Being Black in America is…

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Why I am NOT here for Iyanla in Ferguson

Published August 27, 2014 by hrhdana

Last night I watched Iyanla Vanzant in Ferguson. I honestly didn’t want to. I knew it was going to be a train wreck. I loved Iyanla before her reinvention. I healed and learned a lot from her books. I honestly feel her strength was speaking to women about the things she lived, the mistakes she made and the lessons she learned. Since her re-emergence I have been disappointed time and time again with her and her show. She is claiming to be an expert in waters way too deep for her. In her attempts to “heal” or “fix” people she has exploited hurting people in their most vulnerable moments. I’m not here for it.

Last night she was a prime example of how racism can effect Black people. She showed her entire viewing audience (of 5 people) exactly what it looks like when Black people internalize all of the negative scripts pushed to the public about us. She asked the chief of police what he wanted. He asked for 2 weeks to complete the investigation. Iyanla was quick to comply and encourage each person she interacted with to comply as well. The rest of the show she touted this 2 week deadline, emphasizing that there should be peace during this time period while the police work. *Record scratches* Is this the same chief of police who released a video of Mike Brown in a convenience store to tarnish his reputation? Is this the same man who released this video on his own volition after being advised not to by his superiors in law enforcement? Is this the same man who allowed the officer who shot Mike to get away with NOT filling out an incident report? Is this the same man who sicced a militarized police force on citizens who protested peacefully? With all sincerity, I have to say, “Girl bye!”

She sat down with a group of young men whom she, “picked up off of the street,” (her words, not mine).  She repeatedly said she was there to listen and then talked over, interrupted and corrected each person she interviewed. She asked them over and over if they thought they were responsible for their own murders at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve since they, “kill each other.” Come on son. Seriously??? Iyanla has so completely brought in to the manufactured term Black on Black violence that even in the midst of the palpable pain these people are experiencing she blames them. I’m going to say it once again for those of you who are new to reality. Black on Black violence is a manufactured term.  Crime is about proximity and opportunity. EVERY race of people kills their own because we still live such segregated lives. And Black crime in America is actually on a faster decline than White on White crime.

Crime is a problem. Peace loving, law abiding citizens everywhere are bothered by crime. Crime is not specific to Black people. We are not inherently more violent or criminal than any other race. Some of you are itching to disagree with me right now. What about gangs? What about what I see on the media? There is a purposefulness to the narrative we are being fed by the media. I don’t purport to know with certainty their motivation but I have some theories.  I am not saying that Black America is innocent. My heart breaks when I see the headlines about children shot and young men murdered. But I am aware that the story is more complex than the media is willing to address. Our children are criminalized from a young age. Suspension and expulsion rates for Black children soar above those of White children. Arrest, prosecution, and incarceration of Black people is disproportionate to that of their White peers. Studies have shown time and time again that White people walk for things that Black people are locked up for.  Systemic racism has consequences and casualties.

Blaming Black people for their own murders by the people sworn to protect and serve is a blatant display of Iyanla’s sickness. It is a clear that she has swallowed the false narrative written about us. I wanted to scream at her time and time again as she interrupted these  young men to ask them leading questions, “How many of you have been arrested?” Really Iyanla? Really?  “How many of you know your fathers?” Bitch please sit down. All communities have issues. Black America has many. Yes, we need people to come together and work towards filling in the gaps but I sincerely believe that was not the time nor the place. She missed the forest for the trees. It hurt to watch.  She exploited those people and their pain to reinforce a false narrative that has made it okay for cops to murder us with impunity.

The ONLY ray of light in her hour and a half long show was her 4 ps.  Pause, Plan, Prepare, Participate. This movement was born from pure emotion. There is value in organization. There is value is affirming the goals and how we are going to accomplish them.  I’m glad she asked them THOSE questions. That was helpful.

I honestly wish I hadn’t watched. Iyanla pimped her people’s pain last night. She danced for the system and encouraged them to dance along. I’m not here for it.

Questions

Published August 20, 2014 by hrhdana

My daughter will be 3 next month.

I have a litany of affirmations that I whisper in her ear daily. I tell her, “You are smart. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are brave. You are the best daughter ever and I love you forever.”  Sometimes she will run up to me and demand (in all of her toddler exuberance) “tell me a secret Mama.” I know exactly what she is asking for and I always comply. I’m never too busy to build my little girl up. A few months ago she started whispering the same affirmations back in my ear. She has an amazing ability to know just when I need them. “You are the best Mama ever! You are beautiful. You are smart. You are strong. You are brave.”

We giggle and hug and kiss and return to what we were doing.

Every single day when I am about to walk out of the door to head to work she has something important to tell me. I lean down for my kiss and my hug.  I whisper her affirmations in her ear and I head towards the door. She’s usually playing or getting ready to eat breakfast but as soon as I reach the door her little legs bring her barreling to the hallway to impart some words on me before I leave. Sometimes it’s toddler babble. A collection of words that make sense to  her. “Watch out for snakes Mama. Don’t forget to jump high.” Sometimes it’s a story from a previous day that she has already told me. Sometimes it’s a promise to, “be a good listener.” Sometimes it’s a teary, “I’ll miss you mama. Have a good day.” But it’s always something.

I have to remind myself not to rush her. I have to remind myself that being late for work is not important in the great scheme of things. I have to remind myself that I can’t just tell her that she is the most important thing in my life. I have to SHOW her. So I stop. I listen. I smile. I respond. I give more kisses and more hugs. I always walk out of the door smiling. Sometimes I’m smiling AS I run down the stairs and pray that I’ll make my bus but I am always smiling.

She is the most important person in my life. I want her to KNOW that. I want to SHOW her that. My love for her colors every single decision that I make in my life. My love for her has changed the way I see the world. My love for her has infused me with a DESPERATION to make this world a safer place for her. My love for her makes me a better person every minute of every single day.

I believe in the power of love. I have seen love perform miracles. I was raised that to believe that if I followed all of the rules and if I was pleasant and palatable to people life would be good. I would be safe. I would succeed. I was raised to believe that I have a responsibility to my community to represent the best of us. I was raised to believe that if I performed well I would be accepted and thereby earn further acceptance for all of my people. I have tried for a long time to make my people proud.  I have tried in my work and school life to be a good ambassador. I have swallowed my anger when confronted with outright racism and the micro-aggressions that Black people encounter regularly. I have attempted to explain, educate, justify. I have agreed to disagree with people who were DEAD wrong. I have arrived early and over-tipped and not eaten fried chicken in mixed company. I have tried.

I resigned from my self imposed role as ambassador when Trayvon Martin’s murderer was set free. I realized that the people whom I interact with daily were not learning any lessons about my people from me. They had cast me in the role of “other.” They saw me as, “different from other Black people.” They were comfortable enough in this assessment of me to speak ill of a murdered young man and to praise his murderer in front of me. I quit. I realized that trying to be non-threatening was not helping. I realized that packing up the pieces of me that make me me gave them a false sense of who I am. So I quit.

Now I have this little girl. This innocent and beautiful little girl who looks to me for everything. I don’t know what to teach her. I keep praying about it and writing in my journal about it. How do I prepare her for a world where her chocolate skin frightens and offends some before she even gets a chance to open her mouth? How do I empower her to shine her light in a world where people who look like us are murdered with impunity? How do I keep her safe in a world where she can’t get in an accident and knock on a door for help without being shot dead? How do I keep her alive? I’m struggling.

I believe in the power of love. I know people who are all shades of the rainbow who embody love. But how do I protect her from those who present themselves as friends only to later reveal that they don’t see us as American citizens worthy of all of the rights and protections as White citizens? How do I protect her from that hurt or at least build her strong enough to over come it? How do I lead her when I feel so very lost myself?

People who don’t know better will call this blog race baiting. They may accuse me of playing a mythical race card. Their denial of my reality doesn’t make it untrue. Their denial just allows them to dismiss me. But I’m still here. I’m still struggling with these questions. I’m still trying desperately to raise a beautiful, smart, brave and strong little Black girl.

Slow leak

Published August 18, 2014 by hrhdana

I’m tired.

People hit me up all weekend to ask me what I thought of recent developments in Ferguson. Unfortunately it was all white people. White people whom I care about…deeply. It’s like they were salivating, waiting for me to denounce my people. Celebrating the release of the video of Mike in the store and dying for me to eat my anger and my angst. “Those savages in Ferguson needed police in riot gear to keep them calm.” That is a real quote from someone I considered a close friend.

I don’t have the emotional fortitude to “fight” those who ARE loved ones. I’m devastated.

I don’t know how to swallow this. Not the developments in Ferguson…this removal of hoods from people I love. I’m not a violent person. I’m not an anarchist. I have never shot or even held a gun. But I don’t deny people their rage when we are being murdered by those sworn to protect and serve at a rate of 2 every week. 2.every.fucking.week.

Cops are not executioners. Petty theft (IF it occurred) is not punishable by the death penalty.

This whole situation is changing me and I don’t know that it is for the better. I desperately need some healing in my life and in this country. I trust no one right now and it hurts so badly.

I keep finding myself in tears….the kind that slowly trickle down your face. The kind you don’t even know are there until vision is obscured or one drips from the tip of your nose. I keep looking at Nia and wondering what the fuck I am supposed to teach her? How am I supposed to guide HER when I feel so very fucking lost myself? I have so many questions and so many hurts.

The store owner said today that he never called the cops. Should I throw that down like a joker in a spades game? Maybe? But I don’t have the energy because THESE people…these are the people I thought were the exceptions. The people whom I believed saw me…in my entirety. The people who I would have sworn were better than this. So now what? Am I just a horrible judge of character? Or is racism so insidious that it lies in the heart and mind of every single person in the world? I have NO answers.

I don’t want to even be RIGHT anymore. I just want to be FELT. I just want the people whom I love to be my motherfucking allies and not more people for me to fight, explain and justify my fucking existence to. God this shit hurts so much.

And you know I don’t expect lock step agreement from the people in my life but damn must I agree to disagree about my very humanity?!?!?! 

Click here for Melissa Harris-Perry

I’m hurting

Published August 14, 2014 by hrhdana

I’m hurting.

I’m hurting so badly.

People are going to roll their eyes at me but I love this country. This is my HOME! This is the place that I am raising my baby girl. I always knew America wasn’t perfect. I rage against her imperfections all the time but she is mine. I belong here. This is my HOME!

I live an integrated life. I love people of all ideologies, sizes, shapes and colors. As much as I rage against racism and inequality I know that peaceful coexistence is possible because I have it in my life. There are also cops in my life whom I love very much, family and friends. They hip me to shit to keep me safe. They tell me safe ways to rage against the machine even if they aren’t raging themselves.

Watching Ferguson on T.V. last night did something to my soul. It broke my heart in to a million little pieces.  Seeing an American city turned in to a militarized zone while main stream media and other Americans ignored it truly broke something inside of me that hasn’t quite healed since Trayvon’s murderer was set free. My Dad and I sat in my living room with our mouths hanging open. My Daddy and I had tears in our eyes.

Tanks rolling through an American city. Machine guns trained on peaceful protesters. Reporters locked up. Media trucks pushed back and threatened. Tear gas shot in to people’s yards. Rubber bullets shot at retreating crowds. Is this America? Why aren’t we raging with one collective voice? Is it really because the people being fired on are almost 100% Black and poor? Is it that simple? Is it that hard for others to see our humanity?  

Safety is an illusion. Freedom is an illusion. It can all be snatched away in an instant. These are the truths I learned last night.

I don’t know what to do with them.

I hurt so badly and I am done begging anyone to care. I’m done fighting to prove my humanity and that of those who look like me. All of America is equally culpable in the me that was broken last night. 

My friends who have always known better will shake their heads at me but none will say I told you so.  They never REALLY tried to break my rose colored glasses. My hope made them smile. They grieve with me and for me.

What do I teach my almost 3 year old about this country, her home? How do I prepare her for the truths, so new to me? How do I separate those who are part of the problem from those whom I know would stand with me? 

I hurt. I hurt so much.

 

Impotent

Published August 13, 2014 by hrhdana

I feel impotent

wish desperately that a little blue pill could fix it.

Open season on civil rights

tear gassed protesters night after night.

A Black boy dies

a community cries

while a great majority avert their eyes.

What can I do?

How can I help?

Lending my voice

screaming in to the void.

WE ARE HUMAN TOO!

WE BLEED JUST LIKE YOU!

Sons, fathers, mothers, daughters too.

I feel impotent.

Rage unspent.

I speak their names

Mike Brown the latest

not the last.

And I shudder as my friends and family wonder aloud

when one of ours will join this sad crowd.

Black, unarmed, murdered.

I feel impotent.

No blue pill for this on the market yet.

Police department mobilized

into a military operation in front of our eyes.

Where is the outrage?

Where is the outcry?

How often are we supposed to turn the other cheek?

Wait for the justice we never get but always seek?

I can’t sleep.

Impotent.

I watch my man sleep peacefully

pray continually 

for his safety.

This fear is real and deep.

Impotent.

Tear gas shot in to a protester’s fenced yard

as police demand that they disband

from their own property, their own land.

This is America????

The nation founded on freedom of speech

except when it applies to we!

Impotent.

Waiting for the tanks to roll in to White Town U.S.A.

Then the silent will have something to say.

My rose colored glasses broken on the floor.

My very soul can’t take much more.

Impotent.

1

Human

Published August 12, 2014 by hrhdana

My words are angry.

My poetry

doesn’t even feel like me.

I know love is healing

but I don’t feel very loving.

Dead Black bodies in the street

murdered with impunity

I’m so angry!

And I’m not the type to advocate anarchy

but I relate to those people raging in the street.

I understand.

I empathize.

I sit at work with tears in my eyes.

Why does a mother feel the need to humanize

her murdered child for a public quick to demonize?

“He was college bound.

A good boy.

My only child. My pride and joy.”

She knows they probably won’t care

about this pain that seems too much to bear.

They won’t look in to her eyes

and see themselves there.

Jesus fix it!

I’m so angry!

Police dogs aimed at angry people

doesn’t quell rage

it builds it.

They ain’t shit.

Pushing buttons on a bomb

then pretending surprise when it explodes.

But the sheeple still see animals

because they WANT to.

Fighting for humanity

Fighting for the right to breathe

Trying to retain my sanity

Hiding the anger within me

Sojourner asked “Ain’t I a woman?”

Dana asks, “Ain’t we fucking humans?”

Post racial America

disappoints again.

I’m in an emotionally abusive relationship with America

Published February 17, 2014 by hrhdana

I’m absolutely emotionally exhausted this morning. The Dunn trial reopened wounds that are still raw and festering from the Zimmerman trial. I have heard from MANY white people, “at least he will do time. What more do you people want?”

I want to live in a country where a murderer is convicted for the actual murder that he committed. I want to live in a country where there is no difference between a black victim and a white victim. I want to live in a country where when justice does NOT prevail the PEOPLE stand with one voice and say, “this is bullshit. How do we fix it?”

I want to live in a country where the color of my skin does not equal justifiable homicide. I want to live in a country where when parents lose their child they are allowed and encouraged and supported in their absolute RAGE. Rather than encouraged to “pray” for the murderer of their child. I want to live in a country where when a huge segment of the population is hurting other segments stand in solidarity and LISTEN until they can understand and empathize.

I want this country I was born in to feel like HOME. I want to feel safe here. I want to know my man and my father and my brothers and my uncles are safe.

I want to TALK about this. I want people to WANT to talk about this. I want people to LISTEN. I want America to live up to her fucking PR “Land of the FREE. Home of the brave.”

I’m tired of loving a country that doesn’t love me back. I’m tired of being expected to pack my hurt away in a private little “Black” place and go on with life and serving white people’s comfort levels.

You tired of me talking about race? I’m tired of LIVING it. Fuck your tired!

The weight

Published January 23, 2014 by hrhdana

Today was a good day. No a great day. It wasn’t busy at work. Bieber got arrested. The internet was hilarious all day long. I was able to read and laugh and post and carry on with laughter in my soul.

Then it happened.

Someone posted THIS link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/20/claudius-smith-shoots-burglar_n_4631639.html showed up in my newsfeed.

All the air went out of me. I deflated. Because I remembered the weight of the skin I’m in and all that it represents.

And now I have to spend the rest of my evening writing or I will explode.

Rest in Peace Ricardo Sanes

Dear White people please stop telling me…

Published January 8, 2014 by hrhdana

Dear White people,

Hello how are you today? I really want to speak about something that is on my mind and weighing heavily on my heart. I hope you won’t mind me addressing you as a group. I am aware that you are not all the same. Language can be restricting at times and I hope that stating my intention NOT to offend will be enough to soothe those of you miffed at the all encompassing address on this post. This letter is really for, “the White people who don’t want to be racist and therefore claim not to see race and that we are all the same, human.” But you see, that does get wordy, huh?

I realize that this race stuff is difficult. Trying to understand things that we don’t live is challenging. I can not intuitively imagine all of the challenges that someone in a wheelchair faces. I can sit and listen to them. I can spend time with them but even then I do not truly know what it is like to not be able to just get up and walk. I have to remember to listen when they speak. I have to remember to check my privilege and respect and acknowledge their experiences. Its not my place to tell them how to feel or how to interact with the segment of the world that does not need a wheelchair. It is not my place to speak FOR them even if I do so from a place of advocacy and support.

I use this example because I can imagine, and I’ve had white friends and family tell me how challenging it is to them to have the race conversations. I can empathize with how challenging it is to set aside privilege and accept a reality that I do not live because I have to do it too. (See above example) I know that you mean well when you say that you don’t see race. I know that your heart is bristling with empathy when you implore people to accept that we are all one race, the human race. I am respectfully asking you to stop.

Saying that we are all the same and that you do not see race invalidates MY experiences with race in this country. Saying that race doesn’t matter is a lie. I am a Black woman every single day of my life and I can tell you that racism is alive and well. I can tell you that I have experiences on a daily basis where I am not allowed to forget that I am a BLACK woman.  Do I want to move past these experiences? Absolutely! But I can not until they stop happening. I can heal from or ignore one interaction. I can not heal from ongoing and systemic interactions.

I’m not going to list all the numbers here but I will tell you that non-White people are more likely to be profiled, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be incarcerated, less likely to be hired, less likely to be accepted to universities…etc etc etc. This is REAL! This is our life! These experiences cause pain. These experiences require healing. It matters what color we are. We can’t claim unity with one race, the human race when we are constantly facing the fallacy of these premises. It’s belittling to my experiences to implore me to, “stop seeing race,” or to stop identifying my experiences with racism as such. Are you following me?

Life IS different when you are not White and if you aren’t willing to accept that truth then you aren’t doing the work of dismantling racism. You are contributing to it by refusing to HEAR and ACCEPT my experiences in the world we live in. Not the world we all wished that we lived in but the world that we ACTUALLY live in.

Thank you for listening.

Dana