Passing

Light-skinned hues Such masquerading Multi-faceted lies And straightened hair Slaves to a culture They should despise This dark slides light Leaving shadows Such soul depressions In filthy lines Waiting for change A tacit acceptance The status quo Shifting in sand Bleached out and drying These solid ghosts Trying to blend in While the world shifts … Continue reading Passing

Black on Black

blackonblack“All this talk about black on black crime when people should be finding examples of black on black appreciation instead.”

I have a difficult time interacting with people who fit stereotypes because I don’t know the right words to say to them. Maybe it’s because I was raised in the time of PC — Perfect Christian — when people pretended not to notice things like others fitting a stereotype while at the same time mocking them in private. And stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, because enough people in a particular group fit them, but maybe it’s self-perpetuating too.

It’s like when a crime goes down in the hood and the cameras are rolling so that they can get some footage for the news. Somehow the reporter finds the one person in the entire area who sounds the absolute dumbest and sticks a camera in his face.

“Yeah, I seen what dey did, sh*%, naw mean? Dat sh*% be buggin’, yo. Dis gon’ be on da news?”

And the whole time he has his pants down around his ankles with a pick sticking out of his lopsided afro, with eight teeth missing and a few holes in his t-shirt. In the background you can see his cousin waving at the camera, and you imagine TLC’s “No Scrubs” as the soundtrack for the scene. People in the neighborhood scratch their heads while they watch the broadcast, wondering where this “brutha” came from because they’ve never seen him before, and they swear the news program hired someone to play the role so no one forgets this happened in the hood.

I always want to shake the reporter and tell her, “We’re not all like that!” because guess what? Too many non-Blacks see that fool on the TV as a representation of all Blacks everywhere. Continue reading “Black on Black”

The Race Conversation

raceconversation“Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.” ~Lyndon B. Johnson

I never really cared about race, but race was always concerned with me. Maybe because I was born black, or perhaps because I was born in this country, or probably both. Definitely both. There’s just something to be said about being that “other” that is contrasted with the majority, that absence of color when compared with the presence of all color. I mean, that’s what white is, right? The presence of all color. So why isn’t it all-inclusive? And why should any of it matter anyway?

The United States has been characterized as this great big “melting pot,” where people from all backgrounds and ethnicities are welcome and appreciated, as this giant quilt that stitches people together and creates something new and incredible from each pattern. Yet more often than not it is instead a middle school lunchroom with its cliques and ostracizing behavior. Now, while race isn’t the only dividing line, it is still one of the thickest. And I don’t think I’ll ever understand why.

But that’s a conversation for another time.

What’s important to me at this exact moment is my children having to deal with these issues without really understanding them. Continue reading “The Race Conversation”

The ‘N’ Word

n word nieema fosterAs a parent I want to protect my children from anything and everything that could hurt them, but realistically that’s not possible. The best I can do is prepare them as well as I can for dealing with and overcoming those issues as they come up. Of course some of the biggest issues that could hurt them come from factors they have absolutely no control over, a fact that hurts even more because, even though I wouldn’t want them to change to fit someone else’s standard, at least it is a flexible thing. When someone hurts either of my children, for whatever reason, though, I am like a papa bear who wants to rip down the entire forest to get justice.

I knew from a young age that if I ever brought children into the world they would be judged, not merely on their mental capacity, or on their empathetic scale, or even on the style of dress they fancied, but also on the color of their skin. Even when I grew older and married a woman who just happened to be white, I knew that skin color would still be an issue, because our children would never be “just” white, so they would be different, especially around here. Yes, we’ve made some great gains in race relations and issues surrounding the tension therein, but prejudice still abounds, even if it is done more subtly now than ever before.

In the class photos you can see the differences, in the abundance of curly, kinky hair, in the fullness of the lips, in the curve of the nose. These characteristics she inherited from me, and I’m proud of that, that I can see some of myself, and of my heritage, in her, even just physically. She gets so much from her mother too, but the one thing that stands out most, especially when looking at the class photos, is her skin color. There is a bit of a Mariah Carey light mocha coloring she has that is so beautiful to me, but I know when others see it they have their own ideas. I will honestly never know why, but some people can’t stand what they don’t understand.

When we are out and about without my wife, it’s interesting to see how differently people treat us, and how they treat me in particular. We are a black family when I am with my children on my own. It’s plain to see when older black women smile at the kids, as if they were their own grandchildren, or when we pass older white couples who look at us like we’re a completely new species. These same older black women, and these same older white couples, treat us differently when we are all together. In fact, they tend to ignore us and go about their business. They don’t “get” us. They can’t wrap their brains around an interracial couple, a mixed race family, even now, in this day and age.

The first time I heard someone use the ‘N’ word I was probably about 8 years old and it was on my block, a place comprised of all black folk, and the term was meant to be endearing. Continue reading “The ‘N’ Word”

What I Saw: Interracial America and Fitting In

What do you see in this photo?

I walked down the sidewalk on my way to work yesterday and I found myself behind an interracial couple with their two children. The man was black, the woman white, and the kids a wonderful mix of the two. And they were happy. I could tell in the way they held each others’ hands and swung their arms back and forth, all four of them. They were also having a conversation, and I could feel the positive vibes radiating from them. It was a poignant moment.

Then I looked around and noticed a small group of other people heading to the same store, and they were also looking at the exact family that I was, but not in the same way. At first it was hard to ascertain the feeling behind the expressions on their faces, but then I recognized it as disgust. Continue reading “What I Saw: Interracial America and Fitting In”

I Don’t Exist

He pretends I don’t exist, with this carefree air about him that disguises the turmoil I hope he feels. Whether it is turmoil over missing out, or if the turmoil is that I’m still here, I don’t think I’ll ever know, but I do know it has to be there. Otherwise, what has it all really been about for him all this time?

And we’ve never met, although we’ve been in the same building, the same room, even the same small airspace many different times. My wife and children are even genetically linked to this man, not that you would know it from the moments we’ve been close enough to have conversations that never existed.

Continue reading “I Don’t Exist”