eradicated unless white people come to grips with how they think as well as reckoning with their history.  They have to own this whenever a person of color broaches this topic is doing so to bridge the culture gap and not trying to make them feel guilty over what has occurred years ago.  Instead, we want you to see how life had been for us over the years.  Our athletes kneel in protest because black people are tired of feeling like we are taking our lives in our own hands when we are stopped by the police for a routine traffic stop.  We are tired of having “the talk” with our children over how to conduct themselves when they find themselves in this position.

We are tired of trying to explain to you that “Black Lives Matter” is not a terroristic group.  It is not a group that states that your life does not matter.  It is simply stating that our lives do matter as we are being killed in a disproportionate manner than the rest of the population.  We are tired of being murdered in the street, and our murderers are found not guilty because the police officer felt that their lives were in danger despite the fact that in most circumstances, they are the ones with the gun.

We are tired of having to explain to you what it is like to be passed over a well-deserved promotion.  We are tired of having to laugh and suck it up when the promotion is given to someone less deserving.

White people need to own up to the existence of white privilege and take the appropriate steps to get rid of it.  This may mean something different to various people.  The bottom line is that this is not an issue that people of color can address because it is not their issue to address.  The responsibility falls in the laps of white people.  And while I clearly know that all white people do not subscribe to racists ideologies, it is those same white people as well as white people that think like them that have to be the primary moving force of ending the silent plague that has been present since the first slave ships landed on our shores.

You see, Africans did not come over willingly.  We did not ask for Jim Crow regulations, Mass Incarcerations, Recidivism and forced housing into neighborhoods that were deemed inhabitable by whites. We only want the same things that you want for yourselves, your wives and your children.

And yet, that seems too much for the society that we live in to give.  And I guess the question you must ask yourselves is…why?

~J.L. Whitehead

 

 

Friday, September 18, 2020

A tale of two Americas

Thinking back for as long as I can remember, I lived in an area of repression.  Someone always seemed to have their foot on the neck of my mother, father, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  And yet as a child my world consisted of playing freeze tag, football, Hide and Go Seek and Mother May I.  I was blissfully unaware of the weight that the adults in my life had to carry.

As a child, I remember the lessons that I was taught in school.  I learned so much about the history of our country.  I did not learn about the slavery era, Jim Crow era and Mass Incarceration which led to recidivism in elementary school.

This is where the difference between the two America’s began.  The two America’s are reflected in the thoughts and actions of white people.  I say this not with hatred but with facts; and it is within these facts that make the average white person uncomfortable when the topic of overt racism begins.

Our country has a core belief that all men were created equal in the eyes of God.  This core belief has been taught to every child in this country.  We were taught to believe the sayings of our forefathers and what was written in the constitution that pertained to everyone regardless of the color of their skin.

In reality, the constitution was only designed for white people; and when they (or their political constituents) refer to “the good ole days” it conjures up images of drive in movies, bobby socks, malt shakes and roller skating waitresses in drive up restaurants.

For people of color, the good ole days were never good.  It brings about images of repression, injustice, segregation, and neighborhoods which are “the ghetto.”

The experience between people of color and white people is as different as night and day.  The same can be said for the understanding of the relationship between the police and white/black people.

While most white people can enjoy a civil relationship with the institution that vows to protect all of us;  POC don’t enjoy the same type of relations.  And it is within these relationships (or lack thereof) that the Black Lives Matter movement was born.  To truly understand the Black Lives Movement, you may have to be a person of color because it is nestled within the lack of understanding with the police that persons of color view them with suspicion; the same way that the police view most persons of color; particularly black and brown men.

It is only during the year of 2019 that the protests began…the only difference being that other people began to recognize that there was truly a problem.  People of color have always known that there was a problem as they were the recipients of unfair policies and practices.

white and black happy birthday signage

Currently, we live in two Americas with two sets of rules…and those rules are mostly contingent upon race. Most of us fall in between those practices and as a result, we may be completely blind to someone else’s rights being violated.  Unfortunately, many people play the role of the ostrich’s head in the sand and are of the opinion that if they are not directly impacted by the discriminatory behavior, then there is no need to care.  This is a small version of what we call."

person holding fan of U.S. dollars banknote

“Tribalism.”  What’s even worse is that we have people that are willing to be manipulated because they have been willingly conditioned to believe that anyone that doesn’t believe as they do are the enemy and should be treated as such.  All you have to do is take a look at what we have allowed ourselves to become.  We used to be a people that allowed for someone else’s viewpoints and beliefs.  We used to be a people that placed value on what our neighbors had to say.

But we are not that way now.

We are living in a time of confusion. We are living in chaos and misinformation.  We are living in the age of technology where you can get the latest update to any public (and sometimes private) situation with the click of a mouse.  And that is what makes the tale of two Americas so stark.  Injustices can be accessed on any laptop, notebook, or iPhone.  We can see in vibrant living color who was wronged and who was responsible for inflicting that wrong.

We can no longer allow ourselves to be our own proverbial ostrich.  What is right for one group of people has to be right for all; just as what is deemed wrong in our society has to be wrong for all and not a just viewpoint; and certainly not because the judgment is left up to someone who deems himself to be judge, jury and executioner.

In order for our democracy to work, we cannot have one group in charged of what we all need and want.  It must work for everyone.

We cannot afford to have the constitution negated to assume the beliefs of others.  We have to understand and respect the rights of all.  And lastly, we cannot afford for any groups of people to be left behind because this is what makes America great.  We cannot believe that we have never been great until now.

It is time that what we say and want to matter.  We need to understand that the voting power of POC matter and is not weighed over the voting power of white people.  The voting power of all races matter.

There are indeed two Americas; and if that exists, we will always have problems.  All of the ideologies and viewpoints need to be taken into consideration.  All beliefs need to be taken into consideration and combined so that all races feel as if they have been heard. It needs to be reflected in what our elected officials bring to the table.

If we can put that into place, we can see that what works for the rich also works for the poor.  We need to make room at the proverbial table for everyone.  This in and of itself will help

Americans feel as if no one has been left behind…and better yet, it will calm the viewpoints on both sides of the aisle.

~ J.L. Whitehead

 

Friday, July 3, 2020

How to get through the era of COV-19 and keep your sanity




We thought that we would have gotten through this epidemic by now.  We thought that wearing a mask would have passed by now.  It didn’t.  As I write this, there are (1) 2.74 Million confirmed cases of COV-19 in the United States.  844 K cases have recovered.  As of today, 130 K deaths have occurred in this country because of a virus that we do not know that much about.  Personally, I have been sporting a mask whenever I leave my home.  I do not go out that often but when I do, I always have a mask.  Right now, there are at least five masks in the back seat of my car.

There is nothing wrong with wearing a mask despite the inconvenient factor that accompanies the idea of going to the store, market of pharmacy.  And right now, this is our life…like it or not.

The hard part would be to get your entire family to wear a mask that is designed to protect others in addition to yourself.  Despite all of this, we as Americans are powering through this epidemic.  We are doing what we need to do to reduce the spread of COV-19.  And it truly is about not spreading it to others’, which includes social gatherings in bars, restaurants or in any venue that can house at least 10 people.

This is about not spreading the virus that has claimed so many American lives.  We need to show who we are as the American People and put an end to spreading a disease that initially seems so simple.
I had a medical procedure recently and I had to get tested for the virus.  My results came back negative and I was able to have the procedure.  But admittedly, I do not always cover my nose with the mask because it makes it difficult to breathe.  I try to catch my breath when I lift the mask off of my face for a moment just to breathe normally…and although I may be exposing myself (and others) to the possibility of becoming infected, I have to catch that breath before going into the store.

So how can you get through this outbreak and keep your sanity?  Believe it or not, surround yourself with immediate family and enjoy the times that you share.  Obviously, if you can work from home, you do your work fairly and log on and off when you’re supposed to.
 You are probably already ordering from restaurants to support the workers and feed your family.  Go to the market and get groceries that will last you a few days so that you can plan your menu for your family.  Select days that you can cook for your family and enjoy the time that you have together.
And here’s the most important thing…you now have the ability to do some of the things that you put off doing because you didn’t have the time to get them done.

I have found more time to write.  I spend some time in prayer and I count my blessings.  I realize that some of you cannot work from home and you may be facing issues and circumstances that are larger than I can cover in this article.

We are going through several epidemics in addition to the COV-19. We have racial unrest like we’ve never seen before.  White people may feel like they are under attack because people of color are protesting the murder of people of color by the police.  I assure you; it is not about that.  Fairness hopefully will come for everyone.  Hopefully, we will see the beauty in diversity in which everyone can have a place at the table.  Obviously, there will be some that will disagree with this and I do not have an answer for them.  Keeping things status quo will not help everyone.

But what will work for us is wearing a mask when we go outdoors and when you are out, practice social distancing even if you are going to the store.

As much as we may want to go to the gym, bar or restaurant, until they have a cure, err on the side of caution and don’t go to the event.

Everything that I am saying I am sure you’ve heard before.  But it bears repeating.  Save yourself the headache and stay indoors.

~ J.L. Whitehead

References:

What happens to the idea of white supremacy?

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